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The resemblance of this union, by the Nourishment and the Body. The Spirit of God, well knowing how much it imports us both to know and feel this blessed union, whereof himself is the only worker, labours to set it forth to us by the representations of many of our familiar concernments, which we daily find in our meats and drinks, in our houses, in our gardens and orchards.
*That, which is nearest to us, is our NOURISHMENT. What can be more evident, than that the bread, the meat, the drink, that we receive, is incorporated into us, and becomes part of the substance whereof we consist? So as, after perfect digestion, there can be no distinction, betwixt what we are and what we took. While that bread was in the bin, and that meat in the shambles, and that drink in the vessel, it had no relation to us, nor we to it: yea, while all these were on the table, yea, in our mouths, yea, newly let down into our stomachs, they are not fully ours; for, upon some nauseating dislike of nature, they may yet go the same way they
But if the concoction be once fully finished, now they are so turned into our blood and flesh, that they can be no more distinguished from our former substance, than that could be divided from itself: now, they are dispersed into the veins, and concorporated to the flesh; and no part of our flesh and blood is more ours, than that, which was lately the blood of the grapes, and the flesh of this fowl or that beast.
O Saviour, thou, who art Truth itself, hast said, I am the living bread, that came down from heaven; John vi. 51: My flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed ; v. 55: and, thereupon, hast most justly interred, He, that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in mne, and I in him ; v. 56 : and, as a necessary consequent of this spiritual manducation, WVhoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, huth eternal life; v. 54.
Lo, thou art Bread indeed: not the common bread; but Manna: not the Israelitish manna ; alas, that fell from no higher than the region of clouds, and they that eat it died with it in their mouths; but thou art the Living Bread, that came down from the heaven of heavens, of whom whosoever eats, lives for ever. Thy flesh is meat; not for our stomachs, but for our souls: our faith receives and digests thee; and makes thee ours, and us thine.
Our material food, in these corruptible bodies, runs into corruption : thy spiritual food nourisheth purely, and strengthens us to a blessed immortality.
As for this material food, many a one longs for it, that cannot get it : many a one hath it, that cannot eat it: many eat it, that cannot digest it: many digest it into noxious and corrupt humours: all, that receive it, do but maintain a perishing life, if not a languishing death.
But this flesh of thine, as it was never withheld from any true appetite, so it never yields but wholesome and comfortable sustenance to the soul; never hath any other issue, than an everlasting life and happiness.
O Saviour, whensoever I sit at mine own table, let me think of thine : whensoever I feed on the bread and meat that is set before me, and feel myself nourished by that repast, let me mind that better sustenance,
my soul receives from thee; and find thee more one with me, than that bodily food.
This union resembled, by the Branch and the Stock. Look but into thy garden, or orchard ; and see the vine, or any other fruit-bearing tree, how it grows and fructifies. The BRANCHES are loaden with increase: whence is this, but that they are one with the stock; and the stock one with the root ? Were either of these severed, the plant were barren and dead. The branch hath not sap enough to maintain life in itself, unless it receive it from the body of the tree; nor that, unless it derived it from the root; nor that, unless it were cherished by the earth.
Lo; I am the vine, saith our Saviour, ye are the branches : He, that abideth in me and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruil. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; John xv. 5, 6. Were the branch and the body of the tree of different substances, and only closed together in some artificial contiguity, no fruit could be expected from it: it is only the abiding in the tree as a living limb of that plant, which yields it the benefit and issue of vegetation. No otherwise is it betwixt Christ and his Church : the bough and the tree are not more of one piece, than we are of one substance with our Saviour; and, branching out from him, and receiving the sap of heavenly virtue from his precious root, we cannot but be acceptably fruitful.
But, if the analogy seem not to be so full: for that the branch issues naturally from the tree, and the fruit from the branch, whereas we by nature have no part in the Son of God: take that clearer resemblance, which the Apostle fetches from the stock and the graff, or scion. The branches of the wild olive (Rom. xi.) are cut off, and are graffed with choice scions of the good olive. Those imps grow; and are now, by this incision, no less embodied in that stock, than if they had sprouted out by a natural propagation; neither can
any more separated from it, than the strongest bough that nature puts forth. In the mean time, that scion alters the nature of that stock; and, while the root gives fatness to the stock, and the stock yields juice to the scion, the scion gives goodness to the plant, and a specification to the fruit : so as, while the imp is now the same thing with the stock, the tree is different from what it was.
So it is, betwixt Christ and the believing soul. Old Adam is our
wild stock: what could that have yielded, but either none, or sour fruit? We are imped with the new man, Christ, that is now incorporated into us. We are become one with him. Our nature is not more ours, than he is ours by grace. Now we bear his fruit, and not our own: our old stock is forgotten: all things are become new. Our natural life we receive from Adam; our spiritual life and growth from Christ: from whom, after the improvement of this blessed incision, we can be no more severed, than he can be severed from himself.
The resemblance of this union, by the Foundation and the Building. Look hut upon thy house (that, from vegetative creatures, thou mayest turn thine eyes to those things which have no life): if that be uniforın, the FOUNDATION is not of a different matter from the WALLS: both those are but one piece: the superstructure is so raised
upon the foundation, as if all were but one stone. Behold, Christ is the chief corner-stone, elect and precious; 1 Pet. ii. 6: neither can there be any other foundation laid, than that which is laid on him; 1 Cor. iii. 11. We are lively stones, built up to a spiritual house, on that sure and firm foundation; 1 Pet. ii. 5.
Some loose stones perhaps, that lie unmortered upon the battle ments, may be easily shaken down; but who ever saw a squared marble, laid by line and level in a strong wall upon a well-grounded base, fly out of his place by whatsoever violence; since, both the strength of the foundation below, and the weight of the fabric above, have settled it in a posture utterly unmoveable? Such is our spiritual condition. O Saviour, thou art our foundation : we are laid upon thee; and are, therein, one with thee. We can no more be disjoined from thy foundation, than the stones of thy foundation can be disunited from themselves.
So then, to sum up all; as the head and members are but one body, as the husband and wife are but one flesh, as our meat and drink
ecome part of ourselves, as the tree and branches are but one plant, as the foundation and walls are but one fabric; so Christ and the believing soul are indivisibly one with each other.
THE CERTAINTY AND INDISSOLUBLENESS OF THIS UNION. Where are those then, that go about to divide Christ from himself, Christ real, from Christ mystical? yielding Christ one with bimself, but not one with his Church; making the true Believer no less separable from his Saviour, than from the entireness of his own obedience; dreaming of the uncomfortable and self-contradicting paradoxes of the total and final apostasy of Saints.
Certainly, these men have never thoroughly digested the meditation of this blessed union, whereof we treat.
Can they hold the believing soul a limb of that body, whereof Christ is the Head, and yet imagine a possibility of dissolotion? Can they affeign to the Son of God a body, that is imperfect? Can they think that body perfeet, that hath lost his limbs? Even in this mystical body, the best joints may be subject to strains; yea, perhaps, to some painful and perilous luxation : but, as it was in the natural body of Christ, when it was in death most exposed to the cruelty of all enemies, that, upon an over-ruling providence, not a bone of it could be broken; so it is still and ever with the spiritual: some scourgings and blows it may suffer; yea, perhaps some bruises and gastes; but no bone can be shattered in pieces, much less dissevered from the rest of the body. Were we left to ourselves, or could we be so much as in conceit sundered from the body whereof we are, alas! we are but as other men, subject to the same sinful infirmities, to the same dangerous and deadly miscarriages: but, since it hath pleased the God of Heaven to unite us to himself, now it concerns him to maintain the honour of his own body by preserving us entire.
Can they acknowledge the faithful soul married in truth and righteousness to that Celestial Husband, and made up into one flesh with the Lord of Glory; and can they think of any bills of divorce written in heaven? Can they suppose that, which, by way of type, was done in the earthly paradise, to be really undone in the heavenly? What an infinite power hath put together, can they ima gine that a limited power can disjoin? Can they think sin can be of more prevalence, than merey ? Can they think the unchangeable God subject to after-thoughts ? Even the Jewish repudiations never found favour in heaven they were permitted as a lesser evil to avoid a greater, never allowed as good; neither had so much as that toleration ever been, if the hard-heartedness and cruelty of that people had not enforced it upon Moses, in a prevention of further mischief: what place can this find with a God, in whom there is an infinite tenderness of love and mercy? No time can be any check to his gracious choice: the inconstant minds of us men may alter upon slight dislikes : our God is ever himself; Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever; Heb. xiii. 8: with him there is no variableness, nor shadow of turning ; James i. 17. Divorces were ever grounded upon hatred; Mal. ii
. 16: No mar, saith the Apostle, ever yet hated his own flesh ; Eph. v. 29: much less shall God do so, who is love itself; 1 John iv. 16. His love, and our union, is, like himself, everlasting : Having loved his own, saith the Disciple of Love, which were in the world, he loved them to the end'; John xiii. 1. He, that hates putting away (Mal. ii. 16.) can never act it: so as, in this relation, we are indissoluble.
Can they have received that Bread zeihich came down from heaven, and flesh which is meat indeed, and that blood which is drink indeed; can their souls have digested it by a lively faith, and converted themselves into it, and it into themselves; and can they now think it can be severed from their own substance ?
Can they find themselves truly ingraffed in the Tree of Life, and grown into one body with that heavenly plant, and as a living branch of that tree bearing pleasant and wholesome fruit acceptable to God (Rev. xxii. 2.) and beneficial to men; and can they look upon themselves, as some withered bough, fit only for the fire?
Can they lay themselves living stones, surely laid upon the Foundation, Jesus Christ, to the making up of a heavenly temple for the eternal inhabitation of God; and can they think they can be shaken out with every storm of temptation ?
Have these men ever taken into their serious thoughts that divine prayer and meditation, which our Blessed Redeemer, now at the point of his death, left for a happy farewell to his Church, in every word whereof there is a heaven of comfort ? Neither pray I for these alone ; but for them also, which shall believe in me through their word: That they all may be one, as thou Father art in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one with us : And the glory, that thou gavest me, I have given them ; that they may be one, even as we are one ; I in them, and thou in me ; John xvii. 20, 21, 22. O heavenly consolation! 'O indefeasible assurance! what room can there be now here, for our diffidence? Can the Son of God pray, and not be heard ? For himself, he needs not pray; as being eternally one with the Father, God blessed for ever : he prays for his; and his prayer is, That they may be one with the Father and him, even as they are one. They cannot, therefore, but be partakers of this blessed union; and, being partakers of it, they cannot be dissevered. And, to make sure work, that glory, whích the Father gave to the Son of his Love, they are already, through his gracious participation, prepossessed of: here they have begun to enter upon that heaven, from which none of the powers of hell can possibly eject them. Oh, the unspeakably happy condition of believers! Oh, that all the Saints of God, in a comfortable sense of their inchoate blessedness, could sing for joy; and here, beforehand, begin to take up those Hallelujahs, which they shall, ere long, continue, and never end, in the Choir of the Highest Heaven !
THE PRIVILEGES AND BENEFITS OF THIS UNION.
HAVING now taken a view of this blessed union, in the Nature and Resemblances of it; it will be time to bend thine eyes upon those most advantageous Consequents and high Privileges, which do necessarily follow upon and attend this heavenly conjunction.