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§ 16. Doctrine of the Reformed Church on the Lord’s Supper.

It is a very difficult matter to give an account of the Reformed doctrine concerning the Lord’s Supper satisfactory to all parties. This difficulty arises partly from the fact that words have changed their meaning since the days of the Reformation. The Reformed as well as Lutherans asserted that there is “a real presence” of Christ in the Lord’s Supper; and that the believer receives the true body and blood, or the substance of the body and blood of Christ. Such expressions would be understood in our day very differently from what they were then. Another source of difficulty on this subject is that the statements of the Reformed had for one great object the prevention of a schism in the ranks of the Protestants. They did all they could to conciliate Luther. They adopted forms of expression which could be understood in a Lutheran sense. So far was this irenical spirit carried that even Romanists asked nothing more than what the Reformed conceded. Still another difficulty is that the Reformed were not agreed among themselves. There were three distinct types of doctrine among them, the Zwinglian, the Calvinistic, and an intermediate form, which ultimately became symbolical, being adopted in the authoritative standards of the Church.

Zwinglian Statements.

It was the tendency of the Zwinglian element of the Reformed Church, to make less of the supernatural aspect of the sacraments than their associates did. There was, however, no essential difference, as afterwards appeared between the Churches of Zurich and those of Geneva. Zwingle taught that “The Lord’s Supper is nothing else than the food of the soul, and Christ instituted the 627ordinance as a memorial of Himself. When a man commits himself to the sufferings and redemption of Christ he is saved. Of this He has left us a certain visible sign of his flesh and blood, both of which He has commanded us to eat and drink in remembrance of Him.” This is said in a document presented to the council of Zurich in 1523.

In his “Expositio Christianæ Fidei,” written just before his death, and published by Bullinger in 1536, he says: “The natural substantial body of Christ in which He suffered, and in which He is now seated in heaven at the right hand of God, is not in the Lord’s Supper eaten corporeally, or as to its essence, but spiritually only. . . . . Spiritually to eat Christ’s body is nothing else than with the spirit and mind to rely on the goodness and mercy of God through Christ. . . . . Sacramentally to eat his body, is, the sacrament being added, with the mind and spirit to feed upon Him.”641641“In cœna domini naturale ac substantiale istud corpus Christi, quo et hic passus est et nunc in cœlis ad dexteram patris sedet, non naturaliter atque per essentiam editur, sed spiritualiter tantum. . . . . Spiritualiter edere, corpus Christi, nihil est aliud quam spiritu ac mente niti misericordia et bonitate Dei per Christum. . . . . Sacramentaliter edere corpus Christi, cum proprie volumus loqui, est, adjuncto sacramento, mente ac spiritu corpus Christi edere.” Niemeyer, Collectio Confessionum, Leipzig, 1840, pp. 44, 47.

The Confessions most nearly conformed to the views of Zwingle are the “Confessio Tetrapolitana,” the “First Basil,” and the “First Helvetic.” These are all apologetic. The last mentioned protests against the representation that the Reformed regard the sacraments as mere badges of profession, and asserts that they are signs and means. The Lord’s Supper is called “cœna mystica” “in which Christ truly offers his body and blood, and hence Himself, to his people; not as though the body and blood of Christ were naturally united with the bread and wine, locally included in them, or sensibly there present, but in so far as the bread and wine are symbols, through which we have communion in his body and blood, not to the nourishment of the body, but of the spiritual or eternal life.”642642“Cœnam mysticam, in qua dominus corpus et sanguinem suum, id est, seipsum suia vere ad hoc offerat, ut magis, magisque in illis vivat, et illi in ipso. Non quod pani et vino corpus et sanguis domini vel naturaliter uniantur: vel hic localiter includantur, vel ulla huc carnali præsentia, statuantur. Sed quod panis et vinum ex institutione domini symbola sint, quibus ab ipso domino per ecclesiæ ministerium vera corporis et sanguinis ejus communicatio, non in periturum ventris cibum, sed in æternæ vitæ alimoniam exhibeatur.” Art. xxii.; Niemeyer, pp. 120, 121.

In “The Sincere Confession of the Ministers of the Church of Zurich,” dated 1545, we find the following precise statement of their doctrine: “We teach that the great design and end of the 628Lord’s Supper, that to which the whole service is directed, is the remembrance of Christ’s body devoted, and of his blood shed for the remission of our sins. This remembrance, however, cannot take place without true faith. And although the things of which the service is a memorial, are not visible or present after a visible or corporal manner, nevertheless believing apprehension and the assurance of faith renders them present in one sense to the soul of the believer. He has truly eaten the bread of Christ . . . . who believes on Christ, very God and very man, crucified for us, on whom to believe is to eat, and to eat is to believe. . . . . Believers have in the Lord’s Supper no other life-giving food than that which they receive elsewhere than in that ordinance. The believer, therefore, receives both in and out of the Lord’s Supper, in one and the same way, and by the same means of faith, one and the same food, Christ, except that in the supper the reception is connected with the actions and signs appointed by Christ, and accompanied with a testifying, thanksgiving, and binding service. . . . . Christ’s flesh has done its work on earth, having been offered for our salvation; now it no longer benefits on earth and is no longer here.”

Calvin’s Doctrine.

While Calvin denied the real presence of the body and blood of Christ in the eucharist, in the sense in which that presence was asserted by Romanists and Lutherans, yet he affirmed that they were dynamically present. The sun is in the heavens, but his light and heat are present on earth. So the body of Christ is in heaven, but from that glorified body there radiates an influence, other than the influence of the Spirit (although through his agency), of which believers in the Lord’s Supper are the recipients. In this way they receive the body and blood of Christ, or, their substance, or life-giving power. He held, therefore, that there was something not only supernatural, but truly miraculous, in this divine ordinance.

He says:643643Institutio IV. xvii. 10; edit. Berlin, 1834, part II. p. 407. “Summa sit, non aliter animas nostras carne et sanguine Christi pasci, quam panis et vinum corporalem vitam tuentur et sustinent. Neque enim aliter quadraret analogia signi, nisi alimentum suum animæ in Christo reperirent: quod fieri non potest, nisi nobiscum Christus vere in unum coalescat nosque reficiat carnis suæ esu et sanguinis potu. Etsi autem incredibile videtur, in tanta locorum distantia penetrare ad nos Christi carnem, ut nobis sit in cibum, meminerimus, quantum supra sensus omnes nostros emineat arcana Spiritus sancti virtus et quam stultum sit, ejus immensitatem modo nostro velle metiri. Quod ergo mens nostra non comprehendit, concipiat fides, Spiritum vere unire, quæ locis disjuncta sunt. Jam sacram illam carnis et sanguinis sui communicationem, qua vitam suam in nos transfundit Christus non secus acsi in ossa et medullas penetraret, in cœna etiam testatur et obsignat; et quidem non objecto inani aut vacuo signo, sed efficaciam Spiritus sui illic proferens, qua impleat quod promittit.” “We conclude that our souls are fed by the flesh and 629blood of Christ, just as our corporal life is preserved by bread and wine. For the analogy of the signs would not hold, if our souls did not find their aliment in Christ, which, however, cannot be the case, unless Christ truly coalesce into one with us, and support us through the use of his flesh and blood. It may seem incredible indeed that the flesh of Christ should reach us from such an immense local distance, so as to become our food. But we must remember how far the power of the Holy Spirit transcends all our senses, and what folly it must be even to think of reducing his immensity to our measure. Let faith then embrace what the understanding cannot grasp, namely, that the spirit truly unites things which are totally 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 in the holy supper; not by the exhibition of a vain and empty sign, but by putting forth such an energy of his Spirit as fulfils what He promises.”

In 1561 Calvin wrote in answer to the Lutheran Hesshuss, and with an irenical purpose, his tract “De participatione carnis et sanguinis Christi in sacra cœna.” In an appendix to that Tract, he says, “The same body then which the Son of God once offered in sacrifice to the Father, he daily offers to us in the supper, that it may be our spiritual aliment. Only that must be held which was intimated as to the mode, that it is not necessary that the essence of the flesh should descend from heaven in order that we may feed upon it; but that the power of the Spirit is sufficient to penetrate through all impediments and to surmount all local distance. At the same time we do not deny that the mode here is incomprehensible to human thought; for flesh naturally could neither be the life of the soul, nor exert its power upon us from heaven; and not without reason is the communication, which makes us flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bones, denominated by Paul a great mystery. In the sacred supper we acknowledge it a miracle, transcending both nature and our understanding, that Christ’s life is made common to us with Himself, and his flesh given to us as aliment.”644644Works, Amsterdam, 1667; vol. viii. p. 744, a, b.

Again, “These things being disposed of, a doubt still appears with respect to the word ‘substance’; which is readily allayed if we put away the gross imagination of a manducation of the flesh, 630as though it were corporal food, that, being taken into the mouth, is received into the stomach. For if this absurdity be removed, there no reason why we should deny that we are fed with Christ’s flesh substantially, since we truly coalesce with Him in one body by faith, and are made one with Him. Whence it follows that we are joined with Him in substantial connection, just as substantial vigour flows down from the head into the members. The definition there must stand that we are made to partake of Christ’s flesh substantially; not in the way of carnal mixture, or as if the flesh of Christ drawn down from heaven entered into us, or were swallowed by the mouth; but because the flesh of Christ, as to its power and efficacy, vivifies our souls, not otherwise than the body is nourished by the substance of bread and wine.”645645At the meeting of the national Synod of France in 1571, Beza being president, an application was made by certain deputies to have the clause in Article 37 of the Confession altered, which asserts that we are nourished with “the substance of Christ’s body and blood.” The Synod refused to make the alteration, and explained the expression by saying they did not understand by it, “any confusion, commixture, or conjunction, . . . . but this only, that by this virtue all that is in Him that is needful to our salvation, is hereby most freely given and communicated to us. Nor do we agree with those who say we communicate in his merits and gifts and Spirit, without his being made ours; but with the Apostle (Eph. v. 23), admiring this supernatural, and to us, incomprehensible, mystery, we believe we are partakers of his body delivered to death for us, and of his blood shed for us, so that we are flesh of his flesh and bone of his bones, and that we receive Him together with his gifts by faith, wrought in us by the incomprehensible virtue and efficacy of the Holy Spirit.” This decision offended the Zurich ministers.

The Reformed symbols which most nearly conform to the peculiar views of Calvin are the Gallican, the Belgian, and the early Scottish. The first mentioned teaches646646Art. xxxvi. xxvii.; Niemeyer, p. 338.Quamvis [Christus] nunc sit in cœlis, ibidem etiam mansurus donec veniat mundum judicaturus: credimus tamen, eum arcana et incomprehensibili Spiritus sui virtute per fidem apprehensa, nos nutrire et vivificare sui corporis et sanguinis substantia. Dicimur autem hoc spiritualiter fieri, non ut efficaciæ et veritatis loco imaginationem aut cogitationem supponamus, sed potius, quoniam hoc mysterium nostræ cum Christo coalitionis tam sublime est, ut omnes nostros sensus totumque adeo ordinem naturæ superet: denique quoniam sit divinum ac cœleste, non nisi fide percipi ac apprehendi potest.

Credimus, sicut antea dictum est, tam in cœna quam in baptismo, Deum nobis reipsa, id est, vere et efficaciter donare quicquid ibi sacramentaliter figurat, ac proinde cum signis conjungimus veram possessionem ac fruitionem ejus rei, quæ ita nobis offertur. Itaque affirmamus eos qui ad sacram mensam Domini puram fidem tanquam vas quoddam afferunt, vere recipere quod ibi signa testificantur, 631nempe corpus et sanguinem Jesu Christi, non minus esse cibum ac potum animæ, quam panis et vinum sunt corporis cibus.

In the Scotch Confession of 1560, it is said, “We confess that believers in the right use of the Lord’s Supper thus eat the body and drink the blood of Jesus Christ, and we firmly believe that He dwells in them, and they in Him, nay, that they thus become flesh of his flesh and bone of his bones. For as the eternal Deity gives life and immortality to the flesh of Christ, so also his flesh and blood, when eaten and drunk by us, confer on us the same prerogatives.”647647Art. xxi.; Niemeyer, p. 352.

ln the Belgic Confession adopted in 1563, it is said, “Ut iis nobis [Christus] testificatur, quam vere accipimus et tenemus manibus nostris hoc sacramentum, illudque ore comedimus (unde et postmodum vita hæc nostra sustentatur), tam vere etiam nos fide (quæ animæ nostræ est instar et manus et oris) recipere verum corpus et verum sanguinem Christi, in animis nostris, ad vitam spiritualem in nobis fovendam. . . . . Dicimus itaque id quod comeditur esse ipsissimum Christi corpus naturale, et id quod bibitur verum ipsius sanguinem: at instrumentum seu medium quo hæc comedimus et bibimus non est os corporeum, sed spiritus ipse noster, idque per fidem.648648Art. xxxv.; Ibid. pp. 385, 386.

Confessions in which Zwinglians and Calvinists agree.

The most important of these, as already mentioned, is the “Consensus Tigurinus,” because drawn up for the express purpose of settling the disputes between the two parties, and because it was adopted by both. It was written by Calvin and published under the title “Consensio mutua in re Sacramentaria Ministrorum Tigurinæ Ecclesiæ, et D. Joannis Calvini Ministri Genevensis Ecclesiæ, jam nunc ab ipsis authoribus edita.” This “Consensus” was vehemently attacked by the Lutherans; and Calvin, four years after its publication, felt called upon to publish an explanation and defence of it. In his letter prefixed to that defence and addressed to the ministers of Zurich and other Swiss churches, he says: The Lutherans now see that those whom they denounced as Sacramentarians agree, and then adds: “Nec vero si superstites hodie essent optimi et eximii Christi servi Zwinglius et Oecolampadius, verbulum in ea sententia mutarent.649649See his Letter to the Swiss Churches prefixed to his Consensionis Capitum Expositio, Niemeyer, ut supra, p. 201. No document, therefore, can have a higher claim to represent the true 632doctrine of the Reformed Church than this “Consensus.” This document has already been quoted on a previous page to prove that its authors, (1.) Did not regard the sacraments as mere signs, or as simply badges of a Christian profession. (2.) But as means of grace, appointed, not only to signify and seal, but also to convey the benefits of redemption. (3.) That their saving and sanctifying efficacy is not due to any virtue in them or in him that doth administer them, but solely to the blessing of God and the working of his Spirit. (4.) That the sacraments are not means of grace to all indiscriminately, or to all who are their passive recipients, but only to believers or the chosen people of God. (5.) That their efficacy is not tied to the time of their administration. (6.) That the grace or saving gifts which the sacraments, when God so wills, are made the channels of communicating, may be, and in fact are, received before and without their use.

The last seven articles of the “Consensus” concern the Lord’s Supper. In the twenty-first the local presence of Christ in that sacrament is denied. “Præsertim vero tollenda est quælibet localis præsentiæ imaginatio. Nam quum signa hic in mundo sint, oculis cernuntur, palpentur manibus: Christus quatenus homo est, non alibi quam in cœlo, nec aliter quam mente et fidei intelligentia quærendus est. Quare perversa et impia superstitio est, ipsum sub elementis hujus mundi includere.

The twenty-second article teaches that the words, “This is my body,” in the form of institution, are to be understood figuratively. “Proinde, qui in solennibus Cœnæ verbis, Hoc est corpus meum, Hic est sanguis meus: præcise literalem, ut loquuntur, sensum urgent, eos tanquam præposteros interpretes repudiamus. Nam extra controversiam ponimus, figurate accipienda esse, ut esse panis et vinum dicantur id quod significant. Neque vero novum hoc aut insolens videri debet, ut per metonymiam ad signum transferatur rei figuratæ nomen, quum passim in Scripturis ejusmodi locutiones occurrant: et nos sic loquendo nihil asserimus, quod non apud vetustissimos quosque et probatissimos Ecclesiæ scriptores extet.

Article twenty-third relates to spiritual manducation. “Quod autem carnis suæ esu et sanguinis potione, quæ hic figurantur, Christus animas nostras per fidem Spiritus sancti virtute pascit, id non perinde accipiendum, quasi fiat aliqua substantiæ vel commixtio vel transfusio: sed quoniam ex carne semel in sacrificium oblata et sanguine in expiatione effuso vitam hauriamus.

Article twenty-fourth is directed against transubstantiation and 633other errors. “Hoc modo non tantum refutatur Papistarum commentum de transubstantione, sed crassa omnia figmenta atque futiles argutiæ, quæ vel cœlesti ejus gloriæ detrahunt vel veritati humanæ naturæ minus sunt consentaneæ. Neque enim minus absurdum judicamus, Christus sub pane locare vel cum pane copulare, quam panem transubstantiare in corpus ejus.

Article twenty-fifth teaches that Christ’s body is locally in heaven. “Ac ne qua ambiguitas restet, quum in cœlo quarendum Christum dicimus, hæc locutio locorum distantiam nobis sonat et exprimit. Tametsi enim philosophice loquendo supra cœlos locus non est; quia tamen corpus Christi, ut fert humani corporis natura et modus, finitum est et cœlo, ut loco, continetur, necesse est a nobis tanto locorum intervallo distare, quanto cœlum abest a terra.

Article twenty-sixth, the last of the series, is directed against the adoration of the host, or consecrated wafer.650650Niemeyer, Collectio Confessionum, Leipzig, 1840, p. 196.

The Heidelberg Catechism was prepared at the command of Frederick III., Elector of the Palatinate, by Caspar Olevian, a disciple of Calvin, and by Ursinus, a friend of Melancthon, and adopted by a General Synod held at Heidelberg in 1563. This Catechism, having symbolical authority both in the German and in the Dutch Reformed Churches, is entitled to special respect as a witness to the faith of the Reformed Church.

The sacraments are declared to be “Sacred, visible signs, and seals, instituted by God, that through them He may more clearly present and seal the promise of the gospel, namely, that He, for the sake of the one offering of Christ accomplished on the cross, grants not to all only but even to separate believers the forgiveness of sin and eternal life.”

“How art thou reminded and assured, in the Holy Supper, that thou art a partaker of the one offering of Christ on the cross, and of all his benefits?”

“Thus, that Christ has commanded me and all believers, to eat this broken bread, and to drink this cup in remembrance of Him; adding these promises: that his body was offered and broken on the cross for me, and his blood shed for me, as certainly as I see with my eyes the bread of the Lord broken for me, and the cup communicated to me: and further, that He feeds and nourishes my soul to everlasting life, with his crucified body and shed blood, as assuredly as I receive from the hands of the minister, and take with my mouth, the bread and cup, as certain signs of the body and blood of Christ.”


“What is it then to eat the crucified body, and drink the shed blood of Christ?”

“It is not only to embrace with a believing heart all the sufferings and death of Christ, and thereby to obtain the pardon of sin and eternal life; but also, besides that, to become more and more united to his sacred body by the Holy Ghost, who dwells at once both in Christ and in us; so that we, though Christ is in heaven, and we on earth, are notwithstanding, flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone; and we live and are governed forever by one Spirit, as the members of the same body are by one soul.”

“Do then the bread and wine become the very body and blood of Christ?”

“Not at all: but as the water in baptism is not changed into the blood of Christ, neither is the washing away of sin itself, being only the sign and pledge of the things sealed to us in baptism; so the bread in the Lord’s Supper is not changed into the very body of Christ; though agreeably to the nature and properties of sacraments, it is called the body of Christ Jesus.”651651Ques. lxvi. lxxv. lxxvi. lxxviii.; Niemeyer, pp. 444-447.

The Confession of Faith of the Reformed Dutch Church was revised by the Synod of Dort in 1618 and 1619. In the thirty-fifth article of that Confession, it is said that as man has a natural life common to all men, so believers have besides, a spiritual life given in their regeneration; and as God has provided food for our natural life, He has in like manner provided food for our spiritual life. That food is Christ, who is the true bread which came down from heaven; “who nourishes and strengthens the spiritual life of believers, when they eat Him, that is to say, when they apply and receive him by faith in the Spirit.” As we receive the bread and wine by the mouth “we also do as certainty receive by faith (which is the hand and mouth of our soul.) the true body and blood of Christ our only Saviour in our souls for the support of our spiritual life.” The manner of this reception is hidden and incomprehensible. “In the mean time we err not, when we say, that what is eaten and drunk by us is the proper and natural body, and the proper blood of Christ. But the manner of our partaking of the same, is not by the mouth, but by the Spirit through faith.”

The Second Helvetic Confession is, on some accounts, to be regarded as the most authoritative symbol of the Reformed Church, as it was more generally received than any other, and was sanctioned by different parties. It was drawn up by Bullinger in 6351562. In 1565, the Elector Frederick, distressed at the contentions respecting the sacraments which agitated the Church, wrote to Bullinger to send him a confession which might if possible unite the conflicting parties, or, at least meet the objections of the Lutherans. Bullinger sent him this Confession which he had prepared some years before; with which the Elector was perfectly satisfied. To give it the greater authority it was adopted by the Helvetic churches. As it was drawn up by Bullinger the successor of Zwingle at Zurich, it cannot be supposed to contain anything to which a Zwinglian could object. The nineteenth chapter treats of the sacraments in general, and teaches, (1.) That they are mystic symbols, or holy rites, or sacred actions, including the word, signs, and thing signified. (2.) That there were sacraments under the old, as well as under the new economy. (3.) That God is their author, and operates through them. (4.) That Christ is the great object presented in them, the substance and matter of them, the lamb slain from the foundation of the world, the rock from which all the fathers drank, etc. (5.) Therefore, as far as the substance is concerned, the sacraments of the two dispensations are equal; they have the same author, the same significancy, and the same effects. (6.) The old have been abolished, and baptism and the Lord’s Supper introduced in their place. (7.) Then follows an exposition of the constituent parts of a sacrament. First, the word, by which the elements are constituted sacred signs. Water, bread, and wine, are not in themselves, apart from the divine appointment, sacred symbols; it is the word of God added to them, consecrating, or setting them apart, which gives them their sacramental character. Secondly, the signs, being thus consecrated, receive the names of the things signified. Water is called regeneration; the bread and wine are called the body and blood of Christ. They are not changed in their own nature. They are called by the names of the things signified, because the two are sacramentally united, that is, united by mystical significance and divine appointment. (8.) In the next paragraph, this Confession rejects, on the one hand the Romish doctrine of consecration, and on the other, the idea that the sacraments are mere empty signs. (9.) The benefits signified are not so included in the sacraments or bound to them, that all who receive the signs receive the things which they signify; nor does their efficacy depend on the administrator; nor their integrity upon the receiver. As the Word of God continues his Word whether men believe or not; so is it with the sacraments.


The twenty-first chapter is devoted to the Lord’s Supper. It contains the following passages: “Ut autem rectius et perspicacius intelligatur, quomodo caro et sanguis Christi sint cibus et potus fidelium, percipianturque a fidelibus ad vitam æternam, paucula hæc adjiciemus. Manducatio non est unius generis. Est enim manducatio corporalis, qua cibus in os percipitur ab homine, dentibus atteritur, et in ventrem deglutitur. . . . . Est et spiritualis manducatio corporis Christi, non ea quidem, qua existimemus cibum ipsum mutari in spiritum, sed qua, manente in sua essentia et proprietate corpore et sanguine Domini, ea nobis communicantur spiritualiter, utique non corporali modo, sed spirituali, per Spiritum Sanctum, qui videlicet ea, quæ per carnem et sanguinem Domini pro nobis in mortem tradita, parata sunt, ipsam inquam remissionem peccatorum, liberationem, et vitam æternam, applicat et confert nobis, ita ut Christus in nobis vivat, et nos in ipso vivamus, efficitque ut ipsum, quo talis sit cibus et potus spiritualis noster, id est, vita nostra, vera fide percipiamus. . . . . Et sicut oportet cibum in nosmetipsos edendo recipere, ut operetur in nobis, suamque in nobis efficaciam exerat, cum extra nos positus, nihil nobis prosit: ita necesse est nos fide Christum recipere, ut noster fiat, vivatque in nobis, et nos in ipso. . . . . Ex quibus omnibus claret nos, per spiritualem cibum, minime intelligere imaginarium, nescio quem, cibum, sed ipsum Domini corpus pro nobis traditum, quod tamen percipiatur a fidelibus, non corporaliter, sed spiritualiter per fidem. . . . . Fit autem hic esus et potus spiritualis, etiam extra Domini cœnam, quoties, aut ubicunque homo in Christum crediderit. Quo fortassis illud Augustini pertinet, Quid paras dentem et ventrem? crede, et manducasti.

Præter superiorem manducationem spiritualem, est et sacramentalis manducatio corporis Domini, qua fidelis non tantum spiritualiter et interne participat vero corpore et sanguine Domini, sed, foris etiam accedendo ad mensam Domini, accipit visibile corporis et sanguinis Domini sacramentum.652652See Niemeyer, Collectio Confessionum, Leipzig, 1840, pp. 512-521.

It is a remarkable fact that the confessions of the Church of England conform more nearly to the Zwinglian than to the Calvinistic ideas and phraseology in respect to the Lord’s Supper. This may be accounted for by the fact that it was less important for the English than for the German churches to conciliate the Lutherans. In the articles adopted by the Synod of London in 1552, and approved by Edward VI., the first clause of the statement of the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper is in the language of 637Scripture: “To those who receive it worthily and with faith, the bread which we break is the communion of the body of Christ.” The second clause rejects transubstantiation. The third is directed against the Lutheran doctrine, and asserts that as Christ is in heaven; “non debet quisquam fidelium carnis ejus et sanguinis realem et corporalem (ut loquuntur) præsentiam in eucharistia vel credere vel profiteri.

Article twenty-eight of the Thirty-nine Articles adopted in 1562, contains the first three clauses substantially as they appeared in the article of Edward VI., and then adds: “The body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten in the supper only after a heavenly and spiritual manner; and the mean whereby the body of Christ is received and eaten in the supper, is faith. The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was not by Christ’s ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, and worshipped.” In the early edition of these articles, the clause against transubstantiation was amplified as follows: “Forasmuch as the truth of man’s nature requireth, that the body of one and the selfsame man cannot be at one time in divers places, but must needs be in one certain place; therefore the body of Christ cannot be present at one time in many and divers places: and because as Holy Scripture doth teach, Christ was taken up into heaven, and there shall continue unto the end of the world; a faithful man ought not either to believe, or openly confess the real and bodily presence, as they term it, of Christ’s flesh and blood in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.”653653See Exposition of Thirty-Nine Articles by Gilbert [Burnet], 6th edit. Dublin, 1790, p. 403. All this is implied in the form in which the article now stands. It affords clear evidence what were the sentiments of the English Reformers on this subject. It is principally interesting as it repudiates the idea of the “real presence” of the flesh and blood of Christ in the sacrament; which even Zwingle was willing to allow. He, however, used the word “real” in a very different sense from that in which it is used by either Romanists or Lutherans.

The Sense in which Christ is present in the Lord’s Supper.

The extracts from the symbols of the Reformed Church enable us to answer, First, the question in what sense according to that Church, Christ is present in the Lord’s Supper. The Reformed theologians are careful to explain what they mean by the word presence. Anything is said to be present when it operates duly on our perceiving faculties. A sensible object is present (præ sensibus) 638when it affects the senses. A spiritual object is present when it is intellectually apprehended and when it acts upon the mind. It is said of the wicked, “God is not in all their thoughts.” They are without God. They are “far off.” On the other hand, God is present with his people when He controls their thoughts, operates on their hearts, and fills them with the sense of his nearness and love. This presence is not imaginary, it is in the highest sense real and effective. In like manner Christ is present when He thus fills the mind, sheds abroad his love in our hearts by the Holy Ghost given unto us; and not only communicates to us the benefits of his sufferings and death, that is, the remission of our sins and reconciliation with God, but also infuses his life into us. Nothing is plainer from Scripture than that there is this communication of life from Christ to his people. It is not only directly asserted as when Paul says, “I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Gal. ii. 20); and, He “is our life” (Col. iii. 4); but it is also illustrated in every way. As the body derives life from this head (Col. ii. 19) and the branches from the vine, so do believers derive their life from Him: on this point there is no dispute among Christians. This, again, is a presence to us and in us which. is not imaginary, but in the highest sense real and effective.

But what is meant by the word Christ when He is said to be thus present with us? It does not mean merely that the Logos, the eternal Son of God, who fills heaven and earth, is present with us as He is with all his creatures; or, simply that He operates in us as He operates throughout the universe. Nor does it mean merely that his Spirit dwells in believers and works in them both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Something more than all this is meant. Christ is a person; a divine person with a human nature; that is with a true body and a reasonable soul. It is that person who is present with us. This again does not mean, that Christ’s human nature, his body and soul are ubiquitous; but it does mean that a divine person with human affections and sympathies is near us and within us. We have now a high-priest who can be touched with a sense of our infirmities. (Heb. iv. 15.) He and we are one in such a sense that He is not ashamed to call us brethren. (Heb. ii. 11.) In all things He was made like unto his brethren that He might be what He still is, a merciful and faithful high priest. (Heb. ii. 17.) Of this every Christian is assured.654654The late Dr. Cutler, of precious memory, formerly rector of St. Ann’s Church, Brooklyn, a short time before his death, met the writer in Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, and without a word of salutation, said, “Have you ever thought of the difference between communion with God and communion with Christ?” and passed on without adding a word. These were the last words the writer ever heard from lips which the Spirit had often touched with a coal from the altar. The 639prayers and hymns of the Church addressed to Christ all assume that He has human sympathies and affections which make his relation to us entirely different from what it is to any other order of beings in the universe. If any one asks, How the humanity of Christ, his body and soul in heaven, can sympathize with his people on earth? the answer is, that it is in personal union with the Logos. If this answer be deemed insufficient, then the questioner may be asked, How the dust of which the human body is formed can sympathize with the immortal spirit with which it is united? Whether the mystery of this human sympathy of Christ can be explained or not, it remains a fact both of Scripture and of experience. In this sense, and not in a sense which implies any relation to space, it may be said that wherever the divinity of Christ is, there is his humanity, and as, by common consent, He is present at his table, He is there in the fulness of his human sympathy and love.

But this presence of Christ in the eucharist is predicated, not of his person only, but also of his body and blood. This presence the Reformed, as Zwingle said, “if they must have words,” were willing to call real. But then they explained the word “real” as the opposite of “imaginary.” The negative statements concerning this presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Lord's Supper are, —

1. That it is not local or corporeal. It is not material or of the matter.

2. It is not to the senses.

3. It is not peculiar to this sacrament. Christ and his benefits, his body and blood, and all their influences on the believer, are said to be accessible to him, and as truly received by him out of the supper as in it.

On this point the Confessions, even those signed by Calvin, are perfectly explicit. In the Zurich Confession, A.D. 1545, it is said, “Believers have in the Lord’s Supper no other life-giving food than that which they receive elsewhere than in that ordinance.” In the Second Helvetic Confession this is taught at length, and the doctrine vindicated from the objection that it renders the sacrament useless, that if we can receive without it what we receive in it, the importance of the sacrament is gone. The answer is, that as we continually need food for the body, so we continually need food for the soul; and that the sacraments 640as well as the Word are divinely appointed means for conveying that spiritual nourishment. That the sacraments are means of grace, does not render the Word unnecessary; neither does the Word’s being effectual and sufficient unto salvation, render the sacraments useless. Calvin teaches the same doctrine:655655“Extra eorum [sacramentorum] usum fidelibus constat, quæ illic figuratur veritas. Sic baptismo abluta sunt Pauli peccata, quæ jam prius abluta erant. Sic idem baptismus Cornelio fuit lavacrum regenerationis, qui tamen jam Spiritu Sancto donatus erat. Sic in cœna se communiat Christus, qui tamen et prius se nobis impertierat et perpetuo manet in nobis.” Consensus Tigurinus, art. xix.; Niemeyer, Collectio Confessionum, p. 195. “The verity which is figured in the sacraments believers receive our side of the use of them. Thus in baptism, Paul’s sins were washed away, which had already been blotted out. Baptism was to Cornelius the layer cf regeneration, although he had before received the Spirit. And so in the Lord’s Supper, Christ communicates Himself to us, although He had already imparted Himself to us and dwells within us.” The office of the sacraments, he teaches, is to confirm and increase our faith. In his defence of this “Consensus,” he expresses surprise that a doctrine so plainly proved by Scripture and experience should be called into question.656656Niemeyer, p. 212. “Quod deinde prosequimur, fidelibus spiritualium bonorum effectum quæ figurant sacramenta, extra eorum usum constare, quando et quotidie verum esse experimur et probatur Spirituræ testimoniis, mirum est si cui displiceat.” In the decree of the French National Synod of 1572, it is said, “The same Lord Jesus both as to his substance and gifts, is offered to us in baptism and the ministry of the word, and received by believers.”

The Church of England teaches the same doctrine, for in the office for the communion of the sick, the minister is directed to instruct a parishioner who is prevented from receiving the sacrament “that if he do truly repent him of his sins, and steadfastly believe that Jesus Christ hath suffered death upon the cross for him, and shed his blood for his redemption, earnestly remembering the benefits he hath thereby, and giving Him hearty thanks therefor, he doth eat and drink the body and blood of our Saviour Christ profitably to his soul’s health, although he do not receive the sacrament with his mouth.” On this point there was no diversity of opinion in the Reformed Church. There is no communion with Christ, no participation of his body and blood in the Lord’s Supper, which is not elsewhere offered to believers and experienced by them.

4. There is still another position maintained by the Reformed which is especially important as determining their doctrine on this subject. They not only deny that believers receive the body and blood of Christ in the Lord’s Supper otherwise than these are 641received through the Word, but they deny that believers receive anything in the eucharist that was not granted and communicated to the saints under the Old Testament. This of course is decisive. Under the old dispensation it was only the sacrificial efficacy of his broken body and shed blood that could be enjoyed. He died for the remission of sins “under the first testament.” (Heb. ix. 15.) Therefore the fathers as well as we, and they as fully as we, are cleansed by the sprinkling of his blood; to them, as well as to us, He was the true bread which came down from heaven; they all drank of that Spiritual Rock which was Christ. Calvin devotes several pages to the refutation of the doctrine of the Romanists that the sacraments of the Old Testament only signified grace, while those of the New actually convey it. He maintains that, though different in form, they are the same in nature, object, and effect. “Scholasticum autem illud dogma, quo tam longum discrimen inter veteris ac novæ Legis sacramenta notatur, perinde acsi illa non aliud quam Dei gratiam adumbrarint, hæc vero præsentem conferant, penitus explodendum est. Siquidem nihilo splendidius de illis Apostolus quam de his loquitur, quum docet patres eandem nobiscum spiritualem escam manducasse: et escam illam Christum interpretatur (1 Cor. x. 3). . . . . Quicquid ergo nobis hodie in sacramentis exhibetur, id in suis olim recipiebant Judæi, Christum scilicet cum spiritualibus suis divitiis. Quam habent nostra virtutem, eam quoque in suis sentiebant; ut scilicet essent illis divinæ erga se benevolentiæ sigilla in spem æternæ salutis.” He quotes freely from Augustine to prove that that eminent father taught “Sacramenta Judæorum in signis fuere diversa: in re quæ significatur, paria, diversa specie visibili, paria virtute spirituali.657657See Institutio, IV. xiv. §§ 20-26, especially §§  23, 26; edit. Berlin, 1834, part ii. pp. 362-367.

With these negative statements agree all the affirmations concerning the presence of the body and blood in the Lord’s Supper. What is affirmed to be present is not the body and blood of Christ absolutely, but his body as broken, and his blood as shed. It is he sacrifice which He offered that is present and of which the believer partakes. It is present to the mind, not to our bodies. It is perceived and received by faith and not otherwise. He is not present to unbelievers. By presence is meant not local nearness, but intellectual cognition and apprehension, believing appropriation, and spiritual operation. The body and blood are present to us when they fill our thoughts, are apprehended by 642faith as broken and shed for our salvation, and exert upon us their proper effect.658658“Corpus Christi in cœlis est ad dextram patris. Sursum ergo elevanda sunt corda, et non defigenda in panem, nec adorandus dominus in pane. Et tamen non est absens ecclesiæ suæ celebranti cœnam dominus. Sol absens a nobis in cœlo, nihilominus efficaciter præsens est nobis: quanto magis sol justitiæ Christus, corpore en cœlis absens nobis, præsens est nobis, non corporaliter quidem, sed spiritualiter per vivificam operationem. (XXI.; Niemeyer, Collectio Confessionum, Leipzig, 1840, p. 522.) Calvin says (Consensus Tigurinus, XXI.; Ibid. p. 196): “Præsertim vero tollenda est quælibet localis præsentiæ imaginatio. Nam quum signa hic in mundo sint, oculis cernantur, palpentur manibus: Christus quatenus homo est, non alibi quam in cœlo, nec aliter quam mente et fidei intelligentia quærendus est. Quare perversa et impia superstitio est, ipsum sub elementis hujus mundi includere.” “The body of Christ is in heaven at the right hand of God,” says the Helvetic Confession. “Yet the Lord is not absent from his Church when celebrating his supper. The sun is absent from us in heaven, nevertheless it is efficaciously present with us; how much more is Christ, the sun of righteousness, though absent as to the body, present with us, not corporally in deed, but spiritually, by his vivifying influence.” Calvin says, “Every imagination of local presence is to be entirely removed. For while the signs are upon earth seen by the eyes and handled by the hands, Christ, so far as He is a man, is nowhere else than in heaven; and is to be sought only by the mind and by faith. It is, therefore, an irrational and impious superstition to include Him in the earthly elements.” He likewise teaches that Christ is present in the promise and not in the signs.659659Consensus Tigurinus, X.; p. 194. Ursinus, one of the principal authors of the Heidelberg Catechism, in his Exposition of that formulary, says: “These two, I mean the sign and the thing signified, are united in this sacrament, not by any natural copulation, or corporal and local existence one in the other; much less by transubstantiation, or changing one into the other; but by signifying, sealing, and exhibiting the one by the other; that is, by a sacramental union, whose bond is the promise added to the bread, requiring the faith of the receivers. Whence it is clear, that these things, in their lawful use, are always jointly exhibited and received, but not without faith of the promise, viewing and apprehending the thing promised, now present in the sacrament; yet not present or included in the sign as in a vessel containing it; but present in the promise, which is the better part, life, and soul of the sacrament. For they want judgment who affirm that Christ’s body cannot be present in the sacrament except it be in or under the bread; as if, forsooth, the bread alone, without the promise, were either a sacrament, or the principal part of a sacrament.”660660Summe of Christian Religion, by Zacharias Ursinus, London, 1645; Catechism of Christian Religion, quest. 77, p. 434.


There is, therefore, a presence of Christ’s body in the Lord’s Supper; not local, but spiritual; not to the senses, but to the mind and to faith; and not of nearness, but of efficacy. If the presence is in the promise, then the body of Christ is present, offered to and received by the believer whenever and wherever he embraces and appropriates the promise. So far the doctrine of the Reformed Church is clear.


Our Lord in John vi. 53-58, expressly and solemnly declares that except a man eat of his flesh, and drink his blood, he has no life in him; and that whoso eateth his flesh and drinketh his blood, hath eternal life. It is here taught that the eating spoken of is necessary to salvation. He who does not eat of the flesh of the Son of Man, has no life in him. He who does thus eat, shall live forever. Now as no Christian Church, not even the Roman, maintains that a participation of the Lord’s Supper is essential to salvation, it is plain that no such Church can consistently believe that the eating spoken of is that which is peculiar to that ordinance. Again, the Scriptures so clearly and variously teach that those who believe in Christ; who receive the record God has given of his Son; who receive Him; who flee to Him for refuge; who lay hold of Him as their God and Saviour, shall never perish but have eternal life; it is plain that what is expressed in John vi. by eating the flesh of Christ and drinking his blood, must be the same thing that is elsewhere expressed in the various ways just referred to. When we eat our food we receive and appropriate it to the nourishment of our bodies; so to eat the flesh of Christ, is to receive and appropriate him and his sacrificial work for the life of our souls. Without this appropriation of Christ to ourselves we have no life; with it, we have life eternal, for He is our life. As this appropriation is an act of faith, it is by believing that we eat his flesh and drink his blood. We accordingly find that this is recognized in all the leading Confessions of the Reformed Church. Thus in the Zurich Confession it is said, “Eating is believing, and believing is eating.” The Helvetic Confession, as quoted above,661661Page 636. says, that this eating takes place as often as and wherever a man believes in Christ. The Belgic Confession says,662662“Deus panem vivificum misit, qui de cœlo descendit, nempe Jesum Christum: is nutrit et sustentat vitam fidelium spiritualem, si comedatur, id est, applicetur et recipiatur Spiritu per fidem.” XXXV.; Niemeyer, Collectio Confessionum, p. 385. “God sent Christ as the true bread from heaven which nourishes 644and sustains the spiritual life of believers, if it be eaten, that is, if it be applied and received by the Spirit through faith.” Faith, as shown above, is, in all these Confessions, declared to be the hand and the mouth by which this reception and appropriation are effected. A distinction may be, and often is, made between spiritual and sacramental manducation. But the difference between them is merely circumstantial. In the former the believer feeds on Christ to his spiritual nourishment, without the intervention and use of the elements of bread and wine; in the latter, he does the same thing in the use of those elements as the divinely appointed sign and seal of the truth and promise of God.

Although the Confessions are thus uniform and clear in their assertion, “that eating is believing,” the theologians, in some instances, make a distinction between them. Thus Calvin says:663663“Sunt enim qui manducare Christi carnem, et sanguinem ejus bibere, uno verbo definiunt, nihil esse aliud, quam in Christum ipsum credere. Sed mihi expressius quiddam ac sublimius videtur voluisse docere Christus in præclara illa concione, ubi carnis suæ manducationem nobis commendat: nempe vera sui participatione nos vivificari, quam manducandi etiam ac bibendi verbis ideo designavit, ne, quam ab ipso vitam percipimus, simplicii cognitione percipi quispiam putaret. Quemadmodum enim non aspectus, sed esus panis corpori alimentum sufficit, ita vere ac penitus participem Christi animam fieri convenit, ut ipsius virtute in vitam spiritualem vegetetur. Interim vero hanc non aliam esse, quam fidei manducationem fatemur, ut nulla alia fingi potest. Verum hoc inter mea et isotrum verba interest, quod illis manducare est duntaxat credere: ego credendo manducari Christi carnem, quia fide noster efficitur, eamque manducationem fructum effectamque esse fidei dico.” Institutio, IV. xvii. 5; edit. Berlin, 1834, pp. 403, 404. “There are some who define in a word, that to eat the flesh of Christ, and to drink his blood, is no other than to believe on Christ Himself. But I conceive that in that remarkable discourse, in which He recommends us to feed upon his body, He intended to teach us something more striking and sublime; namely, that we are quickened by a real participation of Him, which he designates by the terms eating and drinking, that no person might suppose the life which we receive from Him to consist in simple knowledge. . . . . At the same time, we confess there is no eating but by faith, and it is impossible to imagine any other; but the difference between me and those whose opinion I now oppose is this, . . . . they consider eating to be faith itself, but I apprehend it to be rather a consequence of faith.” Among the moderns Dean Alford makes much the same distinction. “What is this eating and drinking? Clearly, not merely faith: for faith answers to the hand reached forth for the food, — but not the act of eating. Faith is a necessary condition of the act: so that we can hardly say, with Augustine, ‘Crede, et manducasti;’ but ‘crede et manucabis.’”664664Greek Testament, John vi. 53; edit. London, 1859, vol. i. p. 723. Eating, he says, implies the act of appropriation. 645This is a distinction without a difference. It concerns simply the extent given to the meaning of the word faith. If faith be merely knowledge and assent, then there is a difference between believing and eating, or appropriating. But if by faith we not merely receive as with the hand, but appropriate and apply what is thus received, the difference between believing and eating disappears. When we are commanded to eat the flesh and to drink the blood of Christ, we are commanded to act; and the act required is an act of faith; the act of receiving and appropriating Christ and the benefits of his redemption. The language of Calvin above quoted is to be taken in connection with his explicit declaration already cited, that the Christian receives and feeds on Christ whenever he truly believes; and with the fact that he admits that the believer eats Christ as fully elsewhere as in the Lord’s Supper; and especially with the fact that the saints under the old dispensation ate of the same spiritual meat and drank of the same spiritual drink as fully and as really as believers now do. The Reformed understood that “eating and drinking,” as used in John vi. 51-58, must be understood “figuratively of the spiritual appropriation of Christ by faith,” because our Lord makes such eating and drinking essential to salvation. On this point the Lutherans are of one mind with the Reformed, in so far as their leading theologians understand all that is said in John vi. of eating his flesh and drinking his blood, of the appropriation of his sacrificial death by the act of believing.

What is received in the Lord’s Supper.

The question, What is the act we perform in eating? and, What it is we eat? are distinct, though the answer to one may determine the answer to the other. If the manducation is not with the mouth but by faith, then the thing eaten must be spiritual and not material. Nevertheless our Lord says we must eat his flesh and drink his blood; and all the Reformed Confessions teach that we receive the body and blood of Christ, although not “after a corporal or carnal manner.” In answer to the question, What is here meant by the body and blood of Christ? the almost uniform answer is, (1.) That it is not the matter of his body and blood. (2.) That it is not his body and blood as such. (3.) That it is not his glorified body now in heaven. His body and blood were received by the disciples before his death, and consequently before his ascension and glorification, and it is not disputed that believers since the apostolic age receive what the Apostles received 646when this sacrament was instituted. (4.) That we receive Christ’s body as broken, or as given unto death for us. and his blood as shed for the remission of sins. (5.) That therefore to receive the body and blood as offered in the sacrament, or in the Word, is to receive and appropriate the sacrificial virtue or effects of the death of Christ on the cross. And, (6.) That as Christ and his benefits are inseparable, they who receive the one receive also the other; as by faith through the indwelling of the Holy Ghost we are united to Christ so as to be members of that body of which He is the head and the perpetual source of life. By faith, therefore, we become one with Him, so as to be flesh of his flesh, in a sense analogous to that in which husband and wife are no more two, but one flesh.

Although Calvin admitted all these propositions, he nevertheless, at times, teaches that what the believers receive is specifically an influence from the glorified body of Christ in heaven. Thus he says: “We admit without circumlocution that the flesh of Christ is life-giving, not only because in it once our salvation was obtained, but because now, we being united to Him in sacred union, it breathes life into us. Or, to use fewer words, because, being by the secret power of the Spirit engrafted into the body of Christ, we have a common life with Him; for from the hidden fountain of divinity, life is, in a wonderful manner, infused into the flesh of Christ, and thence flows out to us.”665665See his Consensionis Capitum Expositio, Niemeyer, pp. 213, 214. Again, “Christ is absent from us as to the body; by his Spirit, however, dwelling in us, He so lifts us to Himself in heaven, that he transfuses the life-giving vigour of his life into us, as we grow by the vital heat of the sun.”666666Ibid. p. 215. If by the word “flesh,” in this connection, we understand the humanity of Christ, there is a sense in which the passages above quoted may be understood in accordance with the common doctrine not only of the Reformed, but of all Christian churches. When Paul said “I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me,” he no doubt meant by Christ the incarnate Son of God clothed in our nature at the right hand of God. It is a divine-human Saviour, He who is both God and man in two distinct natures and one person forever, in whom and by whom we live, and who dwells in us by his Spirit. Unless we are willing to accuse the illustrious Calvin of inconsistency, his meaning must be made to harmonize with what he says elsewhere. In the “Consensus Tigurinus,” he says: “Christus quatenus homo est, non alibi quam in cœlo, nec aliter quam mente et fidei intelligentia quæ 647rendus est;” and again, “Quod autem carnis suæ esu et sanguinis potione, quæ hic figurantur, Christus animas nostras per fidem Spiritus sancti virtute pascit, id non perinde accipiendum, quasi fiat aliqua substantiæ vel commixtio vel transfusio: sed quoniam ex carne semel in sacrificium oblata et sanguine in expiationem effuso vitam hauriamus.667667Art. xxi. xxiii.; Niemeyer, p. 196. It is here expressly said that what the believer receives in the Lord’s Supper is not any supernatural influence flowing from the glorified body of Christ in heaven; but the benefits of his death as an expiation for sin. It is to be remarked that Calvin uses the very words of the twenty-third article of the Consensus in explanation of what he meant by saying, “ex abscondito Deitatis fonte in Christi carnem mirabiliter infusa est vita, ut inde ad nos flueret.668668Niemeyer, p. 214. To preserve the consistency of the great Reformer his language must be interpreted so as to harmonize with the two crucial facts for which he so earnestly contends; first, that believers receive elsewhere by faith all they receive at the Lord’s table; and secondly, that we Christians receive nothing above or beyond that which was received by the saints under the Old Testament, before the glorified body of Christ had any existence. It is also to be remembered that Calvin avowed his agreement with Zwingle and Oecolampadius on all questions relating to the sacraments.669669See page 631.

The Efficacy of the Lord’s Supper as a Sacrament.

This includes two points, first, The effect produced; and second, The agency or influence to which the effect is due. In the Lord’s Supper we are said to receive Christ and the benefits of his redemption to our spiritual nourishment and growth in grace. As our natural food imparts life and strength to our bodies, so this sacrament is one of the divinely appointed means to strengthen the principle of life in the soul of the believer, and to confirm his faith in the promises of the gospel. The Apostle teaches that by partaking of the bread and wine, the symbols of Christ’s body and blood given for us, we are thereby united to him as our head, and with all our fellow believers as joint members of his mystical body. The union between the head and members of the human body and between the vine and its branches, is a continuous union. There is a constant flow of vital influence from the one to the other. In like manner the union between Christ and his people is continuous. He constantly imparts his life-giving influence to all united to Him by faith and by the indwelling of his Spirit. 648It has often been stated already that the Bible teaches, (1.) That Christ and his people are one; that this union is not merely a union of congeniality or feeling, but such as constitutes them one in a real but mysterious sense. (2.) That the bond of union is faith and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, who dwelling in Him without measure is communicated from Him to all his members. As God is everywhere present and everywhere operative by his Spirit, so Christ dwells in our hearts by faith through or in virtue of the indwelling of the Holy Ghost. (3.) He is thus our life. He works in us to will and to do according to his own good pleasure. As God works everywhere throughout nature continually controlling all natural causes each after its kind, to produce the effects intended; so does Christ work in us according to the laws of our nature in the production of everything that is good; so that it is from Him that “all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works do proceed.” It is not, therefore, we that live, but Christ that liveth in us.

As our Lord in addressing the Apostles and through them all his disciples, said this is my body and blood given for you, He says the same in the most impressive manner in this ordinance to every believing communicant: “This is my body broken for you.” “This is my blood shed for you.” These words when received by faith fill the heart with joy, confidence, gratitude, love, and devotion; so that such a believer rises from the Lord’s table refreshed by the infusion of a new life.

The efficacy of this sacrament, according to the Reformed doctrine, is not to be referred to any virtue in the ordinance itself, whether in its elements or actions; much less to any virtue in the administrator; nor to the mere power of the truths which it signifies; nor to the inherent, divine power in the word or promise by which it is attended; nor to the real presence of the material body and blood of Christ (i.e., of the body born of the Virgin), whether by the way of transubstantiation, consubstantiation, or impanation;670670One of the numerous theories concerning the eucharist prevalent more or less in the early church, was that which is known in the history of doctrine as impanation. As in man the soul is united to the body imparting to it life and efficiency without itself becoming material, or rendering the body spirit; and as the Eternal Logos became flesh by taking to Himself a true body and a reasonable soul, without receiving anything human into his divine nature, or imparting divinity to his humanity; so the same Logos becomes united with the consecrated bread, without any substantial change in it or in Him. His relation to the bread, however, is analogous to that of the soul to the body in man and of the Logos to humanity in the person of our Lord. As the assumption of our nature by the Son of God is expressed by the word “incarnation,” so his assumption and union with the bread in the Lord’s Supper is called “impanation.” The only distinguished modern theologian (as far as known to the writer), who advocated this doctrine, was the late Dr. August Hahn of the University if Leipzig. “Bread and wine,” he says, “in the Lord’s Supper, are what the human body formerly was when the Son of God (the divine Logos) was here on earth; that is, the means of his perceptible presence and efficiency on those who receive Him in a penitent and believing heart; they are therefore = the body and blood of Christ; since in them the Lord, who is the Light, the Life, and the Resurrection, communicates Himself actually, truly, and essentially (wirklich und wahrhaftig und wesentlich) to his people, and makes this bread, the bread of eternal life.” See Lehrbuch des Christlichen Glaubens, von August Hahn, Leipzig, 1828, p. 602. On page 603, he says, Luther was right in rejecting the doctrine of transubstantiation, and “he would have been right had he taught that with in, with, and under the bread and wine in the Holy Supper, we actually and essentially or really (wirklich und wesentlich) receive the present person of Jesus Christ or the Logos, and hence this bread and this wine are the body and blood of Christ, wherein He now communicates the bread which is from heaven to believers, as formerly when He came in literal flesh and blood He gave Himself to them. But Luther erred when he asserted that with, in, and under the bread and wine, the real body which suffered for us, and the blood of Jesus Christ which was shed for us, are communicated, because according to the Scriptures (1 Cor. xv. 45-50), the spiritual, heavenly body of our glorified Lord, is not flesh and blood; and a body, whatever be its nature, cannot as body be ubiquitous.” nor to a supernatural life-giving influence emanating 649from the glorified body of Christ in heaven, nor to the communication of the theanthropic nature of Christ, but only to “the blessing of Christ, and the working of his Spirit in them that receive” the sacrament of his body and blood.

By some of the early fathers the resurrection of the body was regarded as a specific effect of the Lord’s Supper, which was therefore called, as by Ignatius,671671Ad Ephesios, XX.; Epistles, edit. Oxford, 1709, p. 19. φάρμακον αθανασίας, ἀντίδοτος τοῦ ἀποθανεῖν. This idea was connected in their minds with the doctrine of impanation referred to in the foregoing foot-note. Of this there is little trace in the theology of either the Reformed or Lutheran Church. In the Scotch Confession of 1560, it is indeed said: “As the eternal deity gives life and immortality to the flesh of Christ, so also his flesh and blood, when eaten and drunk by us, confer on us the same prerogatives;” and in the confession adopted by the Lutherans in 1592 it is said, the body of Christ is received by the mouth “in pignus et certificationem resurrectionis nostrorum corporum ex mortuis;” on which Philippi remarks that those words do not imply any “immediate corporeal operation or any implanting in us of a germ of a resurrection body. They only teach that this sacrament is a pledge of our resurrection; and as this idea is introduced only in one place in the acknowledged standards of the Church, and there only incidentally, it is to be considered as a subordinate matter. The main point is the pledge of the pardon of sin and of eternal life which includes an assurance of the resurrection of the body.”672672Kirchliche Glaubenslehre, von D. Fr. Ad. Philippi, ordentlichem Professor der Theologie zu Rostock, Gütersloh, 1871, vol. v. p. 266.

According to the standards of the Reformed Church, therefore: 650The Lord’s Supper is a holy ordinance instituted by Christ; as a memorial of his death, wherein, under the symbols of bread and wine, his body as broken and his blood as shed for the remission of sins, are signified, and, by the power of the Holy Ghost, sealed and applied to believers; whereby their union with Christ and their mutual fellowship are set forth and confirmed, their faith strengthened, and their souls nourished unto eternal life.

Christ is really present to his people in this sacrament, not bodily, but in spirit; not in the sense of local nearness, but of efficacious operation. They receive Him, not with the mouth but by faith; they receive his flesh and blood, not as flesh, not as material particles, not its human life, not the supernatural influence of his glorified body in heaven; but his body as broken and his blood as shed. The union thus signified and effected is not a corporeal union, not a mixture of substances, but a spiritual and mystical union due to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The efficacy of this sacrament, as a means of grace, is not in the signs, nor in the service, nor in the minister, nor in the word, but in the attending influence of the Holy Ghost.

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