Ad as to the substance of the bread and wine being changed permanently into the substance of the body and blood of Christ, Canon IV teaches as follows: “If any one saith, that, after the consecration is completed, the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ are not in the admirable sacrament of the Eucharist, but are there only during the sue, whilst it is being taken, and not either before or after; and that, in the hosts, or consecrated particles, which are reserved or which remain after communion, the true body of the Lord remaineth not: let him be anathema.” And once more, in Canon VI we read: “If any one saith, that, in the holy sacrament of the Eucharist, Christ, the only begotten Son of God, is not to be adored with worship, even external of latria; and is, consequently, neither to be venerated with a special festive solemnity, nor to be solemnly borne about in procession, according to the laudable and universal rite and custom of holy Church; or, is not to be proposed publicly to the people to be adored, and that the adorers thereof are idolaters: let him be anathema.”
It is well-known that the laity do not partake of the communion wine, but only of the wafer. The Romish Church admits, of course, that this usage is contrary to Holy Writ, as well as to the custom of the early church; but it claims that it is not necessary to partake of the wine on the ground, in the first place, that the blood is in the body, and, secondly, that seeing the whole Christ as to His body, soul, and divinity is in every particle of both species, he who eats the consecrated bread eats the whole Christ.
But this is absurd.
And what is worse, it is not only absurd, but it is also a violation of the very words of Christ.
The Lord did not only say after He broke the bread, “Take, and eat ye all of it;” but He also said, according to the revelation which Paul received concerning the supper of the Lord in I Corinthians 11:23, ff.: “For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: This is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.”
We understand, of course, that this custom of giving the believers only the bread, or the wafer, and withholding from them the wine is the result of the doctrine of transubstantiation. For according to this theory, the cup after consecration does not contain wine, but the real blood of Christ. And it was feared that in passing the communion cup a drop of wine, that is, therefore, a drop of the blood of Christ, might be spilled. And in order to avoid this profanation, it was decided that the priest alone should drink the wine, while the laity received only the bread, or the wafer. Thus the beautiful symbolism of the supper of the Lord was corrupted and profaned. This corruption did not enter into the church all at once, as we have already shown. It gradually developed. Even some of the early church fathers already began to speak of the signs of the Lord’s Supper as being connected with the body and blood of Christ. Augustine did not teach anything like the doctrine of transubstantiation. He held that the unbeliever received nothing through this sacrament. But in the Middle Ages the heresy of transubstantiation was gradually adopted, although even then some opposed this theory. The Scholastics, whose purpose always was to maintain and defend the tradition of the church, also defended this corruption. And the Fourth Lateran Council, in 1215, adopted it; and, as we have shown, the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century finally set its seal upon it and pronounced anathema upon all that did not subscribe to this theory.
In support of this erroneous theory the Romish Church also appeals to Scripture. They point especially to John 6:48-65, where we read as follows: “I am the bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live forever. These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum. Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? It is the spirit that quickeneth: the fleshprofiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.”
Concerning this passage of Scripture I would remark, first of all, that certainly there is no direct reference to the institution of the Lord’s Supper here. And even though there be a very indirect reference to that institution, there still is certainly no proof for the doctrine of transubstantiation. Certainly the Lord does not speak in this passage of a literal eating of His flesh and a literal drinking of His blood. This is exactly the error which the Capernaumites made. For we read: “The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” vs. 52. And at the end of His discourse in Capernaum the Lord specifically states: “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” The Lord therefore is speaking of His sacrifice which presently He is to offer on the cross, and which cannot be partaken of except by faith. Hodge remarks in this connection that this argument proves too much for the Romanists. Says he: “Our Lord expressly declares that the eating of which He speaks is essential to salvation. If, therefore, His words are to be understood of the Lord’s Supper, then a participation in that sacrament is essential to salvation. But this the Church of Rome explicitly denies, and must in consistency with its whole system, insist on denying. Romanists teach that spiritual life is as necessary to an experience of the benefits of this sacrament, as natural life is to the body’s being nourished by food. They further teach that baptism, which precedes the Eucharist, conveys all the saving benefits of Christ’s redemption; they therefore cannot make the Eucharist essential and consequently they cannot, without contradicting Christ or themselves, interpret John 6:48-65 as referring to the Lord’s Supper.”
The Romish Church also appeals to the words of the institution of the Lord’s Supper: “This is my body.” But, as has been frequently pointed out over against this argument of the Romanists, the copulative verb is certainly does not necessarily denote the identity of the subject and the predicate which it connects. In the first place, when the Lord pronounced these words, “This is my body,” He was still present in the flesh; and therefore He cannot mean that the bread which at that moment, at the institution of the Lord’s Supper, He hands to His disciples is identified or transubstantiated into His own body. Certain it is that in the night in which He was betrayed the disciples did not eat the body of the Lord, but mere bread. Besides, the word is in Scripture frequently means signifies. Of this there are many examples in Holy Writ. In Matthew 13:38 we read, “The field is the world,” meaning, of course, that in the parable the field signifies the world. In John 10:7 we read: “Then said Jesus unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.” And again, in verse 9 of the same chapter we read: “I am the door; by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” In the same sense, when the Lord at the institution of the Lord’s Supper pronounces the words, “This is my body,” the verb is simply means signifies or symbolizes. And therefore there is no reason whatsoever in Holy Writ to interpret these words as indicating a change of substance. The signs certainly are not changed into the body of Christ.
Another objection against the theory of transubstantiation is that it involves an impossibility. Concerning this Hodge remarks: “The impossible cannot be true, and, therefore, cannot, rationally, be an object of faith. It is impossible that the accidents or sensible properties of the bread and wine should remain if the substance be changed. Such a proposition has no more meaning in it than the assertion that an act can be without an agent. Accidents or properties are the phenomena of substance; and it is self-evident that there can be no manifestations where there is not something to be manifested. In other words, nothing, a non ens, cannot manifest itself. Romanists cannot turn to the theory that matter is not a substance; for that is not their doctrine. On the contrary, they assert that the substance of the bread is transmuted into the substance of Christ’s body. Nor can they help themselves by resorting to the prophetic doctrine that all accidents are phenomena of God, for that would upset their whole system.”
This latter objection we may put in a different form. According to the doctrine of transubstantiation, God creates a lie. For we must remember, as was stated above, that according to the Romish Church the accidents or properties of the bread and wine remain even after the consecration. The bread and wine still appeal to our senses as bread and wine, and nothing else. They look like bread and wine; they feel like bread and wine; and they taste like bread and wine. Yet, according to the Romanists, after the formula of consecration is expressed by the priest, the substance of bread and wine are transubstantiated into the substance of the body and blood of Christ. Hence, it is evident that through the priests’ God is presented as making a lie. And this is nothing but blasphemy. (Cf. Hedge, “Systematic Theology,” III, Chapter 20, p. 684)
But after all, the most serious objection to this doctrine of transubstantiation is, perhaps, that it presents the grace of God as being in things. According to this doctrine, the gracious operation of God through the signs and seals of the Lord’s Supper is not upon the heart of believers, but upon the signs themselves. The signs are changed. The bread is changed into the body of Christ; and the wine is changed into His blood. Christ, therefore, operates magically upon the signs; and they are placed within the physical reach of the partakers. Grace is in things. And by a physical act of taking and eating and drinking, those that partake receive the grace of Christ. They can lay hold upon the grace as it is presented in the bread and wine with their physical hands. They can taste it with their physical mouth. They can chew it with their teeth. They can digest grace in their stomach. As one of the defenders of this doctrine expressed it in the eleventh century: “The very body of Christ was truly held in the priest’s hand, broken and chewed by the teeth of the faithful.” Hence, according to the Romish Church, it is not necessary in order to partake of the Lord’s Supper to possess an active faith, but merely to go to the Eucharist with an empty stomach. This probably is the principal error of the doctrine of transubstantiation. And because of this principal error, our controversy with the Romish Church is still very significant. We must not foster the notion that our controversy with Rome on this score is antiquated and of no significance. For after all, the chief and fundamental error of the fallacy of transubstantiation is, this, that grace, that the righteousness of Christ and salvation, are bound up in physical things, and that too, by the act of the institute of the church. The blessings of salvation are therefore divorced from the operation of the Holy Spirit and from the activity of faith. They are made accessible to all that can eat and drink, hear and see, and understand with their natural minds. And therefore the error of the Romanists concerning transubstantiation is not far different from the theory of common grace. It also postulates that grace is in things. The reprobate too receive many blessings from God: food and drink, life and health, etc. According to the defenders of this theory, all things are grace to the wicked, the reprobate. And according to them, even the preaching of the Word is grace to all that hear. And therefore, we must insist that grace is never in things, that it is only through an operation of the Holy Spirit that we can receive grace, and that this operation of the Holy Spirit is only in the elect.
(to be continued)