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OF THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST, TRANSLATED FROM CALVIN. [The title of this treatise, and the address which is prefixed to it by the translator, contain a full account of its history. The original was published by Calvin in French, A.D. 1540, and stands the first in order of his miscellaneous treatises, in the Latin edition of his works, with the title, “De Coena Domini.”
With reference to the church of Denmark, by which the services subjoined to this treatise were adopted, the reformation of this church began in the year 1521, under Christiern II. It was carried on by his uncle Frederic, Duke of Holstein, who succeeded him on his deposition from the throne; and was finally completed by Christiern III.; who however, as Seckendorf states, contrary to the advice and wishes of Luther, proceeded to great extremities against the bishops, who resisted all the efforts which were made by the sovereign for the reformation of the abuses of the church. These were deposed by him, and in their room he appointed seven superintendents, who discharged the spiritual part of the episcopal office, without sharing any portion of the temporal power and authority formerly possessed by the bishops. A more detailed account of the reformation of the Danish church will be found in Mosheim, Eccl. Hist. Cent. 16 Sect. I. chap. ii.; and in Seckendorf, Hist. Lutheranismi, Lib. iii. Vol. II. pp. 88, 89, 241-243.
There are two editions of this treatise, the first of which is without date; the last was printed (with the epistle to the reader much enlarged) by John Day, between 1546 and 1584. Herbert possessed a copy of both editions: the present Editor has not been able to meet with a copy of the latter. The work is here reprinted from a copy of the first edition in the University Library, Cambridge.] TRANSLATOR’S PREFACE To All Them That Profess The Christian Name, The Translator Wisheth Mercy From God The Father Through Our Only Advocate And Mediator, Jesu Christ, Whose Spirit, The Giver Of All Goodness, Lead You Into All Ghostly Knowledge.
As the author of this little book, moved with the desire to profit as well the rude and unlearned, as the lettered and professors of knowledge, wrote it in his vulgar tongue; even so I, most dearly beloved brethren, moved also with the desire to profit my natural countrymen, so much as shall be in my little power, have thought it my bounden duty to employ my diligence to the translating thereof.
And because it hath pleased the Lord to give me more knowledge in the Latin tongue than in the French (wherein this book was first written), I have translated it after the Latin copy, putting the faithful reader out of doubt, that I have not in any point gone from the true meaning of the author, but have thoroughly observed the phrases of both tongues, avoiding in all that I might the dark manner of translating after the Latin phrases; to the intent the English reader might have the full understanding hereof, without any knowledge of the Latin tongue. And that the godly mind of the studious readers may be the more stirred to read the matter with indifferent judgment, I shall without dissimulation assure them, that herein is no matter of contention at all; but charitably, without any word of reproach, as well the right use of the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ, as the abuses and errors concerning the same, are set forth so plainly, that no man (unless he will willingly shut up the eyes of his conscience against the manifest truth) can read the book thoroughly, but he shall easily perceive, what great abuses have these six hundred years been, and are at this present day, maintained and defended, as concerning the ministration thereof.
First, for that the popish church have and do abuse it, in offering it up as an healthful sacrifice for the redemption of the souls of the congregation: for in their canon, which they call the secrets of the mass, are these words: Pro redemption animarum ecclesioe tuoe ; that is to say, “For the redemption of the souls of thy church.” Where they hold opinion and teach, that by offering up this sacrifice (as they call it) they apply to, or make partakers of the passion of Christ, all them that hear or hire such masses as they have invented, dashed full of whisperings, duckings, and crossings, besides the demure countenance in their turn and half turn. I will speak no more as concerning their fond inventions about the ministration of this most sacred sacrament, lest I should thereby be an offense or stumbling-block to the weak brothers, whose consciences are not yet fully satisfied as concerning the true belief of this holy mystery; I mean, lest I should give them occasion to do, as certain fond talkers have of late days done, and at this present day do invent and apply to this most holy sacrament names of despite and reproach, as to call it “Jack- in-thebox,” and “Round Robin,” and such other not only fond, but also blasphemous names, not only void of all edification (which ought to be the end of all our doings and sayings), but very slanderous also. For though the thing being so turned from the right use, as it is, be abominable, so that it is lawful for us to speak unreverently of it in the abuse; yet is it not meet for them that profess charity, nothing to refrain for conscience’ sake: the conscience, I say, of the weak brothers, not yet strong in the truth; and so much the more, for that many godly-minded persons, which by the persuasions of certain discreet and modest brothers have been made, of Romish idolaters and diligent students of duncical dregs, disciples of great hope in the sincere and true evangelic doctrine, have by the hearing of these names of reproach and despite taken occasion to think, that the knowledge which these men did profess, which would be so outrageous as to mock and jest at the remembrance of our redemption, could not proceed of the Spirit of God; and have through this persuasion returned to their old leaven again; thinking them to be the true teachers of God’s doctrine, which offend in the contrary, making it so divine a thing, that it should be of no less importance than the whole Trinity, the Father, the Son, and Holy Ghost: for so they affirm, saying, that forasmuch as it is the body of Christ, and that Christ is in all places at once with his Father, and his Father with him and the Holy Ghost, it must needs follow, that in it is the whole Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. For these are not nor cannot be separated.
I will say for these men, that “they have the zeal of God, but it is not according to knowledge.” For as the Jews (who were from time to time taught and believed, that God dwelled in the temple that Solomon builded) could not abide to hear that God should not dwell in a temple made with man’s hands, nothing considering that he is immensus , and cannot be contained, for heaven is his seat, and the earth his footstool; even so these men, through a fond persuasion of the essential presence of Christ in the sacrament, cannot abide to hear, that the whole Trinity should not be really contained under a piece of bread, yea, under every little crumb thereof. I speak not this, as one putting no difference between that sacramental bread and our common bread; but that I may thereby declare and open the great blindness of them, that knowing and confessing the immensurable nature of God, would have him really and naturally contained in so small a thing. “Heaven is my seat,” saith he, “and the earth is my footstool:” and yet will they truss him so short, that they will bring him into a little pix, wherein a man cannot turn his fist.
He filleth all places, and is contained in no place; and yet will they at their pleasure place him in the chalice: he was never visible to the mortal eye, and yet will they make him appear at every knave’s request, that will do as other men do, I mean pay their ordinary shot; and so doing he shall not only see him, but also eat him up every morsel.
I would the men would diligently peruse the words of Saint Augustine in their legend on Corpus Christi day, which are these, taken out of the twenty-sixth Treatise upon John: “He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, tarrieth in me, and I in him. To eat that meat therefore, and to drink that drink, is to tarry in Christ, and to have Christ tarrying in us. And by this, he that tarrieth not in Christ, and in whom Christ tarrieth not, no doubt he doth not spiritually eat his flesh, nor drink his blood, although he do carnally and visibly crush with his teeth the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ; but he doth rather eat and drink to his damnation the sacrament of so noble a thing.” Here is your transubstantiation utterly denied; for Saint Augustine putteth a plain difference between the sacrament and the thing itself. Again, the same Augustine in the same place addeth these words: “The sacrament of this thing, that is, of the unity of the body and blood of Christ, is in some places prepared every day; in some other places but certain days, as on the Sunday; and is taken of the table of the Lord to some persons to life, to some other to destruction: but the thing itself is to all persons to life, and to destruction to no man that may be partaker thereof.” What needeth it to rehearse any more witnesses, seeing these are sufficient, either to prove Saint Augustine an heretic, either else to declare this transubstantiation to be both foolish and abominable; both for that it trusseth together the divinity, and enlargeth the humanity beyond all measure, thruching up into a corner that part which no place can contain, and setting at liberty to be in all places that which must needs be in one place only? If every man will follow his conscience in this matter, I doubt not but they shall soon be persuaded, how far wide this transubstantiation is from the truth. But now take they hold of the words of the Lord at the first institution of this most sacred sacrament, which are these: “This is my body, which shall be delivered for you. This is my blood which shall be shed for you and many unto remission of sins.” What natural, essential, and real presence they build upon these words, is abundantly declared in the Bishop of Winchester and Doctor Smith’s books. f92 I shall therefore most humbly desire the reader utterly to shake off all superstitious persuasions of old usages, giving himself wholly to the teaching of the Spirit of God, who teacheth inwardly in the heart all them that give over themselves to his teaching and information. And I, for my part, yielding me to the same Spirit, shall in this case write the thing only, which my conscience shall give me to be of the Spirit of the living God; and my trust is, that the good Spirit of God is my leader.
As concerning the understanding of the words of Christ, you shall know that the manner of teaching is double, that is to say, by words, and by signs. By words we teach, when we declare unto the hearers by words the thing that we would they should know. By signs we teach, when we do something, whereby the beholders may gather our meaning; as Tarquinius Superbus did, when he struck off the tops of the highest poppies, declaring thereby, that his advice was to have the greatest rulers beheaded. We teach also both by words and by signs, when we add unto the words some action, to declare and, as it were, to expound the words withal: as is mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles of a prophet, which declared unto Paul the persecution he should endure at Hierusalem, whither he was going; and to make the matter more plain, he took Paul’s girdle from about him, and tied his feet withal, saying, “The man whose girdle this is shall be thus bounden at Hierusalem.” Even so, good Christian brethren, our Savior Christ, willing to declare to his apostles the wonderful participation that all faithful Christians should have in his body and blood, took bread, which is the chief, and in scripture counted the only food of the body of man; and when he had after his accustomed manner given thanks, he blessed, not crossing the bread with the three hinder fingers, having the forefinger and the thumb fast joined together: no, he made no sign of the cross at all: for to make the sign of the cross was in those days none other than it is now to make the sign of a gallowtree.
He blessed, therefore, after the manner that the fathers, the prophets, and patriarchs used: that is, he invocated and called upon the name of his Father, desiring him to accomplish invisibly in all his faithful darlings the thing which he intended to declare unto them by the visible sign. Then said he to his apostles, “Take ye, eat ye; this is my body, which shall be delivered for you.” Not meaning that he had changed the nature of bread into the nature of flesh, making the bread that he held in his hand his natural body; for then had he given unto them a mortal and corruptible body to eat; which thing is so much ungodly, that very nature abhorreth it.
But he gave them the bread to eat, saying: “This is my body, which shall be delivered for you. I became man for none other purpose, but that my body should be torn and rent to satisfy for your sins, that your souls might be fed, and have like participation thereof, as your bodies have of this bread; and you, which be my faithful, are as this bread is, one body made of many bodies; for every little grain whereof this bread is made is of himself a body, and yet joined together they are but one body. In like manner, you that believe in me, though ye be many, yet joined together by faith, ye are but one body, and I am your head. This mystery can you not understand without some visible sign, which may represent unto you the verity thereof: Take ye this bread therefore; and know for certainty, that like as it is one, so are ye one, if ye remain in faith. And as it nourisheth the body, so doth my passion nourish the soul, which hath no life but in me, and by me.” In like manner, when he had supped, he took the cup, saying: “Take ye, and drink ye all of this; this is the cup of the new testament in my blood, which shall be shed for you and many unto remission of sins. Do this, so oft as you drink, in my remembrance.”
Another sign to declare this mystery by: “This cup of wine is but one body, and yet it is made of many grapes; and so are you but one body, although you be many, so long as you be joined together by faith. It comforteth the heart and the lively spirits of the body; and so doth my blood shed on the cross comfort the soul. By this action have I declared unto you the mystery of the participation you have in me by faith. Use you the same; that this your deliverance by me may never slip out of your mind. We have eaten the lamb, which putteth us in remembrance of the wonderful deliverance out of the captivity in Egypt, which was done more than a thousand years past; so shall you eat this bread, and drink this cup, in remembrance of your redemption and deliverance out of the spiritual Egypt, and from the spiritual Pharao, the devil. And when you shall be demanded, what you mean by this eating and drinking, you shall say: We were, through the sin and transgression of the first man Adam, made bondmen and captives to the devil; out of which bondage we could by no means be delivered, till it had pleased God the Father to send his onlybegotten Son to take our nature upon him, that he might die, and be an acceptable sacrifice to pacify the Father’s wrath.”
Wherefore, the night before he suffered, he declared unto us by these visible signs, what communion we have in him of all that ever he deserved for us. And then he commanded us to use the same; because we should be always put in remembrance of that our redemption and deliverance, none otherwise than Moses did to the Israelites, the night before he did by the wonderful might of God bring them out of the great captivity, wherein they were holden in Egypt. The words of Saint Paul to the Corinthians do teach no less than I have here written. For he saith: “So often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you shall declare the death of the Lord till he come. And therefore, whosoever eateth of this bread, or drinketh of this cup unworthily, doth eat and drink his own damnation.” Here is a plain declaration of the end and purpose of Christ, when he instituted this most sacred sacrament: forsooth, to keep in remembrance his most dolorous death, and precious blood most plenteously shed upon the cross.
And whosoever eateth and drinketh it unworthily, that is to say, for any other purpose than for the same it was ordained for, the same eateth and drinketh his own damnation. I think not contrary, but that most men will think this a strange interpretation of this place; forasmuch as the most ancient, yea, all the doctors that make any mention of this place, and Calvin himself in this book which I have translated, do apply the unworthiness in receiving of this sacrament to the unpenitent heart of the person which receiveth it. And in very deed, such one is far unworthy to receive so worthy a sacrament; forasmuch as he is not the member nor servant of Christ, but a member of the devil, and servant to sin. And this interpretation is no less godly than fruitful. For thereby are the members of Christ put in fear to presume to come to the table of the Lord, unless they have first examined and found themselves the true members of Christ, endued and adorned with perfect faith, hope, and charity. But if we will go to the native sense of the text, we shall perceive, that in this place Paul speaketh of the small regard the Corinthians had to this most sacred sacrament, not using it with so much reverence as they ought to do. For he addeth these words, “Putting no difference of the Lord’s body:” as he should have said, esteeming it nothing better than the common bread wherewith they fed their bodies. The phrase of speaking giveth this interpretation; for if I say, This man was not worthily entertained, I mean not, that the party which entertained him was not worthy to entertain so noble a man; but that he was not used, as was beseeming for such a man to be used. So that to receive the sacrament unworthily is to receive it otherwise, or for another purpose, than it ought to be received for; that is, after any other form, or for any other purpose, than the words of the first institution do declare. For when the use of good things is altered from the purpose and end they were first ordained for, then are they unworthily handled. All they therefore, which do privately receive the sacrament, either to merit themselves, or other; that do make it a sacrifice for the redemption of sin; or to pacify God’s wrath in any condition, or after any other form, or for any other purpose than is declared in the words of the first institution, do receive it to their damnation; putting no difference of the Lord’s body, but using it as a matter of merchandise, or occupation to get their living upon. They only receive it worthily, which receive it as a most worthy sacrament and sign, representing unto us the communion and participation we have in all that ever Christ did or purchased for us by taking our nature, and suffering therein all manner of most miserable afflictions, and finally by his most cruel and dolorous death. Therefore to hoise it over their heads, to dance it over the cup, to carry it in the streets with great pomp and glory, to bow their knees, and to knock their breasts before it, and to lock it up in a pix, to have it ready to serve at all hours all such chapmen as shall call for it, is but a politic cast of the merchants, which display and set abroad to be seen such merchandise as they would fainest sell. As they do offend, which neglect and common this most holy mystery, esteeming it no better than the common bread wherewith our bodies be fed; so do they also offend, which honor it with divine honor, making it thereby an idol of all other most to be abhorred, both for that, as they use it, it is a plain antichrist, spoiling Christ of his victory achieved by the once offering of himself for all; and also for that it pulleth the believers thereon from the true adoration of God the Father, and maketh them to honor, for the invisible, immense, and eternal God, that visible, measurable, and corruptible bread and wine. Yea, as they use it, it is not the communion of Christ’s body and blood at all, but a fond invention of their own. For Christ did not make so many crossings and blessings, and then eat up all himself; but we must believe that they receive it for us, and in all our names. Well, I shall remit the faithful readers to the author of this little book, most humbly beseeching the Lord our God plenteously to pour out of his spirit of knowledge upon us all, that we may daily more and more find out the hid and secret abominations, to the utter extirpation and routing out of the same. And in the mean time let us pray together, that it may please the Lord to augment the number of his faithful, turning Sauls into Pauls, that the hard hearts may be mollified by hearing the persecutors preach Christ, whom they persecuted. The Spirit of truth be with you all! So be it.
It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing at all. John 6:1.
FOREASMUCH as the most holy supper of our Lord Jesus Christ hath of long time been wrapped up in manifold and great errors, and even of late days wrapped in many opinions and contentions, nothing so quiet as was beseeming; no marvel though certain weak conscienced persons cannot well determine what thing they ought chiefly to follow, but do with indifferent and suspensed mind look, when the servants of God, setting all contention apart, shall agree among themselves, and bring the matter to some concord and unity. And seeing that such kind of doubt hath no small incommodity annexed, and that it is a thing most dangerous to have no certain determination of that mystery, the knowledge whereof is so necessary to our salvation; I have thought it a thing most profitable, briefly to speak of the chief sum of the matter, and yet plainly to declare, what thing we ought chiefly to stick unto therein. Moreover, certain honest men, perceiving the matter to require no less, desired me earnestly to take it in hand; whose request I could by no means deny, unless I would have been slack in doing my duty. And that the difficulty thereof may the more easily be opened, it is needful to declare what order we intended to follow herein.
First , I shall declare, for what cause and to what end the Lord hath instituted this most holy sacrament.
Thirdly , what is the right use thereof.
Finally , I will declare the original of that contention, which hath been so earnestly maintained even of the same men, which in our time have applied all their study to bring the gospel to light again, to replenish again the congregation, and to restore the sincere and pure doctrine.
As concerning the first, when it pleased the Almighty, our God, by baptism to choose us into the congregation, that is to say, into his house, which he will nourish and defend; and that he hath received us, not only as household servants, but also as his children; it behoveth him, if he will play the part of a good father, to bring us up, ministering unto us all things necessary to food and clothing.
But as concerning the things that pertain to the education of the body, because they be common to all men, so that as well the evil persons as the good be partakers thereof, they are not to be taken for things appertaining to his household only. No doubt, in that he feedeth and defendeth our bodies, and whiles we be partakers of all those good things which he most plenteously and liberally giveth us, is declared a great token of his fatherly goodness towards us. But in like manner as the life wherein he hath regenerate us is spiritual, so is it needful that the meat, wherewith we should be sustained and strengthened, be also spiritual. For we must understand, that we are not called to possess the celestial inheritance in time to come only; but that through hope we are in manner set in possession thereof already: so that he hath not only promised us life; but delivering us from death, he hath already led us into it in very deed. And this thing obtained we, when he begat us anew with the seed of immortality, that is to say, his word, which through the Holy Ghost he hath printed and fastened in our hearts. That we therefore may defend and sustain this life, we must not seek the caducal and corruptible meats wherewith the belly is fed; but we must provide for our souls much better and more excellent food. And the whole scripture witnesseth, that the selfsame word, whereby the Lord hath begotten us anew, is the spiritual bread whereby our souls are sustained and fed: the reason is this, because in it Christ our only life is given and ministered unto us. For when God would that all abundance of life should remain in Christ, to the intent that by him he might make us partakers thereof, he ordained the word also, whereby Christ and all his mercies might be ministered unto us. This sentence therefore is infallibly true, that our souls are fed and nourished with none other food than Jesus Christ.
Wherefore the heavenly Father, being careful for our education, gave us none other food; yea, rather he committed this unto us singularly. And forasmuch as it is sufficient enough for the recreation and sustenance of our souls, he willed us to content ourselves therewith, and that our souls should rest together therein; because we may by no means be without that food, which being taken away, none other can be found. Now do we perceive, after what sort Christ is the only food wherewith our souls be fed; but because he is distributed unto us by the word of the Lord, as by the instrument appointed for the same purpose, he is named bread and wine.
And that which is spoken of the word, appertaineth also to the sacrament of the supper, whereby the Lord leadeth us unto the partaking of Christ.
For because we be so weak and feeble, that we cannot with unfeigned trust of mind receive him, when he is offered unto us in the bare preaching of the doctrine; the Father of mercy, willing to accommodate himself unto our infirmity therein, hath joined unto the word a sign to be seen with the eyes, whereby he might represent unto us the very substance of his promises, that, all doubt and wavering taken away, we might be confirmed and strengthened in him.
Seeing therefore this mystery is high and hard to attain to, and that we cannot by wit comprehend, or by study understand, how the body and blood of Christ may be communicated unto us; and that we be so rude and ignorant, that we understand not the very least of the divine matters; it was needful to declare and open this mystery after such sort as the ability of our wit might away withal.
And for that cause did the Lord institute the supper, that he might print in our consciences those promises, wherewith he hath in the gospel promised to make us partakers of his body and blood; and that he might establish us in this persuasion, our spiritual life to be remaining in him, that we, receiving so noble a pledge, may conceive a sure hope of salvation.
Furthermore, that we should be exercised in acknowledging his great goodness towards us, and in celebrating and setting forth of the same with all laud and praise. Thirdly, that we should be provoked to embrace holiness and innocency, forasmuch as we acknowledge ourselves to be the members of Christ; and that above all other we set forth and maintain friendship and brotherly concord, whereof we have an especial commandment. When we have well and diligently marked these three causes, (to which no doubt the Lord had respect, when he instituted the supper,) an entry shall be opened unto us, that we may the better understand, what fruit we receive thereby, and by what mean we may use it aright.
We must therefore now come unto the second part, that we may declare, what wholesome fruit the supper of the Lord bringeth unto us, so we will understand and gather the same. And that shall we know, when we will diligently perpend our own great lack which it succoreth. No remedy we must needs be vehemently troubled and vexed in mind, so often as we consider what we are ourselves, and when we examine all that is in us. For there is not one of us, that can find so much as one little crumb of justice in himself; but contrariwise, we are defiled with so many vices and wicked deeds, stuffed full of so great a multitude of sins, that there needeth none other accuser than our own conscience; neither needeth it to seek for any other judge to give sentence against us. Whereof it followeth, that the ire of God is stirred against us, and that none of us can be able to escape the judgment of eternal death.
And unless we will be very dreamers and blockheads, no remedy but we shall through that horrible cogitation be vexed and troubled, as it were with a continual hell-fire; for we cannot remember the judgment of God, but incontinent our own damnation is before our eyes. We are therefore already swallowed up by the devouring sink of death, were it not that Almighty God delivereth us. And what hope of resurrection may we have, when we consider our own flesh, so rotten and full of all corruption? And therefore, whether we consider body or soul, nothing can be more miserable than we are, so long as we shall consider but ourselves only; and whiles we perceive so great miseries, no remedy we must needs be miserably tormented and affected with extreme heaviness. That the heavenly Father therefore might succor this our calamity, he gave unto us the supper, as a glass wherein we might behold Christ crucified and raised again: crucified, that our sins might be forgiven; raised again, that we, delivered from corruption and death, might be restored to the heavenly immortality. This singular consolation take we of the Lord’s supper, that it directeth and leadeth us unto the cross and resurrection of Christ; that we may know for certainty, that we, although we be wicked and unclean, be acknowledged and received of the Lord, yea, and taken for just; and that by him we are restored to life, notwithstanding that we be hedged in within all kinds of death; and that we be replenished with all kinds of felicity, notwithstanding that we be miserable and full of calamity. Or to make the thing more plain, when there is no goodness at all remaining in us, neither any one thing of those things which should help to the obtaining of salvation, the supper doth abundantly witness unto us, that we have obtained all things profitable and wholesome, in that we be partakers of the death and passion of Christ. Wherefore we may affirm, that whiles the Lord admitteth us into the fellowship of the goods and riches of Christ, he openeth the treasury of his mercies. Let us remember therefore, that in the supper is given unto us as it were a glass, wherein we may behold Christ crucified, to deliver us from death and damnation, and raised up again, to justify us and give us life everlasting. And albeit that the same mercy is given unto us in the gospel, yet for that in the supper we have more certainty and fuller fruition, we can do no less but acknowledge that we receive this profit thereof.
But for because the mercies of Christ appertain nothing unto us, unless he himself be ours before, it is most expedient, that in the supper he be given unto us, that those things whereof we have spoken may in very deed be performed in us. And therefore I have used to say, that Christ is the matter and substance of the sacraments, and that the mercies and benefits which we get by him are the efficacy and strength thereof.
To conclude, the whole strength and energy of the supper consisteth in this thing, to confirm the reconciliation with God made by the death and passion of Christ; to certify us, that our souls be washed in his blood, and that we be made just through his obedience; and, to conclude, to print surely in our minds that hope of salvation, which we have in all those things that he hath done for us.
Upon this must we necessarily conclude, that there is a substance annexed unto this virtue; otherwise should we have no stedfastness or certainty therein. We must therefore conclude, that in the supper are given unto us two things; that is to say, Christ, as fountain, origin, and matter of all good things, and the fruit and efficacy of his death and passion: which thing even the very words that be spoken in the supper do abundantly declare. For when he bade us eat his body and drink his blood, he addeth, that his body was given for us, and his blood shed for the remission of our sins: wherein he doth first declare, that his body and blood is not simply without any other consideration communicate unto us, but that we must also consider the fruit that cometh unto us by his death and passion. In fine, how may we be able to come to the fruition of so exceeding good things, unless we be partakers of the body and blood of him that hath produced these things, and given them unto us?
Now enter we into that question, which hath been so greatly tossed, both in time past and in these our days also; how those words are to be understanded, wherein Christ calleth his body bread, and his blood wine.
Which words may easily be opened, if we keep in memory those principles which I have before set forth; that is to say, that all the fruit we seek for in the supper is brought to nought, unless Christ be given unto us therein, as the foundation and substance of all the whole matter. And if we once grant this thing, then no doubt we shall grant also, that there is given unto us nought else but an unprofitable and vain sacrament, if we deny that in it is given unto us the very participation of Christ; which thing were execrable and shameful blasphemy. Furthermore, if the manner of the communion with Christ be such, that we be partakers of all the mercies and benefits which he gat for us by his death, then are we not partakers with the spirit only, but with the manhood also, wherein he performed perfect obedience to God the Father, to the intent he might pay our debts; although, to say the truth, the one cannot be without the other: for when he giveth himself unto us, he doth it to the intent we should possess him whole. And therefore, as I have said that his Spirit is our life; even so doth he with his own mouth declare, that his flesh is our food, and his blood our very drink. If this be not spoken in vain, no remedy our life must needs consist in him, and our souls be nourished with his flesh and blood, as with their proper and peculiar food.
Of that thing have we testimony in the supper, when it is said of the bread, that we should take it, and eat it, and that it is his body; and of the cup, that we drink it, and that it is his blood: there are the body and blood named, to the intent we should learn to seek the substance of our spiritual life therein. Now if any man would demand of me, whether the bread be the body of Christ, and the wine his blood, thereto would I answer, that the bread and wine are visible signs, representing unto us the body and blood of Christ; and that they be called the body and blood, because they be as it were instruments, whereby the Lord Jesu Christ distributeth them unto us. This form of speaking agreeth very well with the thing.
For notwithstanding that our eyes, no, nor our wits cannot comprehend the communion that we have in the body of Christ, yet is it there openly shewed before our eyes. We have in a like thing an example very fit for the purpose. When the Lord would that his Spirit should appear in the baptism of Christ, he shewed him under the shape of a dove. John the Baptist, receiving that history, saith that he saw the Holy Ghost descending. But if we mark it well, we shall find that he saw nought else but a dove: for the substance of the Holy Ghost is invisible. But for that he knew that vision to be no vain figure, but the most sure token of the presence of the Holy Ghost, he doubted nothing at all to affirm that he saw him; because he was represented unto him under such sort, as he was able to abide. Even so must we say, as concerning the communion that we have in the body and blood of Christ. It is a spiritual mystery, which can neither be seen with the eyes, neither comprehended with the wit.
Therefore, as the weakness of our nature requireth, it is set forth with visible figures and signs; but yet under such sort, that it is not a bare and simple figure, but joined unto his verity and substance. The bread therefore is not unworthily called the body; forasmuch as it doth not only represent it unto us, but also bring unto us the same thing I can be right well content therefore to grant that the name of the body of Christ be transferred unto the bread, because it is the sacrament and figure thereof.
But this one thing will I add, that the sacrament of the Lord ought by no means to be separate from his substance and verity. And yet is it not only meet, but also very necessary, so to set them asunder, that they be not confounded: but to divide them so, that the one should be made perfect without the other, is most unseemly. When we therefore do behold the visible sign, we must consider what it representeth, and who gave it us.
For the bread is given to the intent that it should be the figure of the body of Christ, and we are commanded to eat it. It is given, I say, of God, the certain and unchangeable Verity. If so be that God can neither deceive nor lie, it followeth that he doth in very deed perform and fulfill all that he doth there signify. No remedy therefore, we must needs unfeignedly receive the body and blood of Christ in the supper; forasmuch as the Lord offereth unto us therein the communion of them both. For what should this mean, that we should eat bread and drink wine, to the intent that they should declare unto us that his flesh is our meat, and his blood our drink, if he, letting the spiritual verity pass, should give us nought else but bread and wine? Had he not then instituted this mystery feignedly and in vain, and, as we say in the French tongue, under deceivable signs? And therefore must we needs grant, that if the representation which the Lord giveth in the supper be no reigned thing, that then the inward substance of the sacrament is annexed to the visible signs; and that in like manner as the bread is distributed in the hand, so is the body of Christ communicate unto us, to the intent we should be partakers thereof. And doubtless if there were no more but this one thing, yet ought it to satisfy us abundantly; forasmuch as we understand, that in the supper Christ giveth unto us the very substance of his body and blood, that we may with full right possess him, and in possessing him be called into the society of all his good things.
For in that we possess him, all the treasures and heavenly goods which be secretly laid up in him are set out unto us, to the intent that they should be ours, and that we should enjoy them with him. Briefly therefore to define the profit of the supper: we may say, that in it Jesus Christ is offered unto us, that we may possess him himself, and in him abundance and plenty of all the mercies and benefits that the mind can desire. Which thing is an exceeding great help unto us, in stablishing our consciences in that trust which we ought to have in him.
Another utility is, that by it we are more stirred and admonished to acknowledge the benefits which we have and do daily receive of the Lord Jesu Christ, that we may give unto him honor and glory; and that, as meet is, we celebrate his most holy name with continual praises. For by nature we are very negligent in the remembrance of the goodness of our God, neither do we think thereon at any time, unless he do awake our sluggishness, and provoke us to our duty. And with sharper pricks can we not be pricked, than in that he compelleth us, as it were, to see with our eyes, and to handle with our hands, yea, openly to know and perceive the greatness of the inestimable benefit, in that he feedeth and refresheth us with his own proper substance; which thing he would should be declared and made open unto us, in that he biddeth us declare his death till he come. If so be that it be a thing so necessary to salvation, not to be unmindful of the mercies and benefits that God hath shewed unto us, but rather diligently to call them again to memory, and to extol them greatly to other men, that we may by mutual admonitions be stirred up, we see therein a singular commodity of the supper; which calleth us back from the vice of unthankfulness, and suffereth us not to forget that great benefit which Christ shewed us, when he died for our sakes; but it bringeth us to this pass, that we give thanks unto him, and do as it were with an open testimony confess how much we are bound unto him.
The third kind of utility consisteth in this thing, that we be thereby more vehemently stirred up to sanctimony and purity of life, and are with more force of persuasions driven, chiefly and before all other, to keep charity and friendship among ourselves. For seeing that we be made the members of Christ, being grafted into his body, and are joined together with him, as with our head; it is but meet that we chiefly be fashioned after his purity and innocency, and that there be especially such concord among us, as ought to be among the members of one body. Although, to have the true understanding of this utility, we ought not to think, that the Lord doth only exhort and stir us up either inflame us with an external sign. For this is the chief thing, that he with his Spirit worketh entirely in us, to add force and efficacy to his ordinance, which he hath appointed as it were an instrument, serving entirely to this purpose, that he might accomplish and finish his work in us. Therefore, because the power of the Holy Ghost is coupled with the sacraments, when they be received so as they ought to be, we ought to hope and trust, that they be an help unto us, that we may go forward in holiness of life, and especially in charity.
Now must we come to the third of the chief parts, which we have purposed in the beginning of this little book, that is to say, to the right use; that we may reverently observe the institution of the Lord. For whosoever cometh unto this sacrament with a certain contempt, negligently, or without regard, nothing careful to hold his purpose, and to persevere in that wherein the Lord hath called him, he doth frowardly abuse it, and in abusing filthily contaminate it. But to contaminate and pollute the thing that God hath so holily consecrated, is a great and intolerable sacrilege.
Neither is it in vain that Paul declareth so grievous and cruel damnation to all them that receive it unworthily. For if there be nothing, either in heaven, either in earth, that is more worthy than the body and blood of the Lord; it is no small fault to despise it, and to receive it without consideration, and to come thither not well and diligently prepared.
Furthermore, he doth advertise us to prove ourselves, that we may use it even as the thing requireth. If so be that we understand what probation that ought to be, we shall also perceive what use that is which we look for; but great and wise circumspection must be had in this thing. For as we cannot be too diligent in examining ourselves, as the Lord hath commanded, even so did the sophistical doctors, whiles they required I cannot tell what kind of probation and diligence in examining of a man’s self, such as never man could be able to perform, held the miserable consciences too much perplex, casting them into wonderful dangerous anxiety, yea, rather into horrible torments. And to be delivered from these inrollings of perturbations, we must, as I have said before, reduce all things to the institution of the Lord, as to the rule, which if we follow, we shall neither slide nor err. And following it, we ought to consider, whether we feel in ourselves unfeigned repentance and faith; which two are so joined between themselves, that it is not possible that the one can by any means consist without the other. For if we do suppose that our life remaineth in Christ, then must we acknowledge, that in ourselves we are dead.
If we seek our force and strength in him, then must we understand, that we destituted of all strength do faint. If we put all our felicity in his mercy, we must needs perceive, how great our misery is, when that is away. If our quietness and tranquillity be reposed in him, then must we feel nought else in ourselves, but unquietness, troublesome cares, and solicitudes. And such affection cannot be in us, but it will engender in us a certain displeasance of our whole life, besides the carefulness and fear, and at the last, the love and desire of justice. For he that knoweth the filthiness of his sin; and the misery of his estate, whiles he is exiled from God, is so greatly abashed, that he is constrained to be out of conceit with himself, to condemn himself, and for very dolor of heart to weep and sigh. To these things is the judgment of God objected incontinent, which thrucheth the conscience of the sinner in wonderful straits, when he perceiveth, that he can by no means escape, and that there is no place of defense remaining.
When we, acknowledging our own misery after such sort, are able to taste of the goodness of God, then do we desire to direct all the order of our life unto his will; that, abjecting the things which we followed before, we may in him be made a new creature. If we therefore will have that communion which is beseeming for us to have, the communion of the most holy supper of the Lord, let us with a firm confidence of mind take Christ for our justice, life, and health: let us embrace his promises, supposing them to be certain and constant: let us renounce all succors to the contrary, which strive therewith, and all confidence of the same; that we, distrusting ourselves and all other creatures, may be quiet in him only, and content ourselves with his only mercy: which thing because it cannot be done, unless we know how much need we have of help and succor, no remedy we must needs be most sharply pricked and digged, as it were with a goad, through the feeling of our misery, that we, as men half famished, may desirously look for him. For how fond a thing were it to seek for meat without any manner of appetite! And to get an appetite to meat, the next way is to have an empty stomach; but in such taking that it may admit meat. Of this it followeth, that it behoveth our souls to be hungry, and fervently to desire meat, that they may in the supper of the Lord find their nutriment.
Furthermore, it is to be noted, that we cannot desire Christ, unless we do aspire to the justice of God, which consisteth in the denial of ourself, and the obedience that ought to be given unto him. For it can by no means agree, that we should be of the body of Christ, living in the mean time filthily, voluptuously, and without rule. Seeing that in Christ is nought else but all purity, continence, gentleness, sobriety, verity, humbleness, and all other like virtues; it behoveth us, if we will be members of his body, to be clear from all voluptuousness and riot, from arrogancy, intemperance, vanity, pride, and other vices; for we cannot mingle those with him, without great shame and reproach. It behoveth us alway to remember, that there is no more concord between him and iniquity, than is between light and darkness. Lo, by what means we may come to perfect repentance; by appointing our journey so, that our life be fashioned after the example of Christ. But although this thing be common to all parts of the life, yet take they place chiefly in charity, which in this sacrament is singularly commended unto us; by reason whereof it is also called the bond thereof.
For as the bread, which for the use of all men is there sanctified, is made of many grains so compact together, that one cannot be separate and discerned from the other; even after the same rate ought we to be joined together with the indissoluble bond of friendship. And so do we all receive one body of Christ, to the end we may be his members. But if we be full of discords and dissensions, we do, as much as in us lieth, tear Christ, and pull him in sunder; neither shall we be guilty of smaller sacrilege than if we had done the thing in deed. Let us not therefore be bold to come thither, if any hatred or evil will towards any man, and chiefly a Christian, and joined to the unity of the church, do remain in us. We must also, for the keeping and following of the order of the Lord, bring with us another affection, that is to say, that we confess with mouth, and declare in very deed, how much we are bound to our Savior, and that we may give thanks unto him; not only that we may give glory to his name, but that we may also instruct one another, and that our neighbors may through our example learn what they ought to do.
But for that there can no man be found, that hath so profited in faith and sanctity of life, but that he lacketh yet very much; it were danger lest very many godly consciences should be troubled with those words that I have spoken, unless I would return, mitigating those precepts which I have given of faith and repentance. For that kind of teaching is very dangerous, wherein some men, leaving the perfect trust and repentance of the mind, will that all men which be not endued with such things be excluded: for so should all men be excluded, not one man excepted. And to prove that thing to be true, who can boast that he hath no point of diffidence in him, and that he is depraved with no spot of mind or with no kind of weakness? Certes, the children of God have such faith, that it is needful for them always to pray unto the Lord, that he be present and help their incredulity. For this disease is so fast rooted in us, that we can by no means be healed, before we be delivered out of the bonds of this body.
Yea, the holiness of our life is such, that we must needs pray daily to get remission of sins and grace to amend. And although some be more imperfect than some, yet is there no man but he faileth in many things.
Yea, the justice of man is such, that the wise man compareth it to a defiled cloth, which is no less than if he had said with the psalmist: “All have fallen, they are made altogether unprofitable; there is none that doth good, not one.” There is none, that hath not need to say with David: “Lord, who is able to know the greatness of sin? do thou, good Lord, cleanse me from my sins, the magnitude whereof I am not able to comprehend.” And therefore, if that integrity of faith and life be required, wherein wanteth nothing at all, the supper should not be only unprofitable unto all men, but also very hurtful: which thing no doubt is most wide from the mind and purpose of the Lord, which gave unto us his congregation nothing more wholesome than that.
When we therefore shall feel in ourselves a faith not yet perfect, and shall not be endued with so pure a conscience, but that it accuse us of many vices; that ought not to let us for coming to the Lord’s sacred table, so be that we, void of all hypocrisy and simulation, do in that weakness trust for health in Christ, willing to direct our life after the rule of the gospel. But namely I say, that there be none hypocrisy: because very many do deceive themselves with vain flatterings, persuading themselves, that it is sufficient if they condemn their vices, although they do nourish the same; or else it sufficeth, if they abstain from them for a time, and intend to return to the same again incontinent. But the true repentance is firm and constant. And therefore it bringeth to pass, that we strive against the evil that we ourselves carry with us, not for a few days or months, but through all the time of our life, without any manner intermission. When we feel that vices do so displease us, and that the unfeigned hatred of them, proceeding from the fear of God, is grafted in us, and that we be also led with the desire to live well and holily, we are apt and meet to receive the supper of the Lord, although there be yet remaining in us very many fragments of infirmities.
Yea, unless we were weak, subject to diffidence and unperfect life, the sacrament were unprofitable for us, and the institution thereof had not been necessary.
Seeing therefore it is the remedy wherewith God would succor our weakness, strengthen our faith, increase our charity, and set us forward in sanctity of life, we ought so much the rather to use it, how much more grievously we feel ourselves oppressed with the magnitude of the disease.
Much less ought it to be an impediment unto us. For if we do lie for excuse, that we be yet weak in faith and not of life perfect enough, to the intent we may withdraw ourselves from the use of the supper, it were even like as if a man would abstain from physic, because he were sick.
The weakness therefore of faith, and the vices of our lives, ought to admonish us to come to the supper, as to the chief remedy, that they might be amended and corrected; so that we come not void of all faith and repentance: whereof the first is hid in the mind, and therefore our conscience must bear us witness before God; the latter is declared in action and work, and therefore it is requisite that it appear in our life.
As concerning the time of celebrating the supper, it may not be appointed and prescribed unto all men. For there is no man, but he shall sometime have such private impediments as may excuse a man, though he abstain.
Besides that we have no precept, whereby all men be compelled to use it so oft as it may be offered unto them. But yet, if we have respect unto the end whereunto the Lord leadeth us, we shall know, that the use thereof ought to be much more common, than it is commonly among many men.
For look how much more we be oppressed with weakness, so much the more often ought we to be exercised in it; because it may and ought to be profitable unto us, both for the confirmation of our faith, and also for the setting forward of the holiness of life. Wherefore in all congregations well ordered ought to be such custom, that the supper be celebrate so oft as may be, and so much as the people shall be able to receive. And every private person ought, so much as in him lieth, to be ready to receive it so often, as it shall be celebrate in a common assembly, unless he be by very urgent causes constrained to abstain. For albeit that the time is not assigned, nor the day expressed by any precept or commandment; yet ought this thing to suffice, that we know it to be the Lord’s will we should use this sacrament oftentimes. Otherwise we know not the profit that cometh unto us thereby. The excuses that some men lay are void and vain.
Some say, they are not worthy; and by that pretext they abstain all the year. Others do not only consider how unworthy they be; but they do also lay for them, that they cannot communicate with such as they see come thither unprepared. Also, other suppose, that the oft use of it is superfluous; neither do they think that it ought to be so often iterated and repeated, after that we have once received Christ.
I ask of those first, which lay for themselves their own unworthiness, how their conscience can sustain so great misery more than an year, and dare not call upon the Lord accordingly? For they will grant it to be a point of rashness to call upon God as a Father, unless we be the members of Christ; which thing cannot be done, unless the substance and verity of the supper be fulfilled in us: and if we have the verity itself, we are, with much better reason, meet to receive the same. Whereby we perceive, that they which would exempt themselves from the supper as unworthy, do rob themselves of that great commodity of invocating and praying to God. But I would not compel them, whose consciences be troubled and feared by any religion, to the intent they should intermingle themselves rashly. But rather I counsel them to tarry for a season, until the Lord shall vouchsafe to deliver them from that anxiety. In like manner, if there be any other cause, I do not deny but it is lawful to defer. I do only purpose to declare, that no man ought to continue long in this thing, that he may abstain for his unworthiness. For so is the congregation robbed of the communication, wherein all our health consisteth. Let him rather endeavor to fight against all the impediments which the devil casteth against him, lest he be excluded from so great a good thing, and consequently robbed of all the benefits together.
The other men’s reason is more apparent, because they use this reason: that is to say, if it be not lawful to eat common bread with them that name themselves brethren, and do yet nevertheless live filthily and licentiously, much less that bread which is consecrated for this intent, that it may represent and give unto us the body of the Lord.
But it is no hard thing to make answer to these also, that it pertaineth not to every private person to judge and discern, who ought to be admitted, and who to be depelled, but to the whole congregation, either else the shepherd and elders, whose help he ought to use in the ordering and governing of the congregation. For Saint Paul commandeth us not to examine other, but ourselves. It is our duty to admonish them that live viciously; and, if they will not hear us, to make relation to the shepherd, that he may finish the matter by the authority of the congregation. But we may not so withdraw ourselves from the company and assembly of the wicked, that we forsake the communion of the congregation. Besides these things, it shall oft times chance, that the crimes be not so manifest, that it may be lawful to proceed to excommunication. For although the shepherd shall in his mind judge any man to be unworthy, yet may he not pronounce him to be such a one, or prohibit him the supper, unless he have convicted him by the judgment of the congregation: which thing when it chanceth, there remaineth none other remedy, but that we desire God, that he will deliver his church from all offenses in this mean time, whiles we look for the day of judgment, wherein the chaff shall be severed from the good grain.
The third have no kind at all of the likeliness of the truth. For this spiritual bread is not given unto us, to the intent we should be glutted incontinent; but rather that, tasting the sweetness thereof, we should hunger the more after it, and use it as often as it should be proffered unto us. This is the thing that I have expounded before, that Jesus Christ is never so communicate unto us, so long as we be in this mortal life, that our souls may be satiate with him, but that he may be an accustomed nourishment unto them.
To come to the fourth part. When the devil perceived, that the Lord left to the congregation nothing more profitable than this sacrament, he did after his accustomed manner employ himself, even incontinent upon the first institution, to contaminate it with divers errors and superstitions, to the intent he might corrupt and destroy the fruit thereof; neither did he cease to labor his purpose, until he had put away the institution of the Lord, and turned it into a lie and vanity. It pertaineth not to my purpose to assign, in what time every deceit and error had his beginning. It shall be sufficient for me particularly to note errors that the devil hath invented, which we must beware of, if we will have the supper of the Lord uncorrupted. First therefore, when the Lord gave the supper unto us, to the intent it should be distributed among us, that it might represent unto us the communion which we have in his body, and also that we might be partakers of that sacrifice which he offered unto his Father, to purge our sins; men have, on the contrary, by their own wits commented, that it is a sacrifice whereby we obtain of God remission of sins. Which thing is detestable sacrilege, and not to be suffered by any means. For unless we acknowledge and believe stedfastly, that the death of the Lord Jesu Christ is the only sacrifice, whereby he reconciled us to God the Father, putting away all the sins whereof we were guilty in his judgment, we overthrow and destroy his force and efficacy. Unless we grant, that Christ is the only priest, by whose intercession we are come again into favor with his Father, we rob him of his honor, and do him great injury. Seeing therefore that that opinion which feigneth that the supper of the Lord is a sacrifice, whereby we get and obtain remission of sins, fighteth against the same, it must be taken away and condemned as devilish. That it repugneth is most certain: for how can these things agree, That Christ in dying offered sacrifice to the Father, whereby once for all he obtained pardon and remission of all our sins; and, that we must sacrifice again daily, that we may obtain that thing which is to be sought in his only death?
This error was not at the highest incontinent upon the beginning; but increasing by little and little, it was at length brought to this point. It is manifest that the fathers of old time called the supper a sacrifice. But they shew a reason why; because the death of Christ is represented therein. f99 Their saying, therefore, is to this purpose: that because the supper is the memory of that only sacrifice, wherein we ought utterly to content ourselves, therefore is that name attributed. Neither can I blame the custom of the old congregation, because they did in their gesture and rite figurate a certain image of a sacrifice with the same ceremonies in manner, that were in use under the old law, this one thing excepted, that instead of a beast they used bread for their sacrifice; which thing, for that it pricketh too near the Jewish mark, and is not agreeable to the institution of the Lord, I do not allow it.
For in the old Testament, the time of figures, the Lord instituted such ceremonies to be observed, until that sacrifice were celebrated in the flesh of his most dear beloved Son, which was the truth of them all. Seeing, therefore, all this is finished, there remaineth no more but that we use the communion thereof. It is therefore superfluous to declare that thing with figures. Therefore by the institution of Christ we are not commanded to offer a sacrifice, but to take and eat the thing that is already offered and sacrificed. And although the ancients did somewhat offend in that observation, yet was not the impiety so great as that which did afterward creep in. For the thing that was proper and peculiar to the death of Christ, was utterly transposed to the mass, that it might satisfy to God for our offenses, and that we might be reconciled by it. Besides these things, that office which was Christ’s, was attributed unto them which called themselves priests, that they might sacrifice unto God, and that they might pray before him with their sacrifices, to obtain pardon and remission of our sins. I will not dissemble this solution, which the enemies of the truth do bring in this matter, that the mass is no new sacrifice, but the application of that only sacrifice whereof I have spoken. Although they go about to cover their abomination with some manner of color, yet doth it manifestly appear to be a mere cavillation. For it is not only said that the sacrifice of Christ is but one, but also that it ought not to be iterate, seeing that the force and efficacy thereof is perpetual. It is not said that Christ was once offered up to the Father, that other should afterward use the same oblation, that they might apply unto us the force of his intercession; but that he is entered into the sanctuary of heaven, and that he appeareth there, to the intent he may make the Father merciful unto us through his intercession. As concerning the application of the merit of his death, that we may feel the fruit thereof, that is done, not after such sort as they of the popish church think it to be done; but when we receive the tidings of the gospel, even such as the ministers, whom God hath ordained as ambassadors, do in their preaching protest, yea, such as he hath sealed with sacraments, as with seals. All, as well teachers as pastors, have allowed this opinion of the common people, wherein they supposed that man to deserve mercy and justification, even for the work’s sake, which would hear or buy a mass. But I say, that if we will take any profit of the supper, we must bring thither nothing of our own, to the intent to deserve the thing that we look for; but that we must only receive with faith the mercy that is in it offered unto us. And yet doth not that mercy remain in the sacrament; but as it cometh from the cross of Christ, even so it sendeth us back again to the same. Nothing therefore is so contrary to the true understanding of the supper, as to make thereof a sacrifice. For it will not suffer us to acknowledge the death of Christ to be the only sacrifice, which shall continue for ever. These things well understand, it shall be evident that all those masses, wherein is no such communion of the supper as the Lord instituted, are nought else, but very abomination. For the Lord did not ordain, that the priest only should severally satisfy himself after he had finished this sacrifice; but his will was, that this sacrament should be distributed in an open assembly, like unto the first supper which he celebrated with his apostles. But after that this detestable opinion was invented, this unhappy custom proceedeth out of it, as out of an hellmouth, wherein the people contenting themselves with being present at the action, as though they should thereby obtain some great merit, do in the mean time abstain from the communion, because the priest boasteth, that he offereth sacrifice for all, and chiefly for them that be present. I let pass the deceits and illusions, wherein is so much unseemliness that they are not to be spoken of, as to attribute to every little saint his appropriate mass, and to transfer unto Wat and Will, as we say in the French proverb, the thing that is spoken of the supper of the Lord: also to make merchandise thereof; with the other puddle of filthinesses, which have sprung of this name sacrifice.
Another error followeth, which the devil hath sown, to the intent to corrupt this holy mystery; that is to say, in that he commented the transubstantiation of the bread into the body, and of the wine into the blood of Christ, after the words should be pronounced with the intent to consecrate. f101 First, that comment hath no foundation at all in the scripture, neither hath it any testimony of the old congregation; and therefore can it by no means agree or stand with the words of the Lord. Is not such an interpretation too violent and too much wrested, to say, that when Christ shewing bread, calleth it his body, the substance of the bread is consumed, and that the body of Christ succeedeth in the place thereof? But it needeth not to call the matter into question, seeing that the bright and splendiferous verity is of itself able to confute so absurd a vanity. I let pass infinite testimonies, both of the scripture and of the fathers also, wherein the sacrament is called bread. I say this only, that the nature of the sacrament requireth, that the material bread remain for the visible sign of the body. For it is a general rule among the sacraments, that the signs which we see in them, ought to have some similitude with the spiritual thing that they represent.
As we are therefore in baptism certified, that our souls be inwardly washed, when the water that washeth the filth of the body is poured upon us, to declare the same thing; even so there needs must be in the supper material bread, that it may be declared unto us, that the body of Christ is our food. For what declaration were it, if the quality, whiteness, should represent unto us that body? We know therefore manifestly, that unless the substance do there remain, all the representation which the Lord, willing to accommodate himself to our infirmity, gave unto us, doth utterly decay and perish.
In like manner as man’s body is nourished and sustained with bread, so is my flesh the spiritual food, wherewith the souls be quickened. Besides these things, for what purpose doth Paul propone that similitude? As one loaf is made of many grains mingled and joined together one with another, even so we, (forasmuch as we take part all of one bread), ought to be fast joined together one with another. And if the whiteness only should remain without the substance, were it not a thing to be laughed at, to hear a man speak as Paul doth? Wherefore without any doubting at all, I conclude that this transubstantiation is the devil’s interpretation, to deprave the truth of the supper.
Many doating casts have followed of this lie; and would God they had not been more than doating casts, and that they had not been also horrible imaginations! For men, imagining I cannot tell what manner of placely presence, have taught that both the divinity and the humanity of Christ are fastened unto the whiteness, nothing considering, what inconveniences followed upon the same. Although the old doctors of Sorbonne have reasoned very subtilly, how the body and blood is joined with the signs; yet can it not be denied, but that in the popish church was received both of high and low, and is at this day with fire, sword, murder, and all kinds of torments cruelly defended and holden, this opinion, that Christ is contained under these signs, and that we ought to seek him there: which opinion if they will maintain, no remedy they must also grant, that the body of Christ, as a thing infinite, is contained in no place, either else that it is in divers places at once. And in the affirming hereof, they came at length to this pass, that it differeth nothing at all from a fantastical apparition. To appoint therefore such kind of presence, inclosed in a place wherein the body of Christ should be included in, or as they say, locally joined to the sign, is not only a thing foolish, but also an execrable error, diminishing the glory of Christ, and utterly destroying all that ought to be believed as concerning his human nature. For the scripture teacheth in every place, that like as in earth Christ took our humanity, even so he plucking the same out of this mortal estate, and yet nothing changing the nature thereof, carried it up into heaven. And for this cause ought we, when we speak of the humanity of Christ, to consider two things: the first, that we diminish nothing of the verity of his nature; the other, that we derogate nothing of his glorious estate. And to do this thing in his kind, we must lift up our minds into heaven, that we may seek our Redeemer there. For if we will cast him from us under the corruptible elements of this world, we shall both destroy those things which the scriptures do witness as concerning his human nature, and also bring to nought his most glorious ascension. But because many men have abundantly handled this matter, I had rather let it pass, than to wade farther therein. My mind was to note by the way this thing only, that to think that Christ is shut up under the bread and wine, either else to join them so together, that our mind cleave fast there, and is not erected into heaven, is a devilish dotage; which thing I shall also touch in another place.
And when this perverse opinion was once received, it engendered many other superstitions. First, that carnal adoration, which is none other thing than mere idolatry. For if a man would prostrate himself before the bread, and honor Christ there, as if he were there present, contained therein, were not that the setting up of an idol instead of the sacrament? For we were not commanded to honor, but to eat. We ought not therefore so rashly to attempt that thing. Furthermore, this was an observation in the old congregation, to admonish the people, before the supper should be celebrated, that they lift up their hearts, to the intent they should understand, that they ought not to stick in the visible sign, if they would honor Christ aright. But we shall not long contend as concerning this article, if the presence and conjunction of the verity with the sign be well understand; whereof I have already spoken, and will hereafter declare at large. Out of the same fountain are sprungen the residue of the superstitious ceremonies; as to carry the sacrament through the streets once in the year, as it were in a pomp; another season to set up a tabernacle for it, and to keep it all the year long shut up in a pix, or case, that the people may give heed thereunto, as unto God: which things, because they are all not only invented by man’s wit, without the word of God, but also plain repugnant to the institution of the supper, they ought of all Christians utterly to be rejected.
I have declared whence this calamity in the papistical church, that the people doth all the year long abstain from the communion of the supper, had his beginning; because it is counted as a sacrifice, which one man must offer up in the name of the whole multitude.
But although we may use it but once every year, yet is it then miserably pulled in sunder, as it were torn in pieces. For whereas the sacrament of the blood ought to be distributed to the people, as it appeareth by the express commandment of the Lord, they decree that the people ought to be contented with the one half part. So are the miserable Christians by most wicked guile robbed of the benefit that God gave them; neither is it any small benefit to have the communion of the blood of the Lord to nourish us withal: and it is too much cruelty to take that thing violently from them, unto whom it belongeth of right.
Wherein we may easily perceive, with what foolhardiness and frowardness the pope hath exercised tyranny against the congregation of God, after time that he only held the imperie, when the Lord had commanded his disciples to eat the bread that was sanctified in his body, and then coming to the cup, he said not only, ‘Drink ye,’ but he added expressly, all .
Whence cometh this difference, but that he intended thereby to prevent this malice and subtilty of the devil? Nevertheless the pope is of such arrogancy and pride, that he dare be bold to command to the contrary, Look that ye do not all drink. And that he may declare himself to be wiser than God, he saith, it is right and agreeable to reason that the priests have some prerogative more than the people, to the end that the dignity of a priest should be honored. As though the Lord had not been of sufficient discretion, nor had considered, after what sort the one ought to be known from the other! Besides this, he objecteth the dangers that might befal, if the cup should be given commonly unto all men. Some drop, forsooth, might chance to be shed: as though the Lord had not foreseen that thing!
Doth not he lay negligence to the Lord’s charge, that saith he confoundeth the order that he should observe, and that he hath cast his people into this danger without any manner of reason? And that they may declare that there ensueth no great incommodity upon this change, they say, that the whole is comprehended under one kind, because the body cannot be separated from the blood. As though the Lord had dissevered them, the one from the other! For if the one part may be left as superfluous, it had been foolish and vain for both to be distinctly and severally given unto us.
But some of the pope’s band, perceiving that this so great abomination could not otherwise be defended than impudently, went about to cover it by some other means. They say, that when Christ had instituted this sacrament, he spake unto his apostles only, whom he had as then promoted to the order of priesthood. But what answer will they make to Paul, which saith, that he hath taught the christian people the thing that he learned of the Lord, that every one should eat of the bread, and drink of the cup? But who hath revealed unto these men, that Christ gave the supper unto his apostles, as unto priests? The words sound to the contrary, in that he doth afterwards command that they, following his example, should do the same. He prescribeth therefore a rule, which he would should continue in his church for ever. And this rule was in the ancient time observed, unto such time as Antichrist, ruling alone, advanced himself and stretched up his horns against God’s verity, to the intent to destroy it utterly. We see therefore, that it is intolerable frowardness so to divide and tear this sacrament, that those parts should be dissevered which God hath joined.
That I may conclude the more briefly, I will comprehend in one chapter the thing that else might have been denied; that is to say, that the devil hath without any doctrine of the supper, brought in this manner of celebrating, setting up in the stead of the doctrine ceremonies, some filthy, some unprofitable, some also noisome and dangerous, whereof have ensued very many evils; insomuch that the mass, which is used in the popish church instead of the supper, if I should define it aright, is none other thing than a mere apish emulation and disguised masking. I call it an apish emulation, because that like as apes do play the wantons in imitating rudely and without reason the works of men; even so do they imitate the Lord’s holy supper in such wise, that with their preposterous inventions they corrupt the whole truth thereof. And to declare this to be true, is not this the chief thing that the Lord left with us, that we should celebrate this mystery with perfect and true understanding? Whereupon it followeth, that the substance thereof consisteth in doctrine; and that once taken away, there remaineth nought else but a ceremony, cold, and without virtue or strength. Not only the scriptures are witnesses to this thing, but also the pope’s own laws; wherein there is a sentence alleged, in which Augustine asketh: “What other thing baptism should be without the word, than a corruptible element? With the word (as he addeth incontinent), not in that it is pronounced, but because it is understand, etc.” Whereby he declareth, that the sacraments do take their force and energy of the word of the Lord, when it is preached after such sort as it may be understand.
The residue is not worthy the name of a sacrament. But in the mass it is so far unlike that any doctrine should be intelligibly heard, that contrariwise all the whole mystery is thought to be profaned, unless all things be said and done privily and covertly, to the intent nothing may be perceived or understand. So that their consecration differeth nothing from a kind of enchantment: for after the manner of an enchanter, they think that with whisperings and divers gestures they bring Christ out of heaven into their hands. Whereby we perceive, that the mass so ordained is rather a manifest and open profanation of the supper, than the observation thereof; and that the peculiar and chief substance of the supper wanteth, which consisteth in this thing, that the mystery be truly opened to the people, and the promises rehearsed with open voice; not that the priest, without either reason or understanding, should stilly whisper out an humming that cannot be understand. I call it a play or masking, because there is nought else seen, but the foolishness and gestures of players; which things would become a play much better than the sacred supper of the Lord.
No doubt the sacrifices of the old testament were celebrated with divers ornaments and ceremonies. But because they had a good signification, and were all ordained to instruct and exercise the people in godliness, they were far unlike unto these, which serve for none other purpose at all, but that without any manner profit they may occupy and hold suspense the mind of the people. To conclude, because these mass-mongers, (if I may so call them,) do allege this example of the old testament for the defense of their ceremonies, it shall be good to note, what difference is between that which they do, and that which was by God commanded to the Jewish people. For if I lay for me this one thing, whatsoever was then done was founded in the commandment of God, and that their foolish trifles have none other foundation than in man’s invention, were not there a great difference? But I have things to disprove them, which be much greater than this be. For it was not for nought that the Lord preserved such a form for a time, to the intent that at the length it should have an end and be abrogate. No doubt, because he had not as then declared his doctrines so plainly, he would so much the rather that his people should be exercised in figures, that the thing which wanted in that testament, might be repaired in the other. But since that Christ appeared in the flesh, look, by how much more the doctrine is lightened, so much are the figures diminished. Seeing therefore we have the body, we must leave the shadows. For if we will replenish the abolished ceremonies, we shall patch again that veil that Christ brake in sunder by his death; and so shall we obscure and darken the light of the gospel. Thus do we perceive, that this multitude of ceremonies which is seen in the mass, is the form of the Jewish law, utterly contrary to the christian religion. I am not of that mind, that I would disprove all ceremonies which do serve to honesty and a public order, whereby the more reverence is given to the sacrament; so that they do well agree to the purpose, and be sober. But that unmeasurable labyrinth may by no means be suffered; forasmuch as it hath engendered infinite superstitions, and made the people as it were amused without any manner edification.
By this it may easily be perceived, wherein those unto whom God hath opened the understanding of his truth ought to differ from the papists.
First, they shall be out of doubt, that it is abominable sacrilege to count the mass as a sacrifice, whereby remission of sins may be obtained; either to repute the priest for a mediator, which may apply the merits of Christ’s passion unto them that buy masses, or be present at the doing of them, or do with devotion worship them. But they shall rather believe, that the death and passion of Christ is the only sacrifice, whereby the ire of God is pacified, and perpetual justice gotten unto us; and besides these things, that the Lord Jesus is entered into the celestial sanctuary, that he may there shew himself for us, and by the virtue of his sacrifice pray for us. But yet they shall easily grant, that the fruit of his death is communicate unto us in the supper, not by the merit of the work, but for the promises that are made unto us therein, so that we embrace them with faith.
Furthermore, they ought in no case to grant, that the bread is transubstantiated, as they say, into the body of Christ, or the wine into blood; but they must in that thing constantly believe, that the visible signs do retain his substance, that they may represent unto us that spiritual verity whereof I have spoken before. Thirdly, although they ought to be surely persuaded with themselves, that the Lord doth in very deed give the same thing that he doth represent, and so, that we do unfeignedly receive the body and blood of Christ; yet shall they not seek it as included under the bread, or fastened, as they say, locally unto the visible sign. Much less ought they to honor the sacrament; but to stretch up the mind into heaven, that they may there receive and honor Christ.
Hence shall it come to pass, that they shall despise and condemn for idolatry all those superstitious ceremonies, as well of the carrying forth of the sacrament in pomp and processions, as of the building up of those tabernacles wherein it is set forth to be honored. For the promises of the Lord stretch no further, than to that use which he committed unto us.
Furthermore they shall judge the institution of the Lord to be violated and broken, in that the people is robbed of the one part of the sacrament; and that it is necessary that both parts be wholly distributed, if it should be observed aright. In fine, they shall suppose that it is not only superfluous, but also dangerous, and that it becometh not the christian religion, to use so many ceremonies taken of the Jews, more than the simplicity wherein the apostles instructed us. They shall also judge, that it is even of an ungodly frowardness so to celebrate the supper with gestures and maskers’ movings, that no doctrine at all may there be heard, but is rather buried, as though it were a certain kind of magical art.
To conclude at the last, we must now come to the last of the chief parts; that is to say, to that contention which in our time is stirred in this matter: which forasmuch as no doubt it was of the devil’s stirring upon, to let, or rather to break the course of the gospel, I would wish it to be forgotten for ever; much less can I be delighted in the rehearsing of the same. But because I do perceive very many godly minds, which know not whither to turn themselves, I will briefly say the thing that I shall think necessary, to declare how they may deliver themselves.
First, I desire and beseech all faithful persons, even for the name’s sake of the living God, that they be not greatly offended, because this controversy is moved among them, that were the chief captains in restoring and bringing in again of the doctrine of the gospel. For it is no new thing for the Lord to suffer his servants to be ignorant in some things, and suffer them to contend among themselves: not that he would suffer them to err continually, but for a time, to the intent he might make them more humble.
And no doubt, if all things had chanced prosperously to this day, and had flowed according to our will, perhaps men would have forgotten themselves, either else the mercy of God should not have been so much known as it ought to be. And therefore the Lord’s will was to take away from men all occasion of glorying, that glory might be given unto him only.
Furthermore, if we consider with how great darkness the world was beset, when they which moved this controversy began to lead us back again to the light of the verity, indeed we will marvel nothing at all, though they knew not all things from the beginning. It is rather a notable miracle of God, that they in so little space of time were so illumined, that they themselves might escape, and lead other, out of that sink of errors wherein we had been so long time drowned.
But there is no better way than to rehearse the matter itself, even as it was done. For thereby it shall appear, that there is not so much matter of offense in this behalf, as is commonly supposed to be.
When Luther began to teach, he handled the matter of the supper so that, as concerning the corporal presence of Christ, he seemed to leave it such as all men did then conceive. For condemning transubstantiation, he said, that the bread was the body of Christ, because it was joined together with him; besides this, he added certain hard and gross similitudes. But that he did by compulsion, because he could not otherwise declare his mind. For it is a hard thing to expound so hard a matter, and not to use some things not all of the fittest for the purpose. After this did Zuinglius and OEcolampadius begin to grow: which when they considered the guile and deceit that the devil had brought in in establishing that carnal presence, which had been taught and believed for six hundred years before, they supposed it wickedness to dissemble a matter of so great importance; and chiefly, because there was annexed unto this error an execrable idolatry, that Christ should be worshipped, as included under a piece of bread. But because it was very hard to pull back this opinion, which had been long and deeply rooted in the hearts of men, they applied all the force of their wit to impugn the same, teaching that it was a most gross and absurd error not to acknowledge those things which be throughout the whole scripture testified of the ascension of Christ; that he in the nature of man is received into heaven, and that he shall tarry there until he descend to judge the world. But whiles they were very much bent unto this purpose, they omitted to declare, what presence of Christ in the supper we ought to believe, and what communion of his body and blood is there received: insomuch that Luther supposed them willing to leave nought else but the bare signs, void of the spiritual substance; and therefore he began to resist openly, insomuch that he declared them worthy to be counted for heretics.
And after the contention waxed once hot, in progress of time it was so increased and inflamed, that it was too fiercely stirred to and fro about a fifteen years together; during which time neither party would with indifferent and quiet mind hear other. For although that they did once confer between themselves, yet was there so great alienation of minds, that they departed, the purpose not brought to pass. For when they should have come to some concord, they recoiled more and more, minding nought else but to defend their opinion, and to confute the contrary.
We perceive therefore, in what thing Luther erred, and also wherein Zuinglius and OEcolampadius did err. It was Luther’s duty, at the beginning to admonish that it was not his purpose to stablish such a local presence as the papists do dream; also, to protest that he sought not in this place to have the sacrament honored as God; thirdly, to abstain from those rude similitudes, most hard to be understanded, or else to use them moderately, and to interpret them so that they might not have been cause of any offense. To conclude, since that contention was moved, he passed all measure, both in declaring his opinion, and also in rebuking other with too much rigor of words. For when he should have expounded his mind, so that it might have been received; according to his accustomed vehemency, to the intent to impugn them that held the contrary, he used incredible forms of speaking, which could not well be suffered of them, whose minds were but slenderly appointed to give credence to him. The other also offended, in that they did stick so stiffly in the impugning of that superstitious and fantastical opinion of the papists, as concerning the placely presence, and the adoration that followed thereof, employing their diligence to the rooting out of vices, rather than to the establishing of that thing which was profitable to be known. For notwithstanding that they denied not the verity, yet did they not teach it openly, as was beseeming.
This do I understand, that whiles they gave themselves studiously and diligently to affirm that the bread and wine were called the body and blood of Christ, because they be the signs thereof, they thought not that they ought in the mean time to do this thing also, to add to that, they are the signs after such sort that the verity is nevertheless joined unto them.
Neither did they declare that they went not about to deface the true communion which the Lord giveth us in his body and blood.
Of truth, neither of them was unworthy blame, forasmuch as they did not sustain to hear one another; that, all affection laid apart, they might follow the verity, on which side soever it should appear. But yet ought not we therefore to let pass our duty towards them, lest we forget the mercies and benefits which God gave unto them, and distributed unto us by their hands. For unless we be unthankful and unmindful of those things which we owe unto them, abstaining from all reproach and evil report, we shall easily forgive these and much greater things. To conclude, seeing that we know they were both of godly conversation and excellent doctrine, and that they also which at this day be on-live be no less, we ought neither to speak nor judge of them otherwise than with great modesty and reverence. And chiefly, because it hath pleased our Lord God so, that after he had by this means instructed them to humility, he made an end of this unhappy contention, or at the least qualified it for the time, so that in the mean season it might be finished.
This have I spoken, because there is as yet no order published, wherein that concord is appointed; which thing were very necessary. But this thing shall be, when God will that all they which should set an order in these things do agree in one. In the mean time this ought to suffice you, that there be a brotherly friendship and conjunction between the congregations, as belongeth to the christian communion. With one voice therefore we all confess, that when we do, according to the institution of the Lord, receive the sacrament with faith, we are undoubtedly made partakers of the substance of the body and blood of Christ. How this thing should be done, some men can better define, and more plainly expound, than some. But this thing is chiefly to be remembered, that we exclude all carnal imagination, and that the mind ought to be erected up into heaven, and that we think not our Lord Jesu Christ to be so vile that he may be contained in corruptible clements. Again, lest the force of this most sacred mystery should be diminished, we must think that it is wrought by the secret and wonderful power of God, and that his Spirit is the bond of this partaking, which is for that cause called spiritual.