The Nature of a Sacrament, Part Three

communicants

Taken from Chapter 1 of The Communicant’s Spiritual Companion by Thomas Haweis

PART 1, PART 2

These are the views that are included under the remembrance of the sacrificial death of Christ; this leads, then, to a consideration of the great and many benefits we receive thereby. In general, Jesus Christ gives the entirety of Himself to every believer and, consequently, every blessing of grace and glory that He, by His obedience unto death, purchased for us. God, in giving us His Son, will “with him also freely give us all things” (Rom. 8:32). Of these many and varied benefits, the following are the most remarkable.

First, we receive the pardon of sin. Tis is the first and grand purchase of the sacrifice of Christ; His blood was shed for the remission of sins. Sin caused a great breach between God and us; its guilt condemned while its power enslaved us. We were under a curse that we could neither remove nor endure. But Christ, acting for us, opened a door of hope, providing a way in which God “is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). God accepts our Surety and exacts from Him our immense debts.

In the gospel, the glad tidings of free salvation are brought to us and we are called to embrace them; and in the Lord’s Supper, for the confirmation of our faith, God condescends to put His seal to the covenant of grace, ratifying the purchased pardon and assuring us that He “will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will [he] remember no more” (Heb. 8:12). We in turn testify our consent and hearty desire of its accomplishment by coming to receive the free gif of God in Jesus Christ and casting our souls upon His promise. How high the gif and great the benefit is the pardon of sin! Tis pardon is free; it is without money and without price. Although dearly purchased by Christ, it is freely given to us. It is a pardon for the chief of sinners and for a world of sinners. It is a pardon that silences condemnation, removes fear, and produces boldness. Does the law accuse you? Point to this sacrifice and say, “There is my satisfaction.” Does your conscience tremble? Look to Jesus. How can you then fear? Are you weighed down with heavy guilt, bound as under a mass of lead or a burden comparable to the sand of the sea? Tis blood cleanses from all sin, looses every heavy burden, sets the prisoner free, releases him from the pit of sin and death, and causes him to partake of the glorious liberty offered in Christ. Come then, guilty sinners, whose black crimes confuse; come, leprous souls, who want to wash and be clean; come, burdened consciences, and lay your load at the foot of the cross. Jesus Christ has purchased everything you need, and He invites you to come and take of the water of life freely, to wash your crimson sins away in the fountain of His blood, and to be restored to the full enjoyment of God’s favor as if you had never sinned. Here is a pardon for you written and sealed in blood, confirmed by the word and oath of God that “by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fed for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us” (Heb. 6:18).

The adoption as children is another benefit of Christ’s passion. We, who were at one time aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the promises, are brought near through the blood of Christ and, consequently, made fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God (Eph. 2:12–19). Christ’s obedience to death not only removes guilt, but confers favor upon us. Not only are we hereby delivered from the curse of the law, but we are also reinstated in all the forfeited rights of children lost in our fall, receiving the adoption of sons. In this ordinance God the Father promises to be a Father to all those who come unto Him by Jesus Christ; He will give them a place in His family upon earth and an inheritance among the joint heirs with Christ in heaven. He promises that He will take care of them more than the most tender parent and love them with an everlasting love. He gives them this pledge, just as the father gave the prodigal son a ring. Thus, they are sealed to the day of redemption, and His love sheds abroad in their hearts, bringing about their love, as Scripture states, “Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father” (Gal. 4:6). Thus the children, coming to their Father at the Table where their older Brother provided a feast of love for them, receive increase in every filial temper and disposition and grow up into Him in all things who is their head, even Christ. The precious purchase of the Savior’s blood is such that we, heirs of wrath, children of darkness, dust of the earth, abominable and vile sinners, aliens and enemies, should be brought near. We are not simply permitted, as the prodigal son asked, to be placed among the hired servants, but are robed in the Savior’s righteousness, placed among His children, seated at His Table, blessed with His favor, partake of the provisions of His house below, and look for “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4). We would do well to cry out with astonishment, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God!” (1 John 3:1).

Another benefit we receive is consolation and joy. To rejoice in Christ Jesus, to have peace with God through faith, to be filed with the comfort and joy of the Holy Ghost, and to have the present deposit and sure prospects of glory to come is particularly the objective of this ordinance as the visible signs are intended to produce confidence in God. In this sacrament we often get mountaintop views of the Promised Land; here the mourning saint finds joy; the weary, rest; the dejected, encouragement; and the strong, increasing confidence. Here the spirit of faith applies the atonement, and the sense of reconciliation often fills our souls with joy unspeakable and full of glory. Christ intends that His people should comfort themselves in this ordinance and that they should abound in all spiritual joy and come as to a feast where gladness is sown for the upright in heart. Here we should dry our tears—if they fall, they should be tears of joy—and put on the garment of praise instead of a spirit of heaviness. We must not sit mournfully before the Lord of hosts nor cloud the joy of the festivity with sorrow on our brow, unless this sorrow is, as the apostle Paul mentions, “As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Cor. 6:10). While mourning our sins, we understand and believe the greatness of the gif bestowed on us; the Spirit witnesses with our spirit regarding His work in us, and He gives us a present taste of our inheritance before we are actually put in possession of the purchased glory in heaven.

What a delightful ordinance! Thousands of real Christians have experienced its comforts, and they continue to do so. I say “real Christians” experience this; mere ceremonial visitors, on the other hand, feel, taste, and handle nothing of the word of life. The bread and wine to them are barren elements, dry breasts that afford no consolation; in contrast, the soul vitally united to Christ can say, “I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste. He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love” (Song 2:3–4). The real Christian tastes the joy dispensed and goes away rejoicing because he has seen the Lord.

Fourth, in this ordinance there is a free distribution of strength and power from Jesus Christ, exactly suited for all the work a Christian is called to; the Lord’s Table is one instituted means of conveying to believers the supplies of the Spirit for their wilderness state, both to subdue their corruptions and strengthen their graces. Here we draw water out of the wells of salvation and, like Elijah traveling to the Mount of Horeb, receive from time to time our provision. With this refreshment we are able to hold on our way, growing stronger and stronger until we come to the heavenly Horeb, the Mount Zion, the Jerusalem that is above. If our corruptions are strong, here we find grace to mortify them; here we are taught and receive humility to supplant pride, heavenly mindedness instead of worldliness, and purity instead of pollution. The example before us, as well as the grace ministered, powerfully calls upon us to learn of Him to be meek and lowly of heart. We are not to be of the world just as He was not, and we are to walk in holiness as He did. Are your graces feeble and weak? Where else can we better blow the smoking fax into a fame? Here everything conspires to confirm our faith, to enliven our hopes, to kindle our warmest affections, to enlarge our charity, to inspire our zeal, to teach us meekness, to put aside our laziness, to encourage our perseverance, to excite our thankfulness. In short, this ordinance conspires to work in us every divine temper and disposition. Tis blessed ordinance is designed to strengthen us in the inner man and to support us under all discouragements without and fears within so that we might go on from strength to strength, from grace to grace, until we arrive at the blessed place where we will go from glory to glory

Great and glorious are the privileges obtained by the precious blood of the Son of God. As we are called to partake in all of them, what excuse can we make if we do not heed this call? Do you not want pardon of sin? Is adoption a despicable blessing? Is spiritual joy a bland pleasure or the gift of God’s Spirit an unnecessary assistance? If not, why then do so many slight this ordinance of the Lord and neglect this great salvation? Do you deny any relation to Jesus Christ and renounce His religion? Do you decline making this profession and have no desire after the benefits of His death and passion? Surely those who never think of remembering the Lord’s death till He come will be most unprepared to meet Him on the day of judgment. You who forget God, I beg you to consider this, lest, by your slighting of Him He be provoked to give you up to your own inventions and you die in your sins, not sprinkled with His blood, clothed with His righteousness, nor partaking of His Spirit. Be assured that those who forget Christ now will be disowned by Him in the day of His glorious appearing.