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occasions accompany a positive institution, and not on others; and which being therefore no part of it, are not binding. It is a fact that the Lord's supper was first celebrated with unleavened bread; for no leaven was found at the time in all the Jewish habitations : but no mention being made of it, either in the institution, or in the repetition of it by the apostle, we conclude it was a mere accidental circumstance, no more belonging to the ordinance than its having been in a large upper room. It is a fact too, that our Lord and his disciples sat in a reclining posture at the supper, after the manner of sitting at their ordinary meals : yet none imagine this to be binding upon us. It is also a fact, with regard to the time that our Saviour first sat down with his disciples on the evening of the fifth day of the week, the night in which he was betrayed : but though that was a memorable night, and worthy to be noticed as a circumstance tending to show the strength of his love, yet seeing the words of the institution decide not how often it shall be attended to, and no mention is made of its being afterwards a rule, but, on the contrary, of the church at Troas meeting for the purpose on another day, no one imagines it to be a rule of conduct to us.
The same might be said of females being admitted to communion, a subject on which a great deal has been written of late years in the baptismal controversy. Wheiher there be express preceptor precedent for it, or not, is of no consequence : for the distinction of sex is a mere circumstance, in nowise affecting the qualifications required, and therefore not belonging to the institution. It is of just as much account as whether a believer be a Jew or a Greek, a slave or a free man ; that is, it is of no account at all.— For there is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female ; but all are one in Christ Jesus. Express precept or precedent might as well be demanded for the parties being tall or low, black or white, sickly or healthy, as for their being male or female. If the difference between a professed believer and an unconscious infant, with respect to baptism, were no greater than this with respect to the supper, we would allow it to be lawful to baptize the latter, though neither express precept nor precedent be found for the practice.
It follows, lastly, that many disputes, on which Christians have divided and crumbled into parties, might well have been spared,
and that without any disadvantage to the cause of pure religion. Whatever necessity there may be for withdrawing from those who walk disorderly, we have no warrant to consider those things as the standard of order, and to censure our brethren for deviating from them, which belong not to the laws of Christ, but either to a mere difference of opinion respecting their application, or to some accidental circumstance which may or may not attend them.
Finally, brethren: While you guard against the extremes of certain disciplinarians on the one hand, avoid those of anti-disciplinararians on the other. Allow us to repeat what was observed at the beginning, that an unreserved obedience to the revealed will of God, in whatever form it is delivered, is the scriptural test of faith and love. Prove what that good, perfect, and acceptable will of the Lord is. Do all things without murmurings and disputings. Remember that the wisdom which is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. Dearly beloved, farewell. The God of love and peace be with you.
THE PROMISE OF THE SPIRIT THE GRAND ENCOUR
AGEMENT IN PROMOTING THE GOSPEL.
In our last public Letter, we addressed you on the work of the Holy Spirit : in this we would direct your attention to the promise of the Spirit as the grand encouragement in promoting the spread of the gospel.
We take for granted that the spread of the gospel is the great object of your desire. Without this it will be hard to prove that you are Christian churches. An agreement in a few favourite opinions, or on one side of a disputed subject, or even a disagreement with others, will often induce men to form themselves into religious societies, and to expend much zeal, and much property, in accomplishing their objects ; but this is not Christianity. We may be of what is called a sect, but we must not be of a sectarian spirit, seeking only the promotion of a party. The true churches of Jesus Christ travail in birth for the salvation of men. They are the armies of the Lamb, the grand object of whose existence is to extend the Redeemer's kingdom..
About eighteen years ago, God put it into the hearts of a number of your ministers and members to do something for his name among the beathen ; the effect of which has been to give an impulse to those labours for the attainment of the same object in our several stations at home. The success which has followed is suffi. cient to induce us to press forward in the work, and to search after every direction and every consideration that may aid our progress.
The influence of the Holy Spirit is by some disowned, by others abused; and even those who are the subjects of it, from various causes, enjoy much less of it than might be expected.
Those who disown it, apply all that is said in the scriptures on the subject to the communication of miraculous and extraordinary gifts, as though the Lord had long since forsaken the earth, and men were now to be converted by the mere influence of moral suasion. It is on this principle that writers, according to the leaning which they have felt towards the opinions of this or that political party, bave represented the work of converting the heathen as either extremely easy, or absolutely impossible. It is not for us to acquiesce in either; but, while we despair of success from mere human efforts, to trust in Him, who, when sending forth bis servants to teach all nations, promised to be with them to the end of the world.
There are those, on the other hand, who abuse the doctrine, by converting it into an argument for sloth and avarice. God can convert sinners, say they, when he pleases, and without any exertions or contributions of ours. Yes, he can ; and probably he will.
Deliverance will arise from other quarters, and they who continue in this spirit will be destroyed!
Even those in whom the Spirit of God is, enjoy much less of it than might be expected; and this is principally for want of the things which were stated in our letter of last year; namely, setting a proper value upon it, seeking it with fervent prayer, placing an entire dependence upon it, and maintaining a deportment suita. ble to it. In proving, therefore, that the promise of the Holy Spirit is the grand encouragement in promoting the spread of the gospel, we have not merely to oppose the adversaries of the doctrine, but to instruct and impress the minds of its friends. With these ends in view, let us recommend to your consideration the following remarks.
First: The success of God's cause under the Old Testament was considered by believers in those days as depending entirely upon God.—God had a cause in the world from the earliest ages, and this it was which interested the hearts of his servants. It was for the setting up of bis spiritual kingdom in the world that he blessed the seed of Abraham, and formed them into a people. This was the work that he carried on from generation to generation among them. When, therefore, sentence was passed on the people who came up out of Egypt, that they should die in the wilderness, Moses, who on that occasion seems to have written the ninetieth Psalm, was deeply concerned, lest, in addition to temporal judgments, the Lord should withdraw from them his Holy Spirit. Let thy WORK (said he) appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children ; and let the beauty of Jehovah our God be upon us; and establish thou the work of our hands upon us: the work of our hands establish" thou it. It is worthy of notice that this prayer was answered. Though the first generation fell in the wilderness, yet the labours of Moses and his companions were blessed to the second. These were the most devoted to God of any generation that Israel ever saw. It was of them that the Lord said, I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown. Israel was holiness unto the Lord, and the first fruits of his increase. It was them that Balaam could not curse,
but though desirous of the wages of unrighteousness, was compelled lo forego them, and his curse turned into a blessing. We are taught by this case, amidst temporal calamities and judgments, in which our earthly hopes may be in a manner estinguished, to seek to have the loss repaired by spiritual blessings. If God's work does, but appear to us, and our posterity after us, we need not be dismayed at the evils which afflict the earth.
Similar remarks might be made on the state of the church at the captivity. When the temple was burnt, and the people reduced to slavery in a foreign land, it must seem as if the cause of God in the world would go to ruin. Hence the prayer of Habakkuk, O Lord, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid. O Lord, revive, or preserve alive Thy work in the midst of the years : in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy Tbis prayer also was answered. The work of God did not suffer, but was promoted by the captivity. The church was purified, and the world, beholding the divine interposition, acknowledged, The Lord hath done great things for them.
After the return of the captives, they went about to rebuild the temple ; but they had many adversaries, and no military force to protect them. On this occasion the prophet Zechariah (who with Haggai stood to strengthen the builders) had a vision He saw and behold a candlestick, all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it; and his seven lamps thereon ; and seven pipes to the seven lamps ; and two olive-trees on each side of the bowl, which through the golden pipes emptied the golden oil out of themselves. On inquiry of the angel what these meant, he was answered, This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but BY MY Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts. As if he had said, This vision contains a message of encouragement to Zerubbabel the purport of which is, Not by army or by power, &c. For like as the candlestick is supplied without the hand of man, so God will prosper his cause, not by worldly power or armies, but by his gracious influence and superintending providence. Here also a lesson is taught us, not to wait for legal protection, or even toleration, before we endeavour to introduce the gospel into a country ;