Westminster Assembly on the Conditions for Partaking of the Lord’s Supper

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The following is an excerpt from the Journals of the House of Commons where the divines explain to Parliament what they mean by “ignorant or scandalous” (WLC 173; WCF 29:8; DPW on the Lord’s Supper) in regards to those who are unable to take the Lord’s Supper.

Article Submitted To The House Of Commons Explaining “Ignorant or Scandalous”

The humble answer of the assembly of divines, concerning the particulars mentioned in the order of that honourable house, April 1st 1645. directed to the Assembly.

1. They have not a competent measure of understanding concerning the state of man by creation and his fall who do not know:

  • That God created man after his own image in knowledge, righteousness and true holiness.
  • That by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin and so death passed to upon all men, for that all have sinned.
  • That thereby they are all dead in trespasses and sins and are by nature the children of wrath, and so are liable to eternal death the wages of every sin.

2. They have not a competent measure of understanding concerning the redemption by Jesus Christ, who do not know:

  • That there is but one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who is also over all, God blessed forever; neither is there salvation in any other.
  • That he was conceived by the Holy Ghost and born of the virgin Mary
  • That he died upon the cross to save his people from their sins.
  • That he rose again on the third day from the dead, ascended into heaven, sits at the right hand of God, and makes continual intercession for us; of whose fullness we receive all grace necessary to salvation.

3. They have not a competent understanding concerning the way and means to apply Christ and his benefits who do not know:

  • That Christ and his benefits are applied only by faith.
  • That faith is the gift of God, and that we have it not of ourselves, but it is wrought in us by the Word and Spirit of God.

4. They have not a competent measure of understanding in the nature and necessity of faith who do not know:

  • That faith is that grace whereby we believe and trust in Christ for the remission of sins, and life everlasting according to the promise of the gospel.
  • That whosoever believes not on the son of God shall not see life, but shall perish eternally.

5. They have not a competent measure of the knowledge of repentance, who do not know:

  • That they who truly repent of their sins do see them, sorrow for them, and turn from them to the Lord and that except men repent they shall surely perish.

6. They have not a competent measure of knowledge concerning a godly life, who do not know:

  • That a godly life is a life conscionably ordered according to the word of God, in holiness and righteousness, without which no man shall see God.

7. They have not a competent measure of understanding in the nature and use of the sacraments, who know not:

  • That the Sacraments are seals of the covenant of grace in the blood of Christ.
  • That the sacraments of the new testament are baptism and the Lord’s supper.
  • That the outward elements of the Lord’s Supper are bread and wine, and do signify the body and blood of Christ crucified, which the worthy receiver by faith doth partake of in this Sacrament, which Christ hath likewise ordained for a remembrance of his death.

8. They have not a competent measure of understanding concerning the condition of man after this life, who do not know:

  • That the souls of the faithful after death do immediately live with Christ in blessedness, and that the souls of the wicked do immediately go into hell torments.
  • That there shall be a resurrection of the bodies both of the just and the unjust at the last day. At which time all shall appear before the judgment seat of Christ, to receive according to what they have done in the body, whether it be good or evil; and that the righteous shall go into the eternal and the wicked into everlasting punishment.

The DPW originally had a more detailed explanation of “ignorant and scandalous” but in a presumptuous exercise of Erastian power Parliament ordered it to be abridged to what we have now: The ignorant and the scandalous are not fit to receive the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. However, the original language has been preserved for us. In John Allin’s (1596-1671) defense of the answer he gave to the New England Churches’ nine queries regarding polity, he elucidates what the original DPW said before it was ordered abridged by Parliament:

None are to bee admitted thereto (meaning the Lord Suppers) but such as being baptized are found upon carefull examination by the Minister, before the other Church-Officers, to have a competent measure of knowledge and ability to examine themselves, and professe their willingnesse to submit themselves to all the Ordinances of Christ, and are of approved conversation [ie. manner of life] according to Christ: the ignorant and scandalous are not to bee admitted, nor those of another Congregation, unlesse they have sufficient testimony or be very well knowne.

A Defence of the Answer Made unto the Nine Questions or Positions Sent from New-England (1648)

Also, it is interesting to note that the Kirk of Scotland (historically the only church to approve and use the DPW) approved it with an adopting act that required trial and examination of congregations before the communion, according to past practice. Thus, the Scottish Kirk continued examining its communicants, despite Parliamentary intervention on the subject. This is their attached language:

III. In the administration of the Lord’s Supper, it is the judgment of the Committee: — 1. That congregations be still tried and examined before Communion, according to the bygone practice of this Kirk. — The opinion of the Committee for keeping the greater uniformity in this Kirk, in the practice and observations of the Directory in some points of public worship,

Sess. 14, Feb. 7, 1645 (Note: the Adopting Act of the General Assembly of the Kirk of Scotland which approved the DPW is dated Sess. 10, Feb. 3, 1645.) Source: Thomas Leishman, The Westminster Directory (1901), Appendix B, p. 166.

Thank you to R. Andrew Myers of Reformed Books Online for much of this information!

See also Exceptions Required to be Taken by Paedo-Communion Adherents



5 thoughts on “Westminster Assembly on the Conditions for Partaking of the Lord’s Supper

  1. […] [5] At this point, the Paedocommunionist might then suggest that preparation and reception of the Lord’s Supper need not be as rigorous as traditional Reformed Theology has practiced, and might be as simple as requiring a child to say “I love Jesus.” However, that would be to abandon the core Paedocommunion stance that covenant status is the lone requirement, and to concede that confessional Reformed Theology is correct in principle. What specifically should constitute remembrance of Christ, discerning the Lord’s body, self-examination, etc. is the next crucial discussion, yet outside the scope of this article. Cf. The Westminster Assembly on the Conditions for Partaking of the Lord’s Supper. […]


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