This sermon is devoted to a discussion of the question of Close Communion. In one word, this is our plea: We ask, for ourselves, the simple liberty to administer the ordinances of the Lord's House in such a way as our consciences tell us that His Word requires. We ask the charity of others that they recognize our right to do this, and that they charge our course to this motive alone -- not to bigotry, uncharitableness, or illiberality. We ask no more, and surely there will be granted no less, than this. We do not arrogate to ourselves a wisdom or piety superior to others; but, "with malice towards none, and charity for all," we ask that we be allowed to follow our conscientious convictions in all matters pertaining to the Kingdom of Heaven. As it is by the Word of God that we are to be approved or condemned, we feel bound to follow that Word just where it leads us.
Throughout the land there is an outcry against Baptists, because of their Close Communion. This is because their views and motives are misunderstood. There are persons who never will be brought to understand the true position of Baptists in this matter. Not that the position itself is difficult, or that the persons lack the ability to understand, but they do not care to understand. The cry of "Close Communion" is a convenient cudgel with which to pound Baptists; and a ringing rally-word with which to excite popular passion and prejudice against them. To reason with such persons is the idlest of idle tasks; and Baptists may as well make up their minds to endure their carping. But we are glad to believe that this class is a very small minority, while the large majority of their fellow Christians of other names honestly and really misunderstand. To those who are willing to hear and consider, and who would be glad to be relieved of any wrong impressions they may have received, these words of explanation and argument are addressed.
Let it be premised that, rightly considered, the very fact that the position of the Baptists on the question of Communion is one of odium, instead of being a ground of rash condemnation, constitutes a presumption in its favor, since there must be very strong reasons to urge its adoption and maintenance in the very face of its odiousness. The love of approbation is instinctive and very strong. Censure
is a thing which men flee. So great is the aversion of men to censure, that many will give up their principles rather than endure it. To go out of their way to incur it, or to expose themselves to its fury when it may as well and as easily be avoided, is an unheard-of thing, except among fanatics. If a man of probity and intelligence firmly set himself in a way that will bring odium upon him, and calmly pursue his course despite the scorn and condemnation of his neighbors, if it be in a matter not beyond his judgment, the probability is that he will be found to be not only honest, but right. Such was the position of Paul at Antioch, when Peter and Barnabas were carried away by the popular current. Such we believe to be the position of Baptists upon the question of Communion. What a world of pressure has been brought to bear against their position, because of its odiousness. It is unpopular, and so is condemned without any attention to its merits. If a minister or church has declared for open communion, with what laudation has that declaration been received. Far and near, it is sounded abroad; and the world is given to know what a burst of applause would follow, if all Baptists were to do likewise. Are Baptists so unlike all other men, so unnatural, that they choose the heritage of shame and condemnation without cause? Or, does not the fact that they have calmly withstood opposition and reproach at least entitle them to a candid and patient hearing, lest,
after all, they may be found to be in the way of the true followers of the Nazarene, "the sect everywhere spoken against."
It is freely conceded that the words "Close Communion"are not found in the Bible. No sane man would expect to find them there, when he remembers the character of the Apostolic churches, -- that they were essentially the same, each one being substantially like every other one. But what we do find in the Word of God is this: Certain restrictions thrown around the Lord's Supper, which, in the present condition of the religious world, force upon Baptists one of two things, -- either to set aside the restrictions imposed by the Word of God; or to refuse a free invitation to the Supper. The former they cannot do without setting aside the cardinal principle that the Scriptures are divinely inspired, and constitute an infallible and supreme rule of faith and practice. The latter being the only course left to them, they have refused to give a free invitation to the supper. What is called "Close Communion" is simply the practical application of the terms and conditions which the Scriptures have imposed upon all who would approach the Lord's table.
What are those terms or conditions? 1st. The first is conversion. By this we mean that the individual must be, so far as we can judge, a true disciple of Jesus Christ. (a) This accords with the Commission which Jesus gave to his Apostles.
"All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye, therefore, and teach [disciple] all nations." Matt. xxviii. 18, 19. (b) It accords also with the practice of the Apostles under that Commission. On the day of Pentecost Peter preached Jesus to the multitudes gathered together in Jerusalem. The first marked effect of his discourse is recorded in these words: "They were pricked in their hearts." When they cried out, "What shall we do?" he bade them repent. A little further on we are told that thousands of them "gladly received his word." Acts ii. 37, 41. To gladly receive his word about Jesus is the same as to receive Jesus himself. Now we are told that to receive Jesus is to "to believe on his name." "He came unto his own [the Jews] but his own received him not. But to as many as received him, to them gave he power [right or privilege] to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name." John i. 11, 12. Those Pentecostal converts then, were penitent believers. The true character of the penitent believers is still further developed in that they are declared to be the sons of God, and the subjects of a divine and spiritual birth. "Which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." John i. 13. Or, in ordinary parlance, we say that they were converted. This proposition might be very much enlarged upon, but the reader is invited to examine the New Testament for himself; and to note particularly the character of
the apostolic churches, as described in the epistles addressed to them. Let only one example be cited: "Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ * * * * to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful [the believers] in Christ Jesus." Eph. i. 1.
2d. The Bible teaches that a second qualification for the Lord's Supper is baptism. (a) Again, we find that this accords with the Commission. "Go ye, therefore, and teach [disciple] all nations, baptizing them," etc. Matt. xxviii. 19. (b) Again, it accords with the practice of the Apostles under the Commission. "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized." Acts ii. 41. So also it is the faith and practice of the various denominations of Christians to give the supper to the baptized only.
What constitutes the act of baptism, I will not discuss here. Only this much in general: If, in this controversy about the act of baptism, Baptists stood alone, with the whole world against them, they might well distrust the strength and correctness of their views and practice. If, for example, classical scholars, who have no interest in the baptismal controversy, said, with united voices, that the word baptize, in its various uses, never involved the idea of immersion; if the modern Greeks, who speak a modified form of the ancient language, said the same thing; if the leading church historians said that, as a matter of fact, sprinkling was the primitive practice, and they could point to the time when immersion
was first introduced, and detail the causes and circumstances which led to the change; if the character of the references to the rite found in the Near Testament was incompatible with immersion, and perfectly accordant with sprinkling; if, in addition to all this, hosts of the most learned and pious Baptist leaders had arisen, who said that we were mistaken in our assumptions, incorrect in our statements, and that we had departed from the primitive practice, -- if all these things were so, I should admit at once that the presumption that we were wrong amounted to almost a demonstration. But this is the case with those who practice sprinkling or pouring. The independent classical scholars of the world, ancient and modern, I suppose were never more united on the meaning of any word than this, and that it means immersion. The modern Greeks say the same thing. Ecclesiastical historians not only tell us that immersion was the primitive practice, but they point to the time when sprinkling was introduced, and detail the causes and circumstances that led to the change. The references to the rite in the New Testament are incompatible with the idea of sprinkling, and suitable to immersion.1 And, in addition to all this, hosts of the most learned and pious scholars of those denominations that practice sprinkling, conspicuously Luther, Calvin, Wesley, etc., tell us plainly that
1 See remarks of Dean Stanley, quoted on pages 94, 156 and 228-30. -- ed.
there has been a change of the ordinance, and that immersion was the primitive practice.
With regard to the subject of baptism, we are content to say but little. Yet we say that the New Testament affords neither precept nor example for any baptism, except the baptism of the believer. Like the sprinkling of adults, the sprinkling of infants had its origin in the idea that baptism washes away original sin, and that the only safety for the child dying in infancy is the water of baptism. In other words, the practice of sprinkling infants had its origin in the mischievous dogma of baptismal regeneration.1 Apart from this, I think that it is quite impossible to give any satisfactory reason for the practice of infant baptism. Its strongest defense is tradition. But, such a defense is against the corner-stone of Protestantism, -- that the Bible, and not tradition, is the religion of Protestants; that the Holy Scriptures are our guide in all matters of faith and practice. This is the great battle-ground between Protestants and Catholics, and nothing is more common than for
1 These words were written before the publication of Dean Stanley's now famous article on Baptism. Had I possessed the power to summon a witness from the rank of Pedobaptists, I could not have selected a better one than the Dean of Westminster. And had I possessed the authority to dictate the words that he would utter, I could not have made so complete a defence of the truth of the above statement as to the origin and spread of infant baptism. If he has not, the reader is urged to read the Dean's article.
Catholics to twit Pedobaptist Protestants with their inconsistency in this particular. "You reject tradition, and yet you retain infant baptism."
3d. A third qualification for the Lord's Supper is church membership. Concerning these Pentecostal converts, we read, "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized, and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls." Acts ii. 41. Added unto whom? The ellipsis is supplied in verse 47. "And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." Now, concerning those baptized converts that had been added to the church, we read, "And they continued steadfastly in the Apostle's doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread and prayers." Acts ii. 42. The Scriptures teach further that the Supper is not an individual, or social, or family ordinance, but a church ordinance. One of the main points of the Apostle's earnest admonitions in I. Cor., xi., is that the Supper is not a social ordinance, in which a few might join as a social repast, but that they should wait one for another; and with the whole church assembled, they should partake of the Supper. Again, he declares, "For we being many, are one bread and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread." I. Cor. x. 17. In accordance with this, the disciples at Troas came together on the first day of the week to break bread. Acts xx. 7. Though there is no specific mention of a church being established at Troas, as this
was the third time Paul had visited that city, and as he himself tells us that a door was opened to him of the Lord, the presumption is that a church had been established there. This is the opinion of Conybeare and Howson. Besides, to omit the mention of such a fact is not uncommon in Acts. If, in opposition to this, it should be urged that the Supper was observed from house to house, and was, perhaps, a social Christian ordinance rather than a church ordinance, -- the reply is ready. The writer of the Acts seems to be careful to keep up the idea of the disciples as one company. "And all that believed were together, and they [all that believed] continuing daily with one accord in the temple and in breaking bread from house to house," etc. Acts ii. 44–6. Besides, the idea is not that of going from house to house, but, as Olshausen says, "The stress is to be laid upon the opposition between [Greek phrase to be inserted.] They worshipped daily in the Temple; they broke bread in private, or, as the marginal renders it, at home. From these Scriptures it appears that the Lord’'s Supper is a church ordinance; that it is also an expressive symbol of church fellowship; and that it is to be shared by those who are truly united in church relation. The New Testament says nothing of the intercommunion of churches; but it seems reasonable to infer that there may be consistent intercommunion between those churches whose doctrine and order so agree that membership in the one
church may justly entitle an individual to membership in the others; but between such churches only.
Let us now see how these qualifications for the Supper, which are of the nature of restrictions thrown around it, force upon Baptists the practice of Close Communion.
Since conversion is an indispensable qualification in the Scriptural communicant, Baptists are compelled to refuse an invitation to all those who deny or practically ignore conversion as such a qualification; or they must with their own hand, remove the restriction which the Lord has imposed. They have no right to do the latter, and so are compelled to do the former. It is absolutely painful to consider how large a part of the professed Christian world this excludes. But if the reader will cast about him and discover who it is that demands a credible profession of faith in Christ, as a condition of church membership, or of participation at the Lord’ table, he will also discover that nine-tenths of the Christian world are excluded by this simple but unspeakably important test.
Again, since we believe that baptism is a qualification of the communicant, and that immersion alone is baptism, how can we consistently invite one who has not been baptized [immersed]? We do not admit to the Table persons whom we ourselves have received for church membership, until they have been baptized. It not unfrequently happens that persons
are received for membership in Baptist churches; but before they are baptized the church observes the Lord's Supper. Yet these persons are not invited to partake, because they have not been baptized. How can we consistently admit others who have not been baptized? Shall we so discriminate against our own members? Does not the same Scripture which compels us to withhold the Supper from those who have signified their wish to join our churches, because they are unbaptized, compel us to withhold it from all others who are unbaptized? We do not admit those who have been sprinkled to membership in our churches without baptism; neither can we admit them to the Lord’'s Table without baptism. Now is the one practice any more rigid or exclusive than the other? We may as consistently admit the unbaptized to our churches as to the Lord's Table. Particularly does this appear when we remember that the Supper is a church ordinance.
Again, if baptism is a scriptural qualification of the communicant, and is scripturally administered to the believer only, how can Baptists, unless they set aside the teaching of the Scriptures, invite one who was only sprinkled in his infancy? and who cannot claim that even that was done as the prompting of his own desire and choice, but wholly at the dictation of another. How can they receive the sprinkling of an unconscious babe as a substitute for the voluntary immersion of a conscious believer in Jesus Christ?
This brings to the surface the fact that the real difference between Baptists and Pedobaptists is not one of Communion at all, but, of baptism. And for our Pedobaptist brethren to cry out "Close Communion" is not only wide of the mark, but is ignoring the real issue. As has been said the thousandth time, perhaps, "It is close baptism." They will not give the Supper to the unbaptized. We say no more than that. So the question between them and us is, "What is baptism?" Until it is shown that something else than immersion is baptism, to upbraid Baptists for not inviting them to the table is to upbraid them for what they will not do themselves -- commune with those whom they consider unbaptized. Is it not plain that in the present condition of the religious world the practice of "Close Communion" is the practical application of the restrictions which the Word of God has thrown around the Lord's Table? If Baptists are wrong anywhere, it is in the principles which they have drawn from the Word of God; not in the practical application of those principles in the administration of the Supper. If their principles are wrong, they should abandon them, by all means. If their principles are of little worth, why, let them go along with their failure to practice them. But if their principles are right and important, let them have the manliness and fidelity to stand by them, and God and good men will approve their course. In these days of religious latitudinarianism, when, under the cloak of
charity, men are crying down creeds and formulas of faith, and calling upon their fellow Christians to give up, or submerge from view, this or that Bible doctrine, that all the Lord’'s people may appear to be one, is it not worth while that Baptists should stand firm, as the representatives of the grander principle that the Word of God is the supreme rule of life; that to do just what God says is of far greater importance than the exercise of a charity that vaunts itself over the Bible, while professing to reverence and love it? To maintain such a position as this at this present time is of the greatest moral value to the world, to say nothing of the sacrifice of principle and conscience involved in yielding their position.
OBJECTIONS. -- There are many plausible objections to Close Communion, which are persistently thrust forward with a skill and energy "Worthy of a better cause." These have been answered over and over again; but as the thoughts of men are particularly occupied with the objections to Close Communion, rather than with its true meaning and significance, there is no alternative but to expose their unsoundness once more. The strongest objections will be selected and their full force given to them.
First. -- "It is the Lord's Table; you have no right to prevent the Lord's people from approaching it."
It is strange to see how differently different minds will reason and conclude from the same premises. To my mind it appears that, because it is the Lord's
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Table, is the greatest of all reasons why we have no voice in the matter one way or another, to say who shall, or who shall not come to it. We can afford to be generous with what belongs to us, but with what belongs to another, we have no right to do anything at all, save what he has directed. If the Table were ours we might have some discretion as to what we would do with it. Or, if the Table were the Lord's, but he had left the administration of it to our choice, still we might have some discretion about it. But the Table is the Lord's, and he has left the directions for the administration of it in the New Testament, and we must do as he has said, or prove recreant to our trust. I agree with those who urge this objection, that the Table is the Lord's. "Therefore," say they, "it should be open to all." My mind works in the exactly opposite direction. The Table is the Lord's; therefore, I have no voice in the matter at all, except to follow the directions he himself has given us. The reader can decide which conclusion is right.
Moreover, a fallacy lurks under this specious plea in that it asserts what no recognized body of Christians, believes, -- that no other qualification is necessary but conversion; whereas it is almost universally conceded that baptism is a qualification for the Supper. The objection properly stated would be this: "It is the Lord's Table; you have no right to prevent the Lord's baptized people from approaching it."
[p. 220] The objection thus stated (and it covers a fallacy when not thus stated), carries its own answer along with it; for it clearly implies that the Lord’ unbaptized people have not the Scriptural qualifications for the Supper.
Second. -- "The Scriptures say: 'Let a man examine himself;' from which it is inferred that, if he is satisfied with his own fitness and right to the Supper, we have no right to interpose a barrier."
The fallacy of the objection becomes apparent when we remember that altogether a different state of things exists among us to-day, from what existed when Paul penned these words. We have a score of different sects, each claiming to be the Church of Christ, and this language is so interpreted as to make it mean that if the members of one of these sects are satisfied with their fitness and right to the Supper, that that entitles them to admission to the Supper, whensoever and by whomsoever spread. According to this we may have intercommunion not only of Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Methodists, Congregationalists, Reformers and Baptists, but of Catholics, Unitarians, Universalists, &c., &c.; because, according to his own examination of himself, each one is satisfied with his right to the Table. But who, among evangelical Christians, believes in carrying intercommunion that far? Nobody! And so it turns out that the objection is not believed by the very ones even in whose mouths it is formed!
Besides, let it be remembered that this language was not addressed to a score of sects, for the purpose of leaving the question of fitness for the Supper to the individual determination of each, as the objection supposes; but it was addressed to the members of one church, (Corinth), and was designed to prevent the very thing which this objection tacitly sanctions. At Corinth, the Supper had been greatly abused, and the source of this abuse was the idea that each might act for himself. Against this Paul protests. Hear what he says: "Wherefore, whosoever shall eat this bread and drink this cup of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep, [have died]." Instead of sanctioning loose communion, this language enjoins carefulness, strictness; and instead of leaving each individual merely to be satisfied with himself, it expressly commands him to examine himself lest he be guilty of a violation of the ordinance, and so bring condemnation, and perhaps sickness and death. [See Hodge in loc.]
But passing all this by, is it pretended by those who urge this objection that the right of individual
judgment, flowing from individual self-examination, shall supersede the right of judgment by the whole collective body of the church? Certainly not, I suppose. Then, if not, suppose there should be a conflict between the judgment of an individual as to his fitness, and the judgment of the church, which should yield? Does Jesus Christ expect nothing of his churches, and everything of individuals? Should an individual override the conscience of the whole church? May a church seek refuge from the responsibility of having tolerated a known violation of the requirements of the Divine Word under the plea that every man must judge for himself? The answer is, When the requirements of the law are made known, churches are responsible for themselves, as well as an individual for himself. And it is as unmanly and as unfaithful in a church, as in an individual, to try to shirk the responsibility or performance of a delicate and unpleasant duty. The Lord's Supper is a church ordinance, and the laws governing that ordinance have been plainly revealed; and it is the duty of an individual to examine himself, and so eat and drink; and it is the duty of the church to enforce the laws which have been left to her to administer. In I. Cor. v. 11, this duty of the church is distinctly urged and commanded: "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 drunkard, or an extortioner;
with such an one no not to eat." This means "not to eat at the same table with such: whether at the love feasts (Agapæ) or in private intercourse, much more at the Lord's table."1 (Fausset Com. in loc.) That the communicant should be a converted man, a baptized man, a church member, is as plainly declared in the Scriptures as that he should be a moral man and just in his deportment. If it is the province and duty of the church to judge the communicant as to his possession of a part of these Scriptural qualifications, and the apostle distinctly asserts that it is, no less can it be the province and duty of the church to judge the communicant as to his possession of all the Scriptural qualifications. And if the church has not this right, aye, if this duty does not solemnly rest upon her, then the Lord’'s Table is a prey to designing men, and the church herself is impotent to determine or preserve her own character.
Third -- Another common objection which we hear is this: I do not believe that it is right to separate Christian people. I think they ought to meet together at the Lord's Table.
1. It is difficult to see the consistency of the outcry against Close Communion, while separation into different denominations is at once tolerated and justified. If the Lord's people can consistently come together at the Lord's Table, what reason is there for their living in and maintaining separate Church
1 Italics mine.
establishments? If their differences should not keep them apart at the Lord's Table, why should they anywhere? To say that there may be consistent intercommunion between the different sects is to brand them as being so many schismatics. Upon the basis of the consistency of intercommunion, one of the greatest sins of the Christian world is its division into so many sects; because there can be no consistent intercommunion except between those churches whose views of divine truth are so accordant that membership in the one may justly entitle an individual to membership in the other. But for two such bodies to live apart is not only schism, but it is a wicked consumption of talent and wealth which might otherwise be employed in the evangelization of the world.
But if the diverse denominationalism of the Christian world is not a rank and crying sin, intercommunion is a sham, all the worse that it wears the cloak of piety and love. And such a sham it is when two persons sit down side by side at the Lord's Table, while in their hearts there is a lack of Christian confidence and fellowship, and so a betrayal of their honest convictions, and a moral cowardice that shrinks from the responsibility of standing by one's principles. 1
1 If one has no principles which would be so violated, his feelings and opinions cannot form a rule of conduct for one who has such principles.
2. This objection seems to overlook the fact that Christians are already separated, and that independently of the Table. But for this separation, whether at the Table, or elsewhere, we allege that Baptists are not responsible. Let us look at separation at the Table. It has already been seen that the question between the bulk of the religious world and Baptists is not one of communion at all, but of baptism. Now there is a common ground between them, upon which they may meet and compose their differences, and that ground is the validity of immersion. Those who practice otherwise admit the validity of immersion, for they accept it without hesitation, and occasionally practice it. But they say that another act will suffice, and, as more convenient and popular, they prefer it. Baptists cannot see it in this light. It appears to them that immersion alone is baptism; that to speak of baptism by sprinkling is as much a solecism as to speak of running by crawling. Others can conscientiously practice immersion; Baptists can not conscientiously practice sprinkling. Which should yield? Should conscience yield to convenience, or convenience yield to conscience? Should principle yield to preference, or preference to principle? Now, as a Baptist, I am frank and bold to say that, if our positions were reversed, I would gladly yield to them. If we believed that either immersion or sprinkling was valid, and they could not conscientiously accept immersion, but sprinkling
only, we would cheerfully relinquish our preference for immersion as the more beautiful and expressive rite, and practice sprinkling. Not for a moment would we allow our convenience and preference to weigh in the balances against their conscience and principle; but instantly they should be relinquished, that we might strike hands in fellowship and love upon this question. But while our brethren are in this position to yield without the sacrifice of principle we are not. Which of us is the more responsible for the separation? By just as much as conscience should be above convenience, as principle should be above preference, by just so much does the responsibility of the separation not rest upon Baptists.
Fourth. -- It is objected that Baptists make too much of baptism. It is not a saving ordinance; why make such an ado about it?
If we were disposed to retort, we might say that the charge comes with bad grace from those who practice sprinkling or pouring; since it was the belief that baptism is a saving ordinance that first led to the change in the primitive practice, in such cases as the sick, when baptism was deemed impracticable and dangerous. Yet that they might not die without the regenerating fluid, in such cases sprinkling or pouring was substituted for baptism. Baptists have neither unduly exalted nor debased the ordinance of baptism. They keep it just where the Master put it. The same with the Supper. They do
not seek to exalt the Supper above baptism. Both are divine ordinances, and were established by the same lips. The Master placed one at the entrance of the church, the other within the church. No one has the right to run over the one ordinance, baptism, to get to the other, the Table. All the commands of Jesus are full of power, sweetness and beauty. Obedience is the test of love, in small matters as well as great. A command to pick up a pin is as sure a test of love as a command to put out a fire that is burning down a house, -- perhaps a surer one. To put out the fire is of so great importance that it would be done without a command; whereas, the command to pick up a pin carries with it no reason for obedience save that it is commanded.
But underlying this question about baptism is one that is not of minor importance, -- the Headship of Christ. If Christ ordained immersion, have we any right to change it? The Catholic Church says, "Yes, and we have done it." Calvin says on Acts viii. 38: "They went down into the water. Here we see the rite used among the men of old time in baptism; for they put all the body into the water. Now the use is this, that the minister doth sprinkle the body or the head. * * * * It is certain that we want nothing which maketh to the substance of baptism. Wherefore the church did grant liberty to herself since the beginning to change the rites somewhat excepting the substance." (Edinburg: by Calvin Translation Society,
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quoted by Jeter.) But if we claim the right to change what Christ has ordained, where will the matter end? Where has it landed the Catholic Church, which arrogates to herself the right to change the laws of Christ? Look at her to-day and contrast her with the teachings of God's word, and let that be our answer.
Jesus Christ is the head of the Church and the King in Zion, and among the last words which he caused to be spoken is a curse upon him who should "add to"or "take away from the words of the book." Rather let my hand or tongue be palsied than do or attempt such a thing.
Conclusion. -- We conclude as we began. Baptists simply ask for themselves the liberty to administer the ordinance of the Lord's House in such a way as their consciences tell them that His Word requires. They ask their fellow Christians of other names to recognize their right to do this, and charge their course to this motive alone, not to prejudice, bigotry, uncharitableness, or an affectation of a superior piety or wisdom. The practice of Close Communion is the logical result of the principles which they have learned from the Scriptures. If they are wrong, either in the principles themselves, or in their practical application, we think they have the candor and manliness to acknowledge the wrong, when it is pointed out to them. On a question like this, argument is more agreeable to them, and more becoming those who differ from them, than harsh words and bitter
upbraidings. They desire to live on terms of brotherly kindness with all Christian people. They do not shrink from criticism and investigation. They would be glad to have the world study their principles in the light of God's Word, and will cheerfully abide the result.
To my Baptist brethren I say, we should remember that we have naught to gain, but everything to lose by compromising the principles which we hold. Should fidelity to God's Word lead us to separation from those we love as well as our own lives, we should still be firm; remembering that true love to Jesus, as well as to our friends, should lead us to stand firmly by the truth. Baptists have accomplished a noble work for the world. We do not believe that their mission is ended. Our fathers suffered imprisonment, stripes, banishment, death, that they might bequeath to us the rich legacy which we enjoy. Shall we barter that legacy for popular applause? The early Christians were the "sect everywhere spoken against." Our Master bore suffering and shame for us. If our principles bring reproach upon us, let us bear that reproach. Let us be careful to avoid bitterness and unholy strife. Let our lives abound in patience, forbearance, gentleness, goodness and truth, while we commit ourselves, not to men, but to God, who judgeth righteously. ==================
[From Charles A. Jenkins, editor, Baptist Doctrines, 1890; rpt. 1989, pp. 205-229. -- Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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