The Puritans on the Lord’s Supper (4)

For the Puritans, the sacrament revolved around the Word, especially Christ’s words of institution (Matt. 26:26–28, 1 Cor. 11:23-26).

Perkins wrote, “The right manner of using the Lord’s Supper … is the observing of the institution, without addition, detraction, or change.”[3] For this reason, the Puritans preferred to call the sacrament “the Lord’s Supper” rather than “Holy Communion” or “the Eucharist,” thus rooting it in the words of Scripture (1 Cor. 11:20).

 

Biblical Simplicity in the Lord’s Supper

If the material principle of the Reformation was justification by faith alone, the formal principle was that Scripture alone is the rule of faith and obedience. The Puritans viewed this truth as nothing less than the enthronement of Christ as King among His people. Willison said a true sacrament must be instituted by Christ “to show that Christ is the sole king and head of the church, who alone hath the power to appoint her ordinances.”[1] The Puritans earnestly applied the principle of sola scriptura to worship. Owen wrote in question-and-answer format:

Q: What doth God require of us in our dependence on him, that he may be glorified in us, and we accepted with him?

A: That we worship him in and by the ways of his own appointment….

Q: How then are these ways and means of the worship of God made known to us?

A: In and by the written word only, which contains a full and perfect revelation of the will of God as to his whole worship and all the concernments of it….

Q: What is principally to be attended unto by us in the manner of the celebration of the worship of God, and observation of the institutions and ordinances of the gospel?

A: That we observe and do all whatsoever the Lord Christ hath commanded us to observe, in the way that he hath prescribed; and that we add nothing unto or in the observation [observance] of them that is of man’s invention or appointment.[2]

The Puritans also applied the principle of sola scriptura to the Lord’s Supper. Perkins wrote, “The right manner of using the Lord’s Supper … is the observing of the institution, without addition, detraction, or change.”[3] For this reason, the Puritans preferred to call the sacrament “the Lord’s Supper” rather than “Holy Communion” or “the Eucharist,” thus rooting it in the words of Scripture (1 Cor. 11:20).[4] For the Puritans, the sacrament revolved around the Word, especially Christ’s words of institution (Matt. 26:26–281 Cor. 11:23-26). Perkins said, “Therefore this word in the administration of the sacrament ought to be pronounced distinctly and aloud, yea, and as occasion serveth, explained also.” He wrote, “All the efficacy and worthiness” of a sacrament depends on Christ’s words of institution.[5]Indeed, the elements of the sacrament are “visible words,”[6] “the signs representing to the eyes what which the word doth to the ears.”[7]

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