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bly of Chiristians? "When ye come together into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper.
"For in eating every one taketh before the other his own supper; and one is hungry and another is drunken !!
"What, have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? Or despise ye the Church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I praise you not."
That this bread and this wine was indeed, as you observe, designed as a standing memorial of the love exhibited in the death of the Redeemer, and also of the effect of that dying love in his resurrection, (in which having put away our sins, by the sacrifice of himself, we being risen with him, in the same sense we were crucified with him, are begotten again into a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus,) I stedfastly believe, and that the rich grace exhibited, as the thing signified in this outward and visible sign, ought to be ever present to our souls, exciting love and gratitude to God, and tender affection one toward another. All this, I do most devoutly and cheerfully grant; and I am confident that where the spirit of truth takes of the things of Jesus, contained in these figures, and shews them to the soul, it will elevate the affections, originate friendship to man, and devout thankfulness to God. Nay, a view of these figures will effectuate that, which only a discerning the Lord's body can effectuate.
But perhaps there are no people on earth who make a point of associating together, who have less real affection for each other, than those who continue most steadfast in their attendance on what they call the Lord's supper. Yet were they acquainted with, and did they continue steadfast in the Apostle's doctrine and fellowship, the love of Christ would no doubt constrain them: for, as you justly observe, a holy love to the Saviour, and an attachment to each other, is the genuine spirit of the ordinance; or perhaps we should express ourselves more correctly, were we to say it is the spirit that should actuate persons who continue in the literal observance of the ordinance; for I rather suppose the real spirit of the ordinance, is the love of God to sinners, or the grace that bringeth salvation unto all men, manifested in his death, who died for the ungodly, for the unjust, for every man, and rose again for their justification; who of all his Father's house, is the only active person in the work of salvation; who trod the wine press alone, that the scriptures might be fulfilled, which affirm his own arm brought salvation.
But, whether we consider the love of God to a sinful world, in giving them the Son, and in him everlasting life, as the spirit of the ordinance, or the love of sinners to God, who first loved them, and to each other, as the loved of the Father, as the spirit in which communicants should attend this outward and visible sign, I am far from supposing either the one or the other calculated to “destroy the letter." No, my friend, on the contrary I do believe, that wherever, and whenever, the Holy Ghost leads the mind into the spirit of this ordinance, there, and then only the ordinance will be literally observed; but it is not only in latter ages, that the "literal attendance" on, or attention to this institution has been abused, as we have seen in the churches to which you refer.
You proceed to say, "In this connexion they were directed to attend to a particular token of love, one to another, in support of which you cite Romans, xvi. 16. "Salute one another with a holy kiss, the churches of Christ salute you." 1 Corinthians, xvi. 20. "All the brethren greet you. Greet ye one another with an holy kiss." 2 Corinthians, xiii. 12. "Greet one another with an holy kiss." 1 Thessalonians, v. 26. "Greet all the brethren with an holy kiss." And 1 Peter, v. 14. "Greet ye one another with a kiss of charity." This greeting, my dear Sir, with an holy kiss, might be very well among an assembly of people who continued steadfast in the Apostle's doctrine and fellowship, &c. and among a people, who before they knew any thing of the one or the other, made use of this custom as a token of respect, as we uncover our heads on meeting a friend, or acquaintance, and among Christians it was highly proper they should continue this habit, not merely as a ceremony, but as a token of unfeigned love.
I conceive this manner of salutation was not, as it respected the simple act, a new institution. But as mere compliments are never certain signs of what they are made to pass for among men, and a guiltless individual, not acquainted with deceit, may be easily imposed upon, the Apostle exhorted the churches to greet one another' with an holy kiss, as a token of unfeigned love; but of this, unfeigned love, is the spirit, the kiss is but the sign; and as the sign may exist without the spirit, so may the spirit without the sign. But it is not the spirit that sets aside the letter, but the custom of the country, which the spirit of it cannot merely as a custom preserve; so neither can the different customs made use of in different countries, prevent the effusions of love, in whatever outward and visible signs they may, by established custom be conveyed.
Our Saviour addressing his disciples saith, The words which I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. This spirit and this life is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever; the same in all countries, and in all ages; nor can the alteration of times, places, or circumstances, have any effect thereon. The letter, however, is not thus invariable, nor is this of much consequence, as the life belongeth not to the letter, but to the spirit. It is the spirit we know which quickeneth.
Our blessed Master gave the first preachers of the gospel a particular charge to provide neither gold, silver, nor brass in their purses, nor scrip for their journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor staves; and though according to the Evangelist Luke, xxii. 36. he repeals or modifies this law, and says, "But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise a scrip;" but after his first command, says nothing of shoes which can authorise his servants to wear them: yet it is not the spirit of his first command, that hath destroyed the letter, but the nature of the climate, combining with the custom of the country; and I am persuaded that no person who has been led by the spirit to an acquaintance with our Saviour, and that revelation which testifieth of him, would think it necessary for a gospel preacher to cast away his shoes, in order to show his obedience to his divine Master: yet, I do not know that a literal attention to this command would be so likely to produce unpleasant consequences, as the adoption of the injunction in your references. Yet, be the consequences what they might, if the letter of every ceremony was given to Christians, as the laws were given to the Medes and Persians, and if we could in no single instance discover that the first preachers or believers had deviated therefrom, had they been as unalterable as the truth by which they were accompanied, then, indeed, it would be as much our duty to attend to every punctilio of the letter, as of the spirit. But I am inclined to think if a shake of the hand, or an inclination of the head, should be as generally acknowledged an outward and visible sign of respect or regard in the west, as kissing was in the east, to greet each other with an holy shake of the hand, or an holy inclination of the head, that is, not to lie one to another, but to let these signs be true signs of unfeigned love and respect, would be coming fully up to the spirit of your references; and in this connexion, individuals might fully be subjected to the discipline of Christ's house. Psalm ci. 7. "He that worketh deVOL. II.
ceit shall not dwell within my house he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight."
This Psalm, however, leads to the consideration of the Master of the house, in a very different point of view, as you will more clearly see, by looking over the Psalm in its connexion, particularly the third and sixth verses; "I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.
"Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me: he that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me."
The great Author and Finisher of our faith, has given us, Matthew, xviii. 15, 16, 17. an excellent rule for Christians to walk by when associated together as members of the same society.
"Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault, between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee thou hast gained thy brother.
"But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
"And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man, and a Publican."
A society of Christians led together by the spirit of God, and conducting by rules thus stamped by divine authority, would no doubt become exemplary. But when we compare 1 Corinthians, v. 5. with the above cited passage, we are very much at a loss to know what the Apostle intended by giving the offending brother to Satan.
"To deliver such an one unto Satan, for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." What was the punishment of the offenders; and what are we to understand by the destruction of the flesh, saving the spirit in the day of the Lord? Were any society to make this experiment, who did not in every particular answer the description given of the church in the fourth verse of this chapter, " In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together and my spirit, with the power of the Lord Jesus Christ." If, I say, a church should be gathered together in any other name, or in any other spirit, than that which guided the apostles, or in any other
power than that of the Lord Jesus Christ, they might indeed excommunicate, and tell the offender they delivered him to Satan; and so far they would be found conforming to the letter of the law of these directions; and thus all parties denominating themselves Christians, have from that time to this done; but how far they have acted a Christian part, in thus doing, let others judge. It appears to me, when God himself has withdrawn his spirit and presence from any institution, to take hold of the letter, or the form, is to touch a dead body. However, it is not the spirit that can destroy the letter; on the contrary, we often find the letter continue, when the spirit is gone. Please to compare the five first verses of the seventh chapter of Matthew, which run thus :
"Judge not, that ye be not judged.
"For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
"And, why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eyc, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
"Or, how wilt thou say to thy brother, let me pull out the mote out of thine eye and behold a beam is in thine own eye?
"Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye."
Compare these verses with 1 Corinthians, v. 12. "For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? Do not ye judge them that are within?
I am very far from desiring to set aside, or to neglect any positive command of my Redeemer. I am persuaded he spake as never man spake; grace and truth dwelleth in him. But although many of his positive precepts are set aside and totally neglected, yet I am far from believing he hath forsaken his house; and he who lives by faith, beholding what is invisible to the eye of sense, will see HIM walking in his house with a perfect heart. Psalm ci. 2.
But let us attend to a few of our Saviour's positive precepts, which, because they are calculated to bring glory to God and happiness to man, more than any regulation of which we have any account, should continue in form to the end of time. First, listen to the commands given by the Redeemer in the tenth chapter of Matthew, to preachers of the gospel: "Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils; and into whatsoever city or town ye enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and there abide