BY REV. S. BOWDEN
[at the administration of the Lord's Supper, 1871]
As our warrant for the difficult duty to which I now proceed, I read Ezek. 43:10-12, "Thou son of man, show the house to the house of Israel," etc.
The command is addressed to the prophet, here styled the "son of man," as the representative of the Christian ministry. The entire vision exhibits the church under the New Testament form.
The object of the service is here said to be two-fold. 1. "That they may be ashamed of their iniquities" and condemned. I trust we still feel ourselves to be at the bar of God and our own consciences. 2. To impress the more upon the soul a sense of the awful majesty and ineffable purity of the God to whom we draw nigh. "This is the law of the house; Upon the top of the mountain the whole limit thereof round about shall be most holy. Behold, this is the law of the house." In the spirit of this divine precept, in obedience to the principle which I conceive to be here clearly intimated. I proceed to bear ministerially in the name of the Lord Christ all unworthy to appear at his holy table: all unconverted, unregenerate, unrenewed persons; all the enemies of the Redeemer, alienated from him in their minds and by wicked words, who persist and will persist in known violations of God’s holy law, who have no true sense of sin, who make no sincere and earnest efforts to break of their sins, who have no faith in Christ, no hope of pardon, no reliance upon the Holy Spirit.
1. In particular all impenitent transgressors of the first precept of the law: all who have other gods besides the true and living God: all atheists, who deny or question the being and existence of God; who live as if there were no God; who wish in their hearts there was no God; who live in ignorance of him; who have no reference to him in their thoughts and lives; who do not know and acknowledge God as their own God, take hold of his gracious covenant, and worship and glorify him accordingly; who deny the divine personality of the Son of God and the blessed Spirit. Al who, in these or other ways not mentioned, refuse God that glory, homage and obedience which he challenges as his due, and continue in such sin not repented of and turned from, are solemnly forbidden to approach the table of the Lord.
2. In the same name and by the same authority, that of the Lord Christ, I debar ministerially all impenitent violators of the second commandment; all who, while they professedly worship the true God, do not recognize and act upon the principle that God alone has the right to prescribe the institutes of his own worship; who make visible representations of the invisible God, or form vain imaginations of him in their own mind; who corrupt, add to, or take from, the instituted worship of God; who do great wrong to the church and dishonor to the Spirit, by substituting for the praise he has himself indited and appointed for use the imperfect effusions of uninspired men; who worship God by proxy, with choirs and organs. All so sinning and not repenting, are forbidden to approach the table of the Lord.
3. In Christ’s great name, I debar ministerially all the unrepentant breakers of the third precept: all who take the name of the Lord our God in vain; who do not make it their study in their thoughts, words and actions to give the sacred name of Jehovah that honor and homage which he claims as his due; who read, or speak, or hear God’s word irreverently; who are guilty of a light and irreverent use of his titles, attributes, or any thing by which he makes himself known; who abuse the oath, that most solemn form of religious worship; who refuse, when rightly called upon, to make an appeal to God, in that manner, or who, when they take and oath, are guilty of perjury, reserve or equivocation; who use what are known as minced oaths; who make a light and wanton use of the lot in what are falsely called games of chance; who throw the dice, or shuffle the cards; who abuse God’s creatures, tasking them beyond their strength, destroying or injuring them to gratify a fiendish spirit; who pervert the fruits of the earth to minister to their own gluttony or drunkenness; who make a profession of religion in hypocrisy, for some sinister end, or through corrupt motives; who are ashamed of their profession after they have made it, or a shame to it by their wanton, worldly, inconsistent lives and behavior. All who, in these or other ways not mentioned, bring dishonor on God’s name, and repent not, let them approach this holy table.
4. All impenitent transgressors of the fourth commandment; who do not remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy; who do not count the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the lord honorable; who devote the day in whole or in part to secular business, or recreation, or abandon it to indolence; who do not make conscience of devoting the whole day to the duties of personal and social religion; who dishonor God by a light and inconsiderate observance of the institutions of the Sabbath, thus by one act of aggravated crime defiling God’s Sanctuary and profaning his holy day; who on the Sabbath do in private what they would not do in the presence of their fellow-men; who make calculations in regard to business past or business to come; who travel or visit unnecessarily; who distribute or receive mail-matter upon the Sabbath; who attend to their correspondence upon that day; who do not seek to prepare beforehand for the services of the Sabbath; who protract unduly the business and labor of Saturday, and so unfit themselves for Sabbath duties; who make frivolous apologies for absenting themselves from the Sanctuary, endeavor to satisfy themselves or others with reasons for such neglect that would not keep them from their worldly business; who do not endeavor, that those over whom thy have control keep the day holy; who do not set apart portions of their time through the week for mediation, secret prayer, family and social worship. All who in these, or other ways not mentioned, do not sanctify the Sabbath, and who repent not, let them not venture to approach this holy table.
5. All impenitent transgressors of the fifth commandment: all children, undutiful to their parents, who refuse to give them that honor which God requires, in a respectful entertainment of their counsels, ready compliance with their lawful commands, and due submission to their reproofs and corrections; who presume to speak disrespectfully either to their parents or of their parents; all parents who do not bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; who do not pray with and for them; who do not anxiously watch over their children as they grow up, and endeavor by counsel and advice, by admonition and reproof, and by faithful correction when necessary, to keep them in the way of truth and purity, or who by their life show what they teach to be of small moment to themselves; who correct their children harshly, provoking them to wrath, or through foolish fondness indulge them in what is wrong; who allow them to grow up ignorant of the way of life and salvation: all undutiful, unsubmissive, ecclesiastical children, members of the church, who do not respect the eldership, do not receive the truth with faith and with ready mind from the ministry of reconciliation, regarding it as a message from God to their souls, but listen carelessly, putting from them the things that are preached; all ecclesiastical parents, ministers and ruling elders, who do not watch for souls as those that must give account, who do not commend their people to God in earnest prayer, who exercise rule to gratify ambition, antipathy or prejudice: ministers who preach the truth with scanty hand, or serve God with that which costs them nothing; who do not reprove and exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine, in season and out of season; who do not first take heed to themselves and then to the whole flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made them overseers, but are careless and unfaithful to their high trust; who do not exhibit a crucified Saviour in all his fulness as the alone foundation of human hope: all civil children, members of the commonwealth, who do not acknowledge civil government as God’s ordinance, placed in subjection to Christ; who do not submit to legitimate authority, or who own as God’s ordinance man’s infidelity and rebellion against his Maker, submit for conscience sake to constitutions of government set up and administered without regard to God’s law; all seditious, turbulent, riotous members of the community, anti-government or no government men; all who swear to support an immoral constitution of civil government, or elect others to take that sinful oath: all civil parents, rulers in the state, who exercise authority in the commonwealth without regard to Him by whom kings rule and princes decree justice; who make not God’s word their supreme rule in all their enactments; who inflict upon a nation the foul dishonor of having no God: all civil officers, of whatever rank, who do not exert their personal influence and employ their official power to promote the interests of morality, and of true and undefiled religion: all who do not honor the other relations which God has instituted among men for wise, holy and benevolent purposes; all unkind, untender husbands; all refractory and unsubmissive wives ; all faithless eyeservants; all masters who do to give to their servants that which is just and equal. All who in these or other ways violate the fifth commandment, God’s great rule of social order, and repent not, they are forbidden to approach this holy table. God is a God of order and not of confusion.
6. In the same name, that of Christ, I debar ministerially all impenitent violators of the sixth commandment: all murderers, whether in intention or in act, who in act, who indulge in principles, passions and practices inconsistent with a sacred regard for human life; the suicide in intention or desire; all who are weary of the good gift of life; who do not strive to prolong their life and preserve their health; who overtask themselves or others; who, in pursuit of what is called pleasure, injure their own bodies; who are engaged in any species of traffic or business that is detrimental to the physical or moral welfare of others; all who indulge in cruel and wicked sports; all malicious, implacable and unforgiving persons; for he that "hateth his brother is a murderer; and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him." All who in these or other ways not mentioned break the sixth precept and repent not, let them not approach the table of that God whose name and nature is Love.
7. In the name of Christ, I debar ministerially all impenitent violators of the seventh precept: all adulterers, fornicators and unclean persons; who indulge in lustful imagination; who live under the influence of unsubdued lascivious desires and passions, that set the soul on fire as of hell; who do not discountenance all principles different from those which God has appointed with regard to the intercourse of the sexes; all who frequent theatres, balls, promiscuous dancings, prolific fountains of impurity to both the heart and the life; all who take delight in gazing on vile pictures, reading obscene books, singing filthy songs, which all foster unholy passions. All who in these or other ways violate the seventh precept and repent not, let them not approach a table spread only for the pure in heart.
8. In the name of Christ, I debar ministerially from this table all impenitent transgressors of the eighth commandment: all dishonest persons; all robbers and thieves, who steal by force or secretly; who impose any articles of traffic or any personal services for more than they are worth, or who accept of these for less than their real value, taking advantages of the necessities or distresses of others; who make hard, sharp bargains, and glory in them; who make false representations in regard to articles of traffic; who contract debts without a reasonable prospect of being able to liquidate them; who make bargains and do not keep them, because not for their pecuniary advantage; who throw themselves unnecessarily upon the charity of the church or the state; who do not by application of their own strength and talents strive after an honest, comfortable and useful livelihood; who rob God of that service which is his due, of that time and effort and that portion of their worldly substance which are needful to the support and extension of his kingdom. Continuing in such sins and not repenting of them, let them not approach this holy table.
9. In the name of the Lord Christ, I debar ministerially all impenitent transgressors of the ninth commandment: all liars and slanderers; all who, whether in courts of judicature, or in the ordinary intercourse of society, do not make conscience of speaking the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth; who are unsteadfast and perfidious in their vows and covenant engagements; who speak the truth unseasonably, maliciously, or so as to produce a false impression; who raise or spread injurious reports to gratify their own wicked natures, not to promote the interests of the church’s purity or the ends of justice; who take delight in hearing these evil reports, occupying in this respect the same mean and contemptible position as the receivers of stolen goods; who tread on the sacred precincts of a neighbor’s character, or who through a false modesty or criminal indifference do not guard their own character, thus trifling with what God has committed to them as a solemn, precious trust; who tarnish their own fair fame by an irregular, wanton, worldly, covetous life. All who in these or other ways not mentioned persist in violating this precept, let them not come to this holy table.
10. Lastly, in Christ’s great name, I debar from this holy table all the impenitent violators of the tenth commandment: all covetous, envious, discontented persons, who covet what is their neighbor’s when it is not in their power to acquire or in his disposition to impart it; who repine at the doings of Providence, do not endeavor to cultivate a spirit of contentment and holy cheerfulness; who endeavor in a perverse and wicked way to change their condition in life; all, especially ministers and ruling elders, who love to have the pre-eminence in the church; all who are envious of the gifts, reputation and usefulness of a brother in the ministry, do not rejoice in his prosperity as their own; all who impeach the wisdom and goodness of God’s providence by not being content with such things as they have; such as make a god of this world, "who say to the gold, thou art my hope;" who make the duties of religion subordinate and subservient to the claims of the world. So sinning and not turning from sin unto God, let them not draw nigh the table of the Lord.
I trust I shall give a scriptural warrant for this important and certainly very difficult service. Read with me, Rom. 1:28-32; 1 Cor. 6:9,10; Gal. 5:19-21; 2 Tim. 3:1-5; Rev. 22:15.
Thus we see the true light in which man involved in guilt is regarded by his Maker; we behold in clearest colors the necessity of expiation, the necessity for renewal. To accomplish this mighty work, utterly to remove the guilt and stain of sin, Christ has appeared in our nature, even to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." Sin, however great, repented of, turned from, renounced and pardoned, cannot prohibit fellowship with God.
"If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." This is a most suitable text of Scripture with which to occupy our minds most devoutly in this connection. There is here ample encouragement given to those who turn to God with the whole heart, and oh! my dear friends, let remember there is warrant for none else. You will have observed that in the whole debarring service only the impenitent were excluded, those who persist and will persist in ministering to their vices and passions.
A free and cordial invitation is extended in the great and precious name of the Redeemer to all true, genuine penitents, to all the friends of Christ. A gracious Redeemer welcomes us, "Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." These are to come in Christ’s way. "Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in," the gates, the door of authority in Christ’s church.
And to show you that I have not exceeded my warrant in tendering this invitation, read with me again from this holy word: Matt. 5:2-10; 1 Cor. 6:11; Gal. 5:22-24; Rev. 22:17; Song of Solomon 2:10-13; 1 Sam. 9:11-13.
"Now therefore get you up, for about this time ye shall find him."
Encouraged by such gracious intimations of the will of God, with which most of you are familiar, but which always possess a heavenly freshness and beauty, which are life fragrant flowers which the Saviour strews in our path, come forward to the festival which he hath instituted, relying on him by faith.
Sing Ps. 24:3-10.