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EXPOSITION OF Matthew 26:26-30 ; and 1 Corinthians 11:20-34 .
We will read, first, Matthew's account of the institution of the Lord's supper.
Matthew 26:26-30 And as they were eating,
In the middle of the Paschal Feast our Lord instituted the sacred festival which was ever afterwards to be known as "the Lord's supper." The one ordinance was made to melt gradually into the other: "as they were eating."
26. Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take eat; this is my body.
"This represents my body." He could not possibly have meant that the bread was his body; for there was his body sitting at the table, whole and entire. They would have been astonished beyond measure if they had understood him literally; but they did not do so, any more than when Christ said, "I am the door," or "I am the Good Shepherd."
27. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;
"Every one of you." Was this the Lord's supper? Yes. What say the Romanists about it? Why, that the people may not drink the cup! Yet our Saviour says to his disciples, "Drink ye all of it."
28. For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
They had had sin brought to their minds; they had had a personal reminder of their own liability to sin; now they were to have a perpetual pledge of the pardon of sin, in the cup, which was the emblem of Christ's blood, "shed for many for the remission of sins."
29. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.
Jesus took the Nazarite vow to drink no more, to partake no more of the fruit of the vine, till he should meet us again in his Father's kingdom. He has pledged us once for all in that cup, and now he abstains until he meets us again. Thus he looks forward to a glorious meeting; but he bids us take the cup, and thus remember him until he comes.
30. And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.
To his last great battle the Champion goes singing, attended by feeble followers, who could not protect him; but who could sing with him. I think he must have led the tune; his disciples were too sorrowful to sing until his clear voice started the Hallelujah Psalms; but they joined him in the holy exercise, for "they" as well as their Lord sang the hymn. When you are about to face a trial, offer a prayer; but, if you can, also sing a hymn. It will show great faith if, before you enter into the burning fiery furnace, you can sing psalms unto the Lord who redeemeth his people.
Now let us read Paul's version of this same matter.
1 Corinthians xi. 20, 21. When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper. For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken.
These Corinthians had fallen into a very queer state. I do not think that any Baptist Church that I have ever known of has acted in this fashion; but when churches have no ministers, when there is an open ministry where everybody talketh and nobody listeneth, they fall into a queer condition, especially into divisions and heart-breaking strifes. It was so in the case of this church at Corinth. Here everybody brought his own provision, and some ate to the full, and others had not enough; and they thought that they were observing "the Lord's supper."
22. What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in?
There is your proper place if you want a meal. Go home, and eat and drink; do not come to the sanctuary for such a purpose: "Have ye not houses to eat and to drink in?"
22, 23. Or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not. For I have received of the Lord that which I delivered unto you,
He had received it by a special revelation, Poor Paul was brought in late, and he was like one born out of due time. He had not been present in the upper room with Christ at the first famous breaking of bread; so the Lord came and gave him a special revelation concerning this sacred feast, so that, whenever he spoke or wrote to any of the churches about the Lord's supper, he could say, "I have received of the Lord that which I delivered unto you."
23, 24. That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.
The Lord's supper is a simple service of remembrance. Nothing is said about an altar, or a priest, or a sacrifice. Our Lord took bread, gave thanks for it, brake it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take, eat: this is my body which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me." Mark that "this do"; it will not be right to do something else instead of this; and we must not do this for any other purpose than the one he mentions, "This do in remembrance of me." This command raises a previous question, "Do we know him?" we cannot remember Christ if we do not know him.
25, 26. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drinketh it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.
"By Christ redeemed, in Christ restored,
We keep the memory adored,
And show the death of our dear Lord,
Until he come!
"And thus that dark betrayal-night,
With the last advent we unite;
By one blest chain of loving rite
Until he come!"
27. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.
If such a man has treated "this bread" and "this cup" with contempt, he has treated "the body and blood of the Lord" with contempt; it shall be so reckoned to him. Many have been trouble by this verse. They have said, "We are unworthy." You are, this is quite true; but the text does not say anything about your being unworthy. Paul uses an adverb, not an adjective. His words are, "Whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord unworthily," that is, in an unfit way, to gain something by it, as men used to take what they called "the sacrament" to get into certain offices, or as some come to the communion-table for the sake of the charitable gifts that are for the poor of the church; this is to eat and drink "unworthily." To come carelessly, to come contemptuously, to say, "I do not care whether I am a Christian, or not; but I shall come to the communion," this is to eat and drink "unworthily." Notice the ly; we are all unworthy of this sacred feast, and if unworthiness could shut us out, who would dare to be here?
28. But let a man examine himself,
Let a man look himself up and down, as a lawyer cross-questions a witness, as a man examines money to see whether it has the true ring of gold about it; or not: "Let a man examine himself."
28. And so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.
Let him come as a true believer, as sincere; if not perfect, yet true; if not all he ought to be, yet in Christ; if not all he wants to be, yet still on the way to it, by being in Christ, who is "the way, the truth and the life."
29. For he that eateth, and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.
He does not see the meaning of the emblem of Christ's death. He degrades the symbol by making it take the place of the thing signified. He sees the bread, but not the body; and he damnifies himself, condemns himself, by such eating. He is a loser rather than a gainer by eating and drinking unworthily.
30. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.
Persons coming to the Lord's table in an improper spirit are very apt to come under God's discipline; some will be taken ill; and some will die. This discipline is being carried on in every true church of God. God's providence will work in this way if many treat the table of the Lord as the Corinthians did, acting as if it were a common place for eating and drinking. Many of them were weak and sickly, and many died.
31. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.
If we are God's people, we shall be judged by him here for our wrongdoing. We shall not be like the world that is left to the day of judgment; but we shall be judged now. God will visit with temporal judgments those of his children who sin against him.
32. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.
You know that a man will see a great deal that is wrong in children in the street, and say nothing about it; but if it is his own who is up to mischief, he will give him a sweet taste of the rod. So, if you belong to God, you cannot sin deeply without having a present judgment, a present discipline; and you ought to be thankful for it, painful though it may seem to be for the time, for "when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world."
33. Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another.
How gently Paul talks to these Corinthians! They deserve to be scolded; but he is very tender with them. He says, "If you must come together in this way, at least have the good manners to stop for one another; and if you do come to the communion of the Lord, treat it with that respect and reverence which it deserves.
34. And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come,
May we to-night keep this feast in due order under the power of the Holy Spirit, and may we find a blessing in it to God's praise! Amen.
HYMNS FROM "OUR OWN HYMN BOOK" 938, 947.
The Remembrance of Christ
Delivered on Sabbath Evening, January 7th, 1855, by the
REV. C. H. Spurgeon
At New Park Street Chapel, Southwark.
"This do in remembrance of me." 1 Corinthians 11:24 .
IT SEEMS, then, that Christians may forget Christ. The text implies the possibility of forgetfulness concerning him whom gratitude and affection should constrain them to remember. There could be no need for this loving exhortation, if there were not a fearful supposition that our memories might prove treacherous, and our remembrance superficial in its character, or changing in its nature. Nor is this a bare supposition: it is, alas, too well confirmed in our experience, not as a possibility, but as a lamentable fact. It seems at first sight too gross a crime to lay at the door of converted men. It appears almost impossible that those who have been redeemed by the blood of the dying Lamb should ever forget their Ransomer; that those who have been loved with an everlasting love by the eternal Son of God, should ever forget that Son; but if startling to the ear, it is alas, too apparent to the eye to allow us to deny the fact. Forget him who ne'er forgot us! Forget him who poured his blood forth for our sins! Forget him who loved us even to the death! Can it be possible? Yes it is not only possible, but conscience confesses that it is too sadly a fault of all of us, that we can remember anything except Christ. The object which we should make the monarch of our hearts, is the very thing we are most inclined to forget. Where one would think that memory would linger, and unmindfulness would be an unknown intruder, that is the spot which is desecrated by the feet of forgetfulness, and that the place where memory too seldom looks. I appeal to the conscience of every Christian here: Can you deny the truth of what I utter? Do you not find yourselves forgetful of Jesus? Some creature steals away your heart, and you are unmindful of him upon whom your affection ought to be set. Some earthly business engrosses your attention when you should have your eye steadily fixed upon the cross. It is the incessant round of world, world, world; the constant din of earth, earth, earth, that takes away the soul from Christ. Oh! my friends, is it not too sadly true that we can recollect anything but Christ, and forget nothing so easy as him whom we ought to remember? While memory will preserve a poisoned weed, it suffereth the Rose of Sharon to wither.
The cause of this is very apparent: it lies in one or two facts. We forget Christ, because regenerate persons as we really are, still corruption and death remain even in the regenerate. We forget him because we carry about with us the old Adam of sin and death. If we were purely new-born creatures, we should never forget the name of him whom we love. If we were entirely regenerated beings, we should sit down and meditate on all our Saviour did and suffered; all he is; all he has gloriously promised to perform; and never would our roving affections stray; but centered, nailed, fixed eternally to one object, we should continually contemplate the death and sufferings of our Lord. But alas! we have a worm in the heart, a pest-house, a charnel-house within, lusts, vile imaginations, and strong evil passions, which, like wells of poisonous water, send out continually streams of impurity. I have a heart, which God knoweth, I wish I could wring from my body and hurl to an infinite distance; a soul which is a cage of unclean birds, a den of loathsome creatures, where dragons haunt and owls do congregate, where every evil beast of ill-omen dwells; a heart too vile to have a parallel "deceitful above all things and desperately wicked." This is the reason why I am forgetful of Christ. Nor is this the sole cause; I suspect it lies somewhere else too. We forget Christ because there are so many other things around us to attract our attention. "But," you say, "they ought not to do so, because though they are around us, they are nothing in comparison with Jesus Christ: though they are in dread proximity to our hearts, what are they compared with Christ?" But do you know, dear friends, that the nearness of an object has a very great effect upon its power? The sun is many, many times larger than the moon, but the moon has a greater influence upon the tides of the ocean than the sun, simply because it is nearer, and has a greater power of attraction. So I find that a little crawling worm of the earth has more effect upon my soul than the glorious Christ in heaven; a handful of golden earth, a puff of fame, a shout of applause, a thriving business, my house, my home, will affect me more than all the glories of the upper world; yea, than the beatific vision itself: simply because earth is near, and heaven is far away. Happy day, when I shall be borne aloft on angels' wings to dwell for ever near my Lord, to bask in the sunshine of his smile, and to be lost in the ineffable radiance of his lovely countenance. We see then the cause of forgetfulness; let us blush over it; let us be sad that we neglect our Lord so much, and now let us attend to his word, "This do in remembrance of me," hoping that its solemn sounds may charm away the demon of base ingratitude.
We shall speak, first of all, concerning the blessed object of memory; secondly, upon the advantages to be derived from remembering this Person; thirdly, the gracious help, to our memory "This do in remembrance of me;" and fourthly, the gentle command, " This do in remembrance of me." May the Holy Ghost open my lips and your hearts, that we may receive blessings.
I. First of all, we shall speak of THE GLORIOUS AND PRECIOUS OBJECT OF MEMORY "This do in remembrance of ME." Christians have many treasures to lock up in the cabinet of memory. They ought to remember their election "Chosen of God ere time began." They ought to be mindful of their extraction, that they were taken out of the miry clay, hewn out of the horrible pit. They ought to recollect their effectual calling, for they were called of God, and rescued by the power of the Holy Ghost. They ought to remember their special deliverances all that has been done for them, and all the mercies bestowed on them. But there is one whom they should embalm in their souls with the most costly spices one who, above all other gifts of God, deserves to be had in perpetual remembrance. One I said, for I mean not an act, I mean not a deed; but it is a Person whose portrait I would frame in gold, and hang up in the state-room of the soul. I would have you earnest students of all the deeds of the conquering Messiah. I would have you conversant with the life of our Beloved. But O forget not his person; for the text says, "This do in remembrance of me." It is Christ's glorious person which ought to be the object of our remembrance. It is his image which should be enshrined in every temple of the Holy Ghost.
But some will say, "How can we remember Christ's person, when we never saw it? We cannot tell what was the peculiar form of his visage; we believe his countenance to be fairer than that of any other man although through grief and suffering more marred but since we did not see it, we cannot remember it. We never saw his feet as they trod the journeys of his mercy; we never beheld his hands as he stretched them out full of lovingkindness; we cannot remember the wondrous intonation of his language, when in more than seraphic eloquence, he awed the multitude, and chained their ears to him; we cannot picture the sweet smile that ever hung on his lips, nor that awful frown with which he dealt out anathemas against the Pharisees; we cannot remember him in his sufferings and agonies, for we never saw him." Well, beloved, I suppose it is true that you cannot remember the visible appearance, for you were not then born; but do you not know that even the apostle said, though he had known Christ after the flesh, yet, thenceforth after the flesh he would know Christ no more. The natural appearance, the race, the descent, the poverty, the humble garb, were nothing in the apostle's estimation of his glorified Lord. And thus, though you do not know him after the flesh, you may know him after the spirit; in this manner you can remember Jesus as much now as Peter, or Paul, or John, or James, or any of those favoured ones who once trod in his footsteps, walked side by side with him, or laid their heads upon his bosom. Memory annihilates distance and over leapeth time, and can behold the Lord, though he be exalted in glory.
Ah! let us spend five minutes in remembering Jesus. Let us remember him in his baptism, when descending into the waters of Jordan, a voice was heard, saying, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Behold him coming up dripping from the stream! Surely the conscious water must have blushed that it contained its God. He slept within its waves a moment, to consecrate the tomb of baptism, in which those who are dead with Christ are buried with him. Let us remember him in the wilderness, whither he went straight from his immersion. Oh! I have often thought of that scene in the desert, when Christ, weary and way-worn, sat him down, perhaps upon the gnarled roots of some old tree. Forty days that he fasted, he was an hungered, when in the extremity of his weakness there came the evil spirit. Perhaps he had veiled his demon royalty in the form of some aged pilgrim, and taking up a stone, said, "Way-worn pilgrim, if thou be the Son of God command this stone to be made bread." Methinks I see him, with his cunning smile, and his malicious leer, as he held the stone, and said, "If," blasphemous if, "If thou be the Son of God, command that this stone shall become a meal for me and thee, for both of us are hungry, and it will be an act of mercy; thou canst do it easily; speak the word, and it shall be like the bread of heaven; we will feed upon it, and thou and I will be friends for ever." But Jesus said and O how sweetly did he say it "Man shall not live by bread alone." Oh! how wonderfully did Christ fight the tempter! Never was there such a battle as that. It was a duel foot to foot a single-handed combat when the champion lion of the pit, and the mighty lion of the tribe of Judah, fought together. Splendid sight! Angels stood around to gaze upon the spectacle, just as men of old did sit to see the tournament of noted warriors. There Satan gathered up his strength; here Apollyon concentrated all his satanic power, that in this giant wrestle he might overthrow the seed of the woman. But Jesus was more than a match for him; in the wrestling he gave him a deadly fall, and came off more than a conqueror. Lamb of God! I will remember thy desert strivings, when next I combat with Satan. When next I have a conflict with roaring Diabolus, I will look to him who conquered once for all, and broke the dragon's head with his mighty blows.
Further, I beseech you remember him in all his daily temptations and hourly trials, in that life-long struggle of his, through which he passed. Oh! what a mighty tragedy was the death of Christ! and his life too? Ushered in with a song, it closed with a shriek. "It is finished." It began in a manger, and ended on a cross; but oh, the sad interval between! Oh! the black pictures of persecution, when his friends abhorred him; when his foes frowned at him as he passed the streets; when he heard the hiss of calumny, and was bitten by the foul tooth of envy; when slander said he had a devil and was mad: that he was a drunken man and a wine-bibber; and when his righteous soul was vexed with the ways of the wicked. Oh! Son of God, I must remember thee; I cannot help remembering thee, when I think of those years of toil and trouble which thou didst live for my sake. But you know my chosen theme the place where I can always best remember Christ. It is a shady garden full of olives. O that spot! I would that I had eloquence, that I might take you there. Oh! if the Spirit would but take us, and set us down hard by the mountains of Jerusalem, I would say, see there runs the brook of Kedron, which the king himself did pass; and there you see the olive trees. Possibly, at the foot of that olive, lay the three disciples when they slept; and there, ah! there, I see drops of blood. Stand here, my soul, a moment; those drops of blood dost thou behold them? Mark them; they are not the blood of wounds; they are the blood of a man whose body was then unwounded. O my soul picture him when he knelt down in agony and sweat, sweat, because he wrestled with God, sweat, because he agonized with his Father. "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me." O Gethsemane! thy shades are deeply solemn to my soul. But ah! those drops of blood! Surely it is the climax of the height of misery; it is the last of the mighty acts of this wondrous sacrifice. Can love go deeper than that? Can it stoop to greater deeds of mercy? Oh! had I eloquence, I would bestow a tongue on every drop of blood that is there; that your hearts might rise in mutiny against your languor and coldness, and speak out with earnest burning remembrance of Jesus. And now, farewell, Gethsemane.
But I will take you somewhere else, where you shall still behold the "Man of Sorrows." I will lead you to Pilate's hall, and let you see him endure the mockeries of cruel soldiers: the smitings of mailed gloves; the blows of clenched fists; the shame; the spitting, the plucking of the hair: the cruel buffetings. Oh! can you not picture the King of Martyrs, stript of his garments; exposed to the gaze of fiend-like men? See you not the crown about his temples, each thorn acting as a lancet to pierce his head? Mark you not his lacerated shoulders, and the white bones starting out from the bleeding flesh? Oh, Son of Man! I see thee scourged and flagellated with rods and whips, how can I henceforward cease to remember thee? My memory would be more treacherous than Pilate, did it not every cry, Ecce Homo, "Behold the man."
Now, finish the scene of woe by a view of Calvary. Think of the pierced hands and the bleeding side; think of the scorching sun, and then the entire darkness; remember the broiling fever and the dread thirst; think of the death shriek, "It is finished!" and of the groans which were its prelude. This is the object of memory. Let us never forget Christ. I beseech you, for the love of Jesus, let him have the chief place in your memories. Let not the pearl of great price be dropped from your careless hand into the dark ocean of oblivion.
I cannot, however, help saying one thing before I leave this head: and that is, there are some of you who can very well carry away what I have said, because you have read it often, and heard it before; but still you cannot spiritually remember anything about Christ, because you never had him manifested to you, and what we have never known, we cannot remember. Thanks be unto God, I speak not of you all, for in this place there is a goodly remnant according to the election of grace, and to them I turn. Perhaps I could tell you of some old barn, hedge-row, or cottage; or if you have lived in London, about some garret, or some dark lane or street, where first you met with Christ; or some chapel into which you strayed, and you might say, "Thank God, I can remember the seat where first he met with me, and spoke the whispers of love to my soul, and told me he had purchased me."
"Dost mind the place, the spot of ground,
Where Jesus did thee meet?"
Yes, and I would love to build a temple on the spot, and to raise some monument there, where Jehovah-Jesus first spoke to my soul, and manifested himself to me. But he has revealed himself to you more than once has he not? And you can remember scores of places where the Lord hath appeared of old unto you, saying, "Behold I have loved you with an everlasting love." If you cannot all remember such things, there are some of you that can; and I am sure they will understand me when I say, come and do this in remembrance of Christ in remembrance of all his loving visitations, of his sweet wooing words, of his winning smiles upon you, of all he has said and communicated to your souls. Remember all these things tonight, if it be possible for memory to gather up the mighty aggregate of grace. "Bless the Lord. O my soul, and forget not all his benefits."
II. Having spoken upon the blessed object of our memory, we say, secondly, a little upon THE BENEFITS TO BE DERIVED FROM A LOVING REMEMBRANCE OF CHRIST.
Love never says, "Cui bono?" Love never asks what benefit it will derive from love. Love from its very nature is a disinterested thing. It loves; for the creature's sake it loves, and for nothing else. The Christian needs no argument to make him love Christ; just as a mother needs no argument to make her love her child. She does it because it is her nature to do so. The new-born creature must love Christ, it cannot help it. Oh! who can resist the matchless charms of Jesus Christ? the fairest of ten thousand fairs, the loveliest of ten thousand loves. Who can refuse to adore the prince of perfection, the mirror of beauty, the majestic Son of God? But yet it may be useful to us to observe the advantages of remembering Christ, for they are neither few nor small.
And first, remembrance of Jesus will tend to give you hope when you are under the burden of your sins. Notice a few characters here tonight. There comes in a poor creature. Look at him! He has neglected himself this last month; he looks as if he had hardly eaten his daily bread. What is the matter with you? "Oh!" says he, "I have been under a sense of guilt; I have been again and again lamenting, because I fear I can never be forgiven; once I thought I was good, but I have been reading the Bible, and I find that my heart is 'deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked;' I have tried to reform, but the more I try, the deeper I sink in the mire, there is certainly no hope for me. I feel that I deserve no mercy; it seems to me that God must destroy me, for he has declared, 'The soul that sinneth it shall die;' and die I must, be damned I must, for I know I have broken God's law." How will you comfort such a man? What soft words will you utter to give him peace? I know! I will tell thee that there is one, who for thee hath made a complete atonement; if thou only believest on him thou art safe for ever. Remember him, thou poor dying, hopeless creature, and thou shalt be made to sing for joy and gladness. See, the man believes, and in ecstasy exclaims, "Oh! come all ye that fear God, and I will tell you what he hath done for my soul."
"Tell it unto sinners, tell,
I am, I am out of hell."
Hallelujah! God hath blotted out my sins like a thick cloud! That is one benefit to be derived from remembering Christ. It gives us hope under a sense of sin, and tells us there is mercy yet.
Now, I must have another character. And what does he say? "I cannot stand it any longer; I have been persecuted and ill-treated, because I love Christ; I am mocked, and laughed at, and despised: I try to bear it, but I really cannot. A man will be a man; tread upon a worm and he will turn upon you; my patience altogether fails me; I am in such a peculiar position that it is of no use to advise me to have patience, for patience I cannot have; my enemies are slandering me, and I do not know what to do." What shall we say to that poor man? How shall we give him patience? What shall we preach to him? You have heard what he has to say about himself. How shall we comfort him under this great trial? If we suffered the same, what should we wish some friend to say to us? Shall we tell him that other persons have borne as much? He will say, "Miserable comforters are ye all!" No, I will tell him, "Brother, you are persecuted; but remember the words of Jesus Christ, how he spake unto us, and said, 'Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for great is your reward in heaven, for so persecuted they the prophets that were before you." My brother! think of him, who, when he died, prayed for his murderers, and said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." All you have to bear, is as nothing compared with his mighty sufferings. Take courage; face it again like a man; never say die. Let not your patience be gone; take up your cross daily, and follow Christ. Let him be your motto; set him before your eyes. And, now, receiving this, hear what the man will say. He tells you at once "Hail, persecution; welcome shame. Disgrace for Jesus shall be my honor, and scorn shall be my highest glory.
"'Now, for the love I bear his name,
What was my gain I count my loss,
I pour contempt on all my shame,
And nail my glory to his cross.'"
There is another effect, you see, to remembering Christ. It tends to give us patience under persecution. It is a girdle to brace up the loins, so that our faith may endure to the end.
Dear friends, I should occupy your time too much if I went into the several benefits; so I will only just run over one or two blessings to be received. It will give us strength in temptation. I believe that there are hours with every man, when he has a season of terrific temptation. There was never a vessel that lived upon the mighty deep but sometimes it had to do battle with a storm. There she is, the poor barque, rocked up and down on the mad waves. See how they throw her from wave to wave, and toss her to mid heaven. The winds laugh her to scorn. Old Ocean takes the ship in his dripping fingers, and shakes it to and fro. How the mariners cry out for fear! Do you know how you can put oil upon the waters, and all shall be still? Yes. One potent word shall do it. Let Jesus come; let the poor heart remember Jesus, and steadily then the ship shall sail, for Christ has the helm. The winds shall blow no more, for Christ shall bid them shut their mighty mouths, and never again disturb his child. There is nothing which can give you strength in temptation, and help you to weather the storm, like the name of Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God. Then again, what comfort it will give you on a sick bed the name of Christ! It will help you to be patient to those who wait upon you, and to endure the sufferings which you have to bear; yea, it shall be so with you, that you shall have more hope in sickness than in health, and shall find a blessed sweetness in the bitterness of gall. Instead of feeling vinegar in your mouth, through your trouble, you shall find honey for sweetness, in the midst of all the trial and trouble that God will put upon you, "For he giveth songs in the night."
But just to close up the advantages of remembering Christ, do you know where you will have the benefit most of all? Do you know the place where chiefly you will rejoice that you ever thought of him? I will take you to it. Hush! Silence! You are going up stairs into a lonely room. The curtains hang down. Some one stands there weeping. Children are around the bed, and friends are there. See that man lying? That is yourself. Look at him; his eyes are your eyes; his hands are your hands. That is yourself. You will be there soon. Man! that is yourself. Do you see it? It is a picture of yourself. Those are your eyes that soon will be closed in death your hands, that will lie stiff and motionless your lips that will be dry and parched, between which they will put drops of water. Those are your words that freeze in air, and drop so slowly from your dying lips. I wonder whether you will be able to remember Christ there. If you do not, I will picture you. Behold that man, straight up in the bed; see his eyes starting from their sockets. His friends are all alarmed; they ask him what he sees. He represses the emotion; he tells them he sees nothing. They know that there is something before his eyes. He starts again. Good God! what is that I see I seem to see? What is it? Ah! one sigh! The soul is gone. The body is there. What did he see? He saw a flaming throne of judgment; he saw God upon it, with his sceptre; he saw books opened; he beheld the throne of God, and saw a messenger, with a sword brandished in the air to smite him low. Man! that is thyself; there thou wilt be soon. That picture is thine own portrait. I have photographed thee to the life. Look at it. That is where thou shalt be within a few years ay, within a few days. But if thou canst remember Christ, shall I tell thee what thou wilt do? Oh! thou wilt smile in the midst of trouble. Let me picture such a man. They put pillows behind him; he sits up in bed, and takes the hand of the loved one, and says, "Farewell! weep not for me; the kind God shall wipe away all tears from every eye." Those round about are addressed, "Prepare to meet your God, and follow me to the land of bliss." Now he has set his house in order. All is done. Behold him, like good old Jacob, leaning on his staff, about to die. See how his eyes sparkle; he claps his hands; they gather round to hear what he has to say; he whispers "Victory!" and summoning a little more strength, he cries, "Victory!" and at last, with his final gasp, "Victory, through him that loved us!" and he dies. This is one of the great benefits to be derived from remembering Christ to be enabled to meet death with blessed composure.
III. We are now arrived at the third portion of our meditation, which is a SWEET AID TO MEMORY.
At schools we used certain books, called "Aids to Memory." I am sure they rather perplexed than assisted me. Their utility was equivalent to that of a bundle of staves under a traveller's arm: true he might use them one by one to walk with, but in the mean time he carried a host of others which he would never need. But our Saviour was wiser than all our teachers, and his remembrances are true and real aids to memory. His love tokens have an unmistakeable language, and they sweetly win our attention.
Behold the whole mystery of the sacred Eucharist. It is bread and wine which are lively emblems of the body and blood of Jesus. The power to excite remembrance consists in the appeal thus made to the senses. Here the eye, the hand, the mouth, find joyful work. The bread is tasted, and entering within, works upon the sense of taste, which is one of the most powerful. The wine is sipped the act is palpable. We know that we are drinking, and thus the senses, which are usually clogs to the soul, become wings to lift the mind in contemplation. Again, much of the influence of this ordinance is found in its simplicity. How beautifully simple the ceremony is bread broken and wine poured out. There is no calling that thing a chalice, that thing a paten, and that a host. Here is nothing to burden the memory here is the simple bread and wine. He must have no memory at all who cannot remember that he has eaten bread, and that he has been drinking wine. Note again, the mighty pregnancy of these signs how full they are of meaning. Bread broken so was your Saviour broken. Bread to be eaten so his flesh is meat indeed. Wine poured out, the pressed juice of the grape so was your Saviour crushed under the foot of divine justice: his blood is your sweetest wine. Wine to cheer your heart so does the blood of Jesus. Wine to strengthen and invigorate you so does the blood of the mighty sacrifice. Oh! make that bread and wine to your souls tonight a sweet and blessed help of remembrance of that dear Man who once on Calvary died. Like the little ewe lamb, you are now to eat your Master's bread and drink from his cup. Remember the hand which feeds you.
But before you can remember Christ well here, you must ask the assistance of the Holy Spirit. I believe there ought to be a preparation before the Lord's Supper. I do not believe in Mrs. Toogood's preparation, who spent a week in preparing, and then finding it was not the Ordinance Sunday, she said she had lost all the week. I do not believe in that kind of preparation, but I do believe in a holy preparation for the Lord's Supper: when we can on a Saturday if possible, spend an hour in quiet meditation on Christ, and the passion of Jesus; when, especially on the Sabbath afternoon, we can devoutly sit down and behold him, then these scenes become realities, and not mockeries, as they are to some. I fear greatly that there are some of you who will drink the wine, and not think of his blood: and vile hypocrites you will be while you do it. Take heed to yourselves, "He that eateth and drinketh" unworthily, eateth and drinketh what? "damnation to himself." This is a plain English word; mind what you are doing! Do not do it carelessly; for of all the sacred things on earth, it is the most solemn. We have heard of some men banded together by drawing blood from their arms and drinking it all round; that was most horrid, but at the same time most solemn. Here you are to drink blood from the veins of Christ, and sip the trickling stream which gushed from his own loving heart. Is not that a solemn thing? Ought anybody to trifle with it? To go to church and take it for sixpence? To come and join us for the sake of getting charities? Out upon it! It is an awful blasphemy against Almighty God; and amongst the damned in hell, those shall be among the most accursed who dared thus to mock the holy ordinance of God. This is the remembrance of Christ. "This do in remembrance of me." If you cannot do it in remembrance of Christ, I beseech you, as you love your souls, do not do it at all. Oh! regenerate man or woman, enter not into the court of the priests, lest Israel's God resent the intrusion.
IV. And now to close up. Here is a sweet command: "This do in remembrance of me." To whom does this command apply? "This do ye." It is important to answer this question "This do ye," Who are intended? Ye who put your trust in me. "This do ye in remembrance of me." Well, now, you should suppose Christ speaking to you tonight; and he says, "This do ye in remembrance of me." Christ watches you at the door. Some of you go home, and Christ says, "I thought I said, 'This do ye in remembrance of me.'" Some of you keep your seats as spectators. Christ sits with you, and he says, "I thought I said, 'This do ye in remembrance of me.'" "Lord, I know you did." "Do you love me then?" "Yes, I love thee; I love, Lord; thou knowest I do." "But, I say, go down there eat that bread, drink that wine." "I do not like to, Lord; I should have to be baptized if I joined that church, and I am afraid I shall catch cold, or be looked at. I am afraid to go before the church, for I think they would ask some questions I could not answer." "What," says Christ, "is this all you love me? Is this all your affection to your Lord. Oh! how cold to me, your Saviour. If I had loved you no more than this, you would have been in hell: if that were the full extent of my affection, I should not have died for you. Great love bore great agonies; and is this all your gratitude to me?" Are not some of you ashamed, after this? Do you not say in your hearts, "it is really wrong?" Christ says, "Do this in remembrance of me," and are you not ashamed to stay away? I give a free invitation to every lover of Jesus to come to this table. I beseech you, deny not yourselves the privilege by refusing to unite with the church. If you still live in sinful neglect of this ordinance, let me remind you that Christ has said, "Whosoever shall be ashamed of me in this generation, of him will I be ashamed, when I come in the glory of my Father." Oh, soldier of the cross, act not the coward's part!
And not to lead you into any mistakes, I must just add one thing, and then I have done. When I speak of your taking the ordinance of the Lord's Supper, do not imagine that I wish you for one moment to suppose that there is anything saving in it. Some say that the ordinance of baptism is non-essential, so is the ordinance of the Lord's Supper, it is non-essential, if we look upon it in the light of salvation. Be saved by eating a piece of bread! Nonsense, confounded nonsense! Be saved by drinking a drop of wine! Why, it is too absurd for common sense to admit any discussion upon. You know it is the blood of Jesus Christ; it is the merit of his agonies; it is the purchase of his sufferings; it is what he did, that alone can save us. Venture on him; venture wholly, and then you are saved. Hearest thou, poor convinced sinner, the way of salvation? If I ever meet thee in the next world, thou mightest, perhaps, say to me, "I spent one evening, sir, in hearing you, and you never told me the way to heaven." Well, thou shalt hear it. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, trust in his righteousness, and thou art saved beyond the vengeance of the law, or the power of hell. But trust in thine own works, and thou art lost as sure as thou art alive.
Now, O ever glorious Son of God, we approach thy table to feast on the viands of grace, permit each of us, in reliance upon thy Spirit, to exclaim in the words of one of thine own poets:
"Remember thee, and all thy pains,
And all thy love to me
Yes, while a pulse or breath remains,
I will remember thee.
And when these failing lips grow dumb,
And thought and memory flee;
When thou shalt in thy kingdom come,
Jesus, remember me!"
The Feast of the Lord
Published on Thursday, March 2nd, 1916.
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
On Lord's-day Evening, August 6th, 1871.
"For as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come." 1 Corinthians 11:26 .
I THINK we cannot too often explain the meaning of the two great Christian ordinances baptism and the Supper of the Lord; for it is essential to our profiting by them that we understand them. If we do not know what they mean, they certainly cannot convey to us any blessing whatever. They are not mere channels of grace in themselves, apart from our understanding being exercised, and our hearts being moved by them. Very soon the best ordinance in the world will become a mere form, and will even degenerate into superstitious practice, unless it be understood; and we must not always take it for granted that the meaning of the simplest emblem is understood. Line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, and there a little, must still be the motto of the Christian minister. We must explain, explain, and explain again, or else men will satisfy themselves with the outward form, and not reach to the teaching which the forms were intended to convey. Our text deals with the supper of our Lord, and we will read it again. "As often as eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come."
The first point of the text is what we do we "show." Then, what do we show, and how? And then, who show it "ye do show the Lord's death." And then, when? "as often" "till he come." First, then, when we come to the Lord's table:
I. WHAT WE DO.
We "show." That word has two or three meanings. They all melt into one, but we shall get at it better by dividing it. It is meant here by showing Christ's death that we declare it. When the emblems are placed upon the table bread and wine and we gather around it, we declare our firm belief that Jesus, the Son of God, descended into this world and died as a sacrifice for sin upon the arose. It has been found that if a great event is to be kept in mind in succeeding ages, there must be some memorial of it. Men by degrees forget it, and even come to be dubious as to whether such an event did occur. Sometimes a stone has been set up a monument but this has not always been most effective. God, when he would have the children of Israel remember that he brought them out of Egypt with a high hand and an outstretched arm, did not bid them set up a monument, but he ordained a ceremony which was to be practiced on a certain day. It was called "The Passover," and the slaughter of the lamb and the eating of it became a yearly declaration by the people of Israel that they believed that God brought their fathers up out of the house of bondage. So effective has this been that men have often used the same device. When the Jewish people escaped from the plot which was laid by Haman, through the wisdom of Mordecai and Esther, they ordained the keeping of the feast of Purim, that they might have in perpetual memory the goodness of God towards his people.
And you know how, in our own English history and in the history of other countries, certain rites and ceremonies have been ordained in order that there might be a perpetual memorial, a declaration made that such and such a thing did occur. Now that more than eighteen hundred years ago Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, died upon Calvary by crucifixion, we do here protest and declare. We set forth again to a world that is skeptical and denies the fact which is its brightest hope we set forth our confident belief that so it was; and as long as this ordinance shall be celebrated, there shall be a standing proof in the world that that was the case.
But to set forth means more than to declare. It signifies, in the next place to represent. There is in the Lord's Supper a representation of the death of Christ. Men, when they have found an event to be interesting and remarkable, have often devised ways of representing it to the people that they might understand it.
With regard to our Lord's death, there are some who hang up pictures on the wall; they think the use of the crucifix and so on to be proper. I find no teaching of that kind in the Word of God. I do find that too often such things lead to idolatry. And what shall we say of these miracle plays which, even in these modern times, have been carried out, in which the death of our Lord Jesus Christ is travestied? They seem to be shocking to the Christian mind. But here, in a very simple manner, you have God's own appointed way of representing to ourselves and to onlookers the death of our Lord. This is the Christian's "show" we show the death of Christ here by a divine appointment. I shall, farther on, show how it is so, and that the breaking of bread and the pouring forth of wine the use of those two emblems is a most telling, most suggestive, most instructive method of representing the death of Christ. There are two other ways of representing it the one the pencil of the evangelist which has drawn the death of Christ in the Word of God; the other is the preaching of the gospel. It is the preacher's business to set forth Christ crucified evidently crucified among you. The three ways that God has ordained of representing the death of Christ are the Word read, the Word preached, and this blessed ordinance of the Supper of the Lord.
To "show." This means to declare, to testify; and it means also to represent. But it has a third meaning: it means also to hold forth, to make manifest, to publish, to call attention to. Now it has been a matter of fact that when the Jesuit missionaries went to China and converted a great many to what they called the Christian faith, they never mentioned the fact that Christ died. For years they concealed it, lest the people should be shocked Now we, on the other hand, put that first and foremost. We have no other Christianity than this, that Christ died and rose again, and we cannot come to the Lord's table without showing it. The Jesuit could, because it would puzzle the wisest man to see the death of Christ in the Mass. He might sit and look at a hundred Masses before he knew what it meant. But the moment we gather around this table and break bread, and pour out wine, whoever asks us, "What mean ye by this ordinance? the answer is prompt the wayfaring man, though a fool, need not err in this "We set forth to you that Jesus died." "God forbid that we should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." We are not ashamed of a crucified Saviour. We have heard of some in these days who are always preaching a glorified Christ. We wish them such success as their ministry is likely to bring; but for us we preach a crucified Christ "Christ and him crucified"; for it is here, after all, that the salvation of the sinner lies. Christ glorified is precious enough oh! how unspeakably precious to a soul that is saved! but first and foremost to a dying world it is Christ upon the cross that we have to declare. And, therefore, when we come to the Communion table we do three things. We assert the fact that Jesus died; we represent that fact in emblem, and then we thus press it upon the attention of men. We desire them to observe it; we ask them to mark it; we tell them that this is the sum and substance of all the gospel that we were sent to preach, "God hath set forth Christ to be a propitiation for our sins."
Thus I have opened up the meaning of the word to "show." This is what we do. Now the second point is, my brethren:
II. WHAT WE SHOW, AND HOW
It is said in the text, "As often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death." How do we show it? What do we show? Well, first of all, we show that God has set forth Christ for men. The table is spread; there is bread on it; there is the cup upon it. What for? Not for beasts. Here is the food of men. It is set there for men. It is intended that the bread should be eaten, that the wine should be drunk. Everybody who sees a table spread knows at once that there are preparations for a meal or a festival. Now God has set forth Christ for men. There is in Christ what man wants. As bread meets his hunger, as the cup meets his thirst, so Christ meets all the spiritual wants of mankind. And the soul that would live, and the soul that would rejoice, must come to God's provision for his living and his rejoicing, and that provision is to be found in Jesus Christ crucified. God set forth Christ of old. Even in the garden, he set him forth in the first promise. He continued to set him forth by all the prophets, and in this last day every veil has been taken away by an open Bible inviting all comers. God has set forth the bread of life to the sons of men. And you to-night will show that fact. When you see that table uncovered, you have a representation. God has made a feast of fat things for the sons of men in the person of Jesus Christ. The feast consists of bread and wine. Now in this we represent Christ's human person, Christ's humanity. That he is no myth, but real flesh, is taught by the bread being on the table that he was no phantom, but that real blood coursed through his veins as through ours that the Lord of life and glory was, like ourselves, a real man, in humanity in all respects like to ourselves, sin alone excepted. There shall be no phantom feast upon the table, and the materialism that is there is meant to show that he was a man, a real man
"Who once on Calvary died,
When streams of blood and water ran
Down from his wounded side."
But the next thing we show forth is his death. We have his person; then we have his death observe how. Recording to the Romish Church, the most of the people are only to participate in the bread the wafer. Now such persons never show Christ's death at all, for the text says, "As often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye show Christ's death." It is only by the two that you show his death at all. The bread represents the body, but the cup must represent the blood, or else you have no token of his suffering no emblem of his death. Cannot the two be mixed together? No, for if the blood and flesh be together, you have the living man. It is when the blood flows when the lifeblood ebbs from the body, and the body is bloodless, that then you have the wine as a token of death; and the separation of the two the use of the two emblems is absolutely needful to set forth death. The more you think this the more you see in it. The emblem is the simplest in the world, but yet the most instructive. Take either one of the elements the bread, how it typifies Christ's suffering! Here was the corn bruised beneath the thresher's flail; then was it cast into the ground. It sprung up and ripened, and had to be cut down with the sickle; then it had to be threshed; then ground in the mill; then was it baked in the oven. A whole series of sufferings, if I may use the term, it had to pass through before it became proper food for us. And so must our Saviour pass through sufferings innumerable before he could become food for our souls, and redeemer of our spirits. As for that which is in the cup, it was trodden beneath the foot in the wine-press its juice was pressed forth. So in the wine-press of Jehovah's wrath was Christ pressed before he could become the wine that maketh glad both God and man. Both emblems represent suffering, each one separately, but put together they bring forth the idea of death, "and as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death."
But more than this; we show that God set forth Christ; we show his person as a real man; we show his sufferings and his death; but next we show our participation in the same, for it is not "as often as ye look at this bread," or "as ye gaze upon this cup," but "as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup." Christ saves us not until we do receive him by an act of faith. The bread satisfies no hunger while it rests upon the table, and a draught from the cup quenches no thirst until it really is drunk. So the precious blood of Jesus Christ our Saviour must be received by our faith. We must believe in him to the saving of our souls. Now how simple a matter is eating! It matters not, unless a man be dead he wants little teaching to know how to eat. It is as simple as a natural act he puts food into his mouth. It is just so here. There is the Saviour, and I take him that is all. It seems to me to be even a more complex act to eat than simply to trust in Jesus, yet is it a very simple thing. The idiot can eat. No matter how guilty a man, he can eat; no matter how dark and despairing his fears, he can eat; and O poor soul, whoever thou mayest be, there shall be no want of wit or merit that shall keep thee back from Christ. If thou art willing to have him, thou mayest have him. The act of trusting Christ makes Christ as much thy own as the eating of the bread. Suppose some difficulty were raised about whether a piece of bread was mine. Well, the legal question would take a long time to decide. I cannot produce the document, nor find the witnesses to prove it is mine. But there is one little fact, I think, which will settle it I have eaten it. So if the devil himself were to say that Christ is not mine, I have believed on him; and if I have believed on him, he is mine just as surely as when I have eaten a piece of bread there can be no question about its being mine. Now we set forth to-night, by eating bread and drinking of the cup, the fact that Jesus Christ is our Saviour, and we take him by simple faith to be our all in all.
But there is more teaching still. The bread and wine, are being eaten and drunk, are assimilated into the system; they minister strength to bone, sinew, muscle; they build up the man. And herein is teaching. Christ believed in is one with us "Christ in us the hope of glory. "We have heard persons talk of believers falling from grace and losing Christ. No, sir, a man has eaten bread he ate it yesterday. Will you separate that bread from the man? Will you trace the drops that came from the cup, and fetch them out of the man's system? You shall more easily do that than you shall take Christ away from the soul that has once fed upon him. "Who shall separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord?" He is in us a well of water springing up into everlasting life. See then how large a letter Christ has written to us with these pens how in this bread and this wine, eaten and drunk, he has taught us wondrous mysteries in fact, the whole Christian faith is, in brief, summed up here upon this table.
And now we must remark upon what it is we show forth, and how we do it. We do this very simply. Certain churches must go about this business in a very mysterious manner a great deal of machinery is wanted a plate becomes a paten, and a cup becomes a chalice, and a table, ah! that has vanished and turned into an altar. The whole thing is turned topsy-turvy until it is very questionable in the Church of Rome whether there is any supper at all; for if you introduce the altar, you have put away the table and done away with the whole thing. It is another ordinance, and not the ordinance which Christ established. One would suppose that when the Apostles first went out to preach, if the religion of the Romish Church be that of the Scripture, they would have needed, each of them, a wagon to carry with them the various paraphernalia necessary for the celebration of their services. But here, wherever there is a piece of bread, and wherever there is a cup, we have the plain, but instructive emblems which our Saviour bade us use. "He took bread and break it. "He did drink of the cup, and passed it to his disciples, and said, "Drink ye all of it."
Let us keep this ordinance in its pure simplicity. Let us never add anything to it by our own devising by way of fancying that we are honouring God by garnishing his table. Let us plainly show Christ's death, and as we do it plainly we should also do it festively. Is it not delightful to reflect that our Lord has not ordained a mournful ceremony in which to celebrate his death: it is a feast. You would suppose by the way that some come that it is a funeral, but it is a feast, and joy becomes a feast; and when, according to the example of Christ, we recline at our ease in the nearest approach to the posture in which the Oriental lay along at the table, and when we come with joyful heart, blessing the Lord Jesus that though our sins put him to death, yet his death has put to death our sins, then it is that we celebrate his death as he would have us celebrate it not as an awful tragedy, in which we try to provoke our indignation against the Romans or the Jews, but as a hallowed festival, in which the King himself comes to the table, and his spikenard gives forth a sweet smell, and our spirit is refreshed.
And once more, this way of showing Christ's death is one of communion. Now one person cannot do it; many must come together. Ye must eat and drink together to celebrate this, your Lord's death. And is not this delightful, for in this cup we have fellowship with him and with one another? We, being many, have one bread; we, being many, have one cup one family at one table with one common head, the Lord Jesus, who is all in all to us. Oh! I bless his name that whereas he might have ordained a way of our showing his death which would have been mournful, or a way which would have been solitary, he has selected that which is joyful, and that which is full of good fellowship, so that saints below and himself can meet together in the festival of love and show his death until he come, in the breaking of bread and the pouring forth of wine. Thus I have tried to show what it is we show, and how we show it. Now thirdly:
III. WHO ARE TO SHOW IT?
Who show it? "As often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death." The "ye," then includes all the saints of God all who come to the table, who eat this bread and drink this cup; and truly a very pleasing thought arises from this. Here is a way of showing Christ's death in which all who love Christ have a share. You cannot all show it from the pulpit; gifts are not equally distributed; but you all alike share in this showing of his death in this special way, which he himself celebrated for our example, and which he delivered to his servant Paul, expressly that it might stand on record. Now if Paul himself were here, he could not show Christ's death alone at the Lord's Supper. He must ask some of his poorer brethren to come with him. If the minister of a church should be full of the Holy Ghost, yet could he not show forth Christ's death here in this peculiar way. He must say to his brethren, "Come, brethren and sisters; it says ' ye,' as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup." Here we are to-night, as we sit here, all brought into a blessed equality in the act of using the same outward sign, and of performing the Master's will in the same way.
"But," says ones "doth every man who comes to the table, and eats and drinks, show Christ's death? Notice how the verse which follows my text puts a bar to that. "Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of this bread." It must be taken for granted that the man has examined himself that he comes there as a true believer in Jesus that he comes there with the full intent to show Christ's death; and if he does that, such a man is showing Christ's death. I am very earnest, dear brethren and sisters, as it has been a long time since I have met with you having been kept away so long by sickness, though I have been with my brethren below stairs I am anxious that we should indeed show Christ's death to-night. Let us do it to ourselves. I find that the text may either be read in the indicative or in the imperative mood. It is either "ye show Christ's death," as our version has it, or it may be "show ye Christ's death" it is an exhortation. Oh! let us take care that we show it to ourselves. "Show it to ourselves?" says one. Yes, it is meant for you. This is a primary meaning of the text. When you take that bread, don't think of the bread, and stay there, but say to your own soul, "My soul, think thou of Jesus. My heart, go away now to Gethsemane. Come, ye stray thoughts; Come, ye passing vanities, begone! I must away to where my Saviour bled and died.
"Sweet the moments, rich in blessing
Which, before his cross, I spend."
I have come here to show his death; let me see him. I will ask him to permit me in spirit to put my finger into the print of the nails, and to put my hand into his side. Oh! go not from this table satisfied with the outward emblem; press into the inner court pray the Master to manifest himself to you as he does not unto the world. For here is the main business show his death to your own heart till your heart bleeds for sin; show it to your own faith till your faith feels it is all sufficient show it to others. You will be sure to show it to others if you show it to yourself for as others look on and mark your reverent behaviour; if they cannot enter into your joy, they will be reminded of what they have so long forgotten. Oh! brethren and sisters, let me urge each one of you that no one should be content without sharing this honour. I feel we all have an honour to participate in showing forth the death of Christ. Let us not, in sharing the honour, bring condemnation on ourselves. But I must hasten on. The fourth point is:
IV. WHEN ARE WE TO DO IT?
The text says "often" "as often as ye eat this bread." The Holy Spirit might have used the words "when ye eat," but he did not. He teaches us by implication that we ought to do it often. I do not think there is any positive law about it, but it looks to me as if the first Christians broke bread almost every day "breaking bread from house to house." I am not sure that that refers to Communion, but in all probability it does. This much is certain, that in the early Church the custom was to break bread in memory of Christ's passion on the first day of every week, and it was always a part of the Sabbath's service when they came together to remember their Lord in this way. How it can be thought right to leave the celebrating of this ordinance to once a year or once a quarter I cannot understand, and it seems to me that if brethren knew the great joy there is in often setting forth Christ's death they would not be content with even once a month. But I leave that.
The other mark of time in the text is "till he come." Then this service is to end. There will be no more Lord's Suppers when Christ appears, because they will be needless. Put out the candle the sun has risen. Put away the emblem here comes Christ himself. But until he does come, this will always be a most fitting ordinance. I pleased myself with a thought I met with the other day. Our Lord Jesus Christ sat at the table and ate with his disciples, and he took the cup and he sipped it, and he passed it round. It is being passed round still. It has not got round the table yet, it is being passed on. For 1,800 years it has been passed from hand to hand. They have not all drunk yet; and you remember he, said, "Drink ye all of it" all of you. Did he speak to all his elect that were to be born to all the countless companies yet to come? I think he did, and it is going round: and by-and-bye, when all the people of God have participated in Christ, it will cease. The cup will never be emptied till then.
"Dear dying Lamb, thy precious blood
Shall never lose its power,
Till all the ransomed Church of God
Be saved, to sin no more."
When the last has drunk of it, what then? It will come back into the Master's hands, and then will be fulfilled that word of his, "I say unto you I will not henceforth drink of the juice of the vine till I drink it new in my heavenly Father's kingdom." And it is going round, brethren that cup of glorious Christian fellowship of love to Christ, the cup that is filled with Jesus' blood it is passing round, and when it has reached his hand then we shall need no more the outward ordinance. But until then it is clear from the text that it is to be kept up. And I have a little dispute with some of you here present. You love the Lord, but you have never been baptized; you love Jesus, but you have never come to his table. Now let me say you are in opposition to Christ. He says, "Do this till I come", you don't do it. "Oh! but I am only one," say you. To your measure of ability you have helped to make the lord's Supper obsolete. Can you see that? If you have a right to neglect it, so have I if I, so have all my brethren. Then there is an end to it. My dear brother, you are doing the best you can to make Christ forgotten in the world. I pray you by his own dying example and his express command, "This do ye in remembrance of me" if ye have believed him, keep this, his commandment. If ye have not believed in him, then far hence! Ye have no right to take it. But if you have believed, I beseech you stand not back for shame or fear, but eat and drink at his table till he come.
Time has gone too fast for me, and I must close. There is one lesson, however, that I cannot leave out. Until Christ come. We are taught our interim employment what is to occupy us until Jesus comes. Beloved brethren, until Jesus comes we have nothing left but to think of him. Till Jesus comes the main thing we have to do is to think of and set him forth a crucified Saviour. There is no food for the Church but Jesus; there is no testimony to the world but Jesus crucified. They have sometimes told us that in this growing age we may expect to have developed a higher form of Christianity. Well, they shall have it that like it; but Christ himself has left us nothing but just this, "Show my death till I come." The preacher is to go on preaching a dying Saviour; the saint is to go on trusting that dying Saviour, feeding on him and letting his soul be satisfied as with marrow and fatness. There is nothing left us to occupy our thoughts, or to be the subject of our joy, as our dear dying Lord. Oh! let us feed on him. Each one, personally, as a believer let him feed on his Saviour. If he has come once, come again. Keep on coming till Christ himself shall appear. As long as the invitation stands let us not slight it, but constantly come to Christ himself and feed on him.
In conclusion, let every ungodly person here know that he has no part nor lot in this matter. Thy first business, sinner, is with Christ himself. Go thou and put thy trust in him. Oh! go this night. Thou mayest never have another night to go in. And then when thou best believed, then obey his command in baptism, and then also come to his table and show his death until he come. The Lord bless you for Christ's sake. Amen.
Fencing the Table
Published on Thursday, January 7th, 1904,
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
On Lord's-day Evening, January 2nd, 1876.
"But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup." 1 Corinthians 11:28 .
THERE ARE TWO symbolical ordinances in the Christian Church, and only two, Believers' Baptism and the Lord's Supper. These have been so misinterpreted, perverted, and abused, that the wish has sometimes crossed the mind of spiritual persons that they had never been instituted. We do not wonder that there should be a denomination of Christians who have given them up, though we think that, in this matter, they have not acted according to the Word of God. We ourselves retain them, for this reason only, because we believe that our Lord Jesus Christ ordained them; and we desire to observe them exactly as Christ ordained them; and thus only shall we find them instructive and helpful to our souls.
Baptism, the immersion of the believer in water, is the token of his death, burial, and resurrection with Christ. It sets forth the fellowship which he has with his Lord as the apostle tells us: "Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him;" not that the plunge into the water confers any grace upon the person who is baptized, but it is the type, the emblem, the instructive symbol of the new birth, which new birth consists in passing, by death and resurrection, into newness of life. You all know that we are only born once. A thing can only have one true beginning. Hence, baptism is never to be repeated. Once done, it is done for ever.
The other ordinance is the Lord's Supper; and, as baptism sets forth, typifies, (mark you, nothing more than typifies,) and is the emblem of the new birth, so the Lord's Supper is the emblem of the spiritual feeding of that new life. Now, though a man is born only once, he eats a great many more times than once, and drinks a great many more times than once. Indeed, to eat and to drink often, are necessary to the maintenance of our life. If we neglected to do so, we should soon find ourselves in an ill case. Hence, the Supper of the Lord, representing, as it does, the spiritual feeding of the new-born life upon the body and blood of Christ, (and only representing it, mark you, not really doing it in any carnal sense,) is oftentimes to be repeated. We find that the early Christians very frequently broke bread together; I think they did so almost every day. It is recorded, by some of the early fathers, that the first Christians seldom met together, on any day of the week, without commemorating the death of Christ. Augustine mentions this and he seems to have taught that, at least once in the week, on that blessed day which celebrates the resurrection of our Lord, Christians should meet for the breaking of bread. I think that, the oftener we meet for this purpose, the better it is for us. The Holy Spirit specifies no particular time; we are not under a law which binds us to this period or to that. Our Lord leaves it very much to our own loving hearts; but the words that Paul quotes, "This do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me," certainly imply that we should often "do this" in remembrance of our dear Lord and Savior.
A simple feast, even of bread and wine, a feast often celebrated, would be liable to be trifled with and misapplied. Hence, as paradise of old was guarded by cherubim, with a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life, so stands this simple Supper of the Lord guarded with a flaming sword, of which my text is a portion: "Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup."
Now, with this thought upon our minds, let us go to the text itself, and observe how we are bidden to examine ourselves before we come to the table of the Lord. We will speak, first, concerning the necessity for this examination; next, the person who is to perform it; then, the vital points of the examination; and, lastly, the spirit in which we should come to the table after we have examined ourselves.
I. First, then, THE NECESSITY FOR THIS EXAMINATION.
The sense of that necessity will be very strongly impressed upon us if we remember that many have profaned the table of the Lord. Hence it is incumbent upon us to examine ourselves lest we should do the same. Years ago, our grandfathers recollect it well, men had to "take the sacrament," as it was called, before they could be made mayors of towns, or hold certain offices in the municipalities, and, in that way, the communion table became a passport to secular office. I tremble as I think how the laws of this land compelled men though they ought never to have yielded obedience to such laws, to eat and drink judgment or condemnation to themselves as they profaned this holy ordinance. Others have made it, as I fear that some still make it, a means of obtaining alms; coming to the communion table because those who are members of the church are helped in the time of their poverty, or there is a distribution of alms money among the needy communicants. Ah, dear friends, however poor you may be, it would be better for you even to starve than to get help in this way if you are not really the Lord's people. If any of you have acted thus, I charge you, before Almighty God, to do so no more. If we have any suspicions that we have ever done such a thing, we may well examine ourselves concerning that matter, and sincerely repent if we have so sinned against the Lord.
Others come to the communion as a piece of sheer superstition, really believing, poor deluded souls, that, when they take the wafer into their mouths, they actually eat the flesh of Christ. Such a monstrous doctrine as that is only fit for cannibals, it is not a doctrine of Christianity. What a profanation of the ordinance it is to come to it with such a notion as that! If any of us have the slightest idea that, to partake of what is called "the sacrament" though there is no such name as that for it anywhere in Scripture, confers grace, let all such thoughts be banished from our minds at once.
It is not a converting ordinance, nor a saving ordinance; it is an establishing ordinance and a comforting ordinance for those who are saved. But it never was intended to save souls, neither is it adapted to that end; and if it be so misrepresented, it is apt rather to be the means of damning than of saving the soul, for he that so eats and drinks may, in very deed, be eating and drinking damnation to himself.
I fear that there are others who come to the communion table out of mere form. I find that it is the custom of certain persons to do this always on Christmas day and on Good Friday, though what particular sanctity there can be about those two days, I am sure I cannot tell. I see little enough of holiness about them, and a great deal of sheer superstition. But let all of us be careful that we never come to the communion simply because it is the first Sabbath in the month, or even because it is the day of our Lord's resurrection, and because, as church-members, we feel that we ought to come there. I mention these things although I hope, to the most of you, they are unnecessary, because they are necessary to a certain class of persons who, in one or other of these ways, thoughtlessly profane the table of the Lord.
But, brethren and sisters in Christ? we need to examine ourselves, because it may be that, though free from these evils which I have mentioned, we have come to this solemn feast without due solemnity without serious thought, without the proper preparation of heart or the right observance of the ordinance. We have come very often to the communion table, yet there has been but little real heart-fellowship with Jesus. There has been bread upon the table, and in our mouths, but we have not discerned the Lord's body. There has been wine there, but we have not looked through the sign to the blood of which it is only the symbol. If it has been so with any of us, we have, to that extent, eaten and drunk unworthily, and I know not how much of deserved chastisement God may have laid upon us on that account but the apostle's words have often been fulfilled since his day, "For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep."
This examination is necessary, next, because the purpose of this ordinance requires that we should be in a fit condition for its observance. What is the object of this ordinance? "This do in remembrance of me," says the Lord Jesus; but you cannot remember what you do not know. Then, how can you remember an unknown Christ? By coming to the communion table, you are supposed to let men see, as they look on at this ordinance, that you believe that Christ lived and died to save sinners. But suppose that you do not believe it, that you do not, at any rate, in your heart savingly believe it; then, you are not a fit person to proclaim that truth to others by means of this ordinance. The Lord Jesus Christ does not want his enemies to be his remembrancers; he wants his friends to cherish his memory, and to keep the fact of his death prominently and permanently before the eyes of the world. It must be his friends who must do this. Besides, this ordinance is one special means of communion between Christ and his people, but what communion can there be between you and Christ if you are a son of Belial? If you love sin, and continue to live in sin, what possible fellowship can you have with the holy Christ? Will he have communion with a man who even comes to his table drunk, or who comes from dishonest actions all the week: or who has been singing a lascivious song, but now turns to join with those who laud and magnify the name of the thrice holy God? Imagine not that Jesus Christ will welcome such as you are to his table. If you do come, it will be at your most imminent peril. It can do you no good; it must be a curse rather than a blessing to you. So, let us examine ourselves, because those, who come to the table of the Lord, ought to be of such a sort that the purposes and objects, for which the ordinance was instituted, may be realized in them.
But let us specially examine ourselves, because, if we come not aright, we shall incur very severe penalties, the penalties which I have already mentioned to you. Let me again read to you these solemn words: "Wherefore, whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord." And then follows the sure penalty upon true believers who, nevertheless, come in an unfit state to the table. I have read it to you before, but I will read it again: "He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh condemnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep." Put off thy shoes from thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. Rush not in to the sacred place, but come with that gracious timorousness nay, rather, with that holy boldness which becomes a sinner who has been washed in the blood of Jesus Christ, and is robed in his spotless righteousness.
And, dear friends, once more, there is a necessity for us to examine ourselves, because we must know that there are, among us, some who are, doubtless, partaking of the Lord's Supper unworthily. We have known, to our great sorrow, of some who have been harbouring an unforgiving spirit, yet who have dared to come to the communion table. When I have really known that this has been the case, I have prevented the wrongdoer from sitting down with us; but, unknown to me, and to other ministers, it must often have happened that persons have come, professing to be Christians, yet all the while not manifesting the true spirit of Christianity toward some offending brother or sister. You remember how even the loving apostle John writes, "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?"
Then, alas! there are some, who, by coming to the communion, profess to be Christians, yet who, nevertheless, are all the while living in shameful sin which they dare not have discovered Christ. This is one of the greatest sources of sorrow to true ministers of Christ, and it has made us often wring our hands with agony, and weep bitter tears before the Lord, when we have seen trees looking fair and green, but which, inwardly, as Bunyan said, were "so rotten that they were only fit to be tinder for the devil's tinder-box." Their profession was a false one; for, all the while, their moral character was unsound. There was a rottenness about them which no one discovered till, upon some fatal day, fatal to their own reputation, but good for the church's purification, they were exposed, and driven out with shame. Judas was found out at last; Ananias and Sapphira were at last found out, and cut off from amongst the people of God, and the unclean and unholy among the early Christians were excommunicated from the assembly of the saints.
Now, brethren and sisters, if, to your own personal knowledge, this has been the case with others, forgive me when I ask, Is there not at least the possibility that it may also be the case with you? At any rate, you will do well to examine yourselves; and if, after having honestly examined, you can say, "No, that is not the case with me," then bless God that you can truthfully say so. Take no credit to yourselves, but give to God's grace the whole of the praise. Still, do look thoroughly to this matter. "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith." I, as a minister, am bound to examine myself, because there have been eminent preachers of the gospel who, nevertheless, have lived unhallowed lives. No preacher may dare to say, "My office screens me from this test." Deacons and elders of the church, you must examine yourselves, because you have known church-officers who have brought disgrace upon the offices that they have filled. And you, Sunday-school teachers, open-air preachers, tract-distributors, and the like, and you, members of the church, however useful you may be, and however highly you may be respected by your fellow-members, I beseech you, nevertheless, shirk not this duty, but let each one examine himself ere he comes to sit down at the table of the Lord.
II. Now, secondly, I am to speak about THE PERSON WHO IS TO PERFORM THIS EXAMINATION: "Let a man examine himself."
Let not anyone say, "I was examined by the proper officers of the church, before I was admitted into church-membership, so I do not need any further examination." Now, mark, it is the duty of every church, in receiving members, to judge all applicants by their fruits. "By their fruits shall ye know them," is our Lord's own test. We must have a credible profession of faith, supported by a life that is consistent therewith, but that is all upon which we can form a judgment. We cannot examine the heart, and we cannot infallibly judge the life. How very often have we been deceived in these matters! If anyone were to suppose that a certificate of church-membership is to excuse him from the duty of personal self examination, he is grievously mistaken. No, dear friend, you know what your secret thoughts are, and what your private actions are; and therefore it is to yourself that this duty is committed: "Let a man examine himself."
"Well, but," someone may say, "my friends my private friends are quite satisfied concerning my spiritual condition. I have been talking to my godly mother; I have been conversing with my praying father; I have had sweet fellowship, just lately, with a good old Christian friend; and they all seem perfectly satisfied with me." I am glad they are; but Paul says, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, "Let a man examine himself." There is no greater error under heaven than to try to shift the responsibility of our own personal religion on to friends or to so-called "priests." There can be no more gigantic imposture than the supposed sponsorship of infants. It amazes me that anybody can dare to say, on any child's behalf, that it shall renounce the pomps and vanities of this world, and all else that is mentioned in the Church Catechism. But it would be an equally gigantic imposture if we were to establish a sponsorship for grown-up people. Both of them are wicked, and neither of them can be carried out; we cannot guarantee the Christian character of other people, the apostolic rule must remain: "Let a man examine himself." Look ye well to the state of your own souls; and, to this end, go to God in prayer, and say, as David did, "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts, and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."
III. Now, thirdly, WHAT ARE THE VITAL POINTS IN THIS EXAMINATION? There are a good many, but I have arranged them under five heads for the sake of brevity, and to help your memories.
First, my dear friends, examine yourselves concerning your knowledge. There are some who are too ignorant to come to the table of the Lord. They may have taken their MA. Degree at Oxford or Cambridge, they may even be Doctors of Divinity, and yet be too ignorant to come to the Lord's table. What knowledge is necessary for coming aright to the table? I answer, Saving knowledge a living knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, who said, "This do in remembrance of me." You cannot remember a person you never knew; so you must be acquainted with the Lord Jesus Christ if you would observe this ordinance as he instituted it. There is the bread upon the table. Have you ever known what it was to be spiritually hungry? Do you know that Jesus Christ is the only food that can relieve the hunger of your spirit? Have you learned to know him through feeding upon him by faith? Then, you are a fit person to partake of the bread on the communion table, because you are a person who understands what it signifies, you who have been satisfied by feeding upon Christ. There is also the wine-cup upon the table. Were you ever spiritually thirsty? Did you then see how the Lord Jesus Christ, by his atoning sacrifice, has fully met all the needs of your soul? Have you really partaken of Jesus Christ, and has your heart been refreshed, and revived, and cheered by the application to it of the precious blood of Jesus? If so, you understand the meaning of that communion cup, and you are a fit and proper person to partake of it. But if you have never known this spiritual hunger and thirst, if you have never realized your own spiritual needs, and if you have not known what it is for Christ to supply those needs, I charge you to keep away from this table until you do know these things. Otherwise, you will be eating and drinking in utter ignorance; and the mere physical acts will be of no service whatsoever to you. May the Lord give you to know him whom to know is life eternal, and when you do know him, then come to his table, for you will not then eat and drink unworthily.
Then, next, examine yourselves concerning your faith. Knowledge is all in vain without faith; and the knowledge, of which I have been speaking, is a knowledge that is closely allied with faith. Are you trusting alone in the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ? I have asked myself that question many scores of times, and I do not recollect that I ever had any hesitancy about how to answer it. I know that I am trusting in Jesus. If I am really living, if there is any truth in my own consciousness, I am sure that I have trusted my soul, for time and for eternity, wholly to the keeping of that Savior who lived, and died, and rose again for sinners. Well, that being so, I have a right to come to the communion. Christ wants believers at his table; they are his own children. If you are believing in him, he invites you to come, and you will be welcome if you do come. You will not eat and drink unworthily, dear friend, if you apprehend, by faith, that Christ's flesh is meat indeed and his blood is drink indeed. You will come to the table in the right manner.
In the third place, I want you to examine yourselves concerning your repentance. In the emblems upon the communion table, I can see something of what it cost your Lord to redeem you from sin, and death, and hell. The bread, representing the flesh of Jesus, is separate from the wine, which represents his blood, and the separation of the blood from the flesh indicates death, a bleeding away of life in the most acute anguish. It cost your Lord untold agony to redeem you from going down into the pit, so can you ever imagine that any man is a fit person to participate in the emblems which set forth that agony if he has never felt, in his own soul, any agony on account of sin? What right has an impenitent person to come where the death of Christ, on account of sin, is specially set forth! A heart that has never been broken, because of sin, shall it come and remember the broken body and broken heart of Jesus? A heart of stone, that has never been melted, shall it come and remember his precious flesh that was melted in the agonies of Calvary? If your eyes have wept no tears of repentance, how can you properly remember him whose veins wept blood to redeem his people from their sins? It is a contrite heart and a broken spirit that Christ wants here. Only with such persons will God deign to dwell, and only with such will Christ commune, either at his table or anywhere else. See to it, then, that you have genuine repentance.
The next vital point for self-examination is love. Examine yourselves concerning your love. I think, brethren, that none of us can worthily eat of this bread, and drink of this cup, unless we truly love our Lord; so I venture to put the question to each one of you here. I know not your names, but the name that is used by our Lord Jesus will do for you. He says, "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?" You answer, "Yes," do you? Then I will put the question again: "Simon, son of Jonas, Jesus says to thee, 'Lovest thou me?'And yet a third time I may put it: "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?" 'Tis Jesus with the pierced hand, and with the pierced feet, who speaks, and he says, "Lovest thou me?" This is the test of whether you may come to his table, or not. Can you answer, "'Yea, Lord; thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee.' Sometimes, my friends hardly know it, for I am not always as consistent as I should be. Sometimes, Lord, I have even to question it myself, but Thou knowest that, deep down in my heart, notwithstanding all my coldness and forgetfulness, all my wanderings, and all my faults, thou knowest that I do love thee." Come along, brother; come along, sister; you will not eat and drink unworthily if this is true concerning your love to your Lord.
There is one other matter which is vital, and that concerns obedience. Examine yourselves concerning your obedience; for, unless a man obeys the commands of Christ, he does not prove that he really loves Christ. If we truly love him, we shall keep his commandments. If Paul had said that no one had a right to come to the communion unless he was perfect, I certainly could not come and I feel sure that there is no one in the whole world who would have the right to come. Perfect? Ah, perfect weakness; and if anybody says he is perfect in any other sense than that, he must be possessed of perfect folly. But the obedience that we must have is of this sort. Dost thou desire to be perfectly obedient to thy Lord? Dost thou, in thy heart, desire to be rid of every sin, and to forsake every false way? Is there any sin that thou wouldst fain harbour and indulge? Then, thou art not truly obedient; but canst thou, on the other hand, say, "Lord, I would be purged from every evil of every kind, and I desire to obey thee in all things. No matter how it may grate upon my feelings, or how contrary it may be to my wishes, where thou biddest me, I will go, and what thou commandest me, I will do, thy grace helping me"? Is that what you say? Then, you may come to the communion, for Jesus himself welcomes you. But if you will not give up sin, if you have even one pet sin that you still determine to keep, you are a traitor to Christ, and you have no more right to come to his table than Judas Iscariot had.
IV. Now, in closing, I want to speak a few words concerning THE SPIRIT IN WHICH, AFTER THIS SELF-EXAMINATION, WE OUGHT TO COME TO THE COMMUNION.
Ought we not to come, dear friends, each one of Us, in the spirit of holy wonder? This is the Lord's table, and I am coming, with the Lord's redeemed people, to eat and drink at it; what a wonder that I am here! I never come to the communion without being astonished at the amazing grace of God to me, and especially as I think of this great church which God has been graciously pleased to gather in this place. How much I owe to him! How constantly am I struck with the marvels of his mercy to me! And each one of you, my fellow-believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, has some peculiar reason for feeling the same kind of wonder in your own case.
Next, we ought to come to the communion with a sense of self-abasement. Brethren, we ought to think little of ourselves everywhere; but when we come to the table of our Lord, we ought to shrink to nothing, yea, to less than nothing. In the wilderness, man did eat angels' food, but angels never ate such food as this; yet we are permitted to come and partake of it. So, let us sink, and sink, and sink, and sink, and sink, and sink, and sink, till we are lost in wonder, love, and praise that we should ever be permitted to come to this sacred feast.
Let us come, at the same time, in a spirit of strong desire. I believe that, in a sermon, people always get good when they come desiring to get it. A hungry congregation will be sure to be fed; and if we come to the communion table feeling, "My Lord and Master, I desire to meet with thee. The bread alone will not satisfy me; I want to feed spiritually upon thy flesh. The wine will not quench my soul's thirst; I want spiritually to receive thy blood into my inmost soul. I desire, with all passionateness of holy ardor, to put my finger into the print of the nails, and to thrust my hand into thy side;" if you come to the communion in this spirit, longing for Christ, you shall have him. Open your mouths and pant for him, and the living waters shall quench your soul's thirst.
Then come to the table with a believing hope. Perhaps you have not seen your Master's face lately, you have been sorrowfully walking in darkness. Come to the communion hoping that he will look through the lattice, and reveal himself to you. Do you not know that the two ordinances are windows of agate and of carbuncle to the opened eyes of his people? Mayhap, your loving Lord will look again through one of those windows while you are sitting at his table. So, come expecting him; come with your heart wide open to receive its rightful Lord and Master, and with your eyes of love looking up to him, and, surely, if the eyes of your love look up to him, the eyes of his love will look down upon you. If you come to his table, singing, "My Beloved is mine, and I am his; he feedeth among the lilies;" if you come passionately desiring to enjoy his company; then you may also come with the full confidence that his company will be given to you.
I have only one thing more to say. Come to the communion table resolved that if, in the ordinance, you do not find your Lord; if, in the breaking of bread, he is not manifested to you; and if, in the pouring forth of the wine, you get no taste of his love; you will still trust in him. Do not depend on outward signs and visible evidences, but say, 'Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him,' and if his table should yield me no spiritual meat, I will still cleave to my Master; and if he will only let me be as a dog beneath his table, I will eat the crumbs that fall there, and so shall I live, for in every crumb of his mercy there is life everlasting."
As for you, who perhaps have never thought upon this subject I have to say just this to you, and then I have done. Remember that religion does not begin with ordinances. While I have been speaking to professing Christians concerning the communion, I hope that none of you have been thinking of it as a saving ordinance. You, as sinners, have to exercise faith in Christ before you have anything to do with believers' baptism; you have to come to Christ himself before you are qualified to come to the Lords table. As soon as you have, by faith, received Jesus Christ himself as your Savior, the tokens and emblems of his death will become instructive to you; but until Jesus Christ is wholly yours, hands off all these holy things! For, as uncircumcised Philistines would have had no right to be at the Paschal supper, so have those, who are not renewed in heart with that circumcision that is made without hands, no right to come to the feast of Christian love which is reserved for the followers of the Crucified. Come ye to Jesus, to Jesus only, and put your trust in him. God grant that you may do so, for Christ's sake! Amen.
Matthew 26:17-30 ; AND 1 Corinthians 11:18-34 .
Matthew 26:17-26 . Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the Passover? And he said, Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him, The Master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover, at thy house with my disciples. And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the Passover. Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve. And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I? And he answered and said, He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me. The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born. Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said. And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it.
So the Jewish Passover melted away into the Lord's Supper. Indeed, so gently did the one dissolve into the other that we scarcely know whether this incident, relating to Judas Iscariot, occurred during the Passover or the Supper. According to one account, it would seem to be one; and according to another account, the other, but, indeed, the one ordinance was almost imperceptibly merged into the other.
I want you carefully to notice, as we read this narrative through, whether you can see here any trace of an altar. Look with both your eyes, and see whether you can find any trace of a priest offering a sacrifice. Watch diligently to see whether you can perceive anything about kneeling down, or about the elevation or the adoration of "the host." Why, even the Romish church knows better than to believe in what it practises. Most of you have seen copies of the famous painting by Leonardo da Vinci, himself a Catholic of the old school. How does he picture those who were at the institution of the Lord's Supper? Why, they are all sitting around a table, with the Lord Jesus in their midst. I wonder that they exhibit, and still allow to be in their churches, a picture like that, which, painted by one of their own artists, most effectually condemns their base idolatry, in which a wafer-god is lifted up, to be adored by men, who must be besotted indeed before they can prostitute their intellects so grossly as to commit such an act of sin. What a rebuke to that idolatry is conveyed by this simple statement: "As they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it,"
26. And brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said. Take, eat; this is my body.
The Romanists do not even break the bread. They have a wafer so as to avoid anything like an imitation of the example set by our blessed Lord and Master. He took a piece of the bread which was provided for the paschal feast, the ordinary unleavened bread, and he broke it, and gave it to his disciples, and said to them, "Take, eat, this is my body." Not, of course, the literal body, which was there at the table; but this was the emblem of his body about to be broken on the cross on the behalf of all his people.
27. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;
"Every one of you, take your own personal share." This also the Papists have perverted by denying the cup to the laity.
Matthew 26:28-30 . For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom. And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the Mount of Olives.
It was a social feast, somewhat funereal, and tinctured with sadness, for Jesus was about to go from them, to die, still, it was a joyous celebration, closing with a hymn. At the paschal feast, the Jews always sang Psalms 113:0 to 118. Probably our Lord sang all these through. At any rate, Christ and his apostles sang a hymn; and I always like to think of him as leading the little company, going to his death with a song upon his lips, his voice full of melody, and made more sweet than ever by the near approach of Gethsemane and Calvary. I would like always to sing, whenever we come to the communion table, after the fashion in which they sang that night: "When they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives."
Now let us read what the apostle Paul writes concerning the Lord's Supper.
1 Corinthians 11:18-22 . For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper. For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper and one is hungry, and another is drunken. What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you! shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.
These Corinthians fell into a great many errors. Everybody was a speaker, and said whatever he pleased; and they had no proper order or rule. Among other evils, when they met together to observe the Lord's Supper, they brought their own food with them, thinking that eating thus together was keeping the sacred feast. So the richer ones feasted to the full, and the poor went almost without anything. "One is hungry, and another is drunken," says the apostle, and he tells them that this was not the right way of observing the Lord's Supper. Yet it is evident that the idea which was in their mind was that of feasting together. They had exaggerated it, and carried it to a grievous excess; but that was the idea they had concerning it. Certainly, there was no altar, or priest, or anything of the sort. Now the apostle tells them how the ordinance should be observed.
23-25. For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.
How wonderfully simple it all is! There is nothing here of the paraphernalia of a "sacrament." It is a simple memorial festival, that is all.
26, 27. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come. Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
He shall be guilty with respect to that body, not with respect to that bread, against which he cannot sin, but with respect to that body which is represented by the bread, and with respect to that blood which is represented by the cup. See with what holy solemnity this humble feast is fenced and invested. There is a divinity which doth hedge the simple ordinance of Christ lest men should trifle with it to their eternal ruin.
28, 29. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.
"Judgment" or "condemnation" is the word in the original, not "damnation." That is not a fair translation, neither does it express the truth. He that eateth and drinketh unworthily condemns himself in so doing, he comes under judgment for that act. This is the kind of judgment that falls upon Christians if they come unworthily to the Lord's table:
30-32. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if you would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.
Believers, who are rendered sick, or who even die, because of their offense against the Lord's ordinance, are not therefore condemned to hell. Far from it; it is that they may not be so condemned that God visits them. "When we" the people of God "are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world."
33, 34. Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come.
By due attention to the apostle's injunctions, they would be able rightly to observe the ordinance; and we also may learn, from what Paul wrote, how we may worthily come to the table of our Lord.
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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19