A letter on the Lord's Table
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[Dear Brother,—I should not say, ‘is put away from the table,’ but ‘if no longer in communion with us’; he has left you, and you cannot put him away. But I should not in the least avoid saying that we meet around the Lord’s table. I could not own sectarian tables as the Lord’s table with the light I have; but saints who may honestly think us in disorder go to it as such, and I do not doubt enjoy individual communion with the Lord.
The “Lord’s table” is used simply as a title of Christ in contrast with devils. In itself a title of authority, it has nothing whatever to do with communion: where communion is spoken of it is not used, or, that I am aware of, is Lord of an assembly a scriptural idea. He is either Lord absolutely, or of individual servants.
To call tables of Nationals, or sects, tables of devils is a simple absurdity, in defiance of plain language of scripture. I could not go to them; but what “devils” means is distinctly stated in scripture, and means nothing but the gods of the heathen, and is a reference to Deuteronomz 32:17, “they offered to devils, and not to God” to refer this to Baptists or Independents is a gross abuse. The apostle speaks of communion with devils (in idol temples) and heathen sacrifices, and nothing else, and to apply this to wrong ecclesiastical principles, where the Lord is owned as the only object, is trifling with scripture and nonsense in itself.
Saying that all professing Christians are of the church of God may be questioned. The church of God is employed in two senses—or better, two things are spoken of the assembly—one, that it is the body of Christ; of this all professors were not, so soon as false brethren crept in; it is also the habitation of God through the Spirit, the house of the living God, and in this hay, wood and stubble may be built in, and professors are of or in the house. It is not true if we speak of the body, though they take the place; it is true if we speak of the house.
As to the fifth question, I do not doubt that a Christian bolding he stands for acceptance in Christ’s imputed righteousness may be quite sound as to the nature of Christ. I have known most true and beloved saints who were muddy on the point —though I think they lose a great deal. We must not impute even true consequences of a doctrine to the persons who hold it —it may be if they saw the consequences they would give it up: we may use them to shew the doctrine false, seeing it leads to such.
As to “communion of the body of Christ,” in verse 16 it is the body of the Lord, as in the same verse the blood, but the other is closely connected with it. What the apostle is speaking of is that the priests in eating of the altar were identified with it—the heathen, of what was offered there, identified with the idol—had koinwniva not merely mevtoco", nor partook, but were morally completely associated with it, hence with demons: so Christians with Christ. But then if all were associated with the body of Christ, they were with one another, and only one body themselves. It was included in it, but verse 16 refers expressly to the body of Christ; verse 17 shews the other, our unity in one body, to be included in it.
I have only to add, dear brother, have patience and grace; a servant of the Lord must not strive. I know by my own experience how difficult it is. Without the most distant thought of an unkind feeling, we are not always gentle to all men. We have just been over all this ground here, and have had it out pretty (perhaps I might say, very) clear, and in full and happy unity. May it be so with you too. Our meeting has gone on, I trust, with real comfort in the Lord’s presence—most of the Irish labourers, and a few English, with the local brethren in the evening, but no sisters and no lectures; all which, I feel, is much more to the purpose. I have, of course, little time at such a moment, and a heavy correspondence too, but I believe I have answered all your questions. You should read the passage in 1 Corinthians 10.
Affectionately yours in the Lord.]