1 [ This truth, that Jesus Christ is a king, and hath a kingdom and government in his Church distinct from the kingdoms of this world, and from the civil government, hath this commendation and character above all other truths, that Christ himself suffered to the death for it, and sealed it with his blood. For it may he observed from the story of his passion, this was the only point of his accusation, which was confessed and avouched by himself, Luke xxiii. 3; John xviii. 33, 36, 37; was most aggravated, prosecuted, and driven home by the Jews, Luke xxiii. 2; John xix. 22, 23; was prevalent with Pilate as the cause of condemning him to die, John xix. 12, 13, and was mentioned also in his superscription upon his cross, John xix. 19; and although in reference to God, and in respect of satisfaction to the Divine justice for our sins, his death was [Greek: lytron] a price of redemption; yet in reference to men who did persecute, accuse, and condemn him, his death was [Greek: martyrion] a martyr’s testimony to seal such a truth.—Mr. G. Gillespie, in his Aaron’s Rod Blossoming, &c., Epist. to the Reader.]
2 [ Cent. I. lib. 2, cap. 7, p. 407 ad 418, Edit. Basil. An. 1624. De rebus ad Gubernationem Ecclesiae pertinentibus, Apostoli certos quosdam, Canones tradiderunt: quos ordine subjiciemus, &c.]
3 [ Directions of the Lords and Commons, &c. Aug. 19, 1645, p. 10]
4 [ (1) The ancient discipline of the Bohemian Brethren, published in Latin, in octavo, Anno 1633, pages 99, 100.
(2) The discipline of Geneva, Anno 1576, in Art. 1, 22, 57, 86, and 87.
(3) The discipline of the French church at Frankfort, Edit. 2, in octavo, Anno 1555, in cap. de Disciplina et Excom., p. 75, and the Ecclesiast. Discipline of the reformed churches of France, printed at London, Anno 1642, Art. 15, 16, and 24, p. 44. (1) The Synodal Constitution of the Dutch churches in England, chap. 4, Art. 13, and Tit. 1, Art. 2; and the Dutch churches in Belgia, (see Harmonia Synodorum Belgicarum,) cap. 14, Art. 7, 11, and 15, p. 160. (5) The reformed churches at Nassau, in Germany, as Zeoper testifies, De Politei Eccles., printed Herborne, Anno 1607, in octavo, Tit. de Censuris Ecclesiast., Part 4, Art. 64, p. 813. (6) The discipline in the churches constituted by the labor of Joannes â Lasco, entitledForma ac ratio tota Ecclesiastici Miniterii, &c., author Joannes â Lasco Poloniae Barone, Anno 1555, p. 291. (7) The discipline agreed upon by the English exiles that fled from the Marian persecution to Frankfort, thence to Geneva, allowed by Calvin; entitled Ratio ac forma publicè orandi Deum, &c., Genevae, 1556, Tit. de Disciplina, p. 68. (8) The Order of Excommunication and Public Repentance used in the Church of Scotland, Anno 1571, Tit. The offences that deserve public repentance, &c., pp. 87, 88.]
5 [ See more in chap. 10, sect. 1.]
6 [ R. Park, de Polit. Eccl. 1. 2, cap. 42.]
7 [ Malcolm. Com. in loco.]
8 [ Calvin in loco.]
9 [ Chrys. wisheth—”But, O that there had not wanted one that would have delivered diligently unto us the history of the apostles, not only what they wrote, or what they spake, but how they behaved themselves throughout their whole life, both what they did eat, and when they did eat, when they sat, and whither they went, and what they did every day, in what parts they lived, and into what house they entered, and whither they sailed, and that would accurately have expounded all things; so full of manifold utility are all things of theirs.”—Chrys., Argum. in Epist. ad Philem. And elsewhere he affirmeth,—”Nor hath the grace of the Holy Ghost without cause left unto us these histories written, but that he may stir us up to the imitation and emulation of such unspeakable men. For when we hear of this man’s patience, of that man’s soberness, of another man’s readiness to entertain strangers, and the manifold virtue of every one, and how every one of them did shine and become illustrious, we are stirred up to the like zeal.” Chrys. in Gen. xxx. 25. Homil. 57, in initio.]
10 [ “For this cause, therefore, the conversation of these most excellent men is accurately related, that by imitation of them our life may be rightly led on to that which is good.”—Greg. Nyssen, lib. de Vita Mosis, tom. i. p. 170, vid. tot. lib.]
11 [ Perkins on Matth. vi. 16. See him also on Heb. xi. 6, p. 28, in fol. col. 2, B, C, &c., and on Heb. xi. 22, p. 131, col. 2, D, and notably on Heb. xii. 1, p. 200, col. 2, C, D, &c., and on Rev. ii. 19, p. 313, col. 1, B, and his Art of Prophesying, p. 663, col. 1 and 2. Vide Pet. Martyr in lib. Jud. p. 2, col. 1, and in Rom. iv. 23, 24. And Calvin in Heb. xii. 1; and in Rom. iv. 23, 24, and in 1. Pet. i. 21, &c.]
12 [ Park. de Pol. Eccl. 1. 2, c. 42.]
13 [ 2 Cor. x. 8, and xiii. 10.]
14 [ Matt. xvi. 19, and xviii. 15-18; 1 Cor. v. 4, 5; 2 Cor. x. 8, and xiii. 10.]
15 [ 2 Tim. iii. 16, 17; 1 Tim. iii. 14, 15, with all places that mention any thing of government.]
16 [ Eph. iv. 8, 11, 12; 1 Cor. xii. 28; Matt. xxviii. 18-20; John xx. 21-23; Matt. xvi. 19; 2 Cor. x. 8.]
17 [ Matt. xvi. 19, and xxviii. 19; John xx. 21, 23; 2 Cor. x. 8, and xiii. 10.]
18 [ Matt, xxviii. 18-20; Acts vi. 4; 2 Tim. iv. 2.]
19 [ Matt, xxviii. 18-20; 1 Cor. xi. 24.]
20 [ Matt, xviii. 15-17; Tit. iii. 19; 1 Tim. v. 20; 1 Cor. v. 4, 5, 13; 2 Cor. ii. 6: 1 Tim. i. 20; 2 Cor. ii 7, 8, &c.]
21 [ 1 Cor. iv. 1.]
22 [ 2 Cor. x. 8, and xiii. 10.]
23 [ [Greek: Ekklaesia], Acts xix. 32, 39, 40; Eph. v. 23; 1 Cor. xii. 98.]
24 [ Cameron. Praelect de Eccles. in fol. pp. 296-298.]
25 [ Who in relating such things can refrain from weeping?]
26 [ See Mr. Edwards’s Antapologia, page 201, printed in anno 1644, proving this out of their own books. Especially see a little book in 12mo. printed in anno 1646, styled a collection of certain matters, which almost in every page pleads for Independency and Independents by name: from which most of the Independent principles seem to be derived.]
27 [ Let not any man put off this Scripture, saying, This is in the Old Testament, but we find no such thing in the gospel; for we find the same thing, almost the same words used in a prophecy of the times of the gospel, Zech. xiii. 3. In the latter end of the xii. chapter, it is prophesied that those who pierced Christ, should look upon him and mourn, &c., having a spirit of grace and supplication poured upon them, chap. xiii. 1. “There shall now be opened a fountain for sin, and for uncleanness,” ver. 3. “It shall come to pass that he that takes upon him to prophesy, that his father and mother that begat him, shall say unto him, Thou shalt not live, for thou speakest lies in the name of the Lord: and his father and his mother that begat him, shall thrust him through, when he prophesieth.” You must understand this by that in Deuteronomy. The meaning is not that his father or mother should presently run a knife into him, but that though they begat him, yet they should be the means to bring him to condign punishment, even the taking away his life; these who were the instruments of his life, should now be the instruments of his death.—Mr. Jer. Burroughs in ills Irenicum, chap. v., Pages 19, 20, printed 1646.]
28 [ But schismatics and heretics are called evil-workers, Phil. iii. 2; and heresy is classed among the works of the flesh, Gal. v. 20.]
29 [ Mr. Burroughs in his Irenicum, c.v. page 25; printed 1646.]
30 [ See this evidenced upon divers grounds in Appollon. jus Majest., pp. 25, 26.]
31 [ See M.S. to A.S., pages 55-60.]
32 [ The civil magistrate is no proper church officer, as was intimated, Part 1 c. 1., and will be further evidenced in this chapter.]
33 [ That the civil magistrate is not the vicar of Christ our Mediator, see abundantly proved by Mr. S. Rutherford, in his Divine Right of Church Government, &c., Ch. 27, Quest. 23, pages 595 to 647.]
34 [ The formal difference or distinction betwixt these two powers, is fully and clearly asserted by that learned bishop, Usher, in these words: “God, for the better settling of piety and honesty among men, and the repressing of profaneness and other vices, hath established two distinct powers upon earth: the one of the keys, committed to the Church; the other of the sword, committed to the civil magistrate. That of the keys, is ordained to work upon the inward man; having immediate relation to the remitting or retaining of sins, John xx. 23. That of the sword is appointed to work upon the outward man; yielding protection to the obedient, and inflicting external punishment upon the rebellious and disobedient. By the former, the spiritual officers of the Church of Christ are inclinable to govern well, 1 Tim. v. 17. To speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority, Tit. ii. 15. To loose such as are penitent, Matt. xvi. 19, and xviii. 18. To commit others to the Lord’s prison, until their amendment, or to bind them over to the judgment of the great day, if they shall persist in their wilfulness and obstinacy. By the other, princes have an imperious power assigned by God unto them, for the defence of such as do well, and executing revenge and wrath, Rom. xiii. 4, upon such as do evil, whether by death, or banishment, or confiscation of goods, or imprisonment, Ezra vii. 26, according to the quality of the offence.
“When St. Peter, that had the keys committed unto him, made bold to draw the sword, he was commanded to put it up, Matt. xxvi. 52, as a weapon that he had no authority to meddle withal. And on the other side, when Uzziah the king would venture upon the execution of the priest’s office, it was said unto him, ‘It pertaineth not unto thee, Uzziah, to burn incense unto the Lord, but to the priests, the sons of Aaron, that are consecrated to burn incense,’ 2 Chron. xxvi. 18. Let this therefore be our second conclusion: That the power of the sword, and of the keys, are two distinct ordinances of God; and that the prince hath no more authority to enter upon the execution of any part of the priest’s function, than the priest hath to intrude upon any part of the office of the prince.” In his speech delivered in the Castle-chamber at Dublin, &c., concerning the oath of supremacy, pages 3, 4, 5. Further differences betwixt these two powers, see in Gillespie’s Aaron’s Rod, Book 2, Chap. 4.]
35 [ See this proposition for substance fully and clearly asserted by that acute and pious author, Mr. P. Bains, in his Diocesan’s Trial, quest. 3, pages 83, 84, conclus. 3.]
36 [ See Cotton’s Keys, &c., pp. 31-33, and Mr. Thomas Goodwin, and Mr. Philip Nye, in their epistle prefixed thereunto, do own this book as being for substance their own judgment.]
37 [ See that judicious treatise, Vindiciae Clavium, chap. III. IV. V., pp. 33-52.]
38 [ John Cameron, Praelect. in Matt, xviii. 15, p. 149-151, in fol, and Baine’s Diocesan’s Trial, the third quest, pp. 79, 80, and D. Parcus in Matt. xviii. 15. This is fully discussed and proved by Mr. Rutherford in his Peaceable Plea, Chap. viii. p. 85, &c.]
39 [ A difference arose betwixt two gentlemen in that church about singing of hymns: the second gentleman was complained of to the church by the first, and upon hearing of the whole business, and all the words that passed between them, this second gentleman was censured by the church, and Mr. Nye charged sin upon him (that was the phrase) in many particulars, and still at the end of every charge Mr. Nye repeated, “this was your sin.” After this censure, so solemnly done, the gentleman censured brings in accusations against Mr. Nye, in several articles, charging him with pride, want of charity, &c., in the manner of the censure; and this being brought before the church, continued in debate about half a year, three or four days in a week, and sometimes more, before all the congregation. Divers of the members having callings to follow, they desired to have leave to be absent. Mr. Goodwin oft professed publicly upon these differences, If this were their church fellowship, he would lay down his eldership; and nothing was more commonly spoke among the members, than that certainly for matter of discipline they were not in the right way, for that there was no way of bringing things to an end. At last, after more than half a year’s debate, not being able to bring these differences to an end, and being come into England, they had their last meeting about it, to agree not to publish it abroad when they came into England, &c. Mr. Edwards’s Antapolog., pp. 36, 37.]
40 [ Mr. J. Cotton, in his Way of the Churches of Christ in New England, chap, ii. sect. 7, p. 43.]
41 [ Were the power in the church, the church should not only call them, but make them out of virtue and power received into herself; then should the church have a true lordlike power in regard of her ministers. Besides, there are many in the community of Christians incapable of this power regularly, as women and children. Mr. P. Bain in his Diocesan’s Trial, quest. 3, conclus. 3, page 84, printed 1621.]
42 [ If spiritual and ecclesiastical power be in the church or community of the faithful, the church doth not only call, but make officers out of virtue and power received into herself, and then should the church have a true lordlike power in regard of her ministers. For, as he that will derive authority to the church, maketh himself lord of the church, so, if the church derive authority to the ministers of Christ, she maketh herself lady or mistress over them, in the exercise of that lordlike authority; for, as all men know, it is the property of the lord and master to impart authority. Did the church give power to the pastors and teachers, she might make the sacrament and preaching which one doth in order, no sacrament, no preaching; for it is the order instituted of God that giveth being and efficacy to these ordinances; and if the power of ruling, feeding, and dispensing the holy things of God do reside in the faithful, the word and sacrament, in respect of dispensation and efficacy, shall depend upon the order and institution of the society. If the power of the keys be derived from the community of the faithful, then are all officers immediately and formally servants to the church, and must do every thing in the name of the church, rule, feed, bind, loose, remit, and retain sins, preach and administer the sacraments; then they must perform their office according to the direction of the church, more or less, seldom or frequent, remiss or diligent; for from whom are they to receive direction how to carry themselves in their offices, but from him or them of whom they receive their office, whose work they are to do, and from whom they must expect reward? If their office and power be of God immediately, they must do the duties of their place according to his designment, and unto him they must give account; but if their power and function be from the church, the church must give account to God, and the officers to the church, whom she doth take to be her helpers, &c. Mr. John Ball, in his Trial of the grounds tending to separation, chap. xii. pages 252, 253, &c.]
43 [ See Vindiciae Clavium, judiciously unmasking these new notions.]
44 [ Here understand by this phrase, (over you in the Lord,) viz: Not only in the fear of the Lord, nor only in those things that appertain to God’s worship, but also according to the will, and by the authority of the Lord Christ derived to them.]
45 [ See the Apologetical narration by the five Independents, page 8; and Mr. Jo. Cotton, at large, asserts the divine institution of the ruling elder. Way of the Churches of Christ, &c., chap. 2, sect. 2, page 13-35.]
46 [ Calvin, Beza, Pareus, Pagnin.]
47 [ Arias Montan.]
48 [ Tremel. out of the Syriac; so the old Geneva translation, and our new translation.]
49 [ Field, of the Church, book 5, chap. 26.]
50 [ Sutlive, who afterwards declared, that he was sorry with all his heart, that ever he put pen to paper to write against Beza as he had done, in behalf of the proud domineering prelates; and he spoke this with great indignation.]
51 [ Mat. Sutliv. de Presbyterio, cap. 12, p. 87, edit. 1591.]
52 [ Ibid. pages 72 and 87, edit. 1591.]
53 [ Bilson’s perpetual Government of Christ’s Church, c. 10, p. 136, 137, 138, printed in Ann. 1610.]
54 [ That the magistrate cannot be here meant, see fully evidenced in Mr. Gillespie’s Aaron’s Rod, &c., book ii. chap. 6, pages 218-224, and also chap. 9, p. 284.]
55 [ Pareas in 1 Cor. xii. 28.]
56 [ D. Field, Of the Church, book v. chap. xxvi.]
57 [ Peter Martyr, Beza, Piscator, and Calvin.]
58 [ Calvin in 1 Pet. v. 2, 3. Vid. etiam Jacob. Laurent. Comment, in 1 Pet. v. 2, 3, ubi fusius de hac distinctione disserit, p. 322, ad. 325.]
59 [ Mat. Sutliv. De Presbyterio, cap. 12, page 72 and 87: edit. Lond., an. 1591. Bilson’s Perpetual Government of Christ’s Church, chap. 10, page 141; in 4to. printed in anno 1610.]
60 [ Vide Calv. in loc.]
61 [ Sutlive.]
62 [ Whitgift.]
63 [ Coleman.]
64 [ Who desire more full satisfaction touching this poor and empty gloss, that the civil magistrate should be meant by these governments, let them consult Mr. Gillespie’s elaborate treatise, called Aaron’s Rod Blossoming, book 2, chap, 6, pp. 218 to 224.]
65 [ Bilson.]
66 [ Mr. Rutherford in his Due Right of Presbyteries, p. 145.]
67 [ Calvin, Beza, &c. on this place.]
68 [ See Gillespie’s Aaron’s Rod, book 2, chap. 9.]
69 [ Mr. Rutherford in his Due Rights of Presbyteries, chap. 7, sec. 7, pages 145-147.]
70 [ Beza, Piscata, Calvin, on this verse.]
71 [ Bilson’s Perpetual Government of Christ’s Church, chap. x. pages 130, 131.]
72 [ Altar. Damas. cap. xii., page 918 and page 920.]
73 [ B. King, in his Sermon on Cant. viii., Bilson in his Perpetual Government of Christ’s Church, c. x. page 132, &c.]
74 [ B. King, in his Sermon on Cant. viii., page 40.]
75 [ B. Whitgift in his Defence against Cartwright’s first Reply. This is one of D. Field’s three glosses. Field, Of the Church, lib v., chap. 26.]
76 [ Bishops that have no tolerable gift of teaching, are like idols, their cases, or rather coffins, set up in the church’s choice. Cartwright Testam. Annot., in 1 Tim. v. 17.]
77 [ Altar. Damasc. chap, xii., page 919.]
78 [ Bridge, Hussey.]
79 [ Altar. Damasc. chap, xii., page 919.]
80 [ Sutlive.]
81 [ Sutlive, De Presbyterio, cap. 12, pages 72, 73.]
82 [ Bilson’s Government of the Church, page 133.]
83 [ Sutlive, De Presbyterio, c. 12, pages 72, 73.]
84 [ Bilson, page 135.]
85 [ Field, Book v.]
86 [ Bilson, page 133.]
87 [ Field, book v.]
88 [ D. Downham. See Altar. Damasc. c. xii. page 924.]
89 [ Chrysost. Homil. 15, in 1 Tim. 5, Hier. in 1 Tim. cap. 5, Ambr. in 1 Tim. cap., Calv. in 1 Tim. cap. 5, Bullinger in 1 Tim. cap. 5, Beza in 1 Tim. 5.]
90 [ Bilson, Sutlive, and Downham.]
91 [ The London ministers have here inserted the testimonies of these ancient writers in favor of the divine right of the office of the ruling elder, viz. Ignatius, Purpurius, Tertullian, Origen, Cyprian, Optatus, Ambrose, Augustine, and Isidorus; and of these three late ones, viz. Whitaker, Thorndike, and Rivet. The amount of their testimony, when taken together, appears to be simply this, that there have been ruling elders, as distinct from preaching elders, in the Church of Christ from the beginning. It is therefore judged unnecessary to give the quotations from these authors at large.—Editor.]
92 [ Against the office of deacons, and the divine right thereof, fourteen objections are answered by Mr. S. Rutherford in his Due Right of Presbyteries, chap. 7, pages 159 to 175. To which the reader that shall make any scruple about the deacon’s office, is referred for his further satisfaction.]
93 [ Some of our brethren in New England, observing what confusion necessarily depends upon the government which hath been practised there, have been forced much to search into it within this four years, and incline to acknowledge the presbyters to be the subject of the power without dependence upon the people. “We judge, upon mature deliberation, that the ordinary exercise of government must be so in the presbyters, as not to depend upon the express votes and suffrages of the people. There hath been a convent or meeting of the ministers of these parts, about this question at Cambridge in the Bay, and there we have proposed our arguments, and answered theirs, and they proposed theirs, and answered ours; and so the point is left to consideration.” Mr. Thomas Parker in his letter written from Newbury in New England, December 17, 1643, printed 1644.]
94 [ Vid. Hen. Steph. Thes. L. Graec. in verb.]
95 [ Piscator.]
96 [ Beza.]
97 [ Zanch. in loco.]
98 [ Vid. Hen. Steph. Thes. ad verb.]
99 [ Mr. Jo. Cotton’s Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, chap. vii. in propos. 3, pages 44-46.]
100 [ See Mr. Cotton’s own words in chap. XIV. at the end, in the margin.]
101 [ See John Calvin, in 1 Cor. v. 4.]
102 [ Cameron, in Matt. xviii. 15.]
103 [ Thus Mr. Bayne remarkably expounds this text, Matt. xviii., saying: Where first mark, that Christ doth presuppose the authority of every particular church taken indistinctly. For it is such a church as any brother offended may presently complain to. Therefore no universal, or provincial, or diocesan church gathered in a council. 2. It is not any particular church that he doth send all Christians to, for then all Christians in the world should come to one particular church, were it possible. He doth therefore presuppose indistinctly the very particular church where the brother offending and offended are members. And if they be not both of one church, the plaintiff must make his denunciation to the church where the defendant is. 3. As Christ doth speak it of any ordinary particular church indistinctly, so he doth by the name of church not understand essentially all the congregation. For then Christ should give not some, but all the members of the church to be governors of it. 4. Christ speaketh it of such a church to whom we may ordinarily and orderly complain; now this we cannot to the whole multitude. 5. This church he speaketh of then doth presuppose it, as the ordinary executioner of all discipline and censure. But the multitude have not this execution ordinary, as all but Morelius, and such democratical spirits, do affirm. And the reason ratifying the sentence of the church, doth show that often the number of it is but small, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name;” whereas the church or congregations essentially taken for teachers and people, are incomparably great. Neither doth Christ mean by church the chief pastor, who is virtually as the whole church.—Mr. Bayne’s Diocesan’s Trial.]
104 [ Timothy received grace by the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. For that persons must be understood here, is apparent by the like place, when it is said, by the laying on of my hands, he noteth a person, and so here a presbytery. 2. To take presbytery to signify the order of priesthood, is against all lexicons, and the nature of the Greek termination. 3. Timothy never received that order of a presbyter, as before we have proved. 4. It cannot signify, as Greek expositors take it, a company of bishops; for neither was that canon of three bishops and the Metropolitan, or all the bishops in a province, in the apostle’s time; neither were these who were now called bishops, then called presbyters, as they say, but apostles, men that had received apostolic grace, angels, &c. Finally, it is very absurd to think of companies of other presbyters in churches that Paul planted, but presbyteries of such presbyters as are now distinguished from bishops, which is the grant of our adversaries.—Bayne’s Diocesan’s Trial, page 82.]
105 [ See Assertion of the Government of the Church of Scotland, Part I. Chap. 2, p. 122, &c.]
106 [ Mr. Gillespie’s Aaron’s Rod Blossoming, book i. chap. iii. pages 8-38.]
107 [ Vid. Joannis Seldeni de Anno Civili, and Calendario, &c. Dissertationem in Praefat., page 8. See also Mr. John Lightfoot’s Commentary upon the Acts, c. x. 28, pages 235-239.]
108 [ John Cameron, Praelect. in Matt. xviii. 15, page 143 ad 162, and Mr. G. Gillespie’s Aaron’s Rod Blossoming, &c., book i., chap. 3, page 8, &c., and book ii., chap. 9, page 294-297; and book iii., chapters 2-6, handling this elaborately, pages 350-423.]
109 [ Assertion, &c., part 2, chap. 3, p. 139.]
110 [ Basilius in Psal. cxv. Oecumenius in loc. Jerom. Chrysostome, hom. 33, in Matt. Irenaeus, lib. 1, chap. 11. Salmeron.]
111 [ Euseb. Hist. Eccles. 1. 8 c. 1.]
112 [ If Cenchrea be comprehended under the church of Corinth in this epistle, and the apostle writing to the Corinthians, wrote also to this church, called, Rom. xvi. 1, the church of Cenchrea, then have we more congregations than one at Corinth. Now, Cenchrea was a seaport or harbor of the Corinthians. It was a place near to Corinth, on the east of the Egean Sea. Rutherford, in his Due Right of Presbyteries, page 462.]
113 [ Paget, Gillespie, and the four Leyden professors, unto whose judicious and elaborate treatises, the reader is referred for more full satisfaction against the usual cavils and exceptions that are made against synods, and their power.]
114 [ This is the judgment of the learned Whitaker upon these words: other lawful councils may in like manner assert “their decrees to be the decrees of the Holy Ghost, if they shall be like to this council, and shall keep the same rule, which in this council the apostles did keep and follow. For if they shall decree and determine nothing but from Scripture, (which was done in this council.) and if they shall examine all questions by the Scripture, and shall follow the voice of the Scriptures in all their decrees, then they may assert, that the Holy Ghost so decreed,” &c. Whitaker, Cont. page 610.]
115 [ That there is an authoritative, juridical synod; and that this synod, Acts xv., was such a one; and that this synod is a pattern to us;—all this is most ingenuously acknowledged and asserted by that learned Independent, Mr. John Cotton, in these words, viz:
“IV. Proposition, in case a particular church be disturbed with errors of scandal, and the same maintained by a faction among them. Now a synod of churches, or of their messengers, is the first subject of that power and authority, whereby error is judicially convinced and condemned, the truth searched out and determined; and the way of truth and peace declared and imposed upon the churches.
“The truth of this proposition may appear by two arguments
“Argum. 1. From the want of power in such a particular church, to pass a binding sentence where error or scandal is maintained by a faction; for the promise of binding and loosing which is made to a particular church, Matt, xviii. 18, is not given to the church when it is leavened with error and variance. And the ground——If then the church, or a considerable part of it, fall into error through ignorance, or into faction; by variance, they cannot expect the presence of Christ with them according to his promise, to pass a blind sentence. And then as they fall under the conviction and admonition of any other sister church, in a way of brotherly love, by virtue of communion of churches; so their errors and variance, and whatsoever scandals else do accompany the same, they are justly subject to the condemnation of a synod of churches.
“2. A second argument to prove that a synod is the first subject of power, to determine and judge errors and variances in particular churches, is taken from the pattern set before us in that case, Acts xv. 1-28: when certain false teachers having taught in the church of Antioch a necessity of circumcision to salvation, and having gotten a faction to take part with them, (as appeareth by the dissension and disputation of Paul and Barnabas against them,) the church did not determine the case themselves, but referred the whole matter to the apostles and elders at Jerusalem, Acts xv. 1, 2. Not to the apostles alone, but to the apostles and elders. The apostles were as the elders and rulers of all churches; and the elders there were not a few, the believers in Jerusalem being many thousands. Neither did the apostles determine the matter (as hath been said) by apostolical authority from immediate revelation: but they assembled together with the elders, to consider of the matter, ver. 6, and a multitude of brethren together with them, ver. 12, 22, 23; and after searching out the cause by an ordinary means of disputation, ver. 7, Peter cleared it by the witness Of the Spirit to his ministry in Cornelius’s family; Paul and Barnabas by the like effect of their ministry among the Gentiles: James confirmed the same by the testimony of the prophets, wherewith the whole synod being satisfied, they determine of a JUDICIAL SENTENCE, and of a way to publish it by letters and messengers; in which they CENSURE the false teachers as troublers of their church, and subverters of their souls; they reject the imposition of circumcision as a yoke which neither they nor their fathers were able to bear; they IMPOSE upon the Church none but some necessary observations, and them by way of THAT AUTHORITY which the Lord had given them, ver. 28: which PATTERN clearly showeth us to whom the key of authority is committed, when there groweth offence and difference in a church. Look as in the case of the offence of a faithful brother persisted in, the matter is at last judged and determined in a church: so in the offence of the church or congregation, the matter is at last judged in a congregation of churches, a church of churches; for what is a synod else but a church of churches?”—Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, pages 47-49.]
116 [ Junius, Beza, Calvin, and Piscator.]
Of the Scriptural Qualifications and Duties of Church Members.
Quest. What persons have a right in the sight of God to be actual members of the Church of Christ?
Ans. Only regenerated and converted persons, such as are married to, and have put on Christ; such as are savingly and powerfully enlightened, quickened, and convinced of sin, righteousness, and judgment;118 such as have chosen Christ for their Lord and Saviour, and resigned and made over themselves to him, and received him upon his own terms;119 such only as are reconciled unto, and are in favor with God; as are justified by faith, sanctified by the Spirit, and set apart for holiness, and unto a living to God, and no more unto themselves:120 such as are the beloved of God, called effectually to be saints, and have really and sincerely taken upon them the yoke of Christ Jesus, I say such persons, and only such, doth Jesus Christ account worthy of this privilege and dignity.121 Although men do not certainly know those that are such, and by reason of their darkness and fallible judgments they may and do admit others into the Church, and unto her privileges, yet in truth these have no right unto them, and ought not to be there; for these spiritual holy things are for, and only for, spiritual and holy persons. Christ prepares men by his grace, word, and Spirit to make them fit materials, and then he calls them to join together and become a spiritual house, for his delight, service, and glory.[F] And therefore holy persons, and such only, ought to be full members of the Church of Christ.
This will appear by these following particulars:
1. Because God often declares his detestation and abhorrence of others being there, and manifests his indignation against them. As to the man that came to the marriage supper without the wedding-garment, Matt. xxii. 11-13; and the five foolish virgins, chap. xxv.; and the dreadful end of the tares, chap. xiii. 38-44, which were the hypocrites, that by the devil’s instigation had crept into the Church. It is true that such were, and will be, in the best of churches, although their guides may do all they can to prevent it, because they cannot make an infallible judgment of persons’ states; yet it is as certain these are usurpers and ought not to be there. For, although they are in God’s providence permitted to creep in, yet we may be sure they are not there with his approbation:—they are not all Israel that are of Israel; for, saith God to all uncircumcised, What have you to do to take my covenant into your mouth, seeing you hate instruction and cast my words behind your back, (as all hypocrites do,) Ps. l. 16, 17. And Christ says, that such as will not have him to reign over him (and to be sure hypocrites will not) shall be destroyed, Luke xix. 27. Now, as hypocrites are most loathsome and abominable persons in the sight of God, as may be seen at large in Matt, xxiii. 13-35, they have no right unto the spiritual privileges of the Church of Christ, because, in the sight of God, the gospel Church should consist only of new creatures and real members of Jesus Christ.
II. That all church members ought to be sincere-hearted believers appears by the high titles which the Lord Jesus gives unto them in Scripture: they are described to be like the king’s daughter, all glorious within. They are called saints, holy brethren, and beloved, elect, dear children of God, the spouse of Christ, a holy temple of God, lively stones, built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, and the Lord’s sealed ones. Now such honorable titles belong not unto mere formal professors, but only unto the real members of Christ: not unto those that have a name only; but to such as are so indeed and in truth.
III. A third reason is taken from the ends of God in instituting and appointing churches. They are said to be built by the Spirit for God, i.e. for God to dwell and walk in them, to repose himself in them, as in his holy garden, house, and temple. They are designed for promoting his glory in the world, to distinguish his people from others; that they should be to the praise of his glorious grace, and be the living witnesses to his name, truths, and ways; that they should be the habitations of beauty and glory, of fame and renown in the world, and be the light thereof; and that with one heart and mouth they should glorify God. Believers are united into a church capacity for their spiritual profit and advantage, that God may there give them his love, and communicate his grace, truths, and counsels to them, as to his avowed household and family Christ walks there, and God the Father dwells there, and the Holy Spirit speaks to them in a special and frequent manner to distribute liberally of their love and fulness. They are formed and set up by Jesus Christ to be the only seats and subjects of his laws, ordinances, power, and authority, that they might receive, obey, and observe his laws, declare before the world their owning of him for their Lord, by their open and public profession of, and subjection unto him, as such; and that, by their regular and distinct following of him in their united church state, they might manifest to all men, that they are his subjects and disciples, that they have chosen him for their Lord and King, and his law for the rule of their faith and obedience; that they are not their own, but his; and that they have reposed themselves in him, as their happiness and eternal blessedness; that they are called out of the world and set apart by his grace for himself, to live unto him; and that they have taken upon themselves his holy yoke, and the observation of all his laws. God has united believers into churches, that by his Spirit and ministers he may feed and nourish them there as his flock, water them as his garden, support them as his house, and order and govern them as his family and household.
IV. The Church of Christ should consist of new creatures and sincere-hearted believers, because they only can and will answer and prosecute the foresaid, and such like holy ends of God, in and by his Church. They are fitted and framed, moulded and polished, by the Holy Ghost, for their growing up into a holy temple in the Lord; and so, by the constant and promised guidance and conduct of their living head Jesus Christ, with their spiritual qualifications, they are enabled to answer and perform the great ends of God, in erecting and building them up in a church state. But unregenerate persons cannot do this, because they are strangers in heart to Jesus Christ, and to the power of godliness; nor would they if they could, because they have not the saving knowledge of Christ in them, but are full of obstinacy against God.
V. Because all the laws, ordinances, and works of church members are holy, spiritual, and heavenly. They are such as the natural man understands not, and cannot discern what they are, because they are spiritual and holy; and therefore they that are not taught of God savingly to form a proper judgment of them, do think and judge of them carnally and vainly. But believers have them written in their hearts beforehand. Yet they have them not without book, I mean they have the same laws of Christ written in the books of their hearts which they find in the Bible, by which they are in some measure enabled to understand, receive, love, and rightly to obey, the laws and ordinances of Christ without. Their laws are holy and spiritual, and their works in a church state are so likewise. They have a holy God, who is a Spirit, to serve and worship; a spiritual Head to believe in and obey; holy and spiritual work to do; and therefore they need to be holy and spiritual persons, not only externally in profession, but also internally, in truth. Almost all the laws and ordinances of Christ are committed unto them, and God expects his principal and choicest worship from his Church; and these are all above and beyond the reach of carnal minds.
VI. The Church ought to be composed of believers and regenerated persons, because they are called to continue and stand fast in all storms and tempests; and to hold out unto the end, as being built upon the rock Jesus Christ. For whatever church is built upon the sand, and not upon the Lord Jesus, and by the authority of his word and Spirit, will not stand long, because it wants a foundation to bear up its weight. They must all be built upon the rock and chief corner-stone, the sure foundation that God hath laid. The Lord Jesus tells us, Matt. xvi. 18, that upon this rock (i.e. himself and the truths that Peter had confessed) will I build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. But it is certain that hypocrites are not built upon Christ by faith, but fix their vain hopes on a sandy foundation. Therefore, if their persons are not built upon Christ, their church state cannot; but upon the sand. Hence then it follows that only true believers are built on Christ, and so they are the only persons that Christ wishes to have built up into holy temples; because the churches that Christ builds shall be built upon himself, that they may stand impregnable against all opposition: and therefore they should only be composed of such as are united to him by faith, and have chosen him for their only rock and foundation, and not of such as do secretly reject him.
Quest. What qualifications should believers find in themselves for their own satisfaction, before they enter into full communion with the visible Church of Christ?
Ans. They should be able to answer the following questions in the affirmative.
I. Can you say indeed that you do seriously and heartily desire to see, and to be more deeply and powerfully convinced of your own vileness and sinfulness, of your own weakness and wretchedness, and of your wants and unworthiness? and that, in order to your deep and spiritual humiliation and self-debasing, that you may be more vile in your own eyes, and Jesus Christ and free grace more precious and excellent, more high and honorable, and more sweet and desirable, that your hearts may be melted into godly sorrow, and that you may be moved thereby to abhor yourselves, and to repent in dust and ashes? Job xlii. 5, 6.
II. Can you say that you do seriously and heartily desire and endeavor to believe in Christ, and to receive and accept of him in the gospel way, such as you find in Mark viii. 34; Luke xiv. 26-28, and elsewhere? Do you thus desire and choose to have him with his yoke and cross? Matt. xi. 28, 29. And do you so deny yourselves, and your sinful self, righteous self, worldly self, supposed able, powerful self, and every other carnal and spiritual self, that Christ only may be exalted, that you may be nothing in your justification and salvation, but that Jesus Christ and free grace may be all, and in all things? Col. iii. 11; Phil. iii. 7, 8. Do you desire, choose, and endeavor to have Christ on the hardest terms; and do you desire, that all may go for Christ’s person, blood, and righteousness, his grace, love, life, and Spirit, for the pardon of your sins, and the justification of your persons, that you may be found in him, not having your own righteousness, but the righteousness of Christ by faith? Phil. iii. 9. And do you go and present yourselves as destitute condemned sinners to him, and to God the Father in and by him, that you may be clothed with the righteousness of Christ, and that God may pardon, justify, and accept you for his sake only?
III. Do you seriously and heartily desire and choose to have Christ Jesus for your Lord and Ruler too, Col. ii. 6; that he may rule in you, and over you, and that your lusts and yourselves, your interests, and your all, may be subject unto him, and be wholly at his command and disposal continually? Is Christ the Lord as acceptable to you as Christ Jesus the Saviour? and are you willing to obey him, and to be subject to his authority and dominion, as well as to be saved by him? Would you have him to destroy your lusts, to make an end of sin, and to bring all under his obedience?
IV. Do you seriously and heartily desire and endeavor never to sin more; but to walk with God unto all well-pleasing continually? Col. i. 10. And do you pray earnestly that God would work in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, Heb. xiii. 21, that you may in all your ways honor and glorify him, as the end of your living in this world? 2 Cor. v. 15. Would you indeed live to the praise of his glorious grace, be an ornament unto his name and gospel, and be fruitful in every good word and work? Are these things the scope, aim, and intent of your hearts and souls (in some good measure and degree) daily, in duties and ordinances, and at other times?
V. Do you seriously and heartily choose and desire communion with Christ, and in truth endeavor to obtain and keep it? Do you so seek for it in the way of gospel obedience, and in observing your duty in keeping Christ’s commandments? And do you prefer it to all earthly, carnal things? Do your hearts breathe and pant after it, and are you willing to deny self, and all self-interests to get it? Are you glad when you find it, and sad when by your own carelessness you lose it? Doth it when obtained quicken your love to and zeal for Christ? Doth it warm your hearts, and cause them for a time to run your race in gospel obedience cheerfully? Doth it lead you unto, and cause your hearts to centre in Christ? and doth it oblige and bind them faster unto him and stir you up to thankfulness?
VI. Do you sincerely and heartily desire, seriously choose, and earnestly endeavor, to be filled with gospel sincerity towards God and man, and would you rather be true-hearted towards God than seem to be so towards man? Would you much rather have the praise of God, and be approved of by him, than the praise of men, and be extolled by them? Is it the great thing you aim at, in your profession and practice, to attain sincerity and uprightness in heart? Is all hypocrisy hateful and abominable unto you? Are you afraid of it, and do you watch and strive against it, as against an enemy to God and your own souls, and are you grieved indeed when you find it in you?
VII. Do you desire and choose Jesus Christ for the great object of your love, delight, and joy? and do you find him to be so in some measure? Do you desire and endeavor to make him the object of your warmest affections, and to love him sincerely, heartily, spiritually, fervently, and constantly; and do you express your love to him by keeping his commandments? Are you grieved in spirit, because you can love him no more? and do you earnestly pray unto him to shed abroad his love into your hearts by the Holy Ghost, that you may love him as ye ought? Rom. v. 5. Doth his love and loveliness attract your hearts to him, and cause you to yield the obedience of faith to his holy laws?
VIII. Is it the desire, choice, and endeavor of your souls to have all sins purged out of them, and to have them filled with Christ’s grace, truth, and holiness; and do you hate your sin, watch and fight against it, and endeavor to keep it under? Do you indeed aim at, desire, labor, and strive, to be holy in heart and life, and conformable unto Jesus Christ in all things possible? Are your lusts your heaviest burdens and your greatest afflictions, and do you intend and endeavor their utter ruin and destruction? Will no degree of grace satisfy you until you be perfect to the utmost as Christ is? Are you so much concerned for Christ’s honor, and your soul’s holiness and happiness, that you dare not knowingly sin against them for a world; or do, in word or deed, by omission or commission, that which may dishonor, grieve, or wound them? Are these things so indeed?
IX. Have you a measure of spiritual knowledge and discerning of spiritual things? Do you understand the nature and concerns of the house of God, and the work and duties, the privileges and enjoyments thereof, and what you have to do there; together with the ends of God in instituting and erecting gospel churches?
X. Do you intend and resolve, in the light, life, and power of Christ, to seek for, and endeavor unfeignedly to obtain, and prosecute the ends of church fellowship, when you shall he accepted among them? and do you desire and aim at the holy ends appointed by God in desiring communion with them? as, 1. To enjoy God and communion with him in all his ordinances. 2. To worship God there in spirit and truth, and to give him your homage and service in his house. 3. To show your subjection and obedience to him, and to make a public and open profession of him, and of his truths before men. 4. To receive of his grace, to enrich your souls with his fulness, and to be sealed by his Spirit unto the day of your redemption. 5. That you may walk orderly and beautifully, and shine as lights in the Church, and in the world, before saints and sinners. 6. That you may be established in the truth, live under the watch and care of Christ’s ministers, and of fellow-members; that by their inspection and faithful dealings with you you may be kept, or brought back from sin to God, by their wise reproofs and holy instructions. 7. That you may yield up yourselves in holy obedience to Christ, and do all things whatsoever he commands you, that you may have the right use and enjoyment of all your purchased privileges, and be secured against the gates of hell. Are these and such like ends in your hearts and minds, in your walk and in church fellowship, and can you find the forementioned signs of grace in you in some suitable measure, though not so clearly and fully as you would wish? Then I may venture to assure you, that you are qualified for being actual members of the Church of Christ, that you are called and invited into his house, and that you are indispensably bound to answer to the call of God, and to enter into his holy temple.
I say that church privileges are yours, the doors of God’s house stand open for you, Christ stands at the door and waits for you, he invites you to come in and to sit down at his table, and you shall be most freely and heartily welcome to your Lord, and to his people.
Quest. What are those qualifications, which the rulers of a church, for their own satisfaction, should look for, and find in such persons, as they admit into full communion with the Church of Christ?
Ans. It is certain that all that profess the name of Christ and his ways, ought not, and may not be admitted into the Lord’s holy temple, because many, if not the most of them, are very ignorant of Christ and his ways, and notoriously scandalous in their lives, as sad and woful experience shows. If church rulers should admit known hypocrites, they betray their trust, and defile Christ’s holy temple, by taking in such persons as they know, or ought to know, he would not have there: and that they ought to try and prove persons, that they may know their fitness, before they admit them in, is clear in Acts ix. 26, 27, and because Christ hath committed the keys of his house to take in and exclude according to his will and appointment.
As to satisfying qualifications in persons desiring admission into the church, when they appear to be real sound-hearted believers, according to the judgment of charity, by the rules of the word, the church ought to receive them in the Lord.
I. If they can satisfy the church, by giving Scripture evidence of their regeneration, conversion, repentance, and faith in Christ; of their knowledge of Christ, his laws and ordinances; of their lost and perishing state by reason of sin, and of their sincere desires and resolutions to become the Lord’s, and to walk with him unto all well-pleasing in all his ways.
II. If they are sound in the faith of the gospel; I mean in the chief and principal doctrines thereof, although they may be ignorant of, or mistaken in matters of less importance. If they have some distinct knowledge and faith concerning these, and other such truths and matters contained in the word of God; as of the state and condition in which man was at first created; how he lost that holy and blessed estate, and the misery into which he brought himself and all his posterity thereby. Concerning themselves, that they are by nature children of wrath, dead in trespasses and sins, and condemned to eternal death; that they are enemies to, and at enmity with, God; that they have neither will nor power by nature to will and to do that which they ought, and which is well-pleasing to God; that they have forsaken God, and are under the curse of the law; and that they are the children, subjects, and servants of the devil, the world, and their own lusts; that God left not all men in this lost state and condition, but provided an all-sufficient remedy, namely, Jesus Christ, and that by an everlasting covenant, entered into with him, in the behalf of men, before the foundation of the world, Tit. i. 2; 2 Tim. i. 9; Prov. viii.: and that, in pursuance thereof, he elected and gave some to Christ, that he might save them out of his mere grace and love. John vi. 37, 40:—That God the Father gave and sent his Son, the second person of the Trinity, to mediate peace between God and man, and to reconcile them to God, by his active and passive obedience;—that Jesus Christ gave himself, and became a propitiation for their sins;—that he assumed our nature into a personal union with himself, whereby there are two natures in one person, by which he was made capable of his mediatorship;—that he, being God and man in one person, took upon himself our guilt and punishment, obeyed the whole law of God, that men had broke, and did always the things that pleased God;—that, when he had finished his active obedience, he became obedient unto the death of the cross, to the wrath of God, and to the curse of the law, Gal. iii. 13; Phil. ii. 8;—that he really died and was buried, lay in the grave, and rose again the third day; and after forty days he ascended into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God; and that he will come again to judge the quick and the dead;—that he is king, priest, and prophet; a king to give laws unto men, and to command their obedience to him, to rule and govern his subjects, and to reward the obedient, and to punish the disobedient;—that all power in heaven and earth is committed unto him; and that he is coequally and coeternally God with the Father and Holy Spirit;—that as a High Priest he died and made atonement for the sins of his people, and sits in heaven to make intercession, and to appear in the presence of God for them, Heb. vii. 25, and ix. 24;—that there are three persons in the Godhead, yet but one God;—that the Holy Ghost is eternally God, was sent into the world, and came from the Father and Son, for the elect’s sake;—that it is he that regenerates persons, works effectually in their hearts, applies Jesus Christ and all his benefits to men, and savingly convinces his elect of sin, righteousness, and judgment. That all that rightly believe in Christ shall be saved, but those that believe not shall be damned; and that all that believe in him must be careful to perform good works. That believers are made righteous, through the righteousness of Jesus Christ, and that they have none of their own to commend them unto God. That God hath made Jesus Christ unto his chosen, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption; and that they are made the righteousness of God in him. That God imputed their sins to Christ, and imputes the blood and righteousness of Christ to them; and that they are justified thereby, and not by inherent holiness and righteousness. That God loves, pardons, justifies, and saves men freely, without any respect unto their good works, as any cause thereof; but that all the moving cause (without himself) is Jesus Christ in his mediation. That the ground and reason of their obedience, in performing good works, is the revealed will and pleasure of Christ commanding them, and the ends of them are to express their thankfulness to God for his grace and love, to please and honor him, to meet with God, and to enjoy communion with him, to receive of his grace and the good of many promises; to shine as lights in the world, and to be useful unto men; to declare whose and what they are, and to lay up a reward in another world; to keep their lusts under, and their graces in use and exercise; and to manifest their respect and subjection to Jesus Christ, his authority, and law. That the law, for the matter of it, as in the hand of Christ, is the rule of all obedience; and that all are bound to yield subjection to it. That there shall be a resurrection of the just and unjust. That regeneration is absolutely necessary to salvation, and that without it none can enter into the kingdom of heaven. That the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments contain, and exhibit unto men, the whole revealed will of God, and are sufficient to make the man of God perfect, thoroughly furnished unto every good work; and that whatsoever they are to believe and do is contained therein; and that it is the ground of their faith, hope, and practice. That Jesus Christ hath instituted and appointed many ordinances of worship, for his own glory and his people’s good, and that all are bound to observe and to wait on God in them. That all persons are indispensably bound to mind, and carefully to observe the principal manner and end of all their duties, and to see that they be right, holy, and spiritual indeed, and not to please themselves with the matter of them alone. That no man can serve God, or do any work acceptable unto him, until he be regenerated, and brought into a state of grace.
These are some of the matters of faith that they should in some measure be acquainted with and believe, that are admitted into full communion with the Church of Christ. And these and other truths must not be known and believed in a general, notional, light, and speculative manner; but heartily, powerfully, and particularly: not for others, but for themselves; otherwise their faith and knowledge will no way profit their souls to salvation.
III. They must be qualified also with a blameless conversation. Their conversation must be as becometh the gospel, otherwise they are not meet for communion with the gospel church. Carnal walking will not suit spiritual temples: for they will greatly pollute and defile them, and stain and obscure their beauty and glory. Therefore they must not be brawlers and contentious persons, covetous and worldly-minded, vain and frothy. They must not be froward and peevish, nor defraud others of their right. Nor must they neglect the worship of God in their families, nor be careless in governing and educating them in good manners, and in the things of God. They must not be such as are known to omit the duties and ordinances of religion in their proper seasons, or to have vicious families through their neglect: nor to have any other kind of conversation hateful to God and to his people. And therefore, whatever their profession be, they may not be admitted into the Church of God, until they have repented of these, or any other scandal in their life and conduct.
IV. They ought to be such as have chosen the Lord Jesus Christ for their king and head, and dedicated and devoted themselves to him, to live in him and for him: such as have singled him out, and set him apart, (as it were,) to be the object of their love, trust, and delight, of their service and obedience. They must have chosen and closed with him upon his own terms, (i.e. freely,) renouncing and rejecting all their own righteousness, worthiness, interest, and sufficiency, and choosing and appropriating him to themselves, for their righteousness, worthiness, portion, and sufficiency, under a sight and conviction of their own emptiness and deformity; and with a heart-satisfied persuasion of the loveliness and fulness of Christ.
V. All this must be done seriously, humbly, and heartily, so far as men can judge. If persons declare their knowledge of God and faith in Christ in such a manner, and apparently by such a spirit as evidences some sense and feeling of what they do declare, church rulers may be much helped in forming a right judgment of them, that they are fitted by God for church-membership. If they do seriously profess, that what they do is in obedience to the will, and, as they judge, to the call of Christ as their indispensable duty;—that they join in church fellowship to meet with and enjoy God, to receive out of his fulness to enable them to perform all duties, and to conform their hearts and lives in his will to all things;—such persons may undoubtedly be accounted worthy members, and admitted as such.
Quest. What are the duties of church members towards one another?
Ans. I. The greatest is love; love and spiritual affections are the holy cords which tie the hearts, souls, and judgments of believers together. This is that which, together with the fear of God, makes them avoid all things that may give just offence or grief to one another, and that which provokes them to follow after the things that make for peace and edification. Love is the bond of peace. It is that which, together with divine light and truth, causes church members to draw together as in one yoke, and unanimously as with one heart and soul to design, aim at, and carry on mutual and common good in the church. Without this they cannot, they will not cement, nor long abide and live together as a church, in peace and unity, nor promote any good work among themselves. Without heart-uniting love they will receive and entertain jealousies and suspicions one of another, and put the worst construction on whatever is said or done; and they cannot walk together comfortably and profitably when these are entertained. Therefore it is absolutely necessary for all church members to be firmly united in cordial love and charity, which is the bond of perfectness to and in all other duties. God highly commends and strictly commands this love one to another, and puts it into the heart of his peculiar people, that they may do what he commands.
1. God highly commends it wherever he finds it in act and exercise; 1 Thess. iv. 10, “and indeed,” says he, “ye do it towards all the brethren.” To this duty, and to manifest his high approbation of it, God hath promised a great reward, Heb. vi. 10.
2. God commands it and vehemently exhorts to it often in the gospel. Oh how importunately did the Lord Jesus enjoin it, and frequently press it on his disciples when he was on earth! John xiii. 34, “A new commandment give I unto you.” What is that new commandment? Why, “That ye love one another, as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” And in John xv. 12, 17, “This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you;” i.e. Take the pattern of my love to you for your pattern in loving one another. I have loved and will love you—1. With great love, John xv. 13: so do you likewise. 2. My love to you is free, without any desert in you: let yours be free, without carnal respects one to another also. 3. My love to you is real, hearty, and unfeigned: so let yours be one to another, 1 Pet. i. 22. 4. My love to you is an exceeding fruitful love. I loved you so, as to labor, toil, sweat, and die for you: so must you love one another with a fruitful, profiting love. 5. My love to you is a pitying, sparing, and forgiving love; a forbearing and tender-hearted love: so must you be to one another, Col. iii. 12, 13. 6. I love you with a warm and fervent love: so do you love one another. 7. I love with a holy, spiritual love, as new men who have my image stamped on, and my holy nature in you, and as you are made perfect by the comeliness and beauty I have put on you: so do you love one another, because you are a lovely and holy people unto me. 8. I love you with a constant and unchangeable love; notwithstanding of all your weaknesses, yea, unkindness too, and unworthy walkings before me: thus you are bound to love one another.
O that church members and all other Christians would seriously, sincerely, diligently, and constantly mind and practise this grand and indispensable duty to one another, in all their ways and actions, and not lay it aside as a little, useless, or indifferent matter, which they may neglect at their own will and pleasure.
2. As we are indispensably bound to love one another; so we are as absolutely and perfectly bound to walk in a loving and encouraging manner towards one another. Our behavior ought to be such in all things, as to invite all to love us, as holy, humble, and blameless saints, and brethren in Christ. The Lord Jesus expects church members to walk lovingly towards one another, as well as to love one another. They ought, therefore, as much as possible, to provoke and encourage each other, and to remove out of the way of love all such stumbling-blocks as may any way hinder it, as we cannot love a sour, peevish, contentious, and cross-grained professor, with as much complacency as a meek, quiet, humble, affable, and courteous one.
3. Christ hath charged and strictly commanded all church members to live in peace: to be at peace among themselves; to follow peace with all men, and as much as in them lieth to live peaceably with all men. O how often, and with what vehemency doth the Holy Ghost press and enjoin this duty, especially among church members, in the Holy Scriptures! See Psal. xxxiv. 14; 1 Pet. iii. 11; Rom xiv. 19; 2 Cor. xiii. 11; 1 Thess. v. 13; Heb. xii. 14; Eph. v. 3. The apostle Paul earnestly warns church members against all debates, strifes, and contentions one with another, especially in their church meetings, Phil. ii. 3. David tells us, that it is a most pleasant and lovely thing for brethren to dwell together in unity, Psal. cxxxiii. 1, 2. Then how much more pleasant and lovely is it for spiritual brethren to love and worship God in this manner together Christ came into the world and lived here a peace-maker, and pronounces them blessed that are so, Matt. v. 9. He is a lover of peace and concord, especially in his Church; but he is an implacable hater of strife and discord, and will not endure it therein: much less will he wink at such as are the first sowers of these seeds. The truth is, strivers and disputers in a church are the devil’s agents, do a great deal of mischief to it, and are real plagues in it. They greatly hinder edification, and spoil the order, beauty, and harmony there: they are the proud, self-conceited men, who are vainly puffed up with high thoughts of themselves, and their own abilities, because they have got some speculative knowledge into their heads, with a volubility of speech, while they are destitute of spiritual wisdom and humility in their hearts; and therefore they conceive that they are wiser than the church, and more able to manage and order church affairs than their rulers. Their pride and self-conceit make them slight and contemn their teachers, and rise up in a rebellious contention with, and opposition unto them; as the prophet complains, Hos. iv. 4, This people are they that strive with the priests. Take heed then of strife and contention, and follow peace one with another, especially in your assembling together about the work of the church. Endeavor to get humble hearts, and then you will not be contentious, but quiet and peaceable.
4. Church members ought to sympathize with, and to help to bear one another’s burdens as need requires, Rom. xii. 15, 16; Gal. vi. 2. They ought to make their brethren’s crosses, losses, temptations, and afflictions their own. And, when they need the helping hand of fellow-members to support or lift them up, when fallen, they must give it to them freely, readily, and cheerfully, and not turn a deaf ear to, nor hide their eyes from, them and their cries. And, if they are cruel to, or careless of, one another in affliction, our Lord Jesus will require it at their hands, and lake it as done to himself. Therefore, seeing it is the will of God, and our indispensable duty to one another, who are members of the church, let us put on bowels of mercies and kindness, Col. iii. 12, and be tender-hearted, pitiful, and courteous to each other, Eph. iv. 32; 1 Pet. iii. 8.
5. Church members ought to exhort and comfort one another, for so is the will of God concerning them. This is not only their teacher’s duty and work, but theirs also to each other, Heb. x. 24, 25; Heb. iii. 13; 1 Thess. v. 14. Christians stand in continual need of one another’s exhortations and consolations; and if they manage this work well they may be very useful and profitable to one another, and may help to awaken, quicken, and provoke one another, to the love and practice of holiness.
6. It is the will of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Church’s head, that her members should be each other’s keepers; that they should watch over one another, and admonish and reprove one another, as need requires. It is not meant, that they should pry into one another’s secrets, or be busybodies in other men’s matters, but that they should watch over one another’s life and conversation, that if they do well they may be encouraged; if ill, that they may, by counsel, reproof, instruction, and exhortation, be brought to a real sight and sense of their misconduct, and to unfeigned repentance. By which good work, you will do them, the church, yea, Christ himself, good and acceptable service. Church members should carefully observe, if all do keep close to their duty in the church, or are remiss and negligent;—if they conduct themselves in a holy, righteous, and sober way; or if, on the contrary, they are frothy, vain, proud, extravagant, unjust, idle, careless, or any way scandalous. They should strictly observe if there be any tattlers, backbiters, or sowers of discord; or such as speak contemptibly of their brethren, especially of their elders, (ruling or preaching,) and of their administrations: as also, if there be any such as combine together, and make parties in the church, or endeavor to obstruct any good work which their elders are carrying on, for promoting the glory of Christ and the good of his people, and deal with them accordingly. They ought carefully to observe if any be fallen under sin or temptation in any case, and presently to set their hands to help, to relieve, and to restore them, Rev. vi. 1. They must watch, and endeavor to gain a sinning member, 1. By their private admonition, in case the offence be private; and if that will not do, to take one or two more to see what effect that will have. 2. But if that will not answer the end, then they are bound to bring it to the church representative, that they may deal with the offending brother, and proceed against him as commanded: This is another great and indispensable duty required of church members, that they be not partakers of other men’s sins.
7. Church members ought to forbear and forgive one another; for this is another commanded duty, Eph. iv. 2, 32; Col. iii. 13. When a brother offends or does another any injury, the offended brother should tell him of it, examine the matter and search out the circumstances of it, and see whether he did it unadvisedly, through weakness or ignorance; or whether he did it wilfully and knowingly. If upon an impartial search he is found to have wronged his brother through ignorance or weakness, he must judge charitably of him, and not be harsh and severe towards him, in his carriage or censure. But if it clearly appear, upon impartial inquiry, that he did the injury knowingly and wilfully, then the offended brother must deal with him as a wilful transgressor. He must lay his sin before him, and show him what laws he hath transgressed; what evil he hath done him, what wrong to his own soul, and what offence he hath done to Christ, by breaking his holy laws. He must admonish him again and again of his sin, and reprove him, but not too severely, until he find him obstinate and stubborn. And if God convince him of his sin, and give him repentance unto life, he must readily forgive him. And, if he be once truly convinced of, and humbled for, his sin, he will most fully confess it to his brother, as well as to God, and endeavor to make him amends, and give him all possible satisfaction for the injury he hath done him, most freely and willingly: for it is a certain sign that a person is not powerfully and savingly convinced of, and humbled for, his sin, while he bears off, and must be sought after to make satisfaction to such as he hath wronged; because were his heart really melted into the will of God, he could not be quiet, until he have given all possible satisfaction to his brother whom he has injured, Luke xix. 8. But in case he remain obstinate, and will not hearken to reproof, then the offended brother should take one or two more and deal with him; and if that will not do, he ought to bring it to the church representative, i.e. the elders of the church, that they may see what they can do with him. But if they cannot prevail on him to repent and to make satisfaction, then he ought to be cast out of the communion of the church, Matt, xviii. 17.
8. It is the indispensable duty of church members to hearken to and receive instruction, admonition, and reproof from one another. For if some are indispensably bound at certain times to give them, surely others who need them are as much bound to receive them, Prov. viii. 33, x. 17, and xxix. 1. These are bound to hearken to their brethren’s reproofs, counsels, and admonitions, with all humility, patience, and freedom of spirit, with all love, meekness, and thankfulness to God, and to the givers of them: for they are great mercies to such as need them, and they are their real and profitable friends, who seek their good, and endeavor to prevent their destruction. Let it therefore never be said justly of any of you that are church members, that you were reproved and admonished of any known sin by a brother, and that you refused and slighted their counsel or reproof, justified yourselves in your sins, and were displeased with or angry at such as admonished you, and did their indispensable duty to you, under your sin, for your salvation.
9. Church members ought to pray for one another, and that with a real love, fervency, and importunity, as they do for themselves, James v. 16. O with what serious minds and strong affections should all church members pray for one another! They should be much in building up one another, and praying in the Holy Ghost one for another, Jude 20. They should carry one another in their hearts at the throne of grace, especially such as are under affliction, the whole Church in general, and her teachers in particular, Heb. xiii. 18, and wrestle with God for them; for they have the spirit of prayer given them, and audience and interest in heaven, for others, as well as for themselves.
10. Church members should often meet together for prayer and holy conversation, by two or three or more, as they may have opportunity. This was wont to be the commendable practice of our forefathers, when Christ, duty, heaven, and religion lay warmer on their hearts than now they do; and this is still the practice of some, that are now alive. God hath promised his glorious teaching, and his warming, strengthening, sanctifying, and comforting presence to such as do so, Matt, xviii. 20. Church members find time enough to visit one another, and meet together to tell some idle stories, to tattle about other men’s matters, which do not concern them, and perhaps to backbite some of their brethren, and to prejudice the minds of persons against their teachers and their work, if they do not please them. And will not such meetings have bitterness in the end? Is it not great iniquity for Christians to tempt one another to sin, and to wrong their own souls, by misspending that precious time which they might have employed in the service of God, and one another’s spiritual profit. Men and women were wont to discourse often of the things of God and their experiences one to another, Mal. iii. 16. But, alas! few persons are now to be found, who can find time and inclination for such an exercise. And the reason seems to be, that most are great strangers to God and to themselves, and are so much intoxicated with the things of this world, that they will not attend with any pleasure unto the spiritual duties of religion.
11. Church members ought to encourage one another by their example, to attend regularly on the public ordinances of God’s worship in his church. Whenever the church meets for the celebration of the worship of God, all her members are bound to meet together at the appointed time, except in extraordinary cases; otherwise good order cannot be kept, and the public duties performed, for the glory of God, and the edification of the church. By church members wilfully or carelessly absenting themselves at the time of meeting, they give an evil example to others, tempt them to do the like, and cast a stumbling-block in the way of their duty, Heb. x. 25.
12. Church members must be charitable to the poor that are among them, and freely contribute to them according to their ability and their necessity. They are indispensably bound to impart their help and assistance to the poor, and to give them a little of their estates. It is a debt which they owe to God, and a duty to them. They will comfort them thereby; but they will much more profit themselves than them. It is a more blessed thing to give than to receive. Wealthy persons are stewards for the poor, and a part of what God hath given those was designed for these, 1 Pet. iv. 10, and therefore, says God, Deut. xv. 7, 8, “Thou shalt not shut thine hand from thy poor brother, but shalt open it wide unto him.” The rich must not only give to keep the poor alive in misery, but make comfortable provisions for them, that they may have enough to keep them from the temptations of poverty and pressing wants, and to fit them for, and encourage them in, their work and duty, to God and man.
13. Church members ought carefully, watchfully, diligently, and conscientiously to beware of and avoid whatever may give any just offence or scandal to one another. For we are charged to “give none offence neither to Jew nor Gentile, nor to the Church of God,” 1 Cor. x. 32. And our Saviour tells us, that “wo to them by whom the offence cometh,” Matt, xviii. 7.
You must take heed of such evils as the following, and avoid them, because they all carry scandal in their nature to your own and others’ souls: as, 1. Proud, disdainful, and haughty words conduct, and conversation; for these are grievous and provoking evils, which will justly offend all the observers of them. 2. Sullen, sour, and churlish language and behavior, which is offensive unto all sorts of persons; for this is an evil altogether unbecoming the followers of Jesus Christ. 3. A cross, captious, and contradictive spirit and conduct, delighting in opposition to the judgment of the church and her rulers. This is very scandalous to the brethren, and very reproachful unto themselves. 4. Speaking evil of one another behind their backs; backbiting or publishing their real or supposed evils, before they have been spoken to in secret. 5. Speaking lightly or contemptibly of one another, either to themselves or to others in their absence, as few men can bear patiently to be despised by the slighting carriages of their brethren. 6. Vain, foolish, and frothy discourses, which are very offensive to gracious saints. 7. Earthly-mindedness and greedy pursuits after worldly things; for as these are offensive to God, and hurtful to the soul, so they are offensive to saints. 8. Strife and contention among brethren, and grudging or envying one another’s prosperity; as these produce many evil and wicked fruits, and cast blame upon the providence of God, who bestows his mercies as he will. 9. Defrauding and breaking promises. Contracting debts and unduly delaying or refusing to pay them, and disappointing men of their just expectations in virtue of promises made to them. Those also are scandalous, and cause the name of God to be evil spoken of. 10. Entering into a marriage relation with such as are apparently in an unbelieving, carnal, and unconverted state and condition; for this also is very offensive to holy serious men, although many make very light of it. 11. Idleness and slothfulness in your external calling, neglecting to provide for your own house, as that will prove a scandalous sin to others and to yourselves too. 12. Taking up a report rashly against one another of a scandalous nature, giving ear unto tattlers, and busybodies; or being busybodies in other men’s matters yourselves, as this will give great offence.
Quest. Who have a right to preach the gospel and dispense the public ordinances of religion?
Ans. Without some proper furniture, it is absurd to imagine any should be sent of God to the ministerial work. When the ascended Jesus gave to the church apostles, evangelists; pastors and teachers, he gave gifts to men. Who, saith he, goeth at, any time a warfare on his own charges? What is the furniture, the qualifications prerequisite, according to the Holy Scriptures? A blameless conversation, a good report; experience of the self-debasing work of the Spirit of God; compassion to the souls of men; a fixedness in the Christian doctrines; a disposition faithfully to perform his vows; an aptness to teach the ignorant, and convince gainsayers. Knowledge of languages, knowledge of the history and sciences of this world, are useful handmaids to assist us in the study of divine things. To preach from the oracles of God, without capacity to peruse the original, especially if versant in romances and plays, we abhor and detest. This aptness to teach, however, consists not chiefly in any of these, but in a capacity to conceive spiritual things, and with some distinctness to express their conceptions to the edification of others, in that energy and life, whereby one, as affected himself, declares the truths of God, in a simple, serious, bold, and conscience-touching manner. The difference of this, from human eloquence, loud bawling, and theatrical action, is evident. These may touch the passions, and not affect the conscience: they may procure esteem to the preacher, none to Christ. These are the product of natural art: this the distinguished gift of God, without which, in a certain degree, none can have evidence that he was divinely sent to minister the gospel of Christ.
No appearance of furniture, real or pretended, can warrant a man’s exercising of the ministry, unless he have a regular call. That all may prophesy one by one is indeed hinted in the sacred records: but there it is evident inspiration treats of what pertains to extraordinary officers in the church; hence there is mentioned the gift of tongues, extraordinary psalms, revelations: the all that might prophesy are, therefore, not all the members of the church; not women, who are forbid to speak in the church; but all the extraordinary officers called prophets, 1 Cor. xiv. 31. The all that were scattered abroad from Jerusalem, and went about preaching the gospel, Acts viii. 2, could not be all the believers; for there remained at Jerusalem a church of believers for Saul to make havoc of. It must therefore have been all the preachers, besides the apostles. To strengthen this, let it be observed, that the word here rendered preaching is nowhere in Scripture referred to one out of office: that every one of this dispersion, we afterward hear of, are represented as evangelists, pastors, or teachers, Acts ix. 1, 11, 19, and xiii. 1. Parents and masters convey the same instruction that ministers do; but with a different authority: not as ministers of Christ, or officers in his Church. If other gifts or saintship entitled to preach the gospel, wo would be unto every gifted person, every saint, that did not preach it. If our adored Redeemer refused the work of a civil judge because not humanly vested with such power, will he allow his followers to exercise an office far more important, without any regular call? His oracles distinguish between the mission of persons, and their gifts, sometimes called a receiving of the Holy Ghost, John xx. 21, 23.
To render the point incontestably evident, he demands, how men shall preach except they be sent? declares, that no man rightly taketh this honor to himself but he that is called of God, as was Aaron. “I sent them not, therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the Lord.” The characters divinely affixed to ministers, preachers, or heralds, ambassadors, stewards, watchmen, angels, messengers, brightly mark their call and commission to their work. The inspired rules for the qualifications, the election, the ordination of ministers, are divinely charged to be kept till the day, the second coming of Jesus Christ. For intermeddling with the sacred business without a regular call, has the Almighty severely punished numbers of men. Witness the destruction of Korah and his company; the rejection of Saul; and the death of Uzza; the leprosy of Uriah; the disaster of the sons of Sceva, &c., Num. xvi.; 1 Sam. xiii.; 1 Chron. xiii.; 2 Chron. xxvi.; Acts xix.
To rush into it, if gifted, or to imagine we are so, at our own hand, introduces the wildest disorder, and the most shocking errors: it did so at Antioch, and the places adjacent, where some falsely pretended a mission from the apostles. This, too, was its effect with the German anabaptists, and with the sectaries of England. Aversion at manual work, pride of abilities, a disturbed imagination, a carnal project to promote self, prompts the man to be preacher. Such ultroneous rushing is inconsistent with the deep impression of the charge, and the care to manifest their mission, everywhere in Scripture obvious in the ministers of Christ. However sound his doctrine, great his abilities, warm his address, where is the promise of God’s especial presence, protection, or success, to the ultroneous preacher? Where is his conduct commanded, commended, or unmarked with wrath, exemplified in the sacred words? How then can the preaching, or our hearing, of such, be in faith? How can it be acceptable to God, or profitable to ourselves? For whatsoever is not of faith is sin. Falsely this preacher pretends a mission from Christ: wickedly, he usurps an authority over his Church: rebelliously he deserts his own calling, and attempts to make void the office his Saviour has appointed; to frustrate the dispensation of the gospel committed to his faithful ambassadors. For how can they fulfil their ministry, if others take the work out of their hand? How can they commit it to faithful men, if, not waiting their commission, men rush into it at pleasure?
In vain pleads the ultroneous preacher, that a particular mission to the office of preaching and dispensing the sacraments was only necessary, when the gospel was preached to the heathen. From age to age, it is as new, to children as new, to such as never heard it. Nor, when hinting the necessity of a mission, does the inspiring Spirit make any distinction, whether the gospel be newly dispensed or not. What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder. In vain he pleads an immediate commission from God: in his infallible statutes, having fixed standing rules of vocation to the ministry, by the mediation of men, God gives us no command, no encouragement, to hope for an immediate call, till the end of time. Absurdly then we allow any to have such a call, till we see the signs of an apostle wrought in him. It is not sufficient he be sound in his doctrine, exemplarily holy in his life, active in his labors, disinterested in his aims, seeking not his own, but the honor of Christ, not his own carnal profit, but the spiritual welfare of men: every ordinary preacher is, or ought to be so. But, to this claimant of a mission uncommon, working of miracles, or such extraordinary credentials, must demonstrate he hath not run unsent.
In vain the ultroneous preacher boasts of his feelings; his success; his moving his audience; his reforming their lives; as if these demonstrated his call from God. On earth, was ever delusion carried on without pretence to, or without appearances of these? Let them, who know the history of Popery, of Mahometanism, Quakerism, &c., say if they were. Who knows not, that the Pharisaic sect pretended far more strictness, far more devotion, than the family of Christ? Who knows not, that Satan may, and has oft transformed himself into an angel of light; his ministers into the form of inspired apostles; and his influences, almost indiscernibly similar to those of the Spirit of Jesus Christ? Who knows not, how oft vain-glory, proud and falsely extolling of himself and party, in their number, their spiritual experience and high advances in holiness, mark the distinguished impostor? How oft his sermons are larded with these!
No more tell us, if the sermon be good, you do not regard who preach it. If God has prescribed a method of call, has stated the qualifications of the candidate, has warned against preachers unsent, has oft marked their guilt with visible strokes of his wrath, be ashamed to talk at so arrogant, so careless a rate. Lay it not in the power of the Mesopotamian wizard! Lies it not in the power of a Romish Jesuit, nay, if permitted, of Beelzebub, for a time to preach to you many truths of the gospel, in the warmest strain, the loftiest language? Would you acknowledge the three for honored ambassadors of Christ? Tell us not your preacher is wonderfully pious and good: perhaps you have only his own attestation; when better known he may be a drunkard, a swearer, a villain, for you. Suppose he were pious, so was Uzziah; yet it pertained not to him to execute the priest’s office. Say not he is wonderfully gifted—speaks like never man: perhaps so was Korah, a man famous and of renown: such perhaps were the vagabond sons of Sceva. Say not his earnestness in his work marks his heavenly call: no, such were the Satanic exorcists just mentioned; such was Mahomet, the vilest impostor. To abolish the idolatry, and various other abominations of his country, he exposed himself to cruel reproach, to manifold hardship and hazard of life; about fourteen years almost unsuccessful he persevered in this difficult, but delusive attempt. What hunger, what cold, what torment and death have some Jesuitic and other antichristian missionaries undergone, to propagate the most ruining delusions of hell; all under the pretence of earnestness to gain sinners to Christ and his church. The Scripture, however, nowhere saith, how shall they preach except they be gracious? except they be gifted? except they be in earnest? But, how shall they preach except they be sent?
On the same subject—Who have a right to preach the gospel?
It is expressly enjoined in the word of God that we should earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints. This faith includes all the ordinances, as well as all the doctrines of Christ; and it is no less our duty to contend for the former than for the latter. They have been equally opposed, and there is the same necessity why we should contend for both. Among the ordinances of Christ, the preaching of the gospel holds a principal place, and it hath accordingly, in all ages, met with considerable opposition. Like other ordinances, it hath been often grievously abused, and perverted to the most unworthy purposes. By many who would be esteemed the wise of the world, it is counted unworthy the attention of any but the vulgar: it has been called the foolishness of preaching. The infidels of our time, and some who, by attachment to the Arian and Socinian system, are in a progress to infidelity, cry it down as a human device or piece of craft. This need not, however, occasion any great surprise: the spirit of the world savoreth not the things that be of God, and the enemies of the truth naturally wish to have full scope to propagate their delusions. But it is matter of regret that the preaching of the gospel is, by many who attend upon it, too little regarded as an ordinance of Christ. And some of the professed friends of gospel doctrine so far mistake the nature and institution of preaching, as to engage in it without any other call than their own abundant zeal, and even to plead that all should do so who find themselves qualified. To show that such a sentiment and practice have no warrant from the word of God, the following observations are offered.
I. The preaching of the gospel is an ordinance that Christ hath appointed for the gathering and edification of his Church; and, being a matter of positive institution, all that belongs to the administration of it can be learned only from the rules and approved examples recorded in the New Testament. It is not like those duties that are incumbent upon all, according to the opportunities they have in providence for the performance of them, and which, without any express commandment, could be urged upon Christians by the common principles of moral obligation, such as to teach and admonish one another. And because the obligation to such moral duties depends not upon positive institution, it must equally extend to all, and no person whatever can be free from it. But it is otherwise as to the preaching of the gospel, which is a positive institution of Christ; for it is a duty enjoined upon some only; yea, some are even absolutely prohibited from intermeddling in it, 1 Cor. xiv. 34; 1 Tim. ii. 12: and this could not be the case if it were a matter of common moral obligation. All arguments therefore taken from general principles, to prove the obligation that Christians are under to exert themselves for promoting the cause of religion, are to no purpose here, as they do not prove that the preaching of the gospel is one of those means that all are warranted to use.
II. There is an instituted ministry of the ordinances of Christ unto his Church, by such ministers and office-bearers as he hath appointed. And the preaching of the gospel is frequently referred to as a principal part of that ministry. We read of a ministry of the word, Acts vi. 4; a ministry received of the Lord Jesus to testify the gospel of the grace of God, Acts xx. 24; a ministry of reconciliation, 2 Cor. v. 18; and a ministry into which some are put by the Lord Christ, 1 Tim. i. 12. This ministry is not left open to all the members of the church, in such a manner as that everyone who finds himself disposed, of supposes himself to be qualified, may engage in it as he finds opportunity; but office-bearers are appointed for it by the Lord Christ, Eph. iv. 11,12: “And he gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, and for the edifying of the body of Christ.” Some of these officers were extraordinary and temporary; they had an extraordinary call, and were endued with miraculous powers, which are now ceased: but the work of the ministry, and particularly the preaching of the gospel, is to continue to the end of the world, as appears from the promise given for the encouragement of those that are employed in it, Matt, xxviii. 20. There are accordingly ordinary officers, pastors, and teachers, appointed for the continued exercise of that ministry.
To these instituted office-bearers is this ministry exclusively committed, Mark xvi., Matt, xxviii. The gospel of Christ, in respect of the public ministry thereof by preaching, is frequently mentioned as a special and peculiar trust committed unto them, 2 Cor. v. 18-20; 1 Tim. i. 11, and vi. 20. In all the passages of Scripture where we have any mention of a charge or commission to preach the gospel, it would be easy to show that it is directed only to persons in office; and a variety of names are given to those that are employed in a ministry of the word, all of which are expressive of their peculiar office. They are called ministers, 1 Cor. iii. 6; officers and stewards, 1 Cor. iv. 1; ambassadors for Christ, 2 Cor. v. 20; heralds (so the word preacher signifies) and teachers, 2 Tim. i. 11.
There is no room to plead here, that though a constant ministry of the word, in a pastoral charge, belongs only to persons in office, yet all may occasionally exercise their gifts in preaching the gospel. The word of God acknowledges no such distinction as that between a constant and an occasional ministry of the gospel. It enjoins upon those who are called to the work of the ministry, not an occasional, but a constant exercise of that ministry; so that whether they be paid pastors, or itinerant preachers, they are not to entangle themselves with the affairs of this life, but must be devoted wholly to the work of the gospel, 1 Tim. iv. 13-16; 2 Tim. ii. 4, and iv. 2. And because they must thus devote their time and attention to this work, the word of God also enjoins that a maintenance be given them by those to whom they exercise their ministry, 1 Cor. ix. 7-14; Gal. vi. 6; 1 Tim. v. 17. This is a farther evidence that the ministry of the word is restricted to persons in office, and that they are to devote their time and attention to it, not entangling themselves in the prosecution of a secular business.
III. Those only can be warrantably employed in a ministry of the ordinances of Christ, and particularly in preaching the gospel, who are thereunto called by him, and admitted according to the rule laid down in the word. And none can be warrantably acknowledged and received as office-bearers, to whom that ministry is committed without some proper evidence of their being called and sent by Christ. “How shall they preach except they be sent?” Rom. x. 15. How, without this, can they do it warrantably or profitably? And, without some evidence of this, what ground have we to expect a blessing in waiting upon their ministry? It is not a mere providential sending that is here meant, as if there were no more necessity than abilities, and an opportunity of exercising them; for so the ministers of Satan may be sent, and a lying spirit was thus sent among the prophets of Ahab. But this sending means the call of Christ, intimated in such a way as to warrant the preacher, and with such evidence as may satisfy the conscience of the hearers, in receiving his ministry as the ordinance of Christ. A zeal for God, a strong desire of being useful to souls, and even a persuasion of having the call of Christ, cannot be sufficient warrant to the preacher; far less can the hearers, in receiving him, proceed upon grounds so uncertain.
The apostles, and some other ministers in the beginning of the Christian dispensation, had an extraordinary call and immediate mission by Christ, and this was evidenced to all by the miraculous powers bestowed on them. These powers are now ceased, and it is vain to plead any such immediate call. The ordinary call of Christ to the work of the ministry is intimated by or through the church, judging thereof by the rules laid down in the word; and according to these rules, they that are found qualified and called, are to be admitted to the ministry by them who are already invested with it. The charge is given to the office-bearers of the church, to commit that ministry which they have received “to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also,” 2 Tim. ii. 2; Tit. i. 5. And for their direction in this matter, the qualifications necessary, both as to character and abilities, are laid down in the Word, particularly in 1 Tim. iii.; of these qualifications they are required to make an impartial and deliberate examination, so as to lay hands suddenly on no man, 1 Tim. iv. 22, but to admit to the office of the ministry those only, who, by this trial, they have reason to judge are called and sent by Christ.
It is vain to distinguish here between a pastor of a congregation and an itinerant preacher; as if the call of the church was necessary only to the former and not to the latter. If by the call of the church is meant only the choice and call of the people, it is admitted, that this is only necessary to fix a pastoral relation to that part of the flock; but a regular admission to the work of the ministry, by the office-bearers of the church, is equally necessary in the case of all that are employed in it, whether they have a fixed charge or not. Timothy, who had no fixed charge, and though pointed out by prophecy as designed for the ministry, was ordained and admitted to it by the presbytery. And though Paul and Barnabas had an extraordinary call, yet the prophets and teachers of the church at Antioch are directed to separate and send them out, according to the call of the Holy Ghost, to preach the gospel unto the Gentiles, Acts xiii. A principal design of this seems to have been, to set an example of procedure to the church in after times.
It appears, then, that the preaching of the gospel is an ordinance or institution of Christ—that the ministry of that and other ordinances belongs only to those office-bearers whom he hath appointed and commissioned for that end—and that in ordinary cases, none can be acknowledged as sent by him, but such as are admitted to the ministry in the way above mentioned. These observations would have admitted a much larger illustration; but as they are, they may assist an attentive reader to consult his Bible for further satisfaction. It is necessary, however, to take some notice of the arguments urged in support of the opposite sentiment, and of the attempt to prove that every man who is qualified has a right to preach the gospel, without any regular call and admission by the church. And,
1st. It is pretended that this is enjoined upon all that are qualified for it, because Christians are called to teach, exhort, and admonish one another. But even supposing that this were to be understood of preaching, or a public ministry of the word, such directions, though expressed generally, would not apply to all, but to those only who are called to the ministry, according to the limitation and restriction that is laid down in other places of Scripture. There is, however, no necessity of understanding these directions in that sense. The Scripture evidently distinguishes the preaching of the gospel, or that public teaching which belongs to an instituted ministry, from that private teaching which is competent to, and obligatory on, all Christians by the law of love; the latter is enjoined upon some to whom the former is absolutely prohibited: compare 1 Tim. ii. 12, with Tit. ii. 3, 4. Christians in a private station have abundant opportunity, and ordinarily much more than they improve, to exercise their talents in teaching their families, friends, and neighbors, without interfering with that public ministry of the word which is committed to those who are especially called thereto.
2d. Some passages of Scripture are urged, wherein it is supposed all Christians are enjoined to exercise their qualifications in public teaching or preaching: particularly Rom. xii. 6-8; 1 Pet. iv. 10, 11. These Scriptures, on the contrary, restrict the public ministry of the word to those invested with an office, and it is that ministry which belongs to their office that is spoken of. In Rom. xii. persons in office are exhorted to apply themselves faithfully and diligently to that ministry to which they are called, whether it be a ministry of the word, and of spiritual things, or a ministry of temporal things, and that without envying others who have a different office and ministry. And, to enforce this exhortation, the apostle compares the Church to the natural body, ver. 4, in which all members have not the same office, but one member is appointed to one office, and another member to a different office: and so it is in the Church of Christ, ver. 5. The same allusion is applied more largely, 1 Cor. xii. 27, 28, to illustrate this very point. The other passage, 1 Pet. iv. 10, 11, is of the very same import: those in office are called to exercise their ministry faithfully, whether it be in spiritual or temporal things, and are addressed as stewards, ver. 10; “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” Some are led to mistake the meaning of these Scriptures, by misunderstanding the word gift, as if it meant only talents or qualifications; whereas, in these and many other passages, it means a certain office and ministry to which one is appointed. Eph. iv. 8, 11: He gave gifts unto men; he gave some apostles, some prophets, &c. 1 Tim. iv. 14: “Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.” Timothy was ordained to the office of the ministry in consequence of special direction of the spirit of prophecy. See 1 Tim. i. 18.
3d. It is also supposed and much insisted on by some, that both precept and example for the preaching of the gospel, by what they call every gifted brother, may be found in 1 Cor. xiv. 31, which is particularly urged in support of their opinion: “For ye may all prophesy, one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.” But universal terms, such as are here used, are limited or extended according to the subject; and that even in the same verse, as in chap. xv. 22. In like manner here, the all that may prophesy are not the same all that may learn and be comforted. The latter may extend to all the members of the church, and even to strangers who might come into their assemblies; the former could apply only to a few. Some members of the church are expressly prohibited from public teaching, ver. 34. Besides, all were not prophets, chap. xii. 29, and therefore all could neither prophesy, nor could warrantably attempt it. The state of matters referred to in that chapter seems to have been this: The church at Corinth was numerous, and had many ministers, of whom the most, if not all, were endowed with some miraculous power, such as that of prophecy, of speaking strange languages, and the like; they were proud of these gifts, and forward to show them, ver. 26, which occasioned disorder in their assemblies for worship; those that had the gift of tongues prevented the prophets, and did not modestly give place to one another. These disorders the apostle reproves, and exhorts them to exercise their gifts in a more regular and decent manner, for the edification of the church. This being the case, it is strange to plead this passage as a warrant for the preaching of the gospel by those who are in no office, and who neither have any miraculous power to prove their immediate call by Christ to the work of the ministry, nor are admitted thereto by the call of the church.
4th. Further, we are referred to Acts viii. 1-4, for an example of the preaching of the gospel by persons not in office. We are told, ver. 1, that “there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem, and they were all scattered abroad—except the apostles.” And it is said, ver. 4, “they, that were scattered abroad, went everywhere preaching the word.” From this it is argued, that the Church in general proclaimed the gospel of the Lord Jesus. But why mention the Church in general, when the method of reasoning used would equally prove that the Church universally did so; and the absurdity of such reasoning must be evident upon a very little consideration of the subject. How absurd to suppose that all mentioned in ver. 1, refers to and comprehends all the members of that church, and that all the thousands and ten thousands belonging to it were all scattered abroad, or that they all, men, women, and children, went everywhere preaching the word! Are we not told, ver. 3, that some of them, probably many of them, both men and women, were haled and committed to prison? Or, had all the members of the church been driven from Jerusalem, how were the apostles to be employed? Did they only tarry to gather a new church? When it is said, ver. 3, that Saul entered into every house, how absurd would it be to suppose that it is meant every house in Jerusalem, or even every house in which there was a Christian! The expression, also, everywhere, ver. 4, must be limited. It would therefore be unreasonable to object against a proper limitation of the word all, ver. 1. And about the just limitation of it we need be at no loss. They were all scattered abroad—except the apostles. What reason can there be for mentioning only the apostles as excepted, while there were so many other members of that church still remaining at Jerusalem, but this, that the persons referred to were of the same description in general with the apostles, persons in office, ministers of the church? Others might also be scattered, but these are here spoken of; and Philip, an evangelist, and endowed with miraculous powers, is mentioned as one of them.
5th. As to the case of Apollos, which some urge as affording irresistible evidence to prove that all who are qualified may preach the gospel, a few words may suffice. He spoke boldly in the synagogue, the practice of which is no rule to the Christian Church. He was not yet acquainted with some important doctrines of the New Testament Church, much less could he be acquainted with the ordinances of it. Two intelligent Christians instructed him more perfectly in the way of God. He was recommended by the brethren to the church at Corinth, and there he labored successfully in the work of the ministry. And what is all this to the purpose for which his example is urged? We have no information, indeed, of what time, nor in what manner, he was called and admitted to the work of the ministry, more than we have about many others mentioned in Scripture: but he is expressly called a minister, and is, once and again, classed with the chiefest of the apostles, 1 Cor. i. 12, iii. 5, 22.
Lest these and the like arguments should be found insufficient, recourse is had by some to the plea of pure motives and good designs, with a kind of appeal to the judgment of the great day, and profession of trust, that they are such as will not then be condemned. It is a great satisfaction to have the testimony of conscience to the purity of motives in every part of conduct that is warranted by the word of God, and also to know that the judgment of the saints at the great day will be a judgment of mercy. But every part of the truth of Christ will be determined at that day in exact conformity to what is now declared in the word. And the purest motives and most noble designs are no rule of conduct to any; much less can they give satisfaction to others.
These observations concerning the institution of a gospel ministry, the writer is persuaded, are agreeable to the word of God: if they be not, it would be idle to appeal to his motives in support of them. But he can freely say that they are here offered to the public, not from a desire of controversy, but from a conviction, that at this time it is necessary, on different accounts, to call people’s attention to the mind and will of Christ, as revealed in the word concerning this subject. Let not such of the friends of religion, as may be of different sentiments from what are here expressed, be offended at an attempt, in the spirit of meekness, to remove their mistakes: nor let them impute it to envy, pride, or selfish principles. In a perfect consistency with all that he hath advanced, the writer can say, “Would to God that all the Lord’s people were prophets.”
It is a necessary consequence of what is advanced on this subject, that all should be careful that the ministry of the ordinances they attend upon be such as is warranted in the word. If none can warrantably preach except they be sent, we cannot warrantably attend on the ministry of any but those who we have reason to believe have Christ’s call and mission. And if it be an objection against a pastor of a congregation, that he is imposed upon the flock without their choice, it is no less an objection against a preacher, if he be not admitted to the ministry of the word by those whose office it is to examine his qualifications, and judge of his call. It must, however, be acknowledged, that to have gone through the ordinary forms of admission is no sufficient evidence of one’s having the call of Christ. The outward forms may be observed, while the spirit and design of them is neglected, and the rule of the word transgressed. Nor can any be acknowledged as sent by Christ, unless their character correspond with that pointed out and required in the word, and unless the doctrine they teach be the gospel of Christ. None can be supposed to have a mission from Christ, who do not bring his message, 2 John ver. 10: “If there come any unto you and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed.” But when we are favored with the pure gospel, and an administration of it agreeable to the word, let us wait upon it diligently; regarding the preaching of the gospel as an ordinance of Christ, and depending on his promised blessing to make it effectual: for when “the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe,” 1 Cor. i. 21.
Both parts of this number are recommended to the serious consideration of what are called lay-preachers, and of such as favor that scheme. And let all intruders upon the office of the holy ministry, with their deluded votaries, beware lest it should be said to them, Who hath required this at your hands?
Quest. Have not the people a divine right to choose their own pastors and other church officers?
Ans. In those divinely qualified for the ministry, there are diversities of gifts, though but one spirit. As the same food, though abundantly wholesome and nourishing, is not equally suited to the taste, appetite, and constitutions of different persons and nations; so the same gifts in a candidate for the gospel ministry are not equally adapted to every person and place. To secure edification there must therefore be a choice of the gifts most suitable. And who fitter to make it than those who are to enjoy the use thereof, if their senses be exercised to discern good and evil? Can any man pretend to know better what gifts suit the case of my soul than I do myself?
Those ignorant of the fundamental truths of Christianity; those scandalous, profane deniers of the divine original of the Old and New Testaments, or of any truth therein plainly revealed; those neglecters of the public, private, and secret worship of God; those given to cursing, swearing, Sabbath profanation, drunkenness, whoredom, or other scandalous courses, are destitute of capacity and right to choose a gospel minister. The ignorant are utterly incapable to judge of either the preacher’s matter or method. The openly wicked have their hatred of Christ, and a faithful minister, marked in their forehead; neither are such qualified to be visible members of the Christian Church. To admit them therefore to choose a Christian pastor would be a method, introducing ruin and we; a method equally absurd as for unfreemen to choose the magistrates of a burgh: rather, equally absurd as if ignorant babes, and our enemies the French, should be sustained electors of our members of parliament and privy council.
Whether visible believers, adults, and having a life and conversation becoming the gospel, have a right from God to choose their pastors and other church officers, must now be examined.
All along from the Reformation it has been the avowed principle of Scotch Presbyterians, that they have a divine warrant to choose their own pastors and other ecclesiastic officers. The first book of discipline, published A.D. 1560, declares the lawful calling of the ministry to consist in the election of the people, the examination of the ministry, and administration by both, and that no pastor should be intruded on any particular kirk without their consent. Their second book of discipline declares that the people’s liberty of choosing church officers continued till the Church was corrupted by antichrist: that patronage flowed from the Pope’s canon law, and is inconsistent with the order prescribed in God’s word. From various documents the assembly of 1736 declared it obvious, that from the Reformation it had been the fixed principle of this church that no minister ought to be intruded into any church contrary to the will of the congregation. They seriously recommended a due regard hereunto in planting the vacancies, as judicatories would study the glory of God, the honor of God, and the edification of men. It is the law of heaven, however, the book of the Lord, that here and everywhere we intend to build our faith upon.
That of Matthias is the first instance of an election of an officer in the Christian Church. No doubt, then, it is marked in the sacred history as a pattern for the ages to come. Being an officer extraordinary, his call was in part immediately divine, by the determination of the lot. Being a church officer, he was chosen by the Church as far as consistent with his extraordinary office. The disciples about Jerusalem (120) were gathered together. Peter represented the necessity of filling up Judas’s place in the apostolate with one who could be a meet witness of Jesus’ doctrines, miracles, death, and resurrection. The one hundred and twenty disciples chose, appointed, or presented to whom they judged proper for that work. The office being extraordinary, and perhaps the votes equal, the decision which of these two was referred to the divine determination of the lot. After prayer for a perfect one, it fell upon Matthias, and he was, by suffrages, or votes, added to the number of the apostles.
Had the next election of a church officer entirely excluded the Christian people, one had been tempted to suspect that Matthias’s extraordinary case was never designed for a pattern. Instead hereof, the choice being of an ordinary officer, is entirely deposited in their hands. Never were men better qualified for such an election than the inspired, the spirit-discerning apostles; yet when restrained by laborious attendance to their principal work, the ministry of the word and of prayer, from sufficient leisure to distribute their multiplied alms to their now numerous poor, and directed by the Holy Ghost, they ordered the Christian people to look out, choose seven of their number, men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and of wisdom, who might be ordained to the office of deacons. Judging of the mentioned qualifications, the Christian multitude, entirely of their own accord, chose Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas. These they presented to the apostles, who immediately ordained them by prayer, and imposition of hands, Acts vi. 1-6. Here, by inspired appointment, the people had the whole power of electing their deacons. If they have the power of electing one ordinary officer, why not of all? If in the case of deacons they can judge of the qualifications of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and of wisdom, what hinders them to judge of these and the like of ministers? If Jesus and his apostles argued from the less to the greater, Matt. vi. 30,1 Cor. ix. 10, who can forbid us to argue so? If it be right and equal for the Christian people to choose deacons who take care of their sacred alms, is it not much more right and equal that they have the choice of their pastors, who take the oversight of their souls?
A third instance of the Christian people electing their ecclesiastical officers, relates to the joint travels of Paul and Barnabas at Lystra and places around, Acts xiv. 23. These two divinely directed messengers of Christ, having ordained (or, as properly translated from the Greek, through suffrages or votes constituted) them elders (presbyters) in every city, and prayed with fasting, commended them to the Lord. Here it is plainly marked that these elders, presbyters, were chosen by suffrages (votes) in order to ordination. This the Greek word in our version, by the fraud of the English bishops rendered had ordained, plainly imports. The root of this word is borrowed from the custom of giving votes at Athens and elsewhere in Greece, by lifting up of the hand. Wherever it is used in the Greek Testament, and for anything we know in every Greek author, not posterior to Luke, the writer of the Acts, it constantly implies to give vote or suffrage. In the text before us it agrees with Paul and Barnabas; because they presided in the choice, and finished the design of it by ordination. Here, moreover, it is evident that the persons chosen for elders (presbyters) were set apart to their office, not by a hurried prayer and riotous banquet, but by prayer and fasting: and this manner of choice and ordination was used in every church. The very performance of the work of ordination in public conjunction with the church tacitly infers their consent.
Christ’s commanding his people to try the spirits, to try false prophets, and to flee from them, 1 John iv. 1, 2, necessarily imports a right to choose the worthy, and reject the vile; to choose what suits our edification, and to reject what doth not; for, if we must receive whoever is imposed, there is no occasion for trial, we can have no other. The privilege of trial here allowed to his people by Christ plainly supposes their having some ability for it; and, by a diligent perusal of his word, and consulting his ministers, they may become more capable. Has our adored Redeemer thus intrusted to his adult members the election of their pastors? at what peril or guilt do any ministers or laics concur to bereave them thereof, thrusting men into the evangelic office by another way; thus constituting them spiritual thievesand robbers? Instead of being gentle to church members, as a nurse cherisheth her children; instead of condescending to men of low degree, and doing all things to the glory of God and the edification of souls, is not this to set at naught their brethren; exercise lordly dominion over the members of Christ; and rule them with rigor?
In the oracles of God, where is the hint, that the choice of pastors for the Christian people is lodged in any but themselves?—Since men apostolic and inspired put the choice from themselves to the Christian people; who can believe that it belongs to the clergy? Acts i. and vi. When Christ avers his kingdom is not of this world; when he threatens judgment without mercy to such as in his worshipping assemblies more readily give a seat to the rich, with his gold ring and gay clothing, than to the poor; can it be imagined that he has intrusted the choice of his ambassadors to men, for their greatness?
There is indeed a haughty objection often stated against the people’s choice: Shall a cottager, poor and unlearned, who pays not one farthing of the stipend, and at next term will perhaps remove from the congregation, have an equal choice of a minister with his master, a gentleman, a nobleman, of liberal education, of distinguished abilities, who is head of a large family, has a fixed property and residence in the parish, and furnishes almost the whole benefice? Will you fly in the face of our civil law? Will you plead for the method of choosing church officers, which already has produced so much strife, bloody squabbling, or riot? If Christ’s kingdom, as himself when dying attested, is not of this world, how can outward learning, riches, settled abode, or any worldly thing, constitute one a member thereof? These do not make one a better Christian. No. Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called with a holy calling. How ordinarily do rich men oppress the saints, draw them before judgment-seats, and blaspheme Jesus’ worthy name, by which they are called! If worldly privileges and endowments cannot make one a subject of the Mediator’s spiritual kingdom, how can they entitle any to, or raise him above his brethren in, the privileges thereof? If by the Son of God the poor cottager has been made free indeed; has been taught to profit; is rich in faith; is a king and priest unto God; and hath received a kingdom that cannot be moved; in the view of the Omniscient and his angels, and every man wise to salvation, how little is he inferior to his rich, perhaps his graceless, master? Your rich man has college education, understands philosophy, history, law, agriculture; but will that infer that he understands his Bible, understands Christian principles, spiritual experiences, and what spiritual gifts best correspond therewith, better than his cottager, who daily searches the Scriptures, and has heard and learned of the Father? How oft are the great things of God hid from the wise and prudent, and revealed unto babes! Christ crucified was to the learned Greeks foolishness; but to the poorest believer the power of God and the wisdom of God. “The natural man,” however learned, “receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, neither can he know them; for they are spiritually discerned,” 1 Cor. ii. 14. How easy to find the herdman, or the silly woman, who will endure a trial on Christian principles to far better purpose than many of your rich, your great men!—Your great man is the head of a numerous family, and has great influence in the corner. That, no doubt, is a strong motive for him, if he is a Christian, to be exceeding wary in his choice: if he is so, no doubt his Christian judgment, as far as is consistent with spiritual liberty, is to have its own weight. But while Christ’s kingdom is not of this world; while in him there is neither male nor female, bond nor free; headship over a family can found no claim to a spiritual privilege. Thousands of heads of families are plainly aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, without God, and without hope in the world. Many are heads of families who, by neglect of the daily worship of God, of religious instruction, and by other unchristian conduct, ruin the same.
Boast not of the great man’s settled abode, boast not of to-morrow, for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth; how suddenly may disaster and death pluck him up by the roots! The rich fathers, where are they? Do the nobles live forever? Shall their dwelling continue to all generations? How often, in a few years, the rich inheritance changes its master, while the race of the poor hovers about the same spot for many generations! What if the cottager attend more to gospel ministrations, in one year, than the rich in forty! what if, removing at next term, he carry his beloved pastor in his heart, and by effectual fervent prayers, availing much, by multiplied groanings that cannot be uttered, he bring manifold blessings on the parish and ministry which he leaves; while your rich man, if wicked, if of the too common stamp, continues in it, for no better purpose than to distress the faithful pastor, corrupt the people, bring down a curse, and cumber the ground! The great man bears the load of the stipend no more than the poorest cottager. He purchased his estate with this burden upon it, and on that account had its price proportionally abated. Suppose it were otherwise, might not a poor widow’s two mites be more in Jesus’ account than all he gives? Will we, with the Samaritan sorcerer, indulge the thought that the gifts of God, the spiritual privileges of his Church, are to be purchased with money? For money to erect the church or defray the benefice we must not, with the infamous traitor, betray the Son of God in his church—his ordinance, his ministry, into the hands of sinners to be crucified.
It is in vain to mention the civil law: the very worst statute thereof, relative to the point in hand, indirectly supposes the consent of the congregation. It leaves to the presbytery the full power to judge whether the presentee is fit for that charge. If the congregation generally oppose, with what candor do the presbytery, in Jesus’ name, determine that he is fit? The last statute relative hereto declared the presentation void, unless accepted. Nor is there in being any, but the law of sin and death within them, the law of itch after worldly gain, that obliges candidates to accept. How unmanly, how disingenuous, to blame the civil law with the present course of intrusions!—Since the resurrection of Christ, we think we may almost defy any to produce an instance of bloody squabbling, or like outrageous contention, in the choice of a pastor, where none but the visible members of Christ’s mystical body, adult, and blameless in their lives, were admitted to act in the choice. But if at any called popular elections, the power was sinfully betrayed into the hands of such baptized persons, as in ignorance and loose practice equalled, if not transcended, heathen men and publicans; into the hand of those who, to please a superior, to obtain a paltry bribe, or a flagon of wine, were readily determined in their vote for a minister; let the prostitutes of Jesus’ ordinance answer for the unhappy consequences of their conduct. If they so enormously broke through the hedge of the divine law, no wonder a serpent bit them. But who has forgot what angry contentions, what necessity of a military guard at ordinations, the lodging of the power of elections in patrons or heritors, as such, has of late occasioned?
To deprive the Christian people of their privilege in choosing their pastor, and give it to others upon worldly accounts, is the grossest absurdity. It overturns the nature of Christ’s spiritual kingdom, founding a claim to her privileges on worldly character and property. It gives those blessed lips the lie, which said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” It counteracts the nature of the church, as a voluntary society; thrusting men into a momentous relation to her, without, nay contrary to, her consent. It settles the ministerial office upon a very rotten foundation: for how hard is it to believe the man is a minister of a Christian congregation, who never consented to his being such! to believe he has a pastoral mission from Christ, for whom providence would never open a regular door of entrance to the office; but he was obliged to be thrust in by the window, as a thief and a robber! If he comes unsent, how can I expect edification by his ministry, when God has declared, such shall not profit his people at all? It implies the most unnatural cruelty. If the law of nature allow me the choice of my physician, my servant, my guide, my master, how absurd to deny me the choice of a physician, a servant, a guide, to my soul; and to give it to another, merely because he has some more money, has a certain piece of ground, which I have not! How do these qualify him, or entitle him to provide, what the eternal salvation of my soul is so nearly connected with, better than myself, if taught of God?
By patronage how oft the honor of Christ and the souls of men are betrayed into the hands of their declared enemies! If the patron is unholy, profane, how readily the candidate he prefers is too like himself! If a candidate be faithful, be holy, how readily, like Ahab in the case of Micaiah, he hates, he sends not for him! The complaisant chaplain, who almost never disturbed the family with the worship of God; who along with the children or others took off his cheerful glass; sung his wanton song; attended the licentious ball, or play-house; connived at, or swore a profane oath; took a hand at cards; or ridiculed the mysteries, the experiences, the circumspect professor of the Christian faith, is almost certain to have the presentation: perhaps he covenanted for it as part of his wages. For what simony, sacrilege, and deceitful perjury, with respect to ordination vows, patronage opens a door, he that runs may read. Shocked with the view, let us forbear!
N.B. The London ministers in the preceding treatise have a large note respecting the election of ministers, which does not fully invest this right in the people. The editor, therefore, omitted that note altogether, and has inserted this number, extracted from Brown’s Letters, in the place of it, as better adapted to the nature of the gospel church, and to that liberty wherewith Christ has made his people free.
Of the Ordination and Duty of Ministers.
That the ordination of pastors is an ordinance of Christ, the sacred volumes clearly prove. Through election by suffrages (or votes) Paul and Barnabas ordained elders (presbyters) in every church, Acts xiv. 23. By Paul’s inspired orders Titus was left at Crete to ordain elders (presbyters) in every city, Tit. i. 5. By the laying on of the hands of the presbytery was Timothy himself ordained: he was apostolically authorized and directed to ordain others; and informed that these directions are to be observed, till the day of Jesus Christ, 1 Tim. iv. 14, 15.
That not election, but ordination, confers the sacred office is no less evident. Election marks out the person to be ordained; ordination fixes the relation of a candidate to a particular congregation, upon receiving a regular call; while at the same time it constitutes him a minister of the whole catholic Church. Ordination made men presbyters and deacons, which were not so before. If a person be destitute of the distinguishing ministerial gift, or any other essential qualification, ten thousand elections or ordinations cannot render him a minister of Christ. But solemnly tried and found qualified, he is to be set apart to the ministry, by prayer, fasting, and laying on of the hands of the presbytery.
Nowhere in the heavenly volume do we find either precept or example that Christian people have a whit more right to ordain their pastor, than midwives have to baptize the children they assist to bring forth. Ordination appears to have been performed by apostles, by evangelists, and by a presbytery, Acts vi. 6, and xiv. 23; Tit. i. 5; 1 Tim. v. 22, and iv. 14: but never by private Christians. Could these ordain their pastors or other ecclesiastic officers, to what purpose did Paul leave Titus at Crete to ordain elders in every city? or why did he write never a word about ordination to the people, in any of his epistles, but to their rulers?
Thus regularly ordained, the Christian pastor must enter upon his important work. Endowed with spiritual wisdom and understanding; possessed of inward experience of the power of divine truth; inflamed with zeal for the glory of God, love to his work, and compassion to the perishing souls of men, he is to endeavor to acquaint himself with the spiritual state of his flock; and to feed them, not with heathenish and Arminian harangues, but with the gospel of Christ, the sincere milk of the word, diligently preaching and rightly dividing it, according to their diversified state and condition, 1 Pet. v. 3; 2 Cor. v. 11; 1 Cor. ix. 16. Assiduously growing in the knowledge and love of divine things, he is to instruct and confirm his hearers therein. Every divine truth he is to publish and apply, as opportunity calls for: chiefly such as are most important, or, though once openly confessed, are in his time attacked and denied, 1 Tim. vi. 20, iii. 15. Painfully is he to catechize his people, and in Jesus’ name to visit and teach them from house to house. To awaken their conscience, to promote the conversion of sinners, to direct and comfort the cast down, perplexed, tempted, and deserted; to ponder the Scripture, and his own and others’ experience, to qualify him for this work, must be his earnest care. Faithfully is he to administer the sacraments to such (only) as are duly prepared; and in the simple manner prescribed by Christ. Tenderly is he to take care of the poor; to sympathize with the afflicted; impartially to visit the sick; to deal plainly with their consciences, and to exhort and pray over them in the name of the Lord. With impartiality, zeal, meekness, and prudence, he is to rule and govern the church, to admonish the unruly, to rebuke offenders, to excommunicate the incorrigible, and to absolve the penitent. Habitually is he to give himself to effectual fervent prayer, for his flock, and for the Church of God, travailing as in birth till Jesus be formed in the souls of men. Be a man’s parts, diligence, and apparent piety what they will, negligence in this will blast his ministrations, and too clearly mark, that he is therein chiefly influenced by some carnal motive of honor or gain. Finally, he is constantly to walk before his flock a distinguished pattern of sobriety, righteousness, holiness, humility, heavenliness, temperance, charity, brotherly kindness, and every good word and work. Without this his ministrations appear but a solemn farce of deceit, 2 Tim. ii. 4; 1 Tim. iv. 15; 2 Tim. iv. 2.
Can ministers’ reading of sermons consist with the dignity of their office? Did Jesus or his apostles ever show them an example of this? No. At Nazareth, when he read his text in the book of Esaias, he closed his book, and discoursed to the people. On the mount he opened his mouth, and taught: we hear not that he took out his papers and read. Peter, in his sermon at Pentecost, lifted up his voice, and said: his papers and reading we hear nothing of. After reading of the law and the prophets, the rulers of the synagogue of Antioch in Pisidia, desired Paul and Barnabas, not to read, but to say on. Our adored Saviour knew well enough how to direct his ambassadors; yet he ordered them to go and preach, not read, the gospel to every creature, Luke iv. 20, 21; Matt. v. 2; Acts ii. 14, and xiii. 15. How hard to believe, that he who gives gifts to men, for the edifying of his body, would send the sermonist, whose memory and judgment are so insufficient, that from neither he can produce an half hour’s discourse without reading it! How dull and insipid the manner! How absurdly it hinders the Spirit’s assistance, as to matter during the discourse! How shameful! Shall the bookless lawyer warmly and sensibly plead almost insignificant trifles, and shall the ambassador of Christ, deprived of his papers, be incapable to plead so short a space in favor of his Master, and of the souls of men?
Of Ruling Elders.
The rule and government of the Church, or the execution of the authority of Christ therein, is in the hand of the elders. All elders in office have rule, and none have rule in the church but elders: as such, rule doth belong unto them. The apostles by virtue of their special office were intrusted with all church power; but therefore they were elders also, 1 Pet. v. 1; 3 John i.: see Acts xxi. 17; 1 Tim. i. 17. They are some of them on other accounts called bishops, pastors, teachers, ministers, guides; but what belongs to any of them in point of rule, or what interest they have therein, it belongs unto them as elders, and not otherwise, Acts xx. 17, 18. The Scriptures affirm, 1st, That there is a work and duty of rule in the Church, distinct from the work and duty of pastoral feeding, by the preaching of the word and administration of the sacraments, Acts xx. 28; Rom. xii. 8; 1 Cor. xii. 28; 1 Tim. v. 17; 2 Tim. iv. 5; Heb. xiii. 7, 17; Rev. ii. 3.
2d. Different and distinct gifts are required unto the discharge of these distinct works and duties. This belongs unto the harmony of the dispensation of the gospel. Gifts are bestowed to answer all duties prescribed. Hence they are the first foundation of all power, work, and duty in the church. Unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ, that is, ability for duty, according to the measure wherein Christ is pleased to grant it; Eph. iv. 7: see also 1 Cor. xii. 4, 7, 8-10; Rom. xii. 6-8; 1 Pet. iv. 10: wherefore different gifts are the first foundation of different offices and duties.
3d. That different gifts are required unto the different works of pastoral teaching on the one hand, and practical rule on the other, is evident, 1st, From the light of reason, and the nature of the works themselves being so different. And, 2d, From experience; some men are fitted by gifts for the dispensation of the word and doctrine in a way of pastoral feeding, who have no useful ability in the work of rule; and some are fitted for rule, who have no gifts for the discharge of the pastoral work in preaching, Yea, it is very seldom that both these sort of gifts do concur in any eminent degree in the same persons, or without some notable defect.
4th. The work of rule, as distinct from teaching, is in general to watch over the walk or conversation of the members of the church with authority, exhorting, comforting, admonishing, reproving, encouraging, and directing of them, as occasion shall require. The gifts necessary hereunto are diligence, wisdom, courage, and gravity; as we shall see afterwards. The pastoral work is principally to reveal the whole counsel of God, to divide the word aright, or to labor in the word and doctrine, both as unto the general dispensation and particular application of it, in all seasons and on all occasions. Hereunto spiritual wisdom, knowledge, sound judgment, experience, and utterance are required; all to be improved by continual study of the word and prayer. But this difference of gifts unto these distinct works doth not of itself constitute distinct offices, because the same persons may be suitably furnished with those of both sorts.
5th. Yet distinct works and duties, though some were furnished with gifts for both, were a ground in the wisdom of the Holy Ghost, for distinct offices in the church, where one sort of them were as much as those of one office could, ordinarily attend unto, Acts vi. 2-4. Ministration unto the poor of the church, for the supply of their temporal necessities, is an ordinance of Christ, instituted that the apostles might give a more diligent attendance unto the word and prayer.
6th. The work of the ministry in prayer, and preaching of the word, or labor in the word and doctrine, whereunto the administration of the seals of the covenant is annexed, with all the duties that belong unto the special application of these things before insisted on unto the flock, are ordinarily sufficient to take up the whole man, and the utmost of their endowments who are called unto the pastoral office in the church. The very nature of the work in itself is such, as that the apostle giving a short description of it adds, as an intimation of its greatness and excellency, “Who is sufficient for these things?” 2 Cor. ii. 16. And the manner of its performance adds unto its weight. For not to mention that intenseness of mind in the exercise of faith, love, zeal, and compassion, which is required of them in the discharge of their whole office; the diligent consideration of the state of the flock, so as to provide spiritual food for them; with a constant attendance unto the issues and effects of the word in the consciences and lives of men; is enough for the most part to take up their whole time and strength. It is gross ignorance or negligence that causeth any to be otherwise minded. As the work of the ministry is generally discharged, consisting only in a weekly provision of sermons, and the performance of some stated offices by reading, men have time and liberty enough to attend unto other occasions. But in such persons we are not at present concerned. Our rule is plain, 1 Tim. iv. 12-17.
7th. It doth not hence follow, that those who are called unto the ministry of the word, as pastors and teachers, who are elders also, are divested of their right to rule in the church, or discharged from the exercise of it, because others, not called unto their office, are appointed to be assistant unto them, that is, helps in the government. For the right and duty of rule is inseparable from the office of elders, which all bishops and pastors are. The right is still in them, and the exercise of it, consistent with their more excellent work, is required of them. The apostles in the constitution of elders in every church derogated nothing from their own authority, nor discharged themselves of their care. So when they appointed deacons to take care of supplies for the poor, they did not forego their own right, nor the exercise of their duty as their other work would permit them, Gal. ii. 9, 10. And in particular the apostle Paul manifested his concernment herein, in the care he took about collection for the poor in all churches.
8th. As we observed at the entrance of this chapter, the whole work of the church, as unto authoritative teaching and rule, is committed unto the elders. For authoritative teaching and ruling, is teaching and ruling by virtue of office: and this office whereunto they do belong is that of elders, as is undeniably attested, Acts xx. 17, &c. All that belongs unto the care, inspection, oversight, rule, fend instruction of the church, is committed unto the elders of it expressly. For elders is a name derived from the Jews, denoting them that haveauthority in the church.
9th. To the complete constitution of any church, or to the perfection of its organical state, it is required that there be many elders in it; at least more than one. I do not determine what their number ought to be; but it is to be proportioned to the work and end designed. Where the churches are small, the number of elders must be so also. So many are necessary in each office as are able to discharge the work which is allotted unto them. But that church, be it small or great, is defective, which hath not more elders than one; so many as are sufficient for their work. The pattern of the first churches constituted by the apostles, which it is our duty to imitate and follow as our rule, plainly declares, that many elders were appointed by them in every church, Acts xi. 30, xiv. 23, xv. 2, 4, 6, 22, xvi. 4, xx. 17; 1 Tim. v. 17; Phil. i. 1; Tit. i. 5; 1 Pet. v. 1.
10th. We shall now make application of these things unto our present purpose. I say then, 1st, Whereas there is a work of rule in the Church, distinct from that of pastoral feeding: 2d, Whereas this work is to be attended unto with diligence, which includes the whole duty of him that attends unto it: 3d, That the ministry of the word and prayer, with all those duties that accompany it, is a full employment for any man, and so consequently his principal and proper work, which it is unlawful for him to be remiss in, by attending on another with diligence: 4th, That, in the wisdom of the Holy Ghost, distinct works did require distinct offices for their discharge: and, 5th, Whereas there ought to be many elders in every church, that both the works of teaching and ruling may be constantly attended unto; all which we have proved already: our inquiry herein is, whether the same Holy Spirit hath not distinguished this office of elders into those two sorts, namely, those who are called unto teaching and rule also, and those who are called unto rule only, which we affirm.
The testimonies whereby the truth of this assertion is confirmed are generally known and pleaded. I shall insist on some of them only, beginning with that which is of uncontrollable evidence, if it had any thing to conflict with but prejudices and interest, and this is 1 Tim. v. 17, the meaning of which is, the elders or presbyters in office, elders of the church that rule well or discharge their presidency for rule in due manner, are worthy, or ought to be reputed worthy, of double honor; especially those of them who labor, or are engaged in the great labor and travail of the word and doctrine.
According to this sense the words of the text have a plain and obvious signification, which at first view presents itself unto the common sense and understanding of all men. On the first proposal of this text, that the elders that rule well are worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine, a rational man, who is unprejudiced, and never heard of the controversy about ruling elders, can hardly avoid an apprehension that there are two sorts of elders, some that labor in the word and doctrine, and some who do not. This is the substance of the truth in the text. There are elders in the Church; there are or ought to be so in every church. With these elders the whole rule of the Church is intrusted; all these, and only these, do rule in it. Of these elders there are two sorts; for a description is given of one sort distinct from the other, and comparative with it. The first sort doth rule, and also labor in the word and doctrine. That these works are distinct and different was before declared: yet by the institution of Christ the right of rule is inseparable from the office of pastors or teachers. For all that are rightly called thereunto are elders also, which gives them an interest in rule. But there are elders which are not pastors or teachers. For there are some who rule well, but labor not in the word and doctrine; that is, who are not pastors or teachers.
Elders which rule well, but labor not in the word and doctrine, are ruling elders only; for he who says, The elders who rule well are worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine, saith that there are, or may be elders who rule well, who do not labor in the word and doctrine; that is, who are not obliged to do so.
The argument from these words may be otherwise framed, but this contains the plain sense of this testimony.
Our next testimony is from the same apostle, Rom. xii. 6, 7, He that ruleth with diligence. Our argument from hence is this: there is in the Church one that ruleth with authority by virtue of his office. For the discharge of this office there is a differing peculiar gift bestowed on some, ver. 7, and there is the special manner prescribed for the discharge of this special office, by virtue of that special gift; it is to be done with peculiar diligence. And this ruler is distinguished from him that exhorteth, and him that teacheth, with whose special work, as such, he hath nothing to do; even as they are distinguished from those who give and show mercy; that is, there is an elder by office in the Church, whose work and duty it is to rule, not to exhort or teach ministerially, which is our ruling elder. He that ruleth is a distinct officer, and is expressly distinguished from all others. Rule is the principal part of him that ruleth; for he is to attend unto it with diligence; that is, such as is peculiar unto rule, in contradistinction unto what is principally required in other administrations.
There is the same evidence given unto the truth argued for in another testimony of the same apostle, 1 Cor. xii. 28: that there is here an enumeration of offices and officers in the Church, both extraordinary for that season, and ordinary for continuance, is beyond exception. Unto them is added the present exercise of some extraordinary gifts, as miracles, healing, tongues. That by helps the deacons of the Church are intended most do agree, because their original institution was as helpers in the affairs of the Church. Governments are governors or rulers; that is, such as are distinct from teachers; such hath God placed in the Church, and such there ought to be. It is said that gifts, not offices, are intended; the gift of government, or the gift for government. If God hath given gifts for government to abide in the Church, distinct from those given unto teachers, and unto other persons than the teachers, then there is a distinct office of rule or government in the Church, which is all we plead for.
Of the Duties of Ruling Elders.
1st. To watch diligently over the ways, walk, and conversation of all the members of the church, to see that it be blameless, without offence, useful, exemplary, and in all things answering the holiness of the commands of Christ, the honor of the gospel, and the profession thereof which they make in the world. And upon the observation which they make in the watch wherein they are placed, to instruct, admonish, charge, exhort, encourage, or comfort as they see cause. And this they are to attend unto, with courage and diligence.
2d. To endeavor to prevent every thing that is contrary unto that love which the Lord Christ requireth in a peculiar and eminent manner to be found among his disciples. This he calls his own new command, with respect unto his authority requiring it, his example first illustrating it in the world, and the peculiar fruits and effects of it which he revealed and taught. Wherefore, the due observance of this law of love in itself and all its fruits, with the prevention, removal, or condemnation of all that is contrary unto it, is that in which the rule of the church doth in a great measure consist. And considering the weakness, the passions, the temptations of men, the mutual provocations and differences that are apt to fall out even among the best, the influence that earthly objects are apt to have upon their minds, the frowardness sometimes of men’s natural tempers; the attendance unto this one duty, or part of rule, requires the utmost diligence of them that are called unto it.
3d. To warn all the members of the church of their special church duties, that they be not found negligent or wanting in them. These are special duties required respectively of all church members, according unto the distinct talents which they have received, whether in things spiritual or temporal. Some are rich and some are poor; some old and some young; some in peace and some in trouble; some have received more spiritual gifts than others, and have more opportunity for their exercise: therefore it belongs unto the rule of the church, that all be admonished, instructed, and exhorted to attend unto their respective duties, by those in rule, according to the observation which they make of people’s diligence or negligence in them.
4th. To watch against the beginning of any church disorders, such as those that infested the church of Corinth, or any of the like sort; and to see that the members of the church attend regularly upon the ordinances of the gospel, as by slothfulness in this, decays in faith, love, and order have insensibly prevailed in many, to the dishonor of Christ, and the danger of their own souls.
5th. It belongs unto them also to visit the sick, and especially such as their inward or outward conditions do expose them unto more than ordinary trials in their sickness; that is, the poor, the afflicted, the tempted in any kind. This in general is a moral duty, a work of mercy; but it is moreover a peculiar church duty by virtue of divine institution, ordaining, that the disciples of Christ may have all that spiritual and temporal relief, which is necessary for them, and useful to them, in their troubles and distresses.
6th. To assist the pastor in watching over and directing the flock, and to advise with the deacons concerning the relief of the poor. According to the advantage which they have by their peculiar inspection of the conversation of all the members of the church, they ought to acquaint the teaching elders with the state of the flock, as to their knowledge, conditions, and temptations, which may be of singular use unto them, for their direction in the exercise of their ministry. The liberal contributions at Antioch for the brethren which dwelt in Judea, were sent by the hands of Barnabas and Saul unto the elders in Judea, Acts xi. 27, 30.
7th. To unite with teaching elders in admitting members into the fellowship of the church, upon a visible evidence of their being qualified as the Scriptures direct. Unto them God bath given the keys of the kingdom of heaven, to open the door of admission unto those whom God hath received, Matt. xvi. 19.
8th. To meet and consult with the teaching elders about such things of importance as are to be proposed to the members of the church for their consent. Hence nothing rash or indigested, nothing unsuited to the duty of the church, will at any time be proposed therein, so as to give occasion for contests, janglings, or disputes, contrary to order or decency, but all things may be preserved in a due regard unto the gravity and authority of the rulers.
9th. To sit in judgment upon offenders, to take the proof, to weigh the evidence and determine accordingly, justifying the innocent, and ordaining censure to be inflicted on the convicted brother, according to the nature of the offence, Matt. xviii. 15, 17, 18.
10th. Whereas there is generally but one teaching elder in a church, upon his death or removal, it is the work and duty of the ruling elders to preserve the church in peace and unity, to take care of the continuation of its public ordinances, to prevent irregularities in any persons or parties among them, and to give all necessary aid and advice in the choice and call of some other meet person to be their pastor, in the room of the deceased or removed.