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.

The particular Works of the National and highest Eccle∣siastical Council within the Nation.

THe National Council being met at the stated time, and place agreed on, compleated and blessed; then

1. The Moderator, with the co attestation of the RulingPage  32Elder his Associate, is to declare unto them the present good estate of that Provincial Council which sent them, as also the state of all the first Councils, and particular Churches with them combined▪ Also he declareth such cases•…s are transmit∣ted by them unto this Council; and such Appeals as are made unto them, as part of the present•… business of this Council. All these things to be delivered in writing distinctly, unto the Notaries, who reade them all, and then record the pre∣sent good estate of that Province, and all the Councils and Churches therein combined; as also the matters that are from them dilated unto the present Council.

2. The Moderator calleth all the rest of the Provincial Re∣presentatives in order, who are to make the like declaration •…s the Moderator hath done, with the co-attestation of their Associate Ruling Elders. All their Papers are to be deli∣vered to the Notaries, who are to reade, and then record them distinctly, with the present Ecclesiastical state of all the Provinces in the Nation, whose Representatives do there ap∣pear, & make declaration thereof before the National Council.

3. The Notaries are orderly to propose all the matters▪ pre∣sented by the Provincial Councils, when the Moderator re∣quireth the same. Care being had, that the persons concern∣ed be present, and have free and competent liberty to argue, answer, object, in due, reverent, and modest manner, and to do what may be necessary for the finding out of the truth.

4. If there be no Cases transmitted to them, nor Appeals, the affairs of all the Churches in the Nation are pre∣sently issued, with glory and praise to the Lord Iesus, the King of Peace.

5. If any other person or persons within the Nation, or of any other Nation, have any Cases or Questions about Reli∣gion, they may now have liberty of proposing the same, to receive an answer.

6. If any Cases of difficulty be such, as that they cannot obtain an issue, and resolution satisfactory, then the Case must be recorded, and stay untill by further consideration and discussion, God shall please to reveal further light therein, because there is no Higher Council to appeal unto for light, within the Nation. And in such casés, so the Apostles did walk, and teach the Churches to walk, Phil 3. 15, 16. Let us therefore as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereunto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule▪ let us minde the same things.

But if the matter be of due weight and worth, then either Page  33 by Transmission or Appeal, it may ascend unto an Occumeni∣cal Council.

7. If any person or persons, whose opinion or practice receiveth a judgement, with counsel and advice in reference to the person or persons concerned, and he or they rest not therein, as to Peace and Order; then if he or they (be they many or few) be not already under Church▪Censure; the Church to which they belong, are to proceed (according to the determination of this Council in the case) unto their Censure, as the Church of Corinth did upon the advice of Paul, 1 Cor. 5. 4, 5. for the healing of their soules, and bringing of them unto repentance, and good order. Which being effected, the end of all this acting, both in Conviction and Correction, is attended. And thus, within the compass of one year, the whole Order of Ecclesiastical Discipline hath its course, and that in a most difficult case.

8. But yet if he or they rest not, such are high disturbers, and must be suppressed by civil Power.

And in civil Order, he that doth not submit unto and rest in (as to peace and order) the sentence of the Supreme Power, is guilty of a Capital Offence, and ought to be put to death, by the Law of God, Deut. 17. 10, 11, 12, 13. and the rea∣son is; because Order is better then any of our lives. It is a greater good to preserve Order, then to preserve the lives of the wilfull and obstinate violaters thereof. And the loss of Order and Peace in Ecclesiastical Government, in the way of the Churches, is of greater consequence, then the loss of their lives. Zec. 13. 3, 6.

9. All things that are to be commended or committed to Civil Authority, either from the Churches, or in behalf of the Churches, and Religion, are to be resolved, and acted by the National Council. Where great care is to be had, to keep a clear distinction, betwixt Civil and Ecclesiastical Power, and not to meddle, or in the least, intrude or intrench upon Civil Authority. The usurpation of Antichrist upon the Civil Authority, must ever keep the Ecclesiastical Coun∣cils in a vigilant fear of that aspiring pride: a worm too apt to breed and grow in the breasts of learned, and eminent∣ly gifted men, if there be not a vigilant spirit of mortifica∣tion, and humble subjection unto Order.

10 It will be necessary that an appointed Committee of this National Council be alwayes (some or other of them) resi∣dent near unto the Supream Civil Authority; that they may speedily have notice of all occurrences, that may have respect unto, or concern the Ecclesiastical affaires of the Page  34 Churches: and may receive Commands from Authority, about Fastings or Feastings, according to the well or ill being of the affaires of the Nation, or the Churches, either at home or abroad; and may call together the whole Council, if there be any cause that it should be so, &c.

11. Such publick Fasts and Feasts as concern all the Chur∣ches in the Nation to solemnize, which are not first com∣manded by civil Authority, why may they not be appointed and agreed on by the National Council•… such publick sins as are to be bewailed; such mercies as are to be i•…plored for our Churches, or for the Nation, or for forreign Churches and Nations; such motions and designes of spreading and pro∣pagating religion as are in hand, &c. These are to be pre∣sented to all the Churches as matter of Prayer, both ordi∣nary and extraordinary.

12. When these Members of the National Council return unto the Provincial Councils, whose delegates they (immedi∣ately) are, they are to report unto them the state and affaires of all the Churches in the Nation, and in forreign Nations also And they are to report them to all the first Councils. and they unto all the Churches, as matters of prai•…e, and prayer to God, and of incouragement to obedience unto government.

And that this communication of Ecclesiastical affaires may be the more readily expedited:

1. All the first Councils, or some one of every Council, may meet that day seven night after the Provincial Councils meeting to hear the affaires of all the Province. And some of the Provincial Council may be there, to declare the affaires of all the Churches in the Province.

2. So likewise the Provincial Councils (or some of every Provincial Council) may meet that day seven-night after the Session of the National Council, to hear the affaires of the whole Nation, and some of the National Council may be there to give information of all things •…ing to be communic•…ted. But experience will put men upon the best w•…y of Order in these things.

The p•…rticular duties of the Oecumeni•…al Council I pass in silence; I leave them to their consideration, whose happy 〈◊〉 it shall be, to see those gl•…rious times, when such Councils shall be called.

Notwithstanding these publick Orders of Councils, it is lawful for any person, or parties, or Church, to take any private •…unsel, that he or they will or c•…n obtain, ac∣cording to God, 〈◊〉 they •…ay have occ•…sion.