from Alexander and Rufus: Dialogues on Church Communion by John Anderson (1820)
excerpted pp.4-6, 21 and edited by Gregory Baus
First, the visible communion of Christians in any particular church or local congregation consists in their declared agreement to adhere to one public profession of the Christian religion, and in their joint endeavors to maintain and propagate that profession.
Second, this profession is a profession of the whole Christian religion. We cannot warrantably decline the explicit profession of one jot or tittle of it; since the authority of the Divine Testimony, which binds us to receive any part, binds us equally to receive the whole.
Third, while the profession of the Christian religion attained by a particular church, as well as her practice, is imperfect; and while much of her profession is rejected by many bearing the Christian name; it is necessary that the articles of her public profession, which are the matter of her communion, be ascertained with precision.
Fourth, every person who joins in the public ordinances of a particular church, and especially in the Lord's Supper, declares that he has communion with her in her public profession and acknowledges it to be his own profession. For the public profession that is made in the participation of the public ordinances of Christianity can be only one; that is, the profession of the particular church in which these ordinances are administered.
Last, persons cannot reasonably pretend to have communion with a particular church in her public ordinances, and especially in the Lord's Supper, while they openly persist in an obstinate opposition to any article of her profession. Persons may indeed share in that communion who have but a small measure of knowledge, but obstinate opposers to any article can have no communion in it at all.
The visible communion of Christians is expressed in Scripture by the holding fast of their profession, one profession only, not many or different professions (Heb 4:14; 10:23), by glorifying God with one mind and one mouth, speaking the same thing, joined together in the same judgment (Rom 15:6, 1Cor 1:10), and serving him with one accord (Zeph 3:9). Their communion among themselves in the exercises of religious worship, and in all the other parts of Christian practice, belongs to the joint maintaining of one profession of the Christian religion.
As the agreement of a number of men to unite their efforts for the raising of a weight, or for the working of a ship, may be called a mechanical communion; so the agreement of a number of Christians to adhere to and maintain one profession of the Christian religion is church communion. In the common affairs of life, there can be no rational communion among any number of persons, unless the matter about which they are to have communion be exactly determined. Thus, if it be the raising of a heavy body, it is necessary in order to communion in that work to determine by what means it is to be raised; whether by a lever, for example, or by a pulley, or by an inclined plane.
So in order to the communion of persons in a particular church, it is necessary that the articles of the public profession which she has attained and which constitute the matter of her communion, be ascertained by her creed, by her confession, or by her declaration and testimony; and that it should be one important part of the work of her ministers in their public discourses to explain and vindicate that profession. When a church is honest and faithful in the use of these means, it is easy to know what is the matter of her communion. Faithfulness in this respect is one principle mark by which a reforming may be distinguished from a backsliding church.
Christians are “to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints,” (Jude 3) for every article of the faith at whatever time delivered, whether in the Old or in the New Testaments, whether in the personal ministry of Christ, or afterwards by the apostles. When a particular church refuses to communicate with opposers of some of her articles considered more essential to salvation, and yet agrees to communicate with the opposers of other articles considered non-essential, this is contrary to the duty of earnestly contending for the faith, and resents injury done to Divine truth when opposition is contrary to their own salvation, but not whenever it is contrary to the authority and glory of God.
For a particular church, or her members, to have sacramental communion with the obstinate opposers of any of the truths or ordinances of Christ, as professed to be agreeable to his word, is inconsistent with that Great Commission Christ gave his ministers at his ascension, that they should “teach all nations to observe all things whatsoever he had commanded them” (Matt 28:20). For what are the things in which Christians are to have sacramental communion? The answer is in all the things which the apostles and other ministers ought to teach as the things of Christ –and these are not only some things, or the most important things, but all things that he commands. All that truly belongs to the Christian religion was delivered by Christ as the Great Prophet of the church; and the Divine injunction is, “Him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you” (Acts 3:22).
Only such close communion is agreeable to the representation which the apostle gives of the partakers of the Lord's Supper. “We being many,” he says, “are one bread and one body, for we are all partakers of that one bread” (1Cor 10:17). According to these words our participation of one bread in this ordinance imports a joint profession of the Christian religion just as partaking of the sacrifices in the idol's temple imported a joint profession of idolatry. As Christians in receiving the Lord's Supper partake of one bread, so they make one profession of the Christian religion. The profession of receiving Christ as tendered in the Lord's Supper is a profession of the whole Christian religion. For it is a profession, not only that we rely on Christ as a Priest for pardon, but that we fully assent to all he teaches us as a Prophet, and that we cordially submit to all the laws and ordinances which he has delivered to us as our King.
The prominent scheme of sacramental communion that is not close communion differs from the apostle's communion in at least two respects. First, a public profession of the whole Christian religion is necessary to the sacramental communion of the apostle, for it implies a joint profession of receiving Christ as tendered to the partakers. Whereas the public profession of only those parts of the Christian religion that are termed essential is necessary to sacramental communion according to this non-close scheme. Second, the public profession of each communicant is the profession of all who partake of the same sacramental bread, according to the apostle. But according to this non-close scheme the public profession of some of the partakers may be different from, and in some respects opposite to, the profession of the rest.
The profession of religion which is made by the partakers of the Lord's Supper in any particular church is to be considered, either as a merely personal or as a joint profession. If it be considered as merely personal (the profession of each individual only), there may be as many different professions as there are partakers, and there will be no communion at all in the same profession. On this supposition the apostle could not have justly inferred from their partaking of that one bread that they are one body. But if the profession made in the act of communicating be a joint profession, then it must be the profession of the particular church by whose ministers this ordinance is dispensed. No other public profession of the Christian religion is or rightly can be made in the act of communicating in that particular church.
see also RECOVERING THE REFORMED COMMUNION part 1
and more about Rev. John Anderson