The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is, of course, treated in all the Protestant and Reformed Symbols. We wish to quote, first of all, from the Gallican Confession, the French Confession of Faith, composed in 1559, approximately the same time as our Heidelberg Catechism and our Belgic Confession. This Gallican Confession was addressed to the king of France, having been prepared by Calvin and one of his pupils. It might be of interest to our readers to read this address to the king, which introduces this confession, and we quote: “Sire, we thank God that hitherto having had no access to your Majesty to make known the rigor of the persecutions that we have suffered, and suffer daily, for wishing to live in the purity of the Gospel and in peace with our own consciences, he now permits .us to see that you wish to know the worthiness of our cause, as is shown by the last Edict given at Amboise in the month of March of this present year, 1559, which it has pleased your Majesty to cause to be published. This emboldens us to speak, which we have been prevented from doing hitherto through the injustice and violence of some of your officers, incited rather by hatred of us than by love of your service. And to the end, Sire, that we may, fully inform your Majesty of what concerns this, cause, we humbly beseech that you will see and hear our Confession of Faith, which we present to you, hoping that it will prove a sufficient answer to the blame and opprobrium unjustly laid upon us by those who have always made a point of condemning us without having any knowledge of our cause. In the which, Sire, we can affirm that there is nothing contrary to the Word of God, or to the homage which we owe you.
“For the articles of our faith, which are all declared at some length in our Confession, all come to this: that since God has sufficiently declared his will to us through his Prophets and Apostles, and even by the mouth of his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, we owe such respect and reverence to the Word of God as shall prevent us from adding to it anything of our own, but shall make us conform entirely to the rules it prescribes. And inasmuch as the Roman Church, forsaking the use and customs of the primitive Church, has introduced new commandments and a new form of worship of God, we esteem it but reasonable to prefer the commandments of God, Who is himself truth, to the commandments of men, who by their nature are inclined to deceit and vanity: And whatever our enemies may say against us, we can declare this before God and man, that we suffer for no other reason than for maintaining our Lord Jesus Christ to be our only Saviour and Redeemer, and his doctrine to be the only doctrine of life and salvation.
“And therefore, Sire, in accordance with your promises of goodness and mercy toward your poor subjects, we humbly beseech your Majesty graciously to examine the cause for which, being threatened at all times with death and exile, we thus lose the power of rendering the humble service that we owe you. May it please your Majesty, then, instead of the fire and sword which have been used hitherto, to have our Confession of Faith decided by the Word of God: giving permission and security for this. And we hope that you yourself will be the judge of our innocence, knowing that there is in us no rebellion or heresy whatsoever, but that our only endeavor is to live in peace of conscience, serving God according to his commandments, and honoring your Majesty by all obedience and submission.
“And because we have great need, by the preaching of the Word of God, to be kept in our duty to him, as well as to yourself, we humbly beg, Sire, that we may sometimes be permitted to gather together, to be exhorted to the fear of God by his Word, as well as to be confirmed by the administration of the Sacraments which the Lord Jesus Christ instituted in his Church. And if it should please your Majesty to give us a place where any one may see what passes in our assemblies, we shall thereby be absolved from the charge of the enormous crimes with which these same assemblies have been defamed. For nothing will be seen but that is decent and well-ordered, and nothing will be heard but the praise of God, exhortations to his service, and prayers for the preservation of your Majesty and of your kingdom. And if it do not please you to grant us this favor, at least let it be permitted us to follow the established order in private among ourselves.
“We beseech you most humbly, Sire, to believe that in listening to this supplication which is now presented to you, you listen to the cries and groans of an infinite number of your poor subjects, who implore of your mercy that you extinguish the fires which the cruelty of your judges has lighted in your kingdom. And that we may thus be permitted, in serving your Majesty, to serve him who has raised you to your power and dignity:
“And if it should not please you, Sire, to listen to our voice, may it please you to listen to that of the Son of God, who, having given you power over our property, our bodies, and even our lives, demands that the control and dominion of our souls and consciences, which he purchased with his own blood, be reserved to him.
“We beseech him, Sire, that he may lead you always by his Spirit, increasing with your age, your greatness and power, giving you victory over all your enemies, and establishing, forever, in all equity and justice, the. throne of your Majesty: before whom, may it please him that we find grace, and some fruit of this our present supplication, so that having exchanged our pains and afflictions for some peace and liberty, we may also change our tears and lamentations into a perpetual thanksgiving to God, and to your Majesty for having done that which is most agreeable to him, most worthy of your goodness and mercy, and most necessary for the preservation of your most humble and obedient subjects and servants.”
What a beautiful address! It surely speaks of humility. Indeed, the people of God are not a people who live in open and secret defiance of all order and authority. Notice that in this address we read that the Son of God has given the king of France power over the property, bodies, and even the souls of the people of God. Notice, too, that the people of God, in this address to their earthly king, declare that they are not rebels, do not live in rebellion against their monarch, and that anyone is always at liberty to visit their gatherings, so that all may know what goes on during these services. God’s people have nothing to hide. And the address concludes with a stirring appeal to the king to listen to the voice of the Son of God, should it not please him to listen to their voice. After all, the king, although having power over their property, bodies, and lives, is himself subject to the Son of God; and this Son of God has purchased them with His own blood. How fearful a thing it is, therefore, for the king of France to fail to heed the voice of the Son of God and to persecute them who have been purchased by His blood! He may well consider the fact that, in persecuting the people of God, he is busily engaged in persecuting the cause of the Son of God Who has placed him upon the throne of France.
In this Gallican Confession Articles 36 and 37 speak of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.
Art. 36. “We confess that the Lord’s Supper, which is the second sacrament, is a witness of the union which we have with Christ, inasmuch as he not only died and rose again for us once, but also feeds and nourishes us truly with his flesh and blood, so that we may be one in him, and that our life may be in common. Although he be in heaven until he come to judge all the earth, still we believe that by the secret and incomprehensible power of his Spirit he feeds and strengthens us with the substance of his body and of his blood. We hold that this is done spiritually, not because we put imagination and fancy in the place of fact and truth, but because the greatness of this mystery exceeds the measure of our senses and the laws of nature. In short, because it is heavenly, it can only be apprehended by faith.”
Art. 37. “We believe, as has been said, that in the Lord’s Supper, as well as in baptism; God gives us really and in fact that which he there sets forth in us; and that consequently with these signs is given the true possession and enjoyment of that which they present to us. And thus all who bring a pure faith, like a vessel, to the sacred table of Christ, receive truly that of which it is a sign; for the body and the blood of Jesus Christ give food and drink to the soul, no less than bread and wine nourish the body.”
From these articles it is evident that, in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, the Lord feeds and nourishes us with His flesh and blood, so that we may be one in Him, and that our life may be in common with Him. However, lest this be understood either in the Roman Catholic or Lutheran sense of the word, the articles hasten to add that Christ is in heaven until He come to judge all the earth, and that we are strengthened by the secret and incomprehensible power of His Spirit with the substance of His body and blood. This, we read, occurs spiritually. And when we read that the body and blood of Jesus Christ give food and drink to the soul, no less than bread and wine nourish the body, it clearly implies that a distinction must be made between this spiritual food and drink and the bread and wine which nourish the body, and that therefore the bread and wine remain bread and wine during the Supper of the Lord.
Chapter 29 of the Westminster Confession of Faith, 1647, discussing the Lord’s Supper, has the following:
“I. Our Lord Jesus, in the night wherein he was betrayed, instituted the sacrament of his body and blood, called the Lords Supper, to be observed in his Church, unto the end of the world; for the perpetual remembrance of the sacrifice of himself in his death, the sealing all benefits unto true believers; their spiritual nourishment and growth in him, their further engagement in, and to all duties which they owe unto him; and to be a bond and pledge of their communion with him, and with each other, as members of his mystical body.
“II. In this sacrament Christ is not offered up to his Father, nor any real sacrifice made at all for remission of sins of the quick or dead, but only a commemoration of that one offering up of himself, by himself, upon the cross, once for all, and a spiritual oblation of all possible praise unto God for the same; so that the Popish sacrifice of the mass, as they call it, is most abominably injurious to Christ’s one only sacrifice, the alone propitiation for all the sins of the elect.” (In this paragraph the Confession clearly sets forth that the Lord’s Supper is only a commemoration of that one sacrifice of our Lord upon the cross, and that the Romish mass is most abominably injurious to the one and only sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, the one and only propitiation for all the sins of the elect. There is therefore no other sacrifice besides the cross, as Roman Catholicism would have us believe in connection with their Popish mass.)