Monday, June 08, 2009

getting Christ better

It is reasonably well known that Robert Bruce, the Scottish minister of the second generation of Reformers, emphasised that grace received through the sacraments is not different from that received through the Word. Both convey the same Christ. But as he went on to assert that while we do not get a better Christ in the sacraments than we do in the Word, there are times when we get Christ better. He said "we get Christ better nor we did before; Aye get the thing that we gat mair fullie, that is, with a surer apprehension nor we had of before; we get a better grip of Christ now: For be the sacrament my faith is nurished, the bounds of my saull is enlarged, and sa, quhere I had but a little grip of Christ before, as it were betwixt my finger and my thumbe, now 1 get him in my haill hande; and ay the mair that my faith growes, the better grip I get of Christ lesus. Sa the sacrament is felloun necessarie, an it were na mair but to get Christ better, and to get a faster apprehension of him be the sacrament nor we coidd have of before". Bruce spoke of it as leading to 'growth of faith and increase of holiness', so that the believer might say 'the bounds of my soul are inlarged... I grow in knowledge. I grow in apprehension. I grow in feeling... He changes the affections of my soul. He changes their faculties and qualities. Hearts and mind not changed in substance - but made new to the extent that we are new creatures.' 'Christ works in you a spiritual feeling', said Bruce, 'that in your heart and in your conscience you may fmd the effect of his Word.' The effect of having such new feelings is that the believer might obtain 'strength' to 'lay hold of mercy' and obtain 'strong resolve for bettering the self'. In the words of Bruce, 'there is no other lesson in Christianity than this - to shake off your lusts and affections more and more to renounce yourself, so that you may embrace Christ.'

George Gillespie explained this further in writing that believers are given the body and blood of Christ through preaching also, but in preaching there was
more 'human wisdom' mixed in, so it was not so 'pure' as the sacrament.'

In the words of the Scots Confession, 'The faithful in the right use of the Lord's table have sic a conjunction with the Lord Jesus Christ as the natural man cannot comprehend.'