« AnteriorContinuar »
HAVING treated, in the former Letter, of the Sacrament of Baptisın, I mean to occupy the present with discussing the other, and, according to the protestant faith, the only remaining sacrament of our holy religion. This sublimely mysterious ordinance is termed by St Paul, · The LORD'S
SUPPER! It was also at an early period distinguished by the significant title of the Holy Euchavist ; under both which expressive appellations, the catholic church receives it with the utmost thankfulness and reverential regard, as being the last precious bequest of love and blessing which Christ vouchsafed to give, and which he appropriated to the nourishment, strength, and protection of all the faithful members of his mystical body, in their present militant state on earth.
In this sacred institution, under the material signs and symbols of bread and wine, formally sanctified, and consecrated by prayer, christians are made partakers of the body and blood of Christ,
which, which being (vere et realiter) verily and indeed present in this holy sacrament, is, in virtue of such presence, believed to be verily and indeed taken * and received by the faithful', in the due celebration of it'. This, being the express doctrine authorised in holy scripture, constituted, in general, the belief of the primitive ages, and was cordially embraced in all parts of the church catholic, without fear of indulging superstition, on the one hand --without tendency to modern debasement, on the other.
1 I Cor. xi. 20.
Indeed all the primitive Fathers, of whose works any remains exist, speak of the sacrament of the Eucharist, in terms of extatic praise and admiration. Its design, and its effects, they simply relate; nor so much as attempt any of those minute descriptions which writers of after-times have introduced ; and which, originating in philosophy and vain
deceit,' have clouded and obscured, instead of illustrating this gracious Institution. It is indeed remarkable that, of all the various heretics, who at an early date infested the christian church, not one did ever presume to meddle with the Lord's supper; further than by consequence, and in conformity with the different notions which they entertained about the person and nature of Christ, the original institutor. This indirect mode of cavil excepted, the Eucharistic doctrine continued for
i See Church Catechism-Of the Sacraments,
a long period universally and uniformly the same. Nay, uniforinity of opinion begat uniformis ty of practice, as stands exemplified in all the ancient liturgies now extant; which liturgies, whether they really be the genuine compositions or not of those whose names they bear, are in so far valuable as, by their harmony and mutual agreement, they discover to us the belief and the practice of those early ages, in this important article of every christian's faith.
Upon the basis therefore of Scripture doctrine, explained by primitive and catholic usage, we are warranted to behold this divine Institution in a twofold point of view. In the first place, we are warranted to behold it as a commemorative sacri'fice;' or, if this language be thought too near akin to the language of the Romish church, we are warranted to behold it, as a sacrificial commemoration' • of the one tull, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, ob• lation, and satisfaction, which Christ once offered, !' of his body giren, and of his blood shed for the • sins of the whole world. In this view, we celebrate the eucharistic oblation, as the highest and most acceptable act of christian worship (in its two constituent branches of supplication and praise) which the christian church can perform ; presenting thereby, in the way of his own appointment, the efficacious merits of Christ's death and atonement, as the sure foundation of all our hopes, and as the only ground upon which we presume
to plead for, or expect to obtain, any portion of mercy or blessing from · God in Christ reconcil.
ing the world to himself;' and at the same time, humbly offering our hearty sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise, for the innumerable benefits procured to us by the precious subject of this commemoration.
In the second place, we are warranted to receive the life-giving symbols of bread and wine, as a heavenly repast, or feast, upon this commemorative sacrifice, when we become God's peculiar property by a solemn act of oblation ; and are thus admitted to the inestimable honour of feasting at his table, as a pledge of his reconciliation and love to us; for the spiritual nourishment of our souls in grace, and for the preservation of our souls and bodies unto everlasting life. In the first point of view, do all faithful christians hold it to be their indispensible duty to celebrate the commemoration of Christ, their passover, who was slain' for them, in obedience to their blessed Lord's express command, • do this in remembrance of me, or, as the original language more strongly expresses it, make this to • be my (avouerno:s) commemoration. In the second point of view, do all faithful christians esteem it a singular blessing, to be permitted to become privileged partakers of this sanctified food, by eating and drinking what our gracious Lord invited his apostles to eat and drink, when he said-take, * eat, this is my body'-'this is my blood, drink ye • all of it.' The bread which we break, we accordingly regard as the communion of the body of Christ; the
cup which we bless, as the communion of the blood of Christ; and therefore do we hold it to be a fundamental truth that the
of the Lord is not to be denied to the lay-people, but • that both the parts of the Lord's sacrament, by • Christ's ordinance and commandment, ought to • be ministred to all christian men alike'.'
I have now to observe, that, as the sacrament of the Lord's supper holds the most prominent place in the christian system, so has it, in these latter days, been the subject of more contention, and has occasioned more divisions and separations among men professing themselves christians, than any
other article of faith whatever. At first received throughout the church with the utmost humility of mind and soul, and celebrated with the most reverent simplicity of devotion, the holy eucharist answered all the beneficial purposes intended by it. By degrees however, and exactly in proportion to the advance made by the Aristotelian philosophy in Europe, did this divine institution become the subject of metaphysical inquiry ; until, instead of the venerable depth of mystery in which the holy scriptures had recorded the history of it, and in which the primitive church had long observed it, the supper of our Lord came to be examined, and defined by the newly introduced distinctions of genus and species, of
i See Article sxx.