« ForrigeFortsæt »
vine Saviour, and of the benefits which arise from it. It should not be supposed, that this great advance was made without high disapprobation, even among the Reformers themselves. For Luther, and other milder men, highly disapproved of it. Zuinglius, the Swiss reformer, was a man of a capacious and penetrating mind. He was far before Luther in the march of improvement. Had he not been cut off by premature death, the age of the Reformation, bright as it was, would have shone with a greater glory.
The effect of the corruptions we have named was long and widely felt, and was principally injurious in exciting a general dread of participation in the Supper. Fear seized the church, fear which increased with its errors, and which can decrease only with them. As we are not, at this day, rid of all the error, so we are not rid of all the injurious fear. Many there are, desirous of observing the communion rite, and who are fully qualified therefor, who are restrained by the lingering influence of some of the errors of which I have spoken.
The necessity of the organization of churches and of the celebration of the Lord's Supper, is deeply felt by many Universalists. It is true, there is among us a difference of opinion on this topic, which, although it is lamented, is the cause of no alienation of feeling. We think, however, that there is an increasing attention to the subject. Much has been written upon it; and we can state our own views no more faithfully than it is done in a late article in the "Universalist Expositor," from the pen of the editor of that work.
"There is a class of means which we should most earnestly recommend to a more general adoption among us, were it not, that some of our brethren have conscientious scruples with respect to them. As the case is, it becomes us only to express our opinion. We allude to the institution of churches, and the regular observance of the Lord's Supper. We say, of churches; although we understand it to be a practice in certain parts
of our country to gather the societies themselves somewhat on the plan of churches; that is, to admit none but of apparent Christian lives, and on a direct profession of Christian faith, and to maintain a system of moral and religious discipline to which all the members are subject. So far, these societies are, in their regulations, churches, only under another name. But, where the society is gathered indiscriminately, as in New England, and, we believe, in most other places, where it consists of all who choose to belong to it, from whatever motive, or to share in the pecuniary burdens or profits of building, &c., it seems to us highly important that there should also be an association based on the special ground of positive faith and experimental religion. The more we have seen this measure earnestly and perseveringly tried, the more have we been persuaded, that its operation is of great benefit. Is it not natural, that it should be so? Mankind associate for all other purposes in which they feel a mutual interest, and they derive mutual advantage from their connexion. Like coals brought together, they exert a wider and more powerful influence around. And why not, in the cultivation of religious principle and practice? Most of the other sects never form a society without a church. Has it not been observed, that in general, (there are exceptions,) they rather excel us in strong, enduring attachment to their religion and to their social institutions? Now, it is an ominous fact, that in a very large proportion of our societies, probably in more than two thirds of our eight or nine hundred, there are no churches, no associations of the kind whatsoever! We have a deep and increasing presentiment, that there must be a thorough change of this state of things, and that churches, or something tantamount, (why shun the name?) must be introduced in all cases where we form a society, or that its prosperity will not be permanent. At any rate, we cannot conceive of general neglect, without the most disastrous tendencies. The laws of our nature, in the present life, are such, that the strongest principle will
be, with most men, but intermittent in its action, and extremely prone to decay, unless sustained by social regulations, which are like a heavy balance-wheel, not indeed the moving power itself, but a sort of depository thereof, whence it is distributed in timely supplies to all parts of the multitudinous machinery.
With respect to the communion of the Lord's Supper, we may be told, that it is questionable whether this institution was intended as an absolute ordinance, that is, as perpetually and universally obligatory by force of a positive command. We think so too. We have doubts of the existence of ordinances in Christianity; we mean in the usual technical sense of the term. But then we must not overlook the fact, that rites or formal observances of some kind, are, in the nature of things, inseparable from social religion. What are all our regulations and usages, our selection of a preacher, the appointment of our meetings on Sundays, our simultaneous gathering, the postures we assume, the order of exercises, &c.,-what are they but forms? There is an absurdity into which we may here fall, through inadvertence. With the laudable aim of preserving simplicity in religion, some have thought it necessary to decry observances in general; but the utmost they can do, in this respect, is to discard the old and adopt new. Witness the Quakers. The very channels of all social intercourse are artificial forms and signs, more or less defined. Society as inevitably grows up with them, as men with their fleshly bodies. And when we institute societies for the diffusion or promotion of religion, forms will, in spite of us, adhere to them. The only practicable questions are, What are the proper ones? and, To what intent ought we to observe them? Now, in the ceremony of the Lord's supper, there is so natural a significance, and so great a simplicity, that it is difficult for us to conceive of objections to it, except on the absurd ground of former abuse, or with equally absurd aim of discarding every thing of the kind. It falls naturally into the train of usages in all climes and states
of society; and it has so many affecting associations, is so connected with the most touching incidents in our Saviour's life, that it can hardly fail of setting him before our minds with peculiar efficiency. We might appeal to matter of fact; and we are confident it would appear, on inquiry, that those of our churches which have regularly observed it as a memorial of our Lord, have actually found it attended with the best of influences on the communicants, and, through them, on others.
"Another consideration, before we pass. In joining a church and partaking of the Lord' Supper, there naturally arises a sense of increased responsibility assumed in so sacred a profession; and this sense itself, if properly cherished, will be fruitful in good results. We may, indeed, argue, abstractly, that men are always under the same responsibilities, whatever their relation. In one sense, this may be true; but certainly in no way to conflict with our proposition. So we may argue, too, that the citizen owes his country all the service he can render it, and that his public responsibility, therefore, can neither be increased nor diminished by any change of circumstance; but common sense and conscience tell us, that in the character of a sentinel, or general of an army, or representative to a foreign court, he has peculiar responsibilities which do not belong to him in the private retirement of his fireside. And it is false logic, that would persuade the Christian, who makes a public profession of religion, that he has no additional responsibility growing out of his new relation to the world. Now this responsibility of a distinct profession, is what every follower of Jesus Christ is required to take upon himself, by the whole tenor of the New Testament. Has this duty been sufficiently attended to, by the members of our denomination? If not, sin lieth at our door, undermining the foundation of our public edifices, while we are fondly rejoicing in the rapidity of its upward progress; a progress which, in that case, can only insure its fall. There can be no question, that
the real, permanent strength of our community lies not in its numbers of all sorts and characters, not in the multitude of its new accessions, but in that smaller body of believers, whose faith is their moral and spiritual life; and every means should be employed which will cherish this principle and diffuse it more widely among us. Let those who are actuated by it, solemnly pledge themselves together, in the name of their Master, and they will give new strength to their own resolves, and additional influence to their example on the rest of the community. The same law of our nature holds good here, that operates in other enterprises, in which covenants somewhat similar have been tried with a success truly astonishing."
IV. Mr. Balfour has also written earnestly on this subject, and defended the Lord's Supper as an institution binding on Christians at the present day, by the express command of the Lord Jesus. We make a brief extract from an article of his, published some years since, on the words of Paul, 1 Cor. xi. 23-26, to which the attention of the reader is directed.
"The general phraseology Paul uses, seems to be taken from the accounts given of the Lord's Supper, Matt. xxvi. 26-29; Mark xiv. 22 - 25; Luke xxii. 19, 20. Some of the phrases are precisely the same, and most of them are the same in substance. I am inclined to think, Paul received his information about the Lord's Supper, principally from Luke, or his gospel, for he only uses the words this do in remembrance of me.' Paul uses these words twice, after taking the bread in the Lord's Supper as well as the cup. And Luke's account seems to imply, that our Lord used them twice. Permit me here to ask, do not these words contain a command to observe the Lord's Supper? A command, not only from Paul as an apostle, but a command from the Lord himself. If the words,
This do in remembrance of me,' do not amount to a command, what words would amount to this? What do they mean, if this is denied?