Project Canterbury

The Christian Sacrament and Sacrifice
By way of Discourse, Meditation, and Prayer, upon the Nature, Parts, and Blessings of the Holy Communion

By Daniel Brevint

Oxford: Printed for J. Vincent, 1847.
London: Hatchard and Son, 1847.

Section III. Of the blessed Sacrament, as it stands for a sign of present Graces

1. The second face of the blessed Communion looks towards the present graces that attend the right use of it; first, as a figure, whereby God represents; secondly; as a moral instrument, whereby he is pleased to convey them unto the Church. First, I say, it marks and signifies these present graces. For, being of its own nature a Sacrament, that is, a sign of an invisible grace, it must principally stand to signify and lead us to greater blessings.

2. It is the ordinary way of God, when he either promises or bestows on men any considerable blessing, to confirm his word and his gift with the addition of some signs. For this I need not to allege other evidences than the rainbow, the burning bush, Abraham's furnace, Gideon's fleece, the cloud, the ark, &c., which, for those times, were Sacraments of great things. God commonly sent no prophets without giving them, as it were, a sacramental equipage, which could represent, in some degree, the message they had to deliver: witness the hairy mantles, the rent garments, the iron yokes, the horns; sometimes some kinds of life or gesture, wherein men might see before-hand the charges and sad predictions which they were to hear soon after. Our Saviour did observe this same method, when he laid his hands on children, when he breathed upon his disciples, when he bade them to anoint the sick, and when he cursed the fig-tree. All men, by a natural instinct, do somewhat like this when they second their expressions with some signs and motions of their body, though they think of no mysteries. So that you hardly can hear any man, being somewhat earnest and serious upon any matter, whether of request or complaint, submission or excuses, but you may see him at the same time either bowing the knee, or joining his hands, or uncovering his head; which acts are, in a manner, civil and natural Sacraments to confirm his expression.

3. The truth is, such is the disposition of most men, that how strongly soever they be persuaded of the truth which they hear, yet will they be far better wrought upon towards their own persuasion when they see some signs of this truth; and though a true Israelite doubts not at all of the presence of his God, nor a faithful disciple of the promise given him that he shall receive the Holy Ghost, when Moses and Christ have once passed their word for these two things; yet will their faith be much strengthened when one sees the ark and the cloud, which were the Sacrament of that,--and when the other receives the bread, which was the Sacrament of this. Now the mystery of the cross, and of the salvation that follows it, is of that high and important nature as might justly oblige the Son of God to propose them to his Church in the most suitable manner, to work in men a deep impression. Therefore, as God Himself, in order to satisfy Moses more fully that his people should not perish, nor so much as diminish under the thraldom of Egypt, shewed him a bush continuing still whole and entire in the midst of a great fire; and in order that they might be more firmly persuaded that, though they were in a wilderness, they were under God's protection, he made them go all the way under a cloud, that whensoever there should happen any staggering in their belief, both Moses and the people might strengthen it,--Moses by remembering the bush, and the people by minding the cloud. To the same purpose hath Christ ordained some visible signs in his Church, to complete her common faith, and to assure this truth to every one who comes to Him, that he shall be cleansed from his sins as certainly as it is certain he sees some water, which is the ordinary means for washing; and that he shall be kept up and fed with a supply of all necessary blessings, as certainly and really as it is real and certain he tastes and takes in this bread and wine, which are the ordinary means of preserving our life and strength.

4. Besides, because the Sacraments are designed not only to persuade us more strongly of the truth and being of the things, but also to acquaint us more familiarly and sensibly with their condition and nature, these Sacraments must have, in their natural constitution, some known qualities that make them fit for this sacramental office. Such hath the water, for example, which was so deservedly chosen for the use of holy baptism, because of the proper virtue it hath of washing the things that are foul; of reviving and refreshing them that are dry, and of making fruitful the barren. Hereupon St. Austin says plainly, that unless the holy Sacraments had some such agreement with the holy things which they are set up to represent, they could not be Sacraments at all. (Epist. 23. ad Bonif.)

5. So the blessed Communion is made of two such elements as can forthwith expose to the sight and sense of all men the true ground of its sacramental and significative function. This function is twofold; the first to represent Christ's sufferings, and the second to represent the blessing and the benefit which we receive from these sufferings. The first, I say, to represent Christ's sufferings. This bread and wine could neither sustain nor refresh me, had not their intrinsical substance lost its first condition and estate: that is, if the one had never fallen under the sickle, the flail, the millstone, the fire, and the other under the hook, the feet, and the press of husbandmen. Nor doth the Son of God save me but by emptying [Ekenwse. Philip. ii. 7.] himself, in a manner, for a while of his first glory in heaven; and by losing that second life which he had taken in Bethlehem.--This blessed Saviour is not a Saviour by the strength of all the miracles which he did about Judea, nor by any thing that he could suffer, as long as he would keep himself alive when he was made fast to his cross. As the best harvest is not yet bread as long as it stands in the field, nor is the best corn bread likewise as long as it is kept whole in the floor,--both corn and harvest being no more than antecedent matter for man's food,--Jesus living in Galilee, Jesus teaching about the Temple, Jesus commanding storms and waves when he did walk upon the sea, if he had proceeded no further, could not have been the bread of life. It must be Jesus suffering, Jesus crucified, Jesus dying: the grinding mill and the burning fire have of this corn made me this bread; and nothing less than cross, wounds, death, my Lord! my God! could of thy dearest Son make my Saviour

6. I say, secondly, this eucharistical bread is instituted to represent the fruit and benefit which we receive, both at the holy table and upon all other occasions, from Christ's sufferings, to wit, maintenance and improvement of life. As without bread and wine, or something answerable to it, the strongest bodies soon decay; so without the virtue of the body and blood of Christ, the best and holiest souls must infallibly starve and perish. The body of the Lord, as it was offered up to God in sacrifice, is the truth represented by the Passover; and as represented to us at the holy Communion, is the truth and accomplishment typified by the manna. The one is, as it were, the seed and the original principle whence we are born; and the other as the bread wherewith we live. That is to say, as bread and wine do not produce, but keep up that animal life which another cause hath produced,--so doth our Lord Jesus, by a necessary and continual supply of strength and grace, represented by bread and wine, sustain, improve, and set forward that spiritual life and new being which he hath procured us by his cross.

7. For Jesus, the second Adam, being seized, as he hung on the cross, with that deep sleep which God caused to fall upon him, gave this new being to his Church out of that side which at his passion was opened; and the blood and water which then gushed out of his wounds are the true principles of life, by reason of which his spouse, the Church, may be called Eve, that is, true and everlasting Liver. Before she had this new original out of her Saviour's passion--her husband's sleep,--she, by her old extraction, was a very daughter of death, and a mother of such children as could pretend to no better inheritance than curse and wrath. (Ephes. ii. 3.) By the course of nature, our life is but a sad progress from birth to death; and by the course of God's justice a sadder motion, such as is that of condemned persons from prison to the place of their execution. But whilst we were daily passing on to that most dreadful punishment, the Son of God looked on us, and took our condemnation upon himself, and under it died in our stead. Thus, by the death and satisfaction of this victim, justice gave way to my release; God the Father forgave my sin, and God the Son procured my life. This grace is the first purchase of Christ's blood, the first irradiation of God's mercy, and the first breath of spiritual life in our nostrils.

8. But alas! how soon would this first life vanish away, were it not presently followed and supported by a second! How soon would the removal of the former be frustrated, by the commission of other sins! And since I am no sooner born in sin than dead in it, how hard would it be, without more help in this corrupted condition, to keep dead Lazarus from rottenness! Therefore, the body and blood of Christ, once sacrificed on the cross (to help this first), procures a second life, that preserves whomsoever it saves out of this stupid death in sin; it helps them out of the puddle, where they did lie like beasts, without sense of danger or shame; and it quickens these rotten trees for the producing of better fruit. The first life being opposite to condemnation and eternal punishment, belongs properly to the blood that hath satisfied divine justice, and so removed punishment; and the second, which is opposite to stupid and senseless, both falling into sin and lying in it, relates properly to the water, that, after propitiation and pardon, washes and sanctifies the sinner. These two lives are the two first effluxes which proceeded out of Jesus Christ when his body was pierced; and both are inseparable, as the blood and the water were, which flowed together out of his side. Let none, who finds himself clean from the filth and spots of his sins, be afraid of punishment for them. I have found a ransom for him (Job xxxiii. 24); for the water came not without the blood. But let every one that hath a mind to be safe from punishment, which is taken off by the blood, seek for further security in the purifying of himself from all the uncleanness of sin which the water is to wash away; for the blood came not without water. Christ came not by blood alone, but by water and blood. (1 John v. 6.)

9. Over and above these two lives, whereof one consists in pardon and removal of punishment, the other in sanctification, and enlivens us from dead works, so as not thenceforward to deserve it as before, there remains besides a third life, which consists in an absolute redemption from death and other miseries. This life, as to the sure title and right, is, together with the two others, purchased by the same Sacrifice; but as to the real use and possession, it is reserved for us in heaven, and there hid with Christ in God. (Coloss. iii. 3.) Until it be revealed, we appear as if we were dead, these two jewels lying in, and being wrapped about with the dark veils of human mortality, till that Christ becoming unto us actual redemption, as well as actual justice and actual sanctification, this third life succeeds to break the cloud.

10. Now the blessed Saviour being by his Sacrifice the author and giver of these three lives, shews himself by this Sacrament to be the preserver of them also; and to this purpose sets up a table by his altar, where he engages most solemnly to feed and nourish our souls with the constant supply of his mercies, to the very day of eternal salvation, as really as he gives and we receive these elements of bread and wine, which are the usual means of sustaining mortal bodies until the end of this short life. My Father worketh hitherto, and I work with him. (John v. 17.) God the Father rested, indeed, upon the seventh day from the work of creating, and God the Son at the same day from the work of suffering; but neither of them will rest till the day of redemption from the work of preserving, both what the creation hath produced and what the passion hath saved. In the first creation, here is a man, and a woman made of the flesh and, as it were, of the very wounds of her husband; and there you find a tree planted to maintain both their life and strength. In the deliverance of Egypt, here is a people saved by the Sacrifice of the Passover; and lest so many, rescued out of Egypt, should faint and starve in the desert, there you see an angel leading them the way with his light, keeping them cool under the shadow of his cloud, and feeding them through all their journey with a miraculous sort of meat. Jesus is, both in the original and progress of salvation, the truth foreshewed by these figures. When he died upon the cross, there he fulfilled that which had been shadowed forth both by the sleep and wound of Adam, and by the killing of paschal lambs; and when he feeds from heaven, with a continual effusion of blessing, those souls and lives which he hath been pleased to redeem by the effusion of his own blood, he is the truth both of the tree and of the angel, which were appointed, the one to maintain man, and the other to keep Israel.

11. Christ relates to these four figures as the body which fulfils them, and the holy Communion relates to them on the other side as an antitype; that is, as one image may relate to another, all to express the same object. Upon the breaking the one and pouring out the other of these consecrated elements, you see what Christ hath suffered--as upon the wound of Adam and the death of the Passover, Abel, Enoch, and Israel, might partly see what he should suffer; and upon the nourishing nature of this bread, you see that which others have seen in the tree of life; and in the angel raining down manna, what he would give. But this is the advantage of the holy Communion above all the ancient figures:--Adam with his open side, and all Sacrifices with their blood, did foretel only Christ's passion; and the tree of life with all its fruit, and the angel with all his food, did foretel only his preserving grace; whereas this Sacrament alone represents both his passion and preserving, and besides these, another great mystery, by their mutual dependency. What we take and eat is made of a substance cut, bruised, and put to the fire--that shews my Saviour's passion; and it was used in that manner that it may afford me wholesome food; that shews the benefit which both He gives and I receive out of this dreadful passion. The angels enjoy such an immortality, and wear such crowns, as cost God nothing but the pain he took to give them: ours are more precious and costly than so: our inheritance in heaven is not less than Aceldama--a possession bought with Christ's blood. In this Sacrament here is death represented, there life; the life is mine, the death my Saviour's: and, O blessed Jesus! this my life comes out of thy death, and the salvation which I hope for, is purchased with all the pain and agonies which thou didst suffer.

12. Here Melchisedek and Aaron wait upon Jesus Christ at this table, as Moses and Elias did on the Mount. These two great priests stand to foreshew what Christ alone is to perform; for there is Aaron the priest with blood, and here Melchisedek with bread. There Aaron breaks, sheds, and destroys; here Melchisedek feeds and blesses. Nay, both are one in Jesus Christ. First, Christ appears to sacrifice (upon the cross), as Aaron did at his altar, with flesh and blood, and, as in Melchisedek's case and figure, with his own flesh and his own blood. Then, as Aaron did use to enter once every year into the sanctuary, Christ once for all is ascended into heaven, thence to bless us. (Acts iii. 26.) And this blessing is the strength, the food, and refreshment, which Melchisedek brought in a figure, that with the help of these good things, both Abraham and his followers,--that is, all sincere Christians,--may cheerfully go on their way, notwithstanding their own weakness and all the dangers of their life. Thus, here is a double blessing which I wait for; both what Aaron shewed by his blood, and what Melchisedek shewed by his bread.

13. Author of my salvation, and of these mysteries which express it, bestow on me these two blessings, which this Sacrament shews together,--grace for grace, mercy, and strength to keep mercy. Hosanna, O Son of David! save and preserve. Save me that I may not fall under the hand of the destroyer; and preserve me, that after this salvation I never fall by, my own hand; but keep and set forward in me, notwithstanding all mine infirmities, the work of thy faithful mercies. Grant that I may not increase my guilt by my abusing of what thou gavest. My Saviour, my preserver, give me always what thou givest once. Create a new heart within me; but bless and keep what thou createst, and increase more and more what thou, plantest. O Son of God and tree of life, feed with thy sap this tender branch, which without thee cannot but wither; and strengthen in thee a bruised reed, which without thee cannot but fall. Father of everlasting compassions, forsake not in the wilderness a feeble Israelite, whom thou hast brought a little way out of Egypt; and let not this poor soul of mine, which thou hast blessed with some desires, and helped a while with some tendency towards an eternal salvation, ever faint and fall from the right way. The angel in the wilderness could undoubtedly rain as much manna as the paschal lambs could shed blood: Jesu! the truth both of those lambs of that angel, thou art as able to perfect me with thy blessings out of thy throne, as thou wert to redeem me by thy Sacrifice on the cross. Jesu! author, object, and truth of this which, by thine appointment, I am bidden now to take, perform in me by thy sufferings what thou dost exhibit: Eternal life by this thy body broken; give also nourishment and maintenance thereby to this same life, for this is the bread of heaven. Amen.

Project Canterbury