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To pretend, therefore, to have any right or power to define in human words the mode of the presence of the Body of the Son of God in this holy sacrament, seems on the very face of it, to be perfectly unallowable and perfectly unphilosophical.
It is surely a futile attempt to exercise our human reason, or logic, or thought, on matters which are completely outside of our knowledge. It would be unspeakably more allowable for me, being perfectly ignorant of electricity and magnetism, to define the mode in which the electric current changes a bar and steel into a compass needle.
How can I venture to depend therefore on such a definition as that authorized by the Council of Trent with such certainty as to be able to say, “ You must accept this definition on peril of being excommunicated.”
Peradventure the definition may be correct. Perhaps that is the mode of the Divine Presence. But to make it a condition of membership with the Church on which membership my very eternal salvation depends, I must humbly say, does seem to be beyond the limits of our acceptance. If a legitimate council of the Church has made this definition, I am deeply distressed. I ask for some relief. I am able fully and firmly to believe in the real presence of the very living substance of the Body of the Incarnate Word, as soon as the consecration takes place; and also that my participation in it is necessary for my very life in Him. But why force me to believe in any particular mode of that presence, on pain of cutting me off from the Church? Why force me to believe in three miracles, when one is sufficient?
I believe in one great standing miracle of this sacrament, namely, that here is the presence of the Lord's Body. But this definition, which is imposed by the primate of Christendom obliges me to believe in three miracles; one, the annihilation or removal of the earthly substance of the bread; then, the presence of the substance of the Lord's Body in its place; and thirdly, the support of the properties and qualities and accidents of the natural bread without their substance, even to its ability to refresh and support my animal life.
It is true, God is able to do all these three miracles ; peradventure He does so. But dare I say, “ All this is so certain, that unless you believe it, you cannot be in communion with your patriarch, the primate of all Christendom?' If it be urged, as it is, that “This is My Body” excludes of necessity the presence of any substance save the substance of our Lord's Body, because the word “This” is singular, and cannot refer to two things, but one only, so that there is here only one thing proposed to my faith's acceptance, namely, the true, real and substantial Body of Christ; may it not be validly urged against this use of human reason in matters concerning the presence of a spiritual substance, that, if “This” does not exclude the presence of all the earthly qualities and powers of the bread, why should it be asserted that it must exclude the presence of the substance of the bread ?
If I had lived at Nazareth in the days of our Lord's life there, and if I had seen Him walking along the streets, might I not have said, “ This is God ?” But that would not have excluded the presence of all but His Deity. It would have been quite consistent with my faith in His perfect humanity. His divine substance and His human substance co-existed together then, as they do now. There was, and there is no confusion of the two substances, nor any interference one with the other. The inferior substance was not changed by the presence of the superior ; any more than the bush was changed in natural substance, in which Moses beheld the presence of God.
We do not suppose that the passage of our Lord's Body through that stone and through that door caused any change in those natural substances.
How can we be sure that the presence of the spiritual substance of the Body of the Son of God causes any change in the earthly nature or substance of the bread ?
Is it not enough for me to believe simply, on the evidence of my senses, that here is bread; and, on the evidence of my faith in the Word of the Lord, here is the Body of Christ; without being obliged to believe in any human definition of the mode in which the two substances are both present together ? If in heaven above the human and the divine substance exist together in the person of the Incarnate Word, without any confusion or interference, why may there not be also a co-existence of two substances in this Holy Sacrament upon earth without any confusion or interference, or change of the lower substance caused by the higher ?
In these remarks I have used the word substance as a term of human philosophy, without pretending to define it. I have also avoided the use of the word consubstantiation because I do not know any authorized definition of it, and it is evidently open to a grave objection, because we all know what consubstantial means, and so a misunderstanding would arise. Occam uses the word co-existence. I am, sir, your obedient servant,
J. R. WEST. Wrawby Vicarage.
[We gladly insert the letter of our correspondent, and would make a few brief comments on the same.
The Catechism of the Council of Trent, Part 2, chapter iv., question xli., says : “But, in accordance with the principle very often repeated by the Fathers, the faithful are to be admonished not to inquire too curiously into the manner in which that change may be made, for it defies our powers of conception, nor have we any example of it in natural changes, nor in the work of creation itself. The change itself is to be learned by faith ; the manner of that change is not to be made a subject of too curious inquiry.” This authoritative catechism affirms that “it defies our powers of conception."
Our correspondent writes : “It is true, God is able to do all these three miracles; peradventure He does so." This seems to us to simplify the matter considerably. The doctrine of Transubstantiation may be true and is not necessarily contrary to reason,
. it is therefore to be received if the authority which proclaims it is infallible. If the Church of God on earth is a kingdom, it must have a king; if a king, that king must be considered as infallible whether he is or not. The law of England perinits a man who has had a case tried by an inferior court to appeal to a higher, and lastly to the Crown. But from the Crown there is no appeal. Whether the judgment there given be just or unjust it is law, and is considered infallible.
A church with an infallible king is the view taken by Roman Catholics : Mr. West belongs to the Church of England, hence seeing the question is an open one it can never be decided by argument from his point of view. To be consistent, a great liberty of thought and expression must exist where no infallibility is claimed. Definitions and Decrees and Creeds pre-suppose an infallible Judge. Definitions without infallibility to back them are a burden on the Christian thinker.-EDITOR.]
REVIEWS OF BOOKS.
1. The Religion of Jesus compared with the Christianity of
to-day. FRED. A. BINNEY.
We wonder what the world is coming to; for the selfsufficiency of the would-be teachers of religion is something remarkable. Mr. Binney passes judgment on all churches and all creeds, pointing out what is the true teaching of Christ, and how in the present day we must put on one side as useless those doctrines which Christians have
generally been taught to revere. Will it be believed that the writer of this book does not understand Greek! We think our readers require to know no more than this to take measure of Mr. Binney's capacity for the work he has set himself to do. 2. Emanuel Swedenborg. The Spiritual Columbus. A
Sketch by O. S. E. f. 2nd ed. Speirs, 1877.
Swedenborg, as far as one can learn, was not an impostor, while that he was a philosopher and very deeply read is obvious to those even slightly acquainted with his voluminous writings. As regards his intercourse with the other world, and the information which he derived therefrom we abstain from criticism. One fact we point out:in the Spiritual Diary conversations are held with various notabilities, but strange to say, St. Paul and King David are both in hell, while George II. is in heaven! Whether our readers will be inclined to accept Swedenborg as a spiritual Columbus after reading this little book we know not, but we think it conveys in a very readable manner much useful knowledge of one who has exercised no small amount of influence on many minds. 3. The Divine Order of the Universe, as interpreted by
Swedenborg By Rev. AUGUSTUS ClissoLD. Longmans, 1877.
Mr. Clissold is a scholar and well informed, hence it is always a pleasure to read what he has to say. In the book before us which he wrote to confute Mr. Proctor, the astronomer, he maintains that Swedenborg held the true and only feasible view of other worlds and their inhabitants, and cognate subjects. Those who have studied the works of Whewell, Chalmers, and Sir David Brewster, will find matter to interest them in this apologia for Swedenborg's views of Astronomy. 4. The Forty Days, or Christ between His Resurrection
and Ascension. By J. C. EARLE. Kolckman, 1877.
The readers of The Spiritual Body will probably be glad to see this continuation of the same subject. Mr. Earle, who is a Roman Catholic, evidently wishes to draw the attention of the authorities of his church to a consideration of his theory of the Spiritual Body. We consider the question one which authority may decide, but which can never be solved or answered by argument. One objection seems to be that, if each one of us has in life an inner spiritual body which at death simply escapes from its outer shell, there can be no possible room or reason for a Resurrection of the Dead. 5. The Five Books of Moses. By Dr. KUENEN, Professor
of Theology in University of Leyden. Translated by J. Muir, D.C.L. Williams and Norgate.
In questions as to the authorship of the books of Moses, or the truth of the events there recorded the main point isdid Christ guarantee the truth of certain laws and statements by His appeal to them and quotation of them ? Dr. Kuenen maintains that the founder of Christianity “rejected the authority of the law.” This is news to us. Antiquity, and a study of the past has not to us the slightest interest save in so far as it bears on the truth of the Faith which we profess. 6. Julien L'Apostat et sa Philosophie Du Polythéisme. Par
H. ADRIEN NAVILLE. Paris, 1877.
Every reader of John Stuart Mill's Three Essays must scan with interest any thoughts giving light to the character of Julian.
If ever man was honest, Julian must have been so. Many in the present day throw off Christianity because they wish to devote themselves to vice, and therefore pretend to have religious difficulties. Not so with Julian, of whom our author says: “On ne peut méconnaitre que sa vertu a été réelle et qu'il a donné un exemple moral bien rarement suivi par les empereurs chrétiens. Il est à peine besoin d'ajouter qu'il a de beaucoup surpassé en vertu les modèles antiques qu'il croyait ne faire qu'imiter. Ses biographes rapportent avec admiration qu'il a été chaste,