"Not only signs of grace, but means of the grace signified": Horsley on the Supper of the Lord

From Horsley's Charge to the Clergy of the Diocese of Rochester, 1800, on "the sacrament of the Lord's Supper", another example of the vitality of High Church eucharistic doctrine and piety in the Georgian era:

But the frequency of the celebration will be of little use, unless your people are well instructed in the nature and use of this most holy and mysterious ordinance. If they are suffered to consider it as nothing more than a rite of simple commemoration of Christ's death - a mere external form of thanksgiving on the part of the receiver, they will never come to it with due reverence. You will instruct them, therefore, in the true nature of a sacrament, - that the sacraments are not only signs of grace, but means of the grace signified; the matter of the sacrament being, by Christ's appointment and the operation of the Holy Spirit, the vehicle of grace to the believer's soul. The Lord's Supper is in this sense a sacrament in the very highest import of the word; for you will remember, that the Church of England, although she rejects the doctrine of a literal transubstantiation of the elements, which is taught in the Church of Rome, denies not, but explicitly maintains, that “the body and blood of Christ are verily and indeed taken and received by the faithful in the Lord's Supper," - though they are taken “after a spiritual manner;” and “the mean by which they are received is faith.”

This is another example of why the Movement of 1833 was not required for a 'revival' of sacramental teaching and spirituality.  A vital and vibrant Eucharistic tradition was very much evident in the late Georgian Church.

It is also worth noting that Horsley's addition to the affirmation of the Catechism of words from Article 28 - "The Body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten, in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is Faith" - provides a significant High Church precedent for the Church of Ireland's 1878 addition of these words to the Catechism:

Question. After what manner are the Body and Blood of Christ taken and received in the Lord's Supper?
Answer. Only after a heavenly and, spiritual manner; and the mean whereby they are taken and received is Faith.

This is another example of Prayer Book revisions made by the Irish Church at disestablishment standing firmly within the Old High Church tradition, rather than being - as is usually assumed - Low Church statements.


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