THE

SHORTER CATECHISM

EXPLAINED


QUESTION 96. What is the Lord's Supper?

ANSWER: The Lord's supper is a sacrament, wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine, according to Christ's appointments his death is showed forth; and the worthy receivers are, not after a corporal and carnal manner, but by faith, made partakers of his body and blood, with all his benefits, to their spiritual nourishment, and growth in grace.


Q. 1. Why is this sacrament compared to a supper?

A. Because it was instituted immediately after eating the passover, (Matt. 26:26), which was always at night, Ex. 12:6, 8.

Q. 2. Why is it called the Lord's supper?

A. Because the Lord Jesus was the sole author of it, 1 Cor. 11:23; and it is highly requisite it should be so.

Q. 3. Why was it highly requisite that the Lord Jesus should be the sole author of this holy ordinance?

A. Because all the grace that is held forth in it, is treasured up wholly in him; and is conveyed and applied by him to the soul, John 1:16.

Q. 4. When did Christ institute and appoint this sacrament?

A. "The same night in which he was betrayed," 1 Cor. 11:23.

Q. 5. What night was that?

A. It was the very last night before his death, Matt. 26:47, 48, compared with chap. 27:1, 35, 46, 50.

Q. 6. What is implied in his instituting this sacrament the same night in which he was betrayed?

A. It implies his infinite goodness, and inviolable attachment to mankind lost, whom he represented; that in the immediate prospect of his greatest sufferings and soul agonies in their stead, he should have their salvation and comfort so much at heart, as to leave this memorial and pledge of his dying love among them, till he come again, Matt. 26:29.

Q. 7. Are Christians under any obligation to celebrate this ordinance at night, as our Lord and his disciples did at the first institution of it?

A. No; the substitution of this sacrament in the room of the passover, (which was eaten immediately before) was the occasion of its being first administered at night; and that particular occasion can never recur again.

Q. 8. In what posture should the Lord's supper be received?

A. This sacrament being called the Lord's table, 1 Cor. 10:21, a table posture, which is sitting, seems to be most agreeable to the practice of our Lord, and his disciples, at the first supper, Matt. 26:20, 26.

Q. 9. From whence did the practice of kneeling at the sacrament take its rise?

A. From the church of Rome, who maintain that the consecrated bread, or wafer, is changed into the real body of Christ, and therefore to be worshipped.

Q. 10. What are the outward ELEMENTS, appointed by Christ, in this sacrament?

A. They are bread and wine, Mark 14:22, 23.

Q. 11. What sort of bread and wine is proper to be used?

A. Just such as is ordinarily used in entertainments among men.

Q. 12. Is the sacrament of the supper to be received, by every partaker, in both elements?

A. Certainly it ought; for our Lord gave both elements to his disciples; and the apostle appoints both the elements to be dispensed to communicants, 1 Cor. 11:28 -- "Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that BREAD, and drink of that CUP." And therefore the withholding of the cup from the people, as is done by the church of Rome, is both sacrilegious and impious.

Q. 13. What is signified by the bread and the wine?

A. The body and blood of Christ, 1 Cor. 11:24, 25.

Q. 14. What is to be understood by Christ's body and blood?

A. His incarnation and satisfaction, for the complete accomplishment of our redemption, John 6:51 -- "The bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."

Q. 15. What is the analogy, or resemblance, between the bread and wine, and what is signified and represented by these elements?

A. As bread and wine make a sufficient entertainment for the nourishment of the body; so the righteousness and fulness of Christ, are a full and satisfying feast for the refreshment of the soul, John 6:55 -- "My flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed."

Q. 16. What are the sacramental actions with reference to these elements?

A. They are all of them comprehended in the answer, under giving and receiving bread and wine, according to Christ's appointment.

Q. 17. Whom do these sacramental actions respect?

A. Some of them respect the administrator, and some the partakers in this holy ordinance.

Q. 18. Who are the administrators of this sacrament?

A. Christ himself was the first administrator of it; and after him, ministers of the word, lawfully called and set apart to that office.

Q. 19. What were the actions of Christ, the first administrator, which ministers are to imitate, in dispensing this sacrament?

A. After his example, they take the bread, and the cup; they bless these elements; they break the bread, and give both the bread and the wine to be distributed among the communicants.

Q. 20. What is meant by taking the bread and the cup?

A. Christ's voluntarily assuming the human nature into union with his divine person, Heb. 2:16, that in it he might be a sacrifice of infinite value in our stead, Eph. 5:2.

Q. 21. What is implied in blessing the elements?

A. That Christ has appointed the bread and the wine in this sacrament to be the visible signs or symbols of his body and blood; and likewise, by his example, has warranted ministers to set apart, by solemn prayer, so much of these elements, as shall be used in this sacrament, from a common, to a holy use.

Q. 22. Why is Christ's blessing the elements called his giving thanks? 1 Cor. 11:24.

A. Because so inconceivably great was his love to lost sinners of mankind, that he was thankful he had all their debt to pay, Psalm 40:7, 8; and that he was able to do it to the uttermost, Heb. 7:25.

Q. 23. What is to be understood by breaking the bread?

A. The most exquisite sufferings of the Son of God, Psalm 22:14, 15, and the necessity of them, as the channel, in which mercy was to be vented to the sinner, Rom. 5:21.

Q. 24. What is intimated to us by giving the bread and giving the cup? Matt. 26:26, 27.

A. It intimates, that Christ is the free gift of God to sinners of mankind, for salvation and eternal life, John 3:16.

Q. 25. What are the sacramental actions of the partakers in this sacrament, included in their receiving of bread and wine?

A. They take the bread and the cup: they eat the bread, and drink a part of the wine in the cup.

Q. 26. What is imported in their taking the bread and the cup?

A. It imports, that our receiving of Christ, is founded on the gift and grant that is made of him in the word; for, "a man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven," John 3:27.

Q. 27. What is included in their eating the bread, and drinking the wine?

A. It includes that there ought to be an application of Christ to the soul in particular, in virtue of the particular endorsement of the promise, to every one that hears the gospel: "For the promise," says the apostle Peter, "is unto you, (that is, unto every one of you,) and to your children," Acts 2:39.

Q. 28. For what end did Christ institute these sacramental elements and actions?

A. That thereby his death, might be showed forth, 1 Cor. 11:26, and the remembrance of it kept up, Luke 22:19.

Q. 29. What is it to show forth the death of Christ?

A. It is to profess, by partaking of the sacrament, that we believe his death, in our room, to have been most acceptable to God, Eph. 5:2; and that we acquiesce in it, together with his obedience, as the sole ground of our hope of salvation, Rom. 4:25.

Q. 30. How does it appear, that his death, in our room, was most acceptable to God?

A. By his resurrection from the dead, 1 Thess. 1:10 and his entrance into glory, Luke 24:26.

Q. 31. How may we know if we acquiesce in the obedience and death of Christ, as the sole ground of our hope of salvation?

A. If we are renouncing all other confidences, Hos. 14:3, and are convinced that the meritorious obedience unto death of the Son of God as our Surety, is the sole payment of the debt we owed to law and justice, Jer. 23:6 -- "This is his name whereby he shall be called, T HE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS."

Q. 32. Why has Christ appointed this sacrament to be observed in remembrance of him, Luke 22:19 -- "This do in remembrance of me?"

A. Because though his incarnation and satisfaction are the greatest events that ever happened in the world, and the most interesting to us, yet we are apt to forget them; or at least not to have the solid and lively impression of them habitually upon our spirits, Psalm 106:13 -- "They soon forgot his works."

Q. 33. What is it about the death of Christ which we ought to remember in this sacrament?

A. The truth of it, the necessity of it, and the sufficiency of it.

Q. 34. What is it to remember the truth of Christ's death?

A. It is by a true and saving faith, to believe that Christ really did and suffered all these things for us, that are recorded of him in scripture, 1 Cor. 15:3, 4.

Q. 35. What is it to remember the necessity of his death, Luke 24:26 -- "Ought not Christ to have suffered these things?"

A. It is to believe, that we had certainly gone down to the pit, unless God had found a ransom, or an atonement, Job 33:24.

Q. 36. What is it to remember the sufficiency of it?

A. It is to believe that it is infinitely valuable; and, therefore, could have procured the salvation of thousands of worlds, had it been so ordained, it being the death and blood of him, who is the supreme God, Acts 20:28 -- "Feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood."

Q. 37. In what MANNER should we show forth and remember the death of Christ in this sacrament?

A. We ought to do it fiducially, humbly, mournfully, and thankfully.

Q. 38. Why ought we to remember his death fiducially?

A. Because as he "was delivered for our offences," Rom. 4:25, so "God raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory, that our faith and hope might be in God," 1 Pet. 1:21.

Q. 39. Why ought we to remember it humbly?

A. Because when we are unworthy of the least of all God's mercies, Gen. 32:10, we are much more so of the greatest that can be conferred, John 3:16 -- "God so loved the world" &c.

Q. 40. Why mournfully?

A. Because our sins were the procuring cause of his sufferings, Isa. 53:5, 6 -- "He was wounded for OUR transgressions, he was bruised for OUR iniquities -- The Lord hath laid on him the iniquities of us all."[150]

Q. 41. Why should the death of Christ be remembered thankfully?

A. Because his death was in our room, Tit. 2:14; and was the finishing stroke of the work which his Father gave him to do, John 19:30.

Q. 42. How often should the death of Christ be remembered, by partaking of this sacrament?

A. The scripture has not precisely determined how often; but it would appear that it ought frequently to be done.

Q. 43. How does it appear that the death of Christ should be frequently remembered in the supper?

A. From the words of our Lord, 1 Cor. 11:25, 26 -- "This do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me; for, AS OFTEN as ye eat this bread," &c., plainly implying, that it ought OFTEN to be done.

Q. 44. When will the death of Christ be remembered perpetually, without interruption?

A. In heaven, though not in a sacramental way, Rev. 21:22 -- "I saw no temple there."

Q. 45. How may it be proved, that it will be perpetually remembered in heaven?

A. From the song of the redeemed there, recorded, Rev. 1:5, 6 -- "Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood -- to him be glory." And chap. 5:9-14 -- "And they sung a new song; saying -- Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood," &c.

Q. 46. Who are called worthy receivers, in the answer?

A. None are worthy receivers of this sacrament, but true believers; and even they, in order to their partaking worthily and comfortably, ought to have grace in exercise, as well as in the habit; Song 1:12.

Q. 47. Why are true believers called WORTHY receivers?

A. Not on account of any worthiness in themselves, for they have nothing of their own of which they can boast; but because they are united to Christ, and have all that grace from him, which enables them to partake in a suitable and becoming manner, 2 Cor. 3:5.

Q. 48. What are the worthy receivers made partakers of in this sacrament?

A. They are made partakers of Christ's body and blood, with all his benefits.

Q. 49. What is it to be partakers of Christ's body and blood?

A. It is to be entertained, in the sacrament upon all that was transacted upon the person of Christ, as God-man, Mediator: this being the only proper and suitable food of the soul, John 6:51, 53.

Q. 50. In what respect is it, that the worthy receivers are NOT made partakers of his body and blood?

A. They are not made partakers after a corporal and carnal manner.

Q. 51. Why are these words inserted in the answer, not after a corporal and carnal manner?

A. They are inserted in opposition to the Popish doctrine of transubstantiation, "which maintains a change of the substance of bread and wine, into the substance of Christ's body and blood, by consecration of a priest."[151]

Q. 52. What is the absurdity of this doctrine?

A. It is "repugnant not to scripture alone, but even to common sense and reason; overthroweth the nature of the sacrament; and hath been and is the cause of manifold superstitions, yea, of gross idolatries."[152]

Q. 53. How is it repugnant to scripture?

A. The scripture expressly affirms, that Christ gave the very same bread and cup to his disciples, after consecration, that he had taken into his hands before, Matt. 26:26, 27. Whereas the doctrine of transubstantiation maintains, that the elements, after consecration, are no more the same, having only the form, colour, taste, and smell of bread and wine, wanting the substance of either; being turned into the substance of Christ's body and blood; in opposition to which, the apostle calls the elements, after consecration, by the same names they had before it, to intimate, that there was no change of their substance, 1 Cor. 11:26-28 -- "As often as ye eat this BREAD, and drink this CUP ," &c.

Q. 54. How is transubstantiation repugnant to common sense and reason?

A. Common sense and reason tell us, that a body occupies but one place, and cannot be in divers places at one and the same time; whereas they who defend transubstantiation must allow, that the body of Christ may be in a thousand places at once, even as many places as there are consecrated wafers.

Q. 55. How does transubstantiation overthrow the nature of the sacrament?

A. By destroying the spiritual or sacramental relation, that is between the sign and the thing signified; for if the sign be turned into the thing signified, then all relation and similitude between them cease. Besides, the sacrament being a commemoration of what was done and suffered in the human nature of Christ, it supposes his body to be absent, whereas transubstantiation supposes it present.

Q. 56. How is it the cause of manifold superstitions and gross idolatries?

A. In as much as strange and surprising effects are ascribed to the host, or consecrated wafer, even when not used sacramentally; and the alleged change of the bread and wine, into the substance of Christ's body and blood in the sacrament, is the very pretence, why they pay religious worship and adoration to the elements themselves; which is gross superstition and idolatry.

Q. 57. What is the difference between the Papists and Lutherans on this head?

A. The Papists maintain, that the bread and wine lose their own natural substance, and are turned into the substance of Christ's body and blood; but the Lutherans affirm, that the bread and wine retain their own natural substance still, and, at the same time, that the substance of Christ's body and blood is in, with, or under, these elements.

Q. 58. Are not both opinions equally absurd?

A. Yes; for transubstantiation supposes, that one body may be in many places at the same time; and consubstantiation takes it for granted, that two bodies may be together in the very same place, or that they may both occupy the same individual space at the same time.

Q. 59. Is Christ offered up, in this sacrament, as a sacrifice for the remission of sins?

A. No; there is in it "only a commemoration of that one offering up of himself, by himself; upon the cross, once for all; and a spiritual oblation of all possible praise unto God for the same.[153]

Q. 60. Why does our Confession say, that Christ's once offering up of himself was done BY HIMSELF?

A. In opposition to the unbloody sacrifice of the mass, which is offered up daily by the Popish priests, for remission of the sins both of the quick and the dead.

Q. 61. What does our Confession of Faith affirm concerning this Popish "sacrifice of the mass," as they call it?

A. It affirms, that it is "most abominably injurious to Christ's one only sacrifice, the alone propitiation for all the sins of the elect, Heb. 7:27."[154]

Q. 62. Is not Christ really present in the sacrament of the supper?

A. He is "as really, but spiritually, present to the faith of believers in that ordinance, as the elements themselves are to their outward senses, 1 Cor. 11:29."[155]

Q. 63. If Christ be really present in the sacrament only in a spiritual sense, and not corporally, why does he say of the bread, "This is my body"?

A. The plain and obvious meaning is, "This bread is the sign or symbol of my body": so that the words are to be understood in the figurative, not in the literal sense.

Q. 64. How do you prove, that these words, "This is my body," are to be understood in the figurative, and not in the literal and proper sense?

A. From this known rule in all language, that when the strict literal sense involves a manifest absurdity, or contradiction, we must of necessity have recourse to the figurative sense; as when the apostle says, 1 Cor. 10:4 -- "That rock was Christ," it cannot be understood literally, as if that rock, materially considered, was really Christ; but, figuratively, that rock signified Christ; and so of a great many other scripture expressions.

Q. 65. Since the worthy receivers are not made partakers of Christ's body and blood after a corporal and carnal manner, how do they partake of the same?

A. They partake of his body and blood, in this sacrament, only by faith.

Q. 66. What is it for the worthy receivers to partake of his body and blood by faith?

A. It is to apply and appropriate himself and his righteousness, with all his benefits, to themselves, Psalm 16:5, 6.

Q. 67. What are these benefits which faith, in this sacrament, applies together with Christ himself?

A. Among many others, there are these three comprehensive ones; namely, an ample indemnity of all sin, Micah 7:19; an unquestionable security for the progress of sanctification, Job 17:9; and an undoubted title to eternal life, John 10:28.

Q. 68. Why are these, and the like, called his benefits?

A. Because he is the purchaser, Tit. 2:14, proprietor, John 3:35, and dispenser of them, Eph. 4:8.

Q. 69. Why are worthy receivers said to be made partakers of all his benefits?

A. Because where himself is received, all good things go along with him, 1 Cor. 3:22, 23 -- " all are yours; and ye are Christ's."

Q. 70. What is the fruit and effect of their being, by faith, made partakers of Christ, and all his benefits?

A. The fruit and effect of it is, their spiritual nourishment, and growth in grace.

Q. 71. What does their spiritual nourishment imply in it?

A. That this sacrament is not a converting, but a nourishing ordinance.

Q. 72. What does their growth in grace imply?

A. That the worthy receivers are already in a state of grace.

Q. 73. How may spiritual nourishment and growth in grace be discerned?

A. If there is a more enlarged desire after the sincere milk of the word, 1 Pet. 2:2; if there is more living by faith, and not by sense, 2 Cor. 5:7; and if there is more inward opposition to sin, Psalm 66:18, and outward tenderness in the walk, Psalm 39:1.


[150] Margin. Hath made the iniquities of us all to meet in him.

[151] Confession of Faith, chapter 29 § 6.

[152] Ibid., 29 § 6.

[153] Confession of Faith, chapter 29 § 2.

[154] Ibid.

[155] Ibid. § 7.


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