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SECOND SERIES, NO. III.-WHOLE NO. XXXV.
By tbe Rev. Noah Porter, D. D. Farmington, Conn.
“Is thy heart right with God? If it be, give me thy hand. I do not mean, 'be of my opinion. You need not. Neither do I mean 'I will be of your opinion,' I cannot. Let all opinions alone ; only give me thine hand."-Wesley.
In the sacrifice of the passover, it was ordained in Israel that it should not be offered within any of their gates; but only in the place which the Lord their God should choose to place his name in. There the assembled nation were to sacrifice the passover at even. The design was that it should be an act of solemn public communion on the part of the whole people; and for this purpose, even those who were detained at home, were required to testify their concurrence with those who were assembled at the tabernacle, by uniting with them in the use of unleavened bread. There was to be no leavened bread seen in all their coasts seven days.* So also the ordinances of the New Testament, and especially the feast in which Christ our passover is represented as slain for us, are designed to be communional ; and to unite in communion the whole Israel of God. Although in the present world that communion cannot be universal in its visible form, there is nothing exclusive in its pature. All “the circumcision,” as they have opportunity are required to join, and of course all are bound to receive each other, in its solemnities. Neither sectarian distinctions, nor disferences on questions of reform, modes of doing good, or any other subject, which do not involve the essentials of Christianity, can warrantably be made a ground of exclusion. “Receive ye one another as Christ also received us to the glory of God,” is the divine rule. A credible profession of the gospel is the only indispensable condition, which we are authorised to require. Or, as the same thing is stated by Robert Hall, “No man, or set of men, are entitled to prescribe as an indispensable condition of communion, what the New Testament has not enjoined as a condition of salvation.”
* Deut. 16: 1-6. SECOND SERIES, VOL. II. NO. III.
The truth of this principle with application to sectarian differences has of late been extensively admitted ; and its prevalence has been hailed as the dawn of a better day. But it may be doubted whether even among the different denominations in this country which are acknowledged by each other to be essentially christian, it has not for a few of the last years been losing ground; and it is notorious that great numbers belonging to these denominations severally have taken positions in relation to each other which are inconsistent with it. In their zeal for reform they have usurped the power which Christ has vested in his church for the preservation of its distinctive character as a society of visible believers, to array public sentiment against particular forms of evil, by excluding from its communion those who are not persuaded to concur in their measures, even though they would not dare to pronounce them unworthy of the christian name. In those divisive measures also which have been so unhappily resorted to, under the pretence, and, as we doubt not with respect to many individuals with the sincere desire, of maintaining the true faith and order of the gospel, it is impossible for impartial observers not to perceive that the great principle of “receiving one another, as Christ also receives us,” has been very extensively disowned, or the true spirit of it lamentably forgotten. It is time, then, that this fundamental principle in the constitution of the church of God were reviewed, and the obligations imposed by it, solemnly pondered. With this in view the following considerations are submitted.
1. A credible profession of the Gospel is confessedly the only
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indispensable condition authorized by the New Testament for admission to the ordinance of baptism. “Go ye-preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” “Go ye—teach (evangelize) all nations, baptizing them.” “Repent ye and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ.” “ As many as gladly received the word were baptized.” “What doth hinder that I should be baptized ? If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.” These passages clearly imply that whoever gives reasonable evidence of faith in Christ, be he in other respects what he may, is entitled to christian baptism. At the hands of any minister of Christ he may demand it in the name of their common Lord. And where is the passage in all the Scriptures which intimates that other conditions are requisite for one of the special ordinances of the New Testament, than are requisite for the other? When you have received a person to baptism on a profession of his faith, where is your warrant for excluding bim from the Lord's supper? By baptism you seal him as a member of the christian church ; and where is the evidence that the Lord's supper is not to be administered to all the accredited members of the church? These ordinances are the common inheritance of the family of God, and cannot lawfully be separated.
2. The Lord's supper is especially designed to be a symbol of the union of Christians as fellow members of the body of Christ. The church of Christ is one. Unity is its essential characteristic. All its sincere members are spiritually joined together in Cbrist, and all its visible members are of course bound to acknowledge each other in the sacred relation. In its first and purest age they did this. Familiar as the spectacle of different christian societies who have no fellowship with each other has become, in the beginning it was not so. Then the gospel was acknowledged and felt to be a bond of union between all those who embraced it. The world saw it, to their astonishment binding together in ties more tender and sacred than those of consanguinity itself, those whose characters and feelings had before been most discordant and repulsive. “Behold,” they said, “ how these Christians love one another!" From corruptions, indeed, both in doctrine and practice, the primitive church could not, more than the modern, pretend to be free; but those were not suffered to rend the bond of her union. If they were subversive of the common faith, their authors, being irreclaimable, were expelled ; and if otherwise, were regarded with the forbearance which the imperfection of all claimed. To separate from her communion those whom she acknowledged to have communion with God, she considered a usurpation to be abhorred. There were also, as from the necessity of the case there must always be in the present world, distinct societies of Christians formed for the worship of God in the several places of their residence. Thus was the church of God at Rome, at Corinth, at Ephesus. But these were distinct only in the sense of their being parts of a whole built together as the temple of the living God on their common foundation. “ The church,” says Cyprian, “is one, which, by reason of its fecundity, is extended into a multitude, in the same manner as the rays of the sun, however numerous, constitute but one light : and as the branches of a tree, however many, are attached to one trunk, which is supported by its tenacious root: and when various rivers flow from the same fountain, though number is diffused by the redundant supply of waters, unity is preserved in their origin.” That such is the divine constitution of the church is sufficiently evident from the names by wbich its members collectively are in the New Testament so uniformly distinguished : “ the church”— " the body of Christ”-“the house of the living God.” And how often do the apostles call the attention of their brethren to the fact as one of high practical importance! When they would put down a rising faction ; or repress feelings of pride and emulation; or shut out the spirit of party, they say : “ As the body is one and bath many members and all the members of that one body, being many are one body, so also is Christ. For by one spirit are we all baptized into one body, wbether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free, and have all been made to drink into one spirit. For the body is not one member, but many.” Not only is this union essential, but it is peculiar. No other on earth is so near and sacred. Nor is it possible that those things concerning which any of those who are embraced in it may differ from each other, should be important, when compared with those things conceruing which they are agreed. “There is one body and one spirit, even as we are called in one hope of our calling. One Lord, one faith, one baptism. One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Hence their love to each other also is peculiar and distinctive. It is a divine complacencya love which is not to be distinguished in its nature from their
common attachment to their glorious head. They not only ought, but they actually do love one another in this manner. They all do this so far as they are what they profess to be. Only so far as the church is in this manner ope, does it deserve the name of a church of Christ. Love is the badge of its profession; the principle of its religion ; its nature and its glory. Of all this the supper of the Lord is a divinely constituted token and pledge." The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ ?" That is, the symbol of our joint participation of the blessings procured by his blood ? " The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ ? for we being many are one body and one bread.” With divine wisdom is it adapted to the end. Such is its appropriate significancy that no unbeliever,—none but a sincere and devoted servant of Christ, can partake of it, without belying all the sentiments and feelings of his heart ; and such at the same time is its simplicity, that it fixes precisely on the sentiments and feelings which are common to believers without any allusion to those in which they may be supposed to differ. Here the christian profession is brought to a point. Here, then, all those who intelligently and heartily adopt that profession are to meet as they have opportunity ; and, dismissing for the time their individual and conventional partialities, to pay their common honors at the Savior's feet, and bind themselves to each other as the common subjects of his reign and heirs of his glory. To refuse admission to this communion any of those who give reasonable evidence of their spiritual participation of it, is to belie their profession and pervert the ordinance from its sacred design; is to rend the body of Christ and to do violence to sympathies between his members wbich his own spirit has created; is to magnify the causes of their difference into a relative importance which they do not possess, and proportionably sink those in which they are agreed.
3. It is the duty of Christians universally, however erroneous or sinful they may be, to partake, as they have opportunity, in this ordinance, and therefore they ought to be received. The injunction, “ Do this in remembrance of me,” is plain and positive. It was addressed to the apostles as the founders and representatives of the church. It is therefore binding upon the whole church. Nor is the obligation limited to times and places. If the Saviour's command binds a disciple to come to bis table when it is spread in the particular branch of his church