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Furthermore, if we consider with how great darkness the world was beset, when they which moved this controversy began to lead us back again to the light of the verity, indeed we will marvel nothing at all, though they knew not all things from the beginning. It is rather a notable miracle of God, that they in so little space of time were so illumined, that they themselves might escape, and lead other, out of that sink of errors wherein we had been so long time drowned.
But there is no better way than to rehearse the matter itself, even as it was done. For thereby it shall appear, that there is not so much matter of offence in this behalf, as is commonly supposed to be.
When Luther began to teach, he handled the matter of the supper so that, as concerning the corporal presence of Christ, he seemed to leave it such as all men did then conceive. For condemning transubstantiation, he said, that the bread was the body of Christ, because it was joined together with him ; besides this, he added certain hard and gross similitudes. But that he did by compulsion, because he could not otherwise declare his mind. For it is a hard thing to expound so hard a matter, and not to use some things not all of the fittest for the purpose. After this did Zuinglius and Ecolampadius begin to grow : which when they considered the guile and deceit that the devil had brought in in establishing that carnal presence, which had been taught and believed for six hundred years before, they supposed it wickedness to dissemble a matter of so great importance ; and chiefly, because there was annexed unto this error an execrable idolatry, that Christ should be worshipped, as included under a piece of bread. But because it was very hard to pull back this opinion, which had been long and deeply rooted in the hearts of men, they applied all the force of their wit to impugn
the same, teaching that it was a most gross and absurd error not to acknowledge those things which be throughout the whole scripture testified of the ascension of Christ ; that he in the nature of man is received into heaven, and that he shall tarry there until he descend to judge the world. But whiles they were very much bent unto this purpose, they omitted to declare, what presence of Christ in the supper we ought to believe, and what communion of his body and blood is there received: insomuch that Luther supposed them willing
to leave nought else but the bare signs, void of the spiritual substance; and therefore he began to resist openly, insomuch that he declared them worthy to be counted for heretics. And after the contention waxed once hot, in progress of time it was so increased and inflamed, that it was too fiercely stirred to and fro about a fifteen years together; during which time neither party would with indifferent and quiet mind hear other. For although that they did once confer between themselves, yet was there so great alienation of minds, that they departed, the purpose not brought to pass. For when they should have come to some concord, they recoiled more and more, minding nought else but to defend their opinion, and to confute the contrary.
We perceive therefore, in what thing Luther erred, and also wherein Zuinglius and Ecolampadius did err. Luther's duty, at the beginning to admonish that it was not his purpose to stablish such a local presence as the papists do dream; also, to protest that he sought not in this place to have the sacrament honoured as God; thirdly, to abstain from those rude similitudes, most hard to be understanded, or else to use them moderately, and to interpret them so that they might not have been cause of any offence. To conclude, since that contention was moved, he passed all measure, both in declaring his opinion, and also in rebuking other with too much rigour of words. For when he should have expounded his mind, so that it might have been received; according to his accustomed vehemency, to the intent to impugn them that held the contrary, he used incredible forms of speaking, which could not well be suffered of them, whose minds were but slenderly appointed to give credence to him. The other also offended, in that they did stick so stiffly in the impugning of that superstitious and fantastical opinion of the papists, as concerning the placely presence, and the adoration that followed thereof, employing their diligence to the rooting out of vices, rather than to the establishing of that thing which was profitable to be known. For notwithstanding that they denied not the verity, yet did they not teach it openly, as was beseeming. This do I understand, that whiles they gave themselves studiously and diligently to affirm that the bread and wine were called the body and blood of Christ, because they be the signs thereof, they thought not that they ought in the mean time to do this thing also, to add to that, they are the signs after such sort that the verity is nevertheless joined unto them. Neither did they declare that they went not about to deface the true communion which the Lord giveth us in his body and blood.
Of truth, neither of them was unworthy blame, forasmuch as they did not sustain to hear one another; that, all affection laid apart, they might follow the verity, on which side soever it should appear. But yet ought not we therefore to let pass our duty towards them, lest we forget the mercies and benefits which God gave unto them, and distributed unto us by their hands. For unless we be unthankful and unmindful of those things which we owe unto them, abstaining from all reproach and evil report, we shall easily forgive these and much greater things. To conclude, seeing that we know they were both of godly conversation and excellent doctrine, and that they also which at this day be on-live' be no less, we ought neither to speak nor judge of them otherwise than with great modesty and reverence. And chiefly, because it hath pleased our Lord God so, that after he had by this means instructed them to humility, he made an end of this unhappy contention, or at the least qualified it for the time, so that in the mean season it might be finished.
This have I spoken, because there is as yet no order published, wherein that concord is appointed; which thing were very necessary. But this thing shall be, when God will that all they which should set an order in these things do agree in one. In the mean time this ought to suffice you, that there be a brotherly friendship and conjunction between the congregations, as belongeth to the christian communion. With one voice therefore we all confess, that when we do, according to the institution of the Lord, receive the sacrament with faith, we are undoubtedly made partakers of the substance of the body and blood of Christ. How this thing should be done, some men can better define, and more plainly expound, than some. But this thing is chiefly to be remembered, that we exclude all carnal imagination, and that the mind ought to be erected up into heaven, and that we think not our Lord Jesu Christ to be so vile that he may [1 On-live: alive. Old edition, on lyue.]
be contained in corruptible elements. Again, lest the force
of this most sacred mystery should be diminished,
which is for that cause