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confession of that faith which is constantly taught, and generally professed amongst us; we thought good to present unto them, and with them to our churches, and with them to all the churches of Christ abroad, our professed and hearty assent and attestation to the whole confession of faith (for substance of doctrine) which the reverend assembly presented to the religious and honourable parliament of England :* excepting only some sections in the 25, 30, and 31, chapters of their confession, which concern points of controversy in church discipline ; touching which, we refer ourselves to the draught of church discipline in the ensuing treatise.
The truth of what we here declare, may appear by the unanimous vote of the synod of the Elders and Messengers of our churches, assembled at Cambridge, the last of the sixth_month, 1648, which jointly passed in these words: This synod having perused and considered, with much gladness of heart and thankfulness to God, the confession of faith, published of late by the reverend assembly in England, do judge it to be very holy, orthodox, and judicious in all matters of faith ; and do therefore freely and fully consent thereunto, for the substance thereof. Only in those things which have respect to church government and discipline, we refer ourselves to the Platform of Church Discipline, agreed upon by this present assembly; and do therefore think it meet, that this confession of faith should be commended to the churches of Christ amongst us, and to the honoured court, as worthy of their due consideration and acceptance. Howbeit, we may not conceal, that the doctrine of vocation, expressed in chap. x. sect. 1, and summarily repeated in chap. xiii. sect. 1, passed not without some debate. Yet considering that the term of vocation, and others by which it is described, are capable of a large, or more strict sense and use, and that it is not intended to bind apprehensions precisely in point of order or method, there hath been a general condescendency thereunto.
Now by this our professed consent and free concurrence with them in all the doctrinals of religion, we hope
* Our fathers, it seems, received the Westminster Confession of Faith, much as evangelical christians profess to receive it now; not agreeing to every sentence and word, but “for substance of doctrine," expressing their assent to it.-Editor,
it may appear to the world, that as we are a remnant of the people of the same nation with them, so we are professors of the same common faith, and fellow-heirs of the same common salvation. Yea moreover, as this our profession of the same faith with them, will exempt us, even in their judgments, from suspicion of heresy; so, we trust, it may exempt us in the like sort from suspicion of schism ; that though we are forced to dissent from them in matters of church discipline, yet our dissent is not taken up out of arrogancy of spirit in ourselves, whom, they see, willingly condescend to learn of them; neither is it carried with uncharitable censoriousness towards them, (both which are the proper and essential characters of schism,) but in meekness of wisdom, as we walk along with them, and follow them as they follow Christ; so where we conceive a different apprehension of the mind of Christ; as it falleth out in some few points touching church-order, we still reserve due reverence to them whom we judge to be, through Christ, the glorious lights of both nations, and only crave leave, as in the spirit we are bound, to follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth, and, after the apostles example, as we believe, so we speak.
And if the example of such poor outcasts as ourselves might prevail, if not with all (for that were too great a blessing to hope for) yet with some or other of our brethren in England, so far as they are come to mind and speak the same thing with such as dissent from them, we hope in Christ it would not only moderate the harsh judging and condemning of one another in such differences of judgment as may be found in the choicest saints; but also prevent, by the mercy of Christ, the peril of the distraction and destruction of all the churches in both kingdoms. Otherwise, if brethren shall go on to bite and devour one another, the apostle feared, as we also with sadness of heart do, it will tend to the consuming of them, and us all; which the Lord prevent.
We are not ignorant, that, besides these aspersions of heresy and schism, other exceptions also are taken at our way of church government, but, as we conceive, upon as little ground. As,
1. That by admitting none into the fellowship of our church but saints by calling, we rob many parish churches
of their best members, to make up one of our congregations, which is not only to gather churches out of churches, a thing unheard of in scripture, but also to weaken the hearts and hands of the best ministers in the parishes, by despoiling them of their best hearers.
2. That we provide no course for the gaining, and calling in of ignorant, and erroneous, and scandalous persons, whom we refuse to receive into our churches, and so exclude from the wholesome remedy of church discipline.
3. That in our way, we sow seeds of division, and hindrance of edification in every family ; whilst admitting into our churches only voluntaries, the husband will be of one church, the wife of another; the parents of one church, the children of another; the master of one church, the servants of another. And so the parents and masters being of different churches from their children and servants, they cannot take a just account of their profiting by what they hear : yea, by th means the husbands, parents, and masters, shall be chargeable to the maintenance of many other churches and church officers, besides their own ; which will prove a charge and burthen unsupportable.
But for answer, as to the first; for gathering churches out of churches, we cannot say that it is a thing unheard of in scripture. The first Christian church was gathered out of the Jewish church, and out of many synagogues in that church, and consisted partly of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, partly of the Galileans; who though they kept some communion in some parts of public worship with the temple, yet neither did they frequent the sacrifices, nor repair to the sanhedrim for the determining of their church-causes, but kept intire and constant communion with the apostle's church in all the ordinances of the gospel. And for the first Christian church of the Gentiles at Antioch, it appeareth to have been gathered and constituted partly of the dispersed brethren of the church at Jerusalem, whereof some were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, and partly of the believing Gentiles. Acts xi. 20, 21.
If it be said, the first Christian church at Jerusalem, and that at Antioch, were gathered not out of any Christian church, but out of the Jewish temple and synagogues, which were shortly after to be abolished, and their gathering to
Antioch, was upon occasion of dispersion in time of perse. cution.
We desire it may be considered, 1. That the members of the Jewish church were more strongly and straitly tied by express holy covenant, to keep fellowship with the Jewish church till it was abolished, than any members of Christian parish churches are wont to be tied to keep fellowship with their parish churches. The episcopal canons, which bind them to attend on their parish church, it is likely they are now abolished with the episcopacy.* The common law of the land is satisfied, as we conceive, if they attend upon the worship of God in any other church, though not within their own parish. such like covenant of God, nor any other religious tie lieth upon them to attend the worship of God in their own parish church, as did lie upon the Jews to attend upon the worship of God in their temple and synagogues.
Though the Jewish temple-church at Jerusale to be abolished, yet that doth not make the desertion of it by the members to be lawful, till it was abolished. Future abolition is no warrant for present desertion, unless it be lawful, in some case, whilst the church is yet in present standing, to desert it; to wit, either for avoiding present pollutions, or for hope of greater edification, and so for better satisfaction to conscience in either. Future events, or foresight of them, do not dissolve present relations, else wives, children, servants, might desert their husbands, parents, masters, when they be mortally sick.
3. What the members of the Jewish church did, in joining to the church at Antioch in time of persecution, it may well be conceived the members of any Christian church may do the like for satisfaction of conscience. Peace of conscience is more desirable than the peace of the outward man; and freedom from scruples of conscience is more comfortable to a sincere heart, than freedom from persecution.
If it be said, those members of the Christian church at Jerusalem that joined to the church at Antioch, removed their habitations together with their relations; which if the brethren of the congregational way would do, it would
* Episcopacy was at this time abolished in England, and Presbyterianism was the predominant religion. Charles I. was beheaded in January of this year.-Ed.
much abate the grievance of their departure from their presbyterial churches.
We verily could wish them so to do, as well approving the like removal of habitation, in case of changing church relations, provided that it may be done without too much detriment to their outward estates, and we for our parts have done the same. But to put a necessity of removal of habitation in such a case, it is to foment and cherish a corrupt principle of making civil cohabitation, if not a formal cause, yet at least a proper adjunct of church relation, which the truth of the gospel doth not acknowledge. Now to foment an error to the prejudice of the truth of the gospel, is not to walk with a right foot, according to the truth of the gospel, as Paul judgeth, Gal. ii. 14.
4. We do not think it meet or safe, for a member of a presbyterial church forthwith to desert his relation to his church, betake himself to the fellowship of a congregational church, though he may discern some defect in the estate or government of his ownFor,
1. Faithfulness of brotherly love in church relation, requireth that the members of the church should first convince their brethren of their sinful defects, and duly wait for their reformation, before they depart from them. For if we must take such a course for the healing of a private brother, in a way of brotherly love, with much meekness and patience; how much more ought we so to walk with like tenderness toward an whole church.
Again, 2. By the hasty departure of sound members from à defective church, reformation is not promoted, but many times retarded, and corruption increased. Whereas on the contrary, while sincere members breathing after purity of reformation abide together, they may, by the blessing of God upon their faithful endeavours, prevail much with their elders and neighbours towards a reformation, it may be, so much as that their elders in their own church shall receive none to the seals but visible saints; and in the classis shall put forth no authoritative act, but consultative only, touching the members of other churches, not touching their own, but with the consent (silent consent at least) of their own church : Which two things, if they can obtain with any humble, meek, holy, faithful endeavours, we conceive they might, by the grace of Christ,