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article."* The confession is therefore considered not as treating of communion with a church at all, but simply of that brotherly love which should adorn the private intercourse of those who are called by the name of Christ.
If the distinction here stated, and as stated, be sound, and the interpretation depending upon it genuine, the Westminster confession must doubtless be expunged from our roll of witnesses. But if it should prove to be altogether untenable, and the interpretation founded upon it to be in direct repugnance to the article which it is employed to explain, the refuge of our opposing brethren will be swept away.
In combatting their distinction, which he holds to be erroneous and hurtful, the authour trusts to their candour for acquitting him from the imputation of disrespect. He feels both regret and grief at the necessity imposed on him, of differing from brethren whom he esteems and loves, with whom he has taken, and hopes yet to take “sweet counsel together, and to go to the house of God in company”—from fathers whose shoe's latchet he is scarce worthy to unloose—from churches which have been and are valiant for the truth, and which
* RE-EXHIBITION OP TAE TESTIMONY by the (Burgher) A650CIATE SYNOD, 1778. Page 178, note *
have distinguished themselves for their fidelity to the testimony of Jesus. It was in their own school, by imbibing their own spirit, that he first learned to call no man master upon earth;" and he would not pay them so miserable a compliment as to refrain from pointing out their mistake, from an unmanly fear of coming short in the duties of tenderness and respect. The weight of their names, the strength of their habits, and the importance which they attach to the distinction before us, not only justify, but demand a close and full investigation.
It must strike every thinking reader as somewhat extraordinary, that the communion of a church made up of visible saints-of Christians, should not be the communion of saints, nor Christian communion! If the communion which, in publick worship, saints hold with saints, as such, is not " communion of saints”-which Christians there hold with Christians, is not “ Christian communion,” what is it? Do the Christians disappear when the church assembles? Do the saints become unsainted the moment they sit down at the Lord's table; so that their communion in his body and blood is not the communion of saints, nor at all signified by that expression ? To say the least, here is a smack of Babel : a strange confusion of human speech! the words certainly do not sound so: nor is it conceivable how such a construction of them should suggest itself to any man's mind, unless he had been reduced to great straits by the pressure of some importunate argument; and could fall upon no other means to extricate himself.
Nor is it less extraordinary, that an instrument prepared, like the confession of faith, with the most cautious deliberation; an instrument remarkable, above all other uninspired compositions, for denseness and perspicuity; for precision and amplitude, should treat professedly of the church of God; of her ministry, her ordinances, her worship--and contain not one syllable on that momentous topic, her communion! Should be explicit and minute on the private communiun of her members, and silent as death about their publick fellowship! That the very framers of this in-. strument should write letters full of affection to foreign Protestant churches; and should avoid, studiously avoid, in their doctrine concerning the catholick church, every thing which might inform their correspondents in what light they were to be viewed-whether as fellow-com municants in their Christian privileges, or as a profane refuse of heathen men and publicans! It is absolutely incredible! Yet all this have they done, or neglected to do, if the chapter on the
5 communion of saints,” is rightly interpreted of Christian, to the exclusion of church-communion. Such an idea is the more inadmissible, as all the churches on both sides of the Atlantic, organized under the Westminster confession, are in the same predicament. There is not one of them whose authentick, standard confession of their faith respecting the church of God, so much as tells the other churches whether they even own them as brethren in the Lord or not! There is something wrong here: and it will be of no small service to the character of the churches of the Westminster confession, to set it right. For this end it will be proper,
1. To ascertain the meaning of the phrase, « Communion of saints.”
2. To examine the internal evidence of the confession itself, coupled with the larger and shorter Catechisms, which are only different forms of the same body of general doctrine.
3. To compare these results with the views of church-communion which are known to have prevailed about the period of which the Westminster Assembly is the most conspicuous incident.
1. For ascertaining the meaning of the phrase “communion of saints,” let it be remembered, that at the time of forming the Westminster confession it had been of long use in the church of God: so that it had become familiar as a technical expression; and may, therefore, be taken only in its known and established sense. It passed into the language of the churches from that brief summary of Christian doctrine, called the “Apostles' creed." And as the Westminster divines have annexed that summary to their own more enlarged work, they have taught us that they understood the phrase "communion of saints" in the sense which is affixed to it by the Apostles? creed, and which had been received without contradiction or variance down to their own day.'
That little compend was current in the Christian world without the clause "communion of saints," until the end of the fourth, or beginning of the fifth century. It was gradually, but very cautiously and sparingly, enlarged, as occasion required. And it was an occasion of some deep and universal interest which could avail for introducing a new clause into a formula of such high authority, such boundless adoption, and such extreme brevity. Some point of primary magnitude in the faith of the whole Christian world, and which it was deemed necessary to maintain by a corresponding testimony, must have been assailed--some errour calculated to alarm the church s from the one end of heaven even to the other end of heaven," must have been broached, to cause