*Whether or no the Church of believers in a Congregation, be the first Church, ha∣ving the highest power of jurisdiction within it selfe,* and that independently, and power above and over their Elder∣ship,* to constitute and ordaine them by an intrinsecall power received from Je∣sus Christ, and by that same power to censure and depose them,* when they be∣come scandalous in life,* or corrupt in do∣ctrine.*
THe determination of this question, so neare of blood and kindred to the former two, is of much force to cleare many doubts in this subject. Hence I propound these following distinctions, as very considerable.
- 1. A Church independent is twofold, either a Church of belie∣vers in a congregation, having originally the power of the keyes within themselves, to make or unmake their officers.
- 2. Or an Eldership of one congregation, including the con∣gregation that may from an intrinsecall power, without sub∣ordination to Synods provinciall or nationall, exercise all ju∣risdiction. This question is of the former independent Church.
- Page 31 2. A Church is considered two wayes, 1. As totum essentiale, this is a mysticall Church, consisting of only b•lievers, or of persons, as professing faith, a Church of faithfull, of Saints.
- 2. The Church is considered as totum integrale, made up of officers, and a flock, this Ames. cals an instituted Church, others a Ministeriall Church, as we consider John, as a be∣liever, or John, as an Elder, or minister of a Church.
- 3. There is a twofold Primacie answerable, to this,* One whereby a number of believers is the first mysticall body of Christ, immediately united to Christ, as a mysticall body to the head.* This is a mysticall or Christian primacy; or (to speak so) firstnesse or principality.*
- 2. There is an other primacy or principalitie ministeriall, wher∣by such a number of men are the first subject of the keyes, ha∣ving power of binding and loosing, first and immediately from Christ, as is proved, Ch. 1. 4.
- 3. Christ hath a twofold influence, as head upon these two bodies, one influence of speciall and saving grace upon the Church of believers; An other common influence, communicating to the ministeriall body the power of the keyes and gifts which hee gave to men,* to be Pastours, and Teachers, and Elders, when he ascended on high, and le• captivitie captive. Neither do they looke right on this question, who will have the power of the keyes an essentiall propertie of the Church of believers, for there is no reciprocation here, betwixt the propertie and the subject; seeing the power of the keyes is in many that are unbelievers, and not of Christs mysticall body. Many war∣rantably preach Christ to others, and seale the covenant to others, who are unsaved men: remember the builders of the Arke: and many are Christs mysticall body, that have not the power of the keyes: All believers are not Eld•rs having po∣wer of order.
Hence our 1. Conclusion.* If wee speake of a Christian primacie and eminency of grace,* the Church of believers sincerely professing the faith and believing is the only first true visible Church.* 1. The essence and definition of a cal∣led and effectually translated company agreeth to them,* and they are the called of God.* 2.* Because the promises made Page 32 to the redeemed, saved and washen Church belongeth to them; they are properly the Church builded on the rock, the loved and redeemed spouse of Christ. 2. This Church is the true body of Christ,* which shall infallibly bee glorified with the head Christ.* The ministeriall Church is his body also, on which hee hath an influence bestowing upon them common gifts: but not a body which shall infallibly be glo∣rified, but in so far as they are true members of the Church of believers. And here observe, our brethren have no cause to object to us, that there is not a place in all the old or new Testament, where the word (Church) signifieth only the presbyterie or Eldership (the contrary whereof, God wil∣ling, I shall shew) but I desire that they will produce a place in either the old or new Testament, where the word Church signifieth a governing multitude, or a ministeriall company of onely believers having power and use of the keyes: yet this must be shewed in this dispute, if their prin∣ciples stand good.
11. Conclusion. A multitude of believers sincerely pro∣fessing the faith, is the first visible mysticall Church, because the definition of a visible mysticall Church agreeth to them, being redeemed professors of the Gospell. So the saints at Colosse, Corinth, Philippi, as not including their guides, is a true uisible Church. Before I come to the third conclusion, I must shew what our brethren hold anent this present que∣stion.*The English puritanisme holdeth every Congregation or Assemblie of true believers,* joyning together according to the order of the Gospell in the true worship of God, to be a true vi∣sible Church.*And that this name is unproperly given to Synods or Assemblies (of office-bearers) so also the Guide to Zion.* Parker maketh the Church of believers in any particular congregation, to be the highest and most supreme Church in majoritie and power of jurisdiction above t•eir owne Eldership, or Presbyterie, having power to ordaine or depose them, above all Synods of Pastours and Elders. William Best, citeth and approveth the mind of the English Church (as he calleth it) at Frankeford: the Ministers and Seniors severally and joyntly, shall have no authority to make any manner of decrees or Page 33 ordinances to bind the congregation, or any member thereof, but sh•ll ••ecute such ordinances, as shall be made by the con∣gregation, and to them delivered. Hooker against Paget, They whic• had compleat and perfect Ministers,* before any Classes had power to call those Ministers, they have authoritie above the Ministers.* But a particul•r congregation had perfect and compleat Ministers, perfectly and compleatly called before any Classes.*To this agreeth the confession of faith, of the un∣justly called Brownists, that every Christian congregation, yea two or three sequestred from the whole, hath •ower from Christ of election,* ordination, deposition, excommunication of the Elders or Office-bearers set over them. And expresly M. Parker,*a man otherwayes of an excellent spirit for holi∣nesse and learning saith, That the supremacie of Ecclesiasti∣call power is in the Church of believers, contradistinguished from their guides, Paul and Apollo.
Here we see our brethrens minde cleare,* Ten or twenty believers in a congregation have from Christ, 1. The su∣preme power of the keyes.* 2. They are the supremest and highest Church on earth. 3. Above Pastours and Elders, even convened in a Synod in Christs name. 4. Some few believers cloathed with no ecclesiasticall office may ordaine Pastours, and Elders, deprive and excommunicate them. 5. Give ordinances and lawes to the Eldership. 6. When Synods or assemblies of office-bearers are met in assemblies, and cannot agree in their canons, the matter is to be refer∣red by appeale or reference to a company of believers cloa∣thed with no ecclesiasticall function, as to the most supreme ecclesiasticall judicatorie on earth. These are points unknown to Scripture, which our brethren hold.
Hence out third conclusion. The Church of believers in eminence and primacie of Christian dignitie is above the Church ministeriall as ministeriall, 1. In dignitie. 2. Sta∣bilitie. 3. Causalitie. Indignitie. 1. Because the Church of believers is the redeemed and conquested purchase of our Lord Jesus, but all the office-bearers, or the ministeriall Churches of Pastours and Elders on earth, are not his redee∣med ones, in so far as they are no more but officers and mini∣sters Page 34 of the house, except they be believers, and so they fall in to the redeemed Church which is a better world, than to be naked pulpit-men. 2. In stabilitie, because the advocation of Christ that the gates of hell shall not prevaile against the Church of believers, and the promises of the Covenant for perseverance standeth good for them: But no such promises of stabilitie are made to naked Church guides, but if they guide well, they fare the better; only common gifts are promised to them which cannot take them to heaven. 3. In causalitie, the Church of believers are superiour, and a∣bove the Church of Church-guides, because Rulers and Of∣ficers are servants and meanes imployed by Christ for the Church of believers,* as for the end, office-bearers are for be∣lievers, as the meanes for the end, but believers are not for office-bearers.* Medicine is for our health, and meate for our life,* and the end is the cause, and so excellenter than the meanes, because of these three respects, and of the necessity of consent of believers in all acts of Government. Christs kingdome being a willing people.* The Fathers, Tertullian, Origen,*Cyprian, Chrysostome, Augustine, Epiphanius, Ie∣rome,*Cyrill, Hilarie, and our late Divines, Junius, Chem∣nitius,*Martyr Calvin, Beza, Willet, Fulke, Bucer, and our brethren Baines and Ames. doe ascribe a superioritie, and so an authoritie to believers,* as to the fountaine and cause of jurisdiction above Ministers, and give the exercise of juris∣diction only to officers, not because officers have not the po∣wer,* aswell as the exercise, but because the being and o∣peration of officers is all for the Church.*Gerson also in this subjecteth the Pope, (and we every Pastour, suppone he were a double Lord Prelate) to the Church,* that is, to the Councell or Assemblie of the Church, and that in a fourefold respect: 1. Ratione indeviabilitatis,* because the ports of hell shall not prevaile against the Church, but the Pope or the Pastour is a man;* may nod and totter. 2. Ratione regulabilitatis; be∣cause the Church in a Synod may regulate and line the Pope or pastor when he crooketh, because hee is not essentially a right line. 3. Ratione multiplicitatis, because the Church con∣taineth in it the Popes, or Pastours power, but the Pope or Page 35 Pastour containeth not in his bosome the Churches power. 4. Ratione obligabilitatis,* because the Church may appoint lawes to oblige both Pope and Pastour, but the Pope or Pastor cannot oblige the Church. Now as the Church of believers is a∣bove the Church guides in Christian dignitie and excellency of grace: for asmuch as the saving grace of faith is more excel∣lent, than the common graces of the power of the keyes, yet in an other respect the Church guides are a Church ministeriall in authoritie and jurisdiction above the believers. Therefore Juni∣us saith, the Pastour and the flock are in divers relations, above, and inferiour to one another.
Hence, 1. Every one of these two Churches, are first and highest each in their owne kind, The Church of believers is the highest and most supreme Church (I speake of a Christian supremacie and dignitie) in the one kinde. Also a ministeriall Church is the highest and most supreme Church in its kind, to wit, in a ministeriall authoritie. But that which we prove is, that we see not in Gods word a Church of sole believers that is a governing and ministeriall Church having the keyes and po∣wer and exercise of jurisdiction over the Eldership and Church-guides whatever our brethren say on the contrary.
Our first Argument is,* Because such a Church, in name or thing is not in the old and new Testament. Therefore this in∣dependent Church to us is nothing, for the Antecedent we re∣quire precept, promise, or practice, for such a Church.
2. We have proved that the power of the keyes is no wayes given to sole believers,*ergo, farre lesse can the exercise of that power be in them over their guides, except we establish a po∣pular government, where all the members of the Church have the power of the keyes and doe actively use them, and judge, ordaine, consttuite, despose, and excommunicate their rulers.
3. Every lawfull power of jurisdiction is regulated by pre∣cepts in Gods word,* But this power in believers over their guides is not so regulated, for Gods word giveth precepts to regulate the Kings power to his subjects,* that he play not the Tyrant,* the Masters power to his servants, that he deale equal∣ly with them,* the parents power over the children that they provoke them not to wrath,, and so in all lawfull powers that are of God. But in no place hath God said. Ye that are the flocke Page 36 and sheepe oversee and governe your sheepheards, nor hath he said, ye that are sheep, children, sonnes of the house, use your power over your shepheards, fathers in God, stewards in Christs house with moderation and longanimitie and wisedome; nor hath he said, yee sons, •lock and people of God, feede, governe, and rule these that are your fathers in God, and have the oversight over you in the Lord not as lords over the Lords inheritance, but as good examples to the flocke, yet this must be in Scripture, if this power be of God.
4 If the Eldership and Church-guides be rulers and gover∣nours taking care of the house of God,* 1 Tim. 3, 4, 5. Such as rule well the people, 1 Tim. 5. 17. such as must rule with dili∣gence, Rom 12. 8. and feed the flock of God, not as lords over Gods inheritance, taking the oversight not by constraint, 1 Pet 5. 2. such as are over the people in the Lord, 1 Thes. 5. 12. such as rule over the people and the believers, watching for their soules, and must give an account to God therefore, Heb. 13. 17. 18. Then have the Elders by divine right a jurisdiction over the Lords people in the Lord, and so the Elders in authoritie and jurisdi∣ction are above the people▪ And so by no reason can the peo∣ple be over their overseers in the Lord, and command, watch, take care for their soules. They say divers wayes one may bee both a Sheepheard and a Sheep, the King as King is above the Pastour, and the Pastour being a man owes subjection and obe∣dience to the King. Againe, as the King is a member of the Church, he is to heare and obey the pastor as the messenger of Lord of losts, according to that (he that heareth you, heareth me) and so may it be here. But I answer. The case is no way like; for our brethren make the pastours and the flock to bee over one another, and subject one to another, with one and the same kinde of subjection. I grant Archippus is over the Colos∣sians to command them in the Lord, but the Colossians are not in the same power of jurisdiction over Archippus, they may only admonish him to fulfill his Ministerie, but they have no authoritative power of jurisdiction to command, to deprive, to excommunicate: but by this learning, ten Elders with the consent of ten believers may excommunicate ten believers, and these same ten believers may excommunicate these ten Elders, and his ten believers, for there is an independent Church of believers on both sides: hence sonnes and servants Page 37 may excommunicate those that are over them in the Lord, and watch for their soules.
5. That ever in a constitute Church, except where God cal∣leth extraordinarily,* pastours were ordained pastours by a mul∣titude,* that are not pastors nor Elders, but only believers and private Christians,* is not to be read in the word of God;* for every where in the word,* where pastours and elders are crea∣ted,* there are they ordained by pastours;* neither find we ever Apostles or pastours to be tried and found true or false,* and not suffered to teach by the sole believers, but by the Angels of the Churches. If believers being only believers may ordaine pastors, and may againe depose and excommunicate, which are the highest acts of jurisdiction, then may they preach and baptize not being called Ministers, then may the Sacraments be admi¦nistrate where there are no pastours, which is absurd to the Se∣paratists themselves.
6 If the whole eldership in a congregation erre and com∣mit scandalous sins,* to whom shall we complaine? not to them∣selves, for they are parties to be judged: nor to a Synod, for independent congregations acknowledge no authoritie of Classes and Synods: then to the Church. What is that? To the believers: Then Christ Mat. 18. intended to erect no mini∣steriall Church at all, yea the ministerie by no place in Scripture have power of jurisdiction. If not by this place Mat. 18. for Mat. 16. the keyes were given, and the binding and l•osing (saith our brethren) to the Church builded upon the rock, but this was the Church of believers, not the Church of Ministers: Hence have we cause to doubt, whether our brethren acknowledge a ministerie which hath received the keyes from Christ if these two prime places faile them, whereas Fathers, Doctors, Coun∣cels, our Divines Protestants and Lutherans, popish Writers, Schoolemen, Canonists, casuists, acknowledge the keyes to bee given to the Apostles in these places: This doctrine will finde too great favour with the Anabaptists denying the power and authoritie and necessitie of the Churches calling to the Mini∣sters of the new Testament.
7 What if the women and believing children be the grea∣ter part,* shall they be the Church, Mat. 18. which hath the power of the keyes, suppose the whole Eldership and gravest Page 38 Christians be on the contrary side. But the Elders with them being but three or foure believers gathered together in Christs name, have also the power of the keyes, and are essentially a true visible Church, and yet are overswayed by the manifest and most ignorant.
8 When a question cannot be determined by three belie∣vers (viz. a complainer and three believing brethren) who are witnesses,*Mat. 18. v. 16. 17.) which to o•r brethren is a Church having power of the keyes) then Christ comman∣deth to tell the Church which hath power to bind and loose, that is, the Elders. When the Disciples and two Apostles can∣not determine the question about circumcision, and the Church of Antioch cannot determine it, the practice of the Apostles was to refer the decision to Apostles and Elders, Act. 15. 2. 6. 22. Act. 16. 4. This doctrine saith the contrary, when matters cannot be determined by Elders and Minister, the matter is to be referred to the company of private believers, as to the Principal and sole supreme Church builded on the rock, which only properly and principally and essentially hath the keyes. And this is contrary to Apostolick order.