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Written by R.Anna Phillips   
GOSPEL MESSENGER
Macon, Ga., March 1894
ELD. W. C. CLEVELAND'S REQUEST 

With fear and trembling I will try to comply, and will begin with the second main question, and leave the first for the last:

"What right has one church to declare non-fellowship for another? And if the right and declaration is made, what effect, etc.? And is her candlestick removed ? "

When Eld. Cleveland was here; among other points, he called attention to a disciplinary lack or neglect that has caused wide-spread confusion, and especially desired me to notice this, and prescribe the remedy. Another Elder of another Association, requests my views on some point that, he will please notice, herein be included. In order to which, and as necessary the full scope, I shall look to the first establishment of the gospel church, together with her internal laws and regulations in general. And thus trying to establish the truth, will hope that error may fall without a direct thrust from me.

In the beginning of the New Covenant, Jesus said to Simon, "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church." "And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall he bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." This is the visible gospel church, including the mortal body, which answers to the; "earth," in the above. Once, when for the time the spirit of evil predominated the heart of Simon, Jesus called him "Satan." Just so with the revelation of Jesus Christ the Son of God, his life and hope of glory predominating, and that as an abiding, eternal principle, Jesus says to him, "Thou art Peter"--a stone, and a stone in that just such will endure against all the gates of evil--"and upon this rock I will build." Under the old covenant, the law was written on tables stone; under this, on fleshy tables of a renewed heart, living the firth of the Son of God. Thus not Christ the Lord outward but in you the hope of glory, was the foundation principle the gospel building . And thus the mortal body becomes the temple--"the habitation of God through the Spirit."--1Cor. iii. 17, and ix. 19; Eph. ii. 20. The Apostles, as wise master-builders, with extra gifts, laid the foundation of the visible organization. While in whom were the same divine revelation and implantation, as in Peter, were the 'lively stones" builded there upon.--1 Pet. ii. 5 And to-day we seek the same proof and principle--Christ in you--to add one to the church And thus Christ becomes the "chief corner stone."--Eph. ii. 20.

To this church alone Christ has given the keys, and the authority for the official execution of his laws. A law in this kingdom is that "In the mouth of two or three witnesses, every word shall be established," Therefore, there must be at least two or three members to compose a church. Every church is sovereign alike in all things as having one Lord, faith, baptism, hope, spiritual life and Father, as it were, all members of the same one body, with Christ the head over all things to her. These scattered churches compose "the kingdom of heaven" on earth.

Suppose a person applies to one of these for membership; the church as composed of members, must adjudge him. If received, it is by the authority of the church he is baptized; and thus baptized in body, he is "loosed on earth," or body; and thus loosed on earth, he is "loosed in heaven," or spirit; that is, the Spirit of Christ in him, in this and all the churches, sanctions and abides the act, and welcomes him to all the blessings and amenities of church fellowship. Yesterday, the spirit alike in him and these, would have forbidden; while today, since loosed on earth or in body, they prompt and invite to all church privileges. Suppose a member becomes disorderly? Then, failing to reclaim him according to the Scriptures (Matt. xviii; Gal. vi.), the same power--the church--that loosed him, alone can, and now must bind him. The act of personal exclusion is to "bind him on earth," and thus bound, "he is bound in heaven," or spirit, in the kingdom. A church thus loosing or binding on earth, the entirety of the Spirit of Christ, in all the kingdom of heaven, sanctions and abides; that is, the official work of every local church is acknowledged and recognized by all.--1Cor. v. 4. And thus every church may have the exact date when began and when, ceased, church fellowship, etc., and so act accordingly, without confusion.

An Elder is ordained upon the same principle; two or three Elders--yet always representing so many churches, who alone has the authority, and is responsible for official work--agreeing and advising, by the literal "laying on of hands," "looses him on earth," or body, and thus loosed, he is "loosed in heaven," as already explained. Yesterday, though the same man in body, soul and spirit, essaying by the same mode and ceremony to baptize, would have been forbidden, and the work rejected by the spirit in him and in the church, while today, since "loosed on earth," the whole kingdom of heaven sanctifies and invites.

Should an Elder depart from the faith, or otherwise forfeit official position and authority, the first Elder aware and offended should, by private yet earnest entreaty of love and truth, try to reclaim him, failing in which he should take one or two more to the work; all failing, they should report him to his church, and thus become the witnesses necessary to the reception of an accusation against an Elder.-- Tim. v. 19. This church and these Elders representing as many more, as gathered together in the name "and power of Jesus," agreeing and advising, should proceed to "bind him on earth," as declaring him personally or divested of the authority once vested in him; or yet as the case may require. For the same--not necessarily but persons of like position--that loosed him must bind him; and, thus bound on earth, he is bound in heaven--all the churches sanction in spirit and abide the act; his sin thus retained shall be retained in all the kingdom of heaven (John xx. 23), while his exclusion, if advisable, from church fellowship, binds him in that respect.

Likewise as to churches, two or three agree in advising the constitution of another. So two or three Elders, as their servants and representatives, constitute or visibly organize it according to the laws of Christ. Thus organizing and empowering, they loose her on earth to all the functions of a gospel church, and thus "loosed on earth," she is "loosed in heaven," or spirit, as already shown. As such, it is her sole prerogative, as of every other church, to regulate her own internal affairs, with the Scriptures as her only rule of faith and practice; and to remit or retain sin concerning her. And if she remits the sin of an erring member in forgiving it and retaining him in fellowship, all the kingdom of Heaven--all other churches--must abide the act. Or, if she retains the sin in his exclusion, all must likewise abide the act; or, if she likewise remits or retains the sin of a church, all others must abide the decision; "For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all the churches of the Saints."

Should a church, as such, depart from Bible faith and practice, and so persist in it as to cause offense, what then? The first church offended, as represented, by two or three of her most spiritual members (Gal vi. 1) should go quietly and labor in love and all long-suffering to reclaim her; failing, she should take one or two more to the labor of love; all these failing, and then and advising, should proceed to "bind her on earth," as in the name of Jesus Christ declaring her deposed or divested of gospel sovereignty and authority once committed to her as a church of Jesus Christ; and thus bound on earth, she is bound in heaven, as shown; and thus her candlestick is effectually removed, and all the churches may have the exact date when ceased her visible existence, and hence, gospel validity of official works, and so act accordingly, without the shadow of inconsistency or confusion.

Whatever disciplinary law applies to an individual member, applies to a church as comprised of the same. Suppose one or two members of this church were orthodox and orderly--had not partaken of the church's sin? They should have left when she was found irreclaimable; but failing, should be excepted and retained fellowship; and upon this confession should be received into another church. Suppose a member, guilty and included in the deposition, should afterward repent and apply for pardon and into to a church? He, if pardoned, could be received on "confession of faith." Suppose a member, baptized before the binding, yet after the disorder, should apply? No matter how disorderly the church before the binding or deposal, as to that matter, up to the date of, even hour, of binding, her official work is valid, and to be recognized by the churches; as that the gospel validity of official work rests with and springs from the authority vested in, and not the person, or power, however good or bad, in whom vested. So that this applicant, too, if repentant and pardoned, may be received on confession of faith.

Suppose a minority of this church had remained true and faithful, while the majority became so gross and persistent in error as to cause such mutual offense as to result in a separation, each claiming to be the church, to whom appeal? Which is the church, and to whom belongs the meeting house, or church property? The appeal should unmistakably be made to churches, and never to an Association, as to the church alone, as already shown, is committed not only the keys, but also with them all executive and judicial authority in all things pertaining to the churches, hence, two or three churches--the necessary witnesses to establish--"gathered together," as Paul says, "with my spirit," answering to the twelve judges, and "the power of Christ," (1Cor. iv 5) is empowered to declare those remaining true and faithful, and standing on the original foundation, however in the minority, the church. Indeed, there could be no church without this foundation, and no man can lay other, nor could the erring majority find church fellowship among the churches, while the fewer and faithful still retain it with all; and thus retaining the sins of the erring, they are and shall be retained in all the kingdom; all the churches abide the decision, and no occasion for confusion. And, as a self-evident fact, the church property, as deeded, belongs to the church.

Suppose the members once deposed or unchurched, so to speak should, repentant, and renouncing and turning from their error sue for pardon and restoration; could it be granted? and to whom go? Yes; so surely as an excluded member may be restored. In the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established, whether for or against. An individual member appeals to the members of the church, while a church appeals to two or three churches is the highest and last appeal on earth. They have the power and authority to make final all things to the kingdom of heaven on earth; and as their jurisdiction is exclusive to themselves, so it is right confined to themselves.

"What right has an Association to drop or declare (which amounts to the same) non-fellowship for a church, or for a Association?" With or for a church, none at all—NONE WHATSOEVER. No power or party on earth has the Scriptural right to make, mar, amend, destroy, or in any way affect the church, save churches, as explained: To say otherwise is to say that the keys of the kingdom committed to her alone, and for all time, has passed into other hands. An Association is but a creature of the churches, and the idea of this creature--formed by science and not Scripture, and empowered by tradition, and not Christ--holding the issues of life and death to a member of the Body of Christ is, to say the least and best, monstrous. But I have fully shown that churches alone may bind and loose, remit or retain the sins of other churches. As to Associations, they have the same right to drop or declare non-fellowship one for another, as in which they assumed or began it--the right of organic equality.

Let me pause to say I have always enjoyed Associations, but do we not err to condone this usurpation for the sake of the spiritual feast we bring hither? Yea, further; the fact that Associations themselves are good or bad, for or against Christ. And if good, they would be "thoroughly furnished" with Scriptural warrant.--2 Tim. iii. 16, 17.

 "Why could not two or three brethren assembled at a private house have as gospel a foot-washing or communion as they could at a meeting-house?" Two or three met in Jesus' name, or agreeing in his Spirit, are in harmony with his written word. Two or three met as a church here, or elsewhere, even in a grove, may do anything in gospel validity that may be done in a regular "meeting house." The "Communion," or Lord's Supper, is an ordinance of the church, therefore must be administered by an officer or Elder, and always in church capacity. Paul praised the church at Corinth for having observed the ordinances as delivered to them, and especially the communion, in so far as that they had "come together in one place," or church capacity; but referring to their irregular manner of partaking he says, "In this I praise you not;" then to one as "hungry and another as drunken," he discriminates between a private house and "meeting-house," when he exclaims: "'What, have ye not houses" (private houses) "to eat and drink in? or despise ye the church of God? Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together, tarry one for another; and if any hunger let him eat at home, that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come."--1Cor. xi. This strongly implies that, ordinarily, the proper place to commune is the "meeting-house." "The rest I will set in order." The rest, or a balance of work, by the phrase, "set in order," implies further work to be done in common or church capacity. I conclude it was feet-washing. Perhaps writing of the communion or Lord's Supper, reminded him of the example as set by Jesus immediately after but being no ordinance, and not nearly so important, and not, necessarily observed at every communion, it could wait.

I will give a few pertinent points as proof that the supper referred to in John xiii 1, was the last Passover, from which Jesus took the elements and established the communion, in support of the position that thus by example the washing of feet must be at the same place and capacity as the communion. All the other evangelists mention the last Passover supper as on the night in which, receiving a "sop," the devil entered into Judas to betray Jesus. Also, that it was the same night in which he was betrayed; the same in which was told Peter that he would deny Him, in which as sheep, they would be scattered. All these things were related by John as occurring on the same night He washed His disciples’ feet. Besides, we all know that the last Passover, and hence the communion, was on the last night of Jesus’ human life; as "supper being ended," was the feet-washing. Hence, if not so important, nor done so often, it must be done at the same place and capacity of the supper.

 As to that widow—"If she washed the Saints’ feet"—to make that interpretation literal, is to exclude every one childless, and too poor to "entertain strangers," no matter how they may have "followed every good work." I hope there are "nursing mothers" in Israel who have "brought up children," and "lodged strangers," etc., in that they have washed the Saints’ feet in spiritual import, which may include the literal washing of a Saint’s feet, among other deeds, looking to their good and comfort. But the literal washing, as per example, in representation gospel works, and in answer to our daily work, that should be in humility and lowliness of mind, should be done in church capacity. We cannot improve upon the example of Jesus.

R. ANNA PHILLIPS

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