Foundations: No.69 Autumn 2015

The Doctrine of the Lord’s Supper in Adolphe Monod’s Preaching

This article traces out the significance of the Lord’s Supper in the life and ministry of Adolphe Monod, a minister in the French Reformed Church during the nineteenth century. The Supper held a high place in his theological and pastoral thinking and played a crucial role in disputes in both Lyons and Paris. While Monod’s Reformed contemporaries in North America were jettisoning Calvin’s doctrine in favour of a modified Zwinglian view, Monod remained committed to it. For Monod, communion was “the Lord’s love feast” and it was a feast he could not bear to see profaned.

At the time of the Reformation, more was written on the Lord’s Supper than on any other doctrine. It divided the Reformers not only from the Church of Rome, but also among themselves as disagreements arose as to the nature of the sacrament and the presence of Christ in its celebration.[1] The relative neglect of the Supper in contemporary church life is a recent phenomenon, probably having its roots in a shift towards a memorialist position in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.[2] The focus of this article is on the understanding of the Lord’s Supper in the preaching of Adolphe Monod, a minister in the French Reformed church during the early nineteenth century. It will be shown that communion occupied a high position in his theological and pastoral thinking and that his insistence upon its faithful observance marked key events at both the inception and close of his public ministry.

The article is divided into three parts. The first sketches a brief overview of Monod’s life and ministry, marking key events that shaped his thinking. The second examines a sermon delivered on 20 March 1831 at the Reformed Church of Lyons, in which Monod controversially challenged the church on the issue of who should partake of the Lord’s Supper. In the final part, Monod’s teaching on the sacrament in Les Adieux is examined. The key aspects of his understanding are identified and Monod’s interaction (often indirect) with others is critically examined.

I. The Life and Ministry of Adolphe Monod

Adolphe Monod is considered by many to have been one the most gifted preachers in nineteenth-century France. Robert Baird wrote:

I have no hesitation in saying that Adolphe Monod is the most finished orator I have heard on the Continent. Modest, humble, simple in his appearance and dress, possessing a voice which is music itself, his powerful mind, and vivid but chaste imagination, made their influence felt on the soul of every hearer in a way that is indescribable. [3]

Richard Cecil described Monod’s scholarship as “accurate and extensive”, and his style as “singularly beautiful and perspicuous”.[4] Edmond de Pressensé agreed, noting his “happy blending of holy austerity and brilliant natural endowments” and describing him as “one of the noblest names on the role of French Protestantism”.[5] What appeared to impress people the most was Monod’s sustained humility even as his fame and success grew. Monod always had time for people; whether they were young or old, rich or poor;[6] and his gifting was matched by his hard work.[7] Monod’s character was undoubtedly forged in the trials and tribulations that he faced early on in his life and ministry.

Monod’s early years

On 21 January 1802, Adolphe Monod was born in Copenhagen. He was from solid Protestant stock; his father was a pastor as was his grandfather before him. At the age of six, Adolphe and his family moved to Paris where his father became a minister in the Reformed Church of France. Although Adolphe was still unconverted, he was called to the ministry at the age of fourteen and in 1820 headed off to the University of Geneva to commence his theological studies. Monod was chilled by the religious atmosphere that he found at the University but was struck by the teaching of the Awakening which was beginning to have an influence among the students.[8] In 1823, Monod had the opportunity to meet Thomas Erskine during one of the Scotsman’s visits to the city. Monod wrote: “There is in him a zeal and devotion that interests me. The result of this conversation will be to make me think; that is all I can say; for, on the other hand, it leaves me, or plunges me deeper than before in the doubt and uncertainty which belong to my religious opinions.”[9]

Monod left Geneva in 1824 still unsure of his conversion and pursued further studies in Paris. In 1826, he took his first pastoral charge at the French-speaking church in Naples. It was here that he experienced a great spiritual crisis as he realised that he did not have the spiritual resources to equip him for the task he had been called to.[10] He was plunged into still deeper depression until he was visited by Erskine in 1827.[11] Following this meeting, Monod committed himself to seeking the truth “in the Bible, and in those who have faithfully explained the Bible.”[12] Several weeks later he was converted, and gave the following account of his experience:

Renouncing all merit, all strength, all resources of my own, and confessing that I had no claim to his mercy but that of my own misery, I asked of Him His Spirit, to change my spirit… I was before without God and depended for happiness on myself, now I have a God who undertakes to make me happy.[13]

Monod’s Stand in Lyon

Three months later Monod preached a trial sermon at Lyons and was called to serve the Reformed Church as its second pastor. A few months later he was appointed President of the Consistory following the retirement of M. Pasche. As Constance Walker has observed, the Consistory in Lyons was renowned for its worldliness,[14] and it is highly unlikely that he would have been appointed had his theology been more developed at the time.[15] Conflict was inevitable as Monod’s understanding grew and as he began to emphasise the doctrines of sin and grace.[16] This came to a head on 20 March 1831, when Monod preached a sermon on who should partake of the Lord’s Supper. We will return to this in the second part of the article. It is sufficient to note here that the fall-out from that sermon and from Monod’s subsequent decision not to preside over Whit-Sunday communion led to his eventual dismissal.[17]

Monod remained in good standing amongst evangelicals and received invitations to a pastoral role in Lausanne and to a Chair at the New School of Theology in Geneva. He declined both of these because he felt that “pastoral fidelity” required him to remain in Lyons where he agreed to become the minister for a small group of evangelical believers who had already left the Reformed Church.[18] Over the next four years he saw numerous conversions, particularly among Catholics, and he also met his wife, Hannah.[19]

The Montauban Years

In August 1836, Monod was unexpectedly offered the Chair of Morals at the Reformed Church’s Faculty of Theology in Montauban. His time in Montauban was a very happy one; his family grew and he was extremely busy with teaching and preaching. After initially teaching Ethics, he went on to teach Hebrew and later New Testament Exegesis. Monod was well-known for his pastoral care and discipleship of the students. Pressensé remarks: “He was a true master, in the noblest sense of the word, kindling in young and eager souls the spark of a higher life, so that they looked up to him reverently as their spiritual father.”[20] Monod’s pastoral concern was evident in the sermons that he delivered during this period. When preaching on The Conflict of Christ with Satan (Luke 4:1-13) he turned to his young listeners and said:

Do not think that anything extraordinary has happened to you, if the time you spend in this holy preparation should be for your soul a time of uncommon trial… this is the common history of all those who have trodden the path before you… [I]t is your future ministry he hopes to frustrate; it is a whole people he hopes to deprive of the Word of life, if he succeeds in robbing you of “your most holy faith”.[21]

Monod’s preaching was not limited to the Seminary or to the churches in Montauban. He regularly undertook preaching tours and used his vacations to preach at Reformed churches throughout France.[22] He also engaged in writing, publishing his notes on public and private worship and his popular work on Scripture, Lucille, ou la Lecture de la Bible.[23]

Monod’s reputation grew internationally and in August 1846 he was invited to attend the first meeting of the Evangelical Alliance in London. He accepted, noting that “the principle of the Alliance is no other than that of brotherly love… I could not bear to think of such a work being pursued in our days, and myself remaining aloof from it”.[24] He did, however, express concern about the confession of faith that the Alliance was seeking to adopt: “The unity which [the Alliance] is intended to bring to light is essentially spiritual, and therefore seems hard to be kept within visible limits such as those which a church or association require.”[25] This was perhaps an early evidence of the spirit of moderation and compromise that would characterise his later actions during the crisis in the Reformed Church of France.

Monod’s Final Years in Paris

Monod accepted a call to the Reformed Church in Paris in 1847 joining a large staff including his elder brother Frédéric. In 1849, a general assembly of the Reformed Church of France convened and proposed an ecclesiastical reorganisation and doctrinal downgrade.[26] A small group, led by Frédéric, left the Reformed Church and founded the Union of Evangelical Churches. Adolphe declined to follow his brother expressing a desire to work for unity and change in the Reformed Church while it retained the French Confession of 1559. While Frédéric’s departure caused deep grief to both brothers they remained united in their gospel purpose. Adolphe wrote, “Let our rivalry be only in love and in holiness.”[27]

In 1854, Adolphe became seriously ill and was later diagnosed with liver cancer. For the last six months of his life he held communion services in his bedroom each Sunday. He invited pastors from the Lutheran, Independent and Wesleyan churches to preside over these and each Sunday he prepared a meditation, his now famous Les Adieux. Monod died on 16 April 1856. A week before his death he was heard to say: “My ministerial labours, my works, my preaching I reckon all as filthy rags: a drop of my Saviour’s blood is infinitely more precious.”[28]

II. Qui Doit Communier?

As early as December 1827, we read of Monod having preached a sermon on preparation for the Lord’s Supper. His mother wrote a letter to him soon afterwards saying: “You were happily inspired in writing that sermon on preparation which gave us so much pleasure. I would gladly hear it from your mouth today as I am preparing for a communion, with a soul, alas!”[29] It is clear that Monod had spent considerable time meditating and thinking upon the Lord’s Supper prior to preaching “Qui Doit Communier?” at Lyons on 20 March 1831.

The sermon was precipitated by gross immorality and a failure to exercise discipline within the church at Lyons. Monod appealed to the confessional standards of the church (the French Confession of 1559)[30] but in so doing was accused by his opponents of “exhuming old doctrines, which the good sense and sound reason of man (more advanced now than in the age of the Reformation) had wisely buried in oblivion”.[31] Monod persevered, arguing, perhaps mistakenly, that the State was bound to support him as he sought to enforce the Confession.[32] Nothing changed at Consistory level and his conscience continued to be troubled.[33]

Tensions escalated until, on 20 March, Monod preached his sermon on the topic of who should take communion.[34] It is clear from the preface to the first edition of the sermon that Monod felt compelled to preach as he did by both Scripture and the Confession.[35] He began by addressing his listeners and noting that many came to communion “without knowing what they are doing”, thinking that they might “eat and drink the Lord’s blessing” when in fact they were “drinking a new measure of his anger”.[36]

After noting the need for clarity in matters of religion,[37] Monod turned to the words of institution in 1 Corinthians 11 and said that it was a mistake to think that everyone was invited to the Lord’s table. The Supper is for believers alone; “[it] is not a means of salvation, but it is for those who have been saved a commemoration of the salvation already obtained.”[38] Monod illustrated the point by reference to the twelve stones that the Israelites set up in Joshua 4:8-9, and continued “[h]e… who receives communion does by this act, before God and before men, make the following statement: ‘I am one of those whom Jesus Christ has reconciled with God his Father.’”[39] Monod asked: “Who should receive communion?… He who can truly keep to the language of communion.”[40]

Monod next acknowledged an acute difficulty that confronted the church in his own day. In earlier times, it had been easy to discern who was a true believer and who was not because of the cost of following Jesus. This was no longer the case since, in the nineteenth century, the name “Christian” had become a badge of honor. As a result the church had become thoroughly mixed; barriers which had previously “surrounded and protected” the church had been “overturned and trampled upon”.[41] And now it was necessary to declare explicitly that only those whose hearts (rather than mere names) belonged to Christ should come.[42] Monod urged once again that he was not speaking on his own authority but on “the authority of the eternal Word”. He recalled the practice of the early Church: “[I]n all times, except in the time of disorder in which we live, the principles I have just established have been recognized… and enforced with extreme severity.”[43] And he maintained that his teaching was consistent with the practice of his own denomination, up until now. Then, in memorable words, Monod exclaimed:

Where am I? Is this truly the Church of Christ here? Is this truly the Reformed Church of France here?… Will days of communion always be days of mourning, anguish and scandal for a faithful minister?… For myself, I would rather put the body of Christ on a stone and cast the blood of Christ into the wind, than present them to an unbelieving and profane mouth!… Take away, take away the scandal of your church!… This is pure unbelief – unbelief clothed in the name of Christ, so that in the Church of Christ, under the name of Jesus Christ, perhaps even in the pulpit of Jesus Christ, in those who have been prepared to look after the sheep of Jesus Christ, there, even there, the Devil has placed his unbelief. It is no longer the Church of Christ… it is “the assembly of Satan”.[44]

As Monod drew to a close, he confessed that he had exhausted both strength and words. It was his earnest desire that the coming communion might be one presided over by a “loyal minister” and observed by “faithful disciples”.[45] Despite the terrible mess of the church, he dearly hoped that the table of Christ might be preserved.[46]

Monod was censured by the Consistory for the sermon and on 14 April he replied with a formal proposal that the church should re-establish discipline.[47] The following day, the Consistory instituted proceedings for his dismissal and this was rendered inevitable when, on Whit-Sunday, Monod refused to preside over communion. Commenting on the decision, he wrote, “O my God! I cannot, Thou knowest, give the Lord’s Supper this Sunday in the midst of this confusion. I thank Thee that Thou hast enlightened me on this point. Thou wilt enlighten me also on the rest.”[48]

Writing about the sermon, Pressensé opined: “Never had [Monod’s] eloquence risen to such a height of power and holy passion.”[49] While some have suggested that the rhetoric was due to excessive youthful zeal, Monod’s comments in the preface to the sermon reveal that his zeal was due to the “exceptional circumstances” pertaining in the church. Monod’s concern was to see biblical and confessional standards applied. In the sermon itself, he referred to 1 Corinthians 5:9-11 and alluded to the French Confession, article 33 of which requires the church to “follow that which the Lord Jesus Christ declared as to excommunication”.[50] One of the original drafters of the Confession, John Calvin,[51] insisted that discipline should include deprivation of communion until such time as the offender gives assurance of repentance.[52] In preaching “Qui Doit Communier?”, Monod was simply seeking to be consistent with what he considered to be the teaching of Scripture and of his own Reformed tradition.

Monod was later accused of inconsistency for regularly celebrating communion at the church in Paris where discipline was not practised. Monod replied to this charge in the preface to the second edition of his sermon (May 1855). He said that lack of discipline had “not stopped hurting [his] eyes” but that now he was more concerned for the general discipline of the church than for the special discipline of the Lord’s Supper. He accepted that his view had changed but insisted that the position was consistent with “nearly all evangelical pastors in our language”.[53]

Whether this new position was consistent with Calvin and the French Confession is perhaps less clear. On the one hand, the Confession is unambiguous on the need for discipline; but on the other, it makes no explicit provision concerning whether a minister should refuse to celebrate the Supper in a church that does not practice discipline. In a similar vein, Calvin was very clear that the Supper was for believers alone: “Christ is too unworthily torn apart if his body, lifeless and powerless, is prostituted to unbelievers”;[54] but he also stressed that the participation of unbelievers did not nullify the “truth and effectiveness” of the sacrament for those who came with faith.[55]

Accordingly, there is no reason to doubt that the content of “Qui Doit Communier?” was entirely consistent with the French Confession, Calvin and Monod’s later beliefs.[56] It was his decision to refuse to preside over Whit-Sunday communion that is more difficult to reconcile with his later conduct. We must remember, however, that Monod felt himself to have been peculiarly “enlightened” by God in making this decision and that it related to the “exceptional circumstances” that pertained in Lyons.[57] It is therefore unfair to compare it with his later conduct in Paris and to accuse him of inconsistency and departing from the confessional standards. As we shall see, Monod held very closely to the Confession right up until his death.

III. Reflections in Les Adieux on the Nature of the Lord’s Supper

In the final part of this article we will examine Monod’s teaching on the Supper in his final sermons, Les Adieux. In twelve out of the twenty-five sermons Monod either alluded to or taught on the sacrament. Its prominence was undoubtedly due to the Supper being celebrated immediately prior to each of the sermons. Since Monod’s teaching was largely devotional and scattered over a large number of sermons, we will examine the material thematically. We will also look at a small number of Monod’s earlier sermons and writings in order to see the continuity of his views.

1. Frequency of Observation

Monod began his sermon on “Communion with Christ” by observing how much “sweetness” and “fruit” he had found through taking communion frequently during his illness.[58] He lamented the infrequency with which it was celebrated in the Reformed Church of France and suggested that it may have been this infrequency that had given rise to the strange ideas about the sacrament that had proliferated in his day.

Monod considered his desire for frequent observation to be entirely in keeping with Calvin. He said:

Calvin said somewhere that communion should be celebrated at least every Sunday. Note that “at least”. If every Sunday is at least, what then is at most? According to Calvin (and this refers rather clearly to the Book of Acts) at most is to take it as the first Christians took it: to take it every day, from house to house following the family meal.[59]

It is doubtful that this is a fair representation of Calvin. While it is true that Calvin urged more frequent observation of the Lord’s Supper, describing the view that it should only be observed once a year as “a veritable invention of the devil”,[60] he maintained that Scripture did not set down any express requirement as to its frequency. Calvin would have liked the Supper to have been observed weekly in Geneva,[61] but this was overruled by the Council in favour of monthly observance.[62] Monod’s claim that Calvin would have favoured daily communion in the family home is highly doubtful for two reasons. Firstly, Calvin was clear that the daily breaking of bread referred to in Acts 2:46 did not describe the Lord’s Supper but was rather a reference to the thrifty sharing of food among the disciples.[63] Secondly, Calvin insisted that the right administration of the sacraments cannot stand apart from the Word,[64] and thus, as chapter 27:4 of the WCF makes explicit, the sacraments are only to be dispensed by a Minister of the Word, lawfully ordained.

Although Monod may have overstepped in claiming that Calvin favoured daily communion from house to house, both Calvin and Monod sought more frequent communion for the same reason – so that the sacrament might be better understood.[65] And it seems that they were in agreement as to what that understanding was.

2. The French Confession

As we noted in our discussion of “Qui Doit Communier?”, Monod sought to expound the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper in a manner consistent with the French Confession. This approach continued throughout his ministry. In his Easter sermon of 1855, he preached on John 11:25-26 and quoted indirectly from article 37 when explaining the manner in which the Supper brings the resurrection into view.[66] Just six months later, in “Communion with Christ” Monod quoted extensively from articles 36-38 of the Confession.[67] He described the words as “beautiful” and said that they “express just what I would like to tell you myself”.[68]

Since the Confession bears the hallmarks of Calvin’s contribution, Monod was teaching not just consistently with the Confession but also with Calvin’s doctrine. This is significant because, at the same time as Monod was expounding the doctrine, Charles Hodge (with whose writings Monod was familiar)[69] was describing it as an “uncongenial foreign element” in Reformed theology; and a little later in the same century Robert Dabney described it as “not only incomprehensible but impossible”.[70] In deciding to follow Calvin and the Confession, Monod set off on a very different path to his North American contemporaries.[71] As we shall see, this manifested itself in a number of significant ways.

3. The relationship between sign and reality

Article 37 of the French Confession states: “We believe… that in the Lord’s Supper, as well as in baptism, God gives us really and in fact that which he there sets forth to us; and that consequently with these signs is given the true possession and enjoyment of that which they present to us.”[72] This echoes Calvin’s teaching on the matter: “[T]he sacraments of the Lord ought not and cannot at all be separated from their reality and substance… If God cannot deceive or lie, it follows that he performs all that it signifies.”[73]

We find the same understanding of the relationship between sign and reality in Monod. Not only did he cite article 37 of the Confession in “Communion with Christ”,[74] he also spoke of communion bringing the promise of union with Christ “into view, placing it in our hands and before our eyes.”[75] This was in stark contrast to Dabney and Hodge who described the Supper as a “commemorative seal”,[76] a sign that merely presented the “efficacy and virtue” of Christ’s work.[77] Using Brian Gerrish’s taxonomy, Dabney and Hodge held exclusively to “symbolic memorialism” – the view that the Supper is a sign that points to something that has happened in the past.[78] While both Monod and Calvin agreed that the Supper signified a past event, they refused to accept that this exhausted its significance.[79] Calvin saw both “symbolic parallelism” (God working the reality alongside the sign) and “symbolic instrumentalism” (God bringing the reality about through the sign) in the sacraments.[80] The Confession appears to accept the former and this is the emphasis we find in Monod’s preaching.

4. Feeding on Christ

What is the reality that takes place alongside the sign? The Confession is clear; it is our spiritual sustenance through feeding on the body and blood of the ascended Christ. Article 36 states, “we believe that by the secret and incomprehensible power of his Spirit [Christ] feeds and strengthens us with the substance of his body and his blood.” That this takes place alongside the Supper is clear from article 37: “all who bring a pure faith like a vessel, to the sacred table of Christ, receive truly that of which it is a sign; for the body and the blood of Jesus Christ gives food and drink to the soul, no less than bread and wine nourish the body.”

Monod agreed that this lay at the heart of the Supper. In his sermon “I am the Resurrection and the Life”, Monod discussed the promise of life in John 6 and asked: “[W]hat does [communion] show us if it is not that the One who gave his flesh and blood for us is also the One whose flesh and blood, when they are received by us as food and drink, will surely communicate this life and immortality to us?”[81] This emphasis is again apparent throughout the Farewells. In “Measureless Word, Measureless God” Monod begins, “I am so happy and grateful to be able to receive with you the body and blood of our Savior – that flesh which is ‘real food’ and that blood which is ‘real drink’ (see John 6:55)”.[82] Similarly, in “Demonstrating God’s Love”, Monod begins by asking God not to withdraw from him the consolation of each Sunday receiving “the body and blood of my Savior, which strengthens my body and soul in him.”[83] This message of gratitude for spiritual nourishment is repeated on two further occasions.[84] Monod, like Calvin before him, believed that, in the Supper, Christ feeds all those who come to him with faith.[85]

Calvin’s teaching on this was subjected to sustained criticism by both Hodge and Dabney. They focused particularly on Calvin’s exegesis of John 6, arguing that “eating” in this context simply meant believing and that Calvin’s reading led to “the unscriptural doctrine that a soul cannot be saved without the sacraments”.[86] I have responded to these criticisms elsewhere and shall not repeat my arguments here except to note that, in relation to the second, Dabney seriously misrepresented both Calvin and (indirectly) Monod.[87] The criticism rests upon the assumption that Calvin believed Jesus to be referring directly to the Lord’s Supper in John 6, but neither Calvin nor Monod held to this. Calvin expressly acknowledged that John 6 did not refer to the Lord’s Supper but to the “continual communication which we have apart from the reception of the Lord’s Supper”.[88] His point was simply that “there is nothing said [in John 6] that is not figured and actually presented to believers in the Lord’s Supper.”[89] Monod agreed: “[John 6:52-58] does not refer to the Lord’s Supper. For if it did, one must say, according to verses 53 and 54, that everyone who receives the communion has eternal life, which is contrary to Scripture. That which is here spoken of it spiritual communion with Jesus Christ, which is realized by faith.”[90]

5. Union with Christ

The central point at which Calvin (and Monod) departed from Hodge and Dabney was on their understanding of union with Christ, particularly in its relation to the Lord’s Supper. In words echoing Calvin, Monod insisted that we receive nothing while we remain outside of Christ.[91] In “All in Jesus Christ” Monod declared: “When we possess Jesus Christ by a true faith, we possess nothing less than God himself, and in him eternal life… Having Christ we have all things, but deprived of him we have absolutely nothing.”[92]

The concept of union that Monod had in mind was a union with Christ’s humanity. When speaking about perseverance through suffering Monod declared, “it is through close union with the Lord, it is through the possession of his body and blood that we are called to do this work”.[93] This same emphasis is evident in his description of the invisible grace which is displayed in the Supper. It has two parts: firstly there is the atoning sacrifice of Christ’s death; and secondly there is “this dead Jesus penetrating inside of us and nourishing us; communicating life to us by his flesh and blood” making “us to be participants in his nature just as he is a participant in the Father’s nature.”[94] Such statements clearly echo Calvin’s view that it is Christ’s flesh which acts as “a channel to pour out to us the life which resides intrinsically… in His divinity”.[95] All this is a far cry from Hodge and Dabney’s conception of union, which bifurcated the forensic and spiritual aspects,[96] and effectively equated union with faith.[97]

Monod’s understanding meant that it was necessary for Christ’s humanity to be present in the Supper while Christ himself remained in heaven. He recognized that a tension existed here, observing that “[t]hough absent, he is present with us, and more present being absent than if he were here.”[98] It is not clear that Monod entirely resolved this tension although he recognized that the Holy Spirit had a seminal role to play.[99] It is quite likely that Monod simply accepted Calvin’s explanation of the real spiritual presence of Christ through the believer’s spiritual ascent into heaven.[100] There are two pieces of evidence that support this. Firstly, it is the view that is reflected (albeit in abridged form) in article 36 of the French Confession which Monod quoted in “Communion with Christ”. Secondly, and more significantly, it appears to be the view he expounded in his Christmas Day sermon of 1851 titled “The Incarnation of the Son of God: The Realization of the Invisible World”.[101] Monod’s text was John 3:11-13 but towards the end of the sermon Monod turned to consider what relation Jacob’s ladder bore to the opening of the heavens at Stephen’s martyrdom. Monod exclaimed: “The ladder set up from earth to heaven, is no longer needed; the soul that Jesus Christ incarnate redeemed by his blood and baptized by his Spirit, touches and ascends to heaven, by a spiritual ascension… Heaven is open, seized, possessed by ‘the faith of Jesus’ and by the light of the Holy Spirit.”[102] Monod clearly understood that it was the incarnate Christ who had opened up the way to heaven – to the invisible world – and just one paragraph later he related this to the sacrament: “Well, let our Christmas and our communion this day be for us that which it was for Stephen – a solemn day of contemplation. Let the Holy Spirit fill us in our turn, let him show us Jesus seated at the right hand of the Father in the open heavens… They are open, I tell you, for us as for him.”[103] On its own, this would probably not be enough to link Monod’s thought with Calvin’s but when we turn to Calvin’s commentary on Jacob’s ladder, clear connections emerge. Commenting on Gen. 28:12, Calvin writes: “It is Christ alone who joins heaven to earth. He alone is Mediator. He it is through whom the fullness of all heavenly gifts flows down to us and through whom we on our part may ascend to God.”[104] Just five verses later Calvin connects this ascension to the Lord’s Supper: “the sacraments may be called the gates of heaven because they admit us to God’s presence”.[105] The parallels between Monod and Calvin’s thought are striking and they give us good grounds for concluding that Monod also believed that we feed on Christ in the Supper through a spiritual ascent into heaven.

6. The Place of Faith

In agreement with Calvin and the Confession, Monod insisted that the grace received in the Supper resides in Christ and is made efficacious through the Spirit.[106] Moreover, he emphasised that it is received by faith alone: “we should receive him in faith, in particular in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, which puts the object of our faith so vividly before our eyes.”[107] This emphasis upon faith is unsurprising given that it was the same concern that motivated him to preach “Qui Doit Communier?” at the beginning of his ministry.

7. Monod’s ecumenical concerns

We have already noted that Monod invited various pastors from other Protestant denominations to preside over communion at his bedside meditations. This was a manifestation of his broader concern for Christian unity which also contributed to his decision to remain in the Reformed Church during the crisis of 1849. Shortly after the first meeting of the Evangelical Alliance, Monod had the opportunity to share communion with members from various denominations and he described the experience as “a touching and solemn scene which I shall never forget”.[108] His desire for the sacraments to unite rather than divide was also evident in the comments he made following his quotation from the French Confession in “Communion with Christ”:

To this admirable quotation I would only add that after Pastor Verney read it one day to several Lutheran friends who were discussing communion with him, his friends said, ‘That is the exact expression of our faith’, to which Mr. Verney replied that these words were taken from the confession of faith of the reformed churches. This proves that by holding strictly to Scripture, as is done here, faith and love prevail in the field of controversy.[109]

This is an intriguing comment. One of the major criticisms leveled against Calvin’s doctrine of the Lord’s Supper is that it was borne out of a desire to conciliate Luther and the Lutherans.[110] While it is certainly true that Calvin hoped that his doctrine could be embraced by all sides, it is a mistake to assume that he conflated it with the doctrine of the Lutherans.[111] Calvin was very clear about where he disagreed with the Lutherans, describing consubstantiation as a “monstrous dogma” and a “damnable error”.[112] This makes the response of the Lutherans in Monod’s sermon rather surprising. It is possible that they had already rejected the doctrine of consubstantiation and had found Calvin’s doctrine persuasive. Alternatively they may have been unsure about exactly what their own church standards taught. If this was what had happened, then Monod was absolutely right to rejoice at their having been convinced of the Scriptural integrity of the Confession. If, however, Monod believed that the Confession was broad enough to accommodate the Lutheran doctrine as well as the Reformed, then this is highly dubious. Article 36 of the Confession explicitly states that Christ remains in heaven until his return and that the feeding that takes place is “by the secret and incomprehensible power of his Spirit”.[113] There is no room in this wording for the Lutheran doctrines of ubiquity or consubstantiation. On balance, and particularly in light of Monod’s teaching elsewhere, it is highly unlikely that Monod adopted a broad reading of the Confession. Far more probable is that his brief anecdote expressed a desire which he shared with Calvin; that the French Confession articulated a biblically faithful position around which all parties could unite.

IV. Conclusion

The Lord’s Supper played a seminal role in Adolphe Monod’s ministry and particularly in the sermons for which he is best known. While contemporaries in North America were rejecting Calvin’s doctrine in favour of a modified Zwinglian view, Monod remained committed to it. For Monod, communion was “the Lord’s love feast” and it was a feast he could not bear to see profaned through distribution to unbelievers.[114] He cherished the spiritual nourishment that the Supper provides and it was quite fitting that he should spend his final months expounding and celebrating it with his family and co-workers in Christ.