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century; and such as neglected three weeks together were excommunicated *.”
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 intreaty. No trifling excuses for neglect were ever heard from the lips of a Christian; for such å neglect had not yet degraded the Christian's name. He carried in his own bosom sufficient inducements to obey, without reluctance, the precept of his Lord. It was his choice, his consolation, his joy. These were days of life and glory; but days of dishonour and death were shortly to succeed; nor was there a more ominous symptom of their approach, than the decline of frequent communicating. For as the power of religion appears in a solicitude to magnify the Lord Jesus continually; so the decay of it is first detected by the encroachments of indifference. It was in the fourth century, that the church began very discernibly to forşake her first love. The ardour of primitive zeal gave way to a cold formality, and the supper of the Lord, sooner, perhaps, than any other institution, fell a prey to its malignant influence.
siasticæ, Book xv. Chap. 11. where a multitude of authorie ties are collected and elucidated.
* ERSKINE'S Dissertations, p. 271.
“ About the year 324, it was decreed at a coupe '“ cil held at Illiberis, in Spain, that no offerings “ should be received from such as did not “ receive the Lord's supper*: which shews " that some who called themselves Christians, “were beginning to neglect the dying com“ mand of their professed Lord.
“ About the year 341, a council at Antioch “ decreed, that all who came to church, and “ heard the scriptures read, but afterwards “ joined not in prayer and receiving the sacra. "ment, should be cast out of the church, till “ such time as they gave public proof of their “ repentancet.
“ Towards the close of the fourth century. 1. "men grew more and more cold and indifferent
"about the Lord's supper; so that the eloquent « Chrysostom complains, 'In vain we stand
at the altar; none care to receive i “At length, communicating weekly, or even " monthly, begins to appear burthensome. The “ greater part received the sacrament only three “ times a year; and some not so often. This oc~ casioned the council of Agde, or Agatha, in “ Languedoc, met in the year 506, to decree, “ that none should be esteemed good Chris
rs tians who did not communicate, at least, at “ the three great festivals, Christmas, Easter, “ and Whitsunday*: and, accordingly, from “ that time forward, those of the church of “ Rome esteemed themselves, in so far, good « enough Christians, if they communicated “ thrice a year; and that it was presumption “ to receive oftenert.” And, mark it well, reader; their sense of the necessity of frequent communions decreased, in proportion as they became addicted to will-worship; and the superstition of uncommanded holidays.
From such an outset matters proceeded, very naturally, from bad to worse, till the unblushing degeneracy had nearly discarded sacramental communion altogether. The council of Lateran under Pope INNOCENT III. in 1215; that very council which established the accursed tenet of auricular confession; and the more accursed tenet of transubstantiation, decided a yearly communion, at Easter, to be sufficient *:. The de
* Concil. Agath. can, 18.
I BINGHAM's Origines Eccles. Book XV. ch. ix. 6. MosHeim,vol: iii. p. 250. FLEURY, Histoire Ecclesiastique, Tom. xi. p. 279, 280, 4to. This eminent popish historian, compelled to own that yearly communions were the effect of “ the remissness and lukewarmness of Christians," seems himself a little scandalised at the decree of INNOCENT's council. The only apology which his ingenuity could suggest, is as severe a censure as a protestant would desire. They did nothing more " than conform
cision was not more unscriptural, than it was crafty and impious. For by removing this sacrament from ordinary view, and connecting it with the pomp of Easter, it augmented the artificial devotion of an ignorant and deluded age, and signally promoted the idolatry of the host.
Here, then, we have traced infrequent coinmunion to its source--the example, traditions, and enactions of Apostate Rone. So firmly was this conviction rivetted in Calvin's breast, that he scrupled not to term annual communions, a contrivance of the Devil *. The authority of Rome is surely not so venerable, nor her bequests so precious, that we need be overnice in departing from her precedents. Certain it is that the best of men and the purest of
to the practice already tolerated by the church.” “ Dans l'usage introduit par le relachement & la tiedeur des Chrestiens, la plupart ne communioient plus qu'une fois l'an, a Paques--Ainsi le concile de Latran ne fit-que se conformer a l'usage deja tolere par l'eglise.” 16. p. 281. i. e. The council only sanctioned “remissness and lukewarmness,' out of respect to an old custom. Ah Popery! .
* The very words of Calvin are, “ And truly, this custom, which enjoins communicating once every year, is a most evident contrivance of the devil; by whose instrumentality soever it may have been introduced.” « Et sane hæc consuetudo quæ semel quotannis communicare jubet, certissimum est diavoli inventum : cujuscunque tandem ministerio invecta fuerit." CALVIN, instit, lib. iv. cap. 17, 46.
churches, have been so far from considering frequent communion as a rash and hurtful inpovation, that they have both desired aud urged it as a most blessed reformation. A few testimonies to this purpose, may be gratifying to the reader.
The excellent CALVIN complains that in his day, professors, conceiting they had fully discharged their duty by a single communion, resigned themselves, for the rest of the year, to supineness and sloth. “ It ought to have been,” says he, “ far otherwise. Every week, at least, the table of the Lord should have been spread for Christian assemblies; and the promises declared, by which, in partaking of it, we might be spiritually fed*.”
Intirely with Calvin agrees his contemporary, that able defender of the reformation, Martin CHEMNITZ. He closes a series of judicious remarks with the following strong expression: “ They are neither true nor faithful ministers of Christ, who, by any means whatever, either lead away or deter the people from
* Factum est ut fere omnes, quum semel communicaverunt, quasi in reliquum anni tempus pulchre defuncti, in utramque, aurem securi dormiant. Longe aliter factum oportuit: singulis ad minimum hebdomadibus proponenda erat Christianorum cætui mensa Domini; declarandæ promissiones quæ nos in ea spiritualiter pascerent, Instit. lib. vi. cap. 17. sec. 46.