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 & Table Addresses
Common Bread
Wine
Intinction
Communion Seasons
Communion Tokens

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Order of Contents

The Administration of the Supper  5+
The Sacramentally Significant Actions of the Supper  5+
.       On the Breaking of the Bread
Who is to Administer the Lord’s Supper?
The Supper’s Bread & Wine are Images of Christ
On the Leftover Elements After the Administration
On Impurities in the Administration & Fellowship Therein
On Administration in Circumstances of Necessity
Why the Supper has a Higher Reverence Due to it than Simply the Preaching
.        of the Word
Contra the Private Distribution of the Lord’s Supper
On the Popish Elevation of the Bread

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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.

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

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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

Articles

1500’s

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;

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1600’s

Calderwood, David – ch. 4, ‘Of the Words Uttered at the Delivery of the Elements’  in A Dispute upon Communicating at our Confused Communions  (Amsterdam, 1624), pp. 24-28

“The third innovation is that the word of promise, ‘This is my body,’ ‘This cup is the new testament, etc.’ is not uttered demonstratively when the elements are delivered to every communicant.  It is not enough that the words of the institution were rehearsed before by way of history narratively, or materially.  This sacrament is an imitation of Christ, not a recital of his words and actions; it is to do as He did, and not to report what He did, says Pierre du Moulin.”

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

Leigh, Edward – p. 694 of ‘Of the Consecration of the Elements’  in Bk. 8, ch. 9, ‘The Lord’s Supper’  in A System or Body of Divinity  (London, 1654)

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1700’s

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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Quotes

Johannes Alasco

“As far as the breaking of the bread and the pouring of wine in the Lord’s Supper, they signify to us through their symbol the passion of Christ’s body broken for us and the shedding of his blood in his death. Thus, it is the breaking of bread and pouring of wine that represents, testifies, signifies, and announces to us visibly by their form that God is our Lord and the judge of us all.​”

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Willaim Pemble

Directions for Receiving the Sacrament  in Works (d. 1623), p. 494

“When thou seest the bread broken and wine poured forth, think on Christ torn and rent….”​

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Samuel Rutherford

The Divine Right of Church Government  (1646), pp. 49-50

“5. We know the Tabernacle and Temple were corporal things made with hands and that they are things different from the spiritual things that they signify, as the sign and the thing signified; as therefore the Lord is express in the elements and rites of the Supper of the Lord, because all of them, bread, wine, taking, eating, breaking, pouring out the wine, drinking, are teaching and edifying signs; and our Lord never left it to the wisdom of men to devise signes to teach themselves:

So in like manner, should the Lord expressly specify all the teaching and signifying signs in the Old Testament; and as Moses might devise none of his own, but was tied to follow the pattern which the Lord Himself showed to him in the mount: So are we now under the New Testament tied to the pattern of that same will revealed in the Word; and it is laid on us not to be wise above that which was written; and it is of perpetual equity:

The supreme Lawgiver never left it to the wisdom of angels, or men, or prophet, apostle or Church, to serve and worship God as they thought good: But He Himself particularly prescribed the way, signs, and means: And because God has not been pleased in the New Testament to specify types of Christ incarnate, and come in the flesh already; therefore are we obliged in conscience to believe, and practise no more, either in doctrinals, or teaching types, or positives of Church-policy, than our pattern in the mount, the Scripture has warranted to us, to be the will of God…”

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Edward Leigh

Body of Divinity  (1654), Second Commandment, p. 772

“The parts of it [worship], that is, each action of each kind, so receiving the Lord’s Supper is a kind of worship, the action of giving, taking, eating, drinking, with the things hereby represented, are parts.”

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James Bannerman

Church of Christ  (1869), 2.133

“The broken bread representing the broken and crucified body, — the wine poured out, the shed blood,–the eating and drinking of them, participation in Christ’s blessings to nourish the soul and make it glad…”

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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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That the Breaking of the Bread in the Supper is a Morally Necessary Action & is Not to be Omitted

Quotes

Zacharias Ursinus

On Heidelberg, Question #77

“Christ then broke the bread not merely for the purpose of distributing it, but also to signify thereby: 1. The greatness of his sufferings, and the separation of his soul from his body.  2. The communion of many with his own body, and the bond of their union, and mutual love.  “The bread which we break is it not the communion of the body of Christ; for we being many are one bread, and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread.” (1 Cor. 10:16)

The breaking of the bread is, therefore, a necessary ceremony both on account of its signification, and for the confirmation of our faith, and is to be retained in the celebration of the Supper:

1. Because of the command of Christ, Do this.

2. Because of the authority and example of the church in the times of the Apostles, which in view of this circumstance, termed the whole transaction, the breaking of bread.

3. For our comfort, that we may know that the body of Christ was broken for us, as certainly as we see the bread broken.

4. That the doctrine of transubstantiation and consubstantiation may be rejected, and abandoned.”

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George Gillespie

Dispute against the English Popish Ceremonies  (Naphtali Press), pt. 4, p. 388

§2. The fourth position we draw from the same rule is,* that it is not indifferent for a minister to omit the breaking of the bread at the Lord’s table after the consecration and in the distribution of it, because he ought to follow the example of Christ, who, after He had blessed the bread, and when He was distributing it to them who were at table, brake it, breaking into pieces in his hands the bread he had taken,1 but had it not carved in small pieces before it was brought to the table.

Hence, G. J. Vossius2 does rightly condemn those who, though they break the bread in multas minutias [into many small pieces], yet they break it not in actu sacramentali [in sacramental act].  Such a breaking as this (he says well) is not mystica [related to mystery], but coquinaria [related to cooking]. EPC (2013), 403.

* We are bound to imitate Christ, and the commendable example of His apostles, in all things wherein it is not evident they had special reasons moving them thereto, which do not concern us.

1. Paræus in 1 Cor. 11:24. manibus comminuendo panem acceptum in partes. [Cf. Ad Corinthios priorem (1609), col. 743.]

2. De Symb. Cœnæ Dom., disp. 2, thes. 5. [Cf. Theses Theologicæ et Historicæ, 1658 ed., p. 275.]​

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Francis Turretin

Institutes  (P&R), vol. 3, 19th Topic, ‘The Sacraments’, section 3, p. 443.  The whole section is devoted to this issue, contra the Lutherans.

“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.”

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Latin Article

Strimesius, Samuel – Annotation 6, ‘Of the Breaking of the Bread in the Supper’  in A Hexad of Annotations, Comprehending Controversies Between Protestants on the Person of Christ, God-Man, of Baptism, & of Rites which are Not Wholly Indifferent  (Frankfurt, 1706), pp. 61-72

The Lutherans in the Post-Reformation held that the breaking of the bread by Christ at the first Lord’s Supper was indifferent, and that the practice today is not only unnecessary, but even largely not good.  The reformed took the practice as spiritually significant to the Supper, and therefore necessary.  This created no little strife in churches and universities in Germany, where the ebb and flow of Lutheran and reformed dominance sometimes alternated.

Not only does one in this common place find the Scriptural issue argued, but also the issues of how bad certain smaller errors are (or are not) and how one can still have fellowship with those that err in such small points are explored as well.

Strimesius (1648-1730) was a reformed professor of philosophy, physics and theology at Frankfurt, Germany.


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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

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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.”

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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


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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 Leftover Elements After the Administration

George Gillespie

English-Popish Ceremnoies  (1637), pt. 3, ch. 2, p. 32

“…extra usum Sacramenti [apart from the use of the sacrament] the bread cannot be called a sacrament…”


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On Impurities in the Administration & Fellowship Therein

Quotes

John Calvin

Commentary on 1 Cor. 11, verse 20

“Paul says [in 1 Cor. 11:20] that in this way it is not the Lord’s supper that is partaken of — not that a single abuse altogether set aside the sacred institution of Christ, and reduced it to nothing, but that they polluted the sacrament by observing it in a wrong way.  For we are accustomed to say, in common conversation, that a thing is not done at all, if it is not done aright.  Now this was no trivial abuse, as we shall afterwards see.

If you understand the words is not as meaning, is not allowable, the meaning will amount to the same thing…  he condemns that profane admixture, which had nothing in it akin to the Lord’s Supper.”

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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.”

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Articles

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


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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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Article

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.

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Why the Supper has a Higher Reverence Due to it than Simply the Preaching of the Word

Quotes

George Gillespie

English Popish Ceremonies  (1637), 3rd Part, ‘Against the Lawfulness of the Ceremonies’, ch. 4, ‘That the Ceremonies are Idols among Formalists themselves; and that kneeling in the Lord’s Supper before the Bread and Wine in the act of receiving them is formally Idolatry’, pp. 62-63

“Those who speak out more plainly than bishop [David] Lindsay [d. 1641], do here (section 14) object to us that reverence is due to the sacrament, and that we ourselves do reverence it when we sit uncovered at the receiving of it.

But Didoclavius [a pseudonym for the Scottish presbyterian, David Calderwood] does well distinguish betwixt veneration and adoration (Altare Damascenum, 1623, p. 809), because in civility we use[d] to be uncovered, even to inferiors and equals for the regard which we bear to them, yet do we not worship them, as we worship the king on our knees.  As, then, in civility there is a respect and reverence different from adoration, so it is in religion also.  Yea [Cardinal Robert] Bellarmine himself [a papal apologist] distinguishes the reverence which is due to holy things from adoration.  Paybody and Dr. Burgesse [Formalists] will by no means admit this distinction betwixt veneration and adoration.  But since neither of them has alleged any reason against it, I hope they will be weighed down by the authority of the [Romanist] Archbishop of Spalato [d. 1624], and the bishop of Edinburgh [David Lindsay], both of which agree to this distinction.

So, then, we give no adoration at all to the sacrament, because neither by any outward nor inward action do we perform any worship for the honor of the same.  Burgesse himself has noted to us that the first Nicene Council exhorts that men should not be humiliter intenti [basely stretched out] to the things before them.  We neither submit our minds nor humble our bodies to the sacrament, yet do we render to it veneration, for as much as we esteem highly of it as a most holy thing, and meddle reverently with it, without all contempt or unworthy usage.  Res profecto inanimatae [Surely inanimate things], says the Archbishop of Spalato, sint sacrae quantum placet, alium honorem a nobis non merentur, nisi in sensu negativo [may be sacred so far as it may be fitting, not being deserving of another honor from us except in a negative sense], as that they be not contemned, nor unworthily handled.

If it be said that we ought not to contemn the Word, yet has it not that respect given to it which the Sacrament has, at which we are uncovered, so that this veneration given to the sacrament must be somewhat more then non prophanatio [a non-profanation]; I answer: as honor in the positive sense, so also in the negative, has various degrees: and according to the more or less immediate manifestation of divine ordinances to us, so ought the degrees of our veneration to be intended or remitted; which is not so to be understood as if one part of God’s sacred worship were to be less contemned then another (for none of God’s most holy ordinances may be in any sort contemned), but that for the greater regard of those things which are more immediately divine, we are not in the usage of them to take to ourselves so much scope and liberty as otherwise we may lawfully allow to ourselves in meddling with such things as are not merely, but mixedly divine, and which are not from God so immediately as the other, but more by the intervention of means.

And thus a higher degree of veneration is due to the sacrament than to the Word preached, not by taking ought from the Word, but by adding more respect to the sacrament than the Word has.  The reason hereof is given to be this, because when we come to the sacrament, nihil hic humanum, sed Divina omnia [nothing of this is of man, but is all divine], for Christ’s own Words are, or at least should be, spoken to us when we receive the sacrament, and the elements also are by Christ’s own institution holy symbols of his blessed body and blood.  Whereas the Word preached to us is but mixedly and mediately divine, and because of this intervention of the ministry of men, and mixture of their conceptions with the holy Scriptures of God, we are bidden try the spirits [1 Jn. 4:1] and are required after the example of the Bereans to search the Scriptures daily whether these things which we hear preached be so or not.

Now we are not in like sort to try the elements and the words of the institution, whether they be of God or not, because this is sure to all who know out of Scripture the first principles of the oracles of God.  The consideration hereof warns us that the sacrament given according to Christ’s institution is more merely and immediately divine than is the Word preached.”

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John Anderson

Anderson, John – ‘Of Humiliation Days Before & Thanksgiving Days After the Administration of the Lord’s Supper’, pp. 302-305  in Vindiciae Cantus Dominici…  (Philadelphia, 1800)

“The Lord’s Supper is justly considered as peculiarly solemn.  All the ordinances of God are holy, as they have a holy God for their author, are to be observed in a holy manner, and are appointed means of promoting holiness.

Yet an ordinance may be said to be more solemn in respect of the more sensible manifestation which God makes therein of his glory, in respect of the peculiarly awful warning which He gives against a rash and inconsiderate manner of intermeddling with it, in respect of the variety of holy exercises which concur in the right observation of it, and, lastly, in respect of the more full and public representation of the communion which the people of God have with his whole Church.

That the Lord’s Supper has a greater solemnity in these respects than some other ordinances, seems to have been hitherto the sense of the whole New Testament Church.  This is expressed by the judicious Mr. Durham, in the first of his communion sermons [The Unsearchable Riches of Christ (1685), A Preparation Sermon, pp. 4-5], where, speaking of the words of institution, he says:

‘Every circumstance speaks out a solemnity in this ordinance, as the night in which it was instituted, the same night in which He was betrayed, and his jealousy of and threatening for the abuse of this ordinance.  The Lord’s Supper seems dignified with an eminence above all other gospel ordinances:

1st, in reference to what it exhibits.  They all set forth love, but this sets forth love in an eminent degree, for it sets forth the Lord’s death, wherein the most eminent degree of his love shines.  It sets forth the great masterpiece of his love, his actual dying.

2ndly, in respect of the excellent benefits communicated in it.  It is true there is no other thing, on the matter, communicated in it, than in the Word and baptism; yet if ye look to the words, ‘Take, eat, this is my body’, they hold forth Christ Jesus not so much giving any particular gift, as actually conferring Himself in his death and suffering.

3rdly, in respect of the manner in which our Lord Jesus makes over Himself:  For there is herein not only a most clear view of the slain Savior, and of covenanting with God, but also a clear glance of heaven upon earth, Jesus Christ and his people mixing (so to speak) and being familiar together; He condescending not only to keep company with them, but to be their food and refreshment, and giving not only the Word to their faith, but Himself (as it were) to their sense!  Insofar as the mean, whereby He communicates Himself, is more sensible; it is by his Spirit that the mean is made effectual.  There is not only a fixedness of faith on our part, but a sort of divineness in the ordinance itself, as it were, to the very senses of the believer.  ‘I say unto you,’ says our Lord, ‘I will not drink henceforth of the fruit of the vine, until the day when I shall drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom,’ where He seems to point out, that in this ordinance, He has a more special way of keeping communion with his people, bearing a resemblance to that which He will have with them in Heaven.’

That there is a peculliar solemnity in the partaking of the Lord’s Supper, appears from the concurrence of duties requisite to the right performance of it.  ‘If it be a great and difficult work,’ adds the same eminent divine:

‘to carry rightly on an ordinary Sabbath, or in prayer, or in meditation, how difficult must communicating be, in which we ought to have all these joined together/’

If all religious duties were equally solemn, then they would all alike require preparation.  An ejaculatory prayer, for example, would require another duty to prepare for it; and that duty would require another, and so on without end.  The Old Testament Church had more solemn days, such as that on which the children of Israel stood before the Lord in Horeb.  And there were to be such days under the New Testament dispensation also.  Hence, in the vision, which we have in the latter part of the prophecy of Ezekiel, and which judicious interpreters allow to be an emblematical representation of the New Testament Church, we have an account of the observation of such solemnities as the Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles, Eze. 45:21,25.  And surely sacramental occasions may be said to be such times.  A person that duly consideres these things, will not be easily persuaded, that there ought to be no more solemnity in the breaking of the sacramental bread, than in asking a blessing at our ordinary meals.”

[See also the footnote on p. 305, and the following pages on preparation.]

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Contra the Private Distribution of the Lord’s Supper

George Gillespie

English Popish Ceremonies  (1637), pt. 2, ch. 2, 14

“The same prelate pleads for the expediency of giving the Communion to the sick in private houses, because he thinks they should not want [lack] this mean of comfort:  As if the wanting of the sacramental signs, not procured by a man’s own negligence or contempt, could stop or stay the comforts of the Holy Spirit.

Nay, it is not so: we have seen some who receaved not the Communion in time of their sickness, end more gloriously and comfortably than ever we heard of any who received the sacrament for their viaticum [journey] when they were a dying.”

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On the Popish Elevation of the Bread

George Gillespie

English Popish Ceremonies (1637), pt. 3, ch. 2, p. 28

“5. The abuse of kneeling in the idolatrous action of elevation proceeds not from the nature of the action, but from the opinion of the agent, or rather from his will (for principium actionum humanarum [the principle of human actions], is not opinion, but will choosing that which opinion conceits to be chosen, or voluntas praeeunte luce intellectus).  It is the will of the agent only which both makes the action of elevation to be idolatrous, and likewise kneeling in this action to receive the contagion of idolatry.  For the elevation of the bread materialiter [materially], is not idolatrous (more than the lifting up of the bread among us by elders or deacons, when in taking it off the table, or setting it on, they lift it above the heads of the communicants), but formaliter [formally] only, as it is elevated with a will and intention to place it in state of worship.

So likewise kneeling to the bread, materialiter, is not idolatry (else a man were a idolater who should be against his will thrust down and holden by violence kneeling on his knees when the bread is elevated), but formaliter, as it proceeds from a will and intention in men to give to the bread-elevated a state in that worship, and out of that respect to kneel before it.”

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Related Pages

The Sacraments

The Lord’s Supper