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That the present Benefits of the Eucharist
are GRACE and PARDON, is a Conclusion that must follow from admitting that the Sixth Chapter of St. John relates to it :a dditional Reasons for thinking that the Expressions of this Chapter, already mentioned, mean much more than DOCTRINE and PRECEPTS.
Ours is a far different task from that of our predecessors. We have not to combat with the errors of Popery: we have not to display the absurdity of transubstantiation, consubstantiation, impanation, and concomitancy; scholastic terms and ideas, which, under the direction of politicians, were called in to aid and support the errors of the prevailing theology. We haye to contend with those who, so far from mạintaining that there įs any thing of corporeal presence and divinity in the Sacrament, seem inclined to insinuate that there is nothing at all in it.
And here it is impossible not to obvsere, as we proceed, the wonderful propensity of the human mind to extremes, strikingly exhibited in the present case. It is but a short time ago, when almost the whole Christian world professed to believe that the bread and wine of the Sacrament was converted into the real body and blood of our Saviour; and now Divines of high repute endeavour to teach the people, that the whole rite has no significancy but as a memorial, and that it is attended with nó' peculiar benefits to the receiver of the bread and wine, but such as may attend every other act of obedience. - Our Church, indeed, teaches that our souls receive strength and refreshment from a worthy participation of the Eucharist; great effects, and most devoutly to be sought for by all who feel the imbecility and wretchedness of unassisted human nature; and our Church' is justified in this doctrine, by many passages in Scripture, but more particularly by those already mentioned, in the sixth chapter of St. John's Gospel. But the degraders of the Sacrament either omit these passages entirely in their consideration of the subject, or pretend to prove that they mean no more than the doctrines and precepts of the Christian Religion in general. Flesh and blood, according to them, are synonymous with theological tenets and moral maxims : and the emblematical Feast on the sacrifice of Christ, the victim offered for us, is no more than the receiving of his Gospel, and believing the history of his life and death narrated by the four Evangelists, together with the Epistles of the Apostles, who are said by some of the degraders, more adventurous than others, not always to reason conclusively, but to talk downright nonsense. ;
It is true, indeed, that the very remarkable expressions of the chapter in question have been the subject of much dispute among our forefathers; and it must not be concealed that many of them denied their sacramental construction *; but it is easy, on a candid retrospect of the controversies which agitated the Christian world, to see the principal reasons for the denial. The Roman Catholics denied, in some instances, their application to the Eucharist, because they feared lest it might render it necessary to give the cup as well as the bread to the laity. The Protestants, on the other hand, were apprehensive that the Roman Catholics might take advantage of the declaration “ my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood “is drink indeed,” to derive countenance to the doctrine of transubstantiation. * Bp. Hoadley in explaining our Saviour's discourse, in the sixth chapter of St. John, says, that eating his flesh, and drinking his blood, was only a high figurative representation to the Jews, of their duty and obligations to receive into their hearts and digest his whole doctrine.” But is it to be conceived, that expressions so singular should be adopted for such a purpose ? Unless some parallel expression can be found in antient authors, what can prove that the reception of a teacher's doctrine can be described, as eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the TEACHER? Does not common sense suggest that expressions so singular should be interpreted by similar expressions, if any occur in any other part of the Evangelical or Apos. tolical writings? And, as similar, or rather the same expressions actually do occur, in St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke, and St. Paul, which are universally allowed to mean the Sacrament, ought not these, of the sixth chapter of St. John, in fair construction, to be admitted to mean the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, thus. announced in a predictive intiination.
* Panem de cælo descendentem comedere non possunt; sed obstupescunt Dentes eorum, non ciborum austeritate, sed Vitio Dentium.HIERONYMUS. "
Both these causes of misapprehension operating but little at present, a careful and unprejudiced examiner will see reason to conclude without doubt, that the passages of this chapter refer to the Eucharist, afterwards more expressly instituted ; and that our Saviour intended (by words intelligible enough after his ascension) to instruct his hearers in the BENEFITS of that mysterious rite.
The opponents contend, that the phrases, eating our Saviour's flesh and drinking his blood, mean no more than believing his doctrine or receiving his instructions.