By Lewis Bayly
3. To be a pledge and symbol of the most near and effectual communion which Christians have with Christ. "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?" (1 Cor. x. 16;) that is, a most effectual sign and pledge of our communion with Christ. This union is called abiding in us, joining to the Lord, dwelling in our hearts (John xiv. 16, 23; 1 Cor. vi. 17, Eph. iii. 17)-and set forth in the holy Scriptures by divers similes:-First, Of the vine and branches (John xv. 5.) Secondly, Of the head and body (Eph. iii. 6; Eph. v. 23; Col. i. 18; Rom. xii. 4, 5.) Thirdly, Of the foundation and building (Eph. ii. 19, 20.) Fourthly, Of one loaf confected of many grains (1 Cor. x. 17.) Fifthly, Of the matrimonial union between man and wife, and such like (Eph. v. 31, 32; Rev. xxi. 2.) And it is threefold between Christ and Christians. The first is natural, between our human nature, and Christ's divine nature in the person of the word; the second is mystical, between our persons absent from the Lord, and the person of Christ, God and man, in one mystical body; the third is celestial, between our persons present with the Lord, and the person of Christ in a body glorified: these three conjunctions depend each upon other; for, had not our nature been first hypostatically united to the nature of God in the second Person, we could never have been united to Christ in a mystical body. And if we be not in this life, though absent, united to Christ by a mystical union, we shall never have communion of glory with him in his heavenly presence. The mystical union, chiefly here meant, is wrought between Christ and us by the Spirit of Christ apprehending us; and by our faith stirred up by the -same Spirit, apprehending Christ again: both which St. Paul doth most lively express-"I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus." (Phil. iii. 12.) How can he fall away that holds, and is so firmly holden? This union he shall best understand in his mind who doth most feel it in his heart. But of all other times this union is best felt, and most confirmed, when we duly receive the Lord's Supper: for then we shall sensibly feel our hearts knit unto Christ, and the desires of our souls drawn by faith and the Holy Ghost, as by the cords of love, nearer and nearer to his holiness.
From this communion with Christ, there follow to the faithful many unspeakable benefits-
As, first, Christ took by imputation all their sins and guiltiness upon him, to satisfy God's justice for them (Rom. iv. 25;) and he freely gives, by imputation, unto us all his righteousness in this life, and all his right unto eternal life when this is ended (Phil. iii. 9;) and counteth all the good or ill that is done unto us, as done unto his own person (Matt. xxv. 35; Acts ix. 4; Zech. ii. 8.)
Secondly, There floweth from Christ's nature into our nature, united to him, the lively spirit and breath of grace, which reneweth us to a spiritual life (Eph. iv. 23, 24;) and so sanctifieth our minds, wills, and affections, that we daily grow more and more conformable to the image of Christ (Rom. viii. 29; 2 Cor. iii. 18.)
Thirdly, He bestoweth upon them all saving graces necessary to attain eternal life, as the sense of God's love, the assurance of our election, with regeneration, justification, and grace to do good works (John xv. 5; i. 16; 2 Cor. viii. 1, 4, 6, 7, 19), till we come to live with him in his heavenly kingdom. This should teach all true Christians to keep themselves as the undefiled members of Christ's holy body, and to beware of all uncleanness and filthiness, knowing that they live in Christ, or rather, that Christ liveth in them. From this union with Christ (sealed unto us by the Lord's Supper) St. Paul draweth arguments to withdraw the Corinthians from the pollution both of idolatry and adultery (1 Cor. x. 7, 8, 16, 21.)
Lastly, From the former communion between Christ and Christians, there flows another communion between Christians among themselves, which is also lively represented by the sacrament of the Lord's Supper; in that the whole church, being many, do all communicate of one bread in that holy action: "We being many, are one bread and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread" (1 Cor. x. 17;) that as the bread which we eat in the sacrament is but one, though it be confected of many grains; so all the faithful, though they be many, yet are they but one mystical body, under one' head, which is Christ. Our Saviour prayed five times, in that prayer which he made after his last supper, that his disciples might be one (John xvii. 11, 21, 22, 23, 26), to teach us at once how much this unity pleases him. This union between the faithful is so ample, that no distance of place can part it; so strong, that death cannot dissolve it; so durable, that time cannot wear it out; so effectual, that it breeds a fervent love between those who never saw one another's face. And this conjunction of souls is termed the communion of saints, which Christ effects by six special means:-first, By governing them all by one and the same Holy Spirit (1 Cor. xii. 13;) Secondly, By enduing them all with one and the same faith (Eph. iv. 5;) Thirdly, By shedding abroad his own love into all their hearts (Rom. v. 5;) Fourthly, By regenerating them all by one and the same baptism (Titus iii. 5; Eph. iv. 5;) Fifthly, By nourishing them all with one and the same spiritual food (1 Cor. x. 3, 17;) Sixthly, By being one quickening head of that one body of his church (Col. i. 18), which he reconciled to God in the body of his flesh (ver. 22.) Hence it was that the multitude of believers in the primitive church were of one heart and of one soul, in truth, affection, and compassion (Acts iv. 32.) And this should teach Christians to love one another, seeing they are all members of the same holy and mystical body, of which Christ is head. And therefore they should have all a Christian sympathy and fellow-feeling, to rejoice one in another's joy, to condole one in another's grief, to bear with one another's infirmity, and mutually to relieve one another's wants.