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the frequent use of sacramental communion.'' And what he understood by frequency, is clear from the very next words, in which he feelingly extols the “ most lovely examples of genuine antiquity*.”
The admirable Witsius, after a short detail of the original frequency of communicating, and of its decline with the “ increase of numbers and the decrease of zeal,” exclaims, - Alas! how far are we at this day from the sanctity and zeal of the ancients f?” It is true, he was not without apprehension, that, in a general corruption of manners, a too great frequency might depreciate the ordinance. There was little reason, as we shall shortly see, for the good man's fear; and less for his precaution. Modern Christianity is in no danger of running into an extreme, by emulating, on this subject, the ardour of an apostle.
CalderWood, in his elaborate controversy with the Prelatists, lays the blame of infrequent communion on the want of zeal and love
* Nec veri vel fideles Christi ministri funt, qui, quacunque ratione populum a crebriori usu communionis Eucharisticæ abducunt vel absterrent. Et pulcherrima sunt veræ antiquitatis exempla de crebro Eucharistiæ ufn. CHEMNIC, exam. Concil. Trident. par. ii. p. 101.
+ Heu! quantum a priscorum sanctitate ac zelo hodie absunius! De economia fæderum, lib. iv. cap. 17, 33. p. 913. 410,
which throws us so far behind the primitive church; but insists that this should be no ob, stacle to its restoration*.
Had I intended, or did the limits of this discussion permit, it would be easy to adduce, on the same side of the question, a long list of illustrious names, not more graceful to my page than savoury to the church of Christ. The ge*neral sentiment of those who have thought most profoundly as well as piously on the subject, aca cords perfectly with the preceding. Nor is it the sentiment of individuals merely; it hath been expressed in the most solemn manner by the" purest churches of the reformation.
The constitution of the Belgic or Dutch church of 1581, appointed the supper to be celebrated every other month t.'
The discipline of the REFORMED CHURCHES or I'RANCE, after noticing that it had not been usual with them to celebrate the holy supper oftener than four times a year, recommends a greater frequency; the due respect being preserved, that believers, treading in the footsteps of the primitive church, may be exercised, and
* Et quamvis hæc tempóra, zelo et charitate defervescente, non tam frequentes ferant Cænæ celebrationes quam in Primitiva ecclesia, tamen sæpius celebranda, &c. Altare Damascenumo cap. X. p. 536.
+ Voetii disputat. tom. iv. .p. 761.
may increase in faith, by the frequent use of the sacraments*.
The church of SCOTLAND, at her first reformation, insisted upon four communions in the yeart; and there is every probability that she would have gone farther, but from an opinion, that the people, just emerging from the darkness and bondage of popery, were unable to bear it. This conjecture is founded upon what actually took place at the modelling of that plan of doctrine, worship, &c. by the WestMINSTER ASSEMBLY, which united in one most evangelical communion, the churches of England, Scotland, and Ireland. The directory for public worship prescribes the frequent celebra
* Bien qu'on n'ait pas.accoutume de celebrer dans nos Eglises la sainte Cene, plus souvent que quatre fois l'an ; toutefois il seroit bien a desirer, qu'elle se celebrast plus souvent, le respect qui y est requis etant garde; parceque il est tres utile que le peuple fidele soit exerce, & qu'il croisse en la foi, par l'usage frequent des sacramens, comme aussi l'exemple de l'eglise primitive nous y convie. Discipline des Eglises Reformees, chap. xii. 14. On this canon, Mr. L'ARROQUE observes, that at the Synod of Orleans, in 1562, a minister of Picardy, who used to celebrate the supper every month, was advised to follow the custom of the other churches, merely for the sake of uniformity. It seems, however, that they had thought better of the matter, as the canon in its present form was drawn up by the Synod of Paris in 1565. L'ARROQUE Defence de la Discipline des Eglises Refore mees de France, p. 290. 4to.
of 1st Book of Discipline, art. XIII.
tion of the Lord's supper: Nay, it supposes that it should be so frequent, as to supersede the necessity even of a previous intimation. “ Where this sacrament cannot with convenience be free quently administered, it is requisite that public warning be given the sabbath day before the administration thereof.” How often should it be administered to render this warning needlefs? Let this question be pondered by those who think semi-annual communions sufficient. Yet that very directory have we adopted, and affect to adınire. Alas, what a flagrant contradiction between our profession and practice!
As an instructive comment on this part of the directory, it may be added, that several of the ministers who assisted in its compilation, and a great part of those who were ejected in the time of Charles II. for non-conformity, are certainly known to have celebrated the holy supper every month in their own congregations*. Before this, in the days of LAUD's corruption and tyranny, those eminent men of God, Mr. Robert Blair and Mr. CUNNINGHAM of Holywood, made such mutual arrangements as afforded their people opportunittes of communicating eight times in the yeart.
The foregoing facts will convince every ho
* ERSKINE's Dissertations, p, 274
Ibid, p. 279.
mest inquirer, that frequent communion is not an innovation. It will be hard indeed, if the combined suffrages of Apostles and Reformers, of the best of men and the purest of churches, cannot wipe off the imputation. But it attaches, with an indelible stain, to our existing custom, which can boast of no such authority. This, which we are so afraid of áltering, is å real innovation on Christian order, and an unhappy desertion of Christian principle. If innovation is, in truth, our abhorrence, let us endeavour to get out of its labyrinth; and, retracing our wandering steps, let us return to the old way in which the first confessors of the cross have walked before us, and where we may expect to find much rest unto our souls.