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23so s. rty of SITY Irr - e - opio ened men's minds from their worldly occ rendered precarious their continuance in their earthly possessions;–when the exciting influence of miraculous occurrences was daily felt;-when apostolic simplicity and fervour breathed in the ministry of the word;—when copious effusions of grace came on the disciples with refreshing influence from the presence of the Lord;—their minds were so occupied and absorbed by spiritual things, that every day was a day of holy and joyful celebration; and the house of every believer furnished a table, at which some portion of the church could assemble, and enjoy the cup of blessing in the communion of the blood of Christ, and break bread in token of their communion in the body of Christ. “And fear came upon every soul; and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common, and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”* There is another reference to the Lord's supper given, in connection with a visit which the Apostle
* Acts ii. 43, 47.
Paul made to the church at Troas. He waited at this place until the first day of the week, because then, in pursuance of their usual custom, the disciples came together to break bread. If any peculiar importance had been attached, at this period of the church, to the official administration of the elements of the Lord's supper, it would surely, in some way or other, have been indicated on this occasion when the ministry of an Apostle is described in connection with its celebration. But what is the plain fact of the case ? His participating with the disciples in the supper is not omitted by the inspired narrator. Had it been, each individual might have derived his own inference, varying with the theory upon the general subject which he had previously received. But it is recorded, and in the same terms which are employed to characterize the ordinary celebration by the disciples themselves. They “came together to break bread;” and, “when he was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed.” Whatever distinctions he possessed in office and gifts, at the supper of the Lord he stood not apart from the disciples as more holy or privileged than they, but was among them as one of themselves: practically recognizing the relation which they sustained to him as his brethren: members of one family, —and united, by the same spiritual ties, to one common and glorious Head.
* Acts xx. 11.
If anything more were necessary to disconnect this part of the Christian ritual from the work of a priesthood, it would be found in the fact, that the corresponding rite of the Jewish church was, like that of circumcision, a domestic, and not a priestly rite. The Passover, as well as circumcision, was instituted before the priesthood was appointed. After it was appointed, no injunction restricted, to those who discharged its functions, the right of killing the paschal lamb. Though, when the people were led into the possession of the land which had been promised to them, the feast could be celebrated only at the place where the sanctuary of worship was established; yet the lamb was not presented upon the altar, but upon the table of each household, in its own settled or temporary dwelling. No portion of it went to the priest, but each domestic party feasted upon its own victim; and if any thing remained from it at the conclusion of the supper, it might not be left till the morning, but was to be consumed in the fire. It was immediately after he had eaten of the Passover with his disciples, and at the same table on which the paschal lamb had been placed, that the Saviour instituted his own supper. The bread and the wine were to supersede the lamb, and to be the visible memorials of the dying love of our departed Lord ;-of Christ, our Passover, who was sacrificed for us,
And the ejection of the priest, and the reduction of the altar to a table, explodes that master-piece of human ingenuity and effrontery, the imposing fiction of transubstantiation. For if there be no priest to effect the marvellous transformation, the elements must remain, as the Apostle describes them to have been, even after the Saviour's giving of thanks,—the bread which we eat, and the cup which we drink; evidently so to the eye, and demonstrably so to any who will submit them to the test of a chemical process.
Should we be told, that the deductions of reason, and the evidence of the senses, on a subject so sublime and mysterious, must be alike rejected; and that the doctrine is proposed to faith, and upheld by the plain declaration of our Redeemer, “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you,”—we answer, That those who take this declaration literally, must place themselves on a level in understanding with the blind and carnal Jews, who were offended with it; that those who take the words sacramentally,–who suppose that they refer to the bread and wine of the Lord's supper, must be prepared to admit that no individual was or could be, when they were delivered, nor for a considerable period afterwards, in the possession of life:–that none of the twelve, not even Peter himself, was in the possession of life. They must be prepared to admit, that none of the promises of life, which the Saviour had hitherto given, had been, or could have been fulfilled:—that the great purpose for which Christ came into the world, which was to give life, had as yet, in the case of no individual, been accomplished; because, as yet, there was no such thing as the Lord's supper in existence. This sufficient and palpable reason entirely excludes the sacramental meaning which the words have been supposed to involve. It was impossible that they could refer to an institution which then was not in being; and about the intended appointment of which not even a hint had yet been given. More excusable were the Jews who took, the words literally, than are those who, understanding the chronology of the New Testament, take them sacramentally. They libel the Saviour's character as a teacher, and nullify his grace and faithfulness as a Redeemer. If their interpretation of the words be a true one, every gift which the Saviour had previously conferred must have been withdrawn, and the declaration which he delivered must have been an inexplicable riddle, which no creature then in existence could by any possibility have made out. They must be taken metaphorically and spiritually; as referring to truth, of which Christ is the substance, and on which, by coming to him, the soul must daily feed: and then will there be found in them, according to his own assurance, spirit and life. Experiencing their quickening influence, we shall feel under them, as Peter did when he heard them: knowing nothing about a sacrament in them, we shall come to Christ with powerful emotion, saying “Lord, to