It is the usual custom of Christian churches in this country, to celebrate the Lord's Supper once in each month. There are no directions as to the frequency of the celebration in the New Testament. The early Christians placed more importance on the object and design of the service, than upon the exact time in which it should be performed. Paul says, " For as often as ye eat this bread, (not stating how often it should be done,) and drink this cup, ye.do show the Lord's death till he come." 1 Cor. xi. 26. We think it well to follow the general custom, and celebrate the communion monthly, though this rule may not prevent the celebration at other times, if special circumstances should render it necessary.
The usual time for celebrating the Supper is at the close of the afternoon service, upon the Sabbath, once in each month. The table having been prepared by the deacons, between the forenoon and afternoon services, is covered with a cloth during public worship. At the close of that service, the minister leaves the pulpit, and takes his seat at the table, and waits until the members of the church have taken theirs. places as near the table as convenient, and until silence is restored in the house. He then removes the cloth with which the vessels and elements are covered, and says,
"Beloved Christian friends, we are now about to celebrate the Lord's Supper, in imitation of the example of our Blessed Redeemer and his apostles; and as we arc dependent on God for mercy and wisdom to guide us in all things, let us draw nigh the throne of grace in solemn supplication for the divine blessing. Let us pray.
[Here the clergyman will offer a suitable prayer.]
"Beloved Christian friends, the service of the Supper was instituted by our Lord himself, on the same night in which he was betrayed. Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, take, eat, this is my body, which is given for you.
[In the mean time the clergyman will be breaking the bread.]
During the breaking of the bread, he will occupy the time by offering such remarks as seem to him to be suited to the occasion. He will not fail to show the original design of the institution, viz. to keep the Lord Jesus in the remembrance of his followers. This do in remembrance of me." The broken bread is an emblem of his broken, crucified body; and is always so to be looked on in this service. The clergyman should not, therefore, fail to carry the minds of the communicants to the scene of the crucifixion. Direct them to view the Saviour's sufferings, the cross, the crown of thorns, the death scene, and especially to remember the dying prayer for his murderers, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." But it is not necessary that the clergyman should confine himself at all times, to the events of the crucifixion. Let him think of the Saviour's words, "This do in remembrance of me," and he will see, that any portion of the Saviour's life may furnish subject for reflection at the table. The feeling that will pervade his heart will be that of a solemn joy, -- a deep sense of affectionate gratitude; nor should any remarks be offered, inconsistent with such a feeling. O what an opportunity is there here for solemn reflection. With what force may the speaker impress on the communicants the necessity of humility, and of setting their affection on things above.
"When I survey the wondrous cross,
On which the Prince of Glory died.
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride."
The remarks, however, should not be long; from three to five minutes is sufficient. Let the words be few and fitly chosen.
The bread being broken, he will pass it to the deacons, (serving himself as he passes the last plate,) saying, "Take, eat all ye of it, in the name of Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood."
He then sits, (his mind being intently fixed on the subject before him,) until the plates are returned to the table; or he may, should he judge it best, make some remarks, while the officers are serving the communicants. But all remarks should be made standing.
The bread having thus been served, he next proceeds to serve the wine. He takes the cups towards him, saying, Jesus took the cup and gave thanks. In imitation of his example, let us once more approach the throne of grace. Let us pray.
[Here he will offer a prayer suited to the occasion.]
While he is pouring the wine, (and he may have intervals between the filling of the cups, if he wishes to extend his remarks,) he will offer suitable thoughts to guide the minds of the communicants. And what thoughts are appropriate while serving the wine ? 1st. It is an emblem of the shed blood of the Redeemer. For whom was his blood shed ? For all. For what purpose did he die ? Will that purpose be accomplished ? Again. The Saviour made the cup also a figure of the New Covenant. " This cup is the New Testament in my blood, which is shed for you." See Luke's account. The wine is not only an emblem of the shedding of the Saviour's blood upon the cross, but it is also a figure of his doctrine. And so it was employed by the prophets. "Come, buy wine and milk, without money and without price." Jesus says, we must drink his blood. He does not mean in the outward and literal sense. See John vi. 53-60. He explains his metaphor to mean his doctrine, verse 63. "It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing; THE WORDS that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life." From all these subjects, he who administers the ordinance, cannot fail to draw profitable reflections.
He passes the wine to the deacons, as he had done the bread, and then sits until the communicants are served, and the cups returned.
This being done, an appropriate hymn is sung, which it is always best should be sung by the communicants; the minister, or one of the church, starting the tune.
After the hymn, the collection is generally taken, to defray the expenses of the church, and for charitable objects; after which the benediction is pronounced.
And now the author will not close this chapter, without a humble petition, that what he has written may be the means of inducing those who agree with him in faith on the great salvation, to pay a due respect to the holy, purifying service of the Lord's Supper.