Assembly Discipline: Some Wholesome Words

 •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 8
My dear Brother:
Yours of the 8th inst.... to hand. I am most thankful that the strain that has been on for a good while in the meeting has come to an end. I am sure this is the goodness of God. And I pray that the same goodness may yet lead to hearts being yet further "knit together in love" (Col. 2:22That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; (Colossians 2:2)). This is of deepest importance, if there is to be growth and blessing.
I grieve for S. and A. I do not for a moment question that they are wrong in the course and position they have taken; but it is a terrible thing for saints to be cut off—far more so, I think, than we generally realize. And while faithfulness may sometimes require it, it needs to break our hearts.
On this line of things we get some most wholesome instruction in the closing chapters of Judges, in connection with the horrible wickedness of Gibeah, and the Benjamites allying themselves with it. Israel arose as one man against it. And this was righteousness, and faithfulness too. But God would have something more than righteousness, or even faithfulness in judging evil.
Israel united as one man, and 400,000 strong, arrayed themselves against Benjamin and Gibeah, who together numbered but 26,700, and although they had asked counsel of God, they were beaten before Benjamin, and 22, 000 perished the first day. The next day they not only asked counsel but wept before the Lord, and still they were again beaten, and lost 18,000 men. All this is most solemn, especially after the Lord, in answer to their inquiry, had told them to go up. What was the secret? I believe it was this: they were acting in simple righteousness against Benjamin, WITHOUT THEMSELVES BEING HUMBLED AND BROKEN BEFORE THE LORD BY BENJAMIN'S SIN.
After being smitten twice by Benjamin, "Then all the children of Israel, and all the people, went up, and came unto the house of God, and wept, and sat there before the LORD, and fasted that day until even, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD." Judg. 20:2626Then all the children of Israel, and all the people, went up, and came unto the house of God, and wept, and sat there before the Lord, and fasted that day until even, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. (Judges 20:26).
Hitherto their course had been a right one, but it was only now that they had reached a state in connection with which the Lord could give them victory. They had at last humbled themselves before the Lord, and taken the place of entire dependence, and rendered to the Lord His due—the offerings.
And now Benjamin is smitten—practically annihilated. But oh, the sorrow of heart that follows, now that they were in a state such that they could sorrow! They "came to the house of God, and abode there till even before God, and lifted up their voices, and wept SORE; and said, 0 LORD God of Israel, why is this come to pass in Israel, that there should be to-day one tribe lacking in Israel?" Judg. 21:2, 32And the people came to the house of God, and abode there till even before God, and lifted up their voices, and wept sore; 3And said, O Lord God of Israel, why is this come to pass in Israel, that there should be to day one tribe lacking in Israel? (Judges 21:2‑3).
Their course had been right, but they had to be humbled, and had to learn how to weep, and to fast, and to offer to the Lord. The judgment executed against Benjamin was just, but they had to feel the sorrow of having executed it against "my brother." So, dear brethren, I do not believe we are in an acceptable state to draw the sword to cut off our brother until we too know what it is to weep, and to fast, and to do it as what is due to the Lord, and be brokenhearted. because we must, and because it is "my brother."
Of course. this is not exactly a case of cutting off a brother from the assembly, but it is in principle the same. And I must say I feel grieved that it had to be so. It seems to me, too, that I see distinctly the hand of the Lord in the matter being kept in abeyance so long. Had action been taken at once without patiently waiting, and in love laboring to recover the erring ones, it might have been more serious.
Faithfulness in not yielding to evil is most deeply important. But this alone will not do. We are not called to wield a Jehu sword, though it was perfectly righteous. With us there must be self-humbling—I am no better than my brother—and the working of that love that delights in mercy, and hates putting away (Mal. 2:1616For the Lord, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the Lord of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously. (Malachi 2:16)).
Now that the action has been taken, I simply throw out these suggestions for the consideration of the dear brethren who have had directly to do with this painful case. You will find it profitable to review the whole course, and to consider the question,
Why did not the Lord permit more speedy action? And I think you will find there was something for all to learn.
Often our thoughts and state of heart have to be corrected, where we are not aware that there is anything wrong. God is full of patience with us, but He is faithful, and He gently leads us on, correcting and disciplining us as we need it. Oh, how good He is, for into what blunders we would often fall did not He check us up, that He might minister suited instruction!
I do trust that matters may now move on in the gathering in peace and harmony, all giving diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. We have to keep the Lord before us, and learn of Him who is meek and lowly in heart. The meekness, gentleness, patience, grace, and love that are pleasing to God are found alone in Christ. And it is in communion with Him that they are reproduced in us in the power of the Spirit.
Now with much love to you all, I remain Yours affectionately in the Lord (signed)
P. S.
Brother has had thoughts which needed to be corrected, and still has, I think; and I doubt not that the Lord in His faithfulness will lead to this. On the other hand I believe there is much for which he needs to be commended. If ever S. is restored, he will recall 's earnest, faithful, patient, and gracious efforts in love to win him back from the step he has taken, and it may have more weight with him than all else.
No doubt the rest of you have been tried by his resistance of a certain course, and he may have been blamed for obstructive ways, but I am satisfied God has been in this. And looking at things from his point of view, he has been no less tried than the rest. I can see he has suffered deeply in his spirit, and his resistance has been from conscientious convictions. I have no doubt that he and all have gained by the exercises, and perhaps by some correcting of thoughts. All the members are needed (1 Cor. 12:21-2621And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. 22Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: 23And those members of the body, which we think to be less honorable, upon these we bestow more abundant honor; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. 24For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honor to that part which lacked: 25That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. 26And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it. (1 Corinthians 12:21‑26)). Even those that are crooked and intractable are useful in teaching us lessons of patience. And we cannot set such aside, unless the wickedness of a perverse will makes it a necessity—as for example, a case of deliberate railing.
The meekness, lowliness, longsuffering, and forbearance in love (Eph. 4:22With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; (Ephesians 4:2)), which are precious traits of the divine life in Christ, are all developed in a scene where we meet the opposites which call for their exercise. God will not allow us to get on in a "cut and dried" sort of way which has the character of legal righteousness. He works in us, in the midst of exercise of soul, the traits of Christ, which unite with righteousness, grace and love, so producing patience, gentleness, longsuffering, and forbearance.