Tuesday, May 30th, 2023
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
The Biblical Illustrator The Biblical Illustrator
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "1 Corinthians 11". The Biblical Illustrator. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tbi/ 1-corinthians-11.html. 1905-1909. New York.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "1 Corinthians 11". The Biblical Illustrator. https://studylight.org/
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1 Corinthians 11:1-2
Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.
Follow Paul and follow Christ
I. Be ye followers of Paul. But how can we be like a man who has been dead for centuries, whose language and occupations were wholly different from ours? Can the nineteenth century be changed into the first? No. There are hundreds of points in which we cannot be like him; and yet Paul is more capable of being an example to us than he has been to almost any previous age of the world. He is truly the apostle of Englishmen, because--
1. He is the apostle most congenial to our peculiar excellences. There is a real likeness between the English character and the freedom and love of truth which is the fibre and tissue of the teaching of St. Paul.
2. He is the apostle of progress. Are any of us inclined to think that Christianity is worn out, that it is too contracted for these broad, enlightened times? Some forms of it may have become so, but not the Christianity of St. Paul. He is the apostle of the vast and unknown future. St. Paul is always looking, not backward, but forward. He went beyond his own age, beyond the ages that followed; and, however far we have advanced in enlightenment and liberation, he has gone before us still.
3. The apostle of toleration. Have we outgrown the noble lessons of Romans 14:1-23.? Are we more able to bear with those who differ from us, more tender to the rights of conscience, than he? Let us separate the essential from the non-essential, the temporal from the eternal, as he did.
II. Even as he was of Christ.
1. In many forms this is the burden of all his Epistles (Romans 13:14; Colossians 2:6; Romans 8:29; Galatians 6:14; Galatians 2:20). He is but a servant of Christ. To carry in his own life a copy, however imperfect, of what Christ had said and done; to be one with Christ now and hereafter was his highest ambition and hope of salvation. And to this he calls us still.
2. True, we cannot imitate Christ in the letter, but we can in the spirit; we cannot “put on” His outward garb and actions, but we can put on “the mind which was in Christ Jesus.” We cannot attain to His perfection; in great part He is rather the likeness of God than the example of man; but we can study in His life and character the will of God and the duty of man. He should be to us as a second conscience, to fix our wills, to calm our scruples, to guide our thoughts, the conscience of our conscience, the mind of our mind, the heart of our heart.
III. How shall we bring home this joint example to ourselves? How shall we concentrate on our own lives the rays of this double light, the greater light for ever going before, the lesser light for ever moving behind? Turn from the text to the context, and you will find laid down two fundamental principles of Evangelical religion--
1. For the service of God (1 Corinthians 10:13.). Whatsoever ye do, in commerce and in labour, wheresoever it be, there is what you have to do to the glory of God. Here, joining in the prayers and hymns, etc., you are preparing for the service of God. But there, in your daily life, is the true “Divine service,” in which we must all bear our parts.
(1) Paul was ever employed in driving the enthusiasm of his followers into homely, useful, practical channels.
(2) What was true of Paul was still more true of Christ. He did not retire to the wilderness. He lived and died in blessed companionship with men. In labour and in festivity, in moving multitudes and in crowded ship, He found alike His Father’s work.
2. How are we to follow Paul and Christ in the service of man? (1 Corinthians 10:33; 1 Corinthians 9:22). Not by one uniform mode, but in ten thousand was, ever fresh, every varying with the wants and characters of each.
(1) Every face that looks up from this crowd is different from every other; it expresses a history, a character, a weakness, a strength of its own. To every one the apostle would have been, as it were, a different man; he would have transformed himself into the thoughts and would have borne with the infirmities of each. No outward difference would have prevented him from seeing the good which lay beneath. He would have made straight for that and built it up, and so would have saved the soul in the midst of which he had discovered it.
(2) And this example is not only for teachers or special times and places. It is for all times, places, and persons; for it is the example, not only of Paul, but of Christ Himself. He, too, “became all things to all men, if by any means He might save some.” He came with a gracious word and touch for each. And as Christ and Paul have done to us, so ought we in our humble measure to do to our brethren; so ought we humbly to hope that they each in their turn will do to us, if by any means some of us may be saved. (Dean Stanley.)
Following Christians and following Christ
I. We ought to follow the example of former saints, so far as they walk in the laws of God.
1. Though by nature all be sinners, yet by grace many in all ages have been saints.
2. The lives of many saints are recorded for our imitation (James 5:10-11; James 5:17; Philippians 3:17; Philippians 4:9).
3. But everything recorded of them is not to be followed.
(1) Not such actions as are condemned.
(2) Nor all such which are not condemned (Genesis 19:8; Genesis 27:25-27; Genesis 42:15-16).
(3) Nor all such as are approved. For--
(a) Some things are only in part approved (Luke 16:8; Exodus 1:19-20).
(b) Some things were done by the extraordinary call and instinct of God (Num 25:7-8; 2 Kings 1:10; Luke 9:54-55). So Abraham offering Isaac.
4. In our imitation of the saints we must observe--
(1) Whether what they do be according to the law of God.
(2) The circumstances of their actions (Amos 6:5). Read, then, the lives of former saints, and follow their examples, especially the particular graces wherein they were eminent (Num 12:3; 1 Samuel 3:18; Job 1:21; Acts 5:41).
II. Christ is the grand example which we ought to imitate.
1. What is it to imitate Christ?
(1) As He did it.
(a) Understandingly (John 4:22).
(b) Obediently (Luke 2:49; 1 Samuel 15:22).
(c) Sincerely John 4:24; 2 Corinthians 1:12).
(d) Wholly (Matthew 3:15; John 17:4).
(e) Believingly (John 11:41-42).
(f) Cheerfully (Isaiah 53:7; Hebrews 10:34; Romans 12:8).
(g) Humbly (Matthew 11:29).
(h) To the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).
2. What are those works which we are to imitate Christ in? Christ was truly God from eternity (John 1:1; John 8:58). He became truly man in time (John 1:14; 1 Timothy 2:5), and He was and is truly both God and man in one person (Acts 20:28). Whatsoever He did in the flesh He did under one of these three notions.
(1) We are not to follow Christ in what He did as God; such are His acts--
(a) Of omnipotence. Healing the sick, casting out devils, raising the dead, etc.
(b) Of omniscience (Luke 11:17; Luke 13:32).
(c) Of sovereignty (Matthew 16:2; Matthew 16:7).
(2) Nor in what He did as God-man, in the acts--
(a) Of His prophetical office (Deuteronomy 18:15; John 15:15; Acts 3:22).
(b) His priestly office. Satisfying for our sins (1 John 2:2), and interceding for our souls (Hebrews 7:25).
(c) His kingly office (Isaiah 9:7).
(3) But we are to follow Him in what He did as mere man.
(a) He was subject to His parents (Luke 2:51). This subjection consisteth in reverencing them (Leviticus 19:3); in obeying them, by hearkening to their instructions (Proverbs 13:1; Proverbs 23:22) and performing their lawful commands (Colossians 3:20; Ephesians 6:1); in thankfulness, by acknowledging their care and providing for their necessities (1 Timothy 5:4; Genesis 47:12; John 19:26-27). Consider--This is pleasing to God (Ephesians 6:1), and hath a promised blessing (Ephesians 6:2-3; Exodus 20:12).
(b) He committed no sin 1 Peter 2:22; Isaiah 53:9; 1 John 3:5). How are we not to sin? We are not to love it (Psalms 119:1-176). We must imitate Christ in--
(e) Meekness and holiness.
(g) Finishing His work.
(h) Taking all opportunities of doing good.
(1) Watch always over thy heart (1 Peter 5:8; Proverbs 4:23).
(2) Live as under the eye of God.
(3) Consider thou art a Christian. (Bp. Beveridge.)
A follower of Christ
It needs no argument to prove that all men do not follow Christ. Many profess to follow Him, and many boast that they do follow Him, but, oh, how few faithfully follow Christ! Indeed, the grand mistake of the world lies in this--that following Christ consists in mere attendance to a few forms and professions of religion, whereas it is wholly a spiritual service, and can never be taken up by any but spiritual men. Therefore the Scriptures assure us that a follower of Christ is--
I. One who has been quickened by Christ. A dead man cannot follow another. A man dead in trespasses and sins must be quickened by the Son of God before he will take one step in the way to heaven.
II. One who heartily loves Christ. “We love Him, because He first loved us.” “The love of God constraineth us.” All Christ asks in return for His love is “Follow Me,” and the grateful and redeemed spirit says, “Lord, I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest.”
III. One who embraces the doctrine of Christ. When quickeing takes place, the soul receives the kingdom of heaven as a little child. “Teach me,” says such a spirit, “Thy way, O Lord; I will walk in Thy truth; unite my heart to fear Thy name.” It does not take the doctrines of the gospel and throw away the precepts; it does not reserve the precepts and cast away the doctrines, but it takes it as a whole, as the word of Christ, and the directory in the way to heaven.
IV. One who cheerfully walks in the ways of Christ. Religious labour is no drudgery to him. Never has a Christian any melancholy as long as he walks in Christ’s paths; it is when he turns out of them that occasions him sadness and pain.
V. One who copies the example of Christ. A follower of Christ is not one whose head is filled with well-digested schemes of theology. Christ hath left us an example that we should follow His steps. Following Christ is walking behind Him, putting our feet into the print of His footsteps, and so going on in the way to heaven. He has left His footprints--
1. In His meek and amiable spirit.
2. In heavenly behaviour and conversation.
3. In prayer.
4. In His abounding liberality.
5. In His diligent labours.
6. In His spirit of love.
VI. One who perseveringly continues with Christ. Some follow Christ from gain, some partially, as long as the truth does not touch their consciences; some in poverty and affliction; but when the sun of prosperity has arisen, when persecution or affliction cometh on account of the truth, then they desert Christ. “But he that endureth to the end shall be saved.” (J. Sherman.)
Some men are destined to lead either in evil or in good. St. Paul, who had been a leader in persecution, was made “a leader and commander of Christ’s people,” and he removes every trace of human assumption when he qualifies the exhortation with “even as I am also of Christ.”
I. To follow Christ is the source of Christian influence. It is one thing to look at the life of Jesus with interest and admiration; it is another thing to regard it as our pattern and inspiration. To gain the higher influence of the Saviour’s life we must follow Him--
1. Wholly. The would-be followers of His day made loud professions of following Him, but when He said, “If any man will come after Me, let him take up his cross,” etc., the crowd dispersed, and only the twelve remained.
2. Constantly. When you sit for your likeness the photographer measures the time in which to take a deep and sharp impression. Half the time would only give half the result. If you only look at Jesus once in awhile, and if serious thought only possess you at times, the flood of worldly influence will sweep away the good impressions as the tide demolishes footsteps in the sand.
3. Openly. Conversion becomes more real, love to Christ more intense, and hatred of sin more forcible by the exhibition of the virtues of Him who has called us out of darkness into light. The light we shed on others is again reflected on ourselves. The voice of the echo is sweeter than your own; so is piety when it returns to us from its mission of mercy.
II. To exhibit Christ is the mission of the Christian life.
1. The power of example is great. The ancient Romans used to place the statues of distinguished men in their halls. When they left in the morning they were inspired by the remembrance of their noble deeds, and when they returned in the evening they were ennobled by the thought of the associations they enjoyed.
2. The power of Christian example is the greatest. Both in moulding and reforming characters it has not a rival. Its force is that of Divine love working through human actions. God in Christ Jesus made His life the noblest of all lives, because it has produced the greatest reforms in the race. The life of Jesus in His Church is its perpetuation. (Weekly Pulpit.)
1. Once in the course of the world’s history there has been seen on earth a perfect life. It was a life not merely to admire, but to follow. It has been ever since the acknowledged human standard.
2. And we have not only the perfect example, but we have it declared why and how it is perfect. Lessons, teaching and enforcing, accompany each incident of our Lord’s ministry; they are drawn together into a solemn summary in the Sermon on the Mount. Here we have the highest moral guidance for the world.
3. That example and law of life were nothing less than universal. They were meant for all men. Differing so widely as men do, Christ calls them all alike to follow Him.
4. Christianity makes itself universal by making its moral standard, not verbal rules or laws, but a character. That character is one who is called in Scripture the Image of God. All that Christ did and said were the various expressions of the perfect goodness of the Father. And that is the Christian law. And this is what fits the Christian standard to be a universal one. For a character, if it is great enough, carries its force far beyond the conditions Under which it may have been first disclosed. If shown under one set of circumstances its lesson can be extended to another, perfectly different. It adapts itself with the freedom and elasticity of life. We can follow it on, from the known, to what it would be, in the new and strange. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and to-day and for ever”--the same in glory as in the form of a servant. Under conditions utterly changed, His goodness is that same very goodness which we saw. And so we can derive from that Character lessons for our state, which is so different from His. And not only so, but we can derive lessons from it for conditions of human life very far removed from those conditions under which His goodness was manifested to us here. Literal imitation may be impossible, but it is not impossible to catch its spirit and apply its lessons to altered circumstances. In that character, though shown to us in the form of servant, we know that everything is gathered which could make human nature what it ought to be. Consider Christ as a pattern for--
I. The life of faith.
1. All the while that He was on earth He was in heart and soul undivided for a moment from heaven. He does what is most human; but He lives absolutely in the Divine. However, we see Him: tempted, teaching, healing, etc., in the wilderness, in the temple, on the Cross--He is yet all the while “even the Son of Man which is in heaven.”
2. Men have compared the active and the contemplative life, and the life of practical beneficence with the life of devotion. We see great things done without the sense of religion, and we see the religious spirit failing to command the respect of those who have other ways of ministering to men’s wants. But in Christ we have both lives combined. In Him we see man serving to the utmost his brethren; but we also see man one with the thought and will of God.
3. Here we see how character in itself, irrespective of circumstance, is adapted to be a guide; here is an example, shown under the most exceptional conditions, yet fit to be universal. But on what outward circumstances does such a life depend? Why is not equally to be realised in the calling of the ruler, the rich man, the student? How need their outward conditions affect their relationship to God?
II. The Life of Truth.
(1) To all, quite apart from the accidental conditions of their state, Christ’s life shows what alone is real and great in life; and surely there are ends and purposes in the life of each of us which are literally as real as the ends of His life. One is high and another low; one has much and another little, but to every one who believes in God and providence, the work of each is equally real: a call, a stewardship from God.
(2) What we see in Christ’s life is not only a purpose and work passing man’s understanding, but that purpose followed, and that work done, in a way which man can understand. It is a life governed by its end and purpose, in which shows or illusions have no place; and further, a life in which its purpose is followed with absolute indifference to whatever sacrifice it may cost. He has put all this into words which mark for ever the change He made in our views of life--“My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work”; “I must work the works of Him that sent Me while it is day”; and when all was over, “I have finished the work that Thou gavest Me to do.”
III. The Life of Love. It is the new commandment, new to the world, but as old as the eternal Word who brought it, which turns the Sermon on the Mount from a code of precepts into the expressions and instances of a character. Its words have their interpretation and their reason in that Divine temper which had come with Christ to restore the world. The purity, the humility, the forgiving mind, the unflagging goodness they speak of, were but some among the infinitely varied ways of acting out the meaning of His last charge, “That ye love one another as I have loved you”; and of His last prayer, “That the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me, may be in them, and I in them.” A great deal may be said of love without ever really touching what is its vital essence. But here our sympathies are appealed to. We see how Jesus Christ showed what it is to lead a life of love. Conclusion:
1. The mutable shapes of society, unfolded by God’s providence, fix almost without our will our outward circumstances. But for the soul, wherever it is, Christ our Lord has one unchanging call, “Be perfect”; and He has one unchanging rule for its fulfilment, “Be what I am, feel what I felt, do as I should do.” How shall we? How but by looking steadfastly at Him and trying to see and know Him? In the same Living Person each age has seen its best idea embodied; but its idea was not adequate to the truth--there was something still beyond.
(1) An age of intellectual confusion saw in His portraiture in the Gospels the ideal of the great Teacher, the healer of human error. It judged rightly; but that was only part.
(2) The monastic spirit saw in it the warrant and suggestion of a life of self-devoted poverty as the condition of perfection: who can doubt that there was much to justify it: who can doubt that the reality was something far wider than the purest type of monastic life?
(3) The Reformation saw in Him the great improver, the quickener of the dead letter, the stern rebuker of a religion which had forgotten its spirit; and doubtless He was all this, only He was infinitely more.
(4) And now in modern times there is the disposition to dwell on Him as the ideal exemplar of perfect manhood. He is all this, and this is infinitely precious. We may “glorify Him for it and exalt Him as much as we can, but even yet will He far exceed.” And as generations go on they will still find that Character answering to their best thoughts and hopes.
2. What is the lesson? Surely this: to remember when we talk of the example of Christ, that the interpretations and readings of it are all short of the thing itself; and that we possess, to see and to learn from, the thing itself. (Dean Church.)
Christ, our example
I. Directs our attention to Christ as the great model of the Christian. It is a marked characteristic of Christianity that all the truths are presented in no vague, intangible form, but as embodied in one living model. Note--
1. The fitness of Christ to be our model pattern. We needed one Divine and yet human. One all Divine would have been inimitable; one all human must have fallen below the necessities of the case. So Christ came, “God manifest in the flesh.” His divinity fitted Him to reveal God’s will, and uniting His Deity with humanity, He lived, laboured, suffered, and died as a Man, to present a visible picture which shall be the model of study and imitation for all time.
2. The perfection of this model. Perfect God and perfect man, He forms a perfect study for the believer. His love to God was supreme; the exercise of His will was ever in perfect harmony with the Divine will. In the hour of His temptation, He emerges from the furnace unscathed; and in the profoundest depth of agony there is the deepest submission to God.
3. Its surpassing loveliness. Look at His unearthly life--living in the world, and yet above the world. Look at His humility--the incarnate God though He was, yet stooping to wash His disciples’ feet. Look at Him as a Man of prayer--walking in the closest communion with His Father.
II. Delineates the character of a true believer as moulded upon that of Jesus. A follower of Christ.
1. Is a partaker of its spiritual nature. An unsanctified heart, an unrenewed soul, cannot be said to be cast into this mould. It becomes, then, a question of the deepest moment, “Am I born again of the Spirit?”
2. Has his hope of acceptance, as a lost sinner, entirely in Christ. He has renounced his own righteousness, and has received as his only justification “the righteousness of God which is by faith in Christ Jesus.”
3. Sits as a humble learner at the feet of Christ.
4. Follows Christ only. We may follow ministers and not Christ, Churches, and not the Head of the Church.
5. Is crucified with Christ: “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” (O. Winslow, D.D.)
Imitation of Christ
1. We find in the Word of God that the imitation of Christ is frequently laid down as the leading principle of the gospel (Matthew 16:24; John 12:26; Joh 13:13; 1 Peter 2:21; Ephesians 5:1.; 1Th 1:16). In these passages we are taught the importance of the principle of example. The Word of God has many ways of teaching. But especially it teaches by example. Example embodies precept, places it before us in pictorial form, which we can easily see and understand. And not only so, but example recommends precept; because where it is a good example, it evidently carries with it the proof of sincerity on the part of the person who sets it.
2. But it may be asked why, if Christ is the real standard and example, does St. Paul set himself before us? I think the reason is simply this, that while Christ is undoubtedly the example, St. Paul regarded himself as an illustration of that example. Note some of the leading features of our Lord’s character in which this principle of imitation is to be carried out.
I. In His spirit of self-renunciation (Philippians 2:6; cf Philippians 2:5.) How closely St. Paul copied our Lord in this! He “counted all things but loss that he might win Christ,” and glorify Him. And that same spirit lies at the foundation of all true religion. “If any man will be My disciple, let him deny himself.”
II. His spirit of obedience. “My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work.” It was--
1. A willing obedience; one in which He delighted.
2. A constant, ceaseless obedience.
3. An obedience victorious, because it was through and after conflict. And so with St. Paul. “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” seems to have been the question which pervaded his whole career. Now, we love and value the privileges of the gospel; but do not let us lose sight of its responsibilities.
III. His spirit of zeal (John 2:1-25.). St. Paul followed Him in this. Men in the present day seem afraid of zeal. But it is good to be zealous in a good cause. Lukewarmness in religion is especially hateful in the sight of God.
IV. His spirit of meekness and gentleness--“I beseech you,” says St. Paul, “by the meekness and gentleness of Christ.” He never quenched the smoking flax. And so St. Paul, with all his fire and energy, observed the evident spirit of tenderness and sympathy with which he watched over the infant Church. There are rough and rugged characters which are full of energy in Christ’s cause, but which need to look at His example in this respect.
V. His spirit of love as shown in giving Himself for us; as shown towards the impenitent, and to the multitude scattered as sheep having no shepherd. All this was imitated by St. Paul.
VI. The spirit of blessed anticipation as regards the future (Hebrews 12:3). In the same way St. Paul tells us that his one desire was to finish his course with joy. We should endeavour in our seasons of trial to remember that the time is short, and that if we be faithful there is laid up for us “an exceeding weight of glory, a crown of righteousness.” Conclusion: The subject may be used--
1. By way of self-examination. It is exceedingly difficult to bring home to the sinner’s conscience, by the mere statement of truth, the guilt which attaches to him. But let the sinner place his own life by the side of Christ’s life.
2. As a principle of guidance. There are perplexing questions which continually arise in the Christian life. Whenever you can find Christ’s example as a guide to you in your conduct, you may be perfectly certain that yon are safe in the course you adopt.
3. As an encouragement for Christians. It is according to the will of God that we should be conformed to the image of His Son. In attempting, therefore, to reach this conformity, you are attempting that which is the revealed will of God concerning you, and, therefore, which you may reasonably expect. He will give you grace, at least in some measure, to attain. In the future we shall be like Him, for “we shall see Him as He is.” And the more we see Him now, the more we live with Him now, the more like Him we shall become. (E. Bayley, D.D.)
Imitation and commendation
In these words we have--
I. The principle on which the characters of most men are formed. Men are imitative beings, and from a law of their nature those whom they most admire, and with whom they most associate, they become like in spirit and in character. The request of Paul at first sight seems somewhat arrogant, “Be ye followers of me.” No man has a right to make such an unqualified claim. Hence Paul puts the limitation, “Even as I also am of Christ.” The apostle undoubtedly refers to the preceding verses, in which he speaks of himself as not seeking his own pleasure or profit, but that of others. This Christ did. He “pleased not Himself.” He means to say, Be like me as I in this respect resemble Christ. Here is the principle that should regulate our imitation of men; imitate them just so far as they resemble Christ. Children should not imitate their parents, pupils their teachers, congregations their ministers, save so far as they resemble Christ.
II. A commendation of merit which many are reluctant to render (verse 2). In some things, then, some of the Corinthians pleased Paul. There was much in them at which he found fault, but so far as they did the proper thing he praises them. To render generously credit where credit is due, is the characteristic of a great soul, but one which most men are reluctant to perform. A wife will go on lovingly attending to the wants and wishes of her husband, and perhaps not from one year to another does she receive from him one word of hearty commendation. So with servants and masters, and ministers and their congregations. (D. Thomas, D.D.)
A momentous example
In one of our western cities, high up on a very tall building, is a large clock. It registers what is called “electric time,” and is known to be very accurate because it is regulated by the calculations of scientific instruments. On a large sign is painted, “Correct city time,” and when one has any doubts about having the exact time, he sets his watch by this clock. Great mills, railroads, manufactories, run by its time. Should it lose or gain an hour the whole city would be thrown into confusion. Let us remember, one watch set right will do to set many by; while, on the other hand, the watch that goes wrong may be the means of misleading a whole multitude of others. So it is with life. A wholly consecrated person may become the example for many, and a wicked life of sin may, too, be the means of entangling a whole community of associates. “Examine yourselves.” (Sharpened Arrows.)
Imitation of the good
It is characteristic of St. Paul that in his Epistles, as in his ministry, he uses his own life, his own personality, almost as if they were not his own; they are as much at the service of his argument as of his work. Such was the nature of his self-surrender to Christ. There is much in the faculty of imitation, and in the facts connected with it, that is mysterious, much beyond our ken. Man is presented to us in Holy Scripture on the one hand in his first state before the fall, as a creature of imitation, made after the likeness of God. On the other hand, in his fallen state we find him wearying himself with all kinds of yearnings after the likeness of God manifested in every kind of idolatry. In the fulness of time Christ came on earth, in His human nature, both restoring the Divine image and making it possible for man to realise the long lost ideal. What wonder, then, that St. Paul, realising and profoundly impressed with this great feature of the Incarnation, should emphasise imitation of himself as leading to Christ, imitation of Christ, and imitation of God in Christ? What wonder if of all books (next to the Bible itself) the most dear to devout souls and spirits striving upwards after heavenly things should be the “Imitatio Christi” of Thomas A.Kempis? But before we go on to consider how this can become potent in our life and practice, we ought not to fail to observe one aspect of imitation which is of infinite importance to us in its effects for good or for ill. Imitation is not only a conscious activity, by which we can strive to follow and adapt ourselves to any example which we may select for ourselves. It is a part of nature; not only of human nature. It has its unconscious as well as its conscious side. It pervades animal life to an extent which we are apt to ignore or forget. It is the first didactic force. It is concerned with the simplest and most necessary problems of life. By it the young of many animals are first taught to take their food. For instance, in the case of chickens hatched by an incubator, if they are to be artificially reared, it is necessary that the example of picking up their food should be set them in some way. By imitation they learn to live. Imitation, as Darwin has pointed out, is one of the chief factors in the advancement and modification of such intellectual powers as animals possess. There are, indeed, subtle indications of its force in lower animal life, but it is most manifest in birds and in the apes, whose very name furnishes a verb of kindred meaning. And again, as we rise in the scale of animal life, it is very noticeable as a characteristic of savage races of men; of man, indeed, in what some are wont to call his primitive state. We need hardly dwell upon its development in civilised man. It is dominant in those arts which claim so large a portion in his education, his enjoyment of life, his material well-being. Again, as part of human nature, imitation has two functions, which it is important that we should observe, explanatory as they are in a measure of that which we have noticed in the history of man in relation to God. On the one hand he received the likeness, on the other hand he sought it outside himself. Even so, just as in the nervous and muscular system of the body we have the division into involuntary and voluntary, so the imitative faculty in man is unconscious and conscious, is passive as well as active. Much more of it perhaps is unconscious than conscious, and the mystery of its essential being and origin is more inexplicable in the former than in the latter. Why is it that such physical defects as squinting and tricks of movement are said to be infectious, capable of being communicated at sight to very young children? Why is it that, as so often happens, a boy’s handwriting becomes like his tutor’s? All these instances point to unconscious, involuntary imitation. The surroundings of a child, of a boy, of a young man, have more effect upon him than he himself can discern, or any one else can determine, and that because of this faculty of imitation, which is part and parcel of his nature. He assimilates them as he does his food, they become portions of his being, and affect his growth, his development, his ultimate destiny. Nay more, it seems as if these influences became hereditary in their effects. We cannot limit these effects to merely physical characteristics or physical results. If our intellectual and spiritual being is thus subject to the supreme influence of assimilation and unconscious imitation, can we doubt its power in the sphere of morality? “Tell me who he lives with, and I will tell you who he is,” is an old proverb. “With the holy thou shalt be holy, and with the perfect man thou shalt be perfect. With the clean thou shalt be clean, and with the froward thou shalt learn frowardness.” Youth is plastic. And without doubt the first and most important counsel is: “Be not over hasty in making friends”; take heed as to the associates whom you choose to live with. Remember you will probably become like them. All unconsciously your moral being will receive the impression of their moral being, their conversation, their tone, their virtues, or their vices. Unless the soul proposes to itself the imitation of good, it will prove unconsciously to be assimilating and imitating evil. The Apostle Paul had so devoted himself to the imitation of Christ, that as we have seen he regarded himself as living in Christ, and Christ living in him. This imitation cannot be without effort, and if, as in the mixed community of Corinth with all its blemishes, and weaknesses, and grievous sins, it was not easy to rise to the ideal of the unseen, yet still the nearer ideal of the good man is better than none, and the apostle did not hesitate to set his own example before them. There must be few of us who cannot find some such good example, some good and holy, some pure and honourable, some generous and manly life, to which we may look with satisfaction and hopefulness, and a desire so to follow it as to rise “upon the stepping stones of our dead selves to higher things.” But even so the imitation must ultimately be not even of good and holy men, but of Christ in them. “Be ye followers of me even as I also am of Christ.” The work of the Incarnation was not only to restore to humanity the image of the perfect man in Christ but also the power, to them that believe in Christ, of reflecting that image, and by conscious and unconscious imitation of becoming more and more like Him. I know not at what time of life this work of the imitation of Christ can be entered upon more freely, more reasonably, more joyfully, than that in which, when childish things are being put away, the young man reaching toward the maturity of his physical and mental powers, is still occupied with his own education and improvement, and is not yet immerged in the world-life with all its engrossing toil of business and pleasure, its triumphs, its disappointments, its sorrows, and soul-enthralling anxieties. (E. Warre, D.D.)
Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances as I delivered them to you--
I. Its grounds.
1. Personal, “that ye remember me.”
(1) We all like to be remembered, especially by those who owe us much, or between us and whom there exist the tenderest relationships. These Corinthians owed all their spiritual life and blessings to the apostle, and it comforted him amidst the toils and perils of his Ephesian ministry to know that he was not forgotten. Nothing would more sadden a father than to be forgotten by his children, a wife by her husband, a pastor by his church.
(2) We like to be remembered “in all things.” They remembered Paul’s preaching, his labours at his handicraft, his sympathy and helplessness. And when we come across an acquaintance that we have not seen for years, how pleasant it is to be remembered by one’s features: tone, gait, or some other characteristic, and to gather in conversation that this and that incident or word has been treasured up.
2. Moral. The Corinthians not only remembered Paul and what he said; they remembered to do what he told them. Not the most tender personal recollections would have compensated for the absence of this. Paul’s wish was not to be popular, but to be permanently useful. This is what Christ wants: “If ye love Me, keep My commandments.” This is what we all want: parents, teachers, ministers, etc., and exact obedience is what is required--“as I delivered them,” adding nothing to them, taking nothing from them, but keeping them both in the spirit and in the letter.
II. Its expression. This was--
1. Frank and open. Encouraging sentiment is sometimes entertained where it is not expressed. This does no good. If you feel that a man deserves your praise, why not tell him so?
2. Large-hearted and generous. There were a good many things which the apostle could not praise, but was forced to blame the Corinthians; but where he felt he could praise conscientiously he did so unstintedly.
3. Fraternal, “Brethren.” He did not indulge them as children simply to spur them on, nor flatter them as superiors to secure their patronage. He treated them as equally next himself concerned about the prosperity of the Church, and in their efforts to promote that prosperity he felt them worthy of a brother’s praise. (J. W. Burn.)
1 Corinthians 11:3-16
But I would have you know that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of every woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.
Christ our Head
This important statement is the starting-point for a deliverance on the subject of the conduct of women in the Church. The apostle often, in dealing with matters of trifling importance or limited interest, rises to the enunciation of the grand principle on which it rests. Here he gives the principle first. Let us look at our relationship with Christ--
I. Through its earthly shadow.
1. In building the house of the human family God made the man the head of the woman, the husband or bond of the house. This headship carries with it responsibility; for if wives are to obey their husbands, husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the Church, and so make the wifely duty a joy.
2. In this sense, only with deepened meaning, Christ is the head of every man, i.e., of the race. And just as the wife attains the end of her being on the earthly side in her husband; as she finds the sum of her womanly ambitions and duties in promoting his welfare; as she is entitled to look to him for protection, counsel, tenderness, and example; as she is to seek in him the rounding of her present life and the fulness of her earthly joy; so the members of the human family are to look up to Christ as their Head. None of us is complete without Him. And just as trust and obedience unite a woman to her husband and enable him to fulfil his obligations to her, so it is by faith and submission that Jesus is able to accomplish His saving, life-giving work. There is therefore deep truth in the representation of the exaltation of the Church to glory as a marriage supper.
II. In its heavenly archetypes--God’s headship over Christ.
1. In His Divine, eternal essence Christ is “the brightness of His Father’s glory,” etc., God’s realised ideal, a vessel into which God has poured all the fulness of the Divine nature, a vessel of Godhead eternally equal to that which it contains and perfectly full.
2. In the light of this look once more at your relationship to Christ. “As the Father hath loved Me” (John 15:9-10). We are to reflect Christ just as He reflects God, and appears, therefore, full of grace and truth.
Conclusion: “The head of every man is Christ.”
1. Then Christ is just yourself, idealised and perfected--the prophecy of what you are to become. He is not a glorified man merely, but glorified humanity.
2. This great fact throws light on the doctrine of substitution. Christ became man, not a man. Just as we were all in Adam, and are so many multiplied copies of him, so Christ became the second Adam, and God looks at us in Him. Since, then, He was a representative man, all He did and suffered on earth had a representative character. (E. W. Shalders, B.A.)
Human and Divine relations
There exist three relations which together form a sort of hierarchy: lowest in the scale, the purely human relation between man and woman; higher, the Divine-human relation between Christ and man; highest, the purely Divine relation between God and Christ. The common term whereby Paul characterises these relations is “head,” or chief. This figurative term includes two ideas--community of life, and inequality within this community. So between the man and the woman, by the bond of marriage there is formed between them the bond of a common life, but in such a way that the one is the strong and directing element, the other the receptive and dependent element. The same is the case in the relation between Christ and the man. Formed by the bond of faith, it also establishes a community of life, in which there are distinguished an active and directing principle and a receptive and directed factor. An analogous relation appears higher still in the mystery of the Divine essence. By the bond of filiation there is between Christ and God communion of Divine life, but such that impulse proceeds from the Father, and that “the Son doeth nothing but what He seeth the Father do.” The relation between Christ and the man is put first. It is, so to speak, the link of union between the other two, reflecting the sublimity of the one and marking the other with a sacred character, which should secure it from the violence with which it is threatened. (Prof. Godet.)
The conduct and deportment of Christian women
A broad principle laid down by Christianity was human equality: “there is neither male nor female, but ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” We all know how fruitful a cause of popular commotion the teaching of equality has been in every age, and at Corinth this doctrine threatened to lead to much social confusion. A claim was made for a right in woman to do all that men should do--to preach and pray, e.g., in public, and therefore to appear as men, unveiled in public. This latter the apostle here prohibits--
I. On the ground that it was a rash defiance of established rules of decorum. The veiled head is a symbol of--
1. Modesty; for to pray unveiled was to insult all the conventional feelings of Jew and Gentile. The Holy Ghost, however, has not imposed on the Church this particular fashion, but the principle contained in it is eternal; and it is impossible to decide how much of our public morality and private purity is owing to the spirit which refuses to overstep the smallest bound of ordinary decorum.
2. Dependence. St. Paul perceived that the law of Christian equality was quite consistent with the vast system of subordination running through the universe (1 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Corinthians 11:11-12). He distinguishes between inferiority and subordination; each sex exists in a certain order, not one as greater than the other, but both great and right in being what God intended them to be.
II. By an appeal to natural instincts ann propriety (1 Corinthians 11:14-15). Fanaticism defies nature. Christianity refines it and respects it. It develops each nation, sex, and individual, according to their own nature--making man more manly and woman more womanly. But let us not forget that here, too, there are exceptions. Beware of a dead, hard rule. There have been many instances in which one man standing against the world has been right, and the world wrong, as Elijah, Athanasius, Luther, and others. But in questions of morality, propriety, decency, when we find our own private judgment contradicted by the general experience, habit, and belief of all the best around us, then the doctrine of this chapter commands us to believe that the many are right and that we are wrong. (F. W. Robertson, M.A.)
St. Paul is now compelled to qualify the general commendation of 1 Corinthians 11:2. He heard with surprise and vexation that women presumed to address the assembled Christians unveiled, to the scandal of all sober-minded Orientals and Greeks. It is a singular specimen of the strange matters that came before Paul for decision when the care of all the Churches lay upon him.
I. What was the intention of Christian women in making a demonstration so unfeminine?
1. Throughout this letter Paul is correcting the hasty impressions which the new believers were receiving regarding their position as Christians. A flood of new ideas was suddenly poured in upon their minds, one of which was the equality of all before God and of a Saviour for all alike. There was neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, etc., now. And it dawned on the woman that she was neither man’s toy nor slave, but that she had a life to frame for herself. She was not dependent on men for her Christian privileges; ought she not to show this by laying aside the veil, which was the acknowledged badge of dependence?
2. Among the Greeks it was the universal custom for the women to appear in public with the head covered, commonly with the corner of their shawl drawn over their head like a hood. It was the one significant rite in marriage that she assumed the veil in token that now her husband was her head. This covering could be dispensed with only in places where they were secluded from public view. It was therefore the badge which proclaimed that she who wore it was a private, not a public, person, finding her duties at home, not abroad. It was the man’s place to serve the State or the public, the woman’s place to serve the man.
II. This movement of the Corinthian women Paul meets by reminding them that personal equality is perfectly consistent with social subordination. The woman must not argue that because she is independent of her husband in the greater sphere she must also be independent of him in the less (1 Corinthians 11:3). This principle is of incalculable importance and very wide and constant application.
1. Whatever is meant by the natural equality of men, it cannot mean that none are to have authority over others. In order to the harmony of society there is a gradation of ranks; and social grievances result, not from the existence of social distinctions, but from their abuse. This gradation, then, involves Paul’s inference (1 Corinthians 11:4-5). The veil being the recognised badge of subordination, when a man appears veiled he would seem to acknowledge some one present and visible as his head, and would thus dishonour Christ, his true Head. A woman, on the other hand, appearing unveiled would seem to say that she acknowledges no visible human head, and thereby dishonours her head--i.e., her husband--and so doing, dishonours herself. She puts herself on the level of the woman with a shaven head, which both among Jews and Greeks was a brand of disgrace.
2. This subordination has its roots in nature (1 Corinthians 11:7-8).
(1) Man is the glory of God because he is His image and is fitted to exhibit in actual life the excellences which make God worthy of our love and worship. But while man directly, woman indirectly, fulfils this purpose of God. She is God’s glory by being man’s glory. She exhibits God’s excellences by creating and cherishing excellence in man (1 Corinthians 11:8-9). The position assigned to woman as the glory of man is therefore far removed from the view which cyclically proclaims her man’s mere convenience.
(2) That this is woman’s normal sphere is indicated even by her unalterable physical characteristics. By nature woman is endowed with a symbol of modesty and retirement. The veil is merely the artificial continuation of her natural gift of hair. The long hair of the Greek fop or of the English cavalier was accepted by the people as an indication of effeminate and luxurious living. And nature, speaking through this visible sign of the woman’s hair, tells her that her place is in the home, not in the city or the camp; in the attitude of free and loving subordination, not in the seat of authority and rule. In other respects also the physical constitution of woman points to a similar conclusion--e.g., her shorter stature and slighter frame, her higher pitch of voice, her more graceful form and movement. And similar indications are found in her mental peculiarities. She has the gifts which fit her for influencing individuals; man has those qualities which enable him to deal with persons in the mass. Not all women, of course, are of the distinctively womanly type. A Britomarte may arm herself and overthrow the strongest knights. A Joan of Arc may infuse into a nation her own warlike and patriotic ardour. In art, in literature, in science, feminine names may occupy some of the highest places. In our own day many careers have been opened to women from which they had hitherto been debarred. Conclusion: A woman is a woman still though she become a Christian; a subject must honour his king although by becoming a Christian he is himself in one aspect above all authority; a servant will show his Christianity, not by assuming an insolent familiarity with his Christian master, but by treating him with respectful fidelity. It forms a great part of our duty to accept our own place without envying others, and to do honour to those to whom honour is due. (M. Dods, D.D.)
1 Corinthians 11:4-7
Every man praying or prophesying with his head covered dishonoureth his head.
Decorum in the house of God
1. It is possible to dishonour Christ in our holiest services.
2. It is not enough to pray and preach in the spirit--some regard is due to propriety of manner and demeanour.
3. This is especially necessary in public worship, lest we dishonour Christ whom we represent before others.
4. Every true and enlightened Christian will therefore study what is decorous, as well as what is religious. (J. Lyth, D.D.)
The proprieties of public worship
I. Explain the improprieties referred to in the text. These were determined by natural and spiritual relations. Required apostolic prescription, which was fixed in harmony with prevailing custom and opinion.
1. The proprieties of public worship must to some extent be governed by the customs of the times.
2. Because Christianity inculcates whatsoever is of good report.
3. Yet the outward form must be pervaded with spiritual life. (J. Lyth, D.D.)
For a man … is the image and glory of God.--
I. The image of God. Imago is an abbreviation of imitago, something more than imitatio--not as one orange is the likeness of another; it means the copy of an archetype, as, e.g., the sovereign’s head on a coin (Matthew 20:20), or the sun’s reflection in water. A cathedral in photograph is a copy of a copy; for it is an image of a cathedral in stone, and this again is the image of the original pre-existing in the mind of the architect. God is both the architect and, within due limits, the archetype of man. But the relation between the two consists in something more than similitude, even in affinity of essence. For man is the image of God by virtue of his spiritual nature, which, because of the primal inbreathing (Genesis 2:7), is akin to the Divine.
II. He is the glory of God. The Divine glory itself is the eternal self-manifestation to the Triune God of His own holy nature. In the Divine counsel of creation this inner self-manifestation was to become an outer manifestation filling all creation. But it was through man, the created lord of the cosmos, the representative of God in the universe, the connecting link between heaven and earth, that the glory of God was to be communicated to the cosmos. As this derived glory was to be the effluence of the self-manifested Divine glory, which is itself the eternal effluence of Deity; so man in his higher nature of spirit, inbreathed into him from Spirit, was created actually the image of God, but in his lower nature of body, moulded from earth, was created potentially the glory of God, i.e., constituted with a possibility, contingent on obedience, of a glorified body and soul and spirit. The design was baffled by Satan for a season. Meanwhile humiliated in body, yet now transformed in spirit, fallen man awaits in faith and hope the unveiling of the “new creation” in Christ and his own bodily assimilation to the body of His glory. (Canon Evans.)
1 Corinthians 11:10
For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.
Power on the woman’s head because of the angels
1. Hardly anything is more notable in St. Paul than his impatience of mere maxims and rules of conduct. He can never rest till he has based them on large general principles which may be applied under all changes of condition. So here with regard to woman’s dress.
2. Paul had taught both the spiritual equality of woman with, and her subordination to, man. But these eager converts had not minds large enough to hold and reconcile both these great principles: they seized impetuously on that which fell in with their wishes, and let the other go. True, in a subordinate position they may show an equal, even a superior, ability; just as a designer in a factory, or a governess in a family, or a manager in a bank, may display higher gifts than their social or official superiors. But how do they prove their superiority? Not by rebelling against their position, but by excelling in it. So with woman. She proves her equality with man, not by rebelling against her subordinate social position, but by discharging its duties with an ability equal or superior to that shown by her husband in his different sphere. Some of the Corinthian women did not see that. They thought to assert the equality of the sexes by praying and prophesying in church instead of ruling their households. As a sign of their enfranchisement they appeared in public unveiled, and so became bad as women that they might prove themselves as good as men. And had the Christian women gone unveiled, when the absence of the veil was the open stamp of harlotry, we can easily conceive what a fatal obstacle would have been thrown in the path of the infant Church.
3. It was no mere question of maxims and rules, therefore, with which St. Paul had to deal; it was a question of principles vital and profound. And hence he appeals--
I. To nature. (1 Corinthians 11:13-15).
1. Man is by nature unveiled, has short hair; woman is veiled with her long hair. The Divine intention is thus revealed. In handling and attiring the body we are to take the suggestions of nature as ordinances of God. Man is to go unveiled, woman is to use, or to imitate, the natural veil which God has given her. The Greeks and Romans did thus interpret and obey the voice of Nature. While their noblest men cut their hair close and short, they held long flowing tresses as among the most potent charms of women--as a real “power” on their heads.
2. St. Paul appeals to Nature; from how many evils would the Church have been saved had his example been followed? Had we listened to her, had we asked with St. Paul, “What does Nature itself teach?” we should have had more of his free, generous, catholic spirit.
II. To the Scriptures (verses 7-9; cf. Genesis 1:26; Genesis 2:18; Genesis 2:21).
1. Man, said Moses, was made “in the image of God”; therefore, adds St. Paul, man is a “glory” of God. Hence he ought not to veil the head which bears an impress and reflects a glory so Divine. But “the woman is the glory of man”; she was taken not from rude clay, and not from any remote or uncomely member of man’s body, but from his very heart. Therefore she is his “glory”; she represents what is finest in him. Nevertheless, the apostle insists (verses 8, 9), although she is his glory, because she is his glory, she is to defer and minister to him from whom she sprang, just as the highest spirits are those who serve most and best.
2. “And therefore ought the woman to have power on her head.” Now one of Paul’s great fixed thoughts is, that we rule by serving; that to become great we must make ourselves of the least. He has been describing the subordinate position of woman. But if she is to serve, she must be strong. To the Hebrews unshorn hair, like that of Samson, was the sign of strength. And the unshorn hair of the woman is “the power,” or the symbol of the power, which her service requires. And does not Nature confirm his thought? How often has a thread of golden hair drawn strong men across the world! How often have soft locks proved stronger bonds than bars of steel! Who does not remember the little packet, all blotted with tears, which they found in a corner of poor Swift’s desk, with these words on it, “Only a woman’s hair”?
3. But what are we to make of “the angels,” for whose sake woman is not to put off this power? Now closely following the passage in Genesis to which Paul refers, there is the story of the first infraction of the true relation of the sexes (Genesis 6:1-4), which the rabbis read thus:--The daughters of men, departing from their primitive simplicity and decorum, laid aside their veils, and tricked out their hair and faces with ornaments. The angels saw them, and grew enamoured of their beauty, and fell from their blessedness. Possibly St. Paul alludes to this here. If only “because of the angels” therefore, the Corinthian women should carry this veil on their heads. The rabbis were so possessed by this legend that they were constantly making proverbs about it. Thus, Rabbi Simeon used to say, “If a woman’s head be uncovered, evil angels come and sit upon it.” The “fathers” of the Church believed it. The Arabs and Turks believe it to this day. They tell us that “Khadijah said to Mahommed after his first vision, ‘If the angel appear again, let me know.’ Gabriel appeared to him again. He said to her, ‘I see him.’ His wife placed his head first on her left, then on her right shoulder, and asked, ‘Seest thou him still?’ He answered ‘Yea.’ Then she said, ‘Turn, and lie on my bosom’; which, when he had done, she asked again, ‘Seest thou him?’ He answered, ‘Yea.’ Then she took her veil from her head, and asked, ‘Seest thou him still?’ And this time he answered, ‘Nay.’ Then she said, ‘By heaven, it is true, it is true! It was an angel, and not a devil!’ “Having told this story, the Arabian historian remarks and explains, “Khadijah knew that a good angel must fly before the face of an unveiled woman, whilst a devil would bear the sight very well.”
III. To Christian doctrine. (verse 3).
1. But is not Christ just as truly the head of the woman as of the man? Yes, viewed simply as human beings, the relation of women to Christ is as direct and vital as that of men. But look at them as forming a distinct sex, as members of the social order. In that order there must be grades. In an empire there must be a ruling class, or person; and in a household there must be a ruling sex. When we ask, Which? the Bible replies, “Man is first in creation, first in dignity. Woman was made for him, not he for her.” And with this natural order and subordination, the equal spiritual relation to Christ is not to interfere. Christ did not come to thwart or to reverse, but to perfect, human nature and human society.
2. What grade we hold in this social order, and what part we play, is not by any means the main question; but how we fill it, how we play it. The woman, e.g., though equal in nature, holds the subordinate social grade; but if she play her part well, she becomes perfect as a woman. But suppose a wife to rebel, what happens? Either, casting off all restraint, she divorces herself from him rather than obey him; or she openly rules where she ought to obey, and is condemned by her own instincts and her own sex even more severely than by men.
3. But before we can fully reach Paul’s sense of the sacredness of “the head,” we must remember that the pious Hebrew not only retained hat or turban when he entered the sanctuary, but also drew over it the tallith, a sacred veil, kept exclusively for public worship. By this he meant to express reverence for the Divine Presence--that he was not worthy to stand in it, that he could not look on God and live. But in Paul’s scheme of thought Christ was the head of the man. For a man to cover his head in worship was therefore to veil Christ; it was to imply that He needed to veil His face before God. Man must not thus dishonour Christ, his head. But the very reason which made it right for man, made it wrong for woman, to worship unveiled. For her head was the man. And to uncover her head in worship was to imply that man needed no veil when he came before God. Let her worship, therefore, with head veiled, and thus bear witness to the fact that sinful man was unworthy so much as to lift up his eyes unto heaven. Conclusion: Let us learn from St. Paul to apply the largest and deepest principles to the smallest details of conduct and duty; but let us also learn to apply them with his freedom. Are we invariably to adopt and enforce these rules? Is a woman never to speak in public, and always to wear a veil? Is it wrong for a man in India, or at an outdoor service, to worship with covered head? To make St. Paul’s rule inflexible and universal would be to sin against his spirit. On Greeks and Romans he enforces attention to the decorums of their race and time, and gives them perfectly good reasons for adhering to them. Principles abide, but customs change. And we then act most in the spirit of Paul when we freely apply his principles to our changed customs. (S. Cox, D.D.)
Power on woman’s head
It is argued that exousia might have been used for “veil” or “covering,” as a local and Tarsian expression. But this is not very probable. Many commentators, therefore, prefer to regard the word as one which, though originally metaphorical, would have been widely understood to mean “a veil,” just as imperium is used for a female ornament, regnum for an imperial crown, and triregno for the triple tiara of the popes. Thus Diodorus Siculus uses the Greek word basileia, “kingdom,” to mean the crown, or token of a kingdom, describing the statue of a queen as “having three kingdoms upon its head.” It is a curious fact that in Hebrew the word radid, which sometimes means “a veil,” is derived from a verb of which one of the meanings is “he subdued”; and it is not impossible that the knowledge of this may have smoothed the way for the apostle’s unusual phrase. One more explanation is, that exousian, etymologically, may also mean “existence,” and that St. Paul selected it because it might serve to indicate that woman’s dignity consists in her being created from or out of the man (οὖσα ἐξ ἀνδρός). But modern criticism seems to be settling down into the simple familiar meaning of the word “power,” in the obvious sense of “a sign of power.” But the question then naturally arises, “A sign of whose power?”
I. Some say, “Her own power,” and refer this not to the veil which the woman is directed to wear upon her head, but to the glory of her natural covering, her own long hair. They argue that this is one of the chief elements of female beauty--“Love in her rosy cheeks did basking lie, love walked in the sunny masses of her hair.” They quote such instances as that of Swift, in whose desk was found a folded paper containing one faded tress, and on it written, “Only a woman’s hair.”
II. The context, however, does not at all favour this view; and we see from 1 Corinthians 12:22-23, that St. Paul considered a covering as a proof of inferiority in honour. Our translators seem to have hit on the only true meaning of the expression, in the margin of our Bibles, “A covering, in sign that she is under the power of her husband.” Any apparent harshness in this meaning is at once dispelled--
1. By the analogies (imperium, triregno, etc.), which we have already adduced. These show how easily the word “power” could come to be “a sign of power” by the common figure of speech which is called “metonymy”; and if so, it is much more likely to mean a sign of her husband’s power over her than a sign of her own power, because the whole context is enforcing the superiority of the man, and bears on the “He shall rule over thee” of Genesis 3:16.
2. Because to this day the veil is regarded in the unchanging East as a sign of subordination, and the traveller Chardin says that in Persia “only married women wear it, and it is the mark by which it is known that they are under subjection.” And in the Roman customs the putting on of a veil in marriage was a sign that a woman lost all independent rights of citizenship.
3. Because there is a close analogy between this passage and Genesis 20:16, where “covering of the eyes” is generally understood to mean “a veil,” and is by the LXX. rendered τιμή, which properly means “honour.” Lastly, it is to me no small confirmation of this plain and simple sense that we find it in the noble verse of Milton, who seems to combine the notions of a woman’s hair being at once a covering and a glory to herself, and a sign of subjection to her husband:--
“His fair large front and eye sublime declared
Absolute rule, and hyacinthine locks
Round from his parted forelock manly hung
Clustering, but not beneath his shoulder broad:
She, as a veil, down to the slender waist
Her unadorned golden tresses wore
Dishevelled, but in wanton ringlets waved
As the vine waves her tendrils; which implied
Subjection, but required with gentle sway,
And by her yielded, by him best received.”
Because of the angels
The absence of “and” suggests that it is a motive, not additional to, but confirmatory of, that given in verse 9. Already (4:9) we have seen the angels contemplating the apostles’ hardships. They attend upon men (Hebrews 1:14), are placed side by side of the Church militant (Hebrews 12:22), and desire to look into the teaching of the prophets (1 Peter 1:12). Now, if they take interest in men, they must take special interest in those assemblies in which men unitedly draw near to God, and which have so great influence upon the spiritual life of men. We must therefore conceive them present at the public worship of the church. Now the presence of persons better than ourselves always strengthens our instinctive perception of right and wrong, and deters us from improper action. And the moral impression thus produced is almost always correct. To this instinctive perception Paul appealed by the word “shame” in verse 6; and has revealed its source in the purpose of woman’s creation. He now strengthens his appeal by reminding us that we worship in the presence of the inhabitants of heaven. For every right instinct in us is strengthened by the presence of those better than ourselves. Surely a remembrance of these celestial fellow-worshippers will deter us from all that is unseemly. (Prof. Beet.)
Because of the angels
I. Some suppose that the words refer to real angels.
1. The holy angels. It appears to have been the opinion of the Jews that the holy angels were present at their religious assemblies (Psalms 128:1; Ecclesiastes 5:6). Bengel supposes that the reason why the apostle names the angels is, because as the angels are represented as veiling their faces before God, so women ought also to veil their faces when they worship. Erasmus remarks, “If a woman has arrived at that pitch of shamelessness that she does not fear the eyes of men, let her at least cover her head on account of the angels who are present at your assemblies.” But such an explanation appears to be far-fetched. St. Paul does not lay much stress elsewhere on the sentiments of the angels; he employs reasons far stronger and more telling. And certainly the above reason is not one which would suggest itself as a corrective to disorders in public worship.
2. Evil angels. It is supposed that the apostle here accommodates himself to this extravagant notion, which arose from a gross misconception of the words “the sons” (or angels) “of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.” Women should veil themselves, because they might tempt or be tempted by evil angels. Dr. McKnight supposes that the reference is to the seduction of the woman by the artifices of the serpent; and that the wearing of the veil was to be the perpetual memorial of her fall and of her subjection to man in consequence. We cannot imagine that Paul adopted the rabbinical notion, nor can we see the force of that notion as an argument for women veiling their faces. Nor does the view that the reference is to the seduction of Eve recommend itself; for this seduction was not effected by evil spirits in general, but by one pre-eminently, namely, the devil. And in general, if evil angels were meant, we would expect some statement to that effect by the apostle, as “the angels that sinned,” “the angels that kept not their first estate.”
II. Others suppose that the word refers to the ministers, who were specially set apart to conduct the worship of the congregation. The name angel, it is said, is conferred on ministers, both in the Old Testament and in the New (Malachi 2:7; Revelation 2:3). Such a name is also sufficiently appropriate, as ministers are the messengers of God. The reason, then, here assigned is, that women should veil their faces lest they should draw away the affections or distract the attention of the ministers or presidents of the assemblies. But the term ἄγγελοι is never applied to ministers by Paul. Nor is it certain that by the angels of the apocalyptic Churches the ministers are meant.
III. Others suppose that the reference is to heathen messengers or spies. In the New Testament the word frequently occurs in the sense of messenger (Matthew 11:10; Luke 7:24; Luke 9:52). But the most remarkable passage, and the one which bears most closely upon our subject, is James 2:25, where this very word is applied to the spies whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho. Now it is argued that this is the meaning of the term here; women, in their assemblies for worship, ought to veil their faces because of the heathen spies. Tertullian informs us that the heathen were in the habit of sending spies to observe what was said or done in their Christian assemblies. According to this view, the apostle exhorts the Corinthians to see to it that their assemblies be conducted with proper order--that all violations of what was counted decorum be absent; that they are to remember that the eyes of the heathen are upon them. (P. J. Gloag, D.D.)
1 Corinthians 11:11-16
Nevertheless, neither is the man without the woman.
Sanctified marriage implies
I. Equal privilege in Christ.
1. Alike redeemed.
2. In Him there is neither male nor female.
II. Equal subjection to Christ--here the husband has no superiority.
III. Equal dependence upon Christ--for grace to discharge their reciprocal duties.
IV. Indissoluble union in Christ--whose Spirit makes both one in Him. (J. Lyth, D.D.)
For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman.--
The mutual dependence of man and woman
I. A natural law.
1. Woman was created out of man, and is therefore subordinate.
2. Man is born of woman, therefore dependent.
II. A Divine appointment.
III. A gracious purpose. That each might love, succour, and comfort the other in the faithful discharge of their relations. (J. Lyth, D.D.)
Is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?--
A Christian must observe what is comely
I. Illustrate this by the example adduced.
1. The use of a veil in Christian worship is in itself indifferent. Only the condition of the heart is of importance in the sight of God.
2. But in the times of the apostle it was not indifferent because it was required by established custom. Its disuse caused offence and contention, and might easily be interpreted as a sign of superstition or immorality.
3. Respect must therefore be paid to the alteration in public opinion and the circumstances of the times.
II. Enforce by arguments.
1. Of Christian prudence. Attention to externals--
(1) Is often of great importance.
(2) Cannot be ignored without disadvantage.
2. Of Christian faith. Neglect of externals may create offence, this love will avoid. (J. Lyth, D.D.)
Propriety and religion
The teachings of religion--
1. Harmonise in matters of propriety with those of reason and nature.
2. Condemn what is uncomely in woman and what is effeminate in man.
3. Require us in indifferent matters to avoid contention by complying with established custom. (J. Lyth, D.D.)
But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the Churches of God--
Peaceful compliance with the established usage of the Church is a Christian duty
1. In this case usage becomes law.
2. A wilful violation of it breeds contention.
3. Contention is utterly at variance with a Christian spirit. (J. Lyth, D.D.)
Contentions in the Church
First, it should seem there were contentions in the apostle’s times. Contentions about what? About matter of circumstance. So was this here, Whether men were to pray uncovered, and women veiled or no? Not to pass them in silence, and say nothing to them. But this to say, We have no such custom, nor the churches of God. And so oppose the Church’s custom to contention. In which saying there are these heads--First, that the Church hath her customs. As she hath them, so she may and doth allege them. This I note first, that we may not think it strange if there be contentions in our times. As true it is of the last as of the first Church. There were contentions then. About what? For though peace be precious, yet of such moment may the matters be as they are to be contended for. For what then were these? For nothing but a matter of rite. Men praying whether they should be uncovered; women, whether veiled or no. For a hat and a veil was all this ado. It was not about any of the high mysteries, any of the vital parts of religion. And to pick a quarrel with a ceremony is easy. A plausible theme not to burden the Church with ceremonies--the Church to be free--which hath almost freed the Church of all decency. About such points as these were there that did not only contend but that grew contentious. Why should any love to be contentious? Why, it is the way to be somebody. Well, if any such should happen to be, what is to be done in such a case? What saith the apostle? Saith he thus? Seeing it is no greater matter, it skills not greatly whether they do it or no--sets it light, and lets it go. No, but calls them back to the custom of the Church. Why doth he so? For two reasons:
1. First, he likes not contention at all. Why? If it be not taken at first, within a while ye shall hear of a schism (1 Corinthians 11:18). And within a little after that (1 Corinthians 11:19) ye shall have a flat heresy of it. The one draws on the other.
2. Nor he likes not the matter, wherefore though it seems but small. St. Paul knew Satan’s method well--he asks but some small trifle. Give him but that, he will be ready for greater points. If he win ground in the ceremonies, then have at the sacrament. For when they had sit covered at prayer awhile, they grew even as unreverent, as homely with the sacrament. Opposing then to these, what course takes he? Where it is plain the apostle is for the Church customs. And first, that she hath them. Every society, beside their laws in books, have their customs also in practice; and those not to be taken up, or laid down, at every man’s pleasure. The civil law saith this of custom. A custom is susceptible of more and less--the further it goeth, the longer it runneth, the more strength it gathered; the more gray hairs it getteth, the more venerable it is--for, indeed, the more a custom it is. Now, then, as the Church hath them, so she stands upon them--fears not to allege them. And say not the prophets the same? “Stand upon the ways” (it is Jeremiah), “and there look for the good old way; and that way take, it is the only way to find rest for your souls.” If it be but of some one Church, but at Corinth alone it is too narrow--not large, not general enough. If it be but taken up by some of our masters of late, it is too fresh--it is not ancient enough. But by these two we know our right custom. As neither is any particular Church bound to the private custom of another like particular as itself is. But if the other Church’s custom have also been the general custom of the Church, then it binds, and may not be set light. But, if to this we add, or rather if before this we set, this the apostles had it too, that it is apostolic, we have then said as much as in this point can be sad, as much as may content any that is not contentious. (Bp. Andrewes.)
1 Corinthians 11:17-22
Now … I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse.
Unprofitable public worship
I. When do we come together, not for the better, but for the worse? This may be known--
1. By the principles which influence our attendance.
(1) Do we come to receive instruction, to get good that we may grow in conformity to God, or do we come only to gratify curiosity, to subserve our worldly interest, etc.?
(2) Do we come without any preparation of heart? Are we soon weary of the service (Ezekiel 14:3)?
2. From the manner of our attendance. If we are either captious, careless, or sleepy; if we suffer the fowls to come down and devour the sacrifice, and the buyers and sellers to occupy the inward sanctuary; if we have no love for the work in which we are engaged, but can indulge in a trifling or stupid frame of mind, assuredly we come together, not for the better, but for the worse.
3. By the effects of our attendance. Some, like Festus, treat the Word with derision. Some, like Agrippa, are half convinced, but they stifle their convictions. Others, again, hear and approve, but never practise. In the parable of the sower we hear of four sorts of ground, and only one of them good.
II. The evil of such conduct. If we do not come together for the better, it will be for the worse. Where the Word does not soften it generally hardens; and where it does not make the heart contrite it often makes it desperate (1 Corinthians 2:16). More particularly--
1. It is highly displeasing to God.
2. It is a great grief to godly ministers; and what can be more unreasonable than to afflict those who labour for our good, and are seeking our everlasting salvation (Jeremiah 13:17; Philippians 3:18).
3. In the end it will be a source of sorrow to themselves, and will issue in their ruin (Proverbs 5:11-14; 1 Corinthians 11:30). (B. Beddome, M.A.)
Religious institutions--their abuse
I. That attendance on the institutions of religion may prove pernicious rather than beneficial (1 Corinthians 11:17). Men cannot be made religious; an irresistible moral force is a contradiction in terms, an impossibility in fact. Hence the highest redemptive forces on man often conduce to his ruin. The gospel is either the “savour of life unto life, or of death unto death.” Pharaoh’s heart was hardened under the ministry of Moses, and the hearts of the men of Chorazin, etc., were hardened under the ministry of Christ.
II. That assembling together for religious purposes does not necessarily imply unity of soul (1 Corinthians 11:18-19). It does not follow that because people are brought together in the same church that they are united together in spirit. Two people may sit in the same pew, hear the same discourse, etc., and yet in soul be as remote from one another as the poles. No real spiritual unity can exist where there is not a supreme affection for Christ, who is the only uniting place of souls.
III. That the very best institutions on earth are often sadly perverted by men. For many reasons the Lord’s Supper may be regarded as one of the best ordinances. But it was now perverted into a means of gluttony and drunkenness (1 Corinthians 11:20-21). Are not men constantly perverting Divine institutions, Churches, Bibles, the Christian Ministry, etc.? (D. Thomas, D.D.)
The abuse of the means of grace is
I. Very common. Through--
2. The indulgence of an improper spirit, as enmity, pride, unbelief, etc.
II. Highly criminal--because a direct offence against the purity, majesty, mercy of God.
III. Exceedingly dangerous. It makes a man worse by increasing his sin, hardening his heart, augmenting his guilt and punishment. (J. Lyth, D.D.)
Abuse of the Lord’s Supper
In this paragraph (1 Corinthians 11:17-34) Paul speaks of an abuse which can scarcely be credited in our times. A respectable citizen would hardly have permitted at his own table the licence visible at the table of the Lord.
I. How did such disorders arise?
1. It was common in Greece for clubs to meet periodically and to share a common meal. This custom, not unknown in Palestine, had been adopted by the primitive Church of Jerusalem. The Christians then felt themselves to be more closely related than the members of any trade guild or political club. Speedily love feasts (agape?) became prevalent institutions. On a fixed day, generally the first day of the week, the Christians assembled, each bringing what he could as a contribution to the feast. In some places the proceedings began by partaking of the consecrated bread and wine; but in other places physical appetite was first appeased.
2. This mode of celebrating the Lord’s Supper was recommended by its close resemblance to its original celebration. It was at the close of the paschal supper that our Lord took bread and brake it. But when the first solemnity passed away the love-feast was liable to many corruptions. Those who had no need to use the common stock, but had houses of their own to eat and to drink in, yet, for the sake of appearances, brought their contribution to the meal, but consumed it themselves. The consequence was that from being truly love-feasts, these meetings became scenes of greedy selfishness, and profane conduct, and besotted excess.
II. To the reform of this abuse Paul now addresses himself.
(1) He does not propose to disjoin absolutely the religious rite from the ordinary meal. In the case of the richer members of the Church this disjunction is enjoined (1 Corinthians 11:22). But with those who had no well-provided homes another rule must be adopted. It would shame the Christian community, and undo its reputation for brotherly love were its members observed begging their bread on the streets.
(2) Although the wine of the holy communion had been so sadly abused, Paul does not prohibit its use. On infinitely less occasion alterations have been introduced with a view to preventing its abuse by reclaimed drunkards, and on still slighter pretext in the Church of Rome the lay communicant is only allowed to partake of the bread. Mohler says that this arose from a nice sense of delicacy, a pious dread of desecrating, by spilling and the like, even in the most conscientious ministration. In contrast to all such contrivances we recognise the sagacity which directed that the ordinance should not be tampered with to suit the avoidable weaknesses of men, but that men should learn to live up to the requirements of the ordinance.
(3) Paul does not insist that because frequent communion had been abused, this must give place to monthly or yearly communion. For some centuries it was expected that all members of the Church should partake weekly. That familiarity breeds contempt, or heedlessness, is a rule that ordinarily holds good. And by the same law it is feared, and not without reason, that if we observed frequent communion we should cease to feel the sacredness of the ordinance. But our method of procedure is first to find out what it is right to do, and then, though it cost us an effort, to do it. If our reverence for the ordinance in question depends on its rare celebration, may it not be a merely superstitious or sentimental reverence? Paul seeks to restore reverence in the Corinthians, not by prohibiting frequent communion, but by setting more clearly before them the solemn facts which underlie the rite. But does not our shrinking from communion often mean that we shrink from being more distinctly confronted with the love and holiness of Christ and with His purpose in dying for us--that we are not quite reconciled to be always living as the children of God, whose citizenship is in heaven ?
2. The positive counsel Paul gives regarding suitable preparation for participation in this sacrament is very simple. He offers no elaborate scheme of self-examination which might fill the mind with scruples and induce introspective habits and spiritual hypochondria.
(1) He would have every man answer the plain question, Do you discern the Lord’s body in the sacrament? The Corinthians were chastened by sickness, and apparently by death that they might see and repent of the enormity of using these symbols as common food; and in order that they might escape this chastening, they had but to recall the institution of the sacrament by our Lord Himself.
(2) The brief narrative gives prominence to the truth that the sacrament was intended primarily as a memorial or remembrance of the Saviour. As the dying gift of a friend becomes sacred to us as his own person, and we cannot bear to see it handed about by unsympathetic hands, and as when we gaze at his portrait, or use the pencil worn smooth by his fingers, we recall the many happy times we spent together, so does this sacrament seem sacred to us as Christ’s own person, and by means of it grateful memories of all He was and did throng into the mind.
(3) The form of this memorial is fitted to recall the actual life and death of the Lord. By the symbols we are brought into the presence of an actual living Person. Our religion is not a theory; we are saved by being brought into right personal relations by remembering Christ and by assimilating the spirit of His life and death.
(4) But especially by giving His flesh and blood He means that He gives us His all, Himself wholly; and by inviting us to partake of His flesh and blood He means that we must receive Him into the most real connection possible, must admit His self-sacrificing love into our heart as our most cherished possession. (M. Dods, D.D.)
When ye come together in the Church, I hear there be divisions among you.--
Divisions in the Church
I. Are a serious evil.
1. They hinder prosperity.
2. Demoralise many.
3. Occasion reproach.
4. Dishonour Christ.
II. Ought not to excite surprise. Because offences must come--
1. Through the imperfections of humanity.
2. The instigation of Satan.
III. Are overruled by God, as a test of the faith, purity, steadfastness of those who are approved before God. (J. Lyth, D.D.)
A spirit of disunion in the Church
1. Destroys edification.
2. Occasions divisions.
3. Profanes what is most holy.
4. Usually springs from selfishness and pride.
5. Is deserving of the strongest condemnation. (J. Lyth, D.D.)
And I partly believe it.--
I. Some of you are guilty of this fault, though others be innocent. General censures, condemning whole churches, are altogether uncharitable. Angle out the offenders, but take heed of killing all with a dragnet: and grant many, yea, most to be faulty, yet some may be guiltless. Wickedness was not so general in Sodom, but that righteous Lot was an exception. Obadiah was steward of Ahab’s wicked household. Yea, seeing impiety intrudes itself amongst the thickest of God’s saints, just it is that God should have some names even where the throne of Satan is erected (Revelation 3:4). Let us therefore follow the wary proceedings of Jehu (2 Kings 10:23). When we are about with censuring to murder the credits of many together, let us take heed that there be not some orthodox amongst those whom we condemn to be all heretics; some that desire to be peaceful in our Israel, amongst those whom we condemn for all factious schismatics.
II. I believe these accusations only in part, and hope they are not so bad as they are reported. When fames are brought unto us from good hands, let us not be so incredulous as to believe no part of them; nor so uncharitable as to believe all; but with St. Paul “partly believe it.”
1. Because fame often creates something of nothing, always makes a great deal of a little. It is true of fame what is said of the devil; it has been “a liar from the beginning”; yea, and sometimes a murderer. Absalom slew one of David’s sons, and fame killed all the rest (2 Samuel 13:30)
2. Because men in reporting things often mingle their own interests and engagements with their relations, making them better or worse, as they themselves stand affected. Water resembleth both the taste and colour of that earth through which it runneth; so reports relish of their relators, and have a smack of their partial dispositions; and therefore such relations are not to be believed in their full extent. Conclusion:
1. This confutes--
(1) Those that will believe nothing of what they hear reported, though warranted by never so good witnesses. I bear them witness, these men have charity, but not according to knowledge.
(2) But where too much charity hath slain her thousands, too little hath slain her ten thousands.
2. Let not our beliefs be altogether of clay to receive any impression; nor altogether of iron to receive none at all. But as the toes in the image of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream were partly iron and partly clay, so let our beliefs be composed of charity, mixed with our credulity; that, when a crime is reported, we may with St. Paul “partly believe it.” (T. Fuller, D.D.)
For there must be also heresies among you.--
I. What heresy is. There are two opinions upon this subject. One is, that it is a schism. But the apostle in the text and in verse 18 makes a distinction between the two. By heresies, all denominations mean false doctrines, contrary to, and subversive of, the gospel (Titus 3:10-11; Galatians 1:6-9). Every error is not a heresy, yet every error which subverts the gospel is.
II. That heresies have been in the Church from the beginning. Immediately after the gospel was preached by Philip, Simon professed to believe it; but he soon propagated the grossest heresies. Paul intimates that there were heretics in the Church of Rome (Romans 16:17-18). Our text assures us that there were heresies in the Church of Corinth. And John mentions various dangerous heresies in the seven Churches of Asia. If we consult ecclesiastical history, we shall find that the Church has never been free from them. Christ predicted that there would always be tares among the wheat to the end of the world.
III. In what sense it is necessary that heresies should be in the Church. There never can be any natural necessity. Those who enjoy the gospel may always know the truth. Heresy is always the fruit of an evil heart of unbelief. There is, therefore, only a moral necessity arising from the corruption of the heart. As long as this is the case, some will love error better than truth.
IV. Why God chooses that heresies should exist.
1. To distinguish truth from error. Darkness renders light more visible, and light renders darkness more visible. The errors in the heathen would illustrate the truths believed in the Christian world. The errors in the Romish illustrate the truths professed in the Protestant Church.
2. That true believers may be distinguished from false professors. Paul gives this reason in the text. The heterodox everywhere are a foil to the orthodox, and exhibit their characters in a beautiful light.
3. That mankind may have a fair opportunity of choosing the way to life or the way to death. Accordingly, it had always been God’s method to exhibit both truth and error before their minds, and give them opportunity of choosing the one or the other, that they may be saved or that they may be damned.
1. If heresies are opposite to, and subversive of, the gospel, then we have reason to think that they have had a long and extensive spread in the world.
2. It appears, from the nature and tendency of heresy, that the Church ought to censure and reject any of its members who embrace it.
3. If it be one design of God in continuing heresies to distinguish real Christians from false and erroneous professors, then there is a palpable impropriety and absurdity in attempting to unite those together in Christian communion who differ essentially in their religious sentiments.
4. When fatal heresies greatly prevail, then is a time when God is about to purify the Church, and make manifest those who are approved among the professors of religion.
5. Learn the importance of ministers’ preaching the gospel fully and plainly. If the gospel had always been preached fully and plainly, it is hard to conceive how heresies should have abounded.
6. From the nature and tendency of heresy, we conclude that sinners are in the most dangerous situation, for they are surrounded by heretics on every side. (N. Emmons, D.D.)
Heresies sin against faith and schism, against charity; and, as children say they love father and mother both best, so let us hate heresies and schisms both worst.
I. What is a heresy? An error in the fundamentals of religion, maintained with obstinacy.
1. Note those qualities which dispose a man to be the founder of a heresy.
(1) Pride. When one is elated with conceited sanctity above others, he will quarrel with those who are before him in place, which are behind him in piety.
(2) Discontent that his preferments bear not proportion to his supposed deserts. Thus Arius would be an Arian, because he could not be a bishop.
(3) Learning void of humility; or good natural parts, especially memory and a fluent expression. But if both be wanting, yet boldness and brazen-faced impudence will supply the place, especially if he trades with the vulgar.
(4) To varnish all these, there must be pretended piety and austerity of life. Put all these together, and they spell together hoeresiarcham. To prevent these mischiefs, let such men pray to God for humility. Let them beware of discontentment, which is a direct quarrelling with God, who is the Fountain of all preferment. Grant preferment is denied thee; be not so childish to cast away a crown, because thou canst not get a counter. Lastly, if God hath bestowed good parts upon thee, pray to Him to sanctify them; otherwise the greatest memory may soon forget itself, and a fluent tongue may cut his throat that hath it.
2. A plain follower of a heresy may be thus described. He must be--
(1) Ignorant; for he that knows nothing will believe anything (2 Timothy 3:6).
(2) Desirous of novelty. It is an old humour for men to love new things.
(3) As a result of these two, he must have the persons of men in much admiration, and entertaining anything that is said because they say it. To prevent these mischiefs, let the meanest labour to attain to some measure of knowledge in matters of salvation, that so he may not trust every spirit, but be able to try whether he be of God or no. Secondly, kill the itch of novelty in thy soul, practising the prophet’s precept (Jeremiah 6:16). Lastly, love and admire no man’s doctrine for his person, but rather love his person for his doctrine.
II. There must be heresies. A conditionate necessity is this: for upon the pre-supposition of these two things, which cannot be denied--that the devil goeth about like a roaring lion, etc., and that the flesh lusteth against the spirit, making men prone to all wickedness; hence it followeth there must be heresies. Thus he that beholdeth a family, and findeth the master to be careless, the mistress negligent, the sons riotous, the servants unfaithful, he may safely conclude that family cannot be safe, but must be ruined (Luke 17:1). (T. Fuller, D.D.)
Heresies in the Church
I. The assertion--“there must be heresies”--is made in the same sense as “It must needs be that offences come” (Matthew 18:7). Not that he is excusable who introduces heresies, or occasions offences; for “woe unto him by whom they come.” But in the natural course of things, such evils will happen.
1. Could no external cause be assigned, our common frailties and corruptions may prepare us to expect them in a society composed of men. Of all parts of our knowledge, we are inclined to be fondest of those in which we differ from other men. It appears dull and undistinguishing to tread on in the common road, and think and believe as other men do. And if we observe how deeply this is rooted in our nature, and how difficult it is even for good men to restrain it within due bounds; and if we take farther into our reflection that envy, resentment, and almost every other passion may accidentally concur in producing heresies, we must confess that these evils are, humanly speaking, unavoidable. And accordingly the Scriptures prepare us for them, as natural effects of the corrupt passions of mankind (Acts 20:30; 2 Timothy 3:2-4; 2 Peter 2:1).
2. From false teachers and seducers, then, the Church must never hope to be perfectly free in this world. Nor shall we be surprised at their success if we reflect that there will be hearers--light and unstable men with itching ears--strongly inclined to hearken after new discoveries.
II. The providential end assigned for God’s permission of these evils--the trial and manifestation of these who are approved (see Deuteronomy 13:1; Luke 21:13). This manifestation may be understood--
1. With respect to ourselves. It is a comfort unspeakable to a good man to find his graces of strength to endure this trial. Unless our constancy has been tried, we know not how far an esteem for the virtues and abilities of any man may prevail on us to desert the faith. If upon experiment we find ourselves equal to the trial, we may then hope well of our integrity, and that we shall “hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end.”
2. With respect to the Church. Known unto God only are they who are His, by an internal inspection into their hearts. To the Church, however, this character can only appear by outward evidences; and, therefore, professions of faith have been always required, as terms of admission into its society. But these cautions are not always sufficient to reach the heart and discover the sincerity of the man. But he who has stood firm in the day of temptation has given an evidence of his integrity which cannot be suspected; and if to his faith he has added knowledge, and is able to convince gainsayers and defeat the craft of those who lie in wait to deceive, we must distinguish him in our esteem, not only as a sincere member, but as a light and ornament of the Church.
III. The advantages derived to the Church from these manifestations.
1. It is hereby enabled better to exercise its discipline, to separate the sound from the corrupted members of the body.
2. Hereby its enemies are discovered in their proper character.
3. Hereby Church governors are enabled to choose fit persons to serve in the sacred office.
4. By occasions of inquiry into heresy, the doctrines of the Church become more attentively considered and more firmly established. To the early heresies we owe many of the writings of the primitive fathers, and several parts of the Scriptures themselves.
5. By the appearance of these dangers, pastors are quickened to a more diligent attendance on the duties of their station, and at the same time carefully to examine their own lives, and, by an unblamable conduct, to keep up the dignity and influence of their ministry, that the enemy may have no occasion to blaspheme.
1. It may hence appear with how little reason Rome reproaches us with those schisms and heresies which God has permitted to vex our Church, and to use them as an argument of our rejection by Christ. It may as reasonably be objected that it is composed of men, and has enemies. And least of all can this objection become those who are well known to have been the authors of these evils to us.
2. If, as the apostle affirms, the providential end of these heresies is that they who are approved by God may be made manifest, then it follows--
(1) That they who under these trials persist in the faith and communion of the Church are thereby manifested to be approved by God.
(2) That they who introduce heresies into the Church, or follow those who introduce them, are thereby manifested to be disapproved by God; and therefore that the Church may, and ought, to treat them in its discipline as sufficiently discovered under that character. (J. Rogers, D.D.)
That they which are approved may be made manifest among you.--
Heresy manifesting truth
Oftentimes goldsmiths, though they themselves be sufficiently satisfied of the goodness of the gold, yet “put it to the touch,” to content the beholders. Never had Athanasius so answered his name, and been so truly “immortal” in his memory, but for opposing of the Arians. Never had St. Augustine been so famous, but for quelling of Manicheans, Pelsgians, Donatlsts, etc. Many parts of true doctrine have been but slenderly guarded, till once they were assaulted by heretics; and many good authors in those points which were never opposed have written but loosely, and suffered unwary passages to fall from their posting pens. But when thieves are about the country, every one will ride with his sword and stand on his guard: when heretics are abroad in the world, writers weigh each word, ponder each phrase, that they may give the enemies no advantage. Again, the hardened will be made unexcusable, who obstinately persist in their errors. They cannot plead they lost their way for want of guides, but for mere wilfulness. (T. Fuller, D.D.)
When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper.--
The love-feast and the Lord’s Supper
The Church of Corinth introduced what was called a love-feast previous to the reception of the Lord’s Supper--rich and poor bringing their own provisions. This idea seemed in strict accordance with the original institution of the Lord’s Supper, for that was preceded by a common meal. There was a great beauty in this arrangement, because it showed the conviction of the Church of Corinth that differences of birth and rank are but temporary, and are intended to join by reciprocal bonds the different classes together. Still, beautiful as the idea was, it was liable to great abuse. Thus there arises a perpetual lesson for the Church of Christ: it is never good to mix things religious with things worldly. In the highest conceivable form of the Church of Christ, the two will be identified, for the kingdoms of the world are to become the kingdoms of God and of His Christ. In order to make these two one, the Christian plan has been to set apart certain days as holy, that through these all other days may be sanctified: to set apart a certain class of men, through them to, sanctify all other men: to set apart one particular meal, that all meals through that one may be dedicated to God. The world’s way is rather this: to identify things religious and worldly by throwing the spirit of the week-day into the Sabbath; to make Christian ministers like other men, by infusing into them its own secular spirit; and to eat and drink of the Lord’s Supper in the spirit of a common meal. (F. W. Robertson, M.A.)
The heavenly banquet
Let me notice here the many words which are connected with ”the Lord” by the apostle: the Lord’s body (verse 29), the Lord’s blood (verse 27), the Lord’s bread (verse 27), the Lord’s cup (verse 27), the Lord’s death (verse 26), the Lord’s Supper (verse 20). For in this ordinance Christ is all and in all; He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. Why does the apostle call it the Lord’s Supper?
I. The lord appointed it. It is not man’s feast, or the Church’s feast, it is the feast of the Lord.
II. He provides. The feast of fat things is of His providing, so is the table, so is the banqueting house, so is the raiment. All the viands are of His selection, His purchase, His setting out. He is both appointer and provider. The provisions must be rare and suitable and nourishing in such a case. His wisdom knows what we need, and His love prepares it all.
III. He invites. Come, is His message to us!
IV. He is himself the feast. He is the Paschal Lamb. He is the bread and wine. Yes; Christ is Himself the provision, as well as the Provider.
V. He partakes with us. He sits at the table Himself, and forms one of our number. Here we have fellowship with Him, and He with us. Seated at this table, and partaking of this Supper--
1. We look backward. And as we look back we see the passover, we see the shewbread, we see the Cross.
2. We look forward. For we show His death till He come. We fix our eye on the coming glory.
3. We look inward. In doing so, we ask, Is my soul prospering?
4. We look around. Brethren in the Lord are on each side--our fellow-believers, our fellow-pilgrims. Love circulates around, as well as joy and peace.
5. We look outward. We cannot, at a feast like this, forget a world which is famishing; shutting itself out from this heavenly feast, and revelling in its lusts and vanities. We pity, we pray for you, we plead with you to come. For here at this table we find all we need--the fulness of Christ. Here we taste--
(1) His love.
(2) His peace and joy.
(3) His consolations.
(4) His glory.
For that glory is our hope, specially at the table. Here we get the foretaste of it. (H. Bonar, D.D.)
Eating the Lord’s Supper
Those who do, and those who do not, sit at this board, may alike wish to understand what it is to eat the Lord’s Supper.
1. First, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper to make it a feast for the satisfaction of outward appetite. Into so low an estate, as we learn from Paul’s rebuke, had it degenerated among the Corinthians. They may, indeed, have but imitated an earlier example, set in the depravity of human nature. It was a custom at Athens, in the age of Socrates, for each person coming to a feast to bring his own provision; not that, as in some later social festivals, he might add it to the common stock, but to feed on it by himself alone. No wonder the apostle said this was not to eat the Lord’s Supper. It is upon something far different, even upon making a sensual feast of the Lord’s Supper, that Paul lays his ban. They fancied, forsooth, they were eating the Lord’s Supper because they came together in one place. Without hesitation he explodes the superstition, which, alas! has reached our own day, that any local sacredness of temple or altar made an act holy. The Lord’s Supper was a showing forth of the Lord’s death. The apostle’s admonition is still instructive. Some, in our own age, have complained of the grave and serious manner of observing the Lord’s Supper. They would have it more of a social and friendly feast. Surely, there should be no coldness round the Lord’s table. Yet this table cannot furnish what is like any other feast, the dinner given to a hero, or even the family thanksgiving of kindred and friends, eating and drinking, in gay, though innocent, hilarity together. In the Lord’s Supper is the presence of a spirit peculiar, awful in purity, as it is tender in love.
2. But the apostle’s description shows again, that it is not eating the Lord’s Supper to make it a mere form. Externally, no doubt, it is a form. But there are two kinds of forms, the dead and the living. The dead are those that have lost, or never had, life. The true form is the tree, that buds and blooms, to show in flower and fruit the hidden meaning which God set in its seed.
3. Once more, the meaning of our text shows that eating the Lord’s Supper is not to make a profession of holiness. This is a very common mistake. Many are prevented from coming to the table by their reluctance to make such a profession. Yet, so far from being a profession of holiness, it is, in truth, the very opposite. It is a declaration of our not having attained what we desire, because so anxiously we use this means of attaining it.
4. Still, again, eating the Lord’s Supper, as Paul describes it, is not to increase our moral obligations. Infinitely bound are we beforehand to love and serve God. Eating the Lord’s Supper reminds us of our obilgations, and may assist us to fulfil them, but does not originally impose them, or add to their essential weight or number.
5. In fine, according to the mind of the apostle, eating the Lord’s Supper is not swearing an oath. The Romish dogma, that the communicant eats the real flesh and drinks the real blood of Christ, and thus assumes a vow and performs a sacrament, such as men have sealed with awful ceremonies and signed in their heart’s gore, is a fancy no less unscriptural than irrational, and contrary especially to the discourse of Christ. “The words that I speak unto you are spirit, and they are life.” As much as to say, “It is no physical or literal meaning I intend by them, but a sense of spiritual, cordial communion with my own feeling and mind.” So he stops their murmur at what they were at first inclined to think a hard saying. Let us now consider, more positively, what to eat the Lord’s Supper is.
(1) First, as a showing forth of His death, it is the highest manifestation of the Divine love. So, in the Scriptures, the death of Christ, the sinless Son of God, is described. This meaning of the Lord’s Supper, as the supreme sign of Divine love, let us now observe, falls in with all that is best in human thought and knowledge. It is a fact of singular and transcendent beauty, that all discovery, through all history, in all the world, has been but the gradual and ever cumulative discovery of the goodness of God. Now, all this scientific discovery of God’s goodness is but a ladder to the highest point of that goodness revealed in the gospel, whose crown is in the death of Christ, and whose celebration is in the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper, as the great peculiar symbol of the spiritual fact, especially tells us that our Father is pure, essential love, in long-suffering and willingness to forgive. Nothing can refute its witness, that, when He chastens, it is still love, not hatred, that wields the scourge; and that His wrath to the wicked is but His kindness for their case.
(2) But, as eating the Lord’s Supper is a recognition of this Divine love, it is, too, a corresponding expression of our own love. It should be regarded and observed in all the largeness and liberality of this idea. It was not meant by Christ, as it has been often made by man, to be a subtle, tormenting test, on minor points, of formal custom or intellectual opinion. But all the troublesome theories, arising or imposed, are, in the light of the new covenant itself, brought down to one which may indeed be sharper and stricter than any, or all beside, and to which those otherwise most rigid may give place. Do we love Jesus Christ?
(3) Furthermore, to eat the Lord’s Supper, according to the universal law of exercise, is to increase the love it expresses. This law holds peculiarly of all true affections and right exertions. The waxing love for Christ is its highest illustration. It especially is a magnet whose use enhances its power. It is true our love for Christ is a spiritual love for a now spiritual being, whom our fleshly eye never saw, or mortal ear heard. So the love of the Master and the follower is no antiquarian tradition. Truly, of what worth is love, if not personal? This Christian love passes and repasses, with God’s own spirit, the great conveyancer of all good things, like a dove through the air, and knits those who share it together. The feeling below tends to rise to the level of that from which it runs, on high.
(4) Eating the Lord’s Supper, thus expressing and increasing our love, furthermore supplies the loftiest and most efficient motive to all duty. All our life, all earnest labour, flows out of our heart. We give all, by natural and inevitable consequence, to Him to whom we have first given our heart. Eating the Lord’s Supper, therefore, while it may seem merely formal, is of all things most practical. It does not end as an exhibition or ceremony. It nerves to toil, endurance, and sacrifice, for the sake of God and humanity.
(5) In fine, the Lord’s Supper, while thus empowering for earthly duty, prepares us for scenes beyond this passing world. Its shadow falls two ways, back into time, and forth into eternity. It wings the soul to fly in another atmosphere, beyond this grosser air. It is preparation for the world to come. It is making ready for the second coming of Christ. Shall we extend this principle of preparation in all that is palpably useful, no further, but let it stop with the brink of the grave? Taking but a step in our little footing in this world, shall we not receive that staff of the bread of life which helps us to take the next, the second step, beyond the grave? Ah! in its true sense and meaning, both for present support and coming exigencies, we need the Lord’s Supper. All the ministrations of this world cannot satisfy our appetite, that immortal hunger and thirst with which God has made our souls to be hungry and thirsty. (C. A. Bartol.)
What … despise ye the Church of God?--
Despising the Church
Take the term in the sense of:--
I. The house of God. Do you undervalue the place set apart for God’s service, to convert it into an ordinary banqueting-house?
1. Duties public and not pious more befit a guild-hall or town-house; duties pious and not public more become a closet (Psalms 4:4); whilst duties public and pious beseem a church, as proper thereto.
2. The use is to blame those that turn the church into a counting-house, there to rate their neighbours--both to value their estates, and too often to revile their persons. Others make it a marketplace, there to bargain in; yea, some turn it into a kennel for their dogs, and a mew for their hawks, which they bring with them. Surely if Christ drove out thence sheep and doves, the emblems of innocency, He would not have suffered these to have abode in His temple.
II. The spiritual Church. The rich Corinthians, in not inviting the poor, made chaff of good corn; yea, refuse of God’s elect.
1. Objection. But not inviting the poor, was not despising them. A freewill offering is no debt.
2. Answer. This is true of civil and ordinary entertainments: but these being entitled “love-feasts,” and charity pretended the main motive of them, poor people were the most proper guests. Besides, if not Christianity, yet good nature might have moved them, whilst they gorged themselves, to have given something to the poor which stood by. To let them look on hungry was to wrong their peers in grace here, and glory hereafter.
3. Doctrine. He that despiseth the poor, despiseth the Church of God. Whereof they are a member inferior to none in piety (James 2:5); superior to all in number. Now he that pincheth the little toe paineth the whole body; the disgracing any member is the despising the whole church. Let us beware of affronting those in want. “He that seeth his brother in need … how dwelleth the love of God in him.” (T.Fuller, D.D.)
Regard for the Church
I. There is such a thing as the Church of God. Nor need we travel far to find it. Wherever there is a congregation of believers among whom the gospel is preached and the ordinances observed, there is the Church of God. Such a church existed at Corinth. It was the assembly of them who were “called to be saints,” and had responded to that call in the confession of faith in Christ and in the observance of His commands.
II. There be some who despise this Church of God.
1. The particular offence of the Corinthians was, that they misapprehended the character and spirituality of the holy Supper, and thought to celebrate it after the manner of a worldly festival. This the apostle sets down as equivalent to contempt of the whole institution of which they were members.
2. On the same principle there are many ways of despising the Church of God.
(1) By contemning the Church’s faith.
(2)By despising its ministry.
(3) By neglecting its services.
(4) By ignoring Church fellowship and relations.
II. There is much in and about the Church to tempt men to despise it; much with which the carnal reason and taste of man is naturally offended, and which he is therefore predisposed to dislike and disesteem.
1. Take the faith of the Church, the Trinity, the Incarnation, etc., etc.
2. Its ordinances.
3. Its unimportance in the world in comparison with pompous organisations of man’s devising!
4. Its members. How destitute of that style which is claimed amongst the worldly great and noble!
5. Its hypocritical adherents. Nevertheless--
IV. There is reason why the Church should not be despised. There is but one consideration to this effect named in the text; but that reason is ample. The Church is not of man, it is Divine. It is not a Masonic fraternity--a man-made institution.
1. God made the first Churches, and out of and through them He has made all Churches.
2. The faith of the Church is from Divine revelation.
3. Its sacraments are Divine ordinances.
4. The making of true members of the Church is by a new creation by the Holy Ghost.
5. And everything entering into the constitution of the Church is the work or gift of God. (J. A. Seiss, D.D.)
The Church: its note of universality
1. It is important to put the local church in its right Christian setting. The single congregation is a unit in the great multiple of communions which constitute the Church of God.
2. It is necessary that the kingdom of God should be localised in separate churches. The strong emotions gather around definite objects. Men in battle look to their regimental colours for their rallying-point; yet those colours would be nothing of themselves, did they not belong to and represent the country. To follow the colours of a particular church for its own sake might prove to be treason to the Church of God.
I. The Church of God is a universal institution for man.
1. If we listen to the gospel which Jesus preached we cannot fail to hear ringing in it this clear note of universality. It was not a gospel of individual election, nor of personal salvation simply, but the gospel of the Kingdom of a redeemed society organised in righteousness, and vital with the spirit of love.
2. His daily life was marked by the sign of universality. And so it was a constant surprise to His disciples. It was a larger humanity than Jerusalem could understand. Recall, e.g., that scene at which the Scribes and Pharisees were shocked, when Jesus sat at meat with publicans and sinners; and that scene at Jacob’s well at which even the good disciples were surprised. He healed the impotent man, and restored the sight of the blind on the Sabbath day, and proclaimed that even an institution so sacred to God from the completion of the creation was made for man.
3. This note pervades also and harmonises all His doctrines. No teacher had ever used the universal adjectives in speaking to men. We cannot take “all,” “any,” “whosoever,” etc. out of the speech of Jesus without taking all the music from it.
4. The Person also of Jesus is distinguished from all others by this. He has named Himself in His human place in history, “the Son of Man.” When the disciples began to realise who and what manner of man the Son of man was, the other confession followed of itself, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And upon the man who confessed that whole truth Christ said the Church should be built.
5. The Church, therefore, whose promise was given in that moment should be characterised by the same note of universality. It is not to be a chosen school of disciples around their Teacher; it is not to be a national church--another temple in Jerusalem.
II. Three days of the Son of man, at least, in Christian history have preceded our day.
1. The apostolic age, that day of glorious beginnings of Christianity. It was necessarily, however, an era of but partial applications of Christ’s words to the life of the people. The apostles were called to liberate and set in motion the Christian ideas, but not to apply them universally to their world and its customs.
2. The age of the power of external law, and the era of the outward unity of the Church. The Roman age witnessed an external universality of the Church; but its method was the way of Caesar rather than the way of the Son of man.
3. A return from Roman Catholic supremacy to the authority of the Son of man followed next, in the Divine order of history, through the Reformation.
III. And now what is the next step forward?
1. What are the chief questions of life now the world over? How not only in this city, or this country, but how in the whole world shall men live together? All labour troubles, or wasteful competitions, or hurtful combinations, are symptoms and signs of this vital problem of society. No nation can live for itself alone. The fates of the modern nations are bound together. There is nothing so foreign that it may not become domestic to any country. The destiny of this world, it is increasingly evident, is to be one destiny.
2. To the Church of God providence is bringing home this one social question. How then are the churches to answer it?
(1) Not in the way of Rome. The Son of man will not be enthroned as Caesar. There is no way of legislation to the millennium.
(2) Neither shall the old man of Protestantism, shrunken in muscle, its separate members scarce hanging together, and living on the income of its capital laid up in other days, be the new man of the coming day.
(3) Verily, the days are coming--are they not now at hand?--when the Son of man will open His mouth, and bless the multitudes in our churches, and in the power of His Spirit our Christianity shall become as never before the Church of God for the world. The churches are becoming more deeply conscious that they exist not for themselves; but for some Divine blessing for all men. The Church belongs to you, whether you will belong to it or not. The Church is for the world, whether the world now be for or against it.
IV. Two consequences of great moment follow.
1. That we who belong to particular communions should be careful in our administration of them not to interfere with the Divine rights of any man in the Church of God. We must look carefully to it lest we exclude some souls from our churchly participation in the kingdom of God. All disciples have Divine rights to any table of communion which is spread in the name of Christ. The Divine rights of the world to the Church, and in the Church, impose upon us the present and urgent missionary obligation.
2. That men who are already in the Church have right to stay there, and to work out honestly and patiently within the Church any questions which may trouble them. The disciples of old were constantly going back to the Son of man with some new question, or from some fresh perplexity. Still, the Son of man dwells among the questionings of men. And there is no better place than within the communion of the Church for you to meet the questions of your lives. Thomas of old kept in the Church, although he doubted. And so Thomas, the honest sceptic, became an honest apostle. Conclusion: It follows from this truth that every man to whom the Church is presented has some corresponding obligation towards it. The world is redeemed in Christ, and it is a sin and a shame to live in it as though it were not redeemed. There is a Church of God forming, growing, having a glorious world-task committed to it; and it is ignoble not to have part in it and its work. (N. Smyth, D.D.)
Shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.--
Ministerial blame and commendation
I. Pastors may and must praise their people wherein they do well.
(1) Hereby they shall peaceably possess themselves of the good-wills of their people, which may advance the efficacy of their preaching.
(2) Men will more willingly digest a reproof for their faults, if praised when they do well.
(3) Virtue being commended doth increase and multiply; creepers in goodness will go, goers run, runners fly.
2. Use. Those ministers are to be blamed which are ever blaming, God “doth not always chide” (Psalms 103:9). These preachers use their reproofs so commonly, till their physic turns natural, and will not work with their people. Do any desire to hear what Themistocles counted the best music--namely, themselves commended? On these conditions, we ministers will indent with them: Let them find matter, we will find words; let them do what is commendable, and blame us if we commend not what they do. Such work would be a pleasure. To reprove is pressed from us, as wine from grapes; but praises would flow from our lips, as water from a fountain. But, alas! how can we build, when they afford us neither brick nor straw? If with Ahab they will do what is evil, then with Micaiah we must always prophesy evil unto them.
II. Ministers must not commend their people when they do ill.
(1) Dishonourable to God.
(2) Dangerous to the ministers. That ambassador who, being sent to proclaim war, pronounceth peace to rebels (Isaiah 57:21), deserves at his return to be preferred to the gallows.
(3) Dangerous to the people who are soothed in their sins. Honey-dews, though they be sweet in taste, do black and blast the corn: so those who praise their people without cause, are cruelly kind unto them: it is pleasent to the palate of flesh, but destroyeth and damneth the soul.
2. Use. It were to be wished, that as those that live under the equinoctial at noonday have no shadows at all; so great men should have no shadows, no parasites, no flatterers to commend them when they least deserve it.
3. Objection. But why doth St. Paul deal so mildly with the Corinthians, “I praise you not”? Me thinks he should have made his little finger as heavy as his loins.
(1) Theophylact answers that St. Paul reproves the rich men the more mildly, lest otherwise they should be implacably incensed against the poor as the causers of the apostle’s anger.
(2) It was the first time he told the Corinthians of their fault, and therefore used them the more gently, on hope of their amendment. This corrupt humour in the Corinthians was not as yet clodded in them by custom, and therefore the easier purged and removed. So ministers must use mildness, especially at their first reproving of a sin. Yea, God so blessed the mild severity of St. Paul, that the Corinthians reformed their errors. (T. Fuller, D.D.)
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
For I have received of the Lord Jesus that which also I delivered unto you.
Giving as we receive
At a sailors’ meeting a seaman prayed, “Lord, make us ships with two hatchways; one to take in cargo, and the other to give it out.” A good prayer; Paul knew its answer, “I have received of the Lord that which, also I delivered unto you” (1 Corinthians 11:23). We are not storehouses; we are ships intended to trade with the heavenly country and bring supplies for a needy world. Always loading ends in overloading; if we unload, we shall soon be reloaded. He who keeps his talent in a napkin, will lose both napkin and talent; one will rot, and the other rust.
The Lord’s Supper
Four things strike us with amazement:--
I. That any should doubt the genuineness of Christianity. Here is an institution that was started the night previous to our Saviour’s crucifixion, and which from that to this hour, through eighteen long centuries, has been attended to by all the branches of the true Church. Since its origin thousands of generations have passed away, many systems have risen and disappeared, nations have been organised, flourished, and broken up, but this ordinance continues. And what for? To commemorate the great central fact of the gospel, viz., that Christ died. Is there any other fact in history sustained by evidence half so powerful as this?
II. That any should misinterpret this ordinance. It is to “show forth the Lord’s death.” There are three abuses of this institution which imply the grossest misinterpretation.
1. The gustatory. The Corinthians thus abused it. Hence, in the preceding verses he says, “When ye come together, therefore, into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper,” etc. They had been accustomed, in their heathen festivals, to give way to gluttony and intemperance. Many of them, from the force of old habits, were tempted to use the Lord’s Supper in this way, hence they were guilty of profaning the institution. Thus, they ate and drank “unworthily,” and by so doing ate and drank condemnation to themselves.
2. The superstitious. There are some who believe that after the words of consecration pronounced by the priest over these elements, the elements become carnally the “body and blood of the Lord.” This is transubstantiation.
3. The formalistic. There are those who partake of the bread and wine merely as a matter of ceremony. It is regarded as the proper thing to be done, and is done mechanically. We evangelical Christians are not guilty of the first nor the second, but we may be of the third. Let us “examine ourselves”; so let us eat, etc.
III. That any should say the institution is not permanent in its obligation. The apostle tells us distinctly that it was to show forth the Lord’s death till He come. On to that distant point the obligation is binding. There are some professing Christians who think themselves too spiritual to observe such an ordinance. These very spiritual ones, to be consistent, should avoid all scientific studies, for science has to do with material forms. They should also avoid all Biblical studies, for Biblical truths are, for the most part, embodied in material facts. Christ Himself was flesh and blood.
IV. That any acquainted with the biography of Christ should neglect it. Consider--
1. That it is to commemorate the world’s greatest Benefactor that has served the world--
(1) In the highest way, effected its deliverance from sin and hell.
(2) By the most unparalleled sacrifice.
(3) With the most disinterested love.
2. It is enjoined by the world’s greatest Benefactor, under the most touching circumstances. How amazing it is that men should neglect it!
Conclusion: The excuses that men make for neglecting this are singularly absurd.
1. A man will sometimes say, “I can be saved without it.” We ask, who told you so? What is damnation? What but disobedience to Christ? And he who neglects this institution disobeys Him.
2. Another man will say, “I am unfit for it.” We say, if you are unfit for this you are unfit for any other religious observance; unfit to read the Bible, sing, or pray, nor can you ever become fit by neglecting your duty. (D. Thomas, D.D.)
The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper of Divine institution
I. What is a sacrament? In general, the visible sign of an invisible grace.
1. As God hath used covenants, so also sacraments always.
2. They are part, not of His natural, but instituted worship.
3. They are all pledges of the covenant of grace.
4. They all represent Christ the Mediator--
(1) To suffer.
(2) Or having suffered.
5. In all sacraments there are two parts.
(1) The thing signified.
II. What is the Lord’s supper? A sacrament, wherein the outward signs are bread and wine.
III. What are we to understand by Divine institution? That it was instituted of God, as the others were not, which the Church of Rome maintains to be sacraments, viz., confirmation, orders, penance, matrimony, and extreme unction.
IV. How does it appear to be of Divine institution (Luke 22:19-20).
V. Wherefore was it instituted by God?
1. When God had made man, He entered into a covenant of works with him (Leviticus 18:5).
2. This covenant man broke, and so became miserable.
3. Hence God, of His mercy, enters into a covenant of grace (Jeremiah 31:33).
4. This covenant of grace was established in Christ (Hebrews 12:21; 2 Corinthians 1:20).
5. This covenant man is also apt to miscarry in; so as--
(1) To be forgetful of it.
(2) Not to believe in it.
(3) To receive no benefit from it.
6. Hence God instituted this sacrament.
(1) To make us mindful of this covenant and Christ (Luke 22:19).
(2) To confirm and seal it to us (Romans 4:11).
(3) To convey the benefits of it to us.
1. Be thankful for this sacrament.
2. Do not neglect the use of it.
3. Prepare yourselves for it.
(1) Acquaint yourselves with the nature of it.
(3) Act faith in Christ. (Bp. Beveridge.)
The doctrine of the Holy Communion
I. It is a memorial of the sacrifice of the death of Christ.
1. See how closely it is connected with that death. Consider--
(1) The time; Christ and His apostles had met for the last time before He died.
(2) The action; the breaking being a sign of the dissolution of the body, the separation of body and soul in death, and also that His death was an act of free-will. He had power over His life to take it up and lay it down, just as of His own accord He took up from the table the bread, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples to eat.
2. To this picture the three Evangelists and St. Paul all describe the Lord as “blessing,” or “giving thanks,” as He brake the bread. And so this also afterwards passed as a synonym for the sacrament. St. Paul calls it “the cup of blessing,” and among us it has the name of “Eucharist.”
3. Since the sacrifice of the death of Christ is the cause of our justification, our chief concern must be to make sure of our partaking of it. It is one thing to say “Christ died for all”; another, “Christ died for me.” Therefore every man for himself must stretch forth this hand of faith and take to himself, appropriate, his part in the atoning sacrifice. The sacrament is an instrument for such an appropriation.
II. A means of present communion with Christ. As it was the work of Christ of His own free-will and grace to offer His body upon the Cross, so now every fruit of that sacrifice which we gather in His Church comes fresh from His living hand, and His work, and is nothing less. “Lo, I am with you always,” is the secret of our life in the Church; and nowhere more effectually than in the holy sacrament is His presence made real and true to the eye of faith. The manner of our Lord’s presence cannot be explained, but His presence in some supernatural form is there, or the text has no proper sense.
III. The highest act of worship in the Church.
1. The faithful Christian, in preparation for this holy act, examines himself, and confesses his unworthiness.
2. Then we make an offering of our stores, which, though small, is at least a symbol of homage.
3. Then the oblation of bread and wine is blessed and taken into His service--an offering of the first-fruits, in acknowledgment that life’s bounties are His gift.
4. Then comes an oblation of greater significance. The worshipper offers himself with a free heart to receive Christ, and in return gives himself to God.
5. Above all, we come nearest to the work of heaven itself, where the Church worships God in the presence of the Lamb as it had been slain. So in the Church below our highest act of worship is celebrated in that place, where the Lamb of God and His sacrifice is brought most near to us. (C. W. Furse, M.A.)
“This do in remembrance of Me”
If Christ had said, “Build Me some fine cathedral that shall stand as a memorial to Me,” how we would have poured out our contributions that somewhere in this world there might stand some central temple, over which the cross on which He hung should tower throughout the ages! But the cathedral would have passed into hands of men corrupted by ambition. He made His monument of loving hearts. Only this do: Sometimes sit down together; sometimes remember that last occasion when I grasped the hands of those I loved, looked into their faces, and heard their voices. He longs to be remembered as love always longs to be remembered. He wanted not His name to be blotted out of human memory, nor His personality to be forgotten from throbbing hearts. He commands and guides you in many things. He gives you opportunity to serve His children, His poor, in many ways; but there is only one personal request He makes of you, that now and again, at some supper table, with simply bread and wine, you shall, as they that love Him have throughout all ages, perpetuate His memory and show your love for Him. (Lyman Abbott.)
The remembrance of Christ
I saw behind an hotel in Switzerland a fine garden, and I unexpectedly found there American flowers, and being far away from home, and half homesick, they afforded me great pleasure. Every one of them seemed like a message to me full of affection by association. So the remembrance of Christ in the Lord’s Supper rekindles our love to Him. (H. W. Beecher.)
I cannot bring back my little child, but I can take a locket and look at his face, and he springs to life in my inward thought. There are scenes in my childhood that I cannot tread again, but a very simple memorial, a little dried flower, or some little yellow faded note brings back again the sweet sense of an early experience. And so, by some such very simple symbol, we can bring again before us the Saviour broken for us, His blood shed for us, His love so great, dying to give us life. (H. W. Beecher.)
The purpose of the Lord’s Supper
We soon forget objects which are removed from our sight; and our Lord, who knows and pities this weakness of our nature, has given us an abiding memorial of Himself. He has appointed an ordinance for this very purpose, to remind us of His love. “All our fresh springs” are in our crucified Lord, and therefore He brings Himself frequently before us as our crucified Lord that we may go to Him as the great source of our mercies, and take of His blessings. (Dean Bradley.)
The Lord’s Supper, a simple memorial
We need not look for great things in order to discover great truths. To those who reach after God, He will reveal His deepest secrets through things insignificant in themselves, within the routine of common lives. No event occurs more regularly than the daily meal, none, perhaps, gathers around it so many pleasant associations. Its simplest form, in Christ’s time, consisted in eating bread and drinking a cup of wine. Into this act, one evening, He gathered all the meaning of the ancient sacrifices, all sacred and tender relation between Himself and His followers, and all the prophecies of His perfected kingdom.
That the Lord Jesus the same night in which He was betrayed took bread.--
Christ taking bread, and our taking it from Him
I. He took bread.
1. Why did Christ choose so cheap and common a thing to exhibit His body in?
(1) Herein He graciously provided for the poor. Had He appointed some costly recipe, the poor could not procure it for themselves, and the charity of the rich would not purchase it for others.
(2) Had He instituted it in some precious element, people might have imputed the efficacy thereof to its natural worth and working, not to Christ’s institution. Christ therefore chooseth a thing so mean in itself, that it cannot eclipse God of His glory; none can be so mad as to attribute to plain bread itself such spiritual operation. Let us take heed how we despise the simplicity of God’s ordinance. Say not with Naaman, “Are not Abana and Pharpar,” etc. Is not the bread at the baker’s, and the wine at the vintner’s, as good as that in the sacrament? And far be it from us to seek with our own inventions to beguard that which God will have plain. Rather let us pray, that our eyes may be anointed with that eye-salve, to see majesty in the meanness, and the state in the simplicity, of the sacraments.
2. But amongst such variety of cheap elements, why was bread preferred? To show our bodies can as well subsist without bread, as our souls without a Saviour. It is called “the staff of bread”; other meats are but as “pretty wands to whisk in our hands. Without bread no feast; with bread no famine.
II. He said unto them, Take, i.e., in their hands, and put it to their mouth; not as the custom lately introduced in the Romish Church, for the priest to put it in the mouth of every communicant. But it is pleaded, that it is unmannerly for laymen to handle Christ’s body; and therefore it is most reverence to take it with their mouths.
1. There is no such clown in Christianity as he who will be more mannerly than God will have him. It is most reverence for us to do as God commands us. Ahaz tempted God in saying, be “would not tempt Him” (Isaiah 7:12). Those do little better who, more nice than wise, strain courtesy not to take Christ’s body in their hands, when He reaches it.
2. Take it strictly, and our mouths are as unworthy as our hands to receive Christ’s body. But, seeing it is Christ’s pleasure to come under the roof of our mouth, let Him also pass through the porch of our hands. The rather because it seemeth that we entertain Christ’s body in more state, and with more observance towards it, when the more servants attend it, the more members of our body using their service in receiving it.
3. The Romish custom loseth the significancy of the hand of faith. The taking Christ’s body in our hands mindeth us spiritually by faith to apprehend and lay hold on His mercies and merits. (T. Fuller, D.D.)
1 Corinthians 11:24
And when He had given thanks, He brake it, and said, Take, eat.
The Lord’s Supper
1. It is remarkable that we are indebted to Paul for the most particular account of this service, because he was not one of those who were present on the night of its institution. Nor did he derive his knowledge from those who were present (Galatians 1:11-12). The striking agreement between this report and that of those who were present is one of the evidences of the truth of Scripture.
2. Thoughtful men know the value of particular customs, medals and inscriptions, to certify any historical event. Now, the observance of the Lord’s Supper is a standing historical evidence of the truth of the Christian religion. It is to be traced backwards for hundreds of years to the night in which Christ was betrayed; but no farther. There we lose the clue, because the institution then had its origin.
I. The nature of the ordinance. It is commemorative.
1. Who is it that is to be particularly remembered? Christ claims our grateful recollection on the ground of--
(1) His dignity. Rank and power impress all beings: but there never was such rank on earth as that which attached to the person of Christ. He was in possession of the attributes of Godhead.
(2) His condescension. He passed by the nature of angels, and was “found in fashion as a man.”
(3) His love. A love that “passeth knowledge.” Christ’s love has been compared with the love of Jonathan to David. But that was love for a friend: this is love for enemies. That was love for love: this is love for hatred.
2. What is it that is commemorated?
(1) The death of Christ--a death entitled to this distinction. Many men are remembered who are not entitled to that honour; many have had monuments raised to them, whose name ought to have been blotted out. I find the death of Christ observed by God the Father. “My Father loveth Me because I lay down My life.” And we are told that in heaven the great event which is celebrated is the death upon Calvary. “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain.” We may well, therefore, celebrate that death.
(2) The second coming of Christ. Just as Israel had manna so long as they were in the wilderness, but when once they came into Canaan, the manna ceased; so when Christ comes we shall not want anything to remind us of Him.
II. The temper in which this service should be observed by us.
1. We are called to remember the person of Christ, and the great events connected with His person, in a manner corresponding with the dignity of His person; and the vastness of the benefits flowing from His sacrifice, as expected by us at His second coming.
2. We are to draw near with fervour and lively gratitude. The ordinance itself is a eucharistical one. Hence we find our Saviour Himself, when He had instituted the supper, sung a hymn. (J. Beaumont, M.D.)
The Lord’s Supper: its end and our duty
I. The author of the institution. In every action it is good to know by what authority we do it. For what can reason see in bread and wine to quicken or raise a soul? (1 Corinthians 8:8). The outward elements are indifferent in themselves, but authority giveth them efficacy. He that put virtue into the clay and spittle to cure a bodily eye, may do the same to bread and wine to heal our spiritual blindness. The outward elements of themselves have no more power than the water of Jordan had to cure a leper; their virtue is from above.
II. The duty enjoined. To take bread, and to give thanks, and eat it; and so of the cup. And if this be done with a lively faith in Christ, this is all. “To do this” is not barely to take the bread and eat it: this Judas himself might do; this he doeth that doeth it to his own damnation. And that we may do it, besides the authority and love of the Author, we have all those motives which use to incite us unto action.
1. Its fitness to our present condition. As God sent Adam “a help meet for him,” so He affordeth us helps attempered to our infirmity. As Laban said to Jacob, when they made a covenant, “This stone shall be witness between us,” so God doth say to thy soul by these outward elements, “This covenant have I made with thee, and this that thou seest shall witness between thee and Me.”
2. Its profitableness--a will extended, a love exalted, hope increased, faith quickened, more earnest looking on God, more compassion on our brethren, more light in our understanding, more heat in our affections, more constancy in our patience; every vicious inclination weakened, every virtue established. What is but brass it refineth into gold; raiseth the earthy man to the participation of a Divine nature.
3. Its delightfulness. In the action of worthy receiving is the joy of a conqueror; for here we vanquish our enemy: the joy of a prisoner set at liberty; for this is our jubilee. Here is Christ, here is heaven itself.
4. Its necessity. For if this sacrament could have been spared, our Lord, who came to beat down the ceremonies of the law, would not have raised up this. He calleth and commandeth us to His table, to feed on the body and blood of Christ, and in the strength thereof to “walk before Him and be perfect.”
III. When are we to do it? “As oft as ye do it” implies that you do it often. It is not necessary to say how often. Every man’s want in this should be a law unto him. If we come like unmannerly guests, once is too often; but if we come prepared we cannot come too often. The truth is, the sacrament is fit for every day, but we are not every day fit for it. A great shame it is that any man should be dragged to a feast. And if we loved “the cup of blessing,” we should not fear how oft it came into our hands.
IV. Its end. “In remembrance of Me.” We must open the register of our soul, and enrol Christ there in deep and living characters. For the memory is a preserver of that which she receiveth. But we must inquire whether we remember Christ as we should: whether Christ be hung up in this gallery of our soul only as a picture, or whether He be a living Christ, and dwelleth in us of a truth. For can he remember a meek Christ, who will be angry without a cause? Can he remember a poor Christ that maketh mammon his God? Can he remember Christ, who is as ready to betray Him as Judas, and nail Him to the cross as Pilate? Better never to have known Him, than to know and put Him to shame! (A. Farindon, B.D.)
The outward part of the sacrament is not only a sign of the inward part or thing signified, but a sign that the inward grace is given to us, the means whereby it is given, and the pledge or seal to assure us of its being given. The elements are not the sign of a hostelry, like a painted board that reminds the weary pilgrim of the comforts he may enjoy within, if he can obtain them; but they are the signed and stamped conveyance of that which makes him rich and purchases repose, the note of one who will never fail, in receiving which we receive that which it is appointed to represent by him who offers it. In taking a note of the bank, he who receives it is assured that he receives the value it represents; and that bit of paper, worthless in itself, may be worth to him a large estate. (G. D. Hill.)
The Lord’s Supper, a symbol
“Do you then,” men ask, “reduce this sacrament to make it only a symbol? “I confess my inability to appreciate the force of the depreciatory innuendo. Does not a symbol mean all that it symbolises? Has it not the same honour and sanctity attaching to it as that which it represents? Are not symbols the most sacred things on earth? Why is it that men will take a tattered piece of silk and nail it to the mast, and blow themselves and the ship to atoms rather than any enemy’s hand should touch that flag? It is only a symbol. Why is it that in one corner of the battle-field “the swords’ flash is brightest, and the pistols’ ring is loudest” round a blood-stained banner? It is only a symbol--but a symbol of England, and of all the freedom, the honour, the truth, the heroism, that that word “England” means! Thus, for the eye of faith and the heart of love these symbols mean all that they recall and represent. We are to eat that bread and drink that wine in remembrance that His body was given, and that His blood was shed for us. (T. T. Shore, M.A.)
The Lord’s Supper the sample of the Christian life
(Text, and Colossians 3:17):--One of the saddest things about the Christian life is that it seems to be split into two parts. Is the distinction between sacred and secular a valid one? is there any reason why a man’s prayers should be more devout than his business? Look at these two passages. The same consecration is claimed for the most trivial acts of daily life, as is claimed for the sacred communion.
I. All the objects around us are to be regarded as symbols and memorials of our Lord. Bread and wine are common things: the act of eating and drinking is not an elevated one; a supper-table is not a very holy place. And when Christ selected them He showed us that all material things were fitted and intended to impart the same teaching. The unity of the Maker, the all-pervading influence of one Divine Spirit, make everything sacred, and put every object to witness to some Divine truth. Every day we walk amidst the “outward and visible signs of an inward and spiritual grace,” and this wonderful world is one great sacrament.
1. All the elements stand as types of spiritual things--the sunshine of the “light of the world,” the wind of the Spirit, the water of the stream of life and drink for thirsty souls, and the fire of His purity and of His wrath.
2. All objects are consecrated to Him. The trees of the field speak of the “root of David,” and the vine of which we are all branches. The everlasting mountains are His “righteousness,” the mighty deep His “judgments.”
3. All the processes of nature have been laid hold of by Him. The gentle dew falls a promise, and the lashing rain forebodes a storm, when many a sand-built house shall be swept away. Every spring is a prophecy of the resurrection, every harvest a promise of the coming of His kingdom.
4. All living things testify of Him. He is Lord over the fish, the fowls, the beasts.
5. All occupations of men are consecrated to reveal Him. He laid His hand upon the sower, the vine-dresser, the shepherd, etc., as being emblems of Himself.
6. All relations between men testify of Him--father, mother, brother, friend, etc. In a word, every act of our life sets forth some aspect of our Lord and of our relation to Him, from the moment when we open our eyes in the morning, up to the hour when night falls, and sleep, the image of death, speaks to us of the last solemn moment, when we shall close the eyes of our body on earth, to open those of our soul on the realities of eternity. If you would know the meaning of the world, read Christ in it.
II. Every act of our life is to be done from the same motive as that holy communion. “This do in remembrance of Me … discerning the Lord’s body.” “Whatsoever ye do, in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus,” i.e., for the sake of the character, as revealed to you, of Him whom you love.
1. Is that sacred motive one which we keep for select occasions and special acts of worship? I am afraid that the most do with that Divine reason, “the love of Christ constraineth me,” as the old Franks with their long-haired kings--they keep them in the palace at all ordinary times, only now and then bring them out to grace a procession. There is no action of life which is too great to bow to the influence of “This do in remembrance of Me”; and there is no action of life which is too small to be turned into a solemn sacrament by the operation of the same motive. Do you and I keep our religion as princes do their crown jewels--only wearing them on festive occasions, and have we another dress for working days?
2. Is it not something to have a principle which prevents anything from degenerating into triviality, or from pressing upon us with an overwhelming weight? Would it not be grand if we could so go through life, as that all should be not one dead level, but one high plateau, because all rested upon “Whatsoever ye do, in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus”? Ah! it is possible--not to our weak faith, perhaps; but the weakness of the faith is not inevitable. It is possible, and therefore it is duty; and therefore the opposite is sin. To have my life with one high, diffusive influence through it all, is like one of those applications of power where a huge hammer is lifted up, and comes down with a crash that breaks the granite in pieces, or may be allowed to fall so gently and so true that it touches without cracking a tiny nut beneath it; or it is like that mighty power that holds a planet in its orbit, and yet binds down the sand-grain and dust-mote to its place.
III. All life, like the communion of the Lord’s Supper, may be, and ought to he, a showing-forth of Christ’s death. The death of Christ, which is shown forth in the holy communion, as a death for us, and the ground of our hope, is to be shown forth in our daily walk, as a death working in us, and the ground of our conduct (2 Corinthians 4:10-11). There is not only the atoning aspect in Christ’s death, but the example of the way by which we are to “mortify our members which are upon earth,” because “we are dead with Him, and our life is hid with Christ in God.” No man manifests the death of Christ by any outward act of worship, who is not feeling it daily in his own soul. It is in vain for us to say that we are relying on Christ, unless Christ be in us, slaying the old man and quickening the new. You do “show forth the Lord’s death till He come” when you “crucify the old man with his affections and lusts,” and “rise again into newness of life.” The fact is better than the symbol--the inward communion more true than the outward participation.
IV. This communion is in itself one of the mightiest means for making the whole of life like itself. In this ordinance, as it were, is the reservoir: out of it there come the streams that freshen and gladden the piety of daily life. Only remember, not the outward act, but the emotions which it kindles, are the reservoir. Not the taking that cup in your hand, but the deeper glow of feeling which is legitimately kindled then, and the intenser faith which springs therefrom; these are the fountains which will nourish verdure and life through our dusty days. And so, if you want to live in this world, doing the duty of life, knowing the blessings of it, doing your work heartily, and yet not absorbed by it; remember that the one power whereby you can so act is, that all shall be consecrated to Christ, and done for His salve! (A. Maclaren, D.D.)
1. Knowingly (1 Corinthians 11:29).
(1) What it is in itself: bread (1 Corinthians 10:16).
(2) What it represents unto us: the body of Christ.
2. Humbly. Considering--
(1) God’s greatness that gives.
(2) Our vileness that do receive (Isaiah 6:5).
(1) That Christ is really present with us (Matthew 18:20.
(2) Doth really offer His body to us.
(3) That if we worthily receive, we are really partakers of all the merits of His death and passion (1 Corinthians 10:16).
(a) Our sins shall be pardoned (Matthew 26:28).
(b) Our natures cleansed (Acts 3:26).
(1) That He was pleased to offer Himself for us.
(2) That He is now pleased to offer Himself to us.
II. Eat, not take and lay up; not take and carry about; not take and worship; but take and eat. Take and eat bread, but yet My body--
1. With repentance (Exodus 12:8).
3. Thanksgiving (1 Timothy 4:4-5).
1. Prepare yourselves for this spiritual banquet.
2. Receive it with faith.
3. Feed with thankfulness.
4. Endeavour to get that nourishment from it, as to serve God better hereafter. (Bp. Beveridge.)
This is My body.--
The body of Christ in the sacrament
What are we to understand by this?
I. Negatively. Not that it is transubstantiated. This error was broached by Damascene and Amalarius; opposed by a synod at Constantinople of 338 bishops, in the East; Paschasius Radbertus, Bertramnus, Johannes Scotus Erigena, and Berengarius, in the West. The word transubstantiation was coined in the Lateran Council. This--
1. Is not grounded on Scripture.
(1) Not on John 6:55. For this--
(a) Was said before the sacrament was instituted (verse 4).
(b) Does not prove bread to be turned into Christ’s body, but Christ’s body into flesh.
(c) Is to be understood spiritually (verses 50, 51, 56).
(2) Not on the text (see Genesis 41:26; Daniel 2:38; 1 Corinthians 10:4).
2. Is contrary to the Scriptures. When Christ said this there could be nothing but bread; for His body was not yet offered (see 1Co 10:16; 1 Corinthians 11:25; Matthew 26:20).
3. It takes away the nature of the sacrament, there being no sign.
1. “This is My body”; that is, the sign and sacrament of My body (see Genesis 17:10-11; Exodus 12:11).
2. “Which was broken for you.”
(1) How broken? Bruised, pierced (John 19:33-34). He suffered torment.
(2) For what?
(a) God our Governor has given us laws to observe (Genesis 26:5), and annexed promises and threatenings (Leviticus 18:5; Galatians 3:10-12).
(b) Man has broken these laws (Psalms 14:1-3), and so is obliged to the punishments.
(c) These punishments he cannot bear, without being entirely miserable (Matthew 25:46). Hence Christ, the Son of God, undertakes to bear them for him (Isaiah 53:4; Isaiah 53:6). This He could not do, unless He became man. Neither must He be man only, but He must suffer (Hebrews 9:22). These His sufferings are the things represented by the bread and wine.
(3) For whom? Believers (John 3:16).
(4) What benefits bare we by these sufferings? It is only by them--
(a) Our sins can be pardoned (Matthew 26:28).
(b) God reconciled (Romans 5:1). Our natures renewed (Acts 3:26). Our souls saved (Hebrews 2:10; Hebrews 5:9).
1. Admire the love of Christ in dying for us.
2. Be always mindful of it.
3. Frequent the sacraments, especially appointed to put us in mind of it, but come preparedly.
(3) Charitably. (Bp. Beveridge.)
Which is broken for you.--
The broken Christ
I. A manifestation of the power of sin. When once threatened with being broken by the stones that malice would have hurled at Him, He asks, “For which of these good works do ye stone Me?” It was because of His good works that an evil world hated Him, and hates Him still. There is an innate antagonism between selfishness and love. Moses in hot anger broke the two tables of stone on which the law of God had just been inscribed; but the Jews, with fixed and relentless purpose, broke Him who was the living embodiment of the law. And that achievement reveals how sin stand’s at nothing, though it is most Divine. Our conflict with sin is conflict with the powers by which Christ was broken.
II. A model for our self-sacrifice. He was broken thus, not in pursuit of any dream of ambition, or struggle for any personal satisfaction. It was in the one peerless work of redeeming the world.
1. Selfishness is ever seeking to keep what it has whole. Health must never be broken for neighbourliness, patriotism, or religion. Home must never be broken by giving up of sons or daughters to missions. Property must on no account be broken for distribution in charity or maintenance of worship. The Church must not be broken to help to form the nucleus of some other church much needed.
2. And yet what is broken is often the most beautiful. When is light more rich and varied than when it is broken in the prism? And is the ocean more beautiful when it ripples tamely upon the sandy shore, or when the crested billows break in wild majesty upon some rockbound coast? So with the self-denials that mean brokenness--brokenness of tastes, desires, comforts, possessions, and even affections.
3. What is broken is often the most useful. When the bark is bruised the balm is poured forth for healing; when the wheat is ground it becomes an element of nourishment; when the spices are pounded their odours fill the air. So self-denial has given to science, patriotism, and religion their apostles and martyrs.
4. For beauty and usefulness in man’s individual character, there must be brokenness. What is there for imperious temper, hard indifference, stubborn resistance to God’s will, but brokenness?
III. An emblem of the universality of His mission,
1. He was broken that He might be distributed, that His teachings, influence, grace, might eventually pervade the whole human race. By giving broken bread, as an emblem of His broken Self, to all His disciples, He taught them that His love, life, grace, are designed for the nourishment of all.
2. And in our dealings with Him and His system, we must ever remember this. The true Church can never be a mere treasure-house for hoarding up privileges and graces. Like its Lord and Master, it must suffer much brokenness.
IV. The highest expression of the love of God. Our language has no words to describe Giver or Gift. But its influence testifies to the worth of the Gift. The woman who broke the alabaster box on her Lord gave unreservedly the best she had, and the whole house was filled with fragrance. So, when God’s gift was broken, His influence, like the odours of a very precious ointment, began to fill the whole world. (U. R. Thomas.)
This do in remembrance of Me.--
I. Other memories will come, but must not crowd out the one memory. The following remembrances may be natural, and profitable, but they must be kept in a secondary place:--
1. Of ourselves when we were strangers and foreigners.
2. Of our former onlooking and wishing to be at the table.
3. Of our first time of coming, and the grace received since then.
4. Of the dear departed who once were with us at the table.
5. Of beloved ones who cannot be with us at this time because they are kept at home by sickness.
6. Of many present with us, and what grace has done in their cases. We may think of their needs and of their holy lives, etc.
7. Of the apostates who have proved their falseness, like Judas. However these memories may press upon us, we must mainly remember Him for whose honour the feast is ordained.
II. The ordinance is helpful to that one sacred memory.
1. Set forth, the signs display the person of our Lord as really man, substantial flesh and blood.
2. Placed on the table, their presence betokens our Lord’s clear familiarity with us, and our nearness to Him.
3. Broken and poured forth, they show His sufferings.
4. Separated, bread apart from wine, the flesh divided from the blood, they declare His death for us.
5. Eating, we symbolise the life-sustaining power of Jesus and our reception of Him into our innermost selves.
6. Remaining when the Supper is ended, the fragments suggest that there is yet more bread and wine for other feasts; anti, even so, our Lord is all-sufficient for all time. Every particle of the ordinance points at Jesus, and we must therein behold the Lamb of God.
III. That sacred memory is is itself most needful for us. It is--
1. The continual sustenance of faith.
2. The stimulus of love.
3. The fountain of hope.
4. A recall, from the world, from self, from controversy, from labour, from our fellows--to our Lord.
5. The reveille, the up-and-away.
It is the prelude of the marriage supper, and makes us long for “the bridal feast above.” Above all things, it behoves us to keep the name of our Lord engraven on our hearts.
IV. This symbolic festival is highly beneficial in refreshing our memories, and in others ways.
1. We are yet in the body, and materialism is a most real and potent force; we need that there be a set sign and form to incarnate the spiritual and make it vivid to the mind. Moreover, as the Lord actually took upon Him our flesh and blood, and as He means to save even the material part of us, He gives us this link with materialism, lest we spirit things away as well as spiritualise them.
2. Jesus, who knew our forgetfulness, appointed this festival of love; and we may be sure He will bless it to the end designed.
3. Experience has ofttimes proved its eminent value.
4. While reviving the memories of the saints, it has also been sealed by the Holy Spirit; for He has very frequently used it to arouse and convince the spectators of our solemn feast. Conclusion:
1. To observe the Supper is binding on all believers, to the extent of “oft.”
2. Only as it assists remembrance can it be useful. Seek grace lovingly to remember your Lord. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The nature and importance of the Lord’s Supper
I. The different names descriptive of this ordinance.
1. “Breaking of bread.” Bread is considered the chief support of life, and, among the Jews, breaking of bread was a sign of mutual friendship. Thus Christ’s body was broken for the sins of men.
2. “Communion”--which may signify either a participation or communion between the receivers themselves, or between the receivers and the thing received. In both senses it is applicable to the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 10:16).
3. “Eucharist”--which signifies thankfulness or thanksgiving, and frequently occurs in the New Testament as a general expression of gratitude. Taking this view of the ordinance, how should our hearts overflow with adoring gratitude, love, and praise, whenever We approach the Lord’s Table!
4. “Sacrament”--which originally signified a religious oath which the Roman soldiers took to their commanders. So does every Christian solemnly engage to maintain irreconcilable warfare against the world, the flesh, and the devil.
5. There are two other terms often applied to this ordinance, both of Levitical origin. They are “oblation” and “sacrifice.”
II. In celebrating the Lord’s Supper, according to His last solemn command, “This do in remembrance of Me,” we view Christ as the great atonement, and the only sacrifice for sin. In this sacred ordinance the Church invites the attention of men “to behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world.”
III. Our obligation duty, and interest all combine to enforce obedience to this last, solemn, and dying command of christ. (N. Meeres, B.D.)
The Supper of the Lord
I. It affords a visible and permanent testimony to the truth of the gospel.
II. It calls in the senses to the aid of other powers and faculties for the promotion of piety.
III. It provides a public test of our religious sincerity.
IV. It tends to increase our love of that Saviour to whose memory it is especially dedicated.
V. How well calculated is it to humble the impenitent sinner!
VI. It cheers the heart of the true believer. (J. W. Cunningham, M.A.)
In remembrance of Me
1. Were a stranger, who had never heard of Christ, to come into church while we are seated at the Lord’s table, he would naturally ask, “What does this observance mean?” And the answer, no doubt, would rise to the lips readily enough, “We commemorate the dying of Him whom we call Lord and Saviour.” And yet, would not much remain still unexplained? Would it not still seem strange that our highest act of worship should centre in a memory of one whose death was a dishonoured death? There is no other religion whose believers can look back to a founder who was content to say, “Be true to My memory. That is all I command. Let your most solemn worship embody the expression of this remembrance.”
2. You may have heard of the power of a pure and noble memory of, e.g., a well-loved home, to keep back the foot from falling and the soul from death; or of a generous and trustful love which has been a breastplate to the heart tempted to unworthy ways. But in that remembrance of Christ of which the sacrament is the visible expression, there is something more than we find in the best human memory.
I. Let us see what Christ’s memory is, what is implied in remembrance of Him. The sacrament is a memorial of--
1. One who lived a human life, and yet a life such as none else has ever lived.
2. Who, at a time when the world was full of darkness and unrest, came into it with a message from God for all whose hearts were weary, whose minds were dark. His life was one that gladdened other lives, and bore about with it one living message of peace and goodwill. And is it not well, amid all the worldliness, and selfishness, and untruth of man’s society, to be able to look back to a life in which these evil principles had no place, in which all was truth, honesty, earnestness and Love?
3. Who revealed God the Father. Think of what the world would be to us without this truth, and of what it will be to us, when we come to lie at “the last low verge of life”; and as you think of this, and remember that all our knowledge of this blessed truth comes from Christ, do you not feel that there is an unequalled urgency and solemnity in that last charge to us, “This do in remembrance of Me”?
4. One who closed His perfect life by the sacrifice of Himself. It is indeed this, more than aught else, that the sacramental symbols bring home to us. Think, then, how but for that we had been without hope and without God in the world.
II. If such then be His memory, shall we not remember Him as He has given us commandment? But is that commandment altogether fulfilled when we have eaten the bread and drunk the wine?
1. If we would be really true to the memory of the Master, it must be by showing forth, in our whole life, the power of His Divine example. There are stately tombs, on which in the lapse of ages the graven record of love and sorrow has waxed dim, and the very name recorded has been lost, and the tomb stands there a dumb witness to an unknown memory; and just such, no better, would be our remembrance of our Lord, if it were professed only while we celebrate the sacrament of His body and blood. But if it expresses a real union with our Lord, a real devotion to Him, a real sharing of His spirit, then in this sacrament we indeed eat of the Bread of Heaven and drink of the Water of Life.
2. Now suppose the stranger mentioned at the beginning had got his answer, and gone away, and were to return after a time and see us going about our daily works, might he not be inclined to say to us, “What has become of that sacred memory of which you spoke to me? I see no trace of it among you. I understood He was one who was pure and true and unselfish; and I see you serving your own ends. You told me that He died for you; and I look about for the memorials of such a love as that, and cannot find it.” Let us be careful not to bring reproach upon our Master’s name.
3. If there be one here who is burdened with the consciousness of sin, who hears the voice which is saying to us now, “This do in remembrance of Me,” speaking to him in sorrow because of his faithlessness, let him be warned and recalled to a better spirit, and truer life; and he will find that that voice will change its tone of sorrow and reproach for one of encouragement and consolation, that will say, “Abide in Me, and I in you; let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (R. H. Story, D.D.)
In remembrance of Me
1. This Epistle is prior in date to any of the Gospels, consequently we have the earliest account of the institution of the Lord’s Supper. More than that, the account is entirely independent of any oral tradition, for the apostle distinctly affirms that he received this narrative from none of the guests in that upper chamber, but from the Host Himself. We can therefore trace the celebration to a period very near to the death of Christ, and thus we have a strong presumption of the historical accuracy of the story, and a view of the aspect in which it was regarded by the primitive belief of Christendom.
2. The occasion for the utterance is characteristic of Paul, and instructive to us. Had it not been for some abuses in Corinth we should never have had one word about this ordinance; and in that event there would have been scarcely any reference to it outside the Gospels. Let us regard the Lord’s Supper as--
I. A memorial.
1. The words are used in the institution of that Passover which our Lord, with sovereign authority, brushed aside in order to make room for His own rite. “This day shall be unto you for a memorial.” The text therefore has reference to the Exodus, and is meant to substitute for the memories so stirring to Jewish national pride and devout feeling the remembrance of Christ as the one thing needful.
2. This is Christ’s distinct statement of the purpose of the Lord’s Supper, and you will find nothing additional to it in the New Testament.
3. Notice of what the Lord’s Supper is a memorial--“of Me.” “You have remembered Moses and his deliverance; forget him! The shadow passes, and here I stand, the substance! Do this; never mind about your old Passover--that is done with. Do this in remembrance--no longer of dead Pharaohs and exhausted deliverances, but of an everloving friend and helper; and of a redemption that shall never pass away.”
(1) What a marvellous, majestic prevision that was, that looked all down the ages and expected that to the end of time men would turn to Him with passionate thankfulness! And more wonderful still, the forecast has been true.
(2) And as majestic as is the authority, so tender and gracious is the condescension. He does not rely upon His mighty love and sacrifice far the remembrance, but He consents to trust some portion of our remembrance of Him to mere outward things. Surely we need all the help we can get to keep His memory vivid and fresh in spite of the pressure of the visible and temporal.
II. As a means of grace.
1. I know only one way by which grace can get into men’s souls, and that is through the occupation of a man’s understanding, heart, and will, with Christ and the gospel that tells of Him. And the good that any outward thing does us is that it brings before us the truth on which our hopes depend, and knits to our heart the Christ and His love.
2. This Communion is obedience to a definite command, and so has the blessing which always follows upon obedience. And this blessing, and the one that comes from having our thoughts turned to Him, and faith and hope kindled towards Him, exhaust the whole of the good that the service does to any man.
3. All that is confirmed by the remarks in the context about the mischief that it sometimes does to people. We read about an unworthy partaking, which is defined: “Whoso eateth and drinketh (not “unworthily,” for that is an unauthorised supplement)
, “eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body,” i.e., unworthy participation is one which does not use the external symbols as a means of turning thought and feeling to Christ and His death; and unworthy participation does a man harm, as unworthy handling of any outward rite does. I try with words to lead men to look to Christ. If my words come between you and Him rather as an obscuring medium, then my sermon does you harm. You read a hymn. The hymn is meant to lead you up to Christ; if it does not do that, then it does you harm. If through the outward ritual we see Christ, we get all the good that the outward ritual can do us. If through the outward rite we do not see Him, if the coloured glass stay the eye instead of leading it on, then the rite does us harm.
III. A witness for Christian truth.
1. Christ Himself has appointed this institution and selected for us the part of His mission which He considers the vital and all-important centre--“This is My body, broken for you. This is the new covenant in My blood, shed for the remission of sins.” Not His words, not His loving deeds, not His tenderness, does He point us to; but to His violent death, as if He said, “There is the thing that is to touch hearts and change lives, and bind men to Me.”
2. Forms of Christianity which have let go the Incarnation and the Atonement do not know what to make of the Lord’s Supper. They who do not feel that Christ’s death is their peace, do not feel that this rite is the centre of Christian worship. I may be speaking to some who regard it as unnecessary. My brother, Christ knew what He meant by His work quite as well as you do, and He thought, that that the part of it which most concerns us to remember was this: “that He died for our sins, according to the Scriptures.”
3. And as plain as the teaching is of this ordinance in reference to what is the living heart of Christ’s work for us, so plain is it in reference to what is our way of making that work ours. We eat that we may live. We take Christ, the fact of His death, love, personal life for us to-day, and by faith we partake of Him, and the body is assimilated to the food, and so in that higher region we live. (A. Maclaren, D.D.)
The remembrance of Christ
1. Christians may forget Christ. It seems at first sight too gross a crime to lay at the door of converted men; but if startling to the ear, it is, alas! too apparent to the eye. Forget Him who never forgot us! Who loved us even to the death! The incessant round of world, world, world; the constant din of earth, earth, earth, takes away the soul from Christ. While memory will preserve a poisoned weed, it suffereth the Rose of Sharon to wither.
2. The cause is apparent. We forget Christ, because regenerate as we are, still corruption remains. Consider--
I. The glorious and precious object of memory.
1. Christians have many treasures to lock up in the cabinet of memory. They ought to remember their election, their extraction, their effectual calling, their special deliverances. But there is one whom they should embalm in their souls with the most costly spices. One I said, for I mean not an act, but a Person.
2. But how can we remember Christ’s person, when we never saw it? Well, it is true we cannot remember the visible appearance, but even the apostle said, though he had known Christ after the flesh, yet, thenceforth after the flesh he would know Christ no more. You may know Him after the spirit; in this manner you can remember Jesus as much now as any of those favoured ones who once walked side by side with Him.
3. Let us remember Him in His baptism, in the wilderness, in all His daily temptations and hourly trials, in Gethsemane, in Pilate’s hall, at Calvary. You can very well carry all this away, because you have read it often; but you cannot spiritually remember anything about Christ, if you never had Him manifested to you. What we have never known, we cannot remember.
II. The benefits to be derived from a loving remembrance of Christ. It will tend to give you--
1. Hope when you are under the burden of your sins.
2. Patience under persecution.
3. Strength in temptation.
4. Victory in death.
III. A sweet aid to memory. Behold the whole mystery of the sacred Eucharist.
1. The power to excite remembrance consists in the appeal made to the senses. Here the eye, the hand, the mouth, find joyful work, and thus the senses, which are usually clogs to the soul, become wings to lift the mind in contemplation.
2. Much of the influence in this ordinance is found in its simplicity. Here is nothing to burden the memory. He must have no memory at all who cannot remember that he has eaten bread, and that he has been drinking wine.
3. Note--The mighty pregnancy of these signs. Bread broken--so was your Saviour broken. Bread to be eaten--so His flesh is meat indeed. Wine poured out, the pressed juice of the grape--so was your Saviour crushed. Wine to cheer your heart--so does the blood of Christ. Wine to strengthen and invigorate you--so does the blood of the mighty sacrifice.
4. But before you can remember Christ, you must ask the assistance of the Holy Spirit. There ought to be a preparation before the Lord’s Supper. Take heed to yourselves (verse 27); mind what you arc doing! Do not do it carelessly; for of all the sacred things on earth, it is the most solemn.
IV. A sweet command. It is important to answer this question--“This do ye.” Who are intended? Ye who put your trust in Me. “This do ye in remembrance of Me.” Christ watches you at the door. Some of you go home, and Christ says, “I thought I said, ‘This do ye in remembrance of Me.’ “Some of you keep your seats as spectators. Christ sits with you, and He says, “I thought I said, ‘This do ye in remembrance of Me.’” ( C. H. Spurgeon.)
The commemoration of Christ’s death
We are to remember--
I. What He was from eternity: God (Romans 9:5).
II. What He became: Man (John 1:4).
III. What He did, and how He lived.
1. Humbly (Matthew 11:29).
3. Righteously (1 Peter 2:22; Matthew 3:15).
4. Inoffensively (Matthew 17:27).
IV. What He suffered.
1. Contempt (Isaiah 53:3).
2. Pain in His body (Isaiah 53:3).
3. Grief of heart (Matthew 26:37; Luke 22:44).
(1) A shameful,
(2) A painful,
(3) A cursed, death (Galatians 3:13).
V. Whom He suffered so much for: for us (Isaiah 53:5-6).
VI. What benefit we have by it.
1. Pardon (Romans 5:1).
2. Reconciliation to God (2 Corinthians 5:11).
3. Mortification of sin (Romans 8:1-2; Matthew 1:21).
4. Grace here.
5. Glory hereafter (John 3:16).
VII. What He did after His death.
1. He rose again (Romans 4:25).
2. Ascended (Acts 1:11).
3. Sits at the right hand of God (Romans 8:34).
4. Maketh intercession for us (1 John 2:1-2).
5. Will, ere long, come and judge us (2 Corinthians 5:10).
Conclusion: For preparation--
1. Review your lives.
2. Examine your hearts (1 Corinthians 11:28).
(1) The strength of your sins.
(2) The growth of your graces.
3. Pray God for His assistance. (Bp.Beveridge.)
Christ remembered at His table
1. Your guilt and wretchedness, which rendered His interference for your deliverance so absolutely necessary.
2. The amazing magnitude of that love and compassion which induced Him to undertake our cause.
3. The holiness of the doctrines which He taught, and the purifying tendency of the precepts which He inculcated.
4. The sufferings He underwent, and the death He endured for you.
5. The position which He now occupies, and the glorious rewards which He has provided for all His faithful followers. (R. Cameron.)
The sacrament a feast of alliance
This idea must be--
I. Explained. This feast is one of--
II. Limited. It is a feast, but a solemn feast.
III. Justified. It is a feast of sacrifice.
1. Come with a contrite heart to this feast.
2. Let it be a source of consolation to you. (I. S. Spencer, D.D.)
1 Corinthians 11:26-27
And after the same manner also He took the cup.
The sacramental cup
He doubleth the elements, to show that in Christ is not only necessary and sufficient, but also plentiful and abundant, with assured redemption. To blame, then, is the Church of Rome, which is guilty of that fault whereof Benjamin was taxed; they have “stolen away the cup.” If “to steal the chalice” be the phrase whereby men express the highest sin, what sacrilege is it to steal the wine of the chalice, from whom it belongeth? But let us hear what these Romanists plead for themselves.
I. Flesh and blood go always together. It is superfluous, therefore, to give the laity the blood the second time, who by concomitancy had received it before. Answer--What God hath put asunder, to be taken severally and distinctly, let no man join together.
II. There be many inconveniences, yea, mischiefs, attend the laity’s receiving of the wine; as, its sticking in their beards, spilling of it, etc. Answer--God, in the omnisciency of His wisdom, surveyed the latitude of all occurrences, yet, beholding all future inconveniences present, He appointed the laity to drink of the cup. Wine was then as subject to spilling; it hath not since gotten a more liquid or diffusive quality.
III. In several places no mention is made of wine, but of bread only (Acts 2:42; Acts 2:46; Acts 20:7). Answer--Either “bread,” by a synecdoche, is here put for bread and wine; or else that phrase importeth their ordinary meetings and civil feasts. But a cart-load of these exceptions are “weighed in the balance and found too light” to outpoise Christ’s institution. Let us not be so foolish as to depart from God’s written Word in the sacrament, concerning giving the laity the cup, for the company of human arguments on our side; but let us stick to our commission. (T. Fuller, D.D.)
The sacramental cup
I. Begets humiliation.
II. Quickens hope.
III. Inspires new activity through gratitude.
IV. Lifts our longings heavenward. (T. A. Nelson.)
Price of the sacrament
Cleopatra put a jewel in a cup, which contained the price of a kingdom: this sacred cup we are to drink of, enriched with the blood of God, is above the price of a kingdom.
For as oft as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till He come.
In the primitive Church the Lord’s Supper was celebrated every day: and fit it was, needing as they did constant cordials in the time of persecution. This frequency soon abated, and St. Ambrose reproves the negligence of the Eastern Churches, who received it but once a year. The Church of England requires her children to receive at the least thrice a year. But hear those who say that it is to be but seldom received.
I. The Passover was celebrated but once a year; in whose place the Lord’s Supper succeeds. Answer--The Passover was so restricted by God; in the Lord’s Supper we are left to our own liberty. Finding, therefore, our continual sinning, and therefore need thereof to strengthen us in our grace, we may, yea, must oftener use it, especially seeing all services of God under the gospel ought to be more plentiful than under the law.
II. Things done often are seldom done solemnly. Manna, if rained every day, is not dainty. The frequent doing of it will make men perfunctory and negligent therein. Answer--Then sermons should be as seldom as Apollo’s smiles, and prayers should not be presented to God every day, lest the commonness of the duty should bring it into contempt. Rather ministers are to instruct their people to come with reverence, notwithstanding their frequent repairing thereunto.
III. But long preparation is requisite to this action; and therefore this sacrament cannot often be received. Answer--After the first grand preparation, where, by faith and repentance, we are first estated in God’s favour, other preparations are not so difficult in doing, or tedious in time, as being but the reiterating of the same again. The good housewife that scoureth her plate once a week hath less work than she that doth it but once in a twelvemonth. Often preparing makes the work easy, and fits men the sooner for the sacrament. (T. Fuller, D.D.)
The Lord’s Supper
I. A commemorative ordinance.
1. The sacrament was instituted at the time of the feast of the Passover, and this was the memory uppermost in the minds of the disciples. Afterwards they saw as we see in the light of the perfected revelation, how fitly on that night was instituted the memorial of deliverance from a bondage greater than Egyptian, and from the deadlier peril of a death that never dies.
2. But what were the thoughts of the Redeemer? There stretched out the whole course of suffering which He had set Himself resolutely to travel. It was “the same night on which He was betrayed.” It was the last supper table. Very deeply under such circumstances as those would the words sink into the hearts of the disciples. We, too, must enter into the Saviour’s sorrows. For us, if we believe in Him, He breaks the bread and pours the wine, and when we eat and drink we do “show forth His death till He come.”
3. And this is what we commemorate. His death--
(1) Not His life, though that was lustrous with a holiness that knew not the shadow of a stain.
(2) Not His teaching, though that embodied the fulness of a wisdom and truth that was Divine.
(3) Not His miracles, although His course was a march of mercy.
(4) His death--His body, not glorious, but broken: His blood, not coursing through the veins of a conqueror, but shed for man. You are to see your sins laid upon Him; your souls washed by Him; your doom reversed by Him; your life secured by Him; and thus “show forth His death--till He come.”
II. A confirmatory ordinance.
1. Its perpetuity seems to stamp it as an ordinance, confirming, on the one hand, man’s faith in God, and on the other God’s fidelity to man. The disciples had followed Christ’s fortunes through evil and good report; but they were more faithful witnesses after this night than they had ever been before. And when in obedience to His command they partook of the ordinance which He had bequeathed to them, it is no wonder that they should come away from each successive celebration of the communion of His body and blood with braver purpose. And it is so with God’s people still. By thus “waiting upon the Lord” in His own enduring ordinance “they renew their strength,” etc.
2. The sacrament confirms the two things which it exhibits--the death and the second advent of the Lord. It seems to link the humiliation and the royalty, the accomplished passed and the assured future together. It is the wedlock of the believer’s memory and the believer’s hope; the memory which yet lingers round the Cross; the hope which already revels in the glory of the throne.
3. For the confirmation of your faith and of your devotedness God has set up this sacramental sign. It is to confirm your faith--
(1) In His death. It is to confirm your faith--
(a) In its reality--that it was not a prolonged swoon.
(b) In its vicariousness, to show you that His life was offered--“the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.” In its efficacy as an accepted atonement.
(2) In His coming--
(a) In its certainty that the Church is not for ever orphaned of His presence.
(b) In the recompense that awaits you; for the day is coming when all wrongs shall be redressed, sin eradicated, Satan trampled under foot, the glad welcome, the abundant entrance, the triumphal and eternal song.
4. Now you are called to meet the Saviour in His confirming and witnessing ordinance. If thou seekest Jesus surely He will not send thee empty from His own table away. But for you who do not love the Saviour, there is no grace in the sacrament for you. Like the sun and rain, they will shine and fall upon the stone, and the stone will remain insensible, because it has no hidden principle of life; but if they fall upon the flower they will foster the growth, and develop the beauty, and bring out the fragrance, because the principle of life is there.
III. A covenanting ordinance, and this follows upon the two preceding.
1. It is not only a sign but a seal: a solemn federal act which involves mutual pledges--pledges of fidelity on the one hand, and of blessing on the other. Says the Psalmist: “I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord.” And in the next verse is the translation of the symbol: “I will pay my vows unto the Lord, now in the presence of all His people.” And your participation in the Holy Communion is to be thus regarded as the fresh act of your espousals. If you eat and drink without discerning this great purpose, you eat and drink unworthily.
2. But I am speaking to those who love the Saviour. There is a mortal distrust, of yourselves which causes you to hesitate. Well, that you may take this Holy Sacrament for your comfort, remember that there are two parties to the covenant, and that the sacrament is the Divinely instituted seal of the fidelity of God’s promise to you. The Lord speaks to the father of the new world, from which the waters have been but recently assuaged. “I do set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be a token of the covenant between Me and the earth.” Here in the sacrament is the rainbow of the new and the better covenant. Behold the renewed pledge of salvation purchased, and blessing conferred upon you all who believe. Oh! the simplicity of the condition--upon him that believeth in Jesus. (W. M. Punshon, LL.D.)
The Lord’s Supper
This passage is instructive when regarded in its bearing upon great and ever-recurring controversies. Around the observance of the Lord’s Supper a multitude of irregularities had arisen. Here, then, if anywhere, was the opportunity for the apostle to glorify the sacrament, and to surround it with all those symbolic rites which would make its desecration impossible in the future. But we hear nothing of priest, altar, lights, incense, and genuflexions; but simply of a state of heart of those who unite in the act.
I. The true significance of the Lord’s Supper. It is a “proclaiming” (R.V.) the death of Christ until He come.
1. The Lord’s Supper is a memorial of the one fact in the Master’s story which every natural feeling would have led His followers to conceal, and there was not a feeling of horror at the thought of the Cross which they had not experienced. The thought so familiar to us, but which the world has learned from Calvary only, of victory through suffering and the crown won by the Cross, was unknown to them. The Cross was a sign of defeat and disaster. No wonder that Peter should cry: “That be far from Thee, O Lord.” The humiliation and despair of the day after the crucifixion baffle description. More pathetic utterance could hardly be spoken than “We trusted that it had been He who should have redeemed Israel.”
2. There are few facts more remarkable than the revolution of feeling which is shown in the action of these men in regard to the Lord’s Supper. In the hour of their reviving faith, it was the Cross to which they gave prominence, and the one characteristic of early Church life was the keeping of the feast by which they proclaimed “the Lord’s death till He come.” A festival of the Incarnation, or of the Transfiguration, or of the Resurrection, would have been intelligible. But this is the memorial of His death.
3. And could anything have set it forth with more impressiveness as the distinctive truth of Christianity? Other systems have had teachers, leaders of genius and power, and lawgivers. But where else do we find a Saviour who has died for the sins of men? Christ’s claim rests not on the profundity of His wisdom, but on the infinitude of His love. So there is a fitness in the Supper as the proclamation of the gospel. The guests are not the wise or the holy, but sinners who have learned, to put their trust in Christ. They eat the bread and drink the wine as a confession that in His death alone is their hope of eternal life.
II. The influence which this view of the Lord’s Supper should exert on us. The apostle points out distinctly when be says: “Let a man prove himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.”
1. What miserable trifling are all the questions which men discuss with so much heat as compared with this! Forms of observance--what are they all when weighed in the balances with the spirit of the observance? Surely the first and chief question must be as to our right to a place at the table, and as to our preparation for filling that place with consistency. Here is a meeting-place between God and the soul. This is a renewed act of faith and most solemn confession, and this is the point in which all proving of ourselves converges; and it is one evil result of certain theories that their tendency is to keep this out of view. The attention is fixed on the priest and the altar rather than on the relations between Christ and the soul of the individual worshipper. The whole reminds us of Micah when, having detained the wandering Levite, he exclaimed, “Now know I that the Lord will do me good, seeing I have a Levite to my priest.” He who comes filled with the solemn awe of the altar and the priest, and allows these to interrupt his communion with Christ, “feedeth on ashes: a deceived heart hath turned him aside.”
2. Here, then, is the one question for each communicant, What is the death to me? It is not enough that I hold as an article of my creed that Christ died for sinners. This act of communion is a profession of my personal trust in that death to deliver me from my sins. It is in the light of the Cross that we begin to understand something of the infinite tenderness of the Divine heart, and so to learn the exceeding sinfulness of sin.
3. What may be the special benefits to the soul which comes in humble faith to this banquet of love, it would be presumption in any man to decide. Who would under take to determine the possibilities of spiritual growth which may be the result? Here, as everywhere, to faith all things are possible. (J. Guinness Rogers, B.A.)
The objects of the believer’s contemplation in the Lord’s Supper
I. In this ordinance the believer contemplates the full accomplishment of the infinitely important objects which that death was designed to attain.
1. In the sufferings and death of our Redeemer exhibited in the Lord’s Supper faith discerns the character of the true God unfolded, and His transcendent glory displayed, with far more brightness than by all the works of creation.
2. In the death of Christ, as represented in fide Lord’s Supper, the believer by faith discerns the price of his own salvation and the only foundation of his hope before God.
3. The believer contemplates in the death of Christ, as represented in the Lord’s Supper, the source of all his spiritual blessings and a never-failing spring of strong consolation in his afflictions.
4. The believer, in the ordinance of the Supper, views by faith our glorious Messiah’s death as accomplishing a happy reconciliation between men and angels, and as opening to both new discoveries and new employments.
II. In this ordinance the believing Christian perceives a lively and affecting representation of all the circumstances connected with the death of Christ and the blessings to be thereby conveyed to his people.
1. All who sit at the sacred table partake of these elements and affectionately distribute them from one to another; thus we are reminded that there is a sufficiency in Christ to supply the wants of all His people, and that they are all children of the same family, eating at the same table, drinking of the same cup, and bound by every endearing tie to love one another and to live as brethren.
2. After partaking of the sacred symbols they retire from the communion table, from the delightful service of the sanctuary, to mingle in the duties and toils and trials of life. For it is only in the temple not made with hands that their fellowship shall be uninterrupted and their joy be full.
3. At the first celebration of the sacrament the condescending Saviour Himself was present with His disciples and gave them the cup and spake words of consolation to their fainting minds. Thus it still is as to His spiritual presence; He is in the midst of them to do them good; the cup of blessing which in His name we bless is the communion of the blood of Christ.
III. The believing Christian contemplates the sacrament of the Supper as a sacred memorial of his inestimable Friend, the best beloved of his soul; and as a feast of commemoration, designed to keep up the believing and sanctifying remembrance of what Scripture testifies concerning Him,
1. Ye shew forth the Lord’s death; the Lord of angels and men; the Lord of heaven and earth; the Lord of providence and grace. It wonderfully enlarges and elevates the mind of devout communicants when they can enter into the contemplation of their Redeemer’s personal greatness; as the brightness of the Father’s glory; as upholding all things by the word of His power; as King of kings and Lord of lords; and as the same to-day, yesterday, and for ever.
2. Again, when showing forth the Lord’s death, “do it in remembrance” that He is the Mediator of the New Testament, or better covenant. When you are engaged in this ordinance you ought to rest on the sure promises of that covenant which was sealed with the blood of the Testator; be persuaded of their truth, embrace them, and plead their fulfilment.
3. Once more, when showing forth the Lord’s death, not only remember that He died in the character of Mediator between an offended God and offending creatures, but survey the gradual progress of His work from its commencement before the worlds were framed to its consummation in the glorifying of all the elect.
IV. We are to view this ordinance as a solemn gospel feast, a sacred Christian festival.
1. In the everlasting gospel provision is made for the most indigent of mankind; and in this sacred ordinance the poor and needy feed with satisfaction on the rich blessings of the great salvation.
2. Provision is not the only idea which enters into our mind under the general term of a feast or supper; nourishment also is included, and when applied to this sacred ordinance it suggests this reviving sentiment, that by the right participation of the Lord’s Supper humble believers are strengthened with the inestimable blessings of that well-ordered covenant which the great Master of the feast makes with all who give themselves to Him.
3. Besides nourishment and provision the comparison of the sacred ordinance before us to a feast or supper conveys to the mind all the animating ideas of fellowship and intercourse with the whole Church of Christ.
V. This ordinance is represented, in the words of the institution, as a distinguishing badge of Christianity and a mark of separation between the friends of Christ and the children of the world.
1. Those who have a right to participate of this holy ordinance are in Christ, and are new creatures.
2. They lay aside the sins which beset them, and separate themselves from whatever is displeasing to their heavenly Father. They are awake to the infinite evil of sin, and are brought through Divine grace to hate it perfectly, as displeasing to God by whom they lived and on whom they rely.
3. Those who are prepared to show forth the death of Christ, love Him above all that this poor world can give or promise.
VI. We now direct your meditations to the connection between the death of Christ and His second coming as the Sovereign Judge of quick and dead. His death prepared the way for all the triumphs of the general resurrection, and the sacred ordinance of the Supper is a standing pledge, that He who was once offered up to bear the sins of many will come the second time without a sin-offering for the complete salvation of His people. (A. Bonar.)
Of the end of the Lord’s Supper
The Corinthians were a Church planted by Paul, watered by a long preaching among them. But notwithstanding all his pains he receives news of some corruptions crept in and overspreading that Church.
1. Concerning the carriage of men and women in the Church.
2. The celebration of the Lord’s Supper.
3. The use and exercise of spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:17).
The apostle makes a transition from the first to the second, and taxeth them with their divisions. Observe divisions in a Church are usually attended with sad consequences. They despoil the Church of its beauty and ornaments; they here hindered a communion with one another. All communion is founded upon union; divisions shook that and brought in gross miscarriages about the Lord’s Supper. For the reformation of those abuses the apostle reduceth them to the consideration of the first institution. Observe, in all reformations we are not so much to mind what this or that custom of the Church is when there is a clear word to walk by. Christ overthrows polygamy by reducing the number of persons married to the first institution (Matthew 19:4; Matthew 19:9).
1. How soon will corruptions creep into the best Church! The devil will sow his tares where God sows His wheat.
2. Human ceremonies are not to be urged, especially when they by abuse degenerate into superstition, carnality, and profaneness. Divine institutions, because of God’s sanction, are not to be laid aside though abuses creep in. What is man’s must be discarded, what is God’s must be preserved. For the first doctrine. The Lord’s Supper is chiefly instituted for the remembering and showing forth the death of Christ. It is not a bare historical remembrance of the death of Christ.
1. Every profane man who assents to the history of Christ’s death, and believes the acting of this tragedy on the Cross, and hath a notional belief of the ends of it, might be partaker of this ordinance. But the apostle puts a bar to that (verse 28).
2. A man could not then receive more unworthily, or incur a greater damnation in this than in other acts. But here the apostle fixeth a particular guilt of the body and blood of Christ when received unworthily (verses 27-29). As Christ’s death was not a bare dying, but a death with high and glorious ends, so our remembrance of it is not to be a bare historical but a practical remembrance and declaration. As Christ’s remembrance of the promises of His Father was not only an assent to the truth of them, but a recumbency on Him for the performance, so our remembrance of the death of Christ ought to be. It is not a speculative remembrance only, as when a man sees a picture of a prince, but such a remembrance as a man hath when he sees the picture of a dear friend absent from him at that time; he remembers not only his person, but the mutual love between them, the actions his friend hath done for him, which stirs up a sense of gratitude at that time.
I shall show--
1. This is the end of the institution.
2. What it is in the death of Christ that is here remembered and shown forth.
3. How we should show forth this death.
(1) The remembrance and declaration of the death of Christ is chiefly intended hereby. For the explication consider--
1. God was always careful of appointing and preserving memorials of His favour. The pot of manna and Aaron’s budding rod were to be preserved in the ark as standing monuments of God’s kindness. Stones were appointed to be set up for a memorial of the division of the waters of Jordan to give the Israelites passage to the conquest of Canaan (Joshua 4:5). The passover was instituted as a memorial of the Israelites’ affliction. And is there not much more reason for a standing memorial of that mercy of which all those were but the types? It hath been the custom of all nations to have an anniversary commemoration of those heroes who have been the instruments of some public happiness to them, and of all societies to commemorate their benefactors. And is there any reason to deny that to the great Benefactor of mankind, the Redeemer of the world?
2. These memorials are necessary--
(1) Because of the nature of our affections, which rather follow the orders of our sense than the commands of our souls, and are more excited by sensible than invisible objects. Most things we cannot understand but under sensible representations; we understand not God’s power, goodness, justice, but by the objects we see those attributes conversant about. Hence are those frequent metaphorical resemblances of spiritual things in the Scripture, and our Saviour sets Himself forth to us under the notions of bread, wine, Bridegroom.
(2) In regard of the inconstancy of our affections. What our affections rouse themselves up to receive at the first approach, they afterwards begin to flag like the strings of an instrument that sound well at the first tuning, but quickly slack and need a watchful ear and careful hand to wind them up. We want, therefore, those memorials to keep up our hearts in a warm and glowing temper.
(3) In regard of the natural ingratitude and enmity we have to a crucified Christ, and the weakness of faith. What the world did, that doth every man’s heart naturally, account the Cross foolishness. How is our faith weak when Christ is absent from us! He hath therefore instituted a symbol of His spiritual presence, whereby our minds might exercise themselves as well as the eyes of men did behold His body.
3. What it is in the death of Christ that is here set forth.
(1) The painfulness of His death. It is the picture of Him as He hung upon the Cross.
(a) This was the intent of the ancient passover. The lamb was to be killed, the flesh roasted with fire (Exodus 12:6-8).
(b) Of the elements in this sacrament. Bread signifies as passing through various kinds of sufferings to be made fit for food, reaped when ripe, thrashed when housed, ground to powder and baked to be made fit for bread. The actions testify the painfulness.
(2) The intention of this death for us. It is in this ordinance represented as a sacrifice-death. He is our Passover sacrificed for us (1 Corinthians 5:7-8). In His institution it was, My body broken for you, My blood shed for you, as an expiatory sacrifice.
(3) The sufficiency of this death for us. It would never else be remembered. We remember no more than what was done; we remember a whole Christ broken. God by covenant with Christ could challenge no more, and justice after the striking of that match could demand no more. Whence ariseth a redundancy of merit, an overflowing merit for ten thousand worlds, were they in being and in a sinful state.
(4) The acceptableness of this death to God. All that Christ did He did by order as His Father commanded Him. Had not His death been acceptable to His Father He would not have ordered us to remember it.
(5) The present efficacy of this death. It is now of efficacy, and will be to the second coming of Christ. Why else should it be remembered? To what purpose should we commemorate it if it did not retain an everlasting efficacy?
(6) How we should show forth and remember this death.
(1) With a reverence of the holiness of God.
(2) With a reverence of the justice of God.
2. Holily. We must undertake such religious services with suitable dispositions of heart.
(1) With mourning hearts for sin. A broken Christ must not be remembered without a broken heart.
(2) With deep considerations of the cursed nature and demerit of sin. It must needs be bitter, killing, condemning, cursed sin which brought Christ to such a bitter death.
(3) With strong resolutions against sin. It is a sad thing to be Christians at a supper, heathens in our shops, and devils in our closets.
(1) We should profess our adherence to Him. The showing forth His death is solemnly to cleave to Him alone for the pardon of our sins, the justification of our persons, and the sanctification of our natures.
(2) Look up to Christ in His death as a Conqueror. It is the Lord’s death; He was a Lord in His death; He was a King upon the Cross as well as a Priest, as He is a Priest in heaven as well as a King. His death was His victory, His ascension His triumph. Regard it, show it forth, not simply as a death, but a conquering death.
(3) Plead this death with God.
(4) Plead this death against sin and Satan. Show it against every charge. Can the sins of men be stronger to condemn than the blood of God is to save?
(1) Consider in this representation what we should have suffered.
(2) Consider the deplorable misery wherein we were. How deeply were we sunk into the mire that nothing could pluck us out but the Son of God!
5. Thankfully. Such mercies as the death of Christ require high and raised thanksgivings.
(1) Blessing God for His love in offering up His Son to death.
(2) Blessing Christ for His love in dying.
(3) The costliness of this redemption by the death of Christ should excite us to show it forth with thankfulness.
(4) The gain we have by it should excite us to it. Death was bitter to Him, but comfortable to us. By His blood are the promises sealed; by His blood all the treasures of grace, mercy, peace, happiness, riches of glory, are gathered together for us.
1. If the Supper be a showing the death of Christ, it is then no sacrifice, but the commemoration of a sacrifice. Sacrifices imply some kind of expiation and atonement; this is a natural notion. But the Supper is not intended as an expiation of sin or a satisfaction to God. In a sacrifice something is offered to God, in a sacrament something is exhibited to us.
2. How should the death of Christ run much in our thoughts and our affections be raised! The Lord’s Supper is to be frequently celebrated and participated of. “As often,” implying, it ought often to be done.
1. How often is not determined.
2. Nor can there be a constant time fixed for every particular person. Because there are varieties in the cases of good men, who may by some emergency find themselves hindered one time and not another.
3. It was anciently often participated of. Some think every day from that of Acts 2:46.
4. Yet to be frequent in it is agreeable to the nature of the ordinance and necessary for the wants of a Christian. The too much deferring cloth more hurt than the frequent communicating. The oftener we carefully and believingly communicate the more disposed we shall be for it.
It ought not to be neglected upon these reasons,
1. Because of the Author. It is a feast of God’s providing. The great God appointed not any trifling ordinance; His wisdom appoints none but what His power can make worthy instruments; His goodness will appoint none but what His love will make highly beneficial; the contempt of it is a slighting both of His wisdom and grace. If Jordan be appointed for the healing Naaman’s leprosy (2 Kings 5:10), the waters of Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, shall never be medicinal. When God appointed lamps for the defeat of the Midianites (Judges 7:20), had Gideon slighted them as too weak, and assaulted them with his numerous host, he had received a rout instead of a victory.
2. The time when Christ instituted it shows it is not worthy of our neglect. It was a little before His death (1 Corinthians 11:23).
3. The ends of it declare the unworthiness of neglecting it.
(1) The remembrance of Christ. How can we say we love Him if we do not mind Him? What value have we for Him if He be not in our thoughts? Well, but we may remember Christ otherwise without this ceremony. We may, but do we?
(2) It is a seal of the covenant. This is the common nature of a sacrament to be a seal of the righteousness or justification with God by faith in Christ (Romans 4:11). It is not only a sign which represents, but a seal which confirms the benefit.
(3) It is a renewing our covenant with Him.
(4) It is a communion with God.
4. The benefits of this ordinance require frequency. These benefits are many.
(1) Weakening of sin. Not physically, but morally. The lively representation and consideration of the death of Christ with all its circumstances is a strong incentive and assistant to the mortifying sin in us.
(2) Nourishment of the soul.
(3) Increase and exercise of grace. Christ is the storehouse and fountain of all the treasure of life and peace, but His ordinances are the channel.
(4) Sense and assurance of love often comes in by it.
(5) Union with Christ is promoted.
1. How much is the neglect, if not contempt, of this institution to be bewailed!
(1) It concerns such to inquire whether the reasons of their neglect be valid against a positive command.
(2) Was it appointed to be neglected? Did Christ take such care to institute it and we take care to avoid it?
(3) How can such free themselves from unworthy reflections upon Christ? It is either an act of wisdom or folly in Him. If of wisdom, why are we so foolish as not to observe it? If of folly, why do we at all believe in Him whom we count a foolish Saviour?
(4) Is it neglected because the elements are so mean and the thing so easy in itself? Had any Israelite neglected to turn his eye upon the brazen serpent the poison in his blood had digged his grave.
(5) Or do we think Christ is come again that we neglect it?
(6) Why doth any one neglecter of it who hath faith observe any other command or institution?
(7) Or is it unfitness that is the cause of the neglect? Hath any man heard of repentance and faith and holiness, and yet hath nothing of them? What a miserable case is this!
(8) Consider what you lose and what danger you incur.
2. Use: Is of exhortation to observe it and that frequently. Though a dying Saviour is remembered, yet a living Saviour is sought for in it; and shall not we be as ready to seek a living Christ in the sacrament as the women were to seek a dead Christ in the sepulchre? (Matthew 28:1). Let us consider some questions.
(1) Will any believer be guilty of disobedience to the Author of his faith?
(2) Is Christ so mean a Friend as not to be remembered? The memory of a good friend should be very precious.
(3) Why should we not often be in those ways where we may meet with our best Friend?
(4) Have you no graces that need strengthening?
(5) Why will any true believer gratify Satan? The motions to hinder those that are gracious must either be from God or Satan. From God they cannot be, who is no enemy to the ordinance He hath appointed for them.
(6) Why should any believer deny to pay Christ the debt of thankfulness for His great love in that way which He hath appointed? It is a thanksgiving, a thankful remembrance, therefore anciently called the Eucharist. We have handled two doctrines from the words. There is one more yet behind concerning the duration of this ordinance. You show the Lord’s death till He come. There is especially a twofold coming of Christ mentioned in Scripture.
1. His coming in the flesh.
2. His coming to judgment.
The doctrine then is--the Lord’s Supper is a lasting and continuing institution, not to be put down at the pleasure of any man. It will not be repealed till Christ come. Another gospel is not to be expected (Galatians 1:6-7, etc.), and therefore while the gospel endures the appendixes, the institutions annexed to it will endure. The ordinances of Christ are like the pillar of fire and the cloud which guided the Israelites in their journey through the wilderness, and did not withdraw from them till they entered into Canaan.
1. All the ordinances of Christ are to continue in His Church, then certainly this.
2. Sacraments were thought by God needful for men in all their several states in the world. Sacraments were judged necessary by God in innocent nature. The Tree of Life had a sacramental signification of life upon Adam’s obedience. Much more in lapsed nature have we need of those sensible things for the support of our faith in the promises of God. After the Fall there were various institutions brought in by degrees. Adam and Abel and Noah had their sacrifices as significant of the Messiah promised to them and expected by them. Abraham had an addition of circumcision. The Passover and other rites were added under Moses. And God always had some conduit-pipes through which to pour out the blessings of His grace upon the souls of His creatures.
3. All laws once settled are of force till they be repealed by that authority which did enact them.
4. The covenant is perpetual, and therefore the seals are perpetual.
5. The state wherein we are requires the continuance of it and of other ordinances.
(1) In regard of our constant decays. Our bodies would moulder to dust were they not daily nourished; and is there not as much need of nourishment for our souls?
(2) In respect of our weakness, some intercourse there must be between God and us if we be happy.
1. Christ will always have a Church in the world. A Church is the seat of ordinances.
2. It is in no man’s power to add to or detract from Christ’s institutions. Not a pin in the temple He will have altered till He gives order. God is a jealous God, and careful of His sovereignty.
3. See Christ’s love and bounty. Christ would not leave His people without a durable legacy.
4. This ordinance must not be contemned. The passover was to be observed, much more the Supper settled by Christ. (Bp. Hacket.)
The Lord’s Supper a showing forth of Christ’s death
I. The manner of His death, its violence and painfulness. The first promise spoke of a bruised Saviour. The patriarchal and Levitical sacrifices represented Him as a slain victim; and the prophets described Him in a similar way. And if we look into heaven, it is the same. He is adored there as one who has been slain. So we rightly regard this ordinance as setting forth, not Christ’s death only, but His violent death on the Cross.
II. Its efficacy. The institution of this ordinance by Christ is a declaration by Christ that He has removed the Divine displeasure from His people, and brought them within the full sunshine of the Divine favour. He would not call on us to celebrate continually a work which is not accomplished, or only half accomplished. This would be like a vaunting general ordering a column to be raised for a victory that was never won. It is like a continual echo of His own dying cry, “It is finished.” And our celebrating this sacrament becomes in consequence a repetition on our part of this cry, a declaration that we believe in the full sufficiency of His atonement.
III. The necessity of its particular application to ourselves. We do not merely look at the sacred elements of the Lord’s Supper, we eat and drink them. Without eating and drinking we might show the manner and efficacy of Christ’s death; but this partaking becomes an emblem of that faith which applies the sacrifice of Christ to the soul. In His own strong language, it “eats the flesh of the Son of Man and it drinks His blood.” Conclusion: Learn--
1. That a knowledge of the gospel itself is needful for a right understanding of this sacrament. It is a picture of the gospel: an embodying of its great truths in visible things. If we understand the gospel, we find no difficulty in understanding this sacrament. And then in its turn it illustrates the gospel, enabling us to understand it better. But unless we understand the gospel, we shall be in the same situation with many of the ignorant Jews under the law. The shadows of “good things” will take the place of those “good things” themselves, “carnal ordinances” will be confounded with spiritual blessings, and the emblems of a dying Saviour will be more to us than that dying Saviour Himself. Go through Roman Catholic countries--there is the crucifix, the elevated host, adored; the great Saviour Himself practically despised, and His gospel scarcely heard of or known.
2. That Christ’s gospel must be highly valued and loved by us before we can rightly attend to His holy Supper.
3. That the Lord’s Supper should be celebrated by us frequently. Is it a showing of His death? Then the more frequently His death is shown forth in this world of sinners the better.
4. That this sacrament is to be celebrated perpetually. It is to be a standing ordinance in the Church, unlike circumcision or the Jewish sacrifices and feasts which have passed away. It is to be celebrated till the heavens are opened and the Son of Man is revealed. Then the sacrament will have done its work. We see now a picture only; but when Christ comes, we shall see the original. (C. Bradley, M.A.)
The Lord’s death
1. These words seem contradictory. If He was Lord, how could He die? If He died, how could He be Lord? Why show forth the memory of the Lord’s death? Why not say as little about it as possible? Is it not keeping up the memory of His shame? Why not show forth His birth? He never said a word about that. He founded no birthday festival. Why not forget His death in His resurrection?
2. Note that for historical purposes the event is always called His crucifixion, but for religious purposes His death. We do not say about a man who is hanged that he died, but that he was killed. And so on the Lord’s side it is always said that Christ died, on man’s side that He was slain.
I. The Lord Himself always magnified the event. He never treated it as part of the common lot, or availed Himself of the consolation of despair, saying, it can come but once--the sooner come, the sooner done. His martyrs often said that. Christ made it the supreme fact in His history. It is easy for you who are getting on towards seventy to talk about your death. What is it to die at thirty, when you are quite strong--perfectly well? What is it at thirty--to make death the supreme thought of the mind--the meridian of your calculations? You cannot enter into it. But this is what Christ did.
II. The Lord never spoke of His death as a fact complete in itself. Now we do: we say the end cannot be far off. But Jesus never referred to His death as a full stop. He always connected it with His resurrection. He was always talking about coming back again. His life is a beautiful whole--not to be broken into parts, or studied in fragments, else the results of His ministry would be humiliation, victory of the enemy. What am I to make of this April day? At six it was so mild and beautiful; and at nine it was drizzling. And then, after ten, it was so bright; and just now it was so dark I could see nothing but for the gas, and presently it will be teeming with rain. Do not break the day off at any of these points, and say, What do you think of that? God says, Let it alone; take the whole year, and see what I make of it. And so Christ says, “Say nothing of this till the Son of Man be risen from the dead.” The last fact explains the preceding facts.
III. The Lord made the celebration of His death the one festival in the Church. There have been some poor black days in your life--you say let them be forgotten. Christ does not say so--nay, in view of this black day in His life, He boldly said that except men did eat His flesh and drink His blood, they had no life in them. He never spoke of His death as a disaster. He came upon it as from eternity, travelling in the greatness of His strength. Other men celebrate their triumphs--this Man His Cross; other conquerors tell of the banners they have wrested from the hand of the enemy--this Man celebrates His overthrow.
IV. The Lord never asked His tormentors to be pitiful, or in any way to mitigate the agony of His crucifixion. And this would be the less remarkable but for the fact that He did ask His Father if it were possible to let the cup pass from Him. So He was not insensible to pain. But when He comes to men, He asks no favour. Nay, when people lament His fate, He says, “Weep not for Me.” And it is the more remarkable, because Pilate set the door open, and said in effect, Here is a way of escape; art Thou the King of the Jews? He put his question in a tone that offered deliverance. And yet this very self-same man, whom we have seen in this agony of blood, avails not Himself of the door so opened. Truly such a death had a meaning in it. Conclusion: Now in view of these facts, it becomes a serious question whether the reason given for this commemoration is equal to the necessities of the case. Why do you celebrate His death instead of His birth--His resurrection--the triumphal parts of His history? I answer--He was delivered for our offences. Why keep up the memory of His death? I answer, He was bruised for our iniquities. Why keep up the memory of His Cross? I answer, while we were yet sinners, He died for us. Will you, after hearing these answers, tell us, on the other hand, why we should leave such a death uncelebrated? (J. Parker, D.D.)
Practical influence of the death of Christ
To “show forth” here means to pro-claim. In communicating we set forward the death of Jesus, according to the views we may entertain of it. The most important views will be brought before us if we consider it as it is described in Scripture--
I. As the foundation of all our hopes of God’s favour and of eternal life. In it we see One who was God’s equal suffering in His human nature as the only means by which sin could be expiated and sinners saved. We cannot doubt that this atonement is sufficient, and see, therefore, in the death of Christ the complete removal of all barriers to our salvation, and a way thrown open for our restoration to blessedness.
II. As the source of the motives by which our conduct ought to be regulated.
1. What could be more fitted to make us feel deeply and realise strongly our obligation to devote ourselves to God’s service than this gift of God’s love?
2. Is there any sin which the contemplation of Christ’s death should not prompt and enable us to subdue--any grace which it is not fitted to implant and to cherish? Are any of you disposed to be proud?--then think of Him who humbled Himself. Are any of you disposed to be selfish?--then think of Him who submitted to a cruel and shameful death for the good of those who had no claim upon His regard. Would any one see an example of compassion and fortitude--of love to God and love to man, in circumstances well fitted to touch his heart and to produce decided imitation?--let him look to the death of Christ.
III. As the great ground of our consolation amid trials and afflictions.
1. That the Captain of our salvation was made perfect through suffering reminds us of the important and salutary place which suffering holds in the moral government of God, and cordially reconciles us to the great principle that it is by much tribulation that we must enter the kingdom.
2. Christ, having endured the Cross, being now set down at the right hand of God, is an encouragement to His people to bear their trials with resignation, and to press on with diligence--Christ’s success having ensured theirs, and the result in His case being substantially a pattern of what is to be the result in ours.
3. The death of Christ is peculiarly fitted to afford believers encouragement and consolation in looking forward to their own encounter with the last enemy. The King of terrors is indeed a formidable foe, but Christ, by dying, has deprived him of all power to hurt; and when we know this we shall no longer be subject to bondage through the fear of death, but shall be enabled to say, “O Death, where is thy sting?” etc. Conclusion: These are some plain views of the death of Christ as set before us in the Scriptures. As often as ye eat that bread, and drink that cup, you show them, and thereby pledge yourselves to hold them forth more fully in the whole tenor of your conversation. (W. Cunningham, D.D.)
The ordinance of the interval between Christ’s going and Christ’s coming
1. Represent Christ. They defend and declare His truth; uphold and make known His honour; illustrate and maintain His laws.
2. Copy Christ. All He is, they desire to be. All He has, they expect to share. All He requires, they are glad to do.
3. Commemorate Christ. He is the tie which binds them all together; the light which gives to each his colour; the circle which prescribes to each his course. Before He left them He said, “Do this in remembrance of Me.” And till He returns He continues to say, “Ye do show the Lord’s,” etc.
I. Of what does this ordinance consist?
1. What is it that is fed?
(1) Not the body only. “If any man hunger, let him eat at home” (chap. 11:34).
(a) The memory, because it goes back to the Cross.
(b) The faith, because it goes up for the grace.
(c) The heart, for it goes forward to the glory.
2. What is it on which the faithful feed? Not on the material Christ. “The natural body and blood of our Saviour Christ are in heaven, and not here.” The food is not on an altar to satisfy the claims of God, but on a table to satisfy the soul of man. To man physical, the things taken are bread and wine. To man spiritual, the things appropriated are the body and blood of Christ.
II. To what does the ordinance refer?
1. It is a doctrine solidified into an act. It is a profession published by a feast. It is a sign as to the past, and is a seal as to the future. Like a milestone by life’s wayside, it has two faces: one tells whence we come; the other, whither we are going. It is the old oath in which the great army of the Cross have sworn fealty to their Lord. It is the old well, at which all the pilgrims have rested and been refreshed on their way to Zion. It is the old cry, by which, in gloom or joy, the saints encourage one another to go on. It is the old challenge, by which the true men distinguish friends from foe.
2. It represents His death; for the broken bread and the poured-out wine find their parallel only at the Cross.
3. It implies life; for only living souls can feed together on that bread from heaven.
4. It promises immortality; for they who really feed upon the living Christ, in their living spirits, by a living faith, have this prospect given: “If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever” (John 6:51).
III. To what does the ordinance point? “Till He come.”
1. To the glory of Jesus. Intelligent love delights in the Master’s honour, His glorified body, His grand espousals, His many crowns.
2. To the gathering of the redeemed in the heavenly banqueting house.
(1) For the perfect communion.
(2) In the presence of the ever-loving Lord.
3. But if at the table we show the Lord’s death, what do we show in the world?
(1) Servants of the Crucified, are we dead with Him?
(2) Saved by His dying love, are we severe to living men?
(3) Talking of the dawn, are we walking in the dark?
(4) Pointing to heaven, are we cleaving to earth? (J. Richardson, M.A.)
The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper a standing ordinance
God often appointed standing memorials to perpetuate great and extraordinary events. Aaron’s rod and the pot of manna; the stones taken from Jordan; the Passover, etc. And the apostle tells that the Lord’s Supper was appointed to commemorate not Christ’s birth, temptation, etc., but His death.
I. Why the sacrament was designed to commemorate Christ’s death in particular. Because--
1. It was the most striking scene that ever took place with respect to Him or any other being. It was rendered so by many singular circumstances.
2. It was the strongest expression of His marvellous love to this sinful and perishing world. “Greater love hath no man than this,” etc. But Christ suffered death for sinners, and that in a most painful and humiliating way.
3. It alone made atonement for the sins of the world, and laid a foundation for the pardon and salvation of all penitent, believing sinners. All Christ did before His death, and all He has done since, and all He ever will do hereafter, depends upon His death, and without it would be of no avail.
1. This exhibition of a crucified Saviour is a solemn address to our understandings, and calls for our most serious and fixed contemplation upon the most glorious truths which can employ the minds of heavenly intelligences.
2. This significant ordinance addresses your hearts, as well as your understandings, and calls for the most grateful affections to the Father and Son.
3. As the ordinance reminds you of Christ giving Himself for you, so it equally reminds you of your obligations of renewedly giving yourselves to Him.
III. Improvement. Since the sacrament was appointed to be a memorial of Christ’s death, then--
1. Christians with good reason experience much comfort and derive much benefit from it.
2. Those who never find any satisfaction in it have reason to fear that they are enemies to the Cross of Christ.
3. None are duly prepared to observe it who do not cordially approve of the vindictive justice of God. It was this which rendered the death of Christ necessary, and which it was the design of His death to display.
4. It is of great importance to maintain this sacred ordinance. The continuance of the Christian religion in the world greatly depends upon the continuance of the memorial of Christ’s death.
5. If the sacrament be a standing memorial of Christ’s death, then we may see how little the gospel is prized by the great body of the Christian world. (N. Emmons, D.D.)
A persuasive to frequent communion
I. For the perpetuity of this institution, implied in those words, “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show forth the Lord’s death till He come”: or the words may be read imperatively and by way of precept, show ye forth the Lord’s death till He come. So that it is a vain conceit of the enthusiasts concerning the dispensation of the Holy Ghost, when, as they suppose, all human teaching shall cease, and all external ordinances and institutions in religion shall vanish, and there shall be no farther use of them. Whereas it is very plain from the New Testament, that prayer, and outward teaching, and the use of the two sacraments, were intended to continue among Christians of all ages. And if this be the end and use of this sacrament, to be a solid remembrance of the death and sufferings of our Lord during His absence from us, that is, till His coming to judgment, then this sacrament will never be out of date till the second coming of our Lord. The consideration whereof should mightily strengthen and encourage our faith in the hope of eternal life so often as we partake of this sacrament.
II. The obligation that lies upon all Christians to the frequent observance and practice of this institution, I shall briefly mention a threefold obligation lying upon all Christians to frequent communion in this holy sacrament.
1. We are obliged in point of indispensable duty, and in obedience to a plain precept and most solemn institution of our blessed Saviour, that great Lawgiver.
2. We are likewise obliged hereunto in point of interest. The benefits which we expect to be derived and assured to us by this sacrament are all the blessings of the new covenant.
3. We are likewise particularly obliged in point of gratitude to the careful observance of this institution. Can we without the most horrible ingratitude neglect this dying charge of our Sovereign and Saviour, the great Friend and Lover of souls? A command so reasonable, so easy, so full of blessings and benefits to the faithful observers of it.
III. Third particular I proposed, which was to endeavour to satisfy the objections and scruples which have been raised in the minds of men, and particularly of many devout and sincere Christians.
1. That the danger of unworthy receiving being so very great, it seems the safest way wholly to refrain from this sacrament, and not to receive it at all. But this objection is evidently of no force if there be as great or greater danger on the other hand, viz., in the neglect of this duty. Nay, of the two it is the greater sign of contempt wholly to neglect the sacrament, than to partake of it without some due qualification. And indeed scarce any man can think of coming to the sacrament but he will by this consideration be excited to some good purposes, and put upon some sort of endeavour to amend and reform his life. But, on the other hand, as to those who neglect this sacrament, there is hardly anything left to restrain them from the greatest enormities of life, and to give a check to them in their evil course: nothing but the penalty of human laws, which men may avoid and yet be wicked enough. For if this be a good reason to abstain from the sacrament for fear of performing so sacred an action in an undue manner, it were best for a bad man to lay aside all religion, and to give over the exercise of all the duties of piety, of prayer, of reading and hearing the Word of God, because there is a proportionable danger in the unworthy and unprofitable use of any of these. I cannot more fitly illustrate this matter than by this plain similitude: he that eats and drinks intemperately endangers his health and his life, but he that to avoid this danger will not eat at all, I need not tell you what will certainly become of him in a very short space. There are some conscientious persons who abstain from the sacrament upon an apprehension that the sins which they shall commit afterwards are unpardonable. But this is a great mistake. To draw to a conclusion of this matter: such groundless fears and jealousies as these may be a sign of a good meaning, but they are certainly a sign of an injudicious mind. For if we stand upon these scruples, no man perhaps was ever so worthily prepared to draw near to God in any duty of religion but there was still some defect or other in the disposition of his mind, and the degree of his preparation. But if we prepare ourselves as well as we can, this is all God expects. We cannot surely entertain so unworthy a thought of God and our blessed Saviour as to imagine that He did institute the sacrament not for the furtherance of our salvation, but as a snare, and an occasion of our ruin and damnation.
2. Second objection, which was this.
That so much preparation and worthiness being required to our worthy receiving, the more timorous sort of Christians can never think themselves duly enough qualified for so sacred an action.
1. That every degree of imperfection in our preparation for this sacrament is not a sufficient reason for men to abstain from it. For then no man should ever receive it. For who is every way worthy? The graces of the best men are imperfect. And if we will neglect the use of these means, it is to no purpose for us to pray to God for His grace and assistance.
2. The total want of a due preparation, not only in the degree but in the main and substance of it, though it render us unfit at present to receive this sacrament, yet does it by no means excuse our neglect of it. One fault may draw on another, but can never excuse it. We will not do our duty in other things, and then plead that we are unfit and unworthy to do it in this particular of the sacrament.
3. The proper inference and conclusion from a total want of due preparation for the sacrament is not to cast off all thoughts of receiving it, but immediately to set about the work of preparation, that so we may be fit to receive it.
IV. Fourth and last thing I proposed, viz., What preparation of ourselves is necessary in order to the worthy receiving of this sacrament. Which I told you would give me occasion to explain the apostle’s meaning in the last part of the text, “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup.” I think it very clear from the occasion and circumstances of the apostle’s discourse concerning the sacrament that he does not intend the examination of our state, whether we be Christians or not, and sincerely resolve to continue so; and consequently that he does not here speak of our habitual preparation by the resolution of a good life. This he takes for granted, that they were Christians and resolved to continue and persevere in their Christian profession. But he speaks of their actual fitness and worthiness at that time when they came to receive the Lord’s Supper. But let a man examine himself, that is, consider well with himself what a sacred action he is going about, and what behaviour becomes him when he is celebrating this sacrament instituted by our Lord in memorial of His body and blood, that is, of His death and passion. But some will say, Is this all the preparation that is required to our worthy receiving of the sacrament, that we take care not to come drunk to it, nor to be guilty of any irreverence and disorder in the celebration of it? I answer in short, this was the particular unworthiness with which the apostle taxeth the Corinthians, and which he warns them to amend. It is of great use for Christians by way of preparation for the sacrament to examine themselves in a larger sense than in all probability the apostle here intended. And because this work of examining ourselves concerning our state, and of exercising repentance towards God and charity towards men is incumbent upon us as we are Christians, and can never be put in practice more seasonably and with greater advantage than when we are meditating of this sacrament, therefore besides our habitual preparation by repentance and the constant endeavours of a holy life, it is a very commendable custom in Christians before their coming to the sacrament to set apart some particular time for this work of examination. The best preparation for the sacrament is the general care and endeavour of a good life. And he that is thus prepared may receive at any time when opportunity is offered, though he had no particular foresight of that opportunity. (J. Tillotson, D.D.)
1 Corinthians 11:27-32
Whosoever shall eat … and drink … unworthily shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
Eating and drinking unworthily
I. The sin consists in doing it--
II. Its guilt includes--
1. A contempt of Christ’s sacrifice.
2. A denial of its efficacy; and by implication.
3. A repetition of His sufferings.
III. Its punishment.
2. Temporal chastisement (1 Corinthians 11:30) corrective in its design (1 Corinthians 11:32).
IV. Its prevention is secured.
1. Not by neglect or abstinence.
(1) By self-examination.
(2) Faithful and conscientious self-discipline (1 Corinthians 11:31). (J. Lyth, D.D.)
Worthy or unworthy
1. Verse 27 has operated as a hindrance to the approach of many of our best to the Lord’s table; but it is not so appalling as it looks. “Unworthily” must be understood relatively to human ignorance and imperfection; otherwise it would act as a bar to the approach of any. Were the right based upon righteousness there would be none but the Great Host at the table. The unworthy are they whose habitual temper is unchristlike, who, being unworthy, are content with their unworthiness. The qualified are those who wrestle with their bad spirit and tendencies, and who pant to be worthier men and the true children of God.
2. A sacrament is an outward sign of an inward experience. And this is the profanation--when he who gives the sign does not yearn for the thing signified.
3. The scruples that hold some back from the Lord’s table are--
I. As to the age at which a person should make public declaration of his discipleship. Now, the condition of time does not enter into the question at all. The spirit of life in man does not regulate its arrival by the chronometer. When the hour of conscious life in God and conscious fellowship with Him comes, then also comes the hour when you may give the sacred symbolic signs, and take your seat at the guest table of the Lord, no matter how young in years you may be. And, indeed, till the hour does come when you freely place yourself at the disposal of Christ’s influence, you have no right to claim a place at that board, no matter how many your years.
II. That their minds are unsettled by doubt. Well! the doubting temper is not the most blessed; but at the same time all doubts are not sins. It is not seldom by doubt that God leads us to faith. And as long as doubt does not spring from worldliness or levity; as long as it does not shake our faith in God, in Christ, and in conscience; as long as it drives us to the feet of God in prayer, and not away from them in pride; as long as we wish to believe the things we find it hard to believe, so long may doubt be a schoolmaster to bring us home to Christ. Doubt of dogma is no sin; indifference to Christ’s claims is; and the Lord has spread this table for the loving and the docile, not for the clear-headed system-maker and the scientific expert. The doubter who sits in the scorner’s chair, deriding, jeering, sneering, let him alone stay away! and let the reverent and lowly listening doubter come, and Christ, the Host, will not withhold His hand.
III. The consciousness of personal unworthiness of nature. But, if that table were only for the worthy, it were arrogance in any mortal man to appear. Christ invites not the righteous but the sinful to come. Indeed, it is in the feeling that we are unworthy that our only qualification lies. It is not that we be holy, but that we aspire to be holy; and in whomsoever there is this desire, no matter how poor and imperfect his actual attainments are in such, and not in the self-satisfied Pharisee, you find the true disciple who may take his place at the guest table of the Lord. (J. Forfar.)
Worthy and unworthy communicating
I. The sin, unworthy eating and drinking of the sacrament.
1. One may do an action worthily in a threefold respect.
(1) As “the labourer is worthy of his hire” (Luke 10:7). This exact worthiness may claim a reward due unto it, and the denier doth this worthy party wrong. Now no saint can receive with this worthiness, as appears by the humble confessions of Jacob (Genesis 32:10), Jn Baptist (Matthew 3:11). So communicants say, “We be not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under Thy table.”
(2) Though not in a perfect and exact proportion, yet in some fitness unto that which is required (Matthew 3:8; Colossians 1:10; Ephesians 4:1; Philippians 1:27)--i.e., let not your life shame your belief; let not your practice be inconsistent with your profession. And we must know that sins of infirmity, through God’s mercy, may subsist with this worthiness. In this acception to “eat worthily” is to eat so fitted and prepared as may bear some resemblance and agreement to the solemnity of the work we go about.
(3) The worthiness of acceptance, when God for Christ’s sake is pleased to take our actions in good worth. That is well spoken which is well taken; and that man is worthy who by God is accepted so to be (Revelation 3:4).
2. Two sorts of people, then, do eat and drink unworthily.
(1) The unregenerate who (Hebrews 6:1) have not as yet “laid the foundation of repentance from dead works and faith.” Without this foundation, the fair side-walls of a good nature, and the proud roof of all moral performances, will both totter and tumble to the ground.
(2) The regenerate, but guilty of some sins unrepented of, who eat unworthily till they have sued out a special pardon out of the court of heaven.
II. The sinfulness of the sin. “Shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.” As those that deface the stamp or abuse the seal of a king are traitors, so the unworthy receivers of these elements, which personate and represent Christ’s body, sin against the body of Christ itself. Christ’s person is out of the reach of your cruelty; as for His picture, it is with us in the sacraments; and unworthy receivers show to the shadow what they would do to the substance if it were in their power. Conclusion: Men generally hate Pilate and Judas, being more angry with them than David with the rich man that took away the poor man’s ewe lamb; whereas in some sense it may be said of many of us, “Thou art the man.” Yet, as for those which hitherto have not taken notice of the heinousness of this sin, let me say to them what St. Peter doth (Acts 3:17). And let us all pray with David (Psalms 51:14). (T. Fuller, D.D.)
Worthy and unworthy communicating
Perhaps no words in all the Bible have given so much distress as these, yet they need not have given any distress at all. The sufferers have created clouds in their own sky. I want to lift the cloud and to--
I. Recall the circumstances to which Paul addressed himself.
1. In connection with other abuses there arose a peculiar method of celebrating the Lord’s Supper. As it was originally instituted after a common meal with Christ and His disciples, people at Corinth said, “We must have a meal first.” In conducting that the rich brought their viands and their rich wines, the poor what they could; and this love feast became a revel. The rich man held up his viands and mocked the poor man, and the poor looked with hungry eyes upon the rich man’s banquet; and after they had been thus infuriated alike by passion and by drink, they proceeded to add to their intoxication by the very wine that was meant to symbolise the sacrificial blood. Now you see the exact purport of the apostle’s words. He says, “Have ye not houses to eat and drink in? etc. Take care, this is not for gluttons and drunkards. You do not come to it in a right spirit, you misconceive its meaning, and if you do not take it worthily you eat and drink damnation to your soul.”
2. Now there is no church in England in which this practice is indulged. Your mistake has been in applying the word “worthily” to yourself instead of to the Supper. You must take it in a manner worthy of it, quietly, reverently, self-distrustingly, casting yourself with your sin upon the heart of the Saviour. That is to take the Lord’s Supper worthily. How can I speak in terms strong enough against the rubbish about people making themselves fit to come to the Lord’s Supper? Shame on the Pharisaism that gets itself ready to come, and blessings on the penitence that comes all tears and yearnings and self-distress, and says, “Other refuge have I none, hangs my helpless soul on Thee.” Unfitness may arise from two opposite points: the man who thrusts forth a drunken hand to take this cup, and the man who takes it with a hand soaped and dried in the tub of his own morality. These two hands thrust a sharp cold arrow into the Lord’s heart. I will presently sit there and say, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.”
II. What is the true and proper idea, then, of the Lord’s Supper?
1. It is a memorial.
(1) Christ did not say, “This do because ye are angels amongst men,” but “This do in remembrance of Me.” Is He worth remembering? He took just what was going on, and made it sacred by His touch and blessing. He did not go to far countries and bring rich luxuries which only wealth could supply. He never said anything about morally trimming ourselves up for the purpose of being fit for it. All the fitness He requires is to feel our need of Him.
(2) Now, why should any of us go away from this sacred opportunity? Take the children away? Take the poor, broken-hearted sinner away? Take away the poor soul that loves Christ, but knows nothing about theological metaphysics? God forbid. Take away the man who thinks he is fit to sit here, the man who thinks he is conferring patronage upon the table.
(3) Then is this feast to be taken without any self-examination? I think not. There must be self-examination, but beware, if you please, of vivisection. A man may lacerate himself, and he will find noworthiness in his own nature. I examine myself to find whether I am really penitent.
2. Being an act of memorial it is an act of love. Make a ceremony of it, and all the pathos is gone, all the deep, holy significance evaporates.
3. It is also an act of happy prospects. It goes back to the past, and it sets forth the Lord’s death till He come.
III. Many endeavour to persuade us that the word “damnation” ought to be softened into condemnation. Let the word stand; only apply it properly. If we had been spending the last hour in eating and drinking, in gluttony and wine-bibbing, the word “damnation” would itself be too gentle a word to apply to our case. (J. Parker, D.D.)
Desecration of the Lord’s Supper
The man who tramples on the flag of his country, insults his country; and he who treats with indignity the representative of a sovereign, thereby offends the sovereign himself. In like manner, he who treats the symbols of Christ’s body and blood irreverently is guilty of irreverence towards Christ. (C. Hodge, D.D.)
The unworthy receiving of the Lord’s Supper
I. What unworthy receiving is.
1. Something negatively.
(1) Unworthy receiving is not proper only to a man in a natural state. The apostle chargeth here unworthy receiving, not only upon the professing, but the regenerate Corinthians.
(2) Unworthy receiving is not to be measured by our sensible joy or comfort after receiving. Two men that have perfect health, have not equal stomachs, nor equal appetites, and consequently not the same joy in their meals, yet both in health. We should more consider how graces are acted, than how comforts are dispensed. God’s dispensations are not equal to all; some have no tastes, others full draughts; so we may have more joy than strength, others more strength than joy. But--
2. Positively that is an unworthy receiving.
(1) When evil dispositions and beloved sins are not laid aside and for-saken.
(2) When, though beloved sins are discarded, yet there is not a due preparation suitable to the quality of the institution.
(3) It is an unworthy receiving when we rest only in the ordinance, expecting from the work done what we should expect only from Christ in it. When we content ourselves with Elijah’s mantle, without asking for the God of Elijah.
(4) When there is a garishness and looseness of spirit in the time of our attendance. Not discerning the Lord’s body, say some, not minding the Lord’s body, but letting the thoughts run at rovers, which should be fixed upon Christ’s dying.
II. The sinfulness of this. It is a contracting the guilt of the body and blood of the Lord. He that doth despite to the image or arms of a prince, would do the same to his person were it as much in his power.
1. It is an implicit approbation of the Jews’ act in crucifying Christ. If we are not affected with that state of Christ, we consent to, and approve of that act of His crucifiers; not positively, but privatively; not having that temper and affection of spirit which such an action doth call for from us. They were the authors of the first crime, and an unworthy receiver the abettor.
2. It exceeds the sin of the Jews in some circumstances, as well as that exceeded this in others. That was against His person, this against His propitiation.
3. In regard of the relation the ordinance hath to Christ. There is an analogy between the bread and the wine, and the body and blood of Christ. The nearer relation anything hath to God, the more heinous is the offence. It disparageth the whole covenant of grace. How base a disposition is it to sit down at the table of a man with an hostile mind against him, to slab the master of the feast at his own table while he is treating and entertaining us with dainties!
4. It is a great sin, as it is against the greatest testimony of His love.
III. The danger of this sin: he eats and drinks damnation to himself. That which is not melted by the sun grows into a greater hardness. Christ, as a sacrifice on the Cross, was pleasing to God; as the murdered Innocent a burden of guilt on the Jews: so as He is grateful food in the sacrament to a worthy receiver, He is the bane of an unworthy communicant, by reason of his unholiness.
IV. The use.
1. The manner of duties must be regarded as well as the matter. The matter of this ordinance is participated by both the worthy and the unworthy receiver: the manner makes the difference.
2. The holiness of an ordinance will not excuse a miscarriage in it. Some are nourished by this ordinance, others pollute themselves. The fruit is not according to the holiness of the ordinance, but the disposition of the receiver.
3. The sins of those that draw nearest to God are the blackest.
4. The ground of our mischief is always in ourselves. It is not from the emptiness of the ordinance, that is a full cistern; nor from the shortness of God’s grace, He is an overflowing fountain; but from want of those graces, or of exercising those graces which are the bucket to draw, and the mouth to drink.
5. We see here the base nature of sin. It changeth the brightest ordinances, makes the waters of the sanctuary bitter, turns food into poison, and a cup of salvation into one of damnation.
6. If an unworthy receiver be guilty of the body and blood of Christ, a worthy receiver hath a special interest; in the body and blood of Christ. He hath as much advantage thereby as the other hath guilt.
7. Should not all of us, that have at any time of our lives been partakers of this ordinance, reflect upon ourselves, yea the best of us?
8. How then should we take heed, whenever we approach to the Lord’s table, of any unworthy demeanour towards Him, whereby to contract such guilt, and incur such displeasure? (Bp. Hacket.)
1 Corinthians 11:28
But let a man examine himself
1. At all times.
2. Especially when we draw near unto God.
3. Most of all before communion.
II. Its exercise. Should be--
1. Particular, including a review of our state, need, sins, temptations, etc.
2. Faithful, according to the Word of God and the light of His Spirit.
4. Earnest, with a sincere desire and purpose of amendment.
III. Its advantages.
1. Security from sin.
2. Confidence before God.
3. Freedom from condemnation. (J. Lyth, D.D.)
The Lord’s Supper a sacrament. Roman oath of soldier. At communion soldiers are at headquarters to report, be inspected, and receive fresh orders. Each should ask--
I. Have I a right to be here? Am I enlisted?
II. Have I the qualities of a soldier?
1. Am I obedient?
2. Is my obediences
3. Am I reliable? Wesley said that with three hundred reliable Christians he could shake the gates of hell and set God up in the world. Havelock’s “saints” were known to be always ready.
4. Am I watchful? Our enemy is able, crafty, without honour.
5. Have I proper discipline?
6. Am I diligent in knowing and doing my duty?
III. As a soldier, what have I done?
1. Have I conquered myself?
2. Do I show signs of conflict and victory--the fruits of the Spirit?
3. Have I any captives for my Captain?
IV. What do I want at the table?
1. To eat and drink simply to get spiritually fat? Soldiers need sinew and muscle, not adipose tissue.
2. To appear well before men? They judge our lives, not our professions.
3. To get inspiration for better service?
4. To get strength, so as to continue faithful to the end?
V. We must be our own examiners.
1. The world or our brethren cannot see our hearts.
2. God does not judge us here. He gives means and tests.
3. God will not even examine us at last. Our own open hearts will be our judges. (Homiletic Monthly.)
This advice is not peculiar to Christianity. It is an axiom which forms the groundwork of all social well-being. The words “Know thyself” were sculptured on all the noblest public buildings of Greece. Self-knowledge lies at the root of all true wisdom, and is the ground, work of religion. Until we know our sin, we shall not seek for forgiveness; until we know our weakness, we shall not crave for strength. A man’s worldly affairs would soon plunge him in ruin if he did not exercise needful supervision, and our spiritual affairs will bring us far worse ruin if we do not give them requisite attention. Consider--
I. The duty enjoined.
1. To examine does not mean a mere passing glance, but a thorough searching.
2. Let a man examine himself. There is a universal spirit of curiosity, and, generally speaking, it is an agreeable business to enter into the concerns of others. But when it comes to self, it is irksome, for it is very painful to a man’s vanity. He would like to feel rather better than other men. But if he dives down into his own inner nature, the result is a most humiliating disappointment. And so we would, like the ostriches who hide their heads in the sand, and thereby think that they are screening their whole bodies, rather not know the truth, because we justly surmise that that truth is unpalatable.
II. The subjects of inquiry.
1. Our position as regards God--whether we are pardoned and reconciled. Our own hearts will give us the answer in a moment if once we ask the question.
2. The course of our daily conduct. Do we carry out into practice the faith we profess, and the love which ought to be our ruling principle?
III. The method of carrying out the action. There must be--
1. Frequency and regularity. The act must not be an isolated one, performed occasionally, once a year or once week--it must be the constant effort of our souls.
2. Prayerfulness. Of our own selves, we can never hope to be impartial, or persevering, or true. And we shall find out more and more every day how much depends upon Divine grace. (W. H. Davison.)
These words show how we should be prepared for a worthy receiving the blessed sacrament. Wherefore examine--
I. Your knowledge (1 Corinthians 11:29). We are to know--
1. The Author: Christ, who was Author (1 Corinthians 11:23)--
(1) Not as God;
(2) Nor as man;
(3) But as God-man, and Head of the Church.
2. The institution (1 Corinthians 11:23-25). Where observe--
(1) What Christ did.
(2) What He said.
3. The nature.
(1) It is a sacrament,
(2) Wherein, under the outward signs of bread and wine,
(3) Christ is signified to us (1 Corinthians 11:30).
4. The end.
(1) To remember Christ’s death (1 Corinthians 11:24-26).
(2) To represent it. “This is My body.”
(3) To offer it (Matthew 11:28; Isaiah 55:1).
(4) To convey it.
(5) To seal it (Romans 4:1 l).
5. The uses.
(1) Examine whether ye know these things.
(2) Endeavour to know them more and more (2 Peter 3:18).
(3) Improve your knowledge to practice.
II. Your repentance.
1. Wherein doth repentance consist?
(1) In conviction of our sins (John 16:8-9).
(a) Of original sin (Psalms 55:5).
(b) Actual (Psalms 51:3-4).
(c) Habitual (Romans 7:24).
(2) Contrition for them.
(a) Because they transgress so righteous a law (1 John 3:4).
(b) Displease so gracious a Father (Isaiah 6:5).
(c) Defile so precious a soul (Titus 1:15; Isaiah 1:6).
(d) Deprive us of so great happiness and blessing (Isaiah 59:2).
(e) As makes us obnoxious to eternal miseries (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9).
(3) Conversion from them (Ezekiel 33:11).
(a) Sincere (Joel 2:13).
(b) Universal (Ezekiel 18:31).
2. What necessity of repentance in the receiving of the sacrament?
(1) No repentance, no faith (Mark 1:15).
(2) Christ is there offered only to the penitent (Matthew 11:28).
(3) By repentance our hearts are prepared to receive Him there offered.
(1) Examine whether you have repented.
(a) Are you sorry for your sins? (Psalms 38:18).
(b) Are you out of love with them?
(c) Are you resolved to forsake them? (Psalms 17:3; Psalms 39:1).
(2):Repent. Without repentance--
(a) No pardon (Ezekiel 18:21-22).
(b) No peace (Isaiah 48:22).
(c) No duty accepted (Proverbs 15:8).
(d) You must perish (Luke 13:3).
III. Your faith.
1. By the grounds of it: the testimony of God.
2. By the effects of it, as--
(1) Love to God.
(2) Thankfulness for Christ.
(3) Humility in ourselves.
(4) Compassion for the poor.
(5) Charity to all.
3. Reasons. Without faith we cannot--
(1) Discern the Lord’s body (1 Corinthians 11:29).
(2) Receive anything.
(3) Improve what we receive. (Bp. Beveridge.)
I. A duty fob all times.
1. Examination is a duty of no quick dispatch; for it is to take a strict survey of all the passages of our life; to follow our thoughts, which have wings, and fly in and fly out; to number our actions, and weigh them all in the balance of the sanctuary; to anatomise our hearts, which are “deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9); to follow sin in all its labyrinths, to drive it out of the thicket of excuses, and by the light of Scripture to take a full view of ourselves.
2. The right performance of this duty requires great care and diligence, because we are our own greatest enemies, our own deceivers, parasites, and murderers.
3. Examination must not end in itself; but we must propose the true end, and draw all up to it; which is, to purge the conscience, to supply what is defective, to repair what is defaced, to beautify what is slurred, to complete what is imperfect; which is, to renew ourselves in the inward man. Therefore what is here to “examine,” is in 1 Corinthians 11:31 to “judge,” ourselves. For what a vain work were it to examine a thief, if we do not judge him! We must try and examine our actions as the Levites did their sacrifices, and not offer them up if there be any blemish on them; that so we may “prove to ourselves what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2). Examination is but lost labour without amendment. A survey is the extremity of folly, if I see the faults in my spiritual building, and then let it fall to the ground.
II. A duty especially when we approach the Lord’s table. Here thou dost as it were renew thy covenant, and here thou must renew thy examination.
1. Examine your repentance, therefore, whether it be true and unfeigned, whether it be moved and carried on by a true spring--hatred of sin and love of Christ: whether it be constant and universal.
2. “Examine yourselves whether you be in the faith” or no; “prove yourselves, whether Christ be in you” (2 Corinthians 13:5). Faith is the salt which seasoneth all our actions: nor will Christ admit us to His table without it, nor give Himself to those who do not believe in Him. Faith is the mouth of the soul, and with it we receive Christ. The faith, too, must be one which worketh by love, and that both towards God and towards our brethren. For these two are inseparable, and bear witness one to the other: my faith begetteth my charity, and my charity publisheth and declareth my faith. Let them therefore both meet and be united in our trial and preparation to this sacrament, which is a sacrament of union, not only of the Head with the members, but of the members one with another under one Head.
3. Let us “examine” ourselves, and “consider” Him that inviteth us (Hebrews 3:1). “Consider” Him--
(1) As our High Priest.
(2) As our Teacher.
(3) As our King and Lord.
Who hath most command over thee, the prince of this world, or this King? (A. Farindon, B.D.)
Some make this to be a bare permission, that if they will they may do it; others, a counsel that they should do it; others, a command that we must do it, which is the truest.
I. The necessity of self-examination. The reasons are taken--
1. From the majesty of Him whose presence we approach. What prodigious state did Ahasuerus, an earthly prince, stand upon! (Esther 2:12). “Behold, a greater than” Ahasuerus “is here.”
2. From the great profit which we receive thereby, if we come prepared.
3. From the grievousness of the punishments, if we are unworthy receivers. The sacrament is not like to those receipts which, if they do no good, do no harm. If it brings not profit and spiritual grace, it draws great punishments on us.
II. Its nature.
1. A Christian’s eyes ought to be turned inward, chiefly on himself: yet how many are there whose home is to be always abroad! They say not with the soldiers, “What shall we do?” (Luke 3:14); but with Peter, “What shall this man do?” (John 21:21). Yet a man’s examining of himself excludes not his examination of those who are committed to his care, as pastors their flock and fathers their children.
2. In examining of the word, learned men run in three several streams. Some prosecute the metaphor of a goldsmith, searching the purity of his gold (1 Peter 1:7). Others, because bread and wine to be taken in the sacrament are both food and physic, insist on the similitude of a physician, giving preparatives to his patient before he receives the physic. A third sort make “examine” here to be as magistrates question offenders.
We will follow the latter.
1. A man, in examining himself, must personate three, and act three several parts--the part of the offender, of the accuser, of the judge. The part of the accuser may be well performed by “conscience”; for, besides her office to be the register and recorder of the soul, it is also the attorney-general of the King of heaven in our hearts, to press the evidence against us after the indictment. As for our reason and judgment, that must supply the office of a judge, acquit or condemn us.
2. But here, it is to be feared, men will be partial to themselves in two respects.
(1) In not giving their conscience fair play; what in whole they cannot silence they will in part interrupt:
(2) It is to be feared our judgment will not be upright, but partial and favourable to us. Wherefore this is a sound and safe rule: let us account ourselves to be worse than upon examination we find ourselves to be (1 Corinthians 4:4).
3. Seeing, then, that a man is to act three parts, we may observe that a Christian, though alone, may make company for himself (Psalms 4:4; Psalms 43:5). Had men the art of these self-examinations and soliloquies, they need not, to put away melancholy and to avoid solitariness, repair to the schools of drunkenness, there to seek for bad company, that there they may drive away the time.
III. The interrogatories, whereupon every man is to be examined, are these.
1. Whether thou dost repair to receive the sacrament with a competent measure of knowledge?
2. Whether dost thou come with unfeigned repentance for thy sins past?
3. Whether dost thou come with a lively faith, relying upon God in Christ for the pardon of thy sins?
4. Whether dost thou come with love undissembled, freely from thy heart to forgive all injuries committed against thee?
5. Whether dost thou come with an earnest desire and longing to be made partaker of these heavenly mysteries?
6. Whether dost thou come with thankfulness to the God of heaven for this His great blessing? (T. Fuller, D.D.)
Questions for self-examination
The three questions which the Rev. Philip Henry advised people to put to themselves in self-examination before the sacrament were--“What am I?” “What have I done?” and “What do I want?”
One of the holiest of the Church’s saints, St. Bernard, was in the habit of constantly warning himself by the solemn query, “Bernarde, ad quid veniste?”--“Bernard, for what purpose art thou here?” Self-examination could assume no more searching form. (Archdeacon Farrar.)
The duty of self examination
I. In general.
1. It is much neglected.
2. Exceedingly necessary.
3. Highly beneficial.
II. In particular. Before the Lord’s Supper it is requisite--
1. To keep us from sin.
2. To secure it unspeakable benefits.
III. Respects especially--
1. Our view of the ordinance.
2. The state of our souls.
3. The immediate frame and disposition of our minds. (J. Lyth, D.D.)
Examination before communion
1. The Lord’s Supper is not for all men, but only for those who are able spiritually to discern the Lord’s body.
2. It is not meant for the conversion of sinners, but for the edification of disciples.
3. Hence the need of examination, lest we intrude ourselves where we have no right to be.
I. The object of the examination.
1. That the communicant may eat and drink. “So let him eat.” He is not to examine in order to justify his stopping away.
2. That he may know that the responsibility rests with himself. The examination is not by priest or minister: he examines himself.
3. That he may communicate solemnly, and not as a matter of course. He is to make heart-searching inquiry, and so approach the table with self-humiliation.
4. That he may come to the table intelligently, knowing to what he comes, and why, and wherefore.
5. That he may do so with confidence and joy. After examination he will know his right to come, and feel at ease. Many good results would follow if this examination were universally practised. The examination should be as frequent as the eating of the bread. No man has reached a point at which he is beyond the need of further self-searching.
II. The matter of the examination. Points of examination may be suggested by the following thoughts:
1. It is a feast.
(1) Have I life? The dead sit not at banquets.
(2) Have I appetite? Else how can I eat?
(3) Have I a friendship toward the Lord who is the Host?
(4) Have I put on the wedding garment?
2. Jesus bids us show forth His death.
(1) Have I faith in His death?
(2) Do I live by His death?
3. Jesus bids us do this by eating bread.
(1) Is this eating a symbol of a fact, or is it a mere mockery?
(2) Is Jesus really and truly the food of my soul?
4. Jesus bids each believer do this in union with others.
(1) Am I truly one of His people, and one with them?
(2) Am I dwelling in love with them all?
5. This cup is the New Covenant in Christ’s blood.
(1) Am I in covenant with God in Christ Jesus?
(2) Do I rest in that covenant for all my hopes?
6. Jesus calls His people to remember Him in this Supper.
(1) Can I remember Christ? Or am I attempting a vain thing?
(2) Do I know Him? How else can I remember Him?
(3) Are my past dealings with Him such as I wish to remember?
(4) Is He so loved by me that I wish to bear Him in my memory? Our profession, experience, conduct, hopes, and designs should all pass the test of this self-examination.
III. The duty after examination.
1. To eat of the bread. Not to neglect communion, or postpone it, or to go away trembling from the table; but to partake reverently.
2. To drink of the cup. This is specially commanded.
3. To eat and drink so as to discern the Lord’s body. Having the mind awake to see Jesus symbolised in this ordinance.
4. To give thanks unto the Lord for so great a privilege. Twice did our Lord give thanks during the Supper, and at the close He sang. Is is not a funeral, but a festival.
1. Ye who have come to this table heedlessly, repent of your wicked intrusion, and keep away till ye can come aright.
2. Ye who have never come at all, remember, if you are not fit for the communion below, you are not fit for heaven above.
3. All of you, bethink yourselves of Jesus, and having examined yourselves to your humbling, behold Him to your consolation. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Self-examination in regard to the holy communion
I. What notions do I form of the holy communion?
II. In what views do I intend to celebrate this solemn act? Are these views adequate to the nature of the subject and its design? Are they worthy of a rational worshipper of God, of a well-taught and reflecting Christian? What is it properly that I seek in the observance of this religious rite and expect from it?
III. Am I now in that frame of mind that is suited to the celebration of this solemn act? Am I really actuated by Christian sentiments? Do I perceive, do I feel the high value of the objects the memorial whereof I am going to celebrate? Are they often present to my mind and always interesting to my heart? (G. J. Zollikofer.)
The advantages of self-examination
Self-examination is advantageous, as it--
I. Gives us a true sense of our condition.
II. Inclines us to be favourable and tender in our censure of others.
III. Renders us cautious lest we continue to offend. No man would make himself his own enemy by wilfully committing sin, were he fully aware, at the time, of the sentence of condemnation which he must afterwards pass on himself.
IV. Prevents us from entertaining vain confidence and presumption. (J. Williamson.)
The qualifications required in communicants
1. Among these may be reckoned faith. Faith presupposes knowledge. “For how shall men believe in Him of whom they have not heard?” It also implies such a firm persuasion of religious and moral obligation as produces obedience in its various branches.
2. But to faith communicants must add humility.
3. Reverence is another requisite in those who approach the holy table. The want of a serious frame of mind on such an occasion would betray an abandoned character and a corrupt heart.
4. Farther, repentance is required in all who show forth Christ’s death in the sacrament of His Supper. “What,” said one of the most enlightened philosophers of antiquity, “what must the gods think of the gifts of the profane, when a virtuous man would blush to receive presents from a villain?”
5. Farther still, grateful affection to God and our Redeemer is another qualification expected in every communicant.
6. Finally, it is required of them who would partake worthily of the Lord’s Supper, that they examine themselves respecting their love to mankind. If you have any animosities, now dismiss them; exercise mutual forgiveness, and let former quarrels for ever cease. (T. Laurie, D.D.)
Examination required in every communicant
First, by the grievousness of the sin; such a person makes himself guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, as we see in verse 27. Secondly, by the doleful consequence that follows upon it: “He eats and drinks damnation to himself,” as we see in verse 29. We must not rush upon the sacrament. There must somewhat be done before we can receive it. “Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.” The reasons of this are--First, because naturally we are not invited guests, we are not such as are invited to the Lord’s Supper; we are children of wrath, and as long as we are in such an estate, we cannot come aright to the communion. First we must prove ourselves invited guests. A second reason is, though thou be invited, it may be thou art not disposed. Thirdly, suppose we were both invited and disposed, yet this is not enough; this is a solemn ordinance of God, and an ordinary disposition will not serve the turn. First, the matter of the duty commanded; that is to eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. Secondly, the manner of doing the duty; not only to eat of that bread, but so to eat; and not only to drink of that cup, but so to drink. Thirdly, the rule of direction how to come in a right manner to partake of it, that is, by examining of ourselves, “Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.” Fourthly and lastly, the benefit following that direction. Now the reasons of this are--First, because the same Lord that commands the matter, commands the manner too. The Lord will have His service well done, as well as done. Secondly, another reason is, because circumstance overthrow actions, if they be not rightly and duly observed. A garment, though it be never so good, if the tailor handle it not well it is marred in the making, if he bring it not to a right form, and make it in a right manner, the man that is to have the garment is disappointed. So timber, though it be never so excellent, though it be all oak, or elm, or whatsoever tree, though it be never so fit for building, if the artificer deal not well in handling it, the inhabitant that comes there may curse the day that ever he came there. So it is in all the ordinances of God and the matters of religion, we must not only do them for matter, but for manner too; for that either makes or mars them. Thirdly, another reason is, because only the right manner of doing duties gets the blessing. Why do we do the duties if we do not do them so as we may get the blessing? Now except we observe the right manner of doing them, all is to no purpose. Fourthly, another reason is, the example of Jesus Christ: Christ hath given us an example that we should do as He did. Now He did not only do that which His Father bid Him do, for matter but for manner, both in all the words He spake, and in all the deeds that He performed. Fifthly and lastly, except we do it in a right manner, except as we come to the duty, so we come to the right manner, we can never glorify God. The glory of God lies in the manner of doing of things. “So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Another use shall be, what may be the reasons why people are so willing generally to do duties for the matter, and care not to do them in a right manner. It shall not be amiss a little to show the mystery of this thing. The first is this, because the matter of the duty is easy, but the manner is difficult. Secondly, another reason is this, because the matter of duties may be done with a proud heart; there is no duty but a man may do it with a proud heart, and never be humble. Thirdly, another reason is, because the matter may stand with an unholy life. A man may do a duty for the matter of it, and yet be unholy. This is plain; how many thousands are there that pray, and yet are vain, and covetous, and carnal! The last reason is, because the matter of duties brings not the cross upon a man. Thirdly, if we ought to be careful to perform duties in a right manner, let us be exhorted in the fear of God to go and quicken all our duties, to bring a soul into so many bodies; we have bodies of praying, and bodies of hearing, and bodies of receiving the sacrament, and of good duties; let us get a soul into them, labour to do them in a right manner. The bare duty is like a carcass. Let us consider, first, we do not partake of any ordinance at all, except we do it in a right manner. I remember a fit place for this in Numbers 11:14. It is said there, “The stranger shall eat the passover, and partake of it according to the ordinance, and the manner of it.” Where the text puts in the ordinance of the passover, and the manner of it. For it is all one. Secondly, consider, it is nothing but hypocrisy, when a man prays and doth not pray in a right manner. Thirdly, consider, it makes the ordinance of God of no effect. Thus they make the commandments of God of none effect (Matthew 15:6). Lastly, it cannot please God, it is only the right manner of doing duties that pleased God, as in 1 Thessalonians 4:1. The third thing is the rule of direction, how we may come to the right manner of receiving the sacrament, that is, by preparing of a man’s self; and the preparation is here set down by the specification of it, namely, in examining himself, “Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.” The general scope of the words, and the apostle’s meaning in them, is this, that “Every man must prepare himself before he come to the Lord’s table.” The reasons of this are--First, because the sacrament is an ordinance of God. Now all the ordinances of God require preparation. Now man is naturally unprepared for it. First, a man must fell his wood, and then cut it, and hew it even, and carve it, and plane it fit, and prepare it, before he build. So a man must hew down his own heart, he must humble his own soul, and qualify all within him, and so be sanctified, before he be fit. Secondly, another reason is, because the Lord Christ hath made great preparations to provide the Lord’s Supper; therefore we must be prepared to eat it. You know what a great deal ado there was before the Supper was made. Christ must be incarnate, and fulfil all righteousness. Thirdly, another reason is, because the Lord Christ, when He administers Himself in this heavenly mystery, He offers to come into the soul, and He looks for good entertainment; and therefore of necessity there must be preparation for it. You see when a mortal man, an earthly prince, or a nobleman comes to another man’s house, what a deal of preparation there is to provide for him! Lastly, because the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is a part of Christ’s last will and testament. (W. Fenner.)
I. For the duty, to examine ourselves; everything is valued to be of more or less worth, according to the usefulness and fitness it has to its end, peculiar to it, as it is such or such a thing, The goodness of a house does not consist in this, that it has a beautiful outside, or splendid rich furniture within; but that it affords convenience for habitation, to keep out the injuries of weather, and to be fitted for the use and comforts of life: for this is that which answers the true proper end of a house. That is a good ship, that is a good sailer, and so built as to endure storms, and live in a rough sea, and perform a voyage well; and if it be not so, though it should have all its cordage and shrouds of silk, and be all inlaid and gilt, that would not be enough to make it deserve that name. So not only in artificial things, we ourselves have devised, but in things natural too, when we apply them to our use we judge of their worth by their usefulness. A horse, let him be of never so fine a shape, and have never so gaudy trappings on, we do not value him for that; we may say he is a fine horse indeed; but if he be broken-winded, if he be also a heavy goer, he is no good horse for all his finery, as being unsuitable to that use we design a horse for. And thus is it to be in our making an estimate, and passing a judgment upon ourselves. He alone is a good man who answers that end for which man was created. And what is that? To act, and think, and discourse, and behave himself all over like a man, according to the rules of right reason. If a poor heathen philosopher were alive now to take the poll of men, and try them according to the bare standard of natural reason, how many hundreds of men would he throw aside as nulls and cyphers, things utterly insignificant to those names they are called by, for one that might pass for current coin? For when all covetous, ambitious, voluptuous, vicious, debauched persons are cast on one side, and all idle, formal, empty, slight, ignorant, pretending people put on the other side, there would be very few left in the middle road of virtue, very few that might fairly challenge the name of men. But then we have a further pitch to fly still, a more severe test to bring ourselves to our examination, as being by God’s special favour designed for a higher end--to have communion and fellowship with Himself. It is not enough for us to be good men, but we must be good Christians too. And if good men are so scarce, that the cynic lighted a candle at noon, and carried his lanthorn about to find out an honest man, how scarce must good Christians needs be! Come, then, let us inquire into ourselves, and take the candle of the Lord, which He hath set up in each of our souls, our own conscience along with us, to help us to discover ourselves to ourselves; and if we do not find ourselves to be such as God requires and expects we should be, let us beg of Him earnestly, in the sense of our own wants, that He would make us such as He would have us to be.
II. Examining is every one’s duty, and the subject is himself. People are generally too forward in examining others, and are so taken up with impertinence and things that do not concern them, that they have no time to be acquainted with themselves; like idle travellers, that can tell you a world of stories concerning foreign countries, and are very strangers at home. Study of ourselves is the most useful knowledge, as that without which we can know neither God nor anything else aright, as we should know them. And it highly concerns us to know ourselves well; nor will our ignorance be pardonable, but prove an everlasting reproach; when poor ruined self shall curse negligent sinful self to all ages, and with direful imprecations upon that day and hour that first joined them together. Again, God has given man that advantage above all other creatures, that he can with reflex acts look back and pass judgment upon himself. Come, then, let us step aside awhile into ourselves, and taking every one his conscience along with him, examine and try what we can find there, and that according to this apostle’s division of man (1 Thessalonians 5:23), into three parts, the spirit, soul, and body, which he makes to be the entire and complete man.
1. First, then, for thy spirit. Dost thou find a principle of life and light in it? dost thou feel the influences of God’s Spirit upon it, illuminating thy understanding, and in bright characters imprinting on thy mind the resemblances of Divine nature, and writing His law in thy heart, and convincing thy reason of supernatural truths, and by this means fastening thee close to Himself, and making thee one with God? Or is thy intellectual faculty still darkened and estranged from God?
2. In the next place, examine the inclinations of thy soul. Dost thou find thy will readily to give her assent to the convictions of thy understanding, and kindly to embrace that light which is conveyed into thee by the Spirit? How makes she her elections and choices, according to the dictates of the Spirit, or according to carnal suggestions?
3. In the last place, take thy body, thy flesh, into examination. Are thy carnal affections raised heavenward, and possessed with things above? Dost thou hate sin for sin’s sake? and art thou heartily displeased with thyself after the commission of any sin, under the sole apprehension of God’s displeasure? Dost thou find at thy devotions and meditations that thy heart burns within thee, being set on fire with celestial flames of zeal? On the contrary to all this, do thy desires stream forth in a full current to other objects, the profits and pleasures and preferments of this world, and take up with things here below? and art thou not led along with worldly vanities, the examples of the multitude, and the enticements of the flesh? In a word, has thy spirit been guided by the direction of God’s Spirit, thy will inclined to a full compliance with His holy will, and thy outward man made conformable to thy inward man, being renewed with the renewing of the mind according to righteousness? If this great work be completed in thee, O happy thee! that hast got thy head above the clouds, and like Enoch, walkest with God, and hast thy conversation in heaven, filled with blessed assurances and foretastes of ensuing joys and glories, being steadfast in faith, joyful through hope, and rooted in charity. But if this spiritual life be but imperfectly begun in thee yet, and thou findest the willingness of thy spirit is clogged and retarded by the weakness of thy flesh, be of good courage, however, and apply that answer which was given to St. Paul to thyself, that God’s grace is all-sufficient for thee; and make thy humble and constant addresses to God for the continual supplies thereof, which may assist thee to get the perfect victory over all thy corruptions. Thou hast been negligent and remiss in the duties of thy life, and hast not endeavoured to acquaint thyself with God, or with thyself in private. (A. Littleton, D. D.)
Examination before communion
The duty required for preventing the sin and danger of unworthy communicating is self-examination. It is a metaphor taken from goldsmiths, who try the truth of their gold by the touchstone, the purity of their gold by the fire, and the weight of it by the scale. We have here--
I. The person examining: “Let a man examine.”
II. The person examined--it is “himself”; he is to call himself to the bar of conscience, and to put questions to himself. Concerning--
1. His state, whether he has a right to come or not.
2. His sins and shortcomings.
3. His wants and necessities.
4. His ends and designs; whether it be to obey the charge of his dying Saviour, to show forth His death, renew and seal his covenant with God, get nearness and communion with Him, nourishment to his soul, and supply to his wants.
5. His graces and qualifications, particularly as to knowledge, faith, repentance, fear, love, thankfulness, holy desires, and new obedience. (J. Willison.)
Qualifications for communion--suggested by its nature
I. A sign: qualification, knowledge. A knowledge not of any branches of learning, nor of theology in all its varied departments, but of the significance of the ordinance, “discerning the Lord’s body.” The Corinthians erred here.
II. A seal: qualification, faith. It not only represents gospel blessings as a picture, but, rightly received, secures them as a seal. Its blessings depend--
1. Not on the administrator. He has no power to confer nor to intercept the blessing.
2. Not on other communicants. They can neither direct nor divert the blessings.
3. But simply on the faith of the comumnicant himself. Faith is the hand that takes the proffered gifts of grace. Without faith it is no sacrament. With faith it becomes a sacramental seal. Worthiness is therefore not sinlessness, but the sinner’s humble trust.
III. A feast: qualification, hunger. “Let us keep the feast.” The Corinthians sinned in regarding it a carnal feast. This feast is prepared by God’s gracious bounty. He welcomes to it all who hunger for His blessings. “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.”
IV. A memorial: qualification, love. Memorials are heart-offerings. Enemies never erect memorials. Christ desires to be remembered. He has chosen His own memorial. Who shall build it? The heart that loves. A sacrilege for any other to approach. Worthiness is love. If the condition of approach is love, shall any one be content to stay away? (Homileict Monthly.)
Hungering after Christ a qualification for communion
When the Lord spreads His table to feast His friends, He calleth not them who have no appetite; and therefore thou must examine thyself whether thou hast a hungering after Christ. If a man have his victuals taken from him, he grows hungry and is discontented. How then cometh it to pass that our bodily hunger is so sensible, when yet our soul’s hunger is not felt of us? He that is in this estate, a-starving, and feels it, is not that man ready to die? Before we come therefore to the Lord’s table, let us labour to get an appetite, for, I say, God thinketh such precious meat at this ill bestowed upon them that have no appetite unto it. But it is not sufficient for a man to hunger, and never go about the work; but as a hungry man is eager to feed, nothing should keep him from it. A man that is ready to die for hunger will give all that he hath rather than he will go without meat. Even so the soul, when it is once pinched and hunger-bit, and seeth bread in heaven, it presenteth itself before God, beggeth as for life that God would bestow His Son for cure. So that I may truly say, “The kingdom of heaven suffers violence” (Matthew 11:12), and nothing shall withhold the violent from taking it, when they come into the presence of God. (R. Sibbes, D.D.)
1 Corinthians 11:29
For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself.
Eating and drinking unworthily
1. What is meant by eating and drinking? Not the body and blood of Christ, but sacramental bread and wine.
2. What by unworthily? Not according to Christ’s institution.
3. What by damnation? Judgment. He sins, and so must expect punishment.
II. Doctrine. It behoves every one to have a great care he doth not receive unworthily. Who are unworthy receivers?
1. The ignorant receivers.
(1) Such as know not the fundamentals of religion, that is (Matthew 28:19)--
(a) God the Father (John 17:3).
(b) God the Son. Who He was; what He became; what He suffered; what He did; what He is; for whom He undertook these things; what benefit we receive from them.
(c) The Holy Ghost.
(2) Such as know not the state of their own souls.
(3) That know not the nature of the sacrament, even that it is an ordinance instituted by God, wherein, under the outward signs of bread and wine, Christ, with all the benefits of His death and passion, is represented, sealed, and conveyed to the worthy receiver.
(a) How may we know whether we know God? By our love to Him, trust on Him (Psalms 9:10), desire for Him, joy in Him, fear of Him.
(b) Ourselves. By our thoughts of ourselves, and our constant endeavour to get ourselves bettered.
(c) The sacrament. By our desire of it, and preparation:for it.
2. The impenitent (Acts 2:33).
(1) What is repentance?
(a) To sorrow for the sins we have committed.
(i.) Heartily (Joel 2:13).
(b) To turn from the sins for which we sorrowed--
(i.) With full purpose of heart.
(ii.) In obedience to God.
(iii.) From all sin.
(iv.) To a right end.
(2) How appears it that the impenitent is unworthy?
(a) They cannot discern the Lord’s body.
(b) They mock the ordinance by acting and living contrary to it, and provoke God.
(1) Your heart, thoughts, affections.
(2) Your life, words, actions (Jeremiah 9:17-18). (Bp. Beveridge.)
Eating and drinking unworthily
I. The sin. Thoughtless, impenitent, irreverent participation of the holy communion.
II. The cause.
1. Not discerning the Lord’s body.
2. Through ignorance and unbelief.
III. The consequences. Not necessarily eternal damnation, but condemnation, entailing, it may be, temporal chastisement (1 Corinthians 11:30), yet with a merciful design. (J. Lyth, D.D.)
The danger of unworthy communicating
I. The necessity of communicating suitably, and in a right manner.
1. God commands it (1 Corinthians 11:28). The matter and manner of all duties are linked together in the command of God. What God hath joined, let no man put asunder.
2. No duty is pleasing to God, unless it be done in a right manner.
3. Nothing is a work theologically good but what is done in a right manner (Hebrews 11:6). There was a vast difference betwixt Cain and Abel’s offering (Genesis 4:4-5; cf. Hebrews 11:4). Cloth may be good, and yet the coat base, if it be marred in the making.
4. Though the work be in itself good, yet if it be done not in a right manner, it provokes God to inflict heavy strokes on the doer (1 Corinthians 11:31).
5. Only the duty done in a right manner prospers and gets the blessing. Our meat can do us no good, and our clothes cannot warm us, if we do not use them in the right manner.
6. If we communicate not in a right manner, we do no more than hypocrites actually do, and pagans may do.
7. God gets no glory otherwise from us in our duty (Matthew 5:16).
II. Why it is, that though the right manner of communicating be the main thing, yet many content themselves with the bare doing of it, neglecting the doing of it suitably, and in a right manner.
1. Because to communicate is easy, but to communicate in a right manner is very difficult.
2. Because they obtain their end by the bare performance of the duty. As--
(1) Peace of mind. Many consciences are not so far awakened as to give men no rest without doing duty in a right manner, yet they will not hold their peace should a man neglect duties altogether.
(2) Credit in the world. It is no small matter to have a name, and to seem good.
3. Men may get duties done, and their lust kept too; they may go to a communion table, and to the table of devils too; but to do duties in the right manner is inconsistent with peace with our lusts (Psalms 66:18).
4. Because men mostly have low and mean thoughts of God and His service (Malachi 1:6-8; cf Hebrews 12:28-29).
5. Because men mostly are acquainted with fellowship with God to be had in duties; they know not the necessity of it, nor the excellency of it. Hence they are not at pains about it. (T. Boston, D.D.)
Of the subjects of the Lord’s Supper
1. A trial of grace, whether it be inherent or no. It is a showing the death of Christ: there must be therefore a search, whether those graces which suit the death of Christ, and answer to the ends of it, be in the subject.
2. A trial of the state wherein those graces are. Since the Supper is not worthily received but by an exercise of repentance, faith, and love, it is necessary to inquire into the state of those graces and their vigor or languor in the soul. By this are excluded from this ordinance--
(1) All persons incapable of performing this antecedent duty. Either in regard of natural inability, as children, infants. And in regard of a negligent inability, as ignorant persons, who neglect the means of knowledge, or improve them not.
(2) All persons who cannot find upon examination anything of a Divine stamp upon them in the lowest degree. This command of self-examination evidenceth to us--
(a) That a Christian may come to the knowledge of his state in grace; otherwise it would be wholly fruitless to examine ourselves.
(b) No necessity of auricular confession: to tell all the secrets of the life to a priest. So let a man eat of this bread and drink of this cup. So, not otherwise, it is a hedge planted against every intrusion, so not without examination, and a fitness upon it. For the first. All men outwardly professing Christianity are not in a capacity to come to the great ordinance of the Supper. If all men were capable, pre-examination were not then necessary. In prosecution of this doctrine we shall lay down some propositions.
1. Only regenerate men are fit to come to the Lord’s Supper. No man in a natural state but must needs eat and drink unworthily, for he retains his enmity against God and Christ. Sanctified persons only are the proper guests. An unregenerate man cannot perform the duties necessary. It is bread belonging to children; unrenewed men are not yet in a state of sonship.
(1) Faith is a necessary qualification, but unrenewed men have not faith. An unbeliever receives the elements, not the life and spirit of a sacrament.
(2) An unrenewed man is not in covenant, and therefore no capable subject.
(3) This sacrament is a sacrament of nourishment; unrenewed men therefore are not fit for it. They are dead (Ephesians 2:1), and what hath a dead man to do with a feast? Men must be alive before they be nourished. Dead branches receive no sap from the vine.
(4) This sacrament is an ordinance of inward communion with Christ. But unrenewed men can have no inward communion with Him. They cannot have that joy which ought to be in a converse with Christ. Bosom communion belongs only to bosom friends: others are but intruders, and will receive no countenance from Christ.
(5) This ordinance is to be received by true Christians only. But renewed men only are such. Christianity is an inward powerful work, not a paint, an image. The form of godliness doth not constitute a man a Christian, but the power of it (2 Timothy 3:5). Freemen only have a right to the privileges of the city, and true, Christians to the privileges of the Church.
2. Men guilty of a course of sin, though secret and unknown to others, are unfit for this ordinance. What sins debar a man from this ordinance?
(1) Not such which are infirmities incident to human nature. Every sin doth not impede the operation of faith about the proper object.
(2) But a course in wilful and frequent breaches of a known command debars a man.
(3) Such cannot in that state perform the duties requisite in this ordinance. Faith is a necessary qualification; but a denial of subjection to Christ is an evidence of a gross infidelity. Practices are the clearest indexes of faith or unbelief, evil works deny God in His promises and precepts.
(4) Such contemptuously undervalue the blood of Christ, and therefore are unfit for this heavenly ordinance. It is no better than a mocking of God to come to His table with a professed enmity in the heart against Him.
(5) Such cannot receive any good from this ordinance. He can design no good to himself with a resolution to continue in his sin. Doctrine second: It is every man’s duty solemnly and seriously to examine himself about his interest in Christ, his habitual grace, his actual right and fitness for the Lord’s Supper before his approach to it. Every ordinance hath a preparative: meditation is to usher in prayer, prayer is to sanctify the Word, the Word and prayer to sanctify other ordinances.
This institution hath examination for its harbinger to prepare the way of its access to us, and our access to it.
1. This self-examination or preparation is necessary. God required it in all duties. Purification went before sacrificing. The preparation and examination of themselves as to ceremonial uncleanness was strict before the passover, which was inferior to this ordinance, as the legal state was to the evangelical. The mercy to be now remembered is greater, the duties of preparation and devotion ought not to be less. Sanctify yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice, and eat of the part appointed for the feast (1 Samuel 16:5).
(1) It is necessary to clear up a right. There is an outward acceptation of Christ and His laws without a true and inward change of heart.
(2) It is necessary for the exciting of grace. That the soul may be excited before; that there may not be an ebb in our affections, when there is a flood of our Saviour’s blood; that we may not have little thoughts in the presence of great and adorable objects.
(3) It is necessary to prevent sin. The apostle’s direction to them to examine themselves implies the want of it to be the cause of those miscarriages among them, which he taxeth in the preceding verses.
2. As it is necessary, so it is universal. Let a man examine himself. Not some men, but every man; the most substantial Christian, as well as the weakest. I shall only mention two things.
(1) Let a man examine himself as to his sentiments concerning the nature of the institution.
(2) Let a man examine himself what soil he hath contracted since the last time he was with God, whether the interest of God hath prevailed in our hearts above the interest of the flesh. Do we invite Christ into our souls, and shall we not examine every corner and search out the dirt and cobwebs which may be offensive to Him? The Spirit of Christ is a dove, and doves love clean places. But--
3. We should inquire whether we have habitual grace or no; whether there be those uniting, gluing graces--faith and love. The second grace to examine ourselves about and to exercise at this ordinance is sorrow for sin. This is necessary to the Supper. The way to an heavenly repast, as well as the way to heavenly mansions, is through the valley of Baca. Since repentance is necessary, let us examine ourselves what of this grace there is in us.
(1) What is the spring of our sorrow?
(2) What is the subject of the sorrow? Is it the sin of nature? do we judge that the greatest sin, and not regard it, as the common people do the stars, imagining them no bigger than a candle, when they are of a vast bigness?
(3) What are the adjuncts of the grief? Is it in some measure proportionable to our sin, proportionable not to the law, but to the gospel? The first cannot be attained by us, because the injury done to God is infinte. Is the league between sin and the soul broken?
4. Love to God is another grace we are to examine ourselves about.
(1) Spiritual affections to God are required in all duties, much more in this. The highest representation of a loving Saviour suffering, ought to have a suitable return of affection. Now for the trial of this love.
(a) Let us not judge ourselves by a general love.
(b) Nor let us judge ourselves to be lovers of God because of our education.
(c) Nor let us judge ourselves by any passionate fits of love which may sometimes stir in our souls. But let us examine--
(1) The motives and object of our affection.
(2) What is the nature of our love?
(a) In regard to the prevalency of it. Do we love Christ solely?
(b) In regard to the restlessness of it. Can nothing but Christ and the enjoyment of Him content us?
(c) What are the effects and concomitants of our love? Are we careful to please Him, though with our own shame?
5. Another grace to be examined is love of God’s people. This is the badge of a disciple (John 8:34-35).
(1) This is necesssary in all duties. Would we pray, our hands must be lifted up without wrath and doubting (1 Timothy 2:8).
(2) But more necessary in this ordinance.
(a) It represents the union of believers together. The bread being made up of several grains compacted together (1 Corinthians 10:16). For we being many are one bread and one body. This ordinance was instituted to solder believers together. They have the same nourishment, and therefore should have the same affection.
(b) No benefit of the ordinance without this grace.
Let us examine ourselves as to this grace. And that we may not mistake, every difference in judgment is not a sign of the want of this grace. But this love is true--
(1) When it is founded upon the grace of a person.
(2) It must be a fervent love. With a pure heart fervently (1 Peter 1:22), not in appearance and faintly.
(3) A love manifested most in their persecutions. To be ashamed of believers in their sufferings is, in Christ’s interpretation, to be ashamed of Christ Himself.
6. Another grace to be examined and acted is desire, a holy appetite.
(1) This is necessary in all duties. In hearing the Word the desire must be as insatiable as the infant’s cry for milk (1 Peter 2:2).
(2) But in this ordinary more necessary.
(a) It is a feast, and appetite is proper to that.
(b) The greater the longings, the greater the satisfaction.
(c) This is the noblest affection we can bestow upon God. (Bp. Hacket.)
Mystical bread and wine
Like as if a rebellious subject should no more regard his king’s seal than other common wax, it might rightly be said that he doth no more esteem him than other men; so when we come to the Lord’s table, if we take irreverently the mystical bread and wine as common food, we make the Lord’s body and life to be like the common body and life of humanity. (Cawdray.)
It was a smart and piercing speech of St. Ambrose to Theodosius, offering himself to the table of the Lord, What, wilt thou reach forth those hands of thine, yet dropping with the blood of innocents, slaughtered at Thessalonica, and with them lay hold upon the most holy body of the Lord? Or wilt thou offer to put that precious blood in thy mouth? etc. The like may be said to many coming to the sacrament, that instead of washing their hands in innocency, they rinse them in the blood of innocents. What! will they reach forth those hands of theirs, defiled with blood, with the blood of oppression, those fingers of theirs defiled with iniquity and with those hands and fingers touch those holy mysteries? with those lips of theirs, that have drivelled out such a deal of filthy communication, with those mouths which have drunk of the cup of devils; with those mouths and lips, will they offer to drink the precious blood of Christ? is it not sin enough that with their sins they have already defiled their hands, fingers, lips, mouths, but that now also they will needs come and defile the Lord’s table? and impudently crowd into the sacrament, when they come piping hot out of their sins and provocations? (R. Skinner.)
A man is not said to be worthy in regard of any worthiness in himself, but in respect of his affection and preparation, and in regard of his fit and seemly receiving. As we used to say the king received worthy entertainment in such a gentleman’s house, not for that he was worthy to receive him, but because he omitted no compliments and service in his power fit to entertain him; even so I say, we are not worthy of Christ, that He should enter into our houses, that He should come under our roof. But, notwithstanding, we are said to be worthy when we do all things which are in our power fit for the entertainment of Him. If we come not in pride and in our rags, but with repentance, joy, comfort, and humility, then are we worthy. (R. Sibbes, D.D.)
The worthy receiving of the Lord’s Supper
I. What worthiness to partake is.
1. What is meant by worthiness to partake.
(1) Not a legal worthiness, as if we could deserve it at the hands of God (Luke 17:10). Those who are that way worthy in their own eyes, are altogether unworthy.
(2) But it is a gospel-meetness and fitness (Matthew 3:8). And much of that lies in coming with a deep sense of our vileness and emptiness (Isaiah 4:1).
2. Wherein does this worthiness to partake consist?
(1) In habitual meetness for it, in respect of a gracious state. A dead man is not fit for a feast nor a dead soul for the Lord’s table.
(2) In actual meetness, in respect of a gracious frame. Not only life, but liveliness is requisite (Psalms 80:18), A sleeping man is not fit for a feast; and therefore even a true believer may communicate unworthily, as some in Corinth did (1 Corinthians 11:30; 1 Corinthians 11:32).
II. The duty of self-examination necessary for worthy receiving of the Lord’s Supper.
1. The rule or touchstone by which we must examine.
(1) Beware of false ones.
(a) The common guise of the world. It is not enough that ye are like, aye, and better than many (Luke 18:11).
(b) One’s being better than sometime before (2 Corinthians 10:12).
(c) The letter of the law. The Pharisee (Luke 18:11); and Paul before his conversion (Romans 7:9).
(d) The seen practice of the godly, which is an unsafe rule, because you cannot see the principle, motives, and ends of their actions.
(2) The only true rule or touchstone in this case is the Word of God (Isaiah 8:20). God hath given us marks in the Word, by which one may know whether he be in Christ or not (2 Corinthians 5:17); whether born of God or not (1 John 3:9), and the like.
2. The matter about which we are to examine ourselves--the state of our souls before the Lord.
(1) The reason is, this sacrament is not a converting, but a confirming ordinance. It is a seal of the covenant, and so supposes the covenant entered into before by the party. It is appointed for nourishment, which presupposes life. And if it were not so, what need of self-examination?
(2) But more particularly, because there are some graces, namely, knowledge, faith, repentance, love, and new obedience, which in a particular manner are sacramental graces--these are to be examined.
III. The necessity of self-examination.
1. To prevent the sin of coming unworthily to the Lord’s table. If we rush on this ordinance without previous examining ourselves, how can we miss of communicating unworthily?
2. To prevent the danger of coming so, which is eating and drinking damnation to one’s self. The danger is great--
(1) To the soul (1 Corinthians 11:29).
(2) To the body (1 Corinthians 11:30). (T. Boston, D.D.)
Not discerning the Lord’s body.
Discernment of the Lord’s body
The Saviour is here making a spiritual feast for His people, presenting Himself to them under the form of bread and wine; you are, therefore, not to look on these as mere dumb signs, but as objects which speak most distinctly to your spiritual ear. It behoves every Church, that is, every company of believers--
I. To realise the presence of the Lord among them as His guests and friends. At His table you are to meditate of His love--to sit down and commemorate His sufferings on your behalf; His object is to make you happy; He commands you to take this as a pledge of His friendship; you must not stop short at the mere symbol; this is, in effect, His body that was broken for you, and this is His blood which was poured out for you on the accursed tree. His hands, His feet were pierced for you--His side, too, was pierced, after He had given up the ghost: His sufferings were such as no tongue can tell, and such as cannot be known to mortal man. His affection for you was written in blood, and that blood was His own! That bread and that wine tell you that He died for you; and that in so doing He made “an end of sin, and brought in an everlasting righteousness.” “He is now able to save unto the uttermost all that come unto God by Him.” “Eat, then, oh! friends, and drink, oh! beloved,” is His language. As He died for you, so He now lives for you: and at the close He will come again, and take you unto Himself, that you may be for ever with the Lord.
II. To reciprocate the feelings of the Lord Jesus. The soul must and will speak to the praise of sovereign mercy. That we may properly discern the Lord’s body, we must--
1. Discern the evil of sin. Where is sin painted in colours so dreadful as here?
2. Discern the relation of man. What is the depraved creature man worth to his Maker? He is lost for all the ends which he ought to answer. Divine mercy could not reach him, apart from a proper Mediator and an atonement for sin. After this redemption he needed the exercise of Divine power to create him anew. The Cross, clearly seen, is death to human glorying. There is no room for it there! Go then, Christian, to His table, and take a fresh lesson from your Lord, who, with all His perfections, was made lowly in heart, since the more you share of this, the more abundantly will you possess rest to your own soul.
3. Discern the beauty of holiness and the necessity of cultivating it. Can you have a more impressive lesson on the evil of sin than the table of the Lord affords you? Will you prepare a second Cross for Christ, and with your own hands nail Him to it? Is there anything in the universe so full of beauty as holiness? Is it not the interest of every creature to press after a close resemblance to our Judge and our Creator?
4. Discern His sovereign and unutterable love. Were we not all enemies, full of selfishness, a god to ourselves, and a rule to ourselves, living without God, and having no hope in the world? Yet He came to die for these very enemies. (The Christian Witness.)
1 Corinthians 11:30-32
For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.
The punishment for unworthy partaking
I. The punishment. Here are three steps to the grave: weakness, sickness, temporal death.
1. Learn that God inflieteth not the same punishment for all, but hath variety of correction. And the reason is, because there are divers degrees of men’s sins. God therefore doth not, like the unskilful empiries, prescribe the same for all, but wisely varieth His physic.
2. Let us, then, endeavour to amend, when God layeth His least judgment upon us. Let us humble ourselves under His hand when He layeth but His “little finger” upon us; for light punishments, neglected, will draw heavier upon us.
3. Let magistrates and men in authority mitigate or increase the punishment, according to the nature of the offence. For probable it is that those who were least offenders here were punished with weakness; the greater, with sickness; the greatest of all, with death temporal.
II. The cause.
1. All sicknesses of the body proceed from the sin of the soul. I am not ignorant of second causes; but the fountain of all these fountains is sin. And not only the sins which we have lately committed, but those which we have committed long ago (Job 13:26). Job being grey was punished for Job being green; Job in his autumn smarts for what he hath done in his spring. Do we, then, desire to lead our old age in health. I know of no better preservative than in our youth to keep our souls from sin.
2. But how came St. Paul to know that this sickness proceeded from the irreverent receiving of the sacrament, especially since they were guilty of four other grand sins? Since they were guilty of factious affecting of their ministers, going to law under pagan judges, suffering an incestuous person to live amongst them unpunished, denying of the resurrection of the body, why might not St. Paul think that any one or all of these might be the causes of this disease?
(1) Because this sin was the sin paramount. The others were felony, robbing God of His glory; this was high treason against the person of Christ, and so against God Himself. Learn we, then, though God of His goodness may be pleased graciously to pardon sins of an inferior nature and meaner alloy, yet He will not let him escape unpunished who irreverently receive the body and blood of His Son.
(2) Because the apostle perceived some resemblance betwixt the sin committed and the punishment inflicted. For, as a physician, when a disease puzzles all his rules of art to trace it to some natural cause, will be ready to put it down to poison, so St. Paul, seeing the Corinthians to be punished with a strange and unusual sickness, suspected that they had eaten some poisonous thing, and on inquiry he finds that it was the sacrament irreverently received: it being just with God to turn that which was appointed to be preservative for the soul, to prove poison to the body, being not received with due preparation. (T. Fuller, D.D.)
Judged, not condemned
I. “For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.”
1. Just then there was a more than average prevalence of disease and mortality, and Paul had authority to trace it to its source. Our Lord has solemnly warned us against drawing such inferences arbitrarily (Luke 13:1-5). We are prone to this sort of presumption. But here St. Paul was speaking in the Spirit, and was authorised to knit together a particular sin and punishment. And I cannot read in this record the “thus far and no farther.” I catch here the faint echo of the thought that God our Father has us all in His school, and is carrying on our education for a life beyond death by a direct providential dealing with us in the way of mental and bodily chastisement. “For this cause”--because of such and such a sin, with which the man would not deal for himself--“many are weak,” etc.
2. To some minds the idea of punishment may be repulsive and demoting. To me it is a thought of hope: it speaks of a living and personal God, not willing that I should perish. The chastening hand, St. Paul tells us, stops not short sometimes of taking the very life itself. There are even deaths which condemn not but only chastise the sinner.
3. Read it in its simplicity, and what comfort is here for some comfortless mourners! Let the Christian mother hush her agony over the grave of some soldier or sailor son taken away in the very dawn of manhood, with immature piety, and believe that still, for all that, the young life was taken, not in wrath, but in chastisement; taken, perhaps, that it might expand in a purer and a higher companionship.
II. Yet St. Paul goes on to teach us that even these judgments might be turned aside. “If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.”
1. So unwillingly does God afflict, that, if the same end, which is our good, could be otherwise reached, it would be. It is our refusal to judge ourselves which, as it were, compels God to judge. Do it upon yourselves, and the rod drops from His hand.
2. St. Paul carefully guards against the idea of any self-infliction of suffering, by varying the word when he speaks of our judging. To “judge” becomes then not to punish, but simply to discern. To “judge” ourselves is to look ourselves through and through, so as to distinguish between the precious and the vile.
3. Do not look upon this duty with repugnance. God and you are on one side in the matter. He bids you to do what is necessary for yourself in the way of judging, and so to answer the one purpose, which is that of your not being left in self-deceit.
4. Many shrink from this self-intuition from the dread of long and difficult processes. Will they just bethink themselves of that fountain opened for sin and uncleanness?
III. The final cause of that judging which is chastening--“That we should not be condemned with the world.” Weakness and sickness--even the last sleep itself--all have this merciful character within the Church of Jesus Christ. They are to prevent the everlasting “damnation.” Nothing short of apostasy, the wilful and obstinate “standing away from the living God,” can throw a man back out of the Church of the Divine chastisement into the Cosmos of the Divine condemnation. (Dean Vaughan.)
The punishment of unworthy receivers
Now, the verse that I have read to you is a part of that use of terror which the apostle makes against the unworthy receivers of the sacrament; and it contains God’s severe punishment against those that come unworthily: wherein note three things. First, the cause of their punishment, which is the unworthy eating of the communion: for this cause many are sick and weak among you, and many are fallen asleep. Secondly, the punishment inflicted for this sin--weakness, sickness, and mortality. Thirdly, there is the delinquents, which are you, Corinthians: many are sick and weak among you, and in them all others that come unpreparedly to the sacrament. Whence we may observe this point of instruction: that God doth most severely punish the unworthy receivers of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. He punished the Corinthians here with sickness, weakness, fevers, pestilence, death temporal, and God knows how many with death eternal. Now the reason why the Lord doth so severely punish both with temporal judgments and with spiritual curses the unworthy receivers of the sacrament, is, in regard of the author of the sacrament, who is Christ; and that not only as He was man, but Christ as He was God did institute the same. When the Lord delivered the Law upon Mount Sinai, He commanded the people to sanctify themselves; yea, if a beast did but touch the mountain, he must die for the same, even be stoned to death, or thrust through with a dart (Hebrews 12:1-29.). Much more, then, now, when the Lord doth deliver the gospel, especially the groundwork and masterpiece thereof, the Lord Jesus Christ, and that in the most blessed manner that ever God exhibited Himself unto man; how much more doth God require purity and holiness, that all such as come to receive the Lord Jesus Christ in the blessed sacrament should be sanctified, purging their hearts, and cleansing their souls from all their sin and uncleanness! The second reason is in regard of the matter of the sacrament, which is Christ also; who, as He was the efficient cause, so in regard of sacramental relation He is the matter of the communion (1 Corinthians 10:16). Now the better matter anything is of, the more heinous is the defilement of it. A master will not be so angry for casting his earthen vessels into the mire as he will be for casting his rich jewels. A third reason is in regard of the form of the sacrament, which is Christ too. If thou shouldest clip the king’s coin, I will say that thou art a traitor. Oh, what a traitor art thou, then, yea, accursed traitor in the account of God and Christ, if thou clippest His holy communion, if thou clip it of thy examination and due preparation, and so come hand over head, not regarding so holy an ordinance: thou sinnest against the court of heaven. The last reason is in regard of the end of the sacrament, which is Christ also. Is it so, then, that the Lord doth so severely punish the unworthy receiver of the sacrament? Take notice, then, from whence cometh all sickness, weakness, and mortality, and the reason why the Lord doth send so many kind of sorrows, crosses, and miseries upon men; namely, because of the unworthy receiving of the Lord’s Supper. And, beloved, we shall never see the Lord take away His judgments here from the earth until we betake ourselves to a more diligent and holy receiving of the sacrament. Many there be that expound these words in a spiritual sense; many are sick and weak, and many are fallen asleep, that is to say, many have their consciences seared, and their hearts hardened, etc.; and this is true also, that because men come unpreparedly, they have their hearts hardened, and their consciences seared, and their soul plagued with many spiritual plagues. But it is as true also in temporal judgments. King Belshazzar, that abused but the holy vessels of the temple, and the cups thereof, what a small plague befel him for it (Daniel 5:27-28). Wherefore let us take heed of unprepared coming to the sacrament; for God will not hold such guiltless. And now to conclude: As the Cherubim stood before Paradise with a naked sword to keep Adam out, that he might not enter and so eat of the Tree of Life, so I bring with me the sword of God, to run it up to the hilt in the heart of every ungodly man, every rebellious and impenitent sinner that dares presume to rush upon this holy ordinance of God with a polluted heart. (W. Fenner.)
For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.--
I. There is in us a capacity of judging ourselves. We can overlook our own acts and feelings; we can pronounce sentence upon them. It would be no mercy, but a great degradation, if we were excused from this jurisdiction.
II. The Lord will not excuse us from it. He takes the office which we abdicate. He judges when we will not judge.
III. This capacity is blunted by censoriousness.
1. The besetting sin of the Corinthians was that of judging others. They were ever determining that this man was not so wise or so spiritual as themselves. And on this very account they could not judge themselves; the faculty lost its edge; it exhausted itself in unprofitable, unlawful efforts. It was ever busy looking outward for motes; the consciousness of the beam within became continually less alive.
2. Most of us are agreed that we live in a critical rather than in a creative age. Politicians, artists, religious men, all: alike are critics; some censors of their predecessors as well as of their contemporaries. And just as it was with the Corinthians, we have lost to a very great degree the power of judging ourselves.
IV. How it may be restored (verse 32).
1. Much is said in pulpits about the blessed effects of God’s discipline upon men. Some of the very best are constrained to say, “Suffering has brought forth an amount of evil in us which we did not know there was in us before.” And thanks be to God it did! Now you know Him and yourselves a little better than you did before, For it is this revelation of what is dark in us which drives us to His Light. God’s judgments are not mere punishments, but are meant to awaken in us that slumbering faculty without which we are not truly men, because we are not truly showing forth the image of God. He comes amongst us that our criticism may be turned to a more practical and glorious service, that we may not “be condemned with the world.”
2. What is the condemnation from which this judgment rescues us? The world, considered as apart from God, is condemned to a very hopeless kind of darkness. Its members cannot see any light which should guide their own footsteps, for they confess no light but what proceeds from themselves. All God’s chastisements, therefore, are to purge the Church of its worldly elements, not by making if, censorious and exclusive (for there are essentially worldly elements), but by making each man see in himself all the evil which he has detected in his brother. (F. D. Maurice, M.A.)
God’s judgment and our judgment
I. The purpose of God’s judgments. Paul’s words imply two great propositions.
1. God’s chastisements are judgments. A most strange assertion, on the ordinary acceptation of judgments as special interferences of Providence to punish some special evil! But if the word means to discern between good and evil, then this strange assertion becomes merely a statement of the result which afflictions ever produce in the heart and conscience of a Christian: they make us discern the good and the evil, the fleshly and the spiritual in our own selves, as we never saw them before. Many a man in the quiet days of sickness and pain has found a light searching him, and separating the true from the false. It is ever in the whirlwind and darkness of adversity that we learn to say with him of old, “I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth Thee; wherefore I abhor myself in dust and ashes.”
2. The design of God’s judgment is to save us from condemnation. The spirit of the world is the choice of darkness rather than light, therefore to be condemned with the world is to be left in ever-deepening blindness to all the light and glory of God. That doom of being given up to one’s self, and being ruined by the secret idolatries and evils of self, is the doom into which every one of us would fall if God’s chastisements, which are judgments, did not deliver us from its peril.
(1) Sometimes He breaks the concealed idol of the heart. We did not know it was an idol until it had gone.
(2) Sometimes He permits us to have our own way, and allows us to discover its vanity.
(3) Sometimes He prevents man’s will from ever being fulfilled. This is the meaning of the chastening judgments of God. Let us accept it heartily and broadly, even when we cannot trace it. Let us not limit it to individuals. It is true of nations, and has been true of this England of ours again and again. It is true of Churches; hence the meaning of chastenings as the response to the most earnest prayers: it is God’s method of revealing the hindrances to their growth, of manifesting the impediments to their spiritual power.
II. The necessity of self-judgment. Two questions meet us here--
1. If God be judging us why are we bound to judge ourselves? Because--
(1) Every chastening is a voice of mercy calling us to exercise the faculty of judgment which God has given us.
(2) Past sorrow and disappointment revealed the secrecy of the heart’s life, and the necessity for guarding that life.
(3) If we let our wonderful inner life go unwatched, we shall need continued and repeated chastisements.
2. How is this work to be accomplished? Paul implies that we have the faculty of judgment, but dare not use it; God chastens thus that He may awaken it. In trust on His education let us judge ourselves.
(1) Let us bring our spirits into His light by prayer--one flash of that light may reveal to us the meaning of our lives.
(2) Guard the springs of action--the beginnings of sin. Let a man slothfully allow himself to move in a path that is dubious, and which he fears to examine, and God will hedge in his way with thorns, and send him deep desolate sorrow, that he may not be “condemned with the world.”
III. The blessings which self-judgment would bring.
1. Confidence. But does not self-searching create doubt, and wither the energy of action? Not when exercised in the trust that God will reveal us to ourselves. “Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.”
2. Insight into God’s truth and love (verse 28).
(1) Those Corinthians are asleep because they did not judge themselves--asleep to all the beauty of the Christian sacrament. If we let our spirits go unwatched the beauty and power of sacraments will fade.
(2) Let us believe that God is testing us; that Christ’s light is dwelling in us; and in that belief guide our spirits and guard them; then, all God’s works will become a sacrament of love and glory! (E. L. Hull, B.A.)
Let us consider the difficulty, the advantages, and the means of forming a correct estimate of ourselves.
I. The difficulty. The portions of our character, which it most concerns us to understand aright, are, the extent of our powers, and the motives of our conduct. But on these subjects everything conspires to deceive us.
1. No man, in the first place, can come to the examination of himself with perfect impartiality. His wishes are all necessarily engaged on his own side.
2. We can always find excuses for ourselves, which no other person can suspect. Frivolous as the apology may be, it appears satisfactory, because, while no one knows its existence, no one can dispute its value.
3. Few men venture to inform us of our real character. We are flattered, even from our cradles.
4. We fondly imagine that no one can know us as well as we know ourselves, and that every man is interested to depreciate, even when he knows, the worth of another. Hence, when reproved, it is much more easy to conclude that we have been misrepresented by envy, or misunderstood by prejudice, than to believe in our ignorance, incapacity, or guilt. Nothing, also, more directly tends to swell into extravagance a man’s opinion of his moral or intellectual worth, than to find that his innocence has, in any instance, been falsely accused, or his powers inadequately estimated.
II. The advantages.
1. An intimate knowledge of ourselves is absolutely necessary to the security and improvement of our virtue and holiness.
2. The knowledge of ourselves would preserve us from much of the calumny, the censure, and the contempt of others.
3. A man who knows himself will know more of others, than one who boasts of studying mankind by mixing with all their follies and vices.
4. Self-knowledge will preserve us from being deceived by flattery, or overborne by unmerited censure.
5. He who examines himself will learn to profit by instruction.
6. If we will judge ourselves, we shall not be judged, at least, by the Judge of heaven and earth; that is, we shall not be unprepared for the judgment-seat of Christ.
III. The means by which this knowledge may be attained.
1. Suspect yourselves. Do not be afraid of doing yourselves injustice. When you suspect, watch your conduct; and detect, if you can, your predominant motives. Depend upon it, you will struggle hard to deceive yourselves. Compare yourselves, then, with the Word of God, and with one another.
2. But, above all, look up to the Father of lights, lay yourself open to the eye of almighty mercy, and cry, “Lord, who can understand his errors? cleanse Thou me from secret faults.” (J. S. Buckminster.)
The judge within
If the question be asked, How can a presumed criminal be his own judge? the answer lies in the constitution of the human soul. Every man has within him a faculty which discharges by turns all the offices of a court of justice. Conscience is the counsel for the prosecution; it collects the evidences of guilt, sets them out, weighs their value, marshals them in their separate and collective strength, urges the conclusion to which they point. But conscience is also the counsel for the defence. Although outside the court, it stands by no means alone. It is assisted, often to its great embarrassment, by three uninvited and very importunate junior counsel, who are very nearly relate to each other--self-love, and self-conceit, and self-assertion. But yet, even on the side of the defence, conscience may sometimes have something honest and substantial to urge against the prima facie aspect of the case for the prosecution. And then, having concluded the case for the prosecution and the case for the defendant, conscience weighs out and balances the conflicting statements by a debate within itself after the fashion of a jury, as though it had many voices, but a single mind, And, once more, conscience, being thus warder, and counsel on both sides, and jury, cloths itself at last in the higher majesty of justice, ascends the seat of judgment, and pronounces the sentence of the Divine law; and when that sentence is a sentence of condemnation, and has been clearly uttered within the soul, the soul knows no peace until it has sought and found some certificate of pardon from the supreme Authority which conscience represents. Self-judgment in the sense recommended by the apostle is not as easy a process as might at first appear. It has several obstacles, several enemies to encounter who have long made themselves at home in human nature, who are certain to do their best against it. And of these the first is a want of entire sincerity, and this involves a charge, the justice of which will be always disputed, but especially when it is made against the temper and disposition of men of our own time; for, probably, there is one thing on which we pride ourselves as characterising us more than the generations who have preceded us--it is that we are the devotees of truth. It might seem that we had taken as our own the old Homeric motto, “Let us have light, even if we perish in it,” so strong is this passion for truth, so seemingly noble, so far-reaching, so actively at work in all directions, whether of public or of private life, around us! But is our passion for truth equally ardent in all directions?--is there not one quarter in which we shrink from indulging it? Is it not often the case that while we are eager to know everything, even the worst, about public affairs and the affairs of our neighbours, about persons high in state, and about our humblest acquaintances, there is one state of affairs, and there is one person about which the great majority of us is often content to be very ignorant indeed? A second enemy to a true self-judgment is moral cowardice. Observe, I say moral cowardice--a very different thing from physical. The man who could head a storming party without a minute’s hesitation is not always willing to meet his true self. If the truth is to be told, are not a great many of us like those country folk who are afraid of crossing a churchyard path after nightfall, lest they should see a ghost behind a tombstone? Our consciences are but cemeteries, in which dead memories are buried close to or upon each other in forgotten confusion. Some of you may have noticed an account of the conduct of a distinguished and learned Englishman who nearly lost his life in Egypt a short time ago. He was travelling in order to prosecute his favourite studies, and was returning to his boat on the Nile, after examining some antiquities in the neighbourhood, when he trod by chance on a cerastes--a snake of the species one of which, nineteen centuries ago, ended the life of the fallen Cleopatra. When he felt that he had been bitten, and a moment’s glance had shown him the deadly reptile, he lost not a moment in making his way to the boat, which was, happily, only a few yards distant. He called for a hot iron, and then, with his own hands, he applied it to the wound, holding it there until he had burnt out the poisoned flesh down to the very bone. “Had you acted with less decision,” so said a distinguished physician to him on his return to Cairo, “your life must have been forfeited.” With matters of conscience we, it seems, are less capable of heroism, though a great deal more is really at stake. A third enemy to a true self-judgment is the lack of perseverance. As we are constantly being tempted, and often yielding more or less to temptation, we should be constantly bringing ourselves to the bar of conscience, which is the bar of God. Unless we take care, the determination to persevere, to be true to ourselves, is likely to become weaker and more intermittent as our natural faculties decay with the progress of time. Much will take place within which will never have been reviewed on this side the grave. There have been sovereigns of earthly realms--such as the Roman Emperor Hadrian, and the Caliph Haroun Alraschid--whose senses of the responsibility of empire have been such as to compel them to do more than official duty would prescribe, to inspect their dominions and to visit their subjects as far as they could personally, perhaps in disguise, and so to relieve distress and to encourage meritorious efforts, and to correct injustice, and to promote well-being and prosperity, and thus to strengthen the defences of the Empire, and remove the motives to insurrection and disorder. And if a man, as a Christian, should be absolute ruler within and over his own body, if his conscience is true, he best self-governs as well as reigns if it does not hold its office merely at the good pleasure of a democracy of passions, each of which is playing for its own hand, and which collectively may proclaim a republic:in the soul to-morrow morning, and send their present ruler about his business--no doubt with a pension. If, I say, a triumph of all the forces of moral disorder is not to take place within the human soul, its ruler must be constantly inspecting it, constantly judging it, that he may finish his royal course with joy, and arrest the stern judgment that must else await him by thus constantly anticipating it. The motive for this self-judgment follows--“We should not be judged if we would judge ourselves.” Does this mean that a man who deals truly and severely with himself may always expect to escape human criticism? This is only very partially true. It is true, no doubt, that so far as we judge ourselves in matters which affect our intercourse with others, endeavouring to bring that intercourse into strict accord with the principles and the terms of the law of Christ, we shall diminish the opportunities for hostile criticism on this score. In this sense self-judgment brings with it in this world its own reward. In whatever degree we cultivate self-discipline--the sincere, pure, humble, kindly, patient temper which is prescribed by the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ--in that degree we diminish the friction with our brother men in the struggle of our own common life, and so we escape the judgments which such friction provokes. But it does not follow that those who judge themselves severely are thereby always excepted from the unfavourable judgments of other men, for a very large number of men not only pass judgments upon the words and acts of others of which they can take some sort of cognisance, but also, and, strange to say, with equal confidence, upon the motive and secret characters of others, of which, from the nature of the case, they can have no real knowledge whatever. Added to which the great majority of men resent, perhaps almost unconsciously, a higher standard of life and conduct than their own. When one of the greatest of the heathen set himself to consider what would happen if a really perfect man were to appear upon the earth, his decision was an unconscious prophecy. “Men,” he said, “would put such a man to death.” Men who are not themselves holy are impatient of holiness, and pass hard judgments, if they can do nothing more, on those who aim at it; and thus it has happened that all the great servants of God, although judging themselves severely, have been again and again judged by their fellowmen with much greater severity. So it has been with nearly all the finest characters in the Church of Christ. They have passed their lives constantly under a storm of calumny and insult, and only when they have left the world have they been recognised as having been what they were. Nor is this wonderful in the case of those who at their very best only approached perfection, if it was also true in His case who alone was perfect. A man, then, who judges himself severely cannot on that account expect to disarm human judgments; but he may do much more: he may anticipate, and by anticipating he may arrest, the judgments of God, for the judgments of God light not on all sinners, but only on unrepentant sinners; and self-judgment is the effect and expression of penitence--it is the effort of the soul to be true to the highest law of its own being, which is also the law of its Creator. Self-judgment shows us what we are. It does not of itself enable us to become other than we are; it does not of itself confer pardon for the past or strength to do better in the time to come. It bids us look out of and beyond ourselves to a Divine compassion which is also a Divine justice, which, if we will, we can, by that complete and whole-hearted adhesion of the soul to truth, which the Bible calls faith, make in reality and for ever our own. It makes a man pray at once more intelligently and more earnestly--more intelligently because when he has had himself up for a strict judicial investigation at the bar of his conscience he knows what he needs, not in a vague way, but in detail, and precisely instead of complaining to God in general terms of the corruption of his fallen nature--a complaint which makes him in his own estimate not worse than any of his neighbours--he lays his finger upon certain acts of evil which he, and he only, so far as he knows, has committed. He prays as for his life, and when his prayer is crowned with victory he understands what he owes to having judged himself honestly, and how, having judged himself, he will not, through God’s mercy, be judged as an unrepentant sinner at the last. (Canon Liddon.)
1 Corinthians 11:33-34
When ye come together to eat, tarry one for another.
“Tarry one for another”
1. These words glance at a state of things of which happily we can form little idea from any existing analogy. No one thinks now of bringing or sending food to satisfy his hunger. No one thinks of making distinctions between rich and poor, nor of beginning, in violation of the principle of fellowship, to eat and drink before the rest. We all tarry one for another.
2. But are not these words fall of meaning and value even to us? You sometimes picture to yourselves the Church lifted high above the world, with aspects and motions to the world above. But innumerable ties bind her also to the earth. She looks on to victory and rest, but also far around, to see who are coming to share in it. She makes no tarrying, and yet she tarries for all who need her help. Tarry--
I. For the young. You cannot look for the steady tread of those who have long been in the way in the ease of those who are just coming into it. Joseph and Mary went a day’s journey homeward before they missed their Son. So I seem to see the Church of manhood and womanhood more than a day’s journey ahead, with no yearning desire after the Church of adolescence. But when they found the young Jesus He was in the temple about His Father’s business. Reverence the children--the Church of the future. It is not given to fathers and mothers to divine all that their children may yet be and achieve. Tarry for them. Help the struggling thought; throw gentle airs and warm sunshine around the budding affections. Say “well done” when it has been well done. And when ye come up to the chief festival of life, do not seem as if you could comfortably come alone. Say to them, “Come with us,” until they respond, “We will go with you, for we perceive that God is with you.”
II. For the weak.
1. There never was an army without the sick and lame. But they are cared for as true soldiers. There never was a family of many children that had not some weaker than the rest. Where the law of love prevails, they are cared for in proportion to their weakness. Have you heard how in a band of workmen there are weak men; and when the others see their weakness, they will edge in a little help on each side, so as to keep that part of the work square with the rest, that the weak may claim full wage at the week’s end?
2. “We, then, that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak.” The tender spirit of the New Testament in regard to weakness and the weak is everywhere. It had its source in the heart of our blessed Lord, who had compassion on the multitudes when He saw them. It filled the hearts, and it pervades the writings of His apostles. It is one of the notes of the true Church. It is her law which I now enforce. Some are fainting; but when they have rested awhile they will come. Some are hungry; when they are fed they will be stronger. Some have been sick; nothing can recruit them but time and gracious weather and kindly nourishment. Tarry one for another, and the weak shall be as David, and David as the angel of the Lord.
III. For the doubting. Not for the captious and the insincere, but for those who are honestly seeking for light.
1. A company of people, travelling through a forest, come to a place where many paths meet. Most of them are in no doubt which path to take. But some are in doubt. How, then, should they be treated by those from whom they part? Are we to cry, “Farewell; we shall see you no more. Go your ways into famine and death”? Are we not rather to say, “We shall tarry for you; not indeed by staying our own progress, but by calling to you, by lighting our camp-fires at night, that you may see where we halt? You will not go far without seeing that you are wrong, and then take the path that leads right into ours. We shall be waiting for you.”
2. There are many wanderers that are to be waited for. There are honest doubts, only to be resolved by time and light.
IV. For the stiricken. They are perhaps out of sight; for they are apt to fall out of the company. As the great Sufferer, now the great Conqueror, waits for us all, let us wait for one another.
V. For the whole world. Enemies as they are now, in the future they are to be friends. Let none doubt how the long conflict is to end. The Church can never submit herself to the world; but the world shall ground its weapons, and hold out the hand of friendship to the Church, and the conciliation shall be perfect. Conclusion: But to those of whom we have been speaking, for whom we have asked all patience and consideration, I would say, Be sure that you do not wait. Make haste; others are tarrying for you. (A. Raleigh, D.D.)
Sir Michael Costa was having a rehearsal with a great number of singers and musicians. When the mighty chorus pealed forth with the strains of the organ, the beating of drums, and the clashing of cymbals, one man who played the piccolo (a small kind of flute with very high notes) thought he was not needed and ceased to play. The conductor suddenly stopped, threw up his hands, and when all was quiet, cried, “Where is the piccolo?” The keen ear of the master missed it, and he felt that the chorus was incomplete. How many are missed by the great Master of assemblies, when He gathers His friends into His banqueting house!