never had any special connexion. Thus, there should be more of the love of benevolence exercised towards persons excommunicated, than towards those who never were members of the church. But then,

2. On the other hand, as to what relates to the love of complacence, they ought to be treated with greater displacency and disrespect than the heathen. This is plain by the text and context. For the apostle plainly doth not require of us to avoid the company of the heathen, or the fornicators of the world, but expressly requires us to avoid the company of any brother who shall be guilty of any of the vices pointed out in the text, or any other like them.-This is also plain by the reason of the thing. For those who have once been visible Christians, and have apostatized and cast off that visibility, deserve to be treated with more abhorrence than those who have never made any pretensions to Christianity. The sin of such, in apostatizing from their profession, is more aggravated, than the sin of those who never made any profession. They far more dishonour religion, and are much more abhorred of God. Therefore when Christ says, Matt. xviii. 17. "Let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican," it is not meant that we should treat an excommunicated brother as Christians ought to treat heathens and publicans; for they might eat with them, as Christ himself did; and the apostle gives leave to eat with such, 1 Cor. x. 27. and in the context gives leave to keep company with such; yet forbids to eat with an excommunicated person.-Christ's meaning must be, that we should treat an excommunicated person, as the Jews were wont to treat the heathens and publicans; and as the disciples had been always taught among the Jews, and brought up, and used to treat them. They would by no means eat with publicans and sinners; they would not eat with the Gentiles, or with the Samaritans. Therefore Peter durst not eat with the Gentiles when the Jews were present; Gal. ii. 12.

QUEST. II. What kindness and respect may and ought to be shown to such persons?—I answer, There are some things by which the members of the church are obliged to show kindness to them; and these things are chiefly, to pray for them, and to admonish them.--And the common duties and offices of humanity ought to be performed towards them: such as relieving them when they are sick, or under any other distress; allowing them those benefits of human society, and that help, which are needful for the support and defence of their lives and property. The duties of natural and civil relations are still to be performed towards them. Excommunication doth not release children from the obligation of duty to their parents, nor parents from parental affection and care toward their child

ren. Nor are husbands and wives released from the duties proper to their relation. And so of all other less relations, whether natural, domestic, or civil.

3. They are cut off from the fellowship of the Christian church. The true notion of the visible church of Christ, is that part of mankind, which, as his people, is united in upholding his appointed worship. And the notion of a particular visible church of Christ is a particular society of worshippers, or of visible saints, united for the social worship of God according to his institutions or ordinances. One great and main privilege then, which the members of such a church enjoy, is fellowship in the worship which God hath appointed in his church. But they that are excommunicated are cut off from this privilege, they have no fellowship, no communion with the people of God in any part of their worship.

He who is the mouth of the worshipping congregation in offering up public prayers, is the mouth only of the worshipping society; but the excommunicated are cast out of that society. The church may and ought to pray for such; but they cannot have fellowship with such in prayer. The minister, when speaking in prayer, doth not speak in their name; he speaks only in the name of the united society of visible saints or worshippers. If the people of God were to put up prayers in their name, it would imply a receiving of them into charity, or that they charitably looked upon them as the servants or worshippers of God. But, as was observed before, excommunicated persons are in this respect cast out of the charity of the church, and it looks upon them as wicked men and enemies of God, and treats them as such.

So when a congregation of visible saints join in singing the praises of God, as the psalmist says, Psal. xxxiv. 3. "Let us extol his name together;" they do it only as joining with those who are in their charitable estimation, fellow-servants and fellow-worshippers of God. They do it not as joining with heathens; nor do the people of God say to the open enemies of God, remaining such, "Come let us extol his name together;" but they say it to their brethren in God's service. If we ought not to join with excommunicated persons in familiar society, much less ought we to hold fellowship with them in solemn worship, though they may be present.

4. There are privileges of a more internal nature, which those who are members of the visible church enjoy, from which excommunicated persons are cut off. They being God's covenant people, are in the way of covenant-blessings and therefore have more encouragement to come to God by prayer for any mercy they need. The visible church is the people among whom God hath set his tabernacle, and among whom he is wont to bestow his blessings. But the excommunicated

are in a sense, cast ont of God's sight, into a land of banishment, as Cain was, though not debarred from common means. Gen. iv. 14, 16. They are not in the way of those smiles of Providence, those tokens of God's favour, and that light of God's countenance, like those who are within. Nor, as they are cast out from among God's covenant people, have they the divine covenant to plead, as the members of the church have. -Thus far I have considered the privative part of the punishment of excommunication.-I now proceed,

SECONDLY, to the positive part, which is expressed by being delivered to Satan, in verse 5. By which two things seem to be signified:

1. A being delivered over to the calamities to which they are subject, who belong to the visible kingdom of the devil. As they who are excommunicated are thrust out from among the visible people of God; so they are to be looked upon, in most respects, at least, as being in the miserable, deplorable circumstances in which those are who are under the visible tyranny of the devil, as the heathens are. And in many respects, they doubtless suffer the cruel tyranny of the devil, in a manner agreeable to their condition, being cast out into his visible kingdom.

2. It is reasonable to suppose that God is wont to make the devil the instrument of those peculiar, severe chastisements which their apostacy deserves. As they deserve more severe chastisement than the heathens, and are delivered to Satan for the destruction of the flesh; so we may well suppose, either that God is wont to let Satan loose, sorely to molest them outwardly or inwardly, and by such severe means to destroy the flesh, and to humble them; or that he suffers the devil to take possession of them dreadfully to harden them, and so to destroy them for ever. For although what men are to aim at, is only the destruction of the flesh, yet, whether it shall prove the destruction of the flesh, or the eternal and more dreadful destruction of themselves, is at God's sovereign disposal.-So much for the nature of excommunication.

THIRDLY, I come to show by whom this punishment is to be inflicted.

1. When it is regularly and duly inflicted, it is to be looked upon as done by Christ himself. That is imported in the definition, that it is according to his will, and to the directions of his word. And, therefore, he is to be looked upon as principal in it, and we ought to esteem it as really and truly from him, as if he were on earth personally inflicting it.

2. As it is inflicted by men, it is only done ministerially. They do not act of themselves in this, any more than in preach

ing the word. When the word is preached, it is the word of Christ which is spoken, as the preacher speaks in the name of Christ, as his ambassador. So when a church excommunicates

a member, the church acts in the name of Christ, and by his authority, not by its own. It is governed by his will, not by its own. Indeed it is only a particular application of the word of Christ.-Therefore it is promised, that when it is duly done, it shall be confirmed in heaven; i. e. Christ will confirm it, by acknowledging it to be his own act; and he will, in his future providence, have regard to what is done thus as done by himself: he will look on the person, and treat him as cast out and delivered to Satan by himself; and if he repent not, will for ever reject him; Matt. xviii. 18. "Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven." John xx. 23. "Whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained." -I shall now as was proposed,

II. Endeavour to show who are the proper subjects of excommunication. They are those members of the church who are now become visibly wicked; for the very name and nature of the visible church show, that it is a society of visible saints,

or visibly holy persons. When any of these visible saints become visibly wicked men, they ought to be cast out of the church. Now the members of the church become visibly wicked by these two things:

1. By gross sin. Saints may be guilty of other sins, and very often are, without throwing any just stumbling-block in the way of public charity, or of the charity of their Christian brethren. The common failures of humanity, and the daily short comings of the best of men, do not ordinarily obstruct the charity of their brethren; but when they fall into any gross sin, this effect follows; for we naturally argue, that he who hath committed some gross sin, hath doubtless much more practised less and more secret sins; and so we doubt concerning the soundness and sincerity of his heart. Therefore all those who commit any gross sin, as they obstruct the charity of their brethren are proper subjects of discipline: and unless they confess their sin, and manifest their repentance, are proper subjects of excommunication. This leads me to say,

2. That the members of the church do especially become visibly wicked, when they remain impenitent in their sins, after proper means used to reclaim them. Merely being guilty of any gross sin, is a stumbling block to charity, unless repentance immediately succeed; but especially when the guilty person remains obstinate and contumacious; in such a case he is most clearly a visibly wicked person, and therefore to be dealt with as such; to be cast out into the wicked world, the kingdom of Satan where he appears to belong,-Nor, is VOL. VI.


contumacy in gross sins only a sufficient ground of excommunication. In the text the apostle commands us to inflict this censure, not only on those who are guilty of the gross sins of fornication, idolatry, and drunkenness, but also on those who are guilty of covetousness, railing and extortion, which at least in some degrees of them, are too generally esteemed no very heinous crimes. And in Rom. xvi. 17. the same apostle commands the church to excommunicate "them who cause divisions and offences, contrary to the doctrine they had learned ;" and in 2 Thess. iii. 14. to excommunicate every one who should "not obey his word by the epistle." Now according to these precepts, every one who doth not observe the doctrine of the apostles, and their word contained in their epistles, and so, by parity of reason, the divine instructions contained in the other parts of scripture, is to be excommunicated, provided he continue impenitent and contumacious. So that contumacy and impenitence in any real and manifest sin whatsoever, deserve excommunication.


III. I come to speak of the ends of this ecclesiastical cen-
The special ends of it are these three.

1. That the church may be kept pure, and the ordinances of God not to be defiled. This end is mentioned in the context, verse 6, &c. "Know yo not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." When the ordinances of God are defiled by the toleration of wicked men in the church, God the Father, Jesus Christ the head and founder of the church, the religion of the gospel, and the church itself, are dishonoured and exposed to contempt. And that the other members themselves may not be defiled, it is necessary that they bear a testimony against sin, by censuring it whenever it appears among them, especially in the grosser acts of wickedness. If they neglect so to do, they contract guilt by the very neglect; and not only so, but they expose themselves to learn the same vices which they tolerate in others; for "a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump." Hence that earnest caution of the apostle, Heb. xii. 15. "Looking diligently, lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up, trouble you, and thereby many be defiled."

2. That others may be deterred from wickedness. As the neglect of proper censure, with respect to visibly wicked church members, tends to lead and encourage others to commit the same wickedness; so the infliction of proper censure tends to restrain others, not only from the same wickedness, but from

« ElőzőTovább »