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Sermons & Study Guides

Form Of Presbyterial Church-Government Pt. 13 - Of Congregational Assemblies, That Is, The Meeting Of The Ruling Officers Of A Particular Congregation, For The Government Thereof.

James Dodson

Form Of Presbyterial Church-Government

Of Congregational Assemblies, That Is, The Meeting Of The Ruling Officers Of A Particular Congregation, For The Government Thereof.

The  ruling  officers  of  a  particular  congregation  have  power,  authoritatively,  to  call before them any member of the congregation, as they see just occasion. To  enquire  into  the  knowledge  and  spiritual  estate  of the  several  members  of  the congregation. To admonish and rebuke. Which three branches are proved by Heb. xiii.17; 1 Thess. v.12, 13; Ezek. xxxiv.4. Authoritative  suspension  from  the  Lord’s  table, of  a  person  not  yet  cast out  of  the church, is agreeable to the scripture: First, Because the ordinance itself must not be profaned. Secondly, Because we are charged to withdraw from those that walk disorderly. Thirdly, Because of the great sin and danger, both to him that comes unworthily, and also to the whole church.  And there was power and authority, under the Old Testament, to keep unclean persons from holy things. The like power and authority, by way of analogy, continues under the New Testament. The ruling elders of a particular congregation have power authoritatively to suspend from the Lord’s table a person not yet cast out of the church: First,  Because  those  who  have  authority  to  judge  of,  and  admit,  such  as  are  fit  to receive the sacrament, have authority to keep back such as shall be found unworthy. Secondly, Because it is an ecclesiastical business of ordinary practice belonging to that congregation. When  congregations  are  divided  and  fixed,  they  need  all  mutual  help  one  from another, both in regard of their intrinsical weaknesses and mutual dependence, as also in regard of enemies from without.

Question  1.—Do  the  ruling  officers  of  a  particular  congregation  have  power, authoritatively, to call before them any member of the congregation, as they see just occasion? Answer.—Yes.  2  Thess.  3:14,  15.  This  was  a  power  common  to  all  ecclesiastical assemblies.  Such was practiced by Moses, Ex. 12:21; 34:31; such was the practice of the Jewish church, John 9:18, 24; and the apostles exercised this power, Acts 6:2; 20:17. Question 2.—Do they have power to inquire into the knowledge and spiritual estate of the several members of the congregation? Answer.—Yes. Ezek. 34:4.  Those who rule in the congregation must give an account for the work that they have done, particularly regarding the souls under their charge, Rom. 14:12; Heb. 13:17.  As watchmen, they must tend to the knowledge and spiritual estate of the several members, and thereby discharge themselves of blood guiltiness for those who will not heed, Ezek. 3:17-21; 33:2, 7-9; Acts 20:24-28.1Heb. 13:17; 1 Thess. 5:12, 13; Ezek. 34:4. 2Matt. 7:6; 2 Thess. 3:6, 14, 15; 1 Cor. 11:27-34 compared with Jude 23; 1 Tim. 5:22. 3Lev. 13:5; Num. 9:7; 2 Chron. 23:19. 
Question 3.—Do they have power to admonish and rebuke? Answer.—Yes. 1 Thess. 5:12, 13.  Those who rule in the congregation are invested with  a  power  whereby  they  are  to  be  obeyed,  Heb.  13:7,  17.    These  rulers  are commanded to admonish, 2 Thess. 3:14, 15; 2 Tim. 2:24, 25; and to rebuke, 1 Tim. 5:20; Tit. 2:15. Question 4.—Is authoritative suspension from the Lord’s table, of a person not yet cast out of the church, agreeable to the scripture? Answer.—Yes.    This  appears  from  the  following  considerations:  1.)  The  Scriptures teach that those things which are holy ought not to be profaned, Matt. 7:6; but that the elements of the Lord’s supper are set apart to holy use is apparent, 1 Cor. 11:23-26; Ergo.2.)  Paul  admonishes  the  churches  to  withdraw  themselves  from  those  who  walk disorderly, 2 Thess. 3:6, 14, 15; Rom. 16:17.  3.) Because there is great sin and danger posed  to  both  the  unworthy  recipient,  and  the  whole  church (when  it  fails  to  exercise proper discipline), 1 Cor. 11:27-34; Jude 23; 1 Tim. 5:22.  4.) Because there was clearly a power in the Old Testament to keep unclean persons from holy things, Lev. 13:5; Num. 9:7; 2 Chron. 23:19; which power of rule is continued in the office of the elders in the New Testament (as we have seen), and, by analogy, that power ought to be applied to the Lord’s supper, 1 Cor. 10:15-22. Question 5.—Dothe ruling elders of a particular congregation have power authoritatively to suspend from the Lord’s table a person not yet cast out of the church? Answer.—Yes.  This is made evident for the following reasons: 1.) Because those who have  authority  to  judge  of,  and  admit,  such  as  are  fit  to  receive  the  sacrament,  have authority to keep back such as shall be found unworthy.  But ruling elders have authority to judge of, and admit, such as are fit to receive the sacrament, Matt. 7:6; Heb. 13:17; Ergo.  2.) Because it is an ecclesiastical business of ordinary practice belonging to that congregation. Question 6.—When congregations are divided and fixed, do they need all mutual help one from another, both in regard of their intrinsical weaknesses and mutual dependence, as also in regard of enemies from without? Answer.—Yes.  Prov. 11:14; 15:22; 24:6.  Mutual help is necessary both because of the intrinsic weaknesses and mutual dependence congregations bear toward one another, Matt.  12:25;  Eph.  4:3.    So  we  see  the  apostles  rendering  mutual  help  towards  one another,  Acts  15:6;  16:4.    The  congregations  also  ought to  have  a  regard  to  those enemies from without, Eccl. 4:12.