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Gal. ii. 11–14. Matt. xviii. 15, 16, 17, by proportion. Gen. xviii. 25. 1 Cor. xii. 13. Rom. xvi. 1. Acts, xviii. 27, and xi. 22, 29. Rom. xiii. 26, 27.
3. When a company of believers purpose to gather into church fellowship, it is requisite for their safer proceedings, and the maintaining of the communion of churches, that they signify their intent unto the neighbor churches, walking according unto the order of the gospel, and desire their presence, and help, and right hand of fellowship, which they ought readily to give unto them, when there is no just cause to except against their proceedings. Gal. ii. 1, 2, and 9, by proportion.
4. Besides these several ways of communion, there is also a way of propagation of churches : when a church shall grow too numerous, it is a way, and fit season, to propagate one church out of another, by sending forth such of their members as are willing to remove, and to procure some officers to them, as may enter with them into church estate amongst themselves. As bees, when the hive is too full, issue forth by swarms, and are gathered into hives, so the churches of Christ may do the same upon like necessity; and therein hold forth to them the right hand of fellowship, both in their gathering into a church, and in the ordination of their officers.*
Isa. xl. 20. Cant. viii. 8, 9. * This Chapter may be compared with Heads of Agreement Ch. IV. and with Saybrook Platform, particularly the first nine Articles. The principal design of the Saybrook Articles was to
Of Synods. 1. Synods orderly assembled, and rightly proceeding according to the pattern, Acts xv. we acknowledge as the ordinance of Christ; and though not absolutely necesary to the being, yet many times, through the iniquity of men, and perverseness of times, necessary to the well-being of churches, for the establishment of truth and
therein. Acts, xv. 2–15.
2. Synods being spiritual and ecclesiastical assemblies, are therefore made up of spiritual and ecclesiastical causes. The next efficient cause of them under Christ, is the power of the churches, sending forth their elders and other messengers, who being met together in the name of Christ, are the matter of a synod : and they in arguing, debating, and determining matters of religion according to the word, and publishing the same to the churches it concerneth, do put forth the proper and formal act of a synod, to the conviction of errors and heresies, and the establishment of truth and peace in the churches, which is the end of a synod. Acts, xv.
2, 3, 6, 7,—23, 31, and xvi. 4, 5. provide more effectually for the exercise of the communion of Churches especially in the “ third way of communion" above described. B.
3. Magistrates have power to call a synod, by calling to the churches to send forth their elders and other messengers, to counsel and assist them in matters of religion; but yet the constituting of a synod is a church act, and may be transacted by the churches, even when civil magistrates may be enemies to churches and to church assemblies. 2 Chron. xxix. 4, 5,–11 Acts, xv.
4. It belongeth unto synods and councils, to debate and determine controversies of faith, and cases of conscience; to clear from the word holy directions for the holy worship of God, and good government of the church; to bear witness against mal-administration and corruption in doctrine or manners in any particular church, and to give directions for the reformation thereof; not to exercise church censures in way of discipline, nor any other act of church authority or jurisdiction, which that presidential synod did forbear.
Acts, xv. 1, 2, 6, 7. i Chron. xv. 13. 2 Chron. xxix. 6, 7. Acts, xv. 24, 28, 29.
5. The synod's directions and determinations, so far as consonant to the word of God, are to be received with reverence and submission, not only for their agreement therewith (which is the principal ground thereof, and without which they bind not at all) but also secondarily for the power whereby they are made, as being an ordinance of God appointed thereunto in his word.
6. Because it is difficult, if not impossible, for many churches to come together in one place, in all their members universally; therefore they may assemble by their delegates or messengers, as the church at Antioch went not all to Jerusalem, but some select men for that purpose. Because none are or should be more fit to know the state of the churches, nor to advise of ways for the good thereof, than elders ; therefore it is fit that in the choice of the messengers for such assemblies, they have special respect unto such; yet inasmuch as not only Paul and Barnabas, but certain others also were sent to Jerusalem from Antioch, and when they were come to Jerusalem, not only the apostles and elders, but other brethren also do assemble and meet about the matter; therefore synods are to consist both of elders and other church members endued with gifts and sent by the churches, nor excluding the presence of any brethren in the churches.*
Acts, xv. 2, 22, 23.
* It will be observed that the synods described in this chapter, are occasional meetings, and not permanent ecclesiastical bodies. Several such synods were had on the invitation of the civil authorities, in the first and second generations of New England. The synod at Saybrook which formed the Articles of Discipline, was the last. Those articles by providing for the stated meeting of pastors in associations, both local and general, prevented any further occasion for synods in Connecticut; and a similar arrangement has since been adopted elsewhere. B.
Of the civil magistrate's power in matters ecclesiastical.
1. It is lawful, profitable, and necessary for christians to gather themselves together into church estate, and therein to exercise all the ordinances of Christ, according unto the word, although the consent of the magistrate could not be had thereunto; because the apostles and christians in their time did frequently thus practice, when the magistrates being all of them Jewish or Pagan, and most persecuting enemies, would give no countenance or consent to such matters. Acts, ii. 41, 47, and iv. 1-3.
2. Church government stands in no opposition to civil government of commonwealths, nor any way intrencheth upon the authority of civil magistrates in their jurisdiction ; nor any whit weakeneth their hands in governing, but rather strengtheneth them, and furthereth the people in yielding more hearty and conscionable obedience unto them, whatsoever some ill affected persons to the ways of Christ have suggested, to alienate the affection of kings and princes from the ordinances of Christ; as if the kingdom of Christ in his church could not rise and