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The Flesh of Christ is Life to the Soul

Johann Gerhard

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

“WHOSO eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood hath eternal life” (John vi. 54), says our Lord Jesus Christ. Marvelous is the goodness of our Saviour, that He not only assumed our human nature in His incarnation, and carried it with Him to His throne of heavenly glory, but that He also gives us His own body and blood to nourish our souls unto eternal life. O the delightful blessings which He here offers to my soul! O the glorious repast for which I so ardently long! O the heavenly and angelic food of this holy supper of our Lord! Though the angels desired to look into this great mystery (1 Pet. i. 12), yet Christ took not on Him the nature of angels, but the seed of Abraham (Heb. ii. 16). Our Saviour is more nearly allied to us than to the angels themselves; and by this we know that He loveth us, because He hath given us of His Spirit (1 John iv. 13), and not of His Spirit only, but of His own body and blood as well. For so Christ Himself the Truth, speaks of the Eucharistic bread and wine, “This is my body: this is my blood” (Matt. xxvi. 26-28). How can the Lord ever forget those whom He hath redeemed, those whom He hath nourished, with His own body and blood? He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood, dwelleth in me and I in him (John vi. 56).

I do not greatly wonder, in view of all this, that the very hairs of our heads are all numbered (Matt. x. 30); that our names are written in heaven (Luke x. 20); that we are graven upon the palms of the Lord’s hands (Is. xlix. 16); that we are carried in His bosom (Is. xlvi. 3), since we are fed with Christ’s precious body and blood. Inexpressibly great must be the value of our souls, since they are fed with the precious ransom of their own redemption. Great indeed is the honor put upon our bodies, inasmuch as they are the dwelling-places of our souls redeemed and fed by the body of Christ, and are the temples of the Holy Ghost and the abodes of the adorable Trinity. It cannot be that they should ever remain in the grave, since they are thus nourished with the body and blood of our Lord. He is the wonderful bread of life. We partake of it and become one body with Christ. We are members of Christ; we are animated by His Spirit; we are nourished with His body and blood. He is the bread of God which cometh down from heaven and giveth life unto the world (John vi. 33), of which if any man eat he shall never hunger. He is the bread of grace and mercy, of which, if any man eat, he tastes and sees that the Lord is good (Ps. xxxiv. 8), and of His fullness receives grace for grace (John i. 16). He is the bread of life, not only living, but life-giving (John vi. 58); so that he that eateth of Him shall live forever. This is the bread that came down from heaven, nor is it only heavenly in its own nature, but to all those who partake of it, in the spirit and with saving faith, it will give a place among the heavenly guests at the marriage supper of the Lamb; aye, heavenly guests they shall be, because they shall never die, but be raised up at the last day. And yet they shall not be raised to judgment, because they who eat of this bread shall not come to judgment nor to condemnation, for there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. viii. 1); but they shall arise to life and eternal salvation. For whosoever eateth the flesh of the Son of Man, and drinketh His blood, hath life in himself and shall live by Christ (John vi. 53, 57). His flesh is meat indeed, and His blood is drink indeed (John vi. 55). Let us not seek then to feast our souls on our own dead works, but with the blessed food of the Lord’s own providing; let us not try to satisfy them with the perishing things of earth, but with the fatness of the house of the Lord (Ps. xxxvi. 8).

He is the true fountain of life: whosoever drinketh of the water that Jesus will give him, it shall be in him a well of water springing up into eternal life (John iv. 14). “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come ye, buy and eat” (Is. lv. 1). Let all those that are athirst come, and come thou, O my thirsty soul, who art tormented with the scorching heat of thy sins. What if thou hast no money, no merit of thine own, to offer; then hasten all the more to this refreshing fountain. If thou hast no merit of thine own, then hasten all the more eagerly to the saving merit of Christ thy Saviour. Fly hither, then, and buy without money and without price. Here is the place of rest for Christ and the soul, from which our sins may not deter us, nor will our merits help us to attain it. But what can our own merits do for us? “Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which satisfieth not?” says the prophet (Isaiah lv. 2). We cannot satisfy our souls by our good works, nor purchase divine grace by our own merits.

Then hearken diligently, O my soul, and eat that which is good and delight thyself in fatness (Is. lv. 2). “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” (John vi. 63); and these are words of eternal life: “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)? We cling unto the Lord; thus we are one spirit with Him (1 Cor. vi. 17). We are united to Him, not only because He hath assumed our nature, but also because His body and blood are communicated to us in the Holy Supper. I do not therefore ask with the unbelieving Jews -– “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” (John vi. 53), but I rather exclaim, “How marvelous it is that the Lord hath given us His body to eat and His blood to drink!” I do not pry into the mysteries of His power, but I do wonder at the marvels of His mercy. I do not curiously inquire into His glorious majesty, but I do humbly adore His boundless goodness. In His actual presence in the Holy Supper I profoundly believe, though of the mode of that presence I am ignorant, and yet I do certainly know that it is of the closest and most intimate character. We are members of His body, flesh of His flesh, bone of His bone (Eph. v. 30).

My soul desires to be swallowed up in the contemplation of this profoundest mystery; words fail me to set forth or properly express this great goodness of the Lord; I am utterly dumbfounded at the thought of the marvelous grace of the Lord and the glory that awaits His saints!

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