1. It is either the error or the incogitancy of too many Christians which makes them sometimes believe, and oftener live, as if under the Gospel there were no other Sacrifice but that of Christ upon the cross. It is very true indeed there is no other, nor can there be any other, sufficient and proper for this end, of satisfying God's justice, and expiating our sins. I have trodden the wine press alone, and of the people there was none with me: I looked, and there was none to help. (Isaiah lxiii. 3. 5.) In this respect, though the whole Church should, in a body, offer up herself as a burnt sacrifice to God, yet could she not contribute more towards the bearing up or bearing away the wrath to come, than all those innocent souls, who stood near Jesus Christ when He gave up the ghost, did towards the darkening of the sun, or the shaking of the whole earth. But that which is not so much as useful, much less necessary, to this eternal Sacrifice, which alone could redeem mankind, is indispensably both necessary and useful, that we may have a share in this redemption. So that if the sacrifice of ourselves, which we ought to offer up to God, cannot procure Salvation, it is absolutely necessary to receive it.
2. As the old Law never introduced Aaron officiating before the Lord without the whole people of Israel, represented both by the twelve stones on his ephod, and the two other on his shoulders; (Exod. xxviii. 12. 30) the Gospel most commonly describes Jesus Christ and his Church, not only as two parties that do nothing the one without the other, but sometimes also as one person alone; as particularly (1 Cor. xii. 12), Christ acts, officiates, and suffers for his body, in that manner that doth become the head; and the Church imitates and follows all the motions and sufferings of this heavenly and holy head, in such a manner as is possible to its weak members.
3. The main, if not the whole divinity of St. Paul, as well in point of faith as of Christian life, runs upon this conformity both of actions and sufferings; and that of St. John likewise upon this same Communion. The truth is, our Saviour had neither birth, nor death, nor resurrection, here on earth, but such as we ought to conform us to; as he hath neither ascension, nor throne, nor everlasting life, nor glory, but such as we may also have in heaven common with him.
4. This conformity or likeness to Christ, which (as the Hebrews use to speak) is the foundation and pillar, that is, the grand principle of the whole Christian institution, relates more directly to our duty about his sufferings, and then to our happiness about his exaltation. And the Communion, which is the other great fundamental that St. John hath still in his mouth, points more at this, and presupposes that; and both make up a full comment upon the words which our Saviour so often commanded his disciples, to follow him; thereby signifying both the labour, and the success of this most important journey: for, without doubt, we shall follow him into heaven, if we will follow him here on earth; and we shall have Communion with him in his glory, if we will keep conformity with him here in his sufferings.
5. These three expressions, to follow, to be like or have conformity, and to have communion, which are the most essential clauses in the charter and charge of Christianity, are not to be limited to the imitation of Christ's morals only, as when he bids us be holy as he is holy, &c.--but they oblige all his disciples to follow and imitate him likewise as much as in them lies, throughout all the other parts of his life, and the very functions of his offices. For we must be regenerated in his birth, die on his cross, be buried in his grave, bear his shame in his tribulations; in a word, Christ and Christians are and must be continually together. Where I am, there my servant shall be also. (John xii. 26.) But of all these duties, the most fundamental and most indispensable is that of bearing part of his cross, and dying with him in Sacrifice.
6. Never did the Son of God intend any more to offer Himself for his people without his people, than did the high priest of the Law to offer himself for Israel without his ephod, the memorial of them. Christ presented Himself to God in this great temple, which is the world, at the head of all man-kind, as did the first-born of Egypt, who also did prefigurate him every one in his house, at the head of his family. He came as a voluntary victim to the altar, being attended on by his Israel, who as it were, with their hands, laid all their sins upon his head. Therefore, as it was necessary that they who sought for atonement should wait upon the Sacrifice; and that whosoever would escape the destroyer or other plagues, should keep themselves within that house, where either the first-born or the paschal lamb was destroyed; by the same necessity, whosoever do pretend to eternal salvation must needs appear within that house, about that altar and that cross; whereon this first-born of every creature; and this Eternal both Priest and Sacrifice was pleased to offer up Himself.
7. By this standing and appearing at the altar under the Law, the sinners indeed did not die, the victim alone being burned and destroyed; but because they laid their hands on it when it was dying, and fell (for prayer and worship) on their faces, doyen to the ground, when it did fall bleeding to death,--they were, as well as the very victim, reputed to offer up themselves. So the truest Christians likewise are neither crucified nor destroyed in that manner that their Master and Saviour was; yet, first, because they look towards, and cast themselves upon his cross and sufferings, as the only means both of expiating for their sins, and of salvation for their souls: secondly, because of the great and sharp grief which they do suffer who sincerely think on the Son of God thus dying, and, which is more, thus dying only for their sakes, which to them is, as it was to the blessed virgin, a sword to pierce their hearts, and likewise to pierce and crucify to death their sins:--thirdly, because their whole body of sin being by this crucifixion really over-mastered and wounded, there remains no life in them, but what they may and will offer up and dedicate to God's service; the Saviour thus offering Himself, and the saved so united to Him by faith, so plunged both into the communion of, and grief for, his sufferings, and so resigned up and consecrated to his will, for the remnant of their life, are both accounted before God for one and the same Sacrifice.
8. It is the same, first by imputation, such as were the first fruits and the lump; (Rom. xi. 16,) the ears of corn and the harvest, which were both together involved in, and made holy by one offering. (Levit. xxiii. 10, 11.) In this sense, Jesus Christ dying upon the cross, was made the first fruits of them that offer themselves to God, that they may be sanctified by his death and Sacrifice, if one be dead, then all are dead; as He was made the first fruits of them that sleep, that they should be quickened by his resurrection. But, secondly, as the lump or mass may, in some case, either lose or not get at all the privilege and holiness of the first fruits, (for example, a few sheaves of corn which the worshippers had offered unto the Lord, could by no means sanctify that harvest which afterwards should be eaten in the service or in the temple of an idol), two real actions are required to make good this imputation, and to join the Christians to the Sacrifice of Christ their head.
9. The first is, that they endeavour to crucify their sinful members, as really as Christ Himself had his sinless body crucified. So that the feet that before did run to evil, the violent hands that did injure, the greedy eyes that did covet, and all those members of the flesh that were weapons of wickedness, may by this cross and Sacrifice be most really bound, and in a good measure destroyed, as to their corruption. I do glory in the cross of Jesus Christ, by which the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. (Galat. vi. 14.) So Jesus Christ and his whole Church, and in this Church every true penitent sinner, being joined all together, do make up that complete Sacrifice, which seems to have been prefigurated by the Sacrifice at the consecration of Aaron (Exod. xxix. 13, 14); whereof the kidneys and the fat about the inwards were burnt as a sweet smelling oblation on the altar; but all the flesh, the skin, the feet, the dung, (instruments and emblems of sin,) were thrown and burnt without the camp. For Jesus Christ and his Church so concur together in one oblation, that the blessed Saviour contributes all that can go up into heaven to please and appease God; and we, on our part, do contribute but what deserves to be removed out of the way, the corruption and smell of sin. The second necessary condition to the aforesaid imputation, (for no imputation either to life or death can be just without some real grounds to support it), and to incorporate us into the Sacrifice of Christ's body, is a serious resolution of piety, and universal consecrating both of our persons and of all our actions to God. I am crucified with Christ, that I may live to God. Now it is not I that live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now lead in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himsef for me. (Gal. ii. 19.) This place must be so rendered, according to the distinction of both the Greek copies and all the oriental versions. And this act of the Church consecrating herself to God, and joining herself so to Christ as to make but one oblation with Him, is the mystery represented by the daily Sacrifice. (Exod. xxix. 38; Num. xxviii. 3.)
10. This Sacrifice did consist of two parts. The first and chiefest was the Lamb, that did foreshew the Lamb of God; and the second was the meat and drink-offering, made of flour mingled with oil and wine,--all which, being but an additional thrown on the Lamb morning and evening, was counted but for one and the same Sacrifice. Those secondary oblations so thrown and burnt upon the main Sacrifice, signified properly these offerings which Christians must present to God, of themselves, of their goods, and of their praises. From this meat and drink-offering, which was added to more substantial Sacrifices, came the bread and wine to be used at the celebration of Christ's death. Which bread, in the Communion considered as Sacrament, signifies the natural, but considered as Sacrifice, it represents the mystical body of Christ, that is his Church. For we that are many, saith the Apostle, (1 Cor. x. 17,) are one bread. To this purpose the holy martyr Ignatius (Epist. Rom.), being ready to, be offered up by martyrdom, said he was the wheat of God, which was to be ground by beasts' teeth. Soon after, the Church added oil and frankincense to bread and wine, to make up the whole meat-offering, which consisted of these four things. The truth is, all that we can offer upon our own account, is but such an oblation as this meat and drink offering of Moses was, that cannot be presented but by the virtue and merits of Jesus Christ who supports it, and that can never ascend up to heaven but along with the sacred smoke of that great burnt Sacrifice which is to carry it up thither. For, on the one side, our own persons, our works, or any thing else that may be ours, are, by themselves, but weak, unsubstantial kinds of offerings, which cannot be presented unto God, otherwise than as these additional oblations which from themselves fall to the ground, unless a more solid Sacrifice do sustain them. And, on the other side, this solid and fundamental Sacrifice upholds, saves, and sanctifies but those persons and things that, according to the law of Moses' meat-offerings, are thrown into this his fire, are hallowed upon his altar, and are, together with him, consecrated to God by him.
11. For this cause it is, that, as soon as the prophet had preached the coming of this everlasting Sacrifice, and the propitiation and happiness which it would spread over all the world, he foretels at the same time that the apostles and their successors, (whom he designs by expressions proper to that economy under which he did live,) should bring the nations from all parts of the earth, as an offering unto the Lord (Isaiah lxvi.): and, to the same purpose, St. Paul himself speaks of his evangelical office as of a sacrificing priesthood, and of the Gentiles whom he did convert to Christ, as of so many sacrifices which he presented to the Lord: I exercise, says he, in the Gospel, a holy sacerdotal priesthood (for the word ierourgein signifies both); that the oblation of the Gentiles may be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Spirit. (Rom. xv. 16.) Hence proceeds that method which he observes most constantly, never to preach the faith in Jesus Christ without inviting presently the believers to offer up unto God either their bodies and souls, as Romans xii., or their work of holiness, of praise, of charity, &c. as every where else. And these are the spi-ritual offerings which every true Christian must join to cast upon the fundamental Sacrifice of Christ Jesus.
12. We know, indeed, that the universal assembly of Christians could never meet at the same time or place, either to follow Christ in a body, when He went to offer Himself for them; or to fall upon their faces and prostrate themselves to the ground, when He bowed his head under their sins; Providence, that scatters men up and down, throughout all places and times of the world, permitting no possibility of such a general meeting. But the Sacrifice of Christ, though it was confined to few hours, and to a small parcel of ground, as to the suffering, yet being everlasting, infinite, and still the same as to the sufficiency and virtue of it, co-extends itself most perfectly to all both times and places when and where those scattered members will ever come to offer up themselves to God with their Head. And besides this, the second part of his sacerdotal office, which consists in interceding, continuing still in the very act till the world's end, they that could not embrace his cross, and join with Him at that same time that He offered Himself, may do it every day, and humble themselves, like poor victims loaden with sins and miseries, at the same time that now He continues still actually interceding. So in all places, at all times, and upon any emergencies, whensoever the believers will present themselves unto God, both with and by his Son Jesus, they may still receive the favour of acceptation, and that real efflux of saving odour from Christ which was represented by that typical holiness which the additional oblation did receive from the principal Sacrifice when it was adjoined to it. Whereas it is most certain, that all the merit and blood of Christ shall no more save men that will not draw near, and join themselves to conformity and communion of his death, than the continual and other burning sacrifices were ever able to consecrate that meat, that wine, that oil, and that frankincense, which were not brought nor burned upon the same altar with them.
13. Now though all men be called to this conformity and communion in the sufferings of Christ, from the time of those sufferings, until there be no time at all; and although the days of our present life have all the privilege which these seven feast days once had, when every one might gird his loins, eat his unleavened bread, and kill his own bullock, as the priest did sacrifice the paschal lamb, (which bullock was superadded to the paschal lamb, that both might better suffice for the seven festival days, besides its other ritual and figurative importance as a Sacrifice), it is certain, nevertheless, that there are two more special and extraordinary days, wherein Christians are invited, by more urgent and proper circumstances, to present their souls and bodies, by way of second offering, upon the sacrifice of their Saviour. The first is past, and that was when the Saviour offered Himself to death; when heaven and earth, temple and graves, shook at the blow that killed Him; when pious souls either stood immovable, as the blessed virgin, hard by his cross, or in a manner crucified themselves, beating their breasts, as the daughters of Jerusalem; and when every disciple might, by the very conjuncture of all the things he saw, be moved to say as Thomas, let us go, and let us die with Him. (John xi. 16.) The other time most favourable and proper, next to that of his real passion, is that of the holy Communion, which, as it hath been explained, [Gelas. Cyzic. part 2, cap. 31.] is a sacramental passion, where, though the body be broken, and the blood shed, but by way of representative mystery, yet both are as effectually and as truly offered for our own use, if we go to it worthily, as when that holy and divine Lamb did offer Himself the first time.
14. Therefore, whensoever Christians approach to this dreadful mystery, and to the Lamb of God, lying and sacrificed, (as some say that the holy Nicene Council speaks,) upon the holy table, it concerns their main interest, in point of salvation, as well as in other duties, to take a special care not to lame and deprive the grand Sacrifice of its own due attendance; but to behave themselves in that manner, that, as both the principal and additional sacrifices were consumed by the same fire, and went up towards heaven in the same flame, so, Jesus Christ and all his members may jointly appear before God; this in a sacramental mystery, these with their real bodies and souls, offering themselves, at the same time, in the same place, and by the same oblation. So that, whosoever are attending on this Sacrifice, since they do it in remembrance of their Saviour, once really dead, and every day sacramentally dying for them, (do this in remembrance of me), they do it in such a manner, first, as may become faithful disciples, who are resolved to die, both for and with their Master; secondly, as true and sincere members, that cannot outlive their own Head; and, thirdly, as truly penitent sinners, who dare not look for any share in the glory, and redemption, and session at the right or left hand of their Saviour, unless, after their way, they undergo the same baptism, unless they will drink the same cup, and unless they enter really into the communion of that Sacrifice and those sufferings which their Master, their Head, and their Saviour, hath passed through, and which this very Sacrament engages them to.
15. Now this Communion doth require, first, a conformity of actions that may in some sort correspond to all that Christ hath done as Priest; secondly, another conformity of mortifications and passions, that may likewise answer to whatsoever He hath suffered as a voluntary victim. As Priest, (for, on this occasion, all Christians, after the example of their Saviour, become priests, since they offer themselves to God,) to follow all the steps, and take upon them all the preparations, the course of life, and the like dispositions of mind, which were seen in this blessed Melchisedek, when he presented himself to God. To this effect, the faithful worshipper, presenting that soul and body which God fitted him with at his coming into this world, will lay them down at the altar.
Lo, I come! if this soul and body may be useful to any thing, here they are both, to do thy will, O God. [Heb. x. 5, 7.] And hereafter, if it please thee to use that power which thou hast, as Creator, over dust and ashes, over weak flesh and blood, over a brittle vessel of clay, over the work of thine own hands; lo, here they are, to suffer also thy good pleasure! I do now protest to my God, that if He please to afflict me either with pain or dishonour, I will humble myself under it, and be obedient unto death, even unto the death of the cross. [Phil. ii. 8.] Whatsoever may happen to me, either from the Jews or Gentiles, from my neighbours or from strangers, since it is my God that employs them, though they neither know nor think it so, unless, at the same time, God help me to some lawful means of securing myself against their wrongs, I will not hereafter open my mouth before, the Lord, who doth strike me, except only to sing the Psalm, after I have eaten some bitter herbs that belong to this Passover, and to bless the Lord who gave them me, and entreat Him for the wicked, who perhaps hath maliciously gathered them. Hereafter no man can take any thing from me, no life, no honour, no estate, since I am ready of myself to lay them down, as soon as I can perceive that God requires them at my hands. Nevertheless, O Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me, yet if I must drink it, thy will be done. [Luke xxii. 42. Matt. xxvi. 42.] What kind soever of suffering hereafter may trouble my flesh, or what kind soever of agonies may, perhaps, worse trouble my spirit, following the example of this high Priest, in the midst of his bitterest pains, O Father, into thy hand [Luke xxiii. 46.] I will ever remit my life, and the dearest concernments that attend it. And if thou be pleased that either I live yet awhile or not, I will, with my Saviour, bow down my head; [John xix. 30.] I will adore thee under my burden, and humble myself under thy hand; I will give up all that thou wilt be pleased to ask, goods, joys, &c. until at last I surrender and give up the ghost.
16. To this first part of our conformity with Christ as Priest, must be referred whatsoever we read He did from his last passover to his passion, as far as we can imitate it; as when He washed the feet of his disciples; when He prayed for his murderers; when He received with a mild reply the rashness of him that struck Him, committing all the rest to God; when He took that charitable care of gently restoring the ear to an insolent fellow named Malchus; when his dismalest agonies never kept Him from comforting a penitent, this day shalt thou be with me in paradise, (Luke xxiii. 43); nor from instructing good pious souls, ye daughters of Jerusalem, weep not, &c.; nor from interceding for his cruelest enemies, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do; nor from taking care for his relations, Woman behold thy Son, &c. (John xix. 26.) Hereupon the success of these both active and passive dispositions must needs be this, that God looking first to Abel, and finding him endued with that spirit of humility, of charity, of meekness, and of patience, which was also in Christ Jesus (Phil. ii. 5.), He certainly will be pleased to look also upon his Sacrifice. (Gen. iv. 4.)
17. Besides this first conformity of holy dispositions, and, as it were, sacerdotal ornaments, between Jesus and his disciples, considered as they are priests, there must needs be also a conformity of death and passion between them, being considered as Sacrifices. The first conformity, which regards personal and priestly endowments, is never so exact nor so full as to adorn inferior priests with all the proper attire of Aaron, his golden plate, his embroidered ephod, or his mitre, or his breast-plate; yet it is never so defective but that he and they may, without indecency, notwithstanding the inequality of their garments, officiate at one altar. The second conformity, which regards the Sacrifice, is yet much shorter than the first, being between things not only unequal in degrees of perfection, but different in their nature. For, really, the sacrifice of a living creature, as the lamb was, could not differ so much in nature from dead and inanimate offerings, such as the meal, the oil, and the wine were, which, as secondary Sacrifices, were added to the first, as the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ differs from what poor Christians either are in their nature, or can offer up to God in Sacrifice. For, of these two Sacrifices as to their proper conditions, the one is divine, all mighty, and all holy; and the other is human, infirm, and sinful. And as to their several ends, the one is made to procure and work expiation, and the other only to get some capacity to receive it. The first and prime Sacrifice imparts to the second its righteousness; and the second is thrown upon the first as a burden, only to charge it with all its sins. Nevertheless, as under the Law, the lamb and the oblation added to it did join in one Sacrifice, because both were offered upon one altar, and consumed by one fire; so, under the Gospel, Christ and his people are accounted for one oblation, when both, in their own proper way, are consecrated by the same cross, and are in some manner alike obedient to death. For we have been planted together in the likeness of his death; knowing this, that our old man is dead, &c.(Rom. vi. 5, 6.)
18. By this likeness or conformity of sufferings, Christ is dead once to satisfy the rigour of the Law; and so must Christians destroy their sins, and mortify themselves, that they may observe hereafter the righteousness of the Gospel. Christ, during that terrible storm that made Him weep and cry aloud, (Matt. xxvii. 46. 50., Luke xxiii. 46., Heb. v. 7.), did suffer such a heavy punishment as might satisfy God's justice; and his mystical body must every day both undertake and suffer such fatherly corrections as may overmaster their own sins. In a word, the holy Saviour was willing to be crucified, because this dismal execution was indispensably necessary to turn away the wrath to come; and his true members must be willing to crucify themselves with Him, because this discipline is as indispensably necessary to destroy in them, by degrees, that inward corruption which would bring back again this wrath.
O Father of mercies! I beseech thee, both by the merits of thy Son who now intercedes in heaven, and by that bloody Sacrifice which he hath offered on the cross, (whereof thou seest the Sacrament upon this table,) this day be pleased to receive me into the communion of his sufferings, and hereafter into the communion of his glory. Cast not away from thee in displeasure the elevation of these hands, which I will fasten to his cross, so far as they may not offend, and which I do now stretch before thee with a true desire that hereafter they may serve thee; neither despise the Sacrifice of a poor soul, which also his cross hath wounded with the sense of her misery, and by this wound lays it open, both to pour out her own prayers, and to gasp after thy mercies. O God and Father I bestow on me such a measure of that Spirit through which thy Son offered Himself, [Heb. ix. 14.] as may sanctify for ever the body and soul which now I offer, and may likewise help me to perform the service which I do promise. A spirit of contrition, that I may sufficiently detest those sins which did deliver my God to death; then a spirit of holiness, that I may never be tempted to them any more than a crucified man can be tempted. O let this crucified body, which I present to thee for such, never be untied from his cross, either to fall to those violences that have pierced my Saviour's hands, or to fly up to those vanities that have crowned his head with thorns, or to follow unjust pleasures that have filled his dear soul with grief, that have filled his entrails with gall. Arm and rod of the Lord, who in thine anger didst revenge all these sins upon my Saviour, in thy mercy correct and destroy them also in me. So, my God, accept of a heart that sheds now before thee its tears, as a poor victim does its blood, and that raises up unto thee all its desires, its thoughts, its zeal, as a burnt offering doth its flames. Finally, since my Sacrifice can be neither holy nor accepted, being alone; accept of it, O Father, as it is an oblation supported by that Sacrifice which alone is able to please thee. Receive it clothed with the righteousness of thy Son, and made acceptable with that holy perfume that rises from o, his altar. And grant that He who sanctifies, and they who are by Him sanctified, may be joined in one passion, and may enjoy hereafter with thee the same glory. Our Father, which art in heaven, &c.