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while, the dangers from with the
this head, and that is what Solomon has afferted concerning vows in general, (of which you have in effect allowed the Lord's Supper to be one fpecies) • Better . it is that thou shouldīt not vow, than that thou < fhouldft vow and not pay.'* From á careful attention to these passages, and soberly reasoning on the nature of the Lord's Supper, let our readers judge, whether that sentiment be not just rather than censurable, which you ascribe to fome communicants, of whom you say (p. 42.)“ the greater they supposed to 66 be the honour and advantage of communicating " worthily, the greater would they suppose to be the “ penalty and danger of communicating unworthily."
A second argument from scripture I derive from the directions therein given with respect to ExcomMUNICATION. It must, I think, be universally allowed, that those persons ought not to be admitted as members of a church, who, if they were already admitted, would deserve to be excommunicated from it. You yourself, Sir, have taught me thus to argue, when speaking of the perfons fit for communion, you say (p. 34.) “ I do not here speak of thofe “ vices which are a scandal to human society, and 66 which, according to the judgment of St. Paul, will “ justify excommunication.” What vices you would call a scandal to human society, I am not quite certain. One might naturally rank under this Llad, all open immoralities habitually indulged. But in your Letter to Mr. Venn (p. 42.) you seem as if you intended only the grosseft crimes of which human nature can be guilty. “We do not find (say you) that .66 merely nominal Christians were excluded from the “ Lord's Supper, this was only the case with the in« cestuous person at Corinth.” Surely you forgot that in the very fame chapter in which the Apostle exhorts the Corinthians to put away from among them a particular person who was found guilty of incest, he also warrants them to exclude all such as
they .Eccles. v. 4. 5i
thy might hereafter find chargeable with other immoralities of a less heinous nature. "I have written « unto you (says he) not to keep company, if any • man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or cos vetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, 6 or an extortioner, with such an one, no not to eat.' By eating here I have no doubt the Apostle, meant receiving the Lord's Supper. But supposing the expression refers to a common friendly meal, we may naturally infer, communion in a Christian ordinance with such a person must have been more unwarrantable ; for the arguments against the former would conclude much stronger against the latter. Now if a Christian church be forbid holding fellowship with such finners as are here specified, we may by a parity of reason add to the list all openly immoral persons, all who walk unsuitably to a Christian profession, as equally unworthy of, and unfit for, this privilege. The justice of such an inference I think you will not dispute, and there are other passages of scripture which confirm it; particularly that exhortation to the Thesalonians to withdraw from any that walked "disorderly, from idle persons and busy bodies. * Now if a church be warranted to refuse communion with those whom they know to be immoral, I infer, that they who know themselves to be so, tho' it be unknown to others, are as really disqualified for this ordinance as if their immoralities were publick, and ought in conscience to abstain from it. Why is it 'that the church is forbid to have fellowship with a person who is guilty of " such vices as are a scandal 6 to human society ?” Is it merely because his vices are publickly known and of a scandalous naturę? Or because he thereby the more openly declares to the world that he is really unholy, and therefore unfit for so holy an institution? It is, I apprehend, the immorality itself in which his disqualification princi
pally * 2 Theff. iii. 6, &c. See also Matt. xyiii. 15-17. Rom. xvi. 17.
pally consists, tho'it is its being publick that renders it apparent, and gives the church the plainer warrant to deny him communion. It is true, an openly iminoral person, whofe vices are a scandal to fociety, would be (as you suggest concerning the incestuous person) “a disgrace to the Christian name,” which & more secret finner might not ; so that the former would be more unfit for fellowship with a fociety of Christians than the latter, and there would be a stronger obligation upon them to exclude him, as the credit of religion would be more concerned; for the openness of his vices would afford the world evidence of the badness of his character, and would expose the whole society, to the charge of encouraging immorality ; so that the ways of God would be in danger of being evil spoken of, and men would be taught, (as they were by the iniquity of Eli's sons) to abhor ! the offering of the Lord.' Nevertheless, it is the immorality of the man's character, that renders him disqualified ; it is this that constitutes him unworthy in the fight of God; it is this in which the scandal and offence consist : For, the honour of religion would be as much hurt in the world, and the church of Christ would suffer as much discredit, if it could be known that they held communion with one who was guilty of secret vices, (tho' his outward behaviour were unexceptionable,) as if they permitted an openly immoral person to communicate with them. And let it be further considered, that the scripture not merely requires Christians to exclude those who are guilty of publick immoralities, and such as would bring a scandal upon religion in the eye of the world, but alío such as have given evidence of a more private nature that they are not possessed of a truly Christian temper. In a passage before quoted, they are ordered to withdraw from those that walk disorderly in general, whether it be publickly known or not. And our Lord himself mentions so private a crime as
· an offence committed against one individual member
of the church, if it be perfifted in, as a sufficient
6 to his own conscience, when it is only known to - “ himself.” + Now if this reasoning be admitted,
it may easily be applied with respect to unholy perfons in general, whether they are secretly guilty of iniquitous practices, or whether they habitually omit any essential duties of religion; for in the fight of Gód there is but little difference in their characters, E 4
and Mat. xviii. 15-18. † Charnock, vol. ii. p.787...
and their incapacity for a worthy attendance on this holy ordinance is much the same. They are neither of them true members of Christ's church, and there. fore have no right to communion with it. An objection will probably be urged here, taken from the distinction between the visible and the invisible church, This distinction is indeed often made, but it has na foundation in scripture, nor can I see that it has any in reason. The church of Christ is but one. This he is said to have purchased with his blood, and this we are told he will finally present a glorious church,
without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.' It consists entirely of believing, penitent, holy souls. It is indeed partly visible and partly invisible, i. e, the members of it are not with certainty known to the world ; we can only judge of them by appearance, and may be deceived. Under the Mosaic dispensa: tion there was indeed an external visible church, including all the feed of Abraham after the Aesh ; but the gospel knows no such thing: * it speaks only of one church, composed of true believers, called Abraham's spiritual feed. So that to speak of the visible church of Christ, as distinguished from the invisible, is at best an impropriety of fpeech; and it is founded on a false supposition, if any thing more be meant by it, than being visibly (or to appearance) of the true church of Christ, which is the case with none but those who appear to be true believers and lead holy lives. They who are known to lead unholy lives are not visibly members of Christ's church, and therefore the church ought to exclude them from their communion. And they who know themselves to be unholy, are no more members of the church than the others, and therefore ought to exclude themselves.
* See this point well argued in the Second of the Theological Disertations, in answer to Dr. TAYLOR's Key to the Epistles, by John ERGKINE, M. A. 1765: