William Styles, A Guide To Church Fellowship (Complete)

Article 27 – Obligations Of Church Members

Articles Of The Faith And Order Of A Primitive Or Strict And Particular Baptist Church Of The Lord Jesus Christ, Based On The Declaration Of Faith And Practice Of John Gill, D. D., 1720

XXVII. Obligations of Church Members.

We believe that the members of a Church are solemnly bound to lead godly and consistent lives[1] to attend all meetings when practicable[2] to be courteous, conciliatory, and forgiving to all the rest[3] to contribute to the funds of their own church,[14] and to aid other churches, and the needy members of the one family of God in all places[5] as the Lord enables them.[6]


[1] Acts 19:36; Rom 12:1,2; 1 Thess 4:11; 1 Tim 2:3; Tit 1:13; 2:12; 1 Pet 4:15

[2] Heb 10:25

[3] Matt 5:9; Gal 6:i; Eph 4:26,31,32; Col 3:13; 1 Pet 3:8

[4] Acts 11:29; 20:35; 1 Cor 9:11,14; 16:1,2; 2 Cor 8:12; 9:7-11; Gal 6:6; Heb 13:5,6,16

[5] Rom 12:13; 1 Cor 16:1;  2 Cor 8:24; Gal 6:10; Heb 6:10; 13:16

[6] Acts 9:20; 1 Cor 16:2; 2 Cor 8:12; Gal 6:10


Note 1. Church Membership is either an earnest reality, or one of the greatest shams under heaven. It was designed not only to promote God’s declarative glory, but the common benefit of all concerned, and each should minister to the general good. Failure here is, however, too prevalent. Many devoted converts have had their zeal discouraged, and the fire of their “first love” damped, by the demeanour and conduct of those into whose fellowship they had entered. It is a solemn thing to “cause one of these little ones who believe on ”Christ“ to stumble,” (R.V. Matt. 18:6.)

Note 2. “The sons of this world are for their own generation (with a view, that is, to the interests and advantages of their chosen associates) wiser than the sons of the light ” (R.V. Luke 16:8.) Foresters, Freemasons, and Odd-fellows put Christians to shame by their endeavours to make their Lodges effective for their mutual benefit.

Note 3. Churches, being founded on the great law of association, embody the social principle in its highest, be­ cause its Spiritual form. Hence ideal Church Members are said to be “looking (or having regard) not to his own things (exclusively), but each to the things of others also,” (Phil. 2:4; see R.V., and page 158.) They are “not to set their mind on high things, but to condescend to (or, perhaps, better to “be carried away with,” through the generous impulse of love) men of low estate” (Rom. 12:16.) They are to “be kindly affectioned one to another, with brotherly love (not natural fondness or partiality), in honour preferring one another,” or, as happily paraphrased by J. N. Darby, “as to honour, each taking the fond in paying it to another,” (Rom. 12:10.) “Through love they are to serve one another,” (Gal. 5:3.) If our Church association does not conduce to these practical results, it were better to give it up as a wild and impracticable fancy.

Note 4. An obligation is a consideration which binds or obliges one to perform or abstain from something. Its derivation is suggestive (ob, before, and ligare, to bind), showing that it implies a previous act, from which it springs.

Duty, or “that which is due,” arises out of obligation, and indicates what is due to others, in consequence of our relation to them.

Joining a Church is a voluntary act out of which proceeds the obligation to respect and conform to its principles. The practices which these involve constitute the duties of Church members.

Many of those are not originated by Church fellowship, but are incumbent on Believers, as such. They, however, receive additional importance from the fact that, by joining a Church, a Christian binds himself to their performance by further considerations (page 134, note 6 and 7.)

Article xxvii. is devoted to the obligations of Church Members. Such are bound (l) To lead holy and consistent lives. On proof texts it were needless to comment. Without sanctification no man shall see the Lord, (R.V. Heb. 12:14), and “holiness becometh His house” (Psa. 93:5). The well-being of every Church demands that all that belong to it should “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith they were called” (Eph. 4:1.) Our principles, the World cannot gainsay; but it may despise our practices. Personal ignorance and oddity may be ridiculed; but inconsistency meets with universal contempt—a contempt which is extended to the whole Body.

(2) Members of a Church are bound, when practicable, to attend all its meetings. Many imagine that they remain in the Fellowship of a Church in virtue of their occasionally taking the Lord’s Supper, though they rarely attend prayer-meetings, are never present at Church meetings, and show no interest in Church work.—From Dr. Dale. (See Note, page 213.) Convenience, rather than duty, dictates their attendance at the means of grace. They come, or absent themselves, without regard to principle. At a time of peril and persecution the Hebrew saints were enjoined not to “forsake the assembling of themselves together, as the custom of some (then was, and still) is” (Heb. 10:25, R.V.) The affairs of Churches of the Congregational Order are regulated by the voices and votes of all their Members (page 134); yet many of these never avail themselves of the only opportunity of exercising this privilege, and Church Meetings become the least important and interesting of all the gatherings in our Chapels.

(3) Members of Churches should be courteous, conciliatory, and forgiving towards the rest. The genius of Evangelical Dissent is its cultivation and exhibition of mutual kindliness. Christian courtesy (1 Pet. 3:8) costs little, but effects much. Proud reserve and uncouthness ill become the followers of Him who was “meek and lowly in heart.” (Matt. 11:29.) Conciliation is an art difficult of attainment. Allaying personal and often groundless irritation: explaining and putting in its true light what has given offence: and humbling ourselves when our words and conduct have given umbrage, are, however, acts of essential service in God’s cause, and incumbent upon all in Church Fellowship. All Church Members should exhibit readiness to forgive real or fancied wrongs, “forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any; even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” (Col. 3:13.) Many Church troubles arise from the irritable and implacable spirit of one person. “A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city,” (Prov. 18:19.) The evil should he arrested at an early stage. Anger often grows with time, therefore “let not the sun go down on your wrath.” (Eph. 4:26.) We should be as slow to take offence as unwilling to give it, and even if valid reasons exist for thinking ourselves slighted or wronged, should be the first to extend the outstretched hand of forgiving love. 

(4) Members of a Church are under obligation to contribute to its Funds. Money, the circulating medium, is required for many other purposes connected with God’s cause on earth, but (which is often overlooked) the expenses incidental to our own Church should always be first considered. Money so bestowed is a return to God of a portion of His bounty to us. “Of all that Thou shalt give me, I will surely give the tenth unto Thee,” (Gen. 27:22). The widow’s two mites were “cast in unto the offerings of God” for the maintenance of the Temple, (Luke 21:4.) It is the duty of all Church Members to do their utmost to enable their Deacons to act promptly and generously in pecuniary matters. Chapels must be maintained, Pastors remunerated, (page 144, note 6,.) and Chapel-keepers liberally paid for their important services. Specially should Members be “forward” to assist their poorer brethren. The collection after the Lord’s Supper is ordinarily and with propriety devoted to this purpose; but “blessed is he that considereth the poor, (Psa. 41:1; Gal. 2:10) making their cares his own by thoughtful personal investigation. “Alms” and “doles” are hateful things. He that assists the cause with money should do so “with singleness (of motive)” (or liberality, Alford; Rom. 12:8), while every gift to a poorer brother “should be perfumed with the aroma of the Master’s love.” (1 Cor. 13:3.) Giving should be on principle, not from transient impulse; its rule should be “according as the Lord has prospered us,” and the befitting sum should be laid aside each Lord’s-day. (1 Cor. 16:2.) Ostentation is forbidden, (Matt. 6:3,4.) As far as possible our contributions should be known only to the Lord.

(5) Our Members are bound to aid other Churches and the needy members of God’s family in all places. We are not Presbyterians, but Independents, (pages 137 and 134,) and own no ecclesiastical authority save His “who is our Master, even Christ,” (Matt. 23:10.) The evils of Presbyterianism are manifold, as John Milton (1608—1674) was quick to perceive;[1] and though this section of the one Church has no longer political ascendancy, we believe these evils to be radical and essential to the system. It were a sorry thing if the prevailing admiration for Unions and Associations should lead the Free Churches of England into a modified form of Presbyterian policy. Independency is, however, not isolation. Our sister Churches claim our co-operation and help. All that can, should contribute to the relief of other less wealthy communities, especially in times of emergency. This practice was common in the Apostolic age, and Article xxvii. appositely insists upon it as an obligation upon all Church Members. (Acts 11:29; Rom. 15:26 ; 1 Cor. 16:1-4; 2 Cor. 8:1-24.) It is of such contributions that Paul writes, “Every man, according as he hath purposed in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor. 9:7.)

Churches now give effect to this principle by supporting Benevolent Societies which are worked on religious lines. “The Aged Pilgrims’ Friend Society” grants pensions to Christians of advanced years; “The Society for the Relief of Necessitous Protestant Ministers, their Widows, and Orphans,” makes small but prompt grants of money to truthful preachers of all denominations, whether settled Pastors or otherwise, and their widows, if persons of good moral character; “The Society for the Relief of Aged and Infirm Protestant Dissenting Ministers” votes pensions to its beneficiaries; and “The Society for the Relief of Necessitous Widows and Children of Protestant Dissenting Ministers,” generally denominated “The Widows’ Fund,” also gives annual sums. These are, within certain limits, undenominational. “The Particular Baptist Fund” aids Baptist ministers only, by adding to their salaries, if small, granting annual or occasional sums to aged and infirm Pastors, and presenting young Pastors with suitable books on their settlement.

All claim the support of Strict and Particular Baptist Churches, as such, as well as of individual Christians.


[1] See his well-known poem “On the New Forcers of Conscience Under the Long Parliament,” which ends “New Presbyter is but old Priest writ large.” Also his prose writings.




William Styles (1842-1914) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher. He is the author of several works, including “A Guide To Church Fellowship As Maintained By Primitive Or Strict And Particular Baptists” and “A Manual Of Faith And Practice”.

William Styles, A Guide To Church Fellowship (Complete)
William Styles, A Memoir of John Hazelton (Complete)