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God, and Christ that is in it, and the especial acts of faith and love that are required of us in this ordinance.
I have one word now somewhat of another nature, but yet such as I judge not unseasonable; and it is to this purpose, that we, who so frequently enjoy the privilege of the representation of the death of Christ unto us, ought to be very diligent in inquiring after an experience of the power of the death of Christ in us. Without this our privilege will not be to our advantage.
The power and efficacy of the death of Christ, which we now remember in a peculiar manner, is twofold.
1. Towards God, as the consummation of the sacrifice of atonement. This we have often spoke to.
2. Towards our own souls; towards the church, and that is to be an example, a precedent, a pattern of what is to be wrought in us. In this sense the power of the death of Christ is its efficacy to conformity with Christ in his death. It is to be crucified with Christ,' as the apostle speaks, Gal. ii. 20. Power comes forth from the death of Christ, if received by faith in a due manner, to render us conformable to him in the death of sin in us. The apostle has a great and glorious word concerning himself, 2 Cor. iv. 10. Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus.' I acknowledge the words are usually applied to the représentation of the sufferings of Christ in the sufferings of the ministers of the gospel, concerning which the apostle there discourses; but the antithesis in the following words, 'that the life of Jesus might be manifest in our body,' does certainly lead to a larger sense. Then, brethren, we may have an experience of the power of Christ in us, when we can say, we always carry about with us the dying of the Lord Jesus, to carry it in our meditation, to carry it in our conversation, to carry it in our constant universal endeavours for conformity to it; and without this we have not experience of the power of his death in us, and it will not avail us to have the nature of his death represented to us.
1. We are always to carry about the dying of Jesus Christ, in our thoughts and meditations. O that our thoughts were much fixed upon it! I verily believe that the life of faith doth answer in proportion to our thoughts about the dying of Jesus. The dying of Jesus compriseth the love] from
whence he died, the death itself he died, and the end for which he died. Let us carry about us always thoughts hereof, for his sake who loved us and who died for us. Meditate more on these things.
2. In our conversation. It is not a time to reflect upon any, unless I did it upon myself. But truly, brethren, I am afraid we do not carry about and manifest to all the dying of the Lord Jesus in our conversation; to perform all things, so as it may appear and be made manifest to ourselves and others, that our hearts are set upon his dying love, that we have not such quick, such active, and vigorous affections to the world, and the things of the world, nor that fury of diligence after them and in them, as other men have, and we have had; we cannot do it; the dying of the Lord Jesus crucifies our hearts. These are hard words I know; how far from our practice! But if we live not in an endeavour after it, in all things to manifest that our hearts are full of the dying of the Lord Jesus, we have not experience of the power of it in our souls. These things depend on one another. If we dwelt more upon this subject in our meditations, we should manifest it, and carry it about and represent it more in our conversation.
3. Carry it about in a constant endeavour for conformity to Jesus Christ in all things in his death. Did Christ die, and shall sin live? Was he crucified in the world, and shall we have quick and lively affections to the world? O where is the temper and spirit of that apostle who by the cross of Christ was crucified to the world, and the world crucified to him?' If there be any among us that should be indulgent to the life of any one lust or corruption, that soul can have no experience of the power of the death of Christ in himself, cannot carry about him the dying of Christ. Endeavour to destroy sin that we may be like unto Christ.
I will not make particular application of these things to all the concerns of our walk, but leave it with you, with this word, begging of you, and my own heart, and of God for us all, that having these blessed representations of the death of Christ to us, we may have no rest in our spirits but when we have experience of the power of the death of Christ in us.
It is a common received notion among Christians, and it is true, that there is a peculiar communion with Christ in this ordinance, which we have in no other ordinance; that there is a peculiar acting of faith in this ordinance which is in no other ordinance. This is the faith of the whole church of Christ, and has been so in all ages. This is the greatest mystery of all the practicals of our Christian religion, a way of receiving Christ by eating and drinking, something peculiar that is not in prayer, that is not in the hearing of the word, nor in any other part of divine worship whatsoever; a peculiar participation of Christ, a peculiar acting of faith towards Christ. This participation of Christ is not carnal, but spiritual. In the beginning of the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ, when he began to instruct them in the communication of himself, and the benefit of his mediation to believers, because it was a new thing, he expresses it by eating his flesh and drinking his blood; John vi. 53. Unless ye eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of man, ye have no life in you.' This offended and amazed them. They thought he taught them to eat his natural flesh and blood. 'How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" They thought he instructed them to be cannibals. Whereupon he gives that everlasting rule for the guidance of the church, which the church forsook, and thereby ruined itself; saith he, 'It is the Spirit that quickens; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak, they are spirit and they are life.' It is a spiritual communication, saith he, of myself unto you; but it is as intimate, and gives as real an incorporation, as if you did eat my flesh and drink my blood. The church forsaking this rule of a spiritual interpretation, ruined itself, and set up a monster, instead of this blessed mysterious ordi
We may inquire therefore how faith doth peculiarly act itself towards Christ in this ordinance, whereby we have a distinct participation of Christ otherwise than we have by * Delivered September 20, 1682.
and in any other ordinance whatsoever. And I would mention four things unto you, which you may make use of.
1. That faith hath a peculiar respect to the sole authority of Christ in the institution of this ordinance.
All other ordinances draw upon the light of nature, and upon the moral law, as prayer, preaching the word, and singing of psalms to the praise of God; but this, that we should receive Jesus by eating of bread, and drinking of wine, it has no respect to the light of nature, or the moral law at all; and we should as soon choose to honour God by sacrifices, and eating the flesh of them, if it were not for the authority of Jesus Christ. Herein doth faith give honour to Christ in his kingly office. This is the most direct profession of the subjection of our souls and consciences to the authority of Christ, in all our religion. We can give no other reason, we can take no allusion from things, but merely this, Christ would have it so.
2. Faith hath a peculiar respect to the love of Christ in dying for us, making the atonement for us by his blood, and therein the glorifying of the wisdom, love, and grace of God the Father. Faith is led into special communion with Christ as dying for us to make the atonement, and therein we give glory to Christ in his priestly office in a peculiar manner in this ordinance, it respecting the sacrifice of Christ, whereby he made atonement for us.
3. Faith hath respect to this special manner of the exhibition of Christ to the souls of believers, under the outward signs and symbols of bread and wine by his institution, making such a sacramental union between the thing signified and the sign, that the signs remaining to be what they are in themselves, they are unto us the thing that is signified by virtue of the sacramental union that Christ hath appointed between his body and blood, and the benefits of it; and this bread and wine, though not changed at all in themselves, yet they become to us by faith, not what they are in themselves, but what is signified by them, the body and blood of Christ. Herein we give glory to Christ in his prophetical office. It is he who has revealed, taught and instructed his church in this truth which depends on the sacramental union which follows by his institution. That
is the third thing wherein faith peculiarly acts itself in this ordinance.
4. The fourth thing is, the mysteriousness, which I leave to your experience, for it is beyond expression, the mysterious reception of Christ in this peculiar way of exhibition. There is a reception of Christ as tendered in the promise of the gospel, but here is a peculiar way of his exhibition under outward signs, and a mysterious reception of him in them really, so as to come to a real substantial incorporation in our souls. This is that which believers ought to labour after an experience of in themselves; to find that indeed under these four considerations, they submit to the authority of Jesus Christ in a peculiar manner, giving him the glory of his kingly office; mixing faith with him as dying and making atonement by his blood, so giving him the glory and honour of his priestly office; much considering the sacramental union that is by his institution between the outward signs and the thing signified, thus glorifying him in his prophetical office; and raising up their souls to a mysterious reception and incorporation of him, receiving him to dwell in them, warming, cherishing, comforting, and strengthening their hearts.
I have mentioned these things as those which lie in your practice, and to obviate that (if I may mention it), which you may be tried with. There is but one plausible pretence that our adversaries, who design to oppress us, have in this business: If, say they, there be not a real presence and a real substantial transmutation of the elements into the substance of the body and blood of Christ, shew you a way whereby you may have a peculiar communion with Christ any more than in the word preached. We say, we have in these things experience of a peculiar communion with Christ in a way made proper to this ordinance, which is not to be found in any other ordinance.