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upon no slight grounds, not concerning the avowed doctrine of the Associate Reformed Church, respecting Christian communion, but concerning her almost invariable practice on that point. It has been, it is at this moment, more than doubted, whether the rigour of her restrictive communion corresponds with the genius of the gospel; with the best spirit of the best churches in the best of times ; or with her own professed principles. The writer of these pages confesses that such has been long the state of his own mind. Considerations of public delicacy, induced him, for a number of years, not merely to abstain from the use of his liberty, but to forego what he accounted a high evangelical privilege ; and to submit to these sacrifices under the painful apprehension, at least on some occasions, that he might be found to have lent himself to mere party passions, when he ought to have immolated them on the altar of love to Jesus Christ, in expressions of love which he was compelled to deny even to those who bore the image of Christ.* He has not been alone in this embarrassment. And he is far from regretting an event which led him and others of his brethren to an exchange of communion most consonant, as they believe, to the divine word, and to the very letter and spirit of that form of sound doctrine which, in the most solemn moment of their lives, 'under the oath of God in their ordination-vows, they bound themselves to maintain and to apply. He cannot regret such an event, because it invites a free discussion, and may conduct to a comfortable decision, of the great question concerning “the communion of saints." With this view he solicits calm and candid attention, while he endeavours to trace, without disguise, the general course of those reflections and reasonings of which the result has created so much public agitation.
* One of these occasions it is impossible for him to forget. He had been distributing tokens of admission to the Lord's supper. After the congregation had retired, he perceived a young woman at the lower end of an aisle reclining on a pew in a pensive attitude. As he approached her, she said, “Sir, I am afraid I have done wrong po Why, what have you done? " I went up with the communicants, and received a token, but am not a member of your church; and I could not be at rest till I spoke to you about it.” To what church do you belong ?
“ To the Dutch church : and, if you wish it, I can satisfy you of my character and standing there.” But what made you come for a token without mentioning the matter before ?
“I had not an opportunity, as I did not know in time that your communion was to be next Lord's day. I am sorry if I have done wrong: but I expect to leave the city on Tuesday; and to be absent, I cannot tell how long, in a part of the country where I shall have no opportunity of communing ; and I wished, once more before I went away, to join with Christians in showing forth my Saviour's death.” He consulted a moment with the church-oficers who were still present; and it was thought most expedient not to grant her request. He communicated this answer as gently as possible to the modest petitioner. She said not another word; but with one hand giving back the token, and with the other putting up her kerchief to her eyes, she turned away, strug. gling with her anguish, and the tears streaming down her cheeks. How did his heart smite him! He went home exclaiming to himself, “ Can this be right? Is it possible that such is the law of the Redeener's house P It quickened his inquiries; his inquiries strengthened his doubts; and have terminated in the conviction that it was altogether wrong.
The Scriptural Doctrine.
STRANGE as it may appear, it is nevertheless true, that men who have the bible in their hands as their only rule of faith and practice, appeal immediately to its testimony, for their justification, but very rarely for their information. They take for granted that their peculiarities are right, and that the only use of the scripture is to prove them. Much is gained when, instead of putting their language into the mouth of the book of God, the book of God is allowed to sit in judgment upon themselves, and to pronounce its own verdict. This is that course of truth which, however feebly, we shall endeavour to follow. So that our leading inquiry contemplates the direct doctrine of the scripture concerning Christian fellowship.
We must go to first principles:
There is no point more fully settled in the scriptures, than this, that
The Church of God is ONE.
It were endless to collect all the proofs. Let one suffice. Paul, or rather the Holy Ghost, who spake by his mouth and wrote with his pen,
has thus represented it. 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.
This analogy between man's ŋatural body and the spiritual body of Christ, which he elsewhere declares to be the church,t Paul presses at great length, and with unusual minuteness. He does it, as any one who shall seriously peruse the context may see, with the design of reproving, and, if possible, destroying that vain glorious temper which had infected the Corinthian converts; each one arrogating to himself, or to that class with which his gifts more immediately connected him, a peculiar pre-eminence and sanctity; as if he and his associates were the special favourites of God, and enjoyed so exclusively the nobler ministrations of the Spirit, as to justify their contempt of others whom they thought to be less distinguished. In order to demonstrate the unreasonableness and unrighteousness of such conduct, he lays
* 1 Cor. xii. 12-14.
+ Eph. i. 22, 23. jii. 16. iv. 3--13.