A Double Scheme!
John Flavel, 1628-1691
Containing, in the First Column: The SINS most incident to the Members of particular Churches, plainly forbidden in the Word, and for which God sets Marks of his Displeasure on them.
Containing, in the Second Column: The DUTIES enjoined on them in the Scripture, in the conscientious Discharge whereof, they receive signal Fruits of his Favor.
I. Sin. THE first, and more general sin of church members, is, a defect in their care and circumspection, to prevent all just offences to them that are without: forbidden, Colossians 4:5. "Walk in wisdom towards them which are without." By a careless disregard of this rule, we harden the wicked in their sins, bring guilt upon ourselves, and reproach upon the name and ways of God.
I. Duty. THEIR first duty is, to be often together in acts of Christian communion. Malachi 3:16. "Then they that feared the Lord, spoke often one to another," etc. Such meetings for prayers, repetition of sermons, and Christian conference, greatly conduce to mutual edification; which is the principal intention of Christian fellowship, Ephesians 4:16.
II. Sin. The second, and more particular sin of some church-members, is idleness, and neglect of their civil callings; against the express rule, 2 Thessalonians 3:11, 12. "There are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all: Such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread." This brings poverty on themselves, and scandal on religion.
II. Duty. Their second duty is, to follow and back the great design of the gospel in the world, and therein assist the public ministry, by their private and prudent helping on the conversion of the carnal and careless world, Philippians 4:3. "Help those women that labored with me in the gospel, etc. For the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, strive together with me," Romans 15:30.
III. Sin. The third sin is tale-bearing, and revealing the secrets of families, and persons; whence many strifes arise, to the cooling and quenching of mutual love; expressly forbidden, Leviticus 19:16. "You shall not go up and down as a tale-bearer among your people." And 1 Timothy 5:13. Not only idle, but tattlers also, and busy-bodies, speaking things which they ought not."
III. Duty. Their third duty is humble condescension to the infirmities of their weaker brethren, and denying themselves in what they can, without sin, that they give them no offence. Romans 15:1. "We then that are strong, ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves." And verse 2. "Let every one of us please his neighbor, for his good to edification."
IV. Sin. The fourth sin is an easy credulity of private whispers, and rash censures thereupon. This we ought not to do against the lowest member. 2 Corinthians 12:20. "Lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, back-bitings, whisperings," etc. Much less against church-officers; 1 Timothy 5:19. "Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses." This strikes at the bond of peace.
IV. Duty. Their fourth duty is to be exceeding tender of the church's unity, both in judgment, love, and practice; avoiding (as much as may be, and as far as the gospel rule allows) all causes and occasions of division and separation. Romans 16:17. "Mark them which cause divisions and offences, and avoid them." And Philippians 2:1, 2. "If there be any consolation in Christ, etc. be like minded."
V. Sin. Their fifth sin is in their neglect of God's ordinances upon slight diversions, when they are neither disabled by works of necessity, or mercy, contrary to Hebrews 10:25. "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is." Trivial occasions should divert no Christian from attending upon God's ordinances.
V. Duty. Their fifth duty is a respectful carriage towards the lowest Christian, and to have higher esteem of others than themselves. External things make no difference with Christ; Romans 12:10. "In honor preferring one another." Galatians 3:28. "You are all one in Christ Jesus." Yet a decorum is to be kept suitable to civil differences; Ephesians 5: 21. "Submitting yourselves to one another in the fear of God."
VI. Sin. The sixth sin is a defect in zeal for God's ordinances, manifested in their dilatory attendance; contrary to Psalm 122:1. "I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord." And unsuitable to their first practice, Galatians 4:5. 'Where is then the blessedness?' etc.
VI. Duty. Their sixth duty is, meekly to receive reproofs from each other for their sins, especially when the matter is just, and the manner of delivering it regular; Psalm 141:5. "Let the righteous smite me, it shall be a kindness: And let him reprove me, it shall be an excellent oil," etc.
VII. Sin. The seventh sin is irreverence, and want of seriousness under ordinances: contrary to Psalm 89:7. 'God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints; and to be had in reverence of all that are round about him." And this is manifest in vain attires; 1 Corinthians 11:10. "The woman ought to have power on her head, because of the angels." And unseemly postures and gestures; Ecclesiastes 5:1. "Keep your foot when you go to the house of God; and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools."
VII. Duty. Their seventh duty is, to communicate their spiritual stock of gifts, graces, and experiences, not interfering with public officers, nor by sinful partiality including some, and excluding others (to whom it is as due, and who may have more need) from the benefit thereof; 1 Peter 4:10. "As every man has received the gift, even so minister the same one to another." 1 Timothy 5:21. "Observe these things, without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality."
VIII. Sin. The eighth sin reprovable in them, is, the neglect of giving and taking due reproofs from each other; contrary to Leviticus 19:17. "You shall in any wise rebuke your neighbor, and not suffer sin upon him." And Christ's own rule, Matthew 18:15. "Go, and tell him his fault between you and him alone." And so for taking reproofs, see Psalm 141:5. "Let the righteous smite me," etc.
VIII. Duty. Their eighth duty is, cheerfully to communicate their outward good things for the relief of their brethren; Hebrews 13:16. "To do good, and to communicate, forget not." And the better to enable them hereunto, to be diligent in their callings; Ephesians 4:28. "Working with his hands, that he may have to give to him that needs." And especially to make comfortable provision for their ministers, not by way of courtesy, but duty; 1 Corinthians 9:14. "Even so has God ordained, That they which preach the gospel, should live of the gospel."
IX. Sin. The ninth sin is, mutual strifes and animosities, not seasonably and prudently composed among themselves, but scandalously exposed to the view of the world; contrary to the apostle's rule, 1 Corinthians 6:5, 6. "Is there not a wise man among you, etc. But brother goes to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers? Now therefore, there is utterly a fault among you."
IX. Duty. Their ninth duty is. not only to relieve the distressed members of Christ, but to seek out, and visit them; to know their spiritual and temporal wants, in order to a full discharge of that duty; James 1:27. "Pure religion, and undefiled before God and the Father, is This, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction," etc.
X. Sin. The tenth sin is, the privateness of their spirits, centering too much in their own concerns; expressly condemned, Philippians 2:21. "All seek their own, not the things that are Jesus Christ's." And contrary to scripture example, 2 Corinthians 11:29. "Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is offended, and I burn not?"
X. Duty. Their tenth duty is, to put charitable constructions upon doubtful words and actions; and if either will admit a double sense always to take it in the fairest, according to the law of charity; 1 Corinthians 13:7. "Charity bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." And such a charity will defend and maintain church peace and unity.
Six BENEFITS of walking by these RULES
I. Benefit. STRICT and heedful attendance to these rules, will put a luster upon religion before the world, and make it glorious in the eyes of such as now despise it. Titus 2:10. "Adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things." Which he here speaks, to encourage all to ordinate walking.
II. Benefit. This will allure and win the world over to Christ, and wonderfully prosper and further the design of the gospel. Philippians 2:15, 16. "That you may be blameless and harmless the sons of God without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, etc. That I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither labored in vain."
III. Benefit. This will effectually stop the mouths of all detracting and blaspheming enemies of religion. 1 Peter 2:15. "For so is the will of God, that with well-doing, you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men."
IV. Benefit. This will eminently glorify God, which is the ultimate end of our beings. Matthew 5:16. "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven."
V. Benefit. This will fill the people of God (by way of evidence) with much inward peace. Galatians 6:16. "And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy upon the Israel of God."
VI. Benefit. This will secure the presence of God with, and among us; whence results both the efficacy of ordinances, and the stability and glory of the churches: For Christ walks among the golden candlesticks, and threatens the churches, in case of defection from gospel rules, "to remove the candlestick out of his place, except they repent," Revelation 2:1, 5.