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Anglican Appreciation

For the most part, I have enjoyed receiving the Standard Bearer. We have much agreement in “a common faith” (Titus 1:4). No doubt, you know the “Reformed” nature of the Thirty-Nine Articles. Sadly, this is mostly forgotten by the Anglican communion at large.

I enjoyed your editorial, “How Then Will We Live? (2)” [Jan. 15, 2000], especially the point on suffering for the true church and body of Christ. The real Church-Catholic is “cruciform” in the representation of His life (II Cor. 4:10, 11). Some of the hymns of Watts and C. Wesley are so rich here! And yet the Church is ignorant of these great hymns and songs. I would always seek to preach and use a quote from the hymns of the Church-Catholic. In fact, good hymnology is the Church-Catholic (Col. 3:16).

I have a question as to the sacramental doctrine of the Protestant Reformed Churches. Are you Zwinglian, or are you with Calvin?

An Anglican “Presbyter”

[name withheld by request]

Response:

The Protestant Reformed Churches are traditionally and confessionally Reformed in their doctrine of the Lord’s Supper. There is a real, spiritual presence of Christ in the Supper, as there is a real, spiritual presence of Christ in the preaching of the gospel. The believer who eats and drinks worthily receives the real body and blood of Christ, but by the mouth of faith, not the mouth of the body. Therefore, the unbeliever who may participate in the sacrament does not receive Christ, but only bread and wine.

One of our creeds is the Belgic Confession of Faith. In Article 35, it expresses our belief concerning the presence of Christ in the Supper as follows:

Now, as it is certain and beyond all doubt that Jesus Christ hath not enjoined to us the use of his Sacraments in vain, so he works in us all that he represents to us by these holy signs, though the manner surpasses our understanding, and can not be comprehended by us, as the operations of the Holy Ghost are hidden and incomprehensible. In the mean time we err not when we say that what is eaten and drunk by us is the proper and natural body and the proper blood of Christ. But the manner of our partaking of the same is not by the mouth, but by the Spirit through faith. Thus, then, though Christ always sits at the right hand of his Father in the heavens, yet doth he not, therefore, cease to make us partakers of himself by faith. This feast is a spiritual table, at which Christ communicates himself with all his benefits to us, and gives us there to enjoy both himself and the merits of his sufferings and death, nourishing, strengthening, and comforting our poor comfortless souls, by the eating of his flesh, quickening and refreshing them by the drinking of his blood.

Further, though the Sacraments are connected with the thing signified, nevertheless both are not received by all men: the ungodly indeed receives the Sacrament to his condemnation, but he doth not receive the truth of the Sacrament. As Judas and Simon the sorcerer both, indeed, received the Sacrament, but not Christ, who was signified by it, of whom believers only are made partakers (Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, vol. 3, Baker, repr. 1983, pp. 429-431).

We are not ignorant of the hymns of which you speak. However, our worship services use the Psalms for the worship of God and the instruction of the saints. The Psalms are not lacking the identification of the church as always a martyr church on the earth. This is one reason why, as nominally Reformed churches in North America are infected with the trivial “feel-good” religion of evangelicalism or yield to the triumphalist dream of common grace and postmillennialism, to “Christianize” North America, they abandon the singing of the Psalms. This versification of Psalm 44 is typical:

Thou, Lord, hast forsaken, to shame brought our boasts;

No more to the field dost Thou go with our hosts;

Thou turnest us back from the foe in dismay,

And spoilers who hate us have made us their prey.

I have some slight contact with the Church of England (Continuing), among whom is a very definite Calvinistic testimony, and am trying to increase the contact.

— Ed.