Samuel Bolton (1606-1654), in his work The Guard of the Tree of Life (Discourse on the Sacraments), presents compelling reasons for the diligent pursuit of spiritual discipline in our lives. Bolton, as many writers of his day, refers to it as our “duty” but it’s not the cold and unfeeling idea of duty, rather it is the call to embrace with our whole being the means of grace provided by our loving Father. In this book, Bolton focuses on the Lord’s Table as one of the regular disciplines of the Christian life. In the same way that we receive grace and spiritual strengthening from prayer, meditating on scripture, fellowship and loving service, we likewise receive the same from feeding upon our Savior’s body and blood through faith at the table. We should no more reject weekly attention to the supper than we would our daily prayer or time in God’s Word. It is a means of God’s gracious benefits flowing afresh into our lives. All neglect of spiritual discipline diminishes our progress in holiness. Bolton states:
“Neglect of duty breeds strangeness, strangeness distance, distance falling off. A good caveat in these days, when so many do cry down duty; shall we look on that as our burden which is our glory, our bondage which is our privilege? What is the happiness of a glorified saint, but only that he is always under the line of love, ever in the contemplation and converses with God? And shall that be thought our burden here, which is our glory hereafter?”
It is our glory, our privilege to come boldly before the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb. 4:16) How do we come to the throne of grace? How do we access this grace and need? By the means appointed by our Father. Bolton lists 8 benefits of this sacred “duty”:
“By this, first, you come to see the face of God; secondly, you have conversations with him; thirdly, you get new quickening’s; fourthly, new encouragements; fifthly, fresh strength against sin; sixthly, new supplies against the temptations of Satan and the world; seventhly, fresh strength to walk with God; eighthly, armor against our lusts.”
Look at these again:
- See the face of God. (As John Owen said, the table of the Lord is God’s love on display)
- We have conversation with Him. (Just as prayer is a two-way street, so is communion.
- Quickenings. (We receive fresh power! “Be being filled with the Spirit…” Eph. 5:18)
- New encouragement. – We receive fresh motivation.
- Fresh strength against sin. We are pointed a new toward holiness, our armor is buffed, our weapons are reset.
- “New supplies.” – grace that makes the Lord more precious to us and makes Satan and his kingdom more odious to us.
- Fresh strength. – we mount up with wings as eagles.
- Armor. – most especially our helmet of salvation and our shield of faith. Here the cross is put before us, the price of our redemption is evident, our assurance is strengthened, our faith is brought between us and our lusts.
Why would we not receive these benefits week by week?