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?
Yes.”

John Willison
A Sacramental Catechism, p. 67

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Subsections

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

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Order of Contents

The Administration of the Supper  5
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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 Administration in Circumstances of Necessity

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The Administration of the Supper

1600’s

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.

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1700’s

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.

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1800’s

Milroy, William – A Scottish Communion  1882  240 pp.

A Scotch Communion Sunday  1873

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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. 

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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

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The Sacramentally Significant Actions of the Supper

English

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;
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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;
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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.

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Latin

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

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

Latin

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

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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.”

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Samuel Rutherford

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

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

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

Quotes

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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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Related Pages

The Sacraments

The Lord’s Supper