16 February 1766
Lecture 25
It is appointed by Dr Busby’s Will that the last six of these lectures, should be read in Lent and confined to the subject of the Sacrament. I am therefore obliged to leave the Creed unfinished and go on to the latter part of the Catechism. As I shall not have time to explain all the questions that relate to the Sacrament, I have pitched upon the following, for our present subject.
Question: Why was the Sacrament of the Lord’s supper ordained?
Answer: (a) For the continual remembrance of the Sacrifice of the death of Christ, and of the benefits which we receive thereby.
Let us briefly note:
1. The question – Why?
  1.1 When we are informed that it was ordained by Christ himself, this is sufficient to bind us to the observance of it, though we are not acquainted with any reasons Why?  When we are sure that we have God’s Word for our warrant and rule, we may if need be, follow it safely without reasoning and enquiring. This commended Abraham’s faith and obedience – when God called him, he went forth not knowing whither [1] – when he was bid to offer his only son, he stayed not to ask Why, though it was a hard saying. [2]

  1.2 In most matters of positive appointment, the Lord condescends to give a reason Why? and when he does so, it is our duty not only to observe the practice, but to take notice of the reasons on which it is founded and the ends designed by it. Thus Moses directed Israel, not only to bring their children up to the observance of the Passover, but to instruct them in the meaning of that service (Exodus 13:14). [3] This is a main distinction between the true spiritual servants of God and formal professors, the one can give a scriptural reason for what they do, and why they do it, while the others only act from example and custom.
  1.3 We should take care that the views and reasons we have for the performance of any act of worship are taken from and agreeable to the revealed Word of God. The thing may be right in the main, and yet if we have not the same end in observing it, which the Lord had in appointing it, we shall receive no profit. The end and design of the Lord’s supper we are here informed of – for a memorial of the sacrifice of the death of Christ. Far different is the end of many who attend it. They come to establish their own righteousness, to wipe off the [stain] of their sins, and though their hearts are unchanged, and they live in the love of sin from month to month, they vainly presume that they are Christians because they sometimes come to receive the bread and wine, and to make a false confession of what they do not feel.
[illegible sentence follows]
  1.4 This question affords encouragement to sincere souls. When we consider the wisdom and love of him who appointed this ordinance, and the season in which he instituted it, namely in the same night in which he was betrayed, we may well expect that it was to answer some important purpose. When we have lost a dear friend our thoughts often look back upon what he said and did in his lifetime, and especially his last words and actions are noticed and recollected. Now this was one of the last solemn actions in which Jesus our best friend was engaged before his passion – though he had a lively prospect of his own sufferings which were just coming upon him he forgot (as it were) himself, that he might [think] of us. Well then may our faith and love be awakened to ask the question Why?
Let us then consider:
2. The answer
  From hence we learn that the design of this institution, was chiefly twofold:
    1. To remind us of our absent Saviour and his dying atoning love.
    2. To refresh our spirits with a recollection of the benefits, we may expect to derive from him by faith. And with respect to each of these, we may perceive a suitableness in the means appointed, the bread and wine which the Lord has commanded to be received.
  2.1 It is for a continual remembrance. The comfort and strength and strength of a believer depends upon the views he has of Jesus Christ crucified. When Jesus is strongly present to his faith, then he can bear up under the accusations of Satan, and the strivings of indwelling sin – then he can face a frowning world, and be content to bear every trial which the Lord lies upon him. But when he loses sight of this object he is weak, faint and fearful.

Now there is in our unrenewed part an evil heart, that makes us prone to wander, [4] prone to forget him who ought always to be in our thoughts – and outward things too often engage our attention and thoughts and hide Jesus from us. He well knows what wandering hearts we have, and has provided accordingly. He has appointed his Sabbaths, his preached Gospel, and other means to recall our thoughts from vanity and fix them again upon him – amongst the rest this of the bread and wine. When the season returns the believer is naturally led to think, tomorrow or soon I am to go to this ordinance; this thought brings his beloved with all his love to view – and gives a proper occasion to lead him to the exercises of meditation and prayer.
  2.2 Again, as we are most affected with what comes under our outward senses, we are not directed only to meet together to think and to say that Jesus died – but in the breaking of the bread and the pouring forth of the wine there is a representation given of the bruising his body, and shedding his blood upon the cross. To this his own words lead our thoughts – Luke 22:19. [5] This the apostle says is to show forth his death. [6] And though this may seem but a poor resemblance in the eyes of the natural man, yet being like all God’s appointments connected with a promise and blessing to those who faithfully use it, it has at some seasons a wonderful effect upon the believing soul. Many have and do at times enjoy a sweet discovery of a bleeding, dying Jesus – not in a gross manner as if they saw the picture of a crucifix, but in a spiritual way, they behold him with their understanding, till their hearts are melted down with love and repentance not to be repented of. [7]

But in this object they see not only a death but a sacrifice; they view him not only as dying, but as dying for them. This likewise revives the remembrance of many things they are prone to forget. When they remember this sacrifice, O how sinful, how odious does sin appear. And this commends the love of God, that he should decree to save such sinners in such a way – this shows the worth of the soul – this puts life into all the obligations to holiness, and awakens that grateful enquiry, What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits? [8]
From hence you may see that in this institution there is a proof that he who appointed it knew our frame, and has not given us a command merely of his own will, but such a one as has a proper tendency to raise in us those holy affections, desires and resolutions, which are so necessary to our walking comfortably before him, and the adorning our profession in all things.
And I hope those who are awakened to know themselves, and are discouraged from attending on this ordinance by the sense of their own unworthiness, will be enabled to see how much they hinder their own comfort and growth by living in the neglect of what he has appointed as a necessary means for removing those fears, complaints and burdens under which they groan. How can you expect things will mend while you live in the neglect of so suitable a duty?
And as from this subject I would encourage some to come, so I would warn others to stay away. If the death of Christ as the sacrifice for sin is not your chief, your own ground of hope, if you do not hate and lothe those sins which caused his death, you have as yet no business at his table; you cannot approach it without mocking him. He invites weary and heavy laden souls to come to him, and none but such. Pray him then to take away your hearts of stone, and to remove the vail of unbelief from your eyes, so shall you likewise be welcome guests and he will bless you in turning you every one from his iniquities.

[1] Hebrews 11:8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.
[2] Hebrews 11:17 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,
[3] Exodus 13:14 And it shall be when thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying, What is this? that thou shalt say unto him, By strength of hand the Lord brought us out from Egypt, from the house of bondage:
[4] Newton is quoting one of his favourite hymns, Come thou fount of every blessing, by Robert Robinson (1735-1790).
[5] Luke 22:19 And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.
[6] 1 Corinthians 11:26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.
[7] 2 Corinthians 7:10 For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.
[8] Psalm 116:12 What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me? [the text chosen by Richard Johnson for his first sermon in Australia]


Marylynn Rouse, 02/05/2020