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§ 17. Modern Views concerning the Lord’s Supper.

The modern philosophy has introduced certain principles as to the nature of God and his relation to the world, and as to the nature of man and his relation to God, which when applied to Christian doctrines have produced a revolution in theology. It has already been shown that the principles of this philosophy in their application to the origin and present state of man, to the person and work of Christ, and to the way in which men are made partakers of his salvation, have introduced a method of presenting the gospel utterly unintelligible to those unacquainted with the modern speculations. The word philosophy is to be understood in a sense wide enough to include a great diversity of systems, which although they have certain principles in common, differ widely from each other. They belong to two general classes, the pantheistic and theistic, which merge off into each other in every variety of form, and in different degrees of approximation towards identity.

According to the pantheistic theory, the world is the ever varying and unfolding existence form of God; and man is the form in which He comes to consciousness on this earth. According to the theistic theory, the world owes its existence to the will of God, in which He is immanent and of which He is the life. Man is the form in which generic humanity is manifested 651in connection with a given corporeal organization. On neither view is there any real dualism between God and the world, or God and man except as occasioned by sin. The oneness of God and man is affirmed by both classes, by Cousin and Ullman for example, with equal earnestness. This is a oneness which admits of diversity; it is a unity in plurality; but it is a oneness of life; and such a unity of nature that God may become man, and man God.

The individuality or personality of man depends on the body. Generic humanity is not in itself a person. It becomes personal only by its union with an organized body. It loses its personality when it has nobody; and therefore the immortality of the soul, as distinct from the body, is pronounced by Olshausen an anti-Christian or pagan idea. Whatever of conscious existence the soul has between death and the resurrection must be connection with its body, which is not the prison, or garment, or shell, or hull of the soul; it is not in any way one form of existence and the soul another; both form one life. The soul to be complete to develop itself, as a soul, must externalize itself, throw itself out in space; and this externalization is the body. All is one process, one and the same organic principle, dividing itself only that its unity may become the more free and intensely complete. The soul and body are one; one and the same organic principle.673673The commonly received distinction of mind and matter on this theory must be given up. They are not distinct substances having distinct and incompatible properties or attributes.

The same principles are applied to the explanation of the doctrine of the person of Christ. According to the decisions of the ecumenical councils of Chalcedon and Constantinople, which have been accepted by all Christendom, the Eternal Son of God became man by taking to Himself a true body and a reasonable soul, and so was, and continues to be, both God and man in two distinct natures and one person forever. By nature (φύσις) is meant substance (οὐσία), as these words are used interchangeably. By the one nature He is consubstantial with us men; and by the other He is consubstantial with the Father.

This dualism, this hypostatic union of two distinct substances in the person of Christ, involves, as taught by those councils and believed by all Christendom, two ἐνέργειαι, two operations, two wills. There is no mixture or confusion of these two natures; no transfer of the properties of the one to the other, but each retains its own peculiar attributes.

On the other hand, the modern German theology rejects this 652distinction of natures in Christ. It denies all dualism in the constitution of his person. It teaches that Christ did not assume, “a reasonable soul” into personal union with Himself, but either that He himself became, by a process of self-limitation, such a soul, or that He assumed generic humanity, so that He did not become a man, but the man. His assumption of humanity was something general, and not merely particular. The Word became flesh; not a single man only as one of many; but flesh of humanity in its universal conception; otherwise He could not be the principle of a new order of existence for the human world as such. By this assumption of humanity, the divine and human, God and man, become one in such a sense as to exclude all dualism. There are not a divine and a human, but there is a theanthropic, or divine-human nature or life. As in man there is not one life of the body and another of the soul, but the two are one and the same organic principle, so in the case of Christ the divine and human are one and the same. The divine nature of Christ is at the same time human in the fullest sense. Humanity is never complete till it reaches his person. It includes in its very constitution a struggle towards the form in which it is here exhibited, and can never rest until this end is attained. Our nature reaches after a true and real union with the nature of God, as the necessary complement and consummation of its own life. The idea which it embodied can never be fully actualized under any other form. The incarnation, then, is the proper completion of humanity. Christ is the true ideal man. Here is reached ultimately the highest summit of human life, which is of course the crowning sense of the word, or that in which it finds its last and full significance.

The first man, Adam, is to be viewed under a twofold character. In one respect he was simply a man; in another, he was the man, in whose person was included the whole human race. His individual personality was limited wholly to himself; but a whole world of like separate personalities lay involved in his life, at the same time, as a generic principle or root. All these in a deep sense, form at last but one and the same life. Adam lives in his posterity as truly as he ever lived in his own person. They participate in his whole nature, soul and body, and are truly bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. So the life of Christ is to be viewed under the same twofold aspect. He, as was Adam, is an individual person. But as Adam included in himself the race, he included all other human persons in his life; so Christ, having 653assumed generic humanity into personal union with Himself, includes in a still higher sense a world of other personalities. “He was Himself the race.” He has assumed generic humanity into personal union with Himself and thereby rendered it divine; it is indeed a true human life, but it is nevertheless divine. It is one life; not the life of the Logos separately considered, but the life of the Word made flesh. He was man more perfectly than Adam Himself, before the fall; humanity stood revealed in Him under its most perfect form. The humanity which He assumed was not new, but the humanity of Adam raised to a higher character, and filled with new meaning and power, by its union with the divine nature, The identity of Adam and his race is not material. Not a particle of Adam’s body has come into ours. The identity resolves itself into an invisible law; and it is not one law for the body and another law for the soul; but one and the same law involves the presence of both, as the power of a common life. Where the law works, there Adam’s life is reproduced, body and soul together. And still the individual Adam is not blended with his posterity in any such way as to lose his own personality or to swallow up theirs. His identity with his posterity is generic; but none the less real or close on that account. The case in regard to Christ and his people is analogous. His life, generic humanity as united in one life with the divine in his person passes over to his people. And as the race of individual men is developed by a regular, natural, organic process from the generic humanity in the person of Adam, so the life of Christ rests not in his separate person, but passes over to his people; this takes place in the way of history, growth, or regular living development. In regeneration we become partakers of this new principle of life, that is, of generic humanity as united with the divine nature, which involves a participation of the entire humanity of Christ. We are not joined in a real life unity with the everlasting Logos, apart from Christ’s manhood, in the way of direct personal in-being. This would make us equal with Christ. The mystical union would then be the hypostatical union itself repeated in the person of every believer. It is not the divine life of the Logos as such, but the theanthropic life of Christ which passes over to his people. “The personality of the Son,” says Olshausen674674John xiv. 20; Commentar, 3d edit. Königsberg, 1838, vol. ii. p. 352. “as comprehensive, includes in itself all the personalities of his people and pervades them with his own life, as the living centre of an organism, from which life flows forth and to which it returns.”


The life which is thus conveyed to us is a true human life, controlling not only the soul but also the body. It is corporeal as well as incorporeal. It must put on an outward form and project itself in space. It is to be remembered that human life is not to be split into two lives, one of the body and another of the soul, thus constituting a dualism in our nature, instead of the absolute unity which belongs to it in fact. Soul and body, are, in their ground, but one life; identical in their origin; bound together by interpenetration subsequently at every point, and holding together in the presence and power of the same organic law. The life of Christ, lodged in us, works in us according to the law which it includes in its own constitution. That is, it works as a human life; and as such becomes the law of regeneration in the body as truly as in the soul. This does not suppose any actual approach of Christ’s body to the persons of his people; nor any ubiquity or idealistic dissipation of that body; nor any fusion of this personality with ours. We must distinguish between the simple man and the universal man, here joined in the same person. Adam was an individual and the whole race. There is no dissipation of Christ’s personality into the general consciousness of the Church involved in the affirmation that his person forms the ground, out of which and in the power of which only, the whole life of the Church continually subsists. In this view Christ is personally present always in the Church, that is, of course, in the power of his divine nature. But his divine nature is at the same time human, in the fullest sense, and wherever his presence is revealed in a real way, it includes the person necessarily under the one aspect as well as under the other; with all this, however, which is something very different from the conception of a proper ubiquity in the case of Christ’s body, we do not relinquish the thought of his separate human individuality. We distinguish between his universal humanity in the Church, and his humanity as a particular man, whom the heavens have received till the time of the restitution of all things. His glorified body, we doubt not, is possessed of qualities, attributes, and powers, that transcend immeasurably all we know or can think of a human body here. Still it is a body, a particular human body, having organized parts and an outward form. As such of course it must be defined and circumscribed by local limits, and cannot be supposed to be present in different places at the same time.

The life of Christ as communicated to his people is a true human life; and all life, in the case of man, is actualized, and can be 655actualized, only in the way of process or gradual historical development. All that belongs, then, to the new life of the Christian, conceived as complete at the last day, must be allowed to be involved in it as principle and process from the beginning. In every stage of its progress it is a true human life answerable to the nature of its organic root, and to the nature also of the subject in which it is lodged. The bodies of the saints in glory will be only the last result, in organic continuity, of the divine life of Christ implanted in their souls at their regeneration. There is nothing abrupt in Christianity. It is a supernatural constitution indeed; but as such it is clothed in a natural form, and involves in itself as regular a law of historical development, as the old creation itself. The resurrection body will be simply the ultimate outburst of the life that had been ripening for immortality under cover of the old Adamic nature before. The winged psyche has its elemental organization in the worm, and does not lose it in the tomb-like chrysalis. The resurrection of the body is, therefore, as much a natural process as the development of the butterfly from the grub, or the flower from the seed.675675   To avoid the danger of misrepresentation the exhibition of the principles of this modern aspect of theology has been given in great measure in the language of its advocates. No reference to names is given, so that no one is made responsible for the views expressed. Experience teaches that quoting a man’s words is no security against the charge of misrepresentation. The writer was grieved to learn that his friend of more than forty years standing, Dr. John W. Nevin, considers himself to be unjustly charged by us with holding doctrines which he earnestly repudiates. On page 429 of the second volume of this work he is quoted as saying that Hegel’s Christological ideas, “are very significant and full of instruction.” This has been construed as charging him with being a thorough Hegelian. As to this construction, we would say, first, that nothing was further from this writer’s mind than the intention of making such an imputation; and secondly, that the language used gives no fair ground for such an interpretation. On the preceding pages (428) Dorner is quoted as saying that “the foundations of the new Christology were laid by Schelling, Hegel and Schleiermacher.” Dorner certainly did not mean to intimate that all the modern Christologists, himself included, were Hegelians. Neither did we intend to intimate that Dr. Nevin adopted Hegel’s philosophy as a system, which we know, from his own authority, he abhors.
   Again, it is said that Dr. Nevin is represented as denying the divinity of Christ, because he is quoted as saying that our lord was the ideal, or perfect man, that “his divine nature is at the same time human in the fullest sense.” (Mystical Presence, Philadelphia, 1846, p. 174.) Those who understand this language as necessarily involving the denial of the divinity of Christ are forgetful of the fact that the oneness of God and man is the primary principle of the New Theology. Even Lutherans hold that the humanity of Christ is capable of receiving the attributes of divinity, that as a man He is omniscient, omnipresent, and almighty. Schleiermacher, as we understand him, had no other personal God, than Christ. We doubt not, and have never intimated anything to the contrary, that Dr. Nevin, although he makes Christ the ideal or perfect man, attributes to Him in his theory and in his heart, all the perfections with which the most devout believer in his divinity invests the adorable Redeemer. How he reconciles this with his representing Him as the Ideal man; and with the assertion that He has but one life in the fullest sense human, it is not for us to say. The same thing, however, is done by many others beside Dr. Nevin.


Applications of these Principles to the Lord’s Supper.

It is obvious that as the principles above stated must modify the whole method, and, so to speak, theory of salvation, se they must also determine the view taken of the Lord’s Supper. They necessarily exclude the Romish doctrine of transubstantiation; and the Lutheran doctrine that the real natural body and blood of Christ are present in, with, and under the bread and wine in this sacrament, and received after a corporal manner (“corporaliter”) by the mouth. No less obviously do they exclude the doctrine of Calvin that what is received by the believer in the Lord’s Supper is a supernatural influence emanating from the glorified body of Christ in heaven. In like manner they exclude the Reformed doctrine that what is received are the sacrificial benefits of the broken body of Christ, which benefits are not only the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God, but the indwelling of the Holy Spirit by which we are united to Christ and made partakers of his salvation. As our redemption, according to this theory, is effected by introducing into the centre of our being a new principle of life, a new organic law, which by its operation and gradual development works out our salvation; and as this new life is generic humanity united with the divine nature of Christ so as to become truly divine while it is still truly human, and yet only one and the same life, it follows that it is not the body and blood of Christ, but his theanthropic nature that we receive in the Holy Communion.

We are therefore told that the real communication which believers have with Christ in the Holy Supper, extends to his whole person. To be real and not simply moral, it must be thus comprehensive. We may divide Christ in our thoughts, abstracting his divinity from his humanity, or his soul from his body. But no such dualism has place in his actual person — that is, no dualism between his divinity and humanity, or, between his soul and body If therefore He be received by us at all, He must be received in a whole way. We partake not of certain rights and privileges only, which have been secured for us by the breaking of his body and the shedding of his blood, but of the veritable substantial life of the beloved Immanuel Himself, as the fountain and channel by which alone all these benefits can be conveyed into our souls. We partake not of his divinity only, nor yet of his Spirit as separate from Himself, but also of his true and proper humanity. Not of his humanity in a separate form, his 657flesh and blood disjoined from his Spirit; but of the one life which is the union of both — Spirit in such connections seems to stand not for the Holy Spirit, but for the divine nature of Christ, for the life of Christ is not the union of the Holy Spirit with his humanity — and in virtue of which the presence of the one must ever involve in the same form, and to the same extent, the presence of the other. What we receive is therefore his whole life, as a single undivided form of his existence, by one and the same process. The participation of Christ’s life in the sacrament is in no sense corporeal, but altogether spiritual, as the necessary condition of its being real. It is the soul or spirit of the believer that is immediately fed with the grace which is conveyed to it mystically in the holy ordinance. But this is in fact a fruition which belongs to the entire man, for the life made over to him under such central form, becomes at once in virtue of its own human character, and of the human character of the believer himself, a renovating force which reaches out into his person on all sides, and fills with its presence the totality of his nature.

The same system substantially is unfolded by Ebrard in his “Christliche Dogmatik.” What is taught concerning the Lord’s Supper presupposes what is taught of the nature of man and of the person of Christ. In the sacrament of the supper we are united to Christ; but the nature of our union with Christ depends upon the nature of the parties to that union. Humanity as a generic life developed from Adam as its root and centre, being corrupted by sin, is healed by its union with the divine nature in the person of Christ, or according to Ebrard’s mode of representation, by the Logos becoming a man by a process of self-limitation. Every man from the first moment of his existence possesses “ein substantielles Centrum seines mikrokosmischen Lebens, . . . . . ein Centrum, welches da war, ehe der Mensch bewusste Gedanken hatte, und welches bleiben wird, wenn der Leib dem Tode verfällt, welches also an sich weder Gedanke (mens) noch materieller Stoff ist.676676Christliche Dogmatik, III. iii. 2, § 444; Königsberg, 1852, vol. ii. p. 316. That is, every man has from the commencement of his being “a substantial centre of life, which precedes conscious mental activity, and which will remain when the body dies, and therefore in itself is neither mind (mens) nor matter.” This life-centre is instinct with a force which develops itself as mind and body, physically and psychologically. It is the Ego, the personality. It is the seat of regeneration which consists in introducing into this substantial centre of our being a new organic 658law which gives rise to a new development. This new law, or principle of life is the substance of Christ. Herein consists the mystical union. “This union is a central, that is, an organic union between the soul-centre, (seelischen Centrum) of the exalted incarnate one and our soul-centre, so that Christ from our centre pervades, controls, and sanctifies, both our physical-somatic, and our noetic life.”677677Christliche Dogmatik, III. iii. 2. 2. B. § 545; Königsberg, 1852, vol. ii. p. 651. A few lines further on it is said, “This communication is real, not imaginary in that before all our thought, the substantial centre of our physical and noetic life is organically united with Christ’s centre, [so that in the Lord’s Supper] we receive a new communication of the substance (Substanzmittheilung) of the glorified Son of man.”678678On page 322, Ebrard, when treating of regeneration and of the mystical union with Christ thereby effected, quotes the following passage from The Mystical Presence, by Dr. J. W. Nevin, Philadelphia, 1846, p. 160, as expressing his own views on the subject. “Christ’s person is one, and the person of the believer is one; and to secure a real communication of the whole human life of the first over into the personality of the second, it is only necessary that the communication should spring from the centre of Christ’s life and pass over the centre of ours.” What is communicated is sometimes said to be “the person of Christ,” sometimes “the whole Christ,” sometimes “his life,” sometimes “his whole human life,” and sometimes the “organic law of Christ’s human life.” The Lord’s Supper, therefore, is by Ebrard declared to be an ordinance “wherein Christ renews the mystical union, the real life-bond, with his people, in that He renewedly implants Himself, his person, and glorified humanity in them, objectively, really, and centrally, and thus confirms and renews their participation in the benefits of his death.”679679Christliche Dogmatik, III. iii. 2. 2. B. § 545; Königsberg, 1852, vol. ii. p. 650.

This theory repudiates the doctrine of transubstantiation, the Lutheran doctrine of oral manducation of the true, natural body and blood of Christ; the Calvinistic idea of an emanation from the glorified body of Christ, the Reformed doctrine of the reception of the benefits of Christ’s sacrificial death, and of Christ Himself by the indwelling of his Spirit, and insists on the communication of the divine humanity of Christ to the soul of the believer as a new organic law, somewhat in the same way as magnetism is added to iron as a new controlling law. Philippi680680Kirchliche Glaubenslehre, von D. Fr. Ad. Philippi, Gütersloh, 1871, vol. v. pp. 364-380. reviews the exhibitions of the doctrine of the eucharist given by the leading German theologians from Schleiermacher to Lange. The epithet of “mystic-theosophical,” which he applies to the doctrine of Lange, applies with more or less propriety to all the 659modern German theories. They are unintelligible to the majority of educated men, and as to the poor, for whom the gospel is especially designed, they are absolutely meaningless.


As the theory above referred to, in its main features has been repeatedly brought under review in these pages, there is the less need for any remarks in its application to the doctrine of the Lord's Supper. It may be sufficient to call attention to the following points: —

1. If there be no such thing as generic humanity, no such objective reality; if Adam were not the human race; if he and his posterity are not identical in such a sense that his acts were their acts as truly as they were his own; in other words, if the scholastic doctrine of realism, which until of late, has been regarded as utterly exploded, be not true, then this whole theory collapses. Its foundation is gone.

2. If it be not true that in man the soul and body are one, one living substance developing itself under two aspects, so that there can be no soul without a body; if in the person of Christ there are two substances or natures hypostatically united, and not only one nature and life, so that his divine nature is in the fullest sense human, and his human, divine, then again the whole foundation of the theory is gone; then there can be no communication of his divine humanity or theanthropic life to his people to be in them the germ of a new life, noetic and somatic, to be historically developed as was the nature derived from Adam, until it issues in the resurrection and final consummation.

3. It is to be remembered that it is said that this generic humanity which constitutes the identity between Adam and his race which is the analogue of the mystical union between Christ and his people, resolves itself into “an invisible law.” Now what does that mean? What is a law? In the lips of philosophers and scientists the word law often means nothing more than a fact. What are the laws of Kepler but facts? By the laws of nature is often meant nothing more than generalizations concerning the orderly sequence of events. At other times a law means a uniformly acting force. An organic law is a force uniformly acting to produce a given organic result. The germ of a bird and of a fish are undistinguishable by the microscope or by chemical agents; yet by an organic law, a uniformly acting force, the one develops into a bird, the other into a fish. What then is meant by 660saying that generic humanity resolves itself in a law? Can it mean anything more than a uniformly acting force? Then when it is said that generic humanity as united with the divine nature, so as to become itself divine while it continues human, is communicated to us, does it mean anything more than that a new uniformly acting force is implanted in our nature, as when the magnetic force is introduced into a piece of iron — an illustration, obviously imperfect indeed, used by the advocates of the theory? Then what becomes of a personally present Christ? All Christ does for us is to implant a new law in our nature, which by its natural, historical development works out our salvation. It is this aspect of the case that made the German opposers of Schleiermacher, say that after all he had a Christ that was, but is not now. Christ appeared in the world, and produced a certain effect, and then passed away, leaving nothing but his memory. It is not said that the advocates of the theory in question view the matter in this light; but it is said that some of the first minds among his countrymen regarded this as the logical consequence of Schleiermacher’s system. That system passed in Germany for what it was worth, an ingenious philosophical theory. In this country it is propounded as the truth of God.

4. It is a part of the theory under consideration that we become partakers of Christ’s redemption only in virtue of our participation of his life. His life brings with it his merit and his power. He is our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption only so far as, and only because, we become subjectively wise, righteous, holy, and free from the consequences of our sins. It is the Christ within us and not the Christ without us and above us, that is our confidence and glory. It is hard to see on this theory what meaning there is in praying to Christ for his intercession, his guidance, his protection, or his love. He has implanted a new law within us which works out our salvation by just as natural a process of development, as that by which a seed expands into plant and flower. It is not for other men to say how a theory lies in the minds of its advocates, or to sit in judgment on their religious experience; but they have the right to protest against any theory which, in their apprehension of it, takes away their personal Saviour and gives them nothing but a new invisible law in their members; which substitutes for the Incarnate Son of God “the organic law of Christ’s human life.”

5. This new doctrine is a philosophy; and philosophy we know from an infallible authority, is a vain deceit. It is vain 661(κενή) empty; void of truth, weightless and worthless. It is moreover, a deceit; it disappoints and misleads. This is not said of natural philosophy, which concerns itself with the facts and laws of nature; nor of moral philosophy, which treats of the phenomena and laws of our moral nature; nor of intellectual philosophy, which deals with the operations and laws of mind as revealed in consciousness. But it is said of speculative philosophy; of every system which undertakes to determine on à priori speculative principles, the nature of God, the origin and constitution of the universe, the nature of man and of his relation to God, or to use common language, of the finite to the infinite. It was the oriental philosophy which the Spirit of God by the pen of St. Paul, in his Epistle to the Colossians, pronounced “a vain deceit.” He says the same thing in the Epistle to the Corinthians of the Greek philosophy, whether Eleatic or Platonic. This judgment of inspiration is confirmed by experience. Who now cares a straw for the speculations of the ancients, of the schoolmen, or of their modern successors. Who is now a Hegelian? Forty years ago, who was not? We were told then, as we are told now, that certain scientific principles have a right to be respected and employed in the exposition of the doctrine of the Bible. But what is called science — in the sphere of speculation — in one age, is repudiated as nonsense in another. No philosophy has the right to control or modify the exposition of the doctrines of the Bible, except the philosophy of the Bible itself; that is, the principles which are therein asserted or assumed.

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