THIRTY-FIRST LORD’S DAY.
Question 83. What are the keys of the kingdom of heaven?
Answer. The preaching of the holy gospel, and Christian discipline, or the ex communication out of the Christain Church: by these two, the kingdom of heaven is opened to believers, and shut against unbelievers.
Having now shown who are to be admitted to the Lord’s supper by the church, the doctrine respecting the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven, comes naturally next in order, which, in addition to other things, teaches in an especial manner, how those who are not to be admitted to the Lord’s table ought to be kept back and excluded from the sacraments, lest they profane them by coming. The things which claim special attention in regard to this subject are,
The power of the keys which Christ delivered to the church, is the preaching of the gospel and Christian discipline, by which the kingdom of heaven is opened to believers, and shut against unbelievers. Or it is the office of the church, according to the command of Christ, to make known the will of God by the preaching of the gospel, and ecclesiastical discipline and to declare and publicly testify the grace of God, and the remission of sins to such as are truly penitent; that is, to those who live in true faith; and repentance; and, on the contrary, to denounce upon the wicked the wrath of God and exclusion from the kingdom of Christ, and to exclude them from the church as long as they shall shew themselves estranged from Christ in doctrine and life; and to receive them into the church again when they promise, and show real amendment. It is called the power of the keys from a metaphor, or form of speech borrowed from stewards, to whom are delivered the keys of the house in which they are stewards. The keys signify the office of the steward by a metonymy, or change of terms between the sign and thing signified, as we use the term sceptre for kingdom. The church is the house of the living God. The ministers of the church are the stewards of God. For what a faithful steward is in his master s house, managing all things at his master s command, the same is- a faithful minister in the church. The declaration of the will of God, therefore, in the church, is accomplished by the ministers, as by stewards., in the name of God. Christ himself is the author of the ministry. He gave this power to the church, arid designated it by the term keys, saying to Peter, 4 1 will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven;” (Matt. 16:
19,) that is, the office or power to open and shut the kingdom of God. At another time he said to all the disciples; “Whatsoever ye shall bind on, earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matt. 18:18.) The keys of the kingdom of heaven are, therefore, the power to open and shut, to bind and loose; arid are so called from the efficacy of this power. For the church opens and. shuts, binds arid looses by the word of God and in the name of Christ, in whose stead ministers act; and the Holy Ghost works effectually by his- word, according to the promise of Christ: u Whose soever sins ye remit,, they are remitted unto them; arid whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.” (John 20:23.)
The keys of the kingdom of heaven consist of two parts: the preaching, of the Gospel, or the ministry of the Word, and Christian discipline, to which excommunication belongs; by these two the church opens and shuts,, binds and looses. It shuts and binds, by the preaching of the Gospel, when it declares and testifies to unbelievers and hypocrites, that they stand ex posed to the wrath of God and eternal condemnation, so long as they are unconverted; and it opens and looses when it declares and testifies to the faithful and penitent the remission of sins and the grace of God, for the Bake of Christ’s merits. It shuts and binds by Christian discipline, when it excommunicates wicked and obstinate offenders, or forbids them the use of the sacraments, by which they are excluded from the Christian, church, and by God himself from the kingdom of Christ; and it opens and looses, when it again receives the same persons, if they repent, as member of Christ and his church.
This distinction, however, must be observed, as it respects the order of those two parts: The keys, by the preaching of the Gospel, first loose and then bind; but, in Christian discipline, they first bind and then loose. Again; the keys loose and bind the same or different persons, by the preaching of the Gospel; but they bind and loose the same persons only, by Christian discipline. Excommunication is the rejection, or the excluding of a gross offender one that is openly wicked and obstinate, from the society of the faithful, by the judgment of the elders, with the consent of the whole church, done in the name and by the authority of Christ, and of the Holy Ghost, in order that the offender, being thus put to shame, may repent, and that such things as bring a reproach upon the cause of Christ, may be carefully guarded against. This is not merely an exclusion from the .sacraments, but from the whole communion of the faithful, with which the obstinate and disobedient have no connection. It is two-fold: internal, which belongs to God alone; and external, which belongs to the church. The former is declared on earth by that which is external; whilst the latter is ratified in heaven by that which is internal, according to the promise of Christ; “Whatsoever ye shall bind in earth, shall be bound in heaven.” (Matt. 18:18.)
There can be no doubt but that all the prophets, as well as Christ and his apostles, have preached respecting the ministry of the word. And as ecclesistical discipline has a necessary connection with the minis try of God s word, there can be no doubt respecting this, since God him self, and Christ, and the apostle Paul, have confirmed and established it both by precept and examples. And surely if no country or city can exist without discipline, laws and punishments, then certainly the church, which is the house of the living God also needs some form of government and discipline, although it differs widely from civil power or jurisdiction.
The discipline of the church is, therefore, necessary,
1. On account of the general command of God with respect to guarding against the profanation of the sacraments, both in the Old and the New Testament. In the Old Testament, God would not allow wicked and obstinate offenders to be included among the number of his people, but required them to be excluded from their fellowship. Much less would he permit them to come to the sacraments of his church. “The soul that doeth aught pre sumptuously, (whether he be born in the land, or a stranger,) the same reproacheth the Lord; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Because he hath despised the word of the Lord, and hath broken his commandment, that soul shall be utterly cut off.” (Num. 15:30, 31.) God did indeed desire all to come to the passover, that is, all the members of his church; but he did not regard the rebellious and obstinate as in eluded in the number of those who were in covenant with him. Hence he commanded them to be excluded from his people. “The man that will do presumptuously, and will not hearken unto the priest that standeth to minister there before the Lord thy God, even that man shall die; and thou shale put away the evil from Israel.” (Deut. 17:12.) From these two passages just quoted, it appears that God commanded such as were rebellious and wicked to be cut off from the Jewish commonwealth, and would not allow them to be received amongst the number of his people. Much less, therefore, would he allow them to be regarded as members of his visible church, and be admitted to her sacraments. It is true, indeed, that the judicial law has been abolished, as well as the ceremonies which belonged to the Jewish dispensation; but that great distinction which was observed between the members of the Jewish church and others, has not been set aside. There is in the prophecy of Isaiah, a whole sermon directed against the wicked who offer sacrifices unto God; nor did God desire that such persons should offer sacrifices unto him. Hence he does not desire that they should be admitted to the sacraments of his house. His language is, “Bring no more vain oblations,” &c. (Is. 1:13.) But it is said, by way of objection, God de sired, yea, also commanded all to celebrate the Passover. We reply that he did indeed command all those who were regarded as members of his people to observe the passover; but not such as were rebellious, for he expressly commanded them to be excluded from the number of those who stood in covenant relations with him. Isaiah detests the hypocritical offerings of those who are presumptuous enough to sacrifice unto God, whilst living in the habitual and willful indulgence of sin: “He that killeth an ox, is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog s neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine s blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol,” &c. (Is. 66:3.) Jeremiah severely reproves those who had the boldness to come into the temple whilst they were still defiled with their sins. (Jer. 6:7, 10, 20.) Ezekiel declares that God will not be enquired of by those who go after strange gods, and then present themselves in his temple. (Ez. 20:31.) And, in the 20th verse of the same chapter, he says that those profane his sabbaths, and pollute his sanctuary, who come into his house defiled with their idols. The prophet Amos rejects the sacrifices and worship of wicked transgressors, saying, “I hate, I despise your feast-days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies.” (Amos 5:21.) The prophet Haggai forbids (Hag. 2:13, 14) the unclean in soul to touch that which is holy, where he speaks of moral and ceremonial uncleanness. And, in Prov. 15:8, it is declared that “the sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord.” In the New Testament, John admitted none to his baptism but such as confessed their sins and repented. u Bring forth fruits meet for repentance.” “Leave there thy gift before the altar and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. (Matt. 3:8; 5:24.) He, therefore, who does not first reconcile himself to his brother, should be forbidden the use of the sacraments. Christ commands that all submit themselves first to God, according to all his commandments, before they approach any of the sacraments; for, by the term altar, as here used, may be understood any of the sacraments. “Repent and be baptized every one of you.” “If thou belie vest with all thine heart, thou mayest be baptized.” (Acts 2:37; 8:37.) Therefore, if thou dost not believe, it is not lawful. “The things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, arid not to God.” u Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of devils.” “Whosoever shall eat unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of Christ.” (1 Cor. 10:20, 21; 11:27.) The wicked, eating without faith and repentance, partake unworthily. Therefore they are guilty of the body of Christ. We ought not to take part in the sins of others: neither ought we to connive at or feign ignorance in regard to the destruction of any one. Hence we should not admit the wicked to the sacraments, lest they eat judgment to themselves.
2. On account of the special command of Christ and his Apostles, “If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone; if he shall hear thee thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church; but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man, and a publican. Verily I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matt. 18:15-19.) The Lord now will not permit his sacraments, which he instituted for the faithful alone, to be administered to publicans, and heathen. And lest any one should understand this command as spoken of private judgment it is expressly added, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth, &c., which declaration cannot be understood in any other sense, than as referring to the public power of the keys. “I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” And u with such an one eat not. Therefore, put away from yourselves that wicked person.” “And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?” “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.” “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed; for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.” (1 Cor. 5:3, 4, 5, 11, 13. 2 Cor. 6:15. 2 Thes. 3:6, 14. 2 John 10:11.)
3. The power of the keys is necessary on account of the glory of God. For reproach is cast upon the name and cause of God, if all, including blasphemers and such as are notoriously wicked, are regarded as the children of God without any distinction, so as to confound the kingdom of God with that of Satan.
4. It is necessary in order that the sacraments may not be profaned, and that that may not be given to the wicked in the supper which is denied them in the word.
5. That the purity of doctrine and worship may be preserved.
6. For the safety of the church, which God will punish if it knowingly and willingly profane the sacraments, or permit them to be profaned.
7. For the salvation of sinners, in order that they, being frequently ad monished, and put to shame, may be brought to repentance.
8. That scandals may be prevented in the church, and that those who are weak may not be corrupted by the bad examples of others. “Know ye not that a little leaven, leaveneth the whole lump.” (1 Cor. 5:6.)
9. That scandals may be prevented on the part of those who are out of the church, and that those who are not as yet members of the church, may not come into connection with it, until they repent of their sins.
10. That the name of God be not blasphemed and evil spoken of by others, and his covenant dishonored.
11. That punishment may be averted from the wicked; for if the ungodly are permitted to come to the sacraments of the church, they bring upon themselves the judgments of God. That this may not, therefore, come to pass, the church is bound to take such measures as will prevent them from coming to the holy sacraments.
12. Those w r ho deny the true faith, and doctrine of Christ are to be excluded from the church, and from the use of the sacraments. The faithful are not to be confounded with those who are aliens from the church; as are those who are openly wicked, who are blasphemers, and who have fallen into such errors as Arianism, Mahometanisin, c. But all those who re fuse to repent, deny the true faith, and doctrine of Christ: “They pro fess that they know God, but in works they deny him.” (1 Tit. 1:16.) And he that denies the true faith is worse than an infidel. Therefore, those who persevere in their wickedness and refuse to repent, are to be excluded from the church, and from the use of the sacraments.
13. The declaration of Christ, Matt. 7:6.” Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine,” is also here in point. But those who persevere in their wickedness, casting reproach upon the church, and even upon God himself, are indeed dogs and swine; and are, therefore, not to be admitted to the sacraments. For if Christ declares this of his preached word, which was instituted for the converted, and un converted, or such as would yet be converted, much more is it true of his visible word, the sacraments, which were instituted for none, but those who are converted.
14. Avowed infidels, blasphemers, and such as are notoriously wicked, are not to be baptized; for none but such as believe with all their heart ought to be baptized. Hence Philip said to the Eunuch: “If thou be lie vest with all thine heart, thou mayest be baptized.” (Acts 8:37.) Nor did John baptize any but such as confessed their sins. Hence, if unbelievers and blasphemers ought not to be baptized, it follows that they must also be excluded from the church, and not be admitted to the Lord’s sup per; for those who ought not to be baptized, ought not to be admitted to the supper, because that which excludes them from the one sacrament, excludes them also from the other.
15. Those who are not yet baptized are not to be admitted to the supper. But those who fall from, or live in willful neglect of their baptism, to them baptism is no baptism according to the declaration of the apostle Paul: “If thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision,” that is, if thou persevere in thy transgression without repentance. (Rom. 2:25.) Therefore, those who fall from their baptism are not to be admitted to the Lord’s supper. To this some one may object and say: There
fore, those who fall from their baptism, are also to be rebaptized after their reception into the church. But we would reply, that reception into the church by baptism is valid in the case of all those who repent, and that without any repetition of the sign. And in as much as baptism is the sacrament or our reception into the church, those who fall from it are not in the church, and hence as long as they remain such they are not to be admitted to the church, nor to the Lord’s supper.
16. The sign of grace ought not to be granted unto those to whom the promise of grace does not belong; otherwise the church would act wickedly in admitting those whom God excludes, and would contradict itself. For it would absolve by the visible word those whom it would condemn by the preached word. But the promise of grace does not extend to blasphemers, and such as are openly wicked. Therefore, the sign of grace ought not to be granted unto them.
17. Lastly, the institution of the sacraments, or the condition to be ob served on our part in coming to the sacraments, demands repentance and faith. Therefore, unbelievers and such as do not repent are not to be admitted to the sacraments. The force of this argument will be seen by stating it thus: Those are to be admitted to the sacraments who have repentance and faith. Therefore those who have not these qualifications arc not to be admitted.
The declaration of the word of God is committed to those to whom the power of the keys is committed. The denunciation of the wrath of God, and the declaration of his grace which is accomplished by the preaching of the gospel is committed to the ministers of Christ. The preaching of the gospel is committed to them alone. But the denunciation of the wrath of God, included in Christian discipline, belongs to the whole church; for the whole church exercises discipline, and spiritual jurisdiction. Yet the denunciation which is included in the ministry of the word, is after a different manner from what it is in Christian discipline. In the ministry of the word the wrath of God is, by all and every minister, and by them alone, denounced, the word of God going before, against all the impenitent and un believing, viz: that they are excluded from the kingdom of Christ so long as they do not repent, and live according to the teachings of the gospel. And if they repent, the grace of God and the remission of sins is declared and testified to them from the word of God by the same ministers.
Obj. Therefore ministers have power to condemn. Ans. They have ministerial power; by which w r e mean, the office to declare and testify to men, according to the command of God, that God remits or does not remit their sins. This is done in two ways. First, and in general, when they declare that all those who believe are saved, and that all those who do not believe are condemned. Secondly, when in the exercise of this office they declare and testify privately to particular persons, and to every one in particular, that their sins are forgiven them of God for the sake of Christ’s merits, whenever they receive the promise of the gospel by a true faith, and that the wrath of God is denounced against every one so long as he does not repent. So Peter declared to Simon Magus: “Thou hast neither part, nor lot in this matter.” (Acts 8:21.) The same thing must be declared to every one in particular, as often as there is a necessity for it; not indeed according to our own pleasure or will, but according to the command of God. This is the power of the keys granted to the pastors of the church, and connected with the ministry of the word. The execution of this sentence, however, belongs to God alone. As it respects ecclesiastical jurisdiction, or Christian discipline, the case is somewhat different; for the declaration of the favor and wrath of God is not made by any one privately, but by the whole church, or at least in the name of the whole church, by those who have been chosen for this purpose by the common consent of all. This declaration is made for certain causes, and with reference to particular persons, and includes an exclusion from the use of the sacraments, when necessity requires it.
But who are to be excluded from the Christian church, and from the use of the sacraments? An answer to this Question may be anticipated from what we have already said upon this subject; which is, that those- who either obstinately deny some article of faith, or show themselves unwilling to repent and to submit themselves to the will of God according to all his commandments, and who do not hesitate to declare their intention to persist in a course of open wickedness, all such are not to be admitted to the church; and if they have been admitted into the church by baptism, they must, nevertheless, not be permitted to approach the Lord’s supper until they renounce their errors and show amendment of life.
The order which is to be observed in executing the power of the keys, is that which Christ himself has prescribed in Matt. 18. If any one has committed a private offence, he must first be kindly admonished by some one, according to the command of Christ: “If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone. If he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.” (Matt. 18:15.) Then, if he does not repent after having been admonished by one, he must be again privately admonished, by taking with thee one or two more. Such admonitions, however, must be delivered according to the word of God, and with proper evidence of good-will towards the offender; and must also be based upon causes which are just, grievous and necessary. And if he will not repent when thus admonished by one or two, he must then be corrected by the whole church, concerning which Christ has also given commandment, saying: “If he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church.” When any one sins by committing an offence publicly against the whole church, he must also be publicly corrected by the church according to the nature of the offence. And if he will not repent when thus admonished and reproved by the church, whether it be he that committed a private offence, or he that committed a public offence, excommunication must at length be inflicted by the church, as the last remedy for the purpose of correcting obstinate and unrepenting sinners, according to the command of Christ: “If he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.”
This, therefore, is the course which should always be pursued for the purpose of correcting and reclaiming those who err, and become refractory in the church: observing the different steps which Christ has prescribed in the passage just quoted. The steps to be taken are four in number:
1. Private brotherly admonition. 2. Admonition by many. 3. Admonition by the church. 4. The public sentence of the church. The first and second steps are to be observed in private offences; the third in notorious and grievous sins or offences; the fourth in the case of contumacy, or of obstinate and determined wickedness, in which only the church proceeds to the act of excommunication, regarding the offender as an heathen and publican an alien from the church arid kingdom of Christ, until he repent of his wickedness. Hence, before excommunication can be inflicted upon any one, there must necessarily be a knowledge of some error or sin, which is accompanied with obstinacy and determined wickedness on the part of the offender; so that if any one becomes a Papist, or an Arian, or a Davidian, or any other apostate, he must not be held and recognized as a member of the church, even though he may declare himself to be such; and may desire to remain in the church, unless he renounce and detest his error,
and live according to the gospel. The reason is, because, God will have his church separate and distinct from all the various sects and adherents of the devil. Those, now, who reverse or disregard their baptismal vows, are members of the devil. Therefore they are to be cut off from the church, even though they may declare that they are Christians; for they deny by their works what they profess with their mouths, and so give plain evidence that they lie. Faith and a Christian life cannot exist separately. Those, therefore, who separate them, mock God and his church. An apostate is not one who occasionally, or even often offends in doctrine and life, and repents again of his sin; but is such an one who, being convicted of error and open wickedness, is still unwilling to abandon his sins, and to renounce his errors. Yet if any one professes repentance, and makes an outward declaration to this effect, giving some evidence thereof in his life, the church, even though he be inwardly a hypocrite, is bound to receive him, until his true character becomes apparent; for the church is not to judge of things secret and hidden.
Christ has given to the church the power of excommunication, not for the destruction of the sinner, but for his edification and salvation. The design of ecclesiastical discipline is, therefore, not to establish the sovereignty and tyranny of the ministers of Christ. “The kings of the Gen tiles exercise lordship over them, but ye shall not be so.” (Luke 22:25.) Ministers themselves ought most of all to be subject to this discipline, and are especially to be kept within the proper bounds of their calling by this bridle; because the keys do not belong to ministry only, but to the whole church. Much less is it the design of Christian discipline to torment, oppress, or drive to desparation those whose lives are of such a character as to require the exercise of the keys of the kingdom of heaven. These are the foul slanders of those who are the enemies of proper discipline in the church. The true ends of Christian discipline are those which the Apostle Paul has specified, among which we may mention the following:
1. That the obstinate and disobedient may, being put to shame and terrified in this way, be led to proper reflection and repentance. “To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 5:5.)
2. That other Christians may not become corrupted by the conversation and example of gross offenders. One scabbed or diseased sheep may infect the whole flock, unless it be cured or separated from the flock; and a little leaven leaveueth the whole lump. “Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” (1 Cor. 5:6.)
3. That others by this means may fear to offend. “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.” (1 Tim. 5:20.)
4. That the church may not be disgraced and evil spoken of, on account of public scandals; and that the profanation of the sacraments and the wrath of God may be prevented. “Purge out the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.” (1 Cor. 5:7.)
These are the ends or designs of discipline.
First, the different forms of admonition, of which we have already spoken, must not be neglected, neither must the order be inverted, by commencing with the last. There should always be private admonition in the first place, in which he who offends should be kindly admonished, which admonition should include a clear statement of the error or offence in the case a reproof delivered according to the word of God and an exhortation to repentance.
Secondly, it should be attended to according to the word of God, with proper evidence of brotherly love, and of a desire to benefit those that err, and to secure their salvation. God will not be the executioner of the sentence of another, but of his own. The offending Brother must not, therefore, at once be regarded as an enemy, but must be admonished as a brother, according to what the apostle Paul says: “Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.” (2 Thes. 8:15.)
Thirdly, it should be based upon just, weighty and necessary causes, and not upon such as are unjust, doubtful and of small importance. We should never rashly proceed to inflict excommunication upon any one from a slight suspicion; but only when driven to it by urgent necessity, just as physicians never resort to the use of the knife until necessity compels. Such a necessity may be said to exist when errors are entertained which subvert the very foundation of our faith, and when flagrant crimes are obstinately persisted in, so as to endanger the safety of the whole church, or at least certain members of it.
Fourthly, the cause must be carefully and diligently considered by all the elders, and the decision must be approved of by the whole church. It must not be undertaken by the authority of any one person, nor even by the ministers alone; for Christ did not deliver this power to a few per sons, or to the ministers alone, (although the execution is committed by the church to a few persons, or to the minister alone,) but to the whole church. “If he shall neglect to hear thee, tell it unto the church.” “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; but ye shall not be so.” (Matt. 18:17. Luke 22:25.) The consent and decision of the church is, therefore, to be obtained, 1. On account of the command of God. 2. That no one may be injured. 3. That the act may have greater authority and power. 4. That the ministry of the church may not be changed into an oligarchy, or into the tyranny practiced in the Papal church. 5. That the condemnation of the offender may appear more in accordance with justice.
Lastly, it should be so exercised as not to create any schism in the church, or be the occasion of any scandal, whilst good men see many at variance with each other, the church rent, and evils follow each other in quick succession.
If the minister see or fear these evil? he must not proceed, but warn and exhort both publicly and privately. And even though he may not be able to accomplish anything, he is still free from blame. “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.” (Matt. 5:6.) The sin and punishment will, in this case, rest upon the obstinate.
The points of difference are many, and such as are apparent.
1. Ecclesiastical discipline is exercised by the church; civil power by the judge or magistrate.
2. In the state, judgment is passed according to civil and positive laws; in the church, according to the divine law or word of God.
3. The power of the keys committed to the church depends upon the word of God, and the church exercises her power by the word, denouncing the wrath of God upon the impenitent; punishes the obstinate with the word of God alone, yet in such a way that this punishment takes hold even upon the conscience: civil power employs the sword, and compels the refractory to submit to its authority by temporal punishment alone.
4. The church has different steps of admonition, and if the offender is brought to acknowledge his sin and repents of it, it does not proceed to execute punishment in his case; the magistrate punishes the offender even though he repent.
5. The church in the exercise of discipline, looks to the reformation and salvation of the offender; the magistrate to the execution of justice and the public peace. Bill ber Dieb nicht zu unferm herr Gott fahren, fo fahre er zum Bofen.
6. As the church exercises discipline in the case of none except the obstinate and disobedient, so it is bound to reverse its decision, and to remove the punishment, whenever there is sufficient evidence of repentance on the part of the offender. The magistrate when he has once inflicted punishment neither reverses the decision, nor removes the punishment. The thief that repents upon the cross, or in the hour of death, is received by Christ into Paradise; the magistrate proceeds to the execution of the punishment to which he is sentenced, and sends him into exile. So Christian discipline often takes cognizance of things which the state does not notice, as when the church casts out of her communion those who do not repent, and refuses to recognize them as her members, whilst the magistrate, nevertheless, tolerates them; and so, on the contrary, the state may banish those whom the church receives. The magistrate may, for instance, inflict capital punishment upon adulterers, robbers, thieves, &c., and yet the church may receive them, if they give proper evidence of true repentance. The difference, therefore, between ecclesiastical and civil power, is clear and apparent.
It now remains for us to notice in a few words some of the objections which the opposers of Christian discipline are wont to bring forward. Obj. 1. The Scriptures no where command us to exercise the office of the keys. Therefore, no one ought to be excluded from the sacraments. Ans. We deny the antecedent, because the Scriptures contain many declarations bearing directly upon this subject. “I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven,” &c. (Matt. 16:19.) Here the power of the keys, committed to all ministers of the word, is declared in express terms. As to the manner in which the church ought to discharge the office of the keys, Christ commands and instructs us as follows: “If he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church; bat if he neglect to hear the church let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matt. 18:17, 18.) What Christ has here delivered in the form of a command, the apostle Paul confirms as touching the thing itself. “To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” “When ye come together into one place this is not to eat the Lord’s Supper.” “If any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him that he may be ashamed.” “Of whom is Hymeneus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.” (1 Cor. 5:5; 11:20. 2 Thes. 3:14. 1 Tim. 1:20.) There are also many clear testimonies found in the writings of the prophets, from which it is evident that God has commanded the exercise of discipline in his church. “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the Lord; I am full of the burnt-offerings of rams,” &c. “He that killeth an ox, is as if he slew a man,” &c. “I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt-offerings or sacrifices.” “Unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes; or that thou shouldst take my covenant in thy mouth.” Hence, Christ also said: “Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” (Is. 1:11; 66:3. Jer. 7:22. Ps. 50:16. Matt. 5:24.) The Scriptures also contain many other declarations in addition to these, which command that all those who are openly wicked be excluded from the church and the use of the sacraments; as where the unlawful use of the sacraments is condemned, and where ministers are commanded to receive none as members of the church, except such as profess repentance and faith.
To this it is objected, that whilst God forbids the ungodly to come to the sacraments, he does not command that the church should exclude them. But it is sufficient to reply, that what God forbids to be done in the church, that he will have prohibited by the discipline of the church; and that God has commanded the church to exclude those, who are openly wicked is plainly declared in the passages of Scripture already cited. Obj. 2. Men cannot distinguish the worthy from the unworthy, neither can they know who truly repent, and who persist in wickedness; because they cannot look into the heart, and are not able to cast any into hell.
Therefore the church is not empowered with any discipline, by which the godly may be discerned, and separated from the ungodly. Ans. The church does not sit in judgment upon those things which are secret and hidden, but upon those which are manifest, and which are apparent in the outward life and profession. The church does this when it subscribes to the judgment of God with reference to the wicked; that is, when it judges of them according to the requirement of God s word, as when it declares,
testifies according to the word of God that obstinate offenders are condemned as long as they remain such; and when, according to the word of God, it absolves all those who truly repent. But as to discern from others those whose true character is not known, the church is not able, neither does it arrogate this to itself.
Obj. 3. Christ says in the parable of the wheat and tares, “Let both grow together until the harvest.” (Matt. 13:30.) Therefore none ought to be excluded. Ans. 1. Christ here speaks of hypocrites, who cannot always be discerned from those who are truly pious. Therefore the meaning is, that hypocrites ought not to be cut off and separated from the church, when we do not certainly know them to be such; for the angels will do this at the last day. 2. Christ here distinguishes the office of ministers from that of the magistrate. Let them grow, that is, do not put to death those that are estranged from the church; for the minister must not use temporal power against any man, as the magistrate does. If this difference now be properly considered the difference which exists between the church and the kingdom of the devil will still remain. Obj. 4. Men are to be urged to the performance of good works. The use of the sacraments is a good work. Therefore none should be excluded from the sacraments, but all should be urged to the observance of them. Ans. 1. The minor proposition is not true, unless it be understood to refer exclusively to the use which the faithful make of the sacraments, otherwise their use is not a good work, when observed by the unbelieving. The use of the sacraments is a good work, when works of a moral character precede their observance. When this is the case it is correctly called the use of the sacraments; otherwise it is an abuse and profanation of the sacraments; for when the wicked observe the sacraments they abuse them. It is for this reason that Christ expressly exhorts the wicked not to present their offering, saying, Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way, &c. 2. The major must be distinguished: Men are to be urged to the performance of good works, but in their proper order. They should, in the first place, be urged to the performance of such works as are of a moral character, and then to those which are ceremonial. It is in this sense that we are to understand Christ when he says, “Compel them to come in,” &c. (Luke 14:23.) If the objection were to be presented thus: Good works are not to be forbidden. The use of the sacraments is a good work. Therefore it is not to be forbidden; if thus stated we grant the whole argument; for we do not forbid the use, but the abuse of the sacraments. But it is said, God commanded all to celebrate the passover. Ans. He commanded all, meaning not the wicked, but those who were members of his church, and who were to be retained as citizens of the Jewish common wealth; for there was an express command that those, who were disobedient should be cut off from the congregation of God s people. But it is still further objected; that there are, nevertheless, many evils accompanying the use of the sacraments. These evils, however, are committed by the impenitent those who are unwilling to conform to a proper use of the sacraments, and not by those who exhort them to their duty. “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness,” &c., that is, who desire the performance of that which is good. But if these good works are not per formed, it is not their fault. We may not do that which is evil, or omit the good, which God commands, that good may result from such a course. We must do our duty, and leave the event with God. By so doing we shall always retain a good conscience, even though those good things which we desire are not realized.
Obj. 5. But neither the Prophets, nor Apostles, nor John the Baptist, excluded any from the sacraments; nay, John baptized a generation of vipers. Therefore neither ought the ministers of the church now to exclude any. Ans. We deny what is affirmed in the antecedent; for although those who were baptized of John were from a generation of vipers, yet they were no longer vipers after they were baptized; for he baptized none, but those who confessed their sins. He preached the baptism of repentance unto the remission of sins, and required of those who were baptized to bring forth fruits meet for repentance. The Prophets, although they could not exclude the wicked from the sacrifices, and sacraments of the old dispensation, nevertheless, severely condemned the sins and abuses of those who offered sacrifices; and often delivered long discourses, as well against those who were presumptuous enough to come into the presence of God without having repented of their sins, as against the church which admitted them to her sacrifices. And that the Apostles did exclude the openly wicked from the use of the sacraments, is evident from the example of Paul who commanded the incestuous man of whom we have an account in his first epistle to the Corinthians, to be delivered unto Satan, and to be cut off from the church.
Obj. 6. John admitted by himself alone those who professed repentance and faith, and rejected the impenitent in the same way. Therefore it is lawful for one minister alone, either to admit them that profess repentance and faith, or to exclude them that are obstinate, which has been denied, or the example of the Baptist proves nothing. Ans. The examples are not similar. John was endowed with prophetical and apostolic author ity, which ministers of the present day have not. Again, there was at that time particular respect had to the gathering of the church, and not so much to the exclusion of those who were in the church, and had nevertheless forfeited all right to its privileges by their sins, and obstinate perseverance in evil.
A BRIEF REFUTATION OF THE SOPHISMS BY WHICH CERTAIN PERSONS AT TEMPTED TO OVERTHROW ECCLESIASTICAL DISCIPLINE IN A PUBLIC DISCUS SION HELD IN HEIDELBERG, (DR. PERER BOQUIN PRESIDING, AND GEORGE WITHERS, AN ENGLISHMAN, REPLYING) ON THE 10TH OF JUNE, ANNO DOMINI, 1568; TAKEN WORD FOR WORD, AS DELIVERED, BY DR. Z. URSINUS, AT THE REPETITION OF THIS DISCUSSION, WHICH TOOK PLACE THE NEXT DAY PRIVATELY IN “COLLEGIAM SAPIENTIAE,” IN WHICH THE TWO FOLLOWING THESES WERE PROPOSED WITH REFERENCE TO CHURCH DISCIPLINE.
I. In connection with the sincere preaching of the word, and the lawful administration of the sacraments, the office of government or discipline in the church must be maintained.
II. This office I thus state: That the ministers in connection with the eiders should both have and exercise the power of convicting, reproving, excommunicating, and of executing any thing else that pertains to ecclesiastical discipline, upon any that offend, not even excepting Princes themselves.
Obj. 1. Where the word and sacraments are rightly administered, there the office of discipline must be maintained. But in the” primitive church, and in many well ordered churches at the present, the authority of discipline is not maintained. Therefore the word and sacraments are not rightly administered in these churches, which is absurd. In replying to the major proposition we make the following distinction. The phrase to administer rightly, may be understood differently. It may signify, or be understood as referring to that administration which agrees perfectly with the prescript of our Lord. Then it may again be understood of that administration which is not in perfect accordance with the rule which our Lord has laid down, but which is, nevertheless, administered in such a way as is pleasing to God, and profitable to the church. The sacraments are no where rightly administered according to the former signification; but according to the latter signification they may be and are. For although there may be some irregularities or faults which cannot at once be corrected on account of human infirmity, yet the administration may, nevertheless, be pleasing to God, and profitable to the church; for, “blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness. * Unless these things be granted there will not be a single pure church in the world. This may be regarded as a sufficient refutation of the major proposition. We, in like manner, deny the minor proposition; for the authority of Christian discipline was maintained in the primitive church, and will remain in the church, even where it is imperfectly constituted, although with great abuse, as with the Papists. To this it is objected, that in our, as well as in the Helvetic churches, which are properly constituted churches, excommunication is not attended to, so that what is affirmed in the minor proposition of the above syllogism remains true. But we would reply, that although we may grant that in some churches discipline is not put in force, or badly exercised, yet still that which is affirmed by our opponents cannot be maintained, because the word and sacraments are rightly administered in these churches, according to the other signification of which we have spoken. Here Ursinus quoted a saying of Chrysostom: “If any wicked person come to the table of the Lord, do not give unto him the body and blood of the Lord. If he will not believe, declare it unto me: I would rather lose my life than admit him.” Hence Christian discipline was maintained in the early church several centuries after Christ.
Obj. 2. That doctrine which is neither established by the word of God nor proven by examples, must not be forced upon the church. This doc trine respecting excommunication is neither established by the word of God, nor proven by examples. Therefore it must not be forced upon the church. Ans. We deny the minor proposition: for the word of God expressly declares, in Matt. 18:17, “Tell it unto the church: and if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.” The same thing is also confirmed by examples, for proof of which see 1 Cor. 5:5: “Deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh.” Also, 1 Tim. 1:20: “Whom I have delivered unto Satan.”
Obj. 1. No mention is made in the 18th chapter of Matthew of the eldership, nor of excommunication. Therefore this passage proves nothing.
Ans. We deny the antecedent, because although the very same words are not used, yet the thing itself is taught in the passage referred to. The eldership is introduced where it is said, Tell it unto the church; and excommunication where it is said, Let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
Obj. 2. The eldership is not the church. Christ now commands that information be communicated to the church, and that admonition be given by the church. Therefore no mention is made of elders in the case. Ans. We deny the major proposition, although the whole argument may be con ceded, viz: that Christ did not mean the eldership, but uses the term church in its proper sense, whether we refer it to the Jewish or Christian church. But yet there must be some order for the government of the church: there must be certain persons appointed and ordained by the church, who may have the management of its affaire, or else there will be confusion.
Obj. 3. It is true, indeed, that information cannot be communicated to the whole church, but to a certain class of persons, whose office is not ecclesiastical, but civil, so that the sense is: Tell it unto the church; by which is meant the senate of the city. Ans. It is here confessed that information cannot be communicated to the whole church, but to a certain class of rulers, which, notwithstanding, is not ecclesiastical, but civil. The question now is, whether this is to be understood of a civil council. This our opponents must prove, which they endeavor to do in this way: That council which punishes with temporal punishments is civil. The council which gave Paul power to put Christians to death inflicted temporal punishments. Therefore it was a civil council. Ans. We reply to the major, that that council which inflicts temporal punishments according to right is civil. But the high priests who gave this power to Paul did it wrongfully, because they had not the right which they usurped and arrogated to them selves. The same thing may also be said in reference to the death of Stephen: for he was slain by a tumult; whilst the priests themselves were consenting to it, but wrongfully.
Obj. 4. Augustin says: The Jews lied when they said, “It is not lawful for us to put any man to death.” (John 18:81.) Ans. These are the words of Augustin: “We must not, however, understand them as saying that they might not put any to death on account of the sacredness of the day, which they now began to celebrate. Are ye so hard-hearted, ye treacherous Israelites? Have ye lost all sense by your inveterate malice, as to believe that ye are clear from the blood of the innocent, because ye delivered him into the hands of another for the purpose of being slain” Augustin, therefore, did not say that they lied, but only that they did that which they said it was not lawful for them to do.
Obj. 5. Chrysostom understands the words just referred to, to mean, i is not lawful for us, viz., on account of the nearness of the feast. Ans This is not true, even though it may be thus understood by Chrysostom; because history testifies that their civil jurisdiction and laws were taken from them by Herod the Great; and Josephus says that the council (excepting one Sameas) was put to death by him and Hyrcanus. The Jews therefore designed to say this to Pilate: “Thou hast the right, or power of the sword: it is not lawful for us to put any man to death;” which Pilate also bore testimony to when he said, u Knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?” (John 19:10.)
Obj. 6. But Pilate himself said: “Take ye him, and judge him according to your law.” (John 18:81.) Ans. But he meant the law of Moses, as if he would say: If he is a blasphemer, stone him to death; I give my consent thereto.
Obj. 7. But Josephus testifies that Claudius gave the Jews their laws. Ans. Then they had them not before. And still more, Claudius is said to have granted them their ecclesiastical laws, by which nothing more ia meant, than that he gave them permission to observe their own laws and rites as it respects religion. “desire (says he) that their laws, which were violated by the folly of Caias, be no longer infringed upon, and that they be permitted to enjoy the rites of their fathers.”
Obj. 8. The right of the sword was taken from them by Herod the Great. Therefore they possessed this right before; and still further: at the time when Christ gave command to tell it unto the church, there was only the civil council; from which we may infer that he gave command to tell it unto this council. There were only three councils among the Jews. There was, 1. The great council, which was the senate of the entire nation. 2. The smaller council, which was the senate of the city of Jerusalem. 3. The triumvirate. These were all civil. Hence the council of which Christ speaks must have been a civil council. In reply to this objection we may turn the argument of our opponents, and say, that if the Jews lost their political power under Herod the Great, then they did not possess it in the time of Christ; for it is evident that Herod the Great died before Christ began to teach. And as to the argument that the council of which Christ speaks was civil, we reply that it was not only civil; for it also had ecclesiastical power, and took cognizance of matters pertaining to religion. It consisted of Pharisees and Scribes, of divines and lawyers: for they had moral and judicial laws. Hence the smaller council of which Christ speaks was not merely political, but also ecclesiastical. The question now is, did Christ command to tell it to the council as to its civil or ecclesiastical character? We hold that it was in its ecclesiastical character, and prove it from the text itself: because we are commanded, in the first place, to regard the excommunicated person as an heathen man and publican; that is, as an alien from the kingdom of God. But to declare a man a publican, and an alien from the kingdom of God, does not belong to the civil magistrate, but to the church; because a publican may be a member of the state, but not of the church of Christ. And besides, Christ adds: “Verily I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven,” &c. In these words Christ replies to him who may object as follows: What does it affect me, even though the church may regard me as an infidel or publican. I will nevertheless eat and drink. To such an one, Christ replies: The judgment of the church shall not be in vain, for I myself will execute it. He had said in the sixteenth chapter of Matthew, “I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven,” where he speaks of the common authority of the magistrate; but in the passage now under consideration, he speaks particularly of the authority of the church in this case. To bind and loose, therefore, does not belong to the civil magistrate, but to the church.
Thus far we have spoken of the first member, or part of the proposition assumed, that the eldership is included in the term church; we must now proceed to speak of the other part, which is to show that the idea of excommunication is likewise contained in the declaration of Christ, Let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
Obj. 1. But to be regarded as an heathen, and a publican, is not the name thing as to be excommunicated. Therefore, excommunication is not included in the language which Christ employs. Ans. We deny the antecedent. But, say our opponents, in proof of the antecedent which we deny, let him be unto thee as an heathen, does not refer to the public judgment of the church, but to the private judgment of each man. Therefore, he who is regarded as a heathen, by persons privately, is not at once excommunicated by the whole church. But it is sufficient to reply, that he who is regarded as a heathen by persons privately, is looked upon in the same light by the church. Hence Christ speaks of the public judgment of the church.
Obj. 2. But the passage under consideration does not say whom the church regards as an heathen; but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man, and a publican. Therefore, every one regards him as an heathen man according to his own judgment, and riot according to the judgment of the church. Ans. True; I regard him in this light, because he neglects to hear the church; but not to hear the church and be a publican, or an alien from the church, do not mean one and the same thing. We also add the following remark, less objectionable:
Christ does not speak this of every man privately, but of the whole church; for to thee and to the church are equivalent; because, when Christ commands that I shall regard any one as an heathen, he does not, by any means, desire that the church shall in the mean time look upon him as a Christian; for then he would desire contradictory things he would will contrary judgments to be given at the same time by the same individual. Therefore, to be regarded as a publican by one, is to be regarded as such by all, and so by the whole church; and if that denunciation were not made in particular, no one would be accounted as a publican. Hence, to be accounted by the church as a publican, is to be excommunicated, and to be without the communion of the church; so that what we have affirmed re mains true, that mention is made in the Scriptures of excommunication, and that it is committed to the church.
Obj. 3. The wicked may be regarded as publicans, and heathens, with out the infliction of excommunication. Therefore, a publican and an ex communicated person are not the same. Ans. We deny the antecedent; because to regard any one as being without the communion of the church, and as being excommunicated, are the same.
Obj. 4. But we may regard any one a publican, that is, we may think in our minds that he is such. Ans. Christ does not, however, speak of the thoughts, but of the actions of the church. If he neglect to hear the church, it is necessary for thee to know that; and that thou inayest regard him as an heathen man, and a publican, it is necessary for thee to know, not what the church thinks of him privately, but what it resolves concern ing him publicly. Paul, moreover, forbids us to eat, or drink, with the wicked. “With such an one, no not to eat.” (1 Cor. 5: II.) No one now can avoid connection with the wicked as it respects secret meditation.
Hence it must be according to the public decision of the church, from which it is easy to see that the Apostle does not allude to the thoughts which we may secretly entertain. The Apostle also, in the same chapter, commands the Corinthians “to put away from among themselves that: wicked person;” by which he means, declare him no longer a member of the church. Hence to look upon any one as a publican is not only to think him such in the mind, but it is also to declare him to be such, and to ex communicate him.
Those who at this day oppose the exercise of discipline on the part of the church, endeavor to evade the force of the examples recorded by the Apostle Paul in two ways. Some positively deny that the Apostle speaks of excommunication when he says: He that has acted thus, let him be de livered unto Satan; for, say they, to deliver unto Satan is not to excommunicate, but to remove from their midst by a miraculous punishment^ inflicted by the ministry of Satan, or it is to utter direful imprecations, and to deliver to Satan to be punished, yet in such a manner that he remain a member of the church. Others, again, admit that Paul speaks of excommunication, but deny that his example has any force as far as we are concerned, inasmuch as we now have Christian magistrates persons whose- duty it is to maintain order, whilst the church was destitute of such guardians in the time of the Apostles. But as it respects the former class of persons who deny that the Apostle speaks of excommunication, they are evidently condemned by what he says: Put away from among yourselves that wicked man. With such an one, no not to eat. These declarations now cannot be understood of any miraculous punishment by death, such as that which was inflicted upon Ananias and Sapphira; but they speak of the ordinary duty and judgment of the church, as is evident:1. Because he recommends them to put him away from their midst, and reproves them cause they had not already cut him off, saying, “Ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.” (1 Cor. 5:2.) 2. Because he requires the consent of the church: “When ye are gathered together, and my spirit.” (1 Cor. 5:4.) But there was no need of such a solemnity, or gathering for the working of a miracle. 3. Because he desired that the incestuous man “be delivered unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus;” (1 Cor. 5:5) that is,, he desired him to be dealt with in such a manner, that notwithstanding his life might be prolonged, and he repent, his flesh might be subdued by sincere contrition, the old man mortified, and the new man quickened. Hence he did not desire that he should be put to death. 4. The Apostle speaks of separation and exclusion from the church when he says: “Purge out the old leaven.” “Keep no company with fornicators.” “With such an one, no not to eat.” (1 Cor. 5:7, 11.) All these expressions allude to separation, and not to punishment by death. 5. A comparison of different passages of Scripture will show, that all those who deny the doctrine of Christ, whether in word or deed, ought not to be regarded as Christians. Ambrose says, that this incestuous man, referred to in the fifth chapter of first Corinthians, when his offence was known, was to be separated from the assembly of the brotherhood, or church. All those now who are excluded from the church, are deservedly said to be delivered unto Satan, inasmuch as they are in his kingdom, and led by him, as long as they do not repent.
As it respects those who admit that the Apostle speaks of excommunications in the places above referred to, they evidently reason falsely when they assign as a reason why he would have the incestuous man excommunicated, that there was then no Christian magistrate; for Paul adduces very different reasons, even such as are of force until this present time, among which we may mention the following:1. The command of Christ, “In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit;” that is, by the authority and command of Christ: “Tell it unto the church:” “Let him be unto thee as an heathen man, and a publican. 2. That the excommunicated person might repent, and be saved. “Deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” 8. That other members of the church might not become infected thereby. “Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? For Christ, our passover, is sacrificed for us,” that we may live with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. And that we may now be made a new lump, let us cast out the old leaven of malice and wickedness; or if we cannot altogether purge it out, let us not, at least, professedly tolerate it.
These are the reasons on account of which Paul commanded the incestuous man to be cast out of the church. And the Scriptures no where teach that the early church, did ever excommunicate any wicked persons, be cause there were no magistrates. The duties of the church and of the- magistrate always have been, and still remain distinct. It is plain, there fore, that the Apostle speaks of excommunication, when he says, Deliver him unto Satan Pat away that wicked person from among you: and gives command in respect to the ordinary power of the church against the disobedient and obstinate, whether it be accompanied with any miracle, or not.
Obj. 1. Nathan did not excommunicate David, who was guilty of the sin of adultery. Therefore, Paul did not excommunicate the incestuous man. Ans. David repented upon the first admonition. Hence excommunication was not inflicted in this case. Paul also speaks with reference to the condition of repentance, saying, Put him away, that is, if he does not repent, or has not already repented of his sin, upon the presence of which condition, he commands him to be received again into the bosom of the church. This condition must be understood, because Christ commanded that certain steps, or degrees of admonition should first precede, and God at all times receives those who are penitent. The thief upon the cross was riot disregarded, but received by Christ as soon as he gave evidence of true repentance. “If thy brother shall sin against thee until seventy times seven, thou shalt forgive him.” (Matt. 18:21, 22.) Therefore, not sinners, but such as are obstinate and continue impenitent, are to be ex communicated, in which number David cannot be included. Obj. 2. Christ did not excommunicate any one. Therefore, Paul did not do it, neither ought the church now to excommunicate any one. Ans. The consequence which is here drawn is not proper, because it proceeds from the denial of the fact to the denial of the right, or lawfulness of the thing itself. It is the same, as if any one were to argue; Christ did not baptize: therefore, Paul did not baptize, neither ought the church to baptize. Christ baptized none, but he gave command to his disciples to baptize all nations. So likewise he excommunicated none, but commanded the church to ex communicate obstinate offenders. “Let him be unto thee as a heathen man.” “Leave thy gift before the altar,” &c. Philip said to the eunuch, “If thou believest with all thy heart thou mayest be baptized.” Therefore, Philip would not have baptized him had he not believed.
Obj. 3. Paul says, “Ye have not mourned that he which hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.” (1 Cor. 5:2.) There fore they should have prayed that God would, through Satan, remove the incestuous man in some miraculous way. Ans. The words which are translated, Ye have not mourned, mean, according to the original, Ye have not been earnest in removing that scandal which ought not to be found in your midst; from among you, I say, because, in the thirteenth verse, the Apostle says, Put away from among yourselves that wicked person. Hence the words, That he ought to be taken from among yon,, signify that he was to be removed by the church, and not by Satan. To this it is objected, that Paul uses the same word in reference to himself, in 2 Cor. 12:21, where he says, “I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented,” &c. In this passage, the word bewail, does not mean an anxiety to remove a scandal from the church. Therefore, neither does it in the above reference. But it is sufficient to reply that the Apostle says, 13th ch. and 2nd v., “If I come again, I will not spare,” where he expresses the cause of his grief, that he might feel himself constrained to punish more severely the obstinate and impenitent even to expel them from the church.
Obj. 4. Paul explains what he means, in that he declares that he did not command the Corinthian church to excommunicate the incestuous man, when he says, “Sufficient to such a man is the punishment which was inflicted of many.” (2 Cor. 2:6.) Therefore, the declarations, “Let him be unto you as a heathen man and a publican,” and “Put him away from among you,” mean nothing more than to rebuke. Ans. The consequence which is here drawn is false, because it seeks to establish a rule by one single instance. A reproof was all that was needed in the present case, because he repent ed. But it does not follow from this, that nothing more is required in other instances of a different character. To this it is objected: That which the Corinthians did, the Apostle commanded. But they did nothing more than rebuke. Therefore the Apostle meant nothing more than a rebuke, when he commanded them to put him away from among them, and to deliver him unto Satan. We reply to the major proposition, that the Apostle did in deed command them to reprove him; but not only to reprove; for he commanded them also to cast him out of their midst if he would not repent of his sin. If he would, however, repent, a reproof would be sufficient in his case. It does not then follow: they merely reproved him. Therefore the Apostle commanded them to reprove him. This may be regarded as a sufficient reply. Yet we may add still further that the Greek word which is here used, does not merely mean to disapprove of a thing or to reprove, but also to excommunicate, because excommunication is by word only. And that it may not only, but must be so understood, is evident, 1. Because, he says, “So that contrariwise ye ought to forgive him.” (2 Cor. 2:7.)
Therefore he was now excommunicated and not jet received, but to be received: not only was he reproved, but he was also cast out. 2. It was inflicted of many. This is a confirmation of the explanation which we have given of the words of Christ, viz., that by the church we are to understand, not the confused multitude, but the elders of the church: for the reproof was given by the elders and chief men of the church. 3. The Apostle also says, 2 Cor. 2:9, “To this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you.” He praises them, therefore, because they were obedient. 4. The Apostle likewise says, in v. 8, “I beseech you that ye would confirm your love towards him.” The Greek word here translated, to confirm, means to declare pardon publicly. Therefore pardon had not been as yet granted unto him. It is used in this sense in Gal. 3:15, where it is said, “Though it be a man s covenant, yet if it be confirmed,” that is, ratified by public authority. The Apostle s meaning then is, that they should declare their love towards that man by public testimony. Hence to forgive, as the Apostle here uses it, is to receive the excommunicated person into favor. This he often repeats. There was also some considerable time between the writing of the first and second epistles to the Corinthians. Therefore he stood excommunicated during that time. In the first epistle he says, that he hears there were certain wicked persons amongst their number. These he commands to be excommunicated. It is probable that the Corinthians obeyed this command, excommunicated them, and wrote to the Apostle that they had obeyed him; for, in the second chapter of his second Epistle, he commends them for their obedience; and commands them to receive again the incestuous person, if he would repent.
Obj. 5. Excommunication does not require any excuse. But Paul excuses himself that he had commanded him to be delivered unto Satan. Therefore he did not command that he should be excommunicated, but that a more grievous punishment should be inflicted. Ans. We deny the major proposition, because exclusion from the church and kingdom of Christ, being the heaviest punishment, requires an excuse more than any punishment which may be inflicted upon the body.
Obj. 6. Ministers cannot exclude any one from the kingdom of God. Therefore Paul did not command the Corinthians to do this. We reply to the antecedent, that ministers cannot, by their own authority, exclude any from the kingdom of God; but they can, in the name of Christ, according to the command of the Apostle, 1 Cor. 5:4, “When ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Again, they cannot cast any out of the kingdom of God, but they can and ought to declare the rejection of those whom God declares in his word that he has rejected. For, to excommunicate is nothing else than to subscribe to the divine judgment, by denouncing upon incorrigable offenders the judgment which God inflicts. This the church may not only do, but even ought to do. It is for this reason that the Apostle reproves the Corinthians, be cause they did not excommunicate the incestuous man; but waited until they were admonished. Hence he reprimands them because they had de parted from the ordinary course which they ought to have pursued they did not exercise the known and ordinary power of the church, and declare him, according to the command of Christ, a heathen man and publican.
Obj. 7. The Apostle commands that the incestuous man should be delivered unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh. (1 Cor. 5:5.) But the word which is here translated destruction, signifies, as it is used in the Scriptures, a violent death. Therefore it means, in this place, some miraculous death inflicted upon the body by Satan, that the soul might be saved. Ans. A careful examination of the circumstances connected with this case, will show that we are to understand by the word destruction, as it is here used, the mortification of the old man; for the opposition of the flesh to the Spirit; and indeed this phrase itself is frequently used by Paul in this sense. The scope or design of the passage teaches the same thing: for the Apostle desired that the man might be delivered unto Satan, that the flesh might be mortified and the spirit saved, or that he might be converted, and saved in the life to come. Hence he did not desire him to be removed from this life by some miraculous agency of Satan. To this it is objected, that no one can be delivered unto Satan for the conversion, or mortification of the old man: to which we may reply, that it is true that to be de livered unto Satan does not of itself produce such a result, but it accomplishes this by accident, by which we mean that it brings it to pass by the mercy of God, that the faithful are reclaimed by these chastisements. We may also rebut the argument of our opponents by the same reason with which they hope to refute us, by saying that Satan puts no one to death, that he might save his soul.
Obj. 8. But if the Apostle had willed the incestuous man to be ex communicated, he would have declared his desire more expressly. Ans. We must, however, not only have respect to the clearness, but also to the force and power of the language which is used in reference to any particular subject. Here there was no need of greater clearness, inasmuch as the Corinthians understood what he desired, or else he would have re proved them unjustly.
Obj. 9. A brother is not to be excommunicated. Paul desired him whom he gave command by letter to be noted, to be counted as a brother. (2 Thes. 8:15.) Therefore he did not desire that he should be excommunicated. The major proposition is proven thus: Things that are contrary cannot be regarded as synonymous. To excommunicate any one, and to regard him as a brother, are contrary things: for to excommunicate, is not to count as a brother. Therefore, to count the same person as a brother, and not as a brother, is absurd. Ans. The phrase, to count as a brother, admits of different interpretations, on account of the various degrees of brotherhood, so that the contrariety here spoken of, has no force. All men are our brethren and neighbors, both Christians and Turks. Yet Christians, although they regard the Turks as brethren, and desire their salvation, do nevertheless not count them as Christian brethren. If the Turks are, therefore, to be regarded as brethren, much more ought we to regard those who were formerly Christians, as our brethren, and desire their salvation. There is also here a fallacy in understanding that to be true in general which is so only in part. Count him as a brother, viz., in love, desire, and hope of saving him; but not so as to enumerate him among the sons of God and members of the church, until he repent. And still more, the Apostle does not say, count him as a brother, but admonish him as a brother; that is, as one who was a brother, and who, if he repent, must again be viewed as a brother. For those who are excommunicated are not so entirely cut off from all hope of salvation, but that they may return to repentance, and again be included in the fold of Christ. Paul uses this phrase, because he desired that love, and a hope of amendment might be the rule of all the reproofs given; for one brother admonishes another with the feelings of a friend, and with a view to promote his well-being. Obj. 10. We are not to follow the example of the apostle Paul in what he did. Paul excommunicated Hymeneus and Alexander, without the consent of the church. Therefore no one must be excommunicated. Ans. The major proposition is false, if understood generally. But, say our opponents, it is proven from the fact that what the Apostle did, he did by apostolic authority, which we are not required to follow. And the minor, say they, is proven from what the Apostle says: “Whom I have delivered unto Satan.” (1 Tim. 1:20.) But our ministers and pastors cannot do this. Therefore it must needs be that the Apostle did this by some special authority. Ans. We grant the whole argument, that we ought not to imitate the Apostle if he did it alone. But admitting this argument, it nevertheless does not follow; therefore, it is not lawful to excommunicate any one: for if this were true, there would be more in the conclusion than in the premises. What was lawful for the Apostle to do by apostolic authority, that is also lawful for the ministers of the church to do by ordinary power and authority. We may also deny the minor proposition, because this passage declares nothing more, than what the Apostle did. It says nothing as to the manner in which he did it, whether alone, or in connection with others.
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