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1 THESS. v. 21.
6 PROVE ALL THINGS.”
I am here to-day to speak of the Doctrine of the Real Presence of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Sacramental Bread and Wine. The special circumstances under which I speak will be set forth in a Preface to this and some succeeding Sermons on the same subject, which I propose to publish.
The course of the argument will be as follows:
I. I shall collect and examine the leading passages of Holy Scripture which speak of, or refer to, the Lord's Supper, and from these I shall show what the Doctrine of the Real Presence is.
II. I shall show from “the Order of the Administration of the Lord's Supper, or Holy Communion," from the Homilies and Articles, and from the Catechism, that the Doctrine, thus gathered out of Holy Scripture, is the Doctrine of the Church of England.
In dealing with the first of these heads of argument, I do not propose to refer to the testimony of the uninspired Fathers of the Church, both because this has already been collected by more learned, and abler, and better hands, and because it is confessed that the stream of authority in support of the Doctrine of the Real Presence during the first fifteen centuries is uniform and uninterrupted. I put aside here the additions made to that Doctrine by Rome from Century IX. to XVI., because, being additions, the fact of their existence does not impeach the correctness of what I have just stated; and it must always be most carefully borne in mind that the controversy between the Church of Rome and the Church of England has not been at all, and is not at all, as to the fact of the Real Presence,for this the Church of England holds quite as closely, more closely indeed, than the Church of Rome,-but as to the manner of the Real Presence. The Church of England maintains, as did the Primitive Church, that there is a Real Spiritual Presence,-not the less Real, because Spiritual. The Church of Rome alike maintains the Real Presence, but has substituted for, or at least has added, a material to the Spiritual character. The Church of England, with the Churches of her Communion, has then had vouchsafed to her, in the latter days, to be, in an especial manner, a keeper and witness of the Doctrine of the Real Presence. For, while the Church of Rome has undertaken, also in the latter days, to give a
material account or explanation of a Great Mystery, the Church of England affirms that such account or explanation cannot be proved from Holy Scripture,* and gives no account or explanation of her own, being content to rest on the words of Holy Scripture as witnessed to by the Church Catholic for many centuries, from the days of the Apostles up to the time when Rome, by addition and omission, overlaid and defaced the Faith.
Again, in dealing with the second head of the argument, I do not propose to refer to the writings of our own Divines, for a reason the same with the first of those above given. It is, moreover, unquestionably true, that, with some exceptions, our own Divines of the last three centuries speak, or at least appear to speak, with an uncertain voice,--at one time affirming, in unmistakeable language, The DocTRINE OF THE REAL PRESENCE, and not shrinking from any test which may be applied to ascertain what is meant by the “Real Presence,” or from any consequences involved in the simple and unhesitating acceptance of the Doctrine ; at another time using words which leave the reader doubtful, or more than doubtful, what their judgment is.
The reason of this has, perhaps, been that they lived—unavoidably it may be-rather in Controversy
— with Rome, than in simple declaration of Primitive Doctrine; rather in negation of the addition to THE Faith made by Rome, than in affirmation of THE
* Article xxviii.
Faith, as delivered in Holy Scripture, and witnessed to by the Church Catholic, as being The SITUM” committed to the keeping of all Churches throughout all time; rather in refutation of the invention of the “Corporal Presence,” than in attestation of the truth of the “ Real Presence." However this may have been, the uncertainty or
, indistinctness of theological statement on the part of many of our Divines in respect of the Doctrine of the Real Presence, has doubtless not been without unfavourable consequences to the Church of England. It has not been the least of these that the discussion, which is really concerned with the manner only of the Real Presence, has been extended to the fact; and because the manner has, from the original fault of the Church of Rome, become unavoidably a subject of controversy, it has been assumed that the fact itself is also, more or less, matter of dispute. But there is a plain distinction to be taken here. The fact we know-we know too that it is of a certain nature. The manner of it we do not know.
Spiritual Presence is as deep a mystery as the “
Corporal Presence” would be: the first being in Scripture, and the last not being in Scripture, both are alike incomprehensible by
But that the manner is incomprehensible, does not make the fact uncertain, or have any real tendency to make it so; nevertheless the discussion about the manner has been allowed insensibly to influence the statement of the fact.
Now it was right and necessary that the purity and integrity of the Primitive Faith, in respect of the Lord's Supper, should be maintained against the later inventions of Rome ; but a vague and indistinct theology-in itself an evil of great extent and magnitude is no necessary result of the controversy, or of the course of events and the general tone of mind induced by the Reformation. Against any conclusion of this nature the true son of the Church of England will enter his emphatic protest. Perhaps it may be sufficient to say, without detracting from the praise and honour due to great and good men, that a blessing so vast as the Reformation could not be unmixed with some considerable evil; or at least with those great trials of faith out of which many men bring evil, and some men good. And the same remark will apply to the instruments employed in the cause of the Reformation :-e.g., theological controversy has been, and will doubtless be again, a means of preserving among men THE TRUTH of God. So far then it is a blessing : on the other hand it has been attended, and doubtless will be again, with two common consequences, neither of them necessary, and both of them evil. 1. Bitterness of dispute, tending to, and where there is room for it, ending in, persecution ; and 2, that overstrained and short-sighted method of dealing with an opponent, which in attempting to overthrow his position, loses sight of, betrays, or compromises our
If to expose Romish error had been all that