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fellow Christians, who are as honest, and as much attached to Christianity as themselves.
2. The promises made in this passage, are not made to one sect of Christians who separate from another; nor does the passage warrant their sectarian separations. In vain do Christians separate from each other, and look for the fulfilment of such promises; for they are made to all Christians, who separate from the worship and evil practices of idolaters. When a number of Christians separate from their brethren, and hold no fellowship with them, is God peculiarly their God and are they his peculiar people? Facts often prove the contrary. They are neither more holy nor happy by their separation; and in a short time the new sect divides on some trifle, and the old cry is raised, 'Wherefore, come out from among them, and be ye separate.' But they should never add'saith the Lord;' for what has the Lord to do with their sectarian separations? It is ignorance and presumption, for Christians to look for the fulfilment of the promises made in this passage, while they treat each other as they do.
3. Some commentators contend that this passage prohibits alliance in marriage between Christians and the characters mentioned. They should not be unequally yoked together as man and wife. But the sects, which hold no religious communion together, and quote this passage to justify their conduct, frequently intermarry with each other. An Orthodox female, will not scruple to marry a Unitarian or a Universalist; and yet her sect deems them infidels. She will yoke herself for life with such a man, yet will not be permitted to commune with him at the table of the Lord. The incongruity is apparent, in a Christian being yoked together with an infidel; for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness, what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? But there is no incongruity in Calvinists, Baptists, Methodists, Unitarians, Universalists, yea all Christian sects, intermarrying or holding christian fellowship with each other. Some of these sects will hold communion with each other in prayer, preaching, and praise, but can hold no fellowship with each other at the table of the Lord. They admit each other to be Christians in the former, but in in the latter, treat each other as if they were heathens. But another text, to justify one sect of Christians from refusing fellowship and communion with another, is
2 John, verses 10, 11. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house; neither bid him God speed: for he that biddeth him God. speed is partaker of his evil deeds.' We admit, to be partaker with a man in his error or evil deeds, is to have communion or fellowship with him in them. But this text affords no proof for the separations of Christians among us, or their refusing to have christian fellowship with each other. No, for-1. No such error exists among us as is referred to in this passage. This will appear by asking, What doctrine did John refer to by the phrase this doctrine?' The sects who separate from each other, and refuse fellowship with their Christian brethren, take it for granted, that it refers to the particular doctrine about which they differ from others, and on account of which they have separated from them. But this is a mistake; for John, verse 9, calls it 'the doctrine of Christ'. And what the doctrine of Christ was, we may learn from the error which the false teachers, in John's day, substituted in its place. This is stated in verse 7. For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver, and an anti-christ.' See also, 1 John ii. 22, 23. Now, if any sect or individual among us say, 'that Jesus is not come in the flesh,' we admit no Christian ought to have fellowship with them, and ought to separate from them. But who advocates any such doctrine in our day? Why then quote this text to justify a separation from other Christians, who not only believe Christ is come in the flesh, but love him and serve him as much as yourselves? Is not this abusing your Christian brethren, and perverting scripture in support of your conduct?
2. It is admitted, by those who thus quote this text, that to have cominunion or fellowship with persons, is to partake with them. Yea, it means this, whether the thing in which they partake be good or bad; for it is quoted to prove they ought not to have communion with a person in his errors. The fact is indisputable, that communion may be in evil as well as good. We have seen that the heathen had their fellowships and communions as well as Christians; and the following texts confirm. this view of the subject: And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them'- Eph. v. 11. Again, 1 Tim. v. 22-Neither be partakers of other men's sins: keep thyself pure.' To partake in their
sins, was to have fellowship and communion with them. Again it is said, Rev. xviii. 4—'Come out of her, (Babylon,) my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.' And the Jews in our Lord's day said, 'If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.' Math. xxiii. 30. That is, they would not have had fellowship with, or approved of the conduct of their fathers, in putting the prophets to death. Solomon thus describes a fellowship in evil, and warns youth against it: My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not. If they say, come with us, let us lay wait for blood, let us lurk privily for the innocent without cause let us swallow them up alive as the grave; and whole, as those that go down into the pit: we shall find all precious substances, we shall fill our houses with spoil: cast in thy lot among us: let us all have one purse,' &c. Prov. i. 10-17. There is a communion, a fellowship in wickedness; and worldly gain and happiness are held out as inducements to join it. In all ages, such fellowships have been formed, some on a small and others on a large scale. And although painful experience proves that they are in the end attended with misery, still similar fellowships are formed. Foolish man sometimes will not learn wisdom by his own and other people's experience.
Enough has been said, to show, that koinonia, rendered communion and fellowship, means to be a joint partaker with others. The things on which they partake may be numerous and various. There may be a civil, political, literary, or religious. fellowship; and fellowships and communions may be formed for good or bad purposes. They may be small or large. One person does not constitute a fellowship, for it implies society, association together. It may consist of two or three persons. A man and his wife form a fellowship or communion; and the whole human family, in one sense, form but one fellowship. They are all joint partakers of the same flesh and blood. Fellowship and communion, seem also to imply concord or agreement in the things for which they associate, and in which they jointly partake. When concord ceases, the fellowship or communion is at an end, for where there is no concord there can be no communion. Hence Christians, for want of concord and agreement, have divided and subdivided, until we have sects without number.
It seems to us a very contracted view of communion or fellowship, to confine it to religious things; and still more contracted, to confine it to communion and fellowship at the table of the Lord. The christian communion and fellowship which begin and end here, do not deserve the name of Christian. It is only worthy of the name sectarian communion, suited to the endless sects into which Christians are now divided and separated from each other. The question now is, Are you a Calvinist, are you a Baptist, are you a Methodist, are you a Unitarian, are you a Universalist; or, in other words, do you belong to our sect? When this is ascertained, the hand of fellowship is given or withheld, as the case may be. But the question ought to be, Are you a Christian? If Christ has received any one, who are we, that we should withstand God, and withhold Christian fellowship from him. Nor ought this fellowship to be confined to the Lord's table, in partaking of the bread and wine. Christians in the apostles' day partook in each others' joys and sorrows. They rejoiced with them who rejoiced, and wept with them that wept. They had fellowship in Christ's sufferings, and in the sufferings of each other. They bore each others' burdens, and so fulfilled the law of Christ. They formed one body, of which Christ was the head; and if one member suffered, all the members suffered with it; or if one member was honored, all the members rejoiced with it. The limit of fellowship among Christians is, where good ends and evil begins. They are not to be partakers in the sins of each other, but ought to shun even the appearance of evil; always to be ready unto every good word and work, both among themselves and to all men. This leads us, to take some brief notice of a part of the christian fellowship, which is greatly overlooked by professors in the present day.
II. Koinonia signifies to make others partake. It signifies to distribute as well as to receive; to make others partake, as well as to be a partaker; and is rendered not only by the words communion, fellowship, but also by the terms communicate, distribute, in our common version of the New Testament. For example, it is rendered fellowship, Acts ii. 42, ' And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread and in prayers.' Here, fellowship is mentioned as a distinct thing from the apostles' doctrine, breaking of bread, and prayers. What then does it mean in
this text? for it cannot mean what many now call, by way of pre-eminence, the communion.' Dr. Hammond says koinonia, in this text rendered fellowship is the people's bringing and presenting of the bread and wine, and the fruits of the earth, for the acknowledging of God the creator of all; part of it to be eaten in commemoration of Christ's sacrifice, and the rest to be distributed among the poor.' This view seems to be confirmed by verse 44, and Acts vi. 1, 2. It is certain, to remember the poor, was an object of deep importance among the apostles and primitive Christians. Gal. ii. 10. And attention to the following passages will show, that this was considered an important part of the christian fellowship or communion.
In Hebrews xiii. 16, koinonia is rendered communicate, where this exhortation is given, But to do good and to communicate forget not; for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.' Similar exhortations are given in 1 Tim. vi. 18; Rom. xii. 13-That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate. Distributing to the necessity of saints.' Relieving the wants of the saints, was a first object with Christians; but their benevolence was not confined to them. Paul says, Gal. vi. 10, ‘As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.' History records the fact, that Christianity first influenced men to make public provision for the poor.
In 2 Cor. viii. 1-5, koinonia is rendered fellowship, and directly refers to the supplying of the wants of the saints: 'Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; how that in a great trial of affliction, the abundance of their joy, and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. For to their power (I bear record,) yea, and beyond their power, they were willing of themselves; praying us with much entreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.' In chap. ix. 12, 13, it is rendered distribution, and applied to the same subject — ' For the admission of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God; whilst by the experiment of this ministration, they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men.' In