ページの画像
PDF
ePub

to what has been said, content ourselves by meeting an objection which some may draw from what is said of the ground's bringing forth grass, and herbs, and trees, at the bidding of God, and of the water's producing fish and fowl, and of the earth's producing cattle and creeping things, at the divine command alone, without any mention being made of God's having formed them, and given them life, as is the case when man is mentioned. We may also be reminded of what we have already allowed, that it is said, the spirit of a beast goes downwards, and not, like man’s, to God who gave it. From all this it may be inferred, that the motion, life, sense, and instinct, observable in plants and animals, in such endless variety, may all result from a mere modification of matter. But to this we reply, that we are told, the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the whole of that abyss of matter, out of which our heavens and earth, and all they contain, were formed. We are also told, that the Hebrew term expressive of that action of the Spirit of God, properly denotes the “incubation of a bird ;” which doubtless led our Milton to speak of the thing, as a poet, in these well-known and truly sublime words, in his invocation of that divine and omnipotent Agent :

“ Instruct me, for thou know'st; thou from the first
W'ast present, and, with mighty wings outspread,
Dove-like sat'st brooding on the vast abyss,

And mad'st it pregnant.” Had it not been for this divine incubation, (if we may be allowed reverently to use the expression,) the whole material mass would have remained a formless void, and darkness would have for ever rested on the face of the deep. No strong wind, as some would have us to believe, could have caused such heavens and earth as ours to rise out of chaos. The supposition is most absurd and unphilosophical.

Thus, if we ascend from the lowest form of created being, through all the gradations of inert matter, motion, order, beauty, life, sense, instinct, reason, intelligence, we arrive at that infinite and eternal Spirit, the first Cause of all; who, while he sustains and operates throughout universal nature, exists himself in the unity of the Godhead, essentially separate from, and infinitely above, the whole created universe. And, receiving, as we do, God's own revelation of himself to us, as the true light in which alone he is to be known by man, we adore the God and Father of all; who, as the fountain of Deity, is “above all,” and “through all,” by his eternal Son, who has become the Son of man, and our perfect Mediator, and “in us all,” by the sanctifying inspiration of his blessed and life-giving Spirit. It may, indeed, admit of some doubt, whether our Lord spoke of his own divine nature, or of the Holy Ghost, when he said, “It is the Spirit that quickeneth.” That is a point, however, which we need not be over anxious to decide. God is a Spirit ; and he is one and the same essence in all the divine Persons. While, therefore, we reject the

jejune interpretation which would make us believe, that all that the Redeemer meant was, that it is the spirit, or sense, of his words that gives life, we judge this to be the most natural, as it is doubtless the noblest, sense of the declaration of Jesus. It is the Spirit of God that gives life to man, and especially that blessed and eternal life which those have who eat the flesh and drink the blood of the incarnate Son of God. Wherever that Spirit is, the Son of God must be, and also the Father, who sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world, by taking that flesh into the unity of his person, which he might“ give for the life of the world,” by shedding his most precious blood in his sacrificial death, and thus making his flesh truly meat, and his blood truly drink.

2. But we shall be told, that our Lord makes another assertion, in immediate connexion with that we have been considering, which fixes its sense : “The flesh profiteth nothing.” It will, notwithstanding, be much less difficult to prove, that by the flesh, in this assertion, he meant the same thing he did when he said to Peter, on hearing him confess that he was “the Christ, the Son of the living God,” “Blessed art thou, Simon, son of Jonas; for flesh and blood hath not revealed that unto thee, but my Father who is in heaven,"—than to make it appear, that he thus designed to unsay all his strong declarations respecting the importance of his own flesh, as that which he was to give for the life of the world. He does not say, My flesh, but, The flesh profiteth nothing."

Should we even allow, that his flesh would not have given life, had it been eaten in the gross sense attached to his words by the Jews, still we must maintain that he meant to teach us, that his holy and glorified humanity was to become the proper medium and channel through which the quickening Spirit was to sanctify us. He certainly never recalled, nor explained away, the strong words he had used in reference to the importance of his own flesh and blood, as the true meat and drink of believers. And when he said, “ As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me;" he doubtless meant, as he had before said so expressly, He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, shall live by me, because I can give him true spiritual life, and raise him up at the last day, and make him to live for ever, “ by," and because of, " that Spirit that dwelleth in him."

3. We proceed to his third and last assertion : “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” But to this he adds: “There are some of you that believe not. Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me except it were given unto him of my Father.” The declaration in question must be considered in connexion with all this, in order to a right apprehension of its meaning.

When St. Paul calls the manna “spiritual meat,” and the water

which flowed from the rock in the wilderness “spiritual drink,” and says, “that rock was Christ," and calls it also“ that spiritual rock,” it cannot be supposed, that he intended to deny the proper materiality of any of these things. But they all spoke a language to the pious, which the Spirit of God caused them to understand. Our Lord tells the Jews, that the true bread from heaven was himself, and not the manna; though the incorruptibility of the manna gathered for the Sabbath,

,-on which sacred day none fell, and as was, no doubt, the case with that preserved in the ark by the command of God, while that which was kept till the morning, contrary to his command, did corrupt, and became offensive,-made it a striking type of the Holy One of God, who saw no corruption. It is evident, also, that the uncorrupted manna, preserved in the golden pot, and hid in the sacred chest, in the holy of holies, was intended to be a symbol of the pure humanity of the Redeemer, which his divinity will for ever preserve incorruptible. That pure humanity, which he calls his flesh, and said he would "give for the life of the world,” is that true, hidden manna which the victors are assured they shall eat. But this great and divine mystery is not truly apprehended, except by those who are inwardly taught it by the Spirit of God. They who eat of the hidden manna have also a white stone given to them, and in that stone a new name written, which no man knows, saving he that receives it. The same kind of remarks may be made respecting the water and the rock. They were, doubtless, material things ; and yet they taught sublime Gospel truths, in the hands of the Spirit of God, to truly spiritual

men.

[ocr errors]

When Jesus said to his disciples, “ The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life,” according to a very common Hebraism, he used the abstract terms, “spirit” and “life,” for the concretes, “spiritual” and “living." It would be absurd, for instance, to suppose, that he meant, when he addressed Nicodemus on the subject of regeneration, to confound that which the Holy Ghost produces in the regenerate, with the IIoly Ghost himself; because he calls both by the same name,-“spirit.” He doubtless meant to say, “ That which is born of the Spirit is spiritual.It is true, there is a created spirit in man, the product of the original inspiration of the Almighty, which gave him an understanding such as made him a creature capable of God,to use an expression of our poet; but, in regeneration, the Spirit does not produce a living soul or spirit in man, as was done at his creation; he only gives to that which he has a new, holy, and elevated character, by an entire supernatural transformation, every way worthy of himself; and he ever remains with the faithful, to sustain and perfect his own glorious work.

Taking, then, the meaning of our Lord, in the declaration now in question, to be, that the words he spoke, about giving his flesh for the life of the world, and the necessity of men's eating his flesh, and drink

[ocr errors]

ing dis blood, in order to their having eternal life, were spiritual and living; you will probably demand of us, what we understand by spiritual and living words. Perhaps the most correct answer that can be given to such a question is, that they are, in effect, the words of the Spirit of God; who will be found to have said the same things, in the inspired writings of the Old Testament, concerning the great design of God in sending his Son into the world. They are words which the Holy Ghost alone could have taught the ancient Prophets to utter and record. Hence Jesus said, on another occasion, “Search the Scriptures ; for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they that testify of me; and ye will not come to me that ye might bare life.” This was, in effect, saying, that He only could give them that eternal life, who could give his flesh for the life of the world, and make his flesh truly meat, and his blood truly drink. For the Redeemer of whom all the Prophets speak is that Seed of the woman who was to bruise that serpent's head, who bruised his heel; the Seed of Abraham ; the Son, or descendant, of David, according to the flesh; and, therefore, the Son of man, who was to triumph by suffering in the flesh. And these words are only to be truly understood under the inspiration of that Spirit who dictated them : and when they are so understood, they are found to be, like himself, living and powerful, and every way fitted to give that knowledge of the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he has sent, which is life eternal.

But there are many of the professed disciples of Christ who are strangers to that faith which the Spirit of faith alone can give. Hence the Redeemer says, “ No man can come to me, except it were given to him of my Father." It is he who gives the Spirit of faith to the bumble and teachable, while he leaves the proud, who are too wise in their own eyes to submit to be taught of God, to remain in ignorance of the sublime truths respecting the incarnate and suffering Son of God, who has made his flesh the true meat, and his blood the true drink, which give and support eternal life in man.

III. We proceed to show the bearing of this whole subject on the sacred ordinance we are about to celebrate.

It may be fully allowed, that we have no proof whatever of our Lord's having any direct reference, in his discourse with the multitude, or with his disciples, on this occasion, to what some call“ the sacramental eating and drinking of his flesh and blood.” But, at the same time, it must be granted, that he instituted the sacrament in order to teach, symbolically, the great truths on which he had, at this time, so strongly insisted ; and so the thing was manifestly understood by the Apostles. Though they never speak of the sacrifice of the mass, nor teach us either to believe that there is a real change of the bread and wine into the body and blood of the Redeemer, or that his body and blood are really in the bread and wine, after they have been solemnly set apart, to represent them to our senses; but simply speak of the

breaking of bread, and call the cup containing the wine, "the cup of blessing,” which they blessed after the example, and at the command, of their adored Saviour and Lord : yet they use language respecting this sacred ordinance which clearly shows, that they viewed it as signifying much more than the mere fact of his death as an atoning sacrifice. That it did show forth his death in that view is certain; and that includes much more than many communicants are aware of, and, considered in connexion with our Lord's declaration, “ The bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world,” leads to the contemplation of all the other truths involved in this fundamental one. At the same time, it is perfectly clear, that St. Paul, for instance, distinctly recognised, in the circumstances of our eating of that bread, and drinking of that cup, a representation, at least, of our eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Christ, so as to become one with him. What he says upon the subject, demands our distinct and serious consideration. 1. He

says, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ ? So we, being many, are one body, and one bread; for we are all partakers of that one bread.” Here we will readily admit, if you will, an oriental way of speaking, in the phrase, “is it not," for," does it not represent;" as Joseph doubtless meant, that the seven lean kine represented seven years of famine; and so of the rest of the things he mentions in the interpretation of Pharaoh's dream, and nothing more; though he says, " they are seven years of famine,” &c. We mislead no one when, pointing to a picture, we say, This is such a person,” or “such a thing ;” as every one knows we can only mean, it is a representation of the person, or thing, as the case may be. The use of the words, “ This is my body," and, “ This is my blood,” by the Lord Jesus Christ, presents no proper and stable foundation for the monstrous superstructure some have long attempted to build upon them. But, though we neither admit the truth of what is called transubstantiation, nor consubstantiation, (nor does our national Church maintain either the one or the other, as will be proved to you before we conclude, still we assert, with the Apostle, that the true communicant discerns the Lord's body, as represented by the hallowed bread,” and his precious blood, as represented by the wine in “the cup of blessing which we bless." And, as the bread and wine, when eaten and drunk by him, enter sensibly into his vital frame, and nourish and sustain his natural life; so he perceives, by that living faith which he has had given to him from the Father of his Redeemer, who has sent the Spirit of his incarnate Son into his “consecrated heart,” that his sinful body is made clean by the body of Christ, and his soul washed in his most precious blood ; and thus he dwells in his Redeemer, and his Redeemer dwells in him.

2. The bread which our Lord took into his hands, when he insti

« 前へ次へ »