1 Corinthians 11:23-29
23. For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:
23. Ego enim accepi a Domino, quod etiam tradidi vobis: quod Dominus Iesus nocte qua traditus est, accepit panem:
24. And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.
24. Et gratiis actis, fregit, et dixit, Accipite, edite: hoc est corpus meum quod pro vobis frangitur: hoc facite in mei memoriam.
25. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.
25. Similiter et calicem, postquam vum testamentum est in sanguine meo: hoc facite, quotiescunque biberitis, in mei memoriam.
26. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.
26. Quotiescumque enim ederitis panem hunc, et biberitis hunc calicem, mortem Domini annuntiabitis, donce veniat.
27. Wherefore, whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
27. Itaque quisquis ederit panem hunc, aut biberit calicem Domini indigne, reus erit corporis et sanguinis Domini.
28. But let a man examine him self, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.
28. Probet autem homo se ipsum, et sic de pane illo edat, et de calice bibat.
29. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.
29. Qui enim ederit aut biberit indigne, iudicium sibi edit ac bibit, non discernens corpus Domini.
Hitherto he has been exposing the abuse;1 now he proceeds to show what is the proper method of rectifying it. For the institution of Christ is a sure rule, so that if you turn aside from it but a very little, you are out of the right course. Hence, as the Corinthians had deviated from this rule, he calls them back to it. It is a passage that ought to be carefully observed, as showing that there is no remedy for correcting and purging out abuses, short of a return to God's pure institution. Thus the Lord himself -- when he was discoursing respecting marriage, (Matthew 19:3,) and the Scribes brought forward custom, and also the permission given by Moses -- simply brings forward his Father's institution, as being an inviolable law. When we do this at the present day, the Papists cry out, that we are leaving nothing untouched.2 We openly demonstrate, that it is not in one point merely that they have degenerated from our Lord's first institution, but that they have corrupted it in a thousand ways. Nothing is more manifest than that their Mass is diametrically opposed to the sacred Supper of our Lord. I go farther -- we show in the plainest manner, that it is full of wicked abominations: hence there is need of reformation. We demand -- what it appears Paul had recourse to -- that our Lord's institution be the common rule, to which we agree on both sides to make our appeal. This they oppose with all their might. Mark then the nature of the controversy at this day in reference to the Lord's Supper.
is sanctified to us by the word and prayer. (1 Timothy 4:5.)
Accordingly, we nowhere read that the Lord tasted bread along with his disciples, but there is mention made of his
But for what purpose11 are the people called to mass, unless it be that they may come away empty from an unmeaning show?12 It has, therefore, nothing in unison with the supper. Hence, too, we infer that Christ's promise is no more applicable to the mass than to the feast of the Salii;13 for when Christ promises that he will give us his body, he at the same time commands us to
What do Papists do? They neglect participation, and consecrate the bread for a totally different purpose, and in the meantime they boast that they have the Lord's body. While, by a wicked divorce, they
put asunder those things which Christ has joined together,
it is manifest that their boasting is vain. Hence, whenever they bring forward the clause --
But what do Papists say as to their mass? At first they were so impudent as to maintain, that it was truly and properly called a sacrifice. Now, however, they admit that it is indeed a commemorative sacrifice, but in such a way, that the benefit of redemption is, through means of their daily oblation,15 applied to the living and the dead. However that may be, they present the appearance of a sacrifice.16 In the first place, there is rashness in this, as being without any command from Christ; but there is a still more serious error involved in it -- that, while Christ appointed the Supper for this purpose, that we might take and eat, they pervert it to a totally different use.
We must now proceed farther, and inquire as to the reason of the metonymy. Here I reply, that the name of the thing signified is not applied to the sign simply as being a representation of it, but rather as being a symbol of it,19 by which the reality is presented to us. For I do not allow the force of those comparisons which some borrow from profane or earthly things; for there is a material difference between them and the sacraments of our Lord. The statue of Hercules is called Hercules, but what have we there but a bare, empty representation? On the other hand the Spirit is called a dove, as being a sure pledge of the invisible presence of the Spirit. Hence the
We must now discuss the manner. Papists hold forth to us their system of transubstantiation: they allege that, when the act of consecration has been gone through, the substance of the bread no longer exists, and that nothing remains but the accidents.21 To this contrivance we oppose -- not merely the plain words of Scripture, but the very nature of the sacraments. For what is the meaning of the supper, if there is no correspondence between the visible sign and the spiritual reality? They would have the sign to be a false and delusive appearance of bread. What then will the thing signified be, but a mere imagination? Hence, if there must be a correspondence between the sign and its reality, it is necessary that the bread be real -- not imaginary -- to represent Christ's real body. Besides, Christ's body is here given us not simply, but as food. Now it is not by any means the color of the bread that nourishes us, but the substance. In fine, if we would have reality in the thing itself, there must be no deception in the sign.
Rejecting then the dream of Papists, let us see in what manner Christ's body is given to us. Some explain, that it is given to us, when we are made partakers of all the blessings which Christ has procured for us in his body -- when, I say, we by faith embrace Christ as crucified for us, and raised up from the dead, and in this way are effectually made partakers of all his benefits. As for those who are of this opinion, I have no objection to their holding such a view. As for myself, I acknowledge, that it is only when we obtain Christ himself, that we come to partake of Christ's benefits. He is, however, obtained, I affirm, not only when we believe that he was made an offering for us, but when he dwells in us -- when he is one with us -- when we are members of his flesh, (Ephesians 5:30,) -- when, in fine, we are incorporated with him (so to speak) into one life and substance. Besides, I attend to the import of the words, for Christ does not simply present to us the benefit of his death and resurrection, but the very body in which he suffered and rose again. I conclude, that Christ's body is really, (as the common expression is,) -- that is, truly given to us in the Supper, to be wholesome food for our souls. I use the common form of expression, but my meaning is, that our souls are nourished by the substance of the body, that we may truly be made one with him, or, what amounts to the same thing, that a life-giving virtue from Christ's flesh is poured into us by the Spirit, though it is at a great distance from us, and is not mixed with us.22
There now remains but one difficulty -- how is it possible that his body, which is in heaven, is given to us here upon earth? Some imagine that Christ's body is infinite, and is not confined to any one space, but fills heaven and earth, (Jeremiah 23:24,) like his Divine essence. This fancy is too absurd to require refutation. The Schoolmen dispute with more refinement as to his glorious body. Their whole doctrine, however, reduces itself to this -- that Christ is to be sought after in the bread, as if he were included in it. Hence it comes, that the minds of men behold the bread with wonderment, and adore it in place of Christ. Should any one ask them whether they adore the bread, or the appearance of it, they will confidently agree that they do not, but, in the mean time, when about to adore Christ, they turn to the bread. They turn, I say, not merely with their eyes, and their whole body, but even with the thoughts of the heart. Now what is this but unmixed idolatry? But that participation in the body of Christ, which, I affirm, is presented to us in the Supper, does not require a local presence, nor the descent of Christ, nor infinite extension,23 nor anything of that nature, for the Supper being a heavenly action, there is no absurdity in saying, that Christ, while remaining in heaven, is received by us. For as to his communicating himself to us, that is effected through the secret virtue of his Holy Spirit, which can not merely bring together, but join in one, things that are separated by distance of place, and far remote.
But, in order that we may be capable of this participation, we must rise heavenward. Here, therefore, faith must be our resource, when all the bodily senses have failed. When I speak of faith, I do not mean any sort of opinion, resting on human contrivances, as many, boasting of faith on all occasions, run grievously wild on this point. What then? You see bread -- nothing more -- but you learn that it is a symbol24 of Christ's body. Do not doubt that the Lord accomplishes what his words intimate -- that the body, which thou dost not at all behold, is given to thee, as a spiritual repast. It seems incredible, that we should be nourished by Christ's flesh, which is at so great a distance from us. Let us bear in mind, that it is a secret and wonderful work of the Holy Spirit, which it were criminal to measure by the standard of our understanding. "In the meantime, however, drive away gross imaginations, which would keep thee from looking beyond the bread. Leave to Christ the true nature of flesh, and do not, by a mistaken apprehension, extend his body over heaven and earth: do not divide him into different parts by thy fancies, and do not adore him in this place and that, according to thy carnal apprehension. Allow him to remain in his heavenly glory, and aspire thou thither,25 that he may thence communicate himself to thee." These few things will satisfy those that are sound and modest. As for the curious, I would have them look somewhere else for the means of satisfying their appetite.
I shall speak in the Epistle to the Hebrews, if the Lord shall allow me opportunity, as to the word
What God hath joined together let not man put asunder.
To distribute, therefore, the
had delivered this to them agreeably to the commandment
of the Lord. (1 Corinthians 11:23.)
By what spirit will those pretend to be actuated, who have dared to set aside this ordinance? Yet even at this day this gross abuse is obstinately defended; and what occasion is there for wonder, if they endeavor impudently to excuse, by words and writings, what they so cruelly maintain by fire and sword?
Now this passage gave rise to a question, which some afterwards agitated with too much keenness -- whether the unworthy really partake of the Lord's body? For some were led, by the heat of controversy, so far as to say, that it was received indiscriminately by the good and the bad; and many at this day maintain pertinaciously, and most clamorously, that in the first Supper Peter received no more than Judas. It is, indeed, with reluctance, that I dispute keenly with any one on this point, which is (in my opinion) not an essential one; but as others allow themselves, without reason, to pronounce, with a magisterial air, whatever may seem good to them, and to launch out thunderbolts upon every one that mutters anything to the contrary, we will be excused, if we calmly adduce reasons in support of what we reckon to be true.
I hold it, then, as a settled point, and will not allow myself to be driven from it, that Christ cannot be disjoined from his Spirit. Hence I maintain, that his body is not received as dead, or even inactive, disjoined from the grace and power of his Spirit. I shall not occupy much time in proving this statement. Now in what way could the man who is altogether destitute of a living faith and repentance, having nothing of the Spirit of Christ,33 receive Christ himself? Nay more, as he is entirely under the influence of Satan and sin, how will he be capable of receiving Christ? While, therefore, I acknowledge that there are some who receive Christ truly in the Supper, and yet at the same time unworthily, as is the case with many weak persons, yet I do not admit, that those who bring with them a mere historical faith,34 without a lively feeling of repentance and faith, receive anything but the sign. For I cannot endure to maim Christ,35 and I shudder at the absurdity of affirming that he gives himself to be eaten by the wicked in a lifeless state, as it were. Nor does Augustine mean anything else when he says, that the wicked receive Christ merely in the sacrament, which he expresses more clearly elsewhere, when he says that the other Apostles ate
But here it is objected, that the efficacy of the sacraments does not depend upon the worthiness of men, and that nothing is taken away from the promises of God, or falls to the ground, through the wickedness of men. This I acknowledge, and accordingly I add in express terms, that Christ's body is presented to the wicked no less than to the good, and this is enough so far as concerns the efficacy of the sacrament and the faithfulness of God. For God does not there represent in a delusive manner, to the wicked, the body of his Son, but presents it in reality; nor is the bread a bare sign to them, but a faithful pledge. As to their rejection of it, that does not impair or alter anything as to the nature of the sacrament.
It remains, that we give a reply to the statement of Paul in this passage. "Paul represents the unworthy as guilty, inasmuch as
You see here a method that is most easily apprehended. If you would wish to use aright the benefit afforded by Christ, bring faith and repentance. As to these two things, therefore, the trial must be made, if you would come duly prepared. Under repentance I include love; for the man who has learned to renounce himself, that he may give himself up wholly to Christ and his service, will also, without doubt, carefully maintain that unity which Christ has enjoined. At the same time, it is not a perfect faith or repentance that is required, as some, by urging beyond due bounds, a perfection that can nowhere be found, would shut out for ever from the Supper every individual of mankind. If, however, thou aspirest after the righteousness of God with the earnest desire of thy mind, and, trembled under a view of thy misery, dost wholly lean upon Christ's grace, and rest upon it, know that thou art a worthy guest to approach the table -- worthy I mean in this respect, that the Lord does not exclude thee, though in another point of view there is something in thee that is not as it ought to be. For faith, when it is but begun, makes those worthy who were unworthy.
He adds the reasons because
1 "Qu'ils commettoyent en la Cene;" -- "Which they had fallen into as to the Supper."
2 "Que nous gastons tout, et ne laissons rien en son entier;" -- "That we are destroying everything, and are leaving nothing entire."
4 "Car le Seigneur pouuoit bien quelque temps deuant ordonner a ses Apostres l'obseruation de ce Sacrement;" -- "For the Lord might have on some previous occasion appointed to his Apostles the observance of this Sacrament."
5 "Vne ceremonie, qui ne peust faire que de nuit, comme les Payens auoyent la feste de Ceres;" -- "A ceremony which could only be observed at night, as the heathens held the festival of Ceres." The time when the festival was held, was in accordance with the peculiar secrecy with which its rites were observed. -- Ed.
6 "Pour partie, ou de la substance de son institution;" -- "As a part of his institution, or of the essence of it."
7 "Ils se mocquent;" -- "They deride."
8 Sa misericorde infinie;" -- "His infinite mercy."
9 "Et n'en soyons enuers luy ingrats, mats soyons enflambez a vne vraye recognoissance;" -- "And may not be ungrateful towards him, but may be kindled up to a true acknowledgment."
10 "Et bien poiser;" -- "And ponder well."
11 "Mais ie vous prie, a quel propos;" -- "But for what purpose, I pray you."
12 "Comme s'il retournoit de voir vne bastelerie inutile et sotte;" -- "As if they were returning from seeing a useless and foolish mountebank scene."
13 Vn banquet de la confrairie des Sacrificateurs de Mars, lesquels les Romains nommoyent Salii;" -- "To the banquet of the fraternity of the priests of Mars, whom the Romans called Salii." They received this name from their going through the city leaping and dancing. The feast which they partook of, after finishing their procession, was exceedingly sumptuous. Hence the expression -- "Epulari Saliarem in modum" -- "to feast sumptuously." Cic. Att. 5. 9. -- Ed.
14 "Nous reiettons l'effet, et luy fermons la porte;" -- "We reject its accomplishment, and shut the door against it."
15 "Par leur belle oblation qu'ils font tousles iours;" -- "By their admirable oblation, which they make every day."
16 "Vne apparence et representation de sacrifice;" -- "An appearance and representation of a sacrifice."
17 "Ce seroit vne impudence et opinionastrete trop grande;" -- "This were excessive impudence and obstinacy."
18 "C'est a dire, qui est ordinaire en matiere des Sacremens;" -- "That is to say, what is usual in connection with Sacraments."
19 "Vn gage et tesmoignage externe;" -- "An outward token and evidence."
20 "Pour penser qu'il nous repaisse d'ombres et vaines figures;" -- "To think that he would feed us with shadows and empty representations."
21 By the accidents of the bread are meant its color, taste, smell, and shape. -- Ed.
22 In this passage, as, also, in some other parts of his writings, Calvin seems to affirm the real presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper, in some mysterious manner, while he was, as is well known, opposed to consubstantiation, as well as to transubstantiation. The late venerable Dr. Dick of Glasgow, while treating of the Lord's Supper -- while he makes mention of Calvin in terms of the highest respect, as "one of the brightest ornaments of the Reformation," who, "in learning, genius, and zeal, had few equals, and no superior," -- animadverts on some expressions made use of in the Institutes, which seem not altogether in harmony with his general system of views in reference to the presence of Christ in the sacrament of the Supper. Dick's Lectures on Theology, volume 4. -- Ed.
23 "Vne estendue de son corps infinie;" -- "An infinite extension of his body."
24 "Vn signe et tesmoignage;" -- "A sign and evidence."
25 "Esleve ton esprit et ton coeur jusques la;" -- "Raise thy mind and heart thither."
26 It is worthy of notice, that our Author has made use of the same Greek term (when commenting on 1 Corinthians 5:8) in reference to the Passover, which was intended partly as a memorial (
27 "Du ciel il fait descouler sur nous la vertu de sa chair presentement et vrayement;" -- "He makes the virtue of his flesh pour down upon us from heaven presently and truly."
28 "Continuel et sans interualle;" -- "Continuous, and without an interval."
29 "Confermer et seeller;" -- "Confirm and seal."
30 "L'institution du Fils de Dieu;" -- "The institution of the Son of God."
31 "Que de nostre part le recognoissions;" -- "That we, on our part, may recognise it."
33 "Veu que par consequent il n'ha rien de l'Esprit de Christ;" -- "Since he has, consequently, nothing of the Spirit of Christ."
34 "Vne foy historique qu on appelle; (c est a dire pour consentir simplement a l'histoire de l'Euangile;") -- "An historical faith, as they call it; (that is to say, to give a simple assent to the gospel history.")
35 "Car ie n'ose proposer et imaginer Christ a demi;" -- "For I dare not present and imagine Christ in half."
36 This celebrated saying of Augustine (which occurs in Hom. in Joann. 62) is quoted also in the Institutes, (volume 3,) where our author handles at great length the subject here adverted to. -- Ed.
37 "Voyla lear belle preparation;" -- "See their admirable preparation!"
38 "Ces miserables;" -- "Those miserable creatures."
39 "Et qu'ils on debagoule leur turpitude a monsieur le prestre;" -- "And when they have blabbed out their baseness to Mr. Priest"
40 "La punition que Dieu en fera;" -- "The punishment that God will inflict upon it."
41 "Ils manient le corps precieux de Christ irreueremment, c'est a dire, sans nettoyer leur conscience;" -- "They handle the precious body of Christ irreverently, that is to say, without washing their conscience."
42 In the Vat. and Alex. MSS. and the Copt. version, the reading is simply
43 "Le corps de Christ;" -- "The body of Christ."