Thursday, December 27, 2012

Book Review: In Remembrance of Him by Guilemus Saldenus and Wilhemus a`Brakel

The phrase “In remembrance of Him” is one that is intimately connected with the Christian sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.  It is frequently used in the worship liturgy and it is written onto the front of many altars and tables in church sanctuaries.  But what does it mean to “remember” Christ when we feast at His table?  Answering that question is the goal of the two essays in the book In Remembrance of Him: Profiting from the Lord’s Supper, by Guilemus Saldenus and Wilhemus a`Brakel (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012). 

As might be guessed from their names, Saldenus and a`Brakel are not exactly 21st century authors.  They are two pastors/theologians who were active in the Netherlands in the 17th century.  And despite the passage of time, what they have written here has much to say to strengthen and enrich the practice of the Lord’s Supper today.  Saldenus focuses on the efficacy of the Lord’s Supper, first addressing the comfort found at the Lord’s Table and then the way in which taking the Supper nurtures the Christian’s sanctification.  a’Brakel writes in three parts, dealing with the issues of preparation, celebration of, and reflection on, the Supper, followed by a meditation on how the sovereign work of God’s grace is active in the Supper.

I thought that the writing of both authors was filled with relevance for today’s church.  While they both write from a place that theologically is deeply within the Reformed tradition, they powerfully invite Christians of any tradition to consider more fully what a biblically-grounded view of the Supper entails.  Fallowing are examples from each author.

Saldenus, writing on the theme of sanctification and how taking the Supper can lead to a greater abhorrence of personal sin, concludes a very rich paragraph with these words: “It communicates that it is according to God’s will that precisely that body and blood which is set before you in the Lord’s Supper is ordained to be the atonement for your sin.  And if this is true for the least sinful thought, we cannot begin to fathom how utterly abominable and accursed the entire mass of our sins must be.”  (63-4)

a`Brakel, writing on the nature of reflection after partaking of the Supper includes this advice: “We should first of all attentively and calmly reflect upon the steadfastness and immutability of the covenant of grace, and upon all its promises that have been sealed to us by means of the Lord’s Supper, such as forgiveness of sins, comfort, sanctification, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  Additional promises pertain to God’s preservation of believers in the state of grace, as well as to the eternal salvation in heaven that shall be their portion after life.” (108-9)

I found a lot to take from these authors and only a small bit that seemed to me to be less relevant.  The less relevant writing was primarily where they addressed the matter of taking the Supper unworthily, which was a real issue for the early Protestant church as it reformed practices that had been a part of the Roman Catholic tradition.  Yet even in the way they dealt with this issue they did so in a manner that can deepen the way we prepare and approach the Lord’s Table today. 

In sum I highly commend this book to pastors, elders, professors and Sunday school teachers who want to learn more about the powerful way God touches people at His Table and then bring what they have learned to the people they minister among.  And I recommend it to the lay person who wants to deepen their own understanding of the way God touches them through this sacrament, a sacrament that always points to God and His covenantal promises.

No comments:

Post a Comment