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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)

The Gospel will bring divisions, disputes, and disturb those comfortable in their sin

February 27, 2013 1 comment

calvin.jpg_7MA21605611-00157. Lastly, they are far from candid when they invidiously number up the disturbances, tumults, and disputes, which the preaching of our doctrine has brought in its trains and the fruits which, in many instances, it now produces for the doctrine itself is undeservedly charged with evils which ought to be ascribed to the malice of Satan. It is one of the characteristics of the divine word, that whenever it appears Satan ceases to slumber and sleep. This is the surest and most unerring test for distinguishing it from false doctrines which readily betray themselves, while they are received by all with willing ears, and welcomed by an applauding world. Accordingly, for several ages, during which all things were immersed in profound darkness, almost all mankind were mere jest and sport to the God of this world, who, like any Sardanapalus, idled and luxuriated undisturbed. For what else could he do but laugh and sport while in tranquil and undisputed possession of his kingdom? But when light beaming from above somewhat dissipated the darkness — when the strong man arose and aimed a blow at his kingdom — then, indeed, he began to shake off his wonted torpor, and rush to arms. And first he stirred up the hands of men, that by them he might violently suppress the dawning truth; but when this availed him not, he turned to snares, exciting dissensions and disputes about doctrine by means of his Catabaptists, and other portentous miscreants, that he might thus obscure, and, at length, extinguish the truth. And now he persists in assailing it with both engines, endeavoring to pluck up the true seed by the violent hand of man, and striving, as much as in him lies, to choke it with his tares, that it may not grow and bear fruit. But it will be in vain, if we listen to the admonition of the Lord, who long ago disclosed his wiles, that we might not be taken unawares, and armed us with full protection against all his machinations. But how malignant to throw upon the word of God itself the blame either of the seditions which wicked men and rebels, or of the sects which impostors stir up against it! The example, however, is not new. Elijah was interrogated whether it were not he that troubled Israel. Christ was seditious, according to the Jews; and the apostles were charged with the cringe of popular commotion. What else do those who, in the present day, impute to us all the disturbances, tumults, and contentions which break out against us? Elijah, however, has taught us our answer, (1 Kings 18:17, 18) It is not we who disseminate errors or stir up tumults, but they who resist the mighty power of God.

John Calvin-Prefatory Address to Francis King of the French-Institutes of the Christian Religion