Imatges de pÓgina
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Elizabeth, unto the present day. How these blessings arose, first on the continent, and then in our own country, we have gradually traced. The various shades of opinion of the leading reformers of Germany and Switzerland, the obstructions which arose from the political circumstances of the time, the checks which they received from the changes of dynasty that occurred during their progress, and above all, the difficulties with which they had to contend from the grossness of ignorance, and inveteracy of prejudice under which the world was labouring; all these are points of the closest interest to the Christian as well as to the historian. The closer we examine, and the more we read, the more satisfied shall we be that our great reformers have justly restored the sacrament of the Eucharist to that plain and simple ceremony of memorial and spiritual sacrifice, which our blessed Lord intended. The Lord's Supper became, as it was originally appointed by the Saviour, a simple memorial of his death, and a sacrifice of thanksgiving, rather than a pompous pageant, outraging common The wine was no longer confined to the clergy, but given equally to all. The bread was no longer a wafer, but the actual food of which we daily partake, and such as we believe our Lord himself brake and blessed at his last supper. The elements were no longer held up for worship and

sense.

adoration, but were considered, as our Lord intended, as signs of the body and blood which were broken and poured forth in short, we returned, after a lapse of many centuries of the grossest darkness and perversion of God's word, to the original purity of the institution. We became again, in the sacrament of the Eucharist, rational creatures, celebrating the memory of Christ's death with faith and spiritual devotion. We no longer paid the wages of corruption for the passage of our soul from death to salvation, but we looked upon the bread and wine as typical merely, and emblematical of that great sacrifice which was made once for all; and we remembered the scripture which said, "Christ, our high priest, not by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood entered once into the holy place. Neither hath he often suffered since the foundation of the world, but now once hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself."

Eighteen hundred years have now elapsed since this holy memorial was first established. For the first three centuries it was observed in its integrity for the next three centuries it was gradually overloaded by cumbrous forms and ceremonies: and for the succeeding nine centuries it was nearly lost in the corruptions and ignorance of a designing priesthood and a superstitious people. Then, by the blessing of our God, it was revived, and presents to us,

as at this day, when we are invited to communicate at the table of the Lord, as nearly as possible, the very institution which Jesus commanded. Looking to the words of St. Paul, "For by this ye do shew forth the Lord's death TILL HE COME," how perfectly miraculous does its preservation appear. When we consider that in the year 1536, it should have been openly asserted in the articles of the church of England, "Touching the sacrament of the altar, people are instructed that under the forms of bread and wine, there is truly and substantially given the very same body of Christ that was born of the Virgin Mary," an article signed by the hand of Cranmer; this will in itself display the extent of those prejudices which the true light of the reformation had to encounter and to dispel.

But we will leave the past. That past can never recur. The art of printing, even if it stood by itself, renders it impossible. Only behold the course of history as now detailed. Only consider our church restored to the primitive and apostolic purity of its early days, (at least in the theory and doctrine of this its most important ceremonial.) There is exacted of the Christian community no irrational profession of belief: there is required now no credit in the fables of papal ignorance: there is demanded now no worship of the host, no falling down before the material elements

of our own creating. The church, as it is now "built upon the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief-corner stone," requires of us merely to eat bread and drink wine as a sacrificial thanksgiving, that we "may shew the Lord's death TILL HE COME;" and herein we are required, each one in his individual capacity, each one inasmuch as he is the creature of God, and a member of Christ, to contribute to the glory of his Creator, the stability of his church, the purity of his religion, and the memory of Christ crucified.

CHAPTER V.

THE PRESENT FORM OF OBSERVANCE.

1 COR. XIV. 40.

"Let all things be done DECENTLY AND IN ORDER.'

THE nature and design of the institution of the Lord's Supper, the history of its abuses, changes, and various methods of celebration, from the time of its original establishment up to the present day, have already been examined.

Our business is now to investigate the present form of celebration in the church of England.

It appears from the New Testament, that our blessed Lord, in his original institution of the sacrament, did not lay down any specific form of words in which it should be observed. Hence, therefore, as far as the essential nature of the rite is concerned, no peculiar form is requisite: but as a church, agreeing in the propriety of a liturgy, agreeing in the decorum, sanctity, and general tenor

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