TWENTY-EIGHTH LORD’S DAY.
Question 77. Where has Christ promised, that he will as certainly feed and nourish believers with his body and blood, as they eat of this broken bread, and drink of this cup?
Answer. In the institution of the supper, which is thus expressed: “The Lord Jesus, in the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he brake it. and said, take, eat; this is my body which is broken for you; this do in remembrance of me: After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye as often as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death until he come.”
This promise is repeated by the holy Apostle Paul, where he says, “the cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ the bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? for we, being many, are one bread and one body; because we are all partakers of that one bread.
The institution of the Lord’s supper establishes the true and saving communion of the body and blood of Christ. We must, therefore, diligently enquire after the true meaning of the words of the institution. Matthew, Mark and Luke, give a particular account of the institution of the Lord’s supper, which we have repeated by the apostle Paul in his first epistle to the Corinthians. We shall here repeat the account which each one gives of the institution of the supper.
Matthew 26:26, &c.
“And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, arid said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it: For this is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”
Mark 14:22, &c.
“And as they did eat, Jesus took bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat, this is my body. And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said unto them, This is my blood of the New Testament which is shed for many.”
Luke 22:19, &c.
“And took bread, arid gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them saying: This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying: This cup is the New Testament in my blood which is shed for you.”
1 Cor. 11:23, &c.
“For I have received of the Lord, that which also I delivered unto you; that the Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks he brake it, and said: Take eat, this is my body which is broken for you; this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying: This cup is the New Testament in my blood: this do ye as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.”
We shall now give a short exposition of the words of the Apostle Paul, as just quoted, and then present our views upon this most important subject.
The Lord Jesus: He is the author of this supper. It is for this reason called the Lord’s supper. We must, therefore, inquire what the Lord did,, said, and commanded, as Cyprian appropriately admonishes us, when he says: “If Christ alone is to be heard, we must not regard what any one “before us has thought proper to be done; but what Christ, who is before all, has first done.”
The same night in which he was betrayed: This circumstance is added to teach us that Christ instituted his supper at the last celebration of the Passover that he might show, 1. That there was now an end to all the ancient sacrifices, and that he substituted a new sacrament, which should henceforth be observed, the Passover being now abolished; and that it signified the same thing which that did in the place of which it was substituted, with the exception of the difference of time. The Paschal Lamb signified that Christ would come, and offer himself a sacrifice. The Lord’s Supper teaches that this is already accomplished. 2. That he might excite his disciples, and us to a more attentive consideration of the cause on ac count of which he instituted this supper, and that he might also show how solemnly he would commend it to our regard, in as much as he would not do any thing just before his death, except that which was of the greatest importance. Christ instituted it then at the tune of his death that it might be, as it were, the testament, or last will of our testator. In a word: Paul adds this circumstance that we may know, that Christ instituted this supper as a memorial of himself now ready to die.
He took bread: The bread which Christ took was unleavened bread, such as they ate at the feast of the Passover. This circumstance, however, does not properly belong to the Supper, any more than the evening at which time it was instituted; for the use of unleavened bread at the institution was accidental. Hence we must not infer from this that there is any necessity for the use of such bread in the celebration of the Supper, or that Christ would lay down any particular way of baking, or using it. Yet still the bread which is used in the celebration of the Lord’s supper differs from common bread, for whilst the latter is eaten for the nourishment of the body,, the former is received for the nourishment of the soul, or for the confirmation of our faith, and union with Christ. It is here to be observed too, that Christ is said to have taken bread from the table, that is, with his hand. Hence he did not take his body; nor did he take his body with, in, or un der the bread, except in a sacramental sense: for his body did not lie upon,, but sat at the table.
When he had given thanks: Matthew and Mark say of the bread, when he had blessed it; and of the cup, when he had given thanks. Luke and Paul say of the bread, when he had given thanks. Hence to bless, and give thanks signify in this place the same thing, so that the mystery of the magical consecration of the Papists, cannot be found in the difference of the language here used. Christ blessed, that is, gave thanks to his Father, and not to the bread, for spiritual blessings; because his work on earth was now finished, with the exception of the last act, which was just at hand, and because it pleased the Father to redeem the world by the death of his Son: or he gave thanks because the typical Passover was abolished, and that which was true, and signified was now exhibited, and that the Church had a memorial of him; or he may have given thanks for the wonderful gathering and preservation of the church.
He brake it: He broke the bread which he took from the table, and distributed the one bread among many, and not some invisible thing which was concealed in the bread. He did not break his body, but the bread. Hence Paul says, “The bread which we break.” (1 Cor. 10:16.) He distributed the one bread among many: because we being many are one body. Christ then broke the bread not merely for the purpose of distributing it, but also to signify thereby, 1. The greatness of his sufferings, and the separation of his soul from his body. 2. The communion of many with his own body, and the bond of their union, and mutual love. “The bread which we break is it not the communion of the body of Christ; for we being many are one bread, and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread.” (1 Cor. 10:16.) The breaking of the bread is, therefore, a necessary ceremony both on account of its signification, and for the confirmation of our faith, and is to be retained in the celebration of the Supper: 1. Because of the command of Christ, Do this. 2. Because of the authority and example of the church in the times of the Apostles, which in view of this circumstance, termed the whole transaction, the breaking of bread. 3. For our comfort, that we may know that the body of Christ was broken for us, as certainly as we see the bread broken. 4. That the doctrine of transubstantiation and consubstantiation may be rejected, and abandoned.
Take, eat: This command was addressed to the disciples and the whole church of the New Testament, from which it appears, 1. That the Popish mass, in which the Priest gives nothing to be received, and eaten by the church, is not the Lord’s supper, but a private supper to him that sacrifices, and a mere theatrical performance. 2. That we ought not to be idle spectators of the supper, but ought to receive, and eat it. 3. That the Lord’s supper ought not to be celebrated, except where there are those to receive and partake of it. 4. That it is a sign of grace on the part of God, who exhibits unto us certain benefits which we are to receive by faith, as we take the signs with our hand and mouth.
This is my body: This, that is, this bread: as if he would say, this thing which I have in my hand, which was bread. That this is the proper interpretation is evident from the following considerations:1. Christ took nothing but bread: he broke bread: and gave the broken bread to the disciples. 2. Paul says expressly, “The bread which we break is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” 3. It is said of the wine: u This cup is the New Testament in my blood.” It is in the same way that it is here said, This, meaning this bread, is my body which /* broken for you, and delivered unto death. The literal sense, it we understand the words properly, is this: The substance of this bread is the substance of my body. But to understand the words in this sense would be absurd; for bread is something destitute of life, which is baked of grain, and not personally united with the Word; but the body of Christ is a living substance, born of the virgin Mary, and personally united with the Word. Christ, then, calls the bread his body, meaning thereby, that it is the sign of his body, attributing by a figure of speech, the name of the thing signified to the sign; because he appoints this bread as the sign, and sacrament of his body, as Augustin interprets it when he says: “The Lord did not hesitate to say, This is my body, when he gave the sign of his body” Be it far from us, therefore, that we should say that Christ took bread visibly, and his body invisibly in the bread; for he did not say, In this bread is my body; or, This bread is my body invisibly; but, This bread is my body, true, and visible which is offered for you.
These, moreover, are the words of the promise added to this sacrament, for the purpose of teaching us that the bread in this use is the body of Christ, which is exhibited and given to those who partake of it and believe in this promise; or, it is the flesh of Christ which he promised that he would give for the life of the world. For this is the same promise which Christ had made before in the sixth chapter of John, where he says that his flesh shall quicken us, and that it shall contribute to the salvation of those who eat of it. Here he merely adds the sacramental rite, which clothes and seals the promise, as if he would say: I have promised in the gospel eternal life to all that eat my flesh and drink my blood; now I con firm and seal with this external rite the promise which I have made, that henceforth all that believe this promise and eat this bread may be fully persuaded and assured that they do truly eat my flesh, which is given for the life of the world, and that they have eternal life.
By this promise the bread is made the sacrament of Christ’s body, and his body is made the thing signified by this sacrament; and these two, the sign and thing signified, are joined in the sacrament, not by any physical union, nor by any corporal or local existence of the one in the other, much less by a transubstantiation or change of the one into the other; but by a sacramental union whose bond is this promise which is added to the bread, requiring faith of those who use it, which union declares, seals and exhibits the things signified by the signs. From this it appears that these things in their lawful use are always exhibited and received conjointly, but not without faith, viewing and apprehending the thing promised and now pre sent in the sacrament; yet not present or included in the sign, as in a vessel, but present in the promise which is the better part, being the soul of the sacrament. For they want judgment who say that the body of Christ cannot be present in the sacrament unless it be in or under the bread, as if the bread alone without the promise were the sacrament, or the principal part of it.
Which for you: For my disciples; that is, for your salvation and that of the whole church.
Is broken: But the body of Christ, some one may say, was not broken, nor is it now broken. To this we reply, that the Apostle in this passage has respect to the signification of the breaking of the bread, which denotes the rending of Christ’s body. For, as the bread is broken in pieces, so the body and soul of Christ were torn from each other upon the cross. The property of the sign is, therefore, by a sacramental metonymy, attributed to the thing signified.
This do: This is a command for the observance of this sacrament. This which you see me do, do ye also hereafter in my church; when congregated take bread, give thanks, break, distribute, eat, c. He comprehends and gives command in reference to the whole transaction; and that to us who believe, and not to the Jews who were about to crucify him.
In remembrance of me: That is, meditating upon my benefits which I have bestowed upon you, and which this sacrament calls to your remembrance; feeling also in your hearts that I give you these my gifts, and celebrating them by public confession in the sight of God, angels and men t and so giving thanks for them. The design of the Lord’s supper is, therefore, a remembrance of Christ, which does not consist merely in meditating upon his history, but is a remembrance of his death and benefits, including faith by which we appropriate to ourselves Christ and his merits, and gratitude or a public confession of the benefits of Christ. The parts of this remembrance, which is as it were the whole supper, are faith and gratitude r from which it appears that it was instituted to be a memorial of Christ,, calling to our recollection what, and how great benefits he hath purchased for us, and with what, and how great sufferings he has obtained them, confirming in us at the same time the faith by which we receive these gifts. It does not, therefore, follow, that because Christ has instituted the supper to his remembrance, that, it is not for the confirmation of our faith, any more than if I were to say, the supper does not confirm our faith, because the Holy Ghost does. It is no proper consequence to infer the denial of an instrumental cause from the fact, that we give prominence to the chief cause, no more than the denial of a part follows from a statement of the whole of which it is a part. Remembrance of Christ comprehends the remembrance of his benefits, together with faith and the giving of thanks;. for Christ by the use of these signs admonishes us of himself and of his benefits, and stirs up and establishes our confidence in him, from which it naturally follows that we also publicly express our gratitude to him. Hence this supper ought not only to admonish us of our duty, as some will have it, but it should first remind us of Christ’s benefit, and then of our duty; for where there is no benefit, there cannot be any gratitude.
Drink ye all of this: This command condemns the conduct of the Pope who refused the laity the cup, and is likewise opposed to the sophistical figment of the concomitance of the blood with the body of Christ
under the form of bread. Christ commanded all to eat and to drink. The Pope, however, will not allow the wine to any but the priests, giving nothing more than the bread to the laity, affirming that they drink in eating the bread. This shameful conduct is condemned by this command of Christ:
“Drink ye all of this.” That the argument of the Pope in justification of his course is a mere sophism, when he affirms that this command had reference merely to the disciples who were present at the time, who were not laymen, but priests, is evident, 1. Because, by this argument they foolishly make the disciples mass-mumming priests. 2. Because, the Scriptures do not recognize the distinction which they make between the priests and laity. All the faithful are called priests in the Scriptures. “And hath made us kings and priests unto God, and his Father.” “Ye are a royal priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” (Rev. 1:6.1 Pet. 2:9, 5.) 3. Because, by the same pretext the whole supper might be taken away from the laity, especially from females, if it were true that none are to be admitted to this sacrament but that class of persons present at its institution. The figment of concomitance is a wicked pretext, which Christ refutes when he calls the bread by itself, his body, and the cup by itself, his blood, and gave both separately to the disciples to be eaten and drunk, and commanded them henceforth to administer them in the same way.
This cup is the New Testament: Or, the covenant according to the Greek word dixqhxh, which corresponds with the Hebrew Berith. It is called the new covenant, which means the renewed, or fulfilled covenant. The new covenant consists in our reconciliation with God, and communion with Christ and all his benefits by faith in his sacrifice already offered, without the observance of the ceremonies of the old Passover. The supper is called the new covenant with reference to its signification, because it is the sign and seal of this covenant, sealing unto us our reconciliation with God, and our union with Christ by faith. Christ in calling the supper the new covenant, comprehends both the promise and the condition expressed in the promise, which is repentance and faith on our part; from which it follows that it was also instituted to bind us to a Christian life. The new covenant is here also opposed to the old, which was the Passover with its rites. The supper signifies Christ already offered; the Passover signified Christ who should be offered. Both, however, signify our union with Christ. From what has now been said, we may infer that the drinking of the blood of Christ is not corporal; for the New Testament is only one, and includes also all the people of God who lived before the coming of Christ into the world.
In my blood, which is shed for you for the remission of sins: The blood of Christ is his death. Hence in his blood, is the same thing as in, or on .account of his death. The shedding of the blood of Christ is his merit, in view of which we receive the forgiveness of sin, when it is apprehended by faith.
As often as ye eat this bread: The supper is, therefore, to be frequently ^celebrated, which we may also establish from its design, which is to celebrate the Lord’s death.
Ye do shew the Lord’s death: Believe that Christ died, and that for you; then profess his death publicly before all.
Until he come: This supper is, therefore, to be perpetuated unto the end of the world, nor is any other external form of worship to be expected.
The words of the institution, which we have now explained, may be more fully illustrated by the words of the Apostle: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” (1 Cor. 10:16.)
The cup of blessing: It is called the cup of blessing, or thanksgiving, because it is received for this end, that we may call to mind the benefits of Christ, and so render thanks to him for his sufferings and death.
The communion of the blood of Christ: Communion is a participation in the thing which is common. The communion of the body and blood of Christ is, therefore, to be made through faith partakers of Christ and all his benefits, by the same Spirit dwelling both in Christ, and in us, and effecting the same things in us which he does in Christ: or, it is the spiritual fellowship which the faithful have with Christ, as members with the head, and as branches with the vine. The bread and wine are the communion, that is, they are the sign and testimony of our communion with Christ. This communion, as the Apostle briefly expresses it,” consists in this, that we being many are one body; from which it is easy to see that this our communion with Christ is no corporal eating; for it is effected only by faith and the Holy Ghost. Christ is the head, and we are the members; all who are members have communion in all the benefits of Christ. The head and benefits are both common: hence we are all members in common and so have mutual love one to another.
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