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The appointment, therefore, of this holy supper, is an instance of the wisdom and goodness of Christ, as it is suited to be a repeated and continual exhibition of a crucified Saviour, and hereby to excite the faith and love of christians, and to lead them to renew their covenant with him, dedicating themselves to his service and honour. And is also adapted to the communicants' united expression of their mutual love and union of heart to each other, while they jointly partake of one common good, even all the benefits of Christ crucified.
That this is appointed by Christ to be a standing ordinance, to be observed by his church, and by every professed baptized believer in him, to the end of the world, is evident by the words and manner of the institution of it, recorded by the evangelists Matthew, Mark and Luke; and is farther evident by the history we have of the observation of it by the churches, in the days of the apostles. We are told, that on the first day of the week, the disciples at Troas came together to break bread; that is, to celebrate the Lord's supper. The church at Corinth attended upon this ordinance from time to time; which appears from what the apostle Paul says to them respecting it, when he undertakes to correct their abuse of it.† And in order to reform them, he refers them to the original institution by Christ, and tells them particularly what it was, as he had received it from the Lord Jesus Christ himself; and adds the following words, "For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come." Which words strongly assert, that this ordinance was to be observed to the end of the world, when Christ the Lord shall come the second time, without sin unto salvation.
This ordinance, according to the nature, signification and extent of it, is to be repeated by the same persons to the end of life, as it expresses the believer's living upon Christ; and the nourishment of his soul, by faith in him, and is suited to excite renewed acts of christian love and holiness. There is the same reason why a participation of it should be repeated, as there is that it should be once attended. "As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, do show the Lord's death +1 Cor. xi.
* Acts xx. 7.
till he come."* There is a difference between this ordinance and that of baptism, in this respect : As the latter is the initiating ordinance and seal by which persons are visibly introduced into the church and kingdom of Christ. And this being once done, the end of it is answered, and there can be no reason or propriety in repeating it, by applying it more than once to the same person.
The infant children of believers are as capable subjects of baptism, and of all that is signified by it, as adults are, as has been shown. But as they are not capable of that which is signified by partaking of the Lord's supper, till they arrive to years of understanding, this is not to be administered to them before that time, when they shall be able to "discern the Lord's body, and examine themselves." There is no evidence that the circumcised children in Israel were admitted to the passover, and to partake of the paschal lamb, until they were able to understand the reason and end of that institution. The Jews say, children did not partake of the passover till they arrived to the age of twelve years. This seems to be confirmed by the history we have of the parents of Jesus taking him with them to the feast of the passover at Jerusalem, when he was twelve years old, which plainly "Now his parimplies that they did not do it before. ents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the pas. sover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem, after the custom of the feast."+ This may be considered as a guide to christian churches, in admitting baptized children to the Lord's supper.
This ordinance, according to the nature and design of it, is to be administered and attended upon publicly, by every particular church; and is not designed to be administered privately, to one single person. Of this we have no example in scripture: But the disciples, the whole church, came together to break bread, and eat the Lord's supper. "And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread."‡ "When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper. Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. And if any man hunger, let him cat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation."§
1 Cor. xi. 26. † Luke ii. 41, 42. Acts xx. 7. § 1 Cor. xi. 20, 33, 34
As to the frequency of administering this ordinance in a church; this does not appear to be fixed by any precept or example in scripture; and therefore seems to be left to the discretion of the church to determine how of ten they will attend upon it, and have it administered to them, according to their circumstances, and as they shall think it to be most convenient to them, and most for the honour of Christ, and their edification. It has been often said, that christians in the first ages of the church, celebrated the Lord's supper, at least every Lord's day. But it may be asked, by what authentic history this can be made evident? What author has produced this evidence? And if it were certain, that some churches did attend upon it every Lord's day, and oftener, this would not prove that this was commanded by Christ, or his Apostles. Some have thought it evident that this ordinance was attended by the first christian church, which was formed by the Apostles at Jerusalem, at least every first day of the week, if not every time they met for public worship, which they must have done by the direction of the Apostles; and is therefore as binding on all christian churches to the end of the world, as if there were an express precept to attend upon it in the same manner, and so often. But the words on which this conclusion is grounded, do not appear sufficient to support it, when carefully examined. They are these: "And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine, and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And they continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart."* "They continued stedfastly in the Apostles' doctrine." That is, they attended constantly on the instructions and preaching of the Apostles, and stedfastly adhered to the truths delivered by them. "And in fellowship :" That is, in communicating and making collections and distribution, to supply the bodily necessities of those who stood in need of assistance and support. This is the meaning of the word, which is here translated fellowship. "And in breaking of bread." This probably means their partaking of the Lord's supper.
• Acts ii. 42, 46
in prayers." That is, joining in public prayers, and in singing psalms, which is included in prayer; which were constantly performed when they attended the other parts of public worship. Here then every part of their public worship is mentioned, viz. public teaching; distribution to the necessities of the poor saints; attendance on the Lord's supper; and prayer; including psalmody, which is devotion, and a particular manner of prayer. But it does not follow, from this enumeration of the different parts of their public worship, that every part was attended upon every time they met for prayer or preaching; or that they made a contribution for the poor, or broke bread, every time they met together for public worship: But that these were performed, as often as was convenient and proper. Breaking bread from house to house, and eating their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,* does not appear to mean their eating the Lord's supper from house to house; but their partaking of their common food, and eating together; exercising liberality and friendship one towards another, in eating their common meals. But if breaking bread does here mean the Lord's supper, and it were certain that believers at Jerusalem did, in their then peculiar and extraordinary circumstances, administer and partake of this ordinance, whenever a number of them met in a particular house, it would not hence follow, that the disciples of Christ are by this bound in all ages of the world to attend the Lord's supper in the same manner, or thus frequently.
When it is said, "And upon the first day of the week when the disciples came together to break bread :"+ It does not import, that breaking bread was the only or chief thing for which they came together on that day; for this was not true, as appears by the relation. Nor does it follow from those words, that they always came together on the first day of the week to break bread. It is only said, that on that first day, they did so. They might, consistent with this, come together on many other first days of the week, not to break bread, but to attend on other parts of public worship, without partaking of the Lord's supper.
• Verse 46.
† Acts xx. 7.
Concerning the Discipline of the Church.
THE discipline of a church consists in their admitting or rejecting those who offer themselves to join with them; in the members watching over each other; in reproving and admonishing those who walk disorderly, and talking all proper methods to reform them; and in rejecting those who will not be reclaimed, but continue obstinate and unreformed, when all proper means have been previously used to bring them to repentance.
The proper exercise of discipline is important and necessary in order to the comfort, edification, and prosperity of a church; and where this is wholly neglected in a church, it will go to ruin; and such a society is not worthy of the name of a christian church. Therefore this is particularly enjoined by Christ and his apostles. The following particulars may serve to illustrate this subject.
I. In the exercise of discipline, the church is to be wholly governed by the laws of Christ. He is the only lawgiver in his church; and in exercising discipline, christians are to execute his laws, and have no authority, or right to do any thing, unless it be agreeable to his direction and command. And whatsoever is done by the church in his name, and according to his laws, is done by authority derived from him, as they are authorized by him to execute his laws: But when, and so far as they deviate from this, they have no authority; and what they do is null and void, and disapproved by him.
II. The power to execute the laws of Christ is not given by him to any one man, or to any particular class or order of men in the church; but to the church, as a particular and distinct society; though some particular members or officers in the church, may in many instances have a distinguished influence, and lead in the transactions of the church, and put into execution their decisions. When the head of the church said to Peter, "I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: