The Church.

The word “Church” is never used in Scripture of a material building but always, as it signifies, of “the called out,” and denotes the redeemed community in its twofold aspect: the entire community of all who are called by and to Christ out of the world, the Church universal; then, every church in which the character of the Church as a whole is seen in miniature. A gospel church is of the Lord’s own institution; it has certain rights and privileges entrusted to it, and these it must neither barter nor sacrifice. In our congregations are not a few who love the Lord, and to whom we may feel a closer union than to some in the church, but our personal feeling of love and esteem neither alters their position nor ours. Not being in church fellowship, and having no open standing, they do not share the privileges of the church. A church on New Testament lines is a union by mutual consent of regenerate persons, “called to be saints,” believers in Christ Jesus, baptised by immersion upon a profession of their faith, and, as such, gathered around the Table of the Lord. Like civil societies, none can be admitted into them unless assenting to the rules and articles on which they are founded. It is evident that the first churches were formed by consent and agreement; baptism is an initial and important part of membership with a visible church; those who form a church give themselves up to it, to walk in an observance of the ordinances, and for the honour and glory of God, and the manifestation of His grace in daily life and walk and conversation, and in service in His Name. In our denomination the word “Strict” applies to Order, and “Particular” to Faith; the first referring to communion and the second to redemption, and laxity with regard to the one has often been found to extend to the other. The apostle wrote that in spirit he was “joying and beholding your order, and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ” (Col 2:5). We affirm that Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are both ordinances of Divine institution, and as such were intended to be permanent memorials of what are represented thereby. Hence both are taken completely out of our hands; we are no more at liberty to change and alter the one than the other, either as to its mode of administration or the persons to whom it is to be administered. An unbaptised person is excluded by Scripture precedent and practice from partaking of the Church ordinance of the Lord’s Supper. Hence, as a point of gospel order, we do not break bread to unbaptised persons, or sanction members of our churches sitting down with such. It is not a question of brotherly love, but of gospel order, and it comes to this: If I love my brother and would, as a pledge of love, partake with him of the memorials of the Lord’s dying love, may I do so at the expense of disobeying what I believe to be the revealed will of the Lord whom we both love? I say, “N o;” and he ought to say “No,” too; for he should not wish me to wound my conscience by my disobedience, or by acting contrary to my principles. Such is the substance of Mr. Philpot’s teaching upon this question, and it receives the endorsement of our churches.

The ordinances of the gospel and church membership are often lightly entered upon, and in many cases very young people are influenced to offer themselves for membership, and are received upon the slenderest testimony; in not a few instances they soon leave; in others they become a leaven which makes itself apparent as they grow into manhood and womanhood; yet upon their reception by the church, their votes are equal to those of old and experienced believers. These things ought not so to be; many a church can trace its decadence to the preponderance of the votes of young people of immature judgment and not established in the things of God. We rejoicingly welcome any tokens of divine grace in the life and conversation of children, and would ever seek to instruct them in the faith; but surely such should not be hurried into the church, and when membership has been promised, no voting power should be given to any under 21. This suggestion is simply the opinion of the writer; others may differ from him, but the evil results it is designed to check none will be disposed to deny.

“Churches of the same faith and order.” We have pointed out the leading features of our faith, we have touched upon our order. May we be “endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 4:3). A gospel church is not a club, nor any society organised and maintained for worldly purposes; its function is not to provide amusement in any shape or form. No institution which the Word of God does not warrant should be even indirectly associated with it; its mode of worship should be absolutely simple—and scriptural; the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper should be held and observed as of the Lord’s giving, “in doctrine showing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, sound speech that cannot be condemned” (Tit 2:7,8). No spirit of levity should be among its members, but a desire to “let all things be done unto edifying” (building up) (1 Cor 14:26). A member of such a church cannot voluntarily resign his membership; it is for the body, not one member, to dismiss, transfer, or withdraw from, as may be needful.

O that the Lord in His mercy may grant us such revival that of our churches it may yet be said that they “walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied” (Acts 9:31).


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