committed to historic Baptist & Reformed beliefs

 

 

CHAPTER IV.
THE DUTIES OF CHURCH MEMBERS.


      The several duties incumbent on the members of a church may be divided and arranged as follows:

      I. Duties Towards God.

      "In one sense every duty is a duty towards God, since it is His will which makes it a duty; but there are some duties of which God is the object, as well as the author; and these are properly, and in a more appropriate sense, called duties towards God." The following may be considered as properly belonging to these duties:

      1st. To love God. "Take good heed therefore unto yourselves that ye love the Lord your God" (Jos 23:11).

      "O love the Lord, all ye His saints" (Ps 31:23).

      "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment" (Mr 12:30).

      2d. To pray to God.

      "Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man" (Lu 21:36).

      "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God" (Php 4:6).

      "Pray without ceasing" (1Th 5:17). [43]

      3d. To praise and give thanks to God.

      "O praise the Lord, all ye nations: praise Him, all ye people" (Ps 117:1).

      "Praise ye the Lord. O give thanks unto the Lord" (Ps 106:1).

      "Offer unto God thanksgiving" (Ps 50:14).

      4th. To worship and serve God.

      "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve" (Mt 4:10). God should be worshiped:

      a. In secret, or private.

      "Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray" (Ps 55:17).

      "But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret" (Mt 6:6).

      b. In families.

      "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (Jos 24:15).

      "Pour out Thy fury upon the families that call not on Thy name" (Jer 10:25).

      c. In public.

      "O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker" (Ps 95:6).

      "For He is our God; and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand" (Ps 95:7).

      "All nations shall come and worship before Thee" (Re 15:4).

      II. Duties Towards Themselves.

      Church members owe various and weighty duties to themselves. To these personal duties we may reckon such as,

      1st. To provide for themselves the necessiaries of life. [44]

      Be "not slothful in business" (Rom. 12:11).

      "Do your own business, and to work with your own hands" (1Th 4:11).

      "But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith and is worse than an infidel" (1Ti 5:8).

      "Let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth" (Eph 4:28).

      2d. To watch against their enemies.

      The most formidable of these are the world, the flesh, and the devil. "Watch ye; stand fast in the faith; quit you like men, be strong" (1Co 16:13).

      "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour" (1Pe 5:8).

      3d. To deny themselves of all evil.

      "He that sinneth against Me wrongeth his own soul" (Pr 8:36).

      "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself" (Mt 16:24).

      "Denying ungodliness and worldly lusts" (Tit 2:12).

      "Lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us" (Heb 12:1).

      4th. To be steadfast in religion.

      "My beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable" (1Co 15:58).

      "Keep yourselves in the love of God" (Jude 1:21).

      "But that which ye have already hold fast till I come" (Re 2:25).

      5th. To grow in grace and knowledge.

      "But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (2Pe 3:18).

      "Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2Co 7:1). [45]

      6th. To work out their own soul's salvation.

      "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Php 2:12).

      "Brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure" (2Pe 1:10).

      7th. To stand prepared for death and judgment.

      "Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh" (Mt 24:44).

      "They that were ready went in with him to the marriage" (Mt 25:10).

      "Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord" (Lu 12:35,36).

      III. The Duties of Church Members Towards Each Other.

      These are various and highly important. They are such as,

      1st. To love one another.

      This duty is pre-eminently important, and is enjoined upon the disciples of Christ with peculiar emphasis.

      "Above all things have fervent charity among yourselves" (1Pe 4:8).

      "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" (Joh 13:34,35).

      "This is My commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you" (Joh 15:12).

      "Let brotherly love continue" (Heb 13:1).

      "See that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently" (1Pe 1:22).

      "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar; for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" (1Jo 4:20).

      "And this commandment have we from Him, That he who loveth God love his brother also" (1Jo 4:21). [46]

      This love of Church members one to another ought to be,

      1st. Sincere. 2d. Universal. 3d. Fervent. 4th. Constant

      Cultivate, therefore, this heaven-descended spirit of charity. Evermore cherish a liberal, free and expansive spirit, a Christian spirit or temper of mind, "that shall disdain the fetters of bigotry, rise superior to party zeal, stand above the ground of party prejudice and exclaim 'Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen'" [Eph 6:24].

      2d. To live in peace and unity.

      This duty will be very easy so long as church members live up to the former, and no longer. For when love decays the bond of peace and union soon breaks asunder. And whenever this occurs evil speaking, censoriousness, envying and strife will immediately ensue as an almost unavoidable consequence. Hence, Christians should be mindful to "love the brotherhood" [1Pe 2:17], and then they will find no difficulty in keeping "the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" [Eph 4:3]. There is nothing more delightful than the communion of saints, where this harmonious spirit predominates.

      "Behold," says David, "how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" [Ps 133:1]. How highly important also is this duty. "United we stand; divided we fall."

      "Have peace one with another" (Mr 9:50).

      "Be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (1Co 1:10).

      "Be of one mind, live in peace" (2Co 13:11).

      "Be at peace among yourselves" (1Th 5:13).

      Thus we see the strong obligation that lies on all Christians to preserve the peace and unity of the church.

      3d. To pray for one another.

      "Pray for one another" (Jas 6:16).

      "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints" (Eph 6:18). [47]

      4th. To comfort and edify one another.

      "Let all things be done unto edifying" (1Co 14:26).

      "Comfort one another" (1Th 4:18).

      "Comfort yourselves together, and edify one another" (1Th 5:11).

      5th. To exhort one another.

      "Exhort one another daily, while it is called today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin" (Heb 3:13).

      "Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works" (Heb 10:24).

      "Exhorting one another" (Heb 10:25).

      6th. To admonish, rebuke, and reprove one another.

      "I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are able also to admonish one another" (Ro 15:14).

      "Thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbor, and not suffer sin upon him" (Le 19:17).

      "If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him" (Lu 17:3).

      "Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear" (1Ti 5:20).

      "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them" (Eph 5:11).

      "He that regardeth reproof shall be honored" (Pr 13:18).

      "He that hateth reproof shall die" (Pr 15:10).

      7th. To watch over and care for one another.

      "The members should have the same care one for another" (1Co 12:25).

      "Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others" (Php 2:4).

      "Looking diligently [act the part of an overseer, as the word imports], let any man fail of the grace of God" (Heb 12:15).

      8th. To bear with and forgive one another.

      "We, then, that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves" (Ro 15:1).

      "Forbearing one another in love" (Eph 4:2). [48]

      "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" (Ga 6:2).

      "Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of the people" (Le 19:18).

      "Forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you" (Eph 4:32).

      "But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Mt 6:15).

      "So likewise shall My heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses" (Mt 18:35).

      9th. To assist and communicate to one another in temporal affairs.

      "Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality" (Ro 12:13).

      "Charge them that are rich in this world, that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate" (1Ti 6:17,18).

      "But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased" (Heb 13:16).

      "By love serve one another" (Ga 5:13).

      10th. To worship God regularly and orderly with one another.

      "O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness" (Ps 96:9).

      "The true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth" (Joh 4:23).

      "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is" (Heb 10:25).

      "These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication" (Ac 1:14).

      "And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ" (Ac 5:42).

      IV. Duties of the Members of a Church Towards Her Officers.

      These several duties are,

      1st. To love them.

      "And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labor among [49] you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; and to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake" (1Th 5:12,13).

      "Show a proof of your love" (2Co 8:24).

      2d. To honor them.

      "Render honor to whom honor is due" (Ro 13:7).

      "Hold such in reputation" (Php 2:29).

      "Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor; especially they who labor in the word and doctrine" (1Ti 5:17).

      3d. To pray for them.

      "Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me" (Ro 15:30).

      "Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance to speak the mystery of Christ" (Col 4:3).

      "Brethren, pray for us" (1Th 5:25).

      "Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course and be glorified, even as it is with you" (2Th 3:1).

      4th. To obey them. That is, to receive their instruction and be subject to their authority.

      "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you" (Heb 13:17).

      "Submit yourselves unto such [as have addicted themselves to the ministry], and to everyone that helpeth with us, and laboreth" (1Co 16:16).

      "And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed" (2Th 3:14).

      "For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things" (2Co 2:9).

      5th. To maintain or support them. [50]

      That is, to make a suitable provision for their subsistence. This duty they owe, however, only to those officers who give themselves wholly to the service of the church, and have no other adequate maintenance to expect. All such are fully authorized to look to the church for a reasonable support for themselves and families. And those Christians who refuse to contribute according to their abilities towards the maintenance of such servants of the church plainly resist an ordinance of God. The correctness of these remarks the following passages clearly evince:

      "The laborer is worthy of his hire" (Lu 10:7).

      "Let him that is taught in the word communicate to him that teacheth in all good things" (Ga 6:6).

      "If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel" (1Co 9:11,13,14).

      V. Duties Towards Them Which Are Without.

      By "them that are without" are meant the unconverted. For though many of them profess to belong to the Churches; and though in some places they are readily received to the communion of them, yet they must be regarded as belonging to the world, like all other carnal and unregenerate persons. However, the true members of the church owe to such as are without many and highly important duties. Such as,

      1st. To pray for them.

      "Pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you" (Mt 5:44).

      "I exhort, therefore, that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men" (1Ti 2:1).

      2d. To give them a good example.

      "Ye are the light of the world" (Mt 5:14). [51]

      "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Mt 5:16).

      "Walk honestly towards them that are without" (1Th 4:12).

      "Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation" (1Pe 2:12).

      "Be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world" (Php 2:15).

      3d. To reprove them for their sins.

      "To them that rebuke [the wicked] shall be delight, and a good blessing shall come upon them" (Pr 24:25).

      "Thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbor, and suffer not sin upon him" (Le 19:17).

      "The words of the wise are as goads and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies" (Ec 12:11).

      "Warn them that are unruly" (1Th 5:14).

      "Them that sin rebuke before all" (1Ti 5:20).

      "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them" (Eph 5:11).

      4th. To love them and labor for their conversion.

      This duty, like many others, is solemnly enjoined on all Christians both by precept and example.

      "But I say unto you, Love your enemies" (Mt 5:44).

      "As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise" (Lu 6:31).

      "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men" (Ga 6:10).

      "He that winneth souls is wise" (Pr 11:30).

      The example of Christ and His apostles also clearly points out and enforces the duty of laboring for the conversion of sinners.

      5th. To submit to their civil government. [52]

      The duties of subjection and obedience to magistrates and civil government are frequently enjoined on Christians in the sacred writings. Thus, for instance, it is said,

      "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's" (Mt 22:21).

      "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers" (Ro 13:1).

      "Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates" (Tit 3:1; see also De 17:11,12 Mt 23:2,3 1Pe 2:13,14).

      The duty of subjection to them that are without, when clothed with magisterial authority, can, however, only remain a duty so long as they rule in the fear of God, or according to His laws. For whenever they abuse their power by commanding things contrary to God's law, disobedience rather than obedience becomes a duty. Instances of this may be seen,

      In Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego (Da 3:15-18).

      In the Prophet Daniel (Da 6:7-10).

      In the Apostles (Ac 4:18-20 5:27-29).

      Thus I have briefly sketched out and exhibited some of the cardinal duties incumbent upon the members of the church of God. Many more might have been noticed, and these enlarged upon, had not the brevity of the view we are taking of this general subject disallowed it. I here, therefore, dismiss this subject with an expression of my heart's desire that my readers generally, and my brethren particularly, may become doers of these things. For it is said, Whoso knoweth his master's will and doeth it not shall be beaten with many stripes. But on the contrary it is written, "Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord" (Ps 107:43). And if these several duties were faithfully observed and constantly transcribed in the daily work and conversation of all who make a profession of religion, what a vastly different complexion of the religious world would exhibit. And oh, what a delightful and glorious revolution [53] might soon be anticipated in its moral condition! Our world would then again favor an Eden. Grace would be made to abound and righteousness prevail. "The mountains [would skip] like rams, and the little hills like lambs" [Ps 114:4]. "All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord; and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before Thee" (Ps 22:27).

      Let, then, the followers of Jesus be careful to observe all things whatsoever their Lord and Master hath commanded them. "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all" (Jas 2:10). [54]

 
 
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