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The Protestant Reformation (2)

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This article first appeared in the December 1, 1961 issue of the Standard Bearer (Vol.38, #5) and was written by the editor, Rev. Herman Hoeksema.

The Protestant Reformation (2)

At the close of my former article under the above heading, I asked the question whether the Heidelberg Catechism did not use too strong language when it called the popish mass an accursed idolatry. And my answer was that it did not. 

This I now wish to prove with a few quotations from the Confession which the Romish church formulated at the Council of Trent. 

But before I refer to the mass proper, I must call attention to the Romish doctrine that, at the Lord's Supper, it is not necessary that the partakers receive both bread and wine, but that it is quite sufficient to take and eat the bread alone. This in spite of the fact that the Lord, in the night when He was betrayed, instituted the Lord's Supper under both species. How, then, does the Romish Church argue to prove that the celebration of the Lord's Supper under one species, that of the bread alone, is quite proper and sufficient? Let us quote from the above mentioned Confession: 

"Wherefore, this holy Synod, instructed by the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of godliness, and following the judgment and usage of the Church itself, declares and teaches, that laymen and clerics when not consecrating, are not obliged, by any divine precept, to receive the sacrament of the Eucharist under both species; and that neither can it by any means be doubted, without injury to faith, that communion under either species is sufficient for them unto salvation. For, although Christ, the Lord, in the Last Supper, instituted and delivered to the apostles, this venerable sacrament under the species of bread and wine; not therefore do that institution and delivery tend thereunto, that all the faithful of the Church be bound, by the institution of the Lord, to receive both species. But neither is it rightly gathered, from that discourse which is in the sixth of John however according to the various interpretations of holy Fathers and Doctors it be understood, that the communion of both species was enjoined by the Lord: for he who said, Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you (vs. 54), also said, He that eateth this bread shall live forever (vs. 59); and he who said, He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath everlasting life (vs. 55), also said, The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world (vs. 52); and, in fine, he who said, He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, abideth in me and I in him (vs. 57), said, nevertheless, He that eateth this bread shall live forever." 

Although, therefore, the "holy Fathers and Doctors" taught that the Lord's Supper must be celebrated under both the species of bread and wine, the "holy Fathers and Doctors" of the Council of Trent declared that this was not necessary. 

But the "holy Fathers and Doctors" of the past, nevertheless, were correct, and the "holy Fathers and Doctors" of the Council of Trent were mistaken. 

Why? 

In the first place, even if the Lord's Supper were indirectly referred to in John 6, the Lord, nevertheless, emphatically spoke of eating His flesh and of drinking His blood. That the Lord spoke of His flesh and His being the Bread of Life was because of the feeding of the five thousand on the preceding day. And, indeed, this miracle revealed that He is the bread of life. But He could never become the bread of life except by first shedding His lifeblood on the accursed tree. This is the reason why the Lord emphasizes in the same chapter that men, in order to have eternal life, must not only eat His flesh, but also must drink His blood. That is the reason why, when the Jews strove among themselves and asked the unbelieving question: "How can this man give us his flesh to eat," the Lord answers by pointing to the cross. "You ask the question," the Lord says as it were, "how, in what way, I can give you my flesh to eat? I will tell you how this is possible. Verily, verily, I say unto you. Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. This, is my answer to your question how it is possible that I can give you my flesh to eat. Surely, you cannot eat my flesh unless you also drink my blood." And, therefore, if this may be applied to the Lord's Supper, it means that the Lord says to the Romish church: "If you give to your members only the bread, and not the wine, you deprive them of the blood of the cross; and I say unto you anathema, you are accursed." 

Secondly, as the "holy Fathers and Doctors" rightly emphasized, the very institution of the Lord's Supper teaches all that will understand (which the Romish church will not) that it must be celebrated under both species. For thus we read in Matt. 26:26-29: "And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." Notice that the Lord not only gave the bread to His disciples, but He first broke it as a sign of His broken body. And His body could not be broken except through the shedding of His blood. Again I say that the Romish church deprives its members of the blood of the cross by giving them only the bread and not the wine. Notice, secondly, that the Lord emphatically says to His disciples and, therefore, to the whole Church and all its members: "Drink ye all of it." But, according to the Romish church, its members do not have to drink. It is sufficient that the priest drinks it and says "haec est pro omnibus," this is for you all! 

Thirdly, the apostle Paul received the knowledge of the institution of the Lord's Supper by a special revelation emphasizing the importance of this sacrament, and that, too, under both species. This is found in the well-known passage of I Cor. 11:23-29: "For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as often as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body." Surely, also this passage of the Word of God very clearly and emphatically teaches that the Lord's Supper must be celebrated under both species, bread and wine. 

Yet, the Romish Church claims the authority and power to change the Lord's Supper into whatsoever form they consider best and proper, For, according to chapter II under the heading "Doctrine Concerning Communion," they decided: 

"It furthermore declares, that this power has ever been in the Church, that in the dispensation of the sacraments, their substance being untouched, it may ordain or change, what things soever it may judge most expedient, for the profit of those who receive, or for the veneration of the said sacraments, according to the difference of circumstances, times, and places . . . Wherefore, holy Mother Church, knowing this her authority in the administration of the sacraments, although the use of both species has, from the beginning of the Christian religion, not been infrequent, yet, in progress of time, that custom has been already very widely changed, she, induced by weighty and just reasons, has approved of this custom of communicating under one species, and decreed that it was to be held as a law; which it is not lawful to reprobate, or to change at pleasure, without the authority of the Church itself." 

In other words, the Church is exalted above the clear testimony of Holy Writ! 

And, finally, in chapter III under the same heading, they state that, in spite of the fact that they admit that the Lord Jesus instituted this sacrament under both species, bread and wine, the Church has the authority to change this: 

"It moreover declares, that although, as has been already said, our Redeemer, in that last supper, instituted, and delivered to the apostles, this sacrament under two species, yet is to be acknowledged, that Christ whole and entire and a true sacrament are received under either species alone, and that, therefore, as regards the fruit thereof, they, who receive one species alone are not defrauded of any grace necessary unto salvation."

O, to be sure, the "Holy Mother Church" knows better than the Lord Jesus Himself! 

And the Romish Church does not hesitate to call anyone accursed that believes that the Lord's Supper must be celebrated under both species, bread and wine. For, thus the Council of Trent declared: 

"Canon I—If any one saith, that, by the precept of God, or by necessity of salvation, all and each of the faithful of Christ ought to receive both species of the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist: let him be anathema." 

And, to make one more quotation: 

"Canon III—If any one denieth, that Christ whole and entire, the fountain and author of all graces, is received under one species of bread; because that as some falsely assert, he is not received, according to the institution of Christ himself, under both species: let him be anathema." 

The question is now: what has all this to do with the mass? 

My answer is that the doctrine of the mass is inseparably connected with both the error of transubstantiation and that of celebrating the Lord's Supper under one species. If these two errors were not accepted as the truth by the Romish Church, the mass could never exist. 

We must not forget, in the first place, that, according to the Romish Church, the table of communion is the altar on which Christ sacrifices Himself daily or as often as the mass is celebrated, for the remission of our sins, and that without that daily sacrifice of Christ by the officiating priest, our sins cannot be forgiven. The signs in the Lord's Supper, therefore, are changed into the very body and blood of the Lord. Moreover, seeing that the signs of the Lord's Supper are changed into the very body and blood of the Lord, the Christ, as He lies upon the altar, i.e., the table of communion, is also worshiped by the celebrating members of the Church. This is why the Romish Church invented the error of transubstantiation. And this is also the reason why the Heidelberg Catechism characterizes the mass as an accursed idolatry. 

For proof of this I must once more turn to the Decrees and Canons of the Council of Trent.

—H.H.

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Hoeksema, Herman

Herman Hoeksema (1886-1965) was born in Groningen, the Netherlands on March 13, 1886 and passed away in Grand Rapids, MI on September 2, 1965. He attended the Theological School of the Christian Reformed Church and was ordained into the minitry in September of 1915.

"H.H." is considered one of the founding "fathers" of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America.  He and his consistory (Eastern Ave. Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, MI) were suspended and deposed from their offices in 1924-1925 because of their opposition to the "Three Points of Common Grace" adopted by the Christian Reformed Church in the Synod of Kalamazoo, MI in 1924.  He, together with Rev. George M. Ophoff, Rev. H. Danhof and their consistories continued in office in the "Protesting Christian Reformed Church" which shortly thereafter were named the "Protestant Reformed Churches in America."

Herman Hoeksema served as pastor in the 14th Street Christian Reformed Church in Holland, MI (1915-1920), Eastern Ave. Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, MI (1920-1924), and First Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, MI (1924-1964), He taught in the Seminary of the Protestant Reformed Churches from its founding and retired in 1964.

For an enlarged biography, see: Herman Hoeksema: Theologian and Reformer

Notes: You may also find many sermons of "H.H." at the RFPA website. And you may find copies in print of an entire set of "H.H.'s" catechism sermons here.

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