Remission of sins — Acts 2:38; 22:16
Jeremiah or Zechariah? — Matthew 27:9
Power of a few brothers
Names for communion
The grounds of admission — Acts 11:17
Servants etc. — Ephesians 6:5
Discipline settled by elders — 1 Corinthians 5
Discerning the body — 1 Corinthians 11
The kingdom of God and of heaven — Luke 13:20
Brothers' meetings — Matthew 18:15, 16
Bible Treasury Volume 9, p. 16. January 1872.
Q. Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16. Is "remission of sins" or "wash away thy sin" in these texts a question of faith finding non-imputation before God, or of administrative forgiveness on earth? INQUIRER.
A. We must distinguish between the work in virtue of which sin is not at all imputed to those that believe (even as to those about whom there was no question of baptism as Abraham), and the actual administration of the blessing upon earth, both fully revealed and actually applied, the work on which it was grounded being accomplished. This revelation of remission is clearly pointed out. It is promised in the new covenant, and recognized by the New Testament in the institution of the Lord's supper. "This is my blood of the new covenant shed for many for the remission of sins." John the baptist was to bring the knowledge of salvation to God's people by remission of their sins (Luke 1). The disciples were to remit sins, and they would be remitted (John 20); and the commission in Luke, the one on which (not that on Matthew 28) all preaching in the Acts of the Apostles is founded, whether Peter's or Paul's, is that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in Christ's name. In past times, righteousness not being revealed, there had been forebearance (Romans 3); now that Christ has been offered, righteousness in the remission, or pretermission, of the sins that had taken place before (i.e. in Old Testament times) was proved. But this of course is not all. For God not only announced to souls individually (for, however many heard, it was individually) but set up a system on earth in which the new blessings were found, based on two instituted signs, baptism and the Lord's supper, one initiatory once for all, the other the continual memorial of the Lord's death till He come and the expression of the unity of the body. Of this last it is not our business to speak now. But baptism was the entrance into that system* within the precincts of which all christian blessings were found as externally administered on the earth. The first of these was remission of sins, on the reception of which came also the blessing by the Holy Ghost; and even if this was extraordinarily given as to Cornelius and his house, still they were admitted in an orderly way to the common blessings of Christians here below. But the first grand blessing needed was remission of sins: through this was knowledge of salvation and actual reception of it where it was received. Repentance and remission of sins were to be preached in Christ's name among all nations beginning at Jerusalem. Peter does this when the Jews on the day of Pentecost were pricked in their hearts, and says that these are the things looked for: If you repent and enter into this divinely administered door of blessing, you will receive the promised gift of the Holy Spirit. He does not say, Be baptized and you will receive remission of sins, but be baptized with the baptism to remission of sins, become Christians where this blessing is found. They were baptized εἰς to, or for it: so to Moses, to Christ, to His death. It was the truth and fact to which they were brought: owning this, they would then receive the Holy Ghost. It was the profession they came into. If true faith and repentance were there, they got the present actual administered remission; if not there, they did not get it as we seen in Simon Magus. It may be a hardening, but it is no blessing to him who is a hypocrite.
(*This system formed no part of Paul's mission and service; though he left it as he found it.)
Thus remission of sins is not the fact of non-imputation by the death of Christ (which last Old Testament believers had) but an actual status into which a person enters. I may have forgiven a person perfectly in my mind; but he has not forgiveness till it is pronounced upon him. Here there is no outward sign; where there is, it may be abused to self-deception, as we see in 1 Corinthians 10. The simile is used to show the difference between non-imputation on God's part and administered or declared forgiveness. See the case of Nathan with David. (2 Samuel 12:13.) Observe also the connection of forgiveness with discipline where non-imputation is not at all the question.
Hence, when Paul was converted, Ananias said to him, "Arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins." He entered then into an actually administered forgiveness. "Wash away thy sins" is of course a figure. It is not putting away the filth of the flesh that does it. But I come thereby into that which is proclaimed as the first blessing of the Christianity into which I enter becoming a professed Christian. If faith is there, my conscience is perfect according to the christian system, and the other blessings follow; if there is profession without real faith, I am in the case of Simon magus or of 1 Corinthians 10; but I have been baptized to that. In Acts 2 and Acts 22 the call is addressed to persons publicly under the power of the revelation and word of Christ; and they are then told what to do in order to obtain the blessings of Christianity actually here on earth, the path to perfect ones above. This must not be forgotten, for then they did enter, and for the first time, into the blessings attached to Christianity on earth.
Therefore Peter can say, in his first epistle (1 Peter 3:21), "Which figure also now saveth us," taking care (as the proposition is general) to show that it was not simply the outward sign that did it. Hence when he addressed those pricked in heart by his word, he (on the inquiry what to do) put the whole matter according to the commission in the end of Luke. They inquired for a good conscience; for this is the true force of the expression in 1 Peter 3: not "the answer" as in the Authorized Version, but the inquiry (ἐπεώτημα) for a good conscience. In Acts 2 they inquired for and got it. They were baptized to this truth and administered fact — remission of sins, and received then the gift of the Holy Ghost.
On the other hand, of a person (being not a professed Christian, a Jew for example or a heathen) was convinced that Jesus was the Christ, or Son of God, and would not be baptized, one would not say that his sins were washed away or that he was saved. See Mark 16:16. But quickening seems never spoken of in connection with baptism. The question raised is not life but washing away or remission of sins. It is not a question of non-imputation, again, but the administration of forgiveness here on earth, as the privilege conferred freely on the conscience in Christianity, in which forgiveness is administered as a present actual thing. The baptized enter into this; though, being an outward or sacramental institution, it may be merely a form.
Bible Treasury Volume 9, p. 80. May 1872.
Q. Matthew 27:9. Why does Matthew here quote the prophecy as Jeremiah, when it is really Zechariah? A CHRISTIAN FRIEND.
A. The difficulty is due to the Jewish manner of citation, felt by many friends of inspiration and often pressed by adversaries. But it is remarkable that R. Isaac Chizzuk Emuna, in his determined assault on Matthew's credit, finds no objection to the use of Jeremiah's name instead of Zechariah's in this place. Yet it is almost incredible that he could have overlooked so obvious a peculiarity if he had regarded it as a fault, as he does object to Matthew's application of this prophecy to the Messiah, but not to his method of citing which to us westerns is apt to look strange. Hence the just inference appears to be that this learned Jew knew that such a form of citation was even more characteristically Jewish (and therefore more appropriate in Matthew) than the more simple and precise mention of the particular prophet in question.
The true point then is the principle on which the inspired writer thus cited. The imputation that he did not know the very palpable fact that the passage used was in Zechariah is even on human grounds absurd; for the evangelist abounds in the most profound and accurate use of the Old Testament throughout, and hence cannot fairly lie open to the charge of such a blunder as would be unworthy of an intelligent Sunday scholar.
Now it appears from a great Rabinnical authority (T. Bava Bathra, fol. 14, 2) that Jeremiah stood as a beginning and title to the later prophets, Joshua to the earlier, as contra-distinguished from the law and the Chetubim. Hence a citation from the later prophets (or what we should call the prophets) might well be made under the name of Jeremiah, no matter which was quoted in particular; especially as it appears from Sepher Hagilgulim (according to Surenhusius) that it was a common saying among the Jews that the spirit of Jeremiah was in Zechariah. It is a familiar fact attested by our Lord in the New Testament that the Old Testament was divided into the law, the psalms, and the prophets, which latter we have seen subdivided in the manner already described.
So the best copies of Mark 1:2 read (not in the prophets, but) "in the prophet Isaiah," though two passages are cited, the latter of which only is Isaiah's, the former from Malachi. This may show how differently from us the Jews quoted. But ignorance or error is out of the question: they really attach to translators and copyists who tried to amend the true reading in some Greek copies and ancient versions of both these scriptures. It is the best wisdom and the simplest faith to accept scripture in its most accurate form in spite of difficulties, which the Spirit of God will enable us to solve if for His glory. But were the difficulties more and greater, could we not trust Him?
Bible Treasury Volume 9, p. 223. February 1872.
Q. Have a few brothers, who stay at the weekly meeting for consultation, usually after the prayer meeting, power to act for the "assembly," say in the matter of putting away, without distinctly calling a meeting of the "assembly?" And if a brother feels he cannot concur in a judgment thus arrived at, is he wrong in saying so at the Lord's table, in the event of such judgment being read there? J.K.
A. I am aware that, when assemblies are small, and more rarely in larger ones, there is apt to be a want of due care in apprising the saints of a meeting for considering a case of discipline which seems to call for putting away. This ought not to be.
But if a "few brothers" remain at the close of a meeting of the assembly (either on the Lord's day, or during the week), and if they be of one mind, the case might be so far clear (especially as many could be there if they pleased) as to warrant their bringing it at once before the assembly at the breaking of bread. Only, if they knew of an honest difference of judgment (for one does not take account of party men, relatives, etc.) among brethren, they ought to seek the Lord about it together; for discussion at such a time is most undesirable, as haste is always. They ought therefore in such case to call a meeting, or at least announce a general meeting (not at a reading or other meeting in a private house) that the saints are requested to stay for consideration of a case of discipline.
If there has been irregularity in this respect, a brother might rightly say so, taking care of the facts first, and of his own spirit in the way it is named to the saints, so as to avoid the hateful appearance of factious opposition, or of other uncomely conduct. But undoubtedly a formal judgment ought to be arrived at by the assembly, not by a few for it; and therefore it is still open even at the last moment to call for arrest of action if the case be not quite clear. The few may come to a sound judgment and be used of God to awaken all to the gravity of the case and the will of the Lord about it; but due means should be used that the assembly should hear before judgment is pronounced, so as to satisfy all, and give occasion for correcting those mistakes which are very possible in such a world as this. In a perfectly plain case to hear the facts is enough; and judgment might follow at once. Technical delay of judgment under such circumstances is unworthy of the church, though it may suit the world and the lawyers.
Q. 2. Is it requisite that the assembly as such should agree to the proposal of names for communion? or is it enough that they be proposed by two or three having the confidence of the rest? A.B.
A. There is no small danger for some of attaching too much importance to the mere proposal for communion. This really involves no more than the judgment of the individuals who propose: if they propose rashly it is enough that the assembly refuse to receive those they propose — a wholesome but painful lesson for all concerned. The great point of importance is, not the proposal by a few individuals (which really and properly has nothing to do with the assembly; for in principle any brother is at liberty to propose whom he thinks fit), but the action of the assembly, who are all responsible, when a name is proposed, to satisfy themselves directly or through such visitors as they confide in, that the Lord has received those they accept after proposal. It is egregious to suppose that the assembly should propose as well as receive people; and to lay overmuch stress on the individuals who propose (however desirable that they be godly, and respected by all for spiritual competency) shows latent ministerialism. Exclusion and restoration answer, not to proposal, but to reception, and are all, save proposal, the act of the assembly, which in each case is bound to carry out what it believes to be the Lord's will in his word.
The grand thing is the assembly's acceptance or rejection of those proposed. To make too much of the proposers is to make too little of the assembly. If individuals propose carelessly, they should feel it as there fault. If the assembly receive carelessly, it is the assembly's fault (and it is vain to shift it thence on individuals); for to receive is their responsibility, not that of the proposers.
Q. What are the grounds of admission? what of exclusion? and what is meant by the unity of the body? H.D.
A. I know no ground of admission but the membership of Christ's body. Of course it is implied that the applicant affords no just occasion for exception either doctrinally or morally. Were there known evil in doctrine or practice, the clearest profession of the truth would only produce the deeper distrust. But a Christian, apart from such reasons, inconsistent with the godly confession of the Lord's name, is thoroughly admissible as such, hardly needs to be known. To demand ecclesiastical intelligence in the persons applying is not only without and against scripture, but a proof of lack of intelligence in those who seek for it in such circumstances. We ought not to look for spiritual understanding as to the church in those outside. Press for the confession of Christ, or the knowledge of redemption. All we could hope to find beyond the gospel is mere notions, till a soul is in the place which grace assigns it, till walking in communion. Those who are on church ground ought themselves to be intelligent as well as gracious; and if they are, they will assuredly help to smooth away difficulties for the ignorant, not increase them in the present snares and difficulties of Christendom, in a way the apostles did not when all was at the beginning clear and plain. If it be pleaded that such souls may still go backwards and forwards through ignorance of the evils of the world-church, denominationalism. etc.; the answer is that it is our duty, as far as we can, to instruct them within, not to create artificial and unwarranted barriers, or to keep them dangling without on one excuse or another which there is not honesty to avow, because it would be the avowal of sectarianism. But this largeness of heart, this yearning according to Christ over all that are His, this refusal to allow human rules expressed or understood to stand in the way of receiving in the Lord's name those He has called by grace, is as far as possible from the indifferentism which makes light of fundamental heterodoxy or defies the holy obligatory discipline of God's assembly.
There can hardly be too much care, both for the Lord's sake and His assembly, not to say for the souls themselves, in ascertaining on the most trustworthy evidence that those who come forward are members of Christ, not merely quickened but possessed of the Spirit, so as to join in Christian worship and every other godly function. Acts 11:17.
To require more, not to accredit and act on that, is in my judgment a slight of the name of the Lord, and neither right nor wise. Honest ignorance we are bound to bear with, while seeking to teach the truth more perfectly; but we are yet more solemnly bound to purge out and keep from all that denies and dishonours Christ whether openly or by neutrality.
This suffices as to grounds of exclusion, the principle and details of which faith can find in the word of God. Originally all the church owned itself and acted as one. Those who so own and act now are seeking to walk in the unity of the body. For they take their stand for united action on the great truth that "there is one body and one Spirit," seeing also that the Lord has provided a resource even for the present state of His saints scattered by inadequate or false, by loose or narrow, grounds of union. They accept the unity produced by the Spirit who baptizes all Christians into one body; and if they cannot convince all others that this is the divine ground of church unity, they can at least act on it by grace themselves. Hence they seek diligently in the measure of their faith to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, while they would also maintain scriptural discipline among those who gather thus to the Lord's name. This is set aside by the Protestant theory of co-ordinate systems, though by none so distinctly as the Congregationalists; for they go so far as to make each congregation independent of every other on principle, whatever they may concede to courtesy — a fatal abuse of churches to deny the whole principle and practice of the church on earth.
Bible Treasury Volume 9, p. 256. April 1873.
Q. Will you kindly reply in the Bible Treasury to the following questions? I feel the subject to be an important one, and shall therefore be glad if you will add your own thoughts respecting it:-
1. Would the fact of servants not being slaves now, warrant the saying that one could not apply Ephesians 6:5 to christian servants, as they are not in the present day what they were when the apostles wrote?
2. If the exhortations to wives, husbands, etc., flow not only from the relationships but standing brought out in the earlier chapters, can it be true that the relationship of the servant is lost, because he is not a slave? How then can christian servant sin the present day serve the Lord as such; for as far as they are concerned the relationship is supposed not to exist, although that of wives, husbands, children, etc., does?
3. Is the "fear and trembling" there spoken of, used in the sense of fearing wrath or punishment, and trembling in consequence?
4. Is there not ground for watchfulness, lest the spirit that is abroad in the world should manifest itself, in any measure, in the ways of such as serve in our homes or otherwise? And does not the advocacy of such principles tend to unsettle simple minds, and to encourage the insubordination that is so rife in the present day among men? Yours affectionately, F.W.
A. 1. The direct answer to the first point is that the Spirit employs the word οἰκέται, "domestics," in 1 Peter 2:18, which simply means such as compose the household, and in no way refers to bondage or slavery. But these servants or domestics are exhorted to as thorough subjection as the christian slaves in Ephesians, Colossians, or 1 Timothy. No man can weigh the force of the Holy Ghost's appeal without feeling how deeply God's glory is concerned in their honouring their masters, be they ever so untoward. 1 Timothy 6:2 shows how they are to feel and act if their masters were brethren, as the verse which follow express the Holy Ghost's strong denunciation of such misguided souls as venture to teach otherwise, turning the Lord's grace to the worst pride and rebelliousness.
2. But even if the care of God had not provided such an answer, what could be more ungrateful and base than to avail oneself of the mitigation of circumstances as to modern servants to deny their duty to their masters? The truth is that the ideas of liberty in these days have modified greatly the state of husbands and wives, parents and children, scarcely less than that of masters and servants; but as surely as the relations subsists, the duty abides for each and all.
3. I should refer to Philippians 2, 1 Corinthians 2, etc. to show that we ought not to lower "with fear and trembling" to mere dread of punishment, but view it rather as sense of weakness with that of solemn responsibility before God.
4. There can be no doubt that we have all to watch against the spirit of the age, lest we might be infected by it; the more because we may be unconscious of its evil and of our own dangerous nearness to it. There is a desire at work among men to burst all barriers and level whatever either checks men or is above them. Christ's servants have therefore in particular to be on their guard, if they would walk with god in holy separateness from that which characterizes the world, and will more and more till the day of the Lord.
Bible Treasury Volume 9, p. 271. May 1873.
Q. 1 Corinthians 5. — Was discipline in Bible days settled by the elders and then communicated to the assembly for it to act upon the judgment so rendered to it? Is this gone now? W.
A. That elders took an active and leading part in discipline, as in the general care and government of each local assembly, seems to me unquestionable according to scripture. It is sometimes forgotten or unknown that nine-tenth of cases of discipline need not and should not come before the assembly, but only such matters of scandal and wickedness, whether of doctrine or practice, as call for extreme measures as in public rebuke or, as the last resort, in excision. In this final act the assembly has the responsibility, though there may have been many efforts on the part of chief men among the brethren to avoid its necessity. In flagrant wickedness, as where a man called a brother is a fornicator, drunkard, or the like, the clear duty is to put away; and the assembly acts as soon as the sorrowful facts are known with clearness and certainty. The ruined state of things has not set this aside. It is a responsibility resting on the saints in the Lord's name. If they do not, they are essaying to keep the feast with leavened bread; they practically deny that they themselves are unleavened. Those who have the Spirit ought not to doubt that they have His power; even as the Lord's authority, to put away the evil doer; and this duty is none the less because he sometimes seeks to escape so solemn an exclusion by a tardy profession of repentance. But such a plea should have no influence in staying this action of the assembly, which is bound to prove itself clear in the matter, and not merely to seek the restoration of the offender. Their first duty is to the Lord, elders or none, chiefs or none; so it always was, and so it should be where we have only here and there men who have the qualifications, not the formal title. It would ill become any man to arrogate a higher place than when apostolic order prevailed. It is a duty to help and guide the assembly. No man is called to judge for it a case which comes before it, though it is happy when faithful men of grace and wisdom can settle matters of minor moment so as to spare the need of an appeal to the assembly — an appeal only right in the gravest matters or in such as all other means have failed to remedy. Otherwise the assembly, instead of preserving its place as God's temple, is in danger of becoming the engine of caprice, terror, or tyranny, for fleshly individuals who drag things and persons there without warrant from God's word.
Q. 1 Corinthians 11. — What is discerning or distinguishing the (Lord's) body? If there is more than apprehending the unity of the body the church, would you kindly state what it is? R.B.W.
A. "Discerning the body" has no reference to apprehending the church's unity or nature, but means exclusively distinguishing between any ordinary meal and that supper which brings before us the body of Christ given for us. It is the memorial of His death in it, which the apostle here urges, not our union with Him. Not to discern the (Lord's) body is to treat this supper as a common thing. It is profanation, not intelligence about the church's unity.
Q. What place does a standing lecture hold in the ministry of an assembly? J.S.B.
A. Apparently the querist raises no doubt as to the propriety of a lecture. He asks only about a standing or regular lecture. But this clearly depends on God's supply of the requisite gift and the adaptation of its exercise in the circumstances, for which the servant is himself responsible to the Lord. "In the ministry of the assembly" strikes one as ambiguous if not confused; for such an exercise of gift is and must be individual, though if wholesome those who compose the assembly and others would do well to profit by it. But it has nothing to do with the assembly as such; and "the ministry " I do not understand, for it may be taught, comforted, or edified, but it does not minister of course. If there be however one or more, who can happily discourse on the immense field of God's truth for the good of the saints, and who resides permanently in a place, I know not why they should cease their work or others not hear, though all be of grace and bondage be out of place here as everywhere. It is good besides for both speakers and hearers not to be circumscribed; for all things are ours, and the best teaching is not all, and it will be the more appreciated in general after a variety of other food.
Q. Would you kindly solve the following in the "B.T.?" I have no difficulty with Matthew 13 and the parable of the leaven there as showing the spread of inward evil; but in the kingdom of heaven in Luke 13:20 we read "The kingdom of GOD is like leaven." Now John 3 tells us only those born again enter the kingdom of God; and Romans 14:17 tells us "The kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost." Can righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost be like the spread of inward evil? Scripture can never contradict itself. Yours, A SINCERE ENQUIRER.
A. Comparison of the Gospels shows that "the kingdom of heaven" in Matthew answers to "the kingdom of God" in Mark and Luke, not absolutely but in general. For the truth is that the latter is a phrase of larger import and capable of moral application, wherever the former is never so employed. Hence, Matthew uses besides his characteristic formula, "Kingdom of God" occasionally, and this, where "kingdom of heaven" could not have been. Thus, when Christ cast out demons, as He did, it was plain that the kingdom of God was come to them; whereas the kingdom of heaven could not come in any just sense (whether in mystery as now, or in manifestation by-and-by) till Jesus cast out and suffering on the cross took the place of exalted Son of man in heaven. Hence "the kingdom of heaven" all through Matthew is said or supposed to be at hand, not come; and in that sense of a great dispensational change Mark and Luke announce the kingdom of God at hand. Again, the apostle in Romans 14, as elsewhere, gives "kingdom of God" a moral force, because righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit are the immutable characters of His kingdom, now individually or collectively, as evermore when the earth shall be so governed.
But John treats of "the kingdom of God" only in the sense of what is intrinsic and divine, not of that dispensational state which the other evangelists show to be then at hand where tares and other evil might be as well as wheat.
On the other hand, the leaven in the parable seems to mean the spread of doctrinal profession, assimilating more after a natural sort within a defined range, rather than the import here of wickedness; so I think from the words used and the context.
Bible Treasury Volume 9, p. 320. August 1873.
Would you kindly reply, in an early issue, to the following queries?
Q. 1. Is what is known among us as a "brothers' meeting," entitled to be looked at as representing "the assembly," so that its acts should be held to be those of "the assembly?"
2. Is any meeting whatever, from which any in communion (male or female) are formally or tacitly excluded, entitled to be considered as "the assembly" or as representing it?
3. Should I rightly infer from your May number that you would deem a "brothers' meeting" a simple reunion of those in "the assembly" who "have the rule," for co-operation and counsel in matters of detail not calling for direct assembly action? and that in cases when (acting in the spirit of Matthew 18:15, 16) they have proved unequal to the correction of the evil, and extreme measures seem called for, their only remaining function is to report the case to "the assembly" to be dealt with there?
4. Would it be proper for the "brothers" in bringing a case of the above nature before "the assembly" to do so in this wise: that they had gone into such a case and were satisfied that the evil called for excision, and that therefore such a one was no longer in communion? Or ought it to assume something of the following shape: that such a case had been before the brethren; that they had gone into the facts and found them as charged; that they had exhausted efforts to rectify the matter, and now, as a last resort, brought it before "the assembly" for its determination?
5. In the latter case, ought "the assembly" to be expected to deal with the case forthwith, simply in view of the report and counsel of the brothers, or should time be allowed (unless in cases of notoriety or imperative haste) for individuals in "the assembly" who might desire it to inform themselves, in private, before assuming the responsibilities of action before the Lord?
6. Would not the recognition of a "brothers' meeting" as representing "the assembly," be a return to "system?" — the very principle of a kirk Session?"
A. A meeting of those who addict themselves to the ministry of the saints may rightly consult and decide on matters which concern the Lord's work and the saints, save in such cases as reception or excision, where according to scripture the assembly as such is called to act. But I know nothing of a meeting even of elders which could be said to represent the assembly. There is individual action, joint action, and that of the assembly: each true, and important, and sanctioned of the Lord; but one does not represent another. The assembly is itself and supposes the place of all, brothers and sisters, with the Spirit freely acting in their midst to maintain the glory and will of the Lord. But a meeting of chief men among the brethren is of great value, substantially of the elderhood in principle if not so now in name; for it is mischievous to be ever occupying the assembly with questions, the natural result of men who wish to set the assembly against ministry, and so naturally use it for their own self-importance. But no individuals, however gifted, can act for the assembly, though they may be helpful to the assembly in enabling them to judge before the Lord, and they may morally represent the assembly to the Lord's eye for praise or blame. In general, too, cases of evil, which are rightly brought before all, are so plain as to leave no hesitation. Still there are seasons when the assembly might demand more time or evidence before the extreme act of putting away; nor ought the assembly to be hurried into hasty measures, by individuals, whose sole remedy for all evil (the strongest point of their own lack of wisdom and power) is exclusion. In every instance the assembly should weigh seriously and calmly, but in the sense of its own responsibility to the Lord, not at all as the mere executive of elders or chief men, who are liable to infirmity of various kinds; it has the presence of the Lord to count on in a way quite peculiar and is subject to Him alone. The question of acting forthwith or not depends entirely on the nature of the case; it should never degenerate into a venture but be the fruit of conscientious judgment in liberty before God. To act simply on the judgment of a supposed representative would be presbyterian, not as God's church; to act only for itself would be congregational. It is God's church; and in the present ruin the Lord graciously attaches the same validity even to "two or three" gathered to His name. If representation comes in rightly, it is here; in a certain sense the local assembly represents the church everywhere; and the church everywhere, in all ordinary cases, acts on the judgment of the local assembly. It is the presence of the Lord in their midst which gives it such weight. Church action otherwise is human.