Treatise Against the Error of Transubstantiation.
By Nicolas Ridley, in the time of his imprisonment.
[From Enchiridion. 1825. Spelling modernized. Bible citations converted to all Arabic numerals. Notes moved into places of citation.]
Many things confound the weak memory. A few places well weighed and perceived, lighteneth the understanding. Truth is there to be searched with diligence, where it is certain to be had. Though God do speak the truth by man, yet in man’s word which God hath not revealed to be his, a man may doubt without mistrust in God. Christ is the truth of God, revealed unto man from heaven by God himself, and therefore in his word the truth is to be found, which is to be embraced of all that be his. Christ biddeth us ask and we shall have, Search and we shall find, Knock and it shall be opened unto us. Therefore, O heavenly Father, author and fountain of all truth, the bottomless sea of all true understanding, send down, we beseech thee, thy Holy Spirit into our hearts, and lighten our understanding with the beams of thy heavenly grace. We ask the this, O heavenly Father, not in respect of our desserts, but for thy dear Son our Saviour Jesus Christ’s sake. Thou knowest, O heavenly Father, that the controversy about the Sacrament of the blessed body and blood of thy dear Son our Saviour Christ, hath troubled not of late only thy church of England, France, Germany, and Italy, but also many years ago. The fault is ours no doubt thereof, for we have deserved thy plague. But, O Lord, be merciful and relieve our misery with some light of grace. Thou knowest, O Lord, how this wicked world rolleth up and down, and raileth to and fro, and careth not what thy will is, so it may abide in wealth. If truth have wealth, then who are so stout to defend the truth as they. But if Christ’s cross be laid on truth’s back, then they vanish straight away as wax before the fire. But these are not they, O heavenly Father, for whom I make my most moan, but for those silly ones O Lord, which have a zeal unto thee, those I mean which would and wish to know thy will, and yet are let, hold back, and blinded by the subtleties of Satan and his ministers, the wickedness of this wretched world, and the sinful lusts and affections of the flesh. Alas, Lord, thou knowest that we be of ourselves but flesh, wherein there dwelleth nothing that is good. How then is it possible for man, without thee, O Lord, to understand thy truth in deed. Can the natural man perceive the will of God? O Lord, to whom thou givest a zeal of thee, give them also we beseech the knowledge of thy blessed will. Suffer not them, O Lord, blindly to be led for to strive against thee, as thou didst those (alas) which crucified thine own dear Son. Forgive them, O Lord, for thy dear Son’s sake for they know not what they do. They do think, (alas) O Lord, for lack of knowledge, [John 16.] that they do unto Thee good service, even when against Thee they do most grievously rage. [Acts 7.] Remember, O Lord, we beseech thee for whom thy Martyr Steven did pray, and whom thy holy Apostle did so truly and earnestly love, [Rom. 9.] that for their salvation he wished himself accursed from thee. Remember, O heavenly Father, the prayer of thy dear Son our Saviour Christ [Luke 23.] upon the Cross, when he said unto thee, O father forgive them, they know not what they do. With this forgiveness (O good Lord) give me, I beseech thee, thy grace so here briefly to set forth the sayings of thy Son our Saviour Christ, of his evangelists, and of his apostles, that in this aforesaid controversy the light of thy truth, by the lantern of thy word, may shine unto all them that love thee.
Of the Lord’s last supper do speak especially three of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke. [Matt. 16. Mark 14. Luke 22.] But none more plainly, nor more fully declareth the same, then doth S. Paul, [1 Cor 10, 11.] partly in the 10th, but especially in the 11th chapter of the first Epistle unto the Corinthians.
As Mathew and Mark do agree much in form of words, so doeth likewise Luke and S. Paul. But all four no doubt, as they were all taught in one school, and inspired with one spirit, so taught they all one truth. God grant us to understand it well.
Mathew setteth forth Christ’s Supper thus.
When even was come he sat down with the 12, etc. [Matt. 26.] As they did eat Jesus took bread and gave thanks, brake it, and gave it to the disciples and said, Take, eat, This is my body. And he took the cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them saying: Drink ye all of this. For this is my blood of the new testament, that is shed for many for the remission of sins. I say unto you I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine tree, until that day when I shall drink that new in my Father’s kingdom. And when they had said grace, they went out.
Now Mark speaketh it thus, [Mark 14.] And as they ate, Jesus took bread, blessed and brake, and gave to them, and said, Take eat, This is my body. And he took the cup, gave thanks and gave it them, and they all drank of it, and he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many. Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruits of the vine, until that day that I drink that new in the kingdom of God.
Here Matthew and Mark do agree not only in the matter, but also almost fully in the form of words. Saving that for these words in Matthew “gave thanks”, Mark hath one word “blessed” which signifieth in this place all one. And where Matthew saith “of this fruit of the vine” Mark leaveth out the word “this” and saith, of the fruit of the vine.
Now let us see likewise what agreement in form of words is betwixt St. Luke and St. Paul.
Luke writeth thus. [Luke 22.] He took bread, gave thanks, brake it and gave it to them saying: This is my body which is given for you. This do in remembrance of me. Likewise also when they had supped he took the cup saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood which is shed for you.
St. Paul setteth forth Christ’s supper thus, [1 Cor. 11.] the Lord Jesus the same night in the which he was betrayed, took bread, and gave thanks, and brake, and said, Take, eat, this is my body which is broken for you. This do in remembrance of me. After the same manner he took the cup when supper was done, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood. This do as often as ye drink it, in the remembrance of me: for as oft as ye shall eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye shall show the Lord’s death till he come.
Here where Luke saith “which is given” Paul saith “which is broken”. And as Luke addeth to the words of Paul spoken of the cup “which is shed for you” so likewise Paul addeth to the words of Luke “this do as often as ye shall drink it in the remembrance of me”. The rest that followeth in St. Paul both there and in the tenth chapter, pertaineth to the right use and doctrine of the Lord’s supper.
Thus the Evangelists and St. Paul have rehearsed the words and work of Christ, whereby he did institute and ordain this holy sacrament of his blessed body and blood to be a perpetual remembrance of himself until his coming again; of himself (I say) that is of his body given for us, and of his blood shed for the remission of sins.
But this remembrance thus ordained, as the author thereof is Christ both God and man; so by the almighty power of God, far passeth all kind of remembrances that any other man is able to make, either of himself, or of any other thing, for whosoever receiveth this holy sacrament thus ordained in remembrance of Christ he receiveth therewith either death or life. In this I do trust we all agree. For Saint Paul saith of the godly receivers in the tenth chapter of his first epistle to the Corinthians: The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the partaking or fellowship of Christ’s blood? And also he saith: the bread which we break (and meaneth at the Lord’s table) is it not the partaking or fellowship of Christ’s body? Now the partaking of Christ’s body and of his blood unto the faithful and godly is the partaking or fellowship of life and of immortality. And again of the bad and ungodly receivers, St. Paul plainly saith thus. [1 Cor 11.] He that eateth of this bread and drinketh of this cup unworthily, he is guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. O how necessary then is it, if we love life and would eschew death, to try and examine ourselves before we eat of this bread, and drink of this cup. For else assuredly, he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh his own damnation, because he esteemeth not the Lord’s body, that is he receiveth not the Lord’s body with the honour which is due unto him. And yet by that which was said, that with the receipt of the holy sacrament of the blessed body and blood of Christ, is received of every one good or bad, either life or death; it is not meant that they which are dead before God, hereby may receive life, or the living before God, can herby receive death. For as none is meet to receive natural food, whereby the natural life is nourished, except he be born, and live before; so no man can feed, by the receipt of this holy sacraments, of the food of eternal life, except he be regenerated and born of God before. And on the other side, no man here receiveth damnation, which is not dead before God.
Thus hitherto without all doubt God is my witness (I say so far as I know) there is no controversy among them that be learned in the Church of England, concerning the matter of this sacrament, but all do agree, whether they be new or old (and to speak plain, and as some of them odiously either do call other) whether they be Protestants, Papists, Pharisees or Gospelers.
And as all do agree hitherto in the aforesaid doctrine; so all do detest the wicked heresy of the Messalians which be otherwise called Euchites, which said that the holy sacrament can neither do good nor harm.
All do also condemn these wicked Anabaptists which put no difference between the Lord’s table and the Lord’s meat, and their own.
And because charity would we should if it be possible, and so far as we may with the safeguard of good conscience, and maintenance of the truth agree with all men; for me thinketh it is not charitably done to burthen any man either new or old as they call them, further than such do declare themselves to dissent from that we are persuaded to be the truth, and pretend there to be controversies, whereas none such are indeed, and so to multiply the debate, the which the more it doth increase, the further it doth depart from the unity that the true Christian should desire. And again this is true that the truth neither needeth nor will be maintained with lies. It is also a true common proverb, that it is even sin to lie upon the devil. For though by thy lie thou dost seem never so much to speak against the devil, yet in that thou liest indeed, thou workest the devil’s work, thou doest him service, and takest the devil’s part.
Now, whether then do they godly and charitably, which either by their pen in writing, or by their words in preaching do bear the simple people in hand that these which thus do teach and believe, do go about to make the holy sacrament ordained by Christ himself, a thing no better than a piece of common baked bread, or that do say, that such do make the holy sacrament of the blessed body and blood of Christ, nothing else but a bare sign or figure to represent Christ, none otherwise than the ivy bush doeth represent the wine in a tavern, or as a vile person gorgeously appareled may represent a king, or a prince, in a play? Alas let us leave lying, and speak the truth every man not only to his neighbour, but also of his neighbour, for we are members one of another saith St. Paul. [Eph. 5.] The controversy no doubt which at this day troubleth the church (wherein any mean learned man either old or new doth stand in) is not whether the holy sacrament of the body and blood of Christ is no better than a piece of common bread or not? Or whether the Lord’s table is no more to be regarded than the table of any earthly man or no? Or whether it is but a bare sign or figure of Christ and nothing else or no? For all do grant that St. Paul’s words do require, that the bread which we break is the partaking of the body of Christ. And all also do grant him that eateth of that bread or drinketh of that cup unworthily, to be guilty of the Lord’s death, and to eat and drink his own damnation, because he esteemeth not the Lord’s body. All do grant that these words of St. Paul when he saith [1 Cor. 8.] (if we eat it, avantageth us nothing, or if we eat not, we want nothing thereby) are not spoken of the Lord’s table, but of other common meats.
Thus then hitherto yet we all agree. But now let us see wherein the dissention doth stand. The understanding of that wherein it doth chiefly stand is a step to the true searching forth of the truth. For who can seek well a remedy, if he know not before the disease?
It is neither to be denied nor dissembled, that in the matter of this sacrament there be diverse pointes, wherein men counted to be learned cannot agree. As whether there be any transubstantiation of the bread or no? Any corporal and carnal presence of Christ’s substance or no? Whether adoration only due unto God, is to be done to the sacrament or no? And whether Christ’s body be there offered indeed unto the heavenly Father by the priest or no? Or whether the evil man receive the natural body of Christ or no?
Yet nevertheless as in a man diseased in divers parts, commonly the original cause of such divers diseases which are spread abroad in the body do come from some one chief member, as from the stomach or from the head; even so all those five aforesaid pointes do chiefly hang upon this one question, which is, what is the matter of the sacrament, whether is it the natural substance of bread, or the natural substance of Christ’s own body.
The truth of this question truly tried out and agreed upon, no doubt shall cease the controversy in all the rest. For if it be Christ’s own natural body, born of the virgin, then assuredly, seeing that all learned men in England, (so far as I know) both new and old, grant there to be but one substance, then I say, they must needs grant Transubstantiation, that is a change of the substance of bread into the substance of Christ’s body; then also they must grant the carnal and corporal presence of Christ’s body; then must the sacrament be adored with the honour due unto Christ himself, for the unity of the two natures in one person; then if the priest do offer the sacrament, he doeth offer in deed Christ himself; and finally the murderer, the adulterer, or wicked man, receiving the sacrament, must needs there receive also the natural substance of Christ’s own blessed body, both flesh and blood.
Now on the other side, if after the truth shall be truly tried out, it be found that the substance of bread is the material substance of the sacrament (although for the change of the use, office, and dignity of the bread, the bread indeed sacramentally is changed into the body of Christ, as the water in Baptism is sacramentally changed into the fountain of regeneration, and yet the material substance thereof remaineth all one as was before) if (I say) the true solution of that former question, whereupon all these controversies do hang, be that the natural substance of bread is the material substance in the holy sacrament of Christ’s blessed body; then must it follow of that former proposition confessed of all that be named to be learned (so far as I know) in England, which is that there is but one material substance in the sacrament of the body, and one only likewise in the sacrament of the blood; that there is no such thing in deed, and in truth, as they call transubstantiation (for the substance of bread remaineth still in the sacrament of the body) then also the natural substance of Christ’s human nature which he took of the virgin Mary is in heaven, where it reigneth now in glory, and not here enclosed under the form of bread; then that godly honour which is due unto God the creator, and may not be done to the creature, without idolatry and sacrilege, is not to be done to the holy Sacrament; then also the wicked (I mean) the impenitent murderer, adulterer, or such like do not receive the natural substance of the blessed body and blood of Christ; finally then doth follow that Christ’s blessed body and blood which was once only offered, and shed upon the cross, being available for the sins of all the world, is offered up no more in the natural substance thereof, neither by the priest nor any other thing.
But here before we go any further to search in this matter and to wade (as it were) to search and try out (as we may) the truth thereof in the scripture, it shall do well by the way to know, whether they, that thus make answer and solution to the former principal question, do take away simply and absolutely the presence of Christ’s body and blood, from the sacrament ordained by Christ, and duly ministered according to his holy ordinance and institution of the same.
Undoubtedly they do deny that utterly either so to say or to mean the same. And thereof, if any man do or will doubt, the books which are written already in this matter of them that thus do answer, will make the matter plain.
Now then you will say, what kind of presence do they grant, and what do they deny? Briefly they deny the presence of Christ’s body in the natural substance of his human and assumed nature, and grant the presence of the same by grace. That is, they affirm and say that the substance of the natural body and blood of Christ, is only remaining in heaven, and so shall be until the latter day [Matt. 24.] when he shall come again in glory accompanied with the angels of heaven, to judge both the quick and the dead: And the same natural substance of the very body and blood of Christ, because it is united to the divine nature in Christ, [John 6.] the second person of the Trinity, therefore it hath not only life in itself, but it is also [John 1.] able and doth give life unto so many as be or shall be partakers thereof, that is, that to all that do believe on his name, which are not born of blood (as John saith) or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but are born of God, though the selfsame substance abide still in heaven, and they for the time of their pilgrimage dwell here upon the earth, [John 6.] by grace I say, that is by the life mentioned in John, and the properties of the same, meet for our pilgrimage here upon earth, the same body of Christ is here present with us: Even as for example we say, the Sun which in substance never removeth his place out of the heavens, is yet present here by his beams, light, and natural influence, where it shineth upon the earth. For God’s word and his Sacraments be as it were the beams of Christ which is Sol Justitiae, The Sun of righteousness. [Malachi 4.]
Thus thou haste heard, of what sort or sect soever thou be, wherein doth stand the principal state and chief point of all the controversies which do properly pertain unto the nature of this Sacrament: As for the use thereof I grant there be many other things whereof I have spoken nothing.
And now lest thou justly may complain, and say that I have in opening of this matter done nothing else but dug a pit, and have not shut it up again, or broken a gap, and have not made it up, or opened the book and have not closed it again, or else to call me what thou listest, as Neutral, Dissembler, or whatsoever else thy lust and learning shall serve thee to name me worse: Therefore here now I will by God’s grace not only shortly, but also so clearly and plainly as I can, make thee now to know whether of the aforesaid two answers to the former principal state and chief point doth like me best. Yea and also I will hold all those accursed which in this matter that now so troubled the church of Christ, have of God received the Key of knowledge, and yet go about to shut up the doors, so that they themselves will not entre in, nor suffer other that would.
And as for mine own part I consider, both of late what charge and cure of soul hath been committed to me, whereof God knoweth how soon I shall be called to give account, and also now in this world what peril and danger of the laws concerning my life I am now in at this present time, what folly were it then for me now to dissemble with God of whom assuredly, I look, and hope, by Christ, to have everlasting life? Seeing that such charge and danger both before God and man do compass me in round about on every side, therefore, God willing, I will frankly and freely utter my mind. And though my body be captive, yet my tongue, and my pen, as long as I may, shall freely set forth that which undoubtedly I am persuaded to be the truth of God’s word. And yet I will do it under this protestation, call me a protestant who list, I do not pass thereof: My protestation shall be this, that my mind is, and ever shall be (God willing) to set forth sincerely the true sense and meaning to the best of my understanding, of God’s most holy word, and not to decline from the same, either for fear of worldly danger, or else for hope of gain. I do protest also due obedience, and submission of my judgment in this my writing, and in all other mine affairs, unto those of Christ’s church which be truly learned in God’s holy word, gathered in Christ’s name and guided by his spirit. After this protestation I do plainly affirm and say, that the second answer made to the chief question and principal point I am persuaded to be the very true meaning and sense of God’s holy word: That is, that the natural substance of bread and wine is the true material substance of the holy sacrament of the blessed body and blood of our saviour Christ.
And the places of scripture whereupon this my faith is grounded, be these, both concerning the Sacrament of the body, and also of the blood.
First let us repeat the beginning of the institution of the Lords supper wherein all the three Evangelists and St. Paul almost in worries do agree, saying that Jesus took bread, gave thanks, brake, and gave to the Disciples saying, take eat, this is my body. Here it appeareth plainly that Christ calleth very bread his body. For that which he took was very bread (in this all men do agree) and that which he took, after he had given thanks, he brake, and that which he took and brake, he gave it to his disciples; and that which he took, brake, and gave to his disciples, he said himself of it: This is my body. So it appeareth plainly that Christ called very bread his body. But very bread cannot be his body in very substance thereof, therefore it must needs have another meaning, which meaning appeareth plainly what it is, by the next sentence that followeth immediately both in Luke [Luke 22.] and Paul, [1 Cor. 11.] and that is this, Do this in remembrance of me; whereupon it seemeth unto me to be evident, that Christ did take bread, and called it his body, for that he would institute thereby, a perpetual remembrance of his body, specially of that singular benefit of our redemption, which he would then procure and purchase unto us by his body, upon the cross. But bread retaining still his own very natural substance, may be thus by grace, and in a sacramental signification his body, whereas else, the very bread which he took, brake, and gave them, could not be in any wise his natural body, for that were confusion of substances. And therefore the very words of Christ, joined with the next sentence following, both enforceth us to confess the very bread to remain still, and also openeth unto us how that bread may be, and is thus by his divine power his body which was given for us. But here I remember I have read in some writers of the contrary opinion, which do deny, that that which Christ did take, he brake. For (say they) after his taking he blessed it, as Mark doth speak, [Mark 14.] and by his blessing he changed the natural substance of the bread into the natural substance of his body; and so although he took the bread and blessed it, yet because in blessing he changed the substance of it, he brake not the bread, which then was not there, but only the form thereof.
Unto this objection I have two plain answers, both grounded upon God’s word. Though I will here rehearse the other answer, I will defer until I speak of the Sacrament of the blood.
Mine answer here is taken out of the plain words of St. Paul, which doth manifestly confound this fantastic invention, first invented (I ween) of Pope Innocentius, and after confirmed by the subtle sophister Duns, and lately renewed now in our days with an eloquent style and much finesse of wit. But what can crafty invention, subtlety in sophisms, eloquence, or finesse of wit prevail against the infallible word of God?
What need we to strive, and contend, what thing we break, for Paul saith speaking undoubtedly of the Lord’s table, the bread (saith he) which we break, is it not the partaking or fellowship of the Lord’s body? Whereupon it followeth that after the thanksgiving, it is bread which we break. And how often in the Acts of the Apostles is the Lord’s supper signified by breaking of bread? They did persevere (saith St. Luke [Acts 2.]) in the Apostles doctrine, communion, and breaking of bread. And again they brake bread in every house.
And again [Acts 20.] in another place. When they were come together to break bread. St. Paul which setteth forth most fully in his writing, both the doctrine and the use of the Lord’s supper, [1 Cor. 10, 11.] and the sacramental eating, and drinking of Christ’s body, and blood, calleth it five times, bread, bread, bread, bread, bread.
The sacramental bread is the mystical body, and so is called in scripture, 1 Cor. 10, as it is called the natural body of Christ: But Christ’s mystical body is the congregation of Christians. Now no man was ever so fond, as to say that that sacramental bread is transubstantiated and changed into the substance of the congregation. Wherefore no man should likewise think or say that the bread is transubstantiated, and changed into the natural substance of Christ’s human nature.
But my mind is not here to write what may be gathered out of scriptures for this purpose, but only to write here briefly those which seem to me to be the most plain places. Therefore contented to have spoken thus much of the sacramental bread, now I will speak a little of the Lord’s cup.
And this shall be my third argument grounded upon Christ’s own words. The natural substance of the sacramental wine remaineth still, and is the material substance of the sacrament of the blood of Christ, therefore it is likewise so in the sacramental bread. I know that he that is of a contrary opinion will deny the former part of my argument. But I will prove it thus, by the plain words of Christ himself: Both in Mathew [Matt. 26.] and in Mark [Mark 14.] Christ’s words be thus, after the words said upon the cup. I say unto you (saith Christ) I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine tree, until I shall drink that new in my Father’s kingdom. Here note, how Christ calleth plainly his cup the fruit of the vine tree, but the fruit of the vine tree is very natural wine, wherefore the natural substance of the wine, doeth remain still in the sacrament of Christ’s blood.
And here in speaking of the Lord’s cup, it commeth unto my remembrance, the vanity of Innocentius his fantastic invention, which by Paul’s words I did confute before, and here did promise somewhat more to speak, and that is this. If the Transubstantiation be made by this word “Blessed” in Mark said upon the bread, as Innocentius that Pope did say, then surly seeing that word is not said of Christ, neither in any of the Evangelists, nor in Paul, upon the cup, there is no Transubstantiation of the wine at all; for where the cause doth fail, there cannot follow the effect. But the sacramental bread and the sacramental wine do both remain in their natural substance alike, and if the one be not changed, as of the sacramental wine it appeareth evidently, then there is no such Transubstantiation in neither of them both. All that put and affirm this change of the substance of bread and wine into the substance of Christ’s body, and blood (called transubstantiation) do also say, and affirm, this change to be made by a certain form of prescript words and none other, but what they be that make the change either of the one or of the other, undoubtedly even they that do write most finely in these our days, almost confess plainly that they cannot tell. For although they grant to certain of the old Doctors, as Chrysostom, and Ambrose, that these words “This is my body” are the words of Consecration of the sacrament of the body, yet say they, these words may well be so called because they do assure us of the Consecration thereof, whether it be done before these words be spoken or no. But as for this their doubt concerning the sacrament of the body I let it pass.
Let us now consider the words which pertain unto the cup. This is first evident, that as Matthew much agreeth with Mark, and likewise Luke with Paul doth much agree herein in form of words; so in the same, the form of words in Matthew and Mark is diverse from that which is in Luke and Paul. The old authors do most rehearse the form of words in Matthew, and Mark, because (I ween) they seemed to them most clear. But here I would know, whether it is credible or no, that Luke, and Paul, when they celebrated the Lord’s supper with their congregations, that they did not use the same form of words at the Lord’s table which they wrote, Luke in his Gospel, and Paul in his Epistle.
Of Luke because he was a Physician, whether some will grant that he might be a Priest or no, and was able to receive the order of Priesthood which (they say) is given by virtue of these words said by the Bishop “take thou authority to sacrifice for the quick and the dead” I cannot tell. But if they should be so straight upon Luke, either for his craft, or else for lack of such power given him by virtue of the aforesaid words, then I ween both Peter and Paul are in danger to be deposed of their priesthood, for the craft, either of fishing, which was Peter’s, or of making tents, which was Paul’s, were more vile then the science of physic. And as for those sacramental words of the order of priesthood, to have authority to sacrifice both for the quick and the dead, I ween Peter and Paul, if they were both align, were not able to prone that ever Christ gave them such authority, or ever said any such words unto them. But I will let Luke go. And because Paul speaketh more plainly for himself I will rehearse his words.
That (saith Paul [1 Cor. 11.]) which I received of the Lord I gave unto you: “For the Lord Jesus,” etc. And so he setteth forth the whole institution and right use of the Lord’s supper. Now seeing that Paul here saith that which he received of the Lord, he had given them, and that which he had received, and given them before by word of mouth, now he rehearseth and writeth the same in his epistle, is it credible that Paul would never use this form of words upon the Lord’s cup, which (as he saith) he received of the Lord, that he had given them before, and now rehearseth in his epistle? I trust no man is so far from all reason but he will grant me that this is not likely so to be. Now then if you grant me that Paul did use the form of words which he writeth, let us then rehearse and consider Paul’s words, which he saith Christ spake thus upon the cup: This cup is the new testament in my blood, this do as often as ye shall drink it in the remembrance of me.
Here I would know whether that Christ’s words spoken upon the cup were not as mighty in work, and as effectual in signification to all intents, constructions, and purposes (as our parliament men do speak) as they were spoken upon the bread: If this be granted, which thing I think no man deny, then further I reason thus: But the word “(is” in the words spoken upon the Lord’s bread, doth mightily signify (say they) the change of the substance of that which goeth before it, into the substance of that which followeth after, that is, of the substance of bread into the substance of Christ’s body, when Christ sayeth, “This is my body.” Now then if Christ’s words which be spoken upon the cup, which Paul here rehearseth, be of the same might and power, both in working, and signifying, then must this word “is” when Christ saith, “This cup is the new testament,” etc. turn the substance of the cup into the substance of the new testament.
And if thou wilt say that this word “is” neither maketh nor signifieth any such change of the cup, although it be said of Christ, that this cup is the new testament, yet Christ meant no such change, as that: Mary, sir, even so say I, when Christ said of the bread which he took, and after thanks given brake, and gave them, saying “take, eat, This is my body”; he meant no more any such change of the substance of bread into the substance of his natural body, than he meant of the change and transubstantiation of the cup into the substance of the new testament. And if thou wilt say that the word “cup” here in Christ’s words doth not signify the cup itself, but the wine, or thing contained in the cup, by a figure called Metonymy, for that Christ’s words meant, and so must needs be taken, thou sayest very well. But I pray thee by the way here note two things, first that this word “is” hath no such strength or signification in the Lord’s words to make or to signify any transubstantiation: Secondly that in the Lord’s words whereby he instituted the sacrament of his blood, he useth a figurative speech. How vain then is it that some so earnestly do say, as it were an infallible rule, that in doctrine, and in the institution of the sacraments Christ useth no figures, but all his words are to be strained to their proper significations? when as here, whatsoever thou sayest was in the cup, yet neither that, nor the cup itself was (taking every word in his proper signification) the new testament: But in understanding that which was in the cup, by the cup, that is a figurative speech. Yea and also thou canst not verify or truly say of that (whether thou sayest it was wine, or Christ’s blood) to be the new testament, without a figure also: Thus in one sentence spoken of Christ in the institution of the sacrament of his blood, the figure must help us twice. So untrue is it that some do write, that Christ useth no figure in the doctrine of faith, nor in the institution of his sacraments. But some say if we shall thus admit figures in doctrine, then shall all the articles of our faith by figures and allegories shortly be transformed and unloosed. I say it is like fault, and even the same, to deny the figure where the place so requireth to be understood, as vainly to make it a figurative speech, which is to be understood in his proper signification.
The rules whereby the speech is known when it is figurative, and whereby it is none, S. Austin in his book called de doctrina Christiana, giveth diverse learned lessons very necessary to be known of the student in God’s word. Of the which one I will rehearse, which is this: If (sayeth he) the scripture doth seem to command a thing which is wicked or ungodly: Or to forbid a thing that charity doth require, then know thou (said, he) that the speech is figurative. And for example he bringeth the saying of Christ in the 6th Chapter of Saint John. “Except ye eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood, ye cannot have life in you.” It seemed to command a wicked or an ungodly thing, wherefore it is a figurative speech, commanding to have communion and fellowship with Christ’s passion, and devoutly and wholesomely to lay up in memory that his flesh was crucified and wounded for us.
And here I cannot but marvel at some men, surely of much excellent finesse of wit, and of great eloquence, that are not ashamed to write and say that this aforesaid saying of Christ is (after Saint Austen) a figurative speech indeed, but not unto the learned, but unto the unlearned; here let any man that indifferently understandeth the Latin tongue, read the place in St. Austen, and if he perceive not clearly St. Austen’s words and mind to be contrary, let me abide thereof the rebuke.
This lesson of St. Austen I have therefore the rather set forth, because as it teacheth us to understand that place in John figuratively, even so surely the same lesson with the example of St. Austen’s exposition thereof teacheth us, not only by the same to understand Christ’s words in the institution of the Sacrament both of his body, and of his blood figuratively, but also the very true meaning and understanding of the same. For if to command to eat the flesh of the son of man, and to drink his blood, seemeth to command an inconvenience, and an ungodliness, and is even so indeed, if it be understood as the words do stand in their proper signification, and therefore must be understood figuratively and spiritually, as St. Augustin doth godly and learnedly interpret them: Then surely, Christ commanding in his last supper to eat his body, and to drink his blood, seemeth to command in sound of words, as great and even the same inconvenience and ungodliness as did his words in the 6th Chapter of St. John, and therefore must even by the same reason be likewise understood and expounded figuratively and spiritually, as St. Austin did the other. Whereunto that exposition of St. Austen may seem to be the more meet, for that Christ in his supper, to the commandment of eating and drinking of his body, and blood, addeth, “do this in remembrance of me,” which words surely were the keys that opened and revealed this spiritual and godly exposition unto St. Austen.
But I have tarried longer in setting forth the form of Christ’s words upon the Lord’s cup written by Paul and Luke than I intended to do. And yet in speaking of the form of Christ’s words spoken upon his cup, it commeth now unto my remembrance the form of words used in the Latin Mass upon the Lord’s cup: Whereof I do not a little marvel what should be the cause, seeing the Latin Mass agreeth with the Evangelists and Paul in the form of words said upon the bread, why in the words said upon the Lord’s cup, it differeth from them all; yea and addeth unto the words of Christ spoken upon the cup, these words, Mysterium fidei, that is, the Mystery of faith, which are not read to be attributed unto the sacrament of Christ’s blood, neither in the evangelists nor in Paul, nor so far as I do know in any other place of holy scripture, yea and if it may have some good exposition, yet why it should not be as well added unto the words of Christ upon his bread as upon his cup, surely I do not see the mystery.
And because I see, in the use of the Latin Mass, the sacrament of the blood abused, when it is denied to the laymen, clean contrary to God’s most certain word: For why, I beseech thee, should the sacraments of Christ’s blood, be denied unto the lay Christian more than to the priest? did not Christ shed his blood as well for the lay godly man as for the godly priest? if thou wilt say, yes, that he did so, but yet the sacrament of the blood is not to be received without the offering up and sacrificing thereof unto God the Father, both for the quick, and for the dead, and no man may make oblation of Christ’s blood unto God, but a priest, and therefore the priest, and that but in his mass only, may receive the sacrament of the blood. And call ye this (masters) mysterium fidei? alas, alas, I fear me this is before God, mysterium iniquitatis, the mystery of iniquity, such as saint Paul speaketh of in his epistle to the Thessalonians. [2 Thess. 2. Psalm 67.] The Lord be merciful unto us, and bless us, lighten his countenance upon us, and be merciful unto us. That we may know thy way upon earth, and among all people thy salvation. This kind of oblation standeth upon transubstantiation his germane cousin, and do grow both upon one ground; the Lord weed it out of his vineyard shortly (if it be his blessed will and pleasure) that bitter root.
To speak of this oblation how much it is injurious unto Christ’s passion, how it cannot but with high blasphemy, and heinous arrogance, and intolerable pride be claimed of any man, other than of Christ himself, how much, and how plainly it repugneth unto the manifest words, the true sense and meaning of holy scripture in many places, especially in the epistle to the Hebrews [Heb. 9, 10.] The matter is so long and other have written in it at large, that my mind is now not to entreat thereof any further. For only in this my scribbling I intended to search out and set forth by the scriptures, according to God’s gracious gift of my poor knowledge, whether the true sense and meaning of Christ’s words in the institution of his holy supper, do require any transubstantiation (as they call it) or that the very substance of bread and wine do remain still in the Lord’s supper, and be the material substance of the holy sacrament of Christ our Saviour’s blessed body and blood.
Yet there remaineth one vain Quiddite of Duns in this matter, the which because some that write now do seem to like it so well, that they have stripped him out of Duns’ dusty and dark terms, and pricked him and painted him in fresh colors of an eloquent style, may therefore deceive the more except the error be warily eschewed.
Duns saith in these words of Christ, this is my body, this pronoun demonstrative, meaning the word “this” if ye will know what it doth shew or demonstrate, whether the bread that Christ took or no; he answereth no, but only one thing in substance it pointeth, whereof the nature or name it doth not tell, but leaveth that to be determined and told by that which followeth the word “is” that is by predicatum, as the Logician doeth speak, and therefore he calleth this pronoun demonstrative “this” individuum vagum, that is a wandering proper name, whereby we may point out and shew any one thing in substance, what thing soever it be.
That this imagination is vain and untruly applied unto those words of Christ “this is my body” it may appear plainly by the words of Luke, and Paul, said upon the cup, conferred with the form of words spoken upon the cup in Mathew and Mark, for as upon the bread it is said of all, “this is my body,” so of Mathew and Mark is said of the cup, “this is my blood.” Then if in the words, “This is my body,” the word “this” be, as Duns calleth it, a wandering name, to appoint and shew forth any one thing whereof the name or nature it doeth not tell; so must it be likewise in those words of Matthew and Mark upon the Lord’s cup, “This is my blood.” But in the words of Matthew and Mark, it signifieth, and pointeth out the same, that it doth in the Lord’s words upon the cup in Luke, and Paul, where it is said: “This cup is the new testament in my blood,” etc. Therefore in Matthew and Mark, the pronoun demonstrative “this” doth not wander to point out only one thing in substance, not shewing what it is, but telleth it plainly what it is, no less in Matthew and Mark to the eye, than is done in Luke and Paul, by putting to this word “cup” both unto the eye and unto the ear.
For taking the cup, and demonstrating or shewing it unto his disciples by this pronoun demonstrative “this” and saying unto them: Drink ye all of this, it was then all one to say, “This is my blood”: as to say, “This cup is my blood”; meaning by the cup, as the nature of the speech doth require, the thing contained in the cup: So likewise without all doubt when Christ had taken bread, given thanks, and broken it, and giving it to his disciples, said, “Take,” and so demonstrating and shewing that bread which he had in his hands, to say then, “This is my body,” and to have sad, this bread is my body. As it were all one if a man lacking a knife, and going to his oysters, would say to another, whom he saw to have two knives: Sir, I pray you, lend me one of your knives: Were it not now all one to answer him; Sir, hold I will lend you this to eat your meat, but not to open oysters withal; and, hold I will lend you this knife to eat your meat, but not open oysters? This similitude serveth but for this purpose, to declare the nature of speech withal, whereas the thing that is demonstrated and shewed is evidently perceived, and openly known unto the eye. But, O good Lord, what a wonderful thing is it to see, how some men do labor to teach what is demonstrated and shewed by the pronoun demonstrative “this” in Christ’s words, when he saith, “This is my body, this is my blood,” how they labour I says to teach what that “this” was then indeed, when Christ spake in the beginning of the sentence the word “this,” before he had pronounced the rest of the words that followed in the same sentence, so that their doctrine may agree with their transubstantiation, which indeed is the very foundation wherein all their erroneous doctrine doth stand.
And here the transubstantiators do not agree amongst themselves, no more than they do in the words which wrought the transubstantiation when Christ did first institute his sacrament. Wherein Innocentius, Bishop of Rome of the latter days, and Duns (as was noted before) do attribute the work unto the word “benedixit, blessed”. But the rest for the most part to “Hoc est corpus meum, This is my body,” etc. Duns therefore with his sect, because he putteth the change before, must needs say that “this” when Christ spake it in the beginning of the sentence was indeed Christ’s body. For in the change the substance of bread did depart, and the change was now done in “benedixit,” saith he, that went before. And therefore after him and his, that “this” was then indeed Christ’s body, though the word did not import so much, but only one thing in substance, which substance after Duns, the bread being gone, must needs be the substance of Christ’s body.
But they that put their transubstantiation to be wrought by these words of Christ, “This is my body,” and do say that when the whole sentence was finished, then this change was perfected, and not before, they cannot say, but yet Christ’s “this” in the beginning of the sentence, before the other words were fully pronounced, was bread indeed: For as yet the change was not done, and so long the bread must needs remain; and so long as the substance of the bread doth remain, so long with the universal consent of all transubstantiators, the natural substance of Christ’s body cannot come, and therefore must their “this” of necessity demonstrate and shew the substance which was as yet in the pronouncing of the first word “this” by Christ, but bread.
But how can they make and verify Christ’s words to be true, demonstrating the substance, which in the demonstration is but bread, and say thereof: “This is my body,” that is, as they say, the natural substance of Christ’s body, except they would say that the verb “is” signifieth, is made, or is changed into, and so then if the same verb “is” be of the same effect in Christ’s words, spoken upon the cup, and rehearsed by Luke and Paul, the cup or the wine in the cup must be made or turned into the new testament, as was declared before.
There be some among the transubstantiators which walk so wilily and so warily, betwixt these two aforesaid opinions, allowing them both, and holding plainly neither of them both, that me think they may be called Neutrals, Ambidexters, or rather such as can shift on both sides. They play on both parts; for with the latter they do allow the doctrine of the last syllable, which is that transubstantiation is done by miracle, in an instant, at the sound of the last syllable (um) in this sentence, hoc est corpus meum: And they do allow Duns fantastic imagination of individuum vagum, that demonstrateth (as he teacheth) in Christ’s words, one thing in substance, then being (after his mind) the substance of the body of Christ.
A marvelous thing how any man can agree with both these two, they being so contrary the one unto the other, for the one saith the word “this” demonstrated the substance of bread, and the other saith; No, not so: The bread is gone, and it demonstrateth a substance which is Christ’s body. Tush, sayeth this third man: Ye understand nothing at all, they agree well enough in the chief point, which is the ground of all, that is both do agree and bear witness, that there is transubstantiation. They do agree indeed in that conclusion I grant, but their profess and doctrine thereof do even as well agree together, as did the false witnesses before Annas and Caiphas against Christ, or the two wicked judges against Susanna. For against Christ the false witnesses did agree no (doubt) to speak all against him: And the wicked judges were both agreed to condemn poor Susanna, but in examination of their witnesses, they dissented so far, that all was found false that they went about, both that wherein they agreed, and also those things which they brought for their proofs.
Thus much have I spoken in searching out a solution for this principal question, which was, what is the material substance of the holy sacrament in the Lord’s supper.
Now lest I should seem to set by my own conceit more than is meet, or less to regard the doctrine of the old Ecclesiastical writers, than is convenient for a man of my poor learning, and simple wit for to do: And because also I am indeed persuaded that the old ecclesiastical writers understood the true meaning of Christ in this matter, and have both so timely, and so plainly, set it forth in certain places of their writings, that no man which will vouchsafe to read them, and without prejudice of a corrupt judgement will indifferently weigh them, and construe their minds none otherwise, than they declare themselves to have meant, I am persuaded I say, that in reading of them thus, no man can be ignorant in this matter, but he that will shut up his own eyes and blindfold himself.
When I speak of ecclesiastical writers, I mean of such, as were before the wicked usurpation of the See of Rome was grown so unmeasurably great, that not only with tyrannical power, but also with corrupt doctrine, it began to subvert Christ’s gospel, and to turn the state that Christ and his Apostles set in the church upside down.
For the causes aforesaid I will rehearse certain of their sayings, and yet because I take them but for witnesses and expounders of this doctrine, and not as the Authors of the same; and also for that now I will not be tedious, I will rehearse but few, that is, three old writers of the Greek church, and other three of the Latin church, which do seem unto me to be in this matter most plain.
The Greek authors arc Origen, Chrysostom, and Theodoret: The Latin, are Tertullian, S. Austin, and Gelasius.
I know there can be nothing spoken so plainly, but the crafty wit furnished with eloquence can darken it, and wrest it quite from the true meaning to a contrary sense: And I know also that eloquence, craft, and finesse of wit hath gone about to blear men’s eyes, and to stop their ears in the forenamed writers, that men should neither hear nor see what those authors both write and teach so plainly, that except men should be made both stark blind and deaf, they cannot but of necessity, if they will read and weigh them indifferently, both hear and see what they do mean, when eloquence, craft, and finesse of wit have done all that they can. Now let us hear the old writers of the Greek church.
Origen, who lived about twelve hundred and fifty years ago, a man for the excellence of his learning so highly esteemed in Christ’s church, that he was counted and was judged the singular teacher in his time of Christ’s religion, the confounder of heresies, the schoolmaster of many godly martyrs, and an opener of the high mysteries in scripture; he writing upon the 15th Chapter of S. Matthew’s gospel, saith thus.
“But if anything enter into the mouth, it goeth away into the belly, and is voided into the draught, yea and that meat which is sanctified by the word of God and prayer, concerning the matter thereof it goeth away into the belly, and is voided into the draught, but for the prayer which is added unto it, for the proportion of the faith, it is made profitable, making the mind able to perceive and see that which is profitable. For it is not the material substance of bread, but the word which is spoken upon it, that is profitable to the man that eateth it not unworthily. And this I mean of the typical and symbolic (that is) sacramental body.”
Thus far goeth the words of Origen, where it is plain first that Origen speaking there of the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, as the last words do plainly signify, doth mean and teach that the material substance thereof is received, digested, and voided as the material substance of other bread, and meats is, which could not be, if there were no material substance of bread at all, as the fantastic opinion of transubstantiation doeth put.
It is a world to see the answer of the papists to this place of Origen. In the disputatious which were in this matter in the Parliament house, and in both the universities of Cambridge and Oxford, they that defended transubstantiation, said that this part of Origen was but set forth of late by Erasmus and therefore is to be suspected.
But how vain this their answer is, it appeareth plainly: For so may all the good old authors which lay in old libraries, and are set forth of late, be by this reason rejected, as Clemens Alexandrinus, Theodoretus, Justinus, Ecclesiastica Historia Nicephori, and other such.
Another answer they had, saying that Origen is noted to have erred in some points, and therefore faith is not to be given in this matter to him.
But this answer well weighed doth minister good matter to the clear confutation of itself. For indeed we grant that in some points Origen did err, but those errors are gathered out, and noted both of S. Hierom, and Epiphanius, so that his works (those errors excepted) are now so much the more of authority, that such great learned men, took pains to draw out of him, whatsoever they thought in him to be written amiss. But as concerning this matter of the Lord’s supper, neither they, nor yet ever any other ancient author, did ever say that Origen did err.
Now because these two answers have been of late so confuted and confounded, that it is well perceived that they will take no place, therefore some, which have written since that time, have forged two other answers even of the same mold.
The former whereof is that Origen in this place spake not of the sacramental bread or wine of the Lord’s table, but of another mystical meat, of the which S. Augustin maketh mention to be given unto them that were taught the faith, before they were baptized. But Origen’s own words in two sentences before rehearsed being put together, proveth this answer untrue: For he sayeth that he meaneth of that figurative and mystical body, which profiteth them that do receive it worthily, alluding so plainly unto S. Paul’s words spoken of the Lord’s supper, that it is a shame for any learned man once to open his mouth to the contrary. And that bread which S. Augustine speaketh of, he cannot prove that any such thing was used in Origen’s time: Yea and though that could be proved, yet was there never bread in any time called a sacramental body saving the sacramental bread of the Lord’s table, which is called of Origen, the typical and symbolic body of Christ.
The second of the two new found answers is yet most monstrous of all other, which is this. But let us grant (say they) that Origen spake of the Lord’s supper, and by the matter thereof was understood the material substance of bread and wine. What then, say they? for though the material substance was once gone, and departed by reason of transubstantiation, whilst the forms of bread and wine did remain, yet now it is no inconvenience to say that as that material substance did depart, at the entering in of Christ’s body under the aforesaid forms, so when the said forms be destroyed, and do not remain, then commeth again the substance of bread and wine, and this (say they) is very meet in this mystery, that that which began with miracle shall end in a miracle. If I had not read this fantasy, I would scarcely have believed that any learned man ever would have set forth such a foolish fantasy, which not only lacketh all ground either of God’s word, reason, or of any ancient writer, but is also clean contrary to the common rules of school divinity, which is that no miracle is to be affirmed and put without necessity. And although for their former miracle, which is their transubstantiation, they have some colour, though it be but vain, saying it is done by the power and virtue of these words of Christ, “This is my body,” yet to make this second miracle, of returning the material substance again, they have no colour at all. Or else I pray them shew me, by what words of Christ, is that second miracle wrought.
Thus ye may see that the sleights and shifts which craft and wit can invent to wrest the true sense of Origen cannot take place. But now let us hear one other place of Origen, and so we shall let him go.
Origen in the 11th Homily Super Leviticum, saith that there is also even in the four gospels, and not only in the old Testament a letter, meaning a literal sense, which killeth, for if thou follow the letter (saith he) in that saying; “Except ye eat the flesh of the son of man, and drink his blood,” etc., this letter doth kill. If in that place the letter doth kill, wherein is commanded the eating of Christ’s flesh, then surely in those words of Christ, wherein Christ commandeth us to eat his body, the literal sense thereof likewise doth kill. For it is no less crime, but even the same, and all one in the literal sense, to eat Christ’s body, and to eat Christ’s flesh. Wherefore if the one doth kill, except it be understood figuratively, and spiritually, then the other surely doth kill likewise. But that to eat Christ’s flesh doth kill so understood, Origin affirmeth plainly in his words above rehearsed. Wherefore it cannot be justly denied, but to eat Christ’s body, literally understood, must needs after him kill likewise.
The answer that is made to this place of Origen of the Papists, is so foolish, that it bewrayeth itself without any further confutation. It is the same that they make to a place of S. Augustine in his book de doctrina Christiana. Whereas S. Augustine speaketh in effect the same thing that Origen doth here. The Papists’ answer is this; to the carnal man the literal sense is hurtful, but not so to the spiritual. As though to understand that in his proper sense which ought to be taken figuratively, were to the carnal man a dangerous peril, but to the spiritual man none at all.
Now to Chrysostom, whom I bring for the second writer in the Greek church. He speaking against the unholy using of man’s body which, after S. Paul, ought to be kept pure and holy as the very temple of the Holy Ghost, saith thus: If it be a fault, saith he, to translate the holied vessels (in the which is not contained the true body of Christ, but the mystery of the body) to private uses, how much more offence is it to abuse and defile the vessels of our body. These be the words of Chrysostom. But I trowe that here many foul shifts are devised to defeat this place.
The author, saith one, is suspected: I answer, but in this place never fault was found with him unto these ours days.
And whether this author were John Chrysostom himself the Archbishop of Constantinople, or no, that is not the matter; for of all it is granted that he was a writer of that age, and a man of great learning. So that it is manifest, that this which he writeth was the received opinion of learned men in his days, or else undoubtedly in such a matter his saying should have been impugned of some that wrote in his time, or near unto the same.
Nay saith another, if this solution will not serve, we may say that Chrysostom did not speak of the vessels of the Lord’s cup, or such as was then used at the Lord’s table, but of the vessels used in the temple in the old law.
This answer will serve no more than the other. For here Chrysostom speaketh of such vessels, wherein was that which was called the body of Christ, although it was not the true body (saith he) of Christ, but the mystery of Christ’s body. Now of the vessels of the old law, the writers do use no such manor of phrase: For their sacrifices were not called Christ’s body, for Christ then was but in shadows and figures, and not by the sacrament of his body, revealed.
Erasmus which was a man that could understand the words and sense of the writer, although he would not be seen to speak against this error of transubstantiation because he durst not, yet in his time declareth plainly that this saying of this writer is none otherwise to be understood.
Yet can I, saith the third Papist, find out a fine and a subtle solution for this place, and grant all that yet is said, both allowing here the writer, and also that he meant of the vessels of the Lord’s tables: For, saith he, the body of Christ is not contained in them at the Lord’s table, as in a place, but as in a mystery. Is not this a pretty shift, and a mystical solution? But by the same solution then Christs body is not in the Lord’s table, nor in the priest’s hand, nor in the pyx, and so he is here nowhere. For they will not say that he is either here, or there, as in a place. This answer pleaseth so well the maker, that he himself, after he had played with it a little while, and shewed the finesse of his wit, and eloquence therein, he is contented to give it over, and say: But it is not to be thought that Chrysostom would speak after this finesse or subtlety, and therefore he returneth again to the second answer for his shoot anker which is sufficiently confuted before.
Another short place of Chrysostom I will rehearse, which (if any indifference may be heard) in plain terms setteth fourth the truth of this matter.
Before the bread (saith Chrysostom writing ad Caesarium Monachum) be hallowed, we call it bread, but the grace of God sanctifying it by the means of the priest, it is delivered now from the name of bread, and esteemed worthy to be called Christ’s body, although the nature of bread abide in it still. These be Chrysostom’s words, wherein I pray you what can be said or thought more plain against this error of Transubstantiation, than to declare that the bread abideth so still?
And yet this so plain a place some are not ashamed thus shamefully to elude it, saying, we grant the nature of bread remaineth still thus, for that it may be seen, felt, and tasted, and yet the corporal substance of the bread therefore is gone, lest two bodies be confused together, and Christ should be thought impanate.
What contrariety and falsehood is in this answer, the simple man may easily perceive. Is not this a plain contrariety to grant that the nature of bread remaineth so still, that it may be seen, felt, and tasted, and yet to say the corporal substance is gone, to avoid absurdity of Christ’s impanation?
And what manifest falsehood is this to say, or mean, that if the bread should remain still, then must follow the inconvenience of impanation, as though the very bread could not be a Sacrament of Christ’s body, as water is of Baptism, except Christ should unite the nature of bread to his nature in unity of person, and make of the bread God?
Now let us hear Theodoretus, which is the last of the three Greek authors. He writeth in his dialog Contra Eutychen, thus. He that calleth his natural body, corn and bread, and also named himself a vine tree, even he the same hath honoured the Symbols, that is the sacramental signs, with the names of his body and blood, not changing indeed the nature itself, but adding grace unto the nature. What can be more plainly said than this, that this old writer saith that although the Sacraments bear the name of the body and blood of Christ, yet is not their nature changed, but abideth still, and where is then the Papists’ transubstantiation?
The same writer in the 2nd Dialog of the same work, against the aforesaid heretic Eutyches, writeth yet more plainly against this error of transubstantiation, if anything can be said to be more plain: For he maketh the heretic speak thus against him that defendeth the true doctrine whom he calleth Orthodoxus.
As the sacraments of the body and blood of our Lord are one thing before the invocation, and after the invocation they be changed, and are made another: So likewise, the Lord’s body, saith the heretic, is after the assumption or ascension into heaven turned into the substance of God; the heretic meaning thereby that Christ after his ascension remaineth no more a man.
To this Orthodoxus answereth thus, and saith to the heretic. Thou art taken (saith he) in thine own snare, for those mystical symbols, or sacraments, after the sanctification, do not go out of their own nature, but they tarry and abide still in their substance, figure, and shape, yea and are sensibly seen, and groped to be the same they were before, etc.
At these words the Papists do startle, and to say the truth, these words be so plain, so full, and so clear, that they cannot tell what to say, but yet will not cease to go about to play the cuttles, and to caste their colors over them, that the truth which is so plainly told, should not have place.
This author wrote, say they, before the determination of the church. As who would say, whatsoever that wicked man Innocentius the Pope of Rome determined in his congregations, with his monks and friars, that must be (for so Duns saith) held for an article, and of the substance of our faith.
Some do charge this author that he was suspected to be a Nestorian, which thing in Chalcedon Council was tried and proved to be false.
But the foulest shift of all, and yet the best that they can find in this matter, when none other will serve, is to say that Theodoret understandeth by the word “substance,” accidents, and not substance indeed. This gloss is like a gloss of a lawyer upon a decree the text whereof beginneth thus. Statuimus, that is we decree. The gloss of the lawyer there, after many other pretty shifts there set forth, which he thinketh will not well serve to his purpose, and therefore at the last, to clear the matter, he saith thus: After the mind of one lawyer, vel die (saith he) statuimus, id est abrogamus, that is, or expound, we do decree, (that is) we do abrogate, or disannul. Is not this a worthy and goodly gloss? Who will not say but he is worthy in the law to be retained of counsel, that can gloss so well, and find in a matter of difficulty such fine shifts, and yet this is the Law, or at the least the gloss of the law. And therefore who can tell what peril a man may incur to speak against it, except he were a lawyer indeed, which can keep himself out of the briars, what wind soever blow.
Hitherto ye have heard three writers of the Greek Church, not all what they do say, for that were a labor too great for to gather, and too tedious for the reader, but one or two places of everyone. The which, how plain, and how full, and clear they be against the error of Transubstantiation, I refer it to the judgement of the indifferent reader.
And now I will likewise rehearse the sayings of other three old ancient writers of the Latin Church, and so make an end.
And first I will begin with Tertullian, whom Cyprian the holy Martyr so highly esteemed that whensoever he would have his book, he was wont to say, Give us now the Master. This old writer in his 4th book against Marcion the heretic, saith thus: Jesus made the bread, which he took and distributed to his disciples, his body, saying: This is my body, that is to say (saith Tertullian), a figure of my body. In this place if is plain, that after Tertullian’s exposition, Christ meant not by calling the bread his body, and the wine his blood, that either the bread was his natural body, or the wine his natural blood, but he called them his body and his blood, because he would institute them to be unto us Sacraments, that is holy tokens and signs of his body, and of his blood, that by them remembering, and firmly believing the benefits procured to us by his body, which was torn and crucified for us, and of his blood, which was shed for us upon the cross, and so with thanks receiving these holy sacraments, according to Christ’s institution, we might by the same be spiritually nourished, and fed, to the increase of all Godliness in us, here in our pilgrimage and journey wherein we walk unto everlasting life.
This was undoubtedly Christ our Saviour’s mind, and this is Tertullian’s exposition. The wrangling that the Papists do make to elude this saying of Tertullian, is so far out of all frame that it even wearieth me to think on it.
Tertullian writeth here, say they, as none hath done hitherto before him, neither yet any other Catholic man after him. This saying is too manifestly false: S. Augustine and other old authors likewise do call the Sacrament a figure of Christ’s body.
And where they say that Tertullian wrought this, when he was in an heat off disputation with an heretic, coveting by all means to overcome his adversary: As who say he would not take heed what he did say, and specially what he would write in so high a matter, so that he might have the better hand of his adversary: Is this credible to be true in any godly wise man? How much less then is it worthy to be thought, or credited in a man of so great wit, learning, and excellency, as Tertullian is worthily esteemed ever to have been?
Likewise this author in his first book against the same heretic Marcion writeth thus. God did not reject bread, which is his creature; for by it he hath made a representation of his body. Now I pray you what is this to say, that Christ hath made a representation by bread of his body, but that Christ hath instituted and ordained bread to be a sacrament, for to represent unto us his body. Now whether the representation of one thing by another requireth the corporal presence of the thing which is so represented, or no, every man that hath understanding, is able in this point (the matter is so clear of itself) to be a sufficient judge.
The second doctor and writer of the Latin church, whose sayings I promised to set forth, is S. Augustine, of whose learning, and estimation I need not to speak; for all the church of Christ both hath, and ever hath had him for a man of most singular learning, wit and diligence, both in setting forth the true doctrine of Christ’s religion, and also in the defense of the same against heretics.
This author as he hath written most plenteously in other matters of our faith, so likewise in this argument he hath written at large in many of his works so plainly against this error of transubstantiation, that the Papists love least to hear of him of all other writers, partly for his authority, and partly because he openeth the matter more fully than anyone other doth. Therefore I will rehearse more places of him, than heretofore I have done of the other.
And first what can be more plain than that which he writeth upon the 89th Psalm speaking of the sacrament of the Lord’s body and blood, and rehearsing (as it were) Christ’s words to his disciples after this matter.
It is not this body which ye do see, that ye shall eat, neither shall ye drink this blood, which the soldiers that crucify me shall spill, or shed: I do commend unto you a mystery or a sacrament, which spiritually understood shall give you life. Now if Christ had no more natural and corporal bodies but that one, which they then presently both heard and saw; and none other natural blood, but that which was in the same body, and the which the soldiers cruelly did after shed upon the cross, and neither this body, nor this blood, was by this declaration of S. Augustine, either to be eaten, or drunk, but the mystery thereof spiritually to be understood: Then I conclude (if this saying and exposition of S. Augustine be true), that the mystery which the disciples should eat was not the natural body of Christ, but a mystery of the same, spiritually to be understood. For as S. Augustine saith in his 20th book contra Faustum, Cap. 21, Christ’s flesh and blood was in the Old Testament promised by similitudes, and signs of their sacrifices, and was exhibited in deed, and in truth, upon the cross, but the same is celebrated by a sacrament of remembrance upon the altar.
And in his book de fide ad Petrum, Cap. 19, he saith that in these Sacrifices (meaning of the old law) it is figuratively signified, what then was to be given: But in this Sacrifice it is evidently signified what is already given, understanding in the sacrifice upon the altar, the remembrance and thanksgiving for the flesh, which he offered for us, and for the blood which he shed for us upon the cross, as is in the same place, and evidently there it may appear.
Another evident and clear place, wherein it appeareth that by the sacramental bread, which Christ called his body, he meant a figure of his body, is upon the third Psalm: Where Saint Augustine speaketh thus in plain terms. Christ did admit Judas unto the feast, in the which he commended to his disciples the figure of his body. This was Christ’s last supper before his Passion, wherein he did ordain the Sacrament of his body, as all learned men do agree.
S. Augustine also in his 23rd Epistle ad Bonifacium, teacheth how Sacraments do bear the names of the things whereof they be sacraments, both in Baptism, and in the Lord’s table. Even as we call every Good Friday, the day of Christ’s passion; and every Easter Day the day of Christ’s resurrection; when in very deed there was but one day wherein he suffered, and one day wherein he rose. And why do we then call them so which are not so indeed, but because they are in like time, and course of the year, as those days were wherein those things were done? Was Christ (saith S. Austin) offered any more but once? and he offered himself.
And yet in a sacrament, or representation, not only every solemn feast of Easter, but also every day, to the people he is offered. For if sacraments had not some similitude, or likeness of those things whereof they be sacraments, they could in no wise be sacraments. And for their similitudes, and likeness commonly they have the names of the things whereof they be sacraments. Therefore, as after a certain manner of speech, the sacrament of Christ’s body, is Christ’s body, the sacrament of Christ’s blood, is Christ’s blood, so likewise the sacrament of faith is faith, etc.
After this manner of speech, as S. Augustine teacheth in his questions Super Leuiticum, et contra Adimantum, it is said in scripture that seven years of corn be seven years, seven kine be seven years, and the rock was Christ, and blood is the soul: The which last saying (saith S. Austen) in his book contra Adimantum, is understood to be spoken in a sign, or figure, for the Lord himself did not stick to say, “This is my body,” when he gave the sign of his body.
For we must not consider in sacraments (saith S. Augustine in another place) what they be, but what they do signify. For they be signs of things, being one thing in themselves, and yet signifying another thing. For the heavenly bread (saith he) speaking of the sacramental bread, by some manner of speech is called Christ’s body, when in very deed it is the sacrament of the body, etc.
What can be more plain, or more clearly spoken, then are these places of S. Augustine before rehearsed, if men were not obstinately bent to maintain an untruth, and to receive nothing whatsoever doth set it forth.
Yet one place more of S. Augustine will I allege which is very clear to this purpose, that Christ’s natural body is in heaven, and not here corporally in the sacrament, and so let him depart.
In his 50th Treatise which he writeth upon John he teacheth plainly, and clearly, how Christ being both God and man, is both here after a certain manner, and yet in heaven, and not here in his natural body and substance which he took of the blessed virgin Mary, seeking thus of Christ and saying: By his divine majesty, by his providence, by his unspeakable and invisible grace, that is fulfilled which he spake: Behold I am with you unto the end of the world. But as concerning his flesh, which he took in his incarnation, as concerning that which was born of the virgin, as concerning that which was apprehended by the Jews, and crucified upon a tree, and taken down from the cross, lapped in linen clothes, and buried and rose again, and appeared after his resurrection, as concerning that flesh he said, Ye shall not ever have me with you. Why so? For as concerning his flesh he was conversant with his disciples 40 days, and they accompanying, seeing, and not following him, he went up into heaven and is not here. By the presence of his divine majesty he did not depart, as concerning the presence of his divine majesty we have Christ ever with us, but as concerning the presence of his flesh he said truly to his disciples, ye shall not ever have me with you. For as concerning the presence of his flesh, the church had him but a few days, now it holdeth him by faith, though it seeth him not.
Thus much S. Augustine speaketh repeating one thing so oft, and all to declare, and teach, how we should understand the manner of Christ’s being here with us, which is by his grace, by his providence, and by his divine nature, and how he is absent by his natural body, which was born of the virgin Mary, died, and rose for us, and is ascended into heaven, and there sitteth, as is in the articles of our faith, on the right hand of God, and thence, and from none other place (saith S. Augustine) shall come on the latter day to judge the quick and the dead. At the which day the righteous shall then lift up their heads, and the light of God’s truth shall so shine, that falsehood and errors shall be put to perpetual confusion. Righteousness shall have the upper hand, and truth that day shall bear away the victory, all the enemies thereof quite overthrown, to be trod under foot for evermore.
O Lord, Lord, I beseech thee, hast this day; then shalt Thou be glorified with the glory due unto thy holy name, and unto thy divine majesty, and we shall sing unto thee in all joy and felicity, laud and praise for evermore.
Here now would I make an end, for methinks S. Augustine is in this matter so full, and plain, and of that authority, that it should not need after this his declaration, being so timely grounded upon God’s word, and so well agreeing with other ancient authors, to bring in for the confirmation of this matter any more. And yet (I said) I would allege three of the Latin church to testify the truth in this cause.
Now therefore the last of all shall be Gelasius, which was a Bishop of Rome, but one that was Bishop of that See, before the wicked usurpation, and tyranny thereof spread, and burst out abroad into all the world. For this man was before Bonifacius, yea and Gregory the first: In whose days, both corruption of doctrine, and tyrannical usurpation did chiefly grow, and had the upper hand.
Gelasius in an Epistle of the two natures of Christ, contra Entychen, writeth thus. The sacraments of the body and blood of Christ, which we receive, are godly things, whereby, and by the same, we are made partakers of the divine nature, and yet nevertheless the substance, or nature, of the bread and wine doth not depart or go away.
Note these words, I beseech you, and consider, whether anything can be more plainly spoken, than these words be against the error of Transubstantiation; which is the ground, and bitter root whereupon springeth all the horrible errors before rehearsed.
Wherefore seeing that the falsehood hereof doth appear so manifestly, and by so many ways, so plainly, so clearly, and so fully, that no man needeth to be deceived, but he that will not see, or will not understand, let us all that do love the truth, embrace it, and forsake the falsehood, for he that loveth the truth, is of God, and the lack of the love thereof is the cause why God suffereth men to fall into errors, and to perish therein, yea and as St. Paul saith, why he sendeth unto them illusions, that they believe lies unto their own condemnation: Because (saith he) they loved not the truth. This truth, no doubt, is God’s word, for Christ himself saith, unto his Father: Thy word is truth; the love, and light whereof, Almighty God our heavenly Father give us, and lighten it in our hearts, by his Holy Spirit, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.