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of the Lord's day thrown into it, by many persons, that it cannot be accounted for but by supposing it to be the effect of particular design and contrivance; which, being a wilful neglect of an acknowledged duty, certainly argues a want of the fear of God, and the absence of religious principle, properly so called.
THE LORD'S SUPPER.
THE Lord's supper, consisting of eating bread, and drinking wine, is a religious rite instituted by Christ, in commemoration of his death; the breaking of the bread, more especially representing the wounding of the body of Christ, and the pouring out of the wine the shedding of his blood; and this rite is to continue to be celebrated by the disciples of Christ till his second coming. The design of this institution being to serve as a memorial, or record, of that important fact of the death of Christ, it may be considered as one monument of the truth of the Christian religion, as was observed in a preceding part of this work. Being more especially a memorial of the death of Christ, in which he chiefly manifested the love that he bore to mankind, it furnishes the most proper opportunity of recollecting the love of Christ, and rejoicing in the consideration of the blessings of his gospel. Since this rite is peculiar to Christians, it likewise serves as a public declaration of our being Christians; and is, consequently, a recognising of the obligation we are under to live as becomes Christians: for no man can say that he is a Christian, and especially in a public and solemn manner, without acknowledging that he is obliged to live as becomes a Christian. Joining habitually in public worship, implies very mych the same thing, Lastly, as, in this rite, we more especially commemorate the death of Christ, it serves to remind us, that we are the professed disciples of a crucified Master; and, therefore, must not expect better treatment from this world than our Lord met with from it: that we must lay our account with meeting with hardships, reproach, and persecution, as he did, and that we should contentedly and patiently bear them, rather than quit the profession of our faith, or do any thing unworthy of it; in full assurance that, if “we suffer" with Christ, “we shall also reign with him,” and “be glorified together.” This rite having such excellent moral uses, and the celebration of it being an express command of Christ, who said, “Do this in remembrance of me,” I do not see how any person, professing Christianity, can satisfy himself with refusing to join in it. In the primitive times, the celebration of the Lord's supper made a part of the ordinary service every Lord's day, and every person who was thought worthy to be considered as a member of a body of Christians partook of it. Whenever, indeed, any person professing Christianity behaved in a manner unworthy of the Christian name, so as to be in danger of bringing a reproach upon it, he was excommunicated; in consequence of which, he was cut off from joining in any part of Christian worship, and from this among the rest; but there was no distinction made between this and other parts of the service, especially the prayers of the church. An excommunicated person was one who was publicly declared not to belong to a Christian society: and, therefore, the church would not consent to any thing that should imply their acknowledging him in the character of a brother, and declined associating with him. The reason of this conduct was most evident; because the good name of Christians, and of Christian societies, was a thing of the greatest consequence to the propagation of Christianity in those early times; and it ought to be considered, at all times, as a matter of great consequence. Considering that Christ absolutely requires of all his disciples the most open and public profession of his religion,
notwithstanding all the hazards to which it may expose them, and has declared, that unless we “confess him before men,” he will not acknowledge us before his heavenly Father; it certainly behoves all Christians to take this, as well as every other method, of declaring, in a public manner, their profession of Christianity. Moreover, as baptism is generally administered in infancy, and is not the act of the person baptized, it seems necessary that there should be some public act, by which those who are baptized in their infancy should openly, and in their own persons, declare themselves Christians; and the most proper manner of doing this is certainly the receiving of the Lord's supper. According to the custom of the primitive church, a custom so ancient and uncontroverted, as, with me, to carry sufficient evidence of its having been an apostolical one, all persons who are baptized, children as well as others, should receive the Lord's supper. It is nothing less than the revival of this custom that will secure a general attendance upon this ordinance; and no objection can be made to it, except what may, with equal strength, be made to bringing children to public worship at all, since they are as incapable of understanding the one as the other. Nor would this ancient and useful custom have been ever laid aside, if it had not been for the introduction of a train of superstitious notions, which made this plain and simple ordinance appear continually more mysterious and awful; till, at length, the monstrous doctrine of transubstantiation was completely established. Indeed, it is not a little remarkable, that the custom of giving the eucharist to children, was not finally abolished in any place till that doctrine had obtained the full sanction of the church of Rome; and that it maintains its ground to this very day, in all those Christian churches which were never subject to that anti-christian power, whose spiritual usurpations and corruptions of the gospel have been immense,
and have extended to almost every thing belonging to it. # * #
Such, and so simple, is the Christian rite of the Lord's Supper. For surely, then, all who have any value for Christianity will attend upon it, as wearing the proper badge of their profession. Be the moral use of this rite more or less, or even nothing at all, yet that it was appointed to be observed by one who had a right to appoint it, viz. the Founder of our faith, cannot be questioned.
One reason why it is so much neglected, is evidently an indifference to Christianity, in consequence of which none of its ordinances will be attended upon, any farther than public decency requires. But with many this neglect is owing to a secret superstition, as if there was something peculiarly hazardous in attending upon it unworthily in consequence of the apostle Paul saying, in his account of it, that such would receive judgment to themselves; (for so it ought to be rendered, and not damnation, as in our version.) But from his account of the irregularities of the Corinthians in their celebration of this ordinance, it is evident that by unworthily he meant improperly, not distinguishing it from a common entertainment; and that by judgment he either simply meant censure, or some temporal judgment, with which he supposed that they were visited on that account. It has no reference whatever to the state of man after death. Our only danger arises from professing Christianity itself, without living as becomes Christians; and this obligation affects all who will call themselves Christians, whether they attend to this particular ordinance or not.