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To the same purpose are the words of the Gallic Confession presented to Charles IX, king of France in 1566. “ We believe, that “ the true church ought to be governed with that polity or discipline 66 which our Lord Jesus Christ ordained, viz. that there should be in “ it pastors, elders, and deacons. We believe, that all true pastors, 6 wherever they are placed, have the same and equal authority under “ Jesus Christ, the supreme and only universal Bishop."*
Thus, there appears to be so much harmony in the Confessions of the Reformed churches with regard to government; that they might have sacramental communion with one another upon the ground of these Confessions, without admitting to that communion avowed and obstinate opposers of their scriptural profession on this head.
44. Alex. Is not the article of the Augsburgh Confession in relation to the presence of our Saviour's body and blood in or with the sacramental bread and wine, an exception to the harmony of these Confessions :
Ruf. I shall recite to you the account given of this article by Bernhardinus de Moor in his commentary on Mark's Compend. This confession, says he, was presented to the Emperor Charles V, in a diet of the Empire of Augsburgh in 1530. It was drawn up by Melanchthon, who was remarkable for the mildness of his temper, in a style, discovering great, if not too much, anxiety to avoid such terms as would be offensive to the Papists, or might tend to prejudice the Emperor against the Protestants, to the endangering of their peace and liberty. This appeared, particularly, in the terms in which the tenth article, concerning the Lord's supper, was expressed, in the copy delivered to the Emperor. 6 In the Lord's supper the body and blood of Christ are “ present under the species or forms of bread and wine.”+ As these words approached too
near the terms in which the Papists used to express their doctrine of transubstantiation, they were thus altered in the edition printed in 1531: “ They teach concerning the Lord's sup: “per, that the body and blood of Christ are truly present therein, and - are distributed to the partakers; and they disapprove of such as 6 teach otherwise.” But in revising, correcting, and enlarging this Confession in the year 1538, Melanchthon expressed the same article in this manner: “Concerning the Lord's supper they teach; that, 56 with the bread and wine in the Lord's supper, are truly exhibited to 66 the partakers the body and blood of Christ.”|| Here were two variations from the first edition. In the second edition, Christ's body is said to be truly present, and to be distributed in the Lord's supper: in the last, it is only said to be exhibited. The disapprobation in the former edition, of those that teach otherwise, is left out in the latter. But the Lutherans had no sufficient reason for the clamour, which they raised, about their, Confession being altered; since this correction does not appear to have been made without the knowledge and conscht of Luther, who lived eight years afterward, and never opposed it. On the contrary, the Confession, thus corrected, was approved and received by the most eminent divines, princes, and electors among the Lutherans ; and hence it was, that some of these made so much opposition to the form of Concord agreed on at Berg, in 1577, as adhering too rigidly to what they called the Confession unvaried. Besides, consubstantiation is not determinately expressed in this article; even in the first edition; and much less, in that which is altered. For when it was said, that the body and blood of Christ are truly present, in the Lord's supper, it may be understood two ways; as meaning, either that they are present spiritually, being offered in the word of promise, and received by faith ; or that they are present in a corporal and carnal manner, as included or latent in, with and under the bread and wine. It is not said, whether the eating by those, to whom the body and blood of the Lord are distributed, be oral* or spiritual. It is not said, that what is given in this ordinance to unbelievers is truly the body and blood of Christ; and not rather the bare symbols, without the thing signified. This article therefore may be explained and admitted in a sound sense; in a sense which Luther himself expressed in a popular sermon in the year 1519; namely," that the union in the “ sacrament, between the sign and the thing signified, is not a corpo“ral union by local proximity,* but a spiritual union which is made by 6 faith, in the use of the sacrament." Hence we may understand how Mr. Calvin and others of the Reformed church came to subscribe the Augsburgh Confession, notwithstanding this article.
* Art. 29, 30. † Corpus et sanguinem Christi sub specie panis et vini vera adesse in cæna Domini.
# De cena Domini docent, quod corpus et sanguis Christi vera adsint, et distribuantur vescentibus in cæna Domini ; et improbant secus docentes.
di De cæna Doinini docent, q.10 cum pane et vine vere exhibeantur corpus et sanguis Christi vescentibus in cæna Doniri.
On the whole, the harmony of the Confessions of the Reformed churches is such as evinces, that their sacramental communion with one another on the ground of these Confessions, was not a communion with any professed and obstinate opposers of either of these two propositions, That rites and ceremonies, for which there is no other warrant than human authority, do not belong to the true worship of God; and, That there is no legitimate office in the church of God superior to that of the pastor, who is ordained to preach the word and administer the sacraments; nor was it a communion with the professed and obstinate
opposers of any of the other doctrines, whether essential or nonessential, that are harmoniously stated, in these Confessions. And it appears from this harmony to have been originally a received principle in these churches, that it was unwarrantable to have sacramental communion with the professed and obstinate opposers of any of those truths, for which in their Confessions they unanimously displayed a banner.
§ 45. Alex. You have not taken notice of the words, which I mentioned, of the Saxon Confession, viz. “ That there have been, are, and • will be in the church of God, men holding the foundation, who have, “ and have had, and will have some more, some less light: sometimes “ saints, too, build stubble upon the foundation, some, especially in the 4 wretchedness of the present times, many, who have the beginnings 6 of faith, have not the privilege of being instructed, and of conferring 66 with those who are more skilful. These, however, are in the num66 ber of those whom it is the will of God we should spare,
groan • and grieve on account of established error.” You have not consid
* That is, with our bodily mouth.
† Per ADIASTASTAT.
ered the words of the Bohemian Confession, namely, “ That, as to “ the differences, which may obtain among the churches in external 6 rites and ceremonies, we think it of no importance; for these vary “ among christians according to the variety of place and nation. 6 Ceremonies change, but faith, Christ, the word change not:" nor have
you considered the words of Luther and Melanchthon “ ought,” says Luther, to congratulate both the Waldenses, (whose “ faith is comprehended in this Confession) and ourselves, that we, 66 who were far apart, are now, by the destruction of the parting wall 6 of suspicion, whereby we seemed heretics to each other, brought near
to one another, and gathered into one fold, under that one Shepherd 6 and Bishop of our souls, who is blessed for ever, amen.
But if cer66 tain differences from other churches occur in this Confession of “ theirs concerning rites and ceremonies, or celibacy, let us remember, 66 that all the rites and observances of all the churches, never were, “nor could be, the same. Such an agreement is not permitted by the 66 various circumstances of men, of time and place: only let the doc« trine of faith and morals be preserved. For this ought to be the
same, according to Paul's admonition : Speak, says he, all the same “ thing: and again, that with one mouth ye may glorify the God and “ Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. For that marriage should be
among them, as it is among us, their condition does not allow. In 6 the mean time, it is sufficient, that what is lawful to all, is not taught “ to be sin to any, and is believed without injury to the faith and con66 science of any one."
Nor have you considered the words of Melanchthon: 6 Since we agree in the principal articles of christian doctrine, let us embrace “ each other with mutual love: nor ought dissimilitude and variety of 66 rites and ceremonies to sever our affections. I most earnestly wish, 6 that those who love the gospel, and desire to glorify the name of “ Christ, may not destroy themselves by domestic feuds and discords, “ especially on account of things for which it is not necessary to excite 6 disturbance."*
Ruf. Our conversation on this question will be vain, unless we at. tend to the true state of it. It is not inquired, whether we may have sacramental communion with any who differ from us in some opinions or customs. In opposing catholic communion, it is not meant, that every such difference should be a bar to sacramental communion : but the question is, whether a professed and obstinate opposition to any article of a scriptural profession, or to any part of that scriptural Reformation, which a church in her ecclesiastical capacity has attained in doctrine, worship or government, be not such a bar. Now, it does not appear, that such opposition is expressed in the Bohemian Confession to any article of the scriptural profession of the Reformed churches. With regard to humanly devised rites and ceremonies, they are not accounted in this, more than in the other confessions, matters of religion or parts of Divine worship.
• Human traditions,” say the Bohemians, “ are not to be regarded “as inviolable or perpetual laws. But as they were introduced on “ certain'occasions for good reasons; so on other occasions, suggest“ ing different reasons, they may be violated without sin; as the apos
* Plea, &c. pages 164, 165, 166, 167.
W tles transgressed the traditions of the elders, when they ate bread 66 with unwashen hands, and likewise did not fast with others; in both 66 which cases their conduct was excused by Christ, as being without 6 sin.” They teach, that, when such traditions, rites and ceremonies, are equalled to the Divine commands, they are to be avoided and rejected: the observers of them, in that case, being liable to the censure, which our Lord passed on the observers of the Jewish traditions, la vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of
There seems to be nothing in the passage, you have recited, of the Saxon Confession contrary to the principles we maintain in opposing the scheme of catholic communion now pleaded for. The case of such as build wood, hay and stubble on the foundation with a designed opposition to the truth, after having good opportunity of knowing it, and with obstinacy, after all the ordinary means have been used for their reformation, is carefully to be distinguished froin the case of such as do so from the want of light and instruction ; discovering a willingness to be reformed. With churches and professors of the former description we judge it unwarrantable to continue to liave sacramental communion; but we do not refuse to hold it with those of the latter description ; which last is the case referred to in the passage of the Saxon Confession. I am far from saying, that it is necessary to warrantable sacramental communion, that all those who partake of it should have the same degree of knowledge or of faith. It is manifest, that the condition of God's people does not admit of this : they are different in respect of age, some being fathers, and some children; in respect of character, some being teachers, and some taught; and in respect of abilities, some having more discernment in the matters of God than others. But the truth which I believe in opposition to your scheme of catholic communion is, that no particular church, or her members, ought to have sacramental communion with such as openly and obstinately avow their denial and rejection of any one article of her public, scriptural profession.
With regard to the words of Melanchthon, it may be observed, that there is no reason to doubt, that he comprehended more in what he calls “the principal articles of christian doctrine,” than what you mean by essentials. The Augsburgh Confession, which Melanchthon wrote, bears this title, “ The Principal Articles of the Faith,"+ Will you say that there is no article in that Confession but what is essential ? In the passage you have quoted, it is evident, that he speaks of the articles of christian doctrine in opposition to rites and ceremonies, and things, about which it was not necessary for church members to make a stir, or to trouble themselves. Melanchthon would not have spoken in this manner of any article of his public profession, which he regarded as belonging to the truth of God contained in the holy scriptures. Such expressions, about the points, in which particular churches differ, being fewer and of less importance, than those in which they agree, may be, and have often been used with propriety, in order to promote the christian charity and just esteem, that they ought to have
* Bobem. Confess. art. 15. De traditionibus humanis. † Articuli fidei præcipui.
for one another; to encourage the hope of farther harmony and union ; and to strengthen their joint endeavours to promote their common profession of the truths of God in opposition to seducers. But that the worthy defenders of the Reformation, when they used such expressions, meant to recommend sacramental communion with the avowed and obstinate opposers of any one article of their public and scriptural profession, has not yet been proved.
$ 46. Having considered the design and harmony of the Confessions of the Reformed churches, it is time to proceed to the consideration of another topic which may throw light upon this question. The topic, I mean, is the union of the Protestant churches which Mr. Calvin
proposed, and which some of them attempted to carry into effect. What was thus proposed and attempted, was not immediately sacramental communion, but such an union in their public profession and administrations, as was necessary in order to that communion.
Alex. Mr. Calvin proposed an union among the churches in a letter to Cranmer. “I wish," says he, “it could be brought about, that “ men of learning and dignity from the principal churches might have “ a meeting; and, after a careful discussion of the several points of “ faith, might hand down to posterity the doctrine of the scripture, “ settled by their common judgement. But amongst the greatest evils 66 of our age, this also is to be reckoned, that our churches are so dis* tracted one from another, that human society scarcely flourishes “ amongst us; much less that holy communion of the members of Christ, “which all profess in words, and few sincerely cultivate in fact. Thus - 6 it happens, that the body of the church, by the dissipation of its mem6 bers, lies torn and mangled. As to myself, were I like to be of any 66 service, I should not hesitate to cross the seas for that “the question were only concerning giving aid to England, that would 66 be with me a sufficiently powerful reason. Now, when the object is 6 to obtain such an agreement of learned men upon strict scriptural “ principles, as may accomplish an union of churches in other respects 6 widely asunder, I do not think it lawful for me to decline any labors
Ruf. The proposal of Calvin, in his letter to Cranmer, is evidently intended to prevent sacramental communion with the erroneous; for the business of the meeting, he proposes, of pious and learned men was, that the doctrine of the scripture might be settled; that the several articles of that doctrine being thus ascertained, might be a bond of union among the churches; a bond, which was to be preserved inviolate by excluding from their sacramental communion the public teachers and maintainers of the contrary errors.
It is evident, that, if the churches left the door open for the entrance of such persons into their communion, those truths, however correctly ascertained by such eminent divines, would neither accomplish the union of these churches, nor be handed down to posterity, according to Calvin's design. That eminent reformer was well persuaded, thatunion of love among churches and their members depended on union in the belief of the truth; and that the latter ought to be the beginning, the end, and the only rule of the former. When there is agreement, says he, of judgement in Christ; then there will also be union in mutual benevolence in him.