[THE opening of this department is for the satisfaction of those correspondents whose inquiries have accumulated beyond the opportunity of the editor to write extended replies. But neither in these brief notes, nor in anything published by us, do we wish to be understood as presenting any claim to infallibility. Christians should ever examine carefully by their own experience and the inspired Scriptures everything they hear or red from an uninspired pen. “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.”]
“DOES the direction in 1 Cor. v. 11-13, and 1 John v. 16, or any other portion of the inspired word, authorize a church to exclude a member without first taking the steps directed in Matthew xviii.? When a member guilty of a crime makes all the acknowledgments required, and asks forgiveness, does the Scripture authorize the church to refuse to restore him to fellowship? The direction in the case specified, in Matthew xviii., is applicable in every case of individual trespass, wherein personal satisfaction can be given; and its spirit will also apply to such general offenses as may be satisfactorily atoned for by repentance and confession. But in criminal cases, such as specified in the passages cited, and in such gross and hurtful heresies as those mentioned in Galatians ii. 4, 5, and v. 7-12, and other portions, it is clear that no verbal confession could restore the transgressor to the real fellowship of the church; and to nominally retain such would violate the injunction, “Lie not one to another.” – Col. iii. 9. Fellowship cannot be constrained. Where it does not exist it would be dishonest for the church to profess it. Where the church has no confidence in the professed repentance of a transgressor, there can be no fellowship and brotherly love for him. The gospel rule does not require a false profession of fellowship in such a case, nor could the transgressor be benefited by such false actions. But if a wicked spirit of intolerance, personal animosity or revenge prompts the church to exclude a member, she thereby herself transgresses the law of Christ, and brings upon herself the just chastisement of his rod. Too much care cannot be exercised in the administration of discipline, to guard against the influence of carnality, in being governed by partiality on the one hand, or prejudice on the other. 1 Cor. iv. 6; 1 Tim. v. 21; James ii. 1-13; iii. 14-18.
“IS THE repentance commanded the same in Acts ii. 38, iii. 19, and xvii. 30? Repentance is always turning from one thing or course to another. Confusion may result from the prevalent careless use of the word, confounding this action with that godly sorrow which worketh repentance. The sorrow is not itself repentance, but produces it, as the seed produces the plant. The repentance in the first two passages is turning from trusting in the rites of Judaism and the righteousness of the law of Moses, to the rest which is given in obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. This was so understood by those who heard the words of Peter, and gladly received the word which he preached, and their obedience is recorded in the following verses. In the last cited text the fact is stated that during the times of the ignorance of the Gentiles, when the Jews were exclusively favored with the law and the prophetic messages from God, he had not reproved the Gentiles for their idolatry; but now that the Mosaic dispensation was taken away, he commanded all men everywhere to turn away from idolatry. This command in its letter was before enjoined on the Jews, but it was a new law to all the Gentiles. So Paul argues that ignorance of the eternal power and Godhead of the Creator is without excuse.. – Rom. i. 20, 21. This manifests the sinfulness of man by exposing his enmity against God; but while some, including Dionysius and Damaris, believed, some mocked, and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter. Thus clearly showing the difference between those who heard only with the ear of natural reasons, and those to whom God gave repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.
Elder William L. Beebe
Middletown, N. Y.,
Signs of the Times,
Volume 49, No. 21,
November 1, 1881.