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To Stand in Wonder Before it, not to Pry into it, is Truest Wisdom

Johann Gerhard

(Translated by Rev. C. W. Heisler, A.M.)

IN the Holy Supper of our Lord we have a mystery placed before us that should cause the deepest awe and excite our profoundest adoration. There is the treasury and store-house of Godís grace. We know (Gen. ii. 9) that the tree of life was planted by God in Paradise, that its fruit might preserve our first parents and their posterity in the blessedness of an immortality which He had bestowed upon them at their creation. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was also placed in Paradise; but that which God gave them for their salvation and eternal life, and to serve as a test of their obedience, became the occasion of their death and eternal condemnation, when they miserably yielded to Satanís enticements and followed their own sinful desires. So in this Holy Supper we have the true tree of life again set before us, that sweet tree (Ez. xlvii. 12), whose leaves are for medicine and whose fruit is for salvation; aye, its sweetness is such as to destroy the bitterness of all afflictions, and even of death itself. The Israelites were fed with manna in the wilderness as with bread from heaven (Ex. xvi. 15); in this Holy Supper we have the true manna which came down from heaven to give life unto the world; here is that bread of heaven, that angelsí food, of which if any man eat he shall never hunger (John vi. 35, 51). The children of Israel had the ark of the covenant and the mercy seat, where they could hear the Lord speaking with them face to face (Ex. xxv. 21, 22); but here we have the true ark of the covenant, the most holy body of Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. ii. 3); here we have the true mercy seat in the precious blood of Christ (Rom. iii. 25), through which God hath made us accepted in the Beloved (Eph. i. 6). Nor does Christ simply speak the word of comfort to our souls, He also takes up His abode in us; He feeds our souls not with heavenly manna, but what is far better, with His own blessed self. Here is the true gate of heaven to our souls, and the ladder reaching from earth to heaven on which the angels of God ascend and descend (Gen. xxviii. 12); for is not He who is in heaven greater than the heavens? Can heaven be as close to God as the flesh and the human nature which He assumed in the incarnation? Heaven is indeed the dwelling-place of God (Is. lxvi. 1), and yet the Holy Spirit rests upon the human nature assumed by Christ (Is. xi. 2). God is in heaven, and yet in Christ dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Col. ii. 9). Truly this is a great and infallible pledge of our salvation; He could not possibly have given us a greater, for what is greater than Himself? What can be more intimately united to the Lord than His own human nature, which He hath taken, in His incarnation, into fellowship with the adorable Trinity, and thus made the treasury of all the blessings that heaven has to bestow? What is so intimately joined to Him as His own body and blood? With this truly heavenly food He refreshes our souls, who are as miserable worms of the dust before Him, and makes us partakers of His own nature; why then shall we not enjoy His gracious favor? Who ever yet hated his own flesh (Eph. v. 29)? How then can the Lord hate us, to whom He giveth His body to eat and His blood to drink? How can He possibly forget those to whom He hath given the pledge of His own body? How can Satan gain the victory over us when we are strengthened and made meet for our spiritual conflicts with bread of heaven?

Christ holds us dear because He hath bought us at so dear a price; He holds us dear because He feeds our souls with so dear and precious food; He holds us dear because we are members of His body, of His flesh (Eph. v. 30). This is the only sovereign remedy for all the diseases of our souls; here is the only efficacious remedy for mortality; for what sin is so heinous but the sacred flesh of God may expiate it? What sin is so great but it may be healed by the life-giving flesh of the Christ? What sin so deadly in its effects but it may be atoned for by the death of the Son of God? What darts of the devil so fiery but they may be quenched in this fountain of divine grace? What conscience is so stained with sin but it may be cleansed by the blood of Jesus? The Lord journeyed with the Israelites of old in a pillar of cloud and fire (Ex. xiii. 21); but here we have present with us not a cloud, but the Sun of Righteousness Himself (Mal. iv. 2), the blessed Light of our souls. Here we are sensible not of the fire of the divine wrath, but of the glowing flame of divine love, which does not withdraw afar off from us, but comes and makes its abode with us (John xiv. 23).

Our first parents were placed in Paradise, that most charming and delightful garden, the type of the eternal blessedness of the heavenly paradise, that being mindful of Godís goodness to them, they might render due obedience to their Creator.

But behold, in this holy supper, more than a paradise; for here the soul of the creature is spiritually fed with the flesh of his almighty Creator. The conscience is cleansed from all its guilty stains in the blood of the Son of God. The members of Christ, their spiritual head, are nourished with His own body; the believing soul feasts itself at a divine and heavenly banquet. The holy flesh of God, which the angelic hosts adore in the unity of the divine nature, before which archangels bow in lowly reverence, and before which the principalities and powers of heaven tremble and stand in awe, is become the spiritual nourishment of our souls. Let the heavens rejoice and let the earth be glad (Ps. xcvi. 11), but still more let the believing soul exult and sing for joy, to whom God giveth such an unspeakable gift!

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