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understanding of men in all the modifications of their intercourse.
The true and only safe rule of interpreting social communion is, that it always goes so far as the acts which express it; but is not, necessarily, to be considered as extending further.
This rule is of inspired authority. If any of them that believe not, says Paul, bid you to a feast, and
ye be disposed to go: whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake. But if any man say unto you, “ This is offered in sacrifice unto idols," eat not.*
The apostle here resolves a case of conscience: viz. A Pagan invites his Christian neighbour to an entertainment. May he lawfully accept the invitation ?
The inviter sustains a threefold character-as a host--as an infidel_and as an idolater. Thus situated, he asks his Christian friend to eat with him ? " What shall I do?” “Go,” says the you be so inclined."
< But how shall I conduct myself with regard to my food; as, in all probability, some of the dishes will be made up of flesh that has been sacrificed to idols ?" “ Raise no scruples," rejoins the apostle. “You were invited to dine-you go to dine. Your communion with your host is neither in his
* 1. Cor. x. 27.
infidelity nor his idolatry, but simply in his din
“What! if part of that dinner has been offered to idols?" " That is no concern of
yours. The creature is in itself good; it is God's creature: it was granted to you for food-its blood having been shed before an idol's altar injures the flesh no more than if it had been shed in the slaughter-house. You have nothing to do with it but as meat. Receive it with thankfulness, and ask no questions.” “But if my host should tell me, this meat is a sacrifice to his idol-god ?!" The case is entirely altered. There is a new condition introduced. You are now invited to fellowship not only in meat, but in idolatry also. Your course is plain. Eat not—not a mouthful: or you are a partaker in your neighbour's sin.”
The doctrine of the apostle relieves us at once from the difficulty started by the objection under review, and furnishes us with a sure and easy rule of conscience in regard to church-fellowship, viz. No particular act of communion is to be interpreted as reaching beyond ITSELF, unless it be coupled with other acts by an EXPRESS Or KNOWN condition.
If, therefore, I sit down at the table of the Lord in another church, or receive one of her members to that holy table in my own, neither my act nor his can fairly be construed as more than an act of communion in the body and blood of
the Lord.” Neither of us has, by virtue of that act, any thing to do with the defects of our respective churches in other matters. “There are errours in doctrine”—you cry—“there are corruptions in worship—there is unscriptural government-there is neglect of discipline!"
Be it so. Are these declensions such as consist with“ holding the head?” If not, I have fallen in with a synagogue of Satan.” And the question has no reference to communion with Satan or his synagogues. If they are; then is a seat at the Lord's table declared or understood to be a sign of my approving them? If it is, Paul has decided for me. The table to me is not the table of the Lord. But if there is no such condition, the sins of my fellow-worshippers are their own: and shall not stand in the way of my testimony to Christ my passover crucified for me.
“But if by communicating with a church you do not acknowledge all that belongs to her, what do you acknowledge ? Much, very much. I acknowledge her to be a church, a true church of Jesus Christ-I acknowledge her sacramental table for his own ordinance; where it is my duty to shew forth his death, and my privilege to look for a blessed experience of its benefitsThis, all this, I acknowledge: acknowledge cheerfully; and can do it without following her directly or indirectly in those things in which she does not follow Christ.
Instead, therefore, of the sacraments being party-ordinances among Christians; i.e.ordinances in which we bind ourselves to a sect; they are precisely those which are divested of every sectarian quality and mark—those whose place is emphatically in the church-catholick as such ; and which it is impossible, without profane violence, to carry over the threshold of any sectarian temple whatever. Yes, the holy table is the badge of no party but the party of the Son of God. It is here that they who “know his name and put their trust in him,” may and should unite their homage to his cross and their fealty to his service, upon the broad and glorious ground of his having " loved them and washed them from their sins in his own blood.” This is the place where Christians are not to put on, but to put off, the sectarian, and to say each to his brother, “ Beloved, let us Love one another; for love is of God."
Long as this article is, it cannot be finished without removing another difficulty. "If we are thus to hold communion with visible Christians and Christian churches, how shall we obey the scriptures ?” What scriptures? “All those which require us to keep ourselves pure-To have no fellowship with unfruitful works of darkness—to come out and be separate especially, to withdraw from every brother that walketh disorderly." The answer is short. All such scriptures are misapplied. Commandments to separate from idolatry—from the world which lieth in wickedness from the mother of harlots and abominations of the earthfrom fellowship with men of any sort in their sins, are indeed abundant, plain, and peremptory. But a commandment for one believer whose conversation is as becometh the gospel, to refuse communion with another-for one church of the Lord Jesus to refuse communion with anothersuch a commandment is not in the Bible, nor any thing like it. The commandments of Christ, as has been proved above, are all of a contrary complexion. He does not enjoin, he forbids such a refusal.
The passage from 2 Thess. iii. 6, Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our LORD JEsus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly and not after the tradition which
ye received of us, has met with peculiar hardships. Modern separatists plead it as a direct warrant for their separation; and they may all plead it with equal propriety. In the primitive church, however, it was quoted the other way-against the separatists; and quoted as being decisive for their condemnation. Not they who