Can Change the World Again.
PRINCIPLES OF CHURCH DISCIPLINE.
[From The Oberlin Quarterly Review ARTICLE LXXII. May 1848.]
BY PRESIDENT ASA MAHAN.
It is quite common for individuals to assume particular declarations of scripture designed only to be applied to particular and specific cases, as giving universal rules to be applied in all cases of every kind. The result is that one part of inspiration is placed in palpable contradiction to others equally important and sacred. An error of this kind has, in our judgment, been fallen into by a large part of the church, in the assumption that the directions given, Matt. 18: 15-17 was designed as law universal for discipline in respect to all forms of offences whatever, whether individual or public; when in fact, as we shall see hereafter, it was given as a particular rule for specified cases, to wit, individual and private offences. The result of this assumption has been that directions equally sacred pertaining to offences of other kinds, have been totally overlooked. The church has also been left without any settled principles which she could intelligently apply to all forms of offences demanding discipline. Suppose for example, a member of a church has gone to distant regions and there become a notorious pirate, or robber. The church has proof the most absolute of his guilt. Yet she can, by no possibility get to him, so as to take the first and second steps with him. What must be done? If the passage under consideration be assumed as giving law universal for all forms of offences, the church must retain the wretch in her bosom till his dying day. She can pass no vote of censure or suspension in respect to him. Indeed, she can, as a body, take no cognizance of his crimes in any form whatever. For the offence, according to this view of the subject, is never to be so much as named in the church, till after the first and second steps have been taken. The church therefore has no right to consider any offence in any form. She has no right to appoint a committee to investigate evil reports, or to take the steps referred to. She has no right to do any thing about the offences of any of her members, till after the case is submitted to her adjudication, by those who have, as individuals, in their private capacity, taken these steps and failed to bring the offenders to repentance. To do so, would be to set aside a part of the solemn direction of our Savior, and if a part may be thus set aside, why may not the whole be?
Further, let us suppose that the offender above referred to, should, every time the church is engaged in celebrating the Lord's supper, appear in her midst, and at the close escape without the possibility of individuals taking the first and second steps in a process of discipline. The church in that case, would be bound to distribute the elements to him, as a brother beloved, and continue to do so every time she celebrated the ordinance. She can know no individual of her body in any other relation, till after those steps have been taken. Such are the necessary and undeniable consequences of assuming this passage as law universal for discipline in respect to all forms of offences. More of this hereafter.
Special attention is now invited to a consideration of other passages of Scripture bearing upon our present inquiries, for the purpose of a clear and distinct understanding of the true principles of discipline to be applied in all cases. We will introduce the subject by a reference, as the basis of our elucidations, to 2 Cor. vii; 9-11.
"Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. For behold this self-same thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter."
Here we have the form which true repentance for a sin with which the apostle had charged the church at Corinth, in the preceding epistle, assumed, in consequence of the expostulations contained in that epistle. An individual, a member of the church, had been guilty of marrying the wife of his own father, the father being still alive. Compare verse 12 of the chapter before us, with 1 Corinthians, 5: 1. The church, instead of excommunicating the offender, as they, were bound to have done at once, had not even commenced a process of discipline with him in any form. The consequence of such a sin persisted in on the part of the church, would be the destruction of the offender himself, in the first instance, and in the next, the fatal corruption of the church who should retain such a criminal in her bosom.
"For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us."1 Cor. 5: 3-7.
"That the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus," that is, the only hope of saving the offender himself is his prompt excommunication. "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump," that is, you will yourselves, if you do not put him away from among you, become as corrupt and guilty as he himself is. The reader will mark particularly the directions which inspiration required the church to pursue in the case referred to. It was not that they should take the first and second steps in discipline, and if these failed, then to pronounce sentence of excommunication. It was not that they should attempt his reformation in the church, and thus failing to proceed to extremities. One direction and only one was given, and that was, that as soon as the church should come together, to pronounce sentence of excommunication upon him.
"And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among. For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus."
The great reason urged for this course was, as we have seen, that it was the only means by which the individual could be reclaimed, on the one hand, and the church saved from corruption on the other.
For a more full understanding of this subject, we now turn to a consideration of the effects produced upon the church at Corinth, by the reasonings and expostulations of the apostle. The first result was deep sorrow and regret on account of the course which they had pursued relatively to the criminal. The next was, that this sorrow, which "was after a godly sort," induced in them a form of repentance in all respects approved of God, a repentance no elements of which they had occasion to repent of. This repentance was followed by a course of conduct in all respects what it should have been. The characteristics of the repentance induced by the godly sorrow exercised by the church, as enumerated by the apostle are the following. Carefulness, "What carefulness it [godly sorrow] wrought in you," that is, what haste, promptitude, earnest effort, forwardness to do the thing required, to wit, excommunicate the offender, "What clearing of yourselves," that is, apologising. Those who had not partaken of the sin of the church in the flagrant neglect of duty, exposed the fact, and showed to Titus, Paul's messenger, that they were innocent in the matter. Those, on the other hand, who had sinned, confessed the fact, and condemned and reprobated the sin of the offender, and their own conduct relatively to it. What indignation, that is, what deep reprobation of the sin, and the sinner who had perpetrated the sin. "What fear," that is, as Mr. Barnes says, "fear lest the thing should be repeated. Fear lest it should not be entirely removed." It implies a fear, that the entire evil might not be corrected, and their duty in the case not fully complied with. "What zeal," zeal to remove the sin by taking the offender from their midst, and doing all that duty required in the case. What revenge, that is, what prompt and ready execution of the sentence of excommunication upon the offender. "In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter," that is, the entire state of mind induced by the godly sorrow which you exercised, and the course pursued under its influence is what it should have been. The following important principles pertaining to the discipline of offenders are clearly deducible from the case before us, as binding the church in all similar cases.
1. The first, and only thing for the church to do in all such cases, is to excommunicate the offender, his guilt being clearly ascertained.
2. Any other course, in such cases, tends to the destruction of the individual, and the corruption of the church, and to no other result whatever.
3. No church is in a state which God fully approves, who is not ready thus to avenge all such offences. The carefulness, the clearing of themselves, the indignation, the fear, the vehement desire, the zeal, the revenge exercised by the Corinthian church, is the only state of mind, and course of conduct which God approves, and will sanction in respect to all similar offenders.
Now if we can clearly ascertain the characteristics of the offence under consideration, we shall have developed an important principle of discipline to be applied in all cases of a given character. What, then, are the distinguishing characteristics of this case?
One thing is quite evident in respect to it. It was an offence of such a nature, that it must have been perpetrated with a distinct knowledge of the fact that it was sin. No doubt could have rested upon the mind of the offender in respect to its character as sin. When he perpetrated it, he did it with, a distinct knowledge of its criminality.
Equally evident is the fact, that it was a deliberate offence. The individual did not fall in consequence of having come under some sudden, unexpected temptation. The act was deliberately performed with a distinct knowledge of its character as sin.
It was, finally, a crime, perpetrated under such circumstances as clearly to indicate established character. The man had entered upon his career of crime with the purpose distinctly and deliberately formed to continue in it. Such a case differs fundamentally from crimes, however aggravated in themselves, which are committed under the influence of some sudden temptation. The latter may, and as we shall see in the progress of this article, do require a different course of treatment from the former. Now if we suppose, as all Christians will admit, that the inspired direction of the apostle in the case before us is of any authority at all in respect to the church at the present time, it will follow, as a necessary consequence, that whenever a case occurs bearing the same fundamental characteristics that this one does, the same course of procedure laid down for this one case, will also bind the church in the case supposed. To deny this is to assume that inspired directions for specific cases are not law for us in cases precisely similar. This would render entirely nugatory a vast majority of the precepts of the Bible; for they are given in this precise form. Inspiration affirms what is demanded in a specific case, leaving us to apply the principle thus revealed to all similar cases.
What, then, is the principle or law of discipline revealed in the inspired direction of the apostle in this one specific case, the law which binds the church in reference to all offences bearing the same fundamental characteristics? It is this. Whenever an individual professing godliness, is found in the deliberate perpetration of known crime, whenever he is detected in carrying out a plan of acknowledged wickedness, so that his character as a criminal stands revealed as established, as would be true in the circumstances supposed, then his reformation is not at all to be sought in the church. He is to be cast out of it at once, as soon as, on proper trial, his guilt is formally established. The adoption of any other course in such a case tends not to the reformation, but destruction of the offender, not to the purity, but corruption of the entire church to which he belongs. If any use at all is to be made, as law in cases of discipline, of the inspired direction relatively to the case under consideration, this must be it. No other intelligent use can be made of it.
I will give one or two cases in illustration of the principle under consideration, as I understand it. A superintendent of a sabbath school in an eastern city blasted the virtue of one of his teachers, who till she fell a victim to his designs, had sustained a most unblemished reputation. On examination of the case, the church found that that fell deed had been the result of a plan systematically carried on for many months. What should be done in such a case? One, and only one thing. Prompt and immediate excommunication. All hope of saving the criminal himself from death, and the church from corruption, depends upon this one course being adopted.
An individual of high standing in the church and community in one of the towns of New England, had been accustomed for many years to spend a certain portion of each year abroad. Before leaving, he always invited the church to hold a special prayer meeting at his house, and ever took his leave of them with a solemn admonition to be all found walking in the ways of the Lord, on his return. The night following he would leave with one or more stolen horses of his neighbors, and all the treasures he would bring with him on his return were found to be the fruit of crimes rendering him a candidate for the penitentiary. What would be the inspired direction of the apostle to that church in respect to such a case? It would be this, and this only:
1 Corinthians 5: 3-7. "For I verily, as absent in the body, but present in spirit, have judged already as though I were present, concerning him who hath so done this deed, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the, old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us."
What carefulness, yea, what clearing of herself, yea, what indignation, yea what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge, will every church manifest towards all offenders of such a character, found in her bosom,every church, we say, who is in harmony with the spirit and express teachings of inspiration relatively to sin. The church, as constituted and designed by its divine founder, is the asylum for the penitent, the poor in spirit and the broken hearted. In it, the bruised reed is not broken, nor the smoking flax quenched. But it is not the hiding-place of crime. The deliberate perpetrator of foul wrong is not to have a place there, no, not for a moment, after his crimes have, through proper trial, been ascertained. Nor is the church the place to attempt the reformation of such men.
They belong to the world. Among them therefore they are to be placed, and if ever re-admitted to the bosom of the church, they are to be received as those who have been converted from the world. The adoption of any other course in such cases, is not only contrary to the express teachings of inspiration, but its tendency is evil and only evil; evil to the offenders themselves, and evil to the church. If the church does not proceed to exercise discipline in such cases, she becomes a partaker of the sin which she tolerates, and her real moral corruption will be equal to that of the criminals whom she fellowships. If she attempts their reformation within her bosom, she presents a temptation to them, almost, if not quite, irresistibly strong to make hypocritical professions of reformation. An individual who has been perpetrating crime under the mask of religion, will be irresistibly tempted to repeat his hypocrisy in the form of professed repentance, if the church will hold out inducements to it, by attempting his reformation within her bosom. Such a course has no tendency to purify the church from criminals, one great object of discipline; but to fill it with hypocrites. The temptation to a hypocritical profession, it should also be borne in mind, is strong in exact proportion to the grossness of the offense of which the criminal has been guilty. The same is true also of the feeling of remorse, which is likely to be mistaken for repentance. The tendency then of attempting to reform offenders within the church, is to generate and then retain in its bosom the basest hypocrites on earth. Such a course tends to no other result whatever. It also tends to divide and distract the church itself. Many members will assume that signs of remorse, which will certainly exist, and professions of repentance, such as practiced hypocrites know well how to make, and certainly will make in the circumstances supposed, are indications of genuine repentance. Others, of course, will judge differently. Parties will be formed which will very likely bite and devour one another, until they are consumed one of another.
Contrast with the above the tendency of strict adherence to, the apostolic injunction under consideration. Such a course at once frees the church from all imputations from the world, on account of any crimes perpetrated by her members. Any society, and above all the church of the Living God is honored by the exclusion of criminals from their association. Prompt exclusion of criminals from the church also tends to preserve the conscience and heart of the church in a proper state towards offences. Offences in the estimation of all her members become fearful things.
Nor is the influence of such a course of less salutary tendency upon offenders. Let those individuals, who, by practicing crime under the cloak of religion, have made her their refuge, be told, that no professions of theirs can have any influence to restore them to the confidence or fellowship of the church. Nothing will do this, but the fruits of holiness in lives of strict obedience to Christ, and the spirit of Christ thus manifested. All motives to hypocritical professions of repentance, the great sin to which they are exposed are taken away, and they are thrown upon the only influences adapted to secure their real reformation, to wit, the idea of restoration to a standing in the confidence and fellowship of the church, through a life of "righteousness and true holiness." The entire influence of the church is thus brought to bear upon the very point on which their salvation turns. If they can have any hope of restoration to confidence by professed repentance, such professions will certainly be made, and they will remain hypocrites still; yes, if possible tenfold more the children of hell than before. Their salvation depends upon this temptation being taken away. Let them be at once put out of the church, with the distinct understanding that professions of repentance will not avail to restore them to confidence or fellowship, either, that when they shall by their lives reveal characters worthy of confidence and fellowship, they will be most gladly restored to both, and this temptation is not only taken away, but they are placed in circumstances of all others best adapted to secure their salvation. The strong reprobation manifested in their prompt exclusion from the church, tends above all things else to break the power of their sinful propensities in the first instance, while the hope of restoration to full and cordial fellowship by a life of virtue and obedience, gives to all the motives and influences of the gospel the greatest efficacy in inducing real genuine repentance. This, I can not but think is the true idea of the apostle in the declaration, "to deliver such a man over unto Satan," that is, exclude from the company of the faithful, and place among the world, the followers of Satan where he belongs, "for the destruction of the flesh," (the breaking of the power of carnal propensities,) "that the spirit may be saved in the day of Jesus Christ," by his real conversion. I sincerely question the fact whether the real reformation of a confirmed hypocrite was ever secured upon any other principles.
An objection against the view of the subject presented above may by some be drawn from Titus 3: 10.
"A man that is an heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject."
In this case the reformation of the offender is to be sought in the church. He is to be twice admonished, and that without reformation, before excommunication is to be resorted to. The reason for this direction, in this case, is obvious. The simple fact that important error has been embraced, is not in itself proof of total subversion of character. But remaining in such error, after proper means for recovery have been used; is. Hence such means are to be used until the fact of moral subversion has been ascertained. Then the delinquent is to be rejected, and put out of the church. The direction of inspiration in this case, as contrasted with that given in the case of the offender in Cor. 5: 1-5, developes therefore another important principle of discipline, namely: when an offence has been committed which in itself, and under the circumstances of its occurrences does not imply total subversion, as the continued deliberate perpetration of crime does, then the reformation of the offender is to be sought within the church, and he is not to be cast out of it, till resistance to admonition proves that he is a subverted man. To this class belong those referred to Titus 3: 10, and all cases of offences under sudden temptation. In. Gal. 6: 1, the church is directed by inspiration to reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with all long suffering and doctrine, making a difference between such and gross deliberate offenders, pulling the former out of the fire. The manifest fact that inspiration makes this difference between these classes of offences, demanding immediate excommunication in one instance, and patient, persevering efforts for reformation, before resort is had to extremities, in the other, shows clearly, that we had rightly announced the principles of discipline, thus far.
We are now prepared to consider the real meaning of our Savior in Mat. 18: 15-17. The class of offences here referred to are specific ones, to wit, individual and private offences. The design of our Savior is to reveal the principle which binds us as law universal for the redress of such wrongs. The principle here revealed was never designed as a law of discipline for the church in respect to public offences. The design of the Savior was, to designate a line of conduct which, as individuals, we are to pursue for the redress of individual and private offences. This I argue from the following considerations.
1. This is the identical case specified. "If thy brother trespass against thee, go, tell him his fault between him and thee alone." The case is a definite and specific one, and specific directions are given for its adjustment. Nothing is more contrary to all correct principles of interpretation, than the application of such a direction as law universal for all offences whatever.
2. On the supposition that this is the principle to be applied in all cases, the church, as we have seen in the commencement of this essay, can take no original jurisdiction of any offences whatever. She cannot even appoint a committee to investigate evil reports, or to reclaim offenders. This would imply a public adjudication of them, in some form, and in the case last named, would imply a positive judgment, that wrong has been done. Else why appoint a committee for the reclamation of the offender? The church, on the other hand, can take no cognizance of the conduct of her members, till after cases are submitted to her by individuals who have taken the first and second steps without redress. Now who can suppose that the Head of the church has left discipline in such a state as that? In case of public offences, the entire church are directly aggrieved, and who should take cognizance of the case if she does not.
3. It would, as we have also seen, be perfectly easy for the grossest offenders to put themselves in such relations to the church, as to render discipline absolutely impossible, if the passage before us be understood as law for the administration of discipline in respect to public offences. Suppose a member of a church has become a notorious pirate upon the high seas. Neither the church nor any of its members can get to him to take the first and second steps. Nor can they communicate with him by letter. What must be done? Must the wretch remain in the bosom of the church? He must, if he chooses to do it, according to this view of the passage under consideration.
4. But suppose that the church is permitted by this passage to take up public offences, but is required to take the first and second steps before proceeding to adjudicate upon it. This makes the command of our Savior the height of absurdity. The precept would in that case read thus:If an individual trespass against the church, (as is the case in all public offences,) let the church go and tell him his fault between her and him alone. If he neglect to hear the church, through her committee if you please, let the church take with her one or two more, that is, one or two more churches. If he neglect to hear them, let the church tell the thing to the church, that is, to herself. Such is the real meaning of this command, unless we restrict it, as its language requires, to individual and private offences.
5. The case, if possible, is still worse, if we suppose that public offences are in the first instance, not to be taken up by the church as a body, but by individuals. According to this view of the subject, every member of the church is bound, though their number may consist of thousands, to commence a process of discipline. I cannot delegate my duty to another. The duty devolves, if not upon the church as a body, upon each individual in particular. Every one, whatever others may have done, or be doing, is bound to commence the process of discipline. Or if the fact that one is before the rest, binds them to suspend efforts, those who ought to be the last to interfere are most likely to be the first, and the whole process to be conducted as badly as it can be. Who can suppose that the Savior has given such directions as that!
6. Finally, this view of the subject places the command of our Savior under consideration in palpable, contradiction with other parts of scripture given also by inspiration of God, with 1 Cor. 5: 1-5, for example. Paul certainly would not have been inspired to give the direction he did in the above passage, if the command of our Savior in Matt. 18: 15-17, was designed for law universal in respect to all cases of discipline whatever. I conclude, then, that this passage, according to its obvious literal import, has to do with individual, private offences only, and should never be applied as law for discipline in any other cases.
The following then may be laid down as the principles of discipline which bind the church in all cases whatever.
1. Discipline is in no case whatever to be exercised, but for moral offences. Errors in doctrine, and external acts are to be subjects of discipline, only on the ground of indicating moral guilt. Discipline for any other purpose, is usurpation in the church of Christ.
2. For the adjustment of all private individual offences, the direction in Matt. 18: 15-17 binds us. Excommunication is to be resorted to, only when the efforts of the individual, and of the church superadded, have failed to reclaim the offender, and he remains incorrigible under them all.
3. In all cases of public offences which do not imply established character for crime, such as sin committed under sudden temptation, the reformation of the offender is to be sought within the church, in the use of all the means best adapted to secure that result. Excommunication is to be resorted to, only when the offender has, by resistance, revealed the character of incorrigibility.
4. In all cases of gross offences deliberately committed, especially when individuals professing godliness, are detected in carrying out plans of known wickedness under the cloak of religion, they are at once to be put out of the church, as soon as on trial had, their guilt has been ascertained. Trial is then to be held for one object only, to ascertain the guilt or innocence of the accused. Discipline then would indeed be a terror to evil doers.
Such, then, are the principles of discipline in the house bold of faith, as revealed in the scriptures of truth. The whole subject thus becomes plain, and of ready application. The want of such an understanding of the subject has occasioned many great evils in the church. Discipline, in the first instance, is commonly exercised for offences not regarded as involving sin at all. Perhaps a majority of cases, adjudicated in ecclesiastical courts, are of this character, as for instance, deposition on account of imputed errors in doctrine. All such acts are usurpation in the house of God, just as much as the denial of the scriptures to the brotherhood is in the Catholic church.
The next and greatest evil is, that discipline in the church has ceased in a very great degree to be a terror to evil doers, and a praise to them that do well. This will continue to be the case until the true principles of discipline are fully settled in the estimation of the church. For the same reason, excommunication is almost unresorted to for any offences in some churches. Instead of being regarded, as the apostle affirms it to be, a necessary means of grace, in desperate cases, excommunication is regarded by some as almost equivalent to the final reprobation of offenders. Hence, suspension, a form of discipline unknown in scripture has been, substituted, in the place of the form of punishment directly prescribed for presumptuous sins. I was once very forcibly struck, with a fact that I witnessed, that clearly indicated how little the principles of discipline have been fundamentally understood in the church. When the question of excommunication once came before a particular church, the pastor, who is seldom in darkness on any such subject, expressed the greatest conceivable horror, at its being resorted to, even in cases in which it is positively required in the Bible. He spoke of this form of penalty, as placing the criminal in a state of almost hopeless reprobation, and adduced with manifest approbation, the example of a distinguished pastor, who, for that reason, never did resort to this fearful expedient. The case recorded in 1 Cor. 5: 1-5, was brought up, to show that inspiration prescribes the infliction of this penalty, in the cases when it is demanded, as a necessary means of grace to the criminal and the church both. The pastor started the inquiry, how delivering an individual over to Satan could be a means of his reformation. What not this the meaning? he asked. As God and the church both have failed to reform him, now turn him over to the devil, and see what he can do with him. The apostle it should be borne in mind, does not refer to any thing done after the offender is delivered over, as the means of his restoration, but to the act of the church in thus delivering him over. The deep reprobation thus heaped upon his crimes, operates to break the power of the flesh, and thus secure the salvation of the spirit in the day of Jesus Christ. It was this act which was effectual to the reformation of the offender, in the case referred to by Paul. "Sufficient unto such an one is the punishment inflicted by many." The united reprobation of the church poured upon his crime broke his proud, rebellious spirit, and that to such an extent that Paul subsequently called upon the church to show him special kindness, "lest he should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow." Let discipline be administered upon proper principles; and it would always powerfully operate for the sanctification of the church, and the reformation of offenders. As now generally administered, it is neither, as I have before said, a terror to evil doers, nor a praise to them who do well.
We close this article, with a, remark or two, on the manner in which the act of excommunication should be performed. On this point we have heard some things which we by no means approve. A series of Essays, for example, appeared upon the subject, some years since, in the Oberlin Evangelist. In these essays, it was very strongly urged that whenever such act was performed, there should not only be the avoidance of haste on the part of the church, but a day of fasting and prayer should be held, as preparatory to the act, and as a means of giving it solemnity and power. There is no question, but that the exclusion of an individual from the communion and fellowship of the church should be regarded as a solemn act, and should be performed in such a manner as to make as deep an impression as possible upon the offender, the church and the world. We are by no means persuaded however, that the expedient above referred to, if generally adopted, would operate to the production of such a result.
Wicked men love notoriety. To obtain it, they will even perpetrate crime, as in the case where one of the seven wonders of the world was destroyed by an individual for the purpose of being known to posterity. Now let a church of many hundred members come together to hold a day of fasting and prayer, every time offenders in her communion become incorrigible, and it would operate to generate in them a sense of self-importance. Such individuals would be among the first to call for such a day when about to be put out of the church, and would be greatly offended, if they should not receive their exclusion through such ceremonies. Instead of being ecclesiastically buried with such pomp and circumstance, gross offenders, in most instances should rather be "dragged forth to, the burial of an ass." In other words, the penalty of exclusion should be promptly executed, as soon as the offence stands revealed before the church. The highest efficacy of the act depends upon this. Thus the reprobation expressed for the crime is likely to be felt. If the church would hold days of fasting and prayer on account of offences, it should be, as a general rule, on account of their frequent occurrence, and not with reference to specific cases.
Rick Friedrich 1350 Parkway Dr. NE 303 Grand Rapids, MI 49525 (616) 447-8124
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