The Common Cup in Reformed History

Discussion in 'Church Order' started by Travis Fentiman, Nov 19, 2014.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Travis Fentiman

    Travis Fentiman Puritan Board Freshman


    Bobby Phillips' article demonstrating the widespread practice of using a Common Cup in the Lord’s Supper through the history of the protestant reformation, and how the reformers were continuing the theology of the early church in understanding the Common Cup to represent the unity of believers sharing in the one sacrifice of Christ (1 Cor. 10:16-17).

    All of your favorite reformers are quoted and the article includes numerous primary source materials translated for the first time into English from personas such as Bucer, Farel, Olevianus, Laski, Daille, Lavatar, Weiss, and Huysinga, amongst others.

    Please Enjoy!​

  2. Logan

    Logan Puritan Board Junior

    Just a few thoughts:

    That a common cup was historically generally assumed is certainly granted. That it was defended as commanded by Scripture wasn't very effectually shown in my mind. I disagree that Owen's remarks exclude all but a common cup (the author draws a conclusion I'm not sure Owen would have supported). The closest quotations which actually argue the position would be Gillispie or a Brakel.

    Interestingly to me, the famous image of Calvin fencing the table from the Libertines shows two cups (this from Wylie's history, early 19th century, not from the "liberal" 20th century). Likewise with the opening image of Knox from 1840. If two cups were used for practical reasons in at least the early 1800s (perhaps both sides of the church simultaneously), this doesn't help the argument for a common cup being necessary and only being dispensed with by "liberal progressives" 100 years later. The Westminster Directory talks about the bread being in suitable vessels (plural) and the wine being in large cups (plural). If a singular bread and singular cup was supposedly considered crucial during that period, why is the plural form used?

    It might be noteworthy to point out that having many cups would have been historically impractical as well (cost and distribution). The issue very well might not have arisen, indeed the lack of argumentation for or against indicates that this just wasn't much of an issue for anyone. Why then claim that it was "liberal progressives hijack[ing] synods" that led to the loss of the common cup?
  3. Jake

    Jake Puritan Board Junior

    Thanks for sharing, Travis. I'm looking forward to reading this.
  4. C. M. Sheffield

    C. M. Sheffield Puritan Board Senior

    While I agree with your arguments, referencing artistic portrayals of historical events is almost never a good idea. Especially when the artist lived in a different time altogether.
  5. Logan

    Logan Puritan Board Junior

    Certainly, and I wasn't claiming that these accurately portrayed the 1500s. I was only pointing out that it must have occurred as early as the beginning of the 19th century, at least, and not exclusively because of liberalism in the 20th, which is why I posted the dates for those images.
  6. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    I support the common cup as most practical on the basis that we should adhere as closely as possible to the original institution. Circumstantially cups should only be multiplied for the sake of administering the wine to larger numbers than one cup would allow. We should not introduce significant ceremonies which are not taught in Scripture. To introduce new significations would be a vain imagination, not a divine institution.

    The linked article is well written and the material presented in a constructive manner, but it attempts to make the cup a sacramental symbol. The Scripture does not warrant this. The Scripture does not make the cup significant of anything. It is but a vessel for the fruit of the vine. The Westminster Confession and Catechisms speak very clearly to the fact that the elements of bread and wine are set apart from a common to an holy use. The cup is not set apart in this manner because it has no sacramental relation to the things signified by the Lord's supper.

    The reason for adhering as closely as possible to the original institution is to avoid the creation of new signs. It is superstitious to create divine significations of physical things and actions. Historically, the fact that some have argued from an analogy between the bread and the cup in terms of unity does not justify the symbolism as if it were sacramental.
  7. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    But seeing how probably no one attaches significance to the use of multiple cups (from what I've seen, if any thought is put into the matter at all, the only reason is to avoid the "yuck" factor, as it is often called) and that some apparently do attach significance to one cup, wouldn't it be circumstantially better to use many cups?

    Furthermore, so long as people are not attaching significance (and so not creating new signs) to using many cups (whether in the congregation or in the wider culture), there is no reason to hold as closely as possible to the original institution, given that the use of cups is circumstantial and "prudence" might dictate using many cups to avoid distracting people with the "yuck" factor?
  8. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Whether one attaches significance or not, it becomes significant to depart from the original institution. In this case "INDIVIDUAL cups" introduces the idea of INDIVIDUALITY which the Supper does not have. Instead of "giving and receiving bread and wine" one is giving and receiving bread and cups. If anything, the introduction of individual cups has created the quagmire in which traditionalists are slipping over and becoming muddied in the superstition of making something significant of the cup.

    One needs a reason to depart from tradition. There is no valid reason for departing from this tradition. Whatever "yuck" is, it has no bearing on this issue. At the very least, one would have to alter the words of institution in order to accommodate this practice. And to the extent that practice has an influence in shaping the way one thinks, multiple cups will have a bearing on the intuitions of people when they consider "individual cups" in connection with the new testament and its benefits.
  9. ProtestantBankie

    ProtestantBankie Puritan Board Freshman

    Logan, I believe the directory mentions "cups" and "vessels" in the plural because it is dealing with the table prior to people sitting.

    You will note the focus changes to "cup" on the rest of the directory.

    It was the practice of that time to have multiple tables (due to sizes of congregations). But a different cup was generally used for each table, and so multiple cups could be at the ministers side.

    My own denomination generally uses 2 cups in the serving.
  10. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Professor

    The "yuck" may flow from our understanding of how disease may spread which may be a "reason"? In my most humble opinion I think little or nothing for this reason but my Infectious Disease Dr. friends may take issue with my lack of concern. :)
  11. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    I have an affinity for Matthew Winzer's position both the rule of sticking close to the institution and the concern while advocating for a particular practice we go overboard and exaggerate it to a worse error. My question is how do we draw a line between sticking with a desired circumstance close to the original institution and an unneeded and unnecessarily restrictive circumstantial detail? If there is nothing significant about a single cup how does that circumstance arise above an evening setting for the Lord's Supper? If a single cup is a circumstance then do not the scriptural rules governing it have something to say about retaining the practice if health-wise we now have concerns about such things as germs?
  12. Logan

    Logan Puritan Board Junior

    I don't have an issue with that at all. But my point was that even having one cup per table seems to defeat the premise of the paper: that a "common cup" is crucial symbolically and institutionally. The reason I mentioned the plural form in the directory is to show that the Puritans weren't as concerned with "one cup" being an element of the sacrament as the author of the paper seems to think they were, or at least in the same way.

    I don't have strong feelings on this, I just don't think this particular paper argued a tenable position. I can sympathize with Winzer's position, even find it attractive, but like Chris I wonder where the line is drawn. Why is one cup per table allowable vs one cup per congregation?

    I'm also having a hard time seeing the individuality argument because I've never seen the individual cups as a statement of individuality: we all drink simultaneously. On the one hand you have individuals drinking individually but from the same cup, on the other hand you have individuals drinking in unison from individual cups. Perhaps I don't feel strongly about this because I've seen the wine as the symbol, not the cup. I don't really see either means of distributing that symbol as crucial to the sacrament but I'm open to hearing more.
  13. ProtestantBankie

    ProtestantBankie Puritan Board Freshman

    The cup belongs to the table and not to the congregation. Children unable to examine and others refusing to profess faith who are in the congregation are not entitled to the cup. It is therefore lawful to have a cup for the table.

    If you have multiple tables - then you have multiple cups. So one congregation had multiple cups - because it had multiple tables.

    ONE table was not regarded as neccesary by the Puritans.

    I believe they firmly held that there should be one cup for a table.

    I'm just throwing out my own understanding so it can be corrected. :popcorn:
  14. Logan

    Logan Puritan Board Junior

    I was trying to focus on the paper's view but this is interesting to me. Is this on Scriptural or merely practical grounds? If you have any sources to share I would be interested in reading them.
  15. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    The sacramental elements are bread and wine. The sacramental action is giving and receiving. If this is maintained the communion is valid on the basis that it is Christ's institution. As for "circumstances," if they are not things which are necessary to the action they will affect the nature of the ordinance even if they do not invalidate it. It is necessary to have a vessel for carrying wine. This is the circumstance of the ordinance. Where there is more wine more vessels will be necessary. It is not necessary to multiply cups to enable people to drink at the same time. The idea that they should drink at the same time has added a new signification to the sacramental action.

    The medical argument does little to honour the wisdom of the Lord in ordaining this sacramental meal. The communicants will breathe over the bread (the minister will break it with his hands), and Scripture-testimony makes the bread symbolic of unity, so we are obliged to maintain its oneness out of principle. If the disease is too severe the individual might participate in affection if not in action.

    The night time observance was an "accidental occasion," to quote George Gillespie. We might call it a happenstance rather than a circumstance. Whereas the cup, like the posture of sitting, is properly circumstantial to eating and drinking.
  16. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    Chris, what do you think of the fact that the author's biography states that he makes a 3.5 hour commute once a fortnight, partly in order to drink from a common cup? That is a bit like me driving to the other end of Ireland once every two Sabbaths. I am not sure how such travelling on a regular basis is congruous with keeping the Lord's Day holy.

    N.B. I personally agree with the common cup.
  17. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    I don't have an issue with the travel. I've known folks who drove a hour plus to get to an acceptable church here in Texas.
  18. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    I know of people who do the same thing over here in the UK, but I wonder if we could justify someone travelling for 3.5 (or 7?) hours on a Sabbath just to partake of a common cup if there were otherwise sound churches closer to home.
  19. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    Ah. This is similar to the analysis against musical instruments in public worship for those who claim them to be circumstances. In both cases, the desire is to keep as close to the institution as possible. I had forgotten about the drinking at the same time. That puts some more weight onto your initial argument. However, when I spoke of using multiple cups, the reason I was thinking of was for the perceived health reasons that may distract from focusing on the ordinance; that is, although none may get ill, I'm sure the thought of spreading germs (and perhaps the spreading of germs is seen as more icky than the concern with illness itself) itself is distracting to the communicants in our modern Western culture.

    But we don't take a bite out of the same bread. We break off pieces of bread. Also, the cups used seem to be made of a material designed to help with the health concerns (silver?). Is this departing from the original institution for health reasons?
  20. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    7 hours is extreme and I think that likely is part and parcel with the overemphasis of the importance of the common cup's significance some have noted the paper exhibits.
  21. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    I guess that given the common cup not being of the essence of the Lord's Supper, one could partake of the Lord's Supper if there were multiple cups? So in general, may one bear with departures from the original institution of any ordinance, provided it does not strike at the essence of the ordinance? Are there some departures from the original institution (that do not strike at its essence) to not be partaken of?
  22. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    I don't read of any specific material used in the composition of the cup in Scripture, so I cannot see any departure from the original institution in freely choosing the material of the cup. It only needs to be a vessel which adequately holds the wine.
  23. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    He drives up on Saturday and spends the night with a family in the congregation. I assume he leaves on Monday, but I'm not sure. He's a member at the FC(C) in Atlanta, but lives in Huntsville, AL.
  24. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    I see; thanks for explaining. Did this guy used to belong to the OPC? If so, then I think I know who he is.
  25. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    I'm really not sure. If I remember, I'll ask him next time I see him. I can't really say when that will be, though.
  26. Jake

    Jake Puritan Board Junior

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page