The Lord's Supper
Chapter 46 - Puritans on the Lord's Supper
In the Lord's Supper we encounter our Savior. This is the main goal - "to unite the faithful unto Christ" (Edward Reynolds, pg. 748).
The point isn't to focus on the bread and wine - it certainly does not "transubstantiate" into the physical body of Jesus - but to see Christ through them.
Calvin emphasized our ascending to heaven where Christ is, but the Puritans talked of it more as Jesus coming down, in a mystical sense, to us in the Word and sacrament.
Grace is conferred in Communion, but it is an increase of our sanctification, not justifying grace.
Puritans were careful to keep the actual administration close to the Biblical text.
"The minister in his sacramental acts represents God" (750), taking bread, blessing God, breaking bread and pouring wine, and giving it to the church. The people take and eat.
Only those who profess faith in Christ and who can examine themselves should take the Supper, the Puritans believed. It is meant to give assurance - full assurance of your salvation is not necessary to partake. Meditation and thought upon our sinfulness and Christ's atonement was a key emphasis in how the Puritans sought to partake of the Supper. Conflicting emotions of sorrow (at the cost of our sin for Christ) and joy (at our forgiveness and acceptance by God) are expected.
Satan and our own forgetfulness and neglect keep us from the Supper, but it strengthens our faith, shows us Christ, gives us fellowship with Him, seals (ratifies) our redemption in Him, gives "power against our sins" (758), and removes the dread of being condemned by God.
Communion is God's appointed means to see and unite with and savor Jesus Christ.
Again, the Puritans' treatment (or maybe just Beeke/Jones' survey) of the Supper is somewhat myopic. There is no discussion of what elements to use and why, or the connection to the Passover, the context of the institution of the sacrament, etc. They give five lines to a cursory assertion that self-examination is required, thus keeping children away. In classic Puritan fashion, the focus is "experimental:" on what is going on inside of us at the meal. One hint that this is more the authors' bent than the Puritans, was the fascinating historical tidbit that the Westminster assembly debated for 3 weeks whether to celebrate the sacrament by seating communicants around an actual table or passing trays.
Beeke/Jones get the main point right, though. The Supper is about showing and conveying to us the actual person of Jesus Christ. We do not partake because we are morally pure enough or strong enough in faith, but as an expression of our faith and our profession of that faith in Christ as our Savior.