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Most of the articles on these WebPages have been written by godly men with a central belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. However as with most of us, they may have different beliefs concerning some particular doctrines. These articles have been made available for the purpose of “gleaning the good” where good can be found. I do not necessarily endorse all that is written by others, anymore than I expect others to endorse all that I write.

Communion Lecture 4

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.

     In the course of my remarks this evening, I shall speak more especially  on  the real nature of the sacrament  of the  Lord's Supper, from the light of a few texts of scripture, that I  shall read and talk about.

     I have, I think, shown that baptism must precede the  Lord's Supper, but it may be that my points are not as strong as I think they are.  Nothing would have pleased me better, on that account, than to have an opponent in the discussion, so that the  strength of  my  arguments might have been tested; but this we  could  not have, and I feel satisfied that I have established my points.

     As  it is my calculation, now, to publish a synopsis  of  my  discourses,  you will all have the opportunity of  reading  them, and  of being your own judges as to our reasons for our  practice of close communion.  I wish to state again, that all I have said, or shall say, is in defense.  We do not care how other people  do in  reference  to this or any other service.  When  they  commune with  others,  we do not fall out with them, and say  they  ought not, for we think it none of our affair.  As I told Brother Hale, one  day at Brother Mangum's house, I am one of the most  willing souls  in the world for people to do as they please  religiously, so  they did not try to make me do as they please, too.  When  it comes  to that I object.  On that account I am here this week  to defend,  if  I can, our position on the Communion  question.   We have been spoken of as not having any reasons for our course.  We may  not  have  good reasons, but they satisfy  us,  and  we  are willing to give them and let you consider them.

     We  have  said that we are often accused  of  being  selfish because we do not admit others to our communion, and that it does not look friendly on our part.  I have shown you that the  Lord's Supper  is  not a test of friendship.  Whoever read  in  the  New Testament  that  the  Supper is a test of friendship?   It  is  a commemorative rite - it commemorates the death of Christ.  We are not  unfriendly  to others because we do not commune  with  them, neither do we unchristianize them.  But if we must either  offend them or God, we prefer to please the Lord.  We do not wish to  be so friendly with any one that we will incur the disapprobation of God, in order to please them.

     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       

     From this text of scripture, we get the course of the  first Christians after the ascension of our Savior.  They continued  in the  apostles' doctrine, as though doctrine is a  very  essential feature in the Christian system.  We have heard men say, that our doctrinal  differences  do not amount to anything -  we  are  all aiming at the same thing.  But we never hear a man talk that way, that is ready to give any of his notions up.  A man at  Grayville said to me, once, that he would like for me to come and hear  his preacher, who was there holding a series of meetings.  He told me he thought I would like him, he was a good preacher, and said he, "He  says he is not here to preach the Baptist doctrine,  or  the Methodist   doctrine,  or  the  Campbellite  doctrine,   or   the Presbyterian  doctrine,  but that he is here to save  souls."   Isaid,  is  he not a Presbyterian?  Yes, he said, he  was.   Well, then why does he not preach his doctrine?

     "Well," said the man, "he thinks it would be so much  better for  all of us to come together and unite our influences,  as  we could do so much more good in the world."

     Well, said I, perhaps I am the very man he wants to see.  If he is a compromise man, as he makes the proposition, the rules of propriety require him to make the first move. What is he  willing to lay aside for the sake of uniting with me?  Will he lay  aside his notion of infant baptism?  He is aware that I do not  believe in that.

     "No," said he, "he would would not do that."

     Well, then, I will have to, if we come together.

     Will  he lay down his views of general atonement?  He  knows that Baptists do not believe in general atonement.

     "No, he would not do that,"  said he.

     Well, then, I would have to give up my ideas on that subject if we ever come together. Now, tell me just what he will give  up in order to unite with us.

     "Well,"  said  he, "he would not give up  anything  that  he holds."

     Then, if he wishes to unite with me, he means he wants me to give  up all and go to him.  That is the way with  those  fellows that  want  us  to affiliate with them; they wish  us  to  simply dissolve and go to them.  We are as friendly as they are, for  if they  will come to us on our terms, we will commune with  any  of them.  We do not make the terms, but we find them in the Bible.

     We  frequently hear it said, that it does not matter what  a man believes, if he is honest in it.  I object to that idea,  for that  puts  falsehood  upon  a par with  truth,  provided  a  man believes it and is honest in it.

     Saul  of Tarsus was just as good a saint  while  persecuting the  church as he was after his conversion, if that is true,  for he was honest in it.

     He said, "I very thought I ought to do many things  contrary to  the name of Jesus, which things I also did."  If it does  not matter  what  a  man believes, so he is  honest  in  it,  Colonel Ingersoll is all right, provided he is honest in what he says  he believes.

     Doctrine  was so essential to the church that  the  apostles and first Christians continued steadfastly in the doctrine. be  essential to the communion.  I am of the opinion  that  those who are willing to not mention doctrinal differences, do not care to have their doctrinal positions investigated.

     The apostle Jude said:  "It was needful for me to write unto you,  and  exhort you that ye should earnestly  contend  for  the faith  which was once delivered unto the Saints."  Such  a  thing being  needful,  reminds  us of two things:  that  the  faith  is likely  to be opposed, and that such opposition is  dangerous  to the welfare of the church.  If it was needful in the days of  the apostles, it is certainly still needful.  How are we going to heed this exhortation of Jude, if we do not let doctrinal  differences make any difference with us?

     If  doctrinal  differences amount to nothing,  why  did  the Apostle  John  write  as he did?   "Whosoever  transgresseth  and abideth  not  in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God.   He  that abideth  in the doctrine of Christ, hath both the Father and  the Son.   If  there come any unto you and bring not  this  doctrine, receive him not into your house - neither bid him God speed.  For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds."  I. John 2: 9, 10, 11.

     Now,  this  is the plain, unmistakable word of God,  and  no Christian,  that wishes the Lord to approbate his course,  as  an obedient  servant, should be willing to set at naught  the  plain injunctions  of  God's  word, to gratify  his  sympathy  for  his Christian  neighbor.  This word says, receive him not  into  your house, neither bid him God speed, for if you do, you are partaker of his evil deeds.  Do you wish to become a partner with all  the religious  world, in all the heresies that are taught among  men, and  that  are called the doctrine of Christ?  When  you  commune with one whose doctrine is false, you then become a partner  with him.  God forbids you to do so, and you cannot disobey God and do right.

     It  does not matter if you have personal friends there,  you had better not go there.      But you say you see the Lord there, and you feel like going. But  you  are mistaken, according to the text, for  he  says,  he  "hath not God."

     With  such plain teaching of the scriptures as this, let  it bring upon our heads all the anathemas and opprobriums that  Jews or  Pagans  may see fit to inflict, or that  ministers  of  other denominations may hurl at us, and heap upon us; it is our duty to bear it, and still do our homage to the Lord.

     The  Apostle  Paul  exhorted  Timothy  to  "Take  heed  unto thyself,  and  to the doctrine, continue in them;  for  in  doing this, thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee."   I. Timothy 4: 16.

     Are  we  to obey the instructions given in  these  texts  of scripture?  What are they for, only for our good?  What good will they do us if we commune with all the religious world?  We cannot practice  open communion and obey these exhortations.  Are  there now, or have there ever been, heresies among the great number  of sects in the world, which claim to be churches or branches of the Church of Christ?

     How  are we to commune with those errorists and not  partake   the  people we affiliate with, not only morally, but  doctrinally and  practically,  and  we thus become responsible  for  the  bad effects of their errors.

     The  salvation  of the church, in some way, depends  on  the maintenance of the doctrine, if the text means anything.     

     Some  seem  to think, when the scripture speaks  of  saving, eternal  salvation  is  meant, and if it  is,  then  doctrine  is essential to eternal salvation of those to whom we preach.   Then it becomes highly necessary that we take heed to the doctrine.

     But while I do not believe it to be necessary to our eternal salvation, yet I do believe it is essential to the glory of  God, and the welfare of his church.

     For  this purpose the ministry was given to the  church,  as the  apostle observes, "That we henceforth be no  more  children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by  the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they  lie in wait to deceive."  Ephesians 4: 14.

     We  cannot be saved from every wind of doctrine,  unless  we take heed unto the doctrine.  How are we to do that, and yet  say doctrinal differences should not make any difference with us?   I do not know.

     Paul tells the church to reject the man that is an  heretic, after  the first and second admonition; but how can we  do  that, if,  after  we have excluded him, as we did Randall, he  sets  up another  church as Randall did--the Freewill Baptist  Church--and then  we  commune  with  him, on the grounds  that  we  are  open communionists, and our doctrinal differences should not hinder us from communing together?

     An   agreement  on  doctrine  seems  to  be   necessary   to fellowship.   The prophet said:  "Can two walk  together,  except they  be agreed?"  Amos 3: 3.  Hence, it seems that if we do  not agree we cannot walk together, and if we cannot walk together, we cannot  be  in fellowship, and if we are not  in  fellowship,  we cannot  commune  together.  But the practice  of  open  communion would  force  us  to  commune with those  for  whom  we  have  no fellowship.  We do not exclude from our fellowship those for whom we  have  fellowship, and after we exclude a member for  want  of fellowship,  and he goes away and joins another denomination,  if he should come to or communion we have either to practice  close communion, or commune with him.

     There  is  no doubt in my mind but that the members  of  the church  must be in fellowship, in order to take the Sacrament  of the  Lord's Supper.  It was intended, in the very nature  of  the organization  of the church, that fellowship should  prevail.   A church is not in order to take the supper if her members are  not in  fellowship with each other.  As an evidence of this  fact,  I think  the  apostle  speaks  of it in his  first  letter  to  the Corinthians.   "For  first of all when ye come  together  in  the church,  I hear that there be divisions (or schisms)  among  you, and  I  partly believe it.  For there must be also  heresies  (or sects)  among  you,  that they which are  approved  may  be  made manifest  among you.  When ye come together, therefore, into  one place,  this is not to (or ye cannot) eat the Lord's Supper.  For in  eating  (or if ye eat under these  circumstances)  every  one is drunken."  I. Corinthians 11: 18-20.

     I understand from this that if the church is not agreed they cannot  partake  of the Lord's Supper, for the ordinance  of  the supper is not to be observed by individual members of the church, as individuals, but all the church collectively.  Hence they  are to  partake of the supper together, that is, all of them eat  the supper that belongs to all, and not each one eat his own.

     But Paul seems to argue the necessity of all being united to do so.  There must be no schisms or sects in the church when they commune,  or else they cannot partake.  One will eat  before  the other his own supper, and not one wait for another as the apostle advises.

     If  the church cannot partake of the supper when  there  are divisions  in her body, how can she commune with those  of  other churches when they are not united?

     I  hear  men talk of branches of the church  as  though  the church of Christ had been divided up into branches, and that each denomination  was a branch of the church of Christ.  Who  divided the  Lord's  church up into so many different branches?   I  once heard a minister say that he thanked God that his church had been divided and subdivided, so that if a man did not like this branch of  the church he could go to one that he did like and  join  it, and  thereby get to heaven.  Did God divide His own church up  to suit the different tastes of men, and then require men to join in order to get to heaven?

     He only established one at first, and if he has divided  His church  Himself,  he  must have found out, after He  set  up  the church, that it did not suit at all, and then he went to work and divided it up so as to have a branch suited to all.  It occurs to me, if that be true, He should still get up more, for some people are not exactly suited yet.  If he did not make the division,  he need not be thanked for it.

     But  if  he  did, and all are simply branches  of  the  same church,  it occurs to me there should be an affinity among  them. I see many branches of a tree, but all take their substance  from the  root and sap of the tree, and the fruit of all the  branches is  the same.  I do not believe that the church has been  divided up  in  such a manner as that, and that each  denomination  is  a branch of the church.

     There  seems to be a lack of fellowship among them, and  the members  of the church should be in fellowship with one  another, as  the apostle said:  "Ye are, therefore, no more strangers  and foreigners,  but  fellow  citizens with the saints,  and  of  the household  of  God."  To be fellow citizens, is  to  be  citizens together.   We are all citizens of the state, and  our  interests are  all  the same, so that what is best for me as a  citizen  of Indiana  is best for all others in the state.  In the  church  of Christ  the  members  are so united together  as  to  make  their interests  all the same. We are not each one independent  of  all the rest, but the apostle says:  "As we have many members in  one body,  and all the members have not the same office, so we  being many,  are  one  body in Christ, and every  one  members  one  of another."  How important that such a body of members should be in fellowship with one another in order to glorify the Lord.

      Those  who  serve  should  be  in  fellowship,  it  must  be  the communion,  for  the  church  must  come  together  in  order  to participate  in  the supper, and not one take it  himself  alone. One  person  may  go into his closet and pray, and  no  one  else present,  and  so with many other duties, but when the  death  of Christ  is to be commemorated, it is not to be by one  individual alone,  but  by the whole church, collectively.   "Wherefore,  my brethren,  when ye come together to eat, tarry one for  another."

     I understand all are to eat together, and not one to himself, and on this account fellowship should necessarily prevail.     

     But it is often the case that we exclude from our fellowship members  of our church, and let it be understood that we  do  not exclude  a member if we can fellowship him, and when  we  exclude him  we do not wish to commune with him, and if we practice  free or open communion, we are compelled to commune with those we have excluded  for want of fellowship.  It is not only true  with  us, for those who do open their communion to all, are often compelled to commune with members they have excluded from their fellowship.     

     We  often  hear  the text quoted, "But  let  a  man  examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup." This  is  universally  quoted  to prove  open  communion,  but  I understand it to be simply an exhortation to self-examination  of each member of the church.  Each member is to examine himself and eat.   That  text  does  not forbid the  church  to  examine  the standing  of her own members.  If the church is not  allowed  the privilege  of judging the moral standing of her own members,  and their worthiness to eat, how is she going to be able to obey  the admonition of the apostle when he says, "with such an one no  not to  eat."   There is no doubt that the apostle here  intended  to exhort  the  church  to  see to the moral  standing  of  her  own members, and with certain characters they were forbidden to  eat. He  says:  "I wrote unto you an epistle not to keep company  with fornicators.   Yet  not altogether with the fornicators  of  this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with  idolators, for then must ye needs go out of the world."

     "But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or  an idolater,  or  a railer, or a drunkard, or an  extortioner,  with such an one no not to eat."  I. Corinthians 5: 9-11.

     I  understand  from this language of the  apostle  that  the church  must certainly judge the standing of her members, and  if they are not worthy, she is not to allow them to eat.  She is not judging  the  world in this case, but she is simply  judging  her members.  The apostle continues:  "For what have I to do to judge them  also that are without."  I think he means by them that  are without,  those who do not belong to the church.  We are  not  to judge  any but our own members.  "Do not ye judge them  that  are within?"  That is in the church.  "But them that are without  God judgeth.   Therefore put away from among yourselves  that  wicked person."  I. Corinthians 5: 12-3.

     Now,  suppose  a church excludes one such  member  that  the apostle has told us to put away, and not to eat with, and he goes and  joins another denomination, and we practice open  communion, and he comes to our communion meeting, how are we going to refuse. 

     I   do  not  remember  that  I  have  ever  heard  an   open communionist quote the text, "With such a one no not to eat."

     When they quote, "but let a man examine himself, and so  let him  eat,"  they  seem to use it to prove that if  a  man  thinks himself  to be worthy, the church should not debar him.  If  that is the correct interpretation of it, I do not see how they are to refuse to eat with such a one as the apostle mentions.  The order of God's house has no inconsistencies in it, and the apostle  has not been inconsistent in saying in one text, "With such a one  no not  to eat," and in another, "But let a man examine himself  and so let him eat."

     I  have now briefly given the main reasons we have  for  our practice  of close communion, and you will be permitted to  study them  and be your own judges as to their validity.  I am sure  no one feels more friendly to Christians of other denominations than we  do, but we do not believe in violating the plain  injunctions of God's word to show our friendship to the people.  I now  leave the  matter with you, feeling thankful to God that we  can  think for ourselves on these subjects.