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in need of assistance and support. This is the meaning of the word, xoivwia, which is here translated fellowship. “ And in breaking of bread :" this probably means their partaking of the Lord's supper. “ And in prayers;" that is, joining in public prayers, and in singing psalms, which is included in prayer; which were constantly performed when they attended the other parts of public worship. Here, then, every part of their public worship is mentioned, viz., public teaching; distribution to the necessities of the poor saints; attendance on the Lord's supper; and prayer; including psalmody, which is devotion, and a particular manner of prayer. But it does not follow, from this enumeration of the different parts of their public worship, that every part was attended upon every time they met for prayer or preaching; or that they made a contribution for the poor, or broke bread, every time they met together for public worship; but that these were performed as often as was convenient and proper. Breaking bread from house to house, and eating their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, (verse 46,) does not appear to mean their eating the Lord's supper from house to house, but their partaking of their common food, and eating together; exercising liberality and friendship one towards another, in eating their common meals. But if breaking bread does here mean the Lord's supper, and it were certain that believers at Jerusalem did, in their then peculiar and extraordinary circumstances, administer and partake of this ordinance whenever a number of them met in a particular house, it would not hence follow that the disciples of Christ are by this bound in all ages of the world to attend the Lord's supper in the same manner, or thus frequently.

When it is said, “ And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread,” (Acts xx. 7) it does not import that breaking bread was the only or chief thing for which they came together on that day, for this was not true, as appears by the relation; nor does it follow from those words, that they always came together on the first day of the week to break bread: it is only said that on that first day they did so. They might, consistently with this, come to.

. gether on many other first days of the week, not to break bread, but to attend on other parts of public worship, without partaking of the Lord's supper.


Concerning the Discipline of the Church.

The discipline of a church consists in their admitting or rejecting those who offer themselves to join with them; in the members watching over each other; in reproving and admonishing those who walk disorderly, and taking all proper methods to reform them; and in rejecting those who will not be reclaimed, but continue obstinate and unreformed, when all proper means have been previously used to bring them to repentance.

The proper exercise of discipline is important and necessary in order to the comfort, edification, and prosperity of a church; and where this is wholly neglected in a church, it will go to ruin, and such a society is not worthy of the name of a Christian church. Therefore, this is particularly enjoined by Christ and his apostles.

The following particulars may serve to illustrate this subject:

I. In the exercise of discipline, the church is to be wholly governed by the laws of Christ. He is the only lawgiver in his church, and in exercising discipline, Christians are to execute his laws, and have no authority or right to do any thing, unless it be agreeable to his direction and command; and whatsoever is done by the church in his name, and according to his laws, is done by authority derived from him, as they are authorized by him to execute his laws: but when, and so far as they deviate from this, they have no authority, and what they do is null and void, and disapproved by him.

II. The power to execute the laws of Christ is not given by him to any one man, or to any particular class or order of men in the church, but to the church, as a particular and distinct society; though some particular members or officers in the church may, in many instances, have a distinguished influence and lead in the transactions of the church, and put into execution their decisions. When the head of the church said to Peter, “ I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven,” (Matt. xvi. 19,) we are not to suppose that this commission and authority was given to Peter alone, or to the apostles only, or to any distinct succession of men or officers in the church; but to the church which Peter represented in the confession he had then just made, and of which Christ speaks in the preceding words: “ Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." "And what Christ says in the next chapter confirms the truth of this supposition; for when he is there speaking of the doing of the church, in censuring and excommunicating an offender, he repeats the words above mentioned, which he had spoken to Peter, and gives this same authority to the church and sanction to their doings, according to his laws: “ Verily, I say unto you, whatsoever ye

shall bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven.” (Chap. xvii. 18.) Two things appear evident from hence. In the first place, that Christ did not give this commission and authority to Peter only, in distinction from the rest of his dis. ciples, but to them all, as much as to Peter; and in the next place, that this authority was given to them, not as a distinct order of men in his church, but as his disciples, and his church, as they composed the only church which Christ then had on earth, from whom all the professed disciples of Christ, and members of his visible church, have descended as their successors, being the followers of Christ, and members of his church, as his first disciples were. Therefore, this power and authority is given to the church, and is to continue in it as long as there is a church on earth, even to the end of the world.

III. This authority, therefore, to maintain and execute the laws of Christ, is given to the church as a body or society, each member of the church having an equal concern and right to judge and act in all decisions to be made by the church, in the exercise of discipline; and the act of the majority is to be considered as the act of the church, as no society can decide and act in any other way; and that the whole church are in this

way to judge, decide, and act, is evident from Scripture. When our Savior is giving particular directions respecting discipline, he gives the authority to judge and act to the church, as a society, and not to any particular member of it. “ Tell it to the church; but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican.” (Matt. xviii. 17.) According to this, every matter is to come before the church, and is to be decided by the judgment and voice of the church, as a body; which cannot be done in any other way but by the judgment and voice of all the members of it, or of the majority. Agreeable to this are the words of the apostle Paul to the church at Corinth, when he gave them direction to discipline a particular member of the church, who had been guilty of a scandalous crime. “ In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such a one unto Satan.” (1 Cor. v. 4, 5.) This was to be done by the church; in order to which, they must all come together, that it might be the act of the church; and in the whole that he says on this subject, he speaks to the whole church as concerned and acting in this matter. “Purge out, therefore, the old leaven,

“ that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother, be a fornicator, or covetous, etc., with such a one, no not to eat. Do not ye judge them that are within ? But them that are without, God judgeth. Therefore, put away from yourselves that wicked person.” And when they had rebuked and excommunicated this person, the apostle speaks of it as being done by them all, or the majority of the church. ** Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted by many," or by the most, or major part, as the word may properly be rendered. (2 Cor. ii. 6.) And he speaks the same language to other churches, when treating of this subject: “I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences, contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned, and avoid them; for they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own bellies.” (Rom. xvi. 17, 18.) * Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which ye have received of us; and if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.” (2 Thess. iii. 6, 14.) Hence it appears, that when this same apostle directs Timothy and Titus, respecting the exercise of discipline in the churches in which they presided, he does not mean that they had any authority in the matter over the churches, but that they should excite and lead the churches to a proper care and conduct in the strict and faithful exercise of discipline; for in any other view and sense, he would be inconsistent with himself.

It has been observed, that in every decision and act of the church, in the exercise of discipline, there must be the voice of the major part, or greatest number of the church at least; and every such act is to be considered as the act of that particular society or church. But it is desirable that the church should be unanimous in all their decisions and votes; and, therefore, all proper and possible care and pains ought to be taken to effect and maintain this unanimity in all their proceedings; and when this cannot be obtained, and there appears a difference in judgment among the members of the church, and a number do not view the case before them in the same light with the majority, they are to be treated with love and tenderness, and the latter ought to use all proper means to enlighten and convince their dissenting brethren, that they may think and act with them, and manifest a reluctance to proceed and act without their concurrence and consent; and, if possible, persuade them at least to say they are willing the majority should act as they think best, and though they cannot see with them at present, they will not be offended, nor are disposed to make any division or uneasiness in the church.

And the minority, who cannot act with their brethren in any instance, when they have offered the reasons of their dissent in meekness and love, ought to acquiesce in the decision of the church, so as to take no offence, or do any thing to interrupt the peace of the church, unless they consider the case to be so important, and the proceedings of the majority so contrary to the laws of Christ, that they ought to remonstrate, and think they cannot be faithful to Christ and their brethren unless they take some further steps. In such a case it will be the duty of the church to join with the dissatisfied in asking judgment and advice of other churches; and in any instance, where the matter to be decided is intricate or difficult, or when the person concerning whom the decision is to be made, desires it, it is proper and wise to ask the advice of other churches, in order to get all the light and help they can obtain respecting the matter to be determined. But every particular church, after asking counsel and advice, and making the best improvement of it they can, must act according to their own judgment, they not being bound implicitly to submit to the dictates of any other churches or councils, as having authority to decide for them in any matter, or any further than they receive light and conviction.

IV. The females are included in the male members of the church, and are to act only by them, as thus included; or the males act for them, and the women are not to dictate and vote in the church, in any matter which is to be decided, as this would be usurping and exercising that authority over the men which is forbidden in Scripture, and is inconsistent with that state of inferiority to men, which God has, for wise reasons, constituted, by which they are not to rule, but to be in subjection. But they have a right to know all the concerns and proceedings of the church, as they are equally interested in them with the male members, and it is desirable that they should be satisfied with all the transactions of the church, and know the reasons on which they proceed. They have, therefore, a right to be present in all the meetings of the church,

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