Communion of Churches: OR, The divine Management of Gospel-Churches BY THE Ordinance of Councils.
CHAP. I. Prolegomena; or, Things premised.
I. THere be two holy Publick Societies famous in the Gospel:
- 1. A Church of Believers.
- 2. A Council of Churches.
A Church of Believers, is a company of visible Sainte combined together, with one heart, to hold Communion in all the instituted Gospel-worship, Ordinances and Disci∣pline, which Christ hath sitted for, and given unto a parti∣cular Church. Such a Company are frequently called A Church. See a few places: Acts 2. 47, & 11. 26. & 14. 23, 27. 1 Cor. 11. 18, 20, 22, &c.
A Council, is a Society of particular Churches in Com∣munion, by their Representatives, for their well-being, and well-ordering all things among them, by mutual, Coun∣sel, in Truth, Peace, and Holiness. Our Pattern is, that Great Council, Acts 15. which consisted of two Churches, in an ordinary way expresly agreed, to give and take counsel: and it is le•… as a Standard and Pattern, •…ow the great Or∣dinance Page 2 of Counsel is to be used and managed for the well∣being of Churches, to the worlds end.
II. The Constitution of both these Buildings or Socie∣ties, are eminent and observable in the Gospel.
The first of these, viz. A Church of Believers, is first instituted by Christ himself, and afterward put in practice by the Apostles; Matth. 16. 18. Thou art Peter, and upon this Rock I will build my Church The Rock confessed is CHRIST: Christ Confessëd, is the Foundation of the Visible Church ∴Peter confessing, is an hewn stone, squared to the foundation*; a Believer made Ecclesiastically visible, sitted for Church-building and fellowship.
A company of such Confessors, or a company of these confessing Believers,
1. Have power to joyn together into a Gospel Church∣state, as they did Acts 1. 13, 14. Continued with one accord: so Acts 2. 46.
2. They have power to call Officers, by whom they be∣come an Organick Body, and sitted to administer and enjoy all instituted Worship: Acts 1. 15, 23. Peter stood up in the midst of the Disciples; And they appointed two. Acts 6. 3. Brethren, look you out men. Acts 14. 23. By bolding up bands made Elders.
3. By the Ministry of these Officers, the Church doth actually enjoy such Ordinances as are instituted by Christ, for their Edisication;
- Directive, in Word, Sacraments, Prayer, Singing of Psalms, and Collections: Acts 2. 42. They con∣tinu•…ct stedfastly in the Apostles doctrine, and sel∣lowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. Col. 3. 16. Teaching one another in Psalms and Hymns▪ &c.; •…1 Cor. 16. 1, 2. Every first day lay by it self, &c. for 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 is the Neuter Gender, as well as Masculine, and is so to be read, be∣cause they had two distinct Collections •…t that time▪ The Collection for Ierusalem was by it self, a publick, not a private Collection.
- Corrective: 1 Cor. •…5. 425. When gathered together, deliver to Sa•….
III▪ The administration of, and participation in all these Ordi•…ances, (while we are in this flesh, and state militant) are in full of variety of difficulties and temptations, espe∣cially where Churches are numerous, that the work cannot long be carried on (a while it sometimes may, viz. while Page 3 the Churches are under the eye of an adversary, and when there be Elders eminent in Piety, Humility and Ability) without stated help.
The help which the Lord hath instituted, is Counsel.
When Antiech had trouble in some points of Doctrine, the Remedy which the holy Ghost applied, was Counsel▪ given them by a formall Council, Acts 15.
When Corinth wanted help in a point of Discipline, the Apostle doth help, by ministring Counsel unto them, 1 Cor. 5. 3, 4, 5. and he counselleth the Church to Excommunicate the man, the sinner.
Excommunication is a sharp Rod, made up of seven most severe and terrible Twigs; or a strong Purgation, com∣pounded of seven violent Ingredients; viz.
- 1. He is cut off from visible Communion with Christ in the Church.
- 2. He is cut off from familiar Communion with the Saints in Worship.
- 3. He is cast out of the usual walk of the Spirit.
- 4. He is cast out of the House of God, as unsavoury Salt, or a loathsome thing that doth offend.
- 5. He is thrust out of the Paradise of God, from eating the Tree of Life, viz. Christ in the Sacrament of the Supper, where the Spirit sitteth as in his Sealing-office.
- 6. He is cut off from familiar Civil Communion with the Saints; he may not be invited to eat with them.
- 7. He is delivered to Satan, and that by the Sentence of Christ, through the hand of his Spouse the Church and all this to be inflicted upon a Brother.
Ah! who trembles not to minister such a Pill, to lay on such a Rod? And therefore it had need to be managed and administred with all care, fear, and clearness. And all this sheweth, and much more might be produced to shew, what need there is of Counsel; which, after thirty or forty years experience in the way of Congregational Churches, in fulness of liberty, we finde more and more need to insist upon, and that in such a fixed and ordered way, as that thereby men may be tyed to attend unto Counsel.
IV. A Council is constituted Acts. 15. where the wisdome of the holy Ghost hath given us a Pattern of the least, and of the greatest Councils, as our N. E. Divines have well ob∣served. There cannot be a less Council then that was, for there were but two Churches mentioned; and there cannot be a greater, and more compleat one, because there were Page 4 the greatest Counsellors, a most compleat Pattern, even the Apostles of Jesus Christ; teaching, That if there be but two Churches, they may enjoy the Ordinance of mutuall Counsel, though more incompleatly. But if there he many Churches, then they are to be ordered according to the Pat∣tern of Comblning Churches into compleat Councils. Of which in the next Chapter.
V. Christ, who hath all power, Mat. 28. 20. hath derived all Ecclesiastical Power first unto the Apostles, that they by Institution mi•…ht distribute the same unto several Offices in the Church. Hence▪
As all Church-Officers, especially Elders, and more espe∣cially Teaching Elders, are ordinary Successors of the Apo∣stles, in their several branches of Church power: So Coun∣cils of Churches are their eminent ordinary Successors, in point of Counsel, and that in several respects.
First, Because in Councils there is most light, and nearest to infallibility: and the more compleat, the better; though the most compleat Council may erre, because they have not a promise of infallible assistance.
Secondly, Because when the Apostles themselves had con∣stituted Churches, they did guide and counsel them how to use their power; as Paul did the Church of Corinth, 1 Cor.•…, 4. the Apostle did not act the Censure himself: and so is that of Paul to be interpreted, 1 Tim. 1. 20. I have deli∣vered to Satan; viz. as I did the incestuous Corinthian, by giving such counsel to the Church, whereof they were Members. In thus doing, Councils succeed the Apostles.
VI. Inasmuch as Councils are Publick Assemblies, and that not onely Ecclesiastically publick, but Civilly also, when they are held with openness and boldness. Hence, Civill Authority hath influence, by Law and Command, to give al∣lowance unto such Assemblies; and so they have an Ex∣trinsecall Efficiency in calling Councils: but the Intrinsecall and proper Efficients of a Council, are the Churches, who elect and send Messengers to that end.
VII. The Members constituent of a Council, are Church-Messengers.
The persons sent ought to be Elders, of both Orders, Teaching and Ruling▪ to represent the whole Church; or in defect of Ruling Elders to represent the people, Faithful Brethren▪ eminent in holiness and wisdome, who are as El∣ders: Acts 15. 2. Certain other of them Ver. 22. Chosen men, chief men among, the Brethren. Ver. 32. Being Prophets alsoPage 5themselves. And the reason hereof is, Because, as the tem∣ptation of Learned men, is to affect a Prolacy over the peo∣ple: So the temptation of the Fraternity, is to affect a Morellian Democracy. And therefore the wisdome of God hath by institution ballanced all Ecclesiastical Coun∣cils with Members of both sorts, that may ballance each other, by Number at least, though not in Weight, yet enough to prevent any prevalency of a temptation, either to sub∣jugate the Churches under any Prelatical Usurpation of the Learned; or to elevate and intoxicate the Fraternity, to affect any inordinate power: which rather, and more effe∣ctually te•…ds to enervate and evacuate Government, then to preserve any Lawful and just Liberty of the Brotherhood.
The end of the Churches sending these Messengers, is to manage the Ordinance of Counsel in due order.
VIII. The Organick parts of a Council, whereby they are enabled to manage their affairs in Prudence and Order, are Moderators,•…nd Notaries: the choice of whom is the first act they do, to compleat themselves to be fit for action.
It may sometimes edifie, to change Moderators every new Session, part•…ly to train up each other unto that special work of Christ, in the management of the Affairs, and in caring for the publick welfare of all the Churches; and also to take trial of mens Gifts, Spirit and Abilities unto that high service; that so, when there may be special need, they may know who is most fit to manage the Council at such •… time, for the glory of God, and for the most effectual Edi∣fication, and publick well being of the Churches.
Though Moderators may be often changed, it is not fit: that the Notaries should be so often changed.
IX. The Power of Ecclesiastical Councils is onely Dogma∣tical, or Doctrinal: Power of Censure is by the Lord fixed in the Church; and hence, when any appeal unto a Council, it is for further and more clear light from the Scripture, and for conviction thereby, but not for the Exercise of any Juridical Power.
CHAP. II. Of the Gospel-Measuring-Reed by the Number Twelve.
I. SEeing particular Congregations in Gospel-Order, are Churches; and these Churches, for their well-being, need to hold and exercise Communion by Councils: and one Church (as Antioch) may need the greatest and highest Counsel.
Hence in such places where, through the riches of the Grace of Christ, Churches are numerous, it will be neces∣sary, that the management of these Councils should be in Order, according to the Pattern of Compleat Councils, Acts 15. For multitude unordered, by •…ow much the greater they are, the greater is their cumber, and unapt∣ness to operate in Order unto their end. Lesser Bodies are more readily ordered, and have a greater aptitude to be active in their Order unto their end. Ordo anima rerum.
II. Order is one of the Beauties of Heaven, and so it is of the Churches. Let all things be done in Order, 1 Cor▪ 14. 40. Ierusalem is a City compacted, Psal. 122. 3. and the more orderly Bodies are, the better are they compacted. Bodies that are compacted, are so ordered by Number and Measure: The New Ierusalem is the most glorious City that ever shall be on Earth; and we see that it shall be compacted by Number and Measure, Rev. 21. 12, to 18. and the Founda∣tion Number is Twelve, as appeareth ver. 14. The wall of the City had twelve Foundations. And this Number Twelve is multiplied by Twelve, as appeareth ver. 16, 17. it is square, Twelve every way, which amounteth to One hundred forty and four.
III. The Twelve Tribes in the Old Testament, and the Twelve Apostles in the New, do make that Number famous in the Churches, and fundamental in ordering and com∣pacting of Churches into Ecclesiasticall Combinations of Councils.
The Twelve Tribes compacted in order, was the most beautiful, and heart-ravishing Camp, that ever the worlds Eye did look upon, Numb. 24. 2, 5, 6. The Twelve Loaves of Shew-bread, did represent the whole Visible Church Page 7 before God in the Temple. The Twelve Precious Sta•…s in the Breast-plate of the High Priest, shew, That i•… such a Number Christ is pleased to order and represent the whole Militant Church before his Father in Heaven. And ac∣cording to this Type, Rev. 7. 4. the whole Visible Church is ordered, multiplied, and •…ealed in this Number. And Rev. 21. 12, 14. the Twelve Tribes are the Twelve Gates, and the Twelve Apostles are the Twelve Foundations of the New Ierusalem.•…hat glorious visible Gospel-Church, Ezek•…8. which is called Iehovah-Shamniah, is ordered by the Num∣ber Twelve, according to the Twelve Tribes of Israel, as the Typicall and of Canaan was.
IV. In the perfect Pattern (f•…r the Word is a perfect Rule) which the holy Ghost▪ hath left us, Acts 15. as there is a ground▪ work for the least of Councils, in the Two Churches; so of compleat Councils, in the Twelve Apo∣stles.
For, though Herod had killed Iames with the sword, Acts•…. •…. his Martyrdome did not remove him out of the Foundation, but rather six him in it: And the Apostles were most of them killed for the Testimony of Iesus, before Iohn had his Revelation, and yet we finde them all written in the Foundation of the New Ierusalem.
And therefore what should hinder, but that in the or∣dering of Compleat Councils, we should lay our foundation in the Number Twelve? and all the Orders of Councils should be raised and compacted by that Number, even from the bottom to the top.
V. And unto this Order and Number we may the •…ather be induced, because here will be the Twenty four Elder•…, who do wait upon, and worship the holy Majesty of God in all the Churches upon earth, as he hath pleased to reveal himself, Rev. 4. where the presence of God among the Churches is reve•…led: First, with his glorious Angels next him, represented by the four living Creatures, according to Ezek. 1. & 10. And secondly, with the Communion of Churches about him, represented by the Twenty four El∣ders, who do represent all the Churches on earth, in Com∣munion: as will anon appear.
VI. For when Twelve Churches are combined to hold Communion together, the least Number that one Church must (by Institution) send forth to that first Council, must be one Teaching Elder, and one Ruling Elder; and then, this Society of Churches is represented by twenty four Elders strictly.
Page 8And when Twelve of these first Councils shall, with con∣sent of the particular Churches, elect and send forth▪ one Teaching, and one Ruling Elder, the ablest and fittest among them, to constitute a Provincial Council; that Council will be strictly the Twenty four Elders, representing all the Churches in that Province, concurring in the Election.
And when Twelve Provincial Councils shall, with like con∣sent, send forth from each of them one Teaching, and one Ruling Elder, the most holy and able among them, to con∣stitute a National Council, they will still be strictly the Twenty four Elders, representing the whole Nation, in their Ecclesiastical state, before the Lord.
And when Twelve National Councils shall send forth, in like manner, from each of them, one Teaching, and one Ruling Elder, the most holy and fit among them, to consti∣tute a•…Oecumenic•…l Council (or by what other less term it may be thought meet to call it) they will still be strictly the Twenty four Elders, representing before the Lord all the Churches in all those Nations, concurring in the Election.
And why may not this ascent, and representation of all before the Lord, be part of the meaning of that Text, Rev. 5. 8, 9, 11, 12, 14?
VII. And this point is the more to be •…eeded, because Gods visible respect unto, and acceptation of any people, is according to the good aspect and condition of their Repre∣sentatives▪ There may be much▪ drose in a Parish, a Pro∣vince, a Nation, and in the world; yet if they have good Re∣presentatives before the Lord, and if they carry the Lords matters well, in his sight, that doth obtain, through Christ, a favourable acceptation of, and dispensation towards all that are so represented. And he hath instituted Represen∣tatives of the Church on earth: Aaron represented all Is∣rael on his breast before the Lord, Exod. 28. 29. And a Coun∣cil consisting of Messengers of Churches, the glory of Christ, do represent the Churches who send and constitute that Council, Acts 15. Oh! how happy were it for any people, to be in such visible instituted Order on earth, as that they may be (through Christ) acceptably represented before the Lord!
For God is so well pleased to see his people in Order, as that he will dwell in that place, and call it by his own Name. Iehovah-Shamniah; especially when they are Civilly, as well as Ecclesiastically in good order represented before Him.
Page 9VIII. Furthermore, this is to be considered, that though the Twenty four Elders are so called, by the least Number that they can be, by this Constitution; yet, according as the riches of Gods grace is more abundantly poured out, they may be more in Number, though under this constituting denomination. For, one Church may send forth •…∣ing Elders, as Antioch sent forth Paul and Barnabas, and Ruling Elders, or Brethren proportionably. So likewise upon the same ground, when there be more Eminent Lights in any of the Councils (as through grace it is like often to be) they may send more then one to the Provincial, or Na∣tional, or Oecumenical Councils▪ but still they are the Twenty four Elders, because that is the Foundation Num∣ber.
IX. What if I should illustrate this Point by that of the Apostles? who are often in Scripture called the Twelve Apostles, and yet there were more Apostles then Twelve: for who doubteth but that Paul, who was none of the Twelve yet he was an Apostle, and a chief Apostle, a great Foundation; and Barnabas was an Apostle also, Acts 14▪ 14. and 1 Cor.•…. 9. But Twelve is the Foundation Number, and therefore they are so denominated.
X. Again, though Twelve Churches be the lowest Num∣ber of the first Combination, yet they may be more then Twelve, when the pourings out of Gods grace shall be in∣larged; yea, they may be any Number under Twenty four Churches.
If then Twenty three Churches should be in a Combina∣tion, their Messengers sent to the first Council will be a great Number; but still they are the Twenty four Elders before the Lord, by their fundamental Constitution.
So a like Number of Provincial Councils, and a like Num∣ber of National Councils, though their Messengers are many, yet they are still the Twenty four Elders, growing up, through grace, and increasing unto more Orders of Councils, for the greater glory of Christ.
And when (through grace) there shall be Twenty four Churches, or first Councils, or Provincial, or National Coun∣cils▪ then they must be compacted into two Orders of those Councils, because Twelve is the Foundation Number, by which they are multiplied, and compacted. And when this is done, they are reduced to be Twenty four Elders strictly; the Foundation Number.
As in the Order of that Civill Government set up by Mo∣ses;Page 10 the Orders of Ten, and of fifty, &c. are denominated b•… the least and constituting Number: though those Orders may consist (when they are full of people and blessing) of many more, even any number under Twenty and an hun∣dred, &c. But when Ten are become Twenty, and when Fifty are become an hundred, then they must be multiplied into more Orders, because these Numbers are Foundation Numbers, by which the Orders of the Government are mul∣tiplied and compacted; and when that is transacted, they are reduced unto their Foundation Numbers.
So it is here in the Ecclesiastical Orders of Government, the least Number of a compleat stated first Council, is Twelve Churches, whose least Number of Messengers are Twenty four; and by these Numbers they are denominated, though they may be more Churches in a Combination, and more Messengers from some of the Churches: and so it is in all the other Orders of Councils.
For a little further illustration of this point, I shall propose and answer Six Questions, which may let in a little further light into this Frame, and remove some Obje∣ctions.
Quest. 1. May a Church perform any Ecclesiastical Acts by Messengers, or Representatives in their Name?
Answ. Yea. doubtless they may; they may Consult, and Agree to give Counsel, in such cases as may be presented for that end, touching either Faith or Order, as it appeareth Acts 15.
Quest 2. May a Church elect by Messengers or Representa∣tives, when themselves cannot be present where such Election is performed?
Answ. A•… act of Election may be transacted by some of a Society; yea by a few in behalf of the rest, when they have their consent, and a calling so to act. For instance,
If a lesser Number of a Church be necessarily absent from an act of Election performed in a lawful Assembly, they are all involved in the act of the major part: This is without Controversie fo•… Here some onely Elect, and all are en∣gaged.
Again, if the major part be necessarily absent, and fond a lesser part, or a •…ew, with their express consent to do an act o•… Election, it hath the like force and validity. The royal Ar•… which chose David to be their King, •…Chron. 12. were farre the lesser part of the People, but they were 〈◊〉, and elected for them, and did perform it as affectually Page 11 as if the whole People had been present; and David was King, not onely over the Representatives, who did actually chuse him, but over all the People, who did Elect him by their Representatives.
If the parties s•…nt to transact an Election, do act accord∣ing to their heart who sent them, they will not object, for had they been there present, they would have done the same: but if the parties sent to Elect, do not Elect accord∣ing to their heart, they may justly question their act, and consider of their Apologie; but that doth not nullifie the act in point of Order.
When Political Bodies, whether Civil or Ecclesiastical, are multitudinous, and remote from the place of action, either all cannot act, or if they do, it must be by Represen∣tatives.
Quest. 3. May a Church Elect Elders or Messengers out of another Church, unto a publick and common service of Christ and of the Churches?
Answ. Yea, they may: For the great Collection of the Gentile Churches, which Paul carried up to Ierusalem at his last going thither, was an act of many Churches: And Paul, with those that went with him to present it, were chosen by the Churches unto that service, 2 Cor. 8. 19. And there were many more Churches Contributors, then there were Messengers sent to carry it. Acts 20. 4. there were but seven or eight in Pauls company, but all the Churches of Galatia, Corinth, Asia, and Macedonia, were Contributors. There∣fore many Churches chose Messengers who were none of their own particular Churches, unto that publick and common ser∣vice of Christ, and of the Churches.
Again, the ready subjection of all the Churches about Antioch, and other places, Acts 16. 4. unto the Decrees of the Council at Ierusalem, doth probably speak, That, as the trouble by those Questions, was a common case in all the Churches; so they had some fore-knowledge, concurrence, and consent (after consent sure enough they h•…d) in the Mis∣sion of Paul and Barnabas (Teaching Elders of Antioch, Acts 13. 2.) unto Ierusalem, to the Apostles and Elders about that matter.
Again, seeing the Rule of Communion of Churches doth impose upon Elders a degree of care of all the Churches, espe∣cially of those within their Ordered Communion; it doth al∣so give unto all the Churches, a mutual interest in each others Elders,
Page 12Hence, when they chuse any of the Elders within the compass of their Order, they chuse those, who, in some re∣spect, are their own, in whom they have an Ecclesiastical in∣terest, especially unto this publick service of Counsel.
Quest. 4. May many Churches Elect a •…ew of their Elders unto some publick and common service▪ wherein all the Chur∣ches so Electing are interessed?
Answ. Yea, they may: For all the Churches of Asia, Ga∣latia, Macedonia, &c. did Elect a few to accompany Paul in carrying their Contributions unto Ierusalem: and it is expresly said, that from the Churches of Asia there were but two sent▪ Acts 20. 4. and we know there were at least seven Churches in Asia, Rev. 1 •…4.
Quest. 5. When two, or a few Elders are chosen by many Churches unto some publick and common service of the Chur∣ches, do they represent all the Churches who did Elect them unto that service?
Answ. Yea, they do so: For when many Churches (by Paul's ordering) sent a few Messengers to Corinth, 2 Cor. 8. 23. to fetch their Contribution, to be carried (among the Contribution of many other Churches) unto Ierusalem, by the hands of Paul, and a few others, chosen by the Churches unto that service, •…Cor. 8. 19. these few Messengers did re∣present all the Churches who sent them: So as that what the Church of Corinth should transact afore them, is expresly said to be afore all the Churches, viz. who sent them, 2 Cor. 8. 24.
Quest. 6. These Orders of Councils, First, Second, Third, representing fewer or more Churches, Are they a Divine In∣stitution?
Answ. Touching the first Councils, consisting of imme∣diate Messengers of Churches sent for that end, it is out of question that these are a Divine Institution, Acts 15.
The great difficulty is▪ touching the second and third Orders of Councils, and so higher, unto the highest Oecume∣nical Council, whose Members are chosen immediately by Councils, yet with the express consent of every particular Church: not immediately by the Churches, but by their Re∣presentatives.
Touching these, in way of humble Proposal I affirm,
That they are a Divine Institution.
1. Because their Foundation, Formation, and Constitution, is deducible from the Word of God, as appeareth by laying together the foregoing Questions, and Answers thereunto, with what hath been said before.
Page 132. Because this multiplying of Order upon Order, seemeth to be typified in the Ascents and Degrees in Ezekiels Tem∣ple; and by the multiplication of the Number Twelve in the New Ierusalem, Rev. 21, &c.
3. Because if there be not this multiplying of Council above Council (above, I say, not in any •…•…cal Power, but in Order and Extent) then it doth not yet appear that there is any way or expedient, whereby there should be a General and Equal Communion of all the Churches in a Nation, wherein every Church shall be, by their own act and con∣sent, interessed and concerned.
Much less can there be a•…Equal Communion of Churches, of several Nations.
For, if several Nations should need and desire to hold Communion of Councils, who shall chuse the Persons or In∣struments, by whom this Communion shall be held and acted?
If Princes chuse them, it is not a regular Ecclesiastical Council. If Churches chuse▪ and send them▪ shall some Churches onely chuse them, or all the Churches? •…f some onely; who? and why they, and not others▪ and how can their act interest and oblige all?
If all the Churches must chuse, then Immediately, or •…Delegates: Immediately, it is unfeizible, especially to act in knowledge and prudence; but mediately by their Confi∣dents and Representatives they may.
The same may be said of the Communion of all the Chur∣ches in a Nation or Province, where Elections must •…e per∣formed by Representatives. In which way, a General and Equal Election is attainable; and without it, it doth not yet appear that it is attainable.
Now that several Nations ought to hold Communion, and also all the Churches in a Nation, it doth appear in these Scriptures: Isa. 19. 23, 24, 25. Zeph. 3. 9. 1 Cor. 11. 1•…. & 14. 32, 36. Of which see more in Synod at Boston.
This being commanded by God, and as yet no Way or Expedient appearing, whereby it may be duely acted, we are at a great loss. Therefore the Lord opening this way, which is so attainable▪ and not without Scripture Light, What i•… the Churches should set upon the Tryall of it, and see how the Lord may appear unto his Servants therein? As for the Episcopal Way of Government, Alas! that is most remote from this Ordinance of Communion of Chur∣ches.
CHAP. III. Of the Constitution of Four Orders of Councils.
I. WHen Twelve Churches, or any other Number un∣der Twenty •…our▪ shall agree to hold Communion in a Council for Mutual Help, and shall send forth Messen∣gers at least two from every Church, and they of both Or∣ders of Elders, or in defect of Ruling Elders, Brethren emi∣nent in Piety and Wisdome, who are as Elders, to manage the Ordinance of Counsel in the behalf, and for the benefit of all the Churches herein combined.
These do constitute the first Order of a compleat Coun∣cil; the first Ascent of the glorious Temple; the first Row in compacting the New Ierusalem. These are the Twenty four Elders before the Lord, representing all the Congregations which sent them. It is both needful and at∣tainable, that these Councils should meet once every Moneth.
II. When Twelve of the first Order of Councils, or any other Number under Twenty four, shall, with the express consent of all their particular Churches, agree to hold Com∣munion in a Council for Mutual Help, and for the benefit of all the Churches combined; and to that end, shall send forth from among themselves, at least one principal and eminent Teaching Elder, and one Ruling Elder, to manage the Ordinance of Counsel, in a Provincial Synod, in the be∣half, and for the benefit of all the Churches herein com∣bined: These do constitute the second Order of Councils. These are a Provincial Council; these do represent very many Churches, and all the people in them, with their ex∣press consent, and yet they are but Twenty four Elders, so denominated by their least and constituting Number, though the Numbers represented be very great▪ according to Rev. 5. 8, 9, &c. These all are Church-Messengers, sent forth to manage the Ordinance of Counsel, though immediately sent forth by the first Councils, with the express consent of all the Churches combined. These are the second Row of Churches compacted by the Number Twelve; the secondPage 15Row of 〈◊〉 in the Temple, of equal dimensions to the▪ first, and built upon the first, standing upon the same bot∣tom and foundation, the Twelve Apostles. It is both need∣full and attainable▪ that these should meet quarterly▪
III. When Twelve Provincial Councils, or any other num∣ber under Twenty four, shall, with the explicite consent of the first Councils, and with the explicite consent of the Churches, who are in this Combination▪ agree to hold Com∣munion in a Council for Mutual Help; and to that end, shall send forth from among themselves at least one principal Teaching Elder, and one Ruling Elder, both eminent in ho∣liness, wisdome, and all fitting abilities, to manage the Or∣dinance of Counsel in a National Synod, in the behalf, and for the benefit of all the Provinces, first Councils, and par∣ticular Churches herein combined: These do constitute a Third Order of Councils. These are a National Council; these do represent a whole Nation of Churches, and all the people of the Land; and yet they are but Twenty four El∣ders, as Rev. 5▪ 1•…, 13, 14. though all Creatures concurre, and are combined in the work; all are represented before the Lord in Twenty four Elders. These are all of them Church-Messengers, sent forth to manage the Ordinance of Counsel; but they are immediately sent forth by the Provi•…iall Councils.
IV. As the first Councils consist of the most choyce persons in all the Churches; so the Provincial Councils do consist of the most choyce Instruments in the respective Provinces; and the National Council doth consist of the most choyce persons in all the Nation: who pass through so many Ec∣clesiastical Elections, before they arrive unto this high and •…oly Service. They pass under an opportunity of being called out from among all the Choyce Iewels of the Nation, who are in •…n Ecclesiastical Order and Capacity. It will be both needful and attainable, that these should meet once in a Year.
V. When Twelve National Councils, or any Number un∣der Twenty four, shall agree, with the explicite consent of all the Churches, passing and arising through all the Orders of Councils, to hold Communion in Councils for Mutual Help; and to that end shall send Forth, at least one Teach∣ing, and one Ruling Elder, men eminent in Holiness and Abilities for so high a service, to constitute an Oecumenical Council▪ and there to manage the Ordinance of Counsel▪ in the behalf, and for the benefit of all the Churches and Coun∣cilsPage 16 herein combined: These do constitute a Fourth Order of Councils. They are an Oecumenical Council, and repre∣sent all the Churches in those Nations before the Lord
VI. Twenty three Nations met in one Council, will be a great glory to Christ, and by what hath yet been in the world▪ may be called Oecumenical. Yet when the Kingdomes of this world, shall become the Kingdomes of our Lord, and of his Christ, I know not but there will be Councils above this. Nay; why may there▪ not be Twelve Ascents in combining all the World? Rev. 21. 16, 17. But I leave it to the Lord. At present this is the top, and uppermost Order of Councils▪ and somewhat higher then we can yet well descry: but Faith in the Promise can see all the world in the Gospel Order of Iesus Christ. And now the Lord Jesus is triumphing in his Militant Glory upon earth, with his Twenty four Elders about him, in Ecclesiastical visible Order. And now the whole Militant Body, fitly joyned together, and compacted by that which every joynt supplieth, according to the effectual working of the measure of every part from Christ, maketh in∣crease of the body, unto the edifying of it self in love, Ephes. 4. 16.
VII. Furthermore consider, that though I have proposed but Three Orders of Councils within the Nation; yet in po∣pulous Nations there may be a 〈◊〉 of Provinces, into chief Provinces and sub-Provinces. If a Nation be divided into (at least) Twelve Ecclesiastical Provinces, and every one of these divided into (at least) Twelve Sub-provinces, and every one of these into (at least) Twelve Precincts of first Councils; then they will have Four Orders of Councils within the Nation.
And three such Ascents will combine all the world into the holy Breastplate of our great High-Priest the Lord Je∣sus, in an Oecumenical Council; or three Ascents in one Na∣tion, and four such Ascents in the Combination of all the World, doth in li•…e manner make up the holy Breastplate of Christ: Which Council may meet in Ierusalem, if the Lord will; and if that be so literal a meaning of sundry Texts that way looking. And when that Council shall agree of Universal dayes of Fasting or Feasting before the Lord, upon iust occasion; Oh! what glorious dayes will those be, when all the World shall appear together before the Lord in such acts of Worship!
VIII. And as an eminent Preparatory to these glorious dayes (when Christ shall be King over all the earth, when Page 17there shall be one Lord, and his Name one, Zech. 14. 9. And when the Lord shal accomplish that Prophesie E•…e. 34. 23, 24. And I will set up one Shepherd over them, and he shall feed them even my servant David, he shall feed them, and he shall be their Shepherd; and I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David a Prince among them: 〈◊〉 Lord have 〈◊〉 it. When Christ shall rule all the World, both in Civil and Ecclesiastical affairs, by the Word of his mouth▪〈◊◊〉 by the hand of Saints, even holy and religious Kings, Prin∣ces, and chief Rulers) Oh that the Lord would p•… it into the heart of some of his Religious and Learned Servants, to take such pains about the holy Hebrew Language, as to fit it for this Universal glorious use! Considering, that above all Languages spoken by the lip of man (by reaso•…•…f i•…Trigra•…macall Foundation, and other regular Cons•…era∣tions, for the multiplications of all sorts of words) it is most capable to be enlarged, and fitted to express all things and action•…, all motions and notions that our Human•… Intel∣lect is capable of (to speak no higher of i•…). in this •…ortall life. Considering also, that it is the Invention of God him∣self, and it is the purest Language on earth, not as yet defiled with the scurrilo•… froth and some of carnal Wits in wri∣tings. Considering also, what is promised to be in th•…se dayes, that way looking, Zeph.•…. •…. I will turn to the people a pure Language: And when Egypt is converted, it is ex∣pressed by this, that they shall speak the Language of Cana•…▪ Isa. 19. 18▪ When all the World do obeisance to Christ disjunction, then all Languages shall see my glory. Isa. 66. 18. but when they do it conjunctim, in what Language better then in it, in which God first spake unto man? How shall all flesh see the glory of the Lord together, Isa. •…0. 5. unless there be an Universal Language? And what one fitter then that, which it pleased our Lord Jesus to make use of, when he spake from heaven unto Paul•…o his first Conver•…ion, Acts•…6. 13▪ •…. I saw a light from heaven; and heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew Tongue, Saul, Saul, &c.
CHAP. IV. The Order of Electing all th•…se Councils; with Consideration of the Time of their dura∣tion, and of the Times and Place of Meeting.
I. THe Election of the First Council is severally per∣formed in euery particular Church combined in 〈◊〉 Society; wherein there seldome is any variety of choice, and therefore no difficulty in the action: So that it may be performed either by Lifting up of Hands, or by a Silent Vote, when their Silence is the sign of their Concur∣rence.
I•… there be two Teaching Elders, the Church may send them •…oth, if they see good, as Antioch sent Paul and 〈◊〉, who were two Teaching Elders of that Church, Acts▪ 13. •…. And according to the number of Teaching El∣ders, whom they send, the like number of Ruling Elders, or 〈◊〉 Brethren▪ they are to send, and astociate with them.
II. This act of the Churches Election must be diligently, religiou•…y and sol•…nly attended and performed, a•… being 〈◊〉 and esse•…tially requisite, both for the Consti∣tution of all Councils, and for the Obligation of all Chur∣ches unto obedience▪
This act of the Church hath reference▪ not onely to the Constitution of the first Council, but also of all the rest. For 〈◊〉▪ Churches are the Efficient Causes of Council•…▪ none are to be chosen 〈◊〉 a Prouincial, National, or Oecume∣nical Synod, but such as were first chosen by some particular 〈◊〉 to 〈◊◊〉 a first〈◊〉▪ and •…o 〈◊〉 on the 〈◊〉 of 〈◊〉〈◊〉 to order.
Hence 〈◊〉 it must be carefully and expressedly put into th•…〈◊◊〉▪ 〈◊◊〉 of the Churches Election. That 〈◊〉 are chosen 〈◊◊〉 on the Ordinance of 〈◊〉 in all the Orders of it, both in Provincial, National, and Oecu•…e▪ 〈◊◊〉 even unto th•… highest point: for though all Page 19 that are th•…s elected and sent by the Churches; are not to be elected and sent to Provincial, National, and Oecumenical Councils, yet some of them are to be sent, and all of them are to elect and send. And therefore when the Church doth elect and send them to this first Council, they are, by this act of the Church, impowered to carry on the Ordi∣nance of Counsel, through all the Orders thereof, ev•…n to the top branch, either by electing others, or being •…ected themselves, unto those services of Christ, and of the •…∣ches.
III. The Time of this Election, is to be upon the Sab∣bath immediately preceding the stated time of the first Coun∣cils▪ Monethly Meeting: and then are they to be sent forth with the Prayers and Blessing of the Church.
IV. The Provincial Council doth consist of the choycest Instruments in all the first Councils, by whom they are cho∣sen and sent with their Prayers and Blessing: Every first Council electing the most holy, learned, and able Elders, both Teaching and Ruling, tha•… they have, who are most fit to promote and attain the end•… they are sent for, viz. so carry on the Ordinance of Counsel in a Provincial Synod, both by themselves, and by chusing such as may further promote the same in a National Council, &c.
V. The Time of this Election, is to be in that Session of the first Councils, which doth immediately precede the stated Quarterly time of the Provincial Councils Meet∣ing.
VI. The Order and Manner of this Election may be this: The Moderator of that Session may first put this to vote, whe∣ther they will send bu•… one▪ or more then one Teaching Elders▪ for by the good Providence and rich Grace of Christ▪ there may be s•…ndry able and eminent Lights in one first Council, and such, as that it were a publick injury and detriment to the Cause of Christ, if they be not sent. This provided, That according to the Number of Teaching Elders, a like Num∣ber of Ruling Elders be also sent with them.
The Manner of Election may be by Papers, if they see meet; which the Moderator and Notary are to take, and number, and manifest who are chosen: and such as are chosen, are by the Notary to be recorded.
VII. The National Council doth consist of the most choice, •…oly, able, and eminent Lights in all the Provincial Councils, by whom they are chosen, and sent forth with their prayers and blessing.
Page 20Every Provincial Council chusing the most holy and able Elders, both Teaching and Ruling, that they have among them, to constitute a National Council, and to carry on the Ordinance of Counsel, in that high and holy service of Christ, and of all the Churches in the Nation; ye•… and among other Nations if need be, and when there is a calling thereunto.
VIII. The Time of this Election, is to be in that Session of the Provincial Councils, which doth immediately pre∣cede the stated time of the Annual Session of the National Council.
The Order and Manner of their Election, may be in all respects according to the forementioned Election in the Provincial Synod.
IX. An Oecumenical Council, is to consist of the most holy and eminent Lights in all the National Councils, combined in this holy Ordinance of Mutual Counsel; and may readily be ordered by this standard, when the Lord shall in the riches of his grace, give opportunity to exercise the same.
Touching the Duration of these Councils.
X. Every one of these Councils doth continue in being, until, according to Order, a new Election be made; the new Election doth antiquate the old.
Hence, as the Primitive Church had Apostles alwayes in being, for their help; So there be at least three Orders of Ecclesiastical Councils, ever in being in every populous Christian Nation, who must at the stated Times, and may at any •…it time meet, when the affairs of Christ, and of any of the Churches do need, and duely call for the same.
And when Christian Nations shall be thus combined, there will be an Oecumenical Council ever in being: yea, and when all the World shall be combined, there will be a great Oecumenical Council ever in being▪ to order all ecclesiastical affaires, in unity, holiness and peace, all the World over.
XI. A principal objection ariseth against this fixing and stating of Councils; viz. That although pro-renascent Coun∣cils are a divine▪ remedy, when troubles arise, as it was at Antioch, who also then finished the Council, when the present work was finished: but of fixed, stated, and permanent Coun∣cils we have no example, nor doth there appear any ground i•… Scripture to bottom them upon.
Ans. The Primitive Churches had a stated and perm•…nent way of counsel eminently, and more then our stated and per∣manent Councils can be, for they had the Apostles and Evan∣gelists constantly among them.
Page 21And though they had fixed Elders in every Church, yet they did need the visitations, and frequently made use of the counsel of the Apostles and Evangelists, who were the permanent Councils of the Primitive Churches.
And though it hath pleased the wisdome of our great Lawgiver, to give us but one Example of an ordinary Coun∣cil, and that he hath done, to be our perpetual guide in our ordinary way; yet there be many examples of the Churches need of, and frequent use of the Apostles and Evangelists counsel, whom they had alwayes with them, or knew when and where to repair unto them for their help.
And we finde by much and long experience, that our Re∣forming Churches do stand in as much (if not more) need of constant and stated Councils, as the primitive Churches did▪ of the constant presence of the Apostles and Evangelists, alwayes for their directive, and often for their corrective •…elp.
We finde by experience, that our Churches do oftener need the directive help of Councils, then the corrective, and in both respects together we need them to be always in being.
Many good works for the promotion of the Gospel and Kingdom of Jesus Christ do stick long in the birth, and languish: yea, oft miscarry and vanish for want of the help of Councils.
Sundry Churches also, and remote places, ly long in the dark, without food and help, for want of the orderly care of setled Councils; Every bodies work is no-bodies. But when all Churches are in order, all know where their work lyeth.
Disorders likewise, and insuperable distempers, by long •…retting and burning in the bosom of sundry Churches, to the great dishonour of God, and scandal to the Saints, for want of stated Councils: some or other refusing (in the time of their temptations) to submit themselves unto the remedy, especially having that advantage, that without their consent, a pro-renascent Council may not be called; or if called by some onely, they have the less opportunity of doing good, and are in the more danger of doing hurt.
Nor can it be said that there is no example nor ground of stated and permanent Councils in the holy Scriptures, seeing the Apostles and Evangelists were so, and more, unto the Primitive Churches.
Hence also it was enough to give us one p•…tern of an or∣dinary Council, there was no need for the continuation Page 22 thereof, whilst the Apostles and Evangelists did survive.
Object. But doth not this strengthen the Argument for Bishops, and such like Superintendents over the Churches? for so they a gue.
Ans. Were there a like example in an ordinary way, set down in Scripture, for this work to be done by any one Man not extraordinarily called, as there is for a Council, then their Argument would have force with it; but such •…pattern, or precept for it, is not to be found. And the way of Councils, (which is clearly instituted) is sufficient to attain the end, as we have found by pracious and pienteous experience: though we are still defective, in that we have not our Councils stated, and we do finde great inconvenience by reason of that defect.
XII. These Councils, in the time of their duration, may multiply or cut short their Sessions, as need may require, according as the business of the Churches, and affairs of Christ may be more or less pressing and urgent.
XIII. There be two sorts of their Meetings,
The stated Meetings of the first Councils are every Moneth▪ and what if it should be on the •…irst Third day of the week, in every month, through the year?
The stated meeting of the Provincial Councils, are once every quarter: and what if two of them be the first Third day after the Sun touches the middle point of the summer and winter Solstices? And the other two, the first Third day after the Sun is in the Vernal and Autumnal Equin•…ial▪ With this consideration, that if the Sun touch any of these points upon the Third day of the week, then that is the day of meeting; if on any other day, then the Third day after.
The stated meeting of the National Council, is once a Year, and best in the Spring: and what if it be the last Third day of the First Moneth called March?
XIV. The Law of the Constitution doth call all these Councils to meet at the stated times, without any other order or appointment.
XV. It is very requisite that some eminent man preach a publick Lecture, on the day of the meeting of every Council, •…o draw many Saints together, and to raise a strong breath of Prayer, and to put the greater Solemnity upon so holy a work.
XVI. Occasional Meetings may be multiplied either by Page 23 intricacy of Cases, Variety of Opinions, Troublesomeness of Persons, Danger of Churches, Gross Scandals that can∣not proceed to Censure, because of some obstruction, with∣out the help of Counsel.
Such Occasional Meetings▪ if foreseen, may be appointed by the Council before they rise; if not foreseen, then they must be called by the Moderator then in being, and the No∣tary, by Letters under either of their hands, where distance of place requireth it.
XVII. The place of Meeting for these Councils, and especially of the first Councils is not to be limited, or tyed to any one place, because there be sundry Considerations about the place, whereof one may be prevalent at one time, and another time another: Sometimes the age, and unfitness for Travel of some eminently useful person; sometimes the common conveniency for all: Sometimes it may edifie to meet in that Church where the chief Trouble may at the present be, ard yet this not alwayes so, because the trou∣bles of Antioch were heard and setled at Ierusalem, where the best and ablest Counsel was to be had, with the least trouble and inconveniency unto any.
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.
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.
CHAP. VII. Concerning the way to bring every Christian Pa∣rishional Congregation to be an explicite Re∣forming Congregational Church.
I. EVery Parishional Congregation, who solemnly renoun∣cing all their sins and evils, both personal and •…c∣clesiastical, shall willingly (by what wayes, means, or motives soever thereunto induced) submit themselves and their chil∣dren to the Government of Christ, in Gospel-Order; and particularly to be guided in the common concernments of Re∣ligion, by the holy advice of the forenamed Orders of Coun∣cils; and do (by their pious and prudent counsel and concur∣rence) orderly elect all Officers, both Elders and Deacons, a∣mong themselves, and promise for themselves and their house∣holds, to walk in the Christian exercise of all Gods Ordi∣nances, according to Rule, in the Faith and Order of the Gospel: That Parish, or so many of them as shall herein con∣curre. is to be owned a particular Reforming Congregational Church; and is to be received into the Communion of the Churches in this Order of Government. They delivering this act of theirs in writing, unto that first Council with whom they associate, there to be recorded.
II. It may, by the good blessing of God, greatly promote Rel•…gion, and the Reformation of particular Churches, if such of the godly Gentry of the Land, who are not in Civil Autho∣rity, would please to do that honour to Christ, to subject themselves to his service, in accepting of the Offices of Ru∣ling Elders and Deacons, in the •…urches of Jesus Christ. It would much strengthen the hands of Church-government, and be no small honour to themselves; and they will hereby render themselves great in the Kingdome of Heaven.
III. By the Ordinance o•…〈◊〉 prudentl•… exercised, both publickly in the Church, and in private houses, all t•… Church are to be trained up unto a competency of know∣ledge in Jesus Christ.
IV. Special •…are is to be had in the training up of Youth in the good knowledge of God, made manifest to the Church by their publick account, answer, or confession thereof; a•…d unto an explicite acknowledgement of Christ, with sub∣•… and engagement of themselves unto the C•…urch, Page 36 wherein they give up themselves and their children unto God, to be ruled by Religion, in the Faith and Order of the Gospel. Which done, their Children are to be baptized.
V. Upon the due evidence of some hopeful reall work and change of heart by Faith and Repentance, duely manifested to the Church, whereby the persons concerned may be in Charity conceived able to examine themselves, & •…o discern the Lords body in the Sacrament, and spiritually to judge of a spiritual cause, such ought, by the Church, to be received unto Communion in the Sacrament of the Lords Supper, and such Males unto Voting in the Church; because ordinarily, such as are able to discern Christ in the Sacrament, are also able spiritually to discern of a spiritual cause, and thereby ca∣pable to Vote, in such cases wherein the Fraternity is called to Voting in the Church.
CHAP. VIII. Touching the Maintenance of these Councils.
I. THough it be meet that all their necessary Charges be born for them; for who goeth on a warfare at his own charge? yet it is in no wise meet that any Profits or Re∣venues should be annexed unto any of the Councils, from the lowest unto the highest. Worldly Profit, Power and Splen∣dor, are beneath the spirit and aim of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Onely the Notaries Place, being a service of much •…bour, pains and diligence, it is me•…t that some considera∣tion be had for some convenient recompence for their labour.
II. If any godly minded Christian, out of a love unto, and zeal for the honour of the Kingdome of Jesus Christ, should desire to give, and annex Maintenance unto any of these forenamed Councils, more then conveniently to bear their Charges (as Noble Constantine did for the worldly splendor of the Bishops) it ought not to be permitted, but religiously opposed: for it will certainly prove an Inlet of great Corruption, Ambition, Avarice, and Strife, unwor∣thy and unfit persons will endeavour to Br•…be themselves into Places, more for the Wages, then for the Work.
III. The honour of the Service, and the glory of Christ that is upon the Messengers of the Churches, these are i•…se∣parable from the Work, and are as much as flesh and blood (we being in the flesh, and state militant) will be able Page 37 to weather, and keep from running •…ground upon.
But Revenue and Profit are separable from the Work,•…d must be religiously and earnestly▪ kept off▪ It being a Wor•… that will surely▪ corrupt• this blessed Work, and glorious Service of Iesur Christ.
IV. A small Revenue will maintain the government of Churches by Councils, even in a great Nation, in comparison of the vast revenues which the Antichristian Hierarchy hav•… fa•…ed and inriched themselves withall: which also hath advantaged them to arrogate unto themselves, and 〈◊〉 civil Authority. And by these carnal 〈◊〉 unto the Church, Religion hath been corrupted, most men have been damned, and •…ew saved. Therefore the Church ought now, in our reformation and res•…rection, to despise the World, and▪ not to suffer great revenues to be annexed unto this part of the kingdome of Christ especially.
V. The religious meetings of Councils, must be 〈◊〉 of all meetings of all men, throughout the Nation: for they are many shining Lights met together, and all men will mark what they do, and one Inch of ex•…ss in them who a•…e the Center, will be an Ell in the people.
Hence they must strive to be patterns to all men.
- 1. In Gravity: not full of Mi•…th, Laughter and Jesting. •…. In Sobriety: no excess in drinking wine and strong drink.
- 3. In Moderation of diet, Ornaments, or any Pomp.
- 4. In Sedu•…ity, and Diligence: it is the Lords work, and Cursed be he that doth the work of the Lord negtigently.
- 5. In all Holiness of Discourse and Behaviour.
- 6. In Patience and Meekne•… of Spirit, in all matters.
- 7. In Care for the publick Cause of Christ, and welfare of 〈◊〉 the Churches, the chief care of all which doth firstly and chiefly ly upon the Moderators.
VI. Great care is to be had of the first Councils, that there may be some grave and exemplar E•…ers in every one of them, because according to ou•… custom, there may be sundry that are young, raw, and weak, and need to be trained up unto the gravity, prudence, and holiness of the affaires of Christ his Ecclesiastical kingdome.
Care is also to be had, that Grave, Sober, and Pruden•… Ruling Elders may be sent, such as may be an awe unto gr•…en and young Schollars, where need may be.
Care is also to be had, that they stay no longer then ne∣cessary business, and just imployment holdeth them, that there may be no temptations like company-keeping in vanity, and smoaking away their precious time.
Page 38VII. Their entertainment may be 8 d. Ordinary at •…oon, and 6 d. at night, provided they be necessita•…ed to tar•…y •…ll night, otherwise their charges are but their dinner and horse▪ mea•….
For the defr•…ying of which charge, the Deacons of that Church where they meet, may be authorized so to order the matte•… with the Deacons of all the Churches in that com∣bination, as that the charge shall be by them defrayed, and not put to the accompt of any of the Elders. And by the same hands some recompence may be given to the Notaries, for their labour and service.
For the supply of which charge, the voluntary Contribu∣tions of every Church will be such a treasury, as will never know want, so long as Religion, and love to Christ remain and rule among them.
VIII. The Provincial Councils will be more choice and grave assemblies, and their treatment must be with more respect and reverence: but their expences with the like mo∣deration and sobriety. It is to be supposed that these dwell more remote, are fuller of work, and must tarry longer.
If the State entertain these, and allow them 10 li. a Session for their four stated Sessions in a year; and 5 li. for the Notaries, it will not be a great charge.
And if the National Council have 100 li. per annum for their Attendance and Notaries.
One thousand pound per annum will suffice for a great Na∣tion where they may be in twenty Ecclesiastical Provinces.
And this charge will be less then the the revenues of some one Bishoprick. The design of Antichrist was to pamper the flesh; the design of Christ is to morti•…ie it, and to honour Grace.