Ein Ruf aus der Wüste 4.7: Orson Hyde on the sacrament

For Hyde, the sacrament seems to be not quite as strictly symbolical as it is for us, and more directly tied to guilt and confession. Also, will Sunday always be the Sabbath?

Article 7.

On the sacrament of bread and wine.

This exalted institution was established by our Lord himself just before He suffered on the cross with the intention that it should always remain among us and be immortalized in His church until He comes in his glory to reign on Earth, at which time he has promised to drink wine again with his children in his father’s kingdom.

One intention of this institution in the church was that through it, this momentous truth should always remain in the memory of its members: that the body of Christ was broken for their sins and his blood was shed to wash away their crimes.

In our church, this sacrament is administered on the first day of the week, which is currently our Sabbath. In the beginning, however, the seventh day was the Sabbath; and we suppose that the first will again be the last, and the last just as the first. Instead of this sacrament lessening in solemnity and seriousness in people’s view through frequent use (as some suspect), prior experience has taught us the opposite. For its more frequent reception calls for more frequent confession from all those who do evil; and this confession is usually followed by a reproof appropriate to the nature of the transgressions. This rebuke, which the spirit of the Lord inflicts on the sinner through his servants, cannot be truly congenial to the guilty conscience, for it is powerfully piercing and commanding and calculated to humble and suppress the spirit of indulgence for sin and ultimately force it to flee from its abode like an unwelcome guest.

Those who engage in virtuous acts most often also love virtue the most, and for them, it never loses its importance. But those who seldom lay their obeisances on its altar cannot be regarded as particular favorites at its court.(1) “By their fruits will you recognize them,” said One who was wiser than me. The organization of our church is such that all of these duties can be performed with the greatest of ease and very little expenditure of time.

Bread and wine are blessed by the presiding priest and distributed to all members by the elders. After the bread and wine have thus been blessed and consecrated, we regard both as if they were in power and essence truly the flesh and blood of our Lord Jesus, who died for us, although it is not His true flesh and blood.(2)

To make this subject clearer, I will give an example. The Lord commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac as a burnt offering for him, and Abraham, who was immediately willing to obey the divine command, made preparations for it. When everything was prepared, Abraham took the knife to deliver the death blow to his son; but the voice of an angel from Heaven stopped his hand, and the Lord accepted the ram for a burnt offering in place of the son of promise. So Isaac was sacrificed symbolically, but in very self in power and effect, and God always looked upon Abraham as if he had truly offered his son to Him, although the ram was sacrificed in his place at the altar.(3)

So it is with the holy sacrament. God looks upon us as if we really consumed the flesh and blood of his son, although received it only symbolically. However, through the prayers and blessings of the priest, bread and wine receive from God that power that cannot be seen with the profane eye but is only felt by humble hearts.

Those who participate in this sacrament with faith and purity receive spiritual power and divine comfort. We consider the frequent repetition of this divine ordinance to be unavoidably necessary in order to keep the church in a condition of continued health and growth.

But spiritual death strikes him who approaches this holy feast with an unclean spirit or with hatred for his brother.

* * *

(1) Because German made some unfortunate choices about its pronoun system several centuries ago, the possessives in this sentence could all mean either “its” (referring to Tugend, “virtue,” in the previous sentence) or “their.” I’ve translated according to the sense that seems most likely, unless I’ve missed something.

(2) This formulation strikes me as closer to a Lutheran belief in the true presence of Christ in the sacramental emblems than to the Reformed-compatible focus on symbol and commemoration we would usually use today.

(3) The first half of this sentence presents some difficulties, and is the first I’ve seen that seems to be truly defective. In the clause So ward Isaak sinnbildlich, jedoch in Kraft und Wirkung nach (selbst) geopfert, either the preposition in or the postposition nach is redundant, and how to deal with (selbst) isn’t straightforward. Also, I think we’d be more likely to celebrate Abraham’s obedience without thinking of him as having actually sacrificed Isaac.

4 comments for “Ein Ruf aus der Wüste 4.7: Orson Hyde on the sacrament

  1. Thanks Jonathan. I’ve been working on my Lord’s Supper files recently, and I appreciate this material. This bit seems very representative of the common explication of the liturgy during the period:

    “One intention of this institution in the church was that through it, this momentous truth should always remain in the memory of its members: that the body of Christ was broken for their sins and his blood was shed to wash away their crimes.”

  2. I don’t have much to say, but I think this translation project is the coolest thing in the LDS blogsphere right now, so – thanks for doing it.

  3. Thanks for the kind thoughts. There’s enough material to keep this series going at least until the summer. So tune in tomorrow (or so) for Hyde’s thoughts on confession.

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