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pure evidence. We believe the revelation of God to be essential and unerring truth; our business most plainly, then, is not to discuss the abstract absurdity, and the imagined contradictoriness of transubstantia. tion, but to inquire, according to the best means we possess, whether it be indeed a doctrine of Holy Scripture. If sufficient evidence shall determine such to be the case, we may be sure that the doctrine is neither absurd nor contradictory. I shall ever contend, that the doctrine of transubstantiation, like the doctrine of the Trinity, is a question of pure evidence.” In another passage he expresses himself in even stronger terms; he says, “ While arguing upon this subject, some persons, I regret to say, have been too copious in the use of those unseemly words 'absurdity' and 'impossibility ;' to such language, the least objec. tion is its reprehensible want of good manners. A much more serious objection is the tone of presumptuous loftiness which pervades it, and that is wholly unbecoming a creature of very narrow faculties. Certainly God will do nothing that is absurd, and can do nothing impossi. ble ; but contradictions we may frequently fancy, where in truth there are none. Hence, therefore, before we consider any doctrine a contradiction, we must be sure we perfectly understand the nature of the matter propounded in that doctrine, for otherwise the contradiction may not be in the matter itself, but in our mode of conceiving it. In regard to myself (as my consciously finite intellect claims not to be an universal measure of congruities and possibilities), I deem it to be more wise, to refrain from assailing the doctrine of transubstantiation, on the ground of its alleged absurdity, or impossibility, or contradictoriness; by such a mode of attack, we, in reality, quit the field of rational and satisfactory argumentation."
These observations are sensible and clear; and by the comparison which is made with another mystery, as I shall show you just now, they are sufficiently demonstrated to be correct. But now, then, we are to look still at these difficulties. I do not mean to shelter myself behind his authority, or that of any other writer, and say that sensible and acute, exceedingly acute reasoners against us allow, that any supposed difficulties or contradictions in the doctrine are not to be taken as a ground for interpreting the text figuratively; and that therefore-having already proved that, according to the obvious rules of interpretation, we cannot depart from the literal sense-I have nothing more to do, but may at once proceed to other matters. On the contrary, I intend to meet the difficulty plainly and simply, but without departing one step from the ground which I have chosen from the beginning. I have said from the beginning, that the true meaning of the words'or texts, is that meaning which the speaker must have known, and been certain would be the meaning affixed to the words by those whom he addressed ; and that we are to put ourselves in their position, and ascertain what means they had
for explaining those words, and then explain them by those means alone. For we are not to suppose that our Saviour spoke sentences which those who heard him had no means of understanding, but which we were afterwards to understand; and that, exclusively of course of prophecies, and of the comprehension of doctrine, which has nothing to do with the understanding of doctrine, his words must necessarily have been intended for the immediate readers or bearers of any discourse. If, therefore, we wish to understand what are the means for interpreting these words, we must put ourselves in the place of the apostles, and we must make our inquiry in their positions. It is said that we must depart from the literal sense of our Saviour's words, because that literal sense involves im. possibilities. The simple inquiry, therefore, which I make is this, Could the apostles bave reasoned in this way? or could our Saviour have meant them so to reason ? Could they have made the possibility or impossibility of what he told them, the criterion of its meaning? And if he could not have made the criterion of his meaning to be the possibility or impossibility of what he told them, it is evident that on this ground the text could not be interpreted.
I observe, then, in the first place, that the idea of possibility or inpossibility, when spoken with reference to the Almighty, is a philosophical speculation of a much deeper character than we can suppose, not merely ordinary, but particularly illiterate and uneducated men, could have entered into. What is possible or impossible to God? What is contradictory to his power? Who shall venture to define-further than what may be the first and simplest principle of impossibility—the existence and simultaneous non-existence of a thing? But who will say that any ordinary mind would be able to reason thus— the Almighty may, indeed, change water into wine, but he cannot change bread into bis body?” Who, that looks at these two propositions, simply with an uneducated eye, could say that, in his mind, there was such a broad distinction between them, that while he had seen the one to be in the power of the Omnipotent, he held the other to be of a class so widely different that he would pronounce it impossible? Suppose, again, such an individual bad seen our Saviour, or any one else, taking into his hand seven or five loaves, and with those very identical loaves, as the gospel narrative tells us, feeding and satisfying three or five thousand individuals, so that baskets should remain of the fragments, and that yet they saw it was not by bringing new loaves to the spot, but it was actually multiplying that very matter, making that substance, wbich existed in a limited form, extend itself and yet retain the same qualities, without any thing more than the mere effort of his word. Who that had seen him do this, for instance, would perceive such a difference between this and a body being at the same time in two places, as to be able daringly and boldly to pronounce in bis mind, Though I have seen, from my own experience, that the one can be done by this Being, I see plainly that the other belongs philosophically to such a different class of phenomena that it is even out of the reach of Omnipotence? Does any mind-I will appeal even to the mind of the most refined reasoner, and of the most sagacious philosopher, if he, admitting one of those facts as having been true and proved, will dare to pronounce the other to belong to another sphere of philosophical laws, which makes the one impossible, in spite of the demonstration that the other had been done.
Such, therefore, was the state of mind of the apostles of our Saviour in regard to his power. They had been accustomed to see him perform the most extraordinary works. They had seen bim, for instance, walking upon the water, bis body consequently deprived, for a time, of all the usual properties of matter, of that gravity, which, according to the laws of nature, should have caused it to sink. They had seen him commanding by his simple word the elements. They bad seen him raise the dead to life. They had seen him perform those two miracles which I have mentioned, that of transmuting one substance into another, and that of causing a body to be multiplied or extended to an immense degree. Can we, then, believe, that with such minds as theirs, and with such evidences, the apostles were to bave words addressed to them by our Saviour, which they were to interpret rightly, only by saying, It is impossible for him to do this ?
But not only so; we find that our Saviour had impressed his fol. lowers with the idea, that nothing was impossible to him. We find that he never reproved them so severely as when they doubted his power : “ Why dost thou doubt, O thou of little faith ?” He had so completely imbued his followers with this feeling regarding himself, that when they applied to him for any miracle, they never think of saying to him, “ If thou canst;" it is only his will which they wish to secure : the man with the leprosy accordingly exclaims, “Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.” “Lord,” exclaimed Martha, “if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died; but even now I know that whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.” Thus, therefore, to this extent had their faith been placed in him, that they understood, that whatever he asked of God, whatever he willed, that he could effect.
Not only so; but our Saviour encouraged this belief to the utmost. How did he answer the man with the leprosy? "I will; be thou clean;" it depends upon my will ; you are right in appealing to this attribute. How did he reply to Martha's observation? “I know, Lord, that thou always hearest me ;" I know that whatever I ask will be given me. He confirmed, therefore, this idea in them, that nothing was impossible to him. Not only so; but we find him commending the faith of the centurion, and saying that “ he had not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.” Why? Because the centurion believed and asserted that it was not necessary for him even to be present to perform a miracle : “ Amen, amen, I say unto you, I bave not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.”
Now, therefore, again, if such was the belief of the apostles, and if our Saviour had taken such pains to inculcate this persuasion on them, that nothing whatsoever was impossible to him, can you believe, for a moment, that he meant them to decide to interpret the meaning of his words, on any occasion, on the ground that their completion was impossible to him? Not only so; but we find him actually making this the great criterion between bis false and his true disciples, in the sixth of St. John, when they went away because it was a bard saying, and they could not comprehend it; whereas be approved of those twelve, saying, “ Have not I chosen you twelve ?"_because, although in some darkness and perplexity, they yielded up their reason and judgment to him : "To whom shall we go but to thee? Thou hast the words of eternal life.”
Now, therefore, our Saviour had accustomed his apostles to this argument on every occasion : “ Although this thing may appear to us impossible, as our Divine Master says it, it must be so," Can we believe, then, that he should, on this one occasion of the institution of his last supper, have made use of expressions, the only key to whose right interpretation was to be precisely the inverse of that argument? “ Although our Divine Master says, this is his body and blood,' as the thing is impossible, it cannot be so ?" If our Saviour, then, could not possibly have expected bis apostles to reason so, if it cannot have been the criterion or the key to the interpretation that they possibly could have thought of using, then of course it cannot be the instrument of interpretation, or the key to their meaning with us; because that only is the true meaning, which the apostles must have attached to the words, and that only must be the process of arriving at it, by wbich they could and must have reached it.
But, my brcthren, as I before hinted, are we safe in at all admitting this principle of contradiction to the law of nature, of apparent violation of philosophical principles, as a means of interpreting Scripture ? What, I will ask, becomes of mysteries? What becomes of that very mystery, which you observe Mr. Faber put upon a parallel with that of transubstantiation, regarding this argument? What becomes of the Trinity ? What becomes of the incarnation of our Saviour ? What becomes of his birth from a virgin ?-in short, of every mystery of the Christian religion? Who will pretend to say, that he can, by any stretch of his imagination or of his reasoning, see it possible, how three persons in one God can be but one God-head? If the contradictionthe apparent contradiction to the laws of nature, as usually observed and understood by us, is to be a principle for rejecting a doctrine clearly
laid down in Scripture, and if the Eucharist, which is more clearly laid down than the Trinity, is to be rejected on that ground, how is it possible, for a moment, to support the doctrine of the Trinity ? The very idea is in itself, at first sight, apparently repugnant to the very law of number, and no mathematical, no speculative reasoning will ever show how it possibly can be. You are content, then, to receive that important mystery, shutting your eyes to its difficulties, as you should do. You admit it, because it is revealed in God's word, and still more because that revelation is confirmed by the authority of antiquity. And, therefore, if you wish not to be plied with the same arguments as you use against us, you must shut up that method of reasoning, and admit that mysteries are to be tried by the simple word of God, and that they are to be received at once, in spite of contradiction, apparent contradiction to our senses, simply because God reveals them, who hath the words of eternal life.
It is repeatedly said, for instance, that such a miracle as that of the Eucharist-the existence of Christ's body in the way we suppose it to be there is contrary to all that our senses, to all that experience can teach us. Now, supposing that a heathen philosopher bad reasoned in that manner when the mystery of our Saviour's incarnation, the union of God with man, was first proposed to him by the apostles, he would bave had perfectly, not merely in theory but in reality, experience on his side ; he could have said, it is a thing which has never bappened, a thing which we cannot conceive to happen; and, consequently, as far as the unanimous testimony of all mankind to the impossibility of a thing goes, it is perfectly decisive. And it is evident that, in the mysteries which are revealed by God, in those mysteries which have their beginning in time, such as the incarnation, it is evident, that, up to a certain time, there must be all the weight of philosophical observation, all the laws of nature which can be deduced from experience, against it; so that up to the time when the mystery is enacted, it is perfectly true, that that mystery is at variance with the laws of nature, that inasmuch as the laws of nature form that code, by which experience shows us that nature is constantly guided, it is manifest that, experience not having given an example of such an event, the laws of nature, as deduced by it, must necessarily appear to stand in contradiction to the mystery. The only question is, cannot a mystery be instituted by God, or can it not be revealed by him? I would ask, for instance, with regard to the sacrament of baptism, who will not say, that were it to be tried by the law of
nature, or even by all that we know of tbe connection between the moral, the spiritual, and the material world, that rite or sacrament would be pronounced in contradiction with them? Who will pretend to say, that there is any known connection between those two orders of things wbich could prove, or make even probable, that, by the bare