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the conversion of this peculiar mean of grace into a rite common to the Jewish and the Pagan religions. Towards this it was that the current of prejudice ran strongest. In this most solemn act of the new religion there must have been a perpetual craving, both in Jewish and Gentile converts, to recognise a substitute for the altar and the repeated sacrifice. It was a diseased appetite for a forbidden object, which idolatrous habits had created in the one, and real piety perhaps in the other, and which could only be corrected gradually. Looking back upon the scene, with our experience of the actual corruptions which thence arose, we may be disposed to censure even the concessions (trifling as they were) which these primitive rulers and preachers made; we may be disposed to wish, Figurative that they had never ventured to call the Lord's table an altar, or
respecting the bread and wine a sacrifice. But that they did it innocently, no one can doubt, who merely reads the few remains of those writers who have employed this language, and finds so little fondness, so plain an aversion, to dwell on any circumstance of pomp connected with the Christian ceremonies. They could hardly be expected to foresee the extent of mischief, which afterwards connected itself with these innocent, inadvertent attempts, “ to be all things to all
The original use of those terms was certainly not as appropriate names, but as figurative expressions, to illustrate their subject.
The principles of the Church's establishment, as recorded in AdminisScripture, and the practical application of those principles, as dis- tered to all played in the ministry of their inspired predecessors, were all too recent and fresh on their minds, for any question to arise concerning the persons who were entitled to this great Christian privilege—the communion of the body and blood of Christ. Among the essential distinctions between the old and the new dispensations of God, no one was more prominent than that the former admitted of different classes among those whom it embraced, and of different degrees of privilege and communion, for the Jew, for the proselyte of righteousness, and for the devout Gentile: while in the latter, the partition wall had been thrown down, the veil had been rent. Against this act of uniformity, then, which had been so carefully preserved by the apostles, in their preaching and their practice, they were not likely to offend. To have reserved any participation of the Eucharist for the ministers alone, or for any one privileged class of believers, would have been too manifest a violation of this great principle ; whatever temptation might present itself in the prejudice of Jew the same circumstance, perhaps, his somewhat remarkable, that he is also the words in his first Epistle may refer: only one who has recorded “the begin“ This is he that came by water and ning of miracles,” the conversion of blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water water into wine at Cana. (John ii. 1, 2.) alone, but by water and blood.” (Chap. Had the miracle any meaning connected v. 6.) St. John is the only evangelist with the fact which he so pointedly who has recorded the flowing of water attests, and if so, what was that meanand blood from our Lord's side; and it is ing?
and Gentile in favour of an officiating minister, who should remind them of a priest. All were not only admitted equally, but all were invited, to partake of this act of communion; and, indeed, it was long thought to be inconsistent with a Christian's profession to be otherwise than a regular communicant.
The administration of this sacrament, as well as of baptism, was limited to the ordained ministry, who officiated by authority derived from their bishop. That any difference of administration, such as now obtains, between the priests' and deacons' office, had its origin so early, cannot be asserted. Justin Martyr speaks of the distribution of the bread and wine as belonging to the deacons' office; and in the Apostolical Constitutions, the direction given is, that the
bread be delivered by the bishop, and the wine by the deacon.103 Commurion Whether the custom of sending a portion of the consecrated on the sick. elements to the absent and sick, or that which is still preserved
in our own Church, of performing the service in the chambers of the sick, was so early established, is likewise uncertain. With
respect to this latter custom, that it is of great antiquity at least, is undoubted; nor can any objection be urged against its lawfulness. Still, it deserves to be considered, whether erroneous notions and superstitious feelings have not been very generally fostered through this practice. The Eucharist celebrated in private, and amongst a few attendants on a sick bed, ceases to be looked on in its true light, as an act of the Christian congregation, celebrating its union, as such, with Christ, and within itself. Its celebration under circumstances which thus obscure its most prominent characteristics, may cause weak minds to attach, almost unconsciously, the notion of a charm, to the ceremony. It may, accordingly, be often desired and demanded, as if it possessed a talismanic influence on the dying, and was indispensable to the safe exit of the Christian. It is not so much on habitual communicants that this feeling can operate mischievously; it is on those who either never communicating, or not being in habitual communion, reserve this one act of conformity, for the season of sickness or of death. To persons under such circumstances, a visiting minister's exhortation to receive the Eucharist is surely misplaced. It might be better, perhaps, even to dissuade such an one from his purpose, if he desired it. It is scarcely a time for the stricken sinner in this manner to attempt reparation of his former neglect. For that neglect, he should be instructed to pray to God for forgiveness, among the sins which he shall then specifically confess to him; and to resolve, that if it shall please God to restore him to the assemblies of his saints on earth,
100 The Apostolical Canons, Can. 10, direct that absentees from communion shall be amenable for their neglect. So, too, the council of Antioch, A.D. 340.
101 Ignat. Ep. ad Smyrn. C. 8.
after the Lord's
there, where alone it is strictly appropriate, to begin and to continue the observance of the special rite of Christian communion.104
AGAPÆ, OR LOVE FEASTS. Among the acts of communion which Christians celebrated as members, not of particular Christian societies, but of the whole Christian body, the Agape, or Feasts of Love, require some mention. Agreeing so far in their character with the Lord's Supper, they seem to have had some further connexion with the celebration of this sacrament; and, accordingly, to have been held, either immediately before, or immediately after, the communion service. As this primitive custom is less familiar to us now than those which have been perpetuated to our own age, some fuller consideration of it may not be unacceptable.
It was usual for Christians to add to the celebration of the Lord's Celebrated Supper a frugal meal, of which all the communicants partook. This Love Feast, as it was named, was furnished out of oblations, Supper,
and supplied which it was customary, as now, for the congregation to make ; from the part being set aside for the clergy fund, the remainder was employed in providing this common table.
That this remarkable custom was not merely a charitable pro- in the House vision for the poor, supplying them with an occasional meal at the of Prayer. expense of their more affluent brethren, nor any display of ordinary social feeling, may be inferred from the circumstance, that it was celebrated in the house of prayer, and connected with the most solemn portion of Divine service. For meetings, the object of which was the relief of hunger, or social relaxation, some other time and place would more properly have been chosen. What! have i Cor. xi. 22, ye not houses to eat and drink in?” (writes St. Paul to the Corin- and 34. thians,) " or despise ye the Church of God, and shame them that have not?' “If any man hunger, let him eat at home.” The union, indeed, of charity and social feeling with its religious object, (whatever that object was,) may be admitted, and would be by no means inconsistent with it. It would rather remind us of that similar union of miracle and mercy, which was conspicuous throughout the Saviour's dealings with mankind. But the exercise of charity or social feeling could not have been the only or the principal thing designed. The early Fathers speak of it as an aposto
104 Bishop Burnet represents the intro- in the midst of them. But,” adds he, duction of the custom into the Church of “it is too gross a relic of the worst part England, as an innocent substitute for of popery, if any imagine, that after an the superstitious practice of sending por- ill life, some sudden sorrow for sin, with tions of the Eucharist to the chambers of a hasty absolution, and the sacrament, the sick. It was also appointed, that will be a passport to heaven, since the the sacrament should be given to the mercies of God in Christ are offered in sick, and not to be sent from the Church, the Gospel only to those who truly bebut consecrated by their bed-sides; since lieve, sincerely repent, and do change Christ had said, that where two or three the course of their lives." — Abridged were assembled in his name, he would be History, Book II.
Remarkable connexion of
Antiquity of lical rite ; 105 and the same may be inferred from some allusions in this custom. St. Paul's Epistles, 108 and still more certainly from a passage in the
Epistle of Jude. It is enough, however, to know that the rite was generally observed by the immediate successors of the apostles, and on the alleged authority of apostolical precedent.
Its most remarkable feature, was its apparent connexion with an these Feasts' important object of faith.
It will readily occur to all, that the with certain terms in which the Holy Ghost and its operations are described in Phraseology. Scripture, are all figurative—“ Light,” “Life,” “ the Spirit,” and
“the Holy Spirit. So, too, the change effected thereby in the
Christian's condition is called “ regeneration, or “ a new birth. Eph. iv. 24. He is termed “ a new man after God, which is created in righteous2 Cor. v. 17. ness,
a new creature,” and the like. The reason of this is obvious. The ideas to be conveyed were altogether new, and new or borrowed terms were, therefore, required to express
them. At the same time, the ideas so conveyed are intelligible enough for our purpose.
We are taught by all these various expressions, (and the variety of expression seems designed to prevent a literal interpretation of any one,) that the effect of the Holy Ghost's descent has been, not merely increased assistance from God, but, as it were, a constitutional change in man; the addition of some abiding principle which belonged not to his original nature ;—as far as it is connected with the fruits of righteousness, having a common
object with conscience, but more certain and effectual; even God Phil. ii. 13. working within us to will and to do of his good pleasure.” It is
105 See Bingham's Eccl. Antiq. Book and exercises which the members share XV. Chap. VII. Sec. 6. Ignatius men- as members of that society, and no further. tions the rite, Ep. ad Smyrn. Sec. 8; and And, besides, the social intercourse of in Tertullian there is a full account of it. the table would hardly be characterised Apol. C. 39.
as the least of all ordinary intercourse; 106 In the passage particularly referred although it may very well be considered to, (1 Cor. xi. 17,) in which he is charg- as the slightest act of Christian commuing the Corinthians with profaning the nion. Sacrament, by mingling with it indecent Another passage may be quoted from revelling, his words certainly seem to St. Paul's writings, as apparently conimply the existence of some meal, con- taining an allusion to the existence of nected indeed with the celebration of the this rite in the very earliest stage of the Eucharist, but more of a meal than is Christian establishment. It is his acperhaps consistent with any supposable count of St. Peter's behaviour at Antimode of distributing and partaking of och, during the attempt of the Judaizing the consecrated elements. There is faction there, to enforce on the Gentile another passage in the same Epistle converts the observance of the Mosaic which probably points to it, chap. v. ver. law. (Epistle to the Galatians, chap. ii.) 11. In directing the Corinthians to pass “Before,” says he, “ that certain came sentence of excommunication on an in- from James, he did eat with the Gentiles; cestuous member, he enumerates several but when they were come, he withdrew crimes besides, for which the offender and separated himself, fearing them ought to be punished by the Church which were of the circumcision.” It is with complete excommunication,--total certainly possible that St. Paul may be exclusion from all, even the slightest act here speaking only of the ordinary interof communion as Christians; “ with such course of hospitality; but, as this act is an one,” he writes to bid them“ not even specified, as the main token by which to eat. This is, very probably, an al- St. Peter was supposed to have sanctionlusion to the Agapce; because excommu- ed the notion, that an uncircumcised nication or exclusion from any society, Christian was no complete Christian; it as a rightful act of the society, can only is more reasonable to interpret it of some extend to exclusion from those privileges religious intercourse.
• Let Matt. v. 16.
Matt. vi. 23.
called “Life," then, because of the analogy between the imparting of this new element of goodness, and the original creation of Adam, with which it is sometimes contrasted. So St. Paul, “ The first 1 Cor. xv. 22, man, Adam, was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening Spirit. “In Adam all die, in Christ shall all be made alive.” It is called “ Light” too, because of its use in guiding us from error into “ the way of life;" or, perhaps, in allusion to that holy light in which God's people of old were wont to recognise the symbol of the Divine presence.
And hence it is written, that God is light,” and, that “if the light that be in us be darkness, 1 John i. 5. how great will be that darkness.' Hence, too, the precept, your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. It is also called Spirit, because it is God unseen, unfelt; or rather, because it is God worshipped no longer in connexion with any visible symbol, or holy dwelling-place; neither at Jerusalem (as the Lord told the Samaritan woman,) nor yet on Mount Gerizim, but in “ spirit and in truth.” John iv. 21,
The wind (Tvsõpec) bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the John iii. S. sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” (wveúpa tos.)
Among the terms adopted to express this new relation between Christian God and man, is égáton; which in our Bible translation is rendered explained. sometimes love, and sometimes charity, apparently without any rule for the difference of translation. It is called love; yet it is not, strictly speaking, love. The word wanted, was one to express the benevolent relation of God to man, and the corresponding disposition of man to God, in this his last mode of manifestation; as residing no longer in a temple or holy city, but in that figurative temple, of which we are the constituent parts; which has been “ built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building, fitly framed together, groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord. In whom we also are builded together for an habitation of God through the spirit.” 107 Some word was wanted, in short, to express that particular kind of devotional feeling towards God, as filling this his final dwelling-place with his glory, which the Israelite felt when he trod the courts of the house of God, or at the hour of prayer looked on it from afar, or turned his face to the quarter of the heavens in which it stood. That associated love,
107 Hence we find this in the second the Apostles' Creed, “I believe in the century among the elementary truths Holy Ghost, -the holy Catholic Church, professed by the catechumens at their -the communion of saints”-of which baptism. Tertull. de Bapt. C. VI.: “ Cum clauses “the communion of saints” was sub tribus et testatio fidei et sponsio not added until the fourth century; prosalutis pignorentur, necessario adjicitur bably, when the preceding expression Ecclesiæ mentio; quoniam, ubi tres, id ceased to be generally
understood, and est, Pater, Filius, et Spiritus Sanctus, ibi the truth conveyed by it required a new Ecclesiæ, quæ suum corpus est.” And, mode ofenunciation.-See Eph. ii. 20—22. accordingly, it is among the articles of