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for the life thereof; therefore I said unto the children of Israel, ye shall eat the blood of no manner of flesh; for the life of all flesh is the blood thereof: whosoever eateth it shall be cut off. In the appointment, therefore, of the blood as distinct from the body, there was another strong intimation, that our Saviour gives his life for us
that HIS SOUL was made an offering for sin. The Jews could not hear the command, This is my blood, drink ye all of it, without thinking of his life being offered up for ours. The broken bread was very descriptive of our Saviour's humiliation, but does not afford that complete and striking emblem of his death, which, under these circumstances, wine poured out, the figure of bis blood shed, does. Besides, as meat and drink are both necessary to nourish us, so the two figures, of the body and blood, seem given to shew us that there is in Christ Jesus a complete nourishment for the soul, and that we need only look to him for every part of our salvation. To omit either bread or wine is to depart from that primitive institution, on which the whole authority of this ordinance rests.
We have now to explain IN WHAT SENSE THE BREAD WAS OUR SAVIOUR'S BODY, AND THE CUP HIS BLOOD. The previous remarks will have prepared the way for a right understanding of these words. Let us remember, also, the general nature of expressions used in the appointment of divine ordinances. Of circumcision it is said, This is my covenant, (Gen. xvii, 18.) though it was only the token of the covenant. Of eating the Paschal Lamb, it is said, It is the Lord's Passover, (Exod. xii, 11.) though it was only the sign of his passing over the Israelites. St. Paul calls the manna spiritual meat, and the water that flowed from the rock spiritual drink, and says, that rock was Christ. 1 Cor.
, 3, 4. So Christ is called our Passover. 1 Cor. v, 7. Amid these obvious figures in similar circumstances, there can be no difficulty with an unbiassed mind, as to the true interpretation of these words. The disciples do not appear to have seen any obscurity in them, nor to have asked our Lord to explain them. They had before been reproved for a literal interpretation of our Lord's direction, take heed, and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Matt. xvi, 6-9; Mark viii, 15–21. They had seen how the Jews had erred at Capernaum, (John vi, 52.) through literally interpreting similar expressions to those under consideration, at which time our Lord told them, the words that I speak unto you they are spirit and they are life, John vi, 63. And when our Lord instituted this ordinance, they were not in the least danger of imagining the bread and wine to be the actual body and blood of the Saviour, because he was then conversing with them. From these considerations, it is evident that the declarations of our Lord on this occasion, by no means require an interpretation, so altogether remote from common sense and experience, as either the transubstantiation of the Roman Catholics, or the consubstantiation of the Lutherans. Had our Lord meant that any constant miracle of such kind was to be performed by his ministers, and believed by his people, how different would have been his expressions ! The words are not, “ This is now, and will be ever hereafter, when you meet together, my transubstantiated and real body,"-or, “ let it now and ever hereafter be changed into my body,”—but merely, “this is my body." As he said,
“ I am the true vine," “ I am the door," meaning they were a figure of him; so the bread was
the emblem, figure, or token of our Saviour's body, and the wine of his blood. Just as in seeing a bust of the king, we should say, “ This is the King!” so does our Saviour say, “ This is my body !” There was a peculiar propriety in the expression which he made use of, when we consider the institution as appointed in remembrance of his sacrifice, and as declaring the establishment of a new covenant, ratified as the old had been, by the shedding of blood. This will be more fully pointed out in the subsequent chapter.
The expression used in giving the cup, this is my blood, must be interpreted as a figurative expression. The cup manifestly denotes the wine in the cup, and that wine was the figure of our Saviour's blood. And one admitted figure surely ought to inake those who would be disposed to insist on a literal interpretation hesitate in their statements.
But when the writer remembers how the most eminent servants of God have contended with each other on this subject, he cannot but add an earnest desire that it might please God that all who love our Saviour in sincerity; might learn to lay aside fierce disputes about that appointment, which is peculiarly calculated, when rightly viewed, to fill our hearts with love to him, and love to each other; and that all his people desiring in simplicity of heart to believe what he has declared, and to practise what he commands, might ever seek to edify each other in love.
Having in this chapter explained several of the expressions in the appointment of the Lord's Supper, we shall proceed to consider in subsequent chapters, more at large, those important doctrines directly connected with it.
The Atonement made by the Death of Christ. In the preceding chapter we have seen, that in instituting the Lord's Supper, our Saviour stated, that his body was given and broken for his disciples, and his blood was shed for them, and for many, for the remission of sins.
There is an evident reference in these words, to the sacrifices of the law of Moses, which were figurative of the one great sacrifice of Christ. The epistle to the Hebrews shews this sufficiently. A body broken, and blood shed for the remission of sins, exhibit the meaning and intent of the Mosaic sacrifices.
Those sacrifices, and that of Christ, are thus contrasted in the Hebrews, (ix, 11.) But Christ being come, an High Priest of good things to come by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building ; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood, he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your consciences from dead works, to serve the living God.
Indeed the blood of the sacrifice was in the law of Moses so indispensable to the pardon of sin, that we are assured, without shedding of blood is no remission.
Heb, ix, 22. The reason is given in Lev. xvii, 11. For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that maketh atonement for the soul.
The word alonement in our language, signifies agreement; or the means by which agreement or reconciliation is made. The general meaning of the original Hebrew word is to hide, or cover. When it refers to sin, it means sin forgiven, remitted, or expiated, through the legal right appointed for that purpose.*
The Levitical atonement, in all cases, produced the effect of fitting for the divine service. Where moral character was concerned, (which in one view was the case, even when atonement was made for the holy place, &c. for they were unclean through the transgressions of the people, (Lev. xvi, 16-19.) the atonement was an act of propitiation, being the appointed way for making the Divine Being propitious and favourable to his people. So that atonement and reconciliation, or forgiveness, were thus intimately connected.
By the atonement made by the death of Christ, we mean, then, that the sufferings and death of our Lord were accepted as a sacrifice for sin, in regard to which God forgives our iniquities.
Were there no other proofs of this doctrine than those expressions used in the appointment of the Lord's Supper, they would establish it. But it has pleased God to express so important a truth in a great variety of ways.
Before we quote additional proofs of this great
* See Magee on the Atonement, and Wardlaw on the Socinian Controversy.