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sidering the most important of all subjects ; and perhaps the matter that I shall have to treat, will not enable me to offer any concluding reflections. There are a great many other observations which I should be glad to make; a great many parts of our doctrines, of our system, upon which I would most willingly have entered, but the course is cut short by the time which was fixed, and beyond which it could not be possible for me to continue it. Therefore I only intreat again what I did before: that is, if I have appeared to touch more slightly upon some points, and appear to have omitted others, it bas been solely and exclusively because I felt sensible, that every evening I occupied you longer than it was proper for me to do so, and, therefore, I have rather trespassed by endeavouring to communicate too much, than by withholding so little; I only pray, therefore, that the blessing of God may be upon you all.
JOHN vi. 11. « And Jesus took the loaves : and when he had given thanks, he distributed to them that were sat down ; in like manner also of the fishes, as much as they would."
ALTHOUGH, my brethren, I am not accustomed to attach any great importance to such accidental coincidences, yet I will acknowledge, that it was with pleasure that I discovered, that having, in the arrangement made for the topics which I was to discuss in your presence, fixed upon this day for entering upon the Catholic doctrine regarding the sacrament of the eucharist, I find that it was precisely the very lesson proposed to us by the church in her gospel, which I had this evening to discuss; for I cannot but hope, that the blessing of God will rest still more upon our labours, when our teaching, not merely in its doctrine, but even in its outward forms, is regulated by the authority which he has given us to teach.
Thus, therefore, I shall enter with confidence, at once upon the task which I have assigned myself; and as the course which we shall have to pass over this evening will be rather protracted; and as, even to do it but partial and tolerable justice, it will be necessary for me to omit many more special and digressive questions, which will present themselves in our way, I will, without any farther preface, enter at once upon the great subject which is before us: it is no other than to examine the grounds upon wbich the Catholic church proposes to the belief of her subjects, the most sublime, the most beautiful, the most perfect of all I have previously demonstrated ;—THE TRUE AND REAL PRESENCE OF Our LORD AND SAVIOUR Jesus CHRIST IN THE SACRAMENT OF THE ALTAR.
That doctrine of the Catholic church, which, perhaps, of all other dogmas, has been the most liable, the most exposed to misrepresentation; or, at least, certainly to scorn and abuse, is clearly defined in the words of the Council of Trent, wherein we are told, that “ The Catholic church teaches, and always has taught, that in the Eucharist, or the blessed Sacrament, or the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, that phicli was originally bread and wine is changed into the substance of
the body and of the blood of our Lord, together with his soul and divinity; in other words, that there is his complete and entire presence, which change the Catholic church has properly called—TRANSUBstastiation.” Such, my brethren, is our belief; and I proceed to lay before you, in this and in subsequent discourses, the grounds upon which we hold this doctrine; which, to those who have not embraced it, appears the most incomprehensible, the most repugnant, which forms with them, too often, the greatest barrier to their uniting themselves to our communion ; but which, to every Catholic, appears the most consoling, the most gratifying, in every way the most blessed portion of his peculiar creed.
Now before entering upon the arguments from holy writ, regarding this point, it is important that I lay down clearly before you, the principle which will guide me in the examination of Scripture texts. I have bad, on another occasion, an opportunity of remarking, that there is a vague and indefinite way of satisfying ourselves regarding the meaning of Scripture texts, inasmuch as reading them over, and having already in our own minds a certain belief, we are sure to attach to them that meaning which seems, either absolutely to support it, or is at least reconcileable with it ; and it is in this way that men, of the most opposite opinions, find their doctrines equally demonstrable in Scripture. It is certain, that there must be a key and a means of interpretation. On another occasion, when I had to look into the meaning of several passages of Scripture, I contented myself with merely laying down the general rule, that we should examine the Scripture by itself, and find a key in other and clearer passages of the one under examination. But, on the present occasion, it is necessary that I should enter more fully into the explanation of a few general and simple principles, which have their foundation in nature, and in the ordinary pbilosopby of common sense ; and such will be the principles that I shall follow.
The ground-work of all interpretation is exceedingly simple, if we consider the object which is to be attained. Every one will agree, that when we read any work, that when we hear the discussion of another, our object is to understand wbat was passing in the author's mind when be wrote those passages; that is to say, what was the meaning which he himself wished to give to the expressions which he uttered. At this moment, for instance, that I am addressing you, it is obvious, from the very ordinary conventional laws of society, that I mean you to under. stand me.
I should be trifling with your good sense, with your feelings, with your rights, if I spoke otherwise than in that way which I believe the most conducive to convey, exactly to your minds, the ideas which are passing in mine at the moment that I am uttering them. I wish, as much as possible, and tbis is the object of all human intercourse, to establish a link, a communication, between my mind and yours; to
transfuse into your understanding the same feelings, the same ideas which I have in mine ; and language is nothing more than the process whereby we endeavour to establish this communication. It is evident, that we have bere two extremes, one of which, providing the process of communication be correct, must aptly represent the other ; that is to say, to illustrate it by a comparison, from the lines which you see impressed upon paper with a copper plate, you can reason, and reason infallibly, to those which are inscribed upon that plate ; so can you, in like manner, if you see only the plate, just as accurately reason of the impression which must be thereby produced, provided that the process followed be accurate, and tends of its nature to communicate that impression. Just so, therefore, the meaning of any person who addresses others, either in writing or speech, is to convey his meaning to their minds; and if the processes of language be correct, except in the cases of error (for, in common conversation it is an exception, when we misunderstand one another), it follows, that the impression produced upon those persons immediately addressed, is the one which the speaker or writer wished to convey.
In other words, if we wish to ascertain the meaning of any passage, or any book which was written a hundred or a thousand years ago, we must not judge by what we may understand by such a word at present, we must know what was the meaning of that word at the time when it was spoken, and that alone is the true meaning it must have in the book. If you open an English author but one hundred years old, you find some words used in a different signification from that in which they are now employed. You find that the term wit is applied to general information and knowledge ; a man of wit is a man of learning. You will find, if you go back a few centuries, that many of the words, now trivial and in common use, were then dignified in the old versions of Scripture. For instance, you find instead of canticle the word ballad is used ; and if any one were to argue from these passages, the meaning of the word as it is now used, it is evident that he would err, and the only method of arriving at the true interpretation, is to ascertain what must have been the only meaning which the hearers and readers, at the time the words were addressed, or the work was written, could possibly have put on those expressions. If we find a certain meaning, and only one which they could have given to it, that meaning alone can be the
If we find the Jews must necessarily have attached a certain meaning to our Saviour's words, we cannot believe that he used them in any other meaning but that whereby they should understand them aright: and this, therefore, which is called the usage of speech, and is considered by all writers on the subject of the interpretation of the Scripture, as the true key to understanding its meaning.
Such, therefore, is the simple process I intend to follow : _and I shall investigate the expressions used by our Saviour upon different occasions; and I will endeavour to put you into the position of those who heard them, in order that you may understand what was the language he employed, and what was the only signification which they could possibly have given to it. We will see, also, how their feelings may have wrought towards leading them to the proper explanation; and whatever we shall find to be exclusively the only meaning those persons could have attached to the expressions, that I shall have a right to conclude, was their true meaning; and, in the same way, will try every objection. We will see how far these objections to our interpretation are conformable to the meaning attached to the expressions at the time they were spoken, and by that test alone shall I allow them to be tried.
But, at the same time, if we look into the mere local or historical meaning of the words and phrases, we must bear other considerations in mind—we must accurately weigh the peculiar character of the teacher-for every one has his own method of discussing a subjectevery one has his peculiar form of speech; and, therefore, it becomes us also to make a personal examination, to see whether any interpretation given can be reconciled with the spirit, with the character, with the ordinary method of him who spoke. Moreover, it has been justly observed by the celebrated Burke, that “ He who would guide others, must also, in some respects, follow;" that is to say, no wise and good teacher will ever run counter to the natural and laudable feelings of those whom he addresses; that if he has to recommend, for instance, an amiable and every way inviting doctrine, he will not choose to clothe it under imagery, which must necessarily disgust them with the very proposition of such a doctrine ; without sacrificing one atom of the doctrine, he must certainly never go out of the way to render it odious. Such, therefore, are the principal considerations which I have thought necessary to present to you, before I enter upon the examination of what we consider the necessary proof of the Catholic doctrine, of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, as contained in the sixth chapter of the gospel of St. John.
The question regarding the interpretation of this chapter of that gospel, like all others of the same nature, reduces itself to a simple enquiry into a matter of fact. We are all agreed, for instance, that is, Catholics and Protestants, that the first part of the chapter, from the beginning to the twenty-sixth verse, is simply historical, and gives an account of the miracle wrought by our Saviour, in feeding a multitude with a very small quantity of bread. We are also agreed in the next portion of the chapter, that is to say, from the twenty-sixth verse, so far as about the fiftieth, that in it our Saviour's discourse is exclusively about faith, and then there comes immediately a difference of opinion