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BRITISH AND FOREIGN
ART. I.-The Mystical Presence. A Vindication of the Reformed or Calvinistic Doctrine of the Holy Eucharist. the Rev. JOHN W. NEVIN, D.D., Professor of Theology in the Seminary of the German Reformed Church. Philadelphia: J. B. LIPPINCOTT & Co. 1846. pp. 256.
We have had Dr Nevin's work on the "Mystical Presence" on our table since its publication, some two years ago, but have never really read it, until within a fortnight. We do not suppose other people are quite as bad, in this respect, as ourselves. Our experience, however, has been that it requires the stimulus of a special necessity to carry us through such a book. Being called upon to investigate the question, What was the real doctrine of the Reformed Church on the Lord's Supper? we naturally turned to Dr Nevin's work, and we gratefully acknowledge the assistance derived from it. We differ from him indeed, essentially, as to the whole subject, not only as to the historical question, but as to what is the true doctrine. We are, however, on that account only the more disposed to give him credit for the diligence with which he has collected materials (though almost entirely on one side) for the proper decision of the question. So much has of late been said by Dr Nevin of the apostasy of the Reformed Church; his uniform tone is so disparaging, if not contemptuous, when speaking of all the branches of that church, except his own; the charge of Puritanism and Rationalism is so constantly flowing from his pen, that he has reason, we think, to be surprised that all this has been so long endured in silence. We, however, do not purpose on this occasion to travel out of the record, or do more than endeavour to answer the question, What is the true doctrine of the Reformed Church on the Lord's Supper? Having
done this, however, we shall give our reasons for thinking that Dr Nevin is tenfold farther from the doctrines of our common fathers, than those whom he commiserates and condemns.
It is confessedly a very difficult matter to obtain clear views of what was the real doctrine of the Reformed Church on the Lord's Supper during the sixteenth century. This difficulty arises from various sources. The subject itself is mysterious. The Lord's Supper is by all Christians regarded as exhibiting, and, in the case of believers, confirming their union with the Lord Jesus Christ. Whatever obscurity rests on that union must in a measure rest on this sacrament. That union, however, is declared to be a great mystery. It has always on that account been called the mystical union. We are, therefore, demanding too much when we require all obscurity to be banished from this subject. If the union between Christ and his people were merely moral, arising from agreement and sympathy, there would be no mystery about it; and the Lord's Supper, as the symbol of that union, would be a perfectly intelligible ordinance. But the Scriptures teach that our union with Christ is far more than this. It is a vital union: we are partakers of his life, for it is not we that live, but Christ that liveth in us. It is said to be analogous to our union with Adam, to the union between the head and members of the same body, and between the vine and its branches. There are some points in reference to this subject, with regard to which almost all Christians are agreed. They agree that this union includes a federal or representative relation, arising from a divine constitution; and on the part of Christ, a participation of our nature. "He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one." On this account he calls them brethren. "Forasmuch as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same."(Heb. ii. 11-14.) It is in virtue of his assumption of our nature that he stands to us in the intimate relation here spoken of. It is agreed, further, that this union includes on our part a participation of the Spirit of Christ. It is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of Christ, and dwells without measure in him as our head, who dwells also in his people, so that they become one body in Christ Jesus. They are one in relation to each other, and one in relation to him. As the human body is one, by being animated and pervaded by one soul, so Christ and his people are one, in virtue of the indwelling of one and the same Spirit, the Holy Ghost. It is further agreed that this union relates to the bodies as well as the souls of believers. "Know you not," says the apostle," that your bodies are the members of Christ; know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you?" The Westminster Catechism, there
fore, says of believers after death, that "their bodies being still united to Christ, do rest in their graves until the resurrection." This union was always represented as a real union, not merely imaginary nor simply moral, nor arising from the mere reception of the benefits which Christ has procured. We receive Christ himself, and are in Christ, united to him by the indwelling of his Spirit and by a living faith. So far all the Reformed at least agreed.
Do the Scriptures teach, besides all this, that we are partakers of the human nature, of the real flesh and blood of Christ? This question Romanists and Lutherans answer in the affirmative. They teach the actual reception and manducation of the real body of Christ. This the whole Reformed Church denied in England, Belgium, and Germany, as well as in Switzerland. But as Christ speaks of eating his flesh and drinking his blood, and we are said to have communion in them, the question is in what way this is to be understood? All the Reformed answered, that by receiving the body and blood of Christ, is meant receiving their virtue or efficacy. Some of them said it was their virtue as broken and shed, i. e., their sacrificial virtue; others said, it was a mysterious, supernatural efficacy flowing from the glorified body of Christ in heaven; and that this last idea, therefore, is to be taken into the account, in determining the nature of the union between Christ and his people. Apart, therefore, from the mysteriousness of the subject, the diversity of views among the Reformed themselves is one reason of the difficulty in determining the real doctrine of the church on this subject. In some of the Confessions we have the one and in some the other of these modes of representation brought to view.
Another source of difficulty is found in the fact, that almost all the Reformed Confessions were framed for the express purpose of compromise. One great object of Calvin's life was to prevent the schism between the two branches of the Protestant Church. He and the other authors of these symbols, therefore, were constantly endeavouring to frame a statement of this doctrine, which all parties, Lutheran, Zuinglian, and Calvinistic, could adopt. Union was at that time a matter of the last importance, not only on religious and ecclesiastical grounds, but for reasons connected with their political wellbeing and safety. The question about the Lord's Supper was the only one which kept the parties separate. Here Luther was inflexible and most unreasonably violent. The Lutherans were at this time far more numerous and powerful than the Reformed. To conciliate Luther was, therefore, a constant object of desire and effort. Conference after conference was held for this purpose. The Reformed on all these occasions, and in all their