« ÎnapoiContinuă »
purpose it is made up into small, round wafers; and the people are ordered to take great care that they do not use their teeth in chewing it; for that would be, as it were, a crucifying Christ afresh, as offering a kind of violence to what they call his body. But these things are so very absurd and unscriptural, that they confute themselves. And their consecrating a wafer to be reserved in a case prepared for that purpose, and set upon the altar in the church, to be worshipped by all that come near it, savours of gross superstition and idolatry.
We may farther observe, that they deny the people the cup in this ordinance, but not the priests; for what reason, it is hard to determine. And, they mix the wine with water; which, though it does not seem to be agreeable to Christ's institution, yet it was often practised by the ancient church, from whence they took it; and their making this a sacramental sign of Christ's divine and human nature, united-together in one person, is much more unwarrantable; nor can I approve of what others suppose, viz. that it signifies the blood and water that came out of his side when he was pierced on the cross. And, I can hardly think some Protestants altogether free from, the charge of superstition, when they so tenaciously adhere to the use of red wine, as bearing some small resemblance to the colour of Christ's blood; for which reason others chuse to bear their testimony against this ungrounded opinion, by the using of white wine, without supposing that any thing is signified by it more than by red; and others chuse to use one sort at one time, and another at another, to signify that this is an indifferent matter; and these, I think, are most in the right.
Morcover, the practice of the Papists, and some others, in receiving the Lord's supper fasting, to the end that the consecrated bread may not be mixed with undigested food, is not only unwarrantable, but superstitious, as well as contrary to what we read concerning our Saviour and his apostles partaking of the Lord's supper in the first institution thereof, immediately after having eaten the passover, and to what the apostle suggests, when he reproves the church at Corinth, for eating and drinking to excess immediately before they partook of the Lord's supper; upon which occasion he advises them to eat and drink (though with moderation) in their own houses, 1 Cor. xi. 21, 22.
Again, the administring the Lord's supper privately, as the Papists and others do, to sick people, seems to be contrary to the design of its being a church-ordinance; and when, to give countenance to this practice, it is styled, as by the former of these, a viaticum, or means to convey the soul, if it should soon after depart out of the body, to heaven, they are much more remote from our Saviour's design in instituting this or
inance; neither do they rightly understand the sense of the scripture, from whence they infer the necessity thereof, except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have` no life in you, John vi. 53. when they apply it to this purpose.
There is another thing that must not be wholly passed over, viz. the various gestures used in receiving the Lord's supper. The Papists not only receive it kneeling; but, they allege, that they ought to do so, as being obliged to adore the body and blood of Christ, which, as they absurdly suppose, is really present, inasmuch as the bread is transubstantiated, or turned into it. And the Lutherans, with equal absurdity assert, that the body of Christ, is really, though invisibly, present in the bread; which is what they call consubstantiation. Some other Protestants, indeed, plead for the receiving it kneeling, as supposing Christ to be spiritually, though not corporally, present therein; and therefore they do not worship the bread and wine, but our Saviour; which, they suppose, they ought to do with this becoming reverence.
What I would take leave to say, in answer to this, is, that we humbly hope and trust, that Christ, according to his promise, is present with his people in all his ordinances; yet, it is not supposed that we are obliged to engage in every one of them kneeling. But that which determines the faith and practice of all other reformed churches, who do not use this gesture in the Lord's supper, is, because it is contrary to the example of our Saviour and his apostles, when it was first celebrated; which ought to be a rule to the churches in all succeeding ages.
If it be said, that this is a gesture most agreeable to prayer, or, at least, that sitting is not so. To this it may be replied, that it is not an ordinance principally or only designed for prayer; for, whatever prayers we put up to God therein, are short, ejaculatory, and mixed with other meditations, which may be performed with an awful reverence of the divine majesty, such as we ought to have in other acts of religious worship, though we do not use that gesture of kneeling. And besides, we think ourselves obliged to receive the Lord's supper sitting, that being a table gesture in use among us, in like manner as that which our Saviour and his apostles used, was among the eastern nations.
As for the reformed Gallican churches, they receive it for the most part, standing; which, being a medium between both extremes, they suppose to be most eligible. But this not being a table-gesture, nor, in that respect, conformed to that which was used by our Saviour and his apostles, I cannot think it warrantable. Nevertheless, when the gesture of standing or sitting is made a significant sign as some do the former, of our Hh
being servants, ready to obey the will of Christ our great Lord and Master; or, as others explain it, as signifying our being travellers to the heavenly country; and the latter, viz. sitting, of our familiarity, or communion with Christ. These are rather the result of human invention, than founded on a divine institution, since we have not the least account in scripture, of these things being signified thereby. This leads us to consider,
VI. The thing signified in this ordinance, and in what respect Christ is said to be present therein, together with the benefits expected from him, as we are said to feed upon him by faith for our spiritual nourishment and growth in grace. I cannot but think that the general design hereof, is not much unlike to that which was ordained under the ceremonial law, in which, after the sacrifice was offered, part of it was reserved to be eaten in the holy place, Lev. vi. 16. which was a significant feast upon a sacrifice. In like manner, the Lord's supper, which comes in the room of the passover, is ordained to be a feast on Christ's sacrifice; so the apostle styles it, when he says, Christ, our passover, is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, &c. 1 Cor. v. 7, 8. The fiducial application of Christ, and the benefits of his death, is the principal thing to be considered in this gospel-festival. However, there are some cautions necessary to be observed with respect to the things signified therein, as what may be useful to us that our faith may be exercised in a right manner. Therefore let it be considered,
1. That though the Lord's supper was instituted in com memoration of Christ's love, expressed in his death, which was the last and most bitter part of his sufferings for our redemption. Yet he did not design hereby to exclude his other sufferings in life; nor, indeed, his whole course of obedience from his incarnation to his death; since it is very evident that the death of Christ is often considered in scripture, by synecdoche, as denoting the whole course of obedience, both active and passive, which is the matter of our justification; and therefore is to be the object on which our faith is to be conversant in the Lord's supper, as well as his sufferings in, or immediately before his death.
2. When Christ's sufferings upon the cross are said to be signified by the bread and wine; we are not to conclude that these sufferings are to be so distinctly or separately considered, as that the bread broken, is designed to signify the pains that he endured upon the cross, when his body was as it were broken, its tendons, nerves, and fibres snapped asunder, and his joints dislocated, by being stretched thereon; and the wine poured forth, to signify the shedding his blood when his hands
and feet were pierced with the nails, and his side with the spear, as some suppose; since all these things are to be made the subjects of our affectionate meditation in every part of this ordinance, while we are taken up with the contemplation of his last sufferings. And this seems to give countenance to the practice of many of the reformed churches, in consecrating and distributing the bread and wine together; though it is true, many think, on the other hand, that the elements are to be se- / parately consecrated, as well as distributed, it being most agreeable to what is said concerning Christ's blessing the bread, and giving it to his disciples, and afterwards taking the cup, and giving it to them, Matt. xxvi. 26, 27. However, if this be allowed of, it is not necessary for us to infer from hence, that each of these elements are designed to signify some distinct parts of Christ's sufferings on the cross, but only that the ordinance is to be still continued, the whole including in it two external and visible signs to be used, each of which signify the means whereby he procured our redemption; and, indeed, when the wine is poured forth, and set apart for another part of this ordinance, we are not so much to enter on a new subject in our meditation, though the sign be different from that of the bread, as to proceed in thinking on, and improving the love of Christ, in his humbling himself, and becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, Phil. ii. 8. and all this is signified by this sign, as well as the other, neither of which are adapted to this end, otherwise than by divine appointment.
3. We must take heed that we do not make more significant signs in the bread and wine than Christ has done; as some suppose, that almost every ingredient or action used in making them, is to be applied to signify some things that he has done or suffered for our redemption. It is a very great liberty that some take in expatiating on this subject, and applying it to this ordinance. We have a specimen hereof contained in an hymn, composed to be sung as a thanksgiving after the receiving the Lord's supper *; in which the corn, as first living and growing, and afterwards cut down, and by threshing, separated from the husk, and then ground in the mill, and baked in the oven, are all made significant signs of the sufferings and torments which our Saviour endured. And the corn being united in one loaf, is made a sign of the union between Christ and his church. In like manner the grapes being gathered, pressed, and made into wine, is supposed to signify our spiritual joy, arising from Christ's shedding his blood. And, as many grapes make one vine, so believers should be united by faith and love. What lengths is it possible for the wit and fancy of
* This hymn is inserted after Sternhold and Hopkin's version of the Psalma,
men to run, when they have a fruitful invention, and are disposed to make significant signs, and apply them to this ordinance without a divine warrant !
4. When we meditate on Christ's sufferings, our faith is not to rest in, or principally be fixed on the grievousness of them, as Dr. Goodwin observes *; so that we should only endeavour hereby to have our hearts moved to a relenting, and compassion expressed towards him, and indignation against the Jews that crucified him, together with an admiring of his noble and heroical love herein; so that if persons can get their hearts thus affected, they judge and account this to be grace; whereas, it is no more than what the like tragical story of some great and noble personage (full of heroical virtues and ingenuity; yet inhumanly and ungratefully used) doth ordinarily work in ingenuous spirits, who read or hear of it; which, when it reacheth no higher, it is so far from being faith, that it is but a carnal and fleshly devotion; and Christ himself, at his suffering, found fault with, as not being spiritual, when he says, Daughters of Jerusalem weep not for me, but for yourselves and for your children, Luke xxiii. 28. that is, not so much for this, when you see me thus unworthily handled by those for whom I die, as for yourselves.
Moreover, he farther adds, that it was not the malice of the Jews, the falseness of Judas, the fearfulness of Pilate, the iniquity of the times he fell into, that wrought our Saviour's death; God the Father had an higher design herein: And this our faith is constantly to be conversant about, considering it as the result of an eternal agreement between the Father and the Son, and of that covenant which he came into the world to fulfil; and his being made sin for us, to take away our sins by the atonement which he made hereby. And, besides this, we may add, that the highest and most affecting consideration in Christ's sufferings, ought to contain in it the idea of his being a divine person, which is the only thing that argued them sufficient to answer the great ends designed thereby, as it rendered them of infinite value; and it was upon this account that his condescension expressed herein, might truly be said to be infinite. These things, I say, we are principally to rest in, when we meditate on Christ's sufferings in this ordinance; though the other, which are exceedingly moving and affecting in their kind, are not to be passed over; since the Holy Ghost has, for this end, given a particular account thereof in the gospels, not barely as an historical relation of what was done to him, but as a convincing evidence of the greatness of his love to us.
* See Dr. Goodwin's Christ set forth, § 2. Chap ii,