The Witness Of The Lord’s Supper
“ For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you do show the Lord”
1 Corinthians 11:26
THE center of our holy religion is the Cross. The central thought of the whole of Christianity is Christ and the great point in Christ’s history is His Crucifixion. We preach Christ–but more–we preach Him Crucified! Beloved, this, which is the keystone or the whole arch of our religion, should be more constantly in our minds than it is. It should more frequently occupy our meditations. It should engage more incessantly our tongues–we should sing of it more often, we should pray more in the shadow of it and we should live more under the control of the impulses its suggests. In the Cross of Christ let each one of us glory and, like the Apostle, say, “God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of Jesus Christ our Lord.”
In order to keep in our mind’s eye what, alas, we so easily forget–the death of our blessed Lord–He has been pleased to institute the Supper which we are about to celebrate. Beneath yon fair white linen cloth we have memorials of His passion, full of instruction to those who rightly view them. If any in this place should ask, “What mean you by this service?” our ready answer shall be according as it is written–“For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you do show the Lord’s death till He comes” (1 Cor 11:26). We eat bread and drink wine, not out of any foolish superstition that these can be transmuted into the very flesh and blood of Jesus Christ–a superstition which would be a disgrace to a Bushman–a superstition which
is a disgrace to those who hold it in this enlightened land, and not a disgrace only, but a
vast sin–a black delusion which is given to them that they may believe a lie–whereby they involve themselves in the doom of Hell! We hold no such folly. Because we are rational and because we are spiritual, both our reason and our spiritual nature revolt against anything so atrocious as to believe that the body of Christ–the absolute flesh and blood–can be eaten and drank, or that if it could be done, it ought to be done, or that it could confer any spiritual benefit upon those who could perform so cannibal and revolting an act! We believe in the real Presence, but not in the corporeal Presence. We believe that Jesus Christ comes to us spiritually and refreshes us, and in that sense we both eat His flesh anddrink His blood. But as to any such literal feast as some believe in, we reject the thought with horror and with contempt!
The great meaning of “The Lord’s Supper,” as we call it, is that we show the Lord’s death till He comes. We show itto ourselves The former of these is, perhaps, the more important. In coming to eat of the bread and drink of the wine at this Supper–
- WE SHOW THE LORD’S DEATH TO OURSELVES.
Not, indeed, that this is the exclusive manner of exhibiting the passion which our dear Savior endured, or the decease which He accomplished, for there are, it must be admitted, other methods of showing the Lord’s death. One is by thisBook, this Inspired Volume which contains the record of His Crucifixion–which explains it–which enforces upon men the duty of putting their trust in the merit of Him who died. Wherever this Bible is opened there is a showing of Christ’s death! Why, the whole Book is full of it! There is a crimson line of atoning Sacrifice running from Genesis to Revelation–
Here I behold my Saviors face
Almost in every page."
Every distinct Book of Inspiration is like a mirror reflecting the image of Jesus–“as in a glass, darkly,” it is true, but still sufficiently clear even for these dim eyes of ours. All the Scriptures are the swaddling bands of the Child, Christ Jesus, as said Augustine of old–If you would see Jesus, you must search for Him in Holy Scripture and, by the light of the Holy Spirit, you will not go far until you find Him!
The Lord Jesus Christ’s death is also shown forth in public ministry. There are some who are so fond of painted windows because, they say, they preach by painting. Brothers and Sisters, we paint by preaching! That is the only difference and to paint by preaching is an infinitely better thing than to preach by painting! All the methods that are adopted toshow forth Christ’s death throughout all the world are utter vanity compared with the ministration of the Gospel. It is not possible for the preacher too much to magnify His office. It is God’s predestinated channel of Grace to the sons of men. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God”–and as we speak, God helping us–Christ is set forth, manifestly Crucified among you! How many in this place have seen Jesus by what they have heard spoken of Him? The eye of the mind has seen Him. ‘Twere of little use for the eyes of sense to do so. Thousands saw Christ with their natural eyes and perished in their sins! But to see Him with the eyes of the spirit–this it is that saves. The preaching of the Gospel paints Christ to the mind’s eyes, not to the natural eyes, so it is the best way of depicting Him, for it exactly meets the vision that it is intended to impress!
Still, over and above the showing of Christ’s death in the printed Word and the Word preached, there comes in this emblematical Supper in which we show Christ’s death after a manner I will try to explain. We show to ourselves as we come here that Christ was really Incarnate and so could die. My Soul, as you take that bread into your fingers, rememberthat it is a thing to be handled and to be touched–a material substance. And so, God, the Infinite, took into union with Himself actual flesh and blood, such as you have in your own body! A strange thing that a pure Spirit should condescend to tabernacle in flesh–and yet it is so written–“The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of Grace and truth.” Oh, matchless mystery! He who fills all things became an Infant of a span long! He who is Eternal and Omnipotent became a humble working Man, putting on the garment without seam, suffering, toiling and at last yielding up His life! As each drop of wine shall pass your lips and you recognize it as a material substance, you show to yourself, O Believer, that Jesus Christ became Incarnate. Think ofthis! Take care that you do not make a God out of the manhood, nor a man out of the Godhead. Rest assured that as certainly as Christ was God, without diminution of His splendor, so certainly He was also Man, pure Man with a Manhood like your own, even as He, Himself, said–“Handle Me and see; a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see I have.” See, then, Brothers and Sisters, your next of kin–a sufferer like yourselves–and let the bread and wine remind you of Him!
Then next, the Supper reminds you of your LordThere is the bread broken. The wine, the juice of thegrape, crushed out with pain and labor–poured out. Now remember that Jesus Christ, though not a bone of Him could be broken, was broken in spirit–“Reproach has broken My heart; I am full of heaviness”–He poured out His soul unto death. Let the bread and the wine remind you of the bloody sweat in the Garden–of the anguish unto death which He endured in dark Gethsemane among the olive trees. Let them bring to your recollection, Beloved in the Lord, the scourging at the hands of Pilate and of Herod. Imagine you see Him standing patiently there, giving up His back to the smiters and His cheeks to them that plucked off the hair–hiding not His face from shame and spitting. That bread broken and that wine poured out should remind you of the journey along the Via Dolorosa, as He went fainting beneath the burdenof His Cross. They must remind you of the Cross and the nails, the grief of being forsaken, the anguish of thirst, the bitterness of scorn, the torment of fever and, at last, death itself. I do not say that, perhaps you will be able to make the whole scene pass before your minds, but I bid you try to do so. Drive away every other thought as Christ drove the buyers and sellers out of the Temple. Charge your soul to stand with His Virgin Mother at the foot of the Cross and pray that His blood may fall upon you, drop by drop, that you may be so enchanted by what you see, withal so dreadful, but yet so full of bliss, that you may not dare for a moment to let a stray thought come in! This and this only, think of! Think of Jesus Incarnate and of Jesus suffering!
But the bread and the wine show more than this. What do I see? Bread, the flesh. Wine, the life, the blood. Flesh and blood, then, when separated, are both dead so that the cup and the bread together distinctly signify the actual death of our Lord. There is no such thing as a Lord’s Supper with the bread, alone, nor with the cup, alone, nor with the bread and wine mingled! They must both be distinct. Without shedding of blood there is no remission of sin. And until the blood has been poured forth, the flesh still remains and retains its life. But put the two, distinctly, and you get the idea of death as clearly as you can have it. Now, Beloved, I want you to come close up to this Truth of God, that the Lord of Glory actually died. For our Savior there was no passing into Heaven by a chariot of fire. It is not said of Him, as of Enoch, that “He was not, for God took Him.” He must die! You dread death. You look forward to it frequently with trepidation. But Christ passed absolutely through it and the Human Soul and the Human Body of our Savior were torn from each other. He actually descended into the abodes of the dead! He bowed His head to the great enemy and yielded up the ghost. Had He not so died, there had been no ransom paid for you, for God’s Law demanded a life. The sentence was, “The soul that sins, it shall die.” Christ has actually died–and let this Supper bring home the thought most sweetly to yourselves that Jesus died!
We have not yet shown Christ’s death wholly to ourselves. The spreading of that bread and wine on yonder table is ashowing to ourselves that God has made a provision for human needs. A hungry man coming to that Table thinks at onceof eating and drinking. He perceives that if it is placed there, it is placed there for use. Bread and wine in the cupboard may be stored, but bread and wine on the table are evidently for use. Now, child of God, catch that thought and hold it. Jesus Christ has come into the world, not to withhold, but to give! Not to reserve, but to distribute! Not to keep to Himself any good thing, but to bestow all that He has upon His people! Come, then, with all your great necessities–come to the Savior, for He freely presents Himself to all Believers! Great Sinner, do you need great pardon? Jesus will give it to you! He puts on the Table the cup. Do you need, Christian, great comfort? Come and take it–it is put on the Table! Jesus keeps open house for all comers who come by faith to Him. Have you the faith to come and trust Him? Then all that Jesus is and has you may be and have! Especially you that are His friends, you that have leaned upon His bosom–do not stint yourselves, for He does not stint you. You are not straitened in Him–if straitened at all, it is in yourselves. Jesus puts upon the Table for us, Himself, and, being put there, it is as good as an open invitation by a loud voice, saying, “O, you hungry, come and feed! O, you thirsty, come and drink!” There is nothing in Christ which He will deny to His people! Christ has nothing in Heaven or on earth which He will keep back from the Believer that dares to come and ask for it! Come, then! Come boldly! The Lord give you access unto this Grace!
And do we not show the Lord’s death a little further when, after having spread the Supper, we come to eat it? Thenwe say to ourselves, “Just as I must eat this bread, or it will not nourish me, so must I take Jesus Christ, personally, by a distinct act of faith and take Him to be mine. And as this bread, after I have taken it, incorporates itself with me so that there is no distinction between this bread and my body, but it helps to build up the structure of my body, so when I take Christ and trust Him, He becomes one with me and I become one with Him and my life is hid with Him. And He says that because He lives I shall live also.” Now, is not that a wonderful lesson to teach by so simple an action? You eat, you drink, the food becomes assimilated into yourselves. You come to Jesus, you trust Him and Christ becomes one with you and you become one with Him, so that henceforth you can say, “It is no more I that lives, but Christ that lives in me” and, as for Jesus, He calls you a member of His body! He calls you a branch from His stem! He calls you the spouse and He, Himself, your Bridegroom! Oh, sacred union effected by the act of reception which is the act of faith!
And now, beloved Believer, as you first lived by receiving Grace, you can only grow in that life by still receiving it! Do not come to this Table and say, “What can I bring?” No, but come and say, “What can I take away?” Do not say, “Am I worthy?” That question never ought to be asked. You are not worthy! But come, unworthy as you are, and take what Jesus has provided for unworthy sinners! “Well,” says someone, “but we are to take heed lest we eat and drink being unworthy.” No, you are not! There is no such text in all the Bible! You see, you have left out a syllable. What it does say is about eating and drinking
unworthily–and that is with respect to the way of eating it. If you come to this table
lightly–if you come to it irreligiously, profanely–if you come as they did at Corinth, to merely drink. If you come to get money by it, as some did in years gone by, to qualify themselves for office or to obtain charity–that would be to eatand drink unworthily! But, unworthy as you are, if your–
Hope is fixed on nothing less
then come, for such as you the Table is spread!
And when you do come, I do pray you yet once more, do not let unbelief keep you back from enjoying all that is to beenjoyed. You know a very hungry man does not stand on many manners. If he is told to eat everything that is set before him, then his hunger does not permit him to stand on niceties, but he eats all he can get. And so may you. Yes, and you may carry away what you will, too, with you. You may come and get a feast tonight and the sweet remembrance of it in days to come will be permitted to you. Believe that Christ does not refuse you anything. When you pray, do not ask as if you were getting something out of a hard-hearted Being, but come to One whose delight it is to give–whose very Glory it is to scatter His mercies among His beloved ones–
Come, make your needs, your burdens known!
He will present them at the Throne
And angel bands are waiting there,
His messages of love to bear."
Thus, you see, in the bread and the wine, in the bread and wine separated, in the bread broken and the wine poured out, in the two emblems put on a table– and in these two being so partaken of that they become united with the fabric of our body–we set forth the whole mystery of the death of Jesus Christ to ourselves. May the Spirit of God help us to truly do this!
Observe now that–
II. WE ARE TO SHOW CHRIST’S DEATH TO OTHERS.
As often as we eat this bread and drink of this cup, we do this. We show to others the fact that Jesus died. I think historians have taken it as one of the best proofs of a fact when some rite has been instituted to commemorate it. A pillar with an inscription is not always a certain index to truth. Our own Monument, for instance, had a record on it that London was burned down by the Catholics–who had no more to do with it, certainly, than the Muslims did! The inscription in that case was not a record of fact! Yes, and a pillar might be erected to record an event which never occurred at all. But, as a general rule, large bodies of men will not agree together to continually celebrate events which never occurred. Nobody doubts, I suppose, the siege of Londonderry, when the prentice boys meet every year to make a noise and disturbance. They at least bring before the historian’s mind the certainty that such an event did occur, for it is still thus recorded. Now, our Lord gave us this simple method of breaking bread and drinking wine to be our way of setting up our pillar–our mode of keeping up a great historical fact–that there was a Man who lived in Judea, who professed to be the Son of God, who was the King of the Jews, who lived a humble life and died a marvelous death! There is no fact in history so well attested as this! So that those who have given up the Inspiration of Scripture have seldom touched either the life or the death of Jesus, but have conceded both to be facts. And now this very night, perhaps, in fifty thousand places, at this moment, this commemorative act of eating bread and drinking wine is about to be performed in this one country of England. Now that is something by way of record, and by this act we help to perpetuate to all generations the fact that Jesus died!
But we do a great deal more than this to others. We assert by coming here, tonight, and eating this bread and drinking of this cup, that we believe that this ManJesus of Nazareth, was the Son of God and the Savior of men, and that wego in with Him for everything that is involved in the story of His life and death. That is to say, if it is a shame for Christ to die upon the Cross, we are willing to bear part of the shame. If it is thought to be foolishness to believe in a Crucified Man–we are fools and come here to avow it. If it is said to be a stumbling block to many that Jesus of Nazareth should be the Son of God–we come to declare that it is no stumbling block to us! We accept Him as Divine! We trust in Him as the Propitiation for our sins! Beloved, when you shall take that bread, you take part with Christ. You take lot with Him and, mark you, He often goes up the bleak side of the hill–and you will have to do the same with the snow between your teeth! And He often lodges in huts and hovels–yes, He has not where to lay His head! He has handfuls of the world’s filth thrown at Him and but little of its gold laid at His feet. He is despised and rejected of men–and if you will keep Him company, you must expect to be despised, too, and to be as ill-treated as He was–for the servant is not above his Master, nor the disciple above his Lord! Whoever follows David must go to him in the wild goat tracks of Engedi, or dwell with him in the Cave of Adullam. He that would be David’s man must share David’s needs and David’s disgraces or else he cannot share his crown. Believers, have you counted this cost? You professors who come to this Table and who say to the onlookers, “We go with Christ! We are enlisted under His banner! We have given ourselves to Him”–have we counted the cost?–
Have you counted the cost? Have you counted the cost?
You followers of the Cross?
And are you prepared for your Masters sake
And can you endure with the virgin band,
The lowly and pure in heart,
Who wherever the Lamb does lead,
From His footsteps never depart?"
Oh, that so counting the cost, you may continue with Him till life’s journey is over! Thus, you see, you not only assert that Christ died, but you communicants assert that He died for you and that you are one with Him and will take shareswith Him when He comes into His Kingdom!
You do even more than that.
You explain the meaning of Christs death by the mere fact of coming to this Table.
“How,” you ask, “is that?” In eating the bread and drinking the wine, you set forth a sacrifice–a libation of blood and a slaughter of flesh–and you say to all the world, “Our trust for salvation rests in a Sacrifice! We have no hope of being saved by anything that springs of ourselves–we look wholly out of self and entirely to the Sacrifice which was offered up on the Cross.” While some of you sit down to the Table, others of you will be onlookers. I do pray, as you look on, if you have never known this Truth of God before, learn it now. All your hope of ever entering Heaven must lie quite out of yourselves and be concentrated in Another–in God’s only and own dear Son! While I am stating this fact, which is so well known to you that it sounds commonplace, I feel as if I could burst into a flood of tears to think that it should grow so commonplace and yet be not believed! Does God become Man and die, and will you not trust Him? Does my God, that made the heavens and the earth, of whom I read that without Him was not anything made that was made–does He become a Man and suffer that sinners might live? And is it nothing to you, is it nothing to you and will you prefer the tawdry pleasures of this world to the solid bliss which He can give you? And will you dash yourselves upon the bosses of Jehovah’s buckler and run upon His glittering spear and ruin yourselves forever rather than close in with Christ and kiss the Son lest He be angry? I can understand why it is that you do not love my Lord, for once I was so foolish, myself, but oh, it is brutish–it is worse than that, it is devilish to despise a dying Christ! I know not whether I have not maligned the devil in using his name in such a matter as that, for surely, had Jesus died for devils, they would not have been such devils as men are who, hearing of a Savior and believing the story of His passion, yet turn a deaf ear to it and give their souls up to Madame Wanton, or to base-born Mammon, or to some other carnal thing which will but delude and destroy them!
There are some of you I shall never see again. I charge you before the Eternal God, as we shall meet at His Last Judgment Seat, think of this–that if it is worth God’s while to come here and be Incarnate, and so to suffer to make Atonement, it is not a thing for you to trifle with! But if you do, you will find that the stone which you refused will grind you to powder in that day when, like some cliff that is loosened from its socket, long quivering there, it shall come rolling down upon the heedless traveler to crush him and utterly destroy him! God save you, my dear Hearer, stranger to me, and stranger to yourself, and stranger to my God! And though you may remain a stranger to me, yet may you begin to know something of yourself, tonight, and something of my Master, of whom I will say this one thing–If you did but know Him you would love Him–
His worth if all the nations knew,
Sure the whole world would love Him too."
Thus, then, do we show the fact of our participation in Christ’s death and the meaning of it.
Does not the voice of ages and of generations after generations speak to you now in the constancy and frequency of this celebration? And do you not perceive that we move forward to the boundary which shall realize the Church’s hope? “We do show the Lord’s death till He comes.” Then He is coming! He is coming! I know not when, no, nor know the angel of God that is nearest to the Eternal Book when God unfolds the leaves. But He is coming! As when the earthquake comes, with divers signs and prodigies that make men start, and yet they know not what it is, He comes! As the lightning flash that is seen from east to west, He comes! As the thief that steals silently through the shadows of the night and robs the sleeper, so He comes! The Man that wore the crown of thorns is coming with a crown about His brow more glorious than all the coronets of earth. He is coming! The Son of Mary is coming to wear no more the garment without seam, but wrapped–
With rainbow wreath and robes of storm.“He is coming! The Man that did hang upon the Cross will sit upon the Great White Throne–
On cherub wings and wings of wind,
Appointed Judge of all mankind."
And you said tonight–you said it and I heard you–that you crucified Him and you said that yours were the hands that drove the nails and made the hammer fall. You sang just now–
Tis I have thus ungrateful been.“Now you have confessed it! You who have trusted in Him will confess it and yet, thank God that out of a fault springs your salvation! But you who have not trusted Him, what will you say to Him in that day when He shall come to judge the world? You shall look on Him whom you have pierced and you shall weep and wail because of Him! Oh, that you would look at His wounds now and trust Him, for if you do not, you shall look on them, then, and you shall say, "I made those wounds.” And that thought will shake you as when a lion shakes its prey. That thought will melt your bones as though they were but ice in the heat of the sun! And your loins shall be loosed and your soul shall sink in dismay. I pray you–I beseech you by the love you bear to yourself, and to your soul that can never die–look unto Jesus and be saved! Look unto Him now! You must look one day–look tonight! You must look, either with repentance and faith, or else with terror and despair! Choose which it shall be. Choose now! Young men and women who have stepped in here tonight, I pray God that you may have Grace to decide for Jesus now. Old men and fathers, maidens and matrons, may you also have Grace to say, “I will take Him as my Savior, not as my Judge”–
But if your ears refuse
The language of His Grace,
And hearts grow hard like stubborn Jews,
That unbelieving race.
The Lord in anger dressed,
Shall lift His hand and swear,
You that despise My promised rest
Shall have no portion there.‘"