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no one understood but the receiver of it-Remember!' so did Jesus Christ. He appeals to our thankfulness, He appeals to our affections, He lets us see that He wishes to live in our memories, because He delights in it, as well as because it is for our profit.
The Passover was purely and simply a rito of remembrance. I venture to believe that the Lord's Supper is nothing more. I know how people talk about the bare, bald, Zwinglian ideas of the Communion. They do look very bald and bare by the side of modern notions and mediæval notions resuscitated. Well, I had rather have the bareness than I would have it overlaid by coverings under which there is room for abundance of vermin to lurk. Christ puts the Lord's Supper in the place of the Passover. The Passover was a purely memorial rite. You Christian people will understand the spirituality of the whole Gospel system, and the nature of the only bond which unites men to Jesus and brings spiritual blessings to them-viz. faith-all the better, the more you cling, in spite of all that is going on round us to-day, to that simple, intelligible, Scriptural notion that we commemorate the Sacrifice, not offer the Sacrifice. Jesus Christ said that the Lord's Supper was to be observed in remembrance of Me.' That was His explanation of its purpose, and I for one am content to take as the expounder of the laws of the feast, the feast's own Founder.
Now one more word. In the Passover men fed on the Sacrifice. Jesus Christ presents Himself to each of us as at once the Sacrifice for our sins and the Food of our souls. If you will keep your minds in touch with the truth about Him, and with Him whom the truth about Him reveals to you, if you will keep your
hearts in touch with that great and unspeakable sign of God's love, if you will keep your wills in submission to His authority, if you will let His blood, which is the life,' or as you may otherwise word it, His Spirit, come into your lives, and be your spirit, your motive, then you will go out from the table, not like the disciples to flee, and deny, and forget, nor like the Israelites to wander in a wilderness, but strengthened for many a day of joyous service and true communion, and will come at last to what He has promised us : 'Ye shall sit with Me at My table in My Kingdom,' whence we shall go no more out.'
JOSEPH AND NICODEMUS
‘And after this Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; And there came also Nicodemus which at the first came to Jesus by night.'JOAN xix. 38, 39.
WHILE Christ lived, these two men had been unfaithful to their convictions; but His death, which terrified and paralysed and scattered His avowed disciples, seems to have shamed and stung them into courage. They came now, when they must have known that it was too late, to lavish honour and tears on the corpse of the Master whom they had been too cowardly to acknowledge, whilst acknowledgment might yet have availed. How keen an arrow of self-condemnation must have pierced their hearts as they moved in their offices of love, which they thought that He could never know, round His dead corpse!
They were both members of the Sanhedrim; the same motives, no doubt, had withheld each of them from
confessing Christ; the same impulses united them in this too late confession of discipleship. Nicodemus had had the conviction, at the beginning of Christ's ministry, that He was at least a miraculously attested and God-sent Teacher. But the fear which made him steal to Jesus by night—the unenviable distinction which the Evangelist pitilessly reiterates at each mention of him-arrested his growth and kept him dumb when silence was treason. Joseph of Arimathea is described by two of the Evangelists as 'a disciple'; by the other two as a devout Israelite, like Simeon and Anna, 'waiting for the Kingdom of God.' Luke informs us that he had not concurred in the condemnation of Jesus, but leads us to believe that his dissent had been merely silent. Perhaps he was more fully convinced than Nicodemus, and at the same time even more timid in avowing his convictions.
We may take these two contrite cowards as they try to atone for their unfaithfulness to their living Master by their ministrations to Him dead, as examples of secret disciples, and see here the causes, the misery, and the cure of such.
I. Let us look at them as illustrations of secret discipleship and its causes.
They were restrained from the avowal of the Messiahship of Jesus by fear. There is nothing in the organisation of society at this day to make any man afraid of avowing the ordinary kind of Christianity which satisfies the most of us; rather it is the proper thing with the bulk of us middle-class people, to say that in some sense or other we are Christians. But when it comes to a real avowal, a real carrying out of a true discipleship, there are as many and as formidable, though very different, impediments in
the way to-day, from those which blocked the path of these two cowards in our text. In all regions of life it is hard to work out into practice any moral conviction whatever. How many of us are there who have beliefs about social and moral questions which we are ashamed to avow in certain companies for fear of the finger of ridicule being pointed at us? It is not only in the Church, and in reference to purely religious belief, that we find the curse of secret discipleship, but it is everywhere. Wherever there are moral questions which are yet the subject of controversy, and have not been enthroned with the hallelujahs of all men, you get people that carry their convictions shut up in their own breasts, and lock their lips in silence, when there is most need of frank avowal. The political, social, and moral conflicts of this day have their secret disciples,' who will only come out of their holes when the battle is over, and will then shout with the loudest.
But to turn to the more immediate subject before us, how many men and women, I wonder, are there who ought to be and are not, distinctly and openly united with the Christian community ?
I do not mean to say-God forbid that I should-that connection with any existing church is the same as a connection with Jesus Christ, or that the neglect to be so associated is tantamount to secret discipleship; I know there are plenty of other ways of acknowledging Him than that, but I am quite sure that this is one department in which a large number of men, in all our congregations—and there are not a few in this congregation-need a very plain word of earnest remonstrance. It is one way of manifesting whose you are, that you should unite yourselves openly with those who belong to Him, and who try to serve Him. I do
not dwell upon this matter, because I do not wish to be misunderstood, as if I supposed that union to a church is equivalent to union with Him; or that a connection with a church is the only, or even the principal way of making an open avowal of Christian principle; but I am certain that amongst us in this day there is a laxity in this matter which is doing harm both to the Church and to some of you. Therefore I say to you, dear friends, suffer the word of exhortation as to the duty of openly uniting yourselves with the Christian community.
But far higher and more important than that-do you ever say anyhow that you belong to Jesus Christ? In a society like ours, in which the influence of Christian morality affects a great many people who have no personal connection with Him, it is not always enough that the life should preach, because over a very large field of ordinary daily life the underground influence, so to speak, of Christian ethics has infiltrated and penetrated, so that many a tree bears a greener leaf because of the water that has found its way to it from the river, though it be planted far from its banks. Even those who are not Christians live outward lives largely regulated by Christian principle. The whole level of morality has been heaved up, as the coastline has sometimes been by hidden fires slowly working, by the imperceptible, gradual influence of the gospel.
So it needs sometimes that you should say 'I am a Christian,' as well as that you should live like one. Ask yourselves, dear friends! whether you have buttoned your greatcoat over your uniform that nobody may know whose soldier you are. Ask yourselves whether you have sometimes held your tongues because you knew that if you spoke people would find out where