CHAPTER XII. Of admission of members into the church.

  1. The Cambridge Platform (1648)

    Chapter 12: Of Admission of Members into the Church
    1. The doors of the churches of Christ upon earth, do not by God’s appointment stand so wide open that all sorts of people good or bad, may freely enter therein at their pleasure; but such as are admitted thereto, as members ought to be examined and tried first; whether they be fit and meet to be received into church society, or not. The eunuch of Ethiopia, before his admission was examined by Philip, whether he did believe on Jesus Christ with all his heart. The angel of the church at Ephesus is commended, for trying such as said they were apostles and were not. There is like reason for trying of them that profess themselves to be believers. The officers are charged with the keeping of the doors of the church, and therefore are in a special manner to make trial of the fitness of such who enter. Twelve angels are set at the gates of the temple, lest such as were ceremonially unclean should enter thereinto.
    2. The things which are requisite to be found in all church members, are, repentance from sin, and faith in Jesus Christ. And therefore, these are the things whereof men are to be examined, at their admission into the church and which then they must profess and hold forth in such sort, as may satisfy rational charity that the things are there indeed. John the Baptist admitted men to baptism, confessing and bewailing their sins: and of others it is said, that they came, and confessed, and showed their deeds.
    3. The weakest measure of faith is to be accepted in those that desire to be admitted into the church: because weak Christians if sincere, have the substance of that faith, repentance and holiness which is required in church members: and such have most need of the ordinances for their confirmation and growth in grace. The Lord Jesus would not quench the smoking flax, nor break the bruised reed, but gather the tender lambs in his arms, and carry them gently in his bosom. Such charity and tenderness is to be used, as the weakest Christian if sincere, may not be excluded, nor discouraged. Severity of examination is to be avoided.
    4. In case any through excessive fear, or other infirmity, be unable to make their personal relation of their spiritual estate in public, it is sufficient that the elders having received private satisfaction, make relation thereof in public before the church, they testifying their assents thereunto; this being the way that tendeth most to edification. But whereas persons are of better abilities, there it is most expedient, that they make their relations, and confessions personally with their own mouth, as David professeth of himself.
    5. A personal and public confession, and declaring of God’s manner of working upon the soul, is both lawful, expedient, and useful, in sundry respects, and upon sundry grounds. Those three thousand (Acts 2:37,41) before they were admitted by the apostles, did manifest that they were pricked in their hearts at Peter’s sermon, together with earnest desire to be delivered from their sins, which now wounded their consciences, and their ready receiving of the word of promise and exhortation. We are to be ready to render a reason of the hope that is in us, to everyone that asketh us: therefore, we must be able and ready upon any occasion to declare and show our repentance for sin, faith unfeigned; and effectual calling, because these are the reason of a well-grounded hope. I have not hidden thy righteousness from the great congregation, Ps. 40:10.
    6. This profession of faith and repentance, as it must be made by such at their admission, that were never in church-society before: so, nothing hindereth but the same may also be performed by such as have formerly been members of some other church, and the church to which they now join themselves as members, may lawfully require the same. Those three thousand (Acts 2) which made their confession, were members of the church of the Jews before, so were they that were baptized by John. Churches mat err in their admission: and persons regularly admitted, may fall into offence. Otherwise, if churches might obtrude their members, or if church members might obtrude themselves upon other churches, without due trial, the matter so requiring, both the liberty of churches would hereby be infringed, in that they might not examine those concerning whose fitness for communion they were unsatisfied: and besides the infringing of their liberty, the churches themselves would unavoidably be corrupted, and the ordinances defiled, whilst they might not refuse, but must receive the unworthy: which is contrary unto the Scripture teaching that all churches are sisters, and therefore equal.
    7. The like trial is to be required from such members of the church, as were born in the same, or received their membership, and were baptized in their infancy, or minority, by virtue of the covenant of the parents, when being grown up unto years of discretion, they shall desire to be made partakers of the Lord’s Supper: unto which, because holy things must not be given to the unworthy, therefore it is requisite, that these as well as others, should come to their trial and examination, and manifest their faith and repentance by an open profession thereof, before they are received to the Lord’s Supper, and otherwise not to be admitted thereunto. Yet these church-members that were so born, or received in their childhood, before they are capable of being made partakers of full communion, have many privileges which others (not church members) have not: they are in covenant with God; have the seal thereof upon them, viz. Baptism; and so if not regenerated, yet are in a more hopeful way of attaining regenerating grace, and all the spiritual blessings both of the covenant and seal; they are also under church watch, and consequently subject to the reprehensions, admonitions, and censures thereof, for their healing and amendment, as need shall require.