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St. John, who in his Gospel chiefly supplies what had been left unrecorded by the other Evangelists, omitting to repeat a circumstance probably well known, and which they had amply detailed, relates at large some others which they had neglected to mention; that, after supper, our Saviour set an example of humility to his disciples by washing their feet; and then, in a discourse full of the most affectionate interest for them, confirmed their faith, strengthened them to support trials and persecutions, comforted them with the promise of the Holy Spirit, exhorted them to love and assist each other, and concluded by praying fervently for them to the only Giver of all Good. What a time to institute a ceremony in remembrance of himself! When they knew that was the last supper they should eat with him; those the last precepts they should receive from him, the last prayers he could offer for them on earth! and that he,
their ruler and guide, was on the point of
completing their redemption by a voluntary resignation of himself to a painful and disgraceful death! How was it possible they could neglect such a command? We know, from various parts of the New Testament, that they did not; and if they did not, how should we? In saying to his apostles, "Do this in remembrance of me," Christ speaks to the whole Christian Church; they were the forerunners, the representatives of the Christian world, for in them was then centered the light of the Gospel, to be by them diffused to the ends of the earth. To all, therefore, who bind themselves to the same faith, the same command is absolute. The course of instruction, of consolation, and of command, has descended with an unbroken stream from Christ, by means of his apostles, to us: we have the evidence of Scripture to prove to us that this Sacrament was administered by them in the same manner in which they had first received it. St. Paul refers to it in several
places, and, to the Corinthians in particular, mentions the previous blessing or consecrating of the Cup, and the words used in its administration. "The same," he says, "which he received, the same which our Lord used," and which our Church has most properly adopted.
The Christian Church, in the earlier ages, considered this ceremony as the most solemn and the most essential which its religion enjoined; it made a part of daily worship; the bread and wine were even administered to infants, in the hope of making them heirs of salvation, by the communion of the body and blood of Christ, though they could not accompany the act with any acknowledgment of the commemoration of his death, or consciousness of the benefits received by it. Both these practices were afterwards discontinued. The communion was administered less frequently, and to those only who were
of sufficient age to understand the nature, and feel the benefits of this divine institution; but still the regular observance of it has been ever most scrupulously and devoutly continued in the Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches; though several sects have arisen in later times, who, applying the words of our Saviour in a spiritual sense only, neglect the observance of this religious ceremony. The English Established Church, however, adheres to the opinion and practice of the early Christians, considering rightly, that to dispute the judgment of the immediate followers of Christ, and to put a construction upon his words differing from theirs, would be to depart in a high degree from that humility so constantly enjoined by the Gospel. The duty of this service is, indeed, most imperative upon every true Christian, if we consider what it is which we commemorate, and what faith we then profess; the necessity of such faith to our eternal salvation, and the
confirmation which by this means it receives; for, by public attendance at the Holy Communion, we show forth to all the world the light of Christianity that is in us; we give thanks to God for the performance of all his promises, and for all the mercies we have received; we offer up our prayers for a continuance of them; and in the most solemn manner put our seal to the faith we profess, by declaring publicly our belief in every part of the Gospel dispensation; that the sins of mankind wanted a mediatorial sacrifice; that Jesus Christ was voluntarily made flesh, and dwelt on earth, where he passed a short life of infinite goodness, teaching doctrines whereby we might live for ever, and performing miracles in confirmation of his divinity; that by his own free will he became a sacrifice of atonement for us, fulfilling thereby the prophecies made from the beginning of the world; that as sacrifice for sin had been always required by the Almighty, and that no