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 the time hath been, when your selves did not hold Church-Co∣venant,*as now you do; when you were in England you were not of this mind, and therefore no marvell if your change since your coming to New England be suspected, and offensive. If you change your judgement and practise in this manner, God knows whether you may come at last, and therefore men may well be afraid of holding with you in this point, which your selves did not hold when you lived in your native Countrey.

Some of us when we were in England, through the mercie of* God, did see the necessitie of Church-Covenant; and did also preach it to the people amongst whom we ministred, though nei∣ther so soone nor so fully as were meete, for which we have cause to be humbled, and to judge our selves before the Lord.

But suppose we had never knowne nor practised the same be∣fore our coming into this countrey, yet if it be a truth of God, there is no reason why we should shut our eyes against the light, when God holds it forth unto us, nor that others should be offend∣ed at us for receiving the same. For by the same reason men might still continue in their sinnes, and not make any progresse in knowledge and holinesse, that so they may not seeme uncon∣stant, which were contrary to the Scripture, wherein we are com∣manded nor to fashion our selves according to the former lusts of our ignorance. 1. Pet. 1. 14. But to be changed, Rom. 12. 2. and renued, Ephes. 4. 23. and put off the old man, and put on the new, Ephes. 4. yea to grow in grace and holinesse, 2. Pet. 3. 18. and be stronger and stronger, Job 17. 9. that our good workes may be more at the last, then at the first, Revel. 2. 19. Sure it is, the Apo∣stle tells the Corinthians and Ephesians, that the time had been Page  45 when they were not the same men that now they are when he wrote unto them; and yet he doth not blame them for leaving their former opinions or practise, but commends them for it, 1. Cor. 6. 11. Ephes. 2. 3. &c. And it is said of Apollos an eloquent man, and mighty in the Scripture, that when he came to Ephesus the way of God was expounded unto him more perfectly by Aquila and Priscilla, whereas before he was instructed in the way of the Lord, knowing onely the Baptisme of John: yet this was no dispraise at all to him, that now upon better information he would change his judgement to the better, nor unto them that were the means thereof: Act. 18. 25, 26. Nullus pudor est ad ma∣liura transire.

The time hath been, (and we may be humbled for it) when we lived without God in the world, and some of us in many sinfull courses: and shall any be offended, because we are not still the same? and when God called us from the wayes of sin and death, to the Fellowship of his grace in Christ; yet some of us lived a long time in conformity to the ceremonies imposed in our native Countrey, and saw not the evill of them. But when God did open our eyes, and let us see the unlawfulnesse thereof, we cannot see but it would have been a with-holding the truth in unrighteous∣nesse, and a great unthankfulnesse to God for light revealed to us, if we should still have continued in that course through an inor∣dinate desire of seeming constant: and therefore it is not any just cause of offence that we have changed our judgement and pra∣ctise in those things, when we once perceived the Word of God to disallow them.

Indeed it hath been sometime objected against Mr. Cartwright, and others, that desired the reformation of the Churches in England, in regard of Discipline and Church-Order, that they which stood so much for Reformation in Discipline, did in after times adde and alter some things, beyond what they saw at first, and what themselves had formerly desited; and that therefore be∣ing so murable, and inconstant in their apprehensions, they were not to be regarded, nor hearkened unto: to which Objection Mr. Pakr makes full Answer in Eccles. lib. 2. ca. 36. p. 307▪ where he sheweth from the Scripture, and the testimonie of Bishop Jewel, Doctor Reinolds, and others,

that in the Reformation of Reli∣gion God brings not his servants into perfection in knowledge and zeale at the first, but by degrees, so as they grow and make Page  46 progresse in these things in such wise, that their good works are more at the last then at the first, as was said of the Church of Thyatira, even as the man that had been blind, when Christ •• stored him to his sight, could at the first but see men like tr•… walking, and afterward saw every man cleerly; and therefore•… is no good arguing to say these men have altered and correc•… such things from what their apprehensions were at first, and therefore they are not to be regarded.

Now if this be no good arguing against Mr. Cartwright, and those that in England have been studious of Reformation (as in∣deed it is not) then it is no good Argument against us in this m••∣ter of Church-Covenant, to say we now hold and practise other∣wise then we have done in former time.