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it be easy to assign an example of bolder deviation from the universal practice of the christian church, than the conduct of our opponents supplies. They are the only persons in the world of whom we have either heard, or read, who contend for the exclusion of genuine christians from the Lord's table; who ever attempted to distinguish them into two classes, such as are entitled to commemorate their Saviour's death, and such as are excluded from that privilege. In what page of the voluminous records of the church is such a distinction to be traced? Or what intimation shall we find in scripture of an intention to create such an invidious disparity among the members of the same body? Did it ever enter the conception of any but baptists, that a right to the sign could be separated from the thing signified; or that there could be a description of persons interested in all the blessings of the christian covenant, yet not entitled to partake of its sacraments and seals?
In the judgement of all religious communities besides, and in every period of the church, excommunication or exclusion has been considered as a stigma, never to be inflicted but on men of ill lives, or on the abettors of heresy and schism; and though innumerable instances have occurred, in which the best of men have, in fact, been excluded, they were either accused of fundamental error, or adjudged, on account of their obstinate resistance to the authority of the church, to have forfeited the privileges of christians. They were
not excommunicated under the character of mistaken brethren, which is the light in which we profess to consider pædobaptists, but as incurable heretics and schismatics. The puritans were expelled the church of England on the same principle; and although at the restoration, a vindictive spirit was unquestionably the chief motive to those disgraceful proceedings, yet the pretensions of ecclesiastical authority were carried so high in those unhappy times, as to furnish the pretext for considering them as contumacious contemners of the power, and disturbers of the peace of the church. In the whole course of ecclesiastical proceedings, no maxim was more fully recognised, than that the sword of excommunication cut asunder the ties of fraternity, and consigned the offender, unless he repented, to hopeless perdition.
In some dissenting societies also, it is true, creeds are established which every candidate for admission is expected to subscribe; and though these summaries of christian doctrine frequently contain articles, which, admitting them to be true, are not fundamental, they were originally deemed such by their fabricators, or supposed, at least, to be accompanied with such a plenitude of evidence as no sincere inquirer could resist; and they are continued under the same persuasion.
The right of rejecting those whom Christ has received; of refusing the communion of eminently holy men, on account of unessential differences of opinion; is not the avowed tenet of any sect or community in Christendom, with the exception of the majority of the baptists, who, while they are at variance with the whole world on a point of such magnitude, are loud in accusing their brethren of singularity. If we have presumed to resist the current of opinion, it is on a subject of no practical moment; it respects an obscure and neglected corner of theology; while their singularity is replete with most alarming consequences, destroys at once the unity of the church, and pronounces a sentence of excommunication on the whole christian world.
Having, without disguise, exhibited, in their full force, the reasoning of the advocates of strict communion, and replied to it in the best manner we are able, it must be left to the impartial reader to determine on which side the evidence preponderates; of which he will be able to judge more completely, when we have stated at large the grounds of the opposite practice, which we have reserved for the Second Part of this treatise; where we shall have an opportunity of noticing some minor objections, which could not be so conveniently adverted to in the former.
THE POSITIVE GROUNDS ON WHICH WE JUSTIFY
THE PRACTICE OF MIXED COMMUNION.
Free Communion urged, from the Obligation of
That we are commanded, in terms the most absolute, to cultivate a sincere and warm attachment to the members of Christ's body, and that no branch of christian duty is inculcated more frequently, or with more force, will be admitted without controversy. Our Lord instructs us to consider it as the principal mark or feature by which his followers are to be distinguished in every age.
“ By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye love one another. As I have loved you, ye ought also to love one another ;” whence it is evident that the pattern we are to follow is the love which Christ bore to his church, which is undoubtedly extended indiscriminately to every member. The cultivation of this disposition is affirmed to be one of the most essential objects
of the christian revelation, as well as the most precious fruit of that faith by which it is embraced. “ Seeing,” says St. Peter,“
ye have purified your hearts by obeying the truth unto an unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently.” Agreeably to which,
" the beloved disciple affirms it to be the chief evidence of our being in a state of grace and salvation.
By this we know that we are passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.” Let it also be remembered, that the mode in which we are commanded to exhibit and express this most eminent grace of the Spirit, is the preservation of union, a careful avoidance of every temper and practice which might produce alienation and division. To this purpose, St. Paul reminds us of that union which subsists betwixt the several parts of the body, the harmony with which its respective functions are carried on, where the noblest organ is incapable of dispensing with the action of the meanest, together with that quick feeling of sympathy which pervades the whole; all which, he tells us, is contrived and adjusted to prevent a schism in the body. In applying this illustration to the subject before us, it is impossible not to perceive that when one part of Christ's mystical body refuses to cooperate with another in a principal spiritual function, such as communing at the Lord's table, that very evil subsists against which we are so anxiously guarded; and what is more extraordinary, subsists upon the principle we are