By Lewis Bayly
Is it true indeed, that God will dwell on earth? Behold the heaven, and the heaven of heavens are not able to contain thee; how much more unable is the soul of such a sinful caitiff as I am to receive thee?
But seeing it is thy blessed pleasure to come thus to sup with me, and to dwell in me, I cannot fox joy but burst out and say, "What is man, that thou art so mindful of him, and the son of man, that thou so regardest him?" what favour soever thou vouchsafest me in the abundance of thy grace, I will freely confess what I am in the wretchedness of my nature. I am, in a word, a carnal creature whose very soul is sold under sin: a wretched man, compassed about with a body of death. Yet, Lord, seeing thou callest sinners, I have thrust myself in among the rest; and seeing thou callest all with their heaviest loads, I see no reason why I should stay behind. O Lord, I am sick, and whither should I go, but unto thee, the physician of my soul; thou hast cured many, but never didst thou meet with a more miserable patient, for I am more leprous than Gehazi, more unclean than Magdalene, more blind in soul than Bartimeus was in body; for I have lived all this while, and never seen the true light of thy word. My soul overflows with sin. Mephibosheth was not more lame to go, than my soul is to walk after thee in love. Jeroboam's arm was not more withered to strike the prophet, than my hand is maimed to relieve the poor. Cure me, O Lord, and thou shalt do as great a work as in curing them all. And though I have all their sins and sores, yet, Lord, so abundant is thy grace, so great is thy skill, that if thou wilt, thou canst with a word forgive the one and heal the other; and why should I doubt of thy good will, when to save me will cost thee now but one loving smile; who didst shew thyself so willing to redeem me, though it should cost thee all thy heart-blood; and now offerest so graciously unto me the assured pledge of my redemption by thy blood. Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my merit, that thou hast bought me with so dear a price? (2 Sam. vii. 18.) It is merely thy mercy, and I, O Lord, am not worthy of the least of all thy mercies (Gen. xxxii. 10;) much less to be a partaker of this holy sacrament, the greatest pledge of the greatest mercy, than ever thou didst bestow upon those sons of men whom thou lovest. How might I, in respect of my own unworthiness, cry out for fear at the sight of thy holy sacrament, as the Philistines did, when they saw the ark of God come into the assembly (1 Sam. v. 7.) Woe now unto me, a sinner! but that thy angel doth comfort me, as he did the woman, "Fear thou not, for I know that thou seekest Jesus which was crucified." (Matt. xxviii. 5.) It is thou indeed that my soul seeketh after; and here thou offerest thyself unto me in thy blessed sacrament. If, therefore, Elizabeth thought herself so much honoured at thy presence in the womb of thy blessed mother, that the "babe sprang in her for joy," how should my soul leap within me for joy, now that thou comest by thy holy sacrament, to dwell in my heart for ever? O what an honour is this, not that the mother of my Lord, but my Lord himself, should come thus to visit me; indeed, Lord, I confess with the faithful centurion, that I am not worthy that thou shouldst come under my roof: and that if thou didst but speak the word only, my soul shall be saved; yet seeing it hath pleased thee, in the riches of thy grace, for the better strengthening of my weakness, to seal thy mercy unto me, by thy visible sign, as well as by thy visible word; in all thankful humility my soul speaks unto thee with the blessed Virgin: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word." Knock thou, Lord, by thy word and sacraments, at the door of my heart; and I will, like the publican, with both my fists knock at my breast, as fast as I can, that thou mayest enter in; and if the door will not open fast enough, break it open, O Lord, by thine almighty power, and then enter in, and dwell there for ever, that I may have cause with Zaccheus to acknowledge that "this day salvation is come into mine house." And cast out of me whatsoever shall be offensive unto thee; for I resign the whole possession of my heart unto thy sacred Majesty, entreating that I may not live henceforth, but that thou mayest live in me, speak in me, walk in me, and so govern me by thy Spirit, that nothing may be pleasing to me, but that which is acceptable unto thee; that finishing my course in the life of grace, I may afterwards live with thee for ever in the kingdom of glory. Grant this, O Lord Jesus, for the merits of thy death and blood-shedding. Amen.
When the minister bringeth towards thee the bread thus blessed and broken, and offering it to thee, bids thee, take, eat, &c., then meditate, that Christ himself cometh unto thee, and both offereth, and giveth indeed unto thy faith, his very body and blood, with all the merits of his death and passion, to feed thy soul unto eternal life; as surely as the minister offereth and giveth the outward signs, that feed thy body unto this temporal life. The bread of the Lord is given by the minister, but the bread which is the Lord is given by Christ himself.
When thou takest the bread at the minister's hand to eat it, then rouse up thy soul to apprehend Christ by faith, and to apply his merits to heal thy miseries. Embrace him as sweetly with thy faith in the sacrament, as ever Simeon hugged him with his arms in his swaddling clothes.
As thou eatest the bread, imagine that thou seest Christ hanging upon the cross, and by his unspeakable torments, fully satisfying God's justice for thy sins; and strive to be as verily partaker of the spiritual grace, as of the elemental signs; for the truth is not absent from the sign; neither doth Christ deceive, when he saith, "This is my body:" he giveth himself indeed to every soul that spiritually receives him by faith; for as ours is the same supper which Christ administered, so is the same Christ verily present at his own supper, not by any papal transubstantiation, but by a sacramental participation, whereby he doth truly feed the faithful unto eternal life; not by coming down out of heaven unto thee, but by lifting thee up from the earth unto him, according to that old saying, Sursum corda, lift up your hearts. And "where the carcase is, thither will the eagles resort."
When thou seest the wine brought to thee apart from the bread, then remember that the blood of Jesus Christ was as verily separated from his body upon the cross, for the remission of thy sins; and that this is the seal of the new covenant, which God hath made to forgive all the sins of all penitent sinners that believe in the merits of his blood-shedding; for the wine is not a sacrament of Christ's blood contained in his veins; but as it was shed out of his body upon the cross for the remission of the sins of all that believe on him.
As thou drinkest the wine, meditate and believe, that by the merits of that blood which Christ shed upon the cross, all thy sins are as verily forgiven, as thou hast now drunk this sacramental wine, and received it in faith. And in the instant of drinking, settle thy meditation upon Christ, as he hanged upon the cross, as if, like Mary and John, thou didst see him nailed, and his blood running down his blessed side out of that ghastly wound which the spear made in his innocent heart; wishing thy mouth close to his side, that thou mightst receive that precious blood before it fell to the dusty earth. And yet the actual drinking of that real blood with thy mouth, would be nothing so effectual as this sacramental drinking of that blood spiritually by faith (Matt. xxvi. 28.) For one of the soldiers might have drunk that, and-been still a reprobate; but whosoever drinketh it spiritually by faith in the sacrament, shall surely have the remission of his sins, and life everlasting.
As thou feelest the sacramental wine which thou hast drunk, warming thy cold stomach, so endeavour to feel the Holy Ghost cherishing thy soul in the joyful assurance of the forgiveness of all thy sins, by the merit of the blood of Christ. And to this end God giveth every faithful soul, together with the sacramental blood, the Holy Ghost to drink: "We are all made to drink into one spirit." (1 Cor. xii. 13.) And so lift up thy mind from the contemplation of Christ-, as he was crucified upon the cross, to consider how he now sits in glory at the right hand of his Father, making intercession for thee (Rom. viii. 34; Heb. vii. 25; ix. 24), by presenting to his Father the invaluable merits of his death, which he once suffered for thee, to appease his justice for the sins which thou dost daily commit against him.
After thou hast eaten and drunk both the bread and wine, labour that as those sacramental signs turn to the nourishment of thy body, and by the digestion of heat become one with thy substance, so by the operation of faith and the Holy Ghost thou mayest become one with Christ, and Christ with thee; and so mayest feel thy communion with Christ confirmed and increased daily more and more (1 Cor. x. 17.) That as it is impossible to separate the bread and wine digested into the blood and substance of thy body, so it may be more impossible to part Christ from thy soul, or thy soul from Christ.
Lastly, as the bread of the sacrament, though con-fected of many grains, yet makes but one bread, so must thou remember that though all the faithful are many, yet are they all but one mystical body, whereof Christ is head. And therefore thou must love every Christian as thyself, and a member of thy body.
Thus far of the duties to be done at the receiving of the holy sacrament, called meditation.