Assembly Action and Conscience; Brothers' Meeting; Outward Fall Not the Beginning of Evil; Tendency of Work; Excommunication; Old School Presbyterians

2 Corinthians 7:11  •  3 min. read  •  grade level: 9
Very dear brother,
A fall that demands excommunication is not the commencement of evil in a Christian: the soul must have become weak in its communion, not have kept near to God. It does not depend on sincerity in these cases. Carried on by the current of work that is before him, he does not place himself sufficiently before God, does not judge himself, is not naked before God, and is occupied with the work rather than with Him; the heart is not fathomed, and he does not know himself, does not know if he is in communion with the Lord or not. If the heart were placed before Him, he would soon discover that he was not, and would seek His face. A person makes the discovery of evil, either in its root before God, or in its fruits before Satan, and if the first alternative be neglected, the second takes place sooner or later; and it is agony for the soul to have dishonored the Lord. I hope at least that others will fear and will be on their guard.
But there is one point which in a great measure makes me write. It seems from your letter that it is the meeting of laboring brothers which has pronounced the excommunication. Now I do not at all question the rightness of the act; but it is the assembly to which he belonged habitually, or the one where his failure had been committed which ought to have done it. That the laborers should have refused to labor in the work with him, is well, although the assembly had refused to put him out; but a meeting of laboring brothers is not the assembly, and the practical difference is this, that the conscience of the assembly is not purified. Paul compelled the assembly at Corinth to put out the incestuous man, in order that it should be truly a new lump, then afterward he said to them, "Ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter." If the assembly does not feel itself in a state to do it, that places the brothers on their own responsibility, and if they call in other experienced brothers to help, it is all right, for the body is one; but it is the assembly that cuts off in order to purify itself, and this is of all importance; it is the essential part of discipline, and it may be that the laborers were not the most suitable people for that.
I have seen this tendency a little in France, and it does not place the assemblies before God in the consciousness of their own responsibility, which is most important. I think the assembly at-has, at least tacitly, ratified the sentence pronounced, and that our poor brother has submitted himself to it. So much the better, it is not to weaken that that I write. What he has to do is to humble himself deeply before God, and also before the brethren, that his soul may be restored. It would be the worst sign if he sought to escape the judgment pronounced on account of its form: that would take away from me any hope in his case of a speedy restoration. I write as a general caution with respect to what appears to me important. What the brethren have to do now is to seek his restoration, but I mean by that a true restoration of his soul. I believe him sincere, and that his conscience has not lost its sensibility. But there is more than that in true repentance—to be before God as to the subject of what one has done, and the dishonor done to the name of our precious Lord. Seek to lead back his soul by this way. He will understand grace better afterward if he returns thus, and the quicker the better; the heart becomes accustomed to estrangement.
December, 1872.