COMMUNION, CLOSED, OR RESTRICTED By William Cathcart


COMMUNION, CLOSED, OR RESTRICTED
By William Cathcart

Published in the Berea Baptist Banner August 5, 1997.

That the ordinances of the Lord’s house are for His
own children admits of no discussion; so that in any
case there must be some restriction. And when we ex-amine
the Word of God we find believer’s baptism al-ways
preceding every other Christian duty and privi-lege.
When the Savior gives His commission He orders
His apostles “to teach (make disciples of) all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of
the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; teaching them to
observe all things whatsoever he commanded
them” (Matt. 28:19-20). After faith comes baptism, then
other duties and privileges. Baptism precedes all Chris-tian
exercises, after faith, according to Jesus. Under the
dispensation of the Spirit the same instruction is im-parted.
When He descended on the day of Pentecost in
great power, many gladly received the Word and “were
baptized, and the same day there were added unto
them about three thousand souls; and they contin-ued
steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fel-lowship,
and in breaking of bread, and in prayers”
(Acts 2:41,42). These three thousand are not brought to
the Lord’s table first after receiving the Word gladly;
after believing, the rite of baptism is immediately ad-ministered;
then they are formally added to the church,
and continue steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine (teach-ing)
and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in
prayers. The breaking of bread, or participation in the
Lord’s Supper, comes after baptism and teaching. This
is the law of Christ, and the practice of the Spirit, His
earthly representative after His ascension. In the book
of Acts throughout, baptism follows professed faith im-mediately
and invariably. And as the cases are very nu-merous,
and as the administrators of the baptism were
generally inspired men, they prove that immersion
should precede the Supper and all other Christian du-ties
and privileges. The jailer’s case significantly shows
this. He and his household believe rejoicing in God, at
“midnight;” “and he took them (Paul and Silas) the
same hour of the night and washed their strips,
and was baptized, he and all his, straightway” (Acts
16:25-33). Paul does not spread the Lord’s table for them
first, but they are “straightway” baptized. This is the
uniform record of such conversions in the Scriptures.
In no instance in the Holy Word is it said, or even hinted,
that an unbaptized man came to the communion. Even
Robert Hall, the apostle of open communion, “admits,
without hesitation, that subsequently to our Lord’s res-urrection
the converts to the Christian faith submitted
to that ordinance (baptism) prior to their reception into the
Christian church. As little,” says he, “are we disposed to
deny that it is at present the duty of the sincere believer
to follow their example, and that supposing him to be
convinced of the nature and import of baptism, he would
be guilty of a criminal irregularity who neglected to attend to
it, previous to his entering into Christian fellowship. On the
obligation of both the positive rites enjoined in the New Testa-ment,
and the prior claim of baptism to the attention of such
as are properly enlightened on the subject, we have no dis-pute.”
(Hall on Terms of Communion, pp. 39,40. London,
1851). Then, according to the brilliant preacher of Cam-bridge,
Leicester, and Bristol, believers should be bap-tized
before coming to the Supper, if “they are properly
enlightened;” that is, God gives baptism the precedence;
for no amount of enlightenment or ignorance in men
could give baptism a “prior claim to the attention of
such as are properly enlightened on the subject,” unless
God had bestowed the precedence upon it. And accord-ing
to the Book of Books, open communion rests upon a
foundation outside the boundaries of Revelation.
Whatever may be the opinion of individuals, all
Christian communities, recognizing baptism and the
Supper to be binding rites, except Open Communion
Baptists, require baptism before admission to the com-munion.
This declaration is true of the entire history of
Christianity. Speaking of the early Christians, the learned
Lord Chancellor King, in his “Primitive Church,” says,
“the persons communicating were not indifferently all
that professed the Christian faith, as Origen writes, ‘It
doth not belong to every one to eat of this bread, and to
drink of this cup.’ But they were only such as were in
the number of the faithful, ‘such as were baptized and
received both the credentials and practicals of Chris-tianity.
’. . .Baptism always preceded the Lord’s Supper,
as Justin Martyr says, ‘It is not lawful for any one to
partake of the sacramental food except he be baptized.’”
(King’s Primitive Church, pp. 231-32. London, 1839). Dr.
Dwight, a Congregationalist, and a former president of
Yale College, says, “It is an indispensable qualification
for this ordinance that the candidate for communion be
a member of the visible church of Christ, in full stand-ing.
By this I intend that he should be a man of piety;
that he should have made a public profession of reli-gion,
and that he should have been baptized.” (System of
Theology, Sermon, 160).
The author of a Methodist work on baptism, a minis-ter
of some repute among his own people, writes, “Be-fore
entering upon the argument before us, it is but just
to remark that in one principle the Baptist and
Pedobaptist Churches agree. They both agree in reject-ing
from communion at the table of the Lord, and in
denying the rights of church fellowship to all who have
not been baptized. . . .Their (Baptists) views of baptism.Communion, Closed or Restricted by William Cathcart – Page 2
force them upon the ground of strict communion, and
herein they act upon the same principles as other
churches, —i.e., they admit only those whom they deem
baptized persons to the communion table.” (F. G.
Hibbard’s Christian Baptism, p. 174). Other denomina-tions
might be cited to give the same testimony, but it is
needless. That baptism is a prerequisite to the Lord’s
Supper is the law of Christendom. Open communion rests
on a foundation outside the pale of revelation, where the
unscriptural structure of Romanism stands, and it lives out-side
the limits of Christian creeds and denominational stan-dards,
with the unimportant exception already men-tioned.
Baptism is immersion in water, as Baptists view it;
and as there is but one Lord, one faith, and one bap-tism,
those who have had only pouring and sprinkling
for baptism are not baptized; and as baptism is a pre-requisite
to the Lord’s Supper, with both Baptists and
Pedobaptists, we cannot invite the unbaptized to the
table which Jesus has placed in our charge, with
believer’s immersion as the way to it.
This is not a question of charity, or want of charity.
In the edifice in which the writer ministers, besides the
church, there is the congregation, —the unbaptized hear-ers.
Many of these are converted persons, generous
benefactors of the community, believers of lovely char-acter,
dear to the hearts of the pastor and the church.
Unbaptized though they are, they have a warmer place
in the affections of their pastor than any similar number
of regularly baptized members of any one of our most
orderly churches. They are cherished personal friends,
for whom we would make any proper sacrifice. Yet we
never think of inviting them to the Lord’s Supper; they
feel no slight from such omission. They are the only
persons on earth who have any reason to take offense.
They have contributed largely for church purposes; they
love and are loved with Christian affection; and they
know that the cause of their not being invited to come
to the Supper is not a lack of love on the part of the
church, but their own want of obedience. If we do not
invite them to the table of the Lord, and this course
shows no unkindness, there can be nothing uncharitable
in giving no invitation to the communion to unbaptized
strangers, though they may be members of honored but
sprinkled religious communities.
We love the Lord Jesus Christ, and we love His ser-vants
of every name; and if we do not invite His unbap-tized
children in Pedobaptist churches to the memorial
Supper, it is because we reverence the Lord, who has
made believer’s baptism the door into the visible king-dom,
and they have removed it. With our venerable
brother, Dr. Cone, we conclude, “Nor can this course of
conduct be righteously construed into a breach of broth-erly
love and Christian forbearance, until it can be
proved that we ought to love men more than we love
God, and that the charity which rejoiceth not in iniq-uity,
but rejoiceth in the truth, requires us to disregard
the commandments of God, and dispense with the or-dinances
of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” “Finally,
brethren, farewell! Adhere steadfastly to the doctrines
and ordinances of Christ, as He has delivered them to
us; and as there is one body and one spirit, even as ye are
called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one
baptism, so we beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation
wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with
long suffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to
keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

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