A Treatise on the Use of The Communion Table, in Celebrating the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.
By James Begg (Minister of East, or New Monkland, father of James Begg who writes of his father here:http://tinyurl.com/o7wnodn
This was first reprinted in The Blue Banner, v7#11, 12; v8#1, 2, 3.http://www.thebluebanner.com/
A practice has lately obtained, in several of the Established Churches in the City of Glasgow, and other places, of excluding the communicants from the Communion Table, and making them communicate in pews, somewhat similar to the practice of the Independents, Methodists, and other Sectaries in England. According to this form, all the communicants, sitting in pews, turn their backs on one another, and exhibit no external appearance of friends meeting together in Christian communion, at a feast of love. This Innovation gave just cause of offence to several Ministers and private Christians. It was considered as a corruption of the worship of God, and contrary to the established laws and authorized practice of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. They saw that it was reviving an old heresy in worship, already condemned by the Church of Scotland, and calculated to interrupt the peace of the Church, and to produce schism and division. After due deliberation, the matter was brought before the Synod of Glasgow and Ayr, at their meeting in October, 1822. The following is the copy of an Overture on that subject, with the deliverance of the Synod upon it.
“Whereas, an Innovation has been lately introduced into some Churches, within the bounds of the Synod of Glasgow and Ayr, in the mode of dispensing the sacrament of our Lord’s Supper, namely, the distribution of the elements to the communicants sitting in pews, and not sitting about, or at, the Communion Table, according to the laws and practice of the Established Church of Scotland; —
“It is overtured to the very Reverend Synod, that they shall declare their disapprobation of this Innovation, as contrary to the purity and uniformity of worship presently authorized and practiced in our National Church: that they shall enjoin every Presbytery, within their bounds, to take care that a Communion Table, according to the practice of the Church, be provided in every Church under their jurisdiction; and that they shall recommend to all the Ministers within their bounds, that they observe the fifteenth Act of the General Assembly, seventeen hundred and seven, entitled, Act against Innovations in the worship of God.
“After deliberation, it was moved and seconded, that the Overture be approved and adopted, and that the Synod declare, enjoin, and recommend, in terms thereof: which motion was agreed to, without a vote. Wherefore, the Synod did, and hereby do, declare, enjoin, and recommend, in terms of the Overture.”
It was supposed that this Innovation had been introduced inadvertently, without any design to follow divisive courses, and that all Ministers and others would have immediately complied with the sentiments of the Synod, so unanimously expressed. This, however, has not been universally the case. Some Ministers within the bounds of the Synod have hitherto paid no regard to their recommendation, but have continued to follow this divisive course, although the Synod have, “without a vote, declared their disapprobation of this Innovation, as contrary to the purity and uniformity of worship presently authorized and practiced in our National Church.” The injunction given to Presbyteries has as yet been only partially followed out. The Synod have therefore renewed the injunction on all the Presbyteries within their bounds, at their meeting in April, 1824, with an order that they shall report their obedience thereto, to the next meeting of Synod, and an end will doubtless be put to these disorderly practices.
It may be supposed that this Innovation is but small, and of little moment; but this very erroneous supposition renders it the more dangerous. Great and daring Innovations excite alarm, and powerful opposition; whereas, those supposed to be small, are more readily acquiesced in, and prepare for greater Innovations; and thus corruptions in the worship of God gradually spread and gather strength.
The administration of the sacrament of our Lord’s Supper has always held a prominent place in Christian worship, and when corruptions have at any time been introduced, it has usually been respecting this ordinance; and in times of Reformation, the leading object has been to remove corruptions from this, and the other parts of religious worship.
In the following Sections it is endeavored to ascertain and state the truth, in opposition to this Innovation, from the example of Christ, and the Apostles, and from the practice of the earliest and purest ages of the Christian Church. It is endeavored to trace and point out the corruptions which were gradually introduced respecting the sacrament of our Lord’s Supper, and the Communion Table, whence may be seen the strong tendency to corruption in celebrating this ordinance. The laws and authorized practice of the Church of Scotland, since the Reformation, and as they now exist, are traced and pointed out, and it is endeavored to answer the arguments urged in support of this Innovation.
Our venerable Apostolic form of worship has been transmitted to us, as the fruit of much exertion and suffering of our pious ancestors, accompanied by the blessing of God. It is our duty to preserve it from all the restless attacks of folly or novelty, in these unstable times, and to hand it down pure and entire to after generations. We will thus show that we entertain a grateful sense of the kindness of Divine providence, in conferring on us these religious privileges, and that we form a proper estimate of their value and importance. “The Lord established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers that they should make them known to their children, that the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born, who should arise and declare them to their children, that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.”
[D.V. I will run the Five Sections of Begg’s argument serially.
Section One. The use of the Communion Table, in celebrating the Sacrament of our Lord’s Supper, is in conformity with the example of Christ, and the Apostles, and the nature and design of that holy ordinance.
Section Two. The use … is in conformity with practice of Christians, in the first and purest ages of the Christian Church.
Section Three. A view of the corrupt Innovations, respecting the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, and the Communion Table, in the past ages of the Christian Church.
Section Four. The use … is in conformity with the laws, authorized practice of the Established Church of Scotland, since the Reformation.
Section Five. Answers to the arguments in favor of the late Innovation.