[Table of Contents]
|Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)
TESTIMONIALS TO WEEKLY COMMUNION.
Every week, at least, the table of the Lord should be spread for Christian assemblies.--Calvin's Inst., 6, W. C. 17, S. 43, 46.
"The independent churches in England," says the biographer of Dr. Owen, "at the beginning, observed the Lord's supper every first day of the week."
In the Baptist Confession of Faith, published in 1611, is the following article, "That every church ought, according to the example of Christ's disciples, primitive churches, upon every first day of the week, being the Lord's day, to assembly together to pray, prophesy, praise God, and break bread, and perform all other parts of Scriptural communion for the worship of God, and their own mutual edification and the preservation of true religion and piety in the Church."--Crosby's History, Baptists, vol. ii.
When we speak of innovation in the church of Christ, we are not to inquire what was done by our fathers, but what was the order of the church from the beginning? How did Christ Ordain? How did his Apostles conduct? In what state did they leave the churches? Now, it is notorious, that during the three first centuries of the Christian era, communions were held with a frequency, of which, among us, we have neither example nor resemblance. It is also notorious, that the original frequency of communion declined as carnality and corruption gained ground; and it is no less notorious, that it has been urged as a weighty duty, by the best of men and the best of churches, in the best of times. It is demonstrable, that among the primitive Christians, the celebration of the Supper was a part of the ordinary sanctification of the Lord's day. In this manner did the spirit of ancient piety cherish the memory of a Saviour's love. There was no need of reproof, remonstrance, or entreaty, etc.--Dr. Mason, of New York. 
[Harbinger, 1834, page 12.]
In answer to criticism on the habit of weekly communion, the critic says, in 1859 [sic], page 317, concerning the sermon in Acts where "Paul preached to them, ready to depart on the morrow." Instead of this amounting to any proof that it was customary to commemorate the Lord's Supper at Troas on every first day of the week, it shows nothing more than the fact, that it was only some regular occasion, or an occasion furnished by the presence of Paul, while on his missionary tour, to celebrate the Supper while they could be together. The reason for this view will be found to rest on well ascertained facts. An examination of the state of the case, we trust, will well repay our readers for a little attention to the question whether there was any church at all at Troas when Paul visited that place at the time mentioned in this narrative." Mr. Campbell answers:
Before the examination of the writer's positions against "Weekly Communion," we must notice a few samples of his Latitudinarian terminology, as indicative of his specific attainments in the study of the inspired diction of the Christian Scriptures. His first two paragraphs are expressed in the following words:--
The "Lord's Supper," he observes, "does not conform to the law of the Sabbath, which requires us to keep holy one day in seven." This is a remarkable preamble of his subject. What does it mean? "The law of the Sabbath requires us to keep holy one day in seven!!" This law I have seen in some catechisms, but have never found in any copy of the Holy Bible. There is no law in my Bible, nor in any that I have ever seen, requiring us to keep holy "one day in seven"--on the contrary, the Jews were not commanded to keep holy "one day in seven"--but were commanded to keep holy "the seventh day." These are as distinct as heaven and earth. "One day in seven" gives to man the selection of the day, of any day in the seven which he pleases. But the Lord commanded the Jews--his holy nation--to observe the seventh day. Hence, no other day of the week was ever called "the Sabbath" by any Divine authority reported in the Bible. Nor could there be, for the reason given for the sanctification of the Seventh day--God worked for six days in the drama of creation, and rested on the Seventh. And for that reason hallowed or sanctified it. In other words--he set it apart as a monumental day.
Did our Southern Baptist Review overlook the fact that the Divine rest could not be celebrated an any day of the week, but on that on which it occurred? The assumed papal license "changing times" and institutions, or "seasons," is generally amongst Protestants, reprobate authority. Does our Protestant Review admit such a power, and claim such an authority?
Assuming this position, I do not wonder that our reviewer "felt no little embarrassment," as to the duty of Christian churches at the  present time, respecting the frequent observance of the Lord's Supper. "Many theological writers of high standing appear to feel no hesitation in admitting the belief, that in the apostolic churches the Lord's Supper was celebrated every Lord's day;--and yet they feel that there is no obligation thence resulting, for a similar frequency of observance at the present time." Of this class, our reviewer assumes to be one. Yet he admits that there are not wanting, earnest minded Christians, who insist that the practice of the apostles as to the stated times of commemorating this institution, is an indispensable feature of churches formed upon the model of the New Testament. In favor of this view, he cites Doddridge, Henry, and Barnes, the Pilgrim Fathers of New England, and others, who have urged and practiced weekly communion as a standard of Christian duty--"nearly all the, Baptist and Independent churches of Scotland and Ireland, it is understood so practice."
Yet after all these concessions or acknowledgements, he proceeds to war against this weekly communion--and that, forsooth, because he can create some doubts as to the authority of Pliny, Tertullian, and Justin Martyr, on the premises; and because Acts ii. 42, and Acts xx. 7, may be tortured in the fiery furnace of extra judicial criticism to indicate that weekly commemorations of the Lord's death were no essential part of Christian worship on the Lord's day, even in the apostolic age. With him it was "a social religious ceremonial, to be celebrated by a church or a body of brethren in their collective capacity and never by private individuals as such, as a personal means of grace" (p. 712). As to private individuals, as such, partaking of it, we knew not in our horizon of a single case. But in calling it, in any view, "a social religious ceremonial to be celebrated by a church," I cannot think our reviewer does any honor to his head, or heart, or conscience, or to the authority of Peter, Paul, or Jesus Christ.
With us, the Lord's Supper is a most solemn festival, to be enjoyed on every Lord's day by every church of Jesus Christ, large or small. It belongs not to a mere family--a simple duality or bare plurality, anywhere or everywhere, meeting as a church, but to the whole church assembled on the Lord's day in any one place without respect to its number of members. As to the church at Troas, our reviewer but throws dust in the eyes of his readers. He undertakes to show that there was no church at Troas--or "that there is no evidence that Paul or any other apostle ever gathered a church there." But suppose there was not, what does such an assertion prove? Does Luke's silence become an oracle declarative that there was no church large or small, stationary or transitory, at Troas in the apostolic age? Logic, or reason, or fact, or history, we care not what the verbiage be called, enervates, emasculates, and annihilate* every such effort to prove there was no  church, or no weekly observance of the Lord's Supper in Troas, as reported Acts xx. 7. Let us read the passage--Paul and Sopater went in company to Troas--on arriving there they found Aristarchus, Secundus, Gaius, Timothy, Tychicus, and Trophimus waiting for them, in a hotel, or in an inn! And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples were got together to break the loaf, Paul "discoursed to them till midnight." Was it to the disciples there, or to his fellow-laborers? Let common sense decide. How came it to pass, if there were no community of Christ there located, that Eutychus got crowded up into a window, and why so many lights in the upper story "where they were assembled"? It is truly a strange case, if there were no church or congregation there. But our penetrating, inquisitive editors of the "SOUTHWESTERN Baptist Review--the Eclectic," say "it was only some occasion," or, "an occasion furnished by the presence of Paul, while on his missionary tour, to celebrate the Supper, while they could be together."
By such courageous assumptions, and philosophical presumptions, any question of fact may be annihilated or converted into pure gas. But this exhilarating gas excites great courage--and emboldens to daring efforts: hence our reviewer calls the Lord's Supper a "social religious ceremonial to be celebrated by a church, or a body of brethren in their collective capacity, and never by private individuals as such, as a personal means of grace" (p. 712). "If these facts," says he, "be admitted,"--what facts? His opinions of a social religious ceremony, are, at his standpoint, converted into unassailable facts! There is great boldness in the following quotation--"For first of all when you come together in the church," here our reviewer inserts an etc. Yes, an etcetera; and suppresses the words, "this is not to eat the Lord's Supper" (I. Cor. xii. 18). Whereas, Paul to show the prominence of his sacred social ordinance, (or "religious ceremonial! )" says: "Your coming together is not to eat the Lord's Supper!!" As the teacher says to his pupils, when trifling--"Your coming to school is not to learn"--whereas it is the chief object and the design of a school to impart instruction, and the chief design of the pupil in going to it, is to acquire learning. The Lord's Supper is the feast of a spiritual church, and the greatest attraction to membership in it. He that values not this institution as the feast of the soul, has no business in Christ's church. He who goes to church to hear a speech--sing a hymn, and listen to a prayer, and to regard this as acceptable to God, honorable to the Lord, and spiritually profitable to any one, needs to have his eyes anointed with the genuine "eye salve obtained from the great Physician of Souls."
But the assembling of the brethren at Troas to keep the ordinances as delivered to them by the apostles, is to be inferred from a  constitutional provision in the Christian Statute Book, as well as from the perspicuous statement of the fact before us, and other apostolic oracles equally indicative of one and the same organization. There is no reason for any one church to be debarred from the constitutional privileges and provisions of the Christian social ordinances, being as they are designed for the whole kingdom of the Lord Jesus.
There are no special latitudes or longitudes in the Kingdom of God on this earth. The birthrights, titles, honors, and privileges of any one Christian, under the administration of the Lord Messiah, are equally the birthrights, titles, and honors of all Christians as long as they keep his ordinances and walk in his institutions.
Our anti-weekly communionist finds only two reasons, or two passages of Scripture, at all favoring the weekly communionists. One "thus saith the Lord"--in precept or example, is as good as ten thousand. Besides, so far as precedent is concerned, the weekly communion has, to say the least, as much express Divine authority and precedent in the Christian Scriptures, as has the weekly sanctification of the first day of the week. If it be Scripturally obligatory on Christians to observe, sanctify, or consecrate the first day of the week to the Lord, it is even more Scripturally obligatory on Christians to celebrate the sacrifice of Christ in their meetings on the first day, than to meet for any other purpose. To meet specially to read God's book, to sing, to pray, to teach, or preach Christ on THAT DAY has not any Divine authority--not one precept nor example in Holy Writ! We take strong ground, and challenge contradiction! "They came together on the first day of the week to break the loaf" (Acts xx. 7).
Paul, indeed, made them a six hours' speech, according to Dr. Adam Clark and others, which is, indeed, very probable, from Luke's account of it, and from omilhsaV (homileesas) being used rather than dielegeto--dielegeto. But the assigned cause of their meeting is, itself, paramount authority, and declarative of an apostolic institution. It was not will worship, but Divine worship in its origin, nature, character and design. It was, and is, a positive and Divine institution of Divine authority, and consequently of Divine benevolence--and was truly the family meal of the Lord's "household of faith."
|1. "Weekly Communion." The Millennial Harbinger 5 (January 1834): 12.|
Alexander Campbell. Extract from "Weekly Communion."
The Millennial Harbinger 28 (June 1857): |
[Table of Contents]
|Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)