THE Outlook gives an account of a communion service in Japan at which neither bread nor wine were used; sponge cake taking the place of the bread, and tea being substituted for wine; but those who partook felt that “they obeyed the command of our Lord.” The Outlook remarks:—
This is parallel to the question which might arise in an arctic region. For ourselves, we have no doubt that Jesus baptized by immersion, but that would be manifestly impossible in a frigid zone. Do not these facts indicate that the virtue is not in the thing used, or in the form in which a rite is administered, but in the fact that it brings to mind the person and teaching of the Saviour himself? We think few would presume to say that the cake and tea were not as holy and acceptable as the bread and the wine, and a no larger would require baptism by immersion in the frigid zone. Not on the rite, but on the truth symbolized, the Master would have the emphasis placed.
The Examiner (Baptist) takes exception to this view of the case, and shows very conclusively that there is nothing to prevent immersion even in the coldest countries inhabited by man. It also goes further and shows that both bread and wine are easily obtainable in Japan, and that hence there was no occasion for substituting sponge cake and tea, as was done in the instance referred to by the Outlook.
But is there any greater impropriety in substituting sponge cake and tea for bread and wine in the celebration of the Lord’s supper, or in substituting sprinkling for immersion in baptism, than there is in substituting the first day of the week for the seventh in the matter of Sabbath observance? The fact is that the practice of substituting something that the Lord has not commanded for that which he was commanded, is altogether wrong. However, the practice is very ancient, and is regarded by some as even venerable.
The first one so far as we know to offer a substitute, was Cain, who, instead of bringing a lamb as an offering, as required by the Lord, substituted the fruits of the ground. Another case of substitution is recorded in the 10th chapter of Leviticus, where we read that “Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not.”
Thus it is seen that there is precedent even in the Scriptures for offering to the Lord something that he has not commanded instead of that which he has commanded. These cases are not likely to be appealed to, however, in support of the practice, as it is very evident that such substitution was not pleasing to the Lord then; and there is no reason to believe that it is any more pleasing to him now.