Page images

Lord's Supper, and to tell them how they should observe it. All this seems to us to point to the conclusion that the practice which had crept into the church at Corinth, was one altogether unlawful on Christian grounds in itself, and which had come to supplant and supersede that true feast of love which the Lord had appointed for his people. With this view, the apostle's words appear to accord. He is speaking before of the coming together of the Corinthian church, and declares, that though the assembling of believers was designed to be for their mutual advantage, yet with the Corinthians it proved the opposite, for they came together not for the better, but for the worse. How was this? Because they did not come together for the purpose for which other churches came together, viz. to eat the Lord's Supper. This was in the apostolic churches the main object for which the brethren assembled in church (év éxxano.q=in their congregational capacity, ver. 18. Comp. Acts xx. 7.) But, for this purpose, the Corinthians did not assemble. On the con. trary, they came together in groups, to observe a practice which necessarily produced schism and bad feeling in the church, by displaying invidiously the distinction of the rich and poor in a place where all such distinctions should be merged. This the apostle accordingly denounces, and having done so, proceeds to tell them the true object for which they should come together, and the proper mode of assembling for that object. Such we conceive to be the train of the apostle's remarks in this context, and with this, the supposition, that the object of his reprehension was something which ought not in any form to have been tolerated in the church, fully accords. What the practice censured really was, has been well described, we think, by Raphelius in his note on this passage, where he traces it to the old Greek custom of having banquets to which each guest brought his own provisions, and the abuse of which to results much the same as those described by Paul, Socrates, in his day, sought to remedy, (Xenoph. Mem. Lib. iii. 14. 1.)

We have now glanced at the passages usually adduced to prove the existence of the Agapè as a regular observance in the apostolic churches, and our firm conviction is, that no sufficient evidence of such a practice can be adduced. As for the Agapæ 'mentioned by the ecclesiastical writers as practised at a subsequent period, they appear to us to have grown out of the mere tendency, so common to all men, to cement the bonds of friendship and brotherhood by eating and drinking together. Meetings for this purpose were common national customs in all those countries where the Christians resided, and it is not to be wondered at that they should have followed so simple and so natural a mode of expressing their mutual affection, more especially as it afforded an excellent opportunity for the rich to dispense of their abundance for the advantage of the poor. This much at least is certain, that these Agapäe had no connection whatever with the observance of the Lord's Supper, which took place at a different time, and anterior to the Agapè. In addition to the evidence above afforded of this from Justin Martyr, Tertullian, and Pliny, we would simply quote the following passage of Chrysostom:

-When all the believers come together, after they have heard instruction, after prayers, after the fellowship of the mysteries, and after the assembly is dissolved, they do not forthwith go home, but the rich and wealthy bring food and meats from home, invite the poor, and prepare common tables, common feasts, and common symposia in the church itself.'*

With these somewhat hasty remarks we must now dismiss this subject, on which, perhaps, some of our readers may think we have dwelt too long. The question, we grant, is not one of very high importance, but having expressed our dissent from the opinion most commonly held, we felt constrained to append to that expression some of the reasons on which our dissent is founded.

To the first lecture, Dr. Halley has added three long and valuable appendices on the following topics, the difference between the ancient discipline and the Romish Sacrament of penance ;' Unction not the Sacrament of the Dying;' On the Service of the Synagogue as affecting the Institution of the Christian Church. Amid much that is highly valuable, there are one or two points in these Appendices, especially the last, on which we should feel inclined to break a lance with the author, did not our rapidly diminishing space warn us that it is time to proceed to the other parts of his work.

Lecture II. is 'On the Perpetuity and Design of the Sacraments.' In the former part, the author maintains, chiefly against the Society of Friends, the perpetual obligation of baptism and the Lord's Supper as ordinances of the Christian religion. In no part of the work has he displayed more successfully his logical vigour and sound scholarship. We have seldom seen the argument based by the anti-ritualists on our Lord's words to the woman of Samaria, (John iv. 21-24), more successfully disposed of than in our author's remarks on Barclay's inference from this passage, That every system of worship by ceremonial observances, like that of the Jews or the Samaritans, being entirely abolished, the worship of the Christian church is exclusively spiritual, without any external rite or symbolic ordinance whatever.'

* Homil. 54, cited by Suicer Thes. Eceles. in 'Ayatn. Com. also Hom. 27 in Ep. I. ad Cor.

In the latter part of the Lecture, Dr. Halley maintains the position that, the sacraments are significant rites-emblems of Divine truth-sacred signs of the evangelical doctrine-designed to illustrate, to enforce, or to commemorate the great and most important truths of the Gospel,' in opposition to those who regard them as the instrumental causes of salvation, and to those who view them as seals of salvation. Neither of these views, he endeavours to show, accords with the acknowledged character of the rites of the former dispensation; or is compatible with the apostolic doctrine of salvation by faith alone. His reasonings on both these points appear to us perfectly conclusive. The only ground on which the reasonableness of the Old Testament rites can be at all shown is, that they were signs of religious truths, the outward and perishable symbols of spiritual and everlasting verities; and that they were neither the means nor the attestations of inward religious vitality, is demonstrable from the fact that a man might observe them all, and yet not be a true Israelite, or a Jew inwardly and from the heart. With regard to the second position, all protestants will admit that with the doctrine of justification by faith, the popish doctrine of an opus operatum by means of the sacraments is at utter variance; but there are many who will be disposed to dispute the justice of Dr. Halley's charge, when he imputes the same consequence to the opinion that the sacrament is designed to be a seal to the worthy recipient of God's grace. To such, we recommend the careful consideration of the following passage.

* If they are represented as seals or ratifications of saving blessings conferred upon the recipients, we have to inquire, In what sense is this representation to be understood? They are assuredly not seals of spiritual blessings to those who do not spiritually receive them—not seals of deceit and delusion to unregenerate men. It must, therefore, be intended that the worthy observance of the sacrament, the observing of it with spiritual dispositions, is the obsignation of grace. And what is this but making the worthy reception, the good work of the man, the seal and assurance of eternal life, so that, instead of looking entirely and exclusively to Christ Jesus, to his spotless obedience and atoning sacri. fice, he is looking upon himself amidst the deceitfulness of his own heart, for seals and verifications of his own justification? The more simply and directly he fixes his attention upon the work of Christ, the more justly assured he becomes of his title to everlasting life. A sacrament in itself is no seal of pardon or salvation, because it may

be unworthily received. To call the worthy reception of it the seal of pardon or of salvation, is to exalt a good work to the high place of the witness of Christ's fidelity, or of his sufficiency, in saving believers, and so to reverence it not only as the arbiter of our own justification, but as the authentic verifier of the truth of Christ. Invited, every day and every hour of my life, to confide entirely on Christ, as able and willing to save

me, what have I to do but to accept the generous invitation in the full assurance of faith? Burdened with a sense of guilt, the message of the Gospel is to me the good news of great joy; and in the assurance of the truth of God, which I cordially believe, I can admit no seals or verifications other than his own testimony. A sacrament offers no assurance, no word of encouragement to me in my unbelief; and in my belief the verbal and express assurance of God is the object of my faith; and that assurance is, that in Christ Jesus, my only Saviour, I have everlasting life. This is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.' That record believed is its own demonstration, and no symbolical service can be either an attestation of its general truth, or a seal of its specific application to individuals. • He that believeth hath the witness in himself. Besides, this doctrine of sealing God's grace to individuals by a sacrament can amount to no more than a hypothetical sealing-a sealing of God's grace upon the supposition that the person is already possessed of that grace; a seal which, to be of any worth, must be itself accredited or attested by the grace which yet it is said to seal or ratify. But what seals are these? The sacraments worthily received are said to be seals of an inward and spiritual grace, or of spiritual blessings consequent upon it; but that inward and spiritual grace is to us the only assurance of the worthy reception of the sacraments. The outward sign seals the inward grace, and the inward grace attests the outward sign. To this reductio ad absurdum may be brought the notion that the sacraments are seals of the favour of God to those who worthily receive them. The proper assurance, the great seal of the love of God to sinners, which every sinner may specifically apply to himself, is the gift of God's own Son, whom he hath given for the life of the world, and to this no other assurances—no minor seals—can add any confirmation. To introduce their aid is to cloud and obscure the only Object of faith in the justification of the ungodly.'-pp. 104-107.

Whilst, however, we agree with Dr. Halley in his reasoning here, we think he has laid down his position somewhat too absolutely and sweepingly. He has affirmed it as dictum simpliciter, whereas we think he was only entitled to affirm it as dictum secundum quid. In other words, whilst we agree with him in repudiating the idea that by either of the Sacraments God's grace is sealed or attested to us, we are not prepared to admit that there is no sense in which these can be called sealing ordinances. The sacraments appear to us to possess a threefold design according as they are viewed as symbols, as signs, or as seals. Under the first aspect they are designed to exhibit divine truth ; under the second, to indicate the submission of the recipient to the authority of the Divine Author of that truth; and under the third, to confirm and strengthen the recipient in his confidence in the truth which they exhibit. All these purposes the sacraments rightly observed, we take it, do answer, and all of them we believe they were designed by our Lord to answer. If the last two be excluded, and their sole design be VOL. XVII.


held to be the exhibition of truth, we cannot see why the observance of them by persons alone should have been enjoined. For aught we can see to the contrary the lesson of baptism, for instance, which Dr. Halley says is merely 'the sign of purification,' that is, as we understand him, the emblem of the gospel doctrine of purification, might have been taught by the washing of cups and platters, or any other material objects, quite as well as by the baptism of persons; in the same way as the doctrine of purification was signified under the former dispensation. The specification that this ordinance as well as that of the Lord's Supper is to be observed only in reference to persons, seems to us to prove that both must have, beyond their symbolical character, a significancy in respect of the personal relations and interests of those by whom they are observed.

Lecture III. enters upon the questio vexata of Jewish proselyte baptism ; of the existence of which, anterior to the birth of Christ, Dr. H. is a decided advocate. Besides the testimony of the Talmudists—in this case, he contends, worthy of credit, as it respects a mere custom of their nation, and one which they had not the slightest conceivable reason to feign, had it not really existed among them—the reasons he urges are the readiness with which men of all parties in Judea resorted to the baptism of John without seeming to view it as a new thing; our Lord's expressed surprise in his conversation with Nicodemus, that a master in Israel should not know what was meant by being born of water and the Spirit-a surprise which Dr. Halley thinks would not have been felt had not there been' some prevalent usage of their nation to illustrate these words, and this usage he thinks was proselyte baptism; the dispute about purifying between John's disciples and the Jews (John ü. 25, 26), as indicating that the nature of baptism was fully understood by the Jews; the address of Peter to the assembled crowds of foreign Jews on the day of Pentecost, in all of whom he must have presumed upon an acquaintance with the meaning of baptism, when, without explaining it, he said, “Repent and be baptised every one of you;' and some confirmatory passages from Arrian and Josephus. Dr. Halley has conducted his inquiry with great firmness and ability, and we feel bound to say that, whilst the subject is involved in much uncertainty, we think the evidence, so far as it goes, manifestly in favour of the side he has espoused. At the same time, some of his arguments are such as we cannot assent to. Especially do we differ from him in his remarks on our Lord's conversation with Nicodemus. His argument, as we understand it, runs thus : Nicodemus ought to have understood clearly what our Lord meant by a man's being born again by water and the Spirit ; but he could

« PreviousContinue »