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extraordinary, unusual language? But if you take the simple interpretation, as the Catholic does, there is not the slightest difficulty from first to last. You have to make some struggle, perhaps, against your senses; but, at least, as far as biblical interpretation goes, you are consistent from first to last; you believe that the literal expression was used in each passage, because it was the literal thing, and you have the analogy of Scripture in your favour; whereas, on the other hand, you must find reasons why they should have used such expressions; and, at last, you are to satisfy yourself with some little word in the corner of the narrative, and resort to the miserable expedient of proving, by that little word, that the doctrine is figurative.
Now, to give an instance of this process, after the consecration is spoken, we still have the expressions “ bread” and “ wine” used; therefore, all that long line of argument which I pursued is worth nothing, this one fact overthrows it all. Why, we Catholics call it bread; we call it wine after the consecration; and do we disbelieve that the change has taken place in the elements, because we apply these words afterwards? It is evident, therefore, that the simple finding of these words used, is no argument whatsoever. We have an instance in the Gospel of St. John, in the ninth chapter; our Saviour performs the cure of a man that was blind; he restores him to sight: there is a long altercation between the Jews and the blind man, which beautifully demonstrates the miracle. The blind man is called in; they question him again and again; they call in his friends to verify that it is the man; all this must convey the idea that the man had been blind; but, reasoning in the same way, after a few verses it is said, “ They say again to the blind man,”-Ob, then the man was blind after all, he was blind still, he was never cured; the fact of his being still called blind, proves that no change had taken place! Just precisely the reasoning used against our doctrine; because they simply speak of it as “ bread" as before, some persons are quite satisfied, that the express words are overthrown. It is the same in the case of Moses, where the rods are said to have been changed into serpents, and yet they are called rods afterwards; had no change then taken place ? Manifestly; but it is the common method in all languages, when such a change had taken place, to continue the original name. It is said in the miracle of the marriage, When, therefore, the master of the feast bad tasted the water which had been made wine;" why water then? it was no longer water, it should have been called wine. These examples are sufficient to show, that such expressions as these, such words as these, must not be taken by any sincere inquirer, as the key to the interpretation for the entire passage, nor made to outweigh the complicated difficulties that attend its being taken figuratively.
We naturally must desire, upon a question like this, to ascertain the
opinions of antiquity. The author, from whom I before quoted, as to the incorrectness of arguing against our scriptural interpretation, from arguments drawn from reason, observes himself also, that it is necessary on this point to consult tradition, for he acknowledges, at least pretty evidently, that it is not easy to prove the figurative interpretation of these words.
Now, in this examination of the opinions of the early church, we meet with a most serious difficulty, drawn from a circumstance wbich 1 made use of on a foriner occasion, namely, the discipline of the Secret, whereby the faithful were not admitted to the knowledge of the prin. cipal mysteries of the faith till after they had been baptized. It was a principle, as I observed before, among the ancient Christians, to preserve an inviolable secresy as to all that passed, on the most important occasions of the services of the church. Hence, we find a distinction drawn in the old fathers, between the mass of the catechumens and the mass of the faithful; consequently, neither they, nor still more heathens, knew what went on in the church. This is manifest, especially when the fathers treat upon the Eucharist. It is common to hear them say, “ What I am saying or writing now is for the initiated,” “ the faithful know what I mean.” They expressly say, that “ if you ask a catechumen if he believes in the incarnation, he would make the sign of the cross, to show that he believes in the Trinity and incarnation : if you ask him whether he believes in the Eucharist, he does not know what you mean." One of the fathers, St. Epiphanius, says, “ What were the words which our Saviour used at his last supper; our Saviour took into his hands a certain thing, and said, it is so and so." Thus he avoids making use of the words which would expose the belief of the Christians. Origen expressly says, that any one who betrays this mystery to a heathen, is worse than a murderer. St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, and others, affirm, that they are traitors to their religion who do so. The consequence was, as Tertullian says, that the heathens knew nothing of what went on in the church; and when they charged the Christians with various horrible crimes, as if there perpe. trated, they contented themselves with asking, “ How can you pretend to know that,”-speaking of horrible crimes which the Christians were charged with how can you pretend to know that, when we never allow any one to be amongst us?” This sufficiently shows, that it was not any thing of recent introduction, but that it had continued, as the early writers tell us, from the time of the apostles; because it would be impossible to conceal this mystery, if it had not been concealed from the beginning. In the writings of St. John Chrysostome, speaking of a tumult in the church of Constantinople, he says, in a letter to Pope Junius, that the person he speaks of “ spilled the blood of Christ :" and the historian Palladius, who narrates his life, says to the uninitiated,
he spilt the symbols known to the initiated, because he was writing a letter that was to go forth to the world; the other was written to the Pope. We have another example in the writings of St. Athanasius, who was summoned before the court for breaking a chalice; and the council held at Alexandria in 360, expressed their horror of the Arians, for having brought the mysteries of the church before the world through this accusation. And we have it still stronger expressed, in a letter of the Pope to bim, in which he says, “ It is a thing we could not have believed, when we heard that such a thing as the chalice, the cup in which the blood of Christ is administered, was mentioned before the profane and uninitiated; and, until we saw it in the account of the trial, we did not think such a crime possible.”
All this, you may conceive, will necessarily. throw a considerable veil over what was said in early times on the Eucharist; and it is only where accident enables us to pierce under the veil, that we see clearly what the doctrines of the church were. But we do discover it in
The first is in the calumnies invented by the enemies of the church. Now we find it to be asserted by Tertullian particularly, the oldest father of the Latin church, that one of the common calumnies against the Christians was, that in their assemblies they murdered a child, and dipping bread in its blood partook of it: he alludes to this constantly. St. Justin Martyr tells us, that when he was a heathen he had heard this constantly of the Christians : Origen mentions it in the same way. Now what could have given rise to this, from the doctrine that men partake of bread and wine, simply as commemorative rites of their religion? Does it not imply, that they had heard something of the doctrine, that the body and the blood of our blessed Saviour were believed to be partaken of by them on these occasions? Does not the calumny itself insinuate as much?
Secondly. We gain additional light by the manner in which they met these calumnies. Suppose that the belief of the ancient Christians had been that of Protestants, what was easier than to refute these accusations? It required nothing more than to say, “ We do no such thing, nor any thing approaching to it; Catholics do nothing more than partake of bread and wine, as a commemorative rite of our Saviour's sufferings ; come in, if you please, and see.” Now, instead of this, we find it met in two ways: in the first place, by not answering it at all; they avoid answering it, because the answer to that must have laid open the real doctrine, which would have been exposed to the ridicule and blasphemy of the heathen; for we know by experience now, to what obloquy, and to what scoffing it exposes us; and, therefore, they feared the same, and they refused to answer it; and, consequently, in Tertullian, and in all the ancient apologists that we have of Christianity, they avoid touching upon this topic. But what is still more remarkable, we have
one case of a martyr, Blandina ; it is said, that at Lyons the servants of some of the Christians were put to the rack, to discover what was the belief of their masters: these servants, being heathens, said, after some time, that they believed in the mysteries of the Christians, they partook of flesh and blood; the martyrs were then, Blandina particularly was, charged with that, and was put to the rack; and the historian says,
that she most wisely, most prudently answered, “ How can you think that we can be guilty of such crimes; we who, from the spirit of mortification, even abstain from eating lawful flesh ?" Now, supposing that this doctrine had nothing at all akin to the reality, what was easier than to say, “ We do nothing like it; we partake of a little bread and wine, as a bond of union, to commemorate our Saviour's passion, but we have nothing that could give rise to such a horrible calumny?” She, how. ever, is praised for her wisdom in making this answer, because she did not deny the charge, at the same time that it met the odious and unnatural portion of it, the form in which the accusation was made. These are examples, how, through the enemies of the Christians, and the answers given to them, we arrive at a tolerable certainty of what was their belief.
We have, however, fortunately one apologist, who did venture to uncover that veil. St. Justin, in bis apology, thought it better, from the circumstance of his directing it to prudent, philosophical minds,be thought it right to explain the real belief of the Christians in this regard. How does he do it? Does he say, we by no means believe in any thing of that sort, we only make use of a commemorative rite ? Listen to wbat he writes, under circumstances when it was natural for him to wish to deprive them, as much as possible, of all that would be disagreeable, and to strive to conciliate: he says, “ Our prayers being finished, we embrace one another with a kiss of peace;"-a ceremony yet observed in the Catholic mass.—“ Then to him, who presides over the brethren, is tendered bread, and wine tempered with water; having received wbich be returns tbanks," and so forth; and says at last, “ This food we call the Eucharist, of which they alone are allowed to partake who believe the doctrines taught by us, and have been regenerated by water, for the remission of sin, and do live as Christ ordained. Nor do we take these gifts as common bread and common drink, but as Jesus Christ our Saviour made man by the word of God, took flesh and blood for our salvation, in the same manner we have been taught, that the food which had been blessed by these prayers, and by which our blood and Aesh in the change are nourished, is, we believe, the flesh and blood of that Jesus incarnate.” There, you see, that he lays open the doctrine, in the clearest and simplest manner possible, telling us, that it is considered to be the body and blood of Christ.
But besides this, there is fortunately another class of writers, who
have come down to us, and who are actually those we should be most disposed to look into; and they are those, who expressly laid open to the newly-baptized, what they were to believe on the subject, and their words would naturally be then the simplest possible. There is also another class of writers, consisting of those whose homilies or sermons were delivered to the initiated exclusively, and there also they speak without disguise. These two classes furnish abundant proofs for our purpose. I will mention first, as one of the most remarkable, St. Cyril, of Jerusalem, because we have a whole series of his catechetical discourses; and, it is singular, that in one of them he says, that they are to be careful not to communicate what he teaches them to the heathens, or to the unbaptized, unless they are about to be baptized, but only to those who are enlightened. Now this is the way in which he speaks; he says, “ The bread and wine which, before the invocation of the adorable Trinity, were nothing but bread and wine, become, after this invocation, the body and blood of Christ.” Again; the Eucharistic bread, after the invocation of the Holy Spirit, is no longer common bread, but the body of Christ." This is the clear doctrine, simply laid down. Now, in another place, the apostle Paul says, “ In that night," and so forth: afterwards “ he took the bread and said, This is my body; as then Christ, speaking of the bread, said, “This is my body:' who shall dare to doubt it? As speaking of the wine, he positively assured us, This is my blood; who shall doubt it, and say, that it is not his blood ?" Again; Jesus Christ, in Cana, of Galilee, once changed water into wine, and shall we think it less worthy of credit, that he changed wine into blood ? Invited to an earthly marriage, he wrought this miracle; and shall we hesitate to confess, that he has given to his children his body to eat, and his blood to drink? Wherefore, with all confidence, let us take the body and blood of Christ; for, in the figure or form of bread, his body is given to us; and, in the figure or form of wine, his blood is given to us; that so, being partakers of the body and blood of Christ, we may become one body and one blood with him. Thus, the body and blood of Christ being distributed in our members, we become Christofori, that is, we carry Christ with us, and are made partakers of the divine nature, as St. Peter says.” Afterwards he says, “ For as the bread is the nourishment which is proper for the body, so the word is the nourishment which is proper for the soul. Wherefore I conjure you, not to consider them any more as common bread and wine, since they are the body and blood of Jesus Christ, according to his words; and although your senses might suggest, that to you, let faith confirm you in this, knowing that what appears to you bread is not bread, but the body of Christ; and that which appears to you wine is not wine, but the blood of Christ.” He says in another passage, “ Look and see how good the