Our continuing series from Thomas Watson’s The Mystery of the Lord’s Supper
So I come to the text: “As they were eating, Jesus took bread,” etc. (Matt. 26:26-28), where I shall open these five particulars, in reference to the sacrament. I. The Author. II. The time. III. The manner. IV. The guests. V. The benefits.
IV. The fourth thing is the guests invited to this supper, or the persons to whom Christ distributed the elements: “He gave to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat.’” The sacrament is children’s bread. If a man makes a feast, he calls his friends. Christ calls his disciples; if he had any piece better than other, he carves it to them.
“This is my body which is given for you” (Luke 22:19). That is, for you believers. Christ gave his body and blood to the disciples, chiefly under this notion, as they were believers: as Christ poured out his prayers (John 17:9), so his blood only for believers; see how near to Christ’s heart all believers lie! Christ’s body was broken on the cross, and his blood shed for them. The election hath obtained it (Rom. 11:7). Christ hath passed by others, and died intentionally for them. Impenitent sinners have no benefit by Christ’s death, unless a short reprieve. Christ is given to the wicked in wrath. He is a rock of offence, 1 Pet. 2:8. Christ’s blood is like chemical drops of oil, which recover some patients, but kill others. Judas sucked death from the tree of life: God can tum stones into bread; and a sinner can turn bread into stones — the bread of life into the stone of stumbling.
V. The fifth thing observable in the text is the benefit of this supper, in these words, “for the remission of sins.” This is a mercy of the first magnitude, the crowning blessing, “Who forgiveth thy iniquities, who crowneth thee with loving-kindness” (Psa. 103: 3, 4). Whosoever hath this charter granted is enrolled in the book of life, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven” (Psa. 32:1). Under this word, “remission of sin,” by a synecdoche, are comprehended all heavenly benedictions, justification, adoption, glory, in respect of which benefits, we may, with Chrysostom, call the Lord’s Supper the feast of the cross.
Use 1. This doctrine of the sacrament confutes the opinion of transubstantiation. When Christ says, “This is my body,” the papists affirm that the bread, after the consecration, is turned into the substance of Christ’s body. We hold that Christ’s body is in the sacrament spiritually; but the papists say that it is there carnally, which opinion is both absurd and impious.
(1.) Absurd. For it is contrary, 1. To Scripture. The Scripture asserts that Christ’s body is locally and numerically in heaven. “Whom the heavens must receive, until the times of restitution of all things” (Acts 3:21). If Christ’s body be circumscribed in heaven, then it cannot be materially in the eucharist. 2. It is contrary to reason. How is it imaginable that a thing should be changed into another species, yet continue the same? That the bread in the sacrament should be transmuted and turned into flesh, yet remain bread still? When Moses’s rod was turned into a serpent, it could not be at the same time both a rod and a serpent. That the bread in the sacrament should be changed into the body of Christ, and yet remain bread, is a perfect contradiction. If the papists say the bread is vanished, this is fitter to be put into their legend than our creed; for the colour, form, and relish of the bread still remains.
(2.) This opinion of transubstantiation is impious; as appears in two things. 1. It is a profaning Christ’s body, for if the bread in the sacrament be the real body of Christ, then it may be eaten, not only by the wicked, but by reptiles and vermin, which were to disparage and case contempt upon Christ and his ordinance. 2. It runs men inevitably upon sin; for through this mistake, that the bread is Christ’s very body, there follows the Divine worship given to the bread, which is idolatry; as also the offering up of the bread, or host in the mass, which is a blasphemy against Christ’s priestly office (Heb. 10:14), as if his sacrifice on the cross were imperfect. Therefore I conclude with Peter Martyr, that this doctrine of transubstantiation is to be abhorred and exploded, being minted only in men’s fancies, but not sprung up in the field of the Holy Scriptures.
Also this doctrine of the sacrament confutes such as look upon the Lord’s Supper only as an empty figure or shadow, resembling Christ’s death, but having no intrinsic efficacy in it. Surely, this glorious ordinance is more than an effigy, or representative of Christ. Why is the Lord’s Supper called the communion of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 10:16), but because in the right celebration of it, we have sweet communion with Christ? In this gospel-ordinance, Christ does not only show forth his beauty, but send forth his virtue. The sacrament is not only a picture drawn, but a breast drawn; it gives us a taste of Christ as well as a sight (1 Pet. 2:3). Such as make the sacrament only a representative of Christ, do shoot short of the mystery, and come short of the comfort.
Use 2. It informs us of several things.
1. It shows us the necessity of coming to the Lord’s Supper. Has Jesus Christ been at all this cost to make a feast! then surely there must be guests (Luke 22:19). It is not left to our choice whether we will come or not, but it is a duty purely indispensable; “Let him eat of that bread” (1 Cor. 11:28). Which words are not only permissive, but authoritative. As if a king should say, Let it be enacted. The neglect of the sacrament runs men into a gospel premunire (penalty). It was infinite goodness in Christ to broach that blessed vessel of his body, and let his sacred blood stream out; and for us willfully to omit such an ordinance, wherein the trophy of mercy is so richly displayed, and our salvation so nearly concerned, well may Christ take this as an undervaluing of him, and interpret it no better than a bidding him keep his feast to himself. He that observed not the Passover, that soul was to be cut off (Num. 9:13). How angry was Christ with those that stayed away from the supper! they thought to put it off with a compliment; but Christ knew how to construe their excuse for a refusal; “None of those men which were bidden, shall taste of my supper” (Luke 14:24). The rejecting gospel-mercy is a sin of so deep a die, that God can do no less than punish it for a contempt. Some need a flaming sword to keep them off from the Lord’s table: and others need Christ’s whip of small cords to drive them to it.
Perhaps, some will say, they are above the sacrament. It were strange to hear a man say he were above his food! The apostles were not above this ordinance, and does anyone presume to be a peg higher than the apostles? let all such consult that scripture, “As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye show the Lord’s death till he come” (1 Cor. 11:26). The Lord’s death is to be remembered sacramentally, till he come to judgment.
2. See the misery of unbelievers; though the Lord has appointed this glorious ordinance of his body and blood, they reap no benefit by it. They come indeed to the sacrament, either to keep up their credit, or to stop the mouth of conscience, but they get nothing for their souls. They come empty of grace, and go away empty of comfort; “It shall even be as when a hungry man dreams, and behold he eats; but he awakes, and his soul is empty” (Isa. 29:8). So, wicked men fancy they eat of this spiritual banquet, but they are in a golden dream. Alas, they discern not the Lord’s body. The manna lay round about Israel’s camp, and they knew it not, “They did not what it was” (Exod. 16:15). So, carnal persons see the external elements, but Christ is not known to them in his saving virtues. There is honey in this spiritual rock which they never taste. They feed upon the bread, but not Christ in the bread. Isaac ate the goat when he thought it had been venison (Gen. 27:25). Unbelievers go away with the shadow of the sacrament; they have the rind and the husk, not the marrow; they eat the goat not the venison.