Home > Church > The Glory of a True Church- Of such that cause Divisions; or Unduely separate themselves from the Church

The Glory of a True Church- Of such that cause Divisions; or Unduely separate themselves from the Church

Of such that cause Divisions; or Unduely separate themselves from the Church

This I find is generally asserted by all Congregational Divines, or worthy men, i.e. That no person hath power to dismember himself: i.e. He cannot, without great Sin, translate himself from one Church to another; but ought to have a Dismission from that Church where he is a Member:76 provided that Church is orderly constituted, nothing being wanting as to any Essential of Salvation; or of Church-Communion: But if not, yet he ought to endeavour to get his orderly Dismission.

Nor is every small Difference in some points of Religion, (or Notions of little moment,) any grounds for him to desire his Dismission.

That he cannot, nor ought not to Translate himself, see what Reverend Writer saith:77

He cannot, saith he, for many Reasons:

1. It is not Decent, much less an Orderly going away; but very unmannerly, and a kind of running away.

2. Such a Departure is not approved of in Families, or Civil Societies.78

3. It destroys the Relation of Pastor and People: For what may be done by one individual Person, may be done by all.

4. What Liberty in this kind belongs to the Sheep, belongs to the Shepherd; much more he may then also leave his Flock at his Pleasure, without giving notice or reason thereof to the Church.

5. It is breaking Covenant with Christ, and with the Congregation, and therefore a great Immorality;79 he being under Obligation to abide stedfastly with the Church; i.e. till the Church judge he hath a lawful Call to go to another Congregation.

6. It’s a Schism: For if there be any such thing in the World, it’s of particular Societies.

7. It is a despising the Government of the Church.80

8. It is a particular Member’s assuming to himself thense of the Keys; or rather stealing of them.81

9. There is as much reason Persons should come into a Church when they please, with out asking Consent, as depart when they please.

10. It is very evil and unkind in another Church, to receive such an one, as not doing as they would, or should be dealt with.

11. Such Practices can issue in nothing else than the breach and confusion of all particular Churches; and make them like Parishes.

12. Such Departures cannot be pleaded for in the least, but upon the notion of a Catholick visible Church, wherein all Members and Officers are run into one Organized Church, which will, and must introduce, a Co-ordinate (if not a Subordinate) Pastoral Government, by combination of Elders, over all the Churches; and therefore by Synods and Classes.

13. It is like a Leak in a Ship, which, if not speedily stopped, will Sink at last.

14. It tends to Anarchy, putting an Arbitrary Power in ev’ry Member.

15. It breaks all Bonds of Love, and raiseth the greatest Animosities between Brethren and Churches.

16. It is a great Argument of some Guilt lying on the Party.

Thus the Dr.

Again he saith, It is no more in the just Power of a particular Member to dissolve his Church-Relation, than in a Man to kill himself: but by his said withdrawment he doth Schismatically rend himself from his Communion, and so Separate himself Sinfully.82

Quest. What is the just Act of the Church, that cloathes this irregular Separation, with the Formality as it were of an Excommunication.

He Answers. (Calling) this a mixt Excommunication i.e. Originally proceeding from, and consists in, the act of the Brother himself, and is the Formality of his Offence; upon which proceeds the just and unviolable act of the Church.

The Judgment of the Church publickly declared by the Elder of the Congregation; as the Dr. words it; viz.

That A.B. having so and so irregularly and sinfully withdrawn himself from the Communion of the Congregation, we do now adjudge him a Non-member, and one that is not to Communicate with the Church,83 in the Special Ordinances of Communion, till due Satisfaction is given by him.84

Yet we believe, as the Dr.’s Opinion is, that a Church may, (if they find the Case to be warranted by the Word of God; or as it may be circumstanced) give a dismission to a Member, when insisted on, to another regular Church, tho not in every case of small Offence, or dissent in some small points of different Notions, or from Prejudice; for that may tend soon to dissolve any Church: For what Church is it, where every Member is of one mind in every particular case and thing about Notions of Religion?

And such that make Divisions, and cause Schisms, or Discord among Brethren, to disturb the Peace of the Church,85 if they cannot be reclaimed, must be marked,86 and dealt with as great Offenders:87 It being one of those things that God hates, and is an abomination to him.

Quest. What is a full and lawful Dismission of a Member to another Church, upon his removing his Habitation, or on other warranted Cases.

Answ. We answer a Letter Testimonial, or Recommendation of the Person; and if he intends to abide there wholly, to give him up to that Communion, and Fellowship,88 to be watched over in the Lord.89

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

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