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2. In the second place, the saints have communion with the holy angels. Scripture is full of evidence that these happy and exalted intelligences are constantly occupied in the concerns of the faithful. The angels of the Lord,' saith the Psalmist, 'encamp round about them that fear him, and deliver them;' and innumerable are the instances recorded of their active agency in behalf of the servants of God. A host of them were appointed to protect the Patriarch Jacob, another army of them surrounded the Prophet Elisha. One of the most distinguished amongst them was sent to Daniel, and again to the blessed Virgin. A company of them united in the triumphant chorus which announced to the Jewish shepherds, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men. Angels attended the whole earthly course of the Saviour, they stood by the Apostles, delivered them out of prison, communed with St. John, and conveyed the spirit of Lazarus into Abraham's bosom. And, at the general resurrection, they are to be the agents whereby the wicked will be severed from the just. Yea, still farther to prove the communion of the saints with these holy spirits, we are told that they are all sent forth to minister unto those who shall be heirs of salvation; and so lively and so deep is the interest which they feel in this employment, that there is joy in the presence of the angels of God, over one sinner that repenteth.' How precious to the hearts of the redeemed is this branch of the communion of saints, and how sure a pledge of that glorious companionship which awaits them, when the radiant hosts of God shall be presented to their sight in the unclouded splendor of the kingdom of heaven.
3. In the third place, we may consider the communion of the Christian saint with the spirits of the just made perfect, which the ancient fathers believed to be one essential
part of the exposition properly belonging to this clause in the Creed. And they reasoned very justly, that as the communion of the saints with each other and with the angels depended, in its true spiritual character, upon their union with Christ as the head of all, and as this union was not done away by death, but rather increased and perfected, therefore it must follow, that the saints departed did not cease to have communion with those who remained, but that the Church in heaven did always communicate with the Church on earth in a true spiritual communion. And this is the interpretation which is thought to belong to that striking passage of St. Paul, where, addressing the saints on earth, he saith, Ye are come unto Mount Sion and unto the City of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and Church of the First born which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant. Now the Apostle saith not, here, Ye SHALL come,' but, 'Ye ARE come;' and he puts the present coming of the saints to Christ on the same ground with their present coming to the spirits of the just made perfect and to the angels, which seems plainly to intimate that the saints on earth do hold a spiritual communion with the saints in heaven as surely as they do with Christ himself.
In what this communion consists, is our next enquiry. And here it seems sufficiently certain, that we commune with departed saints in the same love which we bore to them when living, and this love is even exalted and purified by their departure. As certain is it that we commune with them in the same hope that we enjoyed in their society when living; and although this hope, on their part, is changed into a blessed fruition, yet on our part it becomes more
closely connected with them than before. Certainly we commune with them in the holy desire which we shared together while they were yet with us, a desire that it might please the Lord to bring us to the same mansion in his heavenly kingdom; and while their being first called serves to add intensity to our wishes, we may well suppose that they look back with some longing for the arrival of those friends whom they left still struggling in a world of trial. Thus far, therefore, we may safely assert this kind of communion, on our part the communion of love and hope and affectionate expectation, on their part the same communion of love, purified to celestial perfection, and the same expectation of our being united to them in happiness in the Lord's good time. While, as a natural consequence of these affections, we may readily admit that we cannot sin by offering our prayers, not indeed to the saints themselves, but to God that he may enable us to imitate their virtues; and we may well believe that they do assuredly offer up their prayers for us to the same God, with a fervor and a holy ardor which earth cannot realize, that we may be kept through his power, by faith unto salvation, until we shall join them in the realms of glory.
A beautiful example of this duty on the part of the Church below is furnished in the comprehensive prayer of our communion service; at the conclusion of which we bless the Holy name of the Lord, for all his servants departed this life in his faith and fear, beseeching him to give us grace so to follow their good examples, that with them. we may be partakers of his heavenly kingdom.' And although we cannot cite any example of the prayers of departed saints for us, which the nature of the case renders impossible, yet we may surely believe that if there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that
repenteth, the same sympathy and the same demonstrations of it may much more be expected from those who once took part in all the sufferings of our nature, and whose affections are as warmly devoted to us as ever. God himself loves his people with an everlasting love; and it never can be supposed to be his will, that the love which he enjoined amongst his saints on earth, should be forgotten by his saints
4. Leaving, however, for the present, the unseen and spiritual world, we proceed, in the fourth place, to consider the communion of the saints with each other in the visible Church. And here it is obvious, that if we walk in the light,' as saith St. John, we have fellowship one with another.' We profess the same faith, the same promises, the same charity among ourselves, the same mutual encouragement, the same worship, the same ordinances, the same Christian sympathy, the same Christian consolations. For to this end St. Paul compares the Church to the human body. As the body,' saith he, 'is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it, or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it.' To the same end are passages innumerable throughout the word of inspiration. 'By this,' saith our Lord, shall all men know that ye are my disciples, because ye have love one toward another.' 'Weep with those that weep, and rejoice with those who rejoice.' Let him that loveth God see that he love his brother also.' 'A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another.' 'Above all things,' saith
St. Paul, have fervent charity among yourselves.' 'Love worketh no ill to his neighbor, therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.'
This communion of the saints in spirit and in affection is figured to us very sensibly by the ordinance of the Lord's Supper, in which we assemble around the same board, as children around their father's table, to participate with each other in the nourishment, both spiritual and bodily, of the Christian feast. The same principle is enjoined upon us as regards our property. If any man,' saith St. John, seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels. of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?' To do good and to communicate, forget not,' saith another Apostle, 'for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.' To feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to teach the ignorant, to assist the weak, to console the mourner, to heal the sick, and to visit the prisoner, are all duties of especial obligation. This is pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father,' saith St. James, to visit the widows and fatherless in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.' In the constitution of the first Christian churches, this communion of property was carried so far, that no member of the flock had any private possession, but they had all things common. And although this practice was not enjoined as a thing of obligation among Christians, yet the principle of it has never ceased, so that the communion of Christian love should always display itself in the communion of Christian kindness, in the language of Christian benevolence, and in actions of liberal and active charity towards all the flock whose circumstances require those manifestations of sympathy at our hands. The limitation of this communion is best understood by the precepts, Do unto all men whatever ye would they should do unto