The Saxon Visitation Articles were composed in A.D. 1592. These articles are historically important because they are a condensed and authoritative statement of the differences between orthodox Lutheranism and Calvinism concerning the doctrines of the sacraments, the person of Christ, and predestination. Article I of these articles is the article on the Lord’s Supper, and it sets forth the pure doctrine of the Lutheran Churches on this sacrament as follows:
“I. That the words of Christ, ‘Take and eat, this is my Body;’ ‘Drink, this is my Blood,’ are to be understood in the simple and literal sense, as they sound.
“II. That, in the Sacrament, there are two things which are exhibited and received together: one, earthly, which is bread and wine; the other, heavenly, which is the body and blood of Christ.
“III. That these things (this union, exhibition, and sumption) take place here below on the earth, and not above in heaven.
“IV. That the true and natural body of Christ which hung on the cross, and the true and natural blood, which flowed from the side of Christ, are exhibited and received.
“V. That the body and blood of Christ are received in the Supper, not only spiritually, which might be done out of the Supper; but by the mouth, with the bread and wine; yet in an inscrutable and supernatural manner; and this for a pledge and ascertainment of the resurrection of our bodies from the dead.
“VI. That the body and blood of Christ are received orally, not only by the worthy, but also by the unworthy, who approach them without repentance and true faith; though with different effect. By the worthy, they are received for salvation; by the unworthy, for judgment.”
In this article it is taught that there are two things in the Lord’s Supper: the earthly bread and wine, and the body and blood of Christ. Hence, this article makes distinction between the bread and wine on the one hand, and the body and blood of Christ on the other hand. Rome, we know, teaches that the bread and wine have been changed into the body and blood of Christ. Secondly, this article also teaches that the body and blood of Christ are not only received spiritually in the Supper, but also by the mouth, with the bread and wine. And, thirdly, the Lutherans also teach, in this article, that the body and blood of Christ are not only received by the worthy, but also by the unworthy who approach them without repentance and true faith. Of interest, of course, is the presentation of the Lutheran doctrine on the Lord’s Supper as recorded in the Formula of Concord. The Formula of Concord was originally written in the German language, 1576, and published at Dresden, 1580. In its doubly approved form, it was published as the, authorized text in 1554. The severe language of this Lutheran Confession must undoubtedly be explained in the light of the time when it was composed. Art. VII of this Confession deals with the subject of the Lord’s Supper, and we now quote this lengthy article.
OF THE LORDS SUPPER
“Although the Zwinglian doctors are not to be reckoned as in the number of those theologians who acknowledge and profess the Augsburg Confession, inasmuch as, when that Confession was set forth, they seceded from them; yet, since they are at this present craftily intruding themselves into their company, and endeavoring to disseminate their error as widely as possible, under cover of that godly Confession, we have judged that the Church of God ought to be instructed concerning this controversy also.
“Which exists between us and the Sacramentarians in this article.
“It is asked whether in the Holy Supper the true body and true blood of our Lord Jesus Christ are truly and substantially present, and are distributed with the bread and wine, and are taken with the mouth by all those who use this sacrament, be they worthy or unworthy, good or bad, believers or unbelievers, in such wise, nevertheless, as that believers derive consolation and life from the Supper of the Lord, but unbelievers take it unto condemnation? The Zwinglians deny this presence and dispensation of the body and blood of Christ in the Holy Supper, but we affirm the same.
“For a solid explication of this controversy, it is first to be understood that there are two sorts of sacramentarians. For some are exceedingly gross sacramentarians; these in perspicuous and plain words openly profess that which they think in their heart, to wit: that in the Lord’s Supper there is nothing more present than bread and wine, which alone are there distributed and received with the mouth. But others are astute and crafty, and thereby the most harmful of all the sacramentarians; these, when talking of the Lord’s Supper, make in part an exceedingly high-sounding use of our mode of speaking, declaring that they too believe in a true presence of the true, substantial, and. living body and blood of Christ in the Holy Supper, which presence and manducation, nevertheless, they say to be spiritual, such as takes place by faith. And yet these latter sacramentarians, under these high-sounding phrases, hide and hold fast the same gross opinion which the former have, to wit: that, besides the bread and wine, there is nothing more present or taken with the mouth in the Lord’s Supper. For the term (spiritualiter) signifies nothing more to them than the Spirit of Christ and his merit, which is present; but they think that the body of Christ itself is in no way whatever present, but is contained above in the highest heaven, and they affirm that it behooves us by the meditations of faith to rise on high and ascend into heaven, and that this body and blood of Christ are to be sought there, and in nowise in union with the bread and wine of the Holy Supper.
“Confession of the sound doctrine of the Supper of the Lord against the Sacramentarians.
“I. We believe, teach, and confess that in the Lord’s Supper the body and blood of Christ are truly and substantially present, and that they are truly distributed and taken together with the bread and wine.
“II. We believe, teach, and confess that the words of the Testament of Christ are not to be otherwise received than as the words themselves literally sound, so that the bread does not signify the absent body of Christ and the wine the absent blood of Christ, but that on account of the sacramental union the bread and wine are truly the body and blood of Christ.
“III. Moreover, as concerns the consecration, we believe, teach, and confess that no human work, nor any utterance of the minister of the Church, is the cause of the presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Supper, but that this is to be attributed to the omnipotent power of our Lord Jesus Christ.
“IV. Nevertheless, we believe, teach, and confess, by unanimous consent, that in the use of the Lord’s Supper the words of the institution of Christ are by no means to be omitted, but are to be publicly recited, as it is written (I Cor. 10:16): ‘The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?’ etc. And this benediction takes place by the recitation of the words of Christ.
“V. Now the foundations on which we rest in this controversy with the sacramentarians are the following, which, moreover, Dr. Luther has laid in his Larger Confession concerning the Supper of the Lord:
“The first foundation is an article of our Christian faith, to wit: Jesus Christ is true, essential, natural, perfect God and man in unity of person, inseparable and undivided.
“Secondly: that the right hand of God is everywhere, and that Christ, in respect to his humanity, is truly and in very deed seated thereat, and therefore at present governs, and has in his hand and under his feet, as the Scripture saith (Eph. 1:22), all things which are in heaven and on earth. At this right hand of God no other man, nor even any angel, but the Son of Mary alone, is seated, whence also he is able to effect those things which we have said.
“Thirdly: that the Word of God is not false or deceiving.
“Fourthly: that God knows and has in his power various modes in which he can be any where, and is not confined to that single one which philosophers are wont to call local or circumscribed.
“VI. We believe, teach and confess that the body and blood of Christ are taken with the bread and wine, not only spiritually through faith, but also by the mouth, nevertheless not Capernaitically, but after a spiritual and heavenly manner, by reason of the sacramental union. For to this the words of Christ clearly bear witness, in which he enjoins us to take, to eat, to drink; and that this was done by the Apostles the Scripture makes mention, saying (Mark 14:23): ‘And they all drank of it.’ And Paul says: ‘The bread which we break is the communion of the body of Christ,’ that is, he that eats this bread eats the body of Christ. To the same with great consent do the chief of the most ancient doctors of the Church, Chrysostom, Cyprian, Leo the First, Gregory, Ambrose, Augustine, bear witness.
“VII. We believe, teach, and confess that not only true believers in Christ, and such as worthily approach the Supper of the Lord, but also the unworthy and unbelieving receive the true body and blood of Christ; in such wise, nevertheless, that they derive thence neither consolation nor life, but rather so as that receiving turns to their judgment and condemnation, unless they be converted and repent (I Cor. 11:27, 29).
“For although they repel from them Christ as a Saviour, nevertheless they are compelled, though extremely unwilling, to admit him as a stern Judge. And he no less present exercises his judgment over these impenitent guests than as present he works consolation and life in the hearts of true believers and worthy guests.
“VIII. We believe, teach, and confess that there is one kind only of unworthy guests: they are those only who do not believe. Of these it is written (John 3:18): ‘He that believeth not is condemned already.’ And this judgment is enhanced and aggravated by an unworthy use of the holy Supper (I Cor. 11:29).”
The Lord willing, we will continue this quotation in our following article.