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means the Holy Spirit, and that by “ quickening” is meant illuminating and sanctifying the soul; and that Christ desires by these words to teach His Church the obvious truth, that “the bare participation of ordinances, unless the Spirit of God work with them, and quicken the soul by them, profits nothing." i
Now, so far from militating against the Church of England doctrine, that if with a true penitent heart and lively faith we receive the Holy Communion, we then and there receive the benefits attached by Christ in this discourse to the eating of His Body and drir
king of His Blood, this interpretation does not even militate against Transubstantiation; for I never heard of any Roman Catholic writer who has asserted that the partaking of the consecrated host, i.e., of what he (the Roman Catholic). holds to be the natural Flesh of Christ, will of itself, without the Spirit of God, benefit an impenitent man. No Papist ever held that the taking of this Sacrament turns an impenitent man into a penitent one, or a wilful sinner into a true saint.
So that it appears to me that these words of Christ, as they are commonly understood, cannot be safely cited against the grossest view possible of the presence of Christ's Body and Blood.
If any persons believed that we could be profited by the Flesh of Christ without His Spirit, or that His dead Flesh, carnally eaten by a carnal wicked man, would save that man, then these words, in their popular acceptation, would set such persons right. Calvin's remarks
these words are sufficiently near the truth, and may be useful for those on whose account I chiefly write :
"Augustine (he says) thinks that we ought to supply the od
· Note in Matthew Henry.
‘only,' or by itself, as if it had been said, “The flesh alone, by itself profiteth nothing, because it must be accompanied by the Spirit.' This meaning accords well with the scope of the discourse, for Christ refers simply to the manner of eating ; He does not therefore exclude every kind of usefulness, as if none could be obtained from His flesh, but He declares that if it be separated from the Spirit it will then be useless.”
And so with the latter clause of the words of Christ in this verse :
“ The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” A man must believe in, and accept, all the words of Christ respecting eating His Flesh and drinking His Blood—both the words which He spake in the synagogue of Capernaum, and the words which He spake when He instituted the Eucharist—if he is to “ eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood” to life eternal.
The words to which Christ alludes are those which He had been speaking, and which had given offence, and, of course, we cannot separate from them any sayings of His or of His Spirit which throw light upon them. If His words, “Except ye eat of the flesh of the Son of Man," are spirit and life, so are His words, “This is My body," and so are the Eucharistic words of His Apostle, St. Paul, to whom He gave a special revelation respecting Holy Communion.
If these words are spirit and life, they cannot be mere figure and metaphor. If, too, they are spirit and life, they are only so to those who receive them in faith and submission.
Let those, then, who see no mystery of grace in these words fear exceedingly lest they destroy the faith of their brethren in sayings of Christ which seem, on the face of them, to demand great faith-deep submission of the whole soul to God's teaching: and I cannot but think that they are guilty of this who explain these words in a way which implies that words far less startling and obs scure would have been more suitable to the meaning which (in their opinion) Christ intended to convey.
Everything, then, in this discourse points to some gift of God to be given and received in the Supper or Sacrament which Christ shortly afterwards ordained.
They who deny this betray their secret consciousness that our Lord, throughout this discourse, alludes to a gift which cannot ordinarily be separated from the Sacrament of His Body and Blood.
They do so by systematically refraining from the use of the remarkable expressions with which this discourse is characterised.
These expressions are the most noteworthy and startling of any in the whole range of Scripture. If words havo any meaning, they betoken the most intimate union with Christ possible. There is nothing elsewhere in Scripture which can be put in comparison with—“ He that eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, dwelleth in Me, and I in him.”
Now, they who have seen a Sacramental reference in the terms, “ eating the flesh of the Son of Man, and drinking His blood,” have freely used such terms when they have spoken of the dear and intimate relations subsisting betwixt Christ and the Christian.
And they who have seen no reference to Holy Communion in these words, but have explained them as merely expressing the inward realisation of the Atonement, have, as a rule (when speaking of the union of the Christian with Christ), studiously avoided the use of these remarkable terms, and have substituted for them other words containing no such depth of meaning, and by no means so suggestive of close union.
Christians, like the Fathers, whose theology leads theme to consider Holy Communion as the means of partaking of the Flesh and Blood of Christ, freely and naturally make use of the expressions found in this discourse, as if they had sure grounds for their application.
Christians, on the contrary, who evince the most undoubted love to their Redeemer, but whose prejudices have led them to ignore any Sacramental reference in this discourse, have avoided the use of such terms as—“ eating Christ's flesh, and drinking His blood,” and have rather dwelt on other aspects of the soul's union with its Beloved, as, for instance, that Christ is the Christian's garment, or robe, or crown, or shepherd.
We have now carefully examined all the Scriptures which teach any doctrine respecting Holy Communion.
Let us put together, in few words, th 3 results of our investigation.
Our Lord, in His discourse at Capernaum, leads those who believe in Him to believe in Him, not only as the Son of God, or as the one Sacrifice for sin, but as the “bread from heaven.”
It is manifest that, if He is “Bread,” then as “ Bread” we must, in some sense, partake of Him; and so He says, “He that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me."
He then further tells us, that “the bread which He gives is His flesh”--not His whole Person, but His Flesh —and He further tells us, that we are to eat His Flesh and to drink His Blood to have His life in us.
Shortly afterwards, this same Jesus joins eating his Body and drinking His Blood with the partaking of certain bread and wine, which He ordained to be used in a very solemn rite or ordinance, which He instituted on the eve of the Redemption of the world by the giving of His Body to death, and by the shedding of His Blood.
After this, He gives, directly from Himself, a further and final revelation respecting this Holy Communion, to His last chosen Apostle ; in obedience to which final revelation, St. Paul speaks of the bread and cup as the Communion or participation of Christ's Body and Blood, and bids men examine themselves before they eat and drink, lest, "not discerning the Lord's body,” they become "guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.”
From all this, it is clear that Christ would have us receive certain great benefits of His redemption, through the eating of what He calls His Body, and the drinking of what He calls His Blood.
l'hese terms are never qualified, nor is any explanation of them vouchsafed.
If we are to abide by Scripture, then, no matter what the mystery involved in the use of such terms as “eating the Flesh” or “Body” of Christ, and a drinking His
“ Blood,”—no matter what the difficulty in apprehending that the highest blessings are made over to us through the reception of this Body and Blood, -no matter, too, what the danger on the side of carnality and superstition, arising from the use of these terms, still the expressions “eating Christ's Body" or "Flesh," and "drinking His Blood,” are the only fitting terms to indicate the channel through which we receive certain extraordinary benefits, and so are the nearest to that truth and reality which God alone can see as it is.
If we virtually set these terms aside, out of fear lest