(Arguments For the Practice Considered 2)
Why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions? (Song 1:7)
Question.—Is it enough to evade the arguments against occasional hearing to purpose to take the good and leave the bad?
Answer.—This purposing supposes in it an acknowledgement of defect in the teaching delivered either as to error positively held or partiality in the presentation of the truth, contrary to the apostolic spirit, cf. Acts 20:27. Such believe it is better to take something rather than lack in entirety; but this supposes that means are sufficient of themselves apart from the divine blessing, Matt. 7:16. Though all other men make this mistake, we are not at liberty to walk contrary to the command in order to obtain some supposed good, Rom. 3:8. It is one of the marks of God’s people that they hear not the voice of strangers, John 10:5.
This also supposes there exists in those so disposed a capacity to make such discernment as to take the good and leave the bad, Heb. 5:14. Yet, those most exercised must be grated at the hearing of the truth perverted, 2 Pet. 2:8; Ps. 119:136, 139, 158.
Persons incapable of such discrimination are likely to take the bad and good together or even take the bad and leave the good, Rom. 16:17, 18. We live in an age when most accept uncritically those things attributed to a favorite speaker, author, preacher or teacher, Prov. 14:15. Mankind in general are likely to think lightly of error in doctrine, Ps. 58:3-5.
Question.—Is there not reason to believe there are many good both ministers and people amongst corrupt communions and, if so, what harm can come from countenancing them?
Answer.—We do not presume to speak to whom the divine blessing pertains, John 3:8. We readily grant that many pious persons remain amongst corrupt communions just as there are corrupt members in the purest churches, Rev. 18:4; Matt. 13:24, 25. However much pious persons are worthy of our regard, yet we are to follow no man any farther than he follows Christ, 1 Cor. 11:1.
Visible saintship is not the basis or proper ground for church fellowship but agreement in doctrine and practice, Amos 3:3. It implies a continuance and stedfastness in apostolic doctrine and practice, Acts 2:42. The ground of church fellowship requires blamelessness on the part of both ministers and people, 1 Tim. 3:2; 2 Pet. 3:14. Blamelessness is maintained by walking according to the righteousness of the law of God, Phil. 3:6. In this way the unity of the body is kept, Eph. 4:3. It is in pursuit of this apostolic purity that the unity of the church manifests itself, Eph. 4:13-16.
Belief that the Lord is graciously present in corrupt communions with those who are pious and the judgment of charity regarding individuals in these connections are not sufficient to overturn the word of God; our reading of providence is not our guide of duty, Deut. 29:29. Communion with Christ is the privilege of the invisible church but it is no sound guide for the visible church to organize, Rev. 11:1.
Question.—Does some contemplated benevolent purpose excuse the practice of occasional hearing?
Answer.—No. We are not excused to sin by the consideration of some other good, Rom. 6:1, 2. The evils attending the practice of occasional hearing far outweigh any other considerations, 1 Cor. 5:6; 15:33. It is folly to think that we can maintain companionship with the erroneous and heretical and avoid consequences, Prov. 13:20.
Does our right and obligation to acknowledge the religious character and ecclesiastical connection of persons depend merely upon circumstance of purpose, cf. John 7:24? Must we not consider the fact that every minister lays claim to being sent, cf. Rom. 10:15? Is not this sending an act of government, cf. 1 Tim. 4:14-16? If so, then all hearing is submission to the sending authority and that authority must resolve itself in obedience to Christ, 2 Cor. 5:20.