On Close Communion, the Lord's Supper, Refuting Paedocommunion, etc.

FREE RESOURCES (Books and Articles)

"For everyone to be admitted to the Lord's Supper, without distinction or selection, is a sign of contempt that the Lord cannot endure. The Lord himself distributed the supper to his disciples only. Therefore anyone not instructed in the doctrine of the gospel ought not to approach what the Lord has instituted. No one should be distressed when his Christianity is examined even down to the finest point when he is to be admitted to the Lord's Supper. It should be established as part of the total state and system of discipline that ought to flourish in the church that those who are judged unworthy should not be admitted" - John Calvin, "Letter on Various Subjects" (from Calvin's Ecclesiastical Advice.

John Calvin and Greg Price on the Lord's Supper (Close Communion)

Lord's Supper (Communion)



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FREE RESOURCES (Books and Articles)

On Close Communion, the Lord's Supper, Refuting Paedocommunion, etc.

The Covenanted Reformation Defended Against Contemporary Schismatics by Greg Barrow (Greg Price, Reg Barrow and Larry Birger) Contains what may be the best information gathered into one book (outside of the Bible) on the topic of the Lord's Supper and the Reformation practice of close communion! References many hard-to-find Reformation source documents while defending the original intent of the Westminster standards and the practice of the best churches of the second Reformation. This book, of over 300 [8.5" X 11"] pages, is also offered as a cerlox bound photocopy [$14.98 US funds] or a Hardcover photocopy [$25.00 US funds]. On close communion in particular see "Misrepresentation 4" at http://www.reformedpresbytery.org/books/covrefdf/covrefdf.htm#mis4.

Calvin, Close Communion and the Coming Reformation (a book review of Alexander and Rufus... by John Anderson [1862]) by Reg Barrow (Shows how Calvin practiced close communion and how the biblical view of this ordinance is intended to purify the individual, church and state. Refutes the Popish and paedocommunion heresies (regarding this sacrament), as well as all views of open communion. Also argues that Arminians, anti-paedobaptists, anti-regulativists, and all those who openly violate the law of God [and are unrepentant] should be barred from the Lord's table -- as a corrective measure ordained of God for their recovery. This is Reformation History Notes number two.)

What Are Terms of Communion? (1/2) by Greg Price (Puritan Worship Series) OFFSITE
Free MP3 audio at: http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?sermonid=780119920

What Are Terms of Communion? (2/2) by Greg Price (Puritan Worship Series) OFFSITE
Free MP3 audio at: http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?sermonid=7150123122

What is Close Communion? (1/2) by Greg Price (Puritan Worship Series) OFFSITE
Free MP3 audio at: http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?sermonid=42101152912

What is Close Communion? (2/2) by Greg Price (Puritan Worship Series) OFFSITE
Free MP3 audio at: http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?sermonid=422012636

In Defense of Close Communion (Classic Presbyterian Reformed Teaching) by W. J. McKnight
Free MP3 audio at: http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?sermonid=92103184145

Terms of Ministerial and Christian Communion in the Reformed Presbyterian Church, and In Our Day, In the Puritan Reformed Church; With Explanatory Dialogue (Including "The Biblical and Logical Necessity of Uninspired Creeds") by Larry Birger

The Six Points of the "Terms of Ministerial and Christian Communion in the Reformed Presbyterian Church by the Reformed Presbytery (The old paths illuminated with the powerful Covenanter spotlight.)

Communion Catechism (1592) by John Craig "John Craig (1512-1600) was a Scottish reformer. Previously a Dominican Friar, Craig was converted to the Protestant Faith. The Roman Inquisition condemned Craig to death, yet he escaped and returned to Scotland. In 1560, Craig became co-pastor with John Knox in Edinburgh. Later, Craig became a chaplain to James VI. At the direction of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Craig composed this catechism, which was subsequently approved by the Assembly in 1592" (Kevin Reed).

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Paedocommunion: A Biblical Examination by Brian Schwertley
Full article FREE at: http://www.swrb.com/newslett/actualnls/PAEDOCOMMUNION-Schwertley.htm

(Any study of the Lord's supper would not be complete without considering the question: Who are the proper recipients of communion? As one aspect of this question, we will consider the issue of paedocommunion. The term paedocommunion refers to the teaching that infants and toddlers of believing parents who are members of the church are entitled to receive the elements of the Lord's supper. A consideration of this doctrine is important for a number of reasons:

(a) Paedocommunion is a repudiation of the teachings of all the Protestant Reformers as well as all the Reformed symbols regarding the proper recipients of communion. As Reformed Presbyterians we adhere wholeheartedly to the Westminster Standards, which are explicitly anti-paedocommunion. (see Confession of Faith, 29:1, 3, 7, 8; Shorter Catechism, Q 91, 96, 97; Larger Catechism Q 170, 171, 172, 174, 175, 177). The standard Reformed position (briefly stated) is that the elements of the Lord Supper are only to be received by church members who are old enough to examine themselves and receive the elements by faith.

(b) The teaching of paedocommunion has spread rapidly throughout both Presbyterian and Dutch Reformed circles in the last thirty years. If paedocommunion is contrary to Scripture and the Reformed Standards (which it clearly is), then Reformed believers need to understand the arguments for paedocommunion and refute them effectively based on the biblical interpretation of Scripture (i.e., the historical-grammatical-theological method).

(c) The arguments for paedocommunion are often attractive to people who hold to covenant theology yet are untrained in biblical hermeneutics (i.e., the science of interpretation), theology and church history.

(d) The doctrine of paedocommunion often leads to or is connected with other false and dangerous teachings (e.g., sacramentalism [i.e., the sacraments operate automatically or magically, ex opere operato], mysticism [e.g., the "creative" hermeneutics of James Jordan and the rejection of Reformed worship in favor of Eastern Orthodox concepts of worship] and the rejection of the biblical distinction between the invisible and visible church, etc.)

The doctrine of paedocommunion logically rests upon a materialistic, magical, mystical, irrational, superstitious understanding of the Lord's supper. All the Reformed symbols reject the idea that the bread and wine have intrinsic power to change the soul, that people who consume the eucharist are automatically transformed (ex opere operato). Such a view is usually based on the Romanist doctrine of the real presence or transubstantiation of the elements (i.e., the bread literally becomes Jesus body, the wine literally becomes Christ's blood.) Sadly, the doctrine of paedocommunion has led many professing Christians to the apostate and heretical Eastern Orthodox Church.

When the differences between baptism and the Lord's supper are understood we see that a Christian father who does not give bread and wine to a two month old baby is no more neglectful than a covenant head who starts verbally catechizing his children only when they are able to understand the meaning of words. The only manner in which a paedocommunionist can argue against this objection to his position is to either equivocate on the meaning of the word sanctification (e.g., ignoring the distinction between initial sanctification [i.e., being regenerated and set apart by God] and progressive sanctification or by resorting to a unscriptural definition of communion (i.e., an ex opere operato or magical formulation).

What makes paedocommunionism so dangerous is its tendency to allow the leaven of Romanism into Reformed churches. It is not an accident that some of the champions of paedocommunion want people to reject the attainments of the Reformation with regard to worship and justification in favor of a more Romish medieval conception of these doctrines. Paedocommunion can be and, sadly, already has been a conduit to mysticism, Romanism and Eastern Orthodoxy for a number of poor deluded souls. Thus, let us hold fast to the doctrinal attainments of our covenanted reformation not because we have a love of tradition, but because they (the Reformed Symbols) are excellent expressions of scriptural teaching.)

Full article FREE at: http://www.swrb.com/newslett/actualnls/PAEDOCOMMUNION-Schwertley.htm

Or on two FREE MP3s:

Paedocommunion: A Biblical Analysis, Part 1 - Brian Schwertley

Paedocommunion: A Biblical Analysis, Part 2 - Brian Schwertley

The two free MP3s below, by Robert Truelove (who was formerly a believer in paedocommunion), also present very strong arguments against Paedocommunion:

Anti-Paedocommunion - The Significance of Passover

Anti-Paedocommunion - 1 Corinthians 11:17-34

Calvin's Convincing Antipaedocommunionism (2002)
Book (and long summary) at: http://www.swrb.com/catalog/L.htm or see the summary as the last item on this page.

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Communion and the Church (Cassette) $3.98 (US funds)

FREE MP3 at http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?sermonID=7270516254

Paedocommunion (2 Cassettes) $7.96 (US funds)

Or two more FREE MP3s at http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?sermonID=7805125938 (1 of 2) and http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?sermonID=7805154616 (2 of 2)

Toleration: The Cut-Throat of True Religion by the Reformed Presbytery

Of Uniformity In Religion, Worship of God, and Church Government by George Gillespie

The Reformed View of Schism by Andrew Clarkson. (The Reformers often said "that to avoid schism we must separate." This should give the perceptive reader some indication of how badly misunderstood the biblical teaching regarding schism and separation (which should be differentiated in many ways) has become in our day. Sadly, some of the most anti-Reformed work on this subject has been written by contemporary individuals, who, though calling themselves Reformed, "understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm" (1 Tim. 1:7). This excerpt from Clarkson's Plain Reasons for Presbyterians Dissenting should contribute much to correcting the promotion of unbiblical ecumenism and place this doctrine back on its Scriptural foundation -- which was recovered during the Reformation. Clarkson cites Beza, Rutherford, Gillespie, Dickson, Durham, McWard (Rutherford's "disciple"), Marshal, Watson, Owen, Burroughs, and many others, while defending the truth about schism. Objections brought against the Reformation view of schism are also carefully answered. This is probably the single best short treatment of this subject.)

FIRST TIME EVER, DOUGLAS' STRICTURES ON OCCASION HEARING NOW FREE ONLINE AT: http://www.reformedpresbytery.org/books/index.html

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Concerning Close Communion
An strong little book that should be considered by all those seeking the purity and peace of the church. Holds to the strict old covenanted Presbyterian position. Justifies the maintaining of the separate existence of a denomination that will faithfully testify against sin, and the excluding from the Lord's table those that do not so testify. Gives numerous examples of backsliding in regard to specific truths of Scripture. Proclaims that "the Word of God teaches unequivocally that the Commandments are equally binding." This includes the first commandment as it relates to Christ's Kingship over the nations (and dissent from immoral civil governments which will not recognize and obey Christ as King and law giver); and the second commandment concerning purity of worship (as against "all devising, counselling, using, and any wise approving, any religious worship not instituted by God Himself," such as the use of songs other than the Psalms and the Popish use of musical instruments in public worship). Maintains that violation of these commandments are grounds for barring a person from the Lord's table. Shows how close communion is nothing more than the old Presbyterian view, in keeping with the Westminster Confession of Faith and John Calvin when he stated "We are only contending about the true and lawful constitution of the church, required in the communion not only of the sacraments (which are the signs of profession) but also especially of doctrine" (John Calvin, Institutes 2.12). Also includes an excellent discussion of essentials and non-essentials, as they relate to the Lord's supper and salvation. The best short book on the Lord's supper that we have seen. Written by an RPCNA minister in large easy-to-read type.
This book is available on the Puritan Hard Drive.


The Covenanted Reformation Defended Against Contemporary Schismatics (1998)

The title continues: "A Response and Antidote Primarily to the Neopresbyterian Malignancy and Misrepresentations, and the Manufactured "Steelite" Controversy, Found in Richard Bacon's A Defense Departed; With a Refutation of Bacon's Independency, Popery, Arminianism, Anabaptism and Various Other Heresies (Including an Exhibition of His Opposition to Scripture and the Covenanted Reformation, in General; and His Opposition to John Calvin, John Knox, the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland [Especially 1638-1649], Samuel Rutherford, George Gillespie, the Testimony of the Covenanter Martyrs, the Reformed Presbytery, the Puritan Reformed Church of Edmonton and a Host of Other Prominent Reformers from Past Generations, in Particular) -- With Copious Notes on Mr. Bacon's Backsliding and His Blackening of the Blue Banner; as Well as Various Replies to Other Modern Malignants."

Though set in the context of a debate with one individual, this book addresses a number of specific problems which plague the Presbyterian and Reformed churches of our day in general. As Reg Barrow notes in the "Publisher's Preface,"

I believe that there is one primary answer to the question of what makes The Covenanted Reformation Defended uniquely useful and it is this: it exposes the many differences between what took place during the two previous great Reformations (of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries) -- which were based upon and agreeable to the glorious covenanted Reformations found in the Old Testament -- and what the bulk of the Presbyterian and Reformed churches (corporately), elders (individually), and church members (individually) mistakenly think took place. It conclusively and irrefutably demonstrates that those churches which today call themselves Presbyterian (and even many which claim a more general Reformed heritage) have grievously departed from the Scriptural standards and principles of these previous Spirit led Reformations. This will become progressively (and painfully) clear as the reader witnesses evidence upon evidence of defection from biblically based Reformation attainments (Phil. 3:16) -- and the burying and/or removing of the ancient Reformation landmarks. Ultimately, when the testimony and evidence is weighed in light of Scriptural verities, it is entirely safe to say that the original Reformers would not only have sought negative ecclesiastical sanctions against our modern pseudo-Reformers, but in many cases negative civil sanctions as well.

Larry Birger, in his introduction, also comments,

(Greg) Barrow provides the bridge back to the teachings of our Reformed forefathers, his work serving as a skillful and much needed "Covenanter Primer." His explanations of key (and ill-understood, in our day) doctrines of the Reformation are the clearest I've ever read (this is especially true in regard to his treatment of the visible church and separation, the Lord's Supper and covenanting--RB). His numerous citations of non-Covenanter writers demonstrate that these doctrines are not at all peculiar to Covenanters, and indeed, that they are foundational to Protestantism. That these doctrines are not understood by the pastors and people of our day is a heartbreaking commentary on how far we "Protestants" have fallen from the Protestant Reformation.

In keeping with this theme, and why this book will be of inestimable value to the serious student of Reformation, Reg Barrow writes,

A secondary benefit of this work, which makes it uniquely useful to our generation, is seen in that this book will give the diligent reader the historical context and doctrinal foundation from which to profitably understand and apply the myriad of Covenanter books and other source documents of both Reformations (which are once again available) to our contemporary situation. "Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples" (Isa. 8:16). I know of no other book which does this so well -- or even comes close. If you want a key to understanding some of the most perplexing aspects of Reformation thought you will do no better than to carefully study what is contained in The Covenanted Reformation Defended (from the "Publisher's Preface").

Furthermore, Birger again comments on the general usefulness and the broad spectrum of issues (relevant to Reformed Christians) addressed in this title,

The net result of Greg Barrow's obliteration of Richard Bacon's strident slander is the clear exposition of the classical Protestant doctrines and practices of the Puritan Reformed Church of Edmonton, and modern and historical Covenanters. Dear reader, you hold in your hands a treasure of inestimable value. In the love of Christ I earnestly plead with you to read it: read it carefully; read it diligently; read it prayerfully; read it repeatedly (and buy copies for your friends and enemies, and urge them to read it). For the doctrines and practices it expounds and defends are nothing less than a testimony against malignant error, a lifting up of the true and faithful Blue Banner, and hopefully, by the grace of God, a humble contribution to the coming third Reformation and the worldwide overthrow of Antichrist. Nowhere else will you find such a "Covenanter Primer" to guide you skillfully and safely back to the old paths, wherein is rest for your souls--and for the entire Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Many today are proclaiming, "Peace, peace, when there is no peace." Barrow proclaims to you the true peace, the scriptural balm of healing for the festering, debilitating wounds of Christ's beloved Church! (from the "Introduction").

Moreover, if what is set forth in this book is true, the question at once arises concerning the Christian's duty before God in regard to separation from the teaching and practice of those denominations which continue in their public defection from biblically based Reformation standards. Reg Barrow (in the "Publisher's Preface") writes,

(A)s documented and substantiated throughout this book, it is easy to see that barring open public repentance by most (if not all) modern Presbyterian denominations (i.e. the neopresbyterian denominations), no Christian can lawfully attend upon their public ordinances without denying the biblically based testimony and attainments of the Second Reformation. The testimony of the Second Reformation and the testimony of the neopresbyterians are mutually exclusive at too many crucial points -- not the least of which includes the Scriptural doctrine and duty of covenanting. Even Judah was specifically commanded of the Lord not to communicate in the lawful ordinance of covenanting (i.e. swearing "The LORD liveth") with Israel while Israel remained in public rebellion against the Lord. "Though thou, Israel, play the harlot, yet let not Judah offend; and come not ye unto Gilgal, neither go ye up to Bethaven, nor swear, The LORD liveth" (Hosea 4:15, emphases added). Similarly, in this book, Bacon's errors (particularly his opposition to the Solemn League and Covenant) are seen to be symptomatic of the greater defection from covenanted attainments seen on a larger scale in our day.

Adducing a few more specifics, Reg Barrow again comments,

This book... defends the progressive nature of testimony-bearing and the testimony itself (Ps. 78). The commanded duties of pointedly testifying against defection from biblical attainments and refusing ecclesiastical communion with obstinately backsliding churches are true acts of love (Prov. 27:6). And though they are often met with severe denunciations and even martyrdom (note the reception the faithful testimony of the prophets and apostles received throughout Scripture), The Covenanted Reformation Defended will make this job of "sanctifying the Lord God in our hearts" and being "ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh" for the "reason of the hope that is in us" (1 Pet. 3:15) much easier. For those who recognize the enormity of the problems among the neopresbyterian churches -- and act in accord with Scripture (and the requirements of a present testimony), separating themselves from these polluted bodies -- the Reformation understanding of the distinctions dealt with in The Covenanted Reformation Defended are indispensable. Whether it be the Reformed distinctions between the being and well being (see Misrepresentation 2, point D) or the broken and settled state of the visible church, covenanting and covenant obligation (see Misrepresentation 3) or the meaning and proper administration of the Lord's Supper (see Misrepresentation 4), this book is a paleopresbyterian weapon with which to be reckoned. Exceptionally telling (in light of corporate backsliding from Reformation attainments) is the segment on the Westminster Assembly's official statements defending their view of close communion, particularly concerning Larger Catechism Q&A #173 on the meaning of "ignorance" and "scandal." The remarkable research found here (see pages 141-152) forms the most extensive commentary on this significant section of the Larger Catechism that I have ever seen. Moreover, if the Westminster Divines were correct in their understanding of Scripture on this point (and I believe they were) then it would seem that almost every Presbyterian minister who has vowed to uphold the Westminster standards (since about 1652) has perjured himself (whether ignorantly or otherwise); for the original intent of the Westminster Divines concerning close communion is well beyond question -- and the historical record gives every indication that the truth found here has been laid aside and/or buried by neopresbyterians for centuries. So, again we find that this book is unearthing another Reformation landmark -- this time defending the classic teaching and practice of the best Reformed churches on the Lord's Supper. And again the ramifications are massive. For those who vow to uphold the Westminster Larger Catechism (a part of the covenanted uniformity envisioned, and sworn to, in the Solemn League and Covenant) paedocommunion is out! All forms of open communion are out! Half-hearted, non-covenanted and non-confessional attempts at close communion are out! Even defective, overly strenuous or overly demanding "hyper-Covenanter" communion is out! The mature biblical mean, concerning admission to the Lord's Supper, set down by the Westminster Divines and the Scottish General Assembly (in her best days) -- as confirmed in these pages -- guards against both the extremes of latitudinarianism and legalism (i.e. Scripturally unauthorized rigor). The biblical beauty and balance of the work of both these Assemblies is a joy to behold... Furthermore, what do you do in regard to whole denominations of ministers who are breaking solemn ordination vows to God (and many do not even know it) on this point? This and many other like questions are answered in the pages you are about to read. With the release of this book (along with the many other classic Covenanter, Presbyterian and Reformed works which we at SWRB [and others] have had the privilege to recently publish), the covenanted remnant now has an arsenal of nuclear tipped ICBM's from which to defend the faith, bear witness against defection, and honor and glorify God. Neopresbyterians who refuse to repent, in the face of such overwhelming biblical and historical evidence of (and godly testimony against) their defection, would be well advised to construct sturdy bomb shelters. Those who read this book, and who seek the truth above all else, are about to confront you with some serious questions. On the other hand, the faithful remnant should be encouraged to "stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel" (Phil 1:27); remembering, as Calvin has noted, "that some special assistance is promised to godly teachers and ministers of the word; so that the fiercer the attacks of Satan, and the stronger the hostility of the world, so much the more does the Lord defend and guard them by extraordinary protection" (Calvin's Commentary on Isaiah 50:7). This book would seem to be a useful part of the Lord's "extraordinary protection" for the contemporary Covenanter, and has been produced with many singular signs of God's providential care and intervention. The faithful Covenanter is encouraged to use it wisely for personal edification (as well as the edification of one's family and church), to comfort and/or confront others who are seeking the truth, and, above all, to pray that God will add the testimony of His Spirit to the truths it contains (from the "Publisher's Preface").

In short, if you want a book which will help you to understand the Reformation view of numerous important, foundational Scriptural doctrines and their application to the present day; written in an easy-to-read and easy-to-understand format; uncovering many rare Reformation source documents (from the Westminster Assembly's advice to the English Parliament on the Lord's Supper to the official records of Calvin's Covenanting in Geneva), this is an unsurpassed work that should not be missed. 318 pages, 8.5" X 11".

(Bound photocopy) $29.95-50%=14.98
(Hardcover photocopy) $25.00 (US funds)

This book is also offered FREE in etext on SWRB's web page at:

It is also offered FREE in etext (with navigational enhancements and in various formats) at: http://www.reformedpresbytery.org/books/index.html

PDF Document (913KB) http://www.reformedpresbytery.org/books/covrefdf/covrefdf.pdf

ZIP File (771KB) http://www.reformedpresbytery.org/books/covrefdf/covrefdf.zip

Single Web Page (Entire Book) (999KB) http://www.reformedpresbytery.org/books/covrefdf/covrefdf.htm

Split-Up Web Page (Frames w/Index) http://www.reformedpresbytery.org/books/covrefdf/covrefdf2.htm

Chapter three from this book, "How the Solemn League & Covenant Binds the USA, Canada, Australia, etc., Today," is now FREE in AUDIO in three parts at:
http://www.sermonaudio.com/swrb or directly at:

How the Solemn League & Covenant Binds the USA, Canada, Australia, etc., Today (1/3)
FREE MP3 AUDIO: http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?sermonid=8501203653

How the Solemn League & Covenant Binds the USA, Canada, Australia, etc., Today (2/3)
FREE MP3 AUDIO: http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?sermonid=860142156

How the Solemn League & Covenant Binds the USA, Canada, Australia, etc., Today (3/3)
FREE MP3 AUDIO: http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?sermonid=870115250


DEBATE on the Meaning of the Church in Reformation Thought by Greg Barrow
Covers some of the most important (and often forgotten, in our day) aspects of the Reformation doctrine of the church (championed by Calvin, Knox, et al.). Includes many citations from Reformation leaders & confessional statements of the best Reformed churches. This is chapter 2 in Greg Barrow's The Covenanted Reformation Defended (free at: http://www.swrb.com/newslett/actualnls/misrep2.htm ).
This FREE audio MP3 is at: http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?sermonid=11250123955

Eschewing Ecclesiastical Tyranny (Protestant Biblical Separation)
by Greg Barrow (DEBATE with Richard Bacon) 1 Corinthians 2:15
The classic Reformation position on biblical separation, Protestant private judgment, the visible church, etc. -- contra Antichrist (the Papacy) and wayward liberal Protestants. This is appendix G from The Covenanted Reformation Defended: "A brief examination of Mr. Bacon's principles regarding the visible church and the use of private judgment. Also, some observations regarding his ignoble attack upon Mr. Kevin Reed in his book entitled The Visible Church in the Outer Darkness."
This FREE audio MP3 is at: http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?sermonid=7702201426

Protestant Antidote to Modern Disunity (1/5)
by Greg Barrow (DEBATE with Richard Bacon)
Defection from Reformation teaching on separation, unity, church membership, church government, terms of communion, creeds, confessions, covenants, etc., exposed (in modern Presbyterian and Reformed churches) and corrected in accordance with Scripture and the best teachers and preachers of the (first and second) Protestant Reformations. This is chapter four from the book The Covenanted Reformation Defended: "Misrepresentation #4: The Puritan Reformed Church of Edmonton (PRCE) is guilty of imposing the traditions of men upon the conscience by requiring terms of communion that are unscriptural."
Free etext: http://www.swrb.com/newslett/actualnls/append_g.htm. Book: http://www.swrb.com/catalog/b.htm, or on CD: http://www.swrb.com/Puritan/reformation-bookshelf-CDs.htm.

This FREE AUDIO is at:

Protestant Antidote to Modern Disunity (1/5)

Protestant Antidote to Modern Disunity (2/5)

Protestant Antidote to Modern Disunity (3/5)

Protestant Antidote to Modern Disunity (4/5)

Protestant Antidote to Modern Disunity (5/5)

This book and the FREE MP3 audio tracks noted above are available on the Puritan Hard Drive. See the URLs cited for more details. Also see the "Classic Covenanter, Presbyterian, Puritan, and Reformed Quotes from Various Authors - Arranged By Topic," (great for cutting and pasting during online debates or for confirming classic Protestant and Presbyterian teaching!) on the Reformation Bookshelf CDs (http://www.swrb.com/Puritan/reformation-bookshelf-CDs.htm) -- and free on the web at http://www.swrb.com/CovQsGB.htm.


Calvin's Convincing Antipaedocommunionism (2002)


In the last couple of decades there has been increasing interest in the Reformation among Bible-believing Christians. This has included a revival of Reformation doctrines and practices like Calvinist soteriology, historicist eschatology, and the regulative principle of worship. These developments are important and extremely positive. Ironically, while more people are drawn to Reformation truths, others who are already in the Reformed camp are being drawn away from the Reformation in certain areas. One such area is the issue of paedocommunionism, or the view that all baptized children (and infants) should partake of the Lord's Supper. Paedocommunion is unscriptural and opposed by all of the historic Reformed and Presbyterian confessions. In fact, one could say that it is a dangerous heresy that is causing division in many churches.


This new book by Dr. Francis Nigel Lee demonstrates how strongly John Calvin opposed paedocommunion. Calvin was familiar with the arguments used to justify that practice, and he refuted them at different points in his work. He strongly believed that no one -- including baptized children -- should ever be allowed to partake of the Lord's Supper without being catechized. Lee provides numerous quotations from various books by Calvin where this point is made.


For example, Calvin refuted paedocommunion in this comment on a passage from the Gospel of John.


"In John 6:41-53, during His sermon to the murmuring and strife-filled Jews who were acquainted with His earthly parents, Jesus made a very significant statement. He said: 'Truly, I tell you -- unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you have no life within yourselves!' Paedocommunionists sacramentalistically think that this passage requires their own position. Post-Nicene and indeed Post-Chrysostomian Eastern-Orthodox Paedocommunionists, as well as their modern maverick Western Quasi-Neocalvinist imitators, cite especially this to support their views. Here, however, Calvin comments: 'This sermon [of Christ] does not refer to the Lord's Supper, but to the continual communication which we have -- apart from the reception of the Lord's Supper.... As far as young children are concerned, Christ's ordinance forbids them to participate in the Lord's Supper -- because they cannot yet try themselves or celebrate the remembrance of the death of Christ (quia nondum se ipsos probare nondum colere memoriam mortis Christi possunt).... It is wrong to expound this whole passage, as applying to the Lord's Supper!'" (p. 9).


When discussing 1 Corinthians 11 Calvin again emphasizes the fact that the participants must be able to examine themselves and discern the Lord's body. As Lee points out,


"speaking specifically of infants and children, Calvin observes that they 'cannot partake worthily without being able duly to discern the sanctity of the Lord's body.' Consequently, seeing that the swallowing of the bread and wine by the unworthy is 'poison' to them at Holy Communion -- 'Why should we stretch out poison to our young children -- instead of vivifying food?!'" (p. 12).


According to Calvin, in the earliest period of the church's history, children would have to be catechized for a relatively long period, and then be publicly examined before being allowed to partake of the Lord's Supper.


"We now turn to Calvin's understanding of first Catechism... before Admission to Communion -- as practised by the Early Patristic Church. By the latter, we mean especially the Ante-Nicene Church, which was still following the example of the Apostles (in Acts 19:2-7 and Second Timothy 1:6 and Hebrews 6:2 etc.). In Early-Patristic times, said Calvin, 'a boy of ten years of age would present himself to the Church' (at the beginning of his years'-long catechetical period -- as in many Reformed Churches even today). This self-presentation was undertaken -- in order 'to make a Profession of Faith' at the end of that years-long period. Thus, such infantly-baptized covenant children were, 'toward the end of their boyhood or on adolescence brought forward by their parents and were examined by the Overseer in terms of the Catechism which was then in common use.... Thus the boy on his faith being approved, was dismissed with a solemn blessing. Ancient writers often make mention of this custom.' Thus, the adolescent 'would be questioned on each head -- and give answers to each [cf. Luke 2:42-47]. If he was ignorant of any point, or did not well understand it -- he would be taught. Thus, while the whole Church looked on and witnessed, he would profess the one true sincere faith'" (p.16).


By the time of Augustine, paedocommunion had crept into the church.


"Augustine did not oppose the fourth-century ecclesiastic innovation of Communion for Pre-adolescents. Yet Augustine nevertheless clearly insisted on all would-be Communicants being priorly catechized -- and rejected the communing of uncatechizable speechless infants as distinct from catechizable children. Clearly referring to Ante-Nicene ecclesiastical practice, Calvin continued: 'It was anciently customary for the [infantly-baptized] children of Christians, after they had grown up, to appear before the Overseer -- to fulfil that duty which was required of such [unbaptized] adults as presented themselves for Baptism [viz., to prepare to receive their first Holy Communion]. These [infantly-baptized covenant children] sat among the [unbaptized] Catechumens -- until they [all] were duly instructed in the Mysteries of the faith, and could make a Confession of it before Overseer and people. The infants therefore, who had been initiated by [Infant] Baptism -- not then having given a Confession of [their own] faith to the Church -- were... toward the end of their boyhood or on adolescence -- brought forward by their parents and were examined by the Overseer in terms of the Catechism which was then in common use... I wish we could retain the custom which, as I have observed, existed in the Early Church.... A boy of ten years of age would present himself to the Church [at the beginning of his three-years-long catechetical period, in order] to make a Profession of Faith.... [He would then] be questioned on each head -- and give answers to each [Luke 2:40-47 cf. Prov. 22:6].' Thus Calvin" (pp. 17-18).


Later in church history, the heretic Servetus, although not a paedocommunionist himself, used paedocommunionist arguments as a backdoor approach to argue against paedobaptism. Servetus


"arrogantly argued that the paedobaptist Protestants were inconsistent. To become consistent, they should, he suggested, immediately admit their own baptized infants -- while still babies -- to the Lord's Supper. Alternatively, they should instead (and rather!) follow Servetus himself -- and repudiate, together with the 'Infant Communion' they rightly opposed, also the Infant Baptism they wrongly upheld. Thus Servetus" (p. 22).


Referring to Servetus, Calvin responds:


"'that which he transfers to Baptism [viz. conscious prior self-examination], properly belongs to the Supper. As appears from Paul's words, 'Let a man examine himself!' -- words similar to which are nowhere used with reference to Baptism! Whence we infer, that those who from nonage are incapable of '[self-]examination' -- are duly baptized! … By Baptism, they are admitted into the fold of Christ -- and the symbol of adoption is sufficient for them, until they grow up and become fit to bear solid food. We must, therefore, wait for the time of examination -- which God distinctly demands in the sacred Supper'" (p. 22).


Calvin strongly emphasized the need for children to be thoroughly catechized before partaking of the Lord's Supper. After this grounding in the Gospel, older children could then be admitted to the Table.


"Held Calvin: 'This rite [of Admission to the Lord's Supper] came from the Apostles.... We should know that it was instituted...to be a solemn ceremony of prayer.... They intended by this sign to confirm the Profession of Faith which adolescents[!] make, when they pass from[!] their childhood.... Today, we must retain the institution in its purity!' Calvin also pleaded: 'I wish we could retain the custom which, as I have observed, existed in the Early Church before this abortive mask of a Sacrament [of Mediaeval Confirmation] appeared! It would not be such a Confirmation as they [the Mediaevalists] pretend -- one which cannot even be named without injury to Baptism.... But [instead, it would be a] catechizing by which those in boyhood or immediately beyond it would give an account of their faith.... A boy of ten years of age would present himself to the Church [at the beginning of a three-years' long Catechetical Course] -- to make a Profession of Faith.... [He] would be questioned on each head, and give answers to each. If he was ignorant of any point or did not well understand it, he would be taught. Thus, while the whole Church looked on and witnessed, he would profess the one true sincere faith [Luke 2:40-47 cf. First Timothy 6:12].... Were this discipline in force in the present day -- it would undoubtedly whet the sluggishness of certain parents who carelessly neglect the instruction of their children!'" (p. 23).


"Calvin thus much appreciated and indeed endeavored to restore 'the custom' of the Pre-Romish Ancient Church -- namely, to enroll ten-year-old covenant children in a Catechism Class and train them there for three years. Thus: Aboth 5:21; Luke 2:41-53; Clement of Alexandria; and the Apostolic Constitutions. Those ten-year-olds should, felt Calvin, stay in their Catechism Class until they could be admitted to Holy Communion. The latter could first occur only at their attainment of religious majority (cf. Luke 2:40-47) -- and even then, only after they further also made their own 'Profession of Faith.' Compare: First Timothy 6:12-21. As Rev. Professor Dr. Abraham Kuyper Sr. later pointed out -- a provision such as First Corinthians 11:29 requires the attainment of a competent age or 'aetas competens..., which was of old fixed at approximately in the fourteenth year (thus Calvin too).' It should be noted here that Calvin's 'ten years' was not the 'finishing date' -- alias the terminus ad quem of a covenant child's catechizing. To the contrary, it was the 'date of enrolment' alias the terminus a quo -- from which the Church enrolled him in the (three-years'-long!) Communion Class. Thus Calvin, Kuyper, and Dijk. Indeed, this 'Communion Class Catechizing' (from ages ten through thirteen) was quite distinct from, and in addition to, the child learning the Catechism during daily family worship at home -- both before and after age ten. Calvin was saying, then, that the Ancient-Hebrew age of thirteen, if not yet better his own recommendation of age fifteen, was the minimum optimal age of admission to the Lord's Supper. As M.J. Du P. Beukes has remarked in his book Worship: 'Most expositors judge that Calvin meant that the catechizing would take place when ten, and the Profession of Faith when fifteen, as mentioned in the Swiss Catechism.' For Calvin himself stated elsewhere: 'No godparent shall be accepted as sponsor for a child -- unless...at least fifteen years old; of the same confession with us; and has been duly instructed.'... Calvin's own Catechism Classes helped prepare infantly-baptized covenant children who were beginning to approach teen-age -- for their later admission to the Lord's Table after reaching puberty" (pp. 23-24).


Not just children, of course, but even adult Christians had to be properly grounded in the truth as well as living holy lives before Calvin would allow them the Lord's Supper.


"Well known is Calvin's refusal, on several occasions, to administer the scheduled Communion Services in circumstances of gross congregational sin. Especially from 1540 onward, Calvin's increasingly mature views tended toward even more care -- while manducating at Communion... Indeed, in Calvin's December 1540 letter to Rev. Nicholas Parent, Calvin declared: 'I am well pleased that you have delayed the Holy Supper for another month. For at the present time, you could not administer it -- without neglecting that order which, for very sufficient reasons, I earnestly desire to be carefully attended to!'" (p. 25).


Unlike many modern Reformed and Presbyterian ministers and elders, Calvin had no qualms about barring unfit persons from the Lord's Supper.


"In Calvin's 1541 Geneva Catechism -- 'being a form of instruction for children in the doctrine of Christ' -- he writes that 'it were to be wished...that one Catechism were common to all the churches.... The agreement which our churches had in Doctrine, cannot be seen with clearer evidence than from Catechisms. For therein will appear not only what one man or other once taught -- but with what rudiments learned and unlearned alike amongst us, were constantly imbued from childhood -- all the faithful holding them as their formal symbol of Christian Communion. This was indeed my principal reason for publishing this Catechism.' 'It has ever been the practice of the Church... to see that children should be duly instructed in the Christian religion. That this might be done..., in old[en] times it was a received public custom and practice to question children in the churches.... To secure this being done in order, there was written out a Formula which was called a Catechism.. In this way, the administration...of the Supper... is confined.... The Minister ought to take heed not to give it to anyone who is clearly unworthy of receiving it.' ... For: 'In the Supper, the Minister ought to take heed not to give it to anyone who is clearly unworthy of receiving it.... It cannot be done without insulting and profaning the Sacrament.... There should be a certain order of government established in churches.... The method is for Elders to be chosen to preside as censors of manners [or morals], to guard watchfully against offences -- and exclude from Communion all whom they recognize to be unfit for it, and who could not be admitted without profaning the Sacrament.' Cf. Exodus 12:21-28,37,43-48" (pp. 26-27).


Calvin was incensed at the thought of being accused of practicing open communion.


"'The rule is, that the young do not come forward to the Sacred Table till they have given an account of their faith.... It is most false to say that we [Calvinists] knowingly and willingly offer the Supper indiscriminately to strangers and persons not approved.... Westphal is wrong too in inferring that...we admit to the Supper without previous examination.'" (p. 32).


Importantly, Dr. Lee points out that Calvin endorsed the practice of using communion tokens, a practice closely associated with close (rather than open or infant/child) communion.


"During the same year as he rebuked the Gnesio- or Hyper-Lutheran Heshusius, Calvin also defended the French Hugenots' (inter alia also antipaedocommunionistic) use of Communion Tokens. The mereau (plural mereaux) was a circular token which the Huguenots used in France from the 1550's to the mid-19th century. During Holy Communion an Elder would, before the service, give a mereau to each parishioner who qualified to receive the Sacrament. The others, who did not attend catechism regularly or had been admonished by the Consistory, would not receive a mereau. During the Communion Service, each individual would hand his mereau to an Elder standing next to the Communion Table before receiving bread and wine. In approximately 1561 Calvin wrote a 'letter to the faithful in France' in which he strongly urged them to use the mereaux. The use of such an attendance token consequently became common practice. For more than 200 years it served as a token of adherence to the persecuted religion and its rites, as well as a secret symbol of the solidarity of the faithful. Consequently, Communion Tokens used to admit people to the Lord's Table were not used solely by the Scottish Reformed Church. They were, in fact, taken over by the Scots from the French Hugenots after Calvin himself approved the practice in 1531" (pp. 33-34).


Calvin's emphasis on beginning catechism at age ten can be seen again in the following account.


"Calvin had remarked in his Commentary on Second Thessalonians that even a ten-year-old boy can discern that the papacy is the man of sin. In the light of Calvin's further statements also in his Institutes that neither the Passover nor the Holy Supper were and are for children, but that (the triennial) catechizing toward later admission to the Lord's Table should commence precisely when ten - his Epistle Dedicatory to the Most Illustrious Prince Henry Duke of Vendome Heir to the Kingdom of Navarre, takes on added significance. It is to be found at the beginning of his mature (1563-64) Commentaries on the Book of Genesis. The young Prince of Navarre had been born in 1553. The Epistle Dedicatory was written in 1563, and thus when the Prince was precisely ten years old. Significantly, as regards the Commentary itself, Calvin advised young Prince Henry: 'Many things contained in this book are beyond the capacity of your age [10], yet I am not acting unreasonably in offering it to your perusal and even to your attentive and diligent study. For since the knowledge of ancient things is pleasant to the young, you will soon arrive at those years [=13+ ?!] in which the History of the Creation of the World as well as that of the most Ancient Church will engage your thoughts with equal profit and delight..... Farewell, most Illustrious Prince! May God preserve you in safety under His protection! May He adorn you more and more with spiritual gifts, and enrich you with every kind of benediction!'" (p. 34).


Catechizing was of central importance to Calvin. It is vital for the future of the church that children be catechized. And no children could partake of the Lord's Supper without having achieved a proper degree of doctrinal knowledge.


"Calvin believed that baptized Protestant infants -- or even infants baptized in the Romish Church, but desiring to embrace Communicant Membership in the Protestant Church -- should be given weekly catechizing, while being prepared over three years for admission to the Lord's Table. Ideally, this would be from age ten to thirteen. Consequently, Calvin wrote to the 'Calvin-istic' Duke of Somerset -- as the Regent of the young King of England (Edward VI) -- that 'the Church of God will never preserve itself without a Catechism. For it is like seed which keeps the good grain from dying out, and causes it to multiply -- from age to age.... If you desire to build an edifice which shall be of long duration and which shall not soon fall into decay -- see to it that the children be educated by the hand of a good Catechism which, in short, teaches them the meaning of true Christianity!' When baptized infants, after later being catechized or 'taught' as grown children, professed their faith in Christ -- they were to be admitted to the Lord's Table. Said Calvin: 'As soon as their age and ability to understand will allow, they yield themselves to Him as Disciples' alias 'taught ones.' Then, like the Ethiopian eunuch of old, they too are to declare quite publicly: 'I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God!' For, explains Calvin, 'everyone who does not already have this as an adult -- boasts in vain of his Baptism as an infant.' As Rev. Professor Dr. A.D. Pont has observed: 'It is clear that for Calvin the purpose of catechizing is to teach children something so that they can go to the Lord's Table knowledgeably. In catechizing -- children are instructed so that they can accept the Confession of Faith just like and together with the Church as the Community of Faith'" (p. 35).


Dr. Lee ends this piece with a nice summary of its contents.


"In this chapter, we have looked at Calvin's exegetical objections to Paedocommunion from Genesis to Revelation. We saw he showed that the Patristic Church catechized youth before Communion, and that he provided evidence of Patristic 'Confirmation' before first eucharizing at teenage. Calvin therefore rejected the Early-Mediaeval error of Paedocommunion, as well as the Papist perversion of pseudo-confirmation. To him, mediaeval sacramentalism mauled manumission He fully refuted the Anabaptist Servetus' pseudopaedocommunionistic speciousness, and crushed the Anabaptist Servetus's pseudo-paedocommunionism To Calvin, Apostolic 'Admission to the Supper' needed restoring -- after letting covenant children catechize from age10 till at least age 13. Wherever carnal, Calvin wanted Communion Services be postponed. He developed the Geneva Catechism for Communion Catechumens, and provided in his Ecclesiastical Ordinances that covenant children must first complete their catechization before being admitted to Communion. Calvin wrote Anti-Romish tracts on 'True Confirmation.' He also advocated 'Teenage Confirmation' while refuting that syncretism between inconsistent Lutheranism and Romanism known as the German Interim. To Calvin, catechization was necessary in order to understand and avoid the error of consubstantiation This was developed in his polemics against the Gnesio- or Hyper-Lutherans Westphal and Heshusius. It was also standardized in his own Catechism. Predictably, Calvin approved of the French Hugenots' Communion Tokens as a good way of fencing and guarding the sanctity of the Lord's Supper. His letter to the young Prince Henry of Navarre stressed the importance of the ages between ten and teenage, and he insisted to the Lord Protector of the young King Edward VI of England that the Church cannot long thrive without Catechisms. For, as Calvin himself commented (on Acts 8:37): 'As soon as their age and ability to understand will allow,' Christ's covenant children are to 'yield themselves to Him as Disciples' alias 'taught ones.' Then, like the Ethiopian eunuch of old, they too are to declare quite publicly: 'I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God!' For, explained the genius of Geneva, 'everyone who does not already have this as an adult -- boasts in vain of his Baptism as an infant!'" (pp. 35-36).


Clearly, John Calvin's view, which is characteristic of the Reformation position, is that everyone, including baptized children, must be catechized before being allowed to partake of the Lord's Supper. He was consciously and decidedly opposed to paedocommunion. Paedocommunion is an anti-Reformation practice. This book by Dr. Lee not only demonstrates how vigorously Calvin opposed paedocommunion, but also gives contemporary Christians sound reasons for opposing it today.


Opposing paedocommunion entails that those who accept it should receive ecclesiastical discipline. This is likely the position that Calvin would have taken. As Reg Barrow writes in "Calvin, Close Communion, and the Coming Reformation" (http://www.swrb.com/newslett/actualnls/CalvinCC.htm ),


"John Calvin listed the doctrine of the sacraments as the third most important element, in cataloguing his four major areas of concern, regarding Christianity and the ecclesiastical Reformation of his day, writing, 'If it be inquired, then, by what things chiefly the Christian religion has a standing existence amongst us, and maintains its truth, it will be found that the following two not only occupy the principal place, but comprehend under them all the other parts, and consequently the whole substance of Christianity: this is, a knowledge, first, of the mode in which God is duly worshipped; and, secondly, of the source from which salvation is to be obtained. When these are kept out of view, though we may glory in the name Christians, our profession is empty and vain. After these come the sacraments and the government of the church...' (The Necessity of Reforming the Church [Presbyterian Heritage Publications, 1544, reprinted 1995], p. 15)."


Even more to the point, Barrow notes,


"it is a well documented fact that the Genevan Presbytery of Calvin's day, in 1536, sought to excommunicate anyone who would not swear an oath to uphold the Reformed doctrine as it was set forth in their Confession of Faith. T.H.L. Parker writes, 'Since the evangelical faith had only recently been preached in the city, and there were still many Romanists, the ministers also urged excommunication on the grounds of failure to confess the faith. The Confession of faith, which all the citizens and inhabitants of Geneva... must promise to keep and to hold had been presented to the Council on 10 November 1536. Let the members of the Council be the first to subscribe and then the citizens, 'in order to recognize those in harmony with the Gospel and those loving rather to be of the kingdom of the pope than of the kingdom of Jesus Christ.' Those who would not subscribe were to be excommunicated' (John Calvin: A Biography, p. 63)."


Barrow provides further support for this by pointing out,


"The 'Register of the Council of 24' of Geneva notes as follows: '12 November 1537. It was reported that yesterday the people who had not yet made their oath to the reformation were asked to do so, street by street; whilst many came, many others did not do so. No one came from the German quarter. It was decided that they should be commanded to leave the city if they did not wish to swear to the reformation' (Scribner, Bob and Pamela Johnston. 1993. The Reformation in Germany and Switzerland, Cambridge University Press, p. 138)."


Samuel Rutherford also held that those who are "unsound in faith" should be barred from the Lord's Supper.


"Because the Churches take not care, that Ministers be savoury and gracious; from Steermen all Apostasie and rottenness begin. O if the Lord would arise and purge his House in Scotland! As for Church-members, they ought to be holy; and though all baptized be actu primo members, yet such as remain habitually ignorant after admonition, are to be cast out, and though they be not cast out certainly, as paralytick or rottened members cannot discharge the functions of life: So those that are scandalous, ignorant, malignant, unsound in faith, lose their rights of Suffrages in election of Officers, and are to be debarred from the Seals" (Survey of the Survey, p. 373).


Although these latter citations are not a part of Dr. Lee's book, they are pertinent because they show the logical conclusion to be drawn from the lessons he provides in his book. That is, since paedocommunion is an unscriptural doctrine and practice, those who hold to it must receive ecclesiastical discipline and be barred from the Lord's Table.


If paedocommunionism is allowed to run rampant in Reformed and Presbyterian churches, not only will any future Reformation be set back for years (and even turned into anti-Reformation), but countless children will reap the consequences of partaking unworthily of the Lord's Supper (as will those who teach and practice this dangerous and destructive heresy -- as the Lord makes known his displeasure upon those who sow doctrinal tares in His fields). What a sad situation it is among those who think they are obeying the Lord and being faithful in their duties toward their children (by practicing paedocommunion), when in fact, they are actually disobeying the Lord and bringing judgement upon themselves and their children for the errors they teach and practice. Lord willing this book will be used of God to rescue many from the paedocommunion deception.


40 pages (each page 8.5 by 11 inches).


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Lord's Supper (Communion)

John Calvin and Greg Price on the Lord's Supper (Close Communion)