Draft chapters of the upcoming Story of the Matthew

Bible: The Scriptures Then and Now
© Ruth Magnusson 2017. Reasonable quotations permitted, please credit “Ruth Magnusson Davis,
Founder and Editor of New Matthew Bible Project, www.newmatthewbible.org

Chapter 12

A Strange Speaking

What did Jesus mean at his Passover supper when he distributed the bread and the cup to
his disciples and said to them, “This is my body… This is my blood”? Matthew in his
gospel recites Jesus’ words as follows:
The institution of the sacrament: Jesus took bread and gave thanks, broke it, and
gave it to the disciples and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup and
thanked and gave it to them, saying, Drink of it, everyone. For this is my blood of the
new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
Tyndale called these words a “strange speaking.”1 From this “speaking” of our Lord in the
upper room, and from apostolic authority, the early Church developed the ceremony of the
Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion, which the Reformers often called the Sacrament of the
Body and Blood of the Lord. It was (and is) also variously called among Christians the
Mass and the Eucharist.
“This is a strange speaking,” wrote Tyndale, “and far from the use of our tongue, to call the
sign and confirmation by the name of the thing that is signified and confirmed.”2 Differing
in doctrine from the Roman Catholics and many of his fellow Reformers, he developed the
view that not only were the bread and wine of Holy Communion not changed so as to
become the body and blood of the Lord in any real temporal sense (transubstantiation),
neither was the Lord present at the Supper in any metaphysical or spiritual sense. Rather,
said Tyndale, the elements of bread and wine, and the ceremony of the sacrament, were
bare signs. Their only purpose is to put us in remembrance of the salvation won for us by
the Lord’s passion and death, and of the promises of God, in which promises we must trust

1 William Tyndale, “A Fruitful and Godly Treatise Expressing the Right Institution and Usage of the
Sacrament of Baptism and the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of our Saviour Jesu Christ,” also
known as “A Brief Declaration of the Sacraments” (hereafter “Sacraments”) first published 1533,
contained in Doctrinal Treatises and Introductions to Different Portions of the Holy Scriptures, Parker
Society, Ed. Henry Walter (Cambridge: The University Press, 1848) (hereafter “Parker Soc.,
Treatises”), 365. Note, in Obedience at page 156 Tyndale says a “strange speaking” is as much as to
say an allegory or borrowed speech.
2 Ibid., 365.

– and by so trusting, we are cleansed and saved. Therefore the Supper is only a memorial –
efficacious through faith, to be sure, but no more than a remembrance.
To view the sacrament as a mere memorial does make Jesus’ words – This is my body,
given for you; this is my blood shed for you – to be a strange speaking. Tyndale explains it
with reference to Hebrew custom and usage. The ceremony of Holy Communion is to be
regarded, he wrote, much as the appearance of a rainbow.3 Just as the rainbow is a sign and
reminder of God’s covenant with all living creatures that he would never again drown the
world in water, so the sacrament of Holy Communion, by the sharing of the bread and the
cup of mixed water and wine, is a sign and reminder of Christ’s passion and promise in the
New Testament that his body was broken for us and his blood shed for us, and that
through faith we are now knit with him, and are thus saved as a body. Therefore, Tyndale
explains, the sacrament itself does not ‘save’ us from sin any more than the rainbow saves
the world from drowning. Rather, it puts us in mind – albeit savingly – of that which does
save: the passion and the promises of Christ, and our faith therein. I say “savingly” because
Tyndale himself wrote that the sacrament is “an absolution of sin,” “heals the conscience,”
and “makes the faith sink into the heart,”4 all of which operate unto salvation. He wrote:
If when thou seest the sacrament or eateth his body or drinkest his blood, thou have
this promise fast in thine heart (that his body was slain and his blood shed for thy
sins), and believest it, so art thou saved and justified thereby.5
In this way, the Supper is efficacious for salvation. But, he would say, it is not that the
“work” of the Supper saves, because it is faith that saves. While this is of course true, yet
Tyndale makes faith a tool, as it were, in the sacrament, in that it is our personal act of
remembering, of stirring up our faith, by which, and only by which, we are healed and
absolved. Christ does not himself do a work in the Supper; he does not make himself
present in the upper room, nor feed us, wash our feet with forgiveness, or himself do any
work at all; rather, it is simply that we remember.
Luther, and also many of the English Reformers, agreed that there must be faith and a truly
repentant heart before a person may receive any benefit from the Eucharist. They would
agree that the elements – the bread or host, and wine mingled with water – do not actually
become in any physical or carnal sense the body and blood of the Lord. And they would
agree that the Eucharist is a remembrance. But they would not stop there. For they held
that the Supper is more than a remembrance, more than an exercise of faith, and that Christ
does a work in it that ought not to be denied.
Jesus’ words, “This is my body... this is my blood,” were not a strange speaking to Martin
Luther, though certainly they are mysterious and expressive of a mystery. He would say
that these words were but a plain statement and promise concerning the gift of the Lord at
His Supper, mystically but really “in” or “under” the bread and in the cup; they were but a
simple way to describe a holy mystery, the mystery by which our High Priest gives of
himself in the sacrament of Holy Communion by the hands of the human ministrant. In
this way, Jesus is both in the sacrament and he is the sacrament; that is, he gives of himself

3 Ibid., 348. (And see Tyndale, Obedience, 108. Luther spoke first of the rainbow analogy, but
understood it differently.)
4 Ibid., 357, 359, 360.
5 Tyndale, Obedience, 108-109.

therein, or, to express it in other words, makes himself present in the bread and in the cup,
though only to the faithful who partake worthily.
John Calvin did not accept Luther’s explanation, but nonetheless held that the Lord was
“joined” or “annexed with” the serving of the bread and the wine, though not locally.6
Thomas Cranmer, the English Reformer, also would not grant a “local” presence, but did
speak of Christ’s giving of himself in the sacrament, and of his real presence therein.
Tyndale, however, never spoke of the Lord’s presence at all, nor of the Lord giving himself
in any way.
The parties, therefore, disagreed about both the fact and the manner of Christ’s presence in
the sacrament. As to the fact of it, is he present in Holy Communion in a way that he is not
otherwise present to the faithful believer? If so, how? Since Tyndale answered the first
question in the negative, he did not need to consider the second, which was yet a question
that vexed others.
The theology of the Eucharist is a great and mysterious question, which has been explored
by many great and sincere minds, at whose feet I am but a student. In this and the next
chapter I will simply compare, as fairly and as best as I can, the sacramental theology of
Tyndale (which may surprise moderns), Rogers, Luther, Coverdale, John Calvin, and
Thomas Cranmer.

Ceremonies and sacraments; Holy Communion
The sacraments, and especially the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of the Lord, were of
course the subject of much controversy during the Reformation. The issues that the
Reformers struggled with were several besides transubstantiation. One was the Roman
position that the Mass was a propitiatory sacrifice, to which they answered that Christ had
been sacrificed once and for all; to regard the Mass as a sacrifice to God was to make a
work of man where none should be: the only offering we ourselves make is praise and
thanks. But among themselves, the main issue was the real presence.
Tyndale, in a letter to his beloved friend John Frith, once advised him to avoid disputing
the matter. “Of the presence of Christ’s body in the sacrament,” wrote Tyndale, “Meddle as
little as you can, so that there appear no division amongst us… the Saxons [Lutherans] are
sore on the affirmative.”7 One ought not to be bold, he added, “to pronounce or define of
hid secrets, or things that neither help nor hinder, whether it be so or not.”8 We see here
how he pleaded with Frith that the presence of Christ in the sacrament is a question best
left alone, not only because it is divisive, and because it would reveal the division among
the Reformers, but also because the question involves a holy mystery, a “hid” thing, and
we ought not to be over-bold in our opinions.
Nevertheless, Tyndale thought it meet to dispute of the matter in his 1530 prologue to
Leviticus. In so doing, he continued a discussion he had begun in The Obedience in 1528,
when he was anxious to dispel clouds of superstition that had settled upon the celebration
of the Mass. He also revisited the issue in his Answer to Sir Thomas More’s Dialogue (c. 1531),
where he fiercely attacked the Roman Church, which had “corrupted the scripture, and

6 Calvin’s position is discussed in the next chapter, as is also Thomas Cranmer’s.
7 Foxe, Acts, Vol. II, 308.
8 Ibid., 309.

blinded the right way with their own constitutions… with taking away the significations of
the sacraments, to make us believe in the work of the sacraments.”9 Then in 1533 he
discussed it in his essay, “A Fruitful and Godly Treatise Expressing the Right Institution
and Usage of the Sacrament of Baptism and the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of our
Saviour Jesu Christ.”10 He does not appear to have altered his opinion during these years,
though he does seem – and this necessarily, given his low view of baptism and the
Eucharist – to have been led to expand the scope of what might rightly be considered
sacramental, and also to some inconsistencies, which we will see.
Leviticus, the third book of the Pentateuch, might well be regarded as the primary Old
Testament book of ceremonies. In his 1530 prologue, Tyndale took the opportunity to
discuss New Testament ceremonies also, of which baptism and the Eucharist are chief. The
careful reader of Tyndale’s prologue will soon realize that he uses the words ‘ceremonies’,
‘signs, and ‘sacraments’ almost interchangeably.11 To him, ceremonies are sacramental.
And so, though early in the prologue it seems he disdains ceremonies as “seeming
childish,”12 and as “mere tokens,” he does not intend it this way. Soon he goes on to
emphasize their place and importance – at least, that is, when properly done. He wrote that
ceremonies are:
figures; that is to say allegories, similitudes, or examples, to show forth Christ and
the secrets of God hid in Christ, even to the quick, and to declare them more lively
and tangibly than can all the words of the world. For similitudes have more effect
and power than bare words, and lead one’s wits farther into the pith and marrow,
and spiritual understanding of the thing.13
Good ceremonies, Tyndale insists, are valuable visual and experiential aids to worship and
faith. They ‘show’ rather than ‘tell’, and thus effectively preach without words. They are
signs with power to stir up our faith, to help us to understand, to put us in mind of holy
things, and of the promises and testament of God – and by believing what they signify, we
are saved. This was the right use of ceremonies under the Old Testament, Tyndale said,
and so it is also under the New.
Old Testament figures such as the scapegoat, the brazen serpent, and the Passover Lamb,
foretold and prefigured to the senses the mysteries of Christ in a way that made them come
alive better than words ever could. And under the New Testament, there is a continuing
place for ceremonies because they symbolize divine things, and thus describe or “preach”
the revealed Christ to our senses. However, Tyndale complained, “dumb ceremonies” –
that is, where the symbolism is neither taught nor understood, or when they are performed
in a language that no one understands, as in Latin – such “dumb” ceremonies tell us
nothing, say nothing to us. “Dumb” of course does not mean stupid or foolish, but mute or

9 Tyndale, Answer, 44.
10 See note 229. I have not referred to the essay, “The Supper of the Lord after the True Meaning of
John VI and 1 Cor. XI,” appended to Answer by the Parker Society, because Tyndale’s authorship is
disputed. The teaching is more orthodox, and differs from Tyndale’s other works.
11 See Answer, 74, where Tyndale affirmed “the sacraments, ceremonies, or signs [are] three words of

one signification.”
12 William Tyndale, “A Prologue into the Third Book of Moses Called Leviticus,” (hereafter

“Leviticus Prologue”) in Tyndale OT, Daniell, 145. Every quotation will not be footnoted. The prologue
is short and easily consulted.
13 Ibid., 145-146. English minimally updated.

meaningless; that is, not showing, telling, or preaching anything. Dumb ceremonies do not
help, but only hinder our faith, and foster superstition and reliance upon man’s work.14
Meaningful ceremonies, however, Tyndale treasured. For example, if we understand that
the mingling of wine with water in the Eucharistic cup symbolizes how, just as the water is
changed into wine, so are we changed through faith into Christ,15 then the ceremony
“preaches” this mystery to us visually. The amice, the robes, candles, oiling, gestures such
as crossing oneself, the use of images, the memory of saints, all have their meaning ,16 and
all can preach to us, if we but understand them and use them aright – which is to say, in
contemplation of the things of the faith:
As the Hebrews wrote their narratives in covenants and signs, giving their signs
such names as could not but keep them in mind, so God the Father… commanded
his promises, covenants, and prophecies to be written in gestures, signs, and
ceremonies, giving them names that could not but keep his covenants in mind. Even
so Christ wrote the covenant of his body and blood in bread and wine…17
The amice on the head is the kerchief that Christ was blindfolded with, when the
soldiers buffeted him and mocked him, saying, “Prophesy to us; who struck you?”…
And the flap thereon is the crown of thorns; and the alb is the white garment that
Herod put on him, saying he was a fool because he held his peace and would not
answer him. And the two flaps on the sleeves, and the other two on the alb
beneath… are the four nails… and the stole, the rope with which he was bound to
the pillar, when he was scourged; and the corporis-cloth, the shroud in which he was
buried; and the altar is the cross, or perhaps the grave; and so forth…18
So we must realize that Tyndale valued ceremonies, and also traditional vestments and
altar dressings, for their symbolic value, which symbolism or “significations,” in his view,
made sacraments of them. “This word sacrament,” he wrote, “Is as much to say as a holy
sign, and it represented always some promise of God.”19 Our faith in that promise is what
saves, as opposed to faith in the sacrament. It was so under the Old Covenant, and is so
under the New. He wrote in the Leviticus prologue that the ceremonies or sacraments of
the Old Covenant:
“saved [the people], and justified them, and stood them in the same stead as our
sacraments do us: not by the power of the sacrifice or deed itself, but by the virtue of
the faith in the promise which the sacrifice or ceremony preached, and whereof it
was a token or sign. For the ceremonies and sacrifices were left with them, and
commanded them to keep the promise in remembrance, and to wake up their
To Tyndale, then, faith alone is operative in supplying or applying the benefits of the
sacraments or ceremonies. To believe otherwise is to have a misplaced faith in the
ceremony, now as much as in Old Testament times. I question his placement of the Old

14 See also Obedience, 83.
15 Tyndale, Answer, 97.
16 See for example Answer, 59-60.
17 Tyndale, Sacraments, in Parker Soc., Treatises, 357.
18 Tyndale, Answer, 73-74.
19 Tyndale, Obedience, 108.
20 Tyndale, Leviticus Prologue in Tyndale OT, Daniell, 146.

Testament ceremonies on a par with the New Testament sacraments, but this is inevitable, I
suppose, given his low view of the sacraments, and his equation of ceremony and
sacrament. Another problem I see is that, if Christ does not give to us by means of the
sacrament, which faith then receives, but if it is up to us to exercise our faith to obtain that
in which we already believe, then too much is left to us. We feeble mortals, through
meaningful reflection, must awaken faith, and so be cleansed and absolved (to use his
words, as below). Thus, ironically it seems to me, the efficacy of the sacrament depends
entirely on our work.
Tyndale might well have said that the stirring up and awakening of faith “brings the Holy
Spirit with it” in the sacraments, consistent with how he often spoke about good preaching,
but to my knowledge he never did. The fact is that the Spirit seems quite passive in his
view. In this, Tyndale differed greatly from Luther and Cranmer; they, though they
disagreed as to the manner of the divine working, made the Lord more sovereign. To them,
he gives of himself in the Supper, which is a divinely-ordained ceremony given for this
very purpose. It is sacramental, not only by putting us in mind of the things of the faith, but
by the bestowing of heavenly benediction by the Lord himself. In the Supper, the Lord,
working with faith by his Holy Spirit, gives us our heavenly food, and in this manner
sanctifies and changes us, and nourishes us up unto salvation. It is not that our faith is in
the ceremony, but we have faith in the Lord’s promise to give us our heavenly food, which
is taken and eaten in a spiritual manner by means of the ceremony. (Which is not to say
that it may be “dumb.” Truth must be meaningfully set forth so that the people
Tyndale’s position is consistent with the axiom that by faith alone we are saved, but
Luther’s is not inconsistent. Luther was the man who opened to the world again the
understanding that by faith we are saved. The issue, then, is not the need for faith. The
issue is the fact and means of the presence of Christ to believers, and goes to the very
definition of a sacrament. Tyndale never acknowledged a sacramental presence, but others
insisted upon it. Among other things, these differing views lead to different
understandings of the meaning of the “promises” that are attached to the sacraments. Were
they promises that grace would be given therein, such that this bestowal of grace is what
makes a sacrament a sacrament? Or is it simply that the sacraments are good memorials of
God’s promises? In other words – and this is key – do we thereby receive a promise, or
simply remember a promise?
Our Reformers laboured to understand and to rightly explain the sacraments. Some of
them died for their views. Below they shall speak in their own words.

William Tyndale on the sacraments generally
We have seen Tyndale’s teaching quite closely, and only a few more words are necessary.
Again, we may look to his Answer to Sir Thomas More’s Dialogue, where he described the
New Testament sacraments of the Supper and baptism, as:
…signs, partly of what we should believe, to stir us up unto faith, and partly what
we should do, to stir us up to do the law of God… [but] not works to justify.”21
Nevertheless, concerning efficacy, he wrote in his prologue to Leviticus:

21 Tyndale, Answer, 48.

The sacraments cleanse us, and absolve us of our sins as the priests do, in preaching
of repentance and faith, for which cause both of them were ordained.22
Tyndale meant, of course, that the remembrance and stirring up of faith work to cleanse
and absolve us, not anything in the sacrament itself. Baptism, like the Lord’s Supper, was
also just a bare sign, and he wrote that if anyone were to ask him about it, he would “send
him to the Apostle Paul”:
who asks the Galatians whether they received the Holy Spirit by the deeds of the law
or by preaching of faith, and there [in the epistle to the Galatians] concludes that the
Holy Spirit accompanies the preaching of faith, and with the word of faith enters the
heart and purges it.23
Baptism is our common badge and sure earnest and perpetual memorial that we
belong to Christ and are separated from all who are not Christ’s… [and it] signifies
to us repentance and the mortifying of our unruly members and body of sin to walk
in a new life, and so forth.”24
The meaning of our baptism, Tyndale justly wrote, should ever be taught and reaffirmed to
us, for “the knowledge of our baptism is the key and light of the scripture.”25 But he never
said that baptism is regenerative in any way, nor that it brings any power or grace with it.
And given his views on sacraments – that they are bare signs only – he never could say
anything of the sort. With the talk of “stirring up faith” that we now recognize as a familiar
theme in Tyndale, he writes of baptism:
The covenant made between God and Abraham saved the man-child as soon as it
was born, yea as soon as it had life in the mother’s womb; for the covenant, that God
would be God of Abraham’s seed went over the fruit as soon as it had life, and then
there is no reason but that the covenant must needs pertain to the males as soon as to
the females. Wherefore the covenant must needs save the males until the eighth day
[after birth]. And then the covenant was that the rulers should slay the males only, if
their friends did not circumcise them; not that the circumcision saved them, but to
testify the covenant only. And then it follows that the infants that die unbaptized, of
us Christians who would baptize them at due time and teach them to believe in
Christ, are in as good case as these that die baptized. For as the covenant made to the
faith of Abraham went over his seed as soon as it had life, and before the sign was
put on them, even so must needs the covenant made to all that believe in Christ’s
blood go over that seed as soon as it has life in the mother’s womb, before the sign be
put on it. For it is the covenant only, and not the sign, that saves us – though the sign
be commanded to be put on at due time, to stir up faith of the covenant that saves
For Tyndale, then, the divinely ordained sacraments are a form of visual preaching only:

22 Tyndale, Leviticus Prologue in Tyndale OT, Daniell, 147.
23 Ibid.
24 Ibid., 148.
25 Tyndale, “Exposition of the first Epistle of St John,” (hereafter “Exp of 1 John”) in Parker Soc., Exp

& Practice, 138.
26 Tyndale, Sacraments, in Parker Soc., Treatises, 350.

Tyndale’s conclusion: Our sacraments are representative depictions only… there is
none other virtue [power] in them than to testify and exhibit to the senses and
understanding the covenants and promises made in Christ’s blood.27
A few final things ought to be noted, because Tyndale is often misquoted in support of
views to which he never ascribed. For one, obviously he did not despise ceremonies.
Though he deplored the misuse and abuse of them. Nor did he despise the holy days of the
Church calendar, which he regarded as sacramental. And though his refusal to
acknowledge grace in the sacraments finds an echo with the Baptists, it is but a faint one.
He granted Holy Communion more efficacy than they do (healing, forgiveness, and
absolution when faith was awakened). Also, he did not hold to believer-only baptism,
though he would have deferred baptism until a child could understand the meaning of the
So then, Tyndale loved the ceremonies that awoke faith in his heart and told of the
promises of God. However, his low view of the sacraments tends to some confusion and
inconsistency, which things are always the fruits of error, no matter how innocent.

A Low View is a Broad View
If, as Tyndale asserts, baptism and the Lord’s Supper are merely ceremonial depictions by
which faith may be awakened, then, though they are divinely ordained, anything else that
is effective in a similar way is also a sacrament – such as the rainbow. But where does it
end? And thus it was that, though Tyndale first denied matrimony to be a sacrament, he
later conceded it might be.
In The Obedience, Tyndale first reasoned as follows:
Matrimony… ought not to be called a sacrament… If they call matrimony a
sacrament because the scripture useth the similitude of matrimony to express the
marriage or wedlock that is between us and Christ… so will I [call a sacrament]
mustard, seed, leaven, a net, keys, bread, water, and a thousand other things which
Christ and the prophets and all the scripture use, to express the kingdom of heaven
and God’s word…29
However, Tyndale later affirmed what he there denied: that matrimony (“wedlock”), and
many other things besides, might be considered a sacrament:
Merciful God, and a most loving Father, how careth he for us! First, above all… to
give us his own Son Jesus, and with him to give us himself and all; and not content
therewith, but to give us so many sacraments, or visible signs, to provoke us and to
help our weak faith, and to keep his mercy in mind: as baptism, the sacrament of his
body and blood, and as many other sacraments as they will have, if they put
significations to them… as wedlock, to signify that Christ is the husband and we the
wife and partakers with him (as a wife is with her husband, of all his riches, etc).
And beyond all those visible sacraments, to give us yet more sensible [perceptible]
and surer sacraments, and assurances of his goodness… as if we love and give alms
to our neighbour, if we have compassion and pray for him, if we be merciful and

27 Ibid., 358. Tyndale had “our sacraments are bodies of stories only,” I updated to “are representative
depictions only,” my best understanding of what he meant.
28 See Exp of 1 John in Parker Soc., Exp & Practice, 139.
29 Tyndale, Obedience, 110.

forgive him, if we deny ourselves, and fast, and withdraw all pleasures from the
flesh, for the love of the life to come, and to keep the commandments of God.30
Tyndale was led to contradict himself concerning matrimony. Not only this, another
inconsistency in his thought is that a sacrament has now become a work we do, as in giving
alms or fasting. Then the biblically instituted sacraments are demoted, ranked as lesser
sacraments because they are less “sensible” and “sure.” Thus almost anything done in
obedience or love or faith becomes a sacrament,31 and no special place is accorded to the
Supper or to baptism.32
Has not Tyndale’s thinking led him into obscure waters? I have done my best to elucidate
his thought, but keep bumping up against dead ends. He has fashioned a dry concept of
the meaning of the phrase we often find in ancient writings concerning the “promises that
are annexed to the sacraments.” To him, this does not mean that God promised to work in
or through or with the sacraments. In other words – though I have never seen Tyndale
express it quite this way – since God has already given us his promises to save, it is our
work to lay hold of them by remembering and believing. And there it ends.
This writer would agree that all awakenings or stirrings of faith are a blessing. To
contemplate the wonder and power of God’s work in nature, which might bring to mind
his promises of a new heaven and earth, or to consider the beauty of divine truth, to hear
the Word well spoken: these things stir our faith, feed the soul, bring joy, grace. But if this
makes them sacramental in the same way that Holy Communion is sacramental, then there
must be an infinite list of possible sacraments.

John Rogers: No Grace, Because Christ is in Heaven
Little from Rogers’ pen survives concerning the sacraments, but from what we do have, it
appears he agreed substantially with Tyndale. It is noteworthy that, while he omitted
Tyndale’s Leviticus prologue, with its low view of the sacraments, from the first edition of
the Matthew Bible (no doubt to conceal Tyndale’s authorship), in 1549 he brought it in.
We know, of course, that Rogers rejected transubstantiation. We have seen that one of the
charges that led to his condemnation and execution by burning was holding the “damnable
opinion, contrary to the doctrine and determination of the Holy Church… that in the
sacrament of the altar there is not substantially nor really the natural body and blood of
Christ.”33 When asked by an inquisitor if he believed the sacrament to be the very body and
blood of our Saviour “really and substantially,” Rogers answered:
“I had often told him that it was a matter in which I was no meddler…
notwithstanding, even as the most part of your doctrine in other points is false… so
in this matter I think it to be as false as the rest. For I cannot understand “really and

30 Tyndale, Exposition of Matthew V, VI, VII in Parker Soc., Exp & Practice, 91.
31 Many ancients agreed any number of things might be sacramental. See the fascinating discussion
starting at page 294 of Burnet, History C of E, Vol. 1, Part II. It was Tyndale’s assertion that the
Lord’s Supper and baptism in particular were bare signs only, which sets him apart.
32 Luther also spoke of other things being sacramental in a sense, but not in the same way as the

divinely ordained sacraments.
33 Foxe, Acts, Vol. III, 103. (Discussed also in Chapter 7.)

substantially” to signify other than corporally [bodily]. But corporally Christ is only
in heaven, and so cannot… be corporally also in your sacrament.”34
We have only Foxe’s report and the Matthew Bible to go to for clues as to Rogers’
sacramental theology. The Matthew Bible is a collation of other men’s’ work, with which
we may assume Rogers generally agreed, but yet cannot be confident that there was
agreement on every particular. Nonetheless, turning to the Matthew Bible, a good place to
begin is his Table of Principal Matters. As earlier explained, Rogers translated this from the
1535 bible of the French Reformer Pierre Olivetan. Under “Mass” we find:
‘Mass’, TPM: This word mass is not in the bible translated by St Jerome, nor in none
other that we have. And therefore could I not tell what to note thereof, but to send
the reader to the supper of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This was taken accurately from Olivetan. Under “Supper” we find the following entries,
also as Olivetan had them:
‘Supper’, TPM:
The supper of our Lord is a holy memory and giving of thanks for the death of
The supper ought to be done in charity. For whosoever cometh thither unworthily
(that is to say, without faith), damns himself.
Bodily punishment comes to those who take the supper unworthily.
The practice of the supper was in the time of S. Paul somewhat corrupt, for which
cause many were punished.
Nowhere here is there any mention of the presence of Christ in the Supper, nor the giving
of grace, nor yet any blessing or benefit to believers. But while the faithful receive nothing
of note, the unworthy do receive – “bodily punishment,” that is. One would almost rather
the Supper had not been instituted, if this be the case. However, I noticed that Rogers
omitted to cite 1 Corinthians 10:16 under “Supper.” This verse says:
1 Corinthians 10:16 in the MB Is not the cup of blessing which we bless, partaking of
the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break, partaking of the body of
I do not know how Rogers would explain this omission, except that it was also missing in
Olivetan. However, the passage is important, and ought to have been included.
Turning to the entry under “Sacrament,” we again find silence concerning Christ’s
presence, though perhaps a hint as to why the Supper came to be called a sacrament by
those who found the Lord in it:
‘Sacrament’, TPM: Sacrament: Sometime [formerly] for a mystery, a thing secret,
unknown, or hid, which for all that is revealed at a certain time, when it is the
pleasure of God.
On baptism, the Table of Principal Matters contains a long entry, wherein we find a very
bold statement:
‘Baptism’, TPM: Baptism bringeth not grace with it, as appears by Simon the

34 Ibid., 101.

But Rogers’ conclusion (again, taken from Olivetan) is fallacious on several grounds. From
one example of a wicked man who showed no change of heart after he was baptized,
Rogers concludes, first that there came no grace with his baptism, and second, that no grace
may come with any baptism. But the scriptures do not tell us Simon received no grace.
However, they do tell us grace may be resisted (Acts 7:51), or received in vain (2 Cor. 6:1).
But let us grant that Simon Magus received no grace at his baptism; still, it does not follow
that therefore no one ever can or does receive grace. All we can safely conclude from the
example of Simon Magus is that he did not truly believe, which the scriptures do affirm
(Acts 8:21).
Other sentences under “Baptism” relate how certain New Testament converts received the
Holy Spirit before they were baptized, and these examples are also, it seems, supplied as
proofs that baptism does not bring grace with it:
‘Baptism’ in Rogers’ Table of Principal Matters
Paul believed and received the Holy Spirit before he was baptized. Act ix.c.
Cornelius the centurion received the Holy Spirit before he was baptized. Act.x.g.
But no: these verses do not teach about baptism, and ought not to be used like this. Acts
10:44 simply tells us Cornelius received the Spirit through preaching. From Acts 9:17 we
learn that Paul received the Spirit when Ananias laid hands on him (and not through
preaching, which shows that God is not limited in his dealings with man). So these verses
show that baptism did not first bring the Holy Spirit to Paul or Cornelius, but that’s as far
as it goes. They simply do not prove that the later baptisms of Paul and Cornelius were
devoid of grace, or that no baptism except Jesus’ own may be accompanied by the descent
of the Dove. The reasoning is again faulty. Furthermore, Acts 22:16 suggests that Paul
received remission of sins in baptism; Paul recounts the story, saying that after Ananias
announced the mission to which the Lord had fore-ordained him, he urged Paul:
Acts 22:16 And now, why tarry? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, in
calling on the name of the Lord.
Of course, Tyndale and Rogers would likely say this “washing” came only by faith in the
promises, though which promises Paul then understood is not at all clear. In this, the
infancy of his conversion, it is much easier to suppose that the Lord acted sovereignly, not
looking for the exercise of a mature understanding.
An understandable argument against relying on baptism for justification is made in the
following statement in the Table of Principal Matters. However, this is a separate issue
from the question of grace in baptism:
‘Baptism’, TPM: Against them that say that justification is made through baptism,
search to the Romans 3d, 4a,c, Eph 2b, Gal 2d, 3a, where Saint Paul sheweth that that
is done through faith, and not by any work whatsoever it be.
Finally, there are some notable omissions. There is no mention in the Table of Principal
Matters of John 3:5, where the Lord said, “Unless a man be born of water and of the Spirit,
he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Likewise, I found no mention of Mark 16:15, “He
who believes and is baptized, will be saved.” However, baptism as “the fountain of the
new birth” (Tit. 3:5) is acknowledged. Rogers also mentions that the scripture sometimes
attributes to baptism that which belongs to faith, in the sense of being “buried in Christ.”

We Have the Spirit, But Not His Working
We find in the Matthew Bible an interesting feature in the prologue to Romans, which may
provide a clue to Rogers’ thought on the work of the Spirit of Christ and of God in the
sacraments. Though I can’t be sure, he appears to qualify Tyndale.
Tyndale translated his prologue to Romans from Martin Luther, expanded and modified it
somewhat, and included it in his 1534 New Testament. When Rogers reproduced it in the
Matthew bible three years later, the passage shown in italics below was added. After a
careful review, I suspect this was Rogers’ addition, and not an afterthought of Tyndale. I
say this partly because I have not seen this idea expressed in Tyndale, but have seen it
elsewhere in Rogers. So then, below is the added paragraph, with prior context:
Tyndale’s 1534 Prologue to Romans: For at once and together even as we believe the
glad tidings preached to us, the Holy Ghost enters into our hearts and looses the
bonds of the devil, who before possessed our hearts in captivity… And as the Spirit
comes by faith only, even so faith comes by hearing the word of glad tidings of God
when Christ is preached, how he is God’s son, and man also, dead and risen again
for our sakes… All our justifying then comes of faith, and faith and the Spirit come of
[from] God, and not of us.
Added in 1537 (MB version): When we say faith brings the Spirit, it is not to be
understood that… the Spirit is not present in us before faith. For the Spirit is ever in
us, and faith is the gift and working of the Spirit. But through preaching, the Spirit
begins to work in us. And as by preaching the law he works the fear of God, so by
preaching the glad tidings he works faith. And now, when we believe and are come
under the covenant of God, then are we sure of the Spirit by the promise of God, and
then the Spirit accompanies faith inseparably, and we begin to feel his working. And
so faith assures us of the Spirit, and also brings the Spirit with her unto the working
of all other gifts of grace, and to the working out of the rest of our salvation…”
(English updated. This added paragraph was omitted from The October Testament.)
I do not recall ever seeing in Tyndale the view that before faith we have the Spirit. In any
case, if I understand Rogers correctly (which is not easy to do, because I find inherent
inconsistency), the idea is that the Spirit is always in us in the same measure or degree,
even before salvation, such that he cannot ever literally be considered as later entering into
or coming to us in any fresh or greater way or measure. Therefore what is spoken of as his
“coming” or “entering” is only an appearance and a manner of speaking, because what is
actually happening is that the Spirit is working more actively.
We find this idea also in Rogers’ note on John’s gospel, where it is written in chapter 13
concerning Judas, “After the sop, Satan entered into him.” What does it mean, that Satan
“entered into” Judas? Rogers’ note, minimally updated, says:
Rogers’ note on John 13:27 (NMB): Satan was entered into him before, as this evangelist
affirms in the beginning of this chapter (13:2). But now he began to exert his strength,
and more openly to show himself. In a similar way, the apostles had the Holy Spirit
before Christ’s resurrection, when they believed in him, when they confessed him to
be the Son of God, etc. But then they evidently received him when Christ was
Here, Rogers compares Satan’s acting upon Judas (at John 13:2) with the Holy Spirit’s
teaching of the confession of faith to the disciples, who, Rogers says, already had the Spirit
before Christ’s resurrection. This is not necessarily as bad as it sounds. Both the evil spirit

and the Holy Spirit may work in mysterious ways to move and prompt us. But Rogers then
concludes that what is referred to as Satan “entering” Judas may be likened to the disciples
later “evidently receiving” the Holy Spirit after Christ’s ascension – which must be a
reference to Pentecost. Rogers is saying that just as in Judas’ case there was no literal
entering in, because he already “had” Satan, so the disciples likewise already had the Holy
Spirit, and never received him again in any way or measure. It was only that the Holy
Spirit increased his activity.
It is possible that this is a clue to Rogers’ Eucharistic theology. If, as the Spirit was not given
to the disciples at Pentecost, likewise he is not given to us in the Supper, how do we
explain our experience of fresh grace? By the increased working of the Spirit, Rogers would
say. Though this is speculation, it is consistent with the glosses we have seen. It would also
make the Spirit more active in Rogers’ than in Tyndale’s view. But this is very troublesome.
For one thing, Rogers’ note contradicts John 14, where Jesus promises his disciples that he
would later come to them, and that the Holy Spirit would be in them:
John 14:16-18 in the MB 16And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another
Comforter, so that he may be with you forever, 17which is the Spirit of Truth – whom
the world cannot receive, because the world neither sees him nor knows him. But
you know him. For he dwells with you and shall be in you. 18I will not leave you
comfortless, with will come to you.
The verbs in this passage speak of giving and receiving the Spirit, the Comforter, and also of
his future being in the disciples, and future coming to them. (Some modern bibles give John
14:17 in the present tense, due to manuscript variations. However Wycliffe, the KJV, and all
the English Reformation bibles, have the future tense.) John 14:25 also promises a future
sending of the Holy Spirit by the Father. There is nothing about the Spirit working more
actively in any of these verses, and Rogers’ interpretation strains the words of the
scriptures. Must we understand them contrary to their plain and ordinary sense?
Admittedly, it may all be no more than a manner of speaking, for we are using earthly
language to speak of heavenly things, unseen spiritual things. But if we are to use words
aright, they ought as a rule to be the words of scripture understood, even if figuratively, in
their ordinary sense. As Luther once wrote, we are on the safest ground when we stand on
scriptures’ own language and manner of speaking. Rogers’ teaching on this point makes a
tangle out of the scriptures.

Chapter 13

A Plain Speaking

King of kings yet born of Mary, as of old on earth he stood,
Lord of lords in human vesture, in the Body and the Blood,
He will give to all the faithful, his own self for heavenly Food.
—From the 5th century liturgy of St James

In this chapter we see how other Reformers spoke of the sacraments, and in particular that
of the Body and Blood of the Lord. We consider Martin Luther, whom Tyndale was so
anxious not to offend by disputing the question of the real presence. We look at Myles
Coverdale, who translated John Calvin, incidentally giving us insight into that French
Reformer’s teaching. Lastly, we look at the thought and writing of Thomas Cranmer.
Unlike Tyndale, all accepted the fact of Christ’s presence, but they disagreed as to the
manner of it, or, at least, how to express or define it.

Martin Luther
Luther held the sacraments in the highest esteem. First we have the Word, which makes us
God’s children, and then we have his sacraments, which unite us with him.35
Luther’s understanding of the Sacrament of the Body and the Blood – or the Mass, as he
usually called it – is notable for its simplicity and its profundity. The two aspects of his
teaching that have most struck me are, firstly his understanding of it as the substance of the
divine last will and testament, the inheritance of which the elect are the appointed
beneficiaries, and secondly, his simple faith in defending the idea of what has been called a
“local presence” (which, however, he thought a misnomer.)

The Mass as a testament in Luther’s thought
From one of his earliest essays, The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, we have Luther’s
exposition of the testamentary nature of the Supper. He begins:
In order that we might safely and happily attain to a true and free knowledge of this
sacrament, we must be particularly careful to put aside whatever has been added to
its original simple institution by the zeal and devotion of men: such things as
vestments, ornaments, chants, prayers, organs, candles, and the whole pageantry of
outward things. We must turn our eyes simply to the institution of Christ, and this

35Martin Luther, “Sermons on the Catechism” (hereafter “Sermons Catech.”), first published 1528,
contained in Martin Luther, Selections from His Writings, Ed. John Dillenberger (New York, etc:
Anchor Books, Doubleday, 1962) (hereafter “Selections”), 218.

alone, and set nothing before us but the very word of Christ, by which he instituted
the sacrament, made it perfect, and committed it to us.36
Here are repeated the words of Christ: “Take, eat, this is my body, which is given for you,”
and then of the cup, “Drink of it, all of you; for this is the new testament in my blood, which
is poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in remembrance of
me.” On these words, Luther says, we must rest in simple faith:
On them we must rest; on them we must build as on a firm rock, if we would not be
carried about with every wind of doctrine…
Let this stand, therefore, as our first and infallible proposition: the Mass or sacrament
of the altar is Christ’s testament, which he left behind him to be distributed among
his believers. For that is the meaning of his words, “This cup is the New Testament
in my blood” [Lu. 22:20; 1Cor. 11:25]… Christ, who is the truth, truly says that this is
the new testament in his blood, poured out for us. Not without reason do I dwell on
this sentence; the matter is of no small moment, and must be most deeply impressed
on our minds.
Thus, if we enquire what a testament is, we shall learn at the same time what the
Mass is – what its right use and blessing, and what its wrong use.
A testament, as everyone knows, is a promise made by one about to die, in which he
designates his bequest and appoints his heirs. A testament, therefore, involves first
the death of the testator, and second, the promise of an inheritance and the naming
of the heir. Thus Paul discusses at length the nature of a testament in Romans 4,
Galatians 3 and 4, and Hebrews 9. We see the same thing clearly also in these words
of Christ. Christ testifies concerning his death when he says “This is my body, which
is given; this is my blood, which is poured out.” He names and designates the
bequest when he says “for the forgiveness of sins.” But he appoints the heirs when
he says “For you and for many”; that is, for those who accept and believe the
promise of the testator. For here it is faith that makes men heirs.37
Understanding this is important when we approach the altar. “But how many are there
today,” Luther asks, “who know that the Mass is the promise of Christ?”38 The New
Testament is the most perfect promise of all, in which, with plain words, life and salvation
are freely promised and are sovereignly granted to those who believe, who come to the
table and receive of the promise:
The New Testament is the Lord’s very own gift to us, by which grace is promised
through the Spirit for the forgiveness of sins, so that we may obtain the inheritance…
according to its substance, therefore, the Mass is nothing but the aforesaid words of
Christ: “Take and eat, etc.”… and “Behold O sinful and condemned man, out of the
pure and unmerited love with which I love you, and by the will of the Father of

36 Martin Luther, “The Babylonian Captivity of the Church,” first published 1520, (hereafter
“Babylonian”) in Tappert, Selected Writings, Vol. 1, 388. Despite his caution over outward show,
Luther wrote at page 404 in this same essay, “Not that any one should revile the church universal for
embellishing and amplifying the Mass with many additional rites and ceremonies. But what we
contend for is this: No one should be deceived by the glamour of the ceremonies, and entangled in
the multitude of pompous forms, and thus lose the simplicity of the Mass itself.”
37 Ibid., 389-390.
38 Ibid., 393.

mercies, apart from any merit or desire of yours, I promise you in these words the
forgiveness of all your sins, and life everlasting…”
From this you will see that nothing else is needed for a worthy holding of Mass than
a faith that relies confidently on this promise, believes Christ to be true in these
words of his, and does not doubt that these infinite blessings have been bestowed
upon him. Hard on this faith there follows, of itself, a most sweet stirring of the
heart, whereby the spirit of man is enlarged and enriched (that is, love, given by the
Holy Spirit through faith in Christ), so that he is drawn to Christ, that gracious and
bounteous testator, and made a thoroughly new and different man.39
…Hence the only worthy preparation and proper observance is faith, the faith by
which we believe in the Mass; that is, in the divine promise…40
Thus the Mass is a means by which the heirs receive their inheritance through faith. In faith
we hear and accept the testator’s promise, which is written in the body and blood of his last
will and testament. Through faith we receive our Father’s bequest, which is the forgiveness
of our sins and life everlasting with him, and are drawn to Christ, and are conformed to his
And now, when we thus understand the matter, what then do we make of the Roman use
of the Mass? First, says Luther, we see how wrong it is to regard it as a work of our own by
which may earn anything:
Who in the world is so foolish as to regard a promise received by him, or a testament
given to him, as a good work, which he renders to the testator by his acceptance of
it? What heir will imagine that he is doing his departed father a kindness by
accepting the terms of the will and the inheritance he bequeaths to him?... Hence it is
a manifest and wicked error to “offer” or “apply” the Mass for sins, for satisfactions,
for the dead, or for any needs whatsoever of one’s own or of others. You will readily
see the obvious truth of this if you firmly hold that the Mass is a divine promise
which can benefit no one, be applied to no one, intercede for no one, and be
communicated to no one, except only to him who believes with a faith of his own.41
Another error is that the Mass is a sacrifice offered to God. This Luther sees as the worst of
all. “Unless we firmly hold that the Mass is the promise or testament of Christ, as the
words clearly say,” he wrote, “we shall lose the whole gospel and all its comfort,”42 and,
“Just as distributing a testament or accepting a promise differs diametrically from offering
a sacrifice, so it is a contradiction in terms to call the Mass a sacrifice, for the former is
something that we receive, and the latter is something that we give.”43 Indeed, he writes,
“the bread and wine are offered beforehand for blessing in order that they may be
sanctified by the word and by prayer (1 Tim. 4:5), but after they have been blessed and
consecrated, they are no longer offered, but received as a gift from God.”44
Luther would regard the view that the Lord’s Supper is a celebration, a sort of festive
memorial of what Christ has accomplished for us, as inadequate at best. To be sure, there is

39 Ibid., 392.
40 Ibid., 395.
41 Ibid., 399-400.
42 Ibid., 403.
43 Ibid., 404.
44 Ibid., 406.

a place for rejoicing and thanksgiving, but to stop there is to stop short of the promise, and
it hinders us if it prevents us from worthily lamenting our sins. For, says Luther, “we
conclude that the Mass was provided only for those who have a sad, afflicted, disturbed,
perplexed, and erring conscience, and that they alone commune worthily.”45
Luther did teach that we have work to do in the Mass – contemplating the Lord’s passion
and his promises, considering what he has won for us, believing, praying, praising – and
that these things will “flow from the faith that is kindled or increased in the sacrament.”
But, he adds, “We must sharply distinguish the testament and sacrament itself from the
prayers which we offer at the same time.”46 The prayers we all offer in our hearts to God,
but the testament is what we receive from God, priest (or ministrant) and laity alike and
equally. Our prayer ascends, while the testament descends.47 Therefore the testament is
Christ given to us by the word of the promise in the sacrament. He, our paschal Lamb, is
both victim and High Priest, employing human hands to feed us with himself.
It is comforting, especially when flesh and spirit are fainting, to approach the Lord’s table
with a simple trust in Jesus’ promise to feed us there.

Luther’s Doctrine of a “Local” Presence So-Called
Luther was and still is criticized for his faith in a “local” presence of Christ in the elements
of the sacrament, the bread and the wine. He wrote much on the matter, but we must
content ourselves with only a taste. Our Lord Jesus Christ, he said:
does all these things through the Word, just as the wonders which he daily thereby
performs are countless. Should he not through the same power know how to do
these things also here in the sacrament? He has put himself into the Word, and
through the Word he puts himself into the bread also. If he can break into the heart
and spirit and dwell in the soul, he must have much easier access to the material
object, because the heart is much more tenuous and elusive… For that he enters the
heart through faith is a much greater miracle than that he is present in the bread.
Indeed, it is for the sake of faith that he uses the very bread or sacrament… Hence to
sum it all up, what those people keep saying – that because it is not in accord with
reason, it is not true – we shall simply turn about and say the opposite: God’s Word
is true, therefore your notions must be false.48
God is omnipotent, Luther taught, and can do more than we can see through human eyes
or understand through human reason. The devil would love to destroy our faith in the
sacrament through reason – that is, through what seems reasonable to us – as Zwingli did,
and also John Rogers for that matter, who argued that since Christ is at the right hand of
God, at least as to his body, he cannot also be in the elements. But:
We stand firm, because this chatterbox [Zwingli] will not and cannot prove that the
two propositions, “Christ is in heaven, and his body is in the Supper,” are
contradictory. So the words, “This is my body,” remain to us just as they read, for

45 Ibid., 409.
46 Ibid., 402.
47 Ibid., 408.
48 Martin Luther, “The Sacrament of the Body and Blood – Against the Fanatics,” first published 1526

(hereafter “Against Fanatics”), in Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings, Ed. Timothy F Lull,
(Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1989) (hereafter “Lull, Basic Writings”), 322.

one letter of them is better and surer to us than the books of all the fanatics… Again,
since they do not prove that the right hand of God is a particular place in heaven, the
mode of existence of which I have spoken also stands firm, that Christ’s body is
everywhere, because it is at the right hand of God, which is everywhere, although
we do not know how that occurs…
My grounds on which I rest in this matter are as follows. The first is this article of our
faith, that Jesus Christ is essential, natural, true, complete God and man in one
person, undivided and inseparable. The second, that the right hand of God is
everywhere. The third, that the Word of God is not false or deceitful. The fourth, that
God has and knows various ways to be present at a certain place, not only the single
one of which the fanatics prattle, which the philosophers call “local.”49
What’s more, said Luther, the right hand of God is everywhere, and to limit Christ to one
place is in effect anti-Trinitarian. His opponents answered that such limitation is only upon
Christ’s manhood, not his Godhead. Rubbish, said Luther: this is to separate the person of
Christ, as though there were two Christs. He merged the two natures into one person,
wherein God is man, and man is God.50
Augustine of Hippo understood the “right hand of God” much as Luther did. It is a
figurative manner of speech – it must be, because to consider Christ to be at the right hand
of God in any human way would mean that God also is “bounded with a kind of human
configuration,” in that Christ is spoken of as being on his right side:
We believe [Christ] sits at the right hand of the Father. Nevertheless, we are not to
imagine that God the Father is therefore bounded by a kind of human configuration,
so that the notion of a right or left side should arise in mind when one thinks about
him… The expression ‘at the right hand’ must therefore be understood in this sense:
to exist in a state of perfect blessedness, where there is justice and peace and joy.
Similarly, the ‘goats’ are placed on the left side; that is to say, they live in a condition
of utter wretchedness, because of the weight and torment of their sins.51
For Luther, it was not enough to speak of a spiritual presence in the Supper, though what
we do therein is a spiritual eating and drinking.52 But Christ’s mystical presence in the
sacraments is somehow bodily, although the bread remains bread, and the wine, wine. This
is so simply because the Lord said it would be so when he instituted the sacrament: “This is
my body, this is my blood.” Exactly how that might be, he would not venture to define,
however it was possible to understand it in part by considering what he called the
uncircumscribed presence of Christ in the elements of the Mass; that is, our Lord in his
spiritual body has a presence that cannot be circumscribed or measured as we measure an
earthly body, and yet he can obviously be present in a place. This was the mode in which
the body of Christ was present when he came out of the closed grave, and when he came to
the disciples through a closed door, as the gospels show, and in such a manner he may be
in the sacraments:

49 Martin Luther, “Confession Concerning Christ’s Supper,” first published 1528 (hereafter

“Confession”), in Lull, Basic Writings, 383.
50 Ibid., 381.
51 St Augustine, “Faith and the Creed,” first published 393, Trans. Charles T Wilcox, contained in

Fathers of the Church, Vol. 27, first published 1955, 3rd edition, (n.p.: The Catholic University of
America Press, 1999) (hereafter “FoC Series”), 330.
52 Luther, Babylonian in Tappert, Selected, Vol. 1, 396.

There was no measuring or defining of the space his head or foot occupied when he
passed through the stone, yet he certainly had to pass through it. He took up no
space, and the stone yielded him no space, but the stone remained stone, as entire
and firm as before, and his body remained as large and thick as before. But he also
was able, when he wished, to let himself be seen circumscribed in give places where
he occupied space and his size could be measured.
Just so, Christ can be and is in the bread, even though he can also show himself in
circumscribed and visible form wherever he wills. For as the sealed stone and the
closed door remained unaltered and unchanged, though his body at the same time
was in the space entirely occupied by stone and wood, so he is also at the same time
in the sacrament and where the bread and wine are, though the bread and wine in
themselves remain unaltered and unchanged.53
Away with the doltish fanatics, Luther stormed, who would deny this because it does not
seem in accord with their weak reason. For Christ said, “If I have told you earthly things,
and you do not believe me, how can you believe it if I tell you heavenly things?” Faith must
disregard reason, for faith alone can receive divine things.54 “Of course,” he wrote, “our
reason takes a foolish attitude, since it is accustomed to understanding the word ‘in’ only in
a physical, circumscribed sense, like straw ‘in’ a sack and bread ‘in’ a basket,” but:
Faith understands that in these matters, ‘in’ is equivalent to ‘above’, ‘beyond’,
‘beneath’, ‘through and through’, and ‘everywhere’. Oh, why do I speak of such
exalted matters? They are ineffable… Thus Zwingli plays the fool and deduces from
my argument that if Christ is everywhere, he cannot be received by the mouth,
unless the mouth is everywhere too. This is plain, malicious perversion in which the
devil shows his hand.55
We might add that faith understands ‘in’ as equivalent to ‘under’, a preposition Luther also
used in speaking of the presence. But let us not strive about words. Therefore:
Our faith maintains that Christ is God and man, and the two natures are one person,
so that this person may not be divided in two; therefore, he can surely show himself
in a corporeal, circumscribed manner at whatever place he will, as he did after the
resurrection and will do on the Last Day. But above and beyond this mode, he can
also use the second, uncircumscribed mode, as we have proved from the Gospel that
he did at the grave and the closed door.56
“If the sacrament is rightly administered,” Luther wrote, “One should preach, first, that the
sacrament is the body and blood of the Lord under the bread and wine, as the words say.
Secondly, the benefit: it effects the forgiveness of sins, as the words say: ‘which is shed for
the remission of sins’.”57 Other benefits there are also: we come to a “fountain of love” and
“an incomprehensible overflowing of God’s goodness”58 – which heavenly things could
only have been Luther’s personal experience.

53 Luther, Confession, in Lull, Basic Writings, 385.
54 Ibid., 389.
55 Ibid., 399.
56 Ibid., 387.
57 Luther, Sermons Catech., in Dillenberger, Selections, 236.
58 Luther, Babylonian, in Tappert, Selected Writings, 399.

Luther on Baptism
“The first thing to be considered about baptism,” writes Luther in The Babylonian Captivity,
“is the divine promise, which says, ‘He who believes and is baptized, will be saved’… But
we must so consider it as to exercise our faith in it, and have no doubt whatever that, once
we have been baptized, we are saved.”59
For Luther, the sacrament and the substance are always mystically, but really and actually,
one and the same; the sign is the verity. It is that simple. And though faith receives the
sacrament, it is not faith which makes it. Rather, it is God who makes it, provided there be
faith. This faith may either be present at baptism, or may be conferred in baptism, but
without it, says Luther, we may be sure that baptism will profit us nothing at all – indeed,
it will become a hindrance to us, not only at the moment when it is received, but
throughout the rest of our lives.60
Luther held firmly to infant baptism, and also to its sacramental efficacy, regardless of the
outcome. His rebuttal of the proposition that baptism brings no grace with it, and that the
example of Simon Magus proves it, was provided almost a decade before Rogers proposed
Baptism is definitive, water with the Word. Therefore Augustine says, “The Word
comes to the element, and it becomes a sacrament.”
[The] sacraments may be received also by an unbeliever. Thus the devil would
secretly teach us to build upon our works, and in order to accomplish this more
easily, he makes a sham of faith and says: If you do not believe, then you are not
baptized. But it simply does not follow that, if I do not obey my parents, therefore I
have no parents; if I do not obey the government, therefore the government is
nothing. So it does not follow here that person has not received baptism in faith,
therefore the baptism is nothing, or is not genuine. Indeed, the baptism was genuine
precisely because you did not rightly receive it. The abuse confirms the baptism; it
does not deny it. If all of you here were to be baptized today and there were hardly
three among you who were holy, the baptism would still not be false, but rather the
contrary. For our work and misuse neither make nor unmake God’s work. A prince
remains a prince, whether you are obedient or not. This the fanatics do not know, for
they are blinded; that’s why they look at the sacrament without the Word.61
Luther perhaps speaks too strongly of those who err. Still, if he is correct, the truth that he
is fighting for is no small thing, and grounded upon the very power and sovereignty of the
word of God. This being so, Luther sees faith as less “operative” than Tyndale does.
Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are God’s work through faith, not ours through faith:
Note well, therefore, that baptism is water with the Word of God, not water and my
faith. My faith does not make the baptism, but rather receives the baptism, no
matters whether the person being baptizes believes or not; for baptism is not
dependent upon my faith, but upon God’s Word… Likewise, if I administer the
sacrament [of the body and blood of the Lord] to someone who cherishes anger or
the like, he nevertheless receives the true body… Therefore it is false to say that
infants do not believe, and therefore should not be baptized… The sacrament [of the

59 Ibid., 410-411.
60 Ibid., 411.
61 Luther, Sermons Catech., in Dillenberger, Selections, 233.

Lord’s Supper] does not rest upon faith, but upon the Word of God, who instituted
it, and so it is with baptism also.”62
The efficacy and work of the sacraments, then, rests on God’s word. And though the water
of baptism remains water, yet it is a “holy, living, heavenly, blessed water because of the
Word and command of God, which is holy”:63
You cannot sufficiently extol it; who can ever sufficiently extol it? Who can ever
sufficiently extol God’s Word? And all this comes in baptism, because God’s Word is
in baptism… Certainly when the devil sees baptism and hears the Word sounding, to
him it is like a bright sun, and he will not stay there. And when a person is baptized
for the sake of the Word of God, which is in it, there is a veritable oven glow. Do you
think it a joke that the heavens were opened at Christ’s baptism?
Say, therefore, that baptism is water and God’s Word comprehended in one. Take
the Word away, and it is the same water with which the maid waters the cow; but
with the Word, it is a living, holy, divine water.64
Be it baptism or the Lord’s Supper, God’s word, which is a word of promise, must not be
separated from the sign. That is what those do who count the sign as a bare memorial,
making dead that which is, or should be, alive through the promise. For God’s very word
unites sign and promise.
In this, Luther is not so very different from Calvin. Both say that to receive the sign, if it be
in faith, is to receive the promise of the Word, and also him who is the Word. Calvin would
say he is “joined with” the sign, while Luther unites sign, promise, and presence more
immediately. But in the end, what counts is that we understand that by means of sign and
Word together, Christ is given to us.
Luther was incensed against all who put down the sacraments. The Papists had well nigh
destroyed the Mass, but had at least left baptism intact. The Anabaptists were worse,
making both sacraments dead through stripping them of the divine. For, wrote Luther,
they are like a man attempting to rescue his brother from a bear, who heaves a spear at the
bear and injures his brother. They would take the saints away from the Roman Catholic
Church, which, though walking in grievous error, yet had a rivulet of truth and promise
remaining in it, and would bring them to a desert:
They take a severe stand against the pope, but they miss their mark and murder
more terribly the Christendom under the pope. For if they would permit baptism
and the sacrament of the altar to stand as they are, Christians under the pope might
yet escape with their souls and be saved, as has been the case hitherto. But now,
when the sacraments are taken from them, they will most likely be lost, since even
Christ himself is thereby taken away.65

62 Ibid., 232. One must therefore not put a false faith in baptism, as Augustine also urged: “let us
diligently beware henceforth of giving men a false confidence by telling them that if only they will
have been baptized in Christ, no matter how they will live in His faith, they will arrive at eternal
salvation.” (Augustine, “Faith and Works,” first published c. 412, in FoC Series, Vol. 27, 278.) At page
281, Augustine said that it is serious sin to take baptism with an unrepentant, and therefore guilty,
63 Luther, Sermons Catech., in Dillenberger, Selections, 229.
64 Ibid., 229-230.
65 Martin Luther, “Concerning Rebaptism,” fist published 1528, in Lull, Basic Writings, 345.

Myles Coverdale/John Calvin
Coverdale translated John Calvin’s Treatise on the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ,
which directly addressed the question of the real presence in Holy Communion:
Now we enter into that question which has been so greatly tossed about, both in time
past and in these our days also – how these words are to be understood, where
Christ calls his body bread and his blood wine. Which words may easily become
clear if we keep in mind those principles that I have before set forth; that is to say,
that all the fruit we seek for in the Supper is brought to nought unless Christ be given
to us therein, as the foundation and substance of all the whole matter. And if we once grant
this thing, then no doubt we shall grant also that there is given unto us the very
participation of Christ.66 (Emphasis added)
The noun ‘participation’ is used here in an obsolete sense, meaning that by means of the
Supper we come to share in and to possess the nature, quality, and very substance of
Christ.67 By the Supper, therefore, Christ is verily and really given to us; we partake of him
therein (1 Cor. 10:16).
Calvin published his essay on the Supper in 1540, and Coverdale translated it shortly
thereafter. The problem of the “strange speaking” is addressed: If Christ did not mean to
give us more than mere bread and wine in the Supper, then his words of institution were
“feigned” – that is, they were worse than a strange speaking; they were misleading and
vain, promising an unreal thing:
What would this mean, that we should eat bread and drink wine, to the intent that
they should declare unto us that his flesh is our meat and his blood our drink, if he,
letting the spiritual verity pass, should give us nothing else but bread and wine?
Would he not then have instituted this mystery feignedly [as an unreal thing] and in
vain, and, as we say in the French tongue, under deceivable signs?
And therefore we must grant that, if the representation that the Lord gives in the
Supper is no feigned thing, then the inward substance of the sacrament is annexed to
the visible signs, and that in like manner, as the bread is distributed in the hand, so is
the body of Christ communicated to us, to the intent that we should be partakers
thereof. And doubtless if there were no more but this one thing, yet it ought to
satisfy us abundantly, seeing as we understand that in the Supper, Christ gives to us
the very substance of his body and blood, so that we may with full right possess him,
and in possessing him be called into the society of all his good things.68
All the health of the Christian congregation lies in partaking of the Supper, and it is a good
to be sought above all things.69 The benefits of it are enumerated (I present them in short
bullets, though they were in long paragraphs in the original):
In that we possess [Christ], all the treasures and heavenly goods which are secretly
laid up in him are set out for us, to the intent that they should be ours, and that we

66 John Calvin, A Treatise on the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, Translated from Calvin, Trans.

Myles Coverdale (hereafter “Calvin Treatise, MC”), first published c. 1541, in Parker Soc., Writings,
67 OED online, s.v. ‘Participation’ as at March 9, 2016, which includes a quotation concerning the

Lord’s Supper.
68 Calvin Treatise, MC, in Parker Soc., Writings, 441.
69 Ibid., 449.

should enjoy them with him. Briefly, therefore, to define the profit of the supper, we
may say:
(1) In it, Jesus Christ is offered to us so that we may possess him himself, and, in him,
abundance and plenty of all the mercies and benefits that the mind can desire.
(2) By it, we are more stirred and admonished to acknowledge the benefits that we
have and do daily receive from the Lord Jesus Christ, so that we may give to him
honour and glory, and so that, as meet is, we celebrate his most holy name with
continual praises.
(3) By it, we are more vehemently stirred up to sanctimony and purity of life.
(4) We are with more force of persuasions driven, chiefly and before all other, to
keep charity and friendship among ourselves.70
But, Calvin tells us through Coverdale’s pen, it is not that we are coached and cheered on
to holiness of life and love of the brethren as if we could do it in our own strength through
the outward encouragement of the signs. No, for our improvement comes by an inward
work of Christ in our souls by the Holy Spirit:
To have the true understanding of this benefit [purity, innocency, charity, concord],
we ought not to think that the Lord only exhorts and stirs us up, or inflames us by an
external sign. For the chief thing is that he with his Spirit works entirely in us, to add
force and efficacy to his ordinance, which he has appointed as it were an instrument
serving entirely to this purpose: that he might accomplish and finish his work in us.
Therefore, because the power of the Holy Spirit is coupled with the sacraments,
when they are received as they ought to be, we ought to hope and trust that they are
a help to us, so that we may go forward in holiness of life, and especially in charity.71
However, Coverdale is not consistent. Sometimes he seems closer to Tyndale. For example,
in Fruitful Lessons we read that believers use “such exterior things [as the external signs of
baptism and the Supper] to stir and provoke one another to love and godliness.”72 This
sounds like what was denied above – but, however, this may not be the thought of
Coverdale, but of Huldrych Zwingli, for the Fruitful Lessons were based upon his work.73 In
fact, Zwingli came in for criticism by Calvin for a guilty silence, the silence we see here: he
omitted “to declare what presence of Christ in the Supper we ought to believe, and what
communion of his body and blood is there received.”74 And so wherever this silence occurs
in Coverdale’s other works, it seems very loud in view of Calvin’s complaint. But surely
Coverdale agreed with Calvin concerning the Supper; after all, he went to the trouble of
translating and publishing his essay, and this apparently without much adaptation –
including also Calvin’s criticism of Zwingli. The “silence” in other works that he translated
may have simply been allowed to pass.
To return to Calvin’s treatise, we find that Martin Luther also came in for criticism. If
Zwingli fell short of the right measure, Luther was guilty of “passing all measure” – not

70 Ibid., 441-442.
71 Ibid., 442-443.
72 Myles Coverdale, Fruitful Lessons, in Parker Soc., Writings, 411.
73 It would be valuable to compare Zwingli’s original work and Coverdale’s adaptation, to see what

and how far Coverdale modified. The Parker Society editor commented that Coverdale so far
adapted the Lessons, it deserves to be considered an original work.
74 Calvin Treatise, MC, in Parker Soc., Writings, 463.

only through “too much rigour of words” in disputing the issues, but also for using “rude
similitudes,”75 and especially for failing to deny “such a local presence [in the bread and
wine] as the papists do dream.”76 For the divine presence cannot, said Calvin, be thought of
as locally situate under or in the elements, as Luther said. Nonetheless, the people:
ought to be surely persuaded with themselves that the Lord does in very deed give
the same thing that he represents, and so we do really receive the body and blood of
Christ; yet they should not seek it as included under the bread, or fastened, as they
say, locally unto the visible sign. Much less ought they to honour the sacrament; but
to stretch up the mind into heaven, that they may there receive and honour Christ.77
(Emphasis added)
Some have said Calvin held to a form of “receptionism” as opposed to a doctrine of a real
presence. But he did speak of the Lord’s presence in the Supper, as seen above, and it is
difficult to conceive of receiving something that is not present. What’s more, the receiving
of the spiritual cannot be entirely separated from the receiving of the elements; thus Calvin
rebuked Zwingli for failing to explain that the elements – the bread and wine – were “signs
after such sort that the verity [reality, real thing] is nevertheless joined unto them.”78 Here
we see the use of a preposition which, after all, is not so very different than the ones Luther
used. Such is the holy mystery that it surpasses the ability of human thought to fully grasp,
or human language to express. It is best to keep it simple.

Coverdale on the Sacraments More Generally
Now what about baptism? We read in Fruitful Lessons that it was not instituted in vain, and
is not neglected by the faithful, but:
They that, being moved by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in their hearts, do hear
the eternal word preached, giving credit to it and gladly receiving it, these do not
afterward despise [neglect] the outward sacraments, which God has instituted for
the welfare of his church, but avail themselves of the same with all obedience, good-
will, and reverence. To use the sacraments without faith profits not, but rather
hurts… For though the water in baptism is an outward thing, and cannot cleanse the
soul from sin, yet the faithful do know right well that Christ, the eternal Wisdom in
whom they believe, did not institute it in vain.79
This only suggests grace in baptism. Then, from about 1554, is a rare original work of
Coverdale, An Exhortation to the Carrying of Christ’s Cross, where he is anxious to give the
sacraments their proper place in service of the faithful, whose salvation must be credited
above all to the preaching of the word. For the sacraments themselves do not save, but the

75 Ibid., 464.
76 Ibid.
77 Ibid., 461.
78 Ibid., 465. Other translators of Calvin’s treatise use “conjoined with” here: “I mean that, in their

[Zwingli and Œcolompadius’s] too great anxiety to maintain that the bread and wine are called the
body of Christ because they are signs of them, they did not attend to add, that though they are signs,
the reality is conjoined with them, and thus protest, that they had no intention whatever to obscure
the true communion which the Lord gives us in his body and blood by this sacrament.” Author
unknown, http://www.the-highway.com/supper1_Calvin.html, extracted Aug 28, 2016.
79 Coverdale, Fruitful Lessons, in Parker Soc. Writings, 411.

word. Here Coverdale leans to the Tyndalian suggestion that it is our work to believe and
have faith, though he retains a weak notion of giving by God:
When [Jesus] sent his disciples abroad to apply unto men the benefit of his death, he
bade them not to Mass it, but preach the gospel, as the means by which God
appointed believers to be saved… the true and only way to apply the benefit of Christ’s
death and sacrifice is in the minister’s behalf by preaching, and in your behalf by
believing… As in baptism we are confirmed, and settle ourselves in possession of the
promise of salvation to appertain unto us, God to be our God, Christ to be our Christ,
and we to be God’s people. The promise of God gives and offers, faith in us applies and
receives the same, and the sacraments do confirm and (as it were) seal up… Paul,
having respect to the chief end for which he was sent, said that he was not sent to
baptize, but to preach… In baptism God’s election is required, if [the baptizee] be an
infant, or faith if he be of age, and therefore [the minister] recites the promise so that
it may be heard.80 (emphasis added)
This suggests the possibility of grace in baptism. Concerning the Mass, Coverdale may
have been strong against it here because of the faith wrongly placed in it as a sacrifice by
the Roman Church; the point of this particular essay was to refute the Roman doctrine. But
still, the silence concerning the presence of the Lord might displease Calvin, as might the
emphasis on our “applying” the benefit and our “settling ourselves” in possession of the
promises. One wonders if Coverdale revised his thinking. In a second edition of Calvin’s
treatise on the Supper (of uncertain date), he added an afterthought in which he cautions
against placing overmuch faith in the sacrament:
This most sacred sacrament [of the Lord’s Supper]... was and ought to be so
necessary a food to the soul, that without it no Christian can tarry [abide] in Christ,
neither have Christ tarrying in him – whereby it is plain that without this food, no
soul has any life in it. For Christ is the life that is in the Christian soul… Our
adversary therefore could in no case be quiet, till he had poisoned this so necessary
food, corrupting therein the power and strength to unite and knit the Christians to
Christ their head… But here must I beware that our enemy does not poison these
words of mine also, causing men to understand me as one that would deny it to be
possible for any man to tarry in Christ, or to have Christ tarrying in him, unless he
receive these visible sacraments or signs, bread and wine. No doubt, Christian
reader, the belief and trust in Christ is the means whereby Christ tarries in us, and
we in him. But the belief and trust are established and confirmed by the use of these
visible signs… To all them, therefore, to whom this belief and trust are necessary, are
these sacred sacraments also necessary… To help our weakness… to declare unto us
by our senses… the manner, I say, of our participation and communion in Christ,
and all that ever he earned for us.81
To speak of “declaring to us by our senses,” with no mention of the giving of Christ or of
his work or presence in the sacraments, leans more to Tyndale than Calvin. We are
therefore left with uncertainty concerning Coverdale’s view. But we can say that he was
satisfied to republish Calvin’s high view of the Supper, wherein it is concluded:

80 Myles Coverdale, “An Exhortation to the Carrying of Christ’s Cross,” first published c. 1554
(hereafter “Exhortation”), in Parker Soc., Remains, 267-268.
81 Myles Coverdale, later addendum to Calvin Treatise, MC, in Parker Soc., Writings, 531-532. Year not


With one voice therefore we all confess that when we do, according to the institution
of the Lord, receive the sacrament with faith, we are undoubtedly made partakers of
the substance of the body and blood of Christ. How this thing should be done, some
men can better define, and more plainly expound, than some… Again, lest the force
of this most sacred mystery should be diminished, we must think that is it wrought
by the secret and wonderful power of God, and that his Spirit is the bond of this
partaking, which is for that cause called spiritual.82

Thomas Cranmer
Archbishop Cranmer is the man who asked Lord Cromwell to seek authorization for the
Matthew Bible to go forth in England, and issued injunctions to require its placement in
Churches, as we have seen. He fought the good fight for England to have the scriptures.
The Lord also raised him up to give us the Book of Common Prayer, divine liturgy that he
scrupulously cleansed of medieval accretions so that we could have pure church services in
our own tongue.
In 1550 Cranmer published the book that Queen Mary hated, A Defense of the True and
Catholic Doctrine of the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ. As a true scholar,
he begins by defining ‘sacrament’ as he used it in various contexts, and affirms his belief in
the real presence of Christ spiritually to believers:
This word “sacrament” I do sometimes use (as it is many times taken among writers
and holy doctors) for the sacramental bread, water, or wine; as when they say that
sacramentum est sacroe rei signum, “a sacrament is the sign of a holy thing.” But where
I say sometimes (as the old authors do) that Christ is in the sacraments, I mean the
same as they did… that is to say, not of Christ’s carnal presence in the outward
sacrament, but of his sacramental presence. And sometimes by this word
“sacrament” I mean the whole ministration and receiving of the sacraments, either of
baptism, or of the Lord’s Supper.
And so the old writers many times do say that Christ and the Holy Spirit are present
in the sacraments, not meaning by that manner of speaking that Christ and the Holy
Spirit are present in the water, bread, or wine (which are only the outward visible
sacraments), but that in the due ministration of the sacraments according to Christ’s
ordinance and institution, Christ and his Holy Spirit are truly and indeed present by
their might and sanctifying power, virtue [efficacy], and grace, in all those who
worthily receive the same… my meaning is that the force, the grace, the virtue and
benefit of Christ’s body that was crucified for us, and of his blood that was shed for
us, is really and effectually present with all who duly receive the sacraments. But all
this I understand of his spiritual presence, of which he says, “I will be with you until
the world’s end,” and, “Wherever two or three are gathered together in my name,
there am I in the midst of them,” and, “he that eats my flesh and drinks my blood
dwells in me, and I in him.” Nor no more truly is he corporally or really present in
the due ministration of the Lord’s Supper than he is in the due ministration of
baptism; that is to say, in both spiritually by grace.83

82Calvin Treatise, MC, in Parker Soc., Writings, 465-466.
83Thomas Cranmer, Preface to A Defense of the True and Catholic Doctrine of the Sacrament of the Body
and Blood of our Saviour Christ, 1551 edition (first published 1550), republished 1907 by Chas J

Thus does Cranmer affirm that grace accompanies the due ministration of both sacraments.
As to the Supper, he wrote that Christ, in order to save us:
made a sacrifice and oblation of his own body upon the cross, which was a full
redemption, satisfaction, and propitiation for the sins of the whole world. And to
commend this his sacrifice to all his faithful people, and to confirm their faith and
hope of eternal salvation in the same, he has ordained a perpetual memory of his
said sacrifice, daily to be used in the Church to his perpetual laud and praise, and to
our singular comfort and consolation; that is to say, the celebration of his Holy
Supper, in which he does not cease to give himself with all his benefits to all who
duly receive the same supper according to his blessed ordinance.84
What are the divine benefits that Cranmer refers to? There is invisible grace, which is
wrought in the inner man.85 In Holy Communion “we may experience tranquillity of
conscience, the increase of faith, the strengthening of hope, the spreading abroad of
brotherly kindness, with many other sundry graces of God.”86 The Supper is a comforting
medicine of the soul, provided we take it worthily.87 It is a Table provided for our soul, to
feed the inward man to immortality and life, wherein we behold heavenly graces.88
Through faith, the Lord, by the operation of the Holy Spirit, works in the souls of the
faithful a communion with the body and blood of the Lord whereby not only our souls live
to eternal life, but we also we trust confidently to win for our bodies a resurrection to
immortality.89 Cranmer speaks much of the choice things that the faithful are given in the
feast of the Supper:
The ancient Catholic fathers, both experiencing themselves and commending to their
people, were not afraid to call this Supper, some of them, the salve of immortality,
and sovereign preservative against death; others, a deifical communion [that is,
communion with the Lord that makes us holy like him]; others, the sweet delights of
our Saviour, the pledge of eternal health, the defence of the faith, the hope of the
resurrection; others, the food of immortality, the healthful grace, and a conservation
to everlasting life. All of which sayings both the holy scripture and godly men truly
attributed to this celestial banquet and feast, and if we would often call them to
mind, O how would they inflame our hearts to desire the participate of these
mysteries, and oftentimes to covet this bread, continually to thirst for this food…
cleaving by faith to the rock whence we may suck the sweetness of everlasting

Thynne, Ed. Charles H. H. Wright (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock Publishers facsimile, 2004)
(hereafter “Defense”), xiib - xiic.
84 Ibid., xxii.
85 Thomas Cranmer, Homilies, first published 1547, 1562 edition, republished by Oxford City Press

(USA: Benediction Books, 2010) (hereafter “Homilies”), 293.
86 Thomas Cranmer, excerpts from Homilies, updated by this writer and Rev. Stanley F Sinclair,

Sacraments, 6.
87 Cranmer, Homilies, 367.
88 Ibid., 368.
89 Ibid., 369.
90 Ibid., 369, English minimally updated. Cranmer references Irenaeus, Ignatius, Dionysius, Origen,

and Athanasius, among others.

Because the blessings and benefits are so great, divine, and important, the Supper is under
constant attack by the devil, who would use contention to separate us both from the Lord
and from each other.
Christ ordained the sacrament to move and stir all men to friendship, love, and
concord, and to put away all hatred, variance, and discord, and to testify a brotherly
and unfeigned love between all those who are the members of Christ.
But the devil, the enemy of Christ and of all his members, has so craftily juggled
herein that nothing raises so much contention as this holy sacrament. May God grant
that all contention be set aside [and] both parties may come to this holy communion
with such a living faith in Christ, and such an unfeigned love to all Christ’s
members, that as they carnally eat with their mouth this sacramental bread and
drink the wine, so spiritually they may eat and drink the very flesh and blood of
Christ, who is in heaven and sits on the right hand of his father; and that finally by
means of him they may enjoy with him the glory and kingdom of heaven. Amen.91

Cranmer’s Liturgy for Holy Communion
Cranmer’s Prayer Book stands alongside the Reformation bibles as a treasure of the Word
brought to light despite the raging of Antichrist against it. Here I consult the 1552 Boke of
Common Prayer, and Administracion of the Sacramentes, And Other Rites and Ceremonies in the
Churche of Englande. The Holy Communion service begins with the same prayer that we still
use almost 500 years later in my traditional congregation:
Almighty God, unto whom all hearts be open, all desires known, and from whom no
secrets are hid, cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy
Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy name,
through Christ our Lord.92
Then as now, it proceeds to the Ten Commandments, either in summary or full review,
after which all the people, priest and congregation together, pray that the Lord might write
his laws in our hearts. Then come collects (shared prayer drawn from ancient liturgy) and
readings from Holy Scripture, as prescribed for the day or season in the Church calendar.
Then there is prayer for the whole Church, followed by certain exhortations to the worthy
receiving of the sacrament:
Dearly beloved in the Lord, ye that mind to come to the holy Communion of the
body and blood of our Saviour Christ, must consider what St. Paul writeth to the
Corinthians, how he exhorteth all persons diligently to try and examine themselves
before they presume to eat of that bread and drink of that cup. For as the benefit is
great if with a truly 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 be 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… etc.

91Cranmer, Defense, 10-11.
92Thomas Cranmer, The Boke of Common Prayer, and Administracion of the Sacramentes, and other Rites
and Ceremonies in the Churche of Englande, 1552 edition, (USA: EEBO Editions facsimile, 2012). Pages
not numbered. The collect is towards the end of the Communion service. English may be updated.

After the Prayer of Consecration, whereby the Word and promise of the Lord is spoken
over the elements by repeating the divine testament, “This is my body, this is my blood,”
and after the prayer of humble access, the communicants then receive of the sacrament
from the hands of the ministering priest, as disciples in a spiritual upper room who sup
with the Lord and partake of the altar. This is how the ceremonial priesthood serves the
spiritual priesthood, all who now partake lawfully of the altar.

A Closing Observation
Author Reverend J D Crichton explores the believer’s entire sacramental encounter with
Christ through Eucharistic liturgy in his excellent work, “A Theology of Worship.”93 I
discovered his work while writing this chapter, and thought he wove well together a little
from all the viewpoints we have seen.
We must not think that the Holy Spirit comes into the action of liturgical worship only at a
certain point, he says, though he is present in the moment of Holy Communion when he is
invoked to make that communion fruitful.94 For the whole of the divine worship is an
encounter with the risen Christ. He observes that it is always God who takes the initiative,
as is shown through all of redemptive history. Worship is therefore best considered as a
response to God – a response of faith, which pleases him. It was by responding in faith that
Abraham pleased God.95 But the people of the Old Testament were not able to make this
response of faith, and so God took the initiative:
When the Son of God became man, when the transcendent God involved himself in
the human predicament, there took place a self-communication that resulted in an
‘enfleshment’ – the Word became flesh (Jn 1:14), and, if the terms may be used, the
‘religion’ that Christ brought into the world was, by the very exigencies of the case,
an ‘enfleshed’ religion, or, in other words, a sacramental religion. In the first place,
Christ embodied the supreme and necessary response, or “yes,” to his Father: “in him
it is always ‘Yes’.” Because of this, man can now make his response of faith in word
and sacrament, and this is what he is doing in the liturgies, however various, of the
Christian faith.96
The whole of the liturgy seeks encounter with God through Christ. For Jesus is himself not
only the revelation, but also the communication of the Father’s love, and (as Luther
emphasized), the primary and supreme gift of God to men. Christ makes God present to
men with all his redeeming power and love. And since the primary means that he
accomplished this was by his passion, death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven, these
are the focus of our worship. It has been helpful to call this the paschal mystery, because it
sets Christ’s redeeming work in the context of the Passover. It is in this context that the
Eucharist was instituted, being the Passover of Christ, which fulfils and transcends the
Jewish Passover, and through which Christ’s redeeming work is made available to us. Thus
the Eucharist is central to Christian worship – as all the Reformers without exception
taught, regardless of their differences.

93 Crichton, Mgr (Monseignour) J D, “A Theology of Worship” (hereafter “Worship”) in The Study of

Liturgy, Eds. Cheslyn Jones, Geoffrey Wainwright, Edward Yarnold (London: SPCK, 1985),
beginning at page 3.
94 Ibid., 16, 17.
95 Ibid., 8.
96 Ibid., 10.

The Passover of Christ is not a mere memorial, though it involves remembering. Crichton
explains how looking to the past brings the past into the here and now, which is what
makes it a holy mystery:
It is concerned with past events, the saving work of Christ, but it is not concerned
with them as past. It seeks to bring about an encounter between the worshippers and
the saving mystery. If an event is to be experienced, it has to be experienced as
present… Now all that he did in his earthly life is to be found in the sacraments.97
(Emphasis original)
The use of the word ‘mystery’ makes the link between the past and the present, or rather,
as Crichton says, “looks to the past to recover the power of the primordial event, and
makes its power present in the here and now, so that the worshipper can encounter the
redeeming Christ.”98
Crichton emphasizes that the whole of the liturgy is sacramental, and here we see the germ
of Tyndale’s thought developed to a full conclusion. The liturgy is symbolic, he writes, but
its symbolism is not just decorative. It is purposeful. In the whole of the liturgy – the
words, the symbols, the prayers, the repentance, and everything that is involved – we find
Christ when we respond in faith:
Liturgy does not lend itself to definition, but if one is to be attempted, it could be
stated as follows: it is the communal celebration by the Church, which is Christ’s
body and in which he with the Holy Spirit is active, of the paschal mystery. Through
this celebration, which is by nature sacramental, Christ, the high priest of the
community, makes present and available to men and women of today the reality of
his salvation.99
I would add that the liturgy – good liturgy, that is – is sacramental because it is the word of
God, especially when read aloud (Ro. 10:17). The liturgy of Cranmer’s Prayer Book has
been estimated to be 93% straight scripture. In its first editions, it contained readings from
the Great Bible, which in my view are superior to those of the KJV.
Crichton speaks of liturgy as it is woven into the Church calendar, and thereby into our
daily lives, so that we can keep in mind and celebrate the entire redemptive story as the
weeks and months roll on. In the Advent season, for example, much focus is upon the
expected return of Christ, and the liturgy contemplates it.

97 Ibid., 13.
98 Ibid., 14.
99 Ibid., 28.