Edmund Calamy on the Eucharist as Covenant Renewal

We are often to renew with great solemnity the sacred memorials of our dearest Savior who gave His life as a ransom for us, and sealed with His blood that covenant of grace and peace that is between God and us. Our vow in baptism indeed binds us fast to God, and our owning its obligation on us tends to increase its force. Yet God thinks it fit to require and take new security of us, and orders us to come to His table that we may there strengthen our obligations, and not only own again and against that we are His by right, but be guided by the awful and affecting considerations there presented to us to new resolutions and engagements and solemn vows to lead a life of holy devotedness. And in requiring this of us, He very much considers our benefit…

Further, as the Jewish feasts were upon the flesh of the sacrifices they offered to God, so is our holy Supper a feast upon the sacrifice which Christ once offered for us. And as their feasts upon their sacrifices were federal rites and bands of federal communion between God and them, so the Lord’s Supper, which is also a feast upon a sacrifice, must be a federal feast between God and us, whereby, eating and drinking at His own table and partaking of His meat, we are taken into a sacred covenant and inviolable league of friendship with Him…

As the Jews joined themselves to God by feasting in His house on His sacrifices, so we join ourselves to Christ by feasting in the place of His worship, at His table, upon the memorials of His body and blood. And our obligations to stick to Him, to follow and obey Him, as much exceed all other ties, in their sacredness, strength, and virtue, as the sacrifice of Christ surpasses that of a beast, or as the eating and drinking of His body and blood is beyond all participation in the meat of the ancient altars.

~ Edmund Calamy The Lord’s Supper Is a Federal Ordinance Implying a Covenant Transaction between God and Us, and Supposing a Renewal of Solemn Vows to be the Lord’s in The Puritans on the Lord’s Supper ed. Don Kistler (pg. 23, 29, 33-34)

Calvin on the Frequency of Communion

In his tract against Heshusius, Calvin quotes himself from the Institutes, in order to show that he has always placed high value on the Lord’s Supper. Those who try to claim that the Reformation was a protest against “sacramental worship” lose all support when these quotes are examined:

“What we have hitherto said of this sacrament abundantly shows that it was not instituted to be received once a year, and that perfunctorily, as is now the common custom, but to be in frequent use among all Christians.” After mentioning the fruits of it, I proceed thus: — “That such was the practice of the Apostolic Church, Luke tells us in the Acts, when he says, that the believers were persevering in doctrine, in communion, in the breaking of bread, etc. (Acts 2:24) Matters were to be so managed that there should be no meeting of the Church without the word, prayer, and the communion of the Supper.

After severely condemning this corruption, as it deserved, by quotations from early writers, I next say, “This custom of requiring men to communicate once a year was most assuredly an invention of the devil.”

Again, “The practice ought to be very different. The table of the Lord ought to be spread in the sacred assembly at least once a week. No one should be compelled, but all should be exhorted and stimulated: the torpor of those who keep away should also be reproved. Hence it was not without cause I complained at the outset that it was the wile of the devil which intruded the custom of prescribing one day in the year, and leaving it unused during all the rest.”

Treatises on the Sacraments pg. 556

Notice that Calvin says the supper ought to be held “at least” once a week. Relying on Acts 2:24, Calvin states that there should be no meeting of the congregation without the word, prayer, and Supper.

Also see that it is Rome, under the spell of the Devil, who changed the apostolic practice of frequent communion. They made it a yearly event, on Easter, and forbade access to the cup. The barring of the cup from the congregation continued until Vatican II, which made the cup legal for the laity, but unfortunately this practice still continues in many Roman congregations to this day. The traditionalists, with their unfortunate love of antiquity over all things, voluntarily give up access to the Blood of our Lord, sometimes driving hours to find a congregation that will continue the devilish practices of the medieval era.

Certain pietistic strands of Calvinism give Rome a run for her money on this though, as certain Dutch churches only celebrated the Supper yearly, and the Scots and Southern Presbys developed a tradition of having it four times a year.

Calvin sounds a different note, however, and so it is my hope that the traditionalists among the Reformed churches will return to his vision.

Calvin’s Mature Sacramental Union

At one point, however, Calvin does more than summarise. He goes, we believe, beyond earlier positions (at least generally understood today), in a direction which not only marks him off clearly from the position of Zwingli and Bullinger but also might have provided the Maulbronner disputation with a more auspicious point of departure, if not with a formula concordiae. Dealing with II Sam. vi. 2 (‘Dieu des armees habitant entre les cherubins’) Calvin applies the text to Baptism and the Eucharist: ‘We should not take these signs as mere visible things, symbols to nourish our spiritual senses, but we are to know that God there unites his power and his truth: both the res and the effectus are there with the symbol; one must not separate what God has joined together.’ If we are right in concluding that with the symbol or sign (sacramentum tantum) not only the visible element but also the res sacramenti or effectus is given, a manductio oralis seems to be unavoidably implied. Christ ‘habite en nous par foy’. To receive him in bread and wine, however, is not the effectus fidei but the effectus sacramenti, inseperably attached to the sacrament by God. The demarcation line between the objective act of God and the subjective act of faith runs between manductio and inhabitatio, not between exhibitio and receptio as the younger Calvin, the Pfaltzer theologians at Maulronn and – we may add- all those who later were to claim Calvin’s authority have taught.

~Heiko Oberman The Dawn of the Reformation pg. 241-242