An Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles – Article XXVIII (Part 2)

Section II. — Scriptural Proof.

I. The Words of Institution.

WE know that almost all the sacrifices, among both Jews and Gentiles, were succeeded by a feast upon the body of the sacrificed victim; the persons, who thus fed upon the sacrifice, declaring their interest in the sacred rite, and through it entering into covenant with the God.[1] Now the Passover was the most solemn and significant of all the sacrifices of the Law, the most remarkable of all the types of our redemption. In its first institution, it was ordained that the lamb should be slain, evidently in the way of a propitiatory offering,[2] in order that the destroying angel, which smote the Egyptians, might not destroy those for whom this offering was made. Yet no one had a claim to exemption from the destruction, except those on whose lintels and door posts the blood of the lamb was sprinkled, and who had partaken of the feast upon the lamb slain, — they and all their households.[3] The feast was, as it were, the consummation of the sacrifice; the efficacy of the latter being assured only to those who partook of the former.

It is not a little observable then, that our blessed Saviour, the night before He suffered, or (if we take the Jewish reckoning from evening to evening) the very day on which He suffered, superseded the typical feast of the Passover by the commemorative feast of the Eucharist. He first, according to the Law, ate the Passover with His disciples. Then, supper being ended,[4] and probably after He had washed the feet of His disciples,[5] He instituted a new rite appropriate to the New Covenant, but with peculiar reference to the rite under the Old Covenant. With the Passover, by Divine ordinance, there had been always eaten unleavened bread; and, by immemorial custom, there had been four cups of wine poured out; over each of which thanks were offered up, “and of which the third cup was specially called the cup of blessing.”[6] Now the bread and the wine, thus eaten and drunk solemnly at the Passover, our Lord adopts, as the signs or elements for the institution of His new Sacrament. The bread at the Passover was blessed and broken, the wine was blessed and poured out.[7] These same ceremonies our Lord now uses. He breaks the bread and blesses it; He pours out the wine and blesses it. In the feast of the Passover the bread and wine had been but subordinate; the latter not even of Divine authority. Our Lord makes them now the chief. Before, the chief place had been occupied by the Paschal Lamb. It was slain and eaten in commemoration of the first Passover, in type and anticipation of the Saviour Himself. But now that the type was succeeded by the antitype, and that the feast must therefore be commemorative, not anticipatory, our Lord puts the bread and wine in place of the flesh of the Lamb; that, as the latter had been eaten as a type of Him, so the former should be eaten and drunk in remembrance of Him.

It has been observed, that the lamb, when set on the table to be eaten at the Passover, was commonly called by the Jews “the body of the Paschal Lamb;” and it seems not unnatural to suppose that our Lord, as adopting otherwise on this occasion their customs and language, should here also have alluded to their common phrase. They had spoken of eating “the body of the lamb” (נּוּפוֹ שֶׁל כֶּבֶשׂ הַפֶּסַח), and when He blessed the Bread, He said of it, “This is My Body;” as though He would say, “Heretofore you ate the body of the Lamb, a type of Me to be delivered to death for you. Now I abrogate this forever; and instead, I give you My Body to be crucified and broken for you; and so hereafter, when you eat this bread, think not of the Paschal Lamb, which, like all types, is now done away in Me; but believe that you feed on My Body broken, to deliver you, not from Egyptian bondage, but from the far worse bondage of death and hell.”[8]

Again, when our Lord had broken and blessed the bread, and giving it to His disciples, had called it His Body, He then took the cup, poured it out, blessed it, and called it His Blood. And it is observable that, as when Moses sprinkled the people with the blood of the sacrifice, he said of it, “Behold the blood of the Covenant;”[9] so our Lord and Saviour, in giving His disciples this cup to drink, said of it, “This is My Blood of the New Covenant” (Matt. xxvi. 27; Mark xiv. 24).

In almost all respects then, the institution of the Eucharist was likened to the sacrificial feasts of the Jews; most especially to the feast of the Passover.[10] It had only this point of difference: that, whereas in all the ancient feasts the victim was actually killed, and then its natural body was eaten; here the feast was instituted (though on the day of His death, yet) before our blessed Lord was crucified, and bread and wine were substituted in the room of His natural Flesh and Blood. Yet the bread and wine He called His Body and Blood; even as the flesh of the lamb was called the body of the Paschal lamb. And we can scarcely fail to infer that, as the flesh of the old sacrifice was never called the Body of Christ, but (what it really was) the body of the lamb, and as on the contrary the elements in the newly founded feast were called the Body and Blood of Christ, so the new festival must have had a closer connection with the great and true sacrifice than had the slaughtered victim, which represented Him in the old festival. The bread and wine were His Body and Blood, in a sense beyond that in which the Paschal lamb was Christ; that is to say, not merely in a figure, but in more than a figure.

Now this the very nature of the case would lead us to expect. Under the Law were mere lifeless ceremonies; but under the Gospel there is substance, instead of shadow. Under the Law there were sacrifices of slain beasts; and the feast was therefore on the flesh of slain beasts. But under the Gospel there is no sacrifice, but of the Lamb of God; and a feast upon the sacrifice must therefore be a feeding upon Him; and we may add, that though the Law were true as coming from God, yet emphatically and peculiarly the Gospel is the truth. Hence, if in the legal ceremony there was a true feeding upon the victim, we cannot doubt that in the Gospel Sacrament there is a true feeding on the Saviour. And yet once more, the Law was carnal, but the Gospel is spiritual. And so, whereas the Paschal festival involved a carnal eating of the typical sacrifice, we infer that the Eucharistic festival would involve a spiritual eating of the true Sacrifice. And hence, as in all respects the Passover squared well with the place it occupied in its own dispensation, the Eucharist would fall into its place in the higher dispensation. The one a feast on a sacrifice; the other a feast on a Sacrifice. The one on the lamb; the other on the Lamb of God. The one true; the other true. But the one carnally true; the other spiritually, and therefore even more true.

There are three things especially to be observed in the form of institution: 1, the blessing; 2, the declaration; 3, the command.

1. The blessing. “Jesus took bread and blessed it:” so say St. Matthew (xxvi. 26) and St. Mark (xiv. 22). This was the custom with the Jews. The master of the house pronounced over the bread a form of benediction, placing both his hands upon it. And this blessing, we are told, was by them called קִדּוּשׁ i. e. sanctification.[11] Whether or not our Lord adopted the common form of words, we cannot tell. At all events, He gave utterance to some words of blessing, whereby He set apart the bread from its common use, to a new, sacramental and sacred purpose.

For blessed (εὐλογήσας) St. Luke (xxii. 17) and St. Paul (1 Cor. xi. 24) have gave thanks (εὐχαριστήσας). The words seem nearly synonymous. They are so used concerning the blessing of the bread, when our Lord fed the four thousand with the seven loaves (Mark viii. 6, 7): the Vulgate translates (εὐχαριστια) by benedictio (1 Cor. xiv. 16): and the Hebrew word בֵּרֵךְ to bless, is rendered indifferently by words which signify either blessing or thanksgiving. And so, no doubt, our Lord and Saviour, when consecrating this bread to a sacred ordinance, gave thanks to God His Father, and with the thanksgiving joined a blessing; which changed the bread, not in substance, not in quantity, not in quality — but in use, in purpose, in sanctity; so that what before was common, now became sacramental bread; even the sacrament and mystery of the Body of Christ.[12]

2. From the blessing we pass to the declaration: —

“Take, eat; this is My Body.” So St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke, St. Paul. St. Luke adds, “which is given for you” (xxii. 19). St. Paul, “which is broken for you” (1 Cor. xi. 24).

There is a little more difference in their account of the cup. St. Matthew and St. Mark say, “This cup is My Blood of the new Testament which is shed for many.” St. Luke and St. Paul say, “This cup is the new testament in My Blood.”

We have already compared these phrases with the Jewish form of speech, and have seen how the one throws light upon the other. We have seen also reason to infer, that the ordinance thus instituted was for the purpose of a spiritual feast upon the one true Sacrifice, a feeding on the Body and the Blood of Christ. But we have now come to a point, where those who believe in the verity of the feeding upon Christ, branch off from each other into two opposed and unhappily hostile divisions. The Protestant admits that the words of institution assure us of the blessing of feeding upon Christ, and give us ground to call the consecrated elements Christ’s Body and Blood. But the Romanist maintains, that they moreover assure us that the bread, when blessed, no longer remains bread, but has become the very natural Flesh of Christ, and in a like manner the wine His natural Blood. The Romanist reasons from the plain meaning of the words, and the duty reverently to believe what Christ has spoken. “This is My Body;” therefore it is no longer bread. And to make it clearer, they say that, whereas the substantive “bread” (ἄρτος) is masculine, the relative “this” (τοῦτο) is neuter; and that therefore the word this means not, “This Bread is My Body;” but on the contrary means, “This, which is no longer bread, is My Body.”[13] The grammatical argument is too futile to keep us long. Bread, being a thing without life, though in Greek and Latin it is expressed by a masculine substantive, in wellnigh all languages might be referred to by a neuter pronoun; and though we could not say Hoc est frater meus; yet we may say Hoc est aqua, or Hoc est panis. Nay! would it not have been a more singular mode of speech, if our Lord, when He took the bread in His hand, instead of saying concerning it, τοῦτο, hoc, this thing, had said, οὗτος hic, he?

But more weight lies in the verb ἐστὶ, is; and yet, if no better argument than its use could be adduced, we must admit that the mere figurists have almost as strong ground as the transubstantialists. If the simple use of the substantive verb proves an absolute change of substance, how are we to interpret “The seed is the word; the field is the world; the reapers are the angels; the harvest is the end of the world; I am the door; I am the vine?”[14] We cannot here understand a substantial change, but must admit a figure of speech. And so, in truth, we must admit in the Eucharist; for though we acknowledge Christ’s presence, and not only acknowledge but rejoice in it; yet we hold not that presence to be in the material bread; nor can these words prove that it is there. The passage which perhaps most nearly corresponds to this, is that wherein St. Paul says that “That Rock was Christ” (1 Cor. x. 4). It is indeed generally contended that the Rock was Christ by a mere figure of speech; and hence the illustration is urged to support the doctrine of the figurists. But this is scarcely true. If the illustration be correctly interpreted, it will prove the real but the spiritual presence of the Body of Christ. The Apostle’s argument is strictly this: The Israelites, in their pilgrimage in the wilderness, were like Christians, subjects of grace. Christ followed, and Christ fed them. They had bread from Heaven, and drank out of the rock; and as the literal manna fed their bodies, so there was a heavenly manna prepared for their souls. And as from the rock of stone Moses called forth the stream of water; so there was with them also a spiritual Rock, by which their souls were watered; and that spiritual “Rock was Christ.” It was not then, we may observe, that the spiritual Rock was a figure of Christ. The rock of stone was a figure of Christ; but the spiritual Rock — “that Rock was Christ.” So it is in the Eucharist. The bread in the Eucharist is an emblem of the Bread of life: but that Bread is Christ. As with the natural rock in the wilderness there was present the Spiritual Rock, which is Christ: so with the natural bread in the Sacrament there is present the Spiritual Bread, which is Christ’s Body.

And next for the cup. Our Lord calls it, “My Blood of the new Covenant;” or, according to St. Luke, “The new Covenant in My Blood[15] which is shed for you.” The reference here to the language of the old Testament, and to the rites of sacrifice, has been already noticed.[16] If we take the words as recorded by St. Matthew and St. Mark, “This is My Blood of the new Covenant,” they will mean, “As in the old dispensation God made covenant with Israel with the blood of beasts, so now He makes covenant with Christians through the Blood of Christ; and this wine is the emblem of that Blood, and the means of partaking of its benefits.” If we take St. Luke’s version (which is also St. Paul’s), then we must understand, “The blood of old was the sign and pledge of the Covenant, the medium of its ratification. This cup is the sign and pledge of the new Covenant, which is now to be ratified in My Blood.”

In either case we see obviously in the Eucharist a federal rite. As sacrifices, and especially feasts on sacrifices, were the means of ratifying covenants between man and man, or between man and God; so the Eucharistic feast upon the Sacrifice is the means of ratifying the covenant between the Lord and His people. The Blood of the covenant was shed upon the cross. So peace has been made. But the peace is accepted, and the covenant assured by this sacred banquet; where we are God’s guests, and where the spiritual food spread for us is the Lamb slain for our sins, and where our souls may be washed by His most precious Blood.[17]

3. The third thing to be observed in the institution of the Eucharist is the command, “This do in remembrance of Me” (Luke xxii. 19; 1 Cor. xi. 24, 25).

This do, τοῦτο ποιεῖτε. Hoc facite. Do what? Make My Body? Sacrifice Me? If our Lord had commanded them to make His Body, why did He say “in remembrance of Me?” Remembrance and actual bodily presence are scarcely compatible ideas. Besides, did our Lord then sacrifice Himself? Surely not. It was the next morning that He offered up Himself a Sacrifice; not then, when He sat with them at meat. But, just as, when the first Passover was instituted, the Israelites were commanded “to keep this feast by an ordinance forever” (Exod. xii. 14; xiii. 10), — to sacrifice the lamb and eat it, as they had been instructed by Moses: so the disciples are commanded to observe this new feast, even as they were instructed by their Master and Lord. “Do this,” i. e. “Do what you now see Me do.” Break the bread, bless it, and consecrate it; then distribute among yourselves, and eat it; and likewise with the wine. And this all is to be done “in remembrance of Me.” The Passover was in remembrance of the deliverance from Egypt and from the destruction of the first-born; and when it was kept, the Israelites were to tell their children what the ordinance meant (Exod. xiii. 8). But this Sacrament is a remembrance of greater deliverance, and of that gracious Master who wrought the deliverance; and “as often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, we do shew the Lord’s death till He come” (1 Cor. xi. 26). In all ways therefore it may be a remembrance of Christ; but specially it is a remembrance of His death. It is a memorial, a showing forth of that sacrifice which He offered on the cross, and which we feed upon in our souls. As it is a commemoration of the sacrifice, so may it be called a commemorative sacrifice. But, as Christ was Himself present alive when He instituted the ordinance, and as He did not then offer up Himself a sacrifice on the cross, nor hold in His own sacred hands His own crucified Body; so we believe not, that we are commanded to offer Him up afresh, or that we are to expect to feed upon His natural Flesh and Blood. His Body has been offered up once for all, a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice. We may present the remembrance of that sacrifice to God, may tell it out to the world, may believe that, whilst we eat the symbols with our mouths, we feed upon the Saviour in our spirits; but we have no warrant to believe, and we could find no greater comfort in believing, that Christ was to be newly sacrificed every day, and His very Flesh and Blood to be eaten and drunk by our bodily mouths.

II. Our Lord’s Discourse at Capernaum. John vi.

A great many, both of the Roman Catholic divines and of the mere figurists, have denied that the discourse in the sixth chapter of St. John has any reference to the grace of the Eucharist. The motive of such denial is obvious; for it is next to impossible to admit that the Eucharist is there referred to, without also admitting that no material presence is tenable, and at the same time, that some real spiritual feeding of the soul is promised. It is said indeed that the discourse was delivered before the Eucharist was instituted, and therefore could not have applied to it: an argument, which must surely seem very strange, if we consider how very much our Lord’s discourses are anticipatory and prophetic. Indeed almost all His teaching seems suitable to instruct His followers in “the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God,” the things that were to be in His Church and reign upon earth, rather than suitable to the time of His bodily presence. So His discourse with Nicodemus was as much anticipatory of the institution of baptism, as this discourse at Capernaum was of the institution of the Holy Communion. And, to bring but one more example, if our Lord be never supposed to speak and to teach but concerning things already revealed and manifested, what could have been His meaning in His many declarations that Christians “must take up their Cross, and follow Him;”[18] when as yet all those who heard Him knew not for certain that He would die at all, and most assuredly understood not “what death He should die?”

It is quite clear then, that the mystery of the discourse in St. John vi. required something to make it intelligible. Many even of our Lord’s disciples were so offended at it, that they at once “went back, and walked no more with Him” (ver. 66). What so sorely puzzled them must doubtless have sunk deep into their memories; and when next our blessed Saviour used the same language as He had used on this memorable occasion, is it not certain, that His first words would recur with all their force, and that the teaching of the first discourse would be coupled with that of the second? Now the only occasions on which we read that Jesus said anything about eating His Flesh and drinking His Blood, were, first in this instance at Capernaum, secondly at the last Passover, when He instituted the Eucharist. How the disciples who heard both discourses could fail to couple them together, it is hard to conceive. In the former, inestimable blessings were said to accompany the eating and drinking of Christ’s Body and Blood: in the latter, a special mode appeared to be pointed out, by which His Body and Blood might be eaten and drunken. Both, no doubt, sounded strange and wonderful. Those who wondered at them both, would naturally compare the one with the other, to see if the one would not explain the other.

And surely the one does explain the other. In the sixth chapter of St. John we read that our Lord had just fed five thousand men with five loaves and two fishes. They who had seen the miracle, on the next day followed Jesus; but as He well knew, not for spiritual blessing, but that they might again be fed and be filled (v. 26). To this carnal and unbelieving multitude He enjoins, “that they should labour not for earthly, but for spiritual food, which endureth unto everlasting life” (v. 27); and taking occasion of their own reference to the manna in the wilderness (v. 31), He tells them, that, as God gave their fathers manna, so now He would give them “true bread from Heaven” (v. 32). He then declares Himself to be “the Bread of life:” and adds, “he that cometh to Me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst” (v. 35), i. e. neither hunger nor thirst, because, thus coming and believing, he shall be fed upon the Bread of life. The Jews, who were present, now begin to murmur. They disbelieve the Saviour’s saying, that He had come down from Heaven, supposing that they knew both His father and His mother. He then goes on, not to explain His statements, but to enforce, and rather put them with more mystery and difficulty. He tells them that, not only had He come down from Heaven, that not only was He the Bread of life, but that, whereas the fathers ate manna and died, yet those who should eat that Bread, should never die. And then most startling words of all, He says that the bread which He should give was His Flesh, which he would give for the life of the world (v. 51). And when this saying caused fresh striving amongst them, He adds, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the Flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His Blood, ye have no life in you. . . . My Flesh is meat indeed, and My Blood is drink indeed. . . . As the living Father hath sent Me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me” (vv. 53‒57).

Now those who tell us that this had no reference to the Eucharist, say that nothing is here meant but that faith in the death of Christ is the great means of union to Christ, and that which raises us to life and immortality. But surely Calvin’s belief, that something more express and sublime is intended by such striking language, must commend itself to our reason. It is not the way of Scripture to expound to us simple doctrines by such mysterious language; but rather by simple figures and analogies to bring down deep doctrines in some degree to the level of our capacities. Yet, if all this discourse be merely to teach us that we must believe in the death of Christ, we have an example of most difficult language, and, we may add, language most likely to give offence, in order to express what requires no figures to make it intelligible, when simply and plainly stated. But if it be true, that to those who believe in Christ, to those who come to Him believing, He, in some manner far above our comprehension, so communicates His blessed Self, so joins them to Him by an ineffable union, that they may be said to be one with Him, and He with them, that He dwelleth in them and they in Him, that as He liveth by the Father so they live by Him; — if this and the like of this be true, then can we understand, that some deep language, some strong metaphors, may be needful to express the doctrine, and that the greater and more mysterious the blessing, the stranger and more hard to understand may be the language.

Now, certainly it is true that the faithful Christian lives by union to the glorified, divine humanity of His Lord. Christ, who is one with the Father by His Godhead, becomes one with His disciples by His manhood: and by an union with us, which is ineffable, and to be comprehended only by a devout and reverent believing, He supports, sustains, and feeds that spiritual life which He creates in us. That this is one chief fruit of His incarnation, all Scripture bears witness. That this, and perhaps much more than this, is taught in the chapter we are considering, there can be no reasonable question. And, although faith is an essential instrument for enabling us to receive such blessing (see v. 35); yet something much deeper and sublimer than the mere act of believing is plainly intended by it, — even that in spirit we are truly joined to the Man Christ Jesus, our great Head and Lord; that our whole spiritual man is sustained and nourished by Him; that by His life we live; by His might and power our weakness is up held and strengthened. We do not presume to say that this is all the mystery conveyed to us by the language of our Lord. But this we may boldly affirm is the character, though it be not the sum of the mystery. And when we come to find the like language used by Him concerning the holy ordinance which He established at His passion, can we fail to infer, that with that ordinance, rightly and faithfully partaken of, are communicated those very blessings which in the discourse at Capernaum are so marvellously expressed?

Such thoughts must free us from the frigid notions of the disciples of Zuinglius; but will they lead us to the carnal notions of the transubstantialists ? Most surely, No! There are two statements, in the chapter we are considering, quite fatal to the doctrine of the material presence. One is, where our Lord tells us that whosoever eats of the bread of life shall “not die” (ver. 51), “shall live for ever” (ver. 58): that “he who eateth His Flesh and drinketh His Blood, hath eternal life” (ver. 54). Now, if the bread and wine in the communion are changed into the substance of the Body and Blood, then every unworthy partaker, notwith standing his unworthiness, partakes of Christ’s Body and Blood; and hence, according to this chapter, eating the bread of life shall “not die” —”shall live for ever” — “hath eternal life.” He cannot, as St. Paul says, eat to condemnation, but must eat to salvation. The other statement is stronger still. When those who heard murmured at our Lord’s promise to feed them with His Flesh and Blood, Jesus said unto them, “Doth this offend you? What and if ye shall see (ἐὰν οὖν θεωρῆτε) the Son of Man ascend where He was before? It is the spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing; the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” (vv. 61‒63). Do my words offend you? If ye see Me ascend where I was before, how then will ye judge? Will ye then be still more offended, thinking my words still more impossible? Or will ye then begin to understand the truth, and to know that they must be spiritually interpreted? The mistake ye have made, is that ye have interpreted them carnally. But it is the spirit which profiteth; the flesh profiteth nothing. The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. Such was the obvious meaning of our Lord’s reply; and it penetrates to the very depths of the difficulty. The meaning of the discourse was all spiritual. The feeding on Christ’s Body and Blood is a spiritual feeding. No other feeding profits. It would do no good. To eat the material substance of His Flesh, and drink the material substance of His Blood, would be useless. It is the spirit only which gives life; and the words which He had spoken, were spirit and life. And be it noted, whether the discourse did, by anticipation, concern the Eucharist, or whether it did not, yet this much is clear: we have it revealed in the unfailing and unerring words of our Redeemer, that carnally to eat His Flesh and drink His Blood would profit us nothing; and therefore we may be assured infallibly, that such a carnal feeding, being profitless, would never have been ordained by Him in a Sacrament for His Church.

III. The statements of St. Paul.

These occur in 1 Cor. x. and 1 Cor. xi.

The argument from the former chapter (1 Cor. x.) is of this nature. The Christians of Corinth, living among idolaters, were tempted to join in idol-feasts, at which meats that had been offered in sacrifice were solemnly and religiously eaten. However innocent it may be to eat meat of any kind, St. Paul points out that it is no longer innocent when the eating it implies a participating in an idolatrous ceremony, especially an idolatrous sacrifice. He that partakes of a sacrificial feast declares thereby his respect for the sacrifice, and his interest in it. He claims to be a partaker of the sacrifice. The Apostle illustrates this in three ways: first, by our participation of the sacrifice of Christ in the Eucharist (vv. 16, 17); secondly, by the Jews’ participation in the sacrifices of which they eat; thirdly, by the heathen’s participation of the sacrifices of demon-gods. To take the last two illustrations first. He observes with regard to “Israel after the flesh,” that “they which eat of the sacrifices are partakers (κοινωνοὶ) of the altar.” That is to say, by eating of the meat of the sacrifice they have a share, a participation in the benefit of that which is offered on the altar (v. 18). As for the Gentiles, he says, that they offer sacrifice, not to God, but to demon-gods (δαιμονίοις); and it is unbecoming in Christians to be partakers or communicants (κοινωνοὶ) of demon-gods. Nay! it is altogether inconsistent to drink of the cup of the Lord, and of the cup of demon-gods; to partake of the Lord’s table, and the table of demon-gods (vv. 20, 21); the “table of demon-gods” here meaning the feast upon the heathen sacrifices, “the table of the Lord” meaning the banquet of the Holy Communion, and probably alluding to Malachi i. 7, 12; where the expression “table of the Lord” is used in immediate connection with the word “altar,” and refers to the sacrificial feasting connected with the Jewish sacrifices. In juxtaposition then, and immediate comparison with these feasts on Jewish and heathen offerings, St. Paul places the Christian festival of the Eucharist; and as he tells the Corinthians, that the Israelites in their feasts were partakers of the altar, and the heathen partook of the table of devils, so he says, Christians partake of the Lord’s table. But more than this, he asks, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a joint-partaking (κοινωνία) of the Blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a joint-partaking of the Body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread” (vv. 16, 17). The natural signification of the word κοινωνία, and the sense deducible from the context, require that it should be rendered, as above, joint-partaking or joint-participation.[19] The parallel is between partaking of idol sacrifices, partaking of Jewish sacrifices, and partaking of the Christian Sacrifice, i. e. Christ. And the 17th verse is added to show, that by such participation there is a joint fellowship, not only with Christ, the Head, but with His whole Body the Church.

Now, what must we infer from this teaching? Does it not plainly tell us, that the feeding at the Lord’s table corresponds with the feeding at the Jewish altar and the heathen idol-feasts. That, as the latter gave them participation in their sacrifices and their demon-gods, so the former gives us participation of Christ’s Body and Blood! This much we cannot, and we would not deny. The bread and wine are to us means or instruments, whereby, through God’s grace, we become partakers of the sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ. But, on the other hand, must we therefore infer, that we partake of Christ’s Body, naturally and materially? The very words appear to teach us otherwise. If there were a real change of the elements into Christ’s natural Flesh and Blood, it seems altogether unaccountable, that the force of the argument should have been weakened by the introduction of the word κοινωνία participation. If the bread be literally and substantially the Body, it would have been more natural to say, “Is not the bread which we break, Christ’s Body?” And the inference would be immediate; Can we eat Christ’s Body and demon-sacrifices together? The word κοινωνία, on which the peculiar strength of the passage depends, whilst it clearly points to the Eucharistic elements as ordained means to enable us to partake of the Body and Blood of Christ, yet shows too that they are means of partaking, not themselves changed into the substance of that which they represent. They are ordained, that we may partake of Christ; but they are not Christ themselves.

The other passage of St. Paul (1 Cor. xi. 19‒30) has the same object as that which we have just considered; namely, to increase our reverence for “the dignity of this holy mystery.” The early Christians appear to have joined with the reception of the communion an agape or love-feast. In such a feast it was seemly, that the rich should provide for the poor, and that all things should be in common. But in Corinth, a city long famous for luxury, the richer Christians appear to have overlooked the Christian principle, and to have made their feasts of charity minister to their own indulgence, rather than to their poor neighbours’ wants. This was in itself wrong; it was not, as the Apostle says, to eat the Lord’s supper;[20] and it was despising the church of God, — shaming those who had no houses to feast in. And what made it worst of all was this, that with these feasts of charity was joined a reception of the Holy Communion; and to receive that at a time when some were feasting gluttonously, and others suffering from hunger, was to treat contemptuously the most sacred and blessed ordinance of the Lord. It was receiving that Sacrament unworthily. It was not only treating the agape as a private feast, and one in which self-indulgence was permissible, but it was making the Eucharist itself a common thing.

To enforce his lesson on this subject, the Apostle reminds the Corinthians of the mode and the words in which our Lord had instituted the Eucharist. This part of his teaching we have already considered. But he goes on to reason that, as our Lord had instituted bread and wine as Sacraments of His Body and Blood, “therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the Body and Blood of the Lord,” ver. 27. He then exhorts to self-examination, ver. 28, and adds, ver. 29: “For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh to himself condemnation, not setting apart as holy the Body of the Lord” (κρίμα ἑαυτῷ ἐσθίει καὶ πίνει, μὴ διακρίνων τὸ Σῶμα τοῦ Κυρίου).[21] The Lord’s own words of institution pointed to this Sacrament as the means of participating in His Body and Blood; he therefore who received that Sacrament, not as a thing most sacred and venerable, but as part or adjunct of a common feast, was guilty of great and heinous impiety, because he did not set apart as a holy thing the Body of the Lord. This is the plain meaning of the passage, according to the obvious rendering of the original; and it certainly teaches a lesson of deep reverence, and speaks home plainly to our faith. It seems an unanswerable argument against those who esteem the Eucharist as “a bare sign of a thing absent.” We, of the Church of England, who believe Christ really present in His Sacraments, and spiritually there feeding our souls, as much as those who look for a natural reception of Him, can feel the truth and awfulness of such apostolic warnings. We do not differ with the believers in transubstantiation, so far as their statement goes, that in the Eucharist there is a real presence of the Lord. And therefore we feel, as they do, that to receive unworthily is to do dishonour to the Body of Christ. Our difference with them is not concerning the truth of Christ’s presence, which the Apostle’s words seem forcibly to teach us; but we differ with them only concerning the mode. That they define carnally, whilst we believe it mystically. And herein we can scarcely use words more apposite than the words used long ago by Calvin: “If any ask me concerning the mode, I am not ashamed to confess the mystery to be more sublime than my intellect can grasp, or than words can tell; and, that I may speak more openly, I essay rather than understand. Therefore here I embrace without controversy the truth of God, in which I may safely acquiesce. He pronounces His Flesh the food of my soul, His Blood the drink. I offer my soul to be fed with such aliments. In His sacred Feast He bids me, under symbols of bread and wine, to take His Body and Blood, to eat and to drink. I doubt not but that He really offers, and that I receive. All I reject is what is in itself absurd, unworthy of the heavenly majesty of Christ, or alien from the verity of His nature as man.”[22] So Calvin; and so our own Hooker: “What these elements are in themselves it skilleth not. It is enough that unto me that take them they are the Body and Blood of Christ. His promise in witness hereof sufficeth. His word He knoweth which way to accomplish. Why should any cogitation possess the mind of a faithful communicant; but, O my God, Thou art true: O my soul, thou art happy?”[23] It is in this way that the Scriptures have left it: so the devout soul has ever embraced it: and so we may safely and thankfully receive it, — not speculate curiously, nor expound carnally; but believe and live.

NOTE.

I HAVE confined myself in this Article almost wholly to the presence in the Eucharist, and the mode of receiving Christ’s Body and Blood. The latter part of the Article has thereby been deprived of its due attention. It is, however, but a simple corollary. Elevating the host resulted from a belief in transubstantiation. If that doctrine be rejected, we shall not believe the wafer to have been really transformed into Christ’s Body, and so shall not worship it, nor elevate it for worship. There is evidently no Scriptural authority for the elevation of the Host, the command being, “Take, eat.” The Roman ritualists themselves admit, that there is no trace of its existence before the 11th or 12th centuries; and no certain documents refer to it till about A. D. 1200. See Palmer, On the Church, Vol. I. part I. Ch. XI p. 311.

[Two particulars of the Tridentine doctrine of Transubstantiation are especially to be noted for their contrast to the Anglican doctrine of the real Spiritual Presence in the Eucharist.

(1.) The annihilation of the elements. With regard to which, remember: —

(a.) The absence of Scriptural proof.

(b.) The patristic teaching that the elements remain in their original substance; especially the use by Gelasius and others of the accepted Euchuristic doctrine as an argument against the Eutychians. See Pearson On the Creed, p. 247, and note.

(c.) That if this view is correct, it is a solitary instance of a miracle which contradicts the senses, instead of appealing to them.

(2.) The identification of the consecrated elements not with the Body and Blood of Christ, but with His entire Personality by affirming the presence in them of His Human Soul. With regard to which, remember: —

(a.) The absence of Scriptural proof. The language is, “this is my Body,” “this is my Blood,” not “this is I myself;” the sole exception being St. John vi. 57: “He that eateth me, even he shall live by me,” where the manner of feeding upon Christ had been explained in the preceding verse to be the eating of His flesh and drinking of His Blood.

(b.) The language of the Fathers is similar.

(c) So also is the statement of the Orthodox Eastern Church, Guettée, Exp. de la Doctrine, p. 135.

On the subject of the Eucharistic Presence, see the invaluable Introduction to Part II. of the Principles of Divine Service by Archdeacon Freeman. — H. A. Y. —J. W.]

Notes

  1. See Cudworth, True Notion of the Lord’s Supper, ch. I.
  2. See the true sacrificial nature of the Passover proved, Cudworth, as above. ch. II.
  3. Exod. xii. 2‒13.
  4. μετὰ τὸ δειπνῆσαι, Luke xxii. 20.
  5. John xiii. 2, seq.
  6. Buxtorf, De Cœna Dom. § 22; Lightfoot, H. H. on Matt. xxvi. 26, 27.
  7. Lightfoot, Ibid.
  8. Buxtorf, De Cœna Dom. § 25; Lightfoot, H. H. on Luke xxii. 19.
  9. Exod. xxiv. 8; Heb. ix. 20.
  10. A question has been raised whether our Saviour and His disciples had been eating the Paschal lamb or not, before He instituted the Eucharist; the ground for the question being that other well-known doubt, namely, Was the Thursday or the Friday the day on which the Passover ought to be eaten? However this latter may be solved, there seems no possibility of evading the force of Luke xxii. 15: “With desire have I desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” (Comp. Matt. xxvi. 17‒19; Mark xiv. 12‒16). The true solution of the difficulty has always appeared to me to be this. The commandment was that the Passover should be slain on the 14th day of the month, “between the two evenings,” בֵּין הָעַרְבַּיִם (Exod. xii. 6); that is to say, from the evening of the 14th to the evening of the 15th day of the month, according to the common Jewish mode of counting time. Thus our Lord ate the Passover on the right day, i. e. on the evening of the 14th; yet He was crucified on the same day; for from evening to evening was but a single day. And this will solve all the difficulty in John xviii. 28; for many of the Jews may not have eaten the Passover on the morning of the Friday, though our Lord had eaten it on the evening of the Thursday. See Duty of Observing the Christian Sabbath, by Samuel Lee, D. D., &c. note 15; where he quotes the Gemara on the Jerusalem Talmud in confirmation of this interpretation of Exod. xii. 6.
  11. Buxtorf, as above, § 46.
  12. Ibid. § 48. Compare Waterland, On the Eucharist, ch. V. 3.
  13. Bellarmine, Lib. I. De Eucharistia, ch. X.
  14. See Taylor, Real Presence, sect. VI.
  15. I unhesitatingly translate Covenant, not Testament, believing that διαθήκη should always in the Bible be rendered Covenant. The only apparent exception is in Heb. ix. 15‒20. Even here, however, Covenant will probably make the more pertinent sense. See Professor Scholefield’s Hints for a New Translation, ad h. l.
  16. τοῦτο τὸ ποτήριον ἡ καιὴ διαθήκη ἐν τῷ αῖματί μου, τὸ ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν ἐκχυνόμενον (Luke xxii. 20). The participle properly agrees with ποτήριον, though it may by a solecism refer to αἷμα. Lightfoot H. H. in loc. says, “This seems to have reference to that cup of wine which was every day poured out in the drink-offerings in the daily sacrifice, for that also was poured out for the remission of sins. So that the bread may have reference to the body of the daily sacrifice, and the cup to the wine of the drink-offering.
  17. See Cudworth, as above, ch. VI.
  18. See Matt. x. 38, xvi. 24; Mark viii. 34, x. 21; Luke ix. 23, xiv. 27.
  19. κοίνος common, κοινόω to make common, impart, κοινωνὸς a partaker, κοινωνία participation. This is the natural meaning. κοινωνία means also close communion or joint partnership. St. Paul ordinarily uses κοινωνία for partaking. See 2 Cor. viii. 4, ix. 3. Comp. κοινωνοὶ ix. 18. In Rom. xv. 26, Heb. xiii. 16, κοινωνία is communication.
  20. κυριακὸν δεῖπνον ϕαγεῖν, v. 20. This probably does not refer to the Eucharist, but to the Agape, the feast of charity, which was joined with it. See Hammond and Whitby, in loc.; Waterland, On the Eucharist, ch. I. 3; Suicer, s. v. Ἀγαπαὶ; Cave, Primitive Christianity, pt. I. ch. II; Bingham, E. A. Bk. XV. ch. VII. §§ 6, 7, 9.
  21. διακρίνων, discernens, separating, setting apart as holy. So the Syriac, [could not transcribe]. To discern, as we in modern English use that word, is only a secondary and improper sense of διακρίνειν, as it is also of discernere. The natural meaning is to separate, to make a distinction of one thing from another. It is used in classical as well as in Hellenistic Greek, with the sense of to set apart for holy purposes. So Pindar, Olymp. X. 54‒56: Περὶ δὲ πάξαις ἄλτιν μὲν ὅγ’ ἐν καθαρῷ διακρίνει. The plain meaning therefore of St. Paul is, that people who mixed up the Eucharist with a profane feast, treated the Lord’s Body, which is given us there, as no better than a common thing, not as sacred and holy.
  22. Institut. IV. xvii. 32.
  23. E. P. Bk. V. ch. LXVI. 12.

 


E. Harold Browne

(Edward) Harold Browne was an English bishop, born at Aylesbury and educated at Eton and Cambridge. He was ordained in 1836, and two years later was elected senior tutor of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. From 1843 to 1849 he was vice-principal of St David’s College, Lampeter, and in 1854 was appointed Norrisian professor of divinity at Cambridge. His best-known book is the Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles (vol. i., Cambridge, 1850; vol. ii., London, 1853), which remained for many years a standard work on the subject and is still beloved today. In 1864 he was consecrated bishop of Ely.


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