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THE Sacrament of the Eucharist has for some time been the subject of debate amongst us, and appears to be so still, in some measure; particularly with regard to the sacrificial part of it. As it is a federal rite between God and man, so it must be supposed to carry in it something that God gives to us, and something also that we give, or present, to God. These are, as it were, the two integral parts of that holy ceremony: the former may properly be called the sacramental part, and the latter, the sacrificial. Any great mistake concerning either may be of very ill consequence to the main thing: for if we either mistake the nature of God's engagements towards us, or the nature of our engagements towards God, in that sacred solemnity, we so far defeat the great ends and uses of it, and prejudice ourselves in so doing.
A question was unhappily raised amongst us, about an hundred years ago, whether the material elements of the Eucharist were properly the Christian sacrifice. From thence arose some debate; which however lasted not long, nor spread very far. But at the beginning of this present century, the same question was again brought up, and the debate revived, with some warmth; and it is not altogether extinct even at this day.
Those who shall look narrowly into the heart of that dispute may see reason to judge, that a great part of it was owing to some confusion of ideas, or ambiguity of terms; more particularly, from the want of settling the definitions of sacrifice by certain rules, such as might satisfy reasonable men on both sides.
How that confusion at first arose may perhaps be learned by looking back as far as to Bellarmine, about 1590, or however as far as to the Council of Trent, about thirty years higher. Before that time things were much clearer, so far as concerned this article. No body almost doubted but that the old definitions of sacrifice were right, and that spiritual sacrifice was true and proper sacrifice, yea the most proper of any.
Spiritual sacrifice is St. Peter's phrase a : and it agrees with St. Paul's phrase of reasonable serviceb: and both of them fall in with our Lord's own phrase, of worshipping God in spirit and in truth. It is serving God in newness of spirit, not in the oldness of the letter d. It is offering him true sacrifice and direct homage, as opposed to legal and typical, in order to come at true and direct expiation, without the previous covers or shadows of legal and typical expiations, which reached only to the purifying of the flesh, not to the purging of the conscience. This kind of sacrifice called spiritual does not mean mental service only, but takes in mental, vocal, and manual, the service of the heart, mouth, and hand; all true and direct service, bodily f service, as well as any other, since we ought to serve God with our bodies, as well as our souls. Such is the nature and quality of what Scripture and the ancients call spiritual sacrifice, as opposed to the outward letter. Such services have obtained the name of sacrifice ever since David's time 8, warranted by God himself, under the Old Testament and New. The Jews, before Christ and since h, have frequently used the name of sacrifice in the same spiritual sense. The very Pagans were proud to borrow the same way of speaking i from Jews and Chris
* 1 Pet. ii. 5.
Rom. xii. 1. • John iv. 23. See Dodwell on Instrum. Music, p. 31, Stillingfleet, Serm. xxxix. p. 602. Scot, vol. iv. Serm. iv. d Rom. vii. 6.
• Heb. ix. 13, 14, 9. f Rom. xii. 1. 1 Cor. vi. 20.
& They are emphatically styled sacrifices of God, (Psal. li. 17.) as being the fittest presents or gifts to him, the most acceptable offerings.
h Vid. Vitringa de vet. Synag. in Proleg. p. 40, 41. Philo passim. Justin, Mart. Dial. p. 387.
i Porphyrius de Abstin. lib. ii. sect. 34. Conf. Enseb. Præp. Evangel. lib. iv. cap. 9-14. xiii. cap. 13. Clem. Alex. Strom. v. p. 686. edit. Ox. Even Plato, long before Christianity, had defined sacrifice to mean a present to the Divine Majesty; not confining it, so far as appears, to material, but leaving it at large, so as to comprehend either material or spiritual. See my Review, vol. vii. p. 347.
tians : so that custom of language has not run altogether on the side of material sacrifice. It may rather be said, that the custom of Christian language, not only in the New Testament, but also in the Church writers, has run on the side of spiritual sacrifice, without giving the least hint that it was not true sacrifice, or not sacrifice properly so called.
St. Austin's definition of true and Christian sacrifice k is well known, and need not here be repeated. He spoke the sense of the churches before him: and the Schools, after him, followed him in the same. Aquinas, at the head of the Schoolmen, may here speak for the rest: he determines, that a sacrifice, properly, is any thing performed for God's sole and due honour, in order to appease him! He plainly makes it a work, or service, not a material thing: and by that very rule he determined, that the sacrifice of the cross was a true sacrifice; which expression implies both proper and acceptable. This notion of sacrifice prevailed in that century and in the centuries following, and was admitted by the early Reformers m; and even by Romanists also, as low as the year 1556, or yet lower. Alphonsus a Castro, of that time, a zealous Romanist, in a famous book (which between 1534 and 1556 had gone
k Verum sacrificium est omne opus quod agitur ut sancta societate inhæreamus Deo, relatum scilicet ad illum finem boni quo veraciter beati esse possimus. Augustin. de Civit. Dei, lib. x. cap. 6. p. 242. tom. 7. ed. Bened. Compare my Review, vol. vii. p. 345.
| Dicendum, quod sacrificium proprie dicitur : aliquid factum in honorem proprie Deo debitum ad eum placandum. Et inde est quod Augustinus dicit, verum sacrificium est, &c. Christus autem, ut ibidem subditur, seipsum obtulit in passione pro nobis. Et hoc ipsum opus, quod voluntarie passionem sustinuit, Deo maxime acceptum fuit, utpote ex charitate maxime proveniens : unde manifestum est, quod passio Christi fuerit verum sacrificium. Aquin. Summ. par. iii. q. 48.
- Vid. Melancthon. de Missa, p. 195. In Malachi, p. 545. tom. ii, Chemnit. Examen. part. ii. p. 137.