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D URING THOSE MONTHS of Bible searching and patient, prayerful thought, there was no doctrine of the Roman Church that so completely held my attention as that of Transubstantiation. As the word indicates, it is a change of one substance into another, a change of bread and wine into the body and blood, the soul and divinity, of Jesus Christ.
The doctrine of the Church of Rome is that after the priest has pronounced the words of consecration, "Hoc est corpus meum," etc. (This is my body, etc.), what are seen to be bread and wine upon the altar are no longer bread and wine, but the real body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. This wonderful change is produced by the use of these words, Hoc est corpus meum. And this, as Archbishop Tillotson says, led certain jugglers to call their sleight-of-hand tricks hocus-pocus, which is nothing but a corruption of the priest's hoc est corpus, by means of which he commands the whole substance of bread to be gone, and the real body of Christ to assume its place.
The bare statement of such a pretended miracle is enough to refute it—to the satisfaction of every person whose senses have any authority with his understanding.
In connection with my study of the simple narrative of the institution of the Lord's Supper, as found in the Gospels, I learned through Dr. Clark that our Lord conversed with his disciples, in all probability, in the Chaldaic, now the Syriac language, in which there is no term that expresses to mean, signify, denote; hence, the Hebrews use a figure and say it is, for it signifies. There are numerous instances in the Bible illustrative of this.
Thus, the Apostle John, in Rev. 1:20, uses the substantive verb as the Hebrews did—“The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches; and the seven candlesticks are the seven churches." Who would imagine from this that the very substance of seven stars and seven candlesticks was converted into the very substance of the seven churches in Asia and of their seven ministers, as I suppose the word angel to mean? Yet it must be so, the principle laid down by the Council of Trent, and maintained by all good Roman Catholics, upon the perversion of the words, “This is my body.”
The keystone of the Roman structure of transubstantiation rests upon the use of the substantive verb IS: “This is my body,” which, according to the idiom of the language in which the words were spoken, could express no more than, this signifies, or represents my body.
In my reading, I turned again to the words of Christ—as they were spoken that night in the upper room, as he reclined at the table with the twelve. And I inquired, in what sense did the disciples understand these words: "And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake, and gave to the disciples and said, 'Take, eat; this is my body.' And He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave to them, saying, 'Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many, for the remission of sins” (Matt. 26:26-28)?
In the above passage, the pronoun “it” is omitted. Why? Because it is not found in the original but is supplied by the translators. They no doubt understood that the word “blessed” referred to the bread which our Lord took in His hand; and if this were the meaning, their supplement would be correct; but that, I apprehend, is a mistake. The word rendered "blessed" means, “He gave thanks.” "He took bread, and thanked God." So likewise—in reference to the cup.
That Christ blessed God, and not the bread, is farther evident from the word which both Luke and Paul make use of to express what He did on that occasion. It is the very same word which Matthew uses in relation to the cup, and which signifies “give thanks;” and so, our translators have rendered it, Luke 22:19: "And He took bread and gave thanks;” and 1 Cor. 23-24, He "took bread, and when He had given thanks, He brake it, and said," etc. Here the pronoun “it” is properly supplied, because the action of breaking refers to the bread alone. Therefore the word “blessed” and “gave thanks” are expressions of precisely the same import, and God is the object of both.
Christ took bread into His hands, no doubt, and brake it, and said, "This is my body." The disciples were witnesses of His action and heard His words. Now I thought, how would we have understood Him had we been in the place of His disciples? They were men like ourselves; and as we would have felt and thought, they must have felt and thought—If we say they were men of other feelings and perceptions than we are, then we cannot judge of their testimony according to those rules of evidence which are applied to the “witness of men."
They saw their Lord reclining at table, and taking bread in His hands; they saw Him break the bread, they received the broken pieces into their own hands, and they ate them. They heard Him say, "This is my body;" but they expressed no surprise, which they would have done had they supposed that He was breaking His own body in pieces, with His own hands, and that they actually ate Him, as the Church of Rome teaches that He is eaten every time the wafer is received.
Such an unexpected operation would overwhelm any one of us with astonishment and dismay; and it would have done the same to the disciples had it actually taken place. They would have been, if possible, still more surprised if, after having eaten His body, they still saw Him reclining where He was, taking a cup into His hands, and telling them that this was His blood, which they were now to drink. Viewing the matter as it really was, that the bread and the wine represented His body and His blood, which were about to be broken and shed, everything is plain and intelligible, but viewing it in any other light, the thing is absurd and impossible. Had the disciples literally eaten the body of Christ, that which appeared and spoke to them afterwards must have been a mere phantom. Then there was no real sacrifice offered to God upon the cross, no real atonement for sin.
If, as the Roman Church claims, the eating of the bread and the drinking of the wine at the table in the upper chamber in Jerusalem by the eleven disciples was a real propitiatory or atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world, then was Christ offered up as a victim on Thursday night at the table before He was offered up the next day on the cross; and the disciples had EATEN HIM before He was crucified. That is the only logical construction of the Roman interpretation of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. A plain, unvarnished statement of the case reveals the irrational absurdity of the dogma on which rests the entire fabric of the papacy.
Thus I saw that transubstantiation is not a mere harmless absurdity to be laughed at. It strikes at the root of the Christian religion. It subverts the doctrine of the cross of Christ and removes the only foundation on which a sinner can hope for the pardon of his sins and the salvation of his soul.
In my Bible reading, I found the Epistle to the Hebrews a rich storehouse of truth—touching this whole question. The writer of that inspired book insists that THE DEATH OF JESUS CHRIST UPON THE CROSS WAS A PERFECT PROPITIATORY SACRIFICE, OFFERED UP ONCE FOR ALL, for the sins of the world. He stoutly maintains that the one offering is sufficient. If he were combating the pretentious claim of the Papacy, that in the mass the atoning work of Christ is repeated at the will of the priest, he could not be more explicit or clear in his declarations.
For example, in speaking of Christ, our great High Priest, he says: "For such a high priest became us, holy, guileless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; who needeth not daily, like those high priests (Jewish or Roman), to offer up sacrifices, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people: for this he did once for all, when he offered up himself;” "But Christ having come a high priest...through his own blood, entered in once for all into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption;" "For Christ entered not into a holy place made with hands (like the little tabernacle on the altar in which the Roman priest puts the wafer); but into heaven itself, now to appear before the face of God for us; nor yet that he should offer himself often (as the priest in the mass); but now once at the end of the ages hath he been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself;" "And inasmuch as it is appointed unto men once to die...so Christ also, having been once offered to bear the sins of many."
In speaking of the coming Christ as the fulfiller of all the prophecies concerning sacrifices and offerings for sin, he is represented as saying: "Lo, I am come to do thy will. By which will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest (Jewish or Roman) indeed standeth day by day ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, the which can never take away sins: but he, when he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God...For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." And finally under divine inspiration he declares: "There is no more offering for Sin!” (Heb. chs. 9, 10).
But one more testimony is added—that of the Apostle John, in whose inspired writings weighty emphasis is placed upon the sacrificial work of our great High Priest. John says: "He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2), and for all time. Can anything be plainer than the above inspired declarations—that Christ was to be offered but once; and yet the Roman priests pretend to offer him on the altar in the mass, thousands of times every day! "After He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God.”