THE LORD’S SUPPER.
BY G. DIEHL, D. D.
THE rule established by those who have preceded me on the Holman foundation of Augsburg Confession lectures, of taking the Articles of the Confession in the order in which they stand, presents to us the Tenth Article for our subject this evening. It is understood, I believe, that these lectures are expected to be a true and faithful development of the doctrines taught in the Confessional writings of the Church.
“Of the Supper of the Lord they teach that the (true) body and blood of Christ are truly present (under the form of bread and wine), and are (there) communicated to those that eat in the Lord’s Supper (and received), and they disapprove those who teach otherwise (wherefore also the opposite doctrine is rejected).”
This Article treats of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, so called because instituted at supper time (i Cor. xi. 20). It is also called “the Lord’s table ” and “the cup of the Lord.” (i Cor. x. 2 1.) Other terms have been applied, such as “Communion,” a festival in common, taken probably from i Corinthians x. 16; “Eucharist,” a giving of thanks, because hymns and psalms were sung. By the Greeks it was called “Mysterion,” sacrament; by the Latins “Missa” (Mass), and by the Reformers “The Sacrament of the Altar.”
The New Testament Account.
The institution of this sacrament is recorded by Matt, xxvi. 26-29; Mk. xiv. 22-25; Lk. xxii. 19-20; and the apostle Paul (1 Cor. xi. 22-26). Paul’s account differs very little from that of his companion, Luke.
Matthew’s statement is this: “Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve” (to eat the Passover which had been prepared by his direction), “and as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying. Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”
That it was instituted in remembrance of Christ is recorded by Luke and Paul. John does not mention the institution of the holy sacrament, but he records minutely a discourse of the Saviour (John vi. 51-59,) which, in the opinion of some interpreters, has some reference to one feature of the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper.
Paul warns the Corinthians that they cannot partake of the Lord’s table and at the same time eat of pagan sacrifices (i Cor. x. 16-21), because “the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils and not to God.” And in another part of the Epistle (xi. 27, 29), he tells them that “whosoever shall eat this bread and drink this cup of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord,” and “eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.”
The Doctrine Taught.
What is the doctrine taught in this Tenth Article?
It is simply this: that the true body and blood of Christ are present in the holy supper, and communicated to those who eat and drink therein.
There can be no misapprehension with regard to the view set forth in this brief Article, for the authors of the Confession have, in other writings, clearly and fully expressed their sentiments on the subject.
A General Statement of the Doctrine.
The Article, then, teaches that the true body and blood of Christ are present in a supernatural way, under the forms of bread and wine, and arc received by the communicant. By the true body is to be understood, not the material body and blood; — not the earthly, or gross or carnal body; — not such material flesh and blood as ours; — not the material body and blood in the form and state in which Jesus wore his body on the earth before his crucifixion; but that which constitutes his body and blood since his descent into hell, his resurrection, and ascension to heaven, — his glorified human nature, — that body and blood which is spiritual and celestial.
This stands in opposition and contrast to the Romish theory of Transubstantiation, that the consecration of the elements by the priest changes them into the body and blood of Christ. This is rejected on the ground of reason and scripture. No change in the properties of the elements can be detected by the senses or by chemical analysis. And Paul calls it after consecration, “The bread which we break.”
This doctrine is also opposed to the Zwinglian theory, which makes the Eucharist merely commemorative, and the presence of Christ merely spiritual.
It is also opposed to the Calvinistic doctrine which, admitting that the believing communicant eats and drinks the true body and blood of Christ, yet contends that the participation is by faith of the body of Christ in heaven, the local presence being only at the right hand of God.
Distinct from all and each of these views, the Tenth Article of the Augsburg Confession teaches that the true body and blood of Christ are in the sacrament, and communicated to those who eat and drink in the holy supper, whether they have penitence and faith, or are unbelieving and wicked — whether worthy or unworthy — the efficacy of the sacramental presence being objective, and not depending on the spiritual state of the communicant; keeping in view always that the heavenly or true body and blood of Christ impart to the believing or worthy communicant spiritual life and salvation, while to the unbeliever or unworthy communicant they impart judgment and condemnation.
How can we reconcile the apparently conflicting statements of the absence of all material flesh and blood and yet the presence of the true body and blood of Christ? To comprehend this doctrine, several truths must be always viewed in connection with this subject.
It is held that in the incarnation of our Saviour the human and the divine natures were inseparably united. We can have no conception of a Saviour except as a divine-human being, — “God manifest in the flesh,” — “the Word made flesh,” — not for a limited time, but for all time. This union of the two natures is perpetual and inseparable.
Again, we can have no conception of humanity separate from flesh and blood. Christ was crucified and buried. After his burial he descended into hell; then rose from the dead; then ascended into heaven. In these three acts, or stages of exaltation, — in one or in all of them (descent, resurrection and ascension) — his body underwent a change similar to that which ours shall undergo in the final resurrection, when Christ “shall change our vile body that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body” (Phil. iii. 21). And as our bodies shall be raised “in incorruption,” — “in glory,” — “in power,” — raised “a spiritual body” (i Cor. xv. 42-44), Christ’s body, since the ascension, must be a spiritual and glorified body. His humanity is a glorified humanity. His true body and blood appertain to his glorified state.
By virtue of the perpetual and inseparable union of the divine and human natures in one person — the divine-human Saviour — the God-man — wherever Christ appears to his people, he appears not as God only, but as the God- man — the divine-human Saviour. So that the body of Christ, which has one mode of local presence at the right hand of God in heaven, has also another mode of presence elsewhere.
Also, by virtue of the inseparable union of the divine and the human, the body of Christ has other properties than those which will appertain to 0ur glorified humanity.
Now the Saviour’s promise, “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mt. xviii. 20), and the other promise, ” Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Mt. xxviii. 20), imply the presence of his humanity as well as of his divinity, for the two natures are inseparable in his one person. The promise of the presence of the Saviour in all Christian assemblies met in his name, is the promise of the presence not merely of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity; nor the presence merely of God the second person of the Trinity as separate from humanity; because in the Saviour there can be no such separation of the two natures. The presence of God out of Christ could be no comfort to sinful beings. God becomes to us a reconciled Father, a friendly God, only through Christ, the divine-human Saviour. All the consoling promises and assurances of the Gospel rest on the idea and truth of these two natures of our Redeemer in inseparable union. If the idea of humanity essential to his being a Saviour, could be separated from Christ, the second person in the Trinity would become merely God infinitely holy and just, and as such, a terror to all the human family in a sinful state.
But the Redeemer comes to his people as the God-man, with all the sympathies of his humanity, as well as with all the power and glory of his divinity. Now as his humanity is not palpable to our senses, though really present where Christians have assembled in his name, so in the Holy Supper, his body, though really present, is not in the material form in which he appeared in the days of his flesh.
The Scripture argument in favor of this doctrine rests chiefly on two passages, viz., “This is my body,” “this is my blood” (Mt. xxvi. 26), and “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” (1 Cor. x. 16.) It is held by the authors of the Confession, that these words occurring in the institution of a sacrament must be taken in a literal and not in a figurative sense.
The Doctrine Stated in the Language of the Confessions.
A few passages from the Confessions will show the correctness of the above statement.
Luther’s Small Catechism: “The sacrament of the altar is the true body and blood of Jesus Christ under the bread and wine given unto us Christians to eat and to drink as it was instituted by Christ himself”
Luther’s Large Catechism: “Here we shall learn first on what the power and virtue of this sacrament depend; namely, that the principal thing is the word and order or command of God; for it was neither devised nor invented by any man, but it was instituted by Christ himself, without the counsel or deliberation of any man.
What then is the sacrament of the altar? It is the true body and blood of Christ, our Lord in and with bread and wine, comprehended through the words of Christ, for us Christians to eat and to drink. This sacrament is bread and wine, but not mere bread and wine, such as is taken to the table on other occasions; but bread and wine comprehended in the word of God and connected with it. It is the word that makes and distinguishes this sacrament, so that it is not mere bread and wine, but is and is called the body of Christ.”
Apology: “The sacrament was instituted by Christ to console the consciences of alarmed persons, and to strengthen their faith when they believe that the flesh of Christ was given for the life of the world, and that through this nourishment we become united with Christ and have grace and life.”
Smalcald Articles: “Concerning the sacrament of the altar we hold that with bread and wine in the Eucharist are the true body and blood of Christ, and are administered and received not only by pious- persons, but also by those who are not pious.”
Form of Concord (Epitome): “We believe that in the holy sacrament of the Lord’s Supper the body and blood of Christ are really and essentially present and with bread and wine really administered and received. Bread and wine do not signify the absent body of Christ, but through the agency of the sacramental union they are truly the body and blood of Christ.”
The Lutheran View Distinct from Others.
The Lutheran doctrine of the real presence, clearly stated in these passages from the Confessions, is brought out in stronger and sharper outlines by defining the difference between the Lutheran and other theories on the subject. Notice how boldly it stands out in opposition to the Romish doctrine of Transubstantiation, which is strongly condemned and rejected in the Confessions.
Form of Concord (Epitome): “We unanimously reject and condemn the papistical transubstantiation, where it is taught that bread and wine in the holy sacrament of the Lord’s Supper lose their substance and natural essence, and thus become annihilated; that is, that they are transmuted into the body of Christ, and that the external form alone remains.”
Form of Concord, (Declaration): “We reject and condemn as false and dangerous the error of papistical transubstantiation, by which is taught that the consecrated bread and wine in the holy sacrament of the Lord’s Supper lose their substance and essence wholly and entirely, and are changed into the substance of the body and blood of Christ; so that only the mere form of bread and wine (accidentia sine subjecto) remains. And as they think, under the form of bread, which however according to their opinion is no longer bread but has lost its natural essence, the body of Christ is present, even apart from the administration of the Supper, when the bread is enclosed in the pyx, or carried about as a spectacle to be adored. For nothing can be a sacrament apart from the command of God and the ordained use for which it was instituted by the word of God.”
Romish View Rejected on Two Grounds.
The Romish view here so strongly condemned is rejected on two grounds. That the consecration by the priest effects no change in the elements is evident. Tested by the senses — by sight, taste and touch — there is no change in their color, form or qualities. Tested by chemical analysis, all the properties of bread and wine remain after as before consecration. The Romish error is therefore condemned by common sense and reason. In the mysteries of the Christian religion we are never required to reject or discredit the testimony of our senses with regard to the properties of material substances. The Romish theory is therefore utterly untenable.
It is also condemned by the inspired word of God. St. Paul asks (1 Cor. X. 16), “The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” The breaking of the bread is after the consecration. Paul calls it bread at the time of breaking. If the Romish theory were true, Paul would have said, “is not the body which we break? ” But instead of that, he says, “is not the bread which we break?” He clearly calls it bread, after consecration.
This shows how little the doctrine of the Lutheran standards is understood by those who have said that these standards teach a doctrine nearly akin to that of the Papists.
Distinct from Zwinglian and Calvinistic Views.
The doctrine set forth in the Tenth Article of the Augsburg Confession, and developed in the Catechisms and the Form of Concord, stands out in bold distinction from the Zwinglian and Calvinistic views. The standards group these views together and call their advocates “sacramentarians.”
Repudiation of Zwinglian and Calvinistic Opinions.
Form of Concord: “We reject and condemn with our hearts and lips, as false and erroneous, these opinions and dogmas of the sacramentarians, namely:
“1. That the words of the institution are not to be received simply in their literal meaning as they read, concerning the true essential presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Lord’s Supper, but through tropical and figurative significations they are to be explained in a different sense. And here we reject all similar opinions of the sacramentarians, and their self-contradictory definitions, no matter how multifarious and diverse they may be.
“2. Again we reject the doctrines by which the oral participation of the body and blood of Christ in the Holy Supper is denied and by which on the contrary it is taught that in this supper the body of Christ is received only spiritually by faith; so that in this holy supper we receive with our lips nothing but mere bread and wine.
“3. In like manner we reject the doctrine that bread and wine in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper are nothing more than signs or badges, (Kennzeichen,) by which Christians may be known to each other.
“4. Also that they are only indications, similitudes and representations of the far-absent body of Christ, in such a manner that even as bread and wine are the external food of our bodies, so the absent body of Christ, with his merits, is the spiritual food of our souls.
“5. That they are nothing more than signs and memorials of the absent body of Christ, through which, as through an external pledge, we are assured that faith which turns itself away from the Lord’s Supper and ascends above all heavens, there indeed becomes a participant of the body and blood of Christ, as truly as we receive the external signs with our lips.
“6. That in the Holy Supper only the virtue, operation and merit of the far-absent body of Christ are administered unto faith, so that in this manner we become partakers of his absent body, and sacramental union is to be understood in the manner stated, that is, from the analogy of a sign and the thing signified.
“7. That the body and blood of Christ are received only spiritually through faith.
“8. That Christ is so contained and circumscribed with his body in a certain place in heaven, that with it he neither can nor will be truly and essentially present with us in the holy supper which is celebrated here on earth according to the institution of Christ, but that he is far distant from it as heaven and earth are from each other.
“9. That Christ neither could nor would promise or effect the true essential presence of his body and blood in the holy supper, since the nature and properties of his assumed human nature can neither bear nor admit of it. ”
These declarations are sufficient to show how completely every phase of distinctively Zwinglian and Calvinistic doctrine is rejected. Calvin held many tenets in common with Luther on the Lord’s Supper. But everything distinctly Calvinistic — Calvinistic in opposition to Lutheran — was abhorrent to the theologians of the Form of Concord. Hence they repudiate as false and dangerous such dogmas as that the words of Christ in the institution can be taken in a figurative sense. This would divest the sacrament, they held, of its essence. The words can be taken only in one sense, that is, the literal meaning. Starting out with this principle, they repudiated with strong feelings of aversion the error that the sacrament is merely commemorative; or that the bread and wine were only indications, similitudes and signs of the absent body of Christ; or that they were mere badges of recognition; or that Christ’s presence was merely spiritual, whether in the sense of imparting the influences of the Holy Spirit or of a purely spiritual presence of Christ, the second person in the Trinity, as separate from humanity (which would involve the overthrow of the whole doctrine of the incarnation and that of the person of Christ); or that the one nature of Christ, the God- man, can have only a local presence in heaven; or that the believer in order to feed on Christ must ascend by faith into heaven and there partake of the body and blood of Christ; or that the body and blood of Christ can be understood only in the sense of the virtue, power and efficacy of the atonement; or that the efficiency of Christ’s word and power should be so circumscribed and limited that he could not by his word and almighty power cause such a presence of his body and blood as his solemn language in the institution implies; or that the faith of the communicant should have more power than the word of Christ, as in the Calvinistic theory; or that the presence of Christ should be dependent on the spiritual state of the communicant, thus putting the whole sacramental efficacy at the mercy of man, instead of the power and word of Christ.
In Lutheran theology the Lord’s Supper is regarded as a fundamental matter in the Christian system. It embodies the great central truths of Christianity. Being the last institution of the Redeemer, the last doctrine, the last command, on the eve of the great atoning sacrifice, there is concentrated into it, as the climax of his teaching and ordinances, the essence of the whole Christian system. This sacrament strikes its roots down into the Old Testament dispensation. As the earliest promises and predictions made to patriarchs and prophets pointed to Christ, and every sacrifice in their ceremonial worship ordained at Sinai pointed to him; as every high priest was a type and every deliverer of Israel a figure of Christ; as he was the prophet like unto Moses; the King of David’s house, David’s Lord as well as Son; — the righteous branch mentioned by Jeremiah; the Good Shepherd foreseen by Ezekiel, and the Messenger of the Covenant promised by Malachi, so he was also the Paschal Lamb whose blood shields from the destroyer.
The Passover of the Mosaic dispensation was the most striking type of this sacrament. It was an ordinance of God, instituted by the divine command, connected with the manifestation of God’s power in the deliverance of his people. It was a transaction between God and the people. The salvation promised depended on the strict observance by the people of their part of the transaction. ” They shall take them every man a lamb,” (Ex. xii. 3.) The lamb unblemished was slain. The blood was sprinkled upon the lintels and door-posts of the houses. The flesh of the lamb was eaten. Thus the covenant was kept, and the angel passed by the sprinkled houses.
Christ is our Passover. He is frequently called a lamb: a lamb unblemished. Isaiah tells us, “the Man of Sorrows was led as a lamb to the slaughter” (liii. 3, 7). John says, “Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world ” (i. 29). Peter says (i, i. 19), “The blood of Christ as of a lamb.” St. John (Rev. v. 12), “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain.”
As the paschal lamb was typically unblemished, so Christ our Passover was really perfect: “holy, harmless, undefiled, made separate from sinners.” “Ye were redeemed with the precious blood of Christ as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (i Pet. i. 19). Like the paschal lamb, Christ also was slain, “The whole assembly shall kill it” (Ex. xii. 6). Of Christ it is said, “They killed the Lord Jesus” (i Thes, ii. 15). “In the midst of the throne stood the Lamb as it had been slain” (Rev. v. 6). “Thou wast slain and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood” (Rev. v. 9.)
As the Passover was a typical sacrifice (Ex. xii. 27), so Christ gave himself a sacrifice for us, “When he said, sacrifice and offering and burnt offering and offering for sin thou wouldst not, then said he, Lo! I come to do thy will, O God; he taketh away the first that he may establish the second, by which we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all.” (Heb. x. 8- 10. Quoting Ps. xl. 6-8.) “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your consciences from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb. ix. 14.)
To the completion of the paschal ordinance and covenant it was necessary that the lamb should be eaten. “They shall eat the flesh in the night” (Ex. xii. 8). If an Israelite had merely killed the lamb and sprinkled the blood on the door-frame of the house, but refused to eat the flesh, would the ordinance have been fully observed? Would the transaction have been complete? Would the covenant have been kept? Would the angel of death have passed by the house of the man who presumed to transgress in one essential part? By no means. Man has no right or authority to add to, or take from, God’s word and ordinance. So in the Lord’s Supper there is a natural eating of the bread, and a supernatural eating of the body of Christ. “The bread that I give is my flesh which I give for the life of the world. Except ye shall eat the flesh of the Son of man, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh hath eternal life. He that eateth my flesh dwelleth in me. My flesh is meat indeed” (John vi. 51-58.) In the passover the people were commanded to eat the flesh of the lamb in a natural way. In the New Testament Church the people of Christ are to eat in a supernatural way the flesh of the Son of man — not the material, not the carnal, or gross, or terrene, but the celestial, the spiritual body — to eat not in a natural way, but in a supernatural.
The argument employed by the theologians of the Reformation in support of this literal construction of the language of Christ in the institution of the Eucharist is: First, It is the natural, proper, original signification of the word is. Secondly, Even if there are some instances in classic and sacred Greek in which the word is taken in the sense of signifying, it cannot be so understood in this connection. In the institution of the sacraments, they say, Christ employed language only in its literal, and not in a figurative sense. It is therefore doing violence to all fair construction, to take the words of the institution of the Holy Supper in a tropical sense. This is the more apparent when we bear in mind that in the language spoken by Christ at the time there are more than thirty words to express the idea of signifying. If, therefore, Christ had intended to declare, “this signifies my body,” it is inconceivable that he should not have selected a word about which there could be no question, and which could not possibly mislead any one. Tropes and figures of speech would be incongruous in the statement of a sacrament requiring plain language, and when words expressing the idea directly are so numerons. Therefore, the words of Christ must be taken in their proper and best, or literal meaning, as he utters them in the institution.
They also claim for their construction the reverence that is due to the power of God. They charge upon the opponents of this doctrine a want of regard for the power and word of God, the mighty Saviour.
Luther’s Large Catechism: “It is the word that makes and distinguishes this sacrament. For it is said (accedat verbum ad elementum et fit sacramentum), the word coming to the natural element makes it a sacrament. This declaration of St. Augustine is so explicit that you can scarcely find one more excellent in his writings. If the word does not appropriate the element to the sacrament, it remains a mere element. Now, it is not the word and institution of a mere prince or emperor. As it is the word of the Supreme Majesty, all creatures should prostrate themselves and exclaim. Yes, it is as he says: and we should accept it with all honor, fear and humility.”
“If a hundred thousand devils, together with all the fanatics, should exclaim, How can this be so? I still know that all these spirits and learned men in a mass are not as wise as the Divine Majesty.”
“To these words of Christ we constantly adhere; and we shall see who may presume to overcome Christ, and make these words otherwise than he has declared them. If you separate the words from it, there is nothing but bread and wine. If the words remain with the elements, as they must to make a sacrament, agreeably to these words, the body and blood are there. As the mouth of Christ speaks and declares, so it is. He can neither lie nor deceive.”
The Person of Christ.
The doctrine of the Confessions with regard to the divine person of Christ throws very strong light on the Lutheran theory of the real presence in the sacrament. I will endeavor to state this doctrine and the argument for the sacramental presence drawn from it, in language almost identical with that of the Form of Concord, and largely taken from it. This standard says:
“We believe and teach that although the Son of God has been a distinct and entire divine person — the true, essential, perfect God with the Father and the Holy Ghost from eternity, he nevertheless, when the time was fulfilled, assumed human nature also in unity of his person, not in such a manner as to become two persons or two Christs, but Jesus Christ now in one person, is at the same time true, eternal God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and true man born of the Virgin Mary. These two natures in the person of Christ are never separated nor commingled with each other, nor changed one into the other. Each nature retains its essential properties to all eternity; and that the essential properties of the one nature never become the essential properties of the other nature.”
“To be almighty, eternal, infinite, to be present everywhere at the same time, are the essential attributes of the divine nature, which never become the essential attributes of the human nature.”
“To consist of flesh and blood, to be finite and circumscribed, to suffer, to die, to ascend, to descend, to move from place to place, to be pained with hunger, thirst, cold, heat and the like, are attributes of the human nature.”
“Each nature does not subsist independently in Christ, since the incarnation, so as to constitute with each a separate person; but we conceive these natures so united as to constitute one person only, in which both the divine and the assumed human nature subsist at the same time, personally united. Not only the divine, but the assumed human nature, belongs to the entire person of Christ since the incarnation. The person of the incarnate Son of God cannot be an entire person without his humanity any more than without his divinity.”
The human nature of Christ not only retains its original, essential properties, but in consequence of the personal union with the Divinity, and by its subsequent exaltation, it has been elevated to the right hand of Power, Might and Majesty, above all that can be named, not only in this world but in the world to come.
But the Christian Church has ever maintained that the divine and human natures in the person of Christ are so united as to have a real communion with each other. Yet the natures are not commingled in one essence.
On account of this personal union (which without the real communion of the natures could not exist,) not the bare human nature, the attribute of which is to suffer and to die, suffered for the sins of the whole world, but the Son of God himself suffered truly, yet according to his human nature, as the Apostolic Symbol testifies, he died truly, although the divine nature can neither suffer nor die.
By virtue of this personal union and communion of the natures, Jesus the Son of Mary was not a mere man, but a man who is truly the Son of God the Most High. By virtue of this union and communion he also wrought all his miracles. Likewise in his death, when he died not simply as another man, but with and in his death, he conquered sin, death, Satan, hell and eternal perdition, which the human nature could not have accomplished without a union with the divine nature.
And now since he has ascended above all heavens, he really fills all things, and rules and reigns not only as God, but also as man everywhere present, from sea to sea, to the ends of the earth; as St. Mark declares, after he was received into heaven and sat on the right hand of God, the Lord worked with the Apostles, confirming their word everywhere. These operations he accomplished not in a mode local and circumscribed, but in consequence of his omnipotence at the right hand of God, which is not a particular place, but the almighty power of God which fills heaven and earth.
The Lutheran doctrine of the Person of Christ is in entire accord with the Christology settled by the Council of Chalcedon. Let the preceding statements be closely considered. Prior to the incarnation Christ was a distinct, entire divine person, the true essential perfect God, co-equal with the Father and the Holy Ghost from eternity. Yet when he assumed human nature he became only one person, Jesus Christ the true eternal God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary. There are two natures, but only one person, one self-conscious being. The two natures are never separated, and yet never commingled. Each nature retains its essential attributes, which can never be transferred to the other nature. Yet each nature does not subsist independently of the other nature, but the two are in such union as to constitute one person, and both the divine and the human natures belong to the one person Christ. The human nature not only retains its original, essential properties, but in consequence of the personal union with the divinity, is elevated to the right hand of Almighty power. In this union there must be a communion of the one nature with the other. So that whatever Christ does or suffers, he does or suffers as a theanthropic person, as Christ the divine-human being. Although God cannot suffer, the divine-human Christ suffers. We cannot say that the man separated from the divinity does it; nor that the divinity separated from the humanity. But Christ suffered, died, ascended. Christ rules his Church, fulfils his promises, is ever with his people. In Christ dwelt all the fulness of the God-head bodily.
As Leo says, “Two natures met together in one Redeemer, and while the properties of each remained, so great a unity was made of either substance that from the time the Word was made flesh in the virgin’s womb, we may neither think of him as God without this which is man, nor as man without this which is God. Each nature certifies its own reality under distinct actions, but neither disjoins itself from connection with the other. Nothing is wanting from either toward the other; there is entire littleness in majesty, entire majesty in littleness; unity does not introduce confusion, nor does propriety divide unity. There is one thing passable, another impassable, yet his is the contumely whose is the glory. He is in infirmity who is in power; the self-same Person is both capable of death and conqueror of death. God did then take on him whole man and so knit himself into him and him into himself in pity and in power, that either nature was in the other, and neither in the other lost its own property.”
In applying this doctrine of the Person of Christ to the Lord’s Supper, the Form of Concord proceeds thus:
“From this communicated power, therefore, Christ by virtue of the words of his testament can be and is truly present with his body and blood in the Holy Sacrament of the Supper. In Jesus Christ, the Son of Mary, the two natures are so united that in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. Col. ii. 9.
“In executing his offices, Christ acts and operates not with or through one nature, but in, with, according to, through both natures, or as the Council of Chalcedon says, one nature operates in communion with the other that which is the attribute of each one.
“The right hand of God is everywhere, at which Christ according to his human nature is seated, in deed and in truth, and reigns present, and has in his hands and under his feet all that is in heaven and on earth; where no man nor angel but the Son of Mary alone is seated, hence he is able to perform that which we assert. The word of God is neither false nor fallacious. God knows and has within his power various ways in which he can at any time be present in a place, and not in one only, which philosophers call local or circumscribed.”
It is admitted in the Confessions that Christ ascended. The ascension was real. Christ’s body really went to heaven. It has a local presence in heaven. Lutherans do not teach a local presence of Christ’s body on earth. But they hold that in addition to the local presence of that body in heaven, it has a presence on earth which is not local. There is a presence of that body in the sacrament. They call it a sacramental presence. The doctrine with regard to Christ’s person as taught in the Confessions would not necessarily prove a sacramental presence. The proof of that presence is found in the words of the Saviour and those of St. Paul. The doctrine of the Person of Christ only shows that the idea of a real sacramental presence does not conflict with any established Bible truth, nor does it come in collision with reason. Reason and Scripture harmonize beautifully with the doctrine of the presence of Christ’s body in the Holy Supper, when the whole subject is viewed in the light of the true doctrine of Christ’s person. It is well to guard against analogies between ourselves and our Redeemer. Yet there is something analogous between man and Christ with regard to the union of two natures in one person. Dr. Shedd says, “The union of two natures in one self-conscious Ego may be illustrated by reference to man’s personal constitution. An individual man is one person. But this one person consists of two natures, — a material nature and a mental nature. The personality, the self-consciousness, is the resultant of the union of the two. Neither one of itself makes the person. Both body and soul are requisite in order to a complete individuality. The two natures do not make two individuals. The material nature taken by itself is not the man; and the mental part taken by itself is not the man; but only the union of the two is. Yet in this intimate union of two such diverse substances as matter and mind, body and soul, there is not the slightest alteration of the properties of each substance or nature. The body of a man is as truly and purely material as a piece of granite; and the immortal mind of a man is as truly and purely spiritual and immaterial as the Godhead itself. Neither the material part nor the mental part taken by itself and in separation, constitutes the personality; otherwise every human individual would be two persons in juxtaposition. There is therefore a material ‘nature’ but no material ‘person’; and there is a mental ‘nature,’ but no mental ‘person.’ The person is the union of these two natures, and is not to be denominated either material or mental, but human. In like manner the person of Christ takes its denomination of theanthropic, or divine-human neither from the Divine nature alone, nor the human nature alone, but from the union of the two. One very important consequence of this is, that the properties of both natures may be attributed to the one person.”
In a complex being, constituted of two parts, each part by virtue of the living union of the two acquires properties not possessed inherently in itself alone. Matter cannot suffer pain. Yet in the living union of the two constituent parts of man, we say the nerves suffer pain. It is the union of the material composing the nerves with the mind that gives matter the susceptibility to pain.
Why then should any one question the statement that the divine and human natures in the person of Christ are so united as to have a real communion with each other, and the body of Christ, although locally in heaven, can be also in another mode present in the Church on earth and in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper? If the union of matter with mind in man gives to matter certain properties which matter separate from mind does not possess, who shall dare to limit the communicating power of the union of Divinity with humanity in the person of Christ? Is not Christ Omnipotent? Can his words ever be fallacious? Shall we not take the language he employs on the most sacred of all occasions in its proper meaning, in its natural sense, especially when there is nothing in Scripture, nor in science, nor in reason that forbids a fair and natural construction of his words?
The Zwinglian Theory Unsatisfactory.
A comparison of the Lutheran doctrine with the Zwinglian will show at the first glance the unsatisfactory character of the latter. To make the Holy Supper merely a commemorative act is to take from it its sacramental character. That Christ in his last words, in his last ordinance, in the very consummation of his glorious mediatorial work, in the very climax of redemption, when imparting the divinest consolation to his distressed followers and instituting a channel of the richest blessings for his people for all time, should give nothing more than a commemorative ceremony, such as exists among all nations, by two symbols to aid the mind in recalling an important event, making the Holy Supper in principle nothing more than a Fourth of July celebration, is utterly inconceivable. It is the baldest rationalism, in the face of plain words spoken by the Saviour, and by the inspired apostle.
The Calvinistic Theory Unsatisfactory.
The theory seems to be this: That Christ’s body is in heaven only, and in no sense in the elements; that he can be apprehended by faith only. And yet that our communion with him by the power of the Holy Ghost involves a real participation — “not in his doctrine merely — not in his promises merely — not in the sensible manifestations of his love merely — not in his righteousness and merit merely — not in the gifts and endowments of the Spirit merely; but in his own true substantial life itself; and this not as comprehended in his divine nature merely, but most immediately and peculiarly as embodied in his humanity itself, for us men and our salvation.” — Nevin.
“Christ is the bread of life, by which believers are nourished to eternal salvation. I conceive that in the remarkable discourse in which Christ recommends us to feed upon his body, he intended to teach us something more striking and sublime (than merely believing in Christ); viz., that we are quickened by a real participation of him which he designates by the terms of eating and drinking. It is not seeing bread but eating it that administers nourishment to the body; so it is necessary for the soul to have a true and complete participation of Christ, that by his power it may be quickened into spiritual life.” “It is no other eating than by faith.” “Those whom I oppose, consider eating to be the same thing as believing; while I say that in believing we eat the flesh of Christ, because he is made ours actually by faith, and that this eating is the fruit and effect of faith. They consider the eating to be faith itself, while I consider it a consequence of faith.” “In Christ was life, the source and fountain of all creaturely existence.” “Now since that fountain of life has come to dwell in our flesh, it is open to our reach and free use. The very flesh, moreover, in which he dwells, is made to be vivific for vis, that we may be nourished by it to immortality. The bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. In these words Christ teaches not simply that he is life as the everlasting Word descending to us from heaven, but that in thus descending he has diffused this virtue also into the flesh with which he clothed himself, in order that life might flow over to us continually.” “We conclude that our souls are fed by the flesh and blood of Christ, just as our corporeal life is preserved and sustained by bread and wine. Our souls could not find their ailment in Christ unless Christ truly coalesce into one with us and support us through the use of his flesh and blood.” “I do not make Christ an object simply of the understanding and imagination. For the promises present him to us not that we may rest in contemplation merely and naked notion, but that we may enjoy him in the way of real participation. And truly I see not how any one can have confidence that he has redemption and righteousness by the Cross of Christ, and life by his death, if he have not in the first place a true communion with Christ himself” “In the mystery of the Supper, under the symbols of bread and wine, Christ is truly presented to us, and so his body and blood in which he fulfilled all obedience to procure our justification; in order that we may first coalesce with him in one body.” — Calvin.
“Such virtue as bread has in nourishing our bodies for the support of the present life, the same is in the body of the Lord for the spiritual nourishment of our souls; and as by wine the hearts of men are exhilarated, their strength refreshed, the whole man invigorated, so our souls receive like benefit from the Lord’s blood.” Calvin. “The body of Christ is eaten, inasmuch as it forms the spiritual aliment of the soul. We call it aliment in this sense because by the incomprehensible power of his Spirit he inspires into us his own life, so that it becomes common to us with himself, in the same way precisely as the vital sap from the root of a tree diffuses itself into the branches, or as vigor flows from the head of the body into its several members.”
“The character of Christ’s flesh was changed indeed when it was received into celestial glory; whatever was terrene, mortal or perishable is now put off Still however it must be maintained that no other body can be vivific for us, or may be counted meat indeed, save that which was crucified to atone for our sins. The same body then which the Son of God once offered in sacrifice to the Father, he offers to us daily in the Supper, that it may be our spiritual aliment.”
These passages from Calvin’s writing show clearly his opinion on a number of points. The citations are numerous and copious enough to set forth his views in a clear light. It will be seen that he adopted many Lutheran sentiments on the Lord’s Supper. In many things he was in full accord with the Lutheran standards and the views of the early Church. He held that the believer feeds on the body and blood of Christ, and that eating his flesh and drinking his blood meant something more than merely believing. He held that in the Holy Supper the believer eats the body and drinks the blood of Christ. His language is often in harmony with that of Luther and the Lutheran standards. But there are points on which he deviated widely. His Christology was defective, a Lutheran would say. He held indeed with the Lutherans that the body on which the believer feeds, is the same body that was offered in sacrifice on the cross. Although everything mortal and terrene in Christ’s body was put away when he ascended, yet his body since the ascension is the true body or the same body that was crucified. But instead of holding to the sound Lutheran doctrine with regard to the person of Christ, that by virtue of the union of the divine and human natures in the person of Christ and the communion of properties, in addition to the local presence of Christ’s body in heaven, by his almighty power he can cause his body to be present elsewhere — in the Church on earth and in the sacrament of the Supper — Calvin was led into difficulty and confusion and a measure of self-contradiction, by his theory that Christ’s body could have no presence anywhere except its local presence in heaven. Hence while he retained the primitive Christian doctrine that the believer feeds on the body and blood of Christ, he was driven by his doctrine of the limitation of the bodily presence to the right hand of God, to adopt unsatisfactory methods of reconciling this with his sound views as to feeding on the body of Christ in the Eucharist. His explanation is, that by faith the believer feeds on that body, which remains in heaven. This involves an absurdity. The believing communicant in the Lord’s Supper is not transported into heaven as Paul was once rapt into heaven. If he were so carried by a transport into the third heaven, he would be conscious of it, as Paul was. How then can he by faith feed on food as far removed from him as heaven is from earth? Calvin himself says it is not by imagination or contemplation. How then can a believer sitting at the Lord’s table in a church on earth feed on the substantial food of Christ’s body and blood? Calvin felt the difficulty. And how does he attempt to get over it? I will quote his own words. “It may seem incredible indeed that the flesh of Christ should reach us from such immense local distance, as to become our food. But we must remember how far the secret power of the Holy Spirit transcends all our senses, and what folly it must ever be to think of reducing his immensity to our measures. Let faith embrace then what the understanding cannot grasp, namely, that the Spirit unites things which are locally separated. Now this sacred communication of his flesh and blood, by which Christ transfuses his life into us, just as if he penetrated our bones and marrow, he testifies and seals also in the Holy Supper; not by the exhibition of a vain and empty sign, but by putting forth there such an energy of his Spirit as fulfils what he promises.” Again he says: “The power of the Spirit is sufficient to penetrate through all impediments, and to surmount all local distance.”
Here it will be seen that to reconcile the two conflicting dogmas Calvin himself resorts to this solution, namely, attributing to the Holy Spirit a miraculous power. Therefore every instance of a believing communicant feeding on the body and blood of Christ in the Holy Supper involves the working of a miracle by the Holy Spirit. How much more natural and scriptural the Lutheran theory. How much more it commends itself to our judgment. If the Holy Spirit be omnipotent, is not Christ omnipotent also? If the Holy Spirit have such an energy that he can fulfil all his promises, has not Christ energy to fulfil his promises? If the power of the third person in the Trinity is sufficient to penetrate through all impediments and to surmount all local distance, who shall dare to set limits to Christ’s ability to do the same? Does not Christ’s power also transcend our senses, and shall we think of reducing his immensity to our measures? Why then imagine that the Spirit by his almighty power should convey the body and blood of Christ from its local position in heaven to every believing communicant on earth, when according to a more scriptural Christology the body of Christ, by virtue of the union of the two natures in one person, and the almighty power of the divine-human Saviour, has a presence (not local) with his people when they receive the bread and the wine in the Holy Supper, as he says, “this is my body,” “this is my blood?” If Christ by his own inherent power could raise himself from the dead, has he not power to fulfil his own words concerning his body and blood? Why then resort to the unnatural and self-contradictory theory that the third person in the Trinity should take a body which has only a local presence in one place and give it a diffused presence all over the sacramental Church? Over against this idea we offer the Lutheran doctrine as scriptural, self-consistent, harmonious, beautiful, and commending itself to the judgment of every man who will look at the whole subject in its proper light.
Harmonizes the Scriptures.
The Lutheran doctrine harmonizes and elucidates other passages of the Scriptures bearing upon the general subject. While it is conceded that the Saviour was not speaking of the sacrament of the Holy Supper in the discourse recorded in the sixth chapter of John’s gospel, it can be satisfactorily explained only in the light of the Lutheran doctrine. “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life. For my flesh is meat indeed and my blood is drink indeed” (John vi. 53-65.) How can a Zwinglian explain this passage without doing violence to all fair construction of language? He must wrest the words from their proper signification. But with the Augustana and the Form of Concord before us there is no difficulty — no obscurity in these declarations. The body which was broken, the blood which was shed, in the great atonement, no longer terrene or material, but heavenly or glorified, imparting life and salvation to the believer, who participates in the Holy Supper. The divine-human Saviour, although in heaven, is with his people on earth, and gives them this spiritual and divine food — his true body and blood, crucified and shed for our redemption, but now glorified and celestial — the bread which comes from heaven.
This doctrine elucidates with equal beauty and felicity the words of Christ when he says, “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine and ye are the branches. He that abideth in me and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit” (John xv. 4, 5). The most intimate union subsists between Christ and those that partake of his heavenly body and blood. They draw their spiritual life from him, as the branches live by drawing a current of life-giving sap from the vine. The bread of life which comes from heaven sustains the life of the follower of Christ. Ebrard says: “The breaking of the bread serves to bring into view Christ’s death; the eating of the broken bread is a symbol that this death is appropriated in the way of a living union with the Saviour himself As however Christ, in giving the bread to eat and the wine to drink, declares them to be the pledge of the new covenant itself in his blood, it follows that the bread and wine are not simply symbols, but that they serve to place him -who eats and drinks in real communion with the atonement through his death. And since such a communion with Christ’s death can have no place without a life-communion with Christ himself, or since, in other words, the new covenant holds in the forms of a real inward and living fellowship only, it follows again that the Lord’s Supper involves for the worthy participant, a true, personal, central communication and union with Christ’s actual life.” The same may be said with regard to the elucidation of the Scriptures which represent Christ as the Head, and believers the members of a body.
The Lutheran Church has been constantly charged with holding the doctrine of Consubstantiation. Among the more recent theologians of respectable standing, who have given forth this idea. Dr. Shedd, in his “History of Christian Doctrine,” says: “The Augsburg Confession, in Art. X, teaches that ‘the body and blood of Christ are truly present and are distributed to those who partake of the Supper.’ This doctrine of Consubstantiation, according to which there are two factors — viz., the material bread and wine, and the immaterial or spiritual body of Christ — united or consubstantiated in the consecrated sacramental symbols, does not differ in kind from the Papist doctrine of Transubstantiation, according to which there is indeed but one element in the consecrated symbol, but that is the very body and blood of Christ, into which the bread and wine have been transmuted.” Many writers outside of the Lutheran Church, less intelligent than Dr. Shedd, are constantly repeating the same charge. In conversation with ministers of other denominations we are constantly told, “You Lutherans hold the doctrine of Consubstantiation.” It seems indeed to be almost a universal opinion among all other sects. This is certainly strange when we remember how uniformly the Lutheran Church has denied it and rejected the doctrine imputed to her. We can only account for the extent of the erroneous opinion by supposing a general ignorance of the idea attached to the word Consubstantiation. What do the standards and the theologians of the Church say on this subject? The Form of Concord says, “We utterly reject and condemn the doctrine of a Capernaitish eating of the body of Christ, which after so many protestations on our part, is maliciously imputed to us; the manduction is not a thing of the senses or of reason, but supernatural, mysterious and incomprehensible. The presence of Christ in the supper is not of a physical nature, nor earthly, nor Capernaitish, and yet it is most true.” The Wittenberg Concord says, “We deny that the body and blood of Christ are locally included in the bread.” Gerhard says, “We neither believe in Impanation, nor Consubstantiation, nor in any physical or local presence whatsoever. Nor do we believe in that consubstantiative presence which some define to be the inclusion of one substance in another. Far from us be that figment. The heavenly thing and the earthly thing, in the Holy Supper, in the physical and natural sense are not present with one another.” Cotta says, “The word consubstantiation may be understood in different senses. Sometimes it denotes a local conjunction of two bodies, sometimes a commingling of them, as for example when it is alleged that the bread coalesces with the body, and the wine with the blood, into one substance. But in neither sense can that monstrous doctrine of Consubstantiation be attributed to our church, since Lutherans do not believe either in that local conjunction of two bodies, nor in any commingling of bread and of Christ’s body, of wine and of his blood.” Reinhard says, “Our Church has never taught that the emblems become one substance with the body and blood of Jesus, an opinion commonly denominated Consubstantiation.” Mosheim says, “Those err who say that we believe in Impanation. Nor are those more correct who charge us with believing Subpanation. Equally groundless is the charge of Consubstantiation. All these opinions differ very far from the doctrine of our Church.”
The reader will see how utterly Lutherans reject all ideas of a commingling of one substance with another, or of the local inclusion of the heavenly with the earthly, or of a local conjunction of the two, and even of a local presence at all. The use of the words in, with, or under, seems to have misled the masses into the opinion that the Church believes in Impanation and Consubstantiation. But the Church rejects both doctrines. Holding that Christ’s body is locally in heaven only, she must necessarily reject all local conjunction, or local inclusion, or substantial mingling of that body with material elements. If it were always borne in mind that it is Christ’s heavenly body that is present in the Holy Supper, no one could imagine a local conjunction.
The Oral Reception.
It might be asked, why has the Lutheran doctrine of the Lord’s Supper not been more generally acceptable to persons outside of our communion? In addition to the fact that it has been so generally misunderstood, there has been a difficulty in the minds of many on account of the positive affirmation in one symbol of the oral reception of the true body and blood. The Form of Concord says, “We believe, teach and confess that the body and blood of Christ are received with the bread and wine, not only spiritually through faith, but also orally with the lips, yet not in an ordinary, but in a supernatural, heavenly manner, on account of the sacramental union.” No doubt most minds find it difficult to discriminate between an oral and a material reception. If the reception be oral, they fail to see how it can be supernatural. They may ask, do we receive with the mouth any food that is not material food? It must be admitted that there is some force in the objection. Men will insensibly and almost inevitably regard as material that which is received by the mouth, unless they bear in mind the preceding qualifying phrase. The oral reception has sometimes been a stumbling block even with members of the Lutheran Church. Some have even wished that all allusion to an oral reception could be eliminated from the statement of doctrines. It is not in the Augsburg Confession. But it is in the Form of Concord. I will not enter upon an inquiry into the logical deductions from the brief statements of the Augsburg Confession, whether the oral reception is or is not by implication included in the brief words of the Tenth Article. Find- ing it so clearly laid down in the Form of Concord, that able and scientific development of the Lutheran system, we may as well examine carefully the doctrine of the oral reception.
Let the qualifying phrase be carefully noticed. “The body and blood of Christ are received with the bread and wine, not only spiritually through faith, but also orally with the lips, not in an ordinary but in a supernatural, heavenly manner.” The oral reception is not then an ordinary oral reception. It is an oral reception in a supernatural, heavenly manner. The qualifying phrase “supernatural, heavenly manner,” relieves the doctrine of all idea of materialism. The true view of the oral reception is simply this. The heavenly body and blood of Christ being in the sacrament in, with or under the bread and wine, not by local conjunction or commingling of substances, not in the way of a local presence, but merely by a sacramental union, during the whole sacramental transaction, which sacramental transaction requires not only the words of Christ and the consecration of the elements, but also the eating of the bread and the drinking of the wine, while the bread and wine are received by the communicant orally in an ordinary way, the heavenly body and blood being there in the sacramental union, during the whole sacramental transaction, (which is not completed until the bread and wine have been orally received), the true or heavenly body and blood are also received not in ordinary oral eating and drinking, but in a heavenly and supernatural manner. While therefore it is called an oral reception, it is in a supernatural and heavenly manner. After all, therefore, the ordinary oral eating and drinking is merely that of the bread and wine. The reception of the body and blood being something not earthly or material, but heavenly, is in a supernatural and heavenly manner. In the act of the communicant’s eating the bread and wine, he receives the heavenly food in a supernatural manner — the believing communicant to the confirmation of his faith and growth in grace, the unbelieving communicant to his condemnation.
Gerhard’s statement of this point is, “The sacramental eating of the body of Christ is none other, than with the mouth to receive the Eucharistic bread, which is the communion of the body of Christ (1 Cor. X. 16). This sacramental eating is said to be spiritual, because the body of Christ is not eaten naturally, and because the mode of eating, like the presence itself, is neither natural, carnal, physical nor local, but supernatural, divine, mystical and spiritual. * * * The word of God is the food of the soul, and is yet received by the bodily ear.”
As the Augsburg Confession is the only distinctive symbol universally recognized in the Lutheran Church, and as the expression “with the mouth,” or “oral reception” is not found in the Augustana, nor in Luther’s Catechisms, nor in Melanchthon’s Apology, nor in any other symbol except the Form of Concord, a man can be a sound Lutheran without adopting or even defending this expression, found only in the statement of the theologians in the Form of Concord.
In this abstruse subject the General Synod has wisely allowed liberty of sentiment. It seems to me that many of our ministers have not elaborated their views into a well-defined conception of the whole subject. Most Lutherans in this country believe in the presence of the Saviour in the Eucharist. By this they do not simply mean the presence of the Holy Spirit, or the presence of Christ as a divine being. They understand by it something different also from the presence of the Saviour promised to two or three met in his name for ordinary worship. Some speak of it as a special presence; some, as a sacramental presence. Many seem not to have read extensively or reflected deeply on the subject. Their want of a more thorough attention to it may arise from the abstruse and mystical character of the subject. It may arise from the difficulty of divesting their minds of the idea of materialism usually suggested by the words “body” and “blood.” The tendency to associate materialism with these words has created in the minds of a portion of the laity a kind of aversion to the use of the terms in connection with a sacramental presence. To them it appears to be impossible to divest their minds of the impression that “body” and “blood” must mean something; material, carnal, earthly. This feeling has no doubt deterred some from the careful study of the theology of our Church on the subject of this sacrament.
In justice therefore to the Lutheran Church, her ministers should impress upon the minds of her people (and so far as opportunity offers, on the minds of members of other churches), the fact that the Lutheran Church in all lands and by all her writers rejects all idea of a presence that is material, or carnal, or earthly; and that no Lutheran ever did hold the doctrine of a local or material bodily presence. At the same time, emphasis and prominence should be given to the fact that while the Church in her standards and writings of many of her honored theologians, uses the words of Christ and Paul, yet by “body” and “blood” is meant something heavenly, something that has no local presence, is not locally included in the bread and wine, that does not mingle with the substance of the material elements; — that while the Church sometimes uses the words “in, with and under,” she rejects the doctrine of impanation, subpanation and consubstantiation.
It should also be remembered that all other Protestant standards of the large denominations, except the Zwinglians, use the terms “body” and “blood,” in defining the sacramental presence. The Calvinistic standards and the distinguished Calvinistic theologians of the Reformation period employ the same terms the Lutherans use. Prejudices against the Lutheran doctrine vanish when the whole subject is contemplated in its spiritual character.
It must also be borne in mind that this subject is a great mystery. Many aspects of it we are not to attempt to grasp, much less to set aside by our own reason. Calvin says, “They are preposterous who allow in this matter nothing more than they have been able to reach with the measure of their understanding. When they deny that the flesh and blood of Christ are exhibited to us in the Holy Supper, Define the mode, they say, or you will not convince us. But as for myself, I am filled with amazement at the greatness of the mystery. Nor am I ashamed, with Paul, to confess in admiration my own ignorance. For how much better is that, than to extenuate with my carnal sense what the apostle pronounces a high mystery!”
It is contended by our theologians that the Lutheran doctrine is much older than the Reformation; — that it was the doctrine of the primitive Church during the first four centuries. If this can be established beyond doubt, it must be taken as a high testimony in its favor. While the Christian fathers were not infallible, it is strong presumptive proof of the soundness of a doctrine, that the earliest Christian writers have presented it as the doctrine of the universal early Church from apostolic times. If the doctrine of the real presence in the Eucharist is given by all the early writers as the universal Church’s doctrine, and no writer has alluded to any teacher who first taught it, it would seem probable that it was always held and taught from the days of the apostles down. On this subject the testimony of Dr. Pusey will be regarded as possessing great weight, from his thorough knowledge and extensive research. He first testifies that the Romish view was not held in the early centuries, but that the true objective presence of the body and blood of Christ under the bread and wine was then the doctrine of the Church. He says, “I have gone through every writer who in his extant works speaks of the holy Eucharist from the time when St. John the Evangelist was translated to his Lord, to the fourth General Council (451). And all agree in one consentient exposition of our Lord’s words, ‘This is my body, this is my blood.’ Whence this harmony, but that one spirit attuned all these various minds in the one body into one: so that the very heretics were slow herein to depart from it? However different the occasion may be upon which the truth is spoken, in whatever variety of ways it may be mentioned, the truth itself is one and the same — one uniform, simple, consistent truth, that what is consecrated upon the altar for us to receive, what under the outward elements is there present for us to receive, is the body and blood of Christ.”
A distinguished Lutheran theologian of this country says, “The Lutheran Church believes, on the sure warrant of God’s word, that the body of our Lord Jesus Christ remains a true human body, and as to its natural and determinate presence has been removed from earth, and is in the glory of the world of angels and the redeemed. She also believes that in and through the divine nature with which it forms one Person, it is present on earth in another sense no less true than the former. She believes that the sacramental elements are divinely appointed, through the power of the Saviour’s own benediction, as the medium through which we participate after a spiritual, supernatural, heavenly, substantial, objective and true manner, ‘in the communion of his body and of his blood.’
“She believes that the body of our Lord Jesus Christ is really absent in one respect, and just as really present in another. * * * It is present without extension, for the divine through which it is present is unextended, — it is present without locality, for the divine through which it is present is illocal. It is on earth, for the divine is on earth, — it is in heaven, for the divine remains in heaven; and like the divine, it is present truly and substantially, yet incomprehensibly.”