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It appears then, that there are two suppers recorded in the scriptures, the one enjoined by Moses, and the other by Jesus Christ.
The first of these was of a ceremonial nature, and was confined exclusively to the Jews: for to Gentile converts who knew nothing of Moses, or whose ancestors were not concerned in the deliverance from Egyptian bondage, it could have had no meaning.
The latter was of a spiritual nature. It was not limited to any nation.
It had been enjoyed by many of the Patriarchs. Many of the Gentiles had enjoyed it also. But it was essentially necessary for all Christians.
Now the question is, whether Jesus Christ, when he celebrated the pa.s.sover, inst.i.tuted any new supper, distinct from that of the pa.s.sover, and which was to render null, and void, (as it is the tendency of ceremonies to do) that which he enjoined at Capernaum, to be observed as an ordinance by the Christian world.
The Quakers are of opinion that no inst.i.tution of this kind can be collected from Matthew, Mark, or John. St. Matthew mentions the celebration of the pa.s.sover supper in the following manner: "And as they were eating, Jesus took bread and blessed it, and brake it, and gave to his disciples, and said, take, eat, this is my body."
[Footnote 186: Mat. 26. 26.]
"And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, drink ye all of it."
"For this is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins."
"But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of the fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my father's kingdom."
St. Mark gives an account so similar to the former, that it is unnecessary to transcribe it. Both mention the administration of the cup; both the breaking and giving of the bread; both the allusion of Jesus to his own body and blood; both the idea of his not drinking wine any more but in a new kingdom; but neither of them mention any command, nor even any insinuation by Jesus Christ to his disciples, that they should do as he did at the pa.s.sover supper.
St. John, who relates the circ.u.mstance of Jesus Christ washing the feet of his disciples on the pa.s.sover night, mentions nothing even of the breaking of bread, or of the drinking of the wine upon that occasion.
As far therefore as the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and John, are concerned, it is obvious, in the opinion of the Quakers, that Christians have not the least pretence, either for the celebration of the pa.s.sover, or of that which they usually call the Lord's Supper; for the command for such a supper is usually grounded on the words, "do this in remembrance of me." But no such words occur in the accounts of any of the Evangelists now cited.
This silence with respect to any command for any new inst.i.tution is considered by the Quakers as a proof, as far as these Evangelists are concerned, that none was ever intended. For if the sacrament of the supper was to be such a great and essential rite as Christians make it, they would have been deficient in their duty, if they had failed to record it. St. Matthew, who was at the supper, and St. Mark, who heard of what had pa.s.sed there, both agree that Jesus used the ceremony of the bread and the wine, and also that he made an allusion from thence to his own body and blood; but it is clear, the Quakers say, whatever they might have heard as spoken by him, they did not understand him as enjoining a new thing. But the silence of John, upon this occasion, the Quakers consider as the most impressive in the present case. For St.
John was the disciple, who leaned upon the bosom of Jesus at this festival, and who of course must have heard all that he said. He was the disciple again, whom Jesus loved, and who would have been anxious to have perpetuated all that he required to be done. He was the disciple again, who so particularly related the spiritual supper which Jesus enjoined at Capernaum, and in this strong language, that, "except a man eat his flesh, and drink his blood, he has no life in him."
Notwithstanding this, St. John does not even mention what took place on the pa.s.sover night, believing, as the Quakers suppose, that it was not necessary to record the particulars of a Jewish ceremony, which, being a type, was to end when its ant.i.type was realized, and which he considered to be unnecessary for those of the Christian name.
_Account of St. Luke examined--According to him Jesus celebrated only the old Jewish pa.s.sover--Signified all future pa.s.sovers with him were to be spiritual--Hence he turned the attention of those present from the type to the ant.i.type--He recommended them to take their meals occasionally together in remembrance of their last supper with him; or if, as Jews, they could not relinquish the pa.s.sover, to celebrate it with a new meaning._
St. Luke, who speaks of the transactions which took place at the pa.s.sover-supper, is the only one of the Evangelists who records the remarkable words, "do this in remembrance of me." St. Luke, however, was not himself at this supper. Whatever he has related concerning it, was from the report of others.
But though the Quakers are aware of this circ.u.mstance, and that neither Matthew, Mark, nor John, give an account of such words, yet they do not question the authority of St. Luke concerning them. They admit them, on the other hand, to have been spoken; they believe however, on an examination of the whole of the narrative of St. Luke upon this occasion, that no new inst.i.tution of a religious nature was intended.
They believe that Jesus Christ did nothing more than celebrate the old pa.s.sover; that he intimated to his disciples, at the time he celebrated it, that it was to cease; that he advised them, however, to take their meals occasionally, in a friendly manner, together, in remembrance of him; or if, as Jews, they could not all at once relinquish the pa.s.sover, he permitted them to celebrate it with a new meaning.
In the first place St. Luke, and he is joined by all the other Evangelists, calls the feast now spoken of the pa.s.sover. Jesus Christ also gives it the same name; for he says, "with desire I have desired to eat this pa.s.sover with you before I suffer."
Jesus Christ, according to St. Luke, took bread and broke it, and divided it among his disciples. He also took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it among them. But this, the Quakers say, is no more than what the master of every Jewish family did on the pa.s.sover night: nor, is it any more, as will have already appeared, than what the Jews of London, or of Paris, or of Amsterdam, or of any other place, where bread and wine are to be had, do on the same feast at the present day.
But though Jesus Christ conducted himself so far as other masters of families did, yet he departed from the formula of words that was generally used upon these occasions. For in the first place, he is described to have said to his disciples, that "he would no more eat of the pa.s.sover, until it should be fulfilled in the kingdom of G.o.d;" and a little farther on, that "he would not drink of the fruit of the vine, till the kingdom of G.o.d should come; or, as St. Matthew has it, till he should drink it new with them in his father's kingdom."
By these words the Quakers understand, that it was the intention of Jesus Christ to turn the attention of his disciples from the type to the ant.i.type, or from the paschal lamb to the lamb of G.o.d, which was soon to be offered for them. He declared, that all his pa.s.sover suppers with them were in future to be spiritual. Such spiritual pa.s.sovers, the Quakers say, he afterwards ate with them on the day of pentecost, when the spirit of G.o.d came upon them; when their minds were opened, and when they discovered, for the first time, the nature of his kingdom. And these spiritual pa.s.sovers he has since eaten, and continues to eat with all those whose minds, detached from worldly pursuits and connexions, are so purified and spiritualized, as to be able to hold communion with G.o.d.
It is reported of him next, that "he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave to his disciples, saying, this is my body which is given for you."
On these words the Quakers make the following observations:--The word "this" does not belong to the word "bread," that is, it does not mean that this bread is my body. For the word "bread" in the original Greek is of the masculine, and the word "this" is of the neuter gender. But it alludes to the action of the breaking of the bread, from which the following new meaning will result. "This breaking of the bread, which you now see me perform, is a symbol or representation of the giving, or as St. Paul has it, of the breaking of my body for you."
In the same manner, the Quakers say, that the giving of the wine in the cup is to be understood as a symbol or representation of the giving of his blood for them.
The Quakers therefore are of opinion, when they consider the meaning of the sayings of Jesus Christ both with respect to the bread and to the wine, that he endeavoured again to turn the attention of his disciples from the type to the ant.i.type; from the bread and wine to his own body and blood; from the paschal lamb that had been slain and eaten, to the lamb that was going to be sacrificed; and as the blood of the latter was, according to St. Matthew, for the remission of sins, to turn their attention from the ancient object of the celebration of the pa.s.sover, or salvation from Egyptian bondage, to a new object, or the salvation of themselves and others by this new sacrifice of himself.
It is reported of him again by St. Luke, after he had distributed the bread and said, "this is my body which is given for you," that he added, "this do in remembrance of me."
These words the Quakers believe to have no reference to any new inst.i.tution; but they contain a recommendation to his disciples to meet in a friendly manner, and break their bread together, in remembrance of their last supper with him, or if as Jews, they could not all at once leave off the custom of the pa.s.sover, in which they had been born and educated as a religious ceremony, to celebrate it, as he had then modified and spiritualized it, with a new meaning.
If they relate to the breaking of their bread together, then they do not relate to any pa.s.sover or sacramental eating, but only to that of their common meals; for all the pa.s.sovers of Jesus Christ with his disciples were in future to be spiritual. And in this sense the primitive Christians seem to have understood the words in question. For in their religious zeal they sold all their goods, and, by means of the produce of their joint stock, they kept a common table, and lived together. But in process of time, as this custom from various causes declined, they met at each other's houses, or at their appointed places, to break their bread together, in memorial of the pa.s.sover-supper. This custom, it is remarkable, was denominated the custom of _breaking of bread_. Nor could it have had any other name so proper, if the narration of St. Luke be true. For the words "do this in remembrance of me," relate solely, as he has placed them, to the breaking of the bread. They were used after the distribution of the bread, but were not repeated after the giving of the cup.
If they relate, on the other hand, to the celebration of the pa.s.sover, as it had been modified and spiritualized with a new meaning, then the interpretation of them will stand thus: "As some of you, my disciples, for ye are all Jews, may not be able to get over all your prejudices at once, but may celebrate the pa.s.sover again, and as it is the last time that I shall celebrate it with you, as a ceremonial, I desire you to do it in remembrance, or as a memorial of me. I wish the celebration of it always to bring to your recollection this our last public meeting, the love I bear to you, and my sufferings and my death. I wish your minds to be turned from carnal to spiritual benefits, and to be raised to more important themes than the mere escape of your ancestors from Egyptian bondage. If it has been hitherto the object of the pa.s.sover to preserve in your memories the bodily salvation of your ancestors, let it be used in future, if you cannot forsake it, as a memorial of your own spiritual salvation; for my body, of which the bread is a representation, is to be broken, and my blood, of which the wine is an emblem, is to be shed for the remission of your sins."
But in whatever sense the words "do this in remembrance of me" are to be taken, the Quakers are of opinion, as far as St. Luke states the circ.u.mstances, that they related solely to the disciples themselves.
Jesus Christ recommends it to those who were present, and to those only, to do this in remembrance of him. But he no where tells them to order or cause it to be done by the whole Christian world, as he told them to "preach the Gospel to every creature."
To sum up the whole of what has been said in this chapter:--If we consult St. Luke, and St. Luke only, all that we can collect on this subject will be, that the future pa.s.sover-suppers of Christ with his disciples were to be spiritual; that his disciples were desired to break their bread together in remembrance of him; or if, as Jews, they could not relinquish the pa.s.sover, to celebrate it with a new meaning; but that this permission extended to those only who were present on that occasion.
_Account of St. Paul--He states that the words "do this in remembrance of me" were used at the pa.s.sover-supper--That they contained a permission for a custom, in which both the bread and the wine were included--That this custom was the pa.s.sover, spiritualised by Jesus Christ--But that it was to last but for a time--Some conjecture this time to be the destruction of Jerusalem--But the Quakers, till the disciples had attained such a spiritual growth, that they felt Christ's kingdom substantially in their hearts--And as it was thus limited to them, so it was limited to such Jewish converts as might have adopted it in their times._
The last of the sacred writers, who mentions the celebration of the pa.s.sover-supper, is St. Paul, whose account is now to be examined.
St. Paul, in his first epistle to the Corinthians, reproves the latter for some irregularities committed by them in the course of their religious meetings. What these meetings were is uncertain. They might have been for the celebration of the pa.s.sover-supper, for there was a synagogue of Jews at Corinth, of whom some had been converted. Or they might have been for the celebration of the pa.s.sover as spiritualized by Jesus Christ, or for the breaking of bread, which customs both the Jewish and Gentile converts might have adopted. The custom, however, at which these irregularities took place, is called by St. Paul, the Lord's Supper. And this t.i.tle was not inapplicable to it in either of the cases supposed, because it must have been, in either of them, in commemoration of the last supper, which Jesus Christ, or the Lord and Master, ate with his disciples before he suffered.
[Footnote 187: Chap. 11.]
But whichever ceremonial it was that St. Paul alluded to, the circ.u.mstances of the irregularities of the Corinthians, obliged him to advert to and explain what was said and done by Jesus on the night of the pa.s.sover-supper. This explanation of the Apostle has thrown new light upon the subject, and has induced the Quakers to believe, that no new inst.i.tution was intended to take place as a ceremonial to be observed by the Christian world.
St. Paul, in his account of what occurred at the original pa.s.sover, reports that Jesus Christ made use of the words "this do in remembrance of me." By this the Quakers understand that he permitted something to be done by those who were present at this supper.
He reports also, that Jesus Christ used these words, not only after the breaking of the bread, but after the giving of the cup: from whence they conclude, that St. Paul considered both the bread and the wine, as belonging to that which had been permitted.
St. Paul also says, "for as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come." By these words they believe they discover two things; first, the nature of the thing permitted; and, secondly, that the thing permitted, whatever it was, was to last but for a time.
The thing then, which was permitted to those who were present at the pa.s.sover-supper, was to show or declare his death. The words "show or declare," prove, in the first place, the connexion of the thing permitted with the Jewish pa.s.sover. For after certain ceremonies had been performed on the pa.s.sover night, "the showing forth or declaration," as it was called, followed; or the object of the meeting was declared aloud to the persons present, or it was declared to them publicly in what particulars the pa.s.sover feast differed from all the other feasts of the Jews. Secondly, the word "death" proves the thing permitted to have been the pa.s.sover, as spiritualized by Jesus Christ; for by the new modification of it, his disciples, if they were unable to overcome their prejudices, were to turn their attention from the type to the ant.i.type, or from the sacrifice of the paschal lamb to the sacrifice of himself, or to his own sufferings and death. In short, Jesus Christ always attempted to reform by spiritualizing. When the Jews followed him for the loaves, and mentioned manna, he tried to turn their attention from material to spiritual bread. When he sat upon Jacob's well, and discoursed with the woman of Samaria, he directed her attention from ordinary, or elementary to spiritual and living water. So he did upon this occasion. He gave life to the dead letter of an old ceremony by a new meaning. His disciples were from henceforth to turn their attention, if they chose to celebrate the pa.s.sover, from the paschal lamb to himself, and from the deliverance of their ancestors out of Egyptian bondage to the deliverance of themselves and others, by the giving up of his own body and the shedding of his own blood for the remission of sins.
And as the thing permitted was the pa.s.sover, spiritualized in this manner, so it was only permitted for a time, or "until he come."
By the words "until he come," it is usually understood, until Christ come. But though Christians have agreed upon this, they have disagreed as to the length of time which the words may mean. Some have understood that Jesus Christ intended this spiritualized pa.s.sover to continue for ever as an ordinance of his church, for that "till he come" must refer to his coming to judge the world. But it has been replied to these, that in this case no limitation had been necessary, or it would have been said at once, that it was to be a perpetual ordinance, or expressed in plainer terms, than in the words in question.
Others have understood the words to mean the end of the typical world, which happened on the destruction of Jerusalem, when the Jews were dispersed, and their church, as a national one, done away. For the coming of Christ and the end of the world have been considered as taking place at the same time. Thus the early Christians believed, that Jesus Christ, even after his death and resurrection, would come again, even in their own life time, and that the end of the world would then be. These events they coupled in their minds; "for they asked him privately, saying, tell us when these things shall be, and what shall be the sign of thy coming and of the end of the world?" Jesus told them in reply, that the end of the world and his coming would be, when there were wars, and rumours of wars, and earthquakes, and famine, and pestilence, and tribulations on the earth; and that these calamities would happen even before the generation, then alive, would pa.s.s away.
Now all these things actually happened in the same generation; for they happened at the destruction of Jerusalem. Jesus Christ therefore meant by the end of the world, the end of the Jewish world, or of the world of types, figures, and ordinances: and he coupled naturally his own coming with this event, because he could not come fully into the hearts of any, till these externals were done away. He alluded, in short, to the end of the Jewish dispensation and the beginning of his own spiritual kingdom, or to the end of the ceremonial and the beginning of the Gospel world.