Taken from Chapter 1 of The Communicant’s Spiritual Companion by Thomas Haweis
A sacrament is defined by the church in our excellent though concise catechism to be “an outward and visible signs of an inward and spiritual grace, given unto us, ordained by Christ himself, as a means whereby we receive the same, and as a pledge to assure us thereof.”1 In this sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, the bread and wine are the outward signs, signifying that body and blood of Christ which is received into the heart by faith. The sign of the bread signifies Christ’s broken body, the wine signifies His blood shed for our sins. The sign is furthermore mutual, for it represents also our dependence upon and esteem of Him whose body and blood under these signs we spiritually partake of.
The original meaning of the word “sacrament” signifies the oath by which Roman soldiers bound themselves to their general. Thus, it is our oath of allegiance whereby we swear fidelity to Jesus, the Captain of our salvation. Just as the Roman soldiers swore that they would never desert their colors in battle, we also hereby solemnly engage to maintain irreconcilable war against all the enemies of Christ without and within, fighting manfully under His banner against sin, the world, and the devil, and this at the peril of our eternal damnation. Thus, whenever we presume to come to Christ’s Table without this war against sin maintained in our conversation, we become guilty of the body and blood of Christ, incur the awful guilt of perjury, and eat and drink our own damnation, “not discerning the Lord’s body” (1 Cor. 11:29).
Tis sacrament has in Scripture several particular names that are expressive of its nature and design. These names are as follows:
(1) The Lord’s Supper: Tis sacrament is a spiritual meal for the soul, as meat is for the body; as our bodies are refreshed by the bread and wine, so much more is the believing soul revived by the body and blood of Christ signified therein. The Lord’s Supper is a chief banquet in the family of Christ, as supper was among the ancients; therefore, none of the children should be absent—unless upon very urgent occasions—not only for fear of loss of food, but so they might not incur the displeasure of their Father for their neglect and irregularities. And this sacrament is emphatically styled the Lord’s Supper since it was instituted by Him at suppertime, the same night of His betrayal, and then was commanded to be observed by Him as a constant memorial. For this reason, whether considering the Master of the feast, the Lord of glory, or the spiritual nourishment contained under these consecrated elements, this supper is to be strictly distinguished from all common food.
(2) Communion of the Blood of Christ: The Lord’s Supper represents the intercourse between Christ as head and the members of His body—those called in the prayer after the Communion “the blessed company of all faithful people.”2 In this sacrament He communicates to them His favor and grace, His blood and righteousness; in return, they communicate their thanksgiving, acceptance, love, and gratitude. Therefore, no person can take part of it unti1 he has a living union with Him and is a part of His mystical body as only then nourishment and support can be communicated to him. All those who are not thus united with Christ are as branches cut of and withered and can receive no more benefit by coming to the Lord’s Table than a dead body can from meat and drink. Furthermore, the Lord’s Supper is a communion with the members themselves, as well as with their Head, Jesus Christ; as Paul states, “So we, being many, are one body” (Rom. 12:5). As we eat of the same bread and drink of the same cup, we signify that we derive our life from one common fountain. We are all actuated by the same Spirit and have as near an interest in and affection for one another as the members of the same body have—“Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular” (1 Cor. 12:27). What a strange absurdity would it be then for an uncharitable soul, one not influenced by brotherly love, to approach Christ’s Table. Such a person would be there only as a mortified limb cut of from all living communication with the rest, one who is full of putrefaction.
(3) The New Testament in Christ’s Blood. As St. Paul said, “For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead” (Heb. 9:16–17).3 In the sacrament this testament is opened: the blood of Christ, here emblematically poured out of His heart, demonstrates it is validated by His death, and the inheritance contained is to be applied and paid according to the will of the deceased. Tis testament is sealed with blood, just as Moses, in the renovation of the old covenant on Sinai, took scarlet wool and sprinkled hyssop and the blood of calves and goats on the book of the law, signifying thereby the sealing of the covenant (Heb. 9:19). Likewise, God condescends by this continual sign to seal to us visibly, for the assistance of our faith, all the blessings of the covenant of grace in Christ Jesus. With this ordinance of His own appointment, He assures us—like the rainbow in the clouds—that no deluge of wrath will ever again sweep away those who come to Him by Jesus Christ.
Part 2 next week Thursday.