A peaceable and temperate plea for Pauls presbyterie in Scotland, or, A modest and brotherly dispute of the government of the Church of Scotland wherein our discipline is demonstrated to be the true apostolick way of divine truth, and the arguments on the contrary are friendly dissolved, the grounds of separation and the indepencie [sic] of particular congregations, in defence of ecclesiasticall presbyteries, synods, and assemblies, are examined and tryed
Rutherford, Samuel, 1600?-1661.
Page  85


Quest. 8. If our Saviour doth warrant a Church of El∣ders and Overseers in these words, Mat. 18. Tell the Church.

WE have an argument of weight for a Pres∣byteriall Church in our Saviours words, Mat. 18. 17. If thy brother (offending) neglect to heare them (the Christian witnesses before whom he is convin∣ced of his ault) tell the Church, but if he neglect to heare the Church, Let him be to thee as a heathen, and a Publicane. v. 18. Verily, I say to you, whatsoever ye bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever ye lose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

The Septuagint agreeth with Matthew,*〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉. So Arias Montanus, Tremell, Beza, Pareus, Mus∣clus, Lyra, Hug. Cardinalis, Caieta, Aquinas: It is not much matter that Castalio turneth (Tell the Assem∣bly of the Commons) Augustine, Cyprian, Hyeronim, and all are against him. The scope of these words, is not,* as many beleeve, that our Saviour setteth downe a way how to remove private offences done betwixt brother and brother onely. 1. Because the words then should not prove the lawfulnesse of excommunicating for publike and scandalous sinnes. 2. The scope is as large, as binding and loosing on earth, and proporti∣onally in heaven. But our Saviours ayme is, to esta∣blish a Church consistory, for removing all scandals and offences out of the Church, private and publike, betwixt brother and brother, and betwixt Church and Church. Neither is there ground for the foresaid scope, because he saith (If thy brother offend) in the singular number; for what if three, sixe, tenne brethren offend, is not this course of our Saviours to be taken, Page  86 if sixe offend sixe? Hence it followeth that the Church here signifieth not onely the Eldership of a particular Congregation, but it signifieth respectively all Presbyte∣ries, and Synods, Provinciall, Nationall, and Oeco∣menicke; for seeing Excommunication and Ecclesi∣asticall binding and loosing is Christs remedy, against all scandals private or publike in Christs kingdome, then by a brother, by a Synechdoche is meant all that offendeth; then if a sister-Church offend a sister-Church, or a Provinciall, or Nationall Church offend a neighbour sister-Church, Christs remedies being Catho∣like and universall, as farre as our diseases goe, the course must be to (Tell the Church) I purpose then first, to shew this interpretation to be agreeable to the mind of all Doctors, acknowledging one Church of Elders here,* and next to prove our interpretation. Chryso∣stome Tell the Overseers, Augustine Tell the Watchmen, Hieron. We must tell many. So Cyprian, so the Coun∣cell of Ancyra.* So Ambrose, Ball saith: The Aethiopicke Interpreter saith, Tell the house of Christians.*Boderian, Tell the house of Judgements. All our Divines say this, Calvin,*Beza, Pureus, Chemnitius, Aretius, Erasmus, Polunus,*Hemmigius, Hyperius, Musculus, Iunius, Pis∣cator, Bucanus, Rivetus, Cartwright, Marlorat, Dan. Tossun, Buer, The harmony of confess. Helvet, French, English,*Vrsine, Whittaker. So Papists, Emanuel, S. Victor,*Parisian Doctors, Fathers of Basill, and Con∣stance, Joan Gerson, Iac. Almain, Simon Vigorius, A∣quinas, Occam.* What Bilson, Downam, Sutluvius saith against this is answered by Parker, Ant. Waleus and other worthy divines.

Page  87 That the Church of Elders is here understood I prove. Christ here alludeth to the Synedry and Con∣sistory of the Jewes, with which his hearers were well acquainted; for he was now speaking to the Jewes, who knew his language well, and knew these termes. Brother, witnesses, Sunedry, Assembly, Congre∣gation; Heathen, Publicane, and knew what Church had power to cast out and repute men for Publicanes and sinners: For as Beza observeth, who would under∣stand Christ here to speake of a Christian Presbytery, that has power to excommunicate, except we consider that Christ has a respect in this forme of speech to the Iewes Church-policy: And Christ in like manner, Mat. 5. 22. acco∣modateth his speech to the forme of the Jewes judi∣catories: For many learned note out of the Talmud that the Jewes had three judicatories noted there. 1. The Triumviri judged small matters. 2. Their Sy∣nedry consisting of twenty three judges, more weigh∣ty matters, and inflicted more weighty punishments; and 3. the great Councell of 71. Judges did handle questions about false prophets, the High-priest, and of other weightiest causes; and therefore he sheweth the punishment of an offending brother amongst the Iewes too darkly; but these judicatories were well knowne to them. And here excommunication is ex∣pressed in Jewish tearmes in use at that time. Let him be to thee as a heathen, that is, a stranger from the common wealth of Israel, not one of the true Chuch, but such a one as they called Goijm.* So Drusius and Beza on this place. Now (Tell the Church) Kahal to those that know the Iewes forme of speech must be (Tell the Elders of the Congregation) amongst them, the multitude no more judged causes, then we would thinke him excommunicated who is esteemed one not 〈◊〉 borne of Abraham, and so all the whole Church of the Gentiles should be excommunicated.* So Franc. Iohnson. 2. The Church of beleevers convened toge∣ther is still a Church met together,* for hearing the Page  88 Word, receiving the Sacraments, 1 Cor. 11. 18, 19. 1 Cor. 14, 19, 20, 21. In which none are to speake but Pastors, and as the Separatists say, Prophets, and not all private persons; but this is a Church not assem∣bled to prophecying and praying, but to rebuking, to judiciall censuring by binding and loosing, where all private persons, as their witnesses, the offended bro∣ther, be they publike, or be they private persons (yea suppose a woman otherwise forbidden to speake in the Church met for worship, 1 Cor. 14.) may speake in this Church, for a woman may offend, and be excommuni∣cate, or be offended, for scandals betwixt woman and woman is to be removed.

3. The Church spoken of here is such a superiour and judiciall seat,* as ought to be obeyed in the Lord, under the paine of excommunication, and to whose voice and sentence coactive the contumacious is said to be disobedient,* as 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 (and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 to disobey in the holy tongues doth signifie.* But a mul∣titude of beleevers are no such superiour and judiciall seat as may be obeyed,* or disobeyed by inferiours,* un∣der the paine of excommunication,* for it is without the warrant of Gods Word,* that all Christians,*Pa∣stors,**Elders,* and Doctors are under the judiciall and co∣active sentence of beleevers.*

4. What ever Church may excommunicate,* every member thereof convened with the Church may in∣flict all inferiour censures also;* for whosoever may inflict judicially the greater punishment, may inflict the lesse; but all the members of the Church of be∣leevers may not in this assembled Church inflict les∣ser punishments: For example, a woman, a sonne, a servant, who are all equally the true members of the true Church of beleevers, being beleeving pro∣fessors may not in an assembled Congregation rebuke publikely her husband and Pastor, his Father and Ma∣ster: For publike rebuking being a degree of teaching, and especially in the assembled Church, the Apostle Page  89 will not have the woman to teach publikely, and usurpe authority over the man, nor any to exhort and re∣buke in the Church but Pastors.

5. These to whom the essence and definition of a Ministeriall Church having power to excommunicate (as this Church hath that power, Mat. 18. 17.) doth necessarily and essentially belong, these, and these only are here understood under the name of the Church. But so it is, that the essence and definition of a Mi∣nisteriall Church having power to excommunicate, agreeth not necessarily and essentially to a company of true beleevers assembled Church-wayes, ergo, by the name of a Church here is no wayes understood the Church of true beleevers assembled Church-wayes. The proposition is undenyable, for out of the words may be gathered a definition of a Ministeriall Church, to wit, an Assembly that has power of preaching and binding and loosing, and so of all Church-cen∣sures. I prove the assumption, To have power to preach, convene before them, and judicially cognosce and sentence, and excommunicate a contumacious mem∣ber doth agree to these that by no necessity are be∣leevers, because to have power to preach and excom∣municate essentially require no more, but that persons be, 1. professors of the truth. 2. that they be gifted to preach and governe. 3. that they be duely called thereunto by the Church, as Judas and others are; but all these three are, and may be in a company in whom is no saving faith, as the word and experience cleare: For howbeit to be a called Pastor (the like I say of Elders,*Doctors, Deacons, and visible professors) require faith in Christ, as a gracious element and ne∣cessary ingredient to make him a saved man:* Yet it is not required to the essence of a Pastor. Yea Par∣ker, Answorth, and authors of Presbyter, govern▪ ex. ac∣knowledge professors to be members of a visible Church, and so to have power of the keyes who are but rotten hypocrites, and what wonder? seeing God onely seeth Page  90 the heart, and men cannot see farre in a milstone.

6. All the arguments proving that the power of the keyes is not given to all beleevers,* but onely to the overseers of the Church, and proving that the govern∣ment of Christs house is not popular, but in the hands of the Elders proveth the same,* for this is a ruling, and authoritative and judging Church.

7. Pareus saith,*The Church here meaned is the Church to be complained unto, but none can complaine to a multi∣tude.

8. The practise of the Apostolike Church,* 1 Cor. 1. The house of Eloe being grieved with the schisme of Corinth, telleth not the whole beleevers, but telleth it to Paul, and in him to the Pastors, who had the rod of discipline in their hands, and the Spirit of God giveth rules about receiving complaints to the Elder∣ship, Tit. 1. 13. and never to all beleevers; therefore the rebuking and excommunicating Church spoken of here must be the Church of Elders.

9. The Church here is those to whom the keyes are given,* Mat. 16. 19. I will give to thee the keyes, whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound in hea∣ven; but here the keyes are given to Peter, and in him, to the Apostles, and those to whom he said, Joh. 20. Whose sinnes ye forgive, they are forgiven, and whose sinnes ye retaine, they are retained; for that is to binde and loose in heaven, as they should bind, and loose on earth; and to whom he said (As my Father sent me, so send I you) but this Christ said to the Church of the Apostles and Elders, for he hath not sent every be∣leever as his Father sent him, for that is a Pastorall sending, as is cleare from Mat. 8. 18. All power is gi∣ven to me in heaven and in earth. Hence he draweth a conclusion, v. 19. Goe therefore and teach, &c. Which clearly includeth the keyes and power of preaching, baptizing, and governing, which agreeth not to all beleevers in any tollerable sense:* As Theophilact, Chry∣sostome, Cyrill, August. Hieron. Cyprian teach, and that Page  91 this place, Ioh. 20. (As my Father sent me, so send I you) cannot be common to all beleevers, the Fathers teach Theophilact▪ in loc.

He saith to them, Enter ye in my ministeriall charge. Cyrill. in loc. & Chrysost. ibid. Creati sunt totius orbis Do∣ctores. Aug.* in Psa. 44. Hieron. Epist. and Evagrin. Cy∣prian Epist. 41. in locum Pauli, omnes successisse.*

10. The onely apparent Argument against this in∣terpretation is weake,* and so our interpretation must stand: For they say that the word Church is never taken but for a company of beleevers, and the redee∣med, Eph. 2. 20. builded on the rocke Christ. I deny not but the word Church is very sparingly taken for the overseers onely; yet it is taken in that sense, and there is reason why it cannot bee otherwise taken in this place; for Revelation. 2. The Angell of the Church of Ephesus, Smyrna, &c. standeth for the whole Church, and the whole Church is written un∣to under the name of the Angell of such a Church: Which may be demonstrated thus, 1. because not only the Ministers, but the people that have eares to heare, are all and every one of them commanded to heare. 2, The promise of eating the tree of life, v. 7. of giving the hidden Manna, and the white stone, and the new name, and they shall be cloathed in white, and their names not blotted out of the booke of life who overcommeth, agreeth not to Ministers onely. 3. The command of being faithfull to the death, of holding fast what they have, that none take away their crowne, of strengthening what remai∣neth, of being zealous, and of repenting, are not given to Ministers only. 4. The rebukes of falling from the first Love, of not watching, of lukewarmnesse are not laid upon Ministers onely; therfore to the Angell of the Church of Ephesus, of the Church of Smyrna, must need force have this meaning, Vnto the Church of Ephesus, of Smyrna, and what is said to the Angels, is said to the Churches, as is cleare, comparing chap. 1. v. 20. and chap. 2. v. 1. with v. 9. 11, 17. So Acts 18▪ v, 21, 22. Page  92Paul is said to salute the Church, that must be the chiefe men and Elders of the Church; for the Church being so numerous at Jerusalem, as is proved, he could not salute the Church of beleevers, 1. his manner in writing his Epistles is to salute the prime persons onely, and the rest in generall; and this being a reall salutation, or by all appearance verball, he could not salute them all man by man, seeing he saw them in the bye, and the Kirke of Jerusalem (for he landed at Cesarea) was more numerous,* then that he could sa∣lute them all, man by man. And also the Church is named from the Pastors, Isa. 40. 9. Sion that bringeth good tydings, and it is the Preachers that ordinarily preach the good tydings, and the woman that has many sonnes, Isa. 54. 1, 2. Gal. 4. 26▪ 27. Isa. 49. 21. the woman that bringeth forth the manchilde, Rev. 12. the bride who is made the keeper of the vineyard, Cant. 1. 6. Now it is the Pastors properly that travell in birth to beget children to God, Gal. 4. 19. to the policye of which Church respect is had in this forme of speaking, the word Kahal, Gnedah Ecclesia, a Church, an Assembly doth onely signifie the Princes and Ru∣lers, when the spirit is speaking of matters of go∣vernment, discipline, commanding, complaints, or controversie, as he speaketh here, Psal. 62. 1. God standeth in the Church Gnedah, or Congregation of the mighty, Num. 35. 24. And the Congregation (Gnedah) shall Judge betwixt the slayer and the avenger of bloud, but it is expounded, Jos. 20. 4. and the slayer shall declare his cause before the El∣ders of that City. So Deut. 11, 12, 16, 17. thse that are called the men of Israel, Josh. 9. 6. are called the Princes of the Church or Congregation, v. 15. So com∣pare, 2 Sam. 7. 7. spake I one word with one of the tribes of Israel, with 1 Chron. 17. 6. spake I one word to any of the Judges of Israel? So compare Exodus 0. 18, 19. All the people saw the thunder, v. 19. And they said to Moses, speake thou to us, with Deutronom. 5. 23. And it came to passe, when yee heard the voyce, Page  93 out of the middes of darknesse that ye came neare to me, even all the heads of your Tribes and Elders and said, compare Exod: 4. 29. with 30. 31. also compare 1 Chr. 28. And David assembled all the Princes of Israel, the Princes of the Tribes, and the captaines of the compa∣nies that ministred to the King, with chap. 29. 1. Fur∣thermore David the King said to all the congregation.

Ainsworth acknowledgeth that the word (Congrega∣tion) is thus taken for the Elders only;* so the Sepa∣ratists in their confession cite this, Psal: 122. 3. Lev: 20. 4, 5, &c. with Mat: 18. 17. Adde to these that 1. Judges and Priests in Israel might give sentence of death, and judge of Leprosie without the peoples con∣sent, Deut: 1. 16. 2 Chron: 26. 16. Deut: 17. 8. and yet Israel as well as we, were Kings and Priests to God, Exod: 19. 5, 6. Psal: 149. 1, 2. And why may not we say (Tell the Church of Elders, as Judges) and in tel∣ling them, ye tell the believers, in respect that Elders are not to pronounce sentence of Excommunicati∣on, while they make declaration to the Church of be∣lievers.

11 Argument. That Church which the plaintiffe must tell, that is publickly to admonish the offender, but that is the Church of Elders, 1 Thes: 5. 12, 13, 14. 1 Tim: 5. 20. Luk: 10. 16. for they only are to receive publick delations, and to rebuke publickly, as is, Titus 1. 13. 1 Timothy 5. 1. and ver: 19. 2 Timothy 4. 2.

12 It shall follow, if Christ understand heere by the Church, the Church of believers, that in the case of an Elderships scandalous life, or if otherwise all the officers be taken away by death, that then a compa∣ny of believing women and children being the Spouse of Christ, and so having claime and title to Christ, his covenant and all his ordinances, may censure, de∣prive and excommunicate the lders, and ordain El∣ders and pastors with publick fasting and praying and laying on of hands. But this latter is unwritten in the Page  94 Word of God. For 1. Private believers, farre lesse be∣lieving women and children cannot judge the watch∣men, and those who were over them in the Lord. 2. In the Old Testament the heads of Families only excommunicated, Gen: 21. 10, 11, 12, 13. and the Priests judged the Leper, Levit: 13. 3, 4, 5. Deut: 24. 8, 9. Numb: 5. 1. not the people, and in the New Te∣stament, the Apostles and Elders only ordained pa∣stors and officers with praying and laying on of hands, Act: 6. 6. Act: 13. 3. Act: 14. 23. 1 Tim: 4. 14. 2 Tim: 1. 6. 1 Tim: 5. 22. Tit: 1. 5. and never the people: al∣so if three be believers happen to be an indepen∣dent Church, and then the plantiff rebuking the of∣fender according to Christs rule, Mat: 16. 16. before the Brethren who are witnesses, he shall tell the Church, before he tell the Church, because three are an inde∣pendent Church by the Doctrine of our Brethren, and moreover if these three being a Church, shall excom∣municate the offending brother before the Church (of which Christ speaketh, when he saith, tell the Church) shall heare of the matter: Then shall 1. Christs or∣der be violated: 2. The offending brother shall be ex∣communicated by a true ministeriall Church, lave non errante, and that duly, because he is contumaci∣ous to them, and yet he is not excommunicated, be∣cause Christs order is violated, and the matter is ne∣ver come before the Church, who hath power to binde and loose on Earth: 3. And certainly they must say three or foure believers doe not make a Church, and they must give some other thing to make up es∣sentially one true visible Church, then a company of believers visibly professing one Covenant with God.

13. And we have here for us the testimony of learned Parker,* who is otherwise against us in this plea,* who confesseth our Thesis,* that in these words (tell the Church) Christ doth understand the Presbyte∣ry or Eldership. Hence the word Church in the New Page  95 Testament doth not alwayes signifie the Church of Believers, Disciples, Brethren, who pray in Christs name and are heard in Heaven, and are builded on the Rocke, and are the body and spouse of Christ, for a num∣ber may be and often is, an Eldership judicially ex∣communicating, and a Presbytery, yea and also in∣cluding some externally professing Christ, who are not a company of redeemed ones, built by saving faith up∣on the Rocke Jesus Christ. Also it is insolent that the word Church here should signifie both precisely the Eldership, and also in that same vers: the whole Congregation of believers; because the same Church to the which the offended brother should put in his bill of complaint, is that very Church which must be heard, and obeyed under the pain of excommuni∣cation.

2. It is hard that the offender should be excom∣municated for not hearing and obeying the Congre∣gation of believers, who are not 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, over him in the Lord.

3. By grant of M. Parker the Church of believers hath not power from this place Mat: 18. to ordaine pastors to themselves, when they want pastors, or to ex∣communicate their own Eldership in case of scanda∣lous sins, which is against his grounds and our Bre∣threns principles, who ascribe this authority to the Congregation of believers, because a number of be∣lievers is not an Aristocraticall part and a select Pres∣bytery and Eldership, as he saith is meaned in this word (tell the Church.)

14. The Church here cannot well mean a visible Congregation of believers and Elders conveened to heare the Word preached,* so as he who contemneth two private admonitions should be accused and cen∣sured in the face of the Congregation conveened to hear Gods Word. Because the Church meeteth in Christs name for Gods worship, if they meet in faith and humble sense of sinne, with purpose of heart to Page  96 worship God in spirit and truth, but there is some o∣ther thing required, that the excommunicating Church, meet for the actuall exercise of discipline, for beside meeting in Christs name, there is required that the Church meet with Pauls spirit, and the rod of dis∣cipline, 1 Cor: 5. 4. That yee meet in the name of our Lord Iesus Christ, and my spirit with power of our Lord Iesus Christ. Then Pauls spirit as an Elder, who hath power of the rod, a spirit and power of excommuni∣cation is required to this meeting. But I doubt not but the Church of believers did meet at Corinth, 1 Cor: 11. for hearing the Word and receiving the Lords Sup∣per, and for ordinary worhip and praying and pray∣sing when it was not needfull that Paul should write, That yee meet together in the name of our Lord Iesus and my spirit to heare the Word and to receive the Lords Supper: There was no need of Pauls spirit for that, therfore I conclude that this meeting of the excom∣municating Church requireth another spirit and au∣thoritative power to deliver to Satan (such as was in Paul) then is required in ten believers meeting in faith, without Pauls authoritative power, to heare Gods Word. For Paul saith of his authoritative meeting, I verily absent in body but present in spirit, have judged, &c. but Paul knew that they might meet as a num∣ber of believers to heare the Word, whither Paul be absent or present in spirit, and this I observe for their mistake who teach that two or three agreeing together upon Earth and praying for one thing, are heard of God, as it is said, Mat: 18. 19, 20. is an independent Church having the power of the Keyes, for first, Christ then hath not provided a sure way, for remo∣ving scandals. And when he saith (tell the Church) this (tell the Church) must be a definite, visible, con∣spicuously known Church; now in one congregation, one province, one nation there be three hundreth, six or ten hundreth threes or fours of professed believers, if every three and every foure be an independent Church, Page  91 to which of all these many threes and fours, shall the plantiffe addresse himselfe, for they be all equally inde∣pendent Churches, the plantiffe is left in the midst, and knoweth not his ordinary judge, there be so ma∣ny tribunals in one Congregation, yea in one Fami∣ly.

2. How many key-bearing Churches shall be with∣in one independent Congregation, who may all meet in publike in one house, for the joynt worshiping of God together?

3. Christ in these words, where he is said to heare two who shall agree together upon earth as touching one thing, hath no purpose to erect visible Churches with the full power of the keyes, consisting only of three or foure believers, but he doth argue here from the lesse to the more,* as Bucer saith, and as Musculus. God will not only ratifie excommunication,* but he will heare the prayers of his children universally;* and this promise,*ver. 20. of Christs presence amongst two or three is more large and generall, then his pro∣mise to ratifie the sentence of excommunication, even that Christ will be with his owne, howbeit they be not Church-waies conveened; or rather, as Paraeus saith, it is a generall promise of the presence of Christs grace in his Church, sive magnâ, sive parvâ, either great or small, and I grant it will prove the power of our Church sessions in Scotland very well, where there is often but one Pastor, and some few ruling Elders, but Christ cannot promise a Church-presence of his Spirit and grace, or such a presence wherby he ratifieth the cen∣sures of the Church, but where there is a Church con∣sisting of Elders and people, but if the words be pres∣sed according to the letter and definite number, then it shall follow that every two believers; yea suppose two women agreeing on earth to pray for one thing, shall be a Ministeriall Church, having the power of the keys, which is most absurd: For a number of be∣lievers make not a Church, having the power of the Page  92 keys, for 1. They want the power of binding and loo∣sing by preaching. 2. They are not a golden candle∣stick, in the which Christ walketh, as a visible Church is, Rev. 1. Christs meaning the must be, I promise my presence to the smallest Church, suppose it were possible that a Ministeriall Church could consist of the least number, that is, even of two only: but Christs purpose is not to make every two believers a visible Ministeriall Church, and every believing Family a con∣gregation having the power of the keys.*Vasquez the Jesuite hath arguments and ancients to speak from the Text this which we say,* which can hardly be answe∣red.* See that Enchiridion of the Province of Cullen under Charles the V. See also Jansenius,*Maldonat and o∣thers on this Text.**