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tirely believing hearts." Let us hold to this, my brethren, and instead of striving in an unchristian manner, let us show our Lutheranism, or rather our Christianity, not only by following Christ in thought and life, but especially with regard to this holy supper, lay hold of his holy office of mediator in faith, and mutually urge each other on to love ; for otherwise we shall only be depriving ourselves of the blessing which the Lord has promised, not to those who love strife and quarrelling, but to those who heartily desire to be saved by his grace, and who in faith and love dedicate themselves to Him.
May such thoughts be furthered among us by this day's meditation, my brethren, whose object will be to point out to you how the early Christians regarded the sacrament, and celebrated it! Among them we find in this point, what is so often unfortunately wanting among ourselves, namely, “forbearance in love, and an endeavour to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.” In later times, this childlike, simple, and humble faith began to disappear, and instead arose all sorts of doctrinal contentions, which led to unhallowed divisions in life, whilst men, with all their differences of doctrine, views and opinions, ought to have preserved love in their lives as the highest and noblest thing ; for the Lord hath said, “ Hereby shall men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” Least of all should there arise any contention concerning the holy supper within the evangelical church, because all members of that church, whether they be called Lutheran or reformed, agree in all essential points, for all consider Jesus Christ as the only and eternal ground of salvation, and all are really united in the confession, “ that we are justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” This confession, and no dogma concerning the holy supper, is the foundation on which the evangelical church rests, and therefore it is neither right nor proper, to contend with so little love about other points. Let us, then, be one in love, my brethren, and may
meditations we are now about to enter into concerning this feast of love, and its celebration among the first Christians, awaken and give new life to the spirit of love within us; and let us all implore God for his blessing
TEXT. And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, drink
ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sin.-St Matthew, xxvi. 26–28.
The words we have just read, represent to us the institution of the holy supper, and with relation to them let us consider,
1. How the Christians of the first centuries regarded the holy feast ; and,
2. How they used to celebrate it.
Holy Father, sanctify us with thy truth; thy word is truth. Amen.
1. 6 With desire have I desired to eat this
passover before I suffer.” With this declaration the Lord entered into the circle of his disciples at the last paschal celebration. He was about to leave them, and to offer himself for them, and for the salvation of the whole world of sinners, and thus this last paschal feast was also the feast of his departure. But although he withdrew from them his bodily and visible presence, yet they were not to imagine that they were entirely and for ever separated from him. On the contrary, he promised them that “ he would be with them always, even unto the end of the world;" he would not, indeed, be visible
among them as at this last feast, but he would as truly dwell invisibly in the midst of them by His Spirit, and work among them more powerfully and with richer blessings than before : he would, by virtue of this His spiritual communion with them, impart to them himself
and all his heavenly goods. He therefore made use of the celebration of the last paschal meal for the ordinance of his holy supper. This feast was to be to them a blessed pledge, and a firm seal of his continual presence among them, and of their uninterrupted communion with him, and therefore he expressly commanded them to celebrate it in rememberance of him. The Lord made use of the Jewish passover in the institution of his sacrament, as being the fundamental covenant feast of the whole Mosaic religion. But as in the one the regard to the bodily and earthly blessings of God prevailed, so in the holy supper reference is more had to the spiritual and heavenly blessings of God. The Jewish passover was a celebration of thanksgiving, and had reference to two things: first, In regard to the earthly gifts and benefits which the Almighty Creator pours forth upon all men in nature and the fruits of the earth ; and, secondly, In regard to the peculiar blessings and guidance of the grace of God with which the chosen people were honoured when they were rescued from their Egyptian bondage. The Jewish master of the house, therefore, at this meal, was wont, with prayers and thanksgiving, to distribute bread and wine to the assembled guests, to the praise of the Almighty, who had given to men meat and drink, and then reminded them especially of the mercy which God had shown his people Israel, when, by his servant Moses, he led them with a strong hand out of Egypt into the promised land. This extraordinary goodness they were bound ever to remember with the most sincere feelings of gratitude; the bread was to remind them of the bread of affliction which their fathers had eaten in Egypt, and of the heavenly manna with whick the Lord had wonderfully fed them in the wilderness, and the cup was to be to them a cup of joy, a challenge to praise God for their happy rescue from the bondage of Egypt, and therefore it was the cup of praise or thanksgiving
Taking this Jewish supper for the foundation, our Lord Jesus Christ, as the master of the family, spoke the blessing in the circle of his disciples. “He took the
bread," the text informs
66 and brake it." took likewise the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it unto them.” But he imparted to his thanksgiving a higher and heavenly reference to the eternal goods and blessings of the new covenant, founded by himself, and when, as he handed the bread and wine to his disciples, he said solemnly: “ Take, eat, this is my body! Drink ye all of this, for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for you and for many for the remission of sins,"—he alluded to the reconciliation of sinful men with God, effected by his death, and sealed upon the cross, to the freedom from guilt and the punishment for sin won by him, to deliverance from the bondage of sin, wherein consists the true freedom of the children of God, and to the entrance into the heavenly Canaan, the country of all pious believers. For these are the blessings of the new covenant, which is a covenant of grace, of happiness, of peace, of salvation, wherefore St Paul describes the essence of the kingdom of God founded by Jesus Christ, as righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. Bread and wine, therefore, in the holy supper, were to represent to his followers, and all believers of every age, His body and His blood, -His body which he was giving up to death as an offering for the sins of the world, in order to our salvation, and the founding of a new covenant of grace_His blood which he was about to shed upon the cross for the forgiveness of sins. But bread and wine were intended by no means to be only signs of remembrance, but also pledges of his constant and hallowing presence among them, and seals of their uninterrupted communion with Him; and as they in this sacred feast did receive the bodily nourishment which belongs to the senses, so were they altogether to receive into themselves Him, who was invisibly present in the power of the Godhead, to the nourishment, enlivening and strengthening of their inward man, and in this union with Him his divine life-giving power would interpenetrate their whole being, would hallow and purify it; in this union with Him they were to receive the happy certainty of eternal life together with
him, and have a pledge of their future resurrection and partaking of the glories of the world to come. Ignatius, therefore, called the Holy Supper, “ A medicine of immortality, an antidote to death, a pledge of a life that passeth not away in Christ Jesus.”
Thus, then, did the Christians of the first centuries regard the sacrament of the altar as a feast of remembrance, which they were to celebrate according to the ordinance of the Lord himself, as a memorial of his sufferings and death, and the glorious blessings of his offering on the cross ; as the feast of a covenant, in which the glorified but invisibly present Redeemer imparted himself to them in the fulness of his grace, and received them into the communion of his exalted life; and also as a feast of love to give life to the inward communion, in which they were joined one with another, as members of one spiritual body, under one head. And this meal they celebrated with holy joy, in the pious hope that they should one day attain from faith to a blessed sight, and in their heavenly country should enjoy the goods and blessings won for them by Christ's sufferings and death, and by his mercy become partakers of His glory in his invisible kingdom.
II. Let us now examine, my brethren, how the first Christians celebrated this holy feast, and we shall before all perceive that it was originally combined with a social meal. These two together were called the feast of the Lord, the feast of love, and by them it was their intention to signify the union of the faithful with their Lord, and their brotherly alliance one with another. We find both in the first Christian church at Jerusalem, of which the book of the Acts of the Apostles relates,
They remained steadfast in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread and prayer." We find both united in the first church at Corinth. In these 80-called Agapoe or love-feasts, which we have before spoken of, all difference of earthly ranks and situations between those bound together in one body, with Christ for their head, were intended to disappear. All were