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CHRISTIAN SPECTATO R.
THE REAL PRESENCE.
BY THE REV. NEWMAN IIALL, LL.B.
The supposed “real” or bodily presence of our Lord in the sacrament of the Eucharist is the fundamental dogma of Popery and Ritualism. If, by the act of an order of men who claim apostolic descent and apostolic authority, and of them alone, the Lord Jesus Christ becomes personally present in the bread and wine, then no external ritual is too pompous to do honour to such corporeal Presence, and no deference is too profound to pay to those who ministerially are the agents in so stupendous a miracle.
The Romanists say that the bread and wine, by the act of consecration, become changed into the flesh and blood of Christ, retaining the appearance only of bread and wine. This is Transubstantiation. Many of our Ritualists, in their devotional books, plainly teach the same dogma. Others, if pressed in argument, would say that the bread and wine are unchanged, but that the body and blood of Christ are present together with them. This is Consubstantiation.
These two theories are, essentially, one. They both teach that while, to the senses, bread and wine alone seem to be present, yet that by the agency of the priest the body and blood of the Lord become really and corporeally present, under the form of, or together with, the bread and the wine. There is no middle ground to which the argument may be shifted. Christ is there spiritually or corporeally. If spiritually, this is a presence which Protestants affirm. If His presence is more than spiritual it must be corporeal—and our Lord's actual human body of flesh and blood is on the plate and in the chalice. To this dogma the following objections may obviously be urged :
1. The language of Scripture refutes it. The Ritualists urge the words of our Lord—“Take, eat; this is my body;" proof that the bread was actually His flesh. Alford says (Matt. xxvi. 26)—“The form of expression is important, not being όντος και άρτος or δυτος ο οίνος but τoύτo in both cases, not the bread or wine itself, but the thing in each case; precluding all idea of a substantial change.”
Our Lord said (Matt. xxvi. 28) -" This is my blood of the new testament.” But in Luke xxii. 20, we read—“This cup is the new testament in my blood;" not “my blood,” but the covenant ratified by it. Was, then, the wine literally and actually the covenant? Obviously not. Neither was it literally and actually the blood; but it was the emblem of both. If, when the cup is said to be the new testament, the Ritualists interpret figuratively, why do they insist on a literal interpretation when the cup is said to be the blood? And if a figurative rendering is given respecting the cup when it is called the new testament, why should not a figurative rendering be given to the statement respecting the bread? As the cup represents the covenant of the Gospel, confirmed by the blood of Christ, so the bread represents the body of Christ. This is in harmony with Scripture usage. God said of the rainbow,“ This is a token of my covenant." He said to Abraham respecting circumcision, “ This is my covenant which ye shall keep; every man-child among you shall be circumcised.” But circumcision was only the sign, not the covenant itself. When the Israelites escaped from Egypt Moses commanded each family to select a lamb, and “kill the passover.” The disciples asked, “Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the passover ?” But the passover itself could not be killed and eaten; but only the lamb representing it. As the lamb, though called the “passover," was only the figure of it; so the bread was called the “body” of Christ, and the cup was called the "new testament."
The Ritualists say that what is eaten is the very body of Christ. But St. Paul says it is bread which is eaten. As often as ye eat this bread" (1 Cor. xi. 26, 27). The Ritualists say that, by the act of blessing or consecration, which precedes the breaking of the bread, the bread becomes the Lord's body; but St. Paul calls it bread—“The bread which we break, is it not the communiort of the body of Christ ?” (1 Cor. x. 16). It represents the participation in common, by alì believers, in the benefits of
Christ's incarnation and sacrifice. Bread cannot literally be itself a communion. What represents this is bread at first, and remains bread throughout. Bread is blessed, bread is broken, bread is eaten, and this bread represents both the Lord's body broken for us, and our mutual participation in the salvation thus secured, If the Ritualists appeal to Scripture, so do we, and refute them on their own chosen ground of the isolated passage, which they urge in its literal meaning, in disregard of the general teaching of the Bible and the obvious deductions of common sense.
2. If the bread and wine are actually the body of Christ, every person who receives the Lord's Supper must be saved. Our Lord said, “Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day; for my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.” We bind our Ritualists to their own literal interpretation. If the words " This is my body" mean that actually the Lord's body is present in the bread, then every communicant “eateth the flesh and drinketh the blood” of Christ, and “hath eternal life.” Then Judas had eternal life even when meditating the betrayal of the Lord. Then the Lord's Supper may be administered to the most wicked and profane as a sure method of salvation, irrespective of repentance. No! the words must be qualified. Our Lord taught that they who spiritually feed on Him, that is, who love and obey Him, possess eternal life. If then the eating of Christ's flesh means here a spiritual participation in Him, why are we to consider our Lord's words, “ Take, eat, this is my body," as meaning that the bread actually became and did not merely represent His body.
3. The claims of the Ritualists respecting the bread and wine in their hands, exceed what can be asserted of the bread and wine in the hands of Christ Himself. He said, “This is my body.” But the bread could not then have been that body. His own body was present, visibly, tangibly Himself. That body held the bread, broke the bread, spoke of the bread; that body was there complete, with no single part of it absent. The bread could not therefore have been at that time the body, else Christ would have had two bodies. Besides, He said, “This is my body which is broken.” But at that time His body was not yet broken. The bread was broken and thus became a figure of this own body about to be broken, but the bread could not literally be the body broken, when as yet the body was intact and whole. Moreover, if the bread which the disciples ate was the actual body of Christ, what was that which was crucified ? But if that which was crucified was the Lord's body, how could it have been previously eaten ? It is evident that when the disciples saw the living unbroken body of their Lord before them, He
could not have meant that the bread and wine were actually His flesh and blood. The Ritualists therefore, in claiming that, at every celebration, they, by mysterious power received in ordinanation and by succession from the Apostles, do make Christ actually and corporeally present in the bread and wine, claim to do more in celebrating this sacrament than the Head of the Church did or could do in instituting it.
4. To assert that the body of Christ is present in the sacrament is to say that the same material substance can be in more places than one; which is impossible. A body, by the necessary conditions of matter, if present in one place, is absent from all other places. Thus a person charged with committing a crime is acquitted if he can prove an alibi. If elsewhere, he could not also be at the spot where the offence was committed. Our Lord is illimitable as to His Divine Spirit; but He humbled Himself to assume our humanity which is limited. If the body of Christ is really material, it cannot occupy two different places at the same time. But if, whenever the bread and wine are “consecrated,” the body of Christ is present, Christ must either have many bodies, or His one body is in many places at once, and therefore is not a body like our own. Besides, our Lord has ascended in His human body to heaven, and the angels said to the disciples “ This same Jesus shall come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven.” He is to return, not mysteriously, under the form of bread and wine, but openly under the manifest form of humanity. The heavens have received Him till the restitution of all things.” Until that restitution He is not on earth. And St. Paul says, “ As often as ye eat (not this body of Christ, but) this bread, ye do show forth the Lord's death till He come.” He has not yet come.
Bread and wine alone are here, the emblems of the body and blood; but He Himself is in heaven, and until He come the Church thus testifies His sacrificial death. The bread is a substitute for His bodily presence and reminds us of His absence, and cannot therefore be the very body which it only represents.
5. To say that the body and blood of Christ are present under the forms of bread and wine is to utter not a mystery but a contradiction. Matter is known to us only by its properties. A stone has certain properties; so has bread. To say that a substance having all the properties of a stope is really bread, though possessing none of the properties of bread, is to talk nonsense. If a son ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone ?” If the same transformation could take place as the Ritualists assert, would the stone, now turned to bread, or having bread present with it, satisfy the son’s hunger, retaining as it would, all the properties of a stone ? Romanists say that Transubstantiation, like other doctrines of Christianity, is a mystery, to be received, not by reason, but by faith. But we deny that Transubstantiation can be proved to be a doctrine of Christianity. If it were proved we should receive it however mysterious. But it is more than mysterious, it involves a contradiction; what is mysterious may be possible though inexplicable; what is self-contradictory is impossible and therefore incredible. 'I do not understand how the Divine and human natures are combined in our Lord; I do not understand the union of body and soul in myself; but I believe the former for it is revealed; and the latter, for I am conscious of the fact. But to say that a substance having all the properties of bread, and being at one moment bread, is the next moment transformed into flesh, and yet retains all the properties of bread as before, is to say that the same thing can be two distinct things, or can have all the properties of one thing and yet be something else. I reject such a dogma as not simply inexplicable by reason, but as irreconcilable with reason.
6. This dogma is subversive of the external evidences of Christianity. Those evidences depend on the certainty of phenomena and the trustworthiness of our senses; else the loaves and fishes multiplied by Christ might have been only the appearances of food; and the blind man who was healed might only have fancied that he saw; and Lazarus might have risen only in appearance. The certainty of Christ's own resurrection is also taken away. For if bread, having the appearance only of bread, may be the Lord's body; why may not the Lord's body, having only the appearance of flesh, be bread ? How could an unbeliever be convinced by the appearance of Christ's risen body, that Christ had really risen; if he was taught that Christ was equally present when nothing but bread was apparently before Him? Our Lord said, “ Handle me and see that it is I myself.” He considered that the senses were to be trusted; we handle the bread and see, we taste it, we eat it, and we say “it is bread.” "No!” say the Ritualists ; " under the appearance of bread there is the reality of Christ's body.” Might not an objector to Christianity retort and say: “Under the mere appearance of Christ's body, there is the reality of something else, which is not Christ; and so there is no evidence of His resurrection ?” "But if Christ be not risen, our faith is vain.”
7. If the real body of Christ were present in the sacrament it would not profit us. When our Lord said, “He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood dwelleth in me and I in him," He added, for explanation, to the disciples who stumbled at that saying—" It is the spirit that quickeneth ; the flesh profiteth nothing : the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and