Elder Lemuel Potter
Note; During the scanning and editing process some of the text is missing or appears out of order. This is minimal, throughout the document. I apologize for this inconvenience.
A S Y N O P S I S O F F O U R L E C T U R E S O N T H E C O M M U N I O N
DELIVERED AT THE Regular Baptist Church,Owensville, Indiana, on the 12th, 13th, and 14th days
of April, A.D., 1886.
ELDER LEMUEL POTTER
Of Cynthiana, Posey County, Indiana
P R E F A C E
I hope, dear reader, you will not think me to be egotistic in putting this little work before the public, for I am truly sensible of my inability to do anything like justice to so grave a subject.
As there has been a great deal said in and around Owensville, on the subject of the communion, that made it seem necessary to lecture there on the question, and as there were likely to be remarks made about the lectures after they were delivered, I concluded to give the public the privilege of reading, for themselves, the arguments used.
I know this is a very imperfect synopsis of the speeches made, but the substance of the whole thing will be found here. It has been my aim not to defend close communion for all who practice it, but for the Regular Baptists. If it should meet the approbation of others, I have no objection whatever, but I have given our reasons, some of them at least, for our practice of close communion.
I hope that it will be a blessing to the church, and that the reader will be his own judge as to whether our reasons are good or not for the course of our church.
ELDER LEMUEL POTTER.
L E C T U R E 1 .
I wish to state that it is not my intention, in the course of these lectures, to be understood to be simply gratifying an ambition to spite some one, neither do I wish to wound the feelings of any.
But as we feel we have been assailed, we simply wish the people, if they will hear us, to know whether we have any reason for our practice of strict communion or not; or, if we think we have any reasons, to know if they are good ones . We do not wish to be understood as bigots, or egotists, or schismatic's, or that we are not sincere in our pretensions, religiously.
Neither do I undertake it simply because I feel able to do justice to the subject, or that I am better capable of investigating this matter than others.
Neither do I undertake it voluntarily, but at the request of my brethren here, who feel they are assailed in this community, both in conversation on the subject and through the General Baptist Messenger , published in this town. I will read:
"Listen to the following. A brother close communion Baptist asks his editor this question: "What should be done with a deacon who intentionally passes the bread and wine to a Methodist preacher, said preacher dipping in the dish?" Answer: "A deacon should have great boldness in faith. He did that either through cowardice or heretical notions. If the latter, he usurped authority over the church and forced the church against her will, and deserves prompt attention. If he did it through lack of courage, then excuse him from further service in that line. In any event let the church diligently inquire into the matter and ascertain whether his treachery was from weakness or heresy, and punish him accordingly. In any event let him never serve in that capacity again. Let the church keep the ordinances as delivered .
His is not service, as the name deacon implies, but it is treachery and usurpation. He despises the church of God, which has control of the ordinances instead of himself. If the church submits to such prostitution of the holy ordinances by one of her servants, then is she unworthy of the high trust committed to her by her glorified Head. Let her see to it that repentance and confession, and fruits meet for repentance, are brought forth by the erring servant; and let her see to it also that for the present, at least, he be no longer deacon."
"Another Baptist editor comments as follows: "Had that church observed the supper as a church ordinance, which all Baptists admit it is, and requested her membership to come together in one place, as the middle seats of the house, this cowardly, treasonous act of that deacon would not have occurred.
The deacons of a prominent church of our association refused to serve unless the church did this; and they refused to offer the emblems to any scattered over the house. They rightly refused to take the responsibility of deciding who might and who might not eat the supper. Will not all deacons follow their example?"
Self-imposed rule with such dogmatism as to call forth such language on the head of a good deacon, whom the church has chosen to serve her? Peter denied his Lord, and cursed and swore, yet for that awful offense Jesus had only a tender look of compassion.
Yet here is a leader and teacher of the people speaking,doubtless, by authority of what claims to be a church of the same Jesus, using the words Treason, Coward, Heresy and Usurpation, and finally expelling one of Christ's servants--all for what? Denying his Lord? No. Cursing and swearing? No. Getting drunk? No. Living in adultery? No. Why, then, have they disgraced this good man? For the grave and unpardonable offense of passing the bread and wine of communion to a Methodist preacher! Is that the spirit of Christ, brethren?"
"We repeat: before we allow a rule to control us in which there can be no possible good, and which may lead to such awful wrongs--would it not be wise to let it go?"
Who those editors were this editor has left us to guess, and I am such a poor guesser that I shall not undertake it. It is generally common for editors, when they quote from another paper anything of importance, to give the name of the paper, and I think that it is about as easy for a man to know the name of a paper as for him to know what is in it. But I do not know what paper this was in.
I think if a brother deacon should be guilty of an offense of the sort mentioned in this paper, the brethren should have some forbearance with him, and try to inform him what they require him to do in cases of that kind, and not be quite so unmerciful as is represented in this paper. I think such treatment too severe for offenses, as it is not brotherly nor Christian-like. Whoever is, or has been guilty of such, would by no means have my approval.
"What is the difference in authority assumed by a Baptist church that forbids other Christians the Lord's Supper and the Roman Catholic church that excommunicates its members as a punishment for some disobedience?
"The former is a penalty imposed on a Christian for not being a Baptist; the latter is a penalty imposed for violation of the discipline of the church.
"The one is denying Christ's people a right he gave them. The other is enforcing church discipline. Judge ye."
( General Baptist Messenger , March 20, 1886.)
I confess I do not see the force of this article, though it may be very convincing to those who do see it. So far as denying the people of God a right He gave them, I do not know of any rights they are entitled to, only such as they enjoy. If God gave his people a right to commune with us, it must have been on the gospel terms of communion, and when they come to us that way we will receive them.
But let us read another in the same paper of March 20, 1886:
"I know full well what the failure to produce a religious tradition can cost a conscientious Christian.
"The failure of my religious teacher to find a precept in God's word for infant sprinkling once cost me the severance, religiously, from the mother that bear me, from the dearest, tenderest of all earthly ties, and made me a Baptist, who, I was assured, rejected from their faith and practice everything for which they could not produce a precept in God's word." Now if this brother is as conscientious now as he was then, why does he not again sever the ties that bind him, for we most candidly assure him there is no precept in God's word for close communion. It is exactly the same kind of argument used by them to sustain their practices in communion that is used by Pedobaptists to prove infant sprinkling, viz: The most remote, far-fetched inference; and there is fully as much scripture for the one as for the other.
He further says to Pedobaptists: "Show me one precept for infant sprinkling and I will offer myself to my family church next Sabbath, and carry my children to the sacred font, and by the holy sacrament secure and seal their eternal salvation."
And so we say to our close communion friends. Show us one precept in God's word for your practices in this sacred ordinance, and it will be more convincing than all your tracts, books and articles that have ever been written in advocacy of your practices."
We take all these, as well as remarks that have been frequently made in this community, to be thrust at us, as we are the only people here that practice close communion.
So we will see if we have any scriptural authority for our practice.
TERMS OF COMMUNION - BAPTISM IS A PREREQUISITE
Argument 1. I argue, first, that the Lord's Supper is a commemorative rite. The apostle says:
"For I have received of the Lord that which I also delivered unto you. That the Lord Jesus, the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread. And when he had given thanks He brake it and said, take, eat. This is My body which is broken for you. This do in remembrance of Me. After the same manner, also, he took the cup, when he had supped, saying: This cup is the New Testament in My blood. This do ye, as oft as ye drink of it, in remembrance of Me." I. Cor. 11: 23-25.
"And he took bread and gave thanks, and broke it and gave it unto them, saying: This is my body, which is given for you. This do in remembrance of Me." Luke 12: 19.
Argument 2. My second argument is that, while this ordinance is to be observed in remembrance of our Lord, the particular thing that it is commemorative of is His death.
"For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come." I. Cor. 11: 26.
This commemorative rite is the solemn act by which the disciples call to mind the fact that Christ died for them.
This ordinance, then, is to be observed by such only as can other words, have faith to discern the Lord's body.
Argument 3. It is an ordinance of Jesus Christ appointed in the church. This argument is so universally agreed to that it seems unnecessary to spend time to prove it.
I do not mean by the term church in this argument, the entire body of all the saved, as in Ephesians 5: 22-23: "And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all."
The term church in this text must mean all the saved, and cannot apply simply to any one congregation of Christians in any one place, nor living in any one age, for it could not be truly said that such is the fullness of Christ.
Again: Ephesians 5: 25 - "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it," etc. This text, and others like it, must mean all that will ever be congregated in heaven, from Abel down to the last one that will ever be regenerated and saved.
To the church taken in this sense there can belong no ordinances, because, as a congregation, it will never be in existence until the great day. So it is not the church taken in this sense that has ordinances, but we find the church frequently used in the New Testament to designate a congregation of visible disciples, baptized believers, meeting in one place for the worship of God, the observance of the ordinances of Jesus and the execution of his laws. For instance,
"Likewise greet the church that is in their house." Romans 16: 5.
"Unto the church of God which is at Corinth." I. Cor. 1: 2.
"Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house." I. Cor. 16: 19.
"Unto the church of God which is at Corinth." II. Cor. 1: 1.
"Salute the brethren which are in Laodicia and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house." Col. 4: 15.
"And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodicians." Col. 4: 15.
"Paul and Sylvanus and Timotheus unto the church of the Thessalonians." I. Thess. 1: 1.
"And the church in thy house." Philemon 2.
"To the angel of the church of the Ephesians." Rev. 2: 1.
"Then had the churches rest throughout Judea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified." Acts 9: 31.
"And he went through Syria and Cilicia confirming the churches." Acts 15: 41.
"And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily." Acts 16: 5.
Argument 4. As it is appointed in the church, it necessarily follows that it belongs to the church collectively, and not to members individually.
Acts 20: 7 - "And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread," etc.
I. Cor. 11: 17 - In this connection the church is spoken of as coming together to partake of the Lord's Supper.
Now, as I have shown that it is a church ordinance, I shall communion.
Argument 5. I argue that as it is a church ordinance, it necessarily follows that baptism is as truly a prerequisite to the Lord's Supper as that the ordinance of baptism is essential to a gospel church.
Argument 6. I argue that from the design, nature and use of baptism, and the scriptural use of baptism, it is necessarily a prerequisite to the communion.
A learned writer has said:
"The principal and most comprehensive design of this ordinance appears, from the scriptures, to be a solemn public and practical profession of Christianity. Thus Paul sums up the baptism of John, Acts 19: 4 - "John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people that they should believe on Him which should come after him, that is, on Jesus Christ!" And thus he describes his own (Galatians 3: 27) - "As many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ." To the same purpose are the words of Peter on the day of Pentecost: "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ." Hence also a rejection of baptism is by our Lord called a rejection of the counsel of God, that is, of Christianity. Luke 7: 30. And the reception of baptism is represented as the act by which we justify God; that is, practically approve his method of salvation by faith in the Messiah. Luke 7: 29. Hence, whatever may be said of baptism as it is now generally understood and practiced, and of the personal religion of those who practice it, it is certain that it was originally appointed to be the boundary of visible christianity."
"But this general design of baptism comprehends many particulars. Christianity consists partly of truths to be believed, partly of precepts to be obeyed and partly of promises to be hoped for, and this, its initiatory ordinance, is rich in significance in relation to them all. We are taught to regard it:
1. As a solemn profession of our faith in the Trinity, and particularly of our adoption by the Father, of our union to the Son, of our sanctification by the spirit. 2. As a public pledge of the renunciation of sins. 3. As the expression of our hope of a future and glorious resurrection. 4. As a visible bond of union among Christians."
Baptism, therefore, is designed to give a sort of visible epitome to Christianity.
I will then begin with the statement that no unbaptized person is, according to the order of the gospel, to be admitted to the Lord's table. The reason I begin with this argument is because I have already seen a challenge for the proof of that position, and how well I shall succeed in the establishment of this point you will be left to judge.
The first text that I will introduce in support of my position is the commission, as recorded by Matthew: "Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen."
Second, to baptize, and afterwards teach them to do all other things that Jesus had commanded them. If he had commanded them to observe the communion at all, which will not be denied, then it is plain that the communion is embraced in "all things whatsoever I have commanded you," and, if so, then baptism is given by the Lord, himself, before the communion. The best way for Christians to prove their loyalty and fidelity to the Savior and His word is to obey him.
If He, in the commission, gave the order in which the ordinances are to be observed, it seems tome it would be bold and defiant presumption on the part of His people to reverse that order. If you say it makes no difference, we have a right to invite unbaptized persons to the Lord's table, instead of submitting to the authority of Christ, you rebel against it, and, instead of obeying his law, you set it aside and legislate a law of your own and obey it. If this is your course, do not ask us to recognize you as a true servant of Christ and complain at us if we do not commune with you. If you do not reverse the order, then baptism is before the communion, as taught in the commission.
The Savior taught the disciples about this: "After you have taught and baptized them, then you are to teach them to observe all things, communion among others, whatsoever I have commanded you during the three years of My ministry with you." If this is not the teaching of Jesus in the commission, then I do not know the meaning of His language.
On the day of Pentecost Peter commanded the people to repent and be baptized. There can be no doubt that Peter, on this memorable occasion, was laboring under the authority of the commission that I have already quoted, and the first thing he did was to teach, and then require them to be baptized. He said nothing about the communion to them at that time, and, as he did not, it is very evident he followed the order of the commission, teaching that the gospel requires baptism before the communion.
That is the way he understood and taught the commission. We might as well reverse the order of teaching and baptizing, so as to have baptism go before teaching, as to reverse the order of baptism and communion and have communion before baptism.
There is not a single instance given in the New Testament, that I have ever seen, where the bread and wine were offered to an unbaptized person. With this glaring fact before us, what are we to conclude, only that the apostles taught that baptism was a prerequisite to the Lord's Supper? We read: "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized, and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread and in prayers." Acts 2: 41, 42.
We learn from this text that they were first taught, and then baptized, and then followed the other things that the Lord had commanded, and among them was the breaking of the bread. It seems strange that the apostles were with Jesus three years during his ministry, and then, after his resurrection, they would hear him utter the words of the commission and fail to understand it, and in the very introduction of their work make a wrong start before the communion.
Why so much stress on the arrangement of the commission by the Savior, and then in its fulfillment by the apostles, if persons may be admitted to the communion without being baptized?
It is by baptism that the believer puts on Christ, practically, and I insist that no man that has not put on Christ is entitled to the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. While it is evident that believers are the children of God, it is also evident that God's children are required to put Christ on in baptism, and, until they do so, they disobey, and I cannot agree that disobedient children are entitled to the supper.
"For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ." Galatians 3: 26, 27.
If, as Mr. Campbell and others have taught, none are the children of God until they are baptized, which I deny, then they certainly are not entitled to communion before they are the children of God; but if believers are his children, but have not put on Christ by baptism, then they are not in Christ practically. What right have they to the communion? Whatever is meant in this text by being baptized into Christ, in that sense none are in Him until they are baptized, and, if they are not in Him, they are out of Him, that is all, and so they are not entitled to the Lord's Supper while they are out of Christ practically. We are, in some way, baptized into Christ, and in that sense we are not in Him without baptism, but we should be before we claim to be entitled to His supper. It is by baptism and not by communion that we get into Him in the sense of this text.
I take the meaning of the text to be that the believer puts on Christ, practically, by baptism. If I am correct, then the unbaptized person has not put Him on practically. If not, he is not entitled to the communion, unless a person is entitled to the communion who is not a practical Christian. Audience, what do you say? Is a man entitled to partake of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper who refuses, or fails, or neglects to put on Christ by baptism? The plea that he may not have the opportunity to be baptized will not do in this case, for no one has the opportunity to the communion that has no opportunity to be baptized.
Baptism is the first step of the saint in the new life. "Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." Romans 6: 4.
Is it right to admit persons to the Lord's table before they begin the new life? Have they any claim upon the church for the communion while they still refuse to walk in newness of life?
It is by the action of baptism that they pledge themselves to renounce sin, and to obey the Lord, and to be his enemy no longer. "And now why tarriest thou? Arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord." Acts 22: 16.
In some sense we are taught by this text that in the act of baptism sins are washed away. I know of none, except those who itself, literally and physically, washes away sin, but to say the least of it, it is a solemn pledge, on the part of the candidate, to renounce sin, and this he does not, in the sense of this text, only by being baptized. The text calls it washing away sins. Sins are not washed away, in the sense of this text, only in baptism; so a person cannot rightly and justly be admitted to the Lord's Supper until his sins are washed away. Then baptism is required before the communion is admissible.
To reject baptism is to reject the counsel of God, and the man that rejects the counsel of God rejects Christianity, and that such a man is not worthy of the communion, it seems to me, needs no argument. "But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him." Luke 8: 30.
In conclusion of this part of the subject I charge those who say that baptism is not an essential qualification for the Lord's table, with the crime of encouraging persons to disobey the gospel and to think they can do as well without baptism as with it. If they are to be entitled to the communion without baptism, what other privileges may they not enjoy without being baptized?
If they can be admitted to the most sacred and the most important without baptism, then we might get along very well and dispense with baptism entirely.
We have as much authority for repealing the laws and ordinances of Christ as we have for making new ones. Either is treason against his government. I think we should be careful. I am not in favor of communing with those who are willing to set aside the Savior's laws.
Argument 7. I argue that baptism is a prerequisite to the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, from the fact that it has been so universally understood by all churches to be so.
Mosheim, in his ecclesiastical history, London edition, p. 78, century 3, says:
"Those, also, who had not received the sacrament of baptism were not admitted to this holy supper." Again, on page 110, century 4, he says:
"The institution of catechumens, and this discipline through which they passed, suffered no variation in this century, but continued still upon the ancient footing."
Mr. Hall, the great advocate for open communion, says:
"The apostles, it is acknowledged, admitted none to the Lord's Supper but such as were previously baptized." (Works, vol. 2, p. 213, 214, quoted by Howell, p. 77).
Neander's History of the Christian Church, vol. 1, p. 327,says:
"At this celebration (the Lord's Supper), as may be easily concluded, no one could be present who was not a member of the baptism."
Abraham Booth says:
"Before the grand Romish apostasy, in the very depths of that apostasy, and since the reformation, both at home and abroad, the general practice has been to receive none but baptized persons to communion at the Lord's table." (Booth wrote in the seventeenth century. Howell, pp. 51, 52.)
Justin Martyr wrote about A. D. 150, not more than fifty years after the death of John the apostle. He says:
"This food is called by us the eucharist, of which it is not lawful for any to partake, but such as believe the things that are taught by us to be true, and have been baptized." (2nd Apology, p. 162, Howell, p. 52.)
Jerome, who wrote about A. D. 400, says:
"Catechumens cannot communicate at the Lord's table, being unbaptized." (Howell, p. 58.)
Austin, who wrote about A. D. 500, on the question of administering the Lord's Supper to infants, says:
"Of which certainly they cannot partake, unless they are baptized." (Howell, p. 53.)
Theophylact, in a work published A. D. 1100, remarks, "No unbaptized person partakes of the Lord's Supper." (Howell, p. 53.)
Bonaventure, who wrote about A. D. 1200, observes: "Faith, indeed is necessary to all sacraments, but especially to the reception of baptism, because baptism is the first among the sacraments and the door to the sacraments." (Howell.)
Spanheim, who flourished about A. D. 1600, says: "None but baptized persons are admitted to the Lord's table." (Howell.)
Lord Chancellor King wrote about A. D. 1700. He says:
"Baptism was always precedent to the Lord's Supper, and none were admitted to receive the eucharist till they were baptized. This is so obvious to every man that it needs no proof." (Howell.)
Dr. Wall avers: "No church ever gave the communion to any persons before they were baptized. Among all the absurdities that were ever held, none ever maintained that any person should partake of the communion before they were baptized." (History Infant Baptism, part 2, chapter 9, Howell.)
Dr. Doddridge says: "It is certain that Christians in general have always been spoken of as baptized persons. And it is also certain that, as far as our knowledge of primitive antiquity extends, no unbaptized person received the Lord's Supper." (Lectures, page 410, Howell.)
Dr. Dwight says:
"It is an indispensable qualification for this ordinance that the candidate for communion be a member of the visible church of Christ, in full standing. By this I intend that he should be a person of piety; that he should have made a public profession of religion, and that he should have been baptized."
(Systematic Theology, Serm. 160, Howell.)
Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, page 35, says:
"The general opinion and practice in all ages has been that something more than conversion and Christian character was necessary to this ordinance; that baptism, soundness in faith, and a regular walk of holy obedience, were scriptural and indispensable terms of communion."
Even Robert Hall, who denied that baptism should be a prerequisite to communion, says:
"It has been inferred, too hastily in my opinion, that we are bound to abstain from their communion--that of unbaptized persons- -whatever judgment we may form of their sincerity and piety. Baptism, it is alleged, is, under all possible circumstances, an indispensable term of communion; and, however highly we may esteem many of our Pedobaptist brethren, yet, as we cannot but deem them unbaptized, we must of necessity consider them as unqualified for an approach to the Lord's table. It is evident that this reasoning rests entirely on the assumption that baptism is invariably a necessary condition of communion--an opinion which, it is not surprising, the Baptists should have embraced, since it has long passed current in the Christian world and been received by nearly all denominations of Christians." (Works, vol. 2, p. 212.)
I wish to add to this long list of witnesses a Methodist writer. A. A. Jimeson, in his note on the twenty-five articles, p. 297, says:
"The nature of these two ordinances teaches most clearly that baptism must necessarily precede the Lord's Supper."
But I must notice one argument that has been urged against the doctrine that baptism must precede the Lord's Supper. It has been argued that John's baptism was not Christian baptism, and therefore the disciples of Jesus, when he instituted the supper, had not received the rite of Christian baptism, and, if it was first given to those who had not been baptized, why make baptism precede the communion now?
If John's baptism was not Christian baptism, and the apostles had not received baptism, in the Christian sense of the word, when the supper was instituted, then they never did receive Christian baptism at all, for they evidently did not perform that duty afterward.
Not only this, but the great mass of the first Christians baptized by John were in precisely the same predicament.
If John's baptism was not Christian, it should be distinguished by some mark, phrase or epithet, so that we might know the two baptisms apart. Is one baptism styled John's baptism, and the other Christian baptism, in the New Testament?
No such distinctions are known in the New Testament, and, therefore, I do not feel willing to recognize such a distinction until I have better authority for it.
John does contrast his baptism with one that is different; that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost, but if afterwards the baptism of Christians was to be different from his baptism, it is singular that he said nothing about it.
"The Lord's Supper, not baptism, is for the church as a church; therefore, as we will maintain the church's edifying, that must be maintained in it; yea, used oft to show the Lord's death till he come." (Complete Works, p. 856.)
What is a church? Is it an assembly of unbaptized persons? Is there any people, who believe in baptism at all, that would recognize anything as a church without baptism? Then, if the sacrament of the Lord's Supper is for the church as a church, it must necessarily be for baptized persons, unless the church is made up in part, or in whole, of unbaptized persons.
As it is a church ordinance, therefore it must be for baptized persons.
The reason I have taken such pains to establish the point that baptism is a condition of the communion, is that Rev. W. P. Hale, Pastor of the General Baptist Church in this town, and editor of the General Baptist Messenger , said he would be obliged to the man that would show him one thus saith the Lord that taught that baptism is required before the communion. I think I have established that fact by the plain unmistakable teachings of the scriptures, and also by the history of the opinion of men on the terms of communion in all ages of the church.
Mr. Hale also stated to me, in conversation on the subject that if I could prove that point, he would admit that we are correct in our practice of strict communion.
It is sometimes said that we set a Baptist table instead of the Lord's table. To such a saying as this I ask then, why are you so anxious to eat at it? Another answer: If it was our own table we could invite whom we chose to eat at it, but, if it is the Lord's table, He has not only given it to us, but with it he has given us the laws by which it shall be governed, and for us to set aside those laws would be for us to betray the trust committed to us.
Again, we are often accused of selfishness because we refuse to invite others to our communion, and that it is the cause of our not working with them in other services. To this we ask why does not the same thing keep other close communionists from working with you?
It is not our views of the communion that hinders us from working with other denominations in their effort meetings to efforts, measures and means employed at these effort meetings.
The Missionary Baptists do believe in such efforts, and, although they are close communionists, they mix with other denominations in their revival meetings. So it is not the communion that keeps us apart.
But it is sometimes said that if we were friendly we would certainly commune with other denominations. I do not understand that the sacramental communion is a test of friendship.
I understand it to be an ordinance of the Lord, and, if it is, for us to make it a test of friendship is to misuse it, which would be worse than not to take the sacrament at all. Besides, I expect, as a general rule, there is about as good state of feeling between us and other denominations as there is between those denominations that commune together.
If there is not, we think we had better incur the ill-will of our religious neighbors than to sin. We prefer to have the approbation of God, above the approbation of even good men.
This thing of setting aside the law of the church, in order to look well in the eyes of others, does not honor God much.
If the church is not to care for and preserve the ordinances that God has given to it, who will do it better? If it should be said by any that we are not the church, or a church, then, if we are not, we have no right to the ordinances of the church. If we are, we are under obligation to God to observe the ordinances in His appointed way, and for us to deviate from that way would be treason.
But are there no inconsistencies about open communion? Mosheim, in speaking of the General Baptists in the sixteenth century, says: "There is much latitude in their system of religious doctrine, which consists in such vague and general principles, as render their communion accessible to Christians of almost all denominations. And accordingly they tolerate, in fact, and receive among them persons of every sect, even Socinians and Arians: nor do they reject any from their communion, who profess themselves Christians, and receive the Holy Scriptures as the source of truth and the rule of faith."
(p. 528.) Note 4, at the bottom of the same page, says: "This appears evidently from their confession of faith, which appeared first in the year 1660, was republished by Mr. Whiston in the memoirs of his life, vol. 2, p. 561, and is drawn up with such latitude that, with the removal and alteration of a few points, it may be adopted by Christians of all denominations. Mr. Whiston, though an Arian, became a member of this Baptist community, which, as he thought, came nearest to the simplicity of the primitive and apostolic age. The famous Mr. Emlyn, who was persecuted on account of his Socinian principles, joined himself also to this society, and died in their communion.
It seems, then, that for us to commune with the General Baptists is to also commune with Arians and Socinians.
Indeed, what would we not commune with if we were open communionists?
The Apostle Paul said: "He that is an heretic after the first and second admonition, reject." But how are we to do that? Are we to deprive him of all the privileges except the supper?
"The doctrine of the Socinians respecting the atonement is that God requires no consideration or condition of pardon, but the repentance of the offender; and that, consequently, the death of Christ was no real sacrifice for sin; and, though, it be so called in scripture, it is merely, in a figurative sense, by way of allusion to the Jewish sin offering, just as our praises and other good works are called sacrifices, because they are something offered up to God." (Religious Encyclopedia, p. 1081.)
Suppose there is an organization of Socinians in the town of Owensville, and we were to attend the sacramental services of the General Baptist church and commune with them, would we not be likely to have to sit at the Lord's table with a people who deny that the death of Christ was a sacrifice for sin?
We certainly would have no right to request the General Baptists to debar them from their table. They should have full control of that themselves.
The way for us not to commune with those with whom we would prefer not to affiliate, is for us not to commune with the General Baptists. We may be ever so willing to commune with our General Baptist brethren, but their liberality to Arians and Socinians would shut us out.
But let us notice the Methodist discipline a moment. Our Methodist brethren are close communionists, if they live up to their discipline, and they cannot invite me to their communion unless they violate their discipline. Listen: "No person shall be admitted to the Lord's Supper among us who is guilty of any practice for which we would exclude a member from our church." (Discipline, p. 37, sec. 42.)
Now, if I am guilty of any practice for which they would exclude one of their own members, I am not to be admitted to their communion. That is our rule, only we do not have it written out.
We would not commune with a man if he is guilty of what we would exclude one of our own members for.
But let us see what the Methodists would exclude their members for, and see whether or not I am guilty of such a practice. If I am, I am debarred from their table.
"If a member of our church shall be accused of endeavoring to sow dissension in any of our societies by inveighing against either our doctrines or our discipline, the person so offending shall first be reproved by the preacher in charge, and, if he persists in such pernicious practice, he shall be brought to trial, and, if found guilty, expelled." (Dis. p. 136, sec. 341.)
I speak out against the Methodist doctrine and discipline, and I presume if I was a member of that church, and would preach as I do and oppose infant baptism and sprinkling and pouring as the mode of baptism, general atonement and conditional salvation, they would exclude me. Would you not, Brother Clippinger?
Brother Clippinger (Methodist minister, the preacher in charge at Owensville): "Yes, we would turn you out."
I thought so, and I am guilty of a practice for which you would exclude a member, then. So I am debarred from the fellowship.
They are close communionists, as well as we, yet they do not practice it, and, although they would exclude me from their church, yet, if I would go and join the General Baptists, they would invite me to their communion. That is one of the inconsistencies of open communion. The apostle tells us: "The man that is an heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject."
How are we to reject a heretic? Exclude him from our church and let him go to some other church and join, and then, because he is a member in good standing, invite him to our communion? Is that the way to reject a heretic? Is that the order of God's house? We do not wish to commune with heretics. We exclude men from us for heresy, and, when we do, we do not wish to invite them to our communion the next meeting we have. Is there heresy in this country under the name of Christianity? All will admit there is. We do not have to go to the Jews or pagans to find heresy, for it may be found among Christians. If there is heresy among Christians, and we all practice free communion, how are we going to reject heretics? There is no way to do it, only to refuse to commune with others.
The apostle said to the Galatians: "Though we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel to you than that we have preached, let him be accursed." Not commune with him.
The apostle instructs us to let him be accursed, instead of to think that a little difference in doctrine will make no difference, we will commune with him, let him come to the Lord's table. I think it is heresy to say that the death of Christ was not a sacrifice for sin, but, if we commune with Socinians, we must commune with heretics who believe that doctrine.
I do not wish to sit down at the Lord's table, side by side with a man to commemorate the death of Christ, and that man say the death of Christ is not a sacrifice for sin, but I am liable to have it to do if I commune with the General Baptists, according to their history.
Now here is Brother Clippinger, a Methodist minister. He and I often meet and strike hands, and I love him, and, perhaps, we could preach in the same community for years and have no hard feelings, for I am one of the most willing men you ever saw for people to do as they please religiously, so they do not interfere with my rights. If I should be at your meeting and you invited me to commune with you, I would not think hard of you, and, if you did not, I would not feel slighted, so long as I have the liberty to accept or reject the invitation, as I chose to do.
I do not care whom other denominations commune with. It is none of my business to dictate to them, neither do I wish to be dictated to by them.