The Lord's Supper
C. H. Mackintosh
The institution of the Lord's Supper must be regarded, by every spiritual mind, as a peculiarly touching proof of the Lord's gracious care and considerate love for His Church. From the time of its appointment until the present hour, it has been a steady, though silent, witness to a truth which the enemy, by every means in his power, has sought to corrupt and set aside, namely, that redemption is an accomplished fact to be enjoyed by the weakest believer in Jesus. Many centuries have rolled away since the Lord Jesus appointed "the bread and the cup" in the eucharist as the significant symbols of His broken body and His blood shed for us; and notwithstanding all the heresy, all the schism, all the controversy and strife, the war of principles and prejudices which the blotted page of ecclesiastical history records, this most expressive institution has been observed by the saints of God in every age.
True, the enemy has succeeded, throughout a vast section of the professing Church, in wrapping it up in a shroud of dark superstition: in presenting it in such a way as actually to hide from the view of the communicant the grand and eternal reality of which it is the memorial; in displacing Christ and His accomplished sacrifice by a powerless ordinance — an ordinance, moreover, which by the very mode of its administration proves its utter worthlessness and opposition to the truth.* Yet, notwithstanding Rome's deadly error in reference to the ordinance of the Lord's Supper, it still speaks to every circumcised ear and every spiritual mind the same deep and precious truth — it "shows the Lord's death till He come". The body has been broken, the blood has been shed once no more to be repeated; and the breaking of bread is but the memorial of this emancipating truth.
With what profound interest and thankfulness, therefore, should the believer contemplate "the bread and the cup"! Without a word spoken, there is the setting forth of truths at once the most precious and glorious: grace reigning — redemption finished — sin put away — everlasting righteousness brought in — the sting of death gone — eternal glory secured — "grace and glory" revealed as the free gift of God and the Lamb — the unity of the "one body", as baptized by "one Spirit". What a feast! It carries the soul back, in the twinkling of an eye, over a lapse of hundreds of years, and shows us the Master Himself, "in the same night in which He was betrayed", sitting at the supper table, and there instituting a feast which, from that solemn moment, that memorable night, until the dawn of the morning, should lead every believing heart at once backward to the cross and forward to the glory.
This feast has ever since, by the very simplicity of its character, and yet the deep significance of its elements, rebuked the superstition that would deify and worship it, the profanity that would desecrate it, and the infidelity that would set it aside altogether: furthermore, while it has rebuked all these, it has strengthened, comforted, and refreshed the hearts of millions of God's beloved saints. It is sweet to think of this — sweet to bear in mind, as we assemble on the first day of the week round the supper of the Lord, that apostles, martyrs, and saints have gathered round that feast, and found therein, according to their measure, refreshment and blessing.
Schools of theology have arisen, flourished, and disappeared; doctors and fathers have accumulated ponderous tomes of divinity; deadly heresies have darkened the atmosphere, and rent the professing church from one end to the other; superstition and fanaticism have put forth their baseless theories and extravagant notions; professing Christians have split into sects innumerable — all these things have taken place; but the Lord's Supper has continued, amid the darkness and confusion, to tell out its simple yet comprehensive tale. "For as often as ye shall eat this bread, and drink the cup, ye announce the death of the Lord, until He come" (1 Corinthians 11:26).
Precious feast! Thank God for the great privilege of celebrating it! And yet is it but a sign, the elements of which must, in nature's view, be mean and contemptible. Bread broken, wine poured out — how simple! Faith alone can read, in the sign, the thing signified; therefore it needs not the adventitious circumstances which false religion has introduced in order to add dignity, solemnity, and awe to that which derives all its value, its power, and its impressiveness from its being a memorial of an eternal fact which false religion denies. May you and I enter with more freshness and intelligence into the meaning of the Lord's Supper, and with deeper experience into the blessedness of breaking that bread which is "the communion of the body of Christ", and drinking of that cup which is "the communion of the blood of Christ".
* The church of Rome has so entirely departed from the truth set forth in the Lord's Supper, that she professes to offer, in the mass, "an unbloody sacrifice for the sins of the living and the dead". Now we are taught, in Hebrews 9:22, that "without shedding of blood is no remission"; consequently, the church of Rome has no remission of sins for her members. She robs them of this precious reality, and instead gives them an anomalous and utterly unscriptural thing, called "an unbloody sacrifice, or mass". This which according to her own practice and the testimony of Hebrews 9:22, can never take away sin, she offers day by day, week by week, and year by year. A sacrifice without blood must, if Scripture be true, be a sacrifice without remission. Therefore, the sacrifice of the mass is a positive blind raised by the devil, through the agency of Rome, to hide from the sinner's view the glorious sacrifice of Christ, "once offered", and never to be repeated. "Christ, being raised from the dead, dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over Him" (Romans 6:9). Every fresh sacrifice of the mass only declares the inefficiency of all the previous sacrifices, so that Rome is only mocking the sinner with an empty shadow. But she is consistent in her wickedness, for she withholds the cup from the laity, and teaches her members that they have body and blood and all in the wafer. But, if the blood be still in the body, it is manifestly not shed, and then we get back to the same gloomy point: "no remission". "Without shedding of blood is no remission".
How totally different is the precious and most refreshing institution of the Lord's Supper, as set before us in the New Testament. There we find the bread broken and the wine poured out — the significant symbols of a body broken and of blood shed. The wine is not in the bread, because the blood is not in the body, for, if it were, there would be "no remission". In a word, the Lord's Supper is the distinct memorial of an eternally accomplished sacrifice: none can communicate thereat, with intelligence or blessing, save those who know the full remission of sins. It is not that we would, by any means, make knowledge a term of communion, for very many of the children of God, through bad teaching, and various other causes, do not know the perfect remission of sins, and were they to be excluded on that ground, it would be making knowledge a term of communion, instead of life and obedience. Still, if I do not know, experimentally, that redemption is an accomplished fact, I shall see but little meaning in the symbols of bread and wine; moreover, I shall be in great danger of attaching a species of efficacy to the memorials, which belongs only to the great reality to which they point.
Extract from "Things New and Old", by C. H. Mackintosh.
The Lord's Supper