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that the punishment was inflicted by many; which punishment was obviously excommunication. · Thirdly. Some have ventured to assert that the command to purge out the old leaven was addressed to the elders only. We have no hesitation in replying, that no candid man, who carefully examines the chapter, will believe this. It cannot be doubted that the same persons are addressed throughout the whole chapter : so that, if the elders only were enjoined to purge out the old leaven, it would follow that they only are forbidden to keep company with fornicators, covetous, idolators, to go to law with one another, &c. Does any one believe this ?.
2nd. The passages we are now considering sustain another great principle of Congregationalism, viz., that the decision of a separate church, i. e., of the pastior and private members, is a final one. Every thing in the history tends to show that it was final in the case before us. On Presbyterian principles it could not, however, have been necessarily so. It was the decision of an inferior court merely ; from the sentence of which an appeal might have been demanded to a higher tribunal. There it might have been reversed.
3rd. In support of both these great principles, and indeed, of the Congregational form of church government generally, in contradistinction from the Presbyterian form, I appeal to the directions contained in the New Testament in reference to the reception of members into the church. In the latter denomination, applications for church-fellowship, letters of recommendation from one congregation to another, are presented to the elders, and decided upon by the elders exclusively. The church, understanding by that term the Christian body, have no right to express assent or dissent. They have no control whatever. They are merely apprised, on the one hand, that certain individuals have been added to their fellowship, by their appearance with them at the table of the Lord; or rather,
I should have said, with a part of their number, for they never receive the Lord's Supper in a body, (it cannot be said, for we being many are one,) but in separate companies; and, on the other, that certain others have been excluded from their fellowship, by their non-appearance at the table. At utter variance, as I believe, with this mode of proceeding, are, as I have said, the directions of the New Testament with respect to the reception of members ; for they are directed, not to the elders, but to the Christian body. “ Him that is weak in the faith,” says the Apostle Paul, writing not to the elders merely, but the whole church at Rome, “receive you, but not to doubtful disputations,” Rom. xiv. 1. When Saul, immediately after his conversion to God, went up to Jerusalem, he did not succeed, at first, in accomplishing his wish to ally himself with the Christian body. Why? Did the decision of the elders prevent his entrance into it ? No, “the disciples were afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple,” Acts ix. 26, (a strong proof, by the way, that the primitive churches admitted none whom they did not believe to be real converts to the Christian faith). When the eloquent Apollos was disposed to pass into Achaia, “the brethren” (the brethren, observe, not the elders exclusively,) “wrote" recommendatory epistles. And to whom did they send them ?-Not to the elders, i. e., not exclusively to the elders of the churches to which they might find their way, but to the disciples,—"exhorting the disciples,” says the historian, “to receive him,” Acts xviii. 27. Such recommendatory epistles were not uncommon in primitive times, and they appear to have been of one form; i. e., they were attestations to the Christian character of the person who carried them, sent from the church to which he had formerly belonged, to the Chris. tian body, not the elders exclusively, existing in the place whither he was going. Thus the whole church at Philippi were enjoined by Paul to “receive” their messenger, Epaphroditus, “ with all gladness," chap. ii. 29;
a similar direction was given also concerning Mark, to the Christian body at Colosse, ch. iv. 10.
Finally, in support of the same great principles I appeal to the directions, in regard to the exercise of discipline, which are given in the New Testament. In this, as in the case of the reception of members, the Christian body in the Presbyterian denomination have no control. The elders receive and reject whom they choose, without giving any account of their conduct to the church at large. At utter variance, again, with this mode of proceeding, we find the whole church at Corinth censured for retaining the incestuous person; and the whole church of the Galatians commanded to restore a man who had been overtaken in a fault, Gal. vi. 1-"Ye who are spiritual” (the term brethren cannot, then, mean the elders of the church, for they were not the only spiritual men) “restore such an one,” &c. “In short,” adds an acute, though not a very courteous and temperate writer, “ of all directions as to discipline, of all the censures as to the neglect of it, in the whole of the New Testament, there is not one given to the rulers as distinct from the brethren. Would it not be a very unaccountable thing, if the rulers alone are concerned in discipline, that, in all the commands given on that point, they should never be named ? that all the censures as to the neglect of discipline and abuses, which church rulers alone (according to the Presbyterian form of government) “ could reform, should fall upon those who were neither guilty nor had the power of remedying, that those who alone should have borne the blame, are neither reprimanded, nor even mentioned ?"
We may add, would it not be very wonderful, if there were a right of appeal from the decisions to which these churches were exhorted to come, that not one word should be said about it?
THE DISCIPLINE OF A CHURCH.
By discipline, we understand the execution of the laws by which the church, as a Christian body, is, in all its proceedings, to be regulated.
It is, perhaps, not uncommon to restrict the application of the term discipline to the infliction of church censures. We use it more comprehensively, to denote the caution which should be exercised in the admission of members to the Christian body,--the care which should be put forth in watching over them after their admission to it,—as well as the infliction of the prescribed sentence, when the laws of Christ are violated.
Ist. A church should carefully and conscientiously exercise the discipline of the Lord's house in the reception of members; that is, it should put in force the law of Christ in relation to this important practical point.
The law itself is, that none should be admitted into the churches of the saints but such as are adapted to promote the great objects of Christian fellowship; viz., those only who give satisfactory evidence of the possession of real religion. Having before, vide p. 6, endeavoured to prove that this is the law of the kingdom, I have now merely to call the reader's attention to the importance of putting it in force. The consci. entious exercise of discipline, in relation to this point, is, we observe,
First, Essential to the honour of Christ and his religion. How greatly are both the Master and his cause
dishonoured when, in consequence of the imprudent, indiscriminate, or careless admission of members, little difference can be perceived, if any, between the spirit and conduct of those who are recognised as belonging to the body, and of others who are not.
Secondly. It exerts a powerful influence both upon the comfort and the spiritual progress of the members of the church. “A little leaven,” says the apostle, “ leaveneth the whole lump.” No proverb demands more imperatively than this the careful consideration of Congregational churches; and there is no specific instance, perhaps, in which the general truth involved in it becomes so strikingly apparent, as in the case of the existence of unholy men and women in a Christian church. The admission of even a few persons whose conduct is irregular, or who give no evidence of the possession of real religion, tends to grieve the Holy Spirit; to clog all the proceedings of the church ; to paralyze the whole body; to prevent the adoption of general measures for promoting its spiritual welfare ; to wound the spirit, cool the ardour, and endanger the stability even of the most spiritually-minded of its members.
Thirdly. It is eminently adapted to promote the salvation of sinners. Few things tend more powerfully to prevent the success of the Gospel than a relaxation of discipline in reference to the admission of members into the church. Such as are visibly connected with the Christian body are avowedly religious persons. Should there, then, appear no marked difference between them, and obviously worldly men, how can it be otherwise than that the latter should be led to form false and degraded views of the nature and power of religion? To them it must appear a name and a pretence, and nothing else ; and thus they are willingly deluded to their final ruin. But when the members of a church are recognised by others as a holy society, when they are both decidedly and visibly separated from the world, in reference to their principles of action and their manner of life, their de