1 Corinthians 10:16, 17óThe cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The loaf which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we the many are one loaf, one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.
Acts 4:23 contains one of the most philosophical statements to be found. "And being let go, they went to their own company." These two suffering apostles did this from both principle and choice. Many do so today from choice, and not principle. I am glad all have the civil privilege to choose their own company. This is the result of Religious Liberty, "the trophy of the Baptists." No one has the moral or scriptural right to associate himself with a company of errorists in either morals or doctrine; but all have civil liberty, and with this they have associated themselves with the company of their own liking, and often without regard to the truth as it is in Jesus. Hence, we have the Methodist communion, Presbyterian communion, Baptist communion, etc. This means the place we have chosen to commune. The word translated "Communion" twice in the text, is also thus translated only in 2 Corinthians 6:14 and 13:14. The same word is translated "Fellowship" 13 times, and "Partner" and "Partaker" 14 times. I prefer the last two to the first.
When one chooses his community to live in, he becomes a partner or partaker of the common interests of the neighborhood, and having so many things in common, there is a communion in the common interests. There is fellowship, partnership, communion. This is the right sense of the word, and the mystical or spiritual communion is the result of the partnership. Partners in business have not only a financial fellowship and partnership, but this should beget a sympathy in other mattersóa sort of personal fellowship extending to the family in matters of health, hope and happiness.
Communion, partnership, fellowship are based on agreement. "How can two walk together except they be agreed?" Partners in business must be agreed, or they will not have sweet fellowship and communion. We choose, or should do so, the church company or communion we most agree with, for without agreement there will be no fellowship. Differences of a serious character require divisions. "Mark those who cause divisions contrary to the doctrine ye have learned, and avoid them" (Rom. 16:17). This is the cause of so many denominations. They are divided on what they esteem important doctrines, and for the want of agreement they are compelled to separate themselves.
THINGS THAT DIFFER MUST DIVIDE.
On this principle cosmos was brought out of chaos. Chaos was mixed communion, which was not pleasing to God. So he made things that differed to divide. He told the waters to separate themselves from the land, the light from the darkness, etc. "And God saw that it was good." Anyone can see that. Then he made the seeds, animals, birds, fishes, etc., each after its kind, and told them to preserve their species by non-intercommunion. Mixed communion would have frustrated the divine plan in creation. The Lord donít want half-breeds, but full-bloods. A hybrid and mongrel are abominations to God. Pure gold and silver, etc., means that all unlike substances called "alloy" are separated from the metals. There is such a want of agreement in the mixed substances as to injure their beauty and value. Let things that differ divide, is the universal law of God. Let corn, oats, wheat, etc., be sown in separate fields, lest they mix and become corrupted. Let "birds of a feather flock together," and animals of a kind herd together. Flocks of quail, geese, duck, sheep, bees, ants, etc., may appear selfish to ignorant people, but it is a selfishness that is well-pleasing to God. The peace and prosperity of all depends upon keeping separate. "Thou shaft not plow an ox and ass together" (Deut. 22:10). Why? There is too much difference. They are not agreed. There is no fellowship, and there should be no partnership. They canít commune together. The greatest travesty I ever saw was a two-horse show called "The Happy Family." There was as great a variety as the owners could get together. There were fowls, beasts and serpents. It was the most miserable set I ever saw. The monkey was the only happy one, and his happiness consisted solely in tormenting the others. If they had been let go, how they would have gone to their own company. They were sick of mined communion. There was no agreement, hence there could be no fellowship and no partnership. Do you ask if there was NO fellowship? Yes. How much? As much as there was agreement. I can commune with a hog in hunger, thirst and suffering, because we hold those in common. But I could not go any further in communion than we are agreed. When he eats filth and wallows in the mud, I must be excused. On those points we must separate. Should the hog insist and accuse me of selfishness, I know such selfishness is well pleasing to God and man. Where we differ we must divide.
Let us now apply this rule to the race of man. There are differences that necessitate divisions, or destruction would follow.
God made of one blood all the nations that dwell on the face of the earth; but because of differences he divided them into nations, and gave each its bounds of habitation. If God had left all together they would have worked their own destruction with greediness. There is such a thing as race fellowship and also national fellowship. If one should boast of his liberality, and transgress the race line, and marry an orangutan, and his so-called partner didnít kill him, then God or man should attend to it at once, for such a man is not fit to live on the earth. Race fellowship is destroyed when carried beyond the bounds. So National fellowship must be confined to oneís own nation, or he will be accused of having no national fellowship. There is a difference in color that makes social fellowship impossible. No sensible white or black man would want to give his son or daughter in marriage to the other color. The black companion may be the equal or superior in many respects, yet differences exist that forbid such a anion. Dr. Eaton told of a visit to a South Sea Island king, and in his company was a black man and a mulatto. The king cordially received all but the mulatto. God made the white and black man, and he wants them to continue as he made them.
A politician destroys his Political fellowship when he tries to hold communion with both or all parties alike. A man is required to take sides on political questions, and show his colors or hold his peace. No one can fellowship both sides of any question. Such fool pretenders are found only in religion. Those who pretend to have so much religion that they can fellowship all, are generally found to have none at all. Mark all such, and avoid them.
There is also such a thing as Social fellowship, and woe to those who do not restrict it. We have a golden custom of introducing strangers. A mutual friend, knowing both parties, thinks there would be pleasant association because of agreeing qualities. Thus the unfit and unworthy are not admitted. To throw open the doors of social fellowship would be disastrous in many cases, and especially so with females, as a great multitude of male dogs would spend their lives seeking whom they might devour. These rascals are generally the best dressed and best polished in manners. The only safety is in close social communion.
So of Craft fellowship. Farmers, merchants, doctors, lawyers, teachers, preachers, etc., confine their craft fellowship to those of their craft. When Paul was in need he introduced himself to a tent-maker, and being of the same craft, he found fellowship.
Let farmers, doctors, bankers, teachers, lawyers, etc., hold their conventions and consult or commune together. So of firms. What is everybodyís business is nobodyís business; and the man who tries to attend to everybodyís business has none of his own. Christ said, when you make a feast, donít call the well-to-do, but the poor, maimed, lame and blind. Let the unfortunate get together and have fellowship in their sufferings.
But society takes on more serious forms of organization, which requires still more restrictions. When a man and woman seek a partnership for life, the utmost care should be taken to secure Matrimonial fellowship, or communion. "Let every man have his own wife, and every woman her own husband." Monogamy is close communion; polygamy is open communion. The parties must seek points of agreement and congeniality. No old fool should marry a young one. The cultivated and the uncultivated would make a mismatch. The rich may marry the poor with the understanding that one has enough for both. Some differences may be adjusted, but the greatest care should be taken lest, for want of agreement, matrimonial fellowship or communion be broken.
After this comes the family, and family fellowship must be restricted to the family. If a man come to your house boasting that he is too liberal and too large for one woman and one set of children, kick him out of your house, and out of your yard, and out of your front lot into the public highway; then let the public take up the kicking, and let the kicking continue as long as there is anything to kick. Such a man (?), too big for one woman and one set of children, is too big for God or man, and is not fit to live with us little fellows. Some men are too large for one church, yea, too large for one denomination. Some are too large for all Protestant denominations, and they try to take the Catholics into their communion; yea, some, after studying "Comparative Religions," become too large for any one of them, or all of them, so they take in Atheists. There may be some that take devils into their fellowship. When a man grows beyond the proper size, there is no telling where he will stop.
After the family comes Consanguine fellowship, and this, like all the others, must be restricted to the bounds appointed, or it will be destroyed. The man who claims kin with everybody knows nothing of consanguine fellowship. Paul and Barnabas had ministerial fellowship, and fellowship in labor and suffering, but it all went to pieces when it came in contact with consanguine fellowship. Barnabas wanted to take his nephew, John Mark with them on their second missionary tour, but Paul objected, and they both being strong-minded men, they had a sharp contention, and separated, each taking his chosen companion, and they went their own ways. A beautiful illustration of this is recorded in Genesis 29:10-14ó"10 And it came to pass, when Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his motherís brother, and the sheep of Laban his motherís brother, that Jacob went near, and rolled the stone from the wellís mouth, and watered the flock of Laban his motherís brother. 11 And Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice, and wept. 12 And Jacob told Rachel that he was her fatherís brother, and that he was Rebekahís son: and she ran and told her father. 13 And it came to pass, when Laban heard the tidings of Jacob his sisterís son, that he ran to meet him, and embraced him, and kissed him, and brought him to his house. And he told Laban all these things. 14 And Laban said to him, Surely thou art my bone and my flesh. And he abode with him the space of a month."
The kissing was an expression of consanguine fellowship. But this should be restricted to the kin, and very close kin at that. The man who would kiss all because kin to all, is a little lower than the beasts, for, as a general thing, they have their own families and friends they prefer to the rest.
Let us now pass from the natural to the religious relations and fellowships. The world is full of religion, and religions. They are too numerous to mention. Buddhism, Confucianism, Mohammedanism, Judaism and Christianity are enough for us. How much Religious fellowship is there among these religions. As much as there is agreement, and canít be more. Read the 8th chapter of 1st Corinthians and the last half of the 10th chapter. I quote some of the latter. The word translated in 18th verse: "Partakers," and "Fellowship" in the 20th verse, is the same translated "Communion" in the 16th, which is our teat. Read and digestó"18 Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?19 What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing? 20 But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. 21 Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lordís table, and of the table of devils. 22 Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he? 27 If any one of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake. 28 But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not. for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake."
We will have use for this principle further on.
In Acts 14:15-17 and 17:22-29, Paul struck on to some points of agreement, and thus religious fellowship begun. This increased as he turned them to his doctrine of the true God, and our relations to Him. When he saw so many altars of sacrifice, and one to "The Unknown God," he met them at that altar, because there they were agreed in some way. When he saw them making sacrifice for sins, he had fellowship in that, because Paul knew that sin requires sacrifice. They differed about the kind of sacrifice; but both had the same experience of a troubled conscience. They both were partakers of alike experience of a coming condemnation and death. But this was as far as Paul could go at first. Before they could have more fellowship they must have more agreement. So Paul led some on into Christian fellowship: "Howbeit certain men slave unto him, and believed,. . .and a woman named Demaris, and others with them." They could not fellowship Paulís religion until they agreed with him in it. Then they became partners, and changed their company and communion.
We will now dismiss the other religions, and study those called Christian. There are many of these in name. Here fellowship, partnership and communion increase as agreement increases, and it canít possibly go any further, and we need not deceive ourselves and others about it. I have a great deal of religious fellowship for the Jews, because I agree with them on the Old Bible, its prophets, and many of its teachings and prophecies. We have the same God, the same law, the same Abraham for our father, the same Moses; but we divide on Christ and Christianity; hence I can not have Christian Fellowship for them. As far as we agree we can walk together, and any further is hypocrisy.
I can fellowship Catholics only so far as we can agree. We agree on the dead, risen and ascended Christ, but their living Christ lives in Rome, while mine lives in heaven.
But dropping them out, let us study communion with the Protestant Divisions of Christendom. Here Fellowship greatly increases, but the rule holds good-fellowship only as far as there is agreement. Any more is pretense, if not worse. Why are we divided? Because we differ on Christian doctrine. Who set up the divisions? They did. The Baptists had been protesting for a thousand years. They are yet doing business at the same old stand and in the same old way in all essential things. When they came out of Rome, we did not disfellowship them, but they us. They set up their own communions, and disdained and persecuted us. God called them out of Rome, but he did not call them to create divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine we had received. I rejoice that we are now in creasing in agreement, but we yet differ as to the church and ordinances, to say nothing of many vital doctrines. For these differences they would exclude any of us, and we any of them, and at the same time recognize the excluded as genuine Christians. If I wanted to unite with any of them and preach what I now preach, they could not receive me without suicidal results. If any of our preachers announce that he believe what is peculiar to any of these denominations, we would depose if not exclude him. This is necessary for us and them. No one will deny this; and no one will condemn it. The Lordís Supper being in the Lordís Church, and to this we are all agreed, they having another sort of a church, and having different ways of getting in the church where the supper is, then the difference must keep us from the same table. We invite all to it the way we got there, and the only way left us, and "keeping it as delivered," we must be faithful to the trust.
Christian Fellowship may and should abound as far as there is agreement, but divide we must when differences require it. And donít forget that we are not responsible for a single one of these differences. If they had not first differed from us, we would not have been compelled to differ from them.
But let us magnify some points of agreement, and be very thankful to God for them, and pray earnestly for a continuous growth in nearness to a real union. Let us joyously walk together as far as we can agree. As many as believe in public prayer, come and pray with us. Can you join us in our songs of Zion? Come and welcome. Our songs and prayers are very much alike. Is any in our neighborhood poor and in distress? Pass the hat to all for a collection. Each may take care of its own poor, but some are of the world; yet they are citizens and the poor of all Christian people of the neighborhood. Let all partake, and thus become partners in such cases. Do you believe in public worship? So do we; come and worship with us. But do we not also agree in mission? Yes; but not in mission work. Pedobaptists believe the nations should be discipled by sprinkling the babies. So their name and creed say. We canít join them. But you say, we all believe in preaching the gospel to adult sinners who have not been "engrafted into the body of Christ" by a sacrament. Suppose, in a union effort, such are led to Christóthen what? Let the convert take his choice of "modes" without instruction? But our orders read: "Teach them all things whatsoever I have commanded you." You say, we must not do that. Christ says, we must. Whom shall we obey? If we attempt to walk together where we do not agree, we will lose what little fellowship we have. The way to get along peaceably is to divide wherever the differences require it. There is only one rule for us all, and those who depart from it are responsible for themselves; and those who fellowship them by association, patronage, or any other way, become partakers with them in the transgression. A union with Pedobaptists in mission work is union in pedobaptism. They not only carry that doctrine with them, but they carry it out. Let us walk together in social, civil, moral, political, and also in religious matters, as far as agreed. We adhere strictly to this rule in all the other matters; why not in religion? We withdraw social, civil, political and moral fellowship from those of the contrary part. This is right. But how much more so in religion? If we canít compromise the lesser matters, how can we compromise the greater? Like animals, birds, plants, political parties, etc., we differ, and the world knows it, and the world also knows these differences have caused divisions. Then why lie about it? Unity is a thousand times better than union. Let us work on our differences and getting them healed, we will not have to touch the union question with one of our fingers. That will take care of itself. Any magnetic needle will point to the pole if there is no hindrance. Remove the hindrance, and you donít have to show the needle where the pole is. If you force it to point to the pole despite the hindering cause, the force must continue as long as the hindering cause remains. Such force would be against nature, as regards the needle, and against religion in the other case. We ought to have some religious common sense. Those who meet in Christ by repentance and faith have Christian fellowship. Two Christians met in a foreign land, and they knew not each otherís tongue. Each wanted congenial companionship, and this required signs. One made a cross with his two forefingers, then laying one hand on his bosom, with the other he pointed to heaven. They embraced, and became loving companions with no further knowledge of each otherís doctrinal views. They could pray and sing together in different tongues, and love and help each other in many ways, but they could not baptize each other or commune at the Lordís table, because Christ did not leave those solemn ceremonies to be thus used and abused. We agree on this. If one should say, those two men could set the Lordís table, I have no controversy with him. I have no ammunition small enough for such. They have Christian communion, but not church communion, unless they belong to the same church.
The Lord put the supper in the church, but not in the Denomination, because there was no such thing. Some want Denominational Communion, and some inter-denominational communion, but both these must be unscriptural, because the Scriptures knew no denomination. Yet circumstances have brought about the denominations, and as everyone ought to be in the one of his own choice, he must have Denominational fellowship, partnership, communion. This, like all the others, must be restricted to his own denomination. The man who has as much for one as another has none at all. There are such vain talkers, but they are deceivers. Every honest Christian works for his own denomination. When you find one carrying around for distribution the books setting forth the peculiar doctrines of other denominations, with the boast that he was as ready to work for one as the other, you know that like Judas, he is after "the thirty piece: of silver." The man who would willingly sell false doctrine would also sell his Lord. What denomination would want or have him? If Denominational Fellowship is selfish, then it is a holy selfishness. God is pleased with the principle, and so are all right-minded men. The world knows these divisive denominations exist, and the man is to be pitied or despised who would in any way try to lie out of it. If he has chosen one of them to walk and work with, I can respect him, but not otherwise.
So far we have spoken of the Communion twice spoken of in the 16th verse. That is a communion with Christ in his broken body, and shed blood. That is, the communicants thus express their fellowship, partnership, or common interest with Christ in the sacrifice of Himself, as He was sacrificed in our stead. "Died for us" means died in our stead; that is, died the death we owed to Godís just law, which says, "the soul that sins shall die." If he died in our place, then we died with him; and if he arose for our justification, then we arose with him. If he is our substitute for both sin and righteousness, then we stand in him. We are to be made like him in mind, soul and body. This he secured for us in his suffering and sacrifice for us. Hence, we are partners with him in that great transaction, in all that was or will be accomplished by it. But who are the we of the two texts ? Not everybody. Then who? The 17th verse tells us who the "We" are that sit at the Table. We have been considering in verse 16 church communion and union with Christ. Now it is community and unity between the members. Communities are not always in unison; fellowships are not always fraternal; partners are not always peaceable. In the Lordís Supper it is required that there shall be both community and unity, as well as communion and union. Not union in everything, for then we could not eat the Lordís Supper; but union in some essential things to be now considered.
We mentioned some of the variety of fellowships and partnerships, and the word translated communion twice in the text, and in only two other places (2 Cor. 6:14 and 13:14) is also translated "fellowship" thirteen times and "partner" and "partaker" fourteen times.
There are the fellowships growing out of race, color, nationality, society, both simple and organized, whether for business in its various professions, or marriage, family and consanguinity, etc. Here are fellowships and partnerships requiring some sort of unity and community.
Then we spoke of Religious fellowship, Christian fellowship, Doctrinal and Denominational fellowships, and have now the next and most important of allóChurch Fellowship, Church Partnership, or Church Communion. In most of these matters, especially the political, professional, social, religious, Christian, denominational and church fellowships, everyone has, or should have, chosen his own company. So that each belongs to the communion of his choice, and that means his choice of a place to commune, and since all should have a place, he should be restricted to his place, or it would not be necessary for all to have a place. If any place is right then one place is wrong. Such a view leaves no place for fellowship or partnership, and converts union and communion into a flimsy farce that would be sacrilegious at the Lordís table.
If the Lordís table was intended for the whole race, then none are restrained but beasts and birds. Yet that would restrict it to the race. If for the whole religious world, then it must be restricted to them, and the irreligious restrained. And all of these "must meet in one place," and "tarry one for the other," and that after exercising discipline, lest some professing the qualifications should not possess them.
If it was intended for the whole Christian world, then Jews and heathen must be restrained and the table restricted to Christians. And these must "all come together in one place," as the table is local, and "tarry one for another," and the unworthy of these must be restrained, as "with such we should not eat."
As this would be impractical and impossible, the table of the Lord was not intended for all Christians. All Christians should have access to the table, but there are other requirements, such as baptism, church membership, and orderly walk, both in doctrines and morals. If the table was intended for all Christian denominations, or to one such, then the same "impossible" practicability confronts us as in the above. It could never be observed by our denomination for the same reason. But a community of some kind must observe it. "The many" must be "one body" of some kind. The Christian world is not a body, but a mass, and as for unity, it is a mess. So of each denomination. When the number gets too large and too much scattered, you canít get them into one place and one body; nor can you wait for them to come together, or know whom to discipline.
Christ did not put his table into a large portion of a denomination, such as "Conference," "Convention," "Assembly," or "Association," for there were none of these in apostolic days as a permanent organization. The one that met at Jerusalem, after attending to its special business, adjourned sine die, and did not eat the Lordís Supper.
So we are driven by logic, facts and scripture to locate the table in the church. Paul was writing to the church at Corinth. The four "weís" in the text and the thirty-three pronouns in the latter half of the next chapter, all refer to the church, or to members of the church, and they are about the Supper. It is Christís will that every saved man shall be baptized, added to some church, and to continue steadfastly in the Apostleís doctrine, as qualifications to his table; and those who approach it unworthily, that is, in an unworthy manner, and that includes the proper qualifications, established by thorough self-examination, and church discipline, eats and drinks condemnation to themselves.
The table is in the church, and for orderly church members. Here is the Community and Unity we desire now to ascertain. I will give you several translations of the text, such as are before me.
Anderson.óBecause the loaf is one, we, the many, are one body, for we are all partakers of the one loaf.
Ox. Rev.óSeeing that we, who are many, are one loaf, one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.
Emp. Diaglott.óBecause there is one loaf, we, the many, are one body; for we all partake of the one loaf.
Living Oracles.óBecause there is one loaf, we, the many, are one body; for we all participate in the one loaf.
Rotherham.óBecause one loaf, one body, we, the many are; for we all of the one loaf partake.
Gould.óBecause we, the many, are one loaf, that is, one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.
Mine.óBecause of the one loaf, one body the many are; for these all from the one loaf take a part.
Bible Union.óBecause we, the many, are one loaf, one body, for we all share in the one loaf.
Syriac.óAs therefore that bread (loaf) is one, so we are all one body; for we all take to ourselves from that one bread (loaf).
American Edition.óSeeing that we, who are many, are one bread, one body; for we all partake of the one bread. (Loaf in the margin).
Conybeare and Houson.óFor as the bread is one, so we, the many, are one body; for of that one bread we all partake.
Twentieth Century.óJust as there is one loaf, so we, many though we are, form one body; for we all partake of the one loaf.
Wesley. óFor we, being many, are one bread, and one body; for we are all partakers of the one bread.
Broadus, Hovey and Weston.óBecause we, the many, are one in the one loaf.
Worrell, Sawyer, etc., translate like many above.
So it is clear to any mind not beclouded with prejudice, that those who partake of the one loaf must be one of the body that partakes. That the body means the church, (see 1 Cor. 12:27; Eph. 1:22-23; 4:3-6 and 16; 5:23-24; Col. 1:18, 24, etc). That the body spoken of in the text means the church at Corinth, is plain enough for anyone who can intelligently read the eleventh, twelfth, fourteenth and sixteenth chapters of this epistle. Any other conclusion is inexcusable and censurable. Membership in a supposed universal church by reason of faith and salvation, is not counted as sufficient by our Lord, since it is his will that all "the saved be added to the church" which he builtóthe business-doing congregation or body to which his interests and ordinances are committed. The one who partakes of that one loaf says, by that most solemn of all acts, that he is a member of that body or church observing the ordinance. But some "sport themselves with their own deceivings," "feeding themselves without fear." If it is right for one who is not a unit in the body to partake of that one loaf, then Christ was wrong in setting the example, and the Holy Spirit was wrong in writing our text, and also in all the restrictions and qualifications prescribed. No proposition is clearer to my mind than thisóthat the unity of the text requires every participant to be a unit in the body partaking. The one cup and the one loaf are forty times mentioned, and many times made emphatically emphatic by repeating the article and pronoun. So the first item of unity is Church MembershipóChurch FellowshipóChurch Partnership.
But this unity also requires Moral Fellowship. "With such do not eat" refers to moral characters. They refer to church members; but not all church members are to commune. The man referred to in 1 Corinthians chapter 5, was wrong in his moral conduct, but he was no worse than those in the church who had been leavened by his example and influence, which they favored by consenting to such a marriage. A man who lives in adulterous marriage has no right to partake, nor have those who favor, or apologize for, or try to excuse such a marriage, for they are all alike guilty. Nor has a church who retains such characters in her membership and fellowship any right to set the Lordís table. Do they not provoke the Lord to jealousy. All such should judge themselves, and condemn themselves, and be chastened of the Lord, lest they should be weak and sickly and die, and be condemned with the world. This unity requires moral integrity, both in sentiment and practice. But another requisite of this unity is Personal Fellowship. That these should first be adjusted, (see Matt. 5:23-24; 18:15), with their connections.
The fellowship expressed by membership must be real. "If you love not your brother whom you have seen, how can you love God, whom you have not seen?" "If you forgive not your brother, neither will your heavenly Father forgive you." The celebration of Christís sufferings and death is no time and place for a farce. It is no place for hypocrites. But you donít have to agree with a brother in politics, nor in ethical codes of manís devising, but in Godís ethical code.
Again, the unity of the text requires fellowship in Doctrine (Rom. 16:17). "Now we beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them."
Difference on some doctrines should be tolerated, but there are vital doctrines that to err on is fatal. Such as the Divinity of Christ, the Inspiration of the Scriptures, the Personality of the Holy Spirit, the Necessity of Repentance and Faith, Salvation by Grace, and the Resurrection. Doctrines contrary to these should cause immediate separation. Lest this should look like an apology, let me say that we should aim at the Unity Christ prayed for in John 17:6, 11, 22; and for which Paul prayed in 1 Corinthians 1:10; see also 12:25; 11:19-20; Ephesians 4: 3, 13; and Psalm 133.
"Purging out the leaven" means first out of ourselves after self-examination; and then out of the church after church examination or discipline. The members and the church need at least an annual spring cleaning. The seven days of unleavened bread should teach us the importance of giving ample time to the casting out of malice and wickedness; first out of our own hearts and lives, and lest we fail to detect it in ourselves, let us subject ourselves to the brethren who are united with us in this responsible matter. For the New Scriptural use of leaven, see Matthew 13:33; 16:6, 12; Mark. 8:15; Luke 12:1; 13:21; 1 Corinthians 5:6, 7, 8; Galatians 5:9. It symbolizes both bad morals and bad doctrines.
There is an insane clamor for Union in these days, whether we are One or not. Let such remember that unite occurs but two times in the Word of God: Genesis 4:6 and Psalm 86:11; Unity but three times: Psalm 133:1; Ephesians 4:3, 13; while One occurs a thousand times; such as one body, one fold, one shepherd, one faith, one baptism, etc. Now, we have many bodies, many folds, many shepherds, many faiths and many baptisms; and unity and union is impossible while that state of things exists.
Christ did not pray that his disciples might be united, but that they might be one. He made Jew and Gentile oneóof the twain one new manóreconciling both to God in one body by the cross, and by one Spirit, they both have access to the one God, through the one Lord Jesus Christ. It is not said of the Trinity that the three are united, but that they are one.
A man and wife may be united and yet not be one. So of church members. The church should not only be united, but oneólike the loaf. The grains in their natural state could not be united into one loaf. They must go through the powerful process of the upper and nether millstones, and the winnowing and sifting, so that the leaven of disunity might be removed; then the pure flour can be made into one loaf. The many natural non-cohesive men and women, by the powerful operations of the nether millstone of the convicting spirit, and the upper millstone of saving and sanctifying and cleansing grace, are united into one body, Jews and Gentiles bond and free, male and female, and have become one body.
This one body is symbolized by the one loaf, and those who partake of the one loaf say, by that most solemn act, that they are members of the one body, and that means church; and church or body never means denomination. Never; no, never.
Inter-Church communion means Denominational communion. The restriction is to the denomination. That would make it a denominational ordinance, and that would make the denomination a church, and the observance of it impossible. Who are in the denomination? All of those whose baptism we receive. The two must go together. This also requires a church to sit in judgment on the denomination, while it has only "judgment of those within." Interchurch communion also requires one church to sit in judgment on members of another church, or do away with discipline. Christ made no provisions for church members to run around, and lie out, and loaf about, and "eat the sacrament," and then do as they please, or do nothing if they please, and then force themselves on those who have no confidence in them, but whom they are bound to invite, because the commandment of God is made void by our tradition. "With such no not to eat," but "withdraw from them." This confines to discipline, and hence to the church. The other is evil only, and that continually, as it makes void scripture example and precept by an unscriptural sentiment.
But, say some, does not Acts 20:5-11 show that Paul and his companions communed with the church at Troas? King Jamesí Version may justify such an inference, but any new translation that I have seen settles that clearly. It reads thus:
Luke, the author of the Acts, after naming seven brethren who had gone before, says:
Verse 5. "But these had gone before, and were waiting for us at Troas." Waiting for whom? Of course, for Paul and Luke, who were to come after. Who were waiting? Those, of course, who had gone before.
Verse 6. "And we sailed away from Phillipi, after the days of unleavened bread, and came unto them to Troas in five days, where we tarried seven days." Who were the we who sailed from Phillipi? Of course, Paul and Luke. Who were the them to whom they came? Evidently those who had gone before and were waiting for Paul and Luke.
Verse 7. "And upon the first day of the week when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul discoursed with them, intending to depart on the morrow, and prolonged his speech until midnight." Who does we here refer to? Evidently, of course, to those who had come to Troas. Who does them refer to? Of course, to those to whom them refers in the 6th verse. (Here a break occurs in Paulís discourse by the fall of Eutychus.)
Verse 11. "And when he was gone up again and had broken the bread, and eaten, and had talked with them a long while, even till break of day, so he departed." To whom does them here refer? Evidently to the same brethren previously mentioned. Let it be observed that no one is here mentioned as eating except Paul, which was evidently a common meal, as it was natural for him to have taken some refreshments before departing on his journey. So say Sherwood, Albert Barnes, Jameson, Fausset and Brown, Alex. Campbell, and others.
Verse 13. "But we going before to the ship, set sail for Assos, there intending to take in Paul; for so he had appointed, intending himself to go by land." Who does we refer to here? Evidently to those who went to Troas, and who, while there, came together to break bread, and the same with whom Paul talked a long while, and the same who came away from Troas and sailed for Assos.
Now, if there was a church there, it is strange, indeed, no mention is made of it, or that its members greeted Paul or his companions on their arrival, or that those members took leave of them when they departed. Such mention is made in other places where resident disciples were met with. Upon what legitimate hypothesis can you account for the omission here? Now I do not know there was not a church at Troas; neither do you know there was. But if there was, I must say that, which you will admit, it is one of the strangest things that Luke could give all the incidents he did in connection with the visit of Paul and his companions and yet avoid making the slightest allusion to it. Therefore, I think the most natural and reasonable conclusion is, that there was no church at Troas at that time, unless it was composed of Paul and his fellow-travelers.
But if this were true, then it was a church without a local habitation.
The truth is, from the simple expression, "when we came together on the first day of the week to break bread," is drawn the inference that the Lordís Supper was celebrated, and that by a regularly organized church, and that that church was located at Troas. The absurdity is plainly on the face of any such inference.
Long after this, Christ sent seven messages to "THE SEVEN CHURCHES OF ASIA," and left out Troas. No where is there an allusion to a church there. All admit that Church Communion was practiced at its institution, and at Jerusalem, and at Corinth, and in all other places where referred to. Then why press a known error in Acts 20:5-7, for an exception, and for confusion and contradiction? Errors of translation beget errors of practice, which errorists are loath to give up. Thousands of Baptists loaf around another church all their life, doing nothing for the cause, and, as a poultice for their evil conscience, they insist on "eating the sacrament," to get what magical or mystical virtue it might possess. They support the church they left behind with their absence, which, in most cases, is a great blessing. "Spots they (often) are, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you," "feeding themselves without fear." A man who was publicly drunk on Saturday, came with a good member, both of another church, and both presented themselves for "communion." "With such no not to eat." What should be done? Invite both? They are both in good standing in their own church, as their church, like thousands of others, has no discipline. Some have not life enough to exclude a member for anything. Both must be invited, or the church must judge the me members of another church. In either case the Scriptures are ignored. If the Supper must be protected by discipline, as all admit, then the question is settled, and the limit is fixed to members of the church. If the Supper is in the church, and is to be eaten by the church, and as a church, then the question is settled from that standpoint. It is like voting, whether to receive members, exclude them; or the call of a pastor, or what not; if it is to be done by a church, in church capacity, then the voting must be limited to the church. And all agree that the Supper is a church ordinance; but some think that, by "courtesy," the invitation may be extended to visiting Baptists, while the same "courtesy" should not be extended in voting. Do you ask, what harm can come of it? I answer, a world of harm. When all authority in heaven and earth says: "With such an one no not to eat," but "purge out the leaven," and "put away from yourselves that wicked person," you set up a custom of "courtesy" without warrant or precedent that makes void this great commandment. It is impossible to obey this great commandment, to protect this solemn ordinance, by discipline, while bound by that senseless, useless "courteous" custom. It tramples under foot all the all-authority in heaven and earth.
Let the world see that we are sincere when we call it a church ordinance, and that we practice what we preach, and practice on our own people, and this bug-bear of a bugaboo will vanish to the realm of shades and spooks and hobgoblins where it was born, and where it belongs, and where it should die, and be buried to rise no more, forever more. Amen.
When Baptists say, it is close baptism, they maybe sincere, but are inconsistent; for when one leaves the Baptists and goes to the world, as thousands do, or to other denominations, they are still baptized, but debarred; so that canít give satisfaction. As long as we practice such an inconsistency they will browbeat us and bully us, so that thousands are kept away from us, or enticed away. The-scripture, precept and practice on this would hush the fuss and stop fight on this subject. And what do we gain by the modernly-invented custom? We simply quiet the croakings of a few roustabout Baptists who want to eat the sacrament to compensate for their lay-outs from duty. If we can make it an expression of fellowship of members of other churches, then it can be made an expression of fellowship, and Pedobaptists have the argument on us. Christ "put in the church first the apostles," and after "purging out that Judas of the leaven of malice and wickedness," as he tells us to do, then he instituted the ordinance with only the elect Eleven, leaving out his mother, and thousands of Baptists who were in Jerusalem at that very hour. If this is not an argument for church communion, then I donít know what an argument is. It ought to settle and satisfy all who want to know the truth.
But indulge a few more remarks. I write this at such moments as I can snatch from other pressing duties. Attribute the repetitions to this, as I can not re-read every time I write. Moreover, the repetitions are the things that are prominent in my mind, and such as I esteem important. Some logs are so hard to split, and some rocks are so hard to break, that many blows are necessary to do the work. But the hardest resistance, and the toughest obduracy, and the most stubborn prejudices in all the world confronts religious truth. When Baptists tell other Christians that they should be baptized like Christ was baptized, and like Christ taught, it hits hard, and ought to be irresistible; but when a Baptist tells a Baptist that he ought to observe the Supper as the Lord did in instituting it, and like he commanded it through those who spoke and wrote, as the Holy Spirit brought to their minds His teaching on this subject, for no one will say that Christ practiced one thing and taught another; then what shall we say when they treat it just like the prejudiced ones on baptism? It needs explanation, and here it is as near as I can give it. One has been made to believe that John baptized "with water," and the other has been made to believe that "Disciples," in Acts 20:5, was the church, and that Paul and his companions communed with them when they (the church) came together on the first day of the week. But both are misled by false translations. And the Baptist is most to blame, because all new translations leave out "The Disciples," while all do not correct the "with water." While no argument can be made for error, yet some arguments for truth are more plausible than others. The last three requirements in entering a Baptist church are, a satisfactory profession of saving faith, baptism and reception into membership. Some Baptist churches put the first and last togetheróthe last to be valid after baptism. But there is the vote to receive them into membership. The table is in the church (not the house), but the "BODY" wherever it may meet. You canít partake unless you are one of the body. "For we, the many, are one body, one loaf, for we all partake of the one loaf." There is but one way to get to the table. On this we are all agreed. The "visiting brother" has the first two requirements, but not the last; he has not been received into membership. Shall this be required of some and not of others? Some say, invite the visiting Baptist as a member of another church, and some say, by a like "courtesy" we can regard him for the time being as a member of our church. Then he is, or is not, a member. If not, it is a farce and a falsehood.
If he is really for the time a member, and should be one of those that we should not eat with, then try him, and purge him out, and with him "no not to eat." Especially do this, as is often the case he is a member of a church that is too dead to do that much-needed thing for him. He is a member or not a member, and why falsify at that the most solemn place and time in our lives? Not commune with a Baptist? Have you no fellowship for Baptists outside of your own little company? That is the slogan borrowed from Pedobaptists. It is as respectable when one uses it as when the other uses it. Yes, a thousand times yes, commune with all Baptists and all Christians; but that is not the way or when or where to show it. We all tell Pedobaptists, that it is a perversion of the holy ordinance, to detract it from church fellowship with Christ in his "broken body and shed blood," to an expression of our feelings for Christian people. And I tell the "visiting brother" the same thing. We have plenty of ways of expressing our feeling for one another, but this is not one of the ways. The fellowship one for another was expressed when they were received into membership in the body, and by continuance of the same; but at the table we express the fellowship between the church and Christ, or the "body and the head." Language can not make this clearer. In one ordinanceóbaptism, "each one" expressed his individual fellowship for his buried and risen Lord, and his individual partnership with him in his great sacrifice of himself for us individually. But he also "gave himself for his church;" he "bought it with his own blood," and it is proper that this ordinanceóthe Supperóshould be kept sacred for the expression of that one thing. Anything else is a perversion. One is heaven high above the other. I saw my wife partake once when she seemed to realize that it was her last time; she seemed to use all her powers to lift herself to a "discernment" of its true import. Her agonizing countenance melted my heart, and I prayed as perhaps I never did for the Lord to help her to a spiritual feast of that sacrifice. As the feast of the Passover was necessary to sustain Christís body on the way to the cross, so might that spiritual feast give her strength for the awful ordeal awaiting her. I communed with her, though I did not partake of the Supper, not being a member with her there. Christ gives us a thousand times and places and ways to commune with one another, and sets one time and place and way to commune with him, and shall we rob him of that? Then let Baptists quit communing with one another at the Lordís table, and let the church, as such, hold communion with her Lord. I have never, thank God, violated his expressed will in this holy ordinance in that way. I officiate in ordinances for churches, but they are the church in all church actions.
Perhaps baptizing is rightly classed with ministerial function, but not so with the Lordís Table. That is not a preacherís ex-officio. A church should observe that ordinanceópreacher or no preacheróas it is a church ordinance, and the ministry is an office in the church; so the church is before and above and independent of all of its officers. But baptism, while in the care of the church, is administered to those that are without. One is outside and the other inside; not inside the denomination, but inside the church, and there is no lawful way to it but through the door of the church. And baptism is not the door, but the uplifted hand lets them in or puts them out. Guard well that door, lest the unbidden of the Lord enter.