Jesse Kersey

Philadelphia: Emmor Kimbor, 1815. Pages 102-111.

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[P. 102] Having now completed a summary of the profession of the Society of Friends, respecting ministry, Worship, and doctrines, I come in the next place to speak of Church government. That it is consistent with the practice of primitive believers in Christ to adopt some form of government, will appear from many passages in the Scriptures; and that they were united for this purpose, we may surely take for granted. But it is possible, and even probable, that after the apostles had received the promise which was made unto the Fathers, and were united in the Holy Spirit, that they did not, at their memorable meeting on the day of Pentecost, agree upon all the orders and rules, which, by the Light of Christ, they in process of time were led into for they were not then aware, that their ministry was to extend to the Gentiles, or that these also were to become members in the same spiritual family. I shall introduce such testimony as has served to satisfy me, that they were in some general connection, and that held certain powers and instructions which their Holy Head had delivered to them.

[P. 103] The first which relates to the foundation whereon the Church should be built, appears when our Lord asked them "Whom say ye that I am? and Simon Peter answered, and said, thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered, and said unto him, blessed art thou, Simon Barjona, for flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven." Matt. 1614-19. Our Lord, knowing that his disciples were to receive a Divine impression, by which they should clearly understand in whose company they were, makes use of this opportunity to inform them on what foundation his Church should stand; and having noticed to Peter, that the knowledge which he was then favored with was spiritual and Divine; he holds up the principle by which .this knowledge was obtained, as a principle [P. 104] capable of giving access to the knowledge of the mind of God. But this was not only given to Peter; for if that had been the case, all others must have been excluded; which cannot be admitted; for the same Spirit opened the hearts of all the living and spiritually begotten children, in every age of the world. Now, all they that have submitted to the manifestation of the Spirit, and stand in the Life and power of it, are made capable of looking into the mind of the Spirit. We therefore believe, that the Church of Christ is built upon this foundation, this corner stone, which the prophet spoke of. "Therefore, thus saith the Lord God, behold, I lay in Zion, for a foundation, a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation. Isaiah 28:16. To this same foundation hath the testimony of the faithful ever been, and it has by them been esteemed, though others have rejected it, and have sought to build upon outward forms and opinions, denying that God has continued this Spiritual principle of Light; an error which was foreseen and foretold. "The stone which the builders refused, is become the head stone of the corner." Psalm 118:22. And our Lord inquires of the Pharisees, "Did ye [P. 105] never read in the Scriptures, the stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner. This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes." Matt. 21:42. And the apostles have given testimony that this corner stone was Jesus Christ. "Neither is there salvation in any other." Acts 4:12. We, of consequence, are convinced, that the Church of Christ being built upon him, and by him, its members have fellowship with him, and one with another. He it is, therefore, by whom all who are opened in Spirit, are opened into the Kingdom of God; and by him, all that are bound on earth are bound in heaven, and all that are loosed on earth, are loosed in heaven. The apostles and true believers in the inward Life of him who is the Light of men, being built upon him, a Spiritual building, and having received from him this wisdom and power of God, while they remain in him, and act under his government, whomsoever they bound on earth was bound in heaven; and on the other hand, whomsoever they loosed on earth was loosed in heaven. But though it is consistent with the doctrine of the Scriptures, for a spiritual building possessing unity and power to be built up, yet [P. 106] it also appears, that among the members of the building, there may be a want of watchful obedience; in which case, the unity is interrupted, and offences are given. Our Lord, knowing the frailty of man, has therefore condescended to instruct his followers how to proceed in such instances. "Moreover, if thy brother trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault alone; and if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother." Matt. 1815. Here it may be remarked, that it is allowed to be possible that a brother may so far depart from the influence and government of the head of the Church, as to be guilty of a trespass; but though this should be the case, he is not, on the supposition of an individual, to be cast awaybut before the judgment is passed upon him, he shall have a hearing, even though he should refuse to hear a brother, who had told him his fault alone. "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. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the Church; but if he neglect to hear the Church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a [P. 107] publican. 16-17. A separation is here pointed out, but it is evident that where this takes place, the member has be become a party in opposition to the Church; he has gone from the unity of the Spirit in himself, he has left the true foundation, and is no longer qualified to enjoy the fellowship of Christ nor can any human power restore him to the unity and fellowship of the Church. But he is in the Spirit of opposition, among the children of disobedience, who walk not in the Truth. When any, therefore, thus fall away from the Life and Spirit of Christ, and from the unity of the Church, these are as though they had never known the Truth, and must be left to the judgment of the great day of the Lord. Now, the day of the Lord is a day of Divine Light renewed or opened in the soul; and in this day the opposing and strong will is brought down, and the transgressing nature is taken hold of, and if the individuals submit to the Light of this day, they are brought to see themselves, and the chains of darkness under which they have been held and as they become humbled, they are blest with a dispensation of repentance for the sins that are past; and by the merciful atonement of Christ, [P. 108] permitted to be loosed in heaven and on earth; and to walk in his Spirit who taketh away the sins of the world, and clothes these with his own lamb like non-resisting nature, by which they are prepared to be members of his Church. The existence of order in the Church is evidenced by his own instructions respecting the manner in which an offending brother was to be treated, as I have before stated. In this there is ground to believe that the Church must have been in possession of some formal obligations proper to be observed; and such as the members living under this government of Truth would always comply with. But the great danger in those outward and formal rules and means of government, is that men may enlarge their number upon the principles of human sagacity, without the leadings or counsel of the Head of the Church. This I apprehend, has been an error which has crept into most societies of Christian professors. It is an error which may always be expected, where men, in their own wisdom and wills, undertake to make rules for the government of the consciences of others. The apostles, very early in the Christian Church, were made sensible of the necessity of care on this head; as [P. 109] appears in the conclusion adopted by them, and sent among, their believing brethren of the Gentiles. "For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things, that ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication, from which if you keep yourselves, ye shall do well." Acts 1528-29. But as they who are gathered into the mind of Christ, continue subject to him in all things, there will be no danger of forming rules or regulations in his Church, that shall be oppressive, to the tender consciences of any of the members. For want of this subjection has arisen most of the divisions in Christendom, as would appear, were we to examine the declarations of faith and belief to which many professors have been obliged to subscribe if they remained in connection. But where the Light of Christ is regarded as the only sufficient guide, though order and propriety will be required, and even rules be entered into, yet all will harmonize with the evidence of his own blessed Spirit, in the souls of men. And such as transgress, will have no room to say, that the obligation upon them was not of Divine origin. Under a Church [P. 110] government thus founded in the wisdom of God, and standing in connection with the preservation of the souls of men, no conscientious ground of' dissent can exist, while the members of the Church are preserved upon the right foundation and therefore, if any prove unfaithful, and are overtaken in a fault, those who are spiritually minded will be concerned to restore such; and their labours being in the spirit of meekness and love, and having nothing in them that will kindle opposition, the offending brother, it may be expected, will confess his fault, and return to the unity of the Church. But if after such brotherly entreaty, and without, foundation for objection against the rule of the Church, he remains on the offending ground, then the unavoidable. consequence must be, that he will number among the transgressors; and in his obstinacy, be separated from the unity of the Spirit, which is the bond of peace. To all such, there is given the fruit of their own doings; and while they shut out the Light, and foster a spirit of opposition they cannot, partake of the consolations of the faithful, but are bound in heaven and on earth; and in the fetters of darkness they must remain until they are willing to cease from the spirit of opposition, and walk in the Light [P. 111] of the Son of God. Much more might be said of the ground and principle of Church government; but the foregoing may serve to give the reader a view of our profession in the case, and to convince him that they who are turbulent and opposing, cannot at the same time be members of the Church of Christ.

Next: Concluding Address to the Reader, Especially to Members of the Society of Friends.