The Laudians, being the group of scholars and High Churchmen during the reign of King Charles I, are often associated with a theology of the Eucharist which they never espoused. These accusations come from people who are claiming alliegance to them (Anglo-Catholics) and those who want to dissociate from them (Evangelicals). However, the Laudians never espoused a Roman theology of the Eucharist.
Laudian Churchmen always condemn the erroneous Roman doctrine of transubstantiation, for example, Laud says, "Transubstantiation …. was never heard of in the primitive Church, nor till the Council of Lateran, nor can it be proved out of Scripture; and, taken properly, cannot stand with the grounds of Christian religion," reminiscient of the language of the Articles. Thorndike states, contrary to the doctrine of transubstantiation, "that the bodily substance of bread and wine is not abolished nor ceaseth in this Sacrament by virtue of the consecration of it." Taylor defines the doctrine of the Church of England agains that of Rome, “We say that Christ’s body is in the sacrament, ‘really, but spiritually’. They say it is there ‘really, but spiritually’. …. Where now is the difference? Here, by ‘spiritually’ they mean ‘present after the manner of a spirit’; by ‘spiritually’ we mean, ‘present to our spirits only’; that is, so as Christ is not present to any other sense but that of faith and spiritual susception; but their way makes his body to be present no way but that which is impossible, and implies a contradiction; a body not after a manner of a body, a body like a spirit; a body without a body; and a sacrifice of body and blood without blood: ‘corpus incorporeum, cruor incruentus’. They say, that Christ’s body is truly present there, as it was upon the cross, but not after the manner of all or any body, but after that manner of being as an angel is in a place: - that it is there spiritually. But we, by the real spiritual presence of Christ, do understand Christ to be present, as the Spirit of God is present in the hearts of the faithful, by blessing and grace; and this is all which we mean besides the tropical and figurative presence." Cosin reiterates that the Church of England rejects, “… the fable of Transubstantiation” and “the repeated sacrifice of Christ to be offered daily by each priest for the living and the departed.”
There are two aspects of the Eucharist which need to be explored, that of the nature of the real presence and the relationship between Christ's sacrifice and the Eucharist.
In view of the first question, some Laudian theologians appear to say things about the Eucharist when taken out of context but upon further investigation they clarify what they are saying. For example, Laud says of a "conversion" of the elements in consecration, "The conversion of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ is substantial, but after a secret and effable manner, and not like in all things to any natural conversion whatsoever," however, Laud clarifies later as to the exact meaning of his assertions, " in the most blessed Sacrament the worthy receiver is by his faith made spiritually partaker of the ‘true and real body and blood of Christ, truly and really’, and of all the benefits of His passion," thus putting him more firmly in the "Reformed" camp in eucharistic theology. Thorndike echoes language of Calvin, using terms like instrument and sacramental union, “when the name of Christ’s body and blood is attributed to the bread and wine of the Eucharist, … God would have us understand a supernatural conjunction and union, between the body and blood of Christ, and the said bread and wine, whereby, they become as truly instruments of conveying God’s Spirit, to them who receive as they ought, as the same Spirit was always in his natural body and blood." Thorndike also links it to a worthy reception, “ … the body and blood of Christ should be sacramentally present in and under the elements (to be spiritually received of all that meet it with a living faith, to condemn those for crucifying Christ again that receive it with a dead faith), can it seem any way inconsequent to the consecration thereof by virtue of the common faith of Christians, professing that which is requisite to make true Christians, whether by a living or a dead faith?” Taylor defines the doctrine of the Church of England on the real presence, “The doctrine of the church of England, and generally of the protestants, in this article is, - that after the minister of the holy mysteries hath rightly prayed, and blessed or consecrated the bread and the wine, the symbols become changed into the body and blood of Christ, after a sacramental, that is, in a spiritual real manner: so that all that worthily communicate, do by faith receive Christ, really, effectually, to all the purposes of his passion. ….. The result of the doctrine is this: It is bread, and it is Christ’s body. It is bread in substance, Christ in the sacrament; and Christ is as really given to all that are truly disposed, as the symbols are; each as they can; Christ as Christ be given; the bread and wine as they can; and to the same real purposes to which they are designed; and Christ does as really nourish and sanctify the soul, as the elements do the body.” Taylor again uses "receptionist" language to describe the Eucharist, “Christ’s natural body is now in heaven definitively, and no where else; and that he is in the sacrament as he can be in a sacrament, in the hearts of faithful receivers as he hath promised to be there; that is, in the sacrament mystically, operatively, as in a moral and divine instrument, in the hearts of receivers by faith and blessing." Cosin defines the real presence yet still uses language of worthy reception, “The result is that the body and blood of Christ are sacramentally united to the bread and wine in such a way that Christ is really presented (exhibeatur) to believers, yet not to be considered by any sense or by the reason of this world, but by faith resting on the words of the Gospel. Now the flesh and blood of Christ are said to be united to the bread and wine because in the celebration of the Eucharist the flesh is produced and received together with the bread, and the blood together with the wine. … The papists hold it an article of faith that in the Eucharist the substance of the bread and wine is annihilated, and that the body and blood of Christ takes its place. … The Reformed are of very different mind. Yet no Protestant altogether denies the conversion or change of the bread into the body of Christ, and similarly of the wine into His blood. For they know and acknowledge that in the Eucharist by virtue of the words and blessing of Christ the bread is wholly changed in condition and use and office; that is, of ordinary and common, it becomes our mystical and sacramental food; whereby they all assert and firmly believe that the real body of Christ itself is not only signified and represented in a figure, but is also presented (exhiberi) in actual fact, and is received in the souls of those who communicate worthily.”
A lengthy quote from Cosin demostrates some of the principles of the reformed Churches in relation to the real presence,
“The reformed Churches place the constitution (formam) of this Sacrament in the union of the sign with the thing signified, that is, the presenting (exhibitione) of the body and blood of Christ, the bread remaining bread and being dedicated to sacramental uses, whereby these two so become one by the appointment of God that, although this union is not natural or substantial or personal or local (by the one being in the other), yet it is so well adjusted (concinna) and real that in the eating of the consecrated bread the real body of Christ is given to us, and the names of the sign and of the thing signified are reciprocally changed, and what is of the body is attributed to the bread, and what is of the bread is attributed to the body, and they are together in time, though separated in place. For the presence of the body of Christ in this mystery is opposed not to distance but to absence; and absence, not distance, prevents the use and enjoyment of the object. Hence it is clear that the present controversy between the reformed and the papists can be reduced to four heads: first, concerning the signs; secondly, concerning the thing signified; thirdly, concerning the union of the signs and the things; fourthly, concerning the participation in them. As to the first, we differ from them, because they make the accidents only to be the signs, while we regard the substance of bread and wine as the signs in accordance with the nature of Sacraments and the teaching of Scripture. As to the second, we do not say that which they through misunderstanding our opinion ascribe to us. For we do not say that only the merits of the death of Christ are signified by the consecrated symbols, but that the real body itself which was crucified for us, and the real blood itself which was shed for us, are both represented and offered, so that our minds may enjoy Christ no less certainly and really than we see and receive and eat and drink the bodily and visible signs themselves. As to the third, since the thing signified is offered and presented (exhibetur) to us as really as the signs themselves, in this way we recognise the union of the signs with the body and blood of the Lord, and we say that the elements are changed into a different use from that which they had before. But we deny the assertion of the papists that the substance of bread and wine disappears, or is changed into the body and blood of the Lord that there is nothing left but the bare accidents of the elements, which are united with the same body and blood. Further, we deny that the Sacrament outside the use appointed by God has the nature of a Sacrament so as to make it right or possible for Christ to be reserved or carried about, since He is present only to those who communicate. Lastly, as to the fourth point, we do not say that in this holy Supper we are partakers only of the death and passion of Christ, but we join the ground with the fruits which come to us from Him, declaring with the Apostle, ‘the bread which we break is a Communion of the body of Christ, and the cup a Communion of His blood’, yea, in that same substance which he took in the womb of the Virgin and which He raised on high to heaven; differing from the papists in this only, that they believe this eating and union to take place bodily, while we believe it to be not in any natural way or in any bodily manner, but none the less as really as if we were joined to Christ naturally and bodily. … The assertion of the papists that Christ gives His body and His blood to be taken and eaten with the mouth and teeth, so that it is devoured not only by the wicked who are devoid of real faith but also by mice, - this we wholly deny with our mouths and our hearts and our minds.”
In reference to the relation of sacrifice to the Eucharist, Laud enumerates three types of sacrifices,
"As Christ offered Himself up once for all, a full and all-sufficient sacrifice for the sin of the whole world, so did He institute and command a memory of this sacrifice in a Sacrament, even till His coming again. For, at the end of the Eucharist we offer up to God three sacrifices: One by the priest only, that is, the commemorative sacrifice of Christ’s death, represented in the bread broken and wine poured out. Another by the priest and the people jointly, and that is the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving for all the benefits and graces we receive by the precious death of Christ. The third, by every particular man for himself only, and that is the sacrifice of every man’s body and soul, to serve Him in both all the rest of his life, for this blessing thus bestowed on him. Now, thus far these dissenting Churches agree, that in the Eucharist there is a sacrifice of duty, and a sacrifice of praise, and a sacrifice of commemoration of Christ. Therefore, according to the former rule (and here in truth too) it is safest for a man to believe the commemorative, the praising, and the performing sacrifice, and to offer them duly to God, and leave the Church of Rome in this particular to her superstitions, that I may say no more.”
Thorndike uses language of "sacrificial feast, "Having showed the presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist because it is appointed that in it the faithful may feast upon the sacrifice of the cross; we have already showed by the Scriptures that it is the sacrifice of Christ upon the cross in the same sense and to the same effect as it containeth the body and blood of Christ which it representeth; that is, mystically and spiritually and sacramentally (that is, as in and by a Sacrament) tendereth and exhibiteth. For seeing the Eucharist not only tendereth the flesh and blood of Chirst, but separated one from the other, under and by several elements, as His blood was parted from His body by the violence of the cross; it must of necessity be as well the sacrifice as the Sacrament of Christ upon the cross," but also calls the Eucharist a commemorative sacrifice, "Those species, set apart for the celebration of the Eucharist, are as properly to be called sacrifices of that nature which the Eucharist is of (to wit, commemorative and representative) as the same are to be counted figurative under the Law from the time they were deputed to that use. This is then the first act of oblation by the Church, that is, by any Christian that consecrates his goods, not at large to the service of God, but peculiarly to the service of God by sacrifice; in regard whereof the elements of the Eucharist before they are consecrated, are truly counted oblations or sacrifices.”
Taylor classifies the Eucharist as a commemorative sacrifice yet uses language of Christ "perpetually offering" his sacrifice in heaven to the Father,
“For when Christ was consecrated on the cross, and became our high priest, having reconciled us to God by the death of the cross, he became infinitely gracious in the eyes of God, and was admitted to the celestial and eternal priesthood in heaven; where, in the virtue of the cross, he intercedes for us, and represents an eternal sacrifice in the heaven on our behalf. …. And therefore, since it is necessary, that he hath something to offer so long as he is a priest, and there is no other sacrifice but that of himself offered upon the cross, - it follows, that Christ, in heaven, perpetually offers and represents that sacrifice to his heavenly Father, and, in virtue of that, obtains all good things for his church.”
It is true that Cosin uses language of "propitiation" but he qualifies it and contrasts his understanding with that of Rome,
“We do not hold this celebration to be so naked a commemoration of Christ’s body given to death, and of His blood there shed for us, but that the same body and blood is present there in this commemoration (made by the sacrament of bread and wine) to all that faithfully receive it: nor do we say that is so nude a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving but that our prayers also added we offer and present the death of Christ to God, that for His death’s sake we may find mercy, in which respect we deny not this commemorative sacrifice to be propitiatory. The receiving of which Sacrament, or participating of which sacrifice exhibited to us, we say is profitable only to them that receive it and participate of it; but the prayers that we add thereunto, in presenting the death and merits of our Saviour to God, is not only beneficial to them that are present, but to them that are absent also, to the dead and the living both, to all true members of the Catholic church of Christ. But a true, real, proper, and propitiatory sacrificing of Christ, toties quoties as this Sacrament is celebrated, which is the popish doctrine, and which cannot be done without killing of Christ so often again, we hold not, believing it to be a false and blasphemous doctrine, founding ourselves upon the Apostles’ doctrine, that Christ was sacrificed but once, and that He dieth no more.”
One final note, the Puritans disliked the ceremonial attached to the celebration of the Eucharist as done by Laudian clergy. As we have seen in other posts on this blog, this consisted of the use of the cope, bowing to the table and at the name of Jesus, facing east, and some other usages. Laud defends the ceremonies attached to the Eucharistic feast,
"One thing sticks much in their stomachs, and they call it an Innovation too. And that is. Bowing, or doing Reverence at our first coming into the Church, or at our nearer approaches to the Holy Table, or the Altar (call it whether you will) in which they will needs have it, that we worship the Holy Table, or God knows what. To this I answer. First, that God forbid we should worship any thing but God Himself. Secondly, that if to Worship God when we enter into his house, or approach his Altar, be an innovation, ‘tis a very old one. For Moses did reverence at the very door of the Tabernacle, Num 20. Hezekiah, and all that were present with him, when they had made an end of offering, bowed and worshipped (2 Chron. 29: 29). David calls the people to it with a Venite, O Come let us worship, and fall down, and kneel before the Lord our Maker, (Psalm 95: 6). And in all these practices (I pray mark it) ‘tis bodily worship. Nor can they say, that this was Judaical worship, and now not to be imitated. For long before Judaism began, Bethel, the House of God, was a place of Reverence (Gen. 28: 17 &c.) Therefore certainly of, and to God. …. Therefore even according to the Service Book of the Church of England, the Priest and the People both are called upon, for external and bodily Reverence and Worship of God in his Church. Therefore they which do it, do not innovate. And yet the Government is so moderate (God grant it be not too loose therewhile) that no man is constrained, no man questioned, only religiously called upon, Venite, Adoremus, Come, let us worship. For my own part I take myself bound to worship with Body, as well as in soul, when ever I come where God is worshipped. "