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and, while he passes over the charge at the time of His trial, he relates in his second chapter the circumstances out of which it was framed some years before. The Jews had come to Him and asked Him for a sign; then said He, referring in His mind to His resurrection which was to be, “Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up;” meaning, by Temple His own body, and by His raising it up His resurrection, after He had been put to death.
Again; St. Matthew and St. Mark also give an account of His instituting the Sacrament of Baptism. Christ instituted it on His ascending on high, but He did not explain the meaning and value of Baptism, at least there is no record of His doing so in St. Matthew and St. Mark. But St. John, while he omits mention of the institution of that Sacrament after the Resurrection, does teach us its doctrinal meaning, by means of a previous discourse of our Lord's with Nicodemus on the subject, a discourse which he alone of the Evangelists introduces. And in like manner, I say, in the chapter before us he explains as a doctrine, what the other Evangelists deliver as an ordinance. And, further, it is remarkable that in our Lord's discourse with Nicodemus, no express mention is made of Baptism, though that discourse evidently is on the subject of it. Our Lord speaks of being born “ of water and the Spirit;" He does not say, “ of Baptism and the Spirit,” yet none of us can doubt that Baptism is meant. In like manner, in the passage before us, He does not say definitely that bread and
wine are His Body and Blood; but He speaks only of bread, and, again, of His flesh and blood; words, however, which as evidently refer to the Sacrament of His Supper, as His discourse to Nicodemus refers to Baptism, in spite of His not naming Baptism in express words.
Of course it would be very unreasonable to say that when He spoke of “ water and the Spirit,” He did not allude to Baptism; and it is as unreasonable, surely, to say that in the chapter before us He does not refer to His Holy Supper.
The bearing, then, of our Lord's sacred words, would seem to be as follows, if one may venture to investigate it. At Capernaum, in the chapter now before us, He solemnly declares to His Apostles that none shall live for ever, but such as eat and drink His flesh and blood; and then afterwards, just before He was crucified, as related in the other three gospels, He points out to them His way in which this mystery of grace was to be fulfilled in them. He assigns the consecrated Bread as that Body of which He had spoken, and the consecrated Wine as His Blood; and in partaking of the Bread and the Cup, they were partakers of His Body and Blood.
It is remarkable, too, considering that our Lord's institution of His Supper took place just before His betrayal by Judas, and that Judas had just partaken of it, that in the discourse before us He alludes (as He does) to Judas. “Have I not chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil ?" as if He had before His
” mind, in His divine prescience, what was to take
place when He instituted the Sacrament formally. Observe, too, at the time of that last Supper, He recurs to the idea of choosing them. “ I speak not of you all; I know whom I have chosen ?.”
When, then, Christ used the words of the text and of other parts of the chapter containing it, He was describing prospectively that gift, which, in due season, the consecrated bread and wine were to convey to His Church for ever. Speaking with reference to what was to be, He says; “I am that Bread of Life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the Bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof and not die. I am the Living Bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this Bread he shall live for ever: and the Bread that I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
In corroboration I would observe that our Lord had been just then working the miracle of the loaves, in which He had actually blessed and broken the Bread; upon this, He goes on to say as follows, “I have wrought a miracle on the bread and fed you, but the time shall come when I will give you the true Eucharistic Bread, which is not like these perishable barley loaves, but such, that by it you shall live for ever, for it is My flesh.” When, then, before
taken away, He did take bread, and blessed, and brake, using just the same action as He
1 John xii. 18.
had used in the instance of the miracle of the loaves, and even called it His body, how could the Apostles doubt that by that significant action He intended to recall to their minds His discourse recorded in the sixth chapter of St. John, and that they were to recognise in it the fulfilment of His promise ? He had said He would give them a bread which should be His flesh and should have life, and surely they recollected this well. Who among us, had he been present, but, under such circumstances, would have recognised in His institution of His Supper the fulfilment of that previous promise ? Surely, then, we cannot doubt that this announcement in St. John does look on towards, and is accomplished in, the consecrated elements of Holy Communion.
If this be so, it requires no proof at all how great is the gift in that Sacrament. If this chapter does allude to it, then the very words “Body and Blood” show it. Nor do they show it at all the less,
” if we do not know what they precisely mean; for on the face of the matter they evidently mean something very high, so high that therefore we cannot comprehend it.
Nothing can show more clearly how high the blessing is, than to observe that the Church's tendency has been, not to detract from its marvellousness, but to increase it. The Church has never thought little of the gift; so far from it, we know that one very large portion of Christendom holds more than we hold. That belief, which goes beyond ours, shows how great the gift is really. I allude to the doctrine of what is called transubstantiation, which we do not admit, and which nothing here said tends to imply; or that the bread and wine cease to be, and that Christ's sacred Body and Blood are directly seen, touched, and handled, under the appearances of Bread and Wine. This we consider there is no ground for saying, and surely our Lord's own words contain marvel enough, without adding anything to them by way of explanation. Let us, then, now consider them in themselves, apart from additions which we need not.
He says, then, “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth My Flesh and drinketh My Blood, hath eternal life, and I will raise Him up at the last day. For My Flesh is meat indeed, and My Blood is drink indeed.”
1. About these words I observe first, that they evidently declare on the face of them some very great mystery. How can they be otherwise taken? If they do not, they must be a figurative way of declaring something which is not mysterious, but plain and intelligible. But is it conceivable that He who is the Truth and Love itself, should have used difficult words when plain words would do? Why should He have used words, the sole effect of which, in that case, would be to perplex, to startle us needlessly? Does His mercy delight in creating difficulties? Does He put stumbling-blocks