Of the proper Receptacle, or immediate subject of the Power of Church Government: affirmatively, what it is, viz. Christ’s own Officers.
Thus the proper receptacle or subject of ecclesiastical power hath been considered negatively, what it is not, viz: not the political magistrate, nor yet the community of the faithful, or body of the people, with or without their eldership. Now this receptacle of power comes to be evidenced affirmatively, what it is, viz. (according to the express words of the description of government,) Christ’s own officers. This is the last branch of the description, the divine right whereof remains to be cleared; which may most satisfactorily be done by evidencing these three things, viz: 1. That Jesus Christ our Mediator hath certain peculiar church guides and officers which he hath erected in his Church. 2. That Jesus Christ our Mediator hath especially intrusted his own officers with the government of his Church. 3. How, or in what sense the ruling officers are intrusted with this government, severally or jointly?
1. Of the Divine Right of Christ’s Church Officers, viz. Pastors and Teachers, with Ruling Elders.
Touching the first, that Christ hath certain peculiar church guides and officers, which he hath erected in his Church. Take it thus:
Jesus Christ our Mediator hath ordained and set in his Church (besides the apostles and other extraordinary officers that are now ceased) pastors and teachers, as also ruling elders, as the subject of the keys for all ordinary ecclesiastical administrations. The divine right of these ordinary church officers may appear as followeth:
I. Pastors and teachers are the ordinance of Jesus Christ. This is generally granted on all sides; and therefore these few particulars may suffice for the demonstration of it, viz:
1. They are enumerated in the list or catalogue of those church officers which are of divine institution. “God hath set” (or put, constituted) “some in the Church, first, apostles; secondarily, prophets; thirdly, teachers,” 1 Cor. xii. 28. These are some of the triumphant gifts and trophies of Christ’s ascension: “Ascending up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men: and he gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,” Eph. iv. 8, 11. Thus in that exact roll of ordinary officers: “Having, therefore, gifts different according to the grace given unto us; whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; or ministry, let us wait on our ministry;” (here is the general distribution of all ordinary officers under two heads, prophecy andministry🙂 “or he that teacheth, on teaching; or he that exhorteth, on exhortation,” (here is the teacher and the pastor, that come under the first head of prophecy,) Rom. xii. 6-8. “Take heed to yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made” (or set) “you overseers,” Acts xx. 28. Note—God hath set in the Church; Christ hath given for his body; the Holy Ghost hath made overseers over the flock, these pastors and teachers: and are not pastors and teachers church officers by divine right, having the authority of God, Christ, and of the Holy Ghost?
2. They are to be thus and thus qualified according to divine direction. The qualifications of these pastors and teachers, (called presbyters and overseers,) see in 1 Tim. iii. 2-8, “An overseer,” or bishop, “must be blameless,” &c.; and Tit. i. 5-10, “To ordain presbyters,” or elders, “in every city—If any be blameless,” &c. Now, where God lays down qualifications for pastors and teachers, there he approves such officers to be his own ordinance.
3. They have manifold church employments committed to them from Christ, as ministers of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God, (1 Cor. iv. 1, 2,) they being intrusted in whole or in part with the managing of most if not all the ordinances forementioned in part 2, chap. VII., as there by the texts alleged is evident. Matters of order and special office are committed to them only divisim: matters of jurisdiction are committed to them with ruling elders conjunctim. If Christ hath intrusted them thus with church ordinances, and the dispensing of them, sure they are Christ’s church officers.
4. The very names and titles given them in Scripture proclaim them to be Christ’s own ordinance; among many take these: “Ministers of Christ,” 1 Cor. iv. 1; “Stewards of the mysteries of God,” 1 Cor. iv. 1; “Ambassadors for Christ,” 2 Cor. v. 20; “Laborers thrust forth into his harvest by the Lord of the harvest,” Matt. ix. 38; “Ruling over you in the Lord,”44 1 Thess. v. 12.
5. The Lord Christ charges their flock and people with many duties to be performed to their pastors and teachers, because of their office; as to know them, love them, obey them, submit unto them, honor them, maintain them, &c., which he would not do were they not his own ordinance. “But we beseech you, brethren, to know them that labor among you, and rule over you in the Lord, and esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake,” 1 Thess. v. 12, 13. “Obey your rulers, and submit; for they watch for your souls as those that must give an account,” Heb. xiii. 17. “The elders that rule well count worthy of double honor; especially them that labor in the word and doctrine; for the Scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn, and the laborer is worthy of his hire,” 1 Tim. v. 17, 18; compared With 1 Cor. ix. 6-15. “Let him that is catechized, communicate to him that catechizeth him in all good things,” Gal. vi. 6-8.
Thus much for the present may suffice to have been spoken touching the divine right of pastors and teachers, the ordinary standing ministers of Christ under the New Testament. But forasmuch as we observe that in these days some rigid Erastians and Seekers oppose and deny the very office of the ministry now under the gospel, and others profess that the ministry of the church of England is false and antichristian; we intend, (by God’s assistance,) as soon as we can rid our hands from other pressing employments, to endeavor the asserting and vindicating of the divine right of the ministers of the New Testament in general, and of the truth of the ministry of the church of England in particular.
II. Ruling elders, distinct from all preaching elders and deacons, are a divine ordinance in the Church of God now under the New Testament.
The divine right of this church officer, the mere ruling elder, is much questioned and doubted by some, because they find not the Scriptures speaking so fully and clearly of the ruling elder as of the preaching elder and of the deacon. By others it is flatly denied and opposed, as by divers that adhere too tenaciously to the Erastian and prelatical principles: who yet are willing to account the assistance of the ruling elder in matter of church government to be a very prudential way. But if mere prudence be counted once a sufficient foundation for a distinct kind of church officer, we shall open a door for invention of church officers at pleasure; then welcome commissioners and committee men, &c.; yea, then let us return to the vomit, and resume prelates, deans, archdeacons, chancellors, officials, &c., for church officers. And where shall we stop? who but Christ Jesus himself can establish new officers in his church? Is it not the fruit of his ascension, &c.? Eph. iv. 7, 11, 12. Certainly if the Scriptures lay not before us grounds more than prudential for the ruling elder, it were better never to have mere ruling elders in the church. Both the Presbyterians and Independents45 acknowledge the divine right of the ruling elder. For satisfaction of doubting unprejudiced minds, (to omit divers considerations that might be produced,) the divine right of the ruling elder may be evinced by these ensuing arguments.
Argum. I. The first argument for the divine right of the ruling elder in the Church of Christ, shall be drawn from Rom. xii. 6-8: “Having, then, gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; or ministry, let us wait on our ministering; or he that teacheth, on teaching; or he that exhorteth, on exhortation; he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence,” &c. Let the scope and context of this chapter be a little viewed, and it will make way for the more clear arguing from this place. Briefly thus: The apostle having finished the principal part of his epistle, which was problematical, wherein he disputed—1. About justification, chap, i.-vi.; 2. Sanctification, chap. vi. 7, 8; and, 3. Predestination, chap. ix. 10, 11, he comes to the next branch, which is more practical, about good works, chap. xii.-xvi. This twelfth chapter is wholly in the way of exhortation, and he herein exhorts to divers duties. 1. More generally that we should even consecrate ourselves wholly to the service of God, ver. 1; that we should not conform to the world, ver. 2. More specially he descends to particular duties, which are of two sorts, viz: 1. Such as concern ecclesiastical officers as officers, ver. 3-9; 2. Such as concern all Christians in common as Christians, both towards one another and towards their very enemies, verse 9, to the end of the chapter. Touching ecclesiastical officers, the apostle’s evident scope is to urge them not to be proud of their spiritual gifts, (which in those days abounded,) but to think soberly, self-denyingly of themselves, and to use all their gifts well. This he presseth upon them, 1. From the nature of the Church, which is as a natural organical body, wherein are many members, having their several offices for the good of the whole body; so the members of Christ’s body being many, have their several gifts and offices for the good of the whole, that the superior should not despise the inferior, nor the inferior envy their superior, ver. 3-5. 2. From the distribution or enumeration of the several kinds of ordinary standing officers in this organical body, the Church, who are severally exhorted duly to discharge those duties that are specially required of them in their several functions, ver. 6-8. These officers are reduced first to two general heads, viz: Prophecy (understand not the extraordinary gift of foretelling future things, &c., but the ordinary, in the right understanding and interpreting of Scripture) and ministry; and the general duties thereof are annexed, ver. 6, 7. Then these generals are subdivided into the special offices contained under them, the special duty of every officer being severally pressed upon them. Under prophecy are contained, 1. He that teacheth, i.e., the doctor or teacher; 2. He that exhorteth, i.e., the pastor, ver. 7, 8. Under ministry are comprised, 1. He that giveth, i.e., the deacon; 2. He that ruleth, i.e., the ruling elder. The current of our best interpreters to this effect resolve this context. So that here we have a very excellent and perfect enumeration of all the ordinary standing officers in the Church of Christ distinctly laid down. This premised, the argument for the divine right of the ruling elder may be thus propounded:
Major. Whatsoever members of Christ’s organical body have an ordinary office of ruling therein given them of God, distinct from all other ordinary standing officers in the church, together with directions from God how they are to rule; they are the ruling elders we seek, and that by divine right.
Minor. But he that ruleth, mentioned in Rom. xii. 8, is a member of Christ’s organical body, having an ordinary office of ruling therein given him of God, distinct from all other standing officers in the church, together with direction how he is to rule.
Conclusion. Therefore he that ruleth, mentioned in Rom. xii. 8, is the ruling elder we seek, and that by divine right.
The major proposition is clear. For in the particulars of it, well compared together, are observable both a plain delineation or description of the ruling elder’s office; and also a firm foundation for the divine right of that office. The ruling elder’s office is described and delineated by these several clauses, which set out so many requisites for the making up of a ruling elder, viz: 1. He must be a member of Christ’s organical body. Such as are without, pagans, heathens, infidels, &c., out of the Church, they are not fit objects for church government, to have it exercised by the Church upon them; the Church only judges them that are within, (1 Cor. v. 12, 13,) much less can they be fit subjects of church government to exercise it themselves within the Church. How shall they be officers in the Church that are not so much as members of the Church? Besides, such as are only members of the invisible body of Christ, as the glorified saints in heaven, they cannot be officers in the Church; for not the Church invisible, but only the Church or body of Christ visible is organical. So that every church officer must first be a Church member, a member of the visible organical body: consequently a ruling elder must be such a member. 2. He must have an office of ruling in this body of Christ. Membership is not enough, unless that power of rule be superadded thereto; for the whole office of the ruling elder is contained in the matter of rule; take away rule, you destroy the very office. Now, rule belongs not to every member: “Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints,” Heb. xiii. 24, where rulers and saints are made contradistinct to one another. In the body natural all the members are not eyes, hands, &c., governing the body, some are rather governed; so in the body of Christ, 1 Cor. xii. 3. This his office of ruling must be an ordinary office; apostles had some power that was extraordinary, as their apostleship was extraordinary; but when we seek for this ruling elder, we seek for a fixed, standing, ordinary officer ruling in the church. 4. All that is not enough, that he be a member of the church, that he have an office of rule in the church, and that office also be ordinary; but besides all these it is necessary that he be also distinct from all other standing officers in the church, viz. from pastors, teachers, deacons; else all the former will not make up a peculiar kind of officer, if in all points he fully agree with any of the said three. But if there can be found such an officer in whom all these four requisites do meet, viz: That, 1. Is a member of Christ’s organical body; 2. Hath an office of rule therein; 3, That office is ordinary; and, 4. That ordinary office is distinct from all other ordinary standing offices in the church; this must unavoidably be that very ruling elder which we inquire after. By this it is evident, that in this proposition here is a plain and clear delineation of the ruling elder’s office. Now, in the next place, touching the foundation for the divine right of this office; it also is notably expressed in the same proposition, while it presupposeth, 1. That God is the giver of this office; 2. That God is the guider of this office. For whatsoever office or officer God gives for his Church, and having given it, guides and directs to the right discharge thereof, that must needs be of divine right beyond all contradiction. Thus this proposition is firm and cogent. Now let us assume:
Minor. But he that ruleth, mentioned in Rom. xii. 8, is a member of Christ’s organical body, having an ordinary office of ruling therein, given him of God, distinct from all other ordinary standing officers in the church, together with direction from God how he is to rule.
This assumption or minor proposition (whereon the main stress of the argument doth lie) may be thus evidenced by parts, from this context:
He that ruleth is a member of Christ’s organical body. For, 1. The Church of Christ is here compared to a body, We being many are one body in Christ, ver. 5. 2. This body is declared to be organical, i.e. consisting of several members, that have their several offices in the body, some of teaching, some of exhorting, and some of ruling, &c. “For 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., ver. 4-6, &c. 3. Among the rest of the members of this body, he that ruleth is reckoned up for one, ver. 5-8; this is palpably evident.
He that ruleth hath an office of ruling in this body of Christ. For, 1. This word (translated) he that ruleth, in the proper signification and use of it, both in the Scriptures and in other Greek authors, doth signify one that ruleth authoritatively over another, (as hereafter is manifested in the 3d argument, § 2.) 2. Our best interpreters and commentators do render and expound the word generally to this effect: e.g. He that is over46—one set over47—he that stands in the head or front48—as a captain or commander in the army, to which this phrase seems to allude—he that ruleth. 3. This word, wherever it is used in a genuine proper sense, in all the New Testament, notes rule, or government. It is used metaphorically for taking care (as one set over any business) of good works, only in two places, Tit. iii. 8, and iii. 14. Properly for government which superiors have over inferiors; and that either domestical, in private families, so it is used in 1 Tim. iii. 4, 5, 12, or ecclesiastical, in the church, which is the public family of God; in this sense it is used, 1 Thes. v. 12, 1 Tim. v. 17, and here, Rom. xii. 8, and these are all the places where this word is found used in all the New Testament.
3. He that ruleth here, hath an ordinary, not an extraordinary office of rule in the church. For he is ranked and reckoned up in the list of Christ’s ordinary standing officers, that are constantly to continue in the church, viz. pastors, teachers, deacons. Commonly this place is interpreted to speak of the ordinary church officers, and none other; consequently he that ruleth is such a one.
4. He that ruleth here, is an officer distinct from all other ordinary officers in the Church of Christ. For in this place we have a full enumeration of all Christ’s ordinary officers, and he that ruleth is a distinct officer among them all. 1. Distinct in name, he only is called he that ruleth, the rest have every one of them their several distinct name, ver. 7, 8. 2. Distinct in his work here appropriated to him; the doctor teacheth; the pastor exhorteth; the deacon giveth; this elder ruleth, as the very name signifieth, ver. 8. Compare 1 Tim. v. 17, 1 Cor. xii. 28. As the elder ruleth, so he is distinct from the deacon that hath no rule in the church; and as he only rules, so he is distinct from both pastor and teacher, that both teach, exhort, and rule; they both have power of order and jurisdiction, the ruling elder hath only power of jurisdiction. 3. Finally, he is distinct among and from them all in the particular direction here given these officers about the right discharge of their functions. The teacher must be exercised in teaching; the pastor in exhortation; the deacon must give with singleness; and the elder, he must rule with diligence, studiousness, &c. Now what other solid reason can be imagined, why he that ruleth should here have a distinct name, distinct work and employment, and distinct direction how to manage this work, than this, that the Holy Ghost might set him out unto us as an ordinary officer in the church, distinct from all the other standing officers here enumerated?
5. God himself is the author and giver of this office of him that ruleth, as well as of all the other offices here mentioned. For, 1. All gifts and endowments in the church in general, and in every member in particular; they are from God, it is he that gives and divides them as he will, as God hath dealt to every one the measure of faith, Rom. xii. 3. 2. All the special offices, and gifts for these offices in special, are also from the same God, we having therefore gifts according to the grace given unto us, differing; whether prophecy, &c., Rom, xii. 6, 7, &c. Here it is plain that he distinguished betwixt grace and gifts. By grace here we are to understand that holy office or charge in the church, which is given to any man by the grace and favor of God. And in this sense the apostle in this very chapter, ver. 3, useth the word grace: For I say through the grace given to me, i.e. through the authority of my apostleship, which by grace I have received, &c. By gifts, we are to understand those endowments wherewith God hath freely furnished his officers in the church for their several offices. Now both these gifts and this grace, both the endowments and the office, are originally from God, his grace is the fountain of them; and both the grace of each office, and the gifts for such office, relate to all these ordinary offices here enumerated, as is evident by the current and connection of the whole context, see ver. 6-8; consequently the grace, i.e. the office of ruling, which is of divine grace, and the gifts for that office, arise from the same fountain, God himself.
6. Finally, God himself is the guider and director of him that ruleth, here prescribing to him how he is to rule, viz. with diligence, with studiousness, &c., ver. 8. Now we may receive this as a maxim, That of divine right may be done, for which God gives his divine rule how it is to be done: and that office must needs be of divine right, which God himself so far approves as to direct in his word how it shall be discharged.
Now, to sum up all, he that ruleth here, 1. Is a member of Christ’s organical body. 2. Hath an office of ruling in this body. 3. This his office is not extraordinary but ordinary, standing, and perpetual. 4. He is an officer distinct from all other ordinary officers in the Church. 5. God himself is the giver and author of this office. 6. And God himself is the guider and director of this office: and then see if we may not clearly conclude,
Conclusion. Therefore, he that ruleth, mentioned in Rom. xii. 8, is the ruling elder we seek, and that by divine right.
The adversaries of ruling elders muster up divers exceptions against the alleging of Rom. xii. 8, for proof of the divine right of their office, the weakness of which is to be discovered ere we pass to another argument. Except. 1. This is an arguing from a general to a special affirmatively. It doth not follow, because the apostle here in general mentioneth him that ruleth, therefore in special it must be the ruling elder.49
Ans. This exception is the same with first exception against the second argument hereafter laid down. There see. For the same answer appositely and satisfactorily is applicable to both.
Except. 2. But the apostle here speaks of them that rule, but we have nowhere received that such elders have rule over the church—and he speaks of all that rule in the church, who therefore would wrest this place only to elders? One cannot rightly attribute that word translated he that ruleth to elders only, which is common unto more. If these elders he here meant, neither pastors nor teachers ought to rule, for this word agrees no otherwise to him that ruleth, than the word of exhorting to him that exhorteth.50
Ans. 1. That such elders rule in the church is evident, both by Rom. xii. 8, where this word implies rule as hath been showed, and he that ruleth is reckoned up amongst ordinary church officers, as hath been said, therefore he rules in the church: these the apostle also calls ruling elders, 1 Tim. v. 17, viz. officers in the church, and distinct from them that labor in the word and doctrine; as in the third argument will appear: yea, they are governments set of God in the church, distinct from other officers, 1 Cor. xii. 28, as in the second argument shall be evidenced: there see; therefore these elders have rule.
2. Though in this term the apostle speaks of him that ruleth, yet he speaks not of every one that ruleth. For, 1. He speaks singularly, he that ruleth, as of one kind of ruling officer; not plurally, they that rule, as if he had indefinitely or universally meant all the ruling officers in the church. 2. He reckons up here distinct kinds of ordinary officers, pastors, teachers, elders, and deacons; and pastors and teachers, besides laboring in the word, have power of rule, 1 Thes. v. 12, Heb. xiii. 7-17, and he that ruleth, here, is distinct from them both; and therefore this term cannot mean all church rulers, but only one kind, viz. the ruling elder.
3. Though this name, he that ruleth, be common unto more rulers in the church, than to the mere ruling elder; yet it doth not therefore necessarily follow, that it cannot here particularly point out only the mere ruling elder, inasmuch, as he that ruleth, is not here set alone, (for then this objection might have had some color,) but is enumerated with other officers as distinct from them.
4. Though the ruling elder here be called he that ruleth, yet this doth not exclude the pastor from ruling, no more than when the ordinary ministers are called pastors and teachers, the apostles and evangelists are excluded from feeding and teaching, in Eph. iv. 11, 12; 1 Cor. xii. 28. This elder is called, he that ruleth, not that there is no other ruler than he, but because he doth no other thing but rule, others rule and preach also.
Except. 3. If this were meant of such elders, then these elders were as necessary to the church as pastors, being given to the church by the like reason. Consequently where these elders are not, there is no church; as there is no church where the word and sacraments are not.51
Ans. 1. According to this argument deacons are as necessary as either pastors, teachers, or elders, and without deacons there should be no church; for they are all enumerated here alike, Rom. xii. 7, 8, and in 1 Cor. xii. 28; but this would be absurd, and against experience. 2. Though both pastors and ruling elders belong to the church by divine right, yet doth it not follow that the ruling elder is equally as necessary as the pastor. The ruling elder only rules, the pastor both rules and preaches, therefore he is more necessary to the church. There are degrees of necessity; some things are absolutely necessary to the being of a church, as matter and form, viz. visible saints, and a due profession of faith, and obedience to Christ, according to the gospel. Thus it is possible a church may be, and yet want both deacons, elders, and pastors too, yea, and word and sacraments for a time: some things are only respectively necessary to the well-being of a church; thus officers are necessary, yet some more than others, without which the church is lame, defective, and miserably imperfect.
Except. 4. Should ruling elders here be meant, then deacons that obey, should be preferred before the elders that rule.52
Ans. Priority of order is no infallible argument of priority of worth and dignity; as is evidenced in answer to the third exception against Arg. II.—there see; we find Priscilla a woman named before Aquila a man, and her husband, Acts xviii. 18; Rom. xvi. 3; 1 Tim. iv. 19; is therefore the woman preferred before the man? the wife before the husband? And again, Aquila is set before Priscilla, Acts xviii. 2, 26, 1 Cor. xvi. 19, to let us see that the Holy Ghost indifferently speaks of superior and inferior before one another.
Except. 5. But here the apostle speaketh of divers gifts and graces, for so differing gifts do import, not of divers offices: for then they might not concur in one man, and consequently neither might the prophet teach, nor exhort, nor the deacon distribute, nor show mercy. Many gifts may be common in one man, many offices cannot;—which of these gifts in the apostles’ times was not common as well to the people as to the pastors; and to women as well as to men? &c.53
Ans. Divers considerations may be propounded to discover the vanity of this exception: chiefly take these three.
1. There is no sufficient reason in this exception, proving the apostle here to speak only of divers gifts and graces, and not of divers offices also. For, 1. This is not proved by that expression, differing gifts, ver. 6, for these differing gifts are not here spoken of abstractly and absolutely, without reference to their subjects, but relatively with reference to their subjects wherein they are, viz. in the several officers, ver. 7, 8, and therefore, as the apostle mentions the differing gifts, so here he tells us in the same sixth verse, that we have these “different gifts, according to the grace given unto us,” i.e. according to the office given unto us of God’s grace, (as hath been manifested,) after which immediately is subjoined an enumeration of offices. 2. Nor is this proved by the inference made, upon the granting that divers offices are here meant, viz. [Then they might not concur in one man, the prophet might not teach nor exhort, &c.; many gifts may be common in one man, many offices cannot.] For who is so little versed in the Scriptures, but he knows that apostles, pastors, elders, deacons, are distinct officers one from another; yet all the inferior offices are virtually comprehended in the superior, and may be discharged by them: elders may distribute as well as deacons; and beyond them, rule: pastors may distribute and rule as well as deacons and elders, and beyond both preach, dispense sacraments, and ordain ministers. Apostles may do there all, and many things besides extraordinary. Much more may the prophet teach and exhort, and the deacon distribute and show mercy; these being the proper acts of their office. 3. Nor, finally, is this proved by that suggestion, that all these gifts in the apostles’ times were common to all sorts and sexes, women as well as men; as he after takes much pains to prove, but to very little purpose. For not only in the apostles’ times, but in our times also, all Christians may teach, exhort, distribute, show mercy, &c., privately, occasionally, by bond of charity, and law of fraternity towards one another mutually: but may not teach, exhort, rule, distribute, &c., authoritatively by virtue of their office, so as to give themselves wholly to such employments, which is the thing here intended; yet it is worth observing how far Bilson was transported against ruling elders, that rather than yield to their office, he will make all these gifts common to all sorts and sexes, men and women. This is new divinity; all sorts and sexes may both preach and rule. Let Bilson have the credit of symbolizing with the Separatists, if not of transcending them.
2. Here is good ground in the context to make us think that the apostle here spoke of distinct church officers, and not only of distinct gifts. For, 1. In the similitude of a natural body (whereunto here the church is compared) he speaks of distinct members, having distinct offices, ver. 4. “For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office.” 2. In his accommodation of this similitude, he speaks not only of gifts, but also of offices according to which these gifts are given, which he calls grace, ver. 6, (as was noted.). This grace given, or this office given of grace, is branched out, first, into two general heads, viz. prophecy and ministry, ver. 6, 7. Then these generals are subdivided into the special offices contained under them, viz.: Under prophecy the teacher, he that teacheth; and the pastor, he that exhorteth; under ministry the deacon, he that distributeth; and the ruling elder, he that ruleth. Now there is in the text just ground for this resolution of the text, in making prophecy and ministry generals, and all the rest special kinds of officers; forasmuch as prophecy and ministry are expressed abstractly, whether prophecy, (not, whether we are prophets;) whether ministry, (not, whether we are deacons, ministers:) and both prophecy and ministry are put in the accusative case; and both of them have relation, and are joined unto the participle of the plural number having, intimating that divers do share in prophecy, pastor and teacher; divers in ministry, deacon and ruling elder. But all the other are expressed concretely, and in the nominative case, and in the singular number, and to every of them the single article is prefixed, translated He—He that teacheth—He that exhorteth—He that giveth—He that ruleth. Hence we have great cause to count prophecy and ministry as generals; all the rest as special offices under them.
Argum. II. The second argument for the divine right of the ruling elder shall be grounded upon 1 Cor. xii. 28: “And God hath set some in the church, first, apostles, secondly, prophets, thirdly, teachers, afterwards powers, then gifts of healing, helps, governments, kinds of tongue.” God, in the first founding of Christianity and of the primitive churches, bestowed many eminent gifts upon divers Christians; the church of Corinth greatly excelled in such gifts, 1 Cor. i. 5, 7. Hence their members gifted, grew spiritually proud, and despised their brethren; to correct which abuse of gifts, and direct them to the right use thereof for the common profit of all, is the chief scope of this chapter, see verse 7, “The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.” For, 1. All their gifts flow from one and the same fountain, the Spirit of God, therefore should be improved for the common good of all, especially considering no one man hath all gifts, but several men have several gifts, that all might be beholden to one another, ver. 8-11. 2. The whole Church of Christ throughout all the world is but one body, and that body organical, having several members therein placed for several uses, as eyes, hands, &c., wherein the meanest members are useful and necessary to the highest: therefore all members should harmoniously lay out their gifts for the good of the whole body, without jars or divisions, ver. 12-28. 3. All the several officers, whether extraordinary or ordinary, though furnished with several gifts and several administrations, yet are placed by one and the same God, in one and the same general Church; and therefore should all level at the benefit of the whole church, without pride, animosities, divisions, &c., ver. 28, to the end. These things being briefly premised for the clearing the context and scope of the chapter, we may thus argue from ver. 28:
Major. Whatsoever officers God himself, now under the New Testament, hath set in the Church as governors therein, distinct from all other church governors, whether extraordinary or ordinary; they are the ruling elders we inquire after, and that by divine right.
This proposition is so clear and evident of itself, that much needs not to be said for any further demonstration of it. For what can be further desired for proof that there are such distinct officers as ruling elders in the Church of Christ, and that of divine right, than to evince, 1. That there are certain officers set of God in the Church as governors therein. 2. That those officers so set of God in the Church, are set in the Church under the New Testament, which immediately concerns us, and not under the Old Testament. 3. That these officers set of God as governors in the Church of the New Testament, are distinct from all other church governors, whether extraordinary or ordinary? For, by the third of these, we have a distinct church officer delineated and particularized: by the second we have this distinct church officer limited to the time and state of the Church only under the New Testament, which is our case: and by the first of these, we have this distinct New Testament officer’s ruling power in the Church, and the divine right thereof evidently demonstrated, by God’s act in setting him there in this capacity; (see Part 1. Chap. VI.;) so that by all put together, the consequence of this major proposition seems to be strong and unquestionable.
Minor. But the governments named in 1 Cor. xii. 28, are officers which God himself now under the New Testament hath set in the Church as governors therein, distinct from all other church governors, whether extraordinary or ordinary.
This minor or assumption is wholly grounded upon, and plainly contained in this text, and may thus be evidenced by parts.
1. The church here spoken of [in the church] is the Church of Christ now under the New Testament: for, 1. The church here mentioned, ver. 28, is the same with that ONE BODY mentioned, ver. 12, 13, of this chapter, as the whole context and coherence of the chapter evinceth; but that ONE BODY denotes not the Church of God under the Old Testament, but only the Church of Christ under the New Testament; partly, inasmuch as it is counted the Church of Christ, yea, (so intimate is the union between head and members,) it is called CHRIST, so also is CHRIST, ver. 12, (viz. not Christ personally considered, but Christ mystically considered, as comprehending head and body;) now this denomination of the Church, viz. Christ, or the Church of Christ, &c., is peculiar to the Church under the New Testament: for where in all the Scripture is the Church of God under the Old Testament called the Church of Christ, &c.? and partly, inasmuch as all, both Jews and Gentiles, are incorporated jointly into this ONE BODY, and coalesce into one Church: “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether bond or free,” 1 Cor. xii. 13. Now this union or conjunction of Jews and Gentiles into one body, one Church, is only done under the New Testament; see Eph. ii. 11, to the end of the chapter. 2. The officers here mentioned to be set in this Church, are only the New Testament officers, ver. 28. 3. The scope of the whole chapter is to redress abuses of spiritual gifts in the church of Corinth, which was a church under the New Testament; and therefore it would have been too remote for the apostle to have argued from the several distributions of gifts peculiar to the officers or members of the Church under the Old Testament.
2. The governments here mentioned are officers set in this church as governors, or rulers therein: “Hath set some in the Church, first, apostles—governments.” For clearing of this, consider the enumeration here made; the denomination of these officers, governments; and the constitution or placing of these governments in the Church. 1. The enumeration here made is evidently an enumeration of several sorts of church officers, some extraordinary, to endure but for a time, some ordinary, to continue constantly in the Church; to this the current of interpreters doth easily subscribe: and this the text itself plainly speaks; partly, if we look at the matter, viz. the several officers enumerated, which are either extraordinary, these five, viz. apostles, prophets, powers, or miracles, gifts of healing, and kinds of tongues: these continued but for a season, during the first founding of Christian churches: (the proper and peculiar work of these extraordinary officers, what it was, is not here to be disputed.) Or ordinary, these three, viz. teachers, (there is the preaching elder,)governments, (there is the ruling elder,) helps, (there is the deacon;) these are the officers enumerated; and however there be some other officers elsewhere mentioned, whence some conceive this enumeration not to be so absolutely perfect, yet this is undoubtedly evident, that it is an enumeration of officers in the church: partly, this is evident, if we look at the manner of the apostle’s speech, which is in an enumerating form, viz. first, secondly, thirdly, afterwards, then: and partly, it is evident that he intended to reckon up those officers that were distinct from all other parts of the mystical body of Christ, by his recapitulation, “Are all apostles, are all prophets?” &c., ver. 29, 30, i.e. not all, but only some members of the body are set apart by God to bear these offices in the church. Now, if there be here a distinct enumeration of distinct officers in the church, as is evident; then consequently governments must needs be one of these distinct church officers, being reckoned up among the rest; and this is one step, that governments are in the roll of church officers enumerated. 2. The denomination of these officers, governments, evidenceth that they are governing officers, vested with rule in the Church. This word (as hath been noted in chap. II.) is a metaphor from pilots or shipmasters governing of their ships by their compass, helm, &c., James iii. 4, (who is hence called governor, viz. of the ship, Acts xxvii. 11; Rev. xviii. 17,) and it notes such officers as sit at the stern of the vessel of the Church, to govern and guide it in spirituals according to the will and mind of Christ: governments—the abstract is put for governors, the concrete: this name of governments hath engraven upon it an evident character of power for governing. But this will be easily granted by all. All the doubt will be, whom the apostle intended by these governments? Thus conceive, negatively, these cannot be meant, viz. not governors in general, for, besides that a general exists not but in the particular kinds or individuals thereof, a member of a body in general exists not but in this or that particular member, eye, hand, foot, &c.: besides this, it is evident that Christ hath not only in general appointed governors in his Church, and left particulars to the church or magistrate’s determination, but hath himself descended to the particular determination of the several kinds of officers which he will have in his Church; compare these places together, Eph. iv. 7, 11, 12; 1 Cor. xii. 28; Rom. xii. 7, 8: though in the ordinance of magistracy God hath only settled the general, but for the particular kinds of it, whether it should be monarchical, &c., that is left to the prudence of the several commonwealths to determine what is fittest for themselves. (See Part 2, chap. IX.) 2. Not masters of families: for all families are not in the Church, pagan families are without. No family as a family is either a church or any part of a church, (in the notion that church is here spoken of;) and though masters of families be governors in their own houses, yet their power is not ecclesiastical but economical or domestical, common to heathens as well as Christians. Not the political magistrate,54 for the reasons hinted, (Part 1, chap. I.; see also Part 2, chap. IX.,) and for divers other arguments that might be propounded. 4. Not the prelatical bishops, pretending to be an order above preaching presbyters, and to have the reins of all church government in their hands only; for, in Scripture language, bishop and presbyter are all one order, (these words being only names of the same officer;) this is evident by comparing Tit. i. 5, with ver. 7. Hereunto also the judgment of antiquity evidently subscribeth, accounting a bishop and a presbyter to be one and the same officer in the church; as appears particularly in Ambrose, Theodoret, Hierom, and others. Now, if there be no such order as prelatical bishops, consequently they cannot be governments in the church. 5. Not the same with helps, as the former corrupt impressions of our Bibles seemed to intimate, which had it thus, helps in governments, which some moderns seem to favor; but this is contrary to the original Greek, which signifies helps, governments; contrary to the ancient Syriac version, which hath it thus, (as Tremel. renders it,) and helpers, and governments: and therefore this gross corruption is well amended in our late printed Bible. Helps, governments, are here generally taken by interpreters for two distinct officers. 6. Nor, finally, can the teaching elder here be meant; for that were to make a needless and absurd tautology, the teacher being formerly mentioned in this same verse. Consequently, by governments here, what can be intended, but such a kind of officer in the church as hath rule and government therein, distinct from all governors forementioned? And doth not this lead us plainly to the ruling elder?
3. These governments thus set in the Church, as rulers therein, are set therein by God himself; God hath set some in the Church, first, apostles—governments—God hath set, put, made, constituted, &c., (as the word imports,) in the Church. What hath God set in the Church? viz. apostles and—governments, as well as apostles themselves. The verb, hath set, equally relates to all the sorts of officers enumerated. And is not that officer IA the Church of divine right, which God himself, by his own act and authority, sets therein? Then doubtless these governments are of divine right.
4. Finally, these governments set in the Church under the New Testament as governors therein, and that by God himself, are distinct from not only all governing officers without the Church, (as hath been showed,) but also from all other governing officers within the church. For here the apostles make a notable enumeration of the several sorts of church officers, both extraordinary and ordinary, viz. eight in all. Five of these being extraordinary, and to continue but for a season, for the more effectual spreading and propagating of the gospel of Christ at first, and planting of Christian churches, viz. apostles, prophets, powers, gifts of healings, kinds of tongues: three of these being ordinary, and to be perpetuated in the Church, as of continual use and necessity therein, viz. teachers, governments, [i.e. ruling elders,] and helps, [i.e. deacons, who are to help and relieve the poor and afflicted.] This is the enumeration. It is not contended, that it is absolutely and completely perfect, for that some officers seem to be omitted and left out, which elsewhere are reckoned up, Eph. iv. 11; Rom. xii. 7, 8. Evangelists are omitted in the list of extraordinary officers, and pastors are left out of the roll of the ordinary officers; and yet some conceive that pastors and teachers point not out two distinct sorts of officers, but rather two distinct acts of the same officers; and if this will hold, then pastors are sufficiently comprised under the word teachers; yea, some think that both evangelists and pastors are comprehended under the word teacher.55 But, however, be that as it will, these two things are evident, 1. That this enumeration (though evangelists and pastors be left out) is the fullest and completest enumeration of church officers which in any place is to be found throughout all the New Testament. 2. That though we should grant this defect in the enumeration, yet this is no way prejudicial to the present argument, that governments here mentioned are ruling officers in the Church, distinct from all other church officers that have rule; for they are plainly and distinctly recited as distinct kinds of officers, distinct from apostles, from prophets, from teachers, from all here mentioned. And thus interpreters56 commonly expound this place, taking governments for a distinct kind of church officer from all the rest here enumerated.
Now to sum up all that hath been said for the proof of the assumption; it is evident, 1. That the church here spoken of is the Church of Christ now under the New Testament. 2. That the governments here mentioned, are officers set in this church, (not out of the church,) as rulers governing therein. 3. That these governments set as rulers or governors in this church, are set there not by man, but by God himself; God hath set in the Church—governments. 4. And, finally, That these governments thus set in the Church, are distinct, not only from all governors out of the Church, but also from all governing officers within the Church. And if all this laid together will not clearly evince the divine right of the ruling elder, what will? Hence we may strongly conclude,
Conclusion. Therefore these governments in 1 Cor. xii. 28, are the ruling elders we inquire after, and that of divine right.
Now against the urging of 1 Cor. xii. 28, for the proof of the divine right of the ruling elders, divers exceptions are made, which are to be answered before we pass to the third argument.
Except. 1. The allegation of this place is too weak to prove the thing in question. For will any man that knoweth what it is to reason, reason from the general to the particular and special affirmatively? or will ever any man of common sense be persuaded that this consequence is good: There were governors in the primitive church mentioned by the Apostles—therefore they were lay governors? Surely I think not.57
Ans. This exception hath a confident flourish of words, but they are but words. It may be replied, 1. By way of concession, that to argue indeed from a general to a special, is no solid reasoning; as, This is a kingdom, therefore it is England; this is a city, therefore it is London; the apostle mentions government in the primitive Church, therefore they are ruling elders: this were an absurd kind of reasoning. 2. By way of negation. Our reasoning from this text for the ruling elder, is not from the general to a special affirmatively—there are governments in the Church, therefore ruling elders: but this is our arguing—these governments here mentioned in 1 Cor. xii. 28, are a special kind of governing officers, set of God in the Church of Christ now under the New Testament, and distinct from all other church officers, whether extraordinary or ordinary: and therefore they are the ruling elders which we seek after, and that by divine right. So that we argue from the enumeration of several kinds of church officers affirmatively: here is an enumeration or roll of divers kinds of church officers of divine right; governments are one kind in the roll, distinct from the rest; therefore governments are of divine right, consequently ruling elders; for none but they can be these governments, as hath been proved in the assumption. If the apostle had here mentioned governments only, and none other kind of officers with them, there had been some color for this exception, and some probability that the apostle had meant governors in general and not in special: but when the apostle sets himself to enumerate so many special kinds of officers, apostles, prophets, teachers, &c., how far from reason is it to think that in the midst of all these specials, governments only should be a general. 3. As for Dr. Field’s scoffing term of lay governors or lay elders, which he seems in scorn to give to ruling elders; it seems to be grounded upon that groundless distinction of the ministry and people into clergy and laity; which is justly rejected by sound orthodox writers58, as not only without but against the warrant of Scripture, clergy being nowhere appropriated to the ministry only, but commonly attributed to the whole church, 1 Pet. v. 2, 3. The Scripture term given to these officers is ruling elders, 1 Tim. v. 17; and so far as such, (though they be elected from among the people,) they are ecclesiastical officers.
Except. 2. But it is not said here governors in the concrete, as apostles, prophets, teachers are mentioned concretely, which are distinct officers: but it is said governments, in the abstract, to note faculties, not persons. The text may be thus resolved: The apostle first sets down three distinct orders, apostles, prophets, and teachers: then he reckons up those common gifts of the Holy Ghost (and among the rest the gift of governing) which were common to all three. So that we need not here make distinct orders in the Church, but only distinct gifts which might be in one man.59
Ans. 1. As the apostles, prophets, and teachers are here set down concretely, and not abstractly, and are confessed to be three distinct orders enumerated: so all the other five, though set down abstractly, are (by a metonymy of the adjunct for the subject) to be understood concretely, helps for helpers; governments for governors, &c.; otherwise we shall here charge the apostle with a needless impertinent tautology in this chapter, for he had formerly spoken of these gifts abstractly, ver. 8-10, as being all given to profit the Church withal, ver. 7; but here, ver. 28-30, he speaks of these gifts as they are in several distinct subjects, for the benefit of the organical body the church; else what saith he here, more than he said before? 2. That all these eight here enumerated, one as well as another, do denote, not distinct offices or acts of the same officer, but distinct officers, having distinct administrations, and distinct gifts for those administrations, is evident, partly by the apostle’s form of enumeration, first, secondly, thirdly, afterwards, then or furthermore: if he had intended only three sorts of officers, he would have stopped at thirdly, but he goes on in an enumerating way, to show us those that follow are distinct officers as well as those that go before; partly, by the apostle’s recapitulation, ver. 29, 30, which plainly points out different officers, persons not gifts, besides those three: Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? (and here he stops not, but reckons on) are all workers of miracles? have all the gifts of healing? &c. If it should be replied, But he doth not add, Are all helps? are all governments? therefore these are not to be accounted distinct officers from the rest; otherwise why should the apostle thus have omitted them, had there been any such distinct officers in the Church in his time? It may be replied, These two officers, helps and governments, are omitted in the recapitulation, ver. 29, 30, not that the Church then had no such officers, for why then should they have been distinctly mentioned in the enumeration of church officers, ver. 28? But either, 1. For that helps and governments were more inferior ordinary officers, and not furnished with such extraordinary, or at least, eminent gifts, as the other had, (which they abused greatly to pride, contention, schism, and contempt of one another, the evils which the apostle here labors so much to cure,) and so there was no such danger that these helps and governments should run into the same distempers that the other did. Or, 2. For that he would instruct these helps and governments to be content with their own stations and offices, (without strife and emulation,) though they be neither apostles, nor prophets, nor teachers, nor any of the other enumerated, which were so ambitiously coveted after; and the last verse seems much to favor this consideration, but covet earnestly the best gifts, viz. which made most for edification, not for ostentation.60
Except. 3. But helps here are placed before governments, therefore it is not likely that governments were the ruling elders; Helps, i.e. deacons, which is an inferior office, seeming here to be preferred before them.61
Ans. This follows not. Priority of order is not always an argument of priority of worth, dignity, or authority. Scripture doth not always observe exactness of order, to put that first which is of most excellency: sometimes the pastor is put before the teacher, as Ephes. iv. 11, sometimes the teacher before the pastor, as Rom. xii. 7, 8. Peter is first named of all the apostles, both in Matt. x. 2, and in Acts i. 13, but we shall hardly grant the Papist’s arguing thence to be solid—Peter is first named, therefore he is the chief and head of all the apostles; no more can we account this any good consequence—helps are set before governments, therefore governments are officers inferior to helps, consequently they cannot be ruling elders: this were bad logic.
Except. 4. But the word governments is general, and may signify either Christian magistrates, or ecclesiastical officers, as archbishops, bishops, or whatsoever other by lawful authority are appointed in the Church.62 And some of the semi-Erastians of our times, by governments understand the Christian magistracy, holding the Christian magistracy to be an ecclesiastical administration.63
Ans. 1. Governments, i.e. governors, (though in itself and singly mentioned, it be a general, yet) here being enumerated among so many specials, is special, and notes the special kind of ruling elders, as hath been proved. 2. As for archbishops and diocesan bishops, they are notoriously known to be, as such, no officers set in the Church by God, but merely by the invention of man; therefore they have no part nor lot in this business, nor can here be meant. And if by others, by lawful authority appointed in the Church, they mean those officers that God appoints well: if those whom man sets there without God, as chancellors, commissioners, &c., such have as much power of government in the Church, as they are such, as archbishops and bishops, viz. just none at all by any divine warrant. 3. Nor can the civil Christian magistrate here be implied. 1. Partly, because this is quite beside the whole intent and scope of this chapter, treating merely upon spiritual church-matters, not at all of secular civil matters, viz: of spiritual gifts for the Church’s profit, ver. 1 to 12; of the Church herself as one organical body, ver. 12 to 28; and of the officers which God hath set in this organical body, ver. 28, &c. Now here to crowd in the Christian magistrate, which is a mere political governor, into the midst of these spiritual matters, and into the roll of these merely ecclesiastical officers, how absurd is it! 2. Partly, because the magistrate, as such, is not set of God in the Church either as a church officer, or as a church member, (as hath been demonstrated formerly, chap. IX.;) and though he become a Christian, that adds nothing to the authority of his magistracy, being the privilege only of his person, not of his office. 3. Partly, because when this was written to the Corinthians, the apostle writes of such governments as had at that time their present actual being and existence in the Church: and neither then, nor divers hundreds of years after, were there any magistrates Christian, as hath been evidenced, chap. IX.64
Except. 5. Teachers are here expressed, but pastors omitted; and therefore well might governors be mentioned instead of pastors.65
Answ. 1. Then, according to his judgment, pastors were a distinct kind of officers from teachers; otherwise the naming of teachers would have sufficiently implied pastors, without the addition of the word governors, one act or function of the office being put for the whole office. But prelates did not love to hear of such a distinction. However, it is the judgment of many others no less learned or pious than they, that in the same congregation where there are several ministers, he that excels in exposition of scriptures, teaching sound doctrine, and convincing gainsayers, may be designed hereunto, and called a teacher or doctor: he that excels in application, and designed thereunto, may be called a pastor; but where there is only one minister in one particular congregation, he is to perform, as far as he is able, the whole work of the ministry. 2. If pastors are to be understood by this term governors, as contradistinct from teachers, formerly enumerated in the text; doth not this seem to devolve the matter of government so wholly upon the pastor, as that the teacher hath nothing to do with it? and hereby both pastor and teacher are wronged at once: the teacher, while power of governing is denied him, which belongs to him as well as to the pastor; the teacher being a minister of the word, hath power of administration of the sacraments and discipline, as well as the pastor: the pastor, while he consequently is deprived of the necessary and comfortable assistance of the teacher in point of government. Therefore the pastor cannot here be intended by governors. 3. Bilson himself was not very confident of this gloss, and therefore he immediately adds, “If this content you not, I then deny they are all ecclesiastical functions that are there specified,” &c. What then doth he make them? viz. he makes divers of them, and governments among the rest, to be but several gifts, whereof one and the same officer might be capable. And a little after he ingenuously confesses he cannot tell what these governors were, saying, “I could easily presume, I cannot easily prove what they were. The manner and order of those wonderful gifts of’ God’s Spirit, after so many hundreds may be conjectured, cannot be demonstrated—governors they were, or rather governments, (for so the apostle speaketh,) i.e. gifts of wisdom, discretion, and judgment, to direct and govern the whole church, and every particular member thereof, in the manifold dangers and distresses which those days did not want. Governors also they might be called, that were appointed in every congregation to hear and appease the private strifes and quarrels that grew betwixt man and man, lest the Christians, to the shame of themselves, and slander of the gospel, should pursue each other for things of this life before the magistrates, who then were infidels; of these St. Paul speaketh, 1 Cor. vi. 1-7. These governors and moderators of their brethren’s quarrels and contentions I find, others I find not in the apostle’s writings, but such as withal were watchmen and feeders of the flock.” Thus inconsistent he is with himself: one while these governors must be pastors; another while arbitrators or daysmen about private differences; another while gifts, not officers; another while he cannot easily prove what they were. But they have been proved to be ruling elders, and the proof still stands good, notwithstanding all his or others’ exceptions.
Argum. III. The third argument for the divine right of the mere ruling elder shall be drawn from 1 Tim. v. 17, “Let the elders that rule well, be counted worthy of double honor, especially they that labor in the word and doctrine.” From which words we may thus argue for the divine right of the ruling elder:
Major. Whatsoever officers in the Church are, according to the word of Christ, styled elders, invested with rule in the Church, approved of God in their rule, and yet distinct from all them that labor in the word and doctrine; they are the ruling elders in the Church which we inquire after, and that by divine right.
This proposition seems clear and unquestionable. For, 1. If there be a certain kind of church officer which Christ in his word calls an elder, 2. Declares to have rule in his church, 3. Approves in this his rule, and, 4. Distinguished from him that labors in the word and doctrine; this is plainly the ruling elder, and here is evidently the divine right of his office. Such a divine approbation of his office, testified in Scripture, implies no less than a divine institution thereof.
Minor. But the officers mentioned in 1 Tim. v. 17, are, according to the word of Christ, styled elders, invested with rule in the church: approved of God in their rule, and yet distinct from all them that labor in the word and doctrine. This assumption may be thus evidenced by parts.
1. The officers mentioned here in this word of Christ, are styled elders. This Greek word translated elder, is used in the New Testament chiefly in three several senses: 1. For men of ancient time, not now living; and so it is opposed to modern: Tradition of elders, Matt. xv. 2, i.e. of them of old time, see Matt. v. 21. 2. For elders in age now living; so it is opposed to younger, 1 Tim. v. 1; 1 Pet. v. 5. 3. For elders in function or office, opposed to private men not in office, as Acts xiv. 23; and in this last sense it is to be taken in this place, an office of ruling being here ascribed to these elders. They are called elders, say some, because for the most part they were chosen out of the elder sort of men: others better, from the maturity of knowledge, wisdom, gifts, gravity, piety, &c., which ought to be in them. This name elder seems to have rule and authority written upon it, when applied to any church officer; and it is by the Septuagint often ascribed to rulers political, elders in the gate, Judges viii. 14; Ruth iv. 2, 3; 1 Sam. v. 3; 1 Chron. xi. 3. In this place (as it is well noted by some66) the word elders is a genus, a general attribute, agreeing both to them that rule well, and also to those that labor in the word and doctrine: the one sort only rule; the other sort both rule and preach; but both sorts are elders.
2. The officers here mentioned are not only styled elders, but invested with rule in the church. For it is plain both by the text and context duly considered, and the apostle’s scope in writing of this epistle, 1 Tim. iii. 15, that these elders are officers in the Church. And that in the church they are vested with rule appears not only by their name of elders, which when applied to officers, imports rule, authority, &c., as hath been said; but also by the adjunct participle that rule, or ruling, annexed to elders—Let the elders ruling well. So that here we have not only the office, the thing, but the very name of ruling elders. The word seems to be a military term, for captains and commanders in an army, foremost slanders, (as the word imports,) that lead on and command all the rest that follow them: hence metaphorically used for the foremost-standers, rulers, governors in the church. It noteth not only those that go before others by doctrine, or good example: but that govern and rule others by authority. For, 1. Thus the word is used in Scripture: “One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity,” 1 Tim. iii. 4: where it plainly notes an authoritative ruling. Again, “If a man know not how to rule his own house,” 1 Tim. iii. 5. And again, “Ruling their children and their own houses well,” 1 Tim. iii. 12. And can any man be so absurd as to think that a master of a family hath not a proper authoritative rule over his own children and family, but rules them only by doctrine and example?
2. Thus learned divines67 and accurate Grecians68 use the word to denote authority: so that the Holy Ghost here calling them ruling elders, implies they are vested with rule: and those that deny this place to hold out two sorts of elders, yet confess it holds out two sorts of acts, ruling and preaching.
3. These ruling elders are here approved of God in their rule; and that two ways, viz: 1. In that God’s Spirit here commends their ruling, being duly discharged, ruling well, excellently, &c. Did no rule in the Church belong to them for matter, God would never command or approve them for the matter. He cannot be accounted with God to do any thing well, that hath no right to do it at all. 2. In that God’s Spirit here commands their well ruling to be honorably rewarded. Let them be counted worthy of double honor: or, Let them be dignified with double honor. Here is not only reward, but an eminent reward appointed them, and that urged from Scripture, ver. 18. Where God thus appoints rewards, he approves that for which he rewards; and what God thus approves is of divine right. See part 1, chap. V.
4. Yet, finally, These elders, vested with rule in the Church, and divinely approved in their rule, are distinct from all them that labor in the word and doctrine. This may thus he evidenced from the text, as some69 have well observed: For, 1. Here is a general, under which the several kinds of officers here spoken of are comprehended, elders; all here mentioned are elders. 2. Here are two distinct kinds of elders, viz: those that rule well, there is one kind; and they that labor in the word (as the pastors) and doctrine, (as the doctors and teachers,) here is the other kind. 3. Here are two participles expressing these two species or kinds of elders—ruling, and laboring: those only rule, that is all their work, and therefore here are called ruling elders; not because they alone rule, but because their only work is to rule: but these not only rule, but, over and besides, they labor in the word and doctrine. 4. Here are two distinct articles distinctly annexed to these two participles—they that rule; they that labor. 5. Finally, here is an eminent disjunctive particle set betwixt these two kinds of elders, these two participles, these two articles, evidently distinguishing one from the other, viz. especially they that labor in the word, &c., intimating, that as there were some ruling elders that did labor in the word and doctrine, so there were others that did rule, and not labor in the word: both were worthy of double honor, but especially they that both ruled and labored in the word also. And wheresoever this word, here translated especially, is used in all the New Testament, it is used to distinguish thing from thing, person from person, that are spoken of; as, “Let us do good to all, but especially to those of the household of faith,” Gal. vi. 10: therefore there were some of the household of faith, and some that were not; and accordingly we must put a difference in doing good to them. “All the saints salute you, especially those of Cæsar’s household;” some saints not of his household: all saluted them, but especially those of Cæsar’s household. “He that provides not for his own, especially for them of his own house, he hath denied the faith,” 1 Tim. v. 8. A believer is to provide for his friends and kindred, but especially for those of his own house, wife and children. See also 1 Tim. iv. 10; Tit. i. 11; 2 Tim. iv. 13; 2 Pet. ii. 10; Acts xx. 38, and xxvi. 3; in all which places the word especially is used as a disjunctive particle, to distinguish one thing from another, without which distinction we shall but make nonsense in interpreting those places. And generally the best interpreters70 do from this text conclude, that there were two sorts of elders, viz: the ruling elder, that only ruled; the preaching elder, that besides his ruling, labored in the word and doctrine also.
Now, therefore, seeing the officers here mentioned are, 1. According to the word of Christ, (for this is the word of Christ,) styled elders; 2. Vested with rule; 3. Approved of God in their rule; and yet, 4. Distinct from all that labor in the word and doctrine, as hath been particularly proved; we may conclude, that,
Conclusion. Therefore the officers here mentioned are the ruling elders in the Church which we inquire after, and that by divine right.
But against this place of 1 Tim. i. 17, and the argument from it, divers cavils and exceptions are made; let them have a brief solution.
Except. 1. There were two sorts of elders, some laboring in the word and doctrine, some taking care of the poor, viz. deacons; both were worthy of double honor, especially they that labored in the word, &c.71
Ans. 1. This is a new distinction of elders without warrant of Scripture. Deacons are nowhere in all the New Testament styled elders;72 nay, they are contradistinguished from elders, both teaching and ruling. “He that giveth let him do it with simplicity: he that ruleth, with diligence,” Rom. xii. 8. “Helps, governments,” 1 Cor. xii. 28. Compare also Tit. i. 5, 6, &c., 1 Tim. iii. 2, &c., with 1 Tim. iii. 8, &c. 2. As deacons are not elders, so deacons have no rule in the church. It is true, they are to “rule their children and their own houses well,” 1 Tim. iii. 12; this is only family rule: but as for the church, their office therein is to be helps, 1 Cor. xii. 28; to distribute, Rom. xii. 8; to serve tables, Acts vi. 2, 3; but no rule is ascribed to them.
Except. 2. But by ruling well, some understand living well, leading a holy, exemplary life. The apostle would have ministers not only to live well themselves, but also to feed others by the word and doctrine; they that live well are to be double honored, especially they who labor in the word, &c., as 1 Thess. v. 12, 13.73
Ans. 1. The apostle here speaks rather of officers than of acts of office: of persons rather than of duties, if his phrase be observed. 2. Living well is not ruling well here in the apostle’s sense, who intends the rule of elders over others; he that lives well rules well over himself; not over others: else all that live well were church rulers; they conduct by example, do not govern by authority, Altar. Damasc. c. xii. 8. If well ruling be well living, then double honor, double maintenance from the church is due for well living, (1 Tim. v. 17, 18,) consequently all that live well deserve this double honor. 4. This seems to intimate that ministers deserve double honor for living well, though they preach not. How absurd! 5. D. Downham, once pleased with this gloss, after confessed it was not safe.
Except. 3. Those that rule well may be meant of aged, infirm, superannuated bishops, who cannot labor in the word and doctrine.74
Ans. 1. Here is no speech of prelatical bishops, but of ruling and preaching elders in this text. 2. How shall old, decrepit bishops rule well, when they cannot labor in the word and doctrine? 3. By this gloss, the preaching elders that labor in the word and doctrine, should be preferred before the most ancient bishop in double honor; such doctrine would not long since have been very odious and apocryphal to our late prelates. 4. Those preachers that have faithfully and constantly spent their strength, and worn out themselves with ministerial labor, that they cannot rule nor preach any longer, are yet worthy of double honor for all their former travels in the service of Christ and his Church.
Except. 4. Among ministers some did preach, others only administered the sacraments; so Paul showeth that he preached and “labored more than all the apostles,” 1 Cor. xv. 10; but baptized few or none, 1 Cor i. 14, leaving that to be performed by others; and when Paul and Barnabas were companions, and their travels were equal, yet Paul is noted to have been the chief speaker, (Acts xiv. 12:) all were worthy of double honor, but especially they who labored in the word and doctrine.75
Ans. 1. This gloss imagineth such a ministry in the apostles’ times as the prelates had erected of late in their days, viz: many dumb dogs that could not bark nor preach at all, yet could administer the sacraments by the old service-book. But the apostles, as Cartwright76observes, allowed no such ministers, will have every bishop or preaching elder to be both “apt to teach, and able to convince,” 1 Tim. iii. 2; Tit. i. 9. So that it was far from Paul to countenance a non-preaching or seldom-preaching ministry, by allowing any honor at all, much less a double honor, to such. Sure, preaching is one part, yea, a most principal part or duty of the minister’s office, (as hath been evidenced before, Part 2, Chap. VII.,) and shall he be counted worthy of double honor that neglects a principal duty of his office? Nay, he deserves not the very name of such an officer in the church: why should he be called a pastor that doth not feed? or a teacher, that doth not teach his flock? &c., saith Chrysost. Hom. xv. in 1 Timothy. 2. Why should Paul’s laboring be restrained here to his preaching only? when Paul speaks of his own labor elsewhere, he speaks of it in another sense, 2 Cor. xi. 17, “in labor and weariness”—compare it with the context; and in this place judicious Calvin seems rather to interpret it of other manner of labor, and Pareus extends it, besides preaching, to divers other labors which Paul did undergo. 3. What warrant doth this exception hold out for two sorts of ministers here pretended, some preaching, others only administering the sacraments? Thus, Paul preached much, baptised but few: therefore, there were some that only administered the sacraments: well concluded. Yet Paul baptized some, 1 Cor. i. 14, 16, distributed the Lord’s supper to some, Acts xx. 7, 11; so that he both preached and dispensed the sacraments. Let any show where any person dispensed the sacraments that was not a preacher. Again, Paul and Barnabas equally travelled together, but Paul was chief speaker: what then? therefore some labored in the word, others in the sacraments only. This is woful logic. 4. To whomsoever the power of dispensing the sacraments was given by Christ, to them also the power of preaching was given; dispensing the word and sacraments are joined in the same commission, Matt, xxviii. 18-20: what Christ joins together let not man put asunder. 5. Touching the preaching elder there is mentioned only one act peculiar to his office, viz. laboring in the word, &c.; but, taking a part for the whole, we may understand his dispensing the sacraments also, and what else is peculiar to the preaching elder’s office, though for brevity’s sake it be not here named.77
Except. 5. By elders that rule well may be meant certain governors, or inferior magistrates, chosen to compose controversies or civil strifes. Suitable hereunto is the late Erastian gloss, that by elders ruling well may be meant kings, parliament-men, and all civil governors.78
Ans. 1. It is well known that in the primitive times there was no Christian magistrate in the Church, and for the Church to choose heathen judges or magistrates to be arbitrators or daysmen in civil controversies, is a thing utterly condemned by the apostle, 1 Cor. vi. 1, &c. 2. The apostle speaks here of ecclesiastical, not of civil officers, as the latter phrase intimates. The main scope of this epistle was to instruct Timothy how to behave himself, not in the commonwealth, but in the Church of God, (1 Tim. iii. 15,) and here he speaks of such officers as were in being in the Church at that time. 3. If kings, parliament-men, and all civil governors be these ruling elders, then ministers have not only an equal share with them in government by this text, which the Erastians will not like well; but also are to have a superior honor or maintenance to kings, parliament-men, and all civil governors. Certainly the magistrates will never triumph in this gloss, nor thank them that devised it. 4. Sutlive seems to be against this opinion, (though no great friend to ruling elders,) saying Beza bestows many words to prove that the judges in 1 Cor. vi. were not of the number of presbyters: which truly I myself should easily grant him. For there were none such ever constituted. 5. This is a novel interpretation, as some observe,79 unknown among ancient writers.
Except. 6. Those words [especially they who labor in the word and doctrine] are added to the former explanatively, to teach us who they are that rule well, viz. they who labor much in the word and doctrine, and not to distinguish them that labor in the word, from elders ruling well; as if Paul had said, “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, greatly laboring in the word,” &c. For the word translated especially here more aptly signifies much, greatly, than especially. For though with the adversative but along with it, it signifieth especially, yet alone (as it is here) it signifies much, greatly.80
Ans. 1. If this sentence [especially they who labor, &c.] were added only to explain who are well-ruling elders, viz. such as greatly labor in the word, &c., then few of the prelatical bishops were to be counted well-ruling elders, for very few, if any of them, were guilty of laboring greatly in the word and doctrine. 2. Then also the apostle would have said, either who especially labor, or simply without the article, especially laboring; then especially, they who labor, as here he doth, carrying his speech rather to distinct persons and officers, than to distinct duties or actions. 3. This word translated especially, hath been already in the minor proposition proved to be rather disjunctive, than explanatory; a term of distinction to point out a several sort of elders from only ruling elders, rather than a term of explication, signifying who are to be reputed these well-ruling elders. 4. The word especially is used for a term of distinction, even in those places where the adversative but is not joined to it, as in Tit. i. 10, “For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, especially they of the circumcision:” where especially distinguishes them of the circumcision, from all other vain talkers, and deceivers; and in 1 Tim. iv. 10, “Who is the Saviour of all men, especially of them that believe;” here especially without but distinguishes them that believe from all other men, as capable of a special salvation from God; if here it were not a note of distinction, according to this gloss, we should thus read the place, “Who is the Saviour of all men, greatly believing;” but this were cold comfort to weak Christians of little faith. So hereespecially, though but be wanting, distinguished them that labor in the word and doctrine, from them that labor not therein, and yet rule well.
Except. 7. It is one thing to preach, another thing to labor in the word and doctrine. If there be here any distinction of elders it is between those that labor more abundantly and painfully, and between those that labor not so much. This objection takes much with some.81B. Bilson much presses this objection from the emphasis of the word laboring; signifying endeavoring any thing with greater striving and contention, &c., to this sense, “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor and sweat, &c., in the word—who give themselves even to be tired and broken with labors;” and this, saith he, is the genuine signification of the word translated laboring, when it is borrowed from the labor of the body, to denote the contention or striving of the mind, &c.82
Ans. 1. This gloss takes it for granted, that this text speaks only of preaching, or the ministry of the word, and therein of the lesser or greater pains taken: which (besides that it begs the thing in question) makes the ministry of the word common to both sorts here distinctly spoken of, whereas rather the plain current of the text makes ruling common to both, over and beyond which the preaching elder labors in the word. 2. Doth not this interpretation allow a double honor to ministers that labor not so much as others in the word? And can we think that the laborious Paul intended to dignify, patronize, or encourage idle drones, lazy, sluggish, seldom preachers? Ministers must be exceeding instant and laborious in their ministry, 2 Tim. iv. 1-3. If this were the sense only to prefer the greater before the less labor in the ministry, the apostle would have used this order of words, “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor,” &c., take upon themselves more weighty cares. For those words (in the word and doctrine) should either have been quite omitted, as now was expressed, or should have been inserted immediately after them that rule well, and before the word especially, to this effect, “Let the elders that rule well and preach the word and doctrine well, be counted worthy of double honor; but especially those who labor much in well ruling and in well preaching:” in such an expression the case had been very clear and evident. 4. Should this comment stand, that they who labor more in the ministry than others should have more honor, more maintenance, than others, how many emulations and contentions were this likely to procure? Who shall undertake to proportion the honor and reward, according to the proportion of every minister’s labor? 5. As for the criticism of the word laboring, which Bilson lays so much stress upon, these things are evident, 1. That here laboring, signifies emphatically nothing else but that labor, care, diligence, solicitude, &c., which the nature of the pastoral office requires in every faithful pastor; as is implied 1 Thess. v., 12, 13, “Know them which labor among you, and are over you in the Lord;” and the apostle saith that every minister “shall receive a reward according to his own labor,” 1 Cor. iii. 8. Such labor and diligence also is required in them that rule, whilst they are charged to rule with diligence, Rom. xii. 8, which is as much as with labor: yea, the common charity of Christians hath its labor; and this very word labor is ascribed thereunto, labor of love, 1 Thess. i. 3; Heb. vi. 10. 2. That if the apostle had here intended the extraordinary labor of some ministers above others, not ordinarily required of all, he would have taken a more emphatical word to have set it out, as he is wont to do in some other cases, as in 2 Cor. xi. 27, “In labor and weariness.” 1 Thess. ii. 9, “For ye remembered, brethren, our labor and weariness.” 6. Finally, “If there be but one kind of church officers here designed, then,” as saith the learned Cartwright, “the words (especially those that labor) do not cause the apostle’s speech to rise, but to fall; not to go forward, but to go backward; for to teach worthily and singularly is more than to teach painfully; for the first doth set forth all that which may be required in a worthy teacher, where the latter noteth one virtue only of pains taking.”
Except. 8. Though it could be evinced, that here the apostle speaks of some other elders, besides the ministers of the word, yet what advantage can this be for the proof of ruling elders? For the apostle being to prove that the ministers of the word ought to be honored, i.e. maintained; why might he not use this general proposition, that all rulers, whether public or domestic, whether civil or ecclesiastical, are to be honored? And when the apostle speaketh of the qualifications of deacons, he requires them to be such as have ruled their own houses well.83
Ans. 1. This slight gloss might have appeared more tolerable and plausible, were it not, partly, that the grand scope of the apostle in this chapter and epistle is to direct about church officers and church affairs, as both the context, and 1 Tim. iii. 14, 15, clearly evidence; and partly, had the word rulers been expressed alone in the text, and the word elders left out: but seeing that the apostle speaks not generally of them that rule well, but particularly of the elders that rule well in the Church; here is no place for this poor faint gloss. 2. Had the apostle here intended such a lax and general proposition for all sorts of rulers, then had he also meant that an honorable maintenance is due from the Church to domestic as well as public, yea, to civil as well as ecclesiastical rulers: then the Church should have charge enough: yea, and then should ministers of the word (according to this interpretation) have more honor and maintenance than any other rulers, domestic or public, civil or ecclesiastical. Magistrates will never thank him for this gloss. 3. Though some kind of skill to rule and govern be required in deacons, yet that is no public rule in the Church, but a private rule in their own houses only, which the apostle mentions, 1 Tim. iii. 12.
Except. 9. But these Well-ruling presbyters may be referred to these pastors and teachers which were resident in every church, who therefore are properly said to have care and inspection of the faithful, as being affixed to that place for that end; but the word laboring, orthey that labor, may be referred to them who travelled up and down for the visiting and confirming of the churches.84 “There were some that remained in some certain places, for the guiding and governing of such as were already won by the preaching of the gospel: others that travelled with great labor and pains from place to place to spread the knowledge of God into all parts, and to preach Christ crucified to such as never heard of him before. Both these were worthy of double honor, but the latter that builded not upon another man’s foundation, more especially than the former, that did but keep that which others had gotten, and govern those that others have gained.”85
Ans. 1. If this be the sense, that there were some ministers fixed, and limited to particular places and churches; others unfixed, having an unlimited commission, and these are to be especially honored: then the meaning is, that the apostles and evangelists who were unfixed, and had unlimited commissions, and laid the foundation, were to be especially honored above pastors and teachers that were fixed and limited, and only built upon their foundation. But how should this be the meaning? For this seems a needless exhortation; what church would not readily yield an especial honor to apostles and evangelists above pastors and teachers? This would savor too much of self-seeking in the apostle, and providing for his own honor. This implies that the text hath reference to apostles and evangelists, whereas it evidently speaks only of ordinary ruling and preaching presbyters.
2. If this be the sense of Dr. Field and Bilson, that some mere ordinary presbyters travelled laboriously to lay the foundation of Christianity, others were fixed to certain places to build upon that foundation: this seems to be false; for we read that mere ordinary presbyters were ordained for several cities and places as their peculiar charges, whom they were to feed, and with whom they were to remain, as Acts xiv. 23; Tit. i. 5; herewith compare Acts xx. 28; 1 Pet. v. 2; 1 Thess. v. 12. But that mere ordinary presbyters were ordained and employed in the Church without limitation of commission, where can it be evidenced in all the Scriptures? Wandering presbyters are nowhere commended; wandering stars are condemned, Jude, ver. 13.
3. To refer the word laboring to them that travelled from place to place for visiting and confirming of the churches, is very weak and unjustifiable in this place; for this clashes with Dr. Field’s former gloss, (mentioned Except. 4, limiting laboring to preaching.) But any thing for a present shift. This word is sometimes given to the apostle, as 1 Cor. xv. 10; 2 Cor. xi. 27: but where are apostles and evangelists called laboring, merely in respect of their travelling from place to place, to lay the foundation of Christianity, thereby to distinguish them from ordinary pastors and teachers? Nay, the apostle himself makes them that rule, and them that labor, the same, 1 Thess. v. 12, 13. So here in 1 Tim. v. 17, they that rule—and they that labor—are the same, i.e. both of them ordinary presbyters, both of them ruling, only to one of them the office of laboring in the word and doctrine is superadded; yea, the very women that were godly were said to labor in the Lord, Rom. xvi. 6, 12, not for their far travels up and down several countries to propagate the gospel, for where are Mary and Persis reported to have done this? Yet doubtless such good women privately labored much to bring in others, especially of their own sex, to hear the apostles, and entertain the gospel; and if the women may be said to labor much in the Lord, in respect of their private endeavors, how much more may labor be ascribed to presbyters in respect of both their private and public employments! So that this word laboring, which is applied in Scripture not only to ordinary presbyters, but also to women, cannot (without violence) be drawn peculiarly to signify apostles and evangelists, as this exception intends.
Except. 10. Seeing in every minister of the word three things are requisite, unblamableness of life, dexterity of governing, and integrity of doctrine; the two first are commended here, but especially the labor in doctrine above them both; therefore here are set down not a two-fold order of presbyters, but only two parts of the pastoral office, preaching and governing; both which the apostle joins in the office of pastors, 1 Thes. v. 2-13.86 “The guides of the church are worthy of double honor, both in respect of governing and teaching, but especially for their pains in teaching; so noting two parts or duties of presbyterial offices, not two sorts of presbyters.”87
Ans. 1. It is true, pastors have the power both of ruling and preaching belonging to their office, as is intimated, 1 Thes. v. 12, 13, and Heb. xiii. 7, and in other places; but doth it therefore follow, that none have the power of ruling, but those that have the power of preaching? or that this text, or 1 Tim. v. 17, intends only those rulers that preach? 2. Bilson, in this exception, confesseth that laboring belongs to ordinary fixed pastors, and therefore contradicts himself in his former objection, wherein he would have appropriated it to unfixed apostles and evangelists; yea, by this gloss it is granted, that preaching presbyters are to be more honored than non-preaching ruling prelates. These are miserable shifts and evasions, whereby they are necessitated thus to wound their own friends, and to cross their own principles. 3. According to this gloss, this should be the sense, “Let the ministers that rule well by good life, and skilful government, be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine.” Now doth not this tacitly insinuate, that some ministers may rule well, and be worthy of double honor, though they labor not in the word and doctrine? and how absurd were this? But if the text be interpreted not of several acts of the same office, but of several sorts of officers, this absurdity is prevented, Let ruling elders be doubly honored, especially those that both rule and preach. 4. The text evidently speaks not of duties, but of persons; not of acts, but of agents; not of offices, but of officers; for it is not said, “Let the elders be counted worthy of double honor, for well ruling; especially for laboring”—but, Let the elders that rule well, especially they that labor in the word, &c. So that this gloss is vain, and against the plain letter of the text.
Except. 11. Though the emphasis of the word, they that labor, be not to be neglected, yet the difference betwixt presbyters is not put by that word, but by those (in the word and doctrine.) This does not signify two kinds of presbyters, but two offices of ministers and pastors; one general, to rule well; another special, to labor in the word and doctrine. To rule well, saith Hierom, is to fulfil his office; or, as the Syriac interpreter expounds it, “to behave themselves well in their place;” or as the Scripture speaks, To go in and out before God’s people as becomes them, going before them in good works in their private conversations, and also in their public administrations; whence the apostle makes here a comparison betwixt the duties of ministers thus, “All presbyters that generally discharge their office well are worthy of double honor; especially they who labor in the word, which is a primary part of their office.”88
Ans. 1. For substance this objection is the same with objection 10, already answered, therefore much more needs not to be added. 2. It is to be noted, that the apostle saith not, “Let the presbyters that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially because they labor in the word—for then he should have pointed at the distinct offices of ministers;” but he saith, especially they that labor, which clearly carries the sense to the distinction of elders themselves, who have distinct employments. 3. If preaching presbyters only should here be meant, and under that phrase (that rule well) their whole office in general, and the right managing thereof, should be contained, whereas laboring in the word and doctrine (as this exception implies) is but one part thereof, then hence it would inevitably follow, that a minister deserves more honor for the well administration of one part of his office only, than for the well managing of the whole, which is absurd! Here therefore the apostle doth not compare one primary part of the pastor’s office, with the whole office and all the parts thereof; but one sort of presbyters with another, distinguishing the mere ruling presbyter from the ruling and preaching presbyter, as the acute and learned Whitaker hath well observed.
Except. 12. It is evident in the text itself, that all these elders here meant were worthy of double honor, whether they labored or governed; which by St. Paul’s proofs, presently following, and by the consent of all old and new writers, is meant of their maintenance at the charges of the Church.89 Now that lay-judges and censors of manners were in the apostle’s time found at the expense of the Church, or by God’s law ought to have their maintenance at the people’s hands, till I see it justly proved, I cannot believe it: which yet must be proved before this construction can be admitted.90
Ans. 1. This word honor signifies (after the custom of the Hebrews, Exod. xx. 12) all pious offices and relief. This phrase (double honor) interpreters expound either absolutely or comparatively. Absolutely thus: double honor, i.e. great honor, so some; maintenance in this life, happiness in the life to come, so others; honor of reverence to their persons, and of maintenance for their labors, so Chrysostom, of which saith Calvin, “That Chrysostom interprets double honor to be maintenance and reverence, I impugn not.” Comparatively thus:double honor here seems to relate to what was before spoken, ver. 3, “Honor widows that are widows indeed.” Now here he intimates, that though widows are to be honored, yet these should be much more honored; they should have single, these double honor. In this last sense, which seems most genuine, it seems most likely that the apostle here intended principally, if not only, the honor of maintenance; partly because the honor appointed for widows, ver. 3, &c., was only maintenance; partly because the reason of this charge to honor, &c., refers only to maintenance, ver. 18. Thus far we grant, that the text speaks of maintenance. 2. It may be further yielded that all the presbyters here spoken of are to be counted worthy of double honor, of honorable, liberal maintenance; even they that rule well (if need require) are to be thus honored, but the principal care of maintenance ought to be of them that labor in the word and doctrine, because the apostle saith especially they that labor, &c.: the like injunction, see Gal. vi. 6, “Let him that is catechized, communicate to him that catechizeth him in all good things;” and thus much this text plainly evidenceth. 3. What then can be inferred hereupon by the adversaries of ruling elders? “Therefore the ruling elders (in the reformed churches) that take no maintenance of the church, are not the elders that rule well here mentioned?” This follows not: the apostle Paul took no wages of the church of Corinth, 2 Cor. xi. 7-9, and xii. 12, 13, &c., was he therefore not an apostle to them, as to other churches of whom he took maintenance? Divers among us in these days labor in the word and doctrine, and are not sufficiently maintained by their churches, but forced to spend of their own estates to do others service; are they therefore no ministers? Forgive them this wrong. Most churches are not able (or at least not willing) to maintain their very preaching presbyters and their families comfortably and sufficiently, as the gospel requireth: if therefore in prudence, that the Church be not needlessly burdened, those ruling elders are chosen generally that need no maintenance, doth their not taking maintenance of the church make their office null and void? Or if the church do not give them maintenance (when they neither need it, nor desire it, nor is the church able to do it) is the church therefore defective in her duty, or an ill observer of the apostolical precepts? Sure maintenance is not essentially and inseparably necessary to the calling of either ruling or preaching elder. There may be cases when not only the preaching, but the ruling elders ought to be maintained, and there may be cases when not only the ruling but also the preaching presbyter (as it was with Paul) should not expect to be maintained by the church. 4. It is as observable that the apostle here saith, let them be counted worthy of double honor, though the reformed churches do not actually give double maintenance to elders that rule well, yet they count them worthy of double maintenance, though the elders do not take it, though the churches cannot give it.
Finally, unto these testimonies and arguments from Scripture, many testimonies of ancient and modern writers (of no small repute in the Church of God) may be usefully annexed, speaking for ruling elders in the Church of Christ from time to time: some speaking of such sort of elders, presbyters, or church-governors, as that ruling elders may very well be implied in their expressions; some plainly declaring that the Church of Christ in fact had such officers for government thereof; and some testifying that of right such officers ought to be in the Church of Christ now under the New Testament for the well guiding thereof; by which it may notably appear, that in asserting the office of the ruling elder in the Church, we take not upon us to maintain any singular paradox of our own devising, or to hold forth some new light in this old opinionative age: and that the ruling elder is not a church officer first coined at Geneva, and a stranger to the Church of Christ for the first 1500 years, (as the adversaries of ruling elders scornfully pretend,) but hath been owned by the Church of Christ as well in former as in later times.91
An Appendix touching the Divine Right of Deacons.
Though we cannot find in Scripture that the power of the keys is committed by Christ unto deacons, with the other church governors, but conceive that deacons, as other members of the church, are to be governed, and are not to govern; yet forasmuch as deacons are ordinary officers in the Church of God, of which she will have constant use in all ages, and which at first were divinely appointed, and after frequently mentioned in the New Testament; it will not be thought unfit, before we conclude this section, touching the divine right of Christ’s church-officers, briefly to assert the divine right of deacons, as followeth.
Deacons in the church are an ordinance of Jesus Christ. For,
1. They are found in Christ’s catalogue of church officers, distinct from all other officers, both extraordinary and ordinary. Helps, 1 Cor. xii. 28. The Greek word in the natural acceptation properly signifies, to lift over against one in taking up some burden or weight; metaphorically, it here is used for deacons, whose office it is to help and succor the poor and sick, to lend them a hand to lift them up, &c., and this office is here distinctly laid down from all other ordinary and extraordinary offices in the text. So they are distinguished from all ordinary officers reckoned up, Rom. xii. 7, 8: under prophecy, there is the teacher and pastor; under ministry, the ruling elder, and the deacon, verse 8. This officer was so well known, and usual in the primitive churches, that when the apostle writes to the church at Philippi, he directs his epistle not only to the saints, but to the officers, viz. to the overseers, and deacons, Philip, i. 1. The occasion of the first institution of this office, see in Acts vi. 1, 2, &c. At the first planting of the Christian Church, the apostles themselves took care to receive the churches’ goods, and to distribute to every one of their members as they had need, Acts iv. 34, 35; but in the increase of the church, the burden of this care of distributing alms increasing also, upon some complaints of the Greeks, that their widows were neglected, the office of deacons was erected, for better provision for the poor, Acts vi. 1-7; and because the churches are never like to want poor and afflicted persons, there will be constant need of this officer. The pastor and deacon under the New Testament seem to answer the priests and Levites under the Old Testament.
2. The qualifications of deacons are laid down by Christ in the New Testament, at large: 1 Tim. iii. 8-14, Deacons also must be grave, not double-tongued, &c., and Acts vi. 3, 5.
3. The manner also of deacons’ vocation or calling unto their office is delineated, viz: 1. They must be chosen by the church; “Look ye out among you seven men of honest report,” &c., “and they chose Stephen,” &c., Acts vi. 3, 5. 2. They must first be proved and tried by the officers of the church, before they may officiate as deacons; “and let these also first be proved, then let them use the office of a deacon, being blameless,” 1 Tim. iii. 10. 3. They must be appointed by the officers of the church to their office, and set apart with prayer, Acts vi. 3, 6: “Look ye out men—whom we may appoint over this business—whom they set before the apostles, and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.”
4. Deacons have by Scripture their work and employment appointed them. Their work is, to serve tables, (hence the name deacon seems derived,) Acts vi. 2, 3. To be an help, no hinderance in the church; called helps, 1 Cor. xii. 18.
5. Deacons have a divine approbation and commendation in Scripture, if they execute their office well. “For they that have used the office of a deacon well, purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus,” 1 Tim. iii. 13. Here the well administration of deaconship is commended as producing two good effects to such deacons, viz: 1. A good degree, i.e. great honor, dignity, and reputation, both to themselves and to their office; they adorn, grace, and credit their office in the church; not that they purchase to themselves by desert a higher office in the church, that from deacons they should be advanced to be presbyters, as some would interpret this text. 2. Much boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus. For nothing makes a man more bold than a good conscience in the upright and faithful discharge of our duties in our callings; innocency and integrity make brave spirits; such with great confidence and boldness serve Christ and the church, being men that may be trusted to the uttermost. Now where God thus approves or commends the well managing of an office, he also divinely approves and allows the office itself, and the officer that executes the same.92
2. Of the first receptacle, or subject of the power of church government from Christ, viz. Christ’s own officers.
Touching the second, that Jesus Christ our Mediator hath peculiarly intrusted his own officers with the power of church government: take it thus—
Jesus Christ our Mediator did immediately commit the proper, formal, ministerial, or stewardly authority and power for governing of his church to his own church guides as the proper immediate receptacle or first subject thereof.
For explication of this proposition, four things are to be opened.
1. What is meant by proper, formal, ministerial or stewardly authority and power for church government? See this already discussed, Part 2, chapters III., V., and IX., in the beginning of Section 2, so that here there needs no further addition, as to this point.
2. What is meant by church guides? By church guides here understand, negatively, 1. Not the political magistrate. For though he be the nurse-father of the church, Isa. xlix. 23, the keeper and avenger of both the tables; and have an outward care of religion, and may exercise a political power about sacred things, as did Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, Josiah, &c., yet hath he no proper, inward, formal power in sacred things, nor is it lawful for him to exercise the same; as Korah, Num. xvi.; King Saul, 1 Sam. xiii. 9-15; Uzzah, 2 Sam. vi. 6-8, 1 Chron. xiii. 9, 10; and King Uzziah, 2 Chron. xxvi. 16-22, did to the provoking of God, and to their own destruction. (But see what power is granted, and what denied to the civil magistrate in matters of religion, and why, Part 2, Chap. IX. Sect. 1.) 2. Not any officer of man’s mere invention and setting up in the church, whether papal, as cardinals, &c., prelatical, as deans, archdeacons, chancellors, officials, &c., or political, as committees, commissioners, &c. For who can create and institute a new kind of offices in the church, but Jesus Christ only, who alone hath the lordly magisterial power as Mediator appropriated to him? Eph. iv. 8, 11; Rom. xii. 5-8; 1 Cor. xii. 28; and therefore how can such acts be sufficiently excused from bold usurpation upon Christ’s own prerogative? 3. Nor the deacons themselves, (though officers of Christ’s appointment, as was formerly proved;) for their office is not to rule and govern, but to serve tables, &c., Acts vi. 2, 3. None of these are the church guides which Christ hath committed his proper power unto. But affirmatively understand all these church guides extraordinary and ordinary, which Christ hath erected in his Church, vesting them with power and authority therein, viz. apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, governments, or ruling elders, mentioned together in Eph. iv. 8, 11; 1 Cor. xii. 28; 1 Tim. v. 17; Rom. xii. 6-8. These are Christ’s own church officers, these Christ hath made the immediate receptacle and first subject of the keys, or of ecclesiastical power derived from himself.
3. What is meant by Christ’s committing this stewardly power first and immediately to the church guides? Ans. There is, 1. A priority and immediateness of the donation of the power of the keys: thus Christ first and immediately gave keys to his own officers, whom Scripture, therefore, calls the ministers of Christ, (not of the Church,) 1 Cor. iv. 1, not first and immediately to the community of the faithful, or Church, and then by the Church secondarily and mediately to the officers, as her substitutes and delegates, acting for her, and not in virtue of their own power from Christ. 2. A priority and immediateness of designation of particular individual persons to the office of key-bearing, and this is done by the mediate intervening act of the church officers in separating of particular persons to the office which Christ instituted; though it is not denied but that the church or company of the faithful may lawfully nominate or elect individual persons to be officers in the congregation, which yet is no act of authority or power.
4. How hath Christ committed this power of the keys to his church guides, that thereby they become the most proper receptacle thereof? Ans. Thus briefly. All absolute lordly power is in God originally: all lordly magisterial mediatory power is in Christ dispensatorily: all official, stewardly power is by delegation from Christ only in the church guides93 ministerially, as the only proper subject thereof that may exercise the same lawfully in Christ’s name: yet all power, both magisterial in Christ, and ministerial in Christ’s officers, is for the Church of Christ and her edification objectively and finally.
These things thus explained and stated, we come now to the confirmation of the proposition. Consider these arguments:
1. Jesus Christ committed immediately ecclesiastical power and the exercise thereof to his church guides. Thus we may argue:
Major. All those that have ecclesiastical power, and the exercise thereof, immediately committed to them from Jesus Christ, are the immediate subject or receptacle of that power.
For what makes any persons the immediate subject of power, but the immediate derivation and commission of power to them from Jesus Christ, who is the fountain of all power?
Minor. But the church guides have the ecclesiastical power and the exercise thereof immediately committed to them from Jesus Christ. This may be evinced many ways by Scriptures. 1. It is said expressly, “Of our authority which the Lord hath given us for your edification,” 2 Cor. 10, 8: by us here we are to understand church guides, for here they are set in opposition to the church members (for edification,) not destruction of (you.) Here are edifiers and edified. Now these church guides have authority given them, and that from the Lord, i.e. Christ; here is their commission or power, not from the Church or any creature, but from Christ; hence the apostle calls church guides, “Your rulers or guides in the Lord,” 1 Thes. v. 12; in the Lord, i.e. by the Lord’s authority and commission. So that church officers are rulers in the Lord, and the churches ruled by them; yea, ruling elders being one sort of church guides, have such an undoubted power of governing in the Church divinely committed to them, that of them it is said, “God hath set in the church governments”, 1 Cor. xii. 28, i.e. governors, the abstract being put for the concrete. If God have set governors in the Church, then God vested those governors with a power of governing, whence they have their name of governments.
2. The keys of the kingdom of heaven, with all their acts, were immediately committed to the church guides, viz. to the apostles and their successors to the end of the world; compare these testimonies, Matt. xvi. 16, 19, and xviii. 18-20; John xx. 21-23; with Matt, xxviii. 18-20: therefore consequently ecclesiastical power was committed immediately unto them as the subject thereof. For, By the kingdom of heaven here we are to understand (according to the full latitude of the phrase) both the kingdom of grace in this world, and of glory in the world to come; binding and loosing both in earth and in heaven, upon the right use of the keys, being here the privileges promised to church guides; and by kingdom of heaven—on earth, understand the whole visible Church of Christ in the earth, not only some single congregation. By keys of the kingdom of heaven, thus apprehend, Christ promiseth and giveth not the sword of the kingdom, any secular power; nor the sceptre of the kingdom, any sovereign, lordly, magisterial power over the Church. But the keys, &c. i.e. a stewardly, ministerial power, and their acts, binding and loosing, i.e. retaining and remitting sins on earth, (as in John it is explained;) opening and shutting are proper acts of keys; binding and loosing but metaphorical, viz. a speech borrowed from bonds or chains wherewith men’s bodies are bound in prison or in captivity, or from which the body is loosed: we are naturally all under sin, Rom. v. 12, and therefore liable to death, Rom. vi. 23. Now sins are to the soul as bonds and cords, Prov. v. 22. The bond of iniquity, Acts viii. 23; and death with the pains thereof, are as chains, 2 Pet. ii. 4, Jude 6; in hell as in a prison, 1 Pet. iii. 10: the remission or retaining of these sins, is the loosing or the binding of the soul under these cords and chains. So that the keys themselves are not material but metaphorical; a metaphor from stewards in great men’s houses, kings’ houses, &c., into whose hands the whole trust and ordering of household affairs is committed, who take in and cast out servants, open and shut doors, &c., do all without control of any in the family save the master of the family. Such, in the Hebrew phrase, are said to be over the house, Gen. xliii. 18; Isa. xxii. 15; 2 Kings xviii. 18: and the keys of the house are committed to them as a badge of their power. So that when God threatens to put Shebna out of his office in the king’s house, and to place Eliakim, son of Hilkiah, in his room, he saith, “I will commit thy government into his hand—and the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder,” Isa. xxii. 21, 22, parallel of that phrase, “and the government shall be upon his shoulder,” Isa. ix. 6. Hence, as key is in the Old Testament used for stewardly power and government, Isa. xxii. 21, 22; (only twice properly, Judges iii. 25; 1 Chron. ix. 27;) so in the New Testament, key is always used, metaphorically, to denote power, and that about ecclesiasticals or spirituals, viz. in Matt. xvi. 19; Luke xi. 52; Rev. i. 18, and iii. 7, and ix. 1, and xx. 1. So that keys, &c., are metaphorically the ordinances which Christ hath instituted, to be dispensed in his church, preaching the word, administrations of the seals and censures: for it is not said key, but keys, which comprehendeth them all: by the right use of which both the gates of the Church here, and of heaven hereafter, are opened or shut to believers or unbelievers; and Christ promising or giving these keys to Peter and the apostles, and their successors to the end of the world, Matt. xxviii. 20, doth intrust and invest them with power and authority of dispensing these ordinances for this end, and so makes them stewards in his house of the mysteries of God, 1 Cor. iv. 1, so that we may conclude:
Conclusion. Therefore the church guides are the immediate subject and receptacle of that ecclesiastical power, and of the exercise thereof.
Argum. II. Jesus Christ our Mediator did institute ecclesiastical offices for church government under the New Testament before any Christian Church under the New Testament was gathered or constituted. Therefore those persons that were intrusted with those offices must needs be the first and immediate receptacle or subject of the power of the keys. Thus we may argue:
Major. All those whose ecclesiastical offices for church government, under the New Testament, were instituted by Christ, before any formal visible Christian Church was gathered or constituted, are the first and immediate receptacle or subject of the power of the keys from Jesus Christ.
Minor. But the ecclesiastical offices of Christ’s own officers for governing of the Church, now under the New Testament, were instituted by Christ before any formal visible Christian Church was gathered or constituted.
Conclusion. Therefore Christ’s own officers for governing of the Church now under the New Testament are the first and immediate receptacle or subject of the keys from Jesus Christ.
The major proposition cannot reasonably be denied, and may be further cleared by these considerations, viz: 1. That the Church offices for church government under the New Testament are in their own nature intrinsically offices of power. The apostle styles it power, orauthority, which is given to these officers by the Lord, 2 Cor. x. 8, and xiii. 10. The keys of the kingdom of heaven are committed to them, Matt. xvi. 19, and keys import a stewardly power: compare Matt. xvi. 19, and xviii. 18, John xx. 21, 23, with Isa. xxii. 21, 22. Materially, the acts and exercise of these officers are acts of power, as binding, loosing, &c., Matt, xviii. 18; not only preaching, &c., but excommunicating, is an act of power, 1 Cor. v. 4. Absolving the penitent, and confirming him again in the Church’s love, is an act of power:—to confirm love unto him, i.e. authoritatively to confirm, &c., as the word signifies, 2 Cor. ii. 8. Formally, these acts are to be done as acts of power, in Christ’s name, and by his authority, Matt. xxviii. 19; 1 Cor. v. 4. Now if these offices be in their own nature offices of power, consequently they that have such offices conferred upon them by Christ, before the Christian Church had being or existence, they must needs be the first and immediate recipient subject of the power of the keys from Christ. 2. Either those church officers, whose offices were instituted before the Christian Church was constituted, must be the first subject of the power, &c., or some others. If any other, then, 1. Either heathens, or heathen magistrates, who are out of the Church: but both these were absurd to grant; for then they that are not so much as church members should be church governors, and the Church be ecclesiastically judged by them that are without. 2. Or the first subject of this power was the Christian Church itself before it had existence; but that were notoriously absurd; and besides these, no other can be imagined, but the church officers; therefore they must needs be the first subject of the power of the keys.
The minor proposition (viz. But the ecclesiastical offices of Christ’s own officers for governing of the Church now under the New Testament, were instituted by Christ before any formal visible Christian Church was gathered or constituted) is so evident in the current of the New Testament, that it needs little confirmation. For, 1. The church offices under the New Testament, as apostleship, pastorship, &c., were instituted by Christ either before his death—compare these places together, Mark iii. 13, 14, &c.; Luke ix. 1, &c., and x. 1, 2, &c.; John xx. 21-23; Matt, xxviii. 18-20—or presently upon his ascension, Eph. iv. 8, 11, 12, &c.; Acts ii.; 1 Cor. xiii. 28. Now no formal Christian Church was constituted and gathered till the feast of Pentecost and afterwards. Then, after the apostles had received the gifts of the Holy Ghost, &c., Acts ii., great multitudes of Jews and Gentiles were converted to Christ, and being converted, incorporated and associated themselves into churches, as the history of the Acts, chap, ii., and forward, evidenceth abundantly. 2. Church officers, under the New Testament, are for the calling and gathering men unto Christ, and to his body mystical; and for admitting of those that believe into that one body, Matt, xxviii. 18, 19; 1 Cor. xii. 28. And is not he that calleth, before them that are called by them; they that baptize, before the baptized; and they that gather the churches, before those churches which they gather? May we not hence conclude, Therefore, &c.
Argum. III. The names, titles, and other denominations purposely and peculiarly given to the church guides in Scripture, generally do bear power and authority engraven upon their foreheads. Therefore, they are the proper, immediate, and only subjects of ecclesiastical power. Thus we may argue:
Major. All those persons in the Church, that have such names, titles, or denominations given to them peculiarly in the Scriptures by the Spirit of Christ, as generally have authority and power engraven upon them in reference to the Church, are the immediate and only proper subjects of ecclesiastical power.
Minor. But Christ’s officers in the Church have such names, titles, or denominations given to them peculiarly in the Scriptures by the Spirit of Christ, as generally have authority and power engraven upon them in reference to the Church.
Conclusion. Therefore Christ’s own officers in the Church are the proper, immediate, and only subjects or receptacles of ecclesiastical power.
This major proposition must be granted. For, 1. Is not this the Holy Ghost’s familiar and ordinary manner in Scripture, to give titles and denominations, which are apt, pertinent, significative and instructing both to others and themselves that have such denominations conferred upon them? As in the family, the husband is called the head of the wife, 1 Cor. xi., because he is to govern, she is to be subject: the wife is called an help-meet, &c., Gen. ii.: to teach the wife her duty, to help his good and comfort every way, to hinder it no way. So in the commonwealth, magistrates are called heirs of restraint, to put men to shame, Judges xviii. 7, because they are to restrain disorders, shame evil-doers: higher powers, to teach others subjection to them, Rom. xiii. 1. “An ordinance of man or human creation,” 1 Pet. ii. 13: because, though magistracy in general be an ordinance of God, yet this or that special kind of magistracy, whether monarchical, aristocratical, &c., is of man. Thus in the Church: the Church is called Christ’s body, Ephes. iv. 12, to show Christ’s headship, the Church’s subjection to Christ, and their near union to one another. Christians are called members, Rom. xii.; 1 Cor. xii., to teach them mutual love, care, and serviceableness to one another. Ministers are called ambassadors of Christ, 2 Cor. v. Angels of the churches, Rev. ii., to teach them to be faithful in their offices, and others to respect them for their offices. Salt of the earth, Matt. v. 13, because they are to season others spiritually. Stars, Rev. i., because they are to shine forth for the enlightening and guiding of others, &c. 2. If this proposition be denied, then to what end are such names and denominations, importing authority, generally given by the Spirit of God to some sort of persons only, and not to others? Is it for no end? That would be a dangerous charge upon the Spirit of Christ. Is it for any end? Then what other can be imagined, than to signify, hold forth, and instruct both themselves and others in their duties, and to distinguish them that are vested with authority in the Church, from them that are not?
The major proposition (viz. But Christ’s own officers in the Church have such names, titles, or denominations given to them peculiarly in the Scriptures by the Spirit of Christ, as generally have authority and power engraven upon them in reference to the Church) may be evinced, 1. By induction of particular names attributed to Christ’s officers. 2. By a denial of them, or the like, to any other members of the Church.
1. By induction of particular titles or denominations attributed to Christ’s officers, which generally have power and authority palpably engraven upon them: (yea, the self-same names are given to them, by which not only heathen writers, but also the Greek version of the Old Testament by the Septuagint, and the very original of the New Testament are wont to give to political officers, to express their political authority, power, and government,) as, for instance:
1. Presbyter or elder, is ascribed often to Christ’s church officers, as in Acts xiv. 23, and xv. 2, 4, and xx. 17; 1 Tim. v. 17; Tit. v.; 1 Pet. v. 1. This same word is ascribed to rulers political, to elders in the gate, by the Septuagint, in Judges viii. 14; Ruth iv. 2, 3; 2 Sam. v. 3; 1 Chron. vi. 3.
2. Overseer or bishop, noting authority and power in having the charge and oversight of the flock, is ascribed to church officers in Acts xx. 28; Phil. i. 1; 1 Tim. iii. 2; Tit. i. 7. This same word is used by the Septuagint, to denote the power of the civil magistrate, to whom the care and oversight of the commonwealth is committed, Numb. xxxi. 14; Judges ix. 28; 2 Kings xi. 15.
3. Guide, leader, conductor, captain, governor, signifies them all, and is given to church officers, as contradistinct from the church and saints, Heb. xiii. 7, 17, 24. It is also attributed to civil rulers to set forth their power, in Deut. i. 13; Micah iii. 9, 11; 2 Chron. v. 1; Ezek. xliv. 3, and xlv. 7; Dan. iii. 2; Acts vii. 10. This very word governor, is attributed to Christ himself, out of thee shall come forth a governor, that shall rule (or feed) my people Israel, Matt. ii. 6.
4. Steward, dispenser. “Stewards of the mysteries of God,” is the title given to ministers, 1 Cor. iv. 1, 2. “Steward of God,” Tit. i. 7. “That faithful and wise steward, whom his Lord shall make ruler over his household,” &c., Luke xii. 42. This also is a title of power given to them that are set over families, as Gal. iv. 2, “he is under tutors and stewards.” And to them that are set over cities—as Rom. xvi. 23, “Erastus the steward” (or as we render it, the chamberlain) “of the city saluteth you.”
5. Pastor is ascribed to Christ’s officers; Eph. iv. 11, “and some pastors and teachers.” They govern the Church as the shepherd his flock, feeding, ruling them as well with the shepherd’s staff, as with food. This term is sometimes given to civil magistrates, Isa. xliv. 28; Micah v. 5: sometimes to Christ the great shepherd of the sheep, 1 Pet. v. 4; noting his authority, Matt. xxvi. 31; John x. 2, 11, 14, 16; Heb. xiii. 20; 1 Pet. ii. 25: sometimes to God himself the supreme Ruler of the world, Ps. lxxx. 1.
6. Governments, a denomination given to ruling elders, 1 Cor. xii. 28, as hath been proved Sect. 1 of this Chapter. A metaphor from mariners or pilots, that steer and govern the ship: translated thence, to signify the power and authority of church governors, spiritual pilots, steering the ship or ark of Christ’s Church. This word is used also by heathen authors, to signify political governors.94
Ruler. 1 Tim. v. 17, “Let the elders that rule well”—and,
“He that ruleth,” Rom. xii. 8, and “Your rulers in the Lord,” 1 Thes. v. 12, viz. not only in the fear of the Lord,95 nor only in those things that appertain to God’s worship,96 but also in the Lord; i.e. who are over you, to rule according to the will of the Lord,97 even by the Lord Christ’s power and authority derived to them. Now these names are among heathen authors ascribed to rulers of cities, armies, and kingdoms.98
By these among other titles given to Christ’s officers in Scripture, he that runs may read a plain authority and power enstamped on them in reference to the Church; and consequently on them that are thus denominated, unless they be applied to them improperly, unfitly, abusively; which we suppose no sober intelligent reader dare affirm.
2. By a denial of these and like titles to the whole Church of Christ, or to any other members of the Church whatsoever, besides church officers. For where can it be showed in all the book of God, that in this sense, either the whole Church or any members thereof besides officers, are ever styled presbyters, bishops, governors, stewards of God, or of the mysteries of God, pastors, governments, or rulers? The greatest factors for popular government must let this alone forever. Thus, from all that hath been said, we need not fear to conclude:
Conclusion. Therefore Christ’s own officers in the Church are the proper, immediate, and only subjects or receptacles of ecclesiastical power.
Argum. IV. The relations which Christ’s officers have unto his Church, imply and comprehend in themselves authority and power in reference to the Church, and therefore they are the proper subjects of ecclesiastical power. Thus we reason:
Major. Whosoever they are that peculiarly stand in such relations to the Church of Christ, as imply and comprehend in themselves authority and power for governing of the Church, they are the only subject of ecclesiastical power.
This proposition is evident; for, otherwise, to what end are those peculiar relations to the Church which comprehend government in them, unless such as are so peculiarly related be the only subjects of government? Shall all those relations be mere names and shadows? or shall others in the church be counted the subject of this authority and power for church government, that have no such relations to the Church at all implying any such power?
Minor. But the officers of Christ peculiarly stand in such relations to the Church of Christ as imply and comprehend in themselves authority and power for the government of the church.
This assumption or minor proposition will be evident by a due induction of some of their particular relations that have such power enstamped on them; as for instance, Christ’s officers stand in these relations of power to the Church and people of God.
1. They are pastors, Eph. iv. 11. The church is the flock, John x. 16; 1 Cor. ix. 7; flock, Acts xx. 28, 29; 1 Pet. v. 2, 3. Hath not the pastor power to rule and govern his flock?
2. They are stewards. “Who is that faithful and wise steward?” Luke xii. 42. “Stewards of the mysteries of God,” 1 Cor. iv. 1, 2. “Stewards of God,” Tit. i. 7. The Church and people of God are the Lord’s household, over which these stewards are set, &c., Luke xii. 42.God’s house, 1 Tim. iii. 15; Heb. iii. 6. Have not stewards power to govern and order those families over which they are set, and wherewith they are intrusted? Gal. iv. 1.
3. They are bishops or overseers, Phil. i. 1; 1 Tim. iii. 2; Tit. i. 7. The Church and people of God are that charge which the Lord hath committed to their inspection. “Over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers,” Acts xx. 28. Have not overseers power over that which is committed to their inspection?
4. They are catechizers and teachers, Rom. xii. 7, 8; Eph. iv. 11. The Church and people are catechized, Gal. vi. 6; taught. Hath not he that catechizeth power for government of him that is catechized? He that teacheth of him that is taught?
5. They are co-workers with God, 1 Cor. iii. 9; 2 Cor. vi. 1. Architects, builders, &c., 1 Cor. iii. 10; some of them laying the foundation, others building thereupon. The Church and people of God are God’s building. “Ye are God’s building,” 1 Cor. iii. 9. Have notbuilders power of disposing and ordering affairs appertaining to the building?
6. Finally, to add no more, the officers of Christ in the Church are not only as nurses; “We were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children,” 1 Thess. ii. 7: and as mothers; “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again,” Gal. iv. 19: but also asfathers, 1 Thess. ii. 11; 1 Cor. iv. 15, spiritual fathers in Christ: and the Church and people of God, they are the sons and daughters, the spiritual babes and children, begotten, brought forth, and nursed up by them, 1 Thess. ii. 7, 11; Gal. iv. 19: and have fathers no authority nor power of government over their children? See Eph. vi. 1-3; 1 Tim. iii. 4.
Thus Christ’s officers stand in such relation to the Church as do evidently carry power of government along with them; but where are any other members of the church besides officers, stated in such relation of pastors, stewards, overseers, catechizers, builders, husbandmen, nurses, mothers, and fathers to the Church of God and members of Christ, that can be evidenced by the Scriptures? Why may we not then clearly conclude,
Conclusion. Therefore the officers of Christ are the only subjects of ecclesiastical power.
Argum. V. The many divine commands and impositions of duties of obedience, submission, subjection, &c., upon the Church and people of God, to be performed by them to Christ’s officers, and that in reference to their office, do plainly proclaim the officers of Christ to be the proper receptacle and subject of authority and power from Christ for the government of his Church. Thus it may be argued:
Major. Whatsoever persons they are to whom the Church and people of God are peculiarly bound by the commands of Christ, to perform duties of obedience and subjection, and that in reference to their office in the church, they are the only subjects of authority from Christ for the government of his Church.
This proposition needs no proof, unless we will be so absurd as to say that the Church and people of God are peculiarly obliged by Christ’s command to obey and be subject to them, that yet have no peculiar authority nor power over them, and that in reference to their office in the church.
Minor. But the officers of Christ are those to whom the Church and people of God are peculiarly bound by the commands of Christ to perform duties of obedience and subjection, and that in reference to their office in the church.
This assumption or minor proposition may be evidenced, 1. Partly by induction of some particular instances of Christ’s commands, whereby the Church and people of God are bound to perform duties of obedience and subjection to the officers of Christ, in reference to their office in the church. 2. Partly by a denial of the like commands in reference to all others in the church, except the officers of the church only.
Touching the first, viz. the instances of such commands, consider these following. The Church and people of God are commanded,
1. To know their rulers. “We beseech you, brethren, to know them that labor among you, and are over you in the Lord,” 1 Thess. v. 12. To know, i.e., not simply and merely to know, but to acknowledge, accept, and approve of them as such rulers over you in the Lord. This teaches subjection to the office of ruling.
2. To love them exceedingly for their work’s sake. “Esteem them superabundantly in love for their work’s sake,” 1 Thess. v. 13. For what work? viz. both laboring and ruling, mentioned verse 12. If they must love them so exceedingly for ruling over them, must they not much more be obedient to this rule?
3. To count them worthy of double honor in reference to their well-ruling. “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially—,” 1 Tim. v. 17: whether we take double honor here for reverence or maintenance, or both; yet how can we esteem the elders ruling well worthy of double honor without some submission to their rule?
4. To obey them that are their rulers and governors. Obey ye your rulers, or governors, Heb. xiii. 17; where the words obey ye doth not (as some dream) signify a persuasion, but obedience, and in this sense it is commonly used, not only in profane authors, but also in the Holy Scriptures, as James iii. 3, Gal. iii. 1.
5. Finally, to submit and be subordinate unto them. The Church and people of God are charged to submit unto them. “Obey your governors and submit ye,” Heb. xiii. 17. The word properly notes a submissive yielding without opposition or resistance; yea, it signifies intense obedience. They must not only yield, but yield with subjection and submission, which relates to authority. They are also charged to be subordinate to them. “Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves to the elders,” 1 Pet. v. 5; i.e., be ye subordinate, (it is a military term,) viz: be ordered, ranked, guided, governed, disciplined by them, as soldiers are by their commanders. The word elders here is by some taken only for elders in age, and not in office. But it seems better to interpret it of elders in office; and the context well agrees with this; for the apostle having immediately before charged the ruling preaching presbyters with their duties towards their flock, ver. 1-4, here he seems to enjoin the ruled flock (which commonly were younger in age and gifts) to look to their duties of subjection to their elders in office.
Touching the second, viz. the denial of like commands, and upon like grounds to all others in the church, except to the church officers only: where can it be evidenced in all the Scriptures that the people of God are commanded to know, to esteem very highly in love, to count worthy of double honor, to obey, and submit themselves to any persons in the church but to the ruling officers thereof in reference to their office, and the due execution thereof?
Now, seeing the Church and people of God are peculiarly obliged, by so many commands of Christ, to perform such duties of subjection and obedience to the officers of Christ, may it not be concluded,
Therefore the officers of Christ are the only subjects of authority from Christ for the government of his Church?
Argum. VI. Finally, the directions touching rule and government in the Church; the encouragements to well-ruling by commendations, promises, rewards, together with the contrary deterring discouragements from ill-ruling, by discommendations, threats, &c., being specially applied and appropriated by the word of Christ unto Christ’s officers, very notably discover to us that Christ’s officers are the only subjects of power from Christ for the government of his Church. Thus it may be argued:
Major. Whatsoever persons in the Church have directions for church government, encouragements to well-ruling, and discouragements from ill-ruling, particularly and peculiarly applied unto them by the word of Christ; they are the only subjects of power from Christ for the government of his Church:
This proposition is evident: For, 1. How should it be consistent with the infinite wisdom of God peculiarly to apply unto them directions about ruling and governing the church that are not the only subjects in whom the power of government is intrusted by Jesus Christ? 2. How can it stand with the justice of God to encourage them only unto well-ruling, by commendations, promises, rewards, &c., or to deter them from ill-governing by dispraises, threats, &c., &c., to whom the power of government doth not appertain, as to the only subjects thereof? 3. What strange apprehensions and distractions would this breed in the hearts of Christ’s officers and others, should those that have not the power of church government committed to them by Christ, be yet directed by his word how to govern, encouraged in governing well, and deterred from governing ill?
Minor. But the officers of Christ in the church have directions for church government, encouragements to well-ruling, and discouragements from ill-ruling, particularly and peculiarly applied unto them by the word of God.
This assumption or minor proposition may be cleared by divers Scriptures according to the particular branches thereof, viz:
1. Directions for church government are particularly applied by the word of Christ to his own officers: as for instance, they are directed to bind and loose—to remit and retain sins on earth, Matt. xvi. 19, and xviii. 18; John xx. 21, 23. To judge them that are within theChurch, not without, 1 Cor. v. 12. Not to lord it, domineer, or overrule the flock of Christ, 1 Pet. v. To rule well, 1 Tim. v. 17. To rule with diligence, Rom. xii. 8. To lay hands suddenly on no man, neither to be partakers of other men’s sins, but to keep themselves pure, 1 Tim. v. 22. Not to prefer one before another, nor do anything by partiality, 1 Tim. v. 21. To rebuke them that sin before all, that others also may fear, 1 Tim. v. 20. To reject a heretic after once or twice admonition, Tit. iii. 10. To use the authority that is given them from the Lord to the edification, not to the destruction of the Church, 2 Cor. x. 8, and xiii. 10; with divers such like rules specially directed to Christ’s officers.
2. Encouragements to well-ruling are peculiarly directed to Christ’s officers. For, 1. They are the persons specially commended in that respect; well-ruling, 1 Tim. v. 17. Good and faithful steward, Luke xii. 42. The angels of the churches are praised for their good government, Rev. ii. 2, 3, 6, and ver. 18, 19. 2. They are the persons to whom the promises, in reference to good government, are directed, as Matt. xvi. 19, and xviii. 18-20; John xx. 21, 23; Matt. xxviii. 19, 20; Luke xii. 42-44; 1 Pet. v. 4. 3. They are the persons whom the Lord will have peculiarly rewarded, now with double honor, 1 Tim. v. 17; hereafter with endless glory, 1 Pet. v. 4.
3. Discouragements, deterring from ill-governing, are also specially applied to Christ’s officers, whether by way of dispraise or threats, &c., Rev. ii. 12, 14-16, and ver. 18, 20.
Now if, 1. Rules for church government, 2. Encouragements in reference to well ruling, and, 3. Discouragements in reference to ill-ruling, be so peculiarly directed by the word of Christ to his own officers, we may conclude,
Therefore the officers of Christ in the Church are the only subjects of power from Christ for the government of his Church.
Object. But the church99 of a particular congregation fully furnished with officers, and rightly walking in judgment and peace, is the first subject of all church authority, as appears from the example of the church of Corinth in the excommunication of the incestuous Corinthian, 1 Cor. v. 1-5; wherein it appears that the presbytery alone did not put forth this power, but the brethren also concurred in this sentence with some act of power, (viz. a negative power:) for, 1. The reproof, for not proceeding to sentence sooner, is directed to the whole Church, as well as to the presbytery. They are all blamed for not mourning, &c., 1 Cor. v. 2. 2. The command is directed to them all, when they are gathered together, (and what is that but to a church meeting?) to proceed against him, 1 Cor. v. 4, 13. 3. He declareth this act of theirs, in putting him out, to be a judicial act, ver. 12. 4. Upon his repentance the apostle speaketh to the brethren, as well as to their elders, to forgive him, 2 Cor. ii. 4-10. Consequently, Christ’s church officers are not the peculiar, immediate, or only subject of the power of the keys, as hath been asserted.
Ans. I. As for the main proposition asserted in this objection, something hath been formerly laid down to show the unsoundness of it. (See chap. X. near the end.) Whereunto thus much may be superadded. 1. What necessity is there that a particular congregation should be fully furnished with officers, to make it the subject of all church authority? For deacons are one sort of officers, yet what authority is added to the Church by the addition of deacons, whose office it is only to serve tables, Acts vi., not to rule the Church? or if the Church have no deacons, as once it had not, Acts i. 2, and before that, all the time from Christ, wherein is she maimed or defective in her authority? 2. If the Church, fully furnished with officers, yet walk not in judgment and peace, then in such case it is granted, that a particular congregation is not the first subject of all church authority. Then a congregation that walks in error or heresy, or passion, or profaneness, all which are contrary to judgment; and that walks in divisions, schisms, contentions, &c., which are contrary to peace, loseth her authority. Stick but close to this principle, and you will quickly lay the church authority of most independent congregations in the dust. But who shall determine whether they walk in judgment and peace, or not? Not themselves; for that were to make parties judges in their own case, and would produce a very partial sentence. Not sister churches; for all particular churches, according to them, have equal authority, and none may usurp one over another. Not a presbyterial church, for such they do not acknowledge. Then it must be left undetermined, yea undeterminable, (according to their principles;) consequently, who can tell when they have any authority at all? 3. Suppose the congregation had all her officers, and walked in judgment and peace also, yet is she not the first subject of all authority; for there is a synodal authority, beyond a congregational authority, as confessed by Mr. Cotton.100
II. As for the proofs of this proposition asserted here, they seem extremely invalid and unsatisfying. For,
The instance of the church of Corinth excommunicating the incestuous person, will not prove the congregation to be the first subject of all church authority: 1. Partly, because the church of Corinth was a presbyterial church, having several congregations in it, (as hereafter is evidenced, chap. XIII.;) now to argue from the authority of a presbyterial church, to the authority of a congregational, affirmatively, is not cogent. 2. Partly, because here were but two acts of power mentioned in this instance, viz. casting out and receiving again of the incestuous person: suppose the community had joined the presbytery in these two acts, (which yet is not proved,) will it follow therefore they are the first subject of all church authority? Are not ordination of presbyters, determination in case of appeals, of schism, of heresy, &c., acts of authority above the sphere of a single congregation? What one congregation can be instanced in the New Testament that did ever execute any of these acts of authority?
The reasons brought, prove not that the brethren did concur with the presbytery in this sentence with some act of power, as will appear plainly, if they be considered severally.
1. Not the reproof, 1 Cor. v. 2, “And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.” Here they are blamed, that they no more laid to heart so vile a scandal, which should have been matter of mourning to the whole congregation; that they instead of mourning were puffed up, gloried in their shame; and that they sluggishly neglected to endeavor, in their sphere, his casting out. And all this blame might justly be charged upon the whole church, the fraternity as well as the presbytery: the scandal of one member should be the grief of the whole body of the church. What then? Hath therefore the fraternity, as well as the presbytery, power to cast him out? That were a miserable consequence indeed: the people should not only have mourned for the sin, but have urged the presbytery to have proceeded to sentence, and after sentence have withdrawn from him, in obedience to the sentence; but none of all these can amount to a proper act of church authority in them.
2. Nor doth the apostle’s command prove the people’s concurrence in any act of power with the presbytery, 1 Cor. v. 4, 5, “In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, to deliver such an one unto Satan,” &c.: ver. 7, “Purge out therefore the old leaven,” &c.: and ver. 13, “Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.” In which passages it is supposed the apostle directs his injunction to them all (as well as to their presbytery) when they come together in their church meeting to proceed to sentence.
But against this reason, well ponder upon these considerations, viz: 1. It is certain beyond all controversy, that the apostle did not direct these commands to the whole church of Corinth absolutely, and universally, without all exception and limitation to any members at all: for by his own rule, “Women must be silent in their churches, it being a shame for a woman to speak in the church,” 1 Cor. xiv. 34, 35, and children or fools were not able to judge. Hence it is evident that a church absolutely and universally taken, cannot possibly be the ministerial ruling church which hath the authority. 2. It is evident to any man that is but moderately acquainted with the Scriptures, that God useth to direct his commands, reproofs, and other speeches to a people indifferently, and as it were collectively and generally, which yet he intends should be particularly applied and appropriated; not to all, but to this or that person or persons, only among such a people distributively and respectively; according to their respective callings, interests, relations, &c., as in the Old Testament God directs a command to the people of Israel indefinitely, and as it were collectively, to kill enticers to idolatry, false prophets, Deut. xiii. 9; but intended that the judge should sentence him, finding him guilty by witnesses. The Lord also directs his command to all the people, as it were collectively, to put out of the camp “every one that was a leper, and had an issue, or was defiled by the dead,” Numb. v. 2; but intended that the priest should peculiarly take and apply this command to himself, who was to judge in these cases. See Lev. xiii. and elsewhere. So in the New Testament the apostle praised the Corinthians indefinitely, and as it were collectively, for “remembering him in all things, and keeping the ordinances as he delivered them to them,” 1 Cor. xi. 2; wherein he intended only to commend the virtuous; and after he discommends them indefinitely for “coming together not for better, but for worse,” 1 Cor. xi. 17; intending only their dispraise that were herein particularly delinquent among them. Again, he speaks indefinitely, and as it were collectively and generally, “Ye may all prophesy one by one,” 1 Cor. xiv. 31; but he intended it only to the prophets respectively, not to all the members; for he saith elsewhere, “Are all prophets?” 1 Cor. xii. 29. And writing to the churches of Galatia, Gal. i. 2, against false teachers he speaks thus to all those churches collectively, “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump,” Gal. v. 9. And, “I would they were even cut off who trouble you,” ver. 12. Now every one of these churches were to apply this to themselves respectively, Independents themselves being judges. So here in this present case of the church of Corinth, the apostle directs his commands to them, as it were collectively, about putting away the incestuous person, which commands were particularly to be put in execution by the presbytery in that church in whose hands the church authority was.101
Thus taking these commands, 1 Cor. v. 4, 7, 13, though directed indefinitely, and as it were collectively to the whole church, yet intended respectively to be put in execution by the presbytery in that church, they hold forth no concurrence of the people in any act of power at all with the church officers or presbytery. And it is a good note which Cameron102 hath upon this place, “These things that are written in this epistle are so to be taken of the presbytery and of the people, that every one both of the presbyters and of the people, should interpret the command according to the reason of his office.” 3. When the apostle reciteth the proceedings of the church in this very case of the incestuous person, in his 2d epistle, he saith, “Sufficient to such a man is this punishment” (or censure) “which was inflicted of many,” 2 Cor. ii. 6. It is very observable, he saith not, of all; nor of many, but of the chief ones, viz. the church officers, who had the rule and government of the church committed to them: (the article the being emphatical;) for this word translated many may as well be translated chief, denoting worth, &c., as many, denoting number. And in this sense the Holy Ghost ofttimes useth this word in the New Testament; as for instance, “Is not the life better than meat?” Matt. vi. 25. “Behold, a greater than Jonah is here,” Matt. xii. 41. “And behold, a greater than Solomon is here,” Matt. xii. 41. “To love him with all the heart,” &c., “is more than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices,” Mark xii. 33. And again, ver. 43, “This poor widow hath cast more than all they,” &c. And thus it is frequently used to signify quality, worth, greatness, dignity, eminency, &c., and so it may be conveniently interpreted in this of the Corinthians. 4. Though all proper acts of authority appertain only to the church officers, yet we are not against the people’s fraternal concurrence therewith. People may incite the presbytery to the acts of their office; people may be present at the administration of censures, &c., by the elders, as Cyprian of old would dispatch all public acts, the people being present; people may judge with a judgment of discretion, acclamation, and approbation, &c., as the elders judge with a judgment of power; and people afterwards may, yea must, withdraw from delinquents sentenced, that the sentence may attain its proposed end. But none of these are properly any acts of power.
3. Nor doth the apostle’s expression, verse 12, “Do you not judge them that are within?” prove that the people concur with any authoritative act in the elders’ sentence. For, 1. This being spoken to them indefinitely, was to be applied distributively and respectively, only to them to whom it properly appertained, viz. the elders, as hath been showed. They only have authority to judge. 2. Such a judgment is allowed to the saints in church censures, as shall be allowed to them when the saints shall judge the world, yea angels, 1 Cor. vi. 1-3, viz. in both a judgment of acclamation, approbation, &c., as assessors, as people judge at the assizes; not in either a judgment of authority, which the judge and jury only do pronounce.
4. Nor, finally, doth the apostle’s direction to forgive the incestuous, being penitent, 2 Cor. ii. 4-10, which seems to be given to all, prove the people’s concurrence with the elders in any act of power. For the authoritative forgiving and receiving him again, belonged only to the elders; the charitable forgiving, receiving, and comforting of him, belonged also to the people. As the judge and jury at an assizes, acquit by judgment of authority, the people only by judgment of discretion and acclamation.
Thus it appears how little strength is in this instance of the church of Corinth, (though supposed to be the strongest ground the Independents have,) for the propping up of their popular government, and authoritative suffrage of the people.
III. Having thus considered the subject of authority and power for church government: 1. Negatively, what it is not, viz. neither the political magistrate, nor yet the community of the faithful, or whole body of the people, Chap. IX. and X. 2. Positively, what it is, viz. Christ’s own officers in his church, as hath been explained and evidenced, Sect. 2, of this Chap. 3. Now, in the third and last place, we are to insist a little further upon this subject of the power, by way of explanation: and to inquire, seeing Christ’s officers are found to be the subject of this power, in what sense or notion they are the subject and receptacle of this authority and power from Christ, whether jointly or severally; as solitarily and single from one another, or associated and incorporated into assemblies with one another; or in both respects?
For resolution herein we must remember that distribution of the keys, or of proper ecclesiastical power, (which was briefly mentioned before in Part 2, Chap. III.) into that which is,
1. More special and peculiar to the office of some church governors, which by virtue of their office they are to execute and discharge: thus it is peculiar to the minister’s office, 1. To preach the word; compare these places together, Matt. xxviii. 18-20, John xx. 21-23, Rom. x. 15, 1 Tim. v. 17, Heb. xiii. 7, 2 Tim. iv. 1, 2, &c. 2. To dispense the sacraments, Matt. xxviii. 18-20, 1 Cor. xi. 24, 25. The word and sacraments were joined together in the same commission to the same officers, viz. the preaching presbyters, &c., as is evident in that of Matt. xxviii. 19.
2. More general and common to the office of all church governors, as the power of censures, viz. admonishing, excommunicating, and absolving, and of such other acts as necessarily depend thereupon; wherein not only the preaching, but also the ruling elders are to join and contribute their best assistance; as may be collected from these several testimonies of Scripture, Matt. xviii. 17, 18, Tell the Church,103 1 Cor. v. 2-13, 2 Cor. ii. 6-12, compared with Rom. xii. 8, 1 Cor. xii. 28, and 1 Tim. v. 17.
Now these officers of Christ, viz. they that labor in the word and doctrine, and the ruling elders, are the subject of this power of jurisdiction as they are united in one body, hence called a Church, Matth. xviii. 18, viz. the governing or ruling church; for no other can there be meant; and presbytery,104 i.e. a society or assembly of presbyters together, 1 Tim. iv. 14.
The presbyters, elderships, or assemblies wherein these officers are united and associated, are of two sorts, viz: 1. The lesser assemblies, consisting of the ministers and ruling elders in each single congregation; which, for distinction’s sake, is styled the congregational eldership. 2. The greater assemblies, consisting of church governors sent from several churches and united into one body, for governing of all these churches within their own bounds, whence their members were sent. These greater assemblies are either presbyterial or synodal. 1. Presbyterial, consisting of the ministers and elders of several adjacent or neighboring single congregations, or parish churches, ruling those several congregations in common; this kind of assembly is commonly called the presbytery, or, for distinction’s sake, the classical presbytery, i.e. the presbytery of such a rank of churches. 2. Synodal, consisting of ministers and elders, sent from presbyterial assemblies, to consult and conclude about matters of common and great concernment to the church within their limits. Such was that assembly mentioned, Acts xv. These synodal assemblies are either, 1. Of ministers and elders from several presbyteries within one province, called provincial. 2. Or of ministers and elders from several provinces within one nation, called therefore national. Or, 3. Of ministers and elders from the several nations within the whole Christian world, therefore called ecumenical: for all which assemblies, congregational, presbyterial, and synodal, and the subordination of the lesser to the greater assemblies respectively, there seems to be good ground and divine warrant in the word of God, as (God willing) shall be evinced in the xii., xiii., xiv., and xv. chapters following.