Rob Rayburn’s popularization of Schenck in his short article on covenant succession was the seminal work out of which the Federal Vision schism grew. As Doug Wilson said, “It’s all about the children.” Implementing the substance of his essay, Rayburn fought to reverse the Protestant and Reformed condemnation of paedocommunion, but he lost. Those of us in his denomination, the PCA, refused to split off from our Protestant and Reformed fathers, creating sacramental schism. So consider carefully how foundational Rob Rayburn’s popularization of Schenck, and to some degree Schenck himself, were to the creation of both the awful Federal Vision errors and the paedocommunion schism.
Now please do not condemn me for saying “error” and “schism.” On both matters, the Federal Vision and the paedocommunion men were working diligently to change orthodox doctrine and practice, so if they were right they were reformers (as all of them were quite candid in describing themselves), and if they were wrong, they were errorists and schismatics.
The Protestant and Reformed church has heard their arguments and rejected them, fulsomely. I have heard them carefully and agree with the full Protestant and Reformed church in her repeated judgments. The CREC has decided to embrace these errors, whether that embracing is done corporately by agreeing not to condemn these errors or discipline them, or congregationally and individually by holding and practicing these errors.
Now then, what has been the fruit of their acceptance within their church union, or their confession and practice themselves, of these errors?
As we’ve said repeatedly, compare the historic fencing of the table by Protestant and Reformed fathers to what the CREC men practice and/or tolerate within their fellowship, and it’s immediately clear that the embracing of the sacramental schism of paedocommunion has led the CREC in a sacramentalist direction in which the table liturgies of the historic Protestant and Reformed church have come under the ban of these Federal Vision paedocommunionists.
I have written this again and again, asking readers to actually compare the table liturgies of both the French and English congregations in Geneva (used by Calvin and Knox, respectively), but I have never gotten a single response to this challenge. Some of the leading paedocommunionists have their liturgies and table exhortations up each week and it’s the work of a moment to compare and contrast them to this liturgy used by both Calvin and Knox 500 years ago:
The Order of the Lord’s Supper
The maner of the Lordes Supper
The day when the lordes supper is ministered which commolye is used once a monthe, or so oft as the Congregation shall thinke expedient, the minister vseth to saye as followeth.
Let us marke deare bretherne, and cosider how Iesus Christ did ordayne unto us his holy supper according as S. Paule maketh rehearsall in the II chap. of the first Epistle to the Cor. I haue (saith he) receyued of the lorde that which I haue deliuered vnto you, to witt, that the lorde Iesus the same night he was betrayed toke breade, and when he had geuen thankes, he brake it sayinge. Take ye, eate ye, this is my bodie, which is broken for you: doo you this in remebrance of me. Likewise after supper, he toke the cuppe, sayige. This cuppe is the new testamet or couenat in my bloude; doo ye this so ofte as ye shall drinke therof, in remebrance of me. For so ofte as you shal eate this bread, and drinke of this cuppe, ye shall declare the lordes deathe vntill his cominge. Therfore whosoeuer shall eate this bread, and drinke the cuppe of the lorde vnworthely, he shalbe giltie of the bodye and bloud of the lord. Then see that euery ma proue ad trye hym selfe, ad so let hym eate of this bread ad drike of this cuppe, for whosoeuer eateth or drinkethvnworthelye, he eateth and drinketh his owne damnation, for not hauinge due regarde and consideration of the lordes bodye.
This done, the minister proceadith to the exhortation.
Dearely beloued in the lorde, forasmoch as we be nowe assembled, to celebrate the holy communion of the body and bloud of our sauiour Christ, let vs consider these woordes of S. Paule, how he exhorteth all persons diligently to trye and examine the selues, before they presume to eate of that bread, ad drinke of that cuppe.
For as the benefite ys great, if with a truly penitent hart, and liuely faith, we receyue that holy sacrament (for then we spiritually eate the fleshe of Christ, and drinke his bloude, the we dwell in Christ, ad Christ in vs, we be one with Christ, and Christ with vs) so is the dauger great, if we receyue the same vnworthely, for then we be giltie of the bodye, and bloud of Christ our sauiour, we eate ad drike our own danation, not considering the lordes bodye: we kidle godes wrath agaist vs, ad prouoke him to plague vs with diuerse diseases and sundry kindes of death.
Therfore if any of you be a blasphemer of God, an hinderer or slaunderer of his worde, an adulterer, or be in malice or enuie, or in any other greuous cryme, bewaylle your synnes, and come not to this holy table: lest after the takynge of this holy sacramet, the diuell entre into you as he entred into Iudas, and fill you full of all iniquities, and bring you, to destruction, bothe of bodye and soule. Iudge therefore your selues bretherne, that ye be not iudged of the lorde: repent you truly for your synnes paste, and haue a lyuely and stedfast fayth, in Christ our sauiour, sekinge onely your saluation in the merites of his death, and passion, from hensforth refusinge, and forgettinge all malice and debate, with full purpose to liue in brotherly amytie, and godlye conuersation, all the dais of your lyfe.
And albeit we fele in ourselues muche frailtie and wretchednes, as that we haue not our faith so perfite, and constant, as we ought, being many tymes readye to distruste Godes goodnes through our corrupt nature, and also that we are not so throughlye geuen to serue God, neyther haue so feruent a zeale to set forth his glory, as our duetye requireth, felinge still such rebellion in our selues, that we haue nede dayly to fight against the lustes of our fleshe, yet neuertheles seinge that our lorde hath dealed thus mercifully with vs, and hath printed his gospell in our hartes, so that, we are preserued from falling into desperatio and misbeliefe: and seing also that he hath indued vs with a will, and desire to renownce and withstand our own affections, with a longing for his righteousenes and the keping of his commaundementes, we may be now right well assured, that those defautes and manifolde imperfections in vs, shalbe no hinderance at all against vs, to cause him not to accept and impute vs as worthie to come to his spirituall table.
For the ende of our comming thyther, is not to make protestation, that we are vpright or iuste in our liues, but contrariwise, we come to seke our life and perfection, in Iesu Christ, acknowledging in the meane tyme, that we of our selues, be the children of wrath, and damnation.
Let vs consider then, that this sacrament is a singuler medicine for all poore sicke creatures, a comfortable helpe to weake soules, and that our lord requireth no other worthines on our parte, but that we vnfaynedly acknowlege our noghtines, and imperfection. Then to the end that we may be worthy partakers of his merites, ad moste comfortable benefits (which ys the true eatinge of his fleshe, and drinkinge of his bloud) let vs not suffer our mindes to wander aboute the consideration of these earthlie, ad corruptible thynges (which we see present to our eies and fele with our hades) to seeke Christ bodely presente in the, as if he were inclosed in the breade or wyne, or as yf these elembentes were tourned and chaunged into the substaunce, of his fleshe and blood.
For the only waye to dispose our soules to receiue norishment, reliefe, and quikening of his substance, is to lift vp our mindes by fayth aboue all thinges worldlye and sensible, and therby to entre into heauen, that we may finde, and receiue Christ, where he dwelleth vndoubtedlye verie God, and verie man, in the incomrehensible glorie of his father, to whome be all praise, honor and glorye now and euer. Amen.
The exhortation ended, the minister commeth doune from the pulpet, and sitteth at the Table, euery man and woman in likewise takinge their place as occasion best serueth, then he taketh bread and geueth thankes, either in these woordes followinge, or like in effect.
And so, here then is the Church of Scotland version we used at Trinity Reformed Church during my years serving there:
SCOTTISH BOOK OF COMMON ORDER.
THE ADMINISTRATION OF THE SACRAMENTS AND OTHER ORDINANCES OF THE CHURCH.
The Order for the
Celebration of the Lord’s Supper,
or Holy Communion.
The Prayer after Sermon being ended, the Minister may give this Exhortation–
Dearly beloved,–As we are now about to celebrate the Holy Communion of the body and blood of Christ, let us consider how St. Paul exhorteth all persons to examine themselves before they eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For as the benefit is great, if with a truly penitent heart and lively faith we receive that holy sacrament (for then we spiritually eat the flesh of Christ, and drink His blood; then we dwell in Christ and Christ in us; we are one with Christ and Christ with us), so is the danger great if we receive the same unworthily. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.
Therefore I warn all who are not of the number of the faithful, all who live in any sin against their knowledge or their conscience, charging them that they profane not this holy table.
And yet this is not pronounced to exclude any penitent person, how grievous (So, for instance, Fred, here I’d paraphrase on the fly, “No matter how wicked/bad his sins may be/have been”) soever his sins have been, but only such as continue in sin without repentance.
Examine your own consciences, therefore, to know whether you truly repent of your sins, and whether, trusting in God’s mercy, and seeking your whole salvation in Jesus Christ, you are resolved to follow holiness, and to live in peace and charity with all men.
If you have this testimony in your hearts before God, be assured that your sins are forgiven through the perfect merit of Jesus Christ our Lord; and I bid you, in His name, to His holy table.
And although you feel that you have not perfect faith, and do not serve God as you ought; yet if, by God’s grace, you are heartily sorry for your sins and infirmities, and earnestly desire to withstand all unbelief, and to keep all His commandments, be assured that your remaining imperfections do not prevent you from being received of God in mercy, and so made worthy partakers of this heavenly food.
For we come not to this supper as righteous in ourselves, but we come to seek our life in Christ, acknowledging that we lie in the midst of death. let us, then, look upon this sacrament as a remedy for those who are sick, and consider that the worthiness our Lord requireth of us is that we be truly sorry for our sins, and find our joy and salvation in Him. United with Him who is holy, even our Lord Jesus Christ, we are accepted of the Father, and invited to partake of these HOLY THINGS WHICH ARE FOR HOLY PERSONS.
The alms may then be collected, and appropriate sentences of Scripture may be read.
THE HOLY COMMUNION.
The Minister then gives out a psalm or hymn, and while it is being sung, the Minister and Assistants bring in the elements and place them on the Communion Table…
An honest man with even some familiarity with the Federal Vision error and paedocommunionist schism as they are practiced in churches today would not hesitate to say the above historic Protestant and Reformed table liturgies are somewhere between inimical and anathema to those holding and practicing the errors given birth to by Rob Rayburn’s popularization of Schenck’s “covenant succession.”
So first, we observe the fruit of the Rayburn/Schenck version of covenant succession in Federal Vision and it’s sacramental manifestation in paedocommunion, and we carefully note and warn that this fruit is bad, giving birth to liturgies uniformly lacking anything approximating the historic table exhortations written and adopted by those fathers who put their lives on the line by warning God’s sheep against the “idolatrous” Roman mass.
There is a logical decay in doctrine and table liturgy for our Lord’s supper among these brothers holding to (or tolerating in their denomination) the unbiblical version of the promise of covenant succession as Rayburn popularized and Schenck argued it, originally, and it’s clear to those of us willing to weigh and judge these errors although they are taught and practiced by brothers in Christ we have long loved and respected.
So yes, dear brother, just as you say, I too have always believed that "children should confess faith before taking the Lord’s Supper, and that the Lord’s Supper ought to be fenced.” But to say these things in a time when the words “confess faith” have been redefined so that they mean a toddler rubbing his belly and patting his head, and the table being “fenced” has been redefined to mean endless repetitions of weekly happy-clappy cheerleading routines summed up as "Come! Come! Come! Don’t hesitate! Isn’t it wonderful??!? COME!!!” shows that what two men mean when they both say they believe “children should confess faith” and “the Lord’s Supper ought to be fenced” is often things almost diametrically opposed to each other.
You continue, "I also realize that not all Israel is Israel and that there are Esaus as well as Jacobs,” but it is this precise declaration of the doctrine of Scripture concerning the firmness of God’s decrees both positive and negative related to the descendants of his covenant people that Schenck and Rayburn most certainly did not teach or warn against. Instead, the overwhelming message of both men was that if your children did not walk with God by faith, it was due to your failure as a father.
This is not in any way “fairly standard Reformed treatment” of the significance and application of God’s covenant promises to His covenant people, and I must again say that it is this context that gave birth to both Federal Vision’s errors and the departure of Federal Visionists from historic administration of the Lord’s table through both paedocommunion and the silencing of table warnings used by their fathers for the past five centuries.
You write, "The whole ‘vipers in diapers’ perspective on the church’s children is not biblical, and Schenck was right to argue against it,” but I never have heard of such a view of little ones inside either presbyterian or baptist (reformed) circles, nor was this the view Schenck was putting forward. His fellow Presbyterians did not view little ones as vipers, spiritually. What was at issue was the degree to which children were members of the church, and therefore subject to (or able to enjoy the privilege of) the discipline of the elders?
There was a book of essays on covenant succession Canon issued back some twenty or so years ago in which I have an essay explaining the context of the debate over the proper place and treatment of children of the church in American presbyterianism. I commend it to you.
But finally, what I would remind readers of is that taking out the warnings “Jacob I have loved and Esau I have hated” and “not all Israel is Israel,” along with the distinction between the circumcision of the foreskin and the circumcision of the heart (which Scripture warns of so constantly), in what one claims to be an explanation of the Biblical doctrine of covenant succession is not. At all.