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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 formerly been members of some other church, and the church to which they now join themselves as members may 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 they might not refuse, but must receive the unworthy; which is contrary unto the scripture, teaching that all churches are sisters, and therefore equal.
Matt. iii. 5, 6. Gal. ii. 4. 1 Tim. v. 24. Cant. viii. 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 cove
nant of their parents, when being grown up unto years of discretion, they shall desire to be made partakers of the Lord's supper ; unto 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 members 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 obtaining regenerating grace, and all the spiritual blessings both of the covenant and seal : they are also under church-watch and consequently subject to the reprehensions, admonitions, and censures thereof, for their hearing 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 natural 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, xi. 25, 29, 30, and viii. 1. Neh, ziii. 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. lvi. 8. Acts, xi. 26. 1 Cor. ixv. 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. 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 of Rome, that she might be received as becometh saints.
Rom, xvi. 1, 2. 2 Cor. ii. 1.