Project Canterbury

Fasting Communion:
How Binding in England by the Canons.

By the Rev. Hollingworth Tully Kingdon, M.A.

Assistant Curate of S. Andrew’s, Wells-Street;
Late Vice-Principal of Salisbury Theological College.


London: James Parker and Co., 1873.
Transcribed by Mary Brownrigg, 2003.


To the Reverend Benjamin Webb, M.A., F.S.A.,
Vicar of S. Andrews, Wells-Street.


My Dear Vicar,


I should be sorry to do or say anything in public which I thought would be out of sympathy with your wishes; partly because of my ordination vow to obey my “chief minister” partly because I value your sympathy.

For nearly thirty years your name has been with me a household word. I heard of you at school, I heard of you at home, I was reminded of you abroad. It has been an exquisite satisfaction to me to have been working under you now for three years and a-half, benefiting by your example, your learning, and your counsel.

I thank you for allowing me to dedicate this pamphlet to you, without committing you to any of the statements made, or opinions advanced. I hope that your critical eye, when it sees the faults of rapid and interrupted writing, will glide over them with pity, knowing, as you do, how much work we have to do, though you take the lion’s share yourself.

I remain, yours obediently,






SECT. I.—Difference between Canons

SECT. II.—Canons, how binding

SECT. III.—Disuser abrogates Canon Law



SECT. I.—Foreign and Domestic Canons generally quoted.

SECT. II.—The Canon of Constance

SECT. III.—Interpretation of Canons .

SECT. IV.—Inconveniency of private Selection of Rules to be enforced

SECT. V.—The Fast before the Jewish Passover

SECT. VI.—The Authority of Individual Fathers

SECT. VII.—The Fast after Communion





A FEW years ago a Jesuit father, English by birth and education, was conducting a retreat for priests in the north of France. One day, at the time of recreation, the parish priest called on his brethren to sympathize with him in his satisfaction at having that day communicated two men. The English priest was astonished; “What, only two!” and the answer was, “I have never seen such a sight before, during the twenty years that I have been here as Curé.”

This seems shocking to us to hear of now; but it was probably the state of things in England just before the Reformation, which the Church then struggled to amend. Biel[1] says that a layman is only bound to communicate once a-year, and that not by our Lord’s own command, but by the law of the Church. He does not accept our Lord’s words as a law, being constrained by the denial of the cup to the laity to expound spiritually the command, “Except ye eat the Flesh of the Son of man, and drink His Blood, ye have no life in you.”

It is much to be feared that the action of those priests in the Church of England, who are spoken of on all sides as insisting on fasting Communion as a necessity, even (as it is said) under pain of committing a mortal sin, will (if not checked) issue in some such neglect of communicating as was the rule before the Reformation, and is the rule in some foreign countries now. If it be true that some of these rigorist priests have refused to communicate invalids, because the medical man had directed food to be taken every two hours, and have distressed devout aged persons by saying they were committing a mortal sin by supporting their enfeebled nature with a little food before communicating,—if this be true, it is clearly advisable that some enquiry should be made into the grounds of this teaching.

Now there are three grounds taken up by those who are said to be teaching thus. The first is, greater reverence ‘to the Sacrament; the second is, the obligation of canons of the Church; and the third is, the assimilation of our rule to that of other Churches. The main object of this pamphlet is to enquire into the obligation of canons on this subject; but perhaps a little may be said, by way of introduction, and in the course of the enquiry, on the other two heads.

With respect to greater reverence to the Sacrament. All physical and physiological questions should be out of question here, for all men are not constituted alike, and all men have not the same ideas of reverence. It may please some to argue that, because digestion goes on much more rapidly when the work of day in brain or body is proceeding than during sleep, therefore a man is really more fasting at 12 o’clock in the day after a light breakfast, than he would be at six in the morning after a heavy supper. But this convinces no one who feels bound by the technical law that a man who is to celebrate or communicate must be fasting from the middle of the preceding night. For such a man would feel at liberty to celebrate or communicate soon after midnight, though he supped a short time before: since, as Merati observes in his notes on Gavanti,[2] “Strictly speaking, there is nothing to hinder a priest from celebrating on Christmas night, though he have eaten just before midnight.” Then, again, English ideas of reverence are at present different from those of foreigners. Foreign canonists[3] say that neither snuff, nor smoking, nor chewing tobacco, break the fast of the priest about to celebrate; whereas to wash out the mouth, or to suck an aromatic capsule to remove the adventitious stench, would be forbidden. Indeed, if a priest feels it necessary to wash his face before celebrating, he must carefully keep his lips shut, lest any water should enter his mouth and mix with his saliva. To English minds, or, at all events, to English senses, there is a perception of lack of reverence in the odour of tobacco being breathed in the face of fasting communicants; and it might be thought that acquired foulness of breath should be avoided as much as anything else. It might almost be said that real piety must be at a low ebb, when reverence must depend upon the dicta of physiological professors.

But, apart from this, ideas of reverence are very various; and if it be thought at one time that it is necessary, out of reverence to the Sacrament, to receive fasting, it was thought at another, equally necessary to receive, on Maundy Thursday at least, after a banquet or Maundy.[4] This was the custom in North Africa, and was the subject of many canons of councils. Nay, St. Augustine was much perplexed in mind, as it would seem, for he has expressed himself on the subject, in language which is certainly rather obscure, and which has been rendered as obscurely into English. He had been asked about that custom of the African Church which required a banquet or Maundy on Maundy Thursday, immediately before the celebration of the Eucharist. In A.D. 397, some two years after St. Augustine had been consecrated bishop, the third Council of Carthage had adopted this custom; and in A.D. 400 he writes to Januarius on the point. He sums up his views thus:—[5]

“Honestius autem arbitror ea hora fieri, ut qui etiam jejunaverit, post refectionem, quse horâ nonâ fit, ad oblationem possit occurrere. Quapropter neminem cogimus ante Dominicam illam cœnam prandere, sed nulli etiam contradicere audemus.”

There is some little difficulty about the first clause of this passage, which is thus rendered by Mr. Cunningham, M.A.:—

“I think that, in this case, it would be more seemly to have it celebrated at such an hour as would leave it in the power of any who have fasted to attend the service before the repast which is customary at the ninth hour.” [Mr. Cunningham reads ante instead of post, on authority of seven MSS.][6]

Here is a curious paraphrase from Mr. Blunt’s “Theological Dictionary:”—

“But I think it is better to observe the hour (!), and to remain fasting until after the refection, which takes place at 3 o’clock, before coming to the oblation.”[7]

This seems unlikely to have been St. Augustine’s meaning, as he might have expressed it with greater distinctness. The simple rendering seems most probable. St. Augustine was pressed by the Council of Carthage, which recognised the Maundy[8] as the anniversary of the day of institution of the Sacrament; he was also pressed, on the other hand, by the strictness of the Lenten fast, as laid down in the Apostolic Canons.[9] He may also have had in his mind the fiftieth canon of Co. Laodicea, dr. A.D. 372, which insists that the fast of Lent shall not be broken on Maundy Thursday, as this would be “to dishonour the whole Lent,” i.e. to deprive the Lenten fast of its whole merit. Therefore, it would seem, St. Augustine strikes out a middle line. True, (he says,) it is the custom of North Africa to communicate after a Maundy on this day: it would be better then to have the celebration of the anniversary of the institution after 3 o’clock;[10] then the Maundy can take the place of the usual refection at this hour, and a man may attend the oblation, and, by keeping from food till 3 o’clock, he will not break the merit of the Lenten fast. This will probably make the place clearer, and certainly give better sense, and good grammar:—

“But I think it would be more seemly to celebrate it at such an hour, that a man, who has also kept his fast, may attend the oblation after the refection, which takes place at 3 o’clock. On which account we compel no one to dine before that Lord’s Supper, neither dare we say he may not.”

From this passage, then, we can see that St. Augustine probably thought more of the binding character of the Lenten fast than of the fast before Communion. And this seems borne out by the twenty-ninth canon of the Quinisext Council, (A.D. 692,) which is of great historical interest, but of no binding force, as it was never received except in the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

“The Canon of them at Carthage declares, that the [mysteries] of the Holy Altar are not to be celebrated except by fasting men, excepting one day in the year, whereon the Lord’s Supper [viz., the yearly commemoration of the Institution of the blessed Sacrament] is celebrated, perhaps at that time from certain local reasons profitable to the Church, those holy fathers using such an observance; since then nothing induces us to leave our strictness, following the traditions of the Apostles and Fathers, we decree, that it is unlawful to relax the Thursday of the last week in Lent, and to dishonour the whole Lent.”

Here it is most clear that what weighed with the fathers of the council was the strictness of the Quadragesimal Fast, and not the fasting Communion. Hence, in the question of reverence, they would attach more importance to the reverence due to Lent and the Apostolic Canon, than to the custom of receiving fasting.

It must further be remembered, that in our northern climate there is a greater demand upon the resources of the body for heat than in southern climates; and often distress of body in those who are not quite hardy and strong prevents what is of chief importance,—reverence of mind. So that if real reverence be desired, many are compelled to obviate extreme distraction and anxiety by some slight partaking of food. For it is clear that if our service of God is to be rational and spiritual, and not merely bodily and external, then reverence of reason and spirit must prevail over mere reverence of body, unless there is some definite command of God or man compelling the conscience to the contrary. Now all agree that there is no Divine command binding the conscience to fasting Communion; almost all agree that there is a Divine command to receive Communion, and all must agree that there is a Divine command to worship, especially in spirit and in truth. It follows, that recollectedness of mind, and devout reverence of spirit, must be of more importance than accidental disposition of body.

Therefore, without discussing the material questions of physiology (which, though shocking to some, may be useful for others) about the action of the saliva in the mastication of the element, or the period of duration of digestion, it may be concluded that if the feeble, or aged, or sick, find their minds distressed by a fasting body, they do not otherwise than well in taking some small portion of food to quiet the distress of body. For, as Mr. Poyntz has well said, “The highest reverence that can be paid is that It should be received by a devout and earnest Christian.”[11] Anything that disturbs devotion and earnestness detracts from due reverence.

The third ground relied on is the necessity of assimilating our rule to that of other Churches, with especial view to future union. May God in His mercy grant that union, which all Christians must long for! It may be doubted whether any course of action which is likely to hinder many from the “Sacrament of union” in England would be likely to forward union. The extreme rigour of fasting Communion has been variously relaxed in various places. The communicating after a Maundy hindered not the union of North Africa with Rome and Constantinople.[12] The refusal of the Mechlin and Roman Rituals to allow Communion to the sick who had broken fast, except by way of Viaticum to the moribund,[13] hindered not union with Cambray, where the Manuale allowed the sick, who cannot remain fasting, to communicate often in the same illness. Is it possible to suppose that Pope Leo III., an old man, could have habitually performed his seven or nine masses a-day[14] without some portion of food taken before some of them? Must we suppose that children going to or coming from school were absolutely fasting when they were taken into church to consume the remains of the consecrated elements, as was done at Constantinople and at Macon?[15] or, if it be argued that Christian children might have been fasting, was the Hebrew child fasting to whom a portion was given, as recorded by Evagrius?[16]

But the giving the Cup to the laity, pronounced a heresy by the Council of Constance, is quite as likely to hinder union in the West as the relaxation of the rule of fasting Communion; for those who are not able to communicate fasting have not yet been called heretics openly.[17] It may not be well to give up much in prospect of problematical success.

With excellent intention, Mr. Poyntz[18] has learnedly argued that it is within the power of each diocesan bishop to grant a dispensation from this fast, which, therefore, should be sought at his hands. If the argument of this pamphlet is correct, there is no law binding in England to require this, and so no English diocesan bishop would grant a dispensation, if asked to do so. If we accept the dicta of foreign canonists as our own, and say, for the sake of some nearer prospect of union, that the law of fasting Communion is binding in England, then the suggestion of Mr. Poyntz does not help us. For he seems to have overlooked, or ignored the fact, that the same extern authorities say that none but the Pope himself can grant the dispensation.[19] True it is that Charles V. never received fasting, but he had a running dispensation from Pope Julius III.

When the arrogant pride of the exclusive Ultramontane is lowered so as to render union possible, it will not be impossible to lessen any difficulty on this score by insisting that the infirm shall receive a dispensation. Until this blessed consummation be arrived at, it may be doubted whether a sudden attempt at rigour may not do more harm than good. Violent language about “mortal sin” is too easily used; it may attract attention to subjects too long neglected, but it often wounds earnest Christians, shocks those who are growing in the faith, and imperils the health of souls. It is, therefore, earnestly to be deprecated.

We must now try to see what is the law of the Church.




SECTION I.—Difference between Canons.

THE authority of the Church to make laws, and to enforce them upon those within her pale, depends upon the commission of our Lord to the first rulers of the Church. There must exist within every society some power to make rules for its well-being and guidance. In the Church this power was first conveyed to St. Peter, and then to all the Apostles by the Lord Himself:[20] the same power was afterwards declared by the Church (under the guidance of the Holy Spirit) to have descended to the successors of the Apostles, the Bishops. “I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven,” is the commission to St. Peter: then to all the Apostles, “Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” This power, thus delegated, would include that which was afterwards specially conveyed, viz. the power of remitting and retaining sins; but now there was the further power of legislation and government.

That this power was thus understood at the time to be conveyed would appear from the words used by our Lord to St. Peter. For here, as elsewhere, the Lord accepts a custom or formula in common use, and incorporates it into His own institution. He commonly adapted to His own use what He found ready to hand in the existing Jewish commonwealth, which had been no doubt divinely guided to adopt that which afterwards would prove useful in the Gospel kingdom. He appoints chief disciples under Him to be His constant attendants; they are twelve in number, according to the number of the twelve tribes. He calls them Apostles; a name well-known amongst the Jews, as borne by those messengers who were sent to collect the taxes and voluntary offerings of the dispersion to the temple worship. Later on, He appoints others under the twelve; these are seventy in number, according to the number of the council that assisted Moses. He gives a prayer; there is but one clause new. He appoints Sacraments; Baptism was then at all events well known, just after St. John the Baptist; the Holy Eucharist is allowed on all hands to be the adaptation of some ceremony in common use. One while, He takes a parable from the Rabbis, and sublimates it to His own use; another while, He takes the well-known formula or proverb, and vivifies and quickens it to bear a deep spiritual meaning. If He gives a form of benediction to His ministers, it is the common form of blessing amongst His countrymen, “Peace be with you;” but it is made instinct with quickening grace. If He preaches a sermon, He takes as His text some custom or precept of His own time. Thus was the Church built on the ruins of the synagogue, though the glory of the latter house was to be far greater than that of the former.

Here, then, in this particular of giving power of internal legislation binding on the conscience of Christians, the Lord adopted a well-known formula amongst the Jews. When one was appointed Rabbi, which was the highest academical degree, there was given him a key to denote that then was given him the power of opening the law by authoritative exposition, and of locking up or releasing the consciences of men. At the same time, we are told,[21] there was said: “We give thee power to bind and to loose;” that is, they had power given them to decide in matters of casuistry what was binding and what was not. These decisions became gradually incorporated in books of decrees, and answered very much to the canons, as the Talmud would answer to the Decretum of Gratian. In these words, then, probably the power of making canons was conveyed to the Church; first, to St. Peter alone, and then to all the Apostles.

This power was exercised by the Apostles. The first council or synod at which they met to issue such decisions, was that recorded in Acts xv.; where many Apostles were assembled, and St. James, as Bishop of Jerusalem, presided and summed-up. At this council certain canons were decided upon; and succeeding councils or synods seem to have followed the example of this first synod at Jerusalem. They were summoned to meet some pressing need, or to decide some urgent question, and they issued such canons as seemed requisite to the occasion.

But, first of all, there has ever been a distinction between councils; some are esteemed (I.) general, and some, (II.) special, or particular.

(I.) General Councils.

The definition of a general council depends upon the views of the one who defines. If he be an ultramontane, he has his own peculiar definition; if he be a cismontane, his definition is different. So, too, the number of general councils varies: but the whole Church is agreed to acknowledge four at least, or six according to some. This is much the same, as the fifth and sixth did practically little more than confirm the canons of the preceding four. It may be convenient to name them:—

1. Council of Nicaea, A.D. 325.
2. Council of Constantinople, I., A.D. 381.
3. Council of Ephesus, A.D. 431.
4. Council of Chalcedon, A.D. 451.
5. Council of Constantinople, II., A.D. 553.
6. Council of Constantinople, III., A.D. 680.

Now if we take the common cismontane, or Gallican definition of a general council, viz.: one (I.) that was general or universal in convoking; (2.) that was free in deliberation; (3.) that has been generally or universally received, it will be seen that the determinations of such councils are to be received with the utmost respect. II. Particular or Special Councils.

These have ever been subdivided by canonists into three classes: I. National, including all bishops within a nation or realm. 2. Provincial, including all the bishops in a province, with a metropolitan at their head. 3. Diocesan; a bishop may sit in synod with his chapter.

Particular or local councils may make canons to bind within the limits of their authority. Thus with us, “The Lord Chancellor and the then chief judges declared that by the common law of England, every bishop in his diocese, and the archbishops in convocation, may make canons to bind within the limits of their jurisdiction.”[22]

Sometimes, by general acceptance, the canons of a small provincial council may become binding even further than the canons of a general council.

But as the authority for making canons varies, so also the canons themselves vary. There are canons of faith and canons of discipline.[23] Canons of faith can never vary or become obsolete, because the faith is one and indivisible, at all times and in all places. Directly, therefore, a council defines an article of faith, that article or canon is at once binding within the limits of the jurisdiction of the council. For a local or particular council may define an article of faith, subject to the revision of a general council: and as a matter of fact, the Nicene faith was affirmed at several local councils before it was universally declared in the first general council.

It is not so with a canon of discipline. Discipline may and does vary with the times, and with places; so that canons of discipline passed by a general council need not bind everywhere,[24] nor need they bind the conscience at all times: for the manners of different places vary, and so also the manners of different times; and variation of manners would require variation of discipline.


SECTION II.—Canons, how binding.

The Church, then, has power to draw up canons binding on the conscience of its members. This is true, as we have seen, as well of a bishop in his diocese, as of an archbishop (or metropolitan) in his province, and of the whole Catholic Church in a general council. Of such canons so drawn up, canons of faith are at once binding upon all who owe obedience to the council, particular or general:[25] but canons of discipline are not so binding.

We must now confine ourselves to the canons of discipline, and see how these bind the conscience. But first let us remark how, in apostolic times, this distinction was observed.

The first epistle to the Corinthians is most instructive on this head. It is in a great measure an inspired answer to certain questions of conscience, which had been submitted to the Apostle by the Church at Corinth. Some of these questions were questions of faith, some were questions of discipline. It is, then, interesting and profitable to observe how the Apostle deals with these.

First, then, with questions of faith. Some had been denying the resurrection of the dead; and the Apostle has to meet this denial. On this point he clearly and unequivocally lays down the faith as once for all delivered to the saints; he shews that this had been sufficiently declared to them, that they had received it, and that it was necessary to their salvation: “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the Gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand: by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.” He then goes on to quote the canon of faith, which seemingly formed part of the Apostolic Creed as framed and delivered by the Apostles: “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.” Then, and not till then, the Apostle proceeds to argument, not as if there were two possible views, either of which might be accepted without sin, but insisting on the fact that there is but one way—the acceptance of the faith; though, out of condescension to their weakness, he argues for the doctrine, putting aside the objections of opponents. Then he ends with a glorious statement of the faith, crowning all with a stirring peroration.[26]

How different is his manner with a question of discipline! Let us choose out one which presents the most striking features. The Corinthians had asked about the lawfulness of eating meats which had been offered in sacrifice unto idols. Now this was one of the matters which had occupied the attention of the Apostles, who had been gathered at Jerusalem to decide on the whole question of the admission of the Gentiles to the Church of Christ. St. Paul himself had been present at this council; he had been himself sent back to Antioch with the authentic and autograph letter of the council; he therefore knew its canons and decrees perfectly well; indeed, in his progress “throughout Syria and Cilicia,” “as they went through the cities they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the Apostles and Elders which were at Jerusalem.” We should therefore expect that the Apostle’s answer would be short and decisive, and somewhat of this kind:—”This is a question which has been decided in a general council of the Apostles and Elders at Jerusalem, and you must therefore abstain from eating such meats under pain of mortal sin.” At all events, this would be the decision of some amongst us now. But what is his real reply? He deals with the question as perfectly open, and to be decided chiefly, if not entirely, by the law of charity, which avoids giving offence to the weaker brethren. There is no allusion whatever, however distant, to the canons of discipline issued by his own means from Jerusalem; at the outset, he lays down the duty of humility and charity: “We know that we all have knowledge: knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.” The Apostle then goes on to argue that an idol is a nonentity, and therefore there cannot be any inherent evil in eating that which has been offered to an idol; and in conclusion he gives his decision in three rules, which embody the laws of charity and common sense. His three rules are these:—I. Buy what is sold publicly in market, and don’t ask any questions as to where it came from; for it is sufficiently consecrated to your use by being part of the fulness of the earth, which is the creation and property of your Lord. 2. If you are invited to dine with a heathen, go if you like; and when there eat all that is set before you without hesitation, asking no questions. 3. If, however, some one says that you are eating an idol-sacrifice, you had better refrain for his sake, not for your own conscience’ sake, which would not be touched.

Here, then, is a private matter which affected only the individual conscience; the Apostle lays down that it is indifferent whether or no a Christian man eats of meat consecrated to an idol, though this practice ‘had been condemned in a council of Apostles. When, however, the act became a scandal to others, the Apostle earnestly deprecated it. Just as, in another matter of discipline affecting public scandal, he speaks with peremptory utterance:—“If any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the Churches of God.”

Having thus seen how St. Paul deals with canons of discipline, let us go on to consider what vigour they have since been held to obtain, and how they bind the conscience.

Here, again, we must first remember that canons of discipline have been distinguished into those that enforce divine law, and those which only declare human law.

Each of these classes has been again subdivided, and we have, I. divine law natural, and 2. divine law positive.

I. Divine law natural is invariable and immutable. It is the light of reason (properly illuminated) about those things which we owe to God and man. The Ten Commandments are an abridgement of this divine law, and all the moral precepts of the Old Testament are only explanations of the same. The summary of natural law is declared by our Lord to be the essence of the precepts of the Old Testament: “Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, even so do unto them: for this is the law and the prophets.”

2. Divine law positive can change and has changed. We find it in the Old and New Testament, and in the traditions of the Church from Apostolic times which explain the New Testament.

Human law is subdivided into, I. written, and 2. unwritten. I. Written human law of the Church is contained in those commonly called canons or constitutions; and 2. unwritten human law is called custom.

Now some canons of discipline contain natural law, and these, so far as they contain this, are always binding;[27] but where they contain positive human law they are not binding any where, until they have been promulged and accepted.[28] This is true of canons of discipline of general councils as well as of particular councils. It is but following the Apostolic rule. St. Paul had received a letter of canons from Jerusalem to the Churches of Syria and Cilicia, in answer to their appeal for a decision on a matter of deep importance; as he went throughout these provinces he “gave them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the Apostles and Elders which were at Jerusalem.” But these canons had not been promulged in Corinth, therefore the Apostle does not seem to have regarded them as binding there, nor does he refer to them at all.

The same method has ever been observed. Thus, after the first General Council of Nicaea, letters were written to the bishops who were not at the council, with a copy of the canons. Similarly, also, after the Council of Ephesus a circular letter was written to all the bishops who were not present, that they might make the canons known.[29]

The minister of publication, then, is the bishop, the successor of the Apostles in his diocese. As Pope Leo IV. wrote to the bishops of Britain: “Since in the holy councils rules have been promulged and received by bishops, who besides bishops have power to be publishers of the decrees of the canons?”

Some persons have thought that a Church is bound by the decrees of a council, if representatives of the Church were there. But this has never been allowed Jay good canonists, and, indeed, it has never obtained. The British Church was represented by three bishops at the Council of Aries, in 314 A.D.; yet the canons of that council about Easter never seem to have obtained in Britain, in consequence of such representation; nor did the Church in our land keep Easter as the rest of the Western Church did, until St. Augustine of Canterbury promulged this canon of discipline for the Christians of his obedience in the seventh century. It is, therefore, of no more than historical interest to us to learn that representatives of the English Church were present at the Synod of Dort, and that one of our bishops preached the opening sermon.

First, then, for the binding of canons of discipline on the conscience, canons of discipline must be promulged and accepted in the various provinces and dioceses.

It is, then, clearly open to particular Churches to refuse to accept certain canons of discipline.[30] Thus the Church of England refused to accept the foreign canons about marriage. When the papal legate endeavoured to impose them, there was the now proverbial cry, “Nolumus leges Angliæ mutari;” so it has often, in some cases, been doubted whether certain canons were ever received in England.

To give a most remarkable and noteworthy example of this. The disciplinary canons of Trent were not considered as binding in England by the Roman Catholics resident in our midst. Why is this? Because they were never promulged and accepted, therefore they had no binding force.[31] And from this follows one of the most striking proofs that the Roman Catholics do not represent the old Church of England; for they distinctly lack identity of law. When the missioners trained in foreign seminaries came over to England, at the end of Elizabeth’s reign and the beginning of the reign of James I., they probably knew nothing of, and cared less for, the law of the Church of England. So, in one noteworthy particular at least, they introduced the law they knew best. The canons of Trent had never been imposed in England, so these they brought not (except where they suited their convenience, seemingly), but they introduced the old foreign canon law existing on the continent before the Council of Trent. No doubt they thought this was the old English law, or ought to have been, if it was not. To take this noteworthy particular,

The law of the Church of England as to a valid marriage has never altered. This was declared plainly and distinctly in the judgment of the higher Court of Appeal in 1843.[32] The Church of England has always required that it is necessary to a valid marriage that it should be, (i.) per verba de præsenti, by mutual contract; (ii.) in facie ecclesiæ, “in the face of this congregation;” (iii.) per presbyterum sacris ordinibus constitutum, in the presence of a priest in holy orders. This old law of the Church of England is still asserted in the rubrics of our marriage service. But this is not the law of the “Roman obedience” in England; they hold pretty much the same law as that of Scotland, which does not require the presence of a priest.[33] Hence the great efforts made in mixed marriages, to prevent the marriage ceremony from being performed first in an English church. This would be a valid Sacrament in their eyes, that it should be per verba depræsenti being all that is required; another service would be a sacrilegious iteration of the Sacrament. This law, that consent made Holy Matrimony, was never accepted in the English Church; hence the Roman Catholics in England have no legal identity with the ancient Ecclesia Anglicana.

Canon law, then, to be binding on the conscience, must have been promulged and accepted. What, then, are the disciplinary canons of Carthage or of Constance to us? Absolutely nothing more than historical documents of no small interest, unless it can be shewn that they have been promulged and enforced in England: and then they do not bind by their having been passed at this or that foreign council, but by their acceptance amongst us.


SECTION III.—Disuser abrogates Canon Law.


Canons of discipline must then be published, that they may have binding force: but still more for this binding force to continue, they must be continually enforced, or “put in use;” they must be enjoined constantly, so that it may be known that they are binding.

This is the reason why councils so constantly repeat the same canons over and over again. It must astonish those who are commencing to read the canons, to find how constantly councils seem to repeat what has been said before, to the same effect if not in the same words. The canon had been either badly kept, “male observatus,” or abrogated by disuser, “abrogatus per non usum;” therefore it required to be re-enacted.

If, therefore, we want to know what is binding, we must find out what is being enforced. “Pour connoître les Lois et les coutumes qui sont en vigueur, il faut voir celles qui sont le plus constamment suivies dans les jugements,” is the rule given by Fleury, the great ecclesiastical historian: and again,—“Et généralement, on n’est point obligé d’observer les Lois écrites, qui demeurent notoirement sans exécution.”[34]

This, no doubt, is the reason of the answer given by Abp. Sumner to a priest who was in doubt about the force of canons, an answer said to have been acquiesced in by the late Bp. Philpotts of Exeter. The decision was, that the rubrics were binding on the conscience, but that canons were only binding when enforced by the bishop. Whether this had respect to the fact that the rubrics had become statute law or not, does not matter; the same distinction will apply in either case. For when canon law becomes incorporated in rubrics, it becomes continually binding, as being constantly enforced in the book which priests are bound to use continually. Hence the “rubricæ generales” of the missals, and the “cautelæ,” which incorporate the general canons and rules affecting the celebration and reception of the Sacrament of the Altar, bind those who belong to Churches which use the unreformed office books. These canons, by being thus continually enforced, are binding on the users of the book; so that that which is therein contained becomes really binding, more by being in the rubrics than by being in the canons.

In similar manner, other canons are continually enforced by the proper officer, the bishop, at his visitation. This is the very end and object of the visitation, that the bishop may see that such canons as are in force are observed, and that he may punish the offender against them. Hence articles of visitation, and enquiries to which the clergy and churchwardens have to make answer. If these things fall into desuetude, on the conscience of the bishops be it; they are directly responsible to the Great Head of the Church for their conduct.

It was for this that the earlier councils used to number on their canons from the canons passed at preceding councils. Thus, the first canon of the Council of Ancyra would be numbered “twenty-one” in the code of canons received and enforced, since there were twenty canons passed at the Council of Nicaea; and by this numbering the council recognised and re-enforced all the twenty canons. Thus the Council of Chalcedon quoted the ninety-fifth canon of Antioch, which council only issued sixteen new canons; but when the twenty canons of Nicæa, the twenty-five of Ancyra, the fourteen of Neocæsarea, the twenty of Gangra, and the sixteen of Antioch are all added together, the number ninety-five is arrived at, and we find the canon quoted at Chalcedon.[35] Thus the canons of preceding councils were at each council again accepted as binding.

But as time went on and canons were multiplied, there was a kind of digest of canons made to be read at the opening of a council, that the council might see what had been already ordained, and either accept all that had been so published, or such parts of them as seemed good. The digest written by the great Durandus,[36] and read at the Council of Vienna, was printed in 1545, in case the Council of Trent might find it useful. In this the renowned Juris Speculator points out the advisability or propriety of re-enacting certain ancient canons as if they had lost force, though they were in Gratian’s Decretum: in other cases he suggests some for discussion, e.g., “Hoc in plerisque mundi partibus non servatur, pensandum est an expediret servari.”

From a similar cause, too, canons have been constantly codified and reduced to order, that they might the more easily be known and enforced. Thus, in the African code, we find the canons of various councils reduced to method, and re-enacted. Nor can there be much doubt that when the book of canons was drawn at London in 1603-4, that book was intended to be for the Church of England what the “Codex Ecclesiæ Africanæ” was to the Church of North Africa, viz., the book containing all the canons then binding on the English Church; for there is very little new in them. They merely incorporate and re-enact old canons. That this was intended seems probable, to say the least, from the fact that the visitation articles of the bishops[37] directly after the passing the code, do not travel much beyond the lines laid down in the canons, or rubrics.

The following passage from a good English canonist, Bp. Stillingfleet, is so much to the purpose, that it is cited at length.[38]

“There are some canons, where the general disuse in matters of no great consequence to the good of the Church or the rights of other persons may abate the force of the obligation; especially when the disuse hath been connived at, and not brought into articles of visitation, as Can. 74, about gowns with standing collars, and cloaks with sleeves. But the general reason continues in force, viz., that there should be a decent and comely habit for the clergy, whereby these should be known and distinguished by the people; and for this the ancient custom of the Church is alledged. . . If we do strictly oblige persons to observe all ecclesiastical canons made by lawful authority, we run down into endless scruples and perplexities; and Gerson himself grants that many canons of general councils have lost their force by disuse, and that the observation of them now would be useless and impossible.”

But it will naturally be asked how long must disuse prevail, and how widely, to remove binding force from a canon? Here Gibert, the French canonist, shall give us answer.[39] He says:—

“Abrogated canons have lost the force of law, because the superior consented to their disuse, which has prevailed for more than forty years without disturbance or interruption.”

In similar manner he points out how a contrary custom abrogates canon law.[40]

“That a canon should be abrogated by contrary usage, there are required but three points:—I. That the usage should be reasonable, that is, not adverse to good morals. 2. That it should be lawfully pleaded, that is, that it should obtain for forty years without the protest of the Church. 3. That it should be general, that is, in the Universal Church, if the question is of universal abrogation; or in the nation, if of national disuser; or in the whole province or diocese, if the matter be of provincial or diocesan abrogation.”

When a canon has thus been abrogated either by disuser or by contrary usage, it becomes practically dead; it cannot be revived as binding on the conscience, except by the same authority which first enacted it; therefore, as the bishop has ever been regarded as the diocesan officer for the publication of ecclesiastical law, it is evident that no canon which has become dead by disuser, can be revived by a mere priest to make it binding on the conscience. It may be adopted by an individual as a useful rule for himself, so long as it does not affect others; or it may be recommended to other individuals, but it clearly may not be laid down as a general rule, binding the consciences of the laity or clergy in general.




SECTION I. —Foreign and Domestic Canons generally quoted as enforcing Fasting Communion.


THE first thing that strikes a man who begins to investigate this question is, that it is difficult to find canons which enforce fasting Communion. If he hunt through the three massy folios containing the Decretum, the Decretals, and the Extravagants, he only finds one short paragraph about the fasting Communion of the laity, and that no ancient canon law, nor any canon of any general or particular council, but an extract, and it may be said an unfair extract, from St. Augustine’s letter to Januarius, from which a few words have been already quoted. It would seem to imply that in St. Augustine’s time there was no exception to fasting Communion, whereas in the same letter he says that “he dares not forbid” communion after food, at all events on a certain day.

This extract seems to have misled, if one may venture such a supposition, even St. Thomas himself; for St. Thomas quotes two portions of the letter, both of which are in Gratian’s extract;[41] and it is clear that St. Thomas could never have read the epistle throughout, or he would not have quoted it as deciding in a manner exactly opposite to the real decision of St. Augustine. Thus St. Thomas alleges the famous canon of the Third Council of Carthage, which excepts Maundy Thursday from fasting Communion, and recites the objection:—

“Therefore on that day at least a man can take the body of Christ after other food.”

To this objection he thinks it sufficient answer to quote St. Augustine’s letter, written three years after this council, at which he probably was present:—

“But now this has been abrogated: for, as Augustine says, (1. c.) this custom is held throughout the whole world, i.e. that the body of Christ should be taken by the fasting.”

Yet St. Augustine does not seem to say it is abrogated. He had been asked these questions:—” What ought to be done on Maundy Thursday? Ought we to offer in the morning, and again after supper, as it is written, ‘Likewise after supper?’ or must we fast and offer only after supper? or must we fast and sup after the oblation, as we are accustomed?”

To this the end of St. Augustine’s answerb is as follows:—

“But a pleasing idea has attracted some, that on one fixed day in the year, when the Lord gave the Supper, it should be lawful that the Body and Blood of the Lord should be offered and received after food, as if for a more striking commemoration. But I think it more seemly that it should be done at such an hour, that he who has also fasted can come to the oblation after the refection, which takes place at 3 o’clock. Wherefore we compel none to dine before that Lord’s Supper, but also we dare forbid none to do so.”

St. Thomas could not have read this when he quoted St. Augustine as forbidding the African custom, which was in full vigour in his day.

Neither in our English canonist, Lyndwood, do we find a prohibition of lay communion after meat, though he does prohibit those who have not confessed.

But there are certain canons usually adduced, and it will be well here to recount some of them, and see how they bind.

In Mr. Blunt’s “Theological Dictionary,” under the head “Fasting,” we find fasting Communion spoken of, and the canons quoted as follows:—

“Council of Carthage[42] III. [A.D. 397], c. 29. The Sacrament of the altar shall be celebrated only by those who are fasting, except on the one anniversary, when the Supper of the Lord is commemorated. [For if there must be offered the commendatory of any dead, whether bishops, clergy, or others, in the afternoon, it must be offered with prayers only, if they who offer have lunched.]

“Council of Braga II. [A.D. 572], c. 10. If any presbyter shall be found in this madness after this our edict, so as to consecrate the oblation not fasting, but after having taken any food, let him be immediately deprived of his office, and deposed by his own bishop.

“Council of Macon II. [A.D. 585], c. 6. No presbyter with full stomach, or having indulged in wine, shall touch the sacrifices, or presume to celebrate mass on private or festive days, for it is unjust that bodily food should take precedence of spiritual: but if any continue to do so, let him lose his dignity. [The canon then cites the above canon of Carthage, and ends thus:— ‘Whatever unconsumed parts of the sacrifices remain over in the sacrarium after mass has been gone through, let children (innocentes) be brought to church some Wednesday or Friday, by him whose business it is, and a fast[43] having been enjoined them, let them receive the same residue with wine poured over, (vino conspersas)’].

“Council of Auxerre [circ. A.D. 578], c. 19. No presbyter, deacon, or subdeacon, shall touch the mass after eating meat or drink, [nor stop in church while mass is being said],

“Council of Toledo VII. [A.D. 646], c. 2. Lest what has been advised by reason of the languor of nature should be turned into a dangerous presumption, let it be understood that no one shall celebrate mass after taking any even the least meat or drink.

“Council of [? in] Trullo [A.D. 692], c. xxix. After quoting the canon of Carthage with reference to Maundy Thursday, it is said, ‘Although for some local reasons profitable to the Church, those divine fathers made such a regulation, yet since there is no inducement for us to abandon the strict line, we determine in accordance with the apostolical traditions of our fathers, that in the last week of Lent the fifth day must not be broken, for it is dishonouring of the whole Lent.’

“Council of Mayence (1549), c. xxxiii. We seriously enjoin all parish priests and ministers of churches not to give the Eucharist to any except those who are fasting and have made confession, unless it be in cases of infirmity and necessity.”

The first thing to be observed about these canons is that they are all local canons, and cannot be supposed to bind beyond their own limits. The canon of Carthage is clearly the most known, for it is cited by two others, that of Macon and the Trullan Council. The Trullan Council (called so from being held “in Trullo,” in the vaulted room of the emperor’s palace at Constantinople), called also “Quinisextum,” from its supplementing the fifth and sixth general councils, has some pretensions to be a general council. But its canons were never received in the West; indeed, Anastasius, the Vatican librarian,[44] says that it was never received except in the Patriarchate of Constantinople, so that its decrees can only be historically valuable, and of no binding vigour in England. Still it is interesting as shewing that they cared more for the breaking the Lenten fast than for the reception of the Eucharist after food. For the reason of their repudiating the canon of Carthage was not at all that they thought dishonour clone thereby to the Sacrament, but to the Lenten fast; for they say the Maundy breaks the merit of the whole fast.

With respect to the Council of Mayence, no one could pretend that it has the least force in England. If those of the Roman obedience keep not this or that canon of Trent because it has never been received (or, if you will, imposed), why should it be thought that the canons of an obscure council at Mayence in 1549 should have more value for us than that of the dimmest historic interest? It may, however, be said that it shews that the question was attracting notice at that time on the continent, and herein, it is of some value; but it binds us not one whit.

Next, we must observe that all these canons, except that of Mayence, have respect to the clergy, and not to the laity. There is not one word, excepting the strange ending to the canon of Macon, (which Mr. Blunt’s contributor leaves out,) that has respect to the laity. For if it be supposed that the Trullan canon may include them, yet it has respect to the canon of Carthage, which is clearly restricted to the priests by the ending (omitted in the Dictionary), which speaks of the offering for a newly-departed prelate or other person.

Now a canon of discipline binding the laity may à fortiori be supposed to bind the clergy, but there is nfi shadow of a reason for thinking that a canon binding the clergy must, therefore, be alleged as affecting the laity. For example, the canons about the marriage of the clergy are severe, and in force on the continent. Are the laity affected by them?

So far, then, as canonical obligation goes, there is not one of the canons cited in the “Theological Dictionary” of that “learned and painful clerk” Mr. Blunt, that is at all binding upon the laity.

But another canon is cited in a pamphlet by Mr. Poyntz,[45] to which we cannot allude without expressing admiration for its courage and research. This is a canon of Constance, and, as it is of some importance, it will be dealt with in a section by itself,[46] and domestic canons will now be spoken of.

Mr. Baron cites Anglo-Saxon witness to the custom of fasting Communion, and these arc much to the point. In the renowned Pœnitentiale of Theodore we have the penance allotted:—

“Whosoever shall eat before he go to Housel, and after that partake of the Housel, let him fast seven days.”

He also quotes three other passages or canons.

There can be no doubt that these are of great interest and value to us; but they bind not the conscience so as to make it a sin to disobey them. For they have remained notoriously without enforcement[47] in our Church for many years; and it is allowed by canonists that a general custom, even if a bad one, however it may bear upon the introducers of the custom, yet brings no guilt upon those who follow it, when it has obtained for some time. Then, again, it has been seen that a canon is abrogated by disuser, where the Church, by its bishops, has not been protesting against that disuse. For when the bishops had made a continuous protest, it becomes a canon badly kept, and not an abrogated canon.

Now, no one can deny that there has been no attempt on the part of our bishops to insist on fasting Communion for three centuries. There is no doubt that individuals have themselves adopted the rule, or have handed on the rule as a pious custom; but there is no evidence that any bishop has enforced it as a canon of the Church. Therefore I maintain that disuser has voided it as canon law. It must be remembered that, at present, all that is asserted is that no canon hitherto alleged is binding on the conscience, so that not to observe it entails sin, much less mortal sin, as some rigorist priests among us have been known to assert. Other questions may be dealt with hereafter; the only matter in hand is to see how certain alleged canons bind the conscience, and, with respect to those cited hitherto, it is affirmed on the foregoing argument that they bind not at all.


SECTION II.— The Council of Constance.

Mr. Poyntz[48] in his valuable pamphlet, cites a canon of the Council of Constance (A.D. 1415), as binding the consciences of Englishmen now.

“The subject was again brought up at the Councils of Constance, in 1415, when it was enacted as follows:—‘The praiseworthy authority of the sacred canons and the approved custom of the Church has held and still holds that a Sacrament of this kind ought not to be celebrated after supper, nor received by the faithful who are not fasting, except in case of infirmity or other necessity, or a right either granted or admitted by the Church.’ This is the latest decision on the subject, and the one that should govern our practice; for the English Church was represented at Constance, and, according to the admitted rule, this canon, not having been repealed, is still in force.”

On this passage it must first be remarked, that if the foregoing arguments be true, there are two errors in the last sentence; first, that the presence of representative bishops at a council binds the Church represented; and secondly, that all unrepealed canons are in full vigour.

First, Mr. Poyntz says that if a Church be represented at a council, it is therefore bound by the conclusions of that council. We have seen that this has not always held. The Church of Britain was not bound by the Council of Aries in A.D. 315, though represented there by three bishops who signed the canons.[49] The West did not receive the canons of the Quinisext Council in A.D. 692, though represented there by legates from Rome, who also, as the Greeks assert, and as Anastasius the librarian of the Vatican[50] acknowledges, (writing about A.D. 870,) signed the canons there passed. The disciplinary canons of Trent were not universally received. Nor, indeed, is the Church of England bound by the Synod of Dort,. however much some Calvinists would wish to make it out. It need not follow, therefore, that because the English were represented at Constance, all its canons of discipline are now binding on the English Church.

Next, Mr. Poyntz says that it is “an admitted rule” that an unrepealed canon still binds. This rule is not admitted, if by “repealed” a distinct contrary enactment of a council is meant. As has been seen, disuser with the silent consent of the bishop, even for forty years, is held by Gibert the canonist to annul and make void a canon.

But now for the canon of the Council of Constance itself: to understand this, we must enquire into its history,[51] which is most instructive.

Complaint was made to the council that Jacobel de Misa, parish priest of St. Michael, in Prague, had established communion under both kinds, and that his example had been followed by other churches. The council referred the matter to their theologians, who, after much discussion, reported their decision under six conclusions, which were as follows:—

1. The Lord instituted the Eucharist under two kinds.

2. It was a praiseworthy custom not to administer this Sacrament after supper, except to invalids.

3. Though it was the custom of the primitive Church to communicate under the two kinds, yet to avoid all risk, it was lawful to introduce the custom of communicating the laity under the sole kind of bread.

4. This custom, observed for so long a time, ought to pass for a law, which none ought to disapprove or change without the authority of the Church.

5. He who says that it is unlawful to observe this custom is in error.

6. Those who wilfully maintain the contrary, ought to be reckoned as heretics, and as such repressed and punished.

The council then formulated these conclusions into a canon, part of which is quoted by Mr. Poyntz.

Now there is no trace whatever that any complaint or representation was made to the council that the Eucharist was celebrated after supper.[52] Jacobel, in his answer, asserts this. It is quite true that Lenfant finds in a MS. that there were floating rumours, totally devoid of foundation, that the Wicklifites and Hussites were in the habit of such profanation: but he says that there is no trace in the records of the council, nor in the history of the times, that such a thing was practised or reported to the council. Nor, indeed, is it alluded to in the short heading of the canon. The headings of the request for the decree, the decree, and the sanction of the canon,[53] run as follows:—

“Condemnation of the Communion of the laity under both kinds of bread and wine is asked for.

“Condemnation of Communion under two kinds lately revived among the Bohemians by Jacobel de Misa.

“That no presbyter, under pain of excommunication, communicate the people under both kinds of bread and wine.”

It is quite clear from this, that the question of celebration after supper is introduced only by way of argument; just as afterwards, Bossuet, defending communion under one kind, argues that, as some other attendant ceremonies such as posture of communicants, and their number, &c., had been changed, so might the giving of the cup be also changed. The theologians of the council were clearly anxious to adduce some parallel to the interference with the rite as it had been instituted. True, they say, it was instituted in two kinds, but it was also instituted after supper. The Church has altered the latter, with general consent, therefore it has power to alter the former. That this was the reason of the introducing the question of the supper may also be seen from one of the treatises published by command of’ the council. Maurice of Prague wrote (A.D. 1417) in answer to Jacobel; and, amongst other arguments, he cited certain points wherein the Church had altered the institution of our blessed Lord, and the four points he insists on are these. The Church has broken the Lord’s institution or command,—

1. By communicating fasting.
2. By using leavened bread.
3. By enforcing celibacy on priests.
4. By allowing laity, and even women, to baptize.

It is clear, then, that the matter in hand was the denial of the cup to the laity, and that the question of fasting Communion was only introduced as an argument in favour of the power of the Church to alter the institution of our Lord. Indeed, Lenfant writes that it is not at all clear whether the council meant to condemn communicating after supper, or after any food at all: it did not care to make it clear, for it was only used as an argument to bolster up the monstrous decision to withhold the cup.

Now the Church of England (thank God!) has deliberately put aside the enactment of the Council of Constance, refusing the cup to the laity, which is the special enactment of the canon. This has been done by introducing the contrary practice, by inserting rubrics directing the giving of the cup, and by asserting in a public document that “the cup of the Lord is not to be denied to the lay people.” It might well be said that, as the main enactment of the canon has been repealed by the Church of England, the arguments which were employed to support the enactment will fall with it; just as when a judgment is reversed, all obiter dicta uttered in giving judgment lose whatever value they ever had,—and that, say all lawyers, is nothing at all.

But, whatever may be said on that score, the words of the canon of Constance may be used in England against the binding force of the rule of fasting Communion. For it must be evident that the language of the canon is very carefully worded; and worded according to the rules laid down by canonists in order that a custom may have force of law. The argument of the canon will therefore hold for any contrary custom which has obtained; for the whole canon or decree of the council runs thus:—

“Although Christ instituted this venerable Sacrament after supper, and administered to His disciples under both kinds of bread and wine; yet this notwithstanding, the excellent authority of the ancient canons, and the approved custom of the Church, has held, and holds, that this Sacrament ought not to be celebrated after supper, nor be received by the faithful who are not fasting, except in case of infirmity or otherwise of necessity of right yielded or acknowledged by the Church. And just as this custom was reasonably introduced for the avoiding certain dangers and scandals, so by a like or greater reason it could be introduced and reasonably observed, that, although in the primitive Church this Sacrament was received by the faithful under two kinds, yet since then it should be received by the celebrants under both kinds, and by the laity under the species of bread only: since it is most firmly to be believed, and in no wise to be doubted, that the whole Body and Blood of Christ are truly contained as well under the species of Bread as under the species of Wine. Whence, since this custom has been reasonably introduced by the Church and holy fathers, and has been observed for a very long time, it is to be regarded as a law which none may disapprove or alter at his own will, without the authority of the Church. Wherefore, it ought to be thought erroneous to say that it is sacrilegious or unlawful to observe this custom or law; and those that obstinately [pertinaciter] assert the opposite of the foregoing are to be restrained as heretics, and severely punished by their diocesans.”

Here the denial of the cup to the laity is said to be a custom against the institution of the Lord, reasonably introduced, and observed “diutissimè diutissimè” for a very long time; this custom is therefore to be regarded as a law, the obstinate impugning of which is to be held and punished as heresy. Let us change the wording slightly and say, the practice of receiving the blessed Sacrament after a slight meal to support health in a cold climate, is a custom not against the institution of the Lord, reasonably introduced into England to prevent neglect of Communion, observed “diutissimè” for as long a time at least as the denial of the cup to the laity had been at the time of the Council of Constance; it is, therefore, to be held as a law, the obstinate impugning of which is to be held as a heresy!

For we must remember that if the Church of England has power to introduce a custom of granting the cup to the laity, contrary to the enactment of Constance, and contrary to the practice and custom of the West, there will also be a power to allow other customs, if they be not “contra bonos mores” or against the express rule of Holy Scripture. However, therefore, we must sympathize with the matter and manner of Mr. Poyntz in his pamphlet, it must be said that it is unfair and misleading to tell us that a fragment of the argument of a canon is “still in force,” as binding on the conscience, when the enactment of the canon itself has been flung to the winds. If the custom of breaking the fast by such a light meal as is not unusual in England before Communion is unlawful, so as to be a “mortal sin,” as some say now-a-days, and if this depends on this canon of Constance now, then there can be no question that to give the cup to the laity is a heresy. For the Church of England has not refused to communicate the faithful after breakfast, and if this disuser of our Church for three centuries have not voided the contrary custom of its binding force, there is no power to repeal the canon of Constance, and we are still guilty of heresy, in giving the cup to the laity! If, however, there is power to grant the cup to the laity, the Pope notwithstanding, then the power to authorize a local custom will be present also. It must be still remembered that the sole argument now is, that fasting Communion is not so binding on the conscience that to deviate from the practice is a mortal sin, or a breach of canon law.

Those, then, that insist upon fasting Communion as a means of breaking down one bar to union in the West, must be more eager to deny the cup to the laity, the giving of which is condemned as a heresy. Indeed, some eleven years ago a parish priest spoke of the custom then springing up of not giving the cup into the hands of the communicants, and told the writer of this pamphlet that it was a good plan, as preparatory to, or as next to the refusing the cup. In many quarters it is said that some are not (as a matter of fact) communicated in the cup, and the writer has seen one person leave the altar before attempting to receive the cup. It is well, therefore, to see beforehand whither we are drifting.

Ever since the Lord Jesus condescended to have a history to be measured and tested by human criticism, history has been consecrated to our use. History tells us that the Church Catholic is made up of particular local Churches whose customs have varied without breach of unity. History and the canons of the Church shew that particular Churches may have their own liturgies, and introduce alterations in them; may have customs differing at different times, without there being any necessary danger to inter-communion. History tells us that canons of discipline, and customs unsanctioned by or unenforced by canons, have been constantly allowed to fall into disuse by particular Churches without endangering unity. If, therefore, we believe that the Church of England is indeed a living part of the True Vine, we need not fear to accept her relaxation of an ancient custom, when the reason of that custom has been removed by entire change of manners.

For if we hope that giving way on some minor points will bring us nearer to communion with the main body of the Western Church, it is to be feared that history will tell us that the arrogance of Rome has been gradually on the increase, and that nothing will serve our turn but unconditional submission. To threats of excommunication, however, history will give us the vigorous remonstrance of the French bishops: “Excommunicaturus venies? excommunicatus abibis.”


SECTION III.—Interpretation of Canons.

It is an old principle of law, that canons must be understood by having respect to the times and manners of the places and persons for whom they were first made. Unless this be done, they will be much misunderstood,[54] and be made to press unequally. Now, if we look back to the times when the custom of fasting Communion was insisted on, it will be found that the meals were very different from what they are now. But here, of course, we must meet with much difficulty. Habits in some parts and at some times vary so rapidly, that it is almost impossible to pour-tray the habits of a past age with precision, and the rules made for one time soon become inexplicable.

For example, it was part of the discipline of Lent, in Africa at least, that men should wholly abstain from the use of the bath; and St. Augustine traces the breaking the fast on Maundy Thursday not so much to the desire of celebrating after supper, as to the necessity of eating after the bath. He points out that the catechumens who were about to be baptized at Easter would naturally offend others if they did not bathe first. Hence they bathed on Maundy Thursday. Then followed, as a matter of course, a heavy meal.[55] He does not stop to explain why food was necessary. It was a matter of every-day experience amongst them, and he wrote as if it were acknowledged on all hands that this was the case. He says not that the bath was regarded as a breach of the fast, and so the feast did not break the fast more; nor does he say that the bath was of the nature of a Turkish bath, a long, tedious, and exhausting process, which required food; he accepts it as a matter of fact, and says no more about it. He simply says, “They cannot bear fasting and the use of the bath at the same time.” Some thirty years ago this would probably have been understood of a warm bath, now-a-days a bath would commonly be understood to be a cold sponging bath, and the impossibility of fasting at the same time as a man used his bath would not seem natural in modern times.

In similar manner the time and character of meals have so entirely changed, that it is difficult to enter into the canons and sermons of former days. Probably the customs may have varied less abroad than in our island. The meals in Italy[56] seem to have been a slight meal at daybreak, a full meal about 11 o’clock, and a heavy meal in the evening. The mid-day meal was naturally of some importance, as is the pranzo of modern Italy. The writer, after a hot walk through Rome, arrived at San Clemente so perilously near the hour of pranzo, that the bonny monk in charge could not let him see the church, and yet it wanted 20 minutes of 11. The substantial character of the meal is relieved by the siesta during the extreme heat of the day. In the East, too, there seem evidences that the mid-day meal was apt to be accompanied with symptoms of repletion, which are said to be regarded by men of rank in Mexico and India as compliments due to the hospitality of the host.

The following extract from St. Chrysostom will help us to see what difficulties the Church had to meet in his days. Of course, it may be said that St. Chrysostom used rhetorical and exaggerated expressions, which is no doubt true of much of the eloquence of the saintly orator, but the passage is instructive: the more so, when we remember the occasion and time of its delivery. The excitable people of Antioch had rebelled against taxation, and had abused the emperor, and dragged about the statues of the imperial family with every token of ignominious insult. Then came the reaction, and they cowered down for fear of the imperial vengeance; at the moment came the commencement of Lent, and the priest John, now called St. Chrysostom, seized the opportunity, and called on the people to repent and fast with reality, to obtain favour with God, that temporal wrath might be averted. At first the effect was wonderful; the churches were thronged, and men seemed in earnest. But too soon they wearied of this excess of devotion and the strictness of fasting, and St. Chrysostom seems to have fancied that many were prevented from coming to the Synaxis[57] because they had taken a full meal. He therefore speaks on this subject; and first there is given the translation of Hutchinson,[58] because the vigour of the sixteenth-century English well renders the strong language of St. Chrysostom:—

“If thou determine with thyself to come otherwhiles to the communion after thou hast eat and drunk, by this means thou shalt learn to be modest and sober in thy behaviour, thou shalt never offend in drunkenness nor defile thyself with gluttony: but, remembering God’s table, thou wilt take meat and drink eith moderation, lest coming to the church, if thou smell of wine, or belch inordinately through the fulness of your stomach, thou be a laughing-stock to all that shall see thee in that taking.”

The passage is thus rendered more accurately by a polished writer of our own day:—

“When thou hast made up thy mind that after eating and drinking thou must repair also to the service,[59] thou wilt assuredly be careful, though perchance with reluctance, of the duty of sobriety; and wilt neither be led away at any time into excess of wine or gluttony. For the thought and the expectation of entering the church, teaches thee to make such use of food and drink, as accords with decency: lest after thou hast come there, and joined thy brethren, thou shouldest appear ridiculous to all present, by smelling of wine, and unmannerly eructation.”[60]

This sermon is ascribed to the first Monday in Lent, when the fast of Lent had scarcely lasted a week; and it is remarkable as shewing that the fear the people were under was not sufficient to enforce even the usual law of fasting, which was, that the fast should last till after the afternoon service. In the next homily, St. Chrysostom praises those who have come after their heavy luncheon; as he says it was better to come to church than to go to sleep:—

“In which case did ye act for the better; at the last Synaxis, when after your meal ye turned to your slumbers; or now, when after your meal ye have presented yourselves at the hearing of the divine laws?”[61]

But what the service was at which these sermons were preached the Saint tells us himself in the sixth of the same series of homilies:—

“For our very meeting together daily as we do, and the enjoying the hearing the divine Scriptures; and beholding each other, and weeping with each other, and praying and receiving Benedictions, and so departing home, takes off the chief part of our distress.”[62]

We cannot tell for certain at what time of the day this service was said; but it is clear that St. Chrysostom is speaking of the ariston,[63] or luncheon, since we find him using the word; and Suidas says that this meal was taken at 9 o’clock in the morning; and the last passage quoted shews that the service included celebration, for the Eulogiæ (as part of the Holy Eucharist) were then given. Here, then, we see that even in Lent the early luncheon was ordinarily so heavy that it made a man sensibly unfit for public worship, and more inclined to sleep. Elsewhere, the same Saint praises a Christian lady for not over-eating herself; with us this would be scarce a matter requiring praise.

But St. Chrysostom is not alone in his allusions to the habit of eating to repletion as being the rule. St. Cyprian, writing from his retirement in the Decian persecution, speaks of a special revelation made to him of the shortness of the persecution; and at the same time, he says the revelation admonished—

“that we be sparing in diet, and sober in drink, lest, that is, worldly allurement should enervate a breast lately elevated with heavenly vigour; or lest the mind, burdened by too excessive feastings, should be less wakeful for the utterance of prayers.”[64]

It can hardly be supposed that a revelation would have been vouchsafed on this head, nor would St. Cyprian have thought it needful to have sent word of it to the clergy of Carthage, unless excess in eating had been common amongst the Christians of his diocese.

Not to multiply examples, the scandals at Corinth moved St. Paul to speak against excess of eating in public: and the words “well drunk,” in the speech of the Architriclinus,[65] allude to the same; while in ages before, the “making merry” of Joseph and his brethren, has in Hebrew and Greek a distinct allusion to repletion, if not excess;[66] while similar habits are constantly mentioned without much blame in the Apocryphal books.

Such being the habits in the hot eastern lands,[67] it is not to be wondered at that in colder northern climates similar habits are to be observed.[68] Thus, in the canon quoted by Mr. Baron, it is insisted on that men and women should come to church fasting, because otherwise they would not be in a fit state to hear:—[69]

“It is a very bad custom that men practise on Sundays and also other mass days; that is, that straightways, at early morn, they desire to hear mass, and immediately after the mass from early morn, the whole day over, in drunkenness and feasting they minister to their belly and not to God. But we command that no man taste any meat before the service of the high mass be completed, but that all, both females and males, assemble at the high mass, and at the holy and spiritual church, and there hear the high mass and the preaching of God’s word.”

From this canon it is clear that it is commanded that all should fast even on Sundays until about ten or eleven, inasmuch as it was pretty certain that if they ate at all,[70] they would eat to excess.

Indeed, there was some little to be said in excuse of this. There was no beverage but water, or some fermented, and therefore intoxicating drink. The life of the Nazarite, therefore, was one of perpetual fasting, he could drink nothing but water. It was reserved for Christians to invent beverages as a substitute for wine in times of fasting, or to introduce them from unexplored heathen lands. Coffee is said to have been invented to drink in fasts; but this was unknown in Europe till comparatively modern times.

It must, then, be remembered that in times when fasting Communion was the custom, excess in eating was the rule and not the exception; and in order that men might come reverently to Communion, it was necessary that the rule should be that they should come fasting.[71] And this not only to Communion, but to Baptism, Confirmation, and Ordination, whether as bishop, priest, catechumen, or candidate. This, too, probably led to the rule in some parts that none should eat directly after Communion, lest excess should so soon dishonour their service.

But amongst us the habit of excessive eating at one or two meals has generally passed away, and lighter meals are perhaps taken oftener; so that a man after a light dinner and tea overnight, and a light breakfast in the morning, will, in this cold climate, be probably more fasting actually than one who gorged at supper. It may, indeed, be argued, as has been done, that the invention or introduction of tea and coffee has quite done away with the necessity of the ancient custom of fasting Communion. For we do not really know when the fast which Latin canonists call natural fast, i.e. absolute abstention from all nourishment from midnight, came to be insisted on. We cannot be certain that the early slight refection was held to be a bar to communicating four or five hours afterwards. It is hard to think that the men whom St. Chrysostom was speaking of had not partaken of the refection usual at about four in the morning; for if they could not refrain from food for a short time in such times of anxiety, in order to be present at the oblation, it would seem natural for them to think nothing of the mouthful of food at sunrise; or if they might be present after the heavy meal of the ariston, which made men drowsy, how much more after the acratisma,[72] which was only a kind of stay-stomach?

It is true that there is a hint in the answers of Timothy, Archbishop of Alexandria in the fourth century, which seems at first to our modern ideas to shew that a drop of water entering the mouth after midnight prevents communicating. The archbishop had been asked many questions, and the answers he gave will commend themselves to most men of sense. The sixteenth of these questions was,—“If a man in bathing swallow a drop of water may he communicate after it?” To this he answers:—“Yes, for if Satan find it an occasion of hindering from communion, he will do it the oftener.”[73] But it will be said the question was raised, and therefore the custom of fasting even from the acratisma, or early mouthful of bread and wine, is evident. Then who can tell us when the man took his bath? this was not our modern plunging-bath, or sponging-bath, but something akin to the Turkish-bath;[74] and the mouthful of water perchance arose from the cold water dashed against the man on one side and the other after his stay in the hot room. The sudden cold would make him gasp for breath, and the water dashed against his face would be the more likely to enter his mouth in his spasmodic breathing. When, then, was the bath taken? There can be little doubt that it was never taken in the early morning, but just before a meal, the deipnon or dinner commonly; but it might be just before the ariston, or luncheon. St. Augustine has been quoted as saying that a man could not bear the fatigue or waste of the bath without food. It might well be, therefore, that a man would take his bath, and then at once attend the synaxis with the intention of communicating; intending to take his ariston directly after service. For, as we have seen, the ariston and the synaxis seem to have been near together in point of time. There is nothing to shew that the man would not have been considered fasting at nine o’clock,[75] although he had taken the acratisma five hours before. It must be remembered that the work of the day had been going on for four or five hours before nine o’clock; a man might then consider himself fasting, though he had taken the acratisma, and might perchance be troubled at the mouthful of bath-water forced into his mouth, which he might consider the snare of Satan to hinder him from Communion. There is no evidence to shew that the fasting was to be from midnight; but there is good evidence to shew that it was very advisable in those times that there should be a rule of fasting Communion.

Still, though there was good reason for this, the effect was to decrease the number of communicants rapidly.[76] We find St. Chrysostom complaining that they stood close enough in church to hear him preach, but that almost all left the church without communicating. Therefore we find the canons soon accommodating themselves to the relaxed rule,[77] and only requiring three communions in the year, at Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost.[78] This, again, soon dropped down to once a-year, at Easter.[79] Then, again, casuistry in the course of time settled that it was only a Church regulation that men must communicate once a-year, but if they communicated once before death, receiving the Viaticum, this was sufficient to satisfy the requirements of the divine law. Thus the state of things represented in the north of France a few years back (spoken of in the Introduction) came about, and the English Church at the Reformation set herself to try and remedy it; and did this by not insisting upon the ceremonial part of the custom of fasting Communion.

But perhaps some will endeavour to argue, that to communicate fasting is a custom which cannot be altered, since it is of natural or divine law. No doubt it is so in part: but it consists in part of divine law, in part of human positive law. The portion which is of divine law natural, is immutable, as has been seen; but this is the reason, or moral part of the custom, viz. that extreme reverence must accompany the act of faithful Communion; the human positive law was that the way this reverence was to manifest itself was, in remaining fasting till after the act of communion. This may be changed l. If, when men were gross feeders, it was necessary to make them attend service fasting, it does not follow that when habits have entirely changed the same strictness must be continued. In Italy and the East the work of day used to commence commonly at 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning,[80] and the synaxis seems to have been about 9 o’clock. This does not make it a necessary act of devotion now to communicate at 7 o’clock in the morning, when the main work of the day does not commence until 9 or to o’clock. The invention of gas has wholly altered the manner of life in England; and the Church has in every age shewn her Catholic elasticity in accommodating her rule to that of the country of her children, bringing Christianity to leaven the daily social life, and not endeavouring to stem the course of the river. When the synaxis was at 9 A.M., the work of life for the day had been going on for some four or five hours: so this would about answer to a celebration at noon with us, when a man might be called fasting if he willingly abstained from food after his breakfast at half-past 8 or 9 o’clock. Canons of discipline have always been variable with change of habits, as is reasonable; and in England, it is here contended, there is now no canon binding on the conscience which enforces fasting Communion. Remarkably enough there is no such canon alluded to by Durandus in the digest of canons spoken of above; there is none such in Lynd-wood; there is none such incorporated in the Cautela of the English Missals: it cannot therefore be maintained that the foreign canons, or even the Anglo-Saxon canons on the subject, were regarded as binding on the conscience of the laity (for with them alone are we concerned); if they were, they would without doubt appear somewhere. No, it depends not upon canons, but upon custom; and this has been so long unenforced, that by the obtaining of the contrary custom, it has been voided of all force affecting the conscience. Whether it be advisable as a matter of discipline or devotion is another question altogether; it is only now contended that it does not bind the conscience.

Nay more, as the moral of the custom is that extreme reverence accompany the act of Communion, it is a question whether the usual light breakfast of modern England, less heating than the bread and wine of the acratisma of Greece, or the jentaculum of Italy, does not in the majority of cases quiet the volatile activity of the mind in the morning, and enable nine out of ten persons to control their thoughts, and train them to a greater reverence. Certainly, nature teaches us that severity of fasting comes from hot countries, and that cold climates require more constant food.[81] Most instances of prolonged fasting are to be found in the East; most instances of polyphagie (as the French call it) are in colder climates. Once more, the excessive work (at all events in London and large towns of England) crowded into one day, renders more frequent food necessary; and it is to be gravely doubted whether a priest, who lies in bed till eleven o’clock, if he has to celebrate at midday, in order that he may have fasted from midnight with impunity, is serving God with his time as well as one who takes a light breakfast to enable him to do some work for God before midday.

Be this as it may, we must be sure, that we fully understand the habits and times when fasting Communion was insisted on, before we assert that it is of perpetual obligation, binding the faithful laity as well as clergy.


SECTION IV.—Inconveniency of Individual Priests selecting some Rules to be re-enforced.


It has been seen that the officer for enforcing canons is the bishop in his diocese; upon him rests the responsibility and the jurisdiction. This, too, is seen in the interpretation given by St. Chrysostom to the passage alleged as giving authority for making canons. The Lord said, “If he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the Church: but if he neglect to hear the Church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Here, then, if we take St. Cyprian’s dictum, we shall understand the Church to mean the bishop, as representative of the Church, as he should be in reality. For St. Cyprian said, “You ought to know that the bishop is in the Church, and the Church is in the bishop:”[82] that is, as Bishop Jeremy Taylor[83] has it, “He is in the Church as the head is part of the body, and the Church is in him as in their representative, and all their power is ministered by his hand, and their interest promoted by him.” Nor does St. Chrysostom differ from this interpretation, for of the above text he says in effect, “Tell it to the bishop of the Church, who is to minister food and discipline to the congregation.” And herein he is followed by the Greek Fathers. This, too, would seem the most probable interpretation; for the Lord at once goes on to address the Apostles personally, “Whatsoever ye shall bind;” and in them He addresses their successors the bishops.

Here, then, we can see how the sense of extreme responsibility may prevent hasty action on the part of bishops; and we may believe that an especial grace is given them in their consecration to this end. Oftentimes, it may be, their action seems cowardly or time-serving, whereas it may arise from the deepest sense of responsibility. We can well see that the inconveniency would be intolerable, if a priest in the vigour of his youthful zeal were to have the power of declaring the mind of the Church on those things which lie nearest his heart. Experience teaches that when an eager zealot holds an opinion strongly, and is called on to give the grounds of his view, he will probably say that it is the teaching of the Church, which is at once an easy and a conclusive argument. But generally, when pressed home, the asserter of this will give as the grounds of his claiming the Church to be on his side, the views of one or two particular doctors.

This power of uttering or reviving[84] canons was never in the hands of the priests at their individual discretion; indeed, the inconvenicncy would naturally be intolerable.

For no one would be quite certain whom to obey, if one priest revived one particular canon of a local council, and inflicted it on his congregation on pain of mortal sin, and another priest imposed something else on his. Confusion must be the result, and this cannot be according to the will of God. From the first, “all the power of commanding and making ecclesiastical laws, that is, laws of religion, [has been regarded to reside] wholly in the pastors and bishops in the supreme order of ecclesiastics.”[85] If priests ever had this authority granted them, let one single notice of such authority be quoted, and there may be some pretence for the modern practice of priests.

But it is rather to be feared that the same tendency, that so often appeared of old, of priests endeavouring to usurp the powers and offices confined by custom or Church-law to bishops alone, is once more shewing itself. It is one of the pravæ consuetudines condemned by name in canon-law,[86] “that priests should usurp authority which belongs to bishops alone.” There are other symptoms that this is springing up amongst us.

Take, for example, the whole question of Sisterhoods. It is well known that, in consequence of grave scandals, and no doubt other reasons, the Church of England for some centuries did not recognise monastic life within her pale. But, in our own times, there has been a revival of this, especially in sisterhoods. How has this been done? Have the ancient canons been revived and accepted as binding in this matter? It is feared not, in most of the sisterhoods. For the ancient canons are explicit enough on this head; they declare, as Durandus has drawn from them, that all such should be under the bishop of the diocese. But more than this. Constantly do we find laid down that Confirmation and the Consecration of Virgins are to be restricted to bishops alone.[87] Thus St. Jerome, speaking of a man hurriedly advanced to a bishopric:—

“Yesterday a catechumen, to-day a bishop; yesterday in the amphitheatre, to-day in church; at evening in the circus, in the morning at the altar; just now a patron of actors, now a consecrator of virgins.”[88]

Now, if we believe that there is a special grace given to those who solemnly dedicate themselves to a religious life, we should take good heed that the one who pretends or offers to administer this grace has indeed authority for so doing. But we find that no priest might consecrate virgins without the special delegation of his bishop.

One sisterhood in especial is content to be in perfect sympathy with the bishop of the diocese, and to accept at his hands the dedication that he is willing to give them. But how many are content to think they receive the especial grace of a sister’s life at the hands of a priest? If not, what means the ring on the hand of the alleged Bride of Christ? Who placed it there? By whose authority? It will be found that a priest has intruded into the bishop’s office; and the excuse made will probably be that no bishop of the Church of England would pretend to marry nuns to Christ, therefore priests must do it. But “there is not in the world a greater presumption, than that any should think to convey a gift of God, unless by God he be appointed to do it.”[89]

Then, again, in the administration of vows, this was wisely restricted to bishops in ancient days, but now priests usurp to themselves authority to do this, invito et inscio episcopo.

Surely this is of the essence of Presbyterianism, wherein the priest thinks that he has inherent in his priesthood powers which have been with general consent restricted to the office of bishop. If priests are to be found within the pale of our Church who are not content with the means of grace offered by the bishops, but pretend to supersede their authority in this matter, it is not surprising that other priests should be found who think themselves qualified to make a new breach, and erect themselves into legislators and judges, capable of re-enacting obsolete customs, and making them binding on the conscience.

But the inconveniency of this is seen to be the more intolerable, when these priests are found to pick and choose what customs or canons they see fit to exercise themselves upon. Still, be it remembered, it is only a question of enforcing these as a matter binding on the conscience of all, on pain of mortal sin: there is no question of enforcing this or that upon the individual conscience as convenient for discipline.

Some pick out fasting Communion, which was a custom of the Church, and insist on this, as Mr. Oxenham did in his sermon; and if his text has anything to do with the sermon, it must mean that, in Mr. Oxenham’s opinion, any person who, by neglecting fasting Communion, declines to hear the Church is to be excommunicated by the greater excommunication, “let him be unto you as a heathen man and a publican.” No wonder so monstrous a conclusion caused some indignation.

By what right, then, do priests administer the cup to the laity? This has been freely condemned in the West. By what right do any priests enter matrimony? Gratian’s Decretum, and all such books, are full of condemnation of such marriages. By what right are beards of priests allowed to grow, against the canon which says, “Sacerdos neque comam neque barbam nutriat?” This, too, for reverence of the sacrament, and well: for the writer has seen with abhorrence an oleaginous film separate itself in the chalice from the moustache of a bearded priest. By what right does any priest, in baptizing, pour water on any child which is not certified at the moment to be weak? The Church of England directs immersion; the ancient Church looked askance, to say the least, upon baptism by affusion without immersion: but are we, therefore, to insist upon “dipping” like Anabaptists? By what right do priests baptize at other times than Easter, or, at the most, Pentecost? This has been constantly condemned by many canons. By what right do priests communicate those whom they do not know to have confessed and received absolution? Yet this is canon law of England, to be found in Lyndwood, (and fasting Communion is not,) which has never been repealed in set terms.

It will be answered to this, By the right of the law or custom, positive or negative, of the Church of England: and it will be a right answer.

But let us ask, By what right does an individual priest say, that to communicate after any food is that “which God has forbidden,”[90] “a service which you have great reason to fear that He will never accept?” To such an one would St. Chrysostom address his scathing words, “Let them degrade the Lord Himself, Who after supper gave the Communion to His Apostles.” Let them excommunicate the Apostles for receiving after supper.

By what right do priests in England say, as some constantly do, that to communicate otherwise than fasting is a mortal sin? By no right, human or divine. If they know the meaning of what they say it is wicked in them, “making the heart of the righteous sad, whom God hath not made sad;” if they do not know the meaning, it is unpardonable in them to use such language at random.


SECTION V.—The Fast before the Jewish Passover.

A curious argument was put out in a newspaper some time back in support of the necessity of the fast before Communion, and it has been repeated in a little tract on the Holy Communion published lately.[91] It is this, that,—

“It carries on into the Christian passover the rule which the Jews observed, as they do to this day. When the Apostles came to the Last Supper they were fasting, so the only food they had eaten before the institution of the Sacrament was itself a religious and sacrificial feast. For on that occasion the Jewish and the Christian rites melted into one.”

This is the first reason assigned for the practice of “not taking anything to eat or drink from the previous midnight,” and an astonishing reason it seems to be; first, because the fast before the Passover was only from half-past four in the afternoon, and was to last two or three hours, in order that the unpalatable biscuits and bitter herbs might be eaten with seeming appetite, and did not last from the previous midnight; secondly, because it is extremely doubtful whether the Supper was the Paschal Supper (for it was not, according to St. John, the time of the Passover of the Jews), so that it cannot be certainly known whether the Apostles had or had not eaten for two hours and a-half before the Supper; lastly, because it seems to imply that the Paschal Supper did not break the fast.

It is proposed to say something on these points; and first, as to the duration of the “fast,” so-called. Here is the Latin translation of the passage in the Mishna which deals with the question. It is not worth while troubling the printer with the Hebrew; the Latin of Surenhuys[92] is given first:—

“Vesperi Paschatis propè Mincham non comedet homo, nisi obortæ fuerint tenebræ. Etiam pauper in Israele non comedet, nisi inclinatus.”

Compare this with the English translation from the Hebrew made by the two learned rabbis, De Sola and Raphall:—

“It is not lawful for any individual to eat aught on the eve of the Passover from about the time of Minchah until after dark: even the meanest in Israel shall not eat until they have arranged themselves in proper order at ease round the table; a person shall not have less than four cups of wine, even if they be given him from the charitable fund devoted to the support of the very poor.”[93]

That is the whole of the first section of the chapter. Now let us see what time is denoted by the Latin “propè Mincham” or the English “about the time of Minchah,” and then how soon the restriction against eating is removed, in order to ascertain how long a time the Jews were to abstain from food.

The following[94] is the explanation of Moses Ben Maimon, or Maimonides, of whom the Rabbis have said, “From Moses to Moses, there is none like Moses:”—

Near Minchah: at that time when there is still two hours and a-half of daylight, for that time is called Minchah. But the reason why we bind a man to this is, that he is bound to eat the unleavened bread the first night; and a man must be hungry to eat unleavened bread with relish. But when we forbid eating, it is not only to be understood of eating bread because bread (i.e. leavened bread) must not be eaten then, and we are forbidden to eat unleavened bread until the particular time when it ought to be eaten, but it is forbidden to eat MUCH[95] of other food. Again, we must eat with reclined body, as kings and nobles are accustomed to eat, which is a sign of freedom.”

Maimonides here gives us a hint of the time when the abstinence before the Passover commenced,—it was about two hours and a-half before sunset. He also helps us to the reason of the prohibition; viz. that the man may eat with an appetite.

Surenhuys gives us also the remarks of the Rabbi Bartenora,[96] which are as follows:—

About Minchah: a little before Minchah, half-an-hour, at four o’clock; for the daily sacrifice was sacrificed at half-past four, which is the time of the Minchah, but half-an-hour before Minchah is four o’clock, that no man shall eat, that he may eat the unleavened bread with a relish, out of respect for the commandment. But it is clear that he may not eat bread, because leaven is forbidden six hours and a-half before, and more.....But here our author speaks of other food, that he fill not his stomach with them, and be unable to eat the Passover.”

The two[97] come practically to the same thing, that a man is not to eat after about four o’clock or so. But, then, they agree that the man may eat a little, as it would seem, after dark has commenced. For Maimonides says that he must not eat much, and Bartenora, that he must not fill his stomach. It might be thought from this that the authors of the “Christian Passover” thought the Apostles were fasting because they had not “eaten much” or had not “filled their stomachs.” But, waiving this, it would be well to see when the Paschal Supper commenced, so as to test the duration of this imposed fast.

The hour would seem to have varied slightly. It was to be over before midnight; and the roasting the sacrifices was to commence at sundown, according to the oral law:[98] “When it became dark, they all went out to roast their paschal sacrifices.” We may suppose, then, that, on an average, the supper commenced at about nine o’clock; so that the abstinence from food would have been four or five hours. This would be about the ordinary interval between meals, or even less; so that there was not much claim on their self-denial in this so-called “fast.” It was clearly meant to provide that the Paschal Supper should be a real meal, and not only a pretence. A man, therefore, was to come to it as he would to an ordinary meal, and not immediately after other food.

With all due respect to the two learned authors of the “Christian Passover,” this does seem a very funny reason to place first, why “on the day when we prepare to receive the Holy Communion, we should not take anything to eat or drink from the previous midnight.” We are to fast from midnight, because the Jews did not: and because they laid down rules that a man was not to eat for four or five hours before the Paschal Supper, in order that he might come to it with his usual appetite for a meal.

But it will be said that there must be some grounds for the interpretation given in the letter in the newspaper alluded to above. Here is the main point of the letter as it stands, with its italics and capital letters, in the “Church Times” for June 4, 1869:—

“What is yet more to the point is this. The Jews were bound to come to the Paschal Supper FASTING. The tenth chapter of the treatise Pesachim (Passover) in the Talmud begins thus:—’It is not lawful for any individual to eat aught on the eve of the Passover, from about the time of Minchah [the morning Sacrifice] till dark: even the meanest in Israel shall not eat till they have arranged themselves in proper order at ease round the table.’”[99]

It will be seen that the letter quotes the translation of the Rabbis, De Sola and Raphall, (which has been given above,) the only deviation being the omission of the “after” before “dark,” and the substitution of the word “till” for “until.” But the words between the square brackets are the words seemingly of the author of the letter, who signs his name, “Richard F. Littledale.”

Now, as there is no erratum saying, “for morning sacrifice, read evening sacrifice,” we must believe that the writer of the letter thought that the word Minchah, when it stood alone without any qualification, always meant the morning sacrifice. Undoubtedly, if the author of the letter be Dr. Littledale, his name will weigh much in favour of this interpretation.

But he stands alone, and gives no authority, and the writer has failed to discover a single author who agrees with Dr. Littledale.

In the passage in question, it has been seen that the “best commentators” agree in understanding Minchah to mean some time in the evening. Let us recapitulate.

1. The giant of authority, Moses Maimonides, (born A.D. 1135, died 1204,) of whom the Rabbis say, “From Moses to Moses, there is none like Moses,” has been quoted, saying that Minchah means a time when the day has still two hours and a-half to run.

Then Lightfoot[100] quotes the three following Rabbis of lesser note.

2. Rabbi Alfes, (A.D. 1088).

3. Rabbi Solomon, (cir. A.D. 1200).

4. Rabbi Samuel, (cir. A.D. 1250).

5. Rabbi Obadiah de Bartenora, (cir. A.D. 1510,) has been quoted above, agreeing with these other Rabbis. Surenhuys,[101] of his commentaries says (as well as those of Maimonides), that they are “Commentaria omnium Rabbinorum probatissima.”

6. Next we find the elder Buxtorf (A.D. 1564), “the prince of Hebrew Scholars,” has no other opinion. His words are,[102] “pridie Paschatis sub vesperam, oblationis tempore, quod Mincha vocant;” that is, On the Passover eve at evening at the time of the oblation, which time they call Minchah.

7. Our own Lightfoot,[103] ponderous in all such knowledge, quotes the opinion approvingly, thus:—

“Near the time of the Minchah, (say the Glossaries upon that tradition,) meaneth a little before the evening sacrifice; and from that time they might eat nothing, that they might eat the unleavened bread, which was commanded, with appetite, for the honour of the command.”

8. Surenhuys himself, the editor of the “noble work, the favourite edition of the Mishna,”[104] does not disagree.

So that, if we only took the above authorities, we could hardly think that even Dr. Littledale could outweigh them. But in the first treatise of the Mishna we find the word Minchah used, and the meaning plentifully discussed. The following passage is from the translation of De Sola and Raphall:—

“The morning prayer may be said till noon; R. Jehudah saith, until the fourth hour. The Minchah prayer until the evening; R. Jehudah saith, until the expiration of half the time appointed for the Minchah sacrifice.”[105]

This is the first time the phrase occurs in the Mishna, and we have several explanations given in Surenhuys,[106] all of which are here given.

(i.) Maimonides writes thus:—

“Peleg hamminchah, dimidium Minchæ, is when there still remain two hours and a-half of day. He who prays until night, i.e. till sunset, let him say the prayer called Minchah.”

(2.) Rabbi de Bartenora writes at greater length thus:—

“Ad peleg hamminchah, usque ad dimidium Minchæ, the time of Little Minchah is from half-past three until night, which is two hours and a-half, and so the peleg hamminchah [the division of the Minchah] is an hour and a-quarter. But the solution of this question is, that anyone may do as this doctor, or as that holds; but he who wishes to do as the wise, and say the prayer of Minchah up to night-time, let him do it, but under this condition, that he say not the prayer of night at that time,” &c.

(3.) The learned Surenhuys himself comes in here with his help, which runs as follows:—

(4.) “It is asked in the Tosephot[107] at the beginning of the second chapter of Pesachim, fol. 107, how the afternoon prayer can be called the prayer of the Minchah, since the Minchah is offered in the morning as well? The answer is, that there is always added to the morning Minchah the word Shakarith, and therefore it is called Minchath Shakarith, and is thus sufficiently distinguished from the evening Minchah. Maimon says, indeed, that Minchah is a noun which denotes a certain time of day, and that this is called the second prayer, but he does not give the reason; (5), but R. Moses ben Nachman [born at Gerona A.D. 1194] remarks, that it is so called because then the sun rests, as it were, from pouring out his heat; and in this sense it is said in the Targum limnaach yoma,[108] in the repose of the day, and this is the Great Minchah, of which the wise speak,”

(6.) Next we have the learned note of our own countryman,[109] who was snatched by an early death, at the age of thirty-one, from adding to his knowledge, which was of European reputation. His name is best known under the Latin form Guisius:—

“Afternoon. Minchah, in the definition of Maimonides, embraces that space of the day when there remain two and a-half hours. Therefore, according to him, the middle of that time falls on the end of three quarters of the eleventh hour [a quarter to five o’clock]. So, too, Bartenora. But far otherwise writes a certain Arabic commentator on the Liturgy of the Alexandrian Jews, a MS. which the illustrious Robert Huntington[110] sent over from the East. (7.) He explains it thus: ‘The time when these prayers are said extends from the time when the decline of the sun becomes manifest, viz. from half-past one to sunset.’ And indeed Maimonides himself, later in his Yad Hachazaka, comes to the same opinion. But he remarks, that the whole afternoon is divided into two Minchoth, of which the first extends from half-past twelve to half-past three, and is called Minchah gedolah, the Great Minchah; that which follows until a quarter to five, or rather to sunset, is called Minchah qetannah, or Little Minchah. He lays down that the whole afternoon time is suitable for these prayers.”

It is quite clear, then, that wherever we turn we find it taken for granted, and agreed upon, that Minchah, when used alone, and without the distinctive qualification, is indicative of some time in the afternoon or evening. When, therefore, we find elsewhere in the Talmud Minchah used, we expect to find the afternoon or evening spoken of. Thus in the treatise “Sabbath,” we read in De Sola and Raphall,[111] “A man is not to sit down to the barber near the time of Minchah, till he has said his prayers,” In Surenhuys[112] the word is rendered unhesitatingly vespertinum sacrificium: and just the same kind of commentary is given in this passage.[113]

But if Dr. Littledale still thinks that the word Minchah, when used alone, does mean the morning sacrifice, how will he interpret the account of an event which happened two thousand years before Maimonides? In the history of the challenge of the prophets of Baal by Elijah, we read in the Authorized Version (I Kings xviii. 29, 36):—

“And it came to pass, when mid-day was past, and they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice nor any to answer, nor any that regarded. .... And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near.”

Now most of our children know that when words are in italics in our version it is because they have no place in the original, but are inserted to give the real meaning of the passage. The exact rendering here, then, would be, “at the going up of the Minchah.” This would be, according to the letter in the “Church Times,” the morning sacrifice. But apart from the unanimous consent of all commentators, common sense requires that the gloss of our Authorized Version should be accepted, even if we do not translate with Buxtorf, “donec ascenderet tempus vespertinum.”

If, therefore, Dr. Littledale has discovered in his search after knowledge that the Jewish Rabbis of greatest name, and Christian Hebraists of greatest fame, (not to mention the unknown Arabic commentator,) for the last eight hundred years are all wrong, he surely should give the world the reasons for his opinion, and not let it stand on his own ipse dixit. But if he does not do this, it is to be hoped in further editions of the seventh volume of the “Church Times” he will put the following erratum:—

P. 215, col. 2, line 47, for morning read evening.”

This letter probably misled Mr. Oxenham, at whose vigorous boldness we do not wonder, so much as at his extraordinary reference. He preaches thus:—

“We should remember that that ‘Supper’ was no common meal, the food they ate was no common food—it was a sacred sacrificial feast, one of the most solemn religious rites of the Jewish Church, and one to which they who shared it were bidden to come fasting. The Paschal Supper, therefore, bears no comparison with any ordinary meal, and the fact that the Apostles had eaten of that sacred feast before their first communion, affords no ground whatever to justify us in eating ordinary food. (Vide Freeman’s ‘Principles of D. S.,’ vol. ii. cap. ii. sects, ii. and iii.; also letter on Evening Communions, ‘Guardian,’ Nov. 27, 1872.)”[114]

Now that the Last Supper was a sacred meal is most probable à priori, and as such we most certainly must now regard it; and the great divine, Mede,[115] held that “the Bread and the Wine, whereof the holy Supper was instituted, were the Minchah, or meat and drink offering of the Passover.” So this need not surprise us; but what can we say to Mr. Oxenham’s references? The letter in the “Guardian” is signed “Richard F. Littledale,” and the remarks are much the same as that in the “Church Times,” the proton pseudos of which has been animadverted on before. But can it be believed? Archdeacon Freeman, in the passage quoted, I. mentions no word of fasting, and 2. argues that the Last Supper was NOT the Paschal Supper! He argues, and in the writer’s humble opinion well, that it was probably the usual Sabbath Eve service of the synagogue. This, therefore, would scatter to the winds all arguments that the Apostles were fasting, based upon the notion that it was the Paschal Supper.

If, then, we must ask Dr. Littledale the grounds of his contravening the opinions of eight centuries of Doctors, may we ask Mr. Oxenham for his commentary upon Archdeacon Freeman?

But, say the authors of the “Christian Passover,” the Jews observe fasting before the Passover Supper “to this day.” Unfortunately they have given no reference, and neither the writer nor one of the most learned Rabbis in London, whom he has consulted, have been able to discover the authorities for the assertion. Indeed, the following extract from a Talmudic tract[116] gives a reason why no pious Jew, with one exception in each family, does ever fast in the month of the Passover:—

Decision 2. Why do they not fast in the month of Nisan? Because on the first of Nisan the Tabernacle was founded, and the twelve chiefs offered their offerings for twelve days, a day for every tribe; and each one used to make festival on his day. And so, in the time to come, the Temple was to be built in Nisan, to make good what is said, ‘There is nothing new under the sun,’ [Eccles. i. 9].

Decision 3. Therefore, they say not prayers all the days of Nisan, and do not fast till Nisan is over, except the firstborn, who fast on the eve of the Passover; and the Essenes, on account of the Passover cake, that they may assemble for it with desire.”

Here is the one exception, the firstborn, who fast on the eve of the Passover: there is no other fast known now. This fast, too, was unknown in our Lord’s day. For there is no trace of it in the Talmud itself. The Talmudic tracts testify to their being later than the Talmud by their not being incorporated in it. Then the Talmudic commentary is later than the text of the Mishna, and the Mishna did not take its concrete form until some time after our blessed Lord.[117] It is quite clear, then, that the fast of the firstborn on the Passover eve (in remembrance of their safety while the Egyptian firstborn were slain), was unknown in our Lord’s day, as it is not heard of for some seven or eight hundred years after His death.

The learned Rabbi before mentioned assured the present writer that, though the Jews in Russia and Poland, and many of the English Jews, do not eat bread (i.e. leavened bread) the day before the Passover, they eat other food; but refrain so long before the Passover that they may eat, with some degree of appetite at all events, a small portion of the Passover cake. Thus, the ancient and modern Jews themselves seem quite ignorant of the devotion of “fasting,” before the Passover ascribed to them by the inventive exigences of modern rigorists.

Again, it is at the least very doubtful indeed whether the supper at which the Lord instituted the blessed Sacrament was, or was intended to be, the usual Paschal Supper. To the writer, the whole weight of the argument seems to shew that it was not the Paschal Supper, and was not thought to be so by the Apostles. This is not the place to argue the matter out, but the main reasons for this view are here given as concisely as possible.

The whole question turns on the point as to the day on which the Lord was crucified. If the Lord suffered on Friday, Nisan 14, then the Last Supper was not the true Passover feast. That such was the case depends on the following evidence:—

I. The almost universal tradition of the primitive Fathers.[118] This seems a sweeping statement; but two remarkable passages of St. Hippolytus[119] (d. cir. A.D. 240) will alone be quoted, for lack of room. Speaking against a quartodeciman, he says:—

“But he has fallen into error by not perceiving that at the time when Christ suffered, He did not eat the Passover of the Law! for He was the Passover that had been of old proclaimed.”

And again:—

“He, who said of old, ‘I will not any more eat the Passover,’ probably partook of supper before the Passover. But the Passover He did not eat, but He suffered, for it was not time for eating it.”

II. Jewish tradition, as seen in the Talmud: “On Passover Eve they crucified Jesus.”[120]

III. St. John’s statements on the subject, which are clear; viz. (a.) xviii. 28, “That they might eat the Passover.” This phrase always means eating the Paschal lamb in the night of Nisan 15. Hence, “early” on Friday morning, Nisan 15 had not commenced: compare Exod. xii. 43, 44; 2 Chron. xxx. 18; 2 Esdras vi. 21, (LXX.) For though “the Passover” sometimes was used to express other sacrifices beside the lamb, yet the phrase “eat the Passover” seems never used of any but the true Paschal Supper.

(b.) The special note of time given in St. John xiii. i, “before the feast of the Passover.”

(c.) St. John xix. 14; “The preparation of the Passover.” This can only mean the day preceding the Paschal Supper, viz. the day ending with sunset of Nisan 14.

(d.) St. John xix. 31; “Great was the day of that Sabbath,” is the exact grammatical rendering of the passage. This could only be said of the concurrence of the weekly Sabbath with the Paschal Supper of Nisan 15: “Great was the day which fell on that Saturday.”

IV. The peculiar character of the message sent to the “goodman of the house” would seem to denote something unusual, and not the usual Paschal feast. This is seen from (a) “The master saith;” (b) The confidential and peculiar terms of the message; and (c) The choice of the two chiefest Apostles as messengers, St. Luke xxii. 8, &c.

V. The Lord’s saying in St. Luke xxii. 15, seems to point to something unusual and peculiar.

VI. There are certain hints that the day of our blessed Lord’s death was not marked by that solemn rest which was required on the Paschal Sabbath. These are mostly taken from the three Synoptical Gospels. It must be remembered that Nisan 15 was one of the most strict Sabbaths of the whole year; compare Exodus xii. 22. After sunset of Nisan 14 no work was done, and no man left the house. If, then, this were the night when our Lord was seized, (a) our Saviour and His disciples brake the law, for they left the house; (b) so did the persecuting Jews; (c) so also did the whole Sanhedrin, who also brake the oral law, which forbade a trial on that day; (d) so did the disciples who buried the Lord; (e) so did the holy women who prepared spices before the Sabbath in its severity commenced, St. Luke xxiii. 56; (f) so did Simon the Cyrenian, who was coming home from his work in the field; (g) neither would the day have been called “the Preparation,” or “the Preparation of the Passover,” a name ever since given to the day of the Lord’s death in the Christian Church. (h) Judas was supposed to have gone out to buy something, whereas the strictness of the Sabbath precluded the possibility of buying and selling.

VII. Lastly, the antitypical nature of the Lord’s sacrifice, (I Cor. v. 7). This would seem to have required that at the moment of the Lord’s death the Paschal Lamb should have been sacrificed. Indeed, if the Sabbath of Nisan 15 that year coincided with the weekly Sabbath, then probably the supernatural darkness prevented[121] the offering of the daily sacrifice of the lamb, as well as the Paschal Lamb: a fitting cessation in the presence of the Sacrifice of the true Lamb of God. The same may be said of the offering of the wave-sheaf of the firstfruits of the harvest, on the morrow after the Paschal Sabbath, that mighty type of the Resurrection.

But be this as it may, the question is too doubtful for the admission of the argument that the Apostles must have been fasting, even for four or five hours, because it was the Paschal Supper they were to partake of.

Next, it seems to be implied that the Paschal Supper was not supposed to break this “fast” of four or five hours. “When the Apostles came to the Last Supper they were fasting, so the only food they had eaten before the institution of the Sacrament was itself a religious and sacrificial feast.” This is given as a reason for Christians fasting from the midnight previous, because the Apostles had not taken food for four or five hours, in order that they might eat the more before the institution! It seems strange. It would seem as if the Eucharist was to be a memorial of the Jews’ Passover from such an argument. At all events, so far were the early Church from thinking the Last Supper did not break the fast of the Apostles, that they had in some places a feast in commemoration of the Last Supper, and celebrated the Eucharist afterwards. It was only in modern times that the Eucharist was said not to break the fast, as some used to refrain from Communion when they were fasting[122] lest they should break the fast.

Indeed, if the Jews did fast before the Passover, which seems problematical, it is perchance an interesting historical fact, but can hardly be pressed into a “reason” why a Christian should fast before Holy Communion. This only depends on an oral law, whereas the strictness of the ceremonial Sabbath, depending on a written law, has been entirely abolished. For the true interpretation of the Fourth Commandment is that still given by the English Church in spite of puritanical opposition,[123] “to serve God truly all the days of my life.”

SECTION VI.—The Authority of Individual Fathers.

“Une des causes du relâchement de la discipline et de la corruption des moeurs dans les derniers siècles, a été de prendre pour lois les opinions des Docteurs particuliers.” Thus wrote the historian Fleury,[124] and his opinion on such a matter will be the more valuable, since his particular line of study must have forced him to consider the question. But all must have observed that quotations from the Fathers are apt to be adduced as if they were conclusive on a subject, without respect being had to the particular value of the quotation. Such quotations must be received with respect, but they do not bind the conscience, nor do they necessarily cause blame to attach to those who do not agree with them. The answer of Archbishop Hypatius of Ephesus, in A.D. 533, to some Eutychians, is much to the purpose. Certain Easterns, invited to a conference by the Emperor Justinian, had quoted some passages from St. Cyril, which seemed to them to bear an Eutychian face. “We receive,” said the archbishop, “whatever agrees with his Synodal letters, which have been approved in the councils, viz., the letter to Nestorius, and the letter to the Easterns. What is not agreeable to these we neither condemn nor receive as an ecclesiastical law.”[125] This seems to give the exact position of an extract from a Father:—we neither accept it as of itself binding, nor reject it as of no value.

Such quotations shew that certain opinions were held without blame, or that certain customs obtained, at the time of their being written. But in the matter of customs, that doctors of great name have spoken strongly in favour of them does not necessitate their being continued always in the Church.

We have seen that, in the third and fourth centuries and later, there were gross habits of eating, which have now amongst us in England entirely passed away; so that, the cause[126] for the custom of communicating fasting having with us passed away, the passages in particular Fathers may all the less be pressed into a law for us now.

Still, as a passage of St. Augustine found its way into Gratian’s Decretum, as a law of the Church, it may be well to examine some few passages which have been quoted from individual Fathers, as well as the canons which are commonly cited.

First stands the passage in St. Augustine, which has been extracted from his Epistle to Januarius, and appears[127] in Gratian and in St. Thomas. This has been spoken of before, and it has been shewn that though he spoke in strong terms of the prevalent custom of fasting Communion, yet he allowed the African custom of receiving after a Maundy on Maundy Thursday. He probably had been present, some three years before he wrote, at the third Council of Carthage (A.D. 397), which had recognised this feast on Maundy Thursday, and he could not well use language which would seem to be antagonistic to the decree of a council held so short a time before. We can hardly think, then, that the passage will bear the stress which is laid upon it by some. But this has been spoken of above.

Next, there is the strong passage from St. Chrysostom. He is writing in self-defence against his adversaries, who had brought all sorts of accusations against him falsely; and he says:—

“They prepared many accusations against me, and they say I gave the Communion to some after eating. If I did this, let my name be wiped out of the catalogue of bishops, and not be written in the book of the orthodox faith. Since, behold, if I did any such thing, let Christ cast me out of His kingdom.”[128]

This, at first sight, would seem to be an expression of the extreme abhorrence of the saint at such a course of action. But, if we read on, we see that all these adjurations are only vehement assertions of the truth of the fact of which he was writing. For he goes on to say, that though it was not true that he had done so, yet if he had, he would have committed no great sin.

“But if they still go on to object this, let them degrade St. Paul, who baptized a whole house after supper. Let them also depose the Lord Himself, who gave the Communion to His Apostles after supper.”

But Bingham,[129] who quotes this passage, goes on to quote another passage, shewing that the adversaries of the great preacher also accused him of administering the Sacrament of Baptism otherwise than fasting. This accusation is met in a precisely similar manner.

“They say, ‘Thou didst eat and didst baptize.’ If I did so, let me be anathema; let me not be numbered in the roll of bishops; let me not be among the angels; let me not please God. But if I did eat and baptize, I did nothing unseasonable to such matters. . . . Well, let them depose Paul, who baptized the jailor after supper. Yea, I dare to say this thing, let them depose Christ Himself, for He gave the Communion to His disciples after supper.”[130]

If, then, the language of St. Chrysostom be strained in the first passage to mean that to celebrate the blessed Sacrament otherwise than fasting was an unpardonable offence, then the same must be said of baptizing. But, indeed, neither passage can bear this interpretation. The orator had been accused of a certain thing; he denies it, and swears solemnly and awfully that he did not do it; and then says that, after all, if he had done it, he would only have been doing what St. Paul and the Lord Himself had done.

Elsewhere, however, St. Chrysostom does speak of the laity as fasting; but he also shews the necessity of it, since he blames his hearers for offending by excess directly after communicating.

“Thou fastest before them dost partake, so that somehow or other thou mayest shew thyself worthy of communion, but when thou hast received, and it is necessary to continue temperance, thou dost ruin all.”[131]

In order, then, to meet this abuse, he says that it is more necessary that men should refrain after than before. For he goes on to say, “You ought to be temperate before and after, but most specially after you have received the Bridegroom.” In consequence of this danger, it was afterwards laid down that men must fast for six hours or so after reception. No wonder, then, that men communicated rarely, when each communion necessitated a twelve hours’ fast. A body with appetites has been given to man by his Creator, and such rules as these are what few would be able to bear. As St. Thomas says of this subsequent fast, it was abrogated, quia non POSSET de facili observari. But of this something will be said in the next section.

Still, if St. Chrysostom be pressed to mean that Christians in England now are bound to fast from midnight before their Communion, though this custom has been “abrogated by the contrary custom” of three centuries he must also, in all consistency, be felt to bear hard upon St. Thomas, for saying the subsequent fast had been “abrogated by the contrary custom” of not more than one century.

But whether this be so or not, it is clear there was good reason, from the prevalent habits of excess, for the custom of receiving fasting. For the same reason, bishops were forbidden to confirm,[132] or catechumens to receive the grace of confirmation, unless they were fasting.

There is no doubt that in the fifth century it was a custom of the Church as a rule to receive fasting; but neither St. Augustine nor St. Chrysostom say that it was a custom which might never be changed, or that it was a law of God. On the contrary, St. Austin says he dare not forbid men to receive after dinner; and St. Chrysostom bids the rigorists degrade the Lord Himself if they wish to condemn such a thing.

St. Augustine, then, and St. Chrysostom did not, either of them, believe that the Apostles were fasting when they received, nor did they feel constrained to invent the wild theory, that it was past 12 o’clock when they did receive, and that therefore they were fasting “the natural fast,” that is, a fast from the beginning of the day, for they would have known that the day of the Jews commenced with sundown, and not at midnight. The rule that the “natural fast” was to begin at midnight, was a rule invented in the Middle Ages as a matter of ecclesiastical convenience, which required that it should be laid down with exactness when the fast was to commence, even to saying which clock should be taken if several in the town varied.[133]

Tertullian, (about A.D. 200,) again, speaking of a Christian wife of a heathen, says,[134] “Will not thy husband know what thou art tasting secretly before all other food?” In this passage he bears witness to the custom of receiving (i) before other food (2) the reserved portio Dominica (3) which had been carried home. But the custom of taking this home has been abandoned everywhere without any contrary enactment of the Church at large, because the Church has freedom to celebrate in public without persecution. In England, too, the custom of reservation has been abandoned, because of the notoriously gross profanation of the Sacrament about the time of the Reformation. The two latter customs have been abandoned with good reasons for their disuse. The third custom, too, has been for some time discontinued in England. But if it were allowed always to communicate in one’s bedroom before going out, there would not be so much reason to wish that fasting Communion be not re-enforced. This passage, therefore, cannot be claimed as enforcing fasting Communion, unless reservation, and carrying away the Sacrament, and private reception, be also insisted on. It can only be cited as bearing witness to customs then in use in Africa, and not as testifying to a law binding now in England.

Again, Tertullian was not writing to A or B, whose habits he did not know except from the general custom of Christians, as Mr. Oxenham’s hearers or readers would understand him to mean when he says (p. 11), “Tertullian, in the second century, writing to a Christian woman who had a heathen husband, inquires,” &c. But then Mr. Oxenham, as we have already seen, has not had leisure to verify his quotations. Tertullian is writing to his own wife, advising her on the question of second marriage after his death, in case he died first. He, therefore, was acquainted with all her particular and private habits, and appeals to her from his knowledge of these not to marry a heathen. Is it fair to argue from the private habits of Tertullian’s wife that all Christians did the like? is not this to generalize from the particular?

The following note of good Bishop Fell upon the letter of St. Cyprian against the Aquarii is quoted for what it is worth:—

“Constat etiam Eucharistiam licet horis antelucanis surntam, vespere etiam distribui solitam; cujus rei locuples testis Tertullianus lib. de Cor. c. 3, Eucharistiæ sacramentum tempore victus de Præsidentium manu sumimus. Et alibi monet ut finitis stationibus sumatur. Consuetudo post cœnam communicandi diu duravit in Ecclesia. Socrates enim ait, lib. v. c. 22, &c.”

This seems to quote Tertullian on the other side as saying that the Sacrament of the Eucharist was taken after food. But the text of the passage remains as turbid as much of the other eloquence of the vigorous African; his meaning does not shine clear. The passage runs as follows, as given in the text of Rigaltius (Paris, 1675, p. 102):—

“Eucharistiæ Sacramentum, et in tempore victus, et omnibus mandatum a Domino, etiam antelucanis cœtibus, nec de aliorum manu quam præsidentium sumimus.”

The meaning of the passage has presented itself thus to the translator in Clark’s “Ante-Nicene Library:”—

“We take also in meetings before daybreak, and from the hand of none but the president, the Sacrament of the Eucharist, which the Lord both commanded to be eaten at meal-times, and enjoined to be taken by all alike.”

A careful analysis of the passage would seem to shew that this rendering is sufficiently accurate, unless the text be corrupt. But in the “Library of the Fathers” the rendering is different:—

“The Sacrament of the Eucharist, commanded by the Lord at the time of supper, and to all, we receive even at our meetings before day break, and from the hands of no others than the heads of the Church.”

This confines too narrowly the meaning of victus, and wholly ignores one et. No other meaning can be given to in tempore victus than “at the time of a meal,” or “at meal-time.” If, then, the first et be translated, the passage must run thus:—“Commanded by the Lord both at meal-time and to all,” which comes to pretty much the same as the first rendering, and in this sense Bishop Fell seems to have cited the passage.

If some would argue that antelucanis cœtibus is not a meal-time, we must remember that it was the time of the jentaculum, which, as Martial tells us, was taken about 3 or 4 A.M.; and St. Ambrose, writing a century later, speaks of a dissolute youth “antelucanis potibus ebrius.”

It has been suggested that if a slight alteration of the punctuation be made, we shall arrive at a nearer approximation to the meaning of Tertullian. If we read “omnibus mandatum a Domino (etiam antelucanis) cœtibus,” the meaning will be,—

“We take the Sacrament of the Eucharist, commanded by the Lord to be taken both at meal-time and at all our assemblies (even those before daybreak), and this at the hands of none but the presidents.”

This seems to represent the meaning of the passage, and may be explained by St. Chrysostom’s saying, quoted before, that at every synaxis there was a celebration. But however the passage (as it stands) be translated, so long as grammatical accuracy is attended to, there must be some connection between meal-time and the celebration, which is inconsistent with the notion that in Tertullian’s time fasting Communion was the constraining custom of the Church; for if it were, Tertullian the ascetic must have alluded to it in the passage. A little before he had said that after baptism, the newly-illuminated abstained from the bath for a week; and it is inconceivable that Tertullian would here have placed in such near juxtaposition the phrase “meal-time” and “the Sacrament of the Eucharist,” without some explanatory caution, if at the time a previous fast from midnight had been necessary to Communion.

St. Basil, too, (in the fourth century,) is quoted as bearing witness to the custom as constraining priests. He is speaking of Samson’s fast from wine as a Nazarene, and the context of the passage is as follows:—

“Fasting produces prophets, invigorates the strong. Fasting makes legislators wise, is a good guard of the soul; a wholesome messmate of the body, armour to the brave, training to the athlete. This beats off temptations, this stimulates to piety, is companion of temperance, worker of self-control. In wars it plays the man, in peace it teaches quiet. It hallows the Nazarene, it perfects the priest. For without fasting one may not venture on the work of a priest, not only in the present mystic and true worship, but also in the typical worship offered according to the law.”[135]

This passage will hardly bear restriction to the present custom of a fast from midnight, because St. Basil distinctly compares it to the fasting habits of the Nazarenes in abstaining from wine, and of the Levitical priests, when they entered on their work in the tabernacle.[136] This would not in the least exclude a light breakfast of bread and coffee.

All these (excepting perhaps St. Basil) are testimonies to the custom of receiving fasting, but they are not authorities which assert a perpetual law commanding obedience. The particular statements of individual Fathers do nothing more than evidence the existence of a practice, which will excuse its use in individuals now, it may be; but they cannot be received as binding, unless they be sanctioned by a law continually enforced.

For example; St. Augustine says that persons in North Africa did not wash in Lent. This is not a custom which can be held binding in London, where, during the time of Lent at least, the air is liable to be less pure than in Africa. We refrain from blaming the ancients for not obeying the Lord’s injunction, “When thou fastest, wash thy face;” but we claim liberty for ourselves in this respect. Similarly, we find that from just causes the Lord’s example of communicating after supper has been given up, and thereby profanation has been guarded against. The same causes still hold with respect to midnight Communions, and therefore in London they are now generally forbidden amongst Roman Catholics, although according to their technical law a man is fasting at five minutes after midnight, though he have eaten and drunk to excess five minutes before midnight. The midnight Christmas Communion has been also given up in some London churches where for some years it had been customary. The same causes still hold against evening Communions, therefore Bishop Wilberforce well and wisely spoke in condemnation of them. But the same causes do not hold with respect to morning Communions; and there is nothing yet adduced which shews that even in the times of St. Chrysostom or St. Augustine the usual light breakfast with tea, or coffee, or chocolate, or cocoa, would have been regarded as a bar to communicating three or four hours afterwards.

The following passage from the previously-cited Homily of St. Basil may be instructive here. The Benedictine Editor says of it: “The Eucharist is here indicated in no obscure manner, the frequenters of which receive the Lord Himself, and not a figure or shadow of the Lord:”—

“Do you know Who it is you are about to receive? He that promised us, I and the Father will come, and will make our abode with him. Why, then, do you first take up the ground with drunkenness, and block up the entrance to the Lord? Why do you urge the enemy to pre-occupy your strongholds? Drunkenness does not receive the Lord: drunkenness chases away the Holy Spirit. For indeed, smoke chases away bees, and the fumes of drunkenness chase away spiritual gifts.”[137]

It is impossible to suppose that St. Basil would have written thus, if he had known that it was a law of the Church that men should fast from all food from midnight before reception, under pain of mortal sin.

Nor, again, has there been any proof advanced that the present distinction between a natural fast and an ecclesiastical fast existed in early times. St. Augustine[138] tells us that the most severe fasters in his time (with a few notorious exceptions, who were wondered at) ate in the night time, like the Mohammedans in their fast. St. John Cassian,[139] in the fifth century, speaking of the monks of Egypt, tells us that they had no uniform rule about fasting, because this depended on vigour of body, and not vigour of mind; but he says no word about distinctions of fasts. There is nothing therefore to shew that the various passages usually quoted from particular Fathers, about fasting Communion, must be understood of the so-called “natural fast,” i.e. a fast from midnight next preceding. We cannot say that they would not have called the Apostles “fasting,” as the authors of the “Christian Passover” do, supposing they had voluntarily abstained from food for four or five hours. The real essence of a corporal fast, as distinguished from mere hunger, is that the disposition of body at that time is voluntary.

But if all the Fathers severally had said that they did mean that Communion should be preceded by a fast from midnight, this would command our respect, but not oblige the conscience; for the laws of the Church do not depend upon the particular statements of individual Fathers, but upon the collective utterance of a council.


SECTION VII.— The Fast after Communion.


But not only was a fast before Communion advisable and perhaps necessary in former times, when excess in eating was the rule, but there was a constant tendency towards insisting on a fast after reception. This we see, for example, in the complaints of St. Chrysostom, that men fasted indeed before, but spoiled all by excess directly after, communicating:—

“Let us all also listen to these words, as many of us as come to this Sacred Table with the poor. When we leave we do not seem to have seen them; but we even get drunk and hurry by the hungry: of which the Corinthians also were accused. And when does this happen? say you. Always, and specially at festivals, when specially it ought not to happen. For then, after Communion drunkenness succeeds, and contempt of the poor. And when you have received the Blood, when should be your time for fasting and soberness, you play drunken tricks, and make merry. Why, even if you have taken something very excellent at luncheon [ariston], you are careful not to spoil the first with any other unpleasant food; yet when you have been feasting on the Spirit, you bring in on the top of this a delicacy of Satan. Consider, when the Apostles partook of those Sacred Suppers, what they did. Did they not betake themselves to prayer and hymnody? Was it not to holy vigils? Was it not to that long discourse abounding in much thoughtful wisdom? For then He recounted and taught them those great and wonderful things, when Judas had gone to summon His crucifiers. Did you not hear how the three thousand who enjoyed the Communion continued stedfastly in prayer and in doctrine, and not in drunkenness and revellings? And you indeed fast before you partake, so that somehow or other you may shew yourself worthy of the Communion; but when you have received, and ought to protract your temperance, you ruin all. Yet, indeed, it is not of equal importance to fast before and after, for truly you ought to be temperate at both times, but most specially after you have received the Bridegroom. Before this, then, that you may be worthy to receive; and after, that you may not shew yourself unworthy of what you have received. What, then, is it necessary to fast after receiving? I do not say this, nor do I bind you down to it. For this, too, were good, yet I do not enforce it, but I do exhort you not to feast to excessive repletion.”[140]

The same was complained of in England in the tenth century:—

“It is a very bad custom that many men practise both on Sundays, and also on other mass-days, that is, that straightways, at early morn, they desire to hear mass, and immediately after mass, from, early morn, the whole day over, in drunkenness and feasting they minister to their belly, not to God.”[141]

This, then, was met by a custom of a fast after Communion, which we find alluded to in the sixth century at the second Council of Macon (A.D. 585). For although this speaks of reception of the residue of the consecrated elements, and that seemingly by those who were not generally communicants, yet the reception is the same, and there is the same reason for reverence. Thus, then, runs the canon:—[142]

“Whatever residue of the sacrifices remain over in the Sacrarium after celebration of mass, let children be brought to the church on Wednesday or Friday by him whose business it is, and a fast having been enjoined them (indicto eis jejunio) let them receive the same residue with wine poured over.”[143]

Here there is no word of an antecedent fast, but there is of a subsequent fast. Probably the reason why the antecedent fast is not spoken of is, because the children were generally brought after school, when they had not eaten for some time; and therefore there was no fear of antecedent excess. That the children were brought after school, and therefore just before a meal, is seen from the story told by Evagrius,[144] of the Jew’s child being taken with the other children at Constantinople. The child did not return at the usual hour from school, and therefore the father asked the reason of his being late. The boy told him the reason, and the infuriate father threw the child into his furnace, from which his mother took him unharmed two days afterwards. Now this shews that it was usual to take the children at such time as they would be naturally expected at home: otherwise the unbelieving Jew would not have learned what his son had been doing. It also shews that there could have been no question asked about any antecedent fast, for the Jews did not fast on Wednesdays or Fridays, even if we suppose it was on a Wednesday or Friday that this happened, as is spoken of at Macon. Neither does Evagrius say that at Constantinople there was a subsequent fast. But this subsequent fast seems to have been introduced (after Evagrius wrote, perhaps), for it appears in this canon of Macon. It would seem, then, that if an antecedent fast were required of these children, it was only the usual abstinence from food between meals; the children had been to school, and then instead of going home they went to church; therefore, as they came to church from school, they were regarded as fasting, and no questions were asked on this score, and no enactment made in this canon of Macon. Only they were bidden to abstain voluntarily for some time afterwards from food, indicto eis jejunio, and then communicated.

It may be remarked in passing, that this is an argument that the Fathers at Macon in the sixth century, and at Constantinople in the fourth, would have reckoned a worshipper as fasting at noon, if he had taken an early light breakfast.

The next notice we have of this subsequent fast is in the passage quoted by Gratian from the supposititious letter of St. Clement to James, the brother of the Lord. This passage, as Berardi[145] points out, is probably from the Capitularia Regum Francorum, of the ninth century. Thus the passage runs:—

“Let so much holocaust for certain be offered on the altar as ought to suffice the people. But if any remain over, let it not be reserved to the morrow; but with fear and trembling, let it be consumed by the diligence of the clergy. But let not them who consume the residue of the Body of the Lord in the Sacrarium immediately betake themselves to the reception of other food, lest they think to mingle common food with the sacred portion. If, therefore, the Lord’s portion be eaten early, let the ministers who consumed it fast till twelve o’clock; and if they have received at nine or ten o’clock, let them fast until the evening.”[146]

It is worth while, in passing, to remark how our own rubric is framed on this passage:—

If any remain of that which was consecrated, it shall not be carried out of the church, but the Priest, and such other of the Communicants as he shall then call unto him, shall, immediately after the Blessing, REVERENTLY eat and drink the same.”

Here, then, a subsequent abstaining from food for five or six hours after Communion prevailed in France in the ninth century; and perchance we may say that Gratian, by incorporating it into his Decretum, recognised its existence at least in the twelfth century.

It would be natural to suppose that this regulation would be found too rigorous for continuance; and we find that in the thirteenth century it had passed away altogether.[147] Some tell us, indeed, that Divine Grace is always given to those who simply and devoutly follow the custom and precepts of the Church, even in the power or capability of fasting for lengthened periods. If this were the case, what need were there for canon law forbidding lengthened fasts? What need for discontinuing this practice of fasting for six hours or so after receiving? Surely there is much more real truth in the position of St. John Cassian, that spiritual virtues and capacity for corporal austerities do not stand on the same ground. At all events St. Thomas seems to have thought so, for he ascribes the neglect of the fast subsequent to Communion not to decay of devotion, but to increase of devotion, viz., to the multiplication of celebrations. For thus St. Thomas writes:—

“According to the ancient canons it was laid down by Pope Clement I. (Epist ii. near beginning), as is told in the Decretum de Cons., dist. ii. cap. 23. If the Lord’s portion be eaten in the morning, let the ministers who took it fast till noon; and if they received at nine or ten o’clock, let them fast till evening. For anciently the solemnities of mass were celebrated less frequently, and with greater preparation. But now, since we must celebrate the sacred mysteries oftener, it CANNOT be easily observed; and therefore it has been ABROGATED BY THE CONTRARY CUSTOM.”[148]

St. Thomas, then, does not say that this custom had been given up because, from lack of piety, men would not seek grace to maintain this corporal austerity; he says, that “it cannot be easily observed.” We can hardly think that St. Thomas would have maintained, as some do nowadays, that capacity for corporal fasting is a necessary consequence of, and is always given in answer to, devout worship. Nothing of this kind does St. Thomas say, but “non posset de facili observari.”

Next, St. Thomas says that this canon, as he thinks it, of St. Clement, has been abrogated. But how? does he say with Mr. Poyntz, this “not having been repealed, is still in force?” no, he does not; he says it has been “abrogated by the contrary custom.”

So, then, St. Thomas would agree with the main argument of this pamphlet.

Here is a custom which St. Thomas thinks comes from no less antiquity than that of one who was contemporary with the Apostles themselves; aye, from one of whom an Apostle said, his name was in the Book of Life. This was laid down, statutum, by St. Clement, Pope of Rome. It is a decree concerning reverence due to the most sacred office of the Christian religion; a decree which has for its object greater devotion to our blessed Lord Himself; and St. Thomas, without hesitation or apology, says it cannot be kept, and therefore has been abrogated, not by direct enactment of any council, nor by the decree of any succeeding pope, but by the contrary custom.

I therefore maintain, that just as the custom of fasting after reception, which prevailed at one time, “has been abrogated by the contrary custom,” as St. Thomas says; so now in England the custom of fasting from the previous midnight before reception has also “been abrogated by the contrary custom.” And for the same reason, quia non posset de facili observari, “because it cannot be easily observed.”




NEARLY thirty years back a young priest was staying, shortly after the Embertide at which he was ordained, at Hursley. It was suggested that he should celebrate almost for the first time in the parish church, in order to release the Vicar, who wished to celebrate at one of the hamlets. This offer having been accepted, he said on the Saturday evening, “Please do not expect me at breakfast to-morrow.” This gave rise to some conversation, which was reported to Keble. Upon being appealed to, he said, with a sad smile, “It is a good custom,” and said nothing more. Herein, be it said, he was strictly accurate. He said not, it is a law of the Church to be obeyed under pain of sin, but, “it is a good custom.” In similar manner writes Bishop Jeremy Taylor:—

“It is a Catholic custom, that they who receive the Holy Communion should receive it fasting. This is not a duty commanded by God; but unless it be necessary to eat, he that despises this custom gives nothing but the testimony of an evil mind.”[149]

Let it be not for a moment supposed that it is the wish of the writer to despise this custom. It is argued here that as a matter of fact it has been abrogated by disuser, and by the prevalence of the contrary custom, the original reason of the custom having passed away. Indeed, the same reason does not exist now as it did even in Bishop Taylor’s days. The Ductor Dubitantium (from which the above extract is taken) was passing through the press when the following was published. The extract is from a book issued in 1659, and is quoted by D’Israeli in his “Curiosities of Literature:”—

“This coffa-drink hath caused a great sobriety among all nations: formerly apprentices, clerks, &c., used to take their morning draughts in ale, beer, or wine, which often made them unfit for business; now they play the good fellows in this wakeful and civil drink.”[150]

If they were unfit for business, how much more for devotion! But this unfitness in the morning has now passed away, and with it the absolute necessity of fasting Communion. In its place the contrary custom has prevailed, and to do away with this now would imperil the present most laudable habit of frequent Communion.

Such, at least, was the opinion of John Mason Neale during his last sickness. It is no breach of confidence to publish his opinion, because he was aware, when he gave it, that it was asked with the object of ascertaining his ripened view; and the writer has especial leave to publish the narrative. One of his oldest friends visited him shortly before his death, and among other questions of the day discussed with him the matter of obligatory fasting Communion, a subject which was then attracting notice. After some conversation, he expressed his full agreement with his friend, that it was NOT binding on persons living in the world within our communion, and that it would be harmful to try to enforce it; but, at the same time, he thought it should be held to bind those who had specially devoted themselves to a more devout life, to sisters of mercy and others who followed a religious profession; that is, that it should be made a rule of special devotion.

He had specially present to his mind the danger of attempting to enforce a rule which had been proved to make Communions less frequent than the early Church desired. With this deliberate decision of a master in Israel most (it is hoped) will agree. If persons wish to express their deepening love, let this be one of their rules; but do not let them shew spiritual pride in despising or condemning others who do not fast from the previous midnight.

Has it not been found, over and over again, that attempts at extreme rigour do not command obedience for long? At Trinity College, Cambridge, some fifteen years or so ago, there was a custom on solemn fast-days to have Matins at 8 o’clock instead of 7, and Evensong at 3 o’clock instead of 6. Was not this a relic of medieval abbreviation of the fast between these two services? Then with respect to the recitation of the Psalter. The Psalter was divided that priests might say it through once a-week, but by introducing “offices of devotion” and multiplied festivals, the Psalms have been so curtailed, that “in point of fact, according to the practice of the modern Roman Church, a priest is in the habit of reciting about fifty Psalms, and not more; these fifty being, on the whole, the shortest of the Psalter.”[151] Thus the recitation of the Psalter is cut down to less than a third.

The name Breviary itself probably bears witness to abbreviated devotions, and these are even now too long to allow of much thought. An Italian priest, who had just finished his Matins for next day, at four in the afternoon, was asked if the saying of the Breviary did not occupy much time. He said, “No, an hour and a-quarter every day.” But it was objected, this did not allow much time for thought; to which he replied, “Oh, dear no! that is not at all required.” Well, therefore, does our Church require the priest “who ministereth in any parish church or chapel,” to say his Matins and Evensong in public, and allow only those who have no control over a public sanctuary to say it in private.

Then, in ancient days the Psalter used to be said through daily, as witness St. Patrick, St. Kentigern, St. Maurus, St. Egbert, and St. Alcuin.[152] This issued in the cathedral and collegiate chapters saying it daily, collectively; that is, each one member would daily say the same three, or five, or ten Psalms, so that the whole Psalter would be divided amongst the fifty, or thirty, or fifteen members of the chapter, and thus recited daily. The Psalms thus to be said at St. Paul’s, London, are still known,[153] as well as those of Sarum and Lincoln. At Lincoln they are said to be recited to this day! All honour to the prebendaries!

But are there no other instances of enforced rigour bearing evil fruit, or being explained away by laxity? What is the result of compulsory sacerdotal celibacy? Let the records of the cathedrals tell it; let Church history tell it, if it dare; let the quantities of canons and restrictions in every Corpus Juris Ecclesiastici tell it; let the celibate Bishop Forbes tell it, as he does, in his valuable commentary on the Thirty-second Article.[154]

Then, how sad an example is given in the rapid decadence of Communion. Frequent Communion was the rule of the early Church, as witnessed by many canons, by passages of the Fathers, some of which appear in Gratian’s Decretum.[155] But when the fast before became insisted on, and the fast after became recommended, the Communion of each man sank to thrice a-year, and this soon after came to be an Easter Communion.

It “was, doubtless, with such thoughts as these before his mind, that John Mason Neale expressed his deliberate opinion that it was not advisable to insist upon the abrogated custom of fasting Communion, excepting in cases of those devoted to a religious life.

When the custom arose is uncertain. It is true, St. Augustine thinks that St. Paul must have instituted it after the Corinthian profanation. But the quotations from the Fathers do not seem to bear out the universality claimed for the custom.

It is curious and instructive to see how the quotations from the Fathers grew, and how much work this one quotation from St. Augustine has done. This one quotation appears in almost all,[156] if not all, the old ritualists, up to the time of Gratian. Then Gratian (cir. 1150) incorporated it in his Decretum.[157] St. Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274)[158] seems to know no more than the stock quotation from St. Austin, which is pressed farther than the context will allow, as has been seen before. Gabriel Biel[159] (cir. 1490) quotes nothing more. The “King’s Book” (1543) quotes the same.[160] The exhaustive and once popular Summa Summarum of Sylvestro Mazzolini[161] (cir. 1550) makes no further reference than to Gratian. Bp. Jeremy Taylor[162] (cir. 1660) seems content with this one extract from St. Augustine. Then comes a change, and the erudition of Cardinal Bona[163] (A.D. 1671) brought some new quotations from the Fathers into the field. He first quoted the passages now used by all who speak of the subject; though, as we have seen before in the sixth section of the second chapter, these quotations can none of them be pressed so far as some would press them: Tertullian speaks solely of home consumption of the reserved Portio Dominica, and that by his own wife, whose habits he knew; St. Basil is not at all to the point; St. Gregory and St. Cyprian merely speak of the time of day. Since the time of Bona nothing new has been discovered; in-, deed, Le Nourry, in his apparatus to the Fathers, leaves out the reference to St. Basil, as not to the point; Mr. Scudamore, however, retains it.[164]

If it were of such paramount necessity in early times, as some would persuade us, we should expect to find further reference to the question. We should hardly expect to find St. Basil writing as he wrote in his Sermon on Fasting, quoted [above]; and we should expect to find canons speaking of its necessity, and no such divergence of practice as is seen in Socrates.

St. Cyprian, too, (cir. 250,) would not have omitted to blame the Aquarians for celebrating after food if the rigour of the fast had been compulsory in his day. The note of Bishop Fell has been already quoted on the passage; and the argument as drawn out by Bingham[165] is worth attention. The Aquarians, it would seem, were in the habit of celebrating in the morning with water only, and after dinner with wine and water. St. Cyprian condemns the celebration with water only, but does not condemn the celebration after food; on the contrary, he rather excuses the practice of celebrating in the morning. Bingham ends his argument thus:—

“By which it is plain, in Cyprian’s time there was no absolute rule to forbid communicating after supper, though the practice began generally to be disused, and the common custom was to receive fasting, and at morning service.”

Then, with reference to the kind of fast, St. Basil (A.D. 370) tells us that Christian priests fasted, as did the Jewish priests before their ministration; and this was only what would be called Jejunium Ecclesiæ, viz., not from all kind of food, but from wine, or a heavy meal. St. Basil distinctly implies that the laity did not fast in Caesarea before reception; he would not otherwise exhort them to temperance before receiving, on the ground that drunkenness was a dishonour to their Lord. It would seem, then, that in the fourth century, in St. Basil’s time and place, an absolute fast (jejunium naturæ) from midnight was not prescribed, if indeed dreamed of. St. Augustine does not define what he meant by a fast; it was too well known, and not called in question. Gratian’s annotator does not seem to have understood what we now call jejunium naturæ to have been meant; for the following is the gloss[166] upon the canon of Carthage, which says that “the Sacrament of the Altar shall be celebrated only by those who are fasting.”

“But when shall a man be called fasting? Say that I eat today, and sleep not by day nor night; am I fasting at the beginning of another day? Some say that I am. Extra de temp. ord. literas. Otherwise, sleep would be said to break the fast, which I do not believe; but I say that the fast exists when digestion is complete.”

Here, then, Gratian, or rather his annotator, would reckon a man fasting some three hours after a meal,[167] without enquiring whether midnight struck between the meal and the time when the fast commenced.

Next, in the thirteenth century, St. Thomas distinguished between the fast of nature, which necessitated entire abstinence from all food and drink, and the fast of the Church, which was for mortification of the body. The former, he says, is necessary for taking the Eucharist, and is to be reckoned from midnight.

But there were others in the thirteenth century, quoted in the Summa Summarum[168] of Sylvester Prieras, who said that a man might take electuaries, or ginger by way of stay-stomach, without impeding Communion. This opinion did not find favour; and indeed Sala,[169] in his notes on Bona, is so angry with them, that he says such an opinion ought to be held as “an error in faith.” This is nearly approaching to a heresy; and therefore it is almost as bad as giving the cup to the laity!

Still further refinements came in. The popular summist, Sylvester of Prierio, says a man may clean his teeth with salt and vinegar, if he does not swallow it. Later ritualists forbid this luxury. The question was raised as to whether a man was fasting properly if he said his Matins the afternoon before, and took food afterwards;[170] or whether he must say Matins again next morning, of necessity, before communicating. Then came the question of a man going to sleep with a lozenge or sugar-candy in his mouth;[171] how can he tell that he has not swallowed some after midnight? There are two opinions on this head; authority inclines to say that such a thing impedes Communion. Then came the question of tobacco; here was something which would comfort, and prevent wretchedness of hunger without breaking the fast of nature. A man, then, may smoke, chew tobacco, or take snuff, though he swallow either smoke, or juice, or snuff, unless he does it per industriam, of set purpose to eat, or take it as food. Then, again, water, attracta per nares, drawn up through the nostrils does not break the fast so as to hinder Communion. And so on through many curious scruples, which seem perhaps to an English mind, to shew that the chief end in view is not reverence to the Sacrament, but the keeping of the rule in the rubric.

For, it must be said again, that the reason why it binds so strongly upon the users of the unreformed office-books is, that the custom has been incorporated into one of the Rubricæ generales, which bind all those who use the books. Fasting Communion is binding, ratione præcepti, and therefore there must be a variety of questions of conscience as to what the præceptum really means.

But in England the domestic canons on this head were never incorporated into the rubrics of the Missal; hence we find no questions in Lyndwood as to whether sucking a piece of ivory breaks the fast. It may be this is owing to what Dr. Newman calls our “national good sense.”[172]

Still the fact remains, the custom of fasting Communion, with all its various questions of time and manner, has been in abeyance in England for some three hundred years and more. It cannot come under the head of a canon badly kept, for there has been no continuous protest against its non-observance by the rulers of the Church. It must, therefore, come under the head of a custom or canon abrogated by disuser. When a custom or canon is abrogated, it is, as Gratian tells us, “wholly removed” as binding; or, as Gibert says, it is “dead” and valueless.

The custom arose, as all seem to agree, because of the profanation of the Sacrament by those who had eaten or drunk to excess. There is little, if any, fear that this danger of excess exists now in the usual English breakfast. The introduction of tea and coffee has wholly altered the face of affairs, and with changed habits comes naturally change of custom.

Nor, indeed, are there to be seen any symptoms of profanation from the habit of mid-day Communions. Our congregations are now probably more orderly than the world ever saw. In the time of St. Chrysostom, and in medieval times, disturbances like those in St. George-in-the-East were not so strange as those seemed to us. The multitudes who throng our churches, at all events where the worship of God is rendered with some apparent degree of care, are to all appearance devout and reverent. Those who remain to communicate at mid-day are not behindhand in exhibiting tokens of true devotion. So that, indeed, we may be able to thank God and take courage, since after so many years of fighting and trouble, indifference and deadness, the Church of England is exhibiting the truest tokens of a true Church; so that the Greek Archbishop of Syros acknowledged, “The English seem to me to carry their Christianity into their daily lives more than any other nation I have known.”

The action of the rigorists is to break up this; and what do they offer in exchange? One person is reported to have been forbidden prospectively to communicate for two years, as for two years early celebrations would in all probability be out of reach! Many are taught not only to think lightly of Matins and Evensong as acts of worship, but during these services to be occupied with books of private devotion by way of thanksgiving for Communion received, or preparation for future Communion, so that they give attendance without joining in the act of common worship of the Church of God. Surely increased reverence for the supreme act of worship might be inculcated without any attempt being made to degrade the other acts of worship. Men are too ready to give up the worship of God, and to find excuses for so doing; and the tendency of this teaching is to bring in the idleness of the foreign Sunday, which is to be most earnestly deprecated. It is instructive to see that the Saxon canon which Mr. Baron quotes in favour of fasting Communion, insists, in no measured terms, upon men of every order attending high mass, and hearing the sermon as well, before tasting any food. But in those days it would seem that a meal meant at least perfect repletion, if not excess. Now that breakfast is a light meal, the reason for compelling men to hear the sermon fasting has passed away; and the necessity of the canon has also passed away, and it has been abrogated by disuse.

It is true that Mr. Poyntz, in his pamphlet, has urged, as a kind of compromise, that dispensations should be sought from the bishops. But, first of all, it would be a mockery to ask for a dispensation from that which cannot be proved to be binding, but may be proved to be abrogated. And secondly, we are no nearer the Roman position if dispensations be sought. For though Quarti allows that the fast may be dispensed with, he asserts that none but the Pope himself can grant this dispensation; and herein he is only following what others had laid down before.[173] Charles the Fifth never received fasting, but he had a dispensation from Pope Julius III.

But while the danger of the idleness of the foreign Sunday creeping into England is most earnestly deprecated by the writer, the “good custom” of receiving fasting is not “despised.” God forbid! What is most to be desired is, that the whole spirit be bowed in deepest adoration of the love which has found such a means of conveying the Bread of Life to the soul; but there must be, at the same time, reception.

In the earliest Church frequent Communion was the rule; and Gratian, who supplies the one quotation from St. Augustine for fasting Communion, supplies many for frequent Communions. Here is one from the Ambrosiaster, if not St. Ambrose himself:—

“If the Blood of Christ, as often as it is poured out, is poured out for remission of sins, I ought always to receive Him, that my sins may always be forgiven. I, who continually sin, ought continually to have medicine.”

Then St. Hilary is quoted:—

“If the sins are not so grievous as to deserve excommunication, the man should not separate himself from the medicine of the Body and Blood of the Lord.”

Gratian quotes St. Augustine also, but, as Berardi[174] points out, the quotation is from the Pelagian priest, Gennadius of Marseilles, in the fifth century:—

“I neither praise nor blame the taking the Communion of the Eucharist daily, but I persuade and exhort Communion on all Sundays, if, at least, the mind be free from desire of sinning.”

Other canons and allusions to the practice of frequent Communion may be found in Bingham[175] and in Mr. Scudamore’s book.[176]

But by degrees the habit of receiving fasting crept in because of scandals. It is said by degrees because it is quite manifest that, though St. Augustine calls it a universal custom of the Church, St. Cyprian in the third century does not seem to have enforced it; nor did St. Basil, at the end of the fourth century, know of such a binding custom, recluse though he was; and the annual Maundy with succeeding Communion was not condemned until the end of the seventh century.

As, by degrees, this custom advanced, the custom of frequent reception receded; and when a subsequent fast was attempted to be enforced, the laity only communicated once a-year at the most. It was to correct this sad state of things that the Church of England set herself at the Reformation. She abolished “private mass” altogether, that is, when none but the priest communicated; and, at the same time, she made arrangements for daily Communion, if possible, There had been no rubric in the Sarum use, which was adopted as “the use of the Church of England,”[177] compelling the laity to fasting Communion, nor any canon in Lyndwood; so the question was dropped out altogether. That a man must confess and be absolved before Communion, was laid down in Lyndwood; so this was still recognised, but the compulsion to it was removed.

That the question of fasting Communion was not forgotten altogether, but did attract attention at the time, may be seen from the fact of the canon of Mayence in 1549, and also from the following passage from Hutchinson[178] (A. D. 1552), which, it is hoped, none will despise, though it is taken from one of the Parker Society’s publications.

“Moreover, in that the text saith, that ‘whiles they were eating, Jesus took bread,’ and ordained His last Supper, some do reason hereof that the Sacrament is not to be received fasting, as the custom now is, but after other meats and drinks, after a certain refection, banquet, or maundy; which, they say, those that be rich should make, to refresh the poor and needy. For the defence of this maundy they allege not only Christ’s example, but also where it is written that the Corinthians indeed kept such a maundy. But Paul reprehendeth them therefore, and disannulleth their custom as an occasion of gluttony, of drunkenness, of pride, of contention, and other misbehaviour in the Church, saying unto them: ‘Have ye not houses to eat and drink in, or else despise ye the congregation of God?’ And again: ‘If any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation.’ Nor Christ did not celebrate this Sacrament after other meats and drinks to stablish any such custom, nor to give us any example to do the like; but rather to teach us that our sacramental bread is succeeded instead of the Jews’ Easter lamb, and that their ceremony is now disannulled and abrogated. Therefore, the universal Church commonly, according to Paul’s mind to the Corinthians, useth now to celebrate the Lord’s Supper fasting, without any maundy, and not after other meats. Notwithstanding, as he doth well which cometh fasting to the Lord’s Table, so he doth not ill, which, by occasion, cometh after that he hath eaten and drunk. Meat and drink do not defile, do not make a man an unmeet guest for Christ’s board, for the marriage dinner of the King’s Son; but lack of the wedding garment, that is, sin and iniquity. There is no commandment in the Scriptures which restraineth those that have eaten from the Communion. Paul reproveth not the Corinthians for any such thing, but because they made maundies and banquets in the house of prayer. In their own houses he doth not forbid them to eat and drink before the Communion, but permitteth it, and leaveth them to their own liberty and necessity herein, saying, ‘If any man hunger, let him eat at home.’”

The writer of this pamphlet would gladly accept the moderation and wisdom of this extract. For, if now that the blessed Sacrament is more frequented, and danger from excessive eating or wine-bibbing before mid-day has quite passed away, there is a successful attempt made to insist on fasting from previous midnight before communicating; then, in a few years, when youthful zeal has cooled, there will be a return to the perilous neglect of Communion which existed in late medieval times, and is now generally prevalent abroad. What St. Basil and St. Chrysostom feared specially seems to have been danger from wine in the morning; this made men sleepy, (as was seen from St. Chrysostom,) if it did not make them more unfit for Communion. Now, the “morning draught” of tea, or coffee, or chocolate, or cocoa, has (except in the cases of frequenters of public-houses, who are not to be found at God’s altar,) entirely removed all fear of such scandal. Indeed, in nine cases out of ten in England, there is more settled quietude of mind after the usual light breakfast than before.

It was no doubt in view of this danger of the present day, the going back to infrequent Communion, that John Mason Neale gave his dying opinion that since fasting Communion had been abrogated by disuse, and was not binding in England, he could not wish that it should be revived and enforced on the laity living in the world. To this opinion of one above suspicion of laxity of view, the writer desires to give his earnest adhesion.

It is the duty of every Christian to communicate frequently, and with the utmost reverence. Neither Holy Scripture, nor the Church of England, insists on fasting from the previous midnight as a necessity to Communion. Indeed, it is impossible to believe that our dear Lord would have instituted the Sacrament of His love during and after supper, if to communicate after food were possible to be, as some say, “the sin of the age;” or, as Mr. Oxenham says, “what God has forbidden.”

In conclusion, it must be said that this pamphlet has been written piecemeal, in the midst of town parish-work; partly to quiet (if possible) some scruples, but mainly to further the truth (which must ever be part of the glory) of God. May the great Head of the Church pardon all the errors herein contained!

[1] De Canone Missæ, Lectio lxxxvii. v. fo. 237, ed. 1542.

[2] Gavanti, Thesaurus Sac. Rituum cum addittonibus C. M. Merati, Venetiis, 17691 tom. i. p. 235; Comm. in Rubricas Missalis Romani, pars IV. tit. iii. §12.

[3] Gavanti, Thesaurus, tom. i. p. 211. Also P. M. Quarti, Commentaria in Rubricas Missalis, Venetiis, 1727, pars III. tit. iv. § 4, p. 371.

[4] It is very interesting to read the account of the historian Socrates about differences of various Churches in customs and ritual. He tells us that the Egyptians had a great feast every Saturday, and communicated afterwards. Mr. Scudamore says this was “blameworthy,” (Notitia Eucharistica, p. 33). This is Mr. Scudamore’s opinion: Socrates does not say so, neither does Walafrid Strabo, who quotes Socrates. The whole chapter is instructive. Socrates Scholasticus, bk. v. chap. xxii. Socrates lived about A. D. 450.

[5] St. Augustine, “Letter to Januarius,” Ep. 54 (or cxviii.), § 9.

[6] “The Works of Aurelius Augustine, Bishop of Hippo:” a new translation, edited by the Rev. Marcus Dods, M.A., vol. vi. “The Letters of St. Augustine,” translated by Rev. J. G. Cunningham, vol. i. p. 203.

[7] Under the word “Fasting.”

[8] As might be supposed, this Maundy was, and still remains, extremely popular. In England, it gave the name to the day, and a curious description of it, as kept in the cathedral of Sarum, is still in existence. See also Durandus, de Concilia celebrando, pars iii. tit. xiii. Paris, 1545, p. 174.

[9] “If any Bishop, or Presbyter, or Deacon, or Reader, or Singer, fast not the holy forty days [before] Easter, or on Wednesday, or on Friday [parasceve], unless he be hindered by bodily infirmity, let him be deposed. If he be a layman, let him be excommunicated.”—Ap. canon lxix. Bev. Codex, p. 456— 1678.

[10] The usual hour for the celebration was 9 A.M. on ordinary days and festivals. St. John Cassian, the disciple of St. Chrysostom, tells us it was so in Egypt in his days, (De Institutis, lib. iii. cap. ii., Atrebati, 1628, p. 42). St. Athanasius, De Virginitate, says, “Let the rising sun find your book in your hand; after the third hour take the Communion.” Hence it is said this hour was called “the sacred hour” (Gratian, Decretum, pars i. dist. xliv. cap. 12): see also other authorities quoted by Scudamore, Notitia Eucharistica, p. 34. On fast days, however, the hour was altered to 12, or 3 P.M.; partly to gratify those who thought the late hour advantageous, partly to satisfy those who feared that the Communion broke their fast. This last fear, as well as the fact that large quantities seemingly were left after celebration, implies that the portio Dominica was larger in early days than with us now.

[11] “The Fast before Communion,” p. 6.

[12] The chapter of the historian Socrates, referred to above, is of great value, as shewing how widest variation in practice and discipline did not hinder intercommunion.—Socrates, Ecclesiastical History, bk. v. chap. 22.

[13] Van Espen, Jus Ecclesiasticum Universum, pars ii. sect I, tit. iv. cap. 4, § 6; Lovanii, 1753, tom. i. p. 404.

[14] “Fidelium relatione virorum in nostram usque pervenit notitiam, Leonem Papam sicut ipse fatebatur una die vii vel ix missarum solemnia sæpius celebrasse.”—Walafrid Strabo, De Rebus Ecclesiasticis, cap. 21. Leo III. died A. D. 816, and Walafrid was made Abbot of Reichenau in A. D. 842.

[15] It may be said, perhaps, that the reason why Wednesday and Friday are mentioned is that they were fasting days, but the canon is not clear; Bossuet cites it in favour of Communion under one kind. Bingham translates “indicto jejunio” to mean that they should come fasting; this is grammatically puzzling. Antiq., bk. xv. chap. vii. § 4. The real meaning seems to be that there should be a subsequent abstaining from food, and not an antecedent: see the canon quoted below, and the illustration cited from Gratian, p. 79 sq.

[16] Evagrius, Hist. Eccl., lib. iv. cap. xxxvi.

[17] The nearest approach to this, so far as the writer knows, is made by Sala in his notes on Bona, 1749, vol. ii. p. 109. He thinks, “ut hæc opinio error in fide censeri debeat.”

[18] “The Fast before Communion,” Palmer, 1872.

[19] Summa Summarum, ab R. P. Silvestro Prierate, Lugduni, 1551, p. 346, s. v. Eucharistia, III. § viii.; P. M. Quarti, Commentaria in Rubr. Missalis, Venetiis, 1727, p. 13, and 377.

[20] St. Matthew xvi. 19; xviii. 18. Some think the power conveyed by the saying, “Ye shall sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel,” St. Matthew xix. 28; but this is more properly referred to the last judgment, as the Lord says, “In the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of His glory.”

[21] Stier, “Words of the Lord Jesus,” ed. Clark, vol. ii. p. 348. Compare also Etheridge’s “Hebrew Literature,” p. 54; Lightfoot on St. Matthew xvi. 19, vol. ii. p. 205, ed. 1684. To “bind,” was to forbid; to “loose,” to allow.

[22] Bp. Stillingfleet, “Ecclesiastical Cases,” vol. i. 1698, p. 336.

[23] The difference was marked at the Council of Nice, as St. Athanasius has pointed out in his often-quoted saying, “They wrote concerning Easter,” It seemeth good as follows,’ . . . but about the faith they wrote, not ‘it seemeth good,’ but ‘thus believes the Catholic Church.’”—“Treatises against Arianism,” Oxford Translation, p. 80; Opera Ed. Ben., Paris, 1698, tom. i. pars ii. p. 719, D.

[24] St. Augustine points out that Christians in his day did not abstain from things strangled, though insisted on by the Apostles; (Acts xv. 29). Who, he asks, would hesitate to eat a fowl or hare; “Si manu a cervice percussus, nullo cruento vulnere occisus est? Et qui forte pauci adhuc tangere ista formidant, a cæteris irridentur.”—Contra Faustinum, lib. xxxii. cap. 13.

[25] Thus with respect to the Council of Trent, there were ten local councils held in France to receive and promulge its decrees. The canons of faith were at once received everywhere, but not one of the councils received all the canons of discipline. “Sed quantum concilia hæc unius labii sunt in receptione decretorum circa Fidem, tantumdem circa acceptationem, modumque acceptandi decreta disciplinæ, discrepant: nullum est enim, quod hæc universa receperit, eorumque executionem jusserit.”—Gibert, Corpus Juris Canonici, 1735, tom. i. p. 146.

[26] I Cor. xv.

[27] Van Espen, De Veterum Canonum Stabilitate, § ii. vol. iii. p. 2, Lovanii, 1753, who points out that many canons affecting the clergy are of natural law: “Hi proinde similesque canones, si non stent jure positive, semper tamen stabunt jure naturali: saltem quoad ea quæ juris naturalis in illis continentur.”

[28] Van Espen, De Promulgatione Legum Ecclesiasticarum, pars i. cap. i.: “Nulla lex vim obligandi habet ante factam illius promulgationem.” “Leges instituuntur, cum promulgantur, firmantur cum moribus utentium approbantur.” —Gratian, Dec., pars i. Dist. iv. cap. 3. § leges. De Marca, De Concor. Sac. et Imp. II., xvi. §§ 5, 6.

[29] “Ut Prælati, quibus publicandi onus incumbit, huic muneri non defuturi essent.”—Gibert, i. 24. “Cum in sacris conciliis ab episcopis promulgate sunt regulæ et receptae, quis extra episcopos promulgator canonicarum quiverit esse sententiarum.”— Pope Leo IV. ad Episcopos Britannia, cit. Gibert, i. 25.

[30] There are many canons of the fourth Council of Constantinople which were never received in France. Gibert, i. 104. The canons of discipline of Trent were not received in their entirety in France, nor in Belgium, nor in Spain.

[31] Cf. “Memoirs of Panzani,” p. 123 and 272. Ultramontanes will of course say that the binding force depends upon the imposition of the Pope. This was not the ancient opinion.

[32] Chief Justice Tindal, in giving the opinion of the Judges (before the House of Lords, July 7, 1843), said: “There never existed a rule that a contract per verba de præsenti constituted a marriage in fact. . . . One of the earliest constitutions in English ecclesiastical law expressly and pointedly required the presence of a priest in orders to complete the contract of marriage. In subsequent constitutions there was nothing to reverse or shake off the effect of this.”—Jurist, vol. vii. part I.

[33] “Factum valet, fieri non debuit,” would be said by them; but another marriage of the same parties would be an iteration of the Sacrament, and therefore sacrilege. This statement is made on the authority, oral and written, of a priest of the Roman obedience in England. There seems to be no manual of canon law, as it is regarded to bind the Roman Catholics in England.

[34] Institution au Droit Ecclésiastique, partie i. chap. ii. Opuscules, Nismes 1780, vol. ii. p. 162. Compare Gibert, i. 65: “Præterea oportet ut usu recipiantur, et retineantur, i.e. acceptentur et non abrogentur contrariâ consuetudine.”

[35] See Johnson’s Vade Mecum, vol. ii. p. 41.

[36] “Tractatus de modo generalis concilii celebrandi, per R. P. D. Guillermum Durandi Juris Speculatorum nuncupatum,” &c. Parisiis apud Poncetum le Preux, 1545.

[37] See a very interesting collection of these at the end of the Second Report of the Ritual Commission in 1868.

[38] “Ecclesiastical Cases,” part i. 1698, p. 374.

[39] Corpus Juris Canonici. Proleg., pars prior, tit. xx. § 3, diff, i. vol. i. p. 164; see also p. 65. Van Espen, pleading for the restoration of discipline, says, “Scio quidem, consuetudine prælatorum et superiorum tacito interveniente consensu, posse interdum rigorem disciplinae mitigari, quin et canones ipsos aliquatenus abrogari.” De Vet. Canonum Stabilitate, § iv. Lovanii 1753, tom. iii. p. 4; see also p. 7. He shews how the penitential canons were abrogated by disuser. It used to be unlawful for a priest to enjoin any penance not laid down in the Pœnitentiale. He also points out how some canons of the early Church, affecting the character of candidates for orders, are nowhere observed in the West. “Sunt innumeri canones abrogati aut per non usum aut per usum contrarium, probatum silentio superioris.”—Gibert, i. 109.

[40] Corpus Juris Canonici, tom. i. pars posterior, p. 92. The opinion of Gratian on abrogation is worth quoting:—“Just as by the contrary customs of the users some laws have been now abrogated, (to abrogate is wholly to remove the law): so by the customs of the users the laws themselves are confirmed. Wherefore the law of Pope Telesphorus, (who decreed, that generally the clergy should fast from flesh and delicacies from Quinquagesima,) since it has not been approved by the customs of the users, does not convict as guilty of a fault, those who act otherwise.”—Decretum, pars i. dist. iv. cap. 3. § Leges, and cap. 6. § Hæc etsi.

[41] It is curious to observe that the extract given by Mr. Baron from this letter is the extract given by Gratian.—“Anglo Saxon Witness,” p. 31. It is indeed the stock quotation, and, until Cardinal Bona wrote in 1671, seems to have been the only one known.

[42] The Church of England notoriously breaks one of the canons of this council in addressing three of the collects said at the altar to God the Son, viz., Collect for Third Sunday in Advent, St. Stephen’s Day, and First Sunday in Lent. See Council of Carthage III. c. 23: “Cum altari adsistitur semper ad Patrem dirigatur oratio.”

[43] This is probably the subsequent fast spoken of in the extract from the second supposititious letter of St. Clement to James, the Lord’s brother, cited in Gratian Decretum, pars iii. De Consecratione, dist. ii. cap, 23: “Si igitur mane portio Dominica editur usque ad sextam jejunent ministri, qui eam consumpserunt,” &c.; see below, sect.vii., where the passage is discussed at length.

[44] Quoted by De Marca, De Concordantia, II. xvii. § 2.

[45] “The Fast before Communion,” Palmer, 1872. Mr. Poyntz would solve the difficulty by a dispensation from the bishops, thinking seemingly that this would lessen difficulties of union with Rome. But this is said to be a matter which none can dispense with, but the Summus Pontifex himself. Cf. Summa Summarum, ab R. P. Silvestro Prierate, Lugduni, 1551, p. 346, s. v. Eucharistia, III. § viii.; P. M. Quarti Commentaria in Rubricas Missalis, III. ix. Causa iv. p. 377, and p. 13, Venetiis, 1727.

[46] See chap. ii. § 2.

[47] Van Espen, as quoted before, shews that the penitential canons are abrogated by disuse; and these originated with the Pœnitentiale of Theodore.

[48] The Fast before Communion discussed and shewn to be dispensable on Principles of Canon Law.” By the Rev. Newdigate Poyntz, M.A. London, Palmer, 1872, page 9.

[49] “As, for instance, the Synod of Arles in France is said to have had three British bishops present at it, and yet we are sure the canons there made were not received in Britain.”—Johnson’s Vade Mecum, vol. ii. p. cx.

[50] He says they were surprised into doing so. Fleury, Histoire Ecclésiastique, Paris, 1703, tome ix. p. 119; Abrégé Chronologique, Paris, 1768, tome i. p. 502; Van Espen, in Jus Canonicum, Lovanii, 1753, tom. iii. p. 359.

[51] The authorities here relied upon are as follows:—Hardouin, Acta Conciliorum, Paris, 1714, tom. viii. col. 381; Von der Hardt, Corpus Actorum Magni Constantiensis Concilii, tom. iii. 626, iv. 334; Lenfant, Histoire du Concile de Constance, Amsterdam, 1727, tom. i.; Fleury, Histoire Ecclésiastique, tome xxi. p. 321, Paris, 1726.

[52] Lenfant, tom. i. p. 370.


[54] Gratiani Decretum, pars i. dist. xxix. “Ob neglectam hanc considerationem sæpe a vero canonum sensu aberratur.” Van Espen, tom. iii. p. 527.

[55] “Quia jejunia simul et lavacra tolerare non possunt.”—Ep. ad Januarium, liv. § 9. “Amongst the Greeks as well as Romans bathing was always a preliminary to the hour of meals. Indeed, the process of eating seems to have followed as a matter of course upon that of bathing; for even Nausicae and her companions, immediately after they had bathed and anointed themselves, sat down to eat by the river’s side while waiting for the clothes to dry.”—Smith’s “Dictionary of Antiquities,” s. v. Baths. Men used to bathe to get an appetite.

[56] See Smith’s “Dictionary of Antiquities,” s. v. Cœna. The writer of that article takes the time of Augustus as the date of his description; but probably in the country places at least there was not much variation in the hours. These are nearly the same in Italy now. The writer lately spent three days in an Italian coasting steamer with a cargo of peasants. These took bread and wine at daybreak, or when they woke: a meal of two or three courses (if they could afford it) about II A.M., and a more pretentious meal about 3 p. M. The allowance of the cabin passengers began with a cup of coffee in the early morning, if desired, with two meals, one of four, the other of five or six courses. One meal began with hard-boiled eggs, and ended with fruit: “ab ovo usque ad mala.”—Horace, Sat. I. iii. 6.

[57] The Synaxis was at first the name of any assembly for worship and reading the Scriptures; but later on it seems to have been used especially, if not exclusively, for the service of the day; viz., that at which the blessed Eucharist was celebrated. See Suicer’s Thesaurus, under the word. Scudamore’s Notitia Eucharistica, p. 26.

[58] “The Works of Roger Hutchinson, Fellow of St. John’s College, Cambridge, and afterwards of Eton College.” Parker Society Edition, 1842, p. 223.

[59] Synaxis. St. Chrysostom elsewhere says that there is celebration at every synaxis. Hom. 55, “in eos qui Pascha jejunant.” Opera, Parisiis, 1718, tom. i. p. 608 D.; see also Scudamore, Notitia Eucharistica, p. 25.

[60] Library of the Fathers: St. Chrysostom, “Homilies on the Statues,” p. 159.

[61] Ibid., p. 172.

[62] Ibid., p. 121. These Benedictions, or Eulogiæ, were portions of the consecrated Bread given at Communion, or reserved for the sick; sometimes the word is used of the antidoron, but this meaning seems chiefly Western, and later than the times of St. Chrysostom. Sec Suicer, s. v. Eulogiæ; and Scudamore, Notitia Eucharistica, p. 775. This sermon is ascribed to Wednesday in the first week of Lent.

[63] Amongst the Greeks, as amongst the Romans, there were three meals; the light meal at daybreak, or at rising, this was called the acratisma; next the ariston, or luncheon, came at an uncertain hour, between 9 A.M. and noon; lastly, the deipnon followed towards evening. See Smith’s “Dictionary of Antiquities,” under Deipnon.

[64] Ep. vii., “Ad clerum de precando Deo.” Paris, 1726, p. 15. Clark’s “Ante-Nicene Library,” Works, vol. i. p. 31.

[65] St. John ii. 10: compare St. Luke xxi. 34.

[66] Gen. xliii. 34: see Haggai i. 6. To be fed to the full, i.e. with sense of repletion even to loathing, is the desire of the Israelites, and is spoken of in the Psalms without blame; cf. Exodus xvi. 3; Numbers xi. 19, 20; Psalms lxxviii. 25.

[67] Has any one seen in England what St. Clement of Alexandria describes (Pædogogus, lib. ii. cap. I.) “You may see such people, liker swine or dogs for gluttony than men, in such a hurry to feed themselves full, that both jaws are stuffed out at once, the veins about the face raised, and besides, the perspiration running all over, as they are tightened with their insatiable greed, and panting with their excess.” Clark’s “Ante-Nicene Library,” vol. i. p. 194. Thirteen pages of this are devoted to a chapter on eating.

[68] The feast of George Nevill, Abp. of York, at his installation in 1464, is recorded in Godwin, De præsulibus, ed. G. Richardson, 1743, p. 695, seq.

[69] “Anglo-Saxon Witness,” p. 30.

[70] Compare the canon of Auxerre cited above, pwhere the clergy are forbidden even to be present at mass if they have broken their fast. Canon of Macon: “No presbyter with a full stomach,” &c.; the original is, “Confertus cibo aut crapulatus vino,” implying an excess rare in our days. St. Benedict, too, warned his monks against excess. Reg. cap. xl. “ne subrepat satietas, aut ebrietas.”

[71] The picture drawn by the Welsh priest, Sir Thomas Malory, of the daily life of King Arthur and the Knights of his Round Table, could not have seemed very unnatural in the fifteenth century. It is a picture of gross feeding, hard fighting, and luxurious immorality.

[72] “The acratisma was taken immediately after rising in the morning; it usually consisted of bread dipped in unmixed wine, whence it derived its name.”—Smith’s “Dictionary of Antiquities,” s. v. Deipnon.

[73] Beveridge, Synodicon, Oxonii, 1672, tom. ii. pars i. p. 169. There can be little doubt that the translation of John Johnson, (Vade Mecum, vol. ii. p. 254), is right, and that Mr. Budge, (“Sermons on the Statues,” Library of the Fathers, p. 159), is wrong, in his rendering of the Greek.

[74] Speaking of the bath in ordinary use, St. Clement of Alexandria, (A.D. 200), says, “The ancients called them places for fulling men, since they wrinkle men’s bodies sooner than they ought, and by cooking them, as it were, compel them to become prematurely old. The flesh, like iron, being softened by the heat, hence we require cold, as it were, to temper and give an edge.”— Works, vol. i. p. 308, Clark’s “Ante-Nicene Library.”

[75] The authors of “The Christian Passover” say the Apostles came fasting to the Last Supper; and the oral law only required an abstinence from food of about four or five hours. See below, chap. ii. § 5. St. Paul said to the shipmen, “This is the fourteenth day ye have continued fasting, having taken nothing.” This would be impossible, unless we understood him to mean that they had no heart or opportunity to cook and eat regular meals.

[76] Compare the remarkable custom mentioned by Mr. Scudamore:—“In the Swedish Church, the celebrant very rarely communicates at all. . . . They seem to have fallen into this most uncatholic practice and opinion from the strictness with which confession was required of them before communion. It was often difficult in that country for the priest to meet with a confessor,” &c.—Notitia Eucharistica, p. 605.

[77] See Scudamore, Notitia Eucharistica, p. 806, sq.

[78] Gratian (Decretum, pars iii. De Consecr., dist. ii. cap. xvi.) quotes Pope Fabian, (A. D. 250), as upholding this: but Berardi points out that the citation is from the Cupitularia Regum Francorum, of the ninth century. (Gratiani Canones Genuini ab Apocryphis discreti, Matriti, 1783, vol. ii. p. 120; see Van Espen, De Capitularibus, tom. iii. p. 4/7.) The first council of Toledo bears witness to the decline of piety, condemning those who come to church but never communicate. Co. Toletanum, i. can. xiii. A. D. 400. The rule seems to have been first formulated in the sixth century, at the Council of Agde, (A. D. 506). Bruns’ Canones, 1839, pars altera, p. 150, Co. Agathense, can. xviii. It is true that Gratian quotes a canon of Elvire, (A.I). 305), but it is not found amongst the 81 canons of that Council; and Berardi, (vol. i. p. 31), shews that the matter of the canon does not agree with the fourth-century times. The rule of Agde was accepted at Tours in A.D. 813, in the fourth Council of Tours; Fleury, Hist. Ecc., vol. x. p. 151, 1704.

[79] This was the rule formulated in A.D. 1215, at the fourth Lateran Council, can. 21, under pain of excommunication, and being refused burial.—Fleury, Hist. Eccl., vol. xvi. p. 400, 1712.

[80] Martial seems to tell us that the jentactilum, or early morning meal, was taken about 3 or 4 A.M.—Smith’s Dictionary, s.v. Cœna.

[81] It is noteworthy, that the first commutation of the corporal penance of fasting into the recitation of psalms or money payment comes from Britain. This is first found in the Penitential of Theodore, Archbishop of Canterbury. This politic man, Greek as he was, found that fasting could not be maintained in Britain, and therefore ordered that “Instead of living for a year upon bread and water, the penitent might sing fifty psalms on his knees, or give a certain sum to the poor, or procure a presbyter to say a mass for him,” &c. —See Marshall’s “Penitential Discipline,” Oxford, 1844, p. 132. This Penitential became universally received throughout the West.

[82] Ep. lxix., Parisiis, 1726, p. 123, “ad Florentium Papianum.”

[83] Works, ed. Eden, vol. x. p. 276. The bishop quotes St. Cyprian and St. Chrysostom.

[84] A canon which has been abrogated by disuser requires to be re-enacted, to have the vigour of law; and no individual priest can pretend to this power. “Lex abrogata non renovatur, sed restauratur velut mortua erat et exsuscitatur, cum ejus observatio sancitur.”—Gibert, Corpus Juris Canonici, 1735, vol. i. p. 165.

[85] Jeremy Taylor, Works, ed. Eden, vol. x. p. 276.

[86] Gibert, vol. i. pars ii., p 85, “Quâ presbyteri usurpant quae sunt ordinis Episcopalis.”

[87] “Cette consecration ne peut être faite que par l’Evêque: et les vierges qui la reçoivent, doivent etre âgées de 25 ans.”—Fleury, Institution au droit Ecclésiastique, partie i. ch. xxviii. Opuscules, 1780, tome ii. p. 305. See Co. Carthage II., canon iii.: “Ut Chrismatis confectio et puellarum consecratio a presbyteris non fiant; vel reconciliare quemquam in publicâ missâ presbytero non licere, hoc omnibus placet.” See also Co. Carthage III., canon xxxvi.

[88] Ep. lxix., “Ad Oceanum,” § 9, Opera, Verona, 1734, tom. i. col. 422.

[89] Bp. J. Taylor, Ductor Dubitantium, bk. iii. chap. iv. Rule 12, § 10, Works, ed. Eden, vol. x. p. 339.

[90] “The Duty of Fasting Communion,” by F. N. Oxenham, late Curate of Richmond, 1872, p. 20. Bishop Jeremy Taylor writes: “It is a Catholic custom that they who receive the Communion should receive it fasting. This is not a duty commanded by God.”—Works, ed. Eden, 1855, vol. x. p. 358. Before, at p. 338, he had said it was not commanded by the Apostles. St. Thomas, too, must learn something from Mr. Oxenham: he thought “a thing hinders the reception of the Sacrament in one of two ways, either on its own account, like a mortal sin, .... or because of the prohibition of the Church, and thus a man is hindered from the taking of this Sacrament after taking food or drink.”—Summa III, lxxx. 8. He did not regard it as forbidden by God. No ritualist calls it more than “præceptum Ecclesiæ.”

[91] “The Christian Passover; or, Notes on the Holy Communion, by the Editors of the Priest’s Prayer-book,” 1873, p. 40. One of the Editors bears the initials “R. F. L.” The letter alluded to appeared in the “Church Times” of June 4, 1869, and was signed “Richard F. Littledale.” See below.

[92] Mishna, ed. Surenhusius, Amstelædami, 1699, vol. ii. p. 172 . Treatise Pesachim, cap. x. § I.

[93] “Eighteen Treatises from the Mishna” translated by the Rev. D. A. De Sola and the Rev. M. J. Raphall. Second Edition, London, 1845, p. 122.

[94] From the edition of the Mishna by Surenhuys, quoted above. Moshe ben Maimon ibn Joseph, known as “Rambam,” was born at Cordova on the Passover Sabbath, A. D. 1135.

[95] It is curious that the gloss upon the phrase, “a man shall not eat,” is that he shall not eat much. Does this help us to understand St. Paul’s statement in Acts xxvii. 33, “This day is the fourteenth day that ye have tarried and continued fasting, having taken nothing?” i.e. (says Mr. Cook, Commentary, 1850, p. 301), no regular meals.

[96] Lived about 1510.

[97] Lightfoot cites three other Rabbis, who give a precisely similar gloss on the text of the Mishna to those given here from Surenhuys. Lightfoot, “Temple Service,” chap. xiii. Works, London, 1684, vol. i. p. 959. They all give the reason for the abstinence from food, that the supper may be eaten cum desiderio, with an appetite; it was not, therefore, from devotion.

[98] Mishna, Pesachim, cap. v. § 10, ed. Surenhusius, vol. ii. p. 154; ed. De Sula and Raphall, p. 110.

[99] The “Church Times,” vol. vii. p. 215, col. 2, June 4, 1869.

[100] “Temple Service,” chap. xiii.; Works, 1684, vol. i. p. 959.

[101] Mishna, vol. i. Præfatio ad Lectorem.

[102] Synagoga Judaica, cap. xviii.; Basileæ, 1680, p. 404. So, too, in his Lexicon Talmudicum, Basileæ, 1629, s. v. Minchah, col. 1225; and again, s. v. Shakarith, col. 2370; and also in his Lexicon Hebraicum, Glasguæ, 1824, s. v. Minchah.

[103] In the place above quoted.

[104] Etheridge’s “Hebrew Literature,” p. 125.

[105] “Eighteen Treatises from the Mishna,” London, 1845, p. 5. Treatise, Berachoth, (blessings,) chapter iv. § I.

[106] Mishna, Amstelædami, 1698, vol. i. p. 13; see also Chiarini, Le Talmud de Babylone, Leipzic, 1831, vol. ii. p. 71, sq.

[107] “The Tosafoth are exegetical additions to the Gemara by later Rabbins.”—Etheridge, “Hebrew Literature,” p. 178.

[108] The allusion is to the Targum of Onkelos, on Gen. iii. 8. See Walton’s “Polyglolt,” vol. i. p. II, col. I.

[109] William Guise, a brilliant light in Oriental scholarship; he was a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford; he was born in 1653, and died in 1684.

[110] Another learned alumnus of Oxford. He was born in 1636 and died in 1701, twelve days after he had been consecrated Bishop of Raphoe; his manuscripts were bought for the Bodleian.

[111] Eighteen treatises of the Mishna, p. 37, treatise, Sabbath, chap. i. § 2.

[112] Mishna, vol. ii. p. 3; see also Constitutiones Tractatus Talmudici Schabbath Latine versa a S. Schmidt, Lipsiæ, 1661, p. 2.

[113] The same interpretation of Minchah is given in the following authorities, who are not quoted at length, but may be referred to if the reader desire more:—Mr. Selig Newman, “Hebrew and English Lexicon,” London, 1834, p. 347; Zanolini, Lexicon Chaldaico-Rabbinicum, Patavii, 1747, p. 258; Peter Guarin, Lexicon Hebraicum et Chaldæo-Biblicum, Paris, 1746, pars i. col. 1136.

[114] “The Duty of Fasting Communion,” by F. N. Oxenham, M.A., Second Edition, p. 13.

[115] Epistle lviii.; Works, London., 1672, p. 826.

[116] Tract Soferim, chapter xxi. § 2 and 3. This is the first of the Massektoth Qetannoth, or small tracts which form a kind of appendix to the Talmud, and were written after the Talmud was complete. See Etheridge, “Hebrew Literature,” p. 186. The fast of the firstborn is alluded to in Calmet, “Dictionary of Bible,” s. v. Passover, London, 1823, vol. ii.

[117] The Mishna is the essence of the oral law, which was said to have been handed down from the time of Moses. It seems to have taken its present form in the third century after our blessed Lord. Upon this there have been two commentaries written, one at Tiberias, called after Jerusalem, and another longer one, called the Babylonian. This latter dates from the sixth century. The Mishna, with its Gemara, (a quasi-commentary,) made up the Talmud. These extra Talmudic tracts must of necessity be later than the sixth century, otherwise their materials would have been incorporated in the text of the Talmud itself. See Etheridge’s “Hebrew Literature,” page 114, seqq. Kitto’s “Bible Cyclopædia,” s. v. Talmud. A concise account may be found in Charles Butler’s Horæ Biblicæ, Oxford, 1799, p. 10 and following.

[118] The original difficulties have been heightened by the controversy about azymes, as to whether the Lord consecrated in fermented or unfermented bread. For references see Greswell, Diss., xli. vol. iii. p. 168, sq., Oxford, 1837.

[119] Clark’s “Ante-Nicene Library,” vol. ix. part 2, p. 94.

[120] Talmud Babyl. Treatise Sanhedrin, vi. 2, fol. 43 a. It is erased in modern editions by the censor. Compare also Bp. Ellicott, “Historical Lectures on the Life of our Lord Jesus Christ,” London, 1862, p. 322, note 3, where see the whole note.

[121] “When the day before the Passover happened on Friday, the daily offering was slaughtered half-an-hour after the sixth hour, and sacrificed half-an-hour after the seventh hour, and the Passover sacrifice after it.”—Mishna, De Sola and Raphall, p. 107; Pesachim, cap. v. § I. See Freeman’s “Principles of Divine Service,” vol. ii. p. 299, note I; also Greswell, “Dissertations on a Harmony of the Gospels,” Oxford, 1837, vol. iii. p. 166.

[122] See Tertullian, De Oratione, cap. xiv.: “Similiter et Stationum diebus non putant plerique sacrificiorum orationibus interveniendum, quod statio solvenda sit accepto corpore Domini.” Opera, ed. Rigaltius, Paris, 1675, p. 135.

[123] The bishops answered the Puritans’ objection:—“It is not true that there is nothing in that answer which refers to the Fourth Commandment: for the last words of the answer do orderly relate to the last commandment of the first table, which is the Fourth.”—” English Puritanism: Documents,” Kent and Co., 1862, p. 169.

[124] Institution au droit Ecclésiastique, p. I. cap. ii. Opuscules, 1780, vol. ii. p. 163.

[125] “The Ecclesiastical History of M. L’Abbé Fleury,” London, 1720, vol. iv. p. 112; Paris, 1701, tom. vii. p. 338.

[126] Walafrid Strabo, writing about A.D. 840, gives the gross habits of eating and drinking as a reason for fasting Communion. Speaking of this fast, he says, “But that this should be so, not only did the propriety of soberness demand, by which it is fitting that the inmost breast should be prepared for the reception of so great holiness, lest if it be taken unworthily, a medicine issue in judgment, [in judicium transeat medicina]: but also a great reason of necessity demanded it, because, a bad custom advancing (as usual) to a worse, it is credible that men lunching before Communion have sometimes fallen from slight refections even into the surfeit of drunkenness. And what is so absurd as to receive spiritual and living food, when, from excess of things poured in, the debauched man cannot decently carry his bodily nutriment.”—De Rebus Ecclesiasticis, cap. 19, apud Hittorpium, de Catholicæ Ecclesiæ Divinis Officiis, Roma;, 1591, p. 343.

[127] This one passage of St. Augustine is continually quoted in all books on ritual. Compare St. Isidore, De Ecclesiasticis Officiis, lib. i. cap. 18; Bp. Amalarius of Treves, De Ecc. Off., cap. xxxiv.; in Hittorpius, De Divinis Officiis, Romas, 1591; see also below.

[128] S. Chrysostomi Opera, Parisiis, 1721, tom. iii. p. 668, D.

[129] “Antiquities of Christian Church,” bk. xv. chap. vii. § 8.

[130] S. Chrysostomi Opera, Parisiis, 1721, tom. iii. p. 417-18, F.

[131] St. Chrysostom, in Ep. I. ad Corinthios, Hom. xxvii., Opera, Paris, 1732, vol. x. p. 248. See the whole passage below, at the beginning of the next section.

[132] Gratian, Decret. Pars III., De Consecratione, Dist. v. cap. vi. vii.

[133] P. M. Quarti Commentaria in Rubricas Missalis, Venetiis, 1727, p. 372, where it is argued as to whether the fast is to begin from the first or last stroke of midnight: he concludes that it is best to take the first stroke as decisive, but to begin the fast from the last is “satis probabile!” See also Gavanti Thesaurus, ed. Merati, Venetiis, 1769, vol. i. p. 210, col. 2.

[134] Ad Uxorem, lib. ii. cap. v., Opera, Paris, 1675, p. 1698, Clark’s translation, vol. i. p. 298.

[135] St. Basil, De jejunio, Hom. i., Opera, Paris, 1722, tom. iii. p. 5 A; see also the passage quoted below, from the end of this homily. Mr. Scudamore can hardly have read the context, for he speaks of the passage thus: “S. Basil of priests:—‘It is not possible to venture on the sacred work (of celebration) without fasting.’”—Notitia Eucharistica, p. 33.

[136] Leviticus x. 9.

[137] St. Basil, loc. cit., Opera, tom. iii. p. 10 A.

[138] De Moribus Ecclesiæ, lib. i. cap. 33.

[139] De Institutis, Liber V. cap. 5.

[140] St. Chrysostom, in Epist. I. ad Cor., Hom. xxvii., Paris, 1732, vol. x. p. 247.

[141] “Anglo-Saxon Witness,” by Rev. J. Baron, London, 1869, p. 30.

[142] Co. Matiscon. II., Can. 6.

[143] Canones, Bruns, 1839, vol. ii. p. 251.

[144] Hist. Eccl., lib. iv. cap. xxxvi. “History of the Church, by Eusebius, Socrates and Evagrius,” (translation,) London, 1709, p. 494.

[145] Gratiani Canones Genuini ab Apocryphis discreti opera et studio C. S. Berardi, Matriti, 1783, Pars II. cap. i. vol. ii. p. 19.

[146] Gratiani Decretum, Pars III. De Consecratione, dist. ii. cap. 23, Lugduni, 1606, col. 1921.

[147] At all events in some parts. In the fourteenth century there is a trace of it in England, as the following extract from the renowned Pupilla Oculi of John De Burgh will shew:— “Post sumptionem vero Eucharistiae propter ejus reverentiam convenit a cibo aliquamdiu abstinere: sed non multum diu. Magis enim requiritur praeparatio per abstinentiam et devotionem ante susceptionem Eucharistiae, quam post. . . . Illud autem decretum . . . quod dicit diu esse abstinendum loquitur secundum antiqua tempora, quando raro celebrabantur missæ.”—Pars IV. cap. viii. T. This Professor of Theology and Chancellor of Cambridge did not agree with St. Chrysostom’s saying quoted above:—“It is not of equal importance to fast before and after reception. For truly you ought to be temperate at both times, but most especially after you have received the Bridegroom.”

[148] St. Thomas, Summa, Pars III. Quæst. lxxx. Art. 8. ad finem, Venetiis, 1757, tom. v. pag. 547, col. 2.

[149] Ductor Dubitantium, bk. iii. chap. iv. Rule 15, ed. Eden, 1855, vol. x. p. 358.

[150] “Curiosities of Literature,” by I. D’Israeli, Routledge, 186”, p. 296; Essay on “Introduction of Tea, Coffee, and Chocolate.”

[151] Neale on the Psalms, 1860, vol. i. p. 20.

[152] Teste Neale, “Commentary on Psalms,” vol. i. p. 5.

[153] Sermons were written by Donne on the Psalms of his prebend.

[154] “Explanation of the Thirty-nine Articles,” by A. P. Forbes, D.C.L., Bishop of Brechin; 1868, vol. ii. p. 623—655.

[155] Pars III. De Consecratione, dist. ii. cap. 13—20.

[156] St. Isidore (cir. A.D. 600), de Ecclesiasticis Officiis, lib. i. cap. xviii. evidently quotes from this passage. So, too, Bp. Amalarius (cir. A.D. 800), de Eccl. Off., lib. iii. cap. xxxiv. They are to be found in Hittorpius, De Divinis Officiis, Romæ, 1591, p. 6, and 175.

[157] Pars III. De Consecratione, dist. ii. cap. 54, Lugduni, 1606, col. 1940.

[158] Summa, Pars III. quæst. lxxx. art. 8, Venetiis, 1757, tom. v. p. 546.

[159] Super Canone Missæ, Lectio x. lit. a., Lugduni, 1542, fol. 13.

[160] “Formularies of Faith,” Oxford, 1825, p. 268.

[161] Sylvestrina Summa, quæ Summa Summarum meritò nuncupatur, ab R. P. Sylvestro Prierate, Lugduni, 1551. Pars Prima, p. 346, s. v. Eucharistia, iii. 8.

[162] “Life of Christ,” part ii. § xii. Discourse 13, ed. Eden, vol. ii. p. 484; also, “Worthy Communicant,” chap. vii. § I, vol. viii. p. 221.

[163] Rerum Liturgicarum Libri Duo, auctore J. Bona Presb. Card., lib. i. cap. xxi. § i, ed. Sala Augusta; Taurinorum, 1749, vol. ii. p. 108.

[164] Notitia Eucharistica, p. 33. Mr. Oxenham of course quotes the passage with confidence: “The Duty of Fasting Communion,” p. 12.

[165] Bingham’s “Antiquities,” bk. xv. chap. vii. § 8, at the end. The note of Bishop Fell is to be found on Epist. lxiii. St. Cypriani Opera, Oxonii, 1682, Epistolæ, p. 156. The passage of St Cyprian will also be found in his Works, Paris, 1726, p. 109. In Clark’s “Ante-Niccne Library,” vol. i. p. 219.

[166] Decretum, Pars iii., De Consecratione, (list. i. cap. 49. The reference explains the text. A sub-deacon had been elected bishop; and, in order to hasten matters, the Bishop of Bologna ordained him deacon on Saturday, and priest on Sunday, as none might be promoted two steps on the same day. But the fast was continued all night. The Pope, therefore, punished them both; the bishop was suspended from giving orders, and the new priest from all priestly functions. Why? Because, fictione canonicâ, the continuation of the fast either added Sunday morning to Saturday, or attached Saturday to Sunday; and so, fictione canonicâ, the two orders had been conferred on the same day! But if sleep had broken the fast, they need not have been suspended. Decretal. Gregorii, lib. i. tit. xi. cap. 13, Lugduni, 1506, col. 256.

[167] Experiments, with a view to ascertain the period taken up by digestion, were made upon one Alexis St. Martin, whose stomach had been lacerated, and so healed as to allow of inspection. The following is an abstract from the result: “Dr. Beaumont’s observations shew that the process of digestion in the stomach, during health, takes place so rapidly, that a full meal consisting of animal and vegetable substances, may nearly all be converted into chyme in about an hour, and the stomach left empty in two hours and a-half.—Kirkes, “Handbook of Physiology,” London, 1848, p. 213.

[168] S. v. Eucharistia, iii. 8, Lugduni, 1551, Pars i. p 346.

[169] Bona, Rerum Liturgicarum, lib. i. cap. xxi. § I, note, ed. Sala, 1749, vol. ii. p. 109.

[170] Sylvester Prieras, loc. cit.

[171] P. M. Quarti, Commentaria in Rubricas Missalis, III. tit. ix. difficultas 2 Venetiis, 1727, p. 370. So also Gavanti, Thesaurus Sac. Rituum ad Merati, pars iii. tit. vii. § 9, Venetiis, 1769, vol. i. p. 211.

[172] “I suppose we owe it to the national good sense, that English Catholics have been protected from the extravagances which are elsewhere to be found.” Dr. Newman’s “Letter to Pusey,” 1866, p. 105.

[173] P. M. Quarti, Comm. in Rubr. Missalis, Quæstio proœmialis, sect. ii. Punct. vi., Vcnetiis, 1727, p. 13 and 377.

[174] Gratiani Canones Genuini ab Apocryphis Discreti, opera C. S. Berardi, Matriti, 1783, Pars iii. tom. iv. p. 289.

[175] “Antiquities,” book xv. chap. 9, Bohn’s ed., 1856, vol. ii. p. 849.

[176] Notitia Eucharistica, p. 737-9.

[177] Title-page of Book of Common Prayer.

[178] “The Works of Roger Hutchinson, Fellow of St. John’s College, Cambridge, and afterwards of Eton College,” 1842, Parker Society Edition, p. 221.