Page [unnumbered]THE GLORY OF A TRUE CHURCH, And its Discipline display'd. Wherein a true Gospel-Church is described. Together with the Power of the Keys, and who are to be let in, and who to be shut out.
By BENJAMIN KEACH.
Whatsoever ye shall bind on Earth, shall be bound in Heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on Earth, shall be loosed in Heaven.
LONDON; Printed in the Year 1697.
To the Baptized Churches, particularly to that under my Care.
EVery House or Building con∣sisteth both of Matter and Form: And so doth the Church of Christ, or House of the Living God.
The Matter or Materials with which it is built are Lively Stones, •. e. Converted Persons: Also the Matter and Form must be according to the Rule and Pattern shewed in •he Mount, I mean Christ's Insti∣tution, and the Apostolical Churches Constitution, and not after Mens In∣ventions.
Now some Men, because the Ty∣•ical Church of the Jews was Na∣•ional, and took in their Carnal Seed (as such) therefore the same Mat∣•er and Form they would have un∣der the Gospel.
But tho a Church be rightly built in both these respects, i.e. of fit Mat∣ter and right Form, yet without a re∣gular and orderly Discipline, it will Page iv soon lose its Beauty, and be polluted.
Many Reverend Divines of th•Congregational way, have written most excellently (it is true) upon th•• Subject, I mean on Church-Disci∣pline; but the Books are so voluminou• that the Poorer Sort can't purchas• them, and many others have not Tim• or Learning enough to improve them to their Profit; and our Brethren th•Baptists have not written (as I ca• gather) on this Subject by it self• Therefore I have been earnestly desi∣red by our Members, and also by on• of our Pastors, to write a small and plain Tract concerning the Rules 〈◊〉 the Discipline of a Gospel-Church that all Men may not only know our Faith, but see our Order in this cas• also. True, this (tho plain) is bi• short, but may be it may provoke som• other Person to do it more fully. Cer∣tainly, ignorance of the rules of Disci∣pline causes no small trouble and dis∣orders in our Churches; and if this may be a Prevention, or prove profit a∣ble to any, let God have the Glory, and I have my End: Who am, Yours
Aug. ▪ 1697.
Concerning a True and Orderly Gospel-Church.
BEfore there can be any Or∣derly Discipline among a Christian Assembly, they must be orderly and regu∣larly constituted into a Church-state, according to the Institution of Christ in the Gospel.
1. A Church of Christ,* accord∣ing to the Gospel-Institution, is a Congregation of Godly Christians,* who as a Stated-Assembly (being first baptized upon the Profession of Faith) do by mutual agreement and consent give themselves up to Page 6 the Lord,* and one to another, ac∣cording to the Will of God;* and do ordinarily meet together in one Place,* for the Publick Service and Worship of God;* among whom the Word of God and Sacraments are duly administred,* according to Christ's Institution.
*2. The Beauty and Glory of which Congregation doth consist in their being all Converted Per∣sons,* or lively Stones; being by the Holy Spirit,* united to Jesus Christ the Precious Corner-Stone, and only foundation of every Chri∣stian,* as well as of every particu∣lar Congregation, and of the whole Catholick Church.
3. That every Person before they are admitted Members, in such a Church so constituted, must de∣clare to the Church (or to such with the Pastor, that they shall appoint) what God hath done for their Souls,* or their Experiences of a Saving work of Grace upon their Hearts; and also the Church should enquire after,* and take full satisfac∣tion concerning their Holy Lives,* or Good Conversations.*
Page 7And when admitted Members, before the Church they must so∣lemnly enter into a Covenant, to walk in the Fellowship of that particular Congregation,* and sub∣mit themselves to the Care and Discipline thereof, and to walk faithfully with God in all his Holy Ordinances, and there to be fed and have Communion, and wor∣ship God there,* when the Church meets (if possible) and give them∣selves up to the watch and charge of the Pastor and Ministry there∣of: the Pastor then also signifying in the name of the Church their acceptance of each Person, and en∣deavour to take the care of them, and to watch over them in the Lord, (the Members being first satisfied to receive them, and to have Communion with them.) And so the Pastor to give them the right Hand of Fellowship of a Church, or Church Organical.
*A Church thus constituted ought forthwith to choose them a Pastor, Elder or Elders, and Deacons, (we reading of no other Officers, or Offices abiding in the Church) Page 8 and what kind of Men they ought to be,* and how qualified, is laid down by Paul to Timothy,* and to Titus. Moreover, they are to take special care, that both Bishops, Overseers, or Elders, as well as the Deacons, have in some competent manner all those Qualifications; and after in a Day of solemn Pray∣er and Fasting,* that they have elec∣ted them,* (whether Pastor, &c. or Deacons) and they accepting the Office, must be ordained with Prayer, and laying on of Hands of the Eldership; being first prov'd, and found meet and fit Persons for so Sacred an Office: Therefore such are very disorderly Churches who have no Pastor or Pastors or∣dained, they acting not according to the Rule of the Gospel, having something wanting.
Of the work of a Pastor, Bishop or Overseer.
1. THe work of a Pastor is to preach the Word of Christ, or to feed the Flock,* and to admini∣ster all the Ordinances of the Gospel Page 9 which belong to his Sacred Office,* and to be faithful and laborious therein, studying to shew himself approved unto God,*a Work-man that needeth not be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth.* He is a Steward of the Mysteries of God,* therefore ought to be a Man of good Understanding and Expe∣rience, being sound in the Faith, and one that is acquainted with the Mysteries of the Gospel:* Be∣cause he is to feed the People with Knowledg and Vnderstanding. He must be faithful and skilful to de∣clare the Mind of God,* and dili∣gent therein, also to preach in sea∣son and out of season; God having committed unto him the Ministry of Reconciliation,* a most choice and sacred Trust. What Interest hath God greater in the World which he hath committed unto Men than this? Moreover, he must make known the whole Counsel of God to the People.*
2. A Pastor is to visit his Flock,* to know their state,* and to watch over them, to support the weak, and to strengthen the feeble-minded, and Page 10 succour the tempted, and to re∣prove them that are unruly.
3. To pray for them at all times, and with them also when sent for, and desired, and as Opportunity serves; and to sympathize with them in every State and Condition, with all Love and Compassion.
4. And to shew them in all re∣spects, as near as he can,* a good Example in Conversation, Charity, Faith and Purity; that his Mini∣stry may be the more acceptable to all, and the Name of God be glo∣rified, and Religion delivered from Reproach.
5. He must see he carries it to all with all Impartiality,* not pre∣ferring the Rich above the Poor,* nor lord it over.* God's Heritage, nor assume any greater Power than God hath given him; but to shew a humble and meek Spirit, nay to be clothed with Humility.
The Office and Work of Deacons.
*THE Work of Deacons is to serve Tables,*viz. to see to provide for the Lord's Table, the Page 11 Minister's Table,* and the Poor's Table (1.) They should provide Bread and Wine for the Lord's Table. (2.) See that every Mem∣ber contributes to the Maintenance of the Ministry,* according to their Ability, and their own vo∣luntary Subscription or Obligati∣on. (3.) That each Member do give weekly to the Poor, as God has blessed him. (4.) Also visit the Poor, and know their Con∣dition as much as in them lies;* that none, especially the aged Widows, be neglected.
Of the Duty of Church-Members to their Pastor.
1st. 'TIS the Duty of every Member to pray for their Pastor and Teachers. Brethren,*pray for us, that the Word of the Lord may run and be glorified. Again, saith Paul, Praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of ut∣terance,*to speak the Mystery of Christ. Prayer was made without ceasing of the Church unto God for him. They that neglect this Duty Page 12 seem not to care either for their Minister, or their own Souls, or whether Sinners be converted, and the Church edified or not. They pray for their daily Bread, and will they not pray to have the Bread of Life plentifully broken to them?
Motives to this.
1. Ministers Work is great: Who is sufficient for these things?*
*2. The Opposition is not small which is made against them.
*3. God's loud Call is (as well as Ministers themselves) for the Saints continual Prayers and Sup∣plication for them.
4. Their Weakness and Temp∣tations are many.
5. The Increase and Edification of the Church depends upon the Success of their Ministry.
6. If they fall or miscarry, God is greatly dishonoured, and his Ways and People reproached.
2dly. They ought to shew a re∣verential Estimation of them,* be∣ing Christ's Ambassadors, also cal∣led Rulers, Angels, &c. they that honour them, and receive them, Page 13 honour and receive Jesus Christ.*Esteem them very highly in Love for their Work sake. Again, he saith, Let the Elders that rule well,*be accounted worthy of double Ho∣nour, especially they who labour in Word and Doctrine: that is, as I conceive, such that are most labo∣rious.
3dly. 'Tis their Duty to submit themselves unto them, that is, in all their Exhortations, good Coun∣sels and Reproofs; and when they call to any extraordinary Duty, as Prayer, Fasting, or days of Thanksgiving, if they see no just cause why such days should not be kept, they ought to obey their Pastor or Elder, as in other cases also.*Obey them that have the Rule over you, and submit your selves.
4thly. It is their Duty to take care to vindicate them from the unjust Charges of evil Men, or Tongue of Infamy,* and not to take up a Reproach against them by report, nor to grieve their Spirits,* or weaken their Hands.
5thly. 'Tis the Duty of Members to go to them when under Trouble or Temptations.
Page 146thly. It is their Duty to provide a comfortable Maintenance for them and their Families, sutable to their State and Condition. Let him that is taught in the Word,*communicate to him that teacheth, in all good things. Who goeth a War∣fare at his own Charge?*who plant∣eth a Vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? &c. Even so hath the Lord ordained,*that they that preach the Gospel, should live of the Gospel.*If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? They should minister to them chearfully with all readiness of Mind.* Ministers are not to ask for their Bread, but to receive it honourably. The Ministers Main∣tenance, tho it is not by Tythes, &c. as under the Law, yet they have now as just a right to a comforta∣ble Maintenance as they had then, the equity of the Duty is the same: Our Saviour,* saith Dr. Owen, and the Apostles plead it from grounds of Equity and Justice; and all kind of Laws and Rules of Righteous∣ness among Men of all sorts calls for it.
Query, Are there no ruling El∣ders besides the Pastor?
Answ. There might be such in the Primitive Apostolical Church, but we see no ground to believe it an abiding Office to continue in the Church, but was only temporary.
1. Because we have none of the Qualifications of such Elders men∣tion'd, or how to be chosen.
2. Because we read not particu∣larly what their Work and Busi∣ness is, or how distinct from preach∣ing Elders; tho we see not but the Church may (if she sees meet) choose some able and discreet Bre∣thren to be Helps in Government:* We have the Qualifications of Bi∣shops Page 16 and Deacons directly laid down,* and how to be chosen, and their Work declared,* but of no other Office or Officers in the Church, but these only.
Quest. May an Elder of one Church if called, warrantably admi∣nister all Ordinances to another?*
Answ. No surely; for we find no warrant for any such Practice, he being only ordained Pastor or El∣der of that particular Church that chose him,*&c. and hath no Right or Authority to administer as an Elder in any other where he is not so much as a Member.
Quest. May a Church call out a Teacher that is no ordained Elder to administer all Ordinances to them?
Ans. You may as well ask, May a Church act disorderly? Why were Ministers to be ordained, if o∣thers unordained might warranta∣bly do all their Work? if therefore they have no Person fitly qualified for that Office, they must look out from abroad for one that is. Yet (as we say) Necessity has no Law; provided therefore they can't do either, it is better their Teacher Page 17 be called to do it, than that the Church should be without their Food, and Church-Ordinances neg∣lected; yet let all Churches take care to organize themselves, and not through Covetousness, or neg∣lect of Duty, rest incompleat Churches, and so under Sin. God is the God of Order, and not of Con∣fusion,*in all the Churches of the Saints. And how severely did God deal of old with such that meddled with the Priests Work and Of∣fice, who were not of the Priest∣hood, nor called by him to admi∣nister in holy things!
Of the reception of Members.
Quest. WHat is the Order of receiving Members into the Church,*that were no Mem∣bers any where before?
Answ. 1. The Person must give an account of his Faith;* and of the Work of Grace upon his Soul be∣fore the Church;* and also a strict Enquiry must be made about his Life and Conversation:* but if through Bashfulness the Party can∣not speak before the Congregati∣on,* the Elder and two or three more Persons may receive an ac∣count of his or her Faith, and re∣port it to the Church.* But if full Satisfaction by the Testimony of good and credible Persons is not given of the Party's Life and Conversation,* he must be put by until Satisfaction is obtained in that respect. Moreover, when the Majority are satisfied, and yet one or two Persons are not, the Church and Elder will do well to wait a little time, and endeavour to satisfy such Persons, especially if the Rea∣sons of their dissent seem weighty.
Quest. What is to be done when a Person offers himself for Commu∣nion from a Church that is corrupt, or erroneous in Principles?
Answ. 1. The Church ought to take an account of his Faith in all Fundamental Points, and of the Work of Grace upon his Heart.
2. And if satisfied, then to send also to that corrupt People, to know whether they have any thing or not against his Life and Conversa∣tion: If satisfied in both these re∣spects, the Church may receive him.
Answ. They are joined to the whole Community of the Church,* being incorporated as Members thereof, and thereto abide, tho the Pastor be removed by Death.
The Power of the Keys, with Church — Discipline, and Members Duties one to a∣nother.
*1. WE judg it necessary that a Day monthly be appoint∣ed particularly for Discipline, and not to manage such Affairs on the Lord's-day, which should be spent •n the publick Worship of God, of • different nature: besides, such •hings may (on the account of Discipline) come before the Church which may not be expedient to be •eard on the Lord's-day, lest it •isturb the Spirits of any Mem∣bers, and hinder their Meditation •n the Word which they have •ewly heard: tho in small Con∣gregations Page 20 perhaps a day in two or three Months may be sufficient.
*2. The Power of the Keys, or to receive in and shut out of the Congregation, is committed unto the Church: The Political Power of Christ,* saith Dr. Chauncy, is in the Church,* whereby it is exercised in the Name of Christ, having all lawful Rule and Government with∣in it self, which he thus proves, viz.
1. The Church essential is the first Subject of the Keys.
2. They must of necessity to their Preservation, purge them∣selves from all pernicious Mem∣bers.
3. They have Power to orga∣nize themselves with Officers. Yet I humbly conceive I may add, that the Concurrence of the Pres∣bytery is needful hereunto.
4. If need be that they call an Officer from without, or one of another Church, they must first admit him a Member, that they may ordain their Officer from among themselves.
5. They have Power to reject a scandalous Pastor from Office and Membership.
Page 21'This Power of Christ is ex∣erted as committed to them by the Hands of the Elder appoint∣ed by Christ,* the due manage∣ment whereof is in and with the Church to be his Care and Trust, as a Steward, whereof he is ac∣countable to Christ and the Church, not lording it over God's Heritage. And that the Power of the Keys is in the Church, ap∣pears to me from Mat. 18. If he will not hear the Church; it is not said, if he will not hear the Elder,* or Elders. As also that of the Apostle, in directing the Church to cast out the Incestuous Person, he doth not give this Counsel to the Elder or Elders of the Church,* but to the Church; so he commands the Church to withdraw from e∣very Brother that walks disorder∣ly.*Purge out the old Leaven, that you may be a new Lump.
NOW as to Church-Censures I understand but two besides Suspension,*viz. (1.) Withdraw∣ing from a Member that walks Page 22 disorderly. (2.) Casting out, o• Excommunicating such that are e•∣ther guilty of notorious or scanda•∣lous Crimes, of Heresy, &c. o• of contemning the Authority o• the Church.
Briefly to each of these.
1. Suspension is to be when'• Member falls under Sin, and th• Church wants time fully to hea• the matter, and so can't withdraw from him, or cast him out.
2. If any Member walks disor∣derly, tho not guilty of gross scan∣dalous Sins, he or she, as soon as it is taken notice of, ought to be ad∣monished, and endeavours to be used to bring him to Repentance:*For we hear that there are some which walk disorderly, not working at all, but are busy-bodies. Such as meddle with Matters that con∣cern them not, it may be (instead of following their Trade and Bu∣siness) they go about from one Member's House to another, tel∣ling or carrying of Tales and Sto∣ries of this Brother, or of that Brother or Sister, which perhaps may be true, or perhaps false, and Page 23 may be too to the Reproach or Scandal of some Member or Mem∣bers, which, if so, it is back-biting; and that is so notorious a Crime, that without Repentance they shall not ascend God's holy Hill.* Back-biting is a diminishing our Neigh∣bours, or Brother's good Name, either by denying him his due Praise, or by saying any thing to his Charge falsely or irregularly, or without sufficient cause or evi∣dence, Thus our Annotators. But this of disorderly walking does not amount to such a Crime, but Evils not so notorious;*Now them ••at are such, we command and ex∣hort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own Bread. They must be admonished.
1. An Admonition is a faithful Endeavour to convict a Person of a Fault, both as to Matter of Fact and Circumstance; and this Admo∣nition must be given first, if it be private, by that Brother that knows or has knowledg of the Fault or Evil of the Person offending, whe∣ther the Elder, or Member; for Page 24 any private Brother ought to ad∣monish such with all care and faithfulness before he proceeds far∣ther. But if it be publick, th• Church ought to send for the Of∣fender, and the Pastor must admo∣nish him before all.
2. But if after all due Endea∣vours used he is not reclaimed, bu• continues a disorderly Person, the Church must withdraw from him. Now we command you Brethren,* is the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ,*that you withdraw from every B••∣ther that walketh disorderly, and not after the Traditions he received from us. This is not a delivering up to Satan, Excommunicating of dismembring the Person; for this sort are still to be owned as Mem∣bers, tho disorderly ones: the Church must note him▪ so as not to have Communion or Company with him in that sense;*yet court him not as an Enemy, but exhort him as a Brother: if any Man o∣bey not our Word, note that Man. It appears that such who refuse to adhere to what the Pastor com∣mands and exhorts to, in the Name Page 25 of Christ, are to be deemed disor∣derly Persons,* as such are who meet •ot with the Church when assem∣bled together to worship God, or •hat neglect private or family Prayer, or neglect their attendance on the Lord's-Supper, or to contri∣bute to the necessary Charges of the Church, or suffer any Evils un∣reproved in their Children; all such may be lookt upon disorderly Walkers, and ought to be proceed∣ed against according to this Rule, or divulge the private Resolves of the Church, as well as in many like cases.
Of private Offences of one Brother against another.
1. AS touching private Offences,* the Rule Mat. 18. is to be observed, only this by the way must be premised, viz. if but one Brother or two have the knowledg of some Members Crime, yet if it be publickly known to the World, and the Name of God be reproach∣ed, Page 26 it being an immoral Act, 〈◊〉 private Brother is not to proceed with such an Offender, according to Mat. 18. but forthwith to brin• it to the Church, that the public• Scandal may be taken off.
2. But if it be a private Offenc• or Injury done to a Brother 〈◊〉 Sister in particular, and not bei•• a notorious scandalous Sin, tha• Brother must not mention it to one Soul, either within, or without the Church, until he hath proceeded according to the Rule.
(1.) He must tell his Brother his Fault.*Moreover, if thy Bro∣ther shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault betwixt thee and him alone; if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy Brother.
Thou must labour in Love and all Affections to convince him o• his Fault; but if he will not hea• thee,
(2.) Thou must take one or two more, but be sure see they are dis∣creet Persons, and such that ar• most likely to gain upon him; and they with thee are to labour with all Wisdom to bring him to the Page 27 sense of his Fault: 'tis not iust to speak to him, as if that were e∣nough; no, no, but to take all due Pains, and to strive to con∣vince him, that so the matter may be issued, and the Church not troubled with it:*But if he will not hear thee, take one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three Witnesses every word may be esta∣blished.
3. But if he will not hear them after all due Means and Admoniti∣ons used, then it must be brought to the Church; and if he will not hear the Church, he must be cast out:* The Elder is to put the Question, whether the offending Brother be in their Judgments incorrigible, and refuseth to hear the Church; which passing in the Affirmative by the Vote of the Congregation,* or the Majori∣ty of the Brethren by the lifting up of their Hands, or by their Si∣lence; the Pastor after calling up∣on God, and opening the nature of the Offence, and the Justness of their Proceedings, in the Name and by the Authority of Christ, Page 28 pronounces the Sentence of E• communication to this effect.
*That A. B. being guilty of great Iniquity, and not manifesting ••∣feigned Repentance, but refusing to hear the Church, I do in the Name, and by the Authority of Christ com∣mitted unto me as Pastor of this his Church, pronounce and declare that he is to be, and is hereby excommuni∣cated, excluded or cast out of the Congregation, and no longer to be owned a Brother,*or a Member of this Church; and this for the destruc∣tion of the Flesh, that his Spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
And this we believe is the sub∣stance of that which the Apostle calls a delivering up to Satan, he being cast into the World, which is called the Kingdom of Satan, where he rules and reigns.
Of Scandalous Persons guilty of gross Acts of Immorality.
IF any Member fall into any gross Acts of Sin,* as Swearing, Lying, Drunkenness, Fornication, Covet∣ousness, Extortion, or the like, and it is known and publickly spread abroad to the great scandal and re∣proach of Religion, and of the Ho∣ly Name of God, his Church, and People; the said Offender so charg∣ed, the Church must send one or two Brethren to him to come be∣fore the Congregation: if he will not come, but doth slight and con∣temn the Authority of the Church, that will bring farther Guilt upon him, for which Offence he incurs Page 30 the Censure before - mentioned But if he doth appear, his Charge is to be laid before him, and the Witnesses called; and after he ha• made his Defence, and said all he hath to say, and the Congregation finds him Guilty,* then the same Censure is to pass upon him, to the end he may be brought to unfeign∣ed Repentance, and the Name of God cleared; and some time must be taken to make it appear that he hath true Repentance, by the Re∣formation of his Life and holy walking afterwards, before he be received again, and the Censure of the Church in a solemn manner be taken off.
*Dr. Chauncy puts this Question,
Quest. How is a Church to pro∣ceed in case of open and notorious Scandals?
The Answer is, 'the matter of Fact, as such, being beyond all question; the Church is to pro∣ceed immediately to censure, to vindicate the Honour of Christ and his Church, and to manifest Page 31 to the World their just Indigna∣tion against such Notorious Of∣fenders,* and wait for a well-grounded and tryed Evidence of his true Repentance under that Ordinance of Christ which is ap∣pointed to that end.*
Observe, It is the opinion of the Doctor, that tho the Person be pe∣nitent, yet because his Sin is open and scandalous, he ought to be cast out to vindicate the Honour of Christ and the Church, as part of his just Punishment (that being one reason of the Ordinance of Excom∣munication) as well as to bring the Person to thorow Repentance; and we are of his Mind. Paul takes no notice in the case of the Incestuous Person of his immediate Repen∣tance; or if he repent not, then, &c. But says he, deliver such a one to Sa∣tan, &c. Saith the Lord,*if her Fa∣ther had but spit in her Face, should she not be ashamed seven Days? Let her be shut out from the Camp seven Day: (speaking of Miriam) and af∣ter that let her be received in again.Page 32
Of dealing with Hereticks and Blasphemers.
*AS touching Hereticks or He∣resy, the same Censure, when they are convicted, ought to pass against them; Heresy is commonly restrained to signify any perverse Opinion or Error in a fundamental Point of Religion, as to deny the Being of God, or the Deity of Christ, or his Satisfaction, and Jus∣tification alone by his Righteous∣ness, or to deny the Resurrection of the Body, or eternal Judgment, or the like.* Yet our Annotators say, the Word signifies the same thing with Schism and Divisions; which if so, such that are guilty of Schism or Divisions in the Church, ought to be excommunicated also. Here∣sies are called Damnable by the A∣postle Peter; without Repentance such cannot be saved,*as bring in Damnable Heresies, denying the Lord that bought them.
Two things render a Man an Heretick according to the common Page 33 signification of the Word.* 1. An Error in matters of Faith, Funda∣mental or Essential to Salvation. 2. Stubbornness and Contumacy in holding and maintaining it. A Man that is an Heretick,*after the first and second Admonition reject. Now that this Rejection is all one with Excommunication, appears by what Paul speaks, 1 Tim. 1.20. Of whom is Hymeneus and Alexan∣der,*whom I have delivered unto Sa∣tan, that they may learn not to Blas∣pheme. Their Heresy, or Blas∣phemy was in saying the Resurrec∣tion was past.
Some would have none be coun∣ted an Heretick but he who is con∣victed and condemned so to be in his own Conscience, mistaking Paul's Words, Knowing that he that is such, is subverted, being condemned of himself. He may be condemned of himself, tho not for his Heresy, yet for his spending his Time about Questions, and strife of Words, to the disquiet∣ing the Peace of the Church; or tho not condemned of himself directly, yet indirectly; accord∣ing Page 34 to the Purport of his own No¦tion, or what he grants about the Point in Debate, &c. Else the A¦postle refers to some notable and notorious self-condemned Here¦tick. It is a great question, whe∣ther Hymeneus and Alexander we•• condemned in their own Consci∣ences, about that Heresy charged upon them, and yet were deliver∣ed up to Satan. However the Rule is plain, respecting any that are sub∣verted, and resolutely maintain a∣ny Heretical Notion, i. e. after he hath been twice (or oftner) ad∣monished, that is, after all due means used, and pains taken with him, to convince him of his abomi∣nable Error; and yet if he re∣mains obstinate, he must be deliver∣ed up to Satan; that is, the righ∣teous censure of the Church must pass upon him, as in the case of o∣ther notorious Crimes. Heresy is a Work of the Flesh: and hence some conceive such ought to be punish∣ed by the Civil Magistrate.
Page 35Quest. What is an Admonition?
Answ. It is a faithful endeavour to convict a Person of a Fault both as to matter of Fact,* and his Duty thereupon, charging it on his Con∣science in the Name of the Lord Je∣sus with all Wisdom and Authority.
Quest. What is a Church Admo∣nition?
Answ. When an offending Bro∣ther rejecting private Admonition by one, or by two or three Per∣sons; the complaint being brought to the Church by the Elder, the offending Member is rebuked and exhorted in the Name of the Lord Jesus to due Repentance; and if convicted, and he repents, the Church forgives him, otherwise casts him out, as I before shewed.
Quest. May a Church admit a Member of another Congregation to have Communion with them, with∣out an orderly receiving him as a Member?
Answ. If the Person is well known by some of the Church, and Page 36 that he is an orderly Member of 〈◊〉 Church of the same Faith, he be∣ing occasionally cast among them▪ they may admit him to transie•• Communion for that time; but i• he abides in that Town or City remote to the Church to whom he belongs, he ought to have his regu∣lar dismission, and so be delivered up to the care and watch of the Church where he desires to commu∣nicate.
Quest. If an Excommunicated Person hath obtained of God true Re∣pentance, and desires to be restored to the Church, what is the manner of his Reception?*
Answ. Upon his serious, solemn and publick Acknowledgment thereof before the Church, and due Satisfaction according to the na∣ture of his Offence being given, the Elder solemnly proceeds and declares in the Name of the Lord Jesus,* that the sentence which A.B. was laid under (upon his unfeign∣ed Repentance) is taken off,* and that he is received again a as Mem∣ber,*&c. To the Praise and Glory of God.
Page 37Q. How ought a Pastor to be •••lt withal, if he to the know∣ledge of the Church, or any Mem∣•ers thereof, walketh disorderly, •nd unworthily of his Sacred Of∣•ice, and Membership?
Take the Answer of another Au∣thor here.
Answ.'Those Members, to whom this is manifestly known,* ought to go to him privately, and unknown to any others, (and with the Spirit of Meekness, in great Humility) lay his Evil before him, and intreat him as a Father, and not rebuke him as there E∣qual, much less as their Inferiour; and if they gain upon him, then to receive him into their former Affe∣ction and Esteem, for ever hiding it from all others. But if after all tender intreaties, he prove Re∣fractory and Obstinate, then to bring him before the Church, and there to deal with him; they having Two or Three Witnesses in the face of the Church, to te∣stify matter of Fact against him to their personal Knowledge.
Q. Suppose a Member should think himself Oppressed by the Church; or should be Unjustly dealt with; either Withdrawn from, or Excommunicated, has he no Relief left him?
Answ. We believe he hath Re∣lief;* and also, that there is no Church infallible, but may E•• in some points of Faith, as wel• as in Discipline. And the way proposed, and agreed to, in a ge∣neral Assembly, held in London, 1692. of the Elders, Ministers, and Messengers of our Churches, we approve of, which is this; viz. The grieved or injured Person may make his Application to a Sister▪ Page 39 Church for Communion; and that Church may send some Brethren in their names, to that Congregation that have dealt with him, and they to see if they can possibly restore him to his place; but if they cannot, then to report the matter charged, with the Proofs, to the Church that sent them: and if that Congregation shall, after a full Information, &c. be perswaded the Person was not orderly dealt with, they may receive him into their Communion.
Of such that cause Divisions; or Vnduely separate them∣selves from the Church.
THis I find is generally assert∣ed by all Congregational Divines,* or worthy men, i. e. That no person hath power to dismem∣ber himself: i. e. He cannot, with∣out great Sin, translate himself from one Church to another; but ought to have a Dismission from that Church where he is a Member:* provided that Church is orderly constituted, nothing being wanting as to any Essential of Salvation; or of Church-Communion: But if not, yet he ought to in∣deavour Page 40 to get his orderly Di•∣mission.
Nor is every small Differenc• in some points of Religion, (o• Notions of little moment,) an• grounds for him to desire his Dis∣mission.
That he cannot, nor ought no• to Translate himself, see what 〈◊〉 Reverend Writer saith:*
He cannot, saith he, for many Reasons:
1. It is not Decent, much le• an Orderly going away; but ve∣ry unmannerly, and a kind o• running away.*
2. Such a Departure is not ap∣proved of in Families, or Civi• Societies.*
3. It destroys the Relation o• Pastor and People: For wha• may be done by one individua• Person, may be done by all.
4. What Liberty in this kin• belongs to the Sheep, belongs t• the Shepherd; much more he ma• then also leave his Flock at h• Pleasure, without giving notice o• reason thereof to the Church.
*5. It is breaking Covenant wit•Page 41 Christ, and with the Congregation, and therefore a great Immorality; he being under Obligation to a∣bide stedfastly with the Church; i. e. till the Church judge he hath a lawful Call to go to ano∣ther Congregation.
7. It is a despising the Govern∣ment of the Church.
*8. It is a particular Member's assuming to himself the use of the Keys; or rather stealing of them.
9. There is as much reason Persons should come into a Church when they please, without asking Consent, as depart when they please.
10. It is very evil and unkind in another Church, to receive such an one, as not doing as they would, or should be dealt with.
11. Such Practices can issue in no∣thing else than the breach and con∣fusion* of all particular Churches; and make them like Parishes.
12. Such Departures cannot be pleaded for in the least, but up∣on Page 42 the notion of a Catholick visible Church, wherein all Members and Officers are run into one Organized Church, which will, and must introduce, a Co-ordi∣nate (if not a Subordinate) Pa∣storal Government, by combina∣tion of Elders, over all the Churches; and therefore by Sy∣nods and Classes.
13. It is like a Leak in a Ship, which, if not speedily stopped, will Sink at last.
14. It tends to Anarchy, put∣ting an Arbitrary Power in ev'ry Member.
15. It breaks all Bonds of Love, and raiseth the greatest Animo∣sities between Bretheren and Churches.
16. It is a great Argument of some Guilt lying-on the Party.
Thus the Dr.
Again he saith,
It is no more in the just Power of a particular Member to dissolve his Church-Relation, than in a Man to kill himself: but by his said withdraw∣ment he doth Schismatically rend himself from his Communion, and Page 43 so Separate himself Sinfully. ★
Quest.What is the just Act of the Church, that cloathes this ir∣regular Separation, with the For∣mality as it were of an Excom∣communication.
He Answers. (Calling) this a mixt Excommunication i. e. Ori∣ginally proceeding from, and con∣sists in, the act of the Brother himself, and is the Formality of his Offence; upon which proceeds the just and unviolable act of the Church.
The Judgment of the Church publickly declared by the Elder of the Congregation; as the Dr. words it; viz.
That A. B. having so and so irregularly and sinfully withdrawn himself from the Communion of the Congregation,*we do now adjudge him a Non-member,*and one that is not to Communicate with the Church, in the special Ordinan∣ces of Communion,*till due Satis∣faction is given by him.
Yet we believe, as the Dr's O∣pinion is, that a Church may, (if they find the Case to be warranted Page 44 by the Word of God; or as it may be circumstanced) give a dismis∣sion to a Member, when insisted on, to another regular Church, tho not in every case of small Offence, or dissent in some small points of different Notions,* or from Prejudice; for, that may tend soon to dissolve any Church: For what Church is it, where every Member is of one mind in every particular case and thing about Notions of Religion?
And such that make Divisions, and cause Schisms, or Discord a∣mong Brethren,* to disturb the Peace of the Church, if they can∣not be reclaimed,* must be marked, and dealt with as great Offenders:* It being one of those things that God hates, and is an abomination to him.
Quest. What is a full and law∣ful Dismission of a Member to ano∣ther Church, upon his removing his Habitation, or on other warranted Cases.
Answ. VVe answer a Letter Testimonial,* or Recommendation of the Person; and if he intends to abide there wholly, to give him Page 45 up to that Communion, and Fellow∣ship,* to be watched over in the Lord.*
Of Disorders, or causes of Dis∣cords, and how to be prevent∣ed, corrected, and removed.
But one Person ••kes up an Of∣fence against another, and speaks, of it to this or that Person, before he hath, told the Brother offend∣ing, of it; which is a paspable Sin, and a direct violation of Christ's holy Precept: and such must, as Offenders themselves, be in a Gospel way dealt with.
To prevent this, the Discipline, of the Church should be taught; and the Members informed of their Duties.
II Another thing that causes Trouble and Disorder in a Church, Page 46 is want of Love, and tender Affe∣ctions to one another; as also not having a full sight and sense of the great evil of breaking the Bonds of Peace, and Vnity:* O that all would lay this abominable Evil to Heart, how base a thing it is to break the Peace of a private Family, or Neighbourhood; but much more sinful to disturb the Peace of the Church of the living God, and break the bonds of the V∣nity thereof. Behold, how good, and how pleasant it is, for Brethren to dwell together in Vnity! But,* O how ugly and hateful is the contrary!*
III. Another disorderly Practice is this, When one Member or another knows of some sinful act, or evils done by one or more Members,* and they conceal it; or do not act according to the Rule;* pretending they would not be lookt upon as Contentious Per∣sons: but hereby they may become guilty of other Mens Sins, and also suffer the Name of God, and the Church, to lye under Reproach, and all thro their neglect. This is a great Iniquity.
Page 47IV. When an Elder, or Church shall know that some persons are Scandalous in their Lives, or Here∣retical in Judgment, and yet shall bear or connive with them.
V. When Members take liber∣ty to hear at other Places,* when the Church is assembled to wor∣ship God: this is nothing less than a breaking their Covenant with the Church, and may soon dis∣solve any Church: For by the same Rule, one may take that li∣berty, another; nay, every Mem∣ber may. Moreover, it casts a Contempt upon the Ministery of the Church, and tends to cause such who are Hearers to draw off, and to be Disaffected with the Doctrine taught in the Church, (they knowing these Dissenters do belong unto it.) I exhort there∣fore, in the Name of Christ, this may be prevented: And any of you that know who they are, that take this Liberty, pray discover them to the Church. We lay no restraint upon our Members from hearing such, who are sound in the Faith at other times.
Page 48VI. The Liberty that some take to hear Men that are corrupt in their Judgments; and so take in unsound Notions, and also strive to distil them into the Minds of others, as if they were of great Importance. Alas, how many are Corrupted in these days, with Arminianism, So∣cinianism, and what not! This cau∣ses great trouble and disorder.
*VII. When one Church shall re∣ceive a Member or Members of a∣nother Congregation without their Consent or Knowledge: Nay such that are Disorderly and may be loose Livers, or cast out for Immorality; or Persons filled with Prejudice without cause. This is enough to make Men Atheists, or contemn all Church Authority, and Religion: For hath not one regular Church as great Autho∣rity from Christ as another.
VIII. Another disorder is, when Members are received without the general Consent of the Church;* or before good Satisfaction is ta∣ken of their Godly Lives, and Conversations: Or when a Church is too remiss in the reception of her Members.
Page 49IX. Another disorder is, when a Church shall receive a charge against a Member, (it being an Offence between Brother and Bro∣ther) before an orderly proceed has been made by the offended Per∣son.*
X. When Judgment passes with Partiality; some are connived at, out of favour or affection: Le∣vi was not to know his Father or Mother in Judgment.
XII. When part of a Church shall meet together as dissatisfi∣ed, to consult Church-matters, without the knowledge or con∣sent of the Church, or Pastor:* This is disorderly,* and tends to division; and such should be mar∣ked.
XIII. Another thing that tends to disquiet the Peace of the Church is, when there are any undue heats of Spirit, or Passion shewed Page 50 in the Pastor,* or others, in ma∣naging the Discipline of the Church. Have we not found by experience the sad effect of this? There∣fore things must be always mana∣ged with coolness, and sweetness of Spirit, and moderation; every Brother having liberty to speak his mind, and not to be interrup∣ted, until he has done; nor a∣bove one speak at once.
XIV. When one Brother or more Dissents in the sentiments of their Minds from the Church, in any matters circumstantial; either in re∣pect of Faith,* Practice, or Discipline, and will not submit to the Majori∣ty, but raise Feuds;* nay, will rend themselves from the Church, rather than consent.
I Quaery, what reason, or ground, hath any Man to refuse Commu∣nion with a Church that Christ hath not left, but hath Commu∣nion with?
XV. When any Member shall divulge, or make known to Per∣sons, not of the Congregation, nor being concerned in those mat∣ters Page 51 what is done in Church-meetings, the Church in this re∣spect (as well as in others) is to be as a Garden inclosed, a Spring shut up, a Fountain sealed. This oft times occasions great Grief,* and the disorderly Person should be detected. Is it not a shame to any of a private Family, to divulge the Secrets of the Fami∣ly? But far greater shame do these expose themselves unto.
XVI. Another disorderly Practice is this; viz. When a Member shall suggest, and seem •o insinuate in∣to the minds of other Members some evil against their Pastor,* yet will not declare what it is;* and may only be evil Surmisings,* & out of Prejudice; and yet refuses to acquaint the Pastor with what it is: This is very abominable,* and a palpable violation of the Rule of the Gospel, and Duty of Members to their Minister. Such a person ought to be severely re∣buk'd, and if he confess not his Evils, and manifesteth unfeigned Repentance, to be dealt with far∣ther. Moreover, it is a great e∣vil Page 52 in another to hear such base▪ Insinuations, and neither rebuke the Accuser, and so discharge his Duty, nor take two or three more to bring the Person to Repen∣tance.* If he deal thus by a pri∣vate Brother, it is a great Evil, but far worse to an Elder, whose Name and Honour, ought with all Care and Justice, to be kept up, as being more Sacred.
XVII. Another disorderly Pra∣ctice is,* (which causes much trou∣ble) When the publick Charges of a Church are not equally born; but some too much burdened, when others do but little or no∣thing.
*And also, when every one does not Contribute to the Poor, as God has blessed them, on every Lord's day, or first day of the Week, as he hath Commanded.
XVIII. Another disorder is this▪ When Members refuse to com∣municate with the Church at the Lord's table, because some person, or persons, they think are guilty of Evil,* and yet they have not proceeded with them according to Page 53 Rule: These either Excommu∣nicate the Church, or themselves, or those Persons at least, they censure unwarrantably.
I beseech you for Christ's sake, that this may never be any more among you: You ought not to deal thus with them; or refuse your Communion, (tho faulty) until the Church has dis∣member'd, or withdrawn from them; or at least Suspended them.
XIX. When one Member, shall believe, or receive a report against another,* before he knows the truth of the matter.
XX. When an Accusation is brought against an Elder, contra∣ry to the Rule, which ought not be without two or three Wit∣nesses,* as to the matter of Fact.
Lastly, VVhen Gifted Bre∣thren are not duely encouraged: First privately to exercise their Gifts; and being in time appro∣ved, called forth to Preach or Exercise in the Church: And when encouragment is not given to bestow Learning also upon them, for their better Accomplishment. What will become of the Church∣es in time to come, if this be not prevented with speed?
What tends to the Glory and Beauty of a true Gospel-Church.
I. In respect of God the Fa∣ther, who laid this Foundation in his eternal Purpose, Counsel, and Decree;*Behold I lay in Sion; and this is as the result of his Page 55 infinite Wisdom, Love, and Mer∣cy to his Elect.
II. In respect had unto Christ himself, who is this Foundation.
1. He is a Suitable Foundation.
1. In respect to the Glory of God in all his Attributes.
2ly. In respect to our Good; he answering all our wants, who are united to him, or built upon him.
3. In respect of the preciousness of Christ, as a Foundation; a Stone; a precious Stone.
4. In respect to the Durable∣ness of it i. e. a tryed Stone;* a sure Foundation.
Brethren, a Foundation of a House must of necessity be laid; no House can be built without a good Foundation, that will stand firm, and unmovable; it is the strongest part of the Building, and it beareth all the weight of the whole Superstructure: So doth Jesus Christ.
III. The Beauty and Glory of a true Church, consists in the true and regular, or right Constitu∣tion of it; nothing being want∣ing Page 56 that is Essential to it, upon this account.
IV. It consisteth in the Excel∣lency, Glory, and Suitableness of the materials 'tis Built with, an∣swering to the Foundation; all pre∣cious Stones, lively Stones; all re∣generated Persons.*
V. In that all the Stones be well Hewed and Squared; all made fit for the Building, before laid in. VVere it thus, there would not be so great a Noise of the Hammer and Ax, in Church Dis∣cipline,* as indeed there is. It was not thus in the Type, I mean in Solomon's Temple.
VI. It's Beauty and Glory consi∣steth in that all the Stones being not only united by the Spirit, to Christ the Foundation, but also to one another in sincere Love and Affection. In whom all the Build∣ing, fitly Framed together, groweth up unto an holy Temple in the Lord.*
VIII. It consisteth in that sweet Union and Concord that ought to be in the Church; all like the Horse: in Pharoah's Chariot,*draw∣ing together: Endeavouring to keep the Vnity of the Spirit in the Bond of Peace. By this shall all Men know ye are my Disciples, if you Love one another.
IX. In their having the divine Presence with them:* Or when the Glory of God fills his Temple.
X. In keeping out all unsancti∣fied, or unclean Persons, or if they get in, to purge them out by a strict and holy Discipline, or else it will soon loose it's Beauty.*
XI. In that Zeal and Equality that should be shewed in all to keep up the Honour, Peace,* and Comfort of the Church, and the Ministery thereof.
XII. In the Administration of right Discipline; to see no neglect nor delaying of Justice, thro carelesness, or Partiality: (1.) No ways partaking of other Mens Sins; which may be done by Page 58 Conniving at it; (2.) By Lessen∣ing or Extenuating of it (3.) By Countenancing, or any ways In∣couraging any in Sin. (4.) By not Restoring a Brother, that con∣fesses his Sin when overtaken. (5.) Not bringing in a just Charge a∣gainst an Offender, nor rebuking him; and yet have Communion with him.
2ly. Not to wrest Judgment, out of it's true and right Chan∣nel: Nor to inflict a greater cen∣sure than the Law of Christ requires on any.
3ly. Timely to acquit, and dis∣charge a penitent Person.
4ly. Not to do any thing on• of Prejudice, but in Love, and Bowels, of affection; and to do all in Christ's Name, or by his au∣thority.
XIII. To Sympathize with the Afflicted, Succour the Tempted, and Relieving the Poor and Di∣stressed: Rejoicing with them that Rejoice, and Mourning with them that Mourn.
XIV. To speak evil of no Man; not only speaking no evil of their Page 59 Brethren, but of no Man, to his hurt or injury, detracting from his Worth and Honour: See Sirach, Whether it be to Friend or Foe, talk not of other Men's Lives; and if thou canst,*with∣out Offence, reveal them not. We must not discourse his Faults, unless in a Gospel-way; and that too, to amend the Person, and not out of Passion, or Prejudice to expose him, but out of Love to his Soul. Yet we may speak of the evils of others, (1.) When called to do it, in a Legal or Gospel-way; and it is a Sin then to conceal his Crime. (2.) Or when it is to prevent another, who is in dan∣ger to be Infected by his Com∣pany, or ill Example. (3.) Or in our own just Defence and Vin∣dication. Moreover, consider the evil of Reproaching of others.
First as to the causes why some do it.
I. One Cause is from want of Love: Nay from Malice; and Hatred.
Page 601. From the Baseness, ill Na∣ture, and Cruelty of the accu∣sers Disposition.
2. 'Tis occasioned from that itch, of talking and medling in the Affairs of other Men.
3. Or perhaps to raise their own Esteem and Honour, some Degrade their Brother; which is Abominable.
Consider it is Theft, or Rob∣bery; nay, and 'tis worse than to Rob a Man of his Goods, because thou takest away that which perhaps thou canst not restore again.
Moreover consider, That such who reproach others, lay them∣selves open thereby to Reproach.
3. Moreover know, he that Receives, or Hearkens to the Scandal, is as Guilty as the Ac∣cuser; he is like a Person that receives Stolen Goods, and so is as bad as the Thief.
This being one of the Grand and Notorious Evils of these Days I speak the more to it.
If you abominate this evil, and avoid it, you will shine in GracePage 61 and Vertue the more clearly.
Alas, in our days, some that would be thought to be great Pro∣fessers stick not to vilifie Christ's Ministers, even some of the best of Men; and are so full of Malice, they care not what wrong they do to their Brethren, nor to the truth it self, or interest of God, and so expose themselves to a last∣ing shame, and their Spirit,* and Practice, to an abhorrance; they are like cursed Cham who dis∣covered his Fathers nakedness;* these persons violate all Laws, both Humane and Divine.
3ly. When they bear one ano∣thers Burdens,*and so fulfil the Law of Christ: And that you may do this; consider where is that Church in which there are no Burdens to be Born.
[Motives thus to do.]
1. Consider what a Burden Je∣sus Christ hath born for thee.
2. What a Burden thou hast to bear of thine own.*
Page 623. Mayst not thou in some things be a Burden to thy Brethren?
4. Wouldst thou not have others bear thy Burden.
5. May not God cause thee to bear a more heavy Burden; be∣cause thou canst not bear thy Brother's?
*6. 'Tis a fulfilling the Law of Love, nay the Law of Christ.
XV. The Glory and Beauty of a Congregation, is the more ma∣nifest, when the Authority of the Church, and the Dignity of the Pastoral Office is maintained. How great was the Evil of the gain-saying of Corah? The Apostles speaks of some that are Selfwilled, Presumptious,*who are not afraid to speak evil of Dignities.
God has put a Glory and high Dignity upon the Church and in it's Authority and Power; Whom ye bind on Earth shall be bound in Heaven.*
Page 63Moreover, the Pastoral Office, is an Office of Dignity;* they are called Rulers, Angels, Fathers:* For any therefore to cast contempt on the Church, or Pastor, is a great evil, and a reproach to Christ, and tends to Disorder and Confusion.
Lastly, When Holiness, Righ∣teousness,* Charity, Humility, and all true Piety is prest upon the Consciences of every Member, and appears in the Minister: also that all strive to excell therein, with their uttermost Care and Dili∣gences.
KNow my Brethren,* That God loves the Gates of Sion more than all the dwelling places of Jacob: Therefore the publick Worship of God ought to be preferred before private.
1. This supposeth there must be a visible Church.
Page 642. And that they frequently meet together to worship God.
3. That they have an orderly Ministery and one ordained El∣der, at least, to administer all Publick Ordinances.
4. Moreover, that all Persons have free liberty to assemble with the Church, and to partake of all Ordinances, save those which pecu∣liarly belong to the Church; as the Lord's Supper,* holy Discipline, and days of Prayer and Fasting. Then the Church of Old sepa∣rated themselves from all Stran∣gers.
*Yet others may attend on all o∣ther publick Ordinances with the Church; as publick Prayer, Read∣ing, and Preaching the Word and in Singing God's Praises, as hath formerly been proved. May others my Brethren, join in Prayer with us, and not praise God with us▪
But, O my Brethren! let me beseech you to shew your high Page 65 Value, and Estimation for the publick Worship of God.
1. Since God prefers it thus: Or has so great Esteem of his publick Worship.
2. Because he is said to dwell in Sion; It is his Habitation for ever. The place,* where his Ho∣nour dwells.
3. Here God is most Glorified.
In his Temple every one speaks of his Glory; My Praise shall be in the great Congregation.*
4. Here is most of God's gra∣cious presence (as one observes it.)
1. His effectual Presence, in all Places;*Where I record my Name, thither will I come; and there will I bless thee.
5. Here are the clearest mani∣festations of God's Beauty, which made holy David desire to dwell there for ever. See the appearance of Christ to the Churches,*Rev, 2. cap. 3.
6. In that it is said, that those that should be Saved, in the A∣postles days, God added unto the Church.*
7. Here is most Spiritual Ad∣vantage to be got: Here the Dews of Hermon fall, they de∣scend upon the Mountain of Sion. Here God commands the Blessing,*even Life for evermore. I will abundantly bless her Provision,*and satisfie her Poor with Bread. Here David's Doubt was resolved.*
*8. Here you received your first spiritual Breath, or Life, many Souls are daily Born to Christ. That good which is most Diffu∣sive, is to be Preferred; but that good which most partake of, is most Diffusive; O magnifie the Page 9 Lord with me! let us exalt his Name together. Live Coals se∣parated,* soon die.
9. Brethren (as a worthy Di∣vine observes) the Church in her publick Worship is the nearest Resemblance of Heaven, especial∣ly in Singing God's Praises. What Esteem also had God's Worthies of old, for God's publick VVor∣ship? My Soul longeth, yea,*e∣ven fainteth for the Courts of the Lord. How amiable are thy Ta∣bernacles, O Lord of Hosts!
10. See how the Promises of God run to Sion, or to his Church:*He will bless thee out of Sion.* O let nothing discourage you in your waiting at the Posts of Christ's Door:*David desired Rather to be a Door-Keeper in the House of God, than to Dwell in the Tents of Wickedness.* Yet nevertheless do not neglect, for the Lord's sake, private Devoti∣on; viz. Secret, and Family-Prayer: O pray to be fitted for publick Worship!* Come out of Page 68 your Closets to the Church?* What signifies all you do in Publick, if you are not such that keep up the Worship of God in your own Families?
O neglect not Prayer, Read∣ing, and Meditation! And take care also to Educate and Cate∣chise your Children; and live as Men and Women that are dead to this World:* and walk for the Lord's sake as becomes the Gospel.
See that Zeal and Knowledge go together; a good Conversation. and a good Doctrine go together These Two together, are better than One.
Brethren, he that makes the VVord of God his Rule, in what∣soever he doth,* and the Glory of God his end in what he doth, shall have the Spirit of God to be his strength. This is like So∣lomon's Three-fold Cord; that will be One, or it will be Three; it can't be Two; not can it be broken.Page 71
The Solemn Covenant of the Church of Christ, meeting in White-street, at it's Constitu∣tion; June, 5. 1696.
WE who desire to walk together in the Fear of the Lord, do, through the Assistance of his Holy Spirit, profess our deep and serious Humiliation for all our Transgressi∣ons. And we do also solemnly, in the Presence of God, of each other, in the Sense of our own Vnworthiness,* give up our selves to the Lord, in a Church state according to the Apos∣tolical Constitution that he may be our God, and we may be his People, through the Everlasting Covenant of his Free grace, in which alone we hope to be accepted by him, through his blessed Son Jesus Christ, whom we take to be our High Priest, to ju∣stify and sanctify us, and our Prophet to teach us; and to subject to him as our Law-giver, and the King of Saints; and to conform to all his Ho∣ly Laws and Ordinances,* for our growth, Establishment, and Consola∣tion; that we may be as a Holy Spouse Page 72 unto him, and serve him in our Ge∣neration, and wait for his second Ap∣pearance, as our glorious Bridegroom.
Being fully satisfied in the way o• Church-Communion,* and the Trut• of Grace in some good measure upon one anothers Spirits, we do solemnly join our selves together in a Holy V∣nion and Fellowship, humbly submit∣ting to the Discipline of the Gospel,* and all Holy Duties required of • People in such a spiritual Relation.
1. We do promise and ingage to walk in all Holiness,* Godliness, Hu∣mility, and Brotherly Love, as much as in us lieth to render our Commu∣nion delightful to God, comfortable to our selves,* and lovely to the res• of the Lord's People.
2. We do promise to watch over each others Conversations, and not to suffer Sin upon one another,* so far • God shall discover it to us, or any • us; and to stir up one another to L••• and good Works;* to warn, rebuke, a•• admonish one another with Meekness according to the Rules left to us of Christ in that Behalf.
*3. We do promise in an especial manner to pray for one another, and Page 73 for the Glory and Increase of this Church,* and for the Presence of God in it, and the pouring forth of his Spirit on it, and his Protection over it to his Glory.
4. We do promise to bear one ano∣thers Burdens,* to cleave to one ano∣ther, and to have a Fellow-feeling with one another, in all Conditions both outward and inward, as God in his Providence shall cast any of us into
5. We do promise to bear with one anothers Weakeness,* Failings, and Infirmities, with much Tenderness, not discovering to any without the Church, nor any within, unless ac∣cording to Christ's Rule, and the Or∣der of the Gospel provided in that case.
6. We do promise to strive toge∣ther for the Truths of the Gospel,* and Purity of God's Ways and Or∣dinances, to avoid Causes, and Causers of Division, endeavouring to keep the Vnity of the Spirit in the Bond of Peace; Ephes. 4 3.
7 We do promise to meet together on Lord's Days, * and •••ther times, as the Lord shall gi••〈◊〉 Opportuni∣ties, to serve and glorify God in the Page [unnumbered]〈◊〉 his Worship,* to edify one 〈…〉 and to contrive the g•••〈…〉 Church.
8. We do promise according to our Ability (or as God shall bless us with the good things of this World) to Communicate to our Pastor of Mi∣nister,* God having ordained that they that Preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel.* (And now can any thing lay a greater obligation upon the Conscience,* than this Co∣venant, what then is the Sin of such who violate it?)
These and all other Gospel-Du∣ties we humbly submit unto, promi∣sing and purposing to perform, not in our own Strength, being consciou• of our own Weakness, but in th• Power, and Strength of the Blessed God, whose we are, and whom we desire to serve: To whom be Glory now and for evermore. Amen.