Restricted Communion -- By: James W. Willmarth

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 052:206 (Apr 1895)
Article: Restricted Communion
Author: James W. Willmarth

Restricted Communion

Rev. James W. Willmarth

Baptists, as is well known, do not think themselves at liberty to invite members of other denominations to unite with them in the Communion, or to accept such invitations when given in churches of other denominations. This is restricted or strict communion; popularly called “close communion,” with a latent suggestion in that term of narrowness and bigotry. Sometimes the latent suggestion develops into open and bitter reproach.

It is the object of this article to present the facts and principles which furnish the reasons for restricted communion. It is commonly supposed, I think, that there is a radical difference between Baptists and evangelical pedobaptists in regard to the principles which underlie this question. This arises, of course, from an obvious difference in practice. In contrast with the practice of Baptists, evangelical pedobaptists invite all members of “orthodox and evangelical churches,” intending to include Baptists. It is natural, therefore, for those who judge by appearances, to conclude that Baptist opinions as to the qualifications for communion must be altogether peculiar to themselves, and that the other denominations have a great superiority in respect of liberality and breadth of view. But I think that one who has not carefully examined the subject will be surprised in discovering how far Baptists and evangelical pedobaptists are in substantial agreement as to the principles which determine questions of intercommunion; and how far the actual difference in practice arises from a differ-

ence of views as to certain other and important matters, which, from their nature, must control in the practical application of the principles held in common.

In this discussion I shall assume that each denomination is properly represented by its own authentic statements of belief and by its general practice. There are instances of individual aberration. There are ministers and churches among pedobaptists, tinctured with prevailing looseness and lawlessness, who invite “all that love the Lord “or leave every one to judge of his own fitness. So there are a few nominal Baptists who advocate “open communion,” openly or covertly; and, possibly, a few Baptist churches which encourage “open communion,” without publicly avowing it. But we must look for denominational beliefs in authorized standards or statements and in the practice of the great mass of ministers and churches who are consistent and loyal to their denominational position. Let us then, first of all, look at certain

Principles Common To All

i.e., accepted by both evangelical pedobaptists and Baptists.


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