(Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion 4, part 19)

    26. But as nothing will be more effectual to confirm the faith 
of the pious than to show them that the doctrine which we have laid 
down is taken from the pure word of God, and rests on its authority, 
I will make this plain with as much brevity as I can. The body with 
which Christ rose is declared, not by Aristotle, but by the Holy 
Spirit, to be finite, and to be contained in heaven until the last 
day. I am not unaware how confidently our opponents evade the 
passages which are quoted to this effect. Whenever Christ says that 
he will leave the world and go away, (John 14: 2, 28,) they reply, 
that that departure was nothing more than a change of mortal state. 
Were this so, Christ would not substitute the Holy Spirit, to 
supply, as they express it, the defect of his absence, since he does 
not succeed in place of him, nor, on the other hand, does Christ 
himself descend from the heavenly glory to assume the condition of a 
mortal life. Certainly the advent of the Spirit and the ascension of 
Christ are set against each other, and hence it necessarily follows 
that Christ dwells with us according to the flesh, in the same way 
as that in which he sends his Spirit. Moreover, he distinctly says 
that he would not always be in the world with his disciples, (Matth. 
26: 11.) This saying, also, they think they admirably dispose of, as 
if it were a denial by Christ that he would always be poor and mean, 
or liable to the necessities of a fading life. But this is plainly 
repugnant to the context, since reference is made not to poverty and 
want, or the wretched condition of an earthly life, but to worship 
and honour. The disciples were displeased with the anointing by Mary 
because they thought it a superfluous and useless expenditure, akin 
to luxury, and would therefore have preferred that the price which 
they thought wasted should have been expended on the poor. Christ 
answers, that he will not be always with them to receive such 
honour. No different exposition is given by Augustine, whose words 
are by no means ambiguous. When Christ said, "Me ye have not 
always," he spoke of his bodily presence. In regard to his majesty, 
in regard to his providence, in regard to his ineffable and 
invisible grace, is fulfilled what he said: "Lo, I am with you 
always even unto the end of the world," (Matth. 28: 20;) but in 
regard to the flesh which the Word assumed - in regard to that which 
was born of the Virgin - in regard to that which was apprehended by 
the Jews, nailed to the tree, suspended on the cross, wrapt in linen 
clothes, laid in the tomb, and manifested in the resurrection, - "Me 
ye have not always." Why? Since he conversed with his disciples in 
bodily presence for forty days, and, going out with them, ascended 
while they saw but followed not. He is not here, for he sits there, 
at the right hand of the Father. And yet he is here: for the 
presence of his majesty is not withdrawn. Otherwise, as regards the 
presence of his majesty, we have Christ always; while, in regard to 
his bodily presence, it was rightly said, "Me ye have not always." 
In respect of bodily presence, the Church had him for a few days: 
now she holds him by faith, but sees him not with the eye, (August. 
Tract. in Joann. 50.) Here (that I may briefly note this) he makes 
him present with us in three ways in majesty providence, and 
ineffable grace; under which I comprehend that wondrous communion of 
his body and blood, provided we understand that it is effected by 
the power of the Holy Spirit, and not by that fictitious enclosing 
of his body under the element, since our Lord declared that he had 
flesh and bones which could be handled and seen. Going away, and 
ascending, intimate, not that he had the appearance of one going 
away and ascending, but that he truly did what the words express. 
Some one will ask, Are we then to assign a certain region of heaven 
to Christ? I answer with Augustine that this is a curious and 
superfluous questions provided we believe that he is in heaven. 
    27. What? Does not the very name of ascension, so often 
repeated, intimate removal from one place to another? This they deny 
because by height, according to them, the majesty of empire only is 
denoted. But what was the very mode of ascending? Was he not carried 
up while the disciples looked on? Do not the Evangelists clearly 
relate that he was carried into heaven? These acute Sophists reply, 
that a cloud intervened, and took him out of their sight, to teach 
the disciples that he would not afterwards be visible in the world. 
As if he ought not rather to have vanished in a moment, to make them 
believe in his invisible presence, or the cloud to have gathered 
around him before he moved a step. When he is carried aloft into the 
air, and the interposing cloud shows that he is no more to be sought 
on earth, we safely infer that his dwelling now is in the heavens, 
as Paul also asserts, bidding us to look for him frown thence, 
(Phil. 3: 20.) For this reason, the angels remind the disciples that 
it is vain to keep gazing up into heaven, because Jesus, who was 
taken up, would come in like manner as they had seen him ascend. 
Here the adversaries of sound doctrine escape, as they think, by the 
ingenious quibble, that he will come in visible form, though he 
never departed from the earth, but remained invisible among his 
people. As if the angels had insinuated a twofold presence, and not 
simply made the disciples eye-witnesses of the ascent, that no doubt 
might remain. It was just as if they had said, By ascending to 
heaven, while you looked on, he has asserted his heavenly power: it 
remains for you to wait patiently until he again arrive to judge the 
world. He has not entered into heaven to occupy it alone, but to 
gather you and all the pious along with him. 
    28. Since the advocates of this spurious dogma are not ashamed 
to honour it with the suffrages of the ancients, and especially of 
Augustine, how perverse they are in the attempt I will briefly 
explain. Pious and learned men have collected the passages, and, 
therefore, I am unwilling to plead a concluded cause: any one who 
wishes may consult their writings. I will not even collect from 
Augustine what might be pertinent to the matter, but will be 
contented to show briefly, that without all controversy he is wholly 
ours. The pretence of our opponents, when they would wrest him from 
us, that throughout his works the flesh and blood of Christ are said 
to be dispensed in the Supper, namely the victim once offered on the 
cross, is frivolous, seeing he, at the same time, calls it either 
the eucharist or sacrament of the body. But it is unnecessary to go 
far to find the sense in which he uses the terms flesh and blood, 
since he himself explains saying, (Ep. 23, ad Bonif.) that the 
sacraments receive names from their similarity to the things which 
they designate; and that, therefore, the sacrament of the body is 
after a certain manner the body. With this agrees another well-known 
passage, "The Lord hesitated not to say, This is my body when he 
gave the sign," (Cont. Adimant. Manich. cap. 12.) They again object 
that Augustine says distinctly that the body of Christ falls upon 
the earth, and enters the mouth. But this is in the same sense in 
which he affirms that it is consumed, for he conjoins both at the 
same time. There is nothing repugnant to this in his saying that the 
bread is consumed after the mystery is performed: for he had said a 
little before "As these things are known to men, when they are done 
by men they may receive honour as being religious, but not as being 
wonderful," (De Trinity. Lib. 3 c. 10.) His meaning is not different 
in the passage which our opponents too rashly appropriate to 
themselves, viz., that Christ in a manner carried himself in his own 
hands when he held out the mystical bread to his disciples. For by 
interposing the expressions "in a manner", he declares that he was 
not really or truly included under the bread. Nor is it strange, 
since he elsewhere plainly contends, that bodies could not be 
without particular localities, and being nowhere would have no 
existence. It is a paltry cavil that he is not there treating of the 
Supper, in which God exerts a special power. The question had been 
raised as to the flesh of Christ, and the holy man professedly 
replying, says, "Christ gave immortality to his flesh, but did not 
destroy its nature. In regard to this form, we are not to suppose 
that it is everywhere diffused; for we must beware not to rear up 
the divinity of the man, so as to take away the reality of the body. 
It does not follow that that which is in God is everywhere as God," 
(Ep. ad Dardan.) He immediately subjoins the reason, "One person is 
God and man, and both one Christ, everywhere, inasmuch as he is God, 
and in heaven, inasmuch as he is man." How careless would it have 
been not to except the mystery of the Supper, a matter so grave and 
serious, if it was in any respect adverse to the doctrine which he 
was handling? And yet, if any one will attentively read what follows 
shortly after, he will find that under that general doctrine the 
Supper also is comprehended, that Christ, the only begotten Son of 
God, and also Son of man, is everywhere wholly present as God, in 
the temple of God, that is, in the Church, as an inhabiting God, and 
in some place in heaven, because of the dimensions of his real body. 
We see how, in order to unite Christ with the Church, he does not 
bring his body out of heaven. This he certainly would have done had 
the body of Christ not been truly our food, unless when included 
under the bread. Elsewhere, explaining how believers now possess 
Christ, he says, "You have him by the sign of the cross, by the 
sacrament of baptism, by the meat and drink of the altar," (Tract. 
in Joann. 50.) How rightly he enumerates a superstitious rite, among 
the symbols of Christ's presence, I dispute not; but in comparing 
the presence of the flesh to the sign of the cross, he sufficiently 
shows that he has no idea of a twofold body of Christ, one lurking 
concealed under the bread, and another sitting visible in heaven. If 
there is any need of explanation, it is immediately added, "In 
respect of the presence of his majesty, we have Christ always: in 
respect of the presence of his flesh, it is rightly said, 'Me ye 
have not always.'" They object that he also adds, "In respect of 
ineffable and invisible grace is fulfilled what was said by him, 'I 
am with you always, even to the end of the world.'" But this is 
nothing in their favour. For it is at length restricted to his 
majesty, which is always opposed to body while the flesh is 
expressly distinguished from grace and virtue. The same antithesis 
elsewhere occurs, when he says that "Christ left the disciples in 
bodily presence, that he might be with them in spiritual presence." 
Here it is clear that the essence of the flesh is distinguished from 
the virtue of the Spirit, which conjoins us with Christ, when, in 
respect of space, we are at a great distance from him. He repeatedly 
uses the same mode of expression, as when he says, "He is to come to 
the quick and the dead in bodily presence, according to the rule of 
faith and sound doctrine: for in spiritual presence he was to come 
to them, and to be with the whole Church in the world until its 
consummation. Therefore, this discourse is directed to believers, 
whom he had begun already to save by corporeal presence, and whom he 
was to leave in corporeal absence, that by spiritual presence he 
might preserve them with the Father." By corporeal to understand 
visible is mere trifling, since he both opposes his body to his 
divine power, and by adding, that he might "preserve them with the 
Father," clearly expresses that he sends his grace to us from heaven 
by means of the Spirit. 
    29. Since they put so much confidence in this hiding place of 
invisible presence, let us see how well they conceal themselves in 
it. First, they cannot produce a syllable from Scripture to prove 
that Christ is invisible; but they take for granted what no sound 
man will admit, that the body of Christ cannot be given in the 
Supper, unless covered with the mask of bread. This is the very 
point in dispute, so far is it from occupying the place of a first 
principle. And while they thus prate, they are forced to give Christ 
a twofold body, because, according to them, it is visible in itself 
in heaven, but in the Supper is invisible, by a special mode of 
dispensation. The beautiful consistency of this may easily be 
judged, both from other passages of Scripture, and from the 
testimony of Peter. Peter says that the heavens must receive, or 
contain Christ, till he come again, (Acts 3: 21.) These men teach 
that he is in every place, but without form. They say that it is 
unfair to subject a glorious body to the ordinary laws of nature. 
But this answer draws along with it the delirious dream of Servetus, 
which all pious minds justly abhor, that his body was absorbed by 
his divinity. I do not say that this is their opinion; but if it is 
considered one of the properties of a glorified body to fill all 
things in an invisible manner, it is plain that the corporeal 
substance is abolished, and no distinction is left between his 
Godhead and his human nature. Again, if the body of Christ is so 
multiform and diversified, that it appears in one place, and in 
another is invisible, where is there any thing of the nature of body 
with its proper dimensions, and where is its unity? Far more correct 
is Tertullian, who contends that the body of Christ was natural and 
real, because its figure is set before us in the mystery of the 
Supper, as a pledge and assurance of spiritual life, (Tertull. Cont. 
Marc. Lib. 4.) And certainly Christ said of his glorified body, 
"Handle me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones, as ye see 
me have," (Luke 24: 39.) Here, by the lips of Christ himself, the 
reality of his flesh is proved, by its admitting of being seen and 
handled. Take these away and it will cease to be flesh. They always 
retake themselves to their lurkingplace of dispensations which they 
have fabricated. But it is our duty so to embrace what Christ 
absolutely declares, as to give it an unreserved assent. He proves 
that he is not a phantom, because he is visible in his flesh. Take 
away what he claims as proper to the nature of his body, and must 
not a new definition of body be devised? Then, however they may turn 
themselves about they will not find any place for their fictitious 
dispensation in that passage, in which Paul says, that "our 
conversation is in heaven; from whence we look for the Saviour, the 
Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be 
fashioned like unto his glorious body," (Phil. 3: 20, 21.) We are 
not to hope for conformity to Christ in these qualities which they 
ascribe to him as a body, without bounds, and invisible. They will 
not find any one so stupid as to be persuaded of this great 
absurdity. Let them not, therefore, set it down as one of the 
properties of Christ's glorious body, that it is, at the same time, 
in many places, and in no place. In short, let them either openly 
deny the resurrection of his flesh, or admit that Christ, when 
invested with celestial glory did not lay aside his flesh, but is to 
make us, in our flesh, his associates, and partakers of the same 
glory, since we are to have a common resurrection with him. For what 
does Scripture throughout deliver more clearly than that, as Christ 
assumed our flesh when he was born of the virgin, and suffered in 
our true flesh when he made satisfaction for us, so on rising again 
he resumed the same true flesh, and carried it with him to heaven? 
The hope of our resurrection, and ascension to heaven, is, that 
Christ rose again and ascended, and, as Tertullian says, (De 
Resurrect. Carnis,) "Carried an earnest of our resurrection along 
with him into heaven." Moreover, how weak and fragile would this 
hope be, had not this very flesh of ours in Christ been truly raised 
up, and entered into the kingdom of heaven. But the essential 
properties of a body are to be confined by space, to have dimension 
and form. Have done then with that foolish fiction, which affixes 
the minds of men, as well as Christ, to bread. For to what end this 
occult presence under the bread, save that those who wish to have 
Christ conjoined with them may stop short at the symbol? But our 
Lord himself wished us to withdraw not only our eyes but all our 
senses from the earth, forbidding the woman to touch him until he 
had ascended to the Father, (John 20: 17.) When he sees Mary, with 
pious reverential zeal hastening to kiss his feet, there could be no 
reason for his disapproving and forbidding her to touch him before 
he had ascended to heaven, unless he wished to be sought nowhere 
else. The objection, that he afterwards appeared to Stephen, is 
easily answered. It was not necessary for our Saviour to change his 
place, as he could give the eyes of his servant a power of vision 
which could penetrate to heaven. The same account is to be given of 
the case of Paul. The objection, that Christ came forth from the 
closed sepulchre, and came in to his disciples while the doors were 
shut, (Matth. 28: 6; John 20: 19,) gives no better support to their 
error. For as the water, just as if it had been a solid pavement, 
furnished a path to our Saviour when he walked on it, (Matth. 14,) 
so it is not strange that the hard stone yielded to his step; 
although it is more probable that the stone was removed at his 
command, and forthwith, after giving him a passage, returned to its 
place. To enter while the doors were shut, was not so much to 
penetrate through solid matter, as to make a passage for himself by 
divine power, and stand in the midst of his disciples in a most 
miraculous manner. They gain nothing by quoting the passage from 
Luke, in which it is said, that Christ suddenly vanished from the 
eyes of the disciples, with whom he had journeyed to Emmaus, (Luke 
24: 31.) In withdrawing from their sight, he did not become 
invisible: he only disappeared. Thus Luke declares that, on the 
journey with them, he did not assume a new form, but that "their 
eyes were holden." But these men not only transform Christ that he 
may live on the earth, but pretend that there is another elsewhere 
of a different description. In short, by thus trifling, they, not in 
direct terms indeed, but by a circumlocution, make a spirit of the 
flesh of Christ; and, not contented with this, give him properties 
altogether opposite. Hence it necessarily follows that he must be 
    30. Granting what they absurdly talk of the invisible presence, 
it will still be necessary to prove the immensity, without which it 
is vain to attempt to include Christ under the bread. Unless the 
body of Christ can be everywhere without any boundaries of space, it 
is impossible to believe that he is hid in the Supper under the 
bread. Hence they have been under the necessity of introducing the 
monstrous dogma of ubiquity. But it has been demonstrated by strong 
and clear passages of Scripture, first, that it is bounded by the 
dimensions of the human body; and, secondly, that its ascension into 
heaven made it plain that it is not in all places, but on passing to 
a new one, leaves the one formerly occupied. The promise to which 
they appeal, "I am with you always, even to the end of the world," 
is not to be applied to the body. First, then, a perpetual 
connection with Christ could not exist, unless he dwells in us 
corporally, in depend entry of the use of the Supper; and, 
therefore, they have no good ground for disputing so bitterly 
concerning the words of Christ, in order to include him under the 
bread in the Supper. Secondly, the context proves that Christ is not 
speaking at all of his flesh, but promising the disciples his 
invincible aid to guard and sustain them against all the assaults of 
Satan and the world. For, in appointing them to a difficult office, 
he confirms them by the assurance of his presence, that they might 
neither hesitate to undertake it, nor be timorous in the discharge 
of it; as if he had said, that his invincible protection would not 
fail them. Unless we would throw every thing into confusion, must it 
not be necessary to distinguish the mode of presence? And, indeed, 
some, to their great disgrace, choose rather to betray their 
ignorance than give up one iota of their error. I speak not of 
Papists, whose doctrine is more tolerable, or at least more modest; 
but some are so hurried away by contention as to say, that on 
account of the union of natures in Christ, wherever his divinity is, 
there his flesh, which cannot be separated from it, is also; as if 
that union formed a kind of medium of the two natures, making him to 
be neither God nor man. So held Eutyches, and after him Servetus. 
But it is clearly gathered from Scripture that the one person of 
Christ is composed of two natures, but so that each has its peculiar 
properties unimpaired. That Eutyches was justly condemned, they will 
not have the hardihood to deny. It is strange that they attend not 
to the cause of condemnation, viz., that destroying the distinction 
between the natures, and insisting only on the unity of person, he 
converted God into man and man into God. What madness, then, is it 
to confound heaven with earth, sooner than not withdraw the body of 
Christ from its heavenly sanctuary? In regard to the passages which 
they adduce, "No man has ascended up to heaven, but he that came 
down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven," John 3: 
13;) "The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father; he 
has declared him (John 1: 18,) they betray the same stupidity, 
scouting the communion of properties, (idiomatum, koinonian,) which 
not without reason was formerly invented by holy Fathers. Certainly 
when Paul says of the princes of this world that they "crucified the 
Lord of glory," (1 Cor. 2: 8) he means not that he suffered anything 
in his divinity, but that Christ, who was rejected and despised, and 
suffered in the flesh, was likewise God and the Lord of glory. In 
this way, both the Son of man was in heaven because he was also 
Christ; and he who, according to the flesh, dwelt as the Son of man 
on earth, was also God in heaven. For this reason, he is said to 
have descended from heaven in respect of his divinity, not that his 
divinity quitted heaven to conceal itself in the prison of the body, 
but because, although he filled all things, it yet resided in the 
humanity of Christ corporeally, that is, naturally, and in an 
ineffable manner. There is a trite distinction in the schools which 
I hesitate not to quote. Although the whole Christ is everywhere, 
yet everything which is in him is not everywhere. I wish the 
Schoolmen had duly weighed the force of this sentence, as it would 
have obviated their absurd fiction of the corporeal presence of 
Christ. Therefore, while our whole Mediator is everywhere, he is 
always present with his people, and in the Supper exhibits his 
presence in a special manner; yet so, that while he is wholly 
present, not everything which is in him is present, because, as has 
been said, in his flesh he will remain in heaven till he come to 
    31. They are greatly mistaken in imagining that there is no 
presence of the flesh of Christ in the Supper, unless it be placed 
in the bread. They thus leave nothing for the secret operation of 
the Spirit, which unites Christ himself to us. Christ does not seem 
to them to be present unless he descends to us, as if we did not 
equally gain his presence when he raises us to himself. The only 
question, therefore, is as to the mode, they placing Christ in the 
breads while we deem it unlawful to draw him down from heaven. Which 
of the two is more correct, let the reader judge. Only have done 
with the calumny that Christ is withdrawn from his Supper if he lurk 
not under the covering of bread. For seeing this mystery is 
heavenly, there is no necessity to bring Christ on the earth that he 
may be connected with us. 
    32. Now, should any one ask me as to the mode, I will not be 
ashamed to confess that it is too high a mystery either for my mind 
to comprehend or my words to express; and to speak more plainly I 
rather feel than understand it. The truth of God, therefore, in 
which I can safely rest, I here embrace without controversy. He 
declares that his flesh is the meat, his blood the drink, of my 
soul; I give my soul to him to be fed with such food. In his sacred 
Supper he bids, me take, eat, and drink his body and blood under the 
symbols of bread and wine. I have no doubt that he will truly give 
and I receive. Only, I reject the absurdities which appear to be 
unworthy of the heavenly majesty of Christ, and are inconsistent 
with the reality of his human nature. Since they must also be 
repugnant to the word of God, which teaches both that Christ was 
received into the glory of the heavenly kingdom, so as to be exalted 
above all the circumstances of the world, (Luke 24: 26,) and no less 
carefully ascribes to him the properties belonging to a true human 
nature. This ought not to seem incredible or contradictory to 
reason, (Iren. Lib. 4 cap. 34;) because as the whole kingdom of 
Christ is spiritual, so whatever he does in his Church is not to be 
tested by the wisdom of this world; or, to use the words of 
Augustine "this mystery is performed by man like the others, but in 
a divine manner, and on earth, but in a heavenly manner." Such, I 
say, is the corporeal presence which the nature of the sacrament 
requires, and which we say is here displayed in such power and 
efficacy, that it not only gives our minds undoubted assurance of 
eternal life, but also secures the immortality of our flesh, since 
it is now quickened by his immortal flesh, and in a manner shines in 
his immortality. Those who are carried beyond this with their 
hyperboles, do nothing more by their extravagancies than obscure the 
plain and simple truth. If any one is not yet satisfied, I would 
have him here to consider with himself that we are speaking of the 
sacrament, every part of which ought to have reference to faith. Now 
by participation of the body, as we have explained, we nourish faith 
not less richly and abundantly then do those who drag Christ himself 
from heaven. Still I am free to confess that that mixture or 
transfusion of the flesh of Christ with our souls which they teach I 
repudiate, because it is enough for us, that Christ, out of the 
substance of his flesh, breathes life into our souls, nay, diffuses 
his own life into us, though the real flesh of Christ does not enter 
us. I may add, that there can be no doubt that the analogy of faith 
by which Paul enjoins us to test every interpretation of Scripture, 
is clearly with us in this matter. Let those who oppose a truth so 
clear, consider to what standard of faith they conform themselves: 
"Every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the 
flesh is not of God," (1 John 4: 23; 2 John ver. 7.) These men, 
though they disguise the fact, or perceive it not, rob him of his 
    33. The same view must be taken of communion, which, according 
to them, has no existence unless they swallow the flesh of Christ 
under the bread. But no slight insult is offered to the Spirit if we 
refuse to believe that it is by his incomprehensible agency that we 
communicate in the body and blood of Christ. Nay, if the nature of 
the mystery, as delivered to us, and known to the ancient Church for 
four hundred years, had been considered as it deserves, there was 
more than enough to satisfy us; the door would have been shut 
against many disgraceful errors. These have kindled up fearful 
dissensions, by which the Church both anciently and in our own 
times, has been miserably vexed; curious men insisting on an 
extravagant mode of presence to which Scripture gives no 
countenance. And for a matter thus foolishly and rashly devised they 
keep up a turmoil, as if the including of Christ under the bread 
were, so to speak, the beginning and end of piety. It was of primary 
importance to know how the body of Christ once delivered to us 
becomes ours and how we become partakers of his shed blood, because 
this is to possess the whole of Christ crucified, so as to enjoy all 
his blessings. But overlooking these points, in which there was so 
much importance, nay, neglecting and almost suppressing them, they 
occupy themselves only with this one perplexing question, How is the 
body of Christ hidden under the bread, or under the appearance of 
bread? They falsely pretend that all which we teach concerning 
spiritual eating is opposed to true and what they call real eating, 
since we have respect only to the mode of eating. This according to 
them, is carnal, since they include Christ under the bread, but 
according to us is spiritual, inasmuch as the sacred agency of the 
Spirit is the bond of our union with Christ. No better founded is 
the other objection, that we attend only to the fruit or effect 
which believers receive from eating the flesh of Christ. We formerly 
said, that Christ himself is the matter of the Supper, and that the 
effect follows from this, that by the sacrifice of his death our 
sins are expiated, by his blood we are washed, and by his 
resurrection we are raised to the hope of life in heaven. But a 
foolish imagination, of which Lombard was the author, perverts their 
minds, while they think that the sacrament is the eating of the 
flesh of Christ. His words are, "The sacrament and not the thing are 
the forms of bread and wine; the sacrament and the thing are the 
flesh and blood of Christ; the thing and not the sacrament is his 
mystical flesh," (Lombard, Lib. 4: Dist. 8.) again a little after, 
"The thing signified and contained is the proper flesh of Christ; 
the thing signified and not contained is his mystical body." To his 
distinction between the flesh of Christ and the power of nourishing 
which it possesses, I assent; but his maintaining it to be a 
sacrament, and a sacrament contained under the bread, is an error 
not to be tolerated. Hence has arisen that false interpretation of 
sacramental eating, because it was imagined that even the wicked and 
profane, however much alienated from Christ, eat his body. But the 
very flesh of Christ in the mystery of the Supper is no less a 
spiritual matter than eternal salvation. Whence we infer, that all 
who are devoid of the Spirit of Christ can no more eat the flesh of 
Christ than drink wine that has no savour. Certainly Christ is 
shamefully lacerated, when his body, as lifeless and without any 
vigour, is prostituted to unbelievers. This is clearly repugnant to 
his words, "He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth 
in me, and I in him," (John 6: 56.) They object, that he is not 
there speaking of sacramental eating; this I admit, provided they 
will not ever and anon stumble on this stone, that his flesh itself 
is eaten without any benefit. I should like to know how they confine 
it after they have eaten. Here, in my opinion, they will find no 
outlet. But they object, that the ingratitude of man cannot in any 
respect detract from, or interfere with, faith in the promises of 
God. I admit and hold that the power of the sacrament remains 
entire, however the wicked may labour with all their might to 
annihilate it. Still, it is one thing to be offered, another to be 
received. Christ gives this spiritual food and holds forth this 
spiritual drink to all. Some eat eagerly, others superciliously 
reject it. Will their rejection cause the meat and drink to lose 
their nature? They will say that this similitude supports their 
opinion, viz., that the flesh of Christ, though it be without taste, 
is still flesh. But I deny that it can be eaten without the taste of 
faith, or, (if it is more agreeable to speak with Augustine,) I deny 
that men carry away more from the sacrament than they collect in the 
vessel of faith. Thus nothing is detracted from the sacrament, nay, 
its reality and efficacy remain unimpaired, although the wicked, 
after externally partaking of it, go away empty. If, again, they 
object, that it derogates from the expression, "This is my body," if 
the wicked receive corruptible bread and nothing besides, it is easy 
to answer, that God wills not that his truth should be recognised in 
the mere reception, but in the constancy of his goodness, while he 
is prepared to perform, nay, liberally offers to the unworthy what 
they reject. The integrity of the sacrament, an integrity which the 
whole world cannot violate, lies here, that the flesh and blood of 
Christ are not less truly given to the unworthy than to the elect 
believers of God; and yet it is true, that just as the rain falling 
on the hard rock runs away, because it cannot penetrate, so the 
wicked by their hardness repel the grace of God, and prevent it from 
reaching them. We may add, that it is no more possible to receive 
Christ without faith, than it is for seed to germinate in the fire. 
They ask how Christ can have come for the condemnation of some, 
unless they unworthily receive him; but this is absurd, since we 
nowhere read that they bring death upon themselves by receiving 
Christ unworthily, but by rejecting him. They are not aided by the 
parable in which Christ says, that the seed which fell among thorns 
sprang up, but was afterwards choked, (Matth. 13: 7,) because he is 
there speaking of the effect of a temporary faith, a faith which 
those who place Judas in this respect on a footing with Peter, do 
not think necessary to the eating of the flesh and the drinking of 
the blood of Christ. Nay, their error is refuted by the same 
parable, when Christ says that some seed fell upon the wayside, and 
some on stony ground, and yet neither took root. Hence it follows 
that the hardness of believers is an obstacle which prevents Christ 
from reaching them. All who would have our salvation to be promoted 
by this sacrament, will find nothing more appropriate than to 
conduct believers to the fountain, that they may draw life from the 
Son of God. The dignity is amply enough commended when we hold, that 
it is a help by which we may be ingrafted into the body of Christ, 
or, already ingrafted, may be more and more united to him, until the 
union is completed in heaven. They object, that Paul could not have 
made them guilty of the body and blood of the Lord if they had not 
partaken of them, (1 Cor. 11: 27;) I answer, that they were not 
condemned for having eaten, but only for having profaned the 
ordinance lay trampling under foot the pledge, which they ought to 
have reverently received, the pledge of sacred union with God. 
    34. Moreover, as among ancient writers, Augustine especially 
maintained this head of doctrine, that the grace figured by the 
sacraments is not impaired or made void by the infidelity or malice 
of men, it will be useful to prove clearly from his words, how 
ignorantly and erroneously those who cast forth the body of Christ 
to be eaten by dogs, wrest them to their present purpose. 
Sacramental eating, according to them, is that by which the wicked 
receive the body and blood of Christ without the agency of the 
Spirit, or any gracious effect. Augustine, on the contrary, 
prudently pondering the expression, "Whoso eateth my flesh, and 
drinketh my blood, has eternal life," (John 6: 54,) says: "That is 
the virtue of the sacrament, and not merely the visible sacrament: 
the sacrament of him who eats inwardly, not of him who eats 
outwardly, or merely with the teeth," (Hom. in Joann. 26.) Hence he 
at length concludes, that the sacrament of this thing, that is, of 
the unity of the body and blood of Christ in the Lord's Supper, is 
set before some for life, before others for destruction; while the 
matter itself, of which it is the sacraments is to all for life, to 
none for destruction, whoever may have been the partaker. Lest any 
one should here cavil that by "thing" not meant body, but the grace 
of the Spirit, which may be separated from it, he dissipates these 
mists by the antithetical epithets, Visible and Invisible. For the 
body of Christ cannot be included under the former. Hence it 
follows, that unbelievers communicate only in the visible symbol; 
and the better to remove all doubt, after saying that this bread 
requires an appetite in the inner man, he adds, (Hom. in Joann. 59,) 
"Moses, and Aaron, and Phinehas, and many others who ate manna, 
pleased God. Why? Because the visible food they understood 
spiritually, hungered for spiritually, tasted spiritually, and 
feasted on spiritually. We, too, in the present day, have received 
visible food: but the sacrament is one thing, the virtue of the 
sacrament is another." A little after, he says: "And hence, he who 
remains not in Christ, and in whom Christ remains not, without doubt 
neither spiritually eats his flesh, nor drinks his blood, though 
with his teeth he may carnally and visibly press the symbol of his 
body and blood." again, we are told that the visible sign is opposed 
to spiritual eating. This refutes the error that the invisible body 
of Christ is sacramentally eaten in reality, although not 
spiritually. We are told, also, that nothing is given to the impure 
and profane beyond the visible taking of the sign. Hence his 
celebrated saying, that the other disciples ate bread which was the 
Lord, whereas Judas ate the bread of the Lord, (Hom. in Joann. 62.) 
By this he clearly excludes unbelievers from participation in his 
body and blood. He has no other meaning when he says, "Why do you 
wonder that the bread of Christ was given to Judas, though he 
consigned him to the devil, when you see, on the contrary, that a 
messenger of the devil was given to Paul to perfect him in Christ?" 
(August. de Bapt. Cont. Donat. Lib. 5.) He indeed says elsewhere, 
that the bread of the Supper was the body of Christ to those to whom 
Paul said, "He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and 
drinketh damnation to himself; and that it does not follow that they 
received nothing because they received unworthily." But in what 
sense he says this, he explains more fully in another passage, (De 
Civit. Dei, Lib. 21 c. 25.) For undertaking professedly to explains 
how the wicked and profane, who, with the mouth, profess the faith 
of Christ, but in act deny him, eat the body of Christ; and, indeed, 
refuting the opinion of some who thought that they ate not only 
sacramentally, but really, he says: "Neither can they be said to eat 
the body of Christ, because they are not to be accounted among the 
members of Christ. For, not to mention other reasons, they cannot be 
at the same time the members of Christ and the members of a harlot. 
In fine, when Christ himself says, "He that eateth my flesh, and 
drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him," (John 6: 56,) he 
shows what it is to eat the body of Christ, not sacramentally, but 
in reality. It is to abide in Christ, that Christ may abide in him. 
For it is just as if he had said, Let not him who abides not in me, 
and in whom I abide not, say or think that he eats my body or drinks 
my blood." Let the reader attend to the antithesis between eating 
sacramentally and eating really, and there will be no doubt. The 
same thing he confirms not less clearly in these words: "Prepare not 
the jaws, but the heart; for which alone the Supper is appointed. We 
believe in Christ when we receive him in faith; in receiving, we 
allow what we think: we receive a small portion, but our heart is 
filled: it is not therefore that which is seen, but that which is 
believed, that feeds," (August. Cont. Faust. Lib. 13 c. 16.) Here, 
also, he restricts what the wicked take to the visible sign, and 
shows that the only way of receiving Christ is by faith. So, also, 
in another passage, declaring distinctly that the good and the bad 
communicate by signs, he excludes the latter from the true eating of 
the flesh of Christ. For had they received the reality, he would not 
have been altogether silent as to a matter which was pertinent to 
the case. In another passage, speaking of eating, and the fruit of 
it, he thus concludes: "Then will the body and blood of Christ be 
life to each, if that which is visibly taken in the sacrament is in 
reality spiritually eaten, spiritually drunk," (De Verb. Apost. 
Serm. 2.) Let those, therefore, who make unbelievers partakers of 
the flesh and blood of Christ, if they would agree with Augustine, 
set before us the visible body of Christ, since, according to him 
the whole truth is spiritual. And certainly his words imply that 
sacramental eating when unbelief excludes the entrance of the 
reality, is only equivalent to visible or external eating. But if 
the body of Christ may be truly and yet not spiritually eaten, what 
could he mean when he elsewhere says: "Ye are not to eat this body 
which you see, nor to drink the blood which will be shed by those 
who are to crucify me? I have committed a certain sacrament to you: 
it is the spiritual meaning which will give you life," (August. in 
Ps. 98.) He certainly meant not to deny that the body offered in the 
Supper is the same as that which Christ offered in sacrifice; but he 
adverted to the mode of eating, viz., that the body, though received 
into the celestial glory, breathes life into us by the secret energy 
of the Spirit. I admit, indeed, that he often uses the expression, 
"that the body of Christ is eaten by unbelievers;" but he explains 
himself by adding, "in the sacrament." And he elsewhere speaks of a 
spiritual eating, in which our teeth do not chew grace, (Hom. in 
Joann. 27.) And, lest my opponents should say that I am trying to 
overwhelm them with the mass of my quotations, I would ask how they 
get over this one sentence: "In the elect alone, the sacraments 
effect what they figure." Certainly they will not venture to deny, 
that by the bread in the Supper, the body of Christ is figured. 
Hence it follows, that the reprobate are not allowed to partake of 
it. That Cyril did not think differently, is clear from these words: 
"As one in pouring melted wax on melted wax mixes the whole 
together, so it is necessary, when one receives the body and blood 
of the Lord, to be conjoined with him, that Christ may be found in 
him, and he in Christ." From these words, I think it plain that 
there is no true and real eating by those Who only eat the body of 
Christ sacramentally, seeing the body cannot be separated from its 
virtue, and that the promises of God do not fail, though, while he 
ceases not to rain from heaven, rocks and stones are not penetrated 
by the moisture. 
    35. This consideration will easily dissuade us from that carnal 
adoration which some men have, with perverse temerity, introduced 
into the sacrament, reasoning thus with themselves: If it is body, 
then it is also soul and divinity which go along with the body and 
cannot be separated from it, and, therefore, Christ must there be 
adored. First, if we deny their pretended concomitance, what will 
they do? For, as they chiefly insist on the absurdity of separating 
the body of Christ from his soul and divinity, what sane and sober 
man can persuade himself that the body of Christ is Christ? They 
think that they completely establish this by their syllogisms. But 
since Christ speaks separately of his body and blood, without 
describing the mode of his presence, how can they in a doubtful 
matter arrive at the certainty which they wish? What then? Should 
their consciences be at any time exercised with some more grievous 
apprehension, will they forthwith set them free, and dissolve the 
apprehension by their syllogisms? In other words, when they see that 
no certainty is to be obtained from the word of God, in which alone 
our minds can rest, and without which they go astray the very first 
moment when they begin to reason, when they see themselves opposed 
by the doctrine and practice of the apostles, and that they are 
supported by no authority but their own, how will they feel? To such 
feelings other sharp stings will be added. What? Was it a matter of 
little moment to worship God under this form without any express 
injunction? In a matter relating to the true worship of God, were we 
thus lightly to act without one Word of Scripture? Had all their 
thoughts been kept in due subjection to the word of God, they 
certainly would have listened to what he himself has said, "Take, 
eat, and drink," and obeyed the command by which he enjoins us to 
receive the sacrament, not worship it. Those who receive, without 
adoration, as commanded by God, are secure that they deviate not 
from the command. In commencing any work, nothing is better than 
this security. They have the example of the apostles, of whom we 
read not that they prostrated themselves and worshipped, but that 
they sat down, took and ate. They have the practice of the apostolic 
Church, where, as Luke relates, believers communicated not in 
adoration, but in the breaking of bread, (Acts 2: 42.) They have the 
doctrine of the apostles as taught to the Corinthian Church by Paul, 
who declares that what he delivered he had received of the Lord, (1 
Cor. 11: 23.) 
    36. The object of these remarks is to lead pious readers to 
reflect how dangerous it is in matters of such difficulty to wander 
from the simple word of God to the dreams of our own brain. What has 
been said above should free us from all scruple in this matter. That 
the pious soul may duly apprehend Christ in the sacrament, it must 
rise to heaven. But if the office of the sacrament is to aid the 
infirmity of the human mind, assisting it in rising upwards, so as 
to perceive the height of spiritual mysteries those who stop short 
at the external sign stray from the right path of seeking Christ. 
What then? Can we deny that the worship is superstitious when men 
prostrate themselves before bread that they may therein worship 
Christ? The Council of Nice undoubtedly intended to meet this evil 
when it forbade us to give humble heed to the visible signs. And for 
no other reason was it formerly the custom, previous to 
consecration, to call aloud upon the people to raise their hearts, 
"sursum corda". Scripture itself, also, besides carefully narrating 
the ascension of Christ, by which he withdrew his bodily presence 
from our eye and company, that it might make us abandon all carnal 
thoughts of him, whenever it makes mention of him, enjoins us to 
raise our minds upwards and seek him in heaven, seated at the right 
hand of the Father, (Col. 3: 2.) According to this rule, we should 
rather have adored him spiritually in the heavenly glory, than 
devised that perilous species of adoration replete with gross and 
carnal ideas of God. Those, therefore, who devised the adoration of 
the sacrament, not only dreamed it of themselves without any 
authority from Scripture, where no mention of it can be shown, (it 
would not have been omitted, had it been agreeable to God;) but, 
disregarding scripture, forsook the living God, and fabricated a god 
for themselves, after the lust of their own hearts. For what is 
idolatry if it is not to worship the gifts instead of the giver? 
Here the sin is twofold. The honour robbed from God is transferred 
to the creature, and God moreover, is dishonoured by the pollution 
and profanation of his own goodness, while his holy sacrament is 
converted into an execrable idol. Let us, on the contrary, that we 
may not fall into the same pit, wholly confine our eyes, ears, 
hearts, minds, and tongues, to the sacred doctrine of God. For this 
is the school of the Holy Spirit, that best of masters, in which 
such progress is made, that while nothing is to be acquired any 
where else, we must willingly be ignorant of whatever is not there 
    37. Then, as superstition, when once it has passed the proper 
bounds, has no end to its errors, men went much farther; for they 
devised rites altogether alien from the institution of the Supper, 
and to such a degree that they paid divine honours to the sign. They 
say that their veneration is paid to Christ. First, if this were 
done in the Supper, I would say that that adoration only is 
legitimate which stops not at the sign, but rises to Christ sitting 
in heaven. Now, under what pretext do they say that they honour 
Christ in that bread, when they have no promise of this nature? They 
consecrate the host, as they call it, and carry it about in solemn 
show, and formally exhibit it to be admired, reverenced, and 
invoked. I ask by what virtue they think it duly consecrated? They 
will quote the words, "This is my body." I, on the contrary, will 
object, that it was at the same time said, "Take, eat." Nor will I 
count the other passage as nothing; for I hold that since the 
promise is annexed to the command, the former is so included under 
the latter, that it cannot possibly be separated from it. This will 
be made clearer by an example. God gave a command when he said, 
"Call upon me," and added a promise, "I will deliver thee," (Psal. 
50: 15.) Should any one invoke Peter or Paul, and found on this 
promise, will not all exclaim that he does it in error? And what 
else, pray, do those do who, disregarding the command to eat, fasten 
on the mutilated promise, "This is my body," that they may pervert 
it to rites alien from the institution of Christ? Let us remember, 
therefore, that this promise has been given to those who observe the 
command connected with it, and that those who transfer the sacrament 
to another end, have no countenance from the word of God. We 
formerly showed how the mystery of the sacred Supper contributes to 
our faith in God. But since the Lord not only reminds us of this 
great gift of his goodness, as we formerly explained, but passes it, 
as it were, from hand to hand, and urges us to recognise it, he, at 
the same time, admonishes us not to be ungrateful for the kindness 
thus bestowed, but rather to proclaim it with such praise as is 
meet, and celebrate it with thanksgiving. Accordingly, when he 
delivered the institution of the sacrament to the apostles, he 
taught them to do it in remembrance of him, which Paul interprets, 
"to show forth his death," (1 Cor. 11: 26.) And this is that all 
should publicly and with one mouth confess that all our confidence 
of life and salvation is placed in our Lord's death, that we 
ourselves may glorify him by our confession, and by our example 
excite others also to give him glory. Here, again, we see what the 
aim of the sacrament is, namely, to keep us in remembrance of 
Christ's death. When we are ordered to show forth the Lord's death 
till he come again, all that is meant is, that we should with 
confession of the mouth, proclaim what our faith has recognised in 
the sacrament, viz., that the death of Christ is our life. This is 
the second use of the sacrament, and relates to outward confession. 
    38. Thirdly, The Lord intended it to be a kind of exhortation, 
than which no other could urge or animate us more strongly, both to 
purity and holiness of life, and also to charity, peace, and 
concord. For the Lord there communicates his body so that he may 
become altogether one with us, and we with him. Moreover, since he 
has only one body of which he makes us all to be partakers, we must 
necessarily, by this participation, all become one body. This unity 
is represented by the bread which is exhibited in the sacrament. As 
it is composed of many grains, so mingled together, that one cannot 
be distinguished from another; so ought our minds to be so cordially 
united, as not to allow of any dissension or division. This I prefer 
giving in the words of Paul: "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? For we being 
many, are one bread and one body, for we are all partakers of that 
one bread," (1 Cor. 10: 15, 16.) We shall have profited admirably in 
the sacrament, if the thought shall have been impressed and engraven 
on our minds, that none of our brethren is hurt, despised, rejected, 
injured, or in any way offended, without our, at the same time, 
hurting, despising, and injuring Christ; that we cannot have 
dissension with our brethren, without at the same time dissenting 
from Christ; that we cannot love Christ without loving our brethren; 
that the same care we take of our own body we ought to take of that 
of our brethren, who are members of our body; that as no part of our 
body suffers pain without extending to the other parts, so every 
evil which our brother suffers ought to excite our compassion. 
Wherefore Augustine not inappropriately often terms this sacrament 
the bond of charity. What stronger stimulus could be employed to 
excite mutual charity, than when Christ, presenting himself to us, 
not only invites us by his example to give and devote ourselves 
mutually to each other, but inasmuch as he makes himself common to 
all, also makes us all to be one in him. 
    39. This most admirably confirms what I elsewhere said, viz., 
that there cannot be a right administration of the Supper without 
the word. And utility which we derive from the Supper requires the 
word. Whether we are to be confirmed in faith, or exercised in 
confession, or aroused to duty, there is need of preaching. Nothing, 
therefore, can be more preposterous than to convert the Supper into 
a dumb action. This is done under the tyranny of the Pope, the whole 
effect of consecration being made to depend on the intention of the 
priest, as if it in no way concerned the people, to whom especially 
the mystery ought to have been explained. This error has originated 
from not observing that those promises by which consecration is 
effected are intended not for the elements themselves, but for those 
who receive them. Christ does not address the bread and tell it to 
become his body but bids his disciples eat, and promises them the 
communion of his body and blood. And, according to the arrangement 
which Paul makes, the promises are to be offered to believers along 
with the bread and the cup. Thus, indeed, it is. We are not to 
imagine some magical incantation, and think it sufficient to mutter 
the words, as if they were heard by the elements; but we are to 
regard those words as a living sermon, which is to edify the 
hearers, penetrate their minds, be impressed and seated in their 
hearts, and exert its efficacy in the fulfilment of that which it 
promises. For these reasons, it is clear that the setting apart of 
the sacrament, as some insist, that an extraordinary distribution of 
it may be made to the sick, is useless. They will either receive it 
without hearing the words of the institution read, or the minister 
will conjoin the true explanation of the mystery with the sign. In 
the silent dispensation, there is abuse and defect. If the promises 
are narrated, and the mystery is expounded, that those who are to 
receive may receive with advantage, it cannot be doubted that this 
is the true consecration. What then becomes of that other 
consecration, the effect of which reaches even to the sick? But 
those who do so have the example of the early Church. I confess it; 
but in so important a matter, where error is so dangerous, nothing, 
is safer than to follow the truth. 
    40. Moreover, as we see that this sacred bread of the Lord's 
Supper is spiritual food, is sweet and savoury, not less than 
salutary, to the pious worshipers of God; on tasting which they feel 
that Christ is their life, are disposed to give thanks, and exhorted 
to mutual love; so, on the other hand, it is converted into the most 
noxious poison to all whom it does not nourish and confirm in the 
faith, nor urge to thanksgiving and charity. For, just as corporeal 
food, when received into a stomach subject to morbid humours, 
becomes itself vitiated and corrupted, and rather hurts than 
nourishes, so this spiritual food also, if given to a soul polluted 
with malice and wickedness, plunges it into greater ruin, not indeed 
by any defect in the food, but because to the "defiled and 
unbelieving is nothing pure," (Titus 1: 15,) however much it may be 
sanctified by the blessing of the Lord. For, as Paul says, 
"Whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, 
unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord;" 
"eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's 
body," (1 Cor. 11: 27, 29.) For men of this description, who without 
any spark of faith, without any zeal for charity, rush forward like 
swine to seize the Lord's Supper, do not at all discern the Lord's 
body. For, inasmuch as they do not believe that body to be their 
life, they put every possible affront upon it, stripping it of all 
its dignity, and profane and contaminate it by so receiving; 
inasmuch as while alienated and estranged from their brethren, they 
dare to mingle the sacred symbol of Christ's body with their 
dissensions. No thanks to them if the body of Christ is not rent and 
torn to pieces. Wherefore they are justly held guilty of the body 
and blood of the Lord, which, with sacrilegious impiety, they so 
vilely pollute. By this unworthy eating, they bring judgement on 
themselves. For while they have no faith in Christ, yet, by 
receiving the sacrament, they profess to place their salvation only 
in him and abjure all other confidence. Wherefore they themselves 
are their own accusers; they bear witness against themselves; they 
seal their own condemnation. Next being divided and separated by 
hatred and ill-will from their brethren that is from the members of 
Christ, they have no part in Christ, and yet they declare that the 
only safety is to communicate with Christ, and be united to him. For 
this reason Paul commands a man to examine himself before he eats of 
that bread, and drinks of that cup, (1 Cor. 11: 28.) By this, as I 
understand, he means that each individual should descend into 
himself, and consider, first, whether, with inward confidence of 
heart, he leans on the salvation obtained by Christ, and, with 
confession of the mouth, acknowledges it; and, secondly, whether 
with zeal for purity and holiness he aspires to imitate Christ; 
whether, after his example, he is prepared to give himself to his 
brethren, and to hold himself in common with those with whom he has 
Christ in common; whether, as he himself is regarded by Christ, he 
in his turn regards all his brethren as members of his body, or, 
like his members, desires to cherish, defend, and assist them, not 
that the duties of faith and charity can now be perfected in us, but 
because it behaves us to contend and seek, with all our heart, daily 
to increase our faith. 
    41. In seeking to prepare for eating, worthily, men have often 
dreadfully harassed and tortured miserable consciences, and yet have 
in no degree attained the end. They have said that those eat 
unworthily who are in a state of grace. Being in a state of grace, 
they have interpreted to be pure and free from all sin. By this 
definition, all the men that ever have been and are upon the earth, 
were debarred from the use of this sacrament. For if we are to seek 
our worthiness from ourselves, it is all over with us; only despair 
and fatal ruin await us. Though we struggle to the utmost, we will 
not only make no progress, but then be most unworthy after we have 
laboured most to make ourselves worthy. To cure this ulcer, they 
have devised a mode of procuring worthiness viz., after having, as 
far as we can, made an examination, and taken an account of all our 
actions, to expiate our unworthiness by contrition, confession, and 
satisfaction. Of the nature of this expiation we have spoken at the 
proper place, (Book 3 chap. 4 sec. 2, 17, 27.) As far as regards our 
present object, I say that such things give poor and evanescent 
comfort to alarmed and downcast consciences, struck with terror at 
their sins. For if the Lord, by his prohibition, admits none to 
partake of his Supper but the righteous and innocent, every man 
would require to be cautious before feeling secure of that 
righteousness of his own which he is told that God requires. But how 
are we to be assured that those who have done what in them lay, have 
discharged their duty to God? Even were we assured of this who would 
venture to assure himself that he had done what in him lay? Thus 
there being no certain security for our worthiness, access to the 
Supper would always be excluded by the fearful interdict, "He that 
eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to 
    42. It is now easy to judge what is the nature, and who is the 
author, of that doctrine which prevails in the Papacy, and which by 
its inhuman austerity deprives and robs wretched sinners, oppressed 
with sorrow and trembling, of the consolation of this sacrament, a 
sacrament in which all that is delightful in the gospel was set 
before them. Certainly the devil could have no shorter method of 
destroying men than by thus infatuating them, and so excluding them 
from the taste and savour of this food with which their most 
merciful Father in heaven had been pleased to feed them. Therefore, 
lest we should rush over such a precipice, let us remember that this 
sacred feast is medicine to the sick, comfort to the sinner, and 
bounty to the poor; while to the healthy, the righteous, and the 
rich, if any such could be found, it would be of no value. For while 
Christ is therein given us for food, we perceive that without him we 
fail, pine, and waste away, just as hunger destroys the vigour of 
the body. Next, as he is given for life, we perceive that without 
him we are certainly dead. Wherefore, the best and only worthiness 
which we can bring to God, is to offer him our own vileness, and, if 
I may so speak, unworthiness that his mercy may make us worthy; to 
despond in ourselves, that we may be consoled in him; to humble 
ourselves, that we may be elevated by him; to accuse ourselves, that 
we may be justified by him; to aspire, moreover, to the unity which 
he recommends in the Supper; and, as he makes us all one in himself, 
to desire to have all one soul, one heart, one tongue. If we ponder 
and meditate on these things, we may be shaken but will never be 
overwhelmed by such considerations as these, how shall we, who are 
devoid of all good, polluted by the defilements of sin, and half 
dead, worthily eat the body of the Lord? We shall rather consider 
that we, who are poor, are coming to a benevolent giver, sick to a 
physician, sinful to the author of righteousness, in fine, dead to 
him who gives life; that worthiness which is commanded by God, 
consists especially in faith, which places all things in Christ, 
nothing in ourselves, and in charity, charity which, though 
imperfect, it may be sufficient to offer to God, that he may 
increase it, since it cannot be fully rendered. Some, concurring 
with us in holding that worthiness consists in faith and charity, 
have widely erred in regard to the measure of worthiness, demanding 
a perfection of faith to which nothing can be added, and a charity 
equivalent to that which Christ manifested towards us. And in this 
way, just as the other class, they debar all men from access to this 
sacred feast. For, were their view well founded, every one who 
receives must receive unworthily, since all, without exception, are 
guilty, and chargeable with imperfection. And certainly it were too 
stupid, not to say idiotical, to require to the receiving of the 
sacrament a perfection which would render the sacrament vain and 
superfluous, because it was not instituted for the perfect, but for 
the infirm and weak, to stir up, excite, stimulate, exercise the 
feeling of faith and charity, and at the same time correct the 
deficiency of both. 
    43. In regard to the external form of the ordinance, whether or 
not believers are to take into their hands and divide among 
themselves, or each is to eat what is given to him; whether they are 
to return the cup to the deacon or hand it to their neighbour; 
whether the bread is to be leavened or unleavened, and the wine to 
be red or white, is of no consequence. These things are indifferent, 
and left free to the Church, though it is certain that it was the 
custom of the ancient Church for all to receive into their hand. And 
Christ said, "Take this, and divide it among yourselves" (Luke 12: 
17.) History relates that leavened and ordinary bread was used 
before the time of Alexander the Bishop of Rome, who was the first 
that was delighted with unleavened bread: for what reason I see not, 
unless it was to draw the wondering eyes of the populace by the 
novelty of the spectacle, more than to train them in sound religion. 
I appeal to all who have the least zeal for piety, whether they do 
not evidently perceive both how much more brightly the glory of God 
is here displayed and how much more abundant spiritual consolation 
is felt by believers than in these frigid and histrionic follies, 
which have no other use than to impose on the gazing populace. They 
call it restraining the people by religion, when, stupid and 
infatuated, they are drawn hither and thither by superstition. 
Should any one choose to defend such inventions by antiquity, I am 
not unaware how ancient is the use of Christ and exorcism in 
baptism, and how, not long after the age of the apostles, the Supper 
was tainted with adulteration; such, indeed, is the forwardness of 
human confidence, which cannot restrain itself, but is always 
sporting and wantoning in the mysteries of God. But let us remember 
that God sets so much value on obedience to his word, that, by it, 
he would have us to judge his angels and the whole world. All this 
mass of ceremonies being abandoned, the sacrament might be 
celebrated in the most becoming manner, if it were dispensed to the 
Church very frequently, at least once a week. The commencement 
should be with public prayer; next a sermon should be delivered: 
then the minister, having placed bread and wine on the table, should 
read the institution of the Supper. He should next explain the 
promises which are therein given; and, at the same time, keep back 
from communion all those who are debarred by the prohibition of the 
Lord. He should afterwards pray that the Lord, with the kindness 
with which he has bestowed this sacred food upon us, would also form 
and instruct us to receive it with faith and gratitude; and, as we 
are of ourselves unworthy, would make us worthy of the feast by his 
mercy. Here, either a psalm should be sung, or something read, while 
the faithful, in order, communicate at the sacred feast, the 
minister breaking the bread, and giving it to the people. The Supper 
being ended, an exhortation should be given to sincere faith, and 
confession of faith, to charity, and lives becoming Christians. 
Lastly, thanks should be offered, and the praises of God should be 
sung. This being done, the Church should be dismissed in peace. 
    44. What we have hitherto said of the sacrament, abundantly 
shows that it was not instituted to be received once a year, and 
that perfunctorily, (as is now commonly the custom;) but that all 
Christians might have it in frequent use, and frequently call to 
mind the sufferings of Christ, thereby sustaining and confirming 
their faith: stirring themselves up to sing the praises of God, and 
proclaim his goodness; cherishing and testifying towards each other 
that mutual charity, the bond of which they see in the unity of the 
body of Christ. As often as we communicate in the symbol of our 
Saviour's body, as if a pledge were given and received, we mutually 
bind ourselves to all the offices of love, that none of us may do 
anything to offend his brother, or omit anything by which he can 
assist him when necessity demands, and opportunity occurs. That such 
was the practice of the Apostolic Church, we are informed by Luke in 
the Acts, when he says that "they continued steadfastly in the 
apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in 
prayers," (Acts 2: 42.) Thus we ought always to provide that no 
meeting of the Church is held without the word, prayer, the 
dispensation of the Supper, and alms. We may gather from Paul that 
this was the order observed by the Corinthians, and it is certain 
that this was the practice many ages after. Hence, by the ancient 
canons, which are attributed to Anacletus and Calixtus, after the 
consecration was made, all were to communicate who did not wish to 
be without the pale of the Church. And in those ancient canons, 
which bear the name of Apostolical, it is said, that those who 
continue not to the end, and partake not of the sacred communion, 
are to be corrected as causing disquiet to the Church. In the 
Council of Antioch it was decreed, that those who enter the Church, 
hear the Scriptures, and abstain from communion, are to be removed 
from the Church until they amend their fault. And although, in the 
first Council of Tholouse, this was mitigated, or at least stated in 
milder terms, yet there also it was decreed, that those who, after 
hearing the sermon, never communicated, were to be admonished, and 
if they still abstained after admonition, were to be excluded. 
    45. By these enactments, holy men wished to retain and ensure 
the use of frequent communion, as handed down by the apostles 
themselves; and which, while it was most salutary to believers, they 
saw gradually falling into desuetude by the negligence of the 
people. Of his own age, Augustine testifies: "The sacrament of the 
unity of our Lord's body is, in some places, provided daily, and in 
others at certain intervals, at the Lord's table; and at that table 
some partake to life, and others to destruction," (August. Tract. 
26, in Joann. 6.) And in the first Epistle to Januarius he says: 
"Some communicate daily in the body and blood of the Lord; others 
receive it on certain days: in some places, not a day intervenes on 
which it is not offered; in others, it is offered only on the 
Sabbath and the Lord's day: in others, on the Lord's day only." But 
since, as we have said, the people were sometimes remiss, holy men 
urged them with severe rebukes, that they might not seem to connive 
at their sluggishness. Of this we have an example in Chrysostom, on 
the Epistle to the Ephesians, (Hom. 26.) "It was not said to him who 
dishonoured the feast, Why have you taken your seat? But how camest 
thou in?" (Matth. 22: 12.) Whoever partakes not of the sacred rites 
is wicked and impudent in being present: should any one who was 
invited to a feast come in, wash his hands, take his seat, and seem 
to prepare to eat, and thereafter taste nothing, would he not, I 
ask, insult both the feast and the entertainer? So you, standing 
among those who prepare themselves by prayer to take the sacred 
food, profess to be one of the number by the mere fact of your not 
going away, and yet you do not partake, - would it not have been 
better not to have made your appearance? I am unworthy, you say. 
Then neither were you worthy of the communion of prayer, which is 
the preparation for taking the sacred mystery." 
    46. Most assuredly, the custom which prescribes communion once 
a year is an invention of the devil, by what instrumentality soever 
it may have been introduced. They say that Zephyrinus was the author 
of the decree, though it is not possible to believe that it was the 
same as we now have it. It may be, that as times then were, he did 
not, by his ordinance, consult ill for the Church. For there cannot 
be a doubt that at that time the sacred Supper was dispensed to the 
faithful at every meeting; nor can it be doubted that a great part 
of them communicated. But as it scarcely ever happened that all 
could communicate at the same time, and it was necessary that those 
who were mingled with the profane and idolaters, should testify 
their faith by some external symbol, this holy man, with a view to 
order and government, had appointed that day, that on it the whole 
of Christendom might give a confession of their faith by partaking 
of the Lord's Supper. The ordinance of Zephyrinus, which was 
otherwise good, posterity perverted, when they made a fixed law of 
one communion in the year. The consequence is, that almost all, when 
they have once communicated as if they were discharged as to all the 
rest of the year, sleep on secure. It ought to have been far 
otherwise. Each week, at least, the table of the Lord ought to have 
been spread for the company of Christians, and the promises declared 
on which we might then spiritually feed. No one, indeed, ought to be 
forced, but all ought to be exhorted and stimulated; the torpor of 
the sluggish, also ought to be rebuked that all, like persons 
famishing, should come to the feast. It was not without cause, 
therefore, I complained, at the outset, that this practice had been 
introduced by the wile of the devil; a practice which, in 
prescribing one day in the year, makes the whole year one of sloth. 
We see, indeed, that this perverse abuse had already crept in in the 
time of Chrysostom; but we, also, at the same time, see how much it 
displeased him. For he complains in bitter terms, in the passage 
which I lately quoted, that there is so great an inequality in this 
matter, that they did not approach often, at other times of the 
year, even when prepared, but only at Easter, though unprepared. 
Then he exclaims: "O custom! O presumption! In vain then, is the 
daily oblation made: in vain do we stand at the altar. There is none 
who partakes along with us." So far is he from having approved the 
practice by interposing his authority to it. 
    47. From the same forge proceeded another constitution, which 
snatched or robbed a half of the Supper from the greater part of the 
people of God, namely the symbol of blood, which, interdicted to 
laics and profane, (such are the titles which they give to God's 
heritage,) became the peculiar possession of a few shaven and 
anointed individuals. The edict of the eternal God is, that all are 
to drink. This an upstart dares to antiquate and abrogate by a new 
and contrary law, proclaiming that all are not to drink. And that 
such legislators may not seem to fight against their God without any 
ground, they make a pretext of the dangers which might happen if the 
sacred cup were given indiscriminately to all: as if these had not 
been observed and provided for by the eternal wisdom of God. Then 
they reason acutely, forsooth, that the one is sufficient for the 
two. For if the body is, as they say, the whole Christ, who cannot 
be separated from his body, then the blood includes the body by 
concomitance. Here we see how far our sense accords with God, when 
to any extent whatever it begins to rage and wanton with loosened 
reins. The Lord pointing to the bread says, "This is my body." Then 
pointing to the cup, he calls it his blood. The audacity of human 
reason objects and says, The bread is the blood, the wine is the 
body, as if the Lord had without reason distinguished his body from 
his blood, both by words and signs; and it had ever been heard that 
the body of Christ or the blood is called God and man. Certainly, if 
he had meant to designate himself wholly he might have said, It is 
I, according to the Scriptural mode of expression, and not "This is 
my body," "This is my blood." But wishing to succour the weakness of 
our faith, he placed the cup apart from the bread, to show that he 
suffices not less for drink than for food. Now, if one part be taken 
away, we can only find the half of the elements in what remains. 
Therefore, though it were true, as they pretend, that the blood is 
in the bread, and, on the other hand, the body in the cup, by 
concomitance, yet they deprive the pious of that confirmation of 
faith which Christ delivered as necessary. Bidding adieu, therefore, 
to their subtleties, let us retain the advantage which, by the 
ordinance of Christ, is obtained by a double pledge. 
    48. I am aware, indeed, how the ministers of Satan, whose usual 
practice is to hold the Scriptures in derisions here cavil. First, 
they allege that from a simple fact we are not to draw a rule which 
is to be perpetually obligatory on the Church. But they state an 
untruth when they call it a simple fact. For Christ not only gave 
the cup, but appointed that the apostles should do so in future. For 
his words contain the command, "Drink ye all of it." And Paul 
relates, that it was so done, and recommends it as a fixed 
institution. Another subterfuge is, that the apostles alone were 
admitted by Christ to partake of this sacred Supper, because he had 
already selected and chosen them to the priesthood. I wish they 
would answer the five following questions, which they cannot evade, 
and which easily refute them and their lies. First, By what oracle 
was this solution so much at variance with the word of God revealed 
to them? Scripture mentions twelve who sat down with Jesus, but it 
does not so derogate from the dignity of Christ as to call them 
priests. Of this appellation we shall afterwards speak in its own 
place. Although he then gave to twelve, he commanded them to "do 
this;" in other words, to distribute thus among themselves. 
Secondly, Why during that purer age, from the days of the apostles 
downward for a thousand years, did all, without exception, partake 
of both symbols? Did the primitive Church not know who the guests 
were whom Christ would have admitted to his Supper? It were the most 
shameless impudence to carp and quibble here. We have extant 
ecclesiastical histories, we have the writings of the Fathers, which 
furnish clear proofs of this fact. "The flesh," says Tertullian, 
"feeds on the body and blood of Christ, that the soul may be 
satiated by God," (Tertull. de Resort. Carnis.) "How," said Ambrose 
to Theodosius, "will you receive the sacred body of the Lord with 
such hands? how will you have the boldness to put the cup of 
precious blood to your lips?" Jerome speaks of "the priests who 
perform the Eucharist and distribute the Lord's blood to the 
people," (Heron. in Malach. cap. 2.) Chrysostom says, "Not as under 
the ancient law the priest ate a part and the people a part, but one 
body and one cup is set before all. All the things which belong to 
the Eucharist are common to the priest and the people," (Chrysost. 
in Cor. cap. 8, Hom. 18.) The same thing is attested by Augustine in 
numerous passages. 
    49. But why dispute about a fact which is perfectly notorious? 
Look at all Greek and Latin writers. Passages of the same kind 
everywhere occur. Nor did this practice fall into desuetude so long 
as there was one particle of integrity in the Church. Gregory, whom 
you may with justice call the last Bishop of Rome, says that it was 
observed in his age. "What the blood of the Lamb is you have 
learned, not by hearing, but by drinking it. His blood is poured 
into the mouths of the faithful." Nay, four hundred years after his 
death, when all things had degenerated, the practice still remained. 
Nor was it regarded as the custom merely, but as an inviolable law. 
Reverence for the divine institution was then maintained, and they 
had no doubt of its being sacrilege to separate what the Lord had 
joined. For Gelasius thus speaks: "We find that some taking only a 
portion of the sacred body, abstain from the cup. Undoubtedly let 
those persons, as they seem entangled by some strange superstition, 
either receive the whole sacrament, or be debarred from the whole. 
For the division of this mystery is not made without great 
sacrilege," (De Consec. Dist. 2.) Reasons were given by Cyprian, 
which surely ought to weigh with Christian minds. "How," says he, 
"do we teach or incite them to shed their blood in confessing 
Christ, if we deny his blood to those who are to serve; or how do we 
make them fit for the cup of martyrdom, if we do not previously 
admit them by right of communion in the Church, to drink the cup of 
the Lord?" (Cyprian, Serm. 5, de Lapses.) The attempt of the 
Canonists to restrict the decree of Gelasius to priests is a cavil 
too puerile to deserve refutation. 
    50. Thirdly, Why did our Saviour say of the bread simply, 
"Take, eat," and of the cup, "drink ye all of it," as if he had 
purposely intended to provide against the wile of Satan? Fourthly, 
If, as they will have it, the Lord honoured priests only with his 
Supper, what man would ever have dared to call strangers, whom the 
Lord had excluded, to partake of it, and to partake of a gift which 
he had not in his power, without any command from him who alone 
could give it? Nay, what presumption do they show in the present day 
in distributing the symbol of Christ's body to the common people, if 
they have no command or example from the Lord? Fifthly, Did Paul lie 
when he said to the Corinthians, "I have received of the Lord that 
which also I delivered unto you?" (1 Cor. 11: 23.) The thing 
delivered, he afterwards declares to be, that all should communicate 
promiscuously in both symbols. But if Paul received of the Lord that 
all were to be admitted without distinction, let those who drive 
away almost the whole people of God see from whom they have 
received, since they cannot now pretend to have their authority from 
God, with whom there is not "yea and nay," (2 Cor. 1: 19, 20.) And 
yet these abominations they dare to cloak with the name of the 
Church, and defend under this pretence, as if those Antichrists were 
the Church who so licentiously trample under foot, waste, and 
abrogate the doctrine and institutions of Christ, or as if the 
Apostolic Church, in which religion flourished in full vigour, were 
not the Church. 

Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Volume 4
(continued in part 20...)

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