Rev. A. M. S.—
Dear Sir: I still have on hand your two last letters which I had no thought of neglecting so long; but I was obliged to make a lengthy journey, and it was followed by prolonged sickness from which I did not fully recover for some months. Before renewing our correspondence I also wished to familiarize myself more fully with Roman Catholic teaching and history. To this end I have read largely on both sides: Newman and Chiniquy; Gibbon and Littledale; the "Catholic Encyclopedia" and Protestant historians; the Fathers, Pre- and Post-Nicene, and mediaeval and modern theologians, in order to take up with you the questions at issue, absolutely without prejudice, and, I trust, without misrepresentation. I think I have today more kindly feelings toward sincere Roman Catholics than ever before; while you will pardon me if I say that my researches have given me a more intense detestation of many Romish dogmas than I had previously possessed.
In the measure in which Rome confesses the doctrine of Christ, I rejoice. I too am a member of the Catholic Church, the one body of which Christ alone is the Head, exalted at God's right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour. Every true believer in Him upon the face of the earth is, through the Spirit's baptism, a member of that one body. But I feel, more strongly than ever, that the Bishop of Rome and the faction that acknowledges his authority have largely perverted the gospel of Christ; preaching, instead, "another gospel which is not another;" and you know the solemn anathema pronounced by St. Paul against all such. What a fearful thing if the Roman Pontiff, while calling himself the Vicar of Christ and the earthly head of the Church, himself be under that fearful curse (Gal. 1:6-9).
In your last letter you say, and I believe rightly so, that "The Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament is the pivotal point on which all turns." And you ask: "Is then Christ really present in the Blessed Sacrament, as we Catholics believe, or is it only a figure?" And here you confidently say: "I call all History and all Antiquity to testify against you."
I confess that I am greatly surprised at the temerity that could permit you to use such words. Surely you are familiar with the Fathers and history. Nay, I cannot but believe you are better acquainted with the writings of the former than I am; therefore, you must know that the pre-Nicene Fathers nowhere teach the doctrine you allege. It is nothing to me that the Roman Church for centuries has held this doctrine; nor yet that the Eastern Church holds the same; that Luther himself taught something similar; that certain Anglicans, from Henry the Eighth down, largely agree with Rome. These are all comparatively modern. Antiquity, in this case, decides absolutely against them. It is not the writings of fallible men to which I refer as "Antiquity" but to "that which was from the beginning"—the authoritative records of the inspired apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. I will put before you every inspired account of the Lord's Supper found in the Holy Scriptures and ask you to weigh them well, forgetting, so far as you can, every construction put upon them by post-Nicene theologians, and ask yourself if the scriptures quoted can possibly bear the interpretation Rome has given them.
In St. Matthew's Gospel, ch. 26:26-29, we read:
"And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom."
St. Mark's account is very similar, but I quote it entire as found in chap. 14, vers. 22-25.
"And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And He took the cup, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them: and they all drank of it. And He said unto them, This is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many. Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God."
St. Luke's account occupies but two verses, chap. 22:19, 20 (vers. 17 and 18 clearly referring to the passover cup preceding the institution of the Lord's Supper).
"And He took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of Me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is shed for you."
St. John, as you know, furnishes no account of the institution of the Christian feast at all. His sixth chapter we will consider in a later letter.
St. Paul, in 1 Cor. 11:23-29, gives us the only remaining account:
"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: 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. After the same manner also He took the cup, when they had supped, saying, This cup is the new covenant in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till He come. 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. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread, and drink of the cup. For he that eateth and drinketh, eateth and drinketh a judgment to himself, if he discern not the Lord's body."
Turning our attention to the Lord's words in regard to the cup, in St. Matthew He says: "Drink ye all of it; for this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." Was He speaking literally or figuratively? To answer this question I will just ask another: Had His blood been shed at that time or not? His words are, "This is My blood which is shed." It is an offence to our God-given intelligence to insist that the words, "This is My blood," must be taken literally; while it must be acknowledged that in saying, "which is shed," He was speaking anticipatively. Furthermore our Lord calls the liquid in the cup, "the fruit of the vine," which would be absurd if it had been changed into His actual blood. Both these propositions apply with equal force to the quotation from St. Mark's Gospel. And St. Luke makes it even stronger by saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood." Would you say He meant us to understand literally that the cup contained the new covenant, and that when you drink it you are drinking the new covenant?—or is the expression clearly figurative?
If it be clear that our Lord speaks figuratively of the cup, by what rule of logic can we suppose He speaks literally of the bread when He says, "This is My body, which is given for you?" Had His body already been broken, given or sacrificed for us, when He instituted the Supper? If not, He certainly speaks in a figurative way. So St. Paul takes it; and in 1 Cor. 10:16 he writes, "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The loaf which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?" And he immediately adds, "For we are all partakers of that one loaf." So that the one loaf not only sets forth figuratively Christ's literal body, but it also is a figure of His mystical body—the Church.
And so it was held by all the apostolic churches; nor was any other meaning attached to it until the predicted apostasy had begun. The Romish dogma of the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ be-ing present under one species, and the consequent denial of the cup to the laity, is in itself a complete annulment of the dogma of the Real Presence; for in the Lord's Supper, as instituted by Christ, it was of the loaf alone that He said, "This is My body," and it set forth His body as given in death; hence the cup set forth His blood as separated from His body, though that separation had not yet actually taken place. In warning the Corinthians concerning their unholy partaking of the Lord's Supper, St. Paul says: "But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup." It is still the bread, and still the cup. No change has taken place in the elements; faith alone can see in the loaf and the cup a symbol of the crucified Saviour.
And now I ask you, dear sir, in all seriousness, can you see anything in the Roman service of the Mass that answers in any sense to the beauty and simplicity of the Lord's Supper, as set forth in the scriptures we have read? There you have no pompous hierarchy separated from the laity, as though of a superior class, but a company of Christian brethren gathered to partake together of a simple memorial feast, each one eating of the loaf, each one drinking of the cup, in reverent and hallowed remembrance of the Lord in His death.
As to the denial of the cup to "the laity" of communicants, I must write on that later.
Very sincerely yours, _____.