The New Zealand Evangelist
Notices Of Books
Notices Of Books.
Enchiridion against Articles No. 15, 17, 18, &c., of the New Zealand Evangelist, on the Most Holy Eucharist, compiled by the Rev. J. J. P. O'Reily, Catholic Pastor of the Catholic Faithful, Port Nicholson.
It is said of the celebrated Dr. Samuel Johnson, that he always liked when his controversial writings drew forth spirited replies,—the more elaborate the better. He was thus assured that his arguments had been felt, and that his statements had been made to tell. If the opinion of this profound philosopher is correct, we have good grounds for satisfaction; we have clear evidence that our statements have been telling in some quarters; witness this Enchiridion—this manual of 62 goodly pages, astounding the simple with its title of high-sounding Greek. It is still more pleasing to think that this effect has been produced by the innate force of the truths we have page 385 exhibited. We possess extremely little of the faculty which Milton ascribes to Belial, of making “the worse appear the better reason;” our opponent himself being witness of “the dull and languid manner in which our objections” to his dogma “are set forth;” but truth is powerful in itself and will prevail.
This Hand-book from the garden of the Church is plausibly written. From the high character that the writer hears for amiability, kindness, self-denial, charity, and devotedness to his official duties; from the language of mystic piety in which the arguments are clothed, and the tone of earnestness in which they are set forth, the book is calculated to impose upon the unsuspecting. They are in danger of looking at the man—amiable but evidently deceived, rather than at the system,—whose history we need not characterise; and of thus confounding the one with the other. If the writer, is utterly indifferent to order and arrangement; if he digresses from his subject again and again, and returns from his digresions, only to digress still further; he has at least a great aptness for throwing an air of mystery over his subject, for perplexing instead of enlightening, for causing doubt and uncertainty, and producing that state of mind so favourable for bowing to the Church's or the priest's authority. He has a great facility for bringing together the true and the false in doctrine, in such a way as to leave the impression upon his readers that we are opposed to the one as much as to the other; and for drawing away attention from the main question at issue to points of no essential importance. If he is not very apt in his quotations from Scripture, nor very just and sound in his exposition of the sacred oracles, he is at least mighty in the Fathers, and formidable with the authority of a doubtful tradition.
In six or eight pages we cannot be expected to reply to every thing contained in sixty, nor would our readers thank us for touching on more than a few leading points; it would appear to them a work page 386 of supererogation, and be adding nothing to the stock of our merits.
* See Horne's Introduction, vol. ii, p. p. 30–41.
The verb to be may occur, as Dr. Wiseman asserts, 5,500 times in the Vulgate, or Latin translation; it occurs, possibly, as often in any English translation; 5,000 of these may be in the substantive form, requiring to be literally understood; but that never proves that in the remaining pages it is not figurative. It never proves that when Christ says I am the true vine, I am the door, he was literally a piece of wood; or when he said the seven stars are the seven angels, the seven candlesticks are the seven churches, that the language must be explained literally. These 5000 examples of the substantive meaning of the verb to be do not prove that the remaining 500 must be understood in the same sense, And with the decies repetita placebit, the “ten times repeated” of Horace hanging over our head, we must again assert, that while the bread and wine retain all the qualities of bread and wine, and while there are so many examples of the figurative use of the verb to be in Scripture, we must believe on the evidence of our senses, that the bread remains unchanged, and in analogy with numerous similar passages, that the figurative is the true interpretation of the expression “This is my body.”
Our readers are by this time aware that there are only two passages, strictly speaking, on which the Romanists rest this dogma of transubstantiation, viz., in John vi. “The bread that I will give is my flesh,” &c.; “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you,” &c.; and the words of the institution of the Eucharist, “This is my body,” &c., recorded by three of the Evangelists and Paul.
With respect to John vi., Mr. O'Reily may make himself witty about our “eating doctrines.” It is clear however that “eating the flesh” of Christ is essential to eternal life; but certainly the Eucharist is not essential to salvation. Those who eat and drink unworthily in the Eucharist eat and drink judgment; page 388 but all who eat this flesh, and drink this blood of Christ live for ever. Eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Christ in this sense are quite different in their certain effects, from the doing of the same thing in the Lord's Supper. Besides, it is a canon of interpretation as old as Augustine, that if Scripture appear to command a heinous sin, it must not be understood literally; this passage literally commands cannibalism, and certainly in New Zealand that crime is not to be supported from Scripture. To correct this carnal interpretation he says, “It is the spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing,” and to shew that it was not his body and blood they were to eat literally, Christ refers to his future ascension to heaven. His body was not to be with them at all. “What and if ye shall see the son of man ascend up where he was before.” “Coming” to Christ is eating him; “believing him”, is drinking his blood.
Another principle of interpretation is, that that sense put upon scripture which involves an absurdity, impossibility, or blasphemy—must be wrong. This transubstantiation does. The eye is not more certain that the words. “This is my body” stand in the bible, than that the bread and wine remain unchanged in the sacrament, and the other senses corroborate the same truth. To have seen, and handled, and tasted is one of the strongest proofs in nature. When we press our opponents with the impossibility of Christ's body being in two, or in twenty, or in ten thousand places at once, they refer as to the power of God, and bring in God working daily miracles to remove the difficulties of their false interpretation. According to the Fathers “the omnipotence of God is the sanctuary of heretics.” That interpretation which needs a miracle to make it good must certainly be false; much more a dogma, which would have required thousands of daily miracles for 1800 years. The interpretation is blasphemous; a poor sinful man by uttering Hoc est corpus meum, can transform a piece of bread into the body and blood, soul and divinity of the Son of God, which he is page 389 then bound to worship as his Creator and Redeemer. The blasphemous declaration of a Bohemian priest, against whom John Huss wrote a book, is a legitimate conclusion from this doctrine. He affirmed that “before the priest said his first mass, he was but the son of God, but afterwards he was the father of God, and the Creator of his body! “Pope Urban II. in a council held at Rome 1097, advanced the clergy above Kings, because “their hands create God their creator!“*
“This doctrine,” says Jeremy Taylor, “entered upon the world in the most barbarous, most ignorant, and most vicious ages of the world. It began in the ninth age; and in the tenth it was suckled by little arguments and imperfect pleading; in the eleventh it grew up with illusions and pretence of miracles; and was christened and confirmed in the twelfth, and afterwards lived upon blood and craft and violence.” “I found infinite reason” he says, “to reprove the boldness of those men who will be found to think men damued if they will not speak nonsense, and disbelieve their eyes and ears, and defy their own reason and recede from antiquity” and make a prodigious error necessary to salvation. It is a doctrine that would not be retained for a moment were it not a priest-exalting error. It invests the priesthood with a power which at once “serves the design of ambition and fills the belly of covetousness.”
It is only on the Protestant principle and practice that the real presence of Christ in the sacrament is enjoyed, and the blessings consequent upon its proper celebration are secured. The Romanists hold that Christ's body and blood are present naturally and properly, in the elements; the Protestants hold that they are present figuratively and sacramentally. By Christ's body being present spiritually they mean after the manner of a spirit. We mean that he is present to our spirits by his blessing and grace. They say that in the sacrament the body and blood are taken by the mouth. We hold that Christ as a complete Saviour is perceived, and apprehended or taken hold of by faith, in the case of every true believer, as certainly as the symbols—the bread and wine—are perceived by the senses and received by the mouth, and it is only in the use of all the divinely appointed symbols—the wine as well as the bread—that the sacrament is rightly dispensed, Christ's death shown forth, and the promised blessings obtained and secured.page 391
We can easily perceive one obvious necessity for the church of Rome assuming to herself the authoritative interpretation of the Word of God, and proclaiming the incompetence of the people to understand the scriptures; because no unsophisticated mind would ever discover such senses in Scripture as the priesthood, to serve their self-interest, have set forth; and as little would the people receive such interpretations, unless the exercise of their own judgment was suppressed, by deference to a supposed divine authority. It is obviously on this account that the “precious writings of the Fathers” are said to teach that “Heretics,” that is Protestants, “have no right to cite the Bible which is the patrimony of the Church!” Do they not dread the woe pronounced upon those who took away the Key of Knowledge?
The Romanists assert that if men are left to interpret scripture for themselves there will be as many interpretations as there are heads. If this principle were true, one would be led to suppose, that there is no such thing as certainty in the laws of mind— that while the laws that govern matter are marked by uniformity and universality in their operation, the principles or laws that regulate our mental and moral nature, are alone capricious as the wind,—that when the eighth commandment says, Thou shalt not steal, one half of mankind would not understand its meaning, till the authorised priesthood made known to them in simpler language the true sense. As if He who made man could not reveal his will in language that man could understand without the aid of a human interpreter. Is it not a singular coincidence that for three long Centuries, drifting along this trackless ocean of uncertainties, without the compass or rudder of the infallible Church, Protestants have always agreed in one thing, viz, in rejecting transubstantiation.
The office of the ministers of religion is not to pronounce ex cathedra, authoritatively, upon the meaning of the word of God; but having diligently and prayerfully studied the Scriptures for themselves, page 392 they are to exhibit the doctrines revealed, and the duties enjoined by God himself, in the clearest, fullest, and most appropriate forms; leaving the Spirit of God to give such effect to their instructions, as in his infinite mercy and love he may see meet. The guilt of rejecting the teaching lies in overlooking or rejecting the evidence that it is the truth and will of God. If the preacher show by his knowledge, character, and clear calling to the office of a christian teacher that he is commissioned of God, the rejection of his scriptural message will be so far aggravated. But if his only credential is, “lo! there is Christ” in the host, or “lo! there is Christ” in the pix, in the form of a consecrated wafer, the divine command is, “go ye not forth to meet him.”
The Bereans are commended for trying even the Apostle's preaching by the scriptures, although he came amongst them with all the credentials of apostleship. Reader, try all teaching by the same standard. “To the law and to the testimony, if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”