The Lord's Supper and the Lord's Table

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In undertaking to enter on the above most interesting subject, I am, on the one hand, impressed with the gravity of it, and therefore approach it with caution; while, on the other hand, I look to the Lord to keep me in accordance with His word; and the blessedness of the subject assures me that the more we seek the mind of the Lord in reference to it, the more gain and blessing will redound to our souls.
By baptism we have seen we profess -that the death of Christ is our starting-point. Now if we accept this in faith, we find ourselves, as to earth, in the place where our Lord died, and it is as we realize this that we come to understand the import and value of the Lord's Supper, whereby we " show forth His death until He come."
It was when the Lord's death was at hand; the very night in which He was betrayed, that He first engaged His own with this supper. He, though still living with them, was on the eve of departing. He was going to leave them, and the scene in which they were, through death; and with this death, of which He was in full contemplation, He would connect them in this most solemn and united way. What else could He connect them with while they remain here and He remains absent? What else but that, which, as to place, severed Him from them (death being the portal through which He left the earth), especially when that which He was to pass through was for their eternal gain and blessing in association with Himself? They were to remain here; He was by death departing from them; and hence His heart demands of them to remember Him as He LEFT THEM; and that was His body broken and His blood shed for them. Mark how specially it is noted for us, that on the "night in which he was betrayed " He called His disciples around Him for this purpose. Now is disclosed the terrible fact that there is no escape for man but in the death of the Christ. At one and the same moment at one and the same point-the dire ruin of man and the infinite love of God are to meet, and there alone find what completely suits both one and the other. It has come to this-the Son of the Blessed must die, " the Just for the unjust, to bring us to God." And for those who know His service and enjoy His love, what would be their true and happy link or expression in the scene where all this occurred? What but His death, through which all who believe on Him are judicially severed from everything which caused it. Hence, in this world, where everything being against God conspired to cause the death of Christ, on whom the judgment of it was laid, it must of necessity be the great place of the saints as on earth to remember Him in His death; to connect Himself with all His people in united, solemn remembrance of Him, in that act by which they are judicially delivered from the judgment on all that with which they are surrounded.
First, there is personal affection to Himself attaching the heart in remembrance of Him in the scene of His death till He conies; allowing nothing else to fill up the interval from His death to His coming, which is all, in this sense, a blank to us. If we speak of ourselves here, it is with reference to His death; and if we would turn our eyes here from it, the only point He presents to them, is His coming from whence He sat down on high. He was rejected from the earth. They who in their hearts would not have Him to reign over them, were condemned as enemies. The days had come in which the Bridegroom was to be taken away from them, and what could His disciples-those who knew and loved Him-be but widows in heart? They could not but " fast in those days." Mary Magdalene felt the blank; for though repaired to faith at God's right hand, it was never repaired here. The heart true to Him, and not partaking of the spirit of His enemies, who refused His rule, must own His Lordship in connection with things here, and be ever reminded of Him in His death. Who can for a moment survey the evil and contrariety to God in all around him, and not be reminded that the death of Christ, which the same evil perpetrated, is the only escape from divine judgment on it all? and as this is pressed on the soul, so is the Lord in His death brought before it. Himself in all His love and mercy comes freshly before our souls, and the more we know the hope of His calling and the riches of His inheritance, the more deeply do we, in deep devotion of heart, remember Him in that hour in which He rescued us from all man's evil, and made a way through the rent veil into the brightness of our Father's presence, where He now is, and we with Him, and from whence He calls us to remember Him in the scene of His death down here.
But still further. While calling to remembrance Him in His death for us, our souls are carried afresh by the Spirit which leads to remembrance, into the sense of the efficacy of it before God for us; so that we can afford to judge our selves in the light of it. Nay, the more clearly I see that judgment has been borne for me, and the more fully my soul is in happy remembrance of Him who bore it, the more easily do I judge myself, and according as I really discern the Lord's body I must do so. His body being broken was for a purpose-the blessed purpose of delivering me from the bondage of corruption; consequently, as I enter into the reality of the one, so must I know in myself the necessity and value of it. In dealing with the things of God, there is no superficial action. The Lord's supper is the Lord's call to us-His disciples on the earth where He died, and from which He is now rejected-to remember Him as the One who gave His body to be broken for us, and His blood to be shed; and as we do so by faith through the Spirit, our souls are not only brought into sensible remembrance of Him in the act as a cheer and strength to the heart, but we are brought to realize by faith sensible contiguity to Himself and that personally in connection with His death.
For not only is our heart invigorated by the occupation of our link to Him, but the value of His work is revived to our conscience, and we judge ourselves pari passu as we discern His body which was broken for us. It is not a mere remembrance and cheer to the heart, but the great effect and value of His death for us operates so as to place us in happy remembrance of Him in His death. His death judged all in me which caused it, so that it is my practical relief from everything in me contrary to God; and therefore the more fully and truly I remember Him in that act, the more fully must I see that I, as I am naturally, am judged; and therefore, the relief as to my conscience is to accord the judgment borne in His broken body, and judge myself. If I did not see the judgment in His broken body, I dare not judge myself; but if I see it, I must apply it; for it is as I apply it that I truly realize and know the value of it.
And here came in the " eating and drinking unworthily?" There was the appearance of responding to the call and mind of the Lord, while in heart there was no such thing; hence there was no self-judgment while there was an ostentatious partaking of that which, if done in truth, must have occupied the soul with the great transaction in which judgment for all sins was effected, and therefore giving it fresh liberty to judge itself as the remembrance of Him who was judged in death for it, was the more vivid to it. Eating unworthily was eating without apprehension of that great act of judgment-with indifference; as if it were a common supper, But its being the LORD's supper, as in everything, the greater the blessing if received according to the mind of God, the greater the judgment, if assumed to be received, but with indifference-so here. If partaken of unworthily-with indifference -I am guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. I am made liable to a forfeiture and judgment proportionate to the blessing I have slighted. Not only have I lost the blessing which the apprehension of the judgment borne by Christ in His broken body and shed blood would have yielded me, but I have incurred a serious penalty. (1 Cor. 11:3030For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. (1 Corinthians 11:30).) And it could not be otherwise. If I answer my Lord's call, I am in faith reminded of Him giving His body to be broken and His blood to be shed for me; and as I am occupied with Him in this great transaction, my conscience is free, and empowered to discern myself, because I discern the Lord's body. I judge myself in the light of His death, where all judgment was passed for me. I practically comprehend the ground of self-judgment; a moment of pain surely, but only a moment, that insures an entrance into one of no pain, but a fuller realization of the value of my Savior to me. On the contrary, if I eat and do not remember Him in His death, I am neither occupied with the magnitude of His love for me, nor with the effects which, at the moment, flow personally to me from it; and therefore judgment from the Lord comes on me; it may be on my body-weakness, sickliness, or death.
In 1 Cor. 11 the supper is for all, but with individual exercise. The first thing is, I must hear the Lord calling me to eat of His supper. The Lord having called me to do so is the only title I ought to assume, and the only one the Church ought to acknowledge; and not without this solemn assurance on both sides ought any one to pre-sent himself to eat of the supper. It was no light thing when first instituted. If the first communicants did not quite understand all that was involved in the act which they celebrated, they at least were impressed with a deep sense of their relation to their Lord at the moment; and even if Judas were present, it is not too much to say that the scene aroused his nature and made him a more ready prey to Satan.
If the Lord has called me to remember Him, I am assured in myself of my title, and can happily and eagerly respond to it, and the Church cannot disallow it, unless I act inconsistent with my title and disqualify myself by what they can see. But this part of the subject I reserve till I come to that of testimony in connection with the supper. I confine myself now to the individual condition suited and necessary in any one partaking of the Lord's supper.
First, he is called of His Lord to remember Him in His death, and he could not be called to remember Him but as knowing Him. All the disciples knew Him, and it is the soul that knows Him best, and has entered most fully into all He has consummated and secured to it according to the heart of God in the riches of His inheritance, who can with the truest and deepest appreciation, and satisfaction of heart too, revert to the scene of His death, and see Him in it establishing and securing all that blessing in which He now is, and from which he can estimate in some degree the greatness of the act by which he has been brought into it. I do not say that a babe in Christ may no in deep reality remember Him in His death, but it is evident that the one who knows him best, who has learned most deeply what a Savior He is, and the joy unspeakable there is in the Father's presence as presented there spotless by Him to the satisfaction and delight of the Father, must in a deeper and a fuller way remember His Lord when He gives His body to be broken and His blood to be shed, and therefore the supper must engage a soul bright and full of a present knowledge of Christ in a far more significant and comprehensive way than one only just looking to Him as a refuge, or restored to the sense of it. I am sure the latter may be sincere and engrossed, but in no degree remembering the Lord as the One who comes to the supper from the inner circle of God's presence, from the joys of the Father's favor to remember of His Lord on earth, how He died for him, and gave him title to, and a place in, all that scene from which he passes to remember his Lord's wondrous act on earth. I think this most important. Great spirituality only conduces to a deeper entrance into the foundation of all our blessing, or rather as it is here, into remembrance of Him as He opened our way into it. He calls me to remember Him in His death; but the better I know Him, the more I am in fellowship and nearness to Him in the circle of glory, the more I appreciate the call, and the more I invigorate my heart in remembering Him in the only scene on earth which marks my connection with it; for it alone, like the blood of the paschal lamb, severs me from the judgment on the earth. No just idea of the Lord in His majesty or value can be acquired, but as He is known in glory; and the idea I get of Him there lends a character to my remembrance of Him in His death. I do not acquire it in His death. I bring it with me into the remembrance. The remembrance acquires a depth and a tone from my present knowledge and appreciation of my Savior. It is not in the remembrance that I get the knowledge; I get there that which recounts my title to the joys which I have already found in my Lord. I believe it a mistake, and one which has led to great corruption, that the Lord's" supper in itself produces the knowledge or any condition of soul in me. The remembrance of Him in the supper renews the existence of a fact, and the blessing of necessity is determined by the fact. The fact imported to me in the remembrance of the Lord's death is that of His great love for me; but it is as I know Him and the results of the fact that I import into my remembrance just and true ideas about Him. The remembrance in the most blessed way authenticates my right and title to the endearing acquaintance which I through grace have made with Him; but it is not in the remembrance that I get the acquaintance, it is the latter which gives a character and depth to my remembrance.
How can I remember but in proportion to my knowledge and appreciation of the Person and ability to enter into what should engage my remembrance? If I do not know a person who has done some great act of service for me, how much will the remembrance of him in that act contribute to my knowledge of Him personally? None at all, though it may awaken my gratitude; but if I know Him, and in proportion as I know Him, will my remembrance be characterized by what He is. And so if I look at the Lord only in His death and expect to get there power or delight in my remembrance, I shall find myself mistaken. I must bring to my remembrance, like the disciples, all the interest and depth of my acquired-acquaintance; and according to the fullness of my acquaintance will be the depth and interest of my remembrance. It is the condition I am in previous to the remembrance, which will characterize it, rather than the remembrance generating the condition-though, of course, it establishes it.
Let me explain. If I go into the presence of God the light rebukes me, and according as it acts on my conscience I am formed to its claims. My condition is improved-I know in myself the effects of the light. If I walk in the effects of it through grace, I do not lose my condition; nay, I confirm and consolidate it, but it was the power of God's presence; and that above where He is, and not down here where I am, that formed my condition and which will characterize my walk. Thus in the same way it is not the remembrance of the Lord's death at the supper which forms my condition, (I am not comparing the supper to walk or to service, but merely applying the principle,) but my condition, as I remember, gives a character to the remembrance. I may be but a babe, and though I know little, I am full of my Savior. Well, then, my remembrance of Him will be according to my condition of soul. Another may be realizing his fellowship with his Lord in heavenly places; and having made acquaintance with Him up there in the glory, as Paul did, will he not, as led back by his glorified Lord to the scene of His death, bring into his remembrance an apprehension which the other, however true, knows nothing about? In neither case did the remembrance, while confirming and assuring the condition, produce it. And here the word, " Let a man prove himself and so let him eat," applies to the condition 1 am in when 1 come to eat. It is not said what the condition should be, but states the fact that a man should know his state before he did eat; that he should prove himself-certify to himself his own spiritual existence. It did not imply any course of preparation as involving any period of time; it simply required that a soul should be, so to speak, master of its own state, i. e., acting in full consciousness not only of title but of its mind and interests. It was to come to eat deliberately, knowing what it was about; conscious of whose it was and how it was, alive to its own position, and with this true sense of itself, it was to enter on and engage in the solemn act of partaking of the supper.
We now come to the second part of our subject. The first and greatest, as we have seen, brings our Lord personally before us in death for us, connecting our souls with Him in that act, and thus in a practical sense assuring us of the great foundation of all the blessing we enjoy through Him. But there is another, which is properly included in the first, and which we have already touched on, but which is not spoken of by the apostle until he takes up the subject of eating and drinking unworthily. If I had eaten worthily it would have been secured in my condition of soul; and he then shows that the one eating and drinking, with indifference has not judged himself, which necessarily implies that if he had eaten worthily he must have done so. If I had discerned the Lord's body broken for me, I must have judged myself; because my soul must, in that case, be occupied with Him in His death where judgment was effected for me. And if I partake of this supper without apprehending the Lord's body broken for me and His blood shed for me, I entail judgment on myself, because if I am not occupied With the great transaction of His death-remembering Him in it, I am not awakened to a sense of how judgment has been effected for me, and without this I cannot judge myself. In the light of it, self-judgment is accepted by me and easy. The soul, apprehending truly the judgment borne for it, gets liberty to judge itself; bat instead of being deterred from eating by the sense of its own ruin and folly, it finds its own title to eat the more confirmed, the deeper it dives into the sense of the judgment borne for it, and (what is inseparable from this) the judgment due to it.
I believe that according to our apprehension there is presented to us a distinct sense of Christ in each of the offerings, and all combined in the supper. Each has its own note to which the heart is awakened, but all being struck in unison, like a chord in harmony, the effect is one, full, and controlling, and the more so, the better the heart is strung. How blessed when, in deep, hearty remembrance, the soul enters into and knows itself in a scene where all these impressions are recalled; and when it lingers in all the assurance of its title and blessing through Him whom it remembers, though with the sense of how it needed and needs, all that in which He is remembered!
As I have already remarked, though all the saints are regarded as coming together to the same place, yet it is the state of the individual soul which is considered here. At the supper, it is the individual experience in company with all the saints there; the individual condition being the true ground of preparation for strength in the united condition. Hence, in celebrating the Lord's Supper, the first great thing-the one singularly kept before our souls by the apostle-is the individual state and experience. Because if this be true and well-founded the collective responsibility will be easily and naturally maintained. And here follows the exhortation, " When you come together tarry one for another." Though an individual exercise, it was yet to have a collective expression, which each truly exercised soul would acknowledge and contribute to. Now this leads us to pass from the individual thing to the collective expression, and the Lord's supper I apprehend in the latter, (the collective aspect,) is designated by the Lord's table; an expression which we only find in 1 Cor. 10, where the whole subject is the testimony; my responsibility being insisted on, and not the experimental issues of my soul, as in chapter xi., in connection with the supper. And here I may say, that the Lord's supper conveys a more touching idea to the soul than the term the Lord's table, and though one and the other are the same thing, I have no doubt that each present it in a different aspect. The supper is what my soul is individually connected with; the table is my responsibility and position. Now as I enter into and am empowered by the first, so am I skilful and qualified for the other. It is evident that there can be no strength for responsibility when the soul is not experimentally invigorated; and that as one becomes cold and indifferent in oneself, so must there be indifference about and incapacity for the responsibility. True is it that many have attempted to maintain respect for the responsibility when they had no personal supply, which alone could have sustained them in it. And when we come to scrutinize, we shall always find that the failure in the maintenance of the responsibility really arises from a sensible defect in the soul experimentally. And in no particular responsibility is this more apparent, than with reference to this interesting subject we are occupied with. I think it can be shown that when there is any weakness or defectiveness about the Lord's table-the responsibility of the communicants -that there exists a more marked defect or ignorance of souls as to their true privileges connected with the Lord's supper, or the individual part of it. If, for example, I find that the cup is forbidden to the laity, then I am assured that the knowledge of salvation is denied; and with this great experimental loss, I need not be surprised to find that the sense of the responsibility which becomes the Lord's table is entirely unknown. When responsibility is spoken of, the cup is put foremost, showing, I suppose, the solemn engagement under which the communicant placed himself, and to which, if he be true, he could not have communion with any other; i.e., his having communion with the Lord's table precluded his having participation in any religious ceremonial outside of it. Partaking of the true, the highest, and the greatest, necessarily excluded him from all others; and if after his solemn adoption of it in communion with the blood of Christ, he stoops to another, the only retort or rebuke is the impossibility of holding both. Two things so utterly foreign the one from the other, could not be compatible; and this being so, the next word is, " Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy; are we stronger than He?" which, to my mind, conveys the idea, Do we attempt to provoke Him to jealousy? Jealousy is cruel. " Who hath hardened himself against him and hath prospered? Can thy heart endure, or thy hands be strong in the day that I shall deal with thee?" It is the last appeal or warning, intimating the issue which awaits the soul that forgets his solemn responsibility to the Lord's table by joining another. If I have drunk of the Lord's cup, and been a partaker at the Lord's table, bow can I partake of any cup not His, or at any table not His, which has a religious profession having any reference to God? For that was the idol's temple. I am absolutely bound by the position I have taken, and if I depart from it I ignore my testimony and expose myself to the jealousy of the Lord whom I have despised. But not only so. In this communion with the body of Christ, we being many are one loaf-one body. The united action is looked at here rather than the individual experience, as in chapter 11. We are all the body of Christ in communion with the blood of Christ. We present this aspect, and it is our responsibility, because we being many are one loaf, one body; and then the table becomes the distinct object of the care of each and all. Every member is responsible for it, the whole body is responsible for it.
Now, in conclusion, I may add that the true and becoming badge of the saints during the absence of their Lord was His supper This is their only point of contact with this scene, and
from this point they count no interval up to His return. His death has separated us from the judgment on the world and our remembrance of it is therefore our only true and happy place in the midst of it. And besides this, it connects us in heart with Him as to His place here. His point of departure is our point of contact as to present things; though in our souls we have the light and joy of His resurrection, but this puts us out of this scene, and does not connect us with it, save as giving us power to understand Christ's love for us in His death.
May our hearts in truth enter more into the Lord's supper; and may we, in the spirit of our minds, be as " widows indeed," remembering Him here in His death; and as our personal tie to Him is deepened, we shall be the more careful. and scrupulous that His table, where we, being many, present ourselves as His body, should be preserved unpolluted and undishonored for His name's sake. Amen.