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logy, be set forth by “bread,” and the reception of wisdom by “eating” of the same, the metaphor of " eating flesh,” used anong & people who were well versed in the sacrificial system of the temple, would infallibly suggest to the minds of the thoughtful a very different idea. In order to a right understanding of this part of the discourse, it must be remembered, that not only was the paschal lamb sacrificed on the eve of the day of deliverance, and the blood sprinkled upon the door-posts; but the flesh of the lamb was eaten, and this act of eating was the acceptance and ratification, on the part of Israel, of the covenant-terms of deliverance ;—to say nothing of the fact, that such temporal salvation was but a link, though a real link, in the chain of events by which the evangelical covenant, made with Abraham in respect of all his believing seed, was fulfilled. To eat the flesh of the lamb was, therefore, to accept salvation through the sacrifice of the lamb. This great mercy was offered on the assumption that the whole congregation was, as before God, unclean and guilty, and chastised, by the instrumentality of man, for recent or former sins against Him; and, in the act of eating, the shedding or pouring out of the blood of the innocent victim, as a typical sacrifice for sins, is supposed to have already taken place. Now, since “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us,” we are not to keep the Gospel-feast with the literal “ unleavened bread,” nor are we to look for merely temporal results. This discourse points forward to our Lord’s atoning death, about to be accomplished at Jerusalem ; a spiritual participation of which would bring “ life everlasting” to all who “should bereafter believe on Him," and secure that constant support implied in having access through faith and prayer to all the blessings flowing from His mediation. In this view, the reason for the interchange of terms is obvious. “ Bread” sets forth the idea of life sustained; while Christ's “flesh,” or His “ body,” (as the Syriac has it,) represents the great oblation by which, according to the principles of the Divine government, the blessing is procured. Christ " was put to death in the flesh,”—“hath suffered for us in the flesh :” hence, a believing reliance on the atonement is, in effect, a partaking of its benefits ; and, as He is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, the infinite wisdom which has suggested, both by type and metaphor, the nature of this participation, must be devoutly acknowledged. Nevertheless, when our Lord announced His doctrine in this form, it was the occasion of fresh strife among His hearers. In that congregation there may have been some better informed than others, who, from the very spirit of Jewish teaching, would lean to a figurative rendering of His words; and these might contend with bearers of grosser conceptions. But all were so far agreed in unbelief, as to spurn the offer He made, and to ask, “ How can this man give us his flesh to eat ?”
Then He reiterates the saying in stronger form, and with the addition of another metaphorical circumstance, directing them still more surely to a deep spiritual meaning. That circumstance is the “ drinking of His blood,” as appended to the eating of His flesh.”. To the unthoughtful and careless hearers, who were chiefly affected
by the popular meaning of terms, the statement would be strange and startling; and all the more so, because blood was prohibited to the Shemitic race from the days of Noab, and to the Israelites, in afterdays, still more strictly. But the reason of the prohibition in cach case was, that the blood of the animal was “the life thereof," and that which “made atopement for the soul.” It was the sacredness of the doctrine of atonement by victim-blood, which lay at the ground of the prohibition. How remarkable, then, that the very people, who had been specially bound thereby, should now be required, as the condition of life and salvation, to drink the blood of the Son of man! There is a Divine harmony in these circumstances. The unique and sacred character of the offering for sin is set forth in the sanctification of the type ; that is to say, in the prohibition of blood as an article of common aliment: just as the holiness of God's immediate presence was guarded by the command, “Draw not nigh bither.” But, now that the Great Sacrifice is actually and really to be offered, this typical veil is taken away, and the blood is received by faith ; just as, relieved from the other restriction, we have access to the holiest of all, and are kept at a distance no longer. And yet, though blood was not anciently eaten or drunk (substantially the same thing) in the religious feasts, the Israelites did partake, while celebrating them, and that, too, with great form and solemnity, of the appointed animal sacrifices ; aud this is the basis of a typical analogy which is the key to our Lord's meaning. The symbol of life is to be untouched, to show that there is only one life, one blood, that can atone,—to which life this symbol is always pointing ; yet the victim-flesh is eaten, to teach the idea of participation, or the passing of the virtue of the atonement to the worshipper. The same privilege and law extended not only to the paschal lamb, but equally to the peace-offerings. “ The Aesh of the sacrifice of his peace-offerings for thanksgiving shall be eaten the same day that it is offered.” (Lev. vii. 15.) This Divine law was counterfeited in the various systems of idolatry, as we may learn from the command given to Israel, on entering Canaan, to destroy all instruments and monuments of idolatry, lest they should make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and go after other gods, “and one call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice." So, indeed, it came to pass : for, in Numbers xxv. 2, we read that the Moabites “called the people to the sacrifices of their gods : and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods ;” and again, in Psalm cvi. 28, that they "ate the sacrifices of the dead.” Throughout the Gentile nations this religious practice was common. It is, indeed, on account of so diabolical a perversion, that the primitive Christians are required to abstain from “things offered to idols, and from blood ;" for these were the covenant rites of devils. (1 Cor. x. 20.) David, even in his day, had a horror of offering the Heathen "drink-offerings of blood.” So full is the evidence, that, in the typical and preparatory system, “eating” or “drinking” is more than a federal act, whereby our engagement is ratified ; that, in fact, the partaking of the flesh of the sacrifice is the voluntary instrumentality through which the benefit of
that sacrifice is received. Our Lord, then, declares to these murmuring Jews, in figurative language, yet language perfectly harmonious with the rites of their religion, (connected, as those rites were, with the ancient doctrine and prediction of a suffering and sacrificed Messiah,)—that the long-promised life is about to be given through the offering of His own body and blood once for all ; that, while there can be no life to fallen man without a mystical participation in that offering by faith, life eternal will be the unfailing result of such participation. When our Lord further declares, “My Aesh truly is meat, and My blood truly is drink,” His words intentionally suggest that archetypal character of evangelical blessings which greatly aids us to conceive of their fulness. Then He is as much the true life and aliment of a redeemed man, above all other aliment, and yet comprehending all other, as He is the Son of God, above all other sons, and yet making us filial and imparting to us His moral image. The Tree of Life is now seen standing in the paradise of God; while to “ eat and live ” is, in a new form, the challenge of the covenant of grace. To “dwell in Him,” (as we read in verse 56,) is to repose by faith on His ever-availing blood and righteousness, so as to attain pardon and peace : it is to have constant respect to His invisible presence; to abide, with a holy jealousy over ourselves, in the observance of His Gospel-law; to turn to the contemplation of His perfections as our Mediator and our Portion, so as to find our glory and joy in the employment; and to be ever breathing, in the spirit of prayer, after the gifts and graces of the Holy Ghost. To have Him to “dwell in us," is to bave our inner man renewed and sanctified; the Holy Ghost given ; Christ's character impressed upon us; and our whole spirit, and soul, and body set apart to His service. Such is the union between the Lord God and them that believe in Him.
But we come now to expound more fully the fourth and concluding theme of contemplation ; namely, that the act by which we partake of Christ and His atonement, is an act of the soul.
Here we touch upon a controversy which has been carried through many ages of the church. The question is, whether our Lord here refers to the sacramental eating and drinking of the Sapper : on the resolution of which, however, greater consequences have been made to depend, than can in reality flow from hence. It is plain enough, from the context, that the whole action of eating and drinking, however it may be understood, is nugatory as a religious exercise, unless there be in the applicant a true and penitent faith,—a faith which discerns the Saviour, and the character of His salvation, and which implies and bespeaks a longing after it. “He that cometh to Me" it is, that “shall never hunger ;” and “he that believeth on Me,” that “shall never thirst.” On the other hand, the requirement is so peremptory and universal, so absolutely a condition of salvation, that, if a literal eating and drinking is to be understood, then nothing is left for us but to admit the perdition of a multitude of travellers, voyagers, and others who do not and cannot partake of the Lord's Supper :-a fearful consequence, but one against which it is hardly
necessary to argue. That Christ should have intended directly and at once to teach that cavilling and low-minded congregation the doctrine of a sacramental communion with Himself, is a supposition violently opposed to His usual method of instruction; which was, rather, to open out the deep things of the Gospel by almost imperceptible degrees. Under the most favourable conditions, it was not to be expected that He would be fully understood in the synagogue. Those, however, who had witnessed the stupendous miracle of the preceding day, and heard the words of superhuman wisdom which came from His lips, might have yielded up their attention to Him, and sat at His feet in childlike docility, till other revelations were given. That they did not this, and that they “went away,” in consequence, unenlightened and unblest, was their sin ; and the more so, since He closed His address by explaining that the words which He spake were "spirit” and “life,"—that is, they had respect unto spiritual and living realities. But Christ did intend that, His death having been accomplished, and its virtue fully revealed by the Holy Ghost, the words here recorded should serve to illustrate how guilty men could obtain an interest in Him, and in all the benefits of His passion ; how they were to approach Him, in what temper, and with what spiritual desires. He did teach His disciples, even then, how to “ eat and drink,” as Hooker says, “in their very heart and soul,” that is, simply speaking, by faith ; in order that hereafter, when the sacrament of His death should be instituted, they and all disciples might be prepared to receive it with appropriate affections, and to make its observance a reasonable service, so that the literal act of eating and drinking should be the embodiment and expression of what passed within. The discourse is not a discourse on the sacrament of the Supper, but on the inward grace of which that sacrament is now a sign and seal. The figment of transubstantiation, which modern Romanists have professed to find here, is as much opposed to a fair construction of the text, as to other and exterior considerations. The Council of Trent says, that, after the words of consecration by the Priest, the bread becomes flesh : our Lord says the very reverse ; namely, that it is His flesh, or sacrificed body, that is to become (of necessity, after a spiritual manner) bread, or aliment, to all that believe. Thus that very figurative cast of expression, which marks this whole discourse, links the typical teaching of the Old Testament with the verbal teaching of the New. It took many ages to make men familiar by religious rites with the notion of participating in the benefits of a sacrifice ; and we seemed to want some point of exposition which should make it clear, that all these preparatory solemnities looked forward to Christ, and to our enjoyment, through faith, of a saving part in Him. That point we find here ; and we are constrained to wonder and adore. Many of the disciples stumbled at their Master's teaching, and the way in which He reproved their unbelief is most remarkable : “Doth this offend you ? What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where He was before ?” As though He had said, “ Is it so hard to believe that ye can live on and
by Me, receiving sustenance to eternal life from Me, while I am yet with you? How will it be when My bodily presence is withdrawn from you? And yet, if you live at all, you must still live by Me.” Ilere the chief interest of the subject centres. Their difficulty is our light and relief. It is ours to live on Christ, though, humanly, He is absent. Faith connects us with our ascended and glorified Lord. Not faith in a mystery of the imagination,--to wit, that the bread on the sacramental table has become His literal body: not faith in the dogma, that a portion of His humanity has been communicated to ours, and that therefore we are one with Him; for, were that possible," how much nearer, after all, would it bring the incarnated Word to us ? No; but faith in His sacrificial blood, giving us access into the grace wherein believers stand, and in which the love of God is shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Ghost given unto them. Even from Pentecost the Holy Ghost has become the Agent or Representative of Christ in reference to our whole person, as St. Paul impressively shows. (Rom. viii. 10,11.) Our“ hearts” are “sprinkled from an evil conscience,” and our“ bodies washed with pure water :" and, to enjoy these inestimable benefits, we no more need to have the “real presence" of our Lord defined and held in any way by the bread on the table, than we need to have the presence of the Holy Ghost defined and held by the waters of baptism. Faith makes a far better appropriation of the unsearchable riches of Christ. Surely, the spiritual food must be adapted to the nature of the hunger; and that which all serious men long for, if they will speak the truth, is deliverance from the curse of the law, salvation by the remission of sins, holiness of heart, an inward impulsive power which shall make their body an instrument of righteousness, fortitude in enduring evil, freedom from fear, and a meetuess for being with the Lord. These experiences—with their result in our being made partakers of the Divine nature as it flows through Him-are the true communion of our Saviour's body and blood. We can hardly be nearer to Christ than by being like Him. " Blessed is the womb that bare Thee,” said one of old time, as though she were for the moment captivated by this notion of material relationship to Christ : but He did not suffer the saying to pass without the rebuking comment,—“Yea, rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.” This is, also, our true feast upon
His sacrifice. Faith feeds on His Divinity, and thereby hushes all its fears as to the sufficiency of His redemption, and His ability to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by Him. His Divinity satisfies hope, and confidence, and unutterable longing; and presents an all-attractive object to adoring gratitude and love. Faith feeds, likewise, on His spotless, perfect, and real Humanity; ever deriving strength from thence for obedience, prayer, suffering, waiting, watching, sympathizing: for these are all acts in which that Humanity bas borne a part.
When God reveals His Son in us, our new life, which is thus created, will most certainly and most openly appear. It will glow and throb through every pulse of the entire man. Shall it be said of