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prayer for the blessing of God on what has been done in the name of Christ.
This is called “ punishment inflicted by many," being the deed of “the whole church,” 2nd Cor. ii. 6. The original word signifies punishment, by rebuke, in this case, consisting of open protestation against sin, in the exclusion of the impenitent offender. But the text affords no warrant for the infliction of pains and penalties affecting the relations of civil life. A man may be a respectable member of civil society, though he has no part in the kingdom of God.
The command="to deliver such an one unto Satan," means nothing more than to “ count him an heathen man and a publican,” by separating him from the church to the world, over which Satan presides. By joining a church, a man professes to be “turned from the power of Satan to God," and by separation from the church he is “delivered to Satan" by being turned back to Satan's kingdom, which is of this world, and no longer connected with the kingdom of Christ.
But this is not intended for destruction but for salvation -."' for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” This is Christ's ordinance for awakening the offender to repentance, that he may be saved, and should be attended to by the church for that end, not with vindictive feeling, but in love, and with much prayer, that the end may be gained as in the case at Corinth. Being the testimony of “ the whole church," as God's witnesses, that the excluded hath no part in the kingdom of God, and a sign of his open separation from that kingdom, at the last day, except he repent, it is well fitted to awaken him to a true sense of his condition, and should be so explained for that end.
The act of excommunication by the church is also a practical manifestation that “the kingdom of Christ is not of this world," and a solemn sign of the separation of the wicked from the just at the last day. And while, in this view, it is an impressive warning sign to the world, it is intended also to act upon the church, so as “all may hear and fear, and do no such wickedness." By putting away an obstinate offender, they are laid under additional obligation to put away their own sins; and every one who thinketh he standeth, is warned to take heed lest he fall, and to watch and pray lest he enter into temptation.
In reference to this solemn service, Christ hath said, “Verily, I say unto you, whatsoever ye shal Ibind on earth
shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven," Mat. xviii. 18. The plain import of this is, that whatsoever is done in the name of Christ and according to his word in the church on earth, will be ratified in heaven, and held binding on all concerned, making the excluded offender "bound” over to Satan without escape but by repentance, and binding all other churches not to receive him without making reparation for the offence which had caused his exclusion. No church having respect for their own character, and for the order and ends of christian government, will receive one who has been a run-away from discipline, or who has been excluded from another church, till he “go his way and first be reconciled” to those who have "somewhat against him," as commanded in Mat. v. 24; knowing that on no other terms will God receive him. · Regarding the subsequent treatment of the excluded, there is a law in ist Cor. v. 9-11, commanding the church to avoid his company more than that of the world. This is required : -1. For giving full effect to the separation in what is occasional as well as stated fellowship. 2. He must be avoided as an occasion of temptation, lest others be corrupted by him. Ist Cor. y. 6. 3. They must keep no company with him, to shew that they regard him as none of them, but an unbeliever ; which is the more necessary as many in such circumstances think and speak of themselves as christians, though declared by exclusion as having no part in Christ.
They must keep no company with him that he may be ashamed, and that by such expressions of disapprobation, he may be awakened to repentance. This plan is further recommended by the example of God himself, who withdraws from backsliders, till they repent. “ I will go and return to my place till thoy acknowledge their offence. In their affliction they will seek me early,” Hos. v. 15. On this branch of the subject, the talented Author of Jethro says, “ Much ignorance of this great scripture rule, of its wonderous adaptation to bind and control the stubborn heart of man, and much spurious, so called, christian charity, prevail upon the subject, to the great detriment of the cause of God. The power of discipline greatly lies in the indignation of an unanimous multitude. Every one of that multitude must act a part, as they act together ; the erring brother must see nothing but a compassionate frown in every face, and hear nothing but a faithful rebuke and admonition fron every tongue. He must find no rest to his soul- not one drop of comfort till he repent, and be restored to the favour of God and his church! Paul commands every believer,
with such an one not to eat,'—' withdraw yourselves,' --" have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.” Do all this ;-do it resolutely. It is the greatest benevolence, the truest love. It is, in fact, the counterpart of the Saviour's own frown. It is really through his people that he imparts the impressions of his mind; his church ought, therefore, as a mirror, to reflect his image,-his frown as well as his smile. It is a lamentable fact, that multitudes of members are either ignorant or negligent respecting this momentous duty. They sin, and call it charity! They are really cruel under pretence of kindness! They counteract discipline, and virtually conspire against the authority of Christ, and resist the operation of his laws; they set at nought the voice of the church, and prevent the infliction of its sentence; they harden the offender in his sins, and neutralize the means intended to bring him to repentance !”
But the law in question is not intended to act as an in.. fringement on the ordinary and lawful intercourse of domes-, tic and social life. Nor is it intended to prevent intercourse for leading the impenitent to repentance. It is the bounden duty of christians to seek the good results of exclusion, by occasional endeavours to restore what has been cut off or gone astray. Ezek. xxxiv, 6, 8; Luke xv. 3–7; 2nd Cor. ii. 6–8; James v. 19, 20.
DUTIES OF CHURCHES TO EACH OTHER AND
TO THE WORLD.
It was said unto the churches of Galatia, “ Ye are all one in Christ Jesus,” Gal. iii. 28,--and this oneness in Christ is common to all scriptural churches, and is the proper basis of their occasional fellowship. The duties of the fellowship of churches are to maintain the intercourse of brotherly love by letters or messengers-lst Cor. xvi. 3 ; 2nd Cor. viii. 23; to receive each other's members by “letters of commendation"-Rom. xvi. 1 ;-to afford the benefit of teaching gifts in time of need, as when the church at Jerusalem sent Barnabas to Antioch-Acts xi. 22 ;-to minister temporal supplies when neederl, as when the Gentile churches made “ a certain contribution for the poor saints at Jerusal»m"- Rom. xv. 26 ;-to endeavour to correct what is w.ong in each other's faith, order, or practice, as in the case which led the church at Antioch to send a deputation to the
church at Jerusalem-Acts xv. ;--and to co-operate in extending the cause of Christ, as did all the primitive churches.
The fellowship of churches also appears in the occasional visits of pastors and members from one church to another, arising from the calls of Providence in their journeyings. As a member of “the household of faith,” every disciple finds a home in every dwelling-place of Zion, where he may sojourn for a time, and is entitled to take his place and part in every ordinance, the same as where he statedly resides.
The right or obligation of one or more churches to en. deavour to correct an erring church, is found in the nature of their relation, confirmed by scripture example. In the view of the confidence of brotherly love being the basis of fellowship among churches, as well as among believers in one church, there is the same reason for removing what impair's that confidence in the one case as in the other. Every churcle is entitled to see, that the churches with which they hold fellowship are not violating the terms of compact. Nor can any church wink at the known faults of another churcii, without thereby becoming “ partakers of their sing." Tho example of the church at Antioch, in sending a deputation to the church at Jerusalem, under an impression that that church had been leavened by “certain who went out from them, and troubled others, subverting their souls," is a rulo of binding obligation to all churches to act on the same principle, as occasions require,not waiting, in all cases, till they are sought or their advice required, but sending agents for inquiry and counsel, on hearing of continued troubles.
It it is asked, how such interference consists with the independency of churches, it might as well be asked, how tho treatment of offences in any church consists with religious liberty ? Every scriptural church is independent in respect of being subject to no foreign judicatory acting apart front the churches, in their government, but not independent of the aids of sister churches. Nor can any scriptural effort to correct the faults of a church, in any degree impair their spiritual independence.
It inay be further alleged, that the lawfulness of such interference does not consist with the fact, that Christ commanded each of the erring churches of Asia to repent of their sins, without requiring the one to interfere with the other for promoting reformation. To this it can be readily answered, that Christ also commands every erring disciple to repent; but it cannot be inferred from this, that others are not bound to endeavour to reclaim an offender, on seeing him
neglecting to hear Christ. Every church is commanded to "amend their ways," by hearing Christ speaking to them in his word; and it is only in the event of their not hearing him, that neighbouring churches should interfere to produce repentance,
This can be done only by deputation of messengers sent to the erring church,not, however, as armed with power to conquer, but inspired with wisdom and love to persuade and win,-not as a church court standing in the place of Christ to “cnnct and ordain," but as fellow-subjects of the same Lord, showing, with all humility and meekness, the requirements of divine law for convincing of sin, and the prescriptions of grace for producing repentance ;- always commencing by inquiry, and proceeding with such appropriate application of principles as the development of circum. stances may suggest, looking to Christ for guidance and success.
It has been a question, in such cases, whether the ends intended could not be gained by written advice, without a personal deputation. But it is impossible to form a correct judgment of what pertains to mind, without being on the spot, hearing the words, and observing the temper of all concerned. No wise medical practitioner would prescribe without feeling the pulse of his patient, and carefully observ. ing the symptoms that mark the character of the disease ; nor can the man of God prescribe for recovery from moral disease, without observing what is necessary to guide him in speaking "a word in due season." But the main aim of such a deputation should be to awaken and lead the church to direct intercourse with Christ himself about their condition, as the only way by which they can be convinced of sin, purged and healed, as in the following instance :
On hearing of discord in a church, about their pastor, who was one of the most blameless of men, two neighbouring churches sent a deputation of their pastors to inquire and do their best to promote healing, promising to sustain them in the work by Their prayers. On finding how matters stood, this deputation proposed that the church should set apart a day of fasting and humiliation for special prayer, that God might shew them what sins were the causes of their troubles, and promote healing by repentance. To this the church consented, and after spending the greater part of the day in prayer, and reading such portions of Scripture as seemed to bear on the case, with occasional brief remarks ; one of the ministers remarked, that as there had been much prayer that