Darby on Reception to Fellowship
The question is, as to reception of saints to partake of
the table of the Lord with us, whether any can be admitted who are not formally
and regularly amongst us.
It is not whether we exclude persons unsound in faith or ungodly in practice; nor whether we, deliberately walking with those who are unsound and ungodly, are not in the same guilt - not clear in the matter.
The first in unquestioned; the last, brethren have insisted on, and I among them, at very painful cost to ourselves. This is, to me, all clear and plain from scripture. There may be subtle pleas to get evil allowed, but we have always been firm, and God, I believe, has fully owned it. The question is not there; but suppose a person known to be godly and sound in faith, who has not left some ecclesiastical system - nay, thinks scripture favours an ordained ministry, but is glad when the occasion occurs - suppose we alone are in the place, or he is not in connection with any other body in the place, staying with a brother, or the like - is he to be excluded because he is of some system as to which his conscience is not enlightened - nay, which he may think more right?
He is a godly member of the body, known such. Is he to be shut out? If so the degree of light is title to communion, and the unity of the body is denied by the assembly which refuses him. The principle of meeting as members of Christ walking in godliness is given up, agreement with us is made the rule, and the assembly becomes a sect with its members like any other. They meet on their principles, Baptist or other- you on yours, and if they do not belong to you formally as such, you do not let them in. The principle of brethren's meetings is gone, and another sect is made, say with more light, and that is all. It may give more trouble, require more care to treat every case on its merits, on the principle of the unity of all Christ's members, than say "you do not belong to us, you cannot come"; but the whole principle of meeting is gone. The path is not of God.
There cannot be too much care as to holiness and truth: the Spirit is the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit of truth. But ignorance of ecclesiastical truth is not a ground of excommunication, where the conscience and the walk is undefiled. If a person came and made it a condition to be allowed to go to both, he would not come in simplicity in the unity of the body; I know it to be evil, and cannot allow it, and he has no right to impose any conditions on the church of God. It must exercise discipline as cases arise according to the Word. Nor, indeed, do I think a person regularly going from one to another systematically can be honest in going to either; he is setting up to be superior to both, and condescending to each. That is not, in that act, "a pure heart." May the Lord guide you. Remember, you are acting as representing the whole church of God, and if you depart from a right path as to the principle of meeting, separating yourselves from it is to be a local sect on your own principles. In all that concerns faithfulness, God is my witness, I seek no looseness; but Satan is busy to lead us one side or the other, to destroy the largeness of the unity of the body, or to make it mere looseness in practice and doctrine; we must not fall into one in avoiding the other. Reception of all true saints is what gives its force to the exclusion of those walking loosely. If I exclude all who walk godily as well, who do not follow with us, it loses its force, for those who are godly are shut out too.
(Webmaster's Note - Darby used to hold that ANY brother who loved the Lord was welcome to break bread with him, whatever his sect or creed. Anthony Norris Groves reproved him when he fell back from that position (see Groves Memoirs) A.N.Groves held that a visitor to a house is not held responsible for what that house does or does not do, and likewise a visitor cannot be responsible for another Assembly merely by breaking bread with them. Darby's earliest view is the one that commends itself to me as scriptural - Holy Scripture says nothing about "fencing in the Table".
Home | Links | Writings | Biography