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1 Cor. xi. 27, 29.
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.... For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.
THE inspired account of the church of Christ during the primitive age, is, of all historical records, the best fitted for interesting and instructing the Christian mind. It contains a narrative of the most important revolution which ever took place in the situation of mankind, and exhibits numerous and striking displays of the divine power, wisdom, and goodness. It holds up to our view examples, on the one hand, of human folly and crime, to detest and avoid; and on the other, of faith and patience, zeal and charity, to admire and imitate. That man must be strangely deficient in the powers of thinking and feeling, or he must wilfully have neglected to exert them, who can rise from the perusal of this sacred record, without being at the same time interested and instructed, delighted and improved.
Of the lessons taught us by the history of the primitive church, none are more prominent, and few more important, than this, that the conduct of Providence towards the church is at once mysterious and wise. Imagination can scarce delineate a scene more amiably interesting, than that which the infant church in reality displayed. Bound together by the fellowship of sentiment, feeling, and affliction,-having one Lord, one faith, one baptism,-the believers in Christ found more than a compensation for the contempt, and hatred, and persecution of the world, in their common hopes, and mutual offices of kindness. Around them was a scene of rude agitation and wild confusion; but within the little circle of their society, all was union, harmony, and love.
This enviable state of serenity and peace was, however, unhappily but of short duration. "When men slept, an enemy came and sowed tares.' Differences of opinion soon made their appearance among the disciples of Christ, and were speedily followed, where they were not preceded, by alienation of heart. Irregularities of conduct conduced still farther to disturb the peace of the primitive church.
To the limited view of mortal wisdom, on the supposition of Christianity being the object of divine patronage, the conduct of Providence in permitting these disorders, must appear strange, and indeed unaccountable. The house, apparently built of no very durable materials, assaulted by external violence, and now divided against itself, seemed destined to a speedy and total destruction. But let us beware of rashly arraigning the wisdom of the divine government. On a closer inspection, these mysterious dispensations appear to bear broad and deep signatures of infinite wisdom. "The foolishness of God is wiser than men." Most wisely and most mercifully didGod permit almost every heresy and abuse,
which in later ages have tarnished the purity, and disturbed the peace of the church, to make their appearance in her primitive age, while yet there remained infallible teachers to oppose these errors, and establish the opposite truth.
These observations, though applicable to the history of the primitive church in general, have been suggested by, and certainly receive illustration from, those occurrences in the history of the Corinthian church, which gave occasion to that detailed account of the origin, nature, and design of the Lord's Supper, of which our text forms a part. A variety of abuses had crept into their mode of observing this holy institution, -abuses of a nature so gross and so shocking, as nothing but a consideration of their former habits as heathens could have made credible. The anger of God was kindled, and the arm of his power was raised, to vindicate the importance and purity of the divine ordinance. Many of the offending Christians were afflicted with severe bodily distemper, not a few of which terminated in mortality.
But while we can scarcely too severely reprobate, while we cannot too carefully avoid, those errors and crimes which stained so foully the character of the Corinthian church, it is certainly not only allowable, but dutiful, to observe, admire, and bless the operation of that wisdom and goodness, which, in the present case, brought good out of evil, and made use of these unhappy occurrences, as the occasion of giving us a more extensive account than is anywhere else to be met with, of the nature and design of the Lord's Supper. It scarcely admits of a doubt, that the permission of these disorders at Corinth, when taken in connection with the Epistle to which they gave occasion, has, in unnumbered instances, prevented the occurrence of similar enormities. The passage of which our text is
a part, though written in reference to the peculiar circumstances of the Corinthian church, forms a complete and most luminous directory for Christians in all ages, in observing this sacred institution. It teaches us its design,—to keep up the memory of the Saviour's death; the preparation which is necessary in order to observe it aright," let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of this bread, and drink of this cup.' And in the passage more immediately under review, this exhortation is enforced, from a consideration of the guilt and danger of profaning so holy an institution: "Wherefore, whosoever shall eat this bread and drink this cup of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord: for he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself."-This passage naturally calls our attention,
I. To the mode of conduct which the Apostle condemns" Eating the bread and drinking the cup of the Lord unworthily." And,
II. To the consequences which he represents as flowing from it: They who do so " are guilty of the body and blood of the Lord;" and they "eat and drink judgment to themselves."
These shall therefore form the leading topics of the sequel of the discourse. And may God enable us so to declare his will on this subject, as that, while the guilty are deterred from intruding themselves into a situa tion to which they have no right, the humble selfdiffident Christian may be encouraged to engage in a service, which is not less the enjoyment of a privilege, than the performance of a duty.
I. The mode of conduct which the Apostle condemns, is "eating the bread and drinking the cup of the Lord unworthily." A consideration of the beha
viour for which the Apostle reproves the Corinthians, will be of some service in enabling us to ascertain the nature of unworthy communicating. Of this we have an account in the 20th, 21st, and 22d verses of this chapter: "When ye come together, therefore, into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper: for in eating, every one taketh before others 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 which have not? Shall I praise you? in this I praise you not *."
From this account, it appears that their mode of observing this sacred institution was marked by the utmost irregularity and irreverence. A religious festival was converted into a riotous banquet. Their whole behaviour savoured more of the religion they had abandoned, than that which they had embraced; and bespoke them rather the votaries of Jupiter or Bacchus, than the worshippers of Jehovah, and the followers of Jesus. Such was the manner in which they ate the bread and drank the cup of the Lord unworthily. Into disorders of this nature, the manners of the age, and the customs of all Christian churches, preclude almost the possibility of falling. But does it
I have sometimes thought that the meaning of this passage would be elucidated by rendering the 20th verse interrogatively, and by translating yag, in the 21st verse, but. The passage would then run thus, "When then ye assemble, is it not to eat the Lord's supper? But one," &c. i. e. Your conduct does not comport with the avowed object of your assembly. Instead of sitting down to a social reli, gious feast, you, in a confused manner, take separate repasts.-The only circumstance which makes me hesitate about preferring this to the common mode of rendering the passage, the unusual sense given to the particle ya Hoogeveen (De Doct. l'art. Glas. Edit. p. 91.) expressly denies the adversative force of yag. Macknight (Prel. Essays to Trans. of Ep. Ess. 4. § 98. asserts it; and though many of his examples may be explained on other principles, there are some which seem to prove the adversative use of yg in the New Testament, Mark vii. 23. 1 Pet. iv. 15.