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Mr. Mercer's Opinions on Various Subjects Connected with Church Discipline, &c.
From his Memoirs By Charles Mallory


Mr. Mercer's opinions respecting matters pertaining to church order, associational jurisdiction, and other kindred subjects, were so much valued, and so often sought, that many would no doubt consider a volume claiming to be any thing like a full Biography of this eminent man, as radically defective, that did not contain some record of these opinions. The writer has therefore thought proper to present in the appendix, some of his views upon these subjects; believing that though this portion of the work may not be as interesting to the general reader as other parts, yet that there are some who will consult it with much interest, and great advantage. If the reader is not prepared to sanction every opinion of Mr. Mercer's, which is here presented, he cannot fail of finding much that will commend itself to his judgment as judicious, solid, and useful.


"That you may be able in this declining day, to possess your vessel in sanctification and honor before him, who has called you into his marvellous [sic] light, and in that light shine before others for his praise; we would awaken you to, and exhort you to be promptly active in the execution of discipline -- discipline, without which there can be no union, order, peace or fellowship in the church; no, nor church itself -- discipline, which, in its right use, is the church's ecclesiastical life -- bond of union and peace -- spring of order and fellowship -- and great source of harmony and love.

"To this important duty and privilege, God opens the ear. Job 36:10. And commands it to be sealed among his disciples. Isa. 3:16. 61:4. The prophet Malachi, and John the Baptist, show that Christ, in the exercise of this office, would both purge and scourge the wicked from among the righteous, so that a clear distinction should be made and perpetuated between the godly and ungodly, the chaff and the wheat. Mal. 3:1 to the 6, 16, 17, 18. Math. 3:10 and 12. And Christ discovered both the authority and indispensability of this duty, when he made a scourge of small cords and drove the wicked out of his father's house. John 2:15. Due attention to this rule will lead to prosperity, peace and pleasure. Job 36:11. Isa. 48:18. Gal. 6:16. But the neglect thereof is invariably chastened with declension and destruction. Luke 19:42. Gal. 5:13, to the 17, also read 2nd and 3rd chapter of Revelation. “Dear brethren, in addressing yon on this subjuct, we shall use plainness of speech, and in a simple style, place before you a few very plain truths. Gospel discipline involves two very important duties equally indispensable.

"The first, is that which each member should discharge towards himself. The second, is that which relates to the whole body.

These may be likewise subdivided.
"The former includes, first, That restraint which a christian, when right with God, places on the passions and propensities of the carnal heart, by which he subdues and maintains the victory over them: and secondly, that government which he exercises over the members of his body, by which he sanctifies them for, and employs them in the service of God.

"The latter embraces, first, that line of duty to be pursued in case of private or personal offence; and secondly, that to be adopted in case of public and atrocious crimes. To which. we attend in order.

"And first, to discipline the heart, diligence is enjoined, Prov. 4:23. 2 Pet. 1:5-10, to show it is a duty to be performed only by promptness and perseverance. It includes three things:
First, the detecting and crucifying all improper passions, or desires, that is, all which on examination, (and none should pass without it,) shall be found contrary to the holiness, and incapable of working the glory of God. Luke 9:55. Gal. 5:24. Heb. 3:12.
Secondly, the guarding and restraining those affections, which in themselves are lawful, but are capable of excess, for virtuous, become vicious desires in the extreme. Eph. 4:26. Col. 3:5.
And thirdly, the promoting and pursuing all gracious emotions, as leading into the knowledge and service of God. Psa. 19:14. 1 Cor. 14:I. Eph. 3:16-19. 4: 22-24.

"Secondly: Your bodies are the members of Christ, and temples for the Holy Ghost. 1 Cor, 6:15. 19. Your whole deportment, therefore, should correspond with this consideration: and all the members of the body be presented as living sacrifices to God, and solely employed in his service: or, as a modern poet teaches:

'A covenant with your eyes be made;
Your words be few, or fitly said,
And season'd well with grace;
Be deaf, or only hear aright;
Your footsteps planted in the light,
To run the Christian race.

Your hands be pure and rais'd to God;
Your taste delighted with his word;
Be every member his;
Delight to smell his rich perfume,
Which balms the air -- will death o'ercome,
And adds new charias to bliss.'

"To be able to decide correctly on the affections of the heart, or the right use of the members of the body, it will be incumbent to cultivate an acquaintance with the laws of nature, grace, and providence; by which the natural, spiritual, and moral fitness of things will appear; so that you may approve the things which are excellent, and be without offence till the day of Christ. Phil. 1: 9, 10, 11.

"The second part of discipline teaches the rules of procedure in cases of public or private offence; which should be pursued with great exactness, without partiality or hypocrisy.

"And first, in case of private offence. Be sure to follow precisely the directions of Christ given in Matt. 18 :15. 16, 17. Taking especial care that you do not make that public which is, and should be kept private, or that you do not make yourselves guilty, in conversing on private subjects to indifferent persons, thereby becoming the sowers of discord, or idle, mischievous tale-bearers so offensive to God, and destructive of human happiness. Lev. 19:16. Prov, 11: 13. 18:8. 20:19. 25:9, 10. 26:21, 22. This rule is particularly binding on the offended, commanding him to immediate conciliatory measures: but let not the offender think himself secure in idleness, nor carelessly wait for his grieved brother to come and deal with him; but let him attend to the counterpart of this rule in Matt. 5:23 to the 26, which shows it to be the duly equally or the offender to go and be active in the adjustment of all differences. The sooner the better. Rom. 12:10, 11.

"But secondly, in case of public and scandalous sins. The first step to be taken is to reprove, admonish, and in a christian spirit, endeavor to reclaim the apostate brother from the error of his ways. Lev. 19:17. Gal. 6:1, 2. Eph.5:11. 2 Thes. 3:15. 1 Tim. 5:20. Heb. 12:13, 14, 15. James 5 :10, 20. This duty we fear is very much neglected from some cause -- the want of zeal -- or perhaps from a prevailing notion that it would be improper to heal a public offence, by a private conversation: but however improper this might be, we conceive it would be highly proper to heal a public offender by any means the gospel directs. The design however or such reproof, &c., is not to cure the offence, but him who gave it; that he may be prepared to remove the offence in that way the gospel requires. But should he fail to be reclaimed by this measure, and not come to the church to meet, and in the best manner in his power, atone for his disorders; then it will be the duty of whoever is concerned in the case, when the church is setting in her official capacity, to bring such person before her bar, or make report of the case to her, whose duty it will be to call for, and reckon with him according to Matt. 18:24 and 31. But in case of gross enormity, under which the cause of God and the church particularly suffers, it may be expedient to proceed more promptly according to the case decided in 1 Cor, 5th chap., which seems to have been done without sending for, or attending to the delinquent in any way.

"The great object of discipline is holiness to the Lord. With a view to ecclesiastical holiness, it commences cautiously in the reception of members; and ends gloriously in consummating them in the beauties of practical holiness. In receiving persons carelessly, or at the instance of passion, you may corrupt the church, dishonor God, and involve yourselves in much distress, confusion, and sin. Be careful, therefore, to receive none but those to whom the gospel gives a right; Matt. 18:3. 5. Acts 5:13, 14. 1 Cor. 6:17. That the church may be visibly what it is really, THE PILLAR AND GROUND OF THE TRUTH, and be presented a chaste virgin to Christ. 1 Tim. 3:1, 2. Cor. 11:2. But we are aware that discipline may be so managed as to defeat its own design, and instead of unity and peace, produce divisions and strife. A government by majority naturally tending in important matters, to make parties, and breed confusion, should be studiously avoided. Rather be of the same mind and judgment; espouse the cause of the weak, or be invariably on the part of the aggrieved, whether major or minor; and let UNANIMITY be the bond of your peace. Psa. 133:1. 1 Cor. 1:10, 11, 13. Eph. 4:2."


[From Memoirs of Jesse Mercer, Appendix D, pp. 442-444. jrd]