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THE

BIBLIOTHECA SACRA,

No. LXXXIII.

J U L Y, 1864.

ARTICLE I.

FREE COMMUNION.

BY REV. SERENO D. CLARK, BUNDERLAND, MA88.

This subject has long been involved in debate. The combatants in this country are mainly the Baptists and Pedobaptists, and those who hold to free and those who defend restricted communion among the former. It is vari . ance on a vital point of Christian fellowship between those who freely acknowledge each other to be in fellowship with Christ. Its continuance inflicts a wound on the Saviour's cause. Can it not be healed ? Is there no possibility of reconciling those contending in the name of the King of Peace on grounds of scriptural truth and charity ? Christian unity, based on oneness of mind and feeling, so that it is at once rational and cordial, possessing the purity and loveliness of the gospel, is a beautiful thought. It will be fully realized in the better land. May there not be some approximation towards it on earth? It will doubtless be one of the prominent characteristics of the millennial church. We would fain hasten the anticipated consummation; and this our Baptist brethren desire as devoutly as ourselves. May both parties, by free and fraternal discussion of the scriptural principles on which the controversy turns, contribute their share towards the adjustment of the differences. VOL. XXI. No. 83.

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We have admitted into our pages the able argument of Dr. Hovey for restricted communion. Without intending a particular reply to him, we now propose to discuss the subject of free communion with all who give credible evidence of love to the Saviour.

To start intelligently in our inquiries, we need definite views of the exact point or points in controversy. For this we need to know precisely in what we and our opponents agree, and in what we differ, relative to fellowship in the communion service.

We agree with our Baptist brethren that faith, decided Christian experience, full sympathy with the spirit and teachings of Christ, are essential to fellowship in the symbols of the sacramental supper. Hence, that the qualified communicant must give evidence of renewal by the Holy Ghost; have settled convictions of the fundamental truths of Christianity; especially of those which the Spirit writes on the soul of the Christian, impressing them on his deepest consciousness in bringing him to the Saviour's feet and holding him there: such as, just views of God's character and bis immutable government; the utterly lost condition of man; the necessity of his being born again; the doctrine of justification through the blood of Christ alone; the absolute Godship of the Redeemer; the office and work of the Holy Spirit; the sovereignty of grace, and the duty of unconditional submission and obedience; in a word, that he must hold the Head and all that a saving faith in him implies. Hence we agree that there are errors relative to the gospel which as surely kill the soul as the sword kills the body; that even slight errors touching vital points imperil or damage the Christian life; and that, consequently, those misapprehensions of the fundamental teachings of God's word which, taking into consideration the knowledge and training of him who embraces them, forfeit our confidence in his Christian character, fully justify us in excluding him from the table of Christ, because they indicate that he has no sympathy with gospel truth, and therefore no fellowship with its holy Author.

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