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Of the Time of Day for Administering the Lord's-supper; or, an Answer to that Question, “May it lawfully be administered at Noon?”
THERE have been some pious and devout persons, who would willingly fulfil all their duties of worship precisely according to the appointment of God, who liave therefore scrupled to receive the Lord's-supper at noon, because it is called a supper, and it was instituted and celebrated by our Lord Jesus Christ in the evening of the day. I will easily grant, that where the time of any duty is expressly instituted and commanded by God, it ought to be punctually observed; but it doth not necessarily follow, that every circumstance of time or place, whieh happened to attend any part of worship, when the prophets, apostles, or Christ himself performed it. must be observed also whensoever we perform that worship. John preached and instituted baptism at the river Jordan with a hairy garment upon him, and a leathern girdle ; but it is not necessary that we should be baptised by the river side, nor that the minister who preaches or perforins it, should wear such vestments of bair or leather. Christ prayed at midnight, and on a mountain, he preached from a ship to those on the shore, and ordained his disciples to go forth and preach and pray; but there was no necessity that they should always, or at any time observe the same hour or place.
In some other essays, I have shewn that there is a great difference betwixt religious ceremonies, and mere natural circumstances in worship. A religious ceremony is either an action, or a manner or circumstance of action by which some special honour is designed to be paid to God; and therefore God alone can institute it, who alone can determine what shall be honourable to himself: these religious ceremonies have generally a signification of some thing spiritual, inward and invisible belonging to them. Mere natural circumstances are such as are necessary, or at least convenient to the performance of acts of worship, considered merely as natural actions, and abstracted from their religious design : Such are time, place, babit, gesture, &c. for no natural action can be put forth but it must be in some time, in some place, in some posture of body ; and in public worship with some sort of garments on too. Now many of these, especially under the New Testament, are not precisely determined in christian worship; they have no holy signification in them, and are Jeft to the convenience of each single person, or of each single society or church of Christ. Now let us apply these things to the Lord's supper, and see how many circumstances attending
the first administration thereof, are instituted ceremonies; and how many of them are mere natural circumstances, which seem to be rather accidental than essential at the first celebration of this ordinance.
First, The time. 1. On Thursday. 2. The thirteenth or fourteenth day of the month. 3. In the evening. 4. After supper, Secondly, the place, 1. A City. 2. An upper-room. 3. A large room. 4. A furnished room, as in Mark xiv. 15, 16. a large upper-room, furnished, &c. Thirdly, The elements, 1. Bread, perhaps one loaf, as I Cor. v. 19. 2. Wine whether red or white, we know not. Fourthly, The actions. 1. Blessing the Bread and the wine distinctly and apart. 2. Breaking the bread. 3. Distributing. 4. Receiving: 5. Singing a hymn. Fifthly, The posture of the body, viz. sitting with their legs behind them, leaning upon the table with the left elbow, of which see Pool's Annotations ; Mat. xxvi. 20, &c. Sixthly, The words spoken, viz. Take, eat ; this is my body.-Drink ye all of it, this is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins, which are expressed in several varieties, by the several evangelists, and by the apostle Paul ; and therefore the same precise form of words cannot be necessary.
It is evident to the reason of every reader, that some things among the fore-mentioned particulars are necessary to the essence or substance of the ordinance itself.
1. The elements, there must be bread and wine; but whether it is absolutely necessary, that it should be bread made of wheat, and wine made of the juice of the grape, may afford a doubt and scruple. Why not barley or oaten bread, and wine of the juice of currants, be sufficient, especially in such regions, or such poor villages, where wheat and grapes are not found, nor hardly to be procured?
2. There must be also the action of blessing the bread and wine, or giving thanks before this sacred feast, and praying for a blessing on it. This was done by our Saviour distinctly twice, that is, both before partaking of the bread, and of the cup. But is a distinct blessing of each element necessary whensoever we celebrate this ordinance? I own I like it best, because it seems as if it were singular and peculiar to this ordinance, and was not done at commou meals : But I would not say, it is absolutely necessary at every administration, and that those who bless the bread and wine together do any thing unlawful.
3. There seems to be a necessity of breaking the bread, to signify that the body of our Saviour was broken for our sins; this is my body which is broken for you. Yet it may be queried, whether dividing the bread by cutting may not be lawful and proper. For 1. As breaking bread was the usual way of dividing it among the Jews, so is cutting it among us.—2. Cutting the bread represents his body being wounded with nails and thorns, and a spear as much as breaking. But however that be, it is agreed by all of us, that the bread may be cut almost through, to render the breaking it regularly more convenient and easy, as is usually practised in our churches.
4. The words of the institution should be certainly pronounced, or words of much the same sense, at tlie distribution of the elements, viz. This is the body of Christ, or this is an emblem or figure of the body of Christ, &c. and this cup is the New Covenant or New Testament in the blood of Christ, or a sign and seal of the New Testament, or of the New Covenant, in his blood, which was shed for many for the remission of sins. But it is by no means necessary to say always the very same words. For, it is certain, this ordinance was celebrated or performed by our Saviour but once, and yet the several evangelists differ in their relation of the words used by Christ; and St. Paul, in his account of it, differs from them all. Therefore it is evident, that the spirit of Christ in writing the New Testament, never designed to confine us precisely to one set of words, or the same phrases, but only to the same sense. Yet further :
5. The clements must be distributed that all may partake: But whether the pastor must distribute them to the hand of every communicant; whether the deacons, who serve tables, may distribute them, or whether they may be distributed throughout the congregation by the communicants from hand to hand, this is not
any where determined certainly, and is no evident part of the • institution itself, and I think it may be practised any way.
In the last place, a table-gcsture was the mode in which Christ administered, and his disciples did first receive this ordinance; and I think a table-gesture is the most proper to represent a supper, or a religious feast and holy communion. But I dare not say, this is so much an instituted and necessary part of the ordinance, that it cannot be profitably celebrated without it. God forbid, that I should pronounce this sacrament null and vain to all the foreign protestant churches, most of which receive it standing, or to the English episcopal church, who receive it on their knees ! And let it be remembered, the Jewish tablegesture was very different from ours, and yet we have changed it for sitting
But as for some other of the circumstances which first attended this ordinance, it is impossible that they should be necessary to our constant and repeated celebration of it. Does any christian think it necessary, that this sacrament should never be administered but in a large upper room? Is it not lawful nor valid, if performed in a little room and on a ground floor? Again, our Saviour administered this ordinance to twelve persons, who were all men, and just after another supper ;
can any man think that we must never administer, but where there are just twelve men to receive it, and that no woman must ever partake of it; and that we must always eat another supper before we receive this?
Yet further, what christian ever thought it necessary, that it should be performed on the same day of the week, that is Thursday, and on the same day of the monui too, as it was first instituted, that is the thirteenth or fourteenth of March? Then it can be cel-brated but once in five or six years, when the same day of the month bappens on the same day of the week. And I believe, we all think it necessary to receive it oftener, that on the fourteenth of March only, even if that could possibly fall on the Lord's-day every year. "Yet again, if the Lord's-supper must be always administered in the evening, it cannot be always at the same hour of the day as we compute our hours in England. The evening hour or sun-set, which is six o'clock in March and September, will be complete night in December, and complete day in June. And thus' if we receive the Lord's supper every month, it will be sometimes perfect day, and sometimes perfect night, if we keep to the same hour in which our Lord administered it. Besides, St. Paul did not celebrate this ordinance always in the evening. See Acts xx. 7. He continued his preaching at Troas till midnight. Then Eutychus fell down asleep, was taken up dead, was restored to lite, and after all this they broke bread, and continued in discourse till break of day. And the primitive christians often celebrated this sacrament horis ante lucapis,” that is, “before break of day," as the ancients inform us, most probably for fear of being disturbed by their persecuting enemies. i'hus the conveniency of performance must determine the season or hour of administration, as well as the place and other circumstances.
I confess it is usually called the Lord's-supper, because it was in the evening that Christ instituted it, just after the Jewish passover, which was a supper ; but let it be observed, that supper was a very considerable, if not a chief meal, in many countries in those days, as dinner is now amongst us. Therefore, if we may change the posture of leaning ai table into sitting upright, because it is our present table-posture, why may we not as well change supper time, which was their chief meal, for the season of our chief meal, that is at noon ? Especially since we cannot find that the precise time is made any part of the worship itself, or has any holy or religious signification in it. Let us stand fast then in the liberty wherewiih Christ hus made us free and not be entangled with yokes of bondage ; Gal. v. 1. nor impose hours sud seasons upon ovr consciences, which we cannot fiud the word of God has imposed, but which Christ has left indifferent to the free choice and conveniency of his churches.
The Holiness of Places of Worship, cmsidered in a Sermon at the opening of a new Meeting-house, October 20th, 1737.
Exod. xx, 24.-In all places where I record my name, I will come unto
thee, and I will bless thee. THESE words were spoken to Moses at mount Sinai, and sent by him to the nation of Israel, just after the great God had pronounced the law of the ten commandments from heaven in lightning and thunder : And while the people lay under awful impressions of this fiery law, God takes further care to seoure the honours of his own name and worship, and to appoint some of the earliest modes and ceremonies of it. Verses 23, 24. Ye shall not make with me gods of silver, neither shall you make to you gods of gold: An altar of earth shalt thou make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt-offerings and thy peaceofferings, and I will meet thee and bless thee. But before I come to explain or improve this promise, I ask leave to make these three remarks on the connexion of these words with the context.
1. As the preface to those ten commands which God spoke to the people in thunder was this, I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the house of bondage; Exod. xx. 2. therefore bear and obey; so the preface to those following commands which he sent to them by Moses; verse 22. was this, I the Lord your God have talked with you from heaven, therefore attend and practise. A God of such mercy and of such Majesty, who brings his people out of a long and painful bondage, and then pronounces his own laws in fire and thunder, ought to be heard and obeyed by sinful feeble creatures. Divine Majesty and divine mercy united, carry with them a powerful demand of attention and obedience.
II. As the blessed God begins his orders to his people by his own voice, with securing his
own honour and worship in the first and second commandments ; in the same manner he begins his message to them by Moses, by a sort of explication or comment on these two first commands; Ye shall have no other gods with me, or besides me; no gods of gold or silver: and ye shall worship me by sacrifices upon an altar made of earth. Though God was just going to direct them to build a glorious tabernacle with altars of brass and gold, yet, while ye are in this moving and travelling state, before I have built me a house or