True enough. But who, in his systematic theology, took that confessional language and gave the extended answer to the question, “What do you mean when you say that, after the Word creates the faith through which alone we obtain salvation, the sacraments affirm said faith”?
Our Lord in John vi. 53-58, expressly and solemnly declares that except a man eat of his flesh, and drink his blood, he has no life in him; and that whoso eateth his flesh and drinketh his blood, hath eternal life. It is here taught that the eating spoken of is necessary to salvation. He who does not eat of the flesh of the Son of Man, has no life in him. He who does thus eat, shall live forever. Now as no Christian Church, not even the Roman, maintains that a participation of the Lord’s Supper is essential to salvation, it is plain that no such Church can consistently believe that the eating spoken of is that which is peculiar to that ordinance. Again, the Scriptures so clearly and variously teach that those who believe in Christ; who receive the record God has given of his Son; who receive Him; who flee to Him for refuge; who lay hold of Him as their God and Saviour, shall never perish but have eternal life; it is plain that what is expressed in John vi. by eating the flesh of Christ and drinking his blood, must be the same thing that is elsewhere expressed in the various ways just referred to.
When we eat our food we receive and appropriate it to the nourishment of our bodies; so to eat the flesh of Christ is to receive and appropriate Him and his sacrificial work for the life of our souls. Without this appropriation of Christ to ourselves we have no life; with it, we have life eternal, for He is our life. As this appropriation is an act of faith, it is by believing that we eat of his flesh and drink his blood. We accordingly find that this is recognized in all the leading Confessions of the Reformed Church. Thus in the Zurich Confession it is said, “Eating is believing, and believing is eating.” The Helvetic Confession, as quoted above, says that this eating takes place as often as and wherever a man believes in Christ. The Belgic Confession says, “God sent Christ as the true bread from heaven which nourishes and sustains the spiritual life of believers, if it be eaten, that is, if it be applied and received by the Spirit through faith.” Faith, as shown above, is, in all these Confessions, declared to be the hand and the mouth by which this reception and appropriation are effected. A distinction may be, and often is, made between spiritual and sacramental manducation. But the difference between them is merely circumstantial. In the former the believer feeds on Christ to his spiritual nourishment, without the intervention and use of the elements of bread and wine; in the latter, he does the same thing in the use of those elements as the divinely appointed sign and seal of the truth and promise of God.