The 39: The Sacraments (5)
September 14, 2018
The exposition on the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper concludes three final articles that address Lutheran consubstantiation and the blasphemy of the Roman Mass. The doctrine that was fully explained in article 25, ‘in such only as worthily receive the same they have a wholesome effect or operation,' and article 28 ‘the Body of Christ is… eaten… only after an heavenly and spiritual manner,’ is made still more explicit in article 29: Anglicans do not hold to the Lutheran doctrine of the real presence.
XXIX—Of the Wicked Which Eat Not the Body of Christ in the Use of the Lord's SupperThe 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.
Article 29 was a new article in 1563. It was written by Archbishop Parker and approved by the Convocations of Canterbury and York, but removed by the direction of Queen Elizabeth I. Article 29, therefore, has the distinction of being the only article approved by the elders of the church but eliminated by the government. As we saw last time in article 28, Archbishop Parker thought that article 28’s 1563 revision lacked precision. An additional article was required that set out a further clarification of biblically faithful doctrine of the Supper that protected the integrity of the two natures of Christ.
The political climate of the next eight years left the Reformed Protestant Church of England with an unfinished confession. Historians think that Elizabeth spent the 1560s hoping for an alliance with the Lutheran princes, but by 1571 was prepared to choose doctrinal clarity over political pragmatism. Undaunted, Archbishop Parker reinserted the Crown promulgated the article in 1571 and with the other 38. Even the Bishop of Rochester who was sympathetic to the Lutheran view became resigned to the fact that there is a fundamental difference in the Anglican and Lutheran doctrines of the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Supper. In 1577 the Lutheran Formula of Concord responded in kind to anathematize anyone who believed the doctrine of article 29, although not naming it explicitly.
Article 29 is one of only two articles that refer to an ancient church father (Jerome is alluded to in article 6 on the status of the Apocrypha). It has a direct quotation from Augustine’s Homilies on the Gospel of John, Tractate 26.18 on John 6:41-59. Augustine, in his sermon on John 6, points us to the examples of Israel’s manna in the desert and Judas in the Upper Room in 26.11-12 to prove his point that pressing with your teeth only does harm. Augustine asserts that the two examples are severe warnings, alluding to 1 Corinthians 11:29 in 26.11 and 26.18.
Anglicans are indeed not somewhere halfway between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. In fact, Anglicans are not even somewhere halfway between Luther and Calvin. Article 29 unambiguously commits Anglicans to the Reformed understanding when it comes to the sacraments, and unequivocally denies the Lutheran belief. Article 29 is for the serious Christian who wants to understand clearly the Anglican doctrine of the Lord’s Supper. The key to the article's teaching is the phrase, "lively faith." A lively faith is genuine trust and confidence of the mercy of God through our Lord Jesus Christ and a steadfast hope of all good things to be received at God's hand. If a lively faith is not there, the spiritual benefit cannot be gained. Such hypocrisy is a dangerous presumption, not because the elements themselves have any power in themselves to harm, but the spiritually blind, cut off from God’s grace, abuses his great gift. As the "Exhortation" says before reception of the elements confirms,
For as the benefit is great, if with a true penitent heart and lively faith we receive that holy Sacrament; (for then we spiritually eat the flesh of Christ, and drink his blood; then we dwell in Christ, and Christ in us; we are one with Christ, and Christ with us;) so is the danger great, if we receive the same unworthily. For then we are guilty of the Body and Blood of Christ our Saviour; we eat and drink our own damnation, not considering the Lord's Body; we kindle God's wrath against us; we provoke him to plague us with divers diseases, and sundry kinds of death. Judge therefore yourselves, brethren, that ye be not judged of the Lord; repent you truly for your sins past; have a lively and stedfast faith in Christ our Saviour; amend your lives, and be in perfect charity with all men; so shall ye be meet partakers of those holy mysteries.
Article 29 remains relevant today, particularly for Anglicans in North America. It is troubling how North American Anglicans omit article 29 from their report on the ecumenical dialogue between the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) and The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the Lutheran Church – Canada (LCC), On Closer Acquaintance: An Interim Report 2016. Still more seriously, in section 11 on Holy Communion, the ACNA representatives referred to an implied acceptance by the ACNA of the Lutheran view of presence in an earlier joint statement with the American Lutheran Church (NALC). Worse of all is how the ACNA representatives persuaded the Lutherans delegates that the Forty-Two Articles (notice how the reference is cleverly made to the 1553 42 articles, not the 1571 historical formulary that includes article 29) or the final rubric of the 1662 Lord’s Supper (known historically as the Black Rubric) are not “Anglicanism’s last word on the sacramental presence of our Lord” (p. 9). Adding that the “current ACNA communion liturgy does not have the Black Rubric at all!” (p. 9). Should such a vital article and its accompanying doctrinal confirmation by Scripture, Chalcedon, Church Fathers, Anglican forebears, other articles, and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer – the historical formulary, be exchanged for such a bowl of ecumenical pottage?