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Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. Peter saith unto Him, Thou shalt never wash my feet! Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me. Simon Peter saith unto Him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith unto him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. For He knew who should betray Him; therefore said He, Ye are not all clean. So after He had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, He said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call Me Master and Lord and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.” John xiii. 1-15.
Of the four evangelists, who have recorded the Passover that Jesus eat with his disciples, immediately before He suffered, only one says any thing like its being repeated. Can we suppose that, if it was designed for so important an institution, as is believed by some, it would have been thus slightly passed over? Would the institution have been entirely omitted by three out of the four evangelists, and by the fourth just mentioned in the simple expression; "This do in remembrance of Me?" Luke xxii. 19.
A question naturally arises, whether the breaking of bread for the common support of nature, and taking the cup with the giving of thanks, is not the thing that is to be done in remembrance of Christ. And whether, as often
as this is done as often as we sit down to our ordinary meals, under a reverent sense of the goodness of God through Jesus Christ, there is not a memorial of his body that was broken, and his blood that was shed for us ; agreeably to the words of the apostle: "As often as ye do this, ye do show forth the Lord's death till He come." 1 Cor. xi. 26.
When partaking of the blessings of a bountiful Providence, for the nourishment and growth of our natural bodies, does it not bring to mind the need there is, for the preservation of the Divine Life in us, of the bread which comes down from heaven, for the support of the inner man? And as this bread is obtained through the coming and suffering of Jesus Christ, whose precious blood was shed for us, it is calculated to make impressions of an humbling nature. It is Christ alone, internally enjoyed, that can nourish the soul up unto Eternal Life; and hence that mysterious expression of our Lord; Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you; for my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.” John vi. 53, 55. This, however repugnant in a literal point of view, is one of those precious truths, which the pious soul well understands, and often recurs to, in its progress heaven-ward.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke all give the circumstances of the breaking of bread, taking the cup, and giving of thanks. But this was no more than appears to have been our Lord's uniform practice. When He ate, He took the bread, and looking up to heaven, gave thanks, and brake it, and gave to his disciples. This is so often recorded, that we may fairly conclude it was his constant practice,
At this last supper that he was to take with his disciples, in order to inculcate the great truths of Redemption, and the benefits derived from his sufferings and death, then soon to take place, He associated that sacrifice of Himself on the cross, with the idea of the nourishment of their bodies. And the calls for food being of a nature so often to occur, and so absolute in their demands, were calculated to fix deeply in their minds the necessity of that spiritual bread, which they received through Him, who was about to lay down his life, and shed his precious blood for them. Thus far the three evangelists concur; the third adds: "This do in remembrance of Me." which does not materially change the view of the subject. The fourth had his attention directed to another circumstance, which the others had not mentioned, the washing of the disciples' feet. And here let the two accounts of the evangelists, Luke and John, be compared, and candidly decide, which has most the appearance of a permanent institution, the supper, or the washing of feet? I hesitate not to say, that the latter has abundantly more of such an appearance than the former. And yet, by the general consent of Christians, it is laid aside, or, rather, not regarded as a standing ordinance.
I am not endeavouring to detect discrepances among the evangelists, but only to show, that, though four have written on the occasion, so little is to be discovered in the records they have left, like an institution of an ordiAnd this may be regarded as an evidence that it was not so intended.
That such a ceremony did take place in the Chriɛtian Church in early times, is no more than happened
in relation to many practices and observances, which are now generally considered to have ceased, in point of obligation-even though they were enjoined by the Church. Such were the relics of the ceremonial law, which were enjoined in the epistle of the apostles and elders at Jeru salem-though they introduced it by saying, it seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to them. Acts xv. And such was the washing of feet; the practice of which, to some extent, grew out of the example of our Lord, as recorded by the evangelist. John xiii. Such also was the anointing of the sick with oil, as enjoined by the apostle, James v. 14. And we might mention, their having all things in common-in very close connexion with which, was the practice of "breaking bread from house to house." Acts ii. 46.
We therefore believe that we may safely decline the use of this ceremony, as not essential in itself. That the consecrated bread and wine are not the actual flesh and blood of Christ, is agreed by all Protestants. And if it be admitted as "an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace," it must be perfectly useless if that spiritual grace be wanting: and if it be present, and the body and blood of Christ be really enjoyed in spirit, that "outward and visible sign" must be of small consequence, and would be lost in the Fulness of the Eternal Substance.
On the other hand, there is real danger, that a dependence on an empty shadow may divert the mind of the pious Christian, from perseveringly seeking the Substance. Hence the admonition of the apostle; "Wherefore, if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye sub
ject to ordinances, (touch not; taste not; handle not ; which all are to perish with the using,) after the commandments and doctrines of men ?" Col. ii. 20-22.
The idea of establishing certain particular days, at long intervals, for enjoying communion with God, I apprehend is calculated to produce effects prejudicial to the Christian traveller. That communion which is the life of the true Christian, should be more frequent. "Behold! I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me." Rev. iii. 20. That this is properly the Lord's Supper, is clear from the plain language of the text. And that it is not dependent on any ceremonies whatever, is equally evident. That this intercourse and sustenance should be daily sought after, is inculcated by our Lord, in that prayer which He taught his disciples: "Give us day by day our daily bread." Luke xi. 3. Here is no putting off to sacrament · day* (so called ;) the soul in the mean time, languishing for the want of that Bread, which alone can nourish it up to Eternal Life.
We, therefore, believing that the body and blood of Jesus Christ, and communion with God through Him, are only to be experienced in a spiritual sense, and that the outward ceremony is one of those things which perish with the using, think ourselves fully warranted in declining the use of the shadow, and pressing after the pure and spiritual Substance; which is the one thing needful.
The word SACRAMENT is of Roman origin, and signified a military oath.