Profiting from the Lord’s Supper
by Guilelmus Saldenus

Extracted from Guilelmus Saldenus & Wilhelmus à Brakel,  In Remembrance of Him: Profiting from the Lord’s Supper, trans. J. A. De Jong; ed., B. Elshout (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 41-46.

[Let us consider] the difficulties that at times trouble and distress God’s children regarding the absence of this spiritual joy.

Objection #1: Not only do I fail to derive any joy from the Lord’s Supper, but often I leave this supper far more distraught and unsettled than before I came.

Answer: 1. This is not uncommon, particularly if you are a weak Christian or if the disposition of your soul is weak at that given moment. The condition of such people will generally be similar to that of a weak body that shortly after a meal will feel worse than before, and nevertheless will derive strength from the meal.

2. In partaking of the Lord’s Supper, you have drawn nearer to Christ, the light of the world. However, the nearer you draw to this light, the clearer you will perceive your sins. Your condition can possibly be caused by your faith being somewhat inactive, also causing you to be more distraught.

3. Perhaps it is God’s intent that by your being distraught and unsettled, He will compensate for and/or perfect that which, as you complained, was lacking in your preparation.

4. He does not give each of His children the same measure of fruit at each celebration of the Lord’s Supper, but to everyone He gives according to what He knows them to be most in need of in their present spiritual condition. If, therefore, you are more sorrowful than joyful, this is undoubtedly because it will presently be more beneficial for you to be somewhat cast down rather than to be lifted up.

5. It is not uncommon for God to allow notable distress to precede heavenly joy, similar to a downpour that precedes the sunshine. Christ has said, “You shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.”

Objection #2: Yes, but I fear that the fault is mine and that I did not prepare myself as well as I should have, etc., and therefore I cannot find any comfort.

Answer: 1. Search very diligently whether you yourself are the cause of this or if the cause is otherwise.

2. However, do not jump to conclusions. If you cannot find sufficient proof within yourself that you are at fault, it will impact your spiritual joy very negatively by imagining yourself to be at fault when in reality this is not so.

3. By no means deem all imperfect preparation to be insincere and deficient.

4. If there truly was some deficiency in your preparation, then do not fixate on it too long, but rather, humble yourself before God with regard to this matter, come before Him believing in the atoning blood of Christ, and conduct yourself better in the future.

5. Consider also that God, though very ready to grant you such joy, may nevertheless withhold it from you. As was mentioned earlier, He may do this because you are resting in this joy, because He wants to teach you that He is not obligated to grant what you are seeking, or because He wants you to feel that you are not always as ready to serve Him as He is ready to be served by you.

Objection #3: I see that others find such joy in the Lord’s Supper. O Lord, why can I also not have such joy?

Answer: 1. Be not envious of someone else’s joy, but, as much as possible, seek to emulate them, and “Rejoice with them that do rejoice.”

2. Not all who display such joy are truly joyful, for the hypocrites will frequently display a great deal of bravado.

3. It could also be that they belong to the godly, and you are only observing their outward conduct. They conduct themselves as such so that you would not become even more dejected, or because they do not want religion in general or this memorable event to be maligned. However, they may also have inner turmoil and sorrow in their hearts that you cannot observe.

4. If they are genuinely joyful, then consider that every Christian has his own season of joy. For some that may be true now, and perhaps this was so for you at another time when others lacked such joy. We are to “remember the years of the right hand of the Most High” (Ps 77:10).

Objection #4: I would be able to thank and glorify God far better if I could also experience such joy.

Answer: 1. There is much reason for gratitude that you are so desirous to be more grateful.

2. If you are without spiritual joy, you may be lacking the special means and motives to glorify God, but that does not mean that there is neither substance nor cause to glorify Him.

3. The real issue here is what it means to glorify Him in the most spiritual manner. Truly, if you had a great deal of this joy, you might be motivated more by this joy and less motivated by grace, more by the sweetness drawn from Christ than by the Lord Christ Himself. You need to understand, however, that the latter is ten times more spiritual than the former.

Objection #5: I do derive some spiritual joy from the Lord’s Supper, but it is so short-lived and fleeting that I almost do not know what to make of it.

Answer: 1. This is not surprising nor uncommon, but rather something most delightful and precious. God deals with His children as wise parents deal with their children. They occasionally will give them some delicacies, but they are not at all inclined to give them every day or for any lengthy period of time.

2. The Lord also knows what is best for His children. We are naturally and easily inclined to be excessively attracted to such sweetness and spiritual dispositions, so that we become careless and drowsy, or we become too sensitive and spoiled. It is not good when we eat too much honey. God therefore readily withdraws His hand, and thereby abuse is prevented.

3. This spiritual joy can also be viewed in a twofold manner. Such joy can be the result of God’s special speaking and the comforting stirring of the souls of His children, though this is not the common way. He sometimes and immediately will say to their souls, “I am your salvation” (Ps. 35:3; see also Eph. 1:13 and Ps. 4:6), and, “I am yours and you are mine.” Or, their joy will be in proportion to seeing—at least to the degree that He grants reflection upon it—that those graces identified in His Word as being signs and proofs that they are His are truly found in them (2 Peter 1:6). We believe that the former is generally very brief and often like a flash of lightning. The latter joy, however, though it can be intertwined with darkness, is nevertheless more stable and of longer duration. The godly may and should therefore primarily seek and take note of this, regardless of whether the former joy has vanished or lasts for a considerable time.

4. Perhaps you do not value your joy experienced at the Lord’s Supper sufficiently, and it therefore vanishes all the more quickly. Or, when you begin to perceive a measure of such comfort, you will be quite readily inclined to set aside the renewed and daily exercise of your faith, your labor of love, and the disciplined use of the ordinary means of grace. These are, nevertheless, the things whereby such joy must be nourished and sustained. Therefore, seek to improve your conduct in the future in this regard, and observe whether you retain this joy for a longer period of time.

5. And though it may readily diminish, you must learn not to measure its extended value merely by the period of time you feel this joy, but also by the extended and powerful impression it makes upon you (Ps. 73:28). Then you will be enabled to cleave to God to the utmost of your ability, to cleave to the God whose goodness you have tasted for such a brief period of time.

Objection #6: I feel so pressured to abstain from the Lord’s Supper entirely because I perceive that my partaking always appears to be in vain.

Answer: 1. This is a device of the devil, and you must strive against lending him your ear. He is displeased with your peace and joy, and he therefore seeks to wrest from you those means that are subservient to it. If you completely were to cease nourishing your body, this would for some time weaken you more than it would strengthen you.

2. Are you saying that your partaking of the Lord’s Supper is in vain when you receive no comfort at all from it? Are there no other fruits except this one? We believe there are, and this will soon become evident.

3. If you were to desist completely from partaking of the Lord’s Supper, would you enjoy more comfort and joy? Would you not deprive yourself completely of all hope? What would you have gained?

Additional Objection: At least I could not eat and drink judgment to myself.

Answer: If you partake of the Lord’s Supper, seeking your salvation in Christ alone and with true humility of heart, albeit without experiencing any feeling or joy, you will not be eating judgment to yourself. In fact, if such is your disposition, and you do not partake, you will by renewal make your judgment all the heavier. As long as you continue with this neglect, you will not be able to assure yourself that you have been delivered from this condemnation.