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find liberty of conscience to continue their relation with their own presbyterial church without scruple.

5. But to add a word further, touching the gathering of churches out of churches : what if there were no express example of such a thing extant in the scriptures ? That which we are wont to answer the antipædo-baptists, may suffice here ; it is enough, if any evidence thereof may be gathered from just consequence of scripture light. Dr. Ames's judgment concerning this case passeth, for ought we know, without exception, which he gave in his fourth book of conscience, in answer to two questions, chap. xiv. num. 16. “ If any,” saith he, “ wronged with unjust vexation, or providing for his own edification, or in testimony against sin, depart from a church, where some evils are tolerated, and join himself to another more pure, yet without condemning of the church he leaveth, he is not therefore to be held as a schismatic, or as guilty of any other sin."

Where the tripartite disjunction, which the judicious doctor putteth, declareth the lawfulness of the departure of a church member from his church, when either through weariness of unjust vexation, or in way of provision for his own edification, or in testimony against sin, he joineth himself to another congregation more reformed : any one of these, he judgeth a lawful departure, though all of them do not concur together. Neither will such a practice despoil the best ministers of the parishes of their best hearers. For,

1. Sometimes the ministers themselves are willing to join with their better sort of hearers in this way of reformation, and then they and their hearers continue still their church relation together; yea, and confirm it more straitly and strongly, by an express renewed covenant, though the ministers may still continue their wonted preaching to the whole parish.

2. If the ministers do dislike the way of those whom they otherwise count their best members, and so refuse to join with them therein ; yet if those members can procure some other ministers to join with them in their own way, and still continue their dwelling together in the same town, they may easily order the times of the public assembly, as to attend constantly upon the ministry of their

former church; and either after or before the public assembly of the parish, take an opportunity to gather together for the administration of the sacraments and censures, and other church ordinances amongst themselves. The first apostolic church assembled to hear the word with the Jewish church in the open courts of the temple ; but afterwards gathered together for breaking of bread, and other acts of church order, from house to house.

3. Suppose presbyterial churches should communicate some of their best gifted members towards the erecting and gathering of another church, it would not forthwith be their detriment, but may be their enlargement. It is the most noble and perfect work of a living creature, both in nature and grace, to propagate and multiply his kind; and it is the honour of the faithful spouse of Christ to set forward the work of Christ, as well abroad as at home. The church in Cant. viii. 8, to help forward her little sister church, was willing to part with her choice materials, even beams of cedar, and such precious living stones as were fit to build a silver palace. In the same book, the church is sometimes compared to a garden, sometimes to an orchard, Cant. iv. 12, 13. No man planteth a garden or orchard, but seeketh to get the choicest herbs and plants of his neighbours, and they freely impart them : nor do they count it a spoil to their garden and orchard, but rather a glory. Nevertheless, we go not so far, we neither seek nor ask the choice members of the parishes, but accept them being offered.

If it be said, they are not offered by the ministers, nor by the parish churches, who have most right in them, but only by themselves :

It may justly be demanded, what right or what power have either the ministers or parish church over them? Not by solemn church covenant, for that, though it be the firmest engagement, is not owned, but rejected. If it be by their joining with the parish in calling and election of a minister to such a congregation at his first coming, there is indeed just weight in such an engagement; nor do we judge it safe for such to remove from such a minister, unless it be upon such grounds as may justly give him due satisfaction. But if the union of such members to a parish church, and to the ministry thereof, be only

by cohabitation within the precincts of the parish, that union, as it was founded upon human law, so by human law it may easily be released. Or otherwise, if a man remove his habitation, he removeth also the bond of his relation, and the ground of offence.

4. It need not be feared, that all the best hearers of the best ministers, no, nor the most of them, will depart from them upon point of church government. Those who have found the presence and power of the spirit of Christ breathing in their ministers, either to their conversion or edification, will be slow to change such a ministry of faith and holiness, for the liberty of church order. Upon which ground, and sundry other such like, there be doubtless sundry godly and judicious hearers in many parishes in England, that do and will prefer their relation to their ministers, though in a presbyterial way, above the congregational confederation.

5. But if all, or the most part of the best hearers of the best ministers of the parishes should depart from them, as preferring in their judgments the congregational way; yet in case the congregational way should prove to be of Christ, it will never grieve the holy hearts of godly ministers, that their hearers should follow Christ : yea many of themselves, upon due deliberation, will be ready to go along with them. It never grieved nor troubled John Baptist, that his disciples departed from him to follow after Christ, John iii. But if the congregational way should prove to be, not the institution of Christ, as we take it, but the invention of men; then doubtless the presbyterial form, if it be of God, will swallow up the other, as Moses's rod devoured the rods of the Egyptians. Nor will this put a necessity upon both the opposite parties to shift for themselves, and to seek to supplant one another, but only it will call upon them (aletheuein en agape) to seek and to follow the truth in love, to attend in faithfulness each unto his own flock, and to administer to them all the holy things of God, and their portion of food in due season: and as for others, quietly to forbear them, and yet to instruct them with meekness that are contrary minded, leaving it to Christ, in the use of all good means, to reveal his own truth in his own time, and meanwhile endeavouring to

keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Phil. iii. 15, 16. Eph. iv. 3.

To the second exception, that we take no course for the gaining, and healing, and calling in of ignorant and erroneous persons, whom we refuse to receive into our churches, and so exclude them from the remedy of church discipline.

We conceive the receiving of them into our churches, would rather lose and corrupt our churches, than gain and heal them. A little leaven laid in a lump of dough, will sooner leaven the whole lump, than the whole lump will sweeten it. We find it therefore safer to square rough and unhewn stones before they be laid into the building, rather than to hammer and hew them when they lie unevenly in the building. And accordingly two means we use to gain and call in such as are ignorant and scandalous.

1. The public ministry of the word, upon which they are invited by counsel, and required by wholesome laws. And the word it is, which is the power of God to salvation, to the calling and winning of souls.

2. Private conference, and conviction by the elders, and other able brethren of the church, whom they do the more respectfully hearken unto, when they see no hope of enjoying church fellowship, or participation in the sacraments for themselves or their children, till they approve their judgments to be sound and orthodox, and their lives subdued to some hope of a godly conversation. What can classical discipline, or excommunication itself do more in this case ?

The third exception wraps up in it a threefold domestic inconvenience, and each of them meet to be eschewed. 1. Disunion in families between each relation. 2. Disappointment of edification, for want of opportunity in the governors of families to take account of things heard by their children and servants. 3. Disbursements of chargeable maintenance to the several churches, whereto the several persons of their families are joined.

All which inconveniences either do not fall out in congregational churches, or are easily redressed; for none are orderly admitted into congregational churches, but

such as are well approved by good testimony to be duly observant of family relation : or if any otherwise disposed should creep in, they are either orderly healed, or duly removed in a way of Christ. Nor are they admitted, unless they can give some good account of their profiting by ordinances, before the elders and brethren of the church, and much more to their parents and masters. Godly tutors in the university can take an account of their pupils ; and godly householders in the city take an account of their children and servants, how they profit by the word they have heard in several churches, and that to the greater edification of the whole family by the variety of such administrations. Bees may bring more honey and wax into the hive, when they are not limited to one garden of flowers, but may fly abroad to many

Nor is any charge expected from wives, children or servants to the maintenance of congregational churches, further than they be furnished with personal estates or livings, which may enable them to contribute of such things as they have, and not of such things as they have not. God accepteth not robbery for a sacrifice. And though a godly householder may justly take himself bound in conscience to contribute to any such church, whereto his wife, or children, or servants do stand in relation, yet that will not aggravate the burden of his charge, no more than if they were received members of the same church whereto himself is related.

But why do we stand thus long to plead exemptions from exceptions ? The Lord help all his faithful servants, whether presbyterial or congregational, to judge and shame ourselves before the Lord, for all our former compliances to greater enormities in church government, than are to be found either in the congregational or presbyterial way; and then surely either the Lord will clear up his own will to us, and so frame and subdue us all to one mind and one way, (Ezek. xliii. 10, 11,) or else we shall learn to bear one another's burthens in a spirit of meekness. It will then doubtless be far from us, so to attest the discipline of Christ, as to detest the disciples of Christ : so to contend for the seamless coat of Christ, as to crucify

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