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ments, with just grief to the church ; or out of schism, or want of love, and out of a spirit of contention in respect of some unkindness, or some evil only conceived, or indeed in the church, which might and should be tolerated and healed with a spirit of meekness, and of which evil the church is not yet convinced (though perhaps himself be) nor admonished; for these or the like reasons to withdraw from public communion in word, or seals, or censures, is unlawful and sinful.
2 Tim. 4:10. Rom. 16:17. Jude 19. Eph. 4: 2, 3. Col. 3: 13. Gal. 6:1,2.
5. Such members as have orderly removed their habitation, ought to join themselves unto the church in order where they do inhabit, if it may be ; otherwise they can neither perform the duties nor receive the privileges of members. Such an example tolerated in some, is apt to corrupt others, which if many
should follow, would threaten the dissolution and confusion of churches, contrary to the Scripture. Isa. 56: 8. Acts 9:26. 1 Cor. 14: 33.
6. Order requires, that a member thus removing, have letters testimonial and of dismission from the church whereof he yet is, unto the church whereunto he desireth to be joined, lest the church should be deluded; that the church may receive him in faith, and not be corrupted by receiving deceivers and false brethren. Until the person dismissed be received into another church, he ceaseth not by his letters of dismission to be a member of the church whereof he was, the church cannot make a member no member, but by excommunication. Acts 18 : 27.
7. If a member be called to remove only for a time, where a church is, letters of recommendation are requisite and sufficient for communion with that church in the ordinances and in their watch; as Phebe, a servant of the church at Cenchrea, had letters written for her to the church at Rome, that she might be received as becometh saints. Rom. 16: 1,2. 2 Cor. 3: 1.
8. Such letters of recommendation and dismission were written for Apollos; for Marcus to the Colossians; for Phebe to the Romans, for sundry others to other churches. And the apostle telleth us, that some persons, not sufficiently known otherwise,
have special need of such letters, though he for his part had no need thereof. The use of them is to be a benefit and help to the party for whom they are written, and for the furthering of his receiving amongst the saints in the place whereto he goeth, and the due satisfaction of them in their receiving of him.
Acts 18:27. Col. 4:10. Rom, 16:1. 2 Cor. 3:1.
1 Tim. 5: 20.
1. The censures of the church are appointed by Christ for the preventing, removing, and healing of offences in the church ; for the reclaiming and gaining of offending brethren ; for the deterring others from the like offences; for purging out the leaven which may infect the whole lump; for vindicating the honor of Christ, and of his church, and the holy profession of the gospel ; and for preventing of the wrath of God, that may justly fall upon the church, if they should suffer his covenant, and the seals thereof, to be profaned by notorious and obstinate offenders.
Deut. 13:11. 17: 12, 13. Jude 19. 1 Cor. 5:6. Rom. 2: 24. Rev. 2: 14-16, 20.
2. If an offence be private, one brother offending another, the offender is to go and acknowledge his repentance for it unto his offended brother, who is then to forgive him; but if the offender neglect or refuse to do it, the brother offended is to go and convince and admonish him of it, between themselves privately. If thereupon the offender be brought to repent of his offence, the admonisher hath won his brother; but if the offender hear not his brother, the brother offended is to take with him one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established, whether the word of admonition, if the offender receive it; or the word of complaint, if he refuse it; for if he refuse it, the offended brother is by the mouth of the elders to tell the church, and if he hear the church, and declare the same by penitent confession, he is recovered and gained ; and if the church discern him to be willing to hear, yet not fully convinced of his offence, as in case of heresy, they are to dis
pense to him a public admonition; which declaring the offender to lie under the public offence of the church, doth thereby withhold or suspend him from the holy fellowship of the Lord's supper, till his offence be removed by penitent confession. If he still continue obstinate, they are to cast him out by excommunication. Matt. 5:23, 24. Luke 17:3, 4. Matt. 18: 15–17. Tit. 3: 10.
3. But if the offence be more public at first, and of a more heinous and criminal nature, to wit, such as are condemned by. the light of nature, then the church, without such gradual proceeding, is to cast out the offender from their holy communion, for the further mortifying of his sin, and the healing of his soul in the day of the Lord Jesus. 1 Cor. 5: 4, 5, 11.
4. In dealing with an offender, great care is to be taken, that we be neither overstrict or rigorous, nor too indulgent or remiss; our proceeding herein ought to be with a spirit of meekness, considering ourselves, lest we also be tempted; and that the best of us have need of much forgiveness from the Lord. Yet the winning and healing of the offender's soul, being the end of these endeavors, we must not daub with untempered mortar, nor heal the wounds of our brethren slightly. On some have compassion, others save with fear.
Gal. 6:1. Matt. 18: 34, 35. Ezek. 13:10. Matt. 18: 17. 1 Cor. 5: 11. 2 Thess. 3:6, 14.
5. If the Lord sanctify the censure to the offender, so as by the grace of Christ he doth testify bis repentance with humble confession of his sins, and judging of himself, giving glory unto God, the church is then to forgive him, and to comfort him, and to restore him to the wonted brotherly communion which formerly he enjoyed with them. 2 Cor. 2: 7, 8.
6. The suffering of profane or scandalous livers to continue in fellowship, and partake in the sacraments, is doubtless a great sin in those that have power in their hands to redress it, and do
Nevertheless, inasmuch as Christ and his apostles in their times, and the prophets and other godly in theirs, did lawfully partake of the Lord's commanded ordinances in the Jewish church, and neither taught nor practised separation from the
same, though unworthy ones were permitted therein ; and inasmuch as the faithful in the church of Corinth, wherein were many unworthy persons and practices, are never commanded to absent themselves from the sacraments, because of the same; therefore the godly in like cases are not presently to separate. Rev. 2: 14, 15, 20. Matt. 23: 3. Acts 3:1. 1 Cor. 6. 15: 12.
7. As separation from such a church wherein profane and scandalous persons are tolerated, is not presently necessary; so for the members thereof, otherwise unworthy, hereupon to abstain from communicating with such a church in the participation of the sacraments, is unlawful. For as it were unreasonable for an innocent person to be punished for the faults of others, wherein he hath no hand, and whereunto he gave no consent; so it is more unreasonable, that a godly man should neglect duty, and punish himself, in not coming for his portion in the blessing of the seals as he ought, because others are suffered to come that ought not; especially considering that himself doth neither consent to their sins, nor to their approaching to the ordinance in their sin, nor to the neglect of others who should put them away, and do not; but on the contrary doth heartily mourn for these things, modestly and seasonably stir up others to do their duty. If the church cannot be reformed, they may use their liberty as is specified, chap. 13, sect. 3. But this all the godly are bound unto, even every one to do his endeavor, according to his power and place, that the unworthy may be duly proceeded against, by the church to whom this matter doth appertain.
2 Chron. 30: 18. Gen. 18: 25. Ezek. 9: 4.
THE MARKS OF A TRUE AND OF A FALSE CHURCH.
1. All men ought diligently and circumspectly to discern from the word of God, which is the true church, since all sects which are in the world assume to themselves the name of the church. The marks by which the true church is known, are these: If the pure doctrine of the gospel is preached therein ; if it maintains the pure administration of the sacraments, as instituted by
Christ; if church discipline is exercised in punishing of sin; in short, if all things are managed according to the pure word of God, all things contrary thereto rejected; and Jesus Christ acknowledged as the only Head of the church. With respect to those, who are members of the church, they may be known by the marks of Christians, namely, by faith ; and when they have received Jesus Christ, the only Saviour, they avoid sin, follow after righteousness, love the true God and their neighbor, neither turn aside to the right or left, and crucify the flesh with the works thereof. But this is not to be understood, as if there did not remain in them great infirmities; but they fight against them through the spirit, all the days of their life, continually taking their refuge to the blood, death, passion, and obedience of our Lord Jesus Christ,“ in whom they have remission of sins, through faith in him."
2. That is evidently a false church which ascribes more power and authority to itself and its ordinances, than the word of God; or which fails to exercise a scriptural discipline, and denies the essential doctrines of Christianity.
UNITY OF THE VISIBLE CHURCH.
The unity of the visible catholic church is not immediately apparent, because it is divided into different societies, not only distinct in place, but holding tenets and usages somewhat peculiar. But the appearance of disunion will be diminished, if we exclude from this society all heretical sects, and recognize as the constituent members, those only who acknowledge "one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all.”
These we account one, on account of the fundamental points in which they agree, and do not consider the unity destroyed by the minor points in which they disagree. Particular churches should look upon themselves only as integral parts, and not as the whole. The latter idea is too much encouraged by the illiberal views and high pretensions of some parties.