Heretics are Cut Off - By James Durham (1622-1628)

Historical Theology Articles

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How to Deal with Heresy.

What further duty is required of private professors towards heretics that are cut off
If it is asked ‘What duty further is called for from private persons towards a person cut off?’ Answer. I suppose these things are called for:

1. Abstinence from unnecessary civil fellowship, as, not to frequent their company, to visit them, to dine or sup with them, or to have them dining or supping with us, or to use such familiarity in such things, as [ordinarily is] with others, or possibly has been with them. So it is [in] 1 Cor. 5, and it is no less the people’s duty to carry so, that it may be a mean for their edification, than proportionally it is the minister’s duty to instruct, pass sentence, etc.

2. There would be an abstinence from Christian fellowship, that is, we would not pray with them, read or confer of spiritual purposes (purposely at least), nor do any such thing that belongs to Christian communion: that is, to reject him in that sense from Christian fellowship, and to account him as an heathen man or publican. In this respect, we cannot walk with an excommunicate man, as we may walk with other Christians. And in the first respect, we cannot walk with them, as we may walk with other heathens, that, it may be, are guilty of as gross sins upon the matter. For the Word of the Lord, puts this difference expressly between them and these who are simply heathens (1 Cor. 5).

3. Yet even then prayer may be made for them. For excommunication is no evidence that a person has sinned the sin against the Holy Ghost, or that their sin is a sin unto death. And their necessities, if they are in want, may and should be supplied, because they are men, and it is natural to supply such. They may be helped also against unjust violence, or from any personal hazard, if they fall in it. And as occasion offers, folks may give a weighty serious word of admonition unto them, and such like. Because by such means, the end of the sentence and its weight are furthered, and not weakened.

4. These that are in natural relations, ought to walk in the duties of them, as husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and servants, magistrates and subjects, etc., for what nature binds, the church does not loose.

5. Men may follow civil business, as paying or exacting payment of debts, buying or selling, and may walk in such things as are requisite for humane fellowship and society; because, though church censures are to humble and shame men, by bearing in on them their sinfulness, yet it is not to undo them, and simply to take away a being from them.

6. Yet all these things would be done with them in such a manner, as (1), the persons may show their indignation at their way, even when they express tenderness to their persons. (2) It would be done in a different manner from what [ordinarily is] with others not under such a sentence, that so they may bear out their respect to the sentence, even when they show respect to them. Therefore, there would not be such frequency in meddling with such persons, nor would it be with familiarity or many words, and long discourses to other purposes, nor with laughing, and with such cheerfulness, intimacy or complacency, as is used with others. But, in a word, the business would be done, and other things abstained from. (3) When what is necessary is past, except it is on necessity, folks would not eat or drink with them at the time of doing their business, or after the closing of the same; because that does not necessarily belong to them as men, and by so doing, the due distance would not be kept. And this is the great practical [point], so to carry to them as the weight of the sentence is not lessened, nor they prejudged of what otherways is necessary to their being, but that so every opportunity may be taken, whereby their edification may be advanced.

James Durham, Concerning Scandal (Naphtali Press, 2014) 219-221.

Bible Verse:

“Peace to you all who are in Christ Jesus,” (1 Peter 5:14).

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