How hostile is PC to our constitution? The following places in the Confessional material and the BCO pertain to the issue. It must be remembered that all these statements must be interpreted in the context of a non-paedo-communion belief and practice, since our constitution has a firmly non-paedo-communion viewpoint.
Westminster Confession of Faith: Chapter 27.1 tells us that sacraments “confirm our interest in him.” Sessions need to determine, according to their best ability to judge fruit, who has an interest in Christ, such that their interest can be confirmed. 27.3 states that there is “a promise of benefit to worthy receivers,” for the sacraments. Worthy receivers must refer to those who have faith. In the case of baptism, that faith can come after the sacrament, but in the case of the Lord’s Supper, the faith needs to come before the sacrament, in order for the receivers to be worthy. 29.1 states that the Lord’s Supper is to be “for the perpetual remembrance of the sacrifice of himself in his death; the sealing all benefits thereof unto true believers, their spiritual nourishment and growth in him, their further engagement in and to all duties which they owe unto him; and, to be a bond and pledge of their communion with him, and with each other, as members of his mystical body” (emphasis added). These actions are not possible for infants to perform. 29.7 again mentions “worthy receivers,” as well as something being presented “to the faith of believers.” Incidentally, the question of whether infants can have faith is irrelevant. The question is the faith of the person that the session has to determine. 29.8 explicitly state that ignorant men might receive the outward elements, but they do not receive the substance. An ignorant partaking is a condemnatory partaking. 29.8 clearly states this.
Westminster Larger Catechism: WLC 168 again states the necessity that people “worthily communicate.” It is also impossible for infants to “testify and renew their thankfulness” (from the same question). WLC 169 states that “thankful remembrance” is required, which is impossible for infants. WLC 170 again mentions worthy communication. They need to “by faith…receive and apply unto themselves Christ crucified, and all the benefits of his death” (emphasis added). The entire content of question 171 is impossible for infants to perform. Question 172 is not as directly germane, but is still indirectly related. Question 173 tells us that all “who are found to be ignorant…may and ought to be kept from that sacrament.” Plainly the question of those who are ignorant is a distinct question from those who are scandalous, though both cases are discussed in the question. The reasoning here is simple: those who are ignorant cannot partake worthily of the Lord’s Supper. Question 174 describes the requirements of those while they participate, again requirements that infants and most young children are unable to perform. Question 175 tells us of the duties we have after we have participated, which are again impossible for infants and young children to perform. Question 177 is the obvious question that disagrees with the idea of paedo-communion in the phrase “and that only to such as are of years and ability to examine themselves.”
Westminster Shorter Catechism: Question 92 says that the benefits of the sacraments come to and are applied to believers. In the case of baptism, that can come before faith, but the session has to decide whether a person can be admitted to the table based on a credible profession of faith. Question 96 mentions worthy receivers. Question 97 is the most direct statement of what is required for worthy reception of the Lord’s Supper. Anything other than doing what that question requires is defined as eating and drinking judgment to themselves.
Book of Church Order: 57-1 state that “Believers’ children within the Visible Church, and especially those dedicated to God in Baptism, are non-communing members under the care of the Church.” Surely, PC advocates cannot agree with this definition of children. In 57-2, careful examination is required of sessions. This needs to be more than simply “Do you believe in Jesus?” Children who are two years old can be encouraged to the point of saying “yes.” But without further examination, it cannot be clear that the child actually believes. Although 57-4 uses the language of “recommended,” it is clear that PC advocates would say that it is not recommended that a public profession of faith be required. 58-2 states specifically that “The ignorant and scandalous are not to be admitted to the Lord’s Supper.” PC advocates cannot possibly agree with this statement. 57-3 states that the people be “instructed in its nature, and a due preparation for it, that all may come in a suitable manner to this holy feast.” Instruction is therefore essential to the “suitable manner” in which people need to come to the Supper. Infants and small children are not capable of receiving this instruction.
In my opinion, any advocate of PC would need to take an exception to all of these passages in our constitution. It is not just the age of the recipients. It is a completely different understanding of the sacrament. The benefit comes completely differently in a PC understanding versus a non-PC understanding. The difference is this: the constitution and non-PC advocates believe that a subjective element is required for proper reception of the sacrament. PC advocates believe that benefit can come without any subjective element whatsoever.
One more point needs to be made. PC advocates in the PCA always agree not to practice it. However, in believing it, there is no way that they can agree with the sections in the BCO. We do not allow exceptions to the BCO. And it is quite gratuitous to assume that a person can be in conformity by merely practicing what the BCO states. In my experience, PC advocates almost never mention exceptions to the BCO. In my opinion, this is not honest.