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Terms of Communion

James Dodson

A communion gathering in olden times.

A communion gathering in olden times.


“I ask our Author, Whether or not a particular visible Church, who have embraced one Confession of Faith, one Form of Church-government, one Directory for Worship, may require it of all her Members, in order to full Communion in all sealing Ordinances, that they confess, acknowledge, and swear to abide in the Profession and Obedience of the same Doctrine, Worship, Government and Discipline? Is not this a publick Confessing and Avouching of the Lord and his Truths? Is not this necessary to the Unity of the particular Organick Body? Is it not warranted from the Word of the Lord? as Jer. 4:2; Micah 4:2; Zech 2:2. Is it not a very proper Mean to excite all the Members of a Church to search into the Scriptures, that they may know and be established in the Principles which they profess? Is it not a very useful and necessary Mean to preserve a Church from Corruption and Degeneracy from such Steps of Reformation as she has already attained unto?”—William Wilson, A Defence of the Reformation Principles of the Church of Scotland (1739).

Works on Ecclesiastical Terms of Communion:


Antipharmacum Saluberrimum: or, A Most Wholesome Antidote,-1664-John Flavel.-In this treatise, Flavel addresses the issue of intercommuning with churches in decline and the problem with hearing corrupt ministers and attending corrupt ministries. Flavel is decidedly against occasional communion and has very strong warnings against occasional hearing.

HEAD I.-Where the sufferings of many, for refusing to acknowledge a corrupt Ministry, are vindicated; and the question of hearing Curates is cleared.-1687-Alexander Shields.-In this chapter, Shields takes up the doctrine of occasional hearing and explains why we should not hear sectarian, erroneous and unsent ministers and teachers. This section is also notable for its careful delineation of the degrees and boundaries of Christian communion in a divided state.

1761 Terms of Christian and Ministerial Communion.-1761-Reformed Presbytery, of Scotland, Ireland and America.-These are the terms of communion as they were adopted by the Reformed Presbytery, in 1761. The American church abandoned them in 1806; the Scottish church in 1822; the Irish church later.

A Short Directory for Religious Societies, Drawn up by Appointment of the Reformed Presbytery, for the Particular Use of the Several Societies of Christian People Under their Inspection, at the Desire of the Said Societies, and Addressed to them.-1772-Reformed Presbytery of Scotland).-Here is a faithful copy of the original directions for society, or fellowship, meetings. It contains directions for governing the meeting together with guidance on the qualifications of constituent members and appropriate topics of discussion.

The sin and danger of countenancing the administrations of erroneous teachers pointed out : [in] a sermon preached at Chartiers, in the county of Washington, Pa.-1794-John Anderson (1748-1830).-A sermon which explains what happens when men are given over to hearing the ministrations of erroneous teachers. Anderson discusses the doctrines and practical reasons for maintaining confessional integrity by avoiding sectarian ministers or ministers not of one’s own communion.

An Explanation and Defense of the Terms of Communion.-1806-John Reid II.-A discussion of why the church needs to have terms of communion together with a defense of the terms of communion adopted by the Reformed Presbyterian church. This was written and issued as an official production of the presbytery.

Church Fellowship.-1819-John Black.-A synodical sermon that explains why the false charity of intercommunion amongst various sects of Christians is contrary to a sound profession and practice of the true religion.

Strictures on Occasional Hearing.-1820-James Douglas.-A thorough investigation of the doctrine of “occasional hearing” wherein Douglas expounds and vindicates the practice of refusing to hear or wait upon ministers from corrupt communions. This is the second edition which is corrected and expanded.  It also contains an instructive addenda on how Covenanters ought to pray for civil rulers under immoral constitutions and administrations of government.

Remarks On A Letter Addressed to the Members of the Old Church of Scotland, -1823-John Dow.-An historical account of the disturbance in the Scottish RP church and the removal of the Auchensaugh Renovation from the fourth term of communion.

On the Proper Time for the Admission of Recent Converts to the Full Communion of the Church.-1833-Anonymous.-An article taken from the Princeton Review, edited by Charles Hodge, explaining the danger to the souls of recent converts by letting them participate in the sacrament of the Lord’s supper and why catechism should precede communion.

Catholic Communion, In The Present State Of The Christian Church Inconsistent With A Due Regard For Truth:-1836-John T. Pressly.-A lecture warning against the increasing practice of intercommunion due to its harm to the interests of true religion and its disregard for creeds and ecclesiastical standards.

Occasional Communion.-1852-Anonymous.-An article which appeared in the Covenanter Magazine, edited by J.M. Willson, which defends the practice of confessional communion against the lax and latitudinarian practices creeping into the church.

Occasional Hearing.-1852-Anonymous.-An article which appeared in the Covenanter Magazine, edited by J.M. Willson, which explains why confessional communicant members of the RP church should not attend the ministry of the Word by sectarian ministers outside of the church.

An Inquiry into the Principles of Church Fellowship.-1865-John T. Pressly.-An examination of the scriptural principles of church fellowship which explains why the communicant fellowship of the church ought to be restricted to those who hold the creed of that body. It also indicates why the practice of open communion is neither helpful not truly ecumenical.

Reformed Presbyterians and Open Communion.-William Sommerville.-A tract defending close communion against the false charity of open communionists and ecumenists.

Occasional Hearing.-1874-T.H.-This article, taken from the Associate Presbyterian, sets forth the doctrine of the Secession concerning “occasional hearing.” The author explains why intercommunion in the hearing of the Word preached should be allowed by any who would remain faithful.

1876 Terms of Communion.-1876-Reformed Presbytery “Steelite.”-These are the terms of communion reflecting the need to stress certain features of these terms due to the declining tendenies of the age.

The Duty of Separation.-1877-John McAuley.-This article explains why unity is not always the best course, if we would be faithful to the Lord and his church.

Family Worship a Term of Communion in the Reformed Presbyterian Church.-1908-Robert James George (1844-1911).-An interesting defense of family worship being a term of communion amongst Reformed Presbyterians.

Concerning Close Communion. An Investigation.-1930-William J. McKnight (1865-1951).-An easy to understand introduction to the reason and practice of close communion explaining why the Lord’s supper should be restricted only to confessional and communicant members of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, i.e., Covenanters.