The “Cream of Creation” and the “Cream of Faith”: The Lord’s Supper as a Means of Assurance in Puritan Thought -- By: Matthew Westerholm

Journal: Puritan Reformed Journal
Volume: PRJ 03:1 (Jan 2011)
Article: The “Cream of Creation” and the “Cream of Faith”: The Lord’s Supper as a Means of Assurance in Puritan Thought
Author: Matthew Westerholm


The “Cream of Creation” and the “Cream of Faith”:
The Lord’s Supper as a Means of
Assurance in Puritan Thought

Matthew Westerholm

Assurance is the subjective sense a believer possesses of the certainty of his or her own salvation — a personalizing of God’s promises.1 All believers have some degree of assurance (Rom. 8:16 –17), but some believers have a stronger sense of it than others. Because of the deceptive human heart, “false assurance” is possible and must be avoided. “True assurance,” on the other hand, is to be pursued by all believers,2 with “full assurance” possible for some believers. The Puritans believed, following Calvin, that faith is “a firm and certain knowledge of God’s benevolence toward us, founded on the truth of the freely given promise in Christ, both revealed to our minds, and sealed upon our hearts, through the Holy Spirit.”3 Consisting of the same essence as faith, assurance is then the “cream of faith,”4 an increase in the amount and richness of faith, but not a change to its substance.

This essay traces a line of reasoning, advanced by a number of Puritan authors, that one of the chief ends of participating in the Lord’s Supper is assurance.5 To demonstrate this, five questions will be investigated. (1) Who is to be admitted to the Lord’s Supper? Since

only believers have genuine faith and the possibility of assurance, the Lord’s Supper could not provide genuine assurance to all of its participants if unbelievers were invited to the sacrament.6 Relatedly, the degree of faith a participant must possess will be investigated. (2) How does one participate in the Lord’s Supper? Are the practical methods of participation intended to grow the believer’s faith? (3) Does the Lord’s Supper oppose hindrances of assurance, that is, elements that undermine the believer’s faith? (4) How is Christ present in the Lord’s Supper, and does that type of presence grow the believer’s faith? (5) Do participants in the Lord’s Supper actually grow in assurance, and do those who neglect this ordinance suffer?

Who Is to Be Admitted to the Lord’s Supper?

Puritan writers paid close attention to the circumstances surrounding admission to the Lord’s Supper. While a few considered it a “converting ordinance,” most Puritans followed Ca...

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