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Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Sacramental Instrumentality and all of that

I have been very busy this week looking at Andrewes's Apospasmatia Sacra and a number of his sermons, which are clear expositions of the Blessed Sacrament. It has been a fun but also a very trying exercise. I thank my friends Dr. Nick Thompson, Dr. Peter McCullough, Dr. Marianne Dorman and Bishop Kenneth Stevenson for considering my thoughts on Andrewes. The sermon is on Isaiah 6.6 and expounds the text concerning the Coal being taken from the Altar that brought forgiveness of sins to Isaiah. For Andrewes, Christ is that Coal and the Cross is that Altar and we receive our forgiveness of sins after baptism through the instrumental means of the Blessed Eucharist. Andrewes says,

That at the celebration thereof, after the Sacrament was ministered to the people, the Priest stood up and said as the Seraphin doth here, Behold this hath touched your lips, your iniquity shall bee taken away, and your sinne purged. The whole fruit of Religion is, The taking away of sinne, Isaiah the twenty seventh Chapter and the ninth verse, and the specially wayes to take it away, is the Religious use of this Sacrament; which as Christ saith is nothing else, but a seale and signe of his blood that was shed for many for the remission of sinnes, Matthew the twenty sixth Chapter and the twenty eighty verse…

But, this has a two-fold use that is to bring comfort through the word. The analogy of the Altar where the Cole was taken from and the Table of the Lord where the Eucharist is offered and received provides the forgiveness that is sought by the people. As the washing with water is for the taking away of original sin, the receiving of the Eucharist is for the taking away of actual sin. He argues this, not from the doctrines and teachings of the Reformation, but rather from the ancient Church’s teaching on this particular passage that applied this text in this way. Andrewes makes a point to show that the Eucharist and the One Sacrifice of Christ at Calvary are one and the same offering. For he says, “That our sinnes are no lesse taken away by the element of bread and wine, in the Sacrament, then the Prophet’s sinne was by being touched with a Cole.” One would immediately ask whether or not Andrewes is arguing for a sacramental 'causality' with reference to his instrumentality. Andrewes answer to this question is given when he makes it clear that it is NOT the Sacrament that takes away and forgives sin, so that it must be acknowledged that “none can take away sinne but God only, wee must needs confesse that there was in this Cole a divine force and virtue issuing from Christ, who is the only reconciliation for our sins without which it had not beene possible that it could have taken away sin.” Thus Christ is both the Cole and the Altar from which it comes. Once it touches the lips, like the chalice, sin is forgiven. The Altar represents the Cross on which Christ takes away the sin of the world through His sacrifice. Andrewes discusses the possessing of “a perfect sense of this coal”, that is Christ. So, as we eat of the blessed bread and wine corporally we know inwardly or spiritually our sins are forgiven. This means we all share in the blood of Christ and of His body. It is this partaking that enables one to have eternal life. All through this sermon one is conscious of sacramental teaching by Andrewes – God can take anything and use it to be an instrument of whatever he wants, but by His divine counsel and wisdom he has determined the creatures of bread and wine for this task. One is also conscious of Irenaeus’ teaching of the hypostatical union throughout this sermon.

He relates his teaching of the hypostatical union to describe the two natures of the Cole itself. The Cole is a dead thing, yet it has a burning force symbolising the force of the divine nature of Christ. So as the human nature is dead in itself the divine nature, which is inseparably united to it, brings the life-giving force that is needed to fulfil the purposes of God. Andrewes describes this in the following way, “So the element of bread and wine is a dead thing in it selfe, but through the grace of God’s spirit infused into it hath a power to heate our Soules: for the elements in the Supper have an earthly and a heavenly part.” This analogy used by Andrewes leads him to show how the Sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist differ in the results of their instrumentality.

Concerning Sacrifice he went on to say,
The love which hee shewed unto us in dying for our sinnes is set out unto us most lively in this Sacrament of his Body and Blood, unto which wee must come often, that from the one wee may fetch the purging of our sinnes, as the Apostle speaks, and from the other qualifying power si in luce [if on account of the light] John the first chapter & the seventh verse; wherefore as by the mercy of God we have a fountain of water alwaise flowing, to take away originall sin, so there is in the Church fire always burning to cleanse our actuall transgressions; for if the Cole taken from the Altar, had a power to take away the Prophet’s sinne, much more the body and blood of Christ, which is offered in the Sacrament; If the hem of Christ’s garment can heal, the ninth chapter of Matthew and the twentieth verse, much more the touching of Christ himselfe shall procure health to our soules; here we have not something that hath touched the Sacrifice, but the Sacrifice itself to take away our sins.

This is enough for now and ought to stimulate some discussion. I ask that if you use any of this material, that you credit the source as many of these quotations and thoughts concerning Andrewes will be a part of my dissertation.

©Rev'd Jeffrey H. Steel, University of Durham, 2005

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