(Church Communion versus Open Communion)
Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you. (Matt. 7:6)
Question.—May the church forbid the Lord’s supper to any child of God?
Answer.—While it is acceptable for us to invite men to our own table, this is the table of a friend, John 15:15. We must await the command of a friend to make invitation to his table, Luke 14:15-17. We must allow that the table of the Lord is to be regulated by what may be acceptable to Him. Luke 14:24. Those who assert that “We invite a child of the Lord,” ought to consider the following things:
1. How do you know this? The Lord alone searches the heart, Jer. 17:10. Open communion, at the very outset, invades God’s province, Rom. 8:27. We may believe a man to be a Christian, but we do not know it, so as to make that knowledge the ground of action in the church, 1 Cor. 2:11. Hypocrisy is often more flashy and imposing than humble piety, Matt. 23:5.
No Presbyterian, who knows his own principles, should ever think of making regeneration the condition of membership in the church, Acts 2:41. She accepts him who witnesses a good confession, sustained by a corresponding practice, and treats him as a child of God, till by transgression he falls from his place, 1 Tim. 6:13.
2. If we know a man to be a child of God, it does not follow that he is to be admitted to fellowship in the church, 2 Thess. 3:6. Here is one whom Paul will own as a brother, and will have the church to own, and yet his present conduct, his refusal to submit to inspired counsels, excludes him from fellowship, Lev. 26:21. The open communionist, to be consistent with himself, would stand up before Paul, and demand that he desist from this teaching, Rom. 16:17, 18.
Close communion, in excluding from fellowship in the church and in breaking of bread, does not deny a spiritual relationship to Christ; but open communion, in making regeneration the condition of fellowship, pronounces a very unwarrantable and uncharitable sentence on such as are excluded, Matt. 18:18. God’s strokes are safer than man’s kisses, Prov. 27:6.
3. If we have strong reason to doubt a man’s piety, if we know him to be ungodly, and are not able to give a definite evidence of breach of vows and insubordination to the law of Christ, we would not be justified in excluding him from the Lord’s table, Acts 8:13, 20-22. The Savior knew from the beginning what Judas was, and yet, with the Savior’s full concurrence, he holds his place among the Apostles, till by transgression he fell, Acts 1:25. Caiaphas, who was high priest according to a divine ordinance, was a very bad man, and an enemy of Christ, John 18:14. Yet being in a divine office, from which there was no law to exclude him, God vouchsafes to him the gift of the Spirit; he utters a remarkable prophecy, and that utterance is expressly connected with the priesthood, John 11:49-52.
4. Exclusion from the Lord’s table does not imply a condemnation of a man’s character, but of his principles or his course, 2 Thess. 3:14; 2 Tim. 2:18; 3:5.
5. Open communion discourages self-examination, 1 Cor. 11:28. The churches have pronounced on the spiritual state; such as are admitted are deemed regenerate, Matt. 18:18. Open communion is, in this aspect of it, better adapted to promote spiritual pride and carnal security than the “fear and trembling” of humble piety, Phil. 2:12. In the contempt for close communion, with which advocates of open communion speak of those who differ from them, and in the assumption of more advanced spirituality and freedom, may discover the fruits of spiritual pride and carnal security, 1 Cor. 10:12.
6. It discourages the study of the divine word, 2 Tim. 2:15. If I may enjoy the highest privileges of the church, no matter what I believe within the range of “evangelicalism,” or what I do within the limits of a “common morality,” there is no very pressing necessity to apply myself to a close and searching examination of the word, that I may know the doctrines and laws of Christ, 2 Pet. 1:10.
7. Open communion leaves false impressions with regard to the importance of the truth of the Gospel, 2 Thess. 2:13. By inviting errorists and heretics to the Lord’s table, we teach them that we make little account of what we profess, and that it has little hold of the heart, Matt. 7:6. We are teaching in the most effectual manner our own people, that it is no matter whether we believe that Christ’s death secures the salvation of those for whom He died, or that many for whom He died suffer the vengeance of eternal fire; whether that God chooses men because He foresaw their faith, or that their faith is the result of God’s election; that it is no matter whether our children are baptised or not, 1 Cor. 1:10.
8. While open communion professes a desire to promote union, it tends to perpetuate disunion to the end, Amos 3:3. There is the appearance of harmony, and there remains the same contrariety of judgment, which there is no attempt to correct, Phil. 3:15. It is not because we are enemies of union that we advocate close communion, but because we love it, Phil. 3:16. It is not because we are enemies of our brethren who differ from us, but because we love them, Lev. 19:17.