Section I. The Importance of well understanding the nature of this Sacrament
1. The Sacrament instituted by Christ at the eve of his passion, which St. Paul calls the Lord's Supper, is, without controversy, one of the greatest mysteries of godliness, and the most solemn festival of the Christian religion. The holy table, or altar, which presents this sacred banquet, may, as well as the old tabernacle, take to itself the title of meeting, [Tabernacle for appointed time and meeting.] since there the people must appear to worship God, and there certainly God is present to meet and to bless his people. At the place, and during the whole act of this meeting with God, the Christian Communicants are in a special manner invited to offer up to God their souls, their bodies, their goods, their vows, their praises, and whatsoever they can give: and God, on the other side, offers to us the body and blood of his Son, and all those other blessings, withal, that will assuredly follow this sacred gift. For this must be granted, that the holy Communion is not only a Sacrament that the worshipper is to come to for no other purpose than to receive, nor a sacrifice only where he should have nothing else to do but to give, but it is as the great solemnity of the ancient Passover was, whereof it hath taken the place--a great mystery, consisting of Sacrament and Sacrifice; that is, of the religious service which the people owe to God, and of the full salvation which God is pleased to promise his people.
2. It may by this appear, how far it concerns every Christian not to err in a point that makes the centre both of his happiness and his duty, and that ties the very knot which, in a manner, joins man with God. It was upon this account that the devil, who bore ever an equal hatred both to what is holy to God, and to all that is conducive to the salvation of man, hath from the very beginning been busy with this Sacrament, and hath ever since given the Church more trouble about the body of Jesus Christ than ever the angel suffered about the body of Moses. (Jude, 9.) For the body of Christ, as the holy fathers distinguish it, being of two sorts, to wit, the natural, which is in heaven, and the sacramental, which is blessed and given at the holy table,*--the primitive heretics, whom the spirit of anti-Christ set up and animated against the Church, spent all their strength and their venom, at the very time, and in the face of the Apostles, in order to destroy the first, which is the human nature of Christ, and to reduce it to a phantasm: and God knows whether the second, that is the sacramental, receives at this day any better entertainment from two contrary parties, who make it either a false God, or an empty ceremony. Of all these opposite enemies, the first, who assaulted his flesh, could in this impiety be but poor vain undertakers, this glorious body being highly exalted above their reach but the second are on this account more dangerous, because the blessed Communion, which makes up this other body, may daily fall into the hands of either an idolatrous or a profane abuser. Therefore it very much concerns them whosoever have either any piety towards God, or any care of their own souls, to manage their devotions with such precaution and judgment, that this venerable Sacrament may be kept safe from the attempts of superstition and profaneness.
* See Tertullian, De Carne Christi, § I. Qui fidem resurrectionis ante istos Sadducaeorum propinquos sine controversiâ moratam student inquietare, ut eam spem negent etiam ad carnem pertinere, merito quoque carnem Christi quaestionibus distrahunt, tanquam au nullam omnino aut quoque modo aliam praeter humanam, ne, si humanam constiterit fuisse, praejudicatum sit adversus illos, eam resurgere omni modo, quae in Christo resurrexerit.--Marcion ut carnem Christi negaret, negavit etiam nativitatem.--Qui carnem Christi putativam introduxit, aeque potuit nativitatis quoque phantasmata confingere.