Meditations on the holy sacrament of the Lords last Supper Written many yeares since by Edvvard Reynolds then fellow of Merton College in Oxford.
Reynolds, Edward, 1599-1676.
Page  148

CHAP. XVII.

Inferences of Practice from the severall ends of this holy Sacrament.

HEere then in as much as these sacred Elements are institu∣ted to present and exhibit Christ unto the faithfull soule, wee may inferre with what affection wee ought to approach unto him, and what reverent esti∣mation to have of them. Happinesse as it is the scope of all reasonable desires, so the confirmation of that happinesse is the solace and security of those that desire it. He (said the Prophet, speaking of Christ) shall bee the desire of all Nations, in as much as without him that happinesse which all doe naturally desire, is but a Meteor and fiction. So then wee see that even the light of our inbred rea∣son, seconded and directed by Divine truths doth leade us unto a desire of Christ, who alone is the Authour and Matter of that Happinesse, which is the true though un∣knowne object of all our naturall desires. Now this happines in Christ wee cannot have till we have actuall fruition of him, enjoy this blessednes we never can till we Page  149 are vnited to him, no more then a dissected member enjoyes the vitall influences of the soule, and Spirits. Vnion unto Christ wee cannot have untill it please him, by his Spirit as it were to stoope from that King∣dome where now he is, and to exhibit him∣selfe unto those whom it pleaseth him to assume into the unity of his body. Other way to enjoy him here we can have none, since no man can at his pleasure or power lift up his eyes with Steven to see him, or goe up with S. Paul to the third Heavens, to injoy him. Now it hath pleased the Wis∣dome of Christc (whose honor ever it is to magnifie his power in his creatures weaknes and to borrow noe parcell of glory in his service from those earthly and elementary instruments which he useth in it) by no o∣ther meanes to exhibite, and confirme the virtue of his sacred Body unto us, with the life, and righteousnes that from it issu∣eth, but onely by those poore and ordinary elements of Bread, and Wine in his Sacra∣ment unto which therefore he requireth such reverence, such hunger and affection as is in reason due to the Hand that reacheth, to the Seale that secureth, to the food that strengthneth that spirituall life in us, with∣out which we cannot possibly reach unto the end of our very naturall, and created desi∣res, happinesse and tranquillity. It behoves Page  150 us therefore to beware how we give enter∣tainment to any carnall thoughts, which goe about to vilifie, and undervalew the excellency of so Divine misteries from the outward meannesse of the things themselves. Say not like sullendNaaman, Is not the Wine in the Vintners Sellar, or the Bread of mine owne Table as good, as nourishing as is any in the Temple? certainly if thou be commanded some great Worke for the procuring of so great a good, as there had beene betweene the service, and the reward we disproportion, so would even reason it selfe have dictated unto us a necessity of obey∣ing rather then of disputing, how much ra∣ther when he biddeth us only to eat, and live. True it is that these creatures naturally have no more power to convey CHRIST, then wax hath in it selfe to convey a Lordship: yet as a small piece of wax when once in the vertue of a humane covenant or contract it is made the instrument to confirme, and ra∣tifie, such a conveyance is unto the receiver of more consequence then all the wax in the Towne besides, and is with the greatest care preserved: so these elements though physically the same which are used at our owne Tables, yet in the vertue of that holy Con∣secration, whereby they are made the instruments of exhibiting, and the seales of ascer∣taining Gods Covenant of grace unto us, Page  151 are unto us more valewable then our barnes full of graine, or our presses full of grapes, and are to be desired with so farre distant an affection from the other that are common, as Heaven is above Earth.

Secondly, in that these elements are con∣secrated and exhibited for confirmation of our Faith, wee thence see how the Church hath hera degrees of faith, herb measure the spirit, herc deficiencyes of grace, her languishings, ebbings, imperfections, her decayes, blemishes and fals, which makes her stand in neede of beingd perfected, builded,e rooted, establishedf in faith and righteousnes,g all things under the middle region are subject to Winds, Thun∣ders, Tempests, the continuall uncertain∣ties of boysterous wheather, whereas in the Heavens there is a perfect uniforme sere∣nity, and calmenes: so when a Christian comes once to his owne Countrey unto Hea∣ven, he then comes unto an estate of peace, and security,a to be filled with the fulnes of GOD, where theeves do not breake thorowgh nor steale, where neither flesh nor Satan have any admission, noe stormes of tempta∣tion, No Ship-wrack of conscience,* but where all things are spirituall,* and peace∣able. But in this Earth, where Satan hath power to goe from place to place toa compasse the World, to raise his tempests Page  152 against the Church even theb Waves of ungodly men, can have no safety from any danger, which eyther his subtelty can con∣trive, or his malice provoke, or his power execute, or his instruments further, and therefore wee are here subject to more or fewer degrees of faintnes in our Faith accor∣ding as our strength, to resist the common adversary is lesse or greater. As in the natu∣rall, so in the mysticall Body, though all the parts doe in common pertake of life, yet one is more vitall then another, the Heart, and Head, then the Hands, and Feete, yea the same part is at one time more active, and quick then at others. One while overgrowne with humors, and stiffned with distempers, another while free, expedite, and able for the discharge of any vitall office. And this is that which drives us to a necessity of re∣covering our strength, and making up our breaches by this holy Sacrament, which should likewise tell us in what humble esteeme wee ought to have our perfectest endowments, they being all subject to their faylings, and decaies.

Thirdly, in that these mysteries doe knit the faithfull together into the unity of on common body, we see what fellow feeling the faithfull should have of each other, how they should interest themselves in the severall states, and affections of their fel∣low Page  153 members, tod rejoyce with those that rejoyce, and to weepe with those that weepe. As we shoulde thinke the same things, and so agree in a unity of judg∣ments becausef all led with one, and the same Spirit which is the Spirit ofg truth, so we should allh suffer, and doe the same things, and so all concurre in a unity of affections, becausei all anima∣ted by the same Spirit, which is thek Spirit of love too,l where there is dissention, and disagreement, there must needs be a seve∣rall Law, where the Law is diverse, the go∣vernment differs too, and in a different govern∣ment there must of necessity be a differēt sub∣jection. He then that doth not sympathize with his brother, but nourisheth factious and uncharitable thoughts against him, doth ther∣in plainly testifie, that he is not subject (at least totally) unto the same prince with him and then we know that there are but two Princes, a Prince of peace, and a Prince of darkenes. Nature is in all her operations uni∣forme, and constant unto her selfea one Tree cannot naturally bring forth Grapes, and Figgs,b out of the same Fountaine can∣not issue bitter water, and sweete, the selfe same vitall faculty of feeling which is in one member of the body is in all, because all are animated with that soule which doth not confine it selfe unto any one. The Page  154 Church of God is ac Tree planted by the same hand, ad Garden watred from the same Fountaine,e a body quickned by the same Spirit, the members of it are all brethren;f begotten by one Father of mercy, generated by one Seede of the Word, delivered g from one wombe of ignorance, fed with one bread of Life, em∣ployd in one Heavenly calling, brought up in one House-hold of the Church, travel∣lers in one way of grace, heires to one Kingdome of glory, and when they agree in so many unities, should they then admit any fraction or disunion in their minds? from Adam unto the last man that shall tread on the Earth is the Church of GOD but one continued, and perfected body, and therefore we finde that as in theh body the head is affected with the grievances of the feete, though there be a great distance of place betweene them; so thei holy∣men of God have mourned, and been ex∣ceedingly touched with the afflictions of the Church even in after Ages, though betweene them did interveane a great dis∣tance of time. Certainly thenk if the Church of God lie in distresse, and we stretch our selves on beds of Juory, if she mourne in sack-cloath, and we riot in soft rayment, if the wild Bore of the Forrest breake in upon her, and we send not out one prayer Page  155 to drive him away, if there bee cleane∣nesse of teeth in the poore, and our teeth grinde them still, if their bowells be emp∣ty of food, and ours still empty of compas∣sion, if the wrath of God bee enflamed a∣gainst his people, and our zeale remaine still as frozen, our charity as cold, our af∣fections as benum'd, our compassion as stu∣pid as it ever was, In aword, if Sion lye in the dust, and wee hang not up our Harpes, nor pray for her peace, as wee can conclude nothing but that we are unnaturall members, so can wee expect nothing but the curse of aMeroz, who went not out to helpe the Lord.

Fourthly, in that this Sacrament is Gods Instrument to ratifie and make sure our claime unto his Covenant, we learne. First, there∣in to admire and adore the unspeakeable love of God, who is pleased not onely to make, but to confirme his promises un∣to the Church. AsbGod, so his truth, whether of judgments or promises, are all in themselves immutable, and infallible in their event; yet notwithstanding, as the Sunne though in it selfe of a most uni∣forme light and magnitude, yet by rea∣son of the great distance, and of the va∣riety of mists and vapours through which the raies are diffus'd, it often seemeth in both properties to varie: so the promises Page  154〈1 page duplicate〉Page  155〈1 page duplicate〉Page  156 of God; however in themselves of a fixed and unmoveable certainty, yet passing through the various tempers of our minds one while serene and cleere, another while by the steeme of pas∣sions, and temptations of Satan, foggie and distemperd, doe appeare under an inconstant shape. And for this cause, as the Sunne doth it selfe dispell those vapours wch did hinder the right perc••tion of it; so the grace of God, to∣gether with and by the holy Sacrament com∣municated, doth rectifie the minde and com∣pose those diffident affections wch did before intercept the efficacie and evidence thereof.

God made a Covenant with our fathers, and not accounting that enough hee confirmed it by an oath,c that by 2. immutable things, where∣in it was impossible for God to ly, they might have strong consolation who have had refuge to lay hold on the hope that is set before them. The strength wee see of the consolation de∣pends upon the stability of the covenant. And is Gods covenant made more firme by an oath than by a promise? The truth of God is as his nature withoutd variablenesse or shadow of changing, and can it then bee made more im∣mutable? Certainly as to infinitenes in regard of extension, so unto immutabillity in regard of firmenes, can there not bee any accession of degrees, or parts: All immutability being nothing else but an exclusion of whatsoever might possibly occur to make the thing vari∣able Page  157 and uncertaine. So then the Oath of God doth no more adde to the certainty of his word then doe mens oathes and protestations to the truth of what they affirme; but because wee consist of an earthly and dull temper, therefore God when he speakes unto us doth ingeminate his compellations,aO Earth, Earth, Earth, heare the word of the Lord. So weake is our sight, so diffident our nature, as that it seemes to want the evidence of what it sees: peradventure God may repent him of his promise, as he did sometime of hisb Creature. Why should not the Covenant of grace bee as mutable as was that of gwords? God promised toc esta∣blish Sion for ever, and yet Sion, the City of the great God is fallen; was notdShilo beloved, and did not God forsake it? had eComah beene as the signet of his hand, had hee not yet beene cast away? was not fIerusalem a Vine of Gods planting, and hath not the wild Boare long since rooted it up? was notgIsrael the naturall Olive that did partake of the fat and sweetnesse of the roote, and is yea cut off, and wrath come upon it to the uttermost? Though God be most immutable, may he not yet alter his promise? did the abrogation of Ceremonies prove any way a change in him who was as well the erector as the dissolver of them? Though the Sunne be fastned to his owne Page  158 Spheare, yet may hee bee moved by ano∣ther Orbe. What if Gods promise barely considered, proceed from his Antecedent and simple will of benevolence towards the Creature, but the stability and certainty of his promise in the event depend on a second resolution of his consequent will, which pre∣supposeth the good use of mine owne liber∣ty? may not I then abuse my free will and so frustrate unto my selfe the benefit of Gods promise? Is not my will mutable, though Gods bee not? may not I sinke and fall though the place on which I stand be firme? may not I let goe my hold though the thing which I handle bee it selfe fast? what if all this while I have beene in a Dreame, mistaking mine owne private fan∣cies and misperswasions for the dictates of Gods Spirit? mistaking Satan (who useth to transforme himselfe) for an An∣gell of light? God hath promised, it is true, but hath hee promised unto mee? did hee ever say unto mee, Simon, Simon, or Saul,*Saul Or Samuel, Samuel? Or if hee did,* must he needs performe his pro∣mise to me,* who am not able to fulfill my conditions unto him? Thus, as unto men floating upon the Sea, or unto dis∣tempered braines, the land and house though immoveable seeme to reele, and totter, or as unto weake eyes, every thing seemes Page  159 double: so the promises of God however builta on a sure foundation, his Coun∣sell, and Fore-knowledge, yet unto men prepossest with their owne private distempers doe they seeme unstable and fraile, unto a weake eye of faith Gods Covenant to bee (if I may so speake)b double, to have a tongue, and a tongue, a promise, and a promise, that is, a various and uncertaine promise. And for this cause (notwithstandingc diffident and distrustfull men doe indeed deserve what they suspect, and are worthy to suffer what they unworthily doe feare) doth God yet in compassion towards our fraitly condescend to confirme his promises by an Oath, to engage the truth of his own essence for performance, to seale the Patent which he hath given with his own blood, and to exhibite that seale unto us so often as with faith wee approach unto the Communion of these holy mysteries. And who can sufficiently admire the riches of this mercy which makes the very weake∣nesses and imperfections of his Church oc∣casions of redoubling his promises unto it?

Secondly, in that this Sacrament is the instrumentall cause of confirming our faith from this possibility, yea, facility of obtaining, we must conclude the necessity of using so great a benefit, wherein wee procure the strength∣ning of our graces, the calmeing of our con∣sciences, and the experience of Gods favour; Page  160 in the naturall body there being a continu∣all activity and conflict betweene the heate and the moisture of the body, and by that meanes a wasting depassion, and decay of na∣ture, it is kept in a perpetuall necessity of succouring it selfe by food: so in the spiritu∣all man there being in this present estate an unreconcileable enmity betweene the spirit, and the flesh, there is in either part a pro∣pension towards such outward food, whereby each in its distresses may be releeved. The flesh pursues all such objects as may con∣tent and cherish the desires thereof, which the Apostle calleth the provisions of lust. The Spirit of the contrary side strengthens it selfe by those divine helps which the wise∣dome of God had appointed to conferre grace, and to settle the heart in a firme perswasion of its owne peace. And amongst these instruments this holy Sacrament is one of the principall, which is indeed no∣thing else but a visible oath, wherein Christ giveth us a tast of his benefits and engageth his owne sacred body for the accompli∣shing of them, which supporteth our tot∣tering faith and reduceth the soule unto a more setled tranquility.

Fifthly, In that in this one all other Types were abrogated and nullified, wee learne to admire and glorifie the love of God, who hath set us at liberty from the thraldome Page  161 of Ceremonies, from the costlinesse, and difficulty of his Service, with which his owne chosen people were held ina bon∣dage, under the Pedagogie and governe∣ment of Schoole-masters, the ceremoniall and judiciall Law, as so many notes of distinctions charactristicall differences, or bwall of separation betweene Iew and Gentile, untill the comming of the Mes∣sias, whichc was the time of the re∣formation of all things, wherein the Gen∣tiles were by his death to bee ingrafted dinto the same stocke, and made par∣takers of the same juyce and fatnesse, the eshadowes to bee removed, thef or∣dinances to bee canceld, the Law to bee gabolished: forhThe Law came by Moses, but Grace and Truth by Iesus Christ; Grace in opposition to the Curse of the Morall Law, Truth in opposition to the fi∣gures and resemblances of the Ceremoniall Law. The Iewes in Gods service were bound unto one place, and unto one forme, no Temple or ministration of Sacrifices without Ierusalem, nor without expresse prescription, no use of Creatures without difference of common and uncleane: wher∣as unto usi all places are lawfull and purek all things lawfull and pure, every Country a Canaan, and every City a Ieru∣salem, and every Oratory a Temple. It is Page  162 not an ordinance but al Prayer which sanctifieth and maketh good unto our use mevery creature of God.

But yet though we under the Gospell are thus set at liberty from all manner ordinan∣ces which are not of intrinsecall, eternall, and unvariable necessity; yet may this li∣berty in regard of the nature of things in∣different bee made a necessity in respect of the use of them. We may not thinke that our liberty is a licentious, and unbounded liberty, as if CHRIST had been the Au∣thor of confusion, to leave every man in the externall carriages of his worship unto the conduct of his private fancy. This were to have oura liberty for a cloake of naugh∣tines, and asb an occasion to the flesh: but we must alwayes limite it by those generall, and morall rules of piety, loyalty, charity, and sobriety. Use all things we may indifferently without subjection or bondage unto the thing but not without subjection unto GOD, and superiors. Use them we may but with* temperatnes, and modera∣tion, use them we may but with respectc to Gods glory, use them we may, but with dsubmission to authority, use them we may, but withe avoyding of scandall. Christian liberty consisteth in the inward free∣dome of thefconscience, whose onely bond is a necessity of Doctrine, not in out∣ward Page  163 conformity or observances onely, whose bond is a necessity of obedience, and subor∣dination unto higher powers, which obey∣ing, though wee become thereby subject unto some humane, or Ecclesiasticall ordinan∣ces, the conscience yet remaines uncurbed and at liberty.

Secondly, we have hereby a great en∣couragement to serve our God ing spirit, and in truth, being delivered from all those burdensome accessions which unto the in∣ward worship were added in the legall ob∣servances. In spirit in opposition unto the Carnall, in truth, in opposition unto the Typicall ceremonies. The services of the Iewes were celebrated in the bloud, and smoake, of unreasonable creatures, but ours in the Gospell must be a spirituall, ah reasonable service of him, for as in the Word of God thei letter profiteth nothing, it is the spirit that quickneth, so in the worship of God likewise, the Knee, the Lip, the Eye, the Hand alone profiteth not at all, it is the spirit that worshippeth. It is not a ma∣cerated body, but a contrite soule which he respecteth; if there be palenes in the face, but bloud in the heart, if whitenes in the Eye but blacknes in the soule, if a drooping coun∣tenance but an unbended conscience, if a knee bowing downe in the Temple of God, and thoughts rising up against the grace of Page  164God the head like a Bul-rush, and the heart like an Adamant, in a word if there bee but a bodily, and unquickned service, a schisme in the same worshipper betweene his outward, and his inward man, he that is not a God of the dead but of the living, hee that accompteth in the leviticall Law, carcases, as uncleane things, (as being in the neerest disposition to rottennes, and putrefaction) will never smell any sweete savor in such services.b What have I to doe (saith God with your Sacrifices, and my soule hateth your new Moones, and your appoin∣ted feasts. My Sacrifices, and myc Sab∣boths they were by originall institution, but your carnall observance of them hath made themdyours. Even thee Heathen Idols themselves did require rather the truth of an inward then the pompe of an outward wor∣ship, and therefore they forbad allf pro∣fane people any accesse to their services. And God certainly will not be content with lesse then the Divill.

Sixtly, in that by these frequent cere∣monies we are led unto the celebration of Christs death, and the benefits thereby arising unto mankinde, we may hence ob∣serve the naturall deadnes, and stupidity of mans memory in the things of his sal∣vation. It is a wonder how a man should forget his Redeemer that ransomed him Page  165 with the price of his owne bloud, to whom he oweth whatsoever he either is or hath, him whom each good thing we injoy lea∣deth unto to the acknowledgment of. Looke where we will, he is still not onely in us, but before us. The wisdome of our minds, the goodness of our natures, the purposes of our wills and desires, the calmenes of our consciences, the hope, and expectation of our soules and bodies, the liberty from law, and sinne, what ever it is in or about us which we either know, or admire, or enjoy, or expect, he is the Treasury whence they were taken, the fulnes whence they were received, the head which transferreth the hand which bestoweth them, we are on all sides compassed, and evena hedg∣ed in with his blessings; so that in this sense we may acknowledge a kind of ubiquity of Christs body, in as much as it is e∣very where even visible, and palpable in those benefits which flow from it. And yet we like men that looke on the River Nilus, and gaze wonderously on the Streames, remaine still ignorant of the head, and Originall from whence they issue. Thus as there is betweene bloud, and Poyson such a naturall antipathy as makes them to shrinke in, and retire at the presence of each other: so though each Page  166 good thing we enjoy serve to present that pretious blood which was the price of it unto our soules, yet there is in us so much venome of sinne as makes us still to remove our thoughts from so pure an ob∣ject. As in the knowledge of things many men are of so narrow understandings that they are not able to raise them unto con∣sideration of the causes of such things, whose effects they are haply better acquain∣ted with, then wiser men; it being the worke of a discursive head, to discover the se∣cret knittings, obscure dependances, of na∣turall things on each other: so in mat∣ters of practice in Divinity many men commonly are so fastned unto the present goods which they enjoy, and so full with them that they either have noe roome, or noe leisure, or rather indeed no power, nor will to lift up their minds from the streames unto the Fountaine, or by a holy logick to resolve them into the death of Christ from whence if they issue not, they are but fallacies, and sophisticall good things, and what ever happines we expect in or from them, will prove a non sequitur at the last. Remember, and know CHRIST indeed, such men may, and do in some sort, sometimes to dishonor him, at best but to discourse of him. But as the Phy∣losopher speakes of intemperate men, who Page  167 sin, not out of a full purpose uncontroled swinge of vitious resolutions, but with checks of judgement and reluctancy of reason, that they are buta halfe vitious (which yet is indeed but an halfe-truth.) So certainly they, who though they doe not quite forget Christ, or cast him behinde their backe, doe yet remember him onely with a speculative contemplation of the nature and generall efficacy of his death, without par∣ticular application of it unto their owne persons and practices, have but a halfe and halting knowledge of him. Certainely a meere Schoole-man who is able exactly to dispute of Christ and his passion, is as farre from the length, and breadth, and depth, and heigth of Christ crucified, from the requisite dimensions of a Christian, as a meere Sur∣veiour or Architect, who hath onely the practise of measuring land or timber, is from the learning of a Geometrician. For as Ma∣thematicks, being a speculative Science cannot possibly bee compris'd in the narrow compasse of a practicall Art; so neither can the knowledge of Christ, being a saving and practick knowledge be compleat, when it floats only in the discourses of a speculative braine. And therefore Christ at the last day will say unto many men who thought themselves great Clerks, and of his neere acquaintance, even such as did preach him and doe wonders Page  168 in his name, that hee neverb knew them, and that is an argument, that they likewise never knew him neither. For as no man can see the Sunne, but by the benefit of that light which from the Sunne shineth on him: so no man can know Christ, but those on whom Christ first shineth, and whom he vouch safeth to know, Mary Magdalen could not say Rabboni to Christ, till Christ first had said Mary to her. And therefore that we may not faile to re∣mēber Christ aright, it pleaseth him to insti∣tute this holy Sacrament as the image of his crucified body, whereby wee might as truely have Christs death presented unto us, as if he had beenec crucified before our eyes.

Secondly, we see here who they are who in the Sacrament receive Christ, even such as remember his death with a recognition of faith, thankefulnesse and obedience. Others receive onely the Elements, but not the Sacra∣ment, As when the King seales a pardon to a condemned malefactour, the messenger that is sent with it receives nothing from the King but paper written and sealed, but the malefactor (unto whom onely it is a gift) re∣ceives it as it were a resurrection. Certainely there is a staffe as well of Sacramentall as of common bread, the staffe of common bread is the blessing of the Lord, the staffe of the Sacramentall is the body of the Lord; and as the wicked, which never looke up in thank∣fulnes Page  169 unto God, doe often receive the bread without the blessing, so here the ele∣ment without the body, they receive in∣deed, as it is fit uncleane Birds should doe, nothing but the carcasse of a Sacrament, the body of Christ being the soule of the Bread, and his bloud the life of the Wine. His body is not now any more capa∣ble of dishonour, it is a glorified body, and therefore will not enter into an earthy, and uncleane soule: As it is corporally in Hea∣ven, so it will be spiritually and sacramen∣tally in noe place but a heavenly soule. Thinke not that thou hast received Christ, till thou hast effectually remembred, seri∣ously meditated, and been religiously af∣fected, and inflamed with the love of his death, without this thou maist be guilty of his body, thou canst not be a partaker of it: guilty thou art, because thou didst reach out thy hand with a purpose to re∣ceive Christ into a polluted soule, though he withdrew himselfe from thee. Even as Mutius Sevola was guilty of Porsena's bloud, though it was not him, but another whom the Dagger wounded; because the error of the hand cannot remove the malice of the heart.