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branch in the national covenant, that engageth the covenanters to abhor either the congregational churches, or their way: which being duly administered, do no less effectually extirpate the antichristian hierarchy, and all blasphemies, heresies, and pernicious errors, than the other way of discipline doth, which is more generally and publicly received and ratified.
But the Lord Jesus commune with all our hearts in secret; and he who is the king of his church, let him be pleased to exercise his kingly power in our spirits, that so his kingdom may come into our churches in purity and peace.
Of the form of church government; and that it is one, immutable, and
prescribed in the word. 1. ECCLESIASTICAL polity, or church government or discipline, is nothing else but that form and order that is to be observed in the church of Christ upon earth, both for the constitution of it, and all the adıninistrations that therein are to be performed.
Ezek. xliii. 11. Col. ii. 5. 1 Tim. iii. 15.
2. Church government is considered in a double respect, either in regard of the parts of government themselves, or necessary circumstances thereof. The parts of government are prescribed in the word, because the Lord Jesus Christ, the king and lawgiver of his church, is no less faithful in the house of God than was Moses, who from the Lord delivered a form and pattern of government to the children of Israel in the Old Testament: and the holy scriptures are now also so perfect, as they are able to make the man of God perfect, and thoroughly furnished unto every good work; and therefore doubtless to the well ordering of the house of God.
Heb. iji. 5,6. Exod. xxv. 40. 2 Tim. iii. 16.
3. The parts of church government are all of them exactly described in the word of God, being parts or means of instituted worship, according to the second commandment, and therefore to continue one and the same unto the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, as a kingdom that cannot be shaken, until he shall deliver it up unto God, even to the Father. So that it is not left in the power of men, officers, churches, or any state in the world to add, or diminish, or alter any thing in the least measure therein.
1 Tim. ii. 15. 1 Chron. xv. 13. Ex. xx. 4. 1 Tim. vi. 13, 16. Heb. xii. 27, 28. 1 Cor. xv. 24. Deut. xii. 32. Ezek. xliii. 8. 1 Kings, xii. 31–33.
4. The necessary circumstances, as time and place, &c. belonging unto order and decency, are not so left unto men, as that under pretence of them they may thrust their own inventions upon the churches, being circumscribed in the word with many general limitations, where they are determined in respect of the matter, to be neither worship itself, nor circumstances separable from worship. In respect of their end, they must be done unto edification. In respect of the manner, decently and in order, according to the nature of the things themselves, and civil and church custom. Doth not even nature itself teach you? Yea, they are in some sort determined particularly, namely, that they be done in such a manner, as, all circumstances considered, is most expedient for edification : so, as if there be no error of man concerning their determination, the determining of them is to be accounted as if it were divine.
2 Kings, xii. Ex. xx. 19. Isa, xxviii. 13. Col. i. 22, 23. Acts, xv. 28. Matt. xv. 9. 1 Cor. xi. 23, and viii. 34. 1 Cor. xiv. 26, and xiv. 40, and xi. 14, 16, and xiv. 12, 19. Acts, xv. 28.
Of the nature of the catholic church in general, and in special of a particu
lar visible church. 1. The catholic church is the whole
company those that are elected, redeemed, and in time effectually called from the state of sin and death, unto a state of grace and salvation in Jesus Christ.
Eph. i. 22, 23, and v. 25, 26, 30. Heb. xii. 23.
2. This church is either triumphant, or militant. Triumphant, the number of them who are glorified in heaven : militant, the number of them who are conflicting with their enemies upon earth.
Rom. viii. 17. 2 Tim. ii. 12, and iv, 8. Eph. vi. 12, 13.
3. This militant church is to be considered as invisible, and visible. Invisible, in respect of their relation wherein they stand to Christ, as a body unto the head, being united unto him by the Spirit of God, and faith in their hearts. Visible, in respect of the profession of their faith, in their persons, and in particular churches. And so there may be acknowledged an universal visible church.
2 Tim. ii. 19. Rev. ii. 17. 1 Cor. vi. 17. Eph. iii. 17. Rom. i. 8. Thess. i. 8. Isa, ii. 2 1 Tim. vi, 12.
4. The members of the militant visible church, considered either as not yet in church order, or walking according to the church order of the gospel. In order, and so besides the spiritual union and communion common to all believers, they enjoy moreover an union and communion ecclesiastical-political. So we deny an universal visible church.
Acts xix. 1. Col. ii. 5. Matt. xviii. 17. 1 Cor. v. 12.
5. The state of the members of the militant visible church walking in order, was either before the law, economical, that is in families; or under the law, national; or since the coming of Christ, only congregational. The term independent we approve not. Therefore neither national, provincial nor classical.
Gen. xviii. 19. Exod. xix. 6. 6. A congregational church is by the institution of Christ a part of the militant visible church, consisting of a company of saints by calling, united into one body by an holy covenant, for the public worship of God, and the mutual edification one of another, in the fellowship of the Lord Jesus.
1 Cor. xiv. 23, 36, and i. 2, and xii. 27. Exod. xix. 5,6. Deut. xxix. 1, and 9 to 15. Acts. ii. 42. 1 Cor. xiv. 26.