The Lord’s Supper Observed by Local Churches by J. M. Pendleton – Page 1 THE LORD’S SUPPER OBSERVED BY LOCAL CHURCHES By J. M. Pendleton


The Lord’s Supper Observed by Local Churches by J. M. Pendleton – Page 1
THE LORD’S SUPPER OBSERVED BY
LOCAL CHURCHES
By J. M. Pendleton
Published in the Berea Baptist Banner April 5, 1991.
The churches composed, as they are, of Christ’s baptized
disciples meet for the worship of their Lord. “Not
forsaking the assembling of ourselves together” is
the language addressed to Christians in apostolic times.
Among the duties and the privileges of a congregation
of baptized believers in Christ is included a commemoration
of His death at His Table. Every local church is
required to observe this ordinance. Its obligation to do
so is inseparable from its independence; and the doctrine
of church independence will be developed in future
sections of this chapter. The ordinances of the gospel
are placed by Christ in the custody of His churches.
They dare not change them in any respect; to change
them would be disloyalty to their Lord. They have no
legislative power; they are simply executive democracies
required to carry into effect the will of their Head.
Who but His churches can be expected to preserve the
integrity and the purity of the ordinances of the Lord
Jesus? These ordinances are to be kept as they were
delivered to the churches and received by them. This is
indispensable to the maintenance of gospel order.
What Paul writes to the Corinthians (I Cor. 11:20-34)
clearly indicates the necessity of coming together “to
eat the Lord’s Supper.” True, he refers to certain irregularities,
which he severally condemns; but when he
asks, “Despise ye the church of God?” he refers to its
members, not to their individual, but in their collective,
capacity—the congregation of God. So, in verses 33,34,
the words “when ye come together to eat, tarry one
for another,” and “that ye come not together unto
condemnation,” show beyond doubt that the assembling
of the church was requisite to the celebration of
the Lord’s Supper. It is a church ordinance, and therefore
Baptists oppose any and every attempt to administer
it privately to individuals without church sanction.
What was true of the Corinthian church as to the “coming
together” of its members to commemorate the death
of Christ was doubtless true of all other churches of that
period. It would be absurd to suppose that there was a
capricious diversity in the customs of the churches. We
may therefore assume that there was uniformity.
With regard to the Lord’s Supper there are different
views held by different religious denominations. Roman
Catholics believe in what they call Transubstantiation—
that is, that by the consecration of the priest, the bread
and wine are changed into the real body and the real
blood of Christ. This doctrine defies all reasonable credence,
and can be accepted only by a voracious credulity.
It requires a renunciation of common sense to believe
that when Jesus took bread into His hands, that
bread became His body; so that He held His body in
His hands! The statement of such a dogma is its sufficient
exposure.
Lutherans, while they dissent from the Romish view,
advocate what they call Consubstantiation. By this they
mean that in the Lord’s Supper the body and the blood
of Christ are really present in the bread and the wine.
While this view differs from the Romish, it is equally
mysterious and scarcely less incredible; for it demands
the impossible belief that the body of Christ is not only
present in many places on earth at the same time, but
that it is also in Heaven. Surely the body of Christ is not
omnipresent.
Episcopalians and Methodists, as well as Romanists
and Lutherans, receive kneeling the bread and the wine
in the Lord’s Supper. The posture is an unnatural one,
and the custom of kneeling no doubt has an historical
connection with Transubstantiation—that is to say, when
the dogma was accepted as true, the bread and the wine
were considered suitable objects of adoration. Hence
the kneeling attitude was assumed by Romanists, transmitted
by them to Episcopalians, and from them inherited
by Methodists. It is strange, in view of the idolatrous
origin of the custom of kneeling, that it is continued
by those who adjure idolatry.
There is one thing in the service of Episcopalians and
Methodists which must ever impress Baptists as very
strange: The minister, in delivering the bread to each
person, says, “The body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which
was given for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto
everlasting life.” In giving the cup he says, “The blood
of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was shed for thee, preserve
thy body and soul unto everlasting life.” This may
not be, but it seems to be, a prayer offered to the body
and the blood of Christ, which are invoked to preserve
unto everlasting life the body and the soul of the person
addressed. Prayer to Christ is eminently proper, for
it is justified by the example of the dying Stephen; but
prayer to the body and the blood of Christ is utterly
indefensible.
Presbyterians are nearer right in their views of the
Lord’s Supper than are the denominations to which I
have referred. They do not kneel and they make prominent
the commemorative feature of the ordinance. True,
they call it a “sealing ordinance;” and these words Baptists
vainly try to understand. What is sealed? “The covenant
of grace,” they say. How is this? They say also
that “baptism seals” it. Has it two seals? Among men
The Lord’s Supper Observed by Local Churches by J. M. Pendleton – Page 2
Past Articles from the Berea Baptist Banner
covenants are invalid without seals. Is the covenant of
grace invalid for purposes of salvation unless the seals
of baptism and the Lord’s Supper are appended to it?
Presbyterians will hardly answer in the affirmative. The
truth is the New Testament never refers to baptism and
the Lord’s Supper as “sealing ordinances,” and for the
best reason: It teaches that believers are “sealed by the
Holy Spirit unto the day of redemption.” If the Holy
Spirit seals, there is security; and there is something
wrong in the theology which makes baptism and the
Lord’s Supper “sealing ordinances.”
Baptists hold that, as the Lord’s Supper is a churchordinance,
the supreme prerequisite to it is church-membership.
Baptism, it is true, is often referred to as a prerequisite,
and so it is, but only in the sense that it is a
prerequisite to church-membership. The members of
every local church can claim it as a right to come to the
Lord’s Table in that church, but in no other. . . .This is a
matter so plain that it is needless to dwell on it.
It sometimes creates a smile when it is said that Baptists
are more liberal in their views and practice in regard
to the Lord’s Supper than are any other people;
but it is true. It is true in the sense that they believe that
all whom they baptize and receive into church-membership
are entitled to seats at the Lord’s Table; and it is
true in the sense that they welcome to that Table all
whom they baptize. They dare not sever from each other
the two ordinances of the gospel. Of what other denomination
can this be said? I refer to the denominations of
Protestant Christendom. Among Episcopalians,
Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Methodists baptism and
the Lord’s Supper are put asunder—that is to say, this is
true of “baptized children” as distinguished from “communicants.”
With Episcopalians and Lutherans these
“baptized children,” so called, are kept from the Lord’s
Table until they receive the rite of “Confirmation.” It is
not possible to give a good reason for this practice; for
if through “sponsors” they are entitled to baptism, they
are also entitled to the Lord’s Supper. Presbyterians require
in the “baptized children” evidence of personal
piety before they are allowed to come to the Lord’s
Table, and Methodists, to say the least, insist that there
shall be “a desire to flee from the wrath to come.” The
argument against inviting infants is that infants cannot
“discern the body and blood of the Lord Jesus.” This is
doubtless true; but it is equally true that they cannot
discern the spiritual significance of baptism. If the inability
to “discern” is a bar to the Lord’s Table, it should
also be a bar to the Lord’s baptism. There can be no
good reason for severing the ordinances of the gospel.
Those who are entitled to baptism are entitled to the
Lord’s Supper. There is an interference with scriptural
order whenever the two ordinances are disjoined. The
interference cannot be justified.
Baptists, therefore, say that the Lord’s Supper is not
scripturally observed among Pedobaptists. They have
neither scriptural baptism nor scriptural church-membership,
and there cannot be a scriptural administration
of the Lord’s Supper. In addition to this, they withhold
from a large number—perhaps a majority—of those
who, in their judgment, are baptized the Lord’s Supper.
This is a great inconsistency. It must be said, however,
that if the ordinances were not sundered—that is, if all
baptized by Pedobaptists were permitted to come to the
Lord’s Supper—the service would be vitiated by the presence
of a majority composed of unbelievers and of those
incapable of believing. In view of such considerations
as these, it will readily be seen why Baptists believe that
Pedobaptists fail to observe the Lord’s Supper according
to the New Testament, even as they fail to administer
New Testament baptism.
On the other hand, it is a distinctive Baptist principle
that a scriptural church is a congregation of baptized
believers in Christ, whose duty and privilege it is “to eat
the Lord’s Supper.” All the members of such a church
are required to commemorate their Lord’s death. They
are united to Him by faith in His name, and through
Him, by spiritual ties, to one another, while their baptism
has incorporated them into one body, and their
partaking of “one bread” (I Cor. 10:17) is a symbol of
their unity.
Baptists detach from the Lord’s Supper every idea of
Transubstantiation, Consubstantiation, ritual efficacy,
sealing virtue, etc., and consider it a memorial of Christ’s
death. Its commemorative office is that which constitutes
its supreme distinction. Everything else connected
with it is secondary and incidental. “This do in remembrance
of me,” said Jesus in instituting the ordinances
on the night of the betrayal. In the eating of the broken
bread He requires that His crucified body be remembered;
in the drinking of the cup He enjoins a remembrance
of His blood. That the faculty of memory is specially
exercised concerning the death of Christ in the
sacred Supper is manifest from I 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.” We do not
show His birth or baptism or burial or resurrection or
ascension, but His death. If ever the tragedy of Calvary
should engross the thoughts of the Christian to the exclusion
of every other subject, it is when he sits at the
Table of the Lord. Then memory must reproduce the
scenes of the crucifixion and so hold them up to the
mind that Christ is “evidently set forth crucified.”
Then in the eating of the bread and the drinking of the
cup the body and the blood of the Lord are “spiritually
discerned,” and the ordinance, by the presence of
the Holy Spirit, becomes a rich blessing to the soul. It
becomes the means of strengthening faith in Christ and
of increasing love to Him; while memory goes back to
His death, and hope looks to His second coming, when
His personal presence will supersede the necessity of
any symbol to promote a remembrance of Him.
(Distinctive Principles of Baptists, pp. 174-182, 1882 edition).

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