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an ill-sounding epithet defeat a needful and scriptural alteration. The cry of innovation is no proof that a measure is not both lawful and wise. It was raised by the Prelatists against our venerable ancestors; by the apostates of Rome, against the illustrious reformers; by the Scribes and Pharisees, against Christ himself. But happily the fact is otherwise. Frequent 'communion is not an innovation. The odium of this charge lies upon our present practice. Many consider as a part of the good way, whatever is older than themselves. But when we speak of innovation in the church of Christ, we are not to enquire merely what was done by our fathers, or grandfathers, or their sires; 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 church? Now it is notorious, that during the three first centuries of the Christian æra, communions were held, with the frequency of which, among us, we have neither example nor resemblance. It is also notorious, that the original frequency of communions 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. A brief illustration of these points, may not be unacceptable to the reader-
As to the first; 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.
To begin with the Apostles. We learn from Acts xx. 7. that on the first day of the week—the disciples came together to break bread. Hence it is evident, not only that Christians assembled on the Lord's day for public worship, but that they did not part without commemorating his death. What else can be meant by breaking of bread? It is a phrase, borrowed from Christ himself, to signify the communion of the supper. And most assuredly his people did not assemble on his day for any common or carnal purposes. Nay, it is intimated that sacramental communion was a principal, if not the principal object of their meeting. Prayer, praise, and preaching of the word weré, doubtless, their stated exercises; but of such' moment was the supper considered, that in recording their employment on the sabbath, the sacred historian mentions nothing else they came together to break bread. The argument must be decisive with all who allege this place to prove that the Apostolic churches sanctified the first, instead of the seventh day of the week. For the historian does not more positively say that they came together, than that they came together to break bread. Indeed the strength of the argument drawn from this passage, to prove the change of the sabbath, lies in the supposition that this “ breaking of bread” signifies the sacrament of the supper; because it is the only expression from which we gather that the meeting of the disciples was both a stated one, and for religious ends. It is plain that they were not called together to hear the Apostle preach; but that he preached to them on the first day of the week, because they then came together, of course, to break bread: for he arrived at Troas the Monday preceding; and instead of assembling them, as he might easily have done, he appears to have waited six days, that he might meet them on the seventh, which was the Lord's day. And designing to depart on the morrow, or Monday, he was so pressed for time that he protracted his sermon till midnight. All which difficulty he would have avoided by summoning the church in the foregoing week; but he chose rather to undergo it, than not give his apostolical sanction to the sanctification of the Lord's day, or lose the pleasure of joining with the brethren in
commemorating his death. You must there: fore admit, either that this celebrated passage* contains no proof that the primitive Christians habitually sanctified the Lord's day; or that weekly communions were their constant practice.
To the same purpose is the testimony of Paul, 1 Cor. xi. 20. He had reproved the Corinthians for their scandalous dissentions in the place, and at the time, of public worship. You come together, says he, not for the better but for the worse. For when ye come together IN THE CHURCH, I hear that there be divisions (schisms) among you. Ver. 17, 18. That these “schisms” occurred in their indecent manner of communicating, is undeniable. For with reference to them the Apostle proceeds, v. 20. When ye come together therefore, into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper. “ By your shameful behaviour, the ordinance is so prostituted that it resembles nothing less than the supper of the Lord.” The Apostle tells us, that their irregularities happened, when they came together in the church, and that the scene of them was the table of the Lord. Whence it
* Its true meaning, and the strong argument which it affords for the change of the sabbath, are ably stated in that learned work, entitled, Sabbatum Redivivum, part ii. p. 514 -520,
follows, that the celebration of the supper was a regular concomitant of their stated meetings for public worship; and these, we know, were held at least every Lord's day. The conclusion results necessarily from the tenor of the Apostle's argument, “ which evidently supposes, that whenever they assembled together, they came to eat the Lord's supper; for otherwise their coming together so as not to eat the Lord's supper, would be no proof that their coming together was for the worse*.”
Weekly communions did not die with the Apostles and their contemporaries. There is a cloud of witnesses to testify that they were kept up, by succeeding Christians, with great care and tenderness, for above two centuries. It is not necessary to swell these pages with quotations. The fact is indisputablet. It was even common to communicate three and four times a week, and in some places every day. Communion every Lord's day, however, was universal; and was preserved in the Greek church till the seventh
* Erskine's Theological Dissertations, p. 262.
of Plin. Epist. lib. 10. ep. 97. p. 724. ed. VeenhusII. Just. MARTYR. Apol. 2da. opp. p. 98. D. Paris. 1636. TERTULL. de orat. p. 135, 136, ed. RigaLTII.-Whoever wishes to see these, and numerous other testimonies to the same effect, cited at large, may consult Erskine's Dissertation on frequent communicaling ; and especially Bingham's Origines Eccle