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ship, and this is the point to which we come,-and if there be, in the Christian Church, an Order of men specially called, appointed, and ordained to appear before God, and offer up to Him the Sacrifices of Christian hearts, then that Order of men is a Priesthood; and that on which such an Offering is made to God, is an Altar; not figuratively, but as truly, as that the Worship offered is a true and proper Worship.
We come now to a question, which, for many reasons, is of special importance; it is, indeed, one of the great doctrinal questions of our day. In what respects is the Holy Sacrament of the Supper, a Sacrifice? We propose to meet this inquiry, briefly, but frankly; because it is one of those points on which the Romish Church has departed most widely from the Primitive Church, and because, in our revulsion from Romanism, we are in danger of rushing to the opposite extreme, and ignoring all true conception of Sacrifice, of any sort or nature, in connection with the Holy Eucharist.
In the first place, there is, in the Service of the Holy Eucharist, a three-fold Sacrifice; first, "of our alms;" next, "of praise and thanksgiving ;" and then, "of ourselves, and souls, and bodies." Each and all of these, the Church declares to be an Offering to God, and so, in their very nature, a Sacrifice. Even John Calvin says, a Sacrifice is whatever is solemnly offered to God; quicquid omnino Deo offertur.
But there is another part of the Eucharistic Service, characterized by Sacrifice. It is the Oblation of the Bread and Wine to God. The very word, Oblation or Offering, of necessity implies Sacrifice, or something made holy, or consecrate to God. Here is the language of that Oblation :
"Wherefore, O Lord and Heavenly Father, according to the institution of Thy dearly beloved Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, we, Thy humble servants, do celebrate and make here, before Thy Divine Majesty, with these Thy holy gifts, which we now offer unto Thee, the memorial Thy Son hath commanded us to make; having in remembrance His blessed passion and precious death, His mighty resurrection and glorious ascension; rendering unto Thee most hearty thanks for the innumerable benefits procured unto us by the same."
This language is as plain as it can be. There is here an Offering, an Oblation, a Sacrifice. It is not an Expiatory Sac
rifice; but a memorial or commemorative Sacrifice before God, offered up to Him, whereby the Church pleads before Him the all-atoning Sacrifice of the Cross; and with the prayer, that, by the Holy Spirit, He will make the Sacrifice a Sacrament, even the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ. It is first offered as Sacrifice to God, with the prayer that He will make it a Sacrament to us :
"We most humbly beseech thee, O merciful Father, to hear us; and of Thy almighty goodness vouchsafe to bless and sanctify, with thy Word and Holy Spirit, these Thy gifts and creatures of Bread and Wine, that we, receiving them according to thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ's holy institution, in remembrance of His death and passion, may be partakers of His most blessed Body and Blood. And we earnestly desire Thy fatherly goodness, mercifully to accept this, our Sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving; humbly beseeching thee to grant that, by the merits and death of Thy Son Jesus Christ, and through faith in His Blood, we, and all Thy whole Church, may obtain remission of our sins, and all other benefits of His passion."
This characteristic feature of the Eucharistic Service is thoroughly Scriptural and Primitive. At the time of the institution of this Holy Sacrament, when at the Paschal Supper Jesus Christ offered himself to God, as the true Paschal Lamb -and that He did thus offer Himself, the whole argument in the Epistle to the Hebrews goes to prove all the words of our Lord, which He then used, are not recorded. And yet, the sacred record, even as given, (1 Cor. xi. 23-5,) clearly teaches or implies all that we have said as to the nature of this Sacrament. We have already seen that the idea of Altar and Sacrifice pervades the Scriptures of the New Testament. So, also, we find it everywhere in the writings of the Church in the age immediately succeeding the Apostles. The Second of the Apostolical Canons, says :
"If any Bishop or Priest offer anything in the Sacrifice at the Altar, beside what the Lord hath commanded, &c."
Justin Martyr, who wrote only about fifty years after the
* See Brett's Dissertation on the Principal Liturgies, &c., p. 106. London: 1720. Also, Bishop Seabury's Sermon Of the Holy Eucharist. Seabury's Sermons, Vol. I. pp. 144-162.
death of St. John, calls the gifts of Bread and, Wine an Offering, ρоσра and also a Sacrifice. Ovota.* He says:
"That the Sacrifices of Christians are supplications and giving of thanks; and that these are the only Sacrifices which Christians have been taught they should perform, in that thankful remembrance of their food, both dry and liquid, wherein is also commemorated the Passion which the Son of God suffered by Himself."
St. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, three times uses the term, Altar, in his Epistles to the Philadelphians, Trallians and Ephesians. To the former he writes:
"For there is but one Flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one Cup in the Unity of His Blood; one Altar, as there is also one Bishop, together with the Presbytery and Deacons."t
So also Origen, a little later, uses similar language. These, be it remembered, were all authorities of the Ante-Nicene age, when the Church was as yet in her purity, to which age we look for exact statements of Faith, Discipline and Worship, before they had become corrupted. Hagenbach says:
"In the Apostolical Fathers, and with more definite reference to the Lord's Supper in the writings of Justin Martyr and Irenæus, the idea of a Sacrifice already occurs; by which, however, they did not understand a daily repeated propitiatory Sacrifice of Christ, (in the sense of the Romish Church;) but a thank-offering to be presented in Christians themselves. ** Justin Martyr calls the Lord's Supper voia, Sacrifice, and πрoσорɑ Offering, and compares it with the Sacrifice under the Old Testament Dispensation."‡
Dr. Jarvis says:
*Dia cum Tryphon. c. 117.
Ep. to Philadelphians, Sec. 4.
History of Doctrines, Vol. I., pp. 204, 210.
§ Jarvis' Reply to Milner's End of Controversy, pp. 166–7.
"The Eucharist is the voluntary, but not the piacular Sacrifice of the Christian Church, perpetually praising the adorable mercies of our blessed Redeemer, and forever thanking Him for that one Oblation of Himself, once offered, by which He "blotted out the hand-writing of ordinances,' by which we were condemned, and took it out of the way, nailing it to His Cross.' Col. ii. 14. This was the sense in which the ancient Church regarded the Eucharist as a Sacrifice; and, if necessary, I might quote all the great writers, from the Apostolic age to the close of the fifth century, speaking of it as the Sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, but never as piacular or expiatory in itself."§
Bishop Bull, writing against the Romish doctrine of the Sacrifice of the Mass, and so using guarded language, makes the following statement ;—
"It is true, the Eucharist is frequently called by the Ancient Fathers an Oblation, a Sacrifice; but it is also to be remembered that they say also, it is a Reasonable Sacrifice, a Sacrifice without Blood." In the Holy Eucharist, we set before God Bread and Wine, as figures or images of the precious Blood of Christ shed for us, and of His precious Body, and plead to God the merit of His Son's Sacrifice, once offered on the Cross for us sinners, and in this Sacrament represented, beseeching Him, for the sake thereof to bestow His heavenly blessing on us. The Eucharistic Sacrifice, thus explained, is indeed, a Reasonable Sacrifice,' widely different from that monstrous Sacrifice of the Mass, taught in the Church of Rome."
This feature of Oblation or Offering is found in all the Ancient Liturgies of the Church. We are aware, that in respect to the Doctrine of the Early Church, little reliance can be placed on most of the Liturgies which have come down to us; simply because we are compelled to receive them only in the dress which they have, as a matter of course, assumed, in all those ages of acknowledged corruption through which they have passed. Still, the appeal to them, when properly guarded, has great weight. And the point to be specially noted is, that in all these Ancient Liturgies, this characteristic of the Eucharist is clearly marked. The Oblation of the Elements has the full force of the unanswerable argument, Antiquity, Universality, and Consent.
The Liturgy of St. James, used in the Church of Jerusalem, the first Christian Church, is as follows:
"We sinners offer to Thee, O Lord, this tremendous and unbloody Sacrifice, beseeching Thee not to deal with us after our sins, &c., &c. Send down, O Lord, this Thy most Holy Spirit upon us, and upon these holy Gifts here set before Thee, that by His holy, good, and glorious Presence, He may sanctify and make the Bread the Holy Body of Thy Christ, and this Cup, the precious Blood of Thy Christ."
* Bishop Bull's Answer to the Bishop of Meaux, Voll II. p. 251. See also Joseph Mede's Works, Book II, ch. vii., London, 1672.
The fullest and we believe the only complete collection of the Ancient Liturgies, is that of Asseman, a copy of which is in the Library of the General Theological Seminary.
The language of this Liturgy is the more important from its great antiquity, which has never been called in question. One of its Prayers makes supplication for that Church as "glorious Zion, the Mother of all Churches."
The Clementine Liturgy, also of unquestionable antiquity, and preserved in the Apostolical Constitutions, (Book viii. ch. 12,) is as follows. The Rubric says:
"When this is done, let the Deacons bring the Gifts to the Bishop at the Altar; and let the Priests stand on his right hand and on his left, as disciples by their master."
In the Prayer of Consecration is the following
"We Offer to Thee, our King and our God, according to His Institution, this Bread and this Cup; giving thanks to Thee through Him, that Thou hast thought us worthy to stand before Thee, and to Sacrifice unto Thee. And we beseech Thee that Thou wilt look graciously on these Gifts now lying before Thee, O Thou self-sufficient God, and accept them to the honor of Thy Christ; and send down Thy Holy Spirit, the Witness of the sufferings of the Lord Jesus, on this Sacrifice, that He may make this Bread the Body of Thy Christ, and this Cup the Blood of Thy Christ."
St Mark's Liturgy, used in the Church at Alexandria, is as follows. The reference to the prophecy of Malachi is unmistakeable :
Wherefore, giving thanks through Him, to Thee, together with Him and the Holy Ghost, we offer this reasonable and unbloody Worship, which is offered to Thee by all nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun; from the North unto the South. For thy Name is great among all Nations, and in every place, Incense, Sacrifice and Oblations, are offered to it." ** "Send down Thine Holy Spirit, upon us, and upon these Loaves, and these Cups, that the Almighty God may sanctify and throughly consecrate them, making the Bread the Body, and the Cup the Blood of the New Testament of our Lord Himself, our God, our Saviour, and Supreme King, Jesus Christ."
The Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, used in the Patriarchate of Constantinople, has the following:
"Through all, and in all things, we offer to Thee, thine Own, out of Thine Own gifts. We offer to Thee this reasonable and unbloody Worship, and beg, pray, beseech Thee, to send down Thine Holy Spirit upon us, and upon these Gifts lying before Thee. Make this Bread the precious Body of Thy Christ, and what is in this Cup the precious Blood of Thy Christ."