Taken and adapted from, “Doctrinal and Practical Treatise on the Lord’s Supper”
Written by, James Grierson
Of both of them it may justly be said, that, while they illustrate the nature, they also afford one of the most conclusive evidences of the divine authority, or truth, of the Gospel. At the same time that they set forth, under the most simple and appropriate emblems and actions, the peculiar doctrines of our holy religion, they exhibit,if duly considered, a most striking demonstration of its heavenly origin. The same thing may be said with respect to the two corresponding ordinances which existed under the Old Testament dispensation, namely, Circumcision and the Passover.
It is obvious, from the narrative of the evangelists, and expressly declared by the Apostle Paul, on the special testimony of our Lord himself, that this holy ordinance was instituted by “the Lord Jesus,” and for the first time administered,” the same night in which he was betrayed.” The principal object which the Savior had in view, in instituting this ordinance and enjoining its future observance, is sufficiently intimated by the words of his solemn injunction, “This do in remembrance of me,” (Luke 2:19); and by the remark of the Apostle,” For as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till he come.”
There appears, therefore, to be something not a little remarkable in the particular time which was chosen by our Lord for instituting the ordinance of the Supper. By his instituting it previously to his death,we are taught, indeed, to regard it as being at that moment a prediction, or typical representation of his death, as an event then future, though near at hand. Viewed in this light, there is, of course, nothing remarkable in the time of its appointment, –unless it be, first, its coinciding with the time of celebrating the ordinance of the Passover; and, secondly, the tenderness of heart, yet the sublime composure, and, as it were, the eager anticipation, with which he conducted the deeply affecting solemnity.
Considering, then, that this last is the leading and permanent character of the Lord’s Supper, we cannot help thinking, that, besides the purpose of constituting it a prediction of his death “of making it typical, though only for a day” there must have been other and higher ends to be served, by instituting it previously to that all-important event of which it was ordained to be the sacred and endearing memorial. Nor will it be difficult to perceive what these ends must have been.
Nothing is more obvious, or more certain, than that the future observance of this ordinance, even by our Lord’s immediate disciples, depended entirely on the consequences with which his death was found to be connected, and especially on the fulfillment of his promise, that he would ” rise again the third day.”
Had he not risen, “as he said,” –in other words, had he been left in the grave to “see corruption”–had he thus been utterly forsaken or disowned of God –had he been proved to be guilty alike of impiety and imposture –how could it have been expected that any of his followers, however devoted and enthusiastic they might have been in his cause, should have continued to cherish his memory with affection and reverence “to glory in his cross” and publicly to proclaim how fervently they honored the character, and how devotedly they celebrated the love of one who, if not deluded and infatuated himself, had so plainly deceived, so grossly insulted, and so grievously exposed them?
Now, the Author of the ordinance could not but be perfectly aware of all this. It required no supernatural penetration to perceive a consequence so obvious and inevitable. The most ordinary measure even of the unaided faculties of the human mind, must have been fully sufficient to force it on his attention; and he must have been the most infatuated, or the most reckless of men, if he could either overlook or disregard it. The dignified composure, however, the surpassing wisdom, and the solemn earnestness by which our Lord was at all times distinguished,and especially as the hour of his sufferings approached, render it of all things the most preposterous to imagine,that he was capable of any act of extravagance, recklessness, or presumption.
This being admitted, it is manifest that the institution of the Supper as an ordinance, to be, from that time and for ages, celebrated his commemoration and honor of his death, while that event had not yet taken place,nor its consequences been ascertained ” is a circumstance which can be accounted for only on the supposition of his being fully conscious at the moment, and all along,that in him “dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily,” –that he was indeed the Son of God– that he had life in himself –that he would obtain the victory over sin, and death, and the grave–that he laid down his life of his own accord –that he had power to lay it down, and power to take it up again. He knew that he should conquer death, and “destroy him that had the power of death, that is the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage,” (Heb. 2:14.) He knew, therefore, that although his death should, for a season, cause the greatest distress and dismay to his followers; yet that they should soon after, and for ever, have the strongest reason for remembering it with gratitude, exultation, and delight. We find, accordingly, that, while addressing his disciples immediately after the institution of this solemn ordinance, he made use of these memorable and affecting words: “And ye now therefore have sorrow; but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you,” (John 16:22.)
Here, then, we see, that a most important end has been served by our Lord’s instituting the Supper previously to the time of that event which it was intended to commemorate –-an end much more important than that of merely once more predicting the event. His instituting it at the time when he did, has served to demonstrate the thorough and abiding consciousness which he possessed of his own inherent Deity; his consciousness that though “crucified through weakness,” yet he should live, as he now “liveth by the power of God,” (2 Cor. 13:4.) In that ordinance he regarded and represented himself as “put to death in the flesh;” but in the perfect certainty that he should soon be “quickened by the Spirit,” or the power of his own Godhead, (1 Pet. 3:18.)
In regard to the remarkable circumstance which has now been pointed out, there is not, so far as we can recollect, any other ordinance parallel to the Lord’s Supper, except that one which it superseded, namely, the Passover. The latter also was instituted, and, for the first time, celebrated the night before the occurrence of the event of which it was intended to be the annual commemoration. Towards the evening of that night in which the Israelites were led forth out of Egypt, Moses commanded them to take for each family a lamb, and having offered it up in sacrifice to the Lord, to sprinkle its blood on the lintel, and on the two side posts of the doors of their houses; after which they were to roast the flesh with fire, and eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs; to eat it in haste, with their loins girded, their shoes on their feet, and their staff in their hand. The reason which he assigned for this injunction was, that the Lord would that night pass through the land of Egypt, and smite all the first-born, both of man and beast, but that he would pass over, or spare, all the houses on which was to be found the appointed token –the blood of the sacrifice. This ordinance, Moses told them, they were to observe for ever –that is, till abrogated by divine authority– in all their generations.
In other words, it was to be prophetical at first, and commemorative ever afterwards, in regard to the deliverance from Egypt; although, as we have since learned from the language of an apostle, it was, in both cases, typical of a still more glorious deliverance –the deliverance effected through that very death of which the ordinance of the Supper became, in due time, the sacred memorial. But it is manifest that, if the deliverance in Egypt had not taken place, as Moses had expressly intimated, he could never have expected that the Israelites, either of the then existing, or of any subsequent generation,would have observed or paid any attention to the sacrifice and feast of the Passover.