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phasize this distinction between the church and the world, says, “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness” (1 John v.19). 4. The churches are expressly required to withdraw themselves from those whose character furnishes no evidence of vital religion; it cannot, therefore, be right to admit them. The apostolic injunction is: “ Withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly.” 5. The spiritual duties and exercises everywhere required of church members, such as faith, love, joy, hope, presuppose that they are regenerated persons, as also do the relations they sustain as "the children of God," "heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ," "the light of the world," and "the salt of the earth.” Clearly, such duties and relations imply experimental religion as the basis of church membership.

This position, however, is widely denied. The papal church, modelled after the Mosaic commonwealth, insists that all who are born within her pale are members, and this as a birthright, wholly irrespective of character.

In state-churches, where, as in Prussia, civil privileges depend on membership in the Establishment, all citizens are entitled to the privileges of the church. The Presbyterian standards define the visible church as consisting of “all those who profess the true religion, with their children;" and on the reception of adults, though requiring “a credible profession of faith," they deny the right of the church to require evidence of regeneration. If the applicant possesses competent knowledge and good moral character, his profession of faith is to be deemed “ credible ;” and as to the fact of his regeneration, Dr. Hodge says, “No judgment is expressed or implied in receiving any one into the church.” He affirms that “the church is not called upon to express a judgment as to the real piety of appli


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cants for membership,” and argues that all attempts to judge of the spiritual state of such are an invasion of the divine prerogatives.* The Episcopal Church, in like manner, receives to membership without an examination as to spiritual character, requiring only a profession of faith rendered credible by adequate knowledge and a moral life.

The principal objections against requiring evidence of regeneration as a condition of church membership are the following: 1. It is said the church is represented in Scripture as composed of saints and sinners intermingled. Thus the kingdom of heaven is compared to a field in which good seed was sown, but tares also sprang up; and to a net which gathered of every sort. The separation was not to be made till the last day. To this we reply: It is evident that in these parables the Lord is describing, not the terms of admission to his church, but the inevitably mixed character of his professed people on earth. Bad men would creep in among them, notwithstanding all precautions. The devil would sow tares among the wheat. But, surely, satanic example in this ought not to be adduced as a divine warrant for introducing unconverted men into the church of Christ. 2. It is also said: Man, being incompetent to read the heart, cannot discriminate between the true and the false Christian. This is the prerogative only of Omniscience. A simple assent, therefore, to the doctrines and rules of the gospel is to be accepted as sufficient, unless the life is openly scandalsus. We answer: All admit that certain criteria of regeneration are clearly given in Scripture--characteristics and dispositions in which the new birth manifests itself. The church is, indeed, not infallible, and often mistakes in judging spiritual character; but, these criteria having been recorded,

Theology, vol. iii. pp. 545-548, 576-579.


fidelity to Christ, to her own purity, and to the souls of men evidently requires her to apply these divinely-given tests to those who seek admission. 3. It is further objected: In all the recorded instances in the New Testament, admission to the church was without examination, on a simple profession of faith. This objection, however, if valid, would equally prove the duty to admit without inquiry as to moral character, for no example of this is given. Plainly, the churches of the New Testament ascertained in some way the faith and character of those who applied, though it may not always have been, as now in our churches, by a full and extended examination of the experience and life. It was the age of the miraculous manifestation of the Holy Spirit, who attested the new spiritual life of the believer by the bestowal of charisms, or miraculous gifts. It was on this ground Peter, justified his recognition of the spiritual character of Cornelius and those in his house; and these charisms were evidently the common attestations of the Spirit's work in the Apostolic period (Acts xi. 15–17; xix. 6; Gal. iii. 2; Eph. i. 13, 14). Then, also, a profession of Christ often imperilled social position, property, and even life itself, and the act of profession, under such circumstances, might ordinarily be in itself strong proof of spiritual character. But in the reversed circumstances of our age, the church, having no such means of ascertaining character, must needs adopt such method as may seem best fitted for that end. Probably no one method would everywhere be alike effectual; but the relation of the experience before the whole body of disciples, coupled with other inquiries carefully conducted, would certainly seem a reasonable

4. The objection is also made " that all attempts to make a church consisting exclusively of the regenerate have failed. So far as known, no such church has ever

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existed. This of itself is proof that its existence did not enter into the purpose of God." * But we reply : In like manner, there is no perfectly holy Christian on earth, for “there is no man that sinneth not;” and “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.” But would any reasonable person argue from this universal failure to attain perfect holiness that God has not required holiness, and that the Christian need not seek it? Plainly, the church on earth is fallible: it sometimes errs in judging character. In spite of all precautions unworthy men will find admission, and possibly no church exists which, as seen by the omniscient Eye, does not contain unregenerate souls. But, surely, this fact does not argue that the church is to use no precaution, and to admit to its bosom all comers with no examination in respect to regeneration—that vital spiritual change which constitutes the chief point and fontal source of distinction between the church and the world. And however imperfect the realization of a purely regenerate church has been, and must be, on earth, it remains true that those churches in which evidence of regeneration has been required, have, as a rule, approximated most nearly to purity in faith and life.

II. A CHURCH IS COMPOSED ONLY OF THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN BAPTIZED ON A PERSONAL PROFESSION OF FAITH. The following considerations make this evident: 1. The apostolic commission requires the ministry first to disciple, and then to baptize (Matt. xxviii. 19). This order-discipleship, and then baptism-is here definitely prescribed, and is of divine authority. 2. In the Scriptures baptism is the first public act of a believer, and is ordinarily initiatory to the church. At the Pentecost they first “gladly received the word,” and were then baptized and added to the church (Acts ii. 41). In Samaria,“ when they believed

* Hodge's Theology, vol. iii., p. 548.

Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women (Acts viii. 12). This was the uniform practice in admitting to the church. 3. The churches are addressed as composed only of baptized persons. Thus, Paul bases one of the main arguments in his Epistle to the Roman church on the fact of their symbolic burial and resurrection with Christ in baptism; and Peter, in writing to the churches, in like manner indicates the universality of baptism (Rom. vi. 1-14; 1 Pet. iii. 21).

It being thus evident that baptism is a ceremonial qualification for admission to the church, the question arises, Who shall judge of the fact of baptism, whether in any particular case the ordinance has been truly administered? We answer: The church must judge, and not the candidate only; for the responsibility of admission is clearly devolved on the church, and it is held accountable for the due observance of the ordinances. Were the decision left with the applicant, some totally different rite might be substituted and the ordinance of Christ be set aside. Besides, it is evidently among the fundamental rights of a church, as of any organization, to judge of the qualifications of those desiring admission.


1. The social, united worship of God. Hence, adoration, praise, thanksgiving, and prayer constitute a leading feature in its assemblies, as described in Scripture. In


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