« PreviousContinue »
-“ Christ gave himself for his church, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,” that is, plainly, by the sacrament; according to the famous commentary of St. Austin, “ accedat verbum ad elementum et tum fit sacramentum,” “when the word and the element are joined, then it is a perfect sacrament," and then it does effect all its purposes and intentions. Thus we find that the grace of God is given by the imposition of hands: and yet as St. Austin e rightly affirms, “ God alone can give his Holy Spirit, and the apostles' did not give the Holy Ghost to them upon whom they laid their hands, but prayed that God would give it, and he did so at the imposition of their hands." Thus God sanctified Aaron; and yet he said to Moses, • Thou shalt sanctify Aaron,' that is, not that Moses did it instead of God, but Moses did it by his ministry, and by visible sacraments and rites of God's appointment. And though we " are born of an immortal seed, by the word of the living Gods,”yet St. Paul said to the Corinthians," I have begotten you through the Gospel.” And thus it is in the greatest as well as in the least,- he that drinks Christ's blood, and eats his body,' hath life abiding in him : it is true of the sacrament, and true of the spiritual manducation, and may be indifferently affirmed' of either, when the other is not excluded; for as the sacrament operates only by virtue of the Spirit of God, so the Spirit ordinarily works by the instrumentality of the sacraments. And we may as well say, that faith is not by hearing, as that grace is not by the sacraments: for as, without the Spirit, the word is but a dead letter,--so, with the Spirit, the sacrament is the means of life and grace: and the meditation of St. Chrysostom" is very pious and reasonable, “ if we were wholly incorporeal, God would have given us graces unclothed with signs and sacraments; but because our spirits are in earthen vessels, God conveys his graces to us by sensible ministrations." The word of God operates as secretly as the sacraments, and the sacraments as powerfully as the word; nay, the word is always joined in the worthy administration of the sacrament, which, therefore, operates both as word and sign by the
d 2 Tim. i. 6. . Lib. xv. de Trinit. c. 26.
Acts, viii. 18. h Homil. in Mat.
ear, and by the eyes, and by both in the hand of God, -andis the conduct of the Spirit,--all the effect that God intends/ and that a faithful receiver can require and pray for..:.
For justification and sanctification are continued acts they are like the issues of a fountain into its receptacles; God is always giving, and we are always receiving, and the signal effects of God's. Holy Spirit sometimes give great indications, but most commonly come without observation ; and, therefore, in these things we must not discourse as in the conduct of other causes and operations natural : for although, in natural effects, we can argue from the cause to the event, yet, in spiritual things, we are to reckon, only from the sign to the event. And the signs of grace we are to place instead of natural causes, because a sacrament ir the hand of God, is a proclamation of his graces; he then gives us notice, that the springs of heaven are opened ; and. then is the time to draw living waters from the fountains of salvation. When Jonathan shot his arrows beyond the boy, he then, by a sacrament, sent salvation unto David; he bade him be gone and fly from his father's wrath ; and although Jonathan did do his business for him by a eontinual care and observation, yet that symbol brought it unto David;- for so we are conducted to the joys of God, by the methods and possibilities of men.
In conclusion, the sum is this; the sacraments and symbols, if they be considered in their own nature, are just such as they seem, water, and bread, and wine; they retain the names proper to their own natures : but because they are made to be signs of a secret mystery,—and water is the symbol of purification of the soul from sin,--and bread and wine, of Christ's body and blood,- therefore the symbols and sacraments receive the names of what themselves do sign > they' are the body and they are the blood of Christ : they are metonymically such. But because, yet further, they are, instruments of grace in the hand of God, and by these his Holy Spirit changes our hearts, and translates us into a divine nature, therefore the whole work is attributed to them by a synecdoche: that is, they do in their manner the
1 St. Austin in Levit. q. 57. Solet autem res quæ significat, ejus rei nomine, gnam significat, nuncnpari. Theodoret, dial, i. c. 8. Tă peste cópet's to to συμβόλου τέθεικεν όνομα τω δε συμβόλω, το του σώματος.
work for which God ordained them, and they are placed there for our 'sakes, and speak God's language in our accent, and they appear in the outside: we receive the benefit of their ministry, and God receives the glory:
The Blessings and Graces of the Holy Sacrament enumerated
and proved particularly. In the reception of the blessed sacrament, there are many blessings, which proceed from our own actions, the conjugations of moral duties, the offices of preparation and reception, the reverence and the devotion; of which I shall give an account in the following chapters : here I am to enumerate those graces, which are intended to descend upon us from the Spirit of God in the use of the sacrament itself precisely. :: But, first; I consider, that it must be infinitely certain, that great spiritual blessings are consequent to the worthy receiving of this divine sacrament: because it is not at all received but by a spiritual hand: for it is either to be understood in a carnal sense that Christ's body is there eaten, or in a spiritual sense: if in a carnal, it profits nothing; if in a spiritual, he be eaten, let the meaning of that be considered, and it will convince us that innumerable blessings are in the very reception and comniunion. Now what the meaning of this spiritual eating is, I have already declared in this chapter; and shall yet more fully explicate in the sequel". In the sacrament we do not receive Christ carnally; but we receive him spiritually: and that of itself is a conjugation of blessings and spiritual graces. The very understanding what we do, tells us also what we receive. But I descend to particulars.
1. And, first; I reckon that the sacrament is intended to: increase our faith: for although it is with us in the holy sacrament, as it was with Abraham in the sacrament of circumcision :- he had the grace of faith before he was circumcised; and received the sacrament after he had the
2. Chap. iji, sect. 5.
purpose and the grace; and we are to believe, before we receive these symbols of Christ's death ;- yet as by loving we love more, and by the acts of patience we increase in the spirit of mortification,-so by believing we believe more: and by publication of our confession we are made confident, and, by seeing the signs of what we believe, our very senses are incorporated into the article : and he that hath, shall have more.' And when we concorporate the sign with the signification, we conjoin the word and the spirit; and faith passes on from believing to an imaginary seeing, and from thence to a greater earnestness of believing, and we shall believe more abundantly: this increase of faith not being only a natural and proper production of the exercise of its own acts, but a blessing and an effect of the grace of God in that sacrament: it being certain, that the sacrament, being of divine institution, could not be to no purpose [for “ in spiritualibus sacramentis ubi præcepit virtus, servit effectus." " where the commandment comes from him that hath all power, the action cannot be destitute of an excellent event”]: and, therefore, that the representing of the death of Christ,-being an act of faith, and commanded by God, must needs, in the hands of God, be more effectual than it is in its own nature: that faith shall then increase not only by the way of nature, but by God blessing his own instruments, can never be denied but by them, that neither have faith nor experience. For this is the proper sense and the very exaltation of faith : the Latin church, for a long time, into the very words of consecration of the chalice, hath put words relating to this purpose : “ For this is the cup of my blood of the New and Eternal Testament, the mystery of faith, which for you, and for many, shall be shed for the remission of sins." And if by faith we eat the flesh of Christ, as it is confessed by all the schools of Christians, - then it is certain, that when so manifestly and solemnly, according to the divine appointment, we publish this great confession of the death
b Ante communicationem corporis Christi et sanguinis, jaxta orientalium partium morem, unanimiter clara voce sacratissimum fidei receuseant symbolum, ut primum populi quam credulitatem teneant, fateantur. - Concil, Tolet. ii. c. 2.- Et St. Ambros. Quibus (symbolis) vescentes, confessiouem fidei suæ addebant: respondebant Amen. - Idem etiam sancitum in Concil. Agath.
· Euseb. Emis, habetur de consecrat. dist. 2.
of Christ, we do, in all senses of spiritual blessing, eat the flesh, ånd drink the blood of Christ. And let that be expounded how we list, we are not in this world capable of, and we do not need, a greater blessing; and God may say in the words of Isaac to his son Esau, “ with corn and wine have I sustained thee; and what is there left, that I can do únto thee, my son ?" To eat the flesh, and to drink the blood of Christ sacramentally, is an act of faith; and every act of faith, joined with the sacrament, does grow by the nature of grace, and the measures of a blessing; and, therefore, is eating of Christ spiritually; and this reflection of acts, like circles of a glorious and eternal fire, passes on in the univocal production of its own parts, till it pass from grace to glory.
*2. Of the some consideration it is, that all the graces, which we do "exercise by the nature of the sacrament requiring them, or by the necessity of the commandment of preparation,- do here receive increase upon the account of the same reason; but I instance only in that of charity, of which this is, signally and by an especial remark, the sacrament; and, therefore, these holy conventions are called by St. Juded, “feasts of charity,” which were Christian festivals, in which also they had the sacrament adjoined. But whether that doth effect this persuasion or no, yet the thing itself is dogmátically affirmed in St. Paul's explication of that mysteryo,
“ we are one body, because we partake of one bread;" that is, plainly, Christ is our head, and we the members of his body, and are united in this mystical union by the holy sacrament; not only because it symbolically does teach our duty, 'and promotes the grace of charity by a real signature, and a sensible sermon; nor yet only because it calls upon Christians by the public sermons of the Gospel, and the duties of preparation, and the usual expectations of conscience and religion ; but even by the blessing of God, and the operation of the Holy Spirit in the sacrament, which
a Jud. 12.
Corpus sumus de conscientiâ religionis, et disciplinæ unitate, et spei: fædere. Coimus ad Deum, et quasi manu facta, precationibus ambimus. Hæc vis Deo grata est. - Tertul. apol. cap. 39. Idem (advers. hæret., cap. 20) ait sacramentum esse contesserationem diutuæ dilectionis in membris ecclesiæ inter se. VOL. XV.