Durham lectures on Rev. 18:1-8, from pp. 862-69 (Old Paths Pub. 2000 ed.).
We find 3 questions in response the the first Exhortation in vs.4-5 (pg 866)
Rev 18:4-5 And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.
Q 1. What sort of separation this is, which is called for?
To which his answer includes a distinction between schism, separation (whole versus in part), and secession. Some are lawful, some are not.
Q 2. In matter of fact, if any godly have been, may be, or are to be in Rome before its destruction?
To which his answer includes a distinction between the elect who are regenerated and called, versus elected but un-called.
Q 3. What is the necessity or warrant of separating from Rome? and what more now than before? And why Babylon is to be separated from, if this be peculiar to her?
To which his answer includes the true nature of Rome versus His people, as well as the greater hazard in Durham’s day to stay in Rome, than in former days.
Not going into details, but encouraging you to go pick up and read this brief section in his commentary, his conclusion follows, and note what Durham says about “True Churches”:
…1. That it is no schism to quit fellowship with Rome, she being no wife to the Lamb, is therefore no mother to His Children; she giveth them poison for sincere milk, by corrupting the truth of the Gospel, and not suffering them to feed upon the Truth: She hath been condemning, persecuting and destroying the true worshipers for many generations together, and would have no fellowship with any without the beast’s character; therefore is there a necessity of separating, as was said to the Witnesses, Chap. 11. Come up hither, and here, Come out of her.
2. It followeth also, that folks not only may quit Rome, but of duty they should do it, in obedience to Christ’s call, and they would try their warrant that go there for curiosity, seeing here is a command to quit it; Who are they that know what night or day this horrible judgment will be executed? it were dreadful curiosity to be found there then.
3. It followeth that where God warranteth separation, it is from a company that is no Church, and must be supposed a Babel; and therefore there is no separation allowed by Him from a true Church, seeing this is a proof of His disclaiming her to be a Church, to command them to separate from her. Therefore here is Babylon contra-distinguished from His People, who are called to come out of her: which supposeth that He calleth none of His to separate from such as are His. It’s one thing to withdraw from civil conversing with particular wicked men, another thing to separate from God’s Church for its defects.
There is therefore this observable in separating and withdrawing, that we are to keep less fellowship in civil things with a Brother that is a Church member and is gross, than with one that is without, and not a member, as the Apostle writeth, 2 Cor. 5:10.
But we may and should, on the other side, keep Church-fellowship with a true Church, though in many things faulty and corrupt, whereas we may not at all with an idolatrous company in their worship.
Hence, in that same Epistle to the Corinthians, going to, and eating in, Idol’s Temples, or at their feasts, was so much condemned; yet communicating with the Church of Corinth, or living as a member of it, (though corrupt both in doctrine and in practice) was never found fault-with as to worship: for, it is clear, that that of not eating with an offending Brother, looketh only to civil fellowship, because it is such a fellowship that is condemned with them, as is allowed to heathens, which is certainly is such: If our Churches therefore be Christ’s Churches, as sometimes the favorers of separating grant, there can be no separation from them without turning to schism.
Make sure to read the latest Sabbath a’Brakel for a piece of Lord’s Day edification.