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  131

CHAP. III. Of greater Presbyteries which some call classes.

THe word 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 Presbyterie we find thrice in the New Testament, twice of the Iewish Presbytery at Hierusalem, Luke 22.66. Act. 22.5. and once of the Christian Presbytery. 1. Tim. 4.14. Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which 〈◊〉 given thee by prophecy,*with the lay∣ing on of the hands of the Presbytery. Sutli∣vius and Douname have borrowed, from Bel∣larmine, two false glosses upon this place.

They say by 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 here, we may un∣derstand either an assembly of Bishops, or the Office of a Presbyter, which was given to Timothy.* To these absurdities let one of their owne side answer. Whereas saith D. Forbesse, some have expounded the Presbytery in this place to be a company of Bishops, unlesse by Bishops thou would understand simple Pres∣byters, it is a violent interpretation, and an insolent meaning. And whereas others have vnderstood the degree it selfe of Eldership, this can not stand,*for the degree hath not hands, but hands are mens. J find in Sutlivius, a Page  132 third glosse. He saith, that the word Pres∣byterie in this place signifieth the Ministers of the word, non juris vinculo sed ut cunque collectos, inter quos etiam Apostoli erant. Ans. 1. If so, then the occasionall meeting of Ministers, be it in a journey, or at a wed∣ding, or a buriall, &c. shall all be Presby∣teries, for then they are ut cunque collecti. 2. The Apostles did put the Churches 〈◊〉 bet∣ter order, then to leave imposition of hands, or any thing of that kind to the uncertainty of an occasionall meeting. 3, The Apostles were freely present in any Presbyterie, where they were for the time, because the over∣sight and care of all the Churches was layd upon them: Pastors and Elders were nece∣ssarily present therein, and did by vertue of their particular vocation meete together Presbyterially, whether an Apostle were with them, or not.

No other sense can the Text suffer but that by Presbyterie we should understand consessus Presbyterorum, a meeting of Elders, and so doe Camero and Forbesse themselves expound it. Sutlivius objecteth to the con∣trary, that the Apostle Paul did lay on hands upon Timothy, which he proveth both from 2. Tim. 1. and, because extraordinary gifts were given by that laying on of hands. Ans. There is an expresse difference made betwixt Page  133Pauls laying on of his hands, and the Presby∣teries laying on of their hāds. Of the former it is said, that Timothy received the gift, which was in him, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 by the laying on of Pauls hands; but he received the gift 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 with the laying on of the hands of the Pres∣byterie, as Didoclavius noteth. But saith Sutlivius, Timothy being an Evangelist (as you hold) how could hee be ordained by the Presbyterie? Ans. 1. Though the Presby∣terie did neither give him ordination to bee an Evangelist, nor yet conferre by the lay∣ing on of their hands extraordinary gifts up∣on him, yet did they lay on their hands, as setting to the the Seale and Testimony, and commending him to the grace of God, even as certaine Prophets and Teachers layd hands on Paul and Barnabas, and Ananias also be∣fore that time had laid his hands upon Paul. 2. The Presbyterie might ordaine Timothy to be an Elder. If so be he was ordained an El∣der before he was ordained an Evangelist. 3. If the testimony of the Presbyterie, by the laying on of their hands, together, with the Apostles hands, in the extraordinary mission of Timothy, was required: much more may it be put out of question, that the Apostles committed to the Presbytry the full power of ordaining ordinary Ministers.

But it is further objected by Sutlivius that Page  134 this could not be such a Presbyterie as is a∣mong us, because ordination and imposition of hands pertaine to none, but the Ministers of the word.* Ans. 1. The children of Is∣rael laid their hands upon the Levites, & we would know his reason why he denyeth the like power to ruling Elders now, especially since this imposition of hands is but a ge∣sture of one praying, and a morall signe de∣claring the person prayed for. 2. Howsoe∣ver our practice (whch is also approved by good Divines) is,* to put a difference betwixt the act of ordination and the externall right thereof, which is imposition of hands, ascri∣bing the former to the whole Presbytery both Pastors and Elders, and reserving the lat∣ter to the Ministers of the word, yet to bee done in the name of all.

Thus have we evinced the Apostles mea∣ning, when he speaketh of a Presbyterie, and this Consistory we find to have continued in the Christian Church in the ages after the Apostles. Jt is certaine that the ancient Bi∣shops had no power to judge any cause with∣out the presence, advice and counsell of their Presbyters Conc. Carth. 4. can. 23. Field, For∣besse, Saravia, and Douname, doe all acknow∣ledge that it was so, and so doth Bellarmine de Pont. Rom. l. 1. c. 8. Of this Presbytery spea∣keth Cyprian. Omni actu ad me perlato, placuit contrahi Presbyterium, &c.

Page  135Of the Presbytery speaketh the same Cy∣prian, lib. 2. Ep. 8. & lib. 4. Ep. 5. Ignatius ad Trall. and Hierom in Esa. 3. Wee finde it also in conc. Ancyr. can 18 and in conc. Car∣thag. 4. can. 35.40.* Doctor Forbesse alled∣geth that the word Presbytery for fifteen hun∣dred yeares after Christ, did signifie no o∣ther thing in the Church, then a Diocesan Synod. But herein (if hee had understood himselfe) he spake not so much against Pres∣byteries, as against Prelats; for a Diocesse of old was bounded within one City.*Tum∣que jampridem per omnes provincias & per urbes singulas ordinati sint Episcopi, &c. saith Cyprian. It was necessary to ordaine Bishops, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉,* saith Chrysostome, speaking of the primitive times; yea, in Country Vil∣lages also were Bishops, who were called 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, that is, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, rurall Bishops, whose Episcopall office though li∣mited, yet) was allowed in the Councell of Ancyra, can. 13. and the Councell of Anti∣och can 8. & 10.*Sozomen recordeth that the Village Majuma, which was sometime a suburbe of the City Gaza, was not subject to the Bishop of Gaza, but had its owne pro∣per Bishop, and that by the decree of a Sy∣nod in Palestina. The Councell of Sardis, can. 6. and the Councell of Laodicea, can. 57. Page  134〈1 page duplicate〉Page  135〈1 page duplicate〉Page  136 though they discharged the ordaining of Bi∣shops in villages, lest the name of a Bishop should grow contemptible, did neverthelesse allow every City to have a Bishop of its owne. What hath Doctor Forbesse now gai∣ned by maintaining that the bounds of a Presbyterie, and of a Diocesse were all one? They in the Netherlnds sometime call their Presbyteries Diocaeses:* and many of our Presbyteries are greater then were Diocesses of old. Wee conclude there was anciently a Presbytery in every City which did indeede choose one of their number to preside a∣mong them, and to lay on hands in name of the rest, and hee was called the Bi∣shop; wherein they did more trust the de∣ceiveable goodnesse of their owne intenti∣ons, then advert to the rule of the Word of God.

These things premitted, I come now to that which is principally intended, viz. by what warrant and qu jure, the Classicall Presbyterie among us, made up out of many neighbouring congregations, should be the ordinary Court of Ecclesiasticall Jurisdicti∣on, at least in all matters of highest impor∣tance, which doe concerne either all or any of those congregations.

For resolution hereof we must understand Page  137 1. That causes common to many congrega∣tions, ought not to be judged by any one of them, but by the greater Presbytery com∣mon to them all. 2. It is to bee supposed that particular congregations (at least the farre greatest part of them) have not in their pro∣per Elderships so many men of sufficient abi∣lities, as are requisite in judging and deter∣mining the cases of the examination of Mi∣nisters, of ordination, deposition, excommu∣nication, and the like. 3. When one appea∣leth from a particular Eldership, out of per∣swasion that hee is wronged by the sentence thereof, or when that Eldership finding its owne insufficiency for determining some difficult causes, resolveth to referre the same into a higher Court: reason would that there should be an ordinary Court of a Classicall Presbytery to receive such appellations or references. 4. Congregations which lye neare together, ought all as one to keep unity and conformity in Church policy and go∣vernment, neither ought one of them be per∣mitted to doe an injury, or to give an offence unto another: and for these ends, it is most necessary that they be governed by one com∣mon Presbytery. 5. There may be a competi∣tion or a controversie not only betwixt one congregation and another, but in the same Page  138 congregation betwixt the one halfe and the other; yea, the Eldership it selfe of that con∣gregation, may be, (and sometimes is) divi∣ded in it selfe. And how shall things of this kinde bee determined, but by the common Presbytery? 6. But (which is caput rei) these our Classicall Presbyteries have a certaine warrant from the paterne of the Apostolicall Churches: For proofe whereof, it shall bee made to appeare, 1. That in those Cities, (at least in many of them) where Christi∣an religion was planted by the Apostles, there were a great number of Christians, then ei∣ther did, or conveniently could meet toge∣ther into one place for the worship of God. 2. that in those Cities there was a plurality not onely of ruling Elders, but of the Mini∣sters of the word. 3. That notwithstanding hereof, the whole number of Christians within the Citie, was one Church. 4. That the whole number, and severall companies of Christians within one Citie, were all gover∣ned by one common Presbytery. The se∣cond of these doth follow upon the first, and the fourth upon the third.

The first proposition may bee made good by induction of particulars; and first, it is more then evident of Ierusalem, where wee finde unto 120 Disciples, Act. 1.15. added Page  139 8000. by Peters two Sermons, Act. 2.41. and 4.4. Besides whom, there were yet more multitudes added. Act. 5.14. And after that also, wee read of a further multiplication of the Disciples, Act. 6.1. by occasion whereof the seaven Deacons were chosen and ordai∣ned: which maketh some to conjecture, that there were seven congregations, a Deacon for every one. Certainly there were rather more then fewer, though wee cannot deter∣mine how many. It is written of Samaria, that the people with one accord gave heed unto Philip, Act. 8.6. even all of them both men and women, from the least to the grea∣test, who had before given heed to Simon: of these all it is said, that they beleeved Philip, and were baptised, vers. 10.12. which made the Apostles that were at Ierusalem▪ when they heard that the great City Samaria had received the word of God, to send unto them Peter and Iohn, the harvest being so great, that Philip was not sufficient for it, v. 14. Of Ioppa it is said,* that many beleeved in the Lord. Of Antoch w read, that a great number be∣leeved, and turned to the Lord, Act. 11.21. Of Iconium that a great multitude both of the Jewes, and also of the Greekes, beleeved, Act. 14.1 Of Lidda, that all who dwelt there∣in, turned to the Lord, Act. 9.35. Of Bera,Page  140 that many of them beleeved: also of the ho∣nourable women, and the men not a few, Act. 17.12. Of Corinth the Lord saith, I have much people in this Citie, Act. 18.10▪ OE∣phesus wee finde, that eare fell on all the Jewes and Greekes which dwelt there, and many beleeved; yea, many of the Magici∣ans themselves, whose bookes that were bur∣ned, amoutd to fify thousand peeces of sil∣ver, so mightily grew the Word of God and prevailed, Act. 19.17.18.19.20. Unto the multitude of Christians in those Cities, let us adde another consideration, viz. that they had no Temples (as now wee have) but pri∣vate places or their holy Assemblies, such as the house of Mary, Act. 12.12. the Schoole of Tyrannus, Act 19.9. an upper chamber at Tr••s, Act. 0.8. Pauls lodging at Rome, Act. 28.3. Neither doe I see any reason why the Church which was in the house of Aquila and Priscilla, Rom. 16.5. 1 Cor. 16.19. should not be understood to bee a congrega∣tion, as Erasmus readeth it, that is, such a-number of Christians as met together in their house. So wee read of the Church in the house of Nymphas, Col. 4.15. And of the Church 〈…〉 house of Archippus▪ Philem. v. 2. 〈…〉, i is certaine, that Christians met together, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, house by house, Doma∣tius,Page  141 Act. 2.46. both these considerations, viz. the multitude of Christians in one Citie, and their assembling together for worship in pri∣vate houses, have also place in the next ages after the Apostles.* Let Eusebius speak for them both. Who can describe, saith hee, those innu∣merable heaps & flocking multitudes, through∣out all Cities and famous Assemblies, frequen∣ting the places dedcted to prayer? Thereaf∣ter he proceedeth to shew how in aftertimes by the favour of Emperours, Christians had throughout all Cities, ample Churches built for them, they not being contented with the old Ortoria, which were but private houses. Now these two, the multitude of Christians, and the want of Temples, shall abundantly give light to my first proposition.

But it may bee objected to the contrary, that all the Disciples at Ierusalem did meet together 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, into one place, Act. 2.44. And the same is said of the Church of Co∣rinth, 1 Cor. 11.20. Ans. The disciples at Ieru∣salem,* being at that time above 3000. it can∣not be cōceived how any private house could cotain them. Beside, it is said, that they brake bread that is, did celebrate the Lords Sup∣per from house to house. Therefore many good interpreters understand by 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, that all the Disciples were linked together in∣to Page  142 one by amity and love, an evidence where∣of is given in the next words, and had all things common. To the other place wee an∣swer: 1. That Epistle, whether it were writ∣ten from Philippi, or from Ephesus, was un∣doubtedly written very lately after the plan∣tation of the Gospel in Corinth, while as that Church was yet in her infancie. And if it should bee granted, that at that time the whole Church of Corinth might and did meet together into one place, this proveth not that it was so afterward: for the Churches increa∣sed in number daily, Act. 16.5. But, 2. the place of the Apostle proveth not that which is alledged: for his words may be understood in sensu distributivo. It was no solecisme for one that was writing to divers congregations, to say, When yee come together into one place, meaning distributively of every congrega∣tion, not collectively of them all together.

My second proposition concerning the plurality of the Ministers of the Word in those great Cities, wherein the Apostles did erect Christian Churches, ariseth from these grounds, 1. The multiplicity of Christians. 2. The want of Temples, of which two I have already spoken. 3. The daily increase of the Churches to a greater number, Acts 16.5.4. There was need of preachers, not Page  143 only for those who were already converted in the City, but also for labouring to winne the unbelievers who were therein. These reasons may make us conclude that there were as many Pastors in one City as there were sacred meetings therein, and some more also for the respects foresaid. And what will you say if we finde examples of this plu∣rality of Pastors in Scripture? Of the Bishops or Pastors of the Church of Ephesus, it i said, that Paul kneeled down, and praied with them all, and they all wept sore, Acts 20.36.37. compared with verse 28. Here is some good number imported. To the Angell of the Church of Smyrna, that is, to the Pastors thereof collectively taken, Christ saith, The Divell shall cast some of you into prison, Revel. 2.10. which (if not only yet) principally is spoken to the Pastors, though for the be∣nefit of that whole Church. This is more plaine of the Church of Thyatira, verse 24. 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Vnto you I say, & to the rest in Thyatira: as if he would say, saith Pareus, Tibi spicopo cum collegis & reliquo coetui dico. Paul writeth to the Bishop at Philippi, Phil. 1.1. and notwithstanding that there was al∣ready a certaine number of Bishops or Pa∣stors in that City, yet the Apostle thought it necessary to send unto them EpaphroditusPage  144 also, Phil. 2.25. being shortly thereafter to send unto them Timotheus, verse 19. yea to come himselfe, verse 24. so that there was no scarcity of labourers in that harvest. Epaphras and Archippus were Pastors to the Church at Colosse, and who besides we cannot tell, but Paul sent unto them also Tychicus, and Onesi∣mu, Col. 4.7.9.

Now touching the third proposition, no man who understandeth, will imagine that the multitude of Christians within one of those great Cities was divided into as many parishes as there were meeting places for worship. It is a point of controversie, who did beginne the division of parishes; but whosoever it was, whether Evaristus, or Hi∣ginus, or Dionysius, certaine it is, that it was not so from the beginning, I meane in the daies of the Apostles, for then it was all one to say, in every City, or to say, in every Church. That which is 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Tit. 1.5. is 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 Acts 14.22. This is acknowledged by all Anti-prelaticall writers so farre as I know, and by the Prelaticall writers also.

The last proposition, as it hath not beene denyed by any, so it is sufficiently proved by the former, for that which made the multi∣tude of Christians within one City to be one Church, was their union under and their Page  145 subjection unto the same Church governe∣ment and governours. A multitude may bee one Church, though they doe not meete to∣gether into one place for the worship of God: for example, it may fall forth, that a congre∣gation cannot meet together into one, but into divers places, and this may continue so for some yeares together, either by reason of persecution, or by meanes of the plague, or because they have not such a large parish-Church as may containe them all, so that a part of them must meete in some other place: but a multitude cannot be one Church, unlesse they communicate in the same Church government, and under the same Governours, (by one Church I meane one Ecclesiasticall Republike;) even as the like union under civill government and gover∣nours maketh one corporation: when the Apostle speaketh to all the Bishops of the Church of Ephesus,* hee exhorteth them all to take heed to all the flocke, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, over which the holy Ghost had made them overseers, so that the whole was go∣verned by the common counsell and advice of the Elders, as Hierome speaketh: for the same reason we say not the Churches, but the Church of Amsterdam, because all the Pastors and Elders have the charge▪ and Page  146 governement of the whole.

From all which hath beene said, I inferre this Corollary, That in the times of the Apo∣stles, the Presbytery which was the ordinary Court of Iurisdiction, which did ordaine, depose, excommunicate, &c. did consist of so many Pa∣stors and Elders, as could with conveniency meete ordinarily together, which is a paterne and warrant for our Classicall Presbyteries. I confesse there might be in some townes no greater number of Christians then did meet together in one place, notwithstanding whereof the Pastor or Pastors and Elders of that congregation, might and did manage the government of the same, and exercise ju∣risdiction therein. I confesse also that in those Cities wherein there was a greater number of Christians then could meet together into one place for the worship of God, the Pres∣bytery did consist of the Pastors and Elders within such a City: for it cannot be proved that there were at that time any Christian congregations in Landward Villages (the persecution forcing Christians to choose the shelter of Cities, for which reason many are of opinion that the Infidells in those daies were called Pagani, because they alone dwelt in Pagis) and if there had beene any such adjacent to Cities, we must thinke the Page  147 same should have beene subject to the com∣mon Presbytery, their owne Pastors and Elders being a part thereof. Howsoever it cannot be called in question that the Presby∣tery in the Apostolicall Churches, was made up of as many as could conveniently meete together, for managing the ordinary matters of Jurisdiction and Church-government. The Pastors and Elders of divers Cities could not conveniently have such ordinary meetings, especially in the time of persecuti∣on; only the Pastors and Elders within one City had such conveniency. And so to con∣clude, we doe not forsake, but follow the paterne, when we joyne together a number of Pastors and Elders out of the congregati∣ons in a convenient circuit, to make up a common Presbytery, which hath power and authority to governe those congregations; for if the Presbytery which we find in those Cities wherein the Apostles planted Chur∣ches, bee a sure paterne for our Classicall Presbyteries (as wee have proved it to bee) then it followeth undeniably that the autho∣rity of Church-government, of excommuni∣cation, ordination, &c. which did belong to that Primitive Presbytery, doth also be∣long to those our Classicall or greater Pres∣byteries.