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Occasional Hearing; Amos 3:3 Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?

good-evil

 

You have been invited to the ‘First Holy Communion’ of your cousin’s daughter; A friend is dedicating their child; Your sister’s son is being confirmed in the Roman Catholic Church. A Christmas pageant is being held at the Methodist church down the street. A Jehovah’s Witness invites you to their gathering. A friend of yours is an alcoholic and asks you to come to one of their meetings-he admits he has a higher power. A mega church down the road sends you a flyer to come to one of their meetings. You have heard they have an excellent praise band; you are curious. The church does not believe in membership.

Should you attend these functions? Is it left up to personal choice and conviction? Should you miss your own church’s ‘call to worship’ to go to these events?

This falls under what is known by the reformed as ‘Occasional Hearing’ and was frowned upon by the reformed father of the faith. it is contra-biblical. I know what you are thinking: “I can use this as a witness!”  “If I refuse, it will bruise the person!” “Love covers a multitude of sins”. “I just will go just this one time!” “C’mon, they are Christians-What are you talking about?”

*I want to note upfront that this paper does not advocate for the error that came from the practice of the Steelites. The Steelites abused and distorted the doctrine to even their destruction.

Here is a explanation from the PRC:

“What is Occasional Hearing?

Briefly stated, Occasional Hearing refers to the occasional practice of either attending the public acts of worship or of receiving the official administrations of a minister who is a member of an unfaithful church (i.e. a church that has backslidden from the testimony of Scripture and from the biblical testimony found in faithful creeds, catechisms, covenants, and decisions of churches).

Let us consider a couple examples of Occasional Hearing that will help to illustrate the biblical principles that apply in such cases. First, let’s say that church A does not publicly confess an orthodox view of the trinity in its statement of faith. Should members of church B who do profess an orthodox view of the trinity occasionally frequent services or events where the minister of church A is leading acts of worship? We respond that such Occasional Hearing would be an express violation of God’s Word. The apostle John writes by inspiration of the Holy Spirit,

If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine [i.e. the doctrine of Christ], receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds (2 Jn. 10,11). 

Carefully note what the Lord declares herein concerning the issue of fellowship with ministers who depart from the established doctrine of Christ: receive them not into your home, nor bid them God’s success. If it is even forbidden to invite such teachers of error (in their official capacities) into the privacy of our home (so as to instruct us or to fellowship with us), how much more do we aggravate our sin when we attend services and ceremonies where such teachers of error are performing public acts of worship (in their official capacities). In other words, if it is a sin to countenance the private administrations of a teacher of error (in his official capacity), how much more it is a sin to countenance the public administrations of the same teacher (in his official capacity). Now why is it a sin to receive such a teacher (in his official capacity) even into the privacy of our home? Because the apostle John states (above in 2 Jn. 11) that even a private reception of such a teacher (in his official capacity) into our home is at least an implied approval of the error publicly professed by that teacher, and in so doing we become partakers in the false views of that teacher (i.e. our silent approval signifies our fellowship in the errors of that teacher). Thus, if we are partakers of their false teachings when they visit us in the privacy of our homes, how much more we are partakers of their false teachings when we visit them in their public administrations of worship within their churches. In fact, this same principle of corporate fellowship in the false worship of others is illustrated by the apostle Paul as well:

But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils (1 Cor. 10:20).

In what ways might Corinthian believers have fellowship with devils? One way would be by actually worshiping the idols of the Gentiles. However, this was not the danger that concerned the apostle Paul. Another way of having fellowship with devils would be simply by attending the pagan services of the Gentiles and receiving the meat and drink that had been offered to idols. The Corinthian Christians certainly did not approve of the false worship of the Gentiles, but rather were tempted simply to eat at the pagan temples in order to enjoy the delicious food (that happened to have been offered to idols). Now this was the dangerous fellowship with devils which Paul would have the Corinthians to avoid at all costs. Paul, clearly states that to attend the pagan temple and to eat of the meat that had been offered to idols was to partake by way of corporate association with the errors of the pagan temples.

Perhaps it is too obvious that we should shun the official administrations of teachers who do not hold the fundamentals of Christianity. But what about those ministers who faithfully adhere to the fundamentals, but yet have fallen from certain truths commanded by Christ in His Word and professed in faithful confessions and catechisms? Must these ministers also be avoided in their official capacities?

For example, church C states in its public creed that the infant children of believers should NOT be baptized in water; while church D in its confession of faith steadfastly affirms that the infant children of believers should be baptized with water. Now both of these churches cannot be right in the contrary doctrines professed. The one church is believed to be in error by the other church. Although it is admitted that the baptism of infants (or the omission thereof) is not a doctrine that effects the essential being of a church of Christ (i.e. makes a church to be no church at all), nevertheless, it is confessed by both churches that Christ has either commanded that infants be baptized or He has commanded that infants NOT be baptized. Both churches appeal to the Word of God for their professed statement of faith concerning the baptism (or omission of the baptism) of infants (we in the Puritan Reformed Church affirm that both Scripture and faithful creeds such as The Westminster Confession of Faith teach that it is the duty of Christian parents to bring their infant children to lawful ministers in order to be baptized). The question this brief paper seeks to answer is this: Can members from church D lawfully attend (even occasionally) the worship services or other ceremonies performed by the minister of church C (in his official capacity) without becoming a partaker of his error? Does the biblical principle of corporate fellowship in the errors of others (established above) only apply to certain gross errors or does it apply to all professed errors contained in a church’s official statement of faith and in the church’s official decisions? It is not the degree of professed and obstinate error that is in question, but rather the presence of professed and obstinate error that is in question. Granted, the degree of professed and obstinate error in a church does aggravate the sin of Occasional Hearing, but it is the presence of professed and obstinate error (contrary to the Scripture and biblical confessions, catechisms, and covenants) in a church that biblically warrants Christians to avoid the official acts of that church’s ministers until such a time as there is a disavowal of error and the public embracing of truth. If the differences in doctrine, worship, or church government are serious enough so as to divide one church from another (so that they cannot be one church embracing the same doctrine, worship, and church government), than the differences are also serious enough to prevent the occasional attendance at such a church.

Let us consider that our expressed and stated duty is to avoid even those ministers (in their official capacity) we consider to be brethren in the Lord should they publicly and obstinately profess a doctrine contrary to the truth revealed in Scripture and contrary to the truth expressed in a biblical creed, catechism, or covenant.

Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the words of knowledge (Prov. 19:27).

Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them (Rom. 16:17).

Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the the tradition which he received of us (2 Thess. 3:6).

If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness . . . from such withdraw thyself (1 Tim. 6:3,5).

Certainly, if we are to avoid or to withdraw from brethren (in general) who walk disorderly contrary to the doctrine of the apostles, how much more are we commanded (this is not optional according to 2 Thess. 3:6) to do so with brethren specifically who profess to be ministers of Jesus Christ, and yet who publicly and obstinately walk contrary to the doctrine of the apostles (which is professed in biblical confessions of faith, catechisms, and solemn covenants). Ministers should not be under a more lenient standard, but rather under a more strict standard according to the Word of God.

My brethren, be not many masters [literally, teachers—PRCE], knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation (Jms. 3:1).

Occasional Hearing may occur on the Lord’s Day, or on any other day of the week. It may occur in a designated worship service, or in other services or ceremonies where public acts of worship are performed (e.g. stated prayer meetings, Bible studies, weddings, or funerals). The critical principle to grasp is that a minister of an unfaithful church is not to be publicly countenanced in acts of worship or any administration in his official capacity. For a minister must not be viewed as an entity completely separate from the church of which he is an official representative. To the contrary, there is a necessary link between a church and its ministers who are publicly called and sent by that church to declare the stated doctrine, worship, and government as found in its public confession and official acts. Thus, the sin committed by the practice of Occasional Hearing is partaking in the guilt of churches and of ministers who maintain and propagate errors (in doctrine, worship, and government) contrary to the supreme standard of God’s Word and to the subordinate standard of a faithful, biblical creed (such as the Westminster Confession of Faith).

Before we consider why this practice is contrary to the biblical duty of every Christian, let us not only be clear as to what Occasional Hearing is, but also as to what Occasional Hearing is not. Occasional Hearing is not practiced when one informally meets with Christian friends or family members from churches other than his own. Nor is Occasional Hearing practiced when a friend or family member (who also happens to be a minister of an unfaithful church) drops by to visit as long as he does so in his unofficial capacity as a friend or family member and not in his official capacity as a minister of an unfaithful church. Finally, we do not maintain that members and ministers of unfaithful churches are nonchristians by virtue of their mere membership in an unfaithful church. There may, indeed, be Christians in unfaithful churches and nonchristians in faithful churches. Nor do we deny that unfaithful churches are yet visible churches of Christ as to their essential being (if they hold the foundation of Christ, e.g. the trinity, the deity of Christ, the substitutionary death of Christ, the bodily resurrection of Christ, the sinfulness of man). Unfaithful churches are those churches that have backslidden (from the Word of God and from biblical creeds, catechisms, and covenants) in their public profession of the truth. “

Here is a paper from the session of the Puritan reformed church of Edmonton:

A Brief Testimony Against The Practice Of Occasional Hearing

“The following question and remark are representative of most professing Christians today,“What could possibly be wrong with visiting a church or hearing a minister whose professed doctrine, worship, or form of church government is contrary to that of Scripture and to that of my own church? As long as the church I visit affirms the fundamentals of the Christian faith, it can certainly be no sin to demonstrate my Christian unity and communion with brethren in such churches by worshiping together.” To maintain that there is a serious problem in occasionally worshiping with Christians in a church which differs from one’s own church in stated doctrines, views of worship, or form of church government is to incur (most likely) the unbelieving gaze or even the verbal attack of family, friends, and even strangers. One may be certain, however, that it is not because a Christian enjoys hearing epithets like “narrow-minded extremists,” “perfectionists,” or “separatists.” Nor is it because he wants to appear more righteous than other Christians. Nor is it because he despises his own family or the Lord’s people in other churches that he steadfastly embraces a position that sharply cuts against the pluralistic grain of contemporary Christianity. To the contrary, it is the testimony of this church (and that of faithful Reformed Churches of the past) that a Christian should decline attending the public administrations of a minister of an unfaithful church for no other reason than that the Lord Jesus Christ commands it in His infallible Word. Thus, it is not a simple question of expediency (“Would it not be better to attend the service in order to avoid divisions within our family?”), but rather it is a question of conscience (“What must I do in order to be obedient to Christ?”). If one professes to be a Christian, he must desire (above all else) to hear and obey the Word of the Lord, even more than he desires to please any family member, friend, or leader. While the Fifth Commandment (“Honor thy father and thy mother”) is always to be obeyed, it must never be construed that such honor requires us to please father or mother, husband or wife, son or daughter, friend or stranger at the expense of our obedience to God and His holy Word. The Lord could not have been more clear than when He proclaimed: He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me (Mt. 10:37). No matter how difficult the decision, the supreme consideration for the Christian must always be, What saith the scripture (Rom. 4:3)? Thus, we ask the reader to suspend his judgment concerning Occasional Hearing until he has heard the biblical case against attending the public administrations of a minister of an unfaithful church. Furthermore, we ask each reader to suspend all subjective and pragmatic questions concerning family and friends until he has carefully considered the objective testimony of God speaking in His holy Word.

1. What is Occasional Hearing? Briefly stated, Occasional Hearing refers to the occasional practice of either attending the public acts of worship or of receiving the official administrations of a minister who is a member of an unfaithful church (i.e. a church that has backslidden from the testimony of Scripture and from the biblical testimony found in faithful creeds, catechisms, covenants, and decisions of churches). Let us consider a couple examples of Occasional Hearing that will help to illustrate the biblical principles that apply in such cases. First, let’s say that church A does not publicly confess an orthodox view of the trinity in its statement of faith. Should members of church B who do profess an orthodox view of the trinity occasionally frequent services or events where the minister of church A is leading acts of worship? We respond that such Occasional Hearing would be an express violation of God’s Word. The apostle John writes by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine [i.e. the doctrine of Christ], receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds (2 Jn. 10,11). Carefully note what the Lord declares herein concerning the issue of fellowship with ministers who depart from the established doctrine of Christ: receive them not into your home, nor bid them God’s success. If it is even forbidden to invite such teachers of error (in their official capacities) into the privacy of our home (so as to instruct us or to fellowship with us), how much more do we aggravate our sin when we attend services and ceremonies where such teachers of error are performing public acts of worship (in their official capacities). In other words, if it is a sin to countenance the private administrations of a teacher of error (in his official capacity), how much more it is a sin to countenance the public administrations of the same teacher (in his official capacity). Now why is it a sin to receive such a teacher (in his official capacity) even into the privacy of our home? Because the apostle John states (above in 2 Jn. 11) that even a private reception of such a teacher (in his official capacity) into our home is at least an implied approval of the error publicly professed by that teacher, and in so doing we become partakers in the false views of that teacher (i.e. our silent approval signifies our fellowship in the errors of that teacher). Thus, if we are partakers of their false teachings when they visit us in the privacy of our homes, how much more we are partakers of their false teachings when we visit them in their public administrations of worship within their churches. In fact, this same principle of corporate fellowship in the false worship of others is illustrated by the apostle Paul as well: But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils (1 Cor. 10:20). in what ways might Corinthian believers have fellowship with devils? One way would be by actually worshiping the idols of the Gentiles. However, this was not the danger that concerned the apostle Paul. Another way of having fellowship with devils would be simply by attending the pagan services of the Gentiles and receiving the meat and drink that had been offered to idols. The Corinthian Christians certainly did not approve of the false worship of the Gentiles, but rather were tempted simply to eat at the pagan temples in order to enjoy the delicious food (that happened to have been offered to idols). Now this was the dangerous fellowship with devils which Paul would have the Corinthians to avoid at all costs. Paul, clearly states that to attend the pagan temple and to eat of the meat that had been offered to idols was to partake by way of corporate association with the errors of the pagan temples. Perhaps it is too obvious that we should shun the official administrations of teachers who do not hold the fundamentals of Christianity. But what about those ministers who faithfully adhere to the fundamentals, but yet have fallen from certain truths commanded by Christ in His Word and professed in faithful confessions and catechisms? Must these ministers also be avoided in their official capacities? For example, church C states in its public creed that the infant children of believers should NOT be baptized in water; while church D in its confession of faith steadfastly affirms that the infant children of believers should be baptized with water. Now both of these churches cannot be right in the contrary doctrines professed. The one church is believed to be in error by the other church. Although it is admitted that the baptism of infants (or the omission thereof) is not a doctrine that effects the essential being of a church of Christ (i.e. makes a church to be no church at all), nevertheless, it is confessed by both churches that Christ has either commanded that infants be baptized or He has commanded that infants NOT be baptized. Both churches appeal to the Word of God for their professed statement of faith concerning the baptism (or omission of the baptism) of infants (we in the Puritan Reformed Church affirm that both Scripture and faithful creeds such as The Westminster Confession of Faith teach that it is the duty of Christian parents to bring their infant children to lawful ministers in order to be baptized). The question this brief paper seeks to answer is this: Can members from church D lawfully attend (even occasionally) the worship services or other ceremonies performed by the minister of church C (in his official capacity) without becoming a partaker of his error? Does the biblical principle of corporate fellowship in the errors of others (established above) only apply to certain gross errors or does it apply to all professed errors contained in a church’s official statement of faith and in the church’s official decisions? It is not the degree of professed and obstinate error that is in question, but rather the presence of professed and obstinate error that is in question. Granted, the degree of professed and obstinate error in a church does aggravate the sin of Occasional Hearing, but it is the presence of professed and obstinate error (contrary to the Scripture and biblical confessions, catechisms, and covenants) in a church that biblically warrants Christians to avoid the official acts of that church’s ministers until such a time as there is a disavowal of error and the public embracing of truth. If the differences in doctrine, worship, or church government are serious enough so as to divide one church from another (so that they cannot be one church embracing the same doctrine, worship, and church government), than the differences are also serious enough to prevent the occasional attendance at such a church. Let us consider that our expressed and stated duty is to avoid even those ministers (in their official capacity) we consider to be brethren in the Lord should they publicly and obstinately profess a doctrine contrary to the truth revealed in Scripture and contrary to the truth expressed in a biblical creed, catechism, or covenant. Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the words of knowledge (Prov. 19:27). Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them (Rom. 16:17). Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the the tradition which he received of us (2 Thess. 3:6). If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness . . . from such withdraw thyself (1 Tim. 6:3,5). Certainly, if we are to avoid or to withdraw from brethren (in general) who walk disorderly contrary to the doctrine of the apostles, how much more are we commanded (this is not optional according to 2 Thess. 3:6) to do so with brethren specifically who profess to be ministers of Jesus Christ, and yet who publicly and obstinately walk contrary to the doctrine of the apostles (which is professed in biblical confessions of faith, catechisms, and solemn covenants). Ministers should not be under a more lenient standard, but rather under a more strict standard according to the Word of God. My brethren, be not many masters [literally, teachers—PRCE], knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation (Jms. 3:1). Occasional Hearing may occur on the Lord’s Day, or on any other day of the week. It may occur in a designated worship service, or in other services or ceremonies where public acts of worship are performed (e.g. stated prayer meetings, Bible studies, weddings, or funerals). The critical principle to grasp is that a minister of an unfaithful church is not to be publicly countenanced in acts of worship or any administration in his official capacity. For a minister must not be viewed as an entity completely separate from the church of which he is an official representative. To the contrary, there is a necessary link between a church and its ministers who are publicly called and sent by that church to declare the stated doctrine, worship, and government as found in its public confession and official acts. Thus, the sin committed by the practice of Occasional Hearing is partaking in the guilt of churches and of ministers who maintain and propagate errors (in doctrine, worship, and government) contrary to the supreme standard of God’s Word and to the subordinate standard of a faithful, biblical creed (such as the Westminster Confession of Faith). Before we consider why this practice is contrary to the biblical duty of every Christian, let us not only be clear as to what Occasional Hearing is, but also as to what Occasional Hearing is not. Occasional Hearing is not practiced when one informally meets with Christian friends or family members from churches other than his own. Nor is Occasional Hearing practiced when a friend or family member (who also happens to be a minister of an unfaithful church) drops by to visit as long as he does so in his unofficial capacity as a friend or family member and not in his official capacity as a minister of an unfaithful church. Finally, we do not maintain that members and ministers of unfaithful churches are non christians by virtue of their mere membership in an unfaithful church. There may, indeed, be Christians in unfaithful churches and non christians in faithful churches. Nor do we deny that unfaithful churches are yet visible churches of Christ as to their essential being (if they hold the foundation of Christ, e.g. the trinity, the deity of Christ, the substitutionary death of Christ, the bodily resurrection of Christ, the sinfulness of man). Unfaithful churches are those churches that have backslidden (from the Word of God and from biblical creeds, catechisms, and covenants) in their public profession of the truth.
2. What is the problem with Occasional Hearing?

a. Occasional Hearing subverts biblical truth.
This is most evident from the following inference: When I occasionally attend a church that publicly and obstinately promotes error contrary to the supreme standard of God’s Word and contrary to a biblical subordinate standard (such as the Westminster Confession of Faith), I necessarily encourage the promotion of that particular error by my attendance, and I necessarily undermine the corresponding truth by my willing attendance. For if all Christians rightly performed their duty and avoided all ministers (in their official capacities) within unfaithful churches, error would certainly decrease among Christians while truth would abundantly increase. Moreover, if we sanction the propagation of error by attending the services and ceremonies of churches and their ministers who are publicly and obstinately committed to maintain such error, we work against the truth by building up the very error we have sought to destroy. Thus, if we confess with the Scripture and a biblical creed that salvation is by faith alone in the merit of the Lord Jesus Christ, but occasionally attend a church that publicly and obstinately professes that we can be saved by our own merit, we have destroyed (by our actions) the truth we sought to establish. The apostle Paul calls one who aids and abets error in this way a transgressor. For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor (Gal. 2:18).

b. Occasional Hearing destroys biblical unity.
Biblical unity is not a matter of dispensing with truth so that Christians can get together at the lowest common denominator. To the contrary, biblical unity is founded in a likemindedness in the truth, and in an uniformity of doctrine, worship, and government. Doctrinal pluralism and toleration of error within the church does not actually promote biblical unity in the truth, but rather a confederacy in error. The goal of biblical unity is not a mere confederation, although believing and practicing many things contrary to one another, but rather a communion in believing and practicing as many things in common to one another as possible (as exemplified in faithful confessions, catechisms, and covenants). Thus, the more we begin to confess the same truths in all humility and love, the more we begin to enjoy biblical unity. How does unity manifest itself within the Godhead? By doctrinal pluralism, or toleration of error, or finding the lowest common denominator of truth? God forbid! The revealed will of God concerning unity is articulated by the Lord Jesus Christ in His prayer for His people before His death: And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me (Jn.17:22,23). Unity among the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is manifested by a oneness in the knowledge of the truth. The unity of which Christ herein speaks is not simply a spiritual unity, but also a visible unity among professing Christians. For how will the world know that the Father has sent the Son, unless there is a visible manifestation of unity among Christ’s followers? Although Christians cannot achieve the same perfect agreement in the truth as is realized in the Godhead, nevertheless, it must be our stated goal to endeavor a likeness to that of the Trinity in matters concerning the truth. The unity of Christians is to reflect the unity manifested in the Godhead: a unity in truth, rather than a toleration of professed error. Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 15:5,6). Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment (1 Cor. 1:10). Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing (Phil. 3:16). Thus, contrary to the opinion of many, we actually do not promote biblical unity at all when we occasionally attend the worship services and ceremonies conducted by ministers who publicly and obstinately profess error contrary to the mind of God revealed in Scripture and contrary to the truth of Christ expressed in a biblical creed. Rather than promoting unity in the truth by our occasional attendance at such services, we promote division in the truth by joining in public worship with those whom we profess to be in error. Furthermore, if we believe we can worship with such churches occasionally without sin, then we sin against our own understanding of unity by not worshiping with those churches continuously. The inherent inconsistency among those who practice occasional hearing and yet remain separate from such churches is accurately summarized by a committee meeting at the Westminster Assembly:
If they [i.e. the Independents—PRCE] may occasionally exercise these acts of communion [i.e. occasional acts of worship—PRCE] with us [the Presbyterians—PRCE] once, or a second, or a third time, without sin, we know no reason why it may not be ordinary [i.e. regular attendance—PRCE], without sin too, and then separation [from us—PRCE] … would have been needless. To separate from those Churches ordinarily and visibly, with whom occasionally you may join without sin, seemeth to be a most unjust separation (_The Grand Debate_, [Still Waters Revival Books], pp.55,56). In fact, it must be a scandalous sin to remain divided from any church in which it is not sinful to worship occasionally. In other words, if I can worship occasionally with Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, Roman Catholics, or Pentecostals and receive the official acts of their ministers, I should not be be in a separate church from them at all (rather I should be permanently united with them). The kind of religious toleration practiced by churches and ministers today (in doctrine, worship, and church government) is indeed despised by the Lord Jesus. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate (Rev. 2:15). Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest [i.e. tolerates] that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols (Rev. 2:20). c. Occasional Hearing violates biblical covenants. We in the Puritan Reformed Church publicly profess that the biblical covenants of our faithful forefathers (e.g. the National Covenant of Scotland, and the Solemn League and Covenant of the three kingdoms of England, Ireland, and Scotland) bind us to walk in obedience to these covenants because (1) they are agreeable to the Word of God; and because (2) they were sworn on our behalf as their posterity. By our solemn covenant engagements (as stated in the Solemn League and Covenant), we are bound before the living God to perform the following lawful duties: That we shall, in like manner, without respect of persons, endeavour the extirpation [i.e. uprooting—PRCE] of Popery, Prelacy (that is, Church government by archbishops, bishops, their chancellors and commissioners, deans, deans and chapters, archdeacons, and all other ecclesiastical officers depending on that hierarchy), superstition, heresy, schism, profaneness, and whatsoever shall be
found contrary to sound doctrine and the power of Godliness; lest we partake in other men’s sins, and thereby be in danger to receive of their plagues; and that the Lord may be one, and his name one, in the three kingdoms. We shall also, according to our places and callings, in this common cause of religion, liberty, and peace of the kingdoms, assist and defend all those that enter into this League and Covenant, in the maintaining and pursuing thereof; and shall not suffer ourselves, directly or indirectly, by whatsoever combination, persuasion, or terror, to be divided or withdrawn from this blessed union and conjunction, whether to make defection to the contrary part, or to give ourselves to a detestable indifferency or neutrality in this cause, which so much concerneth the glory of God, the good of the kingdom, and honour of the king; but shall, all the days of our lives, zealously and constantly continue therein against all opposition, and promote the same, according to our power, against all lets [i.e. hindrances—PRCE] and impediments whatsoever; and what we are not able ourselves to suppress or overcome, we shall reveal and make known, that it may be timely prevented or removed: All which we shall do as in the sight of God. These covenants bind us to oppose and uproot all error, heresy, and schism according to our own stations and callings. It is impossible to oppose and uproot that which we sanction by our willing attendance and voluntary participation. For example, since the Romish mass is a heresy that I am bound to oppose and uproot by the biblical covenants of my forefathers, I am thereby obligated not to sanction the Romish mass by ever attending it, or for that matter any other service or ceremony performed by a Romish priest. To sanction by my attendance that which I am bound by covenant to oppose, is to sin against that sacred covenant made with God (and in like manner, I cannot lawfully sanction by my attendance any other professed, public error of a church that falls away from God’s Word and the faithful creed of the church of which I am a member). It is to break the Third Commandment:Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain (Ex. 20:7).

d. Occasional Hearing sets a stumbling block before others.
The Word of God gives us serious warnings against the sin of placing unnecessary stumbling blocks before the faith of others. We are never to lead others to sin by our example in word or in deed (which is all that is meant by a stumbling block or an offense). Listen to the sobering words of our Lord in this regard: Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offenses [i.e. stumbling blocks] will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. Take heed to yourselves (Lk. 17:1-3). But someone may ask, “How can I lead others to sin by my occasional practice of attending services or ceremonies performed by ministers from unfaithful churches?” Simply by my example of attending the services and ceremonies of ministers that publicly and obstinately walk contrary to the doctrine of the apostles, I will encourage others to attend these same services and ceremonies and to give their approval to these ministers. In so doing, I have not only shown myself guilty of partaking in the corporate error of these ministers, but I have further aggravated my sin significantly by leading others into the same sin. I have become an accessory and accomplice to the sin of others.

3. What would we have family and friends to realize?
To those of you who have been given this paper to read in order to understand why a father or a mother, a son or a daughter, a family member or a friend may believe he/she cannot attend the service or ceremony to which he/she has been invited, we would like you to know that the nonattendance of a loved one or friend is not personally directed toward you in the least. The issue before us is not necessarily the service or ceremony, but rather the issue at hand is the minister who leads the ceremony (in his official capacity). As a minister of a church that publicly and obstinately walks contrary to the testimony of God’s Word and to the testimony of biblical protestant creeds (such as the Westminster Confession of Faith), we cannot give him our endorsement. It is not our desire to divide the family, nor is it our intention to minimize the love which family members should rightly have for one another. Please understand that your loved one would not be taking this extremely difficult step if he/she were not convinced that obedience to Jesus Christ requires it. That being the case, surely you could not want him/her to sin against the Lord God. However, if you are convinced that the position represented in this brief paper is unbiblical, we would welcome a biblical response. We pray that the decision of your loved one not to attend this event will not be interpreted as a lack of love or respect. For biblical love is defined as keeping God’s commandments (1 Jn. 5:3) which is all that we are seeking to do. And biblical respect is always submission “in the Lord” (Eph. 6:1), i.e. submission in all that is agreeable to the Word of the Lord. We encourage all who read this brief testimony against Occasional Hearing to consider carefully the biblical principles stated herein, and should further questions arise, we, the elders of Puritan Reformed Church, would be very willing to seek to answer those questions or be of help in any way that we can.

The Session of the Puritan Reformed Church of Edmonton
May 23, 1997
December 29, 2000 (revised)”

1Cor. 10:21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons.

Calvin writes:

“Some, however, understand the term demons here as meaning the imaginary deities of the Gentiles, agreeably to their common way of speaking of them; for when they speak of demons they meant inferior deities, as, for example, heroes,485 and thus the term was taken in a good sense. Plato, in a variety of instances, employs the term to denote genii, or angels.486 That meaning, however, would be quite foreign to Paul’s design, for his object is to show that it is no light offense to have to do with actions that have any appearance of putting honor upon idols. Hence it suited his purpose, not to extenuate, but rather to magnify the impiety that is involved in it. How absurd, then, it would have been to select an honorable term to denote the most heinous wickedness! It is certain from the Prophet Baruch, (4:7,) that those things that are sacrificed to idols are sacrificed to devils. (Deuteronomy 32:17; Psalm 96:5.) In that passage in the writings of the Prophet, the Greek translation, which was at that time in common use, has δαιμόνια — demons, and this is its common use in Scripture. How much more likely is it then, that Paul borrowed what he says from the Prophet, to express the enormity of the evil, than that, speaking after the manner of the heathen, he extenuated what he was desirous to hold up to utter execration!
It may seem, however, as if these things were somewhat at variance with what I stated a little ago — that Paul had an eye to the intention of idolaters, for it is not their intention to worship devils, but imaginary deities of their own framing. I answer, that the two things are quite in harmony, for when men become so vain in their imaginations (Romans 1:21) as to render divine honor to creatures, rather than to the one God, this punishment is in readiness for them — that they serve Satan. For they do not find that “middle place”487 that they are in search of, but Satan straightway presents himself to them, as an object of adoration, whenever they have turned their back upon the true God.
I would not that ye. If the term demon were used in an indifferent sense, how spiritless were Paul’s statement here, while, instead of this, it has the greatest weight and severity against idolaters! He subjoins the reason — because no one can have fellowship at the same time with God and with idols. Now, in all sacred observances, there is a profession of fellowship. Let us know, therefore, that we are then, and then only, admitted by Christ to the sacred feast of his body and blood, when we have first of all bid farewell to every thing sacrilegious.488 For the man who would enjoy the one, must renounce the other. O thrice miserable the condition of those489 who, from fear of displeasing men, do not hesitate to pollute themselves with unlawful superstitions! For, by acting in this way, they voluntarily renounce fellowship with Christ, and obstruct their approach to his health-giving table.”

Strictures on Occasional Hearing by James Douglas:

“Prove all things: hold fast that which is good.” 141 This is most proper, but how is it to be done? Not surely by simple hearing. We may suppose a person goes in at random to a Unitarian chapel, or to a Romish cathedral. In the former he may hear a discourse on the Unity of the Divine nature; in the latter, he may hear one on the Trinity; and both unexceptionable. Then, if one is to judge of a party from simple hearing, he may become a Unitarian, a Papist, or a member of any other community, according as he happens to hear an eloquent preacher. To choose a profession from simple hearing is rearing a superstructure without searching for a foundation. Although it be the exclusive prerogative of God to search the heart, yet we are not always to judge according to the outward appearance. Neither the preacher nor the party with which he is connected, is to be judged of exclusively by simple hearing. The principles of the party ought primarily to be examined. This, indeed, is in some cases extremely difficult, even impossible, because none are exhibited to public view. And why?–perhaps because they will not bear examination. 142 The practice of forming a religious connexion, merely from the acceptability of a preacher, though common, is very erroneous. He may be wholly unexceptionable in his character, and doctrine which he delivers, while the principles of the party with which he is connected are highly erroneous. These are to be compared with the Law and the Testimony; if they are not according to these, then we know there is a want of truth in them.

The respective principles of parties are, to many, matters of little concern: and to examine these is a labour to which few are willing to submit. Nor is this deficiency supplied by the preacher; for rarely is any thing brought to view in pulpit discussion: so that by simple hearing, even of long continuance, you may be incapable of distinguishing between one party and another in respect of principle. 143 Hence it must appear that the popular mode of trial by simple hearing is very false and insnaring to the individual, but very advantageous for gaining proselytes to popular parties. Engaging address on the part of the speaker, and want of discernment in the auditory, are a combination of circumstances most likely to secure success. In this way multitudes are cozened into a profession without the least inquiry into principle, so can assign no satisfactory reason for the preference in the present association. If evils, even of a fundamental nature, be pointed out as attaching to the party, you will be plainly told, these are things about which they are at no trouble to make inquiry. But is it too much to inquire what profession is most glorifying to God? what most calculated to bring comfort and salvation to their own souls? Is a profession in which we design to live and die; and in the faith of which we risk our eternal all, a matter so unimportant as to be taken up upon such trivial grounds, as the eloquence of a speaker, the popularity of a party, or because others do so, a friend or companion in life, or merely from circumstances of local convenience? “The love of case, of convenience, of interest, of reputation, &c. has a powerful influence upon many, even of the professed witnesses for Christ and his cause, in these shaking times, wherein our lot is cast. Spare thyself, is deemed, by many, a maxim of wisdom, which they wish to keep in view in matters of religion. They resolve to go on in the beaten and easy tract, to follow the multitude, or the mere voice of human leaders. Hence the indifference, neutrality, and lukewarmness, which in the present times appear among the professors of religion.” 144

But these are considerations that will have little weight at the judgment of the great day: yes, but we are told by some, who even rank high in profession, “that it never will be asked in the great day of what profession they were!”–And shall every work be brought into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or evil, and yet a work the greatest and most important of all entirely overlooked? Does a profession of religion, which involves so important consequences rank neither among the good, nor evil, nor secret things which shall be brought into judgment? 145 A sentiment this, the most inglorious to come from the mouths of a Christian teacher! Shall God be particular in giving us a rule how we may glorify and enjoy him, and yet leave us at pleasure, without the prospect of responsibility, to make choice of any profession that may suit our inclination or convenience, without the grand inquiry, does such a profession bear the stamp of Divine authority? Who can inculcate this delusive sentiment, will not find much difficulty in persuading themselves, that they may teach what they will, without the apprehension of future inquiry. Such sentiment makes way for the perpetration of the highest enormities; and is even a covert for false teachers to bring in the most damnable heresies. Such mercenary companions may have, as the fruit of their unscriptural doctrine, the momentary satisfaction of increasing their number, but never can be free from the charge of causing them to err. Those who hold such doctrine are chargeable with schism in the church, for since it is of no importance, what profession persons are of, why do they separate? The doctrine is contradictory to their own conduct. Their separation says, it is evil to remain in connexion with what they consider corrupt communities. why then separate, and yet say no matter what connexion they are of? But the secret is of the business is, the plan is good to gain proselytes and numerous attendance, which is a great object when the extension of party interest is more sought than the cause of truth.

We have above attached blame to persons making a profession without due trial by the investigation of principles: but no less degree of blame attaches also to another quarter; viz. to those communities who readily admit without due inquiry into the knowledge and principles of those who make application. 146 The baneful consequences of such unprincipled admission seldom fail to castigate those who act so disorderly a part. As the individuals themselves are actuated by no principle in their admission, they will as readily relinquish their profession upon the same trivial grounds on which it was taken up. The presence of a more eloquent speaker, the occurrence of a slight offence, or some other circumstance of external inconvenience, will readily occasion a change as the native effect of unprincipled admission. But this is not the worst; incalculable evil is done to the applicant himself. He is admitted to every external privilege of the church, even to sealing ordinances, without the least evidence of scripture qualification. This must tend to harden in sin and retain in a state of impenitency. “Thus God’s honour is insulted; his sacred ordinances are profaned; sinners are insnared, hardened and imboldened in iniquity; and by departing from the rule in his word, and violating the comely order of his church, you are the cause.” 147 Such administrators of ordinances contribute to their eating and drinking judgment to themselves. People are to examine themselves and so to eat: but this is not enough; administrators are also to examine, and to act according to evidence. There is oftentimes an undue delicacy shown on such occasion; the judgment of charity is stretched beyond due bounds. Although we are not to quench the smoking flax, lenity is not to be shown to the abuse of the ordinance, the scandal of religion, and the injury of the individual, by an indiscriminate admission of unworthy applicants.

From a writer on the passage, “Prove all things,” the following quotations are taken: “In order to prove all things, it is not necessary that men should become sceptics in every thing.–The public administrations of individuals can be no criterion of the doctrines held by the body collective. If we would know these, we must look into the standards of that church; we must compare these standards with the public management of the body, and both of them with the word of God. And this can be done with far more propriety at home, than in a worshipping assembly. To prove all things, in the sense of the apostle, is to bring every doctrine and line of conduct to the infallible standard of the scriptures, and to receive or reject as they are consonant or repugnant thereunto. Again, they are to try the spirits, &c. They are to receive no doctrine upon the authority of him that delivers it. They are endowed with the right of private judgment, which they are bound to exercise in all matters of God; but what countenance does this text give to the scheme of running into other communions, and seeing whether their teachers deliver sound doctrine or not? It is not with their ministry we have to do, but the ministry of those belonging to the same church with ourselves. And while we are injoined by the highest authority to try those with whom we are connected, we have no charge given us to hear or judge of others. Neither does the reason which the apostle gives to enforce this exercise of private judgment, favour in the smallest degree the cause of occasional hearing.

“Occasional hearing is not a proper way of coming at the knowledge of the peculiar principles of a particular church: for you may frequently hear the public discourses of its preachers, without ever getting any proper or satisfactory account of these principles. It would be unjust to lay every unguarded expression to the charge of a church which may fall from one of its public speakers; and on the other hand it would be rash to conclude that a church, as such, holds every article of divine truth that the public speakers of it may happen to utter.”

“We are required to try the spirits, whether they be of God–Now the best way to find out what are their declared principles, and distinguishing practice, and try these by the rule of God’s word. By going to hear we may be led to think better or worse than they deserve, by the talents of him whom we hear; we may hear a point of truth handled very orthodoxly, and be deceived; or we may hear truth attacked in an artful manner and be misled. Error is often so artfully wrapt up in phrases that it is not easily seen through. But supposing the word was purely taught, when the worship of God is mixed with human inventions, and the ministry of it is in stated opposition to a pointed testimony for present truth, how can we in that case attend upon it without giving up with that, since we are called to hold fast that which is good? Nebuchadnezzar’s image consisted of different materials; clay, iron, brass, silver, and gold: now you would form a false opinion of the image, if you examined one of these and deemed it consisted altogether of this.” 150

Thus, I have finished my design in opposing the practice of occasional hearing, and obviating the arguments employed in its defence. And though the foregoing observations may want the sanction of personal authority, they will, I hope, be allowed to have what is superior; viz. the high authority of scripture, of right reason, and of respectable writers.

The whole may be summed up in a few questions, to which, it is hoped, persons, to whom they apply, will either give satisfactory answers, or give up a practice which is incapable of defence.

Ought not all Christians to be fully satisfied that the worship in which they engage is strictly according to the law of the God of heaven, and that all other ought to be separated from, whether for want of scripture authority or unfaithfulness in the administrators? Has not your conduct a tendency to destroy the unity of the church, and to encourage sectarianism? Whether does your conduct in countenancing administrators, whom you have already professionally declared to be wrong, tend more to reclaim them or to encourage their perseverance in evil courses? And by your presence are you not, at least for the time, professedly saying amen to the errors with which they are chargeable? In attending their administrations you behove to pray for them as the ministers of Christ: but it is not inconsistent to pray for the Divine countenance to those whose constitutional principles you have declared are wrong, and who are otherwise liable to the charge of walking disorderly?
While they rank among the companions, can the Divine blessing be expected to attend their administrations? If not, what important purposes call for your attendance? Is it in obedience to a Divine command? Is it in love to Christ? But does he require the violation of scripture order for the sake of edification? Or is this to be expected where you have no reason to expect the Divine blessing? Is your conduct, in turning aside after the companions, consistent with the injunction, “Go forth by the footsteps of the flock?” Do not the words, “Why should I be as one that turneth aside after the companions,” imply the utmost impropriety in turning aside after any other than the flock of Christ? But are those after whom you turn aside going forth in the observance of reformation attainments? or are they not rather in a state of backsliding therefrom, either by a total neglect of them, or by approving a system founded on their entire overthrow?
Is the practice of turning aside consistent with that stedfastness which is required in a religious profession, and such expressions as these; “Be stedfast and immoveable–hold fast your profession without wavering,” &c.? And must not fluctuation be equally injurious in religion as in the affairs of common life?

Is the practice of turning aside after the companions not at variance with the public testimony which the church has emitted against them; to which testimony you have already declared your adherence? And “Is not your adherence to that testimony rendered doubtful and uncertain, by your occasional attendance upon the administrations of those who maintain a stated opposition unto it? Is not a steady and consistent adherence to that testimony the way to obtain the enjoyment of public ordinances under the banner of it?” Do you believe your profession to have the sanction of Divine authority? If so, are you not liable to the charge of inconsistency in countenancing those who are in opposition to it, and of counteracting a scriptural separation from them? “Let them return unto thee, but return not thou unto them.” Is it not inconsistent to return while former grounds of separation still continue Did you design, on actually becoming a church-member, again to associate with those from whom you separated? If you and others, even in your own time, were not in the practice of doing so, what circumstances of inducement are there now that did not formerly exist? Have they come nearer to your principles, or is it that you are less scrupulous in yielding to them? Is the practice of turning aside consistent with the command, “Contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints?” Are there not articles of faith omitted by them for which you are to contend?” Or, are there not with them articles of faith, or modes of administration, against which you ought to testify? If so, is not your conduct inconsistent with your character as a public witness for the whole truth? Ought not the circumstance, that the practice is offensive to your brethren, to stand in the way of your doing so? Do not the injunctions of Christ, and of Paul, explicitly forbid all unnecessary offence? Is it found that the practice here opposed is calculated to promote practical and experimental religion? Or is this to be expected from the different views that are given in different places of the same subjects? And will not this have a strong tendency in leading to consider disputed points in religion as matters of indifference? Does the circumstance that the practice is common, warrant your attendance? Is there no reason to apprehend that this, which is so much the idol of the present age, especially of nominal Christians, is one of those things which, though highly esteemed among men, is abomination in the sight of God? Is not a scriptural singularity to be preferred to and unscriptural conformity?
Does the circumstance that good men are to be found among the companions, warrant your attending them? Are you not to withdraw even from a brother that walketh disorderly; and equally so from a church upon the same principles?
Does the circumstance that a good sermon may be had, warrant your attendance, while moral disqualifications otherwise attend it? Is the Divine countenance to be expected to succeed even unexceptionable discourses in corrupt communities. Ought we not to be satisfied that constitutional principles are according to scripture as well as public administrations? Must not the foundation be good that the superstructure may be safe?
Can an ecclesiastical constitution be good, which is incorporated with one of a civil nature, that includes supremacy in the church as an essential prerogative of the crown? Does the acknowledgment of such a constitution as good, merely because agreeable to the inclinations of the people, notwithstanding its hostility to the coming of Christ’s kingdom, characterize the followers of Christ, or his companions?
Can loyalty to such as exercise supremacy in the church, and promote the interest of antichrist, be “good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour?” 151 Is there a possibility of praying, or joining in prayer, for success to the administrations of such as are expressly said to make war with the Lamb, without, at least professionally, saying amen to horrid warfare? Do not such circumstances of conformity indicate much unfaithfulness to the cause of truth–that the persons themselves rank among the companions, after whom the true church is careful not to turn aside, and against whom she has lifted up a public testimony? To support evils of such enormity, is it not to build again what was by both church and state formerly destroyed? Is your practice not at variance with the different passages of scripture brought to view against it, especially that under consideration? If not, what is its import? And if the considerations here suggested are not sufficient to influence your conduct, do they not forcibly call upon you, at least, to pause and reflect, whether you are turning aside after the companions, or are going forth by the footsteps of the flock?”

Head 2 of the Solemn League and covenant states:

“II. That we shall, in like manner, without respect of persons, endeavour the extirpation of Popery, Prelacy (that is, Church government by archbishops, bishops, their chancellors and commissioners, deans, deans and chapters, archdeacons, and all other ecclesiastical officers depending on that hierarchy), superstition, heresy, schism, profaneness, and whatsoever shall be found contrary to sound doctrine and the power of Godliness; lest we partake in other men’s sins, and thereby be in danger to receive of their plagues; and that the Lord may be one, and his name one, in the three kingdoms.”

John Anderson writes:

“6. An occasional attendance on the public administrations in different and opposite church-communions, is contrary to the right manner of attending on gospel ordinances; which our Lord enjoins upon us, when he says, “Take heed how ye hear.” For in the first place, this occasional attendance on ordinances is a self-contradictory attendance: for whoever attends on the public ordinances of God in any particular church, must be considered either as a mere spectator of the public exercises there, or as having communion with that church in them. But a mere spectator he can not be: because the public exercises of praying, praising, and hearing the word, are of such a nature, that for a person to be present at them from choice, is to be under the highest obligation to join in them: a person that deliberately attends on such exercises as a mere spectator, is a profaner of God’s name; and will find, sooner or later, that there is no such thing as being an unconcerned spectator of God’s ordinances in the visible church. Whoever attends on the public ordinances of any particular church, must, therefore, be considered as having public communion with that church. Thus, in the supposed case, the person is involved in a contradiction. His attendance on the public ordinances of one particular church, says, he approves of the constitution and principles of that church; and that he is “one body, one bread,” with the other members of it; “
In A Historical Defense Of Covenanting And The Solemn League And Covenant Greg price writes:
“B. Article Two.

1. In the second article, we vow to God to endeavor in our own lives and in our various callings and places of influence to uproot all unbiblical doctrine, worship, discipline and Church government. Note that schisms and sects within the National Church are likewise to be rooted out. The Solemn League and Covenant does not promote denominationalism, it uproots it. For denominationalism promotes schism and division within the Church. Therefore, one cannot consistently uphold the moral principles of the Solemn League and Covenant while yet upholding denominationalism by supporting or visiting Churches that allow an open communion or that allow members to visit other Churches. Occasional hearing in visiting various denominational Churches is not uprooting schism and denominationalism, but rather promoting it. All matters pertaining to sound religion are to be advanced, and all matters destructive to or contrary to sound religion are to be purged and rooted out. (Matthew 28:19,29; Deuteronomy 12:30-32; Revelation 2:14-15).”

From the Minutes of the General Meeting of the Reformed Presbyterian Church:

3. Occasional Hearing.

Reformation Principles Exhibited , and changing the Terms of Communion in 1806 tended to foster this suicidal, practice, which is contrary even to the l i g h t of reason; and which has well been called : the fountain and origin of all our sinful departures from the Covenanted Work of Reformation . ” Prior to the lamentable disruption at Philadelphia in 1833 this inconsistent practice had made considerable progress among Reformed Presbyterians in America; and that disgraceful rupture was the legitimate fruit of occasional hearing. In 1834, at the first synodical meeting after the breach of the previous year, a memorial came before Synod asking that the court declare the law of the house on this growing evil. Although, at that date, no member had the temerity to openly defend or advocate the practice; but all seemed to disapprove it—yet the memorial was returned. “Rev. Thomas Sproulk then a young minister, seemed to be zealously opposed to any action on the document. He “hoped Synod would leave that matter to be regulated by him and his session.” The rule was not popular outside of the church and was becoming unpopular in the church, and it’s enforcement by discipline would hinder accessions of people and their funds to our fellowship. Very true, and therefore by refusing the prayer of the memorialists. Synod virtually abolished her own law, and interpretatively licensed the practice prohibited by the divine law, as also by the authority of the Reformed Presbyterian church for more than two hundred years! ” This was like the letting in of water, and although discipline was exercised on offenders by some sessions for many years after this, it has grown to a flood and engulfed all, so that members may now go where they please without fear of being called to account. And indeed who could censure, when the highest court of the body, at their last meeting at Winona Lake, Ind.; could hear and give a vote of thanks to Billy Sunday, a man, whose public utterances, (called preaching) as given in the secular papers, are for the most part a mixture of slang, ribaldry and jest and frequently verging on blasphemy, at other times so puerile as to be ridiculous. “Be astonished, 0 ye heavens at t h i s ,” that professed Covenanters should fall so low! We are enjoined: “Mark them w h i c h cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them . ” Rom. 16.17. “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye  withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after  the tradition which he received of u s . ” 2 Thes. 3:6. How can we avoid any if we wait on their ministrations? Can we consistently withdraw from any and yet fellowship with them occasionally? No, it is impossible! Do we expect to reclaim backsliders by following them in their backward course? Can any person give a reason why he should not hear constantly where he can hear occasionally?”

Amos 3:3 Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?

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