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sion which must be thereby produced, provided the process followed be correct, and calculated by its nature to communicate that impression. Just so, therefore, the object of any person who addresses others, either in writing or in speech, is to convey as clearly as possible, his meaning to their minds. If the processes of language be correct, except in extraordinary cases of error—for it is an exception if we misunderstand one another-if the act of imprinting be correctly performed, we receive the impressions and ideas which the writer or speaker wished to convey. And hence we can accurately reason from the meaning attached to a speech by those who heard it, to the ideas passing in the speaker's mind.
If then we wished to ascertain the meaning of any passage in a book written a hundred or a thousand years ago, we must not judge of it by what we might understand by such words at present: we must know what their meaning was at the time they were spoken. If we open an English author one hundred years old, we shall find some words used to convey a different signification from what they do now. We find, for instance, the word wit to mean great and brilliant parts including information and learning. A few centuries before, words which are now trivial and in common use, were then dignified. Thus, in old versions of Scripture, for canticle, the word ballad is constantly used; now, were any one to argue on a passage written at those times, from the meaning which such words at present bear, it is evident that he would err. The true rule of interpretation, therefore, is to know what must have been the only meaning which the actual hearers who were alive and present at the time the words were addressed to them, could have put on any expression; and if we find that to be a certain definite signification, and the only one which could have been given, it is clear that it must be the true one. If we ascertain that the Jews must have attached a certain meaning to our Saviour's words, and could have conceived no other, He must have used them in that sense, if he wished to be understood. This is called by critics,
the usage of speech, and is considered by the writers on the interpretation of Scripture, as the true key to understanding its anguage.
Such is the simple process which I intend to follow. I shall mvestigate the expressions used by our Saviour, on different occasions—I shall endeavour to put you in possession of the opinions of those who heard them, and to make you understand, from the language in which they were spoken, what was the only signification which they could possibly have attached to them. You will thus see how their feelings must have wrought at the time they were uttered, leading them to a proper explanation; and whatever we shall find must have been the exclusive interpretation given to phrases by these persons, we shall have a right to consider their true meaning: By the same test I will try every objection, I will enquire how far they seize the true meaning which the expressions bore at the time they were spoken; and by that ordeal only must they be justified.
If we look into ancient phrases and words, we must bear other considerations in mind; we must weigh the peculiar character of the teacher, for every person has a method of addressing his hearers--every man has his peculiar forms of speech; and it becomes necessary to make a sort of individual investigation, to see whether the explanation given can be reconciled with the ordinary method of himn who spoke. Moreover, it has been justly observed by an acute writer, that he who would lead others, must in some respects follow; that is to say, no wise and good teacher will run counter to the habits and ordinary feelings of those whom he addresses. If he have to recommend amiable and inviting doctrines, he will not clothe them in imagery which must disgust them, by their very proposition. Without sacrificing one principle, or particle of his opinions, he certainly will not go out of his way to render them odious. These are the principal considerations which I have deemed it necessary to present to you, before entering on the examination of what we consider the
first proof of the Catholic doctrines of the Eucharist, as contained in the sixth chapter of the gospel of St. John.
The question regarding the interpretation of this chapter of the gospel, like all others of the same nature, reduces itself to a simple enquiry into a matter of fact. All are agreed, for instance, both Catholics and Protestants, that the first part of the chapter, from the beginning to the 26th verse, is simply historical, and gives us an account of the miracle wrought by our Saviour, in feeding a multitude of persons with a small quantity of bread. All are also agreed as to the next portion of the chapter; that is, from the 26th, so far as about the 50th verse, that in it our Saviour's discourse is about faith. But at this point enters the material difference of opinion among We
say, that at that verse, or somewhere about it, a change takes place in our Saviour's discourse, and that from that moment we are not to understand Him as speaking of faith, but solely of the real eating of His Body, and drinking of His Blood sacramentally in the Eucharist. Protestants, on the other hand, maintain that the same discourse is continued, and the same topic kept up to the conclusion of the chapter. It is manifest that this is a question of simple fact. It is like any legal question regarding the meaning of a document; and we must tablish by evidence, whether the latter part can continue the same subject as the preceding.
I need hardly premise that nothing was more familiar with our Saviour than to take the opportunity of any miracle which He performed, to inculcate some doctrine which seemed to have a special connexion with it. For instance, in the ninth chapter of St. John, having cured a blind man, he proceeds to reprove the Pharisees for their spiritual blindness. In the fifth, after restoring a man who had been deprived of the use of his limbs, or who had been at least in a very languishing state of illness, he takes occasion, most naturally, to explain the doctrine of the Resurrection. Again, in the twelfth chapter of St. Matthew, after having cast out a devil, he proceeds to discourse upon the subject of evil spirits. These examples I bring
merely to infer that, such being His custom, it will not be denied, that if ever He did wish for an opportunity to propose to His hearers, the doctrine of the Real Presence, in the Eucharist, He could not, in the whole course of his ministry, have found one more suited to his purpose. For, as here by blessing the bread, He gave it a new efficacy, and made it sufficient to feed several thousands, we could not suppose anything more parallel to that sacrament, wherein His body is in a manner multiplied, so as to form the food of all mankind in whatever part of the world. This, therefore, makes it, in the first place, not at all improbable that if such a doctrine was to be ever taught,--if such an institution was to be ever made, this was the favourable moment for preparing his hearers for it.
But we can still better illustrate the natural manner in which this discourse is introduced. The Jews asked our Saviour for a sign from heaven, and the sign they insisted on was; “ What sign, therefore, dost thou show us, that we may see and believe thee, what dost thou work? Our fathers did eat manna in the desert as it is written,-he
them bread from heaven to eat.” To which in the following verse he answers; “Amen, amen, I say unto you, Moses gave you not bread from Heaven, but my Father giveth you the true bread from Heaven.” Now, it is remarkable that the Jews, in one of their earliest works after the time of Christ, that is, the “ Midrash Coheleth,” or commentary on the Book of Ecclesiastes, assert that one of the signs which the Messiah would give, was precisely this; that in the same manner as Moses had brought down the manna from heaven, so should he bring down bread from heaven. This being the persuasion of the Jews, it was natural that they should choose this criterion of Christ's being sent from God, in the same way as Moses; and that our Saviour should give a parallel on his part to the former food from heaven, in a divine institution, whereby men should be nourished by something more excellent than manna, by the true living bread coming down from heaven,
So far is but preliminary matter; now let us enter on the
question itself. I feel myself strongly led to suppose that the transition takes place in the 48th instead of the 51st verse, where it is commonly put. I need not enter upon my reasons for it, because it is immaterial; it makes no difference whether we place the transition a verse or two earlier or later. These reasons are founded on a close and minute analysis of the por tion of our Saviour's discourse, between the 48th and 53d verses, as compared with other discourses of His, which shows a construction indicative of a transition. I
over, however, as they would be likely to detain us too long: and come at once to the point.*
In the first place it may be said, is it probable that our Saviour, who had just been speaking of Himself as the bread of life, should in the 51st verse, going on with precisely the same expressions, make such a complete transition in the subject of His discourse?-Should we not have something to indicate this change to another subject? To show that there is no weight in this objection, I will refer you to another passage in which precisely a similar transition takes place; namely, the 24th chapter of St. Matthew. It is agreed among learned modern Protestant commentators, English and foreign,-and allow me to repeat a remark which I made on a former occasion, that when I vaguely say commentators, I mean exclusively Protestant commentators; because I think it better to quote such authorities as will not be so easily rejected by those with whom we are engaged in discussion,-it is the opinion, therefore, of several such commentators, that in the 24th and 25th chapters of St. Matthew, there is a discourse of our Saviour's on two distinct topics, the first regarding the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem; and the second, the end of the world. Any one may naturally ask where does the transition take place? It is manifest, when looking at the extremes,—that is, on comparing the phrases used in the first part of the discourse, and those in the second, that the
* They are given at full in my “ Lectures on the Real Presence," pp. 40, seg.