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Design of the supper-Not to atone for sin, but to
commemorate the death of Christ-to seal the blessings of the covenant--to strengthen the faith, and animate the hopes of believers—and to promote the exercise of brotherly affection.
I TRUST, that the two preceding letters have given you satisfactory information, concerning the nature of the Lord's supper; and that we are now prepared to take a view of its design-or, in other words, the purposes, it is intended to answer, in the Christian church.
You have already been cautioned* against the impious doctrine of the Church of Rome, which represents this ordinance as a repeated sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, offered up by the priest, to make atonement for the sins of both the living and dead! Scripture is so full and explicit in declaring the PERFECTIONT of the offering of Christ, and that it is never to be succeeded by any other offering for sin, that nothing appears necessary, in addition to what has already been stated, to guard you against this error,
There is, however, another error, somewhat allied to this, which prevails in a greater or less degree in * Letter xvi.
| Heb. ix. 11, 12, 14, 15, 25, 26, and X. 10, 11, 12, 14.
Heb. X. 26, 27
the churches of the Reformation, against which it may be proper and useful to guard you. While too many undervalue, and even despise this holy institution, it is to be seared, that there are not a few who run to the opposite extreme, and attach a superstitious and unscriptural importance to it, -as though the ordinance possessed some secret and undefined virtue, securing the pardon of sin to all who partake of it-or, as though the act of communing were so highly meritorious, as to lay God under obligations to be favourable to every recipient. All the institutions of Jehovah are important; and no duty is more clearly stated than that which requires us to commemorate the Saviour's death in the sacrament
of the supper.
But we may well be cautious, bow we ascribe to any institution of the Head of the Church, or to any service of our own, a virtue or merit, which must forever rest exclusively in the obedience and death of the Lord Jesus Christ. To imagine that attendance on the sacrament of the supper wi!l take away sin, and merit heaven, is to insult the Saviour-to undervalue his sacrifice and to substitute a new foundation of our hope !
Such however is the fact, that too many imagine that the solemnity of the communion Sabbath wipes away all their guilt-Caricels all their debts-and secures to them an incontrovertible claim on the favour of their Judge! How many consider their accounts as fairly balanced, when they have taken the sacrament; and that their heaven will be sure if, or
the bed of death, and as the last act of life, the ordinance is administered to them!
All this is very improper. It is unscriptural, and of most dangerous tendency, inasmuch as it draws off the sinner's dependance from the sure and only foundation laid in Zion,* and places it on the virtue of an institution, or the meritorious act of the creature ; both of which are false and sandy foundations, The sacrament of the supper was not designed to take away our sin; nor was it ever contemplated by the Master of the feast, that our attendance on it should merit the crown of righteousness.
Having taken this negative view of the subject; and stated what is not the design of this ordinance, we are better prepared to exbibit, for your consideration, the purposes it is intended to answer.
1. The first and grand design, as stated in the words of the institution, is the commemoration of the sufferings and death of the Lord Jesus Christ, our precious and only Saviour.
66 This do in remembrance of me.”+ " Foras often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.”I
The supper is a commemorative ordinance. In the celebration of which, the broken bread, and the poured out wine, strikingly represent the wounding of Christ's body, and the shedding of his blood, as the price of his people's redemption. The scenes of Gethsemane and Golgotha are affectingly re-exhibited; and the recollection of Christ's passion is powerfully revived. The church shows the death of her Lord-and perpetuates the remembrance of her heavenly Benefactor; who, though no longer present on earth, is still mindful of his people, pleading their cause before his Father's throne, and preparing mansions for their everlasting residence, that where he is, there they may also be.
* Isa, xxviii. 16. Luke xxii. 19,
11 Cor. xi. .
This, then, is the first design-to commemorate the sufferings and death of the “good Shepherd, who laid down his life for the sheep."
2. The second design is to seal to believers the benefits of the covenant of grace. The sacrament of the supper, as well as baptism, is a sealing ordinance ; and, like baptism, it seals the righteousness and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, in covenant form, to the believer. “The Lord's supper testifies to us, that we have a full pardon of all sin, by the only sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which he himself has once accomplished on the cross; and that we, by the Holy Ghost, are ingrafted into Christ, who, according to his human nature, is now not on earth, but in heaven, at the right hand of God, his Father, and will there be worshipped by us."*
1. "The supper testifies and seals to believers the forgiveness of sin, through the imputed righteousness of the Lord Jesus.” That all who believe have complete forgiveness, in virtue of the sacrifice of Christ, is a truth, so legibly recorded in the word of God, that he who runs may read. The Apostle Paul's doctrine is clearly expressed of “Be it * Heid. Cat. Quest. 80,
+ Acts xiii. 39.40
known unto you, therefore, men and brethren, that through this man [Christ Jesus] is preached upto you the forgiveness of sins : And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses." Apd, again: “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all, and upon all them that believe.* :
All this is testified to the believer in the supper; : which was instituted, among others, for this express purpose, that it might signify and seal to the people of God their interest in the blessings, which Christ has purchased for them and that all his sufferings and obedience are as certainly theirs, as if they had in their own persons suffered, and made satisfaction for their sins to God.”+
2. “ The sacrament of the supper testifiés, that we, by the Holy Ghost, are ingrafted into Christ;*. and thus seals our union and communion with him.
In the administration of this ordinance, by the ministers of the gospel, according to the direction and example of their Master, Christ is visibly made over in all his fulness to the believing recipient-to be his Saviour ; and, in due time, to put him in fullpossession of all the benefits of his mediation ; while. the believer also, in receiving the elements, sets te his seal that God is true, and that he cordially re
* Rom. iii. 21, 22:
* Heid. Cat. Quest. 79.