Now online: Jewel, "Treatise of the Sacraments" (1583); Saywell, "Holy Rite of Confirmation" (1745)

Discussion in 'Announcements' started by JonahAF, Apr 11, 2019.

  1. JonahAF

    JonahAF Moderator Staff Member Typist Anglican

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    John Jewel, A Treatise of the Sacraments. (1583)

    John Jewel, bishop, theologian, and writer, has had the fame of his famous Apology overshadow many of his other works. An excellent case of this inexplicable omission is his Treatise on the Sacraments, published after his death in 1583. Addressed chiefly to the subjects of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, he covers both subjects with equal parts incredible detail and a flowing language that is rare for theological writers. Indeed, nothing less is to be expected from the writer of the famous Apology; yet insofar as it didn’t cover the Sacraments, it was left to this Treatise to bring forth and elucidate the theological ground for the Anglican doctrine of the Sacraments.

    As both baptism and the Lord’s supper had been subjects of controversy in recent decades, John Jewel may be considered the primary source on those topics, yet the chief point of his legacy is not the claims he makes, but the theological method he uses — for nowhere else is more evident the Anglican devotion to the Church Fathers and to the pristine doctrine of the Church. As in the Apology, so in the Treatise here, Jewel brings forth a gargantuan army of ancient patristic witnesses, on even the smallest points of doctrine which could’ve been stated just on his authority. The relentless self-abnegation and refusal to create new doctrine, but rather to adopt the most pristine and the most authoritative teachings, makes his work a titanic effort, and leaves little doubt about the authentic doctrine of the Sacraments.

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    Samuel Saywell, The Holy Rite of Confirmation (1745)

    This powerful treatise on the importance, power and prominence of the Rite of Confirmation in the Christian life is an Anglican classic, and we are happy to be able to reprint it here. The Rev. Samuel Saywell produces here a meticulous study of the teaching on Confirmation out of the Scriptures, with a panoply of Scriptural citations and evidences which do not get sufficient attention. Adding the patristic evidence of the practice and experience of Confirmation in the early Church provides another evidence for just how closely the Church Fathers had followed the Scriptures, as Saywell encourages for us to do as well.

    The holy rite of Confirmation has been neglected in the wider Christian tradition, as Saywell rightly observes way back in the 18th century. This neglect he contrasts with the preservation and celebration of the Rite of Communion in the Church of England, a surviving trace of the apostolic church which has not been corrupted as in the Church of Rome, or jettisoned altogether as among the dissenters. Nor is it a mere human convention, for he passionately connects Confirmation with the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.

    In recent times there have been a lot of “pretenders to the Holy Spirit” as Saywell calls them, and was already beginning to happen in his time, among all kinds of dissenters, non-conformists, Quakers and such. People who mistake their emotional feelings for the workings of the Third Person of the Trinity, and seek to maximize or manipulate their emotions (and those of others) under the misapprehension that they are engaging with the Holy Ghost. Saywell redoubtedly challenges their pretensions to the Holy Spirit right in the opening lines (arguing they have none), and goes on to provide a meticulous study of what the gifts of the Spirit actually are, and what the Scriptures teach about them.

    Finally he concludes with warm directions for those who would receive the Gift of Confirmation, providing instructions for personal preparation, spiritual formation, explaining what they are about to receive, and a litany of prayers before and after this sacred Rite. Altogether this is a masterpiece, and should not be missed.
     

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