Fundamentals of the Faith
By William Dudley Nowlin, D.D., LL.D.
1922


CHAPTER XI

THE MEMORIAL SUPPER

The Memorial Supper Instituted by Christ; to Keep Before the World, in Symbol,
His Death Until His Return; Is a Church Ordinance, and Is to Be Participated in
by Those Only, Who Meet All the Conditions of Church Fellowship.

The Lord’s Supper is a church ordinance instituted by the Lord Jesus the night he was betrayed, consisting of bread and wine, such as the Jews used in the Passover Feast, symbolizing his broken body and shed blood, which ordinance is to be perpetually observed (preferably at night on the Lord’s day), by his churches undivided by schisms, after a season of prayer and discipline, and with discernment of the Lord’s body. This, of course, is restricted communion, for it restricts the observance of the supper to a certain class.

ALL DENOMINATIONS TEACH RESTRICTED COMMUNION

Baptists and other denominations are perfectly agreed on the fact of restricted communion. However far apart they may be in their practice on this point, they all do teach that restricted communion is the only scriptural and consistent position for a Christian to take. This will be shown by their own statements. Baptists believe that the Lord’s Supper is a church ordinance and that only those who are genuinely converted, scripturally baptized, and walking orderly in the fellowship of a gospel church are permitted to come to the Lord’s table. This is restricted communion, and in this Baptists are like their brethren of other denominations. Some people seem to think that restricted communion is the one thing that differentiates Baptists from all other denominations; while, as a matter of fact, this (the fact of restricted communion) is the one point of perfect agreement between Baptists and other denominations. To show that Baptists are in agreement with other denominations on the terms of communion, I quote here from leading scholars and historians. Neander, the great church historian, speaking of the observance of the Lord’s Supper in the first century, says:

“At this celebration, as may be easily concluded, no one could be present who was not a member of the Christian church, and incorporated into it by the rite of baptism.” Justin Martyr, who wrote in the middle of the second century, says of the Lord’s Supper: “This food is called by us the eucharist, of which it is not lawful for any one to partake, but such as believe the things taught by us, and have been baptized” (Apol. Ic. 65, 66; Neander, Ch. list., Vol. I., p. 327). Dr. Wall, a leading Episcopalian, says: “No church ever gave the communion to any before they were baptized. Among all the absurdities that were ever held, none ever maintained that any person should partake of the communion before he was baptized” (His Inft. Bapt. part III, c. 9). Dr. Doddridge, a Presbyterian, says, in his letter to Dr. Christian: “Close Communion,” (p. 83):

“I do not suppose there is any difference between the Presbyterians and the Baptists in the terms of communion.”

The Episcopal Prayer Book says: “And there shall be none admitted to the holy communion until such time as he be confirmed, or be ready and desirous to be confirmed.” Dr. Tyerman, Methodist, says: “Even in Georgia, Wesley excluded Dissenters from the holy communion on the ground that they had not been properly baptized, and he would himself baptize only by immersion, unless the child or person was in a weak state of health” (Oxford Methodist, p. 6). The Methodist Discipline says: “No person shall be admitted to the Lord’s Supper among us who is guilty of any practice for which we would exclude a member of our church” (sec. 408). And they say they will exclude those “who hold and disseminate, publicly or privately, doctrines which are contrary to our articles of religion.” That excludes all Baptists. Alexander Campbell says: “But I do object to making it a rule in any case to receive unimmersed persons to church ordinances.” Moses E. Lard, one of Campbell’s disciples, says: “In the out set of the Reformation our motto was: ‘And thus sayeth the Lord for every article of our faith is a precept or precedent for all we do.’ In the light of this cherished postulate, what defense can we plead for our act when we sit down to commune with unimmersed’!”

The two leading Presbyterian papers in the United States are the “Observer,” N. Y., and the “Interior” (now the “Continent”), Chicago. The “Observer” speaks as follows: “It is not a want of charity which compels the Baptist to restrict his invitation. He has no hesitation in admitting the personal piety of his unimmersed brethren. Presbyterians do not invite the unbaptized, however pious they may be. It is not uncharitable. It is not bigotry on the part of Baptists to confine their communion to those they consider baptized.”

The “Interior” says: “The difference between our Baptist brethren and ourselves is an important difference. We agree with them, how ever, in saying that unbaptized persons should not partake of the Lord’s Supper. Their views compel them to think that we are not baptized, and shuts them up to close communion. Close communion is, in our judgment, a more defensible position than open communion, which is justified on the ground that baptism is not a pre requisite to the Lord’s Supper. To charge Baptists with bigotry because they abide by the logical consequences of their position is absurd.”

The “Episcopal Recorder” says: “No Christian church would willingly receive to its communion even the humblest and truest believer in Christ who had not been baptized. With a Baptist, immersion only is baptism, and he therefore of necessity excludes from the Lord’s table all who have not been immersed. It is an essential part of the system—the legitimate carrying out of his creed.”

I quote these words from the “American Presbyterian,” as printed some years ago:

“Open communion is an absurdity, when it means communion with the unbaptized. I would not for a moment consider a proposal to admit an unbaptized person to the communion, and can I ask a Baptist so to stultify himself and ignore his own doctrine as to wish to commune with him while he believes I am unbaptized? I want no sham union and no sham unity, and if I held the Baptist notion about immersion, I would no more receive a Presbyterian to the communion than I would receive a Quaker. Let us have unity, indeed, but not at the expense of principle; and let us not ask the Baptist to ignore or be inconsistent with his own doctrine. Let us not either make an outcry at his ‘close communion,’ which is but faithfulness, until we are prepared to be open communionists ourselves, from which stupidity may we be forever preserved.”

Henry Ward Beecher used these words in the “Christian Union” some years ago:

“A Pedo-Baptist who believes that baptism is a prerequisite to communion has no right to cc sure the Baptist churches for close communion. On this question there is a great deal of pulling out of motes by people whose own vision is not clear.”

The late Dr. John Hall, of New York, one of the leading Presbyterians of the world, said:

“If I believed with the Baptists, that none are baptized but those who are immersed on profession of faith, then I should, with them, refuse to commune with any others.”

Dr. Hibbard, the great Methodist leader, thus speaks:

“It is but just to remark that, in one principle, the Baptist and Pedo-Baptist churches agree. They both agree in rejecting from communion at the table of the Lord and in denying the rights of church fellowship to all who have not been baptized. Valid baptism they consider as essential to constitute visible church membership. This also we (the Methodists) hold. The only question then, that here divides us is, What is essential to valid baptism?”

Thus it will be seen that all denominations are restricted communionists. Baptists are as anxious as anybody that we should be together at the Lord’s table. But every argument that we should be together at the Lord’s table would be an argument in favor of being together before we get to the table, and remaining together after we leave the table. There is no good reason for being one at the table and then being many when we get away from the table. It will be observed that we practice what we preach (restricted communion), while others preach what we practice (restricted communion), and then at times at least practice something else.

Open communion is made possible only by a flagrant violation of the Master’s command to “be one.” Open communion is communion participated in by different denominations —people of different doctrines and practices— a thing positively condemned by Paul when he said, “When ye come together in the church I hear that divisions exist among you * * * When therefore ye assemble yourselves together, it is not possible to eat the Lord’s Supper.” In apostolic times, open communion was impossible, as there were no different denominations, the essentials to open communion. Open communion, then, is a result of an open violation of Christ’s command; and the result of a wrong cannot be right.

Pedo-Baptists do not object to the restricted communion of Baptists so much as they do to the fact that Baptists reject their baptism.

THE FOLLY OF OPEN COMMUNION

Open communion ADMITS AS SCRIPTURAL the substitutes for baptism. Open communion forces us to an admission that infant baptism is valid. Hundreds of those whom we would invite to the Lord’s Table, if we practiced open communion, could not tell on their own recollection if they were ever sprinkled, much less baptized. If Baptists are to become open communionists they must admit the validity of infant baptism.

Again, open communion admits the VALIDITY OF SPRINKLING and pouring as baptism. It’s easy logic to note that if others admit sprinkling and pouring as baptism and if they admit these to the Lord’s Table, and if they too insist that baptism is essential to participation in the Lord’s Supper, surely for us to commune with them is to admit the validity of sprinkling and pouring for baptism.

Again, open communion admits baptismal regeneration. There are those who immerse all their members, but their baptism is in order to salvation. Baptists do not believe this at all. Consequently their immersion is not our baptism. The fight on baptismal regeneration has been an age-long contention of Baptists. To invite those thus immersed is to admit the validity of their baptism. Are Baptists ready to commit this folly? We answer, No.

The demand for open communion grows out of a false sense of fraternity. This memorial supper is not a love feast to show our love for one another, but to “show the Lord’s death till he comes” again. Open communion is not essential as a means of grace; it is not essential to fellow ship among the people of God. All churches have the Lord’s Supper in their own services. Many of those who are loud in their demands for open communion do not attend the Lord’s Supper in their own churches.

There is not an example of intercommunion in the New Testament churches, for then they were all of one faith and practice. There is no line of argument that can prove that open communion is in any sort of sense essential. There is not a spiritual blessing that open communion promotes; it means no legitimate demands; it sup plies no destitution; it meets no requirement of the Scripture, but violates many of them. Open communion is unscriptural, inconsistent, illogical; promotes confusion and disturbs Christian fellowship.

Only those have the right to come to the Lord’s table in the Lord’s church who meet all the conditions of church fellowship. It would not only be unscriptural, but inconsistent and illogical to invite people to the Lord’s table in his church who have not met all the conditions of church fellowship, and whom we could not receive into church fellowship as they stand. But says one, “We could not receive them into fellowship be cause they have not been baptized.” Then what right —scriptural or moral— have we to symbolize a fellowship (saying we are “one body in Christ”) which does not exist? Is not this symbolizing a falsehood in the name of “charity”

SENTIMENT WITHOUT FACT

The claim is made that “the Baptists would take the country if they were not so strict in their doctrines and discipline.” No doubt, many who make the above claim believe it to be true. They observe the marvelous growth of Baptists in spite of these “obstacles,” as they see it, and conclude that if these “objectionable things” were removed everybody, practically, would become Baptists. However, this conclusion is reached without the support of historic facts. Compare the Baptist growth in the North where there is more or less laxness in both doctrine and discipline with that of the South, and you will see the position is not well taken.

“If you would just remove ‘close communion,’ “ say some, “many more people would be Baptists,” But why do not the Baptists in England, where they are not strict on this point, have this marvelous growth As a matter of fact, in the South, where Baptists are the most rigid in their doctrines and discipline, is where they are having their most rapid growth.

If Baptists only stand for what others hold, why should anyone leave the other denominations to come to us? No, whenever Baptists become lax they decline, and when they stand firm for “the faith once for all delivered to the saints,” they thrive.

Open communion for Baptists is suicidal, for it means the endorsement of all the baptismal heresies of the ages, and the surrender of practically every Baptist fundamental.