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held, but they who declined to hold communion with other Christians and churches, were branded as the “disorderly brethren."* Both interpretations cannot be right, although both may be wrong. And it would be somewhat amusing, yet a little melancholy, if the text, instead of being on both sides, should after all be on neither. Let us see.
The word rendered “ disorderly," and its relatives, occur but four times in the New Testament, and three of them are in this chapter. They describe the character and conduct of certain
professors who availed themselves of the church's bounty to live in idleness, and employed their leisure in disturbing their neighbours. Thus Paul has explained his own meaning, v. 11. For we hear, says he, that there are some which walk disORDERLY among you ; WORKING NOT AT ALL,
but are BUSY-BODIES. This he resented as a reproach to the Christian calling ; adding, v. 12. “Now them that are such, we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they WORK, and eat THEIR OWN BREAD." And by way of stimulating them to honest industry, he reminds the Thessalonians of an order he had passed when he was with them, viz. that no lazy professor of
* CYPRIAN. De unit. eccle s. p. 119.
religion should receive any support from the publick charity: which is the import of the “command,” that if any would not WORK, neither should
From such “disorderly" persons the Thessalonians were charged to “ withdraw;" and the duty of Christians in similar cases, is still the same. But how?
The charge was addressed to the Thessalonians either in their publick or their private character either as a church, or as individuals. If the former, it is a charge to have no church-communion with the offender-if the latter, to discountenance him by avoiding personal intimacy.
That it is not the former; i. e. not a charge to withhold church communion seems clear, for the following reasons.
1st. The terms are entirely different from those which the scripture elsewhere uses in regard to church-fellowship.
2d. A church, in her collective capacity, does not withdraw herself from communion with an offender; she authoritatively puts him away from her communion. 1 Cor. v. 13.
3d. The withdrawing,” here enjoined, was to be a means of bringing the disorderly brother to a sense of his misbehaviour, and a compliance with the apostle's mandate for abandoning his idle and impertinent habits: in case of disobedience, he was to be reported to the apostle for ulterior judgment: and, in the mean time his brethren were to “have no company with him.” v. 14. Therefore he was still in communion.
4th. Even after this "withdrawing”—this “reporting”—this “having no company with him," he was not to be accounted as an enemy,
but to be admonished as a brother.”
The alternative is, that Paul speaks of private and familiar intercourse. His terms apply to this exactly—The word rendered, “ have company, is found but twice more in the new New Testament, it is both times in his own writings, and both times in that sense. He is, then, directing the Thessalonian Christians how to vindicate the worthy name whereby they were called, in their private carriage toward the “disorderly brother;" with a view to prevent the necessity of more coercive measures. They were to shew their disapprobation and grief by a reserve and distance, marking a strong contrast with the usual open, frank, and affectionate character of Christian society. This was a gentle, and delicate, but plain and pungent reproof; calculated to sting a man of any ingenuous feeling to the very heart.
They were to press upon him the apostolick injunction; and to observe whether or not, when
seconded by their own example and carriage, it was likely to produce any good effect.
If he resisted these milder proceedings, they were to decline his company altogether; but to leave with his conscience a friendly and faithful admonition of his sin, of his disgrace, and of his peril—that, if possible, he might be brought to an honest shame, and a complete reformation.
See how careful and cautious the great apostle was in every thing affecting either the glory of his master, or the feelings and privileges of his fellow Christians. He knew, on the one hand, no compromise with sin; but, on the other, he knew nothing of that summary process of suspension and excommunication by which it has been fashionable in some churches both to indulge the lust of the lash, and to get rid of further trouble with offending members.
See also, how he has taught Christians in their private capacity to maintain the dignity of their profession—to be ministers of purity to each other—and to aid in supporting the order of the house of God.
But how does all this enjoin or justify our refusing the fellowship of Christians whom we own
“ brethren in the Lord ;” and of churches which we own as having his truth? The scripture has said “ Withdraw from thriftless, meddling,
mischief-making religionists;" therefore, my“beloved brother”—therefore, respected churches of Jesus Christ, whosoever and whatsoever ye be that go not under my sectarian name—I can have no communion with you!! Who that pretends to reason, will so gamble with his own understanding—who that pretends to love, can so slander his own heart, as to adopt such a monstrous “therefore?"
But we have not yet done. The objection dies hard. It has been, it is, and will be insisted on, that the principle of Paul's decision is general ; and that there is as good reason for “ withdrawing" from a church, as from a brother that walketh disorderly.” Agreed. But you are no nearer your point than before. Because we are not to have intercourse with a church that 66 walks disorderly," does it follow that we are to hold no communion with any church or church-members, but our own? with any that have defects and blemishes? This inference is as monstrous as the other. It is very certain that Paul did not thus understand himself: For both his doctrine and practice, as every page of his history shews, were of a different sort. Did he say to the Christians of his time, “the churches of Corinth, of Rome, of Galatia are disorderly ;' and you must have no communion with them or with their