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LECTURE THE FIFTEENTH
MATT. xxvi. 26-28.
THIS IS MY BODY.
• And while they were at supper, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake, and gave to his disciples, and said; Take ye and eat,
And taking the chalice, He gave thanks, and gave to them, saying ; Drink ye all of this, for THIS IS MY BLOOD of the New Testament, which shall be shed for many, for the
remission of sins.” In my last discourse, regarding the Blessed Eucharist, I entered at length into the examination of the sixth chapter of St John, which I considered as the promise of the institution of that holy sacrament; and I proved to you, from the expressions there used, and from the whole construction of our Saviour's discourse, and from His conduct both towards those who disbelieved, and towards those who believed His words, that He truly did declare that doctrine on the subject which the Catholic Church yet holds, that is to say, that He promised some institution to be provided in His Church, whereby men would be completely united to Him, being truly made partakers of His adorable Body and Blood, and so applying to their souls the merits of His blessed passion.
According to my engagement, therefore, I proceed this evening to examine those far more important passages that treat of the institution of this heavenly rite, and see how far" we may from them draw the same doctrine as we discovered in the promise. In other words, we shall endeavour to ascertain : if Jesus Christ really did institute some sacrament whereby,
men might partake of and participate in His blessed Body and Blood. You have just heard the words of St Matthew, in which he describes the institution of the Eucharist. aware that the same circumstances are related, and
very nearly the same words used, by two other evangelists, and also by St Paul, in his first epistle to the Corinthians. It is not necessary to read over the
in them all, because it is with reference to words common to all that I have principally to speak this evening.
We have here two forms of consecration, “this is my Body, - this is
Blood.” I own that to construct an argument on these words is more difficult than it was on the sixth chapter of St John; simply and solely for this reason, that it is impossible to add strength or clearness to the expressions themselves. It is impossible for me, by any commentary or paraphrase that I can make, to render our Saviour's words more explicit, or reduce them to a form more completely expressing the Catholic doctrine than they do of themselves. « This is my Body,--this is my Blood." The Catholic doctrine teaches that it was Christ's Body and that it was His Blood. It would consequently appear as though all we had here to do, were simply and exclusively to rest at once on these words, and leave to others to show reason why we ould depart from the literal interpretation which we give them.
Before, however, completely taking up my position, I must make two or three observations on the method in which these texts are popularly handled, for the purpose throwing the Catholic belief. It is evident that the words, simply considered,—if there were no question about any apparent impossibility, and if they related to some other matter,—would be at once literally believed by any one who believes at all in the words of Christ. His reasoning would naturally be, “Christ has declared this doctrine in the simplest terms, and I receive it on His word.” There must be a reason, as I will fully prove to you just now, for departing in this cuse from the ordinary, simple interpretation of the
words, and giving them a tropical meaning. It is for those who say that Christ, by the words “this is my Body," meant no more than, “this is the figure of my Body,” to give us a reason why their interpretation is correct. The words themselves
express that it is the Body of Christ. Whoever tells me that it is not the Body of Christ, but only its figure, must satisfy me how one expression is equivalent to the other. I will prove too, presently, as I just said, that this is necessarily the position in which the controversy is placed; but I cannot resist the desire of exhibiting to you the difficulties in which persons find themselves involved, who wish to establish the identity of the two phrases, and the extremely unphilosophical methods which they consequently follow. I will take, as an illustration, a passage in a sermon delivered a few years ago, in a chapel of this metropolis, forming one of a series of discourses against Catholic doctrines, by select preachers. This is on the doctrine of Transubstantiation, and is directed to prove that it is unscriptural, and ought not to be held. Now hear, I pray you, the reasoning of this preacher on our subject “We contend that we must understand the words figuratively,”
- he is speaking of Christ's words in my text,—“ because there is no necessity to understand them literally." What sort of a canon of interpretation is here laid down! That no passage of the Scripture is to be taken literally, unless a necessity can be shown for it! that we must on principle take every thing as figurative, till those who chuse the literal interpretation demonstrate that there exists a positive necessity for taking it so! I should contend rather that the obvious rule is to take words literally, unless a necessity be proved for taking them figuratively: and I wish to know how this rule would stand before those who deny the divinity of Christ, that we are not allowed to take any passage literally, unless a necessity for it be first demonstrated. Therefore, when Christ is called God, or the Son of God, we must first prove a necessity for believing Him to be God, before we can be justified in drawing conclusions from the words of those texts themselves!
He proceeds; "and because it was morally impossible for His disciples to have understood Him literally.” Now this is just what requires proof, because on this point hinges the entire question—it is not a proof itself, but the proposition to be proved. Well, the preacher seems to think so too, and goes on to give a proof in the following words:—“for, let me ask, what is more common, in all languages, than to give to the sign the name of the thing signified? If you saw a portrait, would
not call it by the name of the person it represents, or if you looked on the map at a particular country, would you not describe it by the name of that country?"
I ask is this a proof? But let us see what examples he chooses,-“a portrait”.
-as if there were no difference between taking up a piece of bread, and saying, “ this is my Body," and pointing at a picture, and saying, “this is the king!” As if language and ordinary usage do not give the picture that very name; but more than that, as if it were not the very essence of that object to represent another. What other existence has a portrait, than as a type or representative? does not its very idea suppose its being the resemblance of a person? But, suppose I hold up an ingot of gold without the king's effigy, and said, “this is the king's body,” would my audience thereby understand that I meant to institute a symbol of his person, on the ground that had I showed them his effigy on the coiu, and said, “this is the king,” they would have easily understood me to intimate that it was his portrait? The second instance he gives is “a map;"—what is a map but the representation of a country? What existence has it but so far as it depicts the forms of that country? If it fail to represent it, it is no map, and the expression would be no longer intelligible. But when Christ
says of bread, “ this is my Body," there is no natural connexion or resemblance between the two; there is nothing to tell men that He meant, “this is an emblem of my body." In all such assertions there may be declamation; but there is manifestly no proof; nothing to demonstrate that the Catholic interpretation must be rejected.
I will quote another passage from a writer better known; I mean the author of the “ Introduction to the Critical Study of the Scriptures.” He says that the Catholic doctrine of Transubstantiation is “erected on a forced and literal construction of our Lord's declaration." The Catholic doctrine is based on a forced and literal interpretation of Scripture! I would ask, where on earth were these two words put in justaposition in any argument before?-to call the literal the forced interpretation! I do not believe that in any case, except a controversy on religion, an author would have allowed himself to fall into such a proposition. If any of you had a cause before a court, and your counsel were to open it by saying, “ that the case must be adjudged in favour of his client because the adverse party had nothing in their favour except “a literal and forced construction" of the statute provided for the case, would you not consider this equivalent to a betrayal of your cause? For, conceding thus much, is literally granting that there is nothing to be said on your side. That any writer should, upon an argument so constructed, condemn the Catholic doctrine, is really extraordinary; it is surely accustoming students in theology, if the Introduction be meant for them, as well as other readers, to very superficial and incorrect reasoning, and ought consequently to be reprobated in severe terms.
These may serve as specimens how far from easy it is to establish grounds even of plausibility, for the rejection of the Catholic doctrine. But there are graver
solid writers, who satisfactorily admit, that so far as our Lord's expressions go, all is in our favour. I will quote one passage from Paley's 'Evidences of Christianity,' where he is giving proofs that the Gospels were not books merely made up for a certain purpose, but that whatever they relate did really happen.
says: I think also the difficulties arising from the conciseness of Christ's expression, “this is my Body,' would have been avoided in a made-up story." Why so? I may ask, if nothing is more common than to call signs by the name of