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thereof in public before the church, they testifying their assents thereunto; this being the way that tendeth most to edification. But where persons are of greater abilities, there it is most expedient that they make their relations and confessions personally with their own mouth, as David professeth of himself.
Psalm, Ixvi. 16.
5. A personal and public confession, and declaring of God's manner of working upon the soul, is both lawful, expedient and useful, in sundry respects, and upon sundry grounds. Those three thousand, Acts ii. 37, 41, before they were admitted by the apostles, did manifest that they were pricked in their hearts at Peter's sermon, together with earnest desire to be delivered from their sins, which now wounded their consciences, and their ready receiving of the word of promise and exhortation. We are to be ready to render a reason of the hope that is in us, to every one that asketh us; therefore we must be able and ready upon any occasion to declare and show our repentance for sin, faith unfeigned, and effectual calling, because these are the reasons of a well grounded hope. I have not hidden thy righteousness from the great congregation. Psalm xl. 10. 1 Pet. iii. 15. Heh. xi. 1. Eph. i. 18.
6. This profession of faith and repentance, as it must be made by such at their admission, that were never in church society before ; so nothing hindereth but the same way also be performed by such as have forinerly been members of some other church, and the church to which they now join themselves as members inay lawfully require the same.* Those three thousand, Acts ii., which made their confession, were members of the church of the Jews before, so were they that were baptized by John. Churches may err in their admission, and persons regularly admitted may fall into offence. Otherwise, if churches might obtrude their members, or if church members might obtrude themselves upon other churches without due trial, the matter so requiring, both the liberty of churches would hereby be infringed in that they might not examine those, concerning whose fitness for communion they were unsatisfied; and besides the infringing of their liberty, the churches themselves would unavoidably be corrupted, and the ordinances defiled, whilst ihey might not refuse, but must receive the unworthy; which is contrary unto the scripture, teaching that all churches are sisters, and therefore equal.
* Many churches have taken offence in these days, because others would not receive their members, when recommended, without examination. The Platform, it will be seen, is explicit on this subject.-Editor. "
Matt. iii. 5, 6. Gal. i. 4. 1 Tim. v. 24. Cant. vii. 8.
7. The like trial is to be required from such members of the church as were born in the same, or received their membership and were baptized in their infancy or minority, by virtue of the covenant of their parents, when being grown up unto years of discretion, they shall desire to be made partakers of the Lord's supper; urto which, because holy things must not be given to the unworthy, therefore it is requisite, that these as well as others should come to their trial and examination, and manifest their faith and repentance by an open profession thereof, before they are received to the Lord's supper, and otherwise not to be admitted thereunto. Yet these church inembers that were so born, or received in their childhood, before they are capable of being made partakers of full communion, have many privileges which others, not church members, have not; they are in covenant with God, have the seal thereof upon them, viz. baptism; and so if not regenerated, yet are in a more hopeful way of attaining regenerating grace, and all the spiritual blessings both of the covenant and seal : they are also under churchwatch, and consequently subject to the reprehensions, admonitions, and censures thereof, for their healing and amendment, as need shall require.
Matt. vii. 6. 1 Cor. xi. 27.
of church members their removal from one church to another, and of
recommendation and dismission. 1. Church members may not remove or depart from the church, and so one from another as they please, nor without just and weighty cause, but ought to live and dwell together, forasmuch as they are commanded, not to forsake the assembling of themselves together. Such departure tends to the dissolution and ruin of the body, as the pulling of stones and pieces of timber from the building, and of members from the patural body, tend to the destruction of the whole.
Heb. x. 25.
2. It is therefore the duty of church members, in such times and places where counsel may be had, to consult with the church whereof they are members about their removal, that accordingly they having their approbation, may be encouraged, or otherwise desist. They who are joined with consent, should not depart without consent, except forced thereunto.
Prov. xi. 16.
3. If a member's departure be manifestly unsafe and sinful, the church may not consent thereunto ; for in so doing, they should not act in faith, and should partake with him in his sin. If the case be doubtful, and the person not to be persuaded, it seemeth best to leave the matter unto God, and not forcibly to detain him.
Rom. xiv. 23. 1 Tim. v. 22. Acts, xxi. 14.
4. Just reasons for a member's removal of himself from the church, are, 1. If a man cannot continue without partaking in sin. 2. In case of personal persecution; so Paul departed from the disciples at Damascus. Also in case of general persecution, when all are scattered. 3. In case of real, and not only pretended want of competent subsistence, a door being opened for better supply in another place, together with the means of spiritual edification. In these, or like cases, a member may lawfully remove, and the church cannot lawfully detain him.*
Eph. v. 11. Acts, ix. 25, 29, 30, and viii. 1. Neh. xiii. 20.
5. To separate from a church, either out of contempt of their holy fellowship, or out of covetousness, or for greater enlargements, with just grief to the church; or out of schism, or want of love, and out of a spirit of contention in respect of some unkindness, or some evil only conceived, or indeed in the church, which might and should be tolerated and healed with a spirit of meekness, and of which evil the church is not yet convinced (though perhaps himself be) nor admonished: for these or the like reasons to withdraw from public communion in word, or seals, or censures, is unlawful and sinful.
2 Tim. iv. 10. Rom. xvi. 17. Jude, 19. Eph. iv. 2, 3. Col. iii. 13. Gal. vi. 1, 2.
6. Such members as have orderly removed their habitation, ought to join themselves unto the church in order where they do inhabit, if it may be; otherwise they can neither perform the duties nor receive the privileges of members. Such an example tolerated in some, is apt to corrupt others, which if many should follow, would threaten the dissolution and confusion of churches, contrary to the scripture.
Isa. Ivi. 8. Acts, ix. 26. 1 Cor. xiv. 33.
7. Order requires, that a member thus removing, have letters testimonial and of dismission from the church whereof he yet is, unto the church whereunto he desireth to be joined, lest the church should be deluded ; that the church may receive him in faith, and not be corrupted by receiving deceivers and false brethren. Until the person dismissed be received into another church, he ceaseth not by his letters of dismission to be a member of the church whereof he was, the church cannot make a member no member, but by excommunication.*
* The individual concerned must, from the nature of the care, be his own judge, whether he can be better edified in some other church, and consequently whether it is his duty to remove.-Editor.
Acts, xviii. 27.
8. If a member be called to remove only for a time, where a church is, letters of recommendation are requisite and sufficient for communion with that church in the ordinances and in their watch ; as Phebe, a servant of the church at Cenchrea, had letters written for her to the church at Rome, that she might be received as becometh saints.
Rom. xvi. 1, 2. 2 Cor. iii. 1.
9. Such letters of recommendation and dismission, were written for Apollos; for Marcus to the Colossians; for Phebe to the Romans, for sundry others to other churches. And the apostle telleth us, that some persons, not sufficiently known otherwise, have special need of such letters, though he for his part had no need thereof. The use of them is to be a benefit and help to the party for whom they are written, and for the furthering of his receiving amongst the saints in the place whereto he goeth, and the due satisfaction of them in their receiving of him.
Acts, xviii. 27. Col. iv. 10. Rom. xvi. 1. 2 Cor. iii. I.
Of excommunication and other censures.
1. The censures of the church are appointed by Christ for the preventing, removing, and healing of offences in the church; for the reclaiming and gaining of offending brethren ; for the deterring others from the like offences; for purging out the leaven which
* A timely admonition to those churches which are in the habit of dismissing members at their own request, without censure, and without recommendation.-Ed.