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themselves. The one being founded in our relation to God and one another, and approving themselves to the conscience, require neither precept nor precedent, but merely a general principle which shall comprehend them; the other having their origin merely in the sovereign will of God, require a punctilious adherence to what is revealed concerning them. While we engage in what is purely moral, and what is therefore right for every one to engage in, we incur no relative guilt, whatever be the motives, or even the manifest characters of those who unite with us, any more than in contributing with an irreligious man for the relief of the poor: but in what is positive, if the parties with whom we unite be virtually excluded by the institution, we are accessory to their doing what, in their present state of mind, they have no right to do. For want of attending to this plain distinction, some have gone so far as to refuse to engage in public prayer in a promiscuous assembly, and even to join in family worship, if any were present whom they accounted unbelievers. Proceeding on the same principle, the "Congregationalist' appears to me to err in the opposite extreme; arguing from our joining in what is right for all men, that we ought to join in what the scriptures limit to certain cha
The appeal is next made to the new testament. Here it becomes us to be all attention. "Were not the first
churches composed of households?" That there were some households in them is clear; and we have some in many of our churches. But why did not the "Congregationalist" prove that some of them at least were infants? If he could have done this, all his other arguments might have been spared. It might indeed be supposed, that households will ordinarily consist of some of this description; and if we were not given to understand the contrary in these instances, the presumption might appear in favour of this supposition. But it so happens, that each of these households appear from the scripture accounts to have been believers. Acts xvi. 34-40. 1 Cor. i. 16. xvi. 15.
"Were not parents told, if they believed, they and their house should be saved?" The head of one family was thus addressed: Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.' But surely the meaning of this is, that if he and his house believed, they should all be saved. If Paul and Silas meant to say, his house should be saved, though he only believed; why is it added in the next verse, And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house?' The pharisees seemed desirous of establishing their claim on the ground of having Abraham to their father; but John the baptist did not allow of it, but intimated that the axe was now laid to the root of the tree, and that every tree which brought not forth good fruit should be hewn down and cast into the fire. Who would have thought, that "An Old Congregationalist" could have pleaded, not merely for the admission of children to christian ordinances in virtue of the faith of their parents, but for their being actually saved! I have heard of certain professors of religion in the fens of Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire who hold this opinion with great earnestness, and who on the ground of their forefathers' faith rest assured of salvation, whatever be their own characters; but I should not have expected such a notion to have found an advocate in your worthy correspondent.
"Is there an instance of an adult descendant of a believer, that was admitted into the church throughout the whole of the new testament?" Yes, several. All the households before mentioned were adults, and some of them were doubtless descendants from the heads of those families. But I suppose your correspondent means, there is no instance of their being admitted at a distance of time after their parents. And this I believe is true. But it is equally true, that there is no instance of a wife, a husband, or a child, being converted after their partners or their parents; cases which nevertheless, no doubt, frequently occurred. The truth is, the new testament is a history of the first planting of the church, and not of its
progress. If such evidence as this amounts to (6 a moral certainty," that children were received into the church with their parents, I am at a loss what to denominate uncertainty.
The scriptures inculcate a strict and holy discipline, both in the church and in the family; and I cannot but consider it as a strong presumption against the practice for which your correspondent pleads, that the command to bring up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord,' is addressed, not to ministers or churches, but to parents. Nor is there, that I recollect, in all that is said in the apostolic epistles, to parents or children, a word which implies the latter to have stood in the relation of church members.
There is some ingenuity in what is said in answer to objections; and if moral and positive duties must be confounded, and we are driven to reason from analogy on the one as well as on the other, there may be some force in it. But if positive institutes require scripture precept or example, the want of these must needs be the grand, and I suspect, the insurmountable objection.
Answer to a Query,
WHETHER JUDAS WAS PRESENT AT THE LORD'S SUPPER.
AFTER carefully reading the account of this matter by the four Evangelists, it appears to me that Judas was not present at the Lord's supper, but went out immediately after the celebration of the passover; and that if the contrary were allowed, it would not affect the order of the dissenting churches.
With respect to the former of these positions, MATTHEW speaks of Judas as being present at the Paschal supper, but says nothing of his being present at the Lord's supper. (chap. xxii. 19-30.) The whole of what he writes is perfectly consistent with his leaving the company immediately after the former, and before the commencement of the latter; but it makes no mention of it.
The same may be said of the account given by MARK: ch. xiv. 16-26. JOHN is more particular. He tells us that 'having received the sop, he went immediately out.’ (ch. xiii. 30.) Now the act of dipping the bread in wine, and so eating it, pertained not to the Lord's supper, but to the passover. The bread and the wine were each distributed separately in the former, as is manifest from every account we have of it; but in the latter it was not so, as is clear from Matt. xxvi. 23. Mark xiv. 20. John's testimony therefore is very express, that the time of Judas's going out was immediately after the passover, and before the Lord's supper.
The only difficulty arises from the account of LUKE, who after narrating the administration of the Lord's supper, says, But behold the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table.' (ch. xxii. 21.) The whole force of the argument taken from hence, arises not from any thing in the words themselves; for the table' may as well signify the paschal table, as the Lord's table; but merely from the order in which they are placed in the narration. And as to this, Calvin, who entertained the opinion that Judas was present, acknowledges nevertheless, that "though Luke hath set down this saying of Christ after the celebration of his supper; yet the order of time cannot be certainly gathered thereby, which we know was often neglected by the Evangelists."
But whether Judas was present at the Lord's supper or not, it does not, as I conceive, affect the order of dissenting churches. It is no part of that order to sit in judgment upon the hearts of communicants, any farther than as they are manifest by their words and actions.
It is as making a credible profession of christianity that we are bound to admit them, and not on the ground of any private opinion, that this profession is sincere. Should we feel in any case a secret dissatisfaction, owing to a want of that union of spirit which a profession of repentance towards God, and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ ordinarily inspires; yet if what is professed be true religion, and we know of nothing that discredits the sincerity of the party, we are not at liberty to reject. Now such a communicant was Judas, allowing him to have been one. It appears by the other apostles applying the warning, given by Christ, to themselves in a way of enquiry, that they had no particular suspicion of him. And as to his character being known to Christ as the searcher of hearts, he did not act upon that ground in his treatment of men, but upon the ground of what they manifested themselves to be by their words and actions. If Christ's knowledge of Judas's character warrants the admission of unbelievers and known hypocrites into the church, it must also warrant the admission of them to the highest offices in the church: for Jesus knew from the beginning who it was that believed not, and who should betray him.'
THE APOSTOLIC OFFICE.
EUBULUS, in what he has written upon the Apostolic office, having expressed a wish for the subject to be examined, I take the liberty of suggesting a few hints to his consideration.
Allowing the word apostle to signify a missionary, it does not seem to follow, that calling an ordinary preacher, who is sent to publish the gospel among the heathen, by the latter name, is improper or 'unscriptural.'