Epistles of Faith
William Huntington (1745-1813)
Winchester Row, March 20, 1785.
I RECEIVED yours, and am willing to comply with your request, as far as the Lord shall enable me. If you read carefully the whole chapter, you will see that the apostle is rebuking some of the professors at Corinth for their abuse of the Lord's supper. Some came hungry to it, and ate to satisfy nature; others came drunken to it, and added to their excess. He tells them that their communing was sinful, instead of holy; that they contracted guilt at it, instead of receiving grace by it. "Now in this that I declare unto you, I praise you not, that you come not together for the better, but for the worse. For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you, and I partly believe it. For, in eating, every one taketh before another his own supper, and one is hungry, and another is drunken. What, have ye not houses to eat and to drink In? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you, shall I praise you in this? I praise you not," 1 Cor. xi. 17-20. The apostle having told them of their faults, goes on to shew the heinousness of their guilt, by telling them first, that they sinned against the dispensation of the Lord, which he had received of the Saviour and delivered unto them. "For I have received of the Lord, that which also I delivered unto you."
The apostle goes on to shew the guilt they contracted in the abuse of the ordinance; "Wherefore, whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep." These two last verses are what you seem to stumble at. It is not in my power to give you an exact comment on so particular a passage, nor have I time for it. The apostle intimates that bread and wine are symbols of the body and blood of Christ. But you will say, why is Christ called bread, and represented by bread? because bread is the staff of life, and in scripture it signifies every eatable. Every temporal necessary to support life lies in these words, "Bread shall be given him, his waters shall be sure;" and when God threatens a guilty land with a dreadful famine, it lies in these words, "I take away the whole staff of bread, and the whole stay of water." Now Christ is both the bread and drink of our souls; God has given us eternal life in him; and all the fullness of the Spirit, called the water of life, is in him also; the promise also of temporal supplies is yea, and amen in him. Thus our life is in the Son; "He that hath the Son, hath life, and he that hath not the Son, hath not life."
But law and justice standing in the way of life, denouncing death, the law must have a perfect obedience, and justice, a full execution before life could be communicated to the dead. To this the dear Redeemer submitted, and offered his life up to justice, as a sacrifice in our room; and so eternal life flows to us through him, and we escape eternal death, by faith in the death and resurrection of him. Hence, he says, "I am the bread of life, my flesh is meat indeed, my blood is drink indeed." But these words must be spiritually understood, as he says, "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life." And so the sensible sinner finds it, after he has stood self-condemned before the holy law of God, and exposed to all the wrath revealed in it. As soon as the Holy Ghost enlightens the understanding to see the Saviour on the cross, suffering the penalty in his room, and he is enabled by faith to apply the benefits of his death, or the life that Christ procured for him, to himself, then he finds' his flesh to be meat, and his blood drink indeed.
The whole contents of God's revealed wrath against sin, is held forth to us by a cup of red wine, Jer. xxv. 15: the colour represents the wrath of God, and the endless portion of the wicked, Psal. lxxiii. 10. But the blessed Saviour took the cup of wrath, and the cup of trembling, out of the hand of Justice, and drank it for us, with a willing mind: though he prayed three times, "If it be possible, let this cup pass from me;" yet he obeyed, and willingly drank it, and opposed those that would have kept him from it, "The cup that my heavenly father hath given me, shall I not drink it?" This cup of wrath being drank by the surety, a cup of salvation is held forth to us in a promise; and a cup of salvation it is, when the atonement of Christ is received into the heart by faith; the curse being drank by the Saviour, a cup of blessings is held forth unto us, and this cup of salvation and divine blessings is represented by the cup in the sacrament; and the hand of faith conveys Christ to the conscience, as the grand atonement, while pardon, peace, life, and joy attend the Saviour into the believing soul. Thus his blood is drink indeed.
Now, says the apostle, "Whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord" The hardened rebel, the fearless sinner, the self-righteous Pharisee, the insensible wretch, the unenlightened soul, and the unbeliever, are all unworthy; because they are not invited in the word, nor so much as described among the guests that are. Therefore, says the pious apostle, "Let a man examine himself;" for if he eats and drinks unworthily, he is guilty of the body and blood of the Lord; that is, he abuses the symbols that represent the Lord's body and blood; he sees not the spiritual meaning of it, he feels not his need of what is signified by it, he profanes the sacred ordinance, and shews himself to be of the same spirit of the Pharisees, who crucified him; and thus he commits spiritual wickedness as they did, and sins against innocent blood, and is guilty of having a hand in the open crucifixion of Christ; he is guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
But if, upon examination, he finds sin his burden, and is humbled under it; if he repents of it, and believes in the Saviour; if he is stripped of his confidence in the flesh, and is made willing to be saved by grace; if sin be hateful, and the Lord loved by him; if he be obedient to the word, and live in the fear of God; then let him eat of this bread, and drink of this cup. Those that are weary and heavy laden are called; the lame, the halt, and maimed, are invited; they that are circumcised to love God, are to keep this passover, none are refused that believe; none are cast out that put on the wedding garment of Christ's righteousness, all that hunger and thirst are welcome; and those made willing to close in with the gospel offer, and hold the truth as it is in Christ, have a right by a divine invitation. "Whosoever will, let him come;" "They continued in the apostles' doctrine, in fellowship, in breaking of bread, and in prayers." The text that seems most to stagger you, is that of not discerning the Lord's body. That is, such as are not enlightened by the Holy Ghost, to see the grand design of the Saviour's assuming human nature, in order to obey the precept of the law. They never saw by faith the Lord's body offered up as a sacrifice for sin; they do not see how God reconciled the world to himself in Christ, nor do they see his body to be the temple in which all the fullness of the Godhead dwells, and therefore they do not see him as the object of faith, hope, love, and worship.
The sacrament is to represent Christ to the eye and hand of gospel faith, so that conscience may receive inward satisfaction from him as the real spiritual substance of those signs. But the blind insensible unbeliever discerns nothing of this; he comes to it as to another meal, or else he makes a Saviour of it, without any gospel views of Christ, and so trusts in an idol; or else he comes contemptuously, and so profanes it, and then by his wicked life he crucifies the Lord afresh; contracts the guilt of spiritual wickedness by abusing, in the signs, the substance of our great salvation; thus he eats and drinks damnation, to himself, not discerning; the Lord's body.
For the abuse of this ordinance, some disorderly professors fell under the fatherly rod of God; many were sickly among them, and others had so grieved the Spirit, that they were like the drowsy virgins, many sleep; such had neglected self-examination, they had not tried themselves, therefore God examined, tried, and scourged them. "If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged; but when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world." There is nothing in this chapter against the humble penitent, the heavy laden, the coming sinner, or the tender-hearted believer; but the sins of these daring Corinthians were great, and the judgements denounced against them are awful. But poor weaklings are like the Lord's own disciples, when he told them, one of them should betray him they all cried out, "Lord is it I?" While the guilty was the last that spoke. Excuse haste. The Lord be with you, while I remain thine to serve in the gospel of Christ,W.H.