TWENTY-EIGHTH LORDíS DAY.
OF THE LORDíS SUPPER.
Question 75. How art thou admonished and assured in the Lordís supper, that thou art a partaker of that one sacrifice of Christ, accomplished on the cross, and of all his benefits?
Answer Thus, that Christ has commanded me, and all believers, to eat of this broken bread, and to drink of this cup, in remembrance of him; adding these promises, first, that his body was offered and broken on the cross for me, and his blood shed for me, as certainly as I see with my eyes the bread of the Lord broken for me, and the cup communicated to me: and further, that he feeds and nourishes my soul to everlasting life, with his crucified body and shed blood, as assuredly as I receive from the hands of the minister and taste with my mouth the bread and cup of the Lord, as certain signs of the body and blood of Christ.
The questions which claim our special attention in treating the Lordís supper, are these:
The first three of the above propositions belong to the 75th and 76th Questions of the Catechism; the fourth belongs to the 80th; the sixth, seventh, and eighth belong to the 81st; and the ninth to the 82nd, and will be treated in order under each of these questions.
In considering this question, we shall first notice the different names which are applied to this sacrament, and then in a few words define what it is. It is called the Lordís Supper, from the circumstance of its first institution, which took place when Christ and his disciples were at supper, which circumstance of time the church in the exercise of her right and liberty has changed: for it was merely on account of the eating of the paschal Lamb, which the law required to be celebrated at night, and which was to be abolished by this new sacrament, that it was instituted in the evening at the time of supper, rather than in the morning, or at noon. Paul calls it the Lordís table. It is also called a covenant or assembly, from the fact that in the celebration of this supper there must be some, whether few or many, that meet together for purpose. At the time of its institution the disciples were present, to whom it was said, ďtake this and divide it among yourselves,Ē (Luke 22:17.) From this it is evident that there must have been a number present, which is confirmed by what the Apostle says when repeating the words of the institution: ďWhen ye come together in one place this is not to eat the Lordís supper;Ē and adds still further, ďwherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another.Ē (1 Cor 11:20, 23.) And that a number of persons are necessary for the purpose of celebrating this supper may be shown from the design of it, which is that it may be a sign, and bond of love; ďfor we being many are one bread, and one body.Ē (1 Cor. 10:17.) It is, again, called the Eucharist, because it is a ceremony of thanksgiving. It is often called by the fathers a sacrifice; not, however, a propitiatory, or meritorious sacrifice, as the Papists imagine; but a sacrifice of thanksgiving; because it is a solemn commemoration, and celebration of the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ. In the course of time it was called mass (missa) from the offering which was given by the rich for the benefit of the poor, or from the dismission of the assembly after the sermon which preceded the celebration of the supper, of which we shall hereafter speak more fully. We shall retain the name which the scriptures apply to it, and call it the Lordís supper. This brings us to the definition which the Catechism gives in answer to the above question, where it is said: The Lordís supper was instituted by Christ, who has commanded me and all believers to eat of this broken bread and to drink of this cup in remembrance of him, adding these promises, first, that his body was offered and broken on the cross for me, and his blood shed for me, as certainly as I see with my eyes the bread of the Lord broken for me, and the cup communicated to me; and further, that he feeds and nourishes my soul to everlasting life, with his crucified body and shed blood, as assuredly as I receive from the hands of the minister, and taste with my mouth the bread and cup of the Lord, as certain signs of the body and blood of Christ. Or, we may define it more briefly thus: The Lordís supper is the breaking and eating of bread, and drinking of wine according to the command of Christ, given, to all believers, that he may by these signs declare that his body was broken, and his blood shed for them; that he gives them these things to eat and drink that they may be fed unto everlasting life; and that he v/ill dwell in them and so nourish and quicken them for ever.
This sacrament, therefore, consists in the rite and the promise annexed to it, or in the signs and things signified. The rite, or signs are the bread which is broken and eaten, and the wine which is poured out, and drunk. The things signified are the broken body, and shed blood of Christ, which are eaten and drunk, or our union with Christ by faith, by which we are made partakers of Christ and all his benefits, so that we derive from him everlasting life, as the branches draw their life from the vine. We are assured of this our union and communion with Christ by the analogy which there is between the sign and the thing signified: and also by the promise which is joined to the sign. This analogy declares, and exhibits in a particular manner the sacrifice of Christ, and our communion with him; be cause the bread is not only broken, but also given unto us to be eaten.
The breaking of the bread is a part of the ceremony, because a part of that which is signified, viz: the breaking of the body of Christ answers to it, of which Paul speaks, when he says: ďThis is my body which is broken for you.Ē (1 Cor. 11:24.) So the wine is separated from the bread to signify the violence of his death, when his blood was spilt and separated from his body.
The Lordís supper was instituted:
1. That it might be a confirmation of our faith, or a most sure proof of our union, and communion with Christ, who feeds us with his body and blood unto everlasting life, as truly as we receive these signs from the hands of the minister. This object is attained by all those who receive these signs n true faith: for we so receive these signs from the hands of the minister, as if the Lord himself gave them unto us with his own hand. It is in this way that Christ is said to have baptized more disciples than John, when he, nevertheless, did it through his disciples. (John 4:1.)
2. That we may by the observance of it make a public confession of our faith, acknowledge our gratitude, and bind ourselves to constant thankfulness, and to the celebration of this benefit. Hence it is said: ďThis do in remembrance of me.Ē ďFor as often as ye eat of this bread, and drink of this cup, ye do shew the Lordís death till he come.Ē (Luke 22:19. 1 Cor. 11:26.) This remembrance, or commemoration of Christ precedes and is taken for faith in the heart; after which we make public confession, and acknowledgements of our thankfulness.
3. That it might be a public distinction, or badge, by which the true church may be known, and recognized from the world. The Lord has instituted this supper for none, but those who are his disciples.
4. That it might be a bond of love, declaring that all who partake of it aright, are made members of one body whose head is Christ. ďFor we being many are one bread, and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread.Ē (1 Cor. 10:17.) Those now who are members of the same body have a mutual love one for another.
5. That the people of God who assemble in a public manner might be united together in the closest fellowship; for it was instituted to be observed in the congregation, whether there be many or few present. Hence Christ says, ďDrink ye all of it,Ē and Paul says, ďWhen ye come together to eat tarry one for another.Ē (Matt. 26:27. 1 Cor. 11:33.)
That the Lordís supper ought not to be celebrated privately, by one per son alone may be proven; 1. Because it is a communion, and is the sign of our communion with Christ: but a private supper is no communion. 2. Because it is a solemn thanksgiving; and we ought all to render thanks unto God. Hence he who regards himself as unworthy to communicate with others, declares that he is not fit to give thanks unto God. 3. Be cause Christ, with all his benefits, is not the property of one, but belongs to all in common. A private communion would, however, make a private good out of that which is common. 4. Because Christ admitted all his disciples, yea even Judas, from which it is easy to see that a private communion is contrary to the appointment of Christ. 5. That some neglect the communion or defer it even until death, arises no doubt from some wrong notion, or influence, either because they will not commune with others, or because they think that they are not worthy. But all who believe that they are delivered from eternal condemnation by the death of Christ, and desire to advance in holiness, are worthy. Briefly, when the Lordís supper is observed by one person alone it is done contrary to the design, name, institution, and nature of the sacrament.
Obj. But Christ makes the chief design of this supper consist in his remembrance. Therefore the confirmation of our faith is not the chief design of it. Ans. This consequence is not legitimate; for the remembrance of Christ comprises the confirmation of our faith, and the expression of our thankfulness as separate parts. It is, therefore, such an inference as if one would say, Peter is a man; therefore he does not possess a body. It is more correct, therefore, to conclude thus: Because remembrance of Christ is the supper; therefore it is the confirmation of our faith; for if Christ appointed this sacrament in remembrance of himself, he also designs the confirmation of our faith, since faith is nothing else than a faithful remembrance of Christ and his benefits. But some one may be ready to reply, It is the Holy Ghost that confirms our faith; therefore not the Lordís supper. But this again is no just conclusion; for it is the same as if any one were to say, It is God that feeds and supports us; therefore bread does not nourish us. The Holy Ghost does, indeed, confirm our faith, but it is through the word, and the sacraments, as God feeds and nourishes us, through the use of bread.
Although baptism, and the Lordís supper impart and seal unto us the same blessings, such as our spiritual ingrafting into Christ, communion with him, and the whole benefit of our salvation, of which the apostle speaks, when he says: ďBy one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, and have been all made to drink into one Spirit;Ē (1 Cor. 12:18) yet they, nevertheless, manifestly differ in various respects. They differ, 1. In outward rites. 2. In the signification of these rites. For although the washing away of sin by the blood of Christ, by baptism, and the eating and drinking of the body and blood of Christ in the Lordís supper, signify the same participation of Christ; yet the former is signified by plunging the body into the water of baptism, whilst the latter is exhibited, and sealed unto us in the supper by the eating of bread, and the drinking of wine. Hence whilst the sacraments agree, as to the things which they signify, they, nevertheless, differ as to the manner in which these things are expressed. 3. They differ as to the design peculiar to each. Baptism is the sign of the covenant between God and the faithful; the Lordís supper is the sign of the preservation of the same covenant: or, baptism is the sign of our regeneration, and connection with the church and covenant of God; the Lordís supper is the sign of the nourishment and preservation of those who have already entered into the church. It is necessary that the Spirit should first renew us, of which renewal baptism is the sign; then after we are renewed it is further necessary that we should be nourished by the body and blood of Christ, the sign of which is the Lordís supper. Or to express it more briefly, God assures us by baptism of our reception into the church, and confirms us in regard to the preservation and increase of his gifts by the use of the Lordís supper. Yet Christ, who regenerates and nourishes us unto everlasting life is one and the same. 4. They differ as to the manner of their observance. Baptism merely requires regeneration, and is applied unto all those whom the church regards as regenerated, including adults who make a profession of repentance and faith, and infants born in the church; whilst the Lordís supper requires that those who receive it examine their faith, commemorate the Lordís death, and express their thankfulness. ďThis do in remembrance of me.Ē ďYe do shew the Lordís death till he come.Ē ďLet a man examine himself.Ē (Luke 22:19. 1 Cor. 11:26, 28.) All, therefore, who belong to the church, infants as well as adults, are to be baptized; whilst none but such as are capable of examining themselves and shewing the Lordís death are to be admitted to the supper. 5. They differ in the order of their observance. Baptism precedes the Lordís supper, which ought not to be administered to any, except such as have been baptized, and that, not until they have made a profession of their repentance and faith. Hence in the ancient church, after the sermon, and just before the administration of the supper, they dismissed those who were excommunicated; likewise such as were possessed with an evil spirit, and those who were learning the first rudiments of the Christian faith, who were either not yet baptized, or had been baptized in their infancy, but did not sufficiently understand the principles of religion. So it was also in the Jewish Church, in relation to those who were uncircumcised. If those now who were baptized, were not admitted to the supper before they made a profession of their faith, much less are they to be admitted, who, although they are baptized, lead offensive and wicked lives. 6. The Lordís supper is to be observed frequently, because it is proper for us often to commemorate his death. It was instituted to be a public commemoration, and showing of his death. It is also necessary for us frequently to have our faith confirmed in regard to the perpetuity of the covenant. The Lordís supper is, therefore, to be often repeated, as in the case of the paschal Lamb. Baptism, however, is not to be repeated, because there is no command requiring it, and because it is the sign of our reception in the church and covenant of God. The covenant once entered into is not again made void in the case of those who repent, but remains unchangeable. The gifts and calling of God are with out repentance. There is, therefore, no new covenant made, not even in the case of those who fall, and renew their repentance. There is merely a renewal of the first covenant. Hence it is said: ďThis do ye as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lordís death till he come.Ē (1 Cor. 11:25, 26.) Of baptism it is said: ďAs many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into his death.Ē ďHe that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.Ē (Rom. 6:3. Mark 16:16.)
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