An Enquiry Into the Meaning of the Lord’s Supper in the New Testament and
the Church of England
By W. H. Griffith Thomas
Bemrose & Sons, [No Date]
[Spelling selectively modernized. Bible citations converted into all Arabic numerals. Footnotes moved into their places of citation. In the book as bound, pages 97 through 112 were repeated in duplication. That repetition has been eliminated here.]
The following chapters are the expansion of two dissertations for a Degree, and their purpose is to discover the meaning of the Lord’s Supper as it is revealed in Holy Scripture and stated in the Prayer Book and Articles of the Church of England. In view of some recent works, in which the consideration of the Holy Communion starts from an entirely different standpoint, it seemed worthwhile to make a fresh attempt to apprehend the meaning of that sacred ordinance from the New Testament first of all, and then, having learned what Scripture teaches, to examine the statements of the Prayer Book and Articles with the view of discovering the real meaning of the doctrine of the Church of England.
This simple and restricted purpose clearly obviates the necessity of discussing Patristic teaching on the Holy Communion. What appeared to be before all things necessary was to appeal direct to Holy Scripture, and then to study the formularies of the Church of England in the light of the New Testament, according to the great principle laid down in Article VI that Scripture is the supreme and ultimate authority on all essential doctrine. Those, however, who wish to prosecute the study of the Patristic doctrine of the Supper of the Lord may be referred to the exhaustive catenas of authorities given in Dean Goode’s great work, On the Eucharist, and in that truly remarkable, masterly, and convincing discussion of Dr. Vogan, The True Doctrine of the Eucharist.
For the same reason no catena of English Church writers has been given. To say nothing of the fact that these extracts would themselves need interpreting and explaining in the light of their circumstances and contexts, the work has already been so thoroughly done by Dean Goode, Dr. Vogan, and Rev. N. Dimock that any further attempt would be quite superfluous.
In the exegetical portion of the present work full use has been made of all available modern authorities. In the historical portion I have mainly followed the guidance of one whom the Bishop of Edinburgh has rightly described as “that minutely accurate student, Mr. N. Dimock,” whose knowledge of the English Church doctrine of the Holy Eucharist is so thorough, and whose researches are such a mine of wealth to younger students. Mr. Dimock’s books (some of them now, alas! so scarce) are among the greatest treasures a clergyman can possess.
The present little work is offered as a slight contribution to the cause of Bible truth and genuine Church doctrine on this important subject.
Chapter I – The True Starting Point of Enquiry: Our Lord’s teaching about his Death and Second Coming; The Institution of the Supper, combining a reference to both events; The sad fact of strife associated with the Ordinance; Is it necessary for this strife to continue? Can some starting point of agreement be found? The only one is to revert to the original Institution as recorded in the New Testament; Study of, and Adherence to, the New Testament teaching the only sure basis of agreement; The importance of this method: (1) Gain of clearness by considering it first of all. (2) Superiority over Bishop Gore’s approach “first from the outside”. (3) Danger of departing from primary standards and thereby of losing the supreme authority of Scripture. (4) The New Testament record is Divinely inspired and authoritative. (5) This is the position and method of the Church of England.
Chapter II – The Approach to the Institution: Five distinct passages in the New Testament; The New Testament titles of the Ordinance; The Time and Circumstances of the Institution: (a) Close Connection with the Lord’s Death. (b) For Disciples who had been already instructed in other teaching; The Foreshadowing of the Death in St. John 6: (a) The Circumstances of the Discourses. (b) Gradual Development of teaching. (c) Clear Reference to His Death. (d) The true Interpretation is the absolute necessity of participation in His Death. (e) Quotation from John Ferus; The relation of St. John 6 to the Supper: (a) Primary Interpretation to Supper impossible. (b) Testimony of Dean Strong. (c) The relation is that of a Universal truth to a particular application. (d) Or both Discourse and Supper refer to the same thing: the Cross. (e) Explanation of Bishop Westcott. (f) Opinion of Archbishop Cranmer; Close Association of the Supper with the Passover: (a) Analogies between the two Ordinances. (b) Sense in which the Supper may be called Christian Passover. (c) Connection between the Supper and Passover, a key to True Meaning. (d) The Lord’s Spiritual Transformation of the Passover.
Chapter III – The Institution of the Lord’s Supper: Text of the Words of Institution; Institution “As they were eating”: The Actions of Blessing and Thanksgiving; The Language considered in detail: (a) “This” τουτο. (b) “Is” έστιν. (1) The True Meaning. (2) “Is” not “becomes”. (3) Illustrations from our Lord’s “I AM.” (4) View of Bishop Gore; (c) “My Body which is being given on behalf of you.” (1) The Words to be taken in their Entirety. (2) Their Real Meaning. (3) Comment of Bishop Ellicott. (d) “Covenant”. (e) “In remembrance of Me” ανάμνησις: (1) “Remembrance” not “Memorial Offering”. (2) No Sacrificial Association. (3) Views of Mr. Darwell Stone and Dr. T. K. Abbott: (f) “Do this” τουτο ποιειτε: (1) Impossible to render “Sacrifice this”: View of Bishop Ellicott. (2) Interpretations of Mr. Frankland, Mr. Darwell Stone, and Dr, T. K. Abbott. (3) Note on St. Luke 22:19, by Dr. Plummer. (4) Testimonies of Canon Mason and Bishop Gore; Clear Discrimination of the two Elements and their separate Bestowal.
Chapter IV – The Lord’s Supper in the Epistles: Consideration of 1 Corinthians 10:14–22: (a) “The Cup of Blessing which we bless.” (b) “Communion”: (1) “Joint Sharing” not “Communication”. (2) View of Speaker’s Commentary. (c) Close Adherence to the original Institution. (d) The Lord’s Table in a sacrificial context; Consideration of 1 Corinthians 11:23–29: (a) “Ye do show forth”. (b) “Unworthily”. (c) “Guilty of the Body and Blood”. (d) “Not discerning”. (e) “Till He come”; Consideration of Hebrews 13:10: (a) View of Bishop Westcott. (b) The Context; Consideration of Hebrews 10:19–25: (a) Reviewer in the Guardian. (b) Bishop Westcott’s Note. (c) The True Meaning; The Fewness of New Testament allusions to the Supper: its Position in the “Proportion of Faith”; The Relation of Grace to the Elements; The Alleged Distinction between the original Institution and subsequent Observances: (a) Distinction drawn by Bishop Gore. (b) Note by Dr. Plummer. (c) The first Disciples received a blessing. (d) The Appeal of the Supper the same today; Its Appeal was, and ever must be, to faith, with a presupposition of Discipleship.
Chapter V – Summary of New Testament Teaching: The Simplicity of the Institution; The Fundamental Idea centered in “Do this in remembrance of Me”; Yet remembrance carries with it appropriation as part of “Do this”; Also to be observed in company with others; It includes a look forward to the Advent ; “Do this” reveals, symbolizes, and proclaims the whole Gospel in miniature; Its strong spiritual appeal to every part of our nature and life; It reveals and expresses the “totality of salvation”.
Chapter VI – The Lord’s Supper in the Prayer Book: Importance of ascertaining the Teaching of the Church of England: (a) Because of its Position in the Prayer Book. (b) To test the Church by her own Standard in Article VI. (c) To provide a touchstone for testing all other teaching; Church Teaching found in Prayer Book and Articles only; Great Weight attached to views of Compilers and Representative Opinions; Yet ultimate Court of Appeal is the Prayer Book itself; The Lord’s Supper in four places in the Prayer Book: (a) Catechism for the Instruction of the Young. (b) Service of Holy Communion for Ordinary Worship. (c) Service of Holy Communion for the Sick. (d) Articles for Theological Statements; Summary of Prayer Book Teaching: (a) Its Meaning. (b) Its Distinction between “worthy” and “unworthy reception” (c) Its Central Position in Church Life and Worship. (d) Its Agreement with New Testament Teaching.
Chapter VII – The Lord’s Supper in the Prayer Books of 1549 and 1552: The Prayer Book in the Light of its History; Its Form dates from the Sixteenth Century; The Embodiment of the English Reformation; It expresses the Mind of the Church as opposed to Medieval Doctrine; It expresses Real Differences between the Church of England and Roman Catholicism; Impossibility of bridging over the gulf; Five Stages of Prayer Book Revision; The First Prayer Book of Edward VI, 1549: (a) The Communion Order of 1548. (b) The General Character of the 1549 Book. (c) The detailed Statement of Contents. (d) Inclusive and comprehensive Protestant Character; The Second Prayer Book of Edward VI, 1552: (a) A Drastic Revision of the Earlier Book. (b) Its Theological Tendencies. (c) Details of significant alterations. (d) “Reformed” not “Lutheran” in standpoint; “Reformed” Doctrine is not Zwinglianism; Revision of the Prayer Book not due to foreign interference; Entire freedom from Ambiguities in Prayer Book of 1552.
Chapter VIII – The Lord’s Supper in the Prayer Books of 1563 And 1573: The Character of the Elizabethan Reformation; The Omission of the “Black Rubric”; The Prayer Book of 1552, not 1549, as the Basis of Revision; Essential Doctrinal Position of 1552 maintained; The Doctrine of the Articles: (a) The Forty-two Articles of 1552. (b) The Revision of 1563. (c) The Revision of 1571; Did the Elizabethan alterations betoken Lutheranism? (a) The Lutheran Views of Bishops Cheney and Geste. (b) Archbishop Parker and Article XXIX. (c) The New Clause of Article XXVIII. (d) The Testimony of Jewel’s Apology; No Alteration from Standard and Standpoint of 1552.
Chapter IX – The Lord’s Supper in the Prayer Books of 1604 and 1662: The Additions to the Catechism; Do these imply any new Doctrine? The Historical Facts to be considered; No Proof of any Essential Alteration; The Opinion of Dr. Ince; The Revision of 1662: (a) Alterations doctrinally slight and insignificant. (b) Reinsertion, with verbal change, of “Black Rubric”. (c) Justification of this verbal change. (d) The Structure and Purpose of the Rubric as a whole. (e) Views of Dr. Heurtley and Dean Goode; Summary of Revision of 1662: Testimony of Baxter; Review of the Five Stages of Prayer Book History: (a) The Facts Stated. (b) Doctrine essentially uniform all through. (c) Opinion of Dr. Ince. (d) Representative Names of Sixteenth Century. (e) Representative Names of Seventeenth Century. (f) Representative Names of Eighteenth Century. (g) Representative Names of Nineteenth Century; Conclusion.
Chapter X – The Lord’s Supper in Current Teaching (I): Fresh Prominence to the Doctrine of the Lord’s Supper through Tractarian Movement; This Teaching is not a legitimate Development of Church of England Doctrine; A New Deposit and Growth during the last Sixty Years; Its Manifestation culminated in the Declaration of the English Church Union in 1900; More recent Teaching in the same direction; The Doctrine of a Real Presence; The Meaning in Modern Teaching; The Absence of the Phrase “The Real Presence” from Church of England Formularies; Our Lord said more than “This is My Body”; Not the glorified Body but the Body as crucified; The Fallacy involved in the New View; No Special Mode of the Presence at the Lord’s Supper; The Latter Part of the Institution practically minimized in current Teaching; The Case of unworthy recipients; The Teaching of Article XXIX; Objective Presence not necessarily in the Elements only; The Meaning of Consecration; The Relation between “Sign” and “Thing Signified”; The True Church Doctrine: The Opinions of Bishop Andrewes and Bishop Dowden.
Chapter XI – The Lord’s Supper in Current Teaching (II): The Doctrine of a Eucharistic Sacrifice; The Difficulty of Obtaining a Definition; View of Canon Mason; View of Dr. Mortimer; View of Hon. and Rev. J. G. Adderley; View of Bishop Gore; Absence of Scripture Warrant; Inconsistent with Teaching of the Epistle to Hebrews; The only Christian Sacrifices apart from Calvary; The Significance of the Rubrics concerning the Alms and the Elements; The term “Altar” not in the Prayer Book; “Altar” never used of Holy Table in Early Church; Bishop Westcott’s Note on the Subject; “Do this,” not sacrificial language; Distinction between “Sacrifice” and “Sacrament”; Testimony of Bishop Gilson; Commemoration of a Sacrifice not a Commemorative Sacrifice; Quotations from Bishop Westcott.
Chapter XII – The Lord’s Supper in Current Teaching (III): The Doctrine of Eucharistic Adoration; The Ambiguity of the Term; Worship at the time of Holy Communion; No Adoration of our Lord’s Presence in the Elements; The Testimony of the “Black Rubric”; The Eucharist as “The Highest Form of Christian Worship”; The True Nature of Worship; The Relation of the Lord’s Supper to Worship; The Doctrine of “Sacramental Grace”; The True Position stated; Ambiguity of “Sacramental” and “In the Sacrament”; The Church Doctrine Stated; The Testimony of the Service for the Communion of the Sick; The Need of Careful Scrutiny of Terms; Quotation from Dr. Ince; Counsel of the Bishop of Edinburgh: “Define your Terms”; Quotations and References appended to the Declaration of the English Church Union; Criticisms of Bishop Dowden and Dr. Ince; Incompatibility of Tractarian and Prayer Book Doctrines; Dr. Ince on the Real Tendency and Purpose of the modern teaching; Concluding Summary: (a) True Churchmanship content with Prayer Book Doctrine. (b) Following Bible and Prayer Book prevents exaggeration or depreciation. (c) The Duty of maintaining the True Doctrine. (d) Chief Reason for careful adherence to Scripture Truth.
Chapter I – The True Starting Point of Enquiry.
Our Lord Jesus Christ during the latter part of His earthly ministry laid special stress on two great facts associated with Himself; His death (Matt. 16:21; John 6:51, 8:28, 12:32); and His coming again (Matt. 16:27, 19:28, 24:27, 37, and 44; ch. 25). His death was to be “for the life of the world” and “a ransom for many”; His coming was to be the crown of His revelation and the constant hope of His followers. On the first occasion when the Lord revealed to His perplexed disciples the fact of His approaching death (Matt. 16:21), He spoke also of His coming and glory (Matt. 16:27), thereby linking the two great events and showing the latter to be the complement and perfect explanation of the former. Then, “on the same night in which He was betrayed,” our Lord instituted an ordinance which was to combine in its full spiritual meaning a reference to His atoning death and His glorious coming; an ordinance which would be a standing witness to both, and serve, for the sustenance and expression of His disciples’ faith in the one and of their hope in the other (Matt. 26:26–29, 1 Cor. 11:26).
In the light of these truths it is surely one of the saddest and most deplorable facts in the history of the Church of Christ that the ordinance instituted by our Lord as a memorial of His love and grace should have become associated with bitter strife and terrible persecutions among His professed followers. This central act of public worship, this symbol and means of Christian love, unity, and hope, has for centuries been the occasion of controversy and enmity, and today it is the main dividing line between many “who profess and call themselves Christians.” All which is tragic in the extreme, and conveys a deeply solemn message as to the possibility of grave departure from the original faith and love of the Gospel.
Without now attempting to account for this sad state of things, the more practical question arises: Is it necessary for it to continue? Is it possible to find some point of agreement from which the differing sections of the Church of Christ may start on the way to unity of faith in the bond of peace on this subject? There appears to be one and one only such starting point. It is that all should be willing to revert simply to the original institution of the Lord’s Supper as recorded in the New Testament, to discover therefrom its real meaning, and henceforward to abide by that, neither more nor less. This may be regarded as a difficult matter, but it ought not lightly to be set aside as impossible. The records of the institution in the New Testament with the subsequent references are neither many nor really difficult of interpretation.
This method of discovering the truth as to the Lord’s Supper is important on several grounds. In considering the original institution at the outset, we are more likely to gain a clear and true view of our Lord’s meaning than by considering first what men have thought of it and then studying the original source in the light of what we have derived from the teaching of others. It seems necessary to press this point because the second method is prevalent today in certain quarters.
An illustration of this may be given from a recent able and important book on the subject. It is entitled The Body of Christ, by Canon (now Bishop) Gore, and is described on the title page as “An Enquiry into the Institution and Doctrine of the Holy Communion.” The book extends to 300 pages, and yet it discusses the one record which we possess of the “Institution” and the primary sources of the “Doctrine,” only after 240 pages of other matter, and even then takes but 20 pages to consider the sources. These are the author’s own words on his method: “We will make a beginning of our attempt to understand the Christian mystery of the breaking of the bread with the considerations suggested by Justin’s hint of its resemblance to one of the rites of Mithra – the consideration, that is to say, of its affinities with the customs of religion in general outside the area of the special revelation which is the basis of the Christian Church. We will approach the Eucharist first from the outside.” [Gore, The Body of Christ, p 11.]
Here, we believe, is the error, or at least the danger, of the method, and one which is apt to lead, and indeed has led, to false conclusions. Why should we “approach the Eucharist first from the outside”? The institution is plain and well-known, and it would seem to be the safer, as certainly the simpler, method to consult the New Testament first of all. The other mode of procedure is not that which is best calculated to arrive at a true conclusion either as to institution or doctrine. It seems scarcely fair or wise to fill the mental horizon with ideas that may or may not be deducible from the New Testament, and then to seek support for them from Scripture. We are thereby liable to start with (possibly erroneous) presuppositions and to read them into our authorities. The more trustworthy method would be to start with our authorities, and use them at every point to form our conclusions and to test any presupposition that we may have inherited or unconsciously adopted.
There is a special and practical reason for commencing with the original institution and using that as the touchstone of doctrine. It seems to be an inherent tendency of human thought and practice to depart from primary sources. In the above-named book there is an admirable chapter on Medievalism which supplies a notable illustration of this very point. The author has no difficulty in showing that in medieval Romanism we have proof that “a real religious authority admits of being so much misused as to become completely misleading.” [Gore, The Body of Christ. First Edition, p. 220.] He rightly says that the deplorable failure of the ecclesiastical authority of the Old Covenant ought to have been a warning to the authority of the New: “It ought to have made it a first instinct with the bishops of all ages to be on their guard against gradual departures from the original spirit of Christian prophecy. It ought – to put the matter in definite terms – to have made them specially careful to maintain the constant appeal to Scripture, the record of the first inspired pattern of teaching, which the Church exists to guard and perpetuate, but to which it has no authority to add.” [P. 222.]
And then he adds, speaking of medievalism: “The Scriptures, so far as they are referred to, are merged in a miscellaneous mass of authorities. The safeguard has vanished.” [P. 223.]
This is exactly what we feel about every discussion of the Holy Communion which does not start from the New Testament and keep the New Testament in view at each stage. The Scriptures, even though led up to, are apt to become “merged in a miscellaneous mass” of presuppositions and discussions before we are allowed to consider them. Bishop Gore rightly adds: “If we find cause to mistrust ecclesiastical authority in a few instances, this tends to modify our whole attitude towards it.” [P. 225.] This states the true position, and is a complete justification of the method of starting with the Biblical authorities and then rigidly testing every instance of ecclesiastical authority by their means.
There is, however, a higher and more potent reason for appealing first of all to the New Testament. As Divinely inspired, it is unique and fundamental as the source of Christian Doctrine. To those who believe the words of Jesus Christ to be the words of a Divine and Infallible Teacher, those of His Apostles to be “the words which the Holy Ghost teacheth” (1 Cor. 2:13), and the record of both to have been “inspired by God,” and “written for our learning,” there can be nothing more natural or necessary than to recur first of all to these records for the true meaning and force of the institution of the Supper of the Lord.
This, moreover, is the standpoint of the Church of England. That Church claims to derive her doctrine from Holy Scripture. Article VI is very emphatic on this matter: “Whatsoever is not read therein nor may he proved thereby is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an article of the Faith.” The Catechism and Articles speak of the Lord’s Supper as one of two Sacraments “ordained by Christ”. Article XXVIII, in condemning certain errors, calls attention to “Christ’s ordinance,” and it speaks of one particular error as that which “cannot be proved by Holy Writ, but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture.” Article XXX justifies communion in both kinds “by Christ’s ordinance and commandment”. The service of Holy Communion is full of allusions to and quotations from Scripture on the Lord’s Supper. The Church of England, therefore, here as elsewhere, makes Scripture the supreme and final authority on essential doctrine, because it contains the only and complete expression of the mind of Christ on the Holy Supper.
It has seemed necessary to discuss this matter at length because of its extreme importance. We now proceed to consider the Supper of the Lord as recorded in the New Testament.
Chapter II – The Approach to the Institution.
We find the Lord’s Supper distinctly treated in five passages; in the three Synoptic accounts of the institution; in 1 Corinthians 10; and in 1 Corinthians 11. The allusions in the Acts of the Apostles to the “breaking of bread” are simple records of fact, and do not help in the interpretation of the meaning of the ordinance. The Epistles, with the exception of the two passages in 1 Corinthians, have no clear reference to the Lord’s Supper.
The two titles given in the New Testament to the ordinance are “The Breaking of Bread” (Acts 2:42 and 20:7 and 11); “the Lord’s Supper” (1 Cor. 11:20), while two more, though not actually given as titles in the New Testament, were early adopted as naturally arising out of the New Testament language, and as appropriate descriptions of certain aspects of the full meaning of the rite. The one is “Communion” (κοινωνία, 1 Cor. 10:16), and the other is “Eucharist” (Thanksgiving, ευχαριστήσας, Matt. 26:26).
In considering the institution and the terms used by our Lord it is important to remember that the ordinance was instituted on the eve of His death, and in the presence of men who were His disciples and intimate followers, and who had been in constant and close association with Him for nearly three years. It was not, therefore, a declaration of startling facts or even of elementary truth to men who knew nothing, but an exposition or a fuller explanation of new and additional truths to men already instructed. Under these circumstances it is important to obtain a correct perspective in considering the ordinance.
In view of the close connection of the Lord’s Supper, both in time and teaching, with the death of Christ, we naturally enquire first of all what the disciples knew already of the death by previous instruction; and whether the Master had revealed anything to them concerning it during those three years. If anything had been given we should expect it to throw distinct light on the meaning of the Lord’s Supper. Our Lord had already foreshadowed in metaphorical language (John 6) and foretold in plain statement (Matt. 16:21) more than once the fact of His death; and He had so far explained the meaning of it as to say that it was “for the life of the world” (John 6:51), and “a ransom instead of many” (λύτρον αντι πολλων, Matt. 20:28).
It was, however, at Capernaum, about a year before His crucifixion, that our Lord gave the fullest (though not until the event had illuminated it, the clearest) teaching as to His death. On the day following the miracle of feeding the five thousand, our Lord, speaking to the crowd of people attracted by the miracle only, urged them to “labour for the food that endures to everlasting life” (John 6:27), which the Son of Man should give them. Gradually, in response to their questions and criticisms, He revealed Himself as the Bread of Life (verse 35), and told them that the bread was His flesh which He was about to give for the life of the world (verse 51). Moreover, He solemnly and with marked emphasis stated the absolute necessity of everyone eating His flesh and drinking His blood for the possession and maintenance of eternal life (verses 53–56).
There is to be seen in these discussions a gradual development of His teaching from the idea of food, generally, to that of bread; then from bread to flesh; and lastly to flesh and blood. This last reference to flesh and blood separately clearly points to His death. Flesh could only be eaten by a Jew after the blood had been drained from it, and the multitude, therefore, ought to have had no great difficulty in perceiving the meaning of the allusion. Then followed the emphasis on the need of “eating and drinking,” i.e., a literal though spiritual act of appropriation and assimilation answering to eating and drinking in the material world. This participation is laid down as absolutely essential for all. The terms are introduced by one of those solemn “excepts” as recorded in St. John (3:5, 6:53, 12:24), which admit of no qualification whatever.
What, then, is the meaning of this great and solemn passage? It teaches the absolute necessity of all men participating in the Atoning Death of Christ (as expressed here by giving His flesh and blood) in order to possess eternal life. The discourse at Capernaum was addressed mainly to unbelievers, and also to nominal followers of Jesus of Nazareth, and was concerned with the great work of Redemption which He came to perform, and the universal and individual necessity of participation in the blessings resulting from it.
This interpretation of the discourse is that which is accepted by all the best modern commentators, and indeed has been thoroughly recognized in all the ages of the Christian Church. It is remarkable that even Roman Catholic writers have taken this view. The words of one commentator in particular, John Ferns, a German Franciscan monk of the middle of the sixteenth century, are worthy of careful notice. In his commentary of St. Matthew he writes: “To eat His body spiritually is from thy heart to believe that Christ was made man, and took thy sins upon Himself, and for thee shed His blood. ... He who thus believeth, by faith as it were draweth Christ into himself, and becometh one body with Him. ... Without this spiritual eating no man is saved. For unless we have part in Christ’s righteousness and His life, we remain in our sins. ... He speaketh not here (John 6:53) of the Sacrament; for not all are condemned who take not the Sacrament. He speaketh of spiritual eating, that is, of faith in Christ. ... In this manner even the Fathers of the Old Testament did eat the body of Christ, for Christ was offered to them also in the promises.” [Quoted in Bishop Moule’s work, Bishop Ridley on the Lord’s Supper, p. 219, and by Bishop Ryle in Expository Thoughts on St, John, Vol. I., p. 402 ff.]
In view of the foregoing reference to our Lord’s death we can readily understand the institution of the Holy Supper on the eve of His Passion and in the presence of and with reference to His disciples. We can at the same time perceive the true relation of the discourse at Capernaum to the Lord’s Supper. This discourse was delivered at least a year before the institution of the Supper, and was in direct connection with events and discussions immediately preceding it. It is necessary to emphasize this historical connection of our Lord’s words because it clearly indicates that the primary interpretation of the discourse cannot be of the Lord’s Supper.
“We have insisted upon the historical circumstances out of which this discourse has arisen. It is obvious that it lies in such close connection with them that it would be manifestly wrong to affirm that the discourse is to be directly referred to the Eucharist.” [Dean Strong, The Doctrine of the Real Presence, p. 28.]
Further, the discourse was addressed mainly to the multitude outside, while the Supper was instituted for the disciples. The relation, then, between the discourse and the Supper, is that of a universal truth to a particular application. The discourse teaches the universal truth of Christ for the world as Sacrifice and Life. The Supper is one particular means whereby disciples of Christ may appropriate and commemorate that death. It is not that the discourse refers to or explains the Supper, but that the Supper refers to and amplifies the discourse; or, better still, they do not so much refer directly to each other, as that both refer to the same thing, the Cross. As with the Passover, the feast referred to the deliverance and not the deliverance to the feast; so, here, the feast refers to the Sacrifice of Deliverance, not the Sacrifice to the feast.
“The discourse at Capernaum lays down the vital principles of which the Eucharist is an actual embodiment.” [Dean Strong, The Doctrine of the Real Presence, p. 29.]
“What is spoken ... cannot refer primarily to the Holy Communion, nor, again, can it be simply prophetic of that Sacrament. The teaching has a full and consistent meaning in connection with the actual circumstances, and it treats essentially of spiritual realities with which no external act, as such, can be coextensive. ... But on the other hand there can be no doubt that the truth which is presented in its absolute form in these discourses is presented in a specific act and in a concrete form in the Holy Communion. ... But that which He deals with is not the outward rite but the spiritual fact which underlies it.” [Westcott on St. John VI.]
As Archbishop Cranmer taught, John 6 does not treat of oral feeding in the Sacrament nor spiritual feeding confined to the Sacrament, but spiritual feeding in and out of the Sacrament. [See Waterland, Review of the Doctrine of the Eucharist, p, 126.]
We are now possessed of the true historical and spiritual perspective from which to examine the accounts of the institution and discover the meaning of the ordinance. In the first place, and generally, it is to be noted that the Lord’s Supper is closely associated with the Passover, out of the celebration of which it clearly and naturally grew. It is obvious, therefore, that the Lord’s Supper was intended to be to the Christian Church the exact analogy of the Passover feast to the Jews, a feast associated with, and commemorating a great deliverance. At the same time it is scarcely accurate to speak of the Lord’s Supper as the Christian Passover except in the meaning of the Passover feast. The Passover was the deliverance from death in Egypt, and the antitype to this is our Lord Himself in His Atoning Death (“Christ our Passover,” 1 Cor. 5:7).
Then came the Passover feast to which our Lord’s Supper, as one ordinance, rightly answers, though of course not fully, for the entire Christian life is now a continual Passover festival (εορτάζωμεν, 1 Cor. 5:7), based on the great Redemption. This close connection of the Lord’s Supper with the Jewish Passover must be constantly kept in mind. It is one of the keys to the true meaning of the ordinance. St. Matthew three times calls the meal in which our Lord and His disciples took part a “Passover,” and this fact undoubtedly sheds great light on the significance of the Lord’s Supper. The Passover feast was a memorial feast to keep in memory the deliverance of Israel from Egyptian bondage, and the Lord now virtually bids His disciples to forget Egypt and to think of a far greater deliverance in their redemption from sin. He took the venerable institution, so replete with glorious memories, and lifted it into a higher region, and with sublime audacity He associates the Passover, thus transformed, with Himself as “the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.”
Chapter III – The Institution of the Lord’s Supper.
In the light of these general principles we can now examine in detail the language of our Lord in instituting the Supper. There are some distinct differences of phraseology in the four accounts, which go in two pairs, St. Matthew and St. Mark being in close agreement, while St. Luke and St. Paul also agree together. The differences, however, do not affect the main question of the institution, and are matters of textual rather than theological importance in relation to the meaning of the rite. The full text of the words of institution is appended for the purpose of careful comparison and in order to show how each account supplements the rest.
1 Corinthians 11.
23 For I received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which he was betrayed
26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it; and he gave to the disciples, and said, Take eat; this is my body.
22 And as they were eating, he took bread, and when he had blessed, he brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take ye: this is my body.
19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and gave to them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.
and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, This is my body, which is for you: this do in remembrance of me.
27 And he took a cup, and gave thanks, and gave unto them,
23 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave to them:
20 And the cup in like manner after supper,
25 In like manner also the cup, after supper,
And they all drank of it.
24 And he said unto them
28 Drink ye all of it: for this is my blood of the covenant,
This is my blood of the covenant,
This cup is the new covenant in my blood, even that
This cup is the new covenant in my blood:
which is shed for many unto remission of
which is shed for many.
which is poured out for you.
this do as often as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.
29 sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my
25 Verily I say unto you, I will no more drink of the fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new
18 For I say unto you, I will not drink from henceforth of the fruit of the vine, until
26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink the cup, ye proclaim the Lord’s death till he come.
in the kingdom of God.
the kingdom of God shall come.
The Lord’s Supper was instituted “as they were eating,” that is, immediately after the Passover Supper. It is important to note this, as it shows that the earliest disciples received the Holy Communion just after a meal. Our Lord then “took bread”. He did not take a lamb, but bread. This shows that what He was about to institute was a feast, not a sacrifice. “The Passover lamb, like other sacrifices, might only be slain in the forecourt of the temple.” [Schaff-Herzog, Encyclopaedia. Article, “Passover,” Vol. III., p. 1758.] Of course it was a meal connected with a sacrifice, but the sacrifice was one thing, the meal quite another.
Our Lord first took the bread and then “the cup” (one of the Passover cups) and blessed (ευλογήσας, Matt. 2626 and Mark 14:22) and gave thanks (ευχαριστήσας, Matt. 26:27 and Mark 14:23, for the cup, and Luke 22:19, for the bread). These actions of blessing and thanksgiving seem to refer to God as their object (cf. Matt. 14:19; αναβλέψας εις τον ουρανον ευλόγησεν, John 6:11; ευχαριστήσας). The word “it” is in italics, thus suggesting that our Lord blessed God; that is, He gave thanks according to the Jewish custom at the Paschal Feast. In any case the “thanksgiving” must refer to God, and if the “blessing” is to be referred to the bread (cf. 1 Cor. 10:6, ο ευλογουμεν), the meaning will be consecration or dedication rather than praise or thanksgiving.*
*[Bishop Westcott, in his Commentary on the Epistle to Hebrews, p. 209, has a special note on “The Biblical idea of blessing,” which enables us to understand the meaning which our Lord intended to convey by the words which He used at the institution of the Lord’s Supper. The Bishop, after discussing the blessings of the Old Testament, says that when man blesses an impersonal object there is nothing in the idea of a charm or of any magical working. The full phrase is “to bless God for the thing.” In discussing the New Testament uses of ευλογειν the following points alone concern our present subject
1. A use “absolutely, without any expressed object, but with the clear thought of Him to whom praise is due for every good; Mark 6:41, Matt. 14:19, Mark 14:22, Matt. 26:26 (all ευχαριστήσας); Luke 24:30. In these cases, indeed, it is possible to take τους άρτους, τον άρτον as the object from the context; but the Jewish custom points very plainly in the other direction; and this construction is decisively supported by the parallel use of ευχαριστειν, Mark 14:23, Matt. 26:27, Mark 8:6, Luke 22:17, 19; John 6:11.”
2. A use “with a material object; Mark 8:7, Luke 9:16, 1 Cor. 10:16. In these cases ‘blessing the bread’ must be understood as ‘blessing God the giver of the bread.’ The formulas in use (at the Paschal meal) are given by Lightfoot on Matt. 26:26.”
The blessing therefore by our Lord, when He instituted the Holy Communion, seems to have been an act of blessing, not the bread and wine, but God the giver.]
Then our Lord broke the bread and gave it to His disciples saying: “This is my body which is given for you.” Afterwards He took the cup, and said, “This is my blood of the new covenant (or, This cup is the new covenant in my blood) which is being poured out for you (for many) for the remission of sins. Do this in remembrance of me.” It is to be noted that the bread and cup were given separately, the one being applied to the body given and the other to the blood shed. Further, the disciples were there and then to “eat” and “ drink”. The ordinance was evidently for participation.
We now come more closely to the exegesis of the words.
1. “This” (τουτο), in “This is my body, my blood,” must refer to that which our Lord gave, and in the case of the bread this is so, from the grammatical standpoint as well, according to the rule of a neuter subject when the predicate is an inanimate object (cf. also John 17:3 for an instance of a pronoun conforming to the gender of the other noun).
Even apart from this we may probably say that what Christ gave was a broken fragment of the loaf which He had then broken, and that in giving it, He rightly said, “This (sc. fragment).” The Greek for “fragment” is neuter (κλάσμα, cf. Matt. 14:20).
2. “Is” (έστιν), implies a real relation between subject and predicate, the relation being determinable only by the context. The addition of “given for you” shows the true point of correspondence. The έστιν cannot be held to express identity of substance whether physical or spiritual, for in the case of the cup (“this cup is the new testament”) the interpretation would be absurd. [Plummer, Article, “Lord’s Supper”; Hastings’ Dictionary of the Bible, Vol. III., p. 149.]
It is important to notice that the word is “is,” not “becomes”. It is hardly too much to say that our Lord would scarcely have used “is” if He had wished His disciples to understand that the bread was about to be changed into something else. He would almost certainly have used γίνεται, as in the case of the water changed into wine (John 2:9). The idea of the whole phrase of which the copula is a part is, “This is the representation of, or equivalent to, my body which is given for you; my blood which is shed for you.” It is interesting, and possibly significant, to notice that in the Service Book used by the Jews at their Passover at the present day these words are used: “This is the bread of affliction which our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt.” [Girdlestone, Four Foundation Truths, p. 57.] There cannot be any doubt as to the meaning of “is” in such a passage.
The έστιν may be properly illustrated by ειμι in John 8:12, 9:5, 14:6, 15:1; passages which describe some definite and essential relation of Christ to men under the form of metaphor. It must be noted, however, that the metaphor in these cases is not in the copula, but in the predicate, while here τουτο can only refer to the bread and wine. The words “this” (τουτο) and “ is “ (έστιν κ.τ.λ.), therefore, place before us separate ideas, and their relation can only be determined by the context. It were well if writers who press the literal meaning and application of the copula would heed Bishop Gore’s words on the subject: “It is, I venture to think, useless to argue with too great exactness about the word is. It describes very various kinds of identification. It is a sufficient warning against laying too much stress on it, that in one report our Lord is made to say, This cup is (not ‘my blood,’ but) the new covenant in my blood. The copula, therefore, is clearly indeterminate.” [Gore, The Body of Christ, p. 246.]
3. “My body, which is being given on behalf of you” (το υπερ υμων διδόμενον). These words are to be taken, as they stand, in their entirety, and are not to be divided. Our Lord did not simply say, “This is my body,” but, “This is my body which is given for you,” thereby associating the ordinance definitely and solely with His death. So also with the cup, it “is the new covenant in His blood.” These statements, when it is remembered that the body was not then actually being given or the blood shed, afford us the clue to the interpretation of the whole phrase. Our Lord is not speaking of actual literal identity, whether physical or spiritual. He is speaking to the disciples’ faith, to their spiritual perception concerning realities of the spiritual world, of spiritual efficacy and grace. He is assuring them of the certainty, the availability, the possession, the blessing, and the joy of the Sacrifice of Calvary.
“The verity of Scripture seems to preclude our referring the κοινωνία to any other body than that which suffered on the cross, or to any other blood than was shed for us. But (independently of other considerations) as at the first Communion, which we are bound to believe was a true Communion, the body was not yet crucified, nor the blood yet poured out, it is obvious that this participation of the faithful in the body and blood of our Lord becomes at once lifted out of the realm of the natural and the material, and must be regarded as a spiritual participation, and because spiritual, the more deeply and essentially real.” [Ellicott on 1 Cor. 10:16, p. 186.]
4. “Covenant” (διαθήκη) recalls Old Testament facts and prophecies, and their realization and fulfillment by our Lord in His death. The “new covenant” foretold by Jeremiah (31:31, cf. Heb. 8:7–13) was about to be ratified, according to invariable practice, by blood, only it was now the blood of the Son of God to be shed on Calvary. This word “covenant” calls attention to the federal aspect of the Lord’s Supper, a point never to be overlooked in any due consideration of the ordinance. Covenants in the Old Testament are associated with covenant signs or seals, and so it is here. They witness to God’s promise and pledge, and also to our attitude of acceptance.
5. “For my remembrance” (εις την εμην ανάμνησιν). Άνάμνησις means “calling to mind,” “recollection”; and, according to the words of institution, this is the primary and fundamental purpose of the Lord’s Supper. The word never means “memorial offering,” for it has no sacrificial association like μνημόσυνον, which is the regular word for sacrificial memorial in the LXX. (cf. Acts 10:4).
It is difficult to understand on what grounds Mr. Darwell Stone says [Darwell Stone, The Holy Communion, p. 30.] that “the ordinary meaning of the word ανάμνησις in the Septuagint is ‘a memorial before God.’” The very opposite is nearer the truth, as may be easily tested by a careful examination of the Essays by Dr. T. K. Abbott on this subject. [T. K. Abbott, Essays on the Original Texts of the Old and New Testaments, and A Reply to Criticisms.]
“Remembrance,” it must be clearly understood, implies bodily absence, for it would be meaningless to speak of remembrance of one who is bodily present.
“The significance of the Lord’s Supper as a remembrance cannot be maintained together with the literal meaning of ‘this is my body.’” [Keim, quoted by Meyer on St. Luke 11., p. 309; cf. Plummer, Bible Dictionary, ut supra.]
6. “Do this “ (τουτο ποιειτε) is to be rendered “do this” or “perform this.” To translate it “sacrifice this” is impossible on any sound exegesis.
“To render the words ‘sacrifice this’ is to violate the regular use of ποιειν in the New Testament, and to import polemical considerations into words which do not in any degree involve or suggest them.” [Bishop Ellicott on 1 Cor. 11:25.]
The earliest writers after New Testament times never understood them in this way, nor do the ancient liturgies.
In view of these facts it is difficult to understand a recent author [W. B. Frankland, M.A., The Early Eucharist.] saying that “to scholars the Lord’s language, τουτο ποιειτε, has a sacrificial ring, and at the least the words are patient of a sacrificial sense.” Surely the vast majority of scholars have no such impression, for there is no instance of the word being so used without an object of kindred meaning accompanying and explaining it. The word always requires to be in close connection with sacrificial language in order to be rendered “offer”. Is there any idea of offering sacrifice in the context beyond that which refers to Calvary? The disciples had been partaking of the Passover bread and wine, and our Lord had taken the Passover loaf and cup in His hands and said to His disciples, “Do this” that I have done with the special new meaning which I am now giving you. Mr. Darwell Stone, [Darwell Stone, The Holy Communion, p. 30.] in arguing for the interpretation “offer this” quotes several passages where the word occurs in the Septuagint, but in each passage he quotes the verse makes reference either to a lamb, or a burnt offering, thus affording a clear proof of sacrificial meaning. Dr. T. K. Abbott, after an exhaustive discussion of the use of ποιειν in the Septuagint, summarizes the results by saying that the word is rendered “offer” only where the object of the verb, or at least the preceding context, defines the doing as sacrificial, and that this usage is not Hellenistic but Hebraic, and due to characteristic literalness of translation which there is no necessary reason to suppose would pass into the New Testament. The matter is so important that we make no apology for quoting the very valuable and conclusive note on St. Luke 22:19, by Dr. Plummer [Plummer, “St. Luke,” International Critical Commentary, pp. 497–498.]: “The proposal to give these words a sacrificial meaning, and translate them ‘Offer this, Sacrifice this, Offer this sacrifice,’ cannot be maintained. It has against it (1) the ordinary meaning of ποιειν in N.T., in LXX., and in Greek literature generally; (2) the authority of all the Greek Fathers, who knew their own language, knew the N.T. and the LXX., and understood the words as having the ordinary meaning, ‘Perform this action’; (3) the authority of the Early Liturgies, which do not use ποιειν or facere when the bread and wine are offered, but προσφέρειν or offerre, although the words of institution precede the oblation, and thus suggest ποιειν or facere; (4) the authority of a large majority of commentators, ancient and modern, of the most various schools, who either make no comment, as if the ordinary meaning were too obvious to need stating; or give the ordinary meaning without mentioning any other as worthy of consideration; or expressly reject the sacrificial meaning; (5) the testimony of the Septuagint, in which the various and frequent Hebrew words which mean ‘offer’ or ‘sacrifice’ are translated, not by ποιειν, but by προσφέρειν or αναφέρειν or the like; (6) the fact that here and in 1 Cor. 11:24, the writer might easily have made the sacrificial meaning clear by using προσφέρειν or αναφέρειν. He has not even suggested such a meaning, as he might have done by writing ποιτειε τουτον, i.e., τουτον τον άρτον. He has given as a translation of Christ’s words neither ‘Offer this bread,’ nor ‘Offer this,’ nor ‘Do this bread’ (which might have suggested ‘Offer this bread’), but ‘Do this thing.’”
In further proof of this position the significant testimony of Canon Mason may be adduced. He writes: “The rendering ‘Offer this,’ has against it the fact that it is of recent origin. All the Greek Fathers, with the exception of Justin Martyr, treated the words as ‘Perform this action.’” [Mason, Faith of the Gospel. Second Edition, p. 328, note.]
Dr. Plummer does not consider Justin Martyr an exception. [Plummer, “St. Luke,” International Critical Commentary, p. 499, note, and Expositor, Third Series, Vol. VII., p. 444 f.]
In view of the foregoing testimonies it does not seem too much to say that statements about ποιειν and ανάμνησις being sacrificial should cease to be made. Or at least we may ask the upholders of this view to be content with Bishop Gore’s conclusion: “On the whole, then, there is not sufficient evidence to entitle us to say that ποιειν bears the sacrificial sense in the New Testament. The matter stands similarly with ανάμνησις.” [Gore, The Body of Christ. First Edition, p. 315.]
The clear discrimination of the two elements and their separate bestowal is to be carefully noted. In view of Jewish ideas about blood this could only have reference to death. The ordinance of the Lord’s Supper is therefore clearly associated with the Lord’s Death.
Chapter IV – The Lord’s Supper in the Epistles.
The next passage of the New Testament to be considered is 1 Cor. 10:14–22, where St. Paul warns against idolatry and presses upon the Church the necessity of Christians being entirely separated from idol feasts. In this connection he refers to the Lord’s Supper and thus describes it (verse 16): “the cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?”
το ποτήριον της ευλογίας ο ευλογουμεν. “The cup over which the blessing is pronounced” (Ellicott). This is usually taken as the accusative of the direct object, though it may mean the accusative of respect; “as to which we bless (God),” thus agreeing more closely with the Gospel narratives of the institution, and with the usual meaning of the word. [See Westcott’s note, ut supra p. 18.]
Κοινωνία means fellowship, partnership, joint participation. It is to be distinguished from “communication,” which would be μετάληψις or μετοχή (the latter is used in the context). It means fellowship of persons with persons in one and the same thing. It does not mean partaking of, or even communion with, the body and blood, but communion or joint sharing with persons in reference to the body and blood, the context showing that the Church is referred to as comprising those with whom we have “in common” (κοινός) the body and blood of Christ. Canon Evans [Speaker’s Commentary, in loc.] says the word never signifies “communication” nor “participation”. He adds that it cannot mean “communion with the blood, for that is an incorrect idea. Union with the body there is, but not communion. Fellowship is with persons (1 Cor. 1:9), or with things personified (2 Cor. 6:14).” “Is it not the fellowship,” therefore, means “is it not the (means of) fellowship,” the context revealing the persons with whom we have the fellowship.
We see how closely St. Paul here follows the idea of the original institution. It is not “fellowship” or “communion” generally, but specifically “communion” in the body and blood, that is, in the death of our Lord.
It is perhaps not without significance that in a sacrificial context with a definite mention of the Jewish altar, the Apostle, though indicating a certain analogy of these idol sacrifices and feasts with the Lord’s Supper, nevertheless speaks of the Lord’s Table. The Lord’s Supper is a feast on, and in memory of, a sacrifice, and for this a table, not an altar, is appropriate. The Lord’s Supper is thus not a sacrifice, but a sacrificial meal, two things which, though connected, are fundamentally distinct. The table is related to the altar as the feast is to the sacrifice, as its sequel and result, but the two are to be carefully distinguished. The sacrifice was offered on Calvary, but we still feast on it whether in, or apart from, the Lord’s Supper.
The other passage is 1 Cor. 11:23–29, where the Apostle is correcting certain local abuses which had crept into their observance of the Supper. He gives an account of the institution which he says “he received of the Lord” (παρέλαβον απο του Κυρίου). The account agrees closely with that of St. Luke, and chronologically it is of course the earliest of all. St. Paul adds two or three noteworthy comments in illustration of the rite. The most important of these is his statement that “as oft as ye eat this bread and drink this cup ye do show forth the Lord’s death till He come.”
“Ye do show forth” (καταγγέλλετε) means actual oral announcement and not representation by action. It is “showing forth” or “proclaiming” by words rather than by deeds (cf. Acts 4:2). The object of the verb is, obviously, not God but man. It never means proclaiming before God, much less pleading or presenting before Him. It cannot mean “exhibit before God.” [Bishop Perowne, The Doctrine of the Lord’s Supper, p. 8.]
The other special points of this passage are: (1) as to the danger of eating and drinking “unworthily” (αναξίως), i.e., unworthily of the sacred and solemn meaning of the ordinance; (2) that anyone so doing is “guilty of the body and blood of the Lord,” i.e., guilty of profaning the Divine fact and channel of our Redemption; (3) the need of self-examination and of discerning the Lord’s body (διακρίνων), i.e., spiritual discrimination of its sacred purpose and blessing; (4) the association with the Lord’s Second Coming, “till He come.” It is noteworthy too that St. Paul calls the consecrated bread, bread (1 Cor. 11:26–28).
As already stated, the above passages are all the clear and unmistakable references to the Lord’s Supper in the New Testament. One passage sometimes quoted in this connection is “We have an altar” (Heb. 13:10). There is nothing in the context to refer this to the Supper, and on no proper exegesis can it be maintained. Bishop Westcott’s words on St. John 6 rightly apply here: “It treats essentially of spiritual realities, with which no external act, as such, can be coextensive.”
An altar, moreover, implies a sacrifice and a priest, and as it is the one purpose of the Epistle to teach the uniqueness of our Lord’s Sacrifice and Priesthood it would be strange if at last the writer were to introduce an element contrary or at least foreign to all that preceded. The “altar” in this passage is an expression that includes sacrifice as well, and the reference is probably to our Lord as both Sacrificial Victim and Feast. If there is any earthly “altar” at all it is the Cross, but it is probable that the term does not refer to any definite place or thing, but is only used in a general and inclusive sense for the spiritual ideas associated with altar and sacrifice. [Westcott and Rendall, in loc.] In any case the context (γαρ, verse 11) is quite opposed to any interpretation which refer it to the Lord’s Supper. The writer shows that he is referring to the Jewish ritual on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16), when the priests had no right to eat of the sacrifices which were wholly consumed on the altar. At the most it can only have an indirect application or a very remote allusion to the Lord’s Supper. [Strong, Doctrine of the Real Presence, p. 38 f. Perowne, The Doctrine of the Lord’s Supper, p. 109 ff.]
Although we believe that we have now carefully considered every passage of the New Testament in which there is any undoubted reference to the Lord’s Supper there remains one passage to which some attention must be given. It has been urged by a writer in the Guardian in reviewing Dean Strong’s work, The Doctrine of the Real Presence, that Hebrews 10:19–25 is “one of the most significant” allusions to the Holy Eucharist in the New Testament. Bishop Westcott’s comment on that passage is also referred to, and the reviewer urges that the passage is “eloquent of the fact that it (the Eucharist) is a sacrifice, and also the center of Christian worship – that, indeed, for which ‘the assembling of ourselves together’ is observed.” Before considering these statements more closely it may be well to see what Bishop Westcott’s comment really is. On verse 22, “Having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water,” the Bishop writes: “The two phrases appear to contain allusions to the Christian sacraments. That to the Eucharist is veiled: that to Baptism is unquestionable. In the one case the reference is primarily to the spiritual efficacy of the divine working of which the Holy Eucharist is the appointed but not the sole means.” [Westcott, Hebrews, p. 323.]
The key to the true meaning of Bishop Westcott, and indeed of the whole passage in the Hebrews, lies in the words, “of which the Holy Eucharist is the appointed but not the sole means.” This is where the reviewer in the Guardian has clearly gone too far. The passage manifestly includes all occasions of “drawing near” to God, of which the Lord’s Supper is one but only one, not “the sole” occasion. To apply the passage as the reviewer does so definitely and exclusively to the Holy Eucharist is to read into it more than the passage will bear, and more than Bishop Westcott’s comment teaches. Dean Strong was probably nearer the truth than his reviewer when he omitted this passage from his discussion of the definite Scripture doctrine of the Lord’s Supper.
It is doubtless precarious to argue strongly e silentio, but it has often been pointed out, and we believe it has real significance, how very little there is in the New Testament about the Lord’s Supper. “It is remarkable that the allusions ... are extraordinarily few,” [Dean Strong, The Doctrine of the Real Presence, p. 37.] and in particular the silence of such Epistles as the great doctrinal treatises to the Romans and the Hebrews, together with the Pastoral Epistles, with their wealth of instruction on ministerial and general Church life, is in some respects the most significant of all. There is such a thing in the New Testament as “the proportion of faith” (Rom. 12:6).
One thing ought to be carefully noted, that the words of institution and the teaching of St. Paul “throw no light whatever on the way in which the indwelling of Christ is effected by the sacramental elements. ... We shall certainly not only be departing from the text of Holy Scripture, but departing from it unwarrantably and against its drift, if we attempt to define the relation which subsists between the sacramental elements and that which they convey.” [Strong, pp. 59–60.]
Scripture, with characteristic simplicity, is content with emphasizing the duty and privilege of glad and grateful obedience to our Lord’s command, leaving us to be assured that faithful loyalty to Divine teaching is a sure guarantee of Divine grace. “If ye love me ye will keep my commandments, and I will pray the Father and He shall give you another Comforter,” is only one out of many passages of Holy Scripture showing the close, intimate, and assured connection between obedience and blessing.
Another matter of very great importance needs careful consideration in discovering the Scripture doctrine of the Lord’s Supper. There seems to be no warrant for distinguishing, as is sometimes done, between the original Supper and the succeeding observances after the day of Pentecost. The distinction is drawn by Bishop Moberly in his Sayings of the Great Forty Days, by Archdeacon Robert Wilberforce in his Doctrine of the Incarnation, and by Bishop Gore. In the work already quoted Dr. Gore says: “The Eucharist is a communion in the spiritual body of the risen and living Christ; and therefore it could only be rightly celebrated in the power of the Spirit, which was not given before Christ was glorified. How then could it be instituted before the Passion? How could Christ while yet in His mortal body give His disciples His flesh and blood to eat and drink? To this question there is, I think, no answer except by regarding the institution of the Eucharist as an anticipation of glory akin to the ‘Transfiguration’.” [Gore, The Body of Christ. First Edition, p. 312.]
But the true Scriptural view regards the first Communion as” a true Communion,” [Ellicott on 1 Cor. 10:16.] and in no respect do subsequent Communions possess any spiritual difference unless it be (by the power of Pentecost) in degree of spiritual perception and realization.
“Can we believe that the celebrant now distributes more than Christ distributed then?” [Plummer, Bible Dictionary, ut supra.]
The gift of our Lord at the original institution was not different from that bestowed by Him after Pentecost and at our celebrations today. What He gave then He gives now, and any view that maintains a difference between the first and succeeding Eucharists is unwarranted by Scripture. Our Lord said these words when His blood was not yet shed, when He was Himself before them, and when there could not be any presence of the glorified body. Yet we believe the disciples received a gift, a grace, a blessing. What was this? It was His body as given and blood as shed, in their spiritual force and efficacy; a gift offered to and received by faith alone. The same gift is offered and received now in exactly the same way, the only difference being that their faith appropriated the gift in expectation and anticipation of Calvary, while our faith appropriates it in remembrance and experience of it. The Supper made its appeal to faith at the outset; it makes the same appeal still. It invites and requires the response of trust if its meaning is to be understood and its blessings appropriated and enjoyed. It is ever to be borne in mind that the whole revelation of the Lord’s Supper presupposes and is founded on discipleship, with the faith and love arising out of that relation. It is only disciples who can “remember”; for remembrance implies knowledge, and it is only disciples who “know” their Master.
Chapter V – Summary of New Testament Teaching.
We have now covered all the Scripture teaching on the Holy Supper, and it is not purposeless to call attention to the extreme simplicity of the institution itself, and to all the allusions to it. The place of institution was a house and not a temple; the persons were ordinary Jews, not of the priestly line; the time was evening; the circumstances were associated with a social meal, a family gathering at the Passover time. There is of course no hint of the existence of sacrificial ministerial powers, much less of their bestowal upon any of the recipients of the Supper.
To sum up; the spiritual meaning and purpose of the ordinance is centered in our Lord’s words: “Do this in remembrance of me.” This is the heart of the ordinance. We are to recall Him, letting the mind go back to His earthly manifestation, and especially to the culmination of it in His death. As we break the bread and pour out the wine, we are to remind ourselves and remind one another of that Sacrifice whereby our Lord made “by His one oblation of Himself once offered a full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world.”
But the bread was also to be eaten and the wine drunk. This means not remembrance alone, but remembrance with appropriation. We are to make our own in spiritual possession and joy the benefits of His Passion, and “feed on Him in our hearts by faith with thanksgiving.” Christianity means nothing less than actual participation in the Lord Jesus Christ in all the fulness of His Divine person and redemptive work, and the Lord’s Supper is one of the Divine channels and means whereby this participation is made possible.
And all this was to be done, not in secret and alone, but in company with others. This implies our confession of Him, the confession to ourselves and others of our belief and trust in the death of Christ. We “show forth” our appreciation and appropriation of it. We therein realize with others, with all the company of God’s people, our joint possession of and participation in that Sacrifice, and at the same time we realize and express our unity in Him who died on the Cross, for “we being many are one bread and one body, for we are all partakers of that one bread” (1 Cor. 10:17).
Lastly, both the Master and His Apostles definitely connected this ordinance with the future, and more particularly with the coming of the Lord. We are, therefore, to look forward and expect Him in the glory of His Advent and to live in the power of that great event.
The Supper of the Lord thus reveals, symbolizes and proclaims the whole Gospel in miniature. Christ for us, offered on Calvary; Christ in us, appropriated by faith for pardon and life; Christ among us, our center of love and unity; Christ coming, our Lord and King. And when we “do this,” the Holy Feast truly and really enables us to approach, to apprehend, to appropriate, and to appreciate Christ Jesus our Lord in all these varied aspects of His person and work.
It makes an appeal to our sense of need, by calling us to pause from time to time in the hurry and bustle of life, to make a break amid daily duties and remember Him.
It makes an appeal to our intellect by affording us an opportunity of pondering over the greatest of all historical facts, and offering us a continual proof, stretching across the centuries, of the reality of the death on Calvary.
It makes an appeal to our imagination by depicting in solemn symbol the awful yet blessed meaning and glory of that Sacrifice.
It makes an appeal to our conscience by reminding us of the heinousness of the sin that caused the death of the Son of God, and yet by telling us also of the means whereby our sins may be blotted out.
It makes an appeal to our heart by displaying to us the “pledges of His love” and inciting us to love Him who “first loved us,” and “gave Himself for us”.
It makes an appeal to our soul by offering in God’s name and on His authority, the personal and permanent blessings of Calvary to every recipient, while it calls for the wholehearted response and surrender of trust in a loving Divine Saviour.
It makes an appeal to our desire for certitude by reminding us in blessed symbol that salvation is the gift and work of God, that Christ is the Living Bread which came down from heaven, and that therefore there need be and should be no uncertainty and gloom, but constant trust and gladness in view of the Divine unalterable fact of Calvary. To all our fears of perfect pardon, and to all our doubts of God’s love, the Holy Supper speaks in symbol and pledge, “This is my body which is given for you”; “this is my blood which is shed for you.”
It makes an appeal to our will by asking for a pledge, a” sacramentum,” a soldier’s oath of fealty and loyalty, a covenant of perpetual obedience to Him who died and rose again.
It makes an appeal to our life by calling for a testimony, a “proclamation,” a confession to others of our conviction of the spiritual realities of the Cross.
It makes an appeal to our social instincts by spreading a feast of love, unity and brotherhood whereby may be realized the joint possession (because of the joint deep need) of the benefits of that precious blood-shedding.
It makes an appeal to our hope by revealing the prospect of the coming of the Lord and the glories that are to follow, when we shall behold, worship and praise the Lamb that was slain.
The Supper of the Lord thus reveals and expresses what has been called the “totality of salvation.” [Godet on St. Luke, in loc.]
It strengthens our faith, stimulates our love, safeguards our loyalty, and sustains our hope. Whether considered from the Divine side or the human, it is a microcosm of the revelation of God in Christ.
By Christ redeemed, in Christ restored,
We keep the memory adored,
And show the death of our dear Lord
Until He come.
His body broken in our stead
Is here, in this memorial bread,
And so our feeble love is fed
Until He come.
The drops of His dread agony,
His life-blood shed for us, we see;
The wine shall tell the mystery
Until He come.
And thus the dark betrayal night
With the last advent we unite,
By our blest chain of loving rite,
Until He come.
Until the trump of God be heard,
Until the ancient graves be stirred,
And with the great commanding word
The Lord shall come.
O blessed hope! with this elate,
Let not our hearts be desolate,
But, strong in faith, in patience wait
Until He come.
Chapter VI – The Lord’s Supper in the Prayer Book.
The need and importance of ascertaining the teaching of the Church of England on the Supper of the Lord is very evident on several grounds. The position “of the ordinance in the Prayer Book clearly requires us to understand its spiritual significance in our life and worship. We shall thereby be taught what is required in faith and practice of the members of the Church. In ascertaining the meaning of the Prayer Book and Articles we shall also be enabled to see whether the Church adheres to her own standard, laid down in Article VI and other Articles, which requires all essential doctrine to be based on or warranted by the Word of God. At the same time we shall be afforded a touchstone wherewith to test everything that may come before our notice claiming to be Church doctrine.
It is perhaps not wholly unnecessary to say that Church of England teaching on this subject is found in the Prayer Book and Articles and nowhere else, and is to be gathered from a due consideration and interpretation of every expression in those formularies. Of course, in any controversy as to interpretation, the views of the compilers of the Prayer Book are deservedly of very great weight, and the opinions of representative English theologians, together with the decisions of Courts, are worthy of careful thought. But the ultimate and final Court of Appeal is the Prayer Book and Articles, and we must be acquainted first of all with what the Prayer Book and Articles actually say.
We proceed, therefore, to collect the various statements of the Prayer Book and Articles with reference to the Lord’s Supper, and to consider them, as they stand, in their natural meaning.
The Lord’s Supper is brought before us in the Prayer Book in four places, and they are typical and representative of the variety of Church life.
First, we have the Catechism for the instruction of the young. This speaks of the Lord’s Supper as one of the two Sacraments ordained by Christ in His Church; and defines a Sacrament as “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace, given to us, ordained by Christ Himself, as a means whereby we receive the same and a pledge to assure us thereof.” Then, in answer to the question, “Why was the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper ordained?” it says, “For the continual remembrance of the death of Christ and of the benefits which we receive thereby.” The “inward part or thing signified” in the Lord’s Supper is described as “the body and blood of Christ which are verily and indeed taken and received by the faithful in the Lord’s Supper.” The benefits of the Supper are said to be “the strengthening and refreshing of our souls by the body and blood of Christ.” The Catechism closes by emphasizing the need of preparation for and due reception of the Sacrament in a spirit of true repentance, living trust and practical love.
The young are hereby taught: (1) The spiritual purpose of the Lord’s Supper is the remembrance of the fact and spiritual power of the death of Christ. (2) The spiritual gift is union with Christ through the due reception of His body and blood. (3) The spiritual effect to the soul is strength and refreshment. (4) The spiritual blessing is limited to the “faithful”; i.e., those who have faith, those who are believers, those who fulfil the threefold requirement due from “them that come to the Lord’s Supper.”
Next comes the Service of Holy Communion for those worshippers who have been confirmed. The titles of the Service include the only two titles which we find given in the New Testament; “The Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion”. The introductory Rubrics speak of “the Lord’s Table” and “the Table,” while the Rubrics before the Church Militant Prayer have “the Holy Table” and “the Table”. These are the only titles given in the Prayer Book to the Communion Table. In the service itself the following expressions are found: “Most comfortable Sacrament of the body and blood of Christ to be ... received in remembrance of His meritorious Cross and Passion”; “not only to die for us, but also to be our spiritual food and sustenance in that Holy Sacrament”; “holy mysteries as pledges of His love”; “for a continual remembrance of His death”; “to our great and endless comfort”; “then we spiritually eat the flesh of Christ and drink His blood”; “that our sinful bodies may be made clean ... and our souls washed ...”; “spiritual food of the most precious body and blood of our Saviour.” These practically include all the aspects of the spiritual meaning and blessings of the ordinance as stated in the service.
The Rubrics concerning the Alms and the Elements are also to be noted. In the case of the former there is a distinct offering: “humbly present and place it upon the Holy Table.” In the case of the elements the Rubric reads, “The Priest shall then place upon the table so much bread and wine as he shall think sufficient.” The difference between these two Rubrics is to be carefully noted. Neither here nor in the Rubric for the Consecration of additional Bread and Wine is there any order for an oblation of the elements.
The Prayer of Consecration commemorates the uniqueness and perfection of the offering on Calvary, recites the Lord’s words of institution of the Supper, and speaks of our “receiving these Thy creatures of bread and wine, in remembrance of His Death and Passion,” and prays that the communicants may thereby “be made partakers of His most blessed body and blood.”
The elements are given with a form of words which is partly prayer and partly exhortation. The prayer is that “the body of Christ which was given for thee” (the words underlined evidently pointing back to the Cross) may “preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life”; and the exhortation is to “take,” “eat” and “drink” the elements in thankful remembrance of Christ’s death and blood-shedding, and to “feed on Him in our hearts by faith with thanksgiving.”
The service has a Rubric at the end, commonly called “The Black Rubric,” which explains the meaning of receiving the Communion kneeling, and declares that no adoration is intended “either unto the sacramental bread or wine or unto any corporal presence of Christ’s natural flesh and blood.”
All these statements in the most devotional and solemn service of the Prayer Book are the necessary and proper amplification of the instruction already received through the Catechism.
We observe how emphatically the Church of England in this service prepares the communicant for worthy reception according to the threefold requirement of repentance, faith, and love, as laid down in the Catechism. The whole Communion Service up to the moment of the call to Thanksgiving (Sursum Corda, “Lift up your hearts”) is built up on this threefold foundation, thrice emphasized: (1) In the Ante-Communion Service (Commandments, Epistle, Gospel and Creed, Offertory and Church Militant Prayer); (2) In the Long Exhortation; (3) In the Short Exhortation, followed by Confession, Absolution, and Comfortable Words. Only then is the communicant regarded as presumably ready for due participation.
The Lord’s Supper is also provided for private use in the case of the sick, the ordinary service being almost wholly employed. The one point calling for notice here is the third Rubric, which is as follows:
“If a man ... by any ... just impediment do not receive the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood, the Curate shall instruct him, that if he do truly repent him of his sins, and steadfastly believe that Jesus Christ hath suffered death upon the Cross for him, and shed His blood for his redemption, earnestly remembering the benefits he hath thereby, and giving him hearty thanks therefore, he doth eat and drink the body and blood of our Saviour Christ profitably to his soul’s health, although he do not receive the Sacrament with his mouth.”
It is to be observed that the elements are here called “the sacrament,” and that, in the absence of the opportunity of receiving the elements, full spiritual communion is assured on true repentance, faith and thanksgiving. [Cf. Augustine’s Crede et manducasti, Believe and thou hast eaten.]
Lastly, and perhaps in some respects most important for our present purpose, we pass from the warm and glowing language of devotion to the precise theological statements of the Articles. In view of the definite purpose of the Articles, and of their prominent doctrinal position in the Church of England, it is necessary to consider with the utmost care what they teach on this subject.
The Articles, like the Catechism, give the name “Sacrament” to this ordinance. The term is not found in Scripture, but in view of its original meaning of the Roman soldier’s oath on enlistment (sacramentum), it is peculiarly appropriate as expressive of allegiance to our Lord. It is limited in the Church of England to the two ordinances of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, because they alone fulfill the Church’s definition of a Sacrament as an ordinance which has both an outward sign and an inward grace, and was ordained by Jesus Christ.
Article XXV defines Sacraments as “badges or tokens of Christian men’s profession,” and “certain sure witnesses, and effectual signs of grace, and God’s goodwill towards us, by the which He doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken, but also strengthen and confirm our faith in Him.” “Effectual signs” (efficacia; signa), i.e., not only “signs,” but “effectual signs,” and yet effectual as signs. They do the work of signs effectually. The epithet does not destroy the substantive and make the thing defined something other than “signs”; just as “spiritual” defines but does not destroy the idea of “body” in the “spiritual body” of 1 Cor. 15. The meaning of “sign” is that of a seal or pledge that has God’s word of promise behind it. As such the Sacraments are “efficacia signa.” The Books of the Homilies are referred to in Article XXXV as containing “godly and wholesome doctrine,” and although it is not to be understood that the Church of England necessarily endorses every expression in them, yet in view of their use at the time our Prayer Book was compiled, the definition of a Sacrament found in one of them is worthy of notice as an illustration of “effectual signs.” Sacraments are defined as “visible signs to which are annexed promises.” [ Homily of Common Prayer and Sacraments, The Homilies, p. 356. Cambridge, 1850.] St. Augustine’s definition may also be noted. “Accedit verbum ad elementum et fit Sacramentum.” [Ad Johann, Sermon 272.] The Sacraments in this connection are thus analogous to those visible things in the Old Testament which were from time to time associated with truths and promises of God; e.g., the rainbow, the circumcision, the Passover, the fleece, the brazen serpent, etc.
Article XXVIII says that the Lord’s Supper is “a sign of love” between Christians, and also a “Sacrament of our Redemption by Christ’s death”; that 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 states that the change of the substance of bread and wine is unscriptural, subversive of the very idea of a Sacrament, and has been the cause of much superstition. It goes on to say that the “body of Christ is given, taken and eaten in the Supper only after a heavenly and spiritual manner,” and that “the means whereby the body of Christ is received and eaten is faith.” It closes by asserting that the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was not by Christ’s ordinance “reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshipped”. Article XXIX says that the wicked and those who have not living faith, although they “carnally and visibly press with their teeth the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, in no wise (nullo modo) are they partakers of Christ, but rather, to their condemnation, do eat and drink the sign or Sacrament of so great a thing.”
Article XXX refers to the necessity of observing “Christ’s ordinance and commandment,” and administering both bread and wine to all Christian men alike.
All these statements may be summarized as follows: – The Lord’s Supper according to the Prayer Book is: (1) for a remembrance of Christ and His death (this is the first and prominent characteristic); (2) an effectual sign of grace; (3) a means of grace; (4) a pledge of God’s love; (5) a badge of Christian profession; (6) a sign of Christian love; (7) a Sacrament of our Redemption by Christ’s death.
It will also have been noticed that as in the Catechism and Service of Holy Communion, so the Articles are very emphatic as to a worthy as distinct from an unworthy use of Sacraments. They are to be “duly used” and “worthily received,” “according to Christ’s ordinance” (Article XXV), and the Lord’s Supper is to be received “rightly, worthily and with faith” (Article XXVIII). The Articles are equally clear that the spiritual effects are conditional on this right reception, that the blessings are displayed to and bestowed through faith, and that only in such case have they “wholesome effect or operation” (Article XXV, cf. Article XXIX). This distinction between worthy and unworthy reception, thus made so clear and prominent, is evidently a keynote of Church of England teaching on the Sacraments.
It remains for us to notice the general position of the Lord’s Supper in the Church of England. To it, as the normal public expression of our Christian life, baptism and confirmation clearly lead. It is associated with the joys of marriage and childbirth. It is linked with the discipline of sickness. It is part of the solemnity of ordination. It is also prominently connected with the observances of Holy Days. It is assumed that as a general rule everywhere, and as an absolute rule in certain places, there will be a communion every Sunday. The Lord’s Supper is thus regarded as the ordinance round which our corporate Christian worship will turn, and of which in times of special experience the individual life will be a thankful partaker. It is therefore central and prominent in the life of public worship and testimony, because of its close association with that fact which is central and prominent both in the revelation of God and in all Christian experience; the “precious blood shedding” of our Lord.
This, in brief, is the answer of the Church of England to the question, What is the Lord’s Supper? The Prayer Book carefully considered and interpreted does not give any other answer.
From a comparison of these results with the references to the Lord’s Supper in Holy Scripture, it will be seen that the New Testament aspects are all illustrated and covered (though of course amplified) by Prayer Book expressions. It is not too much to say that there is nothing in the Prayer Book that is not found in the New Testament, and nothing in the New Testament that is not found in the Prayer Book. There is the same simplicity of statement, the same spiritual standpoint, the same general view of the institution.
Chapter VII – The Lord’s Supper in the Prayer Books
of 1549 and 1552.
Hitherto we have considered the doctrine of the Church of England as it stands recorded in the Prayer Book and Articles. For the purpose of ascertaining their proper meaning and interpretation it is now necessary to go a step further, and to consider the Church of England doctrine as illustrated by the history of the Prayer Book.
It must be remembered that the doctrine contained in the Prayer Book professes to be the explanation and amplification of Holy Scripture, as understood by those who compiled and revised the Prayer Book. It was then accepted by the English Church as a whole in the 16th and 17th centuries. The Prayer Book and Articles were composed and compiled in the face of varying and opposing views, and they can only be properly understood in the light of the history of the times.
It is not wholly unnecessary for us to be reminded that the Prayer Book as it stands, with its statements of the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper, dates in form from the 16th century (though in spirit it is much older), and is an embodiment of the movement called the English Reformation.
It was intended to express, and it does express, among other things, the mind of the compilers and of the Reformed Church as they stood in direct opposition to the medieval doctrine of the Roman Church. Any statement of “plain reasons against joining the Church of Rome” which ignores this fact, ignores the plainest reason of all. If there is one thing clearer than another, it is that our Reformers were burnt at the stake for denying the Roman doctrine of the Lord’s Supper. And there are two other things equally clear; first, that our Prayer Book and Articles were drawn up to express the Reformers’ doctrines; and, second, that no Roman Catholic would think of accepting the statements of the Prayer Book as equivalent to the doctrine of his Church.
Attempts have from time to time been made to prove that there is no real difference between the Churches of England and Rome on this subject, and that our differences only concern certain medieval accretions, which do not touch the essence of the doctrine. But none of these attempts have proved successful or even satisfactory. No glosses such as those of Santa Clara, no explanations such as those which can be found in Bishop Forbes’ work on the Articles, no statements such as those of Tract XC, or the Eirenicon by Dr. Pusey, or The Kiss of Peace by Mr. Cobb, have bridged the gulf, or are likely to do so. It is impossible to invalidate the clear historical basis on which the statements of the Prayer Book and Articles rest. At present, at any rate, there is between the Churches of England and Rome, on the question of the Holy Communion, “a great gulf fixed,” both from the historical and theological points of view.
Nor is it pertinent to say that the Roman doctrine of Transubstantiation is now only of academic interest, because it is based on an exploded philosophy. They are not Roman Catholics who say this, and we may believe it only when Rome herself gives up the doctrine which is based on that ancient philosophy.
We have now to trace carefully the history of the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper in the Church of England in the light of Reformation history, and in relation both to foreign Protestantism, and also to successive revisions of the Prayer Book. The present doctrine of the Holy Communion is the result of five distinct though connected stages of Prayer Book revision, and it is important to consider each of these separately and in their connection, in order to discover the full force of the statement of doctrine in our present book.
The earliest of the stages is marked by what is known as the first Prayer Book of Edward VI, that of 1549. This was the first complete Service Book of the Church of England associated with the Reformation. As such, it can only be properly understood in the light of the past and of the changes made. It is necessary to look back as well as forward if we would fully realize what its doctrine of the Lord’s Supper meant.
Up to the close of the reign of Henry the Eighth there were no doctrinal changes made in the services of the Church, and even the opening days of the reign of Edward the Sixth only saw changes of a moderate and mediating nature: “The Communion Order of 1548 was a typical act of policy: with one hand it continued the old Ritual of the Mass, with the other it introduced the new Ritual of Communion in both kinds. It marks the nearest point of agreement – almost, one might say, of equilibrium – between the new and the old schools in the Church.” [Bishop Stubbs, Visitation Charges, p. 99.]
But in the next year came the complete Prayer Book of 1549, which was undoubtedly a landmark in the history of the Reformation and a decided break with the past order of things. The name of “The Mass” remained, though only as the term by which the Holy Communion was “commonly called” (vulgo dicebatur: cf. subtitle of Christmas Day; Article XXV and Article XXXI). But the distinctive Roman doctrines of Transubstantiation and the Sacrifice of the Mass were not found. There had been a deliberate rejection of Roman Catholic and mediaeval doctrine. The book was clearly anti-Roman, and its Protestant position was unmistakable.
It is necessary, however, to enquire more definitely as to this Protestant teaching. Continental Protestantism was, unfortunately, already divided on the Lord’s Supper. On the question of the Real Presence, Luther taught a doctrine to which the term Consubstantiation has been given, a doctrine which as far as the mode of the Presence in the reception of the Sacrament is concerned did not materially differ from that of Rome. It must, however, be clearly understood that this Presence with the elements was not connected by Lutherans with the act of consecration, but with that of reception. It is imparted by Christ only when the elements are being consumed by the communicant. Further, they held that “outside the use ... the body of Christ is not present.” Moreover, there is no Eucharistic Sacrifice, or Adoration, or Reservation in the Roman sense among the Lutherans. [Formula Concord, pars. i., cap. vii.; De Coena Domini, iii.]
The other section of the Continental Churches known as the “Reformed” held that the Real Presence was related to and appropriated by the faith of the recipient and that this was ample for spiritual communion with our Lord.
To which of these views did the Prayer Book of 1549 lean? It is a matter of historical fact that Archbishop Cranmer had been in contact with, and influenced by Lutheran leaders such as Archbishop Hermann, Luther, and Melancthon, and the marks of this influence may be seen to this day in words and phrases in our Articles (e.g., Article XIX). Several phrases in the Prayer Book of 1549 were certainly open to Lutheran interpretation on the subject of the Presence of Christ in relation to the elements; e.g.:
(a) A Rubric at the end of the Communion Service ordering larger and thicker wafers than had been formerly used, so that they could more easily be broken and distributed. In this Rubric we read: “Men must not think less to be received in part, than in the whole, but in each of them the whole body of our Saviour Jesus Christ.” The sentence quoted is for the purpose of reassuring any who might feel the blessing was somewhat lacking by reason of the wafer bread being broken.
(b) The Prayer of Consecration: “Hear us (O merciful Father), we beseech Thee; and with Thy Holy Spirit and Word vouchsafe to bless and sanctify these Thy gifts and creatures of bread and wine, that they may be unto us the body and blood of Thy most dearly beloved Son, Jesus Christ.”
(c) The Prayer of Consecration: “We Thy humble servants do celebrate, and make here before Thy Divine Majesty, with these Thy holy gifts, the memorial which Thy Son hath willed to make.”
(d) The Prayer after Administration: “We most heartily thank Thee, for that Thou hast vouchsafed to feed us in these holy mysteries, with the spiritual food of the most precious body and blood of Thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, and hast assured us (duly receiving the same) of Thy favour and goodness towards us.”
Two or three illustrations of the character of the book derived from the Rubrics will further show its general position on the Lord’s Supper. The Priest is to stand “humbly afore the midst of the Altar,” and yet the Consecration Prayer is to be said “without any elevation or showing the Sacrament to the people.” The Rubric before the Administration is: “And when he delivereth the Sacrament of the body of Christ he shall say to everyone these words.” And the actual words were the first sentence of our present form, with its clear emphasis on the body which “was given” and the blood “which was shed”, referring to the atoning death of the Cross.
It would not be surprising in the light of the well-known development of opinion on the Holy Communion on the part of Ridley and Cranmer, if traces of Lutheran influence were found in this Prayer Book. On the other hand it certainly did not teach any distinctive Lutheran doctrine, and it must be borne in mind that Cranmer himself by this time had already accepted a doctrine of the Lord’s Supper akin to that of the “Reformed” Churches. [Original Letters, Parker Society, p. 323; Gasquet’s Edward VI. pp. 434. 440, 441.]
The book was not definitely anti-Lutheran, and quite as obviously, it was not definitely anti-“Reformed”. It was as far as possible inclusive and comprehensive of both views, being definitely Protestant as opposed to Rome. Its repudiation of Roman doctrine was pretty evident to most people, even though Gardiner, making as much as possible of its ambiguities, said it “was not far removed from Catholic doctrine.” [Gasquet, Edward VI, p. 284; Cranmer, On the Lord’s Supper, pp. 62, 92. Parker Society.] The book as a whole was a marvelous advance on the past, and was truly “epoch-making” in relation both to that which preceded and that which followed.
In 1552 the second Prayer Book of Edward VI was put forth. This was an entire and in many ways drastic revision of the earlier book. Into the reasons for a revision it is not to our present purpose to enter. The fact of the revision is all we need consider, and this is only too evident. A comparison of the two books clearly reveals very marked differences. Every phrase capable of a Lutheran interpretation was omitted, and it has rightly been said that if the Prayer Book of 1549 was against Rome, that of 1552 was against any form of Corporal Presence in or under the elements. [Dimock, Vox Liturgiae Anglicanae, p. 48 f.] At the same time it was also still more definitely anti-Roman. The following facts will prove this:
1. The name “Mass” was omitted from the title.
2. The word “Altar” and the usual sacerdotal vestments were omitted.
3. The structure of the Office for Holy Communion was altered by breaking up the long Consecration Prayer into three, answering to our present Church Militant Prayer, Consecration Prayer and first post-Communion Collect.
4. The allusion to “making a memorial before God” was omitted.
5. The Invocation of the Holy Spirit on the Elements, and the prayer that “they may be to us the body and blood of Christ,” were omitted.
6. The Rubric before the Administration ran: “And when he delivereth the bread he shall say.”
7. The Words of Administration were omitted, and a new form prescribed. This was the second sentence of our present form.
8. A new Rubric was inserted at the end of the service (called the “Black Rubric”), stating that the posture of kneeling to receive the Sacrament signified thankful and humble acknowledgment of Christ’s benefits, and that no adoration was intended either of the elements or of any “real and essential Presence of Christ’s natural flesh and blood.” The elements are stated to remain in their natural substance, and the natural body and blood of Christ to be in heaven and not here.
These changes are unmistakable in character and purpose. They represent the further growth of Protestant views on the part of Ridley and Cranmer, and the facts of this revision clearly point to a deliberate purpose of removing everything that might be construed into a doctrine of a local Presence in or under the consecrated elements.
It must, however, be clearly and constantly remembered that “Reformed” doctrine did not mean, and must never be supposed to mean, what is often called “Zwinglianism”. Zwinglius is usually associated with the “Figurative” view, which regards the elements as bare signs of grace, but it is certainly open to question whether he himself ever held the extreme views popularly attributed to him. [See Expositor, 5th Series, Vol. III, p. 161 ff. Bishop Moule (The Supper of the Lord, p. 50, note) says: “The great Swiss Reformer, Zwingli, or Zwingel (who died 1531), is commonly credited with having been a mere ‘commemorationist’. The charge is baseless. He held substantially the doctrine taught in the English Article (XXVIII). But writing early in the history of the controversy on the Eucharist, he expressed himself sometimes incautiously.”]
At any rate, Calvin and the other leading Swiss Reformers certainly never held this view, for they regarded the Holy Communion as associated with a very definite Spiritual Presence of Christ, revealed to and bestowed through the faith of the believer. It was to this general position that Ridley and Cranmer had come, and though they were undoubtedly influenced by the views of foreign Reformers their opinions were the result of their own personal convictions. It is a great mistake to suppose that the revision of the Prayer Book of 1549 was due to foreign interference. The Church of England most wonderfully, wisely, and successfully avoided connecting herself with any names, however great. She took her own independent line, apart from foreign control or even guidance.
Whatever the second Prayer Book was, it represented the views of its revisers, and of the Church of that day. The doctrinal standpoint of those who revised it is a simple matter of historical fact, and whatever ambiguities there were in the Prayer Book of 1549, it does not seem too much to say that there were none in that of 1552.
Chapter VIII – The Lord’s Supper in the Prayer Books
of 1562 and 1571.
The third stage of the history of the Prayer Book with which we are now concerned is the revision in Queen Elizabeth’s reign. After the reign of Mary a fresh start was made in the work of the English Reformation, and it is necessary for us to consider the relation of the Elizabethan Reformation to that of Edward’s reign. We may sum up the position in the words of the late Bishop Stubbs [Visitation Charges, p. l00.]: “The great importance of the third Prayer Book, that is, the one introduced by the Act of Uniformity of Queen Elizabeth, which to almost all intents and purposes is that which we now use, is that it was a distinct enunciation that the tide of innovation should proceed no further. The changes introduced into it from the second Prayer Book are very few; but, as few as they are, they indicate a return to, rather than a departure from, the first Prayer Book.”
The tone and character of the revision may best be seen from two facts:
1. The blending of the two earlier forms of Words of Administration into one, our present form.
2. The omission of the “Black Rubric.”
On the latter point it ought to be said that the Act of Uniformity specifying the alterations to be made does not mention this omission. It seems to have happened simply because the Act had omitted to make special mention of the Royal proclamation of 1552.
“If therefore the Rubric had been strictly a part of the Prayer Book as established by law in King Edward’s reign (which constitutionally it was not), it would have been strictly a part of the Prayer Book as established by law in Queen Elizabeth’s reign.” [Dimock, Vox. Lit. Angl., 63, note.]
In any case, we are told that in 1567 the teaching of the Black Rubric was “most diligently declared, published, and impressed upon the people.” [Grindal and Horn to Bellinger, Zurich Letters, i. 180.]
But the fact to be noted and ever kept in mind is that the basis of the Elizabethan revision was not the Prayer Book of 1549, but that of 1552. It was felt necessary to put a check on the extreme views then held by many Reformers (intensified as a result of the Marian persecution, and their own sojourn abroad), who would doubtless have soon made very drastic changes. The fact remains, however, that the Elizabethan Prayer Book, based on the second Prayer Book of Edward VI, is to “almost all intents and purposes” (Dr. Stubbs) our Prayer Book today. Whatever may be our own predilections, we are here confronted with a historical fact which rules the situation. This is the more significant because there is evidence that the choice of the 1552 Prayer Book was the result of deliberation. [Dugdale, Life of Geste, pp. 143, 146–147.] The changes made in the Prayer Book in the Elizabethan revision, even making allowance for the two facts noted above, are so slight that it can be said without any question that the essential doctrinal position of the Prayer Book of 1552 was undoubtedly maintained.
In connection, however, with the revision of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, we have to consider the bearing of the Articles on the doctrine of the Holy Communion in the Church of England. The forty-two Articles framed by Cranmer and issued by Royal authority in 1552 were abrogated the same year by the accession of Mary. On Elizabeth’s accession the Articles remained in abeyance for some time. In 1563 Convocation sanctioned a revision containing thirty-eight Articles, but subscription could not be enforced, because of the absence of Royal authority. In 1571 the Queen sanctioned another revision which was accepted by Convocation and passed that year. This revision added one Article (Article XXIX), and these Articles have since remained without alteration.
In reference to our present subject we have to consider Articles XXVIII and XXIX. A comparison of the existing Article XXVIII with the corresponding Article XXIX of 1552 shows the following differences:
1. A few verbal differences in the first part and in the last clause.
2. In the second paragraph the words “overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament” were added.
3. The third section, “The Body of Christ ... is faith,” replaced a longer clause stating the impossibility of Christ’s body being in many places at one time, and that because Christ had ascended into heaven and remains there, “a faithful man ought not either to believe or openly to confess the real and bodily presence (as they term it) of Christ’s flesh and blood in the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.”
On this arises the question whether the alteration betokened any change from the “Reformed” doctrine (as distinct from Lutheran) of the 1552 Prayer Book and Article. It must be carefully remembered that the possible change does not involve Roman doctrine as such. The Elizabethan Reformers had no idea of crossing that gulf. The only question is as to an approximation to the Lutheran aspects of Protestant doctrine. It is at least suggestive that this paragraph should be omitted and the “Black Rubric” on the same topic should (from whatever cause) find no place in the Elizabethan Prayer Book.
The matter must be considered in connection with the addition in Elizabeth’s reign of our present Article XXIX which was not included in the Forty-two Articles of 1552.
There is historical proof that one of the Elizabethan Bishops (Cheney, of Gloucester) held distinct Lutheran views on the Lord’s Supper. He was supported generally by Bishop Geste, who was the author of the new paragraph of the Article about “The body of Christ”. Our present Article XXIX was the work of Archbishop Parker, a great admirer of Cranmer and a decided Protestant. Through him this Article (XXIX) was included in the revision by Convocation in 1563, though it did not appear in any of the printed copies. We may fairly attribute this to the influence of those who favoured a policy of comprehension, and the avoidance of offence to any and all who could see their way to accept a general Protestant position. The matter was thus a subject of controversy, as contemporary evidence shows. Parker was certainly not Lutheran in views, and he opposed Bishops Cheney and Geste. Cheney could not accept the word “only” in the new paragraph; “The body of Christ is given ... only after a heavenly and spiritual manner,” and in order to meet his scruples Geste wished the word omitted, though he himself justified it as simply intended to guard against “the grossness and sensibleness in receiving” Christ’s body. Geste also proposed the insertion of the word “profitably” after “received and eaten”. Archbishop Parker evidently realized that Article XXVIII would be insufficient as a safeguard against Lutheran doctrine and that something more was needed. In 1573 he carried his point and our present Article XXIX was added. Geste now admitted the insuperable difference between Lutheran and Church of England doctrine. His testimony is conclusive as to the facts of the case. Instead of gaining his point by the insertion of the word “profitably” in Article XXVIII, the matter was decided against him by the addition of Article XXIX. In view of prevalent misconceptions about Bishop Geste it ought to be added that he was in other respects by no means the type of churchman that some modern writers suggest, and on certain points, such as Adoration, was unmistakably Protestant. [Dugdale, Life of Geste, pp. 116, 147–148.]
The word “given” in the new clause of Article XXVIII is sometimes asserted to prove Lutheran doctrine, but it seems to be forgotten that the explanation “only after a heavenly and spiritual manner” covers the whole phrase “given, taken and eaten”. The “gift” must therefore surely be from our Lord Himself, and the reception and eating by means of our faith. The word “given” is thus applied to our Lord not only by Cranmer and Jewel, but also even by men who held the “Reformed” views like Calvin. [Dimock, Eucharistic Presence, p. 732.] Further, the very phrase of the Article is found in Nowell’s smaller Catechism, of whose doctrinal character and position there is no question.
“The body and blood of Christ, which in the Lord’s Supper are given to the faithful and are by them taken, eaten and drunken, only in a heavenly and spiritual manner, but yet in truth.”
This is surely conclusive considering the authority of Nowell’s two Catechisms (see Canon 79). It has been well pointed out [Dimock, ut supra, p. 740.] that the words “given, taken and eaten” are, and possibly were intended to be, in close agreement with the words of institution in the New Testament; and in opposing Lutheran views the Reformers were not making the gift in the Sacrament less real or efficacious, or the eating and drinking less real or blessed.
Another and weighty proof of the true position of the Church of England on the doctrine of the Presence in the Lord’s Supper is the recognition and authority given to Bishop Jewel’s Apology (Canon 30 of 1604). The teaching of that work is unmistakable in its difference from the Lutheran position. Is it to be supposed that the Church of England would give its sanction to documents teaching doctrines diametrically opposite?
We conclude, therefore, that there was no divergence of view as to the Presence of Christ in the Holy Communion between the Prayer Book of 1552 and the Articles of 1563 and 1571. There was no trace whatever of what is called Zwinglianism in the book of 1552, while the doctrine of a spiritual Presence in the whole ordinance was clear and unmistakable. This doctrine was not altered in any respect by the revision of the Prayer Book or Articles in Elizabeth’s reign, while the doctrinal position of 1552 as against both Rome and Lutheranism remained untouched. The teaching of the two Articles combined forms a complete whole:
1. The nature of the Lord’s Supper – Article XXVIII. (paragraphs 1 and 2).
2. The method of partaking of the body and blood of Christ – Article XXVIII (paragraph 3).
3. The human instrument – Article XXVIII (paragraph 3).
4. The effect on those who have no faith – Article XXIX.
Chapter IX – The Lord’s Supper in the Prayer Books of
1604 and 1662.
The next stage in the Church of England doctrine on the Lord’s Supper is the addition to the Catechism of the section on the Sacraments. It was added after the Hampton Court Conference of 1604. Nowell’s Catechism never received legal sanction, and the need of a fuller Catechism than that of 1552 was keenly felt. The necessity for considering the true interpretation of this addition may be seen from the following statement. Dr. Gibson, [Dr. Gibson, On the Articles, Vol. II., p. 646 f.] speaking of the Elizabethan revision, writes: “The formularies ... were now (at the lowest estimate) patient of a Catholic interpretation. ... Moreover they have since been supplemented by the clear teaching of the Church Catechism (1604).”
We have already seen reason for believing that the doctrine of the Articles was really unchanged, and that the formularies were not even “patient of a Lutheran interpretation,” to say nothing of what Dr. Gibson calls “a Catholic interpretation”. Are we to suppose the Catechism then introduced some new form of doctrine on the Holy Communion? The particular part associated with this view is the answer to the question, “What is the inward part, or thing signified.” “The body and blood of Christ which are verily and indeed taken and received by the faithful in the Lord’s Supper.”
The following historical facts should be considered in coming to a decision whether we have here any change from the former doctrinal standpoint.
1. Archbishop Whitgift and Bishop Gilson were present at the Hampton Court Conference. They both held “Reformed” doctrine, and were against the Lutheran view. [Dimock, ut supra, p. 307.]
2. The additions were made at the request of the Puritans.
3. Neither then nor in 1662 was the slightest objection raised to them by the Puritans, and this in spite of their microscopic examination of the Prayer Book.
4. The words contain nothing that is opposed to “Reformed” doctrine, and can be matched by quotations from Calvin and English Puritan divines, and also from the Westminster Confession.
5. The emphasis on “the faithful” shows the entire agreement with Articles XXVIII and XXIX and the whole Reformation position.
6. The very answers now used to prove “Catholic doctrine” are found in a longer form in Nowell’s Catechism, which was definitely of the “Reformed” type. Bishop Jacobson says that “the additions made at the Hampton Court Conference were evidently abridged from it.” [Preface to Nowell’s Catechism, pp. 35–36.]
It is difficult to understand what other suitable language could be used to express the definite spiritual Presence and blessing of the “Reformed” as distinct from the Lutheran view. “This answer in the Catechism makes no declaration whatever about the body and blood of Christ being verily and indeed contained or present under the forms of bread and wine at all, i.e., in the elements apart from reception. It does declare that the body and blood are verily and indeed taken and received by the faithful in the Lord’s Supper; it affirms a real and true, i.e., not imaginary or fictitious, reception, but only by the faithful. It is in exact accordance with the Twenty-eighth Article, that ‘to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith, receive the Sacrament, the bread which we break is a partaking of the body of Christ, and the cup of blessing is a partaking of the blood of Christ.’
“It has been abundantly shown by Dean Goode, in his work on the Eucharist, that all the accredited expositions of the Catechism interpret this answer as an assertion that the body and blood of Christ are received in this Sacrament by the faithful only, meaning by ‘the faithful,’ communicants who with a true penitent heart and lively faith receive the Holy Sacrament.” [Dr. Ince, Letter on the Real Presence, p. 24 f.]
The last stage of the Prayer Book revision was that of 1662. Omitting for a moment the consideration of one point about which much has been written, it may be said without doubt that the changes made in the Prayer Book (the Articles were untouched) with reference to the Lord’s Supper were doctrinally slight and insignificant, except so far as they agreed generally with the character of the Elizabethan revision in opposing Puritan innovations. Most assuredly no new doctrine was introduced, and even though there are indications that some at that time desired certain changes, there is no clear proof that they wished to introduce Lutheran, still less Roman, doctrine. It follows, therefore, that the Prayer Book of 1662 was doctrinally in agreement with the Prayer Book of 1552 and 1562 and with the Articles of 1563 and 1571. And as there has been no revision since 1662 the position remains unchanged to this day.
But there is the one point alluded to above, the reinsertion, with a verbal change, of the Black Rubric. The words “real and essential” were changed to “corporal” in speaking of the avoidance of adoration of Christ’s flesh and blood. The question is whether this change of phraseology was intended to express any change in the doctrine of one hundred years in the Church of England. We hold that not only was no such change intended, but that the alteration in the wording of the Rubric was both wise and necessary for the sake of truth.
There had come to be a change in theological terminology in the course of the century. In the 16th century “real and essential” was applied to the Roman doctrine of the corporal Presence (see Article XXXI of 1552). But in the century preceding 1662 the term “Real Presence” was used among Protestants to signify the very doctrine which the Reformers believed. There was, therefore, a distinction between the real Presence which they accepted and the corporal Presence which they rejected.
One proof of this is found in the title of Bishop Jeremy Taylor’s Treatise on The Real Presence published in 1654, or eight years before the revision of 1662. The doctrine of this work is clearly that of the spiritual Presence and not the local presence in the elements. Mr. Dimock [Dimock, Vox Liturgiae Anglicanae, p. 70.] rightly says: “In 1662, to condemn the phrase ‘Real Presence’ would have been to condemn not only such men as Hooker, and Bishop Andrewes, and Cosin, and Morton, and Jeremy Taylor, and Bishop Reynolds, but also many eminent Swiss divines abroad, as well as the divines of the Westminster Confession of Faith at home.”
Even as early as Cranmer’s time the necessity was seen of distinguishing two possible interpretations of “real,” i.e., whether as equivalent to “vere” or to “corporaliter,” and Cranmer made the distinction clear by affirming his belief in the former of the two.
In all this we can see a natural and intelligible reason, if not a necessity, for the change of terms, and the correctness of this view is confirmed by the reply, only twenty-five years after 1662, of Dean Aldrich to the Roman Catholic Abraham Woodhead: “He tells us in King Edward’s book (the Rubric) denied a real and essential, but now denies only a corporal Presence. To which I answer that King Edward’s Rubric by real and essential means (as the Papists then used to do) a real and bodily Presence, as is plain by the Articles set forth about the same time.” [Dean Aldrich, Reply to Two Discourses, p. 9. Oxford, 1687.]
The Rubric, however, must be considered as a whole, in its general structure and dominant purpose. Does it as a whole indicate any intention of changing the doctrine? On the assumption of a change the Rubric would allow an adoration of a real and essential Presence on the Table but not of a corporal Presence there. But does not the Rubric forbid adoration in either sense? And if adoration of any Presence in or with the elements is permitted, what is the explanation of the kneeling? And what is the force or necessity of the reference to Christ’s natural body being in heaven and not there?
To argue for such a distinction is surely to reflect very seriously both on the intellectual caliber and even on the moral character of the able and earnest men of 1662.
Dr. Heurtley in his Remarks on the Declaration of Kneeling, quotes the words of the Bishops at the Savoy Conference, and then adds his own comment: “The posture of kneeling best suits at the Communion, as the most convenient, and most decent for us, when we are to receive, as it were from God’s hand, the greatest of seals of the Kingdom of Heaven.” “Language strangely below the occasion, if that greatest of seals be nothing less than the Lord Himself, veiled under the form of bread and wine.” [Dr. Heurtley, Remarks on the Declaration of Kneeling, p. 9.]
Dean Goode rightly says: “To condemn kneeling to the consecrated elements because of a supposed corporal Presence of Christ in them, and at the same time to advocate kneeling to them on account of a real Presence of Christ in them, called ‘supernatural,’ ‘essential,’ and ‘substantial,’ is a distinction which, I trust, will be left in the hands of those who invented it.” [Dean Goode, On the Eucharist, Vol. II., p. 625.]
Of the revision as a whole it may be said that though there were many minor changes, yet none of them was of such a character as to reveal any essential doctrinal difference from the earlier book. This can be seen from the words of our present Preface, which is by Bishop Sanderson, one of the revisers of 1662, and the continuity of doctrine is all the more significant in view of the anti-Puritan feelings of the time.
The revision left the Prayer Book of 1552 and 1562 doctrinally unaltered in character. There was no corporal Presence, no invocation of the Holy Spirit on the elements, no reference in the Consecration Prayer which could possibly be construed to mean inherent change in the elements, no sacrificial language such as would satisfy Roman teaching, and no adoration as needed by the doctrine of a Presence in the elements.
The Puritan Baxter, with all his minute criticisms of the book, found nothing doctrinally objectionable in the teaching of the Lord’s Supper, and, what is of great interest in this connection, he himself used sacrificial language connected with the Lord’s Supper which if found in our Prayer Book might easily be construed to mean the plainest Roman doctrine. [Hall, Reliquiae Liturgicae IV, p. 61.]
Reviewing these stages of the history of the Prayer Book we believe the truth of the case to be expressed in the following statements:
1. The doctrine of the Church of England on the Lord’s Supper was first properly formulated in 1549.
2. This underwent distinct revision and alteration in 1552.
3. The revision of 1562, the Articles of 1571, the additions of 1604, and the revision of 1662 made no substantial or essential change in the doctrine of 1552.
4. This doctrine was anti-Roman; and in relation to Protestant differences, it was not Lutheran, but akin to the “Reformed” type of teaching.
5. This doctrine remains enshrined in our Prayer Book to this day.
These conclusions as to an essentially uniform doctrine of the Lord’s Supper from 1552 to the present time are capable of proof from the writings of the leading divines of the Church of England.
“It is the fashion of a certain class of writers to say that the first English Reformers were men of violent and extreme views, too much influenced by their contact with the advanced foreign Reformers; and that we ought, therefore, to appeal to the Prayer Book and Articles as finally revised in 1662, to ascertain the real settlement of the English Reformation. It may, however, be proved that the teaching of the Caroline divines who lived immediately before and after the period of the last revision of the English formularies, on the subject of the real Presence, in no way differed from that of the earlier Reformers.” [Dr. Ince, Letter on the Doctrine of the Real Presence, p. 21.]
Out of very many names that might be quoted the following are perhaps the most important as being the most typical and representative of varying shades of thought amid essential agreement on the fundamental position. In the 16th century we may cite Cranmer, Ridley, Jewel, and Hooker; in the 17th, Laud, Andrewes, Jeremy Taylor, and Cosin; in the 18th, Beveridge and Waterland; and in the 19th, Goode, Goulburn, and Vogan. Quotations from these and others may be seen in extenso in Goode’s Doctrine of the Eucharist [Goode, Doctrine of the Eucharist, Vol. II., pp. 765–972.]; Vogan’s True Doctrine of the Eucharist [Vogan, True Doctrine of the Eucharist, pp. 162–228.];Dimock’s Papers on the Eucharist Presence. [Dimock, Papers on the Eucharistic Presence, pp. 5–103.] Reference may also be made to the singularly clear and valuable letters of the Bishop of Edinburgh (Dr. Dowden) in the Guardian for July, August, and September, 1900, than which nothing could be more convincing as to the Eucharistic doctrine of some of the leading English divines of the 16th and 17th centuries.
We conclude, therefore, that a careful study of the Prayer Book as it stands, a due consideration of its history, and a comparison of the teaching of the great theologians of the 16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries will reveal very distinctly the uniform doctrine, at once Scriptural, Catholic, and Protestant, of the Church of England.
Chapter X – The Lord’s Supper in Current Teaching (I)
The doctrine of the Lord’s Supper has acquired fresh prominence during the last sixty years by reason of certain movements within the pale of the Church of England. About that time a new turn was given to the consideration of the doctrine by the rise of the Tractarian Movement. The treatment of the subject in Tract XC, in the work of Archdeacon Robert Wilberforce on the Eucharist, and in the writings of Dr. Pusey, was certainly a novelty in the Church of England. No one can legitimately call it a development of the old Church of England doctrine of three centuries; rather was it a new deposit, the introduction of a fresh germ, which has since been growing side by side with the old doctrine until its manifestation may be said to have culminated in 1900 in the declaration of the English Church Union, which stated a doctrine of the Holy Communion in the following terms: “In the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, the Bread and Wine through the operation of the Holy Ghost, become, in and by consecration, according to our Lord’s institution, verily and indeed the Body and Blood of Christ, and that Christ our Lord, present in the same Most Holy Sacrament of the altar under the form of Bread and Wine, is in it to be worshipped and adored.”
The statements of certain members of the Fulham Round Table Conference in 1900 revealed an identical attitude.
Yet more recently in a book by Rev. Darwell Stone, Librarian of Pusey House, Oxford, forming part of a series intended to supply “some carefully considered teaching on matters of religion to that large body of devout laymen who desire instruction,” we find the following unmistakable statement: “At the present time, whatever differences in detail and in inference may exist, and however differently certain terms may be defined, there is agreement among Eastern Christians, Roman Catholics, and the successors of the Tractarians in the Church of England as to that central part of the doctrine of the Eucharist, the expression of which by the English Church Union in 1900 may be cited as a convenient illustration.” [Rev. D. Stone, The Holy Communion, p. 186.]
Under these circumstances we have to show that this doctrine is in no sense the legitimate doctrine of the Church of England as expressed in her formularies and as confessedly based on the Word of God.
The first question is as to the doctrine of a real Presence. Not, be it noted, of a real Presence to and in the faithful communicant, but the doctrine of a real objective Presence of Christ’s glorified Body in or under the elements after consecration, apart from any presence in the faithful recipient. Does the Church of England teach this?
It is to be noted that the phrase “real Presence” is not found in any of our formularies, and is ambiguous and misleading. The phrase is not known earlier than the Middle Ages, and our Reformers objected to its novelty and ambiguity. What Canon Trevor [Canon Trevor, Catholic Doctrine of Eucharist, p. 82 f.] says of the term “real objective Presence” is rightly applied by Vogan [Vogan, True Doctrine of the Eucharist, p. 91.] to the older term “real Presence”: – “New and unauthorized words imply new and unauthorized conceptions.”
All presence of Christ must be real, and a spiritual presence is not less real, because it is spiritual. But the usual application of the term is undoubted, and refers to Christ in His glorified human nature, which is said to be present in or under the elements by virtue of consecration. We hold that such a doctrine is not only not found in the New Testament and Prayer Book, but is contrary to the plain teaching of both.
The tendency of those who uphold the doctrine of an objective Presence in the elements is to take the four words only, “This is my body,” and on the strength of these alone to argue for a real objective Presence in the elements of our Lord’s glorified body. But our Lord said more than this, and we must consider His full statement: “This is my body which is given for you.” This is my blood of the New Testament which is shed for you.” It was, therefore, to the body as given and the blood as shed that our Lord referred. He said not a word about the glorified body. Neither did St. Paul, whose references to the “body and blood,” are to the body and blood, “ut in cruce, non in caelo.” How could the allusion to “blood shed” have any reference to the glorified body?
Our Lord could not have given His glorified body at the time of the original institution, and, as we have already seen in an earlier chapter, there is no warrant for supposing that subsequent Eucharists have differed in character or meaning from the first. Nor is there anything in the Church of England formularies to support the doctrine of a presence in or under these elements, or the idea of a difference of gift or reception now as compared with the original institution. In the Communion Service, and also in the more precise language of the Article we find that the body of Christ is not only taken and eaten, but first of all “given,” “after a heavenly and spiritual manner.”
The fallacy of the doctrine is, as Vogan points out, [Vogan, True Doctrine of the Eucharist, Chaps. 17 and 18.] that a thing must be present in order to be received. The local presence of a thing is not necessary to its possession and use by us. Property or money may be ours in very truth and reality without being actually and visibly present with us. So also in regard to the Lord’s Supper, the possession by us of our Lord in all His efficacy and power is not dependent on His local presence at any given spot or time. The body as given for us, and the blood as shed, did not exist at the time of the institution, and do not exist now, and therefore cannot be present. Yet they are given to faith, given in spiritual force and blessing. The Atonement of Calvary is not, and cannot be present now, and yet we partake continually of its vital efficacy and preciousness. And for this no special mode of the Presence is necessary. The Lord’s presence is the same in essence at all times and in all ordinances, the difference on each occasion lies in the purpose of His presence. At one time He is present for this, at another time for that special purpose, but the fact of the presence is the same throughout. Scripture will be searched in vain for any indication of a peculiar and special presence of our Lord at the institution of the Lord’s Supper, which was not found at other times of fellowship and communion with His disciples.
It is very significant and serious to note how the latter part of the institution is practically minimized by the teaching of this modern school on the Eucharist. It is a distinct deviation from Scripture language and order on the subject. Vogan says [Vogan, ut supra, p. 100.] that the proposition “This is my blood ... which was shed for you” has no real place in the doctrine of a real objective Presence, the whole doctrine being virtually deduced from the four words only, “This is my body.” In a recent popular Manual [Bishop Gore, The Creed of a Christian, p. 85.] we read, “The priest invokes the power of the Spirit on the bread and wine, and they become ... the body and blood of the glorified Jesus.” Now to say nothing of the fact that our Prayer Book has no such invocation of the Spirit (it was omitted in 1552 and never restored), what part can “blood” have in this idea of the glorified body, in what the author calls “the human and Divine life of the glorified Jesus?” It surely has no place. Yet the idea of “blood” is an essential part of the teaching on the Lord’s Supper.
We find the same view in another well-known book: “It is instinctively assumed that the Sacrament of the Lord’s Body is the chief thing, and the Sacrament of the Precious Blood takes a secondary place. If men had never fallen and yet the Word had become flesh, we can see that something like the Sacrament of the Body might have been given, but not the Sacrament of the Blood. So the two parts stand related to each other as the Incarnation and the Atonement.” [Canon Mason, The Faith of the Gospel, pp. 320, 324.]
But the New Testament speaks of the body given “for” us, and not “to” us, and the words of administration in our service speak of the body “which was given for,” not “which is given to” us. The two parts of the Sacrament cannot refer, according to the institution, to the Incarnation and the Atonement (which are never regarded in the New Testament as separate in interest), but emphasize the constituent elements of our Lord’s sacrifice in His body broken and blood shed. The separation of these two parts in the ordinance is its own silent testimony to the fact of death, and that only.
We hold, therefore, that this doctrine while it seems to demand the literal interpretation of our Lord’s words, does not really adhere to them, but takes only a portion, and thereby puts an entirely novel and erroneous gloss on them. It imports into the simplicity and clearness of Scripture what is not found there. Our Lord referred to His body as given for us and His blood as shed, and neither of these terms can refer to His glorified body.
Moreover, if there be a real objective Presence in the elements, what becomes of that Presence in the case of unworthy recipients? If, for instance, the Sacrament is administered to three persons in succession, of whom the second is unfaithful; what, on this theory, is given and what does he receive different from the others? If Christ be present in the elements independently of the use and reception, it surely follows that all who receive the elements receive Christ. “Yes,” says the modern teaching, “all receive Christ but not the benefits of Christ.” Archdeacon Denison and the Rev. W. J. E. Bennett, of Frome, both taught that the body and blood of Christ are received by the wicked as well as the good. They drew the distinction between receiving the inward part or thing signified (res sacramenti) and the grace of the Sacrament (virtus sacramenti), but is it possible to receive the thing without its efficacy? Is it conceivable that anyone can receive the body and blood of Christ without receiving Christ in His grace and power? Can a man really receive Christ without His benefits? And on this view what is the meaning of Article XXIX? The title of the Article is, “Of the wicked which eat not the body of Christ in the use of the Lord’s Supper,” and the statement of the Article is, “The wicked, and such as be void of a lively faith, although they do carnally and visibly press with their teeth (as Saint Augustine saith) the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, yet in no wise are they partakers of Christ” (nullo modo). Could language be clearer or stronger? Yet in the face of this, Bishop Forbes can actually say of the wicked that “they must in some sense receive Christ, the inward part of the Sacrament.” [Bishop Forbes, Explanation of the Thirty-nine Articles, p. 576.] It is impossible to speak, as several writers of this school do, of the sin referred to by St. Paul of being “guilty of the body and blood” of Christ, as though the phrase must necessarily mean the presence of the body and blood in the elements. The guilt would be equally great in any form of unworthy reception and profanation.
In the book already quoted in other connections, [Bishop Gore, The Body of Christ, pp. 72–73.] which on the whole seems to be identified with this modern school, we read of the elements “becoming” the body and blood of Christ; of the body and blood being “in some way attached to these elements”; and of the elements becoming “sacramentally identified with the body and blood of Christ.” But we do not get any clear definition of “becoming,” or “attached,” or “sacramentally identified”. The author rightly sees that we can believe in an objective Presence and grace without any such attachment or identification, for indeed all Divine grace must be at the outset objective to the recipient. [“Whether the grace of the Holy Eucharist come to our souls by and through the elements or no, alike it is objective, as coming to us from without ourselves, and having existence independently of our own thoughts.” – Bishop Moberly.] But he fails to prove that there is any further sense in which “objective presence” can be applied exclusively to the Lord’s Supper. The Scriptures teach that God in Christ is objective to the believer at all times, and can be appropriated by faith in every ordinance and by every means afforded us. To say that the “body and blood of Christ are made present” under the forms of “ bread and wine, or in some real, though undefined, way identified with them,” is to assert what is incapable of proof from Scripture or Prayer Book.
The view of the New Testament followed by the Church of England is that our Lord is present in spiritual power and blessing in the Sacrament, that is, in the due observance of the ordinance; but “in the Sacrament” is not to be confused with “in the elements”. Article XXV makes no distinction between the two Sacraments as to the fact and method of spiritual blessing. In both, as in all ordinances and means of grace, God is really (and of course objectively) present, ready for our appropriation by faith: “Faith is not imagination, and faith has no creative power. Faith believes only what is true – objectively true. Faith can only realize that which is objectively real, and faith can receive only what is given – truly and objectively given.” [Dimock, Two Lectures, p. 45. See also Andrewes’ Responsio ad Bellarm, p. 13.]
To our faith Christ is ever present whether in or out of the Sacraments. His Atonement is our salvation and life, and His Intercession our warrant for approach to the throne of grace. This is all made real to us by the Holy Ghost, the “other Comforter,” whose office it is to glorify Christ to us. Where true views are held concerning the Holy Spirit’s application to us of the “innumerable benefits” of our Lord’s person and work, there will never be any question as to spiritual Presence or spiritual Reality.
In the Order of the Holy Communion the consecration of the elements involves no change of nature and substance, for the Consecration Prayer speaks of our “receiving these Thy creatures of bread and wine.” The consecration implies and involves only a change of use and purpose, the bread and wine being thus separated from ordinary use for the purpose of being signs and pledges of our Lord’s body and blood. It is this sacred and symbolical use that rightly warrants the consumption of the consecrated bread and wine at the close of the service. There is nothing in the Prayer Book which gives any authority for the idea that at the moment of consecration the Lord comes in a way that He has not come before. The consecration attaches to the elements, as the late Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Temple, said in his primary charge (1899), “not a presence but a promise.” [Cf. Augustine’s Accedit verbum ad elementum et fit sacramentum.]
We may illustrate this by the familiar comparison of a deed or conveyance. The title deeds of an estate “convey” that estate to the person named in the deed, and he that possesses the deed possesses and owns the estate; but the deeds are not the estate, and the heir does not hold the property in his hand, though by his possession of the deeds he may be said to possess the property. The property is there, but it is not locally attached to the deed. So in the Lord’s Supper, the presence of Christ is there, pledged and sealed to the faithful believer, but it is not locally attached to the elements. The elements are means of grace in the sense that they are signs, seals, pledges, proofs, witnesses, and not that they are vehicles or channels. [Cf. Rev. T. W. Drury, Church and Faith, p. 196 f.]
The relation between the sign and the thing signified is thus one of concurrence, not identity. In the Sacrament there are two givers, the Lord and the minister; two gifts, grace and the elements; two receptions, into the soul and into the body; two modes, faith and the mouth. These are distinct and never identical, but, to the faithful recipients, they are always concurrent.
We believe that this view alone is deducible from the pages of Holy Writ, and that in it we obtain all that is necessary of spiritual life and blessing. We hold, too, that it is the only and true view of the Church of England. In this connection the language of the book just quoted (The Body of Christ) is very significant. Its author speaks of his own view of the objective presence in the elements as “at least allowed” and “at least suggested” by our formularies. [Bishop Gore, The Body of Christ, p. 231.] This is surely very inadequate, especially in view of three centuries of acute controversy. On the other hand the author is constrained to admit that in the Declaration on Kneeling, and “what is more important, in the form of consecration,” the doctrine of the objective Presence in the elements is “plainly evaded and not asserted.” Is not this surprising if true? Is it possible that the author’s own special view, the only right one, in his judgment, is “plainly evaded”? We believe that the truth would be rather expressed by saying “plainly avoided”. The Edwardian and Elizabethan Reformers were hardly the men to “evade” a question of this kind, and the changes of 1552 (after 1549), including the omission of the invocation of the Holy Spirit on the elements, are proof positive, not of evasion but of avoidance.
“It will, perhaps, be said that the Church of England does not deny ‘The Real Presence’; but this is nothing to the purpose. She does not teach it: and if it were her belief, she would not have left a doctrine of such moment to be inferred by a very doubtful process from statements which at best do not necessarily mean it.” [Vogan, True Doctrine of the Eucharist, p. 254.]
We believe that the body and blood of Christ are not communicated to the elements, but to the faithful recipient of the elements; and that neither in Bible or in Prayer Book have we any warrant for a “real objective Presence” in, with, or under the forms or veils of the bread and wine.
Bishop Dowden effectually and convincingly shows how Bishop Andrewes repudiated with scorn the idea of a real Presence “in or under” the form or species of bread and wine. Dr. Dowden then closes his discussion of the point in the following terms, which convey their own meaning and lesson as to Bible and Church truth on this subject [Bishop Dowden, Define Your Terms. An address to his Diocesan Synod, 1900, p. 21.]: “One thing is absolutely certain: It is no part of the doctrine of our Church that there is an adorable presence of our Lord’s body and blood in or under the forms of bread and wine. Such language is undiscoverable in the doctrinal standards of our Church, and wholly unknown to the Church of the early Fathers.”
Chapter XI – The Lord’s Supper in Current Teaching (II)
Connected with this modern doctrine of the Lord’s Supper, and arising out of it, is the question of the Eucharistic sacrifice. To many this is the most important element in the doctrine. Even the Lutherans hold their view of the real Presence entirely by itself and with no theological system built on it. With others, however, the doctrine of the real Presence of Christ’s glorified humanity is absolutely essential to their system of thought.
It is somewhat difficult to obtain a definition of the Eucharistic sacrifice from those who hold it in the Tractarian sense of the term. It is clearly intended to mean some sacrifice associated exclusively with the Eucharist. One writer [Canon Mason, Faith of the Gospel, pp. 327–328.] defines it as: “The continual offering up to God of the Person of Jesus Christ in His body and blood. Christ commanded His Apostles to do this when making the memorial. We display to Him that precious body and blood in which all our hopes are centered. Such an act is most truly a sacrifice.”
Here we may note “offering up” and “displaying” regarded as identical in meaning. It is difficult to discover where Christ commanded “the continual offering up to God of the Person of Christ in His body and blood.”
A scholarly work on the subject has recently appeared, written by a clergyman of the American Episcopal Church, [Dr. Mortimer, The Eucharistic Sacrifice, p. 106.] with an introduction by the late Canon T. T. Carter, of Clewer, in which we have the following definition: “The Catholic theory is that the Eucharist is a true and proper Sacrifice, in that it fulfills the conditions of a sacrifice, and is related to one absolute sacrifice of our Lord upon the Cross, in such sense that it is not a mere commemoration of it, but it is identical with it, for in it are found the same priest, the same victim, and a real sacrificial action (although the manner of offering is different); and further, that it is the Sacrifice instituted by our Lord Himself in His Church.”
To any careful reader of the New Testament these words carry their own condemnation. It is only by an impossible literalism which outrages reason, sense, and experience, that the Eucharist can be said to be “identical with” the sacrifice of Calvary. Statements about the Cross cannot be applied equally to the Eucharist without doing violence to the plainest teaching of Scripture, or without accepting a doctrine of the real Presence which is virtually identical with Transubstantiation. Indeed, there is nothing more significant in Dr. Mortimer’s book than its absolute silence as to any difference between us and Rome on the Eucharist.
A recent popular presentation of teaching on the Eucharistic sacrifice thus states the position [Goodwill. Edited by Hon. and Rev. J. G. Adderley.]:
Q. How is the Holy Eucharist a Sacrifice?
A. The Holy Eucharist is the solemn presentation before God by the Christian Church of the One Holy Sacrifice of Christ.
Q. What do we mean by the One Holy Sacrifice of Christ?
A. By the One Holy Sacrifice I mean the offering to God made by Christ in His life and death of Himself the Perfect Man.
Q. Is there any repetition of the Sacrifice of Christ in the Eucharist?
A. No: there is no repetition of the Sacrifice of Christ in the Eucharist, for “there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin.”
Q. How then is the One Holy Sacrifice presented in the Eucharist?
A. Christ in His Perfect Manhood is continually presenting Himself on our behalf before God in the unseen heaven; and in the Eucharist this same presentation is really and truly made by Him under the forms of bread and wine.”
In the most important of recent books on the Holy Communion, [Bishop Gore, The Body of Christ.] the author is not clear as to what constitutes the Eucharistic sacrifice; whether it is the consecration of the elements, or the invocation of the Holy Spirit, or the reception of the elements. It is curious that his discussion of it proceeds entirely apart from Scripture, and, when at length the New Testament is referred to, we read these significant words: “No doubt there is some justification at first sight for saying that the New Testament does not suggest that the Eucharist is a sacrifice.”
In the same connection we have this notable statement of Dr. Gore as to the Prayer Book: “On the subject of the Eucharistic sacrifice our 31st Article only excludes any treatment of it which in any way suggests the insufficiency of the one offering of Christ. ... Beyond this our formulas are silent.”
All that the author can say is that it is “A feast upon a sacrifice, but the feast upon the sacrifice is the culmination of the sacrifice.” [Bishop Gore, The Body of Christ, p. 261.]
This is true, if by “culmination” we mean appropriation, but is this really “sacrifice”? Are not the sacrifice and the feast to be distinguished? Were all Jewish sacrifices appropriated? Yet they were sacrifices, and as such, had their culmination. The Eucharist is indeed a feast upon the Sacrifice of Calvary, but would the great majority of the Tractarian School be satisfied with this conclusion? Is not Bishop Gore retaining the name “sacrifice” while emptying the Eucharist of what they regard as of the essence of it?
It is thus difficult to get a consistent view of the meaning of the term, but we are evidently intended to understand that the Eucharist stands in such close connection with the Cross that it may be regarded as “a continual offering up to God of the Person of Christ in His body and blood” (Mason), or “the presentation of the One Holy Sacrifice of Christ” (Adderley).
There is not a vestige of warrant in Scripture for such a notion connected with the Eucharist or with anything else. The essential feature of a sacrifice, according to Canon Mason, is “the presentation to God of that which is precious to us and acceptable to Him.” But, granting this, what do we present in and at the Eucharist except ourselves, our substance, and our praises? We either offer in the Holy Communion a material or spiritual sacrifice. Which is it? And what is it? The essence of sacrifice is its value or cost, and applying this thought to the Lord’s Supper we see at once that the only sacrifice that remains to be offered is that which costs something, the sacrifice of ourselves and our substance. Pleading a sacrifice is not offering a sacrifice. Even representation is not re-presentation. We do not “display” the body and blood; we plead the merits and appropriate the grace of the body broken and the blood shed. But what is there of sacrifice in this?
This doctrine utterly fails to realize the nature of our Lord’s life in heaven. He is not offering Himself; He is seated on the throne, having already offered Himself once for all (εφάπαξ, Heb. 7:27, 9:12, 10:10). In one of the books already quoted, a book of popular instruction for members of the English Church, occur these words [Canon Mason, Faith of the Gospel, p. 330 f.]: “He allows us at the altar to do with Him what He Himself does in heaven. ... In this sense we may say that the Eucharist is a propitiatory sacrifice.”
This astonishing doctrine is entirely absent from Scripture and the Prayer Book. If the Eucharist is a great and solemn service in which the priest on earth is re-presenting and representing what our Great High Priest is doing in heaven it is at least strange that no reference to it should be made in the one part of the New Testament in which it would have been appropriate if true, the Epistle to the Hebrews.
The Prayer Book will be searched in vain for any such doctrine of an Eucharistic sacrifice. The only sacrifices other than that of Calvary known to our Church formularies are the sacrifices of ourselves (Rom. 12:1), our substance (Heb. 13:16), and our praises (Heb. 13:15). There is not even an oblation of the unconsecrated elements, as a comparison of the Rubrics concerning these and the alms significantly shows. Bishop Dowden’s exhaustive paper on “Our Alms and Oblations” is conclusive on this point. [Journal of Theological Studies, I, p. 321. Cf. Vogan, The True Doctrine of the Eucharist, p. 488.] The juxtaposition of these two Rubrics and their remarkable difference of wording deserves special attention.
It is not without significance that the term “Altar” is never used in the Prayer Book of the Holy Table. It was in the Prayer Book of 1549, but was removed in 1552 and has never since been reintroduced. An Altar is determined by the character of the sacrifices belonging to it, and as is the latter so will be the former, material or spiritual. Do we offer material sacrifices at Holy Communion? The answer is obvious. Do we offer spiritual sacrifices? If so, what are they? Only the sacrifices of ourselves, our gifts, and our praises. Can we use the Communion Table as an Altar in relation to these? In avoiding the term “Altar” with reference to the Holy Communion we are on the only safe ground if we are to keep away from error and danger. Moreover, it is following Scripture usage which most significantly avoids the term in connection with its teaching on the Lord’s Supper, even when discussing the Supper from the standpoint of the analogy of heathen altars and sacrifices (1 Cor. 10). Could there be anything more striking in its simplicity than this? Still more, the early Church, for the first two centuries, never spoke of the Holy Table as an Altar. Bishop Westcott in his note on the subject, when dealing with the Christian literature of the early second century says: “In this stage of Christian literature there is not only no example of the application of the word θυσιαστήριον to any concrete, material object as the Holy Table, but there is no room for such an application.” [Westcott, Hebrews, pp. 456, 458.] Bishop Westcott goes on to say that it is in the writings of Cyprian that we find an entirely new development “of ecclesiastical thought and language. In them the phraseology of the Levitical law is transferred to Christian institutions. The correspondence between the old system and the new is no longer generally that of the external and material to the inward and spiritual, but of one outward order to another.” The significance of this change needs no comment.
Another writer of the Tractarian School in a well-known book, admits that the sacrificial aspect of the Lord’s Supper does not seem prominent in the Scriptures, and that the Lord’s Supper has scarcely one feature in common with the things which in Scripture are called sacrifices. [Church Doctrine – Bible Truth, pp. 185, 188.] Yet after this he says that the Holy Communion possesses “the most intense sacrificial reality,” and he bases this assertion on our Lord’s words, “do this,” and St. Paul’s “ye show forth.” With this agrees another representative writer, who says, referring to τουτο ποιειτε: “We do not see that any other explanation of the sacrificial view of the Eucharist is forthcoming.” [Church Quarterly Review, July, 1886, p. 328.] But, as we have already seen, neither of these phrases, according to true exegesis, bears a sacrificial meaning.
The truth is that, strictly and accurately, the Lord’s Supper is not a sacrifice, but a sacrament. It has sacrificial aspects and relations because it is so closely associated in thought and purpose with the atoning sacrifice of Christ, and because it is the standing testimony to the world and to ourselves of our constant need of and perpetual dependence on that sacrifice in all our approach to God. But the ordinance itself and alone cannot with accuracy be called a sacrifice. It is a sacrament of a sacrifice, “a Sacrament of our Redemption by Christ’s death” (Article XXIX). It is a feast on that sacrifice. The essential distinction between a sacrifice and a sacrament is that in the former God is the terminus ad quem, while in the latter God is the terminus a quo. In a sacrifice we give, we yield up; in a sacrament we receive, we appropriate. The thought of God as the terminus ad quem, as the One to whom we offer the sacrifices of ourselves, naturally follows from the idea of the Eucharist as a sacrament, but obviously this is a consequence, a necessary consequence if we will, of the rite, but not part of its original institution. The only acts in the Lord’s Supper, according to the institution, are “take,” “eat,” “drink,” “this do,” and these are not sacrificial. The ideas of a sacrifice and a sacrament are so distinct and different that the Lord’s Supper, unless Scripture warrants it, cannot be both at the same time. The Passover was both sacrificial and sacramental; but the proper antitype to that is not the Lord’s Supper, but the Lord Himself, who is at once our Sacrifice and our Feast. “Christ our Passover was sacrificed (ετύθη) for us; therefore let us keep continual festival” (εορτάζωμεν). The Lord’s Supper is not strictly and completely the antitype of the Passover. It is the Christian rite which is analogous to it in the sacramental but not in the sacrificial aspect. This does not for an instant deny the application of the term “sacrifice” to the whole service of Holy Communion in the sense used by Waterland in his Review and Charges; but the Tractarian School is by no means satisfied with Waterland’s definition of Eucharistic sacrifice. No better expression of the truth can be found than in Bishop Bilson’s remarks as quoted by Waterland [Doctrine of the Eucharist, p. 427.]: “Neither they nor I ever denied the Eucharist to be a sacrifice. The very name enforceth it to be the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, which is the true and lively sacrifice of the New Testament. The Lord’s Table, in respect of His graces and mercies there proposed to us, is a heavenly banquet, which we must eat, and not sacrifice; but the duties which He requireth at our hands, when we approach His Table, are sacrifices, not sacraments. As namely, to offer Him thanks and praises, faith and obedience, yea our bodies and souls, to be living, holy, and acceptable sacrifices unto Him, which is our reasonable service.”
Exegesis of New Testament teaching is, as we have seen, clearly opposed to the Tractarian doctrine of a Eucharistic sacrifice. Neither ποιειν nor ανάμνησις has anything sacrificial in it, while the object of the verb καταγγέλλετέ (1 Cor. 11), which means to “proclaim verbally,” can be only man and not God. In the Lord’s Supper Christ is neither offered “to” God nor “for” man; He is offered “to” man as Saviour and sustenance to be accepted and welcomed by faith. It would be well if we could avoid ambiguous and misleading terms. The Lord’s Supper is not strictly a commemorative sacrifice; it is the commemoration of a sacrifice. [Cf. Andrewes, Responsio ad Belarm.] It has been truly said, “You may as well call the Waterloo banquet a memorial battle, as call the Lord’s Supper a memorial sacrifice.” [Quoted by Bishop Moule, Supper of the Lord, p. 37.] If the words “Eucharistic sacrifice” mean some sacrifice which is offered only at and in the Lord’s Supper it is certain that no such idea occurs in Bible or Prayer Book.
Dr. Mortimer, the author of The Eucharistic Sacrifice quoted above, had occasion during his investigations to write to Bishop Westcott on certain points connected with the Epistle to the Hebrews. The following extracts from the Bishop’s letters speak for themselves, and bear significant and convincing testimony to the true Church position: “Of the history of the ‘modern conception of Christ pleading His Passion in heaven,’ I cannot say anything. I have not worked it out. When I feel satisfied that a thing is wrong I generally dismiss it.” “To me more and more Holy Scripture is the standard of faith, and I hardly look beyond it as I study the words in the full light of our present experience.”
These wise and forcible words reveal the “great gulf fixed” between the Bishop and those represented by Dr. Mortimer. And as to which is the truer exponent of the mind of Christ, and therefore of the mind of the Church of England, we confidently leave our readers to decide.
Chapter XII – The Lord’s Supper in Current Teaching (III)
Another phrase of the teaching of the Tractarian School is that known as Eucharistic Adoration. The Declaration of the English Church Union says: “Christ our Lord present ... under the form of ‘bread and wine’ is to be worshipped and adored.”
Here again we are conscious of ambiguity in the terms. If the phrase “Eucharistic Adoration” means the adoration of our Lord as God at the time of the Holy Communion, it is of course most true and necessary. But this is evidently not the meaning of the Declaration. The reference is to a form of adoration limited exclusively to the Holy Communion. There is, however, no proof of this in New Testament or Prayer Book. The worship of our Lord at the time of the Lord’s Supper is as essential as it is precious, but the worship of our Lord in or under the veils of the elements is erroneous and dangerous. Nothing can prevent it from becoming spiritually harmful, for it tends to localize our Lord’s presence and thereby to minister to a refined but very real form of materialism in worship.
To this adoration the “Black Rubric” stands opposed, and it is perhaps hardly surprising that this Rubric should be characterized by Canon Mason as “not the work of careful theologians,” and as having “hardly the same authority as other Rubrics.” [Mason, Faith of the Gospel. Second Edition, Revised, p. 315.]
Notwithstanding the verbal alteration made in this Rubric in 1662 it remains in our Prayer Book as a distinct stumbling block to all such Eucharistic adoration as we are accustomed to hear of today. Even if it be said that the Rubric only forbids the adoration of the corporal Presence of Christ’s natural flesh and blood, it may be pointed out that a body, even glorified, can only be present as a body “corporally”.
Yet another aspect of some modern teaching on the Holy Communion is seen in the description of the Eucharist as “the highest act of Christian worship”. Would it not be well to enquire carefully what this statement means? Can we really distinguish between “higher” and “lower” in worship? If we can, in what sense is the Lord’s Supper “highest”? Further, what do we mean by worship? Worship is an attitude to God consisting of several elements or acts, such as praise, prayer, thanksgiving, adoration, surrender. The only acts ordained by our Lord are “take,” “eat,” “drink,” “do”. Are these in themselves acts of worship? Worship is giving, rendering, “ascribing worth to God,” but the acts ordained by Christ in the Lord’s Supper imply receiving, appropriating, feasting. The Lord’s Supper is of course the opportunity and occasion of glorious, precious worship, but we must not be afraid to go to the root of things in the face of much vague thought, mere sentiment and erroneous teaching associated with what is called “Eucharistic worship”. Just as the Eucharist is not in itself a sacrifice, but symbolizes and pledges our Lord’s Sacrifice and gives an opportunity for our own spiritual sacrifices, so also it was not referred to in the institution as strictly an act of worship, but rather as an act of fellowship, though worship is inevitably associated with it, and must of necessity be so as the result of our appropriation of the Lord’s atoning Sacrifice. We must not forget also, that according to the New Testament, followed by the Prayer Book, our Lord is brought before us in the Holy Communion as crucified, i.e., His body is regarded as dead, His blood as shed and therefore separated from His body in the condition of death. It is therefore Christ crucified who is offered to our faith in the Holy Communion, but our worship of Christ is not of Christ as crucified, but as alive for evermore. We worship a living Saviour and Lord, not parts of Christ, His dead body and shed blood. We adore Him in all the fullness and glory of His Divine life and Godhead.
One more phase of current teaching on the Holy Communion requires attention. We often hear and read of “Sacramental Grace”. If by this is meant grace received in the due and faithful use of the Lord’s Supper it is most assuredly correct, but if it refers to grace which is supposed to reside in, and be received through, the elements, and which cannot be received at any other time, it is necessary to ask for proof of this from Holy Scripture and the Prayer Book.
“There is nothing in Scripture, there is nothing in our service, to lead us to suppose that in Holy Communion we receive a special kind of grace, which can be received then and then alone. But there is every reason to believe, humbly yet trustfully, that times of Holy Communion are times of special opportunity, when we may with clearer faith, and fuller hope, and warmer love, embrace God, as He offers Himself in holy symbol to be embraced by us, and when we may receive ‘without measure’ the blessed benefits of Christ’s body and blood.” [Rev. T. W. Drury, Church and Faith, p. 195.]
The truth is that the word “sacramental” and the phrase “in the sacrament,” so often used in present-day teaching, are liable to serious confusion. It is well known that the term “sacrament” is used in the Catechism in two slightly different senses. In the answer to the question, “What meanest thou by this word Sacrament? “the term is applied to the outward sign, but in the following answer the word is taken to include both outward sign and inward grace. Again, in Article XXV sacraments are called “badges,” “tokens,” “witnesses,” “signs,” and in Articles XXVIII, XXIX, and XXX, the word “sacrament” is applied to the outward sign or element only. Probably the full meaning of the Church of England is best understood when we include in the idea of “sacrament” the outward sign, the inward grace, and the due use of the elements, so that if “in the sacrament” is understood to mean “in the use of the sacrament,” the phrase is clear and correct, but if it is intended to mean, as is undoubtedly often the case, “in the elements,” the phrase is inaccurate and untrue.
We believe with all our hearts in the presence of our Lord at the time of the celebration of the Holy Communion, but not that His presence is in the sacramental elements. It is, of course, easy to assert that the presence of Christ to be real must be in the elements, but it is by no means so easy to prove it; so also it is easy to charge those who refuse to acknowledge the presence of Christ in the elements as “Zwinglians,” but again the assertion is more easily made than substantiated. The truth is that those who hold the view that Christ is present in the elements fail to realize one of the first principles of spiritual religion, and lose sight of one of the fundamental elements of that worship which is “in spirit and truth” as opposed to worship connected with a localized presence of the Godhead.
The truth of the position for which we contend can easily be proved by the application of a crucial test. In the Service of Communion of the Sick the third Rubric has these very plain words: But if a man, either by reason of extremity of sickness ... or by any other just impediment, do not receive the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood, the Curate shall instruct him, that if he do truly repent him of his sins, and steadfastly believe that Jesus Christ hath suffered death upon the Cross for him, and shed His Blood for his redemption, earnestly remembering the benefits he hath thereby, and giving him hearty thanks therefore, he doth eat and drink the Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ profitably to his Soul’s health, although he do not receive the Sacrament with his mouth.
This unambiguous declaration, which often fails to receive notice in modern books on the Holy Communion, affords the clearest possible indication of the teaching of the Church of England. It proves beyond question that the presence of our Lord is independent of the elements, and that under the circumstances assumed by the Rubric the eating and drinking of the body and blood of Christ is possible entirely apart from the elements. Surely these words would have no meaning if the modern teaching now under consideration be true, namely, that there is a special and unique presence of Christ in the elements, a special and unique adoration of our Lord at the celebration of the Communion, a special and unique sacrifice at that time, and a special and unique gift bestowed on the communicants. Yet the words of the Rubric stand as an integral part of the teaching of the Church, and they carry their own unequivocal message, and convey an unmistakable condemnation of the novel ideas which are so rife in the Church today.
If it were true that we receive some grace in the Holy Communion that is unique in kind or degree it would be an argument for having the celebrations not merely every week, or every day, but almost every hour, for of course our need of grace is so great and constant that we must have all that we can possibly obtain. The New Testament, however, does not make the Holy Communion the pivot and center of our Christian life. It is a means of grace, a rich and blessed means, but not “the means of grace” as if there were no other, or as if it were the greatest. That which believers do spiritually and in symbol at stated intervals in the Lord’s Supper they do spiritually, apart from symbols, at all times; they “feed on Christ in their hearts by faith with thanksgiving.”
There are several other aspects of this modern teaching expressed in phrases which, like those already dealt with, are doubtless capable of a true and Scriptural interpretation, when carefully stated and safeguarded, but which as often used are applied in ways that are warranted neither by Scripture nor Church of England teaching. There is scarcely any greater need in this connection than that of constant and close scrutiny of the terms used in modern teaching on the Holy Communion.
“There is an unfortunate ambiguity in many of the terms which are cited in this controversy about the nature of the Eucharist.” [Dr. Ince, Letter, ut supra, p. 26.]
The counsel of the Bishop of Edinburgh [Bishop of Edinburgh, Address to Synod, Nov. 1900.] to “define your terms” is imperative upon all who would distinguish between truth and error on this subject. It is only by so doing that we can hope to arrive at any satisfactory conclusions.
The Declaration of the English Church Union, already discussed, had appended to it certain notes giving quotations and references from the early Fathers and English Church theologians, in support of its position. The value of the extracts and references may be gauged by one fact among a number of others of like nature. The name of Ridley is actually quoted in proof of the English Church Union doctrine of Eucharistic adoration. When it is remembered that Ridley suffered at the stake for the denial of a doctrine virtually identical with that now put forward by the English Church Union, the true value of the reference will be at once understood. “That the English Church Union should claim Bishop Ridley in support of their supposed Declaration is disingenuous, not to say dishonest.” [The Doctrine of the Real Presence. A Letter by William Ince, D.D., p. 4.]
The language of Bishop Dowden and Dr. Ince on these quotations carries its own lesson. Dr. Ince speaks of “the extreme unfairness” of many of these quotations. He also says that “by mutilation and by entire neglect of the context they misrepresent the meaning of the writers, and in many cases utterly contradict it.” And he concludes that “nothing can justify such a wanton and reckless falsification of evidence as is exhibited in the notes.” [Dr. Ince, Letter, p. 10.]
Bishop Dowden is scarcely less emphatic on this subject [Bishop Dowden, Define your Terms, p. 13.]: “It was indiscreet, to say the least, to attempt to claim in support of the Declaration such well-known and easily accessible writings as those of Bishop Andrewes, Bishop Jeremy Taylor, Bishop Bull, Bishop Thomas Wilson, and Bishop Horsley. It was only the very ignorant and ill-read among the clergy and laity – forming, it is to be feared, a sufficiently numerous class – who could be long deceived by such scraps, torn from their context, and perverted from their original purport.”
We cannot do better than sum up the discussion on the English Church Union Declaration than by quoting once more the words of Bishop Dowden [Address to Synod, p. 21.]: “The language of this Declaration finds no countenance in the writings of the Fathers of the Primitive Church. And it is more obvious, though not more certain, that it finds no countenance either in the authorized standards of the Church’s doctrine or in the writings of the great theologians of the English Church, most of whom were deeply read, not only in the Holy Scriptures (the ultimate authority on all questions of doctrine), but also in the literature of Christian antiquity and the Early Fathers.
In the light of the foregoing discussion of Tractarian and modern teaching we can see still more clearly the real meaning and force of the Scriptural and Prayer Book views which we have been discussing. Our Reformers, following Scripture, placed between the Churches of England and Rome a chasm with reference to the Holy Communion, which is impassable except by surrender on one side, and for three centuries, i.e., up to sixty years ago, this insuperable barrier was admitted by all.
The modern teaching, however, is scarcely distinguishable from that against which our Prayer Book protests and for opposition to which our Reformers were burnt at the stake.
“The truth is that the Declaration of the English Church Union is at variance with the doctrine maintained by the consensus of all the most eminent theologians of the Church of England since the Reformation, nor can it be reconciled with the natural interpretation of the English Liturgy or the 28th and 29th Articles. It is a deliberate attempt to undo the work of the Reformation, which delivered our Church and Realm from the tyranny of the many accretions of false doctrine which the Church of Rome had imposed upon Christians as necessary articles of faith, but which the Church of England declared to be unsanctioned by Scripture or by the teaching of the primitive ages of the Church.” [Dr. Ince, ut supra, p. 28.]
That these words are only too true can be proved beyond question from much of the popular teaching today in a certain section of the Church of England.
We have now reviewed the doctrine of our Church as to the meaning and purpose of the Lord’s Supper. From examination of the Prayer Book in the light of Scripture and of its own history there can be no serious doubt as to its true meaning. As loyal churchmen we are content with the doctrine of our own formularies, and we have no wish to add to, or in any way to modify it from other service books, Roman or Sarum. Nor can we deem it wise even if it were possible to return to the partially reformed book of 1549, valuable though that was when compared with pre-Reformation books. We take our stand on the Prayer Book as it is, and find in it the complete expression and entire justification of Church of England doctrine.
If we will but follow Bible and Prayer Book as they are, we need have no fear of exaggerating or depreciating the Lord’s Supper. The safeguard against both errors is to give it its true interpretation, and to refuse to be swayed in one direction by sentiment or prevailing opinion, or in the other by abuse and superstition. We rejoice to think of the Holy Supper as a memorial of our redemption, a pledge of a covenant, a means of grace, a bond of brotherhood, a testimony to the world, a message of hope; and we rejoice to realize that it appeals to our intellect, our heart, our conscience, our imagination, our will, our whole being. It proclaims to us and others, and also offers for our appropriation by faith, the Lord Jesus Christ in all the fullness of redeeming love and grace; and so we value it, cherish it, safeguard it, and will repel, so far as in us lies, any teaching which would have us understand and use it in any other ways than those which God has taught in His Word, and our Church has received and held for over three centuries.
The chief reason why we are specially jealous for Scripture truth on the Lord’s Supper is that in connection with it emerge some of the characteristic differences between Romanism and modern Anglo-Catholicism on the one hand, and the true Protestantism and genuine Catholicity of the Church of England on the other. The doctrines of the real Presence in the elements, of a propitiatory sacrifice in the Eucharist, of the virtual identification of the sign and the thing signified, of the ex opere operato theory of the effect of Sacraments; are all so many outstanding and definite marks of difference between us. And these differences with Rome and those who virtually agree with her on this subject are vital and fundamental. If they are right, English churchmen are wrong; if we are right, they are wrong.
There is no doubt, however, on which side the New Testament and Prayer Book teaching falls. The fact is, disguised as it often is, the Christianity of Rome as a system is largely influenced by two characteristics, so congenial to fallen human nature, legalism and materialism. In relation to our justification and sanctification Roman doctrine is essentially legalistic, involving salvation by works; while on the question of Christian life and worship its sacramental system is undoubtedly materialistic, and really opposed to worship “in spirit and truth”. Against these two errors the Reformation made its strong and victorious protest; against them our Prayer Book is a clear and standing testimony; and against them we too, as churchmen, must not hesitate to wage an earnest and strenuous warfare, because the battle is for the simplicity, the purity, and the integrity of the Gospel of the Grace of God.