SIX VOLUMES IN ONE
BY THE DISTINGUISHED EXPONENTS OF CATHOLICISM
REV. HENRY DODRIDGE, D. D.
REV. HENRY EDWARD MANNING, D. D.
REV. F. LEWIS, of Granada
REV. STEPHEN KEENAN
REV. BERNARD VAUGHAN, S. J.
REV. THOMAS N. BURKE, O. P.
Q. Why do you take these words of Christ, at his last supper, according to the letter, rather than in a figurative sense ?
A. I have many reasons to offer why we take the words of Christ (which he spoke at his last supper) in their plain and literal sense. First, because, whatever Christ has plainly and expressly said in Scripture, ought to be understood by us, in the literal and proper sense of the words, where the case will admit of it: this is what our adversaries themselves, either do, or must allow; otherwise, it is not possible to prove by Scripture, that any' one text of the Gospel ought to be taken literally and properly. Now, it is certain that Christ has plainly and expressly said in the Scripture that what he instituted at his last supper, was the same body and blood which he gave for the life of the world: and there is no doubt but that the body, which he gave and sacrificed for us, and the blood which he shed for us, was his true and real body and blood: Christ, says St. Paul, gave himself for his Church, Ephesians v. 26. And in another place, St. Paul says, that Christ entered by his own blood into the sanctuary, Hebrews ix. 12. Therefore, the words of Christ, which he spoke at his last supper, in the institution of the blessed sacrament, ought to be taken in the literal and proper sense of the words. Secondly, when God, speaks in the holy Scripture, with an express design to make known to us some new institution or command, upon which our salvation depends; or to discover some high mystery of faith, which was entirely new to the world, and which was necessary for the world to know, but could not be known only from his words; then, if ever, we have good reason to believe the word of God speaks plainly, and ought to be taken in the natural and literal sense of the words: now, here, our Saviour spoke those words, this is my body, this is my blood, at the institution of a great sacrament upon which our salvation depends, with an express design to reveal a high mystery of faith, which was entirely new to the world, and which was necessary for the world to know, but could not be known to his disciples only from his words. We conclude, then, that his words upon such an occasion, ought in all reason to be understood in the plain, obvious, and literal sense; especially, since there is no absurdity or contradiction in the literal sense, which can oblige us to have recourse to a figurative meaning, since there is nothing in the belief of the real presence, but what is clearly within the sphere of infinite power; nay, it is an easier thing to comprehend that God can change one thing into another, than make all things out of nothing, as he did the world. Thirdly, because Christ was at that time making a covenant which was to last to the end of the world. He was enacting a law, which was to be for ever observed in his Church. He was instituting a sacrament, which was to be frequented by all the faithful. In fine, he was making his last will and testament, and therein bequeathing to his disciples, and to us all, an admirable legacy and pledge of his love. Now, such is the nature of all these things, viz.: Of a covenant, of a law, of a sacrament, of a last will and testament, that he who makes a covenant, a law, a last will and testament, etc., always designs that what he covenants, appoints, or ordains, should be rightly observed and fulfilled; so, of consequence, he always designs that it should be rightly understood, and therefore he always expresses himself in the most plain and clear terms. This is what all wise men ever observe in their covenants, laws, or last wills, industriously avoiding all obscure expressions, which may give occasion to their being misunderstood. This is what God himself observed in the old covenant, in all the ceremonies and moral precepts of the law; all are expressed in the most clear and plain terms. It then can be nothing less, than impeaching the wisdom of the Son of God, to imagine that he should institute the chief of all his sacraments, under such a form of words, which in their plain, natural, and obvious meaning, imply a thing so widely different from what he gives therein, as his own body is from a bit of bread; or in fine, to believe that he would make his last will and testament in words, affectedly ambiguous and obscure; which if taken according to that sense, which they seem evidently to express, must lead his children into a pernicious error concerning the legacy, which he bequeaths them. In effect, it is certain that our Saviour Christ, foresaw that his words, would be taken according to the letter, by the greatest part of Christians; and that the Church, even in her general councils, would interpret his words in this sense. It must be then contrary to all probability, that he, who foresaw all this, would affect to express himself in this manner in his last will, had he not really meant what he said; or that he should not have somewhere explained himself in a more clear way, to prevent the dreadful consequence of his whole Church's authorising an error, in a matter of the greatest importance; particularly when he was then speaking alone to his beloved Apostles and bosom friends, to whom he was always accustomed to explain in clear terms (as St. Mark assures us) whatever was obscure in his parables or other discourses to the people. Chap, iv. ver. 11 et 34. Fourthly, because I have the authority of the best and most authentic interpreter of God's word, viz.: The holy Catholic Church, which has always understood these words of Christ, in their plain literal sense, and condemned all those who have presumed to wrest them to a figurative one: witness the many synods held against Berengarius, and the decrees of the general councils of Lateran, Constance, and Trent. Now, against this authority, the Scripture assures us, the gates of hell shall never prevail. St. Matt. xvi. ver. 18. And with this interpreter, Christ has promised that he and the Holy Ghost, the spirit of truth, will abide for ever. St. Matt, xx; St. John xiv.