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The Glory of a True Church- Of Church Censures

Of Church Censures

Now as to Church-Censures I understand but two besides Suspension, viz. (1.) Withdrawing from a Member that walks disorderly. (2.) Casting out, or Excommunicating such that are either guilty of notorious or scandalous Crimes, of Heresy, &c. or of contemning the Authority of the Church.

Briefly to each of these.

1. Suspension is to be when a Member falls under Sin, and the Church wants time fully to hear the matter, and so can’t withdraw from him, or cast him out.

2. If any Member walks disorderly, tho not guilty of gross scandalous Sins, h e or she, as soon as it is taken notice of, ought to be admonished, and endeavou rs to be used to bring him to Repentance. For we hear that there are some whi ch walk disorderly, not working at all, but are busy-bodies.57 Su ch as meddle with matters that concern them not, it may be (instead of following their Trade and Business) they go about from one Member’s House to another, telling or carrying of Tales and Stories of this Brother, or of that Brother or Sister, which perhaps may be true, or perhaps false, and may be too to the Reproach or Scandal of some Member or Members, which, if so, it is back biting; and that is so notorious a Crime, that without Repentance they shall not ascend God’s holy Hill.58 Back-biting is a diminishing our Neighbours, or Brother’s good Name, either by denying him his due Praise, or by laying anything to his Charge falsely or irregularly, or without sufficient cause or evidence, Thus our Annotators. But this of disorderly walking does not amount to such a Crime, but Evils not so notorious; Now them that are such, we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own Bread.59 They must be admonished.

1. An Admonition is a faithful Endeavour to convict a Person of a Fault, both as to Matter of Fact and Circumstance; and this admonition must be given first, if it be private, by that Brother that knows or has knowledge of the Fault or Evil of the Person offending, whether the Elder, or Member; for any private Brother ought to admonish such with all care and faithfulness before he proceeds farther. But if it be publick, the Church ought to send for the Offender, and the Pastor must admonish him before all.

2. But if after all due Endeavours used he is not reclaimed, but continues a disorderly Person, the Church must withdraw from him. Now we command you Bret hren, in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every Brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the Traditions he received from us.60 This is not a delivering up to Satan, Excommunicating or dismembering the Person; for this sort are still to be owned as Members, tho disorderly ones: the Church must note him so as not to have Communion or Company with him in that sense, yet count him not as an Enemy, but exhort him as a Brother: if any Man obey not our Word, note that Man.61 It appears that such who refuse to adhere to what the Pastor commands and exhorts to,62 in the Name of Christ, are to be deemed disorderly Persons, as such are who meet not with the Church when assembled together to worship God, or that neglect private or family Prayer, or neglect their attendance on the Lord’s-Supper, or to contribute to the necessary Charges of the Church, or suffer any Evils unreproved in their Children; all such may be lookt upon disorderly Walkers, and ought to be proceeded against according to this Rule, or divulge the private Resolves of the Church, as well as in many like cases.

Benjamin Keach- The Glory of a True Church, And its Discipline Displayed (1697)

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