A DISCOVRSE TOVCHING THE Covenant between God and Men, and especially concerning Church-Covenant, that is to say, the Cove∣nant which a Company do enter into when they become a Church, and which a particular person enters into when he becomes a mem∣ber of a Church. 1639.
JER. 50. 5.
ALthough that which is foretold in these two Chap∣ters; and namely in the fourth and fifth verses of this Chapter, was in part fulfilled when the people of God returned from Captivitie in Babylon at the end of seventie yeares: yet we must not limit the place to that time onely, but may extend it further to the dayes of the Gospel, and the spirituall return, not of the Jews onely, but of the Gentiles also, when men shall be converted from Pagan, Antichristian, Babylonish, or Jewish bondage and capti∣vitie, or from slavery to sinne, and self-righteousnesse, and shall be joyned to God in the fellowship of his Church, in the dayes of the New Testament. For as some passages in this Scripture were ne∣ver fully accomplished at the returne from the captivitie of the se∣ventie yeares, and namely this, that the children of Israel and Ju∣dah should returne both together: (for the ten tribes returned not Page 2 at all:) so many things that literally concerned the Jewes were types and figures, signifying the like things concerning the people of God in these latter dayes: In which respect sincere converts are called Jewes, Rom 2. 29. and Israelites, Gal. 6. 16. Joh. 1. 47. and our Sacraments are made Antitypes of theirs, 1 Cor. 10. 1, 2, 3. and Rome is called Babylon, Rev. 17. 5. and Papists are called Gentiles, Rev. 11. 2. and therefore the captivitie of Babylon might well be a Type of the spirituall captivitie of Gods people to Anti∣christian bondage, and their returne from Babylon to Sion, a type of the returne of Christians from Romish slavery to the true Sion, the Christian Church. And this may be added further, that this place seemes not onely to be meant of the private or personall con∣version of this or that particular Christian, but also further, of the open and joynt calling of a company, because it is said, they shall come, the children of Israel and the children of Judah together, and that their saying shall not be, Let me joyne, &c. but in the Plurall number, Let us joyne our selves unto the Lord, so noting the joyning of a company together in holy Covenant with God.
Concerning which Covenant with God, it will not be amisse for the better understanding of that which followes; first, briefly to shew how diversly Covenant is taken in the Scripture, which sometimes imports generally any firme appointment or promise of God, when man doth not promise unto God any thing backe againe: Thus the preserving of Noah in the Arke, and of the world from being drowned any more by a floud; the interchan∣geable succession of day and night; the giving of the Priesthood unto Phineas; the setting forth of the Shew-bread every Sabbath before the Lord, and the giving of the heave-offering unto the Priests, are said to be done by a Covenant, or an everlasting Co∣venant of God, Gen. 6. 18. & 9. 9, 10, 11. Jer. 33. 20. Num. 25. 12, 13. Levit. 24. 8. Num. 18. 19. But sometimes Covenant is taken more strictly and properly, for an agreement which God doth make with men, when he promiseth some blessing unto men, and bindes them to performe some dutie backe againe to him. Taken thus it hath two parts: first, a promise or stipulation of some blessing on Gods part: secondly, Restipulation or promise, or binding of man unto dutie back againe on his part: both these are in those words of the Covenant, I will be to thee a God, thou shalt be to me a people: and so Gen. 17. 1. & v. 7, 8, 9, 10. The Co∣venant Page 3 taken thus is either the Covenant of workes, or the Cove∣nant of grace: And againe the Covenant may be considered; first as it is personall, private and particular, between God and one par∣ticular soule, making Covenant with God, and God with him, ei∣ther at his first conversion; or at other times; of which we reade 2 Sam. 23. 5. & Psal. 119, 106. & 66. 13, 14. & 27 8. & Psal. 119. 7, 8 Secondly, it is generall and publick of a company joyntly to∣gether, of which this Text Jer. 50. 5. seemes most properly to speake: as also that Deut. 29. 9, 10, &c. and that Exod. 19. 5, 6, and many others: A Covenant taken thus generally when it re∣spects spirituall blessings, and spirituall duties, in the Communion of Saints, is that which is called Church-covenant, which Church-Covenant differs not in substance of the things promised from that which is between the Lord and every particular soule, but onely in some other respects; as first, the one is of one Christian in par∣ticular, the other of a company joyntly together. Secondly, if right Order be observed, a man ought not to enter into Church-Covenant, till he be in Covenant with God before, in respect of his personall estate. Thirdly, The one is usually done in private, as in a mans Closet between the Lord and his soule, and the other in some publick assembly. Fourthly, The one in these dayes is of such duties as the Gospel requires of every Christian as a Christi∣an, the other of such duties as the Gospel requires of every Church and the members thereof.
Now concerning Church-Covenant, two things are to be no∣ted for the better understanding thereof: first, the description of it: secondly, the use of it, and the benefit and fruit thereof. For the former it may be thus described, viz.
In this description, there are comprised six things: First, the generall name of the thing: [a solemne and publick promise] a pro∣mise Page 4 it is, and therefore it is called, a joyning in Covenant here: an entring into Covenant, Deut. 29. 10. Solemne and publick, and therefore it is by the children of Israel and the children of Ju∣dah together: and they say, let us joyne. Secondly, The object [the Lord, and one another] joyne our selves to the Lord it is not a pro∣mise onely to man, but to the Lord himselfe, and likewise to one another; for, come let us joyne, implyes mutuall consent together. Thirdly, The Agents or the qualification of the persons: [Chri∣stians] not Turkes, Indians, &c. Saints, Psal. 50. 5. 16, 17. [called to fellowship with Christ] so 1 Cor. 1. 9 else if they be not united to Christ by faith, they are not fit materialls for such a building as a Church of God, which is the house of the living God, Ephes. 1. 1. 1 Cor. 1. 2. Phil. 1. 1. Rev. 21. 27. [By his providence to live toge∣ther] else they cannot partake in the Lords Ordinances together as Churches ought to doe, 1 Cor. 14. 23. Act. 14 27. the whole Church comes together in one place [cleaving together in faith and love] so Act. 4 32. If they differ, namely, in opinion, or in their affection, and should joyne in this Covenant, breaches, factions, rents, and schismes, would be like to be the issue of such joyning: things so unlike would not close nor long hold together, Dan. 2. 43 [Desirous to partake in all Ordinances] this should be the ground of their joyning in Covenant together, Psal. 110. 3. willing: and not pride, nor gaine, nor the like: Fourthly, The Act [binde them∣selves] that now they are bound by their owne word and promise, that they may say now, as Psal. 56. 12. Thy vowes are upon me, or as Num. 30. 2. if he binde his soule with a vow. Fiftly, The mat∣ter promised; [To walke together in all such wayes of worship and mu∣tuall edification, as the Gospel requireth of Churches and Church-mem∣bers] they binde not themselves to observe any devises of their owne, nor inventions of men, but such things as the word of God requireth; neither is it perfect obedience to the Law, for that were impossible to performe, and presumption to promise; nor is it one∣ly in generall the duties of the Gospel, but specially such duties of worship to God, & edification of one another as concerne Church-State, which now they enter into. Sixtly, The manner of perfor∣ming [Confidence of Gods gracious acceptance and assistance through Christ] for in all our wayes God must be acknowledged, Pro. 3. 6. and much more in such speciall matters of weight: If men in en∣tring into this Covenant looke for acceptance, through any worth Page 5 of their owne, or promise dutie in their own strength, they shew themselves like to the Pharisees, Luk. 18. 10, 11. and turne the Church-Covenant into a Covenant of workes: and as many as are of the workes of the Law, are under the curse, Gal. 3. 10.
The use and benefit of this Church-Covenant, and the fruit thereof, may be seene in two particulars; first, That this is that whereby a company of Christians doe become a Church: It is the Constituting forme of a Church. Secondly, This is that by taking hold whereof a particular person becomes a member of a Church, which was constituted afore. For the former of these; every Chri∣stian Church must have in it both matter and forme, and as the matter by Gods appointment are visible Saints, or visible belee∣vers, Ephes. 1. 1. 1 Cor. 1. 2. and in the New Testament, onely so many as may meete together in one Congregation: So the forme is a uniting, or combining, or knitting of those Saints together in∣to one visible body, by the band of this holy Covenant. Some uni∣on or band there must be amongst them, whereby they come to stand in a new relation to God, and one towards another, other then they were in before: or els they are not yet a Church, though they be fit materialls for a Church; even as soule and body are not a man, unlesse they be united; nor stones and timber an house, till they be compacted and conjoyned.
Now that a company becomes a Church, by joyning in Cove∣nant, may be made good sundry wayes; first, By plaine Texts of Scripture; as from Deut. 29. 1, 10, 11, 12, 13. Yee stand this day all you before the Lord your God, your Captaines of your Tribes, your El∣ders, your Officers, with all the men of Israel, ver. 10. That thou shouldest enter into Covenant with the Lord thy God, ver. 12. and he may establish thee for a people unto himselfe, ver. 13. So that here is plain•y shewed, that here was a company, ver. 10. and this company were to be established to be a people unto the Lord, that is to say, a Church, ver. 13. And this is done by the peoples entring into solemne Co∣venant with God, ver. 12. And therefore a company of people doe become a Church by entring into Covenant with God.
1. This Objection concerns the matter of a Church, but the* Covenant is not the materiall cause of a Church, but the formall Page 6 cause thereof: and for this the Text is▪ plaine and expresse, that by entring into Covenant with God, a people come to be the Lords people, that is to say, his Church.
2. If it was of all the people together, the reason was because that Church was a nationall Church: now if a nationall Church becomes a Church by entring into solemne Covenant with God, then a Congregationall Church becomes a Church by the same means; for there is no difference between them in this point.
3. Though it was of all the people, we may not say it proves that when we looke at the materiall cause of a Church, there may be a promiscuous taking in of all Commers without distinction or separation of the precious from the vile; for, first, when God took in this Nation to be his people, he separated them from all the Nations of the earth besides: so that there was a distinction and separation of some from others. Secondly, this generation was generally a generation of beleevers; for it was they that were to enter into the land within a while after; for they were fortie yeares in the Wildernesse▪ & this Covenant was made in the last moneth save one of the last of those fortie yeares, Deut. 1. 3. And their car∣kasses fell not in the Wildernesse through unbeliefe, as their Fa∣thers did, Num 14. Heb. 3. but entred by faith, and when they were entred, subdued Kingdomes by their faith, Heb. 11. 33. and served the Lord all the dayes of Joshua, and of the Elders that out lived Joshua, Josh. 24 31. As for that which is said of them, ver. 4, 5. of this Chap. that the Lord had not given them eyes to see, &c. that proves not that they were wholly hardned in a carnall estate, but onely that they were dull and slow of heart to consider of sundry dispensations of God towards them; for as much is said of the dis∣ciples of Christ, Mar. 8. 17, 18. when doubtlesse they were not meere carnall or naturall persons.
1. If they were, yet that was by entring into solemne Covenant* with God on Mount Sinai, when the Lord had brought them up out of the Land of Aegypt; for then they entred into solemne Co∣venant with God, and God with them, and so they bec•me the Lords peculiar people, Exod. 19▪ 4, 5, 6, 8. &c. If they were his peo∣ple before that, yet that also was by Covenant made with them in Page 7 the loynes of Abraham, when God tooke him and his seede to be his Church and people, yet separating Ishmael from Isaac and Es•• from Jacob, that the inheritance of the Covenant of God, and of being the Church of God, might rest in the house of Jacob.
2. Yet it was not without great reason that the Lord should now establish them by solemne Covenant to be a people to him∣selfe, because the Nation had been much degenerated from the spirit and wayes of Abraham in Aegypt, and had broken that Cove∣nant by their Idolatries there, Ezek. 20. 7, 8. And the Covenant made in Sinai or Hore• when they were come out of Aegypt, they had also broken by their Idolatries in the Wildernesse, Ezek 20. 13, 16. for which causes, and the like, the Lord consumed that generation, that they never entred into the Land, Josh. 5. 4, 6. And therefore now when their posteritie and children were ready to enter in, the Lord entred into Covenant with them, and there∣by established them to be his people, their Fathers being cut off for breaking the Covenant. But still it was by Covenant that both Fathers first, and children afterward became a Church and people unto God; and when this generation were entred into the Land, their Covenant made before between God and them, was confir∣med by Circumcision, Josh. 5. 3. 7. they being not Circumcised before.
Our Church-Covenants are with the Lord himselfe, as was* shewed before in the description thereof. For watchfulnesse and duties of edification one towards another, are but branches of the Lords Covenant, being duties commanded by the Law: and so it was with that people of Israel, who when they promised and Co∣venanted to walke in all the wayes of God; in all his statutes and commandements and judgements, they promised these duties of love and watchfulnesse and edification one towards another, be∣cause these were duties commanded and required of God, Lev. 19: 17. Deut. 29 8. the neglect whereof in the matter of Achan was the sinne of all the Congregation▪ and brought judgement upon them all, Josh. 7. 11, 12. Yea by this Covenant they were bound to duties towards them that were not then present, but children af∣terward to be borne, and proselytes, that afterward should be ad∣ded Page 8 to them, ver. 14, 15. Like as our Church-Covenants are with them that now are, and that hereafter shall become members of the same Church. When Jehojada made a Covenant between the King and the people, 2 King. 11. 17. that Covenant was but a branch of the Lords Covenant with them all, both King and peo∣ple: for the King promised but to Rule the people righteously, ac∣cording to the will of God: and the people to be subject to the King so Ruling. Now these duties of the King to them, and of them to the King, were such as God required in his Covenant, both of him and them: and so it is in Church-Covenant, the duties of the Church to the members, and the members to the Church, and one another, are no other but such as the Gospel and the Co∣venant of grace requireth both of the Church and the members of it in their severall places.
1. The Church-Covenant may be proved from the New Te∣stament* also▪ as will afterwards appeare.
2. But suppose there were not pregnant places for it in the New Testament, yet it is not enough to prove the same unlawfull: for whatsoever Ordinance of the old Testament is not repealed in the New Testament, as peculiar to the Jewish Paedagogie, but was of morall and perpetuall equitie, the same bindes us in these dayes▪ and is to be accounted the revealed will of God in all ages, though it be not particularly and expressely mentioned in the writings of the New Testament, else how shall we prove it unlawfull for a man to marry his Sister, or his Aunt? How shall we prove it war∣rantable and necessary for Magistrates to punish Sabbath-break∣ing, blasphemy, and Idolatry? How shall we prove it lawfull to apply the seale of Gods Covenant unto Infants? or to admit wo∣men to eate of the holy things; for the Scriptures of the New Te∣stament doe speake little in these cases; onely the Scriptures of the Old Testament doe give direction, and light about them, Lev▪ 18. & 19. Neh. 13. 15. &c. 2 Chron. 15. 16. & 2 King. 23. Gen. 17. 2. & Exod. 12. 4. 6. And the New Testament hath nothing to the contrary, and they are all according to morall equitie and reason, Page 9 and therefore they are to be observed from the Scriptures of the Old Testament, as the revealed will of God, though there were nothing expressely for them in the New. And the same we say of the particular in hand. For, that a company should be combined together into one body, in way of Government and subjection, by way of mutuall free Covenant; as men doe when they enter in∣to Church Estate, nothing is more naturall or agreeable to morall equitie; nay, it implyeth a contradiction in the very name of liber∣tie or freedome, that free-men should take upon them authoritie or power over free men without their free consent, and voluntary and mutuall Covenant or Engagement. And therefore seeing this Covenant is not repealed in the Scriptures of the New Testament, the Scriptures of the Old are sufficient warrant for it.
Another Scripture to prove the same, is Deut. 26. 16, 17, 18. with Deut. 27. 9. This day the Lord hath commanded thee to doe these Statutes and Judgements▪ thou shalt therefore keepe and doe them, &c. Thou hast avouched the Lord this day to be thy God, and to walke in his wayes, and to keepe his Statutes, &c. And the Lord hath avouched thee this day to be his peculiar people; Take heed and hearken, O Israel, this day thou art become the people of the Lord thy God. This Scripture plainly shewes these things: 1. That here was the making of a Covenant between God and man; for that avouching of God to them, and them to God, was the making of Covenant, ver. 17, 18. 2. This was not of one person, but of a company together, the whole people of Israel, 26. 18. & 27. 9. 3 Here is the effect of this Covenant, that thereby they become the Lords people, ver. 9. So that when a company doe enter into holy Covenant with God, they become thereby the Lords people, that is to say, his Church. So Ezech. 16. 8. proves the same likewise: I entred into Covenant with thee, saith the Lord, and thou becam•st mine. Here also is the ma∣king of Covenant between the Lord and men; and this Covenant was not personall, but of a company; for it was with Hierusalem, ver. 2. which was a whole Citie; it was with them that were mul∣tiplied as the bud of the feild, ver. 7. and it was with them that did prosper into a kingdome, ver. 13. and therefore not meant onely of any one particular person: And by this Covenant they became the Lords; that is, the Lords Church and people; for it is expresly said, I entred into Covenant with thee, and thou becamest mine. So that when a company enter into Covenant with God, and God with Page 10 them, they become thereby the Lords Church and people. Like∣wise Ezek. 20. 37. I will cause you to passe under the rod; and I will bring you into the bond of the Covenant. In which place, there is first mention of an holy Covenant. Secondly, This was not of one person, but of a company, the whole house of Israel, ver. 30. 39. Thirdly, And this Covenant is called a Bond, because it is by Co∣venant that a people are bound, and tyed, and knit together, as one Church, all of them unto the Lord, and one unto another; So that the Covenant is the bond of union, by which a company are so combined and united, as that they become a Church. It is also ob∣servable, how the Lord before he would bring them into this bond of the Covenant, he would cause them to passe under the rod; by which phrase, as Junius upon the place well observes, is meant try∣all and probation; drawne from the manner of Shepheards or owners of Cattell, who went among their sheepe, or other cattell with a rod, and therewith pointed out such as were for the Lords holy use, as Lev. 27. 32. And so hereby is noted that God would not in the dayes of the Gospel have men to be brought into his Church hand over head, but he would first cause them to passe under the rod of due tryall and probation; and then such as upon tryall were found to be holy for God, or meete matter for his Church, should solemnly enter into Covenant with God, and that Covenant should be the bond that should combine them, and knit them together into one, that so they that were many particular persons, should all become one body, that is to say, a Church.
And so much of the first Argument drawne from plaine Texts of Scripture.
A second Argument may be taken from the Titles that are gi∣ven* to the Church; as first, that the Church is said to be married or espoused unto Christ, Jer. 2. 2. & 3. 14. 2 Cor. 11. 2. From whence the Argument may be formed thus: If every Church be∣comes a Church by being married or espoused unto Christ, then a company becomes a Church by way of Covenant: But the for∣mer is true, therefore the latter is true also.
The Assumption, that a Church becomes a Church by being married unto Christ, is plaine from the former Scriptures, where the Church of Israel, and the Church of Corinth, in regard of their entring into Church-Estate, are said to be espoused and married unto Christ, as a loving and chast Virgine to one husband. Which Page 11 spirituall marriage between Christ and his Church, is also taught in the type of the marriage between King Salomon and Pharoahs daughter, Psal. 45.
The Consequence of the Proposition is plaine in reason; for there is no marriage but by way of Covenant; no woman becomes a mans wife, but by way of bestowing her selfe in Covenant upon such a man: neither doth a man become an husband, but by the same means; and therefore the Scripture speaking of the violation of marriage, calls it a violation of Covenant, Prov. 2. 17.
Christ hath but one wife or Spouse, Cant. 6 9.*
The Catholique Church indeed is but one; viz▪ the whole com∣pany* of Gods Elect in heaven, in earth, dead, now living, and not yet borne: But as there is the Church-Catholique, which is but one; so there are particular and visible Churches, which are in number many; and therefore the Scripture speakes of Churches, 2 Cor. 8. 1. 19. Gal. 1. 2. Of the Churches of the Gentiles, Rom. 16. 4. Of seven Churches, Rev. 1. 4. Of all Churches, 1 Cor. 14. 33. & 7. 17. Rev. 2. 23.
1. If the Church of Israel, Jer. 2. 2. the Church of Corinth, 2*Cor. 11. 2. The Jewish Church, Rev. 19. 7. be the Spouse and wife of Christ, there is no reason but others should be the same also, especially seeing there is no particular Church, but in respect of their Church estate, they may decline and goe a whoring from Christ, and that shews that they were first espoused to him; for no woman can be said to goe a whoring from a man, if shee were never married, nor espoused to him at all.
2. This that seemes an absurditie, and were a sinfull practise among men, in respect of Christ, is a certaine truth, and no disho∣nour unto him at all, to have more Spouses then one upon earth, many spirituall Spouses. Men cannot give themselves wholly and intirely to many as Christ can. Every faithfull soule is espoused and married unto Christ; and in that respect he hath not onely many hundred but many thousand, yea many millions of spiritu∣all Spouses.
Page 121. In some sort there may be said to be a marriage between the* Church and the members, viz. in respect of that deare love and af∣fection, that ought to be between them; and therefore it is said, As a young man marrieth a Virgine, so shall the children of the Church be married to the Church, Isa. 62. 5.
2. But properly the marriage is between Christ & the Church, and so is the Covenant also, so farre as therein they give up them∣selves to Christ as unto an head and Lord; as a woman in the Co∣venant of marriage doth give up her selfe unto her husband; And the performance of such duties as the Church and the member owe one unto another, is a branch of that marriage-Covenant, where∣in they are tyed to Christ; for Christ himselfe in his Covenant re∣quires, not onely that they should give up themselves to him, but also that they should performe these duties one unto another. And accordingly it is said of the Churches in Macedonia, that they gave up themselves first to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God, 2 Cor. 8. 5. True it is, they doe also binde themselves by Cove∣nant one unto another, but in that respect the Covenant is pro∣perly a brotherly Covenant; like that 1 Sam. 20 8. Amos 1. 9. because there the engagement is to one another as brethren, fel∣low-members, and fellow-helpers, and not as to one head or Lord, as it is in respect of Christ, and therefore in that respect it is not so properly a marriage-Covenant as it is in respect of Christ: though duties to one another are promised in their Covenant with one another, and also in their Covenant with Christ. In briefe thus: They promise unto Christ duties to him, and duties to one ano∣ther according to him: and so their Covenant is a marriage-Co∣venant with Christ: They promise also to one another, duties to one another, and so it is a brotherly Covenant.
Another Title given to the Church (which also proves that a Church is made by Covenant) is the Title of a Citie, or Citie of God, Psal. 87. 3. & 48 1. 8. & 122. 3. Ephes 2. 19. The Argu∣ment lyeth thus▪ If a true Church be a Citie of God, then a Church becomes a Church by Covenant: But every true Church is a Ci∣tie of God. Ergo.
The Assumption is proved by the Scriptures forealledged. The Consequence of the Proposition is plaine in reason, for every Citie is united by some Covenant among themselves, the Citizens are received into jus Civitatis, or right of Citie priviledges, by some Page 13 Covenant or Oath; And therefore it is so likewise in this Citie of God the Church; and men become Citizens of the Church by solemne Covenant.
The third Argument may be drawne from the meanes of re∣forming* and restoring a Church when it is corrupted, which is by entring into Covenant a new with God, 2 Chron. 15 10. & 29. 10. & Neh. 9. 38. & 10. 28, 29. Jer. 50. 4, 5. The reason may be ta∣ken thus: If a Church decayed is to be restored and reformed by renuing Covenant with God, then it was instituted and erected at the first by way of Covenant: The reason of which Consequence is, because abuses and corruptions are to be reformed by bringing things back to the first Institution: Thus Christ reformes the abu∣ses of marriage, by bringing them to the first Institution of that Ordinance; From the beginning it was not so, Mat. 19 8. And thus Paul reformeth the Abuses of the Lords Supper, by telling them what was the first Institution thereof, 1 Cor. 11. 23, &c. And thus the Lord Jesus calling on the declining Church of Ephesus for re∣formation, bids her remember from whence shee is fallen, and repent and doe her first workes, Rev. 2. 5.
Now the Assumption is plaine from the Texts above alledged, that at the reforming of a Church, there is to be a renuing of Co∣venant; and thence it follows, that at the first erecting of a Church, there was the making of a Covenant with God, for els this renu∣ing of Covenant would not have been the way to reforme it.
The fourth Argument is taken from that which doth dissolve* a Church, which is the dissolving or breaking of the Covenant, Zach. 11. 9, 10, 14. If dissolving the Covenant be that which doth dissolve the Church, then the making of Covenant is that which constitutes a Church. The reason of the Consequence is plaine, because otherwise the Covenant might be dissolved & the Church stand still, if it were not the making of the Covenant that did con∣stitute the Church: But if dissipating stones in a building doe dis∣solve the house, then the compacting and conjoyning of them is that which makes the house; If separation of soule and body be that which destroyes the man, that then we say he is not: it must needs be the uniting of them, that did constitute & make the man: and so it is in this case. And that dissolving the Covenant is that which dissolves a Church, is plaine from the Text alledged, Zach. 11. where the breaking of the two staves, of beautie and Page 14 bands, that is, the unchurching of the Jewes, is interpreted to be the breaking of the Covenant that God had made with that peo∣ple, and the brotherhood that was between Judah and Israel.
The fifth Argument is taken from the distinction which God* hath appointed amongst Churches, and the confounding of all Churches into one, if there be not this Covenant to distinguish them. If Churches be distinct Societies, and may not be confoun∣ded, then Churches are compacted and combined by Covenant: But the former is true. Ergo.
That Churches are distinct Societies, is plaine in the Scripture, where we have mention of many Churches in one Countrey or Province, Gal. 1. 1. 1 Thes. 2. 14. Of seven Churches in Asia, Rev. 1. 4. and of all the Churches, 1 Cor. 14. 33. Rev. 2. 23. Ephe∣sus is not Smyrna, nor Smyrna is not Thyatira, nor either of them Pergamus, but each one distinct of themselves, having Officers of their owne, which did not belong to others: vertues of their owne for which others are not praised, corruptions of their owne, for which others are not blamed; If it were not thus, then when Lac∣dicea is condemned for lukewarmenesse, or Ephesus for declining, all the rest should be reproved also: And when Philadelfia is prai∣sed, all the rest should be praised also, which we see is otherwise. Now from hence the Consequence is certaine, that therefore they are combined by some Covenant each one amongst themselves; for there is nothing els without this that wil sufficiently distinguish them. The Spirit of God and Faith in their hearts, is common to all Christians under heaven, and in heaven also, and therefore this is not the thing that makes distinction. Nor is it habitation in the same Towne together, for that may be common to such Christi∣ans as are not of this Church, and usually is to many that are no Christians. As it is with Companies in London; as the Company of Goldsmiths, &c. that many others dwell in the same Towne with them, yea it may be in the same streete that are not of their Company: and therefore it is not meerely habitation that doth distinguish them from others, but some combination and agree∣ment amongst themselves; So it is not habitation in the same Towne that distinguisheth Churches, and Church-members from other men, but their mutuall agreement and combination and joyning themselves together in an holy Covenant with God.
It is not a Covenant simply or a Covenant in generall that doth* constitute a Church, or distinguish one Church from another, but a Covenant with application and appropriation to these per∣sons. Even as it is in marriage, though all married couples be uni∣ted by Covenant, and a Covenant wherein one couple promiseth the same duties that another couple doth, yet a Covenant with ap∣plication and appropriation of the duties covenanted to this man and this woman in particular, such a Covenant is the very thing that make a couple, man and wife together, and gives them mutu∣all power over each other, as husband and wife, and puts a distin∣ction between them and all other men and women in the world. And so it is in this case; a Covenant to performe Church-duties with application and appropriation to such persons, is the very thing that constitutes a Church, and distinguisheth one Church from another.
And thus much concerning the former of the two particulars, to shew the use of Church-Covenant, viz. that it is that whereby a company doe become a Church.
The second particular is this, that taking hold of the Covenant, or joyning in it, is that which makes a particular person a member of a Church. And this followes upon the former, and that may be the first Argument to prove it.
If joyning in Covenant be that which makes a company to be∣come* a Church, then taking hold of that Covenant is requisite to make a particular person become a member of the Church: But the first is true, as hath been shewed before; Therefore the second is true also: If compacting and conjoyning of stones and pieces of Timber be, that that makes an house, then a particular stone cannot become a part of that house, till it be compacted and con∣•oyned to the rest: But the former is true, even in the Church of God, which is the spirituall Spouse and Citie of God, living stones, Christians, beleevers must be compacted together, and builded up together, Ephes. 2. 21. 22. Psal. 12• 3. and therefore the latter is true also, that a particular Christian becomes a member of the Church, a part of that building by being combined with the rest.
Page 16A second Argument may be drawne from the Scripture, Isa. 56.* 3, 6, 7. Let not the sonne of the stranger, that hath joyned himselfe to the Lord, speake, saying, the Lord hath utterly separated me from his people, &c. The sonnes of the strangers that joyne themselves to the Lord, to serve him, &c. and take hold of my Covenant, even them will I bring to my holy mountaine, and make them joyfull in my house of Prayer, &c. Con∣cerning which Scripture, note three things to the present purpose. First, That these strangers were members of Christ, true beleevers, joyned to God by Faith; for it is said, they have joyned themselves to the Lord, v. 3 & v. 6. that they loved the name of the Lord, served him, and kept his Sabbaths, v. 6. and yet for all this they were not as yet joyned as members of the visible Church, for if they had been joyned, there would have been no cause for such a complaint, the Lord hath separated me from his people, v. 3. Besides, bringing them into the Church as members, and granting them the priviledge of members, is promised as a reward and blessing upon this their joy∣ning to the Lord by faith and obedience, v. 7. And therefore it is not the same, but a distinct thing from it; the one being promised as a reward and blessing upon the other. Secondly, The Lord pro∣miseth that he will make them members of his Church: Them will I bring to my holy mountaine, and make them joyfull in my house of Pray∣er. Thirdly, That among other things requisite to make them members, this was one, viz. the taking hold of that Covenant which was between the Church of Israel and God, v. 6. So that hence we may gather, that men may be members of Christ, joy∣ned to the Lord by faith and love, and yet for the present not be members of the visible Church: And that when God is so graci∣ous to true beleevers, as to make them members of his visible Church, it is requisite that they joyne in Covenant before.
Not so, but over and above that, here is also meant their open* profession of their Faith in the God of Israel, and open binding of themselves by Covenant to all such duties of faith and obedience, as God required of the Church of Israel, and the members there∣of. Now distinctly take the Answer to this Objection in three or foure particular Propositions. First, There was a Covenant be∣tween the Church of Israel and God, Exod. 19. 5, 6, 7, 8. Ezek 16. 8. Deut. 29. 10. &c. Secondly, This Covenant was mutuall; not Page 17 onely a promise on Gods part to be their God, and to take them for his people, but also reciprocally on their part to give up them∣selves unto God to be his people, and to doe the dutie of people to their God; The Covenant is not meerely to receive from God, and promise nothing back againe to him; nor doth God binde himselfe therein, and leave men at libertie, but it is mutuall on both parts, as these Scriptures declare; Gen. 17. 1. Exod. 197. 8. Deut. 5. 27. & 26. 16, 17. Hos. 2. 23. & Zach. 13. 9. Thirdly, Hereupon it followes, that if men had not promised, and also performed, in some measure of truth, the duties of Faith and obedience unto God, they had not taken hold of the Covenant, but had discove∣nanted themselves, notwithstanding all the promises of God unto their Fathers or others. Thus though God promised Abraham to be a God to him, and to his seede in their generations, Gen. 17. 7. yet the Ishmaelites and Edomites descending from Abraham, were discovenanted by not promising nor performing those duties of Faith and obedience, which God required on the peoples part: when a Covenant containes promises on Gods part, and duties al∣so on mans, he doth not take hold of the Covenant that takes one part, and leaves another. Fourthly, To beleeve what God promi∣sed in the Covenant for his part, and to promise in a private way the duties of obedience on mans part, was not sufficient to make these strangers members of the Church, but they must doe it open∣ly and in the view of the Church, else the Church could have had no warrant to have admitted such into their Fellowship, if their faith and obedience had not been visibly professed, Exod. 12. 43. 48 2 Chron. 23. 19.
And in as much as the Covenant was mutuall, when these stran∣gers did manifest their taking hold of the Covenant, they manife∣sted and professed both Faith and obedience, both that they belee∣ved what God promised, and that they would be obedient to what he required; If any should have claimed Church-fellowship, say∣ing, I beleeve the promises, but would not binde himselfe to any duties of Evangelicall obedience, this had been a taking hold of the Covenant by the halves, a taking of one part of it in seeming and pretence, and a leaving of another; but it would not have been sufficient to have brought a man into the fellowship of the church: Such of the Congregation of Israel as would not come to Hierusa∣lem to enter into Covenant, were to be separated from the Church Page 18 in the dayes of Ezra, Ezra 10. 8. And therefore such as being strangers should refuse to enter into it, could not be admitted into the Church; So that the taking hold of Gods Covenant, which is there required to make these strangers members of the Church, is a beleeving in heart on the God of Israel, and an open profes∣sion that they did beleeve, and likewise a promise of obedience or subjection unto the God of Israel, and an open professing of such obedience and subjection; and that is the joyning in Covenant which we stand for, before a man can be a member of a Church, even an open profession of Faith and of Obedience.
A third Argument is taken from those Scriptures which shew* that men become members by being added to the Church, or be∣ing joyned to them, Act. 2. 47. & 5. 13. & 9. 26. If men become members of the Church by being added or joyned, then joyning in Covenant (or professing of subjection to the Gospel or Cove∣nant of God) is that whereby a man becomes a member of a Church: But the former is true, as appeares by the Scriptures fore∣mentioned, and therefore the latter is true also.
But all the doubt in this Argument will be concerning the con∣sequence of the Major Proposition; but that may be made good by this reason, and the confirmation of it, viz. that a man cannot be added or joyned to the Church by any other meanes without this joyning in Covenant. The truth of which Assertion will ap∣peare by shewing the insufficiency of all other means, without this joyning in Covenant, and that may be done in Answer to the Objections ensuing.
This cannot be all; for, first, Saul was converted and had faith* wrought in his heart, and yet he was not at the first received for a member of the Church at Hierusalem (though he assayed to be joyned unto them,) till they were better satisfied in his spirituall estate by the testimony of Barnabas, Act. 9. 26, 27, 28. And those strangers, Isa. 56. (as was said before) were joyned to the Lord by being converted, and having Faith wrought in their hearts, and yet they doe lament it with griefe, that they were not joyned as members to the visible Church: The Lord hath separated me from his people, say they, ver. 3. The old saying is true concerning the Page 19 visible Church, There are many wolves within, and many sheepe with∣out. Secondly, Those that were joyned were beleevers before they joyned; for it is said, divers were added, ver. 14. Thirdly, Those that were added to the Church, were added and joyned to them by such an act as others durst not put forth, Act. 5. 13. Of the rest durst no man joyne unto them, and therefore it was not by the irresi∣stable act of God in converting of them, but by some voluntary act of their owne choice and consent; for Gods converting grace depends not upon mans daring, or not daring to receive it. If to be joyned be no more but to be converted, then when it is said, Some durst not be joyned, the meaning should be, they durst not be con∣verted, nor suffer Faith to be wrought in them; which is grosse Arminianisme, suspending the converting grace of God upon the free will of the creature. Fourthly, And as this joyning which o∣thers durst not doe, cannot be meant of being converted; So if it be well considered, what the thing was wherein they durst not joyne, it may appeare that it was nothing els but this, that they durst not agree, and engage themselves to be of their body and societie; that is, they durst not joyne in Covenant with them. For it cannot be meant of dwelling in the Towne with them, for this they both durst doe and did: nor is it onely of joyning to heare the Word in their assembly, for this also they durst doe, and many did it in great multitudes, so that many by hearing the Word became beleevers, and were added to the Lord both of men and women, ver. 14. at this very time when it is said of some they durst not joyne unto them: Nor is it of joyning to them in affe∣ction, or approbation of their way, for this they also durst doe and did expresse so much in magnifying and commending them, when yet they durst not joyne unto them, ver. 13. Which magnifying of them doth imply that they heard their doctrine, and saw their practise, and approved it, and highly commended them for the same: Wherefore seeing this joyning, which some durst not doe, cannot be meant of being converted, nor of joyning in habitati∣on, nor of joyning in affection, nor in hearing the Word in their Assembly, nor of approbation, and expressions that way, it re∣maineth that it must be meant of joyning in that neere relation of Church-fellowship amongst them, so as to be engaged by volun∣tary consent and agreement to be members of their Church. Fiftly, If joyning to the Church, were no more but to be con∣verted, Page 20 then he that were converted were joyned as a member of every visible Church throughout the world, which were a great confusion of that Order, and distinction of Churches, which the Lord hath appointed.
True, but this will not make them members of that Church,* for then Saul was a member of the Church at Hierusalem, afore he was joyned a member, for he was joyned to them in heartie affe∣ction afore, and therefore assayed to joyne as a member; and so were they that durst not joyne, Act. 5. 13. yea then a man should be a member of many Churches, yea of all Christian Churches in the world; for he is to love them, and beare heartie affection to them all; The true members of the Churches in England are uni∣ted in heartie affection, to the Churches in Scotland, in Holland, in France, in New-England, &c. And yet they are not members of all these Churches, nor subject to their censures as members are.
Neither would habitation with them in the same Towne, make* a man a member of the Church there, if there be no more then so. Suppose Saul to have dwelt in the same house afore his conversion in which he dwelt after, which is not unpossible nor unlikely; yet we see he was no member of the Church at Hierusalem, afore his conversion, no nor of some time after, though he might have dwelt in an house in the midst of the Christians, and Church∣members there. The members of the Dutch and French Churches in London, or other Townes in England, are not members of the English-Congregations or Churches, no more then the English are of theirs, and yet they dwell promiscuously together in the same Streete of the same Towne. Towne-dwelling would not make a man a free-man of a Company in London, or some other Corporation; for many others dwell in the Towne with them; yea it may be in the same streete, that are not free of their Com∣pany, and so it is in this case.
Page 21Idiots and Infidells might come into the publick meetings a∣mong* the Corinthians, 1 Cor. 14. 23, 24, 25. yet Idiots and Infi∣dells were not therefore members of the Church. And Saul after his conversion might have come in among the Church in time of publick duties, and have seene and heard all that they had done: yet this would not have made him of one body with them. Some Indians, Moores, and other naturall persons come into our meet∣ings in New-England, some of their owne accord, and others by the Command or Counsell of their Masters and Governours yet no man can say, that all these are hereby made Church-members. Wherefore seeing neither conversion, nor loving affection, nor cohabitation, nor coming into their meetings, doth joyne a man as a member of the visible Church (for some men have all these, and yet are not members, and others are sometimes members of the visible Churches, and yet want some of these, are hypocrites and want sound conversion) it remaineth therefore that as sound conversion makes a man fit matter for a Church; So profession of his Faith, and of his subjection to the Gospel, and the Churches approbation, and acceptance of him (which is the summe of Church-Covenant) is the formall cause that gives him the being of a member.
The word indeed may expresse any close joyning, whether na∣turall,* (as the branch is joyned to the Vine, or an arme or other member to the body) or artificiall, as when two stickes were joy∣ned to become one in Ezekiels hand, Ezek. 37. Or when Carpen∣ters or Masons doe joyne pieces of stone or Timber together, to make one house, Neh. 4. 6. Ezr. 4. 12. but is not onely the force of the word that is stood upon. But when joyning is used to ex∣presse such joyning, wherein a man voluntarily takes on him a new relation, there it alwayes implyes a Covenant, whether the relation be morall and civill, or religious and Ecclesiasticall: We speake of voluntary relation, for there are naturall relations, as be∣tweene parents and children: and these need no Covenant, there is no Covenant to make a man a Parent, or a childe; There are also violent relations, as between Conquerour and Captives, and Page 22 in these there is no Covenant neither; but others are voluntary, and these alwayes imply a Covenant, and are founded therein, whether they be morall and civill (as between husband and wife, Pro. 2. 17. between Master and servants, Luk. 15. 15. between Prince and subject, between Partners in Trade, 2 Chro. 20. 35, 36, 37. where the Covenant or agreement is, that men shall bare such a share of charges, and receive such a share of profits:) or religious, as between Minister and people, between the Church and the members: all these are done by way of Covenant. A man cannot joyne himselfe to a woman as her husband, but by way of Covenant: A man cannot joyne himselfe to another as a servant, or apprentise, but by way of Covenant; And so may we say of all the rest; nor into any body corporate, but by the same way and means. If men be united into a body politick or incorporate, a man cannot be said to be joyned to them by meere heartie affection, unlesse withall he joynes himselfe unto them by some Contract or Covenant. Now of this nature is every parti∣cular Church, a body incorporate, 1 Cor. 12. 27. Yee are the body of Christ, &c. and hath power to cast out, 1 Cor. 5. 13. and to forgive and receive in Penitents, 2 Cor. 2. 7. 8 as a body incor∣porate; and therefore he that will joyne unto them, must doe it by way of Covenant or Agreement; and so this Answer to this Objection, may be a fourth Argument to prove the point in hand, that joyning in Covenant is that which makes a man, a member of a Church.
All voluntary relations, all relations which are neither naturall* nor violent, are entred into by way of Covenant.
But he that joynes into a Church as a member, or enters into a Church, doth take upon him such a relation; Therefore joyning▪ to a Church as a member, is by way of Covenant.
A fifth Argument may be drawne from the power which all* Churches, Officers and members, have over all their members in the Lord. If all Churches, Officers, and members, have power in the Lord over all their members, then joyning in Covenant is necessary to make a man a member of a Church, but the former is true, therefore the latter is true also.
The Assumption in this Argument, that all Churches have power over their members, is proved from 1 Cor. 5. 4, 5. 13. where the Apostle reproveth the Corinthians for suffering the In∣cestuous Page 23 man amongst them, and commands them to deliver him to Satan, and cast him out from amongst them. Now this he would not have done, if they had had no power over him, or if there had been any roome for them to say, wee have nothing to doe with him, wee have no power over him. And the same is prooved in other Scriptures also; as, Mat. 18. 17. Psal. 149. 6. 7, 8, 9.
And the Consequence of the Major Proposition, viz. that then members doe engage themselves by Covenant, is proved by this reason; That Churches have no power over such as have not engaged themselves by Covenant, and committed power unto them, by professing to be subject to all the Ordinances of Christ amongst them.
The truth whereof may appeare by two Reasons:
First, Because all Christians have power and right, jure divino, to choose their owne Officers to whom they commit their soules, Act. 6. & 1. & 14. 23. where the word 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, imports choo∣sing by Election: and so the word is used and translated, 2 Cor. 8. 19. he was chosen by the Churches, &c. It is not ministeriall gifts that makes a man a Minister to every Church, nor investeth him with spirituall power over them, nor though he dwell amongst them, unlesse they call him, and he accept of that call: And as they have power to choose their Officers, so likewise to choose their bre∣thren according to God, Rom. 14. 1. Now if they have power to choose their Officers and brethren, then none can have power o∣ver them as Officers and brethren, without their owne consent, and whom they never chose, nor promised by any Covenant or Engagement to be subject to the Lord.
Secondly, If the Church should exercise any Act of Church∣power over such a man as never entred into Covenant with them (suppose to Excommunicate him for whoredome or drunken∣nesse, or the like) the man might protest against their Act, and their Sentence, as Coram non judice, and they could not justifie their proceedings, if indeed there have passed no Covenant or Engage∣ment between him and them. If he shall say, you have nothing to doe to passe Sentence or Censure upon me, I am none of your Church, but of another Church; Suppose in Holland, in France, &c. and I am onely here now for Merchandise sake, or upon some o∣ther occasion: what shall they say to stop his mouth, if there ne∣ver Page 24 passed any Covenant between him and them.
But what is it that makes men Ministers to such a people, Offi∣cers* to such a Church, or maketh them sheepe of my flocke? Is it not those Scriptures that makes every man a Pastour, or Teacher, or Ruler to a people, unlesse they call him to that Of∣fice; and then in so doing they Covenant and Engage themselves to be subject to him in the Lord, and then those Scriptures take hold on them. One might as well say, it is not the Covenan∣ting of a wife to her husband that gives him power over her, but the Word of God; For as the Word of God commands people to obey their Ministers, so it commands wives to be subject to their husbands, Ephes. 5. 22. And yet all men know, a man cannot take this woman for his▪ wife but by Covenant. So that if shee once makes her selfe a wife by her owne voluntary Covenant, then the word of God takes hold on her, and bindes her to doe the duties of a wife: but if shee▪ hath made no Covenant, the man hath no power over her as her husband, neither is shee his wife; So if men once make themselves members of such a Church, sheepe of such a mans flocke, by their own voluntary Covenant, then the word of God takes hold of them, and bindes them to doe the duties of members to their fellow-brethren, and of people to their Pastours or Ministers. But if they never chose such a man to be their Mini∣ster, nor Covenanted to be subject to him in the Lord, he then can have no power over them as a Minister unto them, because they have right to chose their owne Ministers.
A sixth Argument may be taken from the distinction that is* between members, and not members. If there be by the word of God a distinction, between members of the Church and such as are no members, then joyning in Covenant is necessary to the being of a member; but the former is true, as appeares 1 Cor. 5. 12. Some are within, and may be judged by the Church, and o∣thers are without, and may not▪ and therefore the latter is true also. And the reason of the Consequence is because there is no∣thing else without this joyning in Covenant, that can sufficiently distinguish them; It is not Faith and Grace in their hearts, for some men are members of the visible Church, and yet have no Page 25 Grace, and others may have Grace, and yet be no members, and therefore this is not the thing that doth distinguish them, nor is it affection, nor cohabitation, nor every approbation of the Word of God, and the wayes of his Church, nor comming into their As∣semblies to heare the Word; But these things were touched be∣fore, and therefore may be here the more briefly passed over.
And so much shall suffice to have spoken of the second particu∣lar, concerning the use of Church-Covenant, that it is by joyning therein that a particular person becomes a member of a Church.
But here it will be needfull to remove sundry Objections, which may seeme to some to be of great weight against Church-Cove∣nant, that so by the removing of them, the truth may be the more cleared, to fuller satisfaction, if it be the will of God.
Church-Covenant is a Terme that is not found in Scripture.*
First, So is Sacrament, Trinitie, &c. and yet those termes may be lawfully used, because the thing meant thereby is found.
Secondly, But seeing the Covenant is between the Lord and his Church, as the two parties that are confederate, it is all one whe∣ther it be called the Lords Covenant, or the Church-Covenant: As when Mamre, Aver, & Eschol were confederate with Abraham, Gen. 14. 13. might not one truely say, Abraham was confederate with them? Relatives doe mutually put and establish one another.
Thirdly, The Scripture allowes both the Lords Covenant with the Church, Eze. 16. 8. & the peoples covenant or Saints covenant, or Churches Covenant with him, Deut. 29. 12. Psal. 50. 5. Jer. 50. 5.
Fourthly, There is good reason for both the words; both the Lords Covenant, and the Church-Covenant, because both are confederate; And for that of Church-Covenant, there is this rea∣son also, viz. to distinguish it from other Covenants, as a marriage-Covenant, Pro. 2. 17. and a brotherly Covenant, 1 Sam. 20. 8. The Church-Covenant being thus called not onely because they are a Church, or members thereof that make it, but also because they enter into it in reference to Church-Estate and Church-duties: The duties which they bind themselves unto in this Covenant be∣ing such especially as concern a Church and the members thereof.
Page 26 1. A second Covenant doth argue that the first was not fault∣lesse,* where the Covenants are contrary one to another, as the covenant of Grace, and the covenant of works are, and so it is most true, that the bringing in of the free Covenant of Grace did argue that righteousnes and life could not be attained by the Law, or Covenant of works; for if there had been a Law given which could have given life, verily righteousnesse should have been by the Law. Gal. 3. 21. Rom. 8. 3.
2. But if it be the same Covenant that is renewed or made a∣gaine, though upon a new occasion, no man can say that entring into the same the second time, or a third, or a fourth, doth disanull the first, or cast disparagement upon the same. The covenant of works given to Adam was not blamed or faulted, because it was renewed in Sinai. The Covenant of Grace was first given to Adam in Paradise after his fall, afterward to Abraham, then to the people of Israel under types and shadows; And againe after the coming of Christ in the flesh; yet none of these doth disanull the former, or argue the same to be faulty; and the reason is, because it is still the same Covenant though renewed upon new occasions; and in some particulars in some other manner. And the like we say con∣cerning Church-Covenant, or the Covenant which a man makes when he enters into the Church, viz. that it is not another Cove∣nant contrary to the Covenant of Grace, which every beleever is brought into at his first conversion, but an open profession of a mans subjection to that very Covenant, specially in the things which concerne Church estate, into which estate the man is now entring.
This ground is very true, that no man hath power of himselfe* to any thing that good is, but all a mans power and abilitie must come of God through Christ, 2. Cor. 3. 5. Phil. 2. 13. Joh. 15. 5. But the inference is not good, that therefore it should be unlawfull to ento into Church-Covenant: for 1. By the same reason, all pro∣mises are unlawfull, and all covenants whatsoever; as the cove∣nant of marriage, the covenant of service, yea and the personall covenant of Grace, when a particular soule promiseth faith and new obedience; for there is none of these, no not the covenant of Page 27 Marriage, which a man is able of himself to keep, as the adultery of David and Bathsheba, among others, doth plainly prove.
2. God hath promised to give power to them that in self-deni∣all seek it of him, and trust to his promise for it. Ezek. 36. 27. Jer. 31. 33. Rom. 6. 14. Jer. 32. 40. The true inference therefore from this ground, from mans disabilitie to performe were this, that therefore a man should not enter into Church Covenant in his owne strength, for that was Peters fault in promising not to deny Christ, but to die with him rather: but Church-Covenant, as also all other promises, should be entred into, in an humble looking up to Christ Jesus for help and assistance to performe. Thou therefore my sonne, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, 2. Tim. 2. 1.
God doth not reprove them there for making Covenant, for* then he were contrary to himselfe, who elsewhere called them to do it, Exod. 29. Deut. 29. and commended them for it, Psal. 50. 5. Yea and in that very place of Ezek. 16. acknowledgeth a Cove∣nant betweene him and them, ver. 60. 62. But the meaning is, he would do them good, but not for their good keeping the Co∣venant of works, for they had very sinfully broken it, ver. 59 but even as he saith elsewhere, not for their sakes, or for their righte∣ousnesse, Ezek. 36. 32. Deut. 9. 4, 5, 6. But what force is there in this arguing, viz. If God will do us good, but not for our good keeping the covenant of works, then it is not lawfull to promise obedience to the covenant of Grace, in such things as concerne Church estate; All men may easily see that here is a plaine non se∣quitur.
It is not impossible, but good men may for a time be unsatisfied* about it, till they understand the nature and use of it, and yet the thing be warrantable enough for all that in the sight of God; the Tribes were troubled at the Altar set up upon the banks of Jordan by the two Tribes and an halfe, till they understood the intent and use of it, and for what purpose it was erected: and then they were satisfied. Josh. 22. And the same may be said of Peters eating with the Gentiles, which at the first was very offensive to them of the Page 28 circumcision, till they understood what Peter had to say for his defence therein, and then they rested well satisfied, Act. 11.
But if men understand what the Church-Covenant is, there is no reason that good men should be troubled at it; it being nothing else but a promise of obedience unto the Gospel of Christ, or of such duties as the Gospel requireth of all Christians in Church∣estate: For, will good men refuse to obey the Gospel, or submit to the ordinances of Christ? or will they refuse to professe and promise so much? If a man understand what it is, and what we meane by it, and yet refuse to enter into it when he hath opportu∣nitie thereto, such refusing is no part of his goodnesse, but is to be reckoned amongst his corruptions; It is ignorance at the best, and if not so, then it may be perversenesse of will, or some want of will to performe obedience to the Gospel. And surely there is smal hope that such would yeeld subjection and obedience to the Go∣spel, who do refuse to professe or promise it.
Two things may be said in Answer to this Objection.*
First, that 3000. were not so many, but that joyning in Cove∣nant might easily be done by them all, in one day. For, 1. it was at Penticost, at which time of the yeer the dayes were at the longest: And, 2. the Scripture tels us, that David made a Covenant with all the Tribes of Israel in one day, 2. Sam. 5 1, 2, 3. The Articles of the covenant betweene David and the Tribes, and so betweene this 3000. and the Lord might be openly declared, and they both the one and the other might by some signe or other, expresse their consent thereunto in one day.
Secondly, as joyning in Covenant is a thing that might be done, so it is more then probable that indeed it was done, by those 3000. soules For it is said, ver. 41. that they gladly received the word, that is, they openly professed that they did with all their hearts re∣ceive it, for this receiving of the Word is noted as a condition, up∣on which they were admitted to baptisme, and therefore it was not onely an inward receiving of it in their hearts, but also an open professing that they did receive it; for an inward receiving of it in their hearts, without an open professing thereof outwardly, would not have been sufficient for the admitting of them unto Baptisme. Page 29 Now this Word which they received was an exhortation to Re∣pentance for sinne, and to Faith in the promise, ver. 38 39. and to obedience in severing themselves from others, and saving them∣selves from that untoward generation, ver. 40. And therefore when they openly professed, that they gladly received this word, there was an open professing of their Repentance for sinne, ver. 40. of their Faith in the promise, and of obedience to the Com∣mandement, which is nothing else, but the very summe of Church-Covenant: yea, and further, their very preparation to this repen∣tance, faith and obedience, in that true compunction and sorrow of soul, was also openly made manifest. ver. 37.
When the thing is certaine, as was shewed before, that they did* openly professe repentance, faith and obedience, it is not difference in the length or largenesse of their speeches in expressing of them∣selves, that can make any difference in the thing: Majus & minus non diversificant speciem. And we denie not but they might be briefer, because there was not such need they should be long in re∣gard of some difference betweene them and us, their time and ours: First there were the Apostles present to heare their confessi∣ons, and to judge thereof, who were men of very good discerning, and therefore briefer expressing of mens selves might suffice; whereas the best Christians, yea the best Ministers amongst us are not to be compared to the Apostles; and therefore as we need more time for study, and for preparation for our Sermons then they did: so likewise we need more time to heare, and try the soundnesse of mens repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ. Yet this we may adde withall, that if the Apostles and those primative Christians, men of such excellent discerning were sometimes deceived, and could not alwayes so discern, but that some Hypocrites would creep into the Church: as the example of Ananias and Saphira doth witnesse; how much more need is there, that the Churches of God in these dayes (being far inferiour to them) should be very watchfull and circumspect in Page 30 trying the spirituall estates of them that offer to come into the Church?
Secondly, their times also differed from ours: for their Christi∣anitie was a matter of reproach and danger of excommunication, Joh. 9. 22. of imprisonment, Act. 4. 3. and 5. 18. and the like. And therefore to see men now to make open profession of their faith in Christ Jesus, whose servants and disciples were so hated, and who himselfe but a while before was crucified, this was not an ordinarie matter: and therefore in words, men might be the briefer when they came to be received into the Church: But our times in New England do not persecute Christ, and Christians, and Christian Churches, but countenance them, and protect them; and there∣fore there is more need now to be more studious in examination of mens estates when they offer themselves for Church members: when the Jews were in favour, many of the people of the Land be∣came Jews, Esth. 8. 17.
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.
This is answered in the Answer to the fourth of the 32. Que∣stions,* where it is shewed at large that Baptisme •• a seale of the Covenant betweene God and the Church, but neither makes the Church, nor members of the Church, nor alwayes so much as proves men to be members.
First, True Antiquitie is that of the Scriptures. Now sith* Church Covenant is warranted by the Scripture, as hath been Page 33 shewed before in this discourse, it cannot be charged to want true Antiquitie. When the Papists are wont to charge the doctrine of Protestants with Novelty, and such as was never heard of before Luther, the Orthodoxe are wont to answer, that if the doctrine do not agree with the Scripture, then let it be condemned for No∣veltie; and if it do, it is warranted by the best Antiquitie, even the testimonie of God himself who is the Antient of dayes: Our Faith, faith Doctor White, is in all points the same that is con∣tained in the Scripture, and so consequently of the same Anti∣quitie: and therefore all they that say it came up but of late, must first prove it contrary to the Word of God, or else hold their peace. White, Way, 44. 1. And the same we say in this particular of the Church-Covenant.
Secondly, And yet they that search the Stories and Writers of the times and ages next after the Apostles, may find some testi∣monie of Church-Covenant in those dayes: For instance, Justine Martyr in his Apol. 2. makes mention of three things which were required of all that were admitted into the Church as members, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, that is regeneration, and soundnesse in the Faith, and a promise to walke in obedience to the Gospel. And generally this was the practise of all those times, that never any man was admitted to Baptisme, nor his children neither, but they put him to answer three questions, Abrenuntios? whereto he answered, Abrenuntio. Credis? whereto his answer was, Credo: and Spondes? to which he answered, Spondes. So that here was an open declaration of his Repentance from dead works, and of the soundnesse of his Faith, in the two first particulars, and an open binding himself by covenant or promise to walke according to the Gospel, in the third. But much needs not to be said in this point, unto them that do acknowledge Scripture Antiquitie to be sufficient, though after times should be found to swerve from the Rules and Patterns that are therein contained.
They that have knowne those Churches, not onely by their* writings, and confessions of their faith, in Synods and otherwise; but also by living amongst them, and being eye-witnesses of their Order, do report otherwise of them, viz. that they are combined Page 34 together by solemne Covenant with God and one another. Zep∣perus, speaking of the manner, used in the reformed Churches, in admitting the children of Church-members to the Lords Table, when they came to age, and have been sufficiently catechised, and instructed in the doctrine of Religion▪ tells us, that such children are admitted to the Lords table, by publick profession of Faith, and entring into Covenant.
To these testimonies of Z•pp•r••, those words may be added of Mr. Parker our own countreyman, a man of singular note for learning and holinesse, who also himselfe lived sometimes be∣yond Sea in the reformed Churches, and there ended his dayes, so that we may safely give the more credit to his testimonie, he having so good meanes fully to know the state and order of those Churches. Now he speaketh of a
Though we deny not but the Covenant in many of those Con∣gregations* is more implicite and not so plaine as were to be desi∣red; (and what is amisse in them, in their materialls, or in want of explicite combining of pure matter, or many of their wayes, wee will not take upon us to defend) yet we hope we may say of them with Master Parker, Polit. Eccles. lib 3. cap. 16. § 1. pag. 167.
The reasons why wee are loath to say, that the Congregations in England are utterly without a Covenant, are these:
First, Because there were many Christian Churches in Eng∣land in the Apostles time, or within a while after, as Master Fox sheweth at large, Act. & Mon. lib. 2. beginning pag 137. where he reporteth out of Gildas, that England received the Gospel in the time of Tiberius the Emperour, under whom Christ suffered, and that Joseph of Arimathea was sent of Philip the Apostie from France to England about the yeare of Christ 63. and remained in England all his time, and so he with his fellowes layd the first foundation Page 37 of Christian Faith among the Britaine people, and other Prea∣chers and Teachers comming afterward, confirmed the same and increased it. Also the said Master Fox reporteth out of Tertullian, that the Gospel was dispearsed abroad by the sound of the Apo∣stles into many Nations, and amongst the rest into Britaine, yea into the wildest places of Britaine, which the Romans could never attaine unto: and alledgeth also out of Ni••phorus, that Simon Zelotes did spread the Gospel to the West Ocean, and brought the same into the Iles of Britaine: and sundry other proofes he there hath for the same point. Now if the Gospel and Christian Reli∣gion were brought into England in the Apostles times, and by their means, it is like that the English Churches were then consti∣tuted by way of Covenant, because that was the manner of con∣stituting Churches in the Apostles time, as also in the times asore Christ, as hath been shewed from the Scripture before in this dis∣course. And if Christian Congregations in England were in those times combined by Covenant, then eternitie of Gods Covenant is such, that it is not the interposition of many corruptions that may arise in after times that can disanull the same, except when men wilfully breake Covenant and reject the offers of the Gospel through obstinacy, which we perswade our selves they are not come unto: and consequently the Covenant remaines which hath preserved the essence of Churches to this day; though the mix∣ture of manifold corruptions, have made the Covenant more im∣plicite then were meete.
Secondly, Because there want no good Records (as may be seene in Seldens History of Tithes) to prove that in former times in England it was free for men to pay their Tithes and Oblations where themselves pleased: Now this paying of Tithes was ac∣counted as a dutie of people to their Minister, or sheepe to their Pastour: and therefore seeing this was by their owne voluntary agreement and consent, their joyning to the Church as members thereof, & to the Ministery thereof as sheepe of such a mans flock, was also by their owne voluntary agreement and consent: and this doth imply a Covenant •• was not the precincts of Parishes that did limit men in those dayes, but their owne choice.
Thirdly, Those Questions and Answers ministred at Baptisme, spoken of before, (viz. Do•st thou renounce? I doe renounce: doest thou beleeve? I doe beleeve: doest thou promise? I doe promise) as they Page 38 were used in other places, so were they also in England, and are unto this day, though not without the mixture of sundry corrup∣tions. Now this doth imply a Covenant. And when the children came to age, they were not to be admitted to the Lords Supper, before they had made personall Confession of their owne Faith, and ratified the Covenant which was made at their Baptisme by their Parents, which course indeed afterward did grow into a Sacrament of Confirmation, but that was an abuse of a good Or∣der.
If here it be said, that the Members of the Parishionall Assem∣blies are not brought in by their owne voluntary profession, but by the Authority and Proclamation of the Prince, and therefore they have no such Covenant.
The Answer is, that the Christian Prince doth but his dutie when he doth not tollerate within his Dominions any open Idola∣try, or the open worship of false Gods by baptized persons, but suppresseth the same: and likewise when he gives free libertie to the exercise of all the Ordinances of true Religion, according to the minde of Christ, with countenance also and encouragement unto all those whose hearts are willingly bent thereunto, Ezra. 1. 1. 3. & 7. 13. And therefore this practise of his cannot overthrow the freenesse of mens ioyning in Church▪ Communion, because one dutie cannot oppose nor contradict another. And suppose that this course of the Magistrate should seeme to be a forcing of some to come in for members who were unfit, (in which case it were not justifiable) yet this doth not hinder the voluntary sub∣jection of others, who with all their hearts desired it. When the Israelites departed out of Aegypt, there went a mixed multitude with them, many going with them that were not Israelites in∣deed, Exod. 12. And in the dayes of Mordecay and Hesther, many of the people of the lands became Jewes, when the Jewes were in favour and respect, Est. 8. 17. and so joyned to them not of their owne voluntary minde, nor of any sincere heart towards God, but meerely for the favour or •eare of men; yet this forced or seined joyning of some could not hinder those that were Israelites indeed from being Israelites, nor make the Jewes to be no Jewes, no Church-members.
And the same may be said in this case, Suppose the Magistrates Proclamation should be a cause, or an occasion rather, of bringing Page 39 some into the Church, who came not of their owne voluntary minde, but for feare, or for obteining favour, yet this cannot hin∣der, but others might voluntarily and freely Covenant to be sub∣ject to the Gospel of Christ: Such subjection and the promise of it being the thing which themselves did heartily desire, though the Magistrate should have said nothing in it.
If any shall hereupon inferre, that if the Parishionall Assem∣blies be Churches, then the members of them may be admitted to Church priviledges in New England, before they joyne to our Churches: Such one may finde his Answer in the Answer to the tenth of the thirty-two Questions; Whereunto we doe referre the Reader for this point. Onely adding this, that this were contrary to the judgement and practise of the Reformed Churches, who doe not admit a man for member without personall profession of his Faith, and joyning in Covenant, though he had formerly been a member of a Church in another place, as was shewed before out of Master Parker.
Lastly, If any say, that if these reasons prove the English Con∣gregations to have such a Covenant as proves them to be Chur∣ches, then why may not Rome, and the Assemblies of Papists goe for true Churches also? For some man may thinke that the same things may be said for them that here in Answer to this eleventh Objection are said for the Parishes in England: Such one must re∣member two things: first, that we doe not say simply, a Cove∣nant makes a company a true Church, but (as was said before) a Covenant to walke in such wayes of worship to God and edifi∣cation of one another, as the Gospel of Christ requireth. For who doubts▪ but there may be an agreement among theeves, Pro. 1. A confederation among Gods enemies, Psal. 83. A conspiracy among the Arabians, the Ammonites and Ashdodites, to hinder the building of Hierusalem, Neh. 4. 7, 8. And yet none of these are made true Churches by such kind of confederacies or agreements. And so wee may say of the Assemblies of Papists, especially since the Counsell of Trent. If there be any agreement or confederacy among them, it is not to walke in the wayes of the Gospell, but in wayes contrary to the fundamentall truths of the Gospel, as Ido∣latry in worship, Heresie in doctrine, and other Antichristian pol∣lutions and corruptions: and therefore if they combined in these things, such combinations will never prove them true Churches. Page 40 The Church is the Pillar and ground of truth, 1 Tim. 3. 15. But the Religion of Papists is so farre from truth, that whosoever li∣veth and beleeveth according to it, without repentance, cannot be saved. Witnesse their doctrine in the point of vilifying the Scriptures, and in point of free-will, and of Justification by works, of the Popes Supremacy, of the Sacrifice of the Masse, of worship∣ping of Images, &c. In regard of which, and such like, the Holy Ghost saith, that their Religion is a Sea, become as the bloud of a dead man, and every soule in that Sea dyeth, Rev. 16. 3. And there∣fore agreement in such a Religion will never prove them to be true Churches; nor any Assemblies of Arrians, Antitrinitaries, Anabaptists, or Famelists, supposing them also to be combined by Covenant among themselves.
But now for the Assemblies in England, the case is farre other∣wise; for the Doctrine of the Articles of Religion which they professe, and which they promise to hold and observe (though some things are amisse in some of those Articles, and though ma∣ny persons live contrary in their lives) yet the doctrine is such that whosoever beleeveth, and liveth according to it, shall undoubted∣ly be saved, and many thousands have been saved therein▪ and therefore Assemblies united by Covenant to observe this doctrine may be true Churches, when the Assemblies of Papists and others may be false, although they also were combined by Covenant: the reason of the difference rising from the difference that is in the doctrine and Religion which they severally professe, and by Co∣venant binde themselves to observe, the one being fundamentally corrupt, and consequently pernicious: The other in the funda∣mentall points Orthodoxall and sound.
Secondly, It must be remembred also (which was intimated be∣fore) that if fundamentall corruptions be professed in with impe∣nitency and obstinacy, then God may disanull the Covenant on his part, and give a Bill of divorce to such a people, Jere. 3. 8. Now experience and the Scripture also doth witnesse of the Jesui∣ted and Trent-Papists, that they repented not of the workes of their hands, of worshipping Devills, and Idolls of Gold, &c. nei∣ther repented they of their murthers, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornications, nor of their thefts, Rev. 9. 20, 21.
But now for the Parish Assemblies in England, we hope that we may safely say, they doe not sinne of obstinacy, but of ignorance, Page 41 having not been convinced (and many of them never having had means to be convinced) of the corruptions that are amongst them, in respect of their constitution, and worship, and Ministery, and so the Covenant remaining among them, may prove them to be Churches, when it cannot stand the Papists in like stead, they be∣ing impenitent and obstinate: Which we doe not speake to ju∣stifie the Parishes altogether, as if there were not dangerous cor∣ruptions found in them, nay rather (the Lord be mercifull to the sinnes of his people) wee may lament it with teares, that in respect of their members and Ministery, in respect of their worship and walkings, in many of those Assemblies there are found such appa∣rent corruptions, as are justly grievous to a godly soule, that is enlightened to discerne them, and greatly displeasing to the Lord, and indeed had need to be repented of betime, least otherwise the Lord remove the Candlesticke and unchurch them, Rev. 2. 5. In a word, the corruptions remaining are just causes of repen∣tance and humiliation: but yet in as much as the Articles of Re∣ligion, which they professe, containe such wholesome doctrine, that whosoever beleeveth and walketh according thereunto, in sinceritie, shall undoubtedly be saved, and in as much as the cor∣ruptions are not persisted in with obstinacy, therefore wee deny not but they have the truth of Churches remaining.
This ground cannot be made good, that none but they of the* Separation are for Church-Covenant, for all the Reformed Chur∣ches generally, as was shewed before in Answer to Objection the tenth, are for it in their judgement & practise; and shall all they be condemned for * Brownists, or maintaining unlawfull Separation from the Church? Also Master Parker and Doctor Ames, men of our owne Nation, famous for holinesse and learning, and modera∣tion, both of them plead for Church-Covenant, and yet neither of them were Brownists, but bare witnesse against that riged Separa∣tion. For Doctor Ames, his judgement of Church-Covenant may be seene in his Medulla, Theol. lib. 1. cap. 32. § 14, 15, 17.
These words doe plainely and fully shew his judgement of Church-Covenant, to be the very same that is held and practised in New-England at this day. And that he was not for that seve∣ritie and regiditie of separation, may be cleared from sundry of his workes, wherein he plainly and fully beares witnesse against the same, and namely, in his Fresh suite against Ceremonies, pag. 207. and in his second Manuduction, wherein he purposely and at large deales in this Argument of Separation. Sure it is Master Canne in his Booke, wherein he goes about to prove the necessitie of separa∣tion from the Non-Conformists principles, doth professedly and expressely oppose himselfe against Doctor Ames in the point of Separation, which shewes how farre the good Doctor was from favouring that way, when they most zealously therein doe count him to be a speciall opposite of theirs, as indeed he was. And for Master Parker, his judgement of Church-Covenant was heard be∣fore in part; where he so much approveth the practise of the Re∣formed Churches in this point. And much more may be seene of his judgement herein, in the sixteenth Chap. of the third booke of his Polit. Ecclesiastica. And yet in the same place, and likewise lib 1. cap. 13. 14. of the same Treatise he plentifully and plainly shewes his dislike of the wayes of Separation, as is also acknow∣ledged in an Admonition to the Reader, prefixed before that Booke, by I. R. suo, suorumque nomine. So that this Assertion ap∣peares to be untrue, wherein it is said, that none but Brownists and Separatists doe approve of Church-Covenant.
As for the Inference from this ground, that therefore Church-Covenant should not be received, because it is pleaded for and pra∣ctised by the Separatists. We Answer, that this will not follow, Page 43 unlesse it could be proved, that the Separatists hold no truth; or if they hold a truth wee must not hold it, that so it may appeare wee differ from them; Either of which, it were unreasonable to affirme. If the Papists hold sundry Articles of Faith, as that there is a unitie of the Divine Essence, and Trinitie of Persons, that Je∣sus Christ is God and man, and that true Messiah that was promi∣sed, and the onely Saviour of the world, and many such like, must wee deny these things because they are holden by the Papists? This were as unreasonable as to condemne the doctrine of the Resurrection, because it was maintained by the Pharisees, Act. 23. 8. And so we say of Church-Covenant, holden and practised by them of the Separation; as also many other truths are maintained by them: No reason that truth should be refused, because the Se∣paratists maintaine it. When Doctor Bancroft in a Sermon at Pauls-Crosse, had avouched that the Superioritie of Bishops a∣bove other Ministers, is by Gods owne Ordinance, and to make the contrary opinion odious, affirmed that Aerius persisting in it, was condemned for an Heretique by the generall consent of the whole Church, and that Martin and his Companions, doe main∣taine the same opinion of Aerius; What saith learned Doctor Rei∣nolds hereunto, in a Letter to Sir Francis Knolls, who required him to shew his judgement herein:
And the very same doe wee say to them that would make Church-Covenant to be odious, because it is held by those of the Seperation, who are commonly called Brownists: If men behave themselves otherwise then they ought, we defend them not there∣in, but if they hold any truth mingled with whatsoever else, wee would not have that which is of God to be condemned, for that which is of man: truth should not be refused, because of other corruptions that may be found in them that hold it.
Not so, for many of them hold that there are no visible Chri∣stians* that stand members of the Parishes in England, and that it is not lawfull to hold any private Religious communion with such persons; and that the parishionall Assemblies are none of them true Churches, and that it is not lawfull to hear any of those Ministers to preach the Word, none of which are justified at all by holding Church-Covenant, though they do hold the same; There is no such necessarie and inseparable connexion betweene these opinions, and that of Church-Covenant, that he that holds this, must needs hold the other also.
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. Pa•k•r 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,
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.
We answer, that this is true, and thereby it appears, that it is not* simply the changing a mans opinion or practise that can be count∣ed blame-worthy, or offensive, but changing without warrant of the Word; and therefore in point of Church-Covenant, the iss•• must not be whether we or others have formerly known and pra∣ctised it, but whether it have ground from Gods Word; For if it have (as we hope have been proved before in this discourse) then the observing of it, can be no cause of just offence unto others, not imputation of inconstancy to our selves, though in time past we had not had so much light as to discerne the necessitie and use thereof.
The good Lord pardon every one that prepareth his heart to seek God, though he be not cleansed according to the purification of the Sanctuary: and grant unto all his Churches and servants▪ that their love may abound yet more and more in knowledge, and in all judgement, that they may discerne the things that differ▪ and approve the things that are excellent, and by his Spirit of truth be led forward into all truth, till Antichrist be utterly con∣sumed with the breath of his mouth, and the brightnesse of his coming, and the holy City new Jerusalem come down from God out of heaven, as a Bride adorned for her husband the Lambe, the Lord Jesus, to whom be all glory of affiance and service for ever.