Church-government and church-covenant discussed, in an answer of the elders of the severall churches in New-England to two and thirty questions, sent over to them by divers ministers in England, to declare their judgments therein. Together with an apologie of the said elders in New-England for church-covenant, sent over in answer to Master Bernard in the yeare 1639. As also in an answer to nine positions about church-government. And now published for the satisfaction of all who desire resolution in those points.
Mather, Richard, 1596-1669., Mather, Richard, 1596-1669. Apologie of the churches in New-England for church-covenant., Peters, Hugh, 1598-1660., Davenport, John, 1597-1670.

But why is there so little proofe of this Church-Covenant in the New*Testament?

1. Suppose the New Testament said nothing of it, yet it might* have ground sufficient from the Scriptures of the old Testament; for if it was Gods revealed will in those dayes, that a companie should become a Church, and particular persons become members of that Church by way of Covenant, we may be sure it is so now likewise, unlesse covenanting were peculiar to the Jewish Paedigo∣gie; indeed if it had never been used in those times, but were some new ordinance, peculiar to the dayes of the New Testament, in such cases also a ground from the Scriptures of the New Testa∣ment were necessarie, as there is in all such things wherein there is any change or variation, from what was used in those times afore Christ, as that there should not be Nationall Churches, but con∣gregationall, and not one visible Church, but many, that there should be baptisme, and the Lords Supper: these are matters that are not found in the old Testament, nor were appointed to be used in those dayes, and therefore we must have warrant for them in the New, and so we have. But for the Covenant it is otherwise, it is no new ordinance peculiar to the dayes of the Gospel, nor any Leviticall ordinance peculiar to the Jewish Pedigogie; and there∣fore the Scriptures of the Old Testament that give warrant for it, may be sufficient as hath been shewed afore.

Page  312. And yet there is not wanting good warrant for it, that it ought to be used, in the dayes of the New Testament. For, 1. the Prophets do foretell it, Isa. 56. 6, 7. and 44. 5. and Jer. 50. 5. Ezek. 20. 37. and in sundrie other places, to omit the rest at this time, be∣cause some of them have been spoken of before; Onely let those words of Isa. 44. 5. be well considered, and see if they do not plainly hold forth that in the dayes of the New Testament, men should openly professe their faith, and solemnly bind themselves by Covenant, to be the Lords people, one shall say, I am the Lords, and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob, and another shall subscribe with his hand, and sirname himself by the name of Israel. These words are so plaine for open professing of faith in the Lord, and open binding of mens selves by Covenant unto him, as we conceive nothing need be more.

2. The Apostles do sufficiently testifie, that such a thing was practised in their dayes, else how should we understand that fel∣lowship in the Gospel in its full latitude and breadth, Phil. 1. 5. if this combining into Church-fellowship be no part thereof; yea when it is said, they continued stedfastly, or as the word 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, may well be translated, they strongly did cleave together, or hold together in such a Fellowship, which was not preaching and hearing the doctrine of the Apostles, nor Sacraments, nor Prayer, but a thing distinct from all these. If this combining themselves into a spirituall fellowship and societie of Church-state be no part thereof, we know not how to understand it, nor what that fellow∣ship should meane; If Doctrine, and Sacraments, and Prayer had not been particularly mentioned, in the same place, it might have been thought that the Fellowship in which they so steadfastly clave together had been no more, but their coming together to observe these said ordinances, and their communion therein. But when all these are particularly mentioned, and Fellowship menti∣oned among them, as a thing distinct from the rest, we may not confound it with the rest. We might as well say, that by doctrine is meant Sacraments, and by Sacraments is meant Prayer; as to say that by Fellowship is meant nothing else but the exercise of do∣ctrine, and Sacraments, and Prayer. And if these as they are di∣stinctly named, be distinct ordinances, and may not be confound∣ed, then Fellowship being named in the same manner imports something distinct from them all, and may not be confounded Page  32 with them, nor with any of them, no more then the other may be confounded one with another. And if so, then as this Fellow∣ship may import, the communion of their gift and goods one for the helpe of another, so it must first of all imply a combining of themselves into Church-state by mutuall agreement, consent, or covenant.

Furthermore, when the Apostle writeth, that by experience of the Corinthians liberall contribution to the poore Saints, men glo∣rified God for their professed subjection to the Gospel of Christ, 2. Cor. 9. 13. he plainly imployes thereby, that the Corinthians had made a profession or promise of such subjection to the Go∣spel as did comprehend this particular of distributing to the ne∣cessitie of the Saints, among other things. And their liberall di∣stribution which he there speaks of, was looked at as one point of their reall performance of that subjection to the Gospel, which they had before professed, and promised. Now the Church-Co∣venant is nothing else, but the professing or promising of such sub∣jection, and therefore this place is another proofe of Church-Covenant. Besides, it hath been shewed afore in Argument 3. that those places which speake of being added to the Church, of joyning, or assaying to joyne unto the Church, Act. 2. 47. and 5 13. and 9 26. are not expounded according to the full meaning of them, when they are understood of any other joyning, if joy∣ning in Covenant be left out. And therefore the Scriptures of the New Testament do beare good witnesse unto Church-Cove∣nant, though, as we said before, the Scriptures of the Old Testa∣ment might have been sufficient if the New Testament had spo∣ken nothing of it.