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test the disciples of Christ : so to contend for the seamless coat of Christ, as to crucify the living mem. bers of Christ; so to divide ourselves about church çommunion, as through breaches to open a wide gap for a deluge of anti-christian and profane malignity to swallow up both church and civil state.
What shall we say more? Is difference of church order become the inlet of all the disorders in the kingdom? Hath the Lord indeed left us to such hardness of heart, that the church government shall become a snare to Zion, as sometimes Moses was to Egypt, Exod. xx. 7, that we cannot leave contesting and contending about it, till the kingdom be destroyed? Did not the Lord Jesus, when he dedicated his sufferings for his church, and his also unto his Father; make it his earnest and only prayer for us in this world, that we all might be one in him, John xvii. 20, 21, 22, 23.. And is it possible that he, whom the Father heard always, John xi. 42, should not have this last most solemn prayer heard and granted? Or shall it be granted for all the saints, elsewhere and not for the saints in England, so that amongst them dis-union shall: grow even about church union and communion ? If it be possible for a little faith, so much as a grain of mustard seed, to remove a mountain, is it not possible for so much strength of faith as it is, to be found in all the godly kingdoms, to remove those images of jealousy, and to cast those stumblingblocks out of the way, which may hinder the free passage of brotherly love amongst brethren? It is true indeed, the national covenant doth justly en. gage both parties faithfully to endeavour the utter extirpation of the antichristian hierarchy; and much more of all blasphemies, heresies, and errors.
Certainly, if congregational discipline be independent, from the inventions of men, is it not much more independent from the delusions of Satan? What fellowship hath Christ with Belial ? light with darkness? truth with error ? . The faithful Jews needed not the help of the Samaritans to re-edify the temple of God; yea, they rejected their help when it was offered, Ezra iv, 1, 2, 3. And if the congregational way be a way of truth, as we believe, and if the brethren that walk in it be zealous of the truth and hate every false way, as by the rule of their holy discipline they are instructed, then verily there is no branch in the nanational 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 publickly 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. Amen.
END OF THE PREFACE.
Of the form of church government ; and that it is
one, immutable, and prescribed in the world.
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 administrations that therein are to be performed. Ezek. xliii. 11. Col. j. 5a 1 Tim. ii. 15.
2. Church government is considered in a double respect, either in regard of the parts of govern. ment themselves, or necessary circumstances there of. 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 Testa: ment; 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 order ing of the house of God. Heb. iii. 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. iii. 15. 1 Chron. xv. 13. Exod. xx. 4. 1 Tim. vi. 13, 16. Heb. xii. 27, 28. 1 Cor. xv. 24. Deut. xii. 32.
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 deter. mined in respect of the matter, to be neither wor. ship itself, nor circumstances separable from wor. ship. In respect of their end, they must be done unto edification.
In respect of the manner, de. cently and in order, according to the nature of the things themselves, and civil and church custom. Doth not even nature itself teach
? 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. Ezek. xliii. 8. 1 Kings xii. 31, 32, 33. 2. King's xii. Exod. xx. 19. Isa. xxvii. 13. Col. i. 22, 23. Acts xv. 28. Mat. xv. 9. 1 Cor. xi. 28. and viïi. 34. 1 Cor. xiv. 26 and xiv. 40. and xi. 14, 16. and xiy, 12, 19. Acts xv. 28.
Of the nature of the catholic church in general, and
in spenial of a particular visible churc. THE catholic church is the whole company of 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.
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. Heb. xii. 23. Rom. viii. 17. 2 Tim. ï. 12. and 4. 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 lead, 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. I Cor. vi. 17. Eph. iii. 17. Rom. i. 8. 1 Thess. i. 8. Isa. ii. 2. i Tim. vi. 12.
4. The members of the visible militant 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 believers, they enjoy moreover an union and communion ecclesiastical. political, So we deny an universal visible church. Acts xix. 1. Col. ii. 5. Mat. xviii. 17. 1 Cor. 12