[A Letter &c.]

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And now at length let me proceed to the doctrine itself to which these remarks relate, the doctrine of the Holy Eucharist. Here I could have much wished that you had, {228} at least in your Notes, drawn out that view of it which you consider to be Scriptural and Anglican. It would have been a great satisfaction to know where we both are standing, how far I can assent, how far I am obliged to dissent from your opinion. But, excepting from one or two half-sentences, I really can gather nothing to the purpose; I only see you do not hold, but rather condemn, a view which Bp. Cosin declares to be that of all "the Protestant" or "Reformed Churches." To this difficulty I must submit as I can; and instead of letting the course of my remarks run as a comment on your pages, shall be obliged against my will to answer you by a categorical view of my own [Note 1].

As regards then this most sacred subject, three questions offer themselves for consideration; first, whether there is a Real Presence of Christ in this Holy Sacrament, next what It is, and thirdly where. 1. On the Real Presence I shall not use many words of my own, because on the one hand it is expressly recognized by the Catechism and Homilies, (not to mention the language of the Service itself,) and on the other because you do not absolutely condemn such language, only you think it "highly objectionable {229} and dangerous" when "systematically and studiously adopted." I shall not therefore debate a point which the formularies of our Church decide, when they declare that "the Body and Blood of Christ" are "verily and indeed taken and received by the faithful in the Lord's Supper;" that "the Body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten in the Supper;" and that "thus much we must be sure to hold, that in the Supper of the Lord there is no vain ceremony, no bare sign, no untrue figure of a thing absent, but as the Scripture saith, ... the communion of the Body and Blood of the Lord, in a marvellous incorporation, which by the operation of the Holy Ghost, the very bond of our conjunction with Christ, is through faith wrought in the souls of the faithful, whereby not only their souls live to eternal life, but they surely trust to win to their bodies a resurrection to immortality." [Note 2] These passages seem to determine that the Body and Blood of Christ are not absent but present in the Lord's Supper; and if really, and in fact Christ's Body be there, His Soul is there, and His Divinity; for as the Article says, the two natures are "never to be divided;" therefore He is there, "One Christ," whole and entire. Nor does any one doubt of His Presence on our Altars as God, for He is everywhere; but the question is, whether His human nature also is present in the Sacrament.

In corroboration of the view here taken of the statements of our Church, I quote the following passage from Hooker, who, we all know, was not in this, any more than in other points, an extreme Divine. He argues that the three Schools of opinion in his day, the Romanists, the Lutherans, and the Sacramentaries, (the last, I need not say, being one which nowhere exists as a body at this day, but which originally was the school of Zuinglius and Œcolampadius,) might well waive the question among themselves, how Christ is present, upon the common confession {230} that He is really present. And he defends the Sacramentaries from the objection then urged against them, and since fulfilled in their descendants, that they admitted a Presence in words and explained it away; and, as believing they did not explain it away, he admits them into this compact of charity, as it may be called. He says, "It is on all sides plainly confessed, ... that this Sacrament is a true and real participation of Christ, who thereby imparteth Himself, even His whole entire Person, as a mystical head unto every soul that receiveth Him, and that every such receiver doth thereby incorporate or unite himself unto Christ as a mystical member of Him, yea of them also whom He acknowledgeth to be His own ... It seemeth therefore much amiss, that against them whom they term Sacramentaries so many invective discourses are made, all running upon two points, that the Eucharist is not a bare sign or figure only, and that the efficacy of His Body and Blood is not all we receive in this Sacrament. For no man, having read their books and writings which are thus traduced, can be ignorant that both these assertions they plainly confess to be most true. They do not so interpret the words of Christ, as if the name of His Body did import but the figure of His Body; and to be were only to signify His Blood. They grant that these Holy Mysteries, received in due manner, do instrumentally both make us partakers of the grace of that Body and Blood which were given for the life of the world, and besides also impart to us, even in true and real, though mystical manner, the very Person of our Lord Himself, whole, perfect and entire, as hath been showed." [Note 3]

Elsewhere he says, "Doth any man doubt, but that even from the flesh of Christ our very bodies do receive that life which shall make them glorious at the latter day; and for which they are already accounted parts of His {231} Blessed Body? Our corruptible bodies could never live the life they shall live, were it not that here they are joined with His Body which is incorruptible, and that His is in ours as a cause of immortality, a cause by removing through the death and merit of His own Flesh that which hindered the life of ours. Christ is therefore, both as God and as man, that true Vine whereof we both spiritually and corporally are branches. The mixture of His bodily Substance with ours is a thing which the Ancient Fathers disclaim. Yet the mixture of His Flesh with ours they speak of, to signify what our very bodies, through mystical conjunction, receive from that vital efficacy which we know to be in His; and from bodily mixtures they borrow diverse similitudes, rather to declare the truth than the manner of coherence between His Sacred, and the sanctified bodies of saints." [Note 4]


2. So much on the testimony of our Church and of her celebrated Divine to the doctrine of the Real Presence. But here it is objected that such a Presence is impossible; and this brings us to the question how Christ is present, which stands next for consideration. The objection takes this form,—if He is really here, He is locally here, but He is locally in heaven not here, therefore He cannot really be here, but is only said to be here. Now to take in hand this question.

In answer, Bellarmine maintains that our Lord can be locally here, though He is in heaven; for he lays it down as a certain truth that a body can be in two places at once [Note 5]. {232} Accordingly he would say, that in the Sacrament that very Body, which died upon the Cross, and rose again and ascended, is locally present under the accidents of Bread.

Our Church, however, incidentally argues that a body cannot be in two places at once [Note 6]; and that the Body of Christ is not locally present, in the sense in which we speak {233} of the Bread as being locally present. On the other hand she determines, as I have already said, that the Body of Christ is in some unknown way, though not locally yet really present, so that we after some ineffable manner partake of it. Whereas then the objection stands, Christ is not really here, because He is not locally here, she answers, He is really here, yet not locally.


I will say directly what is meant by this; before doing so, however, let me briefly observe that there is nothing (as far as I am aware) in Mr. Froude's writings in countenance of the local presence on earth, as it is commonly understood, though he certainly did not sympathize with the Reformers at all in their mode of arguing on the subject. When he speaks of "making the Body and Blood of Christ," or indirectly adopts the phrase of "making the Bread and Wine the Body and Blood of Christ," he does not go beyond the doctrine of the Real Presence, which, as we shall see, need not be local; and in the use of the one phrase he is borne out by Hooker, who speaks of the Christian Ministry as having "power imparted" to it by Christ, "both over that mystical body which is the society of souls, and over that Natural, which is Himself, for the knitting of both in one, a work which Antiquity doth call the making of Christ's Body;" while he brings forward the other, not in his own words, but in the words of Bishop Bull, who says, "We are not ignorant that the ancient Fathers generally teach that the Bread and Wine in the Eucharist, by or upon the consecration of them, do become and are made the Body and Blood of Christ."

Mr. Froude's strong language, then, had the sanction of our Divines; how far, on the other hand, he was from agreeing with the Roman doctrine will be clearly seen from a passage of his writings, not yet published. In an {234} unfinished Essay on Rationalism, speaking of the interpretation which supposes "This is My Body" to mean "This is a sign of My Body," he says, "This mode of speaking ... is true in one sense, and in every other gratuitous and improper. If it is intended simply to deny, that by the words 'This is My Body' our Lord meant, 'This is that very Body of Mine which you see before you sitting at the Table,' then indeed the sentiment is true, however awkward may be the expression of it [Note 7]. But if the words 'Sign of My Body,' are understood to convey any idea more definite and intelligible than that which is conveyed in our Lord's own words, then most certainly that idea is unscriptural, it is a mere human invention fabricated to set the mind at rest, where God has seen fit to leave it in uncertainly." Hence he says the very thing which I conceive our Church holds, that Christ's Body is present, but how it is present is a mystery; it being hidden from us how Christ can be really here, yet not locally. Both Protestant and Romanist attempt to explain how; Protestants by saying it is a mere figurative or nominal presence, and as to Romanists, I will quote Mr. Froude's own words about them which occur soon after: "Opposed to these errors, (the Protestant,) but erroneous much for the same reason, is the Roman Catholic dogma about Transubstantiation. Unlike the Protestant glosses, this does not attempt to explain away everything miraculous in the history of the Last Supper; but by explaining precisely wherein the miracle consists and how it is brought about, it aims like them at relieving us from a confession of ignorance [Note 8], and so far must be {235} regarded as a contrivance of human scepticism, to elude the claims of Faith, and to withdraw from the hidden Mysteries of religion the indistinctness in which God has thought fit to envelope them." [Note 9]


But now to return, what is the meaning of saying that Christ is really present, yet not locally? This was the second point I had to consider, and I will make two suggestions upon it, in both of which the Sacramental Presence shall be viewed as real, yet in neither local.

First, as to material things, what do we mean, when we speak of an object being present to us? How do we define and measure its presence? To a blind and deaf man that only is present which he touches. Give him hearing, and the range of things present to him enlarges; everything is present to him which he hears. Give him at length sight, and the sun may be said to be present to him in the daytime, and myriads of stars by night. Presence then is a relative word, depending on the channels of communication existing between the object and the person to whom it is present. It is almost a correlative of the senses. A fly may be as near an edifice as a man: yet we do not call it present to the fly, because he cannot see it, and we do call it present to the man, because he can.

But we must add another element to the idea expressed by the word in the case of matter. A thing may be said to be present to us, which is so circumstanced as immediately to act upon us and to influence us, whether we are sensible of it or no. Perhaps then our Lord is present to us in the Sacrament in this sense, that, far as He is off us, He in it acts personally, bodily, and directly upon us, {236} though how He does so is as simply beyond us, as the results of eyesight are inconceivable to the blind. We know but of five senses,—we know not whether human nature is capable of more; we know not whether the soul possesses any instruments of knowledge and moral advantage analogous to them; but neither have we any reason to deny that the soul may be capable of having Christ present to it by the stimulus of dormant or the development of possible energies. As sight for certain purposes annihilates space, so other unknown conditions of our being, bodily or spiritual, may practically annihilate it for other purposes. Such may be the Sacramental Presence. We kneel before the Heavenly Throne, and distance vanishes; it is as if that Throne were the Altar close to us.


This is my first suggestion; my second is as follows:—

Our Lord, not only "did rise again from death," as the Article says, "and took again His Body with flesh, bones, and all things appertaining to the perfection of man's nature," but He rose with what St. Paul terms "a spiritual body;" so that now that He is in heaven, He is not subject to the laws of matter, and has no necessary relations to place, no dependence on its conditions; and, for what we know, His mode of making Himself present on earth, of coming and going, is as different from the mode natural to bodies by locomotion,—nearness being determined by intervals and absence being synonymous with distance,—as spirit is different from matter. He may be literally present in the Holy Eucharist, yet, not having become present by a movement and a transit, He may still be continuously on God's right hand: so that, though He be present with us in deed and in truth, it may be impossible, it may be untrue, to determine that He is in or about the elements, or in the soul of the communicant. These may be serviceable modes {237} of speech according to the occasion; but the true result of all such inquiries is no more than the assertion with which we began, that He is present in the Holy Eucharist but not locally present. We, to whom the idea of space is a necessity, and who have no experience of spirits, are of course unequal to the conception of such an idea, and can only call a mystery what is as transporting and elevating to the religious sense, as it is difficult to the intellect.

Let it be observed that I am not proving or determining anything; I am only showing how it is that certain propositions which at first sight seem contradictions in terms, are not so; I am but pointing out ways of reconciling them. If even there is only one way assignable, the force of any antecedent objection against the possibility of reconciling them is removed, and there may be other ways supposable though not assignable.


3. And now the way is clear to add a few words on the third point, viz. the relation of the consecrated elements to those Realities of which they are the outward signs.

The Roman Church, we know, considers that the elements of Bread and Wine depart or are taken away on Consecration, and that the Body and Blood of Christ take their place. This is the doctrine of Transubstantiation; and in consequence they hold that what is seen, felt, and tasted, is not Bread and Wine but Christ's Flesh and Blood, though the former look, feel, and taste remains [Note 10]. This is what neither our Church, nor any of the late maintainers of her doctrine on the subject, even dreams of holding. Again, the Lutherans say that, though the Bread remains, the body of Christ is within [intra] the Bread; neither is this countenanced by any of the persons on whom you animadvert. These hold a Spiritual Presence to be {238} such as not to allow of being strictly co-extensive with place, in the way in which a bodily substance is, in the way in which the Bread is: therefore they cannot be said to countenance the Lutheran doctrine of Consubstantiation. What they do say is that Christ's Body is really and literally present, but they do not know how; it being a mystery, as I have said already, how, as being spiritual it can be really present, yet not locally or as bodies are.

It is true there is a passage in Mr. Froude's Letters in which he seems to assert that the Body of Christ is locally in the Bread; though this is, I apprehend, not really the case on a candid judgment of it. He finds fault with an expression in a Poem, which, speaking of the Lord's Supper, says, "There present in the heart, not in the hands, &c." He adds, "How can we possibly know that it is true to say, 'not in the hands'?" p. 404; that is, he much disliked dogmatic decisions of any kind upon the subject. He does not rule that it is in the hands, but, with Hooker, he wishes the question left open; be disliked its being determined that it was in the heart in a sense in which it was not in the hands, seeing we know nothing of the matter. To say it was in both did not interfere with the doctrine of Christ's local presence in heaven; but to say that Christ is in the heart and not in the hands, did so fix His presence here as to make it local, and in consequence might be taken to interfere with that His one abiding presence at God's right hand. I am certain, from what I know of his opinions, that he did not mean, that the Body of Christ which is on God's right hand, was literally in the Bread.

But, without limiting our Lord's presence to the consecrated elements, it seems nothing but the truth to say that they are His immediate antecedents; so that whoever in faith receives them, at once and without assignable medium, is gifted with His Presence who is on God's right hand. As the breath is the immediate forerunner of the {239} voice, as the face is the image of the soul, as a garment marks a bodily presence, so, I conceive, the elements are the antecedents of His Body and Blood, or what our Article calls, the "efficacious signs by the which He doth work invisibly in us," or, as Hooker calls them, His "instruments." And hence, whereas He is unseen, and His Presence ineffable, and known only by Its outward signs, we say that, when we receive them, we receive the awful Realities which follow on them; when we touch the one, with our spirit we touch the Other, when we eat the one, we eat the Other, when we drink the one, we drink the Other. And, whereas what is spiritual has no parts, and what is spiritual cannot receive in part, therefore when we speak of eating Christ's Body with our souls, the words cannot be grossly or absurdly taken to mean a partial or gradual communication of so Heavenly a Treasure, as happens in carnal eating; but in some unknown way the soul becomes possessed at once of Christ according to its nature, and as bodily contact is the mode in which Bread nourishes our bodies, so the soul, and the motions of the soul, and faith which is of the soul, as by an inward contact, is the mean and instrument of receiving Christ.


Now let it be considered whether the following extracts from the Homilies and the Ecclesiastical Polity do not bear out the main points which have been insisted on. In consideration of the importance of the subject, I hope you will pardon their length.

"The true understanding," says the first part of the Sermon concerning the Sacrament, "of this fruition and union, which is betwixt the body and the Head, betwixt the true believers and Christ, and the Ancient Catholic Fathers both perceiving themselves and commending to their people, were not afraid to call this supper, some of {240} them the Salve of immortality and sovereign preservative against death; other, a deifical communion; other, the sweet dainties of our Saviour, the pledge of eternal health, the defence of faith, the hope of the resurrection; other, the food of immortality, the healthful grace, and the conservatory to everlasting life ... It is well known that the meat we seek for in this supper is spiritual food, the nourishment of our soul, a heavenly refection, and not earthly; an invisible meal, and not bodily; a ghostly substance, and not carnal ... Take then this lesson, O thou that are desirous of this Table, of Emissenus, a godly father, that when thou goest up to the reverend Communion, to be satisfied with spiritual meats, thou look up with faith upon the Holy Body and Blood of thy God, thou marvel with reverence, thou touch It with thy mind, thou receive It with the hand of thy heart, and thou take It fully with thy inward man."

Such is the language of the Homily, nor does Hooker come short of it. "The Bread and Cup," he says, "are His Body and Blood, because they are causes instrumental, upon the receipt whereof the participation of His Body and Blood ensueth ... Our souls and bodies quickened to eternal life are effects, the cause whereof is the Person of Christ: His Body and Blood are the true well-spring out of which this life floweth. So that His Body and Blood are in that very subject whereunto they minister life; not only by effect or operation, even as the influence of the heavens is in plants, beasts, men, and in everything which they quicken; but also by a far more divine and mystical kind of union, which maketh us one with Him, even as He and the Father are one. The Real Presence of Christ's most Blessed Body and Blood is not therefore to be sought for in the Sacrament, but in the worthy receiver of the Sacrament." [Note 11] {241}

Soon after follows the well-known passage: "Such as love piety, will, as much as in them lieth, know all things that God commandeth, but especially the duties of service which they owe to God. As for His dark and hidden works, they prefer, as becometh them in such cases, simplicity of faith before that knowledge, which, curiously sifting what it should adore, and disputing too boldly of that which the wit of man cannot search, chilleth for the most part all warmth of zeal, and bringeth soundness of belief many times into great hazard. Let it therefore be sufficient for me, presenting myself at the Lord's Table, to know what there I receive from Him, without searching or inquiring of the manner how Christ performeth His promise. Let disputes and questions, enemies to piety, abatements of true devotion, and hitherto in this cause but overpatiently heard, let them take their rest. Let curious and sharp-witted men beat their heads about what questions themselves will; the very letter of the Word of Christ giveth plain security, that these Mysteries do, as nails, fasten us to His very Cross, that by them we draw out, (as touching efficacy, force, and virtue,) even the blood of His gored side; in the wounds of our Redeemer we there dip our tongues, we are dyed red both within and without; our hunger is so satisfied, and our thirst for ever quenched. They are things wonderful which he feeleth, great which he seeth, and unheard of which he uttereth, whose soul is possessed of this Pascha Lamb, and made joyful in the strength of this new wine. This bread hath in it more than the substance which our eyes behold; this Cup hallowed with solemn benediction availeth to the endless life and welfare both of soul and body; in that it serveth as well for a medicine to heal our infirmities and purge our sins, as for a sacrifice of thanksgiving. With touching it sanctifieth, it enlighteneth with belief; it truly comforteth us unto the Image of Jesus Christ. What these elements are {242} in themselves, it skilleth not; it is enough, that to me which take them they are the Body and Blood of Christ. His promise in witness hereof sufficeth; His word He knoweth which way to accomplish. Why should any cogitation possess the mind of a faithful communicant but this, O my God, Thou art True—O my soul, thou art happy?" [Note 12]


What a contrast do glowing thoughts like these present to such teaching as has been too much in esteem among us of late years! For instance, to glean from your pages the few notices of your own opinion which are scattered there; what a difference there is between "visible symbols" of "His absent Body and Blood," and "Mysteries which, as nails, fasten us to His very Cross;"—between "the communion of the benefits of His sufferings and death," and "Holy Mysteries imparting not grace only, but besides, even in true and real though mystical manner, the Very Person of our Lord Himself, whole, perfect, and entire;"—between "signs attended by the blessings, of Christ" and "doth any man doubt but that even from the flesh of Christ our very bodies do receive" everlasting "life;"—between "the body and blood of Christ" not "spiritually included in the elements" but "spiritually received by the faithful," and "Bread which hath in it more than the substance which our eyes behold," "a ghostly substance," "an invisible meal!" Alas! what a decrepiture has come on us since Hooker's day! "How has the fine gold become dim!" How has the promise of the spring played us false in the summer! How have the lean kine eaten up the fat kine, and the thin ears choked the full ones! What a spiritual famine, or rather what locusts and cankerworms are our portion! the olive-tree can be content with its own fatness, and the fig-tree with its {243} sweetness, and the vine reckons it much "to cheer god and man;" but the thin and empty ears of Zurich and Geneva think it scorn unless they devour and make a clean end of the pleasant and fair pastures of Catholic doctrine, which are our heritage:

                        Interque nitentia culta
Infelix lolium et steriles domiuantur avenę.

Indeed, the change, which the tone of our theology has undergone in the last two centuries, is almost too much for belief. Then, on the one hand, we find Hooker, earnest in vindicating even the Zuinglians from the charge of denying that Christ's Person as well as His grace, His Person whole and entire, is in the Lord's Supper, and Cosin confident in the agreement of all Protestants in the same doctrine; and now on the other hand we witness, not Zuinglians merely and Calvinists abjuring it, but even the Margaret Professor of Divinity in Oxford unable even in thought to distinguish it from Consubstantiation, considering it "highly objectionable and dangerous," and in spite of Hooker and Cosin, denying that individuals holding it, are "safe and consistent members of the Church of England." However, it is out of place to lament over these things, at a time when one trusts that they are (as it were) at low water mark and that the tide is turning. It is more to the purpose to remove every obstacle, however small, to its natural return; and under this feeling I proceed to notice the only argument you use against the Real Presence, which has any plausibility.


You state it thus: "The case of the profane Corinthians is a sufficient proof that they had never heard of Transubstantiation. Had St. Paul inculcated upon them that doctrine or any other modification of the Real Presence of Christ's Body and Blood in the elements of Bread and {244} Wine, their conduct would have been not simply incredible, but morally impossible." p. 18. Let us then consider the state of the case.

Whether it was possible for men, believing that in drinking of "the Cup of blessing" they communicated in Christ's blood, to drink of that Cup to intoxication, I need not determine, for I do not think the Corinthians were guilty of this crime. At the same time, if I must answer, it is enough to say, that, in truth, as no assignable limits can be put to the self-delusion and perverseness of the human heart, it would not surprise me if they were. The sins of the Israelites, such as the golden calf, murmuring at the manna, or looking into the ark; the dreadful history of Balaam, and the waywardness of Jonah; exhibit far stronger instances of inconsistency, than could have been anticipated beforehand as possible: and if human nature can go so far beyond our anticipations, I do not see why it should not go further. There is nothing to show that the intoxication in question had occurred before, or that it was intentional; and I think many persons will recollect particular occasions, when their own conduct before and after the Holy Communion has been such as to fill them with astonishment, as well as dismay, ever since. I do not then see any reason for deciding, that, had any very sacred idea been connected with the Eucharist in the minds of the Corinthians, they must of necessity have abstained from profaning it. A man must be very good and innocent to have a right to imagine, that such excess as theirs in spite of their knowledge was impossible; and since the majority of men are not such, I think that, plausible as the objection in question is at first sight, yet, even when made the most of, it will not weigh with that majority.

Have we never heard in our own times of the most shocking sins committed in prayer-meetings? Cannot {245} persons possibly be betrayed, while the name of Christ is on their lips, into deeds of darkness?

Again, is there anything more terrible than instances of persons, while they lie, calling on God to strike them dead if they are lying? Yet are not instances recorded of the sin and the infliction? A monument is set up at Devizes in memory of such a dreadful occurrence. If we cannot help acknowledging that the one enormity has occurred, I see no reason for deciding that the other cannot occur. I do not say which is the greater sin; but it does seem as if one might more easily be seduced into fancying sensual indulgence to be a part of religion, and the excitement arising from excess to be devotional feeling, than into taking a false oath, and calling on Almighty God to curse and smite us for it.

The profession, then, that the Cup of blessing is really the communication of the Lord's Blood is no infallible safeguard against very heinous acts of sacrilege towards it; nor the circumstance of their profaning it, a proof that they did not believe in it. Indeed, does not the punishment inflicted on the offending Corinthians imply some dreadful profanation of something very sacred? Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead for lying to the Holy Ghost; the unworthy communicant is "weak and sickly," or "sleeps," that is, is visited by death. If we suppose that he does profane the Lord's Body and Blood, the punishment is intelligible; it is not intelligible, if it be but a want of self-restraint after a commemoration or an appropriation of Christ's merits. Death seems like the punishment of blasphemy; there is no blasphemy, whatever sin there be, in turning religious feasting into excess. Again, the phrases "eating and drinking judgment unto himself;" as not "discerning the Lord's body," and being "guilty of the body and blood of the Lord," certainly do seem to imply some special act of blasphemy, of which {246} the doctrine of the Real Presence does, and the doctrine of a mere appropriation does not, supply a sufficient explanation.


So much taking the offence at the worst; but in matter of fact there does not seem any good reason for supposing that, strictly speaking, the excess in question was occasioned by the consecrated Cup; nor is such the interpretation given to the passage by St. Chrysostom, and other ancient commentators. In those early times it would appear, that the celebration of the Eucharist was often the first act of that social meal which Christians partook when they met together. Men under every dispensation, have, in their religious meetings, taken the firstfruits of their substance, and have solemnly offered them to God, in grateful acknowledgment of His bounty to them, and with prayer that they might be blessed to them, not only for bodily nourishment, but as a means of gaining His favour. Such were the sacrifices of thanksgiving among the Jews; and Christ retained the ordinance in His Church, only annexing to it a higher meaning, and more varied purposes, and more sacred benefits. The feast of God's visible good gifts was continued; but it was held chiefly for the poorer members of the Church, and furnished by the more wealthy, in accordance with the Divine command, "When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours, lest they also bid thee again, and a recompense be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind; and thou shalt be blessed, for they cannot recompense thee, for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just." And, whereas the choicest produce, whether of the earth, or of flocks or herds, had been selected for the sacred rite in the {247} former sacrifices, the appointed materials of the Christian offering are Bread and Wine, the chief stays of bodily life; and whereas the old sacrifice had been both an acknowledgment to God, and a pledge of favour from Him, these holy elements were this and much more, at once a thankful remembrance, and also a symbolical pleading before Him of that all-sufficient Sacrifice which had once been offered on the Cross, and next, the actual means by which that Sacrifice is brought home in spirit and in truth to each believer.


When then the Corinthians are said to have committed excess, there is no reason for supposing that the consecrated elements were the materials of it; rather the meal, which followed, which ought to have been a frugal repast, not to satisfy hunger so much as to be an opportunity of mutual friendliness, nor for the rich but for the poor, was made a mere animal refreshment or carnal indulgence, altogether out of character with a religious meeting. Hence he says, "What, have ye not houses to eat and drink in? or despise ye the Church of God, and shame them that have not," i.e. that are poor? Moreover, it is not certain that the word translated "is drunken" has strictly that meaning. It is the word in the Septuagint version in Gen. xliii. 34, which our Translation renders "they drank and were merry with him." Joseph's brethren ate and drank freely, indulged themselves as men who had met with unexpected good; which need not imply gross intemperance. And such seems to have been the sin of the Corinthians; they turned a religious meeting into a mere festivity, and thus evidenced a state of mind which could not have seriously and reverently taken part in the High Mystery with which it commenced. They who could end a religious rite by freely indulging in wine which had been offered up to God, and in part consecrated {248} and given back to them as His blood, could not have really come in faith to that offering, consecration, and communion.


The feast I have been describing seems to have been that which was called Agape, or the feast of charity, and is alluded to by St. Jude in a passage which corroborates what has been said. He mentions certain heretics who among their other sins committed in their love-feasts the same kind of fault as the Corinthians. "These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you feeding themselves without fear;" words which are parallel to St. Peter's, concerning those who "shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the daytime. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings, while they feast with you."

Such abuses as these, whether from the intrusion of heretics or the frailness of Christians, led to a speedy suppression of the Agape, as far as the Church could do so. But the practice lingered on in one shape or other for some centuries. The growth of the Christian body brought it into contact in various ways with heathenism; and those excesses, which had been in favour with a gross populace before their conversion were introduced into it by means of the Agape. Even at the end of the fourth century, St. Austin had to defend the Church against Faustus the Manichee, who maintained, on the ground of such irregularities, that the practice itself had had a heathen origin. In his reply he allows that the feast was abused, but he traces it to its original source, the Apostolic feast of charity, the real object of which was to provide a meal for the poor [Note 13]. Shortly before, St. Ambrose had succeeded in suppressing it at Milan; but in Greece it continued even as late as the {249} seventh century, as we learn from the Council in Trullo, which renewed against it a Canon passed at Laodicea in the fourth.


However, though such was the perversion and consequent inexpedience of this primitive feast, and such the earnestness with which the Church even in the Apostles' days set herself against it, yet it must not be supposed that it was never anything but a scandal. In some of the descriptions left us of it by Antiquity, it appears as an innocent, or rather a beautiful and impressive ordinance. St. Chrysostom's account of it is very near the same as what I have been drawing out. He observes that the first Christians had all things in common; and that when the distinction of property came to be observed, which took place even in the Apostles' time, then this usage remained as a sort of shadow and symbol of it; that on certain days, after Sermon, Prayers, and Holy Communion, they did not break up at once, but took part rich and poor in a common feast, the rich supplying provisions, the poor feasting [Note 14]. St. Chrysostom seems to speak of the earliest times; for shortly after or in other parts of the Church the feast seems to have been delayed till the evening. Pliny in his celebrated Letter to Trajan speaks of Christians as first "meeting on a certain stated day before it was light," and "addressing Christ in prayer as some God," and "binding themselves with a solemn oath" to keep the commandments, and next as "separating and then re-assembling and eating in common a harmless meal." Tertullian says the same thing in his Apology, and an extract from him will serve to show how suitable a sequel to the Eucharist the feast might be made. {250}

"Our feast," he says, "admits nothing indecorous, nothing indecent. We sit not down to eat, until prayer to God be made, as it were, the first morsel. We eat as much as will satisfy hunger, and drink as much as is useful for the temperate. We commit no excess, for we remember that even during the night we are to make our prayers to God. Our conversation is that of men who are conscious that the Lord hears them. After water is brought for the hands, and lights, we are invited to sing to God, according as each one can propose a subject from the Holy Scriptures, or of his own composing. This is the proof in what manner we have drunk. Prayer in like manner concludes the feast. Thence we depart, not to join a crowd of disturbers of the peace, nor to follow a troop of brawlers, nor to break out in any excess of wanton riot: but to maintain the same staid and modest demeanour, as if we were departing, not from a supper, but from a lecture." [Note 15]


And now enough has been said concerning the primitive Agape or Feast of Charity, a sacred rite yet a social meal,—so far a bodily refreshment as to become an occasion of excess, and so far under the shadow of the Sacramental feast as to make that excess sacrilege. Such an excess is spoken of by St. Jude and St. Peter and in both Apostles stands connected with divine judgments; why then should it not be the sin of the Corinthians? and if {251} so, what is there more heinous, than unhappily we witness in other times and places, in persons first partaking the Lord's Supper, and afterwards proceeding to excess, and thus showing that they had partaken in a light and thoughtless spirit because they proceed to excess?


I regret I cannot close this Letter without something like a protest respecting one matter. There is nothing unbecoming in any one, who has means of judging, interposing when he sees an ordinance of the Church disparaged, and I think your tone as regards mortification and penance, is such as to discourage persons from obeying certain rules of the Church respecting them. I much regret that, while censuring "rigid mortifications and painful penances," you have not given us to understand whether you mean "rigid mortifications and painful penances" or "mortifications and penances," as such; whether you object to them in toto, or only in excess. I wish, when speaking of "self-abasement" as Papistical, and of "gloomy views of sin after Baptism," you had said what views of it are at once appropriate to backsliders and yet not gloomy; whether you consider repentance itself cheerful or gloomy; whether every feeling must be called gloomy which is mixed with fear; whether every purpose is gloomy which leads to self-chastisement; whether every self-abasement savours of Popery, or what those are which do not so savour; whether any self-abasements are pleasant; whether the "indignation, fear, and revenge," of the Corinthians was pleasant or "gloomy;" or whether St. Paul's "bruising his body" was a mortification; whether (to come to our Church's words and rules) to confess an "intolerable burden of sins" is "gloomy;" whether it is pleasant to be "tied and bound with the chain of our {252} sins," or to be "grieved and wearied with their burden;" whether "to bewail our own sinfulness" is a cheerful exercise; whether absolution does not imply a previous bond; whether "days of fasting or abstinence" are pleasant or "painful;" whether the "godly discipline," the restoration of which, as we yearly protest, is much to be wished, would not be "rigid" and "painful," and likely to "call us back at once to the darkest period of Roman superstition;" whether "turning to God with weeping, fasting, and praying," and "subduing by abstinence the flesh to the Spirit," is or is not likely "hopelessly to alarm and repel those abettors of low and rationalistic views of the Sacramental Ordinances, whom it is our especial object to win and persuade to a saving faith in their genuine and inestimable importance."


Nor is this all; what the Church has enjoined, her most distinguished sons, of whatever school of thought, have practised. Let me then lay out some additional matter, besides her authorized documents, the details of which I wish duly adjusted with those vague and frightful words, "rigour," and "gloom," and "pain," and "Popery," to which otherwise the untaught may improperly refer them.

(1.) I begin with Jewel, because you have a zeal for him:—"being forewarned to leave the hold of his body ... he did not after the custom of most men seek by all means violently to keep possession ... to surfeit the senses, and stop all the passages of the soul. No; but by fasting, labour, and watching, he openeth them wider." Life, c. 32 fin.

(2.) B. Gilpin says to a friend, "As for the arguments touching fasting, God forbid that either I or any one {253} should deny, yea rather we exhort all persons to the practice of it, only we desire to have the superstition and wicked opinions removed." Wordsworth's Eccl. Biog. iv. 148.

(3.) Hooker. "There might be many more and just occasions taken to speak of his books, which none ever did or can commend too much; but I decline them, and hasten to an account of his Christian behaviour and death at Borne; in which place he continued his customary rules of mortification and self-denial; was much in fasting, frequent in meditation and prayers, enjoying those blessed returns, which only men of strict lives feel and know, and of which men of loose and godless lives cannot be made sensible; for spiritual things are spiritually discerned." Life, ed. Keble, vol. i. p. 94.

(4.) Herbert. "Mr. Herbert took occasion to say, 'One cure for these distempers would be, for the Clergy themselves to keep the Ember-weeks strictly, and beg of their parishioners to join with them in fasting and prayers for a more religious Clergy.'" Wordsw. E. B. vol. iv. p. 538.

Again: "This Lent I am forbid utterly to eat any fish, so that I am fain to diet in my chamber at my own cost; for in our public halls, you know, is nothing but fish and whit-meats: out of Lent also, twice a week, on Fridays and Saturdays, I must do so, which yet sometimes I fast." Ibid. p. 560.

(5.) Hammond. "He both admitted and solemnly invited all sober persons to his familiarity and converse; and beside that, received them to his weekly office of Fasting and Humiliation." Life by Fell, p. 50.

"And now, though his physicians had earnestly forbidden his accustomed Fastings, and his own weaknesses gave forcible suffrages to their advice; yet he resumed his rigours, esteeming this calamity such a one as admitted {254} no exception, which should not be outlived, but that it became men to be martyrs too, and deprecate even in death." Ibid. p. 73.

(6.) Bull. "Now Mr. Bull did not satisfy himself only with giving notice to his parishioners, which he could not well omit without neglecting his duty, but he led them to the observation of such holy institutions by his own example. For he had so far a regard to these holydays, as to cause all his family to repair to the church at such times; and on the days of fasting and abstinence, the necessary refreshments of life were adjourned from the usual hours till towards the evening. He was too well acquainted with the practice of the primitive Christians, to neglect such observances as they made instrumental to piety and devotion, and had too great a value for the injunctions of his mother the Church of England, to disobey where she required a compliance; but above all, he was too intent upon making advances in the Christian life, to omit a duty all along observed by devout men and acceptable to God under the Old and New Testament, both as it was helpful to their devotion, and became a part of it." Life by Nelson, ed. Burton, p. 54.

(7.) Leighton. "He had no regard to his person, unless it was to mortify it by a constant low diet, that was like a perpetual fast." Burnet's Lives, p. 282. ed. Jebb.

(8.) Kettlewell too "observed likewise the days of fasting and humiliation, both those appointed by the Church, and those which were enjoined by the civil authorities. Wednesdays and Fridays in Lent he abstained from flesh and drank small beer, according to the Canon." Life, part ii. p. 24.

(9.) Lastly, Ken, in his Sermon on Daniel, thus speaks: "I do not exhort you to follow them [the ancients] any further than either our climate or our constitutions will bear; but we may easily follow Daniel, in abstaining from {255} wine, and from the more pleasurable meats, and such an abstinence as this, with such a mourning for our own sins, and the sins of others, and the proper exercise of a primitive spirit during all the weeks of Lent. For what is Lent, in its original institution, but a spiritual conflict, to subdue the flesh to the Spirit, to beat down our bodies and to bring them into subjection? What is it, but a penitential martyrdom for so many weeks together which we suffer for our own and others' sins! A devout soul, that is able duly to observe it, fastens himself to the Cross on Ash Wednesday, and hangs crucified by contrition all the Lent long; that having felt in his closet the burthen and the anguish, the nails and the thorns, and tasted the full of his own sins, he may by his own crucifixion be better disposed to be crucified with Christ on Good Friday, and most tenderly sympathize with all the dolours, and pressures, and anguish, and torments, and desertion, infinite, unknown, and unspeakable, which God incarnate endured, when He bled upon the Cross for the sins of the world; that being purified by repentance, and made conformable to Christ crucified, he may offer up a pure oblation at Easter, and feel the power, and the joys, and the triumph of his Saviour's resurrection." Sermon on Daniel.


I think then, if I may say so with due respect, that those who wish to obey their Church in the matter of fasting and abstinence, yet fear that "revival of Popish error" to which these practices tend, have a claim on you to draw some broad lines of distinction, or, in your own phrase, to "devise some limits," which may enable them safely to do the one yet not encourage the other; lest they be saved from the "natural consequence" of such practices only by what you call elsewhere "a happy inconsistency," and {256} "for the present;" and lest "their credulous flocks" at length fall under "the yoke of spiritual bondage," from which we have been set free by the Reformation.


O that we knew our own strength as a Church! O that instead of keeping on the defensive, and, thinking it much not to lose our niggardly portion of Christian light and holiness, which is getting less and less, the less we use it, instead of being timid, and cowardly, and suspicious, and jealous, and panic-struck, and grudging, and unbelieving, we had the heart to rise, as a Church, in the attitude of the Spouse of Christ and the Treasure-House of his grace; to throw ourselves into that system of truth which our fathers have handed down even through the worst times, and to use it like a great and understanding people! O that we had the courage and the generous faith to aim at perfection, to demand the attention, to claim the submission of the world! Thousands of hungry souls in all classes of life stand around us; we do not give them what they want, the image of a true Christian people, living in that Apostolic awe and strictness which carries with it an evidence that they are the Church of Christ. This is the way to withstand and repel Roman Catholics; not by cries of alarm, and rumours of plots, and dispute, and denunciation, but by living up to the creeds, the services, the ordinances, the usages of our own Church without fear of consequences, without fear of being called Papists; to let matters take their course freely, and to trust to God's good Providence for the issue.


And now to conclude. I am quite aware that some of {257} the subjects I have treated might be treated more fully and clearly. But neither the limits of a pamphlet, nor the time allotted me, admitted it. Yours did not appear till yesterday, and the Term ends in a very few days.

I am, Reverend Sir,
Your faithful Servant,
Oriel College, June 22, 1838.

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1. [The Catholic doctrine is as follows; authorities for it shall be given lower down.

Our Lord is in loco in heaven, not (in the same sense) in the Sacrament. He is present in the Sacrament only in substance, substantivč, and substance does not require or imply the occupation of place. But if place is excluded from the idea of the Sacramental Presence, therefore division or distance from heaven is excluded also, for distance implies a measurable interval, and such there cannot be except between places. Moreover, if the idea of distance is excluded, therefore is the idea of motion. Our Lord then neither descends from heaven upon our altars, nor moves when carried in procession. The visible species change their position, but He does not move. He is in the Holy Eucharist after the manner of a spirit. We do not know how; we have no parallel to the "how" in our experience. We can only say that He is present, not according to the natural manner of bodies, but sacramentally. His Presence is substantial, spirit-wise, sacramental; an absolute mystery, not against reason, however, but against imagination, and must be received by faith.]
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2. Sermon of the Sacrament, Part I.
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3. Eccl. Pol. v. 67, § 7, 8.
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4. Ibid. 56. § 9.
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5. [He does; however, St. Thomas says on the contrary that our Lord is not under the species localiter, but to show how much this difference is a mere matter of words, I will set down the chief points of the doctrine in statements of Bellarmine on the one hand, and of Billuart on the other, who professes to write as a Thomist. And I will begin with a passage from the Council of Trent, as a sort of text.

Concil. Trid. Sess. 13, c. 1.—Nec hęc inter se pugnant, ut ipso Salvator noster semper ad dexteram Patris in cœlis assideat juxta modum existendi naturalem, et in multis nihilominus aliis locis sacramentaliter pręsens suā substantiā nobis adsit.
Billuart, pp. 356, 392, &c.—Corpus Christi est pręsens in speciebus, non circumscriptivč, nec definitivč, sed sacramentaliter.
Ibid. p. 393, col. 1.—Corpus Christi est in Eucharistiā ad modum substantię, seu sacramentaliter.
Bellarm. col. 349, 350.—Totus Christus existit in Sacramento ad modum substantię, non quantitatis.
Billuart, p. 357, col. 1.—Quantitas non est essentialis corpori, sed ejus proprietas.
Bellarm. col. 390.—Substantia cujuslibet rei non est per se divisibilis.
Ibid. col. 350.—Per substantiam non occupat locum.
Billuart, p. 393, col. 1.—Christus non est in hoc Sacramento ut in loco.
Bellarm. col. 350.—Substantia secundum se neque ordinem habet ad locum, neque ad corpora circumstantia.
Billuart, p. 357, col. 1.—[Ut] Corpus Christi in cœlo et altari [sit] ą se divisum, requiritur ut medium [quoddam] sit contiguum extremis, seu illa secundum extremitates tangat, quod non fit respectu Corporis Christi.
Ibid. p. 393, col. 1.—Corpus Christi non se habet sub speciebus sicut qui movetur in navi.
Bellarm. col. 580.—Corpus Christi [dicitur] videri, tangi, frangi, et teri, mediantibus speciebus panis.
Billuart, p. 357, col. 1.—Non Corpus Christi proprič manducatur, sed species manducantur.
Bellarm. col. 351.—Christus in Eucharistiā modum existendi corporum non habet, sed potius spirituum.
Billuart, p. 357, col. 1.—Hęc transcendunt imaginationem, quia imaginatio non transcendit continuum ... Imaginatio corrigenda est per fidem et rationem.]
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6. Vid. Notice at the end of the Communion Service.
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7. [I do not understand this. If it is beyond our power of conception that our Lord's body should be in two places at once, at least it is against the Christian faith that He should have two bodies.]
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8. [It is difficult for any one who really knows what the Catholic Church teaches on this subject, to understand how that teaching can be accused of "relieving our ignorance."]
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9. [He called the Roman view sceptical and rationalistic because, together with men of his day, he really did not know what the Roman view was, nor that he did not know it.]
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10. [This is not accurate, vid. supr. note, p. 232.]
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11. Eccles. Pol. v. 67. § 4, 5.
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12. Ibid. p. 67. § 5.
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13. Vid. August. in Faust xx. 21.
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14. De Bapt. Christi, c. 4. (ii. 374. A.) vid. et in Nativ. c. 7. (364. E.) de S. Philogon. c. 4. (i. 449. E. et seqq.) in 1 Cor. 11. 27. c. 8. (x. 245.) et c. 5. (247, 248.) in Rom. xvi. Hom. 30. (ix. 739. E.)
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15. Apolog. 39. Mr. Chevallier's Translation has been borrowed, who adds the following beautiful passage from St. Cyprian. Et quoniam feriata jam quies, ac tempus est otiosum, quicquid inclinato jam sole in vesperam diei superest, ducamus hanc diem lęti; nec sit vel hora convivii gratię cœlestis immunis. Sonet psalmos convivium sobrium; et ut tibi tenax memoria est, vox canora, aggredere hoc munus ex more. Magis carrissimos pasces, si sit nobis spiritalis auditio; prolectat aures religiosa mulcedo. Ad Don. fin.
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Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
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