RECTOR OF THE CHURCH OF THE EVANGELISTS, PHILADELPHIA.
MATLACK & HARVEY, PRINTERS,
224-28 South Fifth Street.
Precisely what practical result is expected to follow the publication of the Rev. Mr. Percival's recent pamphlet on "The Reservation of the Blessed Sacrament," will scarcely be apparent to an ordinary reader. A carefully elaborated argument is given, to prove, not only that Reservation was "the unvarying use of the whole church of God," "in her best and earliest days," but also, that it is forbidden neither by Rubric nor by Article in the Book of Common Prayer; but, on the contrary, positively (though unavowedly) provided for in the organization of our own American Church. The natural conclusion of that argument would seem to be, that a custom, so ancient and so lawful, might properly be renewed. But Mr. Percival tells us that we are to infer nothing of the kind, or if we do, we must not expect him to go with us. So far from being "in favor of the introduction of a perpetual Reservation of the Sacrament in our parish churches," he believes that such a step would be "most inexpedient, whether it were taken with or without the consent of the Ecclesiastical authorities of the Church." He believes, it is true, that "on theological principles," Reservation is "a legitimate and necessary theoretical deduction" from the doctrine which he accepts as to "the power of the prayer of consecration." But while he gives us every reason to adopt the custom, except that it is not expedient, he fails to tell us wherein this inexpediency consists; and, what is more important, whether the inexpediency will cease, when the Church has been educated, by the exposition of "facts on the subject which may not be generally known," to consider Reservation, as ancient, lawful and provided for.
To plain and simple folk, the position does not seem to be altogether frank and logical, and one begins to wonder why this tract was written. But it is no concern of ours to bring its disclaimer and its argument into agreement. We [3/4] accept the pledge with thankfulness, that no attempt is to be made to introduce Reservation into our churches, but, lest anyone should be disturbed by an argument, which really seems to look in that direction, we venture to review it, and hope to show that it is not quite so invulnerable as it claims to be.
Mr. Percival's first position is, that, "THERE NEVER WAS ANY POINT OF TIME, NOR ANY PART OF THE CHURCH, SO FAR AS HISTORY SHOWS BETWEEN A.D. 140, AND A.D. 1552, IN WHICH THE BLESSED SACRAMENT WAS NOT RESERVED."
I affirm then (he adds) that to reserve the Blessed Sacrament has been the unvarying use of the whole Church of God, except only in the 'Church of England, for the last three hundred years." [The Italics are mine.]
"This statement (we are told) "will not be contradicted by any person well informed upon the, subject," but one or two quotations have been given, for the use of less fortunate persons who are not ` well informed.' The quotations are accurate, except, perhaps, that which has been taken from the. Apostolic Constitutions, where the translation, is, as Mr. Percival admits open to a question. But even if other quotations had been added; this would only prove, what I suppose no one will deny, that early in the History of the Church, there were, at certain times and places instances of a Reservation of the Sacred elements. It does not prove the unvarying use of the whole Church of God. It is very far from proving that there was "never any point of time nor any portion of the Church, in which the Blessed Sacrament was not reserved." In common fairness, we must place besides these quotations, others equally to the point, which tell a different story, and our inference; from a comparison of the two, will probably be that as early as the Second Century a custom sprung up, unknown before, of sending the Eucharist from the Church, immediately after the communion, by the hands of deacons or even laymen, to the sick, and that this, in the end, unhappily prevailed, to the occasion of many acts of irreverence and superstition.
 There is no difficulty in finding many such quotations, and while Mr. Percival claims for Reservation the sanction of "unvarying use," even Romish writers make no such claim. Let me give in illustration, an extract from Muratori. (De Rebus Liturgicis Dissertat, p. 270 ch. XXIII.) This writer, as is well known published a collection of the Sacramentaries of Leo, Gelasius and Gregory, and from his position as Librarian of the Ambrosian Library, at Milan, and his repute as one of the most learned men of his time, speaks with undoubted authority. He was moreover an antagonist of Bingham, the author of the "Antiquities," and while he contradicts him in many points, he confirms him in this special question and quotes authorities for his positions. What then does Muratori say of the early history of Reservation? ["In Ecclesia Alexandrina mos fuit,easdem reliquias Clericis et Fidelibus, qui jam communicaverant, distribuere, ut easdem comederent et biberent. Id constat ex Canone Septimo Theophili Alexandrini Episcopi. (Theophilus Alexandrinus Canone vii apud Beveregium Tom II.) Alia Constantinopoli consuetudo fuit, Evagrio testante (Evagrius Hist. Eccles. Lib. iv. Cap xxxvi) ut quoties ex partibus Immaculati Corporis Christi, Dei nostri, magnus numerus superfuerit, pueri impuberes evocentur, qui eas manducent. Idem in Gallicanis Ecclesiis consuevisse fieri ediscimus ex Concilio II Matisconensi Anno Christi 588, celebrato.]
First he tells us that in the church at ALEXANDRIA it was the custom to distribute what remained of the consecrated bread and wine to the clergy and the faithful, that they might eat and drink them. For proof, he refers us to Theophilus Alexandrinus.
Next he tells us, that at the church in CONSTANTINOPLE, young children were called in to consume the remnants, and for evidence of this we have the historian Evagrius, iv. 36.
The same custom prevailed, as he says, in the GALLICAN Church, in witness of which he cites a conciliar decree of A. D. 588.
I quote Muratori because he gives a catena of references. If more should be required, St. Jerome (A. D. 340-420) might be cited, who tells us that, after the communion, [5/6] whatever there was remaining of the sacrificial food was eaten, or S. Augustine (A. D. 354-430) who incidentally confirms the same acknowledged fact. ["Post communionem quacunque eis de sacrificiis superfuissent, illic in ecclesia communem coenam comedentes pariter consumebant.--Jerome con. in Ep. Covin c.xi. Sicut panis ad hoc factus in accipiendo Sacramento consumiter--Augus de Trin. iii.10.]
In fine, there is no difficulty in supplying numerous illustrations to contravert Mr. Percival's claim of an "unvarying use" of Reservation. Our theological books are full of them. If, at some times, and in some places, as we freely grant, instances occurred when--wisely or unwisely--the sacred elements were sent to the absent, we can readily explain the fact, when we remember the trials and persecutions of the early Church, and how natural it would be to make some provision, for those who were in scattered communities or in prison, where no priest could consecrate. We can even understand how the elements might be sent from Church to Church, in token of that unity, of which some outward pledge would be so grateful. But of reservation in the Mediaeval and the modern sense we fail to find any proof in the Church, until a later age. It was not an unvarying use. The Apostolic age heard nothing of it. The "sub-apostolic" age knew it only as a special expedient in times of great emergency. The Mediaeval church came to know it only too well. The sacred wine was freely used, to sign the condemnations of heretics. The Host was taken as a fetich to guard from physical dangers, or was carried in procession to add to the impressiveness of a Papal pageant. The oaths of kings were made upon the wafer, only to be broken. The sacred thing was put upon the Altar in its Tabernacle, that men might bow down and worship it. But at the Reformation, when the church rejected the doctrine of Transubstantiation she returned to the earlier use and decreed that "The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was not by Christ ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up or worshipped."
 But, Mr. Percival has told us that the 28th Article, just quoted, "cannot be exaggerated into a prohibitory enactment." It is a mere statement of the fact that the ordinance does not require Reservation, and so leaves it to the option of the Church. If this be so, then the same must be true of the other clauses of the Article. Let us suppose that Mr. Percival is right, and read the article with his new interpretation. "The sacrament of the Lord's Supper was not by Christ's ordinance reserved," therefore we are left free to reserve it! It was not by Christ's ordinance "to be carried about," therefore there can be no objections to processions of the Host, for the ordinance does not condemn them! It was not by Christ's ordinance "to be lifted up," therefore the elevation of the Host is to be allowed, for the ordinance is silent. It was not ordained that it should be "worshipped," therefore adoration is left entirely to our own choice! We may do anything that we will with the sacrament, so far as this Article is concerned, provided that the ordinance of Christ does not specify it as forbidden.
But, unfortunately for such logic, Christ's ordinance does declare what disposition shall be made of the sacramental gifts. When the Eucharist was instituted, the divine Master distinctly told the disciples what they should do with the bread and wine which they received from His sacred hands. "Take and eat this." "Drink ye all of this." He marked out as plainly as words could do, the disposition of the res sacramenti, a disposition which necessarily excluded reservation or any other application. We venture to change the italics which Mr. Percival has put into the Article, and, so from a mild statement, it becomes an authorative law. "The sacrament of the Lord's Supper was not by Christ's ordinance reserved."
A reserved sacrament, as Bishop Beveridge (Exp. Art., Vol. ix., p. 510), has so admirably shown is no sacrament at all. "For (he writes), according to Augustine's rule, 'If sacraments have not a certain resemblance of the things whereof they are sacraments they are no sacraments at all.' Now wherein is there any resemblance betwixt the body of [7/8] Christ and bread, but only in the eating? Even because the one received by faith nourisheth and preserveth the spiritual, as the other received into the stomach doth the natural life. The bread itself hath no resemblance at all of his body, neither bath the bread as reserved or carried about or worshipped any such resemblance; all the resemblance it hath is in feeding the body as Christ doth the soul. Christ is the nourishment of our souls as bread is the nourishment of our bodies, and therefore doth he sometimes call his body bread, and at other times bread his body. And all the resemblance betwixt them consisteth only in the bread's nourishment of the body as Christ doth the soul. If the bread should lose its nourishing faculty it would not be any whit like to Christ's body, nor could it be the sacrament of it; and, whensoever, bread is not eaten but reserved and carried about, though it may have it, yet it doth not exert any such virtue, and by consequence loses its resemblance to Christ's body and so ceases to be sacramental bread any longer. And, therefore, they must know that the bread that they reserve and carry about is not the body of Christ nor bath any relation to it upon that very account, because they reserve and carry it about and do not eat it."
But before we leave this Article, there is another fallacy to be pointed out:--In proof that the article was not meant to be prohibitive, Mr. Percival in a note, quotes the Rubric from the office of the Communion of the sick, in Queen Elizabeth's Latin P. B. of 1560. "Quod si contingat eodem die Ccenam Domini in Ecclesia celebrari tunc Sacerdos in coena tantum Sacramenti servabit quantum aegroto--Here he breaks off with an "etc" which I take the liberty of filling out--"et mox finita coena, una cum aliquot ex his qui intersunt, ibit ad aegrotum et prime communicabit cum illis, qui assistunt aegroto et interfuerunt ccena et postremo cum infirmo." And then, after another Rubric, providing for a general confession and absolution, we have, "Sed si infirmus illo die petat communionem, quo non celebratur coena, tunc sacerdos in loco decenti, in domo aegroti, celebrabit coenam [8/9] hoc modo." These rubrics give scant support to any use of Reservation; that is when quoted without an "etc" to cover up their unmanagable provisions. In case of a celebration in the church they do permit the priest to go immediately ("mox finita coena") to the sick man's house, accompanied by some of the communicants, to carry to him a part of the consecrated bread and wine, but they forbid him, most distinctly, to reserve any portion even for a single day. If the communion is required, on a day when there has been no celebration, the priest must go to the sick man's house, and there, consecrate in accordance with the form prescribed.
The Rubric at the end of the Communion Office has hitherto seemed to the most of us to be sufficiently prohibitive of Reservation, but even this, according to Mr. Percival, needs only a careful examination to sublimate and disappear. Of themselves the words are definite enough. "And if any of the consecrated Bread and Wine remain after the Communion, it shall not be carried out of the Church, but the Minister and other communicants shall, immediately after the Blessing, reverently eat and drink the same." "The Rubric," says Mr. Percival, after tracing the history of its introduction, "must be understood, then, as being limited by some such clause as this, "Should it not be needed to be reserved for the sick." Whatever may have been in the mind of Bp. Cosin, or of the Savoy divines, when this Rubric was proposed, one cannot help wondering that such an immense limitation, amounting to a direct contradiction of its provisions, should have been left to be understood. The school at Eton had been founded two hundred years when the Savoy conference was held, and it is safe to say that no boy in the lowest form could have been guilty of any such bungling work as is ascribed by Mr. Percival to Cosin, Sanderson, Pearson, Sparrow and the rest. But, in point of fact, we know, from Bp. Cosin's notes, that the object which was in view, was to provide that all the bread and wine should be consumed at the time of the Communion, whether to guard against the profanation of the Puritan or the superstition of those who would reserve the elements.
 On this point two quotations will suffice. In the note upon this Rubric in the "second series" we read, that of this (i. e. the consecrated bread and wine) if he (the priest) be careful, as he ought to be, to consecrate no more than will suffice to be distributed unto the communicants, none will remain, (Cosin, v. 356), and again, in the quotation given by Mr. Percival, but in that part of it which he covers again by an "etc," "And therefore, for the better clearing of this particular, some words are needful here to be added, whereby the priest may be enjoined to consider the number of them which are to receive the sacrament, and to consecrate the bread and wine in such near proportion as shall be sufficient for them; but if any of the consecrated elements be left, that he and some of them with him shall decently eat and drink them in the church before all the people depart from it."--(Corrections in the Prayer Book suggested, Cosin's Works, v. 519).
But Mr. Percival has still another argument for reservation, applicable especially to our own American church. He tells us that Bishop Seabury "contemplated and desired it," and that it was one of the things which in the "Concordate" with the Bishops of the Church in Scotland, he "agreed to endeavor to introduce into America." We are informed, moreover, that a clause was inserted in the Prayer of Consecration for the express purpose of providing for Reservation.
Now the personal views of Bishop Seabury, even though he were the first American Bishop, can scarcely touch the question, any more than the personal opinion of any other Bishop on the roll of our Episcopate, except in so far as they issued in some official act, and I do not know that the Reservation of the Sacrament was ever authorized or recommended in the Diocese of Connecticut. Even if we turn to the "Concordate," we fail to find that Bishop Seabury ever agreed to endeavor to introduce it. In fact Reservation is not mentioned in that document. The foundation of Mr. Percival's statement is only this:
"In this capital article therefore of the Eucharistic service, [10/11] in which the Scottish Bishops so earnestly wish for as much unity as possible, Bishop Seabury also agrees to take a serious view of the Communion Office recommended by them, and if found agreeable to the genuine standards of antiquity, to give his sanction to it, and by gentle methods of argument and persuasion to endeavor as they have done, to introduce it by degrees into practice without the compulsion authority on the one side, or the prejudice of former custom on the other." [Concordate as given in Beardsley's Life of Seabury, p. 152.] This agreement was not without fruit. The Concordate was signed on Nov. 15, 1784, and in September, 1786, the Communion Office was presented to a convocatign of the clergy at Derby, and "gradually came into use in the Diocese" until it was superseded by the present Book of Common Prayer. [Ib. 263.] In agreement with the Concordate, several marked features were adopted by Bishop Seabury from the Scottish Office, such as the Invocation of the Holy Spirit, the changed position of the Prayer of Humble Access, etc., but there is not a word about the Reservation of the Sacrament. It is true that there is no Rubric directing that the elements shall be consumed, but, whatever the reason for the omission, the deficiency was promptly supplied in the Book of Common Prayer and the Rubric was, accepted and obeyed in Connecticut as elsewhere.
One point remains to be noticed, and so remarkable it is, that it is difficult to treat it gravely as an argument. Mr. Percival has been told that Dr. Seabury declared from his chair in the General Theological Seminary that he had often heard his father say that the words "and all others" in the Prayer of Consecration "had been introduced for this express purpose, to provide for the reservation of the sick in the American church, and should be interpreted as meaning, 'that we [now in this church] and all others who shall be ([Mr. Percival introduces this word without brackets. The reader need not be told that it is not in the Prayer of Consecration.] hereafter,) partakers of this Holy Communion, [11/12] [when we have carried it to them] may worthily receive, &c.
Now, if Bishop Seabury did really give this exposition of the Prayer of Consecration, which reaches us through such a very tortuous channel, it is certainly a curiosity of interpretation which has two very obvious reasons for its rejection.
In the first place, the phrase is clearly parallel with the preceding context. We have been taught to pray that "we and all thy whole Church may obtain remission of our sins, and all other benefits of His passion," and in the same spirit we ask in the clause next following "that we and all others who shall [at any time, in any place] be partakers of this Holy Communion may worthily receive the most precious Body and Blood, &c. The idea plainly is, that the Church is one, and that any special celebration is a partaking of the one sacrament which belongs to all the Faithful. It is a Communion, and it behooves us to pray not simply for the few who shall gather at a single altar, but for all who shall be "partakers of this Holy Communion" wherever they may be. It may be worth remarking here, that we find the same large and loving thought, in connection with the other sacrament, an impulse to pray for others besides the immediate recipient and so to testify to the Unity of the church. In the office for the Baptism of Infants, when the Priest has prayed for those who stand at the font he is bidden to pray also "whosoever is here dedicated to thee [i. e. at any future time] by our office and ministry [i. e. by the one who is now officiating or by any other] may be endowed with heavenly virtue," &c.
But there is another and even stronger reason for its rejection. Whatever any individual may think of Reservation, it certainly was not, when this prayer took its place in the communion office, and is not now, to any large extent, the custom of the American Church. Is it conceivable that the overwhelming majority of priests, who in celebrating the Holy Communion, know that they have not the least intention of reserving any part, or of carrying [12/13] it to the sick, should be compelled to use words which on their lips would be unreal and false. Prayer certainly should have some meaning to those who utter it, and it will be quite time enough to insert a prayer for those who are to receive a reserved sacrament, when the custom has been generally accepted.
We have tried to follow Mr. Percival through his whole chain of argument, and at the end, cannot accept his points as proven. The Church has no right to use the sacrament except as Christ has given it to be used. It is not needed for adoration, for it is still "a gift and creature of bread and wine," whatever be the power of the prayer of consecration, whatever be the mysterious efficacy through which to those who "rightly, worthily and with faith receive the same, the Bread which we break is a partaking of the Body of Christ, and likewise the Cup of Blessing is a partaking of the Blood of Christ." It is not needed for the sick, since in the Providence of God, there are no conceivable circumstances where a Reserved Sacrament could be conveyed where a Priest could not be found to consecrate.
The truest reverence will always be in using the sacramental gift which we have had from the hand of Christ, just as He has ordained that we shall use it, and in no other way.