Membership in the Christian Church, Conditions of
Membership In The Christian Church, Conditions Of We may premise in general that, with the exception of the Quakers or Friends (q.v.), the one essential and universal mode or sign of admission to Church communion is baptism (q.v.), and that all bodies of Christendom, except the so-called Baptists (q.v.), administer the rite to infants as well as to adults, the parents or friends of the former engaging, either formally or presumably, as sponsors (q.v.), the future assumption of the baptismal vows on the part of the children baptized, who meanwhile occupy a subordinate or preparatory stage of membership as catechumens (q.v.).
I. Basal Principles. —
1. Of an Ideal Character. — The Church of God, in its broadest sense, consists of all who, whether on earth. or in heaven, have been redeemed by Jesus Christ, and quickened by the Holy Spirit, and have not, by resistance of the Spirit, forfeited God's favor. The visible Church is the whole number of those who, on earth, participate, in some degree, in the common Christian life, faith, and organic fellowship. The conditions of church- membership will vary according as the visible Church, in the form it was designed to assume, be regarded as one, universal, unchangeable, and divine, or otherwise. Again, the Church may be viewed as uniform in its standard of ethical and spiritual life, but diverse in its dogmatic and organic fellowship. The dividing lines of membership must, therefore, depend largely upon the following ideals:
(1) The Christian Life. — What is it? When does it begin ? Here comes in the question of infant or adult membership. SEE PEDO-BAPTISM. The term "life," like the term "death," is ambiguous, meaning both the hidden force which renders spontaneous action possible in a favorable environment, in forms of existence above the mineral, and the activity resulting from that force. When a man loves God and his neighbor he is said to be spiritually alive, but this must mean that he exhibits in action a force, the existence of which must have preceded the display of it. Unless we are Pelagians, we must attribute the origin of spiritual life, the capability of spontaneous religious activity, to the influence of God's Spirit on the human mind. Accurately to determine the moment when life begins is as difficult in the spiritual as in the physical realm: all that can be done is to fix a period beyond which it is not reasonable to believe that the life-giving contact is delayed. Put that period of ἄνωθεν γέννησις, or birth from above, at baptism, and the conditions of membership will assume one aspect: put it at the moment of conscious self-surrender and faith, and they will assume another. "Life," however, means not merely capacity for spontaneous action, but, also, action itself living. He is alive who acts holily. He is dead who lives in sin. On our conceptions of what the divine standard of living is, and of the time when and the means by which the transition from mere capacity for living to actual living, the moral change, renewal, or conversion, occurs, will depend the conditions of membership in: our churches. Is there such a divine and unchangeable standard ? Does it, if it exists, cover principles only, or overt acts alone, or motives also? How far are motives capable of being tested by Church authorities? Is the beginning of Christian living coincident with such faith as secures reverent obedience to known divine law, or with the faith that gives assurance of acceptance? To what extent is individual liberty in the application of fundamental principles of holy living admissible? If the relation of Christian love to amusements or business is doubtful, have Church authorities the right to excommunicate him in whom spiritual life may still exist, and whom God may still, in a measure, approve? A just separation from the Church of Christ is separation from Christ. Is it right to enforce, in what professes to be the Church of Christ, rules that would be legitimate only in a voluntary, club, organized for special purposes within the Church, but not coterminous with the Church? On the decision given here will greatly depend the conditions of membership in Christian organizations.
(2) The Ideal of Doctrine. — One department of church work is, by the application of truth, to lead into action the latent spiritual capability implanted by the Spirit of God. This implies the instruction of those formally enrolled in the organization. What shall they be taught? Has Christianity any one, universal, unchangeable, and divine standard of doctrine? If so, is it confined to facts, or does it embrace theories, also? What are the facts? How much, if any, of this code of doctrine must be demanded of members of the Church? On the answer to these questions will also depend the conditions of membership.
(3) The Christian Ideal of Organic Fellowship. — Is there a divinely authoritative standard of organic Church relations? Are divine blessings promised to Christians in their organic capacity, or in their individual capacity only? If a divinely approved standard of life and truth are universally imperative, and if failure to reach that standard is an object of mercy only when circumstances have rendered perfection impossible in him who, nevertheless, sought conformity to that standard, can the preservation, propagation, and enforcement of life and truth in the world be left to purely voluntary religious organizations, guerilla warfare, and freelances? Or is there one visible organism, superior to all clubs and societies, the heir of special promises, so long as it is faithful to its obligations, and one, a just excision from which is excision from God? Though our Lord did not condemn him who cast out devils, even when he followed not the disciples, were not his preparatory instructions, his special commission, and his peculiar promises given to the disciples whom he was organizing? Let covenant blessings, with corresponding obligations, be attached, even if they are not exclusively so, to a visible organism; and introduction into that organism must bring at once, if they have not been received before, the promised blessings; and these blessings are then to be retained, not sought for, unless. after the reception of them, they have been forfeited. Let covenanted blessings be the inheritance of individuals only, apart from all organic connection, on the occasion of personal acts; then, prior to those acts, it cannot be assumed that such blessings are ever given, even when the individuals concerned are the infant children of believers; while the discredit thrown upon any organic connections possible prior to the personal actions must react on the conditions of membership assumed subsequently to these acts.
2. Principles of a Practical Character. —
(1) The terms of Church membership further depend upon the source whence we derive our knowledge of the constitution of the Christian Church. The life of one of the original apostles continued beyond the date of the "Acts of the Apostles," and of the Epistles must the form of the Church which existed. prior to the writing of these books be authoritative, and the form which history shows to have probably arisen with his sanction be ignored? Is the constitution of the Church one of cast-iron? When was it cast? At the close of the New-Test. canon? After the first three general councils? After the first seven? Or, is there a living Spirit, ever present with the Church, guiding it by Scripture, by reason and common-sense, by history and the evident necessities of spiritual life in changing circumstances? Is our knowledge of the constitution of the Church gained from the Bible alone, or from the Bible and something else? The conditions of membership will be determined by the answers given to these questions.
(2) These conditions are affected, also, by principles of Scriptural interpretation. What language did the Savior use? If he speaks of "water and the Spirit," is his word to be interpreted by Hebrew or by Greek analogies? If he uses the term βαπτίζω, or if his reporters use it in rendering the word he may have employed, must the Church limit her conduct by the latest edition of Lidglell and Scott? Or are the words of New-Test. Scripture to be regarded as so much the product of the Holy Spirit that all modifying human literary elements are eliminated from them? Is there a development of practice indicated even in the New Test., and must any given passage be interpreted as of perpetual obligation by etymology, apart from the light thrown upon it by this principle of development? Have we any right to say that the governing office of the apostolate was to be changed, but that the introduction of Christian families, as well as adult converts, into the Church was to lead to no. change? In a word, must the practices which are legitimate in the Church be limited by a system of interpretation based upon a bald literalism? Or may rites and ceremonies vary when interpretation judges of the obligation of such forms by the light thrown upon the Scriptures from the thousand avenues of a living, perpetually-speaking Providence, so long as the decision is not contrary to the spirit and principles of the New Test.? These questions will suggest the bearing of hermeneutics on membership in the Church.
II. Illustrations of these Principles in the Practice of Different Denominations. —
1. Ancient Episcopal Churches. These include the Greek or Eastern Church, with its various branches, the Roman Church, the English or British Church, and the National Churches of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway.
(1) The Greek or Eastern Church. — "Previous to baptism, the child, though not two months old, must be solemnly initiated into the Church, as a catechumen, through the medium of its sponsors, when exorcism.is used." Four prayers, with blowing on the child's mouth, forehead, and breast, and commands to the evil spirit to depart and return no more, precede the trine immersion or affusion of baptism. In Alexandria and the Syrian, or Jacobite, Church affusion exists. Among the Armenians both forms are united. The Copts, in exorcism, make the sign of the cross thirty- seven times. Chrism, or anointing with holy oil, follows immediately after baptism, and answers to confirmation in the Western Church. Within seven days after this another washing occurs, followed by tonsure, or cutting the hair in the form of a cross. Confession four times in the year is prescribed, but is generally practiced but once, as is also communion. In the absence of a priest or a deacon, lay baptism is recognized, if it has been administered in the name of the Trinity. Chrism only is enforced where such baptism has taken place. The Montenegrin Church in South Albania, however, rebaptizes Roman Catholics. The popular impression that the Greek Church recognises the baptism of no other Church is denied by Archbishop Platon, in his supplement to M. Duten's OEuvres Melees, 2:170: "Baptismum aliarum ecclesiarum Christianarum non irritum esse putamus, et qui ex iis ad nos veniunt, non iterate baptismate, sed solo sacro chrismate inunctos, recipimus." ("We do not consider the baptism of other Christian churches invalid; and we receive those who come to us from them only by anointing them with the holy chrism, without repeating their baptism.") Submission to the faith of the Church is demanded. The communion is administered in both kinds, even to infants, bread and wine being mixed together, and given in a spoon by the officiating priest. Adult candidates then reverentially salute the clergy by hand-kissing and are congratulated by their friends as orthodox Christians. No Russian who has been educated in the Greek Church can lawfully depart from it.
(2) The Roman Church. — The leading conditions of membership in this Church are involved in her definition of the term "Church," as "the society of the faithful who are baptized and united, by the profession of the same faith, participation in the same sacraments and the same worship, to each other, and who are under one head in heaven, viz. Christ, and one head on earth, viz. the pope, his vicar." "The Church, though it consists of good and bad members, does not include heretics, schismatics, or (at least in the full sense of membership) persons severed from her unity by the greater excommunication." "Whether 'pure schismatics' (i.e., persons holding the full faith of the Church, but separated by schism) may still be called members of the Church" is a question "agitated in the theological schools." Baptism is believed to be "the origin of spiritual life, and the door of entrance into the Church." The candidate is presented at the door of the church building, receives catechetical instruction, submits to exorcism, has salt put into his mouth, and the sign of the cross made upon different parts of his body, is touched on ears and nostrils with saliva, renounces Satan, his works and pomps, is anointed with oil, and makes profession of his faith, by sponsors in the case of infants, before baptism. Baptism is by trine affision. Then follow chrism, robing in white, holding a burning light, and receiving a name of some saint. 'Confirmation with a chrism of olive-oil and balsam, in the form of a cross, with prayer and imposition of hands, in the name of the Trinity, follows either immediately or, as is usual, at from seven to twelve years of age. Confession at least once a year is imperative. The greater excommunication is reserved only for the most heinous offences.
(3) The Church of England. — This Church regards the spirit and principles of the Bible as forever binding; but she refuses not the guidance of subsequent Providential direction. Her terms of membership are founded upon the following principles. The Church's ideal of life, doctrine, and order, as given by Christ and his apostles, is divine and, wherever possible, imperative. Life is most important; and, while order is not indifferent, it may need to yield to the demands of truth and life. Hence she does not exclude from the pale of the Church those who, for the sake of truth and life, have believed themselves compelled to violate even her own historic order, but accepts their acts of baptism, if performed with water in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and considers all thus baptized to be members of Christ's Church. Where the obstacles to truth and life which rendered the preservation of order morally impossible have been removed, she regards a return to the primitive apostolic order imperative for the maintenance of unity. Hence, while endeavoring to remove from herself those obstacles, when she sees them to be such, she abstains from such interchanges of membership as would imply that the division of the Church on diverse bases of life, doctrine, or order is normal or ordinarily legitimate. Her first condition of membership is baptism. In this, the sign of the cross is made on the forehead. It may be administered by lay hands, and in any of the various modes. Before baptism, the divinely imparted capacity for spiritual action and enjoyment may, in her opinion, as truly exist as after it. but, inasmuch as the Christian covenant, in Mt 28:19-20, is regarded as given to Christians in their collective capacity, and not as individuals only, it is believed that, in baptism, the covenant blessing is surely given. This blessing of the vitalizing Spirit is called "regeneration," not because the moral change now commonly so called is therein wrought, but because the divine capacity for holy living, then, at least, certainly imparted; but impossible by mere human nature, is then, also, first openly manifested or declared, just as natural birth first openly manifests the life which was before concealed. Hence, her second condition of membership, confirmation, is an opportunity given, after instruction, publicly to assume those responsibilities for which candidates are supposed to have been previously prepared by that faith which, working by love, brings the divinely imparted capacity into action, producing the moral change, renewal, or conversion demanded. Church membership is, therefore, a home privilege, with spiritual power believed to be graciously conferred prior to all personal choice, to counteract inherited tendencies of evil, and to enable the child, from the beginning, to see and discharge the duties of Christian faith and love, a privilege to be retained, and not first to be sought after a period of alienation more or less prolonged. Provision is made' for the admission of adults by baptism, if this has not been previously given, and by confirmation. She imposes upon candidates no dogmatic theories, but only the facts embodied in the Apostles' Creed. Her moral demands cover no "doubtful disputations," but only the faith and love which are essential to Christianity. Her ceremonial demands enforce no more than attendance upon prayer, the word and the two sacraments of our Lord. Her law of discipline for the punishment and exclusion of lay offenders is, unfortunately, so greatly obstructed by legal considerations as to have become almost obsolete. Believing that she represents, not a voluntary society, but the Church of God, having maintained her historic connection in all essentials with the Church of apostolic times, she considers those baptized by her as hers until they die or are formally excluded or dismissed.
(4) On the principle that the majority of the members of a Church, in their corporate action, are and remain the same Church, the established churches of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway may be classed among ancient episcopal churches, though called Lutheran. In their terms of membership they do not essentially differ from other episcopal churches.
2. Modern Episcopal Churches, and Quasi-Episcopal Churches, Originating since the Reformation, and Committing the Rights of Ordination and Supervision to One Man, Assisted by Others. —
(1) The Scottish Episcopal Church. — The origin of this may be dated from the revival of episcopacy by Charles II, in 1661. Its terms. of membership are similar to those of the English Church.
(2) The Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States. — This was founded as a separate body in 1784,. and has the same conditions of admission as the English Church; but an intention to be confirmed as soom as possible suffices, in certain cases, to secure membership. The use of the sign of the cross in baptism may, on request, be omitted. Letters of transfer to other denominations are sometimes given.
(3) Moravians (European, origin, 1727; American, 1800). — In Europe, baptism, with laying on of hands, introduces children into the Church as catechumens, among whom, prior to admission as full members, aeultr converts take their place. In America, full membership involves a profession of faith in the Bible as the word of God, confidence in the forgiveness of the candidate's sins, determination to follow holiness and! to obey the Church, and reception in open congregations by the pastor, after opportunity has been given for the, statement of objections to the reception. Retention of membership depends upon obedience to laws, some:. of which forbid the sale or use of intoxicants, or the renting of property to liquor-dealers, or signing petitions, favoring them, and union with secret societies. Exchlsion is by a vote of the class, or congregation, after admonition and examination. Transfer to other bodies may take place by a vote of the charger and a certificate signed by the pastor.
(4) The English Wesleyans. — To be members of the society, persons are required to desire salvation, to meet in class, to avoid evil and do good, according to the denominational standard of evil and good, and attend "the ordinances of God." The communion is not refused to godly persons, though they belong to the congregation only, and not to the society. Baptized childrens are not members of the Wesleyan organism, and are sometimes sent, for confirmation, to the Church of England.
(5) The Methodist Episcopal Church of the United States of America. — The conditions of membership in this Church are less affected than ill other Methodist churches by the transition from a voluntary society of adults formed for a special purpose to a self-governing Church. Membership begins by reception as a probationer, on giving evidence of desire for salvation from sin. After six months, on recommendation of the leaders and stewards, baptism having been received, and satisfactory assurances of faith and loyalty having been given to the preacher in charge before the Church, full membership is conferred. Members of other bodies are received, on recommendation from the proper authorities, and on assurance of loyalty to the principles and practices of the M.E. Church. Baptized children of Methodist parents, though regarded as in visible covenant relation with God, and as objects of the Church's care, do not seem to be in any sense members of the Methodist Church until, after having attended class for six months, they are publicly received in regular form. After reception into full membership, attendance upon class-meeting, while strongly recommended, is no more imperative than attendance upon other useful services. For crimes duly proved, members may be expelled; after removal to parts unknown, the name may be dropped; on transference by certificate to another denomination, and on withdrawal while character is unimpeached, membership ceases.
(6) The Methodist Church of Canada. — This conforms to the conditions of membership among the English Wesleyans, attendance upon class- meeting being essential, dancing and similar amusements being forbidden, and children, though baptized, not being members of the organization.
(7) The Wesleyan Methodists of the United States (dating from 1842). — This adds to the usual Methodist conditions of membership special rules against secret societies, as Freemasons, Odd-Fellows, etc., intoxicants and tobacco.
(8) Apostolic Catholic Church (dating from 1832). In addition to baptism, "the conditions under which any person can become a member of one of the congregations gathered under the restored apostleship" are "that he should fully and heartily recognise the authority of this apostleship, so that he can sincerely work with it, submit to the commandments of the apostles, recognise the grace of Christ in them, and all the ministries authorized by them. Should any, after more or less time, lose their confidence in these restored ministries, and separate themselves from the congregations, they are still remembered and prayed for as negligent or lapsed members, and their names are kept on a separate register."
(9) Reformed Episcopal Church. — Baptism and confirmation admit to this Church persons born of parents within its pale. Communicants of other denominations are received by letter or other satisfactory evidence of membership, confirmation being optional with them. As no discrimination between denominations is made, there seems to be no guarantee that even baptism has been duly received. Assent to the principles, doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Church is demanded. Membership may cease during life by presenting a written statement of intention to withdraw, or by exclusion by the Church courts for offence. Some differences of practice exist in different localities.
3. Presbyterian Churches, ins which the Right of Ordination Resides in a Body of Presbyters. — These churches are governed by principles which do not differ fundamentally, though they differ in details and in verbal expression, from those of episcopal churches. "The basis of Church membership is the covenant of grace which Christ condescends to make with his people, of which covenant faith is the essential condition, and baptism the visible sign; and, as infants cannot in their own person exercise faith, their membership must in the first instance rest upon the faith of their parents, until they come to an age intelligently and voluntarily to embrace and profess Christ themselves." "Every child of believing parents is by his birth a citizen of God's kingdom and an heir of its privileges, subject to the condition of subsequent personal faith." One parent, at least, or one guardian, in the absence of parental custody, if "presumptively believing," must make "an express engagement to train the child to godliness." Children are to be taught the Catechism, the Apostles' Creed, and the Lord's Prayer, to pray and to obey Christ. Baptized children are under the government of the Church. In baptism, there is a grace "conferred by the Holy Ghost;" yet the grace of regeneration is not necessarily connected with baptism, but is so in the case of "such as that grace belongeth unto." "The first element in the process of regeneration is the quickening power of the Holy Spirit exerted directly on the soul." These principles differ not substantially from those of the Church of England, which can be properly understood only when viewed in their relation to Pelagianism. Hooker defines regeneration as "that infused divine virtue of the Holy Ghost which gives to the powers of the soul their first disposition towards future newness of life;" and he says that "grace is not absolutely tied to sacraments," but that, in sacraments, " God imparts the saving grace of Christ to all that are capable thereof." Though differences of opinion may exist as to the appropriateness of words to the representation of facts, yet, on the facts themselves, both Presbyterians and the Church of England seem very nearly to agree. Among Presbyterians, unbaptized adults are received on profession of faith in Christ and on baptism. The enforcing of doctrinal conformity to the theological standards is not necessary or universal. The faith in Christ demanded is not necessarily such as brings. assurance of forgiveness. Proper letters from other evangelical churches admit to membership. Censures are given for offences against lawful authority, nature, and Christianity, and excommunication awaits contumacy. These principles generally apply to Presbyterian churches in all lands, the Reformed Presbyterian Church, the Associate Reformed Presbyterians Church, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, etc. The Dutch Reformed Church makes confirmation the public reception ofn members after examination in Bible and Church history and doctrines. Presbyterian Lutherans consider confirmation to be the public reception of candidates, with the blessing of the minister, after a doctrinal examination; but variety of practice arises from the large congregational liberty allowed. The United Presbyterians of the United States prescribe rules against the use of hymns, secret societies, and open communion.
4. Congregational Churches, or those in which each Congregation is Supreme over its own Affairs. —
(1) Orthodox Pedobaptist Churches. — Credible personal faith in Christ and consecration to his service are the sole conditions of entrance, the individual Church being the judge of such credibility. Children, prior to personal faith and consecration, are in no sense members, but are to be watched over, that they may become such. Opinions and practice differ as to what children are eligible for baptism, whether those of members only, or others. Absence for a year in parts unknown, transfer to other churches, and, in some instances, resignation without transfer, lead to erasure of the name from the church roll; and contumacious offences lead to exclusion by the Church. The Evangelical Union, or Morisonians, differ from other Congregationalists chiefly in the Arminian doctrines professed, and in making saving faith, on which members are accepted, to be such that it is not only invariably accompanied by assurance of acceptance, but that it renders prayer before it, and for it, an offence.
(2) Orthodox Antipedobaptist Churches. — "The Baptist theory is that the Church should consist of persons in whom the divine life has been begun by regeneration, and who have been baptized on profession of their faith in Christ as their Saviour." Hence, on profession and immersion, if the profession satisfies the local Church, membership is conferred. Excision is similar to that in pedobaptist churches. Some Baptists in England do not regard baptism with water as essential to membership. Free-Will Baptists receive baptized persons of other evangelical churches on testimony of a letter of recommendation by vote of the local Church. Seventh-Day Baptists add to the usual conditions of membership a trine immersion, with laying on of hands and prayer, and the observance of the seventh day of the week, instead of the first. "Disciples of Christ" demand immersion on profession of faith in Christ, and acceptance of the Bible as the rule of faith and morals. Exclusion is the act of the congregation, on conduct judged by them intolerable. Mennonites baptize none before eleven or twelve years of age, and then by pouring water on the head. Strict Mennonites prohibit head-ornaments, fine clothing, and rich furniture, and advocate the separation of the excommunicated from social intercourse.
(3) Unitarians. — These are generally Congregationalists, though in Transylvania they are Episcopal, and in Ireland Presbyterian. In the United States the authority that receives into membership is, in many cases, a circle of persons known as the "Church," inside of a larger organization known as the "Society" or parish. Baptism, and the signification to the pastor of a wish to join, with, in some churches, a public recognition by giving "the hand of fellowship," usually admits to membership; but intimation to the pastor of a desire for membership, and consent of his advisers, it is probable, would admit to fellowship, even without baptism or public reception. In many congregations the renting of a sitting, and qualifying for a vote in parish business by accepting the by-laws of the congregation, entitle to all the privileges of membership. There is no form of exclusion. Simple forms of covenant sometimes exist. "An unformulated consensus of opinion, a fidelity in public worship, a reverential support of the Lord's Supper, a deep interest both in piety and ethics, and a readiness in benevolent work," are not always absent from even such loose bonds of union.
(4) Universalists. — Persons, whether baptized in Universalist churches or not, of years of discretion, usually sixteen, are received by a majority vote of the congregation, after application has been made one month previously, in open meeting of the Church, in person, by a friend, or by letter. Strangers must present evidences of Christian faith and character. The only profession of faith authorized by the whole body is given in three articles, which recognize
(a) the Bible, as containing a revelation of God's character, and man's duty, interest, and destiny;
(b) one God of love, revealed in one Lord, Jesus Christ, by one Holy Spirit of grace, who will finally lead all men through holiness to happiness; and
(c) the obligation of good works arising from the inseparable connection of holiness and happiness.
5. Miscellaneous. —
(1) European Protestant Churches.
i. National Reformed Churches of France and Switzerland. —
(a) Children, after baptism, are first instructed, then examined before the pastor, or the presbyterial assembly (conseil presbyteral), or consistory, then received publicly, often after profession of personal faith, and finally admitted to communion at Easter.
(b) Adults from without, on introduction, declare to the assembly and the pastor adhesion to the general principles of the Church, bear a share in the expenses, and, unless in the case of foreigners, must enjoy civil and political rights. Excommunication is pronounced from the pulpit, in general terms, without a particular application.
ii. Lutheran National Church. — Nearly the same system exists here.
iii. Free Churches. — Admission is said to be by public profession of faith. Uniformity of practice does not exist among the Reformed churches. In some cases, in Free churches, rebaptism of converts exists, generally by affusion, but, in the case of Baptists, by immersion.
(2) New Church, or Swedenborgians. — Baptized infants receive full membership by confirmation on arriving at years of discretion. Members coming from without are usually baptized, though opinions and practice on rebaptism are not uniform. In excluding members, in addition to the directions in Mt 18:17, the following principle prevails: "He who differs in opinion from the minister ought to be left in peace, so long as he makes no disturbance; but he who makes disturbance ought to be separated."
(3) Friends, or Quakers. — Membership for persons native to the body is a birthright, but it confers rights of work and service on committees only after proved steadfastness. Admission of persons from without is by request, examination by a committee of similar sex with the candidate, and acceptance by the following monthly meeting. Excision is only after contumacious resistance of official efforts for reform, the final one of which is the presentation of a written "testification" before the monthly meeting. This follows a failure of two official interviews between the offender and the committee appointed in the case. Only after a second failure to secure reform is official record made of offences.
(4) Plymouth Brethren. — Application must first be made through one of the brethren to a Saturday meeting of the leaders of the various assemblies of the place. The candidate is then visited by leading men, and rigidly examined on doctrines and separation from all other Christian bodies. Satisfactory examination results in recommendation to the Saturday meeting; and, if approved, the person enters next Lord's Day by communing. The mode of baptism is an open question. Fellowship or excision, among "Close Brethren," relates not to one assembly, but to all in the world. From decisions of the Saturday meeting there is no appeal. The chief and most influential Saturday meeting is that of London, England. Among "Open Brethren," individual assemblies are not bound by the excisions of others. "Brethren" avoid the use of the term "members," as of an organization.
(5) The Reformed Church in America. — This demands baptism, profession of faith before the consistory, composed of pastor, elders, and deacons, or a letter of recommendation from some other church.
(6) The Evangelical Association. — This body holds, in addition to the ordinary rules of admission to Methodist churches, that traffic in liquor is unlawful.
(7) The "Church of Christ." — This adopts, as necessary terms of membership, belief that Jesus is the Son of God, repentance and a righteous life, profession of faith by word of mouth, and immersion in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
(8) The "Church of God." — This body, believing that immortality and incorruptibility arise from the likeness of Christ's resurrection, which, with. them, means being immersed, make immersion, with the ordinary demands of Congregational churches, imperative for membership.
(9) "Christians" (or the Christian Connection).This demands no more than a profession of Christian faith and a corresponding life, the congregation being the judge of the life, and the person himself of the faith.
This list of organizations, calling themselves, as a whole, or in part, the Church of Christ, is by no means complete; but a sufficient number has been given to show on what comparatively unimportant grounds the majority of sectarian differences are based, and to suggest the question whether, in our reaction from corporate intolerance, we have given due weight to the calm statements of Christ, and the earnest pleadings of St. Paul, on the subject of the unity of Christ's body, the Church. For further particulars, see each religious body in its alphabetical place. (J.R.)