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If the practice of Christ and his apostles be in all cases binding upon Christians, whether the reason of the thing be the same or not, why do they not eat the Lord's supper with unleavened bread, and in a reclining posture ? And why do they not assemble together merely to celebrate this ordinance, and that on a Lord's day evening ? From the accounts in 1 Cor. xi. 20. and Acts xx. 7. two things appear to be evident—First : That the celebration of the Lord's supper was the specific object of the coming together, both of the church at Corinth, and of that at Troas : the former came together (professedly) to eat the Lord's supper ; the latter are said to have come together to break bread. Secondly : That it was on the evening of the day. This is inanifest not only from its being called the Lord's supper, but from the Corinthians making it their own supper, and from its being followed at Troas by a sermon from Paul which required “lights,” and continued till .6 midnight.”
I do not mean to say that the church at either Corinth or Troas had no other worship during the first day of the week than this ; but that this was attended to as a distinct object of assembling, and, if there were any other, after the other was over.
It may be thought that these were mere accidental circumstances, and therefore not binding on us. It does not appear to me, however, that we are at liberty to turn the Lord's supper into a breakfast. But if we be, and choose to do so, let us not pretend to a punctilious imitation of the first churches.
It is well known to be a peculiarity in Sandemanian societies not to determine any question by a majority. They, like the first churches must be of one mind; and, if there be any dissentients who cannot be convinced, they are excluded. Perfect unanimity is certainly desirable, not only in the great principles of the gospel but in questions of discipline, and even in the choice of officers; but how if this be unattainable? The question is, whether it be more consistent with the spirit and practice of the New Testament for the greater part of the church to forbear with the less, or Diotrephes like, to cast them out of the church ; and this for having, according to the best of their judgments, acted up to the scriptural directions ? One of these modes of proceeding must of
necessity be pursued; for there is no middle course : and if we loved one another with genuine Christian affection we could not be at a loss which to prefer. The New Testament speaks of an election of seven deacons, but says nothing on the mode of its being conducted. Now, considering the number of members in the church at Jerusalem, upless they were directed in their choice by inspiration, which there is no reason think they were, it is more than a thousand to one that those seven persons who were chosen were not the persons whom every individual member first proposed. What then can we suppose them to have done? They might discuss the subject till they become of one mind; or, which is much more likely, the lessor number, perceiving the general wish, and considering that their brethren had understanding as well as they, might peaceably give up their own opinions to the greater, “submitting one to another in the fear of God.” But suppose a hundred of the members had said as follows :— Without reflecting on any who have been named, we think two or three other brethren more answerable to the qualifications required by the apostles than some of them ; but, having said this, we are willing to acquiesce in the general voice'-Should they or would they have been excluded for this ? Assuredly the exclusions of the New Testament were for very different causes !
The statements of the society in St. Martins-legrand on this subject are sophistical, self-contradictory, and blasphemous. “ Nothing,” say they, “ is decided by the vote of the majority. In some cases indeed there are dissenting voices. The reasons of the dissent are thereupon proposed and considered. If they are scriptural, the whole church has cause to change its opinion ; if not, and the person persists in his opposition to the word of God, the church is bound to reject him.” But who is to judge whether the reasons of the dissentients be scriptural or not? The majority no doubt, and an opposition to their opinion is an opposition to the word of God.
Humility and love will do great things toward unanimity ; but this forced unanimity is the highest refinement of spiritual tyranny. It is being compelled to believe as the church believes, and
that not only on subjects clearly revealed, and of great importance; but in matters of mere opinion, in which the most upright minds may differ, and to which no standard can apply. What can he who exalteth himself above all that is called God, do inore than set up his decisions as the word of God, and require men on pain of excommunication to receive them ?
I am yours, &c.
OF THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST.
My Dear Friend,
You are aware that the admirers of Messrs. Glass and Sandeman generally value themselves on their “ clear views of the gospel, and of the nature of Christ's kingdom ;” and I doubt not but they have written things concerning both which deserve attention. It appears to me, however that they have done much more in detecting error, than in advancing truth ; and that their writings on the kingdom of Christ relate more to what it is not, than to what it is. Taking ap the sentence of our Lord, My kingdom is not of this world, they have said much, and much to purpose, against worldly establishments of religion, with their unscriptural appendages; but, after all, have they shown what the kingdom of Christ is ; and does their religion taken as a whole, exemplify it in its genuine simplicity ? If writing and talking about “ simple truth” would do it, they would not be wanting : but it will not. Is there not as much of a worldly spirit in their religion as in that which they explode, only that it is of a different species ? Nay, is there not a greater defect among them, in what relates to righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit, than will often be found in what they denominate Babylon itself.
A clear view of the nature of Christ's kingdom would hardly be supposed to overlook the Apostle's account of it. The kingdom of God, he says, is not meat and drink, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. From this statement we should expect to find the essence of it placed in things moral rather than in