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THE NEW WINE OF THE KINGDOM.
REV. J. PARSONS,
SURREY CHAPEL, JANUARY 17, 1836.
“But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day
when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.”—MATTHEW, xxvi. 29.
The history of our Lord Jesus Christ on this earth was not so much an exhibition of power as it was an exhibition of tenderness. Some of his miracles we know were indeed performed at his bidding, unfolding his absolute possession of the control over the elements : but all his miracles were of such a nature as to testify the subserviency of omnipotence to the claims of benevolence and love. And these attributes, as displayed throughout the whole of his life, were most touching and most delightful ; nor can any one ponder on them without rendering to them the noblest tribute of the human heart, in homage, in gratitude, and in love. The intercourse of our Redeemer, my brethren, with those who were more immediately his followers is, beyond his ordinary communications, an illustration of the benevolence of his heart; and in the last scenes, especially, which transpired between them previous to his crucifixion, there are beautiful exhibitions of its most intense and sublime exercise, the most powerful developments of the rich treasures of that love which passeth knowledge.
The words recorded for your meditation you will observe to have been uttered by the Saviour in one of his closest scenes of fellowship; and when they are viewed in their import and in their connexion, they will be found amply to justify the estimate we have formed, and the expressions we have employed. We find that in the immediate prospect of his betrayal and his sufferings, he gathered his followers in solemn and holy assembly; and in sweet and affectionate converse, celebrated with them the Passover, one of the most renowned festivals of the Jews. To his approaching sufferings and death and their results, all his miracles and all his actions were made to tend. It was as he administered the paschal cup—the import of which we shall soon find so momentous—that he spake this beautiful sentiment: “I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.” Those amongst you who are about to engage in the sacramental service of this morning-an engagement formed with a delightful and a solemn purpose—will find these words especially and peculiarly appropriate : but they must not merely be taken in their application to you, but as also presenting most important principles for the attention of the whole of this congregation.
It is our purpose, in the first place, to contemplate the words of the Saviour, as they regard the action in which himself and his followers were then engaged: and, secondly, to contemplate the words of the Saviour as they regard the events which he taught his followers to anticipate.
First, contemplate the words of the Saviour, as they regard THE ACT IN WHICH HIMSELF AND HIS FOLLOWERS WERE THEN ENGAGED. They were drinking of “the fruit,” or more properly “ the product," “ of the vine." Their use of this beverage, you will understand, was not a mere ordinary social communion : it was, as we have stated, in direct connexion with the Passover, the annual celebration of the Jewish Passover, in respect to which it may
proper at once to afford some brief explanation. The feast of the Passover, or as it is frequently called in later times, “the feast of unleavened bread," originated with the deliverance of the people of Israel from their long-continued bondage in the land of Egypt. When Jehovah was about to inflict his last plague upon the Egyptians, the destruction of the tirst-born by the sword of his destroying angel, the Israelites were directed to take a lamb, one for each house, the blood of which, after the animal was slain, was to be sprinkled upon the door-posts of the dwelling; and the flesh of which, being roasted with fire, was to be eaten by the family with bitter herbs and unleavened bread. When the destroyer, going forth upon his awful mission, beheld the proud on the door-posts, he was to recognize it as the symbol of deliverance, and pass over the habitation without inflicting his stroke; and then, at the appointed signal, amidst the prostration of their bereaved and terrified oppressors, the chosen and the ransomed nation were to go forth to the inheritance promised to their forefathers. The periodical celebration of this great event was ordained (with all its circumstances) to be continued among the Jews to the latest period of their national existence.
Now, my brethren, such was the feast, which at the appointed period, and with the accustomed ceremonies, the Redeemer was celebrating with his followers at the time when he uttered the expression of the text. But it must be understood, that the Saviour, in convening the solemn assembly of his followers, did not intend to honour a Jewish rite as commemorating a national deliverance ; he intended to set forth that rite as being essentially typical, and as holding a relationship to him, and to the economy of which he was the founder and the head, the importance of which was to be attested, not merely by the ages of time, but throughout the whole duration of eternity.
There are two remarks to which our attention must now be called after this general explanation, by which you find the act of our Redeemer was to be considered as fully imperative.
First, you will observe, that the Lord Jesus led his followers to regard the Passover as being representative of his mediatorial sufferings and death. Nothing, certainly, can be more distinct than the import of the scriptural record, that all the ceremonies of the paschal celebration were so many signs of the momentous mediatorial influences identified, which are to arise from the sufferings which the Saviour was about to endure. For example: did he not teach his disciples to consider the water provided for the customary ablutions of the priest, with which he washed his disciples' feet, as signifying the spiritual purification to be performed by him on the human soul, saying to one of the brethren assembled “ If I wash thee not thou hast no part in me?" Did he not lead his followers to consider the broken bread as signifying the corporeai bruises and the crushing agonies he was about to endure on their behalf, stating “ This is my body, broken for you?” Did he not again teach them to consider the wine as signifying the blood he was about to shed, emphatically as a propitiation for sin, stating, “ This is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for many for the remission of sins ?" And besides the personal appropriation which was made by the Saviour himself, do we not find that those who wrote by his mandate, and who were impelled by his inspiration, also set forth the Lamb of the Passover as being a specific and more signal type of his approaching and intended sacrifice, stating, that “ Christ, our Passover, is sacrificed for us;" that he is “the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world;" and that “ he is the Lamb without blemish and wihtout spot," by whose propitiatory blood man is redeemed from the sword of the destroyer! It is thus, my brethren, as you will at once perceive, that the whole of the paschal ordinance was intended to illustrate and confirm that great doctrine of the Christian faith, I mean the doctrine of the Saviour's atonement; that atonement by which the various shadows of the Levitical law were to be finally consummated and abolished; that atonement which had been decreed in the councils of eternity; that atonement intended as a gracious provision for the rescue of an apostate and ruined world; that atonement, the merit of which, when appropriated through the instrumentality of faith, is intended to secure to the guilty and to the lost the enjoyment of reconciliation, of acceptance, and of final glory; that atonement, apart from which ali mercy is banished, and every hope must die, and man, abandoned without a refuge, must be left to the stroke of inflexible vengeance, and to the curse of everlasting despair.
But, secondly, it must be observed, the Saviour led his followers to consider the Passover as originating an ordinance to be perpetuated for important purposes throughout all ages of the Christian church. The celebration of the Passover by the Saviour upon the memorable occasion which is now presented for your regard, was undoubtedly the first example of a rite which was to remain in connexion with the economy of which the Lord Jesus Christ was the founder; a rite retaining so much of the Jewish ceremony as consisted in the distribution and the participation of the bread and wine ; and a rite which, under the name of “ the Lord's Supper," was intended to be preserved at stated and convenient intervals amongst his disciples to the end of the world. The occasion which is now before us we regard undoubtedly as being the time of transfer and the time of institution. That such was really the intention of the Saviour is perfectly clear from the record which we find in the 1st Corinthians, xi. where the apostle Paul affirms the Christian rite to a Gentile church. I have received," says the Apostle, “ of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread : and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come."
This passage, my brethren, we consider to be perfectly decisive with regard
to the intended permanence of the ordinance; and it must be observed, that its spiritual import is clearly and distinctly as follows. It was intended to shew to the world, that the people of Christ really possess a personal interest in his atoning sufferings and death. It was intended to shew that they are virtually united by their faith to himself, and through him to each other, being members of the Saviour's body, and his flesh and his bones. It was intended to shew that they cherished a grateful and affectionate remembrance of the sufferings and agonies which he had endured that they might never die; and that they cheerfully and eagerly anticipated the arrival of another time, when the Redeemer should come again in his covenant splendours, for the purpose of perfecting the glorious work of their triumph and their eternal salvation. It is the direct obligation (and I am glad of this public opportunity of calling atten tion to the fact)—it is, I say, the direct obligation of every one who has placed his entire dependence, as a guilty sinner, on the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, to evince his state and his emotion, by uniting in the celebration of the Saviour's love. None but such as these should dare to approach the Christian passover; for “ whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation" (or rather, condemnation) “ to himself, not discerning the Lord's body." But wherever there is the right and legitimate evidence of repentance towards God, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, then let the profession be rendered, and then let the vow be performed.
Nor must we be regarded as advocating the claims of an ordinance which has no operation or immediate connexion with the welfare of those who receive it. The benefits which it is the instrument of conveying to the followers of Christ, are such as must commend it to their most affectionate and constant regard. It is adapted to enkindle in their bosoms a yet warmer flame of attachment to Him who died for them and rose again. It is adapted to purge their affections from all the dross of worldly appetite and passion, enabling them to be crucified with Christ, and to walk in newness of life. It is adapted to strengthen the bond of brotherly concord and peace among those who constitute the Christian church. It is adapted to impart comfort and consolation in the hour of feebleness and of sorrow. It is adapted to elevate the minds of men into most refined and immediate intercourse and communion with God. It is adapted to set before us the most glowing, and beautiful, and delightful anticipations of that future state of happiness, where the people of the Saviour are to be assembled in glory for ever. Well, my brethren, then, may we exult in the means of grace, which our Redeemer, in his dying command, has placed before us. Well may we exclaim with gratitude
“ Blest Jesus, what delicious fare!
How sweet thine entertainments are !"
Well may we preserve it and cherish it, as being our best and choicest provision, until the arrival of that higher period, when we shall be received into otber scenes, and there behold our Redeemer as he is.
We trust, from these brief remarks, you now understand the nature of the act in which the Saviour and his folowers were engaged. He was celebrating
with them the ordinance of the Jewish Passover; and he taught them to consider the Passover as representative of his atoning sufferings and death; and, at the same time, as originating an ordinance to be perpetually observed throughout all the ages of the Christian church.
Let us now proceed, as we proposed, to contemplate the words of the Saviour, as they regard the EVENTS HE TAUGHT HIS FOLLOWERS TO ANTICIPATE. “ I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.” There are two events which must-here claim our notice; an event of speedy separation, and an event of ultimate re-union.
First, you will observe, the Saviour taught his followers to anticipate an event of approaching separation. When he said to them, “ I will not henceforth drink of the fruit of the vine until" a certain period, which is afterwards referred to, he intimated, of course, the fact that he and his disciples were about to part. The fact of his parting, and that this was a farewell seas
eason of communion, is sometimes very tenderly represented by him to his disciples in his conversations with them, which are more fully and largely recorded in the Gospel according to John, xiii. 33–36; xvi. 4—7. And without the slightest difficulty, the coldest and the dullest may easily imagine what would be the feelings of the men as they were told that they were about to separate from Him whose communion with them had been so sweet; and how perturbed and agitated would be their bosoms as they received the cup which contained the farewell pledge- as they gazed on the form which was so soon to disappear—and as they listened to the accents of the voice which was so soon to fade and die away from their ear. Yet thus was it appointed, and thus was it fulfilled : that very night' began the time of the accomplishment: “ They sung a hymn" (and what a hymn must that have been, in which the voice of Jesus was heard to utter its music with theirs !) Then he addressed them“ Arise, let us go hence:" and they went to the Mount of Olives. The Lord was agonized-he was betrayed—he was led away—he was accused—he was condemned-he was scourged-was clothed with purple-was crowned with thorns—went to Calvary, bearing his cross-was crucified—died—and was buried. After a short interval he burst the bars of the sepulchre, and came forth as the conqueror of death, showing himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs; and then, after forty days, the clouds of heaven became his garments, and he ascended to his Father and our Father, to his God and our God : and there he reigns at the right hand of the Majesty on High-never, corporeally, as the Saviour, to come to tabernacle among men again. His church, in their different communions, and through different ages, have celebrated the Passover as he was pleased to appoint; but never has the Lord been there: the Master of the feast has necessarily and always been away. No breeze has ever wafted the fragrance from him: no seraph has ever brought messages from him: no fiery chariot has ever brought visits from him. He listens to nobler strains than ours; he receives nobler homage and adoration than ours; and there, in the presence of the Father, and surrounded by the millions of spirits which kept their first estate, or who from human race have been redeemed, he listens to the chaunting of the everlasting anthem, “ Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power. and riches, and wisdom, and strength,