“So that by all this which hath been delivered, we may give repentance those just and true bounds, which Gods Word doth assign to it, and yet not give more then Gods Word doth. Nei∣ther may we think it a nicety or subtilty to make a difference between a qualification, and a cause; for if we do not, we take off the due glory that belongs to Christ and his merits, and give it to the works we do, and we do make Christ and his sufferings imperfect and insufficient…”
XXIV—Of Speaking in the Congregation in Such a Tongue as the People UnderstandethIt is a thing plainly repugnant to the Word of God, and the custom of the Primitive Church, to have publick Prayer in the Church, or to minister the Sacraments in a tongue not understanded by the people.
First, Paul to the Corinthians saith: ‘Let all things be done to edifying’ (1 Cor. 14.26). Which cannot be unless common prayers and administration of sacraments be in a tongue known to the people… For, saith Saint Paul: ‘He that speaketh in a tongue unknown shall be to the hearer an alien’ (1 Cor. 14.2, 11), which in a Christian congregation is an absurdity. For we are not strangers to one another, but we are ‘the citizens of the saints and of the household of God, yea, members all of one body’ (Eph. 2.19; 1 Cor. 10.17, 12-12-27). And therefore, whilst our minister is in rehearsing the prayer that is made in the name of us all, we must give diligent ear to the words spoken by him and in heart beg at God’s hand those things that he beggeth in words. And to signify that we so do, we say, ‘Amen’ at the end of the prayer that he maketh in the name of us all. And this thing can we do not do for edification unless we understand what is spoken [Bray, ed. The Books of Homilies, Critical Edition, 359-360].
For previous posts in this series, see:
For previous posts in this series, see:
Week 8: I.2.7 (no post)
Week 10: I.2.9 (no post)
Christ’s Presence in the Lord’s Supper
“One reason why we so little value the ordinance [of the Lord’s Supper], and profit so little by it, may be because we understand so little of the nature of that special communion with Christ which we have therein,” wrote John Owen. It's the nature of that special communion, or presence of Christ, that we turn in this post.
Edward Reynolds (1599–1676) affirmed “a real, true, and perfect presence of Christ” in the Lord’s Supper. He said this was not merely Christ’s divine omnipresence, nor was it the physical presence of His human body. Christ is present “by the powerful working of his Holy Spirit” just as the sun is present to the earth in the shining of its warm rays. Reynolds wrote, “The main end of the Sacrament … is to unite the faithful unto Christ.” Since our union with Christ is mystical and not physical, His presence is mystical and not physical. It is indeed a union with Christ’s “sacred body” in heaven, but this does not require the physical presence of His body in the bread for communicants to receive the graces of His glorified humanity.
William Perkins said there is a “sacramental union” between the signs and realities to which they point, which explains how sign and reality are often interchanged in Scripture (Gen. 17:10; Exod. 12:11; Deut. 10:16; Matt. 26:28; Luke 22:20; John 6:51, 53; Acts 7:8; 1 Cor. 5:7; 10:17; 11:24; Titus 3:5). The sacramental union is not a natural union or “mutation of the sign into the thing signified” but a “respective” union, or union by way of analogy, so as to draw the soul of the Christian to consider the spiritual reality and apply it. As a result, unconverted persons “receive the signs alone without the things signified,” while the converted “do to their salvation receive, both the sign and the thing signified.” Matthew Henry (1663–1714) explained, “We live in a world of sense, not yet in the world of spirits; and, because we therefore find it hard to look above the things that are seen, we are directed, in a sacrament, to look through them, to those things not seen, which are represented by them.”
Matthew Poole (1624–1679) wrote, “When he saith, Take, eat, he means no more than that true believers should by the hand of their body take the bread, and with their bodily mouths eat it, and at the same time, by the hand and mouth of faith, receive and apply all the benefits of his blessed death and passion to their souls.” Thomas Doolittle (1630–1707) agreed, saying that the believer eats the bread and drinks the wine to signify “my union with Christ and enjoyment of Him; my feeding upon Christ by faith for the strengthening of the graces of God’s Spirit in my soul.”
Some scholars say the Puritans became overly scholastic in their view of the Lord’s Supper. Holifield, for example, says that Puritan pastors performed the sacramental actions, “hoping that the service would thus convey doctrinal information.” Contrasting the Puritan approach with Calvin’s approach, he says, “Calvin had been wary of overemphasizing the merely didactic possibilities of sacramental worship, but in Puritan circles the Lord’s Supper was unreservedly a vivid spectacle calling to mind the saving truths of the gospel.” The result of this distortion was that “Calvinist mystery collapsed under the weight of [the Puritans’] psychological explanation.” In this, Holifield underestimates the role that truth played in the Puritan heart and invents a dichotomy that Puritans would have found unbiblical. For the Puritans, doctrinal information was not the antithesis of emotional engagement and Spirit-led worship. As Edwards wrote about his own preaching, “I should think...my duty to raise the affections of my hearers as high as possibly I can, provided that they are affected with nothing but truth, and with affections that are not disagreeable to the nature of what they are affected with.” The Father seeks believers who worship in spirit and truth, and the third Person of the Trinity is the Spirit of truth who guides believers into truth (John 16:13).
 Owen, Works, 9:523.
 Reynolds, “Meditations on the Holy Sacrament,” in Works, 3:68.
 Reynolds, “Meditations on the Holy Sacrament,” in Works, 3:72.
 Reynolds, “Meditations on the Holy Sacrament,” in Works, 3:73.
 Reynolds, “Meditations on the Holy Sacrament,” in Works, 3:73–74.
 Perkins, “A Golden Chaine,” in Works, 1:72.
 Perkins, “A Golden Chaine,” in Works, 1:72–73.
 Matthew Henry, The Communicant’s Companion (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1843), 32.
 Matthew Poole, A Commentary on the Holy Bible (repr., London: Banner of Truth Trust, 1969), 3:127.
 Thomas Doolittle, A Treatise Concerning the Lord’s Supper (Morgan, Pa.: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1998), 146.
 Holifield, The Covenant Sealed, 54.
 Holifield, The Covenant Sealed, 54, emphasis added.
 Holifield, The Covenant Sealed, 61.
 Jonathan Edwards, Select Works of Jonathan Edwards (London: Banner of Truth Trust, 1965), 391.
Previous Posts in this Series
Men, you know, hate poison in a toad, but pity it in a man. In the one it is their nature, in the other their disease: Sin in a wicked man is as poison in a toad; God hates it and him, it’s his nature; but sin in a child is like poison in a man; God pities him, he pities the Saints for sins and infirmities, he hates the wicked. It’s the ones nature, and the others disease…In a wicked man God hates both sin and sinner, but here [in the case of believers] he hates the sin, though he pities and loves the poor sinner, etc. He is displeased with sin, though he pardon sin in Christ.
XXIII—Of Ministering in the CongregationIt is not lawful for any man to take upon him the office of publick preaching, or ministering the Sacraments in the Congregation, before he be lawfully called, and sent to execute the same. And those we ought to judge lawfully called and sent, which be chosen and called to this work by men who have publick authority given unto them in the Congregation, to call and send Ministers into the Lord’s vineyard.
For previous posts in this series, see: