As if the apostle had said "Go not then to the idol's temples, join not with idolaters in communion to avoid persecution; but come out from amongst them, as an holy people separated to the Lord, and defile not yourselves with any unclean thing; and while you are pure, and cleave to God, he wil own you for his sons and daughters."
Observe here, 1. A pressing exhortation to make a full separation from unclean persons and things, particularly from all idolatry and idolatrous worship; Come out from among them. The words are taken out of Isa_52:11 where the prophet exhorts the remnant of Israel to come fully out of unclean Babylon.
Learn hence, That God expects and requires his saints should make a separation from all uncleanness, but especially from the uncleanness of idolatry. God expects a separation from us, from all unclean courses, from all unclean company, from the presence and appearance of all uncleanness, from communion with idolatrous churches, and from communicating with what is sinful in the truest churches of Christ upon earth.
Observe, 2. A quickening encouragement to back this exhortaion: I will receive you, and be a Father to you.
Here is a twofold promise,
1. Of reception, I will receive you.
2. Of adoption, I will be a father to you.
God will receive them both into his house and heart.
Learn hence, That Almighty God will, as a Father, undoubtedly receive all those into his family and favour who renounce communion with all impurity. As he is Almighty, he is abundantly able, and as he is a Father, he is graciously willing, to recompense all the services and sufferings of his children, for the honour and interest of his name and truth.
It is sufficiently known how this text hath been mispplied by separatists to very bad purposes:
1. To justify their schismatical separation from the best and purest of the reformed churches, under pretence of finding greater purity among themselves: whereas nothig will justify a separation from a church, but that which makes a separation between God and that church. If the church's way of worship (in their opinion) be faulty, they presently pronounce it false, and they must not join in false worship, if all that is faulty be false worship: if Christ doth not disown his church for that faultiness, we ought not to desert her for it.
2. Others would seek occasion from these words, to justify their practice, in refusing to come to the Lord's table where some vicious persons are apprehended to be, lest they should pollute the ordinance, and there touch the unclean thing; whereas the presence of a bad man at the sacrament pollutes the ordinance only to himself; for unto the pure all things are pure; and who will neglect a certain duty, to escape an uncertain danger? True, we must not own such worship, as we know God rejecteth. But as God pardoneth the faulty imperfections of other men's worship, and of our own also, thus must we bear with our own and one another's failings that are tolerable, so far as we cannot cure them.
Woe unto us, had Almighty God no more charity for us than we have for one another! A defective worship is not a false worship; sinful defects in the administration of ordinances, do not hinder the saving effects of ordinances; a wise and good man is certainly as great an enemy to separation, as he is to superstition: doctrines crying up purity, to the ruin of unity, reject; for the gospel calls for unity, as well as for purity.