Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

subjection to death, and in his triumph over it; so, from it we derive that assurance of a blessed resurrection, which is the direct consequence of the merciful and stupendous dispensation, by which he has been made sin for us, by dying upon the cross ; and we, the righteousness of God in him, by the efficacy of his resurrection to our justification".

To these views of the efficacy of the Eucharist the passage in question adds nothing; though from its consistency with them it corroborates their correctness, and by the peremptoriness of its language gives confidence to our former conclusions: the real value of the passage consists, not in any novelty of information conveyed in it, but in its correspondence with what is already established. Strong indeed as the presumption hence arising may appear, an intended reference to the holy Sacrament in these words of our Lord, it must after all be remembered, that that presumption cannot safely be carried beyond

of

u 2 Cor. v. 21. Rom. iv. 25.

a high degree of probability. And as in cases of this sort no circumstance can be deemed indifferent, or unimportant, which is of real moment in adjusting the balance of probability, I shall, I trust, be excused in again briefly adverting to a topic of argument, to which I have already had recourse, in considering the evidence supplied by the Gospel of St. John with respect. to Baptism; and which seems not less applicable to the question before us. I allude to the peculiar circumstances, under which the record of the conference of our Lord with the Galilean multitude has been preserved to us.

It occurs in that Gospel, which (with one only exception perhaps) is allowed to have been the latest written of the books of the New Testament; and the especial object of which is said to have been the confirmation of the received doctrines of the church against some heretical novelties, which had gained a footing in it, by an appeal to those hitherto unpublished discourses of our Lord, of which St. John was the surviving depositary. In this point of view, though

no new doctrine, not already deducible from the words of inspiration, was perhaps to be looked for, any important allusions of our blessed Lord to matters bearing upon established points of faith, might fairly be expected to find a place. Now the great doctrines most fully illustrated by St. John are, undoubtedly, the divinity of our Lord, and the sacrifice of atonement offered by him for sin: upon these he is large. But whatever was peculiar to Christianity, also, naturally came in his way; and to this we probably owe the notices of the two sacraments, in the third and sixth chapters of his Gospel. It does not seem probable, that the object of the former of these was merely to insist upon the necessity of a metaphorical new birth; or of the latter, to magnify the benefits to be derived from a metaphorical feeding upon Christ. The laying so great a stress upon sions would indeed have been wholly unaccountable, had they not obtained importance from their being attached to something real. Nor can we in either case guess at any reason, why Jesus Christ

these expres

should have left Nicodemus and the Galilean Jews, nay his own chosen disciples, in the dark as to his real meaning; except upon the supposition, that the time was not yet come for the full explanation of his intentions. Now this was the case, upon the supposition of his alluding to the Sacraments, but was not the case upon any other suggested hypothesis. If in the third chapter of St. John our Lord refers to Baptism, the temporary obscurity of his language is at once accounted for: while at the same time we perceive, that it might safely be left to the actual establishment of the rite, to remove difficulties, which, though they might perplex, could not essentially mislead Nicodemus, but upon which it was not possible perhaps, in consistence with the general objects of our Lord's mission, to give him full satisfaction at the time. If, on the other hand, he only speaks in a highly figurative strain of a change of life and heart, we can see no reason for his persevering in the use of a metaphor, which confounded him to whom it was addressed, but who would have had little or no difficulty in understanding or admitting the necessity of reformation and repentance from dead works, the inability of man to renew a right spirit within himself, or the consequent indispensability of a divine interference to effect it. The marked adherence, under such circumstances, to the particular form of expression, would seem wholly unaccountable.

So again, if in the sixth chapter of the Evangelist our Saviour alludes to his own sacrifice upon the cross, and the means of participating in the benefits of it by a sacramental feeding on his flesh and blood, then we can well understand, why upon a sacrifice not yet offered, on a rite not yet established, his expressions partook of the obscurity of that yet hidden mystery. But upon the supposition, that no more was intended than the necessity of faith in him as their Messiah, or of accepting and pondering the doctrine which he delivered to them, we are totally at a loss to conceive why he should here again, as in his discourse with Nicodemus, attach so much importance to a mere metaphor ; why, so far from explaining it at the time even to his

« AnteriorContinua »