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my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him."
We are bound to justify this language, strong as it is, and to prove to you, that the flesh of the incarnate Son of God is truly meat, and his blood truly drink; and thus to show how this man can give us his flesh to eat. To reduce the whole of what He has said so solemnly, to what some would call a strong and peculiar oriental way
of speaking, would be to deny to the blessed Redeemer that divine simplicity of character and language which were his glory; and which, no man has yet proved, or ever can prove, did not belong to him. But, as it has been asserted, that he intended to explain his own meaning, when he said to his disciples, that his words were spirit and life, we shall consider the whole of what he then said to them; as we are persuaded that will best show us how to answer the question of the Jews, and to satisfy those Christians who, in like manner, strive among themselves in reference to the same subject. Before, however, we proceed to do that, we would just remark, that his explanatory words did not satisfy even his disciples generally: for we are told, that from that time many of them went backward, and walked no more with bim; and he was constrained to say to the twelve, “ Will ye also go away?” And, after Peter had given a very proper answer to his question, be said, “ Have I not chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil ?" All this shows how anxious we ought to be, not to deceive ourselves on the subject of our faith and knowledge of Christ. No man, we are told, can come to him, except it be given to him of God; and that even his professed disciples may not truly believe. Let us all, therefore, earnestly pray for the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, to lead us to the true knowledge and acknowledgment of Christ : that will prompt us to a truly pious and calm consideration of what he said to his disciples generally, when he perceived that his strong words had offended them.
In the first place, he puts two very important questions : “Doth this offend you ?” and, “ What, and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before ?" He then proceeds to make three assertions : “ It is the Spirit that quickeneth ;” “The flesh profiteth nothing;" and, “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” We shall put our observations under three general heads. First, we shall consider these questions; then weigh the assertions; and, lastly, notice the bearing of the whole subject on the sacred ordinance we are about to celebrate.
I. As to the two questions proposed by our Lord : we take them in order.
1. When he says, “ Doth this offend you ?” he clearly intimates, that those who had been under his teaching, and were his professed disciples and followers, ought not to have been offended at what he VOL. XXI. Third Series. FEBRUARY, 1842.
had said. What the disciples of Christ are taught to believe respecting him, are things, it is true, out of the way of the natural and ordinary conceptions of men. They are things which“ eye hath not seen, nor ear heard,” nor was it possible for the heart of man ever to have conceived, had not the Spirit of God revealed, them. And, although the words in which they are revealed are doubtless the most proper and best adapted to such sublime matters, yet “ the natural man receiveth not the things,” nor the words, “ of the Spirit of God. They are foolishness to him. He cannot know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” There must be a proper adaptation of the faculty to the object, as well as to the light in which it is placed, in order to distinct perception. The light in which the Spirit of God has necessarily placed the truths which can alone bless and sanctify mankind, is too pure and too resplendent for the distempered and feeble eyes of the sinner's understanding. But the disciples of the Redeemer ought to have known better, than to have been offended at his words, which were all in perfect accordance with the revealed truth of God, and were spirit and life in a very different sense from that which some would have us to believe them to be.
Men who talk of the obscurity of the sacred Scriptures, and of those who only speak as the divine oracles have taught them to speak, would do well to try to understand what our Lord meant, when he said, to the carnal Jews, “ Why cannot ye understand my speech? Because ye cannot hear my words.” What is most absurdly called by many, abstruse and metaphysical preaching, may, after all, be nothing but an honest, and pious, and even luminous, attempt to make men understand the words whereby they may be saved. It would do such hearers no barm, to say the least, to suspect, that their want of a distinct perception of the meaning of what they hear, may be owing to their own want of perspicacity, rather than to any want of perspicuity in their teachers. The Spirit of revelation is the Spirit of wisdom; and where that Spirit is, there is no fear, but power, and love, and a sound mind. They who are under the influence of that divine Spirit, may be called “babblers," as St. Paul was, by those who could not understand his wisdom,ếor even “madmen," as it was said of the Redeemer himself, when he delivered this most sublime discourse : “He hath a devil and is mad : why hear ye him?” But this will not disturb them. They are conscious of their own mental sanity, and of the divinity of that Spirit by which they are possessed. They love God and all mankind, and only pity the ignorant opposers of the saving truth of God. They feel within themselves a moral energy and courage, such as the clear and certain knowledge of “the glorious Gospel of the blessed God” alone can inspire. Nor can any who, with St. Peter, are assu
ssured, that the words of Christ relate to eternal life, and that he is the Son of the living God, be offended at any of the strong expressions he used in the memorable discourse from whence our text
has been taken. They are all plain to him that properly understands them, and can give such a man no offence. 2. Our Lord's next question is, “ What, and if ye
shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before ?” It is natural for us to ask here, as the Jews did on another occasion, “ Who is this Son of man ?” And the proper answer to such a question will go far to show how he can give us his flesh to eat, and to prove that his flesh is truly meat, and his blood truly drink, to all the faithful.
Whatever those who deny the proper divinity of Christ would have us to believe to the contrary, we confidently assert, that there is not a single expression in the whole book of God, respecting his person and natures, which is not clear, self-consistent, and perfectly intelligible to those who distinctly recognise the important fact, that “God and man are one Christ, not by confusion of substance, but by unity of person.” The divine and immutable nature of the Son of God could not possibly undergo any essential change when he became the Son of man, astonishing assumption of the nature of man into his person : nor was the nature he thus assumed essentially altered, however it was exalted and glorified. Though it was thus purified, and placed under the beatific radiance of the infinite love of God, and was exalted to the very throne of Deity ; yet it was, and still is, human nature, and must ever remain so, in all its essential properties.
Whatever absurdities may have resulted from the erring speculations of vain mortals, in reference to this Son of man, we are certain, that no absurdities are justly chargeable on the representations of holy writ. All that is said there is clear and harmonious, and commends itself to the understanding of every man who is truly taught of God, and will not listen to the dictates of his own wild imagination, or to other men’s fancies. Hence we may say, with the strictest propriety, of that Person who came down from heaven, and yet was ever in the very bosom of the Father, who sent him to be the Saviour of the world, when he had become the Son of man, by uniting the nature of man for ever to his divine person, that he could ascend up where he was before. He came down from heaven as the Son of God: he ascended up to heaven as the Son of man. And where it is said, the Son of man was to ascend up where he was before,-and, as he intimated to Nicodemus, of course, must have come down from heaven, and was in heaven even while he stood before him on earth,--the whole must be explained by a reference to the unity of his person. The human nature of the Redeemer never had, nor could have, a distinct personal subsistence, as it was assumed into the divine personal unity of the Son of God, and never constituted a mere man; though, when thus assumed by the Son of God, it made him, as it respected that nature, truly and properly a man ; while he ever remains, as it respects his own eternal and immutable nature, truly and properly God. This clear and consistent scriptural account of God manifested in the flesh,
sheds a divine light over those numerous important declarations which could never have been looked upon as either self-consistent, or true, if he to whom they are applied were not God and man in one person; not a divine and a human person united, but a divine person now subsisting in human nature. Nor has it ever yet been proved, and it is absolutely incapable of proof, that there is anything in all this inconsistent with itself. The whole matter is most amazing, and may appear dark with excessive brightness to the feeble eyes of man's understanding; but that ought not to surprise us, who are so often dazzled and confounded by what may be called God's lower manifestations of his wisdom, power, and goodness.
Let those, then, who ask, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat ?” consider who He is. Were he, as the Jews, in their confusion and ignorance of the truth, supposed, the son of Joseph and Mary, and, as such, nothing more than a mere human being, we might ask, as they did, “ How saith he, I came down from heaven?” We might also ask, without ever expecting a satisfactory answer to the question, “How saith he, 'Wherever two or three are met together in my name, there am I in the midst of them ?'” And how could he say to his Apostles, when about to “ascend up where he was before,” there to remain till he should return to receive them to himself, that where he is, there they may be also,—“Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world ?” But we who believe, that “the second man is the Lord from heaven;" and, that “ the first man Adam was," by the breath of God,“ made into a living soul,” so “the last Adam was,” by the incarnation of the eternal Son of God,“ made into a life-making (SWOTOLOūv) Spirit;"-we, I say, can see nothing in all this, which ought to perplex our minds, or cause us for a moment to doubt its truth.
We may allow, that when the disciples saw the Son of man “ascend up where he was before," and had been assured by angels, that he should so come in like manner as they had seen him go up into heaven, they had the most manifest proof that his bodily presence was removed from earth, to the places far above the visible heavens; and they could not suppose, that he ever intended to leave his body on earth, to be eaten in any such way as their mistaken countrymen seem to have imagined he must have meant, when he said, that the bread he would give was his flesh, which he would “give for the life of the world." Yet we shall see, before we conclude this discourse, that when they were led into all the truth respecting him, by the Holy Ghost given to them, they did know how the Son of man could give them his flesh to eat, and that his flesh is truly meat, and his blood truly drink.
We need add no more under this particular head, except a remark or two on the fact, that we all stand connected, by nature, with the first man, who is of the earth, and was liable, for his transgression, as
the event has proved, to return to the dust, out of which he was taken by the forming hands of God. In consequence of that connexion, we have all become partakers of Adam's guilt and depravity, and, like him, we are doomed to death and dissolution. By grace we may be united, in a supernatural way, with the second Man, who is the Lord from heaven ; whom the living Father sent into the world, and who lives as the Father, as well as by him,-having life in hin self even as the Father has, and as no creature ever can have. When we are so united with the incarnate Son of God, we live by him, and in him, and he lives, and shall for ever live, in us. The perfect moral purity of his humanity, through the power of his divinity, becomes a real and powerful occasion of the same kind of purity in us; and the precious blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purges our consciences from dead works, to serve the living God. But, in order to all this, we must so partake of his body and blood, as to know that we dwell in him, and that he dwells in us; and, as St. Paul says, that we have really become “members of his body, and of his flesh, and of his bones.” Nor is this impossible. For, as the judicious Hooker has taught us, with no less truth than sublimity, though the human nature of the Redeemer is confined to one place, as ours is, (or it were not human nature, but something else,) yet is there no place where he cannot make it, through its indissoluble union with his divine nature, the medium of our purification, and life, and blessedness. If guilt, depravity, and death are derived from a mere man to all his descendants; then, surely, may righteousness, holiness, and life flow to all believers from the incarnate Son of God.
II. We proceed to weigh our Lord's assertions.
1. He says, “ It is the Spirit that quickeneth.” This is true, in a subordinate sense, of the created spirit we are assured there is in man. All the amazing mechanism of his bodily frame, which may be viewed as a divinely formed and most complicated engine, which, once put in motion, might continue to move for ever, would not have caused it to live, had not the inspiration of the Almighty given to the man he had formed out of the dust of earth, that living soul which placed him far above the brutes he was appointed to govern, by means of bis superior understanding. It is also true of the spirit of a beast, which goes downward, and returns not to God who gave it, like that of man. By that spirit it lives. We may even go so far as to assert, without the fear of any successful contradiction, that no kind of life is, or can be, the result of a purely material organization. We must believe, that all the various and wonderful motions observable in all the matter in the universe, are to be referred at last to a spiritual cause. The utter impossibility of any kind of rational demonstration to the contrary, might be clearly and fully proved to you, were this a proper time and place for such a discussion. We merely touch upon the subject as far as relates to its theological bearings, and shall, in addition