Imágenes de páginas

and the sense of common dangers and trials drives them to seek each other's society, counsel, co-operation, and prayers. There is thus a common interest, arising from a common participation of spiritual blessings; and a common sympathy arising from an affinity of condition ; and hence the social principle in our nature becomes intensified in its aspirations. There is thus a spontaneity in the desires and longings of the genuine Christian for intercourse with the saints, which shows that religious communion is a requirement as natural to a renovated soul, as the appetite for food is natural to a healthy condition of the body. Believers have supreme love to God, and fervent love to the brethren is an inseparable affection; and Divine love is a powerful maguet, attracting kindred souls to each other for holy converse and prayer. Believers have communion with God, and therefore they delight to commune with those who resemble God, and who, like themselves, have fellowship with him. They joy in God, and their joy longs to testify itself in grateful utterance. It cannot be pent up in silence ; it struggles to find expression in the language of praise ; it longs for a willing ear to which it may declare what great things God hath done. Religious sorrow, like religious joy, seeks for a sympathising bosom into which it may pour its griefs, and find a southing response. Religious anxieties, dangers, and temptations urge the soul to ask from others the counsel of experience, the direction of wisdom, and the help of a brother's prayers. The penitent inquires tremblingly from the believer, “What must I do to be saved ?” the babe in Christ seeks for guidance and succour froun the matured Christian ; even veteran fathers and mothers in the Lord need to be refreshed and gladdened by the simple narratives of new-born souls ; and saints of all ages and all conditions are mutually dependent upon each other for instruction edification, and comfort. God has ordained that it should be so, and our mutual desires for the communion of saints are but the conscious expressions of his holy will. Where there is no religious experience, there is of course no desire for religious communion ; and where vital piety has decayed into heartless formalism, the relish for communion has perished; but where the soul is alive to God, and prospering in his grace and love, all religious biography and all experience attest its spontaneous utterance to be,

“ Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for

II. Religious communion is implied in the vital union of the Church.—This vital union among believers is everywhere recognized in Holy Scripture. Christianity knows nothing of voluntary isolation. Voluntary isolation, indeed, is next to hostility in its repugnancy to the genius of the Gospel, and often flows from it as the effect from its cause. Whether a church consist of a thousand, a hundred, or a score, or but two or three, the members are united in spirit, and they must meet together in the name of Christ. What, indeed, is a church but a congregation of souls all united to each other as they are all united to Christ? The church is a flock, where the sheep, attracted by a common instinct, feed together in the same pasture, tended, led, and protected by the care and love of one Shepherd. It is a building ; not a number of stones thrown together loosely, and lying in confusion, but a spiritual house ; the stones being builded together, and, mutually dependent and united, cohere

my soul.”

and support each other; and by their mutual cohesion and union give symmetrical proportion, strength, and beauty to the fabric, which groweth unto a holy temple of the Lord, and is filled with his glory. The church is a vine, where the branches, though many, are all united to one another as they are to the parent trunk, whence they all derive their vitality and fruitfulness. The church is a body ; not a statue, which has but the form of a body ; not a corpse, which is a body without life: but a living body with many members, and all the members vitally united; all deriving life from one common source; all banded together by an economy of vessels and organs growing out from one centre ; all supplied with vital fluids circulating through them from one fountain ; all subservient to each other by a mutual ministration from the centre to the extremities; and all directed and controlled by one presiding intelligence. Such is God's own representation of his church. The church, therefore, is not the mere aggregation of numbers, but the vital union of souls; the vitality flowing from God himself, but ministered by the conjoint action and mutual subservience of all the members one with and for another. Such is the union of the church. The members are distinct, indeed, but not isolated ; distinct in their consciousness and personality, but so vitally united to Christ, so interwoven in interest, so mutually subservient and reciprocal in their ministrations to one another, that the living human body is its fittest representative, its most appropriate and expressive emblem.

Now, if these inspired representations of the vital union of believers have any real significance, they set forth, as clearly as the light of day, that religious communion between them is both an imperative duty and a gracious privilege. If there be in our physical constitution an intercommunion, a reciprocal giving and receiving among the members of the body, so then must there be with the souls of believers; and if the vitality and vigour of the members of the human body cannot be sustained without this reciprocal communication, neither can they in the members of Christ's body. Hence it is that we read in Scripture of the communion of saints and the fellowship of believers one with another. The two words “communion and“ fellowship,” occurring in our version, are used in the same sense, to denote the intercourse of souls; and, indeed, in the original we have but one word for both, namely, koinonia (koivwvía). Nor does it in the least degree detract from this spiritual meaning to admit that the word has sometimes a secular application. The radical idea of the word is communication, or mutual participation one with another; and whether that communication, or mutual participation, be secular or spiritual, must be determined by the context; and the evidence is irresistible that the word “communion,” in its highest sense, means the intercourse of the souls of believers with one another and with God. For when the Apostle Paul prays thus for believers, “ The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all,” * he refers most evidently to spiritual communion—the direct personal operation of the Holy Spirit on the human soul, making manifest his presence by inspiring us

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

* 2 Cor. xiii. 14.

with holy thoughts, kindling Divine aspirations, and imparting to our consciousness a gracious and sanctifying influence. So when the Apostle John says, “ Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ," * he speaks of spiritual communion, in which the soul of the believer receives direct communications from God the Father and the Son, and reciprocates the same in holy thoughts, desires, and affections. And when, in the same breath, the same apostle speaks of the “ fellowship" of believers with one another, thus—“ If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another,” he is referring, not to anything secular, but to the intercourse of souls, the communion of saints, the reciprocation by means of human speech of those holy sentiments, volitions, purposes, affections, and enjoyments, which constitute the experience of genuine Christians. Thus communion one with another, as well as with God, is recognized as both a duty and a privilege; yea, a gracious habit, into which the soul spontaneously grows, and which it relishes and enjoys.

We have the same spiritual meaning in the word employed in the Old Testament. Such is the meaning of the Hebrew word employed in our text, where it is said, “ Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another.” Our own translation, forcible as it is, does not equal the profound spiritual import of the original, for the text would be more properly rendered, “ Then they that feared the Lord COMMUNED, or HELD COMMUNION, with one another.” + It was not ordinary discourse, or incidental wayside converse, which secured the special attention of Almighty God, which he condescended to register in his book of eternal remembrance, and which drew from him so remarkable a declaration of benign recognition and gracious approval. No; it was the holy, solemn communion of saints, the devout conference of sanctified men when, at stated periods, they met to converse with each other of their own spiritual state, their love to God and his holy law, their religious enjoyments, their hopes and their fears, their conflicts and aspirations; and when, by mutual counsel, exhortation, and prayer, they comforted and edified one another, strengthening each other's hands and establishing each other's hearts in the covenant of God. This was religious communion, and this is the proper meaning of the word in our text. We have the same meaning in other passages. Take a few examples. Thus it is said the angel of the Lord “ COMMUNED” with Zechariah, “talking to him with good and comfortable words from God” (chap. i. 13, 14). Thus Jehovah, when the sanctuary was prepared as the sacred spot where God would hold communion with man, said unto Moses, “And there I will meet with thee, and I will cOMMUNE with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony” (Exod. xxv. 22). And because the sanctuary was the appointed place where God COMMUNED with man and man COMMUNED with God, it is distinguished by an appellation expressive of this

[ocr errors]

1 John i. 3. + The word 727 is used here in the Niphal conjugation, which denotes mutual converse or communion. Thus Gesenius, Parkhurst, &c., render the word. For other instances where the word is rendered “communion," see our version in Gen. xviii. 33; xxiii. 8; xxxiv. 20; Exod. xxxi. 18; Judg. ix. 1; 1 Sam. ix. 25; xxv. 39; 1 Kings a. 2; 2 Kings xxii. 14; Dan. i. 19.

sacred intercourse : it is called “the holy oracle,” “the oracle of God”—that is, the place where God conversed with man and man conversed with God. Such being the meaning of the word in these passages, and in many others, it is evident that it ought to have the same rendering in our text, for the word is the same, and has the same significance. We therefore adopt this rendering as nearest to the original, as sustained by the usus loquendi of the sacred writers, and as required by the context and the grammatical structure of the passage-" Then they that feared the Lord COMMUNED one with another”—that is, had stated periods of religious intercourse or fellowship with one another. It was the sacred character of this intercourse, its intimacy, its frequency, its spirituality, its holy aims and tendency as a means of grace, that caused it to be thus prominently recorded in the Scriptures, and to be so signally marked by the approbation of God.

Such being the nature of religious communion, and this communion being both a requirement of religious experience, and implied in the vital union of true believers, it follows that

III. This communion or fellowship must have been enjoyed by holy men in all ages. This truth follows as a necessary conclusion from the preceding argument, and has, indeed, been already partially illustrated by examples; but the importance of the subject may render more amplification desirable.

In looking for illustrations of this truth in the Old Testament, the Book of Psalms claims our first attention, as containing less of national history, and more of religious experience, than any other part of the sacred writings. It presents, indeed, a portraiture of the inner religious life of Old Testament saints. In the Psalms, the dirges of contrition, the songs of joy, the prayers for deliverance, the anthems of praise, and the oft-commingling utterances of sorrow with the shouts of triumph, we see the very soul of the Jewish religion. And here we often meet with the communion of saints. No man delighted more than David in the celebration of public worship, and no man more than he delighted in social religious fellowship. Hence his gladdened and grateful soul breaks out, Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul” (Ps. lxvi. 16). And if David thus delighted to declare to others what God had done for him, would he not be equally delighted to hear from others what God had done for them ? And if David thus delighted both to speak and to hear of God's goodness, would not others who enjoyed the same religion be equally delighted both to speak and to hear ? And thus, mutually to declare and to hear was to realize religious communion. Often does the Psalmist testify to others his gratitude to God for spiritual blessings in terms expressive of his desire to edify them by his experience. Thus he says, “I will bless the Lord at all times : his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make her boast in the Lord : the humble shall hear thereof and be glad.” Then, in the same breath, he calls upon others to blend their testimony with his. “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.” Then, immediately after this invitation, he again declares his own experience: “I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Ps. xxxiv. 1—4, &c.). Again he says, “One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts;" that is, the aged shall declare them to the young, and the young to the aged, so that both may be instructed, edified, and blessed, and that both might glorify God together. "I will speak of the glorious honour of thy majesty, and of thy wondrous works. And (others) shall speak of the might of thy terrible acts: and I will declare thy greatness. They shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness, and shall sing of thy righteousness. They shall speak of the glory of thy kingdom, and talk of thy power; to make known to the sons of men his mighty acts, and the glorious majesty of his kingdom” (Ps. cxlv. 5–12). Whatever might be the occasion contemplated in these holy rehearsals, there are evidently here reciprocal testimonies of the Divine goodness for mutual editication and for the glory of God. The Psalms abound with such reciprocal testimonies; and we everywhere see that Jehovah's mercy, when displayed in the pardon of sin or in deliverance from danger, and his truth and love when verified in the experience of the saints, were not to be concealed ; gratitude and joy could not be pent up; the sighs of contrition and the throbbing desires of the soul for richer blessings of grace, were not to be stifled by secrecy, or, like smouldered embers, they would expire. All these gracious sentiments and emotions welling up in the soul sought for vocal utterance in the ears of saintly men, from whose fraternal sympathy piety could find a response, and whose kindred enjoyments could swell the anthem of praise. If we have not in the Psalms direct historical evidence of the existence of social means, distinct from the public service of the sanctuary, we have evidence abundant of the desire for them, and of expressions and sentiments which delighted in communion; and this evidence renders the inference morally certain that means for religious fellowship were held and enjoyed by the saints of that day.

When Daniel and his faithful companions were in perplexity, they had recourse to mutual counsel and prayer to obtain “ mercies of the God of heaven," nor were their pious converse and fervent prayer in vain ; nor was their united praise withheld when the answer was given to their conjoint supplication (Dan. ii. 17—20). And though the occasion was a special one, yet it reveals the tendency of personal religion to unite in counsel and in prayer the souls of saintly men; and the fact itself, though standing alone in the Book of Daniel, may reasonably be regarded rather as a sample than an exception-as one instance selected from others which common piety and common temptations had made habitual to those devoted Hebrew youths.

In our text we have a plain historical fact, presenting a brief but lively and interesting picture of the practice of holy men in the days of the Prophet Malachi. We have already shown, in our previous remarks, that the communion here recorded was not secular, but purely spiritual and religious. It was not public, but social ; for in public worship the priests and Levites were the conductors of religious service ; but here it was the saints in general—it was who feared the Lord,without restriction or exclusion—who engaged in this holy converse. It was not official, but mutual and reciprocal; they spoke one to another. It was not incidental or casual, but


« AnteriorContinuar »