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utmost importance, as it regards our individual salvation. Our holiness too, and our comfort, as well as our duly partaking of this ordinance, are closely connected with right views on this subject.
There are some expressions in a discourse recorded in the 6th of Joha,* which have often been referred to the Lord's Supper, and which will assist us to understand the nature of this faith. The circumstances of that discourse were these. The miracle of feeding the multitude with bread, and their thence following our Lord, having led him to exhort them to labour for the meat which endureth to everlasting life, they ask him, What shall we do that we might work the works of God? His reply was, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. The Jews ask for a proof of his mission, and tell him of the manna which Moses had given. This leads our Lord to shew them a better food.I am the bread of life; he that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. He farther explains himself, when he says, the
, bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The Jews were stumbled at this; but our Lord only the more solemnly asserts, Verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.
* It is observable, that this Evangelist who omits the mention of the appointment of the external ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper, dwells most at large on the spiritual import of those ordinances; regeneration by the Holy Spirit, and faith in the atonement of Christ.
To prevent any misunderstanding of these words by giving them a mere literal interpretation, our Lord afterwards told his disciples, It is the Spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing; the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life.
The great subject inculcated in this discourse, is such a faith in Christ as leads the soul to rely on his giving his flesh for the life of the world. The discourse does not directly refer to the Lord's Supper, for there is not in the whole statement the slightest mention or bint of that appointment, nor could his hearers have had any clear understanding of his words, if he were supposed to be speaking of an ordinance never appointed, nor even intiinated before. In such a case, would not our Lord's words have wanted that distinctness and precision which usually characterize his discourses?
Our Lord here takes occasion from what had previously passed, to illustrate the nature of faith in him, by food received for the support of the body. By the flesh of the Son of Man, and his blood, he means his becoming man and dying for us; (Heb. ii, 14.) by his flesh being given for the life of the world, he points out the atonement which he would by his death make for mankind; and by eating that flesh, and drinking that blood, he shows how we partake of this blessing. Faith is to the mind, what partaking of food is to the animal frame. We know that before food can nourish us, it must be received, eaten, and digested ; and so before any sentiments or statements can benefit us, we must believe them and dwell upon them; or, (as in the same allusion the Church Collect expresses it) we must “inwardly digest thein." The truths of Scripture, and the doctrines of salvation by Jesus Christ, can only
influence us, and produce in us corresponding affections as they are received; as they are credited and thought upon.
Thus the doctrine of the atonement may be known in a general way; we may be able to state it accurately, and prove it strongly, without our being influenced by it, or having any interest in it; in order to obtain the blessing ourselves, we must receive the atonement. Rom. v, 11, 17. Saving faith has a special reference to this doctrine. The faith by which Christians, under the Gospel dispensation, are justified and accounted righteous before God, is such a persuasion of the truth of the divine declarations respecting the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, as makes the soul cleave to him, and produces a sure trust and reliance upon his obedience unto death, as our only and all-sufficient ground of hope for the pardon of sin, peace with God, the gift of eternal life, and every spiritual blessing.
When we “ enabled thus to believe and come to God with our load of guilt and misery, not trusting in our own righteousness, but in his manifold and great mercies, as flowing to sinners through the sacrifice and atonement of Christ, then we find peace of conscience, and a quiet mind.” Our souls are satisfied and strengthened, and our hearts are set at liberty to love and serve God with gratitude and entire devotedness.
The Church of England speaks very decisively on this subject. “ The right and true Christian faith is, not only to believe that Holy Scripture, and all the foresaid articles of our faith, are true, but also to have a sure trust and confidence in God's merciful promises, to be saved from everlasting damnation by Christ;
whereof doth follow a loving heart to obey his commandments."
Only conceive the state of mind of one awakened to a true knowledge of the law of God in its reasonableness, its purity, and its extent; and a true sense of his own exceeding sinfulness. He sees that he is justly condemned, heaven is forfeited, divine wrath is incurred, and any moment may plunge him into irremediable and endless ruin; and then say whether there may not be desires wrought in the heart that can be well compared to hunger and thirst; and whether there be not in the salvation of Jesus Christ, that which may justly be called the bread of life, and the fountain of living waters; and whether faith in his doctrines may not nourish and support the soul, just as much as the most suitable food does the body! Bread or flesh is not more adapted to meet the necessities of the hungry, nor wine to strengthen and revive the weak, than the atonement of the incarnate Saviour to supply the wants of the convinced, humbled, and penitent sinner. Nothing else indeed will supply his wants. Archbishop Cranmer (whose Treatise on the Sacrament is full of instruction,) justly says,
« There is no kind of meat that is comfortable to the soul, but only the death of Christ's blessed body; nor any kind of drink that can quench its thirst, but only the blood-shedding of our Saviour Christ." Let us then, when we receive the Lord's Supper, spiritually feed on Christ as our ailsufficient and all-satisfying Saviour.
It is not one act of faith only that marks the Christian. The just live by faith. When we dwell on
* See Homily on Salvation.
what Christ has done for us, and look to him for grace and strength, we receive continued supplies of spiritual food. Worldly things weaken our spiritual strength, and deaden our devout affections. Satan tempts us, and a corrupt heart leads us astray. In the midst of these dangers, it is only in proportiou as we constantly come to Christ, and receive out of his fulness grace for grace, that we are strong and vigorous in the Christian life. Just as the body lives by receiving food from day to day, and thereby increases, and grows from infancy to manhood, so the soul lives by this faith in Christ, and
goes from strength to strength till we come to a perfect man.
The Scriptures speak very strongly of the BLESSINGS connected with this faith in Christ. They are stated in the 6th chapter of Johın in many varied expressions. Without this faith we have no spiritual life; through faith we have union with Christ, support, strength, consolation, and eternal bliss. The promise of eternal life may well be peculiarly cheering and animating to us. Observe how solemnly our Lord declares, (ver. 47.) Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me hath everlasting life. Who can calculate the magnitude of this blessing? All the glories of this world fade before it. To be happy, and that for ever! what heart can imagine all that is comprehended in everlasting life? Look only at one point in the promise, (ver. 54.) I will raise him up at the last day. Place only the resurrection before your eyes. The last trump is sounded the heavens pass away with a great noise—the LORD HIMSELF descends. In this tremendous day, amid the wreck of worlds, who shall stand when he appear.