The Consensus Tigurinus was written by John Calvin (1509–1564) and Heinrich Bullinger (1504–1575). The Consensus was a response to the renewed opposition that Martin Luther had made to the reformed understanding of the Sacraments.
Calvin and Bullinger corresponded on the topic by letters for over two years. Calvin put together twenty articles from this correspondence and brought it to a face-to-face meeting with Bullinger. The meeting was a success and six more articles were added. These 26 articles on the Lord’s Supper were presented by both of them to Zurich and Geneva as a reformed consensus, and they were adopted.
The Consensus was also quickly adopted by the Swiss towns of Bern, Basel, Neuchatel, Bienne, Pays de Vaud, the Grisons, St. Gall, Schaffhausen, and Mulhausen, unifying the region. Numerous English theologians commended the Consensus; Martin Bucer praised it (1491-1551), and Peter Martyr Vermigli (1500-1562) endorsed it. The Consensus was first published in 1551 in Geneva and Zurich. It was the foundation for the Second Helvetic Confession, 1566.
The excerpt below was translated from the 1551 Latin by Ian Bunting in “The Consensus Tigurinus,” Journal of Presbyterian History 44/1 (March 1966):50-58, and was reprinted in Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation: Volume 1, 1523-15552, edited by James Dennison, 2008, p. 543.
The Reformed View of the Sacraments
The reformed view of the sacraments is that their spiritual efficacy is through faith. The physical water, bread and wine are outward, physical signs and seals of the promises of the Word. In the physical seals being placed in the hand of the professor, there is implicitly an offer made by the Word of the promises which that physical seal signifies. The promise in the offer is only received though faith. Thus, while all professors receive the outward elements, only those exercising faith are spiritually nourished by the promises offered in the sacraments.
The larger context of the quote below is the efficacy of the sacraments. The quote is speaking of Christ and his benefits being offered to all in the sacraments, which was the nearly universal view of the reformed wing of the Reformation, as documented in multitudes of reformed writings from that time period.
The Consensus Tigurinus
XVIII. The Gifts of God are Offered to all but it is the Faithful who Receive Them.
It is quite certain that Christ, with his gifts, is offered communely to all, and that the truth of God is not overthrown by the unfaithfulness of men: the sacraments always retain their power, but all are not capable of Christ and his gifts. And so on God’s part, nothing is changed; but as for men, each received according to the measure of his faith.