The Lord Jesus Christ, the head of his Church, is the Proton Lektiko`n, the first proper subject of the soveraign power of the keyes. He hath the key of David: He openeth, and no man shutteth; He shutieth, and no man openeth, Rev.3.7. The government is upon his shoulder, Isa.9.6. And himself declareth the same to his Apostles, as the ground of his granting to them Apostolicall power. All power (saieth he) is given to me in heaven and earth, Matth.28.18. Go ye therefore, &c.
Hence 1. All legislative power (power of making of Laws) in the Church is in him, and not from him derived to any other, Jam.4.12. Isa.33.22. The power derived to others, is onely to publish and execute his Laws and Ordinances, and to see them observed, Mat.28.20. His Laws are perfect, Psal.19.9. and do make the man of God perfect to every good work, 2 Tim.3.17. and need no addition.
2. From his soveraign power it proceedeth, that he onely can erect and ordain a true constitution of a Church-estate, Heb.3.3 to 6. He buildeth his own house, and setteth the pattern of it, as God gave to David the pattern of Solomons Temple, 1 Chron.28.19. None hath power to erect any other Church-frame, then as this Master-builder hath left us a pattern thereof in the Gospel. In the Old Testament the Church set up by him was Nationall, in the New, Congregationall; yet so as that in sundrie cases it is ordered by him, many congregations or their messengers, may be assembled into a Synod. Act.15.
3. It is from the same soveraigne power, that all the offices, or ministeries in the Church are ordained by him, 1 Cor.12.5. yea and all the members are set in the body by him, together with all the power belonging to their offices and places; as in the naturall body, so in the Church.1 Cor.12.18.
4. From this soveraigne power in like sort it is, that all gifts to discharge any office, by the officers, or any duty by the members are from him, 1 Cor.12.11. All treasures of wisdome, and knowledge, and grace, and the fulnesse thereof, are in him for that end, Col.2.3. and v.9.10. Joh.1.16.5.
5. From this soveraigne power it is, that all the spirituall power, and efficacie, and blessing, in the administration of these gifts in these offices and places, for the gathering and edifying, and perfecting of all the Churches, and of all the Saints in them is from him, Mat.28.20. Lo I am with you alwayes, &c. Col.1.29.1 Cor.15.9.
The good pleasure of the Father, the personall union of the humane nature with the eternall Son of God, -His -purchase of his Church with his own blood, and His deep humiliation of himself unto the death of the Crosse, have all of them obtained to him this his highest exaltation, to be head over all things unto the Church, and to injoy as king thereof this soveraigne power, Col.1.19. Col.184.108.40.206. Act.20.28. Phil.2.8. to 11.
But of this soveraigne power of Christ, there is no question amongst Protestants, especially studious of Reformation. Now as concerning the ministerial power, we give these following Propositions.
I. Propos. A particular Church or Congregation of Saints, professing the faith, TAKEN INDEFINITELY FOR ANY CHURCH (one as well as another) is the first subject of all the Church offices, with all their spirituall gifts and power, which Christ hath given to be executed amongst them; whether it be Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, all are yours, (speaking to the Church of Corinth, 1 Cor.3.22.) not as a peculiar priviledge unto them, but common to them with any other particular Church. And theirs was such a Church, of whom it is said; That they came all together into one place, for the communication of their spirituall gifts, 1 Cor.14.23. And Paul telleth the same Church, that God hath set the officers and their gifts, and all variety of members, and their functions in his Church, 1 Cor.12.28, where it is not so well translated [some] God hath set some in his Church, for hee hath set all; but speaking of the members of the Church, v.27. he proceedeth to exemplifie those members in v.28. kai ous men etheto ho theos en te ekklesia, and which God hath set in his Church; that is, which members, Apostles, Prophets, &c. For though the Relative be not of the same gender with the Antecedent before, yet it is an usuall thing with the pen-men of the New Testament, to respect the sense of the words, and so the person intended, rather then the gender of their name, and to render the Relative of the same gender and case with the Substantive following: so here o'us me`n Aposto'lous Prophe'tas, &c.
In the new Testament, it is not a new observation that wee never read of any nationall church, nor of any nationall officers given to them by Christ. In the old Testament indeed, we reade of a nationall church. All the tribes of Israel were three times in a yeer to appeare before the Lord in Jerusalem, Deut.16.16. And he appointed them there an high Priest of the whole nation, and certain solemne sacrifices by him to be administered. Lev.16.1 to 29. And together with him other Priests and Elders, and Judges, to whom all appeals should be brought, and who should judge all difficult and transendent cases, Deut.16.8 to 11. but wee reade of no such nationall church, or high Priest, or Court in the new Testament; And yet we willingly grant that particular churches of equal! power, may in some cases appointed by Christ, meet together by themselves, or by their messengers in a Synod, and may perform sundry acts of power there, as hath been showed above. But the officers themselves, and all the Brethren members of the Synod; yea, and the Synods themselves, and all the power they put forth, they are all of them primarily given to the severall churches of particular Congregations, either as the first subject in whom they are resident, or as the first object about whom they are conversant, and for whose sake they are gathered and imployed.
II. Propos. The Apostles of Christ were the first suliect of Apostolicall power; Apostolicall power stood chiefly in two things; First, in that each Apostle had in him all ministeriall power of all the officers of the Church. They by vertue of their office might exhort as Pastors, 1 Tim.2.1. teach as Teachers, 1 Tim.2.7. rule as Rulers, 2 Tim.4.1. receive and distribute the oblations of the Church as Deacons, Act.4.35. Yea, any one Apostle or Evangelist carried about with him the liberty and power of the whole Church and therefore might Baptize; yea, and censure an offender too, as if he had the presence, and concurrence of the whole Church with him. For we reade that Philip baptized the Eunuch without the presence of any Church, Act 8.38. And that Paul himself excommunicated Alexander, 1 Tim.1.20. And it is not mentioned that hee took the consent of any Church or Presbyterie in it. It is true indeed, where hee could have the consent and concurse of the Church and Presbyterie in exercise of any act of Church power, he willingly took it, and joyned with it, as in the ordination of Timothy (2 Tim.1.6. with 1 Tim.4.14.) And in the excommunication of the incestuous Corinthian, 1 Cor.5.4, 5. But when both himself and the person to be baptized, or ordained or excommunicated, were absent and distant from all churches, the Apostles might proceed to put forth their power in the administration of any church act without them. The amplitude and plenitude of power, which they received immediately from Christ would beare them out in it. As my Father sent me, (saith Christ) (to wit, with amplitude and plenitude of soveraigne power, so send I you (with like amplitude and plenitude of ministeriall power) Joh.20.21.
2. Apostolicall power extendeth itself to all churches, as much as to any one. Their line went out into all the world, (Psal.19.4. compared with Rom.10.) And as they received commission to preach and baptize in all the world, Mat.28.19. So they received charge to feed the flock of Christs Sheep and Lambs (which implyeth all acts of Pastorall government over all the Sheep and Lambs of Christ) Joh.24.15, 16, 17. Now this Apostolicall power, centring all church-power into one man, and extending itself forth to the circumference of all churches, as the Apostles were the first subject of it, so were they also the last; neverthelesse that ample and universall latitude of power, which was conjoyned in them, is now divided even by themselves amongst all the Churches, and all the officers of the Churches respectively, the officers of each church attending the charge of the particular church committed to them, by vertue of their office, and yet none of them neglecting the good of other churches, so far as they may be mutually helpfull to one another in the Lord.
III. Propos. When the church of a particular congregation walketh together in the truth and peace, the Brethren of the church are the first subject of church-liberty, and the Elders thereof of church-authority; and both of them together are the first subject of all church-power needful to be exercised within themselves, whether in the election and ordination of officers, or in the censure of offenders in their own body.
Of this Proposition there be three Branches; 1. That the Brethren of a particular church of a Congregation, are the first subjects of church liberty: 2. That the Elders of a particular church, are the first subjects of church-authority: 3. That both the Elders and Brethren, walking and joyning together in truth and peace, are the first subjects of all church-power, needful to be exercised in their own body.
Now that the key of church-priviledge or liberty is given to the Brethren of the church, and the key of rule and authority to the Elders of the church, hath been declared above in Chapt.3. But that these are the first subjects of these keys; and first the church, the first subject of liberty, may appeare thus.
From the removall of any former subject of this power or liberty, from whence they might derive it. If the Brethren of the congregation were not the first subject of their church-liberty, then they derived it either from their own Elders, or from other churches. But they derived it not from their own Elders; for they had power and liberty to choose their own elders, as hath been showed above, and therefore they bad this liberty before they had Elders, and so could not derive it from them.
Nor did. they derive it from other particular churches. For all particular churches are of equall liberty and power within themselves, not one of them subordinate to another. Wee reade not in Scripture, that the Church of Corinth, was subject to that of Ephesus, nor that of Ephesus to Corinth, no, nor that of Cenchrea to Corinth, though it was a church situate in their vicinity.
Nor did they derive their libertie from a Synod of Churches. For we found no foot-step in the pattern of Synods, Act.15. that the Church of Antioch borrowed any of their liberties from the Synod at Jerusalem. They borrowed indeed light from them, and decrees, tending to the establishment of truth and peace. For upon the publishing of the. decrees of that Synod, the Churches were established in the faith (or truth), Act.16.4.5. and also in consolation and peace, Act.15.31.32. but they did not borrow from them any church-liberty at all.
2. Now, the second branch of the Proposition was, That the Elders of the Church of a particular Congregation, are the first subject of rule or authority, in that church (or congregation) over which the Holy Ghost hath made them over-seers.
1. From the charge of rule over the Church committed to them immediately from Christ: For though the Elders be chosen to their office by the church of Brethren, yet the office itself is ordained immediately by Christ, and the rule annexed to the office, is limited by Christ only. If the Brethren of the Church should elect a Presbyterie to be called by them in the Lord, this will not excuse the Presbyters in their neglect of rule, either before the Lord, or to their own consciences. For thus runneth the Apostles charge to the Elders of Ephesus, (Act.20.28.) Take heed to yourselves, and to the whole flock, over which the Holy Ghost hash made you overseers.
2. The same appeareth from the gift of rule, required especially in an Elder, without which they are not capable of election to that office in the Church, 1 Tim.3.4.5. He must be one that is able to rule well is own house, or else how shall he order the Church of God? The like gift of rule is not necessary to the admission of a member into the church, as to the election of an Elder: If a private brother be not so well able (through weaknesse in prudence or courage) to rule his own house, it will not justly debarre him from entrance into the church; but the like defect will justly debar a man from election to the office of an Elder. Neither hath God given a spirit of rule and government ordinarily to the greater part of the body of the brethren: and therefore neither hath he given them the first Receipt of the key of Authoritie, to whom he hath not given the gift to employ it.
If it be objected: How can the brethren of the Church invest an Elder with rule over them, if they had not power of rule in themselves to communicate to him?
Answ. They invest him with rule, partly by chusing him to the office which God hath invested with rule, partly by professing their own subjection to him in the Lord: we by the rule of Relatives do necessarily inferre, and preferre the authoritie of the Elders over them. For in yeelding subjection, they either set up, or acknowledge Authoritie in him, to whom they yeeld subjection.
Obj.2. The body of the Church is the Spouse of Christ, the Lambs wife, and ought not the wife to rule the servants and stewards in the house, rather than they her? Is it not meet that the keyes of Authoritie should hang at her girdle rather than at theirs?
Answ. There is a. difference to be put between Queens, Princesses, Ladies of great Honor, (such as the Church is to Christ, Psal.45.9.) and countrey huswives, poore mens wives. Queens and great persons have severall offices and officers for every businesse and service about the house, as Chamberlains, Stewards, Treasurers, Comptrollers, Vshers, Bayliffs,, Groomes, and Porters, who have all the authoritie of ordering the affairs of their Lords house in their hands. There is not a key left in the Queen's hand of any office, but onely of power and libertie to call for what she wanteth according to the Kings royall allowance: which if she exceed, the officers have power to restrain her by order from the King. But countrey huswives, and poore mens wives, whose husbands have no Officers, Bayliffs, or Stewards, to oversee and order their estates, they may carry the keyes of any office at their own girdles, which the husband keepeth not in his own hand, not because poore huswives have greater authoritie in the house then Queens; but because of their poverty and mean estate, they are fain to be instead of many servants to their husbands.
Obj.3. The whole body naturall, is the first subject of all the naturall power of any member in the body; as the facultie of sight is first in the body, before in the eye.
Answ. It is not in the mysticall body (the Church) in all respects alike, as in the naturall body. In the naturall body there be all the faculties of each part actually inexistent, though not exerting or putting forth themselves, till each member be articulated and formed. But in the body of the Church of Brethren it is not so. All the several functions of Church power, are not actually inexistent in the body of Brethren, unlesse some of them have the gifts of all the officers, which often they have not, having neither Presbyters, nor men fit to be Presbyters. Now if the power of the Presbytery were given to a particular Church of Brethren, as such, primo and per se, then it would be found in every particular Church of Brethren. For a Quatenus ad omnia valet conseguentia.
Obj.4. But it is an usuall tenent in many of our best Divines, that the government of the Church is mixt of a Monarchy, an Aristocracie, and a Democracie; In regard of Christ the head, the government of the church is soveraigne and monarchicall. In regard of the Rule by the Presbytery, it is stewardly and Aristocraticall: in regard of the peoples power in elections and censures, it is Democraticall: which argueth, the people have some stock of kra'tos power and authoritie in the government of the Church.
Answ. In a large sense, Authoritie after a sort may be acknowledged in the people. As 1. When a man acteth by counsell according to his own discerning freely, he is then said to be autexo'usios, Dominus sui actus. So the people in all the acts of liberty which they put forth, are Domini sui actus, Lords of their own action.
2. The people by their acts of liberty, as in election of officers, and concurrency in censure of offenders, and in the Determination and Promulgation of Synodall acts, they have a great stroke or power in the ordering of Church affairs, which may be called kra'tos or potestas, a POWER, which many times goeth under the name of rule or authoritie, but in proper speech it is rather a priviledge, or liberty then authoritie, as hath been opened above in Chap.3. For no act of the peoples power or liberty cloth properly bind, unlesse the authoritie of the Presbytery concur with it.
3. A third argument whereby it may appear that the Elders of a particular Church are the first subject of authoritie in that Church, is taken from the like removall of other subjects, from whence they might be thought to derive their authoritie, as was used before to prove the Church of Brethren was the first subject of their own libertie in their own Congregation. The Elders of Churches are never found in Scripture to derive their authority which they exercise in their own Congregation, either from the Elders of other Churches, or from any Synod of Churches. All particular Churches, and all the Elders of them are of equall power, each of them respectively in their own Congregation. None of them call others their Rabbies, or Masters, or Fathers, (in respect of any authoritie over them) but all of them owa ,and acknowledge one another as fellow Brethren, Matth.220.127.116.11.
And though in a Synod they have received power .from Christ, and from his presence in the Synod, to exercise Authoritie in imposing burthens (such as the holy Ghost layeth) upon all Churches whose Elders are present with them, Acts 15.28. (for the Apostles were Elders in all Churches) yet the Elders of every particular Church, when they walk with the brethren of their own Church in light and peace, they need not to derive from the Synod any power to impose the same, or the like burthens upon their owne Churches. For they have received a power and charge from Christ, to teach and command with all authoritie the whole counsell of God unto their people. And the people discerning the light of the truth delivered, and walking in peace with their Elders, they readily yeeld obedience to their Over-seers in whatsoever they see and hear by them commended to them from the Lord.
3. Now we come to the third branch of the third Proposition, which was this. That the Church of a particular Congregation, Elders and Brethren, walking and and joyning together in truth and peace, are the first subject of all Church-power, needfull to be exercised within themselves, whether in the election or ordination of officers, or in the censure of offenders in their own body.
The truth hereof may appear by these Arguments.1. In point of ordination. From the compleat integritie of a ministers calling (even to the satisfaction of his own and the peoples conscience) when both the Brethren and the Elders of the particular Church whereto he is called, have. put forth the power which belongeth to them about him. As, when the Brethren of the Church have chosen him to office, and the Presbyterie of the Church have laied their hands upon him; and both of them in their severall acts have due respect to the inward ministeriall gifts whereunto God hath furnished him: he may then look at himself as called by the holy Ghost, to exercise his talents in that office amongst them, and the people may and ought to receive him, as sent of God to them.
What defect may be found in such a call, when the Brethren exercise their lawfull libertie, and the Elders their lawfull authority, in his ordination, and nothing more is required to the compleat integritie of a Ministers calling? If it be said there wanted imposition of hands by the Bishop, who succeedeth in the place of Timothy and Titus, whom the Apostle Paul left the one in Ephesus, the other in Crete, to ordain Elders in many Churches. Tit.1.5.
Answ. Touching ordination by Timothy, and Titus, and (upon pretence of them) by Bishops, enough hath been said by many godly learned heretofore, especially of later times.
The summe cometh to these conclusions.1. That Timothy and Titus did not ordain Elders in many Churches, as Bishops, but as Evangelists. Timothy is expressly termed an Evangelist.2 Tim.4.5. And Titus is as clearly decyphered to be an Evangelist as Timothy, by the characters of an Evangelist, which either Scripture holdeth forth, or Eusebius noteth in his Ecclesiast. histor. lib.3. cap.37. Gr. Cap.31. Lat. Not to be limited to a certain Church, but to follow the Apostles, finishing their work in planting and watering Churches, where they came. They did indeed ordain officers where they wanted, and exercised jurisdiction (as the Apostles did) in severall Churches; yet with the rest of the Presbyterie, and in the presence of the whole Church.1 Tim.5. But for the continuance of this office of an Evangelist in the Church, time is no direction in the Epistles either to Timothy or Titus, or any where else in Scripture.
2. Conclusion. Those Bishops whose callings or offices in the Church, are set forth in those Epistles to be continued: they are altogether Synonyma with Presbyters. Tit.18.104.22.168 Tim.3.1. to 7.
3. Conclusion. We read of many Bishops to one Church, Phil.1.1. Acts 14.23. and Chap.20.17.28. Tit.1.5.7. but not of many Churches (much lesse all the Churches in a large Diocesse) to one Bishop.
4. Conclus. There is no transcendent proper work, cut out, or reserved for such a transcendent officer as a Diocesan Bishop throughout the New Testament. The transcendent acts reserved to him by the Advocates of Episcopacie, are Ordination and Jurisdiction. Now both these are acts of Rule. And Paul to Timothy acknowledgeth no Rulers in the Church above Pastors and Teachers, who labour in word and doctrine; but rather, Pastors and Teachers above them. The Elders (saith he) that rule well, are worthy of double honour, but especially they that labour in word and doctrine.1 Tim.5.17.
5. Conclus. When after the Apostles times, one of the Pastors by way of eminencie, was called Bishop for order sake, yet for many yeers he did no act of power, but 1. With consent of the Presbyterie.2. With consent and in the presence of the people. As is noted out of Eusebius Ecclesiast. Histor. lib.6. ca.43. Gr. ca.35. Lat. Cyprian Epist. lib.3. Epist.10, & lib.1. Epist.3. Casaub. adversus Baronium, exercitat.15. num.28.
When it is alledged out of Hierome to confirm the same, that in the primitive times, Communi Presbyterorum consilio, Ecclesiæ gubernabantur. It is a weak and poore evasion, to put it off with observing, that he saith, Communi Presbyterorum consilio, not, authoritate. For l. No authoritie is due to Presbyters over the Bishop or Pastor, no more then to the Pastor over them. They are sumpresbu'teroi, fellow Elders, and coequall in authoritie. And 2. when Hierome saith, The Churches were governed by the common counsell of them all; It argueth nothing was done against their counsell, but all with it, else it might be said, the Bishop governed the Churches with the common counsell of Presbyters, to wit, asked, but not followed. And that would imply a contradiction to Hieroms testimonie, to. say the Cliurches were governed by the sole authoritie of Bishops, and yet not without asking the common counsell of the Presbyters. For in asking their counsell and not following it, the Bishop should order and govern the Churches against their counsell. Now that the Churches were governed by the common counsell of Presbyters, and against the common counsell of Presbyters, are flat contradictories.
2. For a second Argument, to prove that the Brethren of the Church of a particular congregation, walking with their Elders in truth and peace, are the first subject of all that Church power which is needfull to be exercised in their own body: It is taken.
From their indispensible and independent power in Church censures. The censure that is ratified in heaven cannot be dispensed withall, nor reversed by any power on earth. Now the censure that is administered by the Church of a particular congregation, is ratified in Heaven. For so saith the Lord Jesus touching the power of Church censures, Matth.18.17.18. If the offender refuse to hear the Church, let him be to thee as a heathen and a Publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth, shall be bound in Heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth; shall be loosed in heaven. Against this Argument from this Text many objections are wont to be made, but none that will hold.
Object.1. By Church in Mat.18.17. is not meant the Christian Church (for it was not yet extant, nor could the Apostles then have understood Christ if he had so meant) but the Jewish church, and so he delivereth their censure, in a Jewish phrase to account a man as an Heathen and a Publican.
Answ.1. The Christian Church, though it was not then extant, yet the Apostles knew as well what- be meant by Church in Mat.18.17. as they understood what he meant by building his Church upon the Rock in Mat.16.18. It was enough the Apostles looked for a Church which Christ would gather, and build upon the confession of Peters faith; and being built, should be indued with heavenly power in their censures, which they more fully understood afterwards, when having received the Holy Ghost, they came to put these things in practice.
Answ.2. The allusion, in the Church-censure to the Jewish custome, in accounting a man as an Heathen and Publican, doth not argue that Christ directeth his Disciples to complain of scandals to the Jewish Synagogues; but only directeth them how to walk towards obstinate offenders, excommunicated by the Christian Church, to wit, to walk towards them, as the Jews walk towards Heathens, (to wit, denying to them religious communion) and as towards Publicans, with-holding from them familiar civill communion; for so the Jews said to Christs Disciples, Why eateth your Master with Publicans and Sinners?
Answ.3. It is .not credible, that Christ would send his Disciples to make complaint of their offences to the Jewish Synagogues:
For, first, Is it likely he would send his Lambs and Sheep, for right and healing, unto Wolves and Tigers? Both their Sanhedrim, and most of their Synagogues were no better. And if here and there some Elders of their Synagogues were better affected, yet how may it appear that so it was, where any of themselves dwelt? And if that might appear too, yet had not the Jews already agreed; That if any man did confesse Christ, he should be cast out of the Synagogues. Joh.9.22.
Obj.2. Against the argument from this Text, it is objected; That by the Church is meant the Bishop, or his Commissary?
Answ.1. One man is not the Church.
If it be said, oneman may represent a Church; the reply is ready: one man cannot represent the Church, unlesse he be sent forth by the Church, but so is neither the Bishop nor his Commissary. They send not for them, but they come unsent for, (like water into a ship,) chiefly for the terror of the servants of Christ, and for the encouragement of the prophane. And though some of Christ's servants have found some favour from some few of Bishops, (men of more learning and ingenuity) yet those Bishops have found the lesse favour themselves from their fellow-Bishops.
Answ.2. The Bishop ordinarily is no member of the Church of that Congregation, where the offence is committed, and what is his satisfaction to the removall of the offence given to the Church?
Answ.3. The new Testament acknowledgeth no such ruler in the Church, as claimeth honour above the Elders that labour in word and Doctrine, 1 Tim.8.17.
Object.3. To tell the Church, is to tell the Presbyterie of the Church.
Answ.1. We deny not The offence is to be told to the Presbyterie; yet not to them as the Church, but as the guides of the Church, who, if upon hearing the cause, and examining the witnesses, they finde it ripe for pub-like censure, they are then to propound it to the Church; and to try and cleer the state of the cause before the Church, that so the church discerning fully the nature and quality of the offence may consent to the judgement and sentence of the Elders against it, to the confusion of the offender; and the publike edification of them all, who hearing and fearing, will learn to beware of the like wickednesse.
Answ.2. The Church is never put for the Presbyterie alone (throughout the new Testament) though sometime it be put expressly for the Fraternitie alone, as they are distinguished from the Elders and Officers, Act 15.22. and therefore Tell the Church, cannot be meant Tell the Presbyterie alone.
Object. In the old Testament, the Congregation is often put for the Elders and Rulers of the Congregation.
Answ. Let all the places alledged be examined, and it will appeare, that in matters of judgement, where the Congregation is put for the Elders and Rulers, it is never meant (for ought we can finde) of the Elders and Rulers alone, sitting apart, and retired from the Congregation; but sitting in the presence of the Congregation, and hearing, and judging causes before them: In which case, if a sentence have passed from a Ruler, with the dislike of the Congregation, they have not stuck to shew their dislike, sometime by protesting openly against it (as 1 Sam.14.44.45.) sometime by refusing to execute it. (1 Sam.22.16.17.) And what the people of the Congregation lawfully did in some cases, at some times, in waiving and counterpoizing the sentence of their Rulers, the same they might and ought to have done in the like cases at any time. The whole Host or Congregation of Israel might protest against an unrighteous illegall sentence; and a part of the Congregation, who discerned the iniquity of a sentence, might justly withdraw themselves from the execution of it.
Object.4. When Christ said Tell the Church, hee meant a Synodicall or Classicall assembly of the Presbyters of many Churches. For it was his meaning and purpose in this place, to prescribe a rule for the removing of all scandals out of the Church, Which cannot be done by telling the Church of one Congregation; for what if an Elder offend; yea, what if the whole Presbytery offend? The people or Brethren have not power to judge their Judges, to rule their Rulers. Yea, what if the whole Congregation fall under an offence (as they may do, Lev.4.13.) a Synod of many Presbyters may reform them, but so cannot any one Congregation alone; if the Congregation that gave the offence stand out in it.
Answ.1.. Reserving due honour to Synods rightly ordered, or (which is all one) a Classis or Convention of Presbyters of particular churches, we do not finde that a Church is any where put for a Synod of Presbyteries. And it were very incongruous in this place: For though it be said a particular Congregation cannot reach the removall of all offences; so it may be as truly said, that it were unmeet to trouble Synods with every offence that falleth out in a Congregation; Offences fall out often, Synods meet but seldome; and when they do meet, they finde many more weighty imployments, then to attend to every offence of every private brother. Besides, as an whole particular Congregation may offend, so may a generall Assembly of all the Presbyters in a Nation offend also: For generall councels have erred; and what remedy shall be found to remove such errors and offences out of this Text? Moreover, if an offence be found in a Brother of a Congregation, and the Congregation be found faithfull and willing to remove it by due censure; why should the offence be calleth up to more publike judicature, and the plaister made broader than the sore?
Again, if an Elder offend, the rest of the Presbytery with the Congregation joyning together, may proceed against him, (if they cannot otherwise heal him) and so remove the offence from amongst them. If the whole Presbyterie offend, or such, a part as will draw a party and a faction in the Church with them, their readiest course is, to bring the matter then to a Synod. For though this place in Matthew direct not to that; yet the Holy Ghost leaveth us not without direction in such a case, but giveth us a pattern in the Church of Antioch, to repaire to a Synod. And the like course is to be taken in the offence of a whole Congregation, if it be persisted in with obstinacy. Neither is it true which was said, that it was the purpose of Christ in Mat.18.17. to prescribe a rule for the removall of all offences out of the Church; but only of such private and lesse hainous offences, as grow publike and notorious only by obstinacy of the offenders: For if offences be hainous and publike at first, the holy Ghost doth not direct us to proceed in such a generall course from a private admonition by one brother alone, and then to a second, by one or two more, and at last, to tell it to the Church. But in such a case the Apostle giveth another rule, (1 Cor.5.11.) to cast an hainous notorious offender, both out of church-communion, and private familiar communion also.
Object.5. The Church here spoken of, Mat.18.17. is such an one, as whereto a complaint may orderly be made: But a complaint cannot be orderly made to a multitude, such as an whole Congregation is.
Answ. And why may not a complaint be orderly made to a whole multitude? The Levite made an orderly complaint to a greater multitude, then 400 particular Congregations are wont to amount to, Jud.20.1, 2, 3, 4, &c.
Object.6. The Church here to be complained of meeteth with authority, (for censures are administered with authority) but the Church of a particular Congregation meeteth with humility, to seek the face and favour or God.
Answ. Humility to God may well stand with authority to men. The 24 Elders (who represent the growne heyres of the church of the new Testament) they are said in Church-assemblies to sit upon thrones with crownes on their heads, Rev.4.4. yet when they fall down to worship God and the Lamb, they cast down their crownes at his feet, v.10.
Object.7. In the church of a particular Congregation, a woman may not speak: but in this Church here spoken of, they may speak; for they may be offenders, and offenders must give an account of their offences.
Answ. When the Apostle forbiddeth women to speak in the church, he meaneth, speaking partly by way of authority, as in publike praying or prophesying in the Church, (1 Tim.2.12) partly by way of bold inquiry, in asking questions publikely of the Prophets in the face of the Church, 1 Cor.14.34. But to answer it: if the whole Congregation have taken just offence at the open sin of a woman, she is bound as much to give satisfaction to the whole Congregation, as well as to the Presbyterie.
Object.8. When Schismes grew to be scandalous in the Church of Corinth, the household of Chloe told not the whole Congregation of it, but Paul, 1 Cor.1.11.
Answ. The contentions in the Church of Corinth were not the offence of a private brother, but of the whole Church. And who can tell whether they had not spoken of it to the Church before? But whether they had or no, the example only argueth, that Brethren offended with the sins of their brethren, may tell an Elder of the Church of it, that he may tell it to the Church, which no man denyeth. Paul was an Elder of every Church of Christ, as the other Apostles were, as having the government of all the Churches committed to them all.
Having thus (by the help of Christ) cleered this text in Mat.18.17. from variety of misconstructions (which not the obscurity of the words, but the eminency of the gifts, and worth of Expositors hath made difficult) Let us adde an argument or two more to the same purpose, to prove, that the Church of a particular Congregation, fully furnished with officers, and rightly walking in judgment and peace, is the first subject of all Church-authority, needfull to be exercised within their own body.
3. A third argument to prove this, is usually and justly taken from the practice and example of the Church of Corinth, in the excommunication of the incestuous Corinthian, 1 Cor.5.1. to 5.
Object.1. The excommunication of the incestuous Corinthian, was not an act of judiciall authority in the Church of Corinth, whether Elders or Brethren, but rather an act of subjection to the Apostle, publishing the sentence, which the Apostle had before decreed and judged: for (saith the Apostle) I though absent in body, yet present in spirit, have judged already, concerning him that hath done this deed, &c.
Answ.1. Though Paul (as a chiefe Officer of every church) judged before-hand the excommunication of the incestuous Corinthian: yet his judgment was not a judiciall sentence, delivering him to Satan, but a judicious doctrine and instruction, teaching the Church what they ought to do in that case.
2. The act of the church in Corinth in censuring the incestuous person, was indeed an act of subjection to the Apostles divine doctrine and direction (as all church-censures,) by whomsoever administered, ought to be acts of subjection to-the word of Christ) but yet their act was a compleat act of just power, (even an act of all that liberty and authority which is to be put forth in any censure.) For, first they delivered him to Satan, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and with the power of the Lord Jesus, v.4. and that is the highest power in the Church. Secondly, the spirit of Paul, that is, his Apostolike spirit was gathered together with them, in delivering and publishing the sentence; which argueth, both his power and theirs was co-incident and concurrent in this sentence. Thirdly, the holy end and use of this sentence argueth the heavenly power fro. m whence it proceeded. They delivered him to Satan for the destruction of the flesh (that is, for the mortifying of his corruption) that his soul might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Fourthly, when his soul came to be humble and penitent by. the means of this sentence, Paul intreateth the church to release and forgive him, 2 Cor.2.6. to 10. Now ejusdem potestatis est ligare & solvere, claudere & aperire.
Object.2. All this argueth no more, but that some in the church of Corinth had this power (to wit, the Presbytery of the church, but not the whole body of the people) to excommunicate the offender.
Answ.1. If the Presbyterie alone had put forth this power, yet that sufficed) to make good the Proposition, that every church furnished with a presbyterie, and proceeding righteously and peaceably, they have within themselves so much power as is requisite to be exercised within their own body.
Answ.2. It is apparent by the Text, that the Brethren concurred also in this sentence, and. them with some act of power, to wit, such power as the want of putting it forth, retarded the sentence, and the pitting of it forth was requisite to the administration of the sentence.
For, first, the reproofe for not proceeding to sentence sooner, is directed to the whole church, as well as to the Presbyterie; They are all blamed for not mourning, for not putting him away, for being puffed up rather, 1 Cor.5.2.
2. The commandment is directed to them all, when they are gathered together, (and what is that but to a Church meeting?) to proceed against him.1 Cor.5.4. In like sort, in the end of the Chapter he commandeth them all, Put away therefore from among you that wicked person, v.13.
3. He declareth this act of theirs in putting him out, to be a judiciall act, v.12. Do you not judge them that are within? Say that the judgement of authoritie be proper onely to the Presbytery, yet the judgement of discretion (which as concurring in this act with the Presbytery hath a power in it, as was said) may not be denied to the Brethren: for here is an act of judgement ascribed to them all: which judgement in the Brethren he esteemeth of it so highly, that from thence he taketh occasion to advise the members of the Church; to refer their differences even in civill matters, to the judgement of the Saints or Brethren. Know ye not (saith he) that the Saints shall judge the world? yea the Angels? 1 Cor.22.214.171.124. how much more the things of this life? Yea rather then they should go to Law, add that before Infidels, in any case depending between Brethren, he adviseth them rather to set up the meanest in the Church to hear and judge between them, 1 Cor.6.4.
4. When the Apostle directeth them upon the repentance of an offender, to forgive him, 2 Cor.2.4. to 10. he speaketh to the Brethren as well as to their Elders to forgive him. As they were all (the Brethren as well as the Elders) offended with his sin: so it was meet they should all alike be satisfied, and being satisfied should forgive him: the Brethren in a way of brotherly love, and Church-consent, as well as the Elders, by sentencing his absolution and restitution to the Church.
Obj.3. But was not this Church of Corinth (who had all this power) a metropolis, a mother Church of Achaia, in which many Presbyteries, from many Churches in the villages were assembled to administer this censure?
Ans. No such thing appeareth from the story of the Church of Corinth, neither in the Acts (Act.18) nor from either of the Epistles to the Corinthians. True it is, Corinth was a mother-city, but not a mother-Church to all Achaia: and yet it is not unlikely that other Churches in that region, might borrow much light from their gifts; for they abounded, and were enriched with variety of all gifts, 1 Cor.1.5.7. But yet that which the Apostle calleth the Church of Corinth, even the whole Church was no larger, then was wont to meet together in one place, one congregation, 1 Corinth.14.23.
A fourth and last Argument to prove the Proposition, that every Church so furnished with officers (as hath been said) and so carried on in truth and peace, hath all Church power needfull to be exercised within themselves, is taken from the guilt of offence, which lieth upon every church, when any offence committed by their members lyeth uncensured and unremoved. Christ hath something against the Church of Pergamus, for suffering Balaam and the Nicolaitans, Revel.2.14.15. and something against the Church of Thyatira, for suffering Jezebel. Now if these Churches had not either of them sufficient power to purge out their own offenders, why are they blamed for toleration of them? yea, why are not the neighbour Churches blamed for the sins of these churches? But we see, neither is Pergamus blamed for tolerating Jezebel, nor Thyatira for tolerating Balaam, nor Smyrna for tolerating either. Indeed what Christ writeth to any one Church, his Spirit calleth all the Churches to hearken unto, and so he doth our Churches also at this day: not because he blamed them for the toleration of sins in other Churches, but because he would have them beware of the like remisnesse in tolerating the like offences amongst themselves: and also would provoke them to observe notorious offences amongst their Sister-Churches, and with brotherly love and faithfullnesse to admonish them thereof.
It is an unsound body that wanteth strength to purge out his own vicious and malignant humours. And every Church of a particular congregation, being a bodie, even a body of Christ in itself, it were not for the honour of Christ, nor of his body, if when it were in a sound and athletick constitution, it should not have power to purge itself of its own superfluous and noysome humours.
Proposition 1V. In case a particular Church be disturbed with error or scandall, and the same maintained by a faction amongst them. Now a Synod of Churches, or of their messengers, is the first subject of that power and authoritie, whereby error is judicially convinced and condemned, the truth searched out, and determined, and the way of truth and peace declared and imposed upon the Churches.
The truth of this Proposition may appear by two Arguments.
1. Argum. From the want of power in such a particular church to passe a binding sentence, where error or scandall is maintained by a faction; For the promise of binding and loosing which is made, to a particular church, Mat.18.18, is not given to the church, when it is leavened with error and variance. It is a received maxim, Claris errans non ligat; and it is as true, Ecclesia litigans non ligat: And the ground of both ariseth from the estate of the Church, to which the promise of binding and loosing is made, Mat.18.17.18. which, though it be a particular church, (as hath been shewed) yet it is a Church AGREEING together in the name of Christ, Mat.18.19.20. If there wand agreement amongst them, the promise of binding and loosing. is not given to them: or if they should agree, and yet agree in an error; or in a scandall, they do not then agree in the name of Christ; For to meet in the name of Christ., implyeth, they meet not only by his command and authority, but also that they proceed according to his Lawes and Will, and that to his service and glory. If then the church, or a considerable part of it fall into error through ignorance, or into faction by variance, they cannot expect the presence of Christ with them, according to his promise to passe a binding sentence. And then as they fall under the conviction and admonition of any other sister church, in a way of brotherly love, by vertue of communion of churches; so their errors and variance, and whatsoever scandalls else do accompany the same, they are justly subject to the condemnation of a Synod of Churches.
2. A second Argument to prove that a Synod is the first subject of power, to determine and judge errours and variances in particular churches, is taken from the pattern set before us in that case, Act.15.1 to 28. when certain false Teachers, having taught in the church of Antioch, a necessity of circumcision to salvation, and having gotten a faction to take part with them, (as appeareth by the sta`sis and suze'tesis of Paul and Barnabas against them) the church did not determine the case themselves, but referred the whole matter to the Apostles and Elders at Jerusalem, Act.15.1.2. Not to the Apostles alone, but to the Apostles and Elders. The Apostles were as the Elders and Rulers of all churches; and the Elders there were not a few, the Believers in Jerusalem being many thousands. Neither did the Apostles determine the matter (as hath been said) by Apostolicall authority from immediate revelation; but they assembled together with the Elders, to consider of the matter, v.6. and a multitude of Brethren together with them (v.12.22.23.) and after, searching out the cause by an ordinary means of disputation, v.7; Peter cleered it by the witnesse of the Spirit to his Ministry in Cornelius his family; Paul and Barnabas by the like effect of their Ministerie among the Gentiles: James confirmed the same by the testimony of the Prophets, wherewith the whole Synod being satisfied, they determine of a judiciall sentence, and of a way to publish it by letters and messengers; in which they censure the false Teachers, as troublers of their Church, and subverters of their soules; they reject the imposition of circumcision, as a yoak which neither they nor their fathers were able to beare; they impose upon the Churches none but some necessary observations, and them by way of that authority which the Lord had given them, v.28. Which pattern cleerly sheweth us to whom the key of authority is committed, when their groweth offence and difference in a church. Look as in the case of the offence of a faithfull brother persisted in, the matter is at last judged and determined in a church, which is a Congregation of the faithfull: so in the case of the offence of the church or congregation, the matter is at last judged in a congregation of churches, a Church of churches: for what is a Synod else but a Church of churches?
Now, from all these former Propositions which tend to cleare the first subject of the power of the keys, it may be easie to deduce certain corollaries from thence, tending to clear a parallel Question to this; to wit, In what sense it may, and ought to be admitted, that a church if a particular congregation is independent in the use of the power of the keys, and in what sense not? For in what sense the Church of a particular Congregation is the first subject of the power of the keys, in the same sense it is independent, and in none other. We taking the first subject and the independent subject to be all one.
1. Corollary. The Church is not independent on Christ, but dependent on him for all church-power.
The Reason is plain, because he is the first subject of all church-power by way of soveraigne eminency, as hath been said. And therefore the church, and all theOfficers thereof; yea, and a Synod of Churches is dependent upon him, for all ministeriall church-power. Ministery is dependent upon soveraigntie; yea, the more dependent they be upon Christ, in all the exercise of their church-power, the more powerfull is all their power in all their administrations.2. Corollary. The first subject of the ministeriall power of the keys, though it be independent in respect of derivation of power from the power of the sword to the performance of any spirituall administration, yet it is subject to the power of the sword in matters which concern the civill peace.
The matters which concern the civil peace, wherein Church subjection is chiefly attended, are of foure sorts.
1. The first sort be civill matters, ta` biopka`, the things of this life, as is the disposing of mens goods or lands, lives, or liberties, tributes, customes, worldly honours, and inheritances. In these the Church submitteth, and referreth itself to the civill State. Christ as minister of the circumcission, refused to take upon him the dividing of Inheritances amongst. Brethren, as impertinent to his calling, Luke 12.13.14. His kingdome (he acknowkedgeth) is not of this world, Joh.18.36. Himself payed tribute to Cesar, (Matth.17.27) for himself and his disciples.
2: The second sort of things which concern civill peace, is, the establishment of pure Religion, in doctrine, worship, and government, according to the word of God, as also the reformation of all corruptions in any of these. On this ground the good Kings of Judah, commanded Judah to seek the Lord God of their fathers, and to worship him, according to his own statutes and commandments, and the contrary corruptions of strange gods, high places, Images, and Groves, they removed, and are commended of God, and obeyed by the Priests and people in so doing.2 Chron.14.3, 4, 5.2 Chron.15.8 to 16.2 Chron.17.6 to 9.2 Chron.19.3, 4.2 Chron.24.4, 5, 6.8, 9, 10.2 Chron.29.3 to 35.2 Chron.30.1 to 12.2 Chron.34.3 to 33. The establishment of pure Religion, and the reformation of corruptions in Religion, do much concerne the civill peace. If Religion be corrupted, there will be warre in the gates, Judg.5.8. And no peace to him, that cometh in, or goeth out.2 Chron.126.96.36.199. But where Religion rejoyceth, the civill State flourisheth. Hagg.2.15 to 19. It is true, the establishment of pure Religion, and reformation of corruptions pertain also to the Churches and Synodicall Assemblies. But they go about it onely with spirituall weapons, ministery of the Word, and Church-censures, upon such as are under Church-power. But Magistrates addresse themselves thereto, partly by commanding, and stirring up the Churches, and Ministers thereof to go about it in their spirituall way; partly also by civill punishments upon the wilful! opposers, and disturbers of the same. As Jehosaphat sent Priests and Levites (and them accompanied and countenanced with Princes and nobles) to preach and teach in the cities of Judah.2 Chron.17.7, 8, 9. So Josiah put to death the idolatrous Priests of the high places.2 Kings, 22.20. Nor was that a peculiar duty or privilege of the Kings of Judah, but attended to also by heathen Princes, and that to prevent the wrath of God, against the Realme of the King and his sons. Ezra, 7.23. Yea, and of the times of the new Testament it is prophesied, that in some cases, capitall punishment shall proceed against false Prophets, and that by the procurement of their nearest kindred. Zach.13.3. And the execution thereof is described, Rev.16.4. to 7, where the rivers and fountains of water (that is, the Priests and Iesuites, that conveigh the Religion of the Sea of Rome throughout the countreys) are turned to blood, that is, have blood given them to drink, by the civill Magistrate.
Neverthelesse, though we willingly acknowledge a power in the Civill Magistrate, to establish and reform Religion, according to the Word of God: yet we would not be so understood, as if we judged it to belong to the civill power, to compel all men to come and sit down at the Lords table, or to enter into the communion of the Church, before they be in some measure prepared of God for such fellowship. For this is not a Reformation, but a Deformation of the Church, and is not according to the Word of God, but against it, as we shall shew (God willing) in the sequell, when we come to speak of the disposition or qualification of Church-members.
3. There is a third sort of things which concern the civill peace, wherein the Church is not to refuse subjection to the Civill Magistrate, in the exercise of some publike spirituall administrations, which may advance and help forward the publick Good of Civill State according to God. In time of warre, or pestilence, or any publike calamitie or danger lying upon a Commonwealth, the Magistrate may lawfully proclaime a fast as Iehosaphat did.2 Chron.20.3. And the Churches ought not to neglect such an administration, upon such a just occasion. Neither doth it impeach the power of the Church to call a Fast, when themselves see God calling them to publick humiliation. For as Iehosaphat called a Fast; so the Prophet Joel stirreth up the Priests to call a Fast in time of a famine threatening the want of holy Sacrifices, Ioel 1.13, 14.
It may fall out also, that in undertaking a. warre, or in making a league with a forraine State, there may arise such cases of conscience, as may require the consultation of a Synod. In which case, or the like, if the Magistrate call for a Synod, the Churches are to yeeld him, ready subjection herein in the Lord. Jehosaphat, though he was out of his place, when he was in Samaria visiting an idolatrous King; yet he was not out of his way, when in case of undertaking the war against Syria, he called for counsell from the mouth of the Lord, by a Councell or Synod of Priests and Prophets.1 Kings 22.5, 6, 7.
4. A fourth sort of things, wherein the church is mot to refuse subjection to the Civil Magistrate, is in patieat suffering their unjust persecutions without hostile or rebellious resistance. For though persecution of the churches and servants of Christ will not advance the civill peace, but overthrow it; yet for the dumb to take up the sword in her own defence, is not a law full. means of preserving the church peace, but a. disturbance of it rather. In this case, when Peter drew his Sword in defence of his Master (the Lord Iesus) against an attachment served upon him, by the Officers of the high Priests and Elders of the people, our Saviour bade him put up his sword into his sheath again; for, (saith, be) all they that take the sword, shall perish by the sword, Mat.27.50, 51, 52:, Where he speaketh of Peter either as a private Disciple, or a church-officer, to whom, though the power of the keys was committed, yet the power of the sword was not committed. And for such to take up the sword, though in the cause of Christ, it is forbidden by Christ; and such is the case of any particular church or of a Synod of churches. As they have received the power of the keys, not, of the sword, to the power of the keys they may, and ought to administer, but not of the sword. Wherein neverthelesse we speak of churches and Synods, as such, that is, as church-members, or church-assemblies, acting in a church-way, by the power of the keys received from Christ. But if some of the same persons be also betrusted by the civil State, with the preservation and protection of the Laws and Liberties, peace and safety of the same state, and shall meet together in a publike civill assembly (whether in Councell or Camp) they may there provide by civill power (according to the wholsome lawes and liberties of the countrey,) Ne quid Ecclesia, quid Respublica detrimenti capiat. If King Saul swear to put Ionathan to death, the Leaders of the people may by strong hands rescue him from his fathers unjust and illegal-fury.1. Sam.14.44, 45. But if Saul persecute David (though as unjustly as Ionathan) yet if the Princes and Leaders of the people will not rescue him from the wrath of the King, David (a private man) will not draw out his sword in his own defence, so much as to touch the Lords anoynted.1 Sam.24.4 to 7.
To conclude this Corollary, touching the subjection of churches to the civill State, in matters which concern the civill peace, this may not be omitted, that as the Church is subject to the sword of the Magistrate in things which concern the civill peace; so the Magistrate (if Christian) is subject to the keys of the Church, in matters which concern the peace of his conscience and the kingdome of heaven. Hence it is prophesied by Isaiah, that Kings and Queens, who are nursing fathers and mothers to the church; shall bow down to the Church, with their faces to the earth, Isai.49.23. That is, they shall walk in professed subjection to the Ordinances of Christ in his Church. Hence also it is, that David prophesieth of a two-edged sword, (that is, the sword of the Spirit, the word of Christ) put into the hands of the Saints, (who are by calling the Members of the Church) as to subdue the nations by the ministery of the Word, to the obedience of the Gospel, (Psalms, 149.6, 7,) so to binde their Kings with chains, and their Nobles with fetters of iron, to execute upon them the judgment written, (that is, written in the Word.) Psal.149.8, 9.
3. A third Corollary touching the independency of churches is this, That a church of a particular Congregation, consisting of Elders and Brethren, and walking in the truth and peace of the Gospel, as it is the first subject of all Church-power, needfull to be exercised within itself, so it is independent upon any other (Church or Synod) for the exercise of the same.
That such a Church is the first subject of all church-power, hath been cleered above in the opening of the third Proposition of the first subject of the power of the keys. And such a church being the first subject of church-power, is unavoidably independent upon any other church or body for the exercise thereof, for-as hath been said afore, the first subject of any Accident or Adjunct, is independent upon any other, either for the injoying, or for the imploying (the haying or the using) of the same.
4) A fourth corollary touching the independency of churches is, That a Church fallen into any offence (whether it be the whole Church, or a strong party in it) is not independent in the exercise of Church-power, but is subject both to the admonition of any other Church, and to the determination and judiciall sentence of a Synod for direction into a way of truth and peace.
And this also ariseth from the former discourse. For, if clavis errans non ligat, Ecclesia litigans non ligat; that is, if Christ hath not given to a particular church a promise to binde and loose in heaven, what they binde and loose on earth, unlesse they agree together, and agree in his name, then such a church is not independent in their proceedings, as do fail in either. For all the independency that can be claimed is founded upon that promise, What yee binde on earth, shall be bound in heaven; what yee loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven, Math.18.18. On that promise is founded both the independency and security & parity also of all churches. But if that promise be cut off from them, they are like Sampson when his haire was cut off, weak, and subject to fall under other men; and yet they fall softer than hee did: hee fell into the hands of his enemies, but they fall under the censure of their friends. As the false Prophet recanting his error did acknowledge, so may they: Thus was I wounded in the house of my friends, Zach.13.6. In the house of a neighbour-church or two, I was friendly smitten with a brotherly admonition, which (like a precious oyle) did not break mine head: and in the house of a Synod of churches, I was friendly, yea, brotherly censured and healed.
5. A fifth and last Corollary arising from the former discourse, touching the independency of churches, may be this; Though the Church of a particular Congregation, consisting of Elders and Brethren, and walking with a right foot in the truth and peace of the Gospel, be the first subject of all church-power needfull to be exercised within itself; and consequently be independent from any other Church or Synod in the use of it; yet it is a safe and wholesome, and holy Ordinance of Christ, for such particular churches to joyn together in holy Covenant or Communion, and consolation amongst themselves, to administer all their church affairs (which are of weighty, and difficult and common concernment) not without common consultation and consent of other churches about them. Now church-affairs of weighty and difficult and common concernment, wee account to be the election and ordination of Elders, excommunication of an Elder, or any person of publick note and employment: the translation of an Elder from one Church to another, or the like. In which case we conceive it safe and wholesome, and an holy ordinance to proceed with common consultation and consent. Safe, for in multitude of counsellors there is safetie (as in civill, so in Church affairs) Prov.11.14. And though this or that Church may be of a good and strong constitution, and walk with a right foot in the truth, and peace of the Gospel: yet all Churches are not in a like athletick plight, and they will be loath to call in, or look out for help as much or more then others, though they have more need then others: yea, and the best Churches may soon degenerate, and stand in as much need of help as others, and for want of it may sink and fall into deep Apostasie, which other Churches might have prevented, had they discerned it at first.
It is also wholsome, as tending to maintain brotherly love, and soundnesse of doctrine in Churches, and to prevent many offences, which may grow up in this or that particular Church, when it transacteth all such things within itself without consent.
It is likewise an holy ordinance of Christ, as having just warrant from a like precedent. The Apostles were as much independent from one another, and stood in as little need of one anothers help, as Churches do one of another. And yet Paul went up to Jerusalem, to confer with Peter, Iames, and Iohn, lest he should run in vain in the course of his ministry, Galat.2.2. And though in conference the chief Apostles added nothing to Paul, ver.6. yet when they perceived the Gospel of the uncircumcision was committed to Paul and Barnabas, as that of the circumcision to Peter, Iames and Iohn, they gave unto one another the right hand of fellowship, ver.9. Now then it will follow by just proportion, that if the Apostles who are each of them independent one of another, had need to consult and confer together about the work of their ministry, to procure the freer passage to their calling, and to their doctrine: then surely Churches, and Elders of Churches, though independent one of another, had need to communicate their courses and proceedings in such cases one with another, to procure the freer passage to the same. And if the Apostles, giving right-hand of fellowship one to another, did mutually strengthen their hands in the work of the ministry: then the Elders of Churches, giving right hand of fellowship to one another in their ordination, or upon any fit occasion, cannot but much encourage and strengthen the hearts and hands of one another in the Lords work.
Again, something might be added, if not for confirmation, yet for illustration of this point, by comparing the dimensions of the New Ierusalem; which is a perfect platform of a pure Church, as it shall be constituted in the Iewish Church state, at their last conversion. The dimensions of this Church as they are described by Ezekiel, (Chap.48.30.) are (according to Iunius) twelve furlongs, which after the measure of the Sanctuarie (which is double to the common) is about three miles in length, and as much in breadth. But the dimensions of the same Church of the Iews in Rev.21.16. is said to be twelve thousand furlongs. Now how can these two dimensions of the same Church stand together; which are so fare discrepant one from another? For there be a thousand times twelve furlongs, in twelve thousand furlongs. The fittest and fairest reconciliation seemeth plainly to be this, that Ezekiel speaketh of the dimensions of any ordinarie Iewish Church of one particular congregation. But Iohn speaketh of the dimensions of many particular Iewish Churches, combining together . in some cases, even to the communion of a thousand Churches. Not that the Church of the Iews will be constituted in a Nationall and Diocesan frame, with Nationall officers and Diocesan Bishops or the like: but that sometimes a thousand of them will be gathered into a Synod, and all of them will have such mutuall care, and yeeld such mutuall brotherly help and communion one to another, as if they were all but one body.
If any man say, Theologia symbolica, or parabolica non est argumentativa, that arguments from such parables and rnysticall resemblances in Scripture are not valid, let him enjoy his ovine apprehension (and if he can yeeld a better interpretation of the place) let him waye this collection. Neverthelesse, if there were no argumentative power in parables, why did the Lord Iesus so much delight in that kind of teaching? and why did Iohn, and Daniel, and Ezekiel deliver a great part of their prophesies in parables, if we must take them for riddles, and not for documents nor arguments? Surely if they serve not for argument, they serve not for document.
But furthermore, touching this. great work of communion and consociation of Churches, give us leave to adde, this caution To see that this consociation of Churches be not perverted, either to the oppression or diminution of the just libertie and authoritie of each particular Church within itself: who being well supplied with a faithfull and expert Presbyterie of their own, do walk in their integritie according to the truth and peace of the Gospel. Let Synods have their just authoritie in all Churches, how pure soever in determining such Diata`xeis as are requisite for the edification of all Christs Churches according to God. But in the election and ordination of Officers, and censure of offenders, let it suffice the Churches consociate to assist one another, with their counsell, and right hand of fellowship, when they see a particular Church to use their libertie and power aright. But let them not put forth the power of their communitie, either to take such Church acts out of their hands, or to hinder them in their lawfull course, unlesse they see them (through ignorance or weaknesse) to abuse their libertie and authoritie in the Gospel. All the liberties of Churches were purchased to them by the precious blood of the Lord Iesus: and therefore neither may the Churches give them away, nor many Churches take them out of the hands of one. They may indeed prevent the abuse of their liberties, and direct in the lawfull use of them, but not take them away, though themselves should be willing. The Lord Iesus having given equall power to all the Apostles, it was not lawfull for eleven of them to forbid the twelfth to do any act of his office without their intervention. Neither was it lawfull for the nine who were of inferiour gifts, to commit the guidance and command of all their Apostolick administrations unto Peter, Iames and Iohn, who seemed to be pillars. And that, not onely because they were all (one as well as another) immediately guided by the holy Ghost: but because they were all equall in office, and everie one to give account for himself unto God.
It is the like case (in some measure) of particular Churches; yea, there is moreover a three-fold further inconvenience, which seemeth to us, to attend the translation of the power of particular churches in these ordinary administrations, into the hands of a Synod of Presbyters, commonly called a Classis.
I. The promise of Binding and Loosing, in way of Discipline, which Christ gave to every particular church (as hath been shewed) is by this means not received, nor injoyned, nor practised by themselves immediately, but by their Deputies or Over-seers.
2. The same promise which was not given to Synods in acts of that nature (as hath been shewed in the chapter of Synods) but in acts of another kinde, is hereby received, and injoyned, and practised by them, and by them onely, which ought not to be.
And which is a third inconvenience, The practice of this power of the keyes only by a Synod or Presbyters, still keepeth the Church as under nonage, as if they were not grown up to the full fruition of the just liberty of their riper yeers in the dayes of the Gospel. For a mother to bear her young daughter in her arms, and not to suffer it to go on its own feet, whilest it is in the infancie, is kindly and comely: but when the Damosell is grown up to riper yeers, for the mother still to bear her in her arms, for fear of stumbling, it were an unnecessary burthen to the mother, and a reproach to the Virgin; Such is the case here: The community of churches (according to the Hebrew phrase) is as the Mother; each particular church is as the Daughter. In the old Testament, while the Church was in her nonage, it was not unseasonable to leave the whole guidance and bearing thereof in the hands of their Tutors and Governors, the Priests and Levites, and in the community of the nationall courts. But now in the dayes of the new Testament, when the churches are grown up (or should be grown at least) to more maturity, it were meet more to give the Church liberty to stand alone, and to walk upon her own legs; and yet in any such part of her way, as may be more hard to hit right upon, as in her Elections, and Ordinances, and Censures of eminent persons, in office; it is a safe and holy and faithfull office of the vigilancy of the community of churches, to be present with them, and helpfull to them in the Lord.
And at all times when a particular church shall wander out of the way, (whether out of the way of truth, or of peace) the community of churches may by no means be excused from reforming them again into their right way, according to the authority which the Lord hath given them for the publike edification of all the severall churches within their Covenant.
Soli Christo, To A, ka`i To O.