Assembly Action and Conscience; Brothers' Meeting; Woman's Place in the Work; Dissent in Cases of Discipline

2 Corinthians 7:11  •  2 min. read  •  grade level: 11
I much value the maintenance of the responsibility of assemblies, a principle which, according to my mind, is very important. One may help them, but the conscience of the assembly must act. In the case of which you speak, the exercise of discipline has been unnecessarily complicated: but the thing has been done, if the brothers' meeting, having decided what ought to be done, has presented the result to the assembly, gathered as such, so that opportunity was offered for any remark. But the assembly ought to purify itself, and a meeting of brothers is not the assembly.... I do not desire the least in the world that the sisters should speak; I have never seen a woman take part in the affairs of the church without doing harm. They are blessed, and very useful in their place, but that place does not belong to them.
A decision taken by a few brothers for the assembly may become a frightful tyranny, and does not purify the conscience of the assembly. All the brothers may have united for a matter of discipline, I allow; but after all, the investigation, if any is needed, is made by a few—only, a few can neither exercise the discipline, nor pronounce the excision: it would not be 1 Cor. 5:1313But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person. (1 Corinthians 5:13), nor 2 Cor. 7:1111For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter. (2 Corinthians 7:11). The object of the apostle was to awaken the conscience of the assembly. The best thing is that a few grave brothers should make themselves acquainted with the facts, assuring themselves of the assent of the brethren who have most weight in the assembly, and that then the matter, being ripe, should be brought before it; only, let there be full liberty for all the brothers, if need be, to make their observations. If nothing is said, the matter is concluded; if any grave brother has difficulties, they wait: if it is only ill-temper, the assembly judges it, and passes on; if it cannot do so, it is then the state of the assembly which demands attention. When the brothers who are acquainted with the facts have judged excision to be necessary, there remains only to present to the assembly the conclusion which has been arrived at, and if nothing is said, the thing is done. Experience has taught me to fear the rule of individuals as much as the jealousy of a radical spirit; the conscience of all must be exercised, and the business of the individual is to awaken it, as that of the Corinthians was awakened by the first epistle of Paul.
October, 1877.