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"A Reformed Catholic", William Perkins, (10) of Real Presence.

Perkins now comes to the sacrament of the Lord's Supper and here two controversies exist with the Church of Rome, namely their view of the Eucharistic presence, which is called transubstantiation, and their view of the sacrament as a propitiatory sacrifice.

In this chapter of A Reformed Catholic the former matter is considered, not of the fact of Christ’s presence, for that is accepted by the Reformed Church but rather over the mode of that presence.

The Reformed position is set out in our Confession at Chapter XXIX Sections VI and VII.

VI. That doctrine which maintains a change of the substance of bread and wine, into the substance of Christ's body and blood (commonly called transubstantiation) by consecration of a priest, or by any other way, is repugnant, not to Scripture alone, but even to common sense, and reason; overthrows the nature of the sacrament, and has been, and is, the cause of manifold superstitions; yes, of gross idolatries.

VII. Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible elements, in this sacrament, do then also, inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally but spiritually, receive and feed upon, Christ crucified, and all benefits of His death: the body and blood of Christ being then, not corporally or carnally, in, with, or under the bread and wine; yet, as really, but spiritually, present to the faith of believers in that ordinance, as the elements themselves are to their outward senses.

Our Consent with Rome

We hold and believe a presence of Christ's body and blood in the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper: and that no feigned, but a true and real presence: which must be considered two ways; first in respect of the signs, secondly in respect of the communicants. For the first, we hold and teach, that Christ's body and blood, are truly present with the bread and wine, being signs in the sacrament: but how? not in respect of place, of coexistence: but by sacramental relation, on this manner. When a word is uttered, the sound comes to the ear; and at the same instant, the thing signified comes to the mind; and this by relation the word and the thing spoken of, are both present together. Even so at the Lord's table bread and wine must not be considered barely, as substances and creatures, but as outward signs in relation to the body and blood of Christ and this relation, arising from the very institution of the Sacrament, stands in this, that when the elements of bread and wine are present to the hand and to the mouth of the receiver; at the very same time the body and blood of Christ are presented to the mind this and no otherwise is Christ truly present with the signs. The second presence is in respect of the communicants, to whose believing hearts he is also really present. It will be said, what kind of presence is this?

Answer: Such as the communion in the sacrament is, such is the presence and by the communion must we judge of the presence. Now the communion is on this manner: God the Father, according to the tenor of the evangelical covenant, gives Christ in this sacrament as really and truly, as any thing can be given to man, not by part and piecemeal, (as we say) but whole Christ God and man, on this sort. In Christ there be two natures, the godhead, and manhood. The godhead is not given in regard of substance, or essence: but only in regard of efficacy, merits, and operation conveyed thence to the manhood. And further, in this sacrament Christ's whole manhood is given both body and soul, in this order. First of all is given the very manhood in respect of substance, and that really: secondly the merits & benefits thereof, as namely, the satisfaction performed by and in the manhood, to the justice of God. And thus the entire manhood with the benefits thereof, are given wholly and jointly together. For the two distinct signs of bread and wine signify not two distinct givings of the body apart and the blood apart: but the full and perfect nourishment of our souls. Again the benefits of Christ's manhood are diversely given, some by imputation, which is, an action of God accepting that which is done by Christ as done by us: and thus it has pleased God to give the passion of Christ and his obedience. Some again are given by a kind of propagation, which I cannot fitly express in terms, but I resemble it thus. As one candle is lighted by an other, and one torch or candle-light is conveyed to twenty candles: even so the inherent righteousness of every believer, is derived from the storehouse of righteousness which is in the manhood of Christ: for the righteousness of all the members, is but the fruit thereof, even as the natural corruption in all mankind, is but a fruit of that original sin which was in Adam.

Thus we see how God for his part gives Christ, and that really. To proceed, when God gives Christ, he gives withal at the same time the spirit of Christ, which spirit creates in the heart of the receiver the instrument of true faith, by which the heart does really receive Christ given of God, by resting upon the promise, which God has made that he will give Christ and his righteousness to every true believer. Now then, when God gives Christ with his benefits, and man for his part by faith receives the same as they are given, there rises that union which is between every good receiver and Christ himself. Which union is not forged, but a real, true, and near conjunction; nearer than which, none is or can be: because it is made by a solemn giving and receiving that passes between God and man: as also by the bond of one and the same spirit. To come then to the point, considering there is a real union, and consequently a real communion between us and Christ, (as I have proved) there must needs be such a kind of presence wherein Christ is truly and really present to the heart of him that receives the sacrament in faith. And thus far do we consent with the Romish Church touching real presence.

Where We Dissent From Rome

We differ not touching the presence itself, but only in the manner of presence. For though we hold a real presence of Christ's body and blood in the sacrament, yet do we not take it to be local, bodily, or substantial, but spiritual and mystical; to the signs by sacramental relation, and to the communicants by faith alone. On the contrary the Church of Rome maintains transubstantiation, that is, a local, bodily, and substantial presence of Christ's body and blood, by a change and conversion of the bread and wine into the said body and blood.

Our Reasons for Dissenting

Reason I.

This corporal presence overturns sundry articles of faith.

For we believe that the body of Christ was made of the pure substance of the Virgin Mary, and that but once, namely when he was conceived by the Holy Ghost, and born. But this cannot stand, if the body of Christ be made of bread and his blood of wine, as they must needs be, if there be no succession or annihilation but a real conversion of substances in the sacrament: unless we must believe contrarieties, that his body was made of the substance of the Virgin, and not of the Virgin; made once and not once but often. Again, if his body and blood be under the forms of bread and wine, then is he not as yet ascended into heaven, but remains still among us. Neither can he be said to come from heaven at the day of judgement: for he that must come thence to judge the quick and dead, must be absent from the earth. And this was the ancient faith.

Augustine saith, that Christ according to his majesty and providence and grace is present with us to the end of the world: but according to his ASSUMED FLESH HE IS NOT always with us. (Tract. 1. in Job.)

Cyril saith, He is ABSENT IN BODY and present in virtue, whereby all things are governed. (Lib. 9. in. cap. 21.)

Vigilius saith, That he is gone from us according to his humanity: he hath left us in his humanity: in the form of a servant absent from us: when his flesh was on earth, it was not in heaven: being on earth, he was not in heaven: and being now in heaven, HE IS NOT ON EARTH. (Contra ••∣tich. lib. 1. & 4.)

Fulgentius saith, One and the same Christ, according to his human substance, was absent from heaven when he was on earth: and LEFT THE EARTH when he ascended into heaven. (Lib. 2. ad Thrasi mundum.)

Reason II.

This bodily presence overturns the nature of a true body, whose common nature or essential property it is, to have length, breadth, and thickness, which being taken away a body is no more a body. And by reason of these three dimensions, a body can occupy but one place at once, as Aristotle said, the property of a body is to be seated in some place, so as a man may say where it is. They therefore that hold the body of Christ to be in many places at once, do make it no body at all: but rather a spirit, and that infinite. They allege that God is almighty; that is true indeed, but in this and like matters we must not dispute what God can do, but what he will do. And I say further because God is omnipotent, therefore there be some things which he cannot do, as for him to deny himself, to lie, and to make the parts of a contradiction to be both true at the same time. To come to the point, if God should make the very body of Christ to be in many places at once, he should make it to be no body while it remains a body: and to be circumscribed in some one place and not circumscribed, because it is in many places at the same time: to be visible in heaven and invisible in the sacrament; and thus should he make contradictions to be true: which to do is against his nature, and argues rather impotency than power. Augustine says to this purpose. If he could lie, deceive, be deceived, deal unjustly, he should not be omnipotent. And, Therefore he is omnipotent, because he can not do these things. Again, He is called omnipotent by doing that which he will, and not by doing that which he will not: which if it should befall him, he should not be omnipotent. (De Symb. ad Catech. 1. cap. 1.)

Reason III.

Transubstantiation overturns the very Supper of the Lord. For in every sacrament there must be a sign, a thing signified, and a proportion or relation between them both. But popish real presence takes all away: for when the bread is really turned into Christ's body, and the wine into his blood, then the sign is abolished, and there remains nothing but the outward forms or appearance of bread and wine. Again, it abolishes the ends of the sacrament, whereof one is to remember Christ till his coming again, who being present in the sacrament bodily, needs not to be remembered: because helps of remembrance are of things absent. Another end is to nourish the soul unto eternal life: but by transubstantiation the principal feeding is of the body and not of the soul, which is only fed with spiritual food for though the body may be bettered by the food of the soul, yet cannot the soul be fed with bodily food.

Reason IV.

In the sacrament the body of Christ is received as it was crucified: and his blood, as it was shed upon the cross: but now at this time Christ's body crucified, remains still as a body, but not as a body crucified: because the act of crucifying is ceased. Therefore it is faith alone, that makes Christ crucified to be present unto us in the sacrament. Again, that blood which ran out of the feet and hands and side of Christ upon the cross, was not gathered up again and put into the veins: nay, the collection was needless, because after the resurrection, he lived no more a natural but a spiritual life: and none knows what is become of this blood. The Papist therefore cannot say it is present under the form of wine locally: and we may better say it is received spiritually by faith, whose property is to give a being to things which are not.

Reason V.

1. Cor. 10. 3. The fathers of the Old Testament did eat the same spiritual meat, and drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of the rock which was Christ. Now they could not eat his body which was crucified, or drink his blood shed bodily, but by faith: because then his body and blood were not in nature. The Papists make answer, that the fathers did eat the same meat, and drink the same spiritual drink with themselves, not with us. But their answer is against the text. For the Apostles intent is to prove, that the Jews were every way equal to the Corinthians, because they did eat the same spiritual meat, and drank the same spiritual drink with the Corinthians; otherwise his reason proves not the point which he has in hand, namely that the Israelites were nothing inferior to the Corinthians.

Reason VI.

And it is said, the sabbath was made for man: and not man for the sabbath: so it may be said, that the sacrament of the Lord's Supper was made for man, and not man for it: and therefore man is more excellent than the sacrament. But if the signs of bread and wine be really turned into the body and blood of Christ, then is the sacrament infinitely better then man; who in his best estate is only joined to Christ, and made a member of his mystical body: whereas the bread and wine are made very Christ. But the sacrament or outward elements indeed are not better than man: the end being always better than the thing ordained to the end. It remains therefore that Christ's presence is not corporal but spiritual. Again in the Supper of the Lord, every believer receives whole Christ, God and man, though not the godhead: now by this carnal eating, we receive not whole Christ, but only a part of his manhood: and therefore in the sacrament there is no carnal eating, and consequently no bodily presence.

Reason VII.

The judgement of the ancient Church.


The same Christ, who called his natural body food and bread, who also called himself a vine, he vouchsafed the visible signs the name of his own body, NOT CHANGING NATURE, but putting grace to nature; whereby he means consecration. (Dialog. 1. immutable)


The mystical signs after sanctification loose not their proper nature. For they REMAIN IN THEIR FIRST NATURE, and keep their first figure and form; and as before, may be touched and seen: and that which they are made, is understood, believed, adored.


Bread and wine pass into the substance of the body and blood of Christ, yet so as the SUBSTANCE OR NATURE OF BREAD AND WINE CEASES NOT. And they are turned into the divine substance, yet the bread and wine REMAIN STILL IN THE PROPERTY OF THEIR NATURE. (Lib. de duob. nat. Christ.)


If it be asked what conversion this is, whether formal, or substantial, or of an other kind, I am not able to define. (Lib. 4. dist. 11.)

And that the Fathers held not transubstantiation, I prove it by sundry reasons.

First, they used in former times to burn with fire that which remained after the administration of the Lord's Supper.

Secondly by the sacramental union of the bread and wine with the body and blood of Christ, they used to confirm the personal union of the manhood of Christ with the godhead against hereticks: which argument they would not have used, if they had believed a popish real presence.

Thirdly it was a custom in Constantinople, that if many parts of the sacrament remained after the administration thereof was ended, that young children should be sent for from the school to eat them; who nevertheless were barred the Lord's table. And this argues plainly that the Church in those days, took the bread after the administration was ended, for common bread. Again, it was once an order in the Roman church, that the wine should be consecrated by dipping into it bread, which had been consecrated. But this order cannot stand with the real presence, in which the bread is turned both into the body and blood. Nicholaus Cabasilas saith, After he has used some speech to the people, he erects their minds, and lifts their thoughts from earth, and says, Sursum corda, Let us lift up our hearts, let us THINK ON THINGS ABOVE, and not on things that are upon the earth. They consent and say, that they lift up their hearts thither, where is their treasure, and where Christ sits at the right hand of his father. (Lib. de expos. Liturg. c. 26.)


Objections of Papists.

Objection I.

Their first reason is, John 6. 55. My flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed: therefore (say they) Christ's body must be eaten with the mouth, and his blood drunk accordingly.


The chapter must be understood of a spiritual eating of Christ: his body is meat indeed but spiritual meat, and his blood spiritual drink, to be received not by the mouth, but by faith. This is the very point that Christ here intends to prove, namely that to believe in him is to eat his flesh and to drink his blood are all one. Again, this chapter must not be understood of that special eating of Christ in the sacrament: for it is said generally, v. 53. Except ye eat the flesh of Christ and drink his blood, ye have no life in you: and if these very words (which are the substance of the chapter) must be understood of a sacramental eating, no man before the coming of Christ was saved: for none did bodily eat or drink his body or blood; considering it was not then existing in nature, but only was present to the believing heart by faith.

Objection II.

An other argument is taken from the words of the institution. This is my body.


These words must not be understood properly but by a figure: his body being put for the sign and seal of his body. It is objected, that when any make their last wills and testaments, they speak as plainly as they can: now in this supper Christ ratifies his last will and testament; and therefore he spake plainly, without any figure.

Christ here speaks plainly and by a figure also: for it has been always the usual manner of the Lord in speaking of sacraments, to give the name of the thing signified to the sign: as Gen. 17. 10. circumcision is called the covenant of God and in the next verse in way of exposition, the sign of the covenant and Exod. 12. 11. the paschal lamb is called the angels passing by or over the houses of the Israelites; whereas indeed it was but a sign thereof; and 1. Cor. 10. 4. The rock was Christ 1. Cor. 5. 7. The Passover was Christ. And the like phrase is to be found in the institution of this sacrament concerning the cup, which the Papists themselves confess to be figurative: when it is said, Luke 22. This cup is the new testament in my blood, that is, a sign, seal, and pledge thereof. Again the time when these words were spoken must be considered, and it was before the passion of Christ, whereas yet his body was not crucified nor his blood shed: and consequently neither of them could be received in bodily manner, but by faith alone. Again, Christ was not only the author, but the minister of this sacrament at the time of institution thereof: and if the bread had been truly turned into his body, and the wine into his blood, Christ with his own hands should have taken his own body and blood, and have given it to his disciples: nay, which is more, he should with his own hands, have taken his own flesh and drunken his own blood, and have eaten himself. For Christ himself did eat the bread and drink the wine, that he might with his own person consecrate his last supper, as he had consecrated baptism before. And if these words should be properly understood, every man must be a manslayer in his eating of Christ.

Lastly by means of popish real presence, it comes to pass, that our bodies should be nourished by naked qualities without any substance, which in all philosophy, is false and erroneous. To help this and the like absurdities, some Papists (Joh. de Com. bis comp. Theolog. lib. 6. cap. 14.) make nine wonders in the sacrament:

The first, that Christ's body is in the Eucharist in as large a quantity as he was upon the cross, and is now in heaven, and yet exceeds not the quantity of the bread.

The second, that there be accidents without a subiect.

The third, that bread is turned into the body of Christ, and yet is not the matter of the body, nor resolved to nothing.

The fourth, that the body increases not by consecration of many hosts, and is not diminished by often receiving.

The fifth, that the body of Christ is under many consecrated hosts.

The sixth, that when the host is divided, the body of Christ is not divided, but under every part thereof is whole Christ.

The seventh, that when the priest holds the host in his hand, the body of Christ is not felt by itself nor seen, but the forms of bread and wine.

The eighth, that when the forms of bread and wine cease, the body and blood of Christ ceases also to be there.

The ninth, that the accidents of bread and wine have the same effects with the bread and wine itself, which are to nourish and fill.

On this manner it shall be easy for any man to defend the most absurd opinion that is or can be, if he may have liberty to answer the arguments alleged to the contrary by wonders.


To conclude, seeing there is a real communion in the sacrament between Christ and every believing heart, our duty therefore is, to bestow our hearts on Christ, endeavouring to love him, and to rejoice in him, and to long after him above all things: all our affiance must be in him, and with him; we being now on earth must have our conversation in heaven. And this is the true real presence, which the ancient Church of God has commended unto us: for in all these liturgies these words were used, and are yet extant in the popish masse, Lift up your hearts: we lift them up unto the Lord. By which words the communicants were admonished to direct their minds and their faith to Christ sitting at the right hand of God. Thus said Augustine, If we celebrate the ascension of the Lord with devotion: let us ascend with him, and lift up our hearts. Again, they which are already risen with Christ in faith and hope are invited to the great table of heaven, to the table of Angels, WHERE IS THE BREAD. (Serm de Ascens. 1.)

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