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What the results of their labors and vigor and prosperity, yet some of opinions have been, we know. What them, even if they can boast of greater they would have been, if their taste learning, can boast of no greater sucand opinions had been like those of cess, and of no greater influence than this generation, we know not.
James Wilson. After the separation, Mr. Wilson It is worthy of remark, that that was left with twenty-eight members“ burning and shining light,” President only, eight male and twenty female; Manning, pastor of the First Baptist and such was the poverty of the Church, was quenched in death, July church that, for several years, he was 29th, 1691, but a few weeks after Mr. compelled — and not an unusual thing Wilson's arrival. The Rev. Stephen in those times - to teach a school, Gano was settled as his successor in both public and private, for his sup- 1791, and remained pastor until he was port. But success attended his labors. taken to his reward in 1828, a period In 1804-5, especially, there occurred a of thirty-six years. The venerable great and powerful revival of religion, Dr. N. B. Crocker was called at St. in his charge, which added greatly to John's in 1805, and still survives his numbers and strength, so that in 1865 — after a pastorate extended 1809 the little wooden church which to the unusual length of sixty years. stood on the same spot, was superseded For twenty-two years, therefore, these by the present large and spacious three distinguished men, all leaders in structure, which was dedicated to the their own churches and representatives worship of Almighty God, January 1, of their several denominational in1810. Several of these “ refreshings” terests and peculiarities, were cotemoccurred in the course of Mr. Wilson's poraries. And to no three other men, long and successful ministry. And who have ever resided in it since the some other churches have, at least in time of its distinguished founder, are part, been formed from this church, its moral and religious interests, now and it still rejoices in a membership of in such a prosperous state, so largely about five hundred souls. Since Mr. indebted as to them. Mr. Wilson died Wilson's death, twenty-five years ago, in Providence, Sept. 14, 1839, aged the church has had three other pastors ; 79 years, and was succeeded by the and although it retains its original Rev. Mark Tucker, D. D.
CHURCHES AND CHURCH MEMBERSHIP.
BY REV. D. BURT, WINONA, MINN.
It is the object of this article to to all the congregation. The people, maintain the thesis that — All those, en masse, are the church. The apparent and only those, who give practical evi- success of some missionaries to the dence that they have purified their souls Germans of the West, under the patin obeying the truth through the Spirit, ronage of certain American Missionshould become members and receive the ary Societies, results from the fact that sacraments in our Christian churches.
they offer to baptize the children of all There are departures from this doc- parents in the congregation, and allow trine in two directions. The old Lu- those parents to consider themselves theran Church extends the sacraments *members of the church.
A form of this error, more convenient Christians, may be found in almost for American “free thinkers,” is seen every community. in the self-styled “Liberalism” of the Facts like these suggest the discuslast half century; and, recently, in sion proposed. In view of them it is the “ Broad-church policy. Men, eminently practical. Does Christ rebrought into affinity by a common re- quire the existence of visible churches pulsion from evangelical doctrines, with a covenant and clearly pronounced meet, perhaps in a bar-room, and vote faith? Does he restrict membership that they are a society of liberal Chris- to those giving practical evidence of tians. They secure a preacher, who divine renewal, and does he require all rails at orthodoxy, ridicules creeds, such to become members ? and tells them what they should not Our thesis answers affirmatively, believe. The so-called society has no and maintains its answer by the folexpressed articles of faith, no cove- lowing propositions : nant, no members subject to discipline, 1. Those who in apostolic times reand the sacraments are not adminis- ceived the doctrines of Christ were tered, — that would be carrying the thus brought into a common spiritual farce too far. This unorganized or- state, the mutual affinities and social ganization is called a church, a church expressions of which resulted in the of progressive Christians. Some, how- organization of visible local churches. ever, grant that the sacraments are At the West, some churches have proper for those who desire them; and been gathered in a manner tending to those responding to a general invita- divert us from the apostolic method. tion to receive them are deemed mem- A zealous preacher concludes that it bers, but are not amenable to the will redound to the prosperity of his society for their religious views, nor sect, if a church of his order can be esliable to be called to an account for tablished in a certain community where evil practices.
there are already several churches. He Another style of broad-churchmen concludes that if the Lord will have state it thus : Let there be no covenant, another church there, he must accept only a general declaration of principles for members such persons as can be similar to the platforms of our politi- drawn into the enterprise. Hence, he cal parties ; no roll of members, but collects together those who have no let all who are drawn to the society by common experience and little unity of the principles declared, be entitled to views, except on some outward matter the privileges of the body and receive from which a sect can grow, and imthe sacraments if they wish. Others poses upon them the rules of his demay be more strict as to the conditions nomination, and calls them a church. of membership, yet their views are They might be called a conglomerate broader than the rule set forth in the of heterogeneous materials held in gospel.
juxtaposition by the external force A departure from this rule in an- of material motives. Very different other direction, consists in the view were the visible churches of the aposthat, although none but converted tolic age. They grew necessarily and persons should belong to Christian naturally out of the affinities and social churches, yet one who is regenerated wants of the Christian life. Where into Christ need not unite with a visi- the disciples of Christ preached, their ble church.
.converts had a common experience, Persons holding this view, and making them of one heart and one some of them hoping that they are soul. The essential idea of a church is, those who are called out of the to which every member assented. Out world into a common religious state. of a common affinity for this faith and A visible Christian church is not a body a spontaneous fellowship under it, arose which converted men choose to organ- the covenant between members. This ize when they could, if they pleased, covenant may not have been written, live as such without it. It grows up but it was always implied. Written spontaneously, because it is natural covenants in some modern churches for those brought by regeneration into are almost a dead letter. When memthe same spiritual state to speak often bers are received, the church promise to each other. The apostles did not to watch over them, to love them, and carry some previously elaborated sys- hold spiritual communion with them. tem of church polity to a community This promise is broken because, at and gather as many as possible under heart, there does not exist the spiritual it, and teach them how to work it, as state out of which covenant-keeping one does a machine. Under the preach- must grow. The substance of the ing of the apostles, the Spirit quickened covenant in the primitive churches was men into a regenerate life, out of which a common love leading all, whether grew religious sympathy, out of which verbally pledged to it or not, to meet grew religious society, out of which together for Christian worship, to degrew the visible local church.
light in communion, to maintain the 2. The primitive churches had ordinances of the gospel and the disclearly defined faith, and were held to- cipline of the church. It was this that gether by a common affinity for it and made the primitive churches, brothercovenant in it.
hoods, and families, that held them toThe creed of the early Christians gether under persecution, that made was brief and comprehensive. “Thou them the wonder of their enemies, and art Christ, the son of the living God,” often the praise of the heathen world. was Peter's creed. “I believe that I speak not against written covenants, Jesus Christ is the Son of God,” was I only affirm that where the affinities the creed of the eunuch.
of regenerate experience do not exist, similar words Timothy made a “good no such covenant can secure that fidelprofession” before many witnesses. ity, that kindly regard for each other, The confession required by Paul was, which characterized the primitive “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and Christians. The difficulty is to be thou shalt be saved.” There was then' remedied, not by rejecting written no ambiguous meaning in this declara- creeds or covenants, but by a return to tion of faith. One who made it, re- the piety of the apostolic age. nounced all false religious systems of 3. The primitive churches had defithe age, and accepted the divine plan nite rules for receiving and, when necof salvation in all its parts. This for- essary, for excluding members. mula included all the doctrines of the Adult baptism was never adminisChristian system, as elaborated in tered except on condition of personal Christian creeds of later times. It was faith; household baptism, never unless the germ out of which they all grew. at least one of the parents believed in Why more elaborate creeds should now Christ. Peter would baptize Cornelius be used, and how they should be used, and his friends because theyəhad reare questions not within the range of ceived the Holy Ghost. The baptism the present discussion. The fact to be of the Spirit preceded that of water on noted is, that the primitive churches the day of Pentecost; and Philip rehad a clearly defined confession of faith quired the eunuch to believe before he would baptize him. It may be said before he has a right to a place in a that this baptism was not into any par. Christian church. ticular church. But it brought the in- There were cases of excommunicadividual into a relation to the visible tion from the apostolical churches. In churches such that he could enter one regard to an offender at Corinth, Paul when other conditions were fulfilled. says to the church,“When ye are gathThe baptism of Paul was a qualifica- ered together," that is, in a churchtion for an introduction to the Chris- meeting,“ deliver such a one to Satan;" tian body at Jerusalem. No one could that is, excommunicate him. This act become a real member of such a body was performed by a popular vote of without baptism. One must also man- the church, “ of many.” The church ifest a sincerity that gained the confi- at Thyatira was blamed for suffering dence of the Christian body before he Jezebel to teach. Of course it could could be received. Saul, after his con- not absolutely silence her; hence it version and baptism, went to Jerusa- was required to prevent her from teachlem “and assayed to join himself to ing as one of its members. This it the disciples; but they were afraid of could only do by terminating her memhim.” They assumed that he should bership. The method of excommuninot be received until he gave satisfac- cation provided in Mat. xviii. implies tory evidence of conversion. The tes- that the local church can, and should, timony of Barnabas settled this point; exclude from itself all who, having tresPaul was then with them coming in passed, remain incorrigible. The point and going out at Jerusalem."
to be noted is that a local church could Faith was also a condition of mem- not perform all these functions without bership. “Him that is weak in the having a distinctly known membership, faith,” says Paul, “ receive ye; ” “for called by Paul “those within,” and we that are strong ought to bear the judging those within. infirmities of the weak.” This implies 4. The primitive churches elected ofthat faith, as a condition of member- ficers in a way implying a definite and ship, was made so prominent that the well-known membership. church was in danger of refusing to re- I need not adduce the evidence that ceive one whose faith was weak. this was done by a popular vote. This
Repentance was necessary to the Quarterly has existed to little purpose restoration to membership of an of- if it has not yet proved this fact. Such fender 2 Cor. ii. 7. By parity of a vote implies a known distinction bereason it was deemed a condition of tween members and those not such. membership. Paul says to the church There was no wide and promiscuous at Corinth, “ I have written unto you, parish voting in those days. not to keep company, if any man that A church-meeting for the transaction is called a brother be a fornicator, or of business was then composed of only covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or the faithful, and they chose their own a drunkard, or an extortioner ; with bishop. such a one, no, not to eat.” “ Therefore
5. The primitive churches confined put away from among you that wicked the sacrament of the Lord's Supper to person." “ Withdraw yourself from those who were members in the sense every brother that walketh disorderly." defined. Thus the primitive Christians had When Christ instituted this rite, no definite rules of membership, the sum one but his disciples was present. He of which is that one must give practi- commanded all of them, and only them, cal evidence of conversion from sin to drink of the cup. It is the followers of Christ who are to show forth his tians might have escaped martyrdom by death in this way, until he come. Paul pursuing the course of some in this says, “let a man examine himself, and age who secretly attempt to be Chrisso let him eat of the bread and drink tians without joining any church, and, of the cup.” Condemnation cometh sometimes, without receiving baptism. on him that eateth and drinketh un- But they understood the words of worthily. The act is to be performed Christ in Matthew X. 32, 33, to re“discerning the Lord's body.” This quire all that is now implied in churchdiscernment is spiritual, and implies membership, to require that they regeneration. The custom was to bap- “stand fast in one spirit, with one tize at once those who believed, as in mind, striving together for the faith of the case of the jailer, the eunuch, Lydia, the gospel, being in nothing terrified Paul, and the three thousand. There by their adversaries.” They had the is no proof that the Lord's Supper was spirit of Justin, who, at his martyrreceived by any before baptism. The dom, A. D. 167, said, “ We declare and proof is strong that the reverse was the profess openly — we proclaim aloud apostolic rule. One confessed the com- that we worship God through Christ.” mon faith, and had the spirit of the We search in vain for evidence that, in covenant in his heart, and therefore the the time of the apostles, there was a conditions of membership, before he class of persons calling themselves received the Eucharist. This act was Christians, but never connecting themdeemed the highest privilege in the selves with any visible church. Every household of Christ. It was carefully person, accepting Christ unto salvation, restricted to the churches, and this cus- assumed that if any one ought to betom continued down through subse- long to a visible church, he ought also quent centuries, under the regimen of to have such a connection. secret worship.
We find, then, that the apostolical 6. The primitive churches included churches were local bodies, organized all who received Christ as their person- with a definite membership, a confesal Saviour.
sion of faith, a covenant, officers, rules The explicit testimony of Luke is, for receiving, disciplining, and exclud“. And all that believed were together, ing members ; that each church manand had all things common.” “ The aged its own affairs ; that the sacrafaithful" is a scriptural name of Chris- ments were limited to the membership ; tians, and that it implied a public pro- and that all converts assumed that they fession of Christ, and a known connec- should connect themselves with some tion with some local church, can be local church. In view of these facts, proved by the words of Christ him- it appears that to administer the sacraself. He says to the members of a ments on the principle of some of the church at Smyrna, “Be thou faithful old German churches, to all who are unto death ; " that is, to be worthy of members of the congregation, is to ofthe name faithful, they must sustain fer them to those who do not discern their profession as church-members, if the Lord's body. The American Home it cost them their lives. To the mem- Missionary Society refuses to aid, on bers of a church at Pergamos he says, this plan, missionaries at the West. “ Thou hast not denied my faith, even The decision is wise. The German in those days wherein Antipas was my missionary, who would convert his faithful martyr.” Christ here com- countrymen to Christ, cannot conform mended constancy in the members of a to their views in this matter, even visible church. The primitive Chris- under protest. He must insist on a