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'■ZHT



The Sacred Feast



SHORT DISCOURSES ON THE LORD'S
SUPPER



By GEORGE LESTER

Author of "Grimsby Methodism," "The Wesleys in Lincoln-
shire," " Lord Tennyson and the Bible," etc.



" It ought to be matter of solicitude on the part of Christian minis-
ters to teach their people the right doctrine of the Sacraments, espe-
cially that which lays emphasis upon their relation to the New Cov-
enant, its benefits and obligations." — Dr. W. B. Pope



NEW YORK: EATON & MAINS
CINCINNATI: CURTS & JENNINGS



/^//.



^



THErj=; A- voRK

pub!j:;j8sary

TILDEN FOUNDATIONS.

1897.



Copyright by

EATON & MAINS,

1897.



Eaton & Mains Press,
150 Fifth Avenue, New York.



TO THE REVERED MEMORY OF

BISHOP SIMPSON,

WHOSE DISTINGUISHED PIETY, SANCTIFIED ELOQUENCE, AND
MASTERLY GIFTS OF ADMINISTRATION WERE RECOG-
NIZED ON BOTH SIDES OF THE ATLANTIC,

I DEDICATE

THIS LITTLE VOLUME, AS REFLECTING— IN HOWEVER IMPER-
FECT A MANNER— THE SENTIMENTS OF THAT GIFTED
AND HONORED EXPONENT OF METHODIST
DOCTRINE AND PRIVILEGE IN
REGARD TO

THE SACRED FEAST.



CONTENTS.



PAGE

CHAPTER I.
On the Duty of Church Fellowship, - - - 7



CHAPTER II.

On the Office of the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament

of the Lord's Supper, - - - - - 17

CHAPTER III.
On the Lord's Supper as a Covenanting Act, - 30

CHAPTER IV.
On Eucharistic Joy. - - -.. 42

CHAPTER V.

On Anticipative Communion, - - - - 59
Choice Extracts, _._ - - 67



On the Duty of Church Fellowship*

^'Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also
which shall believe on tne through their word ; that
they all ?nay be 07ie ; as thou, Father, art in 7ne, and
I in thee, that they also may be one in us : that the
world may believe that thou hast sent 7ne" — John
xvii, 20, 21.

The short discourses on the Lord's Sup-
per, which form the chief part of this little
volume, may be appropriately introduced by
an address on THE Duty OF Church Fel-
lowship.

The words of our Lord now to be consid-
ered occur in a quite unique portion of the
Gospel narrative. We are told more than
once that the Lord Jesus prayed. Occa-
sionally some few words that he uttered in
prayer are recorded in the New Testament ;
such as, " Father, glorify thy name ; " ** If it



8 THE SACRED FEAST.

be possible, let this cup pass from me," etc.;
'* Father, forgive them ; they know not what
they do." Other petitions, too, are recorded
as having been spoken by the Saviour of
mankind — particularly in connection with
his suffering and death.

But there is nothing quite like this. Here
we have the substance of a long act of de-
votion preserved. It has been designated
** the prayer of the high priest, now about
to take upon him his office, and to offer
atonement for the sins of the people." It
consists of (i) the prayer for himself (verses
1-5); the prayer for his disciples (6-19);
the prayer for the whole Church (20-26).

It was a night of sore anguish that was
before him. All the agony of Gethsemane,
the sorrow of the betrayal, of that mocking
and scourging, of Peter's denial, of the way
to Golgotha, and of the bitter cross — it was
all consciously present to his mind. " He
knew all things that were coming upon
him."



ON THE DUTY OF CHURCH FELLOWSHIP. 9

But there was something more that he
knew. He had already spoken of the mis-
sion of his apostles, and of the coming and
office of the Holy Spirit. Even now, in this
prayer, he anticipates the victory of his Gos-
pel, the faith of multitudes, the establish-
ment of his spiritual kingdom. It is ob-
servable how, by anticipation, he regards the
future body of believers as being already
in existence. The guarantee and earnest of
the Church that is to be is here in this com-
pany of apostles who are kneeling around
him as he pours out his soul to God. Oppo-
sition there will be ; by some they will be
despised and rejected, as he had been. He
has already forewarned and forearmed them.
And yet he sees that all along down through
the ages some will '' believe." That Church
of which he had spoken to Peter (Matt, xvi,
18) will be built; ''and the gates of hell
shall not prevail against it.*'

For these believing souls he prays ; he
prays " that they may be one : " " one " in a



lO THE SACRED FEAST.

unity that shall be like the unity of the
Father with himself. And what kind of
unity is that? It is a unity of disposition
and purpose ; but it is more than that. It
is a vital unity, in which " the members
share the life of one and of the same organ-
ism" (Rom. xii, 4, 5). It is a unity which
shall produce a moral miracle — a conquest
of the resisting will of man : the world will
" believe that thou hast sent me " (verse 21).
All this points to the visibility, continuity,
and perfuanence of Christ's Church on earth.
The early Christians had an external, as
well as a spiritual, bond of union. Such as
were being saved were *' added to the
Church." " The Church " was not a miscel-
laneous assembly of worshipers without
organic association, conditions of member-
ship, or internal order. It was an organized
community, with its duly appointed officers
and its accredited membership; with its
means and ministers of grace, and its broth-
erhood of mutual help and oversight.



ON THE DUTY OF CHURCH FELLOWSHIP. II

All this did not come about in a casual,
accidental way. Nor was it a mere pious
and prudent arrangement contrived by the
apostles. It was distinctly of Christ's will
and appointment. He prescribed no exclu-
sive form of church organization and gov-
ernment; but he made it clear — beyond
possibility of mistake — that it was his pur-
pose and his prayer that his disciples should
be united, not only to himself, but to each
other in a bond of fellowship, witness, and
service.

This is the answer to the question as to
church fellowship when it is asked. Does it
matter? The reply is, It does matter to
your loyalty to Christ.

It is impossible for any who purpose to
live the Christ life to formulate any valid
excuse for remaining outside the pale of
Christ's Church.

Excuses there are in plenty ; they are al-
ways poor, sometimes they are paltry. They
are pleaded in ignorance of the solemn duty



12 THE SACRED FEAST.

of an avowed profession of faith, or in a
self-assertiveness which is unbecoming in
face of divine requirement expressly set
forth.

" I am not good enough ;" '' I fear that I
may disgrace my Christian profession ;" " I
see so many inconsistent professors ;" " I am
doing my best though not a member;" '* I
can't afford it ;" " I do not approve of this or
that form of membership" — these are some
of the excuses pleaded. There is not one
of them that has not been answered scores
of times, or that could not be answered
again. It is not proposed to deal with any
of them now ; but, with them all in mind,
and conceiving that a hundred more of such
may he pleaded, over against them all is
placed the explicit purpose of our blessed
Saviour.

This is a subject that has been often dis-
cussed from too low a level. Our text raises
the point of observation. It puts this ques-
tion outside the region of mere " likes and



ON THE DUTY OF CHURCH FELLOWSHIP. I3

dislikes ; " it urges it upon the solemn duty
of fidelity to Christ.

No apology is offered for our own partic-
ular form of membership, for the simple
reason that it does not need an apology.
As to the class meeting, it has had plenty
of misunderstanding and misinterpretation,
as well as of open attack. It is capable of
abuse — as is every other form and condition
of membership. Are there no troubles ac-
companying other tests of membership ? Is
confirmation never abused ? Are the tests
of Presbyterianism and Congregationalism
in every case satisfactory in their application
to individuals? I trow not. If these Church
arrangements were of direct authority from
Christ himself, it would yet be possible to
abuse them. The very grace of God may
be " turned into lasciviousness." The fact
is, all these forms and conditions of member-
ship are human ^ and bear the weakness — or
sagacity, as may be — of everything that is

human. We claim no higher authority for
2



14 THE SACRED FEAST.

our form of membership than is claimed for
that of other communions. But we accept
no lower view of it than what belongs to
any other. Judged by the scripturalness of
its philosophy, the practicability of its appli-
cation, the ease with which it accommodates
itself to climatic and economical circum-
stances, and the story of its success, the
Methodist form of church membership stands
second to none of all the organizations which
aim at brotherly recognition and Christian
fellowship. No doubt the efficiency of a
class meeting depends a good deal upon the
leader, but not so much as is often imag-
ined. Our classes are pretty much what the
members make them.

But, whatever section of" Christ's Church
militant here upon earth " may seem to you
to approach most nearly to the primitive
ideal, to capture your enthusiasm, to fur-
nish the largest and freest possibilities of
fellowship and of service, it is at once your
duty and your privilege to attach yourself



ON THE DUTY OF CHURCH FELLOWSHIP. 1 5

to that community of Christian believers.
And, being so attached to it as part of the
Church universal, it is your further duty and
privilege — as a Christian — to partake of the
holy communion. The partaking of the
Lord's Supper does not constitute church
membership ; rather, it is the token of it,
while it is a declaration of Christian disciple-
ship.

''The Lord's Supper" is a sacrament in
the true sense of the word, wherein the be-
liever and the Saviour renew their pledge
either to other. The communicants, in like
manner, pledge each other. It is a renewal
of '' the bond of the covenant."

In no other of the means and ministries
of grace, as known to Christian believers, is
there, or can there be, so large and joyous a
consciousness of fellowship with " all them
who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sin-
cerity." The holy Supper is no sectarian
badge, but — notwithstanding all the diver-
gent views entertained as to its nature and



l6 THE SACRED FEAST.

efficacy, and all varieties of form and order
for its administration — is the universal token
of discipleship. " One is your Master even
Christ, and all ye are brethren." ** Out-
ward union is an effect^ not a cause ; it
springs from and depends upon inward
unity in Christ. The spirit which enables
a man to join in the communion, so far as
Christ's relation to him and his relation to
Christ is concerned, is the one secret for
producing true communion with all who hold
like precious faith in him who is our com-
mon Head and Lord."

" How happy are we

Who in Jesus agree
To expect his return from above !

We sit under our Vine,

And delightfully join
In the praise of his excellent love."



ON THE OFFICE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.



II.



On the Office of the Holy Spirit in the
Sacrament of the Lord's Suppen

''But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost,
whom the Father will send in my ftame, he shall
teach you all things, ajtd bring all things to your re-
membrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." —
John xiv, 26.

No careful reader of the New Testament
can fail to notice how intimately our
Lord's fullest teaching concerning the
Comforter is associated with the institution
of the holy Supper. His valedictory ad-
dress was, probably, spoken and his inter-
cessory prayer offered in the very room in
which, after supper, he took the bread and
the cup and gave them to his disciples, say-
ing, *' Do this in remembrance of me."
Or, if not actually in that same upper room,
there was no sort of interval between the



l8 THE SACRED FEAST.

institution of the Lord's Supper and" the
last great discourse.

Now this is very significant. We can
hardly realize the surprise and speechless
awe of the disciples as they received from
their Master's hands the bread and the cup
with the command that enjoined upon them
and upon his followers through all time the
perpetual memorial of his broken body and
shed blood. Again and again, in the course
of their association with him, his words and
actions had been such as to occasion their
astonishment. During this same night they
had cause for amazement as he rose '' from
supper, and laid aside his garments; and
took a towel, and girded himself. After that
he poureth water into a basin, and began to
wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them
with the towel wherewith he was girded."
So entirely beyond their comprehension was
this object-lesson on humility that Peter
may well have exclaimed, ** Thou shalt
never wash my feet."



ON THE OFFICE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. I9

But this giving of the bread and the cup,
as the symbols of his body so soon to be
broken and his blood so soon to be shed,
surpassed all that had ever occurred in the
course of his instruction. It is not recorded
that any of them asked a question, or re-
marked in any way whatsoever upon the
Master's solemn procedure. It was no time
for questions. And yet, mysterious as it all
was, could they not leave it to him to make
all plain to them, as he had so often done
before when they were perplexed ?

Nor have they long to wait for what shall
explain all. Not indeed that he will " talk
much with " them ; but this he will do :
he will give them full instruction and guid-
ance by the offices of another. " These
things have I spoken unto you, being yet
present with you. But the Comforter, which
is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will
send in my name, he shall teach you all
things, and bring all things to your remem-
brance, whatsoever I have said unto you."



20 THE SACRED FEAST.

That promise embraces full instruction as to
every part of the blessed Saviour's work,
but (is it too much to say?) it has especial
reference to the elucidation of this commem-
orative ordinance. This, then, is the theme:
The Office of the Holy Spirit in the
Sacrament of the Lord's Supper.

It is in our Lord's teaching concerning the
Holy Spirit that wc are to find our instruc-
tion concerning this holy communion. As
he comes to our assistance, and only as he
thus comes, do we know what we are doing
at the Lord's table. It is by God the Holy
Ghost, and only by him, that we realize the
significance and enjoy the blessing of the
sacred feast :

" We cannot think a gracious thought,

We cannot feel a good desire,
Till thou, who call'dst a world from naught.

The power into our hearts inspire ;
And then we in thy Spirit groan,
And then we give thee back thine own."

It is only necessary to call to mind the



ON THE OFFICE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. 21

nature of this ordinance to see that without
the Holy Spirit we can neither approach the
table aright nor enter as we ought into this
sacred observance. But it is remarkable,
neither in the New Testament, where the
Lord's Supper is referred to, nor in the office
for its administration as contained in the
ritual of our Church, is there anything like
prominence given to the specific work of the
Holy Spirit in connection with this sacra-
ment. In the baptismal office his presence
and gracious operation are repeatedly in-
voked. Again and again we are there
reminded that it is his renewing grace which
is signified and symbolized in the sprinkling
of water. The inward and spiritual grace of
which this sacred rite is the outward and
visible sign is distinctly his gift — his alone ;
the ceremony is nothing without him.

And yet, in the communion service there
is no specific mention of what he must needs
be doing for us from beginning to end of holy
communion — save that, indeed, we pray in the



22 THE SACRED FEAST.

the opening of the service that *'the thoughts
of our hearts " may be cleansed by his inspi-
ration, and in the doxologies we ascribe praise
to him equally with the Father and the Son.

Nevertheless, without the Holy Spirit in
the ordinance all is vain and spiritually
profitless. The minister can impart no
grace ; the order and form of service may
be solemn and decorous, but in and of itself
it is all for naught ; the sacramental elements
contain no mystic virtue. We are absolutely
dependent upon the presence and blessing of
God the Holy Ghost. If this holy Supper
were a mass — which it is not ; if sacramental
grace could be imparted mechanically by the
ministrant — which it cannot ; if the bread and
wine became in some mysterious way the
real body and blood of Christ — which they
are not ; or if even the body and blood of
Christ were spiritually present in the conse-
crated elements — which we do not believe to
be so ; that is to say, if we accepted either
the Roman or the high Anglican view of the



ON THE OFFICE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. 23

Lord's Supper — which we do not — then it
might be possible to think of the spiritual
good of the ordinance as less dependent
upon the presence and gracious ministry of
the blessed Spirit. These theories, however,
one and all, we distinctly repudiate; for
Protestants of the Protestants are we. It
follows, therefore, that our evangelical inter-
pretation of the sacrament must include a
most distinct reliance upon the Holy Spirit
and his blessed work in the soul of the com-
municant, or we are " of all men most to be
pitied " in our doctrinal views and in our
observance of this sacred rite.

What then are we to conclude ? Are we to
suppose that the comparative absence of all
direct allusions to the Holy Spirit, both in
the accounts of the institution of the Lord's
Supper and in the form of service we adopt for
the administration of the blessed rite, leaves
us in doubt as to whether he will be with us
to help our infirmities and cheer us in this
sacred repast? Certainly not.



24 THE SACRED FEAST.

It is not simply because we feel to need
him so much that we cherish the hope that
he will not fail us. We look for his presence
and assistance here and now because our
needs are just such as it is promised he shall
supply ; our acts are precisely such as we
have been assured he will graciously assist ;
our yearnings are of the very kind concern-
ing which he is set forth as our most real and
satisfying portion. All we know of him as
the Paraclete, all those offices of gracious
enlightenment, of succor, of comfort, and of
sanctity which do most signally charac-
terize ''his temporal mission" are such as
may be, and will be, exercised as we obey
our Lord's express command — as we show
forth his death.

"Sinners, lift up your hearts,

The promise to receive ;
Jesus himself imparts, —

He comes in man to Uve :
The Holy Ghost to man is given ;
Rejoice in God sent down from heaven."



ON THE OFFICE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. 2$

The very absence of specific teaching
leaves us free to apply the whole of our
Lord's instruction concerning the Holy Spirit
to this most precious and most important
expression of our faith in Jesus the Son of
God.

Before communion he is with every sincere
believer, and so also in communion and after
communion. We are not to approach this
table thoughtlessly, but are to examine our-
selves. And he it is who will enable us to
search our hearts. He will enlighten our
minds so that the truth as it is in Jesus
may be intelligently apprehended. He will
quicken our sluggish hearts that we may be
prompt and responsive when spiritual truth
is presented to us. He will apply the cleans-
ing blood and witness to our conscience of
its part therein. We must throw wide open
the door of our souls and admit the heavenly
illumination. We must not expect to find
in ourselves and of ourselves moral fitness —
that there can never be. " We do not pre-



26 THE SACRED FEAST.

sume to come to this thy table, O merciful
Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but
in thy manifold and great mercies." Not
the saintliest among us can approach this
ordinance to bestow anything upon God.
But the blessed Spirit will show us both our
need and God's great mercy. He will dis-
close every hindrance to profitable com-
munion, and will both incite and help us to
put it away. He will cause us to " truly and
earnestly repent of our sins," and to be " in
love and charity with our neighbors," and
will work in us the godly intention to "lead
a new life, following the commandments of
God and walking henceforth in his holy
ways." And, thus assisted by him and pre-
pared by him, you will " draw near with faith
and take this holy sacrament to your com-
fort." ''The preparation of the heart in
man is from the Lord," the Spirit. Fasting
cannot prepare you, penance cannot prepare
you, the best of rules of godly conduct can-
not prepare you ; here, as elsewhere, it is the



ON THE OFFICE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. 27

Spirit who " helpeth our infirmities." If we
let him have free course within our hearts
he will cleanse us ; but " if any man have
not the Spirit of Christ he is none of his."
It is in vain that we show our society tickets,
or our communion tokens, unless we seek
preparation by the Holy Spirit. The pre-
paratory rite of confirmation cannot of itself
fit anyone to approach these sacred memo-
rials of his dying love. It is as powerless to
cleanse and purify the heart as is the white
dress or the spotless muslin veil of the " first
communion."

But God's Spirit will create in us a clean
heart ; he will renew within us a right spirit,
for has he not promised: "Then will I
sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall
be clean : from all your filthiness, and from
all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new
heart also will I give you, and a new spirit
will I put within you : and I will take away
the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will
give you a heart of flesh. And I will put



28 THE SACRED FEAST.

my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk
in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judg-
ments, and do them."

And in the act of communion he will be
with you. Indeed, if he be not with you it
is all in vain that you eat the bread and
drink of the cup. He it is who will make
this a true memorial of Christ's death.
That to which you are called in the words,
'* Do this in remembrance of me," is no mere
formal act. You may commemorate some
event in that way, for example, the landing of
Columbus by a " World's Fair," the queen's
birthday or accession by a display of bunt-
ing and the burst of music, etc. But this
holy Supper is no mere ceremony. Drape
and decorate the** altar" (so-called) accord-
ing to the most approved rules of church
ornamentation, provide the most elaborate
of *' altar " vessels, add to all this all that
music and vestments and incense and
candles can furnish, but what does it all
amount to ? A spectacle, and in and of it-



ON THE OFFICE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. 29

self only a spectacle. Can a spectacle be a
memorial such as this Supper was designed
to be ? I trow not. It is not thus that we
show forth our Lord's death. But we look
for something more knowing that there is
One who has access to the inmost chambers
of the soul. One who has never ceased to
draw and strive and lead upward our way-
ward, wandering hearts. God in us as well
as God over us and God for us, the Holy
Spirit himself

" Come, thou everlasting Spirit,

Bring to every thankful mind
All the Saviour's dying merit,

All his sufferings for mankind :
True Recorder of his passion.

Now the living faith impart ;
Now reveal his great salvation

Unto every faithful heart.

" Come, thou Witness of his dying ;

Come, Remembrancer divine ;
Let us feel thy power applying

Christ to every soul, and mine :
Let us groan thy inward groaning ;

Look on him we pierced, and grieve ;
All receive the grace atoning.

All the sprinkled blood receive."
3



30 THE SACRED FEAST.



III.

On the Lord's Supper as a Covenantingf Act.

" This cup is the new testament in my blood, which
is shed for you." — Luke xxii. 20.

In this blessed ordinance we are called
upon to make or to renew our solemn pledge
to Christ as " the Captain of our salvation."
Not that this is all that is intended by this
sacrament ; but everything else in our use of
the Lord's Supper should lead up to this.
Our penitence and humiliation on account of
sins and shortcomings, our lively apprehen-
sion of God's covenant of mercy as set forth
in the atonement we call to mind, the avowal
of our faith, the very expression of eucharis-
tic joy — all should issue in the fresh and un-
reserved surrender of ourselves to the Lord.
In fact, if this be not done, one of the most


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