A BRIEF REFUTATION OF THE ERRORS OF Tolleration, &c.
Of Doctrine in General, and the Tryal thereof.
1 John ch. 4. ver. 1.
THE Body of this Epistle, as we shew'd when first we entred upon the handling of it, runs upon three Heads: The first is upon Marks whereby to discern real Grace, to wit, who had it, and who not. The Page 2second runs upon Exhortations to several Duties of Sanctification; chiefly, Love to the Brethren, that Christians would Love them that Love God, Love Grace wherever they saw it. The third Head where∣on it runs is, Exhortations to Constancy, in avow∣ing Truth against Error.
In this fourth Chapter there are two of these Heads, according to which we may take up the Chapter in two parts. In the First, There is an Exhortation to stand by Truth, and to beware of those who would seduce People from it: And that to ver. 7. In the second part, There is a renewing of the former Ex∣hortations, To Love the Brethren: And a Confirma∣tion of it, by a number of new Arguments, to the end: Both which have been handled already, and yet the Apostle returns again to them, because Ex∣hortations against Error cannot be enough inculcate, and therefore he reiterats them again and again.
In the first part of this Chapter, There is, 1. An Exhortation. 2. There are Arguments to enforce the Exhortation. The Exhortation is set down in the former part of the first verse, Believe not every Spirit, that is, lend not an Ear to every point of Doctrine covered over with a fair Name, but bring every Doctrine to the Touch-stone. There are two Things considerable in this Exhortation: First, There is the compellation he gives them, a warm and kind∣ly Stile, Beloved; And then Secondly, There is the Exhortation it self: And in it there are two Things. 1. What they should not do. And 2. What they should do. For the First, What they should not do. Page 3Believe not every Spirit. Some take the Spirit here for Preacher, Believe not every Preacher. And some for Doctrine, Believe not every Doctrine: But both may well be joyned together thus, Believe not every Preacher who pretends the Spirit for his Doctrine. For the second, What they should do; It is to Try the Spirits whether they are of God. He bids them not cast at all Doctrines, because there are some Errors vented for Truths, as the natural Heart is ready to do: But, he Exhorts, that they would bring every Spirit to the right Touch stone. Thus much for opening up the words.
We intend (if the Lord give us liberty) to speak somewhat largely on this Verse of those Doctrines or Errors which are most like to trouble our Church; therefore we shall raise some Doctrines before hand, which may make way for what we intend.
Doct. I. The First is, from the Apostles dehort∣ing Believers from false Doctrine, by many Argu∣ments. Hence observe, That Christians would by all means eschew any thing that may tend to seduce them from the pure Truths of Jesus Christ: Parti∣cularly, that they would beware of Error, Heresy, and any thing of that sort: Hence there are so many Exhortations in Scripture, to stand by the Truth, to be rooted in the Faith, and to eschew contrary Error: So it is a Duty lying on Christians, to be guarding and watching against Error, or what is con∣trary to Truth.
Reas: The Reason is, because Errour is a Sin, and a very dangerous one. We shall shew the danger of Page 4 it in three Things: I. It is dangerous, because of the desert of it; It is Damnable. 2 Peter 2. 1. False Prophets are spoken of there as those who bring in damnable Heresies, that is highly, condemnable: We shall afterwads show in what respect Heresies are Damnable. 2. Errours are dangerous Sins, because they steal subtily in upon People, and people do too readily relish them: So there are many whose nature abhorres gross Sins against the second Table, as For∣nication and such like; and yet the Devil gets them hooked, by this sin of Error: Nature is born with a cry against gross Sins committed against the second Table, and so naturally there is some kind of loath∣ing in People at them; but it is not so in the sins of Error: Sathan can transform himself into an Angel of Light, and plead Conscience, whereas he intends to bear down Truth: So the sins of Error are dange∣rous, because subtile. 3. They are dangerous in this respect, that as they creep easily in; So when once they are in, it's hard to get them shut to the door again: And that because deluded Consci∣ence pleads for them. People tainted with Error think themselves right, and therefore whatever is brought against them, Conscience casts at all as wrong. Now in other Sins, to wit, such as are a∣gainst the Second Table, altho Affection plead for them, yet usually Peoples Light does witness against them: And so in this respect, it is more hard to get a sin of Error thrust out, where it is once root∣ed, than the sin of Prophanity it self.
Vse. This Doctrine may serve to fit you for re∣ceiving Page 5 the following Doctrines (which if the Lord will, we are to speak of) tending to the Refutation of divers Errors. Error in Doctrine is a subtile temtation, the temtation of the time, a dangerous temptation; because it hath now many advantages to plead for it. Now if the Lord shall bless the fol∣lowing Discourses, they may prove an Antidote a∣gainst it: And what we have now said, shew's how great need ye have to guard against it: It is a danger∣ous Sin, and so ye had need to be armed against it.
Doct. II. Again, a general Doctrine arriseth from the connexion of this Chapter with the preceeding; In the preceeding, the Apostle hath been all alongs stirring up Christians to Sanctification of Life, to es∣chew Prophanity, here he subjoyns an Exhortation to cleave to the Truth. Which gives us this Obeserva∣tion, That an Orthodox Judgement, or a right O∣pinion in the matters of Truth is as much to be studied as Sanctification of Life, and the contrary of them both is equally to be eschewed: That is to say, a Child of God is bound to guard himself, and to watch as much against Heresy and Error, in the matter of Opinion, as against Prophanity and gross Sins in the matter of Practise. We had need to clear this, be∣cause there is a conceit in People, whereby they are ready to think, that for the matter of Opinion, it makes not much what men be, many that have Er∣ror may have Grace, Grace and Error, say they, are consistent: And so if men live well it matters not much what be their Opinion. We grant indeed eve∣ry Error does not destroy Grace, and Grace is con∣sistent Page 6 with some Errors, yet every Error does in so much weaken the work of Grace within a man. And secondly, Error is consistent with Grace as other dam-Sins are; as David's Adultery was consistent with Grace. And that is the point to be proven, That Error in the matter of Doctrine is as much to be ab∣horred by the Child of God, as gross Sins in the matter of their Practice.
Reas. We shall bring several things to clear this Truth to you, and the first is this; Scripture doth equally discharge both: It is as much in guarding against Error as Prophanity. So in Hebr. 13, 9. Be not carried about with divers and strange Doctrines: For it is a good thing that the Heart be established with Grace: and in Coloss. 2. 8. Bewar lest any man spoil you through Philosophy—We need not insist to multiply Scriptures to this purpose; any that are acquaint with Scripture (especially the Epistles of the new Testa∣ment) will find Exhortations against Error to be as pressing as against any sin else.
Secondly, as Scripture discharges both alike, so it aggravates the sin of Error as much as the sin of Pro∣phanity. There is nothing almost that Scripture brings to aggravate gross sins against the second Table, but it uses the same to aggravate Error: In the Epistle to the Gallat. 5. 19. Adultery, Fornication Lasciviousness, &c▪ are called the works of the Flesh: An odious name: But in ver. 20. Heresy gets the same name also, and is rekoned up amongst the works of the Flesh. So in the Epistle to the Coloss. 2, 18. a superstitious mind is called, a fleshly mind. Page 7 Let no man beguile you of your reward, in a voluntary humility. And worshiping of Angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puft up by his fleshly mind. And both get one name. Thus in 1 Peter. 2, 11. If fleshly lusts be aggravated from this that they fight against the Soul, they are soul destroying sins: So He∣resy and Error are branded with a worse name in the 2 Peter 2. 1—who privily bring in damnable Here∣sies. Heresy is damnable a soul destroying sin, not for this respect only that they deserve Damnation; For the meanest sin of Infirmity is damnable that way, in it self it merits damnation: therefore this Scripture must mean somewhat more when it calls Heresy damnable, than to rank it amongst our ordi∣nary infirmities: Neither are they called damnable in that sense as if the Soul guilty of Heresy could not be saved; For many Hereticks have repented unto Salvation: But they are called damnable sins, as o∣ther gross sins are called damnable; that is to say justly and highly Condemnable. They are damn∣able because they marr the work of Grace, they marr the thriving of Grace, the lively acts of Grace; e∣ven as Davids Adultery, (so long as he lay under it) did.
Reas: 3 There is a third Reason to prove this point and it is this; Stability of the heart in Grace, and stabi∣lity of the mind in Truth, stand and fall together: So that upon the mind's wavering in the matters of Truth, the heart will begin to waver in the matter of Grace also: Prophanity followeth upon Error, Error received and imbraced oftentimes endeth in Page 8 Prophanity at the last: And therefore it should e∣qually be watched against with Prophanity it self. Now to make what we have said appear viz. That Error in the matter of Truth, and Prophanity a∣gainst Holiness of Life, usually go along together: Ye would first look to Experience, Experience makes this good, that Error for the most part ends in a prophane Godless Life; Scripture experience clears it, So the Apostle Jude descrives these Here∣ticks he speaks of to be vile Livers: And later than Scripture Experience makes this good also, That Error and Prophanity, for the most part, follow hard upon the heels one of another: It's true Sathan ensnares People at the first to Error, by a pretence of leading them to a more strick way than others: But the thing he is aiming at is still more loosness. Ye need not seek a more clear proof than what ye see before your Eyes: Did ever ye see a more God∣less company of men than divers of those Hereticks amongst us, who were first drawn on to Error, by a pretence of walking after a more strict way of Ho∣liness than others? They could not joyn in worship with the Presbyterians (many in their Churches were so prophane as they pretended) but would gather Churches of their own, and would Joyn with none but those that had evident signs of Grace; and so came of it. They would be stricter than God would have them, and therefore many of them have turn'd so abo∣minably loose And so Experience aboundantly clears that Error and Prophanity do follow hard one upon another; But we shall clear it also from Scripture: Page 9 And our first proof is from those Scriptures holding forth That Error in the matter of Doctrine hath usually its rise from some unmortifyed Lust within which makes way for such an Error So Rom: 16, 17. 18.—I beseech yo•, Brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences, contrary to the Doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. Now from whence come these divisions contrary to the right Doctrine? v. 18 For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own Belly: and by good words and fair Speach∣es deceive the hearts of the simple. Unmortified cor∣ruptions within bloweth wind in their sails, so the root of Korah Dathan and Abiram's Error whereby they laboured to bear down Magistracy and Ministry was an unmortified root of pride within them; They had a fair pretext for it, a pretext of Liberty; Are not all the Lords People Holy? And may they not rule as well as yee? A fair pretext indeed! but the root was pride: They could not endure to be ruled over, and so they will rule themselves: Thus when Jeroboam makes separation from the Church of Jerusalem he hath a fair pretext for this 1 King. 12, 28—It is too much (saith he) for you to go up to Je∣rusalem. There is the pretext; but the root of the matter was a lust within, stirring him up to secure to himself the enjoyment of that which was not his own; and this Ambition breeds fear, that if they go up to Jerusalem, to worship, his power would quickly turn to nothing. So ver. 27. If this People go up to do Sacrifice in the house of the Lord at Je∣rusalem, then shall the heart of this People turn again un∣to Page 10 to their Lord, even unto Rehoboam King of Judah, and they shall kill me. There is the matter, a desire of Reigning was the cause of his Idolatry and Schism, an unmortified lust within was the root and rise of his Error. And secondly Scripture holds out, That as Error is the Daughter of Prophanity, so it is the Mother of prophanity; as it rises from Prophanity, so it tends to more Prophanity, Christs words import this John 8. 31. Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him; if ye continue in my word then are ye my Disciples indeed, If ye adhere and keep closs to the Truth, then shall ye attain to walk as my Dis∣ciples. And it imports on the other hand, That if ye drink in Error, ye shall not be my Disciples in∣deed. And so, as Prophanity is the Mother of Error; So it is also the Daughter of Error, This serves to clear the point. That a Child of God should as much watch and guard against Error, as he should do a∣gainst other gross Sins or prophanity of Life.
For Use, This Doctrine serves for reproof first to those who would have Tolleration of all Opinions in the Matter of Religion, and no coercive mean to curb Error: And that because, say they, it may curb Piety. Which followes no more than that the suppressing of Fornication will curb Piety, the one is as dangerous as the other, and God's People may fall in the one as well as the other; and therefore the one should be as well curbed as the other▪ Nay I may say that that which is called Liberty of Conscience is the most capital Sin in a Kingdom: It is all one as if a King would proclaim liberty, to Drink, to Swear, Page 11 to Whore, and to Steal; for both are alike evil, and where the one is, commonly the other is also: and therefore to proclaim liberty to the one is to pro∣claim liberty to the other. We think there is no heart zealous of Gods Glory, but should abhorre such a thought as this.
Vse 2. Secondly, the Doctrine reproves those who think Opinions are free; Many reason thus, If ye lead an Holy Life it matters not what be your Opinion, whether for Presbytery, Independency, Arminianism, Prelacy, or Popery, your Soul is in no hazard, if ye be kept from gross Out breakings; but this Doctrine showes, this sort of Reasoning to be a gross mistake: For, besides that Error speaks an unmortified root in the Heart. Heresie and Er∣ror in themselves are damnable, and are reckoned up among those Sins which debar from the Kingdom of Heaven, Galat. 5. verse 21. Hereticks as well as Murderers are excluded, and therefore Folks would not jest and play with matters of Religion, so as not to care what side they be on.
Thirdly, this Doctrine gives another use, as ye would eschew Prophanity of Life; so be∣ware of Errors against the Truth: For the one of those, ends in the other. Grant the Er∣ror pretend to much of strictness, the upshot or Issue of it is still to Prophanity; and therefore ye would advise well when tentations to Error are presented, before ye drink in any thing contra∣ry to Truths received, if ye would not have it read in the looseness of your Life afterward. Many whose Page 12 Lives were very strict, when they began first to change their Way, were in a short time led by their new Light to a Prophane Godless Life.
Vse 4. Fourthly, Seeing Errors have their rise from some unmortified root within; therefore as ye would be keeped free from Error, subdue Corrup∣tions within. We are ready to think that Godless Men, will stand out best against Error; But it will prove otherwise; unmortified Lusts, of any other thing, will prove the greatest Friends to Error, such as a Lust of Pride to be Eminent; of Covetousness, to get your Arms full of the World run as it will, a Lust of Laziness in Duties that will make you drink in that Error that casts at all Duties as needless: So, for an Antidote against the works of the Flesh, (whereof Heresie is one, Galat. 5. verse 21.) The Crucifying of the Lusts of the Flesh is brought as one.
Doct. III. We come to the words themselves, and and therein is to be considered, first, the Stile, Be∣loved, A warm and kindly compellation. The point we are to raise is, from comparing the Stile with the Matter which the Apostle is about: He is to warn them to beware of Error, and yet he gives them a loving Stile, Beloved believe, &c. And it gives us this Doctrine, That as at all times, so chiefly when there is danger of spreading of Error, there is most need that Love should be entertained betwixt Pastor and People. So we find Paul labours to bear in him∣self on Peoples Affections, especially in Galat. 4. ver 10. and 11. Ye observe Dayes and Months, &c. I am Page 13 afraid of you, lest I have bestowed on you Labour in vain. There he reproves them for their Error, And in the 12 verse he bears in on their Affection, Brethren, I beseech you be as I am, for I am as ye are, ye have not injured me at all. And so in the 2 Corinth. 12. v. 16. Through the whole Epistle he hath been speak∣ing against their Error, and all along he bears in on their Affection, especially in the place cited. And I will very gladly spend, and be spent for you, though the more abundantly I loved you, the less I be loved, &c. Abundance of places shew his practice to have been this way.
The Reason is, First, because when People be∣gin to differ, they are ready to cast at these who differ from them, chiefly, those who would curb them: For there is still a Spirit of Pride with Error, it cannot endure to be contradicted, or, the least thing to be spoken to its own prejudice if not all the more warily, it will foam and rage, and if it cannot bear down the contrary Truth, yet it will labour to bear down him that speaks it. So Here∣ticks are called Murmurers, Complainers, Jude verse 16. So a Minister in reproving Error. would guard a∣gainst this danger, lest he do more hurt than profit, and all the Issue of his pains be to work a prejudice against himself.
And Secondly, This Argument will be the more strong, considering the evil that comes by prejudice. There is nothing that makes people run faster head∣long into Error, than prejudice against Faithful Pastors. Therefore this hath been the Devil's Me∣thod, Page 14 First, To bear down the Ministry, by mak∣ing the people first cast at one, then at another, and so at all; that their Ears being once stoped with prejudice at what Ministers say, their Ear may be boared to let in any Error that the Devil or his Instruments pleaseth to vent: Therefore a Minister would make it his Study so to behave himself, that there be no ground of prejudice given by him, but that all his Carriage may savour of a Resolution to entertain Love.
Now because our fear is that Error may spread, and that (if the Lord give us leave) we intend from this Verse to speak to the most infecting Errors: We shall solve this Question, What a Minister is to do for entertaining Love: For clearing of this, we shall first shew what he is not to do, He is not to be silent at Error, for fear of Irritating and losing Affecti∣on; That were not Love, considering what is said of the nature of Error: It is all one as if we would not reprove a loose Liver for fear of angring him. Secondly, Neither is he to speak against them in a Cold-rife manner, as if it were a thing indifferent, whether they return to a right Judgement or not: No, He must (as he would be faithful to God) aggravate the evil of Error to the utmost, declare its hazard, denounce what Scripture pronounceth a∣gainst it, whether it anger them or not; Better anger and loose them, than anger God.
What then must he do? Answer, As in other sins he must first reprove them, Levit. 19. ver. 17. And secondly so reprove, as it may argue Love to Page 15 the person reproved, Jude ver. 23. Only there would be this difference betwixt reproving of Error and other sins, Other sins may be inveighed against without pains to convince the person reproved that such are sins, Nature is born with a cry against such; But Error hath an erring Conscience to stand up in its behalf; therefore the most of a Ministers work would be in convincing from the Word, that the thing he holdeth is Error: Otherwise, to inveigh against what he holdeth, without this, will harden him more, he will look on it as the Man's passion, and that he hath nothing to say from Scripture or Reason against what he holdeth.
2. In dealing with erring persons, there would be a difference put betwixt Seducers, and those who are seduced: Those who are rooted in Error, and those who are only Doubters, so Jude verse 23.
For Use, Ye may see from this what a great Task Ministers have, and how great need of help there is from people to Ministers in Erring times. In some respect it is harder to deal with one Man tainted with Error, than with twice so many Pro∣phane Livers: A prophane Mans Conscience must readily say the same that we say, and so, keep us at Reverence: But an erring Mans Conscience speaks against us, takes us to Err, and so readily cannot en∣dure us, and yet we must speak, venturing in Gods strength: But there is need so to speak, least in speaking we loose more then we gain.
The next thing that followes is, the Exhortation, Believe not every Spirit: That is, do not credit every Page 16 Doctrine that hath a fair pretence, Or every Preacher that pretends the Name of the Spirit: From this we learn, That the Spirit of Error began very early to trouble the Church, in the primitive times when the Apostles were yet living, there were even then some who contradicted them to their very face; so the averrers of Circumcision, Justification by workes, denyers of the resurrection. &c.
Reas: 1. The Reason is first, because the Spirit of Error is shameless, it will affront the most convinc∣ing evidences; for it is natures Brood, and credit is so engaged in it, that it trampleth upon all that would bear it under, if an Apostle were speaking a Sectarian Spirit would out-dare him: It is an affron∣ted and malapert Spirit.
Secondly, The Lord saw it fitting, that in the lat∣ter ages of the Church his People should be tryed by erring Spirits, and therefore, he would have the pri∣mitive times troubled with them also, that we might be the less troubled; seeing that even the Apostles themselves were not fre'd from such like perplexity, as to have to doe with Spirits of Error. But there is an other Reason why the Lord suffers his Church, both in former times, and in latter times, to be troubled with the Spirit of Error, set down in the 1 Corinth: 11. verse 19. For there must be also Heresies amongst you, that they which are approved, may be made mani∣fest among you. There must be Heresies, there is a must be put upon it: Now this is not an absolute ne∣cessity, but a necessity or a must be upon the sup∣position of Gods most wise decree, to permit Page 17 wise decree, to permit and suffer those things for most wise ends; and the end for which he permitts them to be, is First, for the tryal of Persons, and secondly, for the tryal of Truth. First, for the tryal of Persons, this End is set down in the verse cited He∣resies and Hereticks must be, that they which are aprov∣ed may be made manifest among you. The Spirit of Heresie let loose, hath a discovering efficacy with it, it discovers who are of a humble frame of Spirit, and who are Proud, Lofty, Conceity, and of a Selfish spirit: It discovers who are light, weak, and easi∣ly carried away with any thing, unstable minds, as the Apostle speaks; and who are more solid, and Ballanced with the Spirit of Sobriety, and solid Wis∣dom, that is from above. It discovers these who have put a price on Truth, that they will buy it, but will on no termes sell it, and also discovers those who have put no price upon it, or that will suffer little for it. That is the first end why Hereticks must be, to discover Persons and try them. And secondly, Hereticks, in the Lords wise Providence, tend to the tryal of Truths, and the making of them brighter and clearer, they scoure Truths, (so to speak) so that the disputs of Hereticks, and venting of Error, make Truth the brighter. The more debat∣ing there is betwixt these two, Error grows the blac∣ker, and Truth the clearer. When the Lord hath a mind to have a Truth cleared and rooted in his Peoples Spirits, He does in his Infinite Wisdom take this way, a strange way indeed and yet making much for the purpose: He will let some Error arise Page 18 to oppose the Truth, through occasion whereof more light breaks out to the clearing of the Truth. These are Reasons why Hereticks must be.
Vse. The use is, seeing the Spirit of Error began so early to trouble the Church in the Apostles time, that were guided with an infallible Spirit, then ye are not to wonder that Error should trouble the Church now when there are not such infallible lights as these: The Spirit of Error is a bold darring Spirit it will dare to contradict God Himself, and find out some shift, to cast at that which God Him∣self sayeth: As may be seen Gen: 3. The Lord said The day thou eatest thereof thou shalt die: And Sathan contradicts it, thou shalt not surely die. And so no won∣der there be such impudence seen in the Spirit of Error now, as to cast at any thing which Gods Ser∣vants say, seeing Satan still Acts the Instruments of Error.
Vse. 2 But secondly, from this Doctrine learn not to quarrell with Gods most Holy and wise Provi∣dence, in that he suffers so many Errors to be. We are ready to think that if God had that care of his Church, Covenant and Cause, as men would think he had, he would not suffer such Effronted Spirits, and such Blasphemous Hereticks to prevail, and to outdare his Truth: But that is to quarrel the Lords providence and without a ground: He whose fur∣nace is in Zion can make all the tryals of the time that arise from Error to contribute much for the clearing of Truth; by this means he will rouse up his People to study Truth, to understand it better, to search out Page 19 grounds for it, and that is one advantage; only ye would know also, that these times will be discover∣ing times, they will discover many a corrupt heart, many unstable hearts and light heads, many proud Spirits, and many that have Lusts lurking within them: So that many will choose that Religion that will gratify their Lusts most; For, there is not an Error that Sathan hatches, but there is one Lust or other within People that speaks for it; and there is nothing more ready to make People take in Error, than their harbouring of unmortified Lusts. So in. 2 Timoth: Cap: 3. The Apostle speaking of those who should be caried away with false Teachers says in the 6. v. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins led away with diverse Lusts: Unmortified Lusts are as fuel to make the fire of Zeal for Error to burn very hot in Peoples bosom, and so Error will try People this way.
Doct: V. Next observe he sayes Believe not every Spirit, that is, believe not every Doctrine that hath the name of the Spirit, and fair pretences put upon it, as if they were the Doctrines of the Spirit of God, believe them not. From this we learn. That the foul∣est Errors go out oftentimes under fairest names, and are backed with most specious pretences, what Fou∣ler Errors than these spoken of here, The denying of the Son of God: And yet what fairer Names than the Spirit? What fairer pretences than that they are Doctrines taught by the Spirit of God? We will find this of all Errors spoken of in Scripture, for the most Page 20 part, Cora•, Dathan, and Abiram's Error whereby they rose up against the Magistracy of Moses, and Preist-hood of Aaron, hath a fair pretence for it. Ye take too much upon you Moses and Aaron, are not all the Lords People Holy. And Jeroboams Error, his Idola∣try in setting up the Calf at Dan and Bethel, hath a fair pretence 1 Kings 12. It is too fair for you &c. The Peoples ease, and the publick good is the thing he pretends though his design was far otherwise: And so these that urged Justification by works, and op∣posed the way of free Grace, and being justified by Faith, they had their fair pretences: O! say they, to cast off Workes from Justification, will make People secure wee may sin that Grace may abound; very taking pretences all of them, and as taking as any that Error is now covered over with. The Reason of the Doctrine is from the cause for which the Tempter presents Error under fair colours, and spe∣cious pretences, which is this; That he may make the Error the more taking: For these are the baits he puts on the hook that he may deceive and catch the simple.
Therefore for use of this Doctrine, ye would not be deceived with fair pretences, or ravishing∣like expressions, that Error may be fairded over with: See what the Apostle Paul sayes to this purpose 2 Thess: cap. 2, v. 2. Where speaking against an Error, he be∣seeches them by the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, That they be not soon shaken in mind, or troubled, neither by Spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. It supposes that the spreaders Page 21 of that Error had all these three pretences. First• they pretended the Spirit, that it was a Doctrine taught them by the Spirit of God, accompanied by his presence in their Spirits with more than ordina∣ry flashes, and raptures, and In-bearings of the Spi∣rit of Light. And Secondly, that they had the word or Scripture to alledge for it. And Thirdly, they picked somewhat out of Pauls Letters for them, so would they say: In speaking against us he contradicts him∣self: These are fair pretences; and yet, sayes Paul, be not shaken in mind with them. So, say I, ye would guard your self against the fair pretences which Er∣ror may have, and look not only to the out side, but to the inside of them, and then ye will find most bitter Serpents Lurking under fairest flowers.
As for example, The Mother of all Error Tol∣leration hath a fair pretence for it, viz. that good men may Err, and so in suppressing Error ye may suppress Piety: A fair pretence, but it hath afoul end. For by this meanes Blasphemers, Denyers of God and Jesus Christ, must have Liberty to vent their damn∣able Errors, if so be that they can but pretend Conscience, and so stable roome must be given in Christs Church, to every unclean beast that ever was hatched in Hell. The Antinomian Errors again have a fair pretence, O say they, Christ hath become sin for us, and therefore it is taken off from us, so we are not bound to repent for it, for to say that we are to repent were to take the burthen off from Christs Back, and to put it on our own: These are specious words without solidity, but they contradict Page 22 Scripture Truths where they are narrowly looked to: Peter was a justified Person, and yet when Christ looked on him He weeped bitterly: Davids sin was pardoned, and Christ had taken the burthen of it, and yet David was to Repent of it, and to be cor∣rected for it, and so the Lord tells him that the sword should not depart from his house because he had made the Enemies of the Lord to Blasphem; and yet sin was not laid upon David to satisfy divine Justice for it: Only he must get on the fingers to make him more warry, and to scar all Justified Persons in time coming from doing the like. We might so run through all the Errors of the time, as that of Independency, whereby power is denyed to Presby∣tries, O, say they, to put power in Presbytries and make them receive Appeals from Congregations, it is to Tyrannize over particular Flocks; and there∣fore say they, nothing is better than that every Con∣gregation have compleat power within themselves, and be left to their own guiding, not being count∣able to any Judicatory above them, but only to Christ: This seems a specious Bait for such as would have liberty, but when it is duly pondered, it will be found most contrary to Truth: For by this means, if a particular Flock should Err, and if one should suf•er wrong at the hands of a particular Ses∣sion, there is no remedy to repair the oppressed man, and to bring the Erring Congregation to a right mind: and how far this is derogatory to Jes•s Christ who was perfect in all his house, any man Page 23 may judge: We might run through more of them, But because we have a mind to refute these Errors by themselves, we shall insist no further here, having said enough to clear the point, that the most dan∣gerous Errors may be born in under the fairest pre∣tences; and therefore ye would not take all to be Gold that glisters, take not all for Truth that is deck∣ed up with a bundle of brave, high, ravishing expres∣sions.
Doct. 6 We proceed, Believe not every Spirit, sayes he; He speaks not this in vain. It supposes he saw an in∣clination in them to believe: The point of Doctrine that ariseth from it is, That when foul Error is holden out under fair Names, and backed with fair pre∣tences, There is a danger lest people drink them in and believe them; for John saw that hazard, and therefore gives them a Watch-word: So in the 16 of the Rom. ver. 18. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own Belly, and by good words and fair Speeches deceive the hearts of the simple: Their baits hook'd the simple, before they were aware. We need no further proof of this, than the Example of our neighbour Church in England; Er∣rors which could not have been named, but People would have loathed at them: such as the Arminian Error against free Grace; &c. Yet being decked with the name of new light they are greedily drunk in by too too many,
Wee shall give some Reasons to make you sen∣sible of this hazard: How great danger there is, when Error is in spreading, that People be taken Page 24 off their feet with it: We shall point at four or five things that speaks this hazard: And the first is, the proneness of our nature to Drink in Untruths: We see this in Eva, for Error is natures brood: And, as we said, Error is the copy of some Lust, and therefore it soon infects: Truth again, it hath no∣thing in us, no party for it in our hearts, and there∣fore it is harder to make us take with it; there must be word upon word, and precept upon precept; we drink in Truth slowly and after much pains taken upon us, we are hut to begin to learn it; but the Spirit of a man is quick to take up Error: Ye will find men more able in a short time to debate for Error, than in a long time to debate for Truth, I would seek no greater presumption that such a te∣nent is an Error than this, that as soon as it is set on fire, it runs through great numbers, and sets their Spirits on edge for it, we are not so hot for Truth, it is not our nature to be so taken with it.
Reason. 2 Then there is a Second thing that speaks this hazard, and it is, the shallowness of Peoples apprehension, together with their foolish hast before they try; From the shallowness of many it is, that they cannot put a difference betwixt a fair pretence, and a foul Error that is hid under it, and from the hast of Peoples Spirit it is that they ingage suddainly with any thing having the colour of Truth; and be∣ing once ingaged they are still the more and more involved: These two laid together are another thing to point out this hazard.
Reason 3. We may add a Third, and this is desire Page 25 of Novelty in People spoken of in 2 Timoth: Chap: 4, v. 3—after their own Lusts shall they heap to them∣selves teachers, having itching ears. And they shall turn away, &c. Where by the way observe, that Lust within is the cause of drinking in Error from with∣out: But the thing we mark, is, That they have an itching ear lusting after new things, and this comes from their little practising of old Truths.
Reas: 4 There is a Fourth Reason, and it is the di∣versity of baits and pretences that is put upon seve∣ral Errors, according to Peoples several humors: So subtile is Sathan that he puts a bait on for every ap∣petit; there are some that are Piously strict and are enclined so to be, both towards themselves and others, and he hath a bait to catch those, to wit, a pretence of strickness which the Error of Separation is covered with, for this Error alloweth Church fel∣lowship with none but these that have a real evi∣dence of Grace in them: It is a way think they to shame natural Men. Again there be some whose humor is for looseness, he puts on a bait to gratify this humor also, let them believe in Christ and let them live as they like, sayes the Antinomian, and so accord∣ing to Peoples several humors, there is a bait put on by the Devil upon Error: Now when these baits and Peoples humors agree, it is like powder and fire, presently they kindle.
Reas. 5 There is a fifth thing which speaks this hazard, and it is this; The Lord, that Error may be a tryal, in his holy Justice lets out more than or∣dinary parts and abilities, on spreaders of Error, Page 26 and on the Spirits of People when they are taken with it: The Lord for a Judgement to themselves, and for a tryal unto others, gives them as we speak, a cast of their craft, he elevates them above their ordi∣nary Sphere, or what is their ordinary way: And this we speak not without Scripture, It is said of false Anti∣christian Teachers they shall come with l•ing signs and wonders; And there is a Spirit of Error which he fore∣tells shall accompany Error, Be not soon shaken in mind neither by Spirit nor by word, &c. In that place that we already cited 2 Thess: 2, 2. When we look on all these things we hope we have made out the point: viz. that foulest Errors even when they are colloured with fairest pretences, there is a danger, lest People drink them in.
The use of the point is, If there be this hazard then ye would be afraid of your selves, it is said, The Righteous fear alwayes. I would seek no clearer mark of any person that is like to be taken in the snare, than that they think themselves so stout and stedfast that no Error will gain upon them: and I would think it an evidence very good, when people are afraid of themselves, and do humble themselves, in the sense of their own weakness, and are employ∣ing Christ daily to bear them through, For Blessed is he that feareth alwayes.
Only remember that this fear would be of the right Stamp: And for clearing this, we shall point at three or four things, wherein this holy fear does con∣sist, specially with Reference to Error. First where •his fear is, There will be a labouring to root Truth Page 27 in the heart: Ye know, when People are affraid of losing any thing, that they will labour by all meanes to be sure of it: A man that hath this Holy fear o∣ver himself, lest he be ensnared with Error will stu∣dy to gett Truth rooted in the heart. Prov: 2. 16. The Spirit of God speaketh of hiding of understanding, putting it in the secret place of the heart. A second thing accompanying this fear, is a forecasting what Truth may cost you; there would be a fore-casting of this, and a taking an Essay of the Cross before hand, and this for fear lest that to eschew suffering ye quite the Truth, if the tryall come on you unexpectedly; Paul while he is exhorting the Disciples to stedfast∣ness, informs them That through much tribulation we must enter into the Kingdome of Heaven, Acts 14. 22. Then there is a third thing accompanying this Holy fear, and that is, a fear to venture on Temptations to Er∣ror, except there be a Providence putting to it, of necessity; and this fear rises from the Sense of our own weakness to engage with, or stand the shock a∣gainst Temptations, this is implyed in that directi∣on which the Apostle Paul gives 2 Timoth: 3, 5. At the end of the verse—From such turn away v, 6. For of this sort are they which creep into houses—: When a man is sensible of his own weakness, the fear of his being ensnared will keep him from walking among snares. A fourth thing accompanying this Holy fear is, that tho ye find these Truths ye have had once sealed to your Spirits begin to be questioned, and that ye are not able to answer what is brought against them, and so perchance your Judgment may incline to think, Page 28 that what ye thought once to be Truth is now Error; Yet where this Holy fear is, ye will rather suspect your own want of knowledge to discern, than any way suspect the Truth to be untruth; and it will make you at least abstain from venturing even on that which your light points out for the time.
Now by these ye may know what is the Fearless∣ness that makes People to be in danger, and it is this, when it makes thee so inconcerned that thou never Labours to get Truth brought lower than thy head: when thou never casts an account what Truth may stand thee; when thou art so confident of thy own wit and knowledge, that thou will venture uncal∣led to dispute with Sectarian Spirits; or when any thing is born in as Truth contrary to what thou hast maintained, as a Truth before, and contrary to thy Covenant engagment, thou grippes presently to it without once suspecting that thy own shallow understanding may be deceived. This, I say• speaks a fearlesness that borders neigh unto Error,
Doct: VII. The Doctrine that followeth next from these words Believe not every Spirit, is, that Mi∣nisters the Servants of God are not to clap Peoples heads, or indulge them in this inclination of theirs to Error, they are not to humor them in it; but on all hazards they are to testify against it: Therefore, sayes John, Believe not every Spirit, So also the Apostle Paul does very sharply inveigh against People, when they are beginning to tamper with Error: And lest People should say Paul and John were Apostles, and knew what was Error and what was Truth, being Page 29 guided by an infallible Spirit, and that therefore they might stoutly testify against Error; but for other ordinary Ministers, they may err as well as other People, and so it is ill reasoned from what the Apostles did to what Ministers may now do: Therefore to clear this we shall give a place where Paul bindes it as Duty on every ordinary Minister to to testify against Error. In the Acts ch: 20. v. 28. Therefore take heed unto your selves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost, hath made you overseers, &c. And in the 29. Verse he gives an instance where∣in they were to take heed to the flock, For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the Flock. verse 30. Also of your own selves shall men arise, &c. So it is a duty ly∣ing on all ordinary Preachers, to watch over their People, lest they be seduced with Error, and that because First of that which we spoke of before, that Error in the point of Truth should be as much es∣chewed by People as other particular sins; and there∣fore Ministers are bound to guard People against it. And secondly, Truth is a precious Jewel and there∣fore in a special manner, they ought to contend for it. And Thirdly the Souls of People ought to be pretious to Ministers, and therefore Ministers ought to watch over them, they ought to guard them a∣gainst Error; because, as other sins, so Error is a damnable Soul-destroying sin. And therefore as Mi∣nisters love Truth and Souls committed to them, so they must watch over the People, and guard them against Error.
Page 30Vse I. This show's the great task lying upon Mi∣nisters at every time, but chiefly in an Erring time: we spoke somewhat of this before how difficult it is for a man to meddle with reproving of Error, more difficile than to reprove Prophanity; because a pro∣phane Man's Conscience is convinced of the evil of his way; and therefore however he may be displeased with free Preaching against his sin, yet his Consci∣ence clears the Minister; and thus he keeps him, at least, at some reverence: But it is not so in a Soul taken with Error, the misinformed Conscience speaks for it, and ther•fore whatever is spoken against him, he casts at it as Error and untruth; and readily the man that speaketh it may lose respect for his pains, and yet we see the Word of God binds it on Mini∣sters to speak against it.
Vse 2. But Secondly, If it be so that Ministers be bound to reprove Error and testify against it; then the People are bound to take the word of reproof from them: we mean not that they should be so bound as what Ministers say should be the Bible, but this much we say, That People should presume as much on them as another, to ask Councel from them as much as from another; and to respect them as much as any other: And that for these Reasons, First, because the publick Minister hath a promise which private men have not, at least not such an ample grant, as it is Matth: 28. 19. Goe ye therefore and teach all nations, &c—and lo, I am with you al∣way▪ even unto the end of the World. It doth not exe∣em them indeed from Erring themselves; but the Page 31 promise, is there more largly given to them than to others. And Secondly Ministers as called watch men have the charge of Peoples Souls: God hath charged them with them, which he hath not charged others with: there is not a charge of Peoples Souls, laid on private men by way of office; every one is bound indeed by way of Charity, to take a care of the Souls of others, contrair to that of Cain, am I my brothers keeper. But beside this tye of Charity lying on sent Ministers, there is a tye by vertue of a particular charge; So that place Act: 20. Take heed to the flock over which the Holy Ghost, hath made you overseers. He hath given them a special Charge, and so they are charged in a special way with Peoples Souls. Then there is a Third Reason, it is Sathan's Method to bring in Error on People by casting in prejudices betwixt them and sent Ministers, which we have cleared sometimes from Scripture, and so it should be watched against, lest Sathans subtility prevail so far as to bring People to dis-respect their Mini∣sters, for if that be once gained he hath prevailed very much.
Doct: VIII. Now further, he sayes, Believe no• every Spirit. But bring them to the tryal. Doe not cast at all but try the Spirits, Hence take this Doctrine: It is not Gods way, that People because, there are differences about Religion, should therefore believe no Religion, that is not Gods way. So Matth: 16. we see the Apostles practise, Christ sayes unto them, whom say they that I am? Say they, some say tha• thou art John the Baptist, some Elias, others Jeremiah, Page 30〈1 page duplicate〉Page 31〈1 page duplicate〉Page 32or one of the Prophets. But whom say ye that I am? They do not Answer, we know not what to say, there are so many different sayings about thee, but say they, Thou art Christ the son of the living God.
Reas: So People are not to cast at all Religion because there are differences about it; and that be∣cause, First, that were to give way to the Devils plot; His design in raising up Error about Religion is, to make People Atheists, so as not to care for any Reli∣gion; and so when the use which thou makest of dif∣ferent Opinions, is that thou wilt believe none, Thou fulfillest the Devils design. Secondly, thou makes use of Gods Providence to thy destruction. The Lords Providence in raising up Error is, to make men seek more after the knowledge of the Truth: And when thou makest that use of it, to cast at all Religion, thou mockest the Holy Counsel of God to thy own ruin.
The Use then of the Doctrine is, to reprove those of this stamp; to wit, Prophane Atheistical men that make no differences about Religion but this: Let Church-men once agree among themselves what's right, and what's wrong; untill then, the back of our hand to altogether; that is a wofull way.
Indeed there may be a doubt proposed here viz. What else shall poor ignorant People do about diffe∣rences in Religion, but to lay aside the care of all, when they see every party have their own Reasons stronger than these poor People can Answer; I An∣swer, there are some directions grounded on Scrip∣ture, which if we walk by, may bring us to a safe Page 33 shore, amidst these rocks of contrary Opinions; And the first is this, that for Differences that concern not Peoples practice, I would not have People trouble themselves much with them; as for example, Our late unhappy Differences about the publick Resolutions; the Lord hath taken the occasion of them away; so I would not have any troubling themselves much about them: Whatever Differences in matters of practice fall in, it seems to be a safe rule, that when the occasion of such Practices are removed, all Contention about them should be laid aside. Secondly, As to the Differences wherein Peoples practice is concerned, take these Rules: First, For these that are uncontraverted Truths make Conscience of the practice of them, which will help to the knowledge of other things; this rule Christ pre∣scrives, John 7. 17. sayes he, If any man do his will, he shall know of the Doctrine whether it be of God, &c. There is something that thy Conscience is clear of to be Duty, and although the Differences of Opinion might be some excuse to make thee keep off from these things about which there is difference, yet how art thou excused for neglect of these things which thou art convinced to be Duty, as Prayer, Reading the Word, &c. Secondly, We would know, whatever be the con∣trary Opinions about matters of Religion, yet there is but one true way; and the knowledge of this one way may be attained to, by those who seek humbly after it: At least, if thou be judging thy self, and as a damned Bankrupt or D•vour by Nature, be closing with Christ, and drawing Grace from him to make thee Holy▪ Thou wilt attain to the knowledge of as much of Page 43 these things debated, as will take thee home to Hea∣ven. A Third Direction is, That ye should beware of calling in question any of these Truths that once have been Sealed into your Spirits by the Spirit from the Word of God, 2 John ver 8. Look to your selves that we lose not those things which we have wrought, The point of Truth that People have got thus Sealed to their Conscience, should not readily be called in que∣stion. A Fourth Direction is this, That in seeking out Truth under Differences, we should beware of Loftyness of Spirit, 1 Cor. 14. 32 it is said The Spirits of the Prophets are subject to the Prophets, How much more ought the Spirits of private persons to be subject to the voice of Christs Ambassadors speaking in his Courts. This is not as if we would make Ministers Sayings the Peoples Rule to walk by: But this much will follow that in a constitute Church where Dis∣cipline is Exercised, there should be that Humility in People, that wh•n doubts arise concerning any point of received Truth within the Church, they should offer their Judgement, and the Reason of it to the Prophets and Christs Courts to be tryed, before they lay down any new Opinion as a solid Truth: That much is contained under this, The Spirits of the Pro∣phets are subject to the Prophets, if it mean any thing at all.
Doct: IX. Now we proceed. The next thing that we come to, is, what People should do, Try the Spi∣rits, and the Rule of Tryal is, whether they are of God. The first point we learn is, that how fair soever the pretence be, that our Doctrine is colloured with, it should not be taken upon Trust: but the Spirits must Page 35 be Tryed. Such we see was the practice of the B•reans, and they are commended for it, they would not take the Apostles Doctrine on trust. Act: 17. 11. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind and searched the Scriptures dayly whither those things were so. They would not take the Apostles Doctrine on trust: and this is a command given by Paul writ∣ing to the Thess: 1 Epistle ch: 5. v. 21. Prove all things after he had said, despise not Prophecyings, So that Doctrines should be brought to a Tryal, what∣ever be their fair pretences.
Reas: The Reasons are first: because foulest Errors may be coloured over with fairest pretences. And Secondly the Scripture sayes, all men are Lyars; that is to say, all men may Err, and therefore words cannot be the Ground of Divine Faith; for Faith must have an infallible ground as Ephes: 2. 20. And are built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, &c. i. e. the word Preached by them, and dictated by the Spirit of God.
Vse. This Doctrine reproves first, the Papists that will have nothing Tryed, that comes from the Church; but all taken upon trust, hence is it that many swallow such Monsters of Absurdities, as the Errors of Transubstantiation, Purgatory, Merite, Mals, and such like, for which they have no other ground, but because their Church sayes so; But this Doctrine holdeth out another duty that who ever heareth any Doctrine proponed by one or other, they are bound to pass their Judgment on it, Try the Spirits.
Page 36 Now that we may walk betwixt extreams, the Papists on the one hand, who set up Tyranny, and these Sectaries on the other hand, who set up Con∣fusion; we would know there is a twofold Judge∣ment to be passed on Doctrine: Publick Judgement, and Private Judgement: Publick Judgement again, is either, peremptorily absolute, or limited. A pub∣lick peremptory Judgement is, That which binds the Conscience to obey simply that which is spoken, and none have this Judgement, but God himself. Secondly, There is a publick Judgement which is limited, and this is a publick declaring and holding out that which is found to be God's mind in his word, which does not bind absolutely, but in so far as it agrees with the Word; and this Judgement belongs to publick Church Judicatories met together in Christs Name: They are like the Lyon-Herauld set forth to proclaim the Royal Acts, if he proclaim that which is contained in the principal Acts, it binds; but if he add any thing of his own, it binds not. Next, there is a private Judgement of Discretion, and this belongs to every Christian: every man in relation to his own practice, is bound to pass Sen∣tence on what is held out to him by others, that if it be right, he may embrace it, but if wrong, he may reject it; but his private Judgement is not binding to others. Now this private Judgement, or this Judgement of Discretion is necessary, because all men may Err; Councils may Err, Synods, &c. And Secondly, Their Error will not excuse private Christians to follow them in their Error: sayes Page 37 Christ, When the Blind leads the Blind both falls into the Ditch. And therefore there must be a Judge∣ment of Discretion in private persons to try what they hear.
And this much for guarding against the Popish Tyranny; but least this Doctrine be abused to cast at all publick Church Judicatories, we shall next speak somewhat to guard against Sectarian Confusi∣on: First, Although publick Church Judicatories have not Power to bind Consciences; yet when men are in a doubt concerning a point of Truth, their Judgement ought to have more weight than the Judgement of private Men: And that not only be∣cause there are more Gifts exercised together, but mainly because there is a promise annexed to the Commission given by Christ to publick Church Ju∣dicatories, Matth. 18. 20. Where two or three are ga∣thered together in my Name, there am I in the midst of them. And Secondly, From this it followes, that there would be a kind of loathness to differ from pub∣lick Church Judicatories; a man's grounds would be well examined, l•st if differing from these Judica∣tories, they also differ from Truth. And Thirdly, when they differ they are to bear them at Reverence, although in such a point they should Err, yet for their Authority, they are to be Reverenced: This much is granted by us to Church Judicatories, but no further, They are not to be made the Rule of our Faith.
Vse 2. It reproves those who are Lazie, and can∣not endure the trouble of trying what they hear, but take things on trust, and have no more but such Page 38 a mans Authority, he is of that Way and Opinion, and therefore they are Fire and Flint, Tooth and Nail for it, as much as if they had the Word of God for it: We have seen much of this in the un∣happy Differences that have fallen out in our time, which I have no pleasure to speak much of, and therefore we proceed to another Doctrine.
Doct. X. The next thing then that we observe is from what he sayes, Try, &c. whether they be of God; that is the Tryal: The Doctrine is this, That the right tryal of Doctrine is, To try whether they be of God or not, and this point puts us to give Marks where∣by it shall be known what Doctrine is of God, and what Doctrine is not of God; and here we shall speak to two things. First, We shall show what are the marks that necessarly infer a Doctrine to be of God. And secondly we shall speak of other things that do not infer necessarly a Doctrine to be of God, but for the most part follow upon such a Doctrine.
For the First, That which makes Doctrine ne∣cessarily to be of God, is, if it be according to the rule of the Word. So when the Bereans are com∣mended Acts 17. The rule they went by in the tryal of Paul's Doctrine, is the Scripture: And this is Isa•a's rule, chap. 8. ver. 20. To the Law and to the Testimony, &c. He would have all Doctrines tryed by the Word of God: So the Word is the rule, and that Doctrine which has the Word for it, is of God; and whatever Doctrine has not the Word for it, is not of God: All Spirits, even the Spirit of God himself, must be tryed that way: And that because the Word Page 39 is a perfect rule: I give only two places of Scrip∣ture to clear the perfection of this rule. First, The heavy Plagues pronounced against those who add to this rule: The Word is so perfect, that if an Angel should come and pretend a purer Rule, Let him be (sayes Paul) Anathema, Gal. 1. 8. There is another place which proves the perfection of this rule accord∣ing to this point in hand, 2 Timoth. 3. 16, 17. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for Doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for Instruction in righteousness. That the Man of God may be perfect, &c. So there is as much in the word of God, as may make the man of God perfect: And this in rela∣tion to Doctrine and Instruction, It is profitable for Doctrine and Instruction, It will make a man perfect in that, as well as in reproof.
Vse, This reproves, First the Papists, they cast by the rule of the Word, and will have their Tradi∣tions, and their Po•es Decrees to be the rule. But of this enough already in the preceeding Doctrine. In the second place, it reproves the Sectaries, some where∣of reprove the Word, they will have a higher tryal and rule to examine by; and it is the inbearing of Gods Spirit, say they, He is the Spirit of Truth, and can he bear in a Lye: But, say we, how know they the Spirit of the Devil by the Spirit of God, except they bring it to the Word. So the Word is the Rule, yea and the last Rule.
But here is a doubt which we shall speak to. This is a very hard task, may some say, for poor igno∣rant People to try Doctrines by the Word; the WordPage 40 it self is obscure, and every one pretends the Word, all Parties will say that they have the Word, and so it is hard for us to know what is of God, and what not, if we have no other rule but the Word: I answer it is very true, there are very few Sectaries who will not pretend the Word: And yet it does not follow that ye may cast by the Word. But Secondly, we say, although the Word be in some places ob∣scure, and although Men of Opinions as contrary to the Word as Light is to Darkness, may every one of them wrest the Word, yet there is as much of the Word clear, if it be rightly studied, as will make a man know what is right, and what is wrong. Hence that Epithet given to the Word, The word of the Lora is a Lamp to direct thy Paths. The Word of the Lord is not unfitly compared to a Sea, wherein Elephants, i. e. men of greatest parts and Learning may swime, and readily lose their fect, how great soever their parts be, if they rely upon them. And yet it may be compared to a shallow calm running Stream, wherein Lambs, that is, men of mean Gifts, may wade, and find out Gods mind in it, if they be humble and take Gods way for searching of it.
But say ye, what is that way of God wherein people may hope, so as not to miscarry in the search∣ing out of Gods mind in his Word. In answer to this, we shall give several Directions. First, A man that would not mistake Gods mind in his Word, should be a diligent Reader of it, Acts 17. 11.—and searched the Scriptures daily, &c. it was their daily task. And Secondly, Reading of the Word should have Prayer Page 41 going alongs with it, Prov: 2. 3. Yea if thou cryest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding, ver. 4. If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures: Then, &c. this crying and seek∣ing is certainly in Prayer, as well as in other means. When people joyn Prayer with the Reading of the Word, they will more readily attain to the know∣ledge of Gods mind, Than a man that takes no more with him but his own natural parts. Thirdly, The word should be read with Meditation, Psal: 1. 2.—in his Law doth he meditate day and night. And Fourthly, with Self-denial. Prov. 3. 5. Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not to thine own understand∣ing. We should go to the Word with a deep sense on us of our own Ignorance to seek Light from it.
There are several other directions how People may be led to get the meaning of the word; we shall speak of some. First, Obscure places being com∣pared with these that are more clear, will be clear also: There are some places obscure, but the Lord hath been so Graciously condescending in con∣triving the Scriptures that there are other places to make them clear: So there is an obscure place: we are not under the Law but under Grace which at first seems to sound as if People needed not to take heed to the Law; But there is another place, that clear∣ly shows how we are not under the Law There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ. They are freed from the condemning power of the Law, but not from the directions of it. Secondly, in obscure and dark places of Scripture on which men ac∣cording Page 42 to their several Conceptions, would Father several senses, the meaning that agrees most with the •nalogy of Faith should be taken: this is that which Paul calls the forme of wholsom words. So there is a place controverted he laid on him the ini∣quit• of us all, Says the Antinomians all our sins were laid on Christ, and so do what we will, we are not bound to seek pardon or mourn for t•em; for our sins are laid on him, and so we have none: Now this gloss is contrary to the whole current of Scrip∣ture, which holds out that believers have sin in them, a body of Death. 1 John 1, 8. If we say we have no sin we deceive our selves and the Truth is not in us. It holdeth out believers at their best condition as Mourning for sin, and praying for the pardon of sin Rom. 7. Psalm 25. 11. So that this Antinomian sense cannot be right, because it is contrar to the whole current of Scripture; and therefore the laying of our iniquities on him, must be the guilt and punishment of our iniquity, and not the being of sin it self, which was bound upon Christ: So another place the promoters of Tolleration pleads from, is that in Phil. 3, 15. that Counsel that Paul gives 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: say they, there is Tolleration whatever be Peoples differences, let them walk ac∣cording to their Light; we say again, that what Paul sayes of mutual forbearance must not be extend∣ed to all Errors; but it must only be applyed to these that were Errors of infirmitie; As Rom: 15. 1. we Page 43then that are strong, ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please our selves. And that the op∣posite meaning cannot be right, because it is contrair to the current of many other Scriptures, which com∣mand Hereticks to be Excommunicat. An Heretick af∣ter the first and second admonition reject. and not so much as bid them God speed: So this is another way to know the meaning of the Scripture. And this much now for directions to help you in the study of Gods word, that you may attain to know Gods mind in it; and so to know whether a Doctrine be of God or not.
We thought to have spoken of these other marks which do not infer necessarly a Doctrine to be of God, but for the most part do follow on such a Doctrine; but the time being now ended, I shall only name them: First, That Doctrine which is of God will have Holiness following upon it: And so that Doctrine of the Antinomians that tends to pro∣phanity of life cannot be of God. Secondly, that Doctrine that is of God tends to exalt Christ. John 16. 15. Speaking of the Spirit of Truth, he sayeth,— he shall take of mine and shall shew it unto you. And so that Doctrine of the Papists, I mean their Doctrine of Merit, is not of God. Thirdly, That Doctrine which is of God humbles men, as Error doth fill men with pride: Thus those Sectaries that are spoken of in Jude are called Lofty; and so the Doctrine of Separation is not of God, because whatever be the pretence of strickness that it caries along with it, there is an over-weaning conceit of the Man's self Page 44 and undervaluing of others, that cleaves to this Error And Secondly, it maketh People orderly in standing for it: So is it said of Christ His voice is not heard in the streets. Now these marks as we have said do but usually follow, for because of the corruptions of men even the Doctrines that are of God may want these properties, and the Doctrines that are not of God may have a shew of them; and therefore the first mark to wit, the word, is the adequate Rule, So that all Doctrines ought to be brought to it. What∣ever be the shew any Doctrine hath, whether of Holiness, exalting Christ and free Grace, whatever shew it have of Humility and orderly carriage, in those who profess it in their avowing of it: Yet if it be not according to this Rule, (viz. the word of God) it is not of God.
Doct: XI. We come now to our main design, to wit the Refutation of some of the most dangerous Errors of the Times. The ground of what we are to speak to this purpose is taken from the following Doctrine, which is evidently imported in the words; to wit, That there are many Doctrines pretending to the Spirit, which yet being brought to the Touch∣stone will be found not to be of God. For while he bids us try the Spirits whither they be of God, He evi∣dently insinuates that there are some Spirits which being brought to the tryal will be sound faulty, and not to be of God. I shall, God willing, give instances of this, and accordingly make it out upon the most taking, dangerous, and most Erronious Doctrines of the Times, particularly upon those following: Page 45First, the Doctrine of Tolleration. Secondly, the Doctrine of Erastianism. Thirdly the Doctrine of Independency. Fourthly, the Doctrine of Separation. Fifthly, the Doctrine of the ordinary Preaching by unsent men. Sixthly, the Doctrine of Antinomianism. And Lastly the Doctrine of Anabaptism: In all which we shall with the Lords assistance make it appear here, that however they pretend to be Doctrines warranted by the Spirit of God in his word, yet they are not so warranted, in a word we shall show they are not of God.
A BRIEF REFUTATION OF THE ERROR OF Tolleration.
WE shall begin with the Error of Tollera∣tion; of all Opinions in the matter of Religion, a Doctrine that is much cryed up among Sectaries, and a Doctrine that is very tak∣ing; what (thinks People) if they get leave to serve God according to their own Conscience, they need not trouble themselves what others do. Our purpose is to show that this Doctrine, though it pre∣tend to the Spirit, is not of God: and for this end Page 48 we have read these places of Scrip∣ture whereupon we are to ground the most of what is to be said a∣gainst this Error.*
I begin to refute this Error of Tolleration First, be∣cause it is the Sectaries main refuge, it is their Holy of Holys wherein they shelter themselves in their gross∣est Errors: what, say they, it is our Conscience and who dare meddle with Conscience but the God of Conscience. Secondly, we think it needfull to begin with it; First, because of all other Errors it is the most dangerous and damnable, in so far as other Errors do only evert these particular Truths of Scrip∣ture to which they are contrary; but by this one Error (this Monster of Tolleration) way is made to evert all the Truths contained in Scripture, and to the setting up all Errors contrary to every Jote of Truth: and in the mean time there shall be no pow∣er on earth to hinder it, or take order with it,
In prosecuting of this, we shall follow this Method First, we shall clear the state of the question Secondly, we shall bring our Arguments for confirming the Truth, and vindicate them from the Adversaries exceptions. Thirdly, We shall bring forth their Arguments, and shall refute them from Scripture and Reason. And Fourthly, We shall apply the whole to some practical use.
First, For the state of the question, what a thing this Tolleration is that we Labour to re∣fute: There is a two-fold Tolleration of Error: There is a Church Tolleration and a State Tollera∣tion.Page 49 A Church Tolleration is, That whereby it is pleaded that Error and Heresy should have li∣berty to be vented and go free even from Church Censure; such as suspension from the Sacraments or Excommunication. There are but few Sectaries of any note that plead for Tolleration in this Latitude, and that because the Scripture is so plain against it. Paul sayes, An Heretick after the first and second Ad∣monition reject. Therefore they are content that Church-censures such as Excommunication be inflict∣ed on Hereticks, providing, First, that they be free from Civil censure. Secondly, That Excommu∣nication be inflicted for no Error, but for these that are contrary to fundamental points of Truth, or as some say contrary to the very light of Na∣ture: Upon these and no other will they have Ex∣communication to strike.
Though this be not the main question which we are to insist upon: Yet we shall lay down some as∣sertions contrary to their Doctrine, even in this point. And First, we do not see what reason can be brought to exeem Hereticks from civil Censure; but the same may be brought to exeem them from Church Censures also; If Conscience, as they say, be free from the one, what reason but it should be free from the other also? And if fear of civil Cen∣sure against those who Err do as they say enforce the Conscience, and make People Hypocrites; we see not but the fear of Church Censures may do the same: Or if, notwithstanding of Church Censures, the Conscience is not forced, the Service not constrained, Page 50 which they grant, then notwithstanding of Civil Censure it is not forced, or the Service constrained either: And so from their own grounds this vast Tolleration of Error falls to the ground. Secondly, We cannot assent to that which they affirm, that Ex∣communication is not to be inflicted for any Error; but these which are contrary to fundamental points of Religion; and that because Christ gives us a rule upon what faults Excommunication should strick; to wit, on every scandalous Fault done against a Bro∣ther, or the Church wherein the Offender persists obstinate, and will not be reclaimed: So Matth. 18. 17. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the Church, but if he neglect to hear the Church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a Pubican. That is, Excommunicate him. Now, for what faults he is to be Excommunicate, they are set down v. 15. Moreover, if thy brother shall trespass against thee &c. So it is a scandalous Trespass wherein the offender does persist and remain obstinate, on which accor∣ding to Christ's Rule, Excommunication should strick: Now sure it is, there are many Errors not contrary to fundamental Truths: such as many points of Arminianism, Antinomianism &c. which yet persisted in are Scandalous both to particular Christians and the Church; and therefore according to Christs Rule, Excommunication should strick upon other Errors than those contrary to the fundamental Points of Religion, which is contrary to their asserti∣on. Thirdly, Neither can we assent that Excom∣munication should strick on no other Errors but those Page 51 contrary to the light of Nature, and that not only because of what is presently said, that Excommu∣nication should strick against every scandalous Sin done against a Brother, or the Church wherein the offender does persist and remain obstinate; but also according to that Rule whereby they maintain that Excommunication should strick on no other Error, but these that are contrary to the very Light of Na∣ture; it would follow that the publisher of these Errors following (or the like against fundamental Truths) should not be censured: to wit, That the Scriptures are not the word of God. That Jesus Christ was an Impostor, a Deceiver: That we are not justified by free Grace; say according to that rule, such Hereticks should not be censured, no not Ec∣clesiastically; because these Errors are not against Natures Light, but Scripture Light only; for Na∣tures Light teacheth not the Truths which are con∣trary to these Errors. This much for Church Tol∣leration, but, as said is, concerning this is not the pre∣sent Contraversy.
The main question then is, concerning State Tol∣leration. Concerning which some do affirm. That what∣ever the Church may do in Inflicting Church Cen∣sures on Hereticks, Maintainers of Heterodox Opi∣nions: Yet, say they, no civil Punishment, such as Death, Imprisonment, Mulcts, or Fines, should be inflicted on any Error or Blasphem whatsoever; providing the Maintainers of them carry themselves peaceably, do not trouble the State, or do evil a∣gainst the Commonwealth in civil Things: We a∣gain Page 52 on the contrary do hold, That it is the Duty of the Civil Magistrate to suppress Error, Heresie, and every sin against the First Table, as well as it is his Duty to suppress Adultery, Fornication, Se∣dition, and other sins against the second Table: And that he is not only bound to suppress Errors and Blasphemies, that are contrary to fundamental Truths, or the Light of Nature; but all Error contrary to other points of Truth.
Now for clearing the State of this Question, and freeing it from some odious Imputations that may be cast upon it: Before we come to Arguments we shall lay down these Assertions: First, We do not say that the Magistrate is bound to punish Hereticks at the first step; Pains should first be taken to inform them, the Judgement of the Church is Antecedent, and their Labour is to convince Gainsayers: So this must go before the Magistrates Duty, they must be found Obstinate before the Magistrate medle with them, or punish them Civilly; Especially if their Errors be not horrid Blasphemies against God and Natures Light, in such the Magistrate is not bound to give so much Forbearance. Secondly, We do not say that all Errors and Heresies are to get alike pu∣nishment; but according to the degrees of the guilt that is in them, even as it is in sins committed a∣gainst the Second Table: Murder is a more hainous Fault than Fornication, and therefore the Magistrate is bound to punish it more highly. Even so is it in Sins done against the First Table; Blasphemies done against God, or a denying of the true God, is a Page 53 higher Sin than Worshiping of the true God after a false manner; and therefore the Magistrate is bound to punish it more severely. Thirdly, As we do not say, that every Error and Heresie is to re∣ceive the like punishment; so neither do we say that every one that maintains the same Error is to be alike punished, for there are some that are Seducers, or Drawers on of others to Error, Disturbers of the Peace of the Church, Ring-leaders; there are others again that are only seduced and drawn away to Er∣ror; and these last, although they should not be Tollerate, yet the power of the Magistrate is to be exercised more sparingly towards them. So Secondly, There are some rooted in Error, confirmed in it, who will not hear Instruction: There are o∣thers that are but weak, and are seeking Light, whose way evidenceth them to be Conscientious, only for the time they are Ignorant, and in Humi∣lity seeking after Light; and these last, the Magi∣strate, as all other Christians, is to bear much with, according to Rom. 15. 1. We then that are strong, ought to bear the Infirmities of the weak, &c.
Now this being said to clear the question, we come to Arguments to make out this Truth, to wit, That the Magistrate is bound to suppress and punish Er∣ror, Heresie, and other sins against the First Table, as well as he is bound to punish Adultery, Theft, and other sins against the Second Table.
The First Argument we bring is, from the ap∣proven practice of Kings and Magistrates under the Old Testament, from which we form an Argument Page 54 thus: If it was the approven practice of Kings and and Magistrates under the Old Testament to sup∣press Error, Heresie and Blasphemy, then Magi∣strates under the New Testament are bound to do the like: But, so it is that it was the approven practice of Kings and Magistrates under the Old Testament to suppress Error, Heresie and Blasphe∣my and other sins against the first Table: Therefore, Magistrates under the New Testament are bound to do the like: For confirming of this Argument there are two things to be made out: First, That it was the practice of the Magistrate under the Old Testament to suppress Error and Heresie. Secondly, As it was their practice, so their practice herein is approven of God, otherwise it were not binding unto others; for Kings and Magistrates did several things wherein they were not approven, and so not binding unto us now: The first thing then we are to clear is, that this was the practice of Magistrates under the Old Testament: And we shall begin First with Abraham's practice, Genes. 18. 19. For I know him, that he will command his Children, and his Houshold after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do Iustice and Iudgement, &c. Secondly, with Jacob who was a Magistrate in his own Family: And we shall see him employing his Power to suppress false Religion. In the 35 of Gen. vers. 2. Then Jacob said unto his Houshold, and to all that were with him, put away the strange Gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your Garments. And in the 4 verse, And they gave unto Jacob all the strange Gods which were in their Page 55 Hands, and all their Ear-rings which were in their Ears, and Jacob hid them under the Oak which was by Sce∣chem. The Third practice which we shall observe, is that of Asa in the 2 Chron. 14. vers. 2. And Asa did that which was good and Right in the Eyes of the Lord his God. verse 3. For he took away the Altars of the strange Gods, and the high places, and broke down the Images, and cut down the Groves. Verse 4. And com∣manded Judah to seek the Lord God of their Fathers, and to do the Law and the Commandment. And in the 5 Verse Also he took away out of the Cities of Judah, the High-places and the Images, &c. And we shall find it in chap. 15. vers. 12, 13. And they entred into a Cove∣nant to seek the Lord God, &c. That whosoever would not seek the Lord God of Israel, should be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman. And in the 16. v. he employes his power in this point a∣gainst his own Mother Maachah. And also concern∣ing Maachah the Mother of Asa the King, he removed her from being Queen, because she had made an Idol, in a Grove: and Asa cut down her Idol, and stamped it, and burnt it at the brook Kidron. The Fourth practice shall be of King Manasseth. 2 Chron: 33, 15. (ye would mark such places for ye may have need of them) And he took away the strange Gods, and the Idol out of the house of the Lord, and all the altars that he had built in the mount of the house of the Lord, and in Jeru∣salem, and cast them out of the City. v. 16—And commanded Judah to serve the Lord God of Israel. The last practice that we shall name is, that of Josiah 2 Chron: 34. v. 31, 32, 33. And the King stood in his Page 56 place, and made a Covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord. &c. And he caused all that were pre∣sent in Jerusalem and Benjamen, to stand to it. &c. And Josiah took away all the Abominations out of all the countries, that pertained to the Children of Israel, and made all that were present in Israel to serve, even to serve the Lord their God; Let this suffice to make out the first point, That such were the practices of Kings and Magistrates under the Old Testament.
The Second thing to be cleared is, That as these were their practices; so they were approven practi∣ces: And this is clear; First from Gods approba∣tion given to them in that place before cited, 2 Chron. 14. 23. Asa gets a Testimony, That He did that which was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God. And wherefore? For he took away the Altars of the strange Gods, and the high Places, and broke down the Images, &c. And Secondly, We find that Jehu, although he was Hypocritical, was rewarded of God, for suppressing of False Worship: In 2 Kings 10. 30. And the Lord said unto Jehu, because thou hast done well in executing that which is right in mine eyes, and hast done unto the House of Ahab, according to all that was in mine heart, thy Children of the fourth Generation, shall sit on the throne of Israel. We might bring several other evi∣dences, that these their practices were approven of God, but what is already said may suffice.
The patrons of Tolleration bring several exceptions to weaken the strengh of this Argument, which we shall propone in as full strength as they come to our hand; and take them off: And the First exception Page 57 is this, say they, The practice of Judah and Israel un∣der the Old Testament cannot be binding to Ma∣gistrats under the New, because they were Typical Kings, and the actions they did were Typical of somewhat to be done by Christ, and so not binding to us. To this we reply. First, That however this our hold concerning the practices of the Kings of Judah and Israel after they entered Canaan who were Typi∣cal Kings (as they say) of this Typical Land, that they could not be binding to Magistrats now; yet we find it was the practice of Jacob before the the Kingdom of Israel was erected, and so what he did was not done by him as a Type of Christ, but a moral duty; and he was approven in it; we find also when heathen Kings came to the Knowledge of God, they employed their power this way and were approven in so doing; and surely they will not call Heathen Kings Types of Christ: We shall give one instance of this in the seventh chap: of Ezra v. 26. There a decree comes out from Atraxerxes a heathen King. Whosoever will not do the Law of thy God, and the Law of the King, let Judgment be executed speedily upon him, whither it be unto Death, or to Banishment or to confiscation of Goods, &c. Now lest it should be said this was a rash Act, and so not binding: there∣fore there is something in the Text equivalent to God's Approbation of it; to wit, Ezra's Blessing the Lord that he had made such an Act Verse 27. But we give a Second Answer, to the Objection: Although it were granted that all the King's of Israel were Types of Christ, as we do not grant it in all, Page 58 especially in those who were wicked and Godless men, it does not follow that what they did in pu∣nishing false Doctrine, they Acted therein as Types of Christ: And if so, then it does not follow, that it is not binding now; except they will say that what∣ever was done by any who were Types of Christ in no wayes binding unto others; and if so they may as well argue, that what Magistrates under the Old Testament did in punishing sins against the se∣cond Table, such as Adultery, Murder, were done by them as they were Types of Christ; and so not binding to Magistrates now: Yea, upon the same ground they may infer that Davids Prayers and Tears for sin were no copy for us to follow; why these were Acts of one who was a Type of Christ. Yea by the same Reason, they may reject the whole Scripture of the Old Testament, as not binding un∣to us, because forsooth, it was written by the Pro∣phets, and such as were Types of Christ, and so not binding to us. Thus we see what absurdity the giving way to such an exception will draw unto, and therefore it is to be rejected.
But their Second Exception seems more plausible and it is this, say they, The practice of the Kings of Israel doth not argue up fully to that which we do hold, because their practice did not strike on eve∣ry Error against Truth, but only Idolatry; and not all Idolaters, but those that made Apostacy and served false Gods; and not all of those, but these on∣ly that seduced and drew away others to serve the false God. Now it does not follow from their pu∣nishing Page 59 of Idolaters, who worshiped a false God; that therefore Magistrates are bound to punish Here∣ticks worshipping the true God though in a false way, This is the strength of their exception; to which we reply. First, That though it were true which they say that the practice of the Kings of Israel did extend but to Idolaters, and those that seduced and drew away others to serve false Gods, yet it does not follow but it may be binding to Magistrates now to punish Hereticks worshipping a true God in a false way, and that because of this rule necessarly to be admitted in expounding of Scripture, that when the command of God does strick against any one sin most usual in the time, by rule of proportion, it stricks against all sins of that kind, As in the se∣cond Command there is nothing expresly forbidden but the Worshipping of God by graven Images; and that because the worshipping of God by Images was the sin most in use at that time; yet under graven is for∣bidden all wayes of worshipping of God invented by men; and so although it were true that the practice of Godly Kings did strick but against Idolatry, yet by rule of proportion all sins of that kind should be suppressed: To which add, that when the high de∣gree of any sins by divine Law is to be punished by death, common equity will infer, that lesser degrees of sin are to be punished by a lesser punishment at least. Secondly, to what they say, that the Magi∣strate did only punish Idolatry under the Old Testa∣ment. We Answer that it is false, they did punish other Errors also, and such as would be thought Page 60 light of now; and this we shall instance in several particulars. First, They punished will worship in serving the true God, and this we see by comparing two places of Scripture: The first is the 2 Kings 23, 8, 9. Speaking of Josiah, And he brought all the Priests out of the Cities of Judah, and defiled the high places, where the Priests had burnt incense: So he em∣ployes his Power against the high places, for the re∣moval of their way of worship. The other place of Scripture to be compared with, is the 2 Chrov: 33. 17. (Which tells us the nature of their high places) Nevertheless, the People did sacrifice still in the high places, yet unto the Lord their God only. So that this worshipping on the high places, was not that kind of Idolatry whereby a false God was worshipped; but a way of their own, whereby they worshipped the true God, and yet Josiah suppress∣eth even this kind of false worship. Secondly, we find that Magistrates did employ their power for sup∣pressing of the breakers of the Sabbath day, and and punishing those that Married strange wives, which yet were not Idolaters and Apostats from the true God; a noble example whereof is in Nehemiah 13. from verse 15, to 21. There is a large Histo∣ry what pains he took to reform the People to keep the Sabbath day, therefore in the 21. v. Then I testi∣fied against them, and said unto them, why lodged ye a∣bout the wall? If ye do so again I will lay hands on you. He threatens to employ the Civil power for sup∣pressing of that Error, and this is not Idolatry. And Secondly, we find that the Magistrates employ∣ed Page 61 their power generally, for suppressing any Error that was contrary to any Article of the Covenant: So where we read in the 2 Chron: 34. 31, 32. And the King stood in his place, and made a covenant before the Lord—&c. And he caused all that were present in Jerusalem and Benjamin to stand to it. And the heads of the Covenant are not only against those who were Seducers, but also against those that were seduced: So we find it in Exodus 32, v. 20. In that Idolatry of worshipping the Golden Calf, when Moses came down from the mount in his zeal to the Glory of God, he not only punished Aaron, but also the People: and more than this, he Armes the Levits, as the avengers of God's Justice, and proclaims that every man should avenge the Lord upon his very Brother: Thus we have made out in the first Argument taken from the practice of the Kings of Israel and Judah, and have vindicated it by Scripture from their exceptions brought against it.
The Second Argument shall yet be grounded on the Old Testament, and it is taken from the many commands and precepts, that are given in Scripture to Godly Kings and Magistrates and others to pu∣nish Blasphemers, False Prophets and Idolaters, He∣reticks, Sabbath Breakers, and Seducers, from whence we form this Argument: That whatever was commanded to be done by Magistrates under the Old Testament as a part of their duty, this Magi∣strates under the New Testament are oblidged to as a part of their duty also: But Magistrates were com∣manded under the Old Testament to suppress Ido∣latry, Page 62 Blasphemy, and Heresy and that they were to do as a part of their duty as Magistrates: And there∣fore it is a duty lying on Magistrates under the New. The thing we have to prove is, that this was a com∣mand given to Magistrates under the Old Testament and that as a part of their duty as Magistrates. And for this look over these places of Scripture Exod. 22. 20. He that sacrificeth unto any God, save unto the Lord only, he shall be utterly destroyed. There is a command given to the Magistrates. And so in Le∣vit. 24, 15. And thou shalt speak unto the Children of Israel, saying, Whosoever curseth his God, shall bear his sin. v. 16. And he that Blasphemeth the name of the Lord, he shall surely be put to death. So in the 13. of Deut: 1. If there arise among you a Prophet, or dream∣er of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder. &c. Through the whole Chapter there are Commands given to the Magistrate to punish false worship. We shall only add another, and that is taken from the fourth Command, where a charge is laid on the Magistrate as well as the Master of a Family to make use of his power for keeping of the Sabbath, and to see to the keeping of it by others also. Thou shalt do no manner of work, thou, nor they son, nor they daugh∣ter —This Command is given to the Magistrate as well as to the Master of the Family, as appears from those things. First, By vertue of this Command Nehemiah the Magistrate of God's People, did make use of his power to punish Sabbath Breakers in that place we cited in Nehemiah 13. 21. Secondly, It ap∣pears from this that the Gates spoken of their, Nor Page 63 any thing that is within thy Gates, is a term which ag∣greeth not to a single Family, but a whole City, e∣ven to the circuit of a whole Kingdom: of the word [Gates] is taken in Scripture Gene•: 22. 17—and thy seed shall possess the Gate of his enemies: It follow∣eth as in that respect, therefore he speaks to the Magi∣strate, no Master of a Family having such large power. And Thirdly, The power there spoken of, is to be extended to Strangers: now the chief care of Stangers did belong to the Magistrate, and not to the Master of a Family, therefore Nehemiah the Magi∣strate extends this power of his to the Strangers that came to buy and sell on the Sabbath day, Nehem: 13, 20
The Adversary brings several exceptions against this Argument which we shall propone and take off. The First Exception is, say they, Those were Judi∣cial Laws, and so now are expired with their Com∣mon-wealth: Answer, This is a common refuge to Sectaries where any practice is brought from the Old Testament against them, presently they cast at it upon this account as not binding to us under the New: Therefore we shall speak so much the more unto this point: By a judicial Law is meaned a Civil Law, so the force of their Argument is this: The Ci∣vil Law of one Kingdom is not binding to another, but these were Civil Lawes belonging to that Kingdom; Therefore, they are not binding to us. To this we Answer, First, That they cannot say this of all the Laws instanced, particularly of that Law of the fourth Command: It is a Moral Law binding to all, Secondly, we Answer, the rest of these Laws are Page 64 Moral and binding to all Magistrates, yea and that for these Reasons: Because First, Abraham, and Ja∣cob, and other Magistrates that were among the Jews did practice these Laws even before the Judici∣al Law was given out by Moses; and so they be∣hooved to be Moral. Yea Heathen Kings that were not under the Judicial Law of Moses, as not being Members of their Commonwealth, when they came to the knowledge of God, they made use of their Power to suppress Idolatry, which certainly was through vertue of the Moral Law, commanding them so to do: Not the Judicial Law, that they were not under. A Third Answer we give, that though what is said were true. viz. That these Laws were Judicial: Yet it does not follow that they are not now binding to Magistrates. To understand this, there were two things in their Judicial Laws, as in our Civil Laws. Yet, there was somewhat that concerned the Kingdom in particular as that Law, that Servants should be freed from their service at the se∣ven years end. And the Law of inheritance to be keept within the Tribe, and this part of the Law did fall with their Common-wealth. But their was another thing in their Judicial Laws, and that is somewhat of Common Equity belonging unto all, such as Laws for punishing sins done against the Mo∣ral Law; and in this far the Judicial Law is binding to us: because there is not a syllable in the New Testa∣ment for abrogating of it, and so must bind, being given by God. And Jesus Christ and his Apostles Reason from this Judicial Law; as in 1 Corinth: 9. 9. Page 65 It is written in the Law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the Ox that treade thout the corn: And in se∣veral other places: so is it in the Civil Laws in other Kingdoms: as for example, That Witches should be punished by death, and burnt to Ashes, is a Ci∣vil Law in Scotland: Now there is somewhat there of Common Equity, to wit, that they should be pu∣nished by death; but the particular way of putting them to death, to wit, whither by strangling drown∣ing &c. or the burning of their Bodies to Ashes, is not of Common Equity: Other Kingdoms may use another way of Execution, as pleaseth them best.
There is a Second Exception they bring against this Argument, say they: If their Laws were bind∣ing to us, then they would be binding according to all their circumstances: and if so, then all persons, whole Cities, yea beasts behoved to be sto∣ned to death: For so is the Command Deutro: 13. Now say they, what Massacring would this be. To take off this exception, we Answer: There are two things in a Law, there is first, The substance of the Law, Secondly, The Circumstances of it: Now a Law may hold according to the main substance, and yet not according to these circumstances: We shall clear it in an Example, The Law of Hospitality binds all nations as to the substance of the things com∣manded by it, but there were some circumstances joyned with this Law, according to the nature of the people to whom it was given; such as the washing of feet, and kisses of Charity; and according to these it is not binding; And so that command, That false wor∣ship Page 66 should be punished, is substantial and binding un∣to all; but that it should so be punished as to put Chil∣dren, Women, Beasts, young and old to death, was suited according unto the temper of that People unto whom it was given, being so naturally prone to Idolatry, and therefore were by more fearful pu∣nishments to be scarred from it, and so in that re∣spect is not binding unto others. We may add where this Law is repeated, as Exod: 22. 18. Deutr: 17. 2. 5. and Cap: 18. 20. It is only repeated in the sub∣stance of it, and the way and manner is not menti∣oned. Secondly, we find that Jacob and other Ma∣gistrates who were before the Law did not Execute it according to thir Circumstances; Yea and the Jewish Magistrates as Moses and Josiah Ezod: 31. and 2 King 23, Did not tye themselves precisely to Exe∣cute the Law according to all these Circumstances; And so it remaines that though these Circumstances do not bind the Magistrate yet the Law according to its substance is yet binding.
There is a Third Exception they bring, say they, the Magistrate under the Old Testament had an in∣fallible Rule whereby he might know what was He∣resy and what not, to wit his consulting the Lord by Vrim and Thummim. But the Magi∣strates under the New Testament have not this infal∣lible Rule, and so it does not follow from the duty of Magistrates under the Old Testament, that the same should be done by the Magistrates under the New. To which we Answer, This exception suppones First, That Magistrates under the New Page 67 Testament may punish those whom they know cer∣tainly to be Hereticks, and surely there are sundry Hereticks of this kind, which he may know as well as if he had consulted with Vrim and Thummim. Se∣condly, this exception of theirs doth suppone, that the Magistrate under the New Testament hath no way left him how to come to know infallibly what is Heresy, what not, which is false; he hath the word of God, his Spirit speaking by it, which is more in∣fallible than that of the Priests getting their Answer from Vrim and Tummim: For it might be doubted whither the Priest had taken up the Answer right or not; or if he was Faithful in giving it, accord∣ing as he had received it. Yea Peter sayes the word is more sure than any voice from Heaven, 2 Peter 1. Thirdly, This exception does suppone that the Ma∣gistrate under the Old Testament took this course of consulting with Vrim and Thummim, for knowing who was Hereticks, Idolaters, and who not: But this is false▪ it was only the written Word which they consulted with, for knowing what was Heresy, what not Is•: 8. 20. To the Law, and to the Testimony, &c. And for the application of the rule to persons, that they might know who were the Hereticks, we ne∣ver read that they consulted Vrim and Thummim, but used a judicial Process against the person challenged, and proved the Fact by Witnesses: So Deut. 17. 4. There must be a scandal of Idolatry upon the man challenged, And if it be told thee, and thou hast heard of it, and enquired diligently, &c. And it must be proved on him by Witnesses, verse 6. As the mouth Page 68 of two Witnesses, or three Witnesses, shall he that is wor∣thy of Death, he put to death.
They except Fourthly, That in the Infancy and Non∣age of the Church God Typed out things Spiritual by things Earthly, and so those Punishments were Types of Spiritual Censures, Excommunication and Hell, and therefore are not now to be put in practice: We answer First, Excommunication and Damnati∣on were things present to the Jewish Church, and so they had no Types of them. Secondly, This is to turn Scripture to Allegories, and by this same rea∣son we may cast at punishments of Sins against the Second Table, as being Types of Spiritual Cen∣sures, Hell and Damnation, and there is as much ground for affirming the one as the other. This much for Arguments from the Old Testament.
We shall next hint at some Arguments from the New Testament. First, If so be that it were un∣usual for Magistrates to meddle with men in matters of Religion, then certainly Jesus Christ and his Apo∣stles should have used this legal Defence, when the Magistrate called them before him to answer about their Doctrine, They would have said, ye have no place to challenge us for our profession, for matters of Opinion are free; but we do not hear that they de∣clined the Judge, or used any such Defence, for sure Christ and his Apostles would have left no lawful mean unessayed.
There is a second Argument taken from Rom. 13. 4. Where speaking of the Civil Magistrate the Apostle sayeth, For he is the Minister of God to thee far good, but Page 69 if thou do that which is evil be afraid, There is set down the object of the Magistrates Power and the extent of it, and it is set down indefinitly, upon him that doth evil. And therefore if Hereticks, Maintainers of falle Worship, be doers of evil, they fall under the Magistrates Power. Now that spreaders of Heresie are doers of evil, we did prove in the second Doctrine raised from this Verse, where we shew that Heresy and Error was as much to be eschewed, as Adulte∣ry and other Sins against the Second Table; and the Magistrate as Magistrate should put forth his zeal a∣gainst them as much; and all the places command∣ing zeal against Error (which are not few) in the New Testament proves this, for they bind every one according to his place; the Minister according to his place, and the Magistrate according to his.
There is one Exception they make much of against this Argument, and it is this; say they, By doers of evil, cannot be meaned these that are taken with Error and Heresy, and other Sins against the First Table: And that because the evil that is here spoken of, is the evil that is mentioned in the beginning of the Verse, But if thou do that which is evil be afraid, It is an evil, say they, that any that were guilty of it had need to be afraid of the Magistrate because of it, and so it is not meaned the evil of Error and He∣resy against Christian Truths: For the Magistrate here spoken of, is the Roman Emperor and Senate, who themselves were Enemies to Christian Religion, and so none needed to be afraid of them for spread∣ing Errors, but rather for mantaining Truths; and Page 70 therefore the doers of evil here meaned, must be the controveeners of the Emperors Civil Laws, and not Hereticks and such like. For Answer, This exception is grounded on a wrong supposition; for by the Magistrate is here meaned, not only the Roman Magistrate, but all Magistrates in general do∣ing their Duty as they ought. Paul indeed takes oc∣casion from the Roman Magistrate to speak here what is the Duty of all Magistrates; and it is clear from several Circumstances of the Text: We shall mark one of them from the first words of the Text, For he is the Minister of God to thee, Now sure it is, this must be meaned of Magistrates in general, and not astricted only to the Roman Magistrate; he not being the Minister of God unto every one who was to make use of this Scripture. There is another Cir∣cumstance of the Text, proving this in the 3 V•rse, For Rulers are not a Terror to good Works. Now sure this must be expounded of the Office of Magistracy in general, and of that which Magistrates should be, and not of the Roman Magistrate, who then was well known to be a Terror unto many good Works, not only unto Christian, but also unto Mo∣ral Vertues.
We shall give you only another Argument shortly taken from that Prophecy, Revel: 17. 16. A Prophecy t•at the Civil Magistrate shall bring down the Anti∣christ, and that Error of the Roman Religion, as a most acceptable work to God: And so the Magistrates Hand is not bound up from punishing Error and Heresy against the First Table, no more than from Page 71 punishing other Sins done against the Second Table. And this much for our Arguments brought in de∣fence of the Truth.
In the Third place, we promised to bring forth some of their Arguments and solve them; Herein we need not spend much time for this being Truth, there can be nothing said against it, which is Truth: Yet there being some nimble Spirits to propone Ar∣guments which every one cannot answer; we shall stay a little on this Third point also.
The First thing they object is this: If so be that it were the Magistrates Duty to punish Error and He∣resy then Jesus Christ would have reproved the Jews for Tollerating the Pharisees and Saduces: But so it is he never reproves the Jews for so doing: Nothing of that kind is recorded by any of the Evangelists.
To this we Answer, First, That it does not fol∣low that Christ did not reprove the Jews, because it is not written: For John sayes Chap. 20. 30. He did speak many things which are not written; so it follows not. But Secondly, we say, although it be granted that Christ did not reprove them, yet it fol∣lows not that their neglect was not a Sin. For First, by that reason we might say that the Mgistrate should not punish Theft, because Christ speaks nothing of the punishment of it in the New Testament: Nei∣ther, Secondly, reproveth he the Church for not Cen∣suring them, and yet it followeth not but that they ought to be Censured that way. And Thirdly, God had revealed his Will before. And Fourthly, It would have been for no purpose to have stired up Page 72 the Magistrate to this Duty then, for the Sectarie• themselves had the Power that was of it. And Lastly, the Jews at this time had not the Power of Civil Punishment in their Hands, but the Romans, and so it was not in their Power to punish.
There is a Second Objection which they bring from the Apostle Paul's words in the Epistle to the Philipp: 3. 15. where speaking of Differences among Chri∣stians, he sayes, Let us therefore as many as be perfect, •e thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise mind∣ed, God shall reveal even this unto you. Say they, we see what was Paul's Judgement, That notwith∣standing of Differences, there should be Heart Wal∣ing or Uniting; and therefore the Magistrate should not be stired up to Censure those who Err. To this we Answer, Paul speaks nothing there of State Toll•ration; for then the Civil Powers were not for Christ, but of Church Toll•ration in respect of that meek¦ness and tenderness which Christs Servants should have in inflicting of Church Censures, for fear of breaking Love: Secondly, He commandeth not all Er∣rors to be thus Tollerated; for so he should contra∣dict himself in another place, where he sayes, An Heretick after the first and second admonition reject. And Thirdly, Paul limits that Tolleration that he would have here; and that in two things. First, As to the time, how long, God shall reveal even this un∣to you. And Secondly, He supposes the persons dif∣fering from them should walk with them in things wherein they differ not, according to the same rule, and so make no separation. Now it does not fol∣low Page 73 that those who remained Obstinate in their Er∣ror should be still Tollerated, and that the Censure of the Church should not strick on them at all; chiefly if it be such an Error as causes Rents and Schisms, for he sayes, Take heed to those that cause Divisions and Offences, and avoid them, Rom. 16. 17.
Their Third Objection is, That this is contrary to the way the Apostles took with those that Erred, their way was to watch against them that Erred, Acts 20. 29. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous Wolves enter in among you, not sparing the Flock. Verse 31. Therefore watch—That which the Apostle commands is, to watch against them. And in Rom. 16. 17. Now I beseech you, Brethren, mark them which cause Divisions and Offences—and avoid them. And in the 2 Timoth: 2. 24. it is said, And the Servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient. Now, say they, this is a far other way than to stir up the Civil Magistrate against those who differ from us, This Savors not of the meek Spirit of Christ. I answer, It is the Duty of Ministers to watch against Error, and that is one mean for suppressing of Error and Heresy; but one mean destroyes not another: it does not follow that this which is in controversy is not another mean also, neither is it contrary to that meekness commanded to wait on them, more than to deliver to Satan, or to Curse, and Excommuni∣cate Apostates, with that great Curse called, Ana∣thema Maranatha, 1 Cor. 16. 22. They may as well say, It is contrary to Christs meek Spirit to establish the Page 74 Sword in the Hands of the Christian Magistrate, ac∣cording to Rom: 13. 4. For punishing Sins against the Second Table, and so under this pretence, Adulte∣ters, Murderers, Seducers, Thieves, and all should go free unpunished. But they do far mistake the Meekness of Jesus Christ, Christs Meekness is not to let people live in their Sin, to let vile Hereticks trample on Truth, destroying Souls: And in the mean time binding up the Hand of the Magistrate, that he dare not hinder it; this were a disrespect to Truth, and cruelty to poor Souls in danger to be carried away; which our Lord was very tender of.
There is a Fourth Objection from Matth. 13. 24. Taken from the Parable of the Tares; where the Kingdom of Heaven is compared to a man that sowed Wheat, and the wicked one comes and sowes his Tares among it, and both is bidden let grow till the Harvest. Now, say they, by these Tares is mean∣ed Hereticks; therefore they should not be plucked up by the Sword of the Civil Magistrate. We An∣swer, If they astrict the Word Tares to Hereticks, in this sense, That the Sword of the Civil Magistrate should not be used against them; by the same reason they may say, that they should not be disputed a∣gainst, for that is a plucking up of them also. Se∣condly, We answer, That by the Tares that are com∣manded here to be suffered let grow up to the Har∣vest, is no more meaned Hereticks than other Scandalous Livers: And this we shall make out from Christs exponding the Parable, Verse 41—And they shall gather out of his Kingdom all things that offend▪Page 75 Now Hereticks are not all things that offend, other scandalous Livers offend also. Thirdly, By the Tares is meaned, Them that do Iniquity, vers. 41. Now others besides Hereticks are such. And Fourthly, If by the Tares were here meaned Hereticks, then by the [Wheat] are meaned only the Orthodox, and so every man that is Orthodox should—Shine forth as the Sun in the Kingdom of Heaven, vers. 43 But there are many who are Orthodox▪ who yet are evil Livers, and so will never go to Heaven. And therefore by the [Wheat] must only be meaned the truly Regenerate; and so by the [Tares▪] must not only be meaned Hereticks, but all other Evil∣doers.
And further, By this it would follow that Hereticks should not be Excommunicate, for that is a rooting out. But what can be meaned by the Tares then: for whatever be meaned by them, it will follow that by this Parable Verse 30▪ they should be tollerated; and to say that all vile scandalous Persons should be tollerated, is more absurd than that only Hereticks should be tollerated. Answer, If we narrowly ob∣serve Christs exposition of the Parable, we will find that part where he bids, Let both grow together until the Harvest, is not exponed, although he expone the rest, which doubtless he would not have omitted, if it had been his mind that we should have built any Doctrine of this kind on it; therefore we say this is not Christs meaning, that he would have all men (how Godless and Scandalous soever) let alone; for that were contrary to other places of Scripture: Page 76 But that Christ is to show that when all pains are taken by Christs Officers for purging the Church, yet there will be alwayes some Hypocrites in it, and it is Christs mind, though he hath given order to Cen∣sure scandalous Offenders, yet that his Servants should not press after such a separation of the precious from the vile, as to have all the Weeds and wicked in heart to be cast out; lest when they gather out the Graceless Tares, they should root out also the Gracious [Wheat] with them.
Object. 5. There is a Fifth Objection from Luk: 9. 54: Where Christ reproves James and John for seek∣ing fire to come down from Heaven to consume the Samaritans; and from this they argue: That when People refuse Christ in his Person, much less when they oppose him in his Doctrine, it is not his mind that they should be punished, but admonished and waited on: But before we Answer they must prove the Quarrel was for Religion. Now this cannot be made out for the Reason why James would have •ire coming down from Heaven, was, because of an Act of Inhumanity in denying lodging to Christ; and that because of the great envy and hatred betwixt these two people the Jews and Samaritans. The Se∣cond Answer we give is, although the Quarrel had been for Religion, yet it makes not against this Doctrine; because they were wholly Idolaters, ut∣terly ignorant of the Gospel; and our Doctrine is not that when a Nation is lying in Idolatry, that the first thing that should be done is the Magi∣strates sword to slay them, or to seek fire from Hea∣ven Page 77 to consume them: We say it is utterly unlawful to goe with fire and sword to force the Indians to embrace the Christian Faith; only they should be taught, instructed and restrained from spreading Blasphemies, reproaching the Son of God &c. Our Question is whether or not a People that are Mem∣bers of the visible Church, that have bound them∣selves by Covenant to adhere to the Christian Truths, whether or not when they fall away from Truth to damnable Error, the Magistrate may make them stand to their Covenant, as Josiah did 2 Chron: 34. 31. And he caused all that were present, to stand to it.
Object. 6. The Sixth Objection is this; say they, If Magistrates may punish Error and Heresy, then he may force the Conscience; for what they hold, is as they profess, according to the light of their Con∣science: Now to force the Conscience is a fearful sin, who dare meddle with Conscience but the God of Conscience. Answer: This Argument seems plau∣sible; but for Answer to it we say, Conscience can∣not be forced properly, Only we say that the Magi∣strate may punish for, or restrain sin in such out∣ward motions as come from an evil informed Con∣science, and if this be a sinful forcing of the Consci∣ence then it were a sin to punish those who from Conscience killed the Apostles John 16, 2.—the time cometh, that whosoever Killeth you, will think that he doeth God Service. Yet we hope none will say the punishment of such would be a sinful forcing of the Conscience; so it were a sinful thing to punish Page 78 those who made their Children to pass through the fire unto Molech, under the name of Conscience• These and many other absurdities would follow on this Tenet of theirs, that none ought to be punished for any thing they do following the indytments of a deluded Conscience. What have there not been, and yet are, Hereticks who pretend Conscience for the vilest villanies of the World? The Jesuits pretend Conscience for stobbing Kings and Magistrates. The G•ost•cks to have Wives common. And ancient Hereticks hath made it a point of Conscience to practice Adultery, and some present He∣reticks to Marry their Sisters, so that the •igher in Blood the Persons Married are, the Marriage is to them the more spiritual, and a number of such like villanies. Now will any think it a sinful forcing of Conscience to punish such, whatever they tatle of Conscience. But Secondly, To what they say, for the Magistrate to punish men for Error, is a perse∣cuting of men for Conscience. To this we Answer: Then it should follow that God commanded sin to the Godly Magistrates under the Old Testament, for it is clear they had a command to punish men for Idolatry. Thirdly, if this be a persecuting of Con∣science then it is a persecuting of Conscience to Preach against Error, to refute it by good Reason. To make this Consequence clear, know as there is a Persecution with the hand, so with the Tongue, and it is the bitterest Persecution that is, called job 5. 21▪ The scourge of the Tongue. And the mocking of Christ was one of the fearfullest Persecutions he met Page 79 with he trusted in God &c. And so according to this Doctrine it were unlawful to Preach against them &c. Why? For it is a sin to persecute them for Con∣cience. But Fourthly, our Answer is; It is not the hurt inferred that makes sinful Persecution, but it is the cause for which the punishment is inflicted.
There is a Seventh Objection they bring against this Truth, and it is this, say they, If Magi∣strates were bound to punish Error and Heresy, it would lay a tye on Magistrate; to know what is Truth, and what is Error; Now, say they, there are many intricate Questions about the na∣ture of Error and Truth, which the Generality of Magistrates are ignorant of, and therefore say they according to this Doctrine, we put power in the hand of the Magistrate whereby he may punish those that profess the Truth, if the Magistrate mistake, and take Truth for Error. A dangerous Doctrine, If Magistrates turn ignorant or corrupt. This seem∣eth plausible: But we shall Answer to it. If this Argument hold strong then it would follow that the Civil Magistrate hath no power to punish sins against the second Table; for there are a number of diffi∣cult Questions even about these, as in some cases of Murther, Incest, matters of false Witness: And the Lord sayeth Deut. 17. 8. If there arise a matter too hard for thee in Judgement, between blood and blood, between plea and plea, and between stroke and stroke, &c. Which suppones there are many doubtful questions even about things Civil which the generality are igno∣rant of: and so it may fall out they may punish the Page 80 honest man for the knave; and yet this doth not e∣vert the ordinance of Magistracy, neither doth it fol∣low that he hath no power to punish for Civil crimes▪ Secondly, they may argue as well against what is com∣manded to Masters of Families, That he receive not an Heretick within his house 2 John v. 10. and 2 Ti∣moth: 3, 6. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, &c. Rom: 16. 17, 18. Now I beseech you Brethren mark them which cause divisions—and avoid them. &c. By all which he supposeth certainly they have some knowledge to judge who are Hereticks and who not; else how could they elchew them; and so they may argue as well against these com∣mands, as against this Doctrine: For may they say, this is to put it on Masters of Families to know who are Hereticks, who not, to know what is Truth and what not, and this the generality of Masters of Families are ignorant of; and so a power put on them to barr the door on honest men, in stead of an Heretick: Now when they free these Com∣mands from these consequences we shall free this Doctrine from them also. Thirdly, Neither the word nor this Doctrine putteth a power on Magi∣strates to punish Truth, their power is only to pu∣nish Error: They may indeed so abuse their power, but it followeth not that therefore they have no power to punish Error: no more than because that a Godless Magistrate as Nero was, may abuse his power to oppress, Murther honest Citizens, and do other Acts of Injustice against the second Table; that therefore the Magistrate hath no power to pu∣nish Page 81 Theeves, Robbers, Murderers, because either through mistake or wickedness, he may abuse it to punish innocent Men; whatever remedy is left for the Magistrates abusing of his power under the one, the same is left under the other, as insome cases suffering, in others resisting.
There is an Eighth Objection they have against this Truth, say they, we make the mean unproportionate to the end, no outward force can convert a man and br•ng him to Christ, it makes men but Hypocrites, the blast of the Kings horn or outlawry can make no man a member of Christs body, that must be done willingly, not by compulsion, and this were to cudgell People out of their opinions. To this we Answer, That our Doctrine doth not hold forth that the power of the Magistrate is any mean to convert Souls: Only this it doth hold forth that the power of the Magistrate is a mean to restrain men from doing sinful Acts against Christ; as Asa made use of his Civil Power to keep down Idolatry, it puts People indeed on the profession of outward Obedience, and to this it is very proportioned. And therefore Secondly, Though the blast of the Kings horn cannot make a Member of Christs invisible Bo∣dy, by working Grace; Yet it may be a mean in its own kind for making a Member of the Church visible, by with-holding from sinful Acts, and put∣ting them on Acts of outward Obedience. A Third Answer we give, That the power of the Magistrate doth not make men Hypocrites of it self, but through the corruption of Man's heart, who makes Page 82 himself an Hypocrite. The end of this ordinance, what it is in it self is set down in Deut: 13. 11. And all Israel shall hear, and fear, and shall do no more any such wickedness as this is, among you. That is the end, that they being moved by their Example, should abstain from such like worke: but that they do this Hypocritically, is from their corrupt nature, who fears him more who can kill the Body, than him who after he hath killed the Body can cast both Soul and Body into Hell. We Answer lastly if this were a good Argument why a Magistrate should not make use of his power to punish for false Doctrine because throw occasion thereof many turn Hypocrites: then say we, It should follow that the Magistrate should not make use of his power to punish Incests, Adul∣teries, Murders, Thefts &c. because it is the oc∣casion of many Hypocrites, who abstain more from such, for the fear of punishment, than for the fear of God; yea according to this Doctrine it should follow, That the Preaching of the word should be unlawful, because through the occasion of it many turn Hypocrites under it.
There is a Ninth Objection they have against this Truth, and it is this, say they, By this power we give to the Magistrate to punish Error and Heresy, we give him the Power of Church Judicatories, to judge of Doctrines, Error and Heresy. In Answer to this we shall speak more fully in the 〈◊〉 Doctrine, only for the present this giving Power to the Magistrate to punish Error and Heresy, gives him not a publick Judgement to discern, what is Error, Page 83 and what not, as a Judge in Church matters; but only a Judgement of Discretion in relation to his own Act: As for Example, when the Lord gives Power to Masters of Families, not to let Hereticks come into their House, it is not a putting the Power of Church Judicatories in their Hands.
IV. The last thing we promised to speak to you of, was to give you some use of this: And the First is, to reprove those who think Opinions are free, and that none ought to be punished for such, We grant as we said that there would be a difference amongst Errors, some more damnable, some less; and so to be less punished: and there is a difference to be put amongst persons, some are seduced, some whose Con∣science is Seared, some venting their Darkness, some seeking Light: In such there should be a difference observed. Again the Magistrate is to deal one way with a Community, another way with some per∣sons, before it come to such an hight. And Lastly, He is to deal otherwise with Errors that cannot be mantained without troubling the Peace of the Church and State, and those that break not Love, nor strike not at any material point of Truth; the last happily may be Tollerate, if the Maintaine•s of them do not evidence contempt: But not so the first. These and such like Distinctions may be to qualify this Power; but to deny it altogether, is the most damnable Doctrine that ever was vented, the De∣vil cannot take a shorter course to undoe Religion, and there can be no heart zealous for God but he must loath it; and therefore look so on it: Think Page 84 not, what is that to you what others do, if ye get leave to serve God your self: Is that all your zeal for God, that if ye get leave to serve him, ye care not that all beside you Spit on his Face, and serve the Devil.
Vse 2. Hence see what an Account those Magi∣strates have to make, who make no use of their Power this way for God, if they get their own Houses built, cares not for his, if Rebellion against themselves be curbed, cares not for the curbing of Rebellion against God. This was the Sin of the Parliament of England, though they entred into a Covenant with the most high God, That they would suppress Er∣ror and Heresy, they never employed their Power that way; and that because they durst not for angring of their Army, and therefore God hath suffered their Army to overturn them, and set themselves and whom they please in their place; And now they by their practice give Tollerat•on to all; and this is the way to strengthen them. I say in the Name of the Lord, if they repent not, it shall be the way to ruine them, A people Swearing in their low condi∣tion to root out Heresy, &c. And God blessing them from that day; and within a few years carrying them∣selves as if they had Sworn to do the contrary, to suffer all, encourage all, invite all the Devils in Hell to vent what Blasphemies they please; and for their encouragement to give them Surety that no Power in Brittain shall hinder them, Was there ever such an affront done to God? Think ye that he will sit with it? No, if he should make the one half aven∣gers Page 85 of a broken Covenant against the other, He will not. It is noted of Asa, 2 Chron. 14. 5. Gods way, to keep Magistrates sure, and their Kingdoms quiet, is to be zealous against false Worship: No, but (say they the way is not to anger Hereticks, they are the surest Pillars of our Commonwealth, but woe to, and will be to, that Common-wealth that is builded on such Pillars. And if Scotland, or any party in it, joyn with them on these terms, our woe is but com∣ing. He is a jealous God chiefly in the matter of his Service, as is clear from the Second Com∣mand.
The Third use is, If this be an Ordinance of God to put Power in the Magistrates hand to punish Er∣ror, it should make you scar at Error and labour to be grounded in the Truth: For we see Error is a sin that God hates, and it is a sin that God will have the Magistrate to punish, and so a sin that he him∣self will punish if the Magistrate do neglect it. It is natural to men to think, If they can live a good Life, it is the less matter what be their Opinion; but the Lord Judges not so; for as he will have other sins punished by the Magistrate, so he will have these punished also. And such as he usually punisheth himself, by fearful Plagues, when the Magistrate neglecteth his Duty, in punishing other sins, so doth he in those. We might speak much from History of fearful Judgements sent immediatly by God upon Hereticks, but we shall here close.
SECT: III. A BRIEF REFUTATION OF THE DOCTRINE OF Erastianism.
Head I. That there is a Church Government held forth in Scripture.
HAving thus show'n that the Doctrine of Tolleration is not of God, I proceed to De∣monstrate this also in some other of the most Dangerous Errors of the Times; We shall be∣gin first with these Errors which are about the Go∣vernment of the Church; and that because the Govern∣ment Page 87 of the Church is the hedge of the Doctrine; for if once the Government be brangled or shaken the wild Boar of the Wilderness cometh in easily and corrupteth the Doctrine: therefore it is that the Devils main design hath been against the Govern∣ment of the Church to blast and storm this Wall on all Hands.
The summe of what we have to say in this is, to make out these four points: First, That there is a Government appointed by Christ in his Church distinct from the Civil Government. Se∣condly, We shall show that this Government is not in the hands of the Civil Magistrate, but in the hands of Christs own officers, which he hath appoint∣ed for Governing his house, By inflicting of Church Censures, enacting of Church canons, so as they are not to act by derived power from the Magi∣strate, and Appeals are not to be made from them to the Magistrate. Thirdly, we shall endeavour to prove, That this power of Church Government is not in the hands of private Christians, or the com∣munity of the Faithful: but in the hand of Christs own Officers, Ministers and Elders. And Lastly, We shall endeavour to prove that this Authority and Go∣vernment is not in the hand of particular Congre∣gations or particular Elderships, Independently from other Judicatories above them: but that this power is given to them, so as they must be subject to Superior Judicatories. In which propositions we will meet with these Errors that are most dange∣rously opposite to Church Government at this time. Page 88 The First two propositions are contrary to the Doctrine of Erastians, and the last two are contrary to the Doctrine of Independents (as they are com∣monly designed) First, we shall engage with Erasti∣anism and our Scope in this shall be as in the former, to show that however it pretend to the Spirit, yet when it is brought to the tryal it will be found not to be of God.
This Doctrine or Error hath its name from the prime Author of it called Erastus, a Doctor of Me∣dicine who upon some discontent did first vent it: to wit, That Ministers should only meddle with Preaching; but should have no power to meet in Church Judicatories, Sessions, Presbyteries, or such like, nor should they punish Scandalous sins with Church Censures, Such as Suspension or Excom∣munication; But that all power whatsoever in a Nation, both in Church and State, should be in the hand of the Civil Magistrate. This Doctrine so soon as it was vented, did get, and does yet get many followers, chiefly among state Divines, and Christians that know more of wordly policy than Christian simplicity, so that in a short time if God prevent it not, it is like to swallow up all other Controversies about Church Government, so plausible and pleasing it is to the powers of the World, who cannot well endure to have Christ Reign∣ing besides them. Psalm: 2. 3. Let us break their bands assunder, and cast away their cords from us. Both Sectaries and Malignants do aggree in this Error, to take the power of Discipline out of the Churches Page 89 hand's. The spiritual power of Church Censures in the hands of Christs officers, is an eye sore to both of them.
But to come nearer to the point, There are two heads of this Erastian Doctrine which we shall labour to refute. The First, is most gross, whereby they affirm, That there is no particular Church Govern∣ment set down in Scripture; In a word, that there is no Government in the Church by divine right; but that this Government is left in the hands of the Civil Magistrate, whether to erect any Government at all in the Church, or not: or if he please to erect one, That he may establish That Government which suits best the well-being of the Civil state: So that according to this Doctrine the Civil Magistrate may establish Episcopacy this year, the next year he may establish Presbytry, and the third year he may cast both and establish Independency; And if he like, He may find out a Government different from any of these, and establish it. The Second Erastian Er∣ror is this, whereby they affirm whatever Govern∣ment be in the Church (whether grounded in Scripture or not) that according to Scripture it is in the hands of the Civil Magistrate and that he is the chief fountain of Church Government.
In opposition to the first Error we lay down this Conclusion, which (God willing) we shall make good, That Jesus Christ the King and head of his Church hath established a particular form of Church Go∣vernment in his word, which to alter is not in the power of any State whatsoever. He hath set down a way for Page 90 punishing Scandals, for inflicting Church Censures, Enacting Church canons; And hath not left this in the Arbitriment of Kings or Parliaments to set down any Government they please. In prosecuting which point we shall follow that Method we keeped in refuting the Doctrine of Tolleration. We shall First clear the State of the Question. Secondly, We shall bring Arguments to confirm the Truth. Third∣ly, We shall Answer these Arguments the Adver∣sary brings against the Truth: And so we shall apply all to Use.
I. And First, for clearing the State of the Question, take thir two assertions: First, we do not affirm that all the Circumstantials of Church Government is set down expresly in the word; But only first, That all the substantial parts of Church Government have a warrand in the word and are therein so fixed and e∣stablished, as they are unalterable by any State what∣soever. And Secondly, As to the Circumstantials that relate to this Government; we say, they are set down under general Rules, sufficient for the order∣ing of them: such as, let all things be done in order and to edification. Our Second Assertion is, we are not to enter here to show, what is the particular kind of Government that is appointed in the word, and what things falls under the power of Church Go∣vernours, and in what relation they are to handle them, what are the nature of these Censures, and how in all these things they differ from the Civil power: It would take long time to clear these. The thing we aim at is only, this general: That Jesus Christ the Page 91 King of his Church and Lord of his House hath set down in his word a particular way for Governing of his house distinct from the Civil, which is not in the power of any State to alter. We proceed now to Arguments for comfirming this Truth.
II. The first Argument is this, If so be that under the Old Testament, there was a particular form of Church Government different from the Civil, set down in the word; then there must be also the like set down under the New; but▪ so it is that there was a particular way set down under the Old Testa∣ment for Governing the Church: Therefore, there must be the like set down under the new. For making out this Argument, there are two things we have to clear. The First is, That there was such a Government as this under the Old Testament warranted by the word. The Second thing to be cleared, is, that therefore and upon the same Reason there must be also the like under the New. For proving of the First, that there was a particular Go∣vernment of the Church different from the Gvern∣ment of the state under the Old Testament, We shall clear two things. First, That they had Church Judicatories different from the Civil Judicatories; And to prove this we shall cite two places of Scrip∣ture: The First is, in 2 Chron: 19. 8, 9, 10. Ye may read the place at leasure; but there are these things in it proving that there was a Church Judi∣catory distinct from the Civil. First, We see that there is a Judicatory made up of the Church-men of the Levits and Priests, in verse 8. Secondly, We Page 92 see that the things they judged of were spiritual matters distinguished from Civil things by calling the the first sort, The matters of the Lord, And the Se∣cond, Matters of the King, v. 11. Thirdly, We see that in this Judicatory a Church-man was Modera∣tor, in the 11 verse And behold Amariah the chief Priest is over you. And Fourthly, We see that the sentence of the Court was Execute by Church-men in the end of the 11 vers—Also the Levits shall be officers before you. All which being laid together, makes out clearly that under the Old Testament •••re was a Church Judicatory different from the Civil. The Second place is in Jeremiah. 26. 8. 9. 10 Where we have these things to make out the present point. First, We see that there were two Judica∣tories in the 8 v. There is a Judicatory of the Priests and Prophets condemning Jeremiah as a false Prophet: again in the 10. and 1•. v. We see there is a Civil Judicatory made up of States-men When the Princes of Judah hard these things, then they came up from the Kings house—&c. So it is plain they had a Church Judicatory for Church matters, as well as a Civil Judicatory for Civil matters.
The Second thing that we are to speak to in order to the proving of the first point, to wit, That there was a Government of the Church different from that of the State among the Jews, is this, that as they had Church Judicatories different from the Civil, so they had also Church Censures different from Civil punishments, as we have amongst us. And First, publick confession of Scandalous sins was in Page 93 use among them, we shall clear it from one place of Scripture Ezra 10. 10. 11. And Ezra the Priest stood up, and said unto them, Ye have transgressed—Now there∣fore make confession unto the Lord God of your Fathers, &c. There is confession of sin appointed for a fault that was Scandalous to wit, their Marrying with strange Wives. Now this confession was not only private to God, nor on a Fast day, but a personal publick acknowledgment, after particular Examination of all one by one. And we gather this from the 13. v. where it is said—Neither is this a work of one day or two—&c. And in the 16. v. Three moneths was spent on the business, so that this was a personal acknow∣ledgment given by every one of them, after the Examination of their guilt, as we do in our Church Judicatories. Secondly, Besides this publick Confessi∣on they had the Censure of suspending Scandalous men from the Ordinances, as we do suspend from the Sacrament of the Lords Supper; we will find this in David his appointing of the offices of the Priests. Among the rest it is recorded of Jehoiadah 2 Chron. 23. v, 19. And he set the porters at the gates of the house of the Lord, that none which was unclean in any thing should enter in. They were suspended from the Ordinances because of their uncleaness, And for the neglect of this the Priest's are reproved in Ezek. 22 v, 26. Her Priests have violated my Law, and have prophaned my Holy things: they have put no dif∣ference between the unclean and clean neither between the Holy and prophane. They let all come rushing to∣gether to the Ordinances: And for this they are re∣proved. Page 94Thirdly, They had among them the sen∣tence of Excommunication, which is set down un∣der the name of Cutting off from among the People. And in the new Testament it is expressed by the name of casting out of the Synagogue, which certainly was Excommunication. It is a Ridiculous alledgence that they say, by cutting off, was meaned the inflicting of Temporal death by the sword of the Magistrate; for the uncircumcised Man-child, he that had touched a dead Body and did not wash after it, were to be cut off; now who would think that such were to be put to death.
The Second thing to be made out is, That there∣fore there must be a Church Government under the New Testament, seing it was so under the Old; and the Reason is, because no necessity can be alleadged for a •hurch Government then, but the same neces∣sity is now. Is not the Church a mixed multitude now, as well as then? is there not as great need to separate betwixt the precious and the vile now, as then? Is not the Church now a feild of Wheat and Tares as well as then? Is there not need to keep the Ordinances pure now, as then, by the fence of Government? Is there not need now to suppress sin as well as then? Is not Christ perfect in all his House as well as Moses? Yea, in a word there can no∣thing be alleadged for a necessity to have a Church Government under the Old Testament, but the same may be brought to prove the necessity of it under the New.
The Second Argument we bring to prove this Page 95 point is taken from the native end of Church Go∣vernment which is spiritual, to wit—For the edify∣ing of the Body of Christ: Ephes: 4. 12. To gain the Soul of our offended Brother to Repentence Matth: 18. 15. It is—that the Spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. 1 Corinth. 5, 5. So the end of the Church Government is a spiritual end, and therefore it must have a Divine Original: Church Government whose end is spiritual can be no humane Ordinance, for such produceth no supernatural effects; therefore it must have a higher warrand for it than that of the Magistrate.
Our Third Argument is taken from this, that all the substantials of Church Government are set down expresly in Scripture, from which we make this Argument: That Government whose substantial parts are all set down expresly in Scripture, the Ma∣gistrate hath no power to alter it, or put an other in its place; but so it is that all the substantial parts of Church Government are set down expresly in Scripture: Therefore, the Magistrate hath no pow∣er to alter it. The thing we have to make out in this Argument is this, That all the substantials of Church Government are set down in Scripture; And to clear this we shall reckon up five things. First That Church officers have their warrand from Scripture Thess: 5 12. 1 Tim: 5. 17. Let the Elders that rule well, be counted worthy of double honour, espe∣cially they who labour in the word and Doctrine. There is a Ruler, or an officer with power to rule, esta∣blished in Gods house. What they say, That by Page 96Ruling there is meaned Preaching, because Ministers guide People by Preaching, is a frivolous Excepti∣on: and that because of what is in the end of the Verse— especially they who labour in the word and Doctrine. So labouring, in the word and Doctrine, is one thing, and Ruling is another thing, and not one and the same, as their Exception affirmeth. But we shall find a more clear place for it in Heb. 13. 17. Obey them that have the Rule over you, and submit your selves There are Officers established with power to Rule, and the People are commanded to submit and give Obedience to them, and so there are Rulers, Offi∣cers established in Gods Church. Secondly, The Courts and Judicatories of the Church have a war∣rand in Gods word; and for this see Matth: 18. 17, 18. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the Church—Verily I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall bind on Earth shall be bound in Heaven—The Adversaries are so shamless that they say, by the Church is here meaned, the Civil Magistrate, and that the com∣plaint should be made to them: But it is sure the Civil Magistrate is not here meaned. And to prove it, The Judicatory here meaned is that whereof the Apostles should be Members, and therefore in v, 16. It is said whatever ye [to wit the Apostles] shall bind on earth—&c. Now sure it is Jesus Christ gives no power to his Ministers to sit in Civil Courts, and to judge of Civil business. The third substantial of Church Government that hath warrand in the word is, the subordination of lesser Judicatories to great∣er; Page 97 and this is warranted in Act: 15, 2. Where Paul and Barnabas come up from Antioch, to a General Council at Jerusalem (because the controversie in hand could not be ended at Antioch) where there is a Court with power, They determine the Question, Censure the Schismaticks, giving them the name of Lyars v. 24. The Fourth substantial of this Govern∣ment set down in Scripture is, the order of pro∣ceeding in relation to Censure. 1. By private Ad∣monition, Then more pub•ick Matth: 18. 15. The fifth thing is, The nature and kind of thir Censures, which are not bodily, as taking• way the life; but spiritual, to wit, Admonitions, reproofs, Casting out of the Church, Matth: 18 17—Let him he unto thee as an Heathen and a Publican. Now from all this, It evidently appears that Christ hath set down all the Substantials of Church Government in his word: And seeing he hath done so, what man dare alter it, taking any prudential way for the good of the Church at his pleasure: Yea there is a charge given to preserve all these inviolable till Christs coming; 1 Tim: 5. 21. I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect Angels, that thou observe these things, without preferring one before another, doing no∣thing by partiality. So that which Christ hath set down concerning the Government of his house is unalterable by any person whatsomever, till the coming of Jesus Christ. So much for the third Argument.
There is a Fourth and it shall be our last, which is this, If so be that Christ hath left his House without Page 98 any particular Government, only referring it to the Civil State, to appoint what Government they please▪ it would reflect much on the wisdome of Jesus Christ; For the Church visible is his Kingdom, his House, his Vinyard▪ his Garden; And shall we say that he hath appointed no Laws to Govern no Courts to guide this Kingdom, but left it to the Ci∣vil Magistrate, to appoint by whom and how it pleaseth him best: A King of Clay would not do so with his Kingdom, much less he who is the King of Glory. This for the Arguments to confirm the Truth, we shall in the next place Answer their Ob∣jections.
III. The First is (say they) from 2 Tim: 3, 16. The word of God is able to make a man perfect; and therefore there is no need of Government. We An∣swer, This same Argument may as well strick a∣gainst Magistracy. But Secondly, We say (which we made already appear) That the Government of the Church is grounded on the Word; Hence their Argument proveth not, because the Government of the Church is a part of the Word, and is command∣ed by it; and so it is not an adding to it: But if they say the bare Preaching of the word is enough; We Answer, Not to detract any thing from the word Preached, which is the mean appointed by God to save Souls, yet the Exercise of Dicipline is necessary also. It is necessary (we say) for Three Reasons. 1. To keep the Ordinances of God from being polluted by the rushing foreward of Dogs, and Scandalous Persons. All the Preaching that can be, to bid Page 99 Scandalous men keep back, will not do. Then 2. It is necessary for keeping the Church from being infected by the contagion of Scandalous men. Hence sayeth the Apostle Paul, a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump: Therefore put the incestous man from among you. 3. It is necessary for the good of the Soul that is censured: So in the 2 Thess: 3. 14— note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. And 1 Cor: 5. 5. Excommunica∣tion serveth for the Destruction of the Flesh, that is, To tame and mortify its Lusts: And so although the word be only the necessary mean for the converting of Souls, yet it doth not follow that the Government of the Church should not be exercised, to wit, that the word may work the better.
The Second Objection is this, That all the Argu∣ments we have to establish a Church Government by Divine right are taken from the Churches pra∣ctice in the Apostles time, and commands given them; but it does not follow that what was then, should be a rule now; and they give this as the Rea∣son of the difference; because the Magistrate was then a Pagan, and so would not meddle with these things; but the case is now otherwise when the Magistrate is turned Christian. We Answer First, By this it is granted, that Church Government was an institution of Christ, at least in the primitive times, Now sure it is that every thing instituted by Christ layeth on a perpetual obligation, except Christ in his word hath set a period, that it should be only so long: So if this Argument of theirs have any force, they Page 100 must show from Scripture that Christ hath appoint∣ed this period for Church Government, so as it should be only in force under an Idolatrous Pagan Magistrate: And that the Power of it should cease under the Christian Magistrate: But no place of Gods word can be given for the proof of t•is; But on the contrary a Command is given, That which Christ delivered to the Apostles, 1 Timoth. 6. 14 Should be keeped to his second coming, And therefore it remains a perpetual Ordinance. Secondly, We An∣swer, That if this were true, then the Case of the Church should be worse under the Christian than the Pagan Magistrate; If so be that under the one, they have an Intrinsecal Power to purge and keep his Church free from Scandals, but not under the other, would not this be hard. Thirdly, We Answer, That the reasons for which the Church did exercise Government, in the primitive times, were taken from common Equity, and so are binding to the Church at all times. We find this 1 Cor. 5. 5. Where a command is given to exercise Discipline by Ex∣communicating of the Incestuous person: The rea∣sons given are, First, The good of the Mans Soul verse 5. Secondly, The good of the Church to be keeped from Infection, vers. 6. Now the Church is bound to see to these at all times.
We come to the Fourth thing, which is a word of Vse: And it serves 1. To reprove those who think debates about the Government of the Church useless and of no value: To what purpose is it (say they) what be the Government, and who governs, if sin Page 101 be punished, and the Word Preached. I answer' it is of much moment: For, from what is said it ap∣pears that Church Government is an Ordinance of God, a part of his word, and they who evert it, or gives way to the everting of it, give way to evert a part of the Word of God; yea to the bringing down of the Government of Christs own House. It is a point of Truth that concerns no less than the Royal Diadem of Christ, and all who have got good of Truth are bound to stand for it; yea it is more than an ordinary Truth: The question is concern∣ing Ch•ists Kingdom, if he have a Kingdom of his own distinct from the Kingdoms of the World; If he shall have •is own Laws, Office-bearers, Courts, Censures, according to his will in his Word; or if all he hath left to that purpose be to scra•ched out, and the Civil Magistrate to appoint what Laws, Rules, Courts, he pleaseth in Christs House: So it is a point relating to his Kingdom, a Doctrine to be avowed, and a point of Truth worth the Sustering for, and which some have suffered for and boasted in it, yea it is a point of Truth that hath this advan∣tage beyond other Truths, That Christ hath suffer∣ed for it himself in his own person, for it's clear that this was the only point he was accused on by P•∣late, and he avowed it Luke 23. 3. That he had a Kingdom, though not of the World, yet in the World. We shall find, that this point was chiefly laid to Christs charge in John 18. 33. 34, 35, 36, 37. And this was the p•int that was driven home by the Jews 〈◊〉 Christ, John. 19. It was his 〈◊〉 on the Cross, Page 102Jesus Christ of Nazareth King of the Iews. And this was the point that straitned Pilate most, and put him to it to make Christ suffer, Joh. 19. So this point hath this advantage, that in a special manner Christ s•ffered as a Martyr for it: Should any then think it a little thing to suffer for? God forbid. Yea we may think it an Honour.
The Second Use, If so be that Church Govern∣ment is an Ordinance of God, then those intrusted with it, such as Ministers and Elders, would discharge it as Service to God, so as to be countable to him; t•ere should be an other frame of Spirit, when Men are in Church Judicatories, than when they are in Ci∣vil Judicatories: These are Ordinances of Men, thir of God, and require more than a common frame of Spirit. Alas (we may say) for the Unministerial like Carriage of Ministers and Elders, may justly provoke God to thro us out altog•ther.
A Third Vse of this point is, That seeing Church Government is an Ordinance of Jesus Christ, then ye that are people should obey and submit to those that are over you in the Lord, otherwise if it be not t•us looked on it may provoke the Lord to remove the Hedge from us; and if this were, God knoweth what we would be: we are evil now, but if people got leave to do every thing that seemeth good in their own eyes, we could not but be much worse: Ye see what ye are with it but know not what ye will be without it. And so much for the first Head of Erastian Doctrine.
Head II. The Power of Church Govern∣ment belongeth not to the Ci∣vil Magistrate.
THe Second Head of Erastian Doctrine, which we are to prove not to be of God, is, That whereby they affirm, That all the Power of Church Government is in the Hands of the Civil Magistrate. And here there are some differences a∣mong themselves: some giving him all Power to dis∣pence all Church Ordinances, and this as a Magi∣strate, without a Call from the Church; and so to Preach and to Administrate the Sacraments: Others again content themselves to ascribe to him only a Power of Jurisdiction to make Church Laws, to in∣flict Church Censures. And herein they also differ, some puting this Power wholly in the Hand of the Magistrate: Others conjunctly with the Ministers; a third placeth it in him as the fountain, and in Church-men but as his Deputes; so that they are to act by vertue of a Commission from him, and meddle only with these things that he gives them Warrand for, and so to meddle with them as to be lyable to an Appeal to him as the supream Judge in all Page 104 Church matters. We contrary to all these shall make out this following Assertion: To wit, That the Civil Magistrate as a Magistrate hath no Power either to Preach, or Administrate the Sacraments, nor yet to make Church Laws, or inflict Church Censures, either by himself or others as his Deputes; but all this power doth belong wholly to Church Officers, Ministers, and Elders: Which power they are to execute without Dependency on the Civil Ma∣gistrate; so that they are not lyable to Appeals to his Court▪ neither hath he Power to rescind the Sentence pro∣nounced by them.
In following out of this point, we shall go on as in the former, we shall First clear the state of the question. Secondly, We shall bring Arguments for the Truth, Thirdly, We shall bring their Argu∣ments against the Truth, and refute them. Fourthly, We shall apply the whole to some use.
1. First, For clearing the State of the Question take this assertion; that however we do not give the Civil Magistrate Power of Church Discipline, or the power of governing the Church, yet we give him much Power about Church matters. Our Divines follow∣ing the word of God, give the Christian Magistrate a threefold Power about Church matters. 1. A de∣fensive protecting Power. 2, A ruling Power. And 3. a Punishing Power.
First, They give him a Defending Power, and that is grounded on that Promise made to the Church in Isa. 49. 23. And Kings shall be thy Nur∣sing Fathers, &c. By this Power the Christian Ma∣gistrate is to do three things. 1. By his Power he Page 105 is to encourage, countenance, and advance by his Authority and example the publick exercise of all Gods Ordinances; and so defend the Church in her Liberties that are given to her by Christ: This was the practice of those Godly Kings under the Old Testament: So did Asa, 2 Chron. 15. to verse •8. and Jehoshaphat. 2 Chron. 1. 8, 9. 10, 11. And other Godly Kings. They encouraged others in the Ser∣vice of God; they countenanced them, and by their Authority and example allured others to the practice of Godliness; which I ower Christian Magistrates have yet. 2. By this Power they are to provide the Church with all external Necessaries; as publick convenient P•aces of meeting for Gods Worship, and publick Mantainance for the Church Officers,&c This we see was Hezekiah's practice 2 Chron. 31. 4. Moreover, he commanded the People that dwelt in Jerusalem, to give the portion of the Priests, and the Levites, that they might be encouraged in the Law of the Lord. And it was Jo••ah's practice 2 Chron. 34. He repaired the House of the Lord, The publick place of Gods Worship. 3. By this defending Power of the Christian Magistrate, he is to remove all outward Impediments lying in the way of God's Worship, such as Propha∣nity, Idolatry, Heresy, and Blaspemy, as we did prove at length in the former Controversy.
Secondly, We give to the Christian Magistrate a Ruling Power about Church matters: By this Power 1. He may convocate Church Judicatories, com∣mand them to meet, and to enact Canons, and to make rules for Governing the Church; although Page 106 he cannot make Church Laws himself: So pious Magistrates under the Old Testament did call Sy∣nods, as David 1 Chron. 23 2. And he gathered toge∣ther all the Princes of Israel, with the Priests and Levites. 2. By this Power the Christian Magistrate is to con∣firm the acts of the Church Judicatories, and to give the force of a Civil Law: Only herein we differ from the Papists, They say the Magistrate should do this blindly, he is only (say they) the Churches Echo to •ay Amen to what they conclude: But we say the Magistrate is not to do this blindly, we allow to him a judgement of Discretion to try whether what they conclude be right or not, and accordingly he is to add his Authority or not; and yet this makes him not a Judge in Church matters, but only a Judge of his own Actions. 3. By this Power the Magistrate is to take Inspection of the Carriage of Church Judicatories, so that all things be rightly managed by them; so as if they should conclude a point of Injustice, though he may not rescind their Act him∣self; yet he may command them to resume the the matter, take it to their second Thoughts, give Reasons to the contrair, exhort them to their Duties from time to time, until the matter be rightly con∣cluded: Only it is still the Church Judicatory that must rescind their own Act. By this ruling Power the Magistrate may do much: When the Church is corrupt he may reform it: That is, when Church Judicatories are all wrong, that they will do nothing for his upstirring, In this case the Magistrate may lay the Church Judicatory aside, and do that himself Page 107 which they should do: His Power in this case is ex∣traordinary, he may reform by his own Power, as Godly Josiah did 2 King 23. And as Asa and Jehosha∣phat. At such a time Magistrates may do much this way: But extraordinary Cases are not to be made ordinary Rules.
Thirdly, We give to the Magistrate a Coactive pu∣nishing power about Church-matters, and by this power we affirm that all the persons of Church-men, and their goods are lyable to the Civil Magistrate in things Civil: According to that, Let every soul be subject to the higher powers (contrary to what the Pa∣pists teach) so that if a Church-man should commit a Civil crime, the Magistrate by his own power may punish him; as Solomon did Abiathar. 2. By this coactive punishing power he may see to the Observation of Divine and Church Laws, and pu∣nish those that are contemners of them by Civil pu∣nishments. There are several examples of this; as that of Josiah He made all the People stand to the Co∣venant. Now, by all that is said ye may easily per∣ceive, that We give to Caesar that which is Caesars; although we give him not what is Gods: We give him much power about the Church, but not the power of Governing the Church. We shall clear this by a simile, how the Magistrate may have much power about Church-matters; although not power of Governing the Church: Ye know the Civil Magistrate, or Church Sessions, have much power about matters belonging to husband and wife, Pa∣rents and Children, so as to censure and punish them Page 108 for their unnatural carriage towards each other, and to see every one do duty to another; and yet neither the Civil Magistrate nor Church Session hath Ma∣rital or Husbandly power over the Wife, or Paren∣tal power over the Children so as they might chal∣lenge the same duties from them, to be done to themselves, which the Wife oweth to her Husband, or the Children to the Parents; the Husband and Parents only have that power: So it is here, The Magistrate hath much power about Church matters, but he hath no Church-power properly so called; that belongeth only to Christs own officers. Second∣ly, For clearing of the question take this Assertion, what we deny to the Christian Magistrate in the power of Governing the Church, we deny it to him only as a Magistrate; for so we laid it down in the conclusion to be proved, A Magistrate as a Ma∣gistrate hath no power in Governing the Church, other∣wise if a Christian Magistrate be chosen an Elder, he hath power of Church Government, being joyned with the rest: Only we say as a Magistrate he hath no power to Govern the Church.
II. We come to the Second thing which is our Arguments to confirm the Truth, And the first Ar∣gument is this That Jesus Christ hath given no warrand to the Civil Magistrate for the Government of his Church, and therefore he hath no right to it. 1, We say, that Christ in his word hath given no warr∣and to the Magistrate for Governing his Church: And this will appear from all these places where mention is made of any warrand given to any, of Church Page 109 Government; There is no word of the Christian Magistrate in any of them, only mention is made of Apostles, Ministers and Elders: so in Matth: 16. 19. The power of Governing the Church to bind and loose is given to Peter in the name of the rest of the Apostles, but no word of the Civil Magistrate. And Matth: 18. 17. the power of Excommunication is given to the Church and if he shall neglect to hear them 〈…〉 be—&c. The Church of Ministers and Elders hath the power, but no word of the Civil Magistrate And so in Timoth: and Titus the scope of which E∣pistles is to instruct Ministers concerning the right way of Governing the Church, what is spoken there, is spoken to them and to Ministers succeeding to them, but there is no mention of the Civil Magi∣strate. And therefore we may conclude he hath no right from Jesus Christ for Governing the Church: And what he would challenge of that kind is but an usurpation and intruding unto that, to which he hath no right.
Our second Argument is, If the power of the Church Government belong to a Magistrate as a Magistrate, then it belongeth to every Magistrate but this were absurd. We say, if the power of Go∣verning the Church did belong to a Magistrate as a Magistrate▪ then it should belong to every Magi∣strate, for whatever belongs to one as such, belongs to all such. Now this hath many absurdities fol∣lowing on it; For by this Rule Heathen Magistrates might have power of Church Government, and be Church Governours, which were absurd; For they Page 110 are not Church Members. Then Secondly, Women might be Church Governours, for they may be Ma∣gistrates in some cases, and yet they may not speak in the Church. Yea Thirdly, By this it should fol∣low that Children not come to age might have the power of Church Government, for they may be Magistrates, when Magistracy goeth by succession; Now Children cannot have the power of Church Government for that power is not to be Exercised by deputies, but by the persons themselves who are intrusted with it.
A Third Argument to confirm the Truth is this, That Magistrates as Magistrates are not Church Of∣ficers; And therefore they have no power to Go∣vern the Church. The consequence is clear, for if Magistrates have power to Govern the Church, then they must be Church Officers, if any thing make a man a Church Officer, then power to Go∣vern the Church will do it, for State Government and State Officers are Relata, and have a mutual Re∣lation one to another, and so must Church Govern∣ment and Church Officers have a mutual Relation one to another: But in the next place it is evident, That a Magistrate as a Magistrate is no Church Of∣ficer, and that because among all that roll, set down in the word of God, wherein Christ reckons up his Officers, there is no mention made of the Civil Ma∣gistrate. Ephes: 4. There is a roll verse 11. And he gave some Apostles, and some Prophets, and some E∣vangelists and some Pastors, and teachers. But no word of the Civil Magistrate: and in Rom: 12, 6, 7. There Page 111 is an other roll of Church officers, but no word of of the Civil Magistrate—whether prophecy, let us prophecy according to the proportion of Faith: Or Mini∣stery, let us wait on our Ministering: or he that teach∣eth, on teaching: &c. But neither in this place or any other is there any mention of the Civil Magistrate: Only some of our Adversaries mutter somewhat of 1 Cor: 12. 28. That by Governments there men∣tioned is meaned the Christian Magistrate, but it is easily refuted, for the text speaketh evidently of such Governours, as the Church had at that time; And God hath set some in the Church—&c. Now the Church at that time had no Christian Magistrate, nor for above 200 years after. So by Governments can∣not be meaned the Christian Magistrate but the Ruling Elder, who is often spoken of in other places.
Our Fourth Argument to prove this point is, That the Church did enjoy full power of Government within her self, and accordingly did exercise it, near 300 years, before any Magistrate was a Christi∣an, and so the Church hath this power within her self yet. For the first part of the Argument, it is evident if we consider: First, That which is not controverted, to wit, that in the space of 300 years after Christ, there was not a Magistrate a Christian: If we consider, Secondly, That all this time the Church had full power of Church Government with∣in her self; and therefore Paul sayes to Timothy 1 Tim: 4. 14. Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the Page 112 hands of the Presbytery. So they had power of Ordi∣nation, Power also to dispence Censures, as Excom∣munication. 1 Cor: 5. 4, 5—When ye are gathered together—To deliver such a one unto Satan, for the de∣struction of the Flesh, &c. And they had power to relax from Excommunication: So 2 Cor: 2, 6. Where Paul commands to relax the Excommunicate man from that Sentence, Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. v. 7. So that contrariwise, ye ought rather to forgive him, &c. Fourth∣ly, They had Synods meeting together, making binding Canons to guide the Church. Act: 15. The Synod of Apostles, Elders, and Brethren meet to∣gether, determine a controversie, and Censure those who had troubled the Church. Thus the first part of the Argument is made out, to wit, That the Church did enjoy full power of Discipline within her self long before any Magistrate became Christian, And therefore it followes that this power is yet in the Churches hand, and not in the Magistrates. And that because if the Church at that time had right to dispence this power, as undoubtedly she had, then they must make it appear how Christ took this right from her and transferred it to the Civil Magi∣strate, which they cannot do.
Our fifth Argument is to obviate that which they say, That Ministers are but the Magistrates deputes: From which we argue thus: If Church Officers in in∣flicting Censures be the Magistrates deputs, then whatever the Church Judicatory does the Magistrate may do it also, for none can delegate more right to Page 113 ther than what he hath himself: And so by this it should follow that the Magistrate might ordain Mi∣sters himself by imposition of hands, he might Ex∣communicate; And if he may do this, by consequence he might also Preach, Administrate the Sacraments &c. For what right can be pretended to the one, which may not be extended to the other; and so there should be no need of Pastors and Teachers, but the Magistrate might do all.
Our last Argument is taken from the distinction which the Scripture holdeth out betwixt Ecclesi∣astick and Civil power, Scripture condemneth Church-mens usurping the Civil power, and States∣mens usurping the Church power: Church men are forbidden to judge or meddle with Civil things by Christ himself Luk: 12. 13, 14. 22 25. And so the Civil Magistrate may not meddle with Church pow∣er either: There are two Kings we read of to be heavily punished for their Transgression in this kind; Saul, for offering a Burnt-offering 1 Sam: 13. 13. And Vzziah, for burning Incense 2 Chorn. 26. 19. He would go in and burn Incense; And therefore the Lord smites him with leprosie. And surely Rea∣son would say, if it be a sin for Church Officers to Exercise the Civil Government, then it is a sin for the Civil Magistrate to take to himself the only su∣pream power of Church Government, and ingross it wholy to himself.
III. We come to the Third thing we promised to speak to, And that was the answering of the Oppo∣sites Arguments. The first Argument they bring Page 114 against this Truth is, That Godly Magistrates under the Old Testament had the power of Church Go∣vernment: And therefore so should Christian Ma∣gistrates have it under the New. Wee Answer, That their Argument proves nothing, except they also prove, that what power of Church Government Magistrates had then, they had it as Magistrates: For we grant indeed what did belong to Magistrates as Magistrates under the Old Testament, does be∣long to Magistrates under the New; But it may not be granted, that that which belonged to Magi∣strates then under other respects, doth belong to Magistrates yet. For clearing of this, It is to be observed that there were many Magistrates extraor∣dinary men under the Old Testament. So Moses gives out Laws and Ordinances for ordering the Church; But we find in Deut: 18. 15. Moses was a great Prophet and a Type of Christ. The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a prophet from the midst of thee, of thy Brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken. So David appointed the office of the Le∣vites that divided their courses; But David was a Prophet 2. Chron: 8, 14. And he appointed according to the order of David his father, the courses of the Priests to their service: Thus in another place it is shown how David did this at the direction of other Prophets, 2 Chron. 29. 25. And he set the Levites in the House of the Lord with Cymbals, with Psalters, and with Harps, according to the Commandment of David, and of Gad the Kings seer, and Nathan the Prophet: For so was the Commandment of the Lord by his Pro∣phets. Page 115 And so from these and such like practices they can no more infer the Power of the Magistrate now in Church matters, than we may infer the Power of Church-men in Civil-matters from the example of Church-men under the Old-Testament: For Church-men did meddle with Civil-Matters in extraordinary Cases: As Eli the Priest, He go∣verned the State: And Samuel, in cutting Agag in pieces. Elisha in Anointing Jehu to be King: And Jeho•ada the Priest, in causing kill Attaliah the Us∣urper, and making Joash King. All which we grant were extraordinary Acts, and so cannot be an ordi∣nary rule for Church-men to have such Power in Ci∣vil things now: And so must they grant concern∣ing these extraordinary practices of Civil Judges, in medling sometimes with Church matters.
The Second Argument they use is this, If so be that Magistrates were set over Church Officers to re∣ceive Appeals from them, it would make them afraid to go beyond their Duty: But if they have none above them, there is danger of their Ambition and abusing of Discipline. To which we answer, First, Ministers are Men indeed, and as other men, are ready to abuse their Power; But if the danger of abusing Power be a good Argument to take Power from them, then there should be no Power in the Hands of any: For what kind of Men are there to be found, who are not in danger to abuse their Power, and so all must be left in Confusion. We give a second answer, That the same Argument may be used against the abuse of Preaching the Word, Page 116 and administrating the Sacraments, For the danger is as great; and yet the Erasitans (the most part of them at least) will not say that the Magistrate, for preventing of this abuse, may step into the Pulpit himself and Preach better, and Administer the Sa∣craments better, There is another way to curb that abuse; and so is it in the matter of Governing the Church, there is danger indeed of abusing that Power: but we say in like manner, that for that the Magistrate may not sit down and take the Power of Church Government himself: There are other means left to prevent this danger: Which shall be our Third Answer, Wherein we shall show some of these means appointed by God for preventing the abuse of Power in the hands of the Church-Officers: First, There are some Remedies in the Church Power it self, to wit, The Subordination of Judi∣catories: So that although a Congregational Elder∣ship should wrest Justice; yet there are above them Presbyteries, and above them Synods, and above them General Assemblies. Now it may be conceived that an Act of Injustice will hardly get through all those, before it be branded with some deserved mark: But Secondly, Though all Church Officers should con∣nive one at another, and so the Faults of Ministers go through unpunished, yet there is some remedy left even in the Civil Power: For although, for the reasons foresaid, he may not take upon him the Power of the Church Judicatory under pretence of Righting their Abuses, no more than he may take upon him to Preach, for preventing their abuse of Page 117 Preaching: Yet he may do several things. 1. If Church Officers commit a civil Crime, he may curb them by his own Authority. 2. If Church Judica∣tories meddle to judge in Civil things which con∣cern a mans Life or Estate, the Magistrate may make null what they conclude and punish them for abuse of Power; for therein they medled with what belonged not unto them. 3. Grant the matter be meerly Ecclesiastick wherein they abuse their Power, yet the Magistrate may do somewhat here also: He may command them to resume the matter, he may compear in person and reason the matter, and bid them see to it in the Name of the Lord, and stir them up to judge it better, and he may go from one Judicatory to another till he get this done: As for example, If it be a censure wrongously inflicted; But yet it is still the Church Judicatory that must ranverse their own Censure.
The Third Argument they use against this Truth is, If the Power were put in the Hands of the Civil Magistrate, it would be a mean to decide all the whole Controversies about Church Government, which are managed with so much Animosity on all hands: Prelates plead that They should have the Power of it: Independents That particular Congre∣gations: Presbyterians, That Sessions, Presbyteries, Synods, General Assemblies, should have the Power of it, the former being Subordinate to the latter, Ses∣sions to Presbyteries, &c. Hence ariseth all our De∣bates: Now were not this good to take it from all, and give it to the Magistrate. We answer. It is a Page 118 way to end the Difference, such as Solomon did to the two Women striving about the living Child, It shall be none of yours, A way that relished not with the kindly Mother of the Child, 1 Kings 3. 25. Se∣condly, We answer, This Argument may take with natural Hearts who would buy Peace at any rate; but not with those who are taught of God To buy the Truth and not to sell it; For it holdeth out a way to end Controversies, which is not God's: His way is to establish what is right, and to quite what is wrong: But this way tends to suppress both right and wrong, such Peace-makers will not be Blessed.
Thirdly, The Presbyterians may borrow this Ar∣gument against Prelates, Independents, Erastians, and have better right to it, and so it will run thus: If Church Government were put in the hands of the Presbytery, It would establish and settle all Differen∣ces in the matter of Church Government betwixt Prelates, Independents, and Erastians: Now if this Ar∣ment be good when they use it for them, it must be al∣so good when it is used for us: But I doubt if they will admit of such like reasoning, and so neither can we.
There is a Fourth Argument they use, say they, Jeremiah appealed to the Civil Magistrate Jerem: 26. and so Paul Act: 25. He appeals to Caesar. We an∣swer, let that place of Jeremiah cap. 26. be read, and nothing will be found to prove that Jeremiah makes any appeal to the Civil Judicatories: But Secondly, Though he had appealed, yet it does not prove that it is Lawful to appeal to the Magistrate in a Church business; for the Sentence which the Priests had Page 119 past on Jeremiah was Civil, Thou shalt surely die, v. 8. Now it was the Princes Duty to see to it. That Innocent Jeremiah should not be put to Death, espe∣cially by those who had no Powet to inflict such a pu∣nishment. As for that instance Acts 25. 10, 11. about Paul's appealing to Caesar, it makes nothing to these purposes; He appeals only from Festus, an Inferior Civil Magistrate to the Superior; And this we are not against. But Secondly; Though Paul had ap∣pealed from a Church Judicatory, yet this makes nothing to confirm their Doctrine: For the cause here whereabout Paul was to be judged, was a Ci∣vil cause, to wit, Treason against Caesar, And a thing worthy of Death. Now we do Teach, that a Church-man may appeal to a Civil Magistrate, when he is questioned about his Life▪ and for a Civil crime; But hence it followeth not, That we may appeal from a Church Judicatory, when the cause is Ec∣clesiastick and no wayes civil.
Their last Objection is taken from 1 King. 2. 27. Whereof they make much, The words are, So Solo∣mon thrust out Abiathar, from being Priest unto the Lord: From which they argue thus: Here is a civil Magi∣strate inflicting a Church Censure, to wit, Depositi∣on of a Church-man, to wit, of Abiathar the Priest, Solomon thrust out Abiathar from being Priest unto the Lord: Therefore, Christian Magistrates have Power to Dispence Church Censures: Yet we answer, So∣lomon did nothing here but what we yeild to any Magistrate, for a civil Magistrate may inflict a civil Punishment on any person whatsomever for a ci∣vil Page 120 Crime; and so was the present case: Abiathar's Fault was Treason, in assisting Adonijah to the Crown against Solomon, appointed by God to it. Secondly, The Censure inflicted by Solomon was not a Church Censure, but civil, to wit, Banishment to Anathoth, as appears from verse 26. And therefore what is men∣tioned in verse 27. He thrust out Abiathar from being Priest unto the Lord, Is not the Censure directly in∣tended by Solomon, but that which followed upon his Banishment from Jerusalem, ipso facto; because the Office of the Priests could not be exercised but at Jerusalem.
IV. In the last place it follows, That we give a word of use from all we have said. The First use, If so be that Jesus Christ hath appointed a Govern∣ment in his House, as is proven, to be exercised by his own Officers, Then know that those Magistrates that would ingross this Power to themselves, so as to have his Courts and Censures depending on them, or rather taken away, and others put in their place, do highly incroach on the Regal Power of our King Jesus Christ. And this seemeth to be the great sin of the Times, Atheists, prophane Men, plead for it; as looking for more forbearance to their Lusts from civil Powers, than from Christs own Courts. Ci∣vil Powers plead for it; They are not content that Christ let Them reign, and that they let Christ reign besides them; But they must have him thrust out of his Throne, and made to plead at their bar; And so no wonder Christ overturn Kingdoms and Go∣vernments: It was the Parliament of England's fault, Page 121 They feared lest Christs Courts should have wrong∣ed their Priviledges; Hence they would not allow him his Priviledges: They set up indeed a Govern∣ment in Christ's House, but it was a Lame one; They durst not give Christs Courts their full Power, but so as to be their Deputes: And therefore they have dashed themselves against that corner-stone Christ Jesus, until they are struck in pieces, Their Fear is come upon them. What they feared from Christs Courts, they have met with at the Hands of their own Servants: Our Kings have still been afraid of this, and Malignants also going under the Name of Royalists; They thought they could not get Their Throne secure if so be Christ got leave to reign besides them; And this among many others hath made their Throne shake. O that Kings would be wise and kiss the Son, It would be their Wis∣dom to be faithful in what is committed unto them; But for the Government of his House it is not in their Charter, and so a thing that will not thrive in their hands, their prudential Laws and Rules will do no good.
Secondly, Yee would ground your self in this Truth; It may cost you much, and though it should stand you never so much, it is worth the avowing. Christ himself suffered on this account (as we have already shown) and others of his servants have thought it their Glory to be called unto suffering for it. Who am I (saith Master Welsh)
SECT: IV. A BRIEF REFUTATION OF THE DOCTRINE OF Independency.
Head I. The Power of Church Government is in the Church Officers, and not in the Body of Church-Members.
THE dayes by-past we spake against the Doctrine of Erastianism, And shew you, that however it had many fair pretences, yet it is to be reckoned among those Doctrines which Page 124are not of God. We are now, with the Lords as∣sistance, to speak against the Doctrine of Indepen∣dency, Ye Remember when we entered on these con∣troversies about Church Government, We shew you there were Four points of Truth which we should Labour to make good: The first was, That Jesus Christ the head of his Church, had appointed in his word a way for the Governing and Ruling of his Church, and that he had not left it to the power of the Civil Magistrate, King or Parliament, To establish what way of Government they please. The second point was, That this Government of the Church which Christ established in his word was not in the hands of the Civil Magistrate, to be Exe∣cuted by him. Thir two points we have made good in our former Disputs against Erastianism. The third point of Truth is this; That Jesus Christ the head of the Church hath not committed the power of Go∣verning his Church unto the Body of Believers, To the community of Church Members: but hath e∣stablished it in the hands of his own officers, Mini∣sters, and Elders. The Fourth point of Truth which we promised to prove was this, That Jesus Christ the head of the Church hath not given particular Elder∣ships and Church Sessions, the Supream power of Church Government in their hands, so as that there should be none above them to call them to an account; But that they are subject in the Lord to Superior Church Judicatories; such as Presbytries, Synods, and General Assemblies. These two last points we are to make out in Refuting this Doctrine of Inde∣pendency.
Page 125 This Error of Independency above all other we may call a fountain Error: It is the Sluce, whereby an entrance is made to all other Errors of what sort so∣ever. This is the Error whereby the most part of those that hath fallen from the way of Truth these years by past, have been first hooked; They first turned Independents, yet rested not long there, but proceeded from evil to worse. Our scope shall be in this as in the former points to show, That howe∣ver it hath many fair pretences, yet when it is brought to the Tryal, it will be found not to be of God.
There are two main heads of this Error of Inde∣pendency opposit to the two last points of Truth, which we promised to make out. The first is, That whereby they affirm, That Jesus Christ has given the power of Governing the Church unto all those that are Members of the Church, Although they be not Ministers or Elders: To the community of believers as they call it. The second Head of their Error is this, They do affirm that Jesus Christ hath intrusted particular Congregations, Elderships, or Church Sessions with the highest power of Church Government on earth; so that there is no Judicato∣ry above them to call them to an account. As for the first Head of their Error which we are to speak against at this time. Therein they have different Opinions among themselves; some affirming that the power of Governing the Church is given to the Body of Church Members, the community of Believers, without the Minister and Elders; yea a power over them to ordain them, Censure, depose Page 126 them, and inflict all other Church Censures: Others give them this power conjunctly with the Church Officers, Ministers, and Elders. Secondly, Some give only the power and Authority to Govern, to the Church Members; But for the Exercise of that power, they allow it to the Elders: Yet so as to the Peoples deputs, to whom they must give an ac∣count: Others give the People not only the power and Authority, but also the Exercise of this Govern∣ment; So that the People may sit down in Church Judicatories themselves, enact Church Canons, in∣flict Church Censures &c. Thirdly, Some give them the Exercise of this power only in some things; as the Excercise of the power of Jurisdiction, to make Church Canons, and inflict Church Censures; But not to Preach. Others give them a full Exercise of Authority to do all.
We in opposition to all these, lay down this con∣clusion, which we shall Labour to make good from the word of God, and solid Reason; to wit, That Jesus Christ hath not given to the Body of Church Members, or to private Christians either the power or Exercise of Church Government, neither in whole nor in part, but hath intrusted it wholly to his own Officers, Ministers, and Elders. I pro∣secuting this point we shall follow forth the former Method. First, We shall clear the State of the Question. Secondly, Bring Arguments for the Truth. And Thirdly, We shall propone and answer their Ar∣guments brought against the Truth. And Fourthly, We shall shall apply the whole to some use.
Page 127 I. For clearing the state of the Question, Th•a it may be known what we do grant to private Chri∣stians, and what we deny, several distinctions would be given. First, There is difference betwixt Church power or Authority, and Christian priviledges: We do grant several Christian priviledges to private Christians, but these do not infer any Church pow∣er, or Authority of Governing the Church. As for Example, We do grant to the People a Power of Electing their own Officers, Ministers, or El∣ders, we grant to them a power to try the Spirits whe∣ther they be of God. i: e: They are not to believe blind∣ly what Ministers say, but have a power to Try what they say in Relation to their practice, To pass a Judgment of discretion upon it, whether it be ac∣cording to the word or not. We grant these privi∣ledges to the People but none of them doth infer any Church power, which we clear in both. First, The Peoples power in Electing their Minister, doth not infer any power of Church Government in them, and that because it is not the Peoples Election or their choise that makes the Minister to be a Minister, or gives him Authority to Exercise the Ministerial calling; but it is the Act of Ordination, by impo∣sition of the hands of those who are Church Officers, that makes the man the Minister, and gives him Au∣thority. We shall find this, Acts 6, 3. where the Peoples Election and Ordination by Church Offi∣cers is clearly distinguished. Wherefore Brethren, (say the Apostles) look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost, and wisdomPage 128 (there is the Peoples Election) whom we may appoint over this busines, There is the Church Officers part: Though the People look them out and choise them, that gives them not the power of their calling untill the Church Officers appoint and ordain them. Se∣condly, The power of trying the Spirits doth not infer any such power or Authority of Government in the People, otherwise it should follow that the People of Berea, who did try Pauls Doctrine, Act. 17. 11. And compared it with the word whetber those things were so, had Authority over Paul, which none will affirm.
A Second distinction to clear the state of the Question is this, There is a great difference betwixt those to whom the Authority of Governing the Church is given, and those for whom, or for whose good it is given: although we deny that the power of Governing the Church is given to private Believ∣ers, yet we grant it is given for them. So all Ordi∣nances are given for the good of Believers: As it is Ephes: 4. 11. And he gave some Apostles, and some Pro∣phets, aud some Evangilists, and some Pastors, and Teachers: For the perfecting of the Saints, &c. and in this respect 1 Cor: 3. 21, 22. all is said to be theirs— For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Ce∣phas, or the World, or Life, or Death, or things pre∣sent, or things to come, all are yours, i. e. given for their good: But hence it will not follow, that because Church Discipline is given for them, that therefore they have the power of it; for in this respect Paul is given to every particular believing Woman, and Page 129 yet it does not follow that Women have Pauls Au∣thority. And so the Body of the particular Church hath not this power in their hands although the pow∣er be given for their good.
A Third thing for understanding the State of the Question; We do willingly grant to private Christi∣ans power to admonish, exhort in the Lord, out of Charity: and this they may extend even to Mini∣sters, say to Archippus take heed to thy Ministry. But this Liberty to admonish by way of Charity, doth not import any Church power in them over those whom they rebuke, no more than Pauls rebuking of Peter Gal: 2. 14. doth infer a power in Paul above Peter. So ye see what we do grant to private Christians; and what we deny: The sum whereof is this. That Jesus Christ hath not given them any power of Church Government, or the Exercise of it, either in whole or in part, but has intrusted it wholly to his own Officers, Ministers, and Elders. This for clearing the state of the Question.
II. We come now to Arguments for clearing the Truth, And the First is this, That Jesus Christ hath given no warrand to private Christians for Govern∣ing his House, or for the Exercise of this Govern∣ment; and therefore they have no right to it. The consequence must be clear: For none has right to play the part of a Governour in Christs Church, ex∣cept those who have a warrand in his word for it. Now that private Christians have no warrand in his word for Governing the Church, either expresly, or by good consequence, either by precept or promise, Page 130 or any thing else, it is clear from this that in several places of the Word this power is denyed unto them: So Rom: 10. they must not exercise the Power of Preaching for how shall they Preach except they •e sent. v. 15. Now the whole communi•y of Believers can∣not be sent, besides they have no ability to discharge this Office, there is but one of a Thousand that can convince gainsayers: Is apt to teach, that is; able to cut and divide the word aright; and so they have no power to Preach. And Secondly, From this it will follow that they have no power to Administrate the Sacraments, for Christ Jesus hath joyned both these powers in one Commission, He gives no pow∣er to any to Aministrate the Sacraments, but those to whom he gives power also to Preach Matth 28, 19. Go ye therefore and teach all nations Baptizing them-&c. Power of Preaching, and Administrating the Sacra∣ments go together. And so seeing the one power is denyed to them, the other must be denyed also. Thirdly, They have no power to ordain Ministers, or to execute any other act of Church Jurisdiction, for they have no ability to try Ministers gifts, there is no precept commanding them to do it, there is no practice in the New Testament proving that ever they did it, as shall be more fully cleared in answer∣ing the Arguments they bring for it; And so they have no right to Govern the Church.
The Second Argument for the Truth is this, That this Doctrine of theirs, whereby they give the pow∣er of Governing the Church to private Christians, doth overturn the order established by Jesus Christ Page 131 in his House; And therefore they have no right to it: The consequence none may doubt of; For nothing appointed by God doth evert the order established by himself. Now that this Doctrine of theirs, whereby they put the power of Governing the Church in the hands of the People, doth evert the order appointed by Christ is clear; Because his or∣der is, That some be watchmen, some watched over, some Rulers, some to submit: some Governours, some to be Governed: some Sheepherds, some the flock: But if so be that all the Members of the Church had the power of Governing in their hand, then all should be overseers, watchmen, Rulers, Go∣vernours; and none more than another, If so be that power to Govern should flow from this, That they are Church Members; For all are so alike.
The Third Argument we bring for the Truth is this, That to whomsoever Christ Jesus hath given warrand for Governing the Church, to those he gives promises of sutable abilities for discharging of that great Trust; But so it is, that Jesus Christ hath not gifted, neither promise to gift every Christian, nor yet requireth He answerable gifts for Govern∣ment from them: And therefore he hath given them no warrand for Governing the Church. For the first part of the Argument, that those to whom he gives the power of Church Government he doth also pro∣mise them sufficient abilities for their Trust, is clear, For how could it stand with the wisdom of God to commit the great affairs of his House to those whom he hath not qualified to that purpose; Page 132 Besides no instance can be given that ever he trusted any with those things, but he promised them furni∣ture, and in some measure enabled them according∣ly: So when he sendeth forth Moses, Jeremiah, I∣say, &c. he giveth them furniture; and when he sendeth out the Apostles he furnishes them for that End; So John 20. 21, Then said Jesus to them again peace be unto you as my Father sent me, even so send I you. There is the commission given them: and upon the back of this in v. 22. And when he had said this, he breathed on them; &c. There is the Furniture: And so does he to Ministers whom he entrusts with this power, He promises them Furniture, Matth; 28, 20—and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the World. There a promise made to the A∣postles, and in them to the Ministers, as appears from these following words even unto the end of the World. And so these promises could not be fully veri∣fied in the Apostles, who were to die within a little, but in Ministers their successors, to the Worlds end. Now it is very evident he hath neither made such promises to every particular believer, for Governing the Church; neither doth he perform them unto them What? Is every believer furnished with that measure of knowledge, prudence, and wisdom, that is required for the right managing of the af∣faires of Church Government? Yea, God doth not require it of them: And so certainly it stands not with his wisdom to have committed the power of Church Government to all and every one of be∣lievers. This for ou•third Argument.
Page 133 Our Fourth Argument for the Truth is, If so be that the power of Governing the Church belongeth to Church Members, Then it belongeth to them either as they are gifted for it, and chosen out for that purpose: And if so, then we have our intent; For then all are not Church Governours, but only those who are gifted and chosen, And so, Church Officers: Or it belongs to them as believers, or Church Members, and if so, then it Belongs to all, for every one is a Church Member as well as another, and every one that hath Faith, is a believer as well as another, and whatever priviledge floweth from Faith, belongs to every believer, the meanest as well as the greatest. So if the right of Church Government be grounded on Faith and Grace, then every believer, and none but believers, should have the right of it, from whence shall follow many ab∣surdities; as that Children as well as Parents, the simple as well as the wise; Women as well as Men, may Preach, Administrate the Sacraments, lay on hands in Ordaining the Ministers, sit in Sessions, in∣flict Censures, Excommunicate, and what not. Se∣condly, Then none but believers should have right to Church Government. So none hath power to Baptise, Censure &c. But they that have Grace. And upon this People should have Reason to doubt whether they be rightly Baptised or not, because they know not if the Minister who Baptised them had Grace or not; and if he wanted Grace, he had no power of Church Government by this Doctrine; And so no power to Baptise.
Page 134 We bring a Fifth Argument for the Truth, and it is this, private Christians are in no place of Scrip∣ture acknowledged to be Church Governours, There are no names nor titles given to them, importing this power to be in them, as is given to Church Of∣ficers 1 Tim: 5. 17. Let the Elders that rule well, be counted worthy of double honour And 1 Corinth. 12. 28. And God hath set some in the Church, first Apostles, se∣condly Prophets, thirdly Teachers, &c. But no title of that kind is given to private Christians; Yea they are set down plainly under names in opposition to Governours: As the flock to Overseers. Acts 20. 28. Take heed tberefore unto your selves and to all the flock over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you over∣seers. &c. Yea and are commanded to honour, obey, submit to their Governours set over them, and di∣stinct from them, Hebr: 13. 17. Obey them that have the rule over you and submit your selves. &c. Now it is strange to imagine, That Christ should have intrusted them with highest power of Government; And yet in all the stiles he gives them, there is nothing im∣ported of that power, but much of their Subjection; Surely he hath not done so with Officers, as we have shown; And let any discover the Reason of the dif∣ference.
A Sixth Argument for the Truth is this, If so be that the power of Governing the Church be given but only to some, then it does not belong to all; but, so it is that the power of Governing the Church is only given to some; therefore, not to all Church Members. The first part of the Argument cannot Page 135 be denyed; For the second, That it is only given to some, see those proofs that limit this power on∣ly to some as Ephes: 4. 11. And he gave some Apostles and some Prophets, &c. Some and therefore not all 1 Cor: 12. 28. (which we cited before) and God hath set some in the Church, first Apostles, secondly, Prophets, thirdly teachers, There are but some that he hath set for Governing his house and therefore not all and Heb: 13, 17. Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit your selves &c. Tim: 5. 17. (as is likewise before cited) There are some then that rule, to whom the rest ought to submit; And so all are not Rulers.
There is a Seventh Argument for clearing the Truth. And it is this, That power which Jesus Christ hath not set down rules and limits to order it by in his word, is not of God; but he hath set down no Rules how to direct the managing of Church Power in the hand of Church-Members; therefore it is not of God. The first part of our Argument, That whatever Power is appointed of God, he hath set down Rules how to order it, is very clear; As we may prove by the Enumeration of lawful Powers: He hath set down Rules how to Regulate the Power of a King, that he play not the Tyrant; He hath set down Rules to Regulate the Power of Masters, Parents by: So the Power in the Hand of the Church Officers is regulated, that they Rule with Diligence, Rom. 12. 8. And so through the Epistles to Timothy and Titus: But so it is that he hath set down no Rules to order Church Government by, in the Hands Page 136 particular Believers. For in no place of the word will such Rules be found, Ye that are the flock govern the Pastors and feed them, watch over the People of God, lay hands suddenly on no man. I say there are no such directions given to private Christians; and there∣fore this pretended Power is not of God.
Our last Argument for the Truth is, If so be the Power of governing the Church doth belong to every Church-member; then every Church-mem∣ber is bound in Conscience to attend all Church Ju∣dicatories, to wait on the deciding of all Ecclesiasti∣cal questions: But what inevitable confusion would follow on this? How long time would it take to in∣form People about the Circumstances of things? How tedious would it be to hear every mans judg∣ment to the point? And what distractions would it be to Peoples Callings? This certainly would bring great confusion; And so such a Power as this can∣not be from God, who is the God of Order. These are now the Arguments for the Truth.
III. In the next place we shall answer their Ar∣guments brought against the Truth. The first they use is grounded on Coloss. 4. 17. A command There is given to the Body of Believers in reference to the Minister, Say to Archippus, Take heed to the Ministry which thou hast received in the Lord. From this they infer, That People have Power to Censure their Mi∣nister; And so have Church Authority. We answer, They make much of this Argument, and yet it is little worth: For they build their Power to Cen∣sure upon this that they have Power (to Say) A poor Page 137 reason. So Matth. 18. 17. Say to the Church, or tell the Church: It is the same word that is here used; But to infer from this that one man had Authority over the Church, were very ridiculous. Surely if he had commanded a judicial act of Authority, he would have said Command and Charge Archippus with all Authority, as in the like case he speaks to Timo∣thy; But as we shew in the state of the question, private Christians have Power to exhort and admo∣nish one another, yea their Pastors; But this doth not import any Power of Church-Government over others, else women who are not permitted to speak in the Church, should have Power of Church-Go∣vernment, to make Church Canons, Censure and Ordain their Ministers; For they are bound to ex∣hort and admonish as occasion offers.
Obj. 2. A second Argument they bring from Act. 11. 1. When Peter comes up to Jerusalem, verse 3. the peo∣ple Challenge him saying, Thou wentest in to men uncir∣cumcised, and didst eat with them, and verse 4, He begins to clear himself to them, and rehearsed the matter from the beginning, &c. And from this they reason thus: That the Church hath Power to call Peter to an ac∣count; And therefore they have Power to Censure for Scandals. Its answered first. Besides the People, there were Apostles and Brethren There verse 1. Se∣condly, We answer, It doth not follow because Pe∣ter purgeth himself of a Scandal unjustly laid upon him, That therefore they had Power to Censure him; For every Christian is bound to clear himself to another Christian of that which he is stumbled Page 138 within his carriage; yet one private Christian hath not Church Power over another to Censure: So Peter was bound to clear himself before any one of them, and if he had done wrong, to take with it, but that That one could not be a Church Judicatory having Power to inflict Censure on Peter, our Op∣posits themselves will grant.
Obj. 3. A Third Argument they bring against the Truth, is from Revel. 2. 14. I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the Doctrine of Balaam. The Spirit of God here is wri•ing to the Church of Pergamus, And after he hath commend∣ed them for their Doctrine, he reproves them for not exercising Discipline against these Hereticks, to wit, Balaam, Iesabel and the Nicolattans. Now from this they argue, The whole Church is reproved here for not executing Discipline against these Here∣ticks; and therefore they had power to do it, Otherwise they would not have been reproved for the neglect of it: But that all were reproved, they prove from vers. 13. and its connection with the 14. say they, these who are commended in the 13. are rebuked in the 14 verse, I know thy Works, and where thou dwellest, even where Sathan's seat is, &c. But so it is, that not only the Ministers and Elders, but all the People, dwelt where Sathan's Seat was: Therefore they all are reproved Answer, It followeth well that they are all reproved for one fault: But not that they were accessory to it after one and the same way. It was the Rulers part judicially to cast out these vile Hereticks: It was the Peoples part to have stirred up Page 139 the Rulers to it: Now because these were neglected on both hands, both have their own guilt; and so both re∣proved for their respective guilt: The People are re∣proved for not Mourning to God for the tollerating such like abominations; and their not stirring up the Rulers to take course with them: But it will not fol∣low that they were reproved for not sitting down in the Judicatory and inflicting Censures themselves, That was the Rulers fault: And therefore we deny that they are all rebuked for their accession to that guilt in the same way; And we clear it thus, Doubt∣less the Teachers did not teach against these vile Here∣ticks; Now there were Women there, and yet surely they are not rebuked for not Preaching against them, for They ought to be silent in the Church: So their fault, as of all other Church Members, was of another kind, to wit, Their not Mourning nor stirring up the Officers: And so it followes that it was their Du∣ty to Mourn, stir others up to their Duty, which we grant. But not to exercise the Power themselves, for that is not the thing they are reproved for.
Obj. 4. The Fourth Objection is grounded on Mat: 18, 17, If he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the Church: but if he neglect to hear the Church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a Publican. Whence (say they) the power of Church Censure is in the hand of the Church; but so it is Church Officers are never called the Church; Neither can they be so called without the Body of the People: Therefore the power of the Church Censures is in the hand of the Body of the People. Wee Answer, This Argu∣ment Page 140 will make more against them than us, and that because they grant that neither Women nor Children have hand in Church Government, but only professing Men: Now they shall get no place in Scripture wherein the name of the Church is given to the Body of the Men Assembled without Women and Children. Secondly, We grant that the name of the Church is very sparingly given to Officers with∣out the People: Yet we say. 1. 'tis given them in some places; As for Example Acts 18. 22. It is said of Paul. When he had landed at Caesarea, and gone up, and saluted the Church, &c. Now by the Church here certainly cannot be meaned the body of profes∣s•rs which did amount to many thousands of People as shall appear from Acts 21. 20. In its own time: So by the Church must be meaned the Chief men and Rulers of the Church. For Paul having so short time to stay, he seeing them but at the by, could not have saluted every one, man by man; and therefore certainly, it must be the prime men of the Church. But Secondly, The name of the Church is very usualy given to Rulers and Judges whether Ec∣clesiastick or Civil, without the People in the Old Testament, So Psalm 82, 1. God standeth in the con∣gation of the mighty: The same word rendred there Congregation is rendred the Church elsewhere; And by the Congregation there, is meaned the Judges, and not the People: so we find it taken for the Rulers by comparing Exod: 20. 18. 19. with Deut: 5. 23. 2 Chron: 1. 3. Where Solomon takes up the whole Congregation with him: And yet that Congregation is Page 141 exponed v. 2. to have been Chief-men and Rulers, so that usualy in the Old Testament, the word (Church) is taken from Rulers. And Thirdly, it must be so taken in this place also, for in the verse following he telleth what a Church he meaned by, v, 18, Verily I say unto you, whatsoever yee shall bind on earth, shall be bound in Heaven: &c. Speaking to the Apostles: So it must be the Church of Rulers who are so called, because they represent the Church, doing her busi∣ness wherein she is concerned.
Objection Fifth, This were (say they) to e∣stablish a yoke of Tyranny over Church Members, if power be put in the hands of Officers to make Acts binding to them, and they to have no hand in mak∣ing these Acts themselves. We Answer it is no yoke of Tyranny to instruct Officers with power to be over the People in the Lord: To Rule them according to his will; to make use of their power not for de∣struction but for edification. And this is all we do teach. Its true, Church Officers may abuse their power, but there is no power were it never so good but coming in mans hand may be wrongly used. But secondly, There is as great danger of Tyranny in the Independent way, and more also, than in this; For if the major part of the Congregation should enact what is wrong, and press it on the fewer and better part; would not that be Tyranny? And surely there is as great liklyhood of this, as of what they say, that the Eldership may press unjust Acts upon the Congregation: And as it is as likly, so it is more remeedless, for though a Congregation or any in Page 142 it be wronged by the Elerdership, they have a Su∣perior Judicatory to complean to, according to our Doctrine: But if the lesser part of the Congregati∣on be wronged and Tyrannized over by the greater, according to their Doctrine, there is no power un∣der Heaven to right the wrong, to call the oppres∣sing party to an account: So of all Governments under Heaven Independency is the most Tyranni∣cal.
Obj. VI. The Sixth Objection they bring against the Truth is from Matth: 16. 19. Where Christ sayes I will give unto thee the keyes of the Kingdom of Heaven: and whatsoever shall be bound on earth—&c. It is agreed on by both sides, that by the Keys there is meaned, the power of Governing the Church. Now from this place they would infer that the Keys are given to the Body of the People: we shall propone and Answer Three of their Objections, whereby they labour to prove this consequence: The first is this, The Keys are given to the Church built on the Rock whereof Christ spake in the preceeding 18, v. But sure it is, all that are believers are built on this Rock; There∣fore the power of the Keys are given unto them. We Answer, What they say that the power of the Keyes are given to the Church built on the Rock, Is said without a ground; For he doth not say Vn∣to this Church built on a rock do I give the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven; But I give it to thee Peter: Sure none needs to learn our Lord to speak; and this change of Person is not without a Reason, in the pre∣ceeding verse, he says—upon this rock I will build my Page 143 Church. Now if Christ had meaned to have establish∣ed the Government in the hands of the body of the Church, he might have as easily said unto this Church will I give the keys &c. But he says not so, but changes the person, unto thee to wit, Peter will I give the keyes Besides this also every believing woman is a part of this Church built on the rock; And yet according to their own grant, the power of the Keys is not given unto them. The Second Argument they bring from this place is this: The power of the Keys is given to those whom Peter did represent: But, Pe∣ter did represent all believers, the body of the Church: therefore, the power of the Keys is given unto them. For answer to this, we deny what is affirmed, that Peter in this place doth represent all believers, he doth but represent the rest of the Apostles, and those who were to succeed to the Apostes in Preaching the word and Administrating the Sacraments: And this we shall make good from other places of Scripture wherein the grant of this power is renewed and con∣firmed: The first place is John 20. 21. Then said Iesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my father hath sent me, even so send I you, and v, 23; Whosoevers sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them, &c. Where it is clear the above mentioned grant is renewed, and renewed to the Apostles. Secondly, He did not on∣ly represent the Apostles, but all Ministers who suc∣ceed to the Apostles in Preaching the word and Ad∣ministrating the Sacraments; As in plain also from Matth: 28. 19, 20. Where ye will find these things clear. 1. That there is a grant of power by Jesus Page 144 Christ unto the Apostles. 2 That this grant is made there not only to the Apostles but to these who should succeed to them in Preaching and Baptizing to the end of the World: For it is said—lo I am with you alway; even unto the end of the World. And so from this we retort the Argument on themselves, That the power of the Keys is given to these whom Peter did represent: But, so it is, Peter did represent the Apostles, and Ministers who were to succeed to them in Preaching the word &c. And there∣fore, the power of the Keys is given unto them. They argue Thirdly from this place that the grant of the Keys is of as large extent as Peters confession v. 16, Thou art Christ the son of the living God. Now this Confession belongs to all believers, and so also must the power of the Keys, We Answer, 1. That the grant of the power of the Keys doth belong to all who hold out Peters Confession, hath no ground but their own Assertion. And 2. We say it is false, For this Confession belongs to all faithful Women and Children as well as men, who yet by our Op∣posits own concession have not the Power of the Keys.
Their last Objection is taken from 1 Cor: 5. 5. Where the Apostle commands the Church of Corinth to Excommunicate the Incestous Person To deliver such a one unto Sathan, for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Now, say they, this command is given unto all the Church, because there is no exception, and therefore not to Elders only; As also the command is as large Page 145 as the reproof in v. 2. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, &c. Now sure it is there were moe reproved than the Church Officers; And there∣fore the command belongs to others than these. In Answering this Argument, we shall first retort it on themselves, For if so be the Argument hold good it would follow that Women and Children had pow∣er of Excommunication; for if the command be to all without exception, then they are not excepted; and if the command be given to all to whom the reproof is given, then it is to them, for doubtless Women and Children mourned no more than the men: And so they should have power to Excommu∣nicate also: Now this were absurd and against them∣selves; And so the two main pillars whereon they build their Argument, fall to the ground; to wit, That the command is given to all without exception; And that it is of a like latitude with the reproof. But Secondly, We Answer to the point, That all who are acquaint with Scripture know that God useth to give commands indefinitly to the whole Church, which he will not have applyed to every one in the Church but only to those persons to whom, according to their respective callings, interest, or relations, the command doth belong: We shall make this clear from 1 Cor: 14. 31. Where Paul speaketh generally to the Saints at Corinth: ye may all Prophecy one by one, &c. The command is given in∣definitly to all, and yet sure it is not the Apostles mind that all to whom he writs should do this, but only they who had abilities and a Call to it; and therefore Page 146 he sayes in the preceeding 12, chap. 29. Are all A∣postles? are all Prophets? are all Teachers? &c. So in 1 Thess: 5. 13. And to esteem them very highly in love for their works sake, &c. Now if this be a duty lying on all to whom the Epistle is directed, then the Ministers had been to esteem highly to themselves for their own works sake; For the Epistle is written to them among the rest; now this were absurd and so it must be intended for the People. So is it here the command is given indefinitly to all, yet the mat∣ter is not to be done by all, but only by some, to wit, the Church officers, and this appeareth evident∣ly from 2 Cor. 2. 6. He was speaking to them con∣cerning the same case in hand, to wit, the relaxing of the incestous man from Excommunication, and sayes he, Sufficient to such a man is this punishment which was inflicted of many. Now he doth not say Inflicted of all (as they would make the words bear) but inflicted of many: Yea (as the learned observe) the word (many) signifieth, The chief ones; It is the same word that is Matth: 12. 41—a greater than Jo∣nas. So Paul explaines himself, That it was not all but the chief Ones, to wit, the Rulers, by whom the Censure was to be inflicted. And this now for Answering their Objections.
IV. In the nixt place we shall come, and apply the whole purpose to a threefold Use. And the first is: Seeing this Error, as we have now made evident, it is not of God: I would have you suspecting fair pre∣tences that a Doctrine may be coloured over with; There is no Error that hath a fairer pretence than Page 147 This hath: it is the liberty of the Saints, say they, should not they judge others; A fair pretence; And yet it is but the same that Korah Dathan, and Abiram had, and so we need to stumble the less at it—Ye take too much upon you (said they) seing all the Con∣gregation are Holy every one of them, &c. Numb-16. 3.
The Second Vse is to private Christians, that ye would do your duty: And Secondly, Content your selves with your duty. And first do your duty, whereof many come short. Doubtless many at the hearing of this Doctrine will cast off all care, seeing the care of the Church is laid on the Officers thereof Ministers and Elders; Nay but as we shew in the clearing of the State of the Question, although pow∣er of Governing the Church be not in the hands of all believers, yet there is a duty lying on them to admonish and exhort, even their Ministers, say to Archippus take heed to thy Ministry. Yea it is a duty lying on private Christians, that when your private Admonition doth not the business, ye are bound to delate it to the Church: We see this Matth: 16. Where Christs institutes this order v, 16. 1. To tell thy Brother privatly, and if that will not do, bring two or three moe Witnesses with thee: then if that do it not, tell it to the Church: so it is a duty lying on every Church member to admonish and rebuke, even their Ministers and Elders; to stir them up when slack, and when that will not do, to tell it to others. And we would charge you to make more conscience of this duty than usually ye Page 148 do. A second part of your duty we told you was to try the spirits in reference to your practice, ye are not bound to take a Doctrine on trust from Ministers, tho Apostles, Nay not from Angels—Though we, or an Angel from Heaven Preach any other Gospel unto you, than that which we have Preached unto you, let him be accursed. Galat. 1. 8. And private Christians come short of this part of their duty also; many seeking no other Reason of their Faith than what Ministers Preach, it is a loose ground; For ye are commanded to Try the Spirits. But Secondly, As ye would make Conscience of your duty, so ye would content your selves with your duty, ye would look on Church Officers and reverence them; ye are not to say, what is more in them than in our selves, may we not be as fit as they, they may erre as well as we: Grant it be so, yet they are Gods Ordinance, ap∣pointed by the God of order, and he who reproach∣eth them, reproacheth his ordinance, and breaketh down the hedge appointed by God.
The Third Vse is directed to Church Officers, Those whom the Lord hath instructed with this power, Ye would make use of it for Edification and not for destruction, ye should so carry your selves in your places as not to tempt the People of God to despise your Office. When the Lords People hear of an Elder to be a Tipler, or a Swearer, it is a temptation to them to despise both that Elder and his Office: Many surely in this are stumbling blocks to People, As Eli's Sons made the People abhorr the offering of the Lord. The Truth is, it is no great Page 149 wonder that the Government of the Church be los∣ing weight in the minds of many, if it were but for this one Reason, that they who are intrusted with it do not Labour to beautify it; It is looked on by many as a place of respect and not of Office; If a man be Richer than his neighbour, he thinks he is not respected if he be not an Elder; and having got∣en the name he cares for no more: Now, is that the way either to make People respect thy Person or thy Office. Let me obtest and charge all of you who have taken on this Heavenly Calling, as ye will An∣swer on your hazard to Jesus Christ the chief sheep∣herd that ye would study by all means so to walk in it, as to beautify it, and that so much the more, as the Devil is Labouring to disgrace it. And this now for the First Head of Independency.
Head II. The highest Power of Church Go∣vernment is not in Church-Sessions, or Congregational El∣derships.
WE come now to the Second Head, And it is, That, for which mainly they are called Independents: The point they affirm is this, That every particular Church Session or Congregational Eldership is instructed with the highest power of Church Government on Earth, so that there is no power in the Church above them to call them to an account, when they go wrong, to rescind any Act once concluded, though it were never so unjust: They grant that a Synod of Mini∣sters and Elders may meet to consult about matters, but withall affirm, that they have no Ecclesiasticall power to command in the Lord any Congregation whatsoever: So that if a man be wronged by a Ses∣sion: As for instance, if he be unjustly censured (as it may very readily fall out) he must sit with his wrong, there is no power to right it till Christ come in the Clouds: Or if a particular Congregati∣on divide, turn Hereticks, run wrong (as many Page 151 of the Independent Congregations doe) there is no Church power to heal the breach, unless it be by giving an advice, which they may either follow, or not follow, as likes them best. We again grant, That particular Elderships have a power from Jesus Christ to Exercise Discipline in these things which concern the Congregation in particular; But as for other things of more publick concernment, that is to say, Things that concern other Congregations as well as them, these ought to be handled by a Su∣perior Judicatory; And that even in those things of particular concernment, They are lyable to Ap∣peals, and the inspection of the Superior Judicatory; So that wherein they shall be found wrong, partial, or Erronious, They may be called to an account.
For shewing the fashood of this Error▪ as also for the vindicating of the Government of the Church of Scotland, that is now so much spoken against, we shall labour to make out, with the Lords assistance these Three Truths from the word of God. The first it this: That, besides the power of Church Government that Christ hath given to particular Elderships, There is also holden forth in his word, A plat-form or a Copy of the Government of many Congregations by one Presbytry over them all in common. The Second Truth that we shall make out is this: That besides the Church Government that Christ hath established by Presbytries, there is also holden out in the word greater Church Judica∣tories, to wit, Synods made up of Commissioners from several Presbytries instructed with power of Page 152 Church Government from Christ also. And Third∣ly, We shall labour to make out this Truth, That the inferior Judicatories are to be Subject to the Superior; as Sessions to Presbytries, Presbytries to Synods, Synods to General Assemblies: So that the Superior judicatories have power over the Inferior in the Lord, to receive Appeals from them, and complaints 〈◊〉 them, to Censure them for Miscarying in the mat∣ter of Discipline, and to enact Church Canons or conclusions binding to them, which Inferior Ju∣dicatories are bound to obey in the Lord.
¶I. There is a Platform of the Go∣vernment of many Congrega∣tions, by one common Presby∣tery holden out in Scripture.
COncerning the State of this Question I only premit this, That however we have the ve∣ry name of this Presbytry whereabout we dispute holden out in 1 Tim: 4. 14. Whereby I might easily show is meaned the Presbytry we plead for▪ yet we shall not dispute about names; Though Page 153 the Name were not, yet it is sufficient that the Thing be in it, And this we shall make good, to wit, That in Scripture is holden out a pattern of the Govern∣ment of many Congregations by one common Pres∣bytry. The proof of this point we might instance almost in all the Churches that were planted in the Apostles time: As in the Church of Jerusalem, The Church of Antioch, Ephesus, Thessalonica, Corinth, and of Rome: We might easily make it appear that those Churches were not single Congregations, but Presbyterial Churches, under one common Govern∣ment: But in stead of spending of time in pointing out this in all these Churches, we shall instance it on∣ly in the Church of Ierusalem; That by this One ye may know what to judge of the rest. And first con∣cerning the Church of Jerusalem planted by the A∣postles, we shall labour to make out thir two things. 1. That in that one Church there were many particu∣lar Congregations. And 2. That all these particular Congregations made up but one Church, and was guided by one common Presbytry, and Judicatory, set over them all in common. Which two being made out, the point we intend will appear evidently, to wit, That there was here a Government set over many Congregations in one common Judicatory; such as our Presbytry is over all the particular Church-Sessions in the bounds.
The first thing we shall make out is this, That there were moe Congregations in the Church of Jerusalem than one, and this from four grounds. First, From the multitude of Church Members that were Page 154 in Jerusalem. Secondly, From the multitude of Pa∣stors, Teachers, and Elders, that were there, moe than could get work in one single Congregation. Thirdly, From the diversities of Languages that were among the People of that Church. And Fourthly, From the way of their meeting and the place they resorted to for Gods service.
And first, For the multitude of Church Members that was at Jerusalem, If we compare place with place, we will find that they amounted to many thousands, and so behooved to be moe than one single Con∣gregation. Take a view of some of these places Acts 1. 15. they are numbred to be about ane hun∣dred and twenty. And Act. 2. 41. there are added unto them about three thousand Souls: and then in v. 47. There is daily Addition of moe and moe—the Lord added unto the Church daily such as should be saved. Act. 4. 4. We see yet a greater increase; There are about five thousand—and the nu•ber of the men was about five thousand, concerning which five thousand it is necessarly to be understood that they were ad∣ded presently, excluding the rest of the numbers be∣fore spoken of, For the last part of the verse must be exponed according to the first part: Howbeit, many of them which heard the word believed, Now certainly that is meaned of others besides those that were be∣fore added; and so this five thousand must be a new number, Fiftly, In Acts 5. 14. Besides all these it is said And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and Women. And Sixtly, In Act. 6. 7. And the word of the Lord increased, and the Page 155 number of the Disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly, and a great company of the Priests were obedient to the Faith. They multiplied, and multiplyed greatly; And these were not only the common People, but the leaders and Priests also, who doubtless would bring multitudes with them by their example: Now all these being considered, any understanding man may easily conceive, that so many thousands, as these would amount to, behooved to be cast in moe Congregations than one, and could not be one single Congregation.
Before we proceed to the Second ground of our proof, we shall shew you first what they say against this: There are three things mainly they object: And the first is, That the most part of those who were converted by the Apostles were strangers, who had not their dwelling at Jerusalem; and so did not re∣main Members of that Church: And for this they cite Act: 2. 8, 9. Where it is reckoned that among the number of the hearers, there were Parthians, and Medes, and Elamits, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, &c. To this we Answer that though those men came out of those far Countries being Godly men, who come in Expectation of the Messias his coming, who was then expected; yet they were dwellers in Jerusalem for that time, and for this see Act: 2. 5. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under Heaven. So they had taken up house and were dwelling there: And in v, 14. Where Peter began his Preaching he sayes—Ye men of Judea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be Page 156 this known unto you, &c. Secondly, We answer, dwell where they please, They were Members of this Church at Jerusalem; And this appears from several things that are ascribed to them by the Ho∣ly Ghost, which cannot be spoken of any but Mem∣bers of that Church: So in verse 47. it is said— And the Lord added them unto the Church daily. Se∣condly, In verse 46. They continued daily with one ac∣cord in the Temple, and breaking Bread from house to house, &c. Thirdly, In verse 45. They sold their pos∣sessions, and gave their Goods into the Church Treasury, for the help of the poor. And Fourthly, We find in Act. 6. 5. That they all joyned in choosing the Deacons and Officers of the Church. Now sure these are Actions that belong to none but Church-Members. This for their First Objection.
Their second Objection is this, say they, The Holy Ghost sayeth expresly, that they did meet all at one place, as if it were on purpose to evince our Argument, and that the whole multitude did come together, As for instance Act. 2. 1. it is said, They were all with one accord in one place, and in the same Chapter verse 46. They continuing daily with one ac∣cord in the Temple, &c. And it is also said, Act. 6. 2. Then the twelve called the multitude of the Disciples un∣to them, &c. And verse 5. And the saying pleased the whole multitude. Now to take off this exception which seems to be the most plausible of their Ob∣jections: First, Consider what we spoke from the Scripture of their number, and what thousands were in this Church: And let any reasonable man Page 157 conceive how it could be possible that all those should meet in one place; And therefore that meet∣ing in one place must be taken in another sense: It's observed by the Learned, That the word here turn∣ed, meeting together in one place,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 doth not always signify a meeting together in one room, but the agreeing of the Affection and Judgement in one thing: And for the clearing of this they cite, Act. 4. 25, 26—Why did the Heathen rage, and the People imagine vain things? The Kings of the earth stood up, and the Rulers were gathered together against the Lord, &c. Now it is the same word that is there turned (in one place) which is here turned (gather∣ed together) and certainly no place of Scripture will prove that Herod, Pontius Pilate, Jew and Gen∣tile did all meet in one place to consult about the Death of Christ: But only they agreed in one Judge∣ment, and hearty Affection about it: And so the meaning may well be taken thus, in t•is other place. But yet to speak to these places further: For Act. 2. 1. That they were all with one accord in one place, It makes nothing against our Argument: For the num∣ber was not then so great, as we shew it grew afterwards, and so they might well meet in one place. The same answer we give to that in verse 46. They continuing daily with one accord in the Temple. They were not then come to the full number that afterward they came to: So that although they might all have continued in the Temple at that time, yet afterwards they could not. And Secondly, We answer; It doth not prove the point they bring Page 158 it for, It is only mentioned They came to the Temple to hear the Word, but not that they were all of one Congregation, partaking of all Ordinan∣ces in one place; For it is said afterwards, They brake Bread from House to House, meaning the Sa∣crament of the Lords Supper, which they did par∣take of from House to House in their particular Con∣gregations: So that place makes more against our Opposits than against us: For the other place in Act. 6. 5. When the Apostles and Believers were come to a greater extent, yet the Apostles call the whole multitude to them, and it is said, The saying pleased the whole multitude. To this we answer, by the whole multitude cannot be meaned all before spoken of: And therefore we say, by the whole Multitude, is meaned a great Multitude: as in that of Luke 8. 37. Where it is said, That the whole multitude of the Coun∣trey of the Gadarens round about, &c. It is not to be imagined that Man and Mother-Son, or every Individual Person came out to meet Christ, but only a great Multitude; or otherwise the whole multitude may be taken, for the whole multitude of those that were present, as Luke 1. 10. And the whole multitude of the people were praying without, when Zacharias was offering Incense. Now this must not be understood that all the multitude of the People of Jerusalem was there, but only of the whole multitude that was present. This for their second Objection.
Their third Objection is this: Though it be granted that the number of Believers was such be∣fore Page 159 the persecution that fell out, Act. 8, 1. Yet when that Persecution came, there were no more left than might meet in a single Congregation, for the Text faith, They were all scattered abroad through∣out the region of Judea and Samaria, except the Apostles, To this we answer, That if it be granted that there were moe Congregations before this Persecution; then it makes out the point we are to prove. But Secondly, Neither do we yeild that which they af∣firm, That by the persecution mentioned Act. 8. 1. The multitude was brought to such a few number, as they could make up but one Congregation; It is said indeed, They were all scattered except the Apostles: But by this (all) is not meaned all the Professors, but all the Preachers, and there are several reasons to prove it; For it is said, Saul made havock of the Church, verse 3. Now if he had meaned that all the Professors were scattered, where should Saul have gotten Men and Women to hail to Prison; and that this was done in Jerusalem, Paul himself acknow∣ledges, Act. 26. 10. A second thing to prove that this (all) that was scattered, was the (all) of the Preachers and not of the Professors, is that in verse 4. where it is said, They were scatered abroad, every where Preaching the Word, So that it astricts the scat∣tering mainly to those who were Preachers: For certainly the whole multitude could not have gone to Preach the Word. And Thirdly, The Apostles remain still at Jerusalem, as appears from the first verse, Now to what end and purpose should the Apostles have stayed there behind the rest, except there had Page 160 been several Flocks there, with whom they stayed with the hazard of their Lives to confort them a∣gainst the Persecution, which had driven their Preach∣ers from them. But a second answer is, That however they had been so scattered in the beginning of the Persecution, that there was no more of them than made up a single Congregation; yet in process of time they so multiplyed, that they behooved to make up many Congregations: And for this ye may find out several places, as Act. 9. 31. They were multiplied, and Act. 12. 24. speaking of Jerusalem, The word of God grew and multiplied. But we shall take one place for all, In Act. 21. 20. where the El∣ders relate to Paul the exception that the People had taken at him for his going to the Gentiles— Thou seest, Brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe, &c. Now the word rendered thousands in the Greek is 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 which signifies Ten Thousands; so there were not only Thousands, but Ten Thousands; yea, and many ten thousands there; And so moe than could be Edified in one single Congregation. And that these were of Jerusalem, is clear from verse 21. They are informed of thee, &c. And from verse 22.—the multitude must needs come together, &c. Now this is from the first ground of our Proof.
2. The second ground from whence we are to prove, That there were moe Congregations in the Church of Jerusalem than one, is taken from the multitude of Christs Officers; That there were so many that it had been a shame for them all to wait upon one Page 161 flock: We find the Apostles were there, as in Act. 6. 15. about the choosing of the Deacons: We find they were also there in Acts 15. v. 6. Now be∣sides the Apostles we find there were other Church-Officers in Jerusalem, as in Acts 11. verse last. There were Elders there, where he is speaking of Jerusalem, as it appears in verse 27. Besides there were Prophets in it, as in verse 27. of the same Chapter, And in these aayes came Prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch. And it is the Judgement of several Interpreters, that the seventy Disciples whom Christ sent out to Preach, were still at Jerusalem; And that they were of the number of these hundred and twenty menti∣oned Act. 1. 15. Now let any man consider if it was likely, especially when the Harvest was so great, That so many of the Apostles should be ordinary Hearers of the Word, and only one but to speak; especially when we consider, That when Christ sent out the twelve Disciples only, he sent them not out all together, but two by two; and so certainly a wise man may well conclude, That there behooved to be moe Congregations there than one, yea many Con∣gregations. This is for the second ground of our proof.
The third ground is taken from the multitude of Languages that were in Jerusalem, Act. 2. 5, 8, 9. 10. 11. and Act. 6. Which diversity did necessitate them to enjoy the Ordinances in divers distinct Congre∣gations in their own Language; And that it might be so, the Spirit furnished the Apostles with diver∣sity of Languages.
Page 162 The fourth ground to prove this point is taken from the way of their Meeting, which was not in void capacious Rooms built for the purpose, as we now have; for they had not then the Civil Magi∣strate for them, to allow places of meeting for the purpose; but only in private Houses, upper Cham∣bers, Houses allowed to them by private Christians; as Act: 2. 46. And surely it cannot be conceived that their Houses could contain so many thousands; and therefore of necessity they could not meet all in one Congregation.
Thus we have made out the first point, That there were moe Congregations than one in Jerusalem. We might prove the like in the other Churches of Ephesus, Antioch, Corinth, Rome, Thessalonica, that there were moe Congregations than one there also: And that from the multitude of Believers the Scrip∣ture speaks of, the multitude of Preachers, diver∣sities of Languages; But for brevities cause we pass to the other point, which is the second thing we have to make out, and it is this.
II. That all these Congregations in Jerusalem were under one Government, there was one com∣mon Judicatory that Ruled them all in common, As our Presbytry is over all the Congregations within its bounds: And for clearing of this we lay down three things. The First is that although there were many particular Congregations at Jerusalem, yet they are called but one Church: so in several places they are called the Church, Act: 8. 1. 15. 4. &c. And by the way this refutes one of the Independent tenets, Page 163 whereby they affirm: That the name of Church is never given under the New Testament, but to those who meet ordinarly in one place, for the dis∣charging of all parts of Gods Worship. But to the Argument, For what reason could they be called one Church? Not because they met together in one place for the Ministration of the word, Sacraments and Prayer; For those were dispensed to them in their singular Congregations severally, and so cer∣tainly they are called one Church; because they were under one Government, one Eldership above them to Govern them: As the Church of Scotland is cal∣led one Church, because all her Congregations are Governed by one General Assembly.
Secondly, We add to the former, In this one Church, made up of many Churches we find there are Ruling Elders; so we find in Act: 15. 4. and Act: 21. 15, 18. And when they were come to Je∣rusalem, they were received of the Church, and of the Apostles and Elders, &c. Now they are not called the Elders of a particular flock at Jerusalem; but the Elders of the Church; and therefore did meet in one Common Judicatory. The force of this Argu∣ment cannot be spoken against by our Opposits, who prove their particular Elderships from the same ground as in Act: 20. 28. mentioning of the Elders of the Church of Ephesus; From whence they Rea∣son thus: Ephesus was a particular Congregation, we read there were Elders in this Church, therefore there was an Eldership who met together for Go∣verning that Church in common. They must give Page 164 us liberty to Reason that same way thus, We find at Jerusalem was a Church made up of many parti∣cular Churches, we find Elders in this Church; Therefore there was an Eldership who met toge∣ther for Governing of this Church or these Churches in common.
But Thirdly, to make this Argument yet stronger, not only there are Elders in this Church, but we find they meet together for Acts of Jurisdiction, be∣longing to the whole Church in Common. For proof of this see Act: 11, 30. The contribution that is gathered for supply of the Saints is sent to the Elders: Now what the Elders should do with it, may be gathered from a place like it Act: 4. 35. 37. where it is said: They sold their possessions and laid down the price at the Apostles feet. And distribution was made unto every man, according as he had need. So doubtless the contribution was given to the El∣ders, for this end that they might have distributed the same to the poor in the whole Church; And so it was an Act of Government tending to the good of the Church. Further we find this more clear Act: 21. 18. They meet together, and Judicially set down a way to Paul for removing of a Church Scandal, by satisfying the offended, and purifying himself after the manner of the Jews, In v, 23. Do therefore this, &c. So we see their Elderships meet∣ing together for removing a Scandal. We find a Third place to confirm this; Act. 15. 2. 4, We shall afterward make use of the whole Chapter to prove the power of Synods; only this much at Page 165 present to the purpose in hand. We find the Elders met, and make binding Acts to the Churches under them. So we have made out the first point, That there is a Government of many Congregations un∣der one Presbytry holden out in the Word.
The main thing our Opposits flee to at the last is this; That granting it to be true, That there were many Congregations in Jerusalem before the Perse∣cution in Act: 8. And that they had one Govern∣ment above them; yet that doth not infer a Govern∣ment by Presbytry; For they were Governed by the Apostles; We read not of any Elders in that Church before the Dispersion, at which time they were brought to so few a number, that they might all meet in one place: So that though there was one common Government then, by Elders; It inferrs not a Presbytry but a Congregational Eldership on∣ly. This is the sum of all that is said to this. For Answer, They grant to us, That after the Persecu∣tion there was a common Eldership over the Church of Jerusalem. And Secondly, We have proved that there were moe Congregations than One there, even after the Dispersion: And we have also proved that they had Elders over them in common; so that whatever was before the Dispersion, yet even from their own concession it followeth, That there was a Presbyterial Government in Jerusalem after the Di∣spersion. Secondly we answer, They can hardly prove that there were no Elders in Jerusalem before the Dispersion: Its true we read not of Elders until Act. 11. But when they were first instituted, we read not. Page 166Thirdly, We answer, That though there were not Elders to govern them in common, yet it is enough for us that the Apostles did govern them in com∣mon; for they were also Elders: So they call them∣selves, 2 John ver. 1. 1 Peter 5. 1. But Secondly, As they were Elders, so what they did in these Acts of Government, they did it as Elders: For what they did as Apostles is not imitable now, but what they did in Governing the Church is imitable, such as Ordaining of Officers, Distributing of Alms. Again, What they did as Apostles, one of them might do it alone; But here they do it in Collegio, Act. 6. And reserve the Peoples part of Election to them. Now they never met together to write Scripture; nor sought the Peoples concurrence for any Act meer∣ly Apostolick; so it is clear the Church was govern∣ed by them as Elders; And so the Churches even then were under one common Eldership. And this now for the first thing we promised to make out, to wit, That the Scripture holdeth out a pattern of the Government of many Congregations by one com∣mon Presbytery.
¶ II. There is a Plat-form of Govern∣ment by Synods over many par∣ticular Presbyteries holden forth in Scripture.
THe Second thing we promised to make out is this, That as the Scripture holdeth forth the Power of Presbyteries, so also the Power of a Synod; by which we mean Church Ju∣dicatories above Presbyteries, as they are above Ses∣sions, or Congregational Elderships.
I. For understanding the Question, These Sy∣nods or greater Meetings of Church Officers, are of three sorts: Some made up of several Presbyte∣ries, and these are Provincial Synods, (such as com∣monly we have twice a year) Or they are made up of several Synods within a Nation; and these are General Assemblies. Or Thirdly, They are made up of several Churches of several Nations, or Com∣missioners from them; and these are called Uni∣versal Councils, or General Synods of the Christian World. Now all these differ from Presbyteries, not only in this. That they are more ample; but also in this, That the Government by Presbyteries Page 168 is the common ordinary way of Government held out in Scripture: But Synods for the most part are more rare, and upon particular emergent; as Act. 15. That Synod was called upon an occasion of Di∣vision in the Church of Antioch, which troubled o∣ther Churches about.
Secondly, All these kinds of greater Synods, The Provincial Synod, and the Synod of a Nation, and the Universal Councils, do not differ in Nature and kind, but only in less and more; Wherefore it is not needful that we hold out every one of them from Scripture, It is sufficient that we hold out the Power of Synods in the general, which is to be applyed to every kind in particular: For so we find it in Scrip∣ture in other things. Particulars are infinite; and therefore in things of one and the same kind Gene∣ral Rules are sufficient; Or a Rule for one particular, which keeping the just proportion, is to be applyed to other particulars of the same kind, As Matth: 18. Christ sets down the way of walking in private Scandals, speaking nothing of publick Scandals: Not as if Jesus Christ did mean that publick Scan∣dals should be passed over, but that the same Rule may serve for these, keeping the just proportion: Even so is it here; If the nature of Synods be held out in the Word, that is enough, though it speak nothing of the bounds to which they should extend, whether of One Province, or of All the Provinces of a Nation; no more than it is particularly set down in Scripture, what should be the number and bounds of a particular Congregation.
Page 169 There is a Third thing for clearing of this Que∣stion: The Independents and we agree in this, That the word gives ground for meeting of Synods; only we differ about their Power: They grant that in case of Division or Scandal, Synods may meet and give their Advice in Matters doubtful; only they say, that Synods have no Power of Jurisdiction to com∣mand others in the Lord to embrace their determi∣nations, We on the other hand maintain that they have this Power, and that the Scripture holdeth out such a Power belonging to them.
II. We might instance this in Act: 1, In the choice of Matthias, which was done by no particu∣lar Church; For here were the Apostles, whose Paroch-Church was the whole world: Here were the Brethren of Christ from Galilie v, 14. Some from Jerusalem v. 15. This meeting did a Church business of common concernment to the whole Christian World, and so behooved to be done by those who did represent them, And therefore this behooved to be a General Council.
But to clear the point more fully, we shall take Act: 15. Where this Synod we plead for is held forth clearly: The History is plain: A difference ariseth in Antioch about Circumcision, This cannot be com∣posed in Antioch it self; so they send up Commis∣sioners to Jerusalem to determine this matter, where there is a Synod of Apostles and Elders, and they determine the Question. Now that it may appear the Synod we plead for is here; consider first, That there was a Church meeting or Judicatory here; Page 180 None may doubt of this, as is clear v, 6. Secondly, Consider, That this Judicatory is made up of Com∣missioners from the several Presbyteries, we see that Commissioners from the Presbytry of Jerusalem was there v, 6. And Commissioners from the Presbytry of Antioch Act: 15. 2 Paul and Barnabas and others. Now that these were Commissioners, and had voice appears from Act: 16. 4. where the decree that was then made was ascrived to all the Elders who were present. It is very likely that there were other Commissioners there also from Syria and Cilicia; For they are joyned with Antioch in the Letter v. 23. For what other Reason cannot be imagined, except that as they were alike troubled with the Heresy as An∣tioch was, so they had their Commissioners there as Antioch had, And therefore these Acts are binding to them in a special manner, However it is clear that there were Commissioners from the Presbytry of Je∣rusalem and of Antioch, so the meeting was made up of two Presbytries; And by the same rule it may be made up of moe.
Thirdly, We would consider that this meeting made up of Commissioners from several Presbytries makes binding Acts unto other absent Churches, who were present only in their Commissioners; And there are several things to clear this: First, They determine the Question in v, 19. 20 Secondly, They impose Their determination on the Churches to be keeped by them: So in the Letters They wrote to the Church of Syria and Cilicia v, 28. The word that is turned there a Burthen, signifies a Law or a Page 181 Decree, and so we find it in Act: 16. 4. There their Conclusions are called Decrees which were ordained of the Apostles and El•ers at Jerusalem, And which were to be keeped: From all which it is clear They did make Acts binding other Congregations. Thirdly, We find they put forth an Act of Censure on the false Prophets v, 24. They called them Lyars, A brand of Infamy. It's true They Censured them not with Excommunication, For it was time enough to doe That, when they knew they were become incorri∣gibly obstinate, according to the common Rule, An Heretick after the first and second Admonition reject. By this I hope, ye perceive clearly a pattern for greater Synods, a Judicatory made up of Commissioners from several Presbytries; and these making bind∣ing Laws to other Churches, who were absent in their Persons, and only present in their Commissio∣ners
III. Their main Objection against this is, That the Apostles were here, who were guided with an infallible Spirit to determine; and so this can be no Rule for our Synods, made up of men wanting that assistance. To this we Answer, that this if it prove any thing will make against our Opposits themselves as well as against us; For they hold that here is a pat∣tern of a Synod for advice, so if their Argument hold against Us in the One, It must hold also against Them in the Other. Secondly, We shew before that the Apostles were also Elders, and sometimes Acted as Elders; Now if it can be proven that they Acted as Elders here, it breaks the strength of their Page 172 Objection. But this is clear, First, Paul and Bar∣nabas are sent by the Church of Antioch, They wil∣lingly submit Act: 15. 4 Now in their Apostolick Office they were not directed by me•, And so surely here they acted not as Apostles. Secondly, The Apostles all along go not on that way, as when guided by an infallible Apostolick Spirit; For they state the Question, and debate it in v, 7. Now when they write Scripture, they do not use advice, nor do they debate what they shall conclude, but speake all as immediatly inspired; But here they debate. And •aving found Truth, By force of Reason they conclude, as any other Assembly, upon like assurance of Scripture warrand, may do, It seem∣eth good unto Vs being Assembled with one accord, &c. In v, 25. Thirdly, When the Apostles did determine any thing as Apostles, and were guided by the im∣mediatly inspiring Spirit of God, then they did de∣termine the Question fully that nothing needed to be added: But so it was not here, For Peter v, 6th gives his Judgment, That Believers were freed from the Ceremonial Law: What he saith is true indeed; Yet it speaketh not fully to the point, untill James addeth somewhat, to wit, That however the Gen∣tils were freed from the Ceremonial Law, yet to eschew the Scandal of the weak Jews, They were to abstain from things strangled &c▪ v, 20. And there∣fore, They Acted not as Apostles, except we would say, that Peter as an Apostle intending to deter∣mine a Controversie, yet did not speak fully to the point, which were an injury to that immediately Page 173 inspiring Spirit, by which they were acted in pen∣ning Scripture, Fourthly, Because the decrees of the Synod are put forth in the name and by the Autho∣rity not only of the Apostles, but Elders also, Act: 15. 22. 23. Act. 16. 4. Act. 21. 25. Now surely or∣dinary Elders did never concurr with the Apostles in Acts of their Apostolick office; As penning Scrip∣ture, &c. From all that is said, it is most clear, that the Apostles here acted as Elders, leaving a Pattern for such like Judicatories upon the like occasions, to the end of the World: Which is the Second Point.
¶ III. Inferior Church Judicatories are Subject to Superiour.
THE Third point we have to make out is this: That Inferior Church Judicatories are sub∣ordinate to the Superior, as Sessions or Congregational Elderships to Presbytries, Presby∣tries to Synods, &c. So that the greater have power of Government over the lesser: For receiving Ap∣peals from them, Complaints of them, Enacting of Church Canons; unto which the Inferior ought to be subject in the Lord. The point in short is, That Page 184 particular Elderships are not Independent, so as to do what they please, without being accountable to any Judicatory above them; But Presbyteries are over them in the Lord. We shall follow the former Or∣der: First, To clear the Question. Secondly, To bring Arguments for the Truth. Thirdly, To answer Arguments against the Truth. Fourthly, To apply it to Use.
I. For the First, We allow unto particular Con∣gregations an Eldership and Power of Discipline within themselves, to judge of these things that are of their particular concernment: But as for things wherein other Congregations are concerned with them, We hold that such do belong to Superiour Judicatories according to the Rule, What belongs un∣to all should be handled by all. Secondly, We do not give Power to any one single Congregation above another: We say, That all Congregations (the least as well as the greatest is equal in Power; This way was the Bishops Tyranny, that made all the Con∣gregations of the Diocess subject to the Cathedral Church, the Parish where the Bishop lived: So that all others were to subject themselves to it, and the great Lord Bishops Laws which he gave out in it. We do only say, That all particular Congregations should be subject to a Presbytery, made up of El∣ders taken from among themselves, wherein no Congregation can challenge Power more than ano∣ther: The meanest hath as great Power in them as the greatest. Thirdly, We do not say that the Power of Presbyteries or Synods are absolute, so that what∣ever Page 185 they conclude should stand for a Law; or that they ought to be obeyed in every thing. We affirme Their Power is a limited and Ministerial Power, It is a Power in the Lord; So that put the case, If a Presbytery or Synod should conclude a thing that is wrong, They are not to be followed blindly. We allow to every particular Christian a Judgement of Discretion, whereby they should compare the Acts of Church Judicatories, with the Rule of the Word, and accordingly either to choice or refuse: Only herein we say, First, That particular Christians should have a kind of loathness to differ from the Judicatories of the Church, arising from a secret kind of diffidence and distrust of their own Light and understanding; so that although they are not to follow others blindly, yet they are to suspect them∣selves rather than them; we mean when the matter is dubious. Secondly, We say, That when the case comes that it is evidently seen that Superiour Judi∣catories have gone wrong, private Christians are to differ from them indeed, yet so as to give great Reverence and Respect to the Judicatory, even when they are necessitate to dissent from their Acts, least by their furious zeal they cast all loose and into confusion.
But to come to the point, The Question is, Whether all the Power of Church Government be in the Hands of particular Elderships; And so if particular Elderships be Independent: Or if Jesus Christ hath warranted Presbyteries to be above them in the Lord. We maintain the last: And Page 176 we clear our part the Controversy from several Ar∣guments.
II. The First Argument is taken from the many defects that are in this way of Independency, where the whole Power is put in one Congregation; so as to be countable to none: We shall reckon four or five of these Defects; and indeed very great De∣fects. First, According to this way of Theirs, there is no Authoritative way in Christs Church to right a man that is wronged by a particular Congregation; As put the Case that an Eldership should wrong a man by Censuring him unjustly: According to Their way, He must sit with the wrong, there is no remedy to him till Christ come in the Clouds. There is a second defect according to this Indepen∣dent way of Theirs: There is no Authority in the Church to heal Breaches in a Congregation: Put the case that a People should divide from the Elders, or the Elders among themselves, or that one Con∣gregation may have a contest with another: Now in these cases, suppose both these Parties to be wil∣ful, as too usually it falls out, so as They will not yeild to any Advice, without Authority to back it: Now what remedy is left in such Cases without the assistance of a Presbytery, that hath Power over both Parties, to command them in the Lord to do what is right: And can we think that Christ hath left no remedy in his House for such evils, as may so fre∣quently fall out. Thirdly, The Independent way leaveth no Authoritative mean for holding down Pluralities of Religion; For if so, then let a particu∣lar Page 177 Congregation set up what Religion they please; suppose it be Popery: There is no Authoritative mean to hinder it: But in the Way of Presbytery it is otherwise: Presbytery is Christs Weeding-hook to weed out Heresies; so we observe wherever it is set up it bears Heresy down; And no wonder; For Judicatories are so subordinate, one to another, that what is overseen in the one, is taken notice of in the other. Fourthly; By this way of theirs, there is no Authoritative mean for unity and uniformity in the publick service of God among Congregations; But every one being left to themselves, will take a way of Their Own; This Congregation one way, and that Congregation another way; which doubt∣less would prove a great stumbling block to the weak, not knowing unto what Congregation to joyn, because of the great diversity among all. Put the case (to clear it in some things whereby ye may guess at others) that in one Congregation they would both read and expound, In another, they would only Read: In others the line were not read for singing; And in another, it were read: In some Congregations Children were not Baptized but in time of Sermon, In others, That Baptism were Admi∣nistrate at other times also: In some Congregations Two Prayers before a Sermon, In another but one: In another the Conclusion Sung, In another not. Now though the Strong would not stumble at these things, knowing that such in their own nature are, for the most part at least, indifferent; Yet to the weak Christian they might prove a ground of stum∣bling; Page 178 For usually such presently stamp Conscience on that part of the difference which they like best, and hence arise contests, Janglings, and matter of renting the Church. Now there is no way in Inde∣pendency left for preventing of this. Fifthly, The way of Independency leaves no remedy to a Congregation wanting a Minister, for Tryal of the next that comes▪ Whose tryal is left wholly to the People by this way of Theirs: How slight that tryal would be, any may judge; How few Parishes can try a Minister in his Abilities, If he be apt to Preach, convince gainsay∣ers, watch against ravening wolves &c. Now this is remeeded in the way of Presbytery, according to Pauls Rule 1 Tim: 4. 14. That Ministers be ordain∣ed —with the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery. This for the first Argument, from Five great defects in the Independent way; Other defects also might be instanced, but these may suffice.
Our Second Argument is taken from Matth. 18. 16. 17. 18. where Jesus Christ layes down a way for the removing of private Scandals, or dealing with an offending brother; From whence we argue thus, If Christ hath laid down a way for gaining an of∣fending brother, how much more for gaining an offending Church: Its above all doubt that a Church may offend, walk inoderly, wrest Justice. Now surely Gods care must be no less of the whole Church than of One Member: So that our consequence holds: but we assume, There is no way to heal the Scandal of an offending Congregation or particular Church, but by compleaning to a Presbyterial Church above Page 179 them: This is evident, For 1. our Opposites them∣selves will not censure them-themselves: They can∣not be both judge and party. 2. It appears from the rule of proportion, For by that same rule that private Christians are to be compleaned of to that Elder∣ship whereof they are parts; so the Eldership is to be compleaned of to that Presbytry whereof it is a part: and if the Christian liberty of the private Christian be not taken away by the one, so neither is the just power of the Eldership taken away by the other.
Our Third Argument is from that which we handled before, That in Scripture is holden forth Government by Presbytries over single Congrega∣tions, and by Synods over Presbytries, From whence we argue thus, That the way of Governing the Church in the Apostles times was by Presbyteries and Synods; And therefore the Church should still be so Governed. For the first part of our Argument That the way Then of Governing the Church was by Presbytries and Synods, it was proved before: So we have only to speak to the Second part of our Ar∣gument, that therefore the Church should be Go∣verned so now: And to clear this consequence, con∣sider these things. 1. That whatever is recorded of the practice of the Churches in the matter of Go∣vernment in the Apostles times, can be for no other end but to be a Pattern for imitation to the Churches in after times, For whatsoever things were written a∣fore times was for our learning and instruction Rom: 15. 4. 2. Those primitive Churches were planted by the Apostles; Now who can imagine but what the Page 180 Apostles did of that kind, was according to the di∣rections given them by Christ; A promise of whose presence they had with them in their Ministry, and if so, then their practice must be a Rule to Generations following 1 Cor: 11. 1. Be ye followers of me, &c. 3. We make the practice of the Apostles then, to be a Rule for us in other things; As from their practice in giving the People liberty in choising their own Deacons Act. 7. We argue, That the People may choise their own officers yet: And from their practice in having Ruling Elders in the Church 1 Tim: 5. 15. We argue, That we should have Ruling Elders yet: So from their practice in having the office of Dea∣cons we argue, That we should have them yet: And from their practice in Celebrating the Lords Supper on the Lord's day Act: 27. We argue, Therefore we should celebrate it on that day yet. Now if so be that Their practice should be a Rule to us in o∣ther things, why not also in Church Government by Presbytries and Synods; especially seeing that we have made out, that Their practice is as clear in this as in other matters. A Fourth consideration to strengthen this Argument is this, That the Church∣es now have these same Reasons to move them to submit to that Government, which the Church in the Apostles times had; and a Law or Practice is still binding, so long as the Reason of the Law remains: Now the Reasons that moved the Church in the A∣postles time to submit to Presbyterial Government, was first, Because there were many things of com∣mon concernment to all the Congregations in Jeru∣salem,Page 181 and therefore they were Governed by one Presbytry as said is: so there are many businesses of common concernment to many particular Congre∣gations now, and therefore it should be so yet. Se∣condly, In Act: 15. There ariseth a controversie in Antioch, and because the controversie cannot be composed in the Presbyterial Church of Antioch, therefore it is referred unto a Synod made up of ma∣ny Presbytries, all concerned in it: So there are businesses of common concernment to many Presby∣tries yet, and some that cannot be ended in one Pres∣bytry, and therefore there should be Synods for composing of these things yet. And seeing the A∣postles extraordinarly assisted, (one whereof might have composed the Controversie) would neverthe∣less have a Synodical Convention for ending Con∣troversies; Much more ought we to do it whose Gifts are far Inferior to Theirs. By all which it re∣mains clear that the practice of the Church then in that point, is binding to us now.
Argument Fourth, There is no Pattern of such an Independent Congregation, by precept or Practice in the whole Scripture, where one particular Con∣gregation, with one Pastor, and Their Eldership, did Exercise or may Exercise all Church Govern∣ment, in all its Acts, and that Independently: there∣fore &c. The Antecedent is true. First, An in∣stance cannot be given of Ordination of Ministers by One Congregation. Secondly, By precept and Practice Ordination is to be by moe Pastors than one; as Act: 1. 13. Act. 6. 2. Act: 13. 13. 1 Tim: 4. 14. Page 182 So it is clear, That it is by Pastors, and many Pa∣stors, and so cannot be by a single Congregation, where there is required, and should be (say they) but one Pastor. As to what they say of the Church of Corinths Excommunicating the Incestous man. We Answer, Corinth was a Presbyterial Church. And Secondly, It proves not that they might Excommu∣nicate Independently, For if a Controversie had arisen about it, which they could not have ended among themselves, they were to have their recourse to a Sy∣nod, By the same Reason for which the Church of Antioch had, Acts 15.
Argument Fifth, If so be that Congregations be Independent, And no benefit of Appeals allowed to the party grieved, Then the state of the Christian Churches were in greater Slavery than the Jewish; But this is absurd; For Christians are in an estate of greater liberty; As appears from Galat. 4. 1. Therefore &c. For clearing the first proposition▪ We lay down these things; First, There was a Subordina∣tion of Judicatories in the Jewish Church; As might be made out from several places, We take one 2 Chron: 19. 8. where there is a Supream Ec∣clesiastical Judicatory v, 10. The matters they handle come to them from other Judicatories: And Deut: 17. 8. Sheweth the matters to be handled by the su∣pream Judicatory are such as had been before the Inferior Court, but found too hard to be judged there; So that here was a Refuge for the party wronged by the Inferiour Court: Now if there be no such Refuge left to Christians, we may certainly say, The state of Page 183 Christiansis most hard, being left under the Tyran∣nical sentence of the unjust Eldership, And no power to right them; When the oppressed Jew might ap∣peal to the Superior Judicatory.
We might further argue from this, Whatever was in the Jewish Government that was neither Cere∣monial, nor Judicial; but Moral; That is binding to us; For the Moral Law bindeth all alike, and is not abrogate: But this, That there was subordina∣tion of Judicatories for the relief of the grieved party among the Jews, was Moral, not Ceremonial, nor Judicial. It is true that all things were determined by an high Priest, among the Jews, who was typical of Christ, and of his supremacy in Judgment: So the Papists argue ill from the high Priest to the Pope: But it is as true, That the Subordination of Judica∣tories for things of harder knowledge, and relief of the oppressed party, was Typical of nothing; But Moral and of the Law of Nature, which forbids party to be judge; which will naturally follow if there be not Subordination of Courts. Yea fur∣ther we shall not find that this Law is given to Mo∣ses in the pattern upon the mount, but was taught by the light of nature to Jethro, and by him given to Moses Exod. 18. 22. It shall be that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, &c:
III. We come now to Answer Their Objections many whereof we have taken off in the first two Heads▪ As for the rest we shall not trouble you with those that are frivolous, as indeed the most part are, we shall only pitch on these that •eem to Page 184 carry some shew of Reason, and whereof they boast most.
Their first Objection is from Matth: 18. 17. This Church, say they, is a Parochial Church, and Christs mind is that the business should be here ended, with∣out any Appeal from it. Answer Christ means not only a particular singular Congregation, but also, if not mainly, A Presbyterial Church: For first, The particular Church cannot sometimes heal the distemper, as when it is divided, or when the Church it self is Scandalous, as oft may fall out by giving a wrong sentence; So that if Christ had meaned only a particular Church should be com∣pleaned to, and in no case a Judicatory above them, then his Remedy should have come short in curing the desease for which he intends it, which to say were no small imputation to Jesus Christ. Secondly, Christ here alludes to the Government of the Jewish Church, as appears from the Censure of the Obstinate to be reputed as an Heathen, the same which was among the Jews: And from the plainness of the speach, Tell the Church; Which could not be otherwise un∣derstood, if he had not alluded to the Jewish Judica∣tory, besides which, They knew no Judicatory, for such offences as Christ spoke of to them, There be∣ing as yet no particular Church which had given its name to Christ. Now (as we cleared before) the Judica∣tories among the Jews which were to be complained to for Scandals, were not only these who were in their single Synagogues or Congregations; But also Su∣perior Courts, to which it was Lawful to Appeal Page 185 from the lesser Courts. Thirdly, Christ meaneth here of such a Church, as were the Churches of Je∣rusalem, Antioch, &c. But these (as we have already cleared) were Presbyterial Churches or Judicatories, having the oversight of many Congregations: Now sure these being the first Churches instituted by the Apostles, must not be excluded from the power of Government given by Christ to his Church in that place.
Their Second Objection is this, That the Depen∣dency of Churches upon Presbytries layeth on a yoke of Tyranny and Subjection upon particular Congregations, equal to the Tyranny of Bishops: And if the Church must be in bondage, it is better to be subject to one Lord Bishop, than under a num∣ber of Ministers and Elders in Presbytry or Synod. For Answer, We make no other Subjection here than what the Independents themselves make; For they make Ten in a Congregation subject to Five hun∣dred, and the Lawes of the Five hundred to be binding to the Ten: So make we many Churches to be subject in the Lord to all their own Pastors and Elders, conveened in a Presbytry; What more Sub∣jection is there in the one than in the other? Secondly, It is an unjust comparison to compare Bishops Ty∣ranny with Presbytries. For 1. The Government by Bishops was Humane, This is Divine. 2. The Bishop being but One Man did by himself alone Go∣vern, and that ad Arbitratum, Nor had he Any to An∣swer to; But here moe Pastors and Elders are joyn∣ed together, who are by mutual advice to Rule Gods Page 186 People, according to the Word of God. 3. The Government by the Bishop was altogether extrinsecal to, or without the Particular Churches: For the Bishop was none of their Members, nor yet chosen by them; But Presbyteries and Synods are not so, They are wholly made up of Members and Com∣missioners from those same very Churches, where They govern, and so it is wholly intrinsecal. 4. We say Government by Presbyteries is so far from be∣ing in its own nature Tyrannical, as that it is the greatest remedy against Church Tyranny; because it is a City of Refuge, for all these who are oppres∣sed in their particular Congregations; For if in the Independent Government one be wronged, he must sit with it, till Christ come and right him: Neigh∣bour Churches may advise and request, but the Con∣g•egation advised, is not bound to follow it; But h••e when the Eldership doth wrong, there is a re∣fuge to a Presbytery, and above them to a Sy∣nod, &c.
Object: 3. Government by Presbytery layeth upon Ministers and Elders the Charge of other Flocks than these of whom the Lord made them Overse•rs, to wit, The Charge of all the Churches in the bounds of the Presbytery: They are Elders to all these Churches; because they govern them. Answer, It followeth not that they have the Charge of all these Congregations in particular, and in every thing that concerns the Duty of an Elder; so that they are bound particularly to Catechize, to Visit, &c. Only They are Elders to them in things common to all, Page 187 And as they are joyned in the Court with others: And this is not absurd, for in our Parliament, Com∣missioners from Shires are Judges to the whole Kingdom: But how? It is as they are joyned in Parliament, not by themselves alone; It is in mat∣ters common to the Shire, not in other petty par∣ticular Affairs; And so it is here, They are Elders to all the Congregations indeed, as they are joyned to∣gether in the Presbytery; But not by themselves alone: In things of common concernment to the whole particular Congregation, not in these Duties belonging to every Congregation in particular.
Object: 4. If this Subordination, and Judicatory above Judicatory were of Divine Institution, Its like Scripture would have spoken more plainly of it; not leaving it to be drawn out by so many far fetch'd Consequences. Answer, We have already given sufficient Warrand for this Government by clear Consequences from Scripture; And Consequences from Scripture are Scripture, else we must cast at ma∣ny points of Divine Truth which have no other ground but Scripture Consequence: As the Trinity; and Change of the Sabbath; yea we see Christ himself grounding a material point, to wit, The Resurrecti∣on, upon Scripture Consequence, Mark 12. 26. 2. We must not teach God how to set down his mind in Scripture; We perchance think, It had been a plainer way to have cast matters of Religion to so many Heads; By which means many Controversies should have been shunned, But He hath thought o∣therwise: The Lord in Wisdom hath scattered the Page 188 parcels of every Truth through his Book, intermix∣ing it with other Subjects, as the Gold is in the Mine, and this to exercise his people in searching out his mind from Scripture.
IV. In the last place, We come to make some Vse of what is said. And the first Vse is this, If it be so that this Government by Presbytery is grounded on the word of God, Then ye would know it is not a thing of nought we are contesting for, It's a part of that Truth once delivered to the Saints, and a Truth of no small concernment: What would be∣come (think ye) of Particular Congregations, If they had none above them to call them to an account? What Divisions, Strifes, Heresies, Schisms would ensue; if people were informed of these Con∣tests that have fallen out among our Opposits them∣selves, where this way of Independency was follow∣ed; The one half renting from the other, Excom∣municating one another? It might make moderate Men scar at it: But we need se•k no other evidence of this, than by looking on Scotland and England these years by past. In the Church of England, Presby∣tery could not be set up, Independency was pleaded for, and practised; And what is become of it, Sathan hath vomited out a floud of Errors, that there were never more, nor more gross in any time of the Christian World; Yea all the rotten Graves of old Heresie are digged up, and now avowed: Socinianism, In denying Christs Righteousness in the matter of Justification: Anabaptism, In denying the Baptizing of Infants: Arianism, In denying the Trinity: And many other Page 189 such like. Yea there are some Errors there that were never before heard of: Some affirming, There is no Church they can joyn with: And therefore, They turn Seekers. Some are above all Preaching, Prayer and all Ordinances: And all these are the Fruits of Independency. Again, look on the Fruits of the Presbyterial Government in Scotland where it hath been in Vigour, God hath made it an Hammer for battering down the beginnings of Error: So that these twelve years bypast not any one Error hath come to any Strength: And this all under God from Presbyterial Government, being His Institution: Our Judicatories were indeed terrible, as an Army with Banners, though indeed we are now like to turn contemptible. God himself heal our Breaches.
Secondly, Guard against the Errors that would draw you from this Truth; If ye cannot carry the grounds we have been speaking of with you, yet ye may remember ye once heard this Truth con∣firmed from Scripture and Reason; That so when ye meet with temptations to quite it, ye may advise well before ye yeild.
I would press this▪ so much the more, As that this Doctrine of Presbyterial Government is the Butt of Sathan's Envy, the thing he would have most gladly overthrown, As that which stands most in his way; For so long as it stood in its integrity, We might in the Lords strength have defied the De∣vil to have brought Error into Scotland. And in∣deed it is the thing he sets himself to brangle, To get the hedge once plukt up, that so the wild Boar Page 190 of the wilderness may come in. And (believe me) there is nothing makes me more affraid, than that through Gods permission, the Devil shall get a de∣ludge of Error brought in on Scotland; Because those who have been intrusted with this Government have weakned the power of it, by Divisions among our selves; A copy is casten How that Erroni∣ous Spirits need not stand much on the Authority of Assemblies, when they would cross their Designs: We are affraid, yea we may be past •ear and con∣clude. That Presbyteries, Synods, &c. have lost much of the weight They had lately in mens con∣sciences. Only let me intreat you in the bowels of Christ, That ye would put a difference betwixt the Government it self, and the Persons who are in∣trusted with it; Doe not charge the faults of the one upon the other: The best things that are may be abused; And it is Peoples Tryal to put diffe∣rence between the good of a thing, and the Abuse of it. The Government is good, and of God; and the abuse of it is evil and of men: What is of God, cleave to it, and stick fast by it; what is from mens corruptions, mourn for it: Pray them∣selves may get a sight of it: And thus ye shall walk in an eaven way. Ye had need to deal with God to ground you in the knowledge of these things; For we know not how soon we may be put to it, to quite them: Only remember They are Truths ye have sworn to maintain with your hands lifted up on high.
SECT: V. A SHORT REFUTATION OF THE ERROR OF Separation.
Head I. Shewing what is required for making one a Member of the Visible Church.
WE have gone through these Controver∣sies, which are about the Government of the Church: We are now to refute some dangerous Errors of Doctrine. And first, We shall begin with the Error of Separation.
Page 192 The Errors of Separatists are many, but we shall only engage with two Heads of them, which are the main. The first is That which they teach concern∣ing the Constitution of the Visible Church; Or who it is that should be received Members of Christs vi∣sible Body. The second is That which they hold to be the duty of every sincere Christian, viz. That when they spy any corruption in a Church wherein they are Members, as if Persons Scandalous be ad∣mitted to the Lords Supper (seeing they ought all to be Gracious who come there) Then (say they) It is their duty to keep back from the Communion; and not only so, but to quite That Church, and set up a new Church of Their own. We shall begin first with that Doctrine that concerns the Constitution of Visible Churches. And therein we shall follow our usual Order: First, Clear the Question. Secondly, Bring Arguments for the Truth. Thirdly, An∣swer those they bring against the Truth. And Fourth∣ly, Apply the whole to some Use.
I. First, For clearing of the Question, ye would know what Church it is concerning which the Controversy is. First, It is not that place where Gods people meet to go about Gods publick Worship, (such as this House we now are in, which is called the Church by a Figure, improperly) But it is the People gathered together in it; which People are really and properly the Church; although the House be so called, because it contains them, by an usual Figure. The Church that we are to dis∣pute of, is made up of Men and Women: And not Page 193 that which is built of Timber and Stone. Secondly, The Controversy betwixt Us and Them is not concern∣ing the Invisible Church, that is called the Church of the First-born, Those who by vertue of their Ef∣fectual Calling are united to Jesus Christ the Head, are living Members of His Mystical Body, and draw Spiritual Influence from him. Concerning the Church taken in this Sense, There is no Contro∣versy betwixt Us and the Separatists, but that the Members of this Church are only made up of Be∣lievers, are all gracious, because this Church is Christs Mystical Body, a Royal Priest-hood, the Lambs Wife, all fair, undefiled▪ &c. Thirdly, The Question Then is concerning the Church Visible, which is, a Company of Men and Women, who have according to the Tenor of Gods Covenant with the Visible Church an Outward Ecclesiastical (which is in its kind a real) Right to enjoy the Outward Pri∣viledges of the Children of God.
This being the Church about which the Con∣troversy betwixt Us and the Separatists is, We shall speak a litle to clear what is meaned by it; And First, The Church is called Visible, not because the Mem∣bers of it may be seen: For in that respect the Church Invisible, the Church of Believers, may be called Visi∣ble; For the Members of it being believing Men and Women, may be seen also: But the difference betwixt the Churches in those two Senses, is taken from that which makes one to be a Member of the one Church, as it differs from that which makes one a Member of the other. That which makes One man a Page 194 Member of the Invisible Church, is True Grace, sincere Faith, inward Marks thereof: Now Grace is a thing that cannot be seen by another certainly: Its true there are outward effects of it; but they are such, that a Hypocrite may have the counterfeit of them, so as the one cannot be discerned from the other by a Beholder. The nature of Grace is only known Infallibly and certainly to God; And there∣fore This Church is called Invisible. Again that which makes a Man or Woman a Member of the Visible Church is something that may be seen▪ some∣thing that may be judged of, by those who have Power to receive Members into the Church, and cast them out from it. Secondly, We said that this Vi∣sible Church is a Company or Society of Men and Women, that have an Ecclesiastical Right to enjoy the Outward Priviledges of the Sons of God. For understanding what is meaned by enjoying of Out∣ward Priviledges, we shall show you That there are Outward Priviledges, and Inward Priviledges of those who are the Sons of God. Inward Privi∣ledges are Jesus Christ himself; a Right to him, a saving Right to the Covenant of Grace, and Life Eternal; These are the Inward Priviledges of the Sons of God: And only Believers have right to those: Painted Hypocrites have no right to them. But Secondly, There are Outward Priviledges of the Sons of God; such as these, To be ordinary Hearers of the Word Preached: To be taken a care of by Je∣sus Christ his Servants: To have liberty to come to the Sacraments: These are Outward Priviledges, Page 195 And these are Priviledges that a Member of the Vi∣sible Church hath a right to. We said they had an Ecclesiastical Right or a Church Right to them: That is, such a Right as gives Warrand to the Church for receiving them to enjoy these Priviledges, and yet possibly they have not a Right to them be∣fore God: As for Example, when there is a paint∣ed Hypocrite in a Congregation, who makes Con∣science seemingly to use the Means: That man hath an Ecclesiastical Right to come to a Communion; such a Right as may Warrand the Minister for ad∣mitting of him, although he have not a Right to come before God; God will challenge the Hypo∣crite for coming, and not the Minister for suffering him to come. Yet we are still to consider that tho' this Ecclesiestical Right be not Saving, yet it is Real in its kind, being founded upon Gods Covenant with the Visible Church, and his Ordinance of admitting such therein. Now ye may know somewhat by this, what we mean by an Ecclesiastical Right, it's That which gives warrand to Church Officers to ad∣mit a man to enjoy these Outward Priviledges: And so ye may know what we mean by the Visible Church whereof we Dispute.
There are several differences betwixt Us and the Separatists, Concerning the Visible Church. First, They affirm That there is no Visible Church on Earth; But a single Congregation; As many as may meet in one place. This we refuted in the former Controversie; by shewing That in the Church of Jerusalem there were far moe than could meet in Page 196 one single Congregation; yea many particular Con∣gregations; And yet are called but One Church. Secondly, They differ much from us, as also from the Truth, concerning the power They give to this Vi∣sible Church, They give them the full power of Church Government, and that Independently from any Chuch power on earth: This difference also we spoke of in the preceeding Debate; And so we shall stand now no longer upon it. Thirdly, We differ concerning That which gives a Being to the Church Visible; They say, To make a Society of People a Visible Church, so as to have right to partake of the Priviledges there of, It is requisite that all the Members of that Society Swear a Covenant one to another, wherein they bind themselves to submit one to another in the Lord, to walk in all the Ordinances of God, and not to leave that Socie∣ty till liberty be given them by the rest: So that tho a man should be never so truely Godly and Gracious, yet if he take not such a Covenant, and if he Swear not such an Oath, He is without the Visible Church, He is in the state of a •agan, to live and to die with∣out any Church Ordinance.
The Judgement of our Church, and that of Truth herein is this, That wherever a man comes out of one Particular Congregation (which we call a Pa∣roch) to another, By his so doing he comes under a duty and Obligation, which he is bound to before God, and the Congregation also, to discharge himself in; Namely all the Duties pertaining to a Member of that Particular Congregation or Paroch to which Page 197 he comes, Although he Swear not such an Oath. We say, Secondly, he may also Swear to do these Duties. But Thirdly, To bind this on all the Con∣sciences of the Members of the Church, to take such an Oath, so as if they take it not They are not Church Members; We say, It is Will Worship not commanded by God, either by Practice or Pre∣cept, in Old or New Testament. We might easily prove that Jesus Christ never took This way to ga∣ther a Visible Church.
But the main difference is the Fourth, and that is Concerning those who are to be kept or received Members of the Church Visible; Or who they are that have right to these Outward Priviledges we spoke of: That which they hold in this Point is, That they would have all Visible Churches disolved, and then Churches gathered out of these, wherein none are to be received or admitted to partake of Church Priviledges, so as to be under the care of Ministers, Admitted to the Sacraments &c. but those who have evident positive signes of Grace, and these not only evident to the Minister and a few moe, but to all the Members of the Congregation, so that every one in the Congregation must be convinced, so far as men can attain unto, that he hath Grace, or else he is no Member of the Visible Church; by which Rule they model Congregations; But there was never a Congregation since Christ was on the earth so constitute, except Their Own; For accord∣ing to this Rule they will cast out the Two Part, and of some Congregations, leave Ten Parts and take Page 198 but the Eleventh, leaving all the rest as Pagans, with∣out Baptising their Children, or admitting themselves to any Church Priviledge: This is what They hold. As for the Judgment of our Church, and that which is according to the Word, take those Assertions.
First, We hold that every man indeed that is a Member of the Visible Church ought to have Grace; so that he sins against God and his own Soul if he have it not; And all the priviledges he enjoyes will do him no good without it. We say in this re∣spect, all the Members of the Church ought to have Grace; But to say, That they so ought to have Grace, that none of them must be admitted to be a Member of the Church Visible without it, This we deny: It is ill reasoning from unanswerableness to an obligation to a forfaulture of Priviledges: For every man that is a Magistrate ought to have Grace; so as he sins against God if he have it not; yet a man may be a lawful Magistrate, and have the Privi∣ledges of a Magistrate, although he have not Grace. Secondly, We do willingly grant that in the Consti∣tution of our Church, and admitting of People to the Lords Table: Our Practice comes far short of the Rule; There is not that care taken to purge out scandalous persons as should be, Our practice is in∣deed short of the Rule; But Our Rule which we shall hold out (as we shall prove) is Good. To know then what is the Rule according to which we should admit men to be Members of the Church. First, There are some who are admitted to some Priviledges only, and not to all; as to Baptism: And Page 199 these are Members of the Church Incompleatly, They are Members, but not so fully; And those are, In∣fants that are born within the Church Visible; They are Members, although not to be admitted to the Lords Supper. Now betwixt Us and the Separatists herein, to wit, whether Infants should be Baptized, there is no difference. Secondly, There are some who are admitted to all Priviledges of the Visible Church; And those are Members Compleatly and fully: And concerning those the dispute is: Who are those that ought to be admitted to all the com∣mon Priviledges of the Visible Church? They man∣tain (as we heard) that none should be admitted but those that can give evident Signs of Grace to the satisfaction of the Consciences of all within the Church. We hold First, that if it be known that Men be Baptized. And Secondly, If they be free of Scandal. And Thirdly, If they submit themselves to the Doctrine of the Gospel, and have some com∣petent knowledge of the Grounds of the Christian Religion, If these things I say be in a man, We hold that he is to be received, although he cannot give evident signes of the reality of the Grace of God in him to All. And this is the Controversie.
II. Now we come to prove that which we hold by Arguments. The first is John the Baptist did not follow this Rule of Theirs in receiving Members to the Church, and therefore it is not the right Rule: That John the Baptist did not follow this Rule will appear, if we consider Luke 3. Wherein consider, Who it was whom John Baptized v, 21. Now when Page 200 all the People were Baptized, &c. It was all the People. Consider Secondly, What he requires of this People before he Baptize them, We shall find in the preceed∣ing words that he seeks no more than that they would be convinced that they were wrong before. And Secondly, Profess an earnest desire to amend. So we find in v, 10. And the People asked him, saying, what shall we do? And the publicans in the 12. v, do the same, who yet were but Course Men. And in the 14 v, The souldiers likewise demanded of him, say∣ing, what shall we do? Now these Questions import this much, That they were convinced they were wrong, and professed at least a desire to become bet∣ter; And accordingly John instructs them, thus and thus ye shall do; And without more ado in v, 21. He Baptizes them. Now it is not possible that John could have got positive signes from every one of them to convince him that they had real Grace; Far less That every one of the multitude could have been perswaded in Conscience of the reality of Grace in each other; And therefore the Rule of admit∣ing men to be Members of the Visible Church can∣not be this, That every one to be admitted should have evident signes of Grace, satisfactory to the Consciences of all: John sought not this of those whom he received, It's true he fals very sharply on the Scribes Matth. 3, v, 7—O generations of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come. But it is as true, when he hath rebuked them, as ill as they were before, seing now they professed a de∣sire to amend, he Baptizes them in v, 11. I indeed Page 201 Baptise you with water &c The same (You) whom he spoke to in v. 7. As is clear from the Connexion of every Verse. If it be Objected that they were not received to be Members of the Church, although they were Baptized. We shall once for all clear that Baptism sealeth up a mans right of Membership in the Church Visible. We find this from the Apo∣stles Practice Act: 2. 41. Where the Way is how they received men to be Church Members, it is said They were Baptized &c. And those who were Baptized are said to be added to them and added to the Church v, last, So in Act. 8, 38. The Eunuch was received by Baptism to be a Member of the Vi∣sible Church. So Saul Act: 9. 18. And Lydia Act. 16, 15. Secondly, Circumcision was a seal of the Jews right of Membership in the Visible Church un∣der the Old Testament, And therefore Baptism is a seal of our right to be Members of the Visible Church under the New; For Baptism in the New Testament is come in the same place with Circum∣cision in the Old Testament. This is for our first Argument.
The second Argument is taken from the practice of the Apostles, And it is this, The Apostles went not by that method of our Opposits in admitting Members of the Visible Church, This was not the Rule They followed: Therefore it is not the right one. We clear this was not the Rule which they followed from Act. 2. 41. Where in one day there are three thousand added to the Church. Now surely none can imagine that it was possible that every one of these Page 202Three thousand could be perswaded in conscience of the regeneration of one another. It is true Peter binds on them to Repent; But it is as true that on their desire to be admitted to be Members of the Visible Church, and some evidence of their convicti∣on, he receives them; Although there were many of them did not even this much in sincerity. For Ana∣mas and Saphira were but Hypocrits; So no more is required of Simon Magus Act. 8. 13. And so of De∣mas, who afterwards forsook Paul. Yea if we look to the Rule which Christ walked by, He sought no more but a profession to follow him, and He sought no more of Judas, to make him not only a Mem∣ber of His Society, but an Apostle and Minister; Christ knew him well enough to be a Hypocrite: And yet upon his professed desire to follow him, ad∣mits him to his Company, yea makes him a Mini∣ster: So that this Rule which Separatists so much cry up, was neither followed by Jesus Christ nor his Apostles.
The Third Argument we bring is this, There was never a Church before or since Christs dayes whose Members, All of them, could give evident signes of Grace to each other; And therefore it can∣not be a Rule of Gods appointing, That the Church Visible must be made up of only such. We prove the Antecedent; Sure the Church of Israel in Moses time was not such, every Member was not such a Vi∣sible Saint, so as he was known to be Gracious; For sayeth Moses Deut. 29. 4. Yet the Lord hath not given you an heart to perceive, &c. and oftimes they are Page 203 upbraided as stiff-necked. Secondly, We must sup∣pose the purest Churches comming nearest the Rule, to have been in the Apostles dayes, and yet the Members of those Churches were not of this kind. So the Church of Corinth was a Church that the Apostles themselves planted and Preached to, and yet we shall find many in this Church who were so far from giving evident signes of Grace one to another, That there were many there Scismaticks 1 Cor: 6. Many there Fornicators that Paul writes a∣gainst: There were many there Drunkards, yea and drunk about the time of the Lords Supper. And those he reproves 1 Cor: 11. Yea there were some there who denyed some of the fundamental Points of the Christian Religion as the Resurrection: As ap∣pears from Chap: 15. So this Church of Corinth, was not such. Secondly, The seven Churches of Asia spoken of Revel: 2. 3. were Churches that had the Candlestick among them, Churches that were in Christs hand, that he took a care of, and yet they were not such, as every Member of those Churches had real signes of Grace, otherwise the Spirit of God would not have said so often, If any man have ears to hear &c. If he had not supposed that there had been in them blind, obdurate, carnal hearers. Thirdly, The same may be said of the Churches of Rome, Gala∣tia, Thessalonica, and of all the Churches that ever we hear or read of since Christs days, never one of them was such: And therefore we may safely con∣clude that this Rule of Theirs cannot be Right, seing neither Christ nor his Apostles nor the Church in any Age did follow it.
Page 204 We bring a Fourth Argument and it is this: That cannot be a right Rule of gathering Churches, that would hold out a number of Gracious Souls from being Members: But, this Rule of Theirs would do so: Therefore, it cannot be the right Rule. For the first part of our Argument none will doubt of it. And Secondly, That this Rule of Theirs would hold out many truly Gracious, we prove it: For first there are many that have Grace, that for want of parts they cannot express the thing they have, they are so far from giving evidences of Grace to o∣thers, that they cannot satisfy themselves; Some so Proud, some so Passionate, so Worldly, so Talka∣tive, so Imprudent, that it will be hard for any to satisfy themselves that there is Grace in them. Third∣ly, The way of some is so hid, or rather Gods way in them so hid, that for any thing People can see in them, they are nothing different from Natural Ci∣vilians, and yet many of such will make clear and sa∣tisfying discoverys of Gods Grace in them at their death: The work of Grace then appearing that was long under ground. And now according to this Rule of Theirs, these are all to be holden out of the Visible Church, and put in the place of Pagans; And so That cannot be Christs Rule.
Our fifth Argument to prove the point is this, That cannot be a Rule of admitting Members to the Church Visible, which puts the Church in per∣petual danger of Renting: But, this Rule of Theirs puts the Church in a perpetual danger of being Rent: Therefore, it cannot be the right Rule. Page 225 We shall clear that this Rule of Theirs puts the Church in a perpetual hazard of being Rent: For there are some more easy to be satisfied of the signes of Grace than others, so That which will be a law∣ful Church to one, will not be so to others. Second∣ly, There are some that in progress of time will grow more strick in searching: Hence that which was a true Church to him the last year, will be no Church to him this: And so this Rule of Theirs keeps the Church in a continual hazard of being Rent, of Separating after Separating, while they cast off all. This hath made the most part of all Their Churches rent, and one part to Excommunicate another. Yea hence many of that Way cast off all Churches at last, and turn Seekers; Cast off all Serving God with others, all use of publick means, only serv∣ing God apart and by themselves alone; Because they cannot be sure enough that any others have Grace but only themselves.
There is a Sixth Argument taken from the simi∣litudes and comparisons under which the Church Visible is holden forth in Scripture; which simili∣tudes do shew there is not That strictness required in admitting Members to the Visible Church as the Separatists judge; It's compared to a Draught net cast into the Sea, that gathereth fishes good and bad Matth: 13. Secondly, To a Field wherein is Wheat and Tares, ibid. Thirdly, It is compared Matth: 22. to a Table of Guests, where there are some with, and some without a Wedding Garment. Fourthly, It is compared to a House wherein are Vessels of Page 206 Honour and Dishonour; and to a Fold of Sheep, and Goats; And in every Church there are many Called but few Chosen: Now how shall Tares, chaff, Goats, &c. give convincing signes of that which they have not: Certainly these Similitudes seem to speak, That there needs not so much Waling or Picking out, in admitting Members to the Visible Church, providing they be free of Scandals; Once take them in, and and then let the Word work on them; This great Waleing and Separation will be when the Net comes to the shoar, when the great Harvest comes, when the Sheep and Goats are severed. This much for Arguments for the Truth.
III. We shall in the next answer Their Ob∣jections, whereby they labor to prove, that the Church Visible should only be made up of such Church members as can give satisfactory Signs of Grace to each other.
Obj. 1. Their first Objection (which is the most specious) is taken from these Glorious s••ies given to the Church in Scripture. They are called Saints; a chaste ••rgine spoused to Christ; Sons and Daughters of the Lord Almighty; and Christs mystical Body, whose Members are all Gracious: Now, say they, seing the Church hath these Stiles in Scripture, Should any be joyned to the Church, but such, who to the uttermost of our dis∣cerning have Grace? For answer, If this Argument conclude any thing, it will conclude that none should be Members of the Visible Church, but those who have Real Grace; for none is a partaker of Christs• Mystical Body, the Lambs Wife &c. But such only Page 207 Now this, our Opposites themselves will not affirm, They grant there may be painted Hypocrites in the Church, and the Scripture saith the same; for Ana∣nias and Saphira, Judas, and Simon Magus, were such; and so these places of Scripture, if they prove any thing, will prove more than They will grant. But to answer directly, ye would know that in the Church Visible there is a Company of Good and Bad, sincere Christians, and painted Hypocrites: Now the Scripture speaks of them sometimes according to the Better Part, and sometimes according to the Worse Part; where it speaks of them according to the Better Part, it speaks so of them as if there were not One Evil Man among them all, hence are these Stiles, The Lambs Wise, Sons and Daughters of the Almighty, Cal∣led to be Saints, &c. They are so according to the Better Part. Again when it speaks of the Visible Church according to the Worse Part, it gives such names as if there were not One Good Man among them all; it calls them Stif-necked, a Rebelious house, Children that are Corrupters; Now, As it were ill Ar∣gued, to conclude from these places where such stiles are given to the Church, that every one within the Church were Corrupters, Stif-necked, &c. and not one seeking God: For there he gives them those Stiles from the Evil Part among them: So it is also ill argu∣ed from these places where the Scripture calls them the Lambs Wife, Sons and Daughters of the Almighty, &c. That they were All of them so; And we shall clear it more fully from the Church of Corinth, 2 Cor, 6, 18. They get many Glorious stiles, They are called Page 208The Sons and Daughters of the Almighty, they are called A chast Virgin, &c. 2 Cor, 11, 2. Now there were many Schismaticks among them, some denying the Resur∣rection, some Vilifying Pauls Doctrine, Many who were Contentious, Drunkards, Fornicators; so that these Stiles cannot be Verified of the Members of the whole Church, but only of the Better Part that was among them: even as men speaking of an Heap of Chaff and Corn, will call it An Heap of Corn; Not that there is nothing but Corn in it, but because the Corn is the Best Part: And so the Church Visible (wherein is a mixed Company) is denominated from the Better Part sometimes in Scripture, and cal∣led Sons and Daughters of the Lord Almighty; and sometimes from the Worse Part, and called Stiff-necked, &c.
Obj. II Their second Objection is taken from Act, 2. 47. Where it is said—And the Lord added unto the Church daily such as should be saved. Say they, God added no other to the Church but such as would be saved, therefore we should adde no others. For Answer, If any thing follow from this, it would follow that none should be added to the Church but these who are Believers really, for no other will be saved: But this is against themselves: And therefore our second Answer is this, That the meaning of the words must be, That He had a chief care of adding those to the Church who were to be Saved: But it is not said that He added no other; for the same Chapter sayes, He added moe; v, 41, whole three Thousand were added, and yet all those were not to Page 209 be saved; For there were Ananias and Saphira, and doubtless many other Hypocrites among them.
Obj. III. The third Objection is taken from Matth, 22. 12. In the Parable concerning the Kings Banquet, where he bids his Servants go and invite to the Marriage, and finding One wanting the Wedding Garment (says he)—Friend, how camest thou in hither, not having a Wedding Garment? Now (say They) this is a reproof to those who admitted him to this Priviledge. We Answer, This is quite con∣trair to the scope of the Parable, if we look to the command v, 9, Goe ye therefore into the high-ways, &c. They are commanded to invite all, and to hold out none for want of the Wedding-Garment; For that being Inward is only discernable by God. Indeed this Parable will shew this much, That Ministers may admit People to Communions, and yet Christ will come with an after search, and find many there whom he will cast, that Ministers have admitted: Ye ought not to think that every man that comes through a Ministers Tryal is in a good state; The place says, That Christ found One wanting the Wed∣ding Garment; But it sayes not That Ministers should let none come but those that had the Wed∣ding Garment; And to shew that this is the scope of the Parable, see v, 14. There it is said, For many are called, but few are chosen.
Ob. IV: Their fourth Objection is taken from Rev. 2. 4, 5. The Lord speaking there to the Church of Ephesus, sayeth, Nevertheless, I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love Remember Page 210 therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and and do the first works, or else I will come vnto thee quick∣ly, and will remove thy Candelstick out of his place, &c. From whence They argue thus: None are to be ad∣mitted to the Church who will ruin the Church But, all those who cannot convincingly prove their Regeneration, will ruin the Church: Therefore they ought not to be admitted. We Answer, That the last part of their Argument is false: For there are many Gracious Persons keeping their first love, who yet can neither satisfy themselves nor others in the Truth of their Regeneration, and that will not ru∣in the Church. Secondly, We Answer, To the first part of their Argument, where they say that e∣very one who hath not real Grace will ruin the Church: It is not universally true, for then there should be no Hypocrites in the Church at all, neither known nor unknown, for Hypocrites can do no other thing but that which is tending to the ruin of the Church; Now themselves will not say That all Hypocrites are debarred; For they admit some such; and Scripture saith the contrair in the admission of Annanias and Saphira: And so some must be admitted, who, If God look not more to his own mercy than to their me••t, and more to the respect he hath to others than to them, can do nothing but ruin the Church.
Obj. V. Their last Objection is taken from 2 Tim: 3. 5. Having a forme of Go•liness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. Therefore none are to be admitted but those who can give satisfactory Page 211 signes of their Regeneration. For Answer: It is a gross mistake; For if we look to the place, Those who have only a forme of Godliness, he tells what they are, High-minded &c. v, 4. And in the 6 v, Subtile Hereticks who lead away the simple. Now we say none such ought to be admitted, for those are Scandalous: But what they say doth not follow; For many cannot give satisfactory Signes of their Re∣generation, who yet are not Gross Livers, nor Scandalous, nor seduceing Hereticks; And so not of the number of those from whom Paul bids Turn away. And thus we have Answered the strongest of their Objections.
IV. Use. I. This Doctrine being thus cleared, ye ought not to look on what our Opposites hold in this Point as a matter of small moment, neither ought ye to suffer your selves to be deceived with the pretence of strictness with which they cover it. It is a Doctrine that hath fearful Consequences: For by this, the third part of the best Churches that ever were, shall be put in no better case than Pagans themselves, to live without all ordinances, their Children without Baptism: And this will hold off many who have true Grace; for how many are there (even of those) who cannot give convincing signs of Grace, either to themselves or others. By this Rule mens Consciences shall still be held in an Un∣certainty, whether they may stay members of such a Church or not; because they can hardly be satis∣fied, whether all in it have convincing signs of Grace or not. Now the Judgment of our Opposits Page 212 is, that if the Rule be not keeped Conscientiously, Christians ought to Separate. By this Rule an insup∣portable Burthen is put on Christians, not only to examine themselves, but also the inward state of others: By this Rule, all the Churches that ever were in the dayes of the Prophets, Christs, Apostles, or in the Primitive Times, have been in the mist; all living and dying without the Visible Church, and so without Baptism, and so as Pagans. As also this shew of strictness beyond whatever God hath com∣manded, doth ever end in looseness, as appears by the Separatists present practise; for, what ever they speak against the looseness of other Churches, that we are but a mixture of Drunkards and loose prophane Livers; yet there is as great looseness in their own Churches as in any other, for they make no scruple to admit Hereticks, Covetous Vain, Proud Boasters, al∣most of all sorts, if so be they agree with them in Principles against Presbyterians. This Rule puts men in an overweening conceit of themselves; others are nothing to them, all are unclean or at best but civil, na∣tural, moral Men; but they are the Godly, Saints, and what not? Now that Doctrine which in its natural Consequence puts People to overvalue themseves and undervalue others, is certainly not of God. This rule of theirs makes way for infinite Janglings, and carrying on of self interests, under pretence of Holiness; for when the Rule is, That which every particular man thinks Signs of Grace, Such is the Corruption of the best, that it will not be applyed to all alike; To some they will be too strict, to others more lax, as Page 213 affection caries; Untill at last they think all good enough, who are for Their Way; And all others, but Natural, Worldly, and Carnal, who are not so. I may say that this hath been one of the most unhap∣py Doctrines that ever the Devil hatched; For it is that whereby Sathan hath carried on his design main∣ly these years by past; Many such Deceivers crying up strictness, whereby they have made themselves to be respected by some, and terrible to others, while under this pretence, they have born down Christ, Truth, and Holiness. I speak not this to counte∣nance Looseness nor to give a dash to holy Strictness; It is our sin (and we are plagued for it) that we have not walked according to our Rule? Yet I love no further Strictness than what Christ Commands, Let us stretch out our Arms to invite sinners, to give Outward Obedience; and then when they are in, let us Hew them with the Word and Discipline▪ This was Christs way, And his Apostles way, as we have proved: So when Separatists say to you, That there are such sinful mixtures in your Churches, that an honest man is polluted to come among them; And so it is better to stay in your Chambers with a few of a gracious temper, and let the rest run to the Devil; Tell them, Christ and his Apostles made no such separation; And ye desire to be no stricter than They were: Only this is not to plead for our coming short of Christs Rule in our practise; That Scandals are too easily past; That so many Ignorants are ad∣mitted to the Lords Table, is our sin, and so not to be pleaded for. This for the first Head of Sepa∣ration.
Head II. No Separation from a True Church, or Gods worship in the Church, because of the sins of Fellow-worshipers.
WE are now to speak of the Second Head, Concerning Separation from true Church∣es, and the true worship of God in them, because of the sins of Fellow-worshipers.
I. That which our Adversaries hold concerning this, is, That the presence of wicked men at Or∣dinances do defile the Ordinances to the Godly: Therefore, say they, where ever there is any cor∣ruption in a Church, or where prophane or wicked men are suffered to be in it, The Godly are bound to abstain from the Lords Table, and not to com∣municate with the mixed multitude; And because they hold it is not Lawful for any to live in any Church, where they cannot enjoy the whole Ordi∣nances of God: Therefore they maintain that the Godly are bound to Separate from That Church, and to make up a Church of their Own, by gathering Page 215 out so many of the Godly that are in it, as they can get, and make a little Congregation of their own, choosing any of them to be a Minister, and some one or two to be Elders, And so they set up a Church against a Church, a Church in the Bosome of a Church.
This is not a new Error, It troubled the Church of Christ long since, in the Fourth Century or som∣thing more than Three hundred years after Christ: The Donatists, a kind of Hereticks arose and trou∣bled the Church for a long time, and did teach the same very thing; Against whom the Godly Fathers of the Church in that time did write: Yet because this Error was carried on with a shew of Holiness and Strictness more than ordinary, It took such deep rooting in the mindes of some well minding People (some of them at least) that it could not be driven out by force of Argument, till the Lord did leave the mantainers of this Error to fall into other vile abominations, for all their pretence of Strictness; Which made all others to loath them: And before it could be gotten rooted out of the minds of men, It troubled the Church almost 100. years together. The same is the Errour which we have now to Refute.
That ye may know what is the Doctrine of Our Church, that we are sworn to, And which is ground∣ed on the Word, in this particular, Take it up thus; First, We hold that the Church should be reformed from all corruptions, And that wicked Scandalous men should be casten out of the Church, at least debar∣red Page 216 from the Lords Table: This we hold, and herein there is no difference betwixt Us and the Separatists: But the Question is, When the Church Officers do not their duty (as often it falls out) what through negligence, and what through other corruptions, and what through a base want of courage; so that sometimes the Rule is not put in practice; By which means all wicked men are not kept back from the Ordinance of the Lords Table; And some corrup∣tions are tollerated: The Question (I say) is, what the Godly should do in that Case? And concerning this we hold, First, That in such a Case, it is lawful for a Godly Person to remove his dwelling, and go dwell in another Congregation, where he may have the Ordinances more purely Administrat∣ed; There is no tye laid on him, for binding him to remain constantly where he is, if he may conve∣niently remove. Secondly, We hold that if he can∣not conveniently remove from that Congregation; he may remain a Member of it without sin, al∣though he know there be several things which God is angry with in it, providing he keep his own hands clean of these. Thirdly, We hold that as long as the Godly man stayeth in that Congregation where there are abuses of that kind tollerated, he is bound according to his place to endeavour the re∣medy of them, he is bound, according to Christs Rule to admonish these who are Wicked and Scan∣dalous; and if his admonition do no good, he is bound to delate them to the Eldership that they may be Censured: If they be Censured, It is well, he Page 217 hath gained his point: But if they be not Censured, Or not so fully as he would, he is to regrate the matter to God and mourn for it. But Fourthly, We hold, that so long as he stayes in that Congregati∣on, he is not bound to keep back from Gods Wor∣ship, As from the Lords Table, or from any part of service in it self lawful, because there are wicked men joyning with him in it: Far less is he to make a Rent in the Congregation or to draw away a number with him, to set up a little Church for themselves. And this is now the Question we are to debate about. The Separatists say, He is bound to keep back from the Communion; If any be ad∣mitted to it who is prophane or wicked; And that lest he be defiled with them. We say, if the Worship and service be lawful and pure in it self, He sins in keeping back from it, notwithstanding that others joyn with him in it, whom the Church Officers should keep back. We grant indeed, when the service is not pure and lawful in its self; As for example, when Communion cannot be had except the People Kneel, And so worship the Bread: In that case, eve∣ry man is bound to keep back, that would keep himself free of sin; Not because there are wicked men going to the Table; But because the Ordi∣nance is gone about in a sinful way. But our Questi∣on is Concerning Worship in it self lawful; That is to say, when a Communion is Administrated by a Minister Lawfully Called; When that Table Gesture, which Christ himself used, is keeped at it; When in all other things done according to his command; Page 218 What Godly Persons should do in that case, when Scandalous Persons one or moe are suffered to come to the Table: We hold, That notwithstanding of their being there, he is bound to come foreward; And the wicked man's being there defiles only the Worship to himself, and not to those, who come in honesty. This much for the state of the Questi∣on.
II. Having cleared the Question, we come to Our Arguments for the Truth; viz. That the pre∣sence of wicked men does not defile the Worship of those that are Godly: And that the Godly should not keep back from lawful Commanded Duties, be∣cause wicked men have their hands at them.
Arg I. Our First, Argument is taken from the Church of the Jews in Christs time; Any who know the History of the Gospel, know that it was a very cor∣rupt Church, in Christ time, in Doctrine and man∣ners; Their Preachers the Scribes and Pharisees were debauched Persons; They perverted the Law, the blind led the blind: And when the Preachers were such, ye may judge what the People were; And yet we find that Christ and his Apostles did joyn with them in the lawful Worship, For First, Christ himself came yearly up to the Feast at Jerusalem. Secondly, He is so far from commanding his Apostles, and those who believed in him, to keep back from the Ordinary Worship, because of wicked men among them, That upon the contrair he forbids them to stumble at any thing of that kind; And commands them to come to the lawful Wor∣ship: Page 219 as Matth: 23. 1. 2. Then spake Jesus to the mul∣titude, and to his disciples, Saying, The scribes &c. Which is as if he had said do not keep back from the lawful Worship, because they are but Godless men that go about it; What they Preach according to the word, do that, and for Their wicked life follow them not in it.
Arg: II. Our Second Argument is taken from the Church in the Old Testament: We find, for the most part, many Corrupters and Graceless men that were Members of that Church; Both of the Preachers, and People; And yet we never find that the Godly did loath the Lawful Worship or keep back from it be∣cause of that: Yea we find, The Lord commands them to joyn in the lawful Worship; And when they would Separate, He reproves them for it. We shall make this appear from Three or Four Times of the Church of the Old Testament. The First is, Mo∣ses Time; There was a great mixture of prophane men in the Church at that Time; As ye will find Deut: 32. (only remember this all along that the Point we are speaking to, is not to plead for keep∣ing prophane men in the Church; We shew those should be removed; But the Question is, when they are keeped in, what the Godly should do in that Case; If they should turn back and leave that Church) I say we find, Deut: 32. the Church at that time, for the most part, was not very sound, They corrupt∣ed themselves, Their spots were not the spots of Children; yet we never read that Moses and the Godly did withdraw from the Commanded Worship, Page 220 because such were at it; yea, on the contrair, we find them joyning with them, Deut: 29. Moses en∣ters into a Covenant with them, Preaches to them, Prayes for them: Yea Deut: 1•. 6. 7. 8. The Lord commands the People to come up to the Publick Worship, in the place where he should choose to place his name, and go about the lawful Command∣ed Duties: Tho (doubtles) there would be many wicked men among them. The Second Time of the Church in the Old Testament, which we take to prove the Point is, in Joshua's time; there were then great mixtures of wicked men among them; As appears from Joshua 24. 14. 23. He bids them put away the Strange Gods, So there were numbers of them corrupt in the way of Worship, and yet we find in the same Chapter v, 23. That Joshua conveens them altogether to a Solemn piece of Worship, and enters into a Covenant with God, and Preaches to them on that Subject: Now surely Joshua would not have done this, if so be the presence of wicked men did defile the Worship to the Godly: And if it had been a sin in the Godly to stay with the wicked when about Worship. The Third Time is in Eli∣jah's time, 1 Kings 18. We find at that time there were some Godly, Seven Thousand that had not bowed their Knee to Baal; We find also an Athe∣istical Multitude in verse 29. The Body of the People Halting betwixt God and Baal; They would nei∣ther say that God was their God, nor that Baal was their God; and yet Elijah called All together to a solemn Worship, a solemn Sacrifice; That is gone Page 221 about verse 36. And there was Preaching and Pray∣ing to that purpose. Now surely, If so be the pre∣sence of that Godless Multitude, which Elijah could not get reformed in a hast, had prophaned the Wor∣ship to the seven thousand Godly, Elijah would never have been accessory to that sin: A Fourth Time is from Solomons time to Hezekiah's: There was great Corruption tollerated in the Church then; As Wor∣shipping God in the High-places, as is clear through the whole Tract of the History of that time; And there was much Prophanity of Life in that time; which also appears from the frequent Sermons of the Prophets to that purpose; And yet we never read that the Prophets did separate from the lawful Worship, because of that mixture in the Church: Yea on the contrary we read they did joyn with them in every Lawful Duty, 2 Chron. 15. Asa ga∣thers all together, and enters into a Covenant with them: Isaias, Jeremiah, and the rest Preaches to them, Prayes with them. Now if the presence of Wicked Men had polluted the Service to them, then Isaias his Preaching and Praying, and joyning with the People in Worship should have been defil∣ed to Him. A Fifth Instance is taken from 1 Samuel 2. 16. Eli's Sons the Priests were Prophane men: whereupon the Godly began to abhor the Worship; And so it is said in verse 17. Wherefore the sin of the young Men was very great before the Lord, for Men ab∣horred the Offering of the Lord. And to speak the Truth, It was little wonder they did so: For in verse 22. We find the Priests were so Godless that they did Page 222 ly with Women that Assembled at the doors of the Tabernacle of the Congregation: Little wonder then that the Godly did loath and withdraw: But does the Lord approve of Their withdrawing, notwith∣standing of that reason? No, We see in verse 24. Where Eli the Prophet speaks to his Sons, sayes he, Nay my Sons: For it is no good report that I hear; ye make the Lords People to transgress: Their abhoring the offering of the Lord because of wicked men that had their hands at it, is called (a transgressing) ye make the Lords people to transgress. From all which it is clear. That the presence of wicked men doth not defile the Worship to the Godly, providing they come honestly themselves: And that therefore the wickeds presence should not keep them away.
There is an Exception which our Opposits have against this Argument: And it is taken from the State of the Church in the Old Testament; They say, That to separate from the Church in the Old Testament was impossible, there being no other Church to joyn with; The Service was then an∣nexed to the Temple; And so the Case of the Church under the Old Testament, was far different from the Case under the New. We might answer several things unto this: As First, If so be that the presence of wicked men doth defile the Worship to the Godly, then the Godly had been bound to with∣draw from the Church, even under the Old Testa∣ment, although there had been no other Church to joyn with: Better to be out of the Church Visible than to be in it, if we must sin by abiding in it. Page 223 But to answer more briefly, we shall find Instances in the New Testament that make Separation unlaw∣ful, as well as in the Old, which Instances shall make up our Third Argument.
Arg, III. Our Third Argument. In the Church of Corinth there was a Prophane Multitude, 1 Cor, 3, 4. We find there were Schismaticks in it. Chap, v. v, 1. We find Incests were Tollerated, Chap. 6 v, 1. We find there were men of Contentious Spirits, go∣ing to Law before Infidels. Yea in that Chapter, We find there were some pleading the Lawfulness of Fornicatio•; And Chap, 11. We find there were Drunkards among them; And such Drunkenness as was most abominable; For some came Drunk to the Lords Table, v, 21. And Chap, 15. We find there were some infected with a dangerous Heresy The denying of the Resurrection. And so a number of very offensive things were among them, But after all, the Apostle. Tho he reproves them very sharply yet he no where sayes, Ye that are Godly stay away from joyning in Worship, because of such mens joyning; But on the contrair he approves their coming toge∣ther to go about the Ordinances, Only reproving the wrong way they came in. So Chap, 11. v, 18. First of all when ye come together in the Church I hear there be divisions among you. And v, 20. When you come together therefore unto one place, &c. He doth not reprove their coming together, but suppones it as a thing Lawful, only he reproves them for their Divisions. So in the Church of Galatia, There was much corruption among them, they were BewitchedPage 224 with Heretical Doctrine O Foolish Galatians who hath Bewitched you, &c. Cap, 3. v, 1, They had begun in the Spirit but were like to end in the Flesh, v, 3. In the Church of Ephesus were many who had fallen away from their first Love, Revel, 2, 1. The Church of Sardis, Revel: 3, 1. Did Tollerate prophane persons such as defiled their Garments; And yet we never read the Spirit of God commanding to Separat from worship because of them: Indeed he reproves them sharply for their Corruption; For their falling away from their first love, For Their Tollerat∣ing Prophane wicked men; But he sayes not All ye that are Godly turn your backs upon that Church; Make up a new Church of your Own; But direct∣ly approves their joyning together in what was right. So it is clear that Separation from the Ordi∣nances is no more to be Tollerated under the New Testament than it was under the Old.
Arg: IV. Our Fourth Argument to prove the point is this: The Sins of wicked Men only defile the Worship to themselves: Therefore, not to o∣thers. We shall find for this two places of Scrip∣ture: Matth. 22. In the Parable of the Guests com∣ing into the Kings Supper, there is one that wants a Wedding Garmant verse 12. The Master of the Feast finds him out, and sayes, Friend, How comest Thou hither, And he was found Speechless. The Master of the Feast sayes not All ye Guests are de∣filed because this man sits with you; As should have been said If his presence had defiled the Worship to them: But only he reproves the Man himself; The Page 225 sin is thine, and thou shall bear the blame of it. The Second place is, 1 Cor. 11. 29. He that eateth and drink∣eth unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself: He sayes not, He eateth and drinketh Damnation to all, but to himself. It would necessarily follow ac∣cording to this Doctrine, that he did eat Judgment to all, If so be the presence of the wicked Man did defile the Ordinance, or make it sinful to the rest that Communicate with him: And therefore in the preceeeding words it is said, Let a man examine himself, &c. He sayes not when ye are coming to the Table, Let everyone of you examine your Neighbour, Which would necessarily follow, If the presence of the Wicked Man did defile the Ordinance to the rest, but all he sayes is, Let every one examine himself, &c. It's true the permitting of a wicked person to come to the Communion is the sin of the Church Guides, but it is not the sin of Fellow Communicants, see∣ing he is admitted to Communicate with them: For He only defiles the Worship to Himself.
Arg. V. Our last Argument to prove this Point is, That from this Doctrine of our Opposits, it would follow; That the Dignity and Worth of Ordinan∣ces did depend on Instruments, or upon those that are partakers of the Ordinance, If so be that the sins of the Instruments, or of Fellow-Worshipers did defile the Worship: Now this is most absurd; The Dignity of Ordinances depends on him whose they are: The Word of God, however Preached, Is His Word; Its true we are ready to cast at the Word because of Instruments: But whoever he be Page 226 that Preaches, The Word is the Word of God, and worthy to be received: And so the Sacraments, Whoever they be that joyn with Me in them, lose not their worth and efficacy to Me, who am seek∣ing Christ in them, though worthless men have their hand at them: And the reason is, I do not Communicate with them in what they do wrong, Let God and Them reckon for that; The root of my Communion is Christ; In so far as They lay hold on Christ, I Communicate with them; In so far as they do otherwise, I do not. The wicked man professes Communion with Christ, and Seals up an Outward Fellowship with the Visible Church: I Communicate with him in That: But in so far as he doth this Hypocritically, I do in as far separate from him. And this much for the Arguments Confirm∣ing the Truth. That the presence of Wicked men doth desile the Ordinances to none but to Them∣selves.
III. In the next place we come to bring to the touch-stone the Arguments they use against the Truth, we shall shortly propound the most plausible of them and take them off.
Obj: 1: The First Objection is grounded on the 2 Cor. 6 17. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye se∣parate &c. This is the stongest of their Arguments: The Lord commands the Corinthians to come from a∣mong them and Separate; And therefore (say they) when there are wicked men coming together with the Godly, the Godly ought to separate from them. But to shew you the vanity of the Argument we Page 227 shall Answer it by reading out the rest of the verse; For it is clear what the Apostle aims at—Be ye sepa∣rate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing &c. He bids them only Separate from Sinful Actions, and not from Lawful Duties. That ye may see yet further the vanity of this Reason, Know, It was the custom in the Church of Corinth 1 Cor. 10. When Idolaters would invite some of their Christian neigh∣bours, they would go with them, and eat with them at their Idol Feasts, and they thought they might lawfully do it, because they knew their Idols were not true Gods, and so by their eating they intended no worship to the Idol, as these Idolaters did who did eat with them, but did it only to satisfy their hunger and keep up common Friendship: Now Paul discharges them from this kind of Communion, and this is it he points at here, Be separate, Do not meddle with their Idol Feasts because it was indeed Communion with them in their Idolatry: And so it doth not follow, because Paul bids the Corinthians be separate from Heathens, in doing a thing sin∣ful, That therefore he forbids Christians to joyn in a lawful Worship with the Church of Christ.
Obj. II. Their Second Objection is taken from Rev: 18, 4. And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, come out of her, my People, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her Plagues. But this place is pitifully misapplyed to the purpose; For its evident that the Apostle John is there speaking of whoorish Rome, and is commanding all Gods People to Separate from the Antichristian Church; Now let any judge Page 228 if that be not loose Reasoning, We are commanded to Separate from Rome, who hath overturned the foundation of Religion, Worships the Creature in∣stead of the Creator, therefore we are to Separate from Christs true and Purest Churches and Gods Wor∣ship in them, If so be prophane men be keeped in them: It is a senseless Consequence.
Obj. III. Their Third Objection against the Truth is taken from 1 Cor: •. 11. But now I have written unto you not to keep company &c. Say they, We are forbidden to eat our ordinary meat with wicked men, and far more we are forbidden to eat at the Lords Table with them. To this we Answer, That indeed it is the shame of Christian Churches, and our sin, that Scandalous and Ignorant Persons are admitted to the Lords Table; But when they are admitted partly through the neglect of Ministers, and partly through abounding corruptions, It doth not follow that every private Christian is to cast himself out of the Church, because wicked men are admitted. As to this place here spoken of, Its true every tender Christian is forbidden to use Familiar Society with Fornicators, But it is not simply forbidden, as if it were unlawful at all times to eat with them; For even Paul himself eats with Heathens Act: 27. 35. So the thing here forbidden is, That the Lords People should not use intimat Society with wicked men; yet so as when they cannot get it eschewed, It is law∣ful both to eat and drink with them; As put the case we could not get it otherwise, it were lawfu• for us to eat with them following Pauls practice Page 229 And so it follows in the matter of the Lords Table, If it be in Ministers power to hold them back, if they do it, it is well; If not, it doth not fol∣low, that private Christians who have no power to debarr them, and so cannot get eating with them eschewed, without neglecting of a duty, are bound to Separate.
Obj. IV. Their Fourth Objection is from 1 Cor: 5. 6— Know ye not that a litle leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Scandalous men infect the Church; And the Church being infected, infects the Worship; and so if I come to the Worship it is infected to me, and I do sin. Now this is a Consequence far from Pauls words, a litle leaven, sayes he, leaveneth &c. Therefore cast out the Incestous man. But he doth not say, If he be not put out; cast out your selves. As for that they say that prophane men infect the Worship, It is without ground: Its true prophane men oftimes in∣fect these among whom they live; But they do not infect the worship: For the way that prophane men infect these among whom they live, is not Phy∣sical, As the Pest infects every thing it toucheth; but they infect by their evil example: And so a pro∣phane man may infect another man, but by his evil example cannot infect the Worship, because the Worship is not carried away with evil example, as a man is: And so if I can keep my self from fol∣lowing their example, the worship is pure and clean to me.
Obj. V. Their last Objection is (say they My coming to the Table with them is a countenancing of them Page 230 in their profanation of the holy things: So I par∣take with them in their sins, & say Amen to what they do: And therefore better for me to withdraw. We Answer, this is a plausible Argument to deter People that are tender, but when tryed, it will be found weak; For if so be this Argument do hold for Separating from the Lords Table, it will conclude also that we should not hear Preach∣ing with them for our hearing Preaching with them is a countenancing of them, as well as our coming to the Sacrament with them; And the wick∣ed man profaneth the holy things in the one, as well as in the other? And by this it should follow that Jesus Christ should have been polluted; which were Blasphemy to speak, by His Preaching to Prophane multitudes; For in That He countenanced them. Therefore Secondly, For a more full An∣swer we say, Worshipping with them is not a con∣senting to their sin, except it were in our power to hold them out, but not otherwise; Thou doest say Amen to what they do profess, that They are ser∣ving God, doing the commanded Duty; But not to Their Hypocritical Way in doing of It: Did Christ say Amen to the Pharisees way of Hearing although He Preached to Them: So neither doest thou: But as is already said Thou approves of Them in so far as They do the Commanded Duty; But that it is done Impenitently, Thou by Thy joyning in the Wor∣ship approves it not. This for their Objections.
IV. For Use, Our first is this: To regrate that there is so much occasion given to this Error in the Page 231 Churches of Christ, We may regrate that there are so many of the Members of the Church Prophane and Wicked; And that People walk not like Their Holy Calling; We may regrate that the Officers of the Church, Ministers, and Elders, do not Purge out Scandalous Persons, Do not Labour to find Them and Censure Them, and debarr Them from Communions; But most of all it is to be regrated, That many of those, who should Purge out others, Their Life is such that They deserve to be Purged out as Scandalous Themselves: For this cause it is that the Lord threatens to Rent the Church; And if He should let men arise among our selves, under pretence of Pious strictness, to cast at Our Worship, We behoved to say, Just is the Lord: Although on the other hand it is no excuse, but a fearful sin to Them, who by Their carriage Rent and undoe the Church, because of some Corruptions that are in it.
Use II. The Second Use is, That ye would, not think all alike Guilty that may encline to this Error of Separating from Lawful Worship, because of wicked Men's being admitted to it. It's true there may be some Piously strict, that upon the one hand, loath at that which is Good, when they cannot get it but in wicked Mens company, And upon the o∣ther hand, because they cannot live without the Or∣dinances, therefore They encline to make up a Litle Church of Good Men of Their Own choise: By which means the Devil takes advantage of Their zeal to make them dishonour God by runing to the other extreme: Now although the Humour of such Page 232 should not be given way to, yet those who encline this way from a desire of strictness are much to be Pitied. But on the other hand, we are not to think so of the Ring-leaders of this Error; It hath been found by experience that such have been more carried on by a conceit of their Own Holiness, than any true Love to Holiness it self; It hath been usually found in Heady men who had a mind to make a Rupture in t•e Church, that this has been the Method they used to walke in, To cry up Holiness in themselves, and to cry down all who differed from them, as un∣tender: That so they might carry all with them at last; At least to Rent and divide the Church: To such we will say nothing, but Christs Curse, and the Churches for Renting her bowels, will fall on Them.
But unto the other we will speak something, that is, To those who are piously Strict and really loath at the good Service of God, because such Persons are at it who should not be there. To those I shall say; First, Know what it your Duty. And Secondly, What is not your Duty in reference to Prophane Men; Oft∣times we mistake our Duty and leap over it, to what is not our Duty: Now your Duty in reference to pro∣phane Men, Is not to take your hands from the Or∣dinance, because Their hands are at it; To turn your backs on your Duty because Prophane Men join with you in it; It will be but a small excuse to pre∣tend when God reckons with you, when the Lord will say, What made you neglect such a Duty? to say. Lord I grant it was my Duty, but I could not, because such Men were at it: Therefore ye should know Page 233 your Duty in reference to those, and it is this, In the place where ye live, when ye see a fault committed, ye should tell the guilty persons of it; If the Fault be open, and a Fault ye can get proven, ye ought to delate it to those who have power to Censure them, If so be they may be gained by this mean; Or if not, ye have done your Duty: Or if the Church do their Duty in casting out the Obstinate, then ye have your intent: But if so be that notwithstanding ye have done your Duty, yet the Church do not Theirs, in purging the House of God: In this case, ye are to re∣grate the matter to God, to mourn for it, ye are to testify that ye do not approve their way, and in so doing ye have done your Duty, and may have peace: For the presence of the wicked Man makes not the work sinful in it self to you, He eats and drinks Dam∣nation to himself, And not to you; His presence doth not make the Worship sinful to thee; And so it looses thee not from they obligation to join in the Worship: For if that were true, That the presence of wicked Men did defile the Worship to Thee, then Christians would be in a very hard condition: For there was never a Church so pure, but there were some ad∣mitted to it, whom a Man truly tender would think should not be there; There was never a Church so pure but a tender Man zealously strict would find some to challenge; And so according to that Do∣ctrine there should be no Church that a tender Chri∣stian could joyn with; And so he should be forced to serve God apart and by himself alone: And this hath been the Separatists way, They have Sepa∣rated Page 234 from one Church to another, till at last they could get none to join with; And so turned Seekers, that is, A Sect who think there are None they can join with; And therefore, they cast off all Publick Duties, and serve God by themselves alone; Because they can see none so Holy as themselves. And there∣fore ye would suspect Zeal when joyned with Error; And fear Error most when it is covered over with Zeal: For Error is never so dangerous, as when it gets on the mask of Zeal, It being then most cruel and most impudent: People then have no will to medle with it, lest they should seem to be Enemies to True Piety; And therefore because it is suffered and born with, it turns impudent until it undo all.
I only give One word to guard this, and so I shall end. There is not one Error that we refute, but if not guarded, Prophane Men may abuse it, and so may they This, to cast at those who are piously strict, though in an orderly way: And therefore, We say it is every Christians Duty to walk tenderly, and to be so strict towards others, as God requires of him. The thing we have Refuted as an Error is only this, That because a Man cannot get all Duties gone about by All, so strictly as God commands; That therefore he will Separate from altogether: But withal we did show, That not only a Man should be strict on himself (where right strictness will alwayes begin) but also do what in him lyes, according to his Duty and Calling, That the Ordinances of God may be keeped pure by others.