The Lord’s Supper

“Oh, look to his death for life!”

John ‘Rabbi’ Duncan




Frequency of the Lord’s Supper

Preparing for the Supper

The Administration of  Including preparation before, the Common Cup, Wine, Common Bread, Sitting at the Table, Intinction, etc.

Communion Seasons

All the Works of the Westminster Divines on the Lord’s Supper


The Mass – Transubstantiation



Order of Contents

Books & Articles
.      Early Church
    Middle Ages
.      1500’s
.      1600’s
.      1700’s
.      1800’s
.      1900’s
A Historical Work
Barring from the Table
Not a Converting Ordinance
Mentally Handicapped?



The Early Church

Ussher, James – ‘Of the Real Presence’  in Answers to a Jesuit: with other Tracts on Popery, pp. 41-73

Ussher, p. 41

“…in the receiving of the blessed Sacrament we are to distinguish between the outward and the inward action of the communicant.  In the outward, with our bodily mouth we receive really the visible elements of bread and wine;

in the inward, we do by faith really receive the body and blood of our Lord; that is to say, we are truly and indeed made partakers of Christ crucified, to the spiritual strengthening of our inward man.”

To this effect, and other points, Ussher quotes: Augustine, Tertullian, Basil, Athanasius, Origen, Fulgentius, Clement, Eusebius, Ambrose, Macarius, Prosper, the Gloss upon Gratian, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Cyprian, Theophilus, Tatianus, Acacius, Jerome, Chrysostom, Theodoret, Gelasius, Ephraemius, the Council of Constantinople of 754 and even the Romanists: Alexander of Hales, Bellarmine, Salmeron & Kellison.

Ussher also shows in extended detail how the more orthodox notions in the early church gradually, during the Middle Ages, came to develop into the carnal doctrine of Transubstantiation.  The first rise of this transition, Ussher documents, stemmed from those who defended images of Christ at the Second Council of Nicea, 787.



The Middle Ages

Ratramnus – The Book of Bertram the Priest: Concerning the Body and Blood of Christ in the Sacrament  † c. 868  96 pp.

Dr. R. Scott Clark:

“In the eighth century, Carolingian theologians at the Abbey of Corbie [France], Paschasius Radbertus (ca. 790-ca. 860) and Ratramnus (d. ca. 868) each wrote treatises on the Lord’s Supper.  Both were titled ‘On the Body and Blood of the Lord’.  They first debated what is ‘true’ and what is a ‘figure’ in the Lord’s Supper. 

Radbertus argued that the sign becomes the thing signified.  In response, Ratramnus argued that if the sign becomes the thing signified, then we have no sacrament since Christ is received by faith, not sight; we would have no need of faith.  If we have no faith, we have no Christ and no salvation.

In the early sixteenth century, that debate was renewed by the Reformed and Lutheran theologians, with Lutherans republishing Radbertus and the Reformed, Ratramnus.” – ‘Foreward’, p. ix in Theodore Beza, A Clear & Simple Treatise on the Lord’s Supper (RHB, 2016) 



1500’s Works

Calvin, John 

Short Treatise on the Lord’s Supper  1541  in Tracts 2:163-198

Martin Klauber:

“Joachim Westphal (1510-1574) represented the so-called true or Gnesio-Lutheran movement that attempted to preserve the purity of Luther’s thought against the alleged compromises of the Philippists, those who followed the lead of Philip Melancthon.  As the superintendent of the state church in Hamburg, Westphal was well positioned to enter the fray of theological disputes…

For the Gnesio-Lutherans the issue of Christ’s physical presence in the Lord’s Supper was of paramount importance.  The formula borrowed from Luther was that the body and blood of Christ are truly and substantially present ‘in, with and under’ the consecrated elements.  Those who partake, believers and unbelievers alike, receive the true body and blood of Christ Himself…  This so called [sacramental] union is often referred to as ‘consubstantiation’, although Luther did not use the term…

Calvin[‘s]…  view [was] that although Christ is not present physically in the bread and in the wine, He is present spiritually.  The sacrament would not, therefore, be an empty sign.  Calvin followed Augustine closely…  If, as the Lutherans believed, Christ is physically present…  both believers and unbelievers who participate in the Eucharist partake of the body and blood of Christ…  Calvin argued, by contrast, that only believers truly partake of the body and blood of the Lord.  He posited this position in the Institutes as well as in his Petit traicte de la saincte cene (1541).” – ‘Introduction’ in Beza, Clear & Simple Treatise on the Lord’s Supper

Mutual Consent in Regard to the Sacraments Between the Ministers of the Church of Zurich and John Calvin  1554  in Tracts 2:199-244

Defense of the Sound and Orthodox Doctrine of the Sacraments  1555

Martin Klauber:

“Seizing on the publication of the Consensus [Tigurinus of Zurich and Geneva, 1549], Westphal began to criticize it publicly, which initiated the so-called second sacramental war between the Lutherans and the Reformed…  Westphal initially composed three treatises [in 1552, 1553 & 1555] critical of the Consensus…  Westphal spared no words in his attack on his ‘godless’ opponents and their ‘satanic blasphemies.’…

Calvin did not become aware of Westphal’s criticism until 1554, when Bullinger brought it to his attention.  He was otherwise occupied with a host of issues including the Servetus affair, but he told Bullinger that he would respond.  He did so in 1555, although he believed that Westphal’s Farrago was a ‘light-weight book’ and not worthy of a personal response…

But Calvin decided to take the matter upon himself in his Defense of the Sound and Orthodox Doctrine of the Sacraments…  and the literary war was on…  He did not mention Westphal by name, hoping for peace with the Lutherans, especially since he had garnered Melanchthon’s support.”Ibid.

Second Defense of the Sacraments in Answer to the Calumnies of Joachim Westphal  1556  in Tracts 2:245-345

Martin Klauber:

“Westphal responded [to Calvin’s Defense of the Sound and Orthodox Doctrine of the Sacraments, 1555] with his Just Defense Against the False Accusations of a Certain Sacramentarian…  Calvin responded in 1556 with his Second Defense…  This work was much more vituperative and personal than the first, and Calvin denied that he had made the sacrament an empty sign, saying that he was in agreement with the [Lutheran] Augsburg Confession [Article X, 1530].  Although he asserted his admiration of Zwingli, Calvin made it clear that there were significant distinctions between their views of Christ’s presence in the Lord’s Supper.” – Ibid.

Last Admonition to Joachim Westphal  1557  in Tracts 2:346

Martin Klauber:

“Westphal in turn responded [to Calvin’s Second Defense…] in 1557 with his Confession of Faith on the Sacrament of the Eucharist…  Calvin then answered in 1557 with The Last Admonition of John Calvin to Joachim Westphal Who if He Heeds It Not Must Henceforth Be Treated in the Way Which Paul Prescribed for Obstinate Heretics…  Any real attempt at accord was lost when Calvin accused Westphal of stupidity and impudence.  It would have to be left to Calvin’s colleagues, such as Beza, to attempt to repair the rupture.

In true form Westphal responded in 1558 with two works, including
his Defense of the Lord’s Supper against the Errors and Calumnies
of John Calvin.  This is a lengthy volume covering a host of topics
including infant baptism, private absolution, and festival days, but the
Eucharist figures by far the most prominently…

‘Clear Explanation of Sound Doctrine Concerning the True Partaking of the Flesh and Blood of Christ in the Holy Supper in Order to Disipate the Mists of Tileman Heshusius  in Tracts 2:495-572  no date

Heshusius (1527-1588) was a prolific Lutheran professor.

The Best Method of Obtaining Concord on the Sacraments  in Tracts 2:573-579  no date

‘Of the Lord’s Supper and the Benefits Conferred by it’  being ch. 17 of The Institutes of the Christian Religion, book 4  1559  final edition

Martin Klauber:

“…Calvin, who had clearly had his fill of Westphal after composing three rebuttals, decided not to continue the literary battle. Calvin did, however, strengthen his section on the sacraments in the revised editions of the Institutes as a result of his debates with Westphal.” – Ibid.

Knox, John – A Summary according to the Holy Scriptures of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper  1550  in The Works of John Knox, ed. David Laing, 3:371-76

Ridley, Nicholas – A Determination Concerning the Sacrament, in Works of Nicholas Ridley, pp. 167-179

Vermigli, Peter Martyr – A Discourse or Tract Concerning the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper  1550  226 pp.

Beza, Theodore – A Clear & Simple Treatise on the Lord’s Supper  Pre  (1559, RHB, 2016)

Martin Klauber:

“[The Lutheran] Westphal’s Defense of the Lord’s Supper served as the subject of Beza’s treatise.  The responsibility fell upon Beza primarily because Calvin, who had clearly had his fill of Westphal after composing three rebuttals, decided not to continue the literary battle…  Beza, whose predisposition was to soften the hostility between the two sides…  Some of Beza’s biographers have argued that this work was less harsh in its attacks on Westphal than one might have expected…  Beza… complained that Westphal had been far too personal in his attacks on Calvin, insinuating that he was a drunkard and a glutton and that his mother had been the mistress of a parish priest.

As one reads Beza’s treatise, several emphases are apparent. 

First, Beza responded chapter and verse to specific arguments and chapters of Westphal’s work. 

Second, Beza was tireless and unapologetic in defense of Calvin, especially in his assertion that the Lord’s Supper is not a bare symbol and that in it we have true communion with the risen Christ.  

Third, Beza made great use of the concept of metonymy, or a figure of speech, in his interpretation of the words of institution.  Scripture, he argued, was full of such expressions, such as when the lamb is called the Passover meal or when Christ called the cup the covenant in His blood.  He asked how the wine can be wine and blood at the same time without a figure of speech.

Fourth, like Calvin, Beza referred extensively to the church fathers, especially Augustine, in defense of his position.

Finally, at the end of the treatise, Beza pled for some degree of accord between the two sides by showing all the areas they had in common compared to few topics of disagreement.  Ultimately his attempt at reconciliation would fall short as the gap between the Lutheran and Reformed views of the Eucharist was simply too vast.” – Ibid.



1600’s Works

Bruce, Robert – Sermons on the Sacrament  1617  318 pp.  Being 5 sermons, with a biographical introduction by John Laidlaw.  Both Bruce and Laidlaw were Scottish.

All the Works of the Westminster Divines on the Lord’s Supper

Patrick, Simon 

Mensa Mystica, or a Discourse Concerning the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper  1676  504 pages

Simon was an Arminian, Latitudinarian Anglican, but Joel Beeke has recommended these two works as ‘some of the best works on the Lord’s Supper’.

The Christian Sacrifice: a Treatise showing the necessity, end, and manner of receiving the Holy Communion  ToC



1700’s Works

Fleetwood, William – The Reasonable Communicant, or An Explanation of the Doctrine of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper in all its parts from the Communion Service, in a Discourse between a Minister and one of his Parishoners  d. 1723  40 pp.  in Works 3:1-40

Fleetwood was an Anglican.  Joel Beeke included this in ‘some of the best works on the Lord’s Supper’.

Willison, John  d. 1750

A Lecture on 1 Cor. 11:17 to the end concerning the Lord’s Supper  in Works, 3:402-413

A Sacramental Catechism, or, a Familiar Instructor for Young Communicants, Plainly unfolding the nature of the Covenant of Grace, with the Two Seals thereof, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, wherein especially the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is fully and distinctly handled  269 pp.



1800’s Works

Bannerman, James – The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, in The Church of Christ 2:128-185

Bannerman, Douglass 

The Special Meaning of the Lord’s Supper; Christ’s Presence in the Ordinance to the Believerin The Scripture Doctrine of the Church, p. 237-9

The Lord’s Supper; its Significance for the First Disciples; how Observedin The Scripture Doctrine of the Church, p. 375-8

D. Bannerman was James Bannerman’s son.

Hodge, Charles – The  Doctrine of the Reformed Church on the Lord’s Supper  1857  in Essays and Reviews, pp. 341-92, being a review of John Nevin’s The mystical Presence.  A Vindication of the Reformed or Calvinistic Doctrine of the Holy Eucharist, 1846

Houston, Thomas – The Lord’s Supper: its Nature, Ends and Obligations, and Mode of Administration  1878, 380 pages

Houston (1803-1882) was a Reformed Presbyterian.



1900’s Works

Berkhof, Louis – The Lord’s Supper, 1950, 32 paragraphs, from his Systematic Theology 



A Historical Work

Carr, Kevin – Robert Bruce on the Nature of the Lord’s Supper, and Preparation for its Observance  2010  42 pp.

Robert Bruce’s sermons on the Lord’s Supper, 1590, are a Scottish classic.  Here is an article giving a bit of the life of Bruce, putting the sermons in their historical context, and summarizing their theology and significance.



Barring from the Table

Gillespie, George

‘That 1 Cor. 5 proves excommunication and (by a necessary consequence, even from the Erastian interpretation) suspension from the sacrament of a person unexcommunicated’, 6 pages, being Chapter 7 of Book 3 of Aaron’s Rod Blossoming.

‘That if it could be proved that Judas received the Lord’s Supper, it makes nothing against the suspension of known wicked persons from the sacrament’, 4 pages, being Chapter 10 of Book 3 of Aaron’s Rod Blossoming.

‘Whether it be a full discharge of duty to [only] admonish a scandalous person of the danger of unworthy communicating; and whether a minister, in giving him the sacrament, after such admonition [and not barring him from the Table], be in no way guilty?’  6 pages, being chapter 11 of of Book 3 of Aaron’s Rod Blossoming

‘Whether the admission of scandalous and notorious sinners to the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper be a pollution and profanation of that holy ordinance?  And in what respects it may be so called.’ 6 pages, being chapter 15 of Book 3 of Aaron’s Rod Blossoming

‘An argument of Erastus (drawn from the baptism of John), against the excluding of scandalous sinners from the Lord’s Supper, examined.’  1 page, being chapter 16 of Book 3 of Aaron’s Rod Blossoming

‘The Antiquity for the suspension of all scandalous persons from the sacrament, even such as were admitted to other public ordinances’  8 pages, being chapter 17 of Book 3 of Aaron’s Rod Blossoming

Palmer, Herbert – A Full Answer to a Printed Paper entitled, ‘Four Serious Questions concerning excommunication and suspension from the sacrament, etc.’, Wherein the several arguments and texts of scripture produced are particularly and distinctly discussed: and the debarring of ignorant and scandalous persons from the sacrament is vindicated  ToC



The Lord’s Supper is not a Converting Ordinance

Gillespie, George

‘Whether the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper be a converting or regenerating  ordinance?’ and ‘Twenty arguments to prove that the Lord’s Supper is not a converting ordinance’, 7 & 9 pages, being chapters 12 & 13 of Book 3 of Aaron’s Rod Blossoming

‘Mr. Prynne’s twelve arguments, brought to prove that the Lord’s Supper is a converting ordinance, discussed and answered’, 8 pages, being chapter 14 of Book 3 of Aaron’s Rod Blossoming



What About the Mentally Handicapped?

The Discipline of the Reformed Churches of France – Ch. 12, ‘Of the Lord’s Supper’, Canon VI  1559  in Synodicon in Gallia Reformata, vol. 1, p. xlviii



A Bibliography

Houston, Thomas – Works on the Lord’s Supper  1878  8 pp.  being 40 works on the Supper from the Early Church to the 1800’s, in The Lord’s Supper: its Nature, Ends and Obligations and Mode of Administration, pp. 343-50  




Related Pages

The Sacraments