Emmanuel in the Eucharist
PREACHED IN ST. PETER'S CHURCH, BALTIMORE,
ON THE SECOND SUNDAY IN ADVENT,
WILLIAM ROLLINSON WHITTINGHAM,
BISHOP OF MARYLAND.
Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Diocese of New York, 2012
No side denieth, but that the soul of man is the receptacle of Christ's presence.—Nor doth anything rest doubtful but this, whether, when the Sacrament is administered, Christ be whole within man only, or else his Body and Blood be also externally seated in the very consecrated elements themselves; which opinion they that defend, are driven either to consubstantiate and incorporate Christ with elements sacramental, or to transubstantiate and change their substance into His; and so the one to hold him really but invisibly, moulded up with the substance of those elements; the other to hide him under the only visible show of bread and wine, the substance whereof, as they imagine, is abolished, and His succeeded in the same room. All things considered, and compared with that success which truth hath hitherto had by so bitter conflicts with error in this point, SHALL I WISH THAT MEN WOULD MORE GIVE THEMSELVES TO MEDITATE WITH SILENCE WHAT WE HAVE BY THE SACRAMENT, AND LESS TO DISPUTE OF THE MANNER HOW?
Hooker, Ecc. Polity, B. V. Sect. 67, vol. ii. p. 286. ed. Hanbury.
BALTIMORE, Dec. 5th, 1842.
Right Reverend and Dear Sir,
The undersigned, having listened with pleasure to your discourse, delivered in St. Peter's Church, on the second Sunday in Advent, and believing that the more extensive circulation of the truths contained in it will advance the interests of religion and the Church, very respectfully request that you will furnish a copy of it for publication.
We are, Right Reverend and Dear Sir,
J. P.K. Henshaw, J. J. Robertson, Wm. Krebs, Wm. Geo. Krebs, H. C. Magruder, R. B. Magruder, Jacob Albert, Charles Goodwin, Robert Neilson, A. Aldridge, Samuel Riggs, George A. Hemmick, George Warner, F. J. Dallam, Samuel Chew, Wm. Harden, John R. W. Dunbar, Michael Warner Sen., Michael Warner Jr., Jesse Hunt, Hugh Boyle, D. Brunner, Geo. W. Krebs, Benjamin Dennis, R. H. Moale, Robert T. Baldwin, Wm. Woodward, Charles Baltzell, Noah Ridgely, Henry W. Moore, Isaiah Kroesen, Wm. J. Albert, Augustus J .Albert, James Moore, Geo. W. Tinges, Jos. Todhunter, Joshua Walker, J. H. Duvall,
To BISHOP WHITTINGHAM.
To the Rev. Drs. Henshaw and Robertson, and Messrs. Krebs, and others.
I transmit to you the manuscript of the discourse for which you ask, with some reluctance, in deference to your anticipations of good result. The sermon was written several years ago, and is part of a series. This last fact may account, in part, for its meagreness and occasional approach to one-sidedness in statement. Such as it is, it is at your service. My prayer is, that GOD may over-rule its publication to the advancement of sound doctrine in his Church.
Affectionately and faithfully,
Your friend and servant in Christ, W. R. WHITTINGHAM.
BALTIMORE, December 5th, 1842.
ST. MATTHEW, CHAP. I, VERSE 23.
"They shall call his name Emmanuel, which, being interpreted, is, GOD with us."
THESE are in part the words of the prophet Isaiah, in part, the explanation of the inspired historian, Matthew. The form of the prophet's statement—,"they shall call his name Emmanuel" —shows it to be a prediction, uttered in anticipation of times to come: but the adoption of the passage by the Evangelist, with his declaration, speaking as moved by the Holy Ghost, that it "was fulfilled" in the birth of Jesus, turns it into a record of fact; and the care taken to explain its terms, is evidence of its importance. Important indeed! that when we were lost beyond redemption by created strength or wisdom, the Infinite Uncreate Eternal with his own arm brought salvation, and emptying himself of the ineffable splendors of the GODHEAD, veiled his glory in the form of mortal man!
This is unquestionably the primary sense of the expression, "they shall call his name"—that is, they shall recognize him as being—"Emmanuel, GOD with us"—GOD dwelling among, associating with, us mortals, as one of ourselves: it is precisely equivalent, in this sense, to the declaration of the Apostle John, "the word was made flesh, and dwelt among us;" and to that of Paul, "GOD was manifest in the flesh."
GOD is "with us" by his preserving power and protecting care; He is "manifest to us" in the immensity of his handiworks and the never-ceasing tokens of his goodness; but these passages relate to another presence—a different manifestation;—the actual inhabitation of a human frame by the Divine Nature, and the presence of that corporeal temple of the Godhead in this earth. [5/6] For our sakes, Thou Eternal Word, Thou wast manifested in that sacred flesh of Thine, though in pity to our weakness Thy power and majesty lay hid beneath the veil of poor mortality! For our sakes, Thou Most High, Thou didst visit this speck in that vast universe which Thy fiat called into being, and assume our meanness and our woes! Well might thy prophet foretell the fact to Israel, as a transcending instance and pledge of Thy continuing mercy! Well might Thine Apostle claim the fulfilment of the prophecy as crowning proof of Thine errand—to "save Thy people from their sins!"
But we have seen, brethren, that the words of the evangelist and of St. Paul have, necessarily, a nobler, yet more limited sense than might be given them, if applied only to the general relations of our Maker to his creatures: while He is "with us" by his Providence, and "manifest to" us in his works, we must understand the sacred writers to speak of a distinct and peculiar "presence" and "manifestation:" is it not, therefore, possible that while they speak of that, their declarations may have reference also to still other and more peculiar displays of redeeming love—not distinct from that great act, but flowing from and included under it? If GOD, being "with us" by his Providence, has also vouchsafed to be "with us" in a more special sense by becoming flesh and dwelling among us; is it not possible that even this last presence "with us" as a race may include a still more special residence among that portion of the human family which he has "called to the knowledge of his grace and faith in Him," and chosen to be the depositaries of his covenant of mercy?
There is a probability—a fitness—in such a supposition, even before it is brought to the test of Scripture. But there it is abundantly borne out by explicit evidence.
When JESUS, who by his birth fulfilled the prophecy that "GOD should be with us "—of whose birth the evangelist declares that then that promise was accomplished—when He left this [6/7] earth, to appear at the right hand of the Majesty on High, there forever to make intercession for His people, His last words to His disciples were, "I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." He is "with us:" it is precisely what was said when he came into the world, and now he makes the declaration on leaving it! It is evident that some other, more limited sense must be sought in the terms when used by our LORD himself, than they had in their first application by the prophet and evangelist. A presence of another kind must be intended—a presence of a special nature, vouchsafed to those only to whom the promise is directed.—I need not enter into proof to you, brethren, that as the representatives of His Church, and only in that character, the assembled disciples received from the ascending Saviour the assurance of His abiding presence as their Heavenly Head; and that the presence of which he spake was not bodily association—the personal communion of friend with friend which the disciples had till then enjoyed—but a special exercise of the Divine attribute of omnipresence, for the comfort, instruction, and protection of His followers, wherever men should call upon His name, to the end of time.
Here then, beside the general sense, in which GOD has ever been with all creation, we have a second special sense in which He is with "us men,"—a sense applying with a second limitation, that is, only to such as have heard the word of his Salvation, and been grafted into the body of his Church.
Yet both these progressively limited special senses have a collective bearing—they relate to bodies—not to individuals; first to mankind,—then to the called and chosen heirs of promise—but to no one man, nor to any one Christian, independently and distinct from his fellows.—But there is another declaration made by our LORD, of the same form and general purport as those we have been considering, which has an individual application.—"He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him!"—"GOD is with us," say the prophet and evangelist of [7/8] the whole race; "I am with you," says the Saviour to his Church; "he is in me, and I in him," he here declares:—the only difference in expression is, that the last is more full and strong. But it is certainly not to be understood in either of the senses belonging to the other two declarations. Like them, it implies the presence of GOD our Saviour—an union with Christ; but it implies something more—a presence—an union, different, certainly, in degree, and as we shall soon see, in kind.
This might be expected, from what has been already ascertained concerning the other modifications of the Divine presence. The most general of all—that common to all creation, is also least in degree—the mere display of the attributes of DEITY. The gradually decreasing limits of GOD's special presence with the race, in the incarnation; and with His Church, by the divine Headship of the Redeemer; are accompanied with proportionate gradually increased displays of love and condescension, and augmented benefits. When, therefore, the limits are again narrowed, and individual believers are made the subject of the promise, we naturally look for a still further increase of privilege—a manifestation more full, and more fraught with rich mercies, even than that promised to the body of the Church, of which the individual to whom this more special grant is made, is already a partaker.
The expectation is not fallacious. The presence of Christ promised in the declaration, "He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him"—does differ, in degree, from that promised to his Church; and still more from that by which he took part of our nature, and became "Emmanuel."
It is conditional, which the others are not; and therefore, as it is to be enjoyed by those who share in both the others, it must be something superadded—something more, which may be joined to them, but is not included in them. The vilest wretch whose crimes have ever disgraced humanity, shared with his fellow-men the privilege of a common nature with the incarnate Son of GOD. The most heartless hypocrite that the baptismal waters ever [8/9] sealed to condemnation, added blackness to his guilt by sinning against a present Saviour, with him as a member, though gangrened and dead, of his spiritual body. But the presence of the Redeemer with him "that eateth his body and drinketh his blood," is limited by the fulfilment of that condition—it is an individual privilege, founded on individual pretensions.
This is clearly shown by our LORD himself, where, in the parable of the Vine and the branches, he instructs us in the nature of our connexion with Him, and teaches us to distinguish between the two-fold union of external membership and real junction in the bond of faith. "Every branch in me," He begins with saying, "that beareth not fruit, He" (the Father, the heavenly Husbandman) "taketh away." Here is an explicit avowal that "branches in him"—united with Him, enjoying, as members of His Church, His presence as its Head—may yet be barren, to be in the end "cast forth and burned." Yet a little after, he declares, "He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit." The terms used to express union are here the same as before—"branches being in him:" but it is very plain that the union is different, since it is described as producing fruit, while the other might exist, and the branch yet be barren. The distinction is the same as I have been drawing between the believer's union with Christ by virtue of his promise to be "always with His Church," and that which is conditional upon spiritually feeding on him by faith. The dead branch is joined to the tree—a part of the tree—as really as that which is full of sap; but in the living branch, there is, beside the coherence of wood, and bark, and vessels, a connexion kept up by the inward circulation of the vital juices—the spirit of the tree is propelled into it from the root, and swells its buds, and bursts forth in blossoms, and fills its fruit. So the outward profession of Christianity secures a real union with the Head of the Church—a real participation of His presence as its Prophet, Priest and King; but the inward opening of the heart by faith establishes and keeps [9/10] up a connexion of another kind, in which the believer receives that spiritual quickening and nourishment—those actual experiences of the power of Christ in blessing, teaching, and supporting—which as the sap to the branch, furnish to him the power and disposition to bring forth fruit.
But is this all? is there no other difference between the presence of Christ vouchsafed to his whole Church, and that to which its lively members have a claim given in the promise "He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him?"
There is a peculiarity in the terms of the condition here made, which forbids us to believe so. Our LORD certainly knew the full force of the language which he then used, and of the symbolic rite, so remarkably confirmative of that language, which he afterward established; and, knowing it, he must have used the language and chosen the symbols, designedly to convey to us the impression that when in humble penitence and self-renunciation we come before him and solemnly profess, by receiving the bread and wine, that we depend on Him alone for eternal life and spiritual nourishment, as our bodies depend on corporeal sustenance—that when we, for our parts, thus show our faith, He, for his, not only accepts that faith as a sufficient plea for interest in his atoning merits, but actually imparts himself to us, becomes present with us and in us, (as the sap pervades the living branch,) and takes possession of the soul as a spiritual temple, there inhabiting to shed peace and joy, and holiness within.
Lest this statement should be mistaken, before I proceed to confirm it from other parts of Holy Scripture, let me distinctly warn you, brethren, not to suppose that the "eating of Christ's flesh and the drinking of his blood" consists in the mere outward participation of their symbols in the Eucharist. The bread and wine, I hardly need say, are not the flesh and blood, but bare signs: their reception, then, is not, in itself, the eating and drinking of the things signified: that, too, is merely signified by [10/11] the outward act. It is the inner man, the soul, the affections, the will, the intellect, that feeds, to the soul's nourishment, on that spiritual food. "We have an altar," says the Apostle to the Hebrews, "whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle," and goes on to compare Christ suffering without the gate, with the sacrifice of the day of atonement under the Old Dispensation. "The altar," of which we Christians have this right "to eat," is therefore, indubitably, the sacrifice of Christ, with its blessed consequences, of atonement and reconciliation. What else can our "eating" of it mean, than becoming partakers of its benefits, by that faith which receives Him as our propitiation, owns Him as our substitute, and looks to him as our all-prevailing intercessor? The soul's act in believing, then, is the spiritual eating and drinking, by which Christ's flesh and blood become ours—ours to deliver us from eternal death and give everlasting life—ours to nourish us in holiness and righteousness to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. But, on the other hand, let it not be forgotten that this faith can never be so fully, so expressively, or so acceptably declared, as in the bodily act of receiving the symbols which Christ Himself has made significative and communicative of His body given, and his blood shed, for us. That act is in itself nothing: but it is the only appointed way of indicating the spiritual act which is every thing; and therefore it is our only means of setting up a claim for the inestimable boon which is promised to that spiritual act—the "dwelling of Christ in us, and of us in Him."
But if Solomon, when pleading for the acceptance of the temple which his lavished treasures had reared, a monument of splendour and magnificence, shrunk back in awe, exclaiming "But will GOD indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?"—may not we, with even more propriety, recoil from the belief that HE, the High and Holy One who inhabiteth eternity, would indeed vouchsafe to dwell in us—polluted as we are, [11/12] conceived in sin and nourished in transgression, unable to endure one glance of that eye which looks not on iniquity? Were it our speculation—the presumptuous daring of man's imagination—well we might!—But not so, when He declares it! Is GOD a man, that he should lie? and has not Emmanuel,—GOD with us—assured us, not only that He is always with His Church, to the end of the world,—but that to the humblest believer, the most self-abhorring, mourning, sin-struck soul, He will manifest himself in still closer presence—so that "he"—every one—"that eateth the flesh and drinketh the blood of Christ, dwelleth in Christ, and Christ in him?"
And how do his messengers, taught and guided into all truth by His Spirit, express themselves on this point?
"I live," says Paul; "yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." Here is no fear—no hesitation—no ambiguity: but a distinct and confident annunciation of his belief that Christ, the incarnate Son of GOD, was in him,—in other words dwelt in him—and by His presence imparted spiritual life. There is no such thing as evasion of this testimony. It is explicit that the promise which JESUS made, while on earth, to all who should spiritually feed on him, was realized by Paul.
Nor by him alone:—for he speaks with equal confidence and plainness of his fellow-believers: "Know ye not," says he to the Corinthians, "Know ye not, your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates." He knows of but one alternative,—either we have not spiritually eaten and drank the body and blood of the Redeemer—we have never laid hold of His atonement with the strong grasp of faith, and made it ours —or, He is in us—He keeps His promise, and abides in us, and we in him.
Elsewhere, the assertion being made less positively, because in another form, the fact is stated and explained more at length. Thus to the Ephesians the same apostle indicates both the condition on which the indwelling of the Son of GOD in the believer [12/13] is dependent, the mode in which it is effected, and its results: "that ye may be strengthened," he prays for them, "with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith." Here the very words of the Saviour's promise—to "dwell" in us—are repeated; the condition is explained, as you have already had it explained to you, to be "faith;" the mode of Christ's dwelling in our hearts is indicated,—"by His Spirit;" and its result,—"our being strengthened with might in the inner man"—is stated.
To precisely the same effect is a passage in the Epistle to the Romans:—"If Christ be in you, the body is dead, because of sin, but the spirit is life, because of righteousness." Here you perceive, the Apostle ascribes the spiritual life of all believers, as you just heard him ascribe his own, to Christ's being in them: but, a few lines afterward, he says, "if the Spirit of Him that raised up JESUS from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up JESUS from the dead, shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you." Compare this with the former assertion, to what does it amount, but the exact purport of the statement made to the Ephesians—that Christ indeed "dwells in" the true believer—that He dwells in Him "by His Spirit"—and that the consequence of this indwelling is spiritual life and strength?
But one more reference to GOD's word is needed, brethren, to complete the chain of evidence, and again connect it with the solemnity in which we are about to join. You find spiritual life ascribed to the indwelling of Christ in the believer; and that indwelling promised in words conveying a direct and necessary reference to the ordinance which is the highest and only appointed external evidence of faith [i.e. Prehensile: in baptism faith receives, what in the Eucharist it takes.] in the atonement; you also find the same indwelling of Christ described as taking place by the dwelling of his Spirit in us: it only remains that that too should be connected with the sacramental reception of the symbols of redeeming love, to complete the wonderful harmony of [13/14] scriptural truth, and the strong evidence that,—incredibly transcending as the privilege may seem,—when, in humble, earnest faith in the great Propitiation, we receive its emblems around that altar, Christ imparts himself to us, takes up his abode in us, and dwells in us to give life, light, joy, holiness, and peace.
And the Eucharist is so connected with the reception of the Spirit, brethren, and the chain of evidence is so completed, and the harmony of Holy Scripture is thus made entire! "By one Spirit," says St. Paul, arguing for mutual forbearance among Christians, from their unity in Christ, "By one Spirit are we all baptized into one body;—and have been all made to drink into one Spirit." [1 Cor. xii. 13.] Here are the two Sacraments mentioned, as bonds of union among Christians; and their effects distinguished, as the one joining us in one outward body, the other making us joint partakers of one inward benefit—the indwelling of the Spirit [Neither in the one case excluding inward benefit, nor in the other, outward conjunction.]—THAT indwelling which we have seen to be the means by which the LORD JESUS fulfils his promise that He shall "dwell in us, and we in Him."
While these obtuse senses darken the soul's vision, brethren, and these walls of clay shut us out from the bliss which is at GOD's right hand, the portion of the redeemed delivered from the burden of the flesh, there is no more glorious privilege, no fuller enjoyment, than that which this evidence assures to the truly penitent, humble and believing communicant. Such, and such alone, realize all the fulness of the glad tidings announced by the prophet when he foretold the expected Saviour as "Emmanuel, GOD with us." The very beasts of the forest own the presence of their Maker when His thunders shake the heavens and the sharp arrows of His lightning spread round them death and devastation. The scorner at the offered mercies of redemption, when the horrors of approaching judgment dispel his cherished doubts, learns, too late, to recognize his GOD as He dwelt [14/15] among men, the lowly and despised JESUS. The false professor of a faith which has never mastered his corrupt propensities feels a present GOD when he shrinks from those tests of obedience which he should esteem his noblest privileges; and even to him the Saviour is ever nigh (yes, brethren, even now!) with arms extended to receive him, if he will yet turn and live. But how different the sense in which He manifests Himself, in very deed "GOD with us," to those who in true penitence and faith, here feast the soul upon the rich banquet of redeeming love! Sorrows and sore trials they may—they must have in this state of discipline—but in all, EMMANUEL is their stay—the stronger, the heavier their affliction—the nearer, as their trials thicken and press round. Temptations may assault them, corruption may perplex and almost cast them down; but still their Saviour shall be called, for them, "EMMANUEL, God with them," to repel temptation and overcome the flesh, to support them in the conflict, and bring them off more than conquerors. Dangers, distresses, losses, privations, anguish of mind and body—they may be called on to endure them all—but in all, an Almighty Friend is ever with them, turning bitterness to pleasure, and giving the oil of joy for mourning:—in the sight of the world, they may seem to be cast off and destitute, but their treasure is within—"Christ in them, the hope of glory."
Now, brethren, is the time to secure that glorious hope. JESUS must be sought while life, and health, and opportunity are yours. He calls you in His word, He offers Himself to you in His ordinances,—come to Him, believe on Him, open to Him an humble contrite heart, and He is yours—"EMMANUEL, GOD with you," to dwell in you, and give lasting peace, and joy passing understanding.
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