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Union and Communion with Christ
V. THE BREAD AND WINE RECEIVED BY THE LORD’S PEOPLE, IN THE LORD’S SUI’PER, SYMBOLICAL OF COMMUNION WITH THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST.
“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 Corinthians 10:16
We have once more in contemplation the ordinance of the holy Supper. And if the Lord so please to spare to the morrow, the Lord’s people are invited to meet the Lord, in spiritual communion together, at the Lord’s table. Ordinances are precious things, when, through grace, they are used as mediums and carriages to bring the heart to the Lord. For when the redeemed child of God, by regeneration, is made a new creature in Christ, his spiritual senses, being brought into a supernatural life, those hallowed services, acting in subservience to the unction of God the Holy Ghost, call them forth into exercise of communion with God. And this is such a state of blessedness, of holy familiarity with the Lord Jesus; and in Him, and through Him, and by Him, with all the Persons in the Godhead, in the life of faith upon earth, as can only be exceeded by open vision, in the life of glory in heaven. It is not describable, by any powers of communication, from one to another. Language fails to convey any suitable apprehension of it. For as it is said, in reference to the sorrows of the distress of soul, “the heart knoweth its own bitterness;” so is it equally applicable to that glad-. Bess of the mind in spiritual communications from the Lord to his chosen ones: “a stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy,” (Prov. 14:10). Who indeed can be competent to discover what passed between the Lord and his people, when Jesus giveth them to eat of the hidden manna; and handed’ to them in secret the white stone, in which is written “the new name, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it!” (Rev. 2:17). It was thus with the spouse, when under divine influences, and she felt her soul on fire, arising on the wings of faith and love, she seemingly took flight after her beloved, crying out as she ascended, “Or ever I was aware, my soul made me like the chariots of Amminadib,” (Song 6:12).
And I have often thought, when contemplating those relations given in scripture, of the continued manifestations of Jesus to his church; what aboundings of grace must be in the heart of our most glorious Christ, from whom such streams are so: perpetually issuing. For, over and above the vast and stupendous work of redemption itself, the appointment of ordinances, to open, and keep open, the constant memorial of it, very fully proves what He had said from everlasting, that “his delights were with the sons of men, before his works of ‘old, and before the earth was,” (Prov. 8:28-31). By such outward signs the Lord graciously intimated his inward affections; and very blessedly made known the truth of that scripture, where he hath said, by one of his servants the prophet “Yea,. I will rejoice over them to do them good; and I will plant them in this land assuredly, with my whole heart and with my whole soul,” (Jer. 32:41).
I stay not to notice, at this time, the numberless testimonies of the kind with which the Old Testament saints were blessed, in the clays prior to the gospel. This would lead me into a subject too extensive. But otherwise it were easy to skew, that from the first dawn of revelation, which came in immediately on the fall, unto the full meridian of the gospel, every service and every institution were shadowy representations of Christ. For if Abel offered a more excellent sacrifice than Cain this was because he offered it by faith, with an eye to Christ, (Heb. 11:4). If Abraham laid Isaac on the altar intentionally for a burnt-offering, this also was typical of Christ, “whose day he saw afar off, rejoiced, and was glad,” (John 8:56). If “Moses kept the passover and the sprinkling of blood;” this no less was by faith in the view of Christ, “our passover sacrificed for us,” (Heb. 11:28; 1 Cor. 5:7). If the church sat under the “shadow with great delight, and the fruit was sweet unto her taste;” of whose shadow, and whose fruit, did she speak, but His whose coming she longed for, and for whom she waited, when the day of gospel light should break, and the shadow flee away, and “her beloved would be like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether!” (Song. 2:17). In short, every institution which the Old Testament saints observed, were all, more or less, shadowy representations of the good things then to come; but “the body was Christ.” Their faith in the person of our most glorious Christ, gave a subsistency to those images, as if they had Christ in immediate possession. They realized His presence as, if visibly with them. And they entered by faith into the enjoyment of their interest in his salvation, as if they had been following his steps from the hall of Pilate, and to the cross.
And what is it now, in all the venerable and sacred institutions of the church, among New Testament believers? What but the same hath been, now is, and will be, through all the time-state of the gospel, from the days of the Son of God openly tabernacling in our nature upon earth, until the final consummation of all things in heaven? To come nearer home, to the solemn and most interesting service we have in prospect before us; what is the one professed object of the institution of the Lord’s Sapper? Is it not to represent, by the emblems of bread and wine, the body and blood of Christ, which He offered in the day when, by his body broken, and his blood shed, “he put away sin by the sacrifice of himself?” (Heb. 9:26). Do we not, when truly regenerated, and made new creatures in Christ, receive into the spiritual life, and mind, and understanding, and conscience, a communication of our oneness in ‘Christ, and our interest in all that belongs to Christ? And when God the Holy Ghost, in his divine acts of grace upon our souls, takes of the person of Christ, and of the things of Christ, and glorifies both, in showing to us; do not the Lord’s people, as with one heart and one soul, realize and substantiate all and every part of his incarnation, obedience, blood-shedding, sufferings, death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and triumphs, over death, sin, hell, and the grave, as participating in those triumphs, and feeling and knowing their personal interest in them? Yea, do they not so enter into the spiritual apprehension of them as their own, from beholding them wrought and accomplished by their glorious Head and Surety, as if they had been wrought and accomplished by themselves? Surely, if Old Testament saints, that lived and died before these mighty acts of our most glorious Christ were finished, lived and died triumphant in the faith of them; shall not we, who live in ages since the Son of God hath completed salvation work, and is returned to glory, enter into a full apprehension and enjoyment of them? Shall not faith give a full assurance, when we are by regeneration “risen together with Christ; ascended together with Christ, and sitting together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus?” (Eph. 2:5 & 6). True, we are not entered into the full possession of them in open vision; but we have them by anticipation through faith. We are in our minority while here below, as children which have not attained their full age. Nevertheless we are the heirs of the promise; and both the person of Christ, and the salvation of Christ are as much ours now, as they will be then. Hence as the Holy Ghost taught the church by Peter, all truly regenerated believers may, and ought, to join in the same hymn as the apostle recorded they did: “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls,” (1 Peter 81:8- 9).
It is in this view, and with those well-grounded assurances of faith, the truly regenerated followers of the Lord are supposed to commemorate the holy Supper of the Lord. And under such conviction, the words of the text are addressed to them. “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?” The demand is put in the form of a question, not as if the things themselves are in the least doubtful or in the smallest degree liable to any uncertainty; but, on the contrary, to establish the point by such a method of interrogation, as carrying thereby the more decided testimony, that they are unanswerable. We have similar instances of thus establishing facts, in a way of question, in the word of God. Thus, when our most glorious Christ would set forth in strong characters, the infinite value of the soul, and the awful event, when men make barter of it, for the things of time and sense, the Lord Jesus states the subject under the same method of a question: “What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul; or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:36-37). We all know that this is an impossible case for a man to gain the whole world, or even a thousandth part of the world. But suppose the thing done: What is the man a gainer, if in the end his soul be lost? It needs no answer: the words answer themselves. And the very contemplation petrifies the mind with horror. We have another example of the same kind, which God the Holy Ghost hath adopted by Paul, in his statement of the doctrine. Having shown the infinite and incalculable blessings of the gospel, he adds, by way of question: “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” (Heb. 2:3). There is no answer. Indeed there needs no answer. The very words themselves bear with them their own answer. It is impossible to escape. The language in my text hath the same bearing. “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?” Yes, it most certainly is. And in the act of receiving, when from the Lord’s blessing on both, our spiritual senses are refreshed, as our bodies are by bread and wine, we have real spiritual communion with the body and blood of Christ.
But we must not stop here. For as the institution of the holy supper, iu the cup of blessing, and in the bread broken, were symbolical of a spiritual significancy of setting forth Christ’s death; so the receiving of them, implied a right of participation in all that those emblems figured of Christ himself and his salvation. The body and blood of Christ are sublime expressions, to denote both Christ’s person, and the merits of Christ’s death. Every regenerated partaker of the ordinance therefore, by that act, virtually declares that he considers himself as truly satisfied with it, and considers himself the partaker of it. He is as truly interested in the salvation of Christ, from his union with Christ, as if he himself had done and suffered, what Christ hath done and suffered for him. And the very institution of the ordinance, by the Lord Jesus Christ himself, was for the express purpose. For in the moment of the celebration, as the Son of God, in our nature, delivered the emblems of both to his disciples, he expressed himself to that effect: “Take eat; this is my body which is broken for you! This cup is the new testament in my blood,” (l Cor. 11:24 & 25). And, indeed, the whole tenor of revelation is to the same effect, (John 6:35-57).
One word more on the text. The cup of blessing and the bread broken in the holy supper, not only represent the regenerated church having communion with Christ, and a right of participation in Christ, and what is his; but it becomes a representation no less before God in his trinity of persons, that all such are virtually in God’s sight, so considered and accepted in Him. Christ is here set forth crucified not as a private person, but as the public head of his body the church. The regenerated believer, therefore, when receiving those outward tokens of bread and wine, as expressing his cordial and affectionate testimony of accepting Christ as the whole of salvation; no less receives them as convinced that God accepts the church in Christ, as part of himself; as “members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones,” (Eph. 5:30). For as it is said of Levi, that he was “in the loins of his father Abraham, when Melchizedec met him and blessed him;” so the whole election of grace were in Christ, and virtually interested in all Christ did, and wrought, and suffered, when accomplishing their salvation. And the very cup we bless, and the bread we break, carry with them this signification. In receiving both, and presenting both, as I receive them before God, I am supposed with the church of old to say, “Behold! 0 God our shield: and look upon the face of thine anointed!” (Ps. 84:9). And with the ear of faith I hear, and receive with holy joy and thanksgiving into my soul, the gracious answer of our most gracious God, as was once openly proclaimed at Jordan: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased!” (Matt. 3:17). Well pleased in Him; and well pleased with all that are in Him.
Let me beg your attention to another view of the sweet words of the text, before that we pass on to the improvements yet further, which arise out of them. As the whole mystical body of our most glorious Christ, are all alike interested both in Christ’s person and in Christ’s salvation; so the communion of the body and blood of Christ is alike to all, and alike with all, precisely the same. The verse immediately following the text, very blessedly gives this statement. “For we being many, are one bread and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.” The humblest member of Christ is as truly a part of Christ, as the highest; yea, and as needful to form the complete whole of Christ’s body, as those which by the Lord’s appointment, occupy a more exalted department. And what renders it yet more blessed in the view is; that as each forms a part in Christ, to complete the whole, so each is alike equally near and dear to the glorious Head. Now this is most graciously set forth in the holy Supper. Though “many members yet but one bread and one body.”
For all are what they are, from him, and their union with him. And by their alike communion with him in the holy Supper, it is set forth, being as the scripture expresseth it; “all partakers of that one bread.” And in all partaking with him, they partake also with each other, and are not only joined to their Almighty Head, but joined “in one body and one spirit, even as they are called, in one hope of their calling,” (Eph. 4:4). And the Holy Ghost by the apostle states this oneness of participation, by a very familiar illustration well known among the Israelites. “Behold (saith he). Israel after the flesh! Are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?” Yes, beyond all doubt they are. For though they were not the true spiritual Israel, but the followers only of carnal ordinances; yet even they, both priest and people, as they all alike ate of what remained of the sacrifices which the fire consumed not; they thereby declared themselves to be alike interested in the sacrifice: descendants of Abraham, and distinguished from all the other nations of the earth. How much more then, saith he, (for that is the inference which he draws from this statement). shall all the true spiritual communicants at the Lord’s table, who by regeneration are united to Christ, be made partakers of Christ’s salvation; all who set forth this being alike partakers of this feast upon the sacrifice.
Having thus very largely explained the words of the text, I shall have the less cause to dwell long upon the particulars connected with it. The .remaining province assigned me will be only to observe, that for the purpose of this communion, there must be a previous union with Christ’s person; and that by being regenerated from the Adam-fall of nature, the children of God are brought into a state of grace. This will form the first leading principle which I have from these words to say unto you. And secondly, that this communion with Christ will be known and made manifest from the Lord’s coming forth to us in a way of manifestation; and calling forth our spiritual apprehensions towards him, in a way of faith, and love, and delight, and praise. If the Lord who hath given us this scripture, shall at this time graciously be pleased to shine upon it, and shine at the same time from it on our hearts; we shall then be enabled to speak as decidedly in confirmation of the truth of it, as did the apostle, and say as he did: “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?”
Under the first of those particulars, namely, the necessity of a previous union with Christ’s person, for the enjoyment of communion with him, in being regenerated from the Adam-fall of nature, and brought into a state of grace. And here, in confirmation of the divine doctrine itself, we have from scripture the testimony to it, of all the persons in the Godhead. It is God the Father who hath chosen the church in Christ before the foundation of the world, (Eph. 1:4). It is God the Son, who hath from everlasting and forever betrothed the church to himself. (Isa. 54:5; Hosea 2:19). And it is God the Holy Ghost who hath anointed both the glorious Head and his members as one, and that from all eternity, (Luke 1:35; 1 John 2:20). And, by virtue of this everlasting union it is, that the whole of Christ’s person as God and man in one is united to his people: and the whole person of each individual of Christ’s mystical body, is united to Christ and this union is forever.
And what renders this original and first cause of union, so inconceivably blessed is that from being formed in the ancient settlements of eternity, and settled forever; nothing arising in the time state of the church could do away. The fall of the whole election of grace, in the Adam-transgression, could, and did, alienate the affections of the church towards her Lord; but could not dissolve the union, neither make any alteration in his love to them. This was, and is a cement founded in love, which many waters could not, nor ever shall quench: neither can the floods drown, (Song 8:7). So that union with Christ, which began before the world began, and will continue when there is no world, lies at the bottom of all our mercies, and is the source of all communion; yea, and which in itself, surpasseth all communion, and happiness, and glory; and all that we can propose to ourselves, in the felicity of heaven, to all eternity.
Now communion with Christ, which ariseth out of this union with Christ, and which was what I proposed to notice under the second particular; doth, and will manifest itself in numberless ways, always and invariably, beginning on the part of God; and thereby exciting and calling forth the spiritual apprehensions and affections, on the part of man, in a way of communion with Him. It doth not come within the limits of any description, either of men or angels, to spew what passeth and repasseth between the Lord and his people, in those hallowed seasons, when the Lord draweth nigh in manifestations of his grace, and enables them to draw nigh, in an awakened earnestness and going forth of the soul upon the person or work of the Lord Jesus Christ. But thus much we may say, from the authority of holy scripture, that the quickening of the spirit by regeneration, which before was “dead in trespasses and sins,” now, from the principle of new life given, renders the blessed object of it capable of communion with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ, through the divine operations of the Holy Ghost; for they are thereby “made partakers of the divine nature!” (2 Pet. 2:4). So, that there is nothing in heaven itself, and all the felicities of heaven, which can go beyond this. It is indeed the source of whatever blessedness the Lord gives to his people. Made partakers of the divine nature, they are thereby qualified for the receiving and enjoying communion with the divine nature.
I anticipate an interesting question, which ariseth from this statement, and which, more or less, will involuntarily be the result of what hath been said in the heart of all the truly taught of God; namely, how is it known who are the objects and subjects of this sovereign work of God in the soul? To which I answer, or rather, to which the Word of God gives answer, and directs the heart who truly feels anxious in the enquiry, to judge of this immense transaction in the quickening operations Of the Holy Ghost on the soul; as he would in the common operations of nature, in judging causes by their effects. The Lord Jesus himself sends his disciples to form their judgment of men, by what is discoverable in them. “Ye shall know them by their fruits.” The new birth is the spring of a new life. Every spiritual faculty is brought forth into action; and every tendency of the renewed heart is to Christ. The eye is spiritually enlightened to the contemplation of Christ. The-ear is unstopped, to know the joyful sound. The mind and affections are excited in desires after Christ. The spiritual appetite is quickened with hungerings and thirstings for Christ; and the mouth tasteth that “the Lord is gracious.” In short, every spiritual sense is alive to the apprehension of the Lord; and as it was with the spouse in the Canticles, when she felt the preciousness of the Lord Jesus, the church feels and expresseth the same now: “Because (said she) of the savour of thy good ointment: thy name is as ointment poured forth,” (Song 1:3)
And now what is the result of all that I have been saying? Who among you are spiritually taught of God, and feel spiritual desires to be partakers of the holy ordinance, which we have now in view, of the Supper of the Lord? You perceive, I hope, the indispensible necessity of the new birth, in order to a real spiritual participation of it. Until this miracle of grace hath passed on the soul, all the efforts of nature can give no relish or enjoyment for it. The great gulf spoken of in the gospel, which renders au entrance from hell to heaven impassible, (Luke 16:26) becomes the same barrier to the Lord’s spiritual banquet below. They, and they only, are welcome guests, whom God hath delivered “from the power of darkness, and hath translated into the kingdom of his dear Son! “Mistake me not. Carnal men may, yea, and carnal men will, mingle with the spiritual at this ordinance, as well as at all other ordinances; but an everlasting difference must mark the different characters, “between the righteous and the wicked; between him that serveth God, and him that serveth him not,” (Mal. 3:18). The truly regenerated child of God will easily know to which class he belongs, in putting the question of the text to his own heart, as he sits with Jesus at his table: can he say, “The cup 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?”
Moreover the truly regenerated child of God, when grace is in lively exercise, will receive such blessed refreshments from the Lord, as will not only manifest the Lord being present with the guests at his table; but as will frequently constrain the soul herself, under such divine unction, to say, “It is good for me to be here.” Sometimes the Lord will come in a word of power, a word of love, a promise, from his holy scripture, backed with the assurance, that God will perform what he hath promised. And not infrequently, the Holy Ghost will turn back the leaves of his people’s history, in relation to times that are passed, and bring to remembrance numberless transactions of divine favor shown them before, which, in the stream of time, had escaped recollection in their forgetful hearts. The patriarch Jacob found the blessedness of this when the Lord, many a year after his first manifestations to him at Bethel, put him in mind of it, and proclaimed himself to him afresh, as “the God of Bethel,” (Gen. xxxi. 13). Asaph, when under affliction, and for the moment, began to call in question divine faithfulness, roused by grace to a more becoming frame, chide himself for his unworthy thoughts of God, and said: “This is my infirmity! I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High. I will remember the works of the Lord: surely I will remember thy wonders of old!” (Ps. 77:1-11). And, the Lord encourageth his people to this remembrance, by telling them, that he is not forgetful of their first love and affection. “Go, saith the Lord, and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, “Thus saith the Lord, I remember thee: the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown,” (Jer. 2:2). And it is thus, in numberless instances now, in the present clay of the church, the Lord comes in the medium of ordinances, as well as very frequently without ordinances, and manifests himself unto his chosen ones, “otherwise than he doth unto the world,” (John 14:22)
Will the regenerated child of God further ask, how he is to know when Jesus comes to visit his soul in those hallowed seasons of communion; and by what testimonies he may discover the footsteps of grace, in those sweet love tokens, when, as Jesus saith, “my Father will come, and we will make our abode with him; and the Holy Ghost shall abide with you for ever?” (John 14:16-23). I answer, Let the child of God be on the lookout as the prophet on the watch tower; and when at the table of the Lord, or the house of the Lord, he finds his soul going forth, or, as the disciples at Emmaus, “his heart burneth within him,” while the word of Christ, or the work of Christ, is set forth in ordinances; and he himself simply passive, and only alive in spiritual apprehension of what is brought before him, or enjoyed in him: here is sweet communion with Christ. For it is the Father giving the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him. It is Jesus himself coming on his visits of love and mercy, to make known the riches of his grace. And it is God the Holy Ghost who is thus “directing the heart into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Jesus Christ.” Reader! are you going on the morrow to the table of the Lord? See if you can take with you, and with full assurance of faith, the words of my text, and subscribe with full consent of soul to their truth? “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?
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