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Sermons & Study Guides

Occasional Hearing Pt. 5 - (Arguments Against the Practice 3)

James Dodson

Occasional Hearing

(Arguments Against the Practice 3)

Why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions? (Song 1:7)

Question.—Is the practice of occasional hearing offensive to Christian brethren, who are endeavoring conscientiously to walk according to the footsteps of the flock, and whose edification we are bound to promote? Answer.—Yes.    Should  we  suppose  this  merely  a  matter  of  indifference,  as  is generally assumed, then the command of the apostle falls in our favor.  What is a matter  of  indifference  to  one  must  be  yielded  to  another  when  the  latter  holds such a matter of conscience, Rom. 15:1, 2.  It was a matter of indifference with the apostle  to  eat  meat  that  had  been  in  the  idol’s  temple,  1  Cor.  8:4.    But,  because this  was  offensive  to  the  conscience  of  weak brethren  who  were  emboldened  to eat  from  mere  example without  knowledge,  the  apostle, unwilling  to  contribute to the destruction of those for whom Christ died, declared he would eat no meat while  he  lived,  1  Cor.  8:7-13.    Christ  himself  declares the  great  criminality  of those who offer offense to any that belong to him, Matt. 18:6.    Now,   this   all   considers   the   matter   under   consideration   a   point   of indifference  which  we  do  not  admit.    The  practice  is contrary  to  the  apostle’s command,  1  Cor.  14:26.    It  is  evident  that  instead  of  promoting  the  good  and edification of our neighbor occasional hearing acts the very reverse, 1 Cor. 10:23, 24;  Isa.  57:14.    To  the  extent  that  our  countenancing  false teachers,  erroneous teaching,   corrupt   worship   or   corrupt   constitutions   of   church   government, encourages our neighbor to remain in these connections, we “give offense” to the brethren  by  being  in  that  way  an  occasion  to  their  falling  into  sin,  1  Cor.  10:32; Lev. 19:14. Question.—Is  occasional  hearing  calculated  to  promote  practical  and  experimental religion?  Answer.—No.    If  this  were  true,  we  would  expect  those  most frequent  in  the practice  to  be  those  most  concerned  with  the  claims  of  true  religion,  Matt.  7:16.  For example, are they the most concerned for Sabbath keeping or most regular in matters of family religion?  Lack of stedfastness evidences instability which itself is  contrary  to  growth  and  progress  in  true  religion, Jas.  1:8;  Gen.  49:4.    This,  in turn, leads to further corruption of belief and practice, 2 Pet. 3:16.   Again,  this  should  come  as  no  surprise  to  those  who  read  Scripture; Christ’s presence and blessing is promised only to his own flock, not that of the companions,  Matt.  28:20.    Without  the  divine  blessing  the senses  may  be gratified,  the  affections  stirred  and  even  the  understanding  informed  without any change or conversion being wrought in the heart, Gal. 3:2.  Whilst it may be
admitted that those who ignorantly make a sanctified use of those means before them might find some profit, 1 Cor. 3:7; yet, such blessing is withheld from those disturbed souls that have itching ears who are often led into fables, 2 Tim. 4:3, 4. Question.—Is occasional hearing contrary to the express commands and declarations of Scripture, including that expressed in Song 1:7?  Answer.—Yes.    The  language  of  Song  1:7  expresses  a  strong  aversion  to  the practice  of  occasional  hearing.    The  church  is  therein portrayed  as  well  aware that to do so would be at the expense of forsaking the Beloved.  The  gist  of  the  Scripture  supports  the  concern  expressed  in  this  passage.  Christ   himself   warns   against   indiscriminate   hearing   both   of   persons   and doctrines (τί), Mark 4:24.  If this were a matter indifferent, there would not need be a prohibition.  The warning against being turned aside is lest we be ensnared by the subtlety of men who adjudge themselves worthy of teaching apart from a knowledge  of  true  religion,  Eph.  4:14.    Hence,  the  danger  is  held  forth  by  the apostle, Heb. 13:9. Again,  we  are  commanded  by  the  apostle  to  withdraw  from all  who profess  the  true  religion,  whether  or  not  they  hold  such  in  reality,  if  they  are chargeable  with  doing  so  in  a  way  that  is  disorderly,  2  Thess.  3:6.    This “disorderly” walking is “not after the tradition (κατὰ τὴν παράδοσιν)” received of the  apostles.    Now,  if  this  is  enjoined  in  the  lesser  case,  of  the  individual,  how much  more  in  the  case  of  a church,  when  the  majority  of  her  officers  and members  are  erroneous  and  disorderly  in  their  faith,  worship,  discipline  and government?  Thus, we are not to turn aside after the companions but they are to return to their duty and go forth by the footsteps of the flock, Jer. 15:19. Again, we have an express injunction not to attend; for if we may not hear, we  must  not  attend,  Prov.  19:27.    Furthermore,  Scripture  assigns  a  very  good reason  for  this,  Isa.  9:16.    For  this  reason,  we  are  to  withdraw  from  all  church communions  founded  on  error  and  defection  from  the  truth,  for  their  public administrations are merely subservient to those ends, Matt. 15:14. Turning  aside  leads  to  offense  and  offense  to  division,  Rom.  16:17.    Yet, the prudent man foresees these consequences and escapes, Prov. 27:12.  It is the mark  of  the  fool  to  gad  about  after  idle  and erroneous  words,  Prov.  14:15.    It  is those  that  justify  corruptions  in  doctrine  and  practice  that  render  a  state  of separation  necessary,  Rom.  16:17,  18.    This  charge  falls  upon  those  not  walking according  to  the  footsteps  of  the  flock.    Just  as  the  bearing  wall  that  remains standing is not to blame for the collapse of the house, so they are not chargeable with  division  who  remain  standing  when  others  fall  away,  Matt.  18:7;  2  Thess. 3:14, 15. We  are  commanded  to  earnestly  contend  for  the  faith,  Jude  3.    By secession  we  profess  that  those  from  whom  we  separate either  omit  articles  of faith for which we are enjoined to contend or hold articles inconsistent with that faith, Phil. 3:16.