The Presence of CHRIST WITH THE MINISTERS OF THE GOSPEL, Opened & Applyed in a SERMON Preached at Swampfield, January 1st. 1717/18. Being the Day of the Gathering of the Church, and the Ordination of the REVEREND JOSEPH WILLARD their Pastor.

By Solomon Stoddard, A. M. & Pastor of Northampton.

BOSTON in N. E. Printed by B. Green, 1718.

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The Presence of CHRIST WITH THE Ministers of the GOSPEL.


— And lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the World, Amen.

CHRIST JESUS in the 18th Verse acquaints the Disciples with His own Authority: All Power is given unto Me in Heaven and in Earth. And then He Exercises His Authority in Commissionating them. And first, He tells them to whom they shall go. viz. To all Nations, as they had Opportunity. They were forbiden formerly to go to the Gentiles. Mat. 10.5. Go not into the way of the Gentiles, & in­to any City of the Samaritans enter ye not; but now He takes off that prohibition, tho' they were first [Page 2]to offer the Gospel to the Jews. Paul & Barna­bas told the Jews, That it was necessary that the Gospel should first be spoken to them, Act. 13.46. Secondly, Here be the several Offices which they are to Attend. (1) They were to make Disciples. We render it, Teach the word is [...], Disciple all Nations. They were to bring them to the acknowledgment of Christ & the Profession of the Gospel. (2) They were to Baptize them in the Name of the Father and of the Son & of the Holy Ghost. This is a Seal of the Covenant that succeeds in the room of Cir­cumcision, Representing our being wasned from our Sins in the blood of Christ: This must be applied to all Disciples Adult and Infants. (3) They must teach them all rules of Obedience. This comprehends the whole Law of God both Moral & Instituted, what ever was their duty to practice, that was the duty of the Disciples to Preach. This work that He sets them about was attended with much difficulty, considering the corruption of Nature, and the prejudices that both Jews & Gentiles were under; therefore He incourages them that He will be with them. He would have them take special notice of it, Lo, I am with you. Mind here, 1st. What He pro­mises, that is, His Presence. He was about to remove to Heaven, but he tells them, He will [Page 3]be with them; though He was absent as to His Humane Nature, yet He would be with them, by His Spirit and His Power. 2ly. The Per­sons to whom the promise is made, and they are immediately the Eleven Apostles: But He in­tends their Successors also. They could live but a little while; But He promises His Pre­sence to the end of the World.


CHRIST JESUS will be present with the Ministers of the Gospel to the End of the World.

CHRIST was eminently with the Apostles, so that in a short time, they set up Churches in many parts of the World, and laid a foun­dation of the profession of the Christian Reli­gion, both among civil and barbarous Nations; and tho' Ministers in these days must not ex­pect such extraordinary gifts, or such wonder­ful success as they had; yet they have the word of Christ for it, that He will be with them. They may conclude that Satan will be busy to oppose them: But this is their incouragement that Christ will be present with them. The work of the Ministry is difficult work. Paul saith, Who is sufficient for these things, 2 Cor. [Page 4]2.16. But yet there is no reason that they should faint under their burden, for Christ saith He will be with them. The Ministers of the Gospel are Christs Ministers, and their Service is Service for Christ, therefore it is no wonder that He will be present with them. When God sent Moses to the Children of Israel, He tells them that He will be with him, Exod. 3.12. So when Christ sends his Ministers, He tells them that He will be with them; and it is a great Comfort to the People, that Christ will be with their Ministers: and this is not the Privilege of One Generation, or a few Genera­tions, but of all Generations to the end of the World.

Here it may be inquired, [1.] How do Mi­nisters need the Presence of Christ? [2] How will Christ be present with them?

1. Quest. How do Ministers need the Presence of Christ?

Answ. 1. To furnish them with Gifts for their Work. There was need of extraordinary Gifts in the beginning of the Gospel, for the removal of Prejudices: both Jews and Gentiles by reason of their Education were under Prejudices, and there was need of Miraculous Gifts to prepare them to consider impartially the Doctrine [Page 5]taught by the Apostles. And Ministers now need Christs presence to furnish them with Gifts: there is need of a great deal of Wisdom to find out acceptable words Eccl. 12.10. The Preacher sought to find acceptable words. They need a great deal of Knowledge to accomplish them for their work: The Minister needs great Knowledge in the Scripture to inable him to answer all Cases of Conscience that may be put to him; to help Persons that are in the dark to judge aright of their Condition, to inable them to see their Sincerity or their Hypocrisy; they need a great deal of Light from Christ, that they may understand the Truth in things that are controverted, and lead the People in the right way: there be abundance of Mistakes among Men in Matters of Religion, some of them very dangerous, all of ill consequence; and Ministers need Light from God, that they may not be blind guides: they need Divine Teaching, that they may be able to convince Men that do oppose the Truth; and to establish them that do receive it He must be able to con­vince gainsayers, Tit. 1.9. There is a great deal of darkness among Men about Matters of Faith, about Moral Rules, and about Divine Institu­tions; and Ministers need to be taught of God that they may teach People the good and the [Page 6]right way. It is not enough for a Minister to be able to make some Edifying Discourses; he should be able to set those points that are more intricate in a true light, and to speak accurate­ly, to all those Cases that the Souls of Men need help in.

2. To strengthen them against Temptation. The Calling of a Minister lays him open to great Temptation, especially thro' a Spirit of Fear to neglect his duty; sometimes he is cal­led to Preach such Truths as will be offensive to some, and stir up their displeasure and op­position; sometimes to give such Reproofs as will be taken very hardly by some Men, they will stomach it that they are reflected upon; sometimes he is under a necessity to deal with some Men, that don't know how to bear it. And there is danger of being out-bid with a Spirit of Fear; some are his Friends and he is loth to offend them, he has a dependance up­on some, and it is dangerous crossing them: in such cases he needs a great deal of help from Christ to strengthen his Love and his Faith, that he may be bold to do his duty. When Jonah was sent to cry against Nineveh because of their wickedness, his fear mastered him, so that he fled to Tarshish, Jon. 1.2, 3. He was terrifyed to think what usage he should [Page 7]meet with all, and to avoid the anger of Men exposed himself to the anger of God. Faith­fulness may expose them to great Sorrows, the fear of which sometimes makes to be unfaith­ful. Paul begs prayers on that account Eph. 6.19, 20. And for me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the Mystery of the Gospel, for which I am an Ambassador in bonds, that there­in I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

3. To protect their Persons. In times of Per­secution Ministers are more exposed than other Men; they are looked on as the head of their Party, and the principal spight is against them. Jezabel cut off the Prophets of the Lord so the Papists have a particular Malice against them: and about Fifty Years since, Two Thousand Ministers were silenced in England, in one day, and many of them exposed to great straits: and at other times, they are exposed to many wrongs and injuries, and need help from God for their deliverance. Paul was delivered through the Presence of God. 2 Tim. 4 17. The Lord stood with me, and strengthned me, and I was deliverea out of the Mouth of the Lion. Christ promised Paul to deliver him, Acts 26.17. Delivering thee from the People and from the Gentiles to whom I send thee And so He did many times. If God had not delivered him, he had not continued in [Page 8]his work as he did, but would have fallen a Sacrifice to the rage of his Enemies many Years before he did. Acts 26.22. Having obtained help of God I continue unto this day.

4. To Succeed their Labours. They need to be prospered in their labours, that there may be a Reformation wrought in the Land; that those corrupt Practices which bring down the Judg­ment of God may be put away: And in order to this, they need the help of God. It is God's work to prepare Men to Reform. 2 Chron 29.36. And Hezekiah rejoyced & all the People, that God had prepared the People, for the thing was done suddenly. There is need of Divine help that the labours of Ministers may be prosperous for the Comforting of Disconsolate Saints: Some­times they are like Rachel, Refusing to be com­forted. There is need of the Presence of Christ with Ministers for the Awakning of Sinners and bringing them to Christ. Ministers will Preach to no purpose if God do not send His Spirit. Ministers can't open blind Eyes, nor raise dead Men to Life. Job. 16.7, 8. If I depart I will send the Comforter unto you, and when he is come, be will reprove the world of Sin, of Righteousness, and of Judgment. It is God that adds Efficacy to the Ordinances. 2 Cor. 10.4. The weapons of [...] are mighty through God to the pulling [Page 9]down of strong holds. It is God that casts out Devils. It is Christs work to build up His Church. It is a Divine work to make the Ar­rows of the word stick in the Hearts of Men. Ministers may waste their Spirits, tire their Brains, and weary their Bodies to no purpose, if God don't add the operation of His Spirit. If God do not give His Blessing to their labours, they may take up that complaint, Isa. 49.4. I have laboured in vain, and spent my strength for naught and in vain. Men can remain sottish and un­believing under the best means. It is God that takes away the heart of stone and gives an heart of flesh, Ezek. 11.19. Ministers may take pains and write their Sermons, but it is God only that writes the Law in the hearts of men. Jer. 31.33. It is His Voice that raiseth dead souls, Joh. 5.25. The Word of God is the Sword of the Spirit.

2. Quest. How will Christ be present with them? How doth He ingage His Presence? How far may we depend on those words of Christ, without straining them? If we consider the Qualities of many Ministers, we cannot conceive any eminent Presence of Christ with them; many of the Priests of Old were very bad. Jer. 2.8. The Priests said not, Where is the Lord, and they that handle the Law know me not: [Page 10]and the Pastors have transgressed against me. So the Scribes & Pharisees were very corrupt. Mat. 23.3. Do not after their works, for they say and do nor. And so it is at this day in many Countries, especially with some Ministers of the Gospel; their Practices are such as make many to stum­ble at the Law.

Answ. 1. CHRIST will be so present with the Gospel-Ministry, that His visible Kingdom shall be upheld. If some of them be notoriously defective of their duty; yet by those that are in the Mi­nistry, His work shall be carryed on, and His Kingdom shall be preserved throughout all Ge­nerations. The Gospel shall be Preached and there shall be those that shall make a Profession of the Truth. The Kingdom of Christ is some­times in a more fiourishing condition, and some­times it withers: but it shall never be [...]. [...] of these Kings, shall the God of Heaven set up a Kingdom, that shall never be destroyed. Mar. 16.18. Upon this Rock will I build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. God has made a donation of an Eternal Kingdom to Christ. Psal. 72.17. His Name shall endure for ever, it shall continue as long as the Sun. How many secure, carnal and corrupt men are in the Ministry, that con­tribute very little to the upholding of His King­dom? [Page 11]yet there shall be such a Presence of Christ with some that are in the Ministry, that neither Persecutuion nor Heresy shall prevail to root out the Kingdom of Christ. God will so far prosper the labours of the Ministry, that the Church shall be Immortal: There shall be a Succession of those that shall make a Profession of the Gospel: There shall always be Witnesses for Christ, tho' for a long while they Prophecy in Sackcloth. Christ shall divide the spoil with the Mighty.

2. CHRIST will be so present with them, that all the Elect shall be brought in. There be a Number whose Names are written in the Lambs book of Life: there be a Number that God hath given to Christ, and God will bless the labours of Ministers unto their Conversion, & their Per­severance in Holiness. Some Preach Christ out of love, and some for carnal ends. So it was of Old. Phil. 1 15. Some indeed Preach Christ even of envy and strife, and some of good will But Christ doth so far bless the Preaching and Writing of the Ministry, that all the Elect shall be brought in. In some Ages many are Con­verted, and in all Ages such as do belong unto the Election of Grace Joh 6.37. All that the Father hath given me shall come unto me. Rom. 11.7. The Election hath obtained. Rom. 8.30. Whom [Page 12]he did Predeslinate, them he also Called, and whom be Called, them be also Justifyed. Whether the Means be greater or less, there shall be such a Presence of Christ with them, that all whom God has chosen shall be Converted. If any of them live under corrupt and vicious Ministers, yet they shall not miscarry; the light that they enjoy shall prevail for their Conversion and Sal­vation. Psal. 132.16. I will cloath her Priests with Salvation. Christ will not loose any of those that the Father hath given him.

3. CHRIST will be present with many of them and make them gracious. For the advantage of Religion God will prepare many Godly Men to Preach the Gospel: The Piety of Ministers is greatly for the promoting of Religion: Piety makes them more findious: Piety furnishes them with such Experience, as greatly helps them in their work: Piety makes them more faithful to the Souls of Men; and the sense that People have of their Piety, causeth them to lay the more weight on their words, and causes the word to fall with more authority on them. God fits Men for the Ministry. So God fitted Paul: He had chosen him to Preach the Gospel, and Conver­ted him in a wonderful manner. Gal. 1.15, 16. It pleased God who separated me from my Mothers Womb, and called me by his Grace, to reveal his Son [Page 13]in me. God promised of old to raise up a faith­ful Priest, 1 Sam. 2.35. And sometimes espe­cially there shall be a great Number of faithful Preachers. Jer. 3.15. I will give them Pastors af­ter mine own heart, that shall feed them with Know­ledge and Understanding. Christ adviseth us to Pray that it may be so. Mat. 9.38. Pray ye the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth la­bourers into his harvest. And He doth at times eminently answer such Prayers. So He did at the time of the casting off of Popery, which that Scripture hath reference unto, Rev. 14.6. I saw another Angel flie in the midst of Heaven, having the Everlasting Gospel to preach to them that dwell on the Earth. God raised up Luther and Melancthon, and Zwinglius, and Calvin, with many others, who did great Service to the Church of God. God Converts some Men and then makes them Ministers. So he did Paul: He made him faithful, and so put him into the Ministry, 1 Tim. 1.12. And He puts some Men into the Ministry and then Converts them. They are qualifyed with Gifts and Learning be­fore, and after they are entred into the work, God qualifies them with Grace. Acts 6.7. A great company of the Priests were obedient unto the Faith.

4. CRHIST will be graciously present with [Page 14]them that are faithful. It is a great commenda­tion of a Minister to be a faithful Man. Col. 1.7. Epaphras, is for you a faithful Minister of Christ. Such Men shall have the gracious Pre­sence of God. He will own them in their work, tho' it may be in different degrees. God don't give the same light to one faithful Man that He doth to another. Some godly Men are left to great Mistakes. Godliness is no security against lesser Errors. Neither doth He give the like measure of protection to one as to another. He appears more eminently for the preservation of one, and the vindication of one, than of another. He eminently vindicated Moses, as a reward of his faithfulness. Numb. 12.7. My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all my house. So He doth more eminently succeed the labours of one than of another. Some have more abundant success, while some Men take abundance of pains, and there appears little profit: Others have great occasion to rejoyce that they have not run in vain. Paul had great success. Rom. 15.29. I am sure, that when I come unto you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ.

USE, I. This is ground of Encouragement to People, in Praying for the Presence of God with their Ministers. The Minister should Pray for [Page 15]the People, and the People should Pray for their Ministers, for their own Ministers, and for the Ministers of the Land; yea, and for the Mi­nisters of the Christian World. Moses Prays for the Ministers. Deut. 33.8. And of Levi he said, Let thy Thummim, and thy Urim be with the holy One, &c. Verse 11. Bless, Lord his substance, and accept the work of his hands. David did so, Psal. 132.9. Let thy Priests be clothed with Righteous­ness. There is ground of incouragement that Christ hath promised His Presence with them. This Promise may make you bold and free in Praying for them: you may conclude that 'tis acceptable to God so to do. You may gather from this Promise that you are welcome to Pray for them, that it is a thing suitable to the Heart of God, and that there is great hopes that God will accept of such Prayers. Indeed God don't oblige Himself as to the degree of this Mercy, but you have no reason to be dis­couraged, He allows you to put Him in mind of His Promise, and to beg of Him that He would remember His Word, and fulfill it graciously. You should look on this Mercy as a Mercy that God delights to bestow, and so come boldly to the Throne of Grace for it.

There be three faults contrary to this.

1. When People Pray for them for Forms sake. [Page 16]Many People have got a custom when they make their Prayers, to say something in a cursory way for their Ministers: but it is not upon their heart that God would be with them. We have many People that are violently carrying on worldly designs, that are panting after the dust of the Earth, that make light of the Gospel, and go one to his Farm and another to his Mer­chandize: these Men are but formal in their Prayers for Spiritual Blessings; they spend it may be the greatest part of their time in Prayer about Spiritual Blessings, but their hearts don't go with their words. So they Pray for their Ministers, but it is only of course, because it is their manner: their hearts are not much in it that the labours of their Ministers be blessed, either to others or to themselves; when the words are out of their Mouths they have done with it, they think no more on it; they don't look after their Prayers to see what answer God gives them; if they be not heard they don't trouble themselves, their hearts are not on the prosperity of Religion; there is much of Gallio's Spirit in them: They care not for those matters, Acts 18. 17.

2. When People Pray under the prevailings of discouragement Some Persons Pray that God would bless the Ministers; Conscience of duty [Page 17]makes them do it, they can't satisfie their own hearts to neglect it: but they think it is not worth the while to insift upon it, for there is very little hope of obtaining any great matter, for things are growing worse and worse in the Country; we grow more and more Proud and Worldly, and Intemperate, and there seems to be a blast upon Ordinances, and People hold fast deceit, and refuse to return to God. We seem to be like the People of Judah, to whom God sent the Prophets, Rising early and sending them, but they would not hear; they conclude that the Country will degenerate more and more; they say Temptations increase and are greatly multiplyed; a spirit of rudeness and prophaness doth abound in the Land; and they are ready to say, God seems to have little re­gard to Prayers of this Nature; that God has forgotten us, and that our bones are dryed, as they say, Ezek. 37.11. Things look so dark that they are out of hope of obtaining any great mat­ter; they think the Country will grow a wick­ed Country; they grow out of heart, and don't seek earnestly that it may be otherwise.

3. When Men Pray presumptuously for them. Some err on this hand, either from a misunder­standing of the Promises, as if God were so bound to bless the labours of His Ministers, that He [Page 18]had not left Himself at liberty, as certainly He sometimes doth in Judgment, as Isai. 6.9, 10. Go tell this People, Hear ye indeed but under­stand not, and seeing ye indeed but perceive not; make the heart of this People fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes, lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and convert and be healed. Some presume from ignorance of the state of the Coun­try: They think that most of the Professors of the Country are godly Men; are not sensible that there are many foolish Virgins; many that have a Name that they live, and are dead; ma­ny that have not the Wedding Garment, a lit­tle appearance passeth with them for holiness; they are somewhat startled to consider, that there be so many Judgments in the Land; but it seems to them, that the Country is full of good People, and that there be a great number of Converted Men and Women in the Land; and so they presume that Ministers still will have a great deal of Success, and that Religion will flourish in the Land. Some presume upon their Prayers, as if they did Merit to be heard; as if their earnest Prayers must needs engage God, and it would not be fair for God to de­ny them; whereas if their Prayers be answered it is from free Grace.

[Page 19] USE, II. Faithful Ministers ought to take Encouragement that they shall have Christs Presence. Ministers are in danger to be discouraged; their work is heavy, and attended with a great deal of difficulty, and their Spirits are ready to faint, sometimes under a sense of their own weakness, want of Understanding, and Grace for their work, sometimes upon Experience of Unsuc­cessfulness; they have taken a great deal of pains, and little comes on it; Sins that they reprove are not reformed; Sinners are not Converted; many remain senseless, and hard-hearted, as if no Means had been used with them: but their hearts should not sink under their burden. 2 Cor. 4.1. Seeing we have this Ministry, as we have received Mercy we faint not. Christ Jesus can assist them in their work, and furnish them to do their work acceptably; and He can make their work prosperous; He can make their Ministry powerful, though Men be very blind, and dead, and have strong inclina­tions to continue in a course of Sin. And Christ has pomised His Presence. He doth not say that He will be as much with one as with another; or in what degree He will be present; but He promiseth His Presence, this should encou­rage them.

[Page 20] 1. This shews that Christ is sensible that they need His Presence. When Christ saith, I will be with you, He speaks it in pity and compassion. He takes notice that their work is hard, and they are like to meet with many difficulties. He is sensible that their work will be too hard for them, if He should leave them alone. He has no Expectation that the work will prosper except He be present with them. He knows and takes notice of their inabilities; that let them study never so much, and be exceeding careful in their preparations, and earnest and hearty in their delivery of their Sermons, let them use the most proper arguments, and fol­low them never so fully, and confirm what they say by clear testimony from the word of God, and pursue the design without weariness; yet they will not be able to Convince, or to Con­vert Men; they can neither reform the Place, nor prevail with Men to comply with the terms of the Gospel, except He be present with them. He has no dependance upon their abilities, to make the Gospel Efficacious. He is sensible it would be a fruitless thing to send them; He may as well send them to remove Mountains, as to perswade them to fall in with the way of Salvation, Except He be with them. Christ is so well acquainted with the blindness and hard­ness [Page 21]of Mens hearts, that it will signifie nothing to send them, unless He be with them; therefore He promises Divine help. Joh. 16.7, 8. The Comforter shall come and convince the World.

2. He would have them incourage themselves in hope of His Presence. The very design of these words is to Comfort & Incourage their hearts. He speaks these words to support them, that they may go chearfully about their work. He would have them set this Promise against the difficulties of their work. He speaks these words to answer their Temptations, and the Ob­jections that might arise in their hearts. If He says, He will be with them, He will not call it Presumption for them to hope for His Presence, but He will be angry with them if they do not. Not to be incouraged is to neglect the proper use of these words: These words, I will be with you, are a good foundation for them to Pray in Faith for it.

3. Christ is under bonds to grant His Presence to the Ministry. This Promise is absolute to the Ministry. I can't say that Christ is abso­lutely bound to make every Minister an instru­ment of the Conversion of Souls. A Minister may die quickly; or a Minister may prove a very corrupt man; or if God should not make a Minister an instrument to Convert Souls, yet [Page 22]He may make him very Successful as to esta­blishing and comforting of Saints; or to re­form the Place; or to clear up some Divine Truths that were not acknowledged. But this Promise, That Christ will be with the Ministers, and make use of them for the Conversion of Souls, is absolute to the Ministry; there is no condition expressed, neither is there any to be understood, for it is by the Service of the Mi­nistry that He intends to carry on His Work, & build up His Church in all Generations. Eph. 4.11, 12. He gave some Apostles, some Prophets, some Evangelists, some Pastors and Teachers, for the perfecting of the Saints, for the work of the Mi­nistry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. And He has Elect Ones to be brought in in all Ages: There shall be a Succession of godly Ones to the End of the World. Psal. 72.17. His Name shall indure for ever, it shall continue as long as the Sun, Men shall be blessed in him. The Success of the Ministry is held forth in that Parable: Mat. 22.10. Those Servants went out into the High ways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both good and bad, and the wedding was furnished with guests.

4. Add this likewise, That He hath made good this Word many times Eminently. The Apostles had great Success in one Country and another. [Page 23]Acts 14.1. They so spake that a great Multitude both of the Jews and of the Greeks believed. Acts 19.20. It is said, So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed. This success in the Primi­tive times is represented, Rev. 6.2. Behold a white horse, and he that sat on him had a bow, and a crown was given to him, and he went forth conquering and to conquer. There were many in those days that suffered Martyrdom: Rev. 12.11. They loved not their lives unto the death. So in succeeding Ages when they broke off from Popery, many were Converted by the Mini­stry, and Sealed the Truth with their blood. And in our days several Ministers have had Eminent Success, and God has given a great blessing to their labours: And many of them have given great Evidence of their real Con­version by their holy lives, and the great com­fort which they had in a dying day. Many Ministers may say by Experience, as 2 Cor. 10.4, 5. The weapons of our warfare are not car­nal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth it self against the know­ledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.

[Page 24] USE, III. Ministers should do what they can that they may have the Presence of Christ with them. It is true, that Christ acts somewhat arbitrarily in this matter: yet there are rules to be attended that you may engage the Pre­sence of Christ with you; and it is well worth the while to take care in this matter. It is a great comfort & incouragement to a Minister to see the Presence of Christ with his labours. It is a smile upon him; though it be no certain sign of Sincerity, yet therein God smiles on him: It is an honour to him. When God sets his Seal to his Ministry, God owns him in his work. 1 Cor. 9.2. The Seal of my Apostleship are ye in the Lord. When God is present with his labours He makes him a blessing; which was part of the happiness of Abraham: God tells him, I will bless thee and thou shalt be a blessing. Gen. 12.2. Dr Williams, Bishop of Lincoln, in his old Age expressed himself in this manner, ‘That he had born many honourable Offices, but if he did know that he had been an in­strument to Convert one Soul to God, it would be more comfort to him, than all the Offices that he had sustained.’ To be useless is a reproach, to be an instrument to do hurt is a curse, but to be an instrument of good is a great [Page 25]honour. Let Ministers then be careful to get the Presence of Christ.

1. Be of an unblameable Conversation. The holy carriages of Ministers have a natural tendency to beget aregard in the hearts of hearers; holy carriages do command respect, and prepare Men to receive advice. They are more ready to believe Men of good than men of bad Con­versation. Holy carriages in Preachers take off prejudices from the Spirits of hearers: It seems to Men that such Ministers urge rules from Conscience and Compassion. But an unholy Conversation diminishes Mens authority, their Words don't sink into the hearts of their hearers, they don't look upon their advice as flowing from a gracious Spirit, but from some lower principles. But Men of a holy Conversation have a room in the hearts of others. Besides, this is a way to engage the Presence of Christ. Evil carriages are abominable to Christ, but holy carriages are acceptable to Christ. Men that walk holily put honour upon him; and He will honour them that honour him, 1 Sam. 2.30. When Men carry holily, God delights to succeed their labours. Mal. 2.6. He walked with me in Peace and Equity, and did turn many away from iniquity. But when Men carry corruptly, He many times casts contempt on them, and their [Page 26]Ministry is not blessed. Mal. 2.8, 9. But ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the Law; ye have corrupted the Co­venant of Levi, faith the Lord of hosts: Therefore have. I also made you contemptible and base before all the People; according as ye have not kept my ways, but have been partial in the Law. An unholy Conversation brings a blast upon their labours. The prosperity of Religion don't de­pend on the labours of Men that do not honour it: their words will not prevail without their practice: they must Preach in their Conversa­tion on Week days, as well as in the Pulpit on the Sabbath.

2. Insist on those things that Men stand in special need of. All Scripture is profitable, but the great design of the Scripture and the Ministry is to Convert Men to God. Acts 26.18. To open their blind eyes, to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God. Some Mini­sters speak a great deal to Saints to comfort and incourage them; and alas, there be but a few of them in many Congregations: The body of the People are in a perishing condition; and there is ten times more need that Men be a­wakened and terrifyed. Ministers should imi­tate Paul. 2 Cor. 5.11. Knowing the terror of the Lord, we perswade men. Christ Jesus was [Page 27]often putting Men in Mind of Hell and the day of Judgment, in the time of His Ministry. It is not a little hint now and then, that will make them work out their Salvation with fear and trembling. Many Men are in a fast Sleep, and whispering will not awaken them; the threatnings of God had need ring in their Ears; they are so atheistical and devoted to the World, that it is well if Thunder & Light­ning will scare them; they are so hardned, that talking moderately to them, as Eli did to his Sons, takes no more impression on them, than on the Seats of the Meeting house. The rule is, Ezek. 6.11. Thus faith the Lord God, Smite with thy hand, and stamp with thy foot, and say, alas, for all the abominations of the house of Israel, for they shall fall by the Sword, and by the Famine, and by the Pestilence.

3. Preach in such a Manner as is most proper to take with the Conscience. Gods way is to bless suitable Means. He don't bless healing Plainsters to eat away proud flesh; He don't bless Cordials to take away stubborn humours: If Ministers design to Convert Men, they had need speak peircing words. Eccl. 12 11. The words of the wise are as goads and as nails, fast­ned by the Moster of Assemblies. Some Ministers affect Rhetorical strains of Speech, as if they [Page 28]were making an Oration in the Schools; this may tickle the Fancies of Men, and scratch Itching Ears; but we have Mens Consciences to deal with: Men need to be frighted and not to be pleased. 1 Cor. 2.4. My Speech and my Preaching was not with enticing words of mans wisdom; but in demonstration of the Spirit, and of Power. We are not sent into the Pulpit to shew our Wit and Eloquence, but to set the Consciences of Men on fire; not to nourish the vain humours of People, but to lance and wound the Consciences of Men. The word is sharper than a two-edged sword, dividing Soul and Spirit, Joints & Marrow, discovering the thoughts, and intents of the heart, Heb. 4.12. And we should use it for that end: The Word is as an Ham­mer and we should use it to break the Rocky hearts of Men.

4. Be much in Prayer for the Presence of Christ. Christ has made a Promise, but He expects that we should sue it out: As Ezek. 36.37. Yet will I be enquired of by the House of Israel to do it for them. We should turn Promises into Pe­titions; one end of Promises is to help us to Pray in Faith: And this is a way to engage Christ more eminently to fulfill the Promise. When we Pray for the Presence of Christ, we acknowledge our own insufficiency, and that we [Page 29]have need of the Presence of Christ; that we can neither do our work, nor obtain Success with­out Him. When we Pray for His Presence, we acknowledge that we are unworthy of it; that we cannot challenge it as due, but depend on His Grace, to make it good to us; that we must have it in a way of free gift. When we Pray for it, we acknowledge His sufficiency to help us; that if we have His Presence, that will be enough, that then we may go chearfully on in our work. When we Pray for it, we shew that we lay weight upon His Promise, and it is a sign that if He doth grant His Presence, we shall give Him the Glory, and ascribe our Success to Him. Therefore we had need be much in Prayer for this, That God's Urim and Thum­mim may with us; this is our encouragement that He has said, He will cloth his Priests with Salvation, Psal. 132.16. And as in the Text, That He will be with His Ministers to the End of the World.

[Page 1]

An Examination of the Power of the FRATERNITY.

THE mistakes of one Generation many times become the calamity of succeeding Generations. The present Generation are not only unhappy by reason of the dark­ness of their own Minds, but the errors of those who have gone before them, have been a foundation of a great deal of Misery. Posterity is very prone to espouse the principles of Ancestors, and from an in­ordinate Veneration of them, to apprehend a sacred­ness in their Opinions, and don't give themselves the trouble to make an impartial Examination of them, as if it were a transgression to call them into question, and bordered upon Irreligion to be wave­ring about them; and the carnal interests of many Persons has no small influence upon them, to pre­vail with them to engage violently in the Vindi­cation of them.

And if any particular Persons have been led by God into the understanding of those mistakes, and have made their differing Sentiments Publick, it has proved an occasion of much Sorrow; and many People have fallen into Parties, whereby a Spirit of [Page 2]Lore has been quenched, and great heats have risen, from whence have proceeded, Censures and Re­proaches, and sometimes Separation & Persecution. There have been two eminent instances of this in latter times. When the People of England cast off the Doctriues of Popery, they retained many of the Ceremonies of the Church of Rome; as the Surplice, Cros, in Baptism, and Kneeling at the Lords Supper, &c. and this has been a wounding thing to their Poste­rity. The Generations since have been greatly dis­tressed by their Contentions about those things. Many Books have been written for and against the Cere­monies; and sometimes one party has got the upper hand, and have persecuted the other with a great deal of harshness and severity, to the undoing of many Families: Sometimes the other party has prevailed, and knew not how to use their advantage with moderation, and there is no prospect of the end of these troubles; the discords run sometimes high­er and sometimes lower, but nothing appears in Pro­vidence, but that they may be perpetual.

The other instance is in New-England; The first Planters drew up a Platform of Church Discipline, before they had much time to weigh those things, and when they were under prejudices, from the ex­perience of their sufferings in England; and some of their Posterity are mightily devoted to it, as if the Platform were the Pattern in the Mount, and all deviations from it, are looked upon as a degree of Apostacy; others have taken the liberty to Exa­mine it, and can discover no foundation in the Word of God for many Positions therein: these differences do much interrupt our quiet and hinder [Page 3]the flourishing of Religion. Some Persons place a great part of their Religion in their being of this or that party; and others who have better Principles, spend more of their zeal in these Controversies thau is meet, and thereby it comes to pass that weightier matters are too much neglected. Mens Corruptions are drawn forth, offences are given, and some times offence is taken, to the great disadvantage of the Interest of Religion. There is a necessity of the vindicating the Truth, yet we cannot do it without making some disturbance

In the Platform it is suffirmed, That the Brothren have power of judgment in matters of Censure, and power in admitting of Members.

This Principle is very Popular; it is taking with them to see themselves advanced to a share in the government: They have a greater fondness for power than ability to use it, and nothing but light as clear as the light of the Sun at Noon day, will prevail with some Men to part with one Inch of that power, which they are told, doth belong to them.

But I shall endeavour to clear it up, That the go­vernment of the Church is given unto the Elders, & that the Fraternity have no power in binding & loosing.

CHRIST JESUS is the absolute head of the Church, and keeps that part of government en­tirely in His own hands, to appoint Officers and Laws for His Church. The Civil Magistrate has power also in many Ecclesiastical cases; he may appoint days of Fasting, as Jehoshaphat did, 2 Chren. 20.3. Jehoshaphat feared & set himself to seek the Lord and proclaimed a Fast throughout all Judah. And by the same reason they may appoint days of Thank­giving, [Page 4]they may call Ecclesiastical Councils, they may take care of the Maintenance of Ministers, they may Suppress those that give disturbance to the Church.

The Elders with the Church have power also occa­sionally to appoint days of Fasting or Thanksgiving.

The Brethren of the Church have power to choose their own Officers. It seems also to belong to the body of the People to appoint where their Meeting­house shall be set. But Spiritual power of govern­ing the Church, by admitting of Members, Censu­ing of Offenders, and taking off of Censures, doth belong entirely to the Elders.

1. Arg. Is from Mat. 16.19. I will give unto thee the Keys of the King done of Heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and what­soever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. And Joh. 20 23. Christ saith to the Apostles Whose sins ye remit, they are remitted to them, and whosoever sins ye retain, they are retained. Here you may consider,

1. What is given: There be two expressions of this, The first is the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven: This intends power over the Church. The Keys are the Ensign of Authority When Eliakim was made Steward of the Kings house, it is expressed in this manner: Isai. 22 22. The Key of the house of David I will lay upon his shoulder, so he shall open and none shall shut, and he shall shut and none shall open. At this day, when a besieged City doth render to the besiegers, they deliver up the Keys as a sign of their Subjection. The second expression is, That what he binds on earth is bound in heaven, &c. This notes a power to inflict Church Censures, and also to deliver from them: for in John it is explained by permitting & retaining sins.

[Page 5] 2. The Subject that this power is given unto, viz. Firstly to Peter and to the rest of the Apostles, and so to their Successors to the end of the World. As the Church is to continue, so the government of the Church must be continued. Gospel Ordinances will continue in force to the end of the World; therefore the Gospel Church is called, A Kingdom that cannot be moved, Heb. 12.28. The Key of Doctrine doth belong to the Ministers, they are the Successors of the Apostles to the end of the World: And the Key of Discipline belongs to the same Persons that the Key of Doctrine doth belong to. Heb. 13.7. Remember them that have the rule over you, that have spoken to you the Word of God. The managing of the Keys is a work of Office, and therefore doth belong to those that have Office power in the Church.

I shall not shew how this Scripture has been abu­sed by those of the Church of Rome, for the Esta­blishing of Papal power; But mind you how it hath been darkned by a violent interpretation among out selves, viz. That the Keys were given to Peter partly as an Apostle, partly as a Minister, partly as a Belie­ver. This interpretation has more of fancy than truth: If this interpretation were given by inspired Men, it ought to be received, but there is not a tittle in the Text that looks that way.

If Christ had said, That He gave unto the Church the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, the Apostles, and Pastors, and Believers, might have put in their seve­ral pleas for their shares of Ecclesiastical power; but he doth not promise to give power to the Church, but to give power to Peter; and it would be very strange if he should give power to Peter to judge an [Page 6]Offender as he was a Pastor, and yet further power to him as a Believer to give his Suffrage in the same case among the Brethren.

The plain meaning of the Place is this, That as a reward of his hearty confession of Christ, Christ would bestow on him the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven by making him an Officer in the Christian Church. And its absurd & ridiculous to ask whether he is made an Officer as an Officer, or as a Believer. It is all one as if we should ask whether the Staff be given to a Captain as a Captain, or as a common Souldier: or to ask whether the Office of a Gover­nour be given to him as a Governour, or as a Free­man. The giving the Keys to Peter gives Office­power to him; they are given unto him as one chosen to such an Office.

2. Arg. Is taken from 1 Tim. 5.17. Let the Elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especial­ly they who labour in the Word & Doctrine. Heb. 13 17. Obey them that have the rule over you, and sumbit your selves, for they watch for your souls as they that must give account.

Consider 1. Who they are to whom this Honour & Obedience must be yielded, that are stiled Rulers. And it is very evident that they are Elders, princi­pally if not only Teaching Elders: In Heb. 17.13. They are said to be those that watch for their souls And v. 7. He speaks of such Rulers, as have spoken to them in the Name of God.

2. What their Duty is towards them; They are to they them, and to submit to them. Whence we may observe two things.

1. That the Elders are the only Rulers in the Church; [Page 7]Ruling in the Church is appropriated to them. They are not called the Principal Rulers, but the Rulers. None else has any authority to joyn in Ruling When they are said to be the Rulers, it is exclusive of any other. They that are the Rulers are distinguished from them that are Ruled If Elders are the Rulers, then it is an Intrusion for any other to intermeddle in Ruling. To Vote in matters of Rule is to Rule, therefore they that are not to Rule, are not to Vote. Elders being the only Rulers in the Church, they are to do every thing that is an act of Rule. It is an act of rule to call Offenders to an account, to Censure them and Pardon them; so to admit Members; therefore these Services are to be done by the Elders. For other Men to take upon them, to Vote in these cases, is to usurp an authority that don't belong to them. Many are willing that the Elders should be Modera­tors to order Church Meetings, to order Speech and Silence, to put things to Vote; but Moderators are not Rulers. A Moderator in a Council, is not the Ru­ler of the Council. A private Man may be a Mode­rator in a Church, that has no Elder, when they con­vene to do what is proper for them, yet he is no Ru­ler, he is no Church Officer.

2. They must be Obeyed & submitted unto; the Church and every Member of it must be subject to their Govern­ment. But if the Brethren have power to Vote in acts of government, then they have a liberty to obey or disobey; and particular persons are only to obey the Elders in case there be a concurrence of the Brethren with them If the Elders must be obeyed they must not be controuled or over ruled by them. There be other titles given to the Elders importing the same. [Page 8]They are called Pastors or Shepherd; and so have a government over the Sheep: the Sheep are not sit to govern themselves. They are Overseers or Bishops Acts 20.28. The care of the Church is committed unto them.

3. Arg. The Ministers of the Jewish Church were the sole judges in Spiritual causes. Sometimes also they were made judges in Civil Causes, because they were suitably qualified. 1 Chron. 26.29, 30. And of the Iz­harites, Chenaniah & his Sons, were for the outward bu­siness over Israel, for officers & judges. And of the He­bronites, Hashabiah and his brethren, men of valour, a thousand & seven hundred, were officers among them of Israel on this side Jordan westward, in all business of the Lord, and in the service of the king. So in the follow­ing verses. But the Ministers and they alone were judges in spiritual causes. It is probable from some places of Scripture, that some Men of other Tribes were admitted to the Ministry in Israel. The Phari­sees were of any Tribe, and they were allowed to be Teachers. Mat. 23.2, 3. The Scribes & Pharisees set in Moses seat, all therefore that they bid you observe, that observe & do. And it is probable that they were the Ministers in some of the Synagogues, and did other acts of Office in admitting Proselytes, and sitting in judgment on offenders. Mat. 23.15. Wo to you Scribes and Pharisees, Hypocrites, for you compass sea & land to make one Proselyte. Acts 23.6. Paul perceived that one part of the council were Sadduces, and the other Phari­sees Yet these two things are sure.

1. That the government of the Church of Israel was not a popular government. The common sort of People had no judgment in Ecclesiastical causes. Concer­ning [Page 9]either Moral or Ceremonial uncleanness. There is not one tittle in the word of God that Men were ei­ther condemned or pardoned by the Vote of the People.

2. That the Priests & Levites were the judges in spiritual causes. 2 Chron. 19.8. He set of the Priests & Levites, and of the chief of the Fathers in Israel, for the judgment of the Lord, & for controversies. And he tells them, v. 11. That Amaziah the chief Priest was over them in all matters of the Lord, and Zebadiah the Ruler of the house of Israel in the Kings matters. And in dif­ficult cases they were to carry their appeal to the place that God should chuse; if it were an Ec­clesiastical Case to the Priests, and if it were a Civil to the Judge, and there the thing was to be finally issued. Deut. 17. from v. 7. to 12. And in the case of Leprosy, the Man was to be pronounced clean or un­clean by the Priest. Lev. 13.3 The Priest shall look up­on him & pronounce him unclean. And v. 6. And the Priest shall pronounce him clean. So in the case of an unclean house, Lev. 14.48. Then the Priest shall pro­nounce the house clean, because the plague is healed. So the Priest was to value the unclean beast that a Man would redeem. Lev. 27.11, 12. He shall present the beast before the Priest, and the Priest shall value it, whether it be good or bad, as thou valuest it who art the Priest so shall it be. And if the judgment in Ecclesiastical causes did belong unto the Ministers of the Jewish Church, there is the like reason that it should belong unto the Ministers of the Christian Church Ministers are now by their Function to perform all spiritual Offices in the Church. It was the Ministers work of old to bless the People, so it is now; it was the Ministers work of old to teach the People, so it is now; it was the Ministers work then to put up Publick Prayers, so it [Page 10]is now; it was the Ministers work of old to judge in Spiritual causes, so it is now: Men yeild the case, only they say, That the Multitude have a Negative voice, and if they think meet may stop their proceedings. As if the People were to have more privilege & power un­der the Gospel, and the Minister have less. As if the Jewish People were not qualified to have an hand in the government, & Christian Ministers were unqua­lified to govern without the Suffrage of the People. As if the Jewish Church were more unhappy than the Christian in respect of the ignorance or unfaith­fulness of the People, and the Christian more unhap­py in respect of the ignorance or unfaithfulness of their Ministers.

4. Arg. The Community are not fit to judge & rule in the Church. They must be Men of understanding that are to judge in Civil causes. Exod. 18.21. Thou shalt provide out of all the People able men. Deut. 1.13. Take you wise men & understanding, and known among your Tribes, & I will make them rulers over you. There is a great deal of intricacy many times in causes, & many things are offered to blind the eyes: there may be fair pretences for foul actions. Sometimes it is difficult to find out matter of fact; sometimes to find out mat­ter of law. So that there is great need of understand­ing. Solomon prayed for wisdom to judge Israel, and Israel took notice that the wisdom of God was in him to do judgment, 1 King. 3. ult. But the Community are not men of understanding. Wise Men are but here & there to be found. Many of them have not had the advantage of Reading & Study. Some of them are Men of very weak Abilities, some of them are rash, some of them are Young, hardly Sixteen Years of Age, so me of them are Servants; a crafty man may lead a [Page 11]Score of them by the Nose; they are uncapable to see into an abstruse thing. Let the government be put into their hands, & things will be carryed head-long by a tumultuous cry. If the Multitude were to be judges in Civil causes, things would quickly be tur­ned up side down. We have many examples in the Scripture of the ungovernable Spirit of the Multitude. When Christ Jesus stood before Pilate, they cryed out, Crucify him, crucify him. When Stephen pleaded his case, they lift up their voice & stopped their ears, & ran upon him with one accord. When Paul made his de­fence, they lift up their voice & said, Away with such a fellow, it is not fit that he should live. We have no rea­son to think that Christ would intrust the govern­ment of His Church with Men so uncapable to go­vern. We read of the cry of him that ruleth among fools.

5. Arg. They that are impowred by Christ to judge who are disciples, have power to judge in other causes Ec­clefiastical; but Ministers are to judge who are disciples. Mat. 28.19. Go therefore & teach all Nations baptizing them. The word rendred Teach, is, Disciple them; and when that was done, then they were to Baptize them. They were not to ask the Church for liberty to Baptize them, and if the Church were unwilling, then to neglect it; but when they Discipled them, they were to Baptize them. If the command had been to Bap­tize those that the Church Voted to be disciples, they ought to have taken a Vote for it: but if the com­mand be to Baptize disciples, they are made the judges who are disciples. There is the like reason for other acts of Office: because they are to give the Lords-Supper to qualifyed Persons, therefore they are to judge who are qualifyed; and because they are to censure impenitent Offenders, they are to judge who [Page 12]are impenitent Offenders; and because they are to forgive them that are Penitent, they are to judge who are Penitent Paul Baptized the Jailor & his Family, & Lydia without the consent of any Church. Philip Baptized the Eunuch, and Peter Baptized Cornelius without the consent of any Church. Paul Excom­municated Hymeneus & Alexander, 1 Tim. 1.20. but there is no intimation that he had the consent of the Church. It may be pleaded, That Paul was an Apo­stle, & had extraordinary power. Yet it must be yielded that then the Brethren have power of Suffrage only in some cases, & that their consent is not neces­sary to the validity of the act.

6. Arg. It was foretold in the Prophesies of the Old Testament, that the Ministers of the Gospel should be judges in Ecclesiastical Controversies. Ezek. 44.24. In controversy they shall stand in judgment, and they shall judge according to my judgments.

1. Consider, What time this has reference unto: And surely it don't respect the time immediately af­ter the Babilonish Captivity; for the Temple here spo­ken of is not Zerubbabels Temple, for it was not built in that place where Zerubbabels Temple was, neither was Zerubbabels Temple built after the measures here spoken of, neither was the Land then divided accor­ding to the form here laid down, neither was there such a Portion laid out for the Prince, neither were there such Waters run out from the Sanctuary, either properly or figuratively, as is here expressed; but it doth respect the time of the Gospel Church, & pro­bably more especially the time after the destruction of Antichrist. And the state of it is set forth by phrases borrowed from the worship that was in the Jewish Church.

[Page 13] 2. The Persons spoken of: who are the Ministers of the Gospel Church. They are compared to the Sons of Zadock, for he speaks of those that have the charge of the Sanctuary, that are to teach the People, and to carry on the Publick Worship. And several Rules are given to them to observe, that were given of Old to the Levitical Priests; as being clothed with Linen Garments, not drinking Wine when they enter into the inner Court, or Marrying a Widow, not coming at any dead Person.

3. The Duty incumbant on them; in Controversy they shall stand in judgment, and the shall judge it according to my judgments. This must be restrained to Spiritual or Ec­clesiastical Controversies, such as belonged unto the Priests of Old. In these Controversies they were to be the judges; others had nothing to do to invade this Of­fice. Others might not stand in judgment. It is usurpa­tion of a power that don't belong to them, to take upon them to judge in Controversies. And these Ministers must judge; whatever other business they have, they may not neglect this. God expects this Service from them, and they do not the work of their Office if they do omit this. The judging in these Controversies is an act of Authority & Office power, and none but those that are Officers in the Church may take this work upon them.

1. OBj. Mat. 18.17. Tell it to the Church, and if he neg­lect to hear the Church, let him be to thee as an Heathen Man and a Publican. Therefore the Brethren have power.

A. The meaning is, Tell it to the Ecclesiastical authority, in distinction from the Civil. Paul finds great fault with the Christians at Corinth for going to Law with their Bre­thren. 1 Cor. 6.6. Brother goeth to law with Brother. In case of Offences, Christ would not have them Prosecute their Brethren at the Law, or avenge themselves privately; but seek to heal them. & accordingly bring them to the authority of the Church His design is not to teach them in whose hands the Church authority lies, but to teach them the way of the recovery of their Brethren. When [Page 14]Christ spake these words there was no Church in being, but the Jewish Church, wherein the Elders did Rule: and this was no new Institution, but a duty all along in the time of the Jewish Church: it was only a reviving of an old Law.

It is no ways strange that he should call the Rulers of the Chuch, the Church. Congregational Men must ac­knowledge that it is not the whole Church that is in­tended, but only them that have some share in the go­vernment. The Sisters do as much belong to the body of the Church as the Brethren. But besides, it is frequent in Scripture, to call the Elders of the Congregation, the Congregation. Numb. 26.24, 25. Then the Congregation shall judge between the flayer & the avenger of blood, and the Con­gregation shall deliver the slayer out of the hand of the avenger of blood, and the Congregation shall restore him to the City of his refuge. The Elders represent the Congregation, and surely it is as proper to call the Elders of the Church, the Church, as to call the Elders of the Congregation, the Congregation.

2. Obj. 2 Cor. 2.6. Sufficient to such a Man is the punish­ment inflicted by many.

A. It were better to read the words. The punishment in­flicted before many. So Dr. Hammond. That this is the meaning is evident.

1. Because it was Paul alone that gave Sentence on this Man. 1 Cor. 5.3, 4, 5. I have judged already to deliver such an one to Satan.

2. Because it is spoken as the Evidence of the Suffici­ency of his punishment. If it had been by the Suffrage of many, that would have been no evidence of the suffici­ency of his punishment, it would not been the heavier for the consent of the Brethren. But this is an argu­ment of the heaviness of it, that it was a Publick punish­ment, that he was put to open shame; he was punished in the presence of the whole Congregation. Paul had directed so, that they should be gathered together, 1 Cor. 5.4. Whereby he was exposed to the greater shame.

[Page 15] 3. Obj. 1 Cor. 5.12. Do not ye judge them that are within Gal. 6.1. Ye that are spiritual restore him. 1 Thes. 5.14. Warn the umuly. Col. 4.17. Say to Archippus take heed to thy Mi­nistry. Rev. 2.20. Thou sufferest that woman Jezabel These things were written to the Churches, and so shew the power of the Brethren.

A. 1. When the Apostle writes to a single Elder, he requires him to do acts of government. Tit 1.5. For this cause left I thee in Creet, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain Elders in every City. And Chap. 3. v. 10. A man that is an Heretick, after the first & second admonition reject.

2. They that are acquainted with the style of the Prophets, may easily observe two things.

1. That they give the reproof to the People of Israel, in such cases, where the Rulers were the Persons in fault. Am 5 12. Ye afflict the just, ye take a bribe. Isai. 5 7 He looked for Judgment but behold Oppression, for Righteousness but be­hold a Cry. Jer. 6.6 It is a City to be visited, she is wholly oppression in the midst of her.

2. That Commands are set down generally, when the Rulers are particularly intended. Isai. 1 17 Relieve the Op­pressed, judge the Fatherless, plead for the Widow. Am 4.15. Establish judgment in the gate. Zech. 8.16. Execute the judg­ment of peace and truth in your gates. It would be strange arguing that because Prophets spake these things to Israel, that the common People must have an hand in judging. And that acts of Justice were to be done by the Suffrage of the Multitude.

4 Obj. The taking away of the power of Brethren is the way to let Corruption into the Church.

A. 1. There never was any way of government, pro­pounded by God and invented by Man, that hath pro­vailed to keep Corruption out of the Church. In a little while most Churches have sensibly declined. The Church of Israel, notwithstanding the order which they were put into by God himself, grew corrupt in a little time.

2. If the Rulers & Teachers of a People grow corrupt, [...] of Brethren will be a poor defence against [Page 16]Corruptions. If Magistrates & Ministers grow corrupt, the People are not like to hold their Integrity long. If the best sort of Men grow corrupt, they that are wont to be inferiour to them in Piety, will joyn in the Corrup­tion. Jer. 5.31. The Prophets prophesy falsely, and the Priests bear rule by their means, and my People love to have it so.

3. Humane inventions are not like to keep the Church pure. In Old England many Ceremonies are attended under an apprehension that they are for decency and to increase Devotion. And in New-England some methods are taken to prevent Corruption & promote Edification. But it don't become Men to reflect upon the wisdom of God, as if they had understanding to mend His Institutions.

5 Obj. The taking away the power of the Brethren, seems to exalt the Minister too much, and to degrade the People as if they were very insignificant Persons; Whereas some Ministers are weak, and some of the Brethren be Men of very good Abilities.

A. 1. The Ministers of the Gospel are hereby no more exalted than the Ministers of the Jewish Church; nei­ther are the People debased any lower than the People of the Jewish Church. The Tribe of Judah was very honourable, yet it is said that of it, No man gave atten­dance at the Altar, Heb. 7.13.

2. This doth no more exalt the Minister or debase the Brethren, than the confining of Preaching to the Mini­ster. Preaching seems to be a Service of more dignity than governing, yet People don't take it hardly that the Minister only has the liberty of the Pulpit. It is no great honour to an able Brother, to have as good a Vote in the Church as a Man that can neither Write nor Read. If any of the Brethren be Men of Ability, there are other ways wherein they may use their Ta­lents; and if the Minister have five times the Ability as some others, he will not think much to be debarred a Vote in Civil Affairs.

This Matter being thus cleared, there is no occasion for that Controversy, Whether the Votes of the Fraternity in a Council are of equal authority with the Votes of the Elders?


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