Non-Fellowship Bars

By Elder John R. Daily

Zion's Advocate, Vol. 45, No. 2, February 1906.


    It is advocated by a few writers now that no bars to fellowship should ever be raised on differences of opinions. A cry for "peace" accompanies the plea made for "no bars." Under the pretended cover of laboring for the welfare of our precious cause, these clamorers succeed in gaining the sympathy of many who really long to see peace reign and the cause prosper. This is no new thing. It is very likely that the same plea and arguments have been made in different ages by those who have feared they would be cut off from the general fellowship of the church or had already been cut off. We well remember that the leaders in the Pence-Burnam move asked only to be allowed to believe and practice whatever they might be pleased to do, allowing us the same privilege and proposing that we all live together in the same denomination. This would have suited the Fuller-Cary leaders who gave rise to the modern missionary scheme which resulted in the formation of the New School order of Baptists. It is evident that we would find it so if we could go back to every innovation that has been introduced among the people of God. In almost all the churches of the world such loose freedom is allowed in doctrine and practice that the members may believe and practice nearly anything they wish and still be retained. In the Potter-Throgmorton debate, it was advocated by Throgmorton that a church might or might not believe in modern mission societies, that it might or might not believe in and practice this or that, and still be a Missionary Baptist church. It seemed to matter but little with Throgmorton what a church believed or practiced, he would fellowship it just the same. The pastor of the New School Baptist church in Luray once said to us that the doctrine of his church was Calvinistic, but that many of the members were rank Arminians and did not believe the doctrine at all. He said great liberty was allowed in matters of faith and practice. Harry Todd was reported to have said, while he was yet with us, that he could preach what he believed among the "Missionaries" because they "allowed Christian liberty."

    Two cannot walk together in real peace except they be agreed. A combination of people that do not agree cannot enjoy peace. Such a combination would present a scene of confusion rather than one of peace. "Babylon" would be its proper name rather than "a quiet habitation." To say that it matters not what people believe and practice, they should live together in peace and fellowship is absurd, because agreement is essential to real peace and fellowship. A cry for peace on the part of those who seek to introduce new and strange things among the people of God is made only for effect. Then when those who watch for the welfare of the cause of Christ protest against such innovations, the charge of jealousy and the cry of persecution is raised.

    If this no-bar policy had been carried out in the third century, and on down to the present, the Roman Catholic church would have been the only one today. It would have pleased Cornelius if Novation and his followers had raised no bars against him and his party at the time of the origin of Roman Catholicism. Any one can see that it would be death to the church of Christ for her to adopt the policy of never raising any bars of fellowship on differences of opinions. Alexander Campbell's heresy would have been allowed to continue in the church of Christ to his joy and that of his followers if that plan had been followed. In fact the church would have been infested by every heresy that has been advocated in the name of the Christian religion. The only safe course for the church is to reject the heretic after the first and second admonitions, in compliance with the instruction of the inspired apostle. This rejection can mean no less than the erection of a bar of fellowship against him.

    It is contended that no church has any right to declare non- fellowship for another church. Suppose a church, standing in fellowship with true Baptist churches, should begin the practice of allowing candidates their choice of being baptized, sprinkled, or poured upon. Would the other churches have no right to declare non-fellowship for her because of such an unscriptural course? Who cannot see the absurdity of such a theory?

    We are aware that the great mistake of raising bars to fellowship is sometimes committed by churches when no such bars should have been raised. Members are excluded sometimes who ought not to have been excluded. But does this authorize us to fly to the extreme of advocating the policy that no bars should ever be raised by the churches and that no members should ever be excluded? We are as much opposed to raising bars of fellowship on non-essential differences as any one; but we want to carry too level a head to allow ourselves to topple to the absurd extreme of denying the right ever to raise bars against heretical innovations.

    We are not conscious of being actuated by anything but pure love for the cause of our Master, and a longing desire for the peace and welfare of his church, in writing along this line. We desire to season our words with love. To walk in love as Christ has loved us is an obligation that rests upon all those who have united in a covenant engagement as his church. While it is our duty to reject the admonished heretic and withdraw ourselves from those who walk disorderly, it is likewise our duty to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace.

Provided courtesy of The Primitive Baptist Library.

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