Chapter I. Of the Nature, Excellencies, Uses and Intention of the Holy Sacrament of the Lord's Supper. Section III. That in the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper there are represented and exhibited many great blessings,
upon the special Account of that sacred Ministry, proved in general.
IN explicating the nature of this divine mystery in general, as I have manifested the nature and operations and the whole ministry to be spiritual, and that not the natural body and blood of Christ is received by the mouth, but the word and the Spirit of Christ, by faith and a spiritual hand,--and, upon this account, have discovered their mistake, who think the secret lies in the outside, and suppose we tear the natural flesh of Christ with our mouths:--so I have, by consequent, explicated the secret which others, indefinitely and by conjecture and zeal, do speak of, and know not what to say, but resolve to speak things great enough. It remains now that I consider for the satisfaction of those that speak things too contemptible of these holy mysteries; who say, 'it is nothing but a commemoration of Christ's death, an act of obedience, a ceremony of memorial, but of no spiritual effect, and of no proper advantage to the soul of the receiver.' Against this, besides the preceding discourse convincing their fancy of weakness and derogation, the consideration of the proper excellences of this mystery, in its own separate nature, will be very useful. For now we are to consider how his natural body enters into this economy and dispensation.
For the understanding of which we are to consider, that Christ, besides his spiritual body and blood, did also give us his natural; and we receive that by the means of this. For this he gave us but once, then, when upon the cross he was broken for our sins; this body could die but once, and it could be but at one place at once, and heaven was the place appointed for it, and at once all was sufficiently effected by it, which was designed in the counsel of God. For by the virtue of that death, Christ is become the author of life unto us and of salvation; he is our Lord and our lawgiver; by it he received all power in heaven and in earth, and by it he reconciled his Father to the world, and in virtue of that he intercedes for us in heaven, and sends his Spirit upon earth, and feeds our souls by his word; he instructs us to wisdom, and admits us to repentance, and gives us pardon, and, by means of his own appointment, nourishes us up by holiness to life eternal.
This body being carried from us into heaven, cannot be touched or tasted by us on earth; but yet Christ left to us symbols and sacraments of this natural body; not to be, or to convey that natural body to us, but to do more and better; 'for us; to convey all the blessings and graces procured for us by the breaking of that body, and the effusion of that blood: which blessings, being spiritual, are, therefore, called his body spiritually, because procured by that body which died for us; and are, therefore, called our food, because by them we live a new life in the spirit, and Christ is our bread and our life, because by him, after this manner, we are nourished up to life eternal. That is, plainly thus,--therefore we eat Christ's spiritual body, because he hath given us his natural body to be broken, and his natural blood to be shed, for the remission of our sins, and for the obtaining the grace and acceptability of repentance. For by this gift and by this death he hath obtained this favour from God, that by faith in him and repentance from dead works, by repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, we may be saved.
To this sense of the mystery are those excellent words of the apostle: "He bare our sins upon his own body on the tree, that he might deliver us from the present evil world, and sanctify and purge us from all pollution of flesh and spirit; that he might destroy the works of the devil; that he might redeem us from all iniquity; that he might purchase to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works; and that we, being-dead unto sin, might live unto righteousness." "Totum Christiani nominis et pondus et fructus mors Christi'":" "All that we are, or do, or have, is produced and effected by the death of Christ."
Now, because our life depends upon this death, the ministry of this life must relate to the ministry of this death, and we have nothing to glory in but in the cross of Christ: the word preached is nothing but Jesus Christ crucified: and the sacraments are the most eminent way of declaring this word: for 'by baptism we are buried into his death,' and by the Lord's supper we are partakers of his death: we communicate with the Lord Jesus as he is crucified'1; but now since all belong to this, that word and that mystery that is highest and nearest in this relation, is the principal and chief of all the rest; and that the sacrament of the Lord's supper is so, is evident beyond all necessity of inquiry, it being instituted in the vespers of the passion, it being the sacrament of the passion, a sensible representation of the breaking Christ's body, of the effusion of Christ's blood; it being by Christ himself intituled the passion, and the symbols invested with the names of his broken body, and his blood poured forth, and the whole ministry being a great declaration of this death of Christ, and commanded to be continued until his second coming. Certainly by all these it appears, that this sacrament is the great ministry of life and salvation: here is the publication of the great word of salvation, here is set forth most illustriously the body and blood of Christ, the food of our souls; much more clearly than in baptism, much more effectually than in simple enunciation, or preaching and declaration by words:--for this preaching is, in infants and strangers to Christ, to produce faith; but this sacramental enunciation, is the declaration and confession of it by men in Christ; a glorying in it. giving praise for it, a declaring it to be clone, and owned, and accepted, and prevailing.
The consequent of these things is this, that if any mystery, rite, or sacrament, be effective of any spiritual blessings, then this is much more, as having the prerogative and illustrious principality above every thing else in its own kind, or of any other kind in exterior or interior religion. I name them both, because as in baptism the water alone does one thing, but the inward co-operation with the outward oblation does save us, yet to baptism the Scriptures attribute the effect,--so it is in the sacred solemnity: the external act is, indeed, nothing but obedience, and of itself only declares Christ's death in rite and ceremony; yet the worthy communicating of it does, indeed, make us feed upon Christ, and unites him to the soul, and makes us to become one spirit, according to the words of St. Ambrose '; "Ideo in similitudinem quidem accipis sacramentum, sed verae naturae gratiam virtutemque consequeris;" "Thou receivest the sacrament as the similitude of Christ's body, but thou shalt receive the grace and the virtue of the true nature."
I shall not enter into so useless a discourse, as to inquire whether the sacraments confer grace by their own excellency and power, with which they are endued from above,--because they who affirm they do, require so much duty on our parts, as they also do who attribute the effect to our moral disposition: but neither one nor the other say true: for neither the external act, nor the internal grace and morality, does effect our pardon and salvation; but the Spirit of God, who blesses the symbols, and assists the duty, makes them holy, and this acceptable:--only they that attribute the efficacy to the ministration of the sacrament, choose to magnify the immediate work of man, rather than the immediate work of God, and prefer the external, at least in glorious appellations, before the internal; and they that deny efficacy to the external work, and wholly attribute the blessing and grace to the moral co-operation, make too open a way for despisers to neglect the divine institution, and to lay aside or lightly esteem the sacraments of the church. It is in the sacraments as it is in the word preached, in which not the sound, or the letters, or syllables, that is, not the material part, but the formal, the sense and signification, prepare the mind of the hearer to receive the impresses of the Holy Spirit of God, without which all preaching and all sacraments are ineffectual; so does the internal and formal part, the signification and sense of the sacrament, dispose the spirit of the receiver the rather to admit and entertain the grace of the Spirit of God there consigned, and there exhibited, and there collated. But neither the outward nor the inward part does effect it, neither the sacrament nor the moral disposition; only the Spirit operates by the sacrament, and the communicant receives it by his moral dispositions, by the hand of faith. And what have we to do to inquire into the philosophy of sacraments? these things do not work by the methods of nature: but here the effect is imputed to this cause, and yet can be produced without this cause, because this cause is but a sign in the hand of God, by which he tells the soul when he is willing to work.
Thus baptism was the instrument and sign in the hands of God to confer the Holy Spirit upon believers, but the Holy Ghost sometimes comes like lightning, and will not stay the period of usual expectation. For when Cornelius had heard St. Peter preach, he received the Holy Ghost; and as sometimes the Holy Ghost was given because they had been baptized, now he and his company were to be baptized, because they had received the Holy Ghost. And it is no good argument to say, the graces of God are given to believers out of the sacrament,--ergo, not by or in the sacrament; but rather thus,--if God's grace overflows sometimes, and goes without his own instruments, much more shall he give it in the use of them: if God gives pardon without the sacrament, then rather also with the sacrament. For supposing the sacraments, in their design and institutions, to be nothing but signs and ceremonies, yet they cannot hinder the work of God: and, therefore, holiness in the reception of them, will do more than holiness alone: for God does nothing in vain: the sacraments do something in the hand of God, at least, they are God's proper and accustomed time of grace; they are his seasons, and our opportunity: when the angel stirs the pool, when the Spirit moves upon the waters, then there is a ministry healing.
For consider we the nature of a sacrament in general, and then pass on to a particular enumeration of the most excellent blessings of this. When God appointed the bows in the clouds to be a sacrament, and the memorial of a promise, he made it our comfort, but his own sign: "I will remember my covenant between me and the earth, and the waters shall be no more a flood to destroy all flesh." This is but a token of the covenant; and yet, at the appearing of it, God had thoughts of truth and mercy to mankind; "The bow shall be in the cloud, and I will look upon if, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between me and every creature1'." Thus when Elisha threw the wood into the waters of Jordan,---'sacramentum ligni,' 'the sacrament of the wood,' Tertullian calls it,--that chip made the iron swim, not by any natural or infused power, but that was the sacrament or sign, at which the divine power then passed on to effect an emanation. When Elisha talked with the king of Israel about the war with Syria, he commanded him to smite upon the ground, and he smote thrice, and stayed. This was 'sacramentum victoriae,' 'the sacrament of his future victory;' for the man of God was wroth with him, and said, "Thou shouldest have smitten five or six times; then thou hadst smitten Syria, until thou hadst consumed it; whereas now thou shalt smite Syria but thrice." In which it is remarkable, that though it was not that smiting that beat the Syrians, but the ground; yet God would effect the boating of the Syrians by the proportion of that sacramental smiting. The sacraments are God's signs, the opportunities of grace and action. "Be baptized, and wash away thy sins," said Ananias to Saul: and, therefore, it is called "the laver of regeneration, and of the renewing of the Holy Ghost";" that is, in that sacrament, and at that corporal ablution, the Work of the Spirit is done. For although it is not that washing of itself, yet God does so do it at that ablution,--which is but the similitude of Christ's death, that is, the sacrament and symbolical representation of it,--that to that very similitude a very glorious effect is imputed; "for if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection." For the mystery is this; by immersion in baptism, and emersion, we are configured to Christ's burial, and to his resurrection: that is the outward part; to which if we add the inward, which is there intended, and is expressed by the apostle in the following words: "knowing that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin;" that is our spiritual death, which answers to our configuration with the death of Christ in baptism: "that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life q:" there is the correspondent of our configuration to the resurrection of Christ: that is, if we do that duty of baptism, we shall receive that grace: God offers us the mercy at that time, when we promise the duty, and do our present portion. This St. Peter; calls 'the stipulation of a good conscience,' the postulate and bargain which man then makes with God, who promises ns pardon and immortality, resurrection from the dead, and life eternal, if we repent toward God, and have faith in the Lord Jesus, and if we promise we have, and will so abide.
The same s is the case in the other most glorious sacrament: it is the same thing in nearer representation; only what is begun in baptism, proceeds on to perfection in the holy communion. Baptism is the antitype of the passion of Christ; and the Lord's supper shmantikoV twn paqhmatwn, that also 'represents Christ's passion.' Baptism is the union of the members of Christ, and the admission of them under one head into one body, as the apostle' affirms, "we are all baptized into one body;" and so it is in the communion, "the bread which we break, it is the communion of the body of Christ, for we, being many, are one body and one bread";" in baptism we partake of the death of Christ: and in the Lord's supper, we do the same,--in that, as babes,--in this, as men in Christ; so that what effects are affirmed of one, the same are, in greater measure, true of the other; they are but several rounds of Jacob's ladder reaching up to heaven, upon which the angels ascend and descend, and the Lord sits upon the top.
And because the sacraments evangelical be of the like kind of mystery with the sacraments of old; from them we can understand, that even signs of secret graces do exhibit as well as signify. For, besides that there is a natural analogy between the ablution of the body and the purification of the soul, between eating the holy bread and drinking the sacred chalice, and a participation of the body and blood of Christ,--it is also in the method of the divine economy, to dispense the grace which himself signifies, in a ceremony of his own institution. Thus at the unction of kings, priests, and of prophets, the sacred power was bestowed; and "as a canon is invested in his dignity by the tradition of a book, and an abbot by his staff, a bishop by a ring (they are the words of St. Bernard), so are divisions of graces imparted to the diverse sacraments." And, therefore, although it ought not to be denied, that when, in Scripture and the writings of the holy doctors of the church, the collation of grace is attributed to the sign, it is by a metonymy, and a sacramental manner of speaking, yet it is also a synecdoche of the part for the whole; because both the sacrament and the grace arc joined in the lawful and holy use of them, by sacramental union, or rather by a confederation of the parts of the holy covenant. "Our hearts are purified by faith," and so our consciences 'are also made clean in the cistern of water. "By faith we are saved;" and yet "he hath saved us by the laver of regeneration:" and they are both joined together by St. Paul--"Christ gave himself for his church, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word," that is, plainly, by the sacrament: according to the famous commentary of St. Austin, "accedat verbum ad elementum et tum fit sacramentum," "when the word and the clement are joined, then it is a perfect sacrament," and then it does effect all its purposes and intentions. Thus we find that the grace of God is given by the imposition of hands: and yet as St. Austin rightly affirms, "God alone can give his Holy Spirit, and the apostles did not give the Holy Ghost to them upon whom they laid their hands, but prayed that God would give it, and he did so at the imposition of their hands." Thus God sanctified Aaron; and yet he said to Moses, 'Thou shalt sanctify Aaron,' that is, not that Moses did it instead of God, but Moses did it by his ministry, and by visible sacraments and rites of God's appointment. And though we "are born of an immortal seed, by the word of the living God," yet St. Paul said to the Corinthians, "I have begotten you through the Gospel." And thus it is in the greatest as well as in the least,--he that drinks Christ's blood, and eats his body, 'hath life abiding in him:' it is true of the sacrament, and true of the spiritual manducation, and may be indifferently affirmed of either, when the other is not excluded: for as the sacrament operates only by virtue of the Spirit of God, so the Spirit ordinarily works by the instrumentality of the sacraments. And we may as well say, that faith is not by hearing, as that grace is not by the sacraments: for as, without the Spirit, the word is but a dead letter,--so, with the Spirit, the sacrament is the means of life and grace: and the meditation of St. Chrysostom' is very pious and reasonable, "if we were wholly incorporeal, God would have given us graces unclothed with signs and sacraments; but because our spirits are in earthen vessels, God conveys his graces to us by sensible ministrations." The Word of God operates as secretly as the sacraments, and the sacraments as powerfully as the word; nay, the word is always joined in the worthy administration of the sacrament, which, therefore, operates both as word and sign by the ear, and by the eyes, and by both in the hand of God,--and is the conduct of the Spirit,--all the effect that God intends, and that a faithful receiver can require and pray for.
For justification and sanctification are continued acts: they are like the issues of a fountain into its receptacles; God is always giving, and we are always receiving, and the signal effects of God's Holy Spirit sometimes give great indications, but most commonly come without observation; and, therefore, in these things we must not discourse as in the conduct of other causes and operations natural: for although, in natural effects, we can argue from the cause to the event, yet, in spiritual things, we are to reckon only from the sign to the event. And the signs of grace we are to place instead of natural causes, because a sacrament in the hand of God, is a proclamation of his graces; he then gives us notice, that the springs of heaven are opened; and then is the time to draw living waters from the fountains of salvation. When Jonathan shot his arrows beyond the boy, he then, by a sacrament, sent salvation unto David; he bade him be gone and fly from his father's wrath; and although Jonathan did do his business for him by a continual care and observation, yet that symbol brought it unto David;--for so we are conducted to the joys of God, by the methods and possibilities of men.
In conclusion, the sum is this; the sacraments and symbols, if they be considered in their own nature, are just such as they seem, water, and bread, and wine; they retain the names proper to their own natures; but because they are made to be signs of a secret mystery,--and water is the symbol of purification of the soul from sin,--and bread and wine, of Christ's body and blood,--therefore the symbols and sacraments receive the names of what themselves do sign: they 'are the body and they are the blood of Christ: they are metonymically such. But because, yet further, they are instruments of grace in the hand of God, and by these his Holy Spirit changes our hearts, and translates us into a divine nature,--therefore the whole work is attributed to them by a synecdoche; that is, they do in their manner the for which God ordained them, and they are placed there for our sakes, and speak God's language in our accent, and they appear in the outside: we receive the benefit ot their ministry, and God receives the glory.