PROTESTANT EPISCOPAL CHURCH,
BISHOP OF THE PROTESTANT EPISCOPAL CHURCH IN OHIO.
IT is necessary to account for the abruptness apparent in the commencement of the following article. It is an enlarged copy of what made part of my Annual Address to the Convention of the Diocese of Ohio. Being now published without those parts, on other topics, which introduced it when delivered to the Convention, it seems to want an appropriate beginning, which this introduction may partly supply.
C. P. M.
I HAVE to request particular attention to a subject which, in my view, is one of great interest and importance.
In times past, when nothing seemed less possible than that the Romish corruptions of Christianity should make head in the Protestant Churches of England and of this country; when a man would have been thought almost mad who should have predicted that, by this time, and as the work of about ten years, such changes as we are [5/6] witnesses of, as well in attachment to the great principles of the Protestant Reformation, as in detestation of the antichristian doctrines of popery, would take place at home and abroad; when for one minister of a Protestant Church to become a Romanist, was singular enough to excite universal astonishment; and when the fact that nearly one hundred clergymen of our mother Church in Great-Britain, and several from our own Church, have apostatized to the faith of Rome within some five or six years, had it been predicted would have been utterly ridiculed, as too impossible to be even dreamed of; it is not singular that some things then should have been looked upon as matters of indifference which such alarming changes have now compelled us to regard as of serious importance in connection with the growth of false doctrine among us.
Of that class, is the form of the [6/7] structure on which we celebrate the Supper of the Lord. We have not been accustomed hitherto to take that matter into much account, except as a question of taste. It has always indeed been decidedly the usage of our Church to have a literal table, as distinguished from an altar-form structure. Until a very few years, the contrary was not seen. It is still an exception to the general custom. But as long as it seemed to be a mere matter of architectural preference; as long as there appeared among those who called themselves members of the Protestant Episcopal Church, no effort to "unprotestantize" the Church, to cast dishonor upon the principles of the Reformation, and to bring back the outcast corruptions of the Church of Rome, especially her doctrine conce:ning a real and propitiatory sacrifice in the Eucharist, and a real, sacrificing mediatorial [7/8] priesthood, in him who is commissioned to minister the Eucharist, as if he stood between God and man at an altar of atonement, and as if your peace with God depended on his priestly intercession there; under such circumstances there was no sense of hazard in leaving people to follow their fancies in the particular article of church furniture referred to; although then, just as much as now, to have any thing but a literal table, in the usual sense, for the communion of Christ's household of faith, was at variance with the directions of the Prayer-Book, the precedents of the Scriptures, and the practice of the early Church.
But wonderfully have matters changed within a very few years. What sort of language and of sympathy, in regard to the Reformation, and the peculiar doctrines of the Church of Rome, especially those most connected with our [8/9] present subject, have we become so accustomed to, of late, among professed Protestant Episcopalians, that we almost cease to notice them; but which, a few years ago, would have seemed impossible to any but a real Romanist! It is now too late for any man of ordinary observation to question that there is in the bosom of the Church of England, and of our own, which shares so necessarily in all the influences that affect the doctrinal condition of the former, a decided and concerted effort to propagate among the clergy and laity those very essential and central doctrines of Romish divinity against which our Church declares her strong protest on every fold of her banner. This effort is too systematic, too bold, too diligent, too artful, and is already too successful not to be alarming to any mind not already so drugged with its poisons as to be incapable of natural sight; or else so [9/10] indifferent, or so inordinately anxious for peace, at almost all hazards, as to be unwilling to believe there is an enemy at the gate, until his standard is planted on the citadel.
No object is more essential to the unprotestantizing of our Church, and to the taking away of the great gulf that lies between the gospel, as she teaches it, and its awful perversion and denial in the Church of Rome, than that of getting away the doctrine of our Articles and Homilies concerning the nature of the Lord's Supper, and substituting that of the decrees of the Council of Trent. Our Church, in the "Homily concerning the Sacrament," having in her eye the very corruptions now sought to be propagated among us, exhorts you to" take heed lest of the memory (i. e. of the doctrine of a remembrance of the death of Christ in the Eucharist) be made a sacrifice;--lest applying it for the dead [10/11] we lose the fruit that be alive." And she assures you that in the Lord's Supper "you need no other sacrifice or oblation" (than that of Christ on the cross:) "no sacrificing priest, no mass, no means established by man's invention." [Homily concerning the Sacrament. Part I.] But the revolutionary effort, which is best known as the Tractarian, directly contradicts this language of our Church, teaching that we do need another oblation and sacrifice; that the sacrifice of Christ on the cross cannot avail us, unless it be applied by what is called the "unbloody" sacrifice of his body and blood upon the altar of the Eucharist; that we must have the mediation of a "sacrificing priest' at that altar, or we cannot partake in the mediation of our Great High Priest before the mercy-seat in the sanctuary in the heavens; and consequently that the [11/12] Lord's Supper is not a mere "memory" of a sacrifice, but is a real propitiatory sacrifice for sin. This is popery in the essence. This is one of the devices by which, under a mask of gospel phrase, the Church of Rome evacuates the gospel of all that makes it a gospel. This is the hand by which she forges the chains of superstition and priestcraft, and riveting them around the reason and the consciences of men, fastens them down, under bondage, to whatever terms a despotic priesthood may employ.
Now where this doctrine, concerning a real sacrifice and priesthood in the Eucharist, exists, it must have a literal altar in the communion; because that proclaims, and is part of, the very idea of the sacrament which the doctrine maintains. And it must get rid of a literal table; because that declares the very truth concerning the sacrament, as simply a commemorative feast, upon a [12/13] sacrifice, once offered on the cross which is most absolutely denied.
This view is so well expressed by Gregory Martin, a learned Romish divine of the sixteenth century, and one of the principal hands in the Rhennish translation of the New Testament, that I am content with his words. "The name of altar, both in the Hebrew and Greek, and by the consent of all peoples, both Jews and Pagans, implying and importing sacrifice, therefore we, in respect of the sacrifice of Christ's body and blood, say 'altar,' rather than 'table.' But the Protestants, because they make it only a communion of bread and wine, or a supper and no sacrifice, therefore they called it a table only." "Understand their wily policy therein is this: to take away the holy sacrifice of the mass, they take away both altar and priest; because they know right well that these three, priest, sacrifice
[13/14] and altar, are dependents and consequents, one of another, so that they cannot be separated. If there be an external sacrifice, there must be an external priesthood to offer it, and an altar to offer the same upon. So had the Gentiles their sacrifices, priests and altars; so had the Jews; so Christ himself, being a priest, according to the order of Meichizedec, had a sacrifice, his body, and an altar, his cross, upon the which he offered it. And because he instituted this sacrifice to continue in his Church for ever in commemoration and representation of his death, therefore did he withal ordain his apostles priests, at his last supper, and there and then instituted the holy order of priesthood and priest (saying hoc facite, do this) to offer the self same sacrifice, in a mystical and unbloody manner, until the world's end." [Fulke's Defence of the English Translations of the Bible against the cavils of Gregory Martin. Park. Soc. edit. pp. 515, 516, 240, and 241.]
 To the accuracy of the above, as to Protestants making the Eucharist only a communion of bread and wine, I do not agree. But as to the essentially Romish connexion of altar, it is all most true. And hence you see that whether the Lord's Supper be celebrated on a table, or on an altar; or a structure the form of which shall express only a feast of communion; or on one which is ever associated with the idea of a proper priest and sacrifice, cannot with Romanists, or those who sympathise with their doctrine of the Eucharist, be a matter of indifference.
We have therefore seen that in proportion as the Tractarian type of Romish doctrine and sympathy has gained favor in England, or this country, there has grown up a marked [15/16] fondness for altars, instead of tables. In some instances where this substitution is made, I doubt not it is, as it used to be, a mere matter of taste, unassociated with any doctrinal bearing. But I fear such is not generally the case. There is undoubtedly in many a decided charm in the form of an altar, because of its connexion with certain forms of doctrine; for this it takes the place of the simple communion-table. Thus testifies a learned and most able champion of the truth in the Church of England, concerning the state of things there. "Of all the acts of these anti-Protestant agitators" (writes the Rev. W. Goode, author of "the Divine Rule of Faith and Practice") "none more demands our attention, at the present moment, than the attempt to substitute altars for communion-tables in our churches. They are now notoriously set up for the furtherance of Tractarian views of the [16/17] nature of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. The communion-table is thrust out of the old churches to make way for them. They are studiously introduced whenever practicable, into our churches. And thus the purity of our Church's doctrine on the subject is placed in jeopardy. [Altars prohibited by the Church of England, by the Rev. W. Goode, M. A., F.A. S. London.]
Now, my brethren, I have not looked without serious consideration upon these things. For several years, I have not consecrated a church, so far as I can remember, in which there was an altar-form structure, instead of a proper table. But this was rather because such a structure did not happen to be in the new churches; than because I was prepared to make any serious objection to it. But the altered condition of things to which I have already referred, has placed the subject in a very different light; so that I have been led [17/18] to inquire into my duty with regard to it, as I had not done before. The conclusion to which I have come is this: that hereafter I must refuse to consecrate any church in which there is an altar-form structure for the Lord's Supper, and in which there is not a proper table, in the usual sense, as the permanent furniture. I must require, not only that there be not an altar, but that there be a permanent and proper table. Of this determination I take the present opportunity of giving notice to the diocese.
In taking a position which I cannot but suppose will seem, not only new, but over-scrupulous to those whose attention has not been much drawn in that direction, it is due, as well to you, as myself, that I should assign my reasons. This I now proceed to do. And, my brethren, if I should go more largely into the subject than the determination [18/19] just declared would seem to require, I am sure you will not think the time un- appropriately employed when you shall see how conclusively the state of the case as to what is right in the Church, in regard to the furniture for the Lord's Supper, expounds her doctrine of the nature of that Sacrament, as involving no sacrifice, except as all prayer is sacrifice, and of the minister thereof as being no Priest, except as that name is used synonymously with Presbyter or Elder.
[The English Translations of the Bible were violently attacked by Romish writers, in the age of the Reformation, because the original word presbuteroV (whence comes our word Presbyter) was never rendered Priest. The Reformers answered thus: "The word Priest, by popish abuse, is commonly spoken for a sacrificer, the same as sacerdos in Latin. But the Holy Ghost never calleth the ministers of the word and sacraments of the New Testament iereiV or sacerdotes. Therefore, the translators, to make a difference between the ministers of the Old Testament and them of the New, call the one according to the usual acceptation, priests, and the other according to the original derivation, presbyters or elders. The name of priest, according to the original derivation from presbyter, we do not refuse; but according to the common acceptation for a sacrificer we cannot take it, when it is spoken of the ministry of the New Testament. But seeing your popish sacrificing power, and blasphemous sacrifice of your mass hath no manner of ground in the holy scriptures, either in the original Greek, or in your own Latin translation, you are driven to seek a silly shadow of it in the abusive acceptation and sounding of the English word priest and priesthood. And therefore you do, in great earnest, affirm, that priest, sacrifice, and altar are dependents and consequents, one of another, so that they cannot be separated. If you should say in Latin sacerdos, sacrificium, altare, be such consequents, we will subscribe to you; but if you will change the word, and say presbyter, sacrifcium, altare, every learned man's ears will glow to hear you say they are dependents and consequents, inseparable. Therefore we must needs distinguish of the word priest in your corollary; for if you mean the sacerdotium, we grant the consequence of sacrifice and altar; but if you mean presbyterium, we deny that God ever joined those three in an inseparable band; or that presbyter, in that he is presbyter, hath any thing to do with sacrifices, or altar, more than senior or ancient or elder."--Fulke's Defence of the English Translations of the Bible. Parker Society Ed. p. 109, 262, 253. "Ambiguity," says Bishop White, "has arisen from the circumstance that the English language applies the same word 'Priest' to denote two words in the original iereuV and presbuteroV. Of the latter word, it is here affirmed that it never denotes an offerer of sacrifice; and as to the former word, no one alleges that it ever stands for a Christian minister in the scriptures."--Bishop White's Dissertation on the Eucharist.]
 But here I wish it to be distinctly understood that in what I have now said, or shall say, there is no reference intended to any minister, or parish, or [20/21] any state of things within this diocese. In carrying out my views of duty in this matter, recently, I have designed not the least censure on any person or parish. Nothing of that sort is intended [21/22] in what I have yet to say. In the few cases of altar-form structure, in churches in Ohio, I have no reason to believe there has been any object beyond the gratification of a builder's taste. It may therefore seem to some ill-timed to adopt the determination of which I have just notified you. But my opinion is precisely the reverse. It seems to me far wiser to settle a definite rule of this kind, while there is nothing against it more difficult to be yielded than a mere matter of architectural fancy, than to wait till erroneous doctrine shall have gained so much strength as to change a question of taste into one of principle, and make the having of an altar identical with the keeping of a good conscience.
Let me first go to history. What was the primitive use?
None can deny that our Lord instituted and administered the Eucharist at a common household table. And [22/23] when he says "the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table, we necessarily contemplate the Savi6ur and the twelve as engaged in an act of family, spiritual communion simply; analogous to that of a household around the family table. Nothing can more perfectly exclude the idea of sacrifice, priest, and altar. It was the communion of the Passover. The Supper of our Lord took the place of the Jewish paschal feast. The latter was a feast after, and upon, a sacrifice which had been previously offered at the great altar of burnt-offerings at the temple. The work of the Jewish priest was finished when the paschal lamb had been sacrificed. Other altar a Jew could not have, than that of the temple, around which the blood of that lamb was sprinkled. Other sacrifice there remained none in connection with that feast, when once that lamb had been slain. But there did [23/24] remain the feast of communion upon that lamb, thus offered, once for all the house of Israel. The lambs were many; the sacrifice, the feast, the type, was one. It was the communion of the whole household of the chosen people. They met in families, as we meet for our communion in congregations. They met, not at the altar, where the sacrifice was offered, but at the table of the family fellowship; as we meet not at the cross, where Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us, but at a table expressive of the family fellowship of all believers in the reconciliation effected by the blood of Jesus. They met without a Priest; all that pertained to the office of Priest having been finished at the Temple. We meet at the Lord's Supper without any mere human Priest: [Of course I mean Priest in the sense of a Sacrifice.] for all that pertaineth to the [24/25] office of a Priest, in our reconciliation to God, was finished when Christ offered up himself, "once for all," on the altar of the cross; or else is being perfected in his present, ever living, intercession, within the vail, before the mercy-seat in heaven. The Jews met at the table of the household to feed upon what had elsewhere been offered on an altar as a propitiatory sacrifice to God. Christians meet to feed, by faith with thanksgiving, spiritually, upon a propitiatory sacrifice, long since offered, even the flesh and blood of Jesus, by which we draw nigh to God. The Jewish Passover was of two parts--"the sacrifice of the Lord's Passover, and the Feast of the Lord's Passover;" the propitiatory offering at the temple, and the eucharistic supper on that offering, in the family dwelling. It was as much commanded that the feast should be in the house, and not at the temple, as that the sacrifice should [25/26] be at the temple, and not in any private house. Our Passover is of like two parts, the sacrifice and the feast; the offering of the Lamb of God, and the eucharistic supper of the whole household of faith, partaken in spirit, by faith, in that Lamb. In the beginning of the dispensation of the gospel, the sacrifice of our Passover was slain, once for all. Jesus was priest and victim. The whole period, since then, and to the end of the world, is the Feast of the Lord's Passover, during which each believer, every day, is living by faith, in the secret of his own heart, upon the sacrifice of Christ, as all his life and hope and the whole Christian household of faith are, at stated periods, assembling together to express and declare, in the sacrament of the breaking of bread, their common dependence on, and their common thankfulness for, that one perfect and sufficient oblation and satisfaction for [26/27] the sins of the whole world. As the Jews were not allowed to unite the offering and the eating, the priestly sacrifice and the Eucharistic feast, but were commanded to separate them in point of place and time; so we cannot, by any possibility, unite them, under the Gospel. The sacrifice for us was offered eighteen hundred years ago, "once for all." It cannot be repeated. The feast alone remains--a feast commemorative of a sacrifice, but not a sacrifice of commemoration, except as the offering of prayer and thanksgiving is figuratively a sacrifice and each communicant is in that sense a Priest.
All this illustrates how entirely it was as pertaining to the design and original institution of the Lord's Supper, that our Lord assembled the twelve around a common house-hold table, for the first administration of that sacrament; and how little connexion it had with any [27/28] sacrifice as then being offered, or with any altar as then present.
Long after the first institution of the Lord's Supper, the Christian Church continued to keep aloof from any thing expressive of sacrifice, except as it commemorated that of Christ, and was accompanied, on the part of communicants, with the offering of their prayers and alms. Our venerable Bishop White expressed his belief that "the term 'altar,' did not supplant the original word for a considerable time after the apostolic age. [Dissertations on the Eucharist--On the occurrence of altar in the Epistles of Ignatius, Bishop White says: "If there be known any opposite testimony, it is in the Epistles of Ignatius, where he speaks of 'within the altar,' as descriptive of being within the communion of the Church. But he probably spoke figuratively; as the literal construction of his words is inapplicable to the subject, and indeed conveys no clear sense. In the very many places in which he speaks of presbyters, he never designated them by the Greek word applied to Jewish priests. And yet altar in the Jewish sense, would also have required priest in the same; and both with the connection of sacrifice."--Ibid.] Suicer says it is [28/29] clearer than mid-day that altars were not in the primitive church;" (meridiana luce clarius.)
Basnage says that the writings of men of the apostolic age, such as Clement, Polycarp, Justin, never employed the words High Priest, Priest, &c, for the Christian minister; nor did they any more use the word altar to signify the table of the Eucharist." [Basnage Ann. v. xii. Mede, with all his learning in antiquity, could find no instance of the word altar, for table, earlier than Tertullian, who flourished in the beginning of the third century. His next instance is from Cyprian, in the middle of that century. How easy it is to be deceived as to the doctrine of the Church in the early centuries, by reading certain names and phrases, not reflecting on the different use they may have had from that which is now assigned them, is well illustrated in the following from Daillé. We have the use of these words, Pope, Mass, Oblation, Mortal Sins, Penance, Confession, Satisfaction, Merit, Indulgence, as the ancients had, and make use of an infinite number of the like terms; but understand them all in a sense almost as far different from them, as our age is removed from theirs; just in like manner as of old, under the Roman emperors, the names of offices and of things, for a long time continued the same, that had been in use in the time of the old republic; but with a sense quite different from what they had formerly borne. Thus when we light upon any passage in the ancients, where the Bishop of Rome is called Papa, or Pope, we immediately begin to fancy him with all the glory at this day belonging to this name; not disallowing him so much as his guard of Swiss and his light horse: whereas they that are but indifferently versed in these books, know that the name Papa or Pope, was given to every bishop. The word Mass likewise makes us prick up our ears, as if, even from those ancient times, the whole liturgy, and all the ceremonies used at the celebration of the eucharist, had been the very same that they are at this day. Whereas the learned of both parties acknowledge that these names have, since that time, lost very much of their old, and acquired new significations.--Daillé De Usu Patrum, c. v. But how great has been the harvest of evil from the seed of figurative language sown by the Fathers! Bishop Morton says: "The primitive antiquity (as hath been confessed) did abstain from the name of priest, and so consequently of altars and sacreylce, terming them according to the tenor of the New Testament, elders or bishops, tables, and Eucharist. In the after times, the Church being established in the truth of doctrine, the Fathers might presume to take a greater liberty of speech, knowing that they should be understood of catholic bearers, catholicly. But because ages more degenerate did set, as it were, a bias upon the phrases priest, altar, sacrifice, (which had been used by the Fathers improperly,) to draw them to a proper (literal) signification, flat contrary to their first intention; therefore did Protestants rather wish that those objected ancient Fathers had rather contained themselves within their more ancient restraints, than that the liberty of their speeches should have occasioned in the Romanists that prodigal error in doctrine, which we shall hereafter unfold."--Bishop Morton's Catholic Appeal for Protestants.]  Bingham, our learned and standard author in ecclesiastical antiquities, says that as late as the time of Athanasius (4th century) "the churches had communion [30/31] tables of wood;" and of the churches of Africa and Egypt, particularly, he says: "There is no question to be made that about this time, the altars were [31/32] only tables of wood." In the year 509, a general decree was made in France "that no altars should be consecrated but such as should be made of stone only." And Bingham says, "This seems to be the first public act of that nature that we have upon authentic record in ancient history. And from the time of this change in the matter of them, the form, or fashion, of them changed likewise. For whereas before they were in the form of tables, they now began to be erected more like altars." [Bingham's Antiquities, b. viii. c. vi. § 15.]
 This comparatively modern use of the form of an altar, instead of that of a table, is strongly asserted by Bishop Jewel, in his Defence of his Apology for the Church of England against the Jesuit Harding.
"As for the altars (he says) which the Donatists brake down, (in the churches of the 4th century) they were certainly tables of wood, such as we have, and not heaps of stones such as ye have. St. Augustine saith the Donatists, in their hurry, broke down the altar- boards. His words be these: Lignis ejusdem altaris effraetis. Likewise saith Athanasius of the like fury of the Arians; Subsellia, thronum, mensam ligneam et tabulas ecclesiae et caetera quae poterunt, foris elata, combusserunt; they carried forth and burnt the seats, the pulpit, the wooden board, the church tables, &c. Touching your stone altars, Beatus Rhenanus [33/34] saith: In nostris Basilicis, Axarum superaddititia structura novitatem prae se fert; in our churches the building up of altars, added to the rest, declareth a novelty. This learned man telleth you, Mr Harding, that your stone altars are but newly brought into the Church of God, and that our communion tables are old and ancient, and have been used from the beginning. We have such altars as Christ, his apostles, St. Augustine, Optatus, and other catholic and holy Fathers had used." [Defence of Apol., &c. 111, ch. i. div. 3.]
Bishop Babington, in his notes on Exodus, published in 1604, says: "The altars used in popery are not warranted by this example, (i. e. of the Jewish altars.) But the primitive churches used communion tables, as we do now, of boards and wood, not altars, as they do, of stone. Origen was about 200 after [34/35] Christ, and he saith that Celsus objected it as a fault to Christians, Quod nec imagines, nec temple, nec aras haberent: that they had neither images, nor temples, nor altars. Ambrosius, after him, saith the same of the heathens: Accusatis nos quod nec temple habeamus, nec aras, nec imagines. Gerson saith that Sylvester first caused stone altars to be made--Upon this occasion, in some places, stone altars were used for steadiness and continuance, wooden tables having been before used; but, I say in some places not in all. For Saint Augustine saith that, in his time, in Africa, they were made of wood. For the Donatists, saith he, break in sunder the altar-boards. Again the deacon's duty was to remove the altar. Chrysostom calleth it the holy board. St. Augustine, the table of the Lord. Athanasius, Mensam ligneam, the table of wood. Yet was the communion table [35/36] called an altar; not that it was so, but only by allusion metaphorically, as Christ is called an altar; or our hearts be called altars, &c. Mark with yourselves therefore the newness of this point for stone altars in comparison of our ancient use of communion-tables, and let popery and his parts fall, and truth and sound antiquity be regarded." [Bishop Babington's Works. Ed. 1622, p. 307.]
The learned Perkins, one of the greater lights at Cambridge, in the latter part of the 16th century, says: "About this year, 400, the use of altars began; but not for sacrifice, but for the honor and memory of the martyrs." [Perkins' Works, II., p. 553.]
It would be easy to show that the use of altars originated contemporaneously with that inordinate veneration for the relics of saints and martyrs which was very soon matured into that idolatrous [36/37] adoration which is now one of the grievous crimes of the Church of Rome. It is little to the credit of altars, in the Christian Church, to look back to the various growths of astonishing superstition which grew up in company with their use. Mosheim, speaking of the 4th century, says: "An enormous train of different superstitions were gradually substituted in the place of true religion and genuine piety. This odious revolution was owing to a variety of causes. A ridiculous precipitation in receiving new opinions; a preposterous desire of imitating the Pagan rites and of blending them with the Christian worship, and that idle propensity which the generality of mankind have towards a gaudy and ostentatious religion, all contributed to establish the reign of superstition upon the ruins of Christianity The virtues that had formerly been ascribed to the heathen temples, to their [37/38] lustrations, to the statues of their gods and heroes, were now attributed to Christian churches, to water consecrated by certain forms of prayer, and to the images of holy men. * * The worship of the martyrs was modelled, by degrees, according to the religious services that were paid to the gods before the coming of Christ. [Mosheim's Eccl. His. Cent. iv,, p. 11, § 2.]
To such heights of superstition and imposture had the veneration of relics arrived in the latter part of the 4th century, that the 5th council of Carthage was obliged to resist its more odious extravagancies. The following extract, from the 14th canon of that Council, will show in what connexion altars arose in the Church: "It is decreed that the altars which are set up every where in the fields, or in the ways, as monuments of martyrs, in which no bodies or relics [38/39] of martyrs are proved to be buried; be overthrown by the bishops of those places, if it may be. But if, on account of tumults of the people, that cannot be done, yet let the people be admonished that they frequent not those places, &c. And let no memorial of martyrs be allowed and accepted, except the body, or some undoubted relics, he there, or that some original of their habitations or suffering be there delivered from a most faithful beginning. As for those altars that are set up, in every place, by dreams, and vain revelations of any men, let them by all means be disallowed."
Faithful to this original connection between altars and tombs, the sacrament of the Lord's on the top, and dead men's bones within, is the present use of the altar in the Church of Rome. The Rhemish Annotators on the New Testament, commenting on Revelations vi. 9, where occurs the vision of the souls [39/40] under the altar, say, "Christ, as man, (no doubt) is the altar under which the souls of all martyrs lie, in heaven, expecting their bodies, as Christ their head hath his body there already. And for correspondence to their place, or state, in heaven, the Church layeth commonly their bodies also, or relics, near, or under the altars, where our body is offered in the holy Mass; and hath a special proviso that no altars be erected, or consecrated, without some part of a saint's body or relics." And this "special proviso" is founded on the assumption that "the relics of the saints add not a little to the sanctity of the sacrament when they are contained in the altar;" thus fully carrying out the abominable doctrine that we are assisted by the merits of the saints in obtaining justification through the merits of Christ.
Conformed to this tomb-like use of Romish altars, and their monumental [40/41] origin, is their almost invariable shape. They are in the shape of arks or chests, resembling very closely, in general appearance, those oblong structures of stone or brick, surmounted with a marble slab, which from time immemorial have been erected over the dead, as monuments to their memory. ["The altar which has been erected" (under Tractarian auspices) "at the Round Church, Cambridge," (which has been condemned by an ecclesiastical court as illegal) "is a mass of stone work, rising as an erection from the ground, and attached to the fabric of the Church. The only point in which it differs from the tomb-like altars generally seen in Romish churches, is that it is not closed in front, (though it is on the sides,) the Romish altars being generally closed all round, the interior being devoted to the reception of relics, without which there is a very general feeling among Romanists that the Eucharist cannot be properly celebrated upon them. But this tomb-like form is not reckoned essential to the being of an altar; occasionally, I believe, a portion of the front is left open, that the relics may be seen, and protected only by a trellis work of brass or other metal."--Goode's Altars prohibited in the Church of England.]
 This peculiar, chest-like form of the Romish altar is wholly unlike any thing under the name of altar of which we have any account. The altars which Moses was directed to make for the worship of Israel, and those which were afterwards set up, according to that model, in the temple at Jerusalem, had no such character. Bingham says, that "when such structures for altars began to be used in the sixth century, they were built like a tomb, as if it were some monument of a martyr and he quotes an eminent authority (Bona) as saying that specimens of such ancient monuments to martyrs were still found, in his days, in the catacombs of Rome and other places. [Bingham's Antiquities, b. viii. c. vi. §16.]
It is not difficult to trace the steps [42/43] by which the martyr's tomb came to be so universally the Romish altar. It is well known that, at an early period, Christians took great pleasure in honoring the memory of martyrs, by erecting tombs as monuments, over the place of their burial, and in assembling there, for worship, on the anniversary of their death. On these occasions, the martyrs monument served as a table on which they celebrated the Eucharist.
But now the habit of calling the table an altar was fast driving out the true and primitive name, as Christians, out of a most degrading disposition to conciliate the heathen by adopting their names and comforming to their customs, were getting more fond of speaking of the Lord's supper as a sacrifice, and of its minister as a Priest. Thus Jerome is quoted by a Romish Annotator as "calling the bodies or bones of St. Peter and St. Paul the altars of Christ, [43/44] because of this sacrifice offered over and upon them." [Gregory Martin, in Fulke's defence of English Translations. The doctrine of any sacrifice in the Lord's Supper, except as the commemoration of that on the cross was metonymically called a sacrifice, or as the prayers of communicants were called so, did not get place in the Church till long after; but there was now a dangerous use of figurative terms and a dangerous fondness for the introduction of heathen rites into Christian worship, out of which very naturally grew, by and by, the full doctrine of a literal sacrifice, altar and priesthood. Bishop White says, "there were no sentiments for three hundred years, in the Christian Church, which threatened to lead, even by remote consequences, to such an extreme," as the Romish errors on this subject.--Lecture on the Sacraments. In the fourth century, Eusebius said that the "unbloody and reasonable sacrifices which our blessed Saviour taught his followers to offer, were such as were to be performed by prayer and the mystical service of blessing and praising God." In Laudibus Constantini, quoted by Medes.] Soon churches were built over some of those venerated tombs, [44/45] and the relics were removed from others into churches, and of course were enshrined in tombs, as became the sepulture of the illustrious dead. And there, as before in the open fields, the eucharistic sacrifice was offered over, and upon, them; the doctrine having now grown up that "prayer was more acceptable to God when made before the relics of the saints." As the doctrine of the real, corporeal presence of Christ in the Eucharist gained prevalence, so grew that of a real sacrifice and a literal altar; and as the idea of uniting the merits of Christ's sacrifice, with the supererogatory merits of saints, for the remission of sins, made progress, so seemed it the more appropriate that in the so-called "sacrament of the altar, the relics of the saints and the body of Christ should be associated together, the one upon, the one under, the altar. Thus it came to pass that the only form [45/46] with which the Church of Rome learned to connect the idea of a Christian altar was that of a Christian martyr's tomb. Such was the form which she handed down to the age of the Reformation and to the present; sacred now in the eyes of her children, as identified with the whole history of her missal solemnities and her miracle-working relics. And now, even among Protestant Christians, so is the association of ideas affected by the outward forms which the pompous ceremonial of Romish worship exhibits, especially when they appear under the garb of antiquity, and are identified with a favorite style of ecclesiastical architecture, that when under the influence of a false architectural taste, or a wrong doctrinal sympathy, our people attempt to erect altars, instead of tables, in their churches, none ever think of copying the models which God gave to Moses for the worship of Israel, and which are [46/47] hallowed in our thoughts by all the sacred solemnities of the Jewish Church, as divinely ordained types of the sacrifice of Christ. To imitate the brazen altar of burnt offering--or the golden altar of incense, the only real altar- forms that we know of, except those of heathen worship, would at once seem too Jewish. To have something more Christian, we go to the altar of the Church of Rome, for a model; which is Christian, just so far as the idolatrous worship of the wafer in the Mass, and of dead men's bones beneath, is Christian, and no more. When one sees in a Protestant Episcopal Church, instead of a proper table such as he has a right to find, for the holy supper, what is now called an altar, an oblong chest or ark, of stone or wood, closed in on all sides, as if some sacred mysteries were concealed therein; what edifying thoughts is it calculated to awaken in his mind? Is [47/48] he reminded of the institution of the Lord's Supper? But then there was only a common table. Does it symbolise, to his eye, the nature of the Lord's Supper? He knows of no sacrifice therein and therefore no altar. Does it teach him his privilege and duty, as a believer, spiritually to feed by faith, upon the sacrifice of Christ once offered on the cross? He wants a table, not an altar, to suggest that lesson.--Does it stand before him surrounded with edifying and inspiring associations arising out of the recollections of the primitive and pure ages of the gospel? Those ages had no such device. Is it even connected, in his mind, with the venerable usages of the Protestant Episcopal Church? It is a novelty among them! What then? It is fitted only to remind him of its own original, in the midst of the rankest growths of spiritual deformity, when it was a mere martyr's tomb: [48/49] its top the birth-place of the idolatry of the Mass; its interior a depository of worshipped bones; a most fit symbol of that whole system of spiritual bondage and death, (all centering in the so called "sacrament of the altar," under which the Church of Rome has always, since she became what she is, buried the gospel and imprisoned the minds of men, wherever she has held the dominion.--if there be any thing edifying to a communicant at the board in contemplating what suggests nothing but the remembrance of all that is false and superstitious in popery, then indeed is such an altar edifying. The primitive table is just the opposite.
To return to our history--I need not tell you that such was the altar, found in the churches of England at the period of the Reformation. But it did not remain long undisturbed. With the revival of gospel truth concerning the [49/50] nature of our Lord's Supper came the restoration of the primitive table for its celebration. In 1550, Ridley, Bishop of London, issued injunctions to the churches of his diocese, exhorting that all altars should be taken down and that they should "set up the Lord's board, after the form of an honest table." And one of his reasons was that "the form of a table may more turn away the people from the old superstitious opinions of the popish mass, and to the right use of the Lord's Supper." [Ridley's works, P--S. Ed. P. 319-324.]
An order to the same effect, was issued the same year, under date of November 19. We read in King Edward's journal, the following entry: "There were letters sent to every Bishop to pluck down the altars." [Burnet's Hist. of Ref., vol. ii. fol.] Day, Bishop of Chichester, having refused [50/51] compliance, was imprisoned. When Mary succeeded to the throne, Romanism was re-enthroned, and of course tables were cast out of the churches, and altars restored. It was then made a serious charge against the Reformers that they had taken away the altars; to which Bishop Ridley, on the eve of his martyrdom, answered: "As for the taking down of the altars, it was done upon most just considerations; for that they seemed to come too nigh the Jews' use; neither was the Supper of the Lord at any time better ministered or more duly received than in those latter days," (the reign of Edward) "when all things were brought to the rites and usages of the primitive church." [Ridley's works, P. S. Ed. P. 280-281.]
On the return of the Reformation, under Elizabeth, altars were again cast out by authority, and tables again [51/52] restored. In 1564-5, certain "Advertisements for due order in the using of the Lord's Supper" were "set forth by public authority," in which it was ordained that each parish should provide "a decent table standing on a frame, for the communion table." [Quoted from Goode's "Altars Prohibited," who cites Sparrow and Cardwell as his authorities.]
In 1569, Archbishop Parker issued to his diocese certain visitation articles; one of which was thus: "Whether you have in your parish churches all things necessary for common prayer and administration of the sacraments, especially, * * * the Homilies, a convenient pulpit, well placed; a comely and decent table for the holy communion: * * * And whether your altars be taken down according to the commandment in that behalf given." [Strype's "Life of Parker." App. b. ii., No. xi.]
 In 1571, were issued the Canons of the Synod of that year, which enjoined that the Church-warden, should "provide a table of joiners' work for the administration of the holy communion." [Quoted by Goode from Wilk. iv. 266.]
In the same year, Grindal, while Archbishop of York, and afterwards, when in the See of Canterbury, set forth injunctions directing the Church-wardens to "provide in every parish, a comely and decent table standing on a frame, and to see that all altars be utterly taken down." [Grindal's works. P-S. E-D. 133, 134.]
Now it was with this well understood character of a table for the communion, as distinguished from an altar of sacrifice, "an honest table," "a table of joiners' work," "a table of wood standing on a frame," that in 1603, the [53/54] present Canon of the Church of England, (the 82d) was enacted; which requires that "there shall be a decent communion table in every church." What the Canon means by "a table" the injunctions I have cited perfectly determines.
Contemporaneously with the inunctions, published in the reign of Elizabeth, was issued our second Book of Homilies, in one of which we am told that "God's house is well adorned, with places convenient to sit in, with the pulpit for the preacher, with the Lord'; able for the ministration of his holy supper, with the font to christen in, &c. [Homily on Repairing of Churches.]--In those days it would have been as impossible to mistake what, in the laws of the Church of England, was meant by a table, in distinction from an altar, as to confound a pulpit for the preacher, with a font for baptism.
 It is an impressive fact, in this connexion, that whereas in the first Prayer Book of Edward VI., 1548, the word altar was retained in some places, where a literal table was meant; when that book was revised in 1552, and the second Book of Edward VI. was set forth, that word was, in every case, erased, and table was put in its place. Thus has the Prayer Book of the Church of England remained to this day. The word altar is not there, in any connection with Lord's Supper. It was struck out when it was there, as not according to the doctrine of the Church. Every where now the word is table. Thus, what is the law of that Church according to her rubrics and canons, as expounded by the visitation articles and injunctions of her Bishops and Archbishops, by the decrees of Synods, and the declarations of her greatest divines, is manifest beyond a rational question. A [55/56] learned writer states it thus: "The only thing which properly answers the legal requisition of our Church, must have the three following characteristics:
First,--As to material, that it be made of wood.
Secondly,--As to form, that it be a table in the ordinary sense of the word, that is, a horrizontal plane resting upon a frame or feet
Thirdly,--That it be unattached, in any part, to the Church, so as to be a moveable table." [Goode's Altars Prohibited.]
The recent decision of the highest ecclesiastical and judical authority in England, commanding the altar lately erected in the Round Church in Cambridge to be removed, as illegal, fully confirms all that we have now said as to the law of the Church of England on this subject.
Before leaving this historical view, [56/57] it will be edifying to reflect upon the alternate rise and fail of altars and tables, in the history of the English Church, according as Romish or Protestant principles prevailed. With the prevalence of the Reformation under Edward, the symbol of a priestly sacrifice and a priestly mediation, fell down before the ark of Christ's holy gospel, and the primitive symbol of the communion feast, at which all believers have equal rights of fellowship with their Lord and Saviour, was set up again as Christ and his apostles left it. But with the return of the dominion of popery under Mary, came back the priests and their altars--and the casting out of the Lord's table. The restoration again of the gospel to the pulpits, under Elizabeth, was the signal for the restoration of the symbol of its blessed feast of grace, in Jesus Christ. When, afterwards, in the times of Archbishop [57/58] Laud, there was a revival of Romish sympathies and doctrines, corresponding perfectly, in spirit and principle, with what we now see, in a more mature development, under the name of Tractarianism, there was an equal revival of zeal for altars; and there were those who took advantage of the favor known to be secretly felt in high quarters towards such things, and erected altars in the churches. A Bishop (Montague of Chichester) went so far as to insert in his visitation articles, questions which Were intended to suggest and promote their erection. And this same Bishop, while professedly of the Protestant Church of England, was in his heart an apostate to the Church of Rome, and was at that time holding secret interviews with the Popes emissary, then in England, for the purpose of bringing about a union of the Churches of England and Rome. His zeal for altars [58/59] was fitly united with a zeal to assure Panzani "that he was continually employed in disposing men's minds, both by word and writing, for a re-union with Rome;" and that both he and many of his brethren were prepared to conform themselves to the method and discipline of the Gallican Church, where the civil rights were well guarded; "as for the aversion (said he) we discover in sermons and printed books, they are things of form, chiefly to humor the populace and not to be much regarded." [Memoirs of Gregorio Panzani, quoted by Goode in his Introduction to Jackson on the Church.] We cannot but be reminded by these sad words of certain strong expressions against Rome put out in the earlier writings of certain leading Tractarian authors, and which had the effect, as was intimated, of convincing many that those men were strong [59/60] opposers of Romanism; which expressions having done their work, have been taken back, with the not unintelligible intimation that they were not sincere, only words for the times, while some of their authors have apostatized to the Church of Rome, in form, and others evidently in heart.
By such men, altars were received in the days of Laud. When those days were passed, and the Church of England had weathered the storm which by a fierce and desolating re-action they had raised, no more was heard of altars; except as a lingering survivor of the nonjuring divines kept up the taste for sacrifice and priests. From that time, until the recent revival of Romish doctrine and feeling in some members of the English Church, it is not known that any thing but "an honest table" was placed in the churches of that land. But now, just so far as Tractarianism has [60/61] extended its vines through our mother Church, producing its legitimate fruits in a real, though partially masked, Romanism, has there appeared a solemn zeal for a real sacrifice in the Lord's Supper, for a sacrificing priesthood in the Christian ministry; for a confinement of the dispensation of gospel grace to the ministrations of a priest in the sacrifice of the Eucharist; and, by necessary consequence, an altar in the church as the only thing at which a priest can appropriately stand, in his mediatorial office, and offer the body of Christ as a propitiation for the sins of the faithful.
This history of the alternate revival and declension of zeal for altars and tables makes it so evident with what kind of sympathy, Romish or Protestant, each is doctrinally connected, and how far it is from being a matter of indifference whether we have one or the other, that he who runs may read.
 I am now prepared to state four reasons for the determination of which I have notified you, viz, that I will not consecrate any church hereafter in which the structure for the ministration of the Lord's supper is of an altar form; or in which there is not, for that use a table, in the ordinary sense, as the permanent furniture.
I. The Rubric of our Communion office requires such a Table.
Our Prayer Book, as originally set forth, like that of the Church of England, no where uses the word altar, with reference to the Lord's Supper. It continued some fifteen years in that state, every where speaking of the table. It was not until the addition of the office for the Institution of Ministers, that the word altar obtained admission, even in a figurative sense. Of this more by and by. Only in that office is that word now found. In the Rubric at the head of [62/63] the Communion office it is directed that "the table, at the communion, having a fair, linen cloth upon it, shall stand in the body of the church, or chancel."
It would be perfectly consistent with the order of the Church, as thus set forth, were the communion-table placed in the middle of one of the aisles; if the space around were large enough to be convenient for communicants; and then it might be entirely open, unprotected by rails, as it was for some hundreds of years in the beginning, and as it often was in the Churches of England, after the Reformation; instead of being enclosed within the barrier of the chancel. However inexpedient this might be, it would not be inconsistent with the provisions of our Church. Consistently with these provisions, the table might be sometimes in one part of the body of the church, sometimes in another. And while we think of it as a table only, the [63/64] symbol of the spiritual feast of the Lord's family, there is nothing, intrinsically, objectionable in this. But what would it be were it a real altar, with the sacrifice of the Lord's body offered thereon, and a minister in the special sacredness of a mediating, sacrificing Priest, officiating thereat? The very idea implies separation, a privileged place, ground specially holy, as the Court of the Priests, in the temple, having in it the altar of sacrifice, was separated from the Court of Israel.
The Rubric says, "the table." It no where goes into any account of what it means by a table. Of course then we are to understand a table in the usual sense.
To say that because an altar may in a certain accommodated sense be called a table, it is therefore consistent with the Rubric to have a literal altar in our churches, is just as much as to say that [64/65] whatever may in any figurative, accomodated, or unusual sense be termed a table, however perfectly unlike what all are accustomed to understand by that name, is contemplated by the Rubric. You may go out into a graveyard and serve up your family meal upon a tomb-stone, and call it a table, because you have used it for a table. But is it a table in any ordinary or proper sense? And would it be rubrical to place it in the church for the feast of the Lord's Passover? Would it be a proper symbol of the feast of the Christian household of faith? But why not, as much as a Romish altar?
But what our Rubric means by the table is easily and perfectly settled by the sense of the Church of England. Our Rubric is precisely hers. Her doctrine and practice, as to the ministration of the Eucharist is by universal acknowledgement ours. All that we have, in these respects, came through her. [65/66] Consequently the whole history of the removal of altars and substitution of "honest tables of wood standing in a frame;" all the government orders, episcopal injunctions and judicial decisions by which the law of the Church of England is so clearly interpreted, apply with equal conclusiveness to the interpretation of ours, and establish that what is meant by a table for the communion cannot admit of any thing but a table in the ordinary sense, requiring no ingenious eye to see how it can be a table, but intelligible in this respect to all descriptions of men. I know it is pleaded that in the Office for the Institution of Ministers, the table is called "the altar." But I cannot perceive any more ground to argue from this source in justification of an altar-form structure in our churches. I have already mentioned the late introduction of that Office. It speaks of "the altar," some [66/67] six or seven times. Was there such a thing known in our churches at the time of its adoption, as an altar in the literal sense? We answer No, except possibly as a very rare departure from a general custom. 'What then could the Office have meant by altar, but the Table; and inasmuch as the table then was no figurative table, but the literal thing, in the ordinary sense, how could it be called an altar, but figuratively, as we speak of "the family altar;" and why should we any more infer from such use that it is consistent with good taste or church-propriety to have a literal altar in our houses of worship, than we should infer from the common expression family altar, that people really erect altars in their houses of residence; or why, if the Prayer Book speaks literally when it mentions the table, and figuratively when it speaks of the altar, should we have, as our article of [67/68] furniture for the communion, literally an altar, and only figuratively a table?
But all this aside. It does seem most singular that we should allow a word used only some five or six times in the whole Prayer Book, and that in an Office so recent, and so little used, to overrule the use and interpretation of centuries that instead of requiring that word to take its interpretation from all the Communion Office, where, if any where, the true doctrine and use of the Church on this head should be expected, and from the whole history of the Prayer Book, and of the Protestant Episcopal Church, we should oblige these venerable authorities to receive their interpretation from that one word. [Seeing the peculiar fondness of some for always calling the table "the altar," as if the other name were less churchlike and reverential, I have taken the pains to look out the striking contrast between or Church and them in this particular. In the Communion office we read of "the table," or "the Lord's table," or "the holy table" thirteen times, and of the altar once. In the Homilies, we read "the table" twenty-three times, and altar, in any connection with the Lord's Supper, not once.]
 We have no disposition to deny that the communion table may, in some sense, be unobjectionably called an altar, though in these days the writer will not use the word in such connexion. When Romish writers, in controversy with our Reformers, adduced the use of the term among the Fathers, they were answered by Dean Nowell as follows: "If St. Basil and some other old writers call it an altar, that is no proper but a figurative name; for that as in the old law, these burnt-offerings and sacrifices were offered upon the altar, so are our sacrifices of prayer and thanksgiving, &c., offered up to God at the Lord's table, as if it were an altar. But such kind of figurative speech can be no just cause to set [69/70] up altars, rather than tables; unless they think that their crosses also should be turned into altars, for that like phrase is used of them, where it is said Christ offered up himself upon the altar of the cross." [Nowells Reproof of Dorman's Proof.]
2. My second reason is that the form of a table is according to the institution of Christ, the practice of the primitive Church, the practice of the Church of England, until recently the almost unvaried practice of the Protestant Episcopal Church in these United States; while on the other hand, the form of an altar is no older in the Church than those grievous corruptions of Christianity, which became prevalent in the 4th and 5th Centuries, and is identified with the whole history of the Romish apostacy.
3. My third reason is that the form [70/71] of a table is according to the nature of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, while that of an altar is not. This was one of the reasons given by Bishop Ridley when he issued the Injunctions for the placing of tables in the churches of his diocese, and I am content to use his words. "The use of an altar (he says) is to make sacrifice upon it: the use of a table is to serve for men to cat upon. Now when we come to the Lord's board, what do we come for? to sacrifice Christ again, or to feed upon him that was once only crucified and offered for us? If we come to feed upon him, spiritually to eat his body and spiritually to drink his blood, which is the true use of the Lord's Supper, then no man can deny but the form of a table is more meet for the Lord's board than the form of an altar. [On the passages of Scripture which are pleaded as affording some warrant for an altar in the Christian Church, see Bishop White's Diss. on the Eucharist, particularly on Heb. xiii. 10. "we have an altar whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle." As this is a favourite text with Tractarians, and such like, it may be well to remind them that even many of the chief Romish divines have given it up. Thomas Aquinas expounds the place to signify Christ's altar on the cross, or else his body as his altar in heaven, mentioned in Rev. viii. and called the golden calf. The same text was expounded in the "Anti-Didagma of the Divines of Collen," as the body of Christ in heaven, upon which, and by which, all Christians are to offer up their spiritual sacrifices of faith. Cardinal Bellarmine admits that thus many Romish divines interpreted the passage. The Jesuit Estius explained it as meaning "the cross of Christ's sufferings." Not having the original authorities, I take the above from Bishop Morton on the Lord's Supper, b. vi. c. 3, §8.]
4. My fourth reason is that the due guardianship of the scripture doctrine of the Lord's Supper, against those errors and corruptions which the great [72/73] adversary of Christ is ever seeking to insinuate among us, requires that we carefully keep up the form of a table and reject that of an altar.
And here I am content to take the language of the leading divines of the Reformation, in the reign of Elizabeth, as found in a list of reasons for the removal of altars, supposed to have ben written by Archbishop Parker. "An altar (they say) hath reference to a sacrifice: for they be correlative, so that, of necessity, if we allow an altar, we must grant a sacrifice; like as if there be a father, there is also a son, and if there be a master, there is also a servant. Whereupon (this sentence I would particularly ask the reader to mark) "divers of the learned adversaries have spoken, of late, that there is no reason to take away the sacrifice of the cross, and to leave the altars standing [73/74] seeing the one was ordained for the other." [Strype's Annals vol. 1. P. 1. p. 160]
I will now conclude by reminding you of the earnestness with which that late venerable Father of our American Episcopal Church, Bishop White, contended against whatever had a tendency to introduce among us that doctrine of a real sacrifice and priesthood in the Eucharist, with which the altar is so essentially connected. One of the legacies left us by that far-seeing divine is a Dissertation on the Eucharist, written throughout, for the purpose of showing that in the Christian Church there is no such thing as a material sacrifice, since that of Christ on the cross; no Priest, in the sense of an offerer of sacrifice, but Christ himself; therefore no altar but that of his cross. Allow me to quote from that, and another of his Works, a [74/75] few passages. "I conceive (he says) so unfavorably of whatever may lead, by remote consequence, to creature-worship, as to give a caution against a notion which sometimes appears in writers, who were sincere, though inconsistent Protestants. The notion is then that there is in the Eucharist a real sacrifice, that it is offered upon an altar; and that the officiating minister is a priest, in the sense of an offerer of sacrifice. Under the economy of the gospel, there is nothing under the names referred to, except the fulfilment of them in the person of the high-Priest of our profession. As to our Church, although she commemorates a great sacrifice in the Eucharist, yet she knows of no offering of any thing of this description, except in the figurative sense in which prayers and alms are sacrifices. She calls the place on which her oblation is made, not 'an altar,' but 'a table;' [75/76] although there is no impropriety in calling it an altar also, the word being understood figuratively. And as to the minister in the ordinance, although she retains the word Priest, yet she considers it synonymous with Presbyter." [Bishop White's Lectures on the Catechism. Lec. iv.] Bishop White said that the Romish error on these heads, "makes an irreconcileable division between us and the Church of Rome;" that the intercommunity of the names altar and table is only justifiable in an accommodated, or figurative sense; for "although an altar may be called a table because of some common properties which they serve, it does not follow that any table, not possessed of the discriminating property of the altar, may be so called. It is like the occasional calling of a church a house. Such it is, without its being right to call every house a church. In short an altar is a [76/77] place of sacrifice: and the taking of its name carries by implication an assumption of its distinguishing property. [Dissertation on the Eucharist.] He said that the errors concerning Priest, Sacrifice and Altar, against which he was contending, and which were precisely those which are now striving so powerfully to gain prevalence in our Church, and have already gained such alarming accessions, "appeared at first in the closet-lucubrations of the few writers (of antiquity) whose works have been handed down; crept in gradually; and began in the literal application of language which had been all long, and may be now, figuratively, used on the respective points.
"In England (he continues) the doctrine was completely put down at the Reformation. If in later times, the notion has been entertained by some of [77/78] the clergy of the Church of England, it has not crept into her public institutions." The venerable author closed his Dissertation on the Eucharist, from which I have just quoted, with these almost prophetic words: "The author would lament an approach to the opposite theory, (opposite to that which he was advocating) among the clergy and other members of this Church, as having a threatening aspect on her peace." An approach even to the doctrine of a real sacrifice, and priest, and altar in the Eucharist, Bishop White thus deprecated as dangerous to the peace of the Church. How like he was, in this, to the views of the English Reformers! when with Archbishop Parker at their head, they addressed themselves to Queen Elizabeth, giving certain reasons why it was not convenient that the communion should be ministered at an altar; one was that "the consciences of many [78/79] thousands, which from their hearts embrace the Gospel, would be wounded by continuance of altars; and great numbers would abstain from receiving the communion at an altar; which, in the end, might grow to occasion a great schism and division among the people." [Strype's Annals, as before cited.]
Alas! if Bishop White would have lamented even an "approach" to the theory which he wrote against, what would he feel were it his cross to live in these days of the boasted revival of the misnamed "Catholic system," when one may forfeit his good name, as a Churchman, if he profess the simple gospel truth concerning the Eucharist which that good man taught; and when the bold teaching in a Protestant Episcopal Church of the precise form of error which he opposed, has become so frequent, [79/80] that we have lost the sense of it as being strange sound of doctrine, and scarcely notice it. Did that wise and watchful Father conceive it his duty to raise his voice against the least beginnings of a tendency to Romish error, at a period when the prospect of its ever spreading among us was not even as a little cloud upon the horizon, of the bigness of a man's hand; and is it a gratuitous and needless work to take precautions against the same errors now, when the storm has shrouded the sky and the winds of that evil doctrine have already caused so many to lose their anchorage and drive towards those dark shores of superstition and idolatry where others have already made shipwreck of the faith?
I fully agree with Bishop White that any approach towards the theory which he opposed, of a real sacrifice, priest, and altar, would endanger the peace of [80/81] the Church. That peace is now endangered precisely as he feared--but where lies the blame? On those who like himself have endeavored to protect and maintain the integrity of our Church's doctrine against all innovations, contending "earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints and subsequently received at the Reformation, and now professed in our Articles, and Liturgy, and Homilies; or does it lie in all such as attempt to break in upon the established standards and the well-known teaching and usages of our Church, with novelties which our Fathers knew not of and could not bear?
I trust, my brethren, I have now said enough to show, that in the determination I have taken, and announced in the earlier part of this address, I have not acted without consideration, without precedent, without reason. Viewed in one aspect, as the world would view it, [81/82] I may seem to have made a great deal out of a trifling matter. So it seemed to the world when Epiphanius, a Bishop in the 4th century, image worship being then in the seed, tore away from the door of a church a picture of Christ, and to pour condemnation upon the admission of such things into churches, ordered the painted cloth to be used for a shroud to bury a dead man in." [Homily on Peril of Idolatry.] The subsequent history of the worship of images and pictures in the churches, teaches us how well it would have been had all men seen with the same eyes as that faithful bishop. God grant that the progress of events, within a few years to come, may not speak a language quite as strong in vindication of those who plant their protests against an invading Romanism beside things unimportant, to some eyes, as altars and crosses and, [82/83] who strove to escape the final and full issues of evil, by thus resisting the beginning. Obsta principiis.
I have now finished what I wished to say on this subject. Had there been nothing in view but the mere justification of the position I have taken as to the consecration of churches, I should have been well satisfied with saying much less. But considering the subject as bearing very strikingly upon the exposition of the doctrine of our Church and of the Scriptures on the nature of the Lord's Supper, and of the Christian ministry, against the claims of popery and of those who emulate its priestly and sacrificial pomp and dignities, I have taken advantage of an occasion to go into it the more largely. In doing so, I have endeavored to cast in my mite towards the prosecution of that great war for the saving truth of the gospel against the strong array of the [83/84] Romish Antichrist, which is not to cease, but is probably to grow in the formidable marshalling of his powers, until He shall come "whose kingdom shall have no end." That voice of Christ rings in my ears: "When the Son of Man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth!" The Lord enable us to stand fast! Let us see to our lamps, lest they be gone out, when most we shall feel our need of their light!
C. P. M'ILVAINE.
GAMBIER, August 6, 1846.