« PreviousContinue »
languages, little as it may be, is any reason for my rejection of a doc. trine, supported by such assertions as these? Let this serve as a guide, a rule not easily to believe or adopt these general, sweeping assertions, unless you see very solid proof brought forward; and not to be content with the authority of any learned man saying it is so, unless he clearly verifies his statement.
Thus much, therefore, regarding this first objection, upon which, as I have said, I have entered more into detail, and more personally than I should have done, had it not been for the prominent manner in which I have been told, however privately, that my own particular pursuits should have taught me, to reject a doctrine which I have maintained.
Another objection which I shall bring before you, contains a similar misrepresentation. It is often said, that the apostles had a sufficient clue to the interpretation of our Saviour's words, by the ceremony or formula which was ordinarily used at the celebration of the passover. We are told by many writers, and modern ones particularly, that it was the custom, at the Jewish passover, for the master of the house to take in bis band a morsel of unleavened bread, and say, - This is the bread of afiliction which our fathers ate;" “ this is the bread,” evidently meaning, “this represents the bread :” consequently, the formula being so similar, “ This is my body,” our Saviour holding the bread, they would understand him in the same way, “ This is a representation of my body.” In the first place, I deny, entirely and completely, that the expression meant, “ This is a figure of the bread;" it meant, obviously and naturally, “ This is THE SORT of bread which our fathers ate.” If any one, holding bread of a particular kind in bis hand, were to say, “ This is the bread which they eat in France or in Arabia,” would any one understand that it was a figure of the bread? Would be not be understood to mean, that this was the peculiar kind of bread they ate there? So, if any one held unleavened bread, and said, in the ordinary terms, “ This is the bread which our fathers ate when they went out of Egypt in affliction ;” the meaning would be, “ This unleavened bread is THE SORT of bread which they ate.”
It is not necessary, however, to make many observations on this point, for no such formula existed, and there is no authority for it. We have one of the oldest treatises of the Jews, entitled, A Treatise on the Passover: it is an authoritative book; and, therefore, on this subject is of the highest authority. In this is minutely laid down, all that has to be done in the celebration of the Passover, every ceremony is most minutely detailed, even a great many foolish, and, perhaps, superstitious observances; but not a single word is said of this speech, not a single notice is taken of it, it is no where prescribed. This negative argument in the ritual, prescribing exactly the forms which are to be followed, must be considered equivalent to a denial of its having been
Then he says,
used. A little later we have another treatise, entitled, A Treatise of the Pasch, in which the exact manner of observing it once a year is laid down, but there is not a word of this speech, not a syllable regarding the practice. We come then, at once, to Maimonides, about eleven or twelve hundred years after Christ, and he is the first writer who gives this formula. He first gives one ceremonial, exceedingly detailed, and then he concludes, “ In this way did they celebrate the Pascb, before the destruction of the temple.” In this there is not a word of this expression, it is not even hinted at.
“ The Jews, at present, celebrate the Pasch in this way,” and he subjoins the formula. He gives it as a modern thing, not practised before; and not only so, it was not a speech, but the beginning of a hymn, to be sung after they had eaten the passover; consequently, it was not introduced till after the destruction of the temple; and, according to two older treatises, it was not in use in the seventh or eighth centuries; and, therefore, could not have been any guide to the apostles in interpreting the words spoken by our Saviour.
I must not forget to mention one fact in justice to my cause, and also, perhaps, I may say to an individual I mentioned, that Mr. Horne had quoted from Dr. Adam Clarke the passage in which the Dr. asserted, that in the Syriac language there were no words to express the idea “ to represent.” This was reprinted in different editions of his work till the seventh, published in 1834, in which he has expunged the passage, showing, consequently, that he was satisfied with the explanations which bad been given, and with the confutation. This, of course, was only to be expected from any honest and upright man; but he shows that he was satisfied that the assertion which, till then, had been made, was incorrect. And not only so, but Dr. Lee, professor of oriental languages at Cambridge, in his Prolegomena to Bagster's Polyglott Bible, mentions expressly, that on this point his friend Mr. Horne was decidedly wrong in making this assertion. I mention this to show, that not merely on one side; but that it is acknowledged on the other also, that the question is at an end.
Before concluding this matter I should wish to enter, by way of showing the difficulties which surround the symbolical or figurative interpretation of these words, into the interpretation given to them by very able divines. I will only quote one, and that is from a very learned man, who, though perhaps he could hardly be said to be distinctly attached to any religious persuasion, yet was a professor of theology in a foreign university, and was a man of very profound learning. He has written a most elaborate dissertation to establish the meaning of the words, “ This is my body.” It is impossible for me to lead you through the details, but these are the changes through which the text passes. First, This is my body:" he goes into a great many
minute observations on each word, and proposes a substitution for each word, much as metaphysicians do in working a problem. He tries to find an equiralent for the different members of his equation, and so reduces it at last to this, that it is equivalent to—“ This is the bread of my body;" and then, after another long series of substitution, he comes out—" This is the bread of my covenant, to be established by my death.” I ask, if any one on earth could, from the simple words, “ This is my body,” have arrived at once at the conclusion, that the expression means, “ This is the bread of my covenant, to be established by my death ?”
This may serve as an example, of the difficulty to which learned men find themselves reduced, when they come with all their learning to the research which Paley requires to the establishment of the Protestant exposition.
Looking back simply, I may just mention, that it is impossible for any one to examine into the doctrines of the Established Church, without seeing how this difficulty is et on every side; how sometimes the articles, or catechism, speak of the body and blood of Christ being “ verily and really received;" and yet, at other times we are told, that the Church of England rejects the presence of Christ's body. In the inaugural discourse, pronounced the other day by the new Regius Professor, we have it said, that though the Church of England rejects the doctrine of Transubstantiation, it yet believes in the vitality of Christ's body in the Sacrament. What does this mean—“ The vitality of Christ's body in the Eucharist?” Does it mean that there is a vitality in the body, and that he is living there; or does it mean that he is absent?
This is sufficient to show, into what exceeding embarrassment those persons fall, who wish to receive our Saviour's words in some way or other; who, finding that it is difficult to establish a mere type or figure, are anxious to say that the body of Christ is there, though they will not venture at once to believe that it is present.
On Sunday evening next I shall conclude this subject, when I shall close the whole series. I shall then enter into the second line of argument laid down, viz. to examine how far we are authorized to depart from the literal sense, by difficulties ensuing from the literal interpretation.
1 CORINTHIANS 8.-16.
“ The cup of benediction which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? And the bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of the Lord ?"
WISHING, my brethren, to bring to a conclusion this evening, the important topic which already has occupied us two Sundays, it will be necessary that I step back for a few moments, to bring you to the point at which I left my argument; as the observations which must follow, are necessarily as equel to those which have preceded ; and form, indeed, a part of that train of argument which I laid down at the commencement of my discourse last Sunday. In stating the position which . Catholics hold in regard to the arguments drawn for their doctrine of the Eucharist, from the words of the institution, I observed that the weight of proof necessarily lay with those who maintain that it was necessary to depart from the strict literal meaning of our Saviour's words; and that, contrary to their natural and obvious import, they were to be taken in a symbolical and figurative sense. I therefore laid down the line of argument which I conceived to be the strongest on the side of our opponents; and it consisted in a two-fold investigation ; first, how far the expressions in question can possibly be interpreted in a figurative signification ; and, secondly, what reasons existed to justify that more extraordinary, and necessarily more difficult system, which demanded that departure.
With regard to the first : adhering strictly to the principles of Bibli. cal interpretation which I had laid down, I went in detail through those various passages of Scripture which are cited to prove that the words of institution of the blessed Eucharist may be interpreted figuratively, without going counter to the ordinary method of speech found in Scrip
ture, and more particularly in our Saviour's discourses. I endeavoured thus to show, that it was impossible to establish any such parallelism between our words and the examples quoted, as to give a right to interpret ours by those texts. And this formed the great ground-work of the argument which I assumed.
The second portion remains : to see what reasons, what motives there may be, for preferring that figurative and harsh interpretation, even at the expence, if I may say so, of propriety ; to investigate whether there be not reasons so strong, as to induce us to choose any expedient, rather than interpret them in their simple and obvious meaning. This is the plan generally followed by writers on this subject. They maintain that we must interpret our Saviour's words figuratively, because otherwise we are driven into such absurdities, that it is impossible to reconcile this doctrine, not merely with our reason, but with ordinary common sense.
With regard to this, I may observe, that it is not very easy, even at the outset, to admit this form of argument. Independently of all that I shall say a little later regarding these supposed difficulties, the ques. tion may be considered in this point of view, Are we to take the Bible simply as it is, and allow it alone to be its own interpreter ? or are we to bring in other extraneous elements to modify that interpretation? If there are certain rules for interpreting the Bible, and if all those rules, in any instance, converge to show us that certain words will not bear any other signification but one, I ask, if there can be any other means or instrument of interpretation from without, more powerful, more cogent, than those rules which form the only sure basis of biblical interpretation. If, applying the means which prudent and sensible men can alone consider the proper means for discovering the sense of a passage, we find that, on account of certain difficulties or opposition to our opinions, we are not satisfied, is it lawful to call in any other element to our aid ? I find that, with deep and able divines on the Protestant side of this question, it has become much more usual than it used to be, to acknowledge that this is not the way in which the text should be examined ; that we have no right to consider whether it is strictly possible or not, but that we must stand or fall fairly and solely by the testimony of Scripture; and that, bowever the consequences may be repugnant to our reasonings, if it can be proved, upon the grounds of sound interpretation, that any one is the meaning, that meaning must be taken. I will, for this purpose, quote the authority of one, who has been one of the most persevering, and, I may say, one of the most virulent of our adversaries, one who, particularly on this subject of the Eucharist, has taken extraordinary pains to overthrow our belief. Mr. Faber writes in these words on this subject: “ The doctrine of transubstantiation, like the doctrine of the Trinity, is a question not of abstract reasoning, but of