« ForrigeFortsett »
partaking of the bread and wine from the hand of the authorized minister, seriously and devoutly remembers our Saviour's death, in any place, or at any time, may excuse himself from coming to the table in the Church, even on the most solemn occasions, as from a work of superstition and superfluity. Or, if in compliance with a decorous custom, (in what he thinks matter of indifference,) he should sometimes attend it, he : will go without hope, and return without consolation. '
Is it necessary (the lukewarm and the busy may say) to go to Church to eat bread and drink wine, in order to call to remembrance a fact of universal notoriety? Who forgets the death of Cæsar? The death of Christ can never fall from the memory of a man who has read the Gospel, or who lives in a land where Christianity is the established Religion. The Sacrament, thus lowered from a beneficial mystery to a mere memorial, will scarcely be considered in any other light than as a relique of popery. Among the mass of the people it is already neglected ; but if the doctrine
taught taught by distinguished divines, that it is but a ceremony without benefits, should prevail; the neglect of worthy receiving will not be apologized for, as the effect of thoughtlessness; but boldly defended, as displaying a mind superior to all idle and superstitious formality.
This degrading opinion has already been ably confuted; and, in this place, I shall add only one or two considerations on its absurdity; suggested by the learned author of the Divine Legation. He is an accurate reasoner; and I prefer his testimony, on the present occasion, because he was ingula ly adverse to every thing that bordered on fanaticism. He would not, I think, have maintained the myste* rious dignity of the Eucharist, and the beneficial effects which attend it, unless he had been convinced of them by arguments of irresistible force. . : The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper is allowed to be more than a memorial, inasmu h as it is allo ved to be a COMMUNION of the Participants, from the words which follow : “ We being many, are one bread
and one body, for we are all partakers “ of that one bread*.” It is allowed, I say, in being a Communion of the Participants, to be something more than mere remembrance of a benefactor. It causes the receivers (as we here read) “ of many to become one body.” But if it be merely a Commemoration of a departed benefactor, the receivers are not made by it one body, but remain, as they were, separate professors of one common faith. They were connected in the circumstance of a common profession of faith, before they partook of the bread; and are not at all the more incorporated by a mere act of Commemoration, which each of them may separately perform, whether in solitude or in company. But by their “ communion of “ the body and blood” of Christ they become mystically UNITED to each other and to HIM; they become one BODY in a mystical Communion.
If the Sacrament had been the mere remembrance of a Benefactor, how could the crime of the Corinthians have been so great, as to render them “ guilty of the 6 body and blood of Jesus Christ * ;” that is, involved in the guilt of his intentional murderers ? “ There was more in it than “ a mere remembrance,” says Bishop Warburton, “ or St. Paul aggravates their crime.” Was the festivity of the Corinthians, if carried even to some degree of excess, a crime so atrocious as to constitute them no less guilty than the murderers of Jesus Christ, when the very exuberance of their joy might arise from an overflowing gratitude to a Benefactor, at a feast appointed by himself, purposely for a chearful commemoration. They might have been guilty of very blamable irreverence and indecorum in their excess; but not guilty of a crime equal to the murder of our Saviour, unless there be something more in the feast which they profaned than mere remembrance. « To “ rank these criminals," says the same able prelate, “ with the murderers of the Lord “ of Life, is a severity of which we can“ not see the justice. But when we view
* 1 Cor. x.
" the Sacrament as a feast, or rite, in “ which the benefits of Christ's death and “ passion were conveyed, and at the same “ time slighted by the Corinthians, we “ can then account for their criminality. “ Slighting the benefits, was rendering, as “ far as in them lay, the death and pas“ sion of Christ ineffectual, which was the “ purpose of his murderers ;” therefore the crime of the Corinthians, thus viewed, had a similarity to that of his murderers, and justly provoked the Apostle's indignation.
I suppose the modern degraders of the Sacrament will not deny, that St. Paul understood the nature and design of the Sacrament better than themselves; and it appears from his opinion of the Corinthian profanation, that he could not consider it as a mere memorial. No method of keeping a feast of simple commemoration could render the partakers equally guilty with those who crucified their Saviour; the crime which is implied in the words, “ guilty of the body and blood of Jesus 66 Christ.” Without repeating all the arguments of