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that one, as well as all; for that one adviseth him to that which is right and good, as well as the whole; and they do but homologate or confirm that which that one hath already asserted: yet Jesus Christ, who is the author of order, and not of confusion, will not have a brother cut off, or reputed a publican, for refusing to hear one or two, but fo. refusing to hear the church. And if it be objected, that the Church of Rome, and all other false churches, make use of this Scripture, and cover their persecution, and cruelty, and oppression by it; and thou sayest no more than they say:
I I suppose no man will be so unreasonable as to affirm, that the Church of Rome abusing this Scripture, will make it false in itself; but how we differ in our application of this Scripture, shall be spoken of hereafter. I am not now claiming right to this power, as due to us (that is reserved for another place;) but this, I say, is that which I now aver to be manifest from the Scripture testimony, and to be in itself an unquestionable truth, that Jesus Christ intended there should be order and government in his church; which is the thing at present in hand to be proved : which if it be so really true (as it cannot be denied) then I hope it will also necessarily follow, that such who really and truly are the church of Christ, have a right to exercise this order and government.
Secondly, That the apostles and primitive christians did practise order and government, we need but read the history of the Acts, of which I shall mention a few pregnant and undeniable testimonies ; as we may observe in the very first
chapter of the Acts, from verse 13. to the end ; where at the very first meeting the apostles and brethren held together after the ascension of Christ, they began orderly to appoint one to supply the place of Judas; it may be thought this was a needless ceremony; yet we see how the Lord countenanced it. I hope none will say, that the apostles appointing of these two men, or him, upon whom the lot did not fall, contradicted their inward freedom, or imposed upon it; but both agreed very well together ; the one in the will and movings of God in appointing, and the other in the same, in submitting to their appointment.
Moreover, after they had received the Holy Ghost, you may read, Acts, 6. so soon as there was an opportunity, how they wisely gave order concerning the distribution for the
appointed some men for that purpose. So here was
. order and government, according to the present necessity of the case: and the Lord God was well pleased with it, and the word of God increased, and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly. Might they not have said then, as some say now; We will give our charity to whom we see cause; and we will take no notice of your appointments and orders : whether would God have approved of such, yea, or nay?
Thirdly, When that the business of circumcision fell in, whether it was fit or not to cir. cumcise the Gentiles? We see, the apostles saw not meet, to suffer every one to follow their own minds and wills : they did not judge, as one confusedly supposeth, That this difference in an outward exercise, would commend the unity of the
true faith : nay they took another method. It is said expressly, Acts 15. 6. And the apostles and elders came together, to consider of this matter ; and after there had been much disputing about it, (no doubt then there were here diversities of opinions and judgments) the apostles and elders told their judgments, and came also to a positive conclusion. Sure some behoved to submit, else they should never have agreed. So those that were the elders, gave a positive judgment; and they were bold to say, That it pleased not only them but the Holy Ghost. By all which it doth undeniably appear, that the apostles and primitive saints, practised a holy order and government among themselves : and I hope none will be so bold as to say, they did these things without the leadings of the Spirit of God, and his power and authority concurring, and going along with them,
And that these things were not only singular practices, but that they held it doctrinally, that is to say, it was doctrine which they preached ; that there ought to be order and government in the church, is manifest from the following testi. monies: 1 Cor. 4. 15, 16, 17. For though you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers : for in Christ Jesus, I have begotten you through the gospel. Where. fore, I beseech you, be ye followers of me. For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord; who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways, which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church. Here the apostle Paul is very abé solute: First, In that he desires them to be fol. lowers of him. Secondly, In that he sends a teacher, yea, a minister, and eminent bishop, or overseer of the church, for to put them in mind of his ways, which be in Christ, as he taught in every church. No doubt there were apostates, and dissenting spirits in the church of Corinth, that gave
Paul occasion thus to write, as he tes. tifies in the beginning of the chapter, how he was judged by some of them; he shews, how they were grown high; verse 8. Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us, &c. Might not these dissenters of the church of Corinth, have reasoned thus against Paul ? Did not this Paul teach us, at first, to mind the measure of grace in ourselves, and fol. low that; (for no doubt that was Paul's doc. trine) but now he begins to Lord it over us, and tells us, we must be followers of him. Might they not have judged the beloved Timothy to be far out of his place? Might they not have said, it seems it is not God that moved thee, and sent thee here by his Spirit ; but lordly Paul, that seeks dominion over our faith : It seems thou comest not here to preach Christ, and wish us to be followers of him, and of his grace in our hearts; but to mind us to follow Paul's ways, and take notice, how he teaches in every church: We are not concerned with him, nor with his messenger, nor with any of your orders, and so forth. Both not this run very plausible? I ques. tion not but there was such a reasoning among the apostate Corinthians : let such as are of the same kind among us examine seriously, and
measure their spirits truly hereby. Yea, he goes yet further in the following chapter, verses 3, 4, Verse 3. As absent in body, but present in spirit, I have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done the deed. Verse 4. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of the Lord Jesus Christ, &c. Would not one think this to have been a very presumptuous word? And yet who dare offer to condemn it? From all which, I shall shortly observe, that it seems it was judged no inconsistency nor contradiction, to be followers of the grace in themselves, to be persuaded in their own hearts, and also to be followers of the apostle Paul, and of his ways; because his ways and example was no other than the spirit of God in themselves would have led them to, if they had been obedient: therefore, he found it needful to charge them positively to follow him, without adding this reason.
Next, the great argument the apostle uses to persuade them hereunto, upon which he mainly insists, because he had begotten them into the truth; Ye have not many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel : wherefore I beseech
followers of me. So he makes that as the cause ; which the same apostle also in his expostulation with the Galatians, putting them in mind how he preached the gospel to them at first, and chap. 4. ver. 15. Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, if possible ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and given them unto me: