Project Canterbury

From The Works of the Rt. Rev. Charles C. Grafton (Volume 7),
edited by B. Talbot Rogers, New York: Longmans, Green, 1914, pp.



FOND DU LAC, WISCONSIN, August 9, 1904


It has not been from lack of interest that I have delayed replying to your letters. I have been absent from my diocese. Partly for that reason, and partly because I had such an accumulation of public work, my answer has been delayed.

In writing as I do, not for publication but private information, I may express myself at times without that fulness of explanation which would belong to a public document. You must, therefore, read my utterances with gentle consideration, and not expect in every phrase scrupulous exactness. It is a busy man's talk to one who has joined himself as a fellow-traveler. If my words can be of any assistance to such an one, I can only say, God be praised.

In respect to those present at the institution of the Lord's Supper, I do not know of any authority that says that any but the Twelve were present. It is true that the title, "Breaking of Bread" came to be given to the Sacrament, but I do not think it would necessarily follow because our Lord is said to have made Himself known in the action of breaking bread that the incident at Emmaus on the day of the Resurrection was the Lord's Supper. What militates against it is the fact that there was no blessing of the cup, which is an essential part of it, and the recognition of Christ in the breaking of bread is easily referrable to his blessing and breaking at the time of the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves.

My own feeling is that a fair construction of holy scripture shows that our Lord gave command to the Apostles, and the Apostles only, to be His representative officials in celebrating the Eucharist.

You know you began by asking me why, if I held that a layman might baptize, a layman could not celebrate the Communion? While all members of the Church share in a degree in the threefold office of Christ, the Holy Ghost dwelling in the Church and being the authorized exponent of Holy Scripture, and entrusted with the ministrations of the Christian ordinances, has throughout the ages seen fit to make this distinction. The church has allowed laymen to be door-keepers of Christ's kingdom, and administer, where necessity requires, the initial act of baptism, but has reserved to the ordained ministry or priesthood the act of consecration. In my own judgment, and for my own guidance, I have thought it safer to follow the collective wisdom of the Church.

You say that our Lord would know that there would be little groups of Christians scattered by persecution with no minister present or obtainable, and that you cannot believe that if they, in obedience to Christ's last command, broke bread among themselves, He would not meet them, and that it would not be a valid sacrifice; for, as you argue, we are told He meets those who work righteousness, and that a man who obeys is blessed in his deed, and if there be a willing mind it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not. But the question which I think your logical mind will see is this; namely, does a man who does something he is not commanded to do and has not been commissioned to do "obey in his deed"? In the case you suppose, I believe Christ would meet His people, but there would be no need for their celebrating the communion for Him to do so.

The Church meets this case and says in the rubric to the communion of the sick that if for any just impediment persons do not receive the Sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood, they are to be instructed that if they do truly repent and believe that Jesus Christ suffered death upon the cross for them, and shed His blood for their redemption, honestly remembering the benefits they have thereby, they do eat and drink the Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ profitably to their soul's health, although they do not receive the Sacrament with their mouth.

So Christ would meet the persons whom you describe, and they would not be deprived of the benefit of a communion, but if any one of them should take on himself the office of priest, he would be breaking God's commandment, for we read that Christ took not on Himself the power of the priesthood, but was called of God as was Aaron; that is, by an outward and visible consecration. For a layman to thrust himself into the priesthood would be to commit the sin of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, a sin which St. Jude warns us against as the "gainsaying of Core." It would be like the sin of Saul, who would not wait for Samuel, the ordained prophet, to come, but offered sacrifice himself, and for his sin the kingdom was taken away from him.

In respect to baptism, I did not intend, when I said we received a seminal principle from the nature of Christ, that baptism only communicated to us a gift and not rather, as you rightly say, we receive Christ Himself.

Christians ought not to let verbal distinctions separate them when they can be fairly explained. Where words are used in different senses, they should strive to understand the sense each other uses


Now by baptism you seem to understand one thing—"being born"—the deliverance from the state of darkness and entrance into a sphere of light. I am accustomed to join two things together; namely, begetting and being born. For our Lord says we must be born again, i. e. "born from above." "Born from above" signifies being born from a heavenly power. The heavenly agent is the Holy Ghost. By prevenient grace, or the grace that goes before the act of baptism, the sinner is by the Holy Ghost brought to a sight of his sin, its wickedness and guilt, its awful consequences, and is moved to flee from the wrath of God. He is drawn by the love of God, moreover, to embrace the promise of salvation made in Christ. By the power of the Spirit he repents and submits and trusts in Christ for salvation.

This describes imperfectly, of course, the inner state of the converted man. Our Lord's ordained act of outward and visible acceptance of the sinner is baptism. By it Christ seals his acceptance and bestows the forgiveness of his sins. The sinner is born into the kingdom of light; he has received by the power of the Holy Ghost a new nature; he has received by the power of the Holy Ghost of the nature of Christ. He has been buried with Christ in baptism, and is risen in Him. He is clothed with Christ; he has put on Christ. As Eve was taken out of the side of the first Adam, so do we by the Spirit receive this new nature and are taken, as it were, out of the side of Christ. You are quite right in saying that we do not merely receive a gift from Christ. We receive in baptism Christ's very self. No one illustration or analogy tells us of the whole work of baptism. By it we are in Him and He in us. We are gathered into Him and so saved by His merits, and by that same act He cometh into us, communicating His own nature to us.

I simply want to be clear in this, that it is not a mere gift we receive from Christ, but a real incorporation into His nature, and the real communication of His nature to us.

You state that water and spirit are two distinct things, and so would imply that there are two baptisms, one of water and one of spirit.

They are two things when considered separately, but they are not necessarily separate, for in the act of baptism they are united in one act. The sacrament consists of two parts, the outward act consisting of the matter, which is pouring of the water and the words which are the name of the Blessed Trinity, and the accompanying action of the Holy Spirit.

So whatever other objection there might be, it does not follow that they are to be separated, or that there are in the Christian dispensation two such things as "water baptism" and "Spirit baptism," because mentally considered by themselves they are two. The baptism of St. John was not Christian baptism. It was a mere Jewish rite. It was a "water baptism." But Christian baptism is a Sacrament and conveys a gift by the action of the Spirit.

If the Spirit, you state, is always given in baptism, then He cannot blow where He listeth, but must wait on man's convenience. But He bloweth where He listeth, by His prevenient grace drawing men to baptism and converting them, so He does blow where He listeth. But He shows His stability in annexing His promised gift to an ordinance. He does not let His word return to Him void. His gifts are without repentance. He does not let His gift be set at naught by the priest's unbelief. If the sinner has truly faith and repentance on his part, then Christ not only seals his previous acceptance, but grants him further gifts in baptism.

You say there were no children in the Ark. This is true. But as passing over Jordan into the Holy Land is a type of our passing through death, so the passing through the Red Sea is a type of our entering by baptism upon our Christian course through this world's wilderness. "And they all, men, women, and children, were baptized in the cloud and in the sea."

Pardon me if I say that in one illustration of yours you have fallen into an unintentional mistake, when you ask, "Was our Lord born again?" (I may have misunderstood you), but the answer is, He never was. Only sinners are required to be born again, and He was sinless. In His baptism two things are signified. By it He formally identified Himself as the second Adam with our condition as a guilty race for whom reparation to God was to be made. It was also His consecration to His Messiahship, in the carrying out of whose triple office of prophet, priest, and king, he was to do it.

Again, our Lord did not become at the time of His ascension a quickening Spirit. The Holy Ghost always possessed and indwelt in His human nature. The Holy Spirit was from the beginning given without measure unto Him. A reason why His humanity could sustain this great gift was because it was connected with His Divine nature. The Holy Ghost dwelling in His perfect humanity gave to it a quickening and life-giving power. You see the contrast between Christ as the second Adam and the first Adam. "The first Adam," as St. Paul says, "was of the earth, earthy: The second man is the Lord from Heaven." The first man was possessed of a living soul. He could propagate life in the natural order. "The second Adam was made a quickening Spirit," one whose humanity was filled with the Holy Ghost, had a quickening and life-giving power, and so he could propagate life in a supernatural way. He referred to this power in the sixth chapter of St. John, when he said: the things I am speaking to you about, namely, My body and My blood, "they are spirit and they are life." And so it was He healed by His own touch or word. A virtue or life went out from Him. The humanity which He united with His divine nature at His birth He has never laid aside. If He had, we should not now possess a High Priest in heaven with human heart like ours, who would be touched with a feeling of our infirmities.

St. John saw Him wearing our human nature, though it was in a glorified condition. And it is by the communication of that humanity to us now through the sacraments, that we are gathered into Him and so eventually attain to eternal life.

Concerning the Holy Communion and my interpretation of the sixth chapter of St. John: you may be correct in beginning the first part of the discourse at verse 27, rather than at verse 32. This is a mere matter of detail.

You ask for an explanation of verse 57: "As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father; so he that eateth me, he also shall live by me." Our Lord, the eternal Son of God, lives by His Father because of the identity of substance with His Father, and in order that we might be united to God the second person became man and partook of our human nature in order that, communicating to us His deified human nature, he might make us partakers of His Divine nature. Our Lord, you notice, does not say that He eats the Father, but He lives by the Father, there being an identity of substance between them. But He uses the word "eat" in respect to us as the means by which His nature can be communicated to us. It is also to be observed that Christ says, who eateth Me shall live by Me. His doctrine was not that His flesh should be cut up into infinitesimal pieces and so distributed and carnally eaten, but that He would really and truly and indeed give us His very Body and Blood, together with His soul, that is, His deified human nature,—Christ in His totality—in the sacrament of His love.

I also venture to think that what the Jews stumbled at was not that He was promising them continuance of life here, but how He could give them His flesh to eat, for this is the very way they put their objection, not how can this man give us life, but how can he give us His flesh to eat. And Jesus answered this objection by saying, Does this cause you to stumble? What then if you should behold the Son of Man ascending where He was before? He was not then and there to give them His flesh to eat. It would be a gift they would receive after His ascension, and so, as elsewhere He said to the Magdalene "Touch me not, for I have not yet ascended," implying that when He had so ascended there should be open a way by which they might indeed touch Him. The Incarnation and its extension to us through the sacraments is, I believe, the very essence of the Gospel, and, when received, opens to souls a vision of the Kingdom of God more beautiful, more entrancing, more spiritually elevating and empowering than any other conception.

Yours very faithfully,

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