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O yes. Why, then, will you not hold commu .. nion with them?” The reply was in the very words quoted, God may hold communion with those with whom we may not."* The objection is, then, worthy of a serious examination.
It must have one of three senses, viz.
Either that God holds secret communion with some with whom his people, who are vitally united to Christ, can have no such communion:
Or, That God holds secret communion with some with whom his professing people may not hold publick communion:
Or, That God holds publick communion with some with whom his church may not hold it.
According to the first of these senses, the proposition is neither sound in itself, nor relative to the argument.
Not sound in itself-God holds no secret communion with an unregenerated man. And all regenerated men have, in virtue of union with Christ their head, both union and communion with each other-union and communion utterly independent on their own will; and which they can neither break nor avoid.
Not relative to the argument-For the ques
* The same principle is stated more at length, though with some confusion, in Wilson's Defence of the Reformation-principles of the church of Scotland, p. 70. 1769.
tion is not about invisible and secret, but about visible and publick communion. - In its second sense, the proposition is true, but not more applicable than in the first. For no intelligent Christian will admit that things which are an absolute secret between God and the soul, can be a rule of proceeding to his church: nor is the right of communion with her ever placed on such a footing.
In the third, which is its only remaining sense, viz. that “God holds publick communion with some with whom his church may not;" the proposition is, indeed, strictly applicable; but, at the same time, materially incorrect.
1. It runs directly counter to the strain of scriptural authority. .6'That which we have seen and heard," says John the beloved, “ declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.99* .. .. ..
The gospel, according to this apostle, is :" declared” with a view of conferring upon men those blessed privileges, that transcendently valuable interest, of which he and his fellow-believers had already the possession. He calls it fellowship;"> i.e. communion, or an interest “common” to all concerned. But wherein consists its value ? What renders it so ineffably desirable and glorious ? This: “Our fellowship, our communion,” saith the apostle, “is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ." Now if our communion with God is a sufficient reason for inviting others to communion with us; then his communion with others is a sufficient reason for our communion with them. For our invitation must be addressed to believers or to unbelievers. If to believers, it can be nothing short of a cordial welcome to participate with us in all our privileges as the “ sons of God;" and so the apostle has settled the question of the whole communion which Christians can have together; and settled it exactly and explicitly upon this principle, that they have communion with God. If, on the other hand, our invitation is to unbelievers; it can méan nothing short of an earnest exhortation to become sharers with us, by faith, in all that fellowship which flows from our fellowship with God. And would it not be singularly inconsistent, thus to invite unbelievers upon the very argument and plea that “our communion is with God;" and the moment they become believers, and shew that their communion also is with God, to turn round and tell them that communion with hin is a
* 1 John, 1.3. Nici
not a sufficient warrant for communion with us?
Again; the apostle Paul lays upon Christians the following injunction;:“ Receive ye one another as Christ also received us to the glory of God."*
This receiving" can be interpreted of nothing but of their embracing each other in all holy affection and fellowship; for so Christ had « received” them. The injunction has for its immediate object the repression of those jealousies; alienations, and divisions, which had originated, or were likely to originate, from the dispute about meats and days in the church at Rome. But the rule is general; and has decided,
That matters which destroy not communion with Christ are not to destroy the communion of Christians : But
That when one Christian, or party of Christians, sees the tokens of Christ's approbation and presence with another, the warrant is perfect, and the duty imperative, to reciprocate all the offices of Christian love, with a kindness and generosity modelled after Christ's example to them both. If this does not import a command to hold communion, charch-communion, with all who give evidence of being in communion with Christ; and precisely for that reason, it will be
* Rom. xv. 7.
difficult to find a commandment in the Bible. - There is no cause, therefore," says Calvin in - his commentary on the preceding verse, “there
is no cause for a man's boasting that he will glorify God in his own way. For of so great mo; ment in God's sight is the unity of his servants,
that he will not permit his glory to sound forth. amidst dissensions and strifes. This one thought ** should effectually restrain that mad passion for
contest and quarrel which fills the minds of many at the present day."* 11" 2. The objection is subversive of all churchcommunion whatsoever. : :
Visible Christianity; i. e. a profession and walk : such as we have a right to expect from the dis
ciples of Christ, is the only and the uncontested
ground of ecclesiastical fellowship. . .: But what is this “ visible Christianity ?" This
profession and walk of Christ's disciples?" Why is it required ? And what is its use? Is it 1 any thing else than the external effect and indica
tion of communion with God? Is it of any other .. use in the present question than to ascertain, as , far as can be ascertained by outward evidence, , that its possessors are the people of God? If,
then, communion with him-if being his people, owned of him as such, is not, of itself, a suf
* CALV. Opp: T. vii. p. 99.