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Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 17 (1902)

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    Ms 61, 1902

    Instruction Regarding Church Discipline

    “Elmshaven,” St. Helena, California

    May 13, 1902

    Previously unpublished.

    I wish to address a few lines to the church in Healdsburg. Be very careful how you hear. Be sure that you understand correctly every word that is spoken by our ministers in regard to church discipline. We all need to sanctify our ears, that we may hear aright.17LtMs, Ms 61, 1902, par. 1

    In dealing with erring church members, we should carefully follow the instruction of our Saviour as recorded in the eighteenth chapter of Matthew. No church officer should advise, no committee should recommend, nor should any church vote to strike from the church books the name of a wrongdoer before the instruction given by the Lord has been faithfully followed.17LtMs, Ms 61, 1902, par. 2

    “If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone; if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses, every word may be established.” [Verses 15, 16.]17LtMs, Ms 61, 1902, par. 3

    I had no knowledge that anything of this nature was troubling the Healdsburg church. But some weeks ago I wrote an article on this subject, which I shall send you with this. I think it will answer your questions.17LtMs, Ms 61, 1902, par. 4

    It is evident that those in our churches are in danger of moving hastily in the matter of judging and condemning, giving the cold shoulder to those in error, and talking of separating them from church fellowship, thus driving them into discouragement.17LtMs, Ms 61, 1902, par. 5

    Human beings are Christ’s property, purchased at an infinite cost. They are His by creation and by redemption, bound to Him by the love which He and His Father have manifested for them. They were redeemed at a tremendous cost. How careful, then, we should be in our dealing with one another. Men have no right to surmise evil in regard to their fellow men. Church members have no right to follow their own impulses and inclinations in dealing with fellow members who have erred. They should not even express their prejudices regarding the erring; for thus they place the leaven of evil in other minds. Reports unfavorable to a brother or a sister in the church are communicated from one to another of the members of the church. Mistakes are made and injustice is done because of an unwillingness on the part of some one to do as the Lord Jesus has said should be done.17LtMs, Ms 61, 1902, par. 6

    No one has any right to strike the name of a church member off the church books before the directions given by the Saviour have been followed to the letter. Go to the erring one, not in a hard, denunciatory spirit, not in a cold, unfeeling spirit, destitute of the grace of Christ, but in a loving, compassionate spirit. Talk kindly to him. Let him see that you have a real interest in him. Remember the words, “He which converteth a sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and hide a multitude of sins.” [James 5:20.]17LtMs, Ms 61, 1902, par. 7

    Study the parable of the lost sheep by which the Saviour illustrates His manner of working for sinners. Learn from it that the Saviour rejoices in the rescue of souls in peril. The way to reclaim the erring has been clearly pointed out by Christ. It is the only successful way of reclaiming them. Let Christ’s servants follow His plan in dealing with those who have gone out of the way.17LtMs, Ms 61, 1902, par. 8

    “If thy brother trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone; if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.” [Matthew 18:15, 16.] Great care should be taken not to cast reproach on one who is not guilty.17LtMs, Ms 61, 1902, par. 9

    “And if he neglect to hear them,” what then shall be done? Shall a few persons in a board meeting take upon them the responsibility of separating the erring one from the church? “If he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church.” [Verse 17.] Let the matter be brought before the church. Let the church take action with regard to its members.17LtMs, Ms 61, 1902, par. 10

    “And if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.” [Verse 17.] If the erring one will not heed the voice of the church, if he refuses all the efforts made to reclaim him, upon the church rests the responsibility of separating him from church fellowship. His name should then be struck off the church books. His relatives and friends may not be willing to take action in the matter. This unwillingness to do right is not wisdom. They should not place themselves on the side of the wrongdoer if he refuses to change his course.17LtMs, Ms 61, 1902, par. 11

    Paul writes, “I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned, and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ. ... Your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf; but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.” [Romans 16:17-19.]17LtMs, Ms 61, 1902, par. 12

    “Verily I say unto you,” Christ continued, “Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” [Matthew 18:18.]17LtMs, Ms 61, 1902, par. 13

    This statement holds its force in all ages. On the church has been conferred the power to act in Christ’s stead. To it the Lord has delegated the power to settle all questions respecting its prosperity, purity, and order. All that the church does that is in accordance with the directions given in God’s Word will be ratified in heaven.17LtMs, Ms 61, 1902, par. 14

    Matters of grave import come up for settlement by the church. God’s ministers ordained by Him as guides of His people, after doing their part, are to submit the whole matter to the church, that there may be unity in the decisions made.17LtMs, Ms 61, 1902, par. 15

    God regards the church as His instrumentality for the preservation of order and discipline among His people. Upon it rests the responsibility of retaining in fellowship those who are worthy, and of excluding those who are unworthy, whose example would lead others in false paths, who by their disorderly conduct would bring dishonor on the church.17LtMs, Ms 61, 1902, par. 16

    Then said Jesus unto His disciples, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” [Matthew 16:24.] “Let him deny himself”—abstain from all selfish indulgences, which are a snare to the soul, leading away from the path of righteousness. “And take up his cross,” resisting every inclination to gratify wrong desires.17LtMs, Ms 61, 1902, par. 17

    If the erring one repents and submits to Christ’s discipline, he is to be given another trial. And even if he does not repent, even if it is necessary to disfellowship him, God’s servants still have a work to do for him. They are to seek earnestly to win him to repentance. And, however aggravated may have been his offense, if he yields to the striving of the Holy Spirit, and by confessing and forsaking his sin gives evidence of repentance, he is to be forgiven and welcomed to the fold again. His brethren are to encourage him in the right way, treating him as they would wish to be treated were they in his place.17LtMs, Ms 61, 1902, par. 18

    The Lord desires His followers to exercise great care in dealing with one another. They are to lift up, to restore, to heal. But there is to be in the church no neglect of proper discipline. The members are to regard themselves as pupils in a school, learning how to perfect a character worthy of their high calling. All are to strive earnestly to keep themselves in a condition of spiritual health, that they may be workers together with God. And let them never forget the word “together.” [1 Corinthians 3:9.]17LtMs, Ms 61, 1902, par. 19

    An Ever-Widening Work

    In studying the Word of God, we find that the apostles carried a weight of responsibility to enlarge their sphere of labor, to proclaim the truth in the regions beyond. From their example we learn that there are to be no idlers in the Lord’s vineyard. His servants are constantly to enlarge the circle of their efforts. Constantly they are to do more, never less. The Lord’s work is to widen and broaden until it belts the world.17LtMs, Ms 61, 1902, par. 20

    After making a missionary tour, Paul and Barnabas retraced their steps, visiting the churches they had raised up and selecting men to unite with them in the work. Thus God’s servants today are to labor, selecting and training worthy young men as co-laborers. God help us to sanctify ourselves, that others may be sanctified, enabled to do successful work in winning souls to Christ.17LtMs, Ms 61, 1902, par. 21

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