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Rom. xv. 25 — 27, koinonia is rendered contribution, and is expressly applied to ministering to the saints: 'But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints. For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem. It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things.' It is rendered communication, Philem. verse 6, and has a relation to the same subject. See also, 1 Cor. xvi. 1, 2, and 2 Cor. ix. 1, 2.
It ought to be noticed also, that the contribution or fellowship was extended to the teachers in the primitive churches. Paul says, Gal. vi. 6, 'Let him that is taught in the word, communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.' And he thus reasons on the justice and propriety of their wants being supplied, 'Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? Who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who fecdeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock? Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also? For it is written in the law of Moses, thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen ? or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written; that he that plougheth should plough in hope; and he that thresheth in hope, should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we reap your carnal things? If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather.' 1 Cor. ix. 9— 12. The Lord had ordained, 'that they who preach the gospel should live of the gospel;' and Paul makes honorable mention, that his christian brethren had supplied his wants. Philip. iv. 14— 18. See also, John, iii. verses 4—8. Christianity then had no aid from civil authority. The laws made no provision for the support of its preachers; yet in no age was it ever more prosperous.
It is obvious from the above texts, that koinonia signifies, to contribute, communicate, make others partake of temporal things; and this is a very important part of the christian fellowship or communion. The poor saints were the partakers, the churches of Christ those who made them the partakers. It was as much a part of their christian fellowship, as communing at the table of the Lord. The first Christians continued as steadfastly in the apostles' fellowship or contribution, as they did in their doctrine, breaking of bread, or prayers. All these were only different parts of the same christian fellowship. I do not find, contributions were ever made for home missions, foreign missions, for education or tract societies, etc. No, they were made for supplying the wants of the poor saints, and were liberally extended to poor saints at Jerusalem, as well as the poor in churches who made the collections. In those days, the Lord had a treasury ; but no money was hoarded up to support men in propagating sectarian religion, while poor saints found their bed and board in an alms-house, supported by infidels. The wants of the poor saints were supplied exclusively by their christian brethren. All contributed to this, as God had prospered them. The abundance of some, was a supply for the others' wants.
Attention to this part of the christian fellowship, was a stronger proof of being Christians, than in communing at the Lord's table together. It is nowhere said, Whoso cometh not to the table of the Lord, cannot be a Christian. But it is said, — 'Whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shuiteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?' And 'If a brother or sister be naked and destitute of daily food, and one say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? To say this, was only to love in word and in tongue; but to relieve their wants, was to love in deed and in truth. 'By this,' said the Saviour, ' shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.' But sitting down at the Lord's table, was no certain evidence of this love. No. The positive proof of it is —' I was an hungered,'and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took rne in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was in prison, and ye came unto
me Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of
these, my brethren, ye have done it unto me.' This is fervent charity. This is love without dissimulation. This is true christian fellowship and communion. It is fellowship with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ; for God is love, and he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him. It is being like our Father in heaven, whose tender mercies are over all bis works. It is attaining the end of the christian fellowship.
We shall conclude this protracted discussion with one or two general remarks.
1. There is only one kind of Christians. There can be but one, until we have more than one Christ, and more than one sort of Christianity. When Christians speak of Orthodox christianity, and Unitarian christianity; of Orthodox christians, and Unitarian christians, and various other kinds of them, they only proclaim their own ignorance. Is Christ divided? Were the founders of various sects crucified for them? Or have those, belonging to them, been baptized in their names? From the conduct of the various christian sects towards each other, one might conclude, there were as many Christs as sects, and nearly as many kinds of Christianity. But Christians seem to glory in what is their shame; 'for while one saith, I am of Paul ; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?' And yet, zeal for sects is considered by many as a mark of great spirituality. Were Paul now on earth, some churches would not admit him to their communion. Jesus Christ himself would be suspected of heresy; and would not be allowed to preach in their pulpits. But what are all our sectarian divisions and separations about? Is it whether Jesus is the Christ, the Saviour of the world, or not? No. They are all about very minor points, and some of these rather childish. Christians have divided about water baptism, whether it is a christian ordinance, and whether its mode ought to be, by sprinkling, pouring, or immersion; whether Christ is in or under the bread in the Lord's supper; whether the Lord's supper should be received standing, sitting, or kneeling; whether the form of church government is Episcopal, Presbyterian, or Independent; whether the wicked are to be punished forever, for a limited period, or are to be annihilated. And Christians have been involved in contentions, about the color and cut of the costume of the clergy. Let these and other things be viewed as important as you please, they are all trifles, unless Christians live like Christians, and act like Christians towards each other.
2. There is only one christian fellowship or communion. In Paul's day, the disciples of Christ formed but one sect, called by their enemies, 'the sect of the Nazarenes.' There was only one church or christian fellowship. It was one body, of which Christ was the head. It was not meeting in one place which constituted this fellowship, or church ; but being all partakers of the precious faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. And every partaker of it, cordially said — 'grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.' But now, Christians are divided into innumerable sects, and have separate communions. They preach against each other, pray against each other, and treat each other as pagans, with whom they can hold no religious fellowship. Each sect is striving for the mastery, and compasses sea and land to make proselytes to its sectarian opinions. The money, which ought to supply the wants of the poor saints, is spent in carrying forward their own sectarian projects, and all are expecting, the world in due time will be converted to their creed. Sect is trying to convert sect to a sectarian creed, while all need to be converted to the spirit and practice of primitive Christianity. But we need not expect this until primitive Christianity is belter understood, and sectarian dogmas abandoned. When all Christians take the Scriptures as their one rule, they will again make but one communion or fellowship.
Opinions and Phraseology of the Jews concerning the Future State; from the time of Moses, to that of their final dispersion by the Romans.
Though we propose so long a period for the scope of our survey, yet it is with reference particularly to the age of Christ and his apostles, that we shall aim to exhibit our subject. To this ultimate purpose, we shall accordingly make all the previous stages of our inquiry subservient. What were the notions, and what the accustomed phraseology, of the Jews, concerning the future state, at the time of our Saviour's ministry, is a question which evidently involves the natural meaning of many passages in the New Testament; for it was in the midst of those very notions and of that very phraseology, whatsoever they were, that our Saviour taught and his apostles wrote. They were themselves Jews, brought up among the Jews of that time, surrounded by their opinions,-and habituated to their modes of expression. Their language it was, which they used; and they used it in clear view of its customary signification. To Jews indeed, either as unbelievers or as converts, they addressed the larger part of their instructions; and their method of teaching, we may presume, was adapted to the prevalent habits both of thought and of expression. These, it is therefore necessary to know, and to keep in view, in order justly to interpret those instructions. Whenever Christ and his inspired followers introduce such representations as we find to have been appropriated,. by cotemporary usage, to the future state, it is natural to suppose, even from that consideration alone, that they likewise refer to the same topic, unless we are apprized to the contrary by some other circumstance, sufficiently strong to set aside the ordinary import. And it is equally plain, that when they employ ideas and forms of expression, which, at that time, were not thus appropriated, we ought not so to apply them, withoVit other evidence, whatever may be our modern usage of the like phraseology. We are apt, unwarily, to overlook the peculiarities of the ancient, in our habitual attention to the present. Especially is it the case, that, on discovering some points of resemblance between the two states of things, we are ready to conclude at once that there is a similarity throughout, and so take it for certain that the same language must have struck people then, in the same manner as now.
Instances of this oversight are frequent with interpreters: it is sufficient to mention a single example: It is well known, that the Jews, in our Saviour's day, generally believed in an eternal retribution for mankind, after death. What, then, we are asked, must a people, accustomed to such views, have understood him to mean, when he spoke of everlasting fire, of everlasting punishment, of the damnation of hell. of a hell where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched? These are the leading phrases of the doctrine of endless misery; and we must remember, it is said, that Christ was fully aware of the common opinion, among his hearers, on the subject. What, then, could he expect, or intend, but to enforce it, by the use of such language? This appeal may, indeed, be silenced, perhaps, but it will seldom be satisfied, by the reply, that those expressions, when introduced by our Saviour, were generally accompauied by certain intimations or explicit remarks, which show that he did not refer to the future world. Point out this circumstance in relation to the several