Of the Special Kind, or Peculiar Nature of this Power and Authority.
Having viewed what is the rule of this authority, viz. the holy Scriptures, and what is the fountain of this authority, viz. Jesus Christ our Mediator; now consider the special kind or peculiar nature of this authority, which the description lays down in two several expressions, viz: 1. It is a spiritual power or authority. 2. It is a derived power, &c.
1. The power or authority of church government is a spiritual power. Spiritual, not so perfectly and completely as Christ’s supreme government is spiritual, who alone hath absolute and immediate power and authority over the very spirits and consciences of men; ruling them by the invisible influence of his Spirit and grace as he pleaseth, John iii. 8; Rom. viii. 14; Gal. ii. 20: but so purely, properly, and merely spiritual is this power, that it really, essentially, and specifically differs, and is contradistinct from that power which is properly civil, worldly, and political, in the hand of the political magistrate. Now, that this power of church government is in this sense properly, purely, merely spiritual: and that by divine right may be evidenced many ways according to Scripture; forasmuch as the rule, fountain, matter, form, subject, object, end, and the all of this power, is only spiritual.
1. Spiritual in the rule, revealing and regulating it, viz. not any principles of state policy, parliament rolls, any human statutes, laws, ordinances, edicts, decrees, traditions, or precepts of men whatsoever, according to which cities, provinces, kingdoms, empires, may be happily governed: but the holy Scriptures, that perfect divine canon, wherein the Lord Christ hath revealed sufficiently how his own house, his Church, shall be ruled, 1 Tim. iii. 14, 15; and all his ordinances, word, sacraments, censures, &c., shall therein be dispensed, 2 Tim. iii. 16, 17. (See chap. IV.) Now this Scripture is divinely breathed, or inspired of God—holy men writing not according to the fallible will of man, but the infallible acting of the Holy Ghost, 2 Tim. iii. 16, with 2 Pet. i. 20, 21.
2. Spiritual in the fountain or author of this power, whence it originally flows; it being derived, not from any magistrate, prince, or potentate in the world, not from any man on earth, or the will of man; but only from Jesus Christ our Mediator, himself being the sole or first receptacle of all power from the Father, Matt. xxviii. 18; John v. 22: and consequently, the very fountain of all power and authority to his Church, Matt. xxviii. 18-20, with John xx. 21, 23; Matt. xvi. 19, and xviii. 18-20; 2 Cor. x. 8. See this formerly cleared, chap. III. and V.
3. Spiritual in the matter of it, and the several parts of this power: therefore called the keys of the kingdom of heaven, not the keys of the kingdoms of earth, Matt. xvi. 19, (as Christ professed his kingdom was not of this world, John xviii. 36; and when one requested of Christ, that by his authority he would speak to his brother to divide the inheritance with him, Christ disclaimed utterly all such worldly, earthly power, saying, “Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?” Luke xii. 13, 14.) Consider these heavenly spiritual keys in the kinds of them, whether of doctrine or discipline; or in the acts of them, whether of binding or loosing, in all which they are spiritual: e.g. the doctrine which is preached is not human but divine, revealed in the Scriptures by the Spirit of God, and handling most sublime spiritual mysteries of religion, 2 Pet. i.; 2 Tim. iii. 16,17. The seals administered are not worldly seals, confirming and ratifying any carnal privileges, liberties, interests, authority, &c., but spiritual, sealing the righteousness of faith, Rom. iv. 11; the death and blood of Jesus Christ, with all the spiritual virtue and efficacy thereof unto his members, Rom. v. 6; Gal. iii.; 1 Cor. x. 16, 17, and xi. 23, 24, &c. The censures dispensed are not pecuniary, corporal, or capital, by fines, confiscations, imprisonments, whippings, stocking, stigmatizing, or taking away of limb or life, (all such things this government meddles not withal, but leaves them to such as bear the civil sword,) but spiritual, that only concern the soul and conscience; as admonishing of the unruly and disorderly, Matt, xviii. 18, 19; casting out the incorrigible and obstinate from the spiritual fellowship of the saints, Matt. xviii. 18, 19; 2 Cor. v. ult.: receiving again into spiritual communion of the faithful, such as are penitent, 2 Cor. ii. 6. Thus the binding and loosing, which are counted the chief acts of the keys, are spiritually by our Saviour interpreted to be the remitting and retaining of sins; compare Matt, xviii. 18, 19, with John xx. 21, 23.
4. Spiritual in the form and manner, as well as in the matter. For this power is to be exercised, not in a natural manner, or in any carnal name, of earthly magistrate, court, parliament, prince, or potentate whatsoever, as all secular civil power is; no, nor in the name of saints, ministers, or the churches: but in a spiritual manner, in the name of the Lord Jesus, from whom alone all his officers receive their commissions. The word is to be preached in his name, Acts xvii. 18: seals dispensed in his name, Matt. xxviii. 19; Acts xix. 5: censures inflicted in his name, 1 Cor. v. 4, &c. (See chap. V.)
5. Spiritual in the subject intrusted with this power; which is not any civil, political, or secular magistrate, (as after will more fully appear, in chap. IX.) but spiritual officers, which Christ himself hath instituted and bestowed upon his Church, apostles, &c., pastors, teachers, elders, Eph. iv. 7, 8, 10, 11. To these only he hath given the keys of the kingdom of heaven, Matt. xvi. 19, and xviii. 18,19, and xxviii. 18, 19; John xx. 21-23; 2 Cor. x. 8, authority which the Lord hath given us. These he hath made governments in his Church, 1 Cor. xii. 28. To these he will have obedience and subjection performed, Heb. xiii. 17, and double honor allowed, 1 Tim. v. 17.
6. Spiritual in respect of the object about which this power is to be put forth and exercised, viz. not about things, actions, or persons civil, as such; but spiritual and ecclesiastical, as such. Thus injurious actions, not as trespasses against any statute or law political; but as scandalous to our brethren, or the Church of God, Matt, xviii. 18, 19; are considered and punished by this power. Thus the incestuous person was cast out, because a wicked person in himself, and likely to leaven others by his bad example, 1 Cor. v. 6. Thus the persons whom the Church may judge are not the men of the world without the Church, but those that are in some sense spiritual, and within the Church, 1 Cor. v. 12.
7. Spiritual also is this power in the scope and end of it. This the Scripture frequently inculcates: e.g. a brother is to be admonished privately, publicly, &c., not for the gaining of our private interests, advantages, &c., but for the gaining of our brother, that his soul and conscience may be gained to God and to his duty, and he be reformed, Matt, xviii. 15. The incestuous person is to be “delivered to Satan, for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of our Lord Jesus,” 1 Cor. v. 5; yea, the whole authority given to church guides from the Lord was given to this end, for the edification, not the destruction of the Church, 2 Cor. x. 8, and xiii. 10; all which, and such like, are spiritual ends. Thus the power of church government here described is wholly and entirely a spiritual power, whether we respect the rule, root, matter, form, subject, object, or end thereof. So that in this respect it is really and specifically distinct from all civil power, and in no respect encroacheth upon, or can be prejudicial unto the magistrate’s authority, which is properly and only political.
2. The power or authority of church government is a derived power. For clearing this, observe, there is a magisterial primitive supreme power, which is peculiar to Jesus Christ our Mediator, (as hath been proved, chap. III. and V:) and there is a ministerial, derivative, subordinate power, which the Scripture declares to be in church guides, Matt. xvi. 19, and xviii. 18; John xx. 21, 23; Matt, xxviii. 19, 20; 2 Cor. x. 8, and xiii. 10, and often elsewhere this is abundantly testified. But whence is this power originally derived to them? Here we are carefully to consider and distinguish three things, touching this power or authority from one another, viz: 1st. The donation of the authority itself, and of the offices whereunto this power doth properly belong. 2d. The designation of particular persons to such offices as are vested with such power. 3d. The public protection, countenancing, authorizing, defending, and maintaining of such officers in the public exercise of such power within such and such realms or dominions. This being premised, we may clearly thus resolve, according to scripture warrant, viz. the designation or setting apart of particular individual persons to those offices in the Church that have power and authority engraven upon them, is from the church nominating, electing, and ordaining of such persons thereunto, see Acts iii. 1-3; 1 Tim. iv. 14, and v. 22; Tit. i. 5; Acts iv. 22. The public protection, defence, maintenance, &c., of such officers in the public exercise of the power and authority of their office in such or such dominions, is from the civil magistrate, as the nursing-father of the Church, Isa. xlix. 23; for it is by his authority and sanction that such public places shall be set apart for the public ministry, that such maintenance and reward shall be legally performed for such a ministry, that all such persons of such and such congregations shall be (in case they neglect their duty to such a ministry) punished with such political penalties, &c. But the donation of the office and spiritual authority annexed thereunto, is only derived from Jesus Christ our Mediator. He alone gives all church officers, and therefore none may devise or superadd any new officers, Eph. iv. 7, 8, 10, 11; 1 Cor. xii. 28. And he alone commits all authority and power spiritual to those officers, for dispensing of word, sacraments, censures, and all ordinances, Matt. xvi. 19, and xxviii. 18-20; John xx. 21-23; 2 Cor. x. 8, and xiii. 10: and therefore it is not safe for any creature to intrude upon this prerogative royal of Christ to give any power to any officer of the Church. None can give what he has not.
Of the several Parts or Acts of this power of Church Government, wherein it puts forth itself in the Church.
Thus far of the special kind or peculiar nature of this authority; now to the several parts or acts of this power which the description comprehends in these expressions, (in dispensing the word, seals, censures, and all other ordinances of Christ.) The evangelical ordinances which Christ has set up in his church are many; and all of them by divine right that Christ sets up. Take both the enumeration of ordinances and the divine right thereof severally, as followeth.
Jesus Christ our Mediator hath instituted and appointed these ensuing administrations to be standing and perpetual ordinances in his church: which ordinances for method sake may be reduced into two heads, according to the distribution of the keys formerly laid down, (chap. III.,) viz., ordinances appertaining, 1st, To the key of order or of doctrine; 2d, To the key of jurisdiction or of discipline.
1. Ordinances appertaining to the key of order or doctrine, viz:
1. Public prayer and thanksgiving are divine ordinances: for 1st, Paul writing his first epistle to Timothy, “that he might know how to behave himself in the house of God,” 1 Tim. iii. 14, 15, among other directions in that epistle, gives this for one, “I exhort therefore that first of all supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men,” 1 Tim. ii. 1, 2, “for this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour,” verse 3. 2. The apostle, regulating public prayers in the congregation, directing that they should be performed with the understanding, takes it for granted that public prayer was an ordinance of Christ. “If I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and will pray with the understanding also. Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned, say amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest? for thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.” 1 Cor. xiv. 14-17. 3. Further, the apostles did account public prayer to be of more concern than serving of tables, and providing for the necessities of the poor, yea, to be a principal part of their ministerial office, and therefore resolve to addict and “give themselves to the ministry of the word and to prayer,” Acts vi. 4; and this was the church’s practice in the purest times, Acts i. 13, 14, whose pious action is for our imitation. 4. And Jesus Christ hath made gracious promises to public prayer, viz., of his presence with those who assemble in his name; and of audience of their prayers, Matt, xviii. 19, 20. Would Christ so crown public prayer were it not his own ordinance?
2. Singing of psalms is a divine ordinance, being,
1. Prescribed; “be filled with the spirit: speaking to yourselves in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs,” Eph. v. 18, 19. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs,” Col. iii. 16.
2. Regulated; the right performance thereof being laid down, “I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also,” 1 Cor. xiv. 15, 16. “Singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord,” Col. iii. 16. “Singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord,” Eph. v. 19.
3. The public ministry of the word of God in the congregation is a divine ordinance. “We will give ourselves,” said the apostles, “to the ministry of the word and prayer,” Acts vi. 4. The ministry of the word is a sacred ordinance, whether read, preached, or catechetically propounded.
1. The public reading of the word is a divine ordinance, (though exposition of what is read do not always immediately follow.) For, 1. God commanded the reading of the word publicly, and never since repealed that command, Deut. xxxi. 11-13; Jer. xxxvi. 6; Col. iii. 16. 2. Public reading of the scriptures hath been the practice of God’s church, both before Christ, Exod. xxiv. 7; Neh. viii. 18, and ix. 3, and xiii. 1; and after Christ, Acts xiii. 15, 27, and xv. 21; 2 Cor. iii. 14. 3. Public reading of the scriptures is as necessary and profitable now as ever it was. See Deut. xxxi. 11-13.
2. The public preaching of the word is an eminent ordinance of Christ. This is evident many ways, viz:
1. Christ hath commanded that the word shall be preached. “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,” Mark xvi. 15. “Go ye, therefore, and disciple ye all nations; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you,” Matt, xxviii. 19, 20. “As ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand,” Matt. x. 7. See also Mark iii. 14. “I charge thee,” &c. “Preach the word,” 2 Tim. iv. 1, 2. “Necessity is laid upon me, yea, wo is unto me if I preach not the gospel,” 1 Cor. ix. 16, 17. “Christ sent me—to preach the gospel,” 1 Cor. i. 17; with which compare also Acts xx. 28, and 1 Pet. v. 1-4.
2. Christ hath appointed who shall preach the word. “How shall they preach except they be sent?” Rom. x. 15. The qualifications of preaching elders see in 1 Tim. iii. 2-8, and Tit. i. 5-9.
3. Christ hath appointed how the word shall be preached. “Be instant, in season, out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine,” 2 Tim. iv. 2. “That he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and convince gainsayers,” Tit. i. 9. “He that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully: what is the chaff to the wheat, saith the Lord?” Jer. xxiii. 28.
4. Christ hath made many encouraging promises to the preaching of his word, which he would not have done, were it not his own ordinance. “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you, and lo I am with you every day to the end of the world,” Matt, xxviii. 20. “Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven,” Matt. xvi. 19, and xviii. 18. “Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them: and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained,” John xx. 23. Both these are partly meant of doctrinal binding and loosing, remitting and retaining. “Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: for I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee, for I have much people in this city,” Acts xviii. 9, 10.
3. The catechetical propounding or expounding of the word, viz. a plain, familiar laying down of the first principles of the oracles of God, is an ordinance of Christ also. For, 1. This was the apostolical way of teaching the churches at the first plantation thereof. “When for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God, and are become such as have need of milk and not of strong meat,” Heb. v. 12. “Therefore, leaving the word of the beginning of Christ, let us go on unto perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith towards God,” &c., Heb. vi. 1,2. “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat, for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able,” 1 Cor. iii. 1, 2. 2. And this is the sense of pastor and people which the Holy Ghost useth, setting forth the reciprocal relation and office between them, with his own approbation. “Let him that is catechized in the word, communicate to him that catechizeth him, in all good things,” Gal. vi. 6.
4. The administration of the sacraments is of divine institution.
1. Of baptism. “He that sent me to baptize with water,” John i. 33. “Go ye therefore, disciple ye all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” Matt, xxviii. 18-20.
2. Of the Lord’s supper, which Christ ordained the same night in which he was betrayed: which institution is at large described, 1 Cor. xi. 20, 23, &c.; Matt. xxvi. 26-31; Mark xiv. 22-27; Luke xxii. 19, 20.
2. Ordinances appertaining to the key of jurisdiction or of discipline, viz:
1. The ordination of presbyters with imposition of the hands of the presbytery, after praying and fasting, is a divine ordinance. “Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery,” 1 Tim. iv. 14. Titus was left in Crete for this end, “To set in order things that were wanting, and ordain presbyters” (or elders) “in every city, as Paul had appointed him,” Tit. i. 5. Timothy is charged, “Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins; keep thyself pure,” 1 Tim. v. 22. Paul and Barnabas came to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, and “when they had ordained them presbyters in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord,” &c., Acts xiv. 21, 23.
2. Authoritative discerning, and judging of doctrine according to the word of God, is a divine ordinance. As that council at Jerusalem, authoritatively (viz. by ministerial authority) judged of both the false doctrine and manners of false teachers, branding them for “troublers of the Church, subverters of souls,” &c. “Forasmuch as we have heard that certain, coming forth from u, have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, ye ought to be circumcised, and keep the law, to whom we gave no such commandment,” Acts xv. 24; “it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to impose upon you no greater burden than these necessary things,” v. 28; and this was done upon debates from scripture grounds, “and to this the words of the prophets agree,” Acts xv. 15: and afterwards their results and determinations are called “decrees ordained by the apostles and elders,” Acts xvi. 4.
3. Admonition and public rebuke of sinners is a divine ordinance of Christ. “If thy brother trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more—and if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the Church,” Matt, xviii. 15-17. “Whose soever sins ye bind on earth shall be bound in heaven,” John xx. 23. One way and degree of binding is by authoritative, convincing reproof. “Admonish the unruly,” 1 Thess. v. 14. “An heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject,” Tit. iii. 1. “Them that sin, convincingly reprove before all, that the rest also may fear,” 1 Tim. v. 20. “Rebuke them sharply,” (or convince them cuttingly,) Tit. iii. 13. “Sufficient to such an one is that rebuke, which was from many,” 2 Cor. ii. 6.
4. Rejecting, and purging out, or putting away from the communion of the Church, wicked and incorrigible persons, is an ordinance of Christ. “And if he will not hear them, tell the Church; but if he will not hear the Church, let him be unto thee even as a heathen and a publican.” “Verily, I say unto you, what things soever ye shall bind on earth, they shall be bound in heaven,” Matt, xviii. 17, 18, compared with Matt. xvi. 19, and John xx. 21, 23. “An heretic, after once or twice admonition, reject,” Tit. iii. 10; i.e. excommunicate, till he repent—Pisc. in loc. By the lawful judgment of the Church, to deliver the impenitent to Satan.—Beza in loc. “Of whom is Hymeneus and Alexander, whom I have delivered to Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme,” 1 Tim. i. 20. The apostle’s scope in 1 Cor. v. is to press the church of Corinth to excommunicate the incestuous person. “Ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed may be taken from the midst of you. For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have already as present judged him that thus wrought this thing. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, you being gathered together, and my spirit with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of our Lord Jesus,” 1 Cor. v. 2-5. “Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven,” ver. 7. “I wrote to you in an epistle, not to be mingled together with fornicators,” ver. 9, 11; and explaining what he meant by not being mingled together, saith, “If any named a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or drunkard, or rapacious, with such an one not to eat together,” ver. 11. “Therefore take away from among yourselves that wicked person,” ver. 13.
5. Seasonable remitting, receiving, comforting, and authoritative confirming again in the communion of the Church those that are penitent. “What things soever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven,” Matt. xvi. 19, and xviii. 18. “Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them,” John xx. 23. This loosing and remitting is not only doctrinal and declarative in the preaching of the word, but also juridical and authoritative in the administration of censures. This is called, for distinction’s sake, absolution. After the church of Corinth had excommunicated the incestuous person, and he thereupon had given sufficient testimony of his repentance, the apostle directs them to receive him into church communion again, saying, “Sufficient to such an one is that rebuke inflicted of many; so that contrariwise you should rather forgive and comfort him, lest such an one should be swallowed up of abundant sorrow. Wherefore I beseech authoritatively to confirm love unto him: for to this purpose also I have written unto you, that I may know the proof of you, if ye be obedient in all things,” 2 Cor. ii. 6-9.
Of the End and Scope of this Government of the Church.
The end or scope intended by Christ in instituting, and to be aimed at by Christ’s officers in executing of church government in dispensing the word, sacrament, censures, and all ordinances of Christ, is (as the description expresseth) the edifying of the Church of Christ. This end is very comprehensive. For the fuller evidencing whereof these two things are to be proved:1st, That Jesus Christ our Mediator hath under the New Testament one general visible Church on earth. 2d. That the edification of this Church of Christ is that eminent scope and end why Christ gave the power of church government and other ordinances unto the Church.
I. For the first, that Jesus Christ our Mediator hath under the New Testament a general visible Church on earth, made up of all particular churches, may be cleared by considering well these particulars.
1st. That it is evident by the Scriptures that Jesus Christ hath on earth many particular visible churches: (whether churches congregational, presbyterial, provincial, or national, needs not here be determined.) “Unto the churches of Galatia,” Gal. i. 2. “The churches of Judea,” Gal. i. 22. “Through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches,” Acts xv. 41. “To the seven churches in Asia,” Rev. i. 4, 20. “The church of Ephesus,” Rev. ii. 1. “The church in Smyrna,” ver. 8. “The church in Pergamus,” ver. 12. “The church in Thyatira,” ver. 18. “The church in Sardis,” Rev. iii. 1. “The church in Philadelphia,” ver. 7. And “the church in Laodicea,” ver. 14. “The church that is in their house,” Rom. xvi. 5; and Philem. 2. “Let your women keep silence in the church,” 1 Cor. xiv. 34. “All the churches of the Gentiles,” Rom. xvi. 4. “So ordain I in all churches,” 1 Cor. vii. 17. “As in all churches of the saints,” 1 Cor. xiv. 33. “The care of all the churches,” 2 Cor. xi. 28. The New Testament hath many such like expressions.
2d. That how many particular visible churches soever Christ hath on earth, yet Scripture counts them all to be but one general visible Church of Christ. This is manifest,
1. By divers Scriptures, using the word church in such a full latitude and extensive completeness, as properly to signify, not any one single congregation, or particular church, but one general visible Church: as, “Upon this rock I will build my Church,” Matt. xvi. 18. “Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Greeks, nor to the Church of God,” 1 Cor. x. 32. “God hath set some in the Church, first, apostles; secondarily, prophets; thirdly, teachers,” &c., 1 Cor. xii. 28. “I persecuted the Church of God,” 1 Cor. xv. 9; Gal. i. 13. “The Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth,” 1 Tim. iii. 15. “Might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God,” Eph. iii. 10. “In the midst of the Church will I sing praise unto thee,” Heb. ii. 12. In which, and such like places, we must needs understand, that one general visible Church of Christ.
2. By such passages of scripture as evidently compare all visible professors and members of Christ throughout the world to one organical body, having eyes, ears, hands, feet, &c., viz., several organs, instruments, officers, &c., in it, for the benefit of the whole body; as, “He gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,” Eph. iv. 11, 12. “There is one body,” Eph. iv. 4. “As we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office; so we being many are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another,” &c., Rom. xii. 4-9. “As the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body being many, are one body; so also is Christ,” (i.e., Christ considered mystically, not personally,) “for by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free,” &c., 1 Cor. xii. 12, to the end of the chapter, which context plainly demonstrates all Christ’s visible members in the world, Jews or Gentiles, &c., to be members of one and the same organical body of Christ, which organical body of Christ is the general visible Church of Christ; for the invisible church is not organical.
II. That the edification of the Church of Christ is that eminent scope and end, why Christ gave church government and all other ordinances of the New Testament to his Church. This is frequently testified in scripture. 1. The apostle, speaking of this power generally, saith, “Our authority which the Lord hath given to us for edification, and not for the destruction of you,” 2 Cor. x. 8. The like passage he hath again, saying, “according to the authority,” or power, “which the Lord hath given to me for edification, and not for destruction,” 2 Cor. xiii. 10; in both which places he speaks of the authority of church government in a general comprehensive way, declaring the grand and general immediate end thereof to be, affirmatively, edification of the church; negatively, not the subversion or destruction thereof. 2. In like manner, when particular acts of government, and particular ordinances are mentioned, the edification of the Church, at least in her members, is propounded as the great end of all: e.g. 1. Admonition is for edification, that an erring brother may be gained, Matt. xviii. 15, 16, that wavering minds may be sound in the faith. “Rebuke them cuttingly, that they may be sound in the faith,” Tit. i. 13, that beholders and bystanders may fear to fall into like sins. “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear,” 1 Tim. v. 20. 2. Excommunication is for edification; particularly of the delinquent member himself; thus the incestuous person was “delivered to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus,” 1 Cor. v. 4, 5. “Hymeneus and Alexander were delivered to Satan, that they might learn not to blaspheme,” 1 Tim. i. 20: more generally of the Church; thus the incestuous person was to be put away from among them lest the whole lump of the church should be leavened by him, 1 Cor. v. 3. Absolution also is for edification, lest the penitent party “should be swallowed up of too much sorrow,” 2 Cor. ii. 7. 4. All the officers of his Church are for edification of the Church, (Eph. iv. 7, 8, 11, 12, 16,) together with all the gifts and endowments in these officers, whether of prayer, prophecy, tongues, &c., all must be managed to edification. This is the scope of the whole chapter. 1 Cor. xii. 7, &c., and 1 Cor. xiv. 3-5, 9, 12, &c., 26; read the whole chapter. That passage of Paul is remarkable, “I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than you all; yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue,” verses 18, 19. Thus church government, and all sorts of ordinances, with the particular acts thereof, are to be levelled at this mark of edification. Edification is an elegant metaphor from material buildings (perhaps of the material and typical temple) to the spiritual; for explanation’s sake briefly thus take the accommodation: The architects, or builders, are the ministers, 1 Cor. iii. 10. The foundation and corner-stone that bears up, binds together, and gives strength to the building, is Jesus Christ, 1 Cor. iii. 11; 1 Pet. ii. 4, 6. The stones or materials are the faithful or saints, 2 Cor. i. 1. The building, or house itself, is the Church, that spiritual house, and temple of the living God, Eph. ii. 21, and iv. 12; 1 Cor. iii. 9, 16, 17. The edification of this house is gradually to be perfected more and more till the coming of Christ, by laying the foundation of Christianity, in bringing men still unto Christ, and carrying on the superstruction in perfecting them in Christ in all spiritual growth, till at last the top-stone be laid on, the Church completed, and translated to the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
Of the proper receptacle and distinct subject of all this power and authority of Church Government, which Christ hath peculiarly intrusted with the execution thereof according to the Scriptures. And 1. Negatively, That the political magistrate is not the proper subject of this power.
Thus we have taken a brief survey of church government, both in the rule, root, kind, branches, and end thereof, all which are comprised in the former description, and being less controverted, have been more briefly handled. Now, the last thing in the description which comes under our consideration, is the proper receptacle of all this power from Christ, or the peculiar subject intrusted by Christ with this power and the execution thereof, viz. only Christ’s own officers. For church government is a spiritual power or authority, derived from Jesus Christ our Mediator, only to his own officers, and by them exercised in dispensing of the word, &c. Now about this subject of the power will be the great knot of the controversy, forasmuch as there are many different claims thereof made, and urged with vehement importunity: (to omit the Romish claim for the pope, and the prelatical claim for the bishop,) the politic Erastian pretends that the only proper subject of all church government is the political or civil magistrate; the gross Brownists or rigid Separatists, that it is the body of the people, or community of the faithful in an equal even level; they that are more refined, (who style themselves for distinction’s sake26 Independents,) that it is the single congregation, or the company of the faithful with their presbytery, or church officers; the Presbyterians hold that the proper subject wherein Christ hath seated and intrusted all church power, and the exercise thereof, is only his own church officers, (as is in the description expressed.) Here, therefore, the way will be deeper, and the travelling slower; the opposition is much, and therefore the disquisition of this matter will unavoidably be the more.
For perspicuity herein, seeing it is said that this power is derived from Christ only to his own officers; and by this word (only) all other subjects are excluded; the subject of church power may be considered, 1. Negatively, what it is not. 2. Affirmatively, what it is.
Negatively, the proper subject unto whom Christ hath committed the power of church government, and the exercise thereof, is not, 1. The political magistrate, as the Erastians imagine. 2. Nor the body of the people, either with their presbytery or without it, as the Separatists and Independents pretend. Let these negatives first be evinced, and then the affirmative will be more clearly evidenced.
Touching the first of these—that the political magistrate is not the proper subject unto whom Jesus Christ our Mediator hath committed the power of church government, and the exercise of that power; it will be cleared by declaring these two things distinctly and severally, viz: 1. What power about ecclesiasticals is granted to the civil magistrate. 2. What power therein is denied unto him, and why.
Such power is granted by the reformed churches and orthodox writers to the political magistrate, in reference to church affairs. Take it in these particulars.
A defensive, protecting, patronizing power to the church, and all the members thereof. “Kings shall be thy nursing-fathers,” &c., Isa. xlix. 23. “The magistrate is the minister of God for good to well-doers, as well as the avenger, executing wrath upon evil-doers; a terror not to good works, but to the evil,” Rom. xiii. 3, 4; he is called an heir, or, possessor of restraint, to put men to shame, Judges xviii. 7. And as the church ought to pray for kings and all in authority, so consequently all in authority should endeavor to defend it, that the church and people of God should lead a quiet and peaceable life, (under the wing of their protection,) “in all godliness and honesty,” 1 Tim. ii. 2; and this is evident from the end and scope of these prayers here prescribed, as interpreters unanimously agree. And hereupon are those promises to the church, “The sons of strangers shall build up thy walls, and their kings shall minister unto thee,” Isa. lx. 10; “and thou shalt suck the breast of kings,” Isa. lx. 16. Now, this nursing, protecting care of magistrates towards the church, puts forth itself in these or like acts, viz: He,
1. Removes all external impediments of true religion, worship of God, &c., by his civil power, whether persons or things, whether persecutions, profaneness, heresy, idolatry, superstition, &c., that truth and godliness may purely flourish: as did Jehoshaphat, Asa, Hezekiah, Josiah. And hereupon it is that God so oft condemns the not removing and demolishing of the high places and monuments of idolatry, 1 Kings xv. 14, with 2 Chron. xv. 17; 1 Kings xxii. 44; 2 Kings xii. 3: and highly commends the contrary in Asa, 2 Chron. xv. 8, 16: in Jehoshaphat, 2 Chron. xvii. 3, 4, 6-10: in Hezekiah, 2 Chron. xxxi. 1; 2 Kings xviii. 4: in Manasseh, 2 Chron. xxxiii. 15: in Josiah, 2 Kings xxiii. 8, 13, 19, 20, 24: whereupon the Holy Ghost gives him that superlative commendation above all kings before and after him, ver. 25.
2. Countenanceth, advanceth, and encourageth by his authority and example the public exercise of all God’s ordinances, and duties of religion within his dominions, whether in matter of divine worship, discipline, and government, maintaining for the Church the fulness of spiritual liberties and privileges communicated to her from Christ: as did Asa, 2 Chron. xv. 9-16: Jehoshaphat, 2 Chron. xx. 7-9: Hezekiah, 2 Chron. xxix., xxx., and xxxi. chapters throughout: Josiah, 2 Chron. xxxiv. and xxxv. chapters. And to this end God prescribed in the law that the king should still have a copy of the law of God by him, therein to read continually, Deut. xvii. 18-20; because he was to be not only a practiser, but also a protector thereof, a keeper of both tables.
3. Supplies the Church with all external necessaries, provisions, means, and worldly helps in matters of religion: as convenient public places to worship in, sufficient maintenance for ministers, (as the Scripture requireth, 1 Tim. v. 17, 18; 1 Cor. ix. 6-15; Gal. vi. 6:) schools and colleges, for promoting of literature, as nurseries to the prophets, &c.; together with the peaceable and effectual enjoyment of all these worldly necessaries, for comfortably carrying on of all public ordinances of Christ. Thus David prepared materials, but Solomon built the temple, 1 Chron. xxii. Hezekiah commanded the people that dwelt in Jerusalem, to give the portion of the priests and the Levites, that they might be encouraged in the law of the Lord; and Hezekiah himself and his princes came and saw it performed, 2 Chron. xxxi. 4, &c., 8: Josiah repaired the house of God, 2 Chron. xxxiv.
Nor need the magistrate think scorn, but rather count it his honor to be an earthly protector of the Church, which is the body of Christ, the Lamb’s wife, for redeeming of which Christ died, and for gathering and perfecting of which the very world is continued.
An ordering, regulating power is also allowed to the magistrate about ecclesiastical matters in a political way, so that he warrantably,
1. Reforms the Church, when corrupted in divine worship, discipline, or government: as did Moses, Exod. xxxii.; Joshua, Josh. xxiv.; Asa, 2 Chron. xv.; Jehoshaphat, 2 Chron. xvii.; Hezekiah, 2 Kings xviii.; Josiah, 2 Kings xxiii.; 2 Chron. xxxiv.
2. Convenes or convocates synods and councils, made up of ecclesiastical persons, to consult, advise, and conclude determinatively, according to the word, how the church is to be reformed and refined from corruptions, and how to be guided and governed when reformed, &c. For, 1. Pious magistrates under the Old Testament called the Church together, convened councils. David, about bringing back the ark, 1 Chron. xiii. 1, 2, and another council when he was old, 1 Chron. xiii. 1; Solomon, 1 Kings viii. 1; Hezekiah, 2 Chron. xxix. 4; and Josiah, 2 Kings xxiii. 1, 2. 2. All ought to be subject to superior powers, who ought to procure the public peace and prosperity of the Church, Rom. xiii. 1, 2, &c.; 1 Pet. ii. 13, &c., 17; 1 Tim. ii. 2. Therefore superior powers may convocate councils. 3. Christian magistrates called the four general councils: Constantine the first Nicene council; Theodosius, senior, the first council of Constantinople; Theodosius, junior, the first Ephesian council; Marcian Emperor, the Chalcedon council; and, 4. Hereunto antiquity subscribes, as Dr. Whitaker observes.
3. Supports the laws of God with his secular authority, as a keeper of the tables, enjoining and commanding, under civil penalties, all under his dominion, strictly and inviolably to observe the same: as “Josiah made all that were present in Israel to serve the Lord their God,” 2 Chron. xxxiv. 33. Nehemiah made the sabbath to be sanctified, and strange wives to be put away, Neb. xii. 13, &c. Yea, Nebuchadnezzar, a heathen king, decreed, that “Whosoever should speak amiss of the God of Shadrach,” &c., “should be cut in pieces, and their houses made a dunghill,” Dan. iii. 28, 29. And Darius decreed, “That in every dominion of his kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel,” &c., Dan. vi. 26, 27.
And as he strengthens the laws and ordinances of God by his civil authority, so he ratifies and establishes within his dominions the just and necessary decrees of the Church in synods and councils (which are agreeable to God’s word) by his civil sanction.
4. Judges and determines definitively with a consequent political judgment, or judgment of political discretion, concerning the things judged and determined antecedently by the Church, in reference to his own act. Whether he will approve such ecclesiasticals or not; and in what manner he will so approve, or do otherwise by his public authority; for he is not a brutish agent, (as papists would have him,) to do whatsoever the Church enjoins him unto blind obedience, but is to act prudently and knowingly in all his office; and therefore the judgment of discerning (which belongs to every Christian, for the well-ordering of his own act) cannot be denied to the Christian magistrate, in respect of his office.
5. Takes care politically, that even matters and ordinances merely and formally ecclesiastical, be duly managed by ecclesiastical persons orderly called thereto. Thus Hezekiah commanded the priests and Levites to do their duties, 2 Chron. xxix. 5, 24, and the people to do theirs, 2 Chron. xxx. 1; and for this he is commended, that therein he did cleave unto the Lord, and observed his precepts which he had commanded Moses, 2 Kings xviii. 6. Thus when the king is commanded to observe and do all the precepts of the law, the Lord (as orthodox divines do judge) intended that he should keep them, not only as a private man, but as a king, by using all care and endeavor that all his subjects with him perform all duties to God and man, Deut. xvii. 18-20.
6. A compulsive, coactive, punitive, or corrective power, formally political, is also granted to the political magistrate in matters of religion, in reference to all sorts of persons and things under his jurisdiction. He may politically compel the outward man of all persons, church officers, or others under his dominions, unto external performance of their respective duties, and offices in matters of religion, punishing them, if either they neglect to do their duty at all, or do it corruptly, not only against equity and sobriety, contrary to the second table, but against truth and piety, contrary to the first table of the decalogue. We have sufficient intimation of the magistrate’s punitive power in cases against the second table; as the stubborn and rebellious, incorrigible son, that was a glutton and a drunkard, sinning against the fifth commandment, was to be stoned to death, Deut. xxi. 18-21. The murderer, sinning against the sixth commandment, was to be punished with death, Gen. ix. 6; Numb. xxxv. 30-34; Deut. x. 11-13. The unclean person, sinning against the seventh commandment, was to be punished with death, Lev. xx. 11, 12, 14, 17, 19-25; and before that, see Gen. xxxviii. 24. Yea, Job, who is thought to live before Moses, and before this law was made, intimates that adultery is a heinous crime, yea, it is an iniquity to be punished by the judges, Job xxxi. 9,11. The thief, sinning against the eighth commandment, was to be punished by restitution, Exod. xxii. 1, 15, &c. The false witness, sinning against the ninth commandment, was to be dealt withal as he would have had his brother dealt with, by the law of retaliation, Deut. xix. 16, to the end of the chapter, &c. Yea, the magistrate’s punitive power is extended also to offences against the first table; whether these offences be against the first commandment, by false prophets teaching lies, errors, and heresies in the name of the Lord, endeavoring to seduce people from the true God. “If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he hath spoken to turn you away from the Lord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt,” &c., Deut. xiii. 1-6. From which place Calvin notably asserts the punitive power of magistrates against false prophets and impostors that would draw God’s people to a defection from the true God, showing that this power also belongs to the Christian magistrate in like cases now under the gospel.
Yea, in case of such seducement from God, though by nearest allies, severe punishment was to be inflicted upon the seducer, Deut. xiii. 6-12. See also ver. 12, to the end of the chapter, how a city is to be punished in the like case. And Mr. Burroughs,27 in his Irenicum, shows that this place of Deut. xiii. 6, &c., belongs even to us under the gospel.
Or whether these offences be against the second commandment, the magistrate’s punitive power reaches them, Deut. xvii. 1-8; Lev. xvii. 2-8; 2 Chron. xvi. 13, 16. “Maachah, the mother of Asa the king, he removed from being queen, because she had made an idol in a grove.” Job xxxi. 26-28, herewith compare Exod. viii. 25, 26. Or whether the offences be against the third commandment, “And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, Whosoever curseth God shall bear his sin: and he that blasphemeth the name of the Lord he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him, as well the stranger as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the Lord shall be put to death,” Lev. xxiv. 15, 16. Yea, the heathen king Nebuchadnezzar made a notable decree to this purpose, against blaspheming God, saying, “I make a decree, that every people, nation, and language, who speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshech, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill,” Dan. iii. 29: and the pagan magistrate, king Artaxerxes, made a more full decree against all contempt of the law of God: “And whosoever will not do the law of thy God,” saith he to Ezra, “and the law of the king, let judgment be executed speedily upon him, whether it be unto death, or to banishment, or to confiscation of goods, or to imprisonment:” and Ezra blesses God for this, Ezra vii. 26, 27.
Besides all this light of nature, and evidence of the Old Testament, for the ruler’s political punitive power for offences against God, there are divers places in the New Testament showing that a civil punitive power rests still in the civil magistrate: witness those general expressions in those texts—Rom. xiii. 3, 4: “Rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. If thou do that which is evil, be afraid, for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.” 1 Pet. ii. 13, 14: “Submit yourselves unto every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether it be to the king as to the supreme, or unto governors which are sent for the punishment of evil-doers,28 and the praise of them that do well.” Now, (as Mr. Burroughs29 notes,) seeing the Scripture speaks thus generally, except the nature of the thing require, why should we distinguish where the Scripture doth not? so that these expressions may be extended to those sorts of evil-doing against the first as well as against the second table; against murdering of souls by heresy, as well as murdering of men’s bodies with the sword; against the blaspheming of the God of heaven, as well as against blaspheming of kings and rulers, that are counted gods on earth. That place seems to have much force in it to this purpose, Heb. x. 28, 29: “He that despised Moses’ law, died without mercy under two or three witnesses. Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?” Yea, what deserve such as deny the Spirit to be of God? Papists exempt their clergy from the judgment of the civil power, though they be delinquents against it; and their states, both civil and spiritual, from civil taxes, tributes, and penalties, both which we deny to ours: for, 1st, This is repugnant to the law of nature, that church officers and members, as parts and members of the commonwealth, should not be subject to the government of that commonwealth whereof they are parts. 2d, Repugnant to the laws and practices of the Old Testament, under which we read of no such exemptions. Yea, we have instance of Abiathar the high-priest, who, for his partnership with Adonijah in his rebellion, was exiled by king Solomon, and so consequently deprived of the exercise of his office, 1 Kings ii. 26, 27. 3d, Inconsistent with our Saviour’s example, who, as subject to the law, held himself obliged to pay tribute to avoid offence, (Matt. xvii. 26,) which was an active scandal; and he confesses Pilate’s power to condemn or release him was given him from above, John xix. 11. 4th, And finally, contrary to the apostolical precepts, enjoining all to be subject to superior powers, Rom. xiii. 1-4; 1 Pet. ii. 13-15.
Now, all the former power that is granted, or may be granted to the magistrate about religion, is only cumulative and objective, as divines used to express it; thus understand them:—
Cumulative, not privative; adding to, not detracting from any liberties or privileges granted her from Christ. The heathen magistrate may be a nurse-father, Isa. xlix. 23; 1 Tim. ii. 2, may not be a step-father: may protect the Church, religion, &c., and order many things in a political way about religion; may not extirpate or persecute the Church; may help her in reformation; may not hinder her in reforming herself, convening synods in herself, as in Acts xv., &c., if he will not help her therein; otherwise her condition were better without than with a magistrate. The Christian magistrate much less ought to hinder her therein, otherwise her state were worse under the Christian than under the pagan magistrate.
Objective or objectively ecclesiastical, as being exercised about objects ecclesiastical, but politically, not ecclesiastically. His proper power is about, not in religious matters. He may politically, outwardly exercise his power about objects or matters spiritual; but not spiritually, inwardly, formally act any power in the Church. He may act in church affairs as did Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, Josiah; not as did Corah, Saul, Uzzah, or Uzziah. He is an overseer of things without, not of things within. And in a word, his whole power about church offices and religion is merely, properly, and formally civil or political.30
Nor is this only our private judgment, or the opinion of some few particular persons touching the granting or bounding of the magistrate’s power about matters of religion; but with us we have the suffrage of many reformed churches, who, in their Confessions of Faith published to the world, do fully and clearly express themselves to the same effect.
The Helvetian church thus: Since every magistrate is of God, it is (unless he would exercise tyranny) his chief duty, all blasphemy being repressed, to defend and provide for religion, and to execute this to his utmost strength, as the prophet teacheth out of the word; in which respect the pure and free preaching of God’s word, a right, diligent, and well-instituted discipline of youth, citizens and scholars; a just and liberal maintenance of the ministers of the church, and a solicitous care of the poor, (whereunto all ecclesiastical means belong,) have the first place. After this, &c.
The French churches thus: He also therefore committed the sword into the magistrates’ hands, that they might repress faults committed not only against the second table, but also against the first; therefore we affirm, that their laws and statutes ought to be obeyed, tribute to be paid, and other burdens to be borne, the yoke of subjection voluntarily to be undergone, yea, though the magistrates should be infidels, so long as the supreme government of God remains perfect and untouched, Matt. xxiv.; Acts iv. 17, and v. 19; Jude verse 8.
The church of Scotland thus: Moreover we affirm, that the purging and conserving of religion is the first and most especial duty of kings, princes, governors, and magistrates. So that they are ordained of God not only for civil polity, but also for the conservation of true religion, and that all idolatry and superstition may be suppressed: as is evident in David, Jehoshaphat, Josiah, Hezekiah, and others, adorned with high praises for their singular zeal.
The Belgic church thus: Therefore he hath armed the magistrates with a sword, that they may punish the bad and defend the good. Furthermore, it is their duty not only to be solicitous about preserving of civil polity, but also to give diligence that the sacred ministry may be preserved, all idolatry and adulterate worship of God may be taken out of the way, the kingdom of antichrist may be pulled down, but Christ’s kingdom propagated. Finally, it is their part to take course, that the holy word of the gospel be preached on every side, that all may freely and purely serve and worship God according to the prescript of his word. And all men, of whatsoever dignity, condition, or state they be, ought to be subject to lawful magistrates, to pay them tribute and subsidies, to obey them in all things which are not repugnant to the word of God; to pour out prayers for them, that God would vouchsafe to direct them in all their actions, and that we may under them lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. Wherefore we detest the Anabaptists and all turbulent men who cast off superior dominions and magistrates, pervert laws and judgments, make all goods common, and finally abolish or confound all orders and degrees which God hath constituted for honesty’s sake among men.
The church in Bohemia thus: They teach also that it is commanded in the word of God that all should be subject to the higher powers in all things, yet in those things only which are not repugnant to God and his word. But as touching those things which concern men’s souls, faith, and salvation, they teach that men should hearken only to God’s word, &c., his ministers, as Christ himself saith, Render to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar’s, and to God those things that are God’s. But if any would compel them to those things which are against God, and fight and strive against his word, which abideth forever; they teach them to make use of the apostle’s example, who thus answered the magistrate at Jerusalem: It is meet (say they) to obey God rather than men.
Finally, the church in Saxony hath expressed herself notably in this point, saying, among many other passages, God will have all men, yea, even unregenerate men, to be ruled and restrained by political government. And in this government the wisdom, justice, and goodness of God to mankind do shine forth. His wisdom, order declares, which is the difference of virtues and vices, and the consociation of men by lawful governments and contracts ordained in wonderful wisdom. God’s justice also is seen in political government, who will have manifest wickednesses to be punished by magistrates; and when they that rule punish not the guilty, God himself wonderfully draws them to punishment, and regularly punishes heinous faults with heinous penalties in this life, as it is said, He that takes the sword shall perish by the sword; and, Whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. God will have in these punishments the difference of vices and virtues to be seen; and will have us learn that God is wise, just, true, chaste. God’s goodness also to mankind is beheld, because by this means he preserves the society of men, and therefore he preserves it that thence the Church may be gathered, and will have polities to be the Church’s inns. Of these divine and immoveable laws, which are testimonies of God, and the chief rule of manners, the magistrate is to be keeper in punishing all that violate them. For the voice of the law, without punishment and execution, is of small avail to bridle and restrain men; therefore it is said by Paul, The power should be a terror to evil works, and an honor to the good. And antiquity rightly said, The magistrate is the keeper of the law, both of the first and second table, so far as appertains to good order. And though many in their governments neglect the glory of God, yet this ought to be their chief care, to hear and embrace the true doctrine touching the Son of God, and to foster the churches, as the psalm saith, And now understand, ye kings, and be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Again, Open your gates, ye princes, i.e., Open your empires to the gospel, and afford harbor to the Son of God. And Isa. xlix.:And kings shall be thy nursing-fathers, and queens, i.e., commonwealths, shall be thy nursing-mothers, i.e., of the Church, they shall afford lodgings to churches and pious studies. And kings and princes themselves shall be members of the Church, and shall rightly understand doctrine, shall not help those that establish false doctrine, and exercise unjust cruelty, but shall be mindful of this saying, “I will glorify them that glorify me.” And Daniel exhorteth the king of Babylon unto the acknowledgment of God’s wrath, and to clemency towards the exiled Church, when he saith, “Break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by showing mercy to the poor.” And since they are among the chief members of the Church, they should see that judgment be rightly exercised in the Church, as Constantine, Theodosius, Arcadius, Marcianus, Charles the Great, and many pious kings, took care that the judgments of the Church should be rightly exercised, &c.
Thus those of the presbyterian judgment are willing to give to Cæsar those things that are Cæsar’s, even about matters of religion, that the magistrate may see, it is far from their intention in the least degree to intrench upon his just power, by asserting the spiritual power, which Christ hath seated in his church officers, distinct from the magistratical power: but as for them of the independent judgment, and their adherents, they divest the magistrate of such power.31
II. Some power on the other hand touching religion and church affairs, is utterly denied to the civil magistrate, as no way belonging to him at all by virtue of his office of magistracy. Take it thus:
Jesus Christ, our Mediator, now under the New Testament, hath committed no spiritual power at all, magisterial or ministerial, properly, internally, formally, or virtually ecclesiastical, nor any exercise thereof, for the government of his Church, to the political magistrate, heathen or Christian, as the subject or receptacle thereof by virtue of his magistratical office.
For explication hereof briefly thus: 1. What is meant by spiritual power, magisterial and ministerial, is laid down in the general nature of the government, Chap. III. And, That all magisterial lordly power over the Church, belongs peculiarly and only to Jesus Christ our Mediator, Lord of all, is proved, Chap. V. Consequently, the civil magistrate can challenge no such power, without usurpation upon Christ’s prerogative. We hence condemn the Pope as Antichrist, while he claims to be Christ’s vicar-general over Christ’s visible Church on earth. So that all the question here will be about the ministerial power, whether any such belong to the civil magistrate. 2. What is meant by power, properly, internally, formally, or virtually ecclesiastical? Thus conceive: These several terms are purposely used, the more clearly and fully to distinguish power purely ecclesiastical, which is denied to the magistrate, from power purely political about ecclesiastical objects, which is granted to him; which is called ecclesiastical, not properly, but improperly; not internally, but externally; not formally, but only objectively, as conversant about ecclesiastical objects. Nor hath he any such ecclesiastical power in him virtually, i.e. so as to convey and give it to any other under him. He may grant and protect the public exercise of that power within his dominions; but designation of particular persons to the office and power, is from the Church; the donation of the office and power only from Christ himself. So that magistracy doth not formally nor virtually comprehend in it ecclesiastical power for church government; for a magistrate, as a magistrate, hath no inward ecclesiastical power at all belonging to him.
For confirmation of this proposition, consider these ensuing arguments.
Argum. 1st. The keys of the kingdom of heaven were never given by Christ to the civil magistrate, as such: therefore he cannot be the proper subject of church government as a magistrate. We may thus reason:
Major. No power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven was ever given by Christ to the civil magistrate, as a magistrate.
Minor. But all formal power of church government is at least part of the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven.
Conclusion. Therefore no formal power of church government was ever given by Christ to the civil magistrate, as a magistrate.
The major proposition is evident.
1. Because when Christ gave the keys of the kingdom of heaven, he makes no mention at all of the civil magistrate directly or indirectly, expressly or implicitly, as the recipient subject thereof. Compare Matt. xvi. 19, and xviii. 18, John ii. 21-23, with Matt. xxvii. 18-20. 2. Because, in Christ’s giving the keys of the kingdom of heaven, he makes express mention of church officers,32 which are really and essentially different from the civil magistrate, viz. of Peter, in name of all the rest, Matt. xvi. 18, 19, and of the rest of the apostles as the receptacle of the keys with him, Matt. xviii. 18, all the disciples save Thomas being together, he gave them the same commission in other words, John xx. 20-24, and Matt. xxviii. 18-20. Now if Christ should have given the keys, or any power thereof to the magistrate, as a magistrate, he must consequently have given them only to the magistrate, and then how could he have given them to his apostles, being officers in the Church really distinct from the magistrate?
3. Because Jesus Christ, in giving the keys of the kingdom, gave not any one sort, act, part, or piece of the keys severally, but the whole power of the keys, all the sorts and acts thereof jointly. Therefore it is said, I give the keys of the kingdom—and whatsoever thou shalt bind—whatsoever thou shalt loose—whose soever sins ye remit—whose soever sins ye retain—Matt. xvi. 19, John xx. 23. So that here is not only key, but keys given at once, viz. key of doctrine, and the key of discipline; or the key of order, and the key of jurisdiction; not only binding or retaining, but loosing or remitting of sins, viz. all acts together conferred in the keys. Now if Christ gave the keys to the magistrate, then he gave all the sorts of keys and all the acts thereof to him: if so, the magistrate may as well preach the word, and dispense the sacraments, &c., (as Erastus would have him,) as dispense the censures, &c., (for Christ joined all together in the same commission, and by what warrant are they disjoined?) and if so, what need of pastors, teachers, &c.,, in the Church? Let the civil magistrate do all. It is true, the ruling elder (which was after added) is limited only to one of the keys, viz. the key of discipline, 1 Tim. v. 17; but this limitation is by the same authority that ordained his office.
4. Because if Christ gave the keys to the civil magistrate as such, then to every magistrate, whether Jewish, heathenish, or Christian: but not to the Jewish magistrate; for the sceptre was to depart from him, and the Jewish polity to be dissolved, and even then was almost extinct. Not to the heathenish magistrate, for then those might be properly and formally church governors which were not church members; and if the heathen magistrate refused to govern the Church, (when there was no other magistrate on earth,) she must be utterly destitute of all government, which are grossly absurd. Nor, finally, to the Christian magistrate, for Christ gave the keys to officers then in being; but at that time no Christian magistrate was in being in the world. Therefore the keys were given by Christ to no civil magistrate, as such, at all.
The minor, viz. But all formal power of church government is at least part of the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven is clear. If we take church government largely, as containing both doctrine, worship, and discipline, it is the whole power of the keys; if strictly, as restrained only to discipline, it is at least part of the power. For, 1st, Not only the power of order, but also the power of jurisdiction, is contained under the word keys; otherwise it should have been said key, not keys; church government therefore is at least part of the power of the keys. 2d, The word key, noting a stewardly power, as appears, Isa. xxii. 22, (as Erastians themselves will easily grant,) may as justly be extended in the nature of it to signify the ruling power by jurisdiction, as the teaching power by doctrine; in that the office of a steward in the household, who bears the keys, consists in governing, ordering, and ruling the household, as well as in feeding it, as that passage in Luke xii. 41-49, being well considered, doth very notably evidence. For, Christ applying his speech to his disciples, saith, “Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his Lord shall make ruler of his household?—he will make him ruler over all that he hath,” &c. 3d, Nothing in the text or context appears why we should limit keys and the acts thereof only to doctrine, and exclude discipline; and where the text restrains not, we are not to restrain. 4th, The most of sound interpreters extend the keys and the acts thereof as well to discipline as to doctrine; to matters of jurisdiction, as well as to matters of order. From all we may conclude,
Therefore no formal power of church government was ever given by Christ to the civil magistrate, as a magistrate.
Argum. 2d. There was full power of church government in the church when no magistrate was Christian, yea, when all magistrates were persecutors of the Church, so far from being her nursing fathers, that they were her cruel butchers; therefore the magistrate is not the proper subject of this power. Thus we may argue:
Major. No proper power of church government, which was fully exercised in the Church of Christ, before any magistrate became Christian, yea, when magistrates were persecutors of the Church, was derived from Christ to the magistrate as a magistrate.
Minor. But all proper power of church government was fully exercised in the Church before any magistrate became Christian, yea, when magistrates were cruel persecutors of the Church of Christ.
Conclusion. Therefore no proper power of church government was derived from Christ to the civil magistrate as a magistrate.
The major proposition must be granted. For, 1st, Either then the Church, in exercising such full power of church government, should have usurped that power which belonged not at all to her, but only to the magistrate; for what power belongs to a magistrate, as a magistrate, belongs to him only; but dare we think that the apostles, or the primitive purest apostolical churches did or durst exercise all their power of church government which they exercised, merely by usurpation without any right thereunto themselves? 2d, Or if the Church usurped not, &c., but exercised the power which Christ gave her, let the magistrate show wherein Christ made void the Church’s charter, retracted this power, and gave it unto him.
The minor proposition cannot be denied. For,
1st. It was about 300 years after Christ before any of the Roman emperors (who had subdued the whole world, Luke ii. 1, under their sole dominion) became Christian. For Constantine the Great was the first emperor that received the faith, procured peace to the Church, and gave her respite from her cruel persecutions, which was in Anno 309 (or thereabouts) after Christ; before which time the Church was miserably wasted and butchered with those ten bloody persecutions, by the tyranny of Nero, and other cruel emperors before Constantine.
2d. Yet within the space of this first 309 or 311 years, all proper power of church government was fully exercised in the Church of Christ; not only the word preached, Acts iv. 2; 1 Tim. iii. 16; and sacraments dispensed, Acts xx. 7; 1 Cor. xi. 17, &c.; Acts ii. 4, and viii. 12: but also deacons set apart for that office of deaconship, Acts vi.: elders ordained and sent forth, Acts xiii. 1-3, and xiv. 23; 1 Tim. iv.; Tit. i. 5: public admonition in use, Tit. iii. 10; 1 Tim. v. 20: excommunication, 1 Cor. v.; and 1 Tim. i. 20: absolution of the penitent, 2 Cor. ii. 6, 7, &c.: synodical conventions and decrees, Acts xv. with xvi. 4. So that we may conclude,
Therefore no proper power of church government was derived from Christ to the civil magistrate, as a magistrate.
Argum. 3d. The magistratical power really, specifically, and essentially differs from the ecclesiastical power; therefore the civil magistrate, as a magistrate, cannot be the proper subject of this ecclesiastical power. Hence we may thus argue:
Major. No power essentially, specifically, and really differing from magistratical power, was ever given by Christ to the magistrate as a magistrate.
Minor. But all proper ecclesiastical power essentially, specifically, and really differs from the magistratical power.
Conclusion. Therefore no proper ecclesiastical power was ever given by Jesus Christ to the civil magistrate as a magistrate.
The major is evident: for how can the magistrate, as a magistrate, receive such a power as is really and essentially distinct and different from magistracy? Were not that to make the magistratical power both really the same with itself, and yet really and essentially different from itself? A flat contradiction.
The minor may be clearly evinced many ways: as, 1st, From the real and formal distinction between the two societies, viz. the Church and commonwealth, wherein ecclesiastical and political power are peculiarly seated. 2d. From the co-ordination of the power ecclesiastical and political, in reference to one another. 3d. From the different causes of these two powers, viz. efficient, material, formal, and final; in all which they are truly distinguished from one another.
1st. From the real and formal distinction between the two societies, viz. church and commonwealth: for, 1. The society of the Church is only Christ’s, and not the civil magistrate’s: it is his house, his spouse, his body, &c., and Christ hath no vicar33 under him. 2. The officers ecclesiastical are Christ’s officers, not the magistrate’s, 1 Cor. iv. 1: Christ gave them, Eph. iv. 8, 10, 11: God set them in the Church, 1 Cor. xii. 28. 3. These ecclesiastical officers are both elected and ordained by the Church, without commission from the civil magistrate, by virtue of Christ’s ordinance, and in his name. Thus the apostles appointed officers: Whom we may appoint, Acts vi. 3, 4. The power of ordination and mission is in the hands of Christ’s officers; compare Acts xiv. 23; 1 Tim. iv. 14, with Acts xiii. 1-4: and this is confessed by the parliament to be an ordinance of Jesus Christ, in their ordinance for ordaining of preaching presbyters. 4. The Church, and the several presbyteries ecclesiastical, meet not as civil judicatories, for civil acts of government, as making civil statutes, inflicting civil punishments, &c., but as spiritual assemblies, for spiritual acts of government and discipline: as preaching, baptizing, receiving the Lord’s supper, prayer, admonition of the disorderly, &c. 5. What gross absurdities would follow, should not these two societies, viz. church and commonwealth, be acknowledged to be really and essentially distinct from one another! For then, 1. There can be no commonwealth where there is not a Church; but this is contrary to all experience. Heathens have commonwealths, yet no Church. 2. Then there may be church officers elected where there is no church, seeing there are magistrates where there is no church. 3. Then those magistrates, where there is no church, are no magistrates; but that is repugnant to Scripture, which accounts heathen rulers the servants of God, Isa. xlv. 1; Jer. xxv. 9: and calls them kings, Exod. vi. 13; Isa. xxxi. 35. And further, if there be no magistrates where there is no church, then the church is the formal constituting cause of magistrates. 4. Then the commonwealth, as the commonwealth, is the church; and the church, as the church, is the commonwealth: then the church and the commonwealth are the same. 5. Then all that are members of the commonwealth are, on that account, because members of the commonwealth, members of the church. 6. Then the commonwealth, being formally the same with the church, is, as a commonwealth, the mystical body of Christ. 7. Then the officers of the church are the officers of the commonwealth; the power of the keys gives them right to the civil sword: and consequently, the ministers of the gospel, as ministers, are justices of the peace, judges, parliament-men, &c., all which how absurd, let the world judge.
2d. From the co-ordination of the power ecclesiastical and political, in reference to one another: (this being a received maxim, that subordinate powers are of the same kind; co-ordinate powers are of distinct kinds.) Now, that the power of the Church is co-ordinate with the civil power, may be evidenced as followeth: 1. The officers of Christ, as officers, are not directly and properly subordinate to the civil power, though in their persons they are subject thereto: the apostles and pastors may preach, and cast out of the church, against the will of the magistrate, and yet not truly offend magistracy; thus, in doing the duty they have immediately received from God, they must “obey God rather than men,” Acts iv. 19, 20. And the apostles and pastors must exercise their office (having received a command from Christ) without attending to the command or consent of the civil magistrate for the same; as in casting out the incestuous person, 1 Cor. v. 5: telling the Church, Matt. xviii. 17: rejecting a heretic, Tit. iii. 10. And, 2. Those acts of power are not directly and formally subordinate to the magistrate, which he himself cannot do, or which belong not to him. Thus the kings of Israel could not burn incense: “It appertaineth not unto thee,” 2 Chron. xxvi. 18, 19. Likewise, none have the power of the keys, but they to whom Christ saith, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel,” Matt. xxviii. 19: but Christ spake not this to magistrates: so only those that are sent, Rom. x. 15, and those that are governors, are by Christ placed in the Church. 3. The officers of the Church can ecclesiastically censure the officers of the state, though not as such, as well as the officers of the state can punish civilly the officers of the Church, though not as such: the church guides may admonish, excommunicate, &c., the officers of the state as members of the Church, and the officers of the state may punish the officers of the Church as the members of the state. 4. Those that are not sent of the magistrate as his deputies, they are not subordinate in their mission to his power, but the ministers are not sent as the magistrate’s deputies, but are set over the flock by the Holy Ghost, Acts xx. 28: they are likewise the ministry of Christ, 1 Cor. iv. 1, 2: they are over you in the Lord, 1 Thess. v. 12: and in his name they exercise their jurisdiction, 1 Cor. v. 4, 5. 5. If the last appeal in matters purely ecclesiastical be not to the civil power, then there is no subordination; but the last appeal properly so taken is not to the magistrate. This appears from these considerations: 1. Nothing is appealable to the magistrate but what is under the power of the sword; but admonition, excommunication, &c., are not under the power of the sword: they are neither matters of dominion nor coercion. 2. If it were so, then it follows that the having of the sword gives a man a power to the keys. 3. Then it follows that the officers of the kingdom of heaven are to be judged as such by the officers of the kingdom of this world as such, and then there is no difference between the things of Cæsar and the things of God. 4. The church of Antioch sent to Jerusalem, Acts xv. 2, and the synod there, without the magistrate, came together, ver. 6; and determined the controversy, ver. 28, 29. And we read, “The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets,” 1 Cor. xiv. 32; not to the civil power as prophets. So we must seek knowledge at the priest’s lips, not at the civil magistrate’s, Mal. ii. 7. And we read, that the people came to the priests in hard controversies, but never that the priests went to the civil power, Deut. xvii. 8-10. 5. It makes the magistrate Christ’s vicar, and so Christ to have a visible head on earth, and so to be an ecclesiastico-civil pope, and consequently there should be as many visible heads of Christ’s Church as there are magistrates. 6. These powers are both immediate; one from God the Father, as Creator, Rom. xiii. 1, 2; the other from Jesus Christ, as Mediator, Matt. xxviii. 18. Now lay all these together, and there cannot be a subordination of powers; and therefore there must be a real distinction.
3d. From the different causes of these two powers, viz. efficient, material, formal, and final; in all which they are truly distinguished from one another, as may plainly appear by this ensuing parallel:
1. They differ in their efficient cause or author, whence they are derived. Magistratical power is from God, the Creator and Governor of the world, Rom. xiii. 1, 2, 4; and so belongs to all mankind, heathen or Christian; ecclesiastical power is peculiarly from Jesus Christ our Mediator, Lord of the Church, (who hath all power given him, and the government of the Church laid upon his shoulder, as Eph. i. 22; Matt. xxviii. 18, compared with Isa. ix. 16.) See Matt. vi. 19, and xviii. 18, and xxviii. 19, 20; John xx. 21-23; 2 Cor. x. 8: and consequently belongs properly to the Church, and to them that are within the Church, 1 Cor. v. 12, 13. Magistratical power in general is the ordinance of God, Rom. xiii. 1, 2, 4; but magistratical power in particular, whether it should be monarchical in a king, aristocratical in states, democratical in the people, &c., is of men, called, therefore, a human creature, or creation, 1 Pet. ii. 13; but ecclesiastical power, and officers in particular, as well as general, are from Christ, Matt. xvi. 19, and xxviii. 18-20; Tit. iii. 10; 1 Cor. v. 13; 2 Cor. ii. For officers, see Eph. iv. 11, 12; 1 Cor. xii. 28.
2. They differ in their material cause; whether it be the matter of which they consist, in which they are seated, or about which they are exercised. 1. In respect of the matter of which they consist, they much differ. Ecclesiastical power consists of the keys of the kingdom of heaven, which are exercised in the preaching of the word, dispensing the sacraments, executing the censures, admonition, excommunication, absolution, ordination of presbyters, &c.; but magistratical power consists in the secular sword, which puts forth itself in making statutes, inflicting fines, imprisonments, confiscations, banishments, torments, death. 2. In respect of the matter or object about which they are exercised, they much differ: for, the magistratical power is exercised politically, about persons and things without the Church, as well as within the church; but the ecclesiastical power is exercised only upon them that are within the Church, 1 Cor. v. 13. The magistratical power in some cases of treason, &c., banishes or otherwise punishes even penitent persons: ecclesiastical power punishes no penitent persons. The magistratical power punishes not all sorts of scandal, but some: the ecclesiastical power punishes (if rightly managed) all sorts of scandal.
3. They differ in their formal cause, as doth clearly appear by their way or manner of acting: magistratical power takes cognizance of crimes, and passes sentence thereupon according to statutes and laws made by man: ecclesiastical power takes cognizance of, and passes judgment upon crimes according to the word of God, the Holy Scriptures. Magistratical power punishes merely with political punishments, as fines, imprisonments, &c. Ecclesiastical merely with spiritual punishments, as church censures. Magistratical power makes all decrees and laws, and executes all authority, commanding or punishing only in its own name, in name of the supreme magistrate, as of the king, &c., but ecclesiastical power is wholly exercised, not in the name of churches, or officers, but only in Christ’s name, Matt, xxviii. 19; Acts iv. 17; 1 Cor. v. 4. The magistrate can delegate his power to another: church-governors cannot delegate their power to others, but must exercise it by themselves. The magistrate about ecclesiasticals hath power to command and compel politically the church officers to do their duty, as formerly was evidenced; but cannot discharge lawfully those duties themselves, but in attempting the same, procure divine wrath upon themselves: as Korah, Numb. xvi.; King Saul, 1 Sam. xiii. 9-15; King Uzziah, 2 Chron. xxvi. 16-22: but church-guides can properly discharge the duties of doctrine, worship, and discipline themselves, and ecclesiastically command and compel others to do their duty also.
4. Lastly, They differ in their final cause or ends. The magistratical power levels at the temporal, corporal, external, political peace, tranquillity, order, and good of human society, and of all persons within his jurisdiction, &c. The ecclesiastical power intends properly the spiritual good and edification of the Church and all the members thereof, Matt, xviii. 15; 1 Cor. v. 5, &c.; 2 Cor. x. 8, and xiii. 10.34 May we not from all clearly conclude, Therefore no proper ecclesiastical power was ever given by Jesus Christ to the magistrate as a magistrate?
Argum. 4th. The civil magistrate is no proper church officer, and therefore cannot be the proper subject of church power, Hence we may argue:
Major. All formal power of church government was derived from Jesus Christ to his own proper church officers only. To them he gave the keys of the kingdom of heaven, Matt. xvi. 19, and xviii. 18; John xx. 21, 28: to them he gave the authority for edification of the church, 2 Cor. x. 8, and xiii. 10: but this will after more fully appear in Chap. XI. following.
Minor. But no civil magistrate, as a magistrate, is any of Christ’s proper church officers. For, 1. The civil magistrate is never reckoned up in the catalogue, list, or roll of Christ’s church officers in Scripture, Eph. iv. 10-12; 1 Cor. xii. 28, &c.; Rom. xii. 6-8; if here, or anywhere else, let the magistrate or the Erastians show it. 2. A magistrate, as a magistrate, is not a church member, (much less a church governor;) for then all magistrates, heathen as well as Christian, should be church members and church officers, but this is contrary to the very nature of Christ’s kingdom, which admits no heathen into it.
Conclusion. Therefore no formal power of church government was derived from Jesus Christ to the magistrate as a magistrate.
Argum. 5th. The civil magistrate, as such, is not properly subordinate to Christ’s mediatory kingdom; therefore is not the receptacle of church power from Christ. Hence thus:
Major. Whatsoever formal power of church government Christ committed to any, he committed it only to those that were properly subordinate to his mediatory kingdom. For whatsoever ecclesiastical ordinance, office, power, or authority, Christ gave to men, he gave it as Mediator and Head of the Church, by virtue of his mediatory office; and for the gathering, edifying, and perfecting of his mediatory kingdom, which is his Church, Eph. iv. 7, 10-12. Therefore such as are not properly subordinate to Christ in this his office, and for this end, can have no formal church power from Christ.
Minor. But no magistrate, as a magistrate, is subordinate properly to Christ’s mediatory kingdom. For, 1. Not Christ the Mediator, but God the Creator authorizeth the magistrate’s office, Rom. xiii. 1, 2, 6. 2. Magistracy is never styled a ministry of Christ in Scripture, nor dispensed in his name. 3. Christ’s kingdom is not of this world, John xviii. 36; the magistrate’s is.
Conclusion. Therefore no formal power of Church government is committed by Christ to the magistrate as a magistrate.
6th. Finally, divers absurdities unavoidably follow upon the granting of a proper formal power of Church government to the civil magistrate: therefore he cannot be the proper subject of such power. Hence it may be thus argued:
Major. No grant of ecclesiastical power, which plainly introduceth many absurdities, can be allowed to the political magistrate, as the proper subject thereof. For though in matters of religion there be many things mysterious, sublime, and above the reach of reason; yet there is nothing to be found that is absurd, irrational, &c.
Minor. But to grant to the political magistrate, as a magistrate, a proper formal power of church government, introduceth plainly many absurdities, e.g.: 1. This brings confusion betwixt the office of the magistracy and ministry. 2. Confounds the church and commonwealth together. 3. Church government may be monarchical in one man; and so, not only prelatical but papal; and consequently, antichristian. Which absurdities, with many others, were formerly intimated, and neither by religion nor reason can be endured. We conclude:
Conclusion. Therefore the grant of a proper formal power of church government cannot be allowed to the political magistrate as the proper subject thereof, because he is a magistrate.
That the community of the faithful, or body of the people, are not the immediate subject of the power of Church government.
Thus we see, that Jesus Christ our Mediator did not commit any proper formal ecclesiastical power for church government to the political magistrate, as such, as the Erastians conceive. Now, in the next place (to come more close) let us consider that Jesus Christ our Mediator hath not committed the spiritual power of church government to the body of the people, presbyterated, or unpresbyterated (to use their own terms) as the first subject thereof, according to the opinion of the Separatists or Independents. Take it in this proposition:
Jesus Christ our Mediator hath not committed the proper formal power or authority spiritual, for government of his Church,35 unto the community of the faithful, whole church, or body of the people, as the proper immediate receptacle, or first subject thereof.
Some things herein need a little explanation, before we come to the confirmation.
1. By fraternity, community of the faithful, whole church or body of the people, understand a particular company of people, meeting together in one assembly or single congregation, to partake of Christ’s ordinances. This single congregation may be considered as presbyterated, i.e., furnished with an eldership; or as unpresbyterated, i.e., destitute of an eldership, having yet no elders or officers erected among them. Rigid Brownists or Separatists say, that the fraternity or community of the faithful unpresbyterated is the first receptacle of proper ecclesiastical power from Christ: unto whom some of independent judgment subscribe. Independents thus resolve: First, That the apostles of Christ are the first subject of apostolical power. Secondly, That a particular congregation of saints, professing the faith, taken indefinitely for any church, (one as well as another,) is the first subject of all church offices with all their spiritual gifts and power. Thirdly, That when the church of a particular congregation walketh together in the truth and peace, the brethren of the church are the first subjects of church liberty; the elders thereof of church authority; and both of them together are the first subject of all church power.36 Which assertions of Brownists and Independents (except the first) are denied by them of presbyterian judgment, as being obvious to divers material and just exceptions.37:
2. By proper formal power or authority spiritual, for church government, thus conceive. To omit what hath been already laid down about the natures and sorts of spiritual power and authority, (part 2, chap. III. and VI.,) which are to be remembered, here it may be further observed, that there is a proper public, official, authoritative power, though but stewardly and ministerial, which is derived from Jesus Christ to his church officers, Matt. xvi. 19, and xviii. 18; John xx. 21-23; Matt, xxviii. 18-20; of which power the apostle speaking, saith, “If I should somewhat boast of our power which the Lord hath given us to edification,” 2 Cor. x. 8; so 2 Cor. xiii. 10. The people are indeed allowed certain liberties or privileges; as, To try the spirits, &c., 1 John iv. 1. To prove all doctrines by the word, 1 Thess. v. 21. To nominate and elect their own church officers, as their deacons, which they did, Acts vi. 3, 5, 6; but this is not a proper power of the keys. But the proper, public, official, authoritative power, is quite denied to the body of the people, furnished with an eldership or destitute thereof.
3. By proper immediate receptacle, or first subject of power, understand, that subject, seat, or receptacle of power, which first and immediately received this power from Jesus Christ; and consequently was intrusted and authorized by him, to put forth and exercise that power in his Church for the government thereof. And here two things must be carefully remembered: 1. That we distinguish betwixt the object and subject of this power. The object for which, for whose good and benefit all this power is given, is primarily the general visible Church, Ephes. iv. 7, 10-12; 1 Cor. xii. 28; Rom. xii. 5,6, &c. Secondarily, particular churches, as they are parts and members of the general. But the subject receiving to which the power is derived, is not the Church general or particular, but the officers or governors of the Church. 2. That we distinguish also betwixt the donation of the power, and the designation of particular persons to offices ecclesiastical. This designation of persons to the offices of key bearing or ruling may be done first and immediately by the Church, in nominating or electing her individual officers which is allowed to her; yet is no proper authoritative act of power. But the donation of the power itself is not from the Church as the fountain, but immediately from Christ himself, 2 Cor. xi. 8, and xiii. 10. Nor is it to the Church as the subject, but immediately to the individual church officers themselves, who consequently, in all the exercise of their power, act as the ministers and stewards of Christ, 1 Cor. iv. 1, putting forth their power immediately received from Christ, not as the substitutes or delegates of the Church putting forth her power, which from Christ she mediately conveys to them, as Independents do imagine, but by us is utterly denied.
For confirmation of this proposition thus explained and stated; consider these few arguments:
Argum. I. The community of the faithful, or body of the people, have no authentic commission or grant of proper spiritual power for church government; and therefore they cannot possibly be the first subject or the proper immediate receptacle of such power from Christ. We may thus argue:
Major. Whomsoever Jesus Christ hath made the immediate receptacle or first subject of proper formal power for governing of his Church, to them this power is conveyed by some authentic grant or commission.
Minor. But the community of the faithful, or body of the people, have not this power conveyed unto them by any authentic grant or commission.
Conclusion. Therefore Jesus Christ our Mediator hath not made the community of the faithful, or body of the people, the immediate receptacle or first subject of proper formal power for governing of his Church.
The major proposition is evident in itself: For, 1. The power of church government in this or that subject is not natural, but positive; and cast upon man, not by natural, but by positive law, positive grant: men are not bred, but made the first subject of such power; therefore all such power claimed or exercised, without such positive grant, is merely without any due title, imaginary, usurped, unwarrantable, in very fact null and void. 2. All power of church government is radically and fundamentally in Christ, Isa. ix. 6; Matt, xxviii. 18; John v. 22. And how shall any part of it be derived from Christ to man, but by some fit intervening mean betwixt Christ and man? And what mean of conveyance betwixt Christ and man can suffice, if it do not amount to an authentic grant or commission for such power? 3. This is evidently Christ’s way to confer power by authentic commission immediately upon his church officers, the apostles and their successors, to the world’s end. “Thou art Peter; and I give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven,” &c., Matt. xvi. 18, 19. “Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth,” &c., Matt, xviii. 19, 20. “As my Father sent me, so send I you; go, disciple ye all nations; whose sins ye remit, they are remitted—and lo, I am with you always to the end of the world,” John xx. 21, 23; Matt, xxviii. 19, 20. “Our power, which the Lord hath given us for edification,” 2 Cor. x. 8, and xiii. 10: so that we may conclude them that have such commission to be the first subject and immediate receptacle of power from Christ, as will after more fully appear. 4. If no such commission be needful to distinguish those that have such power from those that have none, why may not all without exception, young and old, wise and foolish, men and women, Christian and heathen, &c., equally lay claim to this power of church government? If not, what hinders? If so, how absurd!
The minor proposition, viz: But the community of the faithful, or body of the people, have not this power conveyed to them by any authentic grant or commission, is firm. For whence had they it? When was it given to them? What is the power committed to them? Or in what sense is such power committed to them?
1. Whence had they it? From heaven or of men? If from men, then it is a human ordinance and invention; a plant which the heavenly Father hath not planted; and therefore shall he plucked up. Matt. xv. 13. If from heaven, then from Christ; for all power is given to him, Matt, xxviii. 18, &c.; Isa. ix. 6. If it be derived from Christ, then it is derived from him by some positive law of Christ as his grant or charter. A positive grant of such power to select persons, viz. church officers, the Scripture mentions, as was evidenced in the proof of the major proposition. But touching any such grant or commission to the community of the faithful, the Scripture is silent. And let those that are for the popular power produce, if they can, any clear scripture that expressly, or by infallible consequence, contains any such commission.
2. When was any such power committed by Christ to the multitude of the faithful, either in the first planting and beginning of the Church, or in the after establishment and growth of the Church under the apostles’ ministry? Not the first; for then the apostles themselves should have derived their power from the community of the faithful: now this is palpably inconsistent with the Scriptures, Which tell us that the apostles had both their apostleship itself, and their qualifications with gifts and graces for it, yea, and the very designation of all their particular persons unto that calling, all of them immediately from Christ himself. For the first, see Gal. i. 1: “Paul, an apostle, not of men, nor by man, but by Jesus Christ,” Matt, xxviii. 18-20. For the second, see John xx. 22, 23: “And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost; whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them,” &c. For the third, see Luke vi. 13, &c.: “And when it was day he called to him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles; Simon—” Matt. x. 5-7, &c.: “These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying.” And after his resurrection he enlarges their commission, Mark xvi. 15, 16: “Go ye into all the world;” and, “As my Father hath sent me, so send I you,” John xx. 21. See also how the Lord cast the lot upon Matthias, Acts i. 24-26. Nor the second; for if such power be committed to the community of the faithful after the apostles had established the churches, then let those that so think show where Christ committed this power first to the apostles, and after to the community of the faithful, and by them or with them to their ordinary officers, for execution thereof. But no such thing hath any foundation in Scripture; for the ordinary Church guides, though they may have a designation to their office by the church, yet they have the donation, or derivation of their office and its authority only from Christ: their office is from Christ, Ephes. iv. 8, 11; 1 Cor. xii. 28; Acts xx. 28, 29. Their power from Christ, Matt. xvi. 19, and xxviii. 18, 19; John xx. 21, 23. “Our power which the Lord hath given us,” 2 Cor. viii. 10. They are Christ’s ministers, stewards, ambassadors, 1 Cor. iv. 1; 2 Cor. v. 19, 20. They are to act and officiate in his name, Matt, xviii. 19; 1 Cor. v. 4, 5; and to Christ they must give an account. Heb. xiii. 17, 18; Luke xii. 41, 42. Now if the ordinary officers have (as well as the apostles their apostleship) their offices of pastor, teacher, &c., from Christ, and are therein the successors of the apostles to continue to the world’s end, (Matt, xxviii. 18-20,) then they have their power and authority in their offices immediately from Christ, as the first receptacles thereof themselves, and not from the Church as the first receptacle of it herself. A successor hath jurisdiction from him from whom the predecessor had his; otherwise he doth not truly succeed him. Consequently the Church or community of the faithful cannot possibly be the first receptacle of the power of church government from Christ.
3. What power is it that is committed to the body of the Church or multitude of the faithful? Either it must be the power of order, or the power of jurisdiction. But neither of these is allowed to the multitude of the faithful by the Scriptures, (but appointed and appropriated to select persons.) Not the power of order; for the whole multitude, and everyone therein, neither can nor ought to intermeddle with any branches of that power. 1. Not with preaching; all are not apt to teach, 1 Tim. iii. 2, nor able to exhort and convince gainsayers, Tit. i. 9; all are not gifted and duly qualified. Some are expressly prohibited speaking in the church, 1 Cor. xiv. 34, 35, 1 Tim. ii. 12, Rev. ii. 20, and none are to preach, unless they be sent, Rom. x. 15, nor to take such honor unto themselves unless they be called, &c., Heb. v. 4, 5. Are all and every one of the multitude of the faithful able to teach, exhort, and convince? are they all sent to preach? are they all called of God? &c. Nay, hath not Christ laid this task of authoritative preaching only upon his own officers? Matt, xxviii. 18, 19. 2. Not with administration of the sacraments; this and preaching are by one and the same commission given to officers only, Matt, xxviii. 18-20; 1 Cor. xi. 23. 3. Nor to ordain presbyters, or other officers. They may choose; but extraordinary officers, or the presbytery of ordinary officers, ordain. Acts vi. 3, 5, 6: “Look ye out men—whom we may appoint.” Compare also Acts xiv. 23; 1 Tim. iv. 14, and v. 22; Tit. iii. 5. So that the people’s bare election and approbation is no sufficient Scripture ordination of officers. Nor is there one often thousand among the people that is in all points able to try and judge of the sufficiency of preaching presbyters, for tongues, arts, and soundness of judgment in divinity. Nor is the power of jurisdiction in public admonition, excommunication, and absolution, &c., allowed to the multitude. For all and every one of the multitude of the faithful, 1. Never had any such power given to them from Christ; this key as well as the key of knowledge being given to the officers of the Church only, Matt. xvi. 19, and xviii. 18-20. Tell the church, there, must needs be meant of the ruling church only.38 2 Cor. viii. 10; John xx. 21-23. 2. Never acted or executed any such power, that we can find in Scripture. As for that which is primarily urged of the church of Corinth, that the whole church did excommunicate the incestuous person, 1 Cor. v. 4, &c., many things may be answered to evince the contrary. 1st, The whole multitude could not do it; for children could not judge, and women must not speak in the Church. 2d, It is not said, Sufficient to such an one is the rebuke inflicted of all; but of many, 2 Cor. ii. 6, viz. of the presbytery, which consisted of many officers. 3d, The church of Corinth, wherein this censure was inflicted, was not a congregational, but a presbyterial church, having divers particular congregations in it, (as is hereafter cleared in Chap. XXIII.,) and therefore the whole multitude of the church of Corinth could not meet together in one place for this censure, but only the presbytery of that great church. Again, never did the whole multitude receive from Christ due gifts and qualifications for the exercise of church government and jurisdiction; nor any promise from Christ to be with them therein, as officers have, Matt, xxviii. 18-20. And the absurdities of such popular government are intolerable, as after will appear.
4. Finally, in what sense can it be imagined that any such power should be committed from Christ to the community of the faithful, the whole body of the Church? For this power is given them equally with the church-guides, or unequally. If equally, then,.1. The church-guides have power and authority, as primarily and immediately committed to them, as the Church herself hath; and then they need not derive or borrow any power from the body of the faithful, having a power equal to theirs. 2. How vainly is that power equally given as to the officers, so to the whole multitude, when the whole multitude have no equal gifts and abilities to execute the same! If unequally, then this power is derived to the church-guides, either more or less than to the multitude of the faithful. If less, then how improperly were all those names of rule and government imposed upon officers, which nowhere are given by Scripture to the multitude! as Pastors, Eph. iv. 8, 11. Elders, 1 Tim. v. 17. Overseers, Acts xx. 28. Guides, Heb. xiii. 7, 17, 22. In this last verse they are contradistinguished from the saints; church-guides, and saints guided, make up a visible organical church. Rulers in the Lord, 1 Thes. v. 12; Rom. xii. 8: and well-ruling Elders, 1 Tim. v. 17. Governments, 1 Cor. xii. 28. Stewards, 1 Cor. iv. 1,2; Luke xii. 42, &c. And all these titles have power and rule engraven in their very foreheads; and they of right belonged rather to the multitude than to the officers, if the officers derive their power from the multitude of the people. If more, then church-guides, having more power than the Church, need not derive any from the Church, being themselves better furnished.
Thus, what way soever we look, it cannot be evinced, that the multitude and body of the people, with or without eldership, are the first subject of power, or have any authoritative public official power at all, from any grant, mandate, or commission of Christ. From all which we may strongly conclude,
Therefore Jesus Christ our Mediator hath not made the community of the faithful, or body of the people, the immediate receptacle, or first subject of proper formal power for governing of his church.
Argum. II. As the multitude of the faithful have no authentic grant or commission of such power of the keys in the Church; so they have no divine warrant for the actual execution of the power of the said keys therein: and therefore cannot be the first receptacle of the power of the keys from Christ. For thus we may reason:
Major. Whosoever are the first subject, or immediate receptacle of the power of the keys from Christ, they have divine warrant actually to exercise and put in execution the said power. Minor. But the multitude or community of the faithful have no divine warrant actually to exercise and put in execution the power of the keys.
Conclusion. Therefore the community of the faithful are not the first subject, or immediate receptacle of the power of the keys from Jesus Christ.
The major proposition must necessarily be yielded. For, 1. The power of the keys contains both authority and exercise; power being given to that end that it may be exercised for the benefit of the Church. It is called the power given us for edification, 2 Cor. viii. 10. Where there is no exercise of power there can be no edification by power. 2. Both the authority and complete exercise of all that authority, were at once and together communicated from Christ to the receptacle of power. “I give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth,” &c., Matt. xvi. 19, and xviii. 18. “As my Father sent me, so send I you—whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted,” John xx. 21, 23. Here is both power and the exercise thereof joined together in the same commission. Yea, so individual and inseparable are power and exercise, that under exercise, power and authority is derived: as, “Go, disciple ye all nations, baptizing them,” &c., Matt. xxviii. 18, 19. 3. How vain, idle, impertinent, and ridiculous is it to fancy and dream of such a power as shall never be drawn into act by them that have it!
The minor proposition, viz. But the multitude or communion of the faithful have no divine warrant, actually to exercise and put in execution the power of the keys, is clear also:
1. By reason: for, the actual execution of this power belongs to them by divine warrant, either when they have church officers, or when they want church officers. Not while they have officers; for, that were to slight Christ’s officers: that were to take officers’ work out of their hands by them that are no officers, and when there were no urgent necessity; contrary whereunto, see the proofs, Chap. XI. Section 2, that were to prejudice the church, in depriving her of the greater gifts, and undoubtedly authorized labors of her officers, &c. Not when they want officers in a constituted church: as in case where there are three or four elders, the pastor dies, two of the ruling elders fall sick, or the like; in such cases the community cannot by divine warrant supply the defects of these officers themselves, by exercising their power, or executing their offices. For where doth Scripture allow such power to the community in such cases? What one church without its eldership can be instanced in the New Testament, that in such cases once presumed to exercise such power, which might be precedent or example for it to other churches? How needless are church officers, if the multitude of the faithful may, as members of the church, take up their office, and actually discharge it in all the parts of it?
2. By induction of particulars, it is evident, that the community cannot execute the power of the keys by any divine warrant. 1. They may not preach: for, “how shall they preach, except they be sent?” Rom. x. 15; but the community cannot he sent, many of them being incapable of the office, either by reason of their sex, 1 Cor. xiv. 34, 35; 1 Tim. ii. 11, 12: or by reason of their age; as children, and all or most of them by reason of their deficiency in gifts and in scripture qualifications, Tit. i. and 1 Tim. iii. For not one member of a thousand is so completely furnished, as to be “apt to teach, able to convince gainsayers, and to divide the word of truth aright.” Besides, they may not send themselves, were they capable, for, no man takes this honor to himself—Yea, Jesus Christ himself did not glorify himself to be made an high-priest—Heb. v. 4, 5. Now only officers are sent to preach, Matt. xvi. 19, and xviii. 19, 20; Mark xvi. 15. 2. They may not administer the seals, the sacraments, baptize, &c. under the New Testament; for who gave the people any such authority? hath not Christ conjoined preaching and dispensing of the sacraments in the same commission, that the same persons only that do the one, may do the other? Matt. xxviii. 18, 19. 3. They may not ordain officers in the church, and authoritatively send them abroad: for, ordinarily the community have not sufficient qualifications and abilities for proving and examining of men’s gifts for the ministry. The community are nowhere commanded or allowed so to do in the whole New Testament, but other persons distinct from them, 1 Tim. v. 22; 2 Tim. ii. 2; Tit. i. 5, &c. Nor did the community ever exercise or assume to themselves any such power of ordination or mission, but only officers both in the first sending of men to preach, as 1 Tim. iv. 14; 2 Tim. i. 6: and to be deacons, Acts vi. 6, and also in after missions, as Acts xiii. 1-3. 4. The community, without officers, may not exercise any act of jurisdiction authoritatively and properly; may not admonish, excommunicate, or absolve. For we have no precept that they should do it; we have no example in all the New Testament that they ever did do it; we have both precept and example, that select officers both did and ought to do it. “Whatsoever ye bind on earth” (saith Christ to his officers) “shall be bound in heaven,” &c. Matt. xviii. 18, and xvi. 19. “Whose soever sins ye remit,” &c., John xx. 21, 23. “An heretic, after once or twice admonition, reject,” Tit. i. 10. “I have decreed—to deliver such an one to Satan,” 1 Cor. v. 4. “The rebuke inflicted by many,” not all, 2 Cor. ii. “Whom I have delivered to Satan,” 1 Tim. i. ult. And the Scriptures nowhere set the community over themselves to be their own church-guides and governors; but appoint over them in the Lord rulers and officers distinct from the community. Compare these places, 1 Thes. v. 12; Acts xx. 28, 29; Heb. xiii. 7, 17, 22. “Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints.” From the premises we conclude,
Therefore the community of the faithful are not the first subject, or immediate receptacle of the power of the keys from Jesus Christ.
Argum. III. Jesus Christ hath not given nor promised to the community of the faithful a spirit of ministry, nor those gifts which are necessary for the government of the church: therefore the community was never intended to be the first subject of church government.
Major. Whomsoever Christ makes the first subject of the power of church government, to them he promises and gives a spirit of ministry, and gifts necessary for that government. For, 1. As there is diversity of ecclesiastical administrations (which is the foundation of diversity of officers) and diversity of miraculous operations, and both for the profit of the Church; so there is conveyed from the Spirit of Christ diversity of gifts, free endowments, enabling and qualifying for the actual discharge of those administrations and operations. See 1 Cor. xii. 4-7, &c. 2. What instance can be given throughout the whole New Testament of any persons, whom Christ made the receptacle of church government, but withal he gifted them, and made his promises to them, to qualify them for such government? As the apostles and their successors: “As my Father sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained,” John xx. 21-23. And, “Go ye therefore, and disciple ye all nations, &c.—And lo, I am with you alway,” (or every day,) “even to the end of the world,” Matt. xxviii. 19, 20. 3. Christ being the wisdom of the Father, Col. ii. 3, John i. 18, and faithful as was Moses in all his house; yea, more faithful—Moses as a servant over another’s, he as a son over his own house, Heb. iii. 2, 5, 6—it cannot stand with his most exact wisdom and fidelity, to commit the grand affairs of church government to such as are not duly gifted, and sufficiently qualified by himself for the due discharge thereof.
Minor. But Christ neither promises, nor gives a spirit of ministry, nor necessary gifts for church government to the community of the faithful. For, 1. The Scriptures teach, that gifts for ministry and government are promised and bestowed not on all, but upon some particular persons only in the visible body of Christ. “To one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom, to another the word of knowledge,” &c., not to all, 1 Cor. xii. 8, 9, &c. “If a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?” 1 Tim. iii. 5. The hypothesis insinuates that all men have not gifts and skill rightly to rule their own houses, much less to govern the church. 2. Experience tells us, that the multitude of the people are generally destitute of such knowledge, wisdom, prudence, learning, and other necessary qualifications for the right carrying on of church government.
Conclusion. Therefore Christ makes not the community of the faithful the first subject of the power of church government.
Argum. IV. The community of the faithful are nowhere in the word called or acknowledged to be church governors: therefore they are not the first subject of church government.
Major. Those persons, who are the first subject and receptacle of proper power for church government from Christ, are in the word called and acknowledged to be church governors. This is evident, 1. By Scripture, which is wont to give to them whom Christ intrusts with his government, such names and titles as have rule, authority, and government engraven upon them: as overseers, Acts xx. 28; governments, 1 Cor. xii. 28; rulers, 1 Tim. v. 17, and Rom. xii. 8; with divers others, as after will appear in Chap. XI. 2. By reason, which tells us that government and governors are relative terms; and therefore to whom government belongs, to them also the denominations of governors, rulers, &c., do belong, and not contrariwise.
Minor. But the community of the faithful are nowhere in the word either called or acknowledged to be church governors. This is clear. For, 1. No titles or names are given them by Scripture which imply any rule or government in the visible Church of Christ. 2. They are plainly set in opposition against, and distinction from, church governors: they are called the flock; these, overseers set over them by the Holy Ghost, Acts xx. 28: they, the saints; these their rulers, Heb. xiii. 22: these are over them in the Lord; and consequently they areunder them in the Lord, 1 Thes. v. 12. 3. The community of the faithful are so far from being the subject of church government themselves, that they are expressly charged by the word of Christ to know, honor, obey, and submit, to other governors set over them, and distinct from themselves. “Know them who are over you in the Lord,” 1 Thes. v. 12. “Let the well-ruling elders be counted worthy of double honor; especially,” &c., 1 Tim. v. 17. “Obey ye your rulers, and submit, for they watch for your souls,” Heb. xiii. 17.
Conclusion. Therefore the community of the faithful are not the first subject and receptacle of proper power for church government.
Argum. V. This opinion of making the body of the Church, or community of the faithful, the first subject and immediate receptacle of the keys for the government of the Church, doth inevitably bring along with it many intolerable absurdities. Therefore it is not to be granted. Thus we may argue:
Major. That doctrine or opinion which draws after it unavoidably divers intolerable absurdities, is an unsound and unwarrantable opinion.
Minor. But this doctrine or opinion that makes the whole community or body of the Church to be the first subject and immediate receptacle of the keys, draws after it unavoidable divers intolerable absurdities.
Conclusion. Therefore this doctrine or opinion that makes the whole community or body of the Church to be the first subject, and immediate receptacle of the keys, is an unsound and unwarrantable opinion.
The Major is plain. For, 1. Though matters of religion be above reason, yet are they not unreasonable, absurd, and directly contrary to right reason. 2. The Scriptures condemn it as a great brand upon men, that they are absurd or unreasonable; “Brethren, pray for us—that we may be delivered from absurd and evil men,” 2 Thes. iii. 2; and therefore if absurd men be so culpable, absurdity, and unreasonableness itself, which make them such, are much more culpable.
The Minor, viz. But this doctrine or opinion that makes the whole community or body of the Church to be the first subject and immediate receptacle of the keys, draws after it unavoidably divers intolerable absurdities, will notably appear by an induction of particulars.
1. Hereby a clear foundation is laid for the rigid Brownist’s confused democracy, and abhorred anarchy. For, if the whole body of the people be the first receptacle of the keys, then all church government and every act thereof is in the whole body, and every member of that body a governor, consequently every member of that body an officer. But this is absurd; for if all be officers, where is the organical body? and if all be governors, where are the governed? if all be eyes, where are the feet? and if there be none governed, where is the government? it is wholly resolved at last into mere democratical anarchy and confusion, “but God is not the author of confusion,” 1 Cor. xiv. 33. What an absurdity were it, if in the body natural all were an eye, or hand! for where then were the hearing, smelling, &c.; or if all were one member, where were the body? 1 Cor. xii. 17,19. So if in the family all were masters, where were the household? where were the family government? If in a city all were aldermen, where were the citizens? where were the city government? If in a kingdom all were kings, where were the subjects, the people, the commonalty, the commonwealth, or the political government?
2. Hereby the community or whole body of the faithful, even to the meanest member, are vested from Christ with full power and authority actually to discharge and execute all acts of order and jurisdiction without exception: e.g. To preach the word authoritatively, dispense the sacraments, ordain their officers, admonish offenders, excommunicate the obstinate and incorrigible, and absolve the penitent. For the keys of the kingdom of heaven comprehend all these acts jointly, Matt. xvi. 19, and xviii. 18-20, with John xx. 21, 23: and to whom Christ in the New Testament gives power to execute one of these acts, to them he gives power to execute all; they are joined together, Matt, xviii. 19, (except in such cases where himself gives a limitation of the power, as in the case of the ruling elder, who is limited to ruling as contradistinct to laboring in the word and doctrine, 1 Tim. v. 17.) Now what gross absurdities ensue hereupon! For, 1. Then the weak as well as the strong, the ignorant as well as the intelligent, the children as well as the parents, yea, and the very women as well as the men, may preach, dispense seals, ordain, admonish, excommunicate, absolve authoritatively; (for they are all equally members of the body, one as well as another, and therefore, as such, have all alike equal share in the keys and exercise thereof:) viz. they that are not gifted for these offices, shall discharge these offices; they that are not called nor sent of God to officiate, (for God sends not all,) shall yet officiate in the name of Christ without calling or sending, contrary to Rom. x., Heb. v. 4. They that want the common use of reason and discretion (as children) shall have power to join in the highest acts of order and jurisdiction: yea, they that are expressly prohibited speaking in the churches, as the women, 1 Cor. xiv., 1 Tim. ii., shall yet have the keys of the kingdom of heaven hung at their girdles. 2. Then the Church shall be the steward of Christ, and dispenser of the mysteries of God authoritatively and properly. But if the whole Church be the dispenser of the mysteries of God, what shall be the object of this dispensation? Not the Church, for according to this opinion she is the first subject dispensing; therefore it must be something distinct from the Church, unto which the Church dispenseth; what shall this be? shall it be another collateral church? then particular churches collateral may take pastoral care one of another reciprocally, and the same churches be both over and under one another; or shall it be those that are without all churches? then the ordinances of the gospel, and the dispensation of them, were not principally bestowed upon the Church and body of Christ for the good thereof, (which is directly repugnant to the Scriptures, Eph. iv. 8, 11-13;) but rather for them that are without. How shall the men, who maintain the principle’s of the Independents, clearly help themselves out of these perplexing absurdities?
3. Hereby the body of the people (as Mr. Bayly well observes in his Dissuasive, chap. ix. page 187) will be extremely unfitted for, and unwarrantably taken off from the several duties that lie upon them in point of conscience to discharge in their general and particular callings, in spiritual and secular matters, on the Lord’s days and on their own days. For, if the ecclesiastical power be in all the people, then all the people are judges, and at least have a negative voice in all church matters. They cannot judge in any cause prudently and conscientiously, till they have complete knowledge and information of both the substantials and circumstantials of all those cases that are brought before them; they must not judge blindly, or by an implicit faith, &c., but by their own light. For all the people to have such full information and knowledge of every cause, cannot but take up abundance of time, (many of the people being slow of understanding and extremely disposed to puzzle, distract, and confound one another in any business to be transacted in common by them all.) If these matters of discipline be managed by them on the sabbath day after the dispatch of other public ordinances, ministry of the word, prayer, sacraments, &c., what time can remain for family duties privately, as repeating sermons, and meditating upon the word, searching the Scriptures, whether things preached be so indeed, reading the Scriptures, catechizing their children and servants, &c.? and how will the life of religion in families, yea, and in churches also, languish, if these family exercises be not conscientiously upheld? If they be managed on the week days, how can all the people spare so much time, as still to be present, when perhaps many of them have much ado all the week long to provide food and raiment, and other necessaries for their families? and “if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel,” 1 Tim. v. 8. Let the case of the church of Arnheim39 witness the mischief and absurdity of this popular government once for all.
4. Hereby, finally, the community of the faithful (being accounted the proper subject of the power of the keys) have authority and power not only to elect, but also to ordain their own officers, their pastors and teachers. And this they of the independent judgment plainly confess in these words:40 Though the office of a pastor in general be immediately from Christ, and the authority from him also, yet the application of this office, and of this authority to this elect person, is by the church; and therefore the church hath sufficient and just warrant, as to elect and call a presbyter unto an office, so to ordain him to it by imposition of hands. They that have power to elect a king, have power also to depute some in their name to set the crown upon his head. But for the whole church or community to ordain presbyters by imposition of hands, is very absurd. For, 1. Their women and children, being members of the church and of the community, may join in ordaining presbyters by imposing of hands, and have as great an influence in appointing them that shall actually impose hands, as the rest of the church members have, being as properly members as they. 2. Then the community, that generally are unable to judge of the fitness and sufficiency of presbyters for the pastoral office, in point of necessary gifts of learning, &c., shall, without judicious satisfaction herein by previous examination, ordain men notwithstanding to the highest ordinary office in the church. How ignorantly, how doubtfully, how irregularly, how unwarrantably, let the reader judge. 3. Then the community of the faithful may assume to themselves power to execute this ordinary act of ordination of officers, without all precept of Christ or his apostles, and without all warrant of the apostolical churches. But how absurd these things be, each moderate capacity may conceive. Further absurdities hereupon are declared by Mr. Bain,41 and after him by Mr. Ball.42
Whence we may justly conclude,
Therefore this doctrine or opinion, that makes the whole community or body of the church to be the first subject and immediate receptacle of the keys, is an unsound and unwarrantable opinion.
The middle-way men, (that profess to go between the authoritative presbyterial, and the rigid Brownistical way,) seeing these and such like absurdities, upon which the Brownists inevitably dash themselves, think to salve all by their new-coined distinction of the keys; viz. 1. There is a key of faith or knowledge, Luke xi. 52. The first subject of this key is every believer, whether joined to any particular church or not. 2. There is a key of order, Col. ii. 5, which is either, 1. A key of interest, power, or liberty, Gal. v. 13, which key is of a more large nature; 2. A key of rule and authority, which is of more strict nature, Matt. xvi. 19, John xx. 23. Hence, upon this distinction premised, they thus infer, 1. A particular congregation of saints is the first subject of all the church offices with all their spiritual gifts and power, 1 Cor. iii. 22. 2. The apostles of Christ were the first subject of apostolical power. 3. The brethren of a particular congregation are the first subjects of church liberty. 4. The elders of a particular church are the first subjects of church authority. 5. Both the elders and brethren, walking and joining together in truth and peace, are the first subjects of all church power needful to be exercised in their own body.
Answer. A rotten foundation, and a tottering superstruction, which tumbles down upon the builders’ own heads: for,
1. This distribution of the keys is infirm in divers respects: e.g. 1. In that the key of knowledge (as it stands here distinguished from the key of order, comprehending the key of power and authority) is left utterly devoid of all power. Now no key of the kingdom of heaven is to be left without all power, Independents themselves being judges. 2. In that the key of power is left as utterly void of all authority, (being contradistinguished from the key of authority,) as the key of knowledge is left void of power. Now, power and authority, in matters of government, seem to be both one; and the word in the original signifies the one as well as the other. 3. The key of liberty or interest is a new key, lately forged by some new locksmiths in Separation-shop, to be a pick-lock of the power of church officers, and to open the door for popular government; no ordinance of Christ, but a mere human invention, (as will after appear upon examination of that scripture upon which it is grounded,) and therefore this limb of the distribution is redundant, a superfluous excrescence. 4. The texts of Scripture upon which this distribution of the keys is grounded, are divers of them abused, or at least grossly mistaken; for, Luke xi. 52, key of knowledge is interpreted only the key of saving faith. But knowledge, in strict speaking, is one thing, and faith another; there may be knowledge where there is no faith; and knowledge, in a sort, is a key to faith, as the inlet thereof. And the key of knowledge, viz. true doctrine and pure preaching of the word, is a distinct thing from knowledge itself. This key the lawyers had taken away by not interpreting, or misinterpreting of the law; but they could not take away the people’s faith, or knowledge itself. Touching Col. ii. 5, 6, your order, it will be hard to prove this was only or chiefly intended of the keys delivered to Peter: doth it not rather denote the people’s moral orderly walking, according to the rule of faith and life, as in other duties, so in submitting themselves to Christ’s order of government, as is elsewhere required, Heb. xiii. 17? And as for Gal. v. 13, produced to prove the key of liberty, Brethren, you have been called unto liberty, there is too much liberty taken in wresting this text; for the apostle here speaks not of liberty as a church power, of choosing officers, joining in censures, &c., but as a gospel privilege, consisting in freedom from the ceremonial law, that yoke of bondage, which false teachers would have imposed upon them, after Christ had broken it off; as will further appear, if you please with this text to compare Gal. v. 1, 11, 15, 10, and well consider the current of the whole context.
2. The inferences upon this distribution of the keys premised, are very strange and untheological. For it may be accepted in general, that it is a groundless fancy to make several first subjects of the keys, according to the several distributions of the keys; for, had all the members of the distribution been good, yet this inference thereupon is naught, inasmuch as the Scripture tells us plainly, that all the keys together and at once were promised to Peter, Matt. xvi. 19, and given to the apostles, Matt, xviii. 18, 19, with xxviii. 18-20, and John xx. 21-23; so that originally the apostles and their successors were the only first subject and immediate receptacle of all the keys from Christ. And though since, for assistance and case of the pastor, they are divided into more hands—viz. of the ruling elder, Rom. xii. 8; 1 Cor. xii. 28; 1 Tim. v. 17—yet originally the subject was but one. Further, here is just ground for many particular exceptions: as, 1. That every believer, whether joined to any particular church or not, is made the first subject of the key of knowledge, which seems to be extremely absurd: for then every particular believer, gifted or ungifted, strong or weak, man, woman, or child, hath power to preach, (taking the key of knowledge here for the key of doctrine, as it ought to be taken, or else it is no ecclesiastical key at all,) which is one of the highest offices, and which the great apostle said, “Who is sufficient for these things?” 2 Cor. ii. 16. How unscriptural and irrational this is, all may judge. Then also some of the keys may be committed to such as are without the Church. Then finally, it is possible to be a believer, and yet in no visible church; (for Independents hold there is no church but a particular congregation, which is their only church:) but a man is no sooner a true believer, but he is a member of the invisible Church: he is no sooner a professed believer, but he is a member of the general visible Church, though he be joined to no particular congregation. 2. That a particular congregation of saints is made the first subject of all the church offices, with all their spiritual gifts and power, 1 Cor. iii. 22. But is the word subject used here properly, for the first subject recipient of all church offices, with all their gifts and power? Then the congregation of saints are either officers themselves formally, and can execute the function of all sorts of officers, and have all gifts to that end; what need then is there of any select officers? for they can make officers virtually, and furnish those officers with gifts and power to that end; but who gave them any such authority? Or what apostolical church ever assumed to themselves any such thing? Officers, not churches, are the first subject of such gifts and power. Is the word subject here used improperly, for object, whose good all offices with their gifts and power are given? Then not any particular congregation, but the whole general visible Church is the object for which all offices and officers with their gifts and power are primarily given, 1 Cor. xii. 28; Eph. iv. 8, 11, 12. As for that place, 1 Cor. iii. 22, “All is yours,” &c., it points not out the particular privilege of any one single congregation, (nor was the church of Corinth such, but presbyterial, see chap. XIII.,) but the general privilege of all true saints, and of the invisible mystical Church: for were Paul and Cephas apostles given peculiarly to the church of Corinth only? Or was the world, life, death, things present and to come, given to the wicked in the church of Corinth? 3. That the apostles are made the first subject of all apostolical power. But then, how doth this contradict the former assertion, that a particular congregation is the first subject of all offices with their gifts and power? Are there two first subjects of the same adjuncts? Or is apostleship no office? Are apostolical gifts no gifts, or power no power? or have apostles all from the Church? Doubtless apostles were before all Christian churches, and had the keys given them before the churches had their being. 4. That the brethren of a particular congregation are made the first subjects of church liberty. But, if that liberty be power and authority, then this evidently contradicts the former, that a particular congregation is the first subject of all offices and power; for brethren here are distinct from elders, and both do but make up a particular congregation. If liberty here be not power, then it is none of Christ’s keys, but a new forged pick-lock. 5. That the elders of a particular church are made the first subject of church authority; but then here is a contradiction to the former position, that made the particular congregation the first subject of all power. And though apostles and elders be the first subject of authority, yet, when the keys were first committed to them, they were not in relation to any particular church, but to the general. 6. Finally, that both elders and brethren, walking and joining together in truth and peace, are the first subjects of all church power, is liable also to exception. For this joins the brethren (who indeed have no authoritative power at all) with the elders, as the joint subject of all power. And this but allowed to them walking and joining together in truth and peace: but what if the major part of the Church prove heretical, and so walk not in truth; or schismatical, and so walk not in peace, shall the elders and the non-offending party lose all their power? Where then shall that independent church find healing? for appeals to presbyteries and synods are counted apocryphal by them. But enough hath been said to detect the vanity of these new dreams and notions; it is a bad sore that must be wrapped in so many clouts.43