Benjamin Coxe on who should be allowed to participate in the Lord’s Supper

This is an important little piece from our Particular Baptist heritage. It is not clear that Coxe had certainly adopted Credobaptist views when he wrote this; but his thoughts indicate that he was well on the way. Within a year, he openly identified himself with the Particular Baptists. 



B. C.

Preacher of God’s Word



He who administers the Lord’s Supper to one who is a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner, does therein commit a very grievous and hateful sin. The children of God must have no fellowship at all with this sin, but reprove it.

This is meant only of such a one who is known to have been either a fornicator or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner, and has given no sufficient evidence for a judgment of charity to be satisfied with, of his turning from this wickedness in the exercise of true repentance.

The position or Thesis, specially as touching the first part of the same, is certainly confirmed by the saying of the Apostle in I Cor. 5:11, “But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man who is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner, with such a one, no not to eat.”

Part I

Paul’s Force and Meaning

Touching the meaning and force of this place, I desire that these ensuing propositions may be weighed.

Consider the Following Propositions

1. No man may be admitted to the Lord’s Supper, unless he be called a Brother according to the meaning of the Apostle’s phrase in this place. For he that is not a Brother in this sense, does remain without, I Corinthians 5:12.

2. The Apostle’s meaning in this place is, that it is more tolerable and safe to keep company with fornicators, covetous persons, extortioners, idolaters, who are out of the Church, than with those who are such wicked ones as are here named, and yet are called brethren. We must farther estrange ourselves from these, than from those who are without. The truth of this will presently appear unto you, if you do but look back to I Corinthians 5:9, 10. How then may we safely administer the Lord’s Supper to these, or communicate with them?

3. The word here translated, to keep company, does properly signify, to be mingled with. He who administers the Lord’s Supper to others, and they also that communicate, are in that action mingled one with another.

4. The meaning of the Apostle’s charge concerning the sinners here mentioned is, that which such we should not so much as eat. Does not the Minister eat at the Lord’s Table with those to whom he administers the Sacrament? Do not Communicants there eat and drink with those with whom they do communicate? If we must shun communion with such at a common table, should we not much more shun to communicate with them at the Lord’s Table? It was the use of Christians in the Apostles’ days, to have their Love-Feats, even then, when they met together for the receiving of the Sacrament, as appears in I Cor. 11. They did not then hold it lawful to receive the Sacrament with those, touching whom they were charged, no not to eat with them.

5. The Apostle, having laid this ground in I Corinthians 5:11, does in verse 13 add this inference, “Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.” He thereby means, not only that the incestuous person should be repelled from the Sacrament, but also that he should be cast out of the Church by the sentence of Excommunication. Then he meant not, that these offenders should only be shunned in respect of private and common familiarity, but that they should be repelled from the Sacrament and that their Communion at the Lord’s Table should be shunned.


Paul’s Force

So that the force of this which has been spoken may yet appear more clearly, consider what the Apostle said concerning the Sacrament in I Corinthians 10:16, 17, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the Communion of the Blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the Communion of the Body of Christ? For, we being many are one bread, and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread.” This test assures us of the truth of these Propositions.

The Truth of These Four Propositions

1. True believers rightly receiving this Holy Sacrament, are thereby assured of their partaking of the benefits of Christ’s death.

2. All they who do outwardly receive this Sacrament do therein make an outward profession of receiving Christ crucified, and partaking of the benefits of Christ’s death.

3. This Sacrament does teach and assure all true believing communicants, that they being many persons, are yet one mystical body, because they are all partakers of one and the same Jesus Christ, of whose body the bread is an ordained token and pledge in this Sacrament.

4. They who join together in outward receiving of this Sacrament do both join together in the profession of the same faith in Christ, and also do profess themselves to be (in the judgment of charity, which they now mutually profess concerning each other) fellow members of the same mystical body, as being all fed with the same spiritual food.

How Can a Minister Administer the Supper to the Ungodly?

Judge then with what good conscience a Minister may give this Sacrament to those with whom, for their open wickedness, we are charged not to be mingled, yea, not so much as to eat with them? Consider also with what comfort a Christian may communicate with such?

Now, howsoever in my Thesis and in I Corinthians 5:11, there is express mention made only of him who is a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner, yet what is there expressly said of these, is also to be understood of every other who is called a Brother, and yet is known to live under the reign of any other like sin. For the truth and soundness of this, see and consider these places, Gal. 5:19-21; 2 Thess. 3:6, 14; and 2 Tim. 3:2-5.

The Meaning of These Propositions

Whereas I say of the evil that I have reproved, not only that it is a sin, but also a very grievous and hateful sin, that I may not seem to charge it too heavily, consider,

1. That these persons thus admitted by the Minister to the receiving of the Sacrament, and outwardly joined with by the rest of the Communicants, are by this means hardened in their security and cursed presumption, and thus the Devil is exceedingly aided to carry them easily to hell. Whatsoever fig-leaves we now make use of to cover this shameful evil, their blood will cry loud against us at the day of judgment.

2. That these persons thus communicating must needs abuse God’s ordinance in a high degree, thereby most fearfully increasing both their own sin, and their damnation hereafter.

3. That this admitting of such persons to the Sacrament, makes the whole lump to be soured with their leaven, I Cor. 5:6.

4. That this admitting of such persons to the Sacrament, and communicating with them, makes their wickedness to redound to the shame and dishonor of the Faith and Religion which we profess.

Orderly Conclusions and Biblical Proofs for this Thesis

I shall not need now to insist on any farther proof of the latter part of my Thesis, viz., The Children of God must have no fellowship at all with this sin, but reprove it. But only to press the consideration of these places. “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them,” Ephesians 5:10. “Thou shall in any wise rebuke thy neighbor, and not suffer sin upon him,” Lev. 19:17. “Abstain from all appearance of evil,” I Thess. 5:22. To which you may add Acts 2:40, “Save your selves from this untoward generation.” and 2 Corinthians 6:17, “Come out from among them, and be ye separate, said the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing.” Against the application of this last place, it will be objected, that it is to be understood of separation from wicked ones that are yet without. But then let it be remembered, we must estrange ourselves more from known wicked persons who would seem to be within, then from open wicked persons who are manifestly without. For, so much we have learned from I Corinthians 5:9-11.

Part II


Where as in public a silly objection has been made from I Corinthians 11:29, let it be considered:

1. That the Apostle speaks that with an intended application to the Corinthians, who received the Sacrament unworthily (that is, after an unmeet and irreverent manner) only in a measure, not being under the reign of this sin, as the unregenerate are. The word there translated (damnation) does signify only judgment, and is there to be understood only as such judgments, as God laid upon the Corinthians for their correction in that respect. Thus, the verse there following does make manifest.

2. That this inference, “He that eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks judgment to himself,” therefore his sin cannot hurt any other, or, therefore, no man else ought to restrain him from his sin, or, therefore, no man else needs to refuse to communicate with him. That this inference, I say, is so illogical, false and senseless, as that a man which regards his credit, will be ashamed to own it. It is every man’s duty to keep himself unspotted from the world, James 1:27. Does it therefore follow, that a man is not bound to regard his Brother? Or, that a Christian needs not to turn away from those who deny the power of godliness? Who will stick to say, that Acken by his sin did draw down judgment upon himself only? Will any man of understanding conceive such a saying to imply, that his sin did hurt no body but himself?

As touching those many who were weak and sickly among the Corinthians, and those many among them who were smitten with death, does the Text imply, that none of these felt this affliction for their sinful fellowship with the sin of others who did communicate unworthily? When the Apostle said, “He who eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks judgment to himself,” his meaning is plainly this, he draws misery upon himself by his own sin in communicating unworthily.

If it be farther objected, that the Apostle does not here give order for the repelling of any from the Communion, or for refusing to communicate with them, it is answered, That the persons touching whom he now speaks, were either indeed, or at the least in the Church’s judgment of charity, in some measure fit for the receiving of the Sacrament, sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be Saints, I Corinthians 1:2. Touching wicked persons, appearing to be such, he had already taken order in Chapter 5 and needed not now to repeat it again.

Let A Man Examine Himself

Whereas there has been also some nibbling at these words of the Apostle, “Let a man examine himself,” consider:

1. That the emphasis there lies, not in the word, himself, but in the verb, examine;

2. That no man in his right wits will infer from thence, that a man should not examine those of his own charge;

3. That our present question is not concerning persons, whose unfitness is to be fitted out by examination, but concerning persons whose unfitness and wickedness does already manifestly appear.

22:11, 12 Considered

Whereas a like poor objection has been publicly made from Matthew 22:11,12, for answer thereto consider, That by persons called, spoken of in verse 14, of that chapter, are meant such persons as have not only been invited to faith and repentance by the preaching of the Gospel, but also in outward profession have seemed to answer that call. Accordingly, by the man not having on a wedding garment, are meant such as in God’s sight were found to come short both of sanctification and justification, notwithstanding their fair outward profession by which they had deceived the eyes of men. What is this to the admitting of open wicked persons to the Communion, or communicating with them?

Whereas it is further objected by some well-meaning Christians, deceived by the error of their own judgment, and by the false suggestion of others, That it is their duty to receive the Sacrament, and they cannot be persuaded, that by the performing of their required duty, they should make themselves guilty of hardening others in their sin, or of any such like offence against God to this I answer, that men must take heed that they perform required duties in the right order and manner, not transgressing the rule of God’s Word in the pretended performance of a duty. Otherwise, they will be found not so much to perform a duty, as to provoke God to anger by a great sin. It was the duty of David to bring the Ark to Jerusalem, yet because the Ark was then set upon a cart, and not born by the Priests, the Lord was provoked to anger, see I Chron. 15:13. It was the duty of the Jews, in the days of Zerubable, to build the Temple, yet might they not suffer the Samaritans to built with them, Ezra 4:2, 3. It was the duty of the Jews to eat the Passover, yet might they not eat it in Babylon, though they were enforced to tarry there 70 years, because their eating the Passover there would not have been according to the rule of God’s Word. It was the duty of the Priests to offer Sacrifices, yet they that offered Sacrifices, not in the Temple at Jerusalem, but on the High-Places, did in so doing sin greatly against the Lord. Though it were the duty of all the Israelites to eat the Passover, yet might they not eat the same, either in their own uncleanness, or with those who were uncircumcised, or unclean. So, though it be the duty of Christians to receive the Sacrament, viz., when they may do the same in a right manner and order, yet it does not follow, that they may safely receive the same with those, touching whom they are charged, no, not so much as to eat with them.

If any shall be pleased to own any other Objections against my Thesis or any part of the same, he shall, God willing, speedily receive a satisfactory answer thereunto. But I would now desire, not to be put off with meet objections, but either to have a punctual and clear Answer to the ground that I have now laid, and to the several parts of the same, or, if the same shall be found unanswerable (as indeed it is) then to have the truth thereof ingenuously acknowledged, so I rest,

Jaec Scripsi

April 6, 1642

A True Lover of the Truth, and Sincerely set for the Defence of the Same,

Benjamin Cox.