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Church Discipline

Church Discipline

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Published by glennpease
BY JAMES DENNEY, B.D.


II COR. 2:5F Paul deals with a sinner he condemned,but now is willing to forgive.
BY JAMES DENNEY, B.D.


II COR. 2:5F Paul deals with a sinner he condemned,but now is willing to forgive.

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Published by: glennpease on Sep 06, 2013
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CHURCH DISCIPLIEBY JAMES DEEY, B.D.II COR. 2:5FTo take typanalty imposed upon him, whateverit may have been, had not been imposed by a unanimousvote, but only by a majority; there were some whosympathised with him, and would have been lesssevere. 1 Still, it had brought conviction of his sinto the offender; he could not brazen it out againstsuch consenting condemnation as there was ; he wasoverwhelmed with penitential grief. This is why theApostle says, " Sufficient to such a one is this punish-ment which was inflicted by the majority." It hasserved the purpose of all disciplinary treatment ; andhaving done so, must now be superseded by an oppositeline of action. " Contrariwise ye should rather forgivehim and comfort him, lest by any means such a oneshould be swallowed up with his overmuch sorrow."In St. Paul's sentence " such a one " comes last, with theemphasis of compassion upon it. He had been " sucha one," to begin with, as it was a pain and a shameeven to think about ; he is " such a one," now, as theangels in heaven are rejoicing over; "such a one"as the Apostle, having the spirit of Him who receivedsinners, regards with profoundest pity and yearning;" such a one " as the Church ought to meet withpardoning and restoring love, lest grief sink intodespair, and the sinner cut himself off from hope.To prevent such a deplorable result, the Corinthiansare by some formal action (jcvpSiaat'. cf. Gal. iii. 15)1 This suits with either idea as to the identity of the man. (i) If he were the incestuous person of I Cor. v., the minority wouldconsist of those who abused the Christian idea of liberty, and were"puffed up" (I Cor. v. 2) over this sin as an illustration of it. (2) If he were one who had personally insulted Paul, the minority would
 
probably consist of the Judaistic opponents of the Apostle.ii-S-ii.] CHURCH DISCIPLIE 75to forgive him, and receive him again as a brother;and in their forgiveness and welcome he is to find thepledge of the great love of God.This whole passage is of interest from the light whichit throws upon the discipline of the Church ; or, to useless technical and more correct language, the Christiantreatment of the erring.It shows us, for one thing, the aim of all discipline :it is, in the last resort, the restoration of the fallen.The Church has, of course, an interest of its own toguard ; it is bound to protest against all that is incon-sistent with its character ; it is bound to expel scandals.But the Church's protest, its condemnation, its excom-munication even, are not ends in themselves ; theyare means to that which is really an end in itself, apriceless good which justifies every extreme of moralseverity, the winning again of the sinner throughrepentance. The judgment of the Church is the instru-ment of God's love, and the moment it is accepted inthe sinful soul it begins to work as a redemptive force.The humiliation it inflicts is that which God exa!ts ;the sorrow, that which He comforts. But when ascandal comes to light in a Christian congregation — when one of its members is discovered in a fault gross,palpable, and offensive — what is the significance of thatmovement of feeling which inevitably takes place ?In how many has it the character of goodness and of severity, of condemnation and of compassion, of loveand fear, of pity and shame, the only character thathas any virtue in it to tell for the sinner's recovery ?If you ask nine people out of ten what a scandal is, theywill tell you it is something which makes talk ; and
 
the talk in nine cases out of ten will be malignant,affected, more interesting to the talkers than any story76 THE SECOD EPISTLE TO THE CORITHIASof virtue or piety — scandal itself, in short, far moretruly than its theme. Does anybody imagine thatgossip is cne of the forces that waken conscience, andwork for the redemption of our fallen brethren? If this is all we can do, in the name of all that is Chris-tian let us keep silence. Every word spoken about abrother's sin, that is not prompted by a Christianconscience, that does not vibrate with the love of aChristian heart, is itself a sin against the mercy andthe judgment of Christ.We see here not only the end of Church discipline,but the force of which it disposes for the attainment of its end. That force is neither more nor less than theconscience of the Christian people who constitute theChurch : discipline is, in principle, the reaction of thatforce against all immorality. In special cases, formsmay be necessary for its exercise, and in the forms inwhich it is exercised variations may be found expedient,according to time, place, or degree of moral progress ;the congregation as a body, or a representative com-mittee of it, or its ordained ministers, may be its mostsuitable executors ; but that on which all alike haveto depend for making their proceedings effective toany Christian intent is the vigour of Christian con-science, and the intensity of Christian love, in thecommunity as a whole. Where these are wanting,or exist only in an insignificant degree, disciplinaryproceedings are reduced to a mere form ; they arelegal, not evangelical ; and to be legal in such mattersis not only hypocritical, but insolent. Instead of 

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