An assertion of the government of the Church of Scotland in the points of ruling-elders and of the authority of presbyteries and synods with a postscript in answer to a treatise lately published against presbyteriall government.
Gillespie, George, 1613-1648.
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IT is high time for those who have been long praying for the peace of Hierusalem, and with bleeding hearts have beheld the sorrowes of Sion, now to be∣stirre themselves with an extraordinary diligence, and to contribute their most serious and uncessant endeavours, for the setling of these present commotions about Church affairs, in such a manner, that the sacred twins, Truth and Peace, may both cohabit under own roofe▪ and that this great and good work of Reformation may not be blasted in the bird, nor fade in the flourish, but may be brought forward to that full maturity, which shall afford a har∣vest of joy to us, and to all the Churches of God.

One controversie there is about the government of the Church, and it is of such consequence, that were it well resolved upon, and rightly agreed, it should facilitate a right resolution in other matters which are in question. Now because longum iter per praecepta, breve per exempla, the way is long by precepts, short by platforms; therefore I have carefully observed the policie and government of o∣ther reformed Churches. And because the nearnesse of relation swayeth my affection at least half a thought more unto that which is Scotlands (caeteris paribus) then unto that which is more remote from us, therfore I was most so∣licitous to see a delineation of the government of that fa∣mously reformed neighbor Church; wch when I had read, & read over again, I did conclude with my self, that if these two points at which most exception is taken, I mean the office of ruling Elders, and the authoritie of Presbyters and Synodes, which also are things common to the other Page  [unnumbered] reformed Churches) could be upon good grounds main∣tained, there is no other thing of any moment to be ob∣jected against it.

And with these thoughts I was so tossed, that I could not rest satisfied with the Quid wihout the Quare, but did conceive as great languor and desire for a demonstra∣tion of that form of Church government, as before I had for a declaration of the same. Whereupon I have purcha∣sed to my self from Scotland this ensuing Treatise which having fully satisfied my owne minde in the asserting of those most controverted points, I have resolved to com∣municate and publish the same unto others, for the reasons following.

First, for the satisfaction of such as do through igno∣rance or mistaking stumble at such a form of Ecclesiasti∣call government: I do not much marvell to see those that ae of a simple understanding, so far conquered, as to scru∣ple the office of ruling Elders,* having heard the big words and lavish expressions of some opposites against the same; yet a poor peece it is which one of them would usher in with a tinckling Epistle, in which

Projicit ampullas & sesquipedalia verba.
He maketh offer to forfeit his life to justice, and his re∣putation to shame; if any living man can shew that e∣ver there was a ruling Elder in the Christian world, till Frell, and Viret first created them. I shall not desire to take him at his word for his life, but if he be not able to give a satisfactory answer unto that which is here sayd both from Scripture, and from antiquity for ruling El∣ders, then hath he given sentence against his own reputa∣tion for ever. And so much the more, that having in that assertion of Episcopacie boldly averred,* that the name of the Elders of the Church, in all antiquity compre∣hendeth none but Preachers and Divines; and that ther∣fore none but they may be called Seniores Ecclesiae, though some others happily may have the title of Seniores populi,Page  [unnumbered] because of their civill authority; notwithstanding the reading of the observations of Iustellus, and of both the Cassaubons,* hath now so farre changed his tone, that in his late answer to mectymnuus, he acknowledgeth that beside Pastors and Doctors, and beside the Magistrates or Elders of the Cities, there are to be found in antiquity, Seniores Ecclesiastici, Ecclesiasticall Elders also; only he alleadgeth they were but as our Church-wardens, or ra∣ther as our Vestry-men: whereas indeed they were Judges in Ecclesiasticall controversies, and (in some sort) instru∣ctors of the people, as shall be made to appeare▪ Meane while we do observe what trust is to be given to this bold Speaker, who hath beene forcd to yeeld, what he had be∣fore with high swelling words denied.

Another Instance of the same kinde is to be noted in his Remonstrance, when he speaketh of the prescript forms of prayer, which the Jewish Church had ever from the dayes of Moses, wherewith also Peter, and Iohn when they went up into the Temple at the ninth hour of Pray∣er did joyn;* to make good his allegiance, he addeth, the forms whereof are yet extant and ready to be produced. Yet this he handsomely eateth up in his defence;* where he gives us to understand, that those set forms of prayer are indeed specified by Capellus, a writer of our owne Age; but that the book it selfe which contained these prayers, is perished a thousand years ago. Well, he is now con∣tent to say that once those forms were extant; and this (forsooth) he will prove from a certain Samaritan Chro∣nicle in the custodie of his faithfull friend the Primate of Amach; wherein he hath found a story which transpor∣teth him as much as the invention of the demonstration did Archimedes, when he cried 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, I have found it, I have found it. Yet—credt Iudaeus apella, Non ego—But this lyeth not now in my way. Only (till a full answer be ready, I thought it not amisse to give some taste of the mans vaine arrogant humour, whose best Page  [unnumbered] weapons are great words. As for his last record which he fetcheth from Abrahamus Scultetus, against ruling El∣ders; all that and much more hath been, and here shall be abundantly confuted.

Others there be who call in question the power and authority of Ecclesiasticall Presbyteries, and of Synods, against which also some few Pens have been put to paper and have passed a censure no lesse hard then unseasonable, which (me thinks) might well have been spared, unlesse: there had been stronger and more convincing reasons for it. These I shall beseech, that with minds voyd of preju∣dice, they take into consideration the second part of this Treatise, written with no heat nor sharpnesse of words, but with plainnesse, and strength of reason: And withall I shall expect that they will not think the worse of the Author, for being ready to answer him that asketh a rea∣son of him, or for writing a justification of the govern∣ment of the Church of Scotland, to such as did desire to be more throughly resolved concerning the same; but that rather they will make use hereof, as a key by divine Providence put into their hands, to open a doore unto further light.

Secondly, there is so much the more reason for asserting those two points, by how much they have beene mainly opposed by Sathan; for he it was whose cunning convey∣ance of old, made the office of ruling Elders to come into dessuetude, through the sloth, or rather the pride of the Teachers, as Ambrose complaineth; and yet time hath not so obliterate that ancient order,* but that the footsteps of the same are yet to be seen in our Officialls, Chancel∣lors, Commissaries, Church-wardens, and High-Com∣mission men, yea at Rome it selfe, in the Cardinalls. The same old Serpent it was whose instigation made Licinius whiles he did intend the totall ruine of the Church, to fall upon this as the most effectuall means for his purpose, that he should straightly inhibit all counsells, meetings, Page  [unnumbered] and conerencies concerning the affairs of the Church. By which meanes the Christians of his time were drawne into one of two snares. Aut enim legem, &c. for saith Eusebius,*either it behoved us to be obnoxious to punishment by violating the Law, or to overthrow the Rites and Ordi∣nances of the Church, by giving obedience in that which the Law did command: for great and waighty deliberations undertaken about things controverted, cannot proceed in any other manner or way, but by the right managing of Councels. The Arminians in the Netherlands, found out another of Sathans wiles; they were not able to hinder the assemb∣ling of a free and lawfull Synod, but for their next best, they required of the Synod of Dort twelve conditions,* and the ninth was; that there should not be in that Synod any determination or decree concerning the matters in controversie, but only an accommodation or conference, and that still it should be free to the particular Churches, to accept, or to reject the judgement of the Synod: this was a way of endlesse controversie, and justly cried down in the Synod.

Moreover, Satan ever wise in his own principles, find∣ing the Church of Scotland, like an invincible Sampson, by reason of such a constitution and govenment, as being preserved in integritie, could neither admit heresie, nor schisme, did make use of the Prelacie as his traiterous Da∣lilah, to betray that Sampson, into the hands of the now adverse Pilistines the Papists, by stealing away both their ruling Elders, and the authority of their Presbyteries, and Synods: for he had well observed, that in these two things did their great strength lye, and that without these two, the Ministers of the Word being like so many scopae dissolut, both sparsed, and by themselves alone might easily be brought under the yoke. When thus the Ro∣mish-affected Dalilah had taken away their strength from them, she was bold to utr her insulting voice in the Ser∣vice-book, and book of Canons, The Philistines be upon Page  [unnumbered] thee Sampson, The Papists be upon thee Scotland. In this case they did not (as Sampson then) presume that the Lord was with them as at other times; they knew he was de∣parted from them:* They cried out, Return we beseech thee O God of Hosts, look down from Heaven, behold and visit this Vine, and the Vineyeard which thine own right hand hath planted.* They did again ask the way to Sion with their fa∣ces thitherward, saying come, and let us joyn our selves to the Lord in a perpetuall Covenant that shall not be forgotten. And now (glory be to the great Name of God, in the Church throughout all generations) they have by his healing hand quickly recovered their strength.* Strength I may well call it, for sayth a learned Divine, as in things which are done by bodily strength, so in things which are mana∣ged by counsells, vis unita fortior, power being put to∣gether is the stronger: and in this he doth agree with Bellarm.; that though God by his absolute power can pre∣serve his Church without Synods; yet according to ordi∣nary providence, they are necessary for the right govern∣ment of the Church. The interweaving and combining of strength, by joyning the ruling Elders of every Con∣gregation, with the Pastor, or Pastors thereof into a par∣ticular Eldership, by joyning also Commissioners, Pa∣stors, and Eders, from many particular Elderships, ordi∣narily into a classicall Presbytery, and more solemnly pro∣vinciall Synod.* Finally, by joynng Commissioners, Pa∣stors, and Elders▪ from many classicall PPresbyteries, into a Nationall Assembly; this doth indeed make a Church beautifull as Tirza, comely as Ierusalem, terrible as an Ar∣mie with Banners.

It is not to be expected, but this forme of Church go∣vernment, shall still be disliked by some (whose dislike shall notwithstanding the more commend it to all pious minds) I mean by prophane men, who escape not with∣out censure under Presbyteries, and Synods, as they did under the Prelacie; by hereticks, who cannot finde fa∣vour Page  [unnumbered] with a Nationall Synod of many learned and godly▪ men, as they did with a few Popish Prelats: by Matcha∣vellians also, who do foresee that Presbyteriall Synodicall government, being conformed not to the Lesbian rule of humane authority, but to the inflexible rule of Divine Institution, will not admit of any Innovations in Reli∣gion,* be they never so conduceable to politicall in∣tentions.

Some there be who whet their tongue like a sword, and bend their bowes to shoot their arrows, even bitter words. They would wound both the office of ruling Elders, and the authority of Presbyteries and Synods,* with this hate∣ful imputation, that they are in consistent with the honor and Prerogative of Princes. Sure I am, when our Savi∣our saith, Render unto Cesar the things which are Caesars, and unto God the things which are Gods; he doth plainly insinuate, that the things which are Gods, need not to hinder the things which are Caesars. And why shall it be forgotten, that the Prelates did assume to themselves all that power of determining controversies; making Ca∣nons, ordaining, suspending, deposing, and excommu∣nicating, which now Presbyteries and Synods do claime as theirs by right. To me it appeareth a grand mistery, and worthy of deliberation in the wise Consistory of Rome: That the power of Presbyteries and Synods be∣ing meerly Ecclesiasticall, being rightly used, and no∣thing incroaching upon the civill power, is notwithstand∣ing an intollerable prejudice to Kings and Princes. But the very same power in Prelates, though both abused, and mixed with civill power, is not (for al that prejudiciall to Soveraignty.

Yet if the fear of God cannot moliie the tongues of thse men, one would think that they should be brideled with respect to the Kings most excellent Majestie, who hath been graiously pleased to approve and ratifie the present government of the Church of Scotland, perceiving (Page  [unnumbered] tru••) that Gods honour, and his honour, Gods Lawes, and his Lawes may well subsist together.

Lastly, as in publishing this assertion I intend to satisfie the scrupulous,* and to put to silence the malicious; so also to confirm the consciences of such as are friends and savourers to the right way of Church government. What∣soever is not of faith i sin, saith the Apostle, yea though it be in a matter otherwise indifferent: how much more is it necessary that we halt not in our judgement concerning the government of the Church, but walk straight, in the plerophory and full assurance of the same, from the war∣rants of the word of God; I say againe from the war∣rants of the word of God, for as it is not my meaning to commend this forme because it is Scotlands,* so I hope assuredly that my Country-men will not dispise Gods Ordinance, because it is Scotlands practice, but rather follow them in so far as they follow Christ and the Scrip∣ture. This therefore I pray,* that thy love may abound yet more and more, in knowledge and in all judge∣ment, that thou maiest approve the things that are excellent. Consider what I say, and the Lord give thee understanding in all things, Amen.