« PreviousContinue »
ring the course of twelve centuries, embraced, and still continues to embrace, to a great extent, the Indian, the African, and the Turk.
But how does our more immediate object become affected by this? Nothing, perhaps, ever affected it so much as the doctrine of image worship. Nothing, perhaps, laid the foundation of the Romish notion of transubstantiation in a greater degree, than the carving of images, and the searching for relics as objects of love and worship. The canon of the mass was now celebrated with greater splendour, in proportion as the doctrines of the church were more sensual. The elements of the Eucharist were held forth to the public view as objects of admiration, because the public had been taught to value religion by the external aids of crosses, statues, and pictures. The priests were adorned in their vestments with more costly decoration; because, again, the people had been taught to gaze at, and admire, before they loved; and, like the savage, were caught by glitter and display, rather than instructed and elevated by inward holiness and faith. The following anecdote from the life of Gregory the Great, will display an approach to transubstantiation curiously answered: “A woman to whom he was about to give the Eucharist in the usual form of words, “The body of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve thy soul,' laughed at the form, and
being asked the reason for her so doing, said, it was because he called that the body of Christ which she knew to be bread, as she had made it with her own hands."* But the expression, in this case, “ The body of our Lord Jesus Christ,” need not have rendered that answer necessary. It might merely have been used in the same spiritual sense in which we at the present day administer the sacred symbols: but be that as it may, it displays a general popular notion of some mysterious change. It shews that the thought of transubstantiation was already rife among the people,
, though not yet embodied in words.
Gregory himself could not have used it in any sense of transubstantiation, because we know from several passages in his writings, that his opinions were on the contrary side. However he might have destroyed the primitive simplicity of the Eucharist by his costly and pompous ceremonies, he yet, as to doctrine, maintained the orthodox faith. In one place he says:--"Although the body should be consecrated in many places, and innumerable days, yet there are not many bodies of Christ, nor many cups, but one body of Christ, and one cup,” &c.: whereas the doctrine of transubstantiation would make each sacrifice, and each communion, a new body.
In addition to Gregory* we have two eminent writers in this century, who have expressed opinions on this point, but unfortunately they are directly opposed to each other. The one is Isidore, the other Eligius. The former of these, Isidore,Ť is of the same opinion as Gregory, and writes as follows :" The sacrifice of the Lord's Supper is received by the whole church fasting, I for so it pleased the Holy Spirit, through the apostles, that in honour of so great a sacrament, the body of our Lord should enter the mouth of the Christian before other food. For the bread which we break is the body of Christ, who said, I am the living bread which came down from heaven;' and the wine is his blood, as is written, 'I am the true vine;' but the bread, because it strengthens the body, is therefore called the body; and the wine, because it makes blood in the flesh, is therefore referred to the blood of Christ. But these, while they are visible, yet being sanctified by the Holy Spirit, pass into the sacrament of the divine body.”* Again, in another place, he says,
* The life of Gregory extended to the year A.D. 604, we may therefore include any testimony from his writings as belonging to the commencement of the seventh century.
† ISIDORE was born at Seville in Spain, afterwards bishop of that see; in A.D. 633, he presided at the fourth national council of Toledo. He died A.D. 636.
| It seems to have been the custom of the church in primitive times to celebrate the Eucharist fasting, excepting on one day, which was the Thursday in Passion week. Bingham cites a great many authorities to shew this custom, but at the same time does not think that it was invariable. The council of Carthage decreed, that “the sacrament of the altar should not be received by any but the fasting, except on one annual day, called
cæna Domini.'-See Bingham, book xv. c. vii. s. 8. and Hospinian Hist. Sacr. vol. i. p. 25.
« As the visible substance of bread and wine nourish the outward man, so the word of Christ, who is the bread of life, refresheth the souls of the faithful, being received by faith.”+ Again, in the same writer, we find the assertion, that there are only two sacraments, “ one baptism, the other the body and blood of Christ, which are called sacraments, for this reason, because, under the appearance of corporeal things, the divine virtue secretly works the force of a sacrament, whence, from their secret or sacred virtues, they are called sacraments." I
While, however, these passages testify clearly the orthodox faith, we have an extremely remarkable assertion in Eligius,|| in the year 650, of precisely a contrary tendency, one which boldly and openly asserts the doctrine of tran
* Isid. de Eccl. Off. lib. i. c. 18. † Isid. Orig. lib. vi. c. 19.
| ELIGIUS, born near the city of Limoges, in France; he for some time practised the trade of a goldsmith, afterwards bishop of Noyon. Died A.D. 659.
substantiation. “ Know truly, and believe firmly, that as the flesh of Christ which he assumed in the womb of the Virgin is his true body, and was slain for our salvation, so the bread which he gave to his disciples, and which his priests daily consecrate in the church, is the true body of Christ. And there are not two bodies, the flesh which he assumed and the bread, but only one body, in so much as it is broken and eaten."*
We should be glad indeed to adopt the rule given by Bishop Taylor, and to make full allowance for the figurative language of the times, but the peculiar force of the above expressions cannot easily be overcome.
« As the flesh of Christ is his body, so the bread.” It seems at once to reject all interference of explanation by any spiritual meaning. The popular superstition was already making its way to the guides and rulers of the people.
THE EIGHTH CENTURY.
We have already seen the rise of image worship in the church of Rome, and the consequent rise of the Mohammedan religion in Africa. We now have to trace another consequence of this absurd perversion of Christianity,
* Eligius, Hom. xv.