Communion of churches, or, The divine management of gospel-churches by the ordinance of councils constituted in order according to the Scriptures as also the way of bringing all Christian parishes to be particular Reforming Congregationall Churches, humbly proposed as ... a means of uniting those two holy and eminent parties the Presbyterians and the Congregationals ...
Eliot, John, 1604-1690.

CHAP. V. The generall Work of all Ecclesiasticall Councils.

THese Ecclesiastical Councils are to do for all the Chur∣ches in an ordinary way, what the Apostles were to do in an extraordinary way. The care of all the Churches doth lye upon them, which appeareth both in the Manner of their Constitution, and End of their Meeting.

Yea, they are to do for all the World what lyeth in them, as the Apostles were to do, Matth 28. Go, and teach all Nations, &c.

I. Hence, first, if there be any Heathen people that yet know not Christ, it is a work well-becoming any of these Orders of Councils, and all of them in their harmony, to seek out, and send forth sit Labourers to such a work and Page  24 service of Christ, to carry the Gospel, and preach Jesus Christ unto them; to gather and plant Churches amongst them. And it is the duty of particular Churches, unto whose Society such Instruments, chosen by the Councils, do belong, by Fasting and Prayer, and Imposition of hands, to send them forth unto that Work; as the Church of Antioch did unto Barn•…bas and Saul, when they were extraordinari∣ly called, and sent forth unto such a Work as we are now speaking of, Acts 13. 2, 3. And this will be one holy way of improvement of Church-treasuries raised by voluntary Contributions, to spread and propagate the Gospel to all the World.

II. If there be any among the professing Nations that sie in darkness, and in the region of the shadow of death, and see no light, (and too many such dark Corners there be, in the Land of Zebulon and Naphthali, Mat. 4▪ 15, 16.) who have none to bring the glad Tidings of Light and Life unto them, at least, none that do it: It well becometh the vigilance of these Councils, to provide and send •…it Instruments unto them, by whose Labours, the Light (through grace) may arise, and shine among them. And it is the duty of the Churches to send forth such persons with their prayers and blessing, as abovesaid.

III. If there be any Sister-Church that hath no Breasts, (which, by death or other means oft falleth out, where Churches are numerous) it is a special and proper care of the Ecclesiastical Councils, to take a prudent, pious, and speedy course for their supply: It being a matter that hath a great tendency to the well-being not onely of that Church, but of the Councils also, into whose Communion •…ll Elders are received.

And unto this point of their care and duty it doth be∣long, sometimes to remove Lights from one Candlestick to another, where the gifts and labours of some special Instru∣ments may be most fruitful, to the glory of God, and the publick good of Religion, and all the Churches.

But this is to be done with all wisdome, tenderness, and evidence of Scripture-light, that it is the Will of God, and for his Glory so to be▪ that so the Church concerned may yield it as an act of obedience to Christ, for whose sake they should be willing to pluck out their right eyes, and give them unto Christ, in obedience as unto the Apostles, so unto Coun•…ils their ordinary Successors.

IV. As the care of all the Churches dyeth on the Eccle∣siastical Page  25 Councils, so especially the care of those Churches which are in Combination together, and whose Communion they do act, and towards whom their first trust and care is to be exercised, for their well-being on earth, and for the fur∣therance of their eternal being in the Kingdome of heaven, and in all for the glory of Christ: and in particular to take care that there be general directions for Publick Worship, and all other Ecclesiastical Administrations, and Conversa∣tion; and for Catec•…ism, and Platform both of Doctrine and Discipline.

V. If any Errour or Heresie arise, or be by any evil Instru∣ments openly or secretly buzzed and infused, or any way •…ented and diffused, to •…azard the infecting and poisoning any of the people: It is a special care of these Councils to take up the matter, to clear up the light of the case by the Word of God, and in due order to settle the Cause. and sup∣press the Errour, by counselling the Church to whom the person belongeth, to a due exercise of Discipline, if need be.

VI. If any Controversie, or doubtful Disputation arise in any of the Churches, about any point of Religion▪ either in Faith or Order; because all difference of Opinion is apt to breed aliemtion of affection, and give entrance to Satan, and grief to the Spirit of Love and Peace: It concerneth the Councils, with all care and prudence, in due order to settle and si•…nce such a Controversie.

VII. If any Strife or Division arise among any, either per∣son•…, or parties, or Churches, or Towns, or Magistrates; be∣cause all strife is of Satan, and dangerous, and the higher the worse: Therefore it ought to be the care of all the Councils, speedily to reconcile (in an Ecclesiastical way, as to their spirits and affections) all such strife▪ with all care re∣fusing to in•…erpose, o•… meddle with the Civil cause, if any be, leaving that to be decided in Civil Order, according to the Ordinance of God.

VIII. If there arise any difficulty in any of the Churches about Election of Officers, Administration of Censures, Admis∣sion of Members, Education of Youth, or in such like cases; (and when do all these vigorously proceed without difficul∣ty?) It is the duty and care of these Councils, by the evi∣dence of the light of the Word of God, so to advise and counsel these Churches, as that they may proceed to act in due unity, good order, and in the power and peace of the Gospel.

IX. Because the pious and prudent management of the Page  26 publick stock of Prayers and Pra•…es, is a point that greatly doth concern the Church Militant: and because all the great Motions in the world are steered and man•…ged by Divine Providence, according to the Prayers of the Churches, and of the Saints; Hence it is a great service of Christ, and of the Churches, for all the Councils to order and present matter of Prayers and Thanksgiving, and also to order and guide the times and seasons of publick Fastings and Thanksgivings. The management of the great Wheel of publick Prayers▪ as to the presenting of matter, and ordering of seasons, lyeth within the care and guidance of the Councils, by whose pious pru∣dence, all the Churches will be led on in an united Spirit of Prayer, both for matter and seasons▪ but abandoning the An•…ichristian stinted Forms and Ti•…es.

X. If Colonies, or New Towns are to be erected in Wil∣dernesses, or any unhabited places in the world; and peo∣ple appear ready in their mindes to undertake such a De∣sign: It is a singular point of wisdom and love, to manage such a design religiously, so as that God may go with them, and dwell in the midst of them. And therefore it is neces∣sary that they have the Ministry of Gods Word, and some other godly persons with them, who •…ay carry on Church∣work among them. And this care belongeth to the Coun∣cils, to order, guide, and provide for them.

XI. When Parishional Congregations are to be called up unto Reformation; and when Officers are to be Ordained among them, where none were before; and when, by addition of Churches unto the Communion, Councils are to be multipli∣ed: These (and such like) are blessed Births, and very well∣pleasing to Christ; and O•… how well it becometh these Ec∣clesiastical Councils to Midwife forth such Births as these?

XII. When a whole Church or the major part thereof, do remove their dwelling•…, and transplant themselves into some other pl•…ce; great care is to be had, that Christ may go with them that go, and that Christ may tarry, and not depart from them that tarry: The care of the holy and •…oving management of such a design, doth much concern, and well become the holy care of the Ecclesiastical Coun∣cils.