THE RECENT celebration of the Memorial Supper at Allegheny was amongst the most solemn and impressive that we have ever enjoyed. The attendance was good, perhaps the largest we have had since the abandonment of the general convention at this date, in 1892. About two hundred were present, and that notwithstanding the fact that none were invited to come on this occasion except believers in the ransom who professed full consecration to the Lord. Quite a number of brethren, too, were hindered from attendance, by reason of many of the works in this vicinity running extra time, and the inability of those desirous of attending to get substitutes for the time. Our meeting convened at 7.30, but we delayed the general service to accommodate some who were unable to arrive until nearly eight o'clock. Meantime the entire congregation took part in worshiping the Lord in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in our hearts also, to him who loved us and bought us with his own precious blood. We sang,
Then we joined in prayer for the divine blessing upon our gathering and upon all of the Lord's people everywhere gathered for similar purpose, not forgetting also the solitary ones; entreating the divine blessing and wisdom, and grace to appreciate the realities symbolized by the "Supper" before us. Then our hearts and voices united in the grand old hymn,
At eight o'clock we took up our Lord's words in which he describes himself as the living bread, reading from John 6:48-58,
"I am the bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat [feed upon] this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth [continuously] my flesh and drinketh [continuously] my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna and are dead: he that eateth [continuously] of this bread shall live forever."
Examining the subject we saw that the manna of the wilderness was at very most only a type to illustrate our Lord Jesus who is the true manna for our souls: feeding upon which we are to have eternal life. We sympathized with the Jews and realized how, in their fleshly condition, unenlightened by the holy spirit which was not yet given, it was impossible for them to comprehend the significance of the deep things of God contained in our Master's words. Indeed, we see that the majority of Christians but faintly comprehend their meaning to-day. We discussed the subject of how our Lord's flesh is the bread of life to those who eat it. We noted that "Bread is the staff of life" amongst all mankind, the main dependence for this present life, and hence the appropriateness of the figure of speech which likens our Lord and the graces and virtues which are in him to the bread which imparts sustenance to the new life.
We noted the importance of our Lord's flesh and that it was uncontaminated, free from sin"holy, harmless, separate from sinners." We noted that this is necessary because our father Adam, having been created in a similar condition of sinless flesh, had, by transgression of the divine law, become a sinner: his flesh came under divine sentence of death and became corrupt both morally and physically. We noted the necessity for the man Christ Jesus, whose sinless flesh could be accepted as the ransom price, the offset, the full equivalent, instead of Adam and his flesh which had become defiled through sin. We noted the Scriptural explanation that it was for this purpose that our Lord Jesus left the glories and honors of the higher nature and condition and "was made flesh,...that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man." We noted our Redeemer's own words: "My flesh I will give for the life of the world." (John 6:51.) We saw that thus the giving of our Lord's unblemished flesh as a corresponding price for father [R2291 : page 118] Adam's condemned flesh, constituted the purchase price by which not only father Adam was redeemed, but also all his race which was in his loins at the time of his transgression. We praised God for the undefiled flesh of our Redeemer and took note of the fact that, while it had been broken for all, it is required of each that he shall for himself accept of his own share in the great work of atonement accomplished by that broken body and shed blood. We noted that none can have eternal life except by partaking of this broken body. This meant to us an out and out contradiction of all the various claims to the effect that a knowledge of the historic Christ and of his sacrifice for sins is unnecessary to salvation: it meant to us what it says, that only by eating of the Lord's flesh and partaking of his blood can any ever obtain life eternal.
We considered what is signified by the eating of the flesh: we saw that as the eating of natural bread includes the thought of its assimilation and absorption into the system through the blood, so our eating of the flesh of Christ signifies (1) our appreciation of the fact that he was sinless, and a suitable sacrifice on our behalf. (2) Our faith in the fact that he did offer himself a ransom for all. (3) Our conviction that this sacrifice was acceptable to the Heavenly Father, as evidenced by our Lord's resurrection from the dead, and also by the Father's acceptance of believers through him, and his impartation to them of the holy spirit of adoption, which began at Pentecost and has continued since. (4) It signifies our desire for the life eternal and also for the purity which was in Christ, and implies our separation from sinthe renouncement of our relationship to the first Adam, and our acceptance of the hoped-for life through the second Adam, based upon his sacrificehis flesh given for the life of the world.
We then turned to and considered 1 Cor. 11:23-26, and noted the fact that the Lord's Memorial Supper followed the Paschal Supper and was a separate institution and designed to take its place. Looking back to the deliverance of fleshly Israel from Egyptian bondage and the passing over or sparing of their first-born on the night before they left Egypt, we noted the antitypes of these things: that Egypt was a type of the world; its king, Pharaoh, a type of the prince of this world; its bondage a type of the bondage of sin; the deliverance from all these under the leadership of Moses, a type of the ultimate deliverance in the next age of all who love God and who desire to do sacrifice to him, under the leadership of the antitypical Moses (Christ), and that the final overthrow of Satan and his servants was prefigured in the destruction of Pharaoh and his hosts.
In harmony with these thoughts and as a part of them, we saw that the passing over or deliverance of Israel's first-born from death, in the night before all the people went forth from the bondage, was a type of how God passes over, spares, gives life to, a certain class now (in the "night" before the full introduction of the Millennial age and his Kingdom for the deliverance of all who love and seek righteousness). The class that will be delivered, spared, passed over, during this night, while God's people are in the world and under the evil influence of the prince of this world, is merely and only the first-bornthe Church"the Church of the first-born [ones] whose names are written in heaven."Heb. 12:23.
But we noted that in the type, in order that the first-born ones might be passed over, it was necessary that a lamb without blemish should be killed, its blood sprinkled upon the door-posts of their houses, and its flesh eaten within with bitter herbs. We saw that this Passover lamb was a type of "the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world," and that the antitypical first-born, the elect Church, must eat of the flesh of our Lamb, as the literal first-born of Israel ate of the flesh of the typical lamb. We saw that our hearts also must be sprinkled with the precious blood from all consciousness of evil, from all wrong association in sin, and that the "bitter herbs" signify the trials, oppositions, persecutions, difficulties and crosses of the human will, necessary to our feeding upon our [R2292 : page 118] Lord's flesh which was given for the life of the world.
We saw that in giving the symbols of the bread and the fruit of the vine to represent his own flesh and blood, our Lord wished us to recognize two things. (1) That he is the antitypical Lamb, and that the passing over or sparing of the Gospel Church and the deliverance of her from death to newness of life in Christ and to a share with him in the first resurrection, is the antitypical Passover. (2) That the unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine were to emblemize the body and blood of the true Lamb, and to take the place of the typical Paschal lamb. Not that the bread and the fruit of the vine are the antitypes of the lamb, but that they are the symbols, figures or representations of the antitypical Lamb. We saw, consequently, that the partaking of the unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine are matters of small importance as compared with our partaking of and feeding by faith upon our Lord, which this symbolizes; and that many have partaken of the emblems who have never "tasted that the Lord is gracious:" while others may have tasted of the Lord's grace who may never have seen their privilege and had opportunity of partaking of the emblems of his broken body and shed blood. We rejoiced in our privilege to have boththe real feast in our hearts and the symbols which our Lord himself had provided and instructed us to use.
We considered the bread that it was unleavened,leaven, in the type, signifying sin. We noted the Apostle's explanation that the bread not only represented our Lord's flesh upon which we feed by faith, but that, having fed upon it and received of his spirit, we, as his Church of the first-born, are reckoned as being members together in one loaf or cake of unleavened bread. Thus he exhorts us to remember that, as a little leaven leaveneth an entire batch of dough, so a little sin might accomplish a great fermentation in our midst. Hence he exhorts, "Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us: therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven [rank wickedness], neither with the [less rank but more insidious] leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth."1 Cor. 5:6-8.
Following up this same thought, and comparing advanced Christians (who have purged their hearts of sin and consecrated themselves fully to the Lord) to a baked loaf of unleavened bread, the Apostle declares that all such are (with Christ) members or parts of one loafall pledged to be broken, that they may be of life-giving power and influence to others. He says, "The bread [lit., loaf] which we break, is it not the communion of [our participation as] the body of Christ? For we being many are one loaf and one body: for we are all sharers in that one loaf. The cup of blessing for which we give thanks, is it not our participation in the blood of Christ?" (1 Cor. 10:16.) Thus we see the double figure. (1) Christ our Passover slain for us, on account of which we keep the feast, seeking to abstain from sin and feeding upon the merit of our Redeemer. (2) Our union with him and consecration to participation in the sufferings of this present time, that by and by we may participate also in the glory that shall follow. Thus we see that all who reach this stage of development in the body of Christ have pledged themselves to be broken with him for the good of others.
All such are inspired with their Master's spirita spirit of love to the Father, and to those who have the Father's likeness, and to all. It is to these that the Apostle says, "Hereby perceive we the love, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren," (1 John 3:16.) This willingness and desire to be broken for the good of others is the result of our first feeding upon our Lord's broken body and receiving of his spirit, mind, disposition, love. And such have the promises. "If we suffer with him we shall also reign with him." "If we be dead with him we believe that we shall also live with him."
Having thus considered the significance of the bread and having fed upon it in our hearts, and having pledged ourselves afresh to be broken with the Lord for the feeding and blessing of others, we followed the Scriptural example and gave thanks to God for the bread of eternal life. Following this was a period of silence, during which the bread was carried to the communicants.
Next we considered the fruit of the vine, and saw that it symbolized death, and not only death, but the more or less of suffering associated therewith. We saw that the grapes must be crushed, trodden, sorely pressed, ere the fruit of the vine could be drawn. And as we considered the juice of the grape as a symbol for the blood of Christ, his consecrated life, and then as a symbol of the consecrated lives of all those who become joint-sacrificers with him, we saw that it was a most beautiful and fitting symbol. Our Lord likened himself to the vine and his followers to the branches, and declared that it was his desire that we should bring forth much fruit: and the grape juice which we used seemed a fitting symbol of the fruitage of the Vine, Christ, and the sufferings of all who would be faithful as members of his body and who would seek to walk in his footsteps, to spend themselves and be spent in glorifying God in their bodies and their spirits which are his.
We remembered, also, the words of two of the disciples of old, who requested that they might sit with the Lord in his throne, and our Lord's response to the effect that they did not comprehend fully what their request implied of self-denial, saying, "Are ye able to drink of my cup [of ignominy and suffering] and be baptized with the baptism [death] that I am baptized with?" (Matt. 20:22.) We noted that, altho the apostles could not comprehend this subject fully, yet our Lord was evidently gratified with their promptness to make the consecration, declaring themselves willing to endure the cross to win the crown, and he in turn pledged them that, since this was the desire of their hearts, they should indeed be able to carry it outsince they had (and so long as they would continue to have) the will to suffer with Christ, they would have the opportunity; and with that opportunity and faithfulness to it they would have a share in his Kingdom; altho he could not designate for them the particular place, that being in the Father's hands. This gave us the encouraging thought that, however insignificant and weak we are, the Lord by his grace is both able and willing to carry us through;that if we abide faithful to him and his spirit of sacrifice, he will bring us off conquerors, and more than conquerors.
Then thanks were rendered to the Lord for the cupfor the sufferings of Christ on our behalf for our [R2292 : page 120] redemption, and for our privilege of being partakers of his cuphis sufferings, his ignominy: and that the reproaches of them that reproached him may be shared by us, and that we can rejoice in the divine promise that if all manner of evil be said against us falsely for his sake, and if we take it patiently, we may rejoice therein; knowing that it will work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. Then the cup was passed, remembering our Lord's words, "Drink ye all of it"have fellowship in my sufferings.
We have excellent reports from similar gatherings of the Lord's people in various quarters which indicate (1) that the observance of the Memorial has been more general than ever before; and (2) that the numbers participating were larger than ever before; and (3) that the meaning of the Memorial is more clearly discerned than ever before. We rejoice in all these features; especially the last. We give a few sample reports. We wish that space would permit the publication of many more or all of them. But they breathe the same spirit as these samples.
From reports already received we learn that the number who partook at Columbus was 21; at Youngstown, 35; at Boston, 75; at Chicago, 69; at Buffalo, 21; at Cleveland 20, at St. Petersburg, Fla., 20; and smaller numbers are reported from all over the world. Some of the congregations appoint one of their number as Scribe to report to us matters of interest, to keep up their supply of tracts, etc. This plan has some advantages, tho we would not like it to prevent us from hearing from each of the interested ones individually, at least once a year. You are all subjects of our loving watch-care, interest and prayers, as we trust that we and the general work represented at the TOWER office are of yours. We append [page 120] a few reports:
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:Just a note to tell you of our meeting last night. The weather was bad; it snowed all day and in the evening, and we feared some might not get out, but the five of us came together at the appointed time. The Lord was with us "and that to bless." I know all felt drawn closer to the Lord and to one another. These friends who celebrated the Memorial this year for the first time on its anniversary say that it means so much more to them than it ever has before. They are dear, good friends, and the Lord's own children.
DEAR BROTHER IN CHRIST:The Church at this place met at the appointed hour to commemorate our Lord's death on our behalf. Our meeting was one of interest, each one realizing the necessity of a closer walk with God. We felt the influence of the Lord's presence. Our hearts burned within us as we reviewed at what cost this privilege to us had been obtained. It was a season of refreshment to us all. Seventeen partook of the emblems. Our love for the Savior and all of like faith deepened; tears came to our eyes; we renewed our consecration to consequent obligations, and a more careful watch over our daily transactions, spiritual and temporal, lest the tempter gain advantage over us. Remember us in your prayers as we remember all in the Lord's work. The brethren join us in Christian love to you and all the brethren.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:The Church at this place celebrated the Lord's Supper at the home of Bro. Lee, about three miles out of the city. We had two meetings, one in the afternoon, led by myself, and the other this evening, led by Bro. Lee; we had a short address also, by Bro. Durant. There were about twenty in attendance, some of whom never had met on such an occasion before. We had a very blessed time, and I believe all experienced the presence of the Lord in our midst, and we parted resolved that the next year will find us more faithful than ever in his service. Hoping you at Allegheny had a blessed time I will close, with Christian love to you and all the dear ones there. Your Brother in the Lord,
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:Last evening a little company of eight of us met to commemorate our dear Master's great sacrifice for us. I think we realized more than ever before the cost of our salvation. Indeed, it is "so great salvation" that it is beyond our comprehension at present, and we can only begin to see the dim outlines of its greatness and to catch glimpses of its wonderful light and magnificence. The thought that Jesus had received the "one loaf" and that he had then offered to divide it with his disciples that they, too, might share in his glory gave us cause for heart searching. (1 Cor. 11:27-32.) We surely felt the spirit's presence with us, and that indeed it [page 121] was good for us to be there. Earnest prayer was offered that we might all come more and more into the "oneness" of heart and spirit for which our Master also prayed. (John 17:21,22,23.) I think we all went home feeling that altho the fulfilling of our covenant meant a great deal in every way, to us individually, yet with the Father's promised help we would come off more than conquerors through him that loved us.Rom. 8:35,36,37.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:The Church at Boston met on the evening of April 5th, to commemorate the Lord's death. About 75 were present, some coming a considerable distance, altho it was a stormy night. It was a season of blessed communion and spiritual refreshing to us all. As the years go by, the meaning of the occasion is more deeply felt and appreciated. The Sunday previous we had a baptism service, when twenty were immersed into Christ (in symbol). I notice that those who come into the truth now, seem to come in with more zeal and arrive more quickly at a knowledge of the deep things than formerly. The whole Church here is in close sympathy with you, dear brother, and with the general harvest work, and feels that the Lord is shepherding his flock.
One of the brethren here received an invitation to meet with the Church at M__________, on April 5th, to assist in the Lord's Supper. He declined because it would break up our own meeting at B__________, there being only the two families of us here. Brother A, of Y__________, in answer to an invitation, expects to go to M__________ to assist the Church there in the Memorial Supper, and Bro. M. goes to N__________ on a similar errand.
The invitation to M__________ was declined on the grounds above stated, but it also occurred to us, on further consideration, that perhaps it is not wise for the members of the Church to get into the habit of sending to the leaders and prominent members of other Churches for assistance in the Memorial services, for the following reasons:
(3) The Lord's Supper has been made, in all apostate churches, a center around which the clergy have built a great deal of the worst ecclesiasticism. It is the principal means which the Protestant clergy of to-day have in their possession for magnifying the importance of the clergy over the laity. Last winter the Presbytery of Louisville, Kentucky, excommunicated a minister for teaching that it was proper for lay members of the church to celebrate the Lord's Supper without the presence of a clergymanan "ordained minister."
(4) May not the practice of one Church sending to some other for a "leader," "elder" or prominent member to come and help them celebrate the Lord's Supper be the infinitesimal beginning of the same spirit of ecclesiasticism and sacerdotalism, which was the ruin of the early church? Would not the practice have a natural tendency to exalt the mind of the leader called away to assist a distant Church in this ceremony, and to awaken in the minds of the members the idea that it was necessary or at least useful and important to have "leaders" and "elders" present, officiating at the ceremony, and not only so, but that the leader's part was so important that their own home elder needed to be reinforced in the important duty by one from a distant Church? It is a natural weakness of human nature to consider a man who comes from a distance as a "greater" man than one of their familiar neighbors.
(5) This practice of getting a clergyman from some neighboring church to come and "assist" the pastor in holding the "Communion" is very common among Presbyterian churches, and seems to be designed to exalt the importance of the presence of clergymen at the ceremony, and is it not a custom which, to say the least, will "be more honored in the breach than in the observance" by the Lord's humble followers of the harvest period?
I am impressed that temptations to ecclesiasticism, and partisan bigotry and narrowness, are among the most subtle of our trials, the most crafty of the "wiles of the devil." These brethren who have given the invitations, and those who have accepted them, no doubt are acting with the best of motives and without the slightest thought of there being any danger in the practice, but on further reflection I am only confirmed in my first impression, and fear that there is danger in the practice, and that "as the serpent beguiled Eve in his craftiness, your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity and purity that is toward Christ," by this seemingly innocent and seemingly edifying practice, and I hope you will give it your thoughtful and prayerful consideration.
I would like also to know whether the practice is becoming general. It seems to have occurred to nearly all the Churches in this section. It would be interesting to know whether this was the case in many other places or whether it was limited to this locality. If it has occurred in numerous Churches it would look like a concerted movement of the Enemy to plant the germ of the "mystery of iniquity" in the reformed churches, for if the custom should become general the more retiring and less gifted members would almost certainly get the impression that somehow these "leaders" had more to do with the Memorial than they had, and if time allowed, the difference between elders and [R2293 : page 122] members would widen until a clerical class would be differentiated.
We presume that none of the friends above mentioned had the slightest thought of encouraging "clericism." The churches supplied we believe celebrated the Memorial this year for the first time; and we think it was well that some of larger experience should initiate them. Besides, the little groups mentioned were gathered to a considerable extent through the efforts of the brethren of Y__________, who as Evangelists drew their attention to the divine plan of the ages. It would, of course be quite appropriate for such to meet with those whom they had already interested along other lines, to introduce to them the Memorial Supper observance.
However, we quite agree with Bro. Jackson respecting the necessity for guarding against the cloven hoof of clericy and everything which might tend to divide the Lord's people or abridge the liberties conferred upon us mutually by our dear Redeemer. The only ground for preference as to who shall serve the Lord's people on this or other occasions is qualificationmental, moral, physical or spiritual. We publish the letter because many of its points are well taken. The Passover was a family affair and the Memorial Supper superseding it is similarly a family matter;but instead of pertaining to an earthly family it pertains to the Lord's family; "the household of faith."