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partakers at the same table, and heirs to the same inheritance. "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no one shall see the Lord.”* "Now the God of Peace, that brought again from the dead, our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen."+
*Heb. xxii. 14.
Heb. xiii. 20, 21.
Excuses of professors for absenting themselves from the table of the Lord considered-and the duty of the church, in relation to such, stated.
ONE of the questions proposed to an adult, who is initiated into the church by baptism, requires him to promise, that he will persevere in the communion of our Christian Church, not only in the hearing of the word; but also in the use of the Lord's supper. * An engagement of this kind every professor is supposed to have made, either explicitly or implicitly,
* See quest. 4 in the "form for the administration of baptism
at the time of making his profession. Indeed the transaction speaks for itself: His very application to be received, as a professor, expressed a wish to partake of sealing ordinances. If this were not the object, we are at a loss to conceive what it could have been. And it is trifling with the church, as well as with the command of the great Head of the Church, to apply for the privileges of full communion-and then not improve them.
It is not a rash assumption, to assert that every person making a profession of religion enters into covenant with the church; and this covenant, like that which he is supposed to have previously-entered into with his Saviour, is a covenant never to be forgotten.* Its obligations are perpetual. When we enter into covenant with the Lord, we do it for eternity. When we enter into covenant with his church, it is a connexion which has a reference to eternity; and engages faithfulness in the church militant, until the Head of the Church shall be pleased to translate us to the church triumphant.
Yet, notwithstanding the correctness of these remarks, something like the doctrine of self-excommunication has crept into the church, in relation to the supper, as well as in relation to baptism. Fortunately, it has not been sanctioned by so many in the ministry. But error in government, as well as in doctrine, will spread, and, like a leprosy, diffuse itself over the whole system. The evil should be
* Jer. 1. §.
arrested as soon as it is discovered; and whenever this disease makes its appearance upon a member, the safety of the body requires that such member, unless a speedy cure be effected, should be amputated.
The fact cannot be concealed, nor denied, that in most of our churches, there are some professing members, who habitually absent themselves from the table of the Lord. And an idea seems to be cherished by some, who dare not openly avow it, that a professor may commune when he pleases, and refrain when he pleases; that he may commune regularly for a few years, and then withdraw himself, never more to return; nor even to be molested by impertinent questions, and troublesome citations, calling him to an account for his delinquency.Against all this, we feel constrained to enter our protest.
No man can introduce himself into the communion of any church: It is an act of the officers of the church. And no man can break the connexion between himself and the church, after it has been formed. The officers may, upon proper application, dismiss him with a view to a connexion in some sister church: They may excommunicate him for incorrigible wickedness; or the connexion may be broken up by the dispensation of death. But in no other way can his connexion with that particular church be brought to a close. And until it has been brought to a close, he is, and must remain, subject to the care and government of that church.
But, as professors who absent themselves occasionally from the table of the Lord, as well as those who withdraw `entirely, have their excuses to urge, in justification of their conduct, we propose now to notice their difficulties; and to state the duty of the church in relation to them.
1. The first excuse for not communing, urged by some, is unworthiness, on their own part, arising from a conscious neglect of duty. This is a case entitled to a degree of tenderness, although no justification can arise out of it for disobedience to a known and positive command. It is truly a lamentable case, when a professor, on the morning of a communion Sabbath, is so overwhelmed with a view of his past unfaithfulness, as to be ashamed to look up to God, and afraid to come to the Redeemer's table.
-But what is to be done? Past neglect cannot excuse us from the performance of a present duty. To stay back is adding neglect, to neglect and sin, to sin. It is a downward course; and the delinquent is in danger of waxing worse and worse, until he becomes a complete apostate!-Do you shudder at the thought of this? Then at once return to your duty, and your God. Adopt the advice, given to Job, and say: "That which I see not, teach thou me: If I have done iniquity, I will do no more." Repent sincerely of your past unfaithfulness; and with fixed resolutions, in dependance on the grace of God, to be stedfast in the covenant, renew your
*Chap. xxxiv. 32.
vows at the Redeemer's table. Who knows, but. there you may receive the grace that shall dispose and enable you to be faithful even unto death.
2. The second excuse I shall notice, as urged by same for absenting themselves from the communion table, is the unworthiness of other communicants, with whom they do not wish to associate in this holy ordinance. This is an excuse which, in ordinary cases, cannot be sustained by the church; and which the Lord Jesus Christ, who suffered Judas to have a place at the passover, and (as many suppose) at the supper too, notwithstanding he was acquainted with the state of his heart, certainly will not sustain. That the neglect of church officers, in not calling immoral professors to account, and dealing with them in a way of discipline, may grieve and wound the righteous, is readily admitted; but until they have taken constitutional proceedings against such unfaithful church officers, and sought a lawful redress of their grievances in vain,-and until the case has become extreme and hopeless-we cannot justify a recession from sealing ordinances.
But the objection does not contemplate extreme tases. And ten to one if the delinquent, who thus. attempts to justify himself, be not some self-righteous Pharisee, who has undertaken to judge of the piety of his neighbour, by the features of his countenance, or the fashion of his garments. "Who art thou that judgest another man's servant?-to his own master he standeth or falleth !"*
*Rom. xiv. 4.