The Crux of Ritualism.
The whole Ritualistic movement in England is centered in the Holy Communion, or Last Supper, or the Eucharist, or Mass, or by whatever name this Sacrament of the Church is called. The doctrine of Transubstantiation, as taught in the decrees of the Council of Trent, or of Consubstantiation, as taught by Luther, or the doctrine of the Real Presence, as taught by many Anglican Divines, all have their root in the Last Supper of Jesus with his Disciples. If we can understand the significance of that Meal, the whole Ritualistic controversy will be understood and ended. Yet how few will take the trouble to understand what was actually done at that Last Meal of Jesus with his Disciples? It is with the object of drawing the attention of the people to the true question—the origin of the Supper—that underlies all the Ritualistic controversies that these few pages are written.page 2
The four Gospels give an account of a Last Supper. Matthew in Chapter XXVI, Mark in Chapter XTV, Luke in Chapter XXII and John in Chapter XIII. John simply records a Last Meal, and has nothing about the institution of any commemorative feast. If there was instituted at the Last Meal of Christ with his Disciples a Feast that was to be commemorated for ever, and if the words used were to have the deep meaning that almost all branches of the Christian Church say they have, how comes it that there is no record of these in John?
"And as they were eating, Jesus took bread and blessed and brake it; and he gave to the Disciples and said, Take, eat: this is my body. And he took a cup, and gave thanks, and gave to them saying, Drink ye all of it, for this is my blood of the covenant which is shed for many unto the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it with you in my Father's Kingdom.
"And as they were eating, he took bread, and when he had blessed it he brake it, and gave to them and said, Take ye: this is my body. And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave to them; and they all drank of it. And he said unto them, This is my blood of the covenant which is shed for many. Verily I say unto you, i will no more drink of the fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new in the Kingdom of God."
"And he received a cup, and when he had given thanks, he said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves, for I say unto you I will not drink from henceforth the fruit of the vine until the Kingdom of God shall come. And he took bread and when he had given thanks, he brake it and gave to them saying, This is my body which is given for you; this do in remembrance of me. And the cup in like manner after supper, saying, This cup is the new covenant in my blood, even that which is poured out for you."
It is recorded that the twelve Disciples were present. They were Simon Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alpheus, Simon the Cananean, Thaddeus or Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot. Neither Mark nor Luke were present. The whole question as to the Sacrament turns on the question whether or not Jesus instituted a Feast to commemorate his impending death. Matthew and Mark have no record of any such institution. John has none either. It is only Luke that records that the words "This do in remembrance of me "were used, and that only for the bread, not for the drinking of the cup. Even if these words were used, they do not show that Jesus intended that the Feast should be kept as a commemorative one by his Church. This do—means this: do now, in my presence—in remembrance of me. These words are used when the bread is distributed. There is therefore nothing in the three Gospels inculcating that there was to be a commemorative Feast kept by the Church such as is attempted to be done in Christian Churches, and variously designated Holy Communion, Lord's Sapper, Eucharist, Mass, &c. page 4 And here the controversy might end, for the foundation on which the various doctrines of the Supper rest is taken away.
Before dealing with what St. Paul says about it in the Epistle to the Corinthians, let us see what the Feast was at which Jesus and his Disciples were present. Matthew, Mark and Luke agree in saying it was a Jewish Passover. How a Jewish Passover was celebrated may be shortly stated as follows:—The persons who were to join in the Feast took off their sandals, washed their hands and feet, and rested on couches. The Feast began by a goblet of wine—generally three parts wine and one of water—being passed round after the head of the family had utter a short thanksgiving prayer both for the wine and feast-day. The following was used:—" Blessed art thou O Lord our God, thou King of the Earth, who hast made the fruit of the vine and hast given us this feast-day." Bitter herbs were then served and eaten, and then biscuits of unleaven bread baked in flat round cakes almost half an inch thick, with fruit and some of the flesh of the roasted Paschal Lamb. The head of the family took one of the biscuits, broke it up with the blessing, "Praised be he who makes the bread come forth out of the earth," and handed the pieces to those present, who ate them together with some of the herbs dipped in the fruit. While the second cup was being prepared, the head of the house stated the significance of the Feast, and Psalms CXIII and CXIV were sung and then the cup went round. Then the bead of the house washed his hands again and ate the first piece of the Lamb, upon which the regular Feast began, all eating and joining in conversation cheerful and joyous. The meal was closed with a third cup of wine called "the cup of blessing," and as a fourth cup page 5 went round, the Psalms CXV and CXVIII were sung. Sometimes there was even a fifth cup.
It will be observed that Luke speaks of two cups—one before the Feast and one after the Supper. Mark implies that there was only one cup referred to—the one after Supper and Matthew agrees with Mark. Is the whole feast to be followed? Is the Paschal Feast of the Jewish Church to be kept? There is nothing in any of the Gospels showing that this Feast or the part of it—the breaking of bread and drinking of wine—was to become a permanent Sacrament of the Church. And when the Apostles were sent out as missionaries to convert the nations the founding of such a Sacrament is not mentioned. Baptism is mentioned, but not the Sacrament of the Last Supper. Are the Quakers far wrong in denying that any Sacrament was ever instituted?
St. Paul, however, will be relied on, and we may examine what he says. Two remarks, however, must be made. First, St. Paul was not present at the Last Supper, and he and Luke had both to trust to tradition. Matthew was there. Further, none of the other Apostles refer to the Sacrament. If such a rite was established, whether as a Sacrifice, as the Roman or Greek Church says; or as a Communion, such as Protestant Churches declare, how is it that the Epistles are silent? It is true that there is something in the Acts. It may be quoted.
"And they continued steadfastly in the Apostles' teaching and fellowship in the breaking of bread and the prayers And all that believed were together, and had all things in common, and they sold page 6 their possessions and goods, and parted them to all, according as any man had need. And day by day continuing steadfastly with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread at home, they did take their food with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God and having favour with all the people."
"When therefore ye assemble yourselves together, it is not possible to eat the Lord's Supper; for in your eating each one taketh before other his own supper; and one is hungry and another is drunken. What? have ye not houses to eat and drink in? or despise ye the Church of God, and put them to shame that have not? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I praise you not. For I received of the Lord that which I also delivered unto you, how that the Lord Jesus in the night in which he was betrayed took bread; and when he had given thanks, he brake it and said, This is my body which is for you; this do in remembrance of me. In like manner also the cup, after supper saying, This cup is the new covenant in my blood; this do as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread and drink the cup, ye proclaim the Lord's death till he come. Wherefore whosoever page 7 shall eat the bread or drink the cup of the Lord unworthily shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man prove himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he that eateth and drinketh, eateth and drinketh Judgment unto himself if he discern not the body. For this cause many among you are weak and sickly, and not a few sleep. But if we discerned ourselves we should not be judged. But when we are judged we are chastenned of the Lord that we may not be condemed with the world. Wherefore my brethren when ye come together to eat, wait one for another. If any man is hungry let him eat at home; that your coming together be not unto judgment."
First it will be noted that there is no mention here of any Sacrament at all. The early Christians were accustomed to eat together and to have Love Feasts (2 Peter I, 13; Judo 12) and it is of these Paul was speaking. Some brought their own food and drink to the Church, and the poor had little to bring. There is no hint in the New Testament that the Feast of the Lord's Supper was to become a Sacrament or invested with mystery. The early Christians in meeting and eating in common no doubt looked back to the last time Jesus met his Apostles, but not until long afterwards did the idea of a Sacrament or a Holy Communion arise.
The fact is that the true representation of the Love Feasts of the Early Church is the Tea Meeting or Soirees held in the Churches to-day.
It is not necessary, therefore, to discuss even the question of Transubstantiation, or Con ubstantiation, or Real Presence, or Divine Grace, nor the meaning of "This is my body," nor how the bread page 8 could be his body when he in his body was sitting with them, nor the question of Sacrifice—the foundation for all these discussions is nonexistent if the Feast was not made commemorative. And what (to summarise) is the testimony?
Matthew does not mention anything about a Commemorative Feast nor a Sacrifice, nor does Mark. Luke only refers to it in the breaking of bread. The Acts refer to a common meal, and St. Paul is dealing with the Love Feasts, and tells the Corinthian Christians they can eat them in their own houses. There is no statement that this common meal could not be eaten without any Apostle or Minister being present. Further, neither James, nor Peter, nor John, nor Jude seem to have ever heard of a Mass or a Communion or a Sacrament of the Supper.
The whole doctrine is a growth of later times, and is when it is a Sacrifice, a copy of the Pagan and Jewish sacrifices, without any warrant from the New Testament. With the doctrine of a Sacrifice or a Sacrament will fall the doctrine of Apostolic Succession and Episcopal Ordination which some Anglican Divines favour; but which Light foot, Hort, Hatch, Stanley, Hare, &c., have shown are without historical warrant.
And with the fall of these doctrines—a Sacrament of the Eucharist and Apostolic Succession—the value of Ritualism vanishes.
A few quotations from Ritualists showing how they view the "eating together" St. Paul wrote of, may be given, and it will be seen that for these doctrines there is no warrant in the New Testament, and that St. Paul gives no support to their views.page 9
1. "The Communion service without an offering sacrifice would be like a marriage without a bride. The teaching of the whole Catholic Church is that there is the Real Presence of the Body and Blood of Christ, of His Soul, and of His Divinity in the form of bread and wine."
2. "By the power of His Spirit bread and wine become His Body and Blood. In the sacrament of the Eucharist the Body and Blood of Christ united to His Godhead is combined with the sacramental signs."
3. "The Holy Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ in the form of bread and wine. Therein is Christ, His Body, His Soul and Divinity. That, we take, is certain."
4. "The Eucharistic sacrifice is a necessary consequence of the Real Presence. We offer Christ Himself in form of bread and wine."
Reference might have been made to Baur's "Church History," Harnack's "History of Dogma," and to the writings of many of the Fathers as to how the doctrines of Transubstantiation, Consubstantiation and other doctrines regarding the Lord's Supper originated. Instead, however, of making an historical survey, tracing the growth of the doctrines in vogue to-day, it has been thought better to go to the New Testament to see if such doctrines can be found there. They page 10 cannot. It remains to be seen if those who take their religion, not from tradition, but from the Bible, will longer continue a practice that is without Scripture warrant and leads to such idolatry as the celebration of the Lord's Supper does.
E. J. D. Johnson, Printer, 21 Willis Street, Wellington.