The Duty of Church Membership

The following text is from the “Probationer’s Hand-book: Religious, Historical, Doctrinal, Disciplinary and Practical” by Rev. S. Olin Garrison, M.A. The handbook, also known as the Probationer’s Catechism, is a series of lectures in catechetical form, intended to prepare probationary members for full membership in the Methodist Episcopal Church. The following tract by B. Hawley, D.D., is included after the final lecture.

I. Every Christian should become a member of the visible Church, because it is a divine institution.

1. The apostolic letters are addressed to the Churches founded and confirmed by the apostles. 1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:1; 1 Thess. 1:1.

2. Apostolic salutations are to Church Rom. 16:16, and everywhere in the epistles.

3. Jesus Christ is the founder of the Church. Matt. 16:18.

4. The authority and power of discipline are vested in the Church. Matt. 18:17.

5. Believers on earth are a part of the true spiritual Church. Eph. 3:15.

6. The general Church is the spiritual kingdom of Christ. John 18:36 ; Luke 17:20, 21; Rom. 14:17.

7. Jesus Christ is Head of the Church, and Christians in an organized capacity are the body. Col. 1:18; Eph. 4:5; 5:23, 27; Rom. 12:5.

8. Ecclesia, meaning assembly, (Acts 19:32, 39,) in an evangelical sense, designates a Church, or congregation of Christians, having the ordinances of the Gospel and discipline duly administered. Eph. 2:19; Acts 2:47; Eph. 1:1; Gal. 3:7, 9, 14; Acts 11:22, 26.

9. To the Church belong the ministry, the Scriptures, and ordinances for the perfecting of the saints. Acts 14:23: Eph. 4:11–13; Phil. 1:1.

II. That all Christians should be members of the visible Church is further evident:

1. From the teaching and practice of the apostles. Acts 2:41, 47; 14:23, 27; Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:2 ; Eph. 3:5.

2. From the authority of our Lord. Matt. 28:19; 18:18; 4:19.

3. The Church is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and Christians share his influences somewhat because of a union with the Church. Eph. 2:20–22; 1 Pet. 2:5; Heb. 3:6; 1 Cor. 3:16; 2 Cor. 6:16.

4. Christians derive spiritual life and health from the Head of the Church, because of a union with him in the Church. John 5:24; 20:31; 1 John 5:11, 12.

5. Religious prosperity is promoted in the Church. Matt. 18:20; John 14:23; 15:4; Eph. 5:23, 26, 27.

6. The perpetuity of the Church depends on the union of Christians with it. Isa. 9:7; Dan. 2:44 ; Matt. 28:20; 1 Cor. 11:26; 15:25.

III. The duty of Church membership being established, “what Church should you join?”

1. You should unite with that Church whose doctrines are the most scriptural, in which are the most religious life, activity, love, and fellowship.

2. Where the religious privileges are best calculated to promote piety, and to develop and strengthen the Christian graces.

3. Where you can get and do the most good.

[Note. Dr. Hawley kindly permitted the author to use his able tract, (Selected Series No. 27,) from which has been taken the above excellent article on Church Membership, and also his arrangement of the Articles of Religion and the General Rules, as found in the Appendix.]