The crotchet on this question is nothing new. It was buzzing about in the days of Dr. Thomas, who had no patience with it. The answer is this — “Where there is no law, there is no transgression” [Rom 4:15]. Those who say we ought to have unleavened bread and unfermented wine are “wise above that which is written.” The Lord has left no directions, and therefore we are free.
The object of breaking the bread and drinking the cup is to “bring to remembrance” [1Co 4:17] the things symbolized, and this does not depend upon the quality of the articles partaken of, but on mental discernment in connection with the memorial act… If much is made of the quality of the articles used, the object of using them is liable to be lost sight of. The finest bread and wine will fail to refresh the memory if the spiritual apprehensions are low; while, on the other hand, indifference of quality does not interfere with the spiritually quickened.
But it is contended we ought to get as near the original as possible. A good contention when not pushed too far. The “original” breaking of bread was partaken of at a triclinos [a Greek word meaning a very low three-sided table around which a small number of individuals might eat while reclining]. Must we provide a similar piece of furniture, and recline like the Orientals? The “original” was preceded by the Jewish Passover, of which, indeed, the breaking of bread and drinking wine is itself a feature. Must we, in this, imitate the original? The disciples were attired in flowing Eastern costume [robes]; must we be likewise? The bread and wine were served in vessels of Oriental construction. Must we refrain from bringing Christ to remembrance till we have found out the exact pattern and quality of these?
The answer is obvious. If Christ had commanded conformity in these particulars, we must needs have conformed [i.e., we must conform], at however great inconvenience or contempt; but there is no such command. Neither is there any direction as to the quality of the bread to be eaten or the wine to be drunk. We obey this command when we eat bread and drink wine, though the loaf we eat be differently shaped and compounded, and our wine differently tasted and made.
To contend otherwise is to make the observance of the Supper impossible; for if there is anything in the contention, the identity of the bread and wine must be exact and not approximate.
The Christadelphian, vol. 29, pp. 133,134.