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for it is a sign, by him appointed to that end, and hath (as divines well observe) a threefold use, as it is memorative, significative, and instructive.
As it is memorative, it has the nature and use of a pledge or token of love left by a dying to a dear surviving friend. And so the Lord's supper comes to us like a ring plucked off from Christ's finger, or a bracelet from his arm; or rather like his picture from his breast, delivered to us with such words as these; "As oft as you look on this, remember me; let this help to keep me alive in your remembrance when I am gone, and out of your sight."
It is a significative sign, most aptly signifying his bitter sufferings for us, and our strict and intimate union with him; both which have an excellent fitness to move the heart and its deepest affections: the breaking of the bread and pouring forth the wine signify the former; our eating, drinking, and incorporating them, is a lively signification of the latter.
Moreover, this ordinance has an excellent use for this affectionate remembrance of Christ, as it is an instructive sign. It instructs and enlightens us particularly in
1. That Christ is the bread on which our souls live, proper meat and drink for believers, the most excellent New Testament food. It is said, "Man did eat angel's food," Psa. 78: 25: referring to the manna that fell from heaven, which yet was but a type and weak shadow of Christ, on whom believers feed.
2. It instructs us that the New Testament is now in its full force, and no substantial alteration can be made in it, since the Testator is dead, and by his death hath ratified it. So that all its excellent promises and blessings are now fully confirmed to the believing soul. Heb. 9:16, 17. All these, and many more choice truths, are we taught by this sign: and in all these ways it reminds
us of Christ, and helps powerfully to raise, warm, and affect our hearts with the remembrance of him.
III. The last inquiry is, How Christ hath, hereby, left such a special mark of his care and love for his people? And,
1 This is a special mark of the care and love of Christ, inasmuch as hereby he has made abundant provision for the confirmation and establishment of the faith of his people to the end of the world. For this being an evident proof that the new testament is in full force, (it being the cup of the new testament in his blood, Matt. 26: 28,) it tends as much to our satisfaction, as the legal execution of a deed, by which we hold and enjoy our estate. So that when he saith, Take, eat, it is as much as if God should stand before you at the table with Christ, with all the promises in his hand; and say, I deliver this to thee as my deed. What think you, does not this promote and confirm the faith of a believer?
2. This is a special mark of Christ's care and love, inasmuch as by it he has made abundant provision for the enlargement of the joy and comfort of his people. Believers are at this ordinance, as Mary was at the sepulchre, with fear and great joy. Matt. 28:8. Come, reader, speak thy heart: if thou be one that heartily lovest Jesus Christ, and hast gone many days, possibly years, mourning and lamenting because of the obscurity and uncertainty of thine interest in him; who hast sought him sorrowing in this ordinance and in that, in one duty and another; if at last Christ should take off that covering, as one calls it, from his face, and be known of thee in breaking of bread: suppose he should, by his Spirit, whisper thus in thine ear as thou sittest at his table, Dost thou indeed so prize, esteem, and value me? will nothing but Christ and his love satisfy thee? then, know that I am thine: take thine own Christ into the arms of thy faith this day: would not
this create in thy soul a joy transcending all the joys and pleasures of the world?
3. This is a signal mark of Christ's care and love, inasmuch as it is one of the highest and best helps for the mortification of sin in his people. Nothing tends more to the destruction of sin. One writer calls that table an altar, on which our corruptions are sacrificed and slain before the Lord. For how can they that there see what Christ suffered for sin, live any longer therein?
4. Moreover his care and love appear in providing an ordinance so excellently adapted to excite his people's love into a lively flame. When Joseph made himself known to his brethren, "I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold, be not grieved;" Oh what showers of tears and dear affections were there! how did they fall upon each other's necks! so that the Egyptians wondered. How does the soul (if I may so speak) passionately love Jesus Christ at such a time! The fairest among ten thousand." What hath he done, what hath he suffered for me! what great things hath my Jesus given, and what great things hath he forgiven me! A world, a thousand worlds cannot show such another. Here the soul is melted down by love at his feet.
5. Christ's care and love are further manifested to people in this ordinance, as it is one of the strongest bonds of union between them: "We being many, are one bread, and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread." 1 Cor. 10: 17. Here the people of God are sealed to the same inheritance, their dividing corruptions slain, their love to Christ, and consequently to each other, improved; and it is certainly one of the strongest ties to bind together gracious hearts in love.
INFERENCE 1. Did Christ leave this ordinance with his church to preserve his remembrance among his people? Then surely he foresaw, that, notwithstanding what he is, and what he has done, suffered, and promised
for them, they will for all this be still prone to forget him. One would think that such a Saviour should never be a whole hour out of his people's thoughts and affections; that wherever they go, they should carry him with them in their thoughts, desires, and delights; that they should lie down with Christ in their thoughts at night, and when they awake be still with him; that their very dreams should be sweet visions of Christ, and all their words savor. of him. But Oh the baseness of these hearts! Here we live and converse in a world of sensible objects, which, like a company of thieves, rob us of Christ. Alas that it should be so with me, who am under such obligations to love him! Though he be in the highest glory in heaven, he doth not forget us; he hath graven us upon the palms of his hands; we are continually before him. He thinks on us, when we forget him. The whole honor and glory rendered him in heaven by the angels cannot divert his thoughts one moment from us; but every trifle that meets us in the way, is enough to divert our thoughts from him. Why do we not abhor and loathe ourselves for this? What!" is it a pain, a burden, to carry Christ in our thoughts? As much a burden, if thy heart be spiritual, as a bird is burdened by carrying his own wings. Will such thoughts intrude unseasonably, and thrust Christ out of our minds? For shame, christian, for shame, let not thy heart wanton and wander from Christ after every vanity. Never leave praying and striving, till thou canst say, "My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips; whilst I remember thee on my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches." Psalm 63:5.
2. Hence also we infer that approaches to the Lord's table are heart-melting seasons; because therein the most affecting representations of Christ are made. As the Gospel offers him to the ear in the most sweet,
affecting sounds of grace; so does his supper to the eye, in the most pleasing visions on this side heaven. There, hearts that will not yield a tear under other ordinances, can pour out floods: "They shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and mourn." Zech. 12: 10. Yet I dare not affirm that every one whose heart is broken by the believing sight of Christ there, can evidence that it is so by a dropping eye. No, we may say of tears, as it is said of love. Cant. 8:7. If some christians would give all the treasures of their houses for them, they cannot be purchased: yet they are truly humbled for sin, and seriously affected with the grace of Christ. For the support of such, I would distinguish, and have them do so also, between what is essential to spiritual sorrow, and what is contingent. Deep displeasure with thyself for sin, hearty resolutions and desires for its complete mortification, these are essential to all spiritual sorrow; but tears are accidental, and in some constitutions rarely found. If thou hast the former, trouble not thyself for want of the latter, though it is a mercy when they kindly and undissembledly flow from a truly broken heart. And surely, to see who it is that thy sins have pierced; how great, how glorious, how wonderful a Person, that was humbled, abased, and brought to the dust, for such a wretched being as thou, cannot but tenderly affect the considering soul.
3. Moreover, hence it is evident that the believing and affectionate remembrance of Christ is most advantageous at all times to the people of God; for it is the immediate end of one of the greatest ordinances that ever Christ appointed to the church. If at any time the heart be dead and hard, this is the likeliest means to dissolve, melt, and quicken it. Look hither, hard heart; hard indeed, if this hammer will not break it. Behold the blood of Jesus.
Art thou easily overcome by temptations to sin? This