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THE CHRISTIAN FEAST.
1 Cor. v. 8. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with
old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. A S we have the agreeable prospect of celebrating
the Lord's fupper on the next Lord's day, we cannot spend this day to better purpose than preparing for it. And no preparative can be of more importance than a right knowledge of the end and defign of that folemn ordinance, and the qualifications necessary in those that would worthily partake of it. To this I would devote the present discourse : and so important a design certainly demands the attention of all, especially of such of you as intend to join in the participation of the facred supper.
Though my text may be taken in a larger latitude, yet it is justly supposed to have a particular reference to this institution, which has the same place under the gospel-dispensation which the passover had under the law. St. Paul had very naturally glided into the stile of the Jewish law concerning the paschal supper, in the directions he had given concerning a fcandalous member of the Corinthian church : and he carries on the metaphor with a beautiful uniformity, when he comes to speak of the gospel-dispensation, and particularly of the Lord's supper. He had directed the church of Corinth to cast the offender out of their communion, while he continued impenitent, because if they should tolerate such a corrupt member among them, it would tend to corrupt the whole
fociety. Wickedness is of a spreading infectious nature, and the indulgence of it in one instance may occasion extensive mischief; for, says he, Know ye not that leaven ferments and diffuses itself, till at length it has leavened the whole lümp? Just so one corrupt member in a church may spread a contagion through the whole. Therefore purge out the old leaven ; cast out this scandalous offender, and labour also to purge your church and your own hearts from all corruption,that ye may be as a new, folid, and pure lump; for ye are more strongly bound to keep youselves morally pure, and to guard your church against infection, than the Jews were to abstain from all things mixed with leaven at the feast of the passover ; for though that feast is no more to be obferved, yet that which was signified by the paschal lamb is now come to pass; Christ our pallover is sacrificed for us, and the ordinance of his supper is appointed as a facred feast, in commemoration of him, and our deliverance by him, as the passover was commemorative of the deliverance from Egypt, and the destroying-angel. And this is a stronger reason for the more purity of particular perfons and congregations under the gospel, than there could be for ceremonial purity under the law. There. fore, says he, let us keep this evangelical feast, not with old leaven, not with thofe corrupt dispositions which we once indulged, and which, like leaven, foured our nature, and fermented through our frame : neither with the leaven of malice, or any kind of wickedness; but renouncing our old temper and practice, and with hearts universally fanctified, and full of love and good will to all mankind, let us religiously celebrate this gospel feast with those dispositions which were signified by the unleavened bread, namely, fincerity and truth..
It was the practice of the Jews, when the passover was approaching, to search every corner of their houses with lighted candles, that they might be sure there was no leaven to be found under their roofs. The apostle probably alludes to that practice, and exhorts VOL. II. · M m
christians to a like care in searching and purging their hearts, and the churches to which they belong, that they may be pure, and fit for partaking of so holy an ordinance.
My design is to shew you the principal ends of the institution of the Lord's fupper; and as I go along, to delineate the character of those who are fit to attend upon it; for by knowing the former, we may easily know the latter.
· The Lord's fupper partakes of the general nature of those divine institutions which are called facra. ments : in this, " That it is intended to represent things spiritual by material emblems or signs which affect our senses, and thereby enlarge our ideas, and impress our hearts in the present state of flesh and blood. As we have not only rational minds, but also animal bodies endowed with senses, God has wisely adapted his institutions to the make of human nature, and called in the assistance of our eyes * and our ears to help our conceptions of divine things, and to affect our minds with them. And this method is agreeable to the nature of makind; God has been pleased to use it in every age, and under every dif. pensation of religion. The tree of life was the facra. ment of the first covenant; a sensible confirmation to Adam that he should obtain eternal life by his obedience. The rainbow was appointed as a confirmation of the covenant with Noah, that the world should no more perish by a deluge ; and we have not. only the assurance of the divine promise, but we may receive the confirmation through our eyes by behold. ing that illustrious sign in the clouds. Circumcision. and the pafsover were noted facraments of the covenant of grace, under the Jewish dispensation; and Baptism and the Lord's Supper are appointed in their room, and answer the like ends under the gospel. In all these ordinances God consults our weakness, and, as I ob
* Segnius irritant animos demiffa per aurem,
Quam quæ funt oculis subjecta fidelibus.
served, makes our bodily senses helpful to the devotions of our minds. Indeed this method of reprefenting and confirming things by sensible signs and significant actions is so natural and expressive, that men have used it in all ages in their transactions with one another. It was remarkably in use among the antients; and it is not quite laid aside in our age, which does not abound in such methods of representation. In our age and country it is usual to confirm contracts by annexing seals to an instrument of writ. ing; to confirm an agreement by shaking hands ; to signify love by a kiss, and complaisance by bowing ; and we sometimes give some token as a memorial to a parting friend. I mention these low and familiar instances that I may, if poflible, give some just ideas of a facrament to the meanest capacity. It partakes of the general nature of these fignificant signs and actions, and is intended, like them, to strike our fenfes ; and through that medium to instruct or affect our minds : and such a sign, such a seal, such a figa nificant action is the Lord's supper in particular.
Having made this remark upon its general nature; I now go on to shew the particular ends of its insti. tution. And,
1. This ordinance was intended as a memorial of the sufferings of Christ for his people.
That this is its immediate and principal design we learn from the words of the blessed Jesus at its first institution, This do in remembrance of me. That we are to remember him particularly and principally as suffering for our fins, is evident from his words in distributing the elements, This is my body which is broken for you. Here a moving emphasis is laid upon his body's being broken; broken, crushed, and mangled with an endless variety of sufferings. So again, This cup is the New Testament in my blood, which is fed for you. Hence it is evident this ordinance was appointed as a memorial of a suffering Saviour; and it is under this notion that we are particularly to re
member member him. We are to sew forth the Lord's death, says the apostle ; his death, which was the consummation of his sufferings, till he come again to visit our world in a very different and glorious manner.
The Lord's fupper in this view is to be looked upon as a token of love, or memorial left by a friend at parting among his friends, that whenever they see it they may remember him. Our Lord knew we should be very apt to forget him; and therefore, that the memory of his sufferings might never be loft, he instituted this ordinance; and by the humble elements of bread and wine, he represents himself to our senses as broken under the burden of his sufferings, and fhedding his blood. Corn, out of which bread is made, which is first threshed, then ground in a mill, then baked in an oven, is a very proper emblem to signify the violences which our Lord's facred body endured ; and wine, pressed from the grape, and poured into the cup, is a striking representation of his blood, which was forced from him by the crushing weight of his agonies. Therefore there was a peculiar propriety in appointing these elements to be the memorials of his sufferings. .
This remembrance of a suffering Saviour must be attended with suitable affections. To remember him with a careless indifferency, or with contempt, is the most ungrateful insult. Were he an insignificant perfon, in whom we have no concern, we might treat him thus ; but thus to treat the beloved Son of God, and our only Saviour, thus to requite all his love and sufferings for us, what can be more shocking? What can be more base ingratitude? We should therefore remember him in this ordinance with a penitent sense of our fins, which were the causes of his death ; with an ardent love and gratitude for his dying love to us; with an humble faith and confidence in the merit of his death, to procure us acceptance with God; and with a voluntary dedication of ourselves to him and his service for ever.