And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
C. H. MACKINTOSH (1820-1896): It may be well just to add a word here as to the strict meaning of the term “the Church,” Christ’s body.
JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): Though the word “church” is now expressive of some particular places of worship, it is never, in the New Testament, applied to buildings, but to persons only.
A. W. TOZER (1897-1963): Stating it is just about the most simple terms we know, the Christian church is the assembly of redeemed saints.
C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): I would exhort you to be careful about the admission of members into the church―It is lawful to unite with all sorts of men for good and benevolent and necessary purposes, even as at a fire, Pagan and Papist and Protestant may each one hand on the buckets and in a sinking ship, heathen and Christian alike are bound to take turns at the pumps…But the case before us is that of a distinctly religious communion, a professed fellowship in Christ. Is this to be made so wide that those who contradict each other on vital points may yet pretend to be at one?
MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): Is it not significant that we hear so very little today about what the Puritans called the “false professor”? Read the history of the Church in [England] and you will find that in great periods such as the Puritan era and the Evangelical Revival they paid great attention to this subject. It is seen in the way in which Whitefield and Wesley and others examined the converts before they admitted them to membership of their classes. The same is seen in the great days of the Church of Scotland, and in the first hundred years of the story of the Presbyterian Church of Wales. Indeed it has always been the most prominent feature among all who think of the Church as “gathered saints.”
JOHN GILL (1697-1771): The church of God is a congregation of men gathered out of the world by effectual grace.
JONATHAN EDWARDS (1703-1758): The question is not, whether Christ has made converting grace itself the condition or rule of His people’s admitting any to the privileges of members in full communion with them—It is the credible profession that is the church’s rule.
ALEXANDER CARSON (1776-1844): Faith in Jesus Christ is the only bond of the union of Christians, and no questions ought ever to be put to any who seek admission among them, but such as are intended to ascertain this. To refuse any whom Christ has received, is as sinful as to receive those whom Christ has rejected. It is the very spirit of antichrist. Some may think that they discover zeal for the honour of Christ, when they insist on perfect conformity in order to fellowship. But like the Hebrews to whom Paul wrote, they need to be taught the first principles of the oracles of God. Accordingly, we find that when any, in the days of the apostles, confessed their faith in Christ, they were admitted among the disciples.
UNCLE JACK* (174?-1843): If you adopt this method of admitting members, you must see to it that your back door is as wide as the front. You must prepare for dropping them, as readily as you took them up.
MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: We are not prepared to recognize all who ‘call’ themselves Christians as ‘being’ Christians. This is what these people are doing. They assume that if a man says I am a Christian and he belongs to a church, it does not matter what he believes, it does not matter what he denies, if he regards himself as a Christian then they regard him as a Christian. They say that it is wrong to say that any man is not a Christian if he says he is a Christian, irrespective of his belief…We are fighting a battle for the Church, a true conception of the Christian Church.
C. H. SPURGEON: We wish Christ’s church to be as large as possible. God forbid that by any of our winnowing, we should ever cast away one of the precious sons of Zion…But on the other hand, we have no wish to see the church multiplied at the expense of its purity. We do not wish to have a charity so large that it takes in chaff as well as wheat.
JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): The excellence of the church does not consist in multitude, but in purity.
G. CAMPBELL MORGAN (1863-1945): Quality is always the thing that counts in the church of God, and among the disciples of Jesus, not quantity. We have such an unholy passion for quantity. We say, “great crowds go to that church; it is a scene of success.” Not at all. It may be that little chapel down in the valley, or on the hillside, away in the Highlands, or in the valleys of Wales where two and three are gathered, is of more use to God than the great congregation.
DAVID LIVINGSTONE (1813-1873): Nothing will induce me to form an impure church. “Fifty added to the church” sounds well—but if only five of these are genuine, what will it profit in the Great Day?
ALEXANDER CARSON: That true faith—as far as it can be ascertained—is required for a right of admission, is clear with respect to the hesitancy of the Church at Jerusalem, in relation to the reception of Paul. They did not take his mere confession, when they had cause of suspicion that his confession was feigned. He was received not simply on his confession, but on the recommendation of Barnabas, Acts 9:26,27. What a providential thing, then, was it that Paul was stopped a moment at the door of the church at Jerusalem! Even an apostle was not received on his mere profession, when there was a ground of suspicion.
UNCLE JACK: The Church will not suffer half as much, by keeping a dozen worthy members out a little too long, as she will by admitting one individual too soon…It is much easier and safer, to keep unworthy persons out of the Church, than to get them out, after they have been once received.
C. H. SPURGEON: Unconverted members lower the whole tone of the church. How low that tone has now become, let spiritual men judge for themselves.
MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: There are so many people who may be described as spiritual worldlings. If you talk to them about salvation they have the correct view; but if you talk to them about life in general they are worldlings. When it is a matter of the salvation of the soul they have the correct answer; but if you listen to their ordinary conversation about life in this world you will discover a heathen philosophy.
C. H. SPURGEON: Let the door of the church be opened to all sincere souls, but closed against all whose hearts are in the world. It is not even for the worldling’s good that he should hold the form of godliness while he is a stranger to its power. As you love your Lord, and value men’s souls, guard well the entrance of the church.
*Editor’s Note: Uncle Jack was an American preacher, a former black slave, known by no other name.