Reformed Churchmen

We are Confessional Calvinists and a Prayer Book Church-people. In 2012, we remembered the 350th anniversary of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer; also, we remembered the 450th anniversary of John Jewel's sober, scholarly, and Reformed "An Apology of the Church of England." In 2013, we remembered the publication of the "Heidelberg Catechism" and the influence of Reformed theologians in England, including Heinrich Bullinger's Decades. For 2014: Tyndale's NT translation. For 2015, John Roger, Rowland Taylor and Bishop John Hooper's martyrdom, burned at the stakes. Books of the month. December 2014: Alan Jacob's "Book of Common Prayer" at: January 2015: A.F. Pollard's "Thomas Cranmer and the English Reformation: 1489-1556" at: February 2015: Jaspar Ridley's "Thomas Cranmer" at:

Monday, October 26, 2009

Bertram (9th Century) and the English Reformed: Real Presence

Bertram and the English Reformers: The Real Presence by W.F. Taylor

Bertram was a ninth century monk who wrote a famous treatise "On the Body and Blood of the Lord" against the rising tide of "Real Presence" and "Transubstantiation." The latter two doctrines would be pressed forward by 19th and 20th century Anglicans; essentially, it devolves and revolves around "bread worship."

Bertram or Ratramnus flourished around 840 A.D. and his above treatise was written a few years later. Ratramnus was his real name. Beatus was connected to it and abbreviated to Bertram. He was a Presbyter and monk in the monastery of Corbie, France. His learning was wide. He also wrote treatises on "Predestination" and "The Manner of our Lord's Birth." During this period, the image controversy was at its height and, notwithstanding the opposition of many, including kings and councils, it carried the day.

The ninth century was when the forgeries or forged decretals saw the light of day, imposing impostures designed to prop up Popery and supremacism---something we still live with and something we must resist manfully. Upon singing the Psalms, we are reminded repeatedly, "Remove lying lips from me." We must still sing and pray that, seeking to help Romanists to get free from the lies.

Image-worship was spreading and many clerks supported it as aids to worship (they had stupid clerks then too), much like many clerks support CCM, or Contemporary Christian music---devoid of substance. The two aren't all that far apart. Relics and saint worship were becoming extravagant, extensive and "popular aids to worship." Sound familar?

The views of God were aberrant also. Everyone believed that God's would never be propitious to them. People sought varied saints and other intercessors for them. We hear the same tripe from Anglo-Catholics with their small confidence in the adequacy and virility of Christ's Intercessorial ministry. It was evident that St. Paul's Epistles were not being taught to the people. New feast days were created to celebrate saints who might invoke the Almighty for mercy; this still is the core-idea in myriads of Italian cities, villages, and hamlets to this day. Living and travelling through Italy and Greece for three years made this "will worship" evident. Pictures, icons, and statues multipled.

Sound familiar? It's Anglo-Catholicism in doctrine and, often, by the mere "aesthetics by popular demand," "liberal-minded atavisms," and impoverished claims to corrupted practices.
We include a photo of one such corrupted man (to the immediate right), Mr. or Rev. (Bp.) Keith Ackerman of the Anglican Province of North America (ACNA). Keith couldn't and wouldn't endorse the article we are writing. Nor would his frontman, David Virtue. But back to our story.

Against this background, Paschasius Rhadbertus, Abbot of Corbie, propounded the doctrine of "Real Presence" in the virtual sense of "Transubstantiation." Bellarmine admits as much in his review of Rhadbertus' De Sacramento Corporis (c.845 AD). The book was presented to Charles the Bald, grandson of Charlemagne.
Three men opposed Rhadbertus's work: Rabanus Maurus (Archbishop of Mentz), Johannes Erigena Scotus, and Bertram, the subject of our review.

Charles the Bald called upon both men, Scotus and Bertram, to write their reviews that the rising controversy might be allayed and that the true doctrine of the Catholic Church might be established. Scotus' work has not survived, regrettably. He was a skilled theologian and was accomplished in Greek. It's one of those losses from history.
Bertram's work has survived. While Romanism would ultimately issue its ipse dixit and tub-thumping at the Fourth Lateran Council, 1215--a ruling still on the books and to be manfully resisted today--the blessed Reformers would recover Rhadbertus' doctrine on the Table and the true nature of the sacrament.

Berengarius, Canon of Tours, in the eleventh century would openly maintain Rhadbertus' view. He was openly persecuted. He scarcely escaped the flames. Ironically, the iron-willed Bishop of Rome, Hildebrand, provided him the political and ecclesiastical cover...he lived, but to fight another day. A candle was shining in the darkness of popular corruptions. Feel any kinship to Berengarius? As a Confe ssional and Reformed Anglican, living in the darkness and in the Babylonian Captivity?

In the fourteenth century, our beloved Rector of Lutterwork, our beloved John Wycliffe, would fearlessly propound the same doctrine as Berengarius and Bertram. No milquetoast. He declaimed against Rome. Would Dr. James Innes Packer do the same? Or would Dr. John Stott? Or would Bob Duncan on the "Bob Duncan Show?" No, these moderns are no Wycliffes. The moderns tolerate Rome and Anglo-Romanism.
As noted, the 4th Lateran Council of 1215 had already issued its peremptory decrees on Transubstantiation, later affirmed--with anathemas--by Trent. The Tridentine anathemas still obtain. Wycliffe would strenuously deny Transubstantiation and Roman imperialism. (He also believed in sola scriptura, justification by faith alone and in double predestination.)

Wycliffe composed his famous piece, The Wicket. It was a treatise on hoc est corpus meum. The bread, Wycliffe taught, was "the figure or mind of Christ's body in earth; and that therefore Christ said, `As oft as ye do this thing, do it in mind of me.'" Again, "All the sacraments that are left here on earth are but minds of the body of Christ; for a sacrament is no more to say but a sign or mind of a thing passed, or a thing to come; for when Jesus spake of the bread, and said to his disciples, `As oft as ye do this thing, do it in mind of me,' it was set for a mind of good things passed of Christ's body; but when the angel showed to John (Apoc.xvii) the sacraments of the woman and of the beast that bare her, it was set for a mind of evil things to come on the face of the earth and great destroying of the people of God."
This stands against the Lutheran, Anglo-Catholic, Tractarian and Roman views. It stands forequarely in the Reformed tradition---Anglican, Presbyterian and Reformed.

Wycliffe denounced the "real presence" views as heresy. He lived in great danger, but through the powerful patronage of Duke John of Gaunt, he was spared the usual course and fare offered up by Rome--death. He died in peace in 1384 AD. These views were taken up by Jan Huss and Jerome of Prague, who, by orders of the Council of Constance, 1415, were burned at the stake. Behold Rome's love!

These things gave great impetus to Lollardism in England, Wycliffe's beloved disciples, Bible-men, evangelicals, true teachers, and evangelists. Moral corruption, high and low, civil and ecclesiastical, offended the elect of God. (Search our archives on Hardwick's XXXIX Articles or a review of this century.) The Papal Schism, 1378-1431, in which there were two, sometimes three, popes added to the wickednesses and offenses of the day--each senior clerk ordaining his own bishops and each of the three lines abusing and recriminating one another. Behold the humility of Christ in Romanism! Roman strumpets trumpetted their claim over temporal kingdoms as well as their own empire. Reformation winds were definintely in the air for 150 years before Luther. God's elect and kingdom, though in much darkness, did not yield. The devil could not blow out God's candles of light.

By the fifteenth century, Zwingli in Switzerland, Luther in Germany, Calvin in France, and an entire host of men in England (White Horse Inn) would begin the lost process of bringing God's Word, God's Gospel, God's two sacraments, and the attendant messages back to the nations: election, predestination, justification, adoption, perseverance of the saints, assurance of salvation, the necessity of good works and more. Post tenebras, lux. "After the darkness, the light."

The Roman imperialists, Pharisees, and dragoons responded with their anathemas of Trent (1545-1563). The Word of God was not for the people; they were too stupid to read. It was a clique of claques and clowns at the top, in a definite minority, running the religious program and driving the people to ignorance.

Burnet, the historian, says: The design of the Reformation was to restore Christianity to what it was at first, and to purge it of those corruptions with which it was overrun in the later and darker ages.

The emancipation of England was at hand. We deal not with the machinations, motives and policies of Henry VIII...wicked, evil and self-serving as they were.

Rather, God called him, like a small fly at His sovereign beckon, to provide cover for Thomas Cranmer and Nicholas Ridley. And thereby, as a little gnat, God used this gnat, Henry VIII, to would provide cover--not so wittingly--until the English Bible, godly Prayer Book, and a modest Reformed Confession (XXXIX Articles) were prepared for the world.
Both Reformers, with the assistance of others such as Bucer, would prune the Prayer Services of Romanism and relics of the Babylonian Captivity--Romanism. Both would embrace the view of the supper propounded by Bertram, the Monk of Corbie, who seven hundred years earlier had, at the command of his Sovereign, stood up for God's simple truths against medieval superstition and bread-worshipping.

We face the same disfigurations and superstitions of bread worship today. It dominates the West and East. It finds expression in the disfigurations of a very corrupted and failed Anglicanism, especially in an equally corrupted Anglo-Catholicism.
We provide a photo to your immediate right of Mr. or Rev. (some call him Bp.) Jack Leo Iker, Ft. Worth, TX, who supports and sponsors SSC-men and Nashotah House, stiff-minded and resolved Anglo-Catholics who resist the Reformation and the XXXIX Articles. He too, Jack, gets cover from his frontman and sponsor, journalist David Virtue. He too loves Romanism. But we return to our story on Bertram and the English Reformation.

In 1545, Nicholas Ridley discovered Bertram's book. He forever abandoned the Imperialists view of "Real Presence." Ridley's view would come to dominate the English Reformation and the Reformed Church of England.

Here is the dispute held at Oxford, 10 years later, when Ridley was on trial for his life (which he lost, trial and life):

"Here, right worshipful masters, prolocutor, and ye, the rest of the commissioners, it may please you to understand that I do not lean to these things only, which I havve written in my former answers and confirmations, but that I have also, for the proof of that I have spoken, whatsoever Bertram, a man learned, of sound and upright judgment, and ever counted a Catholc for these seven hundred years, until this our age hath written. His treatise, whosoever shall read and weigh, consideringthe time of the writer, his learning, godliness of life, the allegations of the ancient fathers, and his manifold and most grounded arguments, I cannot (doubtless) but much marvel, if he have any fear of God at all, how he can, with a good conscience, speak against him in this matter of the sacrament. This Bertram was the first man that ever pulled me by the ear, and that first brought me from the common error of the Romish Church, and caused me to search more diligently and exactly both the Scriptures and other ecclesiastical father in this matter. And this I protest before the face of God, who knoweth I lie not in the things I now speak."

Ridley influenced the Reformed Church of England. His monument at Oxford still commemorates the truth. The monument to the right celebrates the martyrdoms of Cranmer, Ridley and Latimer. The Anglo-Catholics resent and lampoon this monument and its representative theology. This monument still tells us we have a war with Rome and Anglo-Catholics, as well as their enablers like David Virtue, Jack Iker, Keith Ackerman, a Mr. Schofield and Paul Hewitt, among others.

Cranmer was convinced by his careful perusal of Bertram's work also. He refers to it in his great work, On the Lord's Supper." He uses many of the same arguments and even takes phrases over into his book.

Bertram or Ratramnus was the man who gave foundation to the English Reformed Church. The Scriptures, Christ's words, Paul's words, and the views of Augustine, Ambrose, Isidore, Fulgentius and Jerome put forward the Catholic faith. After Bertram, we have Berengarius, Wycliffe, John Huss, Jerome of Prague, Ridley, Cranmer and other Reformers. God never leaves Himself without witnesses, even when darkness prevails in the land. That applies to those of us in the Anglican wilderness.

We turn now to Bertram, sometimes called Ratram or Ratramnus.
1. Is the body and blood of Christ, taken by the mouth of the faithful, a mystery or reality?
2. Is this the very same body which was born of the Virgin Mary? Often, one reads of the essential or real body and blood of Christ, born of Nazareth. Or, the Christ in His two natures, One Person, on the Table.
Bertram say, "The bread and wine are, figuratively, the body and blood of Chirst, which are received in the church by the mouths of the faithful, are figures according to their visible nature, but according to invisible substance--i.e. the power of the divine word--they are truly the body and blood of Christ." Bertram goes on to maintain the the Old Testament saints fed on Christ when they ate the manna, and drank His blood when they drank of the water that flowed from the rock. In the same way, Christ converted the manna into His flesh and water into Hi blood, fifteen hundred years before He was born. It has spiritual efficacy for the worthy recipient.
Cranmer accepted this argument and presses it with this power:
"They say that the fathers and prophets of the Old Testament did not eat the body and drink the blood of Christ. We say that they did eat His body and drink His blood, although He was not yet born nor incarnated."

Bertram answers question two above:
"Great is the difference between the body in which Christ suffered and that which is daily delebrated by the faithful, and taken by the mouth. They differ from each other just as much as a pledge and that one account of which pledge is given; as an image and that of which it is an image; as a resemblance and the reality." (sec. lxxxix)

As to taking His flesh and blood literally (Rome, Lutheran, Tractarians, Anglo-Catholics), "it would be not an act of religion, but a crime" (xxxiv.). This is extremely strong language, the underpinning for the Reformed Church of England.

Bertram held that the Real Presence of Christ is to the soul of the faithful in blessing and grace. Many of the Reformers, especially Roger Becon, the learned chaplain of Thomas Cranmer in his Catechism, held exactly this view.

The doctrine of Bertram and the English Reformers does not--at all--comport with Roman, Lutheran, Tractarian or Anglo-Catholic views.
As to transubstantiation, Bertram say, "According to the substance of the materials, what they were before the consecration, this afterwards they continue to be. They existed as bread and wine before, in which species also, now that they are consecrated, they are seen to remain" (sec.liv).
As to the Lutheran view, consubstantiation--the doctrine that while the bread and wine remain after the consecration, they truly become the real body and blood of Christ, really and essentially, objectively and externally present on the table--Bertram is equally decisive.
"Great is the difference between the body in which Christ suffered and that body which is daily taken by the mouth of the faithful" (sec.lxix.).

Or again, from Bertram against the transubstantiatists and consubstantiatists, "Things which differ from each other are not one and the same; the body of Christ which died and rose again, now dies no more. But this which is celebrated in the Church is temporal, not eternal; it is corruptible, not incorruptible; it is on earth, not in heaven. They differ, therefore, from each other; wherefore they are not the same" (sec lxxvi.).
It is the body and blood of Christ in signification and efficaceous blessing to the faithful.
Article XXVIII says:
"To such as right such as rightly, worthily, and with faith receive the same, the bread which we break is a partaking of the body of Christ, and likewise the cup of blessing is a partaking of the blood of Christ."
"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."
This is reflected in other Continental Reformed Confessions such as the Helvetic, Belgic and Heidelberg documents. This is the same view--Article 28---as is expressed in the Westminster Standards, an English document that would migrate north to Scotland---it was essentially Englishmen who crafted it. Of course, the latter Confession, the Westminster, is superior to the Articles due to its greater profundities, competencies and greater courage in public exposition, craftsmanship, and continuuing validity. Let no one forget that English Reformers died for this faith.
Back to Bertram.
In Sec. lxxxviii, he cites the language used by the Presbyter in divine services in France:
"May Thy sacraments, O Lord, effect in us what they contain, so that those tings which now we celebrate in a figure we may receive in the truth of the things themselves." It is evident that the Lord's Table, or the Body and Blood of Christ are signifed, exhibited and applied to believers. The figure and the reality are two different things. No Confessional Anglican, Presbyterian or Reformed Churchman could object--not one whit--to this prayer. As such, we are obligated to oppose Romish, Lutheran and Anglo-Catholic views.
We close with a three lengthy citations from Bertram, the view of the English Reformed Church, sealing our case.
(xcix.) "Let us also add, that the bread and cup which is called the Body and Blood of Christ, represents the memorials of the Lord's passion and death, even as he says in the Gospel: `Do this for a commemoration of Me.' Expounding which the apostle Paul says: `As often as yet eat this bread and drink this cup, ye declared the Lord's death till he come.'"

(c.) "We are thus taught by Saviour, and also by the Apostle Paul, that this bread and this wine which are placed upon the altar, are placed for a figure or memorial of the Lord's death; so that it may recall to the present memory that which was done in the past, and that we may be reminded of his passion; by it also we are made partakers of the divine gift, whereby we are freeed from death. Knowing that when we shall come to the vision of Christ, we shall no more have need of such outward means, by which we may be reminded of that which divine goodness endured for us. For beholding Him face to face, we shall not be influenced by the outward admonition of temporal things; but by the contemplation of the reality itself (ipsuius veritatis) we shall perceive in what way we ought to give thanks to author of our salvation."

(ci.) "Notwithstanding, although we say these things, let it not be thought that, in the mystery of the sacrament, the body and blood of the Lord are not taken by the faithful. Since faith receives, not what the eye beholds, but what itself believes. For it is spiritual food and spiritual drink which spiritually feeds the soul, and bestows on it the life of eternal happiness."

Again, this is the Reformed view of the Real Presence, be it Anglican, Dutch Reformed, Huguenot, or Genevan. There is a great difference between what is signified, exhibited and sealed for us and that which is the reality, the Risen Christ.
For Anglicans of the Reformed Church in the Wilderness, we're not going back to Egypt. Let the whiners and grumblers (and their enthusiasts to stay in the Wilderness, a new TEC called ACNA without gays and without a robust theology) die in their own wilderness. It's TEC-lite. God will raise up Calebs and Joshuas. Let us, like Bertram, like the English Reformers, light a new fire in the darkness.
Semper Fidelis.


Chris Larimer said...

Did you mean to point us to Thomas Becon's catechism? (I often cross him with Roger Bacon, too.)

Reformation said...

Thanks, it's Thomas Becon, not Roger Becon.