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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

The Shorter Catechism
of the Westminster Assembly
Explained and Proved
from Scripture

by
Thomas Vincent


XCVI. Ques. What is the Lord's supper?
Ans.
The Lord's supper is a sacrament, wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine, according to Christ's appointment, his death is showed forth; and the worthy receivers are, not after a corporal and carnal manner, but by faith, made partakers of his body and blood, with all his benefits, to their spiritual nourishment, and growth in grace.

Q. 1. How many things are most considerable in the Lord's supper?
A. There are eight things most considerable in the Lord's supper— 1. The nature of it. 2. The author of it. 3. The outward elements and actions. 4. The internal mysteries, or the things signified. 5. The subject of it, or the persons that have right to receive it. 6. The manner how it is to be received. 7. The benefits of it. 8. The end of it.

Q. 2. What is the Lord's supper as to the nature of it?
A. The Lord's supper, as to the nature of it, is a sacrament and seal of the covenant of grace, wherein the mutual obligations, both on God's part and on our part, which are made in baptism, are renewed and confirmed.

Q. 3. Who is the author of the Lord's supper?
A. The Lord's supper is a sacrament, not of man's invention, but our Lord Jesus Christ is the author of it; and it is of his appointment and institution. "For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus took bread," &c.— 1 Cor. 11:23.

Q. 4. When did the Lord Jesus institute and appoint this sacrament of his supper?
A. The Lord Jesus did institute aud appoint this sacrament of his supper the same night in which he was betrayed. "The Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread."— 1 Cor. 11:23. It was at night, because it was to succeed and come in the room of the passover: it was the same night in which lie was be trayed, because it was to be a commemoration of his death.

Q. 5. Are not Christians bound to receive this sacramelit at night, when our Saviour did first institute and administer it, and the apostles did first receive it at night?
A. We are no more bound from this example to receive this sacrament at night, than we are bound to receive it in an upper room, and but twelve in company, which was the practice in the first institution. We have not the same reason for receiving it at night as the apostles had, who were then to eat the passover before: and although the time of receiving it be an indifferent thing, yet the noon (the time when our Saviour gave up the ghost) seemeth to be the most suitable time for the receiving of it; especially since at that time both body and mind are ordinarily in the best disposition for receiving it with the greatest activity, and the least faintness and weariness.

Q. 6. In what posture should the sacrament be received?
A. The table posture seemeth to be the most decent, and not to be esteemed irreverent, when Christ himself was present and did so administer it to them.

Q. 7. By whom is the sacrament of the Lord's supper to be administered?
A. The sacrament of the Lord's supper, as also the other of baptism, is to be administered by none but such as are the ministers of Jesus Christ, called and installed in this oflice, according to the Scripture rule: such are Christ's ambassadors; and none but such have authority to exhibit or apply the broad seals of the kingdom of heaven.

Q. 8. What are the outward signs and elements in the Lord's supper?
A. The outward signs and elements in the Lord's supper are bread and wine.

Q. 9. What bread is to be used in the Lord's supper?
A. Ordinary bread is to be used, and not wafers, after the manner of the Papists; and it is most decent that it be white bread.

Q. 10. What wine is to be used in the Lord's supper?
A. Any kind of wine may be used in the Lord's supper. We read that Christ drank of the fruit of the vine with his disciples, but what sort of wine is not said; yet it seemeth most suitable, and most lively to represent the blood of Christ, when the wine is of a red colour, such as tent or claret wine.

Q. 11. May and ought all that receive the Lord's supper to receive it in both elements, the bread and the wine too?
A. All that receive the Lord's supper may and ought to receive it in both elements, the bread and also the wine. This is evident from the directions which the apostle doth give unto the Corinthians in general about the receiving this sacrament, wherein he joins the cup and the bread together, as belonging to all that did receive. "As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this clip, ye do show the Lord's death till he come. Let a man [that is, any man, and not the minister only] examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup."— 1 Cor. 11:26, 28. And therefore the practice of the Papists, in taking away the cup from the people, is unwarrantable and injurious.

Q. 12. What are the outward actions in this sacrament of the Lord's supper?
A. The outward actions in this sacrament of the Lord's supper— 1. On the minister's part, are, his blessing the elements, and setting them apart for this sacramental use by reading the words of the institution, with thanksgiving, and prayer unto God for his blessing; his taking the bread, and breaking it; his taking the cup, and distribut mg both the bread and wine unto the people, in the words of our Saviour, when he first did institute the sacrament. 2. On the part of the people, the outward actions are, their taking the bread and wine, and eating the one and drinking the other.

Q. 13. What are signified and represented by the bread and wine in this sacrament?
A. By the bread and wine in this sacrament are signified and represented the body and blood of Christ. "Take, eat; this is my body. This cup is the new testament in my blood."— 1 Cor. 11:24, 25.

Q. 14. Is not the bread in this sacrament transubstantiated and turned into the real body of Christ, when our Saviour telleth his disciples expressly, "This is my body?"
A. The bread in this sacrament is not transubstantiated and turned into the real body of Christ, but is only a sign and representation of Christ's body.

Q. 15. How do you prove that the bread in this sacrameat is not turned into the real body of Christ?
A. That the bread in this sacrament is not turned into the real body of Christ, may be proved by divers arguments.
Arg. 1. It is evident, both unto sense and reason, that the bread, after consecration, remaineth bread as it was before. (1.) It is evident unto sense, the quantity or bigness of bread remaineth, the figure of bread remaineth, the locality or place of bread remaineth, the colour, taste, and smell of bread remain; and nothing in the world is more evident unto sense than the bread in the sacrament, no alteration in the least, unto the sense, being made by its consecration. (2.) It is evident unto reason that the bread cannot be turned into another substance, and the accidents not to be at all changed or altered. When our Saviour turned water into wine, the water, as it lost its substance, so also it lost its colour, taste, smell, and other accidents; and the wine made of water, had the colour, taste, and smell of wine, as well as the substance of wine: but in the sacrament there is no other colour, taste, figure, or any accident, out of bread; and therefore, in reason there is no other substance but of bread. In the sacrament we must either clothe the body of Christ with the accidents of bread, and say that his body is of such a figure, taste, and colour, as the bread is, which would render him ill-favoured, ill-shapen, and debase his body (so glorious now in heaven) into the likeness of bread, which is such an absurd blasphemy that none will affirm; or else, if the accidents of bread cannot be attributed unto Christ's body, and yet the substance of bread be gone and the substance of Christ's body come into its room, then the accidents of bread do exist without a subject, which is most absurd and contradictory to reason. We perceive by our senses such a colour, taste, and figure: it cannot be the body of Christ that is of such a colour, taste, and figure; and if there be no other substance in the room that hath these accidents, hence it follows, that it is nothing which hath this colour, taste, and figure; and that in the sacrament, there is a white nothing, a sweet nothing, a loaf of nothing, a piece of nothing, which is a ridiculous absurdity. Nothing is more evident unto reason, than that the substance of the bread remaineth unchanged, while the accidents remain unchanged.
Arg. 2. If the bread in this sacrament be turned into the real body of Christ, then either there are so many bodies of Christ as there are pieces of bread eaten in all sacraments, or else they are all one and the same body. (1.) It cannot be that there should be so many bodies of Christ as there are pieces of bread eaten in all sacraments; because, first, Christ would then be a monster with many thousands, yea, millions of bodies. Secondly, It would lie in the power of any minister to make as many bodies of Christ as he pleased, or that God should be bound to work a miracle every time the bread is consecrated. Thirdly, This cannot consist with Christ's unity. Fourthly, None of Christ's bodies, but one, would be the body which was born of the Virgin Mary, and that died upon the cross. Fifthly, All these bodies, but the one he hath in heaven, would be without a soul, and so altogether insufficient to save the soul, or to confer any spiritual life or grace by the feeding upon them in the sacrament. Therefore it cannot be that there should be so many bodies of Christ as there are pieces of bread eaten in all sacraments. (2.) Neither can it be one and the same body of Christ which the bread in the sacrament is turned into; for then it would follow, first, That Christ's body is both visible and invisible: visible in heaven, and invisible in the sacrament. Secondly, That one and the same body of Christ is present in divers places at the same time, in heaven and in divers places of the earth; and to say that one and the same body, which is circumscribed by one place, is at the same time present in a thousand other places, is abhorrent unto all reason: and it is in effect to say— It is where it is not, and is not where it is, which is an absurd contradiction. If Christ's body be in heaven, it is not in the sacrament; if it be in the sacrament, it is not in heaven. Christ's body is not divided, and so by parts in one place and in another at the same time; neither is Christ's body infinite, and so present in divers places together, as God is present; for then his body would cease to be a body: therefore Christ's body cannot be in divers places together; therefore, being in heaven, it is not present in the sacrament.
Arg. 3. If the bread in the sacrament be turned into the real body of Christ, then, after the eating of it, either it returneth to heaven (which it cannot do, because it is there already), or else it remaineth with them that eat it; and if so, then Christ's body in part would be turned into the substance of our bodies; and if we are wicked, when these same bodies are raised, it would be tormented for ever in hell; part also of Christ's body would go into the draught, and be subject to corruption; either of which to affirm is most horribly blasphemous: therefore the Popish tenet of transubstantiation is to be abominated by all Christians.
Arg. 4. If the bread in this sacrament were turned into the real body of Christ, both the nature and end of the sacrament would be destroyed. The nature of the sacrament is to be a sign, the end of it is to be a remembrance of Christ; both which suppose Christ's body to be absent, which this sacrament is a sign and remembrance of: whereas, if the bread were turned into Christ's body, it would be present.
Arg. 5. It is bread which is eaten in this sacrament, and not the body of Christ; and so it is termed by the apostle. "As often as ye eat this bread ;"— not this body of Christ. "Whosoever shall eat this bread unworthily," &c. "Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread."— 1 Cor. 11:26-28. And if it be bread which is eaten in this sacrament, surely the bread is not turned into the real body of Christ.

Q. 16. But are not the words of our Saviour plain in his institution of this sacrament— "This is my body?" and would he have said it, had not the bread been turned into his real body?
A. If all Scripture expressions besides were to be understood literally, then there would be some reason that this expression should be so understood too; but we frequently find figurative expressions in the Scripture, and that concerning Christ. "That rock was Christ."— 1 Cor. 10:4. "Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone."— Eph. 2:20. Is Jesus Christ, therefore, turned into a rock or stone? In the same sense as, in the Jewish sacrament, the paschal lamb is called the passover, the bread in the Christian sacrament is called the body of Christ: the paschal lamb could in no proper sense be the passover, which was the action of the angel in passing over the houses of the Israelites, when he destroyed the first-born of the Egyptians. What absurdity is it to say, that the paschal lanih was turned into this action of the angel? Surely a present substance could not be turned into an accident or action which was long before; but it was a sign or commemoration of that action: so the bread in this sacrament is not properly the body of Christ, and so one body turned into another without its accidents; but the bread is a sign of the body of Christ, and a commemoration of Christ's body which was crucified for us.

Q. 17. But cannot God, by his infinite power, turn the bread into the real body of Christ? and if he can do it, why may we not believe that he really doeth it, when Christ saith, "This is my body?"
A. Although God, by his infinite power can do all things which are possible unto true power, yet we may safely say that God cannot do any which implieth imperfection and weakness, such as to make contradictions true, and to introduce ridiculous absurdities and blasphemous consequences: which he should do, if he should turn the bread in the sacrament, but without the transmutation of its accidents, into the real body of Christ.

Q. 18. How do the bread and wine in this sacrament represent the body and blood of Christ?
A. The bread and wine in this sacrament do represent the body and blood of Christ, in that as the bread and wine do nourish, strengthen, and refresh the body, and satisfy the natural appetite; so the body and blood of Christ, received in this sacrament, do nourish, strengthen, and refresh the soul, and satisfy the spiritual appetite.

Q. 19. What is.represented by the actions of the minister, in the taking the bread and breaking it, and taking the cup and giving both unto the people?
A. By the actions of the minister, in taking the bread and breaking it, and taking the cup, and giving both unto the people, is represented God's taking his Son, and giving him to be broken and crucified upon the cross for us; and withal, his giving him in this sacrament unto us to be our Redeemer and Saviour.

Q. 20. What are represented by the actions of the people in receiving the bread and wine, and feeding upon them?
A. By the actions of the people in receiving the bread and wine, and feeding upon them, are represented their receiving of Jesus Christ, given them by the Father, and feeding upon him in the sacrament.

Q. 21. Do all that receive this sacrament partake really of the body and blood of Christ, with the benefits of the new covenant?
A. None but worthy receivers do receive and partake really of the body and blood of Christ, with the benefits of the new covenant.

Q. 22. How do worthy receivers really partake of the body and blood of Christ, with all its benefits?
A. The worthy receivers do really partake of the body and blood of Christ, with all its benefits— 1. Not after a corporal and carnal manner, and by conjunction of his real body and blood unto their body, as meat and dnnk are really joined unto them in their eating and drinking thereof: But, 2. It is by faith that Christ's body and blood are really, but spiritually, joined unto their souls; and the virtue and efficacy, the fruits and benefits of his death, are applied by them, whereby they receive spiritual nourishment and growth in grace. "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?"— l Cor. 10:16.

Q. 23. How do believers receive spiritual nourishmcnt and growth in grace in and by this sacrament?
A. Believers receive spiritual nourishment and growth in grace in and by this sacrament— 1. As they draw virtue from Christ's death, for the crucifying of the flesh, for mortifying and purging away sin, which doth hinder their spiritual nounshment and growth. 2. As the Lord doth convey by his Spirit, and they do receive in this sacrament by faith, further supplies of his grace, which, by his death, he hath purchased for them, and which, in his Covenant of grace (whereof this sacrament is a seal), he hath promised unto them.

Q. 24. What is the end of this sacrament of the Lord's Supper?
A. The end of this sacrament of the Lord's supper is the showing forth of Christ's death, by the receiving of which Christians do publicly own, and give testimony ol their belief in, and hopes of salvation by, a crucified Lord. "For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come."— 1 Cor. 11:26.

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