This Do In Remembrance of Me
Robert Murray M'Cheyne
The Lord's Supper is the sweetest of all ordinances: 1. Because of the time when it was instituted. "The Lord Jesus, the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread." It was the darkest night that ever was in this world, and yet the brightest -- the night when His love of the sinners was put to the severest test. How amazing that He should remember our comfort at such a time! 2. Because it is the believer's ordinance. It is the duty of all men to pray. God hears the ravens when they cry, and so He often hears the prayers of the unconverted men (Psalm 107; Acts 8:22). It is the duty of all men to hear the preached gospel. "Unto you, O men, I call, and my voice is to the sons of men." But the Lord's Supper is the children's bread; it is intended only for those who know and love the Lord Jesus. 3. Because Christ is the beginning, middle, and end of it. "This do in remembrance of Me." "Ye do show the Lord's death till He come." There are many sermons in which Christ is not from beginning to end; many books where you cannot find the fragrance of His name: but there cannot be a sacrament where Christ is not from beginning to end. Christ is the Alpha and Omega of the Lord's Supper; it is all Christ and Him crucified. These things give a peculiar sweetness to the broken bread and poured-out wine.
I fear the Lord's Supper is profaned in a dreadful manner among you. Many come who are living in positive sins, or in the neglect of positive duties. Many come who know that they were never converted; many who in their hearts ridicule the very thoughts of conversion. Unworthy communicating is a fearful sin; on account of it God is greatly provoked to withdraw His Spirit from you, to visit you with frowns of providence, and to seal you to the day of perdition. Am I become your enemy because I tell you the truth? Deal honestly with your soul, and pray over what I am now writing; and He who opened the heart of Lydia open your heart while I explain.
The Actions of the Communicant
I. He takes the bread and the wine. -- When the minister offers the bread and wine to those at the table, this represents Christ freely offered to sinners, even the chief. The receiving of the bread and wine means -- I do thankfully receive the broken, bleeding Savior as my Surety. The act of taking that bread and wine is an appropriating act; it is saying before God, and angels, and men, and devils, "I do flee to the Lord Jesus Christ as my refuge." Noah entering into the ark was an appropriating act. Let others fly to the tops of their houses, to their castles and towers, to the rugged rocks, to the summits of the highest mountains, -- as for me, I believe the word of God, and flee to the ark as my only refuge (Heb.11:7). When the manslayer fled into the city of refuge, it was an appropriating act. As he entered breathless at gates of the Hebron, his friends might cry to him, Flee unto the wilderness! or Flee beyond Jordan! But no, he would say, I believe the word of God, that I shall be safe only within these walls; this is my only refuge city, here only will I hide! (Joshua 20). When the Israelite brought an offering of the herd or of the flock, when the priest had bound it with cords to the horns of the altar, the offerer laid his hands upon the head of the lamb: this was an appropriating act, as much as to say, I take this lamb as dying for me. The world might say, How will this save you? mend your life, give alms to the poor. I believe the word of God, he would say; I do not wish to bear my own sins, I lay them on the Lamb of God (Lev. 1:4). When the woman, trembling, came behind Jesus and touched the hem of His garment, this also was an appropriating act. Her friends might say to her, Come and try some more physicians, or wait till you are somewhat better. No, said she, "If I may but touch His garment, I shall be made whole" (Mark 5:28). In the 42nd Psalm, David's enemies said to him continually, "Where is thy God?" This made tears his meat night and day. It was like a sword in his bones. But in the 43rd Psalm he gathers courage, and says, "I will go unto the altar of God," where the lamb was slain; and then he says, " Unto God, my exceeding joy." You say, I have no God: behold, I take this lamb as slain for me, and therefore God is my God. In the Song of Solomon, when the bride found Him whom her soul loved, she says, "I held Him, and would not let Him go." This was true appropriating faith. The world might say to her, " Come this way, and we will show thee other beloveds, fairer than thy beloved." Nay, saith she, "I held Him, and would not let Him go. This is my beloved, and this is my friend" (Song 3:4).
Just such, beloved, is the meaning of receiving broken bread and poured-out wine at the Lord's table. It is the most solemn appropriating act of all your lives. It is declaring by signs, "I do enter into the ark; I flee into the city of refuge; I lay my hand on the head of the Lamb; I do touch the hem of His garment; I do take Jesus to be my Lord and my God; I hold Him, and by grace I will never let Him go." It is a deliberate closing with Christ, by means of signs, in the presence of witnesses. When a bride accepts the right hand in marriage before many witnesses, it is a solemn declaration to all the world that she does accept the bridegroom to be her only husband. So, in the Lord's Supper, when you receive that bread and wine, you solemnly declare that, forsaking all others, you heartily do receive the Lord Jesus as your only Lord and Savior.
If these things be true, should not many stay from this holy table? Many of you know that a work of grace has never been begun in your heart; you never were made to tremble for your soul; you never were made to pray, "God be merciful to me a sinner"; you never were brought to "rejoice, believing in God." Oh, beloved, let me say it with all tenderness, this table is not for you. Many of you know you are not in the state you would do to die in. You say, " I hope to turn yet before I die." Does not this show that your sins are not covered -- that you are not born again -- that you are not fled to the hope set before you? This table is not for you. Some of you know well that you have had convictions of sin, but they passed away. The walls of the house of God have seen you trembling on the brink of eternity, but you were never brought to "peace in believing" -- to "peace with God." You have drowned your anxieties in the whirl of business or of pleasure. You have drawn back. Your goodness is like the "morning cloud and early dew, it goeth away." This table is not for you. I speak to your sense of honour and common honesty. In worldly things, would you tell a lie either by word or by signs? And is it a light matter to tell a lie in eternal things? Will you deliberately declare, by taking the broken bread and poured-out wine, what you know to be a lie? Oh, pray over the story of Ananias and Sapphira, and tremble (Acts 5:1-11). May it not be said in heaven of many, "Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God?"
A word to trembling, believing souls. This feast is spread for you. "Eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved." If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, come. If you are "weak in the faith," ministers are commanded to receive you. If on the morning of the communion Sabbath, even for the first time in your life, Christ appeared full and free to you, so that you cannot but believe on Him, do not hesitate to come. Come to the table , leaning on the Beloved, and you will have John's place there. You will lean peacefully upon His breast.
II. He eats the bread and drinks the wine. -- "Take, eat" -- "Drink ye all of it." Eating and drinking in this ordinance imply feeding upon Christ. It is said of bread that it "strengtheth man's heart," and of wine, that it "maketh glad the heart of man." Bread is the staff of life, and wine is very reviving to those who, like Timothy, have often infirmities. They are the greatest nutritive blessings which man possesses. To feed on them in the Lord's Supper is as much as to say, I do feed on Jesus, as my strength; "in the Lord have I righteousness and strength." To take the bread into the hand is by saying, "He is made of God unto me righteousness." To feed upon it is saying, "He is made unto me sanctification."
When Israel fed on manna for forty years, and drank water from the rock, they were strengthened for their journey through the howling wilderness. This was a picture of believers journeying through this world. They feed every day on Christ their strength; He is their daily manna; He is the rock that follows them. When the bride sat under the shadow of the apple-tree, she says, "His fruit was sweet to my taste"; and again, "Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples, for I am sick of love." Believers, this is a picture of you. No sooner are you sheltered by the Saviour, than you are nourished and renewed by Him. He comforts your hearts, and stablishes you in every good word and work. In the 36th Psalm, when David speaks of men trusting under the wings of the Lord Jesus, he adds, "They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house, and Thou shalt make them drink of the river of Thy pleasures." Little children, you know by experience what this means. When you were brought to believe on the Son of God, you were adopted into His family, fed with the children's bread, and your heart filled with the holy pleasures of God. The same thing is represented in feeding on the bread and wine. It is a solemn declaration in the sight of the whole world, that you have been put into the clefts of the smitten rock, and that you are feeding on the honey treasured there. It is declaring that you have sat down under Christ's shadow, and you are comforted and nourished by the fruit of that tree of life. It is saying, "I have come to trust under the shadow of His wings, and now I drink of the river of His pleasures." It is a sweet declaration of your own helplessness and weakness, and that Christ is all your strength -- all your life.
If this be true, should not many stay away from the Lord's table? Many of you know that you were never really grafted into the true vine -- that you never received and nourishment from Christ -- that you never received the Holy Spirit. Many of you know that you are dead branches -- that you only seem to be united to the vine -- that you are the branches that bear no fruit, which He taketh away. Why should you feed on that bread and wine? Some of you may know that you are dead in sins, unconverted, unborn again -- that you never experienced any change of heart like that spoken of in Ezek. 36:26. This bread and wine are not for you. Some of you know that you are living in under the power of sins that you could name: some of you, perhaps, in secret profanation of the holy Sabbath, "doing your own ways, finding your own pleasures, speaking your own words." Some, perhaps, in secret swearing, or lying, or dishonesty, or drinking, or uncleanness! Ah! why should you feed on this bread and wine? It will do you no good. Can you for a moment doubt that you will eat and drink unworthily? Dare you do this? Pray over these awful words and tremble: "He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself."
All who are really "looking unto Jesus" are invited to come to the Lord's table. Some feel like a sick person recovering from a fever: you are without strength, you cannot lift your hand or your head. Yet you look unto Jesus as your strength: He died for sinners, and He lives for them. You look to Him day by day. You say, He is my bread, He is my wine; I have no strength but what comes from Him. Come you and feed at the Lord's table, and welcome. Some feel like a traveller when he arrives at an inn, faint and weary: you have no strength to go farther, you cannot take another step; but you lean on Jesus as your strength; you believe that word: "Because I live, ye shall live also." Come you and feed on this bread and wine, with your staff in your hand and shoes on your feet, and will "go on your way rejoicing." Feeble branches need most nourishment. The more you feel your weakness, the amazing depravity of your heart, the power of Satan, and the hatred of the world, the more need have you to lean on Jesus, to feed on this bread and wine -- you are all the more welcome.
III. He shares the bread and wine with others. -- The Lord's table is not a selfish, solitary meal. To eat bread and wine alone is not the Lord's Supper. It is a family meal of that family spoken of in Eph. 3:15. You do not eat and drink alone by yourself; you share the bread and wine with all at the same table. Jesus said, "Drink ye all of it."
This expresses love to the brethren, -- a sweet feeling of oneness with "all those who love the Lord Jesus in sincerity," -- a heart-filling desire that all should have the same peace, the same joy, the same spirit, the same holiness, the same heaven with yourself. You remember the golden candlestick in the temple, with its seven lamps. It was fed out of one golden bowl on the top of it, which was constantly full of oil. The oil ran down the shaft of the candlestick, and was distributed to each lamp by seven golden pipes or branches. All the lamps shared the same oil. It passed from branch to branch. None of the lamps kept the oil to itself; it was shared among them all. So it is in the vine-tree. The sap ascends from the root, and fills all the branches. When one branch is satisfied, it lets the steams pass on to the next; nay, it carries the rich juice to the smaller twigs and tendrils, that all may have their share -- that all may bear their precious fruit. So it is with the body. The blood comes from the heart in full and nourishing streams, -- it flows to all members, -- one member conducts it to another, that all may be kept alive, and all may grow.
So it is in the Lord's Supper. The bread and wine are passed from hand to hand, to show that we are members one of another. "For we being many, are one bread and one body, for we are all partakers of that one bread" (I Cor.10:17). It is a solemn declaration that you are one with all true Christians, one in peace, one in feeling, one in holiness; and that if one member suffer, you will suffer with it, or if one member be honored, you will rejoice with it. You thereby declare that you are branches of the true Vine, and are vitally united to all the branches -- that you wish the same Holy Spirit to pervade every bosom. You declare that you are lamps of the same golden candlestick, and that you wish the same golden oil to keep you and them burning and shining as lights in a dark world. Learn, once more, that most should stay away from this table. Some of you know that you have not a spark of love to the Christians. You persecute them, or despise them. Your tongue is like a sharp razor against them; you ridicule their notions of grace, and conversion, and the work of the Spirit. You hate their conversation; you call it cant and hypocrisy. When they are speaking on divine things with a full heart, and you come in, they are obliged to stop because you dislike it. Why should you come to this holy table? What is hypocrisy, if this is not? You put on a serious face and air; you press eagerly in to the table; you sit down, and look deeply solemnized; you take the bread into your hand, pretending to declare that you have been converted, and brought to accept of a crucified Christ. You then eat of the broken bread and drink of that cup with evident marks of emotion, pretending that you are one of those who live upon Jesus, who are filled with the Spirit. You then pass the bread and wine to others, pretending that you love the Christians, -- that you wish all to be partakers with you in the grace of the Lord Jesus; and yet all the while you hate and detest them, their thoughts, their ways, their company. You would not for the world become a man of prayer. Beloved souls, what is hypocrisy, if this is not? I solemnly declare that I had rather see you "breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord," than come to be a wolf in sheep's clothing. Are you not afraid lest, while you are sitting at the table, you should hear the voice of the Lord Jesus saying, "Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?"
Dear believer, you "know that you are passed from death unto life, because you love the brethren." This pure and holy life is one of the first feelings in the converted bosom. It is divine and imperishable. You are a companion of all that fear God. It would be hell to you to spend eternity with wicked men. Come and show this love at the feast of love. The table in the upper room at Jerusalem was but a type and earnest of the table in the upper room of glory. Soon we shall exchange the table below for the table above, where we shall give full expression to our love to all eternity. There no betrayers can come -- "no unclean thing can enter." Jesus shall be at the head of the table, and God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes.
Questions Addressed to Young Communicants, to be Answered in Secret to God.
1. Is it to please your father or mother, or any one on earth, that you think of coming to the Lord's table?
2. Is it because it is the custom, and your friends and companions are coming?
3. Is it because you have come to a certain time of life?
4. What are your real motives for wishing to come to the Lord's table? Is it to thank God for saving your soul? -- (Ps. 116:12-13); to remember Jesus? -- (Luke 22:19); to get near to Christ? -- (John 13:23); or is it for worldly character? to gain a name? to gain money? -- (Matt. 26:15).
5. Who do you think should come to the Lord's table? who should stay away?
6. Do you think any should come but those who are truly converted? and what is it to be converted?
7. Would you come if you knew yourself to be unconverted?
8. Should those come who have had deep concern about their soul, but are not come to Christ?
9. Do you think you have been awakened by the Holy Spirit? brought to Christ? born again? What makes you think so?
10. What is the meaning of the broken bread and poured-out wine?
11. What is the meaning of taking the bread and wine into your hand? Have you as truly received the Lord Jesus Christ?
12. What is the meaning of feeding upon them? Are you as truly living upon Christ?
13. What is the meaning of giving the bread and wine to those at the same table as you? Do you as truly love the brethren?
Scriptures to be Meditated on at a Communion Season.
Ex.12; Pss. 22, 51, 69, 116; Song of Solomon; Isa. 53; Matt. 22:1-14; 26, 27; Mark 14, 15; Luke 22, 23; John 13, 14, 15, 16, 17; I Cor. 11:23-34.
St. Peter's, Dundee, October 1841.