« PreviousContinue »
THE OLD COMMUNION-CUP.
“ Thus, He [the Saviour] welcomes His guests to His Tableobliges them all to drink of His Cup. Why should He so expressly command them all to drink, and to see that none let it pass them, and press that more expressly in this than in the other part of the Ordinance ? Surely, it was because He foresaw how, in after ages, this Ordinance [the Holy Communion] would be dismembered by the prohibition of the Cup to the laity.”
TOOK the old Communion-Cup from the basket, where, with the rest of the church
plate, it lay in its accustomed recess in my study; and, placing it on my little round table, I began wistfully to examine it, and to indulge the fancies which its contemplation awoke within me.
We are rich in plate at — and possess a larger share than usually falls to the lot of churches in Ireland. Many great, and some of them good, men have been connected with us by birth, residence, or burial; and have left behind them enduring memorials of Christian benevolence, by which they, though dead, yet speak. A lord-president of Munster, four or five earls, as many countesses, several viscounts, barons, and baronets—not to speak of a whole host of untitled aristocracy—are laid to their long sleep within the consecrated walls of St. Mary's. Our
large silver flagon is the gift of a bishop. It bears his lordship's arms impaled with those of his see, and an inscription describing the donor's rank and honors. A handsome chalice, almost new, and a silver basin for alms, have been likewise received as offerings, and similarly tell us, in memoriam, who presented them. But 'our old Communion-Cup, though it bears a legend, which I shall transcribe by-and-by, mentions not who he was, or what was his station, that gave it. I love it for this cause all ,
I Could I offer thousands of gold and silver, I should not inscribe one of them with an ex dono. It would seem a profanation to write on them my name. Wherewith should I come before the Lord ?
I have strong fancies—“crotchets” some would call them—and when they bring to me some ennobling association, I like to discover reasons for strengthening them until they grow into convictions. Neither should I thank that friend, who would seek, in his superior wisdom, to dispel my gratissimus error, granted even that it partake of that character. Now, I love to identify our old Communion-Cup with the period of the Reformation. I like to take it up, and imagine that the hands, into which first it was reverently placed, were those of men who might have unbonneted* as that young saint, King Edward, passed by; or might have taken in their clasp good Master Latimer or Ridley; or might have veiled the eyes from the sufferings of Lord Cobham or noble Ann Askew. My own faith grows holier and bolder with the contemplation, as I lift mine eyes heavenward, and bless God for the deliverance of our realm from the apostasy of Rome.
* The parish, referred to in this paper, was wholly colonized, or "planted,” as the saying was, with English settlers in the reign of Elizabeth.
The Cup is old and time-stained. It has been preserved with jealous care, and no wilful injury is anywhere seen about it. But the silver has become grey and dulled; and I should grieve to see the jeweller's rouge producing on it a sheen of brightness. Its surface is dark and opaque; and around on the outside, in quaint old characters, half print, half writing, you can discover the words
“Ecclesia Parochialis de “Look!" I say in my enthusiasm, when I show
" it to a friend,“ look at these characters! See how much they differ from the symmetrical copperplate engraving of present times. Remark their rudeness and their massiveness. The (so-called) hair-strokes are as heavy as the others; and the French 'de' surely brings us up to the reign of Elizabeth, at the least, and the period of the revival of true religion. This is the 'cup of blessing,' I doubt not, provided by our forefathers, when they cast off the thraldom of the Papacy, and received again the memorials of a Saviour's dying love in the manner in which He instituted the same!”
“The Memorials !” My thoughts are stirred within me.
I go up the stream of Time for more than eighteen centuries, and traverse oceans and regions far distant. I am in the East; in the land
I which is the glory of all lands—hallowed Palestine. I cross it from the Great Sea eastward, and am stayed over the city of holiness. See! the hills stand about Jerusalem; and from Olivet, the whole presentment of the place is given. We go down the mount by that winding footway, passing Gethsemane, and enter the city by the Bethlehem gate. How thronged are the streets! It is the Paschal week. How many are the representatives of the nations, among whom the ancient people are dispersed, or have made their proselytes! Here are the swart sons of Egypt, and of the parts of Lybia about Cyrene, in contrast with the light islanders of Crete or the fleshless Arabs. Here are some of the pastoral nomades of Mesopotamia and Parthia, and there the highly-polished and luxurious sons of Lesser Asia and Rome. I pass them by, and enter one dwelling, where, in an upper chamber furnished, a small company is met, to celebrate the great feast. They are the Twelve, and Jesus is in the midst. I gaze on the whole scene that marvel of love, goodness, and compassion. I see the feet washed, and the eternal example bequeathed of self-renunciating humility. I hear the sad words, “One of you shall betray Me!” I behold the bread broken, and the cup distributed; and the accents penetrate my soul, “ Take, eat; this is my body. Drink ye all of it. This do in remembrance of Me."
I am in Rome-imperial Rome. A century has gone by, and a second century has come. Satan has stirred up the wrath of Cæsar, and the name of Jesus
. is proscribed. The Christians are dwellers among mountains, and caves, and dens of the earth. Their sanctuary is the Catacombs. The dead and living are strange dwellers together; and often, in a moment brief and sudden, are the latter sent into the ghastly company of the former. But even there, in the midst of all suffering, the memorial ordinance is celebrated; the “Sacramentum," as their enemies admit,* is received. They sing hymns to Christ as to God; and thankfully take the cup of blessing, by which they seal themselves to be ever His—His alone.
I am still in Rome. It is changed, yet the same; the same in dissolute morals, in opposition to truth, in renunciation of Jesus. Not pagan more, but papal now; for the dominion of the Cæsars is taken out of the way. It is the beginning of the fifteenth century. One departure from the truth has been followed by another, and the Mystery of Iniquity has well-nigh developed itself. The Invocation of Saints has been succeeded by the Worship of Images, the constrained Celibacy of the Clergy, the monstrous figment of Transubstantiation, and the Supremacy of the Pope.
* See the well-known letter of the younger Pliny to the Emperor Trajan. The writer of this paper has taken the liberty of supposing that the “ Sacramentum,” mentioned therein, was the most solemn Christian ordinance, of the nature of which the Roman was necessarily ignorant.