Sivut kuvina

had one thing in his mind, when speaking of himself as the true bread from heaven, and a totally different thing, when speaking of his own flesh and blood as the life of the world.

It may be true that the latter mode of speech indicates more clearly, and more pointedly than the former, the precise manner by which, in his own person, Christ was to become the giver of life. Our Lord might, undoubtedly, have spoken of himself as the Bread of Life, had he come upon earth merely to speak the words of life; to give the precepts and commandments which might communicate some living virtue to a degenerate and perishing world. For, pure and righteous doctrine, such as the world had never heard, such as might breathe a soul amid the lifeless ruins of humanity, might well be called the bread of life, the support and health of the spiritual man. The words of wisdom were sometimes spoken of as spiritual nourishment, even by the teachers of Israel, before our Lord appeared. But it might fitly be reserved for the Supreme Incarnate Wisdom to affirm that He himself was the only life and sustenance of man's immortal spirit; that in Him alone dwelt all that fulness and sufficiency, by which the necessitous race of Adam could be preserved from decay and sickness unto death.

Jesus, then, might be the bread of life, as having exclusive power and authority to proclaim the truth, which alone can give life to the souls of ignorant and sinful men. But this was not all. He well knew, when he spake thus of himself, that he came to do an office infinitely higher than that of an instructor or a guide. He came not merely to strengthen i he souls of men, as they are strengthened by the words of a preacher entrusted with a message from heaven. He came, not only to enlighten and to purify, but to save. And this he came to do by offering his own person as a sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world. And, thus much he prophetically—and, doubtless, with something of prophetic obscurity--declared to his hearers, by affirming that the vital nourishment, which he came to provide, was no other than bis own flesh and his own blood, which he gave for the life of the world. We, at this day, know that these words had their accomplishment when He became obedient unto death ; when He gave his body to be broken, and his blood to be shed; and all, that man might be restored to a hope full of immortality. So that every living man who, by a lively faith, is enabled to make these blessings and benefits his own, may be said to do no less than feed upon the flesh of Christ, and drink his blood; seeing that there is a virtue in his flesh and blood, thus given for us, which, by a secret and mysterious communication of itself, can nourish and preserve our bodies and our souls unto everlasting life.

But here it will, perhaps, be asked, - how could it be expected that these awful phrases should be intelligible, or even tolerable, to the hearers ? As the Sole Dispenser of saving truth, Jesus might describe himself as the bread by which man was to live, without inflicting insufserable violence on the minds and feelings of the audience. But, what meaning were they to attach to the assertion, that his own flesh and his own blood formed the only sustenance which could preserve them from perishing? And, in answer to this question, we must, for ourselves, frankly confess, that we are quite unable to understand how so fearful an averment could fail to bewilder and amaze the bystanders. Can any man now living be certain that his own emotions might not, more or less, have resembled theirs, on hearing it declared that the person of him who addressed them-yea, his very flesh and blood-must be received and fed upon; and that else they would have in them no element of life: and this, too, without a syllable to explain or qualify the saying, and without a suspicion on their part of the approaching sacrifice, which was to give that saying its significance, and its accomplishment? But then, on the other hand, it must be remembered, that, let their astonishment be what it might, it could never warrant their disdainful and abrupt defection from their Teacher. They might have approached him in the spirit of submissive and reverential inquiry; and, surely, their humility could not have failed of its reward. They would either have obtained the explanation which they sought; or else they would have received a benignant injunction to wait, in faith and patience, for the events which would illustrate this dark saying, and relieve them from their terror and perplexity. But, instead of this, we find that no sooner were the words pronounced, than many of his followers turned from him, and walked with him no more.

But, although it scarcely can be doubted that the discourse of our Lord relates, proleptically, to his cross and passion, it has been gravely doubted whether it has any such proleptic reference to the institution of the Eucharist. Mr. Faber is clearly of opinion that it has not. We, however, are not able to speak quite so confidently. Thus much, indeed, we apprehend may safely be affirmed; namely, that even if the sacrament of the Saviour's body and blood had never been ordained, his body and his blood themselves would still have been unto us the Bread of Life, which cometh down from heaven, that we may eat of it, and live for ever. We surely might have “ fed on him in our hearts, by faith, with thanksgiving,” even though he never had enjoined that bread and wine should be received by us, as symbols and memorials of his body broken and his blood shed out for us. If his body never had been broken, nor his blood poured forth, the sons of men, without exception, would have had no life in them. But, when the bread was actually given, whereby their souls were to be saved from perishing, who can presume to say that its spiritual virtue might not be conveyed into the soul by prayer, and by meditation, and by exercises of thankfulness and faith? The mercy and the power

of God are not tied down to ordinances, and to outward means of grace ; for if they were, there might be many a faithful man who would perish for lack of the bread of life, where ordinances and outward means of grace are not within his reach. We, therefore, can scarcely venture to pronounce that these " hard sayings" of our Lord would have been left without fulfilment, in case he had never said unto the twelve, “Do this in remembrance of me."

So it is, however, that Christ did afterwards say thus unto the twelve. He said of the bread which he broke, and of the cup which he held, that these were his body and his blood, and were ever after to be so received, when he himself should be taken from them. And, therefore, (whatever may be the true interpretation of these words,) it may, to say the least, be reasonably surmised, that this blessed mystery, though not then instituted or ordained, was in the thoughts of our Lord, when, long before, he spake those words at Capernaum, which were an offence to the

Jews, and a stumbling-block to certain of his own disciples. In all his spiritual wrestlings, in all his conflicts with the flesh, in all his efforts to lift up his heart unto the Lord, the Christian is, doubtless, filled with might in the inward man, by the virtue of the precious body and blood of the Lamb of God. But, strength and life are, beyond all question, more abundantly sent into the depths of his spirit, when he kneels at the altar—with faith and repentance towards God, and with charity and good-will towards man-to share in the repast, first instituted in that upper chamber at Jerusalem. Then is it that, most blessedly and most effectually, we eat the flesh of Christ, and drink his blood. Then is it that most truly we are one with Christ, and Christ with us. Then is it that most intimately we dwell in Christ, and Christ in us.

To us, then, the sum of the whole matter appears to be this; the discourse of our Lord is a prediction,-to them who heard it, certainly an obscure prediction-of his own precious sacrifice and blood-shedding on the cross, and of its efficacy in reversing the fatal sentence brought on the human race by the disobedience of their first parents ; a prediction which by no means absolutely needed, for its fulfilment, that the mysteries of the Holy Supper should be afterwards ordained. Nevertheless, the same discourse may likewise be regarded as prophetically pointing to those mysteries which it then was actually his purpose to ordain, as pledges of his love, and for a perpetual remembrance of his death and passion. The sacrifice on the cross is, itself, a substantial fulfilment of his words. The commemoration of that sacrifice, as appointed by the Holy Victim himself, may, not unreasonably, be regarded as a sort of public and perpetual attestation to its fulfilment; and, further, as an act, whereby the blessedness of his promise is, at once, presented to our senses, and powerfully imparted to our souls.

But, to return to Mr. Faber's analysis of our Lord's discourse in the synagogue at Capernaum :-we entirely agree with him that there is one particular, abundantly sufficient, of itself, to show that a line of division drawn through this discourse, at any point of it whatever, is neither more nor less than an arbitrary and capricious fancy. Look at the 32d and three following verses; and there we shall find that, when the Jews had turned upon our Lord with the demand of a sign, and with a triumphant reference to the bread from heaven given to their fathers in the desert, he replied by affirming, that the Bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven and giveth life unto the world; and that he himself is this same bread. And now look onward to the 58th verse, where, after having said, “he that eateth me, even he shall live by me," he concludes the whole with these remarkable words,—"this is that bread that came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.” If the juxta-position of these passages does not satisfy any man, in the full possession, and free exercise, of his faculties, that, whatever may have been the subject of the former of them, the same must also be the subject of the latter, then, we are pretty well persuaded, that all the resources of argument and disquisition would be utterly wasted on the mind of that individual. The office of the intermediate parts of the discourse might be to unfold something of the peculiar sense in which our Lord himself was to be regarded as the only effective spiritual nourishment of man. But, the beginning and the end of the discourse, taken together, appear to us to establish irresistibly the conclusion contended for by Mr. Faber; namely, that the subject contemplated by our Lord was one and the same throughout. The reference, in each, to the cavil of the Jews about the manna—the assertion, in the first part, that the manna was not the true bread from heaven, and the corresponding assertion, in the latter part, that the manna was no preservative against deathand, lastly, the affirmation, in both, of the life-giving virtue of the true bread which came down from heaven,-all conspire, in our poor judgment, to demolish and tear to pieces the hypothesis which separates the discourse into two distinct sections,—whether the line be drawn at the beginning of the 48th verse, or at the beginning of the 51st. Dr. Wiseman, indeed, has recourse to a most perversely ingenious expedient, by which he hopes to make good this separation. He remarks, that, in his first division, the bread is alluded to without the slightest intimation that it was to be eaten ; whereas, in the latter division, the process of eating is repeatedly and distinctly adverted to! Now, with regard to this extremely subtle and refined distinction, we can only say, that our faculties must be constructed upon some principle totally different from that which pervades and regulates the mind of Dr. Wiseman. To him, this remark appears to furnish an answer to all the objections advanced against his scheme. To us, it seems like the last efforts of desperation, when it catches at straws, or twigs, or even at shadows. Bread is usually given for no other purpose but that of being eaten. The notion of its consumption, whether expressed or not, is implied in the notion of the gift itself. Let us suppose a discourse to be delivered, in which truth, or wisdom, or any intellectual, or moral, or spiritual gift is represented under the similitude of a garment; it would, surely, be but an odd sort of hermeneutic craft, which should split the discourse into two parts, each with its distinct meaning, purely because, in one part, the garment was mentioned, simply, and without any intimation that it was ever to be put on; while the other part insisted strongly on the necessity of wearing it. But, this proceeding would not be at all more odd than that of Dr. Wiseman, when he contends that bread must mean one thing when it is spoken of as something to be eaten, and quite another thing when all mention of eating it is omitted !

But, here we must close; heartily commending Mr. Faber's volume to the respectful attention of our readers; especially as he intimates that it may, probably, be his last offering on the altar of sacred literature. For ourselves, we must avow that we are well nigh weary of this controversy. It has been going on for three long centuries; and Heaven only knows how many centuries more may elapse before it comes to an end. At this moment, it does not appear to be at all nearer to its termination, than it ever has been : while yet it is impossible to speak or write about it, without a painful and oppressive consciousness, that, although not ended, it has been, long ago, exhausted. The most ingenious and untiring disputant may be tolerably sure that the felicitous and irrefragable things which he may have to produce upon the question, have, for the most part, been stolen from him, over and over again, by his polemical predecessors! The task resembles that of “threshing out straw, that has been threshed a hundred times

before." There is scarcely a hope that the most gigantic efforts of the threshers will beat out, at the very utmost, more than the smallest possible handful of fresh grain. So that, although the threshing will, nevertheless, continue, perhaps with unabated vigour, we cannot greatly envy the lot and vocation of the labourers ; however we may admire the spirit and the bottom with which they persevere, with little else than sweat and dust for their probable reward. As for tearing out this prodigy of misbelief from the heart of Rome, the adventure appears to us about as hopeful as that of tearing out from her the very heart itself. Saint-worship, and image-worship, and the adoration of the Virgin, and various other matters, she occasionally condescends to explain away, in her shuffling and shisty manner. But, with regard to Transubstantiation, there is neither shuffling nor shifting. The dogma is asserted, in all the length, and breadth, and mass, of its absurdity. To lower or reduce it, would be to shear off certain of the locks in which her strength resides. To part with it, would be to part with her very life. The Reformed-Catholic may, indeed, deliver his own soul, by protesting against it," while he can vent clamour from his throat.” But of this, we think, he may be well assured, that, when the pyramids shall "slope their heads to their foundations,” before the strong wind from the wilderness, then, and hardly till then, may this monumental error fall before the breath of human rhetoric or argument.

Much, however, as we despair of seeing any deep impression made on the immutable theology of Rome, we question not the duty of a per. petual reclamation against her errors. This is a work which, with much result or little, must, we presume, from time to time, be done : lest she should boast that her adversaries had been silenced and confounded. Be, therefore, all reverence and honour rendered unto them that engage in this arduous and toilsome enterprise ; and, among them, to the venerable disputant now before us. His patience of research is to be equalled only by his frank good humour and bonhommie; we might, perhaps, add, by his extreme complaisance : for, he has generously declared that, in his estimation, his antagonist, Dr. Wiseman, is, decidedly, the foremost man among the living champions of the Romish church. This is a compliment which we can neither gainsay nor affirm. The foremost man of the Romish church, Dr. Wiseman very possibly may be. But, if so, we cannot say that we consider her present polemical establishment as being in an eminently flourishing or formidable condition.

We finish our brief notice with part of the concluding paragraph of Mr. Faber's volume.

Thus important is the Discourse at Capernaum, both for the establishment of truth, and for the confutation of error.

The impossibility of evidentially receiving the doctrine of Transubstantiation, on the basis of historical testimony, whether scriptural or ecclesiastical, I have, elsewhere, considered at large. Hence, there is no occasion to pursue the matter any further in the present treatise. Well, indeed, may I finally say, that, even in the absence of all other distinct proof, the Discourse at Capernaum, alone,—when its earlier part is interpreted, as Dr. Wiseman and his brethren universally interpret it, (following therein the sense of the early church,) effectually and invincibly, by an inevitable necessity of consequence, demonstrates the falsehood of the modern doctrine of Transubstantiation. Let

« EdellinenJatka »