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Dr. Robert Hawker
Union and Communion with Christ
A GUIDE TO THE ORDINANCE OF THE LORD’S SUPPER.
“What grieves me most, (said a poor man, whose friends called a minister to visit him in his sickness,) what grieves me most (said he) is, that I never have received the Lord’s Supper.” “How came it to pass (said the minister to him) that you neglected it?” “Because (said he) I never thought myself worthy?”— “My poor brother! (replied the minister) you are only adding one deception to another. The truth certainly is that you ought. Had it been a real sense of unworthiness that kept you back from the Lord’s table, the same cause would have made you fear also, that dying in that state, you would be forever kept, out of the kingdom of heaven; and therefore, nothing would have satisfied your mind in this state of apprehension, until the cause of your fear had been removed. I rather think, my brother that unwillingness, and not a sense of unworthiness, hath been the sole cause of prevention with you: a proper attention to this interesting subject would have taught you, that the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper was never designed for holy angels, but for polluted sinners. The Lord Jesus saith himself, ‘I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. And all the invitations he hath given are “to the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind.’ So that if a sense of sin had made you in earnest in the desire of salvation, this would have become the very motive to have led you to the Lord’s Table.”— “I fear (answered the poor man) that this is but the true state of the case. Alas! I have been living to the world, and not to God. I have been neglecting the one thing needful; but I hope it is not too late. Will you be kind enough to inform me of the nature and design of that solemn service? It may be, the Lord will yet raise me up. I shall much thank you for your instruction on the subject!” —The minister consented to the request, and thus began his discourse:—
“From the nature and design of the Lord’s Supper, in its institution, it is evidently intended by its great Author, to be a standing ordinance in his church, for the perpetual observance of his people in all ages; by way of representing, in outward and visible signs, the great blessings of redemption, which he hath purchased by his righteousness and death. The church service very well expresses itself, when saying, that it was ordained for a continual remembrance of the sacrifice of the death of Christ, and of the benefits which we receive thereby.” Hence, bread and wine are the elements made use of, by way of denoting the body and blood of Christ. The bread broken represents his body broken; and the wine poured out intimates that his blood was shed for the redemption of his People. So that the Lord’s Supper is a standing memorial in the church of this great event, and is therefore very properly called a feast upon a sacrifice.—For the sacrifice was once made, and but once, when Christ offered his body on the cross for human guilt. “For by that one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” But the feast of the Supper itself is to be often repeated, as a continual love-token of Jesus to his people, by way of keeping the remembrance of it alive in their hearts. And that the Lord Jesus himself designed it so, is evident from the words which he spake on its institution: “Do this in remembrance of me.” And his servant, the apostle, follows up his Master’s steps in the direction, when he tells us, that “as oft as we eat that bread and drink that cup, we do shew forth the Lord’s death till he come.”
This may serve, in some measure, to explain the nature and design of the Lord’s Supper. But the scriptures of God, in order, as it were, to afford the clearest apprehensions of a service so important in itself, and so necessary to be generally known and understood by his people, have condescended to give us further information on the subject; in the causes of its institution, as well as to convey, at the same time, an idea for whom it is particularly intended. And this they have happily accomplished, by recommending to our notice, under different names, such as might best express its gracious tendency.
Thus, for example, it is called “The Communion of the body and blood of Christ;” intimating thereby; that somewhat more is meant than a mere participation in the outward elements of bread and wine: for this plainly implies, that there is a channel of communication opened between Jesus and his people. They are supposed to have been regenerated and united to Christ, by the operations of the Holy Ghost; so that they are living members of his mystical body. And hence they have communion with him, in all that concerns their salvation. He communicates to them; in ordinances, his graces and the gifts of his Holy Spirit; and they, by divine power, communicate to him, their love, their obedience, thanksgiving, and praise.
Hence therefore, by the way, we may observe, that under this representation of the ordinance of the Supper, it is plain to discover who they are that are the real partakers of it; namely, none but those who have real communion with their great spiritual Head: for unless united to him by a vital union, as the branch is to the vine, or the members of the body to the head, there can be no communion with his body and blood. A participation in the ordinance, a communion with the bread and wine, a communion with the ceremonies of the table, or with the persons around the table, all these may be obtained. But these are far short of what the apostle means, when he says, “The cup of blessing, which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?”
So again: when the ordinance is called the Lord’s Supper, this idea is conveyed with the expression, that it is a spiritual feast for the Lord’s household and family. And perhaps it is particularly called the supper, being instituted by the Lord himself, in the evening of the day, at supper time. And moreover, as it was “in the end of the world that Christ came to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself;” so the end of the day (although it doth not imply that this is the only season for administering it) becomes the best resemblance, in point of time, to the period, when the great sacrifice it was intended to represent, was offered; and therefore called the Supper. And perhaps yet further, as the supper is the most general meal of the family, when the entire household is supposed to be gathered together, and none absent, it meant to say, that the Lord Jesus would have all his family around him upon this occasion, and not one wanting. A true emblem of this is the “marriage supper of the Lamb;” when all the faithful will be returned home, from the day of this mortal state below, to sit down at the table of Jesus, “with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of their Father.”
But whether either of these ideas, or all of them together, are intended by calling it the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper, I will not contend: but one thing we learn from the term, and particularly descriptive of the persons for whom it is designed, and that is, that they must be of “the household and family of Jesus.” For as in your house, or mine, at supper time, when the several branches of the family are met together, we should consider the coming in of an uninvited stranger as highly intruding and unwelcome; so, depend upon it, the Lord Jesus allows of no approaches to his Supper, unless by those of his own household. He hath already told us, that many will plead with him at the last day, having eaten and drunk in his presence, and that he had taught in their streets; to, whom he will say, “I know you not:” (that is, I know you not in any ways of communion with me,) “depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.”
Once more: when the ordinance is called the “New Testament in Christ’s blood; “(and which, perhaps, of all other names, is the most proper, because it is the very term by which the Lord Jesus himself hath thought proper to distinguish it;) the notion conveyed under this expression is this: that Christ, having, by virtue of his covenant engagements for our redemption, assumed our nature, and accomplished salvation for his people, hath instituted this ordinance, to testify, by these outward signs and seals of the covenant, that all the promises of God, of pardon and forgiveness of sins, together with everlasting happiness in heaven, are by his blood, and are thus represented to us in these tokens; and that all the worthy partakers of it expect salvation in no other way.
Hence, therefore, this view of the ordinance clearly points out for whom alone it is designed; namely, for such as seek favor and mercy with God in this covenant way; who desire to be accepted only in the beloved; who renounce themselves in every point of view, as meriting anything from God, and who have fled, therefore, from a covenant of works to lay hold of the covenant of grace.
And there is this additional evidence to be found under this character of the ordinance, when called the New Testament in Christ’s blood, to point out who are designed to be the partakers of it; and that is, the blessings obtained by the death of Christ are like the testamentary gifts and legacies of a departed friend to his family and children. So that we must first prove our relationship to Christ, before that we can lay claim to the legacies in his will. We must, in this particular, do as men of the world do, who take out the probate of the will of their friends to testify their right. We must also prove that we are Jesus’ relations, by those characters under which they are known; before that we can consider ourselves justly entitled to the blessings which he hath bequeathed to his people. The church, which is made up of true believers, is said to be the Spouse, the Lamb’s wife. “Thou shalt not be for another man, (saith the Lord by the prophet,) so will I be also for thee,” (Hosea 2). “I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies: I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness, and thou shalt know the Lord,” (Hosea 2:19-20). And again: true believers are called also, the seed of Christ, and the children of God. “I will pour out my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thy offspring,” (Isa: 44:3). “To as many as received him, (saith one of the Evangelists), to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe in his name, which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor the will of man, but of God,” (John 1:12-13). Examine your own state by those characters: Are you among the relations of Christ? Are you betrothed to him? Have you the marks and spots of God’s children? If you say, How shall I know? the word of God tells you. They who are married to Christ have forsaken all for him. “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” Are you led by the Spirit? Do you live in the Spirit, and walk in the Spirit?
There is one name more by which we distinguish this holy ordinance, and that is, when we call it the Sacrament; I say by which we call it, for it is a name which is nowhere to be, found in scripture, and certainly is improper. For the word itself is a military term, borrowed from the Romans, signifying an oath of obedience; and in this sense; it rather implies what we engage to do for Christ, than the commemoration of what he hath already done for us. Whereas the ordinance of this Supper is designed to represent the finished salvation of the Lord Jesus Christ. But if in accommodation to the general acceptance of this term; we do call it a sacrament, then it carries: with it this idea; that the love-tokens of Jesus at his table, are given, and received, as mutual pledges to each other: on the Redeemer’s part of grace; and on their part, of affection. The highly privileged partakers are supposed, by his Spirit imparted to them, to have “renounced the hidden things of dishonesty,” and to be drawing nigh to present their bodies “a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to the Lord, which is their reasonable service.” And the Redeemer: is supposed to sit at the head of his table, in order: to bestow suitable and seasonable gifts and mercies, according to the wants of his family, “and grace to help in every time of need.”
These distinct and separate names, whereby the holy Supper is known, “afford such views of the ordinance itself, as cannot fail to represent it to the mind in all its characters. And while they graciously answer this purpose, in explaining the nature and design of it, they serve no less at the same time to throw such a light upon the service itself, as clearly proves the persons: for whom it is designed, and to Whom alone it can be useful.
I would only just observe, further, from those different representations, that we discover also that our adorable Redeemer, in the institution of the holy Supper, intended it, not only as a commemorating ordinance, but as a refreshing, comforting, quickening, awakening, soul-strengthening, heart-sealing ordinance. And no doubt there are thousands, among truly awakened believers, who can, and do, bear testimony to its efficacy, as a mean of grace in the Lord’s hands, that it has answered all these purposes to their souls, in a multitude of instances, as their circumstances have variously required. So that what the Lord Jesus hath said, they have experienced; that “his flesh is meat indeed, and his blood is drink indeed. They spiritually eat his flesh: and drink his blood; they dwell in Christ, and Christ in them; they are one with Christ, and Christ with them.”
And if in addition to this short account of the nature and design of the holy, Supper, we were to go further, and consider, how all the objects of the Redeemer’s merits, and sacrifice, and death, are represented thereby, we should discover, that, simply as an ordinance and mean of grace, (and it is to be carefully considered, after all, in no other light), nothing could have been more admirably adapted, to answer all the purposes for which it was designed. What, for instance, can depletive the great evil of sin, more than the representation of his death and passion, by which alone the dreadful effects of it are taken away? And what can be equally calculated to awaken love in the heart, as the bringing forth to view, by lively emblems, the unequalled affection of him, “who hath so loved us as to give himself for us.”
But, passing over the consideration of these things, as leading into too extensive a subject for the limits of a little tract to include, and which indeed the Holy Ghost alone, in his gracious work, can impress upon the heart, the most interesting point you seem to be concerned in is, to know for whom this supper is designed; and whether you come under the character of those who are invited to partake of it.
If you will but attend to the form of invitation given, and diligently mark the character of those who are invited, from those who are not; you never can be at a loss to discover the one from the other. Jesus, as it were, stands at his table, and says in the most gracious words, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters and drink. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and sup with him and he with me.” These are very plain expressions for every one that is truly in earnest to examine his heart by. If you are weary and heavy laden with the burden of sin: if you thirst for pardon and salvation by Christ, more than the hart pants for the cooling stream: if you hear Jesus knock at the door, and desire to admit him; if you long for the mercy of God unto eternal life, equal to the most vehement desires of nature: surely you may safely interpret the call of Jesus as directed to yourself; and thus invited, you come at his call, though truly conscious of being unworthy.—But if, while Jesus thus calls, and describes whom he invites, from those he doth not; you have never felt sin a burthen; neither is the deliverance from it the first and most anxious concern of your soul: if your desires for attending the holy Supper be no greater than because you find others attend, who are of your own age and circumstances; certainly, in this case, you can have no more to do with the Lord’s Table, than a dead body hath with food, or a blind man with light. Nothing can be clearer, than that it must be the most consummate ignorance to suppose, that a week’s preparation can prepare; or the qualifying for an office can recommend; or three times a year, can make a man worthy, who hath no other sense of worthiness, than that it is his duty, and therefore he attends; and who, if the real sentiments of his heart were to be expressed by words, must say upon all those occasions, “I should not attend now, but because it is the usual tithe, or because the qualification I want compels me to it, or because three times a year it is a customary duty, and therefore I come.’”
The minister here paused, as if to give the poor man time to reflect a little. He then added, “I shall leave those solemn considerations with you, my brother, for the serious examination of your own heart by them; and praying the Lord “to give you a right understanding in all things,” I shall only add a prayer, which is suited to the state and circumstances of every truly prepared communicant. Read it over carefully before you make use of it, and if you find the sentiments it breathes correspond to your own feelings, and are such as you can truly adopt; doubt not but that you are among those who are graciously invited to the Lord’s Table, and may safely draw nigh with a true heart, in full assurance of faith.”
O Lord God! Thou art glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders. A poor dying worm of the earth, self-condemned, and self-loathing, most humbly desires grace from the Holy Ghost, to enable him to draw nigh thy mercy-seat, in that new, and living way, which thou hast opened for poor, lost, and undone sinners, in the blood, righteousness, and intercession of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I have heard it proclaimed, O Lord, in thine house of prayer, by one of those who stand there to minister in thy great name, that the Lord Jesus died from his own free love, to save poor sinners: and that those who come to thee for mercy and salvation in his name, he will in no wise cast out. It has been proclaimed also, in thy church, that the Lord Jesus holds a feast to commemorate this precious death; and that those who are invited and commanded to come to it, are the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. It hath been told me also, that the Lord Jesus loveth and receives sinners, and eateth with them. Great God I as my heart testifies to my face that I am a miserable sinner, and have sinned and come short of thy glory; as I am poor in every sense of the word, as to any goodness of my own; maimed in all the faculties of my soul, by reason of sin; halt, so that I cannot stretch forth my hand to save myself; and blind, so as not even to know what is right: Oh! that the Lord may receive me in the lowest place at his table, (for I am not worthy to gather up the crumbs beneath it), and by his Holy Spirit, help me to cast myself down at the feet of rich mercy, and plead for it only in the way and according to thy gracious promises in Christ Jesus.
Dearest Saviour, be thou everlastingly adored, for the love thou hast shown in condescending to be the surety and sacrifice for poor sinners. Help me by thy Spirit here, and at thy table, to renounce all other ways of salvation. Lord, give me grace to take up the resolution of desiring or seeking nothing among men, but Jesus Christ and him crucified.
And, Oh! thou blessed and eternal Spirit, who art one with the Father and with the Son, do thou graciously work in me such a knowledge of my sin, and such a love to the person of the Redeemer, that by thy quickening, illuminating, convincing, converting, heart-strengthening power, my soul may be always brought under thy precious influences, so as to live a life of faith upon the Son of God, and dedicate myself to his service forever. In partaking of the emblems of the Redeemer’s body at his table, I would pray for grace to renounce all things unbecoming my Christian calling. Not only the world and its allurements; not only the flesh with all its vile lusts and affections; not only the devil and all his works and temptations; but all self-confidence, and self-righteousness, which might prompt my vain heart, to seek justification in that way before God. I pray for grace also, to be enabled to accept the Lord Jesus with all that belongs to him: his cross, as well as his crown: his rod as well as his staff, as my sole hope, and only dependence for salvation. And I pray for grace to dedicate myself, from henceforth and forever to be the Lord’s, both by his purchase, and by my voluntary surrender; that my soul with all my faculties, my body with all its senses, my gifts, influence, talents, relations, time, opportunities, and power, may be his own, whose by right they are, who gave me them for his glory and my welfare.
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