Week 7 (2/12-2/18): I.2.6 (pgs. 270–310)
For previous posts in this series, see:
The Lord’s Supper is an earthly encounter with the heavenly Christ, said the Puritans. In this they agreed with the teaching of John Calvin (1509–1564). John Knox (c. 1505–1572), the link between Calvin and British Puritanism, wrote that just as Christ said “he himself was the lively bread, wherewith our souls be fed unto everlasting life,” so Christ,
in setting forth bread and wine to eat and drink, he confirmeth and sealeth up to us his promise and communion…and representeth unto us, and maketh plain to our senses, his heavenly gifts; and also giveth unto us himself, to be received with faith, and not with mouth, nor yet by transfusion of substance. But so through the virtue [power] of the Holy Ghost, that we, being fed with his flesh, and refreshed with his blood, may be renewed both unto true godliness and to immortality.
Thus “we receive Jesus Christ spiritually” in the Lord’s Supper.
Stephen Charnock (1628–1680) said of the Supper, “There is in this action more communion with God…than in any other religious act….We have not so near a communion with a person, either by petitioning for something we want, or returning him thanks for a favour received, as we have by sitting with him at his table, partaking of the same bread and the same cup.” He explained, “Christ is really presented to us, and faith really takes him, closes with him, lodgeth him in the soul, makes him an indweller; and the soul hath spiritual communion with him in his life and death, as if we did really eat his flesh and drink his blood presented to us in the elements.”
John Willison (1680–1750) wrote that in partaking of the Supper we should exercise a remembrance of Christ that is full of awe, reverence, broken-hearted mourning over our sins, hatred against our sins, thankfulness, and trust in Christ for our full justification. He wrote, “Our hearts should even burn with affection to him, when we remember the great floods of wrath that brake in upon Christ’s soul, and yet could not drown his love to us.”
It is easy to understand why the Puritans, who had such a high view of the Lord’s Supper, placed such great value upon understanding the sacrament biblically and practicing it spiritually. This series will address two concerns at the heart of the Puritan treatment of the Lord’s Supper: doctrinal questions about its meaning and pastoral questions about its partaking.
Unappreciated today is that the Puritans were heirs of the Reformation debates concerning the Lord’s Supper. “From a modern point of view, the eucharistic controversies of the sixteenth century seem unchristian,” writes Thomas J. Davis. He said, “What one finds is that eucharistic theology was not simply about church ritual but, rather, it was about who God is, how God operates, how humanity is saved, where God might be found.”
The Lord’s Supper became the focal point of doctrinal debates during the Reformation. Martin Luther (1483–1546) had led Reformation churches away from the Roman Mass as a continuing priestly sacrifice in which, by the miracle of transubstantiation, the flesh and blood of Christ are offered anew as an atoning sacrifice. To be sure, some of the Protestant revulsion against the Mass arose from abuses acknowledged even by the Roman Catholic Church. One Roman Catholic scholar laments “the commercialization of the holy sacrifice” by which masses were sold by greedy priests promising release from purgatory, and health and prosperity in this life. However, the most significant division between the Church of England and the Papacy in this matter was in doctrinal differences rather than practical abuses. The English Reformer Thomas Cranmer (1489–1556), together with Nicholas Ridley (c. 1500–1555) and John Bradford (1510–1555), sealed their doctrinal opposition to the Roman Mass with their own deaths during the Marian persecutions. During the reign of Elizabeth I (1558–1603), The Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England, ratified in 1571, codified for subsequent generations the English rejection of papist teachings about the Eucharist (Articles 28–31).
By the time of the Puritans, theological differences had hardened between the Reformed and Lutherans, despite the efforts of Calvin and Beza. Luther taught that Christ’s body and blood were so united with the elements as to be locally and physically present and so eaten with the mouth. By contrast, Calvin taught that by faith, partakers of the Supper lift up their “hearts and minds on high, where Jesus Christ is, in the glory of his Father, and from whence we look for him for our redemption” to be made partakers of Christ’s body and blood in a spiritual but nonetheless real manner. This highlights a difference between Calvin and the Puritans. There is little emphasis of heavenly participation in the Puritans. Rather than lifting up our hearts to Christ and partaking of Christ on high, the Puritans stressed, as did Thomas Cranmer, that Christ comes down to us in the sacrament by His Word and Spirit, offering himself as our spiritual food and drink.
Luther’s teachings were influential in the English Reformation. Yet Robert Barnes (c. 1495–1540) seemed to be the only English Reformer who adopted a Lutheran view of the Lord’s Supper. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Luther’s writings continued to be translated into English but mostly on the subject of spiritual consolation through justification by faith, particularly in his commentary on Galatians. His view of the Supper seemed to have had little impact on the Puritans, who asserted the Reformed doctrine of real spiritual presence, while rejecting the Roman Catholic idea of a corporeal or physical presence .
The Puritans opposed both the Roman Catholic and Lutheran positions that Christ was physically present in the elements of the Lord’s Supper. E. Brooks Holifield writes, “In their opposition to Lutheran and Roman Catholic doctrine, the Puritans were unambiguous.” On the other hand, the Puritans did not follow Zwingli or the Anabaptists in de-emphasizing the physical sacraments. While some Puritans had some Zwinglian tendencies, most Puritans belonged to a more Calvinistic group. William Perkins (1558–1602) said, “We keep the middle way, neither giving too much, nor too little to the sacraments.”
This post was adapted from Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 743–759.
 For primary sources on Calvin’s sacramental views: Treatises on the Sacraments, Catechism of the Church of Geneva, Forms of Prayer, and Confessions of Faith, trans. Henry Beveridge (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2002), 119–122, 163–579; Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), 4.14, 17–18.
 On Knox’s role in transmitting the Genevan eucharistic liturgy to English Puritanism, see Stephen Mayor, The Lord’s Supper in Early English Dissent (London: Epworth Press, 1972), 1–12.
 John Knox, “A Summary, According to the Holy Scriptures, of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper,” in The Works of John Knox, ed. David Laing (Edinburgh: The Bannatyne Club, 1854), 3:73.
 Knox, “A Summary… of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper,” in Works, 3:75.
 Stephen Charnock, “A Discourse of the End of the Lord’s Supper,” The Complete Works of Stephen Charnock (1865; repr., Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1983), 4:407.
 Charnock, “The End of the Lord’s Supper,” in Works, 4:408.
 John Willison, “A Sacramental Catechism,” in The Whole Works of the Reverend and Learned Mr John Willison (Edinburgh: J. Moir, 1798), 2:88–89.
 Thomas J. Davis, This Is My Body: The Presence of Christ in Reformation Thought (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), 13–14.
 Transubstantiation is the doctrine that the elements of the Eucharist are physically transformed into the actual body and blood of Christ through a change of substance though not in appearance. It was affirmed as church dogma by the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) and again, contra the Reformers, at the Council of Trent (1551).
 Francis Clark, S.J., Eucharistic Sacrifice and the Reformation, 2nd ed. (1967; repr., Devon: Augustine Publishing, 1981), 59. See Timothy George, Theology of the Reformers (Nashville: Broadman, 1988), 146.
 Clark, Eucharistic Sacrifice and the Reformation, 64.
 For the writings of British Reformers against the Papist view of the Supper, see “A Defense of the True and Catholic Doctrine of the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Our Saviour Christ,” in The Remains of Thomas Cranmer (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1833), 2:275–463; Nicholas Ridley, A Brief Declaration of the Lord’s Supper (London: Seeley and Co., 1895); John Bradford, “Sermon on the Lord’s Supper,” in The Writings of John Bradford (1848–1853; repr., Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1979), 1:82–110; Thomas Becon, “The Displaying of the Popish Mass,” in Prayers and Other Pieces (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1844), 251–86; Knox, “A Vindication of the Doctrine that the Sacrifice of the Mass Is Idolatry,” in Works, 3:29–70.
 Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom (1931; repr., Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998), 505–507.
 E. Brooks Holifield, The Covenant Sealed (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1974), 4–26; Richard A. Muller, “Calvin on Sacramental Presence, in the Shadow of Marburg and Zurich,” Lutheran Quarterly 23 (2009): 147–67. Jill Raitt, The Eucharistic Theology of Theodore Beza: Development of Reformed Doctrine, AAR Studies in Religion, no. 4 (Chambersburg, Pa.: American Academy of Religion, 1972), 2–7.
 See “The Manner of Celebrating the Lord’s Supper,” in Calvin’s Treatises on the Sacraments, 119–22. John Knox agreed with Calvin, teaching that “as the only way to dispose our souls to receive nourishment, relief, and quickening of his substance, let us lift up our minds by faith above all things worldly and sensible, and thereby enter into heaven, that we may find and receive Christ, where he dwelleth undoubtedly, very God and very man, in the incomprehensible glory of his Father” (Charles W. Baird, Presbyterian Liturgies: Historical Sketches [repr., Eugene, Ore.: Wipf & Stock, 2006], 123–24).
 See Carl R. Trueman, Luther’s Legacy: Salvation and English Reformers, 1525–1556 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994).
 Carl. R. Trueman and Carrie Euler, “The Reception of Martin Luther in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century England,” in The Reception of the Continental Reformation in Britain, ed. Polly Ha and Patrick Collinson, Proceedings of the British Academy, 164 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 65–67.
 Trueman and Euler, “The Reception of Martin Luther,” in The Reception of the Continental Reformation, 68–76.
 See Perkins, “A Golden Chaine,” in Works, 1:75–76; Thomas Watson, The Lord’s Supper (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 2004), 17–19; Edward Reynolds, “Meditations on the Holy Sacrament,” The Whole Works of the Right Rev. Edward Reynolds (1826; repr., Morgan, Pa.: Soli Deo Gloria, 1999), 3:68–72.
 Holifield, The Covenant Sealed, 59.
 Ulrich Zwingli, Writings (Allison Park, Pa: Pickwick Publications, 1984), 1: 92–127; 2:127–45, 187–369. For a recent appreciative survey, see Bruce A. Ware, “The Meaning of the Lord’s Supper in the Theology of Ulrich Zwingli (1484–1531),” in The Lord’s Supper: Remembering and Proclaiming Christ until He Comes, ed. Thomas R. Schreiner and Matthew R. Crawford (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2010), 229–47.
 See the discussion in Holifield, The Covenant Sealed, 59.
 Perkins, “A Reformed Catholicke,” in Works, 1:611.
Every Wednesday in 2018, Michael Lynch (PhD candidate at Calvin Theological Seminary) and our own editor Danny Hyde (PhD candidate at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) will be blogging through Richard Muller’s Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, 4 vols. (2nd edition, Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003).
Week 6 (2/5-2/11): I.2.5 (pgs. 221–269)
In one of the great modern westerns, Tombstone (1993), there is a conversation between two of the wild West's deadliest gunslingers...in Latin! The text of what Doc Holliday and Johnny Ringo say is full of subtext. But it's the first line by Doc Holliday (Val Kilmer) that sets the tone: in vino veritas, "in wine there is truth." Not only were Doc's words literally true as he was drunk, but they had the subtext that what he just said about hating Ringo was truly true.
What's theology? What does God know? What can we know? How do we know what we know? How do we know what we know is true? And how do we express it? That's what this week's reading is all about. Muller deals with the Reformed Orthodox discussion of the parts of true theology, so helpfully distinguished by Franciscus Junius as theologia archetypa, God's own knowledge of himself, and theologia ectypa, what we know of God. Let me encourage you to dive into Junius yourself Latíne and in Reformation Heritage Books' recently published English translation (hardcover or ebook).
Why this distinction? One of the insights Martin Luther rested on was the late medieval critique of Thomas Aquinas by men like John Duns Scotus. Aquinas said there was an anaology of being between God and man; Scotus said it was impossible for man to derive a description of God apart from an authoritative testimony from God himself. Hence Luther's theology of the cross—what God revealed—took precedence over the theology of glory—what God has kept hidden. John Calvin added to this the radical effects of original sin upon the mind of man so much so that apart from God's self-revelation, true knowledge of God is inaccesible to us. Therefore, Reformed Orthodox writers distinguished theology as God knows it (theologia archetypa) from theology as we creatures can know it (theologia ectypa), whether in this life as pilgrims (theologia viatorum) or the life to come (theologia beatorum). In other words, we as creatures before the Fall, after the Fall in sin, after redemption in Christ, and even in glory, are limited in what we can know of God. We know what God knows is reality; and what we can know is tethered to whatever he decides to reveal to us in a manner appropriate for our creaturely capacity.
Why is this distinction important? Let me illustrate. Currently I am preaching through the Gospel of John. The "prologue" (see P. J. Williams' critique of this terminology and concept) ends with this coup de grâce in 1:18: "No one has ever seen God; the only God [Son], who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known" (ESV). The eternal Word (1:1-3) and Son (1:14) who became flesh and tabernacled among humanity as Jesus Christ (1:17) alone has been at the Father’s side or as our older translations put it, “in the bosom of the Father,” that secret place of perfect fellowship and intimacy. Therefore he alone has seen the Father. No creature has seen or known God in himself in perfection; only the Son, who is the same essence as the Father as God, has. God alone as archetypal theology. In fact, the contrast is made between the Son and Moses, who could not see God and live and so was hidden in a cleft of a rock (Ex. 33:18–20) and who said to the Lord, “I tremble” (Heb. 12:21; Ex. 19:16; Deut. 9:19). On the contrary, the Word (v. 1), the only Son (v. 14), the only God (v. 18) has seen the Father and lived to tell the story to us! In fact, John tells us this is why the Son came from fellowship with the Father into fellowship with us in our humanity; he came to reveal God. And this revelation is the Gospel or good news to fallen creatures like us. Our theology (theologia nostra) is derived from God's own revelation of himself in Christ. And how did the Son in flesh reveal the Father? In a manner suited to our capacity: in words like parables and sayings and in miraculous signs meant to point beyond themselvbes to truths about Him. So verse 18 of John 1 comes full circle to verse 1: the Word who was with God (v. 1) is at the Father’s side in his bosom (v. 18); the Word who was God (v. 1) is the only God [Son] (v. 18); the Word (v. 1) or self-expressive revelation of God has made the Father known (v. 18)—ἐξηγήσατο—has exegeted or explained the Father to us! What a Gospel!
Doc Holliday said in vino veritas; Jesus said ἐγώ εἰμι…ἡ ἀλήθεια: "I am the truth" (John 14:6).
And they say this stuff is stale!
Join us next Wednesday as Michael Lynch blogs through the reading for Week 7 (2/12-2/18): I.2.6 (pgs. 270–310).
For previous posts in this series, see:
It is required of us that we be tender of the good name of our brethren; where we cannot speak well, we had better say nothing than speak evil; we must not take pleasure in making known the faults of others, divulging things that are secret, merely to expose them, nor in making more of their known faults than really they deserve, and, least of all, in making false stories, and spreading things concerning them of which they are altogether innocent.
XXI—Of the Authority of General CouncilsGeneral Councils may not be gathered together without the commandment and will of Princes. And when they be gathered together, (forasmuch as they be an assembly of men, whereof all be not governed with the Spirit and Word of God,) they may err, and sometimes have erred, even in things pertaining unto God. Wherefore things ordained by them as necessary to salvation have neither strength nor authority, unless it may be declared that they be taken out of holy Scripture.
Although we freely grant great honour to the councils, and especially to the ecumenical ones, yet we judge that all of them must be placed far below the dignity of the canonical Scriptures, and even among the councils themselves we make a huge distinction. For some of them, such as the special four, Nicaea, first of Constantinople, Ephesus, and Chalcedon, we embrace ad accept with great reverence. And we make the same judgment with regard to many other which were held later on, in which we see and confess that the most holy fathers determined many things, in a most serious and godly manner, concerning the blessed and highest Trinity, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and the redemption of mankind procured by him. But we do not regard them as binding on our faith except in so far as they can be proved out of the Holy Scriptures. For it is most obvious clear that some councils have occasionally erred, and defined things which are contrary to each other, partly in our legal actions and partly even in faith. Therefore the councils are to be studied with honor and Christian reverence, but at the same time they are to be tested against the godly, certain and right rule of the Scriptures.
Week 5 (1/29-2/4): I.2.4 (pgs. 177–220)
For previous posts in this series, see:
Amy Mantravadi joins us this week to discuss John Bunyan's A Discourse Touching Prayer. Read her third post below:
While John Bunyan spent much time dissecting the Apostle Paul’s statement that “I will pray with the spirit”, he by no means ignored the second part of that phrase: “I will pray with the understanding also”. (1 Corinthians 14:15 KJV) Bunyan taught that the only way to receive this understanding was 1) by the work of the Spirit and 2) through God’s Word.
“Prayer it is, when it is within the compass of God’s Word; and it is blasphemy, or at best vain babbling, when the petition is beside the book,” he wrote, emphasizing the need for our heartfelt words to be backed up by biblical truth. Understanding is necessary for prayer, and Bunyan taught that “there is no understanding without the Word”. It is this combination of the Spirit of God and the Word of God that allows us to understand our sinful state and seek divine mercy through prayer.
“He that hath his understanding well exercised, to discern between good and evil, and in it placed a sense either of the misery of man, or the mercy of God; that soul hath no need of the writings of other men to teach him by forms of prayer. For as he that feels the pain needs not to be taught to cry O! even so he that hath his understanding opened by the Spirit needs not so to be taught of other men’s prayers as that he cannot pray without them.”
The understanding that Bunyan envisioned was not a kind of dry knowledge, but an active comprehension of the things of God. He taught that once a person gained it, their prayer life would be transformed, even as they continued to grow in their understanding.
“And understanding of the willingness that is in the heart of God to save sinners, there is nothing will press the soul more to seek after God, and to cry for pardon, than it. If a man should see a pearl worth an hundred pounds lie in a ditch, yet if he understood not the value of it, he would lightly pass it by: but if he once get the knowledge of it, he would venture up to the neck for it. So it is with souls concerning the things of God: if a man once get an understanding of the worth of them, then his heart, nay, the very strength of his soul, runs after them, and he will never leave crying till he have them.”
Finally, Bunyan taught that this understanding gained through the Spirit gives us great confidence to pray to our God, for we realize what great mercy is available at the throne of grace.
“Alas, how many poor souls are there in the world, that truly fear the Lord, who, because they are not well informed in their understanding, are oft ready to give up all for lost, upon almost every trick and temptation of Satan! The Lord pity them, and help them to ‘pray with the Spirit, and with the understanding also.’ Much of mine own experience could I here discover; when I have been in my fits of agony of spirit, I have been strongly persuaded to leave off, and to seek the Lord no longer, but being made to understand what great sinners the Lord hath had mercy upon, and how large his promises were still to sinners; and that it was not the whole, but the sick, not the righteous, but the sinner, not the full, but the empty, that he extended his grace and mercy unto. This made me, through the assistance of his Holy Spirit, to cleave to him, to hang upon him, and yet to cry, though for the present he made no answer; and the Lord help all his poor, tempted, and afflicted people to do the like, and to continue, though it be long, according to the saying of the prophet (Hab 2:3). And to help them (to that end) to pray, not by the inventions of men, and their stinted forms, but ‘with the Spirit, and with the understanding also.’”
Bunyan’s writings on prayer are useful for anyone who seeks to gain a better understanding of how to pray with both spirit and understanding. They also provide a great deal of insight into the way Puritans thought about this essential part of the Christian life.