BY M. D. TALBOT.
I submit every word contained in this work to the supreme judgment
of the Apostolic See, adhering with heart and soul to the
solemn declaration made by St. Jerome, in his Epistle to St. Damasus
Pope, " It is with your Holiness I hold it ; that is to say, I live in
communion with the Chair of Peter. Upon that Rock I know the
Church has been built." (Epist. xiv. ad Damasum.)
"This is my Body. This is my Blood."—St. Matt. xxvi. 26, 28.
LETTER I. TO THE LORD BISHOP OF EXETER.
MY LORD BISHOP,
If we ought to receive with becoming reverence every word which was spoken by the Saviour of the World, your Lordship cannot deny but it would be the very height of impiety to alter even one syllable of those which he uttered, when making his last Will and Testament, just before he suffered the ignominious death of the Cross for our Sins, and which contain the most convincing proofs, that he could give us of his affection and of his love; Cum dilexisset Suos, in finem dilexit eos. What attention is paid to the last words of a dying man, of one even who knows not but Hell may be his lot. " No one then," says the great St. Augustine, " utters a falsehood," and if an heir should ridicule them, he would be looked upon as a bad man; how then shall we avoid the anger of God, if we reject, by infidelity or by contempt, the last words of his only Son, our Lord and Redeemer, spoken shortly before returning to Heaven, whence he beholds all who neglect and all who observe them, and whence he will come to judge both the one class and the other.
Nevertheless, my Lord Bishop, it is really deplorable to behold the efforts which Sectarians have made, and are making, to alter and corrupt the last Will and Testament of the Son of God, comprised in the few words which declare so expressly his last bequest, " Take eat, this is my Body." I shall now only simply quote what Martin Luther, the Father of the pretended Reformation, says in his "Defence of the Words of the Supper against those Fanatical Spirits, the Sacramentarians," to shew the baneful and terrible effects of the heresies of the 16th Century. " Of these holy and sacred words, Hoc est Corpus meum," says Luther, " Carlostadius miserably J twists this pronoun, hoc; Zuinglius mangles this substantive verb, est; (Ecolampadius tortures this word, Corpus. Others destroy the whole text, taking this word, hoc, out of its original position, and placing it the very last, saying, Accipite, comedite, corpus meum, quod pro vobis datur, est hoc; others maim half this text, and place this word, hoc, in the middle, saying, Accipite, comedite, quod pro vobis datur, hoc est Corpus meum; others again alter it thus, Hoc est Corpus meum ad mei commemorationem, that is to say, my Body is not here truly present, but only the commemoration of my Body; besides these I have here mentioned, to make up the number seven, we find others who say, they are not articles of Faith, that each one is permitted to form his own judgment on them as he thinks best, and consequently shews the folly of so many discussions on this subject. These people trample under their feet, and destroy every thing sacred. Each one fancying that he carries with him the Holy Spirit,1 and is therefore convinced he cannot err, although their interpretations and their proofs are completely at variance, in so much so, that not one of them can be true. The Devil thus grossly and visibly deceives mankind."— (Lutherus in Defensione verborum canoe contra Phanaticos Sacramentariorum Spiritus, Tom. 7.) Thus, my Lord Bishop, this confusion of opinions is a manifest proof of the spirit of discord which governs them, and which prevents their authors from agreeing on any point excepting one, viz, to suppress the true and legal meaning of this text, and to turn and twist it into contrary and supposed senses quite repugnant to the intention of the Testator.
Every one knows that the Eucharist is an inestimable gift; which Jesus Christ when dying bequeathed by his last Will to his Church, as to the legitimate heir of all his property. He describes it in these words, "This is my Blood, the Blood of the New Testament;" and the Fathers so understanding it, explained his meaning by calling the Eucharist, " the Hereditary Gift of the New Testament,—Hereditarium munus Novi Testament!."— (St. Gaudentius, tr. 2, in Exodum.) His bequest is thus expressed in the Gospel: " And whilst they were at Supper Jesus took Bread, and blessed, and broke, and gave to his Disciples, and said, Take ye and eat, this is my Body; and taking the chalice he gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of this, for this is my Blood of the New Testament, which shall be shed for many for the remission of sins; and I say to you, I will not drink from henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I shall drink it new with you in the kingdom of my Father." —(St. Matthew, xxvi. 26, 27, 28, 29.)
The Catholic, taking these words in their proper and literal sense, believes that the Eucharist is the true Body of Jesus Christ under the form of Bread. The Sectarian laughs at his simplicity, and declares that it is nothing but Bread he has bequeathed to us, as a sign or a figure of his body.
Which therefore of the two, I may be asked, is the right explanation of the Sacred Text ? I answer, that without a doubt it is the one which gives to the words of Jesus Christ the meaning the most natural and the most conformable to his intentions, which agrees best with his high and exalted character, and which is the most advantageous to his family and to his heirs. Let Protestants weigh without prejudice all those circumstances, and they will soon be convinced of their being in error. 1st. Because beyond all doubt, the words of a will ought to be taken and understood in their proper and natural sense. The law so prescribes it, and good sense is quite in accordance with this disposition of the law. Where, permit me to ask, is there to be found a man of sound judgment, who wishing to make his Will, does not endeavour to express it in the most clear and intelligible language, in order to take away every pretext from those who might be tempted to dispute it? Every one would wish that his last Will and Testament should be faithfully fulfilled, and fearing to be misunderstood or mistaken in the forms, he does not confide in his own judgment, but consults talented, able, and experienced persons on these subjects. But if after all his assiduity and care to express himself clearly, some obscurity unfortunately be found which was not foreseen, it cannot be said that he occasioned it purposely, but that he was mistaken in the proper manner of expressing himself, while he sincerely desired to take away every pretext of litigation from his heirs.
With what face then can Protestants advance, that Jesus Christ, who is wisdom itself, did on so important an occasion as his last Supper, use ambiguous terms and improper phrases, thus throwing an eternal apple of discord among his children. If he merely intended to give them by his last Will and Testament the figure of his Body, I ask in the name of common sense, what prevented his expressing himself clearly, and saying in precise terms, " This is the figure of my Body? " What could be his reason, I ask again? was it to deceive us by such a surprising equivocation, or was it to curtail three or four words, which had he but added to those he spoke, he would have put an end to all doubts on this most important of all questions.
Was it the want of sincerity on his part ? Hear St. Hilary: " Forte qui verbum est, et qui veritas est, loqui vera nescivit ? et qui sapientia est, hi stultiloquio erravit? et qui virtus est, in ea fuit infirmitate, ne posset eloqui quee vellet intelligia — (L. 8, de Trin. Sub. Init.) " Perhaps," says St. Hilary, " that he who is the Word and the Truth itself, did not know how to express himself? That wisdom was blended with extravagance; that strength had this weakness, that it did not know how to articulate what it wished to be understood." Is it not therefore abusing the simplicity of mankind, to assert that the Son of God, who is the essence of all perfections, who can deceive no one, and who has assured us in terms the most clear and expressive, that that which he gave us was his body; is it not, I say, abusing the simplicity of mankind, for Protestants to presume thus to contradict the Son of God, by asserting that we are not obliged to believe it to be that which he has declared it? Is it permitted thus to joke, to trifle, with the Sacred Word?
St. Paul says, " Hominis confirmatum testamentum nemo spernit aut superordinat."—(Gal. iii.) " No one despises the will of a man if it be authentic, or permits himself to add, or to take away from it." But the Sectarian considers himself privileged to censure the last Will and Testament of our Beloved Saviour, to corrupt it by the addition of figures, and to explain his sacred words in a contrary sense. What should we say to a man, who to defraud a lawful heir of a diamond which his father had bequeathed to him by his will, should sustain that the word diamond ought to be taken in figurative sense, that is to say, for the figure of a diamond, and not for the diamond itself ? Such a person, I assert, would either be considered a madman or a fool. Yet such is the extravagant and ridiculous conduct of Protestants on this subject. The Catholic Church asserts that Jesus Christ has left us by his Will his own precious Body under the species of Bread and Wine. Protestants on the contrary assert, that this is impossible, that it is inconceivable, that there is nothing in the three Evangelists nor in St. Paul to warrant such a doctrine. Catholics produce the Gospel to convince them of their bad faith, and we tell them with St. Augustine, " Quare litigas? Fratres sumus, non intestatus mortuus est Pater. Fecit testamentum, et sic mortuus est. Mortuus est, et resurrexit," &c. &c.— (St. Aug. in Ps. 21.) " Ubi inventa fuerit ipsa hereditas, ipsam teneamus, Aperi testamentum."— (Ibid.) "Why do you cavil? We are Brothers; our Father has not died Intestate; he made his Will before he died; he has risen from the dead; he lives for ever; he hears our words, and he understands his own. Open the Will, let us read it, and then we shall find the inheritance which we hold from him." We shew tin's Will of Jesus Christ to every one, we recite his very words: " Hoc est Corpus meum.—This is my Body." " Hic est sanguis meus —This is my blood." But in order to dispossess us of this rich treasure, Protestants declare, that this mode of expressing himself is improper; that Jesus Christ spoke in a figurative language, for that which he gave us to eat was not his Body, but only the figure of his Body. Consequently the Will of the Son of God is not properly speaking a Will, but a figurative Will; or we may say, that a Will may be true in substance, although all that it contains be nothing but figure.
1 The Holy Spirit is promised (St. John, xiv. 26) to the Apostles and to their Successors, particularly to teach them all truth, and to preserve them from all error, but he is not promised to each individual, according to the fanatical idea of Sectarians.