The Glory of a True Church- Of Disorders, or causes of Discords, and how to be prevented, corrected, and removed
Of Disorders, or causes of Discords, and how to be prevented, corrected, and removed
I. One cause of Discord is, through the Ignorance in some Members of the Rules of Discipline, and right Government;90 particularly when that Rule in Matth. 18. is not followed.
But one Person takes up an Offence against another, and speaks of it to this or that Person, before he hath told the Brother offending of it; which is a palpable Sin, and a direct violation of Christ’s holy Precept: and such must, as Offenders themselves, be in a Gospel-way dealt with.
To prevent this, the Discipline of the Church should be taught; and the Members informed of their Duties.
II. Another thing that causes Trouble and Disorder in a Church, is want of Love, and tender Affections to one another; as also not having a full sight and sense of the great evil of breaking the Bonds of Peace, and Unity:91 O that all would lay this abominable Evil to Heart, how base a thing it is to break the Peace of a private Family, or Neighbourhood;92 but much more sinful to disturb the Peace of the Church of the living God, and break the bonds of the Unity thereof. Behold, how good, and how pleasant it is, for Brethren to dwell together in Unity!93 But, O how ugly and hateful is the contrary!
III. Another disorderly Practice is this, When one Member or another knows of some sinful act, or evils done by one or more Members, and they conceal it;94 or do not act according to the Rule; pretending they would not be lookt upon as Contentious Persons:95 but hereby they may become guilty of other Men’s Sins, and also suffer the Name of God, and the Church, to lye under Reproach, and all thro their neglect. This is a great Iniquity.
IV. When an Elder, or Church shall know that some persons are Scandalous in their Lives, or Heretical in Judgment, and yet shall bear or connive with them.
V. When Members take liberty to hear at other Places, when the Church is assembled to worship God:96 this is nothing less than a breaking their Covenant with the Church, and may soon dissolve any Church: For by the same Rule, one may take that liberty, another; nay, every Member may. Moreover, it casts a Contempt upon the Ministry of the Church, and tends to cause such who are Hearers to draw off, and to be Disaffected with the Doctrine taught in the Church, (they knowing these Dissenters do belong unto it.) I exhort therefore, in the Name of Christ, this may be prevented: And any of you that know who they are, that take this Liberty, pray discover them to the Church. We lay no restraint upon our Members from hearing such, who are found in the Faith at other times.
VI. The Liberty that some take to hear Men that are corrupt in their Judgments; and so take in unsound Notions, and also strive to distill them into the Minds of others, as if they were of great Importance. Alas, how many are Corrupted in these days, with Arminianism, Socinianism, and what not. This causes great trouble and disorder.
VII. When one Church shall receive a Member or Members of another Congregation without their Consent or Knowledge: Nay such that are Disorderly and may be loose Livers, or cast out for Immorality; or Persons filled with Prejudice without cause. This is enough to make Men Atheists, or contemn all Church Authority, and Religion: For hath not one regular Church as great Authority from Christ as another.97
VIII. Another disorder is, when Members are received without the general Consent of the Church;98 or before good Satisfaction is taken of their Godly Lives, and Conversations: Or when a Church is too remiss in the reception of her Members.
IX. Another disorder is, when a Church shall receive a charge against a Member (it being an Offence between Brother and Brother) before an orderly proceed has been made by the offended Person.99
X. When judgment passes with Partiality; some are connived at, out of favour or affection. Levi was not to know his Father or Mother in Judgment.
XI. When Members do not constantly and early attend our public Assemblies,100 and the worship of God on the Lord’s day especially,101 but are remiss in that matter: This is a great Evil.102
XII. When part of a Church shall meet together as dissatisfied, to consult Church-matters, without the knowledge or consent of the Church, or Pastor. This is disorderly, and tends to division; and such should be marked.103
XIII. Another thing that tends to disquiet the Peace of the Church is, when there are any undue heats of Spirit, or Passion shewed in the Pastor, or others, in managing the Discipline of the Church. Have we not found by experience the sad effect of this? Therefore things must be always managed with coolness, and sweetness of Spirit, and moderation; every Brother having liberty to speak his mind, and not to be interrupted, until he has done; nor above one speak at once.104
XIV. When one Brother or more Dissents in the sentiments of their Minds from the Church, in any matters circumstantial; either in respect of Faith, Practice, or Discipline, and will not submit to the Majority, but raise Feuds;105 nay, will rend themselves from the Church, rather than consent.106
I Query, what reason, or ground, hath any Man to refuse Communion with a Church that Christ hath not left, but hath Communion with?
XV. When any member shall divulge, or make known to Persons, not of the Congregation, nor being concerned in those matters, what is done in Church-meetings, the Church in this respect (as well as in others) is to be as a Garden inclosed, a Spring shut up, a Fountain sealed.107 This oft times occasions great Grief, and the disorderly Person should be detected. Is it not a shame to any of a private Family, to divulge the Secrets of the Family? But far greater shame do these expose themselves unto.
XVI. Another disorderly Practice is this; viz. When a Member shall suggest, and seem to insinuate into the minds of other Members some evil against their Pastor, yet will not declare what it is; and may only be evil Surmisings, & out of Prejudice; and yet refuses to acquaint the Pastor with what it is:108 This is very abominable, and a palpable violation of the Rule of the Gospel, and Duty of Members to their Minister. Such a person ought to be severely rebuk’d; and if he confess not his Evils, and manifesteth unfeigned Repentance, to be dealt with farther. Moreover, it is a great evil in another to hear such base Insinuations, and neither rebuke the Accuser, and so discharge his Duty, nor take two or three more to bring the Person to Repentance. If he deal thus by a private Brother, it is a great Evil, but far worse to an Elder, whose Name and Honour, ought with all Care and Justice, to be kept up, as being more Sacred.109
XVII. Another disorderly Practice is, (which causes much trouble) When the publick Charges of a Church are not equally born but some too much burdened, when others do but little or nothing.110
And also, when every one does not Contribute to the Poor, as God has blessed them, on every Lord’s day, or first day of the Week, as he hath Commanded.111
XVIII. Another disorder is this, When Members refuse to communicate with the Church at the Lord’s table, because some person or persons, they think are guilty of Evil, and yet they have not proceeded with them according to Rule:112 These either Excommunicate the Church, or themselves, or those Persons at least, they censure unwarrantably.
I beseech you for Christ’s sake, that this may never be any more among you: You ought not to deal thus with them; or refuse your Communion, (tho faulty) until the Church has dismember’d or withdrawn from them; or at least Suspended them.
XIX. When one Member, shall believe, or receive a report against another, before he knows the truth of the matter.113
XX. When an Accusation is brought against an Elder, contrary to the Rule, which ought not be without two or three Witnesses, as to the matter of Fact.114
XXI. When the word of God is not carefully attended upon, on Week, or Lecture days, by the Members generally; tho the said Meeting being appointed by the whole Church.115
XXII. When Days of Prayer and Fasting, and of publick Thanksgiving, or when days of Disciplining are not generally attended upon.116
Lastly, When Gifted Brethren are not duely encouraged: First privately to exercise their Gifts; and being in time approved, called forth to Preach or Exercise in the Church: And when encouragement is not given to bestow Learning also upon them, for their better Accomplishment. What will become of the Churches in time to come, if this be not prevented with speed?
Benjamin Keach- The Glory of a True Church, And its Discipline Displayed (1697)