1. A table should be used during communion. 2. Christ and his disciples first observed the Paschal supper, followed by the Lord’s Supper. 3. The use of a table during the original Lord’s Supper was not solely circumstantial but also was designed by Christ for our imitation. 4. As it is an honour to sit at the table of any king, so Christ intends the supper to similarly signify this highest grace and honour to believers (Luke 22:27, Matt 8:11, 2Sam 19:28, 1 Ki 18:19, Neh 5:17). 5. While it may be more convenient to not use a table during the Lord’s Supper, we cannot use this as an excuse for not following the Lord’s commands. 6. Having successive tables, when there is insufficient room for all communicants of a congregation to participate at once, does no violence to the sacrament. 7. The Lord’s Supper is referred to as the Lord’s Table (1 Cor 10:21). 8. This appears to be the practice of the early church.That a table ought to be so far used, as that the Elements of bread and wine ought to be set upon it, is not (I think) controverted; but whether there be so much light from Scripture, as that all the communicants ought to come to, and receive at the Table; This I conceive to be the question. For resolution whereof, I humbly offer these following considerations.
1. 'Tis gratis dictum, that sitting at the Table was occasional, or such as has not a standing, but a temporary reason for it, and there is this reason to the contrary: occasional circumstances in that action, which are not to be imitated by us, were such as Christ was limited unto by the law, or by the providence of God, so that therein he was not left at a liberty or latitude to choose to do otherwise. For instance, it was not allowed by the Law to have any other bread in Jerusalem, during the feast of Passover, but unleavened bread only. The upper room was the place assigned by the master of the house, God so ordering. After supper it must be, because it must succeed to the Passover, being also the Testament, or latter will of Jesus Christ. There was also a providential limitation, to such and so many communicants, that is, not exceeding the number which was allowed to eat the Passover together. Let some such reason be brought to prove that sitting at table, was occasional, else let it not be called so. Sure if Christ had not thought it fittest, and chose it as the best way, that his disciples should receive his last Supper at the table, it was free to him to have changed their posture without encroachment upon any law of Moses, or upon any providential limitation. Secondly, I am herein the more confirmed, because Christ himself, as it were on purpose to shew, that the sitting and receiving at Table was not occasional, but such a thing as he meant to commend unto us for our imitation, he gives this standing and permanent reason for it, that it is a piece of honour that he will have put upon those whom he invites, calleth, and alloweth to eat and drink with him, Luke 22: 27, for whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? Is not he that sitteth at meat?
2. This at meat is not in the original, where we find only, he that sitteth, we may as well and better supply at table, from vers: 21. add vers: 30. That ye may (here I supply from vers: 27 and Matt 8:11 sit down and) eat and drink at my table in my Kingdom, and sit on thrones, judging the twelve Tribes of Israel. Here is an honour of communion, and an honour of jurisdiction: The honour of communion, is to eat and drink at his Table in his Kingdom, and this honour (signified by their sitting, eating and drinking at his table in his last Supper) he puts upon them as believing communicants, so that it belongs to all such. There is another honour joined with a special judicial prerogative, to sit on thrones, and judge the twelve tribes of Israel, and herein there is somewhat meant peculiarly of the Apostles, which is notwithstanding mentioned elsewhere in a different phrase, as a prerogative of all the Saints, 1 Cor: 6:2.
3. Thirdly, it cannot be denied, but that the first communicants who received from Christ, might with more ease and conveniently be placed at the table, then can be now in many churches, which have been accustomed to another way. But we must not bring down our rule to our conveniences, rather bring up our conveniences to our rule. It is no hard matter to alter pews and such like things in churches, where the present posture is inconsistent with following the pattern: and a less alteration will serve then is apprehended.
4. Fourthly, the flux and reflux (so to speak) of several successive tables, where there is a great number to communicate, and the repeating, or pronouncing, and applying to those several tables of receivers, the words, Take ye, eat ye, which Christ pronounced but once in one act of distribution, these things (I say) cannot be justly charged as deviations from the example of Christ, when the same providence which limited him to a fewer number, calls us to distribute to a great number: Neither can they who so charge us, ever make good what they allege, unless they prove that although Christ had been distributing this sacrament to all the 500 disciples, to whom he appeared after his resurrection (suppose I say, there had been so many communicants) yet he had given them all at once the elements, and had said but once, Take ye, eat ye, and that there had been no intermission at all, nor no partition into several successive companies. If this can be proved, then they say much against the use of successive tables, otherwise not.
5. Fifthly, our dissenting brethren of the Independent way, who dislike our several and successive tables in one congregation, as a dividing of those who ought to communicate all together, (for they would have none of the communicants receive the cup, before all of the congregation who communicate, have received the bread) these brethren, I say, may satisfy themselves from their own principles; For they hold, that although a congregation increase so much, as that they cannot, or be so persecuted, that they may not meet safely in one place, for the Word and Sacraments, and supposing the Church of Jerusalem before the dispersion, Acts 8:1 to have been so numerous, and to have accessed to so many thousands, as could not receive the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, nor ordinarily assemble into one place for the Worship of God, (that they received the Lord’s Supper in several companies, and several houses, is ordinarily collected from Acts 2:46 and breaking bread from house to house, which the Syriac expounds expressly of the Eucharist.) Yet all this (say they) breaks not the Church, but they are still one particular church. Now if several companies of the same church assembled, and receiving the Lord’s Supper in several places, be not a breaking or dividing of the congregation, nor a deviation from the example of Christ, much less can they with any reason, charge our communicating by several companies at successive tables, in the same meeting place or assembly, to be a breaking of the congregation, or a deviation from Christ’s example. If one of their congregations may receive the Sacrament in several houses, when (by reason of numerousness) they cannot all receive it together in one house, I cannot conceive why they may not much more allow us several successive tables in the assembly, when the whole cannot communicate at one table, so much for my first argument taken from Christ’s example.