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the insertion of a new member into that miniature body of doctrine which contained the radical faith of all believers from the rising to the setting sun. What was it? Amidst all the heresies which infested the church for four hundred years, had any one denied the obligation upon Christians in their private capacity to cultivate brotherly kindness ?-to intermingle their Christian affections?-to abound in deeds of munificence for each other's comfort, and for the furtherance of the gospel ? * Was there any doubt upon this head? And can it be imagined that the publick creed, which Christians held sacred, was enlarged for the purpose of asserting what nobody disputed? This will not bear inquiry.
* When the coldness and niggardliness of Christians among us toward the most glorious objects of pious effort, are compared with the ardour and bounty of the primitive believers, one cannot help smiling, though in bitterness, at CYPRIAN's complaint, that in his day, A. D. 951. Christians had so far degenerated from their first love, as not to give the TENTH part of their substance to religious uses!!! Nunc, says he, de patrimonio nec decimas damus!! (De unit : eccles : p. 120.) The writer knows a congregation of very decent professors, in a very snug way of living, who some years since gave, among them ALL, fifty dollars to a seminary out of which the word of the gospel is expected to go forth to feed their own children with the “ bread of God;" and the last account of them is, that “they have not yet got over this Herculean exertion !” He mourns to add, that there are others, and they not poor, who give nothing, or next to nothing; and yet claim a full and even preponderating share of the fruits for whieh they have not laboura ed, and which have been raised by men more indigent than themselves. O Saviour, do these people love thee? Shame, where is thy blush !
The troubles created by the Donatists began near the commencement of the fourth century, and raged with violence for a long series of years. Their schism, as was shown above, consisted precisely in their breaking off from the Catholick church, and refusing to hold communion with churches that were not of their own body. Prior to this event the clause under discussion was not in the Apostles' creed; nor is it to be found in any of the editions of that instrument which have been preserved in writings of an earlier date. The creed simply said," I believe in the Holy Catholick church, the forgiveness of sins, &c. But after the schism of the Donatists, in the time of AUGUSTIN their great antagonist, it appears with the communion of saints,” between these two clauses; and reads, “ I believe in the Holy Catholick church, the COMMUNION OF SAINTS, the forgiveness of sins,” &c.
The fact is conclusive. We have here the reason and origin of the phrase. It was to maintain the principle of the union and communion of the Catholick church, against the schismatical doctrine and conduct of the Donatists; and so it is paraphrased by its learned historian and commentator, Sir PETER KING.
“ The term Saints," says he,“ being explained, it will not be difficult to apprehend the meaning of the other term Communion ; which naturally
appears to be this; that there is, and ought to be, a mutual intercourse and society, fellowship and communion, in all usual and regular ways, between the several respective churches and congregations of Christians and believers, whereby they declare unto the whole world, that although both necessity and convenience oblige them to assemble in distinct places, and compose different societies, yet, nevertheless, they are all members of one and the same body of which Jesus Christ is the head : that they are all guided by the same spirit, communicate in the same institutions, and are governed by the same general rules; so that whatsoever is regularly performed and determined in one congregation, is assented to by all others; and whosoever is received to communion in one church, is freely admitted into any other.” *
It is, therefore, clear that the phrase “communion of saints," was, originally, so far from signifying what is now called “ Christian communion” in opposition to “church-communion,” that it signified exactly, or nearly, the reverse: i. e. it not only comprehended, but strictly and properly expressed, and was put into the creed for the very purpose of expressing, church-communion. And although it is couched in terms which fairly em
* King's Critical History of the Apostles' Creed. p. 342, 343, London, 1719. 8vo.
brace the whole fellowship of believers, so as to allow that latitude of exposition which it receives in the Westminster confession; yet its immediate, primary, and chief, if not sole intention, was to assert the obligation upon all the churches of God throughout the world, to commune with each other in the most solemn offices of religion, as his providence should furnish them with opportunities.
In this reigning sense was it handed down to posterity, and understood at the reformation more than eleven centuries after its adoption.
The Helvetic confession
Explains the church to be “a company of believers called or collected out of the world; adding, “I mean a communion of all the saints; viz. of them who really know the true God, in Christ the Saviour, by his word and spirit, who worship him aright; finally, who by faith participate in all the benefits which are freely offered to them through Christ. All these are citizens of one city, living under the same Lord, and the same laws, in the same participation of all good things. For so the Apostle has called them; (fellow-citizens with the saints and of the household of God:) Bestowing the appellation of saints' upon believers on
earth, who are sanctified by the blood of the son of God. Eph. 2. 1. Cor. 6. Of whom is by all means to be understood that article of the creed, I believe in the Holy Catholic church, THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS." *
Here the “communion of saints” is pronounced to be the same, as the “holy catholick church;' so that whatever the communion is, it is churchcommunion. Nor can this be evaded by urging that the confession has restricted the definition of the church to true believers. It has so: but then it is of believers as they profess Christ, and are openly on his side, forming, throughout the world, one great society organized under his laws. It considers real Christians to be, strictly speaking, the church. But men cannot see into each other's hearts. There is no other way of our knowing
* Quando autem Deus ab initio salvos voluit fieri homines, et ad ag.. nitionem veritatis venire, oportet omnino semper fuisse, nunc esse, et ad finem seculi futuram esse Ecclesiam:i. e. e mundo evocatum vel collectum cætum fidelium ; Sanctorum, inquam, omnium communionem; ! eorum videlicet, qui Deum verum in Christo Servatore per verbum et Spiritum Sanctum vere colunt; denique omnibus bonis per Christum gratuito oblatis fide participant. Sunt isti omnes unius civitatis cives, viventes sub eodem Domino, sub iisdem legibus, in eadem omnium bonorum participatione. Sic enim hos concives Sanctorum et domesticos Dei appellavit Apostolus: Sanctos appellans fideles in terris, sanguine Filii Dei sanctificatos. Eph. 2. 1. Cor. 6. De quibus omnino intelligendus est symboli articulus, “ Credo sanctam Ecclesiam catholicam, sanctorum communionem."
Ap. SYNTAG. CONR. part 1. p. 50.