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which dictated to our Apostle. The primitive Christians were cautioned against that natural propensity, which leadeth to undue self-exaltation, lest they should think more highly of themselves than they ought to think, and so in their hearts say, when they drew near unto God, in whatever place they set apart for public or private devotion, I thank thee, O God, I am not like other men. To attend, therefore, properly to this divine admonition, is to save ourselves from this untoward generation, Acts iii. 40. And if we cannot bring them with whom we converse, to see and believe the truth of God, respecting the creature and the Creator; 'if our representations harden their hearts, if they speak evil of the way of peace, and publish their defamatory accusations, the best thing we can do is to follow the example of the Apostle, and depart from them, associating ourselves with as many as prove themselves disciples of our Saviour by believing with their heart, and making confession with their mouth unto salvation, Romans x. 10.
But, we shall not only come out from among them who telieve not, but if we follow the direction of the unerring Spirit, we shah not touch the unclean thing, 2 Corinthians vi. 17 :
“ Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.”
Here, however, we are in great danger of falling into the error of the wicked; for, should we look upon those from whom we have separated as the unclean thing, and not the leaven against which our Saviour so often cautioned his disciples, we shall immediately commence the very character we are exhorted to avoid ; for although, in the former dispensation, it was deemed an unlawful thing for a mạn that was a Jew, to keep company with, or to come unto one of another nation. Yet, saith the Apostle, God hath shewed me, that I should not call any man common or unclean, Acts x. 28. The Apostle refers to the vision of the sheet, verse fifteenth of this tenth chapter, what God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.
But, if there were any individual among the children of men, that God had not cleansed by the blood-shedding of Christ Jesus, then he would not have shown Peter, that he should not call any man common or unclean. It is then the leaven, that constitutes the character of the Pharisee, and not the man in whose heart it ferments; it is the leaven which we are to consider as the unclean thing, that we are exhorted not to touch or to join in spirit with
When the Apostle told the congregation to which he was preaching, Acts ii. 39, “ That the promise was to them, and to their children, and to all that were afar off, even as many as the Lord our God should call. Some gladly received his word and were baptized, and they continued steadfastly in the Apostlc's doctrine, and in breaking of bread, and in prayer." See verse forty-second of this chapter.
They continued steadfastly in the Apostle's doctrine, and in fellowship. What was the Apostle's doctrine? The sermon in the second chapter informs us, particularly verse 39. And we are further taught 2 Corinthians, v. 19, “ To wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation."
Again, Romans iü. 22, 23, 24, 25, “Even the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all, and upon all them that believe ; for there is no difference :
“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
“ Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
“Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.”
Again, Acts iii. 21, “ Whom the heaven must receive until the time of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began."
But what was the fellowship ? Let the beloved disciple answer. 1 John i. 3;
“ That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.”
And saith Paul, Ephesians iii. 9, “ To make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ."
Again, in Philippians i. 5, “For your fellowship in the gospel, from the first day until now.
Again, Philippians ii. 1, “ If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies."
And iii. 10, “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death."
But they who continued steadfast in the Apostle's doctrine and fellowship, continued also in breaking of bread, and in prayers. Acts xx. 7.
Of the breaking of bread, we have an account in the passage to which you refer, 1 Corinthians, xi. 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29.
« 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 in my blood : this do ye, as oft as y drink it, in remembrance of me.
« For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.
" 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.”
In the twenty-second verse of this chapter, the Apostle declares, he will not praise the communicants of Corinth. Why? Because they come together not for the better, but for the worse. But wherein did it appear that they came together for the worse? The eighteenth verse informs us, “When ye come together, in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you, and I partly be lieve it. For there must be heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you."
The conduct of this people, as delineated in the twenty-first and twenty-second verses, was not, as the Apostle observes, praiseworthy. Indeed it was highly reprehensible. And the use they made of what was given for a very good purpose, was very unworthy the Christian character. Who could imagine, if they had not previously been so informed, that Paul was describing an assem
bly of Chiristians? “When ye come together into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper.
“ For in eating every one taketh before the other his own supper ;
and one is hungry and another is drunken !! “ What, have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? Or despise ye the Church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you ? Shall I praise you in this ? I praise you not.”
That this bread and this wine was indeed, as you observe, designed as a standing memorial of the love exhibited in the death of the Redeemer, and also of the effect of that dying love in his resurrection, (in which having put away our sins, by the sacrifice of himself, we being risen with him, in the same sense we were crucified with him, are begotten again into a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus,) I stedfastly believe, and that the rich grace exhibited, as the thing signified in this outward and visible sign, ought to be ever present to our souls, exciting love and gratitude to God, and tender affection one toward another. All this, I do most devoutly and cheerfully grant; and I am confident that where the spirit of truth takes of the things of Jesus, contained in these figures, and shews them to the soul, it will elevate the affections, originate friendship to man, and devout thank fulness to God. Nay, a view of these figures will effectuate that, which only a discerning the Lord's body can effectuate.
But perhaps there are no people on earth who make a point of associating together, who have less real affection for each other, than those who continue most steadfast in their attendance on what they call the Lord's supper. Yet were they acquainted with, and did they continue steadfast in the Apostle's doctrine and fellowship, the love of Christ would no doubt constrain them: for, as you justly observe, a holy love to the Saviour, and an attachment to each other, is the genuine spirit of the ordinance ; or perhaps we should express ourselves more correctly, were we to say it is the spirit that should actuate persons who continue in the literal observance of the ordinance ; for I rather suppose the real spirit of the ordinance, is the love of God to sinners, or the grace that bringeth salvation unto all men, manifested in his death, who died for the ungodly, for the unjust, for every man, and rose again for their justification ; who of all his Father's house, is the only active person in the work of salvation; whó trod the wine press alone, that the scriptures might be fulfilled, which affirm his own arm brought salvation.
But, whether we consider the love of God to a sinful world, in giving them the Son, and in him everlasting life, as the spirit of the ordinance, or the love of sinners to God, who first loved them, and to each other, as the loved of the Father, as the spirit in which communicants should attend this outward and visible sign, I am far from supposing either the one or the other calculated to “destroy the letter." No, my friend, on the contrary I do believe, that wherever, and whenever, the Holy Ghost leads the mind into the spirit of this ordinance, there, and then only the ordinance will be literally observed; but it is not only in latter ages, that the « literal attendance" on, or attention to this institution has been abused, as we have seen in the churches to which
refer. You proceed to say, “ In this connexion they were directed to attend to a particular token of love, one to another, in support of which
cite Romans, xvi. 16. “ Salute one another with a holy kiss, the churches of Christ salute you.” 1 Corinthians, xvi. 20. 6 All the brethren greet you. Greet ye one another with an holy kiss.” 2 Corinthians, xiii. 12. “Greet one another with an holy kiss." 1 Thessalonians, v. 26. “Greet all the brethren with an holy kiss.” And i Peter, v. 14. “Greet ye one another with a kiss of charity.” This greeting, my dear Sir, with an holy kiss, might be very
well among an assembly of people who continued steadfast in the Apostle's doctrine and fellowship, &c. and among a people, who before they knew any thing of the one or the other, made use of this custom as a token of respect, as we uncover our heads on meeting a friend, or acquaintance, and among Christians it was highly proper they should continue this habit, not merely as a ceremony, but as a token of unfeigned love.
I conceive this manner of salutation was not, as it respected the simple act, a new institution. But as mere compliments are never certain signs of what they are made to pass for among men, and a guiltless individual, not acquainted with deceit, may be easily imposed upon, the Apostle exhorted the churches to greet one another with an holy kiss, as a token of unfeigned love ; but of this, unfeigned love, is the spirit, the kiss is but the sign ; and as the sign may exist without the spirit, so may the spirit without the sign. But it is not the spirit that sets aside the letter, but the custom of the country, which the spirit of it cannot merely as a custom preserve; so neither can the different customs made use of in different countries, prevent the effusions of love, in whatever outward and visible signs they may, by established custom be conveyed.