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Of the maintenance of church officers.
2. The apostle concludes, that necessary and sufficient maintenance is due unto the ministers of the word, from the law of nature and nations, from the law of Moses, the equity thereof, as also the rule of common reason. Moreover, the scripture doth not only call elders laborers and workmen, but also speaking of them doth say, that the laborer is worthy of his hire ; and requires, that he which is taught in the word should communicate to him in all good things; and mentions it as an ordinance of the Lord, that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel : and forbiddeth the muzzling of the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn.
1 Cor. ix. 14, 15. Matt. ix. 38, and x. 10. 1 Tim. v. 18. Gal. vi. 6. 1 Cor. ix. 9, 14.
2. The scriptures alledged, requiring this maintenance as a bounden duty, and due debt, and not as a matter of alms and free gift, therefore people are not at liberty to do or not to do. what and when they please in this matter, no more than in any other commanded duty, and ordinance of the Lord; but ought of duty to minister of their carnal things, to them that labor among them in the word and doctrine, as well as they ought to pay any other workman their wages, and to discharge and satisfy their
other debts, or to submit themselves to observe any other ordinance of the Lord. Rom. xv. 27. 1 Cor. ix. 21.
3. The apostle (Gal. vi. 6,) enjoining that he which is taught communicate to him that teacheth in all good things, doth not leave it arbitrary, what or how much a man shall give, or in what proportion, but even the latter, as well as the former, is prescribed and appointed by the Lord. 1 Cor. xvi. 2.
4. Not only members of churches, but all that are taught in the word, are to contribute unto him that teacheth, in all good things. In case that congregations are defective in their contributions, the deacons are to call upon them to do their duty; if their call sufficeth not, the church by her power is to require it of their members; and where church power, through the corruption of men, doth not, or cannot attain the end, the magistrate is to see that the ministry be duly provided for, as appears from the commended example of Nehemiah. The magistrates are nursing-fathers and nursing-mothers, and stand charged with the custody of both tables ; because it is better to prevent a scandal that it may not come, and easier also, than to remove it when it is given. It is most suitable to rule, that by the church's care each man should know his proportion according to rule, what he should do, before he do it, that so his judgment
and heart may be satisfied in what he doth, and just offence prevented in what is done.
Gal. vi. 6. Acts, vi. 3, 4. Neh. xiii. 11, Isa. xlix. 23. 2 Cor. viii. 13, 14.
Of the admission of members into the church.
1. The doors of the churches of Christ upon earth, do not by God's appointment stand so wide open, that all sorts of people, good or bad, may freely enter therein at their pleasure, but such as
are admitted thereto as members, ought to be examined and tried first, whether they be fit and meet to be received into church society, or not. The eunuch of Ethiopia, before his admission, was examined by Philip, whether he did believe on Jesus Christ with all his heart. The angel of the church at Ephesus is commended for trying such as said they were apostles and were not. There is like reason for trying of them that profess to be believers. The officers are charged with the keeping of the doors of the church, and therefore are in a special manner to make trial of the fitness of such who enter. Twelve angels are set at the gates of the temple, lest such as were ceremonially unclean should enter thereinto.
2 Chron. xxiii. 19. Matt. xiii. 25, and xxii. 12. Acts, viii, 37. Rev. ii. 2. Acts, ix. 26. Rev. xxi. 12.
2. The things which are requisite to be found in all church members, are repentance from sin, and faith in Jesus Christ; and therefore these are the things whereof men are to be examined at their admission into the church, and which then they must profess and hold forth in such sort, as may satisfy rational charity that the things are there indeed. John Baptist
, admitted men to baptism, confessing and bewailing their sins; and of others it is said, that they came, and confessed and showed their deeds. *
Acts, ii. 38 to 42, and viii. 37. Matt. iii. 6. Acts, xix.
3. The weakest measure of faith is to be accepted in those that desire to be admitted into the church, because weak christians, if sincere, have the substance of that faith, repentance and holiness, which is required in church members; and such have most need of the ordinances, for their confirmation and growth in grace. The Lord Jesus would not quench the smoking flax, nor break the bruised reed, but gather the tender lambs in his arms and carry them gently in his bosom. Such charity and tenderness is to be used, as the weakest christian, if sincere, may not be excluded nor discouraged. Severity of examination is to be avoided.t Rom. xiv. 1. Matt. xii. 20. Isa. xl. 11.
4. In case any through excessive fear, or other infirmity, be unable to make their personal
* Heads of Agreement, Ch, I, Sec. 3. B.
relation of their spiritual estate in public, it is sufficient that the elders having received private satisfaction, make relation thereof in public before the church, they testifying their assents thereunto: this being the way that tendeth most to edification. But where
persons are of greater abilities, there it is most expedient that they make their relations and confessions personally with their own mouth, as David professeth of himself. Psalm, lxvi. 16.
5. A personal and public confession, and declaring of God's manner of working on the soul, is both lawful, expedient and useful, in sundry respects, and upon sundry grounds. Those three thousand, Acts ii. 37, 41, before they were admitted by the apostles, did manifest that they were pricked in their hearts at Peter's sermon, together with earnest desire to be delivered from their sins, which now wounded their consciences, and their ready receiving of the word of promise and exhortation. We are to be ready to render a reason of the hope that is in us, to every one that asketh us; therefore we must be able and ready upon any occasion to declare and show our repentance for sin, faith unfeigned, and effectual calling, because these are the reasons of a well grounded hope. I have not hidden thy righteousness from the great congregation.
Psalm xl. 10. 1 Pet. iii. 15. Heb. xi. 1. Eph. i. 18.