That the Roman Catholics indeed teach that in the mass Christ through the priests is offered as a continual sacrifice is still plainer from the Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, Chapter 2 of the Twenty-second Session. There we read: “And forasmuch as, in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the mass, that same Christ is contained and. immolated in an unbound manner who once offered Himself in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross; the holy synod teaches, that this sacrifice is truly propitiatory, and that by means thereof this is effected, that we obtain mercy, and find grace in seasonable aid, that we draw nigh unto God, contrite and penitent with a sincere heart and upright faith, with fear and reverence. For the Lord, appeased by the oblation thereof, arid granting the grace and gift of penitence, forgives even heinous crimes and sins. For the victim is one and the same, the same now offering by the ministering of priests who then offered Himself on the cross, the manner alone of offering being different. The fruits indeed of which the oblation of that bloody one, to wit, are received most plentifully through this unbloody one; so far is this latter from derogating in any way from that former oblation. Wherefore not only for the sins, punishments, satisfactions, and other necessities of the faithful who are living, but also for those who are departed in Christ and who are not as yet fully purified, it is rightly offered, agreeably to the tradition of the apostles.”
It is therefore evident that, according to the Romish Church, the mass is presented as a continual and oft repeated sacrifice of Christ, offered up by the priests, and that this repeated sacrifice is indeed necessary for the forgiveness of sins, both of those that are living on the earth and of the departed souls that are still in purgatory. According to the Roman Catholics, the mass has all the essential elements of a true sacrifice. It is offered by a priest, Jesus Christ, through the ministry of His earthly representative, the Roman Catholic priest. It has its victim, again Jesus Christ, as He is really present under the appearance of bread and wine. And it is offered up as a real sacrifice through the mystic rite of consecration. In the mass, therefore, there is a continuation of the bloody sacrifice of Christ on the cross in, an unbloody manner. The Romish Church does indeed maintain that this sacrifice of the mass is necessary; and they deny that it is quite sufficient that Christ once for all and forever shed His blood for the blotting out of all the sins of His people. This element of the mass, together with the element that the transubstantiated signs are to be worshipped by the church, the Heidelberg Catechism in Question and Answer 80 rightly calls “an accursed idolatry.”
In conclusion we must still answer the question: for whom is the Lord’s Supper instituted?
And the answer is, briefly: it is instituted for believers, and that too, for conscious believers.
This implies, in the first place, that only those are true partakers of the supper of the Lord who are truly sorrowful for their sins and who live in true repentance and sorrow after God. In the second place, they are those that trust that their sins are forgiven only for the sake of the obedience and perfect sacrifice of Christ, and that all their sins are covered by His passion and death. And, in the third place, they are those that desire to have their faith strengthened, and who long for holiness in life and walk, who fulfill their part; of the covenant of God, love the Lord their God with all their heart and mind and soul and strength, forsake the world, crucify their old nature, and walk in a new and holy life.
This also implies, first of all, that unbelievers and hypocrites cannot properly partake of the supper of the Lord, eat and drink the signs of the broken bread and wine to their condemnation, and by this means are hardened in their sin. And, secondly, it implies that the church as institute has a calling with respect to the Lord’s Supper and. must bar from holy communion all those that do not sincerely repent of their sins and who live in open wickedness even though they are outwardly members of the church. The latter, of course, must be treated and ultimately excommunicated from the fellowship of the church.
Hence, the Reformed, churches cannot have so-called open communion. For by allowing everyone that so desires to partake of the signs of the bread and wine to do so, the church becomes guilty of profaning the covenant of God. Hence, it is necessary for anyone that approaches the table of the Lord rightly to examine himself, according to the injunction of the apostle Paul in I Corinthians 11:27-29: “Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that hateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.” This is also emphasized in the Heidelberg Catechism, Question 81, from the viewpoint of the individual believer. There we read:
“For whom is the Lord’s Supper instituted?
“For those who are truly sorrowful for their sins, and yet trust that these are forgiven them for the sake of Christ; and that their remaining infirmities are covered by his passion and death; and who also earnestly desire to have their faith more and more strengthened, and their lives more holy; but hypocrites, and such as turn not to God with sincere hearts, eat and drink judgment to themselves.”
This is emphasized in Question 82 of the Heidelberg Catechism from the aspect of the institution of the church and its calling to maintain the holiness and purity of God’s covenant, and thus to guard it against profanation:
“Are they also to be admitted to this supper, who, by confession and life, declare themselves unbelieving and ungodly?
“No; for by this, the covenant of God, would be profaned, and his wrath kindled against the whole congregation; therefore it is the duty of the Christian church, according to the appointment of Christ and his apostles, to exclude such persons by the keys of the kingdom of heaven, till they show amendment of life.”
Also the Belgic Confession teaches the same thing in Article 35:
“Further, though the sacraments are connected with the thing signified, nevertheless both are not received by all men: the ungodly indeed receives the sacrament to his condemnation, but he doth not receive the truth of the sacrament. As Judas, and Simon the sorcerer, both indeed received the sacrament, but not Christ, who was signified by it, of whom believers only are made partakers. Lastly, we receive this holy sacrament in the assembly of the people of God, with humility and reverence, keeping up amongst us a holy remembrance of the death of Christ our Savior, with thanksgiving: making there confession of our faith, and of the Christian religion. Therefore no one ought to come to this table without having previously rightly examined himself; lest by eating of this bread and drinking of this cup, he eat and drink judgment to himself. In a word, we are excited by the use of this holy sacrament, to a fervent love towards God and our neighbor.”
Finally, this self-examination before we partake of the supper of the Lord is also required in the Form for the Administration of the Lord’s Supper. There we read:
“The true examination of ourselves consists of these three parts:
“First. That every one consider by himself, his sins and the curse due to him for them, to the end that he may abhor and humble himself before God: considering that the wrath of God against sin is so great, that (rather than it should go unpunished) he hath punished the same in his beloved Son Jesus Christ, with the bitter and shameful death of the cross.
“Secondly. That every one examine his own heart, whether he doth believe this faithful promise of God, that all his sins are forgiven him only for the sake of the passion and death of Jesus Christ, and that the perfect righteousness of Christ is imputed and freely given him, as his own, yea, so perfectly, as if he had satisfied in his own person for all his sins, and fulfilled all righteousness.
“Thirdly. That every one examine his own conscience, whether he purposeth henceforth to show true thankfulness to God in his whole life, and to walk uprightly before him; as also, whether he hath laid aside unfeignedly all enmity, hatred, and envy, and doth firmly resolve henceforward to walk in true love and peace with his neighbor.”
And the same Form continues to state that all those, and those only, who are thus disposed, God will receive in mercy and count them worthy partakers of the table of His Son Jesus Christ. But on the other hand, the Form states that all those who do not feel this testimony in their hearts eat and drink judgment to themselves. And it admonishes all who do not walk according to the rules of this self-examination and who are defiled with sins of which they do not repent and which they do not confess, that they must keep away from the table of the Lord as those who have no part in the kingdom of Christ. And if they nevertheless partake, their condemnation and judgment will be made the heavier.
Nevertheless, the Form continues to add that this does not mean that only the perfect may come to the table of the Lord, that only those may partake that are without sin:
“For we do not come to this supper to testify thereby that we are perfect and righteous in ourselves; but on the contrary, considering that we seek our life out of ourselves in Jesus Christ, we acknowledge that we lie in the midst of death; therefore, notwithstanding we feel many infirmities and miseries in ourselves, as namely, that we have not perfect faith, and that we do not give ourselves to serve God with that zeal as we are bound, but have daily to strive with the weakness of our faith, and the evil lusts of our flesh; yet, since we are (by the grace of the Holy Spirit) sorry for these weaknesses, and earnestly desirous to fight against our unbelief, and to live according to all the commandments of God: therefore we rest assured that no sin or infirmity, which still remaineth against our will in us, can hinder us from being received of God in mercy, and from being made worthy partakers of this heavenly meat and drink.”
And here we may conclude our discussion of the holy supper of the Lord Jesus Christ as a means of grace for the strengthening of the faith of believers.