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Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)

 

BOOK X.

THE CHURCH.

      The word CHURCH has been so variously defined and understood that it is necessary for me to submit a definition in order that you may know what I mean by it. Thus some apply it to a meeting-house; some to the people therein assembling. Some suppose it to be the kingdom of heaven, and others imagine that the bishops are the church. The definition adopted by the Protestants since the days of Luther, is, that "it is an assembly of persons united by the profession of the same Christian faith, and the participation of the same ordinances;" to which Bellarmine and the Romish clergy add, "Under the same Pope, sovereign pontiff, and vicar of Jesus Christ on earth;" which comes of the notion that there must be a visible head to the church on earth, a conceit which even the English reformers have admitted in fact by regarding the king as head of the church. All agree that Jesus Christ is the true head of his church, which is by the same figure called his body; but they suppose that, he being invisible, the church must of necessity need a substitute; and while they have thus converted a figurative truth into a literal absurdity, as they have also done in transubstantiation, they have in the absence of Jesus, like ancient Israel in the absence of Moses, made themselves "gods to go before them." It was precisely in the same way that heathen idolatry originated, when men on account of their inability to behold the invisible God, formed to themselves vain and fanciful representatives, and changed the glory of the divine and immortal being "into the likeness of mortal man, of fowls, of four-footed beasts, and reptiles." In my opinion there is just as much necessity for a calf as a representative of God, as there is for a Pope to represent Christ. And there is as much resemblance between such an idol and the ever glorious and infinitely perfect Jehovah, as there is in this capacity, between either pope or king, and the meek and lowly--the illustrious and exalted Redeemer of the world--the ever-living prophet, priest, king and head of his people.

      By the word church, however, I understand neither the king of England nor the kingdom of heaven, neither bishops nor the pope of Rome, neither a meeting-house nor the sinners who assemble in it; but simply a congregation of saints or Christians who have mutually and definitely agreed to assemble together statedly at a place appointed, for the purpose of worshipping God, keeping his ordinances, [97] correcting, exhorting, edifying, and watching over one another in the fear of God; and who in pursuance of this agreement have organized themselves for the accomplishment of these important purposes. Such a church is a church of Jesus Christ, meeting in his name or by his authority, and enjoying his presence according to the promise, "Wherever two or three are gathered together in my name, theme am I in the midst of them."

      The word church or kirk, derived you know from KURIAKOS, would import etymologically something belonging to the Lord. Church does not, any more than congregation, express the full meaning of ECCLESIA. I find that the king's translators have uniformly rendered this word church, except in three instances, where they translate it by assembly (Acts ch. xix. ver. 32, 39, 40). And it is worthy of remark that out of a hundred and thirteen times which this word occurs in the New _Testament, it is only twelve times appliedĄ to the church universal, (Eph. and Coloss., where Paul speaks of the church under the figure of the body of Christ,) and no less than ninety-eight used to denote single and distinct societies of Christians. This, therefore, is to be considered the Scripture sense of the word, and it is in this sense I would employ it, since it is impossible to have Scriptural ideas, or, in other words, correct ideas on the subject of religion, without having both Scriptural wards and the Scripture sense of these words.

      I have said it is composed of Christians who have mutually and definitely agreed to meet, etc.; for it is absolutely necessary in the first place that they should consult and come to a distinct, definite, and formal agreement to associate themselves under the character of a church. This indeed is always done from the necessity of the case at the first, since it is impossible that a church could be formed without such consultation and agreement. In the propriety of this, therefore, all concur; but when the same principle is to be applied in the reception of new members, or rather persons applying for membership, many become squeamish and think there should be no consultation, agreement, or formal reception in their case. This point of order, therefore, deserves notice; for these suppose that persons are introduced into the church by believing and being baptized, forgetting that those who are born of water and spirit are introduced into the kingdom of heaven, and that "kingdom of heaven" and "church" stand for very different ideas. For though the word "church" is sometimes made to stand for all the subjects of the kingdom, and perhaps even to include the king, it never includes the territory of the kingdom, and therefore can not be synonymous with the "kingdom of heaven;" and besides we do not use the word in the wide and less frequent sense when we apply it, as in the case in question, to a particular body of disciples meeting in a particular place, and therefore distinguished [98] from every other congregation. Neither does any one become a member of any such particular body by immersion, even if immersed by one of its members, as the circumstances of the case, location, etc., may render it more convenient for the person to have his membership in a distant part of the country. When, therefore, such a one selects that congregation with which it is most convenient for him to meet, it is just as necessary that he should distinctly and publicly express his desire to unite with them in keeping the ordinances and be received by them accordingly, as it was for them to agree with and receive each other in the first instance. And it is improper on either of these occasions to inquire each others' opinions or views of Christianity upon any pretence, and sit in judgment upon them; for when the church is assured from letters of recommendation or from their own knowledge that the person applying for membership has confessed Christ and put him on by immersion, and that he continues to walk in him, (and these are the only inquiries which can lawfully be made,) it would be wrong, in my opinion, to make his reception a question at all. All that is necessary is that he should publicly express his wish to unite with the congregation and be formally and cordially received.

      The peculiar form to be adopted on these occasions does not seem to me of much consequence, so that it express the thing done. The giving the right hand, which is the common token of the ratification of an agreement between men in general, and which was employed for this end by James, John and Cephas in regard of Paul and Barnabas, (Gal. ii. 9,) is a very proper and appropriate form. The church in Alleghany town has a very pleasing and impressive way of receiving members. The right hand of fellowship is given, and at the same time a Bible is presented in the name of the church, accompanied by a few appropriate remarks. Thus each new member receives a Bible as a present from the church, (to which the Bible of right belongs, and by which it is therefore most appropriately bestowed,) and this token of regard and cordial reception is not only greatly endeared on this account, but is ever a source of the most agreeable and often, beneficial associations.

      It is scarcely necessary to add what must appear plain to all, that each church, being distinguished by the circumstances of its locality and recognized as a separate body, ought as a matter of course to know distinctly who are members of the congregation; and for this end should keep a list of the original members, to which the names of new ones can be added, and from which the names of those who leave the church can be taken. By this, as it were, family record of births and deaths, the church can always be definitely recognized as a body, and many matters often most important to the congregation in cases of [99] discipline are thus preserved correctly, instead of being committed to the unfaithful memories of an ever changing population.

      While on this part of the subject, I will notice another point which presents itself immediately after the organization of a church, and concerns the church particularly. When disciples agree to meet regularly under the character of a church, there are certain expenses necessarily incurred in carrying their resolution into effect. A house to meet in must be procured--fuel is to be laid in, and lights procured for night meetings, together with some other matters relating to the comfort of the church alone, and varying according to circumstances. My object in noticing these expenses is, to call attention to this point, viz.: that these things are purely temporal and have nothing to do with the Christian religion, but solely with the bodily or social comfort of the members. A political society, a debating club, a literary association of any kind would be compelled to raise a fund for these purposes if they held regular and stated meetings. And the application I wish to make of it is this; that the fund or contribution to meet these expenses should be carefully distinguished from the contribution of the church on the Lord's day, as a religious ordinance, which is a giving to the Lord, and which is to be devoted to his service in relieving the poor. Now the contribution for light and fuel is not a giving to the Lord, but is for the personal comfort of the disciples and those who assemble with them, and is equally necessary when they are in their own houses. This distinction, then, should be carefully noticed, and every member should pay a certain equal sum annually or quarterly (12½ cents per quarter will generally suffice) to meet these current expenses--I say every member, for every member equally occasions these expenses and equally enjoys the light and warmth provided. The contribution for the poor, however, must of course be left to the liberality of the members. This matter, though it may appear small, has often produced confusion, and many have absurdly supposed they were giving to the Lord, when they were merely supplying their own wants, and have thus perverted the weekly contribution. Hence it is necessary that order should be taken in this matter, and that every thing should have its due place.

R. RICHARDSON.      
      Harbinger, 1836, page 323.

      There is nothing on earth to be contemplated, that is so sublime as the church. Weak in power, and few in numbers, as it may seem to a superficial observer, it is nevertheless of a grandeur transcending that of the kingdom of Alexander, of the empire of the Caesars, or of all the allied glory and greatness of all the dynasties of earth. How august its introduction! What interminable processions of heralds have flourished its approach. From the garden of Eden to the garden of Gethsemane; from the fall of the first Adam--a living soul--to the [100] resurrection and glorification of the second Adam--a life-giving spirit; for forty centuries kingdoms, and peoples, and tongues have been but as preparatory characters, uttering or acting the prologue of the sublime drama of redemption, "to enlighten all men, that they may see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which for ages was hidden with God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the intent that the manifold wisdom of God might be known throughout the church, unto the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Jesus Christ our Lord" (Eph. iii. 9-11). It is the visible family of God on earth, and, as such, is the pillar and support of the truth; it is the body of Christ, and, as such, the representative power among men of the only true and rightful sovereign of heaven and earth, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, who sitteth at the right hand of the majesty on high, where he must reign till he have put all his enemies under his feet. When the last enemy, death, shall have been destroyed, then will he deliver up the kingdom to the Father, that God may be all in all.

      The greatness and grandeur of the church may be considered from three points of view--

      1st. Its wonderful introduction and establishment.

      2d. Its glorious and divine head.

      3d. Its triumphant destiny.

      We may premise, that by "the church," in sacred style, something more is meant than material temples of brick or marble. The oikos theou--"the house of God," in which Paul desired that Timothy might know how to behave himself, was not a templum made with human hands, like Solomon's, at Jerusalem, or St. Peter's, at Rome, or St. Paul's, at London, but it was a household, a family of called ones, elected and adopted children of God, saints, who had passed into a new life, through the mysterious operation of the word of God; heirs of eternal life, and, with Christ, partakers of the heavenly inheritance. Still it was a visible organization; a formal power, a governmental and disciplinary institution, with its laws and its ordinances, and its members and its offices, appropriately appointed and displayed before the world, and destined to act and to be felt as a conservative and saving influence in all the earth and amongst all nations. It is as a city of refuge for sinners, wherever they may be found, and, as such, is the consummation and visible display of the eternal wisdom of God for the salvation of man.

      In the divine purpose, therefore, the church is logically coeval with the fall of man, but in its chronological manifestation, not only to the inhabitants of the earth, but to "the principalities and powers in the heavenly places," it dates from the pouring out of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, Anno Domini 33. Through long cycles of [101] vicissitude, however, God had been preparing for this event, and through many a rapt prophet bard awakening, in the hearts of the faithful, hopes of its future dawn upon the night of mystery, in which, for ages, was hidden this manifold wisdom of God. The Saviour alludes to these ancient preparations in the parable of the vineyard,1 and seven centuries before, God had said through Isaiah--

"In that day sing ye a responsive song, concerning the vineyard.
  I the Lord do keep it;
  I water it every moment;
  Lest any hurt it,
  I keep it night and day."2

      With reference to this development was the whole of the Old Testament written. From Moses to Malachi, God inspired historians and prophets to image forth in type and symbol this sublime purpose. Typical men and a typical people were raised up and directed by a special providence, as the material vehicle, the vanishing encasement of the perpetually evolving psyche--the soul--the eternal power and animating principle of the developing humanity, culminating in "the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth." So that without controversy we may say, "Great is the mystery of godliness: God manifested in the flesh, justified by the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, and received up into glory.3

      In full harmony with these views, in another prophetic strain sings Isaiah--

"In the last days the mountains of the Lord's house
  Shall be established in the top of the mountains,
  And shall be exalted above the hills;
  And all nations shall flow into it.
  And many people shall go and say,
  Come, ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
  To the house of the God of Jacob;
  And he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths.
  For out of Zion shall go forth the law,
  And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem."4

      Thus introduced by a concatenation of events stretching through four thousand years, heralded by a procession of prophetic bards singing in every age, the idea of the church is seen as the soul of all history. All else is made to work together for it, and derive its importance, in the world's annals, from its bearing on, and connection with, this only ark of human safety and hope.

      Accordingly when the time was fully come far these long-laid and deep foundations to be uncovered, and the glorious temple of the Holy Spirit to be fully displayed,--the time sung of by the prophet, when he says: [102]

"Awake! awake! put on thy strength, O Zion;
  Put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city;
  For henceforth there shall no more come into thee
  The uncircumcised and the unclean.
  Shake thyself from the dust;
  Ascend thy lofty seat, O Jerusalem;
  Loose thyself from the bands of thy neck
  O captive daughter of Zion."5

      In this fulness of time the portents begin to thicken; the dim shadows delineated by the prophets ages before, fashion themselves into real living forms, and light breaks upon the darkness that had so long enveloped them with obscurity. Zacharias, while burning incense at the altar, is stricken dumb for his incredulity concerning the child of favor, John the Harbinger. The Spirit of the Lord overshadows the Virgin Mary; the angel Gabriel appears unto her and announces the purpose of God to make her the mother of Jesus, the Son of the Highest, who should sit upon the throne of his father David, and of whose kingdom there should be no end; Joseph and Mary go up to Bethlehem, according to a decree of Augustus, to be enrolled, and thus, in fulfillment of an ancient prophecy, the infant Messiah is born in the city of David; the glorious event is announced by an angel to the shepherds in the vicinity, who were watching their flocks by night, and the voice of a multitude of the heavenly host is heard praising God, and saying, "Glory to God in the highest heavens, peace on earth, and good will amongst men;" a star, the Star of Bethlehem, rests over the manger in which Jesus sleeps; magicians from the East, attracted by its appearance, come to worship him and offer gifts--gold, and frankincense, and myrrh; the jealousy of Herod is aroused, and he slays all the male children in Bethlehem, and the borders thereof, from two years old and under, so that, as Jeremiah had prophesied, "In Rama a voice was heard, lamentation and weeping, and great mourning; Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted because they are not."6

      We pass over the few incidents we have recorded of the early life of our Saviour, and come to his entry upon his personal public ministry on earth. In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberias Caesar, the word of the Lord came unto John, and, as had been predicted by Isaiah, he appears as "the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight."7 He "preached the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins," and "the glad tidings of the gospel unto the people,"8 and when multitudes of the people were flocking to him to his baptism, Jesus also came "from Galilee to the Jordan unto John, to be baptized by him. But John forbade him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and [103] tamest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now; for thus it becomes us to fulfill every divine ordinance. Then he suffered him. And Jesus, after he was baptized, immediately went up from the water; and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him; and, lo, a voice from the heavens, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I delight."9

      Thus introduced and miraculously authenticated, the blessed Saviour commences his brief but busy and eventful career. The twelve Apostles are chosen, the seventy are sent out to preach, saying, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand," and the testimony of miracles challenges the dead infidelity of the people to the claims of the Messiah. Meantime, the political relations of the world were all preparing for the same consummation. The declining and partially subjugated condition of the Jewish state, filled the fathers of Israel with the expectation and desire that a deliverer would soon come. They remembered, with hope, the ancient promise, that "the sceptre should not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from his feet, till Shiloh come," and as often as they looked over the waste places of Zion, and saw the gradually growing tyranny and assumptions of the Roman power over their once proud and exclusive glory, they sighed for the fulfilment of the cherished promise concerning the seed, and waited anxiously for the appearance of a successor, to establish again in triumph the throne of David in the Holy City, Jerusalem. But their national ambition was too narrow for the wide philanthropy of God, and they knew not the King when he came. He was to them "as a root out of dry ground; he had no form or comeliness that they should regard him." Therefore, they rejected him as an impostor, and crucified him as a blasphemer.

      But his sufferings and death were for the church. He "purchased it with his own blood;"10 because he loved it, even as a faithful husband loves his wife, therefore gave he himself for it.11 Herein differs the church from all other establishments. It was to be introduced by the voluntary and sacrificial death of its founder and head; it was to rise upon the ruins of the proudest monuments of sin; it was to be built of living stones from the quarry of a fallen humanity; it was to lift up its peaceful front amidst storms of Satanic opposition; it was to subvert the powers of darkness, and shake the deep and strong foundations of human bondage and corruption; and, therefore, with such a purpose and destiny, having no parallel in human annals, it was fitting that it should have an introduction and a basis of establishment, beyond all comparison glorious and strong, at once [104] superhuman and divine. It was to be no temporary expedient, adjusting itself to passing circumstances;--no ephemeral fabric, dissolving as the shadows of time; no kingdom of the land or the sea, crumbling into ruin by its own inherent elements of decay;--but it was to be the eternal wisdom and power of God for universal salvation to all that believe;12 the great and perfect tabernacle, wherein Christ, by the offering of his own blood, should obtain eternal redemption for his people;13 the kingdom that should rise in the latter days of Nebuchadnezzar's vision, seen by him as a little stone cut out of a mountain without hands, which smote the combined powers of the world, and broke them to pieces, and ground them, till they became as the chaff of the summer threshing-floor, and the winds carried them away, that there was no place found for them;--the kingdom that should never be destroyed--that should not be left to other people, but that should break in pieces and consume all other kingdoms, and itself fill the whole earth and stand forever.14

      It was fitting, then, that this kingdom, which is the church, should be introduced with wonderful and glorious power of ceremony and fact, and that its establishment, unlike that of any other, should be accompanied with convulsions, grand and universal as the, conquest it was destined to achieve. Hence, the powers of heaven, and of earth, and of hell, are all enlisted. The throne of David, the throne of Caesar, the throne of Satan--these are the powers; two against one, and this one Christ, alone--alone! Yes, methinks I see him as he cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah, glorious in his apparel, traveling in the greatness of his strength; the announcer of righteousness, mighty to save, with the blood of his downtrodden enemies sprinkled upon his garments, having trodden the wine-press alone!15 He passes from the tribunal of Pilate, the kingdom of Caesar, a captive under death, into the grave, the heart of the empire of Satan; and there he lies, a spectacle to angels and to men, degraded and prostrate between the pillars of the temple of Dagon. And the heaven is sorrowful, and the light of its countenance is darkened, and the earth is shaken, and the dead are moved, and amid this universal and awful disturbance and confusion, the like of which has not been since ancient chaos, the Sun of Righteousness arises with healing in his beams, the Spirit of God broods once more upon the darkness, and beautiful in the robes of righteousness, renovated and redeemed, the church arises upon the ruins of her enemies, and the "righteousness of Zion goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a lamp that burneth."

      Christ, after his resurrection from the dead, is declared to be the Son of God, invested, in his spiritual and glorified state, with all power, [105] both in heaven and in earth,16 and thus "justified in the Spirit,"17 he pours out upon the church miraculous and manifold gifts. As David had sung long before--

"Thou hast ascended on high,
  Thou hast led thy enemies captive;
  Thou hast received gifts for men;
  Yea, for the rebellions also, that the Lord God might dwell among them."18

      And, in full harmony with these ancient intimations, Paul says that, "The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every one therewith to profit," and that "God hath set in the church diversities of gifts--apostles, prophets, teachers, miracles, gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues,19 for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ; till we all come into the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of God."20

      Thus has God "set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem! who shall never hold their peace day nor night;" and let those "who make mention of the Lord, keep not silence, and give him no rest, till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth."21

W. K. P., Vol. 1855, page 14.      

      In an extra issued in 1832, Mr. Campbell teaches concerning the church:

      Q. 93. What is the church of Christ?

      A. The congregation of saints on earth and in heaven.

      Q. 94. What is meant by a church of Christ?

      A. An assembly of persons meeting statedly in one place; built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus himself the chief corner-stone.

      Q. 95. Who are the members of the church of Christ?

      A. Those only who voluntarily and joyfully submit to him as lawgiver, prophet, priest, and king: who assume him as their Saviour, die to sin, are buried with him, and rise to walk in a new life.

      Q. 96. What is the constitution of a Christian congregation?

      A. The New Constitution detailed by Paul, Hebrews, 8th chapter.

      Q. 97. Are no other articles of confederation necessary?

      A. None for a Christian congregation. Jesus is king and lawgiver.

      Q. 98. How are the articles of the Christian constitution to be acceded to and adopted?

      A. The articles of the Christian constitution are all adopted by every individual, in his immersion into the death and resurrection of the Lord. [106]

      Q. 99. Are Christians born into Christ's kingdom by being born of water and the Spirit?

      A. Yes. Thus they become citizens of the kingdom of Jesus.

      Q. 100. But does this make them members of every Christian community?

      A. No: their particular membership in any one community is an after act. Their being members in Jerusalem, Rome, or Corinth, depends upon their location, personal application, and reception.

      Q. 101. Can any Christian congregation, by any order from the King, refuse to receive any citizen of his kingdom?

      A. No: unless he act in a manner unworthy of a citizen.

      Q. 102. But must he not always prove his citizenship before he can be received as a citizen?

      A. The congregation which receives him, must have evidence that he is a citizen.

      Q. 103. Of what nature is this evidence?

      A. The community must either have seen him naturalized, or have testimony from such members of it as have seen him regenerated; but if he have not been born in that place, he must produce letters of recommendation, or written testimony of his naturalization and demeanor as a citizen, before he is worthy of the confidence of any community.

      Q. 104. What constitutes regeneration or naturalization of a citizen?

      A. His being born of water and of the Spirit.

      Q. 105. What are the social privileges of a citizen in the congregation?

      A. He has certain natural and inalienable rights in this kingdom; amongst which are a Christian education, a place at the Lord's table, the affection of all the brotherhood, the right of being heard on all matters which concern his individual spiritual interest, or that of the community; and a part in every privilege, honor, and immunity which belongs to the whole society; for whatever belongs to the whole belongs to each individual member of the body of Christ.

      Q. 106. How may he lose his citizenship in this kingdom?

      A. By committing treason against the King.

      Q. 107. What constitutes treason against the King?

      A. The placing, or an attempt to place, upon the throne of legislation and government any rival of the King; or what is in effect the same, a renunciation of Jesus as Prophet, Priest, and King.

      Q. 108. Is not any moral outrage upon a fellow-citizen an act of rebellion against the King?

      A. Unless repented of, abandoned, and redressed, as far as in the power of the aggressor, it is an act of rebellion, and may amount in the end to a renunciation of the King. [107]

      Q. 109. Does not the possibility of such occurrences require government or presidency in every congregation?

      A. Every Christian community, large or small, is an organized society--not a mob, not a popular assembly--in which there are persons whose business it is to preside over the community, and to execute the laws of the King.

      Q. 110. What are these persons called?

      A. Presidents or bishops, elders or seniors, and deacons or servants of the congregation.

      Q. 111. How are they appointed to office?

      A. By the election or appointment of the community.

      Q. 112. What are the qualifications of the presidents or overseers?

      A. The art of teaching, the art of governing or presiding with effect, and a high reputation for piety and humanity.

      Q. 113. What are the qualifications of the deacons or public servants of the congregations?

      A. That they be business men of known fidelity and integrity.

      Q. 114. Is there any mode of induction into these offices?

      A. Yes; every thing in the Christian kingdom that is done is to be done in some manner. Every thing is to be done in the name of the King, or by calling upon his name. Authority is always conferred by the voice and by the hands of the community over which the supervision or presidency is to be exercised. Their own voice and their own hands, their erection and their separation and consecration to the work, are necessary to the appointment of all public functionaries.

      Q. 115. What is meant by the discipline of a congregation?

      A. The application of the laws of the Christian King to the behavior of the citizens.

      Q. 116. Are there general laws from the King for the exercise of discipline in the Christian assemblies?

      A. There are general rules and special examples found in the apostolic epistles to the congregations; and the Saviour himself for private offenses propounded rules of universal acceptance, adapted to all ages and all conditions of men. But experience and prudence will, in reference to all specialties, guide in the application of these laws and precedents, for the preservation of the purity and unity of the congregation.

      Q. 117. When the members of any community sin against one another, or commit offenses of a private and personal character; and when they are not adjusted in private, but brought into the congregation, are they not to be managed in the public assembly as public misdemeanors or offenses against the Christian profession? [108]

      A. Yes, so far as this:--that the congregation, or those appointed by the congregation to judge such grievances, must act upon good and valid testimony.

      Q. 118. Are Christian congregations to have any matter decided by a committee?

      A. Not ultimately. The whole congregation must finally act in all cases which come before it. But as the whole congregation could not in all cases be judges of many matters, they are to appoint what Paul calls "judges," or "secular sects of judicature," for the arbitrament or adjustment of such matters as could not be correctly examined by females and minors.

      Q. 119. But are not the presidents of a congregation appointed, not only to preside in the meeting an the Lord's day, but also to see that the laws of the King be executed in reference to those who offend?

      A. They are indeed called rulers, presidents, overseers and elders in the New Testament; which terms, in the then current acceptation of them, implied as much as that they had in charge the discipline of the congregation, but not in such a sense as to preclude the necessity of all cases of discipline being ultimately decided by the whole community whose organs they are.

      Q. 120. Is there any peculiar meaning in the forms in which the discipline of a Christian community shall be practiced, which calls for a divine model?

      A. No. The object is to preclude all injustice, unrighteousness, partiality and impurity, from Christian communities. The things to be avoided are all pointed out, and the general principles which are to govern a community are propounded; but as there are no supernatural objects to be accomplished, there are no supernatural or extraordinary rules submitted. The only difference between the discipline of the church and any other society is this, that it aims at greater purity in its members, and to secure that object it proposes a more elevated code, and takes the most efficient measures to preclude partiality or injustice in the execution of its laws.

      Q. 121. Is there no divine model of decency and order?

      A. Yes, the visible universe, nature and society, are models of order, and suggest to us our first conceptions of decency. "Go to the ant, thou sluggard!" "Consider the ravens," you that are anxious for the morrow; "Observe the guests who seat themselves at the tables of public entertainments," you that aspire to high places; "Put new wine into new bottles," you that would confound things ancient and modern; "Look at nature," you men who wear long hair. In every great house there are vessels of wood, earth, iron, silver and gold. "Have you not houses to eat in?" etc., etc., etc. [109]

      But there is no divine model of the mode in which every offense shall be tried and decided in a Christian congregation. But whether it shall be decided upon the testimony of two, upon the first hearing, by the whole congregation; or whether it shall be communicated first to the presidents of the congregation, and stated by them to the congregation; or whether a committee, or judges be appointed; or whether these shall again report their decision to the whole congregation, are matters which are not decided by a positive law, as if the discipline of a church was, like the ritual of Moses, full of symbolic import, or a part of the positive worship of God. But one thing is evident, that that man is to be treated as a heathen or a publican who will not hear the congregation, whether it speak, every one in turn, or through its tongue--the president for the day; or by a committee appointed for the purpose by the parties, if parties there be; or by the congregation; or by the elders whom the congregation has chosen.

      Q. 122. But would it not appear expedient, and Scriptural, too, that when there are presidents appointed in a congregation, no matter of discipline come before the congregation until they are apprized of it, and until the case is prepared for the ears of all who ought to act upon it?

      A. There is no positive law that says so: but Paul puts to the blush the Corinthians, for not following their own reason and sense of propriety in a case not more clear nor evident than this. See I. Cor. vi. 4, 5.

[A. C.]      


      1 Luke xx. 9, etc. [102]
      2 Isa. xxvii. 2, etc. [102]
      3 I. Tim. iii. 15. [102]
      4 Isa. lii. 1, 2. [102]
      5 Isa. Iii. 1, 2. [103]
      6 Matt. iii. 2. [103]
      7 Isa. xl. 3. [103]
      8 Luke iii. 3,18. [103]
      9 Matt. iii. 11, 13. [104]
      10 Acts xx. 28. [104]
      11 Eph. v. 26. [104]
      12 Rom. i. 16. [105]
      13 Heb. ix. 11, 12. [105]
      14 Dan. ii. 33, etc. [105]
      15 Isa. lxiii. 1-3. [105]
      16 Rom. i. 3, 4. [106]
      17 I. Tim. iii. 16. [106]
      18 Ps. lxviii. 18. [106]
      19 I. Cor. xii. 28. [106]
      20 Eph. iii. 12. [106]
      21 Isa. lxii. 6. 7. [106]
Sources:
      1. Robert Richardson. Extract from "Order.--No. 1. Richardson to F. W. Emmons.--Letter I.: Church." The
Millennial Harbinger 7 (July 1836): 323-326.
      2. W. K. Pendleton. "The Church.--No. I. Its Wonderful Introduction and Establishment." The Millennial
Harbinger 26 (January 1855): 14-20.
      3. Alexander Campbell. "The Church." The Millennial Harbinger Extra 3 (August 1832): 351-354.

 

[MHA2 97-110]


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Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)