CHAP. VI. The second Argument, taken from Christs Institution.
AS wee have Nature, so have wee Christs Institution for us, and this shall appeare two wayes. First, the fidelity of Christ, both in his Propheticall & in his Regall or Nomotheticall power, was such, that he hath sufficiently provided for all the necessities and exigences whatsoever of his Churches, to the end of the world. Therefore the Apostle calleth him as faith∣full in all the house of God,* as ever Moses was, who delivered lawes serving for the go∣vernment of the Church of the Jewes in all cases. Whence we collect, that the autho∣rity of Classicall Presbyteries over the El∣derships of particular congregations, and the authority of Synods over both, must needs have a warrant from Christs owne Institu∣tion, Page 158 because without this authority, there are very important necessities of the Chur∣ches, that cannot be helped. For example, in most congregations, especially in Dorps and Villages, when a Pastor is to be ordained, the particular Eldership within the congregation can neither examine and try his gifts, and his, soundnesse in the faith, (which examination must necessarily precede his ordination;) nor can they discover him, in case he be a subtile and learned hereticke; nor yet can they pray in t•e congregation over him which is to be ordained, and give him publicke exhortation and admonition of his duty, God having neither given to the Elders of every congre∣gation, nor yet required of them such abili∣ties. What shall be done in this case?*Ains∣worth would have the worke stayed, and the Church to want a Minister, till she be able to doe her workes, and her duties which are proper to her. Alas! bad Christ no greater care of the Churches then so? shall they be destitute of a Pastor, ever till they be able to try his gifts and soundnesse, and to exhort and pray at his ordination? and how shall they ever attaine to such abilities except they bee taught? and how shall they bee taught without a Teacher? Now the power and authority of Classicall Presbyteries, to o•d•in Page 159 Pastors in particular congregations, shall cut off all this deduction of absurdities, and shall supply the Churches need. I may adde a∣nother instance concerning the Classicall Presbytery it selfe. What if the one halfe thereof turne to be hereticall, or it may bee the major part? They shall either have most voyces, or at least the halfe of the voyces for them, and there shall bee no remedy, unlesse the authoritative determination of a Synod be interposed.
Secondly, the will of Christ for Provin∣ciall and Nationall Assemblies to bee over Presbyteries, even as they are over the El∣derships of particular congregations, appear∣eth also in this. He hath given us in the new Testament, expresse warrant for Ecclesiasti∣call Courts and Assemblies in generall, that such there ought to be, for the right govern∣ment of the Church, Matth. 18.20. Where two or three are gathered together in my Name, there am I in the midst of them. Act. 15.6. And the Apostles and Elders came together for to consider of this matter. From these and the like places, it is plaine, that Christ willeth jurisdiction to bee exercised, and controver∣sies to bee determined by certaine Consisto∣ries and Assemblies. Of the exercise of ju∣risdiction is the first place, which I have cited Page 160 to bee understood, as the cohesion thereof with the purpose which went before, shew∣eth. Of determining questions of faith, and enacting lawes concerning things in their owne nature indifferent, is the other place to be understood, as wee shall heare af∣terward. So then, wee truely affirme of Ec∣clesiasticall Assemblies in generall, that po∣wer is commited by Christ unto them, to exercise jurisdiction, to determine questions of faith, and to make constitutions about things indifferent, in the case of scandall. Now the severall sorts of these Assemblies are not particularly determined in Scripture, but left to be particularly determined by the Church, conforme to the light of Nature, and to the generall rules of the Word of God. And the particular kindes of Assem∣blies appointed by the Church, conforme to the light and rules foresaid, doe fall within the compasse of those precepts which are Divine-Ecclesiastica: they are mixed (though not meere) divine ordinances. Even as the Scripture warranteth times of fasting, and times of thankesgiving, shewing also the cau∣ses and occasions of the same, and the right manner of performance; but leaveth the par∣ticular dayes of fasting and thankesgiving to be determined by the Church, according to Page 161 the rules of the Word. In like manner, the Scripture commendeth the renewing of the covenant of God in a Nation that hath bro∣ken it, but leaveth the day and place for such an action to be determined by the Church, according to the rules foresaid. Now if the Church following the generall warrant and rules of the Word, command to fast such a day, to give thankes such a day, to renew the covenant of God such a day; these things are divine ordinances mixedly, though not meerely; and he who disobeyeth, disobeyeth the commandement of God. The like may be said of catechising, and of celebrating the Lords Supper, (which are not things occa∣sionall, as the former, but ordinary in the Church:) they are commended by the war∣rants of Scripture, but the particular times and seasons not determined. The like wee say of the order to be kept in baptisme, and in excommunication, which is not determi∣ned in the Word, though the things them∣selves be. The removing of scandals, by putting wicked persons to publike shame, and open confession of their faults in the Church, hath certaine warrant from Scrip∣ture, yet the degrees of that publike shame and punishment, are left to be determined by the Church, according to the quality Page 162 of the scandall, and the rules of the Word. Now the Church appointeth some scanda∣lous persons to be put to a greater shame, some to a lesser, some to •ee o•e Sabbath in the place of publike repentance, some three, some nine, some twenty five, &c. And if the of∣fender refuse that degree of publike shame which the Church, following the rules fore∣said appointeth for him, hee may be truely said, to refuse the removing and taking away of the scandall, which the Word of God in∣joyneth him, and so to disobey not the Church only, but God also. Just so the Scripture having commended unto us the governing of the Church, the making of Lawes, the exercise of Jurisdiction, the de∣ciding of controversies, by Consistories and Assemblies Ecclesiasticall, having also shew∣ed the necessity of the same, their power, their rule of proceeding and judging, who should sit and voice in the same, &c. But leaving the particular kindes, degrees, times, bounds, and places of the same to be resol∣ved upon by the Church, according to the light of naturall reason, and generall rules of the Word: The Church for her part, fol∣lowing the generall warrant and rules fore∣said, together with the light of nature, hath determined and appointed Assemblies, Page 163 Provinciall and Nationall, and to exercise respectively that power which the Word giveth to Assemblies in generall. The case thus standing, we may boldly maintaine that those particular kinds and degrees of Eccle∣siasticall Assemblies, are Gods owne ordi∣nances mixedly, though not meerely.
But what can bee the reason, may some man say, why the Scripture hath not it selfe determined these kinds of Assemblies parti∣cularly. I answer, three reasons may be gi∣ven for it: 1. because it was not necessary, the generall rules of the word together with natures light which directeth Common-wealths in things of the same kind, being suf∣ficient to direct the Church therin. 2. As se∣sons and times for the meeting of Assem∣blies, so the just bounds thereof in so many different places of the world, are things of that kinde which were not determinable in Scripture, unlesse the world had beene filled with volumes thereof; for, Individua sunt Infinita. 3. Because this constitution of Sy∣nods Provinciall and Nationall, is not uni∣versall for all times and places: for example, there may be in a remote Island 10. or 12. Christian congregations, which beside their particular Elderships have a common Pres∣bytery, but are not capable of Synods either Page 164 Provinciall or Nationall. Againe, let there bee an Island containing forty or fifty Chri∣stian congregations, there shall be therein, beside Presbyteries, one kinde of a Synod, but not two kindes. Besides, the reformed congregations within a great Nation, may happly be either so few, or so dispersed and distant, or so persecuted, that they can neither have Provinciall nor Nationall Assemblies.