CHAP. X. The sixth Argument, taken from ne∣cessity.
WEE have another reason to adde, and it is borrowed from lawlesse ne∣cessity, for without a subordination among Ecclesiasticall Courts, and the authority of the higher above the inferiour, it were utterly impossible to preserve unity, or to make an end of controversie in a Nation. A particular congregation might happily end questions and controversies betwixt the members thereof, and so keepe unity within it selfe (and not so neither, if the one halfe of the congregation be against the other) but how shall controversies betwixt severall congre∣gations be determined, if both of them bee independent? how shall plurality of religi∣ons be avoided? how shall an apostatizing congregation be amended?
It is answered: 1. If a particular congrega∣tion neglect their duty, or doe wrong to a∣nother, the civill sword may proceed against them to make them doe their duty. 2. A par∣ticular congregation ought in difficult cases Page 188 to consult with her sister Churches, for so much reason dictats, that in difficult cases, counsell should be taken of a greater number. 3. Sister Churches when they see a particular congregation doing amisse out of that relati∣on which they have to her, being all in the same body, under the same head, may and ought to admonish her, and in case of gene∣rall apostacy, they may withdraw that com∣munion from her, which they hold with the true Churches of Christ.
But these answers are not satisfactory. The first of them agreeth not to all times, for in times of persecution, the Church hath not the helpe of the civill sword: a persecuting Magi∣strate will bee glad to see either division or apostasie in a congregation; but so it is, that Christ hath povided a remedy, both for all the evills and diseases of his Church, and at all times. The Church (as was said before) is a Republike, and hath her lawes, Courts, and spirituall censures within her selfe, whe∣ther there be a Christian Magistrate, or not.
The second answer leaveth the rectifying of an erring congregation to the uncertainty of their owne discretion, in seeking counsell from a greater number. And moreover, if this be a dictate of reason to aske counsell of a greater number, when the counsell of a few Page 189 cannot resolve us, then reason being ever like it selfe, will dictate so much to a congregati∣on, that they ought to submit to the authority of a greater number, when their owne autho∣rity is not sufficient to end a controversie a∣mong them.
To the third answer wee say, that every private Christian may and ought to with∣draw himselfe from the fellowship and com∣munion, either of one man, or of a whole congregation, in the case of generall apo∣stasie. And shall an apostatizing congregation be suffered to runne to hell, rather then any other remedy should bee used, beside that (commonly ineffectuall) remedy which any private Christian may use? God forbid.
What I have said of congregations, I say also of Classicall Presbyteries. How shall sentence be given betwixt two Presbyteries at varience? How shall a divided Presbyte∣ry be re-united in it self? How shall an Hereti∣call Presbytery be reclaimed? How shall a negligent Presbytery be made to doe their duty? How shall a despised Presbytery have their wounded authority healed againe? In these and such like contingent cases, what re∣medy can bee had, beside the authority of Synods?