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the substance of bread and wine. What then did our Blessed Redeemer actually institute, and give to his apostles at the last supper?
For the sacrament which the faithful receive at this day, is the same which the apostles then received, as both catholics and their adversaries allow. In the twenty-sixth chapter of St Matthew, we read thus-Whilst they were at supper, Jesus took bread, blessed it and brake it, and gave it to his disciples, saying ; this is my body: and taking the chatice he gave thanks
, and gave it to them, saying ; Drink ye all of this, for this is my blood of the New Testament, which shall be shed for many unto the remission of sins. St. Mark, c. xiv. gives our Saviour's words as follows :- This is my body; this is my blood of the New Testament, which shall be shed for many : And St. Luke, to the like import--This is my body which is given for you ; do this for a commemoration of me: this is the chalice of the New Testament in my blood, which shall be shed for you. (c. xxii.) St Paul, in his first epistle to the Corinthians (c. xi.) agrees in substance with the evangelists: and what can possibly be more plain, and more expressive of the real presence and transubstantiation ? Certainly, had our Divine Redeemer intended to give only a mere figure, excluding the reality--of his body and blood, this manner of expressing himself would have been exceedingly obscure, or rather downright absurd, as will presently appear.
1. That the expression is very obscure in the protestant or figurative acceptation, is abundantly demonstrated from the effect. For every individual christian church throughout the world actually followed the contrary sense during the lapse of many ages, and constantly held that these words implied—not a figurative, but the real presence of the body and blood of Christ in this adorable sacrament. It is remarkable through the whole series of the gospels, that when our Saviour spoke in parables any thing obscure, he carefully explained his meaning to the apostles. When they were alone, he explained all things, says St Mark, (c. iv.) Now at the institution of the blessed sacrament every circumstance required, that he should express himself in the most intelligible terms. For—when, in fact, do all prudent persons endeavour to explain their mind in the clearest manner possible, if not--while they are issuing commands of the utmost importance--while they are treating with, and taking leave of their nearest and dearest friends; and above all,—while they are devising their last will and testament? All these circumstances concur in the institution of the most blessed sacrament. On this occasion our Lord Jesus commands that clean oblation to be made, which the prophet Malachi foretold would be offered to God in all places; when he says-Do this in remembrance of me, (Luke xxii.) . He institutes a sacrament, the use of which is to be daily and perpetual in his church: He is taking leave of his friends ;-I will not now. call you servants, saith he, but friends.
Friends indeed, and confidential ministers, whom he bad appointed to teach all nations his gospel and divine law. In a word, he is forming a treaty,--a covenant,ấan alliance which is to endure to the end of time. Can any circumstances be conceived to exist, which require greater accuracy and perspicuity of words?
It is observable, moreover, that when our blessed Saviour designed to confer any very signal favour upon his church, he usually foretold and promised it, that it might more easily find credit when accomplished. Thus, for instance, he pro. mised the sacrament of baptism, and the power of forgiving sins : thus he foretold his passion, his death, his resurrection : thus, in a word, he foretold and promised to his church this inestimable benefit of the holy eucharist. His words are these in the sixth chapter of St John: The bread which I will give is my flesh for the life of the world. The Jews, therefore, strove amongst themselves, saying: how can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said : verily, verily, I say unto you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. Whosoever eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, hath life everlasting, and I will raise him ир the last day : for my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed: He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood dwelleth in me and I in him. From those words of the Jews-How can this man give us his flesh to eat-it is evident they understood our Saviour's promise was to be fulfilled by giving them in reality his flesh and blood: and our Lord, instead of explaining, asserts in still more positive terms, that except they eat his flesh and drink his blood, they shall not have life in them; and that his flesh is meat indeed, and his blood is drink indeed. These words were spoken in the presence of his apostles ; so that when he said at his last supper--This is my body which shall be given for you ; this is my blood which shall be shed for you : they could not reasonably understand it in any other sense, than as a realization of his promise ; namely, that it was his real flesh and blood, which he had declared, both to them and to the Jews, were meat and drink in reality.
Again: would our Redeemer, who came to die for all mankind, and who commanded his followers to avoid with all possible care the least scandal ; would He if he had spoken only of a figurative eating of his flesh and drinking of his blood, have neglected to explain himself, when he saw not only the Jews,but even some of his disciples so far shocked at this his promise, as immediately to forsake him? How much less when he fore. saw, that his whole visible church upon earth, would be involved, on this supposition, during the lapse of many ages, in so gross an error, and so serious an inconvenience ? This cannot be admitted on any prudential ground whatever. In vain
would protestants allege, that it is a usual thing in scripture and common discourse, to give to the sign the name of the thing signified. For when a thing neither naturally represents another, nor is known to be used as the representation of another, it is contrary to all the laws of discourse, and highly absurd, to give it the name of what it is intended to signify, without first preparing the mind of the hearers so to understand it. This would be evidently the case in the present instance, as the fact alone of the whole church of Christ for ages being led astray by the supposed omission, plainly demonstrates.
But, may not our Saviour's words at the last supper signify, that his body and blood are given in and with the bread and wine, conformably to the opinion of Martin Luther and Berengarius ? By no means; for had our blessed Lord intended to give us his body and blood in and with the bread and wine, he would assuredly, have said-Here is my body, in this is my blood, rather than--this is my body, this is my blood; which words could not be verified without a substantial change of the sacramental elements into his body and blood. When our Redeemer changed water into wine at the marriage feast of Cana, had he said this is wine; would not these words evidently have implied a substantial change of what was in the vessels, into wine? The present case is exactly similar.
Again: it is objected that St Paul terms the sacrament after consecration bread, (1 Cor. xi.) and consequently excludes all idea of a change. This argument is but very weak and inconclusive. First, because the scripture sometimes calls things after their change-by the name which they had before ; though it positively affirms them to have been substantially changed. Thus, though the water was changed into wine at Cana, the evangelists calls it water made wine, (John ii. 9.) Thus again, the scripture tells us (Exod. v. ii.) that Aaron's and the magicians' rods were changed into serpents: yet it calls them rods even after this change. Aaron's ROD devoured the magician's RODS. Frequently also, it gives a thing the name of what it resembles. For instance, angels are called men in St Mark xvi. St Luke xxiv. and in various other passages of holy writ; because they appeared under the disguise of men. It ought not therefore to seem extraordinary, if St Paul calls the sacrament bread; as it has the outward appearance of bread, and was bread in reality before the All-powerful hand of God had wrought the change.
It remains now that we briefly examine the sentiments of the primitive fathers and doctors of the church on this important subject. In the second age St Ignatius the holy bishop of Antioch, a disciple of the apostles who suffered martyrdom about the year 107, and certainly must be presumed to have understood their doctrine, in his epistle to the christians of Smyrna calls the eucharist “ the flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, which suffered for
our sins, and which the father raised by his bounty.” In the same age St Justin Martyr, in his apology to the heathen emperor for the christian religion, affirms, "That as our Saviour Jesus Christ was himself the Word made flesh, and took for our salvation both flesh and blood; so we are taught, that the eucharist is the flesh and blood of the same Jesus incarnate." (Apol. 2 ad Antonin.) Certainly, no man in his senses would write thus to a heathen emperor, if he understood the words of Christ only in a figurative sense.
In the same age, St. Ireneus, in his fifth book against Heresies, speaking of the sacramental bread and wine, says: By the word of God, they are made the eucharist which is the bo
and blood of Christ." In the following age, St. Cyprian, in his sermon on the Lord's supper, says:
66 The bread which our Lord gave to his disciples, being changed, not in appearance, but in substance, by the omnipotency of the Word, is made flesh.” He also affirms, that in the eucharist " we eat the body of Christ, and drink his blood.” (Lib. de Orat. Dom.) A little before this, the famous Origen reminds us, (Hom. 7, in Levit.) that .66 in the old law the manna was a figurative food; but now, the flesh of God the Son made man, is meat in reality; since he himself cries out,--My flesh is meat indeed,” Tertullian, his contemporary, says: (l. 4. contr. Marcion.) « The bread which Christ took at his last supper, and distributed to his disciples, he changed into his body."
In the fourth age, after St. Basil, St. Gregory Nazianzen, St. Ephrem, and St James of Nisibis, with many other Fathers eminent for learning and holiness of life, who all agree in the same sentiments, the great St Chrysostom delivers himself in the following terms: “Let us on all occasions believe Almighty God; nor contradict Him, though what He says seem contradictory to our reason and sense. His words cannot deceive us ; our senses are easily mistaken. His words never err; our senses frequently misguide us.
Since, therefore, it is He who says-This is my body, let us rest convinced—it is so. He who did these things at his last supper, still continues to do the same: for our part, we act only as his ministers; it is He that sanctifies; it is He himself that effects the change.” (Hom. 83, in Matt.) How many now exclaim ;-Oh, that I could see him in his own figure, or any thing about him! Believe me, you do more than see his person; you eat his sacred flesh, you receive him within your bosom.-How pure ought not that tongue to be, which is purpled with his adorable blood !” (Hom. 87, p. 787. T. 7. Ed. Ben.) Can any thing be stronger, or more decisive in favour of the cathoic doctrine ?
St. Ambrose, another luminous doctor and father of the same age, writes thus : (lib. de his quæ mysteriis initiantur, c. ix.)
Perhaps you will say I see quite another thing: how can
you assure me that I receive the body of Christ ?" To which he answers:-" If the words of Elias were powerful enough to command fire from heaven, shall not the words of Christ be able to change the nature of the elements ? You have read of the whole creation-He said and they were made, he commanded and they were created. Cannot then the word of Christ, which made out of nothing that which was not, change the things that are, into what they were not ?"
In the same age, a little before SS Chrysostom and Ambrose, St Cyril of Jerusalem had said of the blessed eucharist: (Cat
. Mys. 4.) “ Do not consider it as mere bread and wine; for now it is the body and blood of Christ, according to our Lord's own words.” And again : “ Judge not the thing, says he, by the taste .... knowing and holding for certain, that what we see is not bread, although it tastes like bread ; but is the body of Christ." Could any catholic of the present times express his faith of transubstantiation more clearly? St Jerom, St Augus. tine, St Paulinus, Leo the Great, and all the fathers of the church in every succeeding century, with one accord profess the same doctrine; and where shall we find more able interpreters of the word of God, than they were ? From this unanimity of the fathers in each century we may fairly collect—what was the doctrine of the church in their times? and the church itself decided the question in the condemnation of Berengarius, the first that openly contested it. His error was proscribed and anathematized by no less than fourteen councils in divers parts of Christendom-while he was still living. Their decisions were afterwards confirmed by the general councils of Lateran, Constance and Trent:-Not to mention the unanimous consent of the Greeks, and all the oriental christians of whatever denomination,--demonstrated in the clearest manner by the authors of the book entitled-La Perpetuité de la Foi,-confirmed by the authentic testimonies of their patriarchs, archbishops, bishops, abbots, &c. by the decrees of their synods against Cyril of Lucar; by the writings of their ancient and modern divines, and by all their liturgies ;-and acknowledged by many protestant writers. Dr Philip Nicholai a protestant, in his first book of the kingdom of Christ, p. 22, writes thus: “ Let my christian readers be assured, that not only the churches of the Greeks, but also the Russians, and the Georgians, and the Armenians, and the Indians, and the Ethiopians, as many of them as believe in Christ, hold the true and real presence of the body and blood of the Lord, &c.” Now what can be a more convincing evidence of this doctrine having been handed down by tradition from the apostles, than to see all descriptions of christians that have any pretensions to antiquity, with one accord professing and upholding it?