Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Comments on Communion from J.L. Dagg

In the past week, I've had a pretty good email exchange with a new pastor friend from NC concerning the Lord's Table and who may participate. Most of you are probably aware of the differing opinions on this issue. This post isn't an evaluation or critique of those positions per se. I just want to share a couple of quotes re: the Lord's Supper that have been helpful to me, and I hope my friend in NC, as I've consulted what some other saints have said....

J.L. Dagg, Manual of Church Order, in commenting on the design of the Lord's supper, writes of the contrast between what men love to honor and what the supper points us to:
The rite is commemorative. The passover served for a memorial of deliverance from Egypt; and, year after year, as the pious Israelites partook of it, they were reminded of that marvellous deliverance, and were required to tell of it to their children. The passover was instituted on the night of that deliverance. The Lord's supper was instituted on the night when jesus was betrayed to be crucified; and serves for a memorial of his sufferings and death. When we remember him, we are to remember his agonies, his body broken, and his blood shed. In preaching the gospel, Paul determined to know nothing but Jesus Christ, and him crucified. So, in the eucharist, Christ is presented to view; not as transfigured on Mount Tabor, or as glorified at his Father's right hand, but as suffering and dying. We delight to keep in memory the honors which they whom we live have received; but Jesus calls us to remember the humiliation which he endured. To the lowest point of his humiliation, the supper directs our thoughts. (pp. 209-210)
On the local church's custodial role regarding the ordinances, Dagg continues:
When a church receives an unbaptized person, something more is done than merely to tolerate his error. There are two parties concerned. The acts of entering the church and partaking of its communion are his, and for them he is responsible. the church also acts when it admits him to membership, and authorizes his participation of the communion. the church, as an organized body, with power to receive and exclude members according to rules with Christ has laid down, is responsible for the exercise of his power. (p. 221)

Responding to arguments for toleration at the Lord's Table, Dagg writes in part:
The argument for toleration is founded on the words, "Him that is weak in the faith, receive ye.**** For God hath received him." It is a full reply to this argument, that God's receiving of the weak in faith furnishes the rule, as well as the reason, for our receiving of them. That God receives a man in one sense, can be no reason that we should receive him in a sense widely different. God receives an unbaptized weak believer as a member of his spiritual church, and we ought to receive him in like manner. We ought to regard him as a brother in Christ, and a fellow heir of the same inheritance. His interests should be near to our hearts, and we should welcome him to all that spiritual communion which belongs to the members of Christ's body. So, when God has received a baptized weak believer to local church-membership, we are bound to receive him in like manner, and allow him to sit with us at the table of the Lord; a privilege which, through the imperfection of church discipline, the vilest hypocrite may obtain. Unless we keep in view this important distinction, in applying this rule for toleration, it will indeed admit the unbaptized weak believer to ceremonial communion, but it will, with equal certainty, admit the hypocrite to that communion which is spiritual. (p. 223)


Shawn Abigail said...

So I have to ask the question... why has the person not been baptised? Is it a lack of knowledge, spiritual carelessness on the part of the individual, spiritual carelessness on the part of the elders, or something else. In my case it was something else, and I was allowed to partake in the Lord's Supper for several years before I was finally baptised. It is not a matter of not wanting to be baptised because my faith was weak, but wanting to be baptised but my faith being too weak to go through with it. About 15 years ago the problem of my weakness of faith was cleared up and I was baptised. But I am inclined to deal gently with those whose weakness, not willfull disobedience, is slowing them down.

FellowElder said...

You're quite correct to assume that there is great difference between weakness and wickedness. A person can have reasons that fit either category. But for my part, I'm not sure that weakness should be a category that "excuses" not being baptized and coming to the Table, especially for "several years." I suppose there may be some factors that would warrant very patient pastoral consideration, but given what baptism signifies and the seal that it is precisely because our faith is weak, I think I'd be rather hesitant to allow someone to the Table in such a circumstance.