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ments and censures, and to get church ordinances amongst themselves.
The first apostolic church assembled to hear the word with the Jewish church in the open courts of the temple, but afterwards gathered together for breaking of bread, and other acts of church order, from house to house.
3. Suppose presbyterial churches should communicate some of their best gifted members towards the erecting of another church, it would not forthwith be their detriment, but may be their enlargement. It is the most noble and perfect work of a living creature, both in nature and grace, to propagate and multiply his kind; and it is the honour of the faithful spouse of Christ to set forward the work of Christ, as well abroad as at home. The church in Cant. viii. 8. to help forward her little sister church was willing to part with her choice materials, even beams of cedar, and such - precious living stones as were fit to build a silver palace. In the same book the church is sometimes compared to a garden, sometimes to an orchard, Cant. iv. 12, 13. No man planteth a garden or orchard, but seeketh to get the choicest herbs and plants of his neighbours, and they freely impart them; nor do they count it a spoil to their garden and orchard, but rather a glory. Nevertheless, we go not so far, we neither seek nor ask the choice members of the parishes, but accept them being offered. 3. If it be said, they are not offered by the ministers, nor by the parish churches, who have most right in them, but only by ourselves ;
It may justly be demanded, what right or what power have either the ministers or parish church over them? Not by solemn church government, for that, though it be the firmest engagement, is not
owned, but rejected. If it be their joining with the parish in calling and election of a minister to such a congregation at his first coming, there is indeed just weight in such an engagement; nor do we judge it safe for such to remove from such a minister, unless it be upon such grounds as may justly give him due satisfaction. But if the union of such members io a parish church, and to the ministry thereof, be only by co-habitation within the precincts of the parish, that union, as it was founded upon human law, so by human law it may easily be released. Or otherwise, if a man remove his habitation, he removeth also the bond of his relation and the ground of offence.
4. It need not be feared that all the best hearers of the best ministers, no, nor the most of them will depart from them upon point of church gov. ernnient. Those who have found the presence and power of the spirit of Christ breathing in their ministers, either to their conversion or edification, will be slow to change such a ministry of faith and holiness for the liberty of church order. Upon which ground, and sundry other such like there be, doubtless sundry godly and judicious hearers in many parishes in England, that do and will refer their relation to their ministers, though in a presbyterial way above the congregational confederation.
5. But if all or the most part of the best hearers of the best ministers of the parishes should depart from them, as preferring in their judgments the congregational way, yet in case the congregational way should prove to be of Christ it will never grieve the holy hearts of godly ministers, that their hearers should follow Christ; yea many of themselves, upon due deliberation, will be ready to go along with
Shem. It never grieved nor troubled John Baptist that his disciples departed from him to follow after Christ, John iii. But if the congregational way should prove to be, not the institution of Christ, as we take it, but the invention of men, then doubtless the presbyterian form, if it be of God, will swallow up the other, as Moses's rod devoured the rods of the Egyptians. Nor will this put a necessity upon both the opposite parties to shift for themselves, and seek to supplant one another, but only it will call upon them (Aletheuein En Agape) to seek and follow the truth in love, to attend in faithfulness each unto his own flock, and to administer to them all the holy things of God, and their portion of food in due season; and as for others, quietly to forbear them, and yet to instruct them with meekness, that are contrary minded, leaving it to Christ, in the use of all good means, to reveal his own truth in his own time, and meanwhile endeavouring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace, Phil. iii. 15. 16. Eph. iv. 3.
To the second exception, that we take no course for the gaining and healing, and calling in of ignorant and erroneous persons, whom we refuse to receive into our churches, and so exclude them from the remedy of church discipline.
We conceive the receiving of them into our churches, would rather loose and corrupt our churches, than gain and heal them. A little leaven laid in a lump of dough, will sooner leaven the whole lump, than the whole lump will sweeten it. We find it therefore safer to square rough and unhewn stones before they be laid into the building, rather than to hammer and hew them when they lie unevenly in the building. And accordingly two
means we use to gain and call in such as are igno rant and scandalous.
1. The public ministry of the word, upon which they are invited by counsel, and required by wholesome laws. And the word it is, which is the power of God to salvation, to the calling and winning of souls.
2. Private conference, and conviction by the elders, and other able brethren of the church, whom they do the more respectfully hearken unto, when they see no hope of enjoying church fellowship, or participation in the sacraments for themselves or their children, till they approve their judgments to be sound and orthodox, and their lives subdued to some hope of a godly conversation. classical discipline, or excommunication itself do more in this case.
The third exception wraps up in it a threefold domestic inconvenience, and each of them meet to be eschewed. 1. Dis-union in families be. tween each relation. 2. Disappointment of edification, for want of opportunity in the governors of families to take account of things heard by their children and servants. 3. Disbursements of chargeable maintenance to the several churches, whereunto the several persons of their families are joined.
All which inconveniences either do not fall out in congregational churches, or are easily redressed; for none are orderly admitted into congregational churches, but such as are well approved by good testimony to be duly observant of family relation: or if any otherwise disposed should creep in, they are either orderly healed, or duly removed in a way of Christ. Nor are they admitted, unless they can give some good account of their profiting by ordinances, before the elders and brethren of the
church, and much more to their parents and masters. Godly tutors in the university can take an account of their pupils; and godly householders in the city take an account of their children and servants, how they profit by the word they have heard in several churches, and that to the greater edification of the whole family, by the variety of such administrations. Bees may bring more honey and wax into the hive, when they are not limited to one garden of flowers, but may fly abroad to many.
Nor is any charge expected from wife, children or servants to the maintenance of congregational churches, further than they may be furnished with personal estates or livings, which may enable them to contribute of such things as they have, and not of such things as they have not. eth not robbery for a sacrifice. And though a godly householder may justly take himself bound in conscience to contribute to any such church, whereto his wife, or children, or servants do stand in rela. ţion, yet that will not aggravate the burthen of his charge no more than if they were received members of the same church whereto himself is related.
But why do we stand thus long to plead exemptions from exception? The Lord help all his faithful servants, whether presbyterial or congregation, al, to judge and shame ourselves before the Lord, for all our former compliances to greater enormi. ties in church government than are to be found either in the congregational or presbyterial way; and then surely either the Lord will clear up his own will to us, and so frame and subdue us all to one mind and one way,(Ezek. xliii. 10, 11.) or else we shall learn to bear one another's burthens in a spirit of meekness. It will then doubtless be far from us, so to attest the discipline of Christ, as to de.