Monday, October 18, 2010

The Three Marks of the Visible Church – Part 4


By Robin G. Jordan

In this part of “The Three Marks of the Visible Church” we will be examining what provisions that the sixteenth century English Reformers incorporated into the Thirty-Nine Article of Religion of 1571 to ensure that the sacraments were duly administered and rightly used in the reformed Church of England and that English churches evidenced the second mark of the visible Church of Christ.

The English Reformers, like their Continental counterparts, rejected the sacramental system of the Church of Rome. This sacramental system had evolved in the Middle Ages and recognized seven sacraments—baptism, the Lord’s Supper, confirmation, penance, ordination, matrimony, and extreme unction. The Reformers concluded from their study of the New Testament that God had ordained only two sacraments—baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

In his Apology for the Church of England, John Jewel, Bishop of Salisbury under Elizabeth I, wrote the classical defense of the Protestant faith of the reformed Church of England against Roman Catholic charges. The Apology served as an interim confession of faith of the Church of England until the adoption of the Thirty Nine Articles of Religion in 1571. The churchwardens of all English parish churches were required to obtain a copy of the Apology and place it where the parishioners could read it. Jewel limited the sacraments to two:

We acknowledge that there be two sacraments which, we judge, properly ought to be called by this name; that is to say, baptism and the sacrament of thanksgiving [eucharist]. For thus many we see delivered and sanctified by Christ, and were allowed of the old fathers, Ambrose and Augustine.

The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, the reformed Church of England’s official confession of faith, agreed upon by Convocation in 1562 and enacted into law by Parliament and given the royal assent in 1571, is based in a large part (but not entirely) upon the Forty-Two Articles of 1553. Article XXV also affirms the Reformed position:

There are two Sacraments ordained of Christ our Lord in the Gospel, that is to say, Baptism and the Supper of the Lord.

Those five, commonly called Sacraments, that is to say, Confirmation, Penance, Orders, Matrimony, and Extreme Unction, are not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel, being such as have grown partly of the corrupt following of the Apostles, partly are states of life allowed in the Scriptures; but yet have not the like nature of Sacraments with Baptism and the Lord's Supper, for that they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God.

In the nineteenth century the Tractarians and their Anglo-Catholic successors would make the claim that the Church of England affirmed the seven sacraments of the medieval sacramental system in Article XXV. They followed John Henry Newman’s lead in separating the meaning of the Articles from the historical context in which they were written and from the intent of those who wrote them. This fanciful ahistorical approach to the interpretation of the Articles enabled them to ignore the plain intended sense of the Articles and to make such claims.

The new canons of the Anglican Church of Rwanda adopt a similar line of thinking, and offer a contemporary example of how Anglo-Catholics have historically misinterpreted the Articles. They recognize two sacraments of the Gospel and “five sacraments of the Church.” At the same time they claim no discontinuity between the doctrine of the Anglican Church of Rwanda and the Articles. A former Roman Catholic priest in the Anglican Mission prepared the new Rwandan canons, which also affirm the Roman Catholic doctrines of eucharistic sacrifice and transubstantiation in contradiction to the Articles.

Edwin Sandys, an exile during the reign of Mary and the bishop of Worchester and of London and Archbishop of York during the reign of Elizabeth I, exemplifies the doctrinal views of the English Reformers at the time the Articles were given their final form.

[The sacraments] are two in number, instituted by Christ to be received of Christians: By the one, which is baptism, we are received and incorporated into the church of Christ; by the other, which is the eucharist or the Lord’s supper, we are nourished and fed unto life everlasting.

When the Articles are interpreted with consideration of the historical context in which they were compiled and revised and of the intent of their compilers and revisers, it is very clear that they recognize only two sacraments—baptism and the Lord’s Supper. What they say in regards to the sacraments applies to these two ordinances.

Article XIX identifies as the second mark of the true visible church “the sacraments…duly ministered according to Christ's ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same.” The Articles go on to address how the sacraments should be administered, to whom they should be administered, and how they should be received. They also identify and reject a number of medieval practices associated with the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.

Article XXIII requires that those “administering the sacraments in the congregation” must be “lawfully called and sent to execute the same.” It further specifies:

And those we ought to judge lawfully called and sent, which are chosen and called to this work by men who have public authority given unto them in the congregation to call and send ministers into the Lord's vineyard.

The present debate over diaconal and lay administration of the sacraments has drawn attention to the absence of any wording in this Article that specifies that such ministers must be ordained. However, in interpreting this Article we must consider what Thomas Cranmer, the primary author, and Matthew Parker, the principal reviser, had in mind. We must also consider the historical context in which the Articles were compiled and revised. The Proposed Canons of 1571, which were sanctioned by Convocation but failed to receive the royal assent contain this provision:
The byshop shall suffer no man to be occupied in the ministration of the churche, whiche calleth him selfe by the idle name of a reader, not hauyng receiued imposition of handes.

This provision puts an end to the practice of the appointment of readers by the bishops in parishes to say prayers and to take churchings of women and funerals and perform such other functions as a layperson could, acting under lawful authority. This practice was adopted in the early years of the reign of Elizabeth I in order to supply the lack of clergy. Convocation promulgated regulations for readers in 1562-1563. It appears to rule out the possibility that the Articles admit of the practice of lay administration of the sacraments.

It must be noted that the Proposed Canons of 1571 say very little on the subject of the administration of the sacraments. However, they do deal extensively with the qualifications, training, and licensing of preachers and the conformity of preachers with the Articles and the Prayer Book in their preaching.

Article XXIV requires the ministration of the sacraments in a tongue that is understood by the people. It affirms the important biblical and Reformation principle that all things should be done for edification

The Reformers found no evidence in the Scriptures that Christ had appointed the medieval practices of exposing the Host in a monstrance or other vessel for adoration and parading with the Host in such vessel for the same purpose, as may be seen from Article XXV. Indeed they viewed these practices as idolatry, an example of worshiping the creature—the Host—instead of the Creator. Rather they maintained that the sacraments should be used with due discipline, as also may be seen from the same Article. They laid great stress upon the worthy reception of the sacraments. Otherwise, the sacraments had no beneficial effect or working in the recipient. They took with full seriousness Paul’s warning in 1 Corinthians 11:27ff.

Article XXVI maintains that the efficacy of the sacraments is not dependent upon the character of the minister but upon the institution and promise of Christ. The wickedness of the minister does not take away the effect of Christ’s ordinance or diminish the grace of God’s gifts “from those who by faith and rightly receive the sacraments ministered unto them.” Faith and right reception on the part of the recipient of the sacrament are necessary and not godliness on the part of the minister.

Article XXVII further ties the efficacy of baptism to right reception. It also recognizes young children as suitable recipients of baptism, noting the agreeableness of their baptism “with the institution of Christ.”

Article XXVIII emphasizes right reception, worthy reception, and faith as essential to the efficacy of the Lord’s Supper. Implicit is the rejection of the idea of the ex opera operato, or automatic, operation of the sacraments.

to those who rightly, worthily, and with faith receive it, the bread that we break is a partaking of the body of Christ, and likewise the cup of blessing is a partaking of the blood of Christ.

Article XXVIII goes on to identify “the manner” in which the body of Christ is “given, taken, and eaten” in the Lord’s Supper and “the means” by which the body of Christ is “received and eaten” in the Lord’s Supper. It is “given, taken, and eaten” after a spiritual, heavenly manner.” It is “received and eaten” “by faith.” The English Reformers conception of the giving, eating, and taking of Christ’s body is that it is a spiritual operation that occurs in the spiritual realm, and the receiving and eating of Christ’s body is carried out by faith.

Article XXVIII contains a strongly worded rejection of the doctrine of transubstantiation that teaches that the bread and wine are transmogrified, or in today’s English, “morphed,” into the substance of the actual flesh and blood of Christ while retaining the appearance of bread and wine.

Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of bread and wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by Holy Scripture, but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthrows the nature of a Sacrament, and has given occasion to many superstitions.

Article XXVIII further declares that sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was not commanded by Christ to be reserved, carried about, lifted up or worshipped. Anglo-Catholic and Roman Catholic practices of reserving the sacrament, carrying the Host in a monstrance or other vessel in processions, elevating the Host after the consecration, and eucharistic adoration before the Host in a monstrance or tabernacle are, from the perspective of the Reformers, contrary to Christ’s command. This includes genuflecting to the altar upon which stands the tabernacle when entering a church. It also includes bowing or making any other kind of obeisance to the altar or the Host. From the Reformers’ perspective such practices savor of idolatry. Any Church tradition that justifies these practices is an example of how men “make void the Word of God for the sake of their tradition.”

Article XXIX was not included in the original revised draft of the Articles. Elizabeth was at the time involved in negotiations with the Lutheran German princes and was contemplating marriage to one of them.

The wicked and those who are void of a lively faith, although they do carnally and visibly press with their teeth (as S. Augustine said) the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ, yet in no wise are they partakers of Christ, but rather to their condemnation do eat and drink the sign or sacrament of so great a thing.

Article XXIX stresses that true repentance and a vital faith must be present in recipients of the Lord’s Supper in order for them to be partakers of Christ. Those who are unrepentant and those who lack such faith, in eating and drinking the sign or sacrament of such a great reality, doom themselves to punishment. The implications are that notorious sinners and the unbelieving should not be admitted to the Lord’s Table. This includes baptized young children who, while they may received the sacrament of regeneration, have manifest no evidence of regeneration in the form of repentance and faith, and who are, due to their age, maturity, and level of understanding, incapable of the self-examination requisite to receiving the sacrament. Repentance and faith are corollaries of each other, the flip sides of the same coin. It also includes unrepentant and unbelieving adults irrespective of whether they have been baptized. It rules out the practice of infant and paedo-communion that has gained a measure of acceptance in the Western Churches since the Liturgical Movement of the 1960s and the practice of open communion that liberals in The Episcopal Church and other Anglican provinces have been promoting. The canons of the Anglican Church in North America in admitting young baptized children to the Lord’s Table irregardless of whether they show any evidence of repentance and faith and capacity for self-examination run afoul of Article XXIX, which the ACNA constitution in its Fundamental Declarations treats as thing of the past along with the other Articles in sharp contrast to the Jerusalem Declaration.

Article XXX stresses that both parts of the Lord’s sacrament, the wine as well as the bread, by Christ’s ordinance and commandment, ought to be administered alike to all Christian persons. The cup of the Lord should not be withheld from the laity. Article XXX rejects the practice of administering the sacrament under one kind only as contrary to Christ’s ordinance and commandment. It, by extension, puts aside as wholly unacceptable the practice of a non-communing Mass in which only the priest receives the sacrament and the laity attend solely for the purposes of witnessing the sacrifice of the Mass and adoring the Host.

The Articles rule out a number of usages that have come to form a part of the eucharistic practice and piety of traditionalist Anglo-Catholics, charismatic Convergentists, and independent Catholics. These usages fall well outside of what the English Reformers concluded from their study of the New Testament are the due order and discipline of the ministration of the sacraments as ordained by Christ. Churches where such customs are practiced, in the Reformers’ perspective, do not display the second mark of the true visible church.

In Part 5 of “The Three Marks of the Visible Church” we will continue our examination of the connection between the second mark that the English Reformers recognized as distinguishing the visible Church of Christ and their theology of the sacraments. We will be looking at the 1662 Restoration Book of Common Prayer and its predecessors, the 1552 Edwardian Prayer Book, the 1559 Elizabethan Prayer Book, and the 1604 Jacobean Prayer Book.

18 comments:

Jordan said...

What would you say about the reservation of the sacrament to take to the sick or for use in churches without a full-time priest?

Jordan said...

What would you say about the reservation of the sacrament to take to the sick or for use in churches without a full-time priest?

Joe Mahler said...

What would you say about just having Communion for the Sick according to the 1662 BCP?

Jordan said...

What if there's no priest available?

Joe Mahler said...

Spiritual Communion would be in order.

Jordan said...

I don't understand the Reformed Anglican hostility towards reservation when you can perfectly reserve the sacrament for godly usage without encouraging idolatry. We've been doing it for years at our Anglican university fellowship and if I were to try to venerate the elements our campus minister would have a serious rebuke for me as well as a confused look from our students wondering why I would do that. It's as if there is a false dichotomy between reservation and benediction. The early church specifically reserved the sacrament for the sick who couldn't be with the community at divine services and ONLY for that purpose.

Joe Mahler said...

Article XXIII. Of the Lord's Supper
(last paragraph) "The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was not by Christ's ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshipped."
Really, what is the purpose of the bread without the prayers or recalling of the "Redemption by Christ's death". Isn't Christ present in the believer?
There were many early church practices but the Reformed Anglican tries to get back to the Biblical church standard. Unfortunately many times one thing lead to another. What special grace does a reserved sacrament do? Any more that a Spiritual Communion?

Joe Mahler said...

Article XXX. Of both kinds:
"The Cup of the Lord is not to be denied to the Lay-people: for both the parts of the Lord's Sacrament, by Christ's ordinance and commandment, ought to be ministered to all Christian men alike."
Do you also reserve the cup?

Jordan said...

"Do you also reserve the cup?"

Of course, well, not the "cup" but the wine is contained in a cruet and poured into another one at the time of the service.

"What special grace does a reserved sacrament do? Any more that a Spiritual Communion?"

Of course spiritual communion is a valued practice in the church, however, Holy Communion is something special. Calvin teaches us that when we partake of the bread and the wine we partake of Christ's Body and Blood through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Joe Mahler said...

And in Spiritual Communion do we not "partake of Christ's Body and Blood through the power of the Holy Spirit."

Jordan said...

I think Calvin would tell us that they are different ways of communicating with Christ's Body and Blood because one is the specific commandment from Christ to use bread and wine, and he has promised us that he will always be with us when we take hte bread and the wine, therefore, in obedience to Christ, I feel it is crucial to give weight to his command to take the breadn and drink the cup.

Joe Mahler said...

The 1662 BCP does not permit a layman to preside at a Communion service under any circumstance. But really, is the bread and wine any more sanctified just because a presbyter (priest) does so? If a person were to eat bread and drink wine after a spiritual manner in remembrance of redemptive sacrifice of himself wouldn't that be sufficient. But in Anglicanism that would be frowned on. But is it forbidden Biblically? Would it be heresy? The Christian is grafted into the vine and is fed by it. Do we not feed on Christ and drink his blood in our lives, by Christ's presence in us?

Jordan said...

I think there's a difference here between Calvin's views of the Eucharist and Bullinger's receptionism. I've heard Calvin's view described as "suprasubstantiation" to differentiate it from Bullinger's receptionism and Zwingli's memorialism, i.e. the three Reformed eucharistic theologies. Calvin tells us that we really do feed on Christ's real body and blood in Communion, just not in the elements themselves but by the power of the Spirit. However, Jesus had attached this promise to the reception of the elements, therefore they are God-ordained instruments of grace according to Calvin and there is a real sacramental union with the sign and the thing signified.

"The 1662 BCP does not permit a layman to preside at a Communion service under any circumstance. But really, is the bread and wine any more sanctified just because a presbyter (priest) does so? If a person were to eat bread and drink wine after a spiritual manner in remembrance of redemptive sacrifice of himself wouldn't that be sufficient. But in Anglicanism that would be frowned on. But is it forbidden Biblically? Would it be heresy? The Christian is grafted into the vine and is fed by it. Do we not feed on Christ and drink his blood in our lives, by Christ's presence in us?"

To respond, the 1662 does not allow a layperson to preside over the consecration of the elements, however, in pastoral emergency, perhaps it would have been allowed to do a reserved sacrametn service, I am not sure. None of the Reformers would have permitted a layman to celebrate Communion in his home, all being very supportive of the ordained ministry as the God-ordained authority to preach and administer the sacraments. We do not feed on Christ the same way in our livess as in the bread and wine, however, this does not mean Christ is carnally present in the bread nor that it is a sacrifice.

Joe Mahler said...

Back to the original question, still, I see no necessity for the reserved sacrament and find it outlawed by Anglicanism (39 Articles). But I do see the mischief that it may cause and has caused. We need to exercise care.

Joe Mahler said...

Rubric from THE COMMUNION OF THE SICK:
But if a man, either by reason of extremity of sickness, or for want of warning in due time to the Curate, or for lack of company to receive with him, or by any other just impediment, do not receive the Sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood: the Curate shall instruct him that if he do truly repent him of his sins, and stedfastly believe that Jesus Christ hath suffered death upon the Cross for him, and shed his Blood for his redemption, earnestly remembering the benefits he hath thereby, and giving him hearty thanks therefore; he doth eat and drink the Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ profitably to his soul's health, although he do no receive the Sacrament with his mouth.

Robin G. Jordan said...

Jordan,

In reference to your earlier comment, "What would you say,etc.," what is at issue not what I would say but what the Reformers said. Taking the reserved sacrament to the sick every Sunday or during the week is a contemporary practice. The 1552-1604 Prayer Books in permitting the leftover bread and wine to be used by the curate adopt the position that after the communion the elements revert to their previous unconsecrated state. The Reformers rejected the idea that Christ was in or under the form of bread and wine or with the bread and wine.

A number of Elizabethan churches did not have full-time priests. The bishop appointed readers to read the prayers, church women, and bury the dead. The 1559 Elizabethan Prayer Book required every parishioner to communicate "at the least three times in the yere, of which Easter to be one...." The archdeacons and deans were required to make periodic visitations to the parish churches under their oversight. During their visitations they were required to preach the gospel and to administer the sacraments.

What the early Church did--what is known as the rule of antiquity--did not outweigh in the minds of the Reformers the rule of Scripture--what the Holy Scriptures said.

John Calvin is not one of the English Reformers. Calvin is not the magisterium of the Reformation. What Calvin taught does not trump what the other Reformers taught. As the article, "Henry Bullinger The Shepherd of the Churches" notes, Bullinger, not Calvin, had more influence on the English Reformers. The English and Continental Reformers shared many common beliefs that they acquired from their study of the Bible, not from their reading of Calvin. If there was a via media in the Elizabethan Church, it was between Zurich and Geneva, not Rome and Geneva. John Knox went to Geneva; John Jewel went to Zurich. Knox reformed the Scottish Church; Jewel reformed the English Church. The Scottish Church became presbyterian; the English Church retained episcopacy.

Even the Communion of the Sick in the 1662 Restoration Prayer Book teaches. "But if a man, either by reason of extremity of sickness, or for want of warning in due time to the curate, or for lack of company to receive with him, or by any other just impediment, do not receive the Sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood, the Curate shall instruct him, that if he do truly repent him of his sins, and stedfastly believe that Jesus Christ both suffered death upon the Cross for him, and shed his Blood for his redemption, earnestly remembering the benefits he hath thereby, and giving him hearty thanks therefore, he doth eat and drink the Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ profitably to his Soul's health, although he do not receive the Sacrament with his mouth."

You write, "and he has promised us that he will always be with us when we take the bread and the wine." I am not familiar with that passage in Scripture. Would you please point it out to me?

As I will be noting in my next article, one of the reasons the Reformers compiled the Thirty-Nine Articles was to provide the doctrinal standard by which the Prayer Book is to be interpreted. I do not believe that you will find in the Articles any reference Monsieur Calvin or his Institutes of the Christian Religion. The Reformers found his works too obtuse and recommended the works of Bullinger to the English clergy. Bullinger's works were known for their clarity and readibility. The Articles do, however, point out what has ultimate authority for the reformed Church of England. It is the Word of God. For this reason classical Church of England Evangelicals like Charles Simeon and J. C. Ryle describe themselves as "Bible Christians" and not "system-men." Ryle frequented challenges his readers with these words, "What does the Scripture say?"

Jordan said...

So basically Reformed theology is not "Reformed" enough for "Reformed" Anglicans?

Robin G. Jordan said...

Let's not try to put words in other people's mouths. The articles I am writing concern what the English Reformers taught as evidenced in the Church of England formularies, which include the Homilies. Where applicable, I am also looking at Nowell's Catechism, or the Larger Catechism, and the Proposed Canons of 1571 and the Canons of 1604. This is the scope of my articles.