Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sabbath Rest

I've been anticipating something like this to post for quite a bit of time now but it seems that the time has come to do it.

It seems that the time has come for The Hackney Hub to take something of a "Sabbath rest" from active blogging. The reasons for this are numerous but to give the reader an idea. There is an underlying shift in focus in my own thinking since I began this blog that has led to different emphases and opinions than I originally held when starting out. I thought I could gradually shift the rhetoric here and things would follow suit but I think a season of rest will provide the needed direction to envision the future of THH in the world of Anglican blogging.

Additionally, events in my personal life have made active blogging increasingly difficult and I feel that the quality of my posts has gradually decreased with each passing year. I have been trying to put together some posts of the same quality as I used to be able to produce but I am not feeling the energy to put together anything worth sharing, hence, I take this as a sign to give it a break and come back at a later point.

I don't think that the Sabbath rest I am intending to take here will necessarily mean that the blog will be inactive but I will be posting links and shorter pieces, rather than any longer more informative work.

I started this blog in the summer of 2010 -- I think four years of content and over two hundred original posts leaves the Internet world a lot to read and enjoy in the meantime. I hope to clean up some of the links and provide categories for old posts, to help organize them better.

I thank the reader for enjoying my work and I hope to come back with more energy and passion for the Anglican tradition.

- The Hackney Hub

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Prayer Book as a Resource for Private Prayer

Many people struggle with how to balance the responsibilities of work, family, and piety (amongst other responsibilities). The modern world has enriched our lives with many forms of entertainment and other luxuries but this has all come at a great cost to the average man by limiting his time to spend with his God and his family. These two things are more important than career development and advancement in society. The weekend has even become a thing of the past, where rest is no longer really possible or desired by modern society, instead we must be engaged in various extra-curricular activities (which in themselves are good), however, we neglect Sabbath rest.

In this light, one of the first things to go in a person's schedule is their daily prayer. There are a variety of ways in which one can daily read the Scripture and pray. I am assuming that most of the audience is at least incorporating some aspect of liturgical prayer (although extemporaneous prayer should be included as well). When the day is filled with activities and programs and whatnot it is very tempting and easy to sit down and watch another episode of Orange is the New Black, rather than spend those thirty minutes with the Scriptures and praying the Prayer Book.

Due to this stretch of time, and with other principles of using the Prayer Book individually or as a family,

The issue of daily prayer is something of concern amongst devout Christians (not that I count myself in this category). I think there should be some guiding principles for how to incorporate the most of the Prayer Book in our private devotions, whilst acknowledging that sometimes time is not there to be able to do the complete offices. The additional principle is that when the office is prayed by an individual, I do not see the point in reading the responsive portions of the Prayer Book offices.

The main point in this is to see the Prayer Book as a resource for private prayer, not a strict form. In the parish church, the forms must be strictly observed, but in the home and in the messiness of ordinary life, these prayers can be used as needed and in the proper season.

The following principles will help individuals use the Prayer Book most efficiently:

  1. The portions of the service read by the priest only (such as the exhortation and absolution) and the responsive parts of the service (such as the preces, which require more than one person) should be omitted. 
  2. The primacy of Scripture should be exhibited in the liturgy. If time is not to be had, the liturgy should be reduced and not the lessons. The lessons should take precedence over the Psalms. 
    1. Update: It has been pointed out that the Psalms are an integral part of the Offices, and I agree with this assertion. I think the Psalms should be maintained. 
  3. This is a personal preference, but I view the Canticles and Collect of the Day as optional as well, if one must delete additional parts of the service. 

Here follows a simplified version of Evening Prayer which is my own private use. Obviously, the forms can be used in Morning Prayer with the appropriate texts.

WHEN the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive. Ezekiel 18.27
I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Psalm 51.3
Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Psalm 51.9
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit : a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. Psalm 51.17
Rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil. Joel 2.13
To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him: neither have we obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in his laws which he set before us. Daniel 9.9-10
O Lord, correct me, but with judgement; not in thine anger, lest thou bring me to nothing. Jeremiah 10.24; Psalm 6.1
Repent ye; for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand. St. Matthew 3.2
I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. St. Luke 15.18-19
Enter not into judgement with thy servant, O Lord; for in thy sight shall no man living be justified. Psalm 143.2
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us: but if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 St. John 1.8-9

ALMIGHTY and most merciful Father, We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep, We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts, We have offended against thy holy laws, We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, And we have done those things which we ought not to have done, And there is no health in us: But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us miserable offenders; Spare thou them, O God, which confess their faults, Restore thou them that are penitent, According to thy promises declared unto mankind in Christ Jesu our Lord: And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake, That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, To the glory of thy holy Name. Amen.

OUR Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive them that trespass against us; And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, For ever and ever. Amen.


Reading(s) (with or without Canticles)

I BELIEVE in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, Born of the Virgin Mary, Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified, dead, and buried: He descended into hell; The third day he rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost; The holy Catholick Church; The Communion of Saints; The Forgiveness of sins; The Resurrection of the body, And the Life everlasting. Amen.

OUR Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive them that trespass against us; And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil. Amen.

(Collect of the Day)

The Second Collect, for Peace.
O GOD, who art the author of peace and lover of concord, in knowledge of whom standeth our eternal life, whose service is perfect freedom: Defend us thy humble servants in all assaults of our enemies; that we, surely trusting in thy defence, may not fear the power of any adversaries; through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Third Collect, for Grace.
O LORD, our heavenly Father, Almighty and everlasting God, who hast safely brought us to the beginning of this day: Defend us in the same with thy mighty power; and grant that this day we fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger; but that all our doings may be ordered by thy governance, to do always that is righteous in thy sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Choose one or more of the following

A Prayer for the Queen's Majesty.
O LORD, our heavenly Father, high and mighty, King of kings, Lord of lords, the only Ruler of princes, who dost from thy throne behold all the dwellers upon earth: Most heartily we beseech thee with thy favour to behold our most gracious Sovereign Lady, Queen ELIZABETH; and so replenish her with the grace of thy Holy Spirit, that she may alway incline to thy will, and walk in thy way. Endue her plenteously with heavenly gifts; grant her in health and wealth long to live; strengthen her that she may vanquish and overcome all her enemies; and finally after this life she may attain everlasting joy and felicity; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A Prayer for the Royal Family.
ALMIGHTY God, the fountain of all goodness, we humbly beseech thee to bless Philip Duke of Edinburgh, CharlesPrince of Wales, and all the Royal Family: Endue them with thy Holy Spirit; enrich them with thy heavenly grace; prosper them with all happiness; and bring them to thine everlasting kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord.Amen.

A Prayer for the Clergy and People.
ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who alone workest great marvels: Send down upon our Bishops, and Curates, and all Congregations committed to their charge, the healthful Spirit of thy grace; and that they may truly please thee, pour upon them the continual dew of thy blessing. Grant this, O Lord, for the honour of our Advocate and Mediator, Jesus Christ. Amen.

A Prayer of Saint Chrysostom.
ALMIGHTY God, who hast given us grace at this time with one accord to make our common supplications unto thee; and dost promise that when two or three are gathered together in thy Name thou wilt grant their requests: Fulfil now, O Lord, the desires and petitions of thy servants, as may be most expedient for them; granting us in this world knowledge of thy truth, and in the world to come life everlasting. Amen.

2 Corinthians 13.
THE grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, be with us all evermore. Amen.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Evangelion: Proclaiming the Good News in TEC

I am very pleased to announce "Evangelion: Proclaiming the Gospel in TEC", a conference for Evangelicals in the Episcopal Church in 2015.

All interested parties are encouraged to fill out the contact form found on the website.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Ecclesiology, Continuing, and "Realigning"

The issues facing North American Anglicans are many and difficult ones at that. If one looks at the history of the American Episcopal Church from the 1960's to the present, it can only be marked by schism and division. At the beginning of this period, there was really only one group not connected with the Episcopal Church, and that is the Reformed Episcopal Church. One of the earliest groups to secede from the Church was the Anglican Orthodox Church. The two issues that caused the first wave of schisms was the 1979 Prayer Book and the ordination of women. From this group, the "Continuing Movement" was born, I put this in quotations because I doubt the intent was to "continue" Anglicanism. The Continuing Movement splintered internally almost before it began between differing factions with different goals. The division did not end there, as the reader is well aware. The decision of the 2003 General Convention to elect an openly homosexual man (against its own Church's teaching) to the office of Bishop for New Hampshire has sparked the recent schism from the Church. These groups left and joined various other Anglican provinces ("the Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this Realm of England"?). These came together to be called the Common Cause Partnership and later the Anglican Church in North America. The goals of the realignment as it has come to be called are confusing and hard to discern. Some of them want to be in communion with Canterbury and either replace or be an officially-sanctioned alternative to the Episcopal Church. Other groups do not want to be in communion with Canterbury, but what they want from that point on is difficult to understand. Some seem to want a sort of alternative Communion to be established around the GAFCON primates.

This is the generally accepted history of alternative Anglican movements in the US and Canada, which can be divided into three groups broadly: the REC, the Continuum, and the Realignment. There are some cases, such as Dees' Anglican Orthodox Church which do not generally fit into any of the categories neatly. Additionally, the REC has essentially abandoned its own principles in the past decade or so and should probably really be considered part of the Realignment now. But for the sake of those in the REC who do wish to preserve its original intents, I will consider it a separate movement within Anglicanism. Now, the issue becomes more complicated with the Continuum because this can be divided into two sub-groupings: the "Continuing" Churches and the Continuing Churches. You might think it clever my use of the apostrophe here but I do wish to make a valid distinction with them. The Churches in the Continuum that I classify as "Continuing" are those that go by the name of "Continuing" but in no measurable sense do they "continue" Anglicanism, by their own admission. These are the Churches that adhere to the St. Louis Affirmation as authoritative over the Anglican Formularies. They wish to impose a revisionist catholic understanding of Anglicanism through the Continuum movement. A good example of this group is the Anglican Catholic Church. The latter group, the Continuing Churches, are those that intend and do (to some extent) continue Anglicanism. In this sense, they do their best to preserve the Anglicanism that has been abandoned by the mainline churches. A good example of this is the United Episcopal Church in North America (or the Church of England, Continuing across the pond).

These distinctions are important (at least to me) because they reveal fundamentally different goals. All of these points relate to ecclesiology (that which no one seems to have nowadays). I will be posting later more fully on ecclesiology and the "national church principle" but the crux of the matter is that to be Anglican means to be in communion with England. These groups that intend to replace the Anglican tradition in the US are not viable options for me (that means the Realignment and "Continuing" Churches). These have as their goal ultimately the redefinition of Anglicanism, in some extent. This is where the Continuing group comes in. Sometimes the Anglican provinces in our respective lands do wander astray. In this case, some of our people cannot reconcile staying with the national body in good conscience. In these cases, the Continuing group can be a refuge for those people, with the ultimate goal of rejoining the national body in due course.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Why I Don't Make the Sign of the Cross

Many Protestants have grown comfortable with making the sign of cross as a part of their piety. Whilst I do not wish to doubt their genuineness, nor their conscience in doing so, I wanted to outline briefly the reasons for which I do not make the sign of cross, either in public or private worship. The reasons for not doing so are three in number and broadly relate to three types of concerns: 1) theological; 2) liturgical; 3) practical.

Briefly, a distinction must be made between two forms of the sign of the cross. The first is a liturgical action in the sacrament of Baptism, performed by the priest, to mark the sign of regeneration to the infant. This is a different sort of symbol and not to be discarded (for more information and an explanation of its value, see Canon 30 of the Canons of 1604). The other is the form that most think of when hearing the words "sign of the cross", made by the hand touching the forehead and crossing over from shoulder to shoulder. This latter practice is the subject of this post.

The sign of the Cross is associated with the Roman Catholic idea of sacramentals, which is implicitly tied to their understanding of works salvation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, "Sacramentals do not confer the grace of the Holy Spirit in the way that the sacraments do, but by the Church’s prayer, they prepare us to receive grace and dispose us to cooperate with it." In other words, the sacramentals are an invitation to cooperate with God's grace, implying the power of our wills to do good independent of God's grace (only needing His help, not utter dependence upon Him). The Catechism specifically mentions the sign of the Cross, "Among sacramentals blessings (of persons, meals, objects, and places) come first. Every blessing praises God and prays for his gifts. In Christ, Christians are blessed by God the Father “with every spiritual blessing.”177 This is why the Church imparts blessings by invoking the name of Jesus, usually while making the holy sign of the cross of Christ." The Sign of the Cross is more explicitly linked to works righteousness in another manner. In the 1968, Enchiridion of Indulgences, the Roman Church grants, "A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful, who devoutly sign themselves with the sign of the cross, while saying the customary words: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen." The system of indulgences is a fictitious system whereby the works of one believer can be applied to another to decrease the amount of time spent in Purgatory, the whole of this system is rightly called "repugnant" to Scripture by our Formularies and should be avoided at all costs.

The second reason I do not make the sign of the Cross is what I call a liturgical objection. The point of Anglican worship is to be simple and easy to follow. The nature of the sign of the Cross is not simple or easy to follow. One would think that it would be but once the works righteousness is attached to an action, it acquires a life of its own and multiplies in use, because it is viewed as a means of salvation. For this reason, the sign of the cross multiplies in occurrences in the divine service. It can occur many times in the Episcopal liturgy, at the invocation of the Trinity, at the Gospel, at the Creed, before and after the Sermon, at the mention of the "prayers for the dead (which is another issue entirely), at the consecration, before and after receiving, at the end of the service. This is mind-boggling and impossible for the simple person to follow. It complicates the service and adds a layer of superstition and distraction to the worshipper.

Thirdly, I do not make the sign of the Cross for practical reasons. The sign of the Cross is popularly associated with Roman Catholicism. Now, this is not reason enough to reject something but it is enough to allow it for consideration. It is not only associated with Roman Catholicism in general but folk Catholicism in particular. By this I mean it is associated with nominal Catholicism or those who are not particularly practicing but wish to maintain some sense of "Catholic identity". I can speak from personal experience when friends of mine who are not particularly devout will make the sign to convey some vague sense of spirituality. It is associated in the nominal mind with works righteousness and "balancing the books" with God. For this reason, it points to man as the source of salvation and not to God in Christ and for me, this is reason enough to not practice it.

A note must be added at the end as to how the sign of the Cross even became an issue for Anglican Protestants. It was rejected at the Reformation (except for its inclusion in the Baptismal service). It was only revived when a certain group of priests and churchmen began to re-introduce it illegally and consequently breaking their ordination vows. In England, it was both illegal by ecclesiastical and secular law, and punishable by the courts. In the United States it was not allowed by ecclesiastical law, yet in both cases, these priests disobeyed both the civil authorities and the Church in reintroducing this custom.

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Homilies on Prayers to the Dead

Of Prayers for the Dead

Now to entreat of that question, whether we ought to pray for them that are departed out of this world, or no. Wherein if we will cleave only unto the word of God, then must we needs grant, that we have no commandment so to do. For the Scripture doth acknowledge but two places after this life, the one proper to the elect and blessed of God, the other to the reprobate and damned souls; as may be well gathered by the parable of Lazarus [Luke 16:[19–26].] and the rich man. Which place St. Augustine expounding saith on this wise: “That which Abraham speaketh unto the rich man in Luke’s Gospel, namely, that the just cannot go into those places where the wicked are tormented, what other things doth it signify but only this, that the just, by reason of God’s judgment, which may not be revoked, can shew no deed of mercy in helping them which after this life are cast into prison until they pay the uttermost farthing?” These words, as they confound the opinion of helping the dead by prayer, so they do clean confute and take away the vain error of purgatory, which is grounded upon this saying of the Gospel [Matt. 5:26]: Thou shalt not depart thence, until thou hast paid the uttermost farthing. Now doth St. Augustine say, that those men which are cast into prison after this life on that condition may in no wise be holpen, though we would help them never so much. And why? Because the sentence of God is unchangeable, and cannot be revoked again. Therefore let us not deceive ourselves, thinking that either we may help other, or other may help us by their good and charitable prayers in time to come. For, as the Preacher saith [Eccles. 11:[3].], when the tree falleth, whether it be toward the south, or toward the north, in what place soever the tree falleth, there it lieth; meaning thereby, that every mortal man dieth either in the state of salvation or damnation, according as the words of the Evangelist John do also plainly import, saying [John 3:[36].], He that believeth on the Son of God hath eternal life; but he that believeth not on the Son shall never see life, but the wrath of God abideth upon him. Where is then the third place, which they call purgatory? or where shall our prayers help and profit the dead? St. Augustine doth only acknowledge two places after this life, heaven and hell. As for the third place, he doth plainly deny that there is any such to be found in all Scripture. Chrysostom likewise is of this mind, that, unless we wash away our sins in this present world, we shall find no comfort afterward.4 And St. Cyprian saith, that after death5 “repentance and sorrow of pain shall be without fruit; weeping also shall be in vain, and prayer shall be to no purpose.” Therefore he counselleth all men to make provision for themselves while they may, because, “when they are once departed out of this life, there is no place for repentance, nor yet for satisfaction.” Let these and such other places be sufficient to take away the gross error of purgatory out of our heads; neither let us dream any more that the souls of the dead are anything at all holpen by our prayers: but, as the Scripture teacheth us, let us think that the soul of man, passing out of the body, goeth straightways either to heaven or else to hell, whereof the one needeth no prayer, and the other is without redemption. (p. 335-37)

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Doctrines of Grace and the Anglican Church

The doctrines of grace, colloquially known as Calvinism, or the biblical teaching on the nature of man and God's election of individuals to salvation through Christ, is usually a contentious topic of discussion. This is really no surprise. Truth rings like a cymbal in the mind of a fallen sinner. Nonetheless, the nature of these truths must be discussed in order to both understand more fully the teaching of Scripture and for Anglicans, to understand more fully the teaching of our own Church.

Briefly, Reformed theology is often summarized with the acronym, TULIP, which is not always the best acronym but it is the more commonly used one. It more commonly stands for the following (with common exceptions in parentheses):

Total depravity (Total Inability)
Unconditional Election
Limited Atonement (Particular Redemption)
Irresistible Grace (Effectual Calling)
Perseverance of the Saints

It must be remembered that TULIP is a modern invention. Additionally, the so-called "five points of Calvinism" were not meant to be the summary of Calvinistic theology. However, in response to the five points of the Remonstrants, the Ecumenical Council of Dort drew up a response to these five points. The judgement of the Synod of Dort can be read here.

The Church of England's teaching on these matters comes in two of her articles. In must be remembered that the Articles of Religion predate the Synod of Dort in 1619. In this sense, her articles are not as precise as the later judgements of the Council would be. However, it must be remembered that the Church of England participated in the Synod and proclaimed that the teaching of Dort was consistent with her own teaching on election.

The first point, total depravity, or as it is more appropriately called, total inability, is taught in two of the Articles of Religion. Briefly, this statement does not mean that each man is as evil as he can be but that his state is such after the Fall of Adam that he has no desire or ability in his natural state to turn to God for salvation. In this sense, his salvation is dependent upon God acting on his behalf.
IX. Of Original or Birth-sin
Original Sin standeth not in the following of Adam, (as the Pelagians do vainly talk;) but it is the fault and corruption of the Nature of every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam; whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the spirit; and therefore in every person born into this world, it deserveth God's wrath and damnation. And this infection of nature doth remain, yea in them that are regenerated; whereby the lust of the flesh, called in Greek φρόνημα σαρκὸς, which some do expound the wisdom, some sensuality, some the affection, some the desire, of the flesh, is not subject to the Law of God. And although there is no condemnation for them that believe and are baptizedm yet the Apostle doth confess, that concupiscence and lust hath of itself the nature of sin.

X. Of Free-Will
The condition of Man after the fall of Adam is such, that he cannot turn and prepare himself, by his own natural strength and good works, to faith, and calling upon God: Wherefore we have no power to do good works pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us, that we may have a good will, and working with us, when we have that good will.
Article 9 touches on the nature of original sin, which is passed on through each generation. Article 10 touches on the nature of our wills as inherently not free. The second article here presents the teaching of total inability. A note, the word prevent here does not have the modern connotation of stopping something from happening but rather means something like "coming before". With this in mind, we see that our Church clearly teaches that men are not able to turn to God in their natural state but must be regenerated by the grace of God in order to be able to turn to him in faith. This resonates with what the Synod taught, "Therefore, all men are conceived in sin, and born the children of wrath, indisposed (inepti) to all saving good, propense to evil, dead in sins, and the slaves of sin; and, without the grace of the regenerating Holy Spirit, they neither are willing nor able to return to God, to correct their depraved nature, or to dispose themselves to the correction of it." The Synod goes on to teach, "But, when God performs his good pleasure in his elect, or works in them true conversion, he not only provides that the Gospel should be outwardly preached to them, and that their mind should be powerfully illuminated by the Holy Spirit, that they may rightly understand, and judge what are the things of the Spirit of God; but he also by the efficacy of the same regenerating Spirit, penetrates into the innermost recesses of man, opens his closed heart, softens his obdurate heart, circumcises his uncircumcised heart, infuses new qualities into his will, makes that which had been dead alive, that which was evil good, that which had been unwilling willing, and from being refractory, obedient; and leads and strengthens it, that, as a good tree, it may be able to bring forth the fruit of good works." 

The bulk of our Church's teaching on the matter is found in Article 17, which is also the longest of the Articles:
XVII. Of Predestination and Election
Predestination to life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) he hath constantly decreed by his counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honour. Wherefore they which be endued with so excellent a benefit of God be called according to God's purpose by his Spirit working in due season: they through grace obey the calling: they be justified freely: they be made sons of God by adoption: they be made like the image of his only-begotten Son Jesus Christ: they walk religiously in good works, and at length, by God's mercy they attain to everlasting felicity.

As the godly consideration of Predestination, and our Election in Christ, is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons and such as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh, and their earthly members, and drawing up their mind to high and heavenly things, as well because it doth greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal salvation to be enjoyed through Christ, as because it doth fervently kindle their love towards God: so for curious and carnal persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ, to have continually before their eyes the sentence of God's Predestination, is a most dangerous downfall, whereby the Devil doth thrust them either into desperation, or into wretchlessness of most unclean living, no less perilous than desperation.

Furthermore, we must receive God's promises in such wise, as they be generally set forth in holy Scripture: and, in our doings, that will of God is to be followed, which we have expressly declared unto us in the Word of God. 
In this article, we find the Church's teaching on predestination to life, or election, on effectual calling, and on the perseverance of the saints.

Many wonder about so-called "double predestination" or the idea that God predestinates both the elect and the reprobate. Whilst there is a good amount of theological discussion about this point, our Articles do not expound upon that point in any great detail (yet, our Church was in agreement with Dort…). However, as to predestination to life, our Church has a great deal to say.

The first sentence of the Article lays out clearly the doctrine of election. In similar language, the Canons of Dort state:
Election is the immutable purpose of God, by which, before the foundations of the world were laid, he chose, out of the whole human race, fallen by their own fault from their primeval integrity into sin and destruction, according to the most free good pleasure of his own will, and of mere grace, a certain number of men, neither better nor worthier than others, but lying in the same misery with the rest, to salvation in Christ; whom he had, even from eternity, constituted Mediator and Head of all the elect, and the foundation of salvation; and therefore he decreed to give them unto him to be saved; and effectually to call and draw them into communion with him, by his own word and Spirit; or he decreed himself to give unto them true faith, to justify, to sanctify, and at length powerfully to glorify them, having been kept in the communion of his Son; to the demonstration of his mercy, and the praise of the riches of his glorious grace.
The first paragraph of this Article reflects the "golden chain" as it is often called of salvation, as found in Paul's Letter to the Romans:
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. (Rom. 8:29-30)
This Article relates God's predestination before the foundation of the world, whereby he chose out of mankind a certain number to be saved. This is beyond our comprehension, yet, we confess it to be true because it is taught in Holy Scripture.

The Article also affirms effectual calling and the perseverance of the saints, although in less precise language. First, consider this statement, "Wherefore they which be endued with so excellent a benefit of God be called according to God's purpose by his Spirit working in due season: they through grace obey the calling" in this portion of the Article, we are taught that those who are chosen in Christ are brought to be justified by him through the power of the Spirit. This is the essence of this teaching, that all who are elected by Christ will be brought to salvation in him.

The latter part of the first paragraph of the Article affirms the doctrine of assurance, or perseverance of the saints, whereby those who are elected by God will be called, justified, sanctified, and eventually glorified. This means that true believers will not fall away from God's grace because they are protected by his Holy Spirit to remain in him.

Another testimony can be had in regards to Calvinism in the Anglican Church, which is beyond what the Church itself teaches (which, honestly, should be enough to convince anyone, but Anglicans are known for disregarding their Church's teaching in open rebellion) and that is the testimony of countless Anglicans themselves, who in obedience upheld their Church's teaching, rather than apostatizing.

To begin, one only need to look at the Reformers themselves. Cranmer, Ridley, Latimer, from the earliest days upheld the biblical doctrines of grace and wrote them into our Church's Formularies. Later, Jewell, Hooker, Ussher, Davenant, Whitgift, Grindal, among others were the Elizabethan and Jacobean bishops who upheld the faith in the second and third generations of the English Reformation. It was during this time that the "Calvinist Consensus" of the Anglican Church existed, when everyone was essentially in agreement with what our Church actually teaches. There were others, of course, during this period, granted, as the name implies, nearly every Anglican clergyman was a Calvinist during this time.

The English Civil War and Restoration was not particularly a strong time in the religious life of England. A form of moralism took over the Established Church and was only overcome by the work of  the religious societies and the Evangelical Revival. Men such as William Grimshaw, Henry Venn, William Romaine, John Newton, Thomas Haweis, George Whitefield, among many others, upheld the Church's doctrine in the 18th century against this spirit of moralism and rationalism. This generation would set the stage for the 19th century movement with all of its spiritual giants, such as Charles Simeon, JC Ryle, and countless others.

Let us not forget the New World. The Evangelical Movement took off in the Episcopal Church with a number of early bishops espousing the Reformed doctrine of the Church of England. Men such as Gregory Thurston Bedell, Manton Eastburn, Alexander Viets Griswold, Charles Pettit McIlvaine, William Meade, Benjamin Moore, Richard Channing Moore, Leonidas Polk, Benjamin Bosworth Smith, and others upheld a Scriptural witness in the Protestant Episcopal Church, together with priests such as James Milnor, the Tyngs, and other priests, not to mention prominent laymen, such as John Jay and Francis Scott Key.

This is not a comprehensive list, far from it, but only a brief mention of some of the names of those men and women who upheld the Church of England's teaching in their own time. May a new generation of men and women rise up to do the same today.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Sabbath: A Day to Keep (J.C. Ryle)

There is a subject in the present day which demands the serious attention of all professing Christians in the United Kingdom. That subject is the Christian Sabbath, or Lord’s Day.

It is a subject which is forced upon our notice. The minds of many are agitated by questions arising out of it. “Is the observance of a Sabbath binding on Christians? Have we any right to tell a man that to do his business or seek his pleasure on a Sunday is a sin? Is it desirable to open places of public amusement on the Lord’s Day?” All these are questions that are continually asked. They are questions to which we ought to be able to give a decided answer.

The subject is one on which “divers and strange doctrines” abound. Statements are continually made about Sunday, which plain unsophisticated readers of the Bible find it impossible to reconcile with the Word of God. If these statements proceeded only from the ignorant and irreligious part of the world, the defenders of the Sabbath would have no reason to be surprised. But they may well wonder when they find educated and religious persons among their adversaries. It is a melancholy truth that in some quarters the Sabbath is wounded by those who ought to be its best friends.

The subject is one which is of immense importance. It is not too much to say that the prosperity or decay of organized Christianity depends on the maintenance of the Christian Sabbath. Break down the fence which now surrounds the Sunday, and our Sunday schools will soon come to an end. Let in the Hood of worldliness and pleasure-seeking on the Lord’s Day, without check or hindrance, and our congregations will soon dwindle away. There is not too much religion in the land now. Destroy the sanctity of the Sabbath, and there would soon be far less. Nothing in short, I believe, would so thoroughly advance the kingdom of Satan as to withdraw legal protection from the Lord’s Day. It would be a joy to the infidel; but it would be an insult and offence to God.

I ask the attention of all professing Christians, while I try to say a few plain words on the subject of the Sabbath. As a minister of Christ, a father of a family, and a lover of my country, I feel bound to plead on behalf of the old Christian Sunday. My sentence is emphatically expressed in the words of Scripture — let us “keep it holy.” My advice to all Christians is to contend earnestly for the whole day against all enemies, both without and within. It is worth a struggle.

There are four points in connection with the Sabbath, which require examination. On each of these I wish to offer a few remarks.

Read the rest here.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Zionism in the Anglican Church

To many ears Christian Zionism has a clear and unmistaken association with dispensationalist eschatology (for the reader who may not be familiar, the Left Behind series type of theology). Whilst there have certainly been many proponents of Christian Zionism amongst the dispensationalist ranks, it should not be regarded as the sole property of that movement.

To begin briefly, Christian Zionism can have a fairly broad definition as simply Christian support for Zionism, or the notion that Jews should return to their ancestral lands. The belief is often tied to some eschatological expectancy. This comes from Paul's Letter to the Romans, wherein he states:
I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved. (Romans 11:25-26)
The eschatological expectation is tied to the restoration of the Jews to Israel as the mark of the beginning of the salvation of the Jews. Whilst this eschatological expectation is often tied to the dispensationalism of John Nelson Darby, it is not necessarily so tied, for the expectation of the salvation of the Jews is an expectation that extends beyond dispensationalist circles.

The Puritans were the first to express the desire for the restoration of the land of Israel to the Jews. However, there has also been a long history of Christian Zionism in the Established Church of England and in other Anglican churches, with such names of J.C. Ryle and the Sixth Earl of Shaftesbury supporting the restoration of Israel to the Jews, the latter encouraged the establishment of a British consulate in Palestine in 1838. The British Government became involved in restoration in the 19th century, following a century of debate in England over the place of the Jews. The Jewish Naturalization Act of 1753 allowed the Jews to naturalize by petitioning Parliament and nearly a central later, the Jewish Relief Act of 1858 permitted Jews to sit in Parliament. In fact, one of the most prominent figures in the early Zionist movement was the Anglican chaplain, the Rev. William Hechler, who was a close friend and associate of Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism.

This describes some of the interaction of Jewish people as they were with the British Government, yet the need for evangelism and mission to the Jewish people was also acknowledged and promoted. Due to the work of Charles Simeon and William Wilberforce, the London Society for Promoting Christianity Amongst the Jews (now known as the Church's Ministry Among Jewish People [CMJ]) was founded in 1809, which was one of the first global missionary societies and instrumental in establishing Christ Church in Jerusalem in 1849. The original aims of the London Jews' Society (CMJ) were:
1) Declaring the Messiahship of Jesus to the Jew first and also to the non Jew.
2) Endeavoring to teach the Church its Jewish roots.
3) Encouraging the physical restoration of the Jewish people to Eretz Israel - the Land of Israel.
4) Encouraging the Hebrew Christian/Messianic Jewish movement

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Most Dangerous Truth

One of the most dangerous, and radical, rediscoveries at the time of the Reformation is the truthful assertion that Christ is not present in the bread and wine at Communion. It strikes to the heart of pagan and superstitious religion, which thrives off of the marriage of sacramentalism and sacerdotalism. The first is the notion that receiving the sacraments is the means by which we are saved, rather than by grace alone through faith alone. The second is the notion that Christian ministers are sacrificing priests in the sense that the Old Testament priests were. All Christian believers know that we have one High Priest, Christ Himself, and that all baptized believers are priests by fact of their baptism. These twin forces of evil work together to undo the gracious work of the Gospel and the Crucifixion of Christ for our sins.

The nature of transubstantiation, or the belief that the bread and wine at Communion become the body and blood of Christ is completely against the Christian religion. It must be said that the true nature of Communion also excludes mystical language of "real presence" as well. The Church of England rejected both at the time of the Reformation. Yet, it is this notion that Christ is to be found in bread and wine that fuels the fire of anti-Biblical religion. This belief enforces the two erroneous doctrines mentioned above. It enforces the notion that people receive salvation by receiving the sacraments, instead of trusting in Christ's sacrifice as the once-for-all perfect sacrifice for sin. In this sense, it encourages a belief in works righteousness and a sense of "balancing the books" with God.

Thankfully, our Church has rightfully forsaken these forces of evil. Consider this strong rejection of transubstantiation, firstly, to be found in our Articles of Religion:
Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of Bread and Wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by Holy Writ; but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions.
This deals specifically with the Roman doctrine of transubstantiation, which was the main issue at hand at the time of the Reformation. As strong as our Church condemns this doctrine, one can still find misguided clergymen teaching this heresy.

Our Church continues to offer a clear rejection of the teaching that Christ is to be found in bread and wine. Consider the rubric on kneeling, found after the service of Holy Communion:
For the Sacramental Bread and Wine remain still in their very natural substances, and therefore may not be adored; (for that were Idolatry, to be abhorred of all faithful Christians;) and the natural Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ are in Heaven, and not here; it being against the truth of Christ's natural Body to be at one time in more places than one.
This latter declaration addresses more clearly the issues of our own day, which is less so the doctrine of transubstantiation as such but the vague notion of "real presence". This is the old line that "Anglicans don't define how Christ is present, we just accept it as truth" nonsense. This lack of doctrinal precision comes with lack of knowledge of our own Church's teaching.

The Church of England clearly teaches that Christ is received in the Sacrament, which is important to point out. Those who hate our Church's teaching like to mischaracterize those who uphold its teaching. The Church does not deny Christ's presence in our hearts and in the Sacrament but does not affirm his presence in the elements of bread and wine. In the relevant Article on this subject, our Church begins by clearly affirming that those who worthily receive in faith do indeed receive Christ:
The Supper of the Lord is not only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves one to another, but rather it is a Sacrament of our Redemption by Christ's death: insomuch that to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith, receive the same, the Bread which we break is a partaking of the Body of Christ; and likewise the Cup of Blessing is a partaking of the Blood of Christ.
After clearly affirming this truth, we can move on to add some clarity to the "real presence" mystery. As to the claim that our Church does not define the mode and manner of Christ's presence in the Sacrament, the next portion of the Article clearly disproves that fanciful notion:
The Body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten, in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper, is Faith.
This statement clearly affirms two biblical truths. First, the manner of Christ's presence in the Sacrament (note the use of the word "Supper" in the article, rather than the "elements") is "heavenly and spiritual" i.e. not physical. This moves the focus of the discussion from our digestive system (which is the logical trajectory of "real presence" language) to our souls and hearts. The second statement describes the means by which we receive and eat Christ in the Sacrament. In contrast to the Lutheran churches, our Article clearly affirms that we eat Christ by faith, not the mouth. This completely distances the reception of the body and blood of Christ from the elements. 

The next article adds more fuel to the fire of sacramentalism and sacerdotalism by affirming that those who receive the Sacrament without faith or unworthily is that they do not receive Christ "in any wise":
The Wicked, and such as be void of a lively faith, although they do carnally and visibly press with their teeth (as Saint Augustine saith) 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. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

His Majesty's Declaration Prefixed to the Articles of Religion

His Majesty's Declaration to the Articles of Religion follows, with important portions highlighted. Following this a brief commentary on the same is to be found.

His Majesty's Declaration.

Being by God's ordinance, according to our just title, Defender of the Faith, and Supreme Governor of the Church, within these our dominions, we hold it most agreeable to this our kingly office, and our own religious zeal, to conserve and maintain the Church committed to our charge, in the unity of true religion, and in the bond of peace; and not to suffer unnecessary disputations, altercations, or questions to be raised, which may nourish faction both in the Church and Commonwealth. We have, therefore, upon mature deliberation, and with the advice of so many of our bishops as might conveniently be called together, thought fit to make this declaration following:

That the Articles of the Church of England (which have been allowed and authorized heretofore, and which our clergy generally have subscribed unto) do contain the true doctrine of the Church of England agreeable to God's word: which we do therefore ratify and confirm, requiring all our loving subjects to continue in the uniform profession thereof, and prohibiting the least difference from the said Articles; which to that end we command to be new printed, and this our declaration to be published therewith:

That we are Supreme Governor of the Church of England; and that if any difference arise about the external policy, concerning injunctions, canons or other constitutions whatsoever thereto belonging, the clergy in their convocation is to order and settle them, having first obtained leave under our broad seal so to do: and we approving their said ordinances and constitutions, providing that none be made contrary to the laws and customs of the land.

That out of our princely care that the churchmen may do the work which is proper unto them, the bishops and clergy, from time to time in convocation, upon their humble desire, shall have licence under our broad seal to deliberate of, and to do all such things as, being made plain by them, and assented unto by us, shall concern the settled continuance of the doctrine and discipline of the Church of England now established; from which we will not endure any varying or departing in the least degree.

That for the present, though some differences have been ill raised, yet we take comfort in this, that all clergymen within our realm have always most willingly subscribed to the Articles established, which is an argument to us, that they all agree in the true, usual literal meaning of the said Articles; and that even in those curious points, in which the present differences lie, men of all sorts take the Articles of the Church of England to be for them; which is an argument again, that none of them intend any desertion of the Articles established.

That therefore in these both curious and unhappy differences, which have for so many hundred years, in different times and places, exercised the Church of Christ, we will, that all further curious search be laid aside, and these disputes shut up in God's promises [a reference to Article 17], as they be generally set forth to us in the Holy Scriptures, and the general meaning of the Articles of the Church of England according to them. And that no man hereafter shall either print, or preach, to draw the Article aside any way, but shall submit to it in the plain and full meaning thereof: and shall not put his own sense or comment to be the meaning of the Article, but shall take it in the literal and grammatical sense.

That if any public reader in either our Universities, or any head or master of a College, or any other person respectively in either of them, shall affix any new sense to any Article, or shall publicly read, determine, or hold any public disputation, or suffer any such to be held either way, in either the Universities or Colleges respectively; or if any divine in the Universities shall preach or print any thing either way, other than is already established in convocation with our royal assent; he, or they the offenders, shall be liable to our displeasure, and the Church's censure in our commission ecclesiastical, as well as any other: and we will see there shall be due execution upon them.

His Majesty's Declaration to the Articles of Religion presents a number of challenges to those who wish to undermine the authority of the Articles of Religion as establishing the doctrine of the Church of England. The King's Declaration accomplishes a number of things in a small amount of space. First, it establishes the legal authority of the Articles as containing the true doctrine of the Church of England, as all clergy are required to subscribe to. Secondly, it establishes how the text of the Articles is to be interpreted. Thirdly, it establishes where there is flexibility in the Articles.

In establishing the legal authority of the Articles, one need only look to the first few paragraphs, wherein this authority is established. It is important to note that the Formularies are secondary sources of authority in Anglicanism, as the primacy of Scripture is asserted in the same place that the authority of the Articles is established. The nature of the Articles as containing the true doctrine of the Church of England requires universal profession in the same truth. After all, the Articles were established for the "avoiding of the diversities of opinions", meaning they are intended to limit the theological diversity of the Church of England.

The second thing that the King's Declaration does is to establish the correct way of interpreting the Articles, which is in the "true, usual literal meaning" of them. This contrasts to some of the more popular ways of interpreting the Articles today. The objective of both the liberal and Tractarian interpretations of the Articles is to avoid what they plainly and literally say. One could add that to more fully understand their plain meaning a bit of historical knowledge of their writing could be useful, although not necessary to understand them.

Thirdly, the Declaration spells out where diversity of opinion may be had. It must be remembered that the purpose of the Articles is to elaborate on the Church of England's teaching, as all confessions do. It is not meant to allow conflicting and contradictory teaching in one "tent". In the second to last paragraph of the Declaration, we see the one article which is allowed some breadth of interpretation in the Church, that is Article 17, on predestination. It is often claimed that the Articles are to be read in their "literal and grammatical" sense, particularly by Tractarians, thus meaning that if an interpretation of the Articles is possible by the nature of the grammar of the text, then it is a lawful interpretation, this, however, is not the case. The Articles are to be read in their "true, usual literal meaning". However, the 17th Article may be read in its "literal and grammatical sense" thus allowing some variety of opinion on this matter. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

A Different Sort of Episcopalian

The name Episcopalian seems to conjure up a certain image in most minds nowadays, this is perhaps due to the prolonged effects of liberalism in the Protestant Episcopal Church and the damaging effects of recent schisms from this body. However, for the sake of brevity and avoidance of controversy, one can think of any American Anglican when seeing the word Episcopalian used in this essay.

If one were to ask on the streets, What is the Episcopal Church? Most would probably shrug their shoulders and admit to ignorance of the question. This reflects our own traditions ineffectiveness at preaching the Gospel of our Lord Jesus to the masses, however, besides this point; some may answer with a different sort of response. The most common response one might receive is that the Episcopal Church is some sort of “half-way house” between Catholicism and Protestantism. One might encounter the phrase “Catholic-lite” from some respondents and perhaps from the well-informed participant via media. This reflects the overwhelming effects of a certain great apostasy that occurred in Anglicanism in the 19th century, a complete and whole rejection of our Church’s plain teachings. The rejection of our Church’s teachings by the Anglo-Catholic party of the 19th century has finally colored the perception of our Protestant Episcopal Church (and other Anglican churches) to the point that our own confession is not acknowledged or even known amongst our fellow Protestant Christians.

At this point, I would wish to point out that there is another sort of Episcopalian (or Anglican) out there. This Episcopalian takes seriously his Church’s profession of faith (as found on page 867 of the 1979 service book). This sort of Episcopalian takes seriously the Episcopal Church’s commitment to maintain the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Church of England in the United States (pages 9-11 of the same book). By this public declaration, the Protestant Episcopal Church promised to uphold these standards and only on this declaration did the Church of England recognize the nascent body in the aftermath of the American Revolution. This sort of Episcopalian, then, affirms the teaching of his Church and tries to conform his worship to that teaching. Over the course of the years, as the Church has gradually rejected her own doctrine, her worship has reflected less and less her doctrine.

What is the Church’s confession and what is the teaching that it upholds? The Church’s confession, the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, commits the Protestant Episcopal Church (and other Anglican churches) to biblical religion, often known as Protestantism, nowadays. This firmly teaches that salvation is had by grace alone through faith alone in Christ’s one atoning sacrifice for sin. It holds that the Bible is the only infallible rule of faith. It is Reformed, and regarded as Reformed by both scholars and other Reformed churches, in that it teaches the doctrines of grace and rejects Roman and Zwinglian teaching on the sacraments.

Some may then say, well this is all well and good but it’s not really all that Anglican. Many accuse the sincere Episcopalian of this sort of not being genuinely Episcopalian or Anglican because of his sincerely held beliefs. The one who denies this sort of Episcopalian at the table has a faulty view of his own Church and needs to take a closer look at his own history. The nature of our Church’s confession can be debated until kingdom come but one cannot deny the fact that a significant portion of Episcopalians in the past and Anglicans currently world-wide do not subscribe to a wishy-washy, Catholic-lite sort of mentality. Moreover, a majority of Anglicans have never prayed to the dead or said a rosary, much less could they tell you what the proper liturgical color is, but they do know their Bibles. To deny that these sorts are not Anglican is to deny what Anglicanism is.

One need only mention the Calvinist consensus of the Church of England from the beginning of Elizabeth I’s reign (1558) to the English Civil War in the 1640s to establish the legitimacy of Calvinistic belief in Anglicanism. The “Calvinistic consensus” is recognized by scholars of religion and historians alike as reflecting the near uniformity of belief of the Anglican Church in the Calvinistic tradition, based, of course, upon the official teachings of the Church of England as found in her formularies. However, the foundation for Calvinistic belief in the Anglican tradition is much more firm than just this theological consensus. Calvinistic ministers such as George Whitefield, John Newton, William Grimshaw, William Romaine, and prominent laymen such as William Wilberforce in the Church of England began the Evangelical Revival of the 18th century. In the Colonies (and later Protestant Episcopal Church), Calvinistic ministers, such as Uzal Ogden, Devereux Jarrat, James Milnor, and Joseph Pilmore, and laymen such as Francis Scott Key, carried on the tradition of Evangelicalism on this side of the Atlantic. Whilst the confessional tradition in the Episcopal Church was slow to develop, it eventually did flourish in the 19th century, until the apostasy of the Church beginning in 1833. A number of bishops, such as William Meade, Philander Chase, Richard Moore, Alexander Griswold, Charles Pettit McIlvaine, Manton Eastburn, Benjamin Bosworth Smith, and Leonidas Polk, carried the name of “Evangelical” and fought to preserve the Church in her doctrine throughout the 19th century.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Presbyterianism and the Reformed Church

We hear the phrase “Presbyterian and Reformed” often enough that we may assume that most people realize, as is implicit in this style of coupling, that the two words stand for two distinct things. To those from outside of the world of British Protestantism the situation might seem rather different than it does to those of us who are Protestant Episcopalians, they seem to take for granted that the chair reserved for the British Church at the table of Reformed Protestantism belongs to Presbyterians. The chair in question, however, is really not theirs to give, and the mistake they have yet to realize, and the reason they don’t see us still sitting at the head of the table, is because they themselves are now sitting at the wrong one.

History testifies to the truth that the Presbyterian tradition is not an independent Reformed tradition, but rather represents a non-conforming tradition within the Protestant Episcopalianism from which it sprung. At the close of the initial 16th century reformation the whole of the British Isles was Episcopalian, there being bishops in the Churches of England, Scotland, and Ireland. It was not until the beginning of what historians call “The Long Eighteenth Century”, a period well beyond the Protestant Reformation, that the episcopate was finally disestablished in one of the three Kingdoms.

Presbyterianism arising as it does by a partial departure of the earlier Protestantism established within Great Britain and Ireland during the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, in some respects it represents an apostasy from the Confessionally Reformed faith, while in other respects it represents a continuation of it.

A great article from the Protestant Association, check out the original article here.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Evangelical Episcopal Writings: A Brief View of the Nature of Holy Communion (Manton Eastburn)

Manton Eastburn was bishop of Massachusetts from 1843 until 1872. 

IN the 28th verse of the XIth Chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians, is found the following admonition. "Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup." St. Paul, as you perceive, here recommends the duty of strict self-investigation, previously to the reception of the Lord's Supper. But it is very evident, that, if the institution itself had not been of binding obligation, the blessed apostle would not have troubled himself with enjoining preparation for its observance. He proceeds on the assumption, that this sacrament was of divine appointment; and then insists upon such a state of heart in the Corinthians, as might constitute them worthy partakers of its symbols. "Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup." Upon this ordinance, prescribed for the use of his followers by the great "Author and Finisher of our faith," I propose to make some observations in the following pages. And in so doing, I shall, first of all, set forth the true nature and character of the Holy Communion; and, secondly, shall advert to some prevalent errors, in regard to this important subject. In both which portions of the topic before us, may God be present with his blessing!

[4] What, then, is the nature of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper? This is the first inquiry to which I am to direct your attention.

One principal aspect in which the Holy Communion stands before us, is that of a commemorative institution. It was enjoined, for the purpose of calling to mind, through all the generations of the Christian church, the Redeemer's dying love. As often, therefore, as the Saviour's followers meet at his table, they thereby bring up before them, as a subject of grateful recollection, his groans and tears; his "agony and bloody sweat;" his bodily frame bruised for the transgressions of the world, and his precious blood gratuitously poured out for its redemption. That one prominent object of the sacrament under consideration is to call Christ to remembrance, is evident from the very words of its Founder. "This do," said he, "in remembrance of me." And to the same effect speaks St. Paul, in the chapter to which reference has already been made. "As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come." And that our Church views the subject in the same light, is as clear as possible. In the first of the two Exhortations, used for bidding persons to this festal celebration, believers are invited to receive the sacrament, "in remembrance of Christ's meritorious Cross and Passion." And the second Exhortation thus speaks; "It is your duty to receive the Communion in remembrance of the sacrifice of his death, as he himself hath commanded." Let me refer you also to the Exhortation read at the time of the celebration. It is there said that Christ "hath instituted and ordained holy Mysteries, as pledges of his love, and for a continual remembrance of his death, to our great and endless comfort." And then, besides these places of the Communion Service, turn to the Prayer of Consecration. This says, that Christ "did institute, and in his holy gospel command us to [4/5] continue, a perpetual memory of that his precious death and sacrifice until his coming again." It also says, "We do celebrate and make here, the memorial thy Son hath commanded us to make; having in remembrance his blessed passion and precious death." It likewise puts into the mouths of the communicants a petition, that they, receiving the symbols "in remembrance of Christ's Death and Passion, may be partakers of his most blessed Body and Blood." And, in conclusion of these citations from our authorized formularies, let me call your attention to the following question and answer in the Catechism. "Question. Why was the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper ordained? Answer. For the continual remembrance of the sacrifice of the death of Christ, and of the benefits which we receive thereby." Upon this point, therefore, it is needless any further to enlarge. Holy Scripture, and our own Church, teach with consentient voice, that, whenever the sacrament of the Holy Communion is administered, it is for the purpose of commemorating the unutterable love of Christ, as manifested in that one "full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction," which he offered, on the cross of Calvary, "for the sins of the whole world."

Another principal point of view in which this holy Sacrament is presented to us, is that of a means of spiritual nourishment.

It is the privilege of the Christian believer, that, by the gracious providence of God, he is put in possession of certain channels of strength and comfort, by a due resort to which he may experience continual refreshment. One of these prescribed channels is the ordinance which we are now contemplating. And it is very evident that Scripture views it in such an aspect. What does St. Paul say? "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The [5/6] bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?" And what are the words of the Author of the institution? "My flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed." These passages very plainly show, that, whenever the faithful recipient "presses with his teeth" the symbols of bread and wine, he, at the same time, is spiritually fed with that body and blood of the Redeemer, of which these elements are the signs and emblems. He receives consolation: his faith is confirmed: he finds peace in a nearer view of the promises of God through Christ: in fine,—there is a twofold nutriment received at one and the same time; of his bodily frame by what he eats and drinks, and of his soul by that which these outward things set forth and represent. And that we are fully warranted in the idea, that the Lord's Supper is a means of grace, as well as a commemoration of the unspeakable love of Christ, will be seen by a reference once more to the standards of our scriptural Church. We are told, in one of the Exhortations in the Communion Service, that it is our duty to thank God, "for that he hath given his Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, not only to die for us, but also to be our spiritual food and sustenance in that holy Sacrament." In another of these Exhortations, those who come to the Lord's Table are described as "feeding on the banquet of that most heavenly food." So, likewise, when the minister delivers the bread to the assembled communicants, the words which he uses, as you all remember, are these; "Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for thee, and feed on him in thy heart by faith, with thanksgiving." But most fully bearing upon this point, is the language of that same lucid and inimitable Catechism, to which I have already referred. "What are the benefits," it is there asked, "whereof we are partakers thereby?" And the reply is as follows; "The strengthening and refreshing of our souls by the [6/7] body and blood of Christ, as our bodies are by the bread and wine." From this combined testimony, then, of the word of God, and of our Book of Common Prayer, we are brought to the knowledge of that joyful truth, that, in the sacramental feast, the pilgrim through time to eternity is supplied with provision by the way. Overcome with the sense of sins, he is there encouraged with the view of His sufficiency who has blotted them away. Weak in his confidence in Christ, his reliance is there confirmed. Needing comfort and peace, he there finds the rest which he is seeking. "He that eateth my flesh," says the blessed Jesus, "and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him."
There is still another conspicuous aspect, in which this Sacrament stands in our view; namely, that of a special occasion of the presence of Christ.

The great and pressing want under which the human spirit labors, after it has come to the knowledge of its sins, is the desire that the blessed Redeemer may be revealed to it, in the fulness of his power and love. To meet this craving, God has ordained, in his wisdom, particular helps and instruments. Every believer knows, for example, that the Saviour is peculiarly manifested during seasons of sorrow; and under circumstances of worldly disappointment; and at times of great danger. It is on such occasions that the Lord Jesus Christ, comparatively hidden from us in prosperous days, appears distinctly before us: proclaiming himself, with inexpressible comfort, as the Being who has satisfied for our iniquities; who has taken the sting from death; and who, by the efficacy of his blood, has "opened the kingdom of heaven, to all believers." Every servant of God knows also, that the Redeemer shows himself, with unwonted clearness, during the moments of prayer. And the same blessing has been experienced, times without number, during the public ministrations of the sanctuary. And, among [7/8] these external means, whereby our Lord and Master makes himself especially felt and seen, as the Forgiver of iniquity, transgression, and sin, what believer can doubt that the sacrament of the Lord's Supper holds a distinguished place? How many into whose hands these pages come must have proved this, on divers occasions, by personal experience! There is something in the very sight of the emblems, placed upon the Lord's Table, which brings the Saviour, in all his sufficiency and love, home to our hearts. As our eyes fall upon that bread and that wine, in which are represented the body and the blood of the crucified Lamb of God, our spirits rise as if on wings. We appear almost to see that perfect Mediator, removing the load of our guilt; and almost to hear his voice, proclaiming in our ears, as he did once in the days of his flesh, "Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." Now, this being the fact in regard to the blessed sacrament of the Communion, let us be duly thankful for so marvelous a benefit. Let us rejoice, that, at frequent intervals, the Lord Jesus Christ is graciously revealed to our vision, as we approach the table of his appointment. Whenever we assemble to keep this glorious feast, the Founder of it is in the midst of us; and, for our consolation in this valley of tears and of sin, "is evidently set forth, crucified among us."

After this view of the nature of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, we shall be prepared to look, with greater discrimination, at some of those erroneous conceptions of its character, which are prevalent in the world around us. This is that second branch of the subject, to which I promised to invite your attention.

And 1. If the representations that have now been made be correct, then that is a very inadequate notion of this ordinance, which reduces it to a mere [8/9] sign of fellowship between the members of the Christian society.

The idea to which I refer, and which was maintained with pertinacity, in opposition to Luther, by some of the continental Reformers, is simply this. The body of the Church is composed of a large company of members. Now, in organized associations among the children of this world, men find it productive of harmony and mutual good-will to meet together at some fixed season; and, at the festive board, to recognize in each other companions, brethren, and friends. Of the same kind, it is pretended, is the sacramental feast. It is a token and a bond of union, between the numerous persons who compose the family of God. And as such, it deserves to be kept up, from generation to generation, by the professed followers of Christ. Now, that the Holy Communion does answer this purpose, none can pretend to deny. Those who meet at this holy Table are brought together, in a most interesting manner, as disciples of one Master, and as travellers to the same eternal destiny. And the world certainly presents no spectacle to us more impressive, than that which the sacramental celebration holds forth: where the rich and the poor; the learned and the unlettered; the master and the servant; the prince and the peasant; are blended together as beings, who, notwithstanding all the adventitious distinctions of this life, are partakers of the same riches of redeeming blood, and heirs of the same immortality. But to confine this blessed institution to such an intention, were surely to forget the language of that inspired Volume, from which the warrant for its observance is drawn. At this heavenly banquet, we come to commemorate His love, who saved with an everlasting salvation them that were lost. We come to receive, amidst the doubts, the discouragements, and the spiritual darkness of our journey, the supports of divine consolation. [9/10] We come to experience the blessed Master's presence: manifested to us in forms, in which he doth not manifest himself to the world; and with a beauty in which he is seldom presented to us, on other times and occasions. Need I urge, then, how low and defective is that conception of sacramental privileges, to which I have just called your attention? And in thus falling short of the scriptural mark, it has received the unequivocal condemnation of our Church; who, in her Twenty-Eighth Article, thus speaks: "The Supper of the Lord is not only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves one to another; but rather it is a Sacrament of our redemption by Christ's death: insomuch that to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith receive the same, the bread which we break is a partaking of the body of Christ; and likewise the cup of blessing is a partaking of the blood of Christ."

Again. According to what has already been advanced, those persons must be deemed defective in their views of this Sacrament, who, while they are willing to admit, that, besides being a sign of union, it is also a prescribed commemoration of Christ's death, yet limit it to such a meaning.

It is, truly, an institution in which we bring to mind our Master's sorrows; and, with grateful hearts, dwell upon the remembrance, that He who dwelt in the glory which he had with the Father before the world began, for our sakes divested himself of this splendor—had not where to lay his head—"became obedient unto death"—and endured the sharpness of those pangs, which the wrath of God sent like the iron into his soul. All this the festival of the Lord's Supper is:—but it is something more. It is an established medium of strength and comfort: it builds up the renewed inner man, as with sustaining nutriment: and it is by this very blessing which it carries with it, when received with a true penitent heart, and lively faith, that we, the [10/11] ambassadors of Christ, are emboldened to urge it with such unwearied importunity upon the adoption of all Christian men. We can say to the professed servants of God, who abstain from this heavenly banquet,—Approach to the Lord's Table, as ye value your own peace, and as ye desire your continual growth in grace. Here may the wayfaring man find the choicest food, to revive his fainting powers. Here he may, ever and anon, pause to draw water, from those "fresh springs" of salvation which are bubbling forth, at frequent intervals, along all the line of his journey. Come hither; for "except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you." Let us beware, then, how we attribute less to this divine and blessed ordinance, than is pronounced of it in the word of inspiration. And, amidst the loose and conceited notions of this latitudinarian age, it is an edifying exercise to turn to the standards of our wise and sober Church; who, while she treads under foot the perilous delusion, that the simple administration of this sacrament is necessarily attended with spiritual efficacy, yet as clearly maintains, that, where it is taken with the right dispositions, it is "a certain sure witness, and effectual sign of grace, and God's good will towards us, by the which he doth work invisibly in us." Allow me to awaken you to the due sense of your privileges, as the possessors of this most precious institution in the Church of Christ. Allow me to speak to you in the unparalleled language of one of our old Homilies:—"Here may the faithful feel wrought the tranquillity of conscience, the increase of faith, the strengthening of hope, the large spreading abroad of brotherly kindness, with many other sundry graces of God. The taste whereof they cannot attain unto, who be drowned in the deep dirty lake of blindness and ignorance. From the which, O beloved, wash yourselves with the living waters of God's Word, whence you may perceive [11/12] and know both the spiritual food of this costly Supper, and the happy trustings and effects that the same doth bring with it."

Thirdly. By bearing in mind the view which I have presented of the character of the Holy Communion, you will perceive plainly the erroneous nature of that conception of it, by which it is supposed to be a means of spiritual blessing to an unawakened and worldly heart.

The mistake to which I allude is simply this. Some individual or other is in a state of uneasiness and anxiety, in regard to the eternal welfare of his kindred or his friends. They are living in a thoughtless and impenitent career; and are without God in the world. Under the notion that the sacrament of the Lord's Supper is a channel of grace, without any respect to the inward condition of him who receives it, this well-intentioned relative or companion exhorts them to resort to the Holy Table; intimating to them, that, although they are now dead to spiritual things, this step will be the means of communicating to them a new and heavenly life. Now, a more delusive imagination than this never arose within a human mind. The very nature of a sacrament is, that it is a covenant between God and the creature; promising certain blessings on His part, and requiring certain conditions on the other. In the case of the penitent and believing heart, these conditions are fulfilled. The renewed man approaches the communion table, under a deep sense of his own sins, and of the wonders of redeeming love; and he, being thus quickened and alive, by the power of the Holy Ghost, receives nourishment to his life from this feast of sacred remembrance. Having been born again, he is capable of being fed with food; and, being fed, he grows in the graces and consolations of his high calling. But, on the other hand, allow me to ask,—what terms or requirements have been fulfilled, or can be fulfilled, [12/13] by one who, previously to the reception of the Lord's Supper, has never been made alive to God through the operation of a genuine repentance, and a true faith? Such a man is, spiritually speaking, dead. There is, therefore, no ground, upon which any of the blessings appertaining to this sacrament can be communicated to him from above. He wants the necessary preparation of heart. And, wanting this, no comforting and strengthening virtues can go forth from the symbols of bread and wine, to carry him on "unto perfection." Let not any imagine, then, that, where no life has already commenced, the Holy Communion will produce that life. To believe such an effect in the ordinance, is superstitiously to hold what Scripture has nowhere promised. "The grace which we have by the Holy Eucharist," says the immortal Hooker, "doth not begin but continue life." And common sense is sufficient to expose the absurdity of the notion against which I am contending. You may comfort and nourish a living body, by dispensing to it meat and drink: but who would expect, by giving bread to a corpse, to make that inanimate clod start into motion? To the believing soul, the Lord's Supper is a source of increase, and of strength, and of consolation. But to a cold, indifferent, and earthly spirit, it is utterly "unprofitable, and vain."

But further. Since, as we have seen, the sacramental feast, according to Scripture, and the Church to which we belong, is a commemoration of the sacrifice of Christ, then it is an error to consider the Holy Communion as being itself a sacrifice.

When our blessed Lord and Master breathed out his precious life upon the cross, he thereby completed a full and sufficient satisfaction for the sins of the whole world. He then offered himself once for all. He made a perfect redemption for us, no more to be renewed forever. When, therefore, we meet together around the table of our Lord, what is [13/14] it that we do? We come to this feast, for the purpose of gratefully remembering that wondrous expiation. The cares, and riches, and pleasures of this world, had perhaps cast it into comparative oblivion: but, at this privileged banquet, we summon it once more before the eye of the mind; we go back to the overwhelming spectacle of that cross and passion; we enshrine the event, so to speak, in the innermost sanctuary of our recollections. Now, any application of the term sacrifice to the sacrament under consideration, disturbs this beautiful order of things. It is to confound two objects which are totally distinct; the ransom which Jesus paid, with the act which celebrates that ransom. How interesting, in truth, is the precise position which this ordinance holds, when viewed in that simple and clear light in which the Bible, and the Prayer-Book, present it to our attention! In the fulness of time, Christ makes an offering for transgression. Now, before this oblation, the instituted rites of the Levitical dispensation look forward to Calvary in prediction: after it, the sacrament of the Lord's Supper looks back to Calvary in retrospection. This, then, is that scriptural interpretation of its meaning, which I would hold up prominently and distinctly. The Holy Communion is a stated observance, with the intent of bringing before us the remembrance of the once crucified Mediator. The symbols placed upon the Table are the emblems that remind us of this crucifixion. As such, a portion of the bread and wine are set apart by the minister of Christ. But, as for any sacrifice being performed in this transaction, I cannot do better than cite again the authority of the great Hooker. "Sacrifice," says he, "is now no part of the Church ministry."

And now, last of all: In distinction from that view which has been presented to you, of the Redeemer's presence at this sacramental feast, need I say to you, that it is a gross error to represent the [14/15] body of Christ as being corporally present in the elements?

It is a fact universally known, that even the great mind of the Saxon Reformer was unable to divest itself of this notion; and that, after having broken loose, on so many momentous questions, from the trammels of his early education, he consumed years in laboring to prove, that, although the bread and wine were not transformed into Christ's body and blood, yet with this food and drink the corporeal frame of the Saviour was mingled. Instead of wondering at this singular incongruity in his character, let us rather wonder that he achieved so much; and let us bless and praise God's holy name, for that light which broke in upon the world through the instrumentality of this his chosen servant. And let us, in the clear mirror of Scripture, and of our own reformed Church, read the admonition to avoid every approach to a delusion so pernicious, and so false. That the body of the ascended Son of God should be, at the same time, in heaven and on earth, is physically impossible. That it should dwell in the consecrated elements, is contrary to the evidence of our senses. That this should be the case, moreover, is inconsistent with the very nature of a sacrament. For what is a sacrament? The youngest catechumen could tell you, that it has two parts; the sign, and the thing signified. Now, in the Communion, the sign is the bread and wine; the thing signified, the Lord's body and blood. But if, according to the dogma referred to, the sign becomes the thing which it signifies, where is the sign,—and, by necessary consequence, where is the sacrament? Reader, Christ is indeed present with us, in this glorious feast. But how is he present? By making himself felt, as an all-sufficient Redeemer: by coming near to our hearts, as we taste and see the symbols of his sacrificial death: by feeding us spiritually; in the confirmation of our trust, in the [15/16] increase of our love, and in the enlargement of our hopes, as by faith we behold him wounded, that we might escape, and dying, that we might live. This is the only real presence. "The words that I speak unto you," says Christ, "they are spirit, and they are life." And in correspondence with this is the declaration of our own Church: —"The body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner."

I have room but for a word or two, in conclusion of this important subject. Are there any readers of these pages, who feel in themselves the broken and the contrite heart: who are convinced that the name of Christ is a strong tower: whose cry, with him of old, to their adorable Master, is this,—"Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief?" For you, then, the sacramental Supper waits, as for those who should speedily approach its banquet. It is a commemoration of the Lamb who was smitten for you: go, then, to call his love to remembrance. It is a feast to nourish, to console, to sanctify your hearts: resort to it, therefore, that you may find peace, and rest, and quietness; and that you may grow to "the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." It is an ordinance where the Saviour is present: fly, then, to it, as to a scene, where you may behold your blessed Surety, in all the fulness of his might, and in all the radiance of his love. All things are ready. "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters! yea, come, buy wine and milk, without money, and without price!"