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Previously to the final act of excommunication, the transgressor should be cited before the church-council to assign cause why sentence of expulsion should not be passed against him; if he attend, possibly the matter may yet be adjusted and he restored, but if he refuse to appear, the case must terminate against him.
In the foregoing remarks we have supposed the case of a trespass of one individual against another. But should a member be guilty of misconduct which is an offence against the church at large, (vide part ii of this Article,) then every member should consider it his duty to admonish him in the spirit of meekness and affection agreeably to James v: 19, 20. and the church council are bound to take cognizance of it, whether formally reported to them or not, and to proceed as above stated.
In some cases when a member is notoriously known to be guilty of a high crime or scandalous offence, the painful operation of excision should be forthwith performed without taking all those preliminary measures required to be cbserved in ordinary cases.
No n ember should be permitted to escape expulsion by resigning. "It becomes not the wisdom and order of any society, (says Dr. Owen) intrusted with authority for its own preservation, as the church is by Christ himself, to, suffer persons obnoxious to censure to cast off all respect to it, to break their order and relation, without animadverting thereupon, according to the authority where. with they are intrusted. To do otherwise is to expose their order unto contempt, and proclaim a diffidence in their own authority for the spiritual punishment of offenders.
"The exclusion of a person from any Christian church does not affect his temporal estate and civil affairs;-it makes no change in the natural and civil relations between husbands and wives &c.neither does it deprive a man of the liberty of attending public worship; it removes him, however, from the communion of the church, and the privileges dependent on it: this is done that he may be ashamed of his sin, and be brought to repentance; that the honor of Christ may be vindicated, and that stumbling-blocks may be removed out of the way. Too great caution cannot be observed in procedures of this kind, every thing should be done with the greatest meekness, deliberation, prayer, and a deep sense of our own unworthiness, with a compassion for the offender and a fixed design of embracing every opportunity of doing him good, by reproving, instructing and if possible, restoring him to the enjoyment
how often reiterated? We think the answer must depend upon the circumstances of the case. Sometimes there may be such a degice of depravity and obstinacy discovered as would justify an immediate expulsion, and on other occasions there may be such an appearance of hope as would warrant a repetition and perseverance of effort for the space of 3 or 4 or ever 5 months. But in no ordinary instance should a question of discipline be pending more than 4 or 5 months. If in that time an erring member cannot be gained, he is unworthy of any further special exertions.
of the privileges he has forfeited by his conduct." Vide Buck, article, Excommunication.
Hitherto we have said but little concerning suspension and restoration. By suspension we mean a temporary exclusion, an intermediate act between a mere admonition and ultimate expulsion. It may be aptly denominated the, lesser excommunication. Some are opposed to it, because it does not appear to be authorised by any express precept or example on divine record. But we in the Luther an church, who conceive that practices fairly deduced from general principles, are obligatory as well as others which have the warrant of positive command or special precedent, esteem suspension as scriptural, just as well as final expulsion. Godwyn distinguishes three degrees of excommunication among the Jews, but Selden maintains, that properly speaking, there were only two, viz; the lesser and the greater. The former called Niddui, i. e. separation, lasted 30 days, and separated from the use of things holy. The latter called Cherem, i. e. anathema, was an aggravation of the former, and answered to our final exclusion (which might also be termed the greater excommunication.) It excluded a man from the Synagogue, and deprived him of all civil commerce The third kind spoken of and called Scammatha, our author thinks synonymous with the preceding and therefore not to be accounted distinct. Besides, if the right of inflicting the greater penalty of expulsion be conceded to a congregation, upon what principle can that of inflicting the lesser be denied it? does not the former presuppose and involve the latter? Moreover, we would appeal to common sense whether there should not be a medium between a mere private rebuke, and the awful extremity of expulsion? How shall we dispose of an individual against whom, so far as prima facie evidence goes, a strong case is made out, but where there is still some appearance of penitence, yet not enough? Shall we retain in the bosom of the church a person against whom such a charge is preferred-whose conduct is undergoing examination, and whose character, to say the least, is exceedingly suspicious? We say No. But shall he at this stage of the business be expelled? Again we say with equal emphasis, No. What then is to be done? In our opinion, if we would deal out evenhanded justice to him and the church, we have no alternative but to suspend him, until the case has been fully investigated and decided and then to proceed either to re-instate or discard him. It may be argued that our laws account every man innocent until his guilt is proved. This principle is a good one in civil affairs, but not in the church of God. The very act of a man appearing at the sacred altar to commune, is a public exhibition of the confidence, esteem and love of the whole church in him, and should this open testimony be accorded to him while lying under a serious charge that has much of the appearance of truth? But even in civil affairs, a man, though professedly viewed as innocent until proved guilty, is notwithstanding denied the rights of innocence. He is imprisoned or held to bail in the interval between his arrest and trial. And this is civil suspension.
Analagous to this is the case of a suspected member, and who must
therefore be suspended till his innocence or guilt shall be established. Suspension accordingly appears to be indispensable to discipline. Abolish it from your code of ecclesiastical law, and the church will be reduced to the difficult and disagreeable choice of retaining in its bosom, one in whom a large majority of the members may have lost all confidence, or of expelling him before one particle of guilt has been absolutely fastened upon him, or while there is some semblance of contrition and his case therefore by no means hopeless! These remarks, while they justify suspension, plainly set forth its import and the circumstances under which it should take place.
With respect to restoration, we have to observe, that it implies the reinstatement of a suspended or expelled member, to full communion, after he has been brought to a sense of his sin, a belief of God's pardoning mercy and satisfactory amendment of practice.
Every act of expulsion as well as of restoration consequent upon it, should be recorded in the churchbook and published by the minister from the pulpit in the presence of the assembled congregation. Whether the sentence of suspension should in like manner be announced is discretionary with the church council, vide Formula, chap. iv. sec. 7.
As to the manner of proceeding against a minister or other officer of the church council, we refer to the Formula, chap. iii. sec. 5. and chap. iv. sec. 7.* That the most inflexible impartiality should be displayed in the exercise of discipline will be admitted by all, and no church can be too careful in this respect.
With regard to our conduct toward those who are separated from the church, we are not left without instruction. St. Paul, speaking of an expelled person, says: "count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother." 2 Thess. iii. 14 15. From this we learn that an expelled person must not be altogether forsaken and aban¬ doned as an enemy that is utterly beyond the reach of recovery. No, we must still bear in mind that the blood of atonement was shed for his redemption, and that he has a soul to be saved or lost as well as others, hence we must continue to admonish him with fraternal feelings and ardent prayers for his recovery. If he be given over as it were, he will probably become more and more vile, but if the members of the congregation and especially the pastor and members of the council continue to seek opportunities to admonish and warn him: "Peradventure God may give him repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;" and let every one remember that “he which
*Our Formula says: "A member of the church-council may be accused before the council," but this, in our view, by no means forbids a private admonition anterior the public accusation. On the contrary we think he should be called to a private account just as well as any other member, before the public accusation is made and this may perhaps supersede the exposure of his case before the whole council.
His soul is still of infinite value; labor to get it saved." Clarke's
converteth a sinner from the error of his way, shall save a soul from death." Upon his repentance and reformation, he must again be received into communion with compassion and love, joy and gratitude. "Better," says Dr. Owen, "never excommunicate a person at all, than forsake and abandon him when he is expelled, or refuse to receive him back again upon his repentance; but there is a class of persons unto whom, if a man be an offender, he shall be so forever." God grant that but few persons of this class may be found in our Lutheran Zion! Again, I have written unto you, not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother, be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner, with such an one, no not to eat." 1 Cor: v. 11. In this apostolic injunction all intimate and voluntary intercourse with an expelled person is plainly prohibited. We may indeed transact our necessary worldly business with him, but have no right voluntarily to associate with him or to make him either an intimate or a frequent companion.. He must be avoided as much as circumstances (and the ties of nature if he be a relation) will admit of. Henry says: "We must avoid familiar converse and society with him for two reasons; namely, that we may not learn his evil ways, (by associating with him,) and for the shaming, and so the reforming of him; that when disorderly persons see how their loose practices are disliked by all wise and good people, they may be ashamed of them and walk more orderly." None of the relative duties however are to be dissolved, nor any of the social duties to be neglected.
We cannot conclude this article better, than by subjoining Mr. Hall's very striking and solemn description of the nature and usefulness of excommunication. "I am far from thinking lightly of the spiritual power, with which Christ has armed his church. It is a high and mysterious one, which has no parallel on earth. Nothing in the order of means, is equally adapted to awaken compunction in the guilty, with spiritual censures impartially administered; the sentence of excommunication in particular, harmonizing with the dictates of conscience, and re-echoed by her voice, is truly terrible. It is the voice of God, speaking through its legitimate organ, which he who despises, or neglects, ranks with "heathen men and publicans," joins the Synagogue of Satan, and takes his lot with an unbelieving world, doomed to perdition. Excommunication is a sword, which, strong in its apparent weakness and the sharper, and the more keenly edged for being divested of all sensible and exterior envelopements, lights immediately on the spirit, and inflicts a wound which no balsam can cure, no ointment can mollify, but which must continue to ulcerate and burn, till healed by the blood of atonement, applied by penitence and prayer. In no instance is that axiom more fully verified, The weakness of God is stronger than men, & the foolishness of God is wiser than men," than in the discipline of his church. By incumbering it with foreign aid, they have robbed it of its real strength; by calling in the aid of temporal pains and penalties, they have removed it from the spirit to the flesh, from its contact with eternity to unite it to secular interests; and as the corruption of the
best things is the worst, have rendered it the scandal and reproach of our holy religion.
While it retains its character, as a spiritual ordinance, it is the chief bulwark against the disorders which threaten to overturn religion, the very nerve of virtue, and next to the preaching of the cross, the principal antidote to the "corruptions that are in the world through lust." Discipline in a church occupies the place of laws in a state; and as a kingdom, however excellent its constitution will inevitably sink into a state of extreme wretchedness, in which laws are either not enacted, or not duly administered; so a church which pays no attention to discipline, will either fall into confusion, or into a state so much worse, that little or nothing remains worth regulating. The right of inflicting censures, and of proceeding in extreme cases to excommunication is an essential branch of that power with which the church is endowed; and bears the same relation to discipline that the administration of criminal justice bears to the general principles of government. When this right is exerted in upholding the faith once delivered to the saints," or enforcing a conscientious regard to the laws of Christ, it maintains its proper place, and is highly beneficial. Its cognizance of doctrine is justified by apostolic authority; "a heretic, after two or three admonitions, reject;" nor is it to any purpose to urge the difference betwixt ancient heretics and modern, or that to pretend to distinguish truth from error, is a practical as sumption of infallibility." Z.
THE LATE REVOLUTION IN FRANCE.
THE design and limits of the Intelligencer, prohibit us from noticing the various political operations of the day; but the great event of the late Revolution in France, merits the particular attention of Protestants. Since the glorious and successful operations of the immortal Luther, no occurrence has displayed the power of truth over error in a greater degree, than the prostration of Papal tyranny, by the French.-We extract the following from the Protestant, and we trust it will be read with attention.-Editor."
France. A charter is adopted, securing to the people the enjoyment of civil and religious liberty. The Duke of Orleans was proclaimed King of the French, and assumed the title of Philip the 1st, not to perpetuate the feudal monarchy. The following oath was administered:
"In the presence of God, I swear faithfully to observe the Constitutional Charter, with the modifications expressed in the Declaration, to govern only by the laws, and according to the laws; to ren der equal and exact justice to every one, according to his right, and to act in all things with a single view to the interest, the happiness, and the glory of the French people."