1. It is a certain truth, that there never was on earth a true religion without some kind of Sacrifices; and it is a very great lie to say that now the Christian should want them. The Jews and the Pagans, who first aspersed the Church of Christ with this slander, did it upon such a reason as became them, because they saw neither altars set up, nor beasts slain and burnt among them. Thus the Pagans accused the Jews of adoring nothing but clouds, because they had no gods of stone or silver in their synagogues; and thus silly men may think now, that the world is destitute of angels, because they do not appear so often as they did in ancient times, in the shape and forms of men. The truth is, as what appeared like a body was not an angel, nor what was stone or silver could be a god,--neither the slaughter of poor beasts could ever be true Sacrifices. Thou delightest not in oblations; the Sacrifice of God is a broken spirit. Many among the Jews, much less quick-sighted than the prophets were, confessed as much; nor, certainly, could any reason permit them to imagine, that flesh and blood, which in all their Scriptures pass both for the weakest and the vilest of things, could be the best and the soundest part of Sacrifices.
2. Of all the carnal Sacrifices, which the Jews do reduce to six kinds, (besides many more oblations,) none ever had any saving reality as to the washing away of sins but in dependence on Jesus Christ our Lord: and as to our service and duty towards God, which they were also to represent, none had this second end so fully performed under the Law as it must be under the Gospel. The blessed Communion alone, when whole and not mutilated, concentres and brings together these two great ends,--full expiation of sins, and acceptable duty to God,--towards which all the old Sacrifices never looked, but as either simple engagements or weak shadows. As for the first, which is expiation of sins, it is most certain, that the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ alone hath been sufficient for it; and that if all, both men and angels, were joined to it, it were not to add to, but to receive from its fulness. It is most certain also, that this great Sacrifice, being both of an infinite virtue to satisfy the most severe justice, and of an infinite virtue to produce at once all the effects that can be expected of it, it were impiety to think it should need to be done again, as weak and infirm causes must, in order to make up by degrees and at several times their full effect. This was, perhaps, the want of faith which the holy Scripture taxes in Moses (Num. xx. 12),--which it is hard to find in any thing else,--to strike a second time, and without order, that mysterious rock, which to strike once had been enough; for this second blow could proceed but of a faithless mistrust that the first, which alone was commanded, could not suffice. But it were a much greater offence, both against the blood of Christ, to question its infinite worth, and against the infiniteness and immensity of this worth, to charge it with some emptiness, which any reiteration should fill up. Therefore, as the expiatory Sacrifice which Christ offered upon the cross was infinitely able to do at once whatever an infinite number of other Sacrifices had been able to do, either altogether at one time, or each of them severally during the succession of all ages; the offering of it must needs be one only; and the reiteration of it were not only superfluous as to its real effect, but also most injurious to Christ in the very thought and attempt.
3. Nevertheless, this Sacrifice, which, by a real oblation, was not to be offered more than once, is, by an eucharistical and devout commemoration, to be offered up every day. This is what the apostle calls, to set forth the death of the Lord; to set it forth, I say, as well before the eyes of God his Father, as before the eyes of all men; and what St. Augustin did explain when he said, that the holy flesh of Jesus Christ was offered up in three manners; by prefiguring Sacrifices under the Law, before his coming into the world; in real deed upon the cross; and by a commemorative Sacrifice after he is ascended into heaven. All comes to this; first, that the Sacrifice, as it is itself and in itself, can never be reiterated; yet, by way of devout celebration and remembrance, it may, nevertheless, be reiterated every day. Secondly, that whereas the holy Eucharist is by itself a Sacrament wherein God offers unto all men the blessings, merited by the oblation of his Son, it likewise becomes, by our remembrance, a kind of Sacrifice also, whereby, to obtain at his hands the same blessings, we present and expose before his eyes that same holy and precious oblation once offered. Thus, the ancient Israelites did continually represent in their solemn prayers to God, that covenant which he had made once with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, their forefathers. Thus did the Jews, in their captivity, turn their faces towards either the country or the Temple where the mercy-seat and the ark were, which were the memorial of his promises and the sacramental engagement of his blessings. And thus the Christians in their prayers do every day insist upon and represent to God the Father, the meritorious passion of their Saviour, as the only sure ground whereon both God may give, and they obtain, the blessings which they do pray for. Now, neither the Israelites had ever temple, or ark, or mercy-seat, nor the Christians have any ordinance, devotion, or mystery, that may prove to be such a blessed and effectual instrument to reach to this everlasting Sacrifice, and to set it out so solemnly before the eyes of God Almighty, as the holy Eucharist is. To men, it is a sacred table, where God's minister is ordered to represent from God his master the passion of his dear Son, as still fresh and still powerful for their eternal salvation; and to God it is an altar whereon men mystically present to him the same Sacrifice, as still bleeding and still suing for expiation and mercy. And because it is the High Priest himself, the true Anointed of the Lord, who hath set up most expressly both this table and this altar, for these two ends; namely, for the communication of his body and blood to men, and for the representation and memorial of both to God; it cannot be doubted but that the one must be most advantageous to the penitent sinner, and the other the most acceptable to that good and gracious Father who is always pleased in his Son, and who loves of himself the repenting and the sincere return of his children. (Luke, xv. 22.)
4. Hence one may see both the great use and advantage of more frequent Communion, and how much it concerns us, whensoever we go to receive it, to lay out all our wants, and pour out all our grief, our prayers, and our praises before the Lord, in so happy a conjuncture. The primitive Christians did it so, who did as seldom meet to preach or pray without a Communion, as did the old Israelites to worship without a Sacrifice. On solemn days especially, or upon great exigences, they ever used this help of sacramental oblation, as the most powerful means the Church had to strengthen their supplications, to open the gates of heaven, and to force, in a manner, God and his Christ to have compassion on them. The people of Israel, for the better performance of prayer and devotion, went up to the Tabernacle and the Temple, because, (besides other motives,) both these were figures of that body which was to be sacrificed, wherefore Christ calls his body this temple (John ii. 19); and the first Christians went up to their churches, there to meet with these mysteries, which do represent him both as already sacrificed, and yet as, in some sort, offering and giving up himself. Those, in worshipping, ever turned their eyes, their hearts, their hopes, towards that altar and Sacrifice whence the high priest was to carry the blood into the sanctuary; and these, looking towards the cross and their crucified Saviour there, through his sufferings hope for a way towards heaven--being encouraged to this hope by the very memorial, which they both take to themselves and shew to God, of these sufferings. Lastly, Jesus our eternal Priest, being, from the cross, where he suffered without the gate, gone up into the true sanctuary, which is heaven, there, above, doth continually present both his body in true reality, and us, as Aaron did the twelve tribes of Israel, in a memorial (Exod. xxviii. 29); and on the other side, we, beneath, in the Church, present to God his body and blood in a memorial; that under this shadow of his cross, and image of his Sacrifice, we may present ourselves before him in very deed and reality.
O Lord! who seest nothing in me that is truly mine but dust and ashes, and, what is worse, sinful flesh and blood, look upon what I have of thee, some small remnant of thine image, some small beginnings of thy grace, and some light sparks of thy Spirit. But because all these are defective, supply them, O Lord, with thy mercy, and with the Sacrifice of thy Son! Not unto us, O Lord! not unto us, but to thy name and thine Anointed, give the praise. Turn thine eyes, O merciful Father! to the satisfaction and intercession of thy Son, who now sits at thy right hand, to the seals of thy covenant, which lie before thee upon this table, and to all the wants and distresses which also thou seest in my heart. O Father! glorify thy Son whom thou hast sent into this world. O Son, bless thou this Sacrament which thou hast ordained for thy Church, and send with it some influence of that Spirit whom thou hast promised to all Flesh: that by the help of these mercies, the world, the Church, our flesh and souls, may glorify thee, now and ever, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.