Extracts from Durham on Scandal
Copyright (c) Naphtali Press 1996
A Treatise Concerning Scandal Historical Introduction by David C. Lachman, Ph.D.
A Treatise Concerning Scandal by James Durham Author’s Introduction
The Rise Of The Following Treatise
Having had occasion to consider the Book of the Revelation, and being on the Epistle to the Church of Pergamos in the second chapter, ground was given to speak something of Scandal, by reason of several doctrines clearly arising from that place. Upon this occasion I did first essay the writing of something of the doctrine of scandal in general, intending only to have spent a sheet or two thereupon, as elsewhere on some other subjects. When this was brought to a close, I found the place to give ground to speak of public church offenses, as they are the object of church discipline and censures. And being convinced, that that subject was not impertinent to be spoken of, I yielded to spend some thoughts upon it also, which did draw to a greater length than at first was intended or was suitable for a digression. This being finished, as it is, and any more thoughts of this subject laid by, it occurred again to me to think of doctrinal scandals or of scandalous errors. And considering that the scandals mentioned in that place, are of such nature, and that such are very frequent in this time, I yielded also to put together what thoughts the Lord would furnish concerning the same, whereupon followed the third part of this treatise.
When this was even at the closing, there was a fourth part of the same subject that did occur to me to be thought on, which before that had never been minded, and that was concerning scandalous church divisions. To this my mind and inclination was exceedingly averse at first, as knowing it not only to be difficult in itself to be meddled in, but also exceedingly above me, who am altogether unsuitable to hazard on such a subject. Yet considering the rise of the motion, and how the Lord had helped through the other parts, I did resolve to condescend to follow it, at least so far till it might appear what was his mind to me therein, and accordingly did follow it till it came to the period (whatever it be) that now it is at.
This is the true rise and occasion of this treatise, and of the several parts thereof, and therefore I have continued its entry in the original mold thereof, to wit, in laying down some general doctrines from that place of Scripture, and if there is afterward any more particular relation to the second and third chapters of the Revelation than to other Scriptures, this simple narration of the rise thereof may satisfy any concerning the same. Whereof we shall say no more, but first lay down grounds of all from that text, and then proceed in the treatise, which is divided in four parts, upon the reasons formerly hinted.
The Grounds Of This Treatise
Among other things that troubled the church in the primitive times, scandal, or offense, was a chief one. The many directions that are given concerning it, and the reproofs that are of it, show that it is a main piece of a Christian’s conversation to walk rightly in reference thereto, and a great evidence of looseness where it is not heeded. On verse 6 [Rev. 2], we show that this was a sole fault of the Nicolaitans to be careless of offending, or of giving of offense, and not to regard scandal; and here the Lord holds it forth to be so by comparing it with Balaam’s practice (v. 14), which is aggreaged from this, that he taught Balak to lay a stumbling block before Israel. From which these doctrines may be gathered:
1. That there is such a fault incident to men in their carriage, even to lay stumbling-blocks before others and to offend them.
2. That men ought to walk so as not to offend others, or so as to lay no stumbling-block before them. So that it is not enough not to stumble themselves (if this could be separated from the other), but also they ought to be careful not to stumble others.
3. The Lord takes special notice how men do walk in reference to others in this, and is highly provoked where he sees any guilty of it.
4. The Devil has ever endeavored to have offenses abounding in the church, and to make some lay such stumbling-blocks before others.
5. It is most hurtful to the church, and destructive to souls where offenses abound, and men walk not tenderly in reference to these; so that the Lord expresses it with a twofold woe (Matt. 18), as being a woe beyond sword and pestilence.
6. We may gather that corrupt doctrine never [lacks] offenses joined with it, and that ordinarily those who spread that, are untender in this.
7. That offenses often accompany the rise and beginning of any work of Christ’s among a people; these tares of offenses are ordinarily then sown.
8. That some offenses are of a public nature, and that church officers should take notice of such, and that it is offensive to Christ when they are overlooked and not taken heed unto.
9. Church officers, even such as otherways are approved in their carriage and ministry, may fall in this fault, as by comparing the Epistles to Pergamos and Thyatira, is clear.
10. When officers fall in this fault, it is yet no reprovable thing in members that are pure in respect of their own personal carriage, to continue in communion with such a church, the ordinances otherways being pure.