« PrécédentContinuer »
stands in its full strength and capacity, as gives and vigour.
them an authority to be members of such an as
sembly. 3. So that there lies 3. What they thus de. an obligation upon the cide (as they judge acwhole body of the church cording to the scripture) to obey their decrees : ought to be received with and such as do not, are reverence, and submitted not only certainly damn to: and those that do not, ed for their disobedience, to be punished by the cibut that it is ihe duty of vil magistrate by death, the civil magistrate to banishment, or imprisonpunish such by death, ment, though they debanishment or imprison- clare, and be ready to ement, &c. in case they re- vidence, that it is because fuse.
they are not agreeable to the scripture they refuse
such decrees. III. The Quakers say, 1. That whereas none truly ought, nor can be accounted the Church of Christ, but such as are in a measure sanctified, or sanctifying, by the Grace of God, and led by his Spirit; nor yet any made officers in the Church but by the Grace of God, and inward revelation of his Spirit (not by outward ordination or succession) from which none is to be excluded, if so called, whether married or a tradesman, or a servant.
2. If so be in such a Church there should arise any difference, there will be an infallible judgment from the Spirit of God, which may be in a general assembly; yet not limited to it, as excluding others : and may prove the judgment of the plurality, yet not to be decided thereby, as if the infallibility were placed there, excluding
And if any,
the fewer. In which meeting or assembly upon such an account, there is no limitation to be of persons particularly chosen ; but that all that in a true sense may be reckoned of the Church, as being sober and weighty, may be present, and give their judgment.
3. And that the infallible judgment of truth, (which cannot be wanting in such a church) whether it be given through one or more, ought to be submitted to, not because such persons give it, but because the Spirit leads so to do; which every one coming to in themselves, will willingly and naturally assent to. through disobedience or unclearness, do not all that the Church ought to do, she is to deny them her spiritual fellowship, in case the nature of their disobedience be of that consequence as may deserve such a censure ; but by no means, for matter of conscience, to molest, trouble, or persecute any in their outwards.
Who will be at the pains to compare these three seriously together, I am hopeful will need no further argument to prove the difference. But if any will further object, what if it fall out, de facto, that the teachers, elders, or plurality, do decide (and from thence will say) this is like the Church of Rome, and other false Churches ? It will be hard to prove that to be an infallible mark of a wrong judgment, as we have not said it is of a riglit. And indeed to conclude it were so, would necessarily condemn the Church in the apostles days, where we see the teachers and el. ders, and so far as we can observe, the greater pumber did agree to the decision, Acts 1. 15.
For if the thing be right, and according to truth, it is so much the better that the elders and greater number do agree to it; and if wrong, their affirming it will not make it right : and truly a gathering, where the elders and greater number are always, or most frequently wrong, and the younger and lesser number right, is such, as we cannot suppose the true Church of Christ to be, . And if any will plead, that there is now no infallible judgment to be expected from the Spirit of God in the Church, it, no doubt, will leave the dissenters as much in the mist, and at as great a loss, as those they dissent from; both being no better than blind men, hitting at random, which will turn Christianity into scepticism. And though we may acknowledge, that this uncertainty prevails in the generality of those called Churches; yet we do firmly believe (for the reasons above declared, and many more that might be given) that the true Church of Christ has a more solid, stable foundation; and being never separated from Christ, her head, walks in a more certain, steady, and unerring path.
The substance then of what is asserted and proved in this treatise, resolves in these following particulars.
First, That in the Church of Christ, when it consists of a visible people (for I speak not here of the Church in the dark night of apostacy, that consisted not of any society visibly united) ga. thered into the belief of certain principles, and united in the joint performance of the worship of God, as meeting together, praying, preaching, &e. there is, and still must be, a certain order and government.
Secondly, That this government, as to the outward form of it, consists of certain meetings appointed principally for that end; yet not so as to exclude acts of worship, if the Spirit move thereunto.
Thirdly, The object of this government is two-fold, outwards and inwards. The outwards relate mainly to the care of the poor, of widows and fatherless; where may be also included marriages, and the removing of all scandals in things undeniably wrong.
The inwards respect an apostacy, either in principles or practices that have a pretence of conscience, and that either in denying some truths already received and believed, or asserting new doctrines that ought not 10 be received. Which again (to sub-divide) may either be in things fundamental, and of great moment; or in things of less weight in them. selves, yet proceeding from a wrong spirit, and
which in the natural and certain consequence of them, tend to make schisms, divisions, animosities, and in sum, to break that bond of love and unity that is so needful to be upheld and established in the Church of Christ. And here come also under this consideration all emulations, strifes, backbitings, and evil surmisings.
Fourthly, That in the true Church of Christ, (according to the definition above given of it) there will, in such cases of differences and controversies, still be an infallible judgment from the Spirit of God, either in one or other, few or
Fifthly, That this infallible judgment is only, and unalterably, annexed and seated in the Spirit and power of God; not to any particular person or persons, meeting or assembly, by virtue of any settled ordination, office, place or station, that such may have, or have had in the Church; no man, men, nor meeting standing, or being invested in any authority in the Church of Christ, upon other terms than so long as he or they abide in the living sense and unity of the life in their own particulars ; which whosoever, one or more, inwardly departs from ipso facto, loses all authori. ty, office, or certain discerning, he or they formerly have had, though retaining the true principles and sound form, and (may be) not fallen into any gross practices, as may declare them generally to be thus withered and decayed.
Sixthly, That Jesus Christ, under the gospel, hath ordinarily revealed his will in such cases through the elders and ministers of the Church, or a general meeting; whose testimony is neither