RPM, Volume 17, Number 21, May 17 to May 23, 2015

Systematic Theology

By R. L. Dabney, D. D., LL. D.

Chapter 42: The Lord’s Supper

Definition, Names and History.
Elements and Sacramental Acts.
Doctrine of Real Presence.
Transubstantiation. Consubstantiation.
Doctrine of Calvin as to Real Presence compared with that of Zwinglius and Westminster.
Supper not a Sacrifice.
Private Communions Disapproved.
Laity should have the Cup.
Proper Administerer.
Sacramental Efficiency, what?
[Lectures 67 & 68]

Section Seven—The Practice of the Church

Chapter 42: The Lord’s Supper

Syllabus for Lectures 67 & 68

See Conf. of Faith, ch. 29 with Catechisms.
1. Give a definition of this sacrament, with the Scriptural account of its institution,—names, and ceremonial.
See Matt. 26:9, Mark 14:22—26, Luke 22:15—21; Cor. 10:16, 17; 11:17 to end. Dick, Lect. 92. Turrettin, Loc. 19., Qu. 21.

2. What are the elements, in what manner to be prepared and set apart, and what their sacramental significance?
Torreuin, Qu. 22, 23, 24. Hill, bk. 5., ch. 7. Dick, Lect. 92.

3. State and refute the doctrine of the real presence by a Transubstantiation, with the elevation and worship of the host.
Council of Trent, Sess. 13, especially ch. 4, and Canons Cat. Rom. pt. 2., ch. 4, Qu. 17—41.
Turrettin, Qu. 26, 27. Calvin’s Inst., bk. 4., ch. 18. Hill, as above. Archbishop Tillottson and Bishop Stillingfleet against Transubstantiation. Dick, Lect. 90.

4. State and refute the doctrine of Consubstantiation.
Turrettin, Qu. 26, 28. Augsb. Confession, and other Lutheran symbols. Hill, as above. Dick, Lect. 91.

5. In what sense did Calvin hold a Real Presence? What the doctrine of Zwinglius concerning it; and what He doctrine of the Westminster Divines?
Calvin Inst. bk. 4., ch. 17, 1—11, and Commentanes. Zwinglii Ratzo Fidei 8. Dorner’s Hist. Prot. Theo., Vol. 1 & 2, ch. 3. Dr. Wm. Cunningham Discussion of Ch. Prin. Conf of Faith, ch. 29, Hill, bk. 5., ch. 7. Dick Lect. 91. Turrettin, Loc. 19., Qu. 28. Hodge, Theol. Vol. 3, ch. 20, & 16. So. Presb. Rev., Jan. 1876, Art. 6.

6. Is the Lord’s Supper a sacrifice?
See Council of Trent, Sess. 13, ch. 2. Cat. Rom. pt. 2., ch. 4, Qu. 53. Turrettin, Qu. 29. Dick, Lect. 91.

7. Are private communions admissible?
Cat. Tom. as above. Dick, Lect. 92.

8. Defend the propriety of communion in both kinds.
Cat. Rom. as above, Qu. 50, etc. Calvin Inst. bk. 4., ch. 17. Turrettin, Qu. 25.

9. Who should administer the Lord’s Supper?
Ripley, Qu. 168 to 170, & 2.

10. What is the nature of the efficiency of the sacrament to worthy communicants, and of the sin of its abuse by the unworthy?
Calvin Inst. bk. 4., ch. 14, especially 17. Hill and Dick as above. Knapp, 145. See also on whole, Knapp, 144, 146,

1. Scriptural Names.

The only sacrament which Protestants recognize, besides baptism, is that called by them, in imitation of Paul (1 Cor. 11:20), "The Lord’s Supper" Deipnon kuriakon. The only other Scriptural names which seem clearly established are the breaking of bread (klasi" tou aptou, Acts 2:42—46; 20:7), and possibly koinwnia (1 Cor. 10:16). The cup is called pothrion th" eulogia" (1 Cor. 10:16), but this is evidently not a name for the whole ordinance. And in verse at, communicating is called partaking of the Lord’s Table (trapeza). This hardly amounts to a calling of the ordinance by the name of "table;" but it is instructive, as showing no favor whatever to the notion of altars and sacrifice, as connected with the Lord’s Supper.

Patristic Names.

Among the fathers it was called often eucaristia, sometimes sunaxi" or leitourgia more often qusia, or musthrion or among the Latins, Missa. The use of the word qusia was at first only rhetorical and figurative; and thus the error of considering the Lord’s Supper an actual sacrifice had its way prepared. While the Romanists sometimes endeavor to trace the word missa to other etymons (as to µm' tribute; hT,v]mi, banquet; or to muhsi", initiation), its derivation is undoubtedly from the formulary with which the spectators and catechumens were dismissed before the celebration of the Lord’s Supper: missa est (viz., congregation).

Definition and Nature.

The definition which Presbyterians hold, is that of our Catechisms, e. g., Shorter, Qu. 96: "The Lord’s supper is a sacrament wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine, according to Christ’s appointment, His death is showed forth; and the worthy receivers are not after a corporal and carnal manner, but by faith made partakers of His body and blood, with all His benefits, to their spiritual nourishment and growth in grace." This is obviously no more than a correct digest of the views stated or implied in the sundry passages where the ordinance is described. Its institution was evidently simple and free from mystery; and had not the strange career of superstition been run on this subject by the Christian Church, the dispassionate reader would have derived no conceptions from the sacred narrative but the simple ones of a commemorative seal. And these natural, popular views of the sacrament are doubtless best adapted for edification.

History of Institution.

I hold that our Saviour undoubtedly held His last Passover on the regular Passover evening, and that this ordinance, intended by Him to supersede and replace the Passover (1 Cor. 5:7), was very quietly introduced at its close. To do this, He took up the bread (doubtless the unleavened bread of the occasion), and the cup of wine (after Jewish fashion mingled with water), provided for the occasion, and introduced them to their new use by an act of solemn thanksgiving to God. Then He brake the bread and distributed it, and, after the bread, the wine— partaking of neither Himself—saying: "This do in remembrance of Me; eat, drink ye all of it, to show forth the Lord’s death till He come." These mandatory words were accompanied also with certain explicatory words, conveying the nature of the symbol and pledge; stating that the bread represented His body, and the cup the covenant made in His blood —the body lacerated and killed, and the blood shed, for redemption. The sacramental acts, therefore, warranted by Christ are, the taking, breaking, and distributing the elements, on the administrator’s part, and their manual reception, and eating or drinking, on the recipient’s part. The sacramental words are the thanksgiving, the explicatory and promissory, and the mandatory. The whole is then appropriately concluded with another act of praise (not sacramental, but an appendage thereto), either by praying, of singing, or both. And to add anything else is superstition.

2. Elements.

The elements of the sacrament are bread and wine. There is controversy between east and west on this point. The Greek Church says the bread must be leavened, the Latin unleavened, making this a point of serious importance. We believe that the bread used was paschal. But it was not Christ’s intention to give ritually a paschal character to the new sacrament; and bread is employed as the material element of nutrition, the one most familiar and universal. Hence, we regard all the disputes as to leaven, and the other minutiae made essential by the Romanist rubric (wheaten, mingled with proper water, not worm—eaten, etc.,) as non—essential. Probably the wine was also mingled with water on the first occasion; but, on the same grounds, we regard it as selected simply as the most common and familiar refreshment of the human race; and the presence of water is therefore non—essential. Indeed, modern chemistry has shown that, in all wine, water is the solvent, and the largest constituent.

Their Consecration What?

According to all Christians, these elements are conceived as undergoing some kind of consecration. Rome places this in the pronunciation of the words of institution, "This is My body," and teaches that it results in a total change of the substance of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. But the only change which Protestants admit in a consecration of the elements, is the simple change of their use, from a common, to a sacred and sacramental one. And this consecration we believe to be wrought, not by pronouncing the words, "This is My body," but by the eucharistic act of worship which introduces the sacrament. For the natural language of consecration is that of worship; not that of a didactic and promissory sentence. Witness the cases of grace over our food, and all the consecrations of the Old Testament, e. g., Deut. 26:5—10. When Christ says, "This is My Body," were the consecration what Papists suppose, these words would imply that it is already made. And last, the words, supposed by them to be words of consecration, are too variant in the different histories of the sacrament in sacred Scripture.

Breaking of the Bread Significant.

The breaking of the bread is plainly one of the sacramental acts, and should never be done beforehand, by others, nor omitted by the minister. The words ei" arto" (1 Cor. 10:17) are not correctly represented in the English version. The proper force of the word, as may be seen in John. 6:9, is loaf, or more properly, cake; and the Apostle’s idea is, that the oneness of the mass of bread, and of the cup, partaken by all, signifies their unity in one spiritual body. It would be better that the bread should be taken by the officiator in one mass, and broken before the people, after the prayer. The proper significance of the sacrament requires it; for the Christ we commemorate is the Christ lacerated and slain. Further; Christ brake the bread in distributing it; and commanded us to imitate Him, saying: "This do," etc. Third; the Apostles undoubtedly made the breaking one of the sacramental acts; for Paul says, 1 Cor. 10:16, "The bread which we break," etc. Last, when the sacrament itself is more often called "the breaking of bread," than by any other one name, it can hardly be supposed that the breaking is not a proper part of the ceremonial.

Pouring of the Wine, after the Bread, Significant.

There is also a significance the taking of the wine after the bread, in a distinct act of reception; because it is the blood as separated from the body by death, that we commemorate. Hence the soaking of the bread in the cup is improper, as well as the plea by which Rome justifies communion in one kind; that as the blood is in the body, the bread conveys alone a complete sacrament. As we should commemorate it, the blood is not in the body, but poured out.

Significant Acts of Communicants.

The acts of taking and eating by the Communicant is significant and sacramental, and they symbolize generally, Faith, as the soul’s receptive act; just as the elements distributed by God’s institution signify that which is the object of faith, Christ slain for our redemption. But the Confession fig, I, states, in greater detail, and with strict scriptural propriety, that these acts commemorate Christ’s death, constitute a profession and engagement to serve Him, show the reception of a covenanted redemption thus sealed to us, and indicate our communion with each other and Christ, our Head, in one spiritual body. The first idea is plainly set forth in 1 Cor. 11:24, last clause, as well as parallel passages, and in verses1 Cor. 11:25, 26. The second is implied in the first, in the individual character of the act, in 1 Cor. 11:25, "covenant," and in the nature of faith, which embraces Christ as our Saviour from sin unto holiness. The third idea is plainly implied in the significancy of the elements themselves, which are the materials of nutrition and refreshment; as well as in John. 6:50—55. For though we strenuously dispute, against Rome, that the language of this passage is descriptive of the Lord’s Supper, it is manifest that the Supper was afterwards devised upon the analogy which furnished the metaphor of the passage. And the didactic and promissory language, "This is My body,!" "This is My blood," sacramentally understood, obviously convey the idea of nutrition offered to the soul. The last idea is very clearly set forth in 1 Cor. 10:16, 17. And this is the feature of the sacrament from which it has received its popular name, of Communion of the Lord’s Supper.

Who May Partake?

The parties who may properly partake of the Lord’s Supper are so clearly defined, 1 Cor. 11:27—30, as to leave no room for debate. It is those who have examined themselves successfully "of their knowledge to discern the Lord’s body, and faith to feed on Him, repentance, love, and, new obedience." Shorter Catechism, question 97. See, also, Larger Catechism, question 171to175. That this sacrament is to be given only to credible professors, does not indeed follow necessarily from the fact that it symbolizes saving grace; for baptism does this; but from the express limitation of Paul, and from the different graces symbolized. Baptism symbolizes those graces which initiate the Christian life: The Supper, those also which continue it. Hence, while the former is once applied to infants born within the covenant, to ratify their outward membership, in the dependence on the gracious promise that they shall be brought to commence the Christian life afterwards; it would be wrong to grant the second sacrament to any who have not given some indication of an actual progress in spiritual life.

The Supper soon Perverted by two Errors.

Thus far, all has been intelligible, reasonable, and adapted to nourish and comfort the faith of the plain believer. But the well—informed are aware that this ordinance, so quietly and simply introduced by our Saviour, and so simply explained, has met the strange fortune of becoming the especial subject of superstitious amplification; until, in the Romanist Church, it has become nearly the whole of worship. It would be interesting to trace the history of this growth; but time only allows us to remark, that two unscriptural ideas became early associated with it; in consequence of a pagan grossness of perception, and a false exposition of Scripture. One of these was that of a literal or real corporeal presence; the other that of a true sacrifice for sin. Still, those more superstitious Christians who held these two ideas, did not, for a long time, define the manner in which they were supposed to be true. At length two theories developed themselves, that of Paschasius Radbert, transubstantiation; and that of Berengar, consubstantiation. The former of these triumphed in the Lateran Council 1215; the latter was condemned as heretical, till Luther revived it, though stripped of the sacrificial feature.


According to Rome, when the priest canonically, and with proper intention, pronounces the words in the mass: "Hoc est corpus meson," the bread and wine are changed into the very body and blood of the living Christ, including, of course, His soul and divinity; which mediatorial person, the priest does then truly and literally break and offer again, as a proper sacrifice for the sins of the living and the dead; and he and the people eat Him. True; the accidents, or material qualities of bread and wine remain, but in and under them, the substance of bread is gone, and the substance really existing is Christ’s person. But in this condition of things, it exists without the customary material attributes of locality, extension, and divisibility; for He is none the less in heaven, and in all the ’hosts,’ all over the world at once; and into however small parts they may be divided, each is a perfect Christ! Hence, to elevate, and carry this host in procession, and to worship it with Latreia is perfectly proper. Whether such a batch of absurdities is really believed by any reflecting mind, it is not for us to decide.

Scriptural Arguments for.

The scriptural basis for this monstrous superstructure is very narrow, while the papal is wide enough. Rome depends chiefly in Scripture on the language of John 6:50, etc., and on the assertion of the absolutely literal interpretation of the words of institution in the parallel passages cited by us at the beginning. We easily set aside the argument from John. 6:50, etc., by the remark, that it applies not to the Lord’s Supper, but to the spiritual actings of faith on Christ figuratively described. For the Lord’s Supper was not yet instituted; and it is absurd to suppose that our Saviour would use language necessarily unintelligible to all His followers, the subject never having been divulged to them. On the contrary, in Jn. 6:35, we find that the coming and eating is defined as the actings of faith. If the chapter be forced into an application to the Supper, then Jn. 6:53, 54 explicitly teach that every one who eats the Supper goes to heaven, and that no one who fails to eat it does; neither of which Rome admits: And in verse Jn. 6:63, our Saviour fixes a figurative and spiritual interpretation of His words, beyond all question.

Words of Institution Properly Explained.

When we proceed to the words of institution, we assert that the obvious meaning is tropical; and is equivalent to "This represents my body." The evidences of this are manifold. First, we cite the frequency of similar locutions in Hebrew, and Hebraistic Greek. Consult Gen. 41:26, 27; Ezek. 37:11; Dan. 7:24; Ex. 12:11; Matt. 13:38, 39; Rev. 1:20; 17:9,12,18, et passium. Yea, we find Christ saying of Himself: "I am the way, the truth, the life," John. 14:6; "the vine," John. 15:1; "the door," John. 10:9. Why is a tropical exposition more reasonable or necessary here? Yet, without it we make absolute nonsense.

True Meaning of Props.

But even if we had no usage to illustrate our Saviour’s sense, it would be manifest from the text and context alone, that His sense is tropical. The touto must be demonstrative of bread, and equivalent to, this bread (is my body); because bread is the nearest antecedent, the whole series of the narrative shows it; in the parallel case of the wine, cup is, in one narrative, expressed: and the allusion of Paul, 1 Cor. 10:16, "The bread which we break," shows it. So, the swma means evidently the body dead (corpse), as is proved by the expression "broken for you," and by the fact that the blood is separated from it: as well as by current usage of narratives. Now paraphrase the sentence: "This bread is my dead body," and any other than a tropical sense is impossible. For (a.) The predication is self—contradictory; if it is bread, it is not body; if body, it is not bread, subject or predicate is out of joint. (b.) The body was not yet dead, by many hours. (c.) Incompatibles cannot be predicated of each other. A given substance A. cannot be changed into a substance B. which was pre existent before the change; because the change must bring B. into existence.

So the Disciples must have Apprehended it.

All will admit that the proper sense is that in which the disciples comprehended the words as first spoken. It is impossible that they should have understood the bread as truly the body: because they saw the body handling the bread! The body would have been wholly in its own hand!

Scripture calls it bread still after it is said, by Papists, to be transubstantiated. 1 Cor. 10:17. "All partakers of that one bread." See also, 1 Cor. 11:26, 27, 28.

There are variations of language which are utterly incompatible with a strictly literal sense. In the gospels it is said: "He took the cup... and said This is my blood," etc. There must be here a metonom, of the cup for that which it contains—at least. But in 1 Cor. 11:25, the words are "This cup is the new covenant of my blood," etc., where, if literalness is retained, we get the impossible and most unPapal idea, that the cup was the covenant.

Transubstantiation Absurd.

(a.) Because it Violates our Senses.

But passing from the exegetical, to the general argument, a literal transubstantiation is impossible, because it violates our senses. They all tell us it is still bread and wine, by touch, taste, smell, sight. The senses are the only inlets of information as to external facts; if we may not believe their deliberate testimony, there is an end of all acquired knowledge. This may be fairly stated in a stronger form: it is impossible that my mind can be validly taught the fact of such a transubstantiation; for the only channel by which I can be taught it is the senses; and transubstantiation, if true, would teach me that my senses do not convey truth. It is just as likely that I do not hear Rome saying, "Transubstantiation is true," when I seem to hear her, as that I do not see a wafer, but a Christ, when I seem to see it. Nor is it any answer to say: the senses deceive us. This is only when hurried; and the sensible medium imperfect, or senses diseased. Here all the four senses of all men, in health unanimously perceive only bread and wine.

(b.) It violates Reason. No Plea to call it a Miracle.

In the second place, it is impossible to be true; because it violates our understanding. Our mental intuitions compel us to recognize substance by its sensible attributes. Those attributes inhere only in the substance, and can only be present by its presence. It is impossible to avoid this reference. An attribute or accident is relative to its substance; to attempt to conceive of it as separate destroys it. Again: it is impossible for us to abstract from matter, the attributes of locality, dimension, and divisibility. But transubstantiation requires us to conceive of Christ’s body without all these. Again: it is impossible for matter to be ubiquitous; but Christ’s body must be so, if this doctrine be true. And it is vain to attempt an evasion of these two arguments from sense and reason, by pleading a great and mysterious miracle. For God’s omnipotence does not work the impossible and the natural contradiction. And whatever miracle has ever taken place, has necessarily been just as dependent on human senses, for man’s cognizance of its occurrence, as any common event. So that if the fundamental law of the senses is outraged, man is as incapable of knowing a miracle as any other thing.

(c.) It violates the Analogy of Faith.

Once more the doctrine of transubstantiation contradicts the analogy of faith. It is incompatible with our Saviour’s professed attitude and intention, which was then to institute a sacrament. But Rome herself defines a sacrament as an outward sign of an invisible grace. Hence Christ’s attitude and intention naturally lead us to regard the elements as only signs. This is true of all the sacraments of Old and New Testaments, unless this be an exception: and especially of the Passover, on which the Supper was engrafted.

Transubstantiation would utterly destroy the nature of a sacrament; because, if the symbols are changed into the Christ, there is no sign.

It contradicts also the doctrine of Christ’s ascension and second advent. For these teach us, that He is at the Father’s right hand now, and will only come thence at the final consummation.

It contradicts the doctrine of atonement, substituting a loathsome form of sacred (literal) cannibalism, for that faith of the soul, which receives the legal effects of Christ’s atoning sufferings as its justification.

Therefore, Host not to be Worshipped.

Transubstantiation being disproved, all elevation and worship of the host, as well as kneeling at the sacrament, are disproved. The Episcopal reasons for the latter are, that while no change of the bread and wine is admitted, and no worship of them designed, yet the reverence, contrition and homage of the believer for his crucified Saviour prompt him to kneel to Christ. We reply, that the worship of Christ is of course proper at all proper times. But the attitude of worship is not proper at the moment when Christ expressly commands us to do something else than kneel. Had the paralytic, for instance, of Matt. 9:5, 6. when he received the order, "Arise, take up thy bed and go," insisted on kneeling just then, it would have been disobedience, and not reverence. So, when Christ calls us to a communion in eating together His sacramental supper, the proper posture is that of a guest, for the time. If any Christian desires to show his homage by coming to the table from his knees, and returning from it to them, very well. But let him not kneel, in the very act in which Christ commands him to feast.

Consubstantiation Equally Erroneous, but not so Impious.

Consubstantiation teaches that there is no literal change of the elements, but that they remain simple bread and wine. Yet, in a mysterious and miraculous manner, there is a real presence, in, under, and along with them, of the whole person of Christ, which is literally, though invisibly, eaten along with them. Unworthy communicants also receive it, to their own damnation. While this doctrine is not attended with the impious results of transubstantiation, it is liable to nearly all the exegetical, sensible, rational, and doctrinal objections. Indeed, in one sense, the exegetical objections are stronger; because it literalness must needs be retained in the words of institution, it is a less violation of language to make them mean the breads is the body, than that the bread accompanies the body. The Lutheran exegesis, while boasting of its faithful preservation of our Saviour’s language, really neither makes it literal, nor interprets it by any allowable trope. It does not outrage the understanding so much, by requiring us to believe that substance can be separate from all its accidents; for it professes to leave the substance of the bread untouched. Nor is it so obnoxious to the last head of objections raised against transubstantiation, in that it does not destroy the sacramental sign. But the rest of my arguments apply against it, and need not be recapitulated.

5. Reformed View of Real Presence.

There is a sense, in which all evangelical Christians would admit a real presence in the Lord’s Supper. The second Person of the Trinity being very God, immense and ubiquitous, is of course present wherever the bread and Vine are distributed. Likewise, His operations are present, through the power of the Holy Spirit employing the elements as means of grace, with all true believers communicating. (Matt. 18:20). But this is the only sort of presence admitted by us.

Zwinglian View of Supper.

Zwinglius, seemingly the most emancipated of all the Reformers from superstition and prejudice, taught that the sacrament is only a commemorative seal, and that the human part of Christ’s person is not present in the sacrament, except to the faith of the intelligent believer. This he sustains irrefragably by the many passages in which we are taught that Christ’s humanity is ascended into the heavens, thence to return no more till the end of all things. That this humanity, however glorified, has its ubi, just as strictly as any human body; that if there is any literal humanity fed upon for redemption by the believing communicant, it must be his passable and suffering humanity, while Christ’s proper humanity is now glorified; (which would necessitate giving Christ a double humanity); and that the sacramental language is tropical, as is evinced by a sound exegesis and the testimony of the better Fathers. The defect of the Zwinglian view is, that while it hints, it does not distinctly enough assert, the sealing nature of the sacraments.

Calvin’s View. Properly Grounded on Vital Union to Christ; yet Overstrains it.

Both Romanist and Lutheran minds, accustomed to regard the Eucharist from points of view intensely mystical, received the Zwinglian with loud clamor, as being odiously simple and rationalistic. Calvin, therefore, being perhaps somewhat influenced by personal attachments to Melancthon, and by a desire to heal the lamentable dissensions of Reformed and Lutherans, propounded (in his Inst. and elsewhere) an intermediate view. This is, that the humanity, as well as the divinity of Christ, in a word, his whole person, is spiritually, yet really present, not to the bodily mouth, but to the souls of true communicants, so that though the humanity be in heaven only, it is still fed on in some ineffable, yet real and literal way, by the souls of believers. The ingenious and acute defense of this strange opinion, contained in the Inst. Bk. 4: Ch. 17, proceeds upon this postulate, which I regard as correct, and as eminently illustrative of the true nature of the sacramental efficiency; that the Lord’s Supper represents and applies the vital, mystical union of the Lord with believers. Such therefore as the vital union is, such must be our view of the sacrament of the Supper. Is the vital union then, only a secret relationship between Christ and the soul, instituted when faith is first exercised, and constituted by the indwelling and operation of the Holy Spirit: or, is it a mysterious, yet substantial conjunction, of the spiritual substance, soul, to the whole substance of the mediatorial Person, including especially the humanity? In a word, does the spiritual vitality propagate itself in a mode strictly analogous to that, in which vegetable vitality is propagated from the stock into the graft, by actual conjunction of substance? Now Calvin answers, emphatically: the union is of the latter kind. His view seems to be, that not only the mediatorial Person, but especially the corporeal part thereof, has been established by the incarnation, as a sort of duct through which the inherent spiritual life of God, the fountain is transmitted to believers, through the mystical union. His arguments are, that the body of Christ is asserted to be our life, in places so numerous and emphatic (John. 1:1, 14; 6:27, 33, 51—59; Eph. 5:30; 1 Cor. 6:15; Eph. 4:16) that exegetical fidelity requires of us to understand by it more than a participation in spiritual indwelling and influences purchased for believers by His death; that the incomprehensibility of a spiritual, though true and literal, substantial conjunction of our souls with Christ’s flesh in heaven, should not lead us to reject the word of our God; and that faith cannot be the whole amount of the vital union of believers to Christ, inasmuch as it is said to be by faith. The union must be more than the means which constitutes it.

Is Calvin’s the Westminster Doctrine?

Now, it is this view of Calvin, which we find Hill asserting, and Dick and Cunningham denying, as the established doctrine of the Anglican and Scotch Churches, and of the Westminster Assembly. A careful examination of Ch. 29: 7, the decisive passage of our Confession, will show, I think, that it was the intention of the Westminster Assembly, while not repudiating Calving views or phraseology in a marked and individual manner, yet to modify all that was untenable and unscriptural in it. It is declared that worthy communicants "do really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporeally, but spiritually, receive and feed upon Christ crucified and all the benefits of his death: the body and blood of Christ being then not corporeally or carnally in, with, or under the bread and wine; yet as really, but spiritually, present to the faith of believers," as the elements themselves to their senses. Note first: that they say believers receive and feed spiritually upon Christ crucified and the benefits of His death; not with Calvin, on His literal flesh and blood. Next, the presence which grounds this receiving, is only a presence to our faith, of Christ’s body and blood! Hence we construe the Confession we think fairly, to mean by the receiving and feeding, precisely the spiritual actings of faith in Christ as our Redeemer, and on His body slain, and blood poured out, as the steps of His atoning work; so that the thing which the soul actually embraces, is not the corporeal substance of His slain body and shed blood, but their Redeeming virtue. The discriminating remarks of Turrettin, Qu. 28, (Introduc.) are doubtless correct: and are doubtless the expression of the very view the Assembly intended to embody. The human person of Christ cannot be said to be present in the sense of substantive proximity or contact; but only in this sense; that we say a thing is present, when it is under the cognizance of the faculty naturally adapted for its apprehension. Thus the sun is called present in day, absent at night. He is no farther distant in fact; but his beams do not operate on our visual organ. The blind man is said to be without light; although the rays may touch his sightless balls. So a mental or spiritual presence, is that which places the object before the cognizance of the appropriate mental faculty. In this sense only, the sacrament brings Christ before us; that it places Him, in faith, before the cognizance of the sanctified understanding and heart.

Calvin’s Proposition Impossible.

We reject the view of Calvin concerning the real presence, [recognizing our obligation to meet and account for the Scriptures he quotes, in a believing, and not in a rationalistic spirit]; first, because it is not only incomprehensible, but impossible. Does it not require us to admit, in admitting the literal (though spiritual) reception of Christ’s corporeal part, it in a distant heaven, and we on earth; that matter may exist without its essential attributes of locality and dimension? Have not our souls their ubi? They are limited, substantively, to some spot within the superficies of our bodies, just as really as though they were material. Has not Christ’s flesh its Abe, though glorified, and as much more brilliant than ours, as a diamond is than carbon? To my mind, therefore, there is as real a violation of my intuitive reason, in this doctrine; as when transubstantiation requires me to believe that the flesh of Christ is present, indivisible and unextended, in each crumb or drop of the elements. Both are contrary to the laws of extension. And that Christ’s glorified body dwells on high, no more to return actually to earth till the final consummation is asserted too plainly and frequently to be disputed. (Matt. 26:11; John. 16:28; 17:11; 16:7; Luke 24:51; Acts 3:21; 1:11.)

If any Body Present, it is the Body Dead.

Second. The bread broken and wine poured out symbolize the body broken and slain, and blood shed, by death. Now, according to Calvin, it is a mystical union which is sealed and applied in the Lord’s Supper, so as to propagate spiritual life; and throughout John vi, where His life—giving flesh is so much spoken of, it is not the Lord’s Supper, but the believers’ union to Christ, which is described. Well, how unreasonable it is to suppose spiritual life communicated through the actual, corporeal substance of Christ’s body, at the very stage at which the body is itself lifeless?

Old Testament Saints could not Share it.

Third. While the Old Testament believers had not the identical sacraments which we have, they had the same kind of spiritual life, nourished in the same way. (See Rom. 4:5; Heb. 11, and especially 1 Cor. 10:1—4). Here the very same figure is employed—that of eating and drinking. How could this be an eating of His flesh, when that flesh was not yet in existence?

This remark brings that theory of the mystical union, on which the Romanist, the Lutheran, and the patristic doctrines of the "real presence rest," to a decisive test. Were Old Testament saints saved in the same gospel way with us? Yes. Then that theory which makes the anthropic Person the corporeal duct of spiritual life, is not true: for when they were saved, there was no the anthropic Person.

The Conjunction is Simply Believing.

Fourth. The sixth chapter of John contains many internal marks, by which the feeding on Christ is identified with faith, and His flesh is shown to be only a figure for the benefits of His redemption. The occasion—the miracle of feeding the thousands with five loaves and two fishes, and the consequent pursuit of Christ by the multitude, made it very natural that Christ should adopt the figure of an eating of food, to represent receiving Him. John 6:49 shows that eating is simply believing; for had Calvin’s sense been true, our Saviour would not have said so emphatically, that believing was the work of God. In verse 35, again, it is implied that the eating is but coming, i. e., believing. So, verses 40, 47 with 50. In verse 53, we have language which is as destructive of a spiritual feeding on the literal body in the sacraments, as of a corporeal; for in either case it would be made to teach the unscriptural doctrine, that a soul cannot be saved without the sacraments. In verses 63, our Saviour plainly interprets His own meaning. Christ’s omniscience having shown Him that the hearers were misconceiving His words, as of a literal and corporeal eating; He here proceeds to correct that mistake. His scope may be thus paraphrased: "Are your minds so gross as to suppose that salvation is to be attained by a literal eating of the Saviour’s material flesh? No wonder you are scandalized by so gross an idea! Is it not a sufficient proof of its erroneousness, that in a few months you are to see the Redeemer’s person (divine and corporeal) ascend to the heavens from which the eternal Word descended? Of course, that utter seclusion of His material body from the militant Church sufficiently explodes every idea of a material presence and literal eating. But besides: all such notions misconceive the true nature of redemption. This is a spiritual work; no material flesh can have any profitable agency to promote it, as it is a propagation of life in the soul; the agency must be spiritual; not physical. And the vehicle of that agency is the gospel word, not any material flesh, however connected with the redeeming Person. The thing you lack, is not any such literal eating (a thing as useless as impossible) but true, living faith on Christ." (Verses 60—64). The best proof of the justice of this exposition is its perfect coherency with the context. Calvin (Com. in Ioco) labors hard, but unsuccessfully, to make the passage bear another sense, which would not be fatal to the peculiar feature of his theory. And the whole tenour of Scripture (e. g., Matt. 15:17,18), is unfavorable to the conception of the moral condition of the soul’s being made dependent on a reception of corporeal substance.

Calvin Inconsistent with Results of Unworthy Eating.

Lastly, the destructive effects of unworthy communicating are here described in terms which plainly make this mischief the counterpart of the benefit which the true believer derives, by proper communicating. Now, if this latter is an access of spiritual life through a substantial (though spiritual) reception of Christ’s Person, the former must be a propagation of spiritual death, through the poisonous effects of this same Person, substantively present to the soul. But, says Glvin, with obvious correctness, the unbelieving communicant does not get the Person of Christ into contact with his soul at all! The thing he guiltily does, is the keeping of Christ away from his soul totally, by his unbelief. (See 1 Cor. 11:27,29).

6. True Nature of Sacramental Efficiency.

Here we may appropriately answer the tenth question. We hold that the Lord’s Supper is a means of grace; and the scriptural conception of this phrase explains the manner in which the sacrament is efficacious to worthy communicants. It sets forth the central truths of redemption, in a manner admirably adapted to our nature sanctified; and these truths, applied by the Holy Spirit, are the instruments of sanctification and spiritual life, in a manner generically the same with, though in degree more energetic, than the written and spoken word. So, the guilt of the unbelieving communicant is not one inevitably damning; but it is the guilt of Christ’s rejection; it is the guilt of doing despite to the crucified Saviour by whom he should have been redeemed; and this under circumstances of peculiar profanity. But the profanation varies according to the decree of conscious hypocrisy, and the motive of the act.

In conclusion of this head, I would remark that all these objections to that modified form of the real presence which Calvin held, apply a fortiori, to the grosser doctrines of the Lutheran and Romanist. The intelligent student can go over the application himself.

7. Is the Supper a Sacrifice? Rome’s Arguments.

Rome asserts most emphatically that the Lord’s Supper is a proper and literal sacrifice; in which the elements, having become the very body, blood, human spirit, and divinity of Christ, are again offered to God upon the altar; and the transaction is thus a repetition of the very sacrifice of the cross, and avails to atone for the sins of the living, and of the dead in purgatory. And all this is dependent on the priest’s intention. After the authority of Church Fathers and councils, which we set aside with a simple denial, Rome argues from Scripture, that Christ was a priest after the order of Melchizedek; but He presented as priest, bread and wine as an oblation to God, and then made Abraham communicate in it: That Christ is a "priest forever," and therefore must have a perpetually recurring sacrifice to present: That Malachi 1:11, predicts the continuance of a Christian sacrifice among the Gentiles, under the New Testament. That the words of institution: "This is My body which is broken for you," when taken literally, as they ought to be imply a sacrifice, because the bread, having become the veritable body, must be whatever the body is; but the body is there a sacrifice. And that Paul (1 Cor. 10:21), contrasts the Lord’s table with that of devils (i. e., idols). But the latter was confessedly a table of sacrifice, whence the former must be so. But the true argument with Rome for teaching this doctrine, is that of Acts 19:25; they "know that by this craft they have their wealth." The great necessity of the human soul, awakened by remorse, or by the convincing Spirit of God, is atonement. By making this horrible and impious invention, Rome has brought the guilty consciences of miserable sinners under her dominion, in order to make merchandise of their sin and fear. While nothing can transcend the unscripturalness of the doctrine of Transubstantiation, I regard this of the sacrifice of the Mass as the most impious and mischievous of all the heresies of Rome.


In answer to her pretended scriptural arguments: There is not one word of evidence that the bread and wine of Melchizedek, if even an oblation, were a sacrifice. Does Rome mean to represent the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper as in exercise 1400 years before Christ had any body to commemorate? Christ’s priesthood is perpetual; but it is perpetuated, according to Hebrews, in His function of intercession, which He continually performs in the heavenly Sanctuary. And besides: it is a queer way to perpetuate His priestly functions, by having a line of other priests offer f km as the victim of their sacrifices! Rome replies, that her priest, in offering, acts in Christ’s room, and speaks in His name. Such impiety is not strange on the part of Rome. We set aside the whole dream by demanding, where is the evidence that Christ has ever called one of His ministers a priest, or deputized to him this function? The prediction of Malachi is obviously to be explained by the remark, that he foretells the prevalence of Christian institutions among the Gentiles, in terms and imagery borrowed from Jewish rites. The same bungling interpretation which Rome makes here, would equally prove from Is. 2:1, 4, that the great annual feasts at Jerusalem are to be personally attended by all the people of Europe, Australia, America, etc.; and from Is. 56:7, that not only the "unbloody offering of the Mass," but literal burnt offerings shall be presented under the New Testament by the Gentiles. By disproving the transubstantiation of the bread, we have already overthrown the argument founded on it. And last: it is evidently an overstraining of the Apostle’s words, to infer from 1 Cor. 10:21, that the thing literally eaten at the Lord’s table must be a literal sacrifice. Since the elements eaten are the symbols of the divine sacrifice, there is in this an abundant ground for the Apostle’s parallel. And moreover, when the Pagans met after the sacrifice, to eat of the body of the victim, the table was not an altar, nor was the act a sacrificial one.

Heads of Direct Refutation.

The direct refutation of this dogma has been so well executed by Calvin, Turrettin, and other Protestants, that nothing more remains, than to collect and state in their proper order the more important arguments. The silence of the Scripture is a just objection to it; because the burden of proof properly lies on those who assert the doctrine. The circumstances of the first administration of the Supper exclude all sacrificial character. No one will deny that this sacrament must bear the same meaning and character in all subsequent repetitions, which Christ gave it at first. But on that night, it could not be a sacrifice, because His sacrifice was not yet made. Christ was as yet unslain. Nothing was offered to God; but on the contrary, Christ gave the elements to man: whereas, in a proper sacrifice, it is man that offers to God. Not one of the proper traits or characteristics of a true sacrifice is present. There is no victim, shedding His blood; and "without the shedding of blood is no remission." There is no sacrificial act whatever; and this is especially fatal to Romanists; because the only oblation to God, which can by any pretext be found in the history of the institution in Scripture, is that of the eucharistic prayer. But, say they, the transubstantiation does not take place till after this, in the pronouncing of the words of institution. There is no death and consumption of a victim by fire; for the only thing like a killing is the breaking of the bread: but according to Romanists, this occurred in our Saviour’s institution, before the transubstantiation. Again: The mere fact that the Supper is a sacrament is incompatible with its being a sacrifice; for the nature of the two is dissimilar. True, the Passover was both, but this was at different stages. But we object with yet more emphasis, that the doctrine is impiously derogatory to Christ’s one priesthood and sacrifice, and to the sufficiency thereof, as asserted in Scripture. Christ is sole priest. (1 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 7:24; 9:12), and He offers one sacrifice, which neither needs nor admits repetition. (Heb. 7:27; 9:25; 10:1, 2, 10, 12, 14 and 26with 9:12—14).

8. Private Communion Rejected. Why?

Protestants deny the propriety of private communions, because they deny that the Supper is a sacrifice. It is a commemoration of Christ’s death, and shows forth His death. There should therefore be fellow communicants to whom to show it forth, or at least spectators. It is a communion, representing our membership in the common body of Christ. Hence to celebrate it when no members are present to participate is an abuse. The motive for desiring private communion is usually superstitious, and therefore our Church does wisely in refusing it.

9. Laity Entitled to the Cup.

The grounds on which Rome withholds the cup from the laity may be seen stated in the Council of Trent, and cited in Dick. They are too trivial to need refutation. It is enough to say that the assertion that the bread by itself is a whole sacrament, because the blood is in the body, is false. For it is the very nature of the Lord’s Supper to signify, that the blood is not in the body, having been poured out from it in death. We might justly ask: Why is not the bread alone sufficient for the priests also, if it is a whole sacrament? The outrage upon Christ’s institute is peculiarly glaring, because the injunction to give the cup to the communicants is as clear and positive as to observe the sacrament at all. And our Saviour, as though foreseeing the abuse, in Mark 14:23, and Matt 26:27, has emphatically declared that all who eat are also to drink. This innovation of Rome is comparatively modern; being not more against the Word of God, than against the voice and usage of Christian antiquity. It presents one of the strongest examples of her insolent arrogance both towards her people and God. The true motive, doubtless, is, to exalt the priesthood into a superior caste.

10. For the answer to this, see Lectures on the Sacraments in General. Qu. 10.

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