« AnteriorContinuar »
sin, to render it necessary for the Lord of glory to die on the cross, to make an adequate atonement. “If one died for all,” and one so infinitely dignified and glorious, “ then were all dead,” dead in trespasses and sins. To commune together, therefore, in the use of the symbols of Christ's death, is virtually to commune on the affect. ing o: of human depravity and guilt, as well as of divine love.
The design of this sacrament, therefore, is two-fold. 1. To express the infinite guilt and wretchedness of fallen man ; and 2. To manifest the riches of divine mercy, in his redemption and salvation. By a view of our guilt and condemnation, as they appear in the light of Christ's sufferings on the cross; repentance and humiliation are excited. And by a view of the infinite mercy of Christ, displayed in his sufferings for us; faith, hope and joy are excited. For these important purposes, was the ordinance of the Lord's supper institutedThese effects of the Lord’s supper . not take place, however, except in humble and pious minds. Proud and impenitent hearts are disgusted with a clear view of the import of Christ's sufferings on the cross. They do not realize their sin and guilt, as they are represented in this awful scene; nor can they place their hope and confi. dence in the bleeding and dying Saviour. To them, Christ crucified is a “stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence.” They can see no propriety in the doctrines and ordinances of the cross. In every thing which is self-exalting or self-gratifying, they can have fellowship with one another; but in nothing which is self-condemning, like the sacramental Supper. This ordinance is, in every view, self-abasing. Whatever we read in the scriptures, respecting the price of our redemption; we find applied to ourselves, when we contemplate Christ crucified. Do we read of the inflexible justice of God: It is seen and realized in Christ crucified. Do we read the necessity of evangelical repentance, and faith in Christ P and of personal holiness P These are clearly realized, when we look on Christ crucified. Surely, he, who died on the cross, to vindicate and magnify the divine law, while he opened a door of mercy to sinners, must be an infinite enemy to sin; and an infinite advocate for holiness. Do we read, that the only foundation of pardon and hope, is laid in the great work of redemption by Jesus Christ? This is realized, by a view of Christ crucified. For surely, if pardon and hope could have come by the deeds of the law, or by any other means, Christ would not have died for our sins. If justification might have been obtained by the law, Christ is dead in vain. In short, the death of Christ confirms all his doctrines: all are sealed with his precious blood. In a correct view of the import of his death, which was, “that God might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth;” we see displayed and vindicated, the sum and substance of all the laws, doctrines, promises, and threatenings of the bible. The doctrine of Christ crucified is the dividing line, between christianity and infidelity. On these accounts, the sacrament of the Lord’s supper is infinitely important and interesting. It is a commemoration of all that is divinely true, and specially interesting to the souls of mankind. And, as a means of growth in grace, no one thing is to be compared with it.
From the nature of this ordinance, which is the key, that opens to view the whole plan of the gospel; we see the great importance of being enlightened, united and harmonious, in our fellowship one with another; in order to commune, with profit and acceptance, at the table of the Lord. The Apostle speaks of some who “ eat and drink damnation to themselves, not discerning the Lord's body g’” not perceiving the true import of his sufferings; and not having those humble and devout exercises of heart, which ought to be excited by a view of Christ crucified. Would we avoid a perversion of this holy ordinance; we must, in the first place, well understand it; and, with great humility of heart, we must embrace, that very gospel, whose doctrines and precepts it seals, establishes, and commemorates. On these conditions, and by these means, we may, through divine grace, enjoy real christian fellowship. We may grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. We may be strengthened to mortify our own corruptions; to “crucify the flesh, with its affections and lusts.” We may be enabled to glorify the name and religion of Christ, before an ungodly world, We may be instrumental of conveying the knowledge of the divine Redeemer, and the savor of divine truth, to all nations. And when we sit down at the table of Christ, to celebrate his dying love, we may be prepared in heart, “ to keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness ; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” On this subject, some practical queries arise, which deserve a serious consideration. One is this; Ought a member of the church to attend, and sit down to communion, having a certain knowledge, but no means of proof,
that one or more of the communicants are guilty of cen
surable crimes P. The answer must be in the affirmative, for the following reasons : 1. In the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, our communion is not with individuals, but with the church, as a body. In the present degenerate age, we can hardly expect, that any of the churches should be so pure, as to be in a state of perfect fellowship among all its individu. als. Yet so long as no visible offence or scandal appears, all the members are bound to treat each other visibly, as
inoffensive brethren and sisters. And although it is .
painful to sit down with known offenders, and with those
for whom we have no christian fellowship; yet, in this,
case, we must bear the burden which we cannot remove. Care must be taken to cultivate fellowship with the body; however corrupt we may consider some of its members, 2. If we forsake the communion of the church, On account of private and unproveable offences in individuals, we expose ourselves to a censure, from which we cannot be exonerated. We can give no reason for our absenting from communion, without impeaching, and criminating others, without any proof. We expose ourselves, therefore, to be cut off for slander. We may labor privately, with a private offender. But, in no way, is it lawful to express our censure publicly,
Another query is this ; Is it proper for those who are under a course of discipline to be indulged in christian communion ? The answer to this query must also be in
the affirmative, with some proper exceptions. , All the
steps and measures taken with a supposed offender, pre-
existed, and transacted any thing, as churches, the holy communion must be supported. This should be a standing rule, to all generations. So important is this ordi. nance, that a neglect of it is, in fact, soon followed with the utter ruin of those churches which make the experi. then #.
FEw subjects have been unhappily encumbered with
so great a variety of jarring opinions, as the subject of church government. On this important subject, not only nominal christians, but also learned and pions christian divines, have been, and still are, unhappily divided in opinion. A gradation of opinions and practices exists, from the pontifical, down to the congrega. tional form of government.
Another consideration, much to be lamented is, that, generally speaking, the churches have been led to adopt certain forms of government, by which they have been deprived, more or less, of the important, and unalienable right of self-government.
Not aiming to excite a controversy with any beloved brethren, in whose modes of government, there may be shades of difference from that which is denominated congregational ; the objects of this essay may be, first to establish this mode of government, as respects the churches and their presbyteries ; and then to state and illustrate, from the scriptures, a plan for the consociation of the churches.
1. It is evident from the scriptures, that although & church of Christ, duly organized, possesses the right of self-government, yet it is to be well considered, that, in the high and important transactions of an ecclesiastical nature, the churches probably, never acted, while under