gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he shall neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican." Matthew xvii, 15, 17.

Again "Now I beseech you, brethren (says St. Paul) mark them which cause divisions and offences, contrary to the doctrine which you have learned: and avoid them." Rom. xvi, 17. Once more-"Now we command you" (mark the force of the Apostle's language in this passage) "now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed." 2 Thessalonians iii, 6 and 14.-vide yet farther, 1 Corinthians v, 1, 13.-Galatians v, 12.-Titus iii, 1.-Galatians vi, 1.— 2 Corinthians ii, 7.

These passages are so clear and unequivocal, so pointed and positive, that we deem comment unnecessary; the man, who after a serious and impartial perusal of them, can recognise in them no obligation on the part of the church to call offending members to an account, and, if they will not be saved from the error of their ways, to cut them off from the privileges of church-union, must be wilfully blind and designedly prejudiced.

If we turn our attention to the course of procedure observed by the Apostles toward unruly and unworthy members, we shall discover that they themselves practised the above rules. Witness the cases of Hymeneus, Alexander, Philetus, Simon Magus, and others.

The importance of discipline is yet farther manifest.

b. From the advantages arising from it.


The beneficial effects consequent upon the mild and decided execution of scriptural church-regulations, are numerous and obviIt would carry us far beyond the limits we have prescribed to ourselves, to exhibit them singly and in all their bearings. We can do little more than glance at them, and shall leave our readers to carry them out into detail by their own future reflections.

We say then, that the faithful discharge of this duty will reclaim backsliders. Many, who after attaching themselves to the church of God, go astray, forgetting their vows and returning to the love of the world and its beggarly elements, will be arrested in their relapsed career, be brought to a sense of their guilt and danger and led back to the Shepherd and Bishop of their souls. It will detect hypocrites. That persons of this character do frequently insinuate themselves into church-communion, in despite of the vigilance of the church-officers, is a fact too well known to require proof. But it is difficult to sustain an assummed character and act a double part without detection, a watchful discipline will soon unmask those wolves in sheeps clothing, and driving them back to


their proper place, the church will be delivered from their pernicious example and deleterious influence. It will circulate a secret and salutary awe through the church. Disorderly and refractory members will no longer find fault, condemn, and fret and rave at every new occurrence in the congregation, that meets with their disapprobation; and then meanly threaten the faithful and suffering minister with a withdrawal from the congregation, and a stopping of the pitiful pittance he so richly earns by his laborious services. No, that recklessness of church membership, that over bearing defiance so often hurled into the face of the Council, that hightoned rebellion of ungodly members will disappear; and the secret apprehension that they may become subjects of discipline, be cut off from the most valuable privileges, and the mark of excision, the well merited stigma of excommunication, be stamped upon them, will check their clamorous and disgraceful operations, and reduce them to something like forbearance and submission. It will supply an additional incentive to watchfulness and prayer. That professors of religion generally watch and pray too little, need not be insisted But what motive does a congregation at large, that neglects discipline, hold out to correct this remissness ?-none at all. Professors indeed behold proofs enough of human frailty, and the most affecting evidences of a want of watchfulness and prayer, in their backsliding fellow-members, but they witness no painful consequences resulting from an exposure of the same on the part of the church. Let the proper persons, in a spirit of love rebuke an erring brother whenever there is occasion for it, and if he will not "mend his ways," proceed to further measures, and depend upon it, thoughtlessness and security will yield and make way for watchfulness and prayer. It will break the slumbers of many a sleeping member. Ask the unregenerate Lutheran: "Is it thy hope to be saved ?"and his unhesitating reply is: "Yes, it is my hope," continue the examination and inquire: "What are the constituents of a wellfounded hope ?" and here the language of Canaan will terminate, and instead of the reply: "True repentance and faith," ten to one if he do not say: "I am a Lutheran; I was baptized and confirm ed-I belong to Mr. -'s church and give my support to him. 'Thus the sheet anchor of all his eternal prospects is his being "a Lutheran," and if this delusive prop is not struck away, by some powerful blow, he will continue to lean upon it, until at last in the hour of death it breaks from under him and lets him drop into the grave-no into hell! Go ye ministers of God and officers of the church and tell him he is no Lutheran-burst the spell that holds him bound-tear away the film that blinds his vision-let him know that his being "a Lutheran," in the vague sense in which he uses that term, will only aggravate his guilt ;-if he will not believe you, record it in flaming letters in the "Church-book," read it from the pulpit, and declare in the sight of God and the church, that he is "no Lutheran," and if he is not alarmed and awakened, and others like him, are not brought to reflection by such a process, why then, you have done your duty-but be assured, such a course

of procedure will break the deep slumbers of many a sleeping sinner! Thus we might proceed to show, how the exercise of discipline will preserve the purity of the church-be a public testimony, borne by it, against all unrighteousness &c. &c. &c! But the advantages already adverted to, are abundantly sufficient for our purpose. Once more, the importance of discipline is evident.

c. From the evils attending its neglect.

Next to an ungodly minister, we regard a lax discipline or the entire absence of all discipline, as the most awful curse that can be inflicted on a christian congregation. It has been well said by a distinguished living author: "The church that neglects this duty, resembles a state in which the administration of justice is omitted, and crime is permitted to be perpetrated with impunity. That part of the design of church union, which consists in mutual watchfulness, is lost. Members may go astray, adding offence to offence, and heaping vice upon vice, and there is none, in a christian and fraternal tone to lift up the voice of warning. Young Christians just introduced into communion by confirmation, may grow languid and careless, and instead of receiving timely admonition, and being tenderly led back to the people of God, the unpardonable dereliction of duty on the part of the Church, encourages them in their treachery and hastens their ultimate and aggravated ruin. Hypocrites are countenanced in their self-delusion, and supported in the imposition they practise upon the community. Heretics and Schismatics are patronized, profligates are urged onward, gainsayers and opponents to the truth and God's Ministers, become more overbearing and despotic, the word preached is thrown away upon captious and rebellious hearers, scoffers and infidels are encouraged, the weak staggered in their faith, religion compromised, the church corrupted, the ruin of immortal souls abetted, sinners of all descriptions hardened, ministers distressed, slandered and persecuted till their hearts are ready to rend with anguish, and the church becomes more like a callection of transgressors, than an association of pious followers of Jesus Christ We may well say, that when Epimetheus opened Pandora's box, there did not issue from it so great a multitude of evils and distempers to afflict the human race, as are let loose upon a congregation, when scriptural discipline ceases to be exercised. It was this sin (says a modern writer) which the apostle describes in those awful words, "If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy." 1 Corinthians iii, 17. The church is that temple, and to defile it, is to introduce improper members to its communion, or to tolerate them in the practice of sin. A single unpunished transgressor troubled the whole camp of Israel, and brought calamity upon a nation, nor could the favour of God rest upon the people, till Achan was discovered and destroyed. vide Josh. vii. 11, 12. Nothing can be conceived, of, more likely to grieve the Holy Spirit, or to induce him to withdraw his gracious influence from a church, than a neglect of scriptural discipline. And here we would pause, and beg our beloved brethren in Christ, to inquire whether our remissness in attending to this duty

is not our principal cause of the various evils peculiar to our Lutheran Zion. That there are such evils, may be gathered from the remarks already made, and indeed is too palpable to be disputed. There manifestly is a want of attachment to the church and her ministers among us a disregard of church privileges, an unwillingness to engage in and promote benevolent societies and religious institutions, a neglect of public worship and the Holy Sacraments, a miserly withholding from the church and her laborers that small stipend to which they are so justly entitled, a proneness to take offence at and traduce the minister, and indeed in some instances, our members rule and lord i over us with a more despotic spirit than ever characterized the most arbitrary acts of Napoleon. These and numerous other disorders are more frequently the bane of our congregations than of those of some other denominations. They do not exist certainly not to the same extent, in the Moravian, the Presbyterian, the Methodist, and some other churches. Hence, their foundation must be sought for in something that is not to be found in those churches, but which exists in our own. And after the most serious investigation of this subject, aided by some 15 or 16 years experience and observa tion in the Lutheran ministry, we are convinced that they proceeed mainly from a want of proper discipline. A certain reverend and respected brother of the Presbyterian church, in a late sermon on confirmation, censures us for "the very loose and superficial manner in which young persons are often catechised into the church, without due vigilance in requiring an experimental acquaintance with religion." But we ought to know something of our own church as well as strangers, and whatever grounds the learned Doctor may imagine he has for the above censure, we are confident that our fault does not so much lie in our " very loose and superficial manner of catechising," as in our want of proper treatment of individuals after we have catechised and admitted them into the church. Few, if any, of our clergymen will admit that their manner of catechising lies open to the charge of " looseness and superficiality" but all will perhaps readily grant that in the subsequent treatment of those confirmed, they may have been derelict in duty.

We have dwelt a good deal longer on the importance of discipline than we intended, let us hasten to consider

2. What offences require its exercise.

The offences which should subject a member to discipline, may be comprized under two general heads, and be denominated:-a. Errors of Faith.

With respect to creeds or confessious of faith, which have lately formed a subject of rather keen and pointed discussion in a sister church, we take a middle course, believing, that in this, as in many other religious controversies, the truth lies at nearly an equal distance from each of the belligerent parties. Ibis tutissimus in medio. We are not a stickler for "human systems," so called, nor yet entirely opposed to them. We conceive that every church should have a written creed, but that that creed should embrace only fundamentals or essential doctrines, whilst every member should enjoy the privilege

of believing in minor points what appears to him to he most consistent with divine truth. Indeed we think it impossible for a christian congregation to exist without a creed of some kind or other; even those who are most opposed to creeds, have a creed of their own, if not written, it is unwritten-(which, by the bye, is among the worst kind of creeds) if unwritten, it is imprinted upon their memories, and according to that, they test the soundness or unsoundness of the doctrines of others. If they say the bible is their creed-book," and not a catechism or a form of doctrines of human invention, the case is not altered at all for they select their own laws of interpretation, and determine for themselves how the bible is to be construed and divine truth understood, and what else is this but making a creed of their own? No christian creed professes to be any thing but an epitome of christian doctrine extracted from God's word, and their principles of faith, though not embodied in a catechism or confession, amount to neither more nor less than this, with the exception of this very objectionable difference, that theirs is a system of doctrine that has no home or local habitation, but floats and fluctuates unfixed, unsettled, without shape or form in their own minds; and they cannot, any more than others, worship in harmony with those who essentially differ from them in faith, or if you chose, in their manner of interpreting the truths of the Gospel. "Can two walk together, except they be agreed ?" Amos 3, 3.


As every church therefore must have a creed, so every church has an indisputable right to determine for themselves what they consider to be fundamental truths, but they aresolemnly bound to be careful not to set up other truths than those which are established in the word of God, and when they have done so, every one who denies any one of those articles declared to be essential, must be called to an account, and if he persist in his error, ultimately be excluded. In confirmation of this position we appeal to the following passages, viz: If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to the words of Christ and sound doctrine, according to godliness from such withdraw thyself." 1 Tim. 6, 3-5. "Of whom is Hymeneus and Philetus, who, concerning the truth, have erred saying the resurrection is past already, and overthrow the faith of some-whom I have delivered to Satan." 2 Tim. 2.17-18 compared with, 1 Tim. 1, 20. " But though we, or an angel from Heaven preach any other gospel to you than that we havə preached, let him be accursed." Gal. 1. 8. vide also 2 John 10. 11. If these passages do not require us to put out of the church all who deny the fundamental truths of the Gospel, then we can see no meaning in them at all. Should we be asked, what we mean by fundamental truths? our reply is: those principles of faith, the belief or rejection of which involves our future destiny, or without which it is absolutely impossible to be saved; as, for instance, the divinity, atonement and spiritual influences of our blessed Lord. With a person who denies any of these doctrines, it is not practicable to have any spiritual communion, and we dare not regard him as a brother and member of Christ's church. Reason as well as revelation forbids it.

« VorigeDoorgaan »