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The Memorial of the Great Sacrifice.

by Isaac Williams

from Sermons on the Epistles and Gospels for the Sundays and Holy Days

throughout the Year, Vol. I. Advent to Tuesday in Whitsun Week

Rivingtons, London, 1875.


First part of Sermon XXXI. for the Thursday before Easter.

I Cor. xi. 1734.   St. Luke xxiii.

This do in remembrance of Me.  - 1 COR. xi. 24. 

THE Epistle of yesterday speaks of Christ’s death in the sacrifices going before; that of to-day in the memorial sacrifice coming after.  And the respective Gospels might in this point of view be found to coincide with the Epistles; in that of yesterday Christ is condemned by the high priest and Jewish council, because He confessed Himself the Son of God; in that of to-day He is given up to the Gentiles, to the world at large, and crucified by them for the sins of all mankind.  We now, then, “go forth,” as it were, “unto Him without” the city Jerusalem; we pass from the offerings of the law to that which is “from the rising of the sun, unto the going down of the same.” [Mal. i. 11]


In the account of the Eucharist given by St. Paul we find that it had already become subject to abuse.  In this that I declare unto you I praise you not; that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse.  For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you, and I partly believe it.  Thus from the very beginning down to the present time Satan has been most busy to introduce strife where this feast of Divine love is.  At its first institution “Satan entered,” and the hand of Judas was on the table; and strange to say, even at that very time “there was a strife among them which should be the greatest.”  And now in the early Church at Corinth, to which St. Paul writes, at this the Sacrament of thanksgiving, the memorial of Christ’s dying for all, the feast of love or Christian brotherhood which accompanied it was made the very occasion of selfishness and intemperance, as if brought about by the evil spirit in strange mockery of its purport and intention.  For in eating, says St. Paul, every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken.


In the second place, from the Epistle we learn that of such importance with God was the right holding of this Sacrament, that He made the institution itself the object of especial and immediate revelation to St. Paul; not leaving him to learn it from the Apostles who were present, or from their ordinances in all the Churches, but adding to theirs His own independent testimony; coinciding as it does with the narrative of the Evangelists, and furnishing perhaps that of St. Luke.  And it is worthy of especial notice, that as a remedy for these disorders St. Paul immediately takes them to that upper chamber at Jerusalem, where, as on this day, our Lord gave Himself for us, simply giving an account of what there took place.  It is in the tabernacle of God that we shall escape the strife of tongues, that secret Presence into which devotion shall lead us, dwelling in remembrance on what He hath said and done.  For I have received, he says, of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, as a sacred deposit or tradition ever to be preserved in the Church.  That the Lord Jesus, the same night in which He was betrayed,—when He was now, as it were, bound to the altar as the Victim prepared for death, in the very night which preceded that day of His death, He took bread: and when He had given thanks,—by a solemn act of sacerdotal benediction,—He brake it, and said, Take, eat; this is My Body, Which is broken for you:—words, indeed, that could not have been understood at the time, for they as yet required the realization of that terrible scene they were about to witness, when His life was to be violently rent in pieces, and broken for us, and the memorial of which was to continue as an everlasting covenant.  His words, This is My Body, remain full of power at every altar and in every Church, and will do so until His coming again: “Even,” says St. Chrysostom, “as the words, Increase and multiply and replenish the earth, were once pronounced, but at all times afford to nature power of increase.”  This do in remembrance of Me.  In remembrance of that awful night and awful day, and of that long and painful dying; in remembrance, too, of all that had gone before: the lively remembrance of Himself, that made His dying to be what it is to us; nay, like all Scriptural words, they are deeper and fuller than they sound,—the presence ever continued of Himself, the participation of Himself, full of remembrances of Him.  And the same St. Paul again repeats in the delivery of the Cup: After the same manner also—with the like solemnity of Divine institution—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.  And yet further and more fully to set forth this ever-continued and perpetual memorial of His dying, this ever-present sacrifice unto the end, He adds, For as often as ye eat this Bread, and drink this Cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till He come.


And, oh! that this remembrance may be ever hallowed to us! that it may be a remembrance worthy of God ever present—“the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever!” a remembrance that may humble the heart, quicken the affections, may keep watch over all our conduct; a remembrance which may make the words of the Gospel which we read and hear on this day to be living words!


In the next place, the lesson which the altar-service for this day would teach us is, that the want of love, and all other evils which indispose us from holding aright this great Sacrament, arise from not discerning therein the Lord’s Body; it was this which occasioned those abuses of which St. Paul complained.  Their sin was that they discerned not the Lord’s Body; that having eyes they saw not that which was really present; “Jesus Christ evidently set forth crucified among” them.  God is, we believe, present in this Sacrament; “God is a Spirit,” and where He is present He must be present spiritually; but at the same time, the reason we know Christ to be present is because of His words, “This is My Body;” therefore in some way His Body must be present.  Now all this, blessed be God! is a vast mystery infinitely beyond our weak reason to fathom, as everything appertaining to the attributes of God must be.  Love and faith must be our only safeguard against the arts of Satan, tempting us either to lukewarmness or division.


Further, we may observe that on this occasion, as if in consideration of their imperfect knowledge, God visited them with merciful chastisements of a temporal kind, as if saying, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” [Rev. iii. 19]  For when we are thus judged, adds St, Paul, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.


Thus St. Paul to-day in the Epistle, and in the Gospel his faithful companion St. Luke, bring us to the remembrance of Christ...

(for the second part, on the Gospel.)