LETTER I. TO THE LORD BISHOP OF EXETER. cont.
Now, permit me here to ask your Lordship, is not this absolutely turning into ridicule all laws both divine and human. The law commands the words of a Will to be strictly taken in the literal sense; and even when they (the words) be figurative, she commands that her judges should explain and keep as close as possible to the reality. " Quibuscunque verbis aliquid sit relictum, liceat legatario id prosequi." In whatever way a thing may be left in a Will, the legatee is permitted to follow it up. Nevertheless, Protestants this day have the hardihood to contest with us, the Will of the Son of God, which is couched in terms clear and formal, in words simple and natural, yet they wish to make it speak a figurative language, or rather, to disfigure it, and to deprive us of our legal rights. What! while they maintain that it is infamous to conceal, to change, or to alter any thing in the Will of a dead man, yet Protestants do not in the least scruple thus to violate and to corrupt the Will of the living God; this manner of acting is quite insupportable. Secondly, it is certain that the words in a Will ought to be taken in the sense most conformable to the wishes of the testator. On this point Protestants agree with us; but they maintain, with the most blind obstinacy, that the intention of the Son of God was only to leave us in the Eucharist the figure of his body; we on the contrary assert, that his intention manifestly was to bequeath to us the very substance of his Body and of his Blood.
On whatever side truth may be, it is important to know it. The right use of the Eucharist depends upon it, and eternal salvation rests upon this proper usage; that is, whether we receive it in figure only, or in reality: and as we cannot make a bad use of it without becoming " guilty of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ," therefore, that we may form a sound judgment on this point, and not be mistaken on so vital a subject, let us consult the very author of the Will; and I shall accordingly now seek to find out his intentions in his words; I shall examine what he says, in order to discover what he wishes to be believed. Let us hear the Son of God! He declares that the Eucharist is his Body and Blood. He says so in words most clear and expressive, " Hoc est corpus meum; Hic est sanguis meus.—This is my Body; This is my Blood." We find these words mentioned no less than four times by three of the Evangelists and by an Apostle. He does not even once say, this is the figure of my Body. That is an expression not to he found in any one part of the Gospel. We do not find it in the Gospel of St. Matthew, nor in that of St. Mark, nor in that of St. John, nor is it to be found, I repeat, in any part of the sacred volume.
Judge now, my Lord Bishop, of his intentions, and tell me as a theologian and as an honest man, which of these two modes does, he wish to be believed, viz., his figurative, or his real presence in the Eucharist. Can it be supposed for a moment, that he wished us to believe what he never said ? or that in saying one thing, he expected us to believe another. Without doubt, his object was that we should ground our faith upon his words, and such was the purport and the essential motive he had in view when speaking them, and it must consequently follow that we are bound to believe that .the Eucharist contains his Body and Blood, since the Sacred Volume in so many places assures us of it, and it is not possible that he intended us to believe the contrary, as he does not, I repeat again, so explain it in any one part of Holy Scripture.
It is out of the power of man, I assert, to invent terms more strong, more forcible than our blessed Saviour used. What then prevents Protestants from believing that it is his true Body and Blood which he gives us in the Eucharist under the species of Bread and Wine? Do you wish that he had used other words in order to convince you of his real intentions, and to strengthen your mind in the belief of the real presence. You may perhaps say, " I wish he had pointed out clearly the change of the substances of bread and wine, the subsistence of their accidents without the subject, the presence of the Body of Jesus Christ in many places, the distinction between his natural and sacramental being, and his existence after a spiritual manner." Perhaps you may wish that he had said, " I have given you here my humanity, not humanity only, but Divinity too, which is present under the species of Bread and Wine, why therefore do you make yourselves unhappy at my departure ? I shall not abandon you, for you have me whenever you wish to possess me, in your hands and in your stomachs. Why therefore are you sorrowul ? " Are expressions like these such as you would wish to have seen written in the Sacred Volume ? Do not dissimulate, but speak out. For if such be your wishes, I tell you, that you will not find them there. If you sincerely desire to hear the voice of the Son of God, I inform you, that he says in four words what Protestants would have wished him to have explained away in many more; but He does not speak as a weak man, but as a God-man; and as on another occasion he created the Heavens and the Earth by His word, in like manner in these few words, " This is my Body," he comprehends, he operates, he produces all those wonders which Protestants would fain to reject. For, when he speaks so clearly, saying, " Take eat, This is my Body, This is my Blood," it was necessary, in order to fulfil his word, that he should transubstantiate what was before nothing but Bread into his Body, and what was before nothing but Wine, in like manner, into his Blood. Behold then the change of these substances of Bread and Wine, and the existence of the accidents without their subject. Besides placing himself in lieu of the Bread and Wine, it must consequently follow, that he should be present in many places; in Heaven by a visible presence, on Earth by an invisible and sacramental presence. Here you see the distinction between his natural and sacramental being, and also his existence after a spiritual manner.
But Protestants continually assert, that if he meant to bequeath to us his Body and Blood, he would have added, that it was his real Body, and that it continued to be no more Bread and Wine, which we take in our hands and which enters into our mouths. But I ask you and them, what reason obliged him so to express himself? Is it according to usage to add comments or explanations when we express ourselves in plain and clear terms ? When a messenger from Heaven revealed to the ever Blessed Virgin Mary the secret of the Incarnation, did he explain to her all the particulars of that mystery ? Did he inform her that the Son of God would assume her own proper being; that he would have a true and real body, and not in appearance only; that she would carry him in her arms, and that she would nourish him with the milk of her own breast? But did he not, on the contrary, content himself by telling her, that the Holy Ghost would descend upon her, and that the virtue of the Most High would overshadow her, and that nothing was impossible with God? And when the Evangelist declared this great mystery to the rest of mankind, did he make use of long discourses? What he said, was it not comprised in four words, " Verbum caro factum est.—The word was made Flesh?" Now is not that enough to oblige us to believe it?