We now continue with our quotation of Chapter XXI of the Second Helvetic Confession of Faith, 1566, which sets forth the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper.
“From all this it appears manifestly, that by spiritual meat we mean not any imaginary thing, but the very body of our Lord Jesus, given to us; which yet is received by the faithful not corporeally, but spiritually by faith: in which point we do wholly follow the doctrine of our Lord and Saviour Christ, in the 6th chapter of John. And this eating of the flesh and drinking of the blood of the Lord is so necessary to salvation that without it no man can be saved. But this spiritual eating and drinking takes place also without the Supper of the Lord, even so often as, and wheresoever, a man does believe in Christ. To which purpose that sentence of St. Augustine does happily belong, Why dost thou prepare thy teeth and belly? Believe, and thou hast eaten.’
“(3) Besides that former spiritual eating, there is a sacramental eating of the body of the Lord: whereby the believer not only is partaker, spiritually and internally, of the true body and blood of the Lord, but also, by coming to the Table of the Lord, does outwardly receive the visible sacraments of the body and blood of the Lord. True it is, that by faith the believer did before receive the food that gives life, and still receives the same; but yet, when he receives the sacrament, he receives something more. For he goes on in continual communication of the body and blood of the Lord; and his faith is daily more and more kindled, more, strengthened and refreshed, by the spiritual nourishment. For while we live, faith has continual increasings; and he that outwardly does receive the sacrament with a true faith, the same does not only receive the sign, but also does enjoy (as we said) the thing itself. Moreover, the same does obey the Lord’s institution and commandments, and with a joyful mind gives thanks for his redemption and that of all mankind, and makes a faithful remembrance of the Lord’s death, and does witness the same before the Church, of which body he is a member. This also is sealed to those who receive the sacrament, that the body of the Lord was given, and his blood shed, not only for men in general, but particularly for every faithful communicant, whose meat and drink he is, to life eternal.
“But as for him that without faith comes to this Holy Table of the Lord, he is made partaker of the outward sacrament only; but the matter of the sacrament, from whence comes life unto salvation, he receives not at all; and such men do unworthily eat of the Lord’s Table. ‘Now they who do unworthily eat of the Lord’s bread and drink of the Lord’s cup, they are guilty of the body and blood of de Lord, and they eat and drink it to their judgment’ (I Cor. 11:26-29). For when they do not approach with true faith, they do despite unto the death of Christ, and therefore eat and drink condemnation to themselves.
“We do not, therefore, so join the body of the Lord and his blood with the bread and wine, as though we thought that the bread is the body of Christ, more than after a sacramental manner; or that the body of Christ does he hid corporeally under the bread, so that it ought to be worshiped under the form of bread; or yet that whosoever he be who receives the sign, receives also the thing itself. The body of Christ is in the heavens, at the right hand of his Father; and therefore our hearts are to be lifted up on high, and not to be fixed on the bread, neither is the Lord to be worshipped in the bread. Yet the Lord is not absent from his Church when she celebrates the Supper. The sun, being absent from us in the heavens, is yet notwithstanding, present among us effectually: how much more Christ, the Sun of Righteousness; though in body he be absent from us in the heavens, yet is present among us, not corporeally, but spiritually, by his lively operation, and so as he himself promised, in his Last Supper, to be present among us (John 14, 15, and John 16). Whereupon it follows that we have, not the Supper without Christ, and yet that we may have meanwhile an unbloody and mystical supper, even as all antiquity called it.
“Moreover, we are admonished, in the celebration of the Supper of the Lord, to be mindful of the body whereof we are members; and that, therefore, we should be at concord with our brethren, that we live holily, and not pollute ourselves with wickedness and strange religions; but, persevering in the true faith to the end of our life, give diligence to excel in holiness of life. It is therefore very requisite that, purposing to come to the Supper of the Lord, we do examine ourselves, according to the commandment of the apostle: first, with what faith we are indued, whether we believe that Christ is come to save sinners and to call them to repentance, and whether each man believes that he is in the number of them that are delivered by Christ and saved; and whether he has purposed to change this wicked life, to live holily, and to persevere through God’s assistance, in the true religion, and in concord with his brethren, and. to give worthy thanks to God his deliverance.
“We think that rite, manner, or form of the Supper to be the most simple and excellent which comes nearest to the first institution of the Lord and to the apostles’ doctrine which does consist in declaring the Word of God, in godly prayers, in the action itself that the Lord used, and de repeating of it; in the eating of the Lord’s body and drinking of his blood; in the wholesome remembrance of the Lord’s death, and faithful giving of thanks; and in a holy fellowship in the union of the body of the Church.
“We therefore disallow those who have taken from the faithful one part of the sacrament, to wit, the Lord’s cup. For these do very grievously offend against the institution of the Lord, who says, ‘Drink ye all of this’ (Matt. 26:27); which he did not so plainly say of the bread.
“What manner of mass it was that the fathers used, whether it were tolerable or intolerable, we do not now dispute. But this we say freely, that the mass which is now used throughout the Roman Church is quite abolished out of our churches for many and just causes, which, for brevity’s sake, we will not now particularly recite. Truly we could not approve of it, because they have changed a most wholesome action into a vain spectacle; also because the mass is made a meritorious matter, and is said for money; likewise because in it the priest is said to make the very body of the Lord, and to offer the same really, even for the remission of the sins of the quick and the dead. And this also, that they dot it for the honor, worship, and reverence of the saints in heaven (and for the relief of souls in purgatory), etc.”
In connection with the above quotation, we wish to make one remark. We would call attention to the statement, at the close of the second paragraph from the end of the article: “For these do very grievously offend against the institution of the Lord, who says, “Drink ye all of this” (Matthew 26:26); which he did not so plainly say of the bread.” This is somewhat striking, is it not? Had Rome decided to withhold the bread from the laity, inasmuch as it is not so plainly stated of the bread that we must all eat of it, it would not have been so striking as the fact that Rome withholds the wine from the laity, and this in the light of the fact that the Saviour explicitly declares that we must all drink of the cup.
We will conclude our quotations from the Reformed Fathers, in connection with the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, by quoting Art. 35 of our Confession of Faith. The Heidelberg Catechism, we know, also treats this subject, in Questions 75-80. We will not quote these questions and answers. We know that our Heidelberg Catechism calls the Popish Mass, very properly, an accursed idolatry. To worship bread and wine, as if they were the body and blood of the Son of God, when these signs are merely bread and wine, is surely an accursed idolatry. But we will conclude our quotations by quoting Art. 35 of our Belgic Confession or Confession of Faith, the article which treats the sacrament of the Lords Supper.
BELGIC CONFESSION—ART. 35
“We believe and confess, that our Saviour Jesus Christ did ordain and institute the sacrament of the holy supper, to nourish and support those whom he hath already regenerated, and incorporated into his family, which is his Church. Now those, who are regenerated, have in them a twofold life, the one corporal and temporal, which they have from the first birth, and is common to all men: the other spiritual and heavenly, which is given them in their second birth, which is effected by the word of the gospel, in the communion of the body of Christ; and this life is not common, but is peculiar to God’s elect. In like manner, God hath given us, for the support of the bodily and earthly life, earthly and communion bread, which is subservient thereto, and is common to all men, even as life itself. But for the support of the spiritual and heavenly life, which believers have, he hath sent a living bread, which descended from heaven, namely, Jesus Christ, who nourishes and strengthens the spiritual life of believers, when they eat him, that is to say, when they apply and receive him by faith in the spirit. Christ, that he might represent unto us this spiritual and heavenly bread, hath instituted an earthly and visible bread, as a sacrament of his body, and wine as a sacrament of his blood, to testify by them unto us, that, as certainly as we receive and hold this sacrament in our hands, and eat and drink the same with our mouths; by which our life is afterwards nourished, we also do as certainly receive by faith (which is the hand and mouth of our soul) the true body and blood of Christ our only Saviour in our souls, for the support of our spiritual life. Now, as it is certain and beyond all doubt, that Jesus Christ hath not enjoined to us the use of His sacraments in vain, so He works in us all that He represents by these holy signs, though the manner surpasses our understanding, and cannot be comprehended by us, as the operations of the Holy Ghost are hidden and incomprehensible. In the meantime we err not; when we say, that what is eaten and drunk by us is the proper and natural body, and the proper blood of Christ (Notice, please, that this article declares that we eat and drink the proper body and blood of Christ.—H.V.). But the manner of our partaking of the same, is not by the mouth, but by the spirit through faith. Thus then, though Christ always sits at the right hand of His Father in the heavens, yet doth he not therefore cease to make us partakers of himself by faith. This feast is a spiritual table, at which Christ communicates Himself with all His benefits to us, and gives us there to enjoy both Himself, and the merits of His sufferings and death, nourishing, strengthening and comforting our poor comfortless souls by the eating of His flesh, quickening and refreshing them by the drinking of His blood.” The Lord willing, we will conclude this quotation in our following article.