A SERMON DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON, ON LORD’S-DAY EVENING, JULY 1, 1883.
“For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you do show the Lord’s death till He comes.” 1 Corinthians 11:26.
THERE is something very tender about the Supper which Christ has instituted, for it very specially concerns Himself. Other things set forth the Truths of God which He taught, or the blessings which He purchased, or the duties which He enjoined, but this Supper has mainly to do with our Lord Jesus Christ, Himself. True, as we think and speak of it, we shall learn precious doctrine and we shall be incited to gracious practice, but the central thought at this Table is concerning our Lord, Himself, and that part of Himself which it is most easy for us to realize—His flesh, with which He touches us so tenderly, making Himself bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. His blood, which makes Him so near akin to us—
“In ties of blood with sinners one.”
It is very blessed not only to be reminded of Christ, but of that part of Christ to which we can most readily come. His Godhead is beyond us, but His Manhood is near to us, and I think that the tenderness of this Supper is greatly increased by the fact that it celebrates our Lord’s death. If anything concerning our departed friends specially touches our heart, it is their death. How lovingly we remember their last moments! Their final utterance sounds to us like the language of Prophets—words that were commonplace, before, become golden when spoken to us by loved ones as they leave us. The tears come readily enough to the eyes and the heart beats faster than usual when we begin to remember our well-beloved friends—and to remember them in the solemn moment of their death. At this Supper we shall not forget that our blessed Master is exalted and sits at the right hand of God. And we shall also, there, be forcibly reminded that He is coming a second time in the clouds of Heaven with all the pomp and glory of His Father’s court! Yet, the main intent of our gathering around this Table is to show forth His death. That is the principal point and, therefore, Beloved, collect all your thoughts into one thought, all your contemplations into one contemplation and lay the whole at the foot of the Cross as you “eat this bread, and drink this cup.”
To me, it is an exceedingly tender recollection that you and I should be called upon to keep up this memorial as if our Lord gave us this Supper with the commission that each one of us should see to it that His memory was always green—I was about to say, to keep His grave in order. But it is not so, He is not here, for He is risen! But, at least we are to keep the letters upon this monument always deeply carved and legible, showing forth His death that everyone who passes by— that everyone who rambles into the cemetery where men have slept and pauses at this open tomb, and asks who once slept here—may know from us that it was Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God and the Son of Man, our dear and ever-to-be-adored Savior, who died, was buried and rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures!
You see, then, that this Supper concerns our Lord Jesus and it especially concerns His death. And you have to attend to this ordinance and so to freshen up the memorials of the departed One. Do you not think that it will help you to do it if you remember that He has not gone far away? Before I rose to speak to you, I thought within myself that I could hear His footsteps upon this platform—and I opened my eyes after my Brother’s prayer almost expecting to see the Master here! He is not here in that sense, though, if I said that He is here, who would dare to contradict me? He has so gone away as to be still present and He is still present so as to be absent! Make what you can of that riddle—many of you understand the blessed paradox! We have not lost our Lord’s spiritual Presence, but we are looking for His bodily Presence and, I think, He is already so near that if He were suddenly to appear in our midst, it would be no surprise to us and we would all clap our hands, and say, “Welcome, You long-expected One! We knew that You would come and we felt the influence of Your Presence—the coming event had cast its brightness upon us! We knew that You were on the way, for our hearts burned within us and we felt You coming nearer and the days of Your Glory dawning!”
Very well, then, bearing all this in mind, we have now to consider what the Apostle said about this Supper and, first, I shall ask you to think of the backward look of this ordinance—”You do show the Lord’s death.” Secondly, I shall ask you to listen to the present voice of this ordinance, to try to hear what it now whispers in our ears. And then, thirdly, I shall speak of the prophetic glance of this ordinance, s ince the text tells us that in it we “do show the Lord’s death till He comes.” So there is, in the ordinance, a glimpse at Christ’s coming Glory, a gleam of that long-expected light!
I. First, then, let us think of THE BACKWARD LOOK OF THIS ORDINANCE.
It was intended to be the memorial of the great event of Christ’s life—and I think you will all agree with me that it is a most effectual memorial. I t has been said, by men well competent to judge, that there is no better memorial of an event than the celebration of some such festival as this. If you write the record of it in a book, the book may be placed upon a shelf and, perhaps, remain unread. Or it may be completely destroyed so that not a copy of it remains. If you set up a stone or bronze pillar and engrave upon it some words by way of memorial, that pillar may be turned to some other use and the original intention of its erection may be wholly forgotten. I have seen marble columns, recording Roman triumphs, built into the houses of Italian peasants—and you may have seen the same. Painted windows are broken and even solid brass wears away. How can you keep a thing upon the tablets of man’s memory? Here is a nine days’ wonder—will it last for nine centuries even in old worm-eaten books, or engrossed on parchment? Will not the Record Office be invaded by rats? Has it not often happened so and the best preserved documents have perished? But institute a Supper like this, so that wherever the followers of Christ meet together, a piece of bread and a little wine may suffice them to show forth Christ’s death and you have instituted a memorial which will outlast your granite and laugh to scorn memorials of brass! Speak of imperishable marble? Here you have something far more enduring and now, for nearly 19 centuries has the Church of God kept alive the memory of Christ’s death by this sacred feast. In the wisdom of Christ it was given to us—let us not grow so wise , or rather so foolish —as to neglect it!
In looking back from this ordinance, we see it to be not only a most effectual memorial, but also a most instructive symbol. Of what does this Supper consist? Simply of bread and wine. The bread must be broken and what better emblem of suffering can you have than that? The bread, itself, if rightly viewed, appears to be a mass of suffering. The seed is cast into the ground which has been cut up by the sharp plow. It lies buried for a while in the cold soil. When it rises, it has to endure, first, the frost and all the trials of the wintry weather, and then the heat of summer. And when it ripens, it is cut down with a sharp sickle. The sheaves press upon one another—they are thrown upon the barn floor and the precious grain is threshed out by severe beating. Next, it must be taken to the mill, to be crushed between great stones. And when it is utterly bruised into fine flour, it must be kneaded and made into dough. Then it must be baked in the oven and it has not finished its long process of suffering till, at last, it is laid upon the table and broken in pieces, and then further broken with the teeth in order to enter into men and become their nourishment. So you see that the broken bread is an admirable emblem of that precious body of our Lord Jesus Christ into which all sorts of griefs were condensed till the “Man of Sorrows” was utterly consumed by them.
And look, too, at the wine in the cup. Does not that also indicate pain and suffering? Have you ever seen the vine— especially in the wine-producing countries—how it is cut down, till, in the winter, it seems to be nothing but an old dead stump? How sharply do they prune it and cut it back if it is a good vine! And when, at last, it bears its clusters, the grapes are gathered and thrown into the winepress and crushed beneath the trampling feet of the laborers. And the freely-flowing juice of the grape is the picture of Christ’s Sacrifice—the yielding up of His life—the pouring out of the precious blood of Jesus!
Now take the two emblems separately. You cannot make the Lord’s Supper with the two joined together. You must have them both, but you must have them apart, for, when the blood is separated from the flesh, then death ensues. So, on the Table, you have not only two tokens of intense suffering, but you have in the two, separate from each other, a most marked and instructive symbol of death. This is just what the Lord intended that it should be. And when we come here, we can hardly keep from remembering His death, for it is so clearly set forth before us! I do not know what the Roman “mass” sets forth, with all its mummery and mockery—what that can have to do with Christ, I cannot tell! But here you have, as Christ instituted the ordinance, a fair token and symbol of His broken body and of His shed blood and, therefore, of His death.
You also have, in this Supper, something more than this, and that is, a most pleasing and happy exhibition of the result of that death. Our Divine Master died. “Woe, woe,” we cry, “that Heaven’s Darling should lie dead in the tomb!” Yes, but look what comes out of His death! Men are now called to feast with God! Our Lord Jesus, by His death, has provided this sacred viand upon which hungry souls may feed to the fullest and they are invited to come and take of that which is provided—the good cheer of Heaven, the bread that strengthens man’s heart and that wine which safely makes glad his spirit. Yes, man is no longer an outcast. No longer does he wish for the swine’s husks to fill his belly, even if they cannot satisfy it, but he sits at the Table and a feast of fat things is prepared for him—necessities and dainties—bread and wine provided for him in Christ! And that is plainly set forth to all who care to see it in this Supper. Nor is this all.
There is, in this supper, a personal and yet united confession and testimony to Christ. It might have seemed difficult to blend these two, for religion is a personal matter. If Christ is to save me, I must personally feed upon Him, and yet, religion is also a social matter. If Christ is to save me, it must be in connection with the whole of His Church which He has redeemed with His most precious blood. Now here, at the Table, eating is an individual act—no man can eat or drink for his fellow men and thus, each man sets forth that he does, from his own heart, of his own accord, by his own faith, receive Christ to be his Savior. Yet inasmuch as no one man, alone, can celebrate the Lord’s Supper, but there must be two or three at the least, so the great fact is set forth that we are not saved alone, but saved as members of one body— the Church of God which He has redeemed at so great a cost!
See, then, how the unit is lost in the mass. No, not lost—it is still there and yet it is no longer separate—and this Supper sets forth all that. Come, therefore, Beloved, to this ordinance which has such richness of meaning in it that the few words I have spoken do but touch the surface of the subject! Come, I say, and think of your Beloved. He has died— He has died for you! That dear body of His, black and blue with the cruel stripes, and crimson with its own blood—that life poured forth, though it was for all His people, yet was especially for you, my Brother—for you, my Sister! You did not see Christ die, but if your faith is in a right condition, you may see Him die, as it were, emblematically. You may see His death vividly set forth, after a striking fashion, in those emblems on the Table. God give you Grace to see it and, in response, to love Him more who died on Calvary for you! Oh, if you had seen Him die, the horror of that scene would have overcome you and, instead of sweet thoughts of devotion, as you fancy might be the case, you would probably have been overwhelmed with terror!
But now, as through a glass, in the emblems of the body and the blood of Christ, you may see Him under a softer light. The horror may not oppress you, but you may sit in that pew and see Him who died for you—see Him with a holy joy that He could have loved you and given Himself for you! It is you who are to think of Him. It is you who are to discern the Lord’s body. It is you who are to eat and drink worthily, with all your heart, setting forth Christ’s death. It is you who are to represent Him—you, with all your Brothers and Sisters, but you, none the less, as truly as if you were alone. “As often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you do show the Lord’s death”
That is the backward look of this ordinance—may God’s Spirit enable you to give that look at this moment!
II. And now, dear Friends, secondly and briefly, bow your ear a little and listen to THE PRESENT VOICE OF THIS ORDINANCE TO YOU. What does it say at this hour?
It says to me—and my heart shall hear it—that Christ’s death must still be kept to the front. I am to “show the Lord’s death till He comes.” Whatever I forget, I am to remember that. And this Supper is instituted on purpose that I may do so. O my Heart, you must keep a dying Christ always before you! Christ to the front for myself! Christ to the front in my teaching! Christ to the front in all my prayers! Christ to the front everywhere! O Memory, leave no other name but His recorded on my heart! Whatever else may come or may go, my Heart, you are told that you must still remember His death and keep it right in the forefront of everything!
But over the table I hear a whisper come, “You still need this memorial. ” We are not only to remember Christ, we are to, “do this,” in remembrance of Him. This ordinance is intended to help our memory. Is it possible that we can forget our Lord’s death? Ah, if it had not been possible and probable, that we should forget it, there would have been no need of this Supper! It is ordained because we are naturally forgetful, we are ungracious enough to let even the best things slip. We forget not our earthly beloved ones who have been taken from us—the dear infant child has its name inscribed on the tablets of its mother’s heart, the husband has not forgotten his wife—but yet we grow unmindful of our Lord, and hence He left us this sweet forget-me-not. He says to us, as it were, “No, My beloved, I will not let you forget Me. I will give you something that shall frequently remind you of Me. Come often to My Table and there constantly think of Me afresh and anew.”
What else does this ordinance say? It says, “In this Supper I have fellowship with the centuries that have gone before and with those which will follow.” When our Lord said to His first disciples, “This do in remembrance of Me,” He really gave that command to each one of us who believe in Him. But He also gave it to all the saints who have gone before us and to all who will come after us. Does it not charm you to think that you are eating as Paul did, and as James and John did—that you are in the fellowship of the martyrs and confessors, the Fathers and the Reformers, and that we, in this ordinance, enter into the great cloud of witnesses and take our part with them? I look upon this Supper—which some seem to regard as an unimportant ceremony—as a thing most august and sacred, seeing how many hands have combined to break this bread and how many lips have partaken of this cup. So will it be in the future when you and I sleep with our fathers. If Christ shall not come for a long, long while, this ordinance will still be observed by the faithful. If His coming should be delayed for 10,000 years—which God forbid! —yet still this Supper table would be spread and loving hearts would gather around it to keep this memorial alive on the earth “till He comes.” Do you see what this communion really is? It is a bridge of diamonds! It springs from our Lord’s death with one grand arch and it spans the intervening space “till He comes.” Blessed are they that are treading that glorious bridge and marching on, washed in the blood of His death, till they shall wear the white robes of His victory in the day of His appearing!
I think I hear another voice coming out of the depth of the cup. It says, “He will come. He will come. ” And, oh, blessed assurance, He must keep His promise! This Supper is His pledge and it would be a cruel mockery of us if He never came. He must come! My Brothers and Sisters, it is nearly 19 centuries since Jesus said to His disciples, “In My Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” And He will come! Do not grow weary or, if you do faint with the long watching and waiting, do not grow doubtful. He will come! Your fathers thought that He would come in their time. Some of them fancied themselves very wise and tried to interpret the prophecies which never will be explained until they are fulfilled—and they lost themselves in endless mazes of conjecture. Do not so, but, still, do not fling away your faith because you cast aside your speculation! Believe and hope, and patiently wait, and look, each day, for the returning Christ, for He may come before tomorrow’s clock strikes at noon! He may come before the midnight hour shall fall upon the hush of this great city. Before the word I am speaking shall leave these lips and reach your ears, He may appear, for, “of that day and that hour knows no man, no, not the angels which are in Heaven.” But it is ours to stand watching, waiting and hoping, for this Supper tells us that He will surely come again!
One more message comes to me from this broken bread and that is, that it is His first coming that makes us ready for the second. Is it not so? “You do show the Lord’s death till He comes.” You keep before your mind’s eye the fact that He came once to die in order that you may feel joy in the fact that He is coming again, not to die, but to reign forever and ever! I think I hear the countless trumpets and see the dead rising, and behold the King attended by ten thousand times ten thousand kings! Kings, did I call them? They seem to me like stars! No, like suns, for “then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the Kingdom of their Father.” Their Lord has come and His saints are gathered around Him. Caught up into the clouds, the living ones are with Him and the dead have risen and joined them! Oh, the splendor of that tremendous day! Though we know not when that day shall be, we know that He will come—the angels gave the promise to the men of Galilee—and it shall be fulfilled. “This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into Heaven, shall so come in like manner as you have seen Him go into Heaven.” In the clouds of Heaven, with great pomp, will He appear and, as we come to this Communion Table, we must think of that glorious appearing of our Lord!
III. Now, lastly, I have to speak about THE PROPHETIC GLANCE OF THIS ORDINANCE. I have partly referred to that, already, for one thought in our text blends with another.
The prophetic glance reveals to us the fact that Christ will come again. We are to celebrate this Supper “till He comes.” Then, He wilcome! Fall not asleep, you virgins, for at midnight the cry shall be heard, “Behold, the Bridegroom comes.” O you who serve Him, begin not to mistreat your fellow servants and to be drunk, for He will come and
He may soon be here! By this Supper are we assured that He will come. “But,” perhaps you say, “His saints have waited for Him nearly 2,000 years.” What is that? Two thousand years? Think of those who waited 4,000 years before Christ came here to die! Now, I reckon that to wait 2,000 years for our Lord’s Second Advent is a trifle compared with waiting 4,000 years for His First Advent, for, you see, on that first coming depended the salvation of all His people! The ancients might well ask, “Will He come to die?” O my Brothers and Sisters, if Abraham and the Patriarchs and the Prophets had been dubious about His coming to bleed and die, I should not so much have wondered! Four thousand years passed and yet He had not come—might not each man have put his hands upon his loins for fear that he would not come—that there would be no redemption—no pouring out of the great price by which men should be set free? Four thousand years to wait for that! Why, now, if we have to wait 40,000 years for His Second Advent, it need not be such an anxious time of waiting because we may expect Him to come in His Glory—we may expect Him to come to be admired in all them that believe! We may expect Him to come to reign forever and ever! We may be sure that He who slew the dragon will come to divide the spoil! He that routed Death and Hell will come to lead captivity captive and to reign forever and ever, King of kings and Lord of lords! You are not waiting in the night, for the Day-Star has risen. You are not waiting in the thick darkness—the Dawn has broken upon you. Christ has appeared once! You are redeemed by His blood, you are children of the living God! Patiently wait, then, for He will most surely come, and every hour brings Him nearer.
What does this ordinance further say to me? Why, surely, that Christ’s coming will be better than ordinances. If, when He comes, there will be no more Lord’s Suppers as we observe them now, and if it is, as it certainly is, a rule of the Kingdom to always go from good to better—and from better to best, as God never brings forth the best wine, first, and afterwards that which is worse, but it is always something better, and better, and better—then what must Christ’s coming be? Brothers and Sisters, communion with Christ in the ordinances is very, very sweet! Oh, sometimes, we have had such pleasure, such delight, such rapture at the Table of our Lord, that we could hardly have endured any more!
At such times I have sympathized, a little, with Peter when he wished to build three tabernacles and to remain on the Mount of Transfiguration! It is very easy to get up to a great height, but, alas, we soon get down again. I wish that we could always do, in spiritual things, what I have done, today, by God’s Grace, in temporal things. I am so lame and it was so great a pain for me to get up here, this morning, that I said, “God willing, if I once get up to my platform and preach, I will not go down, again, till I have preached the evening sermon.” So I have remained upstairs all day. When I was once up, I stayed up! Now mind you, do that in spiritual things! You know, if you go down, you lame folk, you may not be able to get up, again, so stay up when you are up, and try to continue enjoying the Presence of your Lord and Master.
But, if Lord’s Suppers and communion with Christ in outward ordinances are so sweet and we are to go on to something even better when the Lord, Himself, comes, then what excessive delight it will be! Oh, to catch a glimpse of Him! If the feet of His servants upon the mountains are beautiful, what must His own dear face be when He shall be down in the valleys among us? Oh, if the sound of His Gospel is as silver bells, what shall be the utterances of His own dear lips when His words shall be as lilies dropping sweet-smelling myrrh? Ah, me, there is something coming for you, Believer, of which you know but little as yet! Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into your heart to know them—yet God has revealed them to you by His Spirit. You know them, to some extent, but not wholly as yet, for here we see in part and understand only in part, but there we shall know even as we are known. Be of good comfort, Brothers and Sisters—get all the sweetness you can out of this Supper while it lasts, but do not forget that there is something better than this yet to be revealed. This ordinance is only like a candle, or a little star—when Christ comes, you will not need it, for He is the Sun!
Further, does not this Supper, as it looks into the future, tell us that the time is coming when we shall be rid of all infirmities? What is the need of this Supper, but that we have such weak, frail memories? When it shall be taken away, it will be a token that we have good memories—memories that will miss nothing, but will hold by that which is good and blessed forever and forever! When this Communion is no longer to be observed, it will be a happy sign that we have come to our perfection!
Here I will close, but I seem, in closing, as if I said to you, “This is a kind of preface.” In my old Puritan books, I often find a preface written by some other hand to introduce the author’s writing. Well, this is my preface to introduce you to this marvelous book—the Communion, the Feast of Love, the Lord’s Supper. There is no teaching anywhere like it! I have been in the habit of coming to the Lord’s Table every first day of the week now for many years—I have never omitted it except when I have been too ill to move. Has it lost its freshness? Oh, dear, no! It is always a standing sermon containing more teaching than volumes of men’s sermons. I do not know how they get on who have the communion only once a quarter or once a year. Paul said, “As often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup.” He should have said, “as seldom as you drink it,” according to the habit of some! There is no law about the frequency of its observance, except the sweet Law of Love which seems to say, “If this is a window where Christ looks out, then let me often approach it. If this is a door through which He comes to my heart, then let me stand often at this door.” “Often”—frequently—I think that at least once in the week it is well for us to come to the Table of our Lord.
But there are some of you who have never come to this Table. If you are not God’s people, do not come—it would do you no good—it would rather do you harm to partake of these emblems. If you are not believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, do not come to His Table—you would be hypocrites or intruders. But if you are sincere believers in Christ, how can you stay away? “This do,” He says, “in remembrance of Me.” Suppose your Lord were to come and you had never done as He bade you? What would you say to Him? “It is such a simple matter,” you say. Yes, in some senses it is. Therefore, attend to it! If it were a matter in which your soul was concerned, so that you could not be saved without it, you say that you would attend to it. Would you? What wretched selfishness that would be! Is this all that you are to live for— that you may be saved? Are you really worth saving, such a miserable creature as you are? You seem to me to be too poor a thing to be worth redeeming. If you are what you should be, you are believing in Christ and you are saved—and now you say, “What can I do to show my gratitude to Him who has redeemed me?” Your heart expands, your spirit is enlarged and if there is anything, little or great, which Christ commands as a proof of love to Him, you are delighted to do it! Do you not sometimes wish that He would give you something very difficult to do—some difficult enterprise? Have you never envied the men that died, burning at the stake, for Him? Oh, it must have been grand to have thus proved one’s love to Him! But He says, “If you love Me, keep My Commandments”—and this is one of His Commandments, “This do in remembrance of Me.”