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.
Page  27

CHAP. VI. Concerning the particular works of all the Orders of Councils: and first of the First Order.

WHen a Council of the First Order is met at the stated time, and in the Place agreed on, and have com∣pleated themselves by chusing Moderator and Notáries, and have commended their work, their Churches, and all the Government, Civil and Ecclesiastical, &c. unto God in Prayer; then

I. The Moderator, with the Co-attestation of his Asso∣ciate Ruling Elder, doth first declare the present state of the Church where they do minister, and who have sent them, to act Communion of Councils with the sister-Churches here represented, in this Council.

The present state of the Church he doth declare, in these five Points, in answering to these five Questions:

  • 1. Whether they walk together in Truth and Love? truthing it in love, Eph. 4. 15.
  • 2. Whether Peace ruleth in their hearts, and braves it among them? 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Col. 3. 15.
  • 3. Whether they walk in holiness of Life, Evangelically un∣blameable? Luk. 1. 6.
  • 4. Whether the Lambs of the Flock be diligently •…ed, and trained up for Christ, in the nurture and admonition of the Lord? Joh. 21. 15.〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, My little Lambs. The care of the Lambs, is one third part of the charge over the Flock of God.
  • 5. Whether the Lords-day be reverently, religiously and strictly observed by all? Rev. 1. 10. Isai. 58. 13.

The Affirmative of these Questions, (in Gospel Measure, and Endeavour, though not without infirmities) declared by him, and co-attested by his Associate Ruling Elder, is to be accepted, with all thankfulness unto God, for the present good estate in Christ, of that Church; and the Notary is to record the same to the praise of Christ Jesus.

II. The Moderator is to call upon all the Elder•… in order, to declare, with the co-attestation of their Associate •…u∣ling Elders, the state of all the Churches, touching the same five Questions. All whose Reports are distinctly to be re∣corded, as the present good estate, in Christ, of all those Page  28 Churches, to stand as a monument of Gods mercy to future ages: and to be presented upon record unto the Provincial and National Councils.

III. If all the Churches walk in an Evangelical measure of Truth, Peace and Holiness, and have no cause that la∣boureth among them, for want of Help•…d Counsel; then the Moderator is to declare to •…e praise of God, that the work of this present Session, as touching their own Churches, is finished.

IV. But if there be any difference▪ or strife, or any difficul•… case in any of the Churches, there opened by the Elders: The matter is first to be put, and resolved into a Question or Questions, according as the state of the case doth require: and those Questions recorded, as matter for the Council to give advice in, unto that Church from whence they came. Also it must be provided, that the party, or parties con∣cerned in the case, or cases, be present, both at the •…ating of the Questions, and discussion thereof, and at the Applica∣tion thereof unto the particular case; and that he or they have competent liberty to Discuss, Argue, Answer, or wha•… ever is requisite, to finde out and clear up the truth. The Answer to the Questions, and the Application thereof (so far as may stand with due reverence to the Church and glory of Christ) are to be recorded.

V. If there be any case which the Elders see cause not to produce themselves, or do refuse, th•… any Broth•…r concern∣ed may, yea though it reflect upon the Elders themselves. Or in case of Male-administration: or if any already censured appeal for further Light and Conviction: or if any deserving Ce•…sure, do appeal from the Church for cle•…er conviction, and the Church seeth cause to defer proceeding unto Cen∣sure, (as sometimes it may be) upon his appeal: Or whatso∣ever the case or trouble be; only all such proposals by any of the •…ernity, must be with due reverence, humility, and in the fear of God.

VI. If any other person or persons whatever, have any Question or Case, in matters of Religion, to propose unto the Council, they in the next place may have liberty in a reverent and orderly manner, to propose the same, and it is to be Considered and Answered. Also any other matter concerning the publick good of the Churches, and promo∣tion of Religion, may be discussed and ordered, as Fastings, Feastings •…ropagation of the Gospel, and the like.

VII. If business so multiply, that one day sufficeth not to fi•…ish the work, the Council have liberty to appoint other Page  29 times, so of•… a•… they need, within the moneth: and if they finish not in that moneth, it must be left on record how the case standeth, and so to be presented to the Council that shall be chosen for the next moneth, which ordinarily, in this order, will be the same persons, or (at least) most of them.

VIII. If any Case prove too hard for them to resolve, or if they be con•…iderably divided in judgement, then the Case is to be transmitted to the next Provincial Council, and •…e∣corded so to be, with the Reasons of transmitting the sa•….

IX. If they agree in Counsel about any case or point of Religion, in Faith or Order: and if any person or persons, or Church concerned therein, do not accept of their counsel and judgement; he, or they, have liberty to appeal to the next Provincial Council; provided, that if the Council ad∣vise the Church to proceed to Ce•…re, they are to follow that counsel, notwithstanding his appeal, and not to 〈◊〉 sin to ly upon their brother; for if it were in the appeala•… power to stop the clear process of a Gospel-medicine to his soul in gross scandals, some would never come under the Soul-medicine of Christ Jesus, or not so soon as were meet: but he may appeal higher, for all actions of the Churches and Councils, are •…ble to a Review, until it come unto the high∣est. And his Appeal▪ with the Reasons and manner thereof, are to be recorded.

X. Every first Council, in the Sessions immediately fore∣going the quarterly time of the Provincial Councils meet∣ing, must chuse from among themselves, at least one Teaching Elder and one Ruling Elder, to be sent unto the Provincial Synod, as Members of the same, there to represent the first Councils (who chose and sent them) and all the Churches with them combined: and to carry on the Ordinance of Counsel among them, according to due Order.

XI. Unto these thus chosen for the Provincial Council, are to be delivered in writing, first, a Note of the present state of all the Churches combined with them. Secondly, a Note of such Cases as are transmi•…ed to the Provincial Council, if any such be. And thirdly, a Note of such Appeals as are made unto them, if any such be: all these, being first read, are then delivered unto them. And thus they are sent with their Prayers and Blessing.

XII. When all these Elders do return to their own Churches, they •…re (so far as in prudence is meet) to relate the particular state of all the Churches, the acts of the Council, the persons chos•…n for the Provincial Council, the Page  30cases transmitted, and Appeales; or so much as may give them a general view of the publick state of the Churches and Affaires of Christ, as matter of continual Prayers, Praises and Obedience in all the Churches.

The Particular works of the Provincial Council, the second Order of Councils.

THe Provincial Council being met at the stated time, and in the place agreed on, Moderators and Notaries chosen, the work blessed, as in the Council of the first Order; then

1. The Moderator, with the co-attestation of his Associate Ruling El•…er, declareth the present state of the first Council that sent them; as also the present state of all the Churches combined in that Council, which he delivereth in writing, and may be now read in this Council. Then he delivereth in writing such Cases as are transmitted to them, and such Appeales as are made unto them, if any such be; these be∣ing also read in the Council, are kept in order by the Notaries

2. The Notaries are to record the present state of that Council, and the general good estate of all the Churches, re∣ferring unto the Records thereof now presented.

3. The Moderator is to call upon all the Elders, in order, with their Associates, delegated from all the first Councils, who are all to do as the Moderator did, declaring the state of the Councils, and of the Churches, delivering their Wri∣tings to the Notaries, which are all read, and recorded.

4. The Notaries are to produce, when called for, all the Papers which present any Business or Work unto the Coun∣cil, either by Transmission, or by Appeals: which are or∣derly to be discussed. Care being taken, that all persons concerned be present, and have free and competent liberty to argue, answer, object, dispute, or what else may be requi∣site for finding out of the Truth.

5. If there be no Cases transmitted, nor Appeals from any first Councils, then the business of the Lord, touching all their Churches, is (with glory and praise to Christ) so soon finished as mentioned.

6. If any person or persons whatsoever, have any Que∣stions or Cases concerning Religion, & Ecclesiastical affairs of Christ, now they have liberty, in due reverence and order, to propose the same to be discussed and answered. And if work multiply, the Council may either tarry together, or multiply their Sessions, so oft as they see cause, in their Quarter. And what Cases they have unfinished, they are to Page  31 leave them upon Record for the next Council.

7. If there be any case too difficult for them, or that they be considerably divided in judgement in, then that Case is to transmitted to the National Council. The Notary is to Re∣cord it, with the Reasons thereof.

8. If any counsel or judgement agreed on by this Council, be not accepted or acquiesced in, by the party or parties con∣cerned▪ he or they may Appeal unto the National Council, for further light; and the Notaries are to record it, and the Reasons thereof. Provided, that if this Council advise the Church to proceed to Censure, they may so do, if they see cause, notwithstanding his Appeal.

9. Those Provincial Councils which do immediately forego the stated time of the National Councils meeting, are each of them to chuse, at least, one Teaching, and one Ruling Elder, according to the manner aforesaid, who are to be Represen∣tatives of these Provincial Councils, and of all the first Coun∣cils, and Churches with them combined, in the National Council; who are chosen to carry on the Ordinance of Counsel in that Order.

10. The Notaries are publickly in the presence of every Council, to deliver in writing unto them who are chosen for the National Council, 1. The present state of all the first Councils, and of all the Churches combined with them. 2. All the Causes that are transmitted by them unto the Na∣tional Council. 3. The Appeals, if any such be. All these, being first read, are delivered to them: and so they are sent with their prayers and blessing.

11. If these Councils foresee any future Sessions this quar∣ter, they may now agree upon the same: if any Fasts or Feasts are to be kept by all their Churches, they may now agree upon it, and propose the Causes thereof.

12. When these Elders do next meet in their first Councils, they must prudently and faithfully report the good state of all the rest of the first Councils in the Province, and of all the Churches combined with them, and all other weighty affairs fitting to be communicated, that so they may relate them to their Churches, that these things may be mutter of joy, praise thanksgiving, prayer, and obedience in all the Churches.

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.