There was a good attendance at the First Baptist Church yesterday morning. After praise, prayer, and the reading of the Scriptures, an excellent sermon on "The Relative Position of the Lord's Supper to Baptism and the Church," was delivered by the Rev. J. R. Graves. The reverend gentleman selected as his text 1 Corinthians, xi chapter, 2d verse: "Now I pray you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances as I delivered them to you." He said: - Notwithstanding the universal disagreement in religious matters, all men everywhere, agree - and always have agreed - that a religion for a man to respect must be from heaven - Divine. The original consciousness of all men demands this: therefore, the original founders of all systems of religion and forms of worship, have laid claims to a Divine commission or inspiration from heaven. Numa, king of the primitive Romans, and author of the religion of the ancient empire, was wont to retire to a cave at stated intervals, and gave out that he was receiving his religious code from Deity. Mahomet did the same thing. Constantine pretended to have had a heavenly vision and to have received Divine communication; and John Smith claimed to be inspired, as do his successors. The followers of all the Reformers of religion, in the past or present, claim that their great teachers were raised up by God and inspired to institute a new order of things in His church.* But all are agreed that Christianity is Divine - that the church of Christ, in all its parts, its peculiar organization, government, laws, ordinances, as well as its baptism, is "from heaven," and not of man. This Divine origin of the church granted, as well as all its parts, the least as well as the greatest, and the order in which they were to stand, as were the parts of the ancient tabernacle - and two things inevitably follow, viz:
1. That it is the most daring presumption and impiety in man to change them in any respect. It is to rebel against the Great Head of the church, the King in Zion.
2. That an ordinance of Christ's church can not be called or treated as non-essential, because the least rite, and its relation to other rites and the church, rests upon the same ground of the greatest doctrine, i.e. the authority and command of Christ. It is as essential in its place and for the purpose Christ appointed it as the greatest.
3. To invert the Divine order of the ordinances is to pervert and abolish them; to declare them non-essential is to impeach the Divine wisdom, to invert them is to substitute our own in place of Christ's.
The apostle praised the church at Corinth, not because they, after some form or order, kept the ordinances, but because they most faithfully and rigidly kept them as he delivered them. There is a class of religionists in our day who would have charged those Corinthians as bigoted, illiberal, narrow, close, strict and straight-laced - not so Paul.
This being communion Sabbath, I have selected a subject appropriate to the occasion, viz: The Lord's Supper, and its relation to Baptism and the Church. The discussion will involve the questions: "Is it a church ordinance, to be observed by the scripturally qualified members of the church, a church, or is it a social act or duty, as prayer and praise, to be observed by individuals, before or after baptism as they may elect?" I am gratified that this morning, and upon this subject, the views I advocate, and the views and practice of the church with which I am connected, are identical with those of all denominations professing to be Christians. Here, Baptists, Catholics, Protestants, Campbellites and Mormons, stand side by side, and speak the same things.
Notice the points of agreement. We are all agreed:
1. That the Supper is an ordinance of Christ.
It was appointed by Him and commanded to be observed unto His second coming by His disciples. We are all agreed:
2. That it is one of the ordinances of His church.
We may and do disagree as to how many ordinances He appointed to His church, but all agree that this is one of them. "We are all agreed:
3. That no one can properly become a member of the church of Christ without baptism.
We may and do differ as to the act, etc., that constitutes Christian baptism, but we all do agree that no one is entitled to commune unless a member of the church, and that no one can become a member until Scripturally baptized.
The eminent Dr. Dwight, the Congregationalist, says: "It is indispensable that a candidate for communion should have made a public profession of religion, should be a person of piety, and that he should have been baptized." Says Rev. F. G. Hibbard, of Genesee Methodist Episcopal Conference: "In one principle the Baptists and Pedobaptists churches agree, in rejecting from communion at the Table of the Lord, and in denying the rights of church-fellowship to all who have not been baptized." The learned Episcopalian Dr. Wall, in his History of Infant Baptism, Part II. Chap. IX, says: "No church ever gave the communion to any before they were baptized." No church membership without baptism, is the doctrine of the Christian world. The Creeds, Catechisms, and undenied practices of Christendom afford infallible evidence that baptism is held by all leading communities of Christians as indispensable to church-fellowship. If Joseph John Gurney, the Quaker, whose piety no one doubted, were alive, and were to seek a place at the communion of any church on earth baptizing infants, by the principles of that church he must be refused the privilege, for all such churches hold baptism as a binding prerequisite to the Supper. They would admit his piety and their expectation of meeting him in heaven, and like one of their own converts in a revival, insist on baptizing him before communion. Some might denounce this as bigotry, but it is the universal doctrine of Pedobaptist churches. No man shall come, by their invitation, to their table, unless IN THEIR OPINION HE IS BAPTIZED. And whether any sect adopts it, or not, this is Christ's unchangeable law. This our doctrine, unless, in our view, a man is baptized, he ought not to come to the Lord's Supper. It is true we hold there is but "one Lord, one faith, and one baptism". They hold, unlike Paul, that there are three baptisms, pouring, sprinkling, and immersion. But if a Christian, in their opinion, is unbaptized, they reject him, according to their creeds from the Supper, and it is just because they are unbaptized we refuse to sit at the Eucharist with them. If, then, it is bigoted in us it is quite as exclusive in them. And even Christ and his apostles are narrow-minded: for their immersions invariably preceded the Lord's Table.
We are all agreed:
4. That the immersion in water of a proper subject, by the officer of a Scriptural church, and for the Divinely appointed purpose, into the name of the Trinity, is Christian baptism.
It is true that when the question is asked, are there not other acts than an immersion, or a burial in baptism, that will do as well, we as Baptists answer emphatically and conscientiously no. Catholics and Protestants say they believe that the church has the right to sanction other acts, but we all agree that immersion is unquestionably a Scriptural baptism, and persons immersed by us are received into all other communions. We may differ also as to whether infants, as well as believers, are the proper subjects, but we all agree that penitent believers are scriptural subjects of baptism. We are all agreed:
5. That no one is Scripturally entitled to participate in the ordinances with any church, if he disbelieves the doctrines and violates the order of that church.
Such a person is to that church a heretic, a schismatic, and justly obnoxious to its disfellowship and excommunication. If the church is true to itself, it must exclude him from fellowship, and from all participation in its ordinances. He is "leaven," and must be purged out before the feast can be celebrated. Finally, we are all agreed:
6. That each church is charged with preserving the purity of the Supper, and to reject all from its participation who hold doctrines and practice those things for which it, would exclude its own members if alike guilty.
What, therefore, the unanimous verdict of all professed Christendom as to the terms of our communion? It is that Baptists do keep this ordinance as it was delivered to the primitive church of Christ, and hold and practice it as a church ordinance. We admit none to it unIess considered by us baptized as Christ commanded, and we consider it our duty to exclude from it any one and every one holding doctrinal views, or practicing those things for which we would exclude our own members. In this, Catholics, Protestants, all say we are consistent and right.
We do not ___ [words blurred] _____ the Lord's Table Catholics and Protestants ____ ___ These _____ ______.
1. They have not been Scripturally baptized; being sprinkled or poured upon, and that, too, when unconscious infants, which were certainly forbidden by Christ to be baptized.+
2. They do not believe the doctrines we believe, but preach against us.
3. We should be compelled to exclude all ministers and members from our church who hold the doctrines and practiced as do Catholics and Protestants.
How can we then with any show of consistency invite them to our communion table?
Why, then, are we assailed as illiberal and bigoted, and close communionists? Who says this? Not the standard books or the standard men of these churches, but the proselyting teachers and those who are animated with the spirit of persecution. These carefully conceal and misrepresent the facts I have set forth, and labor to stir up and array the passions and prejudices of the people against us, by unprincipled appeals to the prejudices, the passions and the ignorance of the people. No Protestant or Catholic actuated by Christian principles will assail our terms of communion as absurdity.
A writer in the American Presbyterian says: "Open communion is an absurdity, when it means communion with the unbaptized. I would not for a moment consider a proposal to admit an unbaptized person to communion, and can I ask a Baptist to so stultify and ignore his own doctrine as to invite me to commune with him, while he believes I am unbaptized? I want no sham union and no sham unity, and if I had the Baptist notion about immersion I would no more receive a Presbyterian to the communion than I would now receive a Quaker."
It is, as the writer, and as all intelligent men know, not about communion, but what is Christian baptism that we differ. We say, as Baptists, and we have said, held and preached, since the days of John the Baptist, that immersion is the only act, and believers the only subjects. We are willing to meet these issues whenever and wherever called upon. Here we admit that we stand out alone as the witnesses and defenders of the teachings of Christ, and the preservers of this ordinance of Christ, and we have stood out alone for ages, and we glory in our solitariness in this respect. All Baptists worthy of the name have ever held and do to this day, hold to the terms of communion as above stated, and to the truth that immersion is the only Christian baptism entitling one to the Lord's Supper. This much I designed in this discourse to accomplish, and I know well that I have accomplished it: i.e. that no honest man in this congregation, possessed of a sufficient mind to understand the simplest propositions, shall go away and declare that Baptists are unscriptural in their observance of communion.
There are two clear, logical conclusions that follow irresistibly from the above premises, viz:
1. That the Supper being a church ordinance, it can only be observed by a church when assembled together as such, and observed by the church as a church, and therefore two or three members or two or three thousand members of the different local churches as Associations, Conventions, etc., cannot celebrate the Supper. Only an Individual church can administer it, and only to those members whose faith and walk she approves.
That no one Baptist Church nor the members of one Baptist Church have any right to participate in the celebration of the ordinance of the Supper in another Baptist Church, nor is any Baptist Church authorized to give to the members of all Baptist Churches present, an invitation to commune. Does the inviting church know that all such are sound in the faith and orderly in their walk, or are even in good standing at home? It is not supposable that the church can know it of all visiting brethren who may chance to be present. But if she knows that they are in full fellowship in their own churches, does the church know that those sister churches exclude from their fellowship members guilty of practices for which the inviting church feels it her duty to exclude? - such as gamblers, horse-racers, dancers, theater-goers, drunkards, and those who send their children to Catholic Schools.
What consistency in a church excluding all such professors who so evidently walk after the flesh and the curse of this world from her communion, to preserve the purity of the feast, and open wide a side door and admit all such characters simply because they may be members of another church that is too loose to discipline them?
2. Each Baptist Church is independent, and solely responsible to Christ for its obedience to Him, and it cannot excuse itself for permitting and fellowship sin because other churches do.
Should all Baptist churches practice upon this confessedly only consistent course - every one can see that the cry of "close communion" so sinfully urged against us, by the unprincipled or ignorant, would at once lose all its force against us and recoil upon our persecutors. Our opponents would be compelled to take new ground touching the terms of communion, as they even now are doing with respect to the act of baptism - i.e., to affirm against the unanimous teachings of professed Christendom, that baptism is not a pre-requisite to the Lord's Supper. Just as certainly as Baptists do assume the ground above indicated, will Pedobaptists take the ground that baptism is not a condition to the Supper, and Baptists will soon take the ground as advocate.
It is asked. Would it never be proper for ministers and members of one Baptist church to commune with another? We answer yes -ky.fay whenever such are present and their standing in their own church is known and their faith and walk such as is fellowshipped by the inviting church. Let the pastor or deacons or any member rise and state the fact that such a brother, or brethren, are present, and of approved faith and walk, and move that they be invited to participate, and let the whole church vote. The influence of such an act would be most beneficial and what a rebuke would a refusal to invite be to a pleasure going professor. This practice is observed by Oncken, of Germany, and is growing in favor among our own people in the North as well as the South.
A Western New York correspondent complains to the Examiner and Chronicle: "A new practice is prevailing to some extent in this region. Some pastors refuse to 'invite members of sister churches of the same faith and order,' to a seat with them. Thus restricting the communion to individual churches!"
* In the Presbyterian General Assembly which convened at Cincinnati, O., May 15, 1835, Professor Thomwell said: "The Reformers themselves evidently had an extraordinary commission to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. The towers, bulwarks, and palaces of the city of the great King had fallen into ruins, and they were raised up, in the providence of God, to reconstruct the edifice according to the pattern shown them in the mount. Their authority was not derived from Rome, nor from any of her prelates: the seal of their commission was not the imposition of Episcopal hands, nor the transmission of sacerdotal grace. They were called of God, and derived their authority from Christ; and in consequence of that call and of that authority, the churches which they formed were as truly churches of the Redeemer as those which were planted by the hands of the apostles."
+ Christ did command his apostles to immerse believers, for all Greek lexicographers agree that this is the primary and proper signification of the word Baptidzo, which word He used, and to specify one act is to forbid every other act. Every lawyer, and every intelligent man and woman, understands this. Christ did, then, forbid the baptizing of infants as well as sprinkling or pouring.
[From The Baptist newspaper, July 20, 1867, p. 2. CD edition. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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