« AnteriorContinuar »
conduct, being recognised as participants. On this I would inquire, What is meant by participants and communion ? If merely being nominal members of the church, whether of England or Scotland, be intended, then let it pass : but, if communion implies admission to the Lord's table, the assertion is very far indeed from being well founded. In most parts of England especially, it is well known that by far the greater number of the population of almost every parish, in fact, in this particular excommunicates itself. In parishes of a thousand inhabitants, frequently there are not more than thirty or forty communicants, and often much fewer; and the whole number who at any time attend, comes much short of a hundred. In one view this is very lamentable: yet, as far as the situation of a pious minister is concerned, it gives him considerable advantage, in preserving his increasing number more pure than our opponents are aware of;—for he may expect an increase of the number, but should not too eagerly press it. In general, except in a few individuals, (seldom of openly irreligious or immoral character,) 'who have been accustomed to attend too often in a formal or self-righteous manner, he finds more difficulty in prevailing with the people to come to the Lord's supper, than in preventing their attendance. The rubric also is so worded as to give an important advantage to those ministers, who are desirous to “ do what they “ can” to prevent the profanation of the Lord's supper. 'So many as intend to be partakers of
the holy communion shall signify their names to 'the curate, at least some time the day before.
"And, if any of those be an open and notorious ‘evil liver, or have done any wrong to his neigh• bours by word or deed, so that the congrega' tion be thereby offended; the curate, having ' knowledge thereof, shall call him, and advertise ' him, that in any wise he presume not to come to ' the Lord's table, until he hath openly declared ' himself to have truly repented, and amended his ' former naughty life; that the congregation may 'thereby be satisfied, which before were offended." It is, indeed, to be regretted, that this is so very seldom acted upon: yet it sometimes is; and I will venture to affirm, in part from experience, that, in proportion as it is acted upon, a great part of the evil objected to our establishment, on this ground, may be prevented, without having recourse to authoritative and legal excommunication. Where a pious and consistent clergyman (at least in a country parish,) impartially proceeds in the method prescribed by the rubric, with mildness and firmness, he will not find many,
if any, continuing to attend at the Lord's table, after he has solemnly warned them not to presume to do so, unless they give satisfactory proof of repentance and amendment; appealing to the rubric as his rule and authority in thus warning them. There are indeed cases in many congregations, in which a man, to act faithfully, must venture painful consequences, which he ought to do without shrinking; and this indeed too often, proving a strong temptation, shews that the communion
so pure as it might be; but not that it is as impure as it can be.' And the objection even here lies against the particular establishment, nay generally in great measure on the ministers, and is not essential to the very nature of an establishment.
before Communion Service.
Besides this, much, very much, may be done by faithful preaching, and clear explanations of the nature, profession, and obligation of baptism and the Lord's supper ; by private counsel and admonition; and in a variety of ways, which I the more wonder should never have occurred to the thoughts of those opposers who have been ministers of an establishment. By means of this kind, I have generally been able to induce most of those whose presence I did not approve, quietly to withdraw. At the same time that I state this, as my experience, I deeply regret that I have attempted nothing more regular and consistent in the admission of communicants; and in superintending, instructing, and admonishing such as attended. Much more, I am persuaded, might be done, according to the rubric, in most situations, without either an appeal to the diocesan, or giving umbrage to him. And were these means more generally adopted, they would gradually become less offensive, even to superior neighbours; if in other things, ministers acted inoffensively, kindly, courteously, and peaceably :-at least it would be well worth their while to make the trial.
Many opponents of establishments assert, that the word rendered church, when applied to the Christians in any city or place, means one single congregation meeting for worship in the same place. But is this scriptural? We frequently
read of the church at Jerusalem : did this church consist of a single congregation meeting in one place? The number at an early period amounted very nearly to five thousand men, (dvdpwr,) exclusively, as it would seem, of women and children. Afterwards we read that there were “ thousands” that “believed :" Fórau Maupiádes. 2 Did all these meet for worship in one place ? for certainly they were all one church. They had also many elders, besides the apostles : were these all placed over one congregation? This would be very little like the practice of those in modern times, who plead for 'primitive Christianity,' against establishments. The same may be observed in respect of the elders of Ephesus, and the church of Ephesus. 3 We admit, indeed, that the word did not include the whole population of any city or country; for there was no establishment of any kind. But, if some extend the meaning of the word too largely, others narrow it much more than accords with scripture: and Independents generally restrict it to the communicants, to the exclusion of most of the congregation.—Again, it is assumed that the whole church at Jerusalem met together, to frame and sanction the decree of what is commonly called the first
general council.' But let us carefully attend to the narrative. « When Paul and Barnabas came “ to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, “and of the apostles and elders; and they de“clared all things that God had done with them.
I Acts iv. 4.
: Acts xxi. 20.
3 Acts xx. 17-35.
“ Then there arose up certain of the Pharisees “ which believed, saying that it was needful to “ circumcise them, and to command them to keep “ the law of Moses. Then the apostles and elders
came together for to consider of this matter." i Here is no intimation that any came together but “ the apostles and elders :” and it is highly unreasonable to suppose that all the Christians assembled on the occasion. We cannot rate the number of Christians at this time in the church of Jerusalem, at less than ten thousand persons : probably it was far more. Now how, even in popular governments, do the mass of people consent to public measures, but by their representatives ? However chosen, (certainly not in defiance of the will of the other Christians,) the elders with the apostles were their representatives; and what they unanimously decreed was the act of the whole church. These spoke the sense of the body at large; though probably there were some dissentients.—Perhaps some other select persons might also form a part of the assembly, though there is no intimation of it.
It has been said, that the twenty-third, article of our church sets aside all preaching and ministration, not sanctioned by ecclesiastical officers
appointed by the crown.' No doubt those who framed this article intended to condemn all public preaching and ministering of sacraments by unordained persons; the propriety of which practice, or the contrary, constitutes a question of