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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.