(Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion 4, part 18)
Chapter 17. Of the Lord's Supper, and the benefits conferred by it. 
    This chapter is divided into two principal heads. - I. The 
first part shows what it is that God exhibits in the Holy Supper, 
sec. 1-4; and then in what way and how far it becomes ours, sec. 
5-11. II. The second part is chiefly occupied with a refutation of 
the errors which superstition has introduced in regard to the Lord's 
Supper. And, first, Transubstantiation is refuted, sec. 12-15. Next, 
Consubstantiation and Ubiquity, sec. 16-19. Thirdly, It is shown 
that the institution itself is opposed to those hyperbolical 
doctors, sec. 20-25. Fourth, The orthodox view is confirmed by other 
arguments derived from Scripture, sec. 26, 27. Fifth, The authority 
of the Fathers is shown to support the same view. Sixth, The 
presence for which opponents contend is overthrown, and another 
presence established, sec. 29-32. Seventh, What the nature of our 
communion ought to be, sec. 33, 34. Eighth, The adoration introduced 
by opponents refuted. For what end the Lord's Supper was instituted, 
sec. 35-39. Lastly, The examination of communicants is considered, 
sec. 40-42. Of the eternal rites to be observed. Of frequent 
communion in both kinds. Objections refuted, sec. 43-50. 
1. Why the Holy Supper was instituted by Christ. The knowledge of 
    the sacrament, how necessary. The signs used. Why there are no 
    others appointed. 
2. The manifold uses and advantages of this sacrament to the pious. 
3. The Lords Supper exhibits the great blessings of redemption, and 
    even Christ himself. This even evident from the words of the 
    institution. The thing specially to be considered in them. 
    Congruity of the signs and the things signified. 
4. The chief parts of this sacrament. 
5. How Christ, the Bread of Life, is to be received by us. Two 
    faults to be avoided. The receiving of it must bear reference 
    both to faith and the effect of faith. What meant by eating 
    Christ. In what sense Christ the bread of life. 
6. This mode of eating confirmed by the authority of Augustine and 
7. It is not sufficient, while omitting all mention of flesh and 
    blood, to recognise this communion merely as spiritual. It is 
    impossible fully to comprehend it in the present life. 
8. In explanation of it, it may be observed, I. There is no life at 
    all save in Christ. II. Christ has life in a twofold sense; 
    first, in himself; as he is God; and, secondly, by transfusing 
    it into the flesh which he assumed, that he might thereby 
    communicate life to us. 
9. This confirmed from Cyril, and by a familiar example. How the 
    flesh of Christ gives life, and what the nature of our 
    communion with Christ. 
10. No distance of place can impede it. In the Supper it is not 
    presented as an empty symbol, but, as the apostle testifies, we 
    receive the reality. Objection, that the expression is 
    figurative. Answer. A sure rule with regard to the sacraments. 
11. Conclusion of the first part of the chapter. The sacrament of 
    the Supper consists of two parts, viz., corporeal signs, and 
    spiritual truth. These comprehend the meaning, matter, and 
    effect. Christ truly exhibited to us by symbols. 
12. Second part of the chapter, reduced to nine heads. The 
    transubstantiation of the Papists considered and refuted. Its 
    origin and absurdity. Why it should be exploded. 
13. Transubstantiation as feigned by the Schoolmen. Refutation. The 
    many superstitions introduced by their error. 
14. The fiction of transubstantiation why invented contrary to 
    Scripture, and the consent of antiquity. The term 
    transubstantiation never used in the early Church. Objection. 
15. The error of transubstantiation favoured by the consecration, 
    which was a kind of magical incantation. The bread is not a 
    sacrament to itself, but to those who receive it. The changing 
    of the rod of Moses into a serpent gives no countenance to 
    Popish transubstantiation. No resemblance between it and the 
    words of institution in the Supper. Objection. Answer. 
16. Refutation of consubstantiation; whence the idea of ubiquity. 
17. This ubiquity confounds the natures of Christ. Subtleties 
18. Absurdities collected with consubstantiation. Candid exposition 
    of the orthodox view. 
19. The nature of the true presence of Christ in the Supper. The 
    true and substantial communion of the body and blood of the 
    Lord. This orthodox view assailed by turbulent spirits. 
20. This view vindicated from their calumnies. The words of the 
    institution explained in opposition to the glosses of 
    transubstantiators and consubstantiators. Their subterfuges and 
    absurd blasphemies. 
21. Why the name of the thing signified is given to the sacramental 
    symbols. This illustrated by passages of Scripture; also by a 
    passage of Augustine. 
22. Refutation of an objection founded on the words, "This is". 
    Objection answered. 
23. Other objections answered. 
24. Other objections answered. No question here as to the 
    omnipotence of God. 
25. Other objections answered. 
26. The orthodox view further confirmed. I. By a consideration of 
    the reality of Christ's body. II. From our Saviour's 
    declaration that he would always be in the world. This 
    confirmed by the exposition of Augustine. 
27. Refutation of the sophisms of the Ubiquitists. The evasion of 
    visible and invisible presence refuted. 
28. The authority of Fathers not in favour of these errors as to 
    Christ's presence. Augustine opposed to them. 
29. Refutation of the invisible presence maintained by opponents. 
    Refutation from Tertullian, from a saying of Christ after his 
    resurrection, from the definition of a true body, and from 
    different passages of Scripture. 
30. Ubiquity refuted by various arguments. 
31. The imaginary presence of Transubstantiators, Consubstantiators, 
    and Ubiquitists, contrasted with the orthodox doctrine. 
32. The nature of our Saviour's true presence explained. The mode of 
    it incomprehensible. 
33. Our communion in the blood and flesh of Christ. Spiritual not 
    oral, and yet real. Erroneous view of the Schoolmen. 
34. This view not favoured by Augustine. How the wicked eat the body 
    of Christ. Cyril's sentiments as to the eating of the body of 
35. Absurdity of the adoration of sacramental symbols. 
36. This adoration condemned. I. By Christ himself. II. By the 
    Council of Nice. III. By ancient custom. IV. By Scripture. This 
    adoration is mere idolatry. 
37. This adoration inconsistent with the nature and institution of 
    the sacrament. Ends for which the sacrament was instituted. 
38. Ends for which the sacrament was instituted. 
39. True nature of the sacrament contrasted with the Popish 
    observance of it. 
40. Nature of an unworthy approach to the Lord's table. The great 
    danger of it. The proper remedy in serious self-examination. 
41. The spurious examination introduced by the Papists. Refutation. 
42. The nature of Christian examination. 
43. External rites in the administration of the Supper. Many of them 
44. Duty of frequent communion. This proved by the practice of the 
    Church in its purer state, and by the canons of the early 
45. Frequent communion in the time of Augustine. The neglect of it 
    censured by Chrysostom. 
46. The Popish injunction to communicate once a year an execrable 
47. Communion in one kind proved to be an invention of Satan. 
48. Subterfuges of the Papists refuted. 
49. The practice of the early Church further considered. 
50. Conclusion. 
    1. After God has once received us into his family, it is not 
that he may regard us in the light of servants, but of sons, 
performing the part of a kind and anxious parent, and providing for 
our maintenance during the whole course of our lives. And, not 
contented with this, he has been pleased by a pledge to assure us of 
his continued liberality. To this end, he has given another 
sacrament to his Church by the hand of his only begotten Son, viz., 
a spiritual feast, at which Christ testifies that he himself is 
living bread, (John 6: 51,) on which our souls feed, for a true and 
blessed immortality. Now, as the knowledge of this great mystery is 
most necessary, and, in proportion to its importance, demands an 
accurate exposition, and Satan, in order to deprive the Church of 
this inestimable treasure, long ago introduced, first, mists, and 
then darkness, to obscure its light, and stirred up strife and 
contention to alienate the minds of the simple from a relish for 
this sacred food, and in our age, also, has tried the same artifice, 
I will proceed, after giving a simple summary adapted to the 
capacity of the ignorant, to explain those difficulties by which 
Satan has tried to ensnare the world. First, then, the signs are 
bread and wine, which represent the invisible food which we receive 
from the body and blood of Christ. For as God, regenerating us in 
baptism, ingrafts us into the fellowship of his Church, and makes us 
his by adoption, so we have said that he performs the office of a 
provident parent, in continually supplying the food by which he may 
sustain and preserve us in the life to which he has begotten us by 
his word. Moreover, Christ is the only food of our soul, and, 
therefore, our heavenly Father invites us to him, that, refreshed by 
communion with him, we may ever and anon gather new vigour until we 
reach the heavenly immortality. But as this mystery of the secret 
union of Christ with believers is incomprehensible by nature, he 
exhibits its figure and image in visible signs adapted to our 
capacity, nay, by giving, as it were, earnests and badges, he makes 
it as certain to us as if it were seen by the eye; the familiarity 
of the similitude giving it access to minds however dull, and 
showing that souls are fed by Christ just as the corporeal life is 
sustained by bread and wine. We now therefore, understand the end 
which this mystical benediction has in view, viz., to assure us that 
the body of Christ was once sacrificed for us, so that we may now 
eat it, and, eating, feel within ourselves the efficacy of that one 
sacrifice, - that his blood was once shed for us so as to be our 
perpetual drink. This is the force of the promise which is added, 
"Take, eat; this is my body, which is broken for you," (Matth. 26: 
26, &c.) The body which was once offered for our salvation we are 
enjoined to take and eat, that, while we see ourselves made 
partakers of it, we may safely conclude that the virtue of that 
death will be efficacious in us. Hence he terms the cup the covenant 
in his blood. For the covenant which he once sanctioned by his blood 
he in a manner renews, or rather continues, in so far as regards the 
confirmation of our faith, as often as he stretches forth his sacred 
blood as drink to us. 
    2. Pious souls can derive great confidence and delight from 
this sacrament, as being a testimony that they form one body with 
Christ, so that every thing which is his they may call their own. 
Hence it follows, that we can confidently assure ourselves, that 
eternal life, of which he himself is the heir, is ours, and that the 
kingdom of heaven, into which he has entered, can no more be taken 
from us than from him; on the other hand, that we cannot be 
condemned for our sins, from the guilt of which he absolves us, 
seeing he has been pleased that these should be imputed to himself 
as if they were his own. This is the wondrous exchange made by his 
boundless goodness. Having become with us the Son of Man, he has 
made us with himself sons of God. By his own descent to the earth he 
has prepared our ascent to heaven. Having received our mortality, he 
has bestowed on us his immortality. Having undertaken our weakness, 
he has made us strong in his strength. Having submitted to our 
poverty, he has transferred to us his riches. Having taken upon 
himself the burden of unrighteousness with which we were oppressed, 
he has clothed us with his righteousness. 
    3. To all these things we have a complete attestation in this 
sacrament, enabling us certainly to conclude that they are as truly 
exhibited to us as if Christ were placed in bodily presence before 
our view, or handled by our hands. For these are words which can 
never lie nor deceive - Take, eat, drink. This is my body, which is 
broken for you: this is my blood, which is shed for the remission of 
sins. In bidding us take, he intimates that it is ours: in bidding 
us eat, he intimates that it becomes one substance with us: in 
affirming of his body that it was broken, and of his blood that it 
was shed for us, he shows that both were not so much his own as 
ours, because he took and laid down both, not for his own advantage, 
but for our salvation. And we ought carefully to observe, that the 
chief, and almost the whole energy at the sacrament consists in 
these words, It is broken for you; it is shed for you. It would not 
be of much importance to us that the body and blood of the Lord are 
now distributed, had they not once been set forth for our redemption 
and salvation. Wherefore they are represented under bread and wine, 
that we may learn that they are not only ours but intended to 
nourish our spiritual life; that is, as we formerly observed, by the 
corporeal things which are produced in the sacrament, we are by a 
kind of analogy conducted to spiritual things. Thus when bread is 
given as a symbol of the body of Christ, we must immediately think 
of this similitude. As bread nourishes, sustains, and protects our 
bodily life, so the body of Christ is the only food to invigorate 
and keep alive the soul. When we behold wine set forth as a symbol 
of blood, we must think that such use as wine serves to the body, 
the same is spiritually bestowed by the blood of Christ; and the use 
is to foster, refresh, strengthen, and exhilarate. For if we duly 
consider what profit we have gained by the breaking of his sacred 
body and the shedding of his blood, we shall clearly perceive that 
these properties of bread and wine, agreeably to this analogy, most 
appropriately represent it when they are communicated to us. 
    4. Therefore, it is not the principal part of a sacrament 
simply to hold forth the body of Christ to us without any higher 
consideration, but rather to seal and confirm that promise by which 
he testifies that his flesh is meat indeed, and his blood drink 
indeed, nourishing us unto life eternal, and by which he affirms 
that he is the bread of life, of which, whosoever shall eat, shall 
live for ever - I say, to seal and confirm that promise, and in 
order to do so, it sends us to the cross of Christ, where that 
promise was performed and fulfilled in all its parts. For we do not 
eat Christ duly and savingly unless as crucified, while with lively 
apprehension we perceive the efficacy of his death. When he called 
himself the bread of life, he did not take that appellation from the 
sacrament, as some perversely interpret; but such as he was given to 
us by the Father, such he exhibited himself when becoming partaker 
of our human mortality he made us partakers of his divine 
immortality; when offering himself in sacrifice, he took our curse 
upon himself, that he might cover us with his blessing, when by his 
death he devoured and swallowed up death, when in his resurrection 
he raised our corruptible flesh, which he had put on, to glory and 
    5. It only remains that the whole become ours by application. 
This is done by means of the gospel, and more clearly by the sacred 
Supper, where Christ offers himself to us with all his blessings, 
and we receive him in faith. The sacrament, therefore, does not make 
Christ become for the first time the bread of life; but, while it 
calls to remembrance that Christ was made the bread of life that we 
may constantly eat him, it gives us a taste and relish for that 
bread, and makes us feel its efficacy. For it assures us, first, 
that whatever Christ did or suffered was done to give us life; and, 
secondly, that this quickening is eternal; by it we are ceaselessly 
nourished, sustained, and preserved in life. For as Christ could not 
have been the bread of life to us if he had not been born, if he had 
not died and risen again; so he could not now be the bread of life, 
were not the efficacy and fruit of his nativity death, and 
resurrection, eternal. All this Christ has elegantly expressed in 
these words, "The bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will 
give for the life of the world," (John 6: 51;) doubtless intimating, 
that his body will be as bread in regard to the spiritual life of 
the soul, because it was to be delivered to death for our salvation, 
and that he extends it to us for food when he makes us partakers of 
it by faith. Wherefore he once gave himself that he might become 
bread, when he gave himself to be crucified for the redemption of 
the world; and he gives himself daily, when in the word of the 
gospel he offers himself to be partaken by us, inasmuch as he was 
crucified, when he seals that offer by the sacred mystery of the 
Supper, and when he accomplishes inwardly what he externally 
designates. Moreover, two faults are here to be avoided. We must 
neither, by setting too little value on the signs, dissever them 
from their meanings to which they are in some degree annexed, nor by 
immoderately extolling them, seem somewhat to obscure the mysteries 
themselves. That Christ is the bread of life by which believers are 
nourished unto eternal life, no man is so utterly devoid of religion 
as not to acknowledge. But all are not agreed as to the mode of 
partaking of him. For there are some who define the eating of the 
flesh of Christ, and the drinking of his blood, to be, in one word, 
nothing more than believing in Christ himself. But Christ seems to 
me to have intended to teach something more express and more sublime 
in that noble discourse, in which he recommends the eating of his 
flesh, viz., that we are quickened by the true partaking of him, 
which he designated by the terms eating and drinking, lest any one 
should suppose that the life which we obtain from him is obtained by 
simple knowledge. For as it is not the sight but the eating of bread 
that gives nourishment to the body, so the soul must partake of 
Christ truly and thoroughly, that by his energy it may grow up into 
spiritual life. Meanwhile, we admit that this is nothing else than 
the eating of faith, and that no other eating can be imagined. but 
there is this difference between their mode of speaking and mine. 
According to them, to eat is merely to believe; while I maintain 
that the flesh of Christ is eaten by believing, because it is made 
ours by faith, and that that eating is the effect and fruit of 
faith; or, if you will have it more clearly, according to them, 
eating is faith, whereas it rather seems to me to be a consequence 
of faith. The difference is little in words, but not little in 
reality. For, although the apostle teaches that Christ dwells in our 
hearts by faith, (Eph. 3: 17,) no one will interpret that dwelling 
to be faith. All see that it explains the admirable effect of faith, 
because to it, it is owing that believers have Christ dwelling in 
them. In this way, the Lord was pleased, by calling himself the 
bread of life, not only to teach that our salvation is treasured up 
in the faith of his death and resurrection, but also, by virtue of 
true communication with him, his life passes into us and becomes 
ours, just as bread when taken for food gives vigour to the body. 
    6. When Augustine, whom they claim as their patron, wrote, that 
we eat by believing, all he meant was to indicate that that eating 
is of faith, and not of the mouth. This I deny not; but I at the 
same time add, that by faith we embrace Christ, not as appearing at 
a distance, but as uniting himself to us, he being our head, and we 
his members. I do not absolutely disapprove of that mode of 
speaking; I only deny that it is a full interpretation, if they mean 
to define what it is to eat the flesh of Christ. I see that 
Augustine repeatedly used this form of expression, as when he said, 
(De Doct. Christ. Lib. 3,) "Unless ye eat the flesh of the Son of 
Man" is a figurative expression enjoining us to have communion with 
our Lord's passion, and sweetly and usefully to treasure in our 
memory that his flesh was crucified and wounded for us." Also when 
he says, "These three thousand men who were converted at the 
preaching of Peter, (Acts 2: 41,) by believing, drank the blood 
which they had cruelly shed." But in very many other passages he 
admirably commends faith for this, that by means of it our souls are 
not less refreshed by the communion of the blood of Christ, than our 
bodies with the bread which they eat. The very same thing is said by 
Chrysostom, "Christ makes us his body, not by faith only, but in 
reality." He does not mean that we obtain this blessing from any 
other quarter than from faith: he only intends to prevent any one 
from thinking of mere imagination when he hears the name of faith. I 
say nothing of those who hold that the Supper is merely a mark of 
external professions because I think I sufficiently refuted their 
error when I treated of the sacraments in general, (Chap. 14. sec. 
13.) Only let my readers observe, that when the cup is called the 
covenant in blood, (Luke 22: 20,) the promise which tends to confirm 
faith is expressed. Hence it follows, that unless we have respect to 
God, and embrace what he offers, we do not make a right use of the 
sacred Supper. 
    7. I am not satisfied with the view of those who, while 
acknowledging that we have some kind of communion with Christ, only 
make us partakers of the Spirit, omitting all mention of flesh and 
blood. As if it were said to no purpose at all, that his flesh is 
meat indeed, and his blood is drink indeed; that we have no life 
unless we eat that flesh and drink that blood; and so forth. 
Therefore, if it is evident that full communion with Christ goes 
beyond their description, which is too confined, I will attempt 
briefly to show how far it extends, before proceeding to speak of 
the contrary vice of excess. For I shall have a longer discussion 
with these hyperbolical doctors, who, according to their gross 
ideas, fabricate an absurd mode of eating and drinking, and 
transfigure Christ, after divesting him of his flesh, into a 
phantom: if, indeed, it be lawful to put this great mystery into 
words, a mystery which I feel, and therefore freely confess that I 
am unable to comprehend with my mind, so far am I from wishing any 
one to measure its sublimity by my feeble capacity. Nay, I rather 
exhort my readers not to confine their apprehension within those too 
narrow limits, but to attempt to rise much higher than I can guide 
them. For whenever this subject is considered, after I have done my 
utmost, I feel that I have spoken far beneath its dignity. And 
though the mind is more powerful in thought than the tongue in 
expression, it too is overcome and overwhelmed by the magnitude of 
the subject. All then that remains is to break forth in admiration 
of the mystery, which it is plain that the mind is inadequate to 
comprehends or the tongue to express. I will, however, give a 
summary of my view as I best can, not doubting its truth, and 
therefore trusting that it will not be disapproved by pious breasts. 
    8. First of all, we are taught by the Scriptures that Christ 
was from the beginning the living Word of the Father, the fountain 
and origin of life, from which all things should always receive 
life. Hence John at one time calls him the Word of life, and at 
another says, that in him was life; intimating, that he, even then 
pervading all creatures, instilled into them the power of breathing 
and living. He afterwards adds, that the life was at length 
manifested, when the Son of God, assuming our nature, exhibited 
himself in bodily form to be seen and handled. For although he 
previously diffused his virtue into the creatures, yet as man, 
because alienated from God by sin, had lost the communication of 
life, and saw death on every side impending over him, he behaved, in 
order to regain the hope of immortality, to be restored to the 
communion of that Word. How little confidence can it give you, to 
know that the Word of God, from which you are at the greatest 
distance, contains within himself the fulness of life, whereas in 
yourself, in whatever direction you turn, you see nothing but death? 
But ever since that fountain of life began to dwell in our nature, 
he no longer lies hid at a distance from us, but exhibits himself 
openly for our participation. Nay, the very flesh in which he 
resides he makes vivifying to us, that by partaking of it we may 
feed for immortality. "I," says he, "am that bread of life;" "I am 
the living bread which came down from heaven;" "And the bread that I 
will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world," 
(John 6: 48, 51.) By these words he declares, not only that he is 
life, inasmuch as he is the eternal Word of God who came down to us 
from heaven, but, by coming down, gave vigour to the flesh which he 
assumed, that a communication of life to us might thence emanate. 
Hence, too, he adds, that his flesh is meat indeed, and that his 
blood is drink indeed: by this food believers are reared to eternal 
life. The pious, therefore, have admirable comfort in this, that 
they now find life in their own flesh. For they not only reach it by 
easy access, but have it spontaneously set forth before them. Let 
them only throw open the door of their hearts that they may take it 
into their embrace, and they will obtain it. 
    9. The flesh of Christ, however, has not such power in itself 
as to make us live, seeing that by its own first condition it was 
subject to mortality, and even now, when endued with immortality, 
lives not by itself. Still it is properly said to be life-giving, as 
it is pervaded with the fulness of life for the purpose of 
transmitting it to us. In this sense I understand our Saviour's 
words as Cyril interprets them, "As the Father has life in himself, 
so has he given to the Son to have life in himself," (John 5: 26.) 
For there properly he is speaking not of the properties which he 
possessed with the Father from the beginning, but of those with 
which he was invested in the flesh in which he appeared. 
Accordingly, he shows that in his humanity also fulness of life 
resides, so that every one who communicates in his flesh and blood, 
at the same time enjoys the participation of life. The nature of 
this may be explained by a familiar example. As water is at one time 
drunk out of the fountain, at another drawn, at another led away by 
conduits to irrigate the fields, and yet does not flow forth of 
itself for all these uses, but is taken from its source, which, with 
perennial flow, ever and anon sends forth a new and sufficient 
supply; so the flesh of Christ is like a rich and inexhaustible 
fountain, which transfuses into us the life flowing forth from the 
Godhead into itself. Now, who sees not that the communion of the 
flesh and blood of Christ is necessary to all who aspire to the 
heavenly life? Hence those passages of the apostle: The Church is 
the "body" of Christ; his "fulness." He is "the head," "from whence 
the whole body fitly joined together, and compacted by that which 
every joint supplieth," "maketh increase of the body," (Eph. 1: 23; 
4: 15, 16.) Our bodies "are the members of Christ," (1 Cor. 6: 15.) 
We perceive that all these things cannot possibly take place unless 
he adheres to us wholly in body and spirit. But the very close 
connection which unites us to his flesh, he illustrated with still 
more splendid epithets, when he said that we "are members of his 
body, of his flesh, and of his bones," (Eph. 5: 30.) At length, to 
testify that the matter is too high for utterance, he concludes with 
exclaiming, "This is a great mystery," (Eph. 5: 32.) It were, 
therefore, extreme infatuation not to acknowledge the communion of 
believers with the body and blood of the Lord, a communion which the 
apostle declares to be so great, that he chooses rather to marvel at 
it than to explain it. 
    10. The sum is, that the flesh and blood of Christ feed our 
souls just as bread and wine maintain and support our corporeal 
life. For there would be no aptitude in the sign, did not our souls 
find their nourishment in Christ. This could not be, did not Christ 
truly form one with us, and refresh us by the eating of his flesh, 
and the drinking of his blood. But though it seems an incredible 
thing that the flesh of Christ, while at such a distance from us in 
respect of place, should be food to us, let us remember how far the 
secret virtue of the Holy Spirit surpasses all our conceptions, and 
how foolish it is to wish to measure its immensity by our feeble 
capacity. Therefore, what our mind does not comprehend let faith 
conceive, viz., that the Spirit truly unites things separated by 
space. That sacred communion of flesh and blood by which Christ 
transfuses his life into us, just as if it penetrated our bones and 
marrow, he testifies and seals in the Supper, and that not by 
presenting a vain or empty sign, but by there exerting an efficacy 
of the Spirit by which he fulfils what he promises. And truly the 
thing there signified he exhibits and offers to all who sit down at 
that spiritual feast, although it is beneficially received by 
believers only who receive this great benefit with true faith and 
heartfelt gratitude. For this reason the apostle said, "The cup of 
blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of 
Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the 
body of Christ?" (1 Cor. 10: 16.) There is no ground to object that 
the expression is figurative, and gives the sign the name of the 
thing signified. I admit, indeed, that the breaking of bread is a 
symbol, not the reality. But this being admitted, we duly infer from 
the exhibition of the symbol that the thing itself is exhibited. For 
unless we would charge God with deceit, we will never presume to say 
that he holds forth an empty symbol. Therefore, if by the breaking 
of bread the Lord truly represents the partaking of his body, there 
ought to be no doubt whatever that he truly exhibits and performs 
it. The rule which the pious ought always to observe is, whenever 
they see the symbols instituted by the Lord, to think and feel 
surely persuaded that the truth of the thing signified is also 
present. For why does the Lord put the symbol of his body into your 
hands, but just to assure you that you truly partake of him? If this 
is true, let us feel as much assured that the visible sign is given 
us in seal of an invisible gift as that his body itself is given to 
    11. I hold then, (as has always been received in the Church, 
and is still taught by those who feel aright,) that the sacred 
mystery of the Supper consists of two things - the corporeal signs, 
which, presented to the eye, represent invisible things in a manner 
adapted to our weak capacity, and the spiritual truth, which is at 
once figured and exhibited by the signs. When attempting familiarly 
to explain its nature, I am accustomed to set down three things - 
the thing meant, the matter which depends on it, and the virtue or 
efficacy consequent upon both. The thing meant consists in the 
promises which are in a manner included in the sign. By the matter, 
or substance, I mean Christ, with his death and resurrection. By the 
effect, I understand redemption, justification, sanctification, 
eternal life, and all the other benefits which Christ bestows upon 
us. Moreover, though all these things have respect to faith, I leave 
no room for the cavil, that when I say Christ is conceived by faith, 
I mean that he is only conceived by the intellect and imagination. 
He is offered by the promises not that we may stop short at the 
sight, or mere knowledge of him, but that we may enjoy true 
communion with him. And, indeed, I see not how any one can expect to 
have redemption and righteousness in the cross of Christ, and life 
in his death, without trusting first of all to true communion with 
Christ himself. Those blessings could not reach us, did not Christ 
previously make himself ours. I say then, that in the mystery of the 
Supper, by the symbols of bread and wine, Christ, his body and his 
blood, are truly exhibited to us, that in them he fulfilled all 
obedience, in order to procure righteousness for us, first, that we 
might become one body with him; and, secondly, that being made 
partakers of his substance, we might feel the result of this fact in 
the participation of all his blessings. 
    12. I now come to the hyperbolical mixtures which superstition 
has introduced. Here Satan has employed all his wiles, withdrawing 
the minds of men from heaven, and imbuing them with the perverse 
error that Christ is annexed to the element of bread. And, first, we 
are not to dream of such a presence of Christ in the sacrament as 
the artifices of the Romish court have imagined, as if the body of 
Christ, locally present, were to be taken into the hand, and chewed 
by the teeth, and swallowed by the throat. This was the form of 
Palinode, which Pope Nicholas dictated to Berengarius, in token of 
his repentance, a form expressed in terms so monstrous, that the 
author of the Gloss exclaims, that there is danger, if the reader is 
not particularly cautious, that he will be led by it into a worse 
heresy than was that of Berengarius, (Distinct. 2 c. Ego 
Berengarius.) Peter Lombard, though he labours much to excuse the 
absurdity, rather inclines to a different opinion. As we cannot at 
all doubt that it is bounded according to the invariable rule in the 
human body, and is contained in heaven, where it was once received, 
and will remain till it return to judgement, so we deem it 
altogether unlawful to bring it back under these corruptible 
elements, or to imagine it everywhere present. And, indeed, there is 
no need of this, in order to our partaking of it, since the Lord by 
his Spirit bestows upon us the blessing of being one with him in 
soul, body, and spirit. The bond of that connection, therefore, is 
the Spirit of Christ, who unites us to him and is a kind of channel 
by which everything that Christ has and is, is derived to us. For if 
we see that the sun, in sending forth its rays upon the earth, to 
generate, cherish, and invigorate its offspring, in a manner 
transfuses its substance into it, why should the radiance of the 
Spirit be less in conveying to us the communion of his flesh and 
blood? Wherefore, the Scripture, when it speaks of our participation 
with Christ, refers its whole efficacy to the Spirit. Instead of 
many, one passage will suffice. Paul, in the Epistle to the Romans, 
(Rom. 8: 9-1l,) shows that the only way in which Christ dwells in us 
is by his Spirit. By this, however, he does not take away that 
communion of flesh and blood of which we now speak, but shows that 
it is owing to the Spirit alone that we possess Christ wholly, and 
have him abiding in us. 
    13. The Schoolmen, horrified at this barbarous impiety, speak 
more modestly, though they do nothing more than amuse themselves 
with more subtle delusions. They admit that Christ is not contained 
in the sacrament circumscriptively, or in a bodily manner, but they 
afterwards devise a method which they themselves do not understand, 
and cannot explain to others. It, however, comes to this, that 
Christ may be sought in what they call the species of bread. What? 
When they say that the substance of bread is converted into Christ, 
do they not attach him to the white colour, which is all they leave 
of it? But they say, that though contained in the sacrament, he 
still remains in heaven, and has no other presence there than that 
of abode. But, whatever be the terms in which they attempt to make a 
gloss, the sum of all is, that that which was formerly bread, by 
consecration becomes Christ: so that Christ thereafter lies hid 
under the colour of bread. This they are not ashamed distinctly to 
express. For Lombard's words are, "The body of Christ, which is 
visible in itself, lurks and lies covered after the act of 
consecration under the species of bread," (Lombard. Sent. Lib. 4 
Dist. 12.) Thus the figure of the bread is nothing but a mask which 
conceals the view of the flesh from our eye. But there is no need of 
many conjectures to detect the snare which they intended to lay by 
these words, since the thing itself speaks clearly. It is easy to 
see how great is the superstition under which not only the vulgar, 
but the leaders also, have laboured for many ages, and still labour, 
in Popish Churches. Little solicitous as to true faith, (by which 
alone we attain to the fellowship of Christ, and become one with 
him,) provided they have his carnal presence, which they have 
fabricated without authority from the word, they think he is 
sufficiently present. Hence we see, that all which they have gained 
by their ingenious subtlety is to make bread to be regarded as God. 
    14. Hence proceeded that fictitious transubstantiation for 
which they fight more fiercely in the present day than for all the 
other articles of their faith. For the first architects of local 
presence could not explain how the body of Christ could be mixed 
with the substance of bread, without forthwith meeting with many 
absurdities. Hence it was necessary to have recourse to the fiction, 
that there is a conversion of the bread into body, not that properly 
instead of bread it becomes body, but that Christ, in order to 
conceal himself under the figure, reduces the substance to nothing. 
It is strange that they have fallen into such a degree of ignorance, 
nay, of stupor, as to produce this monstrous fiction not only 
against Scripture, but also against the consent of the ancient 
Church. I admit, indeed, that some of the ancients occasionally used 
the term conversion, not that they meant to do away with the 
substance in the external signs, but to teach that the bread devoted 
to the sacrament was widely different from ordinary bread, and was 
now something else. All clearly and uniformly teach that the sacred 
Supper consists of two parts, an earthly and a heavenly. The earthly 
they without dispute interpret to be bread and wine. Certainly, 
whatever they may pretend, it is plain that antiquity, which they 
often dare to oppose to the clear word of God, gives no countenance 
to that dogma. It is not so long since it was devised; indeed it was 
unknown not only to the better ages, in which a purer doctrine still 
flourished, but after that purity was considerably impaired. There 
is no early Christian writer who does not admit in distinct terms 
that the sacred symbols of the Supper are bread and wine, although, 
as has been said, they sometimes distinguish them by various 
epithets, in order to recommend the dignity of the mystery. For when 
they say that a secret conversion takes place at consecration, so 
that it is now something else than bread and wine, their meaning, as 
I already observed is not that these are annihilated but that they 
are to be considered in a different light from common food, which is 
only intended to feed the body whereas in the former the spiritual 
food and drink of the mind are exhibited. This we deny not. But, say 
our opponents, if there is conversion, one thing must become 
another. If they mean that something becomes different from what it 
was before, I assent. If they will wrest it in support of their 
fiction, let them tell me of what kind of change they are sensible 
in baptism. For here also, the Fathers make out a wonderful 
conversion, when they say that out of the corruptible element is 
made the spiritual laver of the soul, and yet no one denies that it 
still remains water. But say they, there is no such expression in 
Baptism as that in the Supper, This is my body; as if we were 
treating of these words, which have a meaning sufficiently clear, 
and not rather of that term "conversion", which ought not to mean 
more in the Supper than in Baptism. Have done, then, with those 
quibbles upon words, which betray nothing but their silliness. The 
meaning would have no congruity, unless the truth which is there 
figured had a living image in the external sign. Christ wished to 
testify by an external symbol that his flesh was food. If he 
exhibited merely an empty show of bread, and not true bread, where 
is the analogy or similitude to conduct us from the visible thing to 
the invisible? For, in order to make all things consistent, the 
meaning cannot extend to more than this, that we are fed by the 
species of Christ's flesh; just as, in the case of baptism, if the 
figure of water deceived the eye, it would not be to us a sure 
pledge of our ablution; nay, the fallacious spectacle would rather 
throw us into doubt. The nature of the sacrament is therefore 
overthrown if in the mode of signifying the earthly sign corresponds 
not to the heavenly reality; And, accordingly, the truth of the 
mystery is lost if true bread does not represent the true body of 
Christ. I again repeat, since the Supper is nothing but a 
conspicuous attestation to the promise which is contained in the 
sixth chapter of John, viz., that Christ is the bread of life, who 
came down from heaven, that visible bread must intervene, in order 
that that spiritual bread may be figured, unless we would destroy 
all the benefits with which God here favours us for the purpose of 
sustaining our infirmity. Then on what ground could Paul infer that 
we are all one bread, and one body in partaking together of that one 
bread, if only the semblance of bread, and not the natural reality, 
    15. They could not have been so shamefully deluded by the 
impostures of Satan had they not been fascinated by the erroneous 
idea, that the body of Christ included under the bread is 
transmitted by the bodily mouth into the belly. The cause of this 
brutish imagination was, that consecration had the same effect with 
them as magical incantation. They overlooked the principle, that 
bread is a sacrament to none but those to whom the word is addressed 
just as the water of baptism is not changed in itself, but begins to 
be to us what it formerly was not, as soon as the promise is 
annexed. This will better appear from the example of a similar 
sacrament. The water gushing from the rock in the desert was to the 
Israelites a badge and sign of the same thing that is figured to us 
in the Supper by wine. For Paul declares that they drank the same 
spiritual drink, (1 Cor. 10: 4.) But the water was common to the 
herds and flocks of the people. Hence it is easy to infer, that in 
the earthly elements, when employed for a spiritual use, no other 
conversion takes place than in respect of men, inasmuch as they are 
to them seals of promises. Moreover, since it is the purpose of God, 
as I have repeatedly inculcated, to raise us up to himself by fit 
vehicles, those who indeed call us to Christ, but to Christ lurking 
invisibly under bread, impiously, by their perverseness, defeat this 
object. For it is impossible for the mind of man to disentangle 
itself from the immensity of space, and ascend to Christ even above 
the heavens. What nature denied them, they attempted to gain by a 
noxious remedy. Remaining on the earth, they felt no need of a 
celestial proximity to Christ. Such was the necessity which impelled 
them to transfigure the body of Christ. In the age of Bernard, 
though a harsher mode of speech had prevailed, transubstantiation 
was not yet recognised. And in all previous ages, the similitude in 
the mouths of all was, that a spiritual reality was conjoined with 
bread and wine in this sacrament. As to the terms, they think they 
answer acutely, though they adduce nothing relevant to the case in 
hand. The rod of Moses, (they say,) when turned into a serpent, 
though it acquires the name of a serpent, still retains its former 
name, and is called a rod; and thus, according to them, it is 
equally probable that though the bread passes into a new substance, 
it is still called by catachresis, and not inaptly, what it still 
appears to the eye to be. But what resemblance, real or apparent, do 
they find between an illustrious miracle and their fictitious 
illusion, of which no eye on the earth is witness? The magi by their 
impostures had persuaded the Egyptians, that they had a divine power 
above the ordinary course of nature to change created beings. Moses 
comes forth, and after exposing their fallacies, shows that the 
invincible power of God is on his side, since his rod swallows up 
all the other rods. But as that conversion was visible to the eye, 
we have already observed, that it has no reference to the case in 
hand. Shortly after the rod visibly resumed its form. It may be 
added, that we know not whether this was an extemporary conversion 
of substance. For we must attend to the allusion to the rods of the 
magicians, which the prophet did not choose to term serpents, lest 
he might seem to insinuate a conversion which had no existence, 
because those impostors had done nothing more than blind the eyes of 
the spectators. But what resemblance is there between that 
expression and the following? "The bread which we break;" - "As 
often as ye eat this bread;" - "They communicated in the breaking of 
bread;" and so forth. It is certain that the eye only was deceived 
by the incantation of the magicians. The matter is more doubtful 
with regard to Moses, by whose hand it was not more difficult for 
God to make a serpent out of a rod, and again to make a rod out of a 
serpent, than to clothe angels with corporeal bodies, and a little 
after unclothe them. If the case of the sacrament were at all akin 
to this, there might be some colour for their explanation. Let it, 
therefore, remain fixed that there is no true and fit promise in the 
Supper, that the flesh of Christ is truly meat, unless there is a 
correspondence in the true substance of the external symbol. But as 
one error gives rise to another, a passage in Jeremiah has been so 
absurdly wrested, to prove transubstantiation, that it is painful to 
refer to it. The prophet complains that wood was placed in his 
bread, intimating that by the cruelty of his enemies his bread was 
infected with bitterness, as David by a similar figure complains, 
"They gave me also gall for my meat: and in my thirst they gave me 
vinegar to drink," (Psalm 69: 21.) These men would allegorise the 
expressions to mean, that the body of Christ was nailed to the wood 
of the cross. But some of the Fathers thought so! As if we ought not 
rather to pardon their ignorance and bury the disgrace, than to add 
impudence, and bring them into hostile conflict with the genuine 
meaning of the prophet. 
    16. Some, who see that the analogy between the sign and the 
thing signified cannot be destroyed without destroying the truth of 
the sacrament, admit that the bread of the Supper is truly the 
substance of an earthly and corruptible element, and cannot suffer 
any change in itself, but must have the body of Christ included 
under it. If they would explain this to mean, that when the bread is 
held forth in the sacrament, an exhibition of the body is annexed, 
because the truth is inseparable from its sign, I would not greatly 
object. But because fixing the body itself in the bread, they attach 
to it an ubiquity contrary to its nature, and by adding, "under" the 
bread, will have it that it lies hid under it, I must employ a short 
time in exposing their craft, and dragging them forth from their 
concealments. Here, however, it is not my intention professedly to 
discuss the whole case; I mean only to lay the foundations of a 
discussion which will afterwards follow in its own place. They 
insist, then, that the body of Christ is invisible and immense, so 
that it may be hid under bread, because they think that there is no 
other way by which they can communicate with him than by his 
descending into the bread, though they do not comprehend the mode of 
descent by which he raises us up to himself. They employ all the 
colours they possibly can, but after they have said all, it is 
sufficiently apparent that they insist on the local presence of 
Christ. How so? Because they cannot conceive any other participation 
of flesh and blood than that which consists either in local 
conjunction and contact, or in some gross method of enclosing. 
    17. Some, in order obstinately to maintain the error which they 
have once rashly adopted, hesitate not to assert that the dimensions 
of Christ's flesh are not more circumscribed than those of heaven 
and earth. His birth as an infant, his growth, his extension on the 
cross, his confinement in the sepulchre, were effected, they say, by 
a kind of dispensation, that he might perform the offices of being 
born, of dying, and of other human acts: his being seen with his 
wonted bodily appearance after the resurrection, his ascension into 
heaven, his appearance, after his ascension, to Stephen and Paul, 
were the effect of the same dispensation, that it might be made 
apparent to the eye of man that he was constituted King in heaven. 
What is this but to call forth Marcion from his grave? For there 
cannot be a doubt that the body of Christ, if so constituted, was a 
phantasm, or was phantastical. Some employ a rather more subtle 
evasion, That the body which is given in the sacrament is glorious 
and immortal, and that, therefore, there is no absurdity in its 
being contained under the sacrament in various places, or in no 
place, and in no form. But, I ask, what did Christ give to his 
disciples the day before he suffered? Do not the words say that he 
gave the mortal body, which was to be delivered shortly after? But, 
say they, he had previously manifested his glory to the three 
disciples on the mount, (Matth. 17: 2.) This is true; but his 
purpose was to give them for the time a taste of immortality. Still 
they cannot find there a twofold body, but only the one which he had 
assumed, arrayed in new glory. When he distributed his body in the 
first Supper, the hour was at hand in which he was "stricken, 
smitten of God, and afflicted," (Isa. 53: 4.) So far was he from 
intending at that time to exhibit the glory of his resurrection. And 
here what a door is opened to Marcion, if the body of Christ was 
seen humble and mortal in one place, glorious and immortal in 
another! And yet, if their opinion is well founded, the same thing 
happens every day, because they are forced to admit that the body of 
Christ, which is in itself visible, lurks invisibly under the symbol 
of bread. And yet those who send forth such monstrous dogmas, so far 
from being ashamed at the disgrace, assail us with virulent 
invectives for not subscribing to them. 
    18. But assuming that the body and blood of Christ are attached 
to the bread and wine, then the one must necessarily be dissevered 
from the other. For as the bread is given separately from the cup, 
so the body, united to the bread, must be separate from the blood, 
included in the cup. For since they affirm that the body is in the 
bread, and the blood is in the cup, while the bread and wine are, in 
regard to space, at some distance from each other, they cannot, by 
any quibble, evade the conclusion that the body must be separated 
from the blood. Their usual pretence, viz., that the blood is in the 
body, and the body again in the blood, by what they call 
concomitance, is more than frivolous, since the symbols in which 
they are included are thus distinguished. But if we are carried to 
heaven with our eyes and minds, that we may there behold Christ in 
the glory of his kingdom, as the symbols invite us to him in his 
integrity, so, under the symbol of bread, we must feed on his body, 
and, under the symbol of wine, drink separately of his blood, and 
thereby have the full enjoyment of him. For though he withdrew his 
flesh from us, and with his body ascended to heaven, he, however, 
sits at the right hand of the Father; that is, he reigns in power 
and majesty, and the glory of the Father. This kingdom is not 
limited by any intervals of space, nor circumscribed by any 
dimensions. Christ can exert his energy wherever he pleases, in 
earth and heaven, can manifest his presence by the exercise of his 
power, can always be present with his people, breathing into them 
his own life, can live in them, sustain, confirm, and invigorate 
them, and preserve them safe, just as if he were with them in the 
body; in fine, can feed them with his own body, communion with which 
he transfuses into them. After this manner, the body and blood of 
Christ are exhibited to us in the sacrament. 
    19. The presence of Christ in the Supper we must hold to be 
such as neither affixes him to the element of bread, nor encloses 
him in bread, nor circumscribes him in any way, (this would 
obviously detract from his celestial glory;) and it must, moreover, 
be such as neither divests him of his just dimensions, nor dissevers 
him by differences of place, nor assigns to him a body of boundless 
dimensions, diffused through heaven and earth. All these things are 
clearly repugnant to his true human nature. Let us never allow 
ourselves to lose sight of the two restrictions. First, Let there be 
nothing derogatory to the heavenly glory of Christ. This happens 
when ever he is brought under the corruptible elements of this 
world, or is affixed to any earthly creatures. Secondly, Let no 
property be assigned to his body inconsistent with his human nature. 
This is done when it is either said to be infinite, or made to 
occupy a variety of places at the same time. But when these 
absurdities are discarded, I willingly admit any thing which helps 
to express the true and substantial communication of the body and 
blood of the Lord, as exhibited to believers under the sacred 
symbols of the Supper, understanding that they are received not by 
the imagination or intellect merely, but are enjoyed in reality as 
the food of eternal life. For the odium with which this view is 
regarded by the world, and the unjust prejudice incurred by its 
defence, there is no cause, unless it be in the fearful fascinations 
of Satan. What we teach on the subject is in perfect accordance with 
Scripture, contains nothing absurd, obscure, or ambiguous, is not 
unfavourable to true piety and solid edification; in short, has 
nothing in it to offend, save that, for some ages, while the 
ignorance and barbarism of sophists reigned in the Church, the clear 
light and open truth were unbecomingly suppressed. And yet as Satan, 
by means of turbulent spirits, is still, in the present day, 
exerting himself to the utmost to bring dishonour on this doctrine 
by all kinds of calumny and reproach, it is right to assert and 
defend it with the greatest care. 
    20. Before we proceed farther, we must consider the ordinance 
itself, as instituted by Christ, because the most plausible 
objection of our opponents is, that we abandon his words. To free 
ourselves from the obloquy with which they thus load us, the fittest 
course will be to begin with an interpretation of the words. Three 
Evangelists and Paul relate that our Saviour took bread, and after 
giving thanks, brake it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, Take, 
eat: this is my body which is given or broken for you. Of the cup, 
Matthew and Mark say, "This is my blood of the new testament, which 
is shed for many for the remission of sins," (Matth 26: 26; Mark 14: 
22.) Luke and Paul say, "This cup is the new testament in my blood," 
(Luke 22: 20, 1 Cor. 11: 25.) The advocates of transubstantiation 
insist, that by the pronoun, "this", is denoted the appearance of 
bread, because the whole complexion of our Saviour's address is an 
act of consecration, and there is no substance which can be 
demonstrated. But if they adhere so religiously to the words, 
inasmuch as that which our Saviour gave to his disciples he declared 
to be his body, there is nothing more alien from the strict meaning 
of the words than the fiction, that what was bread is now body. What 
Christ takes into his hands, and gives to the apostles, he declares 
to be his body; but he had taken bread, and, therefore, who sees not 
that what is given is still bread? Hence, nothing can be more absurd 
than to transfer what is affirmed of bread to the species of bread. 
Others, in interpreting the particle "is", as equivalent to being 
transubstantiated, have recourse to a gloss which is forced and 
violently wrested. They have no ground, therefore, for pretending 
that they are moved by a reverence for the words. The use of the 
term is, for being inverted into something else, is unknown to every 
tongue and nation. With regard to those who leave the bread in the 
Supper, and affirm that it is the body of Christ, there is great 
diversity among them. Those who speak more modestly, though they 
insist upon the letter, "This is my body", afterwards abandon this 
strictness, and observe that it is equivalent to saying that the 
body of Christ is with the bread, in the bread, and under the bread. 
To the reality which they affirm, we have already adverted, and will 
by and by, at greater length. I am now only considering the words by 
which they say they are prevented from admitting that the bread is 
called body, because it is a sign of the body. But if they shun 
every thing like metaphor, why do they leap from the simple 
demonstration of Christ to modes of expression which are widely 
different? For there is a great difference between saying that the 
bread is the body, and that the body is with the bread. But seeing 
it impossible to maintain the simple proposition that the bread is 
the body, they endeavoured to evade the difficulty by concealing 
themselves under those forms of expression. Others, who are bolder, 
hesitate not to assert that, strictly speaking, the bread is body, 
and in this way prove that they are truly of the letter. If it is 
objected that the bread, therefore, is Christ, and, being Christ, is 
God, - they will deny it, because the words of Christ do not 
expressly say so. But they gain nothing by their denial, since all 
agree that the whole Christ is offered to us in the Supper. It is 
intolerable blasphemy to affirm, without figure, of a fading and 
corruptible element, that it is Christ. I now ask them, if they hold 
the two propositions to be identical, Christ is the Son of God, and 
Bread is the body of Christ? If they concede that they are 
different, (and this, whether they will or not, they will be forced 
to do,) let them tell wherein is the difference. All which they can 
adduce is, I presume, that the bread is called body in a sacramental 
manner. Hence it follows, that the words of Christ are not subject 
to the common rule, and ought not to be tested grammatically. I ask 
all these rigid and obstinate exactors of the letter, whether, when 
Luke and Paul call the cup "the testament in blood", they do not 
express the same thing as in the previous clause, when they call 
bread the body? There certainly was the same solemnity in the one 
part of the mystery as in the other, and, as brevity is obscure, the 
longer sentence better elucidates the meaning. As often, therefore, 
as they contend, from the one expression, that the bread is body, I 
will adduce an apt interpretation from the longer expression, That 
it is a testament in the body. What? Can we seek for surer or more 
faithful expounders than Luke and Paul? I have no intention, 
however, to detract, in any respect, from the communication of the 
body of Christ, which I have acknowledged. I only meant to expose 
the foolish perverseness with which they carry on a war of words. 
The bread I understand, on the authority of Luke and Paul, to be the 
body of Christ, because it is a covenant in the body. If they impugn 
this, their quarrel is not with me, but with the Spirit of God. 
However often they may repeat, that reverence for the words of 
Christ will not allow them to give a figurative interpretation to 
what is spoken plainly, the pretext cannot justify them in thus 
rejecting all the contrary arguments which we adduce. Meanwhile, as 
I have already observed, it is proper to attend to the force of what 
is meant by a testament in the body and blood of Christ. The 
covenant, ratified by the sacrifice of death, would not avail us 
without the addition of that secret communication, by which we are 
made one with Christ. 
    21. It remains, therefore, to hold, that on account of the 
affinity which the things signified have with their signs, the name 
of the thing itself is given to the sign figuratively, indeed, but 
very appropriately. I say nothing of allegories and parables, lest 
it should be alleged that I am seeking subterfuges, and slipping out 
of the present question. I say that the expression which is 
uniformly used in Scripture, when the sacred mysteries are treated 
of, is metonymical. For you cannot otherwise understand the 
expressions, that circumcision is a "covenant" - that the lamb is 
the Lord's "passover" - that the sacrifices of the law are 
expiations - that the rock from which the water flowed in the desert 
was Christ, - unless you interpret them metonymically. Nor is the 
name merely transferred from the superior to the inferior, but, on 
the contrary, the name of the visible sign is given to the thing 
signified, as when God is said to have appeared to Moses in the 
bush; the ark of the covenant is called God, and the face of God, 
and the dove is called the Holy Spirit. For although the sign 
differs essentially from the thing signified, the latter being 
spiritual and heavenly, the former corporeal and visible, - yet, as 
it not only figures the thing which it is employed to represent as a 
naked and empty badge, but also truly exhibits it, why should not 
its name be justly applied to the thing? But if symbols humanly 
devised, which are rather the images of absent than the marks of 
present things, and of which they are very often most fallacious 
types, are sometimes honoured with their names, - with much greater 
reason do the institutions of God borrow the names of things, of 
which they always bear a sure, and by no means fallacious 
signification, and have the reality annexed to them. So great, then, 
is the similarity, and so close the connection between the two, that 
it is easy to pass from the one to the other. Let our opponents, 
therefore, cease to indulge their mirth in calling us Tropists, when 
we explain the sacramental mode of expression according to the 
common use of Scripture. For, while the sacraments agree in many 
things, there is also, in this metonymy, a certain community in all 
respects between them. As, therefore, the apostle says that the rock 
from which spiritual water lowed forth to the Israelites was Christ, 
(1 Cor. 10: 4,) and was thus a visible symbol under which that 
spiritual drink was truly perceived, though not by the eye, so the 
body of Christ is now called bread, inasmuch as it is a symbol under 
which our Lord offers us the true eating of his body. Lest any one 
should despise this as a novel invention, the view which Augustine 
took and expressed was the same: "Had not the sacraments a certain 
resemblance to the things of which they are sacraments, they would 
not be sacraments at all. And from this resemblance, they generally 
have the names of the things themselves. This, as the sacrament of 
the body of Christ, is, after a certain manner, the body of Christ, 
and the sacrament of Christ is the blood of Christ; so the sacrament 
of faith is faith," (August. Ep. 23, ad Bonifac.) He has many 
similar passages, which it would be superfluous to collect, as that 
one may suffice. I need only remind my readers, that the same 
doctrine is taught by that holy man in his Epistle to Evodius. Where 
Augustine teaches that nothing is more common than metonymy in 
mysteries, it is a frivolous quibble to object that there is no 
mention of the Supper. Were this objection sustained, it would 
follow, that we are not entitled to argue from the genus to the 
species; e. g., Every animal is endued with motion; and, therefore, 
the horse and the ox are endued with motion. Indeed, longer 
discussion is rendered unnecessary by the words of the Saint 
himself, where he says, that when Christ gave the symbol of his 
body, he did not hesitate to call it his body, (August. Cont. 
Adimantum, cap. 12.) He elsewhere says "Wonderful was the patience 
of Christ in admitting Judas to the feast, in which he committed and 
delivered to the disciples the symbol of his body and blood," 
(August. in Ps. 3.) 
    22. Should any morose person, shutting his eyes to every thing 
else, insist upon the expression, "This is", as distinguishing this 
mystery from all others, the answer is easy. They say that the 
substantive verb is so emphatic, as to leave no room for 
interpretation. Though I should admit this, I answer, that the 
substantive verb occurs in the words of Paul, (1 Cor. 10: 16,) where 
he calls the bread the communion of the body of Christ. But 
communion is something different from the body itself. Nay, when the 
sacraments are treated of, the same word occurs: "My covenant shall 
be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant," (Gen. 17: 13.) "This 
is the ordinance of the passover," (Exod. 12: 43.) To say no more, 
when Paul declares that the rock was Christ, (1 Cor. 10: 4,) why 
should the substantive verb, in that passage, be deemed less 
emphatic than in the discourse of Christ? When John says, "The Holy 
Ghost was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified," 
(John 7: 39,) I should like to know what is the force of the 
substantive verb? If the rule of our opponents is rigidly observed, 
the eternal essence of the Spirit will be destroyed, as if he had 
only begun to be after the ascension of Christ. Let them tell me, in 
fine, what is meant by the declaration of Paul, that baptism is "the 
washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost," (Tit. 3: 
5;) though it is certain that to many it was of no use. But they 
cannot be more effectually refuted than by the expression of Paul, 
that the Church is Christ. For, after introducing the similitude of 
the human body, he adds, "So also is Christ," (1 Cor. 12: 12,) when 
he means not the only begotten Son of God in himself, but in his 
members. I think I have now gained this much, that all men of sense 
and integrity will be disgusted with the calumnies of our enemies, 
when they give out that we discredit the words of Christ; though we 
embrace them not less obediently than they do, and ponder them with 
greater reverence. Nay, their supine security proves that they do 
not greatly care what Christ meant, provided it furnishes them with 
a shield to defend their obstinacy, while our careful investigation 
should be an evidence of the authority which we yield to Christ. 
They invidiously pretend that human reason will not allow us to 
believe what Christ uttered with his sacred mouth; but how naughtily 
they endeavour to fix this odium upon us, I have already in a great 
measure, shown, and will still show more clearly. Nothing, 
therefore, prevents us from believing Christ speaking, and from 
acquiescing in everything to which he intimates his assent. The only 
question here is, whether it be unlawful to inquire into the genuine 
    23. Those worthy masters, to show that they are of the letter, 
forbid us to deviate, in the least, from the letter. On the 
contrary, when Scripture calls God a man of war, as I see that the 
expression would be too harsh if not interpreted, I have no doubt 
that the similitude is taken from man. And, indeed, the only pretext 
which enabled the Anthropomorphites to annoy the orthodox Fathers 
was by fastening on the expressions, "The eyes of God see;" "It 
ascended to his ears;" "His hand is stretched out;" "The earth is 
his footstool;" - and exclaimed, that God was deprived of the body 
which Scripture assigns to him. Were this rule admitted, complete 
barbarism would bury the whole light of faith. What monstrous 
absurdities shall fanatical men not be able to extract, if they are 
allowed to urge every knotty point in support of their dogmas? Their 
objection, that it is not probable that when Christ was providing 
special comfort for the apostles in adversity, he spoke 
enigmatically or obscurely, - supports our view. For, had it not 
occurred to the apostles that the bread was called the body 
figuratively, as being a symbol of the body, the extraordinary 
nature of the thing would doubtless have filled them with 
perplexity. For, at this very period, John relates, that the 
slightest difficulties perplexed them, (John 14: 5, 8; 16: 17.) They 
debate, among themselves, how Christ is to go to the Father, and not 
understanding that the things which were said referred to the 
heavenly Father, raise a question as to how he is to go out of the 
world until they shall see him? How, then could they have been so 
ready to believe what is repugnant to all reason, viz., that Christ 
was seated at table under their eye, and yet was contained invisible 
under the bread? As they attest their consent by eating this bread 
without hesitation, it is plain that they understood the words of 
Christ in the same sense as we do, considering, what ought not to 
seem unusual when mysteries are spoken of, that the name of the 
thing signified was transferred to the sign. There was therefore to 
the disciples, as there is to us, clear and sure consolation, not 
involved in any enigma; and the only reason why certain persons 
reject our interpretation is, because they are blinded by a delusion 
of the devil to introduce the darkness of enigma, instead of the 
obvious interpretation of an appropriate figure. Besides, if we 
insist strictly on the words, our Saviour will be made to affirm 
erroneously something of the bread different from the cup. He calls 
the bread body, and the wine blood. There must either be a confusion 
in terms, or there must be a division separating the body from the 
blood. Nay, " This is my body," may be as truly affirmed of the cup 
as of the bread; and it may in turn be affirmed that the bread is 
the blood. If they answer, that we must look to the end or use for 
which symbols were instituted, I admit it; but still they will not 
disencumber themselves of the absurdity which their error drags 
along with it, viz., that the bread is blood, and the wine is body. 
Then I know not what they mean when they concede that bread and body 
are different things, and yet maintain that the one is predicated of 
the other, properly and without figure, as if one were to say that a 
garment is different from a man, and yet is properly called a man. 
Still, as if the victory depended on obstinacy and invective, they 
say that Christ is charged with falsehood when it is attempted to 
interpret his words. It will now be easy for the reader to 
understand the injustice which is done to us by those carpers at 
syllables, when they possess the simple with the idea that we bring 
discredit on the words of Christ; words which, as we have shown, are 
madly perverted and confounded by them, but are faithfully and 
accurately expounded by us. 
    24. This infamous falsehood cannot be completely wiped away 
without disposing of another charge. They give out that we are so 
wedded to human reason, that we attribute nothing more to the power 
of God than the order of nature admits, and common sense dictates. 
From these wicked calumnies, I appeal to the doctrine which I have 
delivered, - a doctrine which makes it sufficiently clear that I by 
no means measure this mystery by the capacity of human reason, or 
subject it to the laws of nature. I ask whether it is from physics 
we have learned that Christ feeds our souls from heaven with his 
flesh, just as our bodies are nourished by bread and wine? How has 
flesh this virtue of giving life to our souls? All will say, that it 
is not done naturally. Not more agreeable is it to human reason to 
hold that the flesh of Christ penetrates to us, so as to be our 
food. In short, every one who may have tasted our doctrine, will be 
carried away with admiration of the secret power of God. But these 
worthy zealots fabricate for themselves a miracle, and think that 
without it God himself and his power vanish away. I would again 
admonish the reader carefully to consider the nature of our 
doctrine, whether it depends on common apprehension, or whether, 
after having surmounted the world on the wings of faith, it rises to 
heaven. We say that Christ descends to us, as well by the external 
symbol as by his Spirit, that he may truly quicken our souls by the 
substance of his flesh and blood. He who feels not that in these few 
words are many miracles is more than stupid, since nothing is more 
contrary to nature than to derive the spiritual and heavenly life of 
the soul from flesh, which received its origin from the earth, and 
was subjected to death, nothing more incredible than that things 
separated by the whole space between heaven and earth should, 
notwithstanding of the long distance, not only be collected, but 
united, so that souls receive ailment from the flesh of Christ. Let 
preposterous men, then, cease to assail us with the vile calumny, 
that we malignantly restrict the boundless power of God. They either 
foolishly err, or wickedly lie. The question here is not, What could 
God do? But, What has he been pleased to do? We affirm that he has 
done what pleased him, and it pleased him that Christ should be in 
all respects like his brethren, "yet without sin," (Heb. 4: 15.) 
What is our flesh? Is it not that which consists of certain 
dimensions? is confined within a certain place? is touched and seen? 
And why, say they, may not God make the same flesh occupy several 
different places so as not to be confined to any particular place, 
and so as to have neither measure nor species? Fool! why do you 
require the power of God to make a thing to be at the same time 
flesh and not flesh? It is just as if you were to insist on his 
making light to be at the same time light and darkness. He wills 
light to be light, darkness to be darkness, and flesh to be flesh. 
True, when he so chooses, he will convert darkness into light, and 
light into darkness: but when you insist that there shall be no 
difference between light and darkness, what do you but pervert the 
order of the divine wisdom? Flesh must therefore be flesh, and 
spirit spirit; each under the law and condition on which God has 
created them. How the condition of flesh is, that it should have one 
certain place, its own dimension, its own form. On that condition, 
Christ assumed the flesh, to which, as Augustine declares, (Ep. ad 
Dardan.,) he gave incorruption and glory, but without destroying its 
nature and reality. 
    25. They object that they have the word by which the will of 
God has been openly manifested; that is, if we permit them to banish 
from the Church the gift of interpretation, which should throw light 
upon the word. I admit that they have the word, but just as the 
Anthropomorphites of old had it, when they made God corporeal; just 
as Marcion and the Manichees had it when they made the body of 
Christ celestial or phantastical. They quoted the passages, "The 
first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from 
heaven," (1 Cor. 15: 47:) Christ "made himself of no reputation, and 
took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of 
men," (Phil. 2: 7.) But these vain boasters think that there is no 
power of God unless they fabricate a monster in their own brains, by 
which the whole order of nature is subverted. This rather is to 
circumscribe the power of God, to attempt to try, by our fictions, 
what he can do. From this word, they have assumed that the body of 
Christ is visible in heaven, and yet lurks invisible on the earth 
under innumerable bits of bread. They will say that this is rendered 
necessary, in order that the body of Christ may be given in the 
Supper. In other words, because they have been pleased to extract a 
carnal eating from the words of Christ, carried away by their own 
prejudice, they have found it necessary to coin this subtlety, which 
is wholly repugnant to Scripture. That we detract, in any respect, 
from the power of God, is so far from being true, that our doctrine 
is the loudest in extolling it. But as they continue to charge us 
with robbing God of his honour, in rejecting what, according to 
common apprehension, it is difficult to believe, though it had been 
promised by the mouth of Christ; I answer, as I lately did, that in 
the mysteries of faith we do not consult common apprehension, but, 
with the placid docility and spirit of meekness which James 
recommends, (James 1: 21,) receive the doctrine which has come from 
heaven. Wherein they perniciously err, I am confident that we follow 
a proper moderation. On hearing the words of Christ, This is my 
body, they imagine a miracle most remote from his intention; and 
when, from this fiction, the grossest absurdities arise, having 
already, by their precipitate haste, entangled themselves with 
snares, they plunge themselves into the abyss of the divine 
omnipotence, that, in this way, they may extinguish the light of 
truth. Hence the supercilious moroseness. We have no wish to know 
how Christ is hid under the bread: we are satisfied with his own 
words, "This is my body." We again study, with no less obedience 
than care, to obtain a sound understanding of this passages as of 
the whole of Scripture. We do not, with preposterous fervour, 
rashly, and without choice, lay hold on whatever first presents 
itself to our minds; but, after careful meditation, embrace the 
meaning which the Spirit of God suggests. Trusting to him, we look 
down, as from a height, on whatever opposition may be offered by 
earthly wisdom. Nay, we hold our minds captive, not allowing one 
word of murmur, and humble them, that they may not presume to 
gainsay. In this way, we have arrived at that exposition of the 
words of Christ, which all who are moderately verdant in Scripture 
know to be perpetually used with regard to the sacraments. Still, in 
a matter of difficulty, we deem it not unlawful to inquire, after 
the example of the blessed virgin, "How shall this be?" (Luke 1: 

Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Volume 4
(continued in part 19...)

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