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We see then, that the Lord hath, and doth give. such, whom he hath furnished, and sent forth to gather a people unto himself, care and oversight over that people; yea and a certain authority in the power over them to bring them back to their duty, when they stray at any time; and to appoint, yea, and command such things as are needful for peace, and order, and unity's sake: and that there lies an obligation upon such as are so gathered, to reverence, honour, yea, and obey such as are set over them in the Lord. For, saith the same apostle, 2 Cor. 2. 9. For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether you be obedient in all things: and chap. 7. ver. 13. 15. Yea, and exceedingly the more joyed we for the joy of Titus, because his spirit was refreshed by you all. ' Ver. 15. And his inward affection is more abundant towards you, whilst he remembereth the obedience of you all, how with fear and trembling ye received him,
Now this will not at all infer, as if they had been implicitly led of old: or that such, as having the same authority to exercise it now, sought dominion over their brethren's faith, or to force them to do any thing beyond, far less contrary to, what the Lord leads us to by his Spirit: but we know (as they did of old) that the enemy lies near to betray under such pretences. And seeing, in case of difference, the Lord hath, and doth, and will reveal his will to his people, and hath, and doth raise up members of his body, to whom he gives a discerning, and power, and authority to instruct, reprove, yea, and command in some cases, those that are faithful and low in their minds,
keeping their own places, and minding the Lord, and the interest and good of his truth in the gen. eral over all, shut out the murmurer; and the Spirit of God leads them to have unity, and concur with their brethren. But such as are heady and high-minded, are inwardly vexed, that any should lead or rule, but themselves: and so it is the high thing in themselves, that makes them quarrel with others for taking so much upon them; pretending a liberty, not sinking down in the seed to be willing to be of no reputation for its sake. Such, rather than give up their own wills, will study to make rents and divisions, not sparing the flock; but prostrating the reputation and honour of the truth even to the world, minister to them an occasion of scorn and laughter, to the hardening them in their wickedness and atheism.
Besides these Scriptures mentioned, I shall set down a few of many more that might be in. stanced to the same purpose.
Ephes. 5. 21. Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
Phil. 2. 3. Let nothing be done through strife or vain-glory, but in lowliness of mind, let each. esteem other better than themselves.
Verse 29. Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness, and hold such in reputation.
And 3. 17. Brethren, be followers together of me; and mark them which walk so, as ye have us for an ensample.
And 4. 9. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me do; and the God of Peace shall be with you.
Col. 2. 5. For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.
1 Thess. 5. 12. And we beseech you brethren,
1 to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you.
Verse 13. And to esteem them very highly in love, for their work's sake; and be at peace among yourselves.
Verse 14. Now we exhort you brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feeble minded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.
2 Thess. 2. 15. Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which you have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.
2. Cor. 10. 8. For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority (which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction) I should not be ashamed.
Now though the papists greatly abuse this place, as if hereby they could justify that mass of superstition, which they have heaped together ; yet except we will deny the plain Scripture, we must needs believe, there lay an obligation upon the Thessalonians to observe and hold these appointments, and no doubt, needful institutions, which by the apostles were recommend ed unto them: And yet who will say, that they ought, or were thereby commanded to do any thing contrary to that which the Grace of God in their hearts moved them to?
2 Thess. 3. 4. And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do, and will do the things which we command you,
Ver. 6. Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that
ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.
What more positive than this ? and yet the apostle was not here an imposer. And yet further, verse 14. And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.
Thus, Heb. 13. 7. Remember them whiclı have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God, whose faith follow; cocsidering the end of their conversation.
Verse 17. Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves; for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account: that they may do it with joy, and not with grief; for that is unprofitable for you.
Jude 8. Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities.
I might at length enlarge, if needful, upon these passages, any of which is sufficient to prove the matter in hand; but that what is said may satisfy such as are not wilfully blind and obstinate. For there can be nothing more plain from these testimonies, than that the ancient apostles and primitive christians practised order and government in the church; that some did appoint and ordain certain things; condemn and approve certain practices, as well as doctrines, by the Spirit of God: that there lay an obligation in point of duty upon others to obey and submit: that
this was no encroachment nor imposition upon their christian liberty; nor any ways contradictory to their being inwardly and immediately led by the Spirit of God in their hearts: and lastly, That such as are in the true feeling and sense, will find it their places to obey, and be one with the Church of Christ in such like cases: and that it is such as have lost their sense and feeling of the life of the body, that dissent, and are disobedient, under the false pretence of liberty. So that thus it is sufficiently proved what I undertook in this place.
Thirdly, I judge there will need no great arguments to prove the people of God may, and do well to exercise the like government upon the very like occasion. For even reason may teach us, that what proved good and wholesome cures to the distemper of the church in former ages, will not now (the very like distempers falling in) prove hurtful and poisonable; especially, if we have the testimony of the same Spirit in our hearts : not only allowing us, but commanding us so to do. It is manifest (though we are sorry for it) that the same occasions now fall in; we find that there are that have eaten and drunken with us at the table of the Lord, and have been sharers of the same spiritual joy and consolation, that afterwards fall away. We find, to our great grief, that some walk disorderly; and some are puffed up, and strive to sow division, labouring to stumble the weak, and to cause offences in the Church of Christ. What then is more suitable, and more Christian, than to follow the foot-steps of the flock, and to labour and travel for the good