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Why They Believe It

by J. G. Bow, D. D.


Jesus appointed two simple ordinances in his church to be observed till the end of time. As baptism is a symbol of his burial and resurrection, so the Lords Supper is commemorative of his death and sufferings. Both set forth in beautiful symbol great fundamental doctrines of the gospel. Each was appointed, authorized, established, fixed by himself. They belong only to his churches.

Neither churches nor individuals have any right to change the form, the order, or design of these simple, yet sublime, ordinances of the churches of Christ.

Christ instituted the ordinance. Matthew 26:26-28 says: "And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament [covenant], which is shed for many for the remission of sins." Paul, writing "unto the church of God which is at Corinth," says: "For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you. That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament [covenant] in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lords death till he come" (1 Cor. 11:23-26).

Surely any seeker after truth can know the design of the Lords Supper. Baptists believe it is to commemorate the sufferings and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. He said: "This do in remembrance of me." "This do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me."

If only we keep in mind the object of the ordinance, it will save us from many errors concerning it. If we examine the popular notions of the present day, and listen to the unscriptural ideas that modern churches have propagated concerning it, the impressions are made that its main object is to show Christian love (sometimes envious hate) and liberality.

They say, "It is the Lords table." Exactly so. Then he has the sole right to set forth the object of its observance, to fix the qualifications of its participants. Again they say: "We shall all commune together in heaven." Well, the object of the Lords Supper is not our communing together here, but communing with Christ; not in remembrance of each other, but Jesus said "in remembrance of me."

Then, again, it is more than silly thus to speak. There will be no such ordinance in heaven. This is to be observed till he comes again, not after he comes. I submit, are not these things a perversion of the ordinance? Is not this eating, with these erroneous, unscriptural views, "not discerning the Lords body"? Baptists believe it is. We believe it is to be sacredly kept "in remembrance" of him, "to shew the Lords death till he come again." If you keep it. with any other view, or with no recognition of this divine aim, you do not discern the Lords body.

We are said to be peculiar in our views about this matter. Well, Gods people are "a peculiar people"; so we are not worried about the charge brought against us. But are we very peculiar after all? Only in practice.

All those who use the term "close communion as a cudgel to beat Baptists over the head, and to prejudice people against us, agree with us in theory, but have not the Christian manhood to be consistent in their practice.

Neander, the church historian, says of the Lords Supper: "At this celebration, as may be easily concluded, no one could be present who was not a member of the Christian church, and incorporated into it by the rite of baptism."

Justin, martyr of the second century, wrote: "It is not lawful for any one to partake, but such as believe the things taught by us, and have been baptized."

Bishop Coxe (Episcopalian) says: "The Baptists hold that we have never been baptized, and they must exclude us from their communion table, if we were disposed to go there. Are we offended? No. We call it proper and we respect it.

"To say we have never become members of Christ by baptism seems severe, but if it is conscientious adherence to duty as they regard it, I should be a bigot, and not they, if I should ask them to violate their discipline in this or any other particular" (Church Union, July, 1891). Allow a word of comment upon this lengthy quotation.

Notice he says: "Become members of Christ by baptism." Yet some cannot be made to believe they teach baptismal regeneration. Some Episcopalians even, in ignorance of their own doctrine, deny it. Yet the prayer book could not well be plainer on this point. Again he says: "If we were disposed to go there.". Which of course they are not. Many of them, especially strict churchmen, would no more attend services at a Baptist, Methodist, or Presbyterian church than would a Roman Catholic. They have neither church fellowship nor Christian Fellowship for any who do not belong to the church established in the sixteenth century by Henry VIII. Yet I have known two young ladies who left a Baptist church and joined the Episcopal, saying they made the change because they did not believe in restricted communion. I know not whether to lay it to ignorance or hypocrisy. They evidently thought it more "tony" to belong to the Episcopal church. And yet many never think of the Episcopalians being restricted communionists because forsooth our pedobaptist friends never cudgel them for it.

Listen what the prayer book says on this point. Here is the law: "And there shall none be admitted to the holy communion until such time as he be confirmed, or be ready and desirous to be confirmed."

So Episcopalians in both theory and practice are restricted communionists.

The Methodist Discipline says: "No person shall be admitted to the Lords Supper among us who is guilty of any practice for which we would exclude a member of our church."-Sec. 408. Every Methodist preacher takes a solemn vow, or oath, to obey his superiors and the discipline. Furthermore, this iron law of Methodism requires that they shall exclude from membership a man guilty of "inveighing against their doctrine or discipline." -Sec. 283. Or "who hold or disseminate, publicly or privately, doctrines which are contrary to our articles of religion."

So, in theory at least, no Methodist has a scintilla of liberality to boast about on this question. He should not want any such hypocritical liberality. He cannot have it and be true to his vow of subordination to his discipline and earthly lords. And, according to his discipline, there is not a true Baptist in the world prepared or allowed to come to his communion.

Presbyterian scholarship and the theory of the Presbyterian church is the same. Drs. Doddridge, Schaff, and Cuyler all occupy the Baptist position on this question.

Dr. John Dick, Presbyterian, says: "An uncircumcised man was not permitted to eat the passover, and an unbaptized man should not be permitted to partake of the Eucharist" Again, "Baptism is requisite to entitle a person to a seat at the table of the Lord" (Dicks Theology, p. 421).

Congregationalists say the same.

Dr. Griffin, one of the most eminent divines of America, says: "I agree with the advocates of close communion . . . that we ought not to commune with those who have not been baptized, and of course are not church members, even if we regard them as Christians."

Quotations might be multiplied at pleasure, but this is enough to satisfy all inquirers after truth that Baptist and all so-called evangelical churches are agreed in theory.

Until they can adduce some proof that infant sprinkling is Bible baptism, let them cease their unjust criticism of restricted communion.

As already shown, all those who inveigh so much against "close communion" are really close communionists themselves.

Really, so far as I know, everybody who has any definite idea about the matter at all, believes in restricting the ordinance.

There is not an evangelical society or church in the world, I suppose, who believes everybody, without any regard to character or conduct, should participate with them in the Lords Supper.

No one claims that infidels, scoffers, and the vile of earth should come to the table. "Oh," you say, "of course we do not mean that any who are not. Christians should come." Then many of our church members of all denominations are excluded. But you say, they claim to be Christians, and you quote Paul and say, "Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat." But you misapply the Scripture, for Paul was writing to a local church, "the church of God which is at Corinth."

This is good scriptural advice to give a church, but it does not apply indiscriminately to everyone who might upon some ground claim to be a Christian.

Again, you may claim that all Christians should be invited. Well, who is to judge whether or not they are Christians? They are to judge themselves, the advocate for open communion answers.

Then you have thrown down some of the barriers, and the Catholic, the Mormon, the Free-thinker, the Communist, the Unitarian, and the Universalist are all invited to participate with you. You recoil from your own logic, or at least ought to, at the bare thought of such sacrilegious mockery. Then you say we mean to restrict it to evangelical Christians. Well, then you are getting to be quite a close communionist. Out of the hundreds of societies claiming to be Christians, you narrow it down to less than a half dozen with whom you are willing to commune. But again I ask, Who is to judge whether they are evangelical or not? You are judging that. Dont you see you are a restricted communionist?

Even some Baptists (?) claim to be open communionists.

When I was pastor at Russellville, Kentucky, I had a conversation with an old gentleman about as follows: Said I, "Are you a Christian?" He answered, "I hope so. Yes, I am a Christian, and have been for thirty years."

I said, "Well, I understand you have never united with any church, and none of your family are church members. Did you ever think that your dereliction of duty perhaps account for the irreligious condition of your family?" He answered, "Yes." "Well, what is the matter? Cant you find a church good enough for you to live in?" "That," said he, "is not the trouble. I think I am unworthy to be in any of them." I then asked, "What do you believe? What are your views of a church?" He answered, "I suppose I can say I am a Baptist in belief. I believe in repentance and faith and conversion. I believe immersion is the only baptism known or authorized in the New Testament. There is one thing which you believe which I do not, and that is your close communion. I said, "Oh, well, what is your idea of the ordinance?" He answered, "I do not believe your close communion is right." To draw him out, I said, "Do you think these Methodists and Presbyterians are Christians?" With a look of surprise, he said, "Certainly I do. Dont you?" I answered, "I certainly do." "Then," said he, "if they are Christians, they have as much right to come to the communion table as you, and you have no right to exclude them. It is the Lords table, and they are his people." "You place it then upon the ground of being a Christian; that is your only prerequisite to the Lords Supper?" "Certainly," he answered, "all Christians should." I said, "Have you ever partaken of the Lords Supper?" "I? No, no, I would not think of such a thing. I would not do such a thing for my right arm." I said, "Why not? You claim to be a Christian?" He said, with apparent alarm, "But I have never been baptized. No, no, I could not do such a thing. I have never been baptized." I said, "Well, have these whom you are so anxious to have invited to participate in this ordinance been baptized? According to your expressed belief they have not, and yet you are anxious for them to do what you would not do for your right ann."

Here was an intelligent man kept out of the church for thirty years because he did not believe in restricted communion, thought all Christians should partake of the Lords Supper, that to be a Christian was the only prerequisite, and yet when he applied his reasoning to his own case he shrank from the application of his logic. He was conscientious and sensible. As soon as he saw his error he abandoned it, and that very night came before the church and told his thirty-year-old experience and asked to be baptized.

Baptists believe that none are scripturally entitled to partake of the Lords Supper except such as have made a credible profession of faith. This is plain enough if you mean to follow the examples of early Christians in the days of the apostles. At its institution none were present except those who were the professed disciples of Christ. On the day of Pentecost those who broke bread had first "gladly received the word."

The Greek Catholic Church observes infant communion along with infant baptism, and they use the same arguments for infant communion that are used in favor of infant baptism. There is no Scripture for either, and if you rely upon sentiment or the supposed saving efficacy of baptism, there is equal ground for infant communion. I had as soon administer the bread and wine to a dying baby as to sprinkle water upon it in the name of the Trinity and call it baptism. Everything in favor of believers baptism is equally in favor of believers communion.

Baptists believe that baptism properly precedes the Lords Supper. Jesus gave the example. He was baptized at the beginning of his ministry, and instituted the Supper just prior to his death.

The Commission places baptism before communion and faith before baptism. "Go ye therefore, and teach [i.e., disciple] all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." First, "make disciples," then baptize them, then observe all things commanded. The Lords Supper is one of the things commanded, and to be observed after the believer has become a disciple and been baptized, as such.

The apostles so understood and practiced. On the day of Pentecost, in case of Saul, the jailer, Lydia, etc.

Baptists believe church membership is also a prerequisite to the Lords Supper.

Paul, writing to the "church of God which is at Corinth," said, "I received of the Lord that which I also delivered unto you," certainly "unto the church." There is no scriptural authority for carrying the emblems around to sick people, and administering in any case except by the church. It was delivered to the church at Corinth, and just as surely to the church at Ephesus, the church in Jerusalem, etc.

Let us look a moment now at this from a scriptural standpoint. Here is the command and example of Christ, the practice of the apostles, the clear light of Scripture; now, as the servants of Christ, can we dare for the sake of sentiment, or the approbation of those walking disorderly, to violate the plain teachings of Gods Word?

Pedobaptists can invite us to commune with them, for they acknowledge our baptism as scriptural and right, and we do not believe they have been baptized at all, hence are not authorized by the Word of God to administer the ordinance or to partake of it. Yet there are inconsistencies in their invitation to us, but not because we have not been baptized, they being the judges.

Suppose I go to a Methodist church with a Methodist preacher, they give their usual invitation, I am included in it, accept it, and am heartily welcomed. They would publish it from Dan to Beersheba. Suppose the next Sunday I preach a sermon in my pulpit, I prove from the Scriptures that immersion is the only scriptural baptism, the scriptural form of church government is that vested in a local church, that when a soul has obtained eternal life by faith in Christ, that soul has eternal life and will reach heaven because it is saved, etc. Now what will be the result if the Methodist preacher preaches the same scriptural truths? He would be tried, his papers taken from him, and he excluded. Now suppose a month later we go to the same church again, and when the invitation is given, he is left out and I am included. Why? Am I in harmony with Methodism any more than he? Let Pedobaptists quit taking such vows as their disciplines, confessions, etc., impose, or else quit breaking these vows, and posing as liberalists in order to carry favor with the world.

Baptists believe in God, in his authority, his wisdom, his infallible word: They do not believe any mortal has the right to add to, or take from, "the things which are written" therein.

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