|« Prev||A Sermon upon the Supper of the Lord||Next »|
A Sermon upon the Supper of the Lord
There are two sacraments in Christ's church; the one of initiation, that is, wherewith we are enrolled, as it were, into the household and family of God, which sacrament we call baptism; the other wherewith we are conserved, fed, kept, and nourished, to continue in the same family, which is called the Lord's supper, or the body and blood of our Saviour Jesus Christ, broken for our sins, and shed for our transgressions.
Of the former sacrament, that is, of baptism, I do not design to speak now. But of the Lord's supper I purpose at present to speak, through the help of God, because we are assembled in Christ (I hope) to celebrate the same. Now that what I shall speak may be better observed and retained by you, I will tell you how and in what sort I will speak of it. Three things I would have marked, as the principles and scopes whereto I will refer all that I shall at this time speak of it. They are these: Who, What, and Wherefore. That is, First: Who instituted this thing which we are about to celebrate? Secondly, What the thing is which is instituted? And, Thirdly, Wherefore and to what end it was instituted? whereby we shall be taught how to use it.
First, Who instituted this sacrament and supper? You all know that things are more esteemed sometimes by the dignify and authority of the person, sometimes for the wisdom of the person, sometimes for the power and magnificence of the person, and sometimes for the tender love and kindness of the person.
If need were, I could by examples set forth each of these; but I hope it is not necessary. Now then, how can the thing, which we are about to celebrate, but be highly esteemed of every one, since the Author of it does want no dignity, no authority, no wisdom, no power, no magnificence, no holiness, no tender love and kindness, but has all dignity, authority, wisdom, power, magnificence, holiness, tender love, mercy, glory, and absolutely all that can be wished. He is God eternal, coequal and substantial with the Father, and with the Holy Ghost, the Image of the substance of God, the Wisdom of the Father, the Brightness of his glory, by whom all things were made, are ruled, and governed. He is the King of all kings, and the Lord of all lords. He is the Messias of the world, our most dear and loving Brother, Saviour, Mediator, Advocate, Intercessor, Husband, Priest. So that whatever comes from Him cannot but be esteemed, loved, and embraced, if dignity, authority, wisdom power, glory, goodness, and mercy please us. Yea, if any thing that can be wished please us, then cannot this which our Lord instituted but please us, and that so much the more, by how much it is one of the last things which he instituted and commanded. May God open our eyes to see these things accordingly, so shall we come with more reverence to this table of the Lord, which may he grant for his mercy's sake. Amen. And thus much for the first, Who instituted this sacrament.
Second, What the sacrament is? If we ask our eyes, our nose, our mouth, our taste, our hands, and the reason of man, they will all make the same answer that it is bread and wine. And verily, herein they speak the truth and lie not, as by many things may be proved, although the papists prate their pleasure to the contrary.
And here, my dearly beloved, I think I shall not be either tedious or unprofitable unto you if I tarry a little in showing this verity, that the substance of bread and wine remains in the sacrament after the words of consecration (as they call them) are spoken: whereby we may learn how shameless they are, who would force men to believe transubstantiation, which is an error whereupon in a manner all popery depends. For it is the stay of their priesthood, which is neither after the order of Aaron, nor after the order of Melchizedek, but after the order of Baal, as is partly seen by their number. For the false prophets and priests of Baal were always many more in number, when the wicked were in authority, than the true priests and prophets of the Lord, as the holy histories of the Bible teach. Read 1 Kings xviii.
The supper of the Lord, or the sacrament of Christ's body, which the papists call the sacrament of the altar, as though that were Christ's sacrament, which they can never prove; for it being perverted and used to a contrary end (as sacrificing propitiatorily for the sins of the quick and of the dead, and idolatry, by adorning or worshipping it by godly honour, &c.) is no more Christ's sacrament but a horrible profanation of it. And therefore as Christ called God's temple, which was called a house of prayer, a den of thieves, because of the abusing and profaning of it by the priests; so this which the papists call the sacrament of the altar, we may truly call an abominable idol and therefore I would all men should know that the sacrament of the altar, as the papists now do abuse it, omitting certain substantial points of the Lord's institution, and putting in the stead thereof their own dregs and dreams is not the sacrament of Christ's body, nor the Lord's supper, whereof, when we speak reverently, as our duty is, we would not that men should think we speak of the popish mass. I say, therefore, in the supper of the Lord, or in the sacrament of Christ's body, there remains the substance of bread and wine, as our senses and reason teach, and these many things also teach the same.
First, the Holy Ghost plainly tells us so, by calling it often bread, after the words of consecration, as 1 Cor. x. "Is not the bread which we break a partaking of the body of Christ?'' says Paul. Lo! he plainly says, the bread which we break, not only calling it bread, but adding thereto 'breaking,' which cannot be attributed either to Christ's body, whereof no bone was broken, nor to any accident (or mere appearance without substance, editor), but must needs be of a substance, which substance, if it is not Christ's body, must be bread. As in the 11th chapter four times he plainly calls it so. "He that eats of this bread, he that receives this bread," &c. And in the Acts of the Apostles, we read how that (in speaking of the communion) "they met together break bread," &c. So that it is plain that the substance of bread and wine remains in the supper after the words of consecration, as also may appear plainly by Christ's own words, who calls that which he gave them in the cup, wine, or the fruit of the vine, as both Matthew and Mark write: whereby we see that there is no transubstantiation of the wine, and therefore we may also see, that there is no transubstantiation of the bread.
As for the papists' cavilling, that it has the name of bread, because it was bread, as Simon the leper was still called leprous, though he was healed, or as Moses' rod, being turned into a serpent, was still called a rod, (Matt. xxvi., Exod. vii.,) it proves nothing; for there was in the one a plain sight, and the senses certified, that Simon was no leper, and in the other plain mention that the rod was turned into a serpent. But concerning the sacrament, neither the senses see any other thing than bread, neither is there any mention made of turning; and therefore their cavil is plainly seen to be but a cavil, and of no force. But to bring more reasons against transubstantiation.
Secondly, that the substance of bread remains still, the very text teaches, (Matt. xxvi., Mark xiv., Luke xxii., 1 Cor. xi.) For the evangelist and the apostle St. Paul witness that Christ gave that to his disciples, and called it his body, which he took, for which he gave thanks, and which he brake; but he took bread, gave thanks on bread, and broke bread; therefore he gave bread, and called bread his body, as he called the cup the new testament; so that it follows by this, that there is no transubstantiation. And this reason I myself have promised in writing to prove by the authority of the fathers, namely, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, Cyprian, Epiphanius, Jerome, Augustine, Theodoret, Cyril, Bede, if I may have the use of my books.
Thirdly, that in the sacrament there is no transubstantiation of the bread, I prove by this reason. As by our Saviour Christ, the Spirit of truth spake of the bread. "This is my body," so says the same Spirit of truth of the same bread, that we being many are one body and one bread, &c. (1 Cor. x.) So that as it appears the sacrament is not the church by transubstantiation, even so is it not Christ's natural body by transubstantiation.
Fourthly, I prove that there is no transubstantiation, by Luke and Paul's words spoken over the cup. For they are no less effectual to transubstantiate the cup, than their words spoken of the bread are operative and mighty to transubstantiate the bread. For as they say of the bread 'This is my body,' so say they of the cup, 'This cup is the new testament,' which is absurd to be spoken or thought either of the cup, or of the thing in the cup, by transubstantiation; yea, rather in saying these words, 'This cup is the new testament,' we are taught by their coupling the word cup to the demonstrative this, how we should in the words, 'This is my body,' know that the word this there demonstrates bread.
Fifthly, as the reasons before brought forth prove, that the substance of bread remains in the sacrament, so does the definition of a sacrament. For the fathers affirm it to Consist of an earthly thing and of a heavenly thing, of the word and of the element, of sensible things and of things which are perceived by the mind. But transubstantiation wholly takes away the earthly thing, the element, the sensible thing, and so makes it no sacrament; and therefore the definition of a sacrament teaches, that bread, which is the earthly thing, the sensible thing, and the element, remains still, as St. Augustine says. The word comes to the element, (he says not, takes away the element,) and so it is made a sacrament.
Sixthly, the nature and property of a sacrament teaches also what I have alarmed. For as Cyprian writes, that sacraments bear the names of the things which they signify, so St. Augustine teaches, that if sacraments have not some signification with the things whereof they are sacraments, then they are no sacraments. Now in the Lord's supper this similitude is first in nourishing, that as bread nourishes the body, so Christ's body broken feeds the soul; secondly, in bringing together many into one, that as in the sacrament many grains of corn are made one bread, many grapes are made one liquor and wine, so the multitude, which worthily receive the sacrament, are made one body with Christ and his church. Last of all, in a still stronger likeness or similitude, that as bread eaten turns into our nature, so we, rightly eating the sacrament by faith, turn into the nature of Christ; so that it is plain to them that will see, that to take the substance of bread away is quite against the nature and property of a sacrament.
I will speak nothing how this their doctrine of transubstantiation, besides the manifold absurdities it has in it, (to rehearse which I omit,) utterly overthrows the use of the sacrament, and is quite contrary to the end wherefore it was instituted, and so is no longer a sacrament, but an idol, and is the cause of much idolatry, converting the people's hearts from a heavenly conversation to an earthly, and turning the communion into a private action, and a matter of gazing and peeping, adoring and worshipping the work of men's hands for the living God, who dwells not in temples made with men's hands, much less lies he in pixes (the box or case in which the consecrated wafer is carried, editor) and chests (or tabernacle, a repository upon the altar in which the wafer is kept, editor), whose true worship is in spirit and verity, which may God grant us all to render unto him continually. Amen.
The sacrament of baptism also teaches us, that as the substance of the water remains there, so in the Lord's supper the substance of bread remains after consecration. For as by baptism we are engrafted into Christ, so by the supper we are fed with Christ. These two sacraments the apostle gladly unites together, 1 Cor. x. and xii. "We are baptised into one body, (says he,) and have drunk all of one spirit," meanings by it the cup, as Chrysostom and other great and learned men well interpret it. As therefore in baptism is given unto us the Holy Ghost, and pardon of our sins, which yet lie not lurking in the water, so in the Lord's supper is given unto us the communion of Christ's body and blood, that is, grace, forgiveness of sins, innocence, life, immortality, without any transubstantiation, or including of the same in the bread. By baptism the old man is put off, and the new man put on; yea, Christ is put on, but without transubstantiating the water. (Gal. iii.) And even so it is in the Lord's supper. We, by faith, spiritually in our souls, feed on Christ's body broken, eat his flesh and drink his blood, dwell in him and he in us, but without transubstantiation.
As for the cavil they make, that we are baptised into one body, meaning thereby the mystical body, and not the natural body of Christ, whereby they would enforce that we are fed with the natural body of Christ, while we are not engraved into it, but into the mystical body, and so would put away the reason aforesaid as for this cavil, I say, we may soon avoid (refute, editor) it, if we consider that Christ, who is the head of the mystical body, is not separate from the body; and therefore to be engrafted into the mystical body, is to be engrafted into the natural body of Christ, to be a member of his flesh, and bone of his bones, as pope Leo well does witness, in saying, that 'the body of the regenerate is made the flesh of Christ crucified.' And hereto I could add some reasons for the excellency of baptism. I trow (think, editor) it is rather to be begotten than to be nourished. As for the excellent miracle of the manifestation of the Trinity, and the descending of the Holy Ghost in baptism in a visible form, the like whereto was not seen in the Lord's supper, I will omit to speak of it further than that I would you should know that it were not difficult to set forth the excellency of this sacrament, as well as of the supper.
It is a plain sign of antichrist, to deny that the substance of bread and wine is in the Lord's supper after consecration; for in so doing and granting transubstantiation the property of the human nature of Christ is denied, for it is not of the human nature, but of the divine nature, to be in many places at once. Now grant transubstantiation, and then Christ's natural body must needs be in many places, which is nothing else but to confound the two natures in Christ, or to deny Christ's human nature which is the selfsame that St John says is to deny Christ to be come in the flesh. And this whoso does, by the testimony of St. John, is an antichrist in his so doing whatsoever otherwise he may say. Read St. Augustine in his Epistle to Dardanus, and his thirty-first treatise upon St. John, and you small easily see that Christ's body must needs be in one place, but his truth is in all places.
If there is no substance of bread in the sacrament but transubstantiation, then Christ's body is received of the ungodly, and eaten with their teeth, which is not only against St Augustine, who calls this expression, "Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man," &c. a figurative speech; but also against the plain scriptures, which affirm them to dwell in Christ and Christ in them, and they to have everlasting life that eat him, which the wicked have not, although they eat the sacrament. He that eats of this bread (says Christ) shall live for evermore: therefore they eat not Christ's body, but (as Paul says,) they eat in judgment and damnation, which I think is another thing than Christ's body. And this St. Augustine affirms, saying, None eat Christ's body who are not in the body of Christ, that is, (as he expounds it,) in whom Christ dwells not, and he in Christ: which thing the wicked do not, because they want faith and the Holy Spirit, which are the means whereby Christ is received.
Besides the things which I have here brought forth to impugn transubstantiation, I could bring the fathers, who succeeded continually many hundred years after Christ, to confirm the same. Also I could show that transubstantiation is only a new doctrine, not established before satan, who was tied for a thousand years, was let loose: also I could show that ever hitherto since it was established, in all times it has been resisted and spoken against; yea, before this doctrine, the church was by no means so endowed with goods, lands, and possessions, as it has been ever since. It has brought no small gain, no small honour, no small ease to the clergy, and therefore no marvel that they strive and fight for it. It is their Maozim (Dan. 11:38, editor), it is their Helen (an allusion to the Trojan war: Bradford means that transubstantiation is the leading object with the church of Rome, which it will not relinquish, and for which it will hazard all other things, editor). May God destroy it with the breath of his mouth, as shortly he will for his name's sake. Amen.
If time would serve, I could and would here tell you of the absurdities which come by this doctrine, but for time's sake I must omit it. Only, I beseech you, see this; already I have proved that this their doctrine of transubstantiation is an untruth; and forget not that it is the whole stay of all popery, and the pillow of their priesthood, whereby Christ's priesthood, sacrifice, ministry, and truth is hindered, yea, perverted and utterly overthrown. May God our Father, in the blood of his Son Christ, open the eyes and minds of all our magistrates, and all others that bear the name of Christ, to see it in time, to God's glory and their own salvation. Amen.
Now to return to the second matter, What the sacrament is? you see that to the senses and reason of man it is bread and wine, which is most true, as by the scriptures and otherwise I have already proved, and therefore away with transubstantiation.
But here, lest we should make it no sacrament, for a sacrament consists of two things, and lest a man should by this gather, that we make it none other thing but bare bread and a naked sign, and so rail at their pleasure on us, saying, How can a man be guilty of the body and blood of Christ by unworthy receiving of it, if it is but bare bread, and so forth? For this purpose I will now speak a little more about it, by God's grace, to stop their mouths, and to stir up your good hearts more to the worthy estimation and perception of this holy mystery. When a loving friend gives to you a thing, or sends to you a token, even though it be of small account, I think you do not as you should do, if with the thing you consider not the mind of your friend that sends or gives it, and esteem and receive it accordingly. And so of this bread, I think, that if you do not rather consider the mind of Christ than the thing which you see; yea, if you do not altogether consider Christ's mind, you deal dishonestly and harlot-like with him. For it is the property of harlots to consider the things given and sent them, rather than the love and mind of the giver and sender; whereas, true lovers do not consider in any point the things given or sent, but the mind of the party: so we, if we are true lovers of Christ, must not consider merely the outward thing which we see, and our senses perceive, but rather altogether we must and should see and consider the mind of Christ, and thereafter and accordingly esteem the sacrament.
But how shall we know the mind of Christ? Even as a man's mind is best known by his word, so by Christ's word shall we know his mind. Now his words are manifest and most plain. "This (says he) is my body," therefore should we esteem, take, and receive it accordingly. If he had spoken nothing, or if he had spoken doubtfully, then might we have been in some doubt. But since he speaks so plainly, saying, "This is my body," who can, may, or dare be so bold as to doubt of it? He is the truth, and cannot lie; he is omnipotent, and can do all things, therefore it is his body. This I believe, this I confess, and pray you all heartily to beware of thinking these and such like words, to be but a sign or a figure of his body; except you will discern betwixt signs which signify only, and signs which also represent, confirm, and seal up, or (as a man may say) give with their signification. As for example: an ivy-bush is a sign of wine to be sold; the budding of Aaron's rod signified Aaron's priesthood allowed of the Lord; the reservation of Moses' rod signified the rebellion of the children of Israel; the stones taken out of Jordan, Gideon's fleece of wool, &c.; such as these are signs significative, and show no gift. But in the other signs, which some call exhibitive, there is not only a signification of the thing, but also a declaration of a gift, yea, in a certain manner, a giving also. As baptism signifies not only the cleansing of the conscience from sin by the merits of Christ's blood, but also is a very cleansing from sin; and therefore it was said to Paul, that he should arise, and wash away his sins, and not that he should arise, and take only a sign of washing away his sins. In the Lords supper the bread is called a partaking of the Lord's body, and not only a bare sign of the Lord's body.
This I speak not as though the elements of these sacraments were transubstantiated, which I have already impugned, neither as though Christ's body were in the bread or wine, or were tied to the elements, otherwise than sacramentally and spiritually, nor that the bread and wine may not and must not be called sacramental and external figures, but that they might be discerned from significative and bare signs only, and be taken for signs exhibitive and representative.
By this means a Christian conscience will call and esteem the bread of the Lord as the body of Christ; for it never will esteem the sacraments of Christ after their exterior appearance, but after the words of Christ, whereof it comes that the fathers, as Chrysostom and others speak with so full a mouth, when they speak of the sacrament, for their respect was to Christ's words. If the schoolmen who followed them had possessed the same spirit which they had, then would they never have consented to transubstantiation. For with great admiration some of the fathers do say that the bread is changed, or turned into the body of Christ, and the wine into his blood, meaning it of a mutation or change, not corporeal, but spiritual, figurative, sacramental, or mystical. For now it is not common bread nor common wine, being ordained to serve for the food of the soul. The schoolmen have understood it as the papists now preach, of a substantial changing, as though it were no great miracle that common bread should now be assumed into that dignity, that it should be called Christ's body, and serve for a celestial food, and be made a sacrament of his body and blood.
As therefore I have before spoken, I would wish that this sacrament should be esteemed and called by us Christian men, after Christ's words, namely, Christ's body, and the wine Christ's blood, rather than otherwise. Not that I mean any other presence of Christ's body than a presence of grace, a presence to faith, a presence spiritually; and not corporally, really, naturally, and carnally, as the papists mean. For in such a manner Christ's body is only in heaven, on the right hand of God, the Father Almighty, whither our faith in the use of the sacrament ascends, and receives the whole Christ accordingly.
Yea, but one will say, that to call the sacrament on that sort is to give an occasion of idolatry to the people, who will take the sacrament which they see simply for Christ's body, as we are well taught by experience; and therefore it were better to call it bread, and so should there be less harm, especially in this age.
To this objection I answer, that indeed great idolatry is committed to and about this sacrament, and therefore men ought, as much as they can, to avoid occasioning or confirming it. But inasmuch as the Holy Ghost is wiser than man, and had foresight of the evils that might be, and yet notwithstanding calls it Christ's body, I think we should do evil, if we should take upon us to reform his speech. If ministers did their duties in catechising and preaching, then doubtless to call the sacrament Christ's body, and to esteem it accordingly could not give occasion to idolatry, and confirm it; therefore woe unto them that preach not.
There are two evils about the sacraments, which the Holy Ghost has taught us to avoid. For lest we should with the papists think Christ's body present in or with the bread really, naturally, and corporally to be received with our bodily mouths (whereas there is no other presence of Christ's body than spiritual and to the faith,) in many places he keeps still the name of bread, as in the epistle to the Corinthians, the tenth and eleventh chapters. And lest we should make too light of it, making it but a bare sign, and no better than common bread, the Holy Ghost calls it Christ's body, whose speech I wish we would follow, and that not only as well to avoid the evil which is nowadays most to be feared concerning the sacrament, I mean the contemning it, as also because no faithful man comes to the sacrament to receive bread simply, but rather, yea, altogether to communicate with Christ's body and blood; for to eat and drink (as Paul says,) they have houses of their own. The contempt of the sacrament in the days of king Edward caused these plagues upon us at present; the Lord be merciful unto us. Amen. And thus much for the objection of calling the sacrament by the name of Christ's body.
But some may say, "To call the sacrament Christ's body, and to make no other presence than by grace or spirituality to faith, which is of things hoped for, and of things which to the bodily senses do not appear, is to make no presence at all, or to make him no otherwise present, than he is in his word when it is preached, and therefore what need have we to receive the sacrament: inasmuch as by this doctrine a man may receive him daily in the field, as well and as much as in the church, in the celebration and use of the sacrament?"
To this objection I first answer, that indeed neither the scripture nor Christian faith will give us leave to suppose there is any carnal, real, natural, corporeal, or any such gross presence of Christ's natural body in the sacrament, for it is in heaven, and the heavens must have it (as says Peter,) till Christ's coming to judgment; except we would deny the humanity of Christ, and the verity of man's nature in him. The presence therefore which we believe and confess, is such a presence as reason knows not, and the world cannot learn, nor any that look at this matter with other eyes, or hear with other ears, than with the ears and eyes of the Spirit and of faith; which faith, though it is of things hoped for, and so of things absent to the corporeal senses, yet this absence is not an absence indeed, except to reason and the odd man; the nature of faith being a possession of things hoped for; therefore to grant a presence to faith is not to make no presence at all, except to such as know not faith. And this the fathers taught, affirming Christ to be present by grace, and therefore there was not only a signification, but also an exhibition and giving of the grace of Christ's body, that is, of life, and of the seed of immortality, as Cyprian writes. We eat life, and drink life, says St. Augustine. We feel a presence of the Lord by grace or in grace, says Chrysostom. We receive the celestial food that comes from above, says Athanasius. We receive the property of the natural conjunction and knitting together, says Hilarius. We perceive the nature of flesh, the blessing that gives life, in bread and wine, says Cyrillus: and elsewhere he says, that with the bread and wine we eat the virtue of Christ's proper flesh, life, grace, and the property of the body of the only begotten Son of God,, which he himself expounds to be life. Basilius says, that we by the sacrament receive the mystical advent of Christ, grace, and the very virtue of his very nature. Ambrose says, that we receive the sacrament of the true body. Epiphanius says, we receive the body of grace. And Jerome says, that we receive spiritual flesh, which be calls other flesh than that which was crucified. Chrysostom says, that we receive influence of grace, and the grace of the Holy Ghost. St. Augustine says, that we receive grace and verity, the invisible grace and holiness of the members of Christ's body. All these sayings of the fathers confirm this our faith and doctrine of the sacrament, we granting all things herein according to them, and they in like manner unto us. And therefore the lying lips, which belie the doctors, as though they granted a carnal and real presence of Christ's body naturally and corporally according to the papists' declaration and meaning, and which belie us also, as though we denied all presence of Christ, and so made it but a bare sign, these lying lips the Lord will destroy, if they repent not, and with us believe and teach the truth, that the sacrament is a food of the soul and a matter of faith, and therefore spiritually and by faith to be talked of and understood; which faith they want, and therefore they err so grossly, since they would have such a presence of Christ as is contrary to all the Scriptures, and to our Christian religion; whereby comes no such advantage to the receiver as by the spiritual presence which we teach and affirm, according to God's word.
For we teach these benefits to be had by the worthy receiving of this sacrament, namely, that we abide in Christ, and Christ in us: again, that we attain by it a celestial life, or a life with God; moreover, that by faith and in spirit we receive not only Christ's body and blood, but also whole Christ God and man. Besides these, we grant that by the worthy receiving of this sacrament we receive remission of our sins, and confirmation of the New Testament. Last of all, by worthy receiving we get an increase of incorporation with Christ, and amongst ourselves which are his members, than which what more can be desired? Alas! that men consider nothing at all how that the coming (or union, editor) of Christ's body and blood to the sacrament is a spiritual thing, and therefore there needs no such carnal presence as the papists imagine. Who will deny a man's wife to be one body and flesh with her husband, although he be at London, and she at York? But the papists are carnal men, guided by carnal reason only, or else they would know that the Holy Ghost, because of our infirmity, uses metaphorically the words of abiding dwelling, eating, and drinking of Christ, that the unspeakable conjunction of Christ with us might partly be known. May God open their eyes to see it: and thus much for this.
Now to that part of the objection which says, that we teach Christ to be none otherwise present in the sacrament than in his word. I wish that the objectors would well consider what a presence of Christ is, in his word. I remember that St. Augustine writes that Christ's body is received sometimes visibly, and sometimes invisibly. The visible receiving he calls that which is by the sacrament; the invisible receiving he calls that which we receive by the exercise of our faith with ourselves. And St. Jerome, in the third book upon Ecclesiastes, affirms, that we are fed with the body of Christ, and we drink his blood, not only in mystery, but also in the knowledge of holy scripture; wherein he plainly shows that the same meat is offered in the words of scripture, which is offered in the sacraments; so that Christ's body and blood is no less offered by the scriptures than by the sacraments. Upon the 147th Psalm he writes also, that though these words, "He that eats my flesh, and drinks my blood," may be understood as a mystery, yet he says it is more true to take Christ's body and his blood for the word of the scriptures and the doctrine of God. Yea, upon the same Psalm he says plainly, that Christ's flesh and blood is poured into our ears by hearing the word, and therefore great is the peril if we yield to other cogitations while we hear it. And therefore St. Augustine says, that it is no less dangerous to hear God's word negligently than so to use the sacrament. But hereof may no man gather, that therefore it needs not to receive the sacrament, or to affirm that a man by himself meditating the word in the field may as much receive Christ's body as in the church, in the right use of the sacrament. For Christ ordains nothing in vain or superfluously; he ordains nothing whereof we have not need, although his authority is such, that without any questioning, his ordinances are to be observed.
Again, though in the fields a man may receive Christ's body by faith in the meditation of the word, yet I deny that a man ordinarily receives Christ's body by the meditation of Christ's death only, or by hearing of his word, with so much sight and by such sensible assurance (whereof God knows our infirmity has no small need,) as he does by the receiving of the sacrament. Not that Christ is not so much present in his word preached as he is in or with his sacrament, but because there are in the perception of the sacrament more windows open for Christ to enter into us, than by his word preached or heard. For there, I mean in the word, he has an entrance into our hearts, but only by the ears through the sound and voice of the words; but here in the sacrament he has an entrance by all our senses, by our eyes, by our nose, by our taste, and by our handling also; and therefore the sacrament well may be called seeable, sensible, tasteable, and touchable words. As therefore when many windows are opened in a house, more light may come in than when there is but one opened, even so by the perception of the sacrament a Christian man's conscience has more help to receive Christ, than simply by the word preached, heard or meditated. And therefore I think the apostle rightly calls the sacraments obsignations or scalings of God's promise. Read Rom. iv. of circumcision. And thus much for the answer to the objection aforesaid.
Now to return from whence we came, namely, to the consideration of the second thing, What the sacrament is? I have told you that it is not simply bread and wine, but rather Christ's body, so called by Christ, and so to be called and esteemed by us. But here let us mark what body and what blood Christ called it. The papists still dabble, "This is my body, this is my blood;" but what body it is, what blood it is, they show not. Look therefore, my dearly beloved, on Christ's own words, and you shall see that Christ calls it "his body broken," and "his blood shed." Mark, I say, that Christ calls it his body, which is broken, his blood, which is shed at present, and, not which was broken, or shall be broken, which was shed, or shall be shed, even as the Greek texts plainly show, thereby teaching us, that as God would have the Passover called, not "which was the Passover," or "which shall be the Passover," but plainly "the Passover," that in the use of it the passing over of the striking angel should be set before their eyes as present; so in the celebration of the Lords supper, the very passion (sufferings, editor) of Christ should be beholden with the eyes of faith as if present: for which end Christ our Saviour especially instituted this supper, saying, "Do ye this in remembrance of me;" or, as Paul says, "Show you the Lord's death till he come". The supper of the Lord then is not simply Christ's body and blood, but Christ's body broken and his blood shed. Wherefore broken, wherefore shed? Forsooth, Christ himself teaches that, saying, "Broken for you, shed for your sins, and for the sins of many." Here then we have occasion in the use of the sacrament to call to mind the greatness and grievousness of sin, which could not be taken away by any other means than by the shedding. of the most precious blood, and the breaking of the most pure body of the only begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ; by whom all things were made, all things are ruled and governed, &c. Who, considering this, shall not be touched to repent? Who in receiving this sacrament, thinking that Christ says to him, "Take, eat, this is my body, which is broken for thee; this is my blood, which is shed for thy sins;" can but tremble at the grievousness of his sins, for which such a price was paid? If there were no plague at all else to admonish man of sin, to show how grievous a thing it is in God's sight, surely that one were enough. But, alas! how are our hearts bewitched through Satan's subtilties, and the custom of sin, that we make sin a thing of no moment! May God open our eyes in time, and give us repentance, which we see this sacrament, as it were, enforces us unto, in the reverence and true use of the same.
Again, in hearing that this which we take and eat is Christ's body broken for our sins, and his blood shed for our iniquities, we are occasioned to call to mind the infinite greatness of God's mercy and truth, and of Christ's love towards us. For what a mercy is this, that God would, for man, being lost through his wilful sins, be content, yea, desirous to give his own only Son, "the image of his substance, the brightness of his glory," being in his own bosom, to be made man for us, that we men by him might be, as it were, made gods! What a mercy is this, that God the Father should be so merciful to us, that he would make this his Son, being coequal with him in divinity, a mortal man for us, that we might be made immortal by him! What a kindness is this, that the Almighty Lord should send to us his enemies, his dearly beloved Son, to he made poor, that we by him might be made rich! What compassion was this, that the omnipotent Creator of heaven and earth would deliver his own only beloved Son, for his creatures, to be not only flesh of our flesh, and bone of our bones, that we might by him through the Holy Ghost be made one with him, and so with the Father by communicating the merits of his flesh, that is, righteousness, holiness, innocence, and immortality, but also to be a slain sacrifice for our sins, to satisfy his justice, to convert or turn death into life, our sin into righteousness, hell into heaven, misery into felicity for us. What a mercy is this, them God raised up this his Son Christ, not only to justify and regenerate us, but also in his person to demonstrate unto us our state which we shall have; for in his coming we shall be like unto him. Oh! wonderful mercy of Gods which would assume (take up, editor) this his Christ, even in human body, into the heavens, there to take and keep possession for us, to lead our captivity captive, to appear before him, always praying for us; to make the throne of justice a throne of mercy, the seat of glory a seat of grace; so that with boldness we may come and appear before God, to ask and find grace in time convenient! Again, what a verity and constant truth in God is this, that he would, according to his promise made first to Adam, and so to Abraham and others, in his time accomplish it, by sending his Son so graciously! Who would doubt hereafter of any thing that he has promised? And as for Christ's dove, oh! whose heart can be able to think of it at all as it deserves? He being God would become man, he being rich would become poor, he being Lord of all the world, became a servant to us all; he being immortal, would become mortal, miserable, and last of all, endure God's curses for us. His blood was nothing too dear, his life he nothing considered, to bring us from death to life. But this his love needs more hearty weighing than many words speaking, and therefore I omit and leave it to your consideration; so in the receiving of this supper, as I desire you would tremble at God's wrath for sin, so would I have you to couple to that terror and fear, true faith, by which you might be assuredly persuaded of God's mercy towards you, and Christ's love, though all things else preached to the contrary.
Does every one of you surely think when you hear these words, .` Take, eat, this is my body, broken for your sins; drink, this is my blood, shed for your sins; that God the eternal Father, embracing you, Christ calls and embraces you most lovingly, making himself one with you, and you one with him, and one with another amongst yourselves? You ought no less to be certain now that God loves you, pardons your sins, and that Christ is all yours, than if you heard an angel out of heaven speaking so unto you. And therefore rejoice and be glad, and make this supper Eucharistiam, a thanksgiving, as the fathers named it. Be no less certain that Christ and you now are all one, than you are certain the bread and wine is one with your nature and substance after you have eaten and drunk it. Howbeit, in this it differs, that you by faith are, as it were, changed into Christ, and not Christ into you, as the bread is; for by faith he dwells in us, and we in him. May God give us faith in the use of this sacrament to receive Christ, as he gives us hands to receive the element, symbol, and visible sacrament. May God grant us, not to prepare our teeth and belly, (as St. Augustine says,) but rather of his mercy may he prepare and give us true and lively faith to use this, and all his other ordinances, to his glory and our comfort. May he sweep the houses of our hearts, and make them clean, that they may be a worthy harbour and lodging for the Lord. Amen.
Now let us come and look on the third and last thing, namely, Wherefore the Lord instituted this sacrament? Our nature is very oblivious (apt to forget, editor) of God and all his benefits: and again, it is very full of dubitation and doubting of God's love, and his kindness; therefore that these two things might be somewhat reformed and helped in us, the Lord has instituted this sacrament. I mean, that we might have in memory the principal benefit of all benefits, that is, Christ's death, and that we might be on all parts assured of communion with Christ, of all kindness the greatest that ever God gave unto man. That the former is the end wherefore Christ instituted this sacrament, he himself teaches us, saying, "Do ye this in remembrance of me." The latter the apostle no less sets forth in saying, "The bread which we break, is it not the partaking or communion of the body of Christ? Is not the cup of blessing which we bless, the partaking or communion of the blood of Christ?" So that it appears that this sacrament was instituted for the reformation and help of our forgetfulness of that which we should never forget, and our dubitation of that whereof we ought to be most certain.
Concerning the former, namely, the memory of Christy death, what advantage it brings with it, I will purposely, for time's sake, omit. Only a little will I speak of the advantages coming unto us by the partaking and communion we have with Christ. First, it teaches us, that no man can communicate with Christ, but the same must needs communicate with God's grace and favour, wherethrough sins are forgiven; therefore this advantage comes herethrough, namely, that we should be certain of the remission and pardon of our sins; which we may also perceive by the cup, in that it is called the cup of the new testament, to which testament is properly attributed on God's behalf, oblivion or remission of our sins. First, I say, therefore the supper is instituted to this end, that he which worthily receives should be certain of the remission and pardon of his sins and iniquities, how many and great soever they are. How great a benefit this is they only know who have felt the burden of sin, which of all head things is the most heavy. Again, no man can communicate with Christ's body and blood, but the same must communicate with his Spirit, for Christ's body is no dead carcass. Now he that communicates with Christ's Spirit, communicates, as with holiness, righteousness, innocence and immortality, and with all the merits of Christ's body; so does he with God and all his glory, and with the church, and all the good that ever it or any member of it had, has, or shall have. This is the communion of saints, which we believe in our creed, which has waiting on it remission of sins, resurrection of the flesh, and life everlasting.
To the end that we should be most assured and certain of all these, Christ our Saviour instituted this his supper, and therefore would have us use it; so that, I think, there is no man who sees not great cause for giving thanks to God for this holy sacrament of the Lord, whereby, if we worthily receive it, we ought to be certain that all our sins, whatsoever they are, are pardoned clearly; that we are regenerate, and born again unto a lively hope, unto an inheritance immortal, undefiled, and which can never wither away; that we are in the fellowship of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; that we are God's temples, at one with God, and God at one with us; that we are members of Christ's church, and fellows with the saints in all felicity; that we are certain of immortality in soul and body, and so of eternal life, than which what more can be demanded? Christ is ours, and we are Christ's; he dwells in us, and we in him. Oh! happy eyes, that see these things, and most happy hearts, that feel them! My dear brethren, let us pray unto the Lord to open our eyes to see these wonderful things, to give us faith to feel them. Surely we ought no less to be assured of them now in the worthy receiving of this sacrament than we are assured of the exterior symbols and sacraments. If an angel from heaven should come and tell you these things, then you would rejoice and be glad. And, my dear hearts in the Lord, I even now, though most unworthy, am sent of the Lord to tell you no less, but that you, worthily receiving this sacrament, shall receive remission of all your sins, or rather a certainty that they are remitted, and that you are even now God's darlings, temples, and fellow-inheritors of all the good that ever he has; wherefore see that you give thanks unto the Lord for this his great goodness, and praise his name for ever.
Oh, says one, I could be glad in very deed, and give thanks from my very heart, if I worthily received this sacrament. But, alas! I am a very grievous sinner, and I feel in myself very little repentance and faith, and therefore I am afraid that I am unworthy.
To answer this objection, I think it necessary to speak something of the worthy receiving in this sacrament, with as great brevity and plainness as I can. The apostle wills all men to prove and examine themselves before they eat of the bread, and drink of the cup, for they that eat and drink unworthily, eat and drink damnation; therefore this probation and examination is necessary. If men will try their gold and silver whether it is copper or no, is it not more necessary that men should try their consciences? Now how this should be, the papists teach amiss, in sending us to their auricular confession, which is impossible. The true probation and trial of a Christian conscience consists altogether in faith and repentance. Faith has respect to the doctrine and articles of our belief; repentance has respect to manners and conversation. Concerning the former, I mean faith, we may see the apostle teaches us (1 Cor. ii.;) concerning the latter, or our conversation, those sins, which are commonly called mortal or deadly, are to be removed. These sins are discerned from other sins by the apostle (Rom. vi.,) in saying, "Let not sin reign and bear sway in your mortal bodies." For truly we sin deadly when we give over to sin, and let it have the bridle at liberty, when we strive not against it, but allow it and consent to it. Howbeit, if we strive against it, if it displease us, then truly, though sin be in us, (for we ought to obey God without any resistance or unwillingness,) yet our sins are not of those sins which separate us from God, but for Christ's sake shall not be imputed unto us believing.
Therefore, my dearly beloved, if your sins do now displease you; if you purpose unfeignedly to be enemies to sin in yourselves and in others as you may, during your whole life if you hope in Christ for pardon; if you believe: according to the holy Scriptures and articles of the Christian faith set forth in your creed. If, I say, you now trust in God's mercy through Christ's merits; if you repent and earnestly purpose before God to amend your life, and to give yourselves over to serve the Lord in holiness and righteousness all the days of your life, although before this present you have most grievously sinned; I publish unto you, that you are worthy guests for this table, you shall be welcome to Christ, your sins shall be pardoned, you shall be endued with his Spirit, and so with communion with him and with the Father, and the whole church of God, Christ will dwell in you, and you shall dwell in him for evermore. Wherefore, behave yourselves accordingly with joyfulness and thanksgiving. Do you now appear before the Lord? Make clean your houses, and open the doors of your hearts by repentance and faith, that the Lord of hosts, the King of glory, may enter in; and for ever hereafter beware of all such things as might displease the eyes of his Majesty. Flee from sin as from a toad; come away from popery and all antichristian religion; be diligent and earnest in prayer; hearken to the voice of God in his word, with reverence; live worthy of your profession. Let your light so shine in your life, that men may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. As you have been darkness, so now henceforth be light in the Lord, and have society with the works of light. Now has God renewed his covenant with you: in God's sight now you are as clean and healed from all your sores of sins. Go your way, sin no more, lest a worse thing happen onto you. See that your house is new swept, and furnished with godliness and virtue, and beware of idleness, lest the devil come with seven spirits worse than himself, and so take his lodging, and then your latter end will be worse than the first.
God our Father, for the tender mercy and merits of his Son, be merciful unto us, forgive us all our sins, and give us his Holy Spirit, to purge, cleanse, and sanctify us; that if he may be holy in his sight through Christ, and that we now may be made ready and worthy to receive this holy sacrament, with the fruits of the same, to the full rejoicing and strengthening of our hearts in the Lord. To whom be all honour and glory, world without end. Amen.
|« Prev||A Sermon upon the Supper of the Lord||Next »|
►Proofing disabled for this book
► Printer-friendly version