“III. The Lord Jesus hath, in this ordinance, appointed his ministers to declare his word of institution to the people, to pray, and bless the elements of bread and wine, and thereby to set them apart from a common to an holy use; and to take and break the bread, to take the cup, and (they communicating also themselves.) to give both to the communicants; but to none who are not present in the congregation. (In this article the Romish doctrine that the Lord’s Supper may be imparted to the people of God in private, apart from the congregation, and that only the bread is given to the laity whereas the wine is withheld from them, is denied. But this, is specifically set forth in the following article. H.V.)
“IV. Private masses, or receiving this sacrament by a priest, or any other, alone; as likewise the denial of the cup to the people; worshipping the elements, the lifting them up, or carrying them about for adoration, and the reserving them for any pretended religious use, are all contrary to the nature of this sacrament, and to the institution of Christ.
“V. The outward elements in this sacrament, duly set apart to the uses ordained by Christ, have such relation to him crucified, as that truly, yet sacramentally only, they are sometimes called by the name of the things they represent, to wit, the body and blood of Christ; albeit, in substance and nature, they still remain truly, and only, bread and wine, as they were before. (In this statement, the truth of Scripture is set forth that the relation between the elements of the Lord’s Supper and the body and blood of Christ is sacramental, that, although they are called the body and blood of Christ, they remain bread and wine, even as they were before. H.V.)
“VI. That doctrine which maintains a change of the substance of bread and wine, into the substance of Christ’s body and blood (commonly called transubstantiation) by consecration of a priest, or by any other way, is repugnant, not to Scripture alone, but even to common sense and reason; overthroweth the nature of the sacrament; and hath been, and is the cause of manifold superstitions, yea, of gross idolatries.
“VII. Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible elements in this sacrament, do then also inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally, but spiritually, receive and feed upon Christ crucified, and all benefits of his death: the body and blood of Christ being then not corporally or carnally in, with, or under the bread and wine; yet as really, but spiritually, present to the faith of believers in that ordinance, as the elements themselves are, to their outward senses. (In this article, we understand, the Westminster Articles of Faith combat the Lutheran conception of the Lord’s Supper. H.V.)
“VIII. Although ignorant and wicked men receive the outward elements in this sacrament, yet they receive not the thing signified thereby; but by their unworthy coming thereunto are guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, to their own damnation. Wherefore all ignorant and ungodly persons, as they are unfit to enjoy communion with him, so are they unworthy of the Lord’s table, and cannot, without great sin against Christ, while they remain such, partake of these holy mysteries, or be admitted thereunto.” Before quoting from our own confessions, the Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism, we, wish to quote from the Second Helvetic Confession of Faith, 1566. Many of these confessions were composed at approximately the same time, the middle of the sixteenth century, not many years after the Reformation, 1517; This Second Helvetic Confession is an important confession, and presents a clear exposition of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper in Chapter XXI. It is lengthy but also interesting, and we will quote it in full:
“The Supper of the Lord (which is called the Lord’s Table, and the Eucharist, that is, a Thanksgiving) is, therefore, commonly called a supper, because it was instituted by Christ at his last supper, and does as yet represent the same, and because in it the faithful are spiritually fed and nourished. For the author of the Supper of the Lord is not an angel or man, but the very Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, who did first of all consecrate it to his Church. And the same blessing and consecration does still remain among all those who celebrate no other but that very Supper, which the Lord did institute, and at that do recite the words of the Supper of the Lord, and in all things look unto the one Christ by a true faith; at those hands, as it were, they do receive that which they do receive by the ministry of the ministers of the Church.
“The Lord, by this sacred rite, would have that great benefit to be kept in fresh remembrance which he procured for mankind; to wit, that by giving up his body to death and shedding his blood he has forgiven us all our sins, and redeemed us from eternal death and the power of the devil, and now feeds us with his flesh, and gives us his blood to drink: which things, being apprehended spiritually by a true faith, do nourish us up to life .everlasting. And this so great a benefit is renewed so oft as the Supper is celebrated. For the Lord said, ‘Do this in remembrance of me (Luke 22:19).’
“By this holy Supper also it is sealed unto us, that the very body of Christ was truly given up for us, and his blood shed for the remission of our sins, lest our faith might somewhat waver. And this is outwardly represented unto us by the minister in the sacrament, after a visible manner, and, as it were, laid before our eyes to be seen, which is inwardly in the soul invisibly performed by the Holy Spirit. Outwardly, bread is offered by the minister, and the words of the Lord are heard: ‘Take, eat; this is my body’; and, ‘Drink ye all of it; this is my blood’ (Matt. 26:26-28; Luke 22:17-20). Therefore the faithful do receive that which is given by the ministers of the Lord, and do eat the bread of the Lord, and do drink of the Lord’s cup. And at the same time inwardly, by the working of Christ through the Holy Spirit, they receive also the flesh and blood of the Lord, and do feed on them unto life eternal. For the flesh and blood of Christ is true meat and drink unto life eternal: yea, Christ Himself, in that he was delivered for us, and is our Saviour, is that special thing and substance of the Supper; and there we suffer nothing to be put in his place.
“But that it may the better and more plainly be understood how the flesh and blood of Christ are the meat and drink of the faithful, and are received by the faithful unto life eternal, we will add, moreover, these few things:
“Eating is of divers sorts. (1) There is a corporeal eating, whereby meat is taken into a man’s mouth, chewed with the teeth, swallowed down, and digested. After this manner did the Capernaites in times past think that they should eat the flesh of the Lord; but they are confuted by him (John 6:30-63). For as the flesh of Christ could not be eaten bodily, without great wickedness and cruelty, so is it not food for the body, as all men do confess. We therefore disallow that canon in the Pope’s decrees, Ego Begengarius (De Consecrat. Dist. 2). For neither did godly antiquity believe, neither yet do we believe, that the body of Christ can be eaten corporeally and essentially, with a bodily mouth.
“(2) There is also a spiritual eating of Christ’s body; not such a one whereby it may be thought that the very meat is changed into the spirit, but whereby (the Lord’s body and blood remaining in their own essence and property) those things are spiritually communicated unto us, not after a corporeal, but after a spiritual manner, through the Holy Spirit, who does apply and bestow upon those things (to wit, remission of sins, deliverance, and life eternal) which are prepared for us by the flesh and blood of our Lord, sacrificed for us; so that Christ does not live in us, and we live in him; and does cause us to apprehend him by truth faith to this end, that he may become unto us such a spiritual meat and drink, that is to say, our life. For even as corporeal meat and drink do not only refresh and strengthen our bodies, but also do keep them in life; even so the flesh of Christ delivered for us and his blood shed for us, do not only refresh and strengthen our souls, but also do preserve them alive, not so far as they be corporeally eaten and drunken, but so far as they are communicated unto us spiritually by the Spirit of God, the Lord saying, ‘The bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world’ (John 6:51); also it is the spirit that gives, life: ‘the flesh’ (to wit, corporeally. eaten) ‘profiteth nothing; the words which I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life’ (John 6:63). And as we must by eating receive the meat into our bodies, to the end that it may work in us, and show its efficacy in us (because, while it is without us, it profiteth us not at all); even so it is necessary that we receive Christ by faith, that he may be made ‘ours, and that he live in us, and we in him. For he says, ‘I am the bread of life; he that cometh to me shall not hunger, and he that believeth in me shall not thirst any more’ (John 6:35); and also, “He that eateth me, shall live through me; and he abideth in me, and I in him’ (John 6:50).”
We will pause here with this quotation from the Second Helvetic Confession of Faith and resume this quotation in our following article. In conclusion, at this time, we wish to call attention to two important matters. It is evident, generally speaking, that in the Confessions of the Reformed truth we may quote, two matters are emphasized in all the writings of our Reformed fathers. In the first place, they maintain that the elements in the Lord’s Supper, the bread and wine, remain exactly as they are, bread and wine, and that they are emphatically merely signs and symbols of our Lord’s broken body and shed blood. The fathers maintain this truth over against the conception of transubstantiation as maintained by the Roman Catholic Church. On the other hand, however, they also emphasize that the Church of God, observing the sacrament of Holy Communion, partakes of Christ in a very real sense of the word. The Lord’s Supper is not merely a remembrance feast. The Church of God does not merely partake of ordinary bread and wine, although it is emphatically true that the bread and wine remain as they are. We eat Christ’s body and drink His blood. This does not mean that we eat and drink Christ’s body and blood in a physical sense of the word, as Rome teaches, and as the Lutherans also teach with their doctrine of consubstantiation. We eat and drink the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ spiritually. We eat and drink Him as He, in the way of His atoning suffering and death, is our Bread and Water of Life; we partake of Him and all His spiritual benefits, through the Holy Spirit, and by a true and living faith. The eating and drinking of the bread and wine is a truly spiritual activity, and the Church of God eats and drinks Christ, in all His spiritual significance.