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ON STRICT COMMUNION.
(We very willingly comply with a request to insert the following Letter from a Baptist to his brother Baptist; we think it states very well the important question to which it applies.]
My Dear Brother,-Your letter now before me, announcing your removal from the Church of which you have been so long an honourable member, on the grourd of its having adopted free communion, has occasioned me unfeigned sorrow. This will not surprise you, as you are aware I have long advocated the principle, which the Church has thus recognized, though once opposed to it. I have never, that I remember, argued the point with you; I will therefore avail myself of this opportunity of defending the opinion I have formed upon it, especially as I observe you charge the free communionists with “allowing human wisdom to supersede the wisdom of Christ.”
I assure you, the very reverse appears to me to be the fact. If I could believe that the Scriptures require me to reject from communion at the Lord's table those whom I esteem and love as meinbers of His mystical body, because they have not been, according to my interpretation of the word, baptized; I would bow to the Sacred Volume with implicit reverence, though I should nevertheless regard that requisition as a great mystery, since it would oblige me to do violence to affections and feelings, which I hope result from the work of the Holy Spirit upon my heart. But I am convinced, that this is not demanded of me ; that in fact, the Divine Word has not made baptism of any kind a term of communion at the sacred supper ; our Lord's command, “ Do this in remembrance of Me,” being in my opinion designed for all believers whether baptized or unbaptized. There certainly is no intimation to the contrary given either by Himself or the apostles. The two ordinances are both, I conceive, duties, but wholly independent the one of the other.
Those who think baptism must precede the supper, contend for this, I believe, on the ground of its having been first instituted, and because those who communed with our Lord were baptized personsand baptism was afterwards enjoined and practised in immediate connection with conversion, and the Lord's supper observed subsequently--and because the Scriptures contain no account of any unbaptized individual having partaken of the supper. These were my own views originally, but on mature consideration I was constrained to relinquish them. The order in which the two sacraments were instituted, now appears to me to be the reverse of what I once supposed, as I see an essential difference, in various particulars, between John's baptism and Christian baptism, and observe that in Acts xix. we are told expressly of several, who having become believers in Christ submitted to the latter although they had before received the former; nor is there an instance recorded of any individual having omitted'Christian baptism after believing, on the ground of his previous baptism by John, though doubtless many of his disciples were amongst the early Christian converts. It follows, that in point of fact, the Lord's supper was instituted before Christian baptism, and that it was administered by our Lord Himself to brethren, who had not been baptized in His name. But if this difference did not exist, I should still say with regard to all those mentioned in Scripture as communing at the Lord's table after receiving baptism, the circumstance appears to me only to show, that they, believing both to be their duty, submitted to that first, which seemed to have the prior claim on their attention, and I think, that all other persons, who believe both to be obligatory, should follow their example. But a new state of things has arisen ; many pious persons conscientiously believe, that immersion, on a profession of faith, (which you require as a pre-requisite to the supper and which I regard with you as the only valid baptism), is not their duty; some of them, in fact, deny that these early Christians themselves submitted to it; and you will allow, I am sure, that the contrary opinion entertained by us is not to govern the practise of those, who honestly differ from us: they must, like ourselves, act upon their own convictions of what is Scriptural and right. At best, the rejection of pious pædobaptists from the Lord's table is supported only by inference ; and to found so unlovely a system on such a basis, ill becomes our denomination, who oppose infant sprinkling on the ground of its having nothing better than inference to recommend it. Should it be granted, that the Scriptures furnish no instance of an unbaptized person having been received to communion, it is at least equally clear, they furnish none of his rejection from it.
Either it is or is not the duty of believers, whilst unbaptized, to commune at the Lord's table. I, with the Church from which you have separated, think it is their duty, and that it must also be ours to assist them in discharging the duty, as far as we have the opportunity; and I would submit to you, that nothing but the clearest scriptural evidence can warrant the contrary opinion, which, without such proof, involves this dangerous doctrine, that the neglect of one duty may excuse us from the performance of another equally sacred!
If I were called to decide as to the reception of a candidate for communion, the only point I should think it necessary to consider would be the following- Will my Lord approve of his, or her, uniting in the sacred ordinance ?' and if I came to the conclusion, that He would approve of it, I should think myself bound to say to my Christian brother, or sister, whether baptized or unbaptized—“Come in, thou blessed of the Lord ; if Christ receive thee, I dare not reject thee.” God forbid, that I should frown, whilst He smiles ! Any other course would seem to me to imply, that I had imbibed the impious notion, that I am a better judge of such matters than the Lord Himself. And I do not hesitate to avow my belief, that when Leighton and Owen, Whitefield and Wesley, Scott and Hill, and a host of other unbaptized individuals have communed at the Lord's table, He has welcomed them to it, as heartily as He welcomes you or me, though we have been baptized.
Immersion is either an indispensable pre-requisite to the Lord's supper, or it is not; if the former, it follows, that all unimmersed persons, who have ventured to partake of it since its institution, have been guilty of an act repugnant to its Divine Founder, however ardent their piety or pure their motive; and we might have expected them to have been visited with some signal tokens of the Divine displeasure, as in the case of Uzzah, who died for a somewhat similar offence, or of the good (though in this one point, deceived) prophet whom God commanded to quit Bethel as a pre-requisite to his eating and drinking, and who perished for his disobedience. Considering the vast numbers, who are incurring this peril on the first Lord's day of every month, how painful must be the spectacle, which that day presents to the view of those, who believe in this prerequisiteism! But if immersion be not an indispensable pre-requisite, strict communion must, I conceive be declared untenable.
I may not, dear brother, convert you to my views by what I have advanced ; but I trust I shall at least satisfy you, that we who maintain them do not deserve the censure cast upon us by some of our brethren, and perhaps you may be induced to withdraw the charge which has led ine so fully into the subject.
Believe me, my dear brother,
S. B. C.
LECTURES ON THE RUIN OF SOULS,
REL. ANDREW G. FULLER.
“ If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” — Matthew vi. 23.
I HAVE to address you, my fellow-sinners, on a subject of inconceivable importance. If it were—the sin and danger of continuing in a systematic course of enmity, and rebellion against that God, “who is a consuming fire,” the subject would be invested with fearful interest; but not as compared with that which engages our attention now. To drag out a miserable existence in a land of drought, “ a dry and thirsty land where no water is,” is a dreadful thing to contemplate; but nothing, when brought into comparison with the poisoning of the wells of a country. Wilfully to propagate a fatal disease throughout the length and the breadth of a land, is highly criminal ; but to infuse the potion of death into all its healing medicines, is the perpetration of a crime, for which no adequate punishment could be found, and the consequences of which to the miserable inhabitants of such a land must be utterly beyond all calculation. Yet these, however feeble, are correct representations of the difference between the topic of this evening and the bare consideration of the peril, that attaches to a life of enmity against God by wicked works and of exposure to His wrath. We have before us the contemplation of evils, that are attached to a remedial process--made to attachto it by the iniquities of men.
And in the estimation which God forms of the matter, we see precisely the same thing. While He professes himself jealous of His authority in any form and under any circumstances, He declares Himself especially mindful of His “great salvation :" His whole Word teems with indications of His especial jealousy on the subject. And our Redeemer cherishes the same view, in the wonderful discourse that is now before us. He depicts the case of a body, which is guided and preserved by the eye, as though, whatever other ailments or imbecilities affected it, so long as the eye would faithfully do its duty all might be borne--an unspeakable source of delight and advantage would still remain, but even if that were obscured, and the body with all its exposure to ills were left in darkness, the exposure to danger would not be the most fearful that could be imagined; it would not equal the case of that distorted vision, which by its delusions would place its subject in more serious peril than the blind. “The light of the body is the eye; if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light; but if ihine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness !".
There is nothing, on which God, humanly speaking, lad set His heart so much, as on the exhibition of His truth--of His remedial process, in its purity, to man, Not that we can for a moment imagine, that God could not have prevented all the evil that has accrued to mankind through the poisoning of “the wells of salvation ;" but when God is representing what it is which delights His heart, we see, that amongst the most prominent of the things which please Him, is that His truth should remain, that His Word should be pure and unclouded—and that portion of His Word more especially, in which He has poured out His whole heart unto man. And as there is nothing, upon which the mind of God was set, like the preservation of His truth in the purity of its application to men, we may say, that there was nothing, on which the greedy eye of His greatest enemy and ours was more gloatingly fixed, than upon its speedy corruption. This was the great object, that attracted his notice when the Gospel was proclaimed among men. Till the developement of the pure and beautiful salvation of Jesus, the stratagems of the great enemy were limited by the obscurity which clouded the tabernacles of men; but when light—the light of “the glorious Gospel of the blessed God," shone forth, it was not to be concealed from so sagacious a being as this, that his work was at an end, unless some new element were seized upon, as an instrument and medium of power hitherto unknown. That light, one would think, was enough in its dawning almost to have chased darkness for ever from the earth; but the thought must
have occurred to him, whose clject was to ruin the souls of men-Oh! if but one ray could be seized and diverteil, if a refracting power (so to speak) could be given to it and it could fall in some distorted form upon the vision of men !' When the hills and the tombs of Judea echoed to the wild cries of the demoniac, there was the semblance of power, but it was the semblance only; but no sooner was the sweet and gentle voice of Jesus heard, saying, “ The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost," than the mean and spiritless work of corporeal possession was abandoned, and a new (I had almost desecrated the term and said a noble) enterprise opened up before the enemy of souls. From that day forth he took higher ground ; abandoning so mean, so despicable a course as that of crippling and maiming the bodies of men, he at once saw before him the imitation of the example of the Redeemer, as the medium through which he should operate upon the minds of men with inconceivable power. He too must undertake to “save the lost.”
And it is Satan and his emissaries undertaking to save the lost, that has laid the ground work of the things we have now to deplore; it is this, that constitutes the source of those evils which we deprecate, and which it is our especial object to expose. When “the mystery of godliness” was declared, “the inystery of iniquity” began speedily to work. And work it did, until the land was covered with a darkness, that might be felt.” The names of Smyrna, of Pergamos, of Thyatira, all attest this. Look to these in their present condition, with the semblance, the name of Christianity which they sustain; and see if there is not grosser darkness resting upon the minds of the people, than distinguishes the votaries of the false prophet around them. “If the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness !” Stronger examples, than are presented by these places, and others which have enjoyed the light of the Gospel, could scarcely be adduced, of the power of sin in perverting its healing and ennobling influences.
Of these I shall present a few examples, and show their fatal influence over the characters and prospects of their subjects.
I. Let me present some examples of fatal error respecting “the way of salvation."
Errors respecting the method of salvation regard two things; the equivalent, on account of which salvation was obtained—and the practical application of the plan of salvation to the cases of individuals.
1. Among the former of these, are such as reject or overlook the sacrificial character of the atonement. All estimate of error must proceed upon some recognised standard of truth. I shall not go to any length in particularising those views of Divine truth, which I consider to be at the very basis of all our hopes of the Christian religion itself; suffice it to say, that the doctrine of the cross is that to which I advert--the great truth, which is expressed in those simple, beautiful, sublime terms, “ This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” It is a departure from the simplicity of this truth, in whatever variety of forms that departure may have been made, that constitutes the evils which we have so much cause to lament. A rejection of the atonement in every sense of the term can hardly be considered as coming under the denomination of an error respecting the method of salvation, since it altogether overlooks the idea of salvation, and substitutes for it the bare notion of future happiness. For although salvation consists in a great degree of this, there is a distinction to be made between them; angels are happy, and our first parents contemplated a future happiness, but the term salvation could apply neither to the one nor to the other. It implies a deliverance from extreme peril, and a solicitude concerning it, which can find no place but in the doctrine of the atonement.
There are few-certainly none who take the Bible for their guide-but are prepared to admit the exposure of man to the wrath of God on account of sin, however they may differ as to the amount of sin and the penalty incurred. The idea of an intermediate influence between himself and God is also extensively felt by manthe necessity of something in the shape of mediation ; but whether it partake of the legitimate character of the atonement, is another consideration. There is little difficulty, in countries where Christianity has been preached, in inducing the people to accept the salvation of Jesus Christ, the mediation of the Son of God, in one sense of the terms ; just to admit Him-just to acknowledge His kind service-to
BY THE REV. ANDREW G. FULLER.
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DET allow that between them and an offended God a certain Being stands forth as “ a
Days-man," One that can “lay his hand upon both,'' and promote a reconciliation between them. And this, in truth, is the entire idea of an atonement, entertained
by multitudes of individuals. They have no conception of the sacrificial character TLC of that atonement. The vivid representations that are made in the Jewish ritual, onani the pouring out of the blood of bulls and of goats (which, the apostle says, could 25 **: not possibly take away sin), and other indications of a typical character of the sa. ed the crificial design of the Saviour's coming, are represented to them in vain ; the pro
phetical allusions of Old Testament saints and the powerful arguments of apostles, the one pointing forward to Him who is the antitype of those things which they represented before, the other pointing backward to Him who had become “the end of the law"_and the attestation of one, who stood between both economies, saying, "Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world”-to which we might add the solemn and affecting testimony from His own lips, that He gave
His flesh for the life of the world-seem all to have been presented in vain ; and that cu every plausible difficulty is dilated upon and brought into prominence; and those special very moral precepts, which were expressly designed by the Redeemer to prepare in vse the way for the acceptance of His salvation, are seized upon as a substitute for its
But where the atonement of the Saviour, in its sacrificial character, is not directly denied, it may fail to secure that place in our views of truth, which its relative importance demands. It is not un frequently looked upon merely as an introduction to our own righteousness, or (to use a phrase which was popular in the controversies of the last century) as having led us into a salvable state--into a state in which we can henceforth manage our own salvation upon our own terms. This is an unworthy view, and cannot fail to be prejudicial to the interests of those that hold it; nay, more than prejudicial--in most instances, fatal. It may be difficult to say, to what extent the sacrifice of Christ may be depreciated and a fatal error not be com. mitted. That great and good man, Sir Matthew Hale, the author of " Christ crucified,' a treatise full of evangelical truth and indicating a unind deeply imbued with love to the great Redeemer, presents us with the following passage, in a treatise entitled "The Account of the Good Steward :"_“I confess, I have not improved my talents according to that measure of ability which Thou hast given me; I therefore most humbly offer to Thee the merits of Thy own Son to supply my defects and to make good what is wanting in my account.” Such representations as these, coming from such a quarter, do certainly make one greatly hesitate to pronounce, to what extent errors of this stamp may exist in the mind, and yet not be denominated fatal error. But one thing is certain—that it is essential not only to the truth of the Gospel, but to the salvation of the sinner, that the sacrifice of Christ be placed at the basis of his hopes. That great truth must be the first, the last, the middle, the all of his salvation; and he must rest upon it, and feel its support beneath him. It must not be the laying of a foundation, to answer the inere purpose of an introduction, and then be forsaken and forgotten; but it must be built upon. The prop must be felt beneath the rising structure. Any thing short of this must unquestionably be regarded in the light of a fatal error. “Other foundation can no man lay.”
I must mention, again, such a view of the atonement, as, recognising its sacrificial character, accepts it as a relief from the severity of the Divine. law and sentence, and as the necessary result of God's mercy. And are there any, who entertain such a sentiment ? Unquestionably ; perhaps thousands, who have not courage to express it. They look at the atonement of the Saviour, as that which was absolutely necessary to curb the rigour of God's law, to smooth the asperity of His requirements, and to give an air of justice to His demands and a character corresponding with the imbecility of man. Yet apart from the consideration which for a moment might present itself, whether there is any greater capability (so to speak) for man to receive the Gospel than to obey the law, is not this a view of the case, that at once traduces the Divine Being? We must not only accept the provision as a full atonement, but accept it as grace. If a man thinks that it is a remedial process in this sense of the term-to remedy what God ought not to have done, to soften down requirements that were unjust-he is unquestionably committing an
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