The Gospel and the Church: 23. Christian Discipline, Closing Remarks: 5

 •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 12
In cases where church discipline has become necessary, the decisions of an assembly, I need hardly say, are not infallible. To assert the infallibility of such decisions would be nothing less than being on the high road to Rome i.e. to a so-called infallible church. On God's side—all is perfection and infallibility. But what as to our i.e. the human side? Here everything is subject to failure, be it, a single believer, or an assembly of believers. The infallible Spirit of God dwells in the believer. Does that make the believer an infallible pope? The Holy Spirit dwells in the chinch or assembly. Does that make it an infallible church or assembly? Jesus Christ, our blessed and never failing Lord. and Master, is present in the midst of His two or three that are gathered to His Name. Does His presence make His servants infallible, because they are gathered. to His Name? There could scarcely be a greater and more mischievous fallacy. We may with certainty presume that two such devoted servants of Christ, as Paul and Barnabas on the morning of the day recorded in Acts 15, had been gathered to the name of their common heavenly Master, praying for His guidance, before entering with Mark on their tourney. Yet they fell out on the way and separated from each other. Did they cease to love each other, because there arose a sharp contention subsequently? Certainly not. Perhaps the apostle and his fellow-laborers had omitted in their prayer for their journey the all important request for brotherly kindness, patience, and self-denial.
What I mean to affirm is simply this, that the Lord, in promising His gracious presence to His two or three gathered to His Name, certainly did not convey to any, that His presence however blessed would render those two or three (or any number of them) infallible in their deliberations, decisions, and actions, however willing and ready He may be to guide by the Holy Spirit those who really are gathered to His Name—which is just the, question, on which everything depends. But nowhere in His word does the Lord promise to us infallibility, either as to our thoughts or words, our decisions or actions. He Who searches the reins and the hearts knows too well the Romanist element, so inherent in man's fallen nature, to give us such a promise.
Even in those blessed Pentecostal days, when the believers were of “one heart and one soul,” the Spirit of God dwelling in the church with unimpeded power, the flesh and the natural evil heart, appeared in the saints, not only in the case of Ananias and Sapphira, but elsewhere in the church at Jerusalem, when the murmuring of jealousy, between the Grecian and Hebrew Christians arose (Acts 6). Nay, even in the assembly at Jerusalem, the apostles and elders being present, no small dispute arose (ch. 15.). But, the power of the Holy Spirit, of love, and of a sound mind being then unimpeded, the flesh was soon discovered and put to silence.
But how is it in our days? Days of the general ruin of the, Church of, God, when more than ever the solemn and humbling, truth manifests itself, viz, that man has been unfaithful and made shipwreck in everything which God had committed to his keeping, from paradise until Pentecost, and from Pentecost until now"? It would certainly better behoove us to lie before God on our, fakes with our mouths in the dust, instead of opening them to haughtily claim infallibility for assembly decisions amidst the ruins—the mute but eloquent witnesses of our deep fall! When in these “last days” we hear of a company of Christians asserting the, proud claim of infallibility for their church decisions, founded upon the fallacies referred to above, we have every reason to tremble, for their spiritual condition.
Have we not heard of Christians from whom, according to their knowledge of truth, one might have expected better things, claiming church infallibility by reasoning like this? “The Holy Spirit” (they say) “dwells in the assembly, and the Lord has promised His presence in the midst of His own, even where but two or three are gathered to His name. It is evident, that the Lord cannot guide His people wrongly: consequently the decisions of an assembly, being the voice of the Holy Ghost, must necessarily be infallible.”
In the same breath, as it were, and in striking contradiction to the preceding claim, it is added: “But Should it happen that an assembly in a case of church discipline has made a mistake in excluding some one, the one thus wrongly excluded would nevertheless have to accept this as from the hand of God and to bow under it. By refusing to do so he Only would manifest his unsubdued will, and thus prove that he had deserved the punishment” (i.e. that the assembly after all must be held to be guided rightly, even though not justified in excluding him!).
Could there possibly be a greater proof of the perversity of the natural heart, even in Christians, unless kept by watchfulness and prayer in the humble sense of their entire dependence upon the grace of God which establishes the heart?
I was told that a very prominent leader of that religious sect said that, if any one, who had been wrongly excluded from an assembly, falls several years after into sin, it would justify the assembly for having excluded him, previously!
I should not have believed this report (such an expression being an outrage to the simplest principles of natural righteousness, not to speak of Christian truth and godliness), had I not myself read a quite similar and tantamount expression. of the same teacher in a paper, written and signed and circulated by himself