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this moment of the church of Scotland-of both branches of the secession in that country and Ireland-of the Reformed Presbytery ; of the Synod of Relief in Scotland—of a large body of English Independents--and of all, or nearly all, the American churches which have descended from them : that is, we have the professed faith of all the Presbyterian churches in Scotland, Ireland, and America (the Associate Reformed Church being one,)—and of the body of English and American Independents. When we shall have settled the doctrine of communion, as taught in the Westminster confession, we shall also have settled the principle which these churches, at least the Presbyterian part of them, have solemnly adopted and promised to observe, as the rule of their ecclesiastical conduct. With this general clue let us go to the " Confession of faith.” The 26th chapter is entitled:
66 Of COMMUNION OF SAINTS:"
the doctrine concerning which it lays down in the following terms:
6 All Saints that are united to Jesus Christ their head, by his Spirit and by faith, have fellowship with him in his graces, sufferings, death, resurrection, and glory. And, being united to one another in love, they have communion in
each other's gists and graces, and are obliged to the performance of such duties, publick and private, as do conduce to their mutual good, both in the inward and outward man.”
“II. Saints by profession are bound to maintain an holy fellowship and communion in the worship of God, and in performing such other spiritual services as tend to their mutual edification: as also in relieving each other in outward things, according to their several abilities and necessities. Which communion, as God offereth opportunity, is to be extended unto all those who in every place call upon the name of the Lord Jesus.”
This latter section describes, apparently, the communion which ought to subsist between professed Christians in their relation to each other as visible members of the church of God; asserting their joint title to, and interest in, all the privileges of his house, and their duty to participate therein with each other, as they have opportunity, upon the single ground of their being followers of the Lord Jesus.
Let us view it a little more closely.
The parties are 6 saints by profession:", i. e. those who make a credible profession of religion --whom, according to the rules of scriptural judgment, we are to acknowledge as fellowchristians.
The communion which they are to cherish with each other is defined in its nature, its extent, and in the principle of its application. Its nature is threefold. It consists : :
1. In social worship.
They are partners with each other in all that is comprehended under “ the worship of God:" i. e. his instituted ordinances in his church.'
This partnership is to be avowed and expressed by open acts of mutual recognition--they are “to maintain an holy fellowship and communion in the worship of God.”
Their recognition of each other is not a matter of choice or discretion, which they may do, or omit, as they please. It is a duty which they are not at liberty to forego—an imperative obligation upon their consciences--they are bound" to maintain this communion.
2. In acts of religious good-will, which, though they fall not directly under the “worship of God," are yet “such spiritual services as tend to their mutual edification.”
3. “In relieving each other in outward things according to their several abilities and necessities.”
As to the extent of this communion in all its branches it is to embrace Christians as such :
• 1. Of every denomination even - all who call upon the name of the Lord Jesus." . .
2. Of every country and clime-even all who “in every place” call upon him. . .
The application of this doctrine is to be regulated by providential occurrences':- as God offereth opportunity." When you do not force an occasion by the neglect of more pressing duties; but when in his providence he fairly puts it in your way, you are not to shum, but thankfully to accept such an opportunity” of testifying your love to his people by joining with them in the ordinances dispensed among them, or welcoming them to the ordinances dispensed among yourselves. I,!; in : . -:, This seems to be a simple interpretation of the article before us. Such an one as a man of plain sense and upright heart, without any previous bias, and regarding only the terms in which it is couched, would put upon it. And if such is, indeed, its meaning, there can be no further debate. The churches concerned have decided, by their own publick confession, in favour of a communion as catholick and generous as that of the Apostolick and Primitive and Protestantages: and nothing remains for them but to show, by their example, that they believe their own doctrinethat the profession which they are in the habit of
making to God and to man, is a fair exhibition of their principles.
But the point will not be so easily yielded. The respected brethren and venerable fathers with whom this plea remonstrates, make a distinction which they think clears them from the charge of inconsistency, and conciliates their contracted communion with their adherence to the Westminster confession. They distinguish between church-communion and the communion of saints; or, as they sometimes express it, Christian communion. By the first, viz. church-communion, they understand communion with a church in her social character, as organized under a particular form of doctrine, government, and worship. By the second, viz. the communion of saints or Christian communion, they understand that communion which subsists between Christians as individuals simply, without reference to their church-connex-. ion at all. And some have even limited this communion, at least in the extent of the confession in the article cited above, to ministering with our substance, by communications of it to supply the necessities of the saints, or, in doing other offices of kindness :”” which they suppose,"is fully evident from the scriptures quoted by the venerable assembly at Westminster in support of that