Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors][merged small]

us to believe them. The only considerable passage besides, that they plead, is in the sixth chapter of St. John ; where many Jews having followed our Saviour because he had fed them with the miracle of the loaves, he bids them labour not for the meat which perisheth, but that which endureth unto everlasting life, which he would give them who is the true bread from Heaven. Now were this meant of the Sacrament, and to be understood literally, we must conclude not bread turned into Christ's body, but his body turned into bread; which is quite the contrary to what they hold. But indeed the whole is only a figurative way of saying that the souls of men receive from the fruits of his death a much more valuable nourishment than their bodies receive from their daily food. Just as he elsewhere says *, whoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him, it shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life; which nobody ever understood literally: and just as Wisdom speaks of herself in Ecclus. xxiv. 21. They that eat me shall yet be hungry, and they that drink me shall yet be thirsty ; that is, they who have tasted the pleasures and benefits of virtue will always desire a still greater experience of them. But the Jews with their usual perverseness, cavilling at these words of our Saviour's, he goes on very strongly to assert the propriety of them, that his flesh is meat indeed, and his blood drink indeed, that he who eateth the one and drinketh the other, dwelleth in him and liveth by him, but he that doth not, hath no life in him. But now these words being spoken, you see, concerning the present time, my flesh is meat indeed, and so on, cannot principally relate to the Sacrament; for there was yet no such thing, nor till a year or two after. Besides; it is

* John iv. 14.

not true that he, and he only, who eateth the Sacrament, shall dwell in Christ and live by him. For persons may possibly have no opportunity of receiving the Sacrament, and yet be very good Christians, and too many receive it frequently, and yet are very bad Christians. The meaning therefore plainly is, that our Saviour's coming and suffering in the flesh, and shedding his blood for mankind, is the spiritual life of the world : that whoever imbibes the doetrine he taught in his life, and partakes by faith of the benefits he procured at his death, his soul is inwardly strengthened by them, and shall be finally preserved to a happy immortality. For in this spiritual and figutative sense he immediately directs his Disciples to understand his words : when misunderstanding them in a gross and literal one had somewhat staggered them. Doth this, says he, offend you? It is the Spirit that quickeneth : the flesh profiteth nothing. The words that I speak unto you, they are Spirit and they are life. His manner of expression had the same intent with that passage of St. Paul *, where he says, the Israelites did all eat the same spiritual meat, and did all drink the same spiritual drink. For they drank of the spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ. The Papists themselves do not think from hence, that the Jews did eat and drink Christ literally : and Christians do it in the same manner they did, only with a clearer and more distinct faith. For in this spiritual sense, Christ himself explains his words : we firmly believe his body and blood to be verily and indeed taken and received by the faithful in the Lord's Supper ; that is, an union with him, to be not only represented, but really and effectually communicated to the worthy

1 Cor. x. 3,

4.

receiver. But as for any other sense, if we did,or could do so monstrous a thing, as literally to eat the flesh, and drink the blood of our dear Lord, it is not that which could do our souls any good, but only his grace accompanying this Sacrament: which may as well accompany it without any change of the bread and wine, as it accompanies that of Baptism, without any change of the water.

We see then that Scripture by no means favours transubstantiation. It is indeed express against it. For St. Paul more than once tells us, that what we eat in the Sacrament is bread, and as for what we drink, when our Saviour says, this is my blood which is shed for you, if he had meant literally, he had spoke falsely: for his blood was not shed till afterwards, and could not be drank then. Neither is it in a condition of being shed at present, and therefore cannot be drank now.

But too much hath been said of this monstrous doctrine, to which the indiscretion of wellmeaning writers gave the first occasion pretty early, whilst they affected to heighten the figurative expressions of Scripture, by still more figurative ones of their own; little thinking at the same time, that such an absurd meaning, as the Papists now plead for, could ever be ascribed to them; and plainly shewing, by innumerable proofs, that it is unjustly ascribed to them. But as ignorance and superstition increased, about 800 years after Christ this amazing notion began to be distinctly, and explicitly entertained and asserted, which some had the good sense to oppose ; some the weakness to receive, as a mystery that promoted the reverence of the Sacrament; others the wickedness to support with zeal, as an artifice that increased the authority of the Priest : for what could he not do, who, as they blasphemously express it, could make God ? By degrees then this doctrine prevailed ; till, in the 13th century, it was established as an article of faith. And when once the speculative error, of believing the consecrated bread and wine to be literally the body and blood of Christ, obtained, the practical one of worshipping them as such, quickly followed. For though a decent respect was always paid to the Sacrament, yet a direct adoration to the elements was never paid, till the dark and superstitious ages above-mentioned introduced so senseless an idolatry, to the infinite scandal of religion. May God, who mercifully winked at the times of Heathen ignorance, overlook this less excusable folly of Christians, and forgive them, for they know not what they do. But let us all remember, that our case will be much worse than theirs, if, after the light hath so clearly shone upon us, we return to darkness again : if, as the Apostle expresses it, we change the truth of God into a lie, and worship the creature instead of the Creator, who is blessed for evermore*. Amen.

* Rom. i. 25.

SERMON XXXII.

1 PET. V. 12.

-Exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace

of God wherein ye stand. Having proposed from these words, first, to show what is the rule of Christian faith and practice; and, secondly, to examine by this rule the chief differences between the Church of Rome and ours: the former head I have finished, and made some progress in the latter. The honour paid by them to Saints and Images, the doctrine of transubstantiation, and the worship built upon it of the Sacramental bread and wine, have been considered : and now I proceed to another peculiarity of theirs, with respect to the Sacrament, withholding the cup from the laity. That our Saviour administered the Holy Eucharist in both kinds, they acknowledge: nay, that he expressly commanded those, to whom he administered it, that they should all drink of that cup. What therefore he commands all to do, why do they forbid all but the priest to do? Why; the Apostles, they say, were commanded to take the cup as well as the bread, because they were clergy. But the Church of Rome forbids even the clergy, excepting those who officiate, to take it. Besides, if the command of receiving the cup relates only to the clergy, that of receiving the bread too, must relate only to the clergy: for there is no manner of distinction made in the Gospel. Yet they own the laity are obliged by our Saviour's

« EelmineJätka »