By J.C. Ryle
THE paper which begins at this page requires a few words of prefatory explanation. It consists of fifty-one questions about the Lord's Supper, with special reference to points which are the subject of much dispute and controversy in the present day. It supplies fifty-one answers to these questions, chiefly drawn from the New Testament, and the Articles, Communion Service, and Catechism of the Church of England. It contains, in addition, some valuable extracts from the writings of standard English divines.
It is a painful fact, and one which it is impossible to deny, that the principal cause of differences among Churchmen at this moment is the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper. Whether that blessed ordinance is to be regarded as a sacrifice or not, whether the Lord's Table is an altar or not, whether the officiating clergyman is a sacrificing priest or not,--whether there is a corporal, material presence of Christ's body and blood in the consecrated elements of bread and wine or not,--whether these elements and the Lord's Table ought to be regarded with as much lowly reverence and honour as if Christ was bodily present or not,--all these are questions which are continually coming to the front. To speak plainly, they seem likely to divide the English clergy into two distinct parties, and to rain the Church of England!
Nor is this all. It is another painful and dangerous fact that the great majority of English lay Churchmen seem utterly unable to understand the very serious nature of the question which is dividing the clergy, and the doctrinal consequences which are bound up with it. Most lay Churchmen can only see that the service in some churches is more ornamental and musical than in others, and that in some there is more importance attached to the Lord's Table, and to flowers, decorations, gestures, dress, and postures, than in others. But they can see no further. They cannot, or will not, perceive that the ceremonial actions in administering the Lord's Supper, about which the clergy disagree, are not mere ornamental trifles, as some suppose. So far from being "trifles," they are the outward and visible expressions of a most mischievous doctrine, which strikes at one of the first principles of the Reformed Church of England. They think all earnest, eloquent, zealous, hard-working clergymen cannot be far wrong. And when you tell them that there is an avowed determination among many clergymen to unprotestantize the Established Church, to get behind the Reformation, and to bring back the Romish Mass and the Confessional, you are too often smiled at as an alarmist, and are not believed. It is my deliberate conviction that unless English lay Churchmen can be awakened to see the real nature of the existing differences about the Lord's Supper, there will come in a few years the disestablishment, the disendowment, and the disruption of the Church of England. Half the lay Churchmen seem so absorbed in politics, or fine arts, or cotton, or iron, or coal, or corn, or shipping, or railways, that you cannot get them to look at religious questions. Of the other half, too many are crying "Peace, peace." when there is no peace, and insisting that every "earnest" clergyman should be allowed to" do what is right in his own eyes, to break the law, and to be let alone. In short, unless a change comes soon, our candlestick will be taken away, and our Church will be ruined.
The paper now in the reader's hands is a humble contribution to the cause of truth about the Lord's Supper. It is truth as I find it in the New Testament, truth as I find it in the authorized formularies of our Church, truth as I find it in the writings of our greatest English divines;--it is this truth which I advocate in these pages.
1. Is the Lord's Supper a subject of primary importance in the Christian religion? Do not thousands of Churchmen live and die without receiving it? Do not the majority of church-goers turn their backs on it, and always go away when it is administered? How is this?
Nothing can possibly be of small importance which the Lord Jesus Christ ordained and appointed. Our Lord most distinctly commanded His disciples to "eat bread" and "drink wine" in remembrance of Him. What right has any Christian to disobey this commandment? No doubt a man may be saved, like the penitent thief, without having received the Lord's Supper. It is not a matter of absolute and indispensable necessity, like repentance, faith, and conversion. But it is impossible to say that any professing Christian is in a safe, healthy, or satisfactory condition of soul, who habitually refuses to obey Christ and attend the Lord's Table. If he is not fit to be a communicant, as many say, he is confessing that he does not live as he ought to do, and is not fit to die and meet God. It is very difficult to see what habitual non-communicants will be able to say for themselves in the judgment-day. There is a judgment to come, a judgment of things left undone which we ought to have done, as well as of things done which we ought not to have done.
2. Is it of much importance to have right and true views of the Lord's Supper?
It is of the utmost possible importance. On no subject in Christianity has there been such an immense amount of superstitious error taught and held for nearly eighteen centuries. No error probably has done more harm to the souls of men. Those who think it does not signify what opinions we hold about the Lord's Supper, so long as we receive it, are under a strong delusion. No ordinance appointed by Christ does good to our souls "ex opere operato," or by the mere outward bodily use of it. The value of the Lord's Supper depends entirely on its being rightly understood, and rightly used.
3. Where shall we find right and true views of the Lord's Supper?
We shall find them in the four accounts of the institution of the ordinance given by St. Matthew, St. Mark, and St. Luke in their Gospels, and by St. Paul in the First Epistle to the Corinthians (see Matt. 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-29). These are our only full sources of information in God's Word. In the three Pastoral Epistles to Timothy and Titus, written especially for the instruction of ministers, the Lord's Supper is not once named. The views and principles of the Church of England are to be found in her Articles, Communion Service, Catechism, and Twenty-seventh Homily. Any views which cannot be reconciled with these formularies are not "Church views."
4. What is the Lord's Supper?
It is an ordinance or sacrament appointed by Jesus Christ the night before He was crucified, for the perpetual benefit and edification of His Church, until He comes again at the end of the world. The only other sacrament is baptism. The Church of Rome holds that Confirmation, Penance (or Confession and Absolution), Ordination.
Matrimony, and Extreme Unction, are sacraments of the gospel. The Church of England in her Twenty-fifth Article says distinctly that they are not.
5. How many Tarts are there in the Lord's Supper? The Catechism of the Church of England rightly tells us that there are two parts. One is the outward and visible part, which is received by all communicants, both good and bad, without exception. The other is the inward and invisible part which is the thing signified by the outward part, and is only received by believers, and received by them, as the Twenty-eighth Article says, "after a heavenly and spiritual manner."
6. What is the outward and visible Tart or sign in the Lord's Supper?
The outward and visible part of the sacrament consists of bread and wine, which are placed on the Lord's Table, consecrated and set apart by the minister, seen, touched, received, eaten, and drunk by the communicants.
7. What is the inward part or thing signified in the Lord' s Supper? The inward or invisible part is that body and blood of Christ which were offered for our sins on the cross. It is neither seen, nor touched, nor tasted, nor received into the mouth by communicants. It is not a tangible and material thing, and can only be eaten and drunk, spiritually, with the heart, and by faith.
8. What did our Lord mean, when He said of the bread, " This is My body," and of the wine, "This is My blood," at the first institution of the Lord's Supper?
He certainly did not mean, "This bread is literally and materially My body, and this wine is literally My blood." It is quite plain that the Apostles did not so understand His words. As devout and well-taught Jews, they would have been shocked and horrified at the idea of drinking literal blood. Our Lord simply meant, "This bread and this wine represent, and are emblems of, My body and My blood." It is just the form of speech He had used when He said, "The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom" (Matt. 13:38).
9. Why was the sacrament of the Lord's Supper ordained?
The answer of the Church Catechism is the best that can be given. It was ordained "for the continual remembrance of the sacrifice of the death of Christ, and of the benefits which we receive thereby." The bread broken, given, and eaten, was intended to remind Christians of Christ's body given for our sins on the cross. The wine poured out and drunk was intended to remind Christians of Christ's blood shed for our sins. The whole ordinance was intended to keep the Church in perpetual recollection of Christ's death and substitution for us, and His atonement for our sins. Five times over in the Communion Office of the Prayer Book, the words "memory" and "remembrance" are expressly used, to describe the principal object of the Lord's Supper.
10. Who ought to come to the Lord's Supper?
Only those who have the marks and qualifications which are described in the last answer in the Church Catechism. People who "repent truly of their former sins, and stedfastly purpose to lead a new life,"--people who "have a lively faith in God's mercy through Christ, and a thankful remembrance of His death,"--people who are "in charity with all men,"--these, and only these, are fit to be communicants.
11. What good do fit communicants receive from the Lord's Supper?
Their souls, as the Catechism says, are "strengthened and refreshed" by inward spiritual communion with the body and blood of Christ, after the same manner that a material body is strengthened by bread and wine. Their repentance is deepened, their faith increased, their hope brightened, their knowledge enlarged, their habits of holy living strengthened.
12. Who ought not to come to the Lord's Supper? Those who are living in open sin, those who are manifestly ignorant of true religion, thoughtless, careless, unconverted, and without the Spirit of Christ. To tell such persons that it will do them good to come to the Lord's Table is to do them positive harm. Justification is not by the sacraments. To eat the bread and drink the wine is not the way to obtain forgiveness of sins or converting grace. On the contrary, St. Paul says that a man may eat and drink to his own condemnation (1 Cor. 11:29). The Twenty-ninth Article says that" the wicked, and such as be void of a lively faith, although they do carnally and visibly press with their teeth the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ, yet in no wise are they partakers of Christ: but rather to their own condemnation do eat and drink the sign or sacrament of so great a thing."
13. But ought not all persons without exception to be pressed to come to the Lord's Table, in order that their souls may be saved? Is not reception of the Lord's Supper the truest, shortest, and best way to obtain forgiveness of sins and have eternal life? Does not our Lord Jesus Christ say in the 6th chapter of St. John's Gospel, "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, ye have no life in you;" and again, " Whoso eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood hath eternal life "? (John 6:53-54). Do not these texts refer to the Lord's Supper?
Those two texts have nothing to do with the Lord's Supper. This is the opinion of all the best Protestant commentators, and also of some Romish ones. The " eating and drinking" here spoken of mean the spiritual eating and drinking of the heart by faith, and the "flesh and blood" mean Christ's vicarious sacrifice of His body upon the cross.--The penitent thief most certainly did not receive the bread and wine of the Lord's Supper, yet it is certain that he "had eternal life," and went to paradise when he died. Judas Iscariot did eat the bread and wine, but he did not "have eternal life," and died in his sins. The Prayer-book Service for the Communion of the Sick contains the following statement in one of its concluding rubrics: " If the sick man do truly repent him of his sins, and stedfastly believe that Jesus Christ hath suffered death on the cross for him, and shed His blood for his redemption, earnestly remembering the benefits he hath thereby, and giving Him thanks therefore, he doth eat and drink the body and blood of Christ profitably to his soul's health, although he do not receive the sacrament with his mouth." In fact, to maintain that no one "has eternal life" who does not receive the Lord's Supper, is a most narrow, cruel, and illiberal doctrine. It condemns to eternal death myriads of our fellow-Christians who, from one cause or another, have never become communicants. It condemns the whole body of the Quakers, who allow no sacraments. He that can hold such doctrine must be in a strange state of mind.
14. Does not St. Paul tell the Corinthians, that "the cup of blessing is a communion of the blood of Christ, and the bread a communion of the body of Christ "? (1 Cor. 10:16). Is not this a proof that there is a real corporal presence of Christ's natural body and blood in the Lord's Supper?
It is no proof at all. St. Paul does not say that the bread and wine are the body and blood of Christ, but only a COMMMUNION of them. By that he means that every communicant who rightly, worthily, and with faith receives the bread and wine, does in so receiving have spiritual and heart communion with the sacrifice of Christ's body and blood which was offered for his sins on the cross. For this is precisely one of the objects for which the Lord's Supper was appointed. It was intended to deepen and strengthen the heart union of believers with their crucified Saviour. More than this cannot be fairly got out of the text.
15. Does not the Church Catechism say that the "body and blood of Christ are verily and indeed taken and received by the faithful in the Lord's Supper"? Do not the words "verily and indeed" mean that, in the judgment of those who drew up the Catechism, there is a real corporal presence of Christ's natural body and blood in the consecrated bread and wine?
The simplest answer to this question is to be found in the Twenty-eighth Article: "The body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten in the Supper only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is faith." The following quotation from the work of a very learned divine, Archdeacon Waterland, deserves close attention: ---"The words of the Church Catechism, Verily and indeed taken and received by the faithful, are rightly interpreted of a real participation in the benefits purchased by Christ's death. The body and blood of Christ are taken and received by the faithful, not corporally, not internally, but verily and indeed, that is, effectually."--Waterland's Works, vol. iv. p. 42.
16. Does any change take place in the bread and wine when the minister consecrates them in the Lord's Supper?
Most certainly not. The bread continues bread just as it was before, and the wine continues wine, the same in colour, taste, and composition. The Twenty-eighth Article of the Church of England declares, "Transubstantiation, or the change of the substance of bread and wine in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by holy writ; but it is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, over-throweth the nature of a sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions.
17. Is there any real presence of Christ's natural body and blood in the bread and wine after consecration?
Most certainly not, if by "real" is meant a corporal and material presence. The rubric at the end of the Prayer-book Communion Service distinctly says, "The natural body and blood of our Saviour Christ are in heaven and not here, it being against the truth of Christ's natural body to be at one time in more places than one." If the body of Him who was born of the Virgin Mary can be present in the bread and wine on the Lord's Table, it cannot be a true human body, and the comfortable truth that our Saviour is perfect man would be overthrown. Those who tell us that as soon as the words of consecration are pronounced, at once the body and blood of Christ come down into the bread and wine, are in great error, and assert what they cannot prove.
18. Ought the consecrated bread and wine in the Lord's Sapper to be elevated, adored, and worshipped?
Most certainly not. The bread is still really and truly bread, and the wine really and truly wine. They ought to be reverently and carefully handled, as signs and emblems of very holy things after consecration. But the change is in the use of them, not in the substance; and to adore them is to break the second commandment. The Prayer-book rubric expressly says, "The sacramental bread and wine remain still in their very natural substance, and may not be adored; for that were idolatry to be abhorred of all faithful Christians." The Twenty-eighth Article says, "The sacrament of the Lord's Supper was not by Christ's ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshipped."
19. Is there any sacrifice of Christ's body and blood in the Lord's Supper?
Most certainly not. The ordinance is never once caned a sacrifice in the New Testament. There is not the slightest trace of any sacrifice in the four accounts of its first institution. There is not a word to show that the Apostles thought they saw any sacrifice offered up. Moreover, we are repeatedly taught in the New Testament, that as soon as Christ was sacrificed for our sins on the cross, there was no more sacrifice needed, and that after His one offering of Himself there was no need of other offering for sin (Heb. 10:14-18). To attempt to offer up Christ again is an act of ignorance akin to blasphemy. The Prayer Book never once calls the Lord's Supper a sacrifice. The "oblations" it speaks of in one place are the offering of money in the offertory. The only "sacrifice" it mentions is that of "praise and thanksgiving;" and the only offering it mentions is that of "ourselves, souls and bodies," to be a "reasonable, holy, and lively sacrifice" unto God. Those who call the sacrament a sacrifice cannot possibly prove what they say.
20. Is the minister who consecrates the bread and wine in the Lord's Supper a priest?
He is a priest no doubt, if by the word "priest" we only mean a presbyter, or one in the second order of the ministry; and in this sense only he is called a priest in the Prayer Book. But he is certainly not a priest, if we mean by that word one who offers up a sacrifice. He cannot be, because he has no sacrifice to offer, and a priest without a sacrifice is an unmeaning title. He cannot be, because Christian ministers are never once called "priests" in the New Testament. The Jewish priests in the Old Testament had to offer sacrifices daily, and were types and figures of the great High Priest who was to come. But when Christ offered up Himself on the cross, a sacerdotal ministry was at once done away for ever. All believers are now "kings and priests," because they "present their bodies a living sacrifice to God" (Rom. 12:1). But Christian ministers are not sacrificing priests, and cannot be. They are Christ's ambassadors, messengers, witnesses, watchmen, shepherds, and stewards of the mysteries of God, but nothing more, whatever dress they may wear, and whatever title they may assume. Christians have only one Priest, even Him who is "passed into the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God" (Heb. 4:14).
21. Is the table in the Lord's Supper rightly called an altar?
Most certainly not. It is never once called an altar in the New Testament. The text in (Hebrews 13:10), "We have an altar," has nothing whatever to do with the Lord's Supper. That learned divine, Dr. Waterland, says, "That altar is Christ our Lord, who is Altar, Priest, and Sacrifice all in one" (Waterland's Works, vol. v. p. 268, Oxford ed.).:Not once is the Lord's Table called an "altar" in the English Prayer Book. The Reformers of our Church ordered altars everywhere to be pulled down and removed, and wooden tables to be set up. Those Churchmen who carelessly call the Lord's Table an "altar," and talk of "altar services," and brides being "led to the altar" at weddings, are doing immense harm, ignorantly borrowing the language of the corrupt Church of Rome, and countenancing a mischievous error. If St. Paul rose from the grave, and was shown an "altar " in a Christian Church, he would not understand what it meant.
22. Is there anything sinful or wrong "in having the Lord's Supper in the evening? Most certainly not. It cannot possibly be sinful to follow the example of Christ and His Apostles. Every reader of the New Testament must know that the institution of the Lord's Supper took place in the evening. It is certain that no special hour is recommended to us in the Acts or Epistles. It is equally certain that the Prayer Book leaves the matter to the discretion of every clergyman, and allows him to do what is best for his congregation, and wisely lays down no hard and fast rule about the time. To forbid evening communions would completely shut out many persons in large town parishes from the Lord's Table. The mothers of many families among the working classes cannot possibly leave home in the morning. The very name "Supper" seems to point to the evening of a day rather than the morning. In the face of these facts, to denounce evening communion as irreverent and profane is neither reasonable nor wise.
23. Is it needful, advantageous, and desirable to receive the Lord's Supper fasting?
It is certainly not necessary, because the practice is neither commanded nor recommended in Scripture. Moreover, it is perfectly clear that at the first institution of the sacrament, the Apostles could not have received the elements fasting, because they had just eaten the passover. There cannot, therefore, be anything very important in this point, and every believer may use his liberty, and do what he finds edifying to himself without condemning others. But it may be feared that there lies in the minds of many who attach immense value to fasting communion, a vague belief that the consecrated bread and wine which we receive are in some mysterious way not real bread and wine, and ought not therefore to be mixed with other food in our bodies! Such a belief cannot be praised. Those who teach that fasting communion is a rule obligatory on all take up a position which is not only unscriptural, but cruel. To go fasting to an early morning communion is likely to cause the death of delicate persons.
24. Is it necessary, or desirable, or useful for communicants to confess their sins privately to a minister, and to receive absolution, before they come to the Lord's Supper?
Necessary it cannot be. There is not a single verse in the New Testament to show that the Apostles recommended such confession, or that the first Christians practised it. Desirable or useful it certainly is not. The habit of private or auricular confession to a minister, under any circumstances, is one of the most mischievous and dangerous inventions of the corrupt Church of Rome, and has been the cause of enormous immorality and wickedness. Moreover, it is so expressly condemned in the " Homily of Repentance," that no minister of the Church of England has any right to recommend, encourage, or permit it, if he is honest, and faithful to his ordination VOWS.
25. But is not private confession before communion sanctioned by that passage in the Communion Service of our Prayer Book, in which the minister says, "If any of you cannot quiet his own conscience, but requireth further comfort or counsel, let him come to me or some other discreet and learned minister of God's Holy Word, and open his grief, that by the ministry of God's Word he may receive the benefit of absolution"?
It is impossible, with any fairness, to extract auricular confession and sacramental absolution out of this passage. The simple meaning is, that people who are troubled in mind with some special difficulties of conscience, are advised to go to some minister and talk privately with him about them, and to get them cleared up and resolved by texts of Scripture, that is," by the ministry of God's Word." This is exactly what every wise minister in the present day does with those who seek private interviews with him, or wait for an after-meeting at the end of a sermon. But it is as utterly unlike the mischievous practice of habitual confession before communion, as wholesome medicine is unlike opium-eating, and water is unlike poison.
26. Does a minister do anything wicked or wrong if he pronounces the words of administration, once in giving the bread and wine to a number of communicants altogether, and not to each one separately he certainly does nothing wrong according to Scripture. he does exactly what our Lord Jesus Christ did when He first instituted the Lord's Supper. In each of the four accounts given in the New Testament, He used the plural number and not the singular. In each He pronounced the words once, and only once, and then gave the bread and wine to the whole company of the Apostles. In the face of our Lord's own example, to blame and condemn ministers who find it necessary to do the same, is surely not wise.
27. Does not the rubric of the Prayer Book order that the minister shall say the words of administration to each communicant separately?
Most certainly it does. Yet reason and common sense point out that the compilers of the Prayer Book could not have meant this rubric to be interpreted and obeyed literally and exactly, when such obedience is seriously inconvenient, if not impossible. When a clergyman with only one curate has to give the elements of bread and wine to 300 or 400 persons, the service must necessarily be so long, that aged and delicate people are wearied, and any following service is interfered with, or prevented altogether. No doubt, when the rubric was drawn up, parishes were small, communicants were few, there were no Sunday Schools, and few clergymen had more than one full service a day. Rules drawn up at that date, under such circumstances, are not to be rigorously applied to this day, especially when the application injures the Sunday services, and does more harm than good.
28. Does any clergyman literally obey all the rubrics of the Communion Service in the Prayer Book?
It is probable that there is not one who obeys then: all, and certainly no one obeys the four which immediately precede the Communion Service. The order to place the table "in the body of the church" is never attended to by any one! Custom in this matter has completely overridden the rubric. But this being the case, there must evidently be some discretion allowed in interpreting the communion rubrics.
29. Are communicants more likely to be edified if the words of administration are said to each one separately, than they are if they are said to the whole rail collectively?
It is impossible to answer this question. It is a matter of feeling and opinion. It is certain that many communicants feel pained and offended if they do not each hear the words addressed to themselves. It is equally certain that many others strongly dislike the incessant repetition of the words of administration, and especially where seven or eight ministers are employed, some giving the bread and some the wine, at the same time. Many complain that it confuses and distracts their minds. On such a point we must think and let think, and not judge one another. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. The argument that some clergymen will not repeat the words to each communicant separately, because they hold the doctrine of "particular redemption," is an absurd, baseless, and ignorant suggestion, destitute of truth.
30. In receiving the bread and wine, are any bodily actions, attitudes, or gestures specially obligatory on communicants?
None are prescribed in Scripture. The Apostles at the first institution of the Lord's Supper were evidently reclining after the manner of the times. Kneeling is wisely ordered in the Prayer Book, to use the words of the rubric: "For a signification of our humble and grateful acknowledgment of the benefits of Christ given in the sacrament to all worthy receivers, and for the avoiding of profanation and disorder." Whether we should receive the bread with our fingers or upon the open palm of our hands, seems an open question, which each must decide for himself. Let it only be remembered, that to refrain to touch the bread with our hands, and to require it to be put into our mouths, has a strong appearance of superstition. As to bowing down till we almost grovel on the ground like serfs, it is a posture unworthy of Christ's freemen, and is a painfully suspicious symptom of ignorance of the real nature of the consecrated elements.
31. Does it add to the value and usefulness of the Lord's Supper, or promote the edification of the communicants, to have the sacrament administrated with the following accompaniments, viz.
1. Lights on the Communion Table in broad day;
2. Mixing water with the wine;
3. Clothing the minister in a peculiar dress called a chasuble;
4. Burning incense?
These things cannot be shown to be of any real value. Not one of them is recommended, or even named, in the New Testament. Not one of them is prescribed or ordered in the Prayer Book, and the best English lawyers pronounce them illegal. They are borrowed from the corrupt Church of Rome, and not a few clergymen, after beginning by using them, have ended by believing the sacrifice of the Mass, and joining the Romish communion. Such things no doubt have "a show of wisdom," and "satisfy the flesh" (Col. 2:23). They suit the many ignorant people who like a mere outward religion. But it is vain to suppose that they please God. In the nature of things, they tend to distract and divert the minds of communicants from the true, scriptural, and simple view of the Lord's Supper. No one in his senses can dare to say that they are essential to the validity of the sacrament, or that our Lord or His Apostles ever used them. They are neither more nor less than "will-worship," and the invention of man (Col. 2:23). The clergyman who persists in using these illegal ceremonial acts, in defiance of his bishop's monitions, causes divisions, offences, strife, and controversy in the Church about things not essential, and is justly deserving of censure.
32. Did the reformers of the Church of England, to whom we owe our Articles and .Prayer Book, attach much weight to right and true views of the lord's Supper, and especially of the real meaning of the presence of Christ in that sacrament?
Yes! most certainly. It was precisely on this point that our Protestant Reformers differed most widely from the Church of Rome. It was precisely because they would not admit that the natural body and blood of Christ were corporally present under the forms of bread and wine after the words of consecration were pronounced, that many of them were condemned to death and burned at the stake in Queen Mary's reign. Fuller, the famous Church historian, says:--" The sacrament of the altar was the main touchstone to discover the poor Protestants. This point of the real corporal presence of Christ in the sacrament., the same body that was crucified, was the compendious way to discover those of the opposite opinion."--Fuller's Church History, vol. iii. p. 399, Tegg's edition.
33. Why was John Rogers, the protomartyr, Vicar of St. Sepulchre's and Prebendary of St. Paul's, burned in Smithfield, on February 4, 1555?
Let us hear his own account:--
"I was asked whether I believed in the sacrament to be the very body and blood of our Saviour Christ that was born of the Virgin Mary, and hanged on the cross, really and substantially? I answered, ' I think it to be false. I cannot understand really and substantially to signify otherwise than corporally. But corporally Christ is only in heaven, and so Christ cannot be corporally in your sacrament.'" Foxe in loco, vol. iii. p. 101, edit. 1684.
And so he was burned.
34. Why was Hugh Latimer, sometime Bishop of Worcester, burned at Oxford, on October 16, 1555?
Let us hear what Foxe says were the articles exhibited against him:-
"That thou hast openly affirmed, defended, and maintained that the true and natural body of Christ after the consecration of the priest, is not really present in the sacrament of the altar, and that in the sacrament of the altar remaineth still the substance of bread and wine."
And to this article the good old man replied:--
"After a corporal being, which the Romish Church furnisheth, Christ's body and blood is not in the sacrament under the forms of bread and wine." Foxe in loco, vol. iii. p. 426.
And so he was burned.
35. Why was Nicholas Ridley, Bishop of London, burned at Oxford, on October 16, 1555?
Once more let us hear what Foxe says were the words of his sentence of condemnation:-
"The said Nicholas Ridley affirms, maintains, and stubbornly defends certain opinions, assertions, and heresies, contrary to the Word of God and the received faith of the Church, as in denying the true and natural body and blood of Christ to be in the sacrament of the altar, and secondarily, in affirming the substance of bread and wine to remain after the words of consecration." Foxe in loco, vol. iii. p. 426.
And so he was burned.
36. Why was John Bradford, Prebendary of St. Paul's, chaplain to Bishop Ridley, and one of Edward the Sixth's chaplains, burned at Smithfield, on July 1, 1555?
Let us hear what Foxe says he wrote to the men of Lancashire and Cheshire while he was in prison:--
"The chief thing which I am condemned for as an heretic is because I deny the sacrament of the altar (which is not Christ's Supper, but a plain perversion as the Papists now use it) to be a real, natural, and corporal presence of Christ's body and blood under the forms and accidents of bread and wine, that is, because I deny transubstantiation, which is the darling of the devil, and daughter and heir to Antichrist's religion."--Foxe in loco, vol. iii. p. 260.
And so he was burned.
37. But may not these four men who were burned have been isolated cases, and not true representatives of the Church of .England? May they not have been violent fanatics, and unlearned and ignorant men?
Nothing can be further from the truth than these suggestions. The doctrines for which these four men laid down their lives were the doctrines professed by the whole Church of England in the reign of Edward the Sixth. So far from standing alone, their opinions were shared by 280 other persons, who were burned in Queen Mary's reign. As to ignorance and want of learning, Ridley and Rogers were among the most learned men of their day, and to Ridley in particular we are indebted for the foundations of our English Prayer Book.
38. But is it not said that the English Reformers, having just come out of Rome, adopted very extreme and rather defective views of the Lord's Supper? Have not English divines since the Reformation taken up much more moderate and temperate opinions about the doctrine of the Real Presence?
Whosoever says this says what he cannot possibly prove. With very few exceptions, all the greatest, ablest, and most learned English theologians of every school of thought, for three hundred years, have agreed in maintaining that there is no real corporal presence of Christ's natural body and blood in the consecrated bread and wine in the Lord's Supper.
39. What does Bishop Jewell, in his work on the Sacraments, say?
"Let us examine what difference there is between the body of Christ and the Sacrament of His body.
"The difference is this: a sacrament is a figure or token; the body of Christ is figured or tokened. The sacramental bread is bread, it is not the body of Christ; the body of Christ is flesh; it is no bread. The bread is beneath; the body is above. The bread is on the table; the body is in heaven. The bread is in the mouth; the body is in the heart. The bread feedeth the body; the body feedeth the soul. The bread shall come to nothing; the body is immortal and shall not perish. The bread is vile; the body of Christ is glorious. Such a difference is there between the bread which is a sacrament of the body, and the body of Christ itself. The sacrament is eaten as well of the wicked as of the faithful; the body is only eaten of the faithful. The sacrament may be eaten unto judgment; the body cannot be eaten but unto salvation. Without the sacrament we may be saved; but without the body of Christ we have no salvation: we cannot be saved."--Jewell's Works, vol. ii., Treatise on Sacraments, Parker Society edition, p. 1121.
40. What does Richard Hooker, in his "Ecclesiastical Polity," say?
"The real presence of Christ's most blessed body and blood is not to be sought for in the sacrament, but in the worthy receiver of the sacrament.
"And with this the very order of our Saviour's words agreeth. First, ' Take and eat;' then,' This is My body which is broken for you.' First, ' Drink ye all of this;' then followeth, ' This is My blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.' I see not which way it should be gathered by the words of Christ,--when and where the bread is His body or the wine His blood, but only in the very heart and soul of him which receiveth them. As for the sacraments, they really exhibit, but for aught we can gather out of that which is written of them, they are not really nor do really contain in themselves that grace which with them or by them it pleaseth God to bestow." Hooker, Eccl. Pol., book v. p. 67.
41. What does Jeremy Taylor, in his book on the Real Presence (edit. 1654, pp. 13-15), say?
"We say that Christ's body is in the sacrament really, but spiritually. The Roman Catholics say that it is there really, but spiritually. For so Bellarmine is bold to say that the word may be allowed in this question. Where now is the difference? Here by spiritually, they mean spiritual after the manner of a spirit. We by spiritually, mean present to our spirit only. They say that Christ's body is truly present there as it was upon the cross, but not after the manner of all or anybody, but after that manner of being as an angel is in a place. That's their spiritually.--But we by the real spiritual presence of Christ do understand Christ to be present, as the Spirit of God is present, in the hearts of the faithful by blessing and grace; and this is all which we mean beside topical and figurative presence."
42. What did Archbishop Usher, in his sermon before the House of Commons, say?
"In the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, the bread and wine are not changed in substance from being the same with that which is served at ordinary tables. But in respect of the sacred use whereunto they are consecrated, such a change is made that now they differ as much from common bread and wine as heaven from earth. Neither are they to be accounted barely significative, but truly exhibitive also of those heavenly things whereunto they have relation; as being appointed by God to be a means of conveying the same to us, and putting us in actual possession thereof. So that in the use of this holy ordinance, as verily as a man with his bodily hand and mouth receiveth the earthly creatures of bread and wine, so verily with his spiritual hand and mouth, if he have any, doth he receive the body and blood of Christ. And this is that real and substantial presence which we affirm to be in the inward part of this sacred action."
43. What does Waterland say?
"The Fathers well understood that to make Christ's natural body the real sacrifice of the Eucharist, would not only be absurd in reason, but highly presumptuous and profane; and that to make the outward symbols a proper sacrifice, a material sacrifice, would be entirely contrary to gospel principles, degrading the Christian sacrifice into a Jewish one, yea, and making it much lower and meaner than the Jewish one, both in value and dignity. The right way, therefore, was to make the sacrifice spiritual, and it could be no other upon gospel principles."--Works, vol. iv. p. 762.
"No one has any authority or right to offer Christ as a sacrifice, whether really or symbolically, but Christ Himself; such a sacrifice is His sacrifice, not ours--offered for us, not by us, to God the Father." Works, vol. iv. p. 753.
44. What does Bishop Burnet, in his work on the Articles, say?
"We assert a real presence of the body and blood of Christ; but not of His body as it is now glorified in heaven, but of His body as it was broken on the cross, when His blood was shed and separated from it; that is, His death, with the merits and effects of it, are in a visible and federal act offered in the sacrament to all worthy believers. -- By real we understand true, in opposition both to fiction and imagination, and to those shadows that were in the Mosaical dispensation, in which the manna, the rock, the brazen serpent, but eminently the cloud of glory, were types and shadows of Messiah that was to come, with whom came grace and truth, that is, a most wonderful manifestation of the mercy and grace of God, and a verifying of promises made under the law. --In this sense we acknowledge a real presence of Christ in the sacrament. Though we are convinced that our first Reformers judged right concerning the use of the phrase, Real Presence, that it was better to be let fall than to be continued, since the use of it, and that idea which does naturally arise from the common acceptation of it, may stick deeper, and feed superstition more than all those larger explanations that are given to it can be able to cure."---Burnet on Twenty-eighth Article.
45. What does Henry Philpotts, Bishop of Exeter; in his letter to Charles Butler, say? "The Church of Rome holds that the body and blood of Christ are present under the accidents of bread and wine; the Church of England holds that their real presence is in the soul of the communicant at the sacrament of the Lord's Supper.
"She holds that after the consecration of the bread and wine they are changed, not in their nature, but in their use, that instead of nourishing our bodies only, they now are instruments by which, when worthily received, God gives to our souls the body and blood of Christ to nourish and sustain them, that this is not a fictitious or imaginary exhibition of our crucified Redeemer to us, but a real though spiritual one, more real, indeed, because more effectual, than the carnal exhibition and manducation of Him could be, for the flesh profiteth nothing."
"In the same manner, then, as oar Lord Himself said, ' I am the true bread that came down from heaven' (not meaning thereby that he was a lump of baked dough or manna, but the true means of sustaining the true life of man, which is spiritual, not corporeal), so in the sacrament to the worthy receiver of the consecrated elements, though in their nature mere bread and wine, are yet given truly, really, and effectively, the crucified body and blood of Christ; that body and blood which are the instruments of man's redemption, and upon which our spiritual life and strength solely depend. It is in this sense that the crucified Jesus is present in the sacrament of His Supper, not in, nor with, the bread and wine, nor under their accidents, but in the souls of communicants; not carnally, but effectually and faithfully, and therefore most really."--Philpotts' Letter to Butler, 8vo edit. 1825, pp. 235, 236.
46. What did Archbishop Longley say in his last Charge, printed and published after his death in 1868?
"The doctrine of the real presence is, in one sense, the doctrine of the Church of England. She asserts that the body and blood of Christ are 'verily and indeed taken and received by the faithful in the Lord's Supper.' And she asserts equally that such presence, is not material or corporal, but that Christ's body' is given, taken, and eaten in the Supper, only after a heavenly and spiritual manner' (Art. 28.). Christ's presence is effectual for all those intents and purposes for which His body was broken and His blood shed. As to a presence elsewhere than in the heart of a believer, the Church of England is silent, and the words of Hooker therefore represent her views: ' The real presence of Christ's most blessed body and blood is not to be sought in the sacrament, but in the worthy receiver of the sacrament.'"
47. What did the Judicial Committee of Privy Council declare in the famous case of Shepherd V. Bennet.
"It is not lawful for a clergyman to teach that the sacrifice and offering of Christ upon the cross, or the redemption, propitiation, or satisfaction wrought by it, is or can be repeated in the ordinance of the Lord's Supper; nor that in that ordinance there is or can be any sacrifice or offering of Christ which is efficacious in the sense in which Christ's death is efficacious, to procure the remission of guilt or punishment of sins."
"Any presence of Christ in the Holy Communion, which is not a presence to the soul of the faithful receiver, the Church of England does not by her Articles and formularies affirm, or require her ministers to accept. This cannot be stated too plainly."
48. What is the declaration which, under the "Act of Settlement," and by the law of .England, every Sovereign of this country, at his or her Coronation, must "make, subscribe, and audibly repeat"!
It is the declaration, be it remembered, which was made, subscribed, and repeated by Her Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria.
"I, Victoria, do solemnly and sincerely, in the presence of God, profess, testify, and declare that I do believe that in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper there is not any transubstantiation of the elements of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, at or after the consecration thereof, by any person whatsoever; and that the invocation or adoration of the Virgin Mary or any other saint, and the sacrifice of the mass, as they are now used in the Church of Rome, are superstitious and idolatrous. And I do solemnly, in the presence of God, profess, testify, and declare, that I do make this declaration, and every part thereof, in the plain and ordinary sense of the words read unto me, as they are commonly understood by English Protestants, without any evasion, equivocation, or mental reservation, and without any dispensation already granted me for this purpose by the Pope or any other authority or person whatsoever, or without any hope of any such dispensation from any person or authority whatsoever, or without thinking that I am or can be acquitted before God or man, or absolved of this declaration or any part thereof, although the Pope or any other person or persons or power whatsoever shall dispense with or annul the same, or declare that it was null and void from the beginning."
49. After all, are these nice and deep questions about a real corporal presence and a sacrifice in the Lord's Supper of any vital importance? Do they really interfere with any leading truths of the gospel? Are they not all strifes about words which are of no consequence? Are they not all mere aesthetic squabbling about ornaments, on which tastes may be allowed to differ?
The man who can say such things as this, exhibits most woeful ignorance of Christian theology, as laid down in the New Testament, and has very much to learn. The harmless theory, as some people call it, of a real corporal presence of Christ's natural body and blood in the bread and wine, if pursued to its legitimate consequences, obscures every leading doctrine of the gospel, and damages and interferes with the whole system of Christ's truth. Grant for a moment that the Lord's Supper is a sacrifice, and not a sacrament---grant that every time the words of consecration are used, the natural body and blood of Christ are present on the communion table under the forms of bread and wine--grant that every one who eats that consecrated bread and drinks that consecrated wine, does really eat and drink the body and blood of Christ---grant for a moment these things, and the most momentous consequences result from these premises. You spoil the blessed doctrine of Christ's finished work when He died on the cross. A sacrifice that needs to be repeated is not a perfect and complete thing. You spoil the priestly office of Christ. If there are priests that can offer an acceptable sacrifice to God besides Him, the great High Priest is robbed of His glory.--You spoil the scriptural doctrine of the Christian ministry. You exalt sinful men into the position of mediators between God and man. You give to the sacramental elements of bread and wine an honour and veneration they were never meant to receive, and produce an idolatry to be abhorred of faithful Christians.--Last, but not least, you overthrow the true doctrine of Christ's human nature. If the body born of the Virgin Mary can be in more places than one at the same time, it is not a body like our own, and Jesus was not the second Adam in the truth of our nature. Our martyred Reformers saw and felt these things even more clearly than we do, and, seeing and feeling them, chose to die rather than admit the doctrine of the Real Presence.
50. But may not these unhappy divisions about the, Lord's Supper be healed and laid to rest by sanctioning a policy of general compromise ant toleration,? Why should not Churchmen agree to allow every clergyman to believe and teach just what he likes about the Lord's Supper? Why not proclaim by authority, that for peace' sake one clergyman may call this ordinance a sacrament, and another clergyman in the next parish may call it a sacrifice, --one man may tell his people that there is a real corporal presence of Christ on the Lord's Table, and another tell his people that there is no such presence at all? Why not permit all this for the sake of peace? Why not sacrifice all distinct doctrine in order to avoid controversy?
The answer is plain and obvious. This "policy of compromise and toleration" would bring no peace at all, but would rather increase, emphasize, crystallize, and solidify our unhappy divisions. It would be regarded by the laity of the middle and lower classes as a deliberate attempt to bring back the Romish Mass, and get behind the Protestant Reformation. It would: split the clergy of every diocese into two distinct bodies, neither of which would hold any communion with the other. It would increase the difficulties of bishops tenfold, and make it impossible to examine any candidate for orders about the Lord's Supper. Above all, this policy of universal toleration would sooner or later bring down the displeasure of God, and ruin the Church of England. Peace, cessation of controversy, free thought, and liberty in administering sacraments, are excellent things to talk about, and the)-look beautiful at a distance. But they must have some bounds. The Church which, in zeal for peace, throws creeds and rubrics overboard, and regards Deism, Socinianism, Romanism, and Protestantism with equal favour or equal indifference, is a mere Babel, a city of confusion, and not a city of God. This is what the Church of England will come to, if she ever gives up the principles of her martyred Reformers about the Lord's Supper.
51. What is the Real Presence that the Church of England specially needs in these latter days?
It is the presence of God the Holy Spirit. This is of far more importance than any corporal presence of Christ. Our question in every place of worship should be, not, "Is Christ's body here?" but, "Is the Spirit, the Comforter, here?" Excessive craving after Christ's material bodily presence before the Second Advent is in reality dishonouring the Holy Spirit. Where He is, there will be God's blessing. Where He is, there will be true honour given to the body and blood of Christ. What the Church of Christ needs everywhere is the real presence of the Holy Ghost. If the Holy Spirit is not present, the highest show of reverence for the consecrated bread and wine in the Lord's Supper is useless formality, and completely worthless in God's sight.