Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors]

tion, and doctrine of Jesus Christ. Paul declares, that in the observance of the ordinance, they did "show forth the Lord's death." 1 Cor. xi. 26. It is not so much the nature of the ordinance itself, which is calculated to answer this end, as the fact, which is invariably and inseparably connected with the observance, that it was designed originally for this one object, and for none other, viz. to bear up the remembrance of Christ and his religion. Every time the Christian goes to the table, he knows he goes there solemnly to recognise the truth of the religion he professes; to impress a sense of its reality upon his mind, and to assist in bearing down to future generations this standing proof, we mean the ordinance itself, of the truth of that religion. We see sufficient reasons for the continued observance of the ordinance in those benefits, which flow from it, even if there be no positive command to that effect; and we confess, that we feel a strong desire, that the denomination of Universalists shall not be hasty to neglect a service in every way so important.

II. This institution, that was so beautiful in its primitive simplicity, became corrupted soon after the death of the Lord Jesus. It will not be unprofitable to take a rapid review of the corruptions, as the church tolerated them.

The first alteration, or rather addition, made to the original notion of the Lord's Supper was, that of its being a sacrament, or an oath to be true to a leader. The word sacrament significs an oath. It is not found in the Scriptures. This was only a small deviation; but it serves to mark the commencement of the corruptions. The greatest injury of it might consist in preventing Christians, who were opposed to oaths, from attending to the Supper.

Another corruption soon added, and one of much more injury, was the considering of it a "mystery." Christians began very early to call it one of the "mysteries" of our holy religion. The term "mystery

[ocr errors]

signifies something secret. In the worship of the heathen there were many secrets, to which people, supposed to be pure and holy, were initiated. And it seems reasonable, that when the heathen were converted to Christianity, they carried with them their love of mystery and pomp; they wished to have something of this nature in the Christian religion. Christians soon began to exclude all those who did not partake of the ordinance, from being present at the celebration of it. Whether they authoritatively excluded the nonparticipants from the house, or whether such went out voluntarily, we cannot now say; but one thing is certain, it was thought wicked to permit them to see the manner in which the communion was administered. The council of Alexandria, in allusion to this, said; "that which is holy, should not be cast to the dogs, nor pearls before swine." Soon Christians began to call the institution, a "tremendous mystery," a "dreadful solemnity," and "terrible to angels."

We shall pass over many corruptions less worthy of notice, that we may reduce the subject to proper limits. The Lord's Supper soon began to be considered as necessary to salvation, and to the obtaining of the favor of God. And we also find, quite early, some advances toward the absurd doctrine of transubstantiation. Christians began to consider the bread and wine to be changed, after prayers were offered. Something divine had then entered into them. And we may say the same of the cloth, which covered the table, and the table itself, and the utensils. They were thought to be holy, and in time people began to worship them. They were supposed to possess sense and sanctity. Some inquired, whether the bread might not in some sense, be the real body, and the wine, the real blood of Christ. It was thought wrong to commit the blood of Christ to so frail a thing as glass. Jerome reproaches a bishop with this, as he was a rich man, and able to get better. Churches sent portions of bread to neighbouring churches, as a token of communion. But, what was

[ocr errors]

much worse than this, the bread was thought to be useful in a medicinal point of view. It was believed to be a means of preserving people when absent from home, in journeys, and upon voyages. And the priests used to keep a quantity of the consecrated element to distribute occasionally, as it might be wanted. It was given to the sick; and the Christian fathers mention many cases of particular diseases, to which this remedy was applied. This was done solely on account of the virtue which was communicated to the bread by the prayer of the priest. The ancient Christians sometimes buried it with the dead; thinking, no doubt, that it would be of great use to them during their long journey, which they were supposed to take. Thus did the church go on in the work of corrupting this ordinance. People's notions were advancing rapidly toward the doctrine of transubstantiation. They began to use spoons in eating the bread, that they might not drop the crumbs. They thought, too, that they must eat it with the body in a particular position. And, among other superstitious customs, we find that they were in the habit. of mixing some of the wine with ink, to sign writings of a peculiarly solemn nature. "Thus pope Theodore, in the seventh century, signed the condemnation and deposition of Pyrrhus, the Monothelite; it was used at the condemnation of Photius, by the fathers of the Council of Constantinople, in S69; and Charles the Bald, and Bernard, count of Barcelona, also signed a treaty with the sacramental wine, in 844." The practice of the Supper was enveloped in so much mystery and formal solemnity, that the people were afraid to participate in it, and absented themselves from the table; and, at one time, the priests only partook of the ele ments, the people looking on, and joining in the prayers alone.

But we have now almost come to the height of superstition, with respect to this rite. Paschasius Radbert, a monk of Corbie, in France, was the first, we think, boldly to assert one of the most absurd doctrines

ever believed; and yet one, that came afterwards to be very generally received, we mean the doctrine of transubstantiation. Transubstantiation is the change of bread and wine into the real body and blood of Christ. The believers in this doctrine contended, that the bread and wine were changed by the priest's prayer into the body and blood of Christ; the very same body which was born of Mary, crucified upon the cross, and raised from the dead. The priests did not attempt to prove this so much from reason, as from the testimony of ghosts and apparations, which they alleged they had seen. One priest alleged, that he saw the bread become Christ in his full form, as a babe; that he clasped him to his bosom, and afterwards beheld him in the form of bread again. When this doctrine was first advanced, it met with much opposition. Nearly two centuries passed away, before it could with propriety be called the doctrine of the majority. But, as soon as the papal priests saw, that the doctrine was received by the multitude, and that it gave people a reverence for those who could change bread and wine into the actual body and blood of Jesus, they began generally to advocate it; and pope Innocent the Third, at the Council of Lateran, in 1215, by a decree, made it an article of faith. In this age of the world, it is hard to believe, that people were ever so infatuated. Many, we have no doubt, sincerely believed the delusion; and the papal clergy were well enough pleased with it; for they loved to be exalted in the people's estimation, even if it were at the expense of reason and truth. The reader of ecclesiastical history cannot but be astonished at the daring impiety of some of the clergy who believed this doctrine. They seemed intoxicated with a love of the power they thought they possessed. One of them spoke in this way; "On our altars, Jesus Christ obeys all the world. He obeys the priest, let him be where he will, at every hour, at his simple word. They carry him whither they please. He goes into the mouth of the wicked, as well as the righteous.

[ocr errors]

He makes no resistance, he does not hesitate one moment." And it is said, some of the priests boasted, that they had even more power than Mary, the mother of Jesus ; because they could create their Creator whenever they pleased.

The doctrine of transubstantiation gave rise to a practice approaching very near to idolatry, known by the name of the elevation of the host. This practice consisted in carrying about the streets, upon an elevated table, or stand, prepared for the purpose, with the greatest pomp and magnificence, a portion of the consecrated bread, which was adored by the multitude. The custom very naturally resulted from the belief, that, by consecration, the bread was changed into the real body of Jesus.

Although we have now arrived at the summit of superstition on this subject, we have not noticed the full extent of it. We are at the top of the hill; but we came up by degrees, and we must go down by degrees. People did not throw off their superstition all at once. It is a moral sickness, of which it takes some time to cure the world. As this corruption began very early, and went further than any other, so it was with great difficulty rectified; and, indeed, it may not be wholly done to this day.

The subject of the Lord's Supper was one of great interest at the time of the Reformation. Luther, although a reformer in many important points, did but little to correct the error of the church concerning the Eucharist. Notwithstanding he professed to reject the doctrine of transubstantiation, nevertheless, he maintained, "that the partakers of the Lord's Supper received, along with the bread and wine, the real body and blood of Christ." But Carlstadt and Zuinglius took the proper ground, maintaining, in that early day, that the body and blood of Christ were not present in the Eucharist; but, that the bread and wine were signs and symbols, designed to excite in the minds of Christians the remembrance of the sufferings and death of the di

« AnteriorContinuar »