Treatise on the Lord's Supper, By John Calvin.]
THE SUPPER OF OUR LORD,
IN WHICH IS SHOWN
ITS TRUE INSTITUTION, BENEFIT, AND UTILITY.
THE HOLY SUPPER OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST.1
1. REASON WHY MANY WEAK CONSCIENCES
REMAIN IN SUSPENSE AS TO THE TRUE DOCTRINE OF THE SUPPER.
As the holy sacrament of the Supper of our Lord Jesus Christ
has long been the subject of several important errors, and in these past
years been anew enveloped in diverse opinions and contentious disputes,
it is no wonder if many weak consciences cannot fairly resolve what view
they ought to take of it, but remain in doubt and perplexity, waiting till
all contention being laid aside, the servants of God come to some agreement
upon it. However, as it is a very perilous thing to have no certainty on
an ordinance, the understanding of which is so requisite for our salvation,
I have thought it might be a very useful labour to treat briefly and, nevertheless,
clearly deduce a summary of what is necessary to be known of it. I may
add that I have been requested to do so by some worthy persons, whom I
could not refuse without neglecting my duty. In order to rid ourselves
of all difficulty, it is expedient to attend to the order which I have
determined to follow.
First, then, we will explain to what end and for what
reason our Lord instituted this holy sacrament.
2. THE ORDER TO BE OBSERVED IN
Secondly, What fruit and utility we receive from
it, when it will likewise be shown how the body of Jesus Christ is given
Thirdly, What is the legitimate use of it.
Fourthly, We will detail the errors and superstitions
with which it has been contaminated, when it will be shown how the servants
of God ought to differ from the Papists.
Lastly, We will mention what has been the source
of the discussion which has been so keenly carried on, even among those
who have, in our time, brought back the light of the gospel, and employed
themselves in rightly edifying the Church in sound doctrine.
In regard to the first articleSince it has pleased our good
God to receive us by baptism into his Church, which is his house, which
he desires to maintain and govern, and since he has received us to keep
us not merely as domestics, but as his own children, it remains that, in
order to do the office of a good father, he nourish and provide us with
every thing necessary for our life. In regard to corporal nourishment,
as it is common to all, and the bad share in it as well as the good, it
is not peculiar to his family. It is very true that we have an evidence
of his paternal goodness in maintaining our bodies, seeing that we partake
in all the good things which he gives us with his blessing. But as the
life into which he has begotten us again is spiritual, so must the food,
in order to preserve and strengthen us, be spiritual also. For we should
understand, that not only has he called us one day to possess his heavenly
inheritance, but that by hope he has already in some measure installed
us in possession; that not only has he promised us life, but already transported
us into it, delivering us from death, when by adopting us as his children,
he begot us again by immortal seed, namely, his word imprinted on our hearts
by the Holy Spirit.
3. AT BAPTISM GOD RECEIVES US
INTO HIS CHURCH AS MEMBERS OF HIS FAMILY.
To maintain us in this spiritual life, the thing requisite
is not to feed our bodies with fading and corruptible food, but to nourish
our souls on the best and most precious diet. Now all Scripture tells us,
that the spiritual food by which our souls are maintained is that same
word by which the Lord has regenerated us; but it frequently adds the reason,
viz., that in it Jesus Christ, our only life, is given and administered
to us. For we must not imagine that there is life any where than in God.
But just as God has placed all fullness of life in Jesus, in order to communicate
it to us by his means, so he ordained his word as the instrument by which
Jesus Christ, with all his graces, is dispensed to us. Still it always
remains true, that our souls have no other pasture than Jesus Christ. Our
heavenly Father, therefore, in his care to nourish us, gives us no other,
but rather recommends us to take our fill there, as a refreshment amply
sufficient, with which we cannot dispense, and beyond which no other can
4. THE VIRTUE AND OFFICE OF THE
WORD OF GOD IN REGARD TO OUR SOULS.
We have already seen that Jesus Christ is the only food by
which our souls are nourished; but as it is distributed to us by the word
of the Lord, which he has appointed an instrument for that purpose, that
word is also called bread and water. Now what is said of the word applies
as well to the sacrament of the Supper, by means of which the Lord leads
us to communion with Jesus Christ. For seeing we are so weak that we cannot
receive him with true heartfelt trust, when he is presented to us by simple
doctrine and preaching, the Father of mercy, disdaining not to condescend
in this matter to our infirmity, has been pleased to add to his word a
visible sign, by which he might represent the substance of his promises,
to confirm and fortify us by delivering us from all doubt and uncertainty.
Since, then, there is something so mysterious and incomprehensible in saying
that we have communion with the body and the blood of Jesus Christ, and
we on our part are so rude and gross that we cannot understand the least
things of God, it was of importance that we should be given to understand
it as far as our capacity could admit.
5. JESUS CHRIST THE ONLY SPIRITUAL
NOURISHMENT OF OUR SOULS.
Our Lord, therefore, instituted the Supper, first, in order
to sign and seal in our consciences the promises contained in his gospel
concerning our being made partakers of his body and blood, and to give
us certainty and assurance that therein lies our true spiritual nourishment,
and that having such an earnest, we may entertain a right reliance on salvation.
Secondly, in order to exercise us in recognizing his great goodness toward
us, and thus lead us to laud and magnify him more fully. Thirdly, in order
to exhort us to all holiness and innocence, inasmuch as we are members
of Jesus Christ; and specially to exhort us to union and brotherly charity,
as we are expressly commanded. When we shall have well considered these
three reasons, to which the Lord had respect in ordaining his Supper, we
shall be able to understand, both what benefit accrues to us from it, and
what is our duty in order to use it properly.
6. THE CAUSE WHY OUR LORD INSTITUTED
It is now time to come to the second point, viz., to show
how the Lord's Supper is profitable to us, provided we use it profitably.
Now we shall know its utility by reflecting on the indigence which it is
meant to succour. We must necessarily be under great trouble and torment
of conscience, when we consider who we are, and examine what is in us.
For not one of us can find one particle of righteousness in himself, but
on the contrary we are all full of sins and iniquities, so much so that
no other party is required to accuse us than our own conscience, no other
judge to condemn us. It follows that the wrath of God is kindled against
us, and that none can escape eternal death. If we are not asleep and stupefied,
this horrible thought must be a kind of perpetual hell to vex and torment
us. For the judgment of God cannot come into our remembrance without letting
us see that our condemnation follows as a consequence.
7. THE MEANS OF KNOWING THE GREAT
BENEFIT OF THE SUPPER.
We are then already in the gulf, if God does not in mercy
draw us out of it. Moreover, what hope of resurrection can we have while
considering our flesh, which is only rottenness and corruption? Thus in
regard to the soul, as well as the body, we are more than miserable if
we remain within ourselves, and this misery cannot but produce great sadness
and anguish of soul. Now our heavenly Father, to succour us in this, gives
us the Supper as a mirror, in which we may contemplate our Lord Jesus Christ,
crucified to take away our faults and offences, and raised again to deliver
us from corruption and death, restoring us to a celestial immortality.
8. THE MISERY OF MAN.
Here, then, is the singular consolation which we derive from
the Supper. It directs and leads us to the cross of Jesus Christ and to
his resurrection, to certify us that whatever iniquity there may be in
us, the Lord nevertheless recognizes and accepts us as righteouswhatever
materials of death may be in us, he nevertheless gives us lifewhatever
misery may be in us, he nevertheless fills us with all felicity. Or to
explain the matter more simplyas in ourselves we are devoid of all good,
and have not one particle of what might help to procure salvation, the
Supper is an attestation that, having been made partakers of the death
and passion of Jesus Christ, we have every thing that is useful and salutary
9. THE SUPPER INVITES US TO THE
PROMISES OF SALVATION.
We can therefore say, that in it the Lord displays to us
all the treasures of his spiritual grace, inasmuch as he associates us
in all the blessings and riches of our Lord Jesus. Let us recollect, then,
that the Supper is given us as a mirror in which we may contemplate Jesus
Christ crucified in order to deliver us from condemnation, and raised again
in order to procure for us righteousness and eternal life. It is indeed
true that this same grace is offered us by the gospel, yet as in the Supper
we have more ample certainty, and fuller enjoyment of it, with good cause
do we recognize this fruit as coming from it.
10. ALL THE TREASURES OF SPIRITUAL
GRACE PRESENTED IN THE SUPPER.
But as the blessings of Jesus Christ do not belong to us
at all, unless he be previously ours, it is necessary, first of all, that
he be given us in the Supper, in order that the things which we have mentioned
may be truly accomplished in us. For this reason I am wont to say, that
the substance of the sacraments is the Lord Jesus, and the efficacy of
them the graces and blessings which we have by his means. Now the efficacy
of the Supper is to confirm to us the reconciliation which we have with
God through our Saviour's death and passion; the washing of our souls which
we have in the shedding of his Blood; the righteousness which we have in
his obedience; in short, the hope of salvation which we have in all that
he has done for us. It is necessary, then, that the substance should be
conjoined with these, otherwise nothing would be firm or certain. Hence
we conclude that two things are presented to us in the Supper, viz., Jesus
Christ as the source and substance of all good; and, secondly, the fruit
and efficacy of his death and passion. This is implied in the words which
were used. For after commanding us to eat his body and drink his blood,
he adds that his body was delivered for us, and his blood shed for the
remission of our sins. Hereby he intimates, first, that we ought not simply
to communicate in his body and blood, without any other consideration,
but in order to receive the fruit derived to us from his death and passion;
secondly, that we can attain the enjoyment of such fruit only by participating
in his body and blood, from which it is derived.
11. JESUS CHRIST IS THE SUBSTANCE
OF THE SACRAMENTS.
We begin now to enter on the question so much debated, both
anciently and at the present timehow we are to understand the words in
which the bread is called the body of Christ, and the wine his blood. This
may be disposed of without much difficulty, if we carefully observe the
principle which I lately laid down, viz., that all the benefit which we
should seek in the Supper is annihilated if Jesus Christ be not there given
to us as the substance and foundation of all. That being fixed, we will
confess, without doubt, that to deny that a true communication of Jesus
Christ is presented to us in the Supper, is to render this holy sacrament
frivolous and uselessan execrable blasphemy unfit to be listened to.
12. HOW THE BREAD IS CALLED THE
BODY, AND THE WINE THE BLOOD OF CHRIST.
Moreover, if the reason for communicating with Jesus Christ
is to have part and portion in all the graces which he purchased for us
by his death, the thing requisite must be not only to be partakers of his
Spirit, but also to participate in his humanity, in which he rendered all
obedience to God his Father, in order to satisfy our debts, although, properly
speaking, the one cannot be without the other; for when he gives himself
to us, it is in order that we may possess him entirely. Hence, as it is
said that his Spirit is our life, so he himself, with his own lips, declares
that his flesh is meat indeed, and his blood drink indeed. (John 6.55.)
If these words are not to go for nothing, it follows that in order to have
our life in Christ our souls must feed on his body and blood as their proper
food. This, then, is expressly attested in the Supper, when of the bread
it is said to us that we are to take it and eat it, and that it is his
body, and of the cup that we are to drink it, and that it is his blood.
This is expressly spoken of the body and blood, in order that we may learn
to seek there the substance of our spiritual life.
13. WHAT IS REQUISITE IN ORDER
TO LIVE IN JESUS CHRIST.
Now, if it be asked whether the bread is the body of Christ
and the wine his blood, we answer, that the bread and the wine are visible
signs, which represent to us the body and blood, but that this name and
title of body and blood is given to them because they are as it were instruments
by which the Lord distributes them to us. This form and manner of speaking
is very appropriate. For as the communion which we have with the body of
Christ is a thing incomprehensible, not only to the eye but to our natural
sense, it is there visibly demonstrated to us. Of this we have a striking
example in an analogous case. Our Lord, wishing to give a visible appearance
to his Spirit at the baptism of Christ, presented him under the form of
a dove. John the Baptist, narrating the fact, says, that he saw the Spirit
of God descending. If we look more closely, we shall find that he saw nothing
but the dove, in respect that the Holy Spirit is in his essence invisible.
Still, knowing that this vision was not an empty phantom, but a sure sign
of the presence of the Holy Spirit, he doubts not to say that he saw it,
(John 1.32,) because it was represented to him according to his capacity.
14. HOW THE BREAD AND WINE ARE
THE BODY OF JESUS CHRIST.
Thus it is with the communion which we have in the body and
blood of the Lord Jesus. It is a spiritual mystery which can neither be
seen by the eye nor comprehended by the human understanding. It is therefore
figured to us by visible signs, according as our weakness requires, in
such manner, nevertheless, that it is not a bare figure but is combined
with the reality and substance. It is with good reason then that the bread
is called the body, since it not only represents but also presents it to
us. Hence we indeed infer that the name of the body of Jesus Christ is
transferred to the bread, inasmuch as it is the sacrament and figure of
it. But we likewise add, that the sacraments of the Lord should not and
cannot be at all separated from their reality and substance. To distinguish,
in order to guard against confounding them, is not only good and reasonable,
but altogether necessary; but to divide them, so as to make the one exist
without the other, is absurd.
15. THE SACRAMENT IS REPRESENTED
BY VISIBLE SIGNS.
Hence when we see the visible sign we must consider what
it represents, and by whom it has been given us. The bread is given us
to figure the body of Jesus Christ, with command to eat it, and it is given
us of God, who is certain and immutable truth. If God cannot deceive or
lie, it follows that it accomplishes all which it signifies. We must then
truly receive in the Supper the body and blood of Jesus Christ, since the
Lord there represents to us the communion of both. Were it otherwise, what
could be meant by saying, that we eat the bread and drink the wine as a
sign that his body is our meat and his blood our drink? If he gave us only
bread and wine, leaving the spiritual reality behind, would it not be under
false colours that this ordinance had been instituted?
16. THE PROPER BODY AND BLOOD
OF JESUS CHRIST RECEIVED ONLY BY FAITH.
We must confess, then, that if the representation which God
gives us in the Supper is true, the internal substance of the sacrament
is conjoined with the visible signs; and as the bread is distributed to
us by the hand, so the body of Christ is communicated to us in order that
we may be made partakers of it. Though there should be nothing more, we
have good cause to be satisfied, when we understand that Jesus Christ gives
us in the Supper the proper substance of his body and blood, in order that
we may possess it fully, and possessing it have part in all his blessings.
For seeing we have him, all the riches of God which are comprehended in
him are exhibited to us, in order that they may be ours. Thus, as a brief
definition of this utility of the Supper, we may say, that Jesus Christ
is there offered to us in order that we may possess him, and in him all
the fullness of grace which we can desire, and that herein we have a good
aid to confirm our consciences in the faith which we ought to have in him.
17. THE INTERNAL SUBSTANCE IS
CONJOINED WITH THE VISIBLE SIGNS.
The second benefit of the Supper is, that it admonishes and
incites us more strongly to recognize the blessings which we have received,
and receive daily from the Lord Jesus, in order that we may ascribe to
him the praise which is due. For in ourselves we are so negligent that
we rarely think of the goodness of God, if he do not arouse us from our
indolence, and urge us to our duty. Now there cannot be a spur which can
pierce us more to the quick than when he makes us, so to speak, see with
the eye, touch with the hand, and distinctly perceive this inestimable
blessing of feeding on his own substance. This he means to intimate when
he commands us to show forth his death till he come. (1 Cor. 11.26.) If
it is then so essential to salvation not to overlook the gifts which God
has given us, but diligently to keep them in mind, and extol them to others
for mutual edification; we see another singular advantage of the Supper
in this, that it draws us off from ingratitude, and allows us not to forget
the benefit which our Lord Jesus bestowed upon us in dying for us, but
induces us to render him thanks, and, as it were, publicly protest how
much we are indebted to him.
18. IN THE SUPPER WE ARE REMINDED
OF OUR DUTY TOWARDS GOD.
The third advantage of the Sacrament consists in furnishing
a most powerful incitement to live holily, and especially observe charity
and brotherly love toward all. For seeing we have been made members of
Jesus Christ, being incorporated into him, and united with him as our head,
it is most reasonable that we should become conformable to him in purity
and innocence, and especially that we should cultivate charity and concord
together as becomes members of the same body. But to understand this advantage
properly, we must not suppose that our Lord warns, incites, and inflames
our hearts by the external sign merely; for the principal point is, that
he operates in us inwardly by his Holy Spirit, in order to give efficacy
to his ordinance, which he has destined for that purpose, as an instrument
by which he wishes to do his work in us. Wherefore, inasmuch as the virtue
of the Holy Spirit is conjoined with the sacraments when we duly receive
them, we have reason to hope they will prove a good mean and aid to make
us grow and advance in holiness of life, and specially in charity.
19. THE SACRAMENT A STRONG INDUCEMENT
TO HOLY LIVING AND BROTHERLY LOVE.
Let us come to the third point which we proposed at the commencement
of this treatise, viz., the legitimate use, which consists in reverently
observing our Lord's institution. Whoever approaches the sacrament with
contempt or indifference, not caring much about following when the Lord
calls him, perversely abuses, and in abusing pollutes it. Now to pollute
and contaminate what God has so highly sanctified, is intolerable blasphemy.
Not without cause then does Paul denounce such heavy condemnation on all
who take it unworthily. (1 Cor. 11.29.) For if there is nothing in heaven
nor on earth of greater price and dignity than the body and blood of the
Lord, it is no slight fault to take it inconsiderately and without being
well prepared. Hence he exhorts us to examine ourselves carefully, in order
to make the proper use of it. When we understand what this examination
should be, we shall know the use after which we are inquiring.
20. WHAT IT IS TO POLLUTE THE
HOLY SUPPER.THE GREAT GUILT OF SO DOING.
Here it is necessary to be well on our guard. For as we cannot
be too diligent in examining ourselves as the Lord enjoins, so, on the
other hand, sophistical doctors have brought poor consciences into perilous
perplexity, or rather into a horrible Gehenna, requiring I know not what
examination, which it is not possible for any man to make. To rid ourselves
of all these perplexities, we must reduce the whole, as I have already
said, to the ordinance of the Lord, as the rule which, if we follow it,
will not allow us to err. In following it, we have to examine whether we
have true repentance in ourselves, and true faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
These two things are so conjoined, that the one cannot subsist without
21. THE MANNER OF EXAMINING OURSELVES.
If we consider our life to be placed in Christ, we must acknowledge
that we are dead in ourselves. If we seek our strength in him, we must
understand that in ourselves we are weak. If we think that all our felicity
is in his grace, we must understand how miserable we are without it. If
we have our rest in him, we must feel within ourselves only disquietude
and torment. Now such feelings cannot exist without producing, first, dissatisfaction
with our whole life; secondly, anxiety and fear; lastly, a desire and love
of righteousness. For he who knows the turpitude of his sin and the wretchedness
of his state and condition while alienated from God, is so ashamed that
he is constrained to be dissatisfied with himself, to condemn himself,
to sigh and groan in great sadness. Moreover, the justice of God immediately
presents itself and oppresses the wretched conscience with keen anguish,
from not seeing any means of escape, or having any thing to answer in defence.
When under such a conviction of our misery we get a taste of the goodness
of God, it is then we would wish to regulate our conduct by his will, and
renounce all our bygone life, in order to be made new creatures in him.
22. TO PARTICIPATE IN THE BLESSINGS
OF CHRIST, WE MUST RENOUNCE ALL THAT IS OUR OWN.
Hence if we would worthily communicate in the Lord's Supper,
we must with firm heart-felt reliance regard the Lord Jesus as our only
righteousness, life, and salvation, receiving and accepting the promises
which are given us by him as sure and certain, and renouncing all other
confidence, so that distrusting ourselves and all creatures, we may rest
fully in him, and be contented with his grace alone. Now as that cannot
be until we know how necessary it is that he come to our aid, it is of
importance to have a deep-seated conviction of our own misery, which will
make us hunger and thirst after him. And, in fact, what mockery would it
be to go in search of food when we have no appetite? Now to have a good
appetite it is not enough that the stomach be empty, it must also be in
good order and capable of receiving its food. Hence it follows that our
souls must be pressed with famine and have a desire and ardent longing
to be fed, in order to find their proper nourishment in the Lord's Supper.
23. THE REQUISITES OF WORTHY
Moreover, it is to be observed that we cannot desire Jesus
Christ without aspiring to the righteousness of God, which consists in
renouncing ourselves and obeying his will. For it is preposterous to pretend
that we are of the body of Christ, while abandoning ourselves to all licentiousness,
and leading a dissolute life. Since in Christ is nought but chastity, benignity,
sobriety, truth, humility, and such like virtues, if we would be his members,
all uncleanness, intemperance, falsehood, pride, and similar vices must
be put from us. For we cannot intermingle these things with him without
offering him great dishonour and insult. We ought always to remember that
there is no more agreement between him and iniquity than between light
and darkness. If we would come then to true repentance, we must endeavour
to make our whole life conformable to the example of Jesus Christ.
24. SELF-DENIAL NECESSARY.
And while this must be general in every part of our life,
it must be specially so in respect of charity, which is, above all other
virtues, recommended to us in this sacrament: for which reason it is called
the bond of charity. For as the bread which is there sanctified for the
common use of all is composed of several grains so mixed together that
they cannot be distinguished from each other, so ought we to be united
together in indissoluble friendship. Moreover, we all receive there one
body of Christ. If then we have strife and discord among ourselves, it
is not owing to us that Christ Jesus is not rent in pieces, and we are
therefore guilty of sacrilege, as if we had done it. We must not, then,
on any account, presume to approach if we bear hatred or rancour against
any man living, and especially any Christian who is in the unity of the
Church. In order fully to comply with our Lord's injunction, there is another
disposition which we must bring. It is to confess with the mouth and testify
how much we are indebted to our Saviour, and return him thanks, not only
that his name may be glorified in us, but also to edify others, and instruct
them, by our example, what they ought to do.
25. CHARITY ESPECIALLY NECESSARY.
But as not a man will be found upon the earth who has made
such progress in faith and holiness, as not to be still very defective
in both, there might be a danger that several good consciences might be
troubled by what has been said, did we not obviate it by tempering the
injunctions which we have given in regard both to faith and repentance.
It is a perilous mode of teaching which some adopt, when they require perfect
reliance of heart and perfect penitence, and exclude all who have them
not. For in so doing they exclude all without excepting one. Where is the
man who can boast that he is not stained by some spot of distrust? that
he is not subject to some vice or infirmity? Assuredly the faith which
the children of God have is such that they have ever occasion to pray,Lord,
help our unbelief. For it is a malady so rooted in our nature, that we
are never completely cured until we are delivered from the prison of the
body. Moreover, the purity of life in which they walk is only such that
they have occasion daily to pray, as well for remission of sins as for
grace to make greater progress. Although some are more and others less
imperfect, still there is none who does not fail in many respects. Hence
the Supper would be not only useless, but pernicious to all, if it were
necessary to bring a faith or integrity, as to which there would be nothing
to gainsay. This would be contrary to the intention of our Lord, as there
is nothing which he has given to his Church that is more salutary.
26. ALL MEN IMPERFECT AND BLAMEWORTHY.
Therefore, although we feel our faith to be imperfect, and
our conscience not so pure that it does not accuse us of many vices, that
ought not to hinder us from presenting ourselves at the Lord's holy table,
provided that amid this infirmity we feel in our heart that without hypocrisy
and dissimulation we hope for salvation in Christ, and desire to live according
to the rule of the gospel. I say expressly, provided there be no hypocrisy.
For there are many who deceive themselves by vain flattery, making themselves
believe that it is enough if they condemn their vices, though they continue
to persist in them, or rather, if they give them up for a time, to return
to them immediately after. True repentance is firm and constant, and makes
us war with the evil that is in us, not for a day or a week, but without
end and without intermission.
27. IMPERFECTION MUST NOT MAKE
US CEASE TO HOPE FOR SALVATION.
When we feel within ourselves a strong dislike and hatred
of all sin, proceeding from the fear of God, and a desire to live well
in order to please our Lord, we are fit to partake of the Supper, notwithstanding
of the remains of infirmity which we carry in our flesh. Nay, if we were
not weak, subject to distrust and an imperfect life, the sacrament would
be of no use to us, and it would have been superfluous to institute it.
Seeing, then, it is a remedy which God has given us to help our weakness,
to strengthen our faith, increase our charity, and advance us in all holiness
of life, the use becomes the more necessary the more we feel pressed by
the disease; so far ought that to be from making us abstain. For if we
allege as an excuse for not coming to the Supper, that we are still weak
in faith or integrity of life, it is as if a man were to excuse himself
from taking medicine because he was sick. See then how the weakness of
faith which we feel in our heart, and the imperfections which are in our
life, should admonish us to come to the Supper, as a special remedy to
correct them. Only let us not come devoid of faith and repentance. The
former is hidden in the heart, and therefore conscience must be its witness
before God. The latter is manifested by works, and must therefore be apparent
in our life.
28. THE IMPERFECTIONS OF BELIEVERS
SHOULD RATHER INCLINE THEM TO USE THE SUPPER.
As to the time of using it, no certain rule can be prescribed
for all. For there are sometimes special circumstances which excuse a man
for abstaining; and, moreover, we have no express command to constrain
all Christians to use a specified day. However, if we duly consider the
end which our Lord has in view, we shall perceive that the use should be
more frequent than many make it: for the more infirmity presses, the more
necessary is it frequently to have recourse to what may and will serve
to confirm our faith, and advance us in purity of life; and, therefore,
the practice of all well ordered churches should be to celebrate the Supper
frequently, so far as the capacity of the people will admit. And each individual
in his own place should prepare himself to receive whenever it is administered
in the holy assembly, provided there is not some great impediment which
constrains him to abstain. Although we have no express commandment specifying
the time and the day, it should suffice us to know the intention of our
Lord to be, that we should use it often, if we would fully experience the
benefit which accrues from it.
29. TIMES OF USING THE SUPPER.PROPRIETY
OF FREQUENT COMMUNION.
The excuses alleged are very frivolous. Some say that they
do not feel themselves to be worthy, and under this pretext, abstain for
a whole year. Others, not contented with looking to their own unworthiness,
pretend that they cannot communicate with persons whom they see coming
without being duly prepared. Some also think that it is superfluous to
use it frequently, because if we have once received Jesus Christ, there
is no occasion to return so often after to receive him. I ask the first
who make a cloak of their unworthiness, how their conscience can allow
them to remain more than a year in so poor a state, that they dare not
invoke God directly? They will acknowledge that it is presumption to invoke
God as our Father, if we are not members of Jesus Christ. This we cannot
be, without having the reality and substance of the Supper accomplished
in us. Now, if we have the reality, we are by stronger reason capable of
receiving the sign. We see then that he who would exempt himself from receiving
the Supper on account of unworthiness, must hold himself unfit to pray
to God. I mean not to force consciences which are tormented with certain
scruples which suggest themselves, they scarcely know how, but counsel
them to wait till the Lord deliver them. Likewise, if there is a legitimate
cause of hindrance, I deny not that it is lawful to delay. Only I wish
to show that no one ought long to rest satisfied with abstaining on the
ground of unworthiness, seeing that in so doing he deprives himself of
the communion of the Church, in which all our well-being consists. Let
him rather contend against all the impediments which the devil throws in
his way, and not be excluded from so great a benefit, and from all the
graces consequent thereupon.
30. IMPROPRIETY OF ABSTAINING
ON FRIVOLOUS GROUNDS.PRETENDED UNWORTHINESS IN OURSELVES.
The second class have some plausibility. The argument they
use is, that it is not lawful to eat common bread with those who call themselves
brethren, and lead a dissolute lifea fortiori, we must abstain
from communicating with them in the Lord's bread, which is sanctified in
order to represent and dispense to us the body of Christ. But the answer
is not very difficult. It is not the office of each individual to judge
and discern, to admit or debar whom he pleases; seeing that this prerogative
belongs to all the Church in general, or rather to the pastor, with the
elders, whom he ought to have to assist him in the government of the Church.
Paul does not command us to examine others, but each to examine himself.
It is very true that it is our duty to admonish those whom we see walking
disorderly, and if they will not listen to us, to give notice to the pastor,
in order that he may proceed by ecclesiastical authority. But the proper
method of withdrawing from the company of the wicked, is not to quit the
communion of the Church. More-ever, it will most frequently happen, that
sins are not so notorious as to justify proceeding to excommunication;
for though the pastor may in his heart judge some man to be unworthy, he
has not the power of pronouncing him such, and interdicting him from the
Supper, if he cannot prove the unworthiness by an ecclesiastical judgment.
In such case we have no other remedy than to pray God that he would more
and more deliver his Church from all scandals, and wait for the last day,
when the chaff will be completely separated from the good grain.
31. ABSTAINING BECAUSE OF PRETENDED
UNWORTHINESS IN OTHERS.
The third class have no semblance of plausibility. The spiritual
bread is not given us to eat our fill of it all at once, but rather, that
having had some taste of its sweetness, we may long for it the more, and
use it when it is offered to us. This we explained above. So long as we
remain in this mortal life, Jesus Christ is never communicated in such
a way as to satiate our souls, but wills to be our constant nourishment.
32. EXCUSE, THAT HAVING ALREADY
RECEIVED CHRIST, IT IS UNNECESSARY TO RETURN OFTEN TO RECEIVE HIM.
We come to the fourth principal point. The devil knowing
that our Lord has left nothing to his Church more useful than the holy
sacrament, has after his usual manner laboured from the beginning to contaminate
it by errors and superstitions, in order to corrupt and destroy the benefit
of it, and has never ceased to pursue this course, until he has as it were
completely reversed the ordinance of the Lord, and converted it into falsehood
and vanity. My intention is not to point out at what time each abuse took
its rise and at what time it was augmented; it will be sufficient to notice
articulately the errors which the devil has introduced, and against which
we must guard if we would have the Lord's Supper in its integrity.
33. FOURTH GENERAL DIVISION.ERRORS
ON THE SUPPER.
The first error is thisWhile the Lord gave us the Supper
that it might be distributed amongst us to testify to us that in communicating
in his body we have part in the sacrifice which he offered on the cross
to God his Father, for the expiation and satisfaction of our sinsmen have
out of their own head invented, on the contrary, that it [the Supper itself]
is a sacrifice by which we obtain the forgiveness of our sins before God.
This is a blasphemy which it is impossible to bear. For if we do not recognize
the death of the Lord Jesus, and regard it as our only sacrifice by which
he has reconciled us to the Father, effacing all the faults for which we
were accountable to his justice, we destroy its virtue. If we do not acknowledge
Jesus Christ to be the only sacrifice, or, as we commonly call it, priest,
by whose intercession we are restored to the Father's favour, we rob him
of his honour and do him high injustice.
34. FIRST ERROR.
The opinion that the Supper is a sacrifice derogates from
that of Christ, and must therefore be condemned as devilish. That it does
so derogate is notorious. For how can we reconcile the two things, that
Jesus Christ in dying offered a sacrifice to his Father by which he has
once for all purchased forgiveness and pardon for all our faults, and that
it is every day necessary to sacrifice in order to obtain that which we
ought to seek in his death only? This error was not at first so extreme,
but increased by little and little, until it came to what it now is. It
appears that the ancient fathers called the Supper a sacrifice; but the
reason they give is, because the death of Christ is represented in it.
Hence their view comes to thisthat this name is given it merely because
it is a memorial of the one sacrifice, at which we ought entirely to stop.
And yet I cannot altogether excuse the custom of the early Church. By gestures
and modes of acting they figured a species of sacrifice, with a ceremony
resembling that which existed under the Old Testament, excepting that instead
of a beast they used bread as the host. As that approaches too near to
Judaism, and does not correspond to our Lord's institution, I approve it
not. For under the Old Testament, during the time of figures, the Lord
ordained such ceremonies, until the sacrifice should be made in the person
of his well-beloved Son, which was the fulfillment of them. Since it was
finished, it now only remains for us to receive the communication of it.
It is superfluous, therefore, to exhibit it any longer under figure.
35. THE SACRAMENT NOT A SACRIFICE.
And such is the import of the injunction which Jesus Christ
has left. It is not that we are to offer or immolate, but to take and eat
what has been offered and immolated. However, though there was some weakness
in such observance, there was not such impiety as afterwards supervened.
For to the Mass has been wholly transferred what was proper to the death
of Christ, viz., to satisfy God for our sins, and so reconcile us to him.
Moreover, the office of Christ has been transferred to those whom they
name priests, viz., persons to sacrifice to God, and in sacrificing, intercede
to obtain for us grace, and the pardon of our offences.
36. THE BREAD IN THE SUPPER ORDAINED
TO BE EATEN, NOT SACRIFICED.ERRORS OF THE MASS.
I wish not to keep back the explanations which the enemies
of the truth here offer. They say that the Mass is not a new sacrifice,
but only an application of the sacrifice of which we have spoken. Although
they colour their abomination somewhat by so saying, still it is a mere
quibble. For it is not merely said that the sacrifice of Christ is one,
but that it is not to be repeated, because its efficacy endures for ever.
It is not said that Christ once offered himself to the Father, in order
that others might afterwards make the same oblation, and so apply to us
the virtue of his intercession. As to applying to us the merit of his death,
that we may perceive the benefit of it, that is done not in the way in
which the Popish Church has supposed, but when we receive the message of
the gospel, according as it is testified to us by the ministers whom God
has appointed as his ambassadors, and is sealed by the sacraments.
37. ATTEMPTED DEFENCE OF THE
SACRIFICE OF THE MASS.
The common opinion approved by all their doctors and prelates
is, that by hearing Mass, and causing it to be said, they perform a service
meriting grace and righteousness before God. We say, that to derive benefit
from the Supper, it is not necessary to bring any thing of our own in order
to merit what we ask. We have only to receive in faith the grace which
is there presented to us, and which resides not in the sacrament, but refers
us to the cross of Jesus Christ as proceeding therefrom. Hence there is
nothing more contrary to the true meaning of the Supper, than to make a
sacrifice of it. The effect of so doing is to lead us off from recognizing
the death of Christ as the only sacrifice, whose virtue endures for ever.
This being well understood, it will be apparent that all masses in which
there is no such communion as the Lord enjoined, are only an abomination.
The Lord did not order that a single priest, after making his sacrifice,
should keep himself apart, but that the sacrament should be distributed
in the assembly after the manner of the first Supper, which he made with
his apostles. But after this cursed opinion was forged, out of it, as an
abyss, came forth the unhappy custom by which the people, contenting themselves
with being present to partake in the merit of what is done, abstain from
communicating, because the priest gives out that he offers his host for
all, and specially for those present. I speak not of abuses, which are
so absurd, that they deserve not to be noticed, such as giving each saint
his mass, and transferring what is said of the Lord's Supper to St. William
and St. Walter, and making an ordinary fair of masses, buying and selling
them with the other abominations which the word sacrifice has engendered.
38. ERRORS CONNECTED WITH THE
ABOMINATION OF THE MASS.
The second error which the devil has sown to corrupt this
holy ordinance, is in forging and inventing that after the words are pronounced
with an intention to consecrate, the bread is transubstantiated into the
body of Christ, and the wine into his blood. First of all, this falsehood
has no foundation in Scripture, and no countenance from the Primitive Church,
and what is more, cannot be reconciled or consist with the word of God.
When Jesus Christ, pointing to the bread, calls it his body, is it not
a very forced construction to say, that the substance of the bread is annihilated,
and the body of Christ substituted in its stead? But there is no cause
to discuss the thing as a doubtful matter, seeing the truth is sufficiently
clear to refute the absurdity. I leave out innumerable passages of Scripture
and quotations from the Fathers, in which the sacrament is called bread.
I only say that the nature of the sacrament requires, that the material
bread remain as a visible sign of the body.
It is a general rule in all sacraments that the signs which
we see must have some correspondence with the spiritual thing which is
figured. Thus, as in baptism, we are assured of the internal washing of
our souls when water is given us as an attestation, its property being
to cleanse corporal pollution; so in the Supper, there must be material
bread to testify to us that the body of Christ is our food. For otherwise
how could the mere colour of white give us such a figure? We thus clearly
see how the whole representation, which the Lord was pleased to give us
in condescension to our weakness, would be lost if the bread did not truly
remain. The words which our Lord uses imply as much as if he had said:
Just as man is supported and maintained in his body by eating bread, so
my flesh is the spiritual nourishment by which souls are vivified. Moreover,
what would become of the other similitude which Paul employs? As several
grains of corn are mixed together to form one bread, so must we together
be one, because we partake of one bread. If there were whiteness only without
the substance, would it not be mockery to speak thus? Therefore we conclude,
without doubt, that this transubstantiation is an invention forged by the
devil to corrupt the true nature of the Supper.
40. FROM THE NATURE OF A SACRAMENT
THE SUBSTANCE OF THE VISIBLE SIGN MUST REMAIN.
Out of this fantasy several other follies have sprung. Would
to God they were only follies, and not gross abominations. They have imagined
I know not what local presence and thought, that Jesus Christ in his divinity
and humanity was attached to this whiteness, without paying regard to all
the absurdities which follow from it. Although the old doctors of Sorbonne
dispute more subtilely how the body and blood are conjoined with the signs,
still it cannot be denied that this opinion has been received by great
and small in the Popish Church, and that it is cruelly maintained in the
present day by fire and sword, that Jesus Christ is contained under these
signs, and that there we must seek him. Now to maintain that, it must be
confessed either that the body of Christ is without limit, or that it may
be in different places. In saying this we are brought at last to the point,
that it is a mere phantom. To wish then to establish such a presence as
is to enclose the body within the sign, or to be joined to it locally,
is not only a reverie, but a damnable error, derogatory to the glory of
Christ, and destructive of what we ought to hold in regard to his human
nature. For Scripture everywhere teaches us, that as the Lord on earth
took our humanity, so he has exalted it to heaven, withdrawing it from
mortal condition, but not changing its nature.
41. FALSE OPINION OF THE BODILY
PRESENCE OF CHRIST IN THE SUPPER.
We have two things to consider when we speak of our Lord's
humanity. We must neither destroy the reality of the nature, nor derogate
in any respect from his state of glory. To do so we must always raise our
thoughts on high, and there seek our Redeemer. For if we would place him
under the corruptible elements of this world, besides subverting what Scripture
tells us in regard to his human nature, we annihilate the glory of his
ascension. As several others have treated this subject at large, I refrain
from going farther. I only wished to observe, in passing, that to fancy
Jesus Christ enclosed under the bread and wine, or so to conjoin him with
it as to amuse our understanding there without looking up to heaven, is
a diabolical reverie. We will touch on this in another place.
42. THE BODY OF OUR SAVIOUR IN
HEAVEN THE SAME AS THAT WHICH HE HAD ON EARTH.
This perverse opinion, after it was once received, engendered
numerous other superstitions. First of all comes that carnal adoration
which is mere idolatry. For to prostrate ourselves before the bread of
the Supper, and worship Jesus Christ as if he were contained in it, is
to make an idol of it rather than a sacrament. The command given us is
not to adore, but to take and eat. That, therefore, ought not to have been
presumptuously attempted. Moreover, the practice always observed by the
early Church, when about to celebrate the Supper, was solemnly to exhort
the people to raise their hearts on high, to intimate, that if we would
adore Christ aright, we must not stop at the visible sign. But there is
no need to contend long on this point when the presence and conjunction
of the reality with the sign (of which we have spoken, and will again speak)
is well understood. From the same source have proceeded other superstitious
practices, as carrying the sacrament in procession through the streets
once a-year; at another time making a tabernacle for it, and keeping it
to the year's end in a cupboard to amuse the people with it, as if it were
a god. As all that has not only been invented without authority from the
word of God, but is also directly opposed to the institution of the Supper,
it ought to be rejected by Christians.
43. OTHER ABUSES ARISING OUT
OF AN IMAGINARY BODILY PRESENCE.
We have shown the origin of the calamity which befell the
Popish ChurchI mean that of abstaining from communicating in the Supper
for the whole period of a year. It is because they regard the Supper as
a sacrifice which is offered by one in the name of all. But even while
thus used only once a year, it is sadly wasted and as it were torn to pieces.
For instead of distributing the sacrament of blood to the people, as our
Lord's command bears, they are made to believe that they ought to be contented
with the other half. Thus poor believers are defrauded of the gift which
the Lord Jesus had given them. For if it is no small benefit to have communion
in the blood of the Lord as our nourishment, it is great cruelty to rob
those of it to whom it belongs. In this we may see with what boldness and
audacity the Pope has tyrannized over the Church after he had once usurped
44. REASON WHY THE PAPISTS COMMUNICATE
ONLY ONCE A-YEAR.
Our Lord having commanded his disciples to eat the bread
sanctified in his body, when he comes to the cup, does not say simply,
"drink," but he adds expressly, that all are to drink. Would we have any
thing clearer than this? He says that we are to eat the bread without using
an universal term. He says that we are all to drink of the cup.
Whence this difference, but just that he was pleased by anticipation to
meet this wickedness of the devil? And yet such is the pride of the Pope
that he dares to say, Let not all drink. And to show that he is wiser than
God, he alleges it to be very reasonable that the priest should have some
privilege beyond the people, in honour of the sacerdotal dignity; as if
our Lord had not duly considered what distinction should be made between
them. Moreover, he objects dangers which might happen if the cup were given
in common to all. Some drop of it might occasionally be spilt; as if our
Lord had not foreseen that. Is not this to accuse God quite openly of having
confounded the order which he ought to have observed, and exposed his people
to danger without cause?
45. THE POPE HAS MADE EXCEPTIONS
TO THE GENERAL RULES LAID DOWN BY OUR LORD.
To show that there is no great inconvenience in this change,
they argue, that under one species the whole is comprised, inasmuch as
the body cannot be separated from the blood: as if our Lord had without
reason distinguished the one from the other. For if we can leave one of
the parts behind as superfluous, what folly must it have been to recommend
them separately. Some of his supporters, seeing that it was impudence to
maintain this abomination, have wished to give it a different colour, viz.,
that Jesus Christ, in instituting, spoke only to his apostles whom he had
raised to the sacerdotal order. But how will they answer what Paul said,
when he delivered to all the people what he had received of the Lordthat
each should eat of this bread and drink of this cup? Besides, who told
them that our Lord gave the Supper to his apostles as priests? The words
import the opposite, when he commands them to do after his example. (Luke
22.19.) Therefore he delivers the rule which he wishes to be always observed
in his Church; and so it was anciently observed until Antichrist, having
gained the upper hand, openly raised his horns against God and his truth
to destroy it totally. We see then that it is an intolerable perversion
thus to divide and rend the sacrament, separating the parts which God has
46. FRIVOLOUS REASONS FOR WITHHOLDING
To get to an end, we shall embrace under one head what might
otherwise have been considered separately. This head is, that the devil
has introduced the fashion of celebrating the Supper without any doctrine,
and for doctrine has substituted ceremonies partly inept and of no utility,
and partly dangerous, having proved the cause of much mischief. To such
an extent has this been done, that the Mass, which in the Popish Church
is held to be the Supper, is, when well explained, nothing but pure apishness
and buffoonery. I call it apishness, because they there counterfeit the
Lord's Supper without reason, just as an ape at random and without discernment
imitates what he sees done.
47. THE BUFFOONERY OF THE POPE
IN REGARD TO THE SUPPER.
The principal thing recommended by our Lord is to celebrate
the ordinance with true understanding. From this it follows that the essential
part lies in the doctrine. This being taken away, it is only a frigid unavailing
ceremony. This is not only shown by Scripture, but attested by the canons
of the Pope, (Can. Detrahe. i. 4, 1,) in a passage quoted from Augustine,
(Tract 80, in Joan.) in which he asks"What is the water of baptism without
the word but just a corruptible element? The word (he immediately adds)
not as pronounced, but as understood." By this he means, that the sacraments
derive their virtue from the word when it is preached intelligibly. Without
this they deserve not the name of sacraments. Now so far is there from
being any intelligible doctrine in the Mass, that, on the contrary, the
whole mystery is considered spoiled if every thing be not said and done
in whispers, so that nothing is understood. Hence their consecration is
only a species of sorcery, seeing that by muttering and gesticulating like
sorcerers, they think to constrain Jesus to come down into their hands.
We thus see how the Mass, being thus arranged, is an evident profanation
of the Supper of Christ, rather than an observance of it, as the proper
and principal substance of the Supper is wanting, viz., full explanation
of the ordinance and clear statement of the promises, instead of the priest
standing apart and muttering to himself without sense or reason. I call
it buffoonery, also, because of mimicry and gestures, better adapted to
a farce than to such an ordinance as the sacred Supper of our Lord.
48. THE WORD OUGHT ALWAYS TO
ACCOMPANY THE SACRAMENTS.
It is true, indeed, that the sacrifices under the Old Testament
were performed with many ornaments and ceremonies, but because there was
a good meaning under them, and the whole was proper to instruct and exercise
the people in piety, they are very far from being like those which are
now used, and serve no purpose but to amuse the people without doing them
any good. As these gentry allege the example of the Old Testament in defence
of their ceremonies, we have to observe what difference there is between
what they do, and what God commanded the people of Israel. Were there only
this single point, that what was then observed was founded on the commandment
of the Lord, whereas all those frivolities have no foundation, even then
the difference would be large. But we have much more to censure in them.
49. THE CEREMONIES OF THE ANCIENT
LAW, WHY APPOINTED.THOSE OF THE PAPISTS CENSURABLE.
With good cause our Lord ordained the Jewish form for a time,
intending that it should one day come to an end and be abrogated. Not having
then given such clearness of doctrine, he was pleased that the people should
be more exercised in figures to compensate for the defect. But since Jesus
Christ has been manifested in the flesh, doctrine having been much more
clearly delivered, ceremonies have diminished. As we have now the body,
we should leave off shadows. To return to the ceremonies which are abolished,
is to repair the vail of the temple which Jesus Christ rent by his death,
and so far obscure the brightness of his gospel. Hence we see, that such
a multitude of ceremonies in the Mass is a form of Judaism quite contrary
to Christianity. I mean not to condemn the ceremonies which are subservient
to decency and public order, and increase the reverence for the sacrament,
provided they are sober and suitable. But such an abyss without end or
limit is not at all tolerable, seeing that it has engendered a thousand
superstitions, and has in a manner stupefied the people without yielding
50. THE JEWISH CEREMONIES HAVING
SERVED THEIR PURPOSE, THE IMITATION OF THEM ABSURD.
Hence also we see how those to whom God has given the knowledge
of his truth should differ from the Papists. First, they cannot doubt that
it is abominable blasphemy to regard the Mass as a sacrifice by which the
forgiveness of sins is purchased for us; or rather, that the priest is
a kind of mediator to apply the merit of Christ's passion and death to
those who purchase his mass, or are present at it, or feel devotion for
it. On the contrary, they must hold decidedly that the death and suffering
of the Lord is the only sacrifice by which the anger of God has been satisfied,
and eternal righteousness procured for us; and, likewise, that the Lord
Jesus has entered into the heavenly sanctuary in order to appear there
for us, and intercede in virtue of his sacrifice. Moreover, they will readily
grant, that the benefit of his death is communicated to us in the Supper,
not by the merit of the act, but because of the promises which are given
us, provided we receive them in faith. Secondly, they should on no account
grant that the bread is transubstantiated into the body of Jesus Christ,
nor the wine into his blood, but should persist in holding that the visible
signs retain their true substance, in order to represent the spiritual
reality of which we have spoken. Thirdly, they ought also to hold for certain,
that the Lord gives us in the Supper that which he signifies by it, and,
consequently, that we truly receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
Nevertheless they will not seek him as if he were enclosed under the bread,
or attached locally to the visible sign. So far from adoring the sacrament,
they will rather raise their understandings and their hearts on high, as
well to receive Jesus Christ, as to adore him.
51. THE DEATH AND PASSION OF
OUR LORD THE PERFECT AND ONLY SACRIFICE.
Hence they will despise and condemn as idolatrous all those
superstitious practices of carrying about the sacrament in pomp and procession,
and building tabernacles in which to adore it. For the promises of our
Lord extend only to the uses which he has authorized. Next, they will hold
that to deprive the people of one of the parts of the sacrament, viz.,
the cup, is to violate and corrupt the ordinance of the Lord, and that
to observe it properly it must be administered in all its integrity. Lastly,
they will regard it as a superfluity, not only useless but dangerous, and
not at all suitable to Christianity, to use so many ceremonies taken from
the Jews contrary to the simplicity which the Apostles left us, and that
it is still more perverse to celebrate the Supper with mimicry and buffoonery,
while no doctrine is stated, or rather all doctrine is buried, as if the
Supper were a kind of magical trick.
52. VIEW OF ENLIGHTENED CHRISTIANS
IN REGARD TO THE SUPPER.
To have done, it is necessary to come to the last principal
point, viz., the contention which has arisen in our time in regard to this
matter. Now, as it is an unhappy businessthe devil, no doubt, having stirred
it up to impede, nay altogether to interrupt the course of the gospel so
far am I from taking pleasure in referring to it, that I could wish the
remembrance of it were altogether abolished. Nevertheless, as I see many
good consciences troubled, because they do not know to what side to turn,
I shall only say as much as may seem necessary to show them how they ought
53. LAST DIVISION.RECENT DISPUTES
ON THE SUPPER.
First, I beseech all believers, in the name of God, not to
be too much scandalized at the great difference which has arisen among
those who ought to be a kind of leaders in bringing back the light of truth.
For it is no new thing for the Lord to leave his servants in some degree
of ignorance, and suffer them to have debate among themselvesnot to leave
them for ever, but only for a time to humble them. And indeed had every
thing till now turned out to a wish without any disturbance, men might
possibly have forgotten themselves, or the grace of God might have been
less known than it ought. Thus the Lord has been pleased to take away all
ground of glorying from men, in order that he might alone be glorified.
Moreover, if we consider in what an abyss of darkness the world was when
those who have shared this controversy began to bring back the truth, we
shall not wonder that they did not know every thing at the beginning. The
wonder rather is, that our Lord in so short a time enlightened them that
they were themselves able to escape and draw others out of that sink of
error in which they had been so long immersed. But no better course can
be taken than to show how matters have proceeded, because this will make
it appear that people have not so much cause to be scandalized at it as
is commonly supposed.
54. GOD SOMETIMES ALLOWS HIS
OWN PEOPLE TO FALL INTO ERROR.
When Luther began to teach, he took a view of the subject
which seemed to imply, that in regard to the corporal presence in the Supper
he was willing to leave the generally received opinion untouched; for while
condemning transubstantiation, he said that the bread was the body of Christ,
inasmuch as it was united with him. Besides, he added similitudes which
were somewhat harsh and rude; but he was in a manner compelled to do so,
as he could not otherwise explain his meaning. For it is difficult to give
an explanation of so high a matter without using some impropriety of speech.
55. HISTORY OF THE CONTROVERSY
ON THIS SUBJECTAMONG THE REFORMERS.LUTHER.
On the other hand arose Zuinglius [Zwingli] and colompadius,
who, considering the abuse and deceit which the devil had employed in establishing
such a carnal presence of Christ as had been taught and held for more than
six hundred years, thought it unlawful to disguise their sentiments, since
that view implied an execrable idolatry, in that Jesus Christ was worshipped
as enclosed in the bread. Now, as it was very difficult to remove this
opinion, which had been so long rooted in the hearts of men, they applied
all their talents to bring it into discredit, showing how gross an error
it was not to recognize what is so clearly declared in Scripture touching
the ascension of Jesus Christ, that he has been received in his humanity
into heaven, and will remain there until he descend to judge the world.
Meantime, while engrossed with this point, they forgot to show what presence
of Jesus Christ ought to be believed in the Supper, and what communion
of his body and blood is there received.
56. VIEWS OF ZUINGLIUS AND COLOMPADIUS.
Luther thought that they meant to leave nothing but the bare
signs without their spiritual substance. Accordingly he began to resist
them to the face, and call them heretics. After the contention was once
begun it got more inflamed by time, and has thus continued too bitterly
for the space of fifteen years or so without the parties ever listening
to each other in a peaceful temper. For though they once had a conference,
there was such alienation that they parted without any agreement. Instead
of meeting on some good ground, they have always receded more and more,
looking to nothing else than to defend their own view and refute the opposite.
57. LUTHER IMPUGNS THEIR VIEWS.
We thus see wherein Luther failed on his side, and Zuinglius
and colompadius on theirs. It was Luther's duty first to have given notice
that it was not his intention to establish such a local presence as the
Papist's dream; secondly, to protest that he did not mean to have the sacrament
adored instead of God; and lastly, to abstain from those similitudes so
harsh and difficult to be conceived, or have used them with moderation,
interpreting them so that they could not give rise to any scandal. After
the debate was moved, he exceeded bounds as well in declaring his opinion,
as in blaming others with too much sharpness of speech. For instead of
explaining himself in such a way as to make it possible to receive his
view, he, with his accustomed vehemence in assailing those who contradicted
him, used hyperbolical forms of speech very difficult to be borne by those
who otherwise were not much disposed to believe at his nod. The other party
also offended, in being so bent on declaiming against the superstitious
and fanatical opinion of the Papists, touching the local presence of Jesus
Christ within the sacrament, and the perverse adoration consequent upon
it, that they laboured more to pull down what was evil than to build up
what was good; for though they did not deny the truth, they did not teach
it so clearly as they ought to have done. I mean that in their too great
anxiety to maintain that the bread and wine are called the body of Christ,
because they are signs of them, they did not attend to add, that though
they are signs, the reality is conjoined with them, and thus protest, that
they had no intention whatever to obscure the true communion which the
Lord gives us in his body and blood by this sacrament.
58. ATTEMPTED RECONCILIATION.CAUSE
Both parties failed in not having the patience to listen
to each other in order to follow the truth without passion, when it would
have been found. Nevertheless, let us not lose sight of our duty, which
is not to forget the gifts which the Lord bestowed upon them, and the blessings
which he has distributed to us by their hands and means. For if we are
not ungrateful and forgetful of what we owe them, we shall be well able
to pardon that and much more, without blaming or defaming them. In short,
since we see that they were, and still are, distinguished for holiness
of life, excellent knowledge, and ardent zeal to edify the Church, we ought
always to judge and speak of them with modesty, and even with reverence;
since at last God, after having thus humbled them, has in mercy been pleased
to put an end to this unhappy disputation, or at least to calm it preparatory
to its final settlement. I speak thus, because no formulary has yet been
published in which concord is fixed, as is most expedient. But this will
be when God will be pleased to assemble those who are to frame it in one
59. DUTY OF THE SERVANTS OF GOD
IN REGARD TO THE ADVANCEMENT OF TRUTH.
Meanwhile it should satisfy us, that there is fraternity
and communion among the churches, and that all agree in so far as is necessary
for meeting together, according to the commandment of God. We all then
confess with one mouth, that on receiving the sacrament in faith, according
to the ordinance of the Lord, we are truly made partakers of the proper
substance of the body and blood of Jesus Christ. How that is done some
may deduce better, and explain more clearly than others. Be this as it
may, on the one hand, in order to exclude all carnal fancies, we must raise
our hearts upwards to heaven, not thinking that our Lord Jesus is so debased
as to be enclosed under some corruptible elements; and, on the other hand,
not to impair the efficacy of this holy ordinance, we must hold that it
is made effectual by the secret and miraculous power of God, and that the
Spirit of God is the bond of participation, this being the reason why it
is called spiritual.
60. FRATERNAL CONCORD AMONG THE
1. From the French.