« הקודםהמשך »
out of it; and satisfied me that the benefits of it were great, both to individuals and to the body at large."*
We have dwelt, thus far, upon the infrequent observance of the Lord's supper by the churches. There is also a deplorable irregular. ity in its observance by individuals. Although the table is spread but seldom, compared with the constancy which our Lord designed, yet many forego the advantages which are yet allowed them, by improperly, though ignorantly, refusing to communicate. And here we recognize one of the evil results which have originated in the error above discussed; for the infrequency of the ordinance has done much towards investing it with an imagined, superior sanctity, distinguishing it from all others, and thus debarring from it many an humble believer who has deemed himself unworthy to approach it. Had the ordinance continued to be constantly administered, as often as the churches assembled for public worship, every Lord's day, would this mistaken and injurious apprehension of its character ever have arisen? Would it not have been regarded as it really is, an ordinary means of grace, and not a reward of distinguished piety? Let it be well considered that the Lord's supper is an ordinance enjoined upon his disciples in church connexion: “Do this in remembrance of me." No member, then, can lawfully neglect it without divine warrant. Yet it is often treated as if it should depend on the caprice of an individual whether to observe it or not. A brother considers himself to be in a state of spiritual declension. He declines to participate in the sacred supper. Not that he no longer deems himself a disciple; for had he arrived at the deliberate conclusion that he was never a subject of divine grace, no one could approve of his acting the hypocrite, by sitting at the table of the Lord. But he feels himself unworthy, and therefore declines to communicate; while he is the very character who emphatically needs this ordinance, needs to reflect much on the dying love of Jesus, and to seek, by faith, the renewal of his grace within him. Shall he refuse to partake of this "stream" which is appointed to make “glad the city of God?" Shall he deny himself the means until he shall have found the end? As well may one neglect prayer until his wants are supplied, or the study of the scriptures until he shall have become mature in Christian knowledge. This association of superior sanctity with the ordinance, is a relict of Popery, and should have been discarded with the doctrine of transubstantiaiion.
This apprehension of the Apostle's remarks in 1 Cor. xi has deterred many from approaching the Lord's table. He is there speaking of the perversion of the ordinance by the newly converted heathen which it is quite impossible for us to practise. “He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself."
This is not our unworthiness; but the disorderly and unworthy manner of eating the supper—"one is hungry and another is drunken." But what is that to us? Is there any danger of our doing so?
Besides, the word "damnation” does not convey at the present time the
* It is gratifying to know that many eminently wise and holy men, of modern limos, lave urged the a loption of this scripiural custom.. Among others, we refer to Luther, Ca'vin, anit Cran uer, 10 Dr. Owen, Mr. Barte', Mr. Weslev, Dr. Goodwin, Mr. Char: nock, Dr. Walis, Dr. Doddridge, lo President Edwards, and Dr. Mason of New York.How astonishing the continued prevalence of this departure from apostolic precept and oxample!
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idea of the original-which is judgment.” The Greek word kdima, which is here used, is often translated as in Matth. vii. 2.; John ix. 29.; Gal. v. 10. The judicious Dodéridge says, “I think it the most unhappy mistake in all our version of the Bible, that the word kdima is here rendered damnation. It has raised a dread in tender minds which has greatly obstructed the comfort and edification they might have received from this ordinance. The Apostle afterwards says, “We are judged, (that is, as he afterwards explains it, we are corrected,) that we may not be condemned;" which plainly shows the judge ment spoken of might be fatherly chastisements. Let not this text deter any real Christian, who understands the import of the ordinance, and who wishes to show his grate ul love to ihe Saviour, from coming to the Lord's table. This holy ordinance was not designed to be a fiery or deal through which none but the sinless can safely pass. It was intended, like all ordinances, for the imperfect and frail. He who is duly prepared for any religious ordinance, is prepared not only for a safe, but for a profitable attendance on this. The consecrated bread and wine are nutritious aliinent for every soul that hungers and thirsis after righteousness. We shall notice one other occasion of neglecting this ordinance. It is when a supposed wrong has been received from a brother, or a fault has been committed by him. The aggrieved brother thinks himself at liberty to quit the communion of the church till the difficulty, real or imagined, be removed. This opinion is founded in entire ignorance of the nature of the ordinance; and it is difficult to account for its prevalence among us, without inplicaring those who have been the guides of the church in matters of faith and practice. Fellowship, it is true, is professed by the communicant; but it is fellowship with the church. It is presumed that it is a spiritual body. As a member of this body, he unites with it in prayer, in praise, in the supper. In obedience to his Lord, te performs his duty in keeping ihe feast in remembrance of him." Ho cannot abstain, without violating the command. A brother's fauit does not exempt him from obligation. "To his own master he standeth or falleih." In case of a private offence, let the rule in Matth. xviii. be pursued; bu: refusing to commune with the offender is directly opposed to the course there enjoined. It is making public what should be kept private, liis inflicting punishment on ihe uncondemned. The aggrieved becomes himselt an offender and trespasses against his brother and his Lord. listead of concealing with scrupulous care the offence, he proclaims it up in the house-tops, by directing observation to the supposed offender; and he deprives him of the opportunity to repent and 10 be forgiven, which the good Shepherd has provided for him.
Should a member, then, refuse to communicate, for such a reason, he oughi to receive the censure of the body, which he has wronged direcuy, as well as indir. c.ly; for his act was, evidently, excluding it from his fellowship.
If the offe ce com rilted is a public one, or if, though originally private, it has, at length, come under the cognizance of the church, the accused is entitled to his seat at the table until suspended or excluded by the body; and to refuse to commune with him is nothing less than assurning the prerogative of the church, and publicly pronouncing a sentence of condemnarion.
We have thus very briefly, considering the nature of the subject, borne our conscientious testimony against the unwarranted neglect of the Lord's supper by both churches and individuals. Most gladly would we dwell upon the benefits which would probably result from restoring this ordinance to its legitimaie place in our esirem alid attention. Noi to speak of the most obvious result in the increase of affee. tion to our dear Redeemer, whose dying love would be thus constantly exhibited, we merely observe, that this frequent separation of the church from the world would promote the personal acquaintance of the members; and thus, by exciting mutual interest and sympathy, draw closer the tie of fraternal love. It would greaily aid the discipline, the watch, and care of the flock. It would impress upon Christians the necessity of making their walk through the week consistent with their profession every Lurd's day; and it would remind the wicked of the breadth" which now exists between Thein and the Lord's people, and which will be fully revealed in the final separation at the great day. In a word, we may expect at least quadruple the advantage which any of us now derive from this invaluable institution. But is it not superfluous to enumerate the blessings of obedience? Duty is ours-results, God's. Let us resolve 10 • go forih in the footsteps of the flok," and we shall surely meet Him who maketh them lie down in green pastures and leadeih them beside the still waters," and we shall also hear the approving words of an under Shepherd - How I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances as I delivered them to you."
Upon what rests our responsibility to God and his right to prescribe
laws to us?
In turning over the sacred books to examine into this question, we find them full of various information concerning the interest which God hath taken in man from the very first, and the schemes which he hath on foot to meliorate our state, the desire he hath to contribute to our present happiness, and the views he hath for our future glory. He presents himself as our Faiher, who first breathed into our nostrils the breath of life, and ever since hath nourished and brought us up as children. He declares himself to have prepared the earth for our habitation; and for our sake to have made its womb teem with various food, with beauty, and with life. For our sakes no less he garnished the heavens and created the whole host of thein with the breath of big
-the eye in whose orb of beauty is pepcilled the whole orbs of heaven and earth, for the mind to peruse, and know, and possess, and rejoice over, even as if the whole universe were his own-the ear, in whose vocal chambers are entertained harmonious numbers, the melody of rejoicing nature, the welcomes and salutations of friends, the whispere ings of loves, the voices of parents and of children, with all the sweetness and the power that dwell upon the longue of man. His also is the gift of the beating heart, flooding all the hidden recesses of the human frame with the tide of life-his the cunning of the hand, whose workmanship turns rude and raw materials to such pleasant forms and wholesome uses-his the whole vital frame of man, which is a world of wonders within itself, a world of bounty, and, if rightly used, a world of finest enjoyments. His also are the mysteries of the soul within-the judgment, which weighs in a balance all contending thoughts extracting wisdoin out of folly, and extricating order from confusion; the memory, recorder of the soul, in whose books are chronicled accidents of the changing world, and the fluctuating moods of the mind itself; fancy, the eye of the soul, which scales the heavens and circles round the verge and circuits of all possible existence; hope, the purveyor of happiness, which peoples the hidden futuro with brighter forms and happier accidents than ever possessed the present, offering to the soul the foretaste of every joy; affection, the nurse of joy, whose full bosom can cherish a thousand objects without being impoverished, but rather replenished, a storehouse inexhaustible towards the brotherhood and sisterhood of this earth, as the storehouse of God is inexhaustible to the universal world; and conscience, the arbitrator of the soul, and the touchstone of the evil and the good, whose voice within our breast is the echo of the voice of God. These, all these, whose varied action and movement constitute the maze of thought, the mystery of life, the continuous chain of being—God hath given us to know we hold of his hand, and during his pleasure, and out of the fulness of liis care.
It is upon these tokens of his affectionate bounty, not upon bare authority, command, and fear, that God desires to forin a union and intimacy between himself and the human soul. As we love our parents because we derived our being from them, sustenance and protection while we stood in need of them, and afterwards proof of unchange ing and undying love; so God would have us love him in whom wo live, and move, and breathe, and have our being, and from whom proceedeth every good and every perfect gift. And as out of this strong affection we not only obey, but honor the commandments of our father and mother, so willeth he that we should honor and obey the com
mandments of our Father in heaven. As we look up to a master in whose hcuse we dwell, and at whose plentiful board we feed-with whose smiles we are recreated, and whose service is gentle and sweet-so God wisheth us to look up to him, in whose replenished house of nature he hath given us a habitation, and from whose bountiful tabie of providence we have a plentiful living, and whose service is full of virtue, health, and joy. As we love a friend who took us by the hand in youth, and helped us step by step up the hill of life, and found for our feet a room to rest in, and for our hands un occupation to work at; so God wisherh to be loved for having taken us up from the womb, and compassed us from our childhood, and found us favor in the sight of men.
As we revere a master of wisilom, who nursed our opening mind, and fed it with knowledge and with prudence, until the way of truth and peacefulness lay disclosed before us; so God wisheth to be revered for giving to our souls all the faculties of knowledge, and 10 nature all the hidden truths which these faculties reveal. In truth, there is not an excellent attachment by which the sons of men are bound together, which should not bind us more strongly to God, and lay the foundation of all generous and noble sentiments towards him within the mind, and of all loving, dutiful, reverential conduct towards him in our ouiward walk and conversation.
Therefore, we greatly err when we imagine his revelation to be nothing save a code of laws and statutes enforced by awful authority and awful judgment to come. Doubtless it contains a code of laws, but these laws set in the bosom of a thousand noble sentiments, and warm affections, and generous promises towards us-such as are wont to caich, and caprivate, and ravish the spirit when uttered by a mortal: why they should not when uttered by the great Immortal, Eternal, and Invisible, I know not, except that we are so lost in bustle and agitation as seldom to be in sufficient repose to hear and meditate his voice. No one calls filial obedience, friendly offices, grateful returns, honorings of the wise, tribute to the good-no one calleih these bendage; they are the effusions of generous hearts, the aspirations of noble desires, and the sure promise of future excellence; and he who can afford them not, and calls them bondage, is himself a bondsman to his niggard selfishness and his wretched semper. No more shall any one call veneration of God, the common fathergratitude to God, the common giver-obedience to God, the great