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na, who, whilst young, was St. John's disciple, instructed also by other Apostles, being familiarly acquainted with many who had seen our Lord upon earth, as Irenæus informs us. This Polycarp had a dispute with Anicetus, Bishop of Rome, respecting the moveable feast of Easter; they nevertheless communicated together at the holy sacrament, and Anicetus, to shew his respect for Polycarp, permitted him to consecrate the elements in his church. In the life of Cyprian we find this expression : “ They there“ fore thought it necessary that penitents " should be animated to sacrifice their lives “ for Christ, by being admitted into his * church; concluding that they could not “ be encouraged to drink of the cup of már6 tyrdom, whilst they were denied the cup 66 of the Lord.” These historical facts bring the account of this sacrament down to the year of our Lord 252. St Gregory, in his
Eucharistical Panegyric, brings it down to the year 265. St. Chrysostom to the fourth century, and warmly adds, “ not to commu“ nicate in these mystical suppers, is hunger “ and death."* St. Augustin brings it down to the fifth Century. I shall pass over the other authorities, and only observe, that it was continued by all the Roman bishops, from Leo the first; and that in England, there was an old law of Canute, passed about the tenth century, which says, “ Let 6 every Christian man prepare himself “ thrice in the year, to the receiving the 5 Lord's body.” Eusebius says, from Hegesippus, that men began gradually to corrupt Christianity, by the introduction of ceremonies for which they had no scriptural authority; and, amongst the rest, they started the monstrous notion of our Saviour's bodily
* Non communicare mysticis his Canis et fames est et mors.
presence in this sacrament, five hundred years after his death, which arose chiefly from the indiscretion of preachers and writers of warm imagination, who, instead of explaining judiciously the lofty figures of Scripture language, heightened and went beyond them, until both it and they had their meaning mistaken most astonishingly; and at length the doctrine of transubstantiation (1300 years ago) was established as a gospel truth, by the pretended authority of the church of Rome. It will be needless, however, to enter into a long argument to refute this opinion ; every unbigoted and sensible person will allow, that our Saviour, at its institution, must have spoken in a figurative sense: the Jews, indeed, chose, as usual, to misunderstand him; “ Can this man give us his flesh “ to eat?” this is impossible; and to prevent any such ideas froin taking place, our church expressly denominates the elements, “ crea
“ tures of bread and wine,” and that we eat the flesh, and drink the blood of Christ, “ spiritually,” or only in a spiritual sense. *
We have now proved, that this sacrament was all along continued after the death of our Saviour; it was also received, not by the priests only, but by the laity, in almost all ages. Of this we may be assured, from the passage of Cyprian quoted above, as also from another of Justin Martyr, written in the year of our Lord 120, which was only fourscore or ninety years after the death of Christ. He informs us, “ That those called 66 deacons, gave to each, and to every one “ present, to partake of the sacramental « bread, and wine and water;" for it is to be observed, that the Ancients sometimes mingled water with the wine, and which in
* Note also, that our Saviour called the contents of the cup, “this fruit of the vine.”—Matt. xxvi. Luke xxii. &c.
deed was not improper, as the contents of the cup were equally a symbol, figure, and representation of the blood of Christ. We also find, that it was continued by one not actually present at the last supper; that its continuance was enjoined the church of Corinth by St. Paul, being comprehended in the directions for its fit participation. It has been also shewn, that it was received by one instructed by St. John; its progress has been traced till it became corrupted by the church of Rome; it is proved, that even in a most unenlightened era of this country, it was held right, that every Christian should communicate thrice in the year; and though the reformation cleared it from the superstitious notion of transubstantiation, it did by no means abate the necessity of its reception, but has left Canute's law in full force, and positively enjoins all Christians to receive this sacrament thrice in the year.