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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

An Exposition of the Assembly's
Shorter Catechism

by John Flavel


Of the Elements, Action, and Subjects of It.

Q. 1. Are not bread and wine too small and common things, to represent the body and blood of Christ?
A. Though a bit of bread, and a draught of wine, be things of small value in themselves; yet they are great in respect of their use and end. A pennyworth of wax is a small thing in itself, but being applied to the label of a deed, may be advanced to the worth of thousands of pounds, as it receives the seal to a great inheritance.

Q. 2. Is not the bread in the sacrament turned into the very body of Christ itself; by transubstantiation?
A. No, it is not; but the elements retain still their own proper nature of bread and wine, after the words of consecration; and are so called; 1 Corinthians 11:26. For as often as ye eat this bread, &c. Matthew 26:29. But I say unto you, I will not henceforth drink of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Fatherís kingdom.

Q. 3. What is the first argument, by which Protestants confute the Popish doctrine of transubstantiation?
A. The first argument against it, is taken from the end of the sacrament; which is, to bring Christís body and blood to our remembrance; 1 Corinthians 11:24-25. This do in remembrance of me. Now signs for remembrance, are of things absent, not present.

Q. 4. What is the second argument?
A. Because the language in which our Saviour spake, had no other property of expression; there being no other word for signify, but is instead thereof; as is manifest in both Testaments; Genesis 41:27. And the seven ill-favoured kine, that came up after them, are seven years of famine. Revelation 1:20. The seven stars, are the angels of the seven churches; and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest, are the seven churches.

Q. 5. What is the third argument against transubstantiation?
A. The manifold gross absurdities, that naturally and necessarily follow on this doctrine, shew the falseness of it, and that it is justly rejected arid abhorred by all sound Christians.

Q. 6. What is the first absurdity that follows it?
A. This doctrine allows that to a silly priest, which is not to be allowed to all the angels in heaven. It allows him power to make his Maker, and eat his God; and in justifying this by the omnipotency of God, they say no more, than what a Turk may say to justify the most ridiculous fooleries of the Alcoran.

Q. 7. What is the second absurdity of transubstantiation?
A. The second absurdity is this, that it denies the truth of the testimony given by the senses of all men, that it is real bread, and real wine, after consecration, and not flesh and blood. And if the testimony of sense be not certain, then the being of God cannot be proved by the things that are made; contrary to Romans 1:20. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead, &c. Nor the truth of Christís resurrection, by seeing and feeling; contrary to Luke 24:39. Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see, &c.

Q. 8. What is the third absurdity of transubstantiation?
A. The third absurdity is this, that in affirming the accidents of bread and wine to remain, and their substance to vanish; they affirm, that there is length, breadth, thickness, moisture, and sweetness; and yet nothing long, broad, thick, moist, or sweet; which is a perfect contradiction.

Q. 9. What is the fourth absurdity of transubstantiation?
A. It implies, that the entire living body of Christ sat at the table, and at the same time was dead, and in the disciples mouths and stomachs in the first sacrament; and that in all after-sacraments it is wholly in heaven, and wholly in as many thousand places in the world, as there are sacraments administered.

Q. 10. What doth the breaking of this bread, and pouring out of wine in the sacrament, signify?
A. It signifies the violent painful death, and bitter sufferings of Christ for us; 1 Corinthians 11:26. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lordís death till he come.

Q. 11. What doth the giving and taking of the sacramental bread and wine signify?
A. These actions signify Godís exhibiting, and the believers applying of Christ, and all his benefits, to their souls.

Q. 12. Who are fit subjects to receive the Lordís supper?
A. None that are grossly ignorant, scandalous, or unbelievers in their natural state, for such cannot examine themselves, as the word requires; 1 Corinthians 11:28. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. But do eat and drink judgment to themselves; 1 Corinthians 11:29. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lordís body.

Q. 13. Are morally honest and sober persons qualified for this sacrament?
A. No; civility and morality do not qualify persons, they are not the wedding-garment; but regenerating grace and faith doth, in the smallest measure; Matthew 22:12. And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither,. not having a wedding garment? &c. 1 Corinthians 10:16-17. 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.

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