Tuesday, June 28, 2011
The Lord’s Supper
The following article is taken from Prayer Book versus Prayer Book, written by the Rev. Benjamin B. Leacock, and published in 1869. Leacock was an Evangelical in the Protestant Episcopal Church in the USA and the book reflects the concern of Evanglical Episcopalians with the growth of Sacramentarianism in the Protestant Episcopal Church in the nineteenth century. Leacock with Bishop George David Cummins and others would eventually leave the Protestant Episcopal Church in 1873 and form the Reformed Episcopal Church. They sought to establish “a Reformed Church with a Reformed Prayer Book.” Leacock’s views on the Lord’s Supper are characteristic of his fellow Evangelicals and co-founders of the Reformed Episcopal Church.
I am posting this article because the Sacramentarianism against which Leacock inveighs in his book includes the view of the Eucharist that the Rev. Novak champions in his article, “The Holy Eucharist: Christ's Great Gift to the Church, which I posted yesterday. In the closing decades of the twentieth century and the opening decades of the present century Sacramentalism has crept into the Reformed Episcopal Church, facilitated largely by the denomination’s current generation of leaders. The result is that there is no longer any Reformed Evangelical Anglican witness in North America beyond a few churches scattered among the several Anglican bodies that comprise the North American Anglican Church.
Here, again, the two parties are arrayed against each other, and the Prayer Book is the battle-ground. The Evangelical regards the Lord's Supper as a memorial rite. The consecration sets apart the bread and wine from ordinary uses, and gives them a memorial character--nothing more. He believes that in the reception of this sacrament, Christ is present in the heart of the believer, as in the reading of the Word and in prayer; that in proportion as the recipient grasps the great doctrine of the atonement, intended to be set forth in this sacrament, and applies it to his heart and conscience, so does he feed on Christ; and that like baptism, it is a means of grace by virtue of prayer to God. To sustain this view, the Evangelical appeals to the Articles.
The teachings of Article XXV, "Of the Sacraments," has been already considered.
Article XXVIII, treats of the Lord's Supper. It speaks of it,
1. As a sign of the love that Christians ought to have one to another.
2. As a Sacrament, i. e., a sign. (See conclusion of Article XXIX,) of our redemption by Christ's death.
3. As to the worthy recipient, a partaking of the body and blood of Christ.
4. It repudiates the Popish doctrine of transubstantiation.
5. It explains that the eating of the body of Christ is after an heavenly and spiritual manner.
To the question in the Catechism, "Why was the sacrament of the Lord's Supper ordained?" we have the answer: "For the continual remembrance of the sacrifice of the death of Christ, and of the benefits which we receive thereby." Similar teaching we have in the two warnings to the Communion, and throughout the service.
The Sacramentarian's theory differs very essentially from this. He agrees with the Articles so far as they go. But he holds to a great deal more in reference to this sacrament than they teach. In his estimation the Lord's Supper is not only memorial, but sacrificial. He regards the officiating minister as something more than a servant and teacher in the Church. He claims for him a priestly character, and a sacerdotal office. In administering the Communion, he considers him acting as a priest, and offering a sacrifice. By consecration, the bread and wine change not their proper substance, but by the power of the Holy Ghost, they become the body and blood of Christ, the forms under which his glorified body is present, is taken, and is eaten. This is admitted to be mysterious, inexplicable. The earthly priesthood thus offer the body and blood of Christ as an oblation to the Father: those who rightly partake of these consecrated elements, eat the body and drink the blood of Christ--his glorified humanity--and obtain thereby forgiveness of sin.
That this presentation of doctrinal views is not an exaggeration, let us consult the "Manual "already quoted. This remarkable production speaks of the "twofold character" of the Lord's Supper. It says of it: "It is called pre-eminently the Divine Liturgy, as including and comprehending all acts of worship and religion, and as being the first and chief of all rites and functions; and it is both a sacrifice and a sacrament.
"It is the great commemorative sacrifice of the Church, unbloody, mystical and spiritual; accompanying the perpetual oblation of Himself, which our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ, makes in heaven, where he ever liveth and intercedes for us. In it the Passion of Christ is perpetually shown forth to the Almighty Father, and HIS PRIESTS ON EARTH UNITE IN THE OBLATION WHICH HE MAKES AT THE MERCY-SEAT "(p. 52).
Certain explanations are given:
1. "The sign: called Sacramentum. Bread and wine: simply elements of daily sustenance. These remain in their proper substance after consecration, retaining their proper nature; and yet they undergo a mystical change whereby they become the FORMS UNDER WHICH CHRIST IS PRESENT.
2. "The thing signified: called Res. The body and blood of Christ; His glorified humanity, which after a manner inexplicable and without any parallel in the range of our knowledge, becomes present after consecration, not locally or physically, according to the laws of material and carnal bodies, but super-locally, hyperphysically, and spiritually, in some way believed on by the Church, but known only to God "(p. 53).
We have seen that there is nothing in the Articles to give the least coloring of approval to such views. How is it with the offices? Will they authorize it?
In the Communion Office there is a portion called "the Oblation." This word signifies primarily "an offering." It is so used in the prayer for the Church Militant--"Accept our alms and oblations." It is also used in the sense of "a sacrifice." This is its meaning in the prayer of consecration: "By his one oblation of himself once offered," and it is in this latter sense, according to the Sacramentarian, that the word oblation is attached to this part of the service as a title or designation. The Sacramentarian here plants himself upon "the teaching of the Church." As we look into this prayer, we find that it is an offering of bread and wine, not to the Triune God, but to the Heavenly Father. The prayer reads: "We thy humble servants, do celebrate and make here before thy Divine Majesty, with these thy holy gifts, which we now offer unto thee, the memorial," etc. It is the people who make the offering, but through a divinely-appointed representative. And who is he? The Prayer Book calls him a Priest, and our Church has specially set him apart for certain specified duties that he only can perform. One of these duties is to consecrate the elements, and to make the oblation in behalf of the people, as set forth in this prayer. He and he only can consecrate. Without his presence there could not be a sacrament. Neither layman nor deacon could make it. Even the Evangelical would shrink from receiving elements that had not been consecrated by a "priest." As a part of this consecration, he offers these "holy gifts "in the behalf of the people, to the Heavenly Father. Here are two features of the priestly office distinctly brought out. A priest is one "taken from among men, . . . . ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins "(Heb. v, 1). Here is an officer taken from among men, and ordained to offer gifts to God for men. But does that gift partake of the nature of a sacrifice? Is it for sins? The Sacramentarian says, Yes. In a certain sense the Christian body is a priesthood, and there are certain prescribed gifts, which all Christians are required to offer. But here is a divinely-appointed officer, that supersedes them in their office, and who is appointed to offer a gift that they may not offer. This offering must therefore be something more than a gift--it must be a sacrifice, and if a sacrifice, then it must be for sin. From this reasoning we have the Sacramental theory:
1. "The office of a priest is a pastoral and sacrificial one" (p. 40, Manual, etc.)
2. "The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, the Great Commemorative Sacrifice of the Church, unbloody, mystical, and spiritual," etc. (p. 52, Ibid.)
3. "Through the Holy Ghost, we receive the remission of sins, . . in the Holy Communion "(p. 39, Ibid). "Ques. When do we receive forgiveness of sin after Baptism? Ans. By Absolution and the Holy Communion" (p. 86).
And these deductions from this portion of the communion office are not strained. The Edwardian Reformers felt the force of them, and convinced of the dangerous tendency of this Oblation prayer, removed it from the communion office of the English Prayer-Book. Nor with all the High-Church tampering with that Book, has it ever been restored. Unfortunately, Bishop Seabury's influence placed it in our service from the Scottish Prayer Book.
Then, again, we have the "Invocation" prayer. It follows immediately after the Oblation. In this prayer the merciful Father is asked to bless and sanctify with his Word and Holy Spirit the bread and wine. The natural inference here is, that some miraculous operation is invoked upon "the bread and wine," through the agency of the "Word and Holy Spirit," and we are left in no doubt as to what this agency is: it is to make this "bread and wine "to the recipient, the body and blood of Christ. "Bless and sanctify with thy Word and Holy Spirit these thy creatures of bread and wine, that we, receiving them according to . . . Christ's holy institution . . may be partakers of his body and blood." And here again the Sacramentarian takes his stand, and feels himself authorized by this prayer to use such language as this: "The sacrament is complete in itself when, by the power of the Holy Ghost, and by the words of consecration, the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ." "The body and blood of Christ; His glorified humanity" (Manual, p. 53).
And such teachings are not unnatural from the spirit and intent of the prayer. The Reformers saw the drift of it, and wisely omitted the words, "Of thy Almighty goodness, vouchsafe to bless and sanctify, with thy Word and Holy Spirit, these thy gifts and creatures of bread and wine." They have never been restored to the English service. For their use in our Prayer Book, we are again indebted to Bishop Seabury.
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 11:37 AM