The Administration of the Lord’s Supper

“This do in remembrance of Me.”

Luke 22:19

“Are not the sacramental elements, actions and words to be reckoned, all three together as the outward, sensible sign in this ordinance for exhibiting, sealing and applying Christ and his benefits to worthy communicants?

John Willison
A Sacramental Catechism, p. 67




Frequency of the Lord’s Supper
The Common Cup
Sitting at the Table
Communion Sermons and Table Addresses
Common Bread
Communion Seasons
Communion Tokens



Order of Contents

The Administration of the Supper  5
.      Latin
The Sacramentally Significant Actions of the Supper  5
.      Latin
Who is to Administer the Lord’s Supper?
The Supper’s Bread & Wine are Images of Christ
On Impurities in the Administration & Fellowship Therein
On Administration in Circumstances of Necessity



The Administration of the Supper


Calderwood, David

pp. 777-778 of The Altar of Damascus  (1623)  as quoted in George Sprott, ‘Introduction to the Book of Common Order’, pp. xxxix-xl  in Book of Common Order and Directory of the Church of Scotland  1868

‘An Epistle of a Christian Brother Exhorting an Other to Keep Himself Undefiled from the Present Corruptions brought in to the Ministration of the Lord’s Supper’  ([Amsterdam] 1624)

In 1618 the infamous and episcopal Articles of Perth had enjoined in Scotland kneeling at the Lord’s Supper.  This epistle is in response to that and masterfully argues for the full Biblical administration of the Supper.

Rutherford, Samuel – The Administration of the Lord’s Supper, 1642, 6 paragraphs, being Chapter 20, Article 6 of his A Peaceable and Temperate Plea for Paul’s Presbytery in Scotland

Rutherford describes the Biblically rich way the Church of Scotland practiced the Lord’s Supper during his day, with a preparatory sermon the day before, the singing of psalms, sitting at a table, using a common cup, with Table addresses by the minister, etc.

Henderson, Alexander – The Order of Ministering the Communion, or, the Lord’s Supper, 6 pages, being The Government and Order of the Church of Scotland, pp. 20-25

Henderson describes the practice of the Church of Scotland in his day, which corresponds to Rutherford’s description below.

The Westminster Standards on the Administration of the Lord’s Supper 

Specifically with regard to a Common Cup and Sitting at the Table.

Dury, John – A Model of Church Government: or the Grounds of the Spiritual Frame & Government of the House of God. Showing what the Holy Scriptures have therein Delivered; what the best Reformed Churches do Practice; what the Tender Consciences may Rest in  (London, 1647)

Ch. 9, Certain Rules Concerning the Administration of the Lord’s Supper for the Decent Ordering of the Action, Offered to the Consideration of Those that Scruple at the Gesture of Sitting, pp. 36-55

Ch. 10, The Practise of the Best Reformed Churches in the Administration of the Lord’s Supper



Logan, John – ‘A Complete Detail of the Service of a Communion Sunday According to the Usage of the Church of Scotland’  in Sermons by the Late Rev. John Logan…, vol. 1, p. 257 ff.  1822

Logan (1748-88) was a minister in Leith, Scotland, born of parents in the Burgher line of the Secession Church.



Milroy, William – A Scottish Communion  1882  240 pp.

A Scotch Communion Sunday  1873


The History of

Isbell, Sherman – The Administration of the Lord’s Supper  2006  20 pp.

This historical essay describes the Biblically principled practice of the reformation Scottish Church’s administration of the Lord’s Supper.  Special attention is given to their communion seasons which were often held outdoors in fields, ministering to thousands, and included preparatory preaching, sitting at tables, and using common cups. 


In Latin

Vitringa, Sr., Campegius – Vol. 8, ‘Of the Lord’s Supper’ of The Doctrine of the Christian Religion, Summarily Described through Aphorisms  d. 1722  See also the pages in-between the below sections.

‘Of the Rites of the Sacred Supper’, 131-132

‘Of the Administration of the Sacred Supper’, 327-346

Vitringa, Sr. (1659-1722) was a professor in Franeker and a Hebraist.  “…Vitringa…  maintained a fairly centrist Reformed position…  Vitringa and De Moor serve as codifiers and bibliographers of the earlier tradition, the former from a federalist, the latter from a nonfederalist perspective.” – Dr. Richard Muller



The Sacramentally Significant Actions of the Supper


Bruce, Robert

pp. 53-54 of ‘The Second Sermon’ in Sermons on the Sacrament  †1631  2 pp.

This is the most influential work on the Lord’s Supper in Scottish history.  Bruce here explains:

(1) the spiritual power conferred on the bread and wine arising from their consecration by the words of institution and prayer, and

(2) that this holiness remains till the end of the table service (a neglected point, which is sometimes answered wrongly).

pp. 54-56 of ‘the Second Sermon’ in Sermons on the Sacrament  †1631  3 pp.

Bruce teaches that essential, spiritually significant ceremonies in the Lord’s Supper include:

1. Breaking the bread;
2. Pouring out the wine;
3. The distribution and giving and eating of the elements;

Gillespie, George – ‘Part 4, Ch. 7’  1638  6 pp.  in The English-Popish Ceremonies

Gillespie argues that the following parts of the administration of the Lord’s Supper are not indifferent:

– the minister’s pronouncement of ‘This is my body’
– the breaking of the bread as a Sacramental act
– speaking in the plural, ‘take ye’, ‘eat ye’, etc.
– the prayer and blessing of the bread and wine

Boston, Thomas – ‘The Signifying Actions’ in ‘The Nature of the Lord’s Supper’  a sermon, in Works, vol. 2, pp. 484-7

Boston delineates several morally necessary, distinct actions to be done in the Lord’s Supper:

1. The minister taking the bread and the cup into which the wine has been poured, into his hand;
2. Consecrating the bread and wine by the words of institution and prayer;
3. Breaking the bread;
4. Giving the bread, and then the wine, to the people;
5. The people taking the bread and wine in the hand;
6. and eating and drinking.

Willison, John – pp. 61-68 in A Sacramental Catechism  †1750   pp.

Willison delineates these actions as sacramentally significant in the Supper:

1. The minister taking bread;
2. Blessing the bread and wine;
3. Breaking the bread;
4. Giving the bread and wine to the disciples;
5. The people taking the bread and wine into their hands;
6. Eating the bread and drinking the wine
7. Dividing the elements among themselves, and giving one to another;
8. Doing all of this in a feasting posture.



Voet, Gisbert – ch. 2, ‘Of the Consecration of the Symbols [Elements]’ & pp. 803-812 of ch. 5, ‘Of the Rites of Breaking, Receiving, Genuflection & Elevation’  in Ecclesiastical Politics, vol. 1, book 2, tract 2, section 4



Who is to Administer the Lord’s Supper?  Pastors only, though elders and deacons may give some assistance in its distribution


Samuel Rutherford

The Due Right of Presbyteries (1644), pt. 1, pp. 454-455

“2.  There is no such moral necessity of the sacraments as there is of the ministry of the Word, and consequently of some use of the keys where a scandalous person may infect the Lord’s flock.  For where vision ceases the people perish, but it is never said, where baptism ceases the people perish; and therefore uncalled ministers in case of necessity, without ordination or calling from a presbytery, may preach and take on them the holy ministry and exercise power of jurisdiction, because the necessity of the souls of a congregation in a remote island requires so, but I hope no necessity in any [of] the most extraordinary case requires that a midwife may baptize, or that a private man remaining a private man may celebrate the Lord’s Supper to the Church without any calling from the Church.”


Latin Article

Voetius, Gisbert – ‘1. Question: Who is Able to Administer the Supper?’ & ‘8. Question: Are Elders and Deacons Able to Assist the Minister in the Distribution?  in Ecclesiastical Politics, vol. 1, book 2, tract 2, section 4, ch. 3, pp. 746-50



The Supper’s Bread & Wine are Images of Christ

Council of Hieria  A.D. 754

The Seven Ecumenical Councils of the Undivided Church, trans. H. R. Percival, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 2nd Series, ed. P. Schaff & H. Wace, (rep. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955), vol. 14, p. 544  at ‘Epitome of the Definition of the Iconoclastic Council Held in Constantinople, A.D. 754’ at Medieval Sourcebook at Internet History Sourcebooks Project at Fordham University

“The only admissible figure of the humanity of Christ, however, is bread and wine in the holy Supper.  This and no other form, this and no other type, has He chosen to represent his incarnation.”


Samuel Rutherford

The Divine Right of Church Government...  (1646), p. 85

“…the elements of bread and wine, which are lawful images of Christ…”



On Impurities in the Administration & Fellowship Therein


Francis Turretin

Institutes  (P&R), vol. 3, 19th Topic, ‘The Sacraments’, section 3, p. 443

“II.  …This latter opinion [of Martin Luther] is followed by the Lutherans of our day.  They maintain that to break means nothing else than to distribute the bread and give it to another; although they do not deny that Christ properly broke the bread.  But this ceremony [of breaking the bread] is merely free and indifferent, lacking a command, which the church can at pleasure observe or omit…

III.  The [reformed] orthodox retain the breaking which was employed by the Lord…  They think it is not an accidental and indifferent ceremony, but according to the institution of Christ, no less necessary than taking it in the hand, delivering and communing.

Nor yet do they wish to contend so rigidly about it that no fellowship can be retained with those who omit it.  they think this want [lack] of a thing not unimportant should neither be left unnoticed, nor tolerated if it can be corrected.  Thus they are to be rebuked who hold this opinion, although they are not to be absolutely condemned.”



Ley, John – A Case of Conscience Concerning the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper when Either the Bread or Wine is Wanting, or When There is a Desire, yet with an Antipathy to Them, or Disability to Receive Them  (London, 1641)  21 pp.  Ley was a Westminster divine.

Durham, James – Pt. 2, ch. 14, ‘Clearing Whether the Ordinances of Christ be Any Way Polluted by Corrupt Fellow-Worshippers’  in The Dying Man’s Testament…  (1659)

“3.  An ordinance may be said to be polluted upon this extrinsic consideration, to wit, when by some circumstance in it, or miscarriage of those that are about it, it is made common-like, and so wants that luster and honorableness that it ought to have; by such a fault the ordinance is made obnoxious to contempt and is despised by others, contrary to the Lord’s allowance.  Thus the priests of old made the offerings of the Lord vile and contemptible, which was not by corrupting them in essentials, nor making them cease to be Ordinances, but by their miscarriages and corrupt irreverent way of going about them, they did lay that stumbling-block before others, to make them account these ordinances contemptible.  This may be diverse ways fallen into…  they do pollute that admonition, yet still these ordinances are ordinances, and that admonition an admonition.” – pp. 148-9



On the Administration of the Lord’s Supper in Circumstances of Necessity


Thomas Burns

Old Scottish Communion Plate (Edinburgh, 1892), pp. 16-17

“…for the [Scottish] Church [in the late-1500’s], as we have seen, was extremely poor, and poverty had frequently been urged as an excuse for the non-observance of the sacred feast.”


William Steuart of Pardovan

Collections and Observations…  (1707)

“…in case a society of Christians should want [lack] the fruits of the vine of all sorts, I cannot think but it might be supplied by some composure as like unto it as could be made.”


Andrew Edgar

Old Chuch Life in Scotland  (London, 1885), pp. 147-8

“[Robert] Wodrow states that in his day [late-1600’s to early-1700’s] the wine used at communions in Holland was white wine, and that in Norway and Denmark it was not wine at all that was used but malt liquors.”



Ley, John – A Case of Conscience Concerning the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper when either the Bread or Wine is Wanting, or when there is a Desire, yet with an Antipathy to Them, or Disability to Receive Them  (London, 1641)  21 pp.  Ley was a Westminster divine.




Related Pages

The Sacraments

The Lord’s Supper