THIS year, Thursday, April 19th, after six o'clock P.M., will mark the anniversary of our Lord's "Last Supper," which he gave as the memorial of his death on our behalf, saying, "This do in remembrance of me."—Luke 22:19.
In previous issues of this magazine, we have given the evidence that the Last Supper was given us to take the place of the Jewish Paschal Supper, and to be celebrated at the corresponding time, yearly. As the Paschal lamb typified Christ, the Lamb of God, so its death was typical of his death, and therefore his death was upon the same day. We have shown, also, that the Jewish method of reckoning time, as beginning the day at six P.M., was so arranged that our Lord could institute the Last Supper upon the same night in which he was betrayed (1 Cor. 11:23)—the same day in which he died.
As a Jew, under the Law Covenant, not yet supplanted by the New Covenant, it was the duty of our Lord to eat first of the typical lamb; and it was after that supper that he took bread and wine, as the symbols of his own flesh and blood, and instituted the Memorial Feast which we and all of his people since delight to celebrate.
Taking the place of the typical lamb, our Lord could be crucified only upon the fourteenth day of the month Nisan; and the commemoration of his death, and the passing over thereby effected, taking the place of the commemoration of the Passover lamb and that typical passing over, it follows that the commemoration of the antitype should be an annual observance, as was the commemoration of the type.
This we have seen was the custom of the early Church, which adopted for centuries the Jewish method of reckoning which we follow; viz., the evening, following the thirteenth of Nisan, which was the beginning of the fourteenth. This method of reckoning was afterward changed by the Church of Rome, although the thought and custom of a yearly commemoration of our Lord's death is still observed on "Good Friday" by the Church of Rome, the Greek Church, the Syrian Church and the English Church.
Protestant Churches got the Romish doctrine of the Mass confounded with the Lord's Supper, whereas they have no correspondence (See Mass in M. DAWN, VOL. III. Pp.98-101); and as a result they adopted various times and seasons, morning, noon and night, and monthly, bi-monthly and quarterly, seeing no reason for any particular date, and supposing that the Apostle's words, "as oft as ye do it," etc., Give full license to celebrate it at any time. On the contrary, we understand the Apostle to mean, Every time (yearly) that ye do this.
Some dear Christian people have even fallen into the error of commemorating this feast every first day of the week; because they have not noticed what the supper means in connection with the type which it displaces; and because they erroneously think that they find a precedent for their course in the expression of [R1625 : page 68] the New Testament, "On the first day of the week, when the disciples were come together to break bread." This does indeed show that breaking of bread every first day was the custom of the early disciples; but it does not prove that the Memorial Supper is meant. Indeed, the fruit of the vine was as important as the bread in the memorial; but it is never mentioned in connection with these weekly meetings for breaking of bread and for prayers. These, on the contrary, celebrated, not our Lord's death, but his resurrection. They were remembrancers, not of the Last Supper, but of the "breaking of bread" on the day of our Lord's resurrection, when their eyes were opened and they knew him, and he vanished out of their sight.
Had the Memorial Supper been meant, it surely would have been so stated. Like ourselves, the early disciples ate or brake bread every day: but they did not come together to do it except on the first day of the week, which celebrated our Lord's resurrection and not his death.
A little investigation will convince any one that these weekly gatherings were customary [R1626 : page 68] with all Jews, who, however, met on the last or seventh day and on festivals, instead of on the first day of the week for their "social" meals. On this point let us quote from McClintock and Strong's Religious Cyclopedia, Vol. 8, page 68, merely enough to corroborate our statement above, as follows:—
"In consequence of the vigorous laws about the observance of the Sabbath, it was enacted that no Israelite is to walk on the Sabbath beyond a certain distance, called a "Sabbath-day's journey," nor carry anything from one house to another. The Sadducees, or priestly party, who celebrated their meals on the Sabbath in different places, could go from one to another, and carry to and fro anything they liked, because they regarded these meals as constituting part of their priestly and sacrificial service, which set aside the sanctity of the Sabbath. But the Pharisees, who made their Sabbatic repast resemble THE PRIESTLY SOCIAL MEALS, had to encounter difficulties arising from the vigorous Sabbatic laws."
On Thursday evening after six o'clock, April 19th, therefore, let as many as love the Redeemer and have pledged themselves to be his followers in faith and practice, celebrate his death—"for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." Meet with all of like precious faith convenient to you, who would like to meet and celebrate this, the greatest event of history. It is to be a gathering of professedly consecrated believers in the Redeemer; but if others come in making such profession reject them not: remember that Judas met with the Lord and the other eleven. Remember, too, that the greatest among you is servant of all, who washes the feet; i.e., Performs even the humblest service for the cleansing of God's people from the defilements of earth.
The emblems used by our Lord were unleavened "bread" and "fruit of the vine." Unleavened cakes can generally be had of some Jewish neighbors for a few cents; if not, water crackers are practically the same thing. It is probable that our Lord used a "light" wine; but he has merely said, "fruit of the vine": hence we may with propriety use unfermented grape juice or raisin-juice—from raisins stewed in water. This is as truly fruit of the vine as intoxicating wine would be. And we believe that our Lord would approve it, seeing how many are now addicted to the abuse of liquor, and might be misled by even a taste of such wines as are generally obtainable.
The service here will be held, as usual, in Bible House chapel, No. 58 Arch St., at 7.30 O'clock P.M. All who trust in our Lord Jesus' death as their ransom, and who are fully consecrated to him, will be made very welcome. But we extend no special invitation to visitors [R1626 : page 69] from a distance this year; nor are there any arrangements for other than our usual Sunday services, except as above mentioned. If there be any solitary ones in near-by towns, we shall be glad to have them attend with us; but where there are even two or three who can unite in this memorial, our suggestion is that they had best meet together at home.
On previous occasions of conventions here, we have always been rather painfully aware of the fact that the various local gatherings of believers were interfered with and impaired by the absence of those who were most needed. This year we would like to see this matter quite reversed; and therefore advise that, wherever even two or three can meet together, they do so; and that even the solitary ones, if within reach of a larger and a smaller circle of believers, prefer to give their presence to the smaller rather than the larger gathering, and thus encourage and help those who need their presence most. Those who thus strive to do good to others will be the more blest themselves.