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.

CHAP. I. Of popular Government in the Church.

THere bee some that call in question the Warrant and Authority of classicall Presbyteries, of provinciall Synods and Nationall Assemblies, as they are used and maintained in the Church of Scotland. I meane not the Praelaticall facti∣on, whom we set aside, but even some who are as Antiepiscopall as we are. The Scru∣pulosity of such (at least of many such) herein doth (we conceive) proceed not from any Page  109 perversnesse of mind, but onely from cer∣taine mistakings, which better information may remove.

But first of all wee require those, whom we now labour to satisfie, to condescend up∣on another point, viz. that the exercise of Ecclesiasticall power and jurisdiction in a particular Congregation, ought not to bee committed to the whole collective body thereof, but is peculiar to the Eldership re∣presenting the same; for in vaine doe wee debate the other point concerning Presby∣teries and Assemblies, if this latent preju∣dice still occupy their minds, that the Go∣vernment of the Church must needs be po∣pular, exercised by the collective body, which happily may in some sort bee done within the bounds of a well limited Congre∣gation, but is manifestly inconsistent with classicall Presbyteries & Synods, because the collective Bodies of all particular Congre∣gations within the bounds of a shire, of a Province, of a Nation, cannot bee ordinarily, nor at all ordinatly, as∣sembled together, and if they could, Page  110 I beleeve that the Separatists themselves would in that case allow a dependencie or subordination of particular Congregations unto the more generall Congregation. So that the point of popular government being once cleared, it shall facilitate the other question concerning the Subordination of particular Elderships to classicall Pres∣byteries & Synods. Now there are good rea∣sons why this popular government or exer∣cise by jurisdiction by all can not be admit∣ted into a Congregation.

First, in every Christian Congregation, there are some Rulers, some ruled, some Go∣vernors, some governed, some that com∣mand, some that obey, as is manifest from Hebr. 13.17. 1. Thes. 5.12. 1. Tim. 5.17. But if the whole Congregation have the Rule and Government, who then shall be ruled and governed? It will be answered, that in the ex∣ercise of jurisdiction, every Member is to act according to it's owne condition, the head as the head, the eye as the eye, &c. that the Rulers and Governors of a Congrega∣tion are to have the principall condu of businesse, and to bee Heads, Eares, Mouths, &c. to the Congregation.

Page  111But this simile maketh rather for us then against us, for though every member bee usefull and steadable in the body according to it's owne condition, yet every member neither can nor doth exercise those princi∣pall actions of seeing, hearing, tasting, &c. I say not that other members cannot see, heare, taste, as the eyes, eares, and mouth doe, but they cannot at all see, heare, nor taste. So if the Rulers of a Congregation be as the eyes, eares, mouth, &c. then other members of the Congregation cannot at all act those actions of government which they act. Hence it is that some, who make the whole Congregation the first subject of the power of spirituall Jurisdiction, doe notwithstanding hold that the whole Church doth exercise the said jurisdiction as Principium quod, the Eldership alone, as Principium quo, even as the whole man seeth, as Principium quod, the eye alone, as Principium quo, and so of all the rest. Thus doe they put a difference betwixt the pow∣er it selfe,* and the exercise of it, ascribing the former to the collective body of the Church, the latter to the representative: knowing that otherwise they could not preserve the distinction of Rulers and ruled in the Church.

Page  112Secondly, it is well knowne that in Con∣gregations the greater part are not fit to exercise Jurisdiction, for they can not ex∣amine the Doctrine and abilities of Mini∣sters, how should they ordaine them? They can not judge of questions and controver∣sies of faith, how shall they determine the same? They can not find out and disco∣ver Hereticks, how shall they excommuni∣cate them? It is answered that this evill proceedeth from another, viz. That there is too much sloth and oversight in the ad∣mission of such as are to be members of a Congregation,*, and that they would be fit enough to doe their duty, if they were all Saints, they meane appearantly, and in the judgement of charity such, Rom. 1.7. 1 Cor. 1, 2. Eph. 1, 1. But say we againe, 1. Why may wee not hold that when the Apostle writeth to the Saints at Rome, at Corinth, &c. he meaneth not, that all who were in those Churches, were either truely or ap∣pearantly Saints (for some wicked ones there were among them, and manifestly vi∣tious, Rom. 16, 17, 18. 1 Cor. 5.9.11.) But that his meaning is, to direct his Epi∣stles to so many as were Saints at Rome, Co∣rinth, &c. mentioning them alone; be∣cause to them, and to none but them, did Page  113 God send his word for a blessing, it being sent to others that they may goe and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and ta∣ken, as the Prophet speaketh. 2. If it should be granted that the Apostle giveth the name of Saints to all and every one that were in the Churches of Rome, Corinth, and Ephesus, yet Mr. Ainsworth himselfe answering Mr. Bernard holdeth that they are called Saints by externall calling onely, wherewith many are called who are not chosen, and who have no appearant markes of election. Others say that they were called Saints, in respect of their baptisme, wherein they were all consecrated and devoted to God. Some say that they were all Saints, in respect of their profession. 3. Howsoever it was that they were all called Saints, yea put the case they had beene all truely Saints, surely their san∣ctification can not import their fitnesse to exercise jurisdiction in the Church. The former is a speciall grace of the holy Spi∣rit given to one for his owne Salvation: The other is a common gift of the Spirit, given for the benefit of the Church.

Thirdly, it were not possible to exercise ju∣risdiction by a whole Congregation without Page  114 great confusion and disorder: therefore this way cannot be from God, who is not the author of confusion but of order. If it be answered, that order may be kept in a Congregation exercising Iurisdiction as well as in a Nationall, at least in a Oecu∣menicall Synod, where there will be as great a multitude, and peradventure grea∣ter, then there is in a well-bounded Con∣gregation. Wee reply it is not so much the multitude, which should make disor∣der in the exercise of Jurisdiction by a whole Congregation (though indeed in many Congregations the multitude alone would hinder order) as the rudenesse of the vulgar sort, who if they should all speake their judgement, what a monstrous and un∣avoidable confusion should there be? The members of Nationall and Oecumenicall Councils, are supposed to be men of know∣ledge and discretion, and so may be kept in good order, much more easily then a rude multitude in the Congrega∣tion.

They who are of another judgement ob∣ject to us: First, our Saviours precept, Matth. 18.17. Where hee biddeth us not ell the Eldershish, but tell the Church. Ans. By the Church he meaneth the representa∣tive Page  115 body of the Church, even as that which was spoken to the Elders of Israel, Exod. 12.21. was said to be spoken by all the Con∣gregation of Israel,*Ib. verse 3. and he who was judged by the Elders, was said to bee judged by the Congregation, Ios. 20.6. More of this place we say elsewhere. Next they object the example of excommunica∣tion by the whole Congregation of Corinth, for the Apostle sheweth that it was the du∣ty of the whole Congregation, to cast out that incestuous man. 1 Cor. In like manner hee writeth to them all, to receive him againe, when he had repented, 2 Cor. 2.6.8, 9. Answer. Whether the power of excommunication in actu pri∣mo seu quo ad esse, did belong to the col∣lective body of the Church of Corinth or not, is a question controverted, and to this day sub judice lis est, yet even those who hold the affirmative part of the question, doe notwithstanding say, that i〈◊〉 secun∣do seu quo ad operari, the power pertained onely to the 〈◊〉 body of that Church which 〈…〉 Pesbytery: which is also confirmed by 2. Cor. 2.6. where the Apostle speaking of the censure of that incestuous man, saith not, that it was Page  116 inflicted, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, but 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 not by all, but by many. Hee was judged and sentenced by those 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, that is by the Pastors and Elders of Corinth, howbeit the execution & finall act of that high censure, was to be with the consent and in the pre∣sence of the Congregation.

Thirdly, it is objected, that Matthias was chosen by the whole number of the Disciples, Act. 1. and so were the Dea∣cons chosen, Act. 6. and Elders in every City were made per〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, the Congre∣gation signifying their suffrages by the lif∣ting up or stretching forth of their hands, Act. 14.23. Therefore Jurisdiction ought to be exercised by whole Congregations. Answ. This Argument faileth two waies, 1. Though ordination of Office-bearers in the Church be an act of Jurisdiction, it doth not appeare that the election of them is an act of jurisdiction likewise. Though the solemnizing of marriage be an act of authority, yet the choice and desire of the parties is not an act of authority. 2. Or (if you will) election of Ministers is one of the Rights and Priviledges of the Church, yet no act of jurisdiction. 3. And if electi∣on were an act of authority and jurisdicti∣on, Page  117 yet the alleadged examples prove no more but that this act of jurisdiction is to be exercised by the whole body, in Ecclesia constituenda, non constituta. It may bee so indeed in Churches at their first erection, but being once erected, and all necessary Office-bearers therein planted, from thence∣forth the election of Elders pertaineth to the Presbytery,* to the Pastor and Elders, as Zepperus writeth, though still with the con∣sent of the Church.

Fourthly, it is objected, that what con∣cerneth all ought to be done with the con∣sent of all. Answ. Wee hold the same, but the consent of all is one thing, the ex∣ercise of jurisdiction by all, another thing. Ainsworth in one of his Epistles to Paget, condemneth the Elderships sitting and jud∣ging matters apart from the Congregation.*Paget answereth, that though the Eldership sit apart to judge, yet before any sentence be given for the cutting off of any offen∣der, or for any other thing which con∣cerneth all, matters are first propoun∣ded to the whole Church, and their prayers and consent required.

Page  118And surely this forme of proceeding shi∣neth forth to us in that Apostolicall Synod at Ierusalem, for the Apostles and Elders, met, sate, and voiced apart from the whole Church, as Calvin noteth from Act. 15, 6. and they alone judged and decreed Act. 16.4. In the meane while were matters made knowne to the whole Church, and done with the consent of all, Act. 15.22.

If it be objected from verse 12: that the whole multitue was present in the Synod: I answer, we may understand with Piscator the multitude there spokē of to be the mul∣titude of the Apostles & Elders, V. 6. or if we should understand by the multitude the whole Church, this proveth onely that the whole Church heard the question disputed, not that they were all present at the judging and determining of it. If it be further ob∣jected that the Synodall Epistle came not onely from the Apostles and Elders, but from the brethren, that is, the whole Church. The answer is easie. The Brethren are mentioned, because it was done with their knowledge, consent, and applause.

To say no more, wee would gladly bury this controversie about popular govern∣ment, in eternall silence and oblivion, and to this end we are content it be packt up, Page  119 in the words which the Separatists them∣selves (doubtlesse perpending the Reasons above-mentioned) have set downe in the 14. Article of the Confession of their Faith published, Anno 1616▪ for this they say. Wee judge each proper Pastor, may and ought to bee trusted by the Congregation, with the mana∣ging of all points of their Ecclesiasticall af∣faires and Government, so farre, that he with his assistants doe execute and administer the same: yet so that in matters of waight, the whole Congregation doe first understand there∣of, before any thing be finished, and the finall act bee done in the presence of the whole Con∣gregation, and also that they (the said Con∣gregation) doe ot manifestly dissent there∣from. We are heartily content, that Congre∣gations doe fully enjoy all the Christian liberty, which here is pleaded for in their behalfe, yea and much more also; for the assistants spoken of in these words of the Confession, are other Pastors and Collea∣gues, if any there be, in the same Congrega∣tion, as will bee evident to any that readeth that Article. But wee are content that the Assistants spoken of be understood to bee Ruling Elders. Now if the Authors of that Confession thought the Christian liberty of a Congregation sufficiently preserved, Page  120 when the Pastor or Pastors thereof doe manage the weighty Ecclesiasticall affaires and government, with the knoledge, nd (at least tacite) consent of the Congregation it selfe, then doe we not onely sufficiently and abundantly preserve the liberty of the Con∣gregation, while as not the Pastor or Pastors thereof alone, but sundry Ruling Elders; also, representing the Congregation, doe manage the affaires aforesaid, the Congre∣gation withall understanding thereof, and consenting thereto, Tacitè if not Expressè. I doe not thinke but those of the Separation at this time, will easily assent to this resolu∣tion and reconcilement of the controversie, and so much the rather, because (I beleeve) they themselves doe seclude from the exer∣cise of jurisdiction in the Congregation, both children under age, because of their defect of Judgement, and women, because they are forbidden to speake in the Church, and whe∣ther they seclude any other, I know ot, but since according to their owne Tenets, some must be secluded, and the power given to the Church,* must in the exercise of it be re∣strained to some in the Church, it is better to say with Aegidius Hunnius, that when Christ remitteth us to the Church. Mat. 18.17. He meaneth the prime and chiefe Mem∣bers which represent the Church, that is Pastors Page  121 ad Elders, then to say that he sendeth us to the whole body of the Church.

One scruple more may peradventure re∣maine. They will say, it is well that we re∣quire the churches consent, before any waighty matter which concerneth all be fi∣nished: but what if this consent be not had? Whether may the Eldership cut off an of∣fender renitente Ecclesia?* For their satis∣faction is this, also wee say with Zepperus, Quod si Ecclesia &c. But if the Church, saith he, will not approve the sentence of Excommu∣nication, nor hold it valid, and they see many disagreeing among themselves, and schismes and greater evills in the Church to follow this sentence of Excommunication: the Elders shall not proceed to Excommunication, but shall pa∣tiently suffer what cannot with the good leave of the church be amended. In the meane while they shall publikely and privately admonish and exhort* So saith Zanchius, that without the consent of the church no man ought to be excommunicated.

The B. of Spalato, and before him, Augu∣stine hath given the reason hereof, because the end of excommunication cannot be at∣tained, Page  122 if the Church doe not consent thereto; for the end is, that the offender may bee taken with feare and shame, when he findeth him∣selfe abhorred and accursed by the whole Church, so that it shall be in vain to excom∣municate him, from whom the Multitude in the Church refuse to abstract their com∣munion. I conclude, that in such cases; though the Pastors and Elders have the power of jurisdiction, it is not to exercise the same.