Lord Supper

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A Full Defense of his Opinions

knoxJohn02In February 1549, after an imprisonment of 19 months, Knox obtained his release from the French galleys. Since he probably obtained his freedom due to the intercession of King Edward VI or the English government (they had been negotiating for the release of English and Scottish protestant prisoners in exchange for French prisoners), he came to London, and was favorably received by Archbishop Cranmer and the lords of council. He remained in England for five years, during which time he was first appointed preacher to Berwick, then to Newcastle.

At Berwick, where he labored for two years, he preached with his characteristic fervor and zeal, exposing the errors of Romanism with unsparing severity. Although Protestantism was the official position of the Church of England since the reign of Henry VIII, there were many loyal Roman Catholics (papists), even in the high ranks of the clergy. The bishop of John Knox’s diocese, Dr. Cuthbert Tunstall, was an avid Catholic. Knox was accused of asserting that the sacrifice of the Mass is idolatrous, and was cited to appear before the bishop to give an account of his preaching. On April 4, 1550, Knox entered into a full defense of his opinions, and with the utmost boldness proceeded to argue that the mass is a superstitious and idolatrous substitute for the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. (vol. 3 of History 54,-56). The bishop did not venture to pronounce any ecclesiastical censure.

The fame of the preacher was only extended by this feeble attempt to restrain his boldness. From a manuscript discovered in the 1870’s titled, “The practice of the Lord’s Supper used in Berwick by John Knox, 1550,” we now know that the very beginning of Puritan practice in the Church of England in the administration of the Lord’s Supper is to be found in the practice followed by Knox at Berwick, inasmuch as he substituted common bread for the bread wafers, and gave the first example of substituting sitting instead of kneeling in the receiving of communion.

“It was during this time [1553] that John Knox developed a theology of resistance to tyranny. He began smuggling pamphlets into England. The most significant of these was the Admonition to England. With this move, he had stepped into new territory, going further than any Reformer had previously gone.”–Francis Schaeffer, from A Christian Manifesto

Words to Live By:
We Presbyterians owe much to John Knox and we would profit greatly from taking up a fresh study of his life and writings. 2014 was the 500th anniversary of his birth, and so we had many posts last year on facets of his ministry. In his time, he stood resolutely for the Scriptures and was greatly blessed of God to bring about real change in his nation. Even now God has placed among us those who can and are speaking with bold testimony to the eternal truths of the Gospel. We need not name them. We cannot name them all. But we can all remember to pray for those whom the Lord will use for His glory in these trying times. May the Lord give us strong voices to faithfully declare His Word.

Psalm 20
The Lord hear thee in the day of trouble;
the name of the God of Jacob defend thee;
Send thee help from the sanctuary,
and strengthen thee out of Zion;
Remember all thy offerings,
and accept thy burnt sacrifice; Selah.
Grant thee according to thine own heart,
and fulfil all thy counsel.
We will rejoice in thy salvation,
and in the name of our God we will set up our banners:
the Lord fulfil all thy petitions.
Now know I that the Lord saveth his anointed;
he will hear him from his holy heaven
with the saving strength of his right hand.
Some trust in chariots, and some in horses:
but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.
They are brought down and fallen:
but we are risen, and stand upright.
Save, Lord:
let the king hear us when we call.

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As a bonus, and as our church this morning observed the Lord’s Supper, here is an interesting quote, accompanied by two recipes.

Communion Bread

“In some parts of Scotland, short bread was till quite recently chosen as the most appropriate bread for the Christian passover. [i.e., communion]. During the first year of my own ministry in Galloway, I was one day accosted by the beadle [i.e., sexton], and told that he and his friends were hoping I would give them short bread at the sacrament. ‘We used to have it till three years ago’, he said, ‘and we thought it very shabby in the minister to change the old custom and give us plain bread.’ . . . I cannot make out whether shortbread was ever used or not at the communion in Maunchline. I have heard old people say that in their fathers’ or grandfathers’ days it was used in some Parishes in Ayrshire, and the expression in our records two hundred years ago, ‘bringing home the bread,’ rather indicates that it was not ordinary bread that was used, but bread that had to be brought from a distance. At the present day, as may be seen from the last published volume of the Queen’s Journal, the communion bread in some parts of Aberdeenshire is cut into small cubes like dice. These are put on large plates, and on the top of them are two or three longer peces of bread for the ministers to break before distribution . . . ”

Source: Old Church Life in Scotland: Lectures on Kirk-Session and Presbytery Records, by Andrew Edgar (London: Alexander Gardner, 1885), pp. 148-149. As cited in Communion Tokens: Their Origin, History and Use, by Mary McWhorter Tenney (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1936), p. 52, where she adds in footnote 121 that “Shortbread is a peculiarly Scottish cake. There is not taint of leaven in its composition. This is the reason they assigned for using it.” Elsewhere, I have seen another statement, which I like, that shortbread was used, “because we bring the Lord the best we have.”

Two Recipes for Communion Bread, courtesy of Roberta Collison:

Grandcote Reformed Presbyterian Church (PCA), Coulterville, Illinois recipe:

2-3 cups of flour

1 tsp of baking powder

A pinch of salt

1/2 cup of sugar

1/4 cup of shortening

1 egg

1/2 cup of milk

Cut the shortening into the first four ingredients. Blend in beaten egg and milk. Roll out on cookie sheet and score into 1/2 inch squares, before baking at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

The Covenant Presbyterian Church, St. Louis, Missouri recipe:

3 cups of flour

1/2 cup of sugar

1/2 cup of Crisco shortening

2 tsp of baking powder

1/2 tsp of salt

3/4 cup of milk

Cut in shortening to dry ingredients. Add milk. Blend. roll on floured surface. Finish pressing into approximately 12″ x 18″ jelly roll pan. Cut before baking at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Cut again before cooling. Serves 550-600.

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Our post today is drawn from Richard Webster’s History of the Presbyterian Church in America (1857).

He was full of prayers.

Alexander Cumming was born at Freehold, New Jersey, in 1726.  His father, Robert Cumming, from Montrose, Scotland, was an elder, and often sat in synod.

He was educated under his maternal uncle, Samuel Blair, and studied theology with his pastor, William Tennent.  Licensed by the New-Side Presbytery of Newcastle, in 1746 or ‘’47, he was sent by the synod, in compliance with pressing supplications, and spent some time in Augusta county, Virginia.  He was the first Presbyterian minister that preached within the bounds of Ten-nessee.  Remaining some time in North Carolina, he married Eunice, daughter of Colonel Thomas Polk, the President (in May, 1775) of the Mecklenburg Convention.

He was a stated supply in Pennsylvania for some time.  Though not ordained, he opened the Synod of New York with a sermon, in September, 1750.  In the following month he was ordained, by New York Presbytery, and installed collegiate pastor with Pemberton, in New York.

Unanimously called, his clear, discriminating mind, his habits of close study, his instructive and excellent preaching, his happy faculty of disentangling and exhibiting difficult and abstruse subjects, peculiarly attracted and delighted his more cultivated hearers.  The Hon. William Smith, in writing to Bellamy, says, “His defect in delivery was not natural, but the effect of bad example:  his elocution, however, is not, and cannot ever be, as prompt as yours.”  But before the second year of his ministry closed, the presbytery was called to consider the difficulties which had arisen, and, in 1752, referred the case to the synod.  The complaints against him were, that, when disabled by sickness, he did not invite Pemberton to preach; that he insisted on his right as pastor to sit with the trustees, and manage the temporalities; for encouraging the introduction of Watts’s Psalms, and for insisting on family prayer as a necessary prerequisite in every one to whose child he administered baptism.

He requested to be dismissed, October 25, 1753, because his low state of health would not allow him to go on with his work in the divided, confused state of the congregation.  No opposition was made, and he was dismissed.

Cumming joined with his parishioners, Livingston, Smith, and Scott, in publishing the “Watch-Tower,” the “Reflector,” the “Independent Whig,”—spirited, patriotic appeals against the steady encroachments of the royal prerogative on our constitutional liberties.

In feeble health, and with little prospect of usefulness, he remained without charge till February 25, 1761, when he was in-stalled pastor of the Old South Church in Boston.  He preached on that occasion, and Pemberton gave the charge, and welcomed him.  “I do it with the greater pleasure, being persuaded, from a long and intimate acquaintance, that you are animated by the spirit of Christ in taking this office upon you, and that you desire no greater honour or happiness than to be an humble instrument to promote the kingdom of our adorable Redeemer.”

William Allen,[1] of Philadelphia, Chief-Justice of Pennsylvania, wrote to Dr. Mayhew, of Boston, in 1763, and thanked him for the gift of two sermons, “which, you hint, were preached on ac-count of Mr. Cumming’s reveries; for I can call nothing that comes from him by a better name, nor ought I, if he continues to be the same man he was with us.  He offered himself to the congregation here, of which I am a member:  though the greater part are moderate Calvinists, they could not relish his doctrines.” After charging Cumming with teaching that works are dangerous to the soul, faith being every thing, he adds, “He may be a pious, well-disposed man, but I believe he is a gloomy, dark enthusiast, and a great perverter of the religion of Jesus Christ as taught in the gospel.”

To Allen and Mayhew, Cumming seemed “an extravagant fanatic.”  It was a wonder how he could have been admitted a minister in Boston.  Yet he was condemned as a Legalist by the favourers of the other extreme.

Andrew Croswell, a zealous follower of Davenport, had settled in Boston.  He published a sermon, with the title, “What is Christ to me if he is not mine?” presenting the view—perhaps distorted—of Marshall, in his “Gospel Mystery of Sanctification,” and Hervey, in his “Theron and Aspasio.”  Cumming replied, taking the ground of Bellamy.  It was perhaps his earnestness on this point that arrayed his Scottish hearers against him in New York.  They had the Erskines in great reverence:  they loved the doctrines which rallied Scotland’s best men against the Assembly’s decision in the Marrow controversy.  Smith speaks, in his history, contemptuously of the opposition, as of the lower class; and Robert Philip brands it as a cabal of ignorance and bigotry.[2]  The fact that these persons called the Rev. John Mason from Scotland, and that they and their children constituted the congregation of Dr. John M. Mason, is a sufficient refutation of these charges.

Cumming died August 23, 1763.  “He was full of prayers, with a lively, active soul in a feeble body.”  This was the testimony of the excellent Dr. Sewall, with whom he was joined as colleague in Boston.

[1] Bradford’s Life of Mayhew.

[2] Nothing of this sort is intimated in the private correspondence of the leading members of the congregation.

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Laboring Outside the Limelight

Charles Tennent, the fourth son of the Rev. William Tennent, Sr., was born at Coleraine, in the county of Down, on May 3d, 1711. There he was baptized by the Rev. Richard Donnell. When his father gathered the family and immigrated to the American colonies from Ireland. Charles would have been just seven years old. Like his older brothers, he received his education from his father, and in particular, his education for the ministry was gained in the famous Log College run by the Rev. Tennent, Sr.  The Tennents and the Log College figured prominently in the Old Side/New Side split of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. It could even be said that they were the principal cause of the split, which began in 1741 and which was finally mended in 1758.

While Charles appears to have been less distinguished than his brothers, he nonetheless was a respectable pastor and preacher of the Gospel. The Presbytery of New Castle licensed Charles to preach, on September 20, 1736, and he was soon settled in place to serve the Presbyterian congregation at Whiteclay Creek, Delaware, in 1737. In 1739, the great revival under the preaching of George Whitefield began, greatly affecting this particular congregation. During this remarkable season of God’s presence, Rev. Whitefield spent a number of days ministering with Charles Tennent, and assisted him in the administration of the Lord’s Supper, preaching to a great multitude of people every day during that communion season, which, according to the custom of the times, continued for four days.

Some years before his death, Rev. Charles Tennent resigned his pulpit at Whiteclay Creek and withdrew to Buckingham Church, in Maryland. It was there that he ended his days, passing away in 1771. It is presumed that his mortal remains were buried there. Regarding those final years, and the circumstances of his death, there are no confirmed accounts.

Words to Live By:
Most pastors conduct their ministries without fanfare, attention or great crowds. They may labor in the shadow of better known contemporaries. Their congregations may be relatively small. But the joys of a faithful ministry have an eye to eternity, and don’t depend upon numbers or other worldly reward.

Also on this Day:
On this day, May 3d, in 1895, Cornelius Van Til was born.

 

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

Similarities and Differences in the Two Sacraments

The month of November must have been the month when all Presbyterians went on Sabbatical!  We have never had so many dates when this writer has been forced to say that little or no significant dates of Presbyterian history have been found.  But December will be better for Presbyterian dates.  For now, on November 30, we go to two questions and answers from the Larger Catechism, and together these will end our extended study on the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

Question and answer 176 reads: “Wherein do the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper agree?  A.  The sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper agree, in that the author of both is God; the spiritual part of both is Christ and his benefits; both are seals of the same covenant, are to be dispensed by ministers of the gospel, and by none other; and to be continued in the church of Christ until his second coming.”

Question and answer 177 reads: “Wherein do the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper differ?  A.  The sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper differ, in that baptism is to be administered but once, with water, to be a sign and seal of our regeneration and ingrafting into Christ, and that even to infants; whereas the Lord’s supper is to be administered often, in the elements of bread and wine, to represent and exhibit Christ as spiritual nourishment to the soul, and to confirm our continuance and growth in  him, and that only to such as are of years and ability to examine themselves.”

Both of these questions would be great questions to ask potential officers of our churches, including those who would seek to be pastors in our presbyteries, for they require an overall understanding of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  Indeed, they are an excellent teaching tool for the Christian parent to prepare the children for church membership.

There are five areas of agreement between the two sacraments. For both, the author is God.  Christ and His benefits are represented as being instituted. Both are seals of the covenant of grace. Both are church sacraments.  And both are to be practiced until we see Christ in the flesh at His second coming.

The differences are simple and understandable.  The outward elements are water, in the one, contrasted with bread and wine in the other sacrament. Then too, the timing of Christ’s benefits to the believer differ, in that baptism speaks of the beginning of the Christian life, while Communion speaks of its continuance. Baptism is to be done once and not repeated. The Communion is to be done often. Baptism includes infants while the Lord’s Supper implies the ability to discern the elements.

Words to live by:  Our two catechisms considered today are definitely doctrinal in scope.  Yet at the same time, they presuppose a basic understanding of the two sacraments which will enable God’s people to participate in them with a greater  understanding.  Let us make sure that their spiritual experience describe us, not just their outward and external experience.  “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?. . . .” (ESV – 2 Corinthians 13:5c)

Through the Scriptures:  Acts 20:2 ; Romans 1 – 4

Through the Standards:  Rules for keeping some from partaking

WLC 173 — “May any who profess the faith, and desire to come to the Lord’s supper, be kept from it?
A.  Such as are found to be ignorant or scandalous, notwithstanding their profession of the faith, and desire to come to the Lord’s supper, may and ought to be kept from that sacrament, by the power which Christ has left in his church, until they receive instruction, and manifest their reformation.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

A Forgotten Duty After Participating in the Lord’s Supper

With little of national Presbyterian history found yesterday or today, we return to the next Larger Catechism which deals with an important, but neglectful duty after we have  participated in holy Communion. It is Larger Catechism 175, which asks and answers, “What is the duty of Christians, after they have received the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper?  A.  The duty of Christians, after they have received the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, is seriously to consider how they have behaved themselves therein, and with what success; if they find quickening and comfort, to bless God for it, beg the continuance of it, watch against relapses, fulfill their vows, and encourage themselves to a frequent attendance on that ordinance: but if they find no present benefit, more exactly to review their preparation to, and carriage at the sacrament; in both which, if they can approve themselves to God and their own consciences, they are to wait for the fruit of it in due time; but, if they see that they have failed in either, they are to be humbled, and to attend upon it afterward with more care and diligence.”

There are to be spiritual benefits as a result of your participation in the Lord’s Supper.  That is what is meant by the phrase “quickening and comfort” in the answer. If you find them in spiritual lives, then bless God for them. He is the Author of them. Beg that the Holy Spirit continue them in your spiritual life. The Psalmist David prayed in Psalm 36:10 “O continue thy lovingkindness unto them that know thee. . . .” (KJV)  Watching against relapses is a major concern.  Paul stated “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” (1 Corinthians 10:12 ESV)  What promises did you make to  your God and to God’s people  in your last participation?  Pay them, or fulfil them is necessary.  We put off too many of God’s commands.  And last, be sure to be present and accounted for the next time the Lord’s Supper is planned in your congregation.

But what if you can, upon searching your own heart and life, find no present spiritual benefits, what then?  After reviewing both your preparation for and participating in the Sacrament (see L.C. 171 and 174), and you find that you can approve yourselves before God and your own conscience, then be patient and wait for it in due time.  He will bless it eventually. But if you find out that you were careless in either the preparation or the participating, then be humbled and attend to the next observance with more care and diligence.  In other words, if Jesus has not returned the second time to this earth, let’s do it right and proper in the eyes of the Lord Jesus, the One we love and serve.

Words to live by:  There is to be a place for self-examination in the life of the Christian.  We use to hear of a phrase which spoke of “a mountain-top experience.” It usually spoke of a special time of communing with God and those of like precious faith at a Bible conference or Men’s or Women’s week or weekend retreat. They have their place in the life of the Christian and Christian church. But in one sense, if Larger Catechisms 171, 174, and 175 were faithfully adhered to and followed by the individual Christian, or church, the “mountain-top experience” would be found in our respective homes and churches.  Forget about revival week! Each month or quarter observance of the Lord’s Supper would be a revival day or month or quarter in our congregations and denomination. The Holy Spirit could yet bring a revival upon our respective churches. Oh Lord, begin such a revival, and Lord, begin it in me.

Through the Scriptures:  2 Corinthians 7 – 9

Through the Standards:  Participation before partaking

WSC 97 — “What is required to the worthy receiving to the Lord’s supper?
A. It is required of them that would worthily partake of the Lord’s Supper, that they examine themselves of their knowledge to discern the Lord’s body, of their faith to feed upon him, of their repentance, love, and new obedience; lest, coming unworthily, they eat and drink judgment to themselves.”  (See also L.C. 171)

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

Waiting Upon  God When You Take Communion

It was back on November 14 that the duties prior to the serving of Communion were laid down for our readers in Larger Catechism 171. Now we arrive at the duties of Communion while the Supper is being served, taken from Larger Catechism 174.

This catechism asks and answers “What is required of them that receive the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper in the time of the administration of it?  Answer: “It is required of them that receive the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, that, during the time of the administration of it, with all holy reverence and attention they wait unto God in that ordinance, diligently observe the sacramental elements and actions, heedfully discern the Lord’s body, and affectionately meditate on his death and sufferings, and thereby stir themselves to a vigorous exercise of their graces; in judging themselves, and sorrowing for sin; in earnest hungering and thirsting after Christ, feeding on him by faith, receiving of his fulness, trusting in his merits, rejoicing in his love, giving thanks for his grace; in renewing of their covenant with God, and love to all the saints.”

We are, as our title puts it, “to wait unto God with all holy reverence and attention.”  In one sense, this is to be our attitude and action with respect to the worship service itself. This writer could speak and write volumes about some people who do anything and everything but worship the Lord during the church. Generally speaking, American Christians have lost the sacredness of worshiping the holy God. But this reverent and attentive waiting upon God should especially be true of us during this ordinance which particularly takes us back to our Savior’s atonement on our behalf. An undivided focus is absolutely necessary, especially if we follow the requirements enunciated in this catechetical answer.

First, we are to “diligently to observe the sacramental elements and actions.”  Outwardly, those elements are “bread and wine,” but spiritually, they are our Lord’s body and blood.  Do we “discern the Lord’s body?” in this sense, or do we just see them as bread and juice? Obviously, there is required some doctrinal knowledge of this sacrament, and a historical understanding of what took place at the first observance of the sacrament. An earnest listening to the reading of 1 Corinthians 11:23 – 34 is called for by the participant.

The sacramental “actions” are also to be observed closely. There is so much ignorance of this in our congregations. First, the Savior took the elements from the table. This signifies Christ taking a human nature (body and soul) unto Himself when He was born in Bethlehem. Then, Jesus put His blessing on the elements, giving thanks for them, and setting them apart from their ordinary usage to a special religion usage. Our Savior Himself was set apart for His special  work as the Redeemer of God’s elect. Next, He broke the bread, an action signifying His body broken on the cross for us. Fourth, He gave the elements to the apostles, signifying the gift of Christ to sinners by God’s infinite grace. The next action was by the communicants, as they received the elements, as sinners receive Christ as Savior by grace alone through faith alone. And last, communicants eat the bread and juice, signifying our dependence on Christ for spiritual life and growth.  All these are the needed observation of the sacramental actions, which you and I must observe.

The rest of the answer speaks of our spiritual attitudes and actions at the communion table.  We are to judge ourselves, sorrowing for our sins.  There must be an intense desire for fellowship with our Savior.  What about an attitude of dependence upon Him, not just in our salvation, but also in our sanctification?  All this is found in “feeding on him by faith, receiving of his fulness, trusting in her merits, rejoicing in his love, giving thanks for his grace.”  And last, but not least, the true nature of the sacrament, which is a military term speaking of loyalty and obedience and faithfulness to our commander, is necessary. To the captain of our salvation, we renew our covenant to belong to Him, and mutual love to our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Words to live by: The next time you observe the Lord’s Supper in your congregation, take this catechism either with you, or remember its attitudes and actions. It is your duty during the administration the occasion of the Lord’s Supper. Let it be then a revival of your soul in your renewed love for the Lord Jesus Christ, who loved you and gave Himself for you.

Through the Scriptures:  2 Corinthians 4 – 6

Through the Standards: Manner of partaking the Lord’s Supper.

WLC 170 — “How do they that worthily communicate in the Lord’s Supper feed upon the body and blood of Christ therein?
A. As the body and blood of Christ are not corporally or carnally present in, with, and under the bread and wine in the Lord’s supper, and yet are spiritually present to the faith of the receiver, no less truly and really than the elements are to their outward senses; so they that worthily communicate in the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, do therein feed upon the body and blood of Christ, not after a corporal and carnal, but in a spiritual manner; yet truly and really, while by faith they receive and apply themselves Christ crucified, and all the benefits of his death.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

Excluding Some from Partaking of the Lord’s Supper

It was back on November 20th that this historical devotional began to look at what the Larger Catechism states about  partaking of the Lord’s Supper.   We continue with that theme on this day, November 25, finding no specific Presbyterian topic for our consideration.   What is involved in excluding some people from the Lord’s Supper.

Larger Catechism question 173 asks “May any who profess the faith, and desire to come to the Lord’s Supper, be kept from it?  And the answer, “Such as are found to be ignorant or scandalous, notwithstanding  their profession of faith, and desire to come to the Lord’s Supper, may and ought to be kept from that sacrament, by the power which Christ has left in the church, until they receive instruction, and manifest their reformation.”

It is clear that this catechism answer speaks of some “who are found to be ignorant or scandalous” being excluded from the participation in the Lord’s Supper. On their part, they have a profession of faith and an equal desire to partake of the elements of bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper.  And so many might think that the issue is settled.  They believe and they have the desire to participate. Isn’t that enough? Our Confessional fathers answer that it is not enough of a reason to participate in this Sacrament.

First, there may be by these ready participants an “ignorance” about their profession of faith.  This ignorance may be the result of simply an absence of what biblical Christianity is, or on the other end, they might believe and accept some theological errors regarding biblical Christianity. Both of these constitute a reason to exclude them from the Sacrament when it is offered by the church.

Then there is another exclusion, and it is with respect to a “scandalous” manner of life.  The profession might be present, but the possession of faith is doubtful due to a carnal or fleshly lifestyle. The individual is openly carrying on a conduct which violates the Ten Commandments, for example. Such an individual shows that he or she does not understand the work of sanctification in the Christian life.

Now, in both of these cases of ignorance and scandalous living, the Catechetical fathers do not specifically state what they mean. They wisely leave it up to the spiritual courts of session, presbytery, and general assembly to determine this.  Sometimes, a local church will designate conduct which it believes is contrary to Christian doctrine and living.The “power which Christ has left in his church”refers to biblical church discipline which must be carried on by each church for its overall purity. And with most of our Presbyterian and Reformed churches, that is the purpose of the Book of Discipline in our Book of Church Order. There are found specific guidelines with respect to the use of “that power which Christ has left in his church.”

This catechism holds out the remedy to any who might be precluded, namely, “until they receive instruction, and manifest their reformation.” There is a place, and it usually is found in the membership class held to any who wish to join the church, for “instruction” with respect to both faith and life as seen in the Bible. When reformation is manifested after instruction is given with respect to their manner of lives, (and it may have to  happen for a definition or indefinite period of time,) then the door will be opened to participate in the Lord’s Supper.

Words to live by:  In the early part of our country’s history, in Presbyterian circles, this was the task of the pastor, and Session of Elders, if there were any, to examine the participants as to their faith and life.  Finding an understanding of the things which were of God, and hearing about their conduct, they then gave each potential participant a metal token, which was then turned in on the day of Communion. That practice has gone away and it  is then dependent upon the discernment of the Session of Elders that they have a spiritual understanding of the members under their shepherding care in determining their qualifications to partake of the break and wine. Pray for your elders—teaching and ruling elders—in this important ministry.

Through the Scriptures: 1 Corinthians 13 – 16

Through the Standards:  Elements of the Lord’s Supper remain unchanged

WCF 29:5, 6
“The outward elements in this sacrament, duly set apart to the uses ordained by Christ, have such relation to Him crucified, as that, truly, yet sacramentally only, they are sometimes called by the name of the things they represent, to wit, the body and blood of Christ; albeit, in substance and nature, they still remain truly and only bread and wine, as they were before.  That doctrine which maintains a change of the substance of bread and wine, into the substance of Christ’s body and blood (commonly called transubstantiation) by consecration of a priest, or by any other way, is repugnant, not to Scripture alone, but even to common sense, and reason; overthrows the nature of the sacrament, and has been, and is, the cause of manifold superstitions; yes, of gross idolatries.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

An Old Side Presbyterian Plants Numerous Churches

One would need a firm grip on God’s sovereignty to live and minister in the early days of our country. It was true that countless Scot-Irish families resided throughout the regions of colonial America.  But it was also true that whereas there were many members of the Presbyterian faith, under-shepherds to care for them were few indeed. So when a colony of Presbyterians found a pastor, he usually stayed a long time.  Such was the case for the Rev. Adam Boyd.

Born in Ballymoney,  Ireland in 1692, he  moved first to New England in either 1722 or 1723.  Recommended by the venerable Cotton Mather, he was called by the Scots-Irish people at Octoraro and Pequea, Pennsylvania churches.  Ordained to the gospel ministry on October 13th, he began his ministry to the people of this new colony. It was an extensive field of labor, to which by foot and horseback, he visited the people faithfully as he  cared for the spiritual needs.

A week after his ordination, at the age of thirty-two, he married Jane Craighead,  the daughter of their first pastor, Rev. Alexander Craighead. From their marriage, ten children—five sons and five daughters—were born.

In 1741, a schism occurred in the infant Presbyterian Church, between what became known as the New Side and Old Side Presbyterians.  Rev. Boyd stayed with the Old Side Presbyterians, even though many of his congregation favored the revivalist approach of the New Side branch. Eventually, a fair number left his ministry and began a New Side Presbyterian congregation in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He was forced to leave the remnant which was left and minister to the Brandywine Presbyterian Church, which was Old Side Presbyterian. When differences were finally mended and Old Side and New Side reunited in 1758, the two branches of the Octorora church came back together and were one church again.

Even though he was Old Side Presbyterian, it was said that he in his forty-four years started 16 daughter and “granddaughter” churches. Here was an Old Side ministerial member who defied the typical Old Side opposition to planting new churches. Rev. Boyd would go to be with the Lord on November 23, 1768, at 76 years of age.

It  was said on his tombstone that he was “eminent for life, modest purity, diligence in office, possessing prudence, equanimity, and peace.”

View a photograph of Rev. Boyd’s gravesite, here.

Words to live by:  It is easy to put men and movements into nice neat little pockets.  You know, all the New Side Presbyterians of that sad schism in the American Presbyterian church were gifted in evangelism and revival (and they were!), while the Old Side Presbyterians were settled in a rut of education prowess from the mother country.  Adam Boyd breaks the appearance, as he planted a dozen plus congregations in his forty-four year ministry.  Jesus said in John 7:24, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with righteous judgment.”  What seems to be so, may not be so.  Be careful.

Through the Scriptures:  1 Corinthians 5 – 8

Through the Standards:  Dispensing the Lord’s Supper, from the catechism

WLC 169 — “How has Christ appointed bread and wine to be given and received in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper?
A.  Christ has appointed the ministers of the word, in the administration of this sacrament of the Lord’s supper, to set apart the bread and wine from common use, by the word of institution, thanksgiving, and prayer; to take and break the bread, and to give both the bread and the wine to the communicants: who are, by the same appointment, to take and eat the bread, and to drink the wine, in thankful remembrance that the body of Christ was broken and given, and his blood shed, for them.”

Image source: Engraved picture of the 1769 edifice of the Upper Octorara church, facing page 67 in Historical Discourse delivered on the occasion of the One Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of the Upper Octorara Presbyterian Church, Chester County, Pennsylvania, September 14, 1870, by J. Smith Futhey, Esq. Philadelphia: Henry B. Ashmead, 1870. This volume, in poor condition, is preserved as part of the R. Laird Harris Manuscript Collection, Box 444, file 13. Scan prepared by PCA Historical Center staff.

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

Should Spiritual Hindrances Preclude You From Partaking of Communion? 

Presbyterians must have taken November 20 in history as a day off, because this contributor can find nothing significant on this particular day.  So we turn to the Larger Catechism questions and answers as they deal with the sacrament of  the Lord’s Supper.

On November 14 (read), we saw the important requirement of self-examination with respect to partaking of the Lord’s Supper.  Christian Presbyterians cannot state that they don’t know how to prepare for the Lord’s Supper, since this catechism answer tells them all they might wish to know with respect to this preparation.

But the question arises about Christians who have doubts about their spiritual state.  Should they refrain from partaking of Communion? That is a question which has perplexed many a church member, and one which teaching or ruling elders have to answer all the time in counseling or home visitations.  Larger Catechism No. 172 has the answer.

It reads, “One who doubts of his being in Christ, or of his due preparation to the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, may have true interest in Christ, though he be not yet assured thereof;  and in God’s account has it, if he be duly affected with the apprehension of the want (lack) of it, and unfeignedly desires to be found in Christ, and to depart from iniquity: in which case (because promises are made, and this sacrament is appointed, for the relief even of weak and doubting Christians)  he is to bewail  his unbelief, and labor to have his doubts resolved; and, in so doing, he may and ought to come to the Lord’s Supper, that he may be further strengthened.”

Two types of Christians are spoken of in this catechism of worthiness to partake of the Lord’s Supper.  There may be those in our churches who doubt the fact that they know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  This doubt may exist for a variety of reasons, but it is present in their spiritual lives.  And as important as the need to find assurance is in a Christian’s life, yet we are not saved by this assurance.  We are saved because we  have repented of our sins and put our trust alone in Christ alone.

The second type of Christian with whom our catechism answer deals,  is the one who has not followed in time spent in spiritual preparation or with sincerity of heart the self-examination proscribed in Larger Catechism Number 171. Should that individual come and partake?

In both cases, our Confessional fathers answer in the affirmative.  And the reason being, is that the Supper is designed “for the relief of weak and doubting Christians.” It is a spiritual meal which is appointed just for them.  Yes, the doubting believer and ill prepared communicant should “bewail his unbelief.”  The word “bewail” is an old English word which speaks of sorrowing over sins of omission and commission. We should put some effort into resolving whatever doubts we have of our personal salvation. Let the Word of God, prayer, the regular worship of God, and fellowship be the channel of blessings which will help us to know with certainty that we are born again.

But, in this matter of the Lord’s Table, we should come expecting the benefit from the Lord Himself, that a reminder of His death, burial, and resurrection will have its proper effect in our hearts, leading us in the work of sanctification.

Words to live by: With monthly or quarterly observances of the Lord’s Supper in our Presbyterian and Reformed churches, there really should be no excuse in being present and accounted for in these observances of the Lord’s Supper. This question and answer however deals with continuing doubts about our salvation in Christ and for one reason or another, failure to properly prepare for the Lord’s Supper. Now that we know that our Confessional fathers have sought to prepare for those two cases of  hesitation in partaking of the Lord’s Supper, we can proceed in a more biblical way in dealing with these two cases. Let us respond with the proper spirit of preparation for, and participation in, the Lord’s Supper.

Through the Scriptures:  1 Thessalonians 1 – 5

Through the Standards:  Definition of the Lord’s Table, from the Catechisms

WLC 168 — “What is the Lord’s Supper?
A. The Lord’s Supper is a sacrament of the New Testament, wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine according to the appointment of Jesus Christ, his death is shewed forth; and they that worthily communicate feed upon his body and blood, to their spiritual nourishment and growth in grace; have their union and communion with him confirmed; testify and renew their thankfulness, and engagement to God, and their mutual love and fellowship each with the other, as members of the same mystical body.:

WSC 96 “What is the Lord’s Supper?
A.  The Lord’s Supper is a sacrament, wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine, according to Christ’s appointment, his death is showed forth; and the worthy receivers are, not after a corporal and carnal manner, but by faith, made partakers of his body and blood, with all his benefits, to their spiritual nourishment, and growth in grace.”

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