« הקודםהמשך »
duty to continue in an insulated state. They refuse to receive by recommendation any minister of the gospel, or private christian, from any other church; they dismiss none with testimonials of their regular standing; and have formerly fulminated the excommunication of their Sessions and Presbyteries against the few individuals who have dared to hear the gospel preached by any other Presbyterians than those of their own respective cast. Something of their rigidity, they have, however, relaxed of late. The Associate Reformed Church, was in the same insulated state, as it respects communion, until, in 1810, Dr. Mason so far disregarded the custom of his tribe, as to celebrate the Lord's supper with the Rev. Dr. Romeyn, and the conductor of this Review, in the Presbyterian Church in Cedar Street, New York; with communicants under the care of the General Assembly. For this aggravated offence, as it was deemed by many of his southern and western brethren, Dr. Mason was called to answer before the Synod of the Associate Re. formed Church, more than once: and the necessity he found of repeatedly vindicating himself, before weak consciences, produced the PLEA on our table.
He does not undertake his work by halves; but writes for the whole church of God on earth; which, he contends, is one; and ought to evince her unity before all men. However men may judge upon the subject, the Lord esteems all those different denominations that hold the Head, in all things essential to constitute the Chris. tian profession, but different members of one body. “As the body is one, and hath 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, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into ONE Spirit. For the body is not one member, but MANY."* On this passage Dr. M. rests the proof of the unity of the visible church.
To this whole church, and to every individual of it who credibly professes knowledge to discern the Lord's
. 1 Cor. xii. 12-14.
body, and faith to feed upon him, has the Redeemer given the ordinance of the sacramental supper. Hence our author argues most cogently that,
“The members of this body of Christ have a common and unalienable interest in all the provision which God has made for its nutriment, growth, and consolation, and that simply and absolutely, because they are members of that body. Therefore,
The members of the church of Christ, individually and collectively, are under a moral necessity, i. e. under the obligation of God's authority, to recognise each other's character and privileges; and, consequently, not to deny the tokens of such recognition. Sacramental communion is one of those tokens: therefore, the members of the church of Christ, as such, are under the obligation of God's authority to recognise their relation to Christ and to each other, by joining together in sacramental communion. Nor has any church upon earth the power to refuse a seat at the table of the Lord to one whose conversation is as becometh the gospel.' If she has, she has derived it from some other quarter than her Master's grant: and founds the privilege of communion with her in something else than a person's having received Christ Jesus the Lord, and walking in him.' Let her look to herself, and see what account she shall be able to render of her usurpation.
This general conclusion, flowing irrefragably from the scriptural doctrine of the unity of Christ's body and the union and communion of its members, is illustrated and confirmed by a consideration of the tenure by which all Christian churches and people hold their Christian privileges.
But, to press the matter a little closer. These true churches and Christians have a right to the holy sacraments, or they have not. If not, it is a contradiction to call them true churches: the rightful possession of the sacraments being essential to the existence of a true church. They have then such a right. How did they obtain it? By a grant from the Lord Jesus Christ, unquestionably. He gave all church-privileges to his church catholic; and from this catholic grant do all particular churches derive their right to, and their property in whatever privileges they enjoy. Other true churches, then, hold their right to all church privileges by the very same tenure by which we held ours: and, consequently, the members of those churches have the very same right to the table of the Lord as the members of our own. By what authority, therefore, does any, particular church undertake to invalidate a right bestowed by
See the WESTMINSTER Confession of Faith, ch. xv. and Form of Charch government, at the beginning; with the scriptural proofs.
Christ himself? And what less, or what else, does she attempt, when she refuses to admit Christians from other particular churches to the participation of any ordinance which Christ has established for their common use? The sacramental table is spread. I approach and ask for a seat. You say, No.' • Do you dispute my Christian character and standing.' • Not in the least.' Why, then, am I refused? You do not belong to our church. Your church! what do you mean by your church? Is it any thing more than a branch of Christ's church? Whose table is this? Is it the Lord's table, or your's? If
yours and not his, I have done. But if it is the Lord's, where did you acquire the power of shutting out from its mercies any one of his people? I claim my seat under my Master's grant. Show me your warrant for interfering with it.'
Methinks it should require a stout heart to encounter such a challenge: and that the sturdiest sectarian upon earth, not destitute of the fear of God, should pause and tremble before he ventured upon a final repulse. The language of such an act is very clear and daring. You have, indeed, Christ's invitation to his table; but you have not mine. And without mine, his shall not avail. Most fearful! Christ Jesus says, do this in remembrance of me. His servants rise to obey his command; and a fellow servant, acting in the name of that Christ Jesus, under the oath of God, interposes his veto, and says You shall not.' Whose soul does not shrink and shudder!"
Having briefly stated the Christian DOCTRINE on the subject of communion, Dr. M. proceeds to a consideration of FACTS. He renders it manifest, that in the days of the Apostles, all who made a credible profession of faith in the fundamental doctrines of Christianity, re. ceived each other in fellowship at the Lord's table; notwithstanding many imperfections in knowledge and christian character. He might have proved, that our Lord himself; dispensed his own sacramental supper, in the first instance of its celebration, to Judas, among the other apostles, because he was at that time a visible member of his Church, in regular standing. Hence, if we personally knew that a professing brother was a traitor and a hypocrite, we would administer the supper to him, and celebrate it with him, until he could, by a regular, scriptural process, be suspended from church-privileges. Even so has our Lord and Master ordained that we should do, by his own example.
Dr. M. next proceeds to show, by a thorough exami
nation of the history of the primitive church, that from the days of the Apostles to the close of the fourth century, professing christians evinced the unity of the visi. ble church by a free communion with each other; notwithstanding they differed about rites and customs in wor. ship, forms of government, and subordinate points of doctrine, and even while they were allowedly imperfect in moral discipline. The Novatians and Donatists were the first sectaries that set up “ separate and restricted communions;” but this they did " upon the avowed principle that the Catholic church from which they withdrew, had ceased to be the church of Christ.” Had their plea been well founded, their conduct would have been correct; but their objection to the body of professors which they denounced, was wholly insufficient, being nothing more than this, that they were lax in discipline, and censurable for restoring lapsed persons.
Passing over the dark ages of the Church, our author next proves,
that the Reformed Churches manifested the same spirit, and copied the example of the Apostolical age. They denied the Roman Catholic community to be any portion of the Catholic Christian Church; but as a general rule, the Protestants held communion in the Lord's supper with all whom they acknowledged to belong to Christ, by a credible profession of Christianity. “ The first instance," says Dr. M. “in which one of the reformed churches openly renounced the fellowship of another;"> occurred through the influence of Archbishop Laud, in 1634. Until his high church pretensions were set up, and the non-conformists were ejected, the Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and Congregationalists of Great Britain continued to have fellowship in the breaking of sacramental bread. “The English ANABAPTists, in 1644, while the Westminster Assembly was sitling, published their confession of faith, which was strictly Calvanistical, excepting in the article of baptism, but on account of that difference they declined communion with the other reformed churches,-a narrowness which greatly displeased and scandalized their Christian neighbours." p. 256.
In later times, nearly every denomination of Christians
has, in a greater or less degree, followed this pernicious example. The most unreasonable and senseless divi. sions, that have prevented the intercommunion of Chris. tians, have been exhibited among the Presbyterians. There are at least eight different sects of us, that have substantially the same creed and form of government. Five of these adhere to the very same Confession of Faith. And yet the professing Christians of these Presbyterian sects, have generally speaking, had as little intercourse of a religious nature, with each other, until lately, as the Baptisis, and the Episcopalians. We refer to the Presby. terian Church in the United States, to the Reformed Presbyterians, to the Associate Presbyterians, to the Associate Reformed Presbyterians, to the Cumberland Presbyterians, to the German Calvinists, to the German Lutherans, and to the Reformed Dutch Church. The first of these bodies, with the exception of a few congregations, has always offered a seat at the Lord's table to any member known to be in regular standing with any one of these, or of the Congregational Churches. But it is only a late thing that some of the Associate Reformed, and Reformed Dutch Churches have returned the Christian courtesy, or accepted of the invitation. In remonstrating with all visible Christians who practically excommunicate one another, Dr. M. is uncommonly eloquent; and his delineation of "the consequences of sec. tarian, as opposed to Catholic communion,” is executed in a very impressive stylc. Every professor of the religion of Jesus in America, who is an advocate for restricting communion to his own sect, ought to read this book with attention; and ought to feel himself bound to answer it, or to relinquish his excluding scheme.
The most plausible objection that can be brought against the practice which we recommend to our fellow Christians, is, that it has a tendency to render nugatory all our contentions for the faith once delivered to the saints, and exertions to render our brethren sound in doctrine and discipline. Dr. M. has sufficiently refuted this statement. We would, at all proper times, write, preach, and pray, against all the erroneous sentiments of our brethren in Christ: and we would refuse to ordain