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VOL. XIV.-.SEPTEMBER, 1868,-.. No. o.
THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS.
BY THE EDITOR.
The Apostles' Creed was not formed and finished in its present completeness at one time. It grew, as an organism, from the baptismal formula. The third part consisted at first only of the words: "I believe in the Holy Ghost;" this was the germ of all that follows. As Christ and the Holy Ghost are one and inseparable, so must the articles which spring out of that of the Holy Ghost, rest back in living anity with the article of the Son. Hence the article of the Roly Ghost is followed, or rather continued and enlarged, by the article of the Church, which being “the body of Christ,” shows the oneness of the second and third parts of the Creed-exhibiting also the fact, that the Spirit does not begiu an independent work, but carries forward that of the Son, so that the Son and Spirit are one in operation as they are one in essence.
In like manner the Communion of Saints is a product of the Church, growing out of it as members out of the body. The Holy Ghost carries forward the work of Christ and His own work, in the Church; and the Church carries on its work, and that of the spirit in the Communion of Saints. The Heidelberg Catechism also very properly shows the connection of the Communion of Saints
effected by the Holy Ghost through the Church-with Christ in the second part of the Creed, in making the communion of saints have its basis in tbeir “being members of Christ, and in common partakers of Him."
This being the position and the relations of this article, it is easy to understand why it was added to the Creed at a later period than coat of the Church, becoming thus an appendage and necessary enjargement. We find, accordingly, that this article was not in the Creed in the time of Augustine, who died in 430. It was, however, introduced soon after. The immediate occasion of its introduction, seems to have been the sad scbism of the Dopatists. These sectaries, without pretending to have any doctrinal cause for such a course, separated the African Church from the Church in general, and proudly proclaimed their schism to be the only true Church, condemning all else as out of its pale-denying the validity of all ministerial acts but their own. Here was pride, presumption, uncharitableness and scbism, wbich called for a testimony from the Church: this was uttered in the article of “The Communion of Saints.” This testimony would show them, that in vain did they profess to believe in the Holy Catholic Church, while they, by their schism and arrogance, ignored the communion of saints in the Church. By making the communion of saints of none effect, they excluded themselves from the Church, in the bosom of which this communion must and does exist.
The article teaches us to believe in the communion of saints with Christ through the Church, and the consequent communion of the saints with each other in the Church: their relations to Christ and to one another. The occasion which led the Church to locate this article thus, fixes the sense in which the ancient Church held it, and this historical sense is its true sense. By it the Church would teach the Donatist schismatics, and all similar alienations and isolations from her unity in charity, in all time: that the general must always be acknowledged as over the individual; that the Church, as the body of Christ, is before, and greater than, the members ; and that to ignore communion, is to ignore Christ, the Head, and His body the Church, and thus, also, all title to being saints; for the saints exist only in communion.
In order to see the extent of this communion of the saints in Christ, and with Christ, or how far it reaches, and what it compre. hends, we must understand the term saints. We must not take the word saints, or Holy ones, at once and alone in its absolute sense. It is used in the Scriptures relatively, as well as absolutely. As there is good, better, best, so there is holy, holier, holiest. The word saints refers to, and includes position, as well as state-the initiatory, as well as the final and perfect. Hence, those that "are sanctified” in Christ Jesus, are still “ called to be saints.” It includes, 1. Those in a position of separation from sin. 2. Those in whom there is going forward the process of grace, involving the conflict between sin and holiness. 3. Those in the state of glory and holiness. All these are scripturally included in the term saints, and are in communion with Christ.
1. Those in a position of separation from sin. We say position, because we wish, by that word, to imply notbing positive as to holi. ness—only a position of promise, like that of the seed in the earth, which has not yet commenced to grow. This gives us the first, and most outward meaning of holy, as used in the Scriptures, viz: a separation. “It is well known that the primary notion of the word holy, signifies no other than the separation of a thing or person from a common or profane, to a peculiar and religious
In this sense of holy we must include, 1.) The seed of pious families. The offspring of believing parents are, in virtue of their Christian birth, holy unto God-in a measure or degree separated for Him Even Judaism allowed an advantage, in this respect, in favor of infants born of Jews, previous to circumcision—a gracious position was allowed them. They considered a child as born out of holiness, whose parents were not proselytes at tbe time of the birth, though they afterwards became proselytes. On the other hand, they considered the children of heathens as born in holiness, provided the parents became proselytes before the birth. All the children of the heathens were reputed unclean by the Jews, and all their own children holy.”+ The offspring carries with it some. thing of the sanctity of its parentage. " If the root be holy, so are the branches.” (Rom. 11: 16.)
If the life of the second Adam is to cover the ruin of the first, His union with the race must reach back to its fountains ; His prospective or prevening union with the seed of the pious must begin with their being, and, consequently, precede even the sacrament of baptism. The first and deepest ground of grace is the anion of Christ with our nature through and in the Incarnation, which becomes the sure basis of our union with Him in grace. The parent that is in union with Him in this way, being separate or holy, has the assurance that his seed shall stand in the same position. Yea, so gloriously does grace triumph over nature, that where only one of the parents is in union with Christ, the children are holy. “The woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wite, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband : else were your children unclean ; but now are they holy.” (1 Cor. 7: 13, 14.) See Gerlach in loco.
Thus the children of believing parents are, even before their baptism, in a certain state of holy separation, occupying a posi. tion of advantage, by wbich, though their salvation is not thereby made absolutely certain, yet the hope of their salvation is thereby strengthened.
Should it be asked: Why, then, is baptism afterwards necessary? We answer it is as necessary to its full spiritual life, as natural birth is to the full natural life of the child. The baptism is the birth into the objective or outward family, or kingdom of grace. But neither in the natural nor in the spiritual, is birth the beginning of the being. As in nature, there is the greatest possible difference to the future character of the child, whether it be born in the hut of a Hottentot, or in the bosom of a Christian family ; so is it the greatest difference whether it be born merely in the world,
* King's History of the Creed; p. 341. + Clark on 1 Cor. 7: 14.
or whether it be born into the Church. This birth into the Church is by its baptism.
Is it further asked: Are those infants, born of unregenerate parents, then lost. We think there is ground for believing, that Christ's union with humanity includes also such infants, while they are infants, and before the positive form of actual sin, and until that relation is lost or cast away later, by positive and conscious sin. Yet what a difference between such infants, and those of believing parents! They are without the sanctified position just described as occupied by the offspring of the pious; and they remain, through infancy, without the birth by baptism, into the ob. jective constitution of grace—without a mother--without being in the Church---without the divine guarantee that the Holy Ghost shall dwell in them-dritting in the world, exposed to the perilous uncertainty of ever afterwards being won into it by the determi. nation of their own will and choice! In regard to them, the solemn challenge may well be made : “How can a map be born when he is old ?" (John 3: 4.)
2.) In a higher sense, therefore, are those infants separated to holiness who, by the sacrament of circumcision in the old, and by that of baptism in the New Testament, have been positively in. troduced into the gracious kingdom of Christ. Nearer, and more promising of the final fruits of salvation, is their union and com. munion with Christ. They have “put on Christ;" they are not merely united with Him subjectively or germinally through and in the new humanity, but also objectively through and in the Church. Their dark, unconscious hope bas taken form and body; they have not only something in them driving them, but also something outward bearing them. Their birth-right has become a church-right. They have membership in the body of Christ. They are apprebended by His saving power. They bave the Holy Ghost, who dwells now in them as in Christ, as the communion between them. They have now the divine warrant for laying hold of all the means of grace, which open up their fountains of life around them! They have “put on Christ,” are planted in Him,” are in the “ark.” They are now in a position where God says: "You are mine."
2. Those aro regarded as holy, or as saints, in whom grace has commenced as a positive life, and who are in the process and conflict between sin and holiness.
These are such as, having been baptized, do now endeavor to grow in its warranted and communicated grace. These being not only in the position, but also in the process of grace, are saints in an advanced sense. Their communion with Christ is not, as in the case of the unbaptized, a mere prophesy, but an actual commun. ion, becoming more and more conscious and complete. They are no more only as the seed having the possibility of growth, but as seed in the soil, with all the conditions of growth around it, and feeling already, and with ever increasing consciousness that growth is actually going forward to the flower of hope, and the fruit of life everlasting. They have not merely the birth of water, but also of the Spirit; not only the washing of regeneration, but are also in the renewing power of the Holy Ghost. (Eph. 4: 12; 1 Cor. 1: 2; Roir. 1: 7.) Such are “saved by bope, and as such are called saints, and as such are in communion with Christ.
Thus, all that are in the Church, through the initiatory sacrament, are called saints. Many of them may not be now, and may never hereafter become saints absolutely, as was the case with many in the holy nation of the Jews, and as is the case now in the Church. Such fall back, or rather remain, in the class of those who are holy merely in the sense of separation and position ; such as are only separated from sin, but not united to Christ. They are like a seed that has the power of growth, but which, for some reasons that are known, and for some that are not known, never puts forth growth-like blosoms and unripe fruit, that fall and perish without ever coming to perfection.
3 Those are saints in a still higher, and in the highest sense, who have passed the position, and also the process, into the state of abso. lute holiness. These are the saints in Heaven. These are not the saints to be sanctified, nor the saints being sanctified, but the saints " that are sanctified.” (Acts 20 : 32; 26: 18.) These are the saints departed through death into the place of absolute separation from sin. (Rom. 6: 7.) These are “the saints in light." (Col 1: 12.) Here tbey enjoy the highest union and communion with Christ.
These different grades of saints are, in such sense and degree as we have explained, in union and communion with Christ. The first is a union effected by His taking our nature to Himself; the second, by taking that nature so united to Himself into the Church; the third, by taking us in the Church into Heaven. Blessed are those who do not perish in the bud, or are not lost by the way!
These "saints that are sanctified," are removed into that place and state, where the outward and inward separation from sin is complete.
This is a point which cannot be fully reached in this world. Here is the land of the curse. The ground is cursed. The air bears the curse, and is the babitation of the prince of evil. The promises which call, and the hopes which allure around, are the legates of sin. There is no retirement, no separation so complete as to shut out this world's evil powers. Wherever the air penetrates, there breathes sin and the curse.
Even the Church here, that waiteth, is in the world. Its ex. ternal side borders on the region of the curse ; and, in its warrings with sin, it is more or less penetrated and invaded by unboly powers. “Now we see not yet all things put under him.” The spouse is black, sunburnt, and will be so until she is safely housed in the heavenly palace.
As, therefore, the Church, so far as it lies on this side, is not perfect, so it cannot fnlly perfect those tbat are in her bosom. It will only complete all its members with itself in the bigher state. There Jesus will present it unto Himself a glorious Church, not