CHRISTIA COMMU IO . BY THOMAS AR OLD, D.D.

JOH vi. 62, 63. What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he teas before ? It is the spirit that quickeneth ; the flesh profiteth nothiny : the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life, A SHORT time before these words were uttered, our Lord had used the expression, *' He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him ;*' and again, " He that eateth me, even he shall live by me/' Many of his disciples said, when they heard these words, '* This is an hard saying, who can hear it ?" they either did not, or would not, understand his meaning. Then Jesus, knowing in himself that they either found or made a difticulty in what he had said, went on to say to them, " Doth this oflfend you ? Do you really find it impossible to understand what I mean, when I say, that

70 CHRISTIA COxMMU IO . he who eateth my flesh and drinketh my bloody dwelleth in me^ and I in him ; or when I tell you, that ' He who eateth me, even he shall live by me Y What, and if ye shall see the Son of Man ascend up where he was before ? If you are so bent on understanding me literally, in thinking that I am really speaking of my flesh and blood in the common meaning of the words, what will you say when

I am taken up from you, and the clouds receive me from your sight ? How will you be prepared to bear my absence from you in body, if your notions of the good which you are to gain from me are so wholly outward and bodily ? But it is the spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing. When I say, that by eating me you shall live by me, that by eating my flesh and drinking my blood, you shall be one with me and I with you, I certainly do not mean that this my body, so soon to be taken from you, can be possessed of such an undying, of such a mighty power of giving life. It is not my flesh which you must eat, or my blood which you must drink ; but rather my spirit which you must receive heartily and entirely into your own. The words which I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life. It is of them that I say.

CHRISTIA COMMU IO . 71 * He who eateth me, shall live by me/ Receive them into your inmost souls ; digest them, let them mingle with every thought and feeling, till your spirits are but as the image of my Spirit, and of the Spirit of God. So being one with me and with my Father, you shall live through me ; if my Spirit be in you, and quicken your souls, that same Almighty Spirit, to whom belongs the creation of all things, whether bodily or spiritual, shall, in his good time, quicken your mortal bodies also, that ye may live both body and soul for ever."* Such, I think, is the meaning of those words of our Lord which I have taken for my text this day. othing can more strongly repel

the fond and unworthy superstition which would give to any thing but spirit the virtue of healing and quickening our spirits; which would suppose that our Lord's flesh or blood, in the literal sense ; that the pieces of his cross, the remnants of whatever had touched him bodily, could be in themselves of any religious use whatever. But, as I have often said, no labour can be more vain, or worse than vain, than that of attacking errors which are not oiur's. We are not given to these superstitions ; we do not think that we can eat the very body and blood of Christ ; we attach no

72 CHRISTIA COMMU IO . spiritual value to the relics of his passion^ even could we believe them to be genuine. And we do well to disregard the flesh, which profiteth nothing ; if, along with this, we feel a regard, as we ought to do, for the Spirit, that really quickeneth. ** The words which I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life." It is most true, but yet it were to do then: spirit a great injury if we made it to be no more than this, ** that he who keepeth Christ's words shall live for ever." He does not mean to represent his words as being only a law of life, delivered by him nearly two thousand years ago, which we must, to the best of our ability, strive to keep^ His words, which are spirit and life, relate not only to the commands, but to the promises which he has given us. It is not only where he says, " A new commandment give I unto you, that ye love one another ;" but also where he says, " Come unto me, all ye that labour,,

and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest;" where he declares, " Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world ;" where he says, " I am the Vine, ye are the branches; ye cannot bear fruit except ye abide in me ; for without me ye can do nothing." It is not then only, as the Prophet who, nearly two

CHRISTIA COMMU IO . 73 thousand years ago, preached the law of the kingdom of God, but as the living Saviour, full of tenderness, grace, and power, who "was dead, and is alive for evermore," that we should receive his words to our soul's strength. For as the kingdom of God is not folly or superstition, so neither is it hardness or coldness. It is vain and superstitious to call him, " Lord ! Lord !" and to do not the things which he commands us ; yet their's was a spirit no less *^ain, and quite as far from the kingdom of Goc ^ho complained of the useless waste of the i ment poured, by one who truly loved him,up his head, and who would fain have had it " s ^ for much, and given to the poor." We do r. ''id our growth to perfection by trying to "^way any of those moral elements of our * which God has given us ; but, by assigi. jach its proper place and share in the work, that all, according to the measure of every part, may work its increase, to the edifying of it in love. Therefore Christ, who knew what was in man, has provided for us accordingly. His words are spirit and life : in his relations with us, he fills at once our understanding and our affections; he is the wisdom of

God, and the love of God. He ascended up

74 CHRISTIA COMMU IO . into heaven; he left nothing that could encourage superstition, yet would he still keep up those personal feelings of love and gratitude and hope in us, which are at once the greatest ornament of our nature, and its best strength to enable it to overcome the temptations of evil. Therefore he declares himself to be ever standing at the right hand of God, to make intercession for us. Therefore he tells us that all power is given unto him in heaven and in earth; that he has received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, and is ever ready to give of this Holy Spirit to them that ask him. Therefore also he has instituted a particular ceremony, by which we might, at all times, recall to our minds, not only what he is now, but what he was when on earth, and what he did for us ; he has willed us to keep alive the memory of his death, till he shall come again to destroy all death utterly. There needs no memorial to remind us of what now is; it is not memory, but consciousness, which is required to show us Jesus by the right hand of God exalted, cheering, purifying, and strengthening our spirits by the daily influx of his own. This should be a matter of constant expe* rience to us; we should feel that he is

CIllllSTIA COMMU IO . 75 indeed alive for evermore^ because by his

grace we are enabled to be alive in our spirits also. But monuments and memorials are needed for the past, to bring again before us, through memory, what exists no longer, but which it is most mischievous to us to forget. And such a monument and memorial of his death Christ wished us to have in the constant celebration of the Lord's Supper. " He, being raised from the dead, dieth no more ;" it can only be by memory, therefore, that his death can be brought home to our minds. And if we ask, why it should be brought home to our minds, we must either think very slightly of the state of our own hearts, or have very imperfect notions of what Christ's death was. How can we dare to commune with Christ risen, without thinking of Christ crucified ? If we, in a manner, see God and live ; if, with all our faults, and all our unworthinesses, God yet calls us his children, and his Eternal Spirit vouchsafes to dwell in us as his temple, why is it, but because our sins and unworthinesses are washed away by Christ's blood; because his death has made atonement for the evil of our hearts, and God may dwell in that place which Christ's sacrifice has rendered clean in his sight.

76 CHRISTIA COMMU IO . If this language has become so much language of course to us that we have no distinct apprehension of its meaning or of its force, let us ask ourselves, in other words, if we will, at what time in our lives, or to whom amongst us, the thought of Christ's death is not needed ? Each and all of us, the oldest and the youngest alike, may put this question to

himself : — At what moment of my life would not the thought of Christ's death be useful to me ? Am I sick, or in sorrow ? There needs nothing to tell us how welcome it sounds to our ears then. Am I walking, as I trust, in the faith and fear of God, at peace with him, and growing daily in grace, honoured in my generation, and useful in society ? Oh, then, how needful is it that I should turn my thoughts to that cross, by which all this state of blessing was purchased for me ! What had I been, had Christ not died ? Where had been my peace with God ? where the progress in godliness which Christ's Spirit has given ? Or, if I am honoured in my generation, and apt to think much of myself for being so, let me remember that cross on which He who did more good to man than was ever done, hung for hours, not thanked or honoured, but mocked and reviled ! Again,

CHRISTIA COMMU IO . 77 am I struggling with sin, and find the contest almost too hard for me? Am I hindered, rather than helped in this struggle, by those who are living with me ? Am I inclined to be afraid of what they can say or do to me ? Then let me look to Christ's death ; and think that his blood was shed for those struggling, like me, with the evil within and without them ; that he, amid all tauntings, and all revilings,was so much more than Conqueror, that in that very hour he was strong to save those who looked to him for succour; — that even then he could say to the sinner who, like me, implored his aid, " To-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise !" Or, if I am not struggling

with sin, but careless of it ; if I am not sick, not sorrowful; but young and healthy, and happy; if my blood flows in my veins so boundingly, that it is an hourly pleasure to be alive ; one thought upon Christ's death may be the continuance of this happiness for ever. One thought upon Him, who, when he could have commanded all that earth could yield, chose rather to suffer and to die ! One thought of those warning words, with which he repressed the tears of the women of Jerusalem, '* If they do these things in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry ?" Yet, once

78 CHRISTIA COMMU IO . more, if we are living a life not thoughtless, but over-careful; if it is not our bounding blood, but the intense activity and power of our minds' energies, which is making us to live twenty hves in one; — then, too, how wholesome, how humbling, yet how soothing and how ennobling, is the thought of Christ crucified! Wholesome and humbling; for it tells us that our minds' power could not have prevented us from being in God's sight more worthless than his lowest creature, turning his gifts, as we do, to other ends than his glory; yet soothing and ennobling also; for it speaks of a perfect peace when the exertion of our faculties becomes feverish from its intensity; it tells us of a height to be attained hereafter, so far above all our hopes and notions, that, for the purposes of that divine life, the intelligence which now seems able to compass earth and heaven, will be as useless as we should find for our present Ufe the first feeble and dreamy conceptions of a

child. If, then, at every age, in every condition, the thought of Christ's death is so useful to us, how greatly should we prize the memorial of it ! To have it brought again before our eyes, in a sort of living action, to be assembled

CHRISTIA COMMU IO . 79 togetlier round Christ's table^ eating the bread and drinking of the cup^ just as the first disciples were assembled, as they ate, and as they drank, on the night when he was betrayed to be crucified. Surely it is our own &ult if this communion be no more than the flesh which profiteth nothing, when it may so well become the spirit that quickeneth. It will be that quickening spirit, if it, indeed, remind us seriously of Christ's death. It will be worse than the flesh which profiteth nothing, if we either turn away from it unheeded, or partake of it unworthily. For if we turn away from it, what is it but saying that Christ calls upon us to remember his cross, but we will not ; that we love our state as we are, better than the remedies which that cross contains for it ; that if we are serving God, we would fain take the merit of it to ourselves; that if we are struggling with temptations, we care not to seek the aid which may enable us to overcome them ; if we are laughed at or thwarted in turning to Christ, we are not anxious to be strengthened by him, lest we turn aside and leave him ; that if we are in health and cheerful spirits, we would rather think of nothing to make us sober and wise ; if our minds are busy and powerful, we

80 CHRISTIA COMMU IO . are contented to make them our idol. This is what we in effect say, if we refuse to remind ourselves of Christ's death. Or, again, if we receive the communion unworthily, if going only for form's sake, if not seeking really to keep Christ's death in remembrance, but trying, as it were, to hallow one day, in order to be excused to our own hearts for getting rid of the thought of Christ altogether for the next month or two, thus at once making our participation a superstition and a blasphemy ; then, also, we show that it profits us, and can profit us, nothing ; it is the stone which we refuse to make as the corner-stone of our salvation, and which, therefore, if we touch it, will but grind us to powder. May Christ's grace teach us better things than these ; may we go with a true desire to awaken and keep alive in our hearts * the remembrance of his death, in all its saving power ! May we go, feeling our want of such a memorial, and desirous to apply it to the particular evils or dangers of our own individual souls ! May we go, not superstitiously hoping to find a charm in the bread and wine, as if the flesh would profit us any thing ; not hoping, I mean, to be spared the necessity of being watchful for ourselves, to be able to

CHRISTIA COMMU IO . 81 pray the less, or labour the less for the future,

because we have been partakers of Christ's communion ; nor yet let us go with the presumptuous hope that temptations will assail us the less, that sin's power will be subdued within us, that we shall have no more falls, no more broken resolutions, because we have been admitted at Christ's table. We must not hope for this ; for so should our conflict cease before life was over; so should we enter into our rest before yet the sun was down. We must not expect to have no falls, no more broken resolutions, but we may hope to have fewer ; we must not expect to be freed from temptations, but we may hope to have gained greater ability to withstand them. Let us go soberly and humbly, yet with a lively hope and a strong desire. What are we, that our Lord should admit us at his table ? yet, seeing that he does so admit us, is it not an earnest of more that he will do for us ; will it not frirther us in that race whose prize is life eternal? Indeed it was appointed to help us on in that race, to be to our spirits a quickening spirit, by setting before them continually the death of Christ. I have endeavoured to show you how it does this, and how great is the' use of it ; that it is not a mere ceremony, or intended to VOL. 111. G

82 CHRISTIA COMMU IO . act secretly and mysteriously like a charm; biit by meeting directly the wants of our nature^ and supplying food for its best affections ; by so cleaving us from evil^ and so disposing us to good^ that our hearts may be rendered fitter to receive the gift of Christ's

Spirit, and so be quickened for ever.

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