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.
Page  190

CHAP. XI. Objections made against the authority of Synods, answered.

THey who dislike the subordination of particular congregations unto higher Ecclesiasticall Courts, object against us,* our Saviours precept, Tell the Church. Wheresoever wee read in Scripture of a visible politicall Church, and not of the invisible Catholike Church, it is ever meant, say they, of a particular congregation, used to assemble in one place for the exercise of Gods publike worship; & when the Scripture spea∣keth of a whole Province or Nation, the plu∣rall number is used, as the Churches of Gala∣tia, the Churches of Macedonia, the Churches of Asia, &c. Wherefore our Saviour in those words did deliver the power of Ecclesiasti∣call Jurisdiction, neither to Classicall Pres∣byteries, nor to Synods, but to particular con∣gregations only.

Answ. 1. This place proveth indeed that particular Churches have their owne power of Jurisdiction, but not that they alone have it. 2. Yea, it proveth that they alone have it Page  191 not, for Christ hath a respect to the forme of the Jewes, as is evident by these words, Let him be unto thee as an Heathen or a Publican. Now we have proved that there was among the Jewes an high Ecclesiasticall Sanedrim, beside the particular Synagogicall Courts: So that by pointing out the forme of the Jewish Church, hee recommendeth a subor∣dination, and not an independency of parti∣cular Churches. 3. By the Church in that place is meant the competent Consistory of the Church, and so it agreeth to all Ecclesia∣sticall Courts respectively. This sence is given by Parker,* though he be most tender in the vindication of the liberty of congregati∣ons. Nam cum▪ &c. For, saith he, since Christ would have every man to be judged by his owne Church, Matth. 18. or if the judgement of his owne Church should displease him, yet ever it must be by the Church, that is, by a Synod of many Churches 4. As for the reason alled∣ged for proofe of the contrary exposition, I oppugne it both by reason, and by their owne Tenents, and by Scripture. By reason, because the rule of Geometricall proportion (whereof we have before spoken) proveth a congregation to bee a part of a Nationall Church, even as one man is a part of a con∣gregation; for as five is the hundreth part of Page  192 five hundreth, so is five hundred the hundreth part of fifty thousand. By their own grounds, because they hold the forme of a visible Church, to consist in the uniting of a num∣ber of visible Christians into one, by the bond of a holy covenant to walke in all the wayes of God. Then say I, we may say the Church of Scotland, as well as the Churches of Scotland, because all the particular Chur∣ches in Scotland, are united together into one, by the bond of a Nationall oath and cove∣nant, to walke in all the waies and ordinances of God. By Scripture also, because Acts 8.1. we read of the Church at Hierusalem, not the Churches: Howbeit there were at that in∣stant above eight thousand Christians at Hie∣rusalem, and all these still in the City (for the first scattering of them followeth thereafter in that Chapter.) This great number, neither did, nor could usually assemble into one place for the worship of God, but they met 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 house by house, Acts 2.46. And whereas objection is made to the contrary from Acts 2.44. and 5.12. and 6.2. Wee have before answered to the first of these places, for it is to be expounded by Acts 4.32. they were in one; that is, they were of one heart, and of one soule. The second place may be expoun∣ded of the Apostles, and the preceding Page  193 words favour this exposition; but though it should be takē of the multitude, it proveh not their meeting together into one place for the worship, of God, for it was an extraordinary confluence, upon an extraordinary occasion of that which had befallen to Ananias and Saphira. The last place proveth no more, but an extraordinary and occasionall mee∣ting, and it is also to be understood that they met turmatim, as foure hundred thousand men did assemble together, Jud. 20.1.

Another Scripturall instance we give from 1 Pet. 1.1. with 5.2. the Apostle writing to the dispersed Jewes in severall Provinces, calleth them all one flocke. Wee read that Laban had many flockes, Genes. 30.36.38. yet are they all called one flocke, verse 31.32. so were all the flockes of Iacob called one flocke, Genes. 32.7. and 33.13. In like man∣ner every one of the particular Churches among those dispersed Jewes was a flocke, but compared with the whole, it was but a part of the flocke. It is no more absurd to say that a congregation is both a body, in respect of its owne members, and a member in respect of a Nationall Church, then it is to say, that every beleever considered by him∣selfe, is a tree of righteousnesse, and a Tem∣ple of God, yet compared with others, he is a Page  194 branch of the Vine, and a stone of the Tem∣ple, for all those waies is hee called in Scrip∣ture.

Sundry particular flockes may bee called one flocke, three waies: 1. Respectu pastorum, when the same shepheards oversee & take care of the whole. See an example both of the one kinde of shepheards, Luke 2.8. and of the other, Acts 20.28. 2. Respectu pabuli: So Paul Baynes speaking of the Low Countries,* where sundry congregations in one City make but one Church, saith, that the sheepe feed together into one common pasture, though they bite not on the same individuall grasse. 3. Respectu pedi, when many congregations are governed by the same Pastorall staffe of Ecclesiasticall Lawes and Discipline.

It is further objected, that Presbyteriall government and the authority of Synods, doe rob the congregations of their rights and liberties, no lesse then the Prelacy did; so that the Churches of Christ in the removall of Episcopacy, have changed Dominum only, not Dominium. Answer. There is a vaste dif∣ference; for 1. Episcopall governement is Monarchicall, and Christ hath left no Eccle∣siasticall Jurisdiction to bee exercised by one man. Presbyteriall and Synodicall governe∣ment is partly democraticall, in respect of the Page  195 election of Ministers and Elders, and the doing of matters of chiefest importance, with the knowledge and consent of congregations: partly aristocratical in respect of the parity of Presbyters and their consistorial proceedings and decrees. The Monarchicall part is Christs peculiarly. 2. The Prelacy permitteth not to congregations any act of their owne Church government, but robbeth them of their par∣ticular Elderships,* which (as Parker well no∣teth) the Classicall Presbyteries doe not. 3. It is one thing, saith Baynes, for Churches to subject themselves to a Bishop and Consistory,*wherein they shall have no power of suffrage: Another thing to communicate with such a Pres∣bytery, wherein themselves are members and Iudges with others. 4. The congregations did not agree not consent to Episcopall govern∣ment, but were sufferers in respect of the same, but they doe heartily agree to the go∣vernement of Presbyteries and Synods, in witnesse whereof they send their Commissio∣ners thither to concur, assist, & voice. 5. Speci∣all respect is had in Presbyteries and Synods, to the consent of congregations, in all matters of importance, which are proper unto the same. This the Prelacy did not regard. 6. Presbyteries and Synods doe not (which the Prelats did) imperiously and by their sole Page  196 arbitrement domineer over congregations, for their power is directive only, ministeriall, and limited by the Lawes of God and Na∣ture, and the lawdable Ecclesiasticall Lawes received and acknowledged by the congre∣gations themselves. 7. Experience hath shewed us Presbyteriall and Synodicall go∣vernment to bee, not only compatible with, but most conduceable for the supportment and comfort of congregations: whereas E∣piscopall government draweth ever after it mlam cadm, and a generall grievance of the Churches.

Some other objections there are, for obvi∣ating whereof I shall permit and explane a distinction which shall serve to answer them all. We may consider a visible Church, ei∣ther metaphysically or politically. It is one thing to consider men as living creatures endued with reason; another thing to con∣sider them as Magistrates, masters, fathers, children, servants, &c. So is it one thing to consider a visible Church as a society of men and women separated from the blinde world by divine vocation, and professing together the Gospell of Jesus Christ. Another thing to consider it as a political body, in which the power of Spirituall government and Juris∣diction is exercised, some governing and some governed.

Page  197These are very different considerations; for first, a visible Church being taken entita∣tively or metaphysically, her members doe ordinarily communicate together in those holy things which fall under the power of order, which I may call sacra mistica; but being taken politically, her members com∣municate together in such holy things as fall within the compasse of the power of Juris∣diction, which I may call sacra politica. Se∣condly, Infants under age being initiated in Baptisme, are actually members of the Church in the former consideration, but po∣tentially only in the latter, for they neither governe, nor yet have the use of reason to bee subject and obedient to those that doe go∣verne. Thirdly, one must necessarily bee a member of the Church metaphysically be∣ore he can be a member of the Church po∣litically, but not contrariwise. Fourthly, many visible Churches have sometimes beene, and may bee without Officers, and so with∣out Ecclesiasticall government and exercise of Jurisdiction for that time, yet still retai∣ning the Essence of true visible Churches: whereas a Church which never yet had any Officers ordained therein (of which kinde there have beene many at the first conversion of a Nation to the Gospell) or which hath Page  198 losed all her Officers by death or persecuti∣on, is not for that time an Ecclesiasticall Re∣publicke, nor can bee such till she have Offi∣cers. This if they had observed who have taken so great paines to prove that there hath beene, and may bee a Church without Offi∣cers, it should happily have made them thinke their labour lst. It might also have taught Henry Iacob to distinguish betweene a Church visible and a Church ministeriall or politicall, and not to understand these three termes to be all one, as he doth in his Ltter, bearing date the 4. of September 1611. pag. 9. Fiftly, my being a member of any one visible Church metaphysically, giveth me right and title to communicate with another visible Church (where for the time I am) in sacris misticis, such as the word, prayer, &c. But my being a member of any one visible Church politically doth not give me right and title to communicate with another visible Church (where for the time I am) in sacris politicis▪ such as ordination, deposition, ex∣communication, &c. Hereunto doth Master Robinson assent in these words, As a man once baptized is alwaies baptised,*so is he in all places and Churhes where hee comes (as a baptized person) to enjoy the common benefits of his bap∣tisme, and to discharge the common duties which Page  199 depend upon it. But a Pastor is not a Pastor in every Church where hee comes upon occsion, neither can he require in any other Church, sa∣ving that one over which the holy Ghost hath set him, that obedience, maintainance, and other respects which is due from the officers to the people; neither stands he charged with that mi∣nistery and service, which is due to the people from the officers. The like he would have said of an Elder or a Deacon.

Now this distinction shall serve to answer the obiections following.

Object.* Every Christian congregation is a compleat body Ecclesiasticall, having all the parts and members, and all Church officers which Christ hath instituted: therefore eve∣ry congrgation hath the full and absolute power of Ecclesiasticall Jurisdiction.

Answ. Every Christian congregation is a compleate Church or body of Christ meta∣physically; that is, hath the compleate Es∣sence of a true visible Church; yet every such congregation is not a compleate Ecclesiasti∣call Republicke, except in some certaine cases whereof wee have spoken, Chap. 2. And further, we answer, that this objection is alledged to prove, that 2 or 3 gathered toge∣ther in the name of Christ, have immediately under Christ the full power of Ecclesiasticall Page  200 Jurisdiction; but sure I am, that two or three gathered together in the name of Christ, are not a compleate Ecclesiasticall body, having all the members and officers which Christ hath instituted, for they themselves hold that in every Christian congregation by Christs institution there ought to be at least five Of∣ficers, and when those five shall be had, there must bee also a certaine number of Christian people to bee governed and served by them. So that their Argument doth not conclude that which they propose to prove.

*Object. They who have received Christ, have received with him power and right to enjoy him (though all the world bee against it) in all the meanes and ordinances by which hee doth communicate himselfe unto the Church. But every company of faithfull peo∣ple, if they be but two or three have received Christ; therefore every such company, &c.

Answ. If by the receiving of Christ, they meane the receiving of Christ on his throne, or the receiving of him in his ordinance of Church government, then wee deny their Assumption, for every company of faithfull people is not a Church politically, as wee have shewed already. Indeed every compa∣ny of faithfull people who have received Christ in this manner, hath right and title to Page  201 enjoy him in all his politicall ordinances, yet not independently, but by a certaine order and subordination. But if by the receiving of Christ, they meane receiving of him to salvation, or receiving of him by his Word and Spirit, wee grant, that not onely every company of faithfull people, but every parti∣cular Christian hath right and title to enjoy him in the mystical ordinances of the Word, Prayer, &c. as often as the same can be had; yea further, hath right and title to the fruit and benefit of Ecclesiasticall jurisdicton, the exercise whereof is committed by Christ to the officers of the Church, Intuitu Ecclesiae tanquam finis. But that every company of faithfull people, who have received Christ to salvation, hath right and title to enjoy him in his politicall ordinances, by their own ex∣ercising of all Ecclesiasticall jurisdiction, and that independently, this is more then either hath been, or can be proved.

Object.* The union betwixt Christ and his Church is as strait and immediate, as the u∣nion betwixt the Vine and the Branches, be∣twixt the Head and the Body, betwixt the Husband & the Wife. Therefore every true Church of Christ hath direct & immediate interest in, and title to Christ himself, & the whole new Testament, and every ordinance of it.

Page  202Answ. The strait union betwixt Christ and the Church, expressed by these comparisons, cannot bee understood of the Church ta∣ken politically: for then the union betwixt Christ and the Church might be dissolved as often as the Church ceaseth to bee ordered and governed as an Ecclesiastical Republick. It is therefore to be understood either of the invisible Church, or at most of the visible Church taken metaphysically or entitatively. But I adde withall, it is to be likewise under∣stood of every faithfull Christian: so that not onely every true Church, but every true member thereof, by vertue of this union, hath direct and immediate title to Christ, and to the benefit of all his ordinances for his edifi∣cation and salvation. This is all which the Argument can conclude, and it maketh no∣thing against us.

*Object. If all things be the Churches, even the Ministers themselves; yea, though they be Paul, Cephas, and Apollos, then may every Church use and enjoy all things immediately under Christ. But the first is true, 1 Cor. 3.24. Therefore, &c.

Answ. Neither can this prove any thing a∣gainst us: for when the Apostle saith, All things are yours, whether Paul, &c. He is to bee understood not onely collectively of the Page  203 Church, but distributively of every belee∣ver, who hath right to the comfortable en∣joyment and benefit of these things, so farre as they concerne his salvation. And in like manner I may say to the members of a∣ny particular congregation, All things are yours, whether Sessions or Presbyteris, or Provinciall or Generall Assemblies. And what wonder? God is our Father, Christ our elder brother, the holy Ghost our Comfor∣ter, the Angels our keepers, heaven our inhe∣ritance. It is therefore no strange thing to heare, that as the supreame civill power, so the supreame Ecclesiasticall power is appoin∣ted of God in order to our good and benefit,* that it be not a tyranny for hurt, but a mini∣stery for help.

These are the objections alledged for the independent and absolute power of congre∣gations. But this is not all: Some seeme to make use of our own weapons against us, ma∣king objection from the forme of the Jewish Church, which wee take for a plat-forme. They say,* that the Synagogues of the Jewes were not as the particular Churches are now: for they were not entire Churches of them∣selves, but members of the nationall Church, neither could they have the use of the most solemne parts of Gods worship, as were then Page  204 the sacrifices.* That the whole nation of the Jewes was one Church, having reference to one Temple, one high Priest, one Altar; & it being impossible that the whole body of a Nation should in the entire and personal parts meet and communicate together in the holy things of God, the Lord so disposed and or∣dered, that that communion should bee had after a manner, and in a sort, and that was by way of representation: for in the Temple was daily sacrifice offered for the whole nationall Church. So the names of the twelve Tribes upon the shoulders of the Ephod, and upon the Breast-plate, and the twelve loaves of Shew bread, were for Israel signes of re∣membrance before the Lord.* That now the Church consisteth not (as then) of a Nation, but of particular Assemblies, ordinarily com∣municating together in all the Churches ho∣ly things: whence it commeth, that there are no representative Churches now, the founda∣tion thereof, which is the necessary absence of the Church which is represented, being taken away in the new Testament.* That be∣sides all this, if wee take the representative Church at Jerusalem for a paterne, then as there not onely hard causes were opened, and declared according to the Law, but also the sacrifices daily offered, and the most so∣lemne Page  205 service performed without the pre∣sence of the body of the Church: so now in the representative Churches, (such as Pres∣byteries and Synods) consisting of Officers alone, there must be not onely the use of ju∣risdiction, but the Word and Sacraments, whether people bee present or not: for how can there be a power in the Church of Offi∣cers for the use of one solemne ordinance out of the communion of the body, and not of another?

Answ. 1. To set aside the sacrifices, & other ceremonial worship performed at Jerusalem, the Synagogues among the Jewes had Gods morall worship ordinarily therein, as Prayer, and the reading & expounding of the Scrip∣tures. 2. Whatsoever the Synagogues had, or whatsoever they wanted of the worship of God, they had an Ecclesiasticall Consistory, and a certaine order of Church government: else how shall we understand the excommu∣nication, or casting out of the Synagogue, the Rulers of the Synagogue, and the chiefe Ruler of the Synagogue? (of which things we have before spoken.)

I will not here dispute whether every sin among the Jewes was either appointed to be punished capitally, or else to bee expiated by sacrifices; but put the case it were so, this proveth that no excommunication or Eccle∣siasticall Page  206 censure was not then necessary: for beside the detriment of the Common-wealth by the violation of the Law, which was pu∣nishable by death; and beside the 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 and guiltinesse before God, the expiation where∣of by the death of Christ was prefigured in the sacrifices, there was a third thing in pub∣like sinnes, which was punishable by spiri∣tuall censures, and that was the scandall of the Church, which could not be taken away by the oblations of the delinquent, but rather made worse thereby, even as now a publike offender doth not take away, but rather in∣crease the scandall of the Church by his joy∣ning in the acts of Gods worship, so long as there is no Ecclesiasticall censure imposed upon him; neither yet (to speake properly) was the scandall of publike offences punish∣able by bodily punishments, but the Church being a politicall body had her owne Lawes, and her owne censures, no lesse then the Common-wealth. 3. As the Synagogues were particular Churches politically, so all of them collectively were one Nationall Church politically, governed by one su∣preame Ecclesiasticall Sanedrim, which is the representative wee meant of in our Argu∣ment. 4. But if we take the Nationall Church of the Jewes metaphysically, there was no Page  207 representative thereof, unlesse it were all the males who came thrice in the yeare to Ierusa∣lem. The daily offering of Sacrifices was not by a representative Church, but by the Priests: and though there were twelve loaves of Shewbread before the Lord, and the names of the twelve Tribes upon the brest∣plate, this proveth not a Church representa∣tive, but signes representative. 5. The body of the Church is now (as then) necessarily absent from the Consistorial actions of deba∣ting and deciding matters of Church go∣vernment, and of Jurisdiction; and so that which was called the foundation of a repre∣sentative Church doth still remaine.

Now before I make an end, I must answer yet other two objections which have beene lately made.* There is one who objecteth that the Assembly of the Apostles, Acts 15. can bee no president nor patterne for succee∣ding ages: First, because the Apostles were inspired with the holy Ghost, which whol∣ly guided them in all matters of the Church; so as in that their determination, they say ex∣pressely,*It seemed good to the holy Ghost and to us to lay upon you no greater burthen. Now, what Synod in any age after the Apostles could ever say that they were infallibly inspi∣red and assisted by the holy Ghost? Secondly, Page  208 that injunction of the holy Ghost and of the Apostles was but 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, for that present time, for the avoiding of offences betweene Jewes and Gentiles. But the like we read not afterward in all the writings of the Apostles.

Ans. 1. I say with Whittaker, Posse alia, &c. That other lawfull councells may in like manner affirme their Decrees to be the Decrees of the ho∣ly Ghost,*if they be like unto this councell, and if they keepe the same rule which the Apostles did keep and follow in this councell, for if they decree and determine nothing but from the Scriptures, which was done in this councell; and if they ex∣amine all questions according to the Scriptures, and in all their Decrees follow the voyce of the Scripture, then may they affirme that the holy Ghost hath so decreed. 2. If the Doctrine or exhortation of a Pastor well grounded upon the Scriptures bee the Word of God, then much more is the Decree of a Synod well grounded upon the Scriptures, the Decree of the holy Ghost. 3. That Assembly was not of the Apostles alone, but of the Apostles and Elders, neither did the Decrees proceed from the Apostles alone, but from the A∣postles and Elders, Acts 16.4. and 21.25. and in the place which is now obje∣cted, Acts 15.28. not the Apostles alone, but the Elders with them, say, It seemed good Page  209 to the holy Ghost and to us. What the Elders did then, the Elders may doe now, for time hath not diminished their authority. 4. Nay, what the Apostles did in that Synod, the Elders may doe in a Synod now; for the Apostles then did nothing but in the ordina∣ry and common way of disputing and deba∣ting, comparing reason with reason, and sen∣tence with sentence, and thereafter framing the Decree according to the light which they had by reasoning and by searching the Scrip∣tures. But (which is most observable) the sentence of the Apostle Peter in that Synod was very imperfect and defective; for he only disswadeth from imposing the yoke of the ceremoniall law upon the Churches of the Gentiles, but maketh no mention of any overture for avoiding the offence betwixt the Jewes and the converted Gentiles at that time, which I may suppose he would have done, if his light and judgement had carried him that farre: In this the Apostle Iames sup∣plieth the defect of Peters sentence,* and pro∣poundeth an overture which pleased the whole councell, and according to which the decree was given sorth. This made Luther to say that Iames did change the sentence of Pe∣ter. And all this it pleased God so to dispose, that we might understand that Synod to bee Page  210 indeed a president and paterne for ordinary Synods in succeding ages. 5. Henry Iacob in his third argument for the Divine Institution of the Church, saith: It is absurd and impos∣sible, that the Text Matth. 18. was never un∣derstood for 1500 yeares after Christ. Sure this Text, Act. 15. was never understood for that whole space, if the Assembly there men∣tioned, be not a president to succeeding ages. 6. It maketh nothing against us, that he saith, the decree of the Apostles & Elders, was for that present time onely; nay, it maketh for us: for in this also that Synod was a paterne to succeeding ages, forasmuch as Synods now have no power to make a perpetuall restraint from the practice of any indifferent thing, (such as was then the eating of bloud, and things strangled) but onely during the case of scandall. And moreover, the decree of the Apostles and Elders in that Synod, is also perpetuall, in so farre as it is conceived a∣gainst the pressing of circumcision as neces∣sary to salvation.

*One objection more I finde in another late Peece, which striketh not at the authority a∣lone, but at the very reputation of Synods. This Authour alledgeth, that the ordinary government by Synods, is a thing of great confusion, by reason of the parity and equali∣ty, Page  211 the voyces being numbred, not weighed. Equidem (saith a wise Father) at vere, &c. To say the truth, I am utterly determined never to come to any Councell of Bishops: for I never yet saw good end of any Councell: for Councels abate not ill things, but rather increase them. Answ. 1. If the parity and equality make a great confusion in the ordinary government by Synods, it shall make no lesse, but rather greater confusion in an extraordinary Synod: so that there is no ground for his restriction to that which is ordinary. 2. If the num∣bring of voyces, and the parity of those that doe voyce, make a confusion in Synods, why not in Parliaments also, and in other civill Courts? 3. That testimony doth only strike at the Councels of Bishops, and so maketh not against parity, but against imparity in Councels: And, to say the truth, wee have found in our owne experience, that Prelati∣call Synods have not abated, but rather in∣creased evils in the Church. 4. The words of Nazianzen (for he is the Father here meant of) are not to be understood against Synods, but against the abuse of Synods at that time.* And in this we must pardon him (saith Whit∣taker) that he shunned all Synods in those e∣vill times of the Church, when the Emperour Valens was opposite to the Catholicke faith, Page  212 and when the faction of heretickes did most prevaile: in that case indeed Synods should have produced greater evils. But we trust it shall be now seen that well constituted and free Synods of Pastors and Elders, shall not increase, but abate evill things.