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AN APOLOGY For the Liberties of the Churches in New England: To which is prefix'd, A Discourse concerning Congregational Churches.

By SAMƲEL MATHER, M. A. Pastor of a Church in Boston, New England.

—Sed tamen meorum Periculorum Rationes Utilita [...] Reipub­lica vincat.

CICER. Orat. IV. in Catalin.

—Delicatus Amator est CHRISTUS: Non potest amare Sy­nagogam priscis Ceremoniis ac vetustae Legis studio rugosam— Quod aberrat a sacris Voluminibus non est CHRISTI.— Sed falsa Scripturarum Interpretatio vera Interpretatione re­futanda est.

DESIDER. ERASM. Roterod. Symbol. Cateches. IV.

—Require of Christians only to believe in CHRIST, and to call no Man Master but Him only: Let those leave claiming Infallibility, that have no Right to it; and let them, that in their Words disclaim it, disclaim it likewise in their Actions: In a Word, take away Tyranny, which is the Devil's Instru­ment to support Errors and Superstitions and Impieties in the several Parts of the World, which could not otherwise withstand the Power of Truth: I say, take away Tyranny, and restore Christians to their just and full Liberty of captivating their Understandings to the Scripture only; that universal Liberty, thus moderated, may quickly reduce Christendome to Truth and Unity.

CHILLINGWORTH. Part I. Chap. IV. Sect. 16.

BOSTON: Printed by T. Fleet, for DANIEL HENCHMAN, over-against the Brick Meeting House in Cornhill. 1738.

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To the Honorable Mr. HOLDEN, One of the Directors of the Bank of England, At London.

Honorable Sir,

I Flatter my self, that You will not think it any Dishonor to You to be own'd as a Friend of New-England, especially in its best, its religious, In­terests: And for this Reason I venture to dedicate the following Performance to You; desiring You to re­ceive it as an Acknowledgment of Your many good and kind Offices towards us.

It may not be amiss to inform You, that many Eminent Persons, besides Your self, in our Mother-Kingdom have thought favourably concerning us and shew'd their Readiness to serve us. The catholic and excellent Dr. TILLOTSON, from his good Opinion of us, frequently concern'd himself for the Welfare of New-England, and intreated His Majesty King WIL­LIAM to shew the marks of his peculiar Favour to­wards his faithful Subjects here, and once particularly was so free as to declare in the Audience of his Majesty, that it would by no Means do well for Him to take away [Page]from the People of New-England any of their Privi­lege. And the meritorious Bishop of Salisbury, Dr. BURNET, besides many other weighty Expressions of his Kindness to New-England, was once so good as to profess before Dr. MATHER my honored Grandfather, that he would on the first Opportunity declare openly in the House of Lords, that there was a greater Sacredness in the Charter of New-England than in those of the Corporations in England; because those were only Acts of Grace; whereas the Charter of New-England was a Contract between the King and the first Patentees: They promised the King to enlarge his Dominions on their own Charges, provided that they and their Posterity might enjoy such and such Privileges: And They had perform'd their Part: Now for the King to deprive their Posterity of the Privi­leges therein granted to them, it would carry the Face of Injustice in it. And the good old Lord WHAR­TON, the last surviving Member of the famous As­sembly of Divines that met at Westminster, whose Name should be very dear to every true New-En­glish Man, upon presenting a Petition for New-En­gland by my honored Grandfather, who was then in the Agency for this Province, was pleas'd to say with great Zeal and Earnestness to the King, that, if he were sure to die the next Day, he would, as he now did, appear in behalf of this Country and sollicit his Favour for it. And, when one, from whom I have the Honour of immediately descending, wrote an Account concerning the Affairs of New-England to the late great and good my Lord Chancellor KING, he was pleas'd to write a Letter in Answer, wherein are these remarkable Passages; The Account of your Country was very acceptable to me: And, wherein I can serve either it or you, I shall always he ready; It is Matter of Joy, that the Christian Re­ligion and Learning do make such considerable Advances in those Parts of the World. And indeed, wherever [Page]the Christian Religion is proposed in its native Plain­ness and Simplicity, it is most likely to succeed.

Hence You see, Honorable Sir, that You are not singular in Your Regards towards us and in Your Inclinations and Endeavours to serve us, but have such good Company as may be an Encouragement unto You in them.

I need not mention to You the Claim, which these Churches have to their Religious Privileges as Men, as Christians, and as Protestants: But I would observe to You, that these Privileges are confirm'd unto them by the Charter, which was granted to this Province by King WILLIAM and Queen MARY of glorious and immortal Memory.

And I would further acquaint You, that, since the Grant of our valuable Charter, the same was ratified and confirmed by his most excellent Majesty King GEORGE the First; and there has a Law pass'd in this Province in the fourth and fifth of WILLIAM and MARY, wherin it is expresly provided, that the respective Churches in this Province shall enjoy all their Privileges and Freedoms respecting Divine Wor­ship, Church Order and Discipline, and shall be encou­raged in the peaceable and regular Profession and Prac­tice thereof: Which Law has bin as it were touch'd by the Royal Sceptre: For it has bin approved by his Majesty of Great Britain: So that, Honorable Sir, the Liberties of these Churches must be deem'd to be as Sacred Things as the Ecclesiastical Liberties of the National Churches of England and Scotland.

Besides, Sir, I can truely affirm, not only con­cerning the Church of which I am the unworthy Servant, but also in behalf of all the Churches of our blessed SAVIOUR in New-England walking in the [Page]same Faith and Order with our selves, that they main­tain an inviolable Allegiance to his present Majesty of Great Brittain, as they did to his Godlike Father before Him, and that they firmly adhere to the Suc­cession of the Imperial Crown of Great Britain in the present Royal Family: Nor, I am well assured, is there so much as one Person in the Communion of any of our Churches, but who has a cordial Regard and Affection for the Person and Family of our pre­sent most gracious Sovereign and yields a delightful Subjection to his auspicious Government.

Now considering these Things; and considering withal, what an honorable, as well as vastly beneficial, Addition we have made to the wide and extended Empire of the King of Great Britain: I said, Honorable Addition: For, while the other British Provinces and Colonies have for the most Part bin settled by more indifferent Persons, and for their Nourishment and Support have bin obliged to the Royal Bounties; This Province was founded by worthy Persons, con­siderable for their Families, Educations and Fortunes, as well as their superior Probity, Religion and Good­ness, who with vast Hazard and Expence past the wide Atlantic, and consum'd their Treasures and lost their Lives in these, then barbarous and inclement, Regions, that so their Posterity might serve their GOD and their King in the peaceable Possession and Exercise of those Civil and Religious Privileges, which they had purchased and earned for them: Nor did the Crown advance any Sums of Money for assisting and encouraging them in their expensive and hazardous, but noble, Undertaking: Certainly, upon these Considerations, if we do not challenge and claim as our Due, we may well promise our selves however, the Royal Favour and Protection in the un­disturb'd Enjoyment of the Liberties of our Churches and Schools.

[Page] I have rehearsed these Things to You, Honorable Sir, that so, as You have Occasion for it, You may improve them to our Advantage and Comfort: In doing which, as You will encrease our Obligations, which already are very great unto You; so, I doubt not, You will add to Your own Consolation and Joy: For, as the wise Governour of the World has hitherto blasted the Designs and Attempts of the Enemies to New-England, so He has liberally rewarded and blessed its Friends: And it is our Prayer and Hope, that He would graciously continue to do so, and, in particular, that He would remunerate and prosper the honored Mr. HOLDEN according to all the Good which he has done to the Churches and Country of New-England.

The Task which is undertaken in the following Sheets, cannot by any Means be accounted singular; inasmuch as it is a common Thing in the Republic of Letters for the Learned to apologize for those Dis­ciplinary, as well as Doctrinal, Principles, for which they have a peculiar and, as they imagine, just Esteem and Veneration.

But, as to the Freedom of this Dedication, altho' it may be a great and probably unbecoming one; yet You are well acquainted with the Occasion of it; and, I believe, my Country will judge, that You were highly deserving of this public Manifesta­tion of Respect and Honor for You.

I cannot but hope, from what I have heard and learnt concerning Mr. HOLDEN'S generous Senti­ments, that the following Attempt will be accepta­ble unto You. But, however this may be, give me Leave to beg the further Continuance of Your [Page]Regards and Kindnesses to my Country, and please to think well of him, who desires to be numbred,

Honorable Sir,
among Your most respectful Friends and obedient humble Servants, S. MATHER.
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THE PREFACE.

BEING sensible, that long Life is not to be de­pended on here below, I have thought it advise­able to leave some abiding Testimonies that I have lived (a) behind me in the World; and I have determin'd to bear and leave my Testimony, such as it is, to the Order of the Gospel in the Churches of New-England.

As many of our Protestant Brethren abroad, so most of our People at Home, must certainly have some Knowlege of the Privileges claim'd by these Churches and the Reasons of their Attachment unto them.

But, inasmuch as They may be desirous of a further Acquaintance with our Religious Privileges and what we have to offer in Defence of them; I have therefore thought it proper for their Sakes to prepare and publish the following Apology, wherein I have endeavour'd to illustrate and confirm the more distinguishing Privileges of these Churches.

That so this Attempt might be more fully and effec­tually answer'd, I have consulted the publish'd Works and many of the Manuscripts of the Fathers of New-En­gland, I have search'd the Records of the Primitive Church, I have read a considerable Number of later Wri­ters, and, in fine, I have examin'd the Writings of the Inspired Apostles with Industry and Care: And hence I have bin enabled to prepare the ensuing Apology, and [Page ii]offer it to the Consideration of my Countrymen and all our Protestant Brethren.

By this Apology They will soon see, that we do not think Churches are such Machines, as many on the other Side of the Atlantic take them to be, contriv'd and to be improv'd for the outward Advantage of some sort of Persons; but that they are Means for the Edification and spiritual Advantage of the Faithful, which they are oblig'd to respect and observe in Obedience to JESUS CHRIST our Saviour and supreme LORD: For, to use the Words of the learned Abbot FLEURY con­cerning his History, which may properly be applied to our Apology and used concerning it, In This we have a Sort of Politicks, which are Spiritual and all Divine; a Government that is founded on Charity, the Public Good being the sole End of it: For the Interest of the Gover­nours is no Way concerned in it(b).

Besides a particular Defence of the distinguishing Pri­vileges of these Churches in the following Attempt; there follows after this Preface a General Discourse Prelimi­nary concerning the Nature, Grounds and Reasons, Anti­quity and Advantages of Congregational Churches; which, I believe, will be judg'd by the Impartial and Disinterested a sufficient Vindication of them.

In the Close, and as an Appendix to the Book, I have taken Care to publish some Things that were never printed before among us, as well as some other Things that have already bin given to the Public, but are now scarcely to be found, concerning the Liberties of the New-English Churches, their catholic and comprehen­sive Principles, their declared Regard especially to the Life and Power of true Religion and their Duty and Interest to continue in their respectful and affectionate Attachment to these Things.

Some perhaps may judge, that, in attempting to write an Apology for the Liberties of our Churches, I [Page iii]have undertaken a Task, to which I am unequal: And probably it may be so in Reality and Truth: But yet I am inclin'd to express my self concerning my Per­formance, as TULLY concerning his Orator, The Work may be great and arduous; but to him, that is inflamed with Love to it, there is not found any sufficient Difficulty in the Way to discourage him from it (c).

However, if the Remarks and Arguments made and collected in the following Pages should be accounted slender and unsatisfactory; yet, if by Means of them some abler Person here or elsewhere shall be excited to set the Liberties of our Christian Brethren in a fairer Light and to shew more Strength and Vigor in defending them, I shall be so far from repenting of my Care and Trouble in preparing and publishing the following Essay, that I shall heartily rejoice in the good Success of it.

But, notwithstanding This, I must be so free as to declare, that in the ensuing Pages I have endeavour'd faithfully to represent the Sense and Meaning of the first Planters of these Churches: So that, with reference to what follows, I may write in the Style of VEGETIUS, I am far from assuming any Thing of Authority to my self in the following Sheets: If I have collected the Sense of others right and well epitomiz'd their Thoughts (d)which are variously dispers'd and reduced them to a clear and natural Order, I shall think it sufficient.

There is one Thing for which I expect to be some­what blamed: And this is, that, in illustrating and con­firming the Liberties of our Churches, I generally write in the Plural Number; whence some may conjecture, that it was at the Direction or by the Desire of the Chur­ches here, that I write this Apology for them: But, [Page iv]wherever I use such a Way of expressing my self, I desire always to be consider'd as representing what I take to have bin the Thoughts of the Planters of these Churches, and so of the Churches themselves: Nor would I by any means be understood as directed or advised by the Churches to enter upon this Performance: For, if it were so, I should lose the Comfort and Satisfaction, it not the Credit and Honour, of making my Free-Will Offering to their Service and Advantage.

Nor is it at all improbable, that some may find Fault with my frequent Quotations from learned Authors and References to them: But, if the Province undertaken by me did not unavoidably lead me to make those Citations and References, I am very much mistaken: And, if it did, it is, I think, a sufficient Excuse for me.

As to the Passages selected from the ancient Fathers, I have only this to say, that they are generally taken from those, which are accounted the best Editions: And I believe my References to them are exact and punc­tual; tho' it is possible, that, in transcribing them into my Common-Place Book and this second Transcription of them, some accidental Mistake may have occur'd, which any good-natured Man can overlook and forgive.

I have one Favour to ask of those, that shall read this Book, which, I think, cannot in Reason be denied me: And this is, that, if any of them shall think fit to animadvert upon any Part or the whole of it, they would be so kind as to put their Names to what they publish: For otherwise they may not expect to have any Notice taken of them; nor may they expect any, if they do, unless they write in such a Manner as to re­quire a suitable Answer from me.

I shall be very much disappointed, if, by the Publi­cation of this small Volume, I do not gain the Dis­pleasure and Anger, if not mortal Enmity, of many: But however I shall not be sorry for it, if I secure to my self, as I hope that I shall, the perpetual Regard [Page v]and Friendship(e)of all the true Lovers of Mankind and of our Christian Brethren in particular.

Since my writing this Book, there has a Pamphlet come to my Hands, which it is said was written by a Gentleman of the Law in England, the Title of which is, An Examination of the Scheme of Church-Power, as laid down in the Codex Juris Ecclesiastici Angli [...], &c. As I was highly gratified in reading of this Pamphlet; so I cannot help reciting some Passages from it, which were peculiarly grateful to me; not doubting but that they will be singularly pleasing to my Countrymen, and not the less so for coming from the Pen of an eminent Lawyer. In Pag. 120th, 121st, 122d, 123d, he writes as follows, 'If the Gentlemen of Synodical Learn­ing will permit us to carry our Enquiry on this Head so far back as to the Apostolick Age, we shall find that the Laiety at that Time bore a Part in the most solemn Deliberations which concern'd the Interest or Government of the Church. The whole Number of Be­lievers was consulted in the Choice of a fit Person to succeed to the Apostleship, which became vacant by the Apostacy and Death of Judas. Matthias was cho­sen, after solemn Prayer to God for His Direction, by the Suffrage or Ballot of the whole Church (f). The Multitude of Disciples was advis'd with touching the Institution of a new Order of Church Officers, the Order of Deacons (g). The Constitution it self, as well as the Election and Consecration (as it is now call'd) of the Seven, was the Act of the whole Multi­tude. The Apostles, Elders and Brethren, (or as it is otherwise express'd in the same Chapter (h), the whole Church, or all the Multitude) assembled at Jeru­salem, [Page vi] (i), to deliberate on the great Question, How far the Gentile Converts were oblig'd to submit to the Law of Moses. And after two of the Apostles of the Circumcision had deliver'd their Opinions; which they supported, not by Apostolical Authority, but by strong Reasoning built on well known Facts, and Principles universally admitted: And after Paul and Barnabas, Apostles of the Uncircumcision, had related to the Assembly a Series of Facts happening within their own Observation; from whence it might be rea­sonably concluded, that God approv'd the Conversion of the Gentiles, and would receive them into his Chuch without the Rite of Circumcision: After the Assembly, I say, had proceeded thus far in the Way of rational and free Debate; they came to a Resolu­tion, which they communicated to the Churches con­cern'd, by Letter and Message, in the Name of the whole Body. Methinks, by the Way, his Lordship's Reasoning for appropriating the Care of Spiritual Affairs to the Clergy, loses a great deal of its Weight, when we reflect on the Behaviour of the Apostles in those Instances. As the Apostles had really that Su­periority in Gifts and Abilities, which their Successors bless themselves withal, They, of all Men living, might have claim'd a separate and exclusive Right of Juris­diction and Legislature, in Spiritual Matters. But the Apostles did not exclude the Brethren, the Body of the People, from their Counsels; nor dictated magisterially to them. They reason'd as with Men and Christians; and made no other Use of their supe­rior Gifts and personal Knowledge of Facts, than to convince and persuade. And their Arguments, at­tended with the most evident Tokens in themselves of a disinterested Zeal for the Honour of God, and the Good of the Church, had a suitable Effect on their Hearers.

[Page vii] In Conformity to the Practice of the Apostolick Age, the Laiety continued to have a Share in the Government of the Church, as Members of a volun­tary Society, and interested in its Concerns; till the Conversion of the Roman Emperors made Way for very considerable Changes in the Ecclesiastical Polity. Till that Time, all the Affairs of the Church were administer'd, at voluntary Assemblies of the Parties concern'd; which soon gain'd the Name of Councils or Synods; whereof the Laiety were always consi­der'd as Members. At these Meetings, Matters of Order and Discipline were transacted: And if any new Rules appear'd to be necessary for the Ends of Government, they were here agreed upon. This was the Ecclesiastical Legislature of the primitive Church (l). But when Christianity became the establish'd Religion of the Empire, and Church and State became one Body, consider'd only in different Views and under different Relations; the Ecclesiastical and Civil Laws of the Empire flow'd from one and the same Source, Imperial Prescripts. For tho' the Name and Shadow of the Senatorial and Tribunitial Powers remain'd, these Powers had been long extinguish'd: And the whole Legislative Power of the Empire was really vested in the Emperor. And by this Legislature were Ecclesiastical, as well as Civil Laws, ordinarily made; as every one sees, who hath but look'd into the Titles of the Justinian and Theodosian Codes. The Emperors did indeed, upon extraordinary Occasions, call Ecclesiastical Councils; sometimes of the Clergy and Laiety, as particularly at the first Council of Nice: but more frequently, I believe, of the Clergy alone (m). At these Councils the Emperors, in Person, or by [Page viii]their Ministers, usually presided, and assent Decrees there made; and in some Instances, did by a separate Instrument, in Form of an Imperial Pre­script, ratify the Decrees. The Presence and Con­currence of the Emperor to the Acts of the Council, gave them their binding Force, and incorporated them into the Laws of the Empire. For the whole Legislative Power being, as I observ'd, in the Empe­ror, nothing could become Part of the Law, without his Authority. This Principle of the Necessity of an Imperial Sanction to Synodical Decrees, seems to be so well understood in Justinian's Time, that he expresly ordain'd, that the Acts of the Councils of Nice, Con­stantinople, Ephesus and Chalcedon, should have the Force of Laws within the Empire, &c. And, after this, the Author proceeds and shews, from the 124th Page to the 137th Page of his Book, how, after the universal Monarchy fell to Pieces about the Beginning of the fifth Century, the Northern People, who erected independent Kingdoms on the Ruin [...]s of it, after their Conversion to Christianity, provided for their Ecclesi­astical, in the same Manner as they did for their Civil, Polities; and how this was gradually brought about particularly in England.

But what can be said, if, notwithstanding such fair Accounts from disinterested and honest Men, the infa­tuated humane Race will not believe the Truth, but take Pleasure in Unrighteousness and Oppression? Truely it must be accounted a melancholy Thing, and be for a Lamentation among all the sincere Lovers of Man­kind.

For my Part I can say with the learned Dr. HENRY MORE, at the Close of his useful Exposition of the Seven Churches, I am abundantly taught by Experience, that both the Finding out and the Receiving of Divine Truths found out by others is a special Gift of GOD. And therefore I conclude this Preface with the Prayer, which the learned Abbot FLEURY makes at the End [Page ix]of his Discourses on Ecclesiastical History, and I make it with all my Heart and Soul, GOD grant, that we may reap Advantage by being born in so knowing an Age; and that, if we are not able to recover the ancient Discipline of the Church, we may at least know how to esteem it, to reverence it, and to regret the Loss of it. AMEN!

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ERRATA.

THE kind Reader is desir'd to correct the follow­ing Errata.

  • Page 9. Line 4. from Bottom, for Spacious read Specious.
  • P. 14. l. 19. for Extents read Extent.
  • P. 18. l. 2. in Margin, for dictatus read dicatur.
  • P. 20. l. 16. for institued read instituted.
  • P. 28. l. 13. for Ambitions read Ambition.
  • l. 2. from Bottom, for Commands read Command.
  • P. 29. l. 3. for Churchts read Churches.
  • l. 28. read Christianismo.
  • P. 32. l. 3. After CHRIST'S—read Mind, we shall at the same Time declare for the Liberties of parti­cular, &c.
  • P. 42. l. 7 for them read him.
  • l. 14. for have read leave.
  • P. 156. l 3. from Bottom, read Cordolia.
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A DISCOURSE Concerning the Nature, Grounds and Reasons, Antiquity and Advantages of CONGREGATIONAL CHURCHES; wherein also An Answer is endeavoured to such Objections as have bin raised against them.

THE Churches of NEW ENGLAND are nominally and professedly Congregati­onal: They do not approve the Name of Independent (a), and are abhorrent from such Principles of Independency as would keep them from giving an Account of the Matters to their Brethren of neighbouring So­cieties, regularly demanding if of them.

They apprehend, that a Congregational Church is, by the Institution of our great LORD and King JESUS CHRIST, a Part of the visible Church in its militant State, consisting of a Company of holy Brethren, united [Page 2]together by mutual Engagements for the publick Worship of GOD, and their common Improvement and Edification in Knowledge and all Goodness.

Nor have they any Thing to object against that Article of the Church of ENGLAND, which speaks of the visible Church of CHRIST in such a Manner that they can heartily subscribe unto it. For they firmly be­lieve it to be, as is there declared (b), a Congregation of faithful Men, in which the pure Word of GOD is preached and the Sacraments be duly administred according to CHRIST'S Ordinance in all those Things that of Ne­cessity are requisite to the same: So that the Earl of SHAFTSBURY was exceedingly in the Right, when in a famous Debate He said before the House of LORDS, that He found the nineteenth Article did define the Church directly as the Independents do: For really it does so. Onely, if it had bin added in the Article, wherein also the Discipline of CHRIST'S Church is duely exercised, they think that the Description would have bin more perfect.

As to the Churches, which answer to this Description, they are Congregational; and, concerning such Churches as These, these Churches are not ashamed to declare and maintain, that they take them to be insti­tuted by the great Head of the Church: So that, if any should ask us the same Question which the Roman Catholicks frequently ask our Protestant Brethren abroad, Where were your [Congregational] Churches before LU­THER? We have the same Answer to give which our blessed SAVIOUR gave to an Enquiry of the Jews concerning HIMSELF, Search the Scriptures: For they testify concerning Them.

A Dean of Worcester, we know, has, not long since, in a Sermon, concerning Ecclesiastical Authority, declared in these Words, He must never have look'd into Scripture who is capable of thinking it a perfect Rule of Worship, I mean, external Worship and Discipline: But, adds Mr. [Page 3]Dean, he that will take in the Writings of the Primitive Church as a Supplement to Scripture in these Points, can­not be at a Loss to know what are the Powers of Church Governours or what the Obedience due unto them(x). But, as For us, we are not sensible of the Want, nor are we desirous, of any Supplements to the Scriptures in these Matters: Nor yet dare we indulge a Tho't of being wise above what is written in such Points as These: For we find sufficient Reason for falling into the Sentiments of the learned Mr. Abbot FLEURY, which are thus expressed in his Discourses on Ecclesiastical History,—There was nothing wanting at that Time [h. e. the Time of Primitive Christianity] for the due Government of the Church: No! When the Apostles founded it, there was without Doubt nothing omitted in laying down Practical Rules as much for the Conduct of the whole Body, as the Manners of particular Persons: And these Rules were neither imperfect nor impracticable, but such as were ab­solutely necessary to bring Them to a Gospel Perfection, more or less, according to the different Measures of GOD'S Grace. These Rules were not imperfect; since, as the Christian Religion was the Work of GOD, it had all Perfection at first. It is not like the Inventions of Men, which have their Rise, Progress and Fall. GOD acquires neither Knowledge nor Power by Degrees. All Things, says our SAVIOUR, that I have heard of my Father, I have made known unto you: And, speaking of the HOLY GHOST, He will lead you into all Truth: And, to shew that this does not only relate to the Tenets of Religion, He says further, Go, teach all Nations, teaching them to observe all Things whatsoever I have com­manded you. Every Thing then was equally established at first, which could be of Use to Them in Practice, as well as in Faith. — And therefore we cannot approve of any Humane Supplements to the perfect Rule of Worship [Page 4]and Order, with which we are favored in the holy Scrip­tures.

We think indeed, that there are some Circumstances relating to the Worship of GOD and the Government in these Churches, which, agreeable to what is practised in other Societies, may be regulated by Natural Light and Christian Prudence according to the general Rules of GOD'S Word, which ought for ever to have a particu­lar Regard paid unto them.

But at the same Time our Churches judge, that they are not left at any Uncertainty about the Essentials of that Polity, which our Lord JESUS CHRIST hath settled and would have to be observed: For it appears to them, that there is a Divine Institution for the following Things; to wit, that there should be public Assemblies for the Worship of GOD and the Improvement of His People in Knowledge and Vertue, and that none should officiate in them but such Officers as CHRIST has ap­pointed; that Christians should be stated Members of one particular Church, and that particular Churches should have proper settled Pastors in them who should live among them and instruct them by their Preaching and Example; that Pastors and People by mutual Consent be­come related to one another, and that, by vertue of these Relations which are of Divine Appointment as well as by their own Choice and Consent, they are formed and constituted a Spiritual Society of CHRIST'S Institution; that none should be admitted into the Communion of such a Society but such as profess the true Religion and appear in a Judgment of Charity to be holy Persons; that all such as are allow'd the Privilege of Communion in such a Society should relieve, comfort and assist one another in outward Respects, but that they should especially be help­ful to one another in their best Interests; and that, if any break in upon the Laws of CHRIST and the Society to which they are related, they are accountable to the Society and censurable by it; and, in fine, that all such particular Societies should live at Peace within themselves, and hold a [Page 5]friendly Correspondence and Christian Communion with other Churches for their mutual Support, Edification and Comfort.

This is the Polity which these Churches own; and this is all the Form of Church Government which they can find in the Scriptures to be instituted by their great Lawgiver and King: Nor can they imagine, that any can with Reason deny that such Churches as these are true Churches of JESUS CHRIST.

Nay, if those are true Churches of CHRIST in which the pure Doctrines and Precepts of the Gospel are taught and inculcated, and the Sacraments of the now Covenant are duely administred according to the Institution of our great SAVIOUR, and a sacred Regard is always bad to whatsoever our LORD has commanded; these Churches may then esteem themselves to be true Churches of CHRIST and even account themselves the truest Churches according to our SAVIOUR'S Institution: For, in their conforming to that Institution with inviolable Fidelity, they shine with superior Glory to others.

The Principles, upon which these Churches are founded, are such, that they need not be afraid or asham'd of owning them before the whole World: For, accord­ing to the Account of the Bishop of Condom concerning our Congregational Brethren abroad, these Churches believe, that every Christian ought to follow the Light of his own Mind, the Conviction of his own Conscience, nor is obliged to submit his Judgment to the Authority of any Person or any Ecclesiastical Assembly. 'Tis true they are for paying a most profound Deference to the Word of God; nor do they refuse to embrace the Decisions of Coun­cils and Synods, if upon a due and impartial Examina­tion they appear to be reasonable and Scriptural: But the Thing, which these Churches utterly disclaim and refuse to do, is to submit their Judgment to that of any Assembly however considerable: For they are persuaded, that the most considerable Societies of Men are liable to Mistakes and Errors; and therefore they submit to the [Page 6]Word of GOD only, the Authority of which is undis­perted and infallible with them.

And, as these Churches assert and claim the Right of private Judgment as Men, as Christians, and as Pro­testants; they also declare for and maintain the Rights of particular Churches: For they conceive, that every Christian Society or Church ought not to have any Depen­dance in Ecclesiastical Matters, nor are obliged to ac­knowledge the Authority of Councils or Synods for their Direction and Government, but ought to be go­verned within itself and by its own Laws. They ac­knowledge indeed, that they ought to exercise their pro­per Jurisdiction and Government within themselves with Dependance upon our blessed SAVIOUR, together with His Holy SPIRIT and unerring Oracles: But they think themselves by Divine Right excused from Sub­jection to any other Church, tho' it be a Mother one, and that they may exercise an independent Jurisdiction within themselves. And the Reason why these Churches give into such Sentiments is sufficient: For we cannot suppose, that Churches are to be propagated as worldly Dominions; as tho' Original Churches, which send forth their Colonies, must maintain Dominion and perpetual Power over such as came from them: For, after this Rate, the Churches of Geneva, Heidelberg and the united Provinces must claim a Dominion and Jurisdiction over the other Protestant Churches: But we conceive of our Churches, as of adult Sons, who are not at the Disposal of their Ancestors, but have a Right to govern themselves and exercise their Power with respect to their own Possessi­ons; or as of Branches taken from true Olive Trees, which, being planted and watered, grow and encrease, without any Manner of Dependance upon the Trees from which they were taken, for Preservation, Support and Fructifying Vertue (d).

These Principles are the firm and unmoveable Foun­dations [Page 7]of these and all Congregational Churches: And, wherever these Principles prevail, as methinks they should prevail every where among rational and conside­rate Christians; there the Congregational Form of Church-Government must be acknowledged and preferred before any other.

But, while these Churches esteem this their Form of Government, inasmuch as it is established upon such un­shaken Principles; they cannot but entertain an indiffer­ent, not to say a mean, Opinion of National Churches in various Kingdoms and Countries, with an Uniformity of Doctrine and of Discipline, which are a distinct Govern­ment from the Civil, their Offices and their Jurisdiction being different: For they apprehend, that such Churches have introduced Ecclesiastical Tyranny and Antichrist into the World; and they are almost ready to declare with Dr. DU MOULIN, that (e) a National Church has bin, is and will be the Cause, that there will never be a Church in the World in its true Purity, unless Almighty God re­serves some among the Congregational Churches: For in such an Establishment it is not Truth nor Goodness that influences and governs; but it is the greatest Number to­gether with worldly Power and Interest, that rules and bears down all before it: So that it is not from a blind, partial and unreasonable Regard for the Congregational Way, that these Churches do not approve of National Establishments; but from a clear Apprehension of the Mischiefs arising from such National Establishments.

Nay such is the Value which these Churches have for the Congregational Way, that they even prefer it to all other Establishments, whether Popish or Reformed, whe­ther Episcopal or Presbyterian, as having much the Ad­vantage of them: For those Establishments cannot subsist, only by the Subordination of one Judicatory to another: And how can this subsist, unless the Civil Magistrate ap­prove [Page 8]or tolerate it? But now the Congregational Way needs not the Aid of the secular Powers, but stands good without it; flourishing in persecuting Kingdoms, and under the most tyrannical, arbitrary and cruel of Princes.

Blessed be GOD this Government have sufficiently declared their Approbation of the Congregational Way: But if GOD our SAVIOUR, as a just Punishment for our Unfruitfulness and Ingratitude, should frown upon us by sending us such Rulers as are Enemies to the Constitution of these Churches; we may reasonably hope, that they will not deprive us of the due, the confessedly due, Li­berty of Mankind, to wit, the Liberty of chusing our Religion and of joining with one Church rather than another.

And, while we have such Sentiments concerning the Congregational Way, we cannot but grow confirmed in these Sentiments upon finding that several learned Pro­testants, who are not attached unto it, are even compel'd by the Force of Truth to declare in Favour of it. Not to mention LUTHER'S Assertion, that there may be weighty Reasons for separating from Churches which are not erroneous in their Doctrine (f): Nor yet to insist upon what Dr. STILLINGFLEET has observed, to wit, that a Christian is bound to adhere to that Church that retaineth most of the Evangelical Purity (g): I shall only quote the learned Dr. JACKSON, who declares the just and necessary Reasons for which Men, whether few or many, may and ought to separate from any visible Church: These are (h), In the first Place, because they are urged or constrained to profess or believe some Points of Doctrine or adventure upon some Practices which are contrary to the Rule of Faith or Law of GOD, &c., And, secondly, In Case they are utterly deprived of Freedom of Conscience in professing what [Page 9]they inwardly believe or be bereft of some other Me [...]ber altogether necessary or most expedient to Salvation, both which may be had in some other visible Church. In which Passages we have a celebrated Divine of the Church of ENGLAND declaring the Reasons of the Conduct of these Churches as expressly as they could themselver and justifying our Choice of the Congregational Way, as plainly as if he had by Name recommended it. I said, that I should only quote this learned Doctor; and indeed I need not cite any other: Tho' I could with Ease pro­duce almost every Protestant Writer of Note, who has treated of the Church, as giving into those Sentiments which have determined these Churches to profess and practise the Congregational Way and prefer it before any other.

But we do not lay any great Stress upon the Testimo­nies of Men as weak and fallible as ourselves: These Churches neither seek nor want the Recommendations of others: We reckon it our distinguishing Honour, that of all the Reformed Churches, we are the most distant from the Church of ROME, and the most conform'd to the Churches in the Days of the Apostles and of Primitive Christianity.

It is well known, that these Churches have the most inveterate Antipathy to the Dominion of the Clergy: And the Reason of this our Antipathy is, because we conceive that the Mystery of Iniquity was accomplished by the Tyranny of the Clergy and of the Bishop of Rome (i) under the Form and specious Prete [...]t of Ecclesiastical Power and Catholic Religion (k). And therefore, as in the Congregational Way the Empire of the Clergy is further forsaken than in any other Form of Church Government, [Page 10]we conclude to our own Comfort and Satisfaction that we are at the most remote Distance from the Mother of Abo­minations.

And we are free to appeal to the World of Mankind, as that these Churches are at the greatest Distance from the Church of Rome, that they also come nearest to those in the Days of the Apostles and are most conformable to Pri­mitive Institution: And we defy any Person whatever to produce and mention any Church, which is spoken of in the more ancient Writers for two hundred Years, but what was a Congregational Church.

The famous CALDERWOOD expressly asserts, that the Word Church in the Scripture is never used to signify the Faithful or Christians of a Nation, Province or Diocese, as it is now used when we say the Church of France, of England or of Scotland: This Way of Speaking, says he, in not dictated by the Holy SPIRIT in the Scriptures (l). And these Churches are entirely satisfied, that in the New-Testament where several Assemblies formed for pub­lic Worship are mentioned, they are called Churches, nor are they ever once called a Church in the singular. Nay we are persuaded, that a Church cannot once be found, only where the Church universal which comprizes all par­ticular ones is mentioned: So that we are not shy to declare with the great HUGO GROTIUS, whose Autho­rity with many of our Brethren on the Episcopal Side is incontestable, tho' not with us, that as of Old there were many Synagogues in one great City, so there were also several Churches or Meetings of Christians, and that every Church had its Bishop (m).

If Instances and Examples of multiplied Churches and Bishops be desired, there are enow at Hand to be pro­duced: I might mention it, that in AUSTIN'S Time there were Nine Hundred Bishops in Africa (n), tho' there [Page 11]were not half so many Cities, and many of the Cities in his Time were Pagans: I might observe, that in Ireland St. PATRICK Founded Three Hundred and Sixty-five Churches and as many Bishops (o); whereas to be sure there never was that Number of Cities in it: I might recite the Testimony of BARONIUS, that, from the Year 1145, there were a Thousand Bishops in Armenia; adding the Declaration of the Emperor JUSTINIAN, that in his Time there were but Twenty Cities in Arme­nia (p) and their Number afterwards decreased. I might repeat what the peevish old EPIPHANIUS has declared, to wit, that Alexandria never had two Bishops, as all other Churches had had. I might offer it as cer­tain, that at ANTIOCH there were two Bishops together, PAULINUS and EUSTATHIUS: And it may be de­pended on, that at the Conference at Carthage with the Donatists, the Orthodox offered, that if the Donatists were overcome, their Bishops upon disowning their Error should continue in their Office; and if the People could not bear two Bishops in one Church, a Third was to be chosen (q).

But, inasmuch as these Examples and others of the same Kind which I might bring, may not have the Stamp of Early Antiquity upon them, and so may not be much regarded, I shall therefore look further back, and say what we have found in the more early Times of the Christian Church.

Now we are ready to speak concerning those early Ages, in the Style of Father PAUL (r) as those happy Times, when the Name of the Church was common to the Congregation of the Faithful, unto whom did belong the Use and Propriety of the Goods which are called Ecclesiastical. And it appears to us, that no ancient Writers for the [Page 12]Space of Two Hundred Years mention any other Churches but Congregational ones: And this is what the profound­ly learned JOSEPH MEDE, in his Proof for Churches in the Second Century, has clearly and abundantly evidenced: For he hath shewn, that no Bishop had then more than one Altar, and that one Bishop and one Altar were Correlates. Nor can we help thinking, that the Report of the Magdeburgensian Conturiators is well founded, to wit, that the Churches of the third Century were Congre­gational and enjoyed the same Government, almost accord­ing to the Manner of the preceeding Age, tho' something encreased by Pride and Ambition(f). And we judge THORNDICK to be in the Right, when he acknow­ledges Bishops to be so plentiful in Africa [in the Primi­tive Times] that every good Village must have bin the Seat of an Episcopal Church (t): For SOZOMEN declar'd before him, that Villages had their Bishops (u). And the Abbot FLEURY, in his Discourses on Ecclesiastical History, has bin so ingenuous as to own, that in those Times the Dioceses were so small that one Man alone might be suffi­cient and know all his Flock himself.

We are ready to acknowlege indeed, that CYPRIAN about the Two Hundred and Fortieth Year after CHRIST uses the Term Church for a Collection of many particular Churches (w): But otherwise we cannot recollect, any more than the excellent Author of An Enquiry into the Constitution of the Primitive Church, that it is used in this Sense by that Father in any of his Writings or by the rest of the Fathers: For it is manifest unto us, as he that hath Eyes may see and he that runs may read, that whenever they speak of any Christians in any Pro­vince or Kingdom they always speak in the Plural, never once in the Singular of the Church in such a King­dom. [Page 13] (x). Nay we find by the same invaluable Author, that EUSEBIUS about the Year Three Hundred and Twenty sixth of our LORD styles the Laity the Church, in Opposition to the Clergy (y).

But there is no Necessity of labouring in Defence of Congregational Churches, which are so firmly established from the Scripture and most early Antiquity, that it would argue a strong Prejudice in favour of some particular new and unscriptural Establishment to be against them.

As for these Churches, they are satisfied with the Congregational Way, and judge the Proofs of Congrega­tional Churches from Scripture and the purest Antiquity to be strong and unanswerable. But however, if we should be willing out of Complaisance to the Disciples of ERASTUS to allow, that neither our SAVIOUR has instituted nor Primitive Antiquity favoured any particular Form of Church-Government, but that every State and Kingdom may regulate the Affairs of Churches and form a Polity for them, just as shall appear to them to be fit and convenient; still we cannot but think it entirely reasonable, notwithstanding such a large Concession, that there should be Congregational Churches, and that these Churches should in a good Measure have the Govern­ment of themselves: For it is suitable to the Nature of Things, the Authority of the Civil Magistrate and the Ob­ligations of the Pastoral Care, that every Church should act within herself as an entire and independent Body(z). And indeed, as particular or Congregational Churches support and protect the whole Concerns of Religion, they have an undoubted natural Right to be consulted and act within themselves; nor ought they to be re­strained by the Civil Magistrate or Lordly Bishops or Ma­gisterial Synods.

There are, we are sensible, various plausible Pleas and Arguments against the Right of particular Churches [Page 14]to act within and govern themselves. Some insist upon it, that the Apostles bad Power over particular Churches and that their Successors therefore should have Power over them also. Others plead, that particular Churches should be absolutely subject to their own Elders or to other Churches. And many others argue, that particular Churches should be dependant on Councils and other Judicatories, and that they ought to be determined by them, as the Jewish Syna­gogues were by the Sanhedrim at JERUSALEM.— These are the chief Arguments that are brought against the Right of particular Churches to act within themselves and govern themselves: And these shall be distinctly pro­posed, examined and refuted.

As to the Argument, which is bro't by many against the Congregational Form of Government, from the Power of the Apostles over particular Churches, by which it is concluded that their Successors should have Power over them also; This Argument will easily be enervated by considering the Extent [...] and Limits of the Apostolical Power.

Now it must be acknowleged, that the Apostolical Power reached to every Church as much as to any one: For, as they were empowered to disciple all Nations and baptize through the whole World, they were also direct­ed to feed the Sheep and Lambs of CHRIST'S Fold, let it be said, every where; and I am ready to grant, that this Feeding them implies in it all the Acts of Pastoral Government.

But, if all this be allowed; yet this will be no good Reason why any pretended Successors to the Apostles should have such an extensive Power. How indeed should they come by it? For it does not yet appear that our SAVIOUR gave, and His Apostles transmit­ted it unto them: It follows therefore, that, altho' the Apostles might have such a wide Power and extensive Influence, their Power and Influence ended with them, and no others may claim it to themselves and act in vertu [...] of it.

[Page 15] And besides I am ready to acknowledge the Power of the Apostles to be extended not only to all Churches, but also to the Performance of the various particular Offices in the several Churches: So that, as Pastors, as Teachers, as Rulers and as Deacons, they might teach and exhort, govern, receive and distribute the Offerings of the Church: Nay I am willing to grant for the present, that any one Apostle or Evangelist might baptize or censure any Offen­der, just as if the whole Church were present and con­curr'd in those Actions.

But what then? Will it follow, because PHILIP baptized the Ethiopian Eunuch without any Church, and the Apostle PAUL excommunicated ALEXANDER without any, that therefore this was their constant Prac­tice? No surely: For, when the Apostle PAUL could obtain the Consent of the Church and Presbytery in the Exercise of any Act or Ecclesiastical Power, he readily took it, as in the Ordination of Timothy and the Ex­communication of the Incestuous Corinthian.

It may therefore be fairly concluded, that the Apostles, when they were distant from all Churches, put forth their Power in the Administration of any Church-Acts, and the Power which they had received of CHRIST was suffi­cient to countenance and justify them in so doing; but that in Churches, which were regularly form'd and organical, they did not exert any such Power as was in­consistent with the Privileges of the People. Nay they were so far from it, that we have Reason to think, that they did not baptize or ordain or excommunicate without the Consent of the People. Were not all Things belonging to the Churches, whether PAUL or APOLLOS or CEPHAS? Did not these derive their Power of acting in them from Them under CHRIST? And were not the Apostles given to the Churches? Truely the Scriptures affirm so, nor ever say that the Churches were given to the Apostles or any other Rulers. And, as for the Instances which have bin produced, from which the Plenitude of the Apostolical Power is sometimes argued; it must first of [Page 16]all he proved, that there were Churches formed and gathered in the Places where they administred the Ordi­nances of CHRIST and the Discipline of His Appointment, before there can be any Thing argued from those In­stances: For, if there were no formed Churches, and it has not yet bin proved that there were in those Places; it is not at all to be wondred at, if the Apostles did not con­sult the Churches, but acted alone: They could do no otherwise.

But, even allowing that the Apostles in the Fulness of their Apostolical Power did these and such like Acts when and where they pleased, without any Regard to the People; still what is all this to such as pretend them­selves to be Successors of the Apostles? For have they any such Power and Authority? Or, ought they to have any such? Or, if any such Pretenders are in Possession of it, how came they by it? — Surely these are the Men, that enter not by the Door into the Sheepfold, but they climb up some other Way: They are therefore to be considered by Mankind as daring Thieves and Robbers of them in their best Interests.

There are others who argue, that particular Churches should be absolutely subject to their own Elders or to other Churches. But to this the Answer is easy, to wit, that particular Churches have an undoubted Liberty to act within themselves. Now will you say, that they derived this Liberty either from their own Elders or from Neigh­bouring Christian Societies? How can you say from the former, when it was in the Power of the Churches to chuse their Elders and they exercised their Liberty in the Choice of them? So that the Churches could not derive their Power and Liberty from their Elders; because, before they had their Elders, they were in the rightful Possession of this Power and Liberty, and saw meet to ex­ercise it.

And how can it be said, that other particular Churches conferred on them this Power and Liberty? For all par­ticular Churches have equal Power and Liberty within [Page 17]themselves. There was a Church at Cenchrea, which was but a little Village, a small Port to Corinth; and yet that small Church was not subject to the Church of Corinth. Nor indeed ought any one particular Church to be subject or subordinate to another, however nume­rous, great and eminent: For there is not a Tittle in the Scripture to justify such a Subordination of Churches.

Nor yet is This the declared Opinion of such only as profess and practise the Congregational Way; but I find, that others, who conform to a different Way, have received and expressed the very same Opinion: Thus, for Instance, the vastly learned GILBERT VOET, in Answer to this Question, Whether Ministers alone, con­sidered by themselves or as in a Body, that is, as a meeting of a Synod of Ministers; and whether constant Classes of the Delegates of Churches whether of Ministers alone or other Elders along with them are the first Subject of Ecclesiastical Power, so that from them this Power is derived to particular Churches and their Consistories? He writes in this Manner, No! I am so far from thinking, that Churches owe their Rise to such Assemblies as their first constituent Principles, that all the Power of the Churches is communicated from them and must finally be resolved into them, and that therefore as to their Rise and continuing to act, they are dependant on such Assemblies: I am so far from thinking this, that I chuse rather to determine the contrary. — For this I offer no other Reason but the following, that every particular Church is by itself, and may be called, a Church, and consequently is the first and proper Subject of Ecclesiastical Power: As much as every Man is the Subject of the Faculty of Understand­ing(a). Thus that eminent Dutch Divine. And if [Page 18]any should enquire, well! Granting, that particular Churches may be the first Subject of Ecclesiastical Power; yet may not a Sanhedrim or Synod or a Classis or the Civil Magistrate take away their Power from them and transfer it to themselves? To this I shall only render at present the Answer which is given by the great Divine just mentioned. Now his Answer is in the Negative: For says He, not to repeat the Reasons which may be bro't from their Divine and Natural Right; I shall only cite those two Elements of Right, that Justice is the constant and perpetual Inclination or Will of giving to every one his own, and that they who have a Right ought not to be deprived of it. Now this Right, to wit, of particular Churches, is divinely conferred and possessed by Divine Right: If therefore any, regardless of the Fear of GOD, should go about to deprive them of it, they may expect the Fulfilment of that Threatning, in Isa. XXXIII. 1. Wo to you that spoil and deal treacherously: Thou shalt be spoiled, and They shall deal treacherously with you; and that, in 1 Thes. IV. 6. None should go beyond and op­press or over-reach or defraud their Brethren in any Matter; because the LORD is the Avenger of all such (b).

But then, what shall we say to our Presbyterian Bre­thren, who argue that particular Churches should be de­pendant on Councils and other Judicatories and ought to be determined by them, just as the Jewish Synagogues by the greater Sanhedrim at Jerusalem?

We may say and stand to it, that particular Churches are not beholden to Councils, Synods or any other Judica­tories for their Liberty. 'Tis true the Church of AN­TIOCH borrowed Light from the Synod at JERUSALEM, [Page 19]and by the Decrees of that Synod were established in Truth and Peace: But it cannot be made to appear, that they derived any Liberty at all from them. No! They had undoubtedly the Power and Liberty of acting within themselves. They might indeed in an emergent Case send to JERUSALEM for Advice and Assistance: But this sending there will neither prove any Jurisdiction in the JERUSALEM Churches over the Church of AN­TIOCH, nor any Want of Jurisdiction in the Church of ANTIOCH. Any Number of Men or any Council or Synod of Churches may doctrinally propose Rules as necessary to be observed; but yet they may not claim any Authority in a Disciplinary Way to punish those that will not conform to those Rules: And therefore, altho' a Power of explaining and confirming Doctrines according to the Scriptures might be allowed to be in a Council or Synod, this will not prove that they have any further Authority in a Disciplinary Way to enforce their Decrees on particular Churches: Nor indeed has the Word of GOD granted to any Councils or Synods or other Ju­dicatories any such Jurisdiction over particular Churches.

Our Presbyterian Brethren will probably say here, What! Shall particular Churches be dependant upon no Judicatories? Why may they not depend on Councils and Synods and other Judicatories? The Jewish Synagogues depended on the Sanhedrim at Jerusalem: And why should not Christian Synagogues acknowledge the Juris­diction of neighbouring Presbyteries, of provincial Synods, of national Conventions and General Assemblies?

I answer, that, supposing the Synagogues or particular Congregations in Israel did depend upon a superior Judi­catory, it will not therefore follow that particular Christian Congregations should do so too: And the Reason is very plain and obvious, nor is it easy to enervate it, name­ly, because particular Synagogues or Congregations then were not complete Churches, as Christian particular Chur­ches now are: For the People could not have the ordi­nary and continual Worship and Ordinances of GOD in [Page 20]them; but they were obliged to go up to Jerusalem that so they might attend and enjoy them: Nay they were strictly commanded not to keep the Passover nor to bring any Sacrifices and Offerings onely at Jerusalem, the Place which GOD had chosen for the special Seat of His Presence: But now where is our Jerusalem? We know of none but that which is above, the Mother of us all.

And, as for Christian Churches, They are entirely dif­ferent Things from the Jewish Synagogues: For all the ordinary Worship and all the special Ordinances of GOD our SAVIOUR may now be enjoyed in particular Churches: And this shews them to be perfect and en­tire within themselves: And in Truth there is nothing to be found in all the New Testament of any greater Church institued upon which lesser Churches should de­pend: Nor are any Ordinances or Methods of Wor­ship prescribed in it, but what may be observed in every particular Congregation.

Besides; It is to be considered, that at Jerusalem there was a supreme Judicatory, which had an uncon­troleable Power and from the Determinations of which there was no Appeal: So that this was the dernier Resort upon Earth: Let it be so: But in the New Testament we read of no such supreme Judicatory: And therefore, if we once depart from a particular Church for Jurisdiction, we shall be wise beyond what is written and run wild in our Imaginations. All Jurisdiction there­fore should be confined to particular Churches, in whose Hands our SAVIOUR hath left it: Nor may any par­ticular Churches by any Act of their own or thro' their own Negligence deprive themselves of this Power: For, as by so doing they would betray a great Trust committted to them, so they would renounce their Duty also by it: For, unless they have and keep this Juris­diction within themselves, they cannot faithfully discharge various Duties, which are required of them by CHRIST JESUS their Lawgiver.

[Page 21] These Churches indeed acknowledge a Consociation of Churches for mutual Light and Assistance; and, as they conceive, that such Churches as will not act in Conjunction with others, but confine their Duty within the narrow Limits of their own Assemblies, cut them­selves off from the external Commution of the Catholic Church; they judge also that it will not be safe or pru­dent for any Christian to commit his Soul to the Di­rection and Conduct of such an independent Church. But, while these Churches acknoledge a Consociation among them, they cannot think that this Consociation forms and constitutes a new Sort of Church, or a Church of Churches as the famous Mr. COTTON once spoke, tho' he afterwards spake and thought otherwise: Nor do our Churches allow, that such a Consociation may take away or lessen the Power and Liberty of particular Churches: For they think, that, without any such Consociation or Correspondence of Churches, every particular Church is essentially and integrally a true Church (c): And it is their declared Apprehension and Judgment, that the true Use of such a Consociation is to direct and guide par­ticular Churches, as they may have Occasion for Light and Help: Nor have they any Thing to object against frequent Meeting in Councils or Synods, to learn the Spi­ritual State of the Churches within the Consociation, and to give Advice for the Amendment of what may be amiss in one or another of the said Churches, for pre­serving Worship in its Purity and Spirituality, for maintaining a godly Discipline and promoting the Power and Evidences of true Religion: Provided, that the Churches, convening in such Councils or Synods, are careful not to injure themselves, but see to it that the Liberties of the particular Churches be not invaded by any Determinations and Acts that may be passed in them.

[Page 22] This was the Opinion of the Fathers of New Eng­land, and indeed of all the ancient Non-Confromists al­most in England: So one of them in the Name of the Rest has observed; and Dr. DOWNHAM, in a Ser­mon at Lambeth, page 5th. says, They, that is, the Non-Conformists, say, that every Parish hath sufficient Authority within it self immediately derived from CHRIST for the Government of itself in all Cause Ecclesiastical.

But some sanguine People cannot be content with such a Consociation as has bin mentioned: No! They want somthing further: They must have their Judi­catories, they will have their decisive Synods or Convoca­tions, or else they will presently be for condemning the Gospel as more defective than the Law: Nay it is well, if they do not plead for external Force and for Officers and Powers derived from humane Laws, concerning which the Scripture is utterly silent.

If such Person as thess could but be perswaded for a Moment to look off from their beloved secular Inte­rest, and to hear what we have to say upon this Head, probably they might emerge into better Sentiments. Come then, all such of you as have hitherto pleaded for Weapons which are not christian and spiritual, but carnal and worldly, tho' mighty thro' Satan for the pulling down of all such as conscientiously dislike and oppose your vain unscriptural Imaginations; Come, I say, and let us reason a little with Calmness upon the Head be­fore us. You say then, that you would have a supreme Judicatory for the final Issuing of Cause, with a deci­sive ungainsayable Power for that Purpose: Very well. To this it may be answered, why may not a particular Church be this Judicatory? For indeed the new Testa­ment has not appointed any other. Whereas, according to your Opinion, we shall be at a Loss forever where to find the Judicatory, which you want and for which you so zealously plead: For, from a Congregation and Classis, you must go to a Provincial Synod: And where next? Then to a National Synod: And what will you [Page 23]do then? Afterwards you must go to a general acu­menical Council; by which Means your Cause will be unreasonably protracted, nor in all Probability ever come to a final Decision.

You will perhaps think it enow to reply, that, un­less there be stated Judicatories for the bearing of Causes, we shall be continually at Uncertainties and never know in our Difficulties what shall be done: But it is suffi­cient Answer to this to say, that particular Churches are such standing Judicatories, not of humane Appointrment but of Divine, which always are or should be ready to hear and to give Judgment in Cases that properly come before them: Whereas Synods and other Judicatories, if they had the Supreme Power lodged in their Hands, would not always be ready to consider nor yet to deter­mine, but would be both long in meeting and tedious in determining the Affairs which come before them.

And, in fine, I would add, in Answer to any other Objection thay may remain or may possibly be raised or drawn from the Advantage of such a Supreme Judicatory as is supposed to have sat at Jerusalem: First of all, That it is very probable, that such a Sanhedrim, as the Friends of it suppose to be derived down from Mosas in an uninterrupted Succession to the Fourth Century after JESUS CHRIST, tho' some say not so late, is a mere Rabbinical Chimera that never had any real Existence For the Scriptures never any where expressly mention it: Nor yet does JOSEPHUS or PHILO or any other well acquainted with the Jewish Government ever speak of it in such a Manner as is usual on these Occasions There are indeed some Passages in the Gospels, which give us Reason to think that there was a Sambedrim to­wards the latter End of the Jewish State: But the pro­found Silence of the Times foregoing is a strong Argument for not admitting any such Thing before the Babylonish Captivity: So that the Proofs of such a Supreme Judi­catory to be Divinely instituted and as such sub [...]issively regarded may well be questioned by us; and therefore [Page 24]the Argument, drawn from the same, may as to us be considered as inconclusive and frivolous.

But, if it should be granted you, that there was such a Sanhedrim at Jerusalem, in every Respect according to your Imagination; yet we may safely affirm, that, in those particular Churches instituted by our SAVIOUR and conforming to His Directions, we have much the Ad­vantage of the Jews in that Judicatory: For now, praised be GOD our SAVIOUR, Churches, wherein the Supreme Power upon Earth is lodged, are many: So that Christians may have the Advantage of that Power with conside­rable Ease and Convenience: It would therefore be very strange, if they were not duely apprehensive of the glo­rious Privilege enjoyed by them, and thankful to GOD their SAVIOUR for the Enjoyment of it.

Thus I have in a general Way pleaded for the Li­berty of these Churches and shewed that they are not subject to any Judicatories nor ought to be subject to any: And, upon the whole, I am free to declare, that, supposing ever so many Convocations or Synods or even General Councils were called, they would have no Juiris­diction at all over these or any other particular or Con­gregational Churches: For the great Head of the Church never gave them any such Jurisdiction, nor is it in their Power to prove that they have derived any such Juris­diction from HIM: Even that worthy Presbyterian Mr. RUTHERFURD himself professes, the he cannot see what Power of Jurisdiction to censure Scandals can be in a General Council, and he adds, there may be some merely Doctrinal Power if such a Council could be had, and that is all (d) Surely then no lesser Judica­tories can boast of any more Power: So that, after all, the Power of Jurisdiction must be placed where it pro­perly belongs, to wit, in particular Churches of Divine Institution, where our SAVIOUR and LORD has placed it. For, as Dr. FULK observes in his Answer to the [Page 25] Rhemists, Chap. III. p. 381. The Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, whatever they are, are given to the whole Church, as all the ancient Doctors agreable to the Scrip­tures do confess.

These particular Churches we judge to be the first proper Subject of all Ecclesiastical Offices, Gifts and Powers according to CHRIST'S Institution and the Primitive Pattern: For, when the Apostles had founded many Churches in small Provinces and appointed ordinary Offi­cers in them to administer CHRIST'S Ordinances to all the Church; we find, that these Churches respectively met together in the same Place to impart the various Spi­ritual Gifts with which they were furnished and to dis­charge the Duties required of them: Nor can any Thing be more plain than this, that the various Gifts imparted to one particular Church and another by the HOLY SPIRIT, and the various Offices sustained in them were to profit withal, as the Apostle speaks, or for the Good of the Hive, as his Greek signifies: And it must be con­fessed, for it is as clear as the Light, that the several Duties enjoyned upon particular Churches in the Apostoli­cal Writings are such both in their Nature and the Manner of complying with them that they cannot be faithfully attended and observed but in particular Christian Societies or Churches: So that we may well form this Conclusion, that it is the common Privilege of all other particular Churches to have various Gifts im­parted, to have these Gifts exercised, to have Offices disposed of, and Christian Duties performed for them.

But, having thus said, that according to CHRIST'S Institution and the Primitive Pattern we judge particu­lar Churches to be the first Proper Subject of all Ecclesi­aftical Offices, Gifts and Powers; I cannot but think it proper to introduce a Passage of the eminent Mr. CLAUDE, who thought it the best Way of maintaining the Reformation, in his Defence of it, to espouse these Sentiments and express them, as follows;

[Page 26] ‘AUSTIN proved to the Donatists, that their Prin­ciple was false; and it is worth the while to observe the Method which he took to convince them of the Falsity of their. Opinions.—He had Recourse to the Body of the Church, and said, that the Sacraments were not the Sacraments of the Bishops or Pastors; that the Power of the Keys did not belong to them, nor the Power of Binding and Loosing, nor the other Acts of the Ministry or Episcopal Office; but that all these Things did belong to the Church: So that it is the Church that baptizeth, when the Bishops or Pastors baptize; it is the Church that bindeth, when the Pastors bind, it is She that looseth, when the Pastors loose: And JESUS CHRIST gave all these Things to the Church. But what did AUSTIN un­derstand by the Church? Even the faithful People wherever they are, the Wheat of GOD, the good Grain, the good Fishes, as He calls them, in one Word, the Saints, true Believers: It was from this Source that He derived the Validity of the Sacraments and other Functions of the Episcopacy, and not from the Pastors. And I say the same Thing. Whatever the Bishops or Pastors do, They do it in the Name of the Church, and consequently in the Name of JESUS CHRIST; for the Name of CHRIST is in the Church. It is the Church that preaches by them, the Church administers the Sacraments by them, governs by them, censures, suspends, absolves or ex­communicates by them: The Bishops or Pastors are her Ministers and the Dispensators of her Rights.’

It is very probable, that this Quotation may sound a little too Democratical in the Ears of some genuine Pro­testants: But there will be no Danger at all of our being the worse Protestants for taking it into our serious Con­sideration. And besides, we may well think seriously upon it, especially considering, that Father PAUL of Ve­nice, in his Treatise of Beneficiary Matters, is so ingenuous as both to affirm that in the Beginning the Government [Page 27]of the Church had altogether a Democratical Form, and to give a punctual and observable Account also how it came by Degrees to be altered.

But how, will you say, came particular Churches, who are the first Subject of Ecclesiastical Offices, Gifts and Powers to be deprived of them, in such a Scandalous Manner as they are in the greatest Part of the Christian World? And, alas! it must be declared from the best Writers that this has come to pass thro' the Negligence of the Churches and the Ambition of their Pastors: These were the fatal Causes, why designing Men, regardless of the plain and obvious Sense of the Apostolical Writings, have gone aside from the Simplicity of them, and advanc'd their own Power upon the Ruins of those Churches which they have impiously subverted: And hence the Observation of AQUINAS, with reference to the Time, when Bishops became endowed with worldly Honours and Offices, with great temporal Powers and Possessions, may hold good with regard to the Time when the Peo­ple grew utterly negligent of the Privileges belonging to them, Then arose the Race of the Giants in the Church, and then raised the Proud Tower of Babel (e): For, from that Time, Metropolitan Cities were by Degrees raised to be the Seats of Metropolitan Ministers: And so, ac­cording to the Preeminence, Note and Superior Power of Places in the Roman Empire, the Order to be observed among Churches was to be constituted: Thus at length, from the Division of the Commonwealth and the Civil Districts, the Political Division of the Churches into Diocesses and Provinces obtained and was fixed and estab­lished, as several learned Men have observ'd and Prov'd, and particularly the learned JUSTELLUS. (f)—And [Page 28]there is a great deal of Truth in the honest Declaration of Father PAUL: He having said, that the last Resolu­tion of Ecclesiastical Matters in the more early Times was in the General Congregation of the Church, and that this Form was still on Foot in the Year Two Hundred and Fifty, for which He appeals to CYPRIAN'S Epistles; He then proceeds to declare as follows, ‘The Good­ness and Charity of the Bishops made their Opinion for the most Part to be followed and by little and little was the Cause that the Church, Charity waxing cold, not regarding the Charge laid upon them by CHRIST, did leave the Care to the Bishop: And Ambition, a witty Passion, which doth insinuate itself in the Shew of Vertue, did cause it to be readily embraced. But the principal Cause of the Change was the ceasing of Persecution; For then the Bishop did erect as it were a Tribunal which was much fre­quented; because, as Temporal Commodities, so Suits did encrease.—Then the Tribunal of the Bishop began to be a common Pleading-Place, having Exe­cution by the Ministry of the Magistrate, and to gain the Name of Episcopal Jurisdiction and Audience, &c’ (g) And perhaps, as the learned Mr. Abbot FLEURY has observed in his Discourses on Ecclesiastical History, GOD has permitted these Disorders in his Church to instruct Men from their own Experience strictly to follow His Precepts and not to endeavour to maintain His Reli­gion by the Maxims of Worldly Policy.

I have observed already concerning some Circumstan­ces in the Worship of GOD and the Government of par­ticular Churches, that natural Light and Christian Pru­dence, according to the general Rules of GOD'S Word, may regulate them: And therefore it seems to arise from a captious and quarrelsome Humour, when any cry out upon us, where is your positive Command, pro­duce your express Institution for this Practice and the [Page 29]other Custom in your Churches: For in such Things the Light of Nature is sufficient to direct and guide us; and the Obligation of Churches, as well as particular Persons, to conform to this is such, that it would be impertinent and useless, if not pernicious, to make permanent Ad­ditions: If therefore any Churches, instead of conform­ing to their natural Light in such Things, should invent sundry odd Modes and Rites of their own, and require canonical Conformity to them, without shewing the Ten­dency and Usefulness of them towards our Edification and proving the Necessity of observing them with Relation to the Duties which they are invented to subserve; I am sure, that neither the Word of GOD nor Christian Prudence will justify them in finding out and imposing such odd Inventions, nor any Christian in submitting unto them: And I may not fear to assert, that a great Part of those Disorders, which have arisen in the Chri­stian World, have bin occasioned by usurping a Legisia­tive Power over the Churches in such trifling Oddnesses.

I could muster an Army of Protestant Authors who are of the same Mind, if there were Occasion: But I shall content my self with reciting some Passages out of a few of them only. The good and worthy Confessor and Martyr JOHN HUSS said unto his Bohemians con­cerning many of the Things which the Priests and Prelates of his Day called Order, that they produced all manner of Confusion among Christians: Multa, says He, quae illi Ordinem dicunt, omnium Rerum in Christianisimo Confusionem pariunt. The learned WHITAKER urges to BELLARMINE, What! were the old Figures taken away that there might be Room for new ones? Were those that were Divine taken away that such as are bu­mane might succeed them(a)? And the Magdeburgensian Centuriators teach us, that, while indifferent Things are left free, we may lawfully use them; but, when they are imposed, for the maintaining of our Liberty we should [Page 30]withstand and oppose them(c). CALVIN maintains, that, as no Doctrine, so no sacred Sign, should be admitted among the Pious unless it appear to come from GOD (o). LUTHER is free to affirm, that all humane Ceremonies have two Properties of the Devil, Lying and Murther­ing(r). BEZA goes so far as to call such Inventions the Ensigns of the Priests of Baal (s). ZANCHY was not afraid to tell Queen ELIZABETH, who was more fond of Shew and Pomp in the Worship of GOD than real Devotion and the truest Lovers of it, that all these Pomps and Popish Ceremonies are nothing else but whorish Paintings, invented and devised to the End that Men might be enticed by them to spiritual Fornication (u). Nay even Dr. MORTON scruples not to say, that Ritual Traditions, which pertain to Order and the Rites of Divine Worship, are to be received only so far as they clash not with Truth and Piety, Simplicity and Chris­tian Liberty(z). And I will add some weighty Passa­ges from the great and generously good Mr. HOWE, who, in shewing The Carnality of Religious Contentions, says, that, the less Things are, the greater the Sin in making them necessary, and Christians of one Communion and other [to wit, that are fond of their own Inven­tions] do in Effect say, if you will not take Christianity with these Additions of ours, you shall not be Christians, you shall have no Christian Ordinances, no Christian Worship: We will, as far as in us is, exclude you from Heaven itself and all the Means of Salvation: And he cites a remarkable Passage of the Emperor MAXIMI­LIAN the Second to a certain Prelate, namely, That there was no Sin, no Tyranny more grievous than to affect Dominion over Men's Consciences, and they who [Page 31]do so go about to invade the Tower of Heaven: And it may well be accounted a Remarkable Saying, as coming from so great a Prince, who lived and expired in the Romish Communion. Nor may I omit the Remark of the warm nd zealous Dr. HEIDAN, that it has bin owing, [...] the Labour of ERASMUS and CASSANDER, [and I may add of GROTIUS; for he followed and vindicated them] that, altho' they wish some smaller Things might be reformed, nevertheless some of the chief Defects of the Romish Church are concealed or lightly touched by them: Hence, says he, it is come to pass, that in some Churches, and in the English Church it especially appears very evident, while they have reformed their Doctrine, they have not at the same Time amended their Orders; but still continue a Government in some Measure like that among the Papists &.

But, to return, altho' some Circumstances of Worship and Government may be regul [...]ted by natural Light as I have bin saying, for the Banefit of the Churches, and for this Reason the Apostle Paul frequently appeals unto it in Things belonging to the Order of the Churches; nevertheless we are satisfied, that the Ecclesiastical State, of which I have bin treating, is a Divine Institution For so it appears to be from its Nature and Tending, from its peculiar Relation to our great SAVIOUR, from the great Glory resulting to GOD by an accurate Confor­mity to it, and from those peculiar Duties and spiritual and holy Methods of Worship appointed in it. If then the Rules of CHRIST be observed, and Christi­ans will but exercise their Reason and common Prudence [Page 32]in conforming to those Rules; that is, in other words, if we are but Men and Christians, if we will but be governed by Reason and the Revelation of CHRIST'S Churches, which shine with intaminated Honours from the Light that they have borrowed from the two great Luminaries of the Church and the Word, Reason and Revelation.

It is to be hoped, that, under the Light and vital Heat of these glorious Luminaries, the Churches, that have hitherto bin as it were under those Clods of the Valley, their heavy and earthly Priefts, will e'er long arise out of the Earth and blossom in a fair Profession of Christianity and abound in all the Fruits of Righteous­ness under a Rational and Scriptural Order.

But, if other Churches love to continue in a dege­nerate and corrupt State and hate to be reformed; GOD forbid, that the Churches of NEW-ENGLAND should ever return to their miserable Condition: These Churches have come out from among them; but it is to be wished and prayed, that they may never forget the Goodness of GOD in bringing them out, nor fail to answer the gracious Intentions of our strong REDEEMER in so doing.

Let these Churches then be careful, lest Ignorance, Negligence, Sloth and Wickedness should prove their Ruin, as they have bin the Ruin of other Churches: Let them never blindly resign themselves to the Direction of their Ministers; but consider themselves, as Men, as Christian, as Protestants, obliged to judge and act for themselves in all the weighty Concernments of Religion: Blessed be GOD, that our Churches have hitherto ma­nifested themselves worthy of this Privilege: And may they still continue so! Nor let it ever be said to our Reproach, as it musy be if ever it be said at all, that we were possessed of all those invaluable Privileges, which particular Churches by Reason and CHRIST'S Ap­pointment can claim, but were either unacquainted with them, or negligent in the Improvement of them, or by [Page 33]our Sin and Impiety have forfeited and lost them: For, if ever this should be said, it must at the same Time be proclaimed, that the Glory is departed from NEW-ENGLAND.

Several things have bin published by our eminent Predecessors, of whom the World was not worthy, in order to shew these Churches their Liberties and fire their Souls with a becoming Affection and Zeal for them: But most of those Composures are not known among us: Inasmuch therefore as I have the same sin­cere Regard for the best Interests of these Churches; I could not but think it my Duty to produce my Senti­ments concerning the Privileges of these Churches, which I know to be conformable to those of my ever honoured Predecessors and Fathers in many of their printed Treatises and Manuscripts, and so publish them for the Benefit of these Churches, that so they might know themselves and learn to pity and pray for their Bro­thren, who are groaning under National Establishments and long to be restored to our Liberties: And, that so our Churches may by the Divine Blessing be restored to their former Glory, I have thought it proper to use my best Endeavours for hte reforming of particular Churches by setting their distinguishing Liberties before them and soberly apologizing for them.

But, to conclude this Preface or Introduction to the Particular Discourses which follow, I would make one Observation, which may not be omitted without a ma­nifest Injury to these Churches: 'Tis this, that altho' these Churches, apprehending the congregational Way to be established on the Dictates of Reason and by the Authority of the great King and Head of the Chruch, therefore prefer it before any other; nevertheless they have great charity and Esteem for those, who, being unacquainted with this Way, cannot therefore approve of it: It is, indeed a Grief to our Churches, that there are sober and honest Persons in other Communions, who are so strangely prepossessed, [...] to say prejudiced, [Page 34]by Interest or Education against those that are of the Congregational Persuasion, that they are ready to brand them with the opprobrious Names of Schismaticks, Enthusiasts and what not.— But we have not so learned CHRIST: For, altho' we prefer the Constitution of these Churches before and other; still we think it our duty to love, and shew our Affection to all good and well disposed People of whatever Communion or religious Profession they may be, to speak well and handsomely concerning them and serve them to he uttermost of our Power: Nor indeed have we any Scruple about admitting any pious Baptist, Presbyterian or Episcopalian into our Communior: Not only our Houses and Hearts, but our Churches also are open Reason to think them to be Persons of good Understanding, Piety and Vertue.

[Page 35]

The distinguishing Privileges of the Churches in NEW ENGLAND maintained.

THE Nature, Grounds and Reasons, Antiquity and Advantages of Congregational Churches have in the preceeding Discourse bin briefly, but, I hope, honestly and faithfully represented; and a short, tho' I think sufficient, Answer has been pro­duced to such Objections as are usually offered against the Way of these Churches. What I now propose is, more particularly to sate, assert and vindicate the distin­guishing Liberties of these Churches from Scripture and Reason and the approved Records of pure Antiquity: And, as there are some later Writers, who have either inadvertently or from the constraining Power of Truth bore their Testimony to the Religious Privileges claim­ed by our Churches, I have tho't it my Duty to con­sult these Writers and make the best Use of them that I could on this Occasion.

[Page 36]

Chapter I. The Right of these Churches to chuse their own Ministers and other Officers asserted and vindicated.

PRoposing thus to apologize for the distinguishing Privileges of these Churches; I begin with the Power and Liberty of chusing their own Officers: A Power and Liberty, of which they have bin long pos­sessed, and to the Enjoyment of which they have a satisfactory and valid Title.

In order to know what Methods and Rules our blessed LORD and SAVIOUR would have to be ob­served by His Churches; we must observe the Conduct and consult the Writings of His Apostles, the Prime Ministers of His Spiritual Kingdom, who were perfect­ly acquainted with His Mind, who steadily conformed unto it, and in their Writings have clearly revealed it: For it is thro' their Word that we are to believe and judge and act in Ecclesiastical Affairs.

If therefore in their Days, without their discounte­nanceng such a Practice, the Churches elected their own Officers; the Churches have the same Power and Right still and ought to exercise the same: But this Matter of Fact shall be rendred manifest and incontestible, that the Churches in the Days of the Apostles chose their own Officers: And, when this is made out, methinks there can be no Difficulty in allowing the Conclusion which is drawn from it.

Now any one, that has Eyes and will see, may be­hold in the first Chapter of the Acts of the Apostles that the Church were not excluded even in the Choice of [Page 37]an Apostle, who was to supply the Place from which JUDAS by Transgression fell: For, altho' an Apostle was an extraordinary Officer, so that if the People had not bin concerned in the Election of such an Officer, pro­bably they would have bin satisfied; yet it is very clear, that the Church appointed two, out of which one was to be chosen to supply the Place of JUDAS; and it is equally clear, that, when the Lot fell upon MAT­THIAS, he was by the Suffrage of the Church chosen into the Number of the Apostles: For, altho' to serve a base Design it was on Purpose translated in our Version, at Verse the Twenty sixth of that Chapter, he was num­bred with the Apostles; nevertheless all, that understand any Thing of the Greek, must needs know the Truth of what the best Criticks inform us, namely, that MAT­THIAS was chosen by all the Votes into the Number of the Apostles (a).

And what can our modern boasted Successors from the Apostles say to this? Here was an Officer, an ex­traordinary Officer, who received his Calling and extra­ordinary Authority from JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF immediately; and yet the Church, in the Presence of the Apostles, first appointed two Persons, and then by their common Consent and Suffrage approved the Person whose Lot it was to be chosen by them! Truely they might as well resist the Light of EUCLID'S Elements as the Light which appears in this Matter; and, if it were as much for their Interests, it is very probable that they would do so.

But surely, from this celebrated Instance, Christians have now sufficient Instruction and Authority to chuse their own Officers: For, if the People had a considerable Hand in the Choice of an Apostle, certainly their Right to chuse ordinary Officers cannot well be disputed; and, if in the Presence of the Apostles, the People elected one into their Number, nor were excluded from this Li­berty, [Page 38]nor yet abridged in it by the present Apostles, it would now be a bold Attempt in any to deprive them of their Liberty to chuse their ordinary Officers: I say, a bold Attempt; because all such as would deprive the People of GOD of their Liberty to chuse their own Officers, and by the Exclusion or them would take this Power into their own Hands, are very assuming and arrogate to themselves more than the Apostles of CHRIST, whose Power over the Church was doubtless extraordinary.

This, it must be confessed, was a remarkable In­stance and Proof of it, that the Apostles were true and hearty Friends to the Liberties of their Christian Bre­thren: But this is not the only Instance, wherein we find them to have bin so: For, when Deacons were to be appointed, they were far from taking that Affair into their own Hands; but, as we read in Act. VI. and 2, they called the whole Multitude unto them and advised them to look out seven Men who might be fit for that Business: And upon this it follows, that the Saying pleased the whole Multitude, and accordingly they chose seven Persons, whose Names are afterwards mentioned: And, having proceeded thus far, they then set the Dea­cons elected before the Apostles, who, when they had prayed, laid their Hands upon them.

And, that the Apostles continued to be Favourers of the People's Right to chuse their Officers, may further be argued from Act. XIV. 23, where we read of the Apostles PAUL and BARNABAS ordaining Elders in every Church: For, whereas our Version to serve a Favourite Turn renders it only ordained, it is certain that the Word signifies an Election or a listing up of Hands (c)in every Church accompanying it, as every one that has but a small Acquaintance with the Greek cannot but be sensible. So that, altho' we can readily allow the Truth of what the learned DU PIN observes, [Page 39]namely, that, after the Death of those who had bin or­dained by the Apostles, the People elected(o); yet we must further insist, that before the Death of the Apostles and in their Presence the People elected.

We see then, that these Churches have the Authority of the Apostles to countenance them in the Choice of their Officers: If therefore the Apostles themselves would not nominate and constitute Officers in the Churches, but it was their Right according to CHRIST'S Will to chuse their own Officers; it must still be the Right and Liberty, of the Churches to elect their Officers: Well therefore may we say with CHRYSOSTOM (p), So it was then, h. e. in the Days of the Apostles, and so it ought to be now.

But, altho' these Scriptural Testimonies are enow to convince us, that, as we are in the rightful Possession of this Liberty, we ought by all Means to keep it, nor to let it go upon any Account or Pretence whatsoever; there are however various Reasons besides, which will serve to betray the Folly and Stupidity of those Peo­ple, that can tamely bear to be kept out of this Liberty, and at the same Time to confirm these Churches in their Resolutions not to part with it.

For it is certainly much more just and honest, much more fit and safe, that the Officers of the Church should be chosen by the People, than it can be to have them nominated and appointed by any one Bishop; because a Bishop may with much more Ease be deceived and cor­rupted than an whole Church, and may be very apt to abuse his arrogated Power: And it is entirely rea­sonable, that the Church should chuse those that are to be set over them in the LORD, lest otherwise ignorant, dronish, wicked and contemptible Officers should be thrust and imposed upon them: And it is furthermor meet; because there is no Likelibood of it, that the People will [Page 40]love and revere, hear with spiritual Profit and submit with Delight to such Persons as are thrust upon them a­gainst their Inclinations: And, moreover, there is all the Reason in the World, that Men should have the same Liberty in Religious Respects as they have in Civil: Men can chuse their Friends, their Lawyers, their Physicians: And can there be any good Reason assigned, why they should be hindred from the Exercise of the like Liberty in Spiritual Regards? Truely no! They ought to have equal religious Liberty; nor ought they to be restrained in the Exercise of a Liberty so reasonable, as this of chusing their own Ecclesiastical Officers, upon the Choice of which their everlasting Welfare so nearly depends.

Besides; The Remarks of the famous CALDER­WOOD are worthy to be taken into our Consideration. Now He remarks in one Place, that common Sense teaches us, that a Bishop is not to be thrust upon an un­willing People, lest the unwilling People should either de­spise or hate their undesired Bishop(a):— And, in another Place, He says, that the whole Church ought to be con­cerned about the Means of Salvation(b), of which the Ministry is one.—And though, writes He, Popes have rob'd the Churches of this Liberty; [to wit, of chusing their own Ministers] yet Emperors and Princes should not assume this to themselves, but, as Nursing Fathers to the Church, if indeed they would be glad to bear that Character, they should restore this Liberty to the Chur­ches(c).—And He remarks, that Experience with a loud Voice proclaims, that Churches are more or less flourishing [Page 41]as their Election is with more or less Freedom enjoyed(d). And, to these Remarks of one famous Person, I may add the Observations of another, GROTIUS, as I find them scattered up and down in his Book de Imperio; In one Place He says, That Election is rightly made by the Church according to the Law of Nature: For it is naturally allowed to every Society to procure those Things that are necessary for its Conservation; in the Number of which Things is the Disposition of Offices. Thus many Traders to Sea have the Right of chusing the Governor of their Ship; thus Travellers may chuse the Guide of their Journey, and a free People may chuse their King (e). In another Place, He asserts, It is altogether certain that in the ancient Church after the Apostolic Age, tho' the Peo­ple could rightfully chuse their own Pastors, yet they did not always and every where improve and exercise their Right(f). And, to cite no farther, in another Place He observes, that even in later Ages the Right of chusing their Pastors was often allowed to the People alone: It is so plain and open, says He, that I need not take Notice of it (g).—Nor may I omit the kind Allowance of the in­genious and subtle CRELLIUS: For, altho' he, with his Brethren, is for having the Civil Magistrate to ap­point Officers over the Churches, yet He thinks it ought to be observed, that Officers should not be com­mitted to any without the Consent of the whole Church: [Page 42]Whoever therefore, says He, it may be, that has the Choice or Nomination of Persons to these Ecclesiastical Offices; yet it ought to be allowed to all in the Church, that if they know any just Objection against the Election, they may bring it in proper Time and Place. And there will be Reason for it, if they can not only object some Crime, against them, but also prove such a Crime as ought deservedly to take him off from his Office. This is clearly to be found in that Canon, wherein it is prescribed, that such as are to be chosen should be blameless. Now how can this be known, unless Enquiry be made and all have the Liberty of bringing what they know concerning such a Matter.— And truely such an Election constituted in a Church as does not have this Liberty may lawfully be reproved and ac­counted vicious(h).

Now what is there of Weight to be produced against such Considerations as these? It would be impertinent to talk of an immediate Call from GOD to Ecclesiastical Offices: For such a Call is not now to be expected: And yet it would be very absurd to think of officiating in any Church without any Call or Invitation at all: For none may assume such Honours to themselves but such as are called of GOD.

If then any should argue for others, that they should nominate and appoint Officers over the Churches, and not the Churches themselves: This is what we perempto­rily deny: For we cannot find, that GOD our SAVI­OUR has given such Power to any Men, who are not of a particular Church, to appoint Officers in and over it. Nor can we by any Means allow, that a Number of Men of any particular Church, in Exclusion of the Mul­titude of their Brethren, should constitute Officers in that particular Church: For we apprehend, that, in Things [Page 43]which concern the whole Church, all the Church should be interested; unless it can be made to appear, that the great Head of the Church has empowered some only to act in the Matter: Now we know and are assured, that our blessed SAVIOUR has not committed to any particular Persons of whatsoever Age or Quality the Power of chusing Officers for the whole Church: Nor has He indulged the Churches with the Liberty of delegating their Power to some of their Number to chuse for them: For no Part of that Power which essentially belongs to the Churches as such can be delegated; but every Part of such Power must be exercised by the whole Churches. And therefore this Power of chusing, as it belongs to the Churches essentially considered, must be acted by the Bodies of particular Churches.

There are some, who are almost ready to concede to these Things; but yet they are for excluding the People from the Election of Ecclesiastical Officers, on the ac­count of their Incapacity and unfitness to form a right Judgment concerning Persons and to chuse wisely: I remember SIXTUS SENENSIS was of this Mind; for, altho' he acknowledges, that both in the Times of the Apostles and of Pope LEO the People chose their Bishops; yet, he adds (i) that it was easy for the Multitude of the Faithful to do this then; for the People were then grave, moderate and concerned for the public Benefit:— But now, continues He, the People is a Beast of many Heads, always intent upon Factions and Seditions: So that, if they had this Liberty, it would produce the greatest Disturbance in the Church: And Dr. THOMAS BUR­NET, Master of the Charter House, speaks to the same Purpose; for He says, that Elections (r), as well as the Manner of Discipline, were formerly more popular, which insensibly to avoid Confusion devolved upon those who pre­sided over the Church.

[Page 44] But it is a sufficient Answer to all that can be said to this Effect, that the People by our great Lawgiver and His Apostles are entrusted with this Privilege, and therefore, for any to say that they are not meet for this Privilege nor capable of discharging such a Trust, it must reflect upon the holy Apostles, and even upon the Wisdom of our great SAVIOUR. And, if it should be granted, that the People may grow factious and troublesome in their Elections, and Confusions should arise by Means of them; what then? All, that this proves, is, that Churches may degenerate; and who denies that? But such Degeneracy in them is to be lamented and reformed; and the People should still possess and enjoy their Privi­lege of chusing their Officers. Even BZOVIUS the Jesuite was of this Mind, and he gives three Reasons why it should be so; namely, that so no Pastor may be set over such as are unwilling to have him over them, that so the Pastor may be loved by his Sheep, and that so there may be as it were a Spiritual Marriage contracted be­tween them by the Consent of both.

The Sum of what has bin said is, that, both from Scriptural Authority and Examples and from the Reasons of the Thing, Churches should chuse their own Officers, and that the Objections against their Enjoyment of this Liberty are of no Force and Validity.

And, if we search the Archives of Antiquity, we shall find, that the Primitive Churches were in Possessi­on of this Liberty, which thro' the Divine Goodness these Churches enjoy.

It appears from CLEMENT'S first Epistle to the Corinthians, a valuable and undisputed Remain of An­tiquity, that Bishops and Deacons were constituted by the Consent and Agreement or good Liking of the Church (t); that the Apostles themselves appointed qualified Persons to the Ministerial Office with the Choice of the whole Church, and indeed that they were not thought lawfully [Page 45]called or chosen to their Offices, nor might reasonably challenge any Respect or Subjection from the People, unless the whole Church concurred in the Election of them.

It is plain from an Epistle of IGNATIUS written to the Fraternity of the Church, that he judg'd it becoming for them to chuse their own Bishop (t): For you must know, that, however despised the Fraternity may be by some who are very sanguine in their Appeals to Antiquity, yet all the genuine Epistles of IGNATIUS, except one to POLYCARP, are directed to the Brethren: And this especially is so, wherein it is said to be becom­ing for them as a Church of GOD to chuse or appoint a Bishop.

It is not to be doubted, but that ORIGEN was of the same Opinion; for he, writing concerning the Cities of GOD, even the Churches of JESUS CHRIST, and concerning the Rulers of them, affirms that they are to be chosen (r)to their Office by the Churches which they rule.

EUSEBIUS declares, that in the Year of our LORD 236, all the Faithful (u) in ROME itself did meet toge­ther in one Place to chuse another Bishop in the Room of ANTERUS: And he says, that ALEXANDER, Bishop of Jerusalem was chosen in this Manner, and then pre­sented to the Neighbouring Bishops for their Appro­bation (u).

CYPRIAN a little while after testifies to this Right of the People, saying, that they have the Power of chusing their own Ministers (w) over and over again; as every one knows, that has ever consulted his Writings: And he acknowledges, that he was promoted Bishop, Populi universi Suffragio, by the Suffrage of the People (w).

[Page 46] The first and most famous general Council of Nice, writing a Synodal Epistle to the African Churches to warn them against Arianism, exhorts them to chuse or­thodox Bishops in the Room of the Deceased, provided they be worthy—: From which is should seem, they thought the Election of the People so necessary, that real Merit was not sufficient to make and constitute a Bishop with­out their free Election of him.

And that, in ancient Times a Conspiracy of Bishops could not chouse the People out of this their Right, we have a remarkable Instance to produce: For Mar­tin, usually called Saint MARTIN, a little after CON­STANTINE, was made Bishop of Turon in France by the People's Election and Consent, notwithstanding all the Opposition that the Bishops could make against his Election and Settlement among them: And Abbot FLEURY, in his Discourses on Ecclesiastical Hisory, rightly observes, that in those Times so great a Regard was had to the People' Consent, that, if they refused to receive [a Bishop or Minister] after he was ordained, they were not forced to have him, but had another who was more agreable to them.

POSIDONIUS in the Life of AUSTIN says, That that Father was of the Opinion that (x) in ordaining Priefts and Clerks the Consent of the Majority of Christi­ans and the Custom of the Church should be followed.

In the Council at Orleance in the Year of our LORD, 540, this Rule was laid down, that he is to be chosen by all who is to be set over all (y): So that then the Chur­ches were not so big but that all the People might join in chusing their Bishop.

And BELLARMIN himself confesses, that it was the Custom in the Time of CHRYSOSTOM, AMBROSE, AUSTIN, LEO and GREGORY for the People to be [Page 47]concerned in the Choice of their Biship (z) And some of the Papists even go higher: For LORINUS, SAL­MERON and SANCTIUS, writing upon Act. XIV. 23. acknowlege, that it was the Primitive and Apostolic Practice for the People to chuse their own Ministers.

There are several Chronologers and Historians who relate concerning FELIX the Fourth, that ascended the Papal Chair in the Year of our LORD 525, that he first of all by a Law separated the Clergy from the People, while Divine Service was performing in the Churches; and BONIFACE the Second did the same after him: And the same Thing was decreed and con­firmed afterwards by succeeding Popes and Synods: Now the very learned HOSPINIAN observes, that this was done by them for two Reasons, in the first Place, that at length they might deprive the People of their Voices, their Suffrages and their Places in the E­lection of their Bishops; and, in the next Place, that so no one might be allowed in any Civil or Criminal Cause to call a Bishop or any clergyman before a Secular Judge (p).

Nay it seems [...]o have bin the Custom of the Churches to be concerned in the Choice of their Ministers for near Thirteen Hundred Years together: For the Emperor FREDERIC the Second, who deceased in the Year 1250, is thought to be the first, that was for excluding the Laity from the Election of their Officers: But, that until then the People had their Suffrages, appears from the Decretal Epistles of GREGORY the Ninth (q). 'Tis true HILDEBRAND began to set up the Power of his Cardinals; but even he denied not the Clergy and the people their Votes in Comitiis: So that until the Twelfth Century, it cannot be disputed, that even in [Page 48] Rome itself the People elected their Bishop. And THUANUS informs us (o), that in 585, a Popish Arch­bishop allowed the City of Magdeburg, Jus vocandi ac constituendi Ecclesi. Ministros, sicut antea habebat; that is, their former Right of calling and appointing their own Ministers. And I may add, that, in a Gallican Council, convened in 1582, there was a Decree passed to this Effect, namely, That so there may be a better Provision made for Cathedral Churches and Monasteries than there has bin, especially since Elections have bin taken away; we beseech and urge his most Christian Majesty by the Bowels of Divine Mercy and the Blood of CHRIST, that, from his singular Piety towards GOD, he would, for the Divine Glory and the Good of the Church, as also for the Freedom of his own Mind from the greatest Scruple and the Deliverance of his Conscience from the greatest Tortures, restore to the Church the Power of chu­sing fit and useful Pastors(e).

Now it is very evident from these Testimonies, that in the Primitive Times the Right of the Churches to chuse their own Officers was acknowleged, maintained and exercised; and that this was one of the last Things which the Enemy of the best Interests of Mankind wickedly ra­vished from them.

Thus then we have Scripture, Reason and Equity, the Nature of Churches in their Institution and Ends, and the Practice of the Church in the first and some succeed­ing Ages, all conspiring to confirm this Privilege of the Churches to chuse their own Officers: Nor can we judge any otherwise, but that the Robbing the Churches of this Privilege was great and abominable Sacrilege.

But, if any should say, that, altho' the Right of chu­sing and calling their Ministers be in the people, yet de Facto in many Places, and even Places professing the Reformation, they are deprived of this Right; and how [Page 49]is This come to pass? In Answer to it, lest I should express myself with an exceptionable Vehemence, I chuse to transcribe the Answer of the very learned VOET to that Question, Whether the Election and Cal­ling of Ministers be in the Power of the Church? 'Tis this. By Divine Right, says He, This Power is in the Church. That any wehere This is either wholly or in Part given to Magistrates, Patrons, those who are ho­noured among Men, Bishops, Ediles or others; it is owing to humane Doings, Usurpations and Appointments: If therefore among Protestant and Reformed Divines you read of any such Thing; pray think, that they relate the Custom of the Place and the Manner there tolerated which coul not be taken away; not that it is a Divine Right or the Doctrine of the Reformed or the Appoint­ment of Fathers and Councils and the antient Church(ſ). And I would take Leave to add, that, as the Divine Right of People's chusing their Ministers has bin al­ready confirmed, so from Fathers and Councils it has bin shewn that the Primitive Churches possessed and exer­cised this Right: And to prove that this is the Doctrine of the Reformed, I would put by Reader in Mind, that LUTHER, both in his Book to the Bohemians (n) and in German (o) Tract asserred and maintained this Principle; and not only He, but CALVIN (l), ZEP­PER(m), [Page 50]BALDVIN (c), the Synod of Dort (d), and the Leyden Divines (e) have held and maineained the same; And above all, the renowned FLACCIUS ILLYRICUS in a Tract (f) has laboriously and learn­edly proved this Point from every Argument that He could muster.

From the whole of what has bin offered, I would conclude this Chapter by saying, that, as these Churches are in the rightful Possession of the Power and Liberty to chuse their own Officers, which Power and Liberty they have recovered from the Oppression of unreasonable Men, while many Churches which are reckoned among the Reformed are not so happy as to enjoy it; these Chi [...]rches would do well to keep this Power and Liberty as the Apple of their Eye; nor suffer themselves to be wrought upon so far as to part with a Privilege of so much Worth and Importance: They ought indeed, in the Use and Exercise of their Right, to consult the Edi­fication, Comfort and Statisfaction of their Neighbours: But, considering their rightful Claim to the Choice of their own Officers and the many ill Consequences which will follow upon their receding from it; they ought not to allow any to destroy or betray this their valuable Liberty: And, if any should sacrilegiously attempt to rob them of this Liberty or by any Means to hinder them in the free and perfect Exercise of it, they would be very much in the Right of it to consider them among their greatest Enemies.

[Page 51]

Chapter II. The Right of these Churches to ordain their Ministers stated and argued.

THE Design of this Chapter is not to deny, that, in churches which are furnished with Presby­teries, those Presbyteries may use Imposition of Hands and ordain: For this is what is readily acknowledged by these Churches.

Nothing can be more plain, than that the Church is before its ordinary Officers: I say its ordinary Officers, For our blessed LORD might, as He actually did, or­dain Apostles, when there was yet no Evangelical Church, to disciple the Nations and baptize them and gather Churches out of such discipled and baptized Na­tions: But it does not appear, that the Apostles either did or could ordain any stated Officers, until there were Churches formed for the Reception of them: So that we judge it an absurd and extravagant Thing, and the Whim of only some Ecclesiastical Don Quixots, to ascribe the Continuance of the Church to the successive uninterrupted Ordination of Officers: For, if there were any such Thing as a successive uninterrupted Ordination of Officers, which there is hardly one found Protestant that can believe there is; still this successive Ordination of Officers wholly and entirely depends upon the Conti­nuance of the Church, and must be an Act of the Church; and therefore it can never be a Means of communicating Ecclesiastical Power to others, without which there would be an End of all Ecclesiastical Power, as some fondly imagine or would make us believe that they imagine, — And besides; It must be not only a vain and idle, but [Page 52]an impious Attempt, to derive a Succession, upon which the Being of a Church shall depend, thro' the Presence of CHRIST with the Bishops of Rome, who for an hun­dred Years together, namely from the Year 900 to the Year 1000, were Monsters for Ignorance, Lust, Pride and Luxury, as BARONIUS himself acknowledges, A. D. 912.5.8.

And yet there are here and there some defective Pro­testants, who are fond of their uninterrupted Line of Succession. But we may fitly enquire of them, Why there is such a Thing as a Degradation, and for what Purpose it is practised at any Time among them? Cer­tainly you will all allow, that they, who by Schism are cut off from the Church, must also be cut off from that Part of Apostolical Power to which they made their Pretensions; and so it cannot be indelibly fixed on them. And surely, where no Part of the Apostolical Power can be claimed, there can be no Succession to it. Now, in the Church of Rome, it has bin proved by ONUPHRIUS an Historian of their own, that there have bin at least Thirty Schisms, by several, sometimes no less than s [...] or six at once, pretending to the Pope­dom: And one of the Schisms lasted more than Fifty Years, when one Pope sat at Rome, another at Avignon: Nay BELLARMINE is obliged to acknowlege, that, for above Eighty Years together, the Church for want of a lawful Pope had no other Head than what was in Heaven. And, if Schism destroys the Succession of A­postolical Power, certainly damnable Heresy, Devilism and Atheism will also do it. Now what can be said to the Complaints of BARONIUS about the End of the Ninth Century, How deformed, says he, was the Romish Church, when Whores no less powerful than vile bore the chief Sway at Rome, and at their Pleasure changed Sees and appointed Bishops, and which is horrible to mention, did thrust their own Gallants into the See of Saint Peter. There cannot therefore be any Thing more evi­dent than that the Succession has failed, tho' indeed, if [Page 53]it were not so, the uninterrupted Succession can never be proved.

But there are some, who, tho' they could never find in their Hearts to believe the mad Whim of Papal Succession and a successive Ordination, yet, in order to establish an Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction or Government, are for giving the Power of Ordination into the Hands of the Bishop or of a Synod: But it is to be hoped, that these Churches will know better than to give such an inestimable Branch of Ecclesiastical Power out of their own Hands into the Hands of others, who ought not to have it, and who in the Possession of it have always made the worst Use of it.

These Churches are far from disowning, that, when a particular Church has Elders of its own, these Elders by the Imposition of Hands may ordain such other Officers, as that Church may see Cause to elect: But our Epis­copal and Presbyterian Brethren still insist upon it, that Ordination is a Part of Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction, to be dispensed, by the Bishop, say the former, by the Eldership and that consociated, say the latter.

It is evident, nor has any one yet bin able to prove to the contrary, that TIMOTHY was ordained by the Presbytery, not by any particular Bishop alone: And, for ought that yet appears, the Presbytery which laid Hands upon that Evangelist, might be the Presbytery of a particular Church, and not of a Synod or inferior Classis: Ney it is very probable, that it was the Pres­bytery of a particular Church: For, altho' PAUL and BARNABAS were Apostles, yet they were not ordained [that is to say, if they were ordained] by any Classis or Presbyterial Synod, nor yet by one single Person; but by the Presbytery of one particular Church, namely the Church at Antioch.

But you will enquire, it is very likely, how it ap­pears that the Eldership, in Act. XIII, which ordained PAUL and BARNABAS, was but the Presbytery of one particular Congregation? And I anser, that this is [Page 54]plain from Act. XIV. 27, which clearly represents to us, that the Church of Antioch was not so great but that it could assemble in one Place; and, that the whole Multitude at the Return of PAUL and BARNABAS from the Synod at Jerusalem met together to hear the Epistle which that Synod had sent them, this is very ma­nifest from Act. XV. 30 and 31. Now therefore the Conclusion must be this, that, the Church at Antioch being but one particular Church, the Presbutery, by which PAUL and BARNABAS were ordained, could not be a Synodical Presbytery, but the Presbytery of a particular Church.

There is, I confess, a considerable Noise made both by our Presbyterian and Episcopal Brethren about the Epistles to TIMOTHY and TITUS: For, while the former are endeavouring to support and establish their beloved Classes and Synods from TIMOTHY'S Ordination; the latter continue to insist upon it, that these Epistles are purely Episcopal: But the best Construction, which can be made of those Epistles is plainly this; to wit, that they were not designed for those Evangelists alone, nor any Ministers alone, but for a State that was mixed, wherein the said Evangelists, having some assisting Pres­byters or other Officers, administred and executed the Affairs of the Agreement of the People: For, altho' the Epistles be written by Name, and say especially, to TIMOTHY and TITUS; still there can be no Question but that they were really intended for general Use and Advantage: And this is what we may fairly conclude from the Apostle's Wish, Grace be with you, Grace be with you all, which closes one Epistle and another: For it cannot be well imagined, that these Wishes are only belogning to the Evangelists, to whom the Epistles are directed. Why then should it be conceeded to our Brethren of the Church of England, that the Apostle writes his three Epistles to two Arch-Bishops or Me­trapolitans; especially when, as the famous CALDER­WOOD [Page 55]observes, there is not so much as one Thing insert­ed in them that can properly serve the Arch-Bishop or Metropolitan? For, adds he, here are no Apostolical Monitions about convoking Synods of Bishops, concerning Consecrations of Bishops, concerning the Correction of the Defects and Excesses of Prelates, and receiving Appeals from Episcopal Consistories; altho' these, according to your Hierarchical Gentlemen, are the chief Offices of Arch-Bishops (x).—And why should we allow those Things to be found in these Epistles, which our Presbyterian Brethren fondly value, when no such Things are in these Epistles? If it were actually declared in them, that in Crete and at Ephesus there were Presby­tertes; yet where do we read of the Powers to be claimed by these Presbyteries or the Subjection of these Presby­teries to other and superior Judicatories?

As to those, who confidently report, that Ordination cannot be validly and lawfully performed but by a Bishop; we think it a sufficient Answer to say, that we find the first Mention of a Bishop distinct from Presbyters to have bin about Three Hundred Years after our SA­VIOUR: And this is no more than what many of the more sober and considerate of the Episcopalian Writers are free to acknowlege: And we conceive, that even then, for ought that the Friends of Diocesan Epis­copacy have bin able to prove to the contrary, there was no Bishop who had any Jurisdiction or Authority over other Ministers, but who in common with other Ministers ruled and governed the Churches according to their Con­sent and Agreement.

But, if for Argument's sake it should be allowed, that the Bishop was a distinct Order from the Presbyter; still this will be no Demonstration, that the Bishop alone has the Power of ordaining: How then shall we be made sensible of it, that the Bishop alone should have this Power? Alas! Confident Assertions of a Thing [Page 56]will never convince us concerning the Truth of it, espe­cially of such a Thing as this which can never be proved: For in the whole New Testament there is not so much as one Instance of an Ordination that was per­formed by a single Person.

Let us therefore turn to our Presbyterian Friends and attend to what they have ot offer: Now they are ready to object and say, But, dear Brethren, where do you read of any Ordinations but by Presbyters? For Answer to these our entirely beloved Brethren, there is no need of referring them to the Direction, in Numb. VIII. 10, Thou shalt bring the Levites before the LORD, and the Children of Israel shall put their Hands upon the Le­vites; from which Direction some have argued, that when a Church is destitute of Elders and Elders cannot conveniently be had from another Church, then Imposition of Hands may be performed by some of the considera­ble Men of the Congregation, altho' they should not be Elders; and that therefore, what was performed in the Church of Israel, may in the like Case be at present performed.

But, waving this Argument, I shall now remark and shew, that the Case may be such as that, if Ordination be really requisite, by the Imposition of Hands, then it way be performed by such as are not Officers at all in the Church: Now this is very clear; for the State of Things may be such, that there cannot be any Ordination at all by the Imposition of the Hands of Elders: And in such a State as this, as there are no Elders or Bishops. either there must be no Ordination by the Imposition of Hands at all, or else the Ordination must be performed by such as are no Officers: And, that this may be the Case of a Church, that Ordination cannot be performed by Officers in it, this shall presently be made evident.

To such therefore as are of the Opinion, that Ordi­nation by Officers is so necessary that there is no perform­ing it without them, we may calmly address ourselves and expostulate; Dear Sirs, How will you prove the [Page 57]Necessity of Ordination for Elders or Bishops? And, if you will have it necessary, I pray, what shall be done where there are no Ecclesiastical Officers to be had? For this may be the Case of a Society of Christians by Ship­wreck thrown upon a Place where there are no Elders; say, upon the Island of Bermuda, which erects its soli­tary Head in the Atlantic at a Distance from other Pla­ces: Suppose in this Case Mr. PAUL should providen­tially come among them, who had never bin separated to the Evangelical Ministry; might he not teach and instruct them in the Principles of Christianity? And, if Ordination were necessary in order to his Dispensation of the Word and Ordinances, might not the poor Ship­wreck'd Christians properly ordain him and separate him by the Imposition of Hands to the Work of the Ministry? or, which to me is the same Thing, by the laying on of their Hands, commend him to the Grace of GOD in that Work to which they have called him? Truely it is very plain to me that they might. This is certain, that, at the Beginning of the Reformation in Scotland, the old Manner of electing and ordaining Ministers was perform'd without Imposition of Hands, as may be seen in KNOX'S Forms prefix'd to the old Psalms: And the ingenious STEUART, in the Fourteenth Page of his Collections, affirms this Ordination was lawful and valid. If there­fore it should be thought too much for Brethren chosen to it to impose Hands on elected Officers; certainly we may claim the electing and ordaining Power for the Bre­thren without it. And this is what all Men would soon discover, if it were not for the Interest of some worldly minded Persons to entangle the Sentiments of Mankind and lead them aside.

Antiquity is no Stranger to such an Opinion as ours: For FRUMENTIUS, who was not in holy Orders, went and preach'd to the Indians, and afterwards was made a Priest and Bishop by ATHANASIUS: But no one that I know of ever faulted his Conduct: Nor has the King of the Iberians bin condemned, altho' before be was or­dained [Page 58]by Elders or even baptized, he converted his Subjects, and, according to the ancient Historian, before he was initiated himself was the Apostle of his Countrey. And it is probable, that many even in the Times of the Apostles preach'd and receiv'd Orders from the Churches to which they came: For SANCTIUS (a) affirms and acknowleges with BARONIUS, that more than Fifteen Thousand went out from Jerusalem to pro­pagate the Gospel: But we can by no Means suppose, that they were ordained canonically and in an ample Form, as indeed these Roman Catholicks themselves are free to declare that they were not thus ordained. To be sure the Bohemian Brethren, whom they call Picards, thought themselves empowered to ordain their own Mi­nisters: For, in the Year 1456, they form'd themselves into Christian Churches, and from twelve that were chosen they selected and constituted three by Lot for their Mi­nisters(b). And the first Reformers laid this Principle of the worthy JOHN HUSS as the Foundation of the Reformation, that the Law of CHRIST is sufficient for the Government of His militant Church without the Addi­tion of any humane Laws: And, lest they or their Posterity should fall off from this Foundation, they protested, that, in order to preserve their Assemblies so professing the pure Doctrine of the Gospel from being scattered, they would be careful to keep a Supply of faith­ful Ministers; and that therefore, without expecting any in Orders to come over to them from the Church of Rome, they were (c) for ordaining them at home, whom they chose for their Ministers.

And this leads me to demand, how we shall do, if we cannot improve the Officers, which we may obtain, to con­fer holy Orders? For it sometimes happens, that, where [Page 59]Officers may be had to perform this Service, those Officers, as well as the Churches to which they belong, may be so very corrupt or wicked that it would be better not to improve them: And therefore we need not be afraid or ashamed to declare, that, if our Churches here can have no Ministers but what must be ordained by Popish Bishops, the Case appears to us as sorrowful, as if the poor Sheep in the Wilderness could have none but Wolves to appoint Shepherds over them: Blessed be GOD, this is not the Case with these Churches.— But let the Case be imagined, that there may be a general Combination of degenerate Pastors in a Countrey, who will be for dispensing Ordination to none but such as will partake with them in their Degeneracy or submit unto sin­ful Terms; where a particular Church is desirous to have all Things according to the Pattern in the Mount: Now in this Case would not the making the Imposition of Hands from such Ministers as have bin themselves ordained, to be essential to the Call of a Minister, be a Piece of foolish Bigotry, to which no sound Protestant can safely and prudently subscribe? Truely it seems to be so. And we are sure, that BEZA, in the famous Conference at Poissy, clearly and fully renounced such an ensnaring Opinion, and maintain'd, that unto a legitimate Call Imposition of Hands was not necessary; but that the chief and substantial Tokens thereof were a good Life, sound Doctrine and Election [from the People:] Nor was it to be wondred at, if the Reformed had not re­ceived Imposition of Hands from them, whose cor­rupt Life, Superstition and false Doctrine they were to reprove? Or how could it be expected, they should ever be allwed of by them, who were Enemies to the Truth which they defended?’

And, in fine, I would enquire of the Patrons of Or­dination by Officers, whether even good and meet Officers, belonging to other Churches, may claim the Power of ordaining Elders over Churches to which they are not related? Tho' there may be very desirable Officers and [Page 60]in every Respect well qualified near at Hand; never, theless it does not appear, that even these have Authority or may assume to themselves the Power of ordaining Elders to other Churches, of which they are neither Members nor Officers; unless those particular Churches, in which the Elders are to be ordained, request their Presence and Assistance: For ordinary Officers are not like the Apos­tles, who might feed all the Flock of our SAVIOUR; but there is one particular Flock, of which, and of which alone, they are to take the Oversight.

If indeed it were acknowleged that we read in sun­dry Places of Ordination performed by Elders, tho' the Proof of this is difficult; and that we never read in the New Testament about the Performance of it by any others: This however is nothing at all against what has bin offered: For, altho' we should allow, that, in such Churches as are furnished with Elders, Ordination should be performed by those Elders; we may nevertheless with Safety maintain, that, where there are not Elders as at the first, nor any that can be conveniently borrow'd from other Churches, Ordination by the Imposition of Hands may then be validly and lawfully performed by others. And it is no more than what a famous Bishop of Salis­bury, in his Exposition on the thirty nine Articles, has freely declared: For He affirms, that, whatever some holter Spirits have since thought of it; yet not only those who pen'd the Articles, but the Body of the Church for above half an Age afterward were of a Persuasion which implied, that they thought no spiritual Powers ne­cessary for the Exercise of the Evangelical Ministry, except what the People could convey to such of their Body as they might judge qualified for it.

We may also be free and ready to grant, that Elders meeting in a Council or Synod, with Brethren, may at the Desire of a particular Church, ordain its Officers: But then, as it has bin the Judgment of these Churches in Times past, there is yet no good Reason why these Churches should change their Judgment, that the El­ders [Page 61]so convened in Council or Synod with their Brethren for this Service, have no Power or Jurisdiction of their own, but act by vertue of the Power derived from the particular Churches which sent for them: So that, in short, particular Churches are the first Subjects of this Power of ordaining; as it is for particular Churches that Councils or Synods convene, when they meet in order to ordain Officers for them.

The very learned FABRITIUS, the Principal Doc­tor of Divinity in the Reformed Church of the Pala­tinate, whose Life is written and whose Works are published by the great HEIDEGGER at Zurich, 1698, published two Dialogues in 1685, in the latter of which he endeavours to demonstrate that the Controversy about Baptism by a private Man in Case of Necessity does not belong to the fundamental Articles of Faith, but to the Question concerning Order, it being appointed by the Divine Law that all Things should be done in order: Which principally consists in this, that every one per­form the Duty belonging to his Charge: And therefore if any Man, even a Laic, be appointed by the Church to administer the Sacrament, if he does it, he does nothing but his Duty and neither offends against the Faith or against good Order. The learned FABRITIUS indeed does not lay this down as of himself; but he commends both the Ancients and Moderns who are of this Opinion. And by the same Rule he would have commended such as assert the Right of the Brethren to appoint some of their Number to confer Orders on Officers call'd and chosen by themselves; and so our generous and noble Parents would have bin applauded by him for their Opinion con­cerning Ordination.

As our Fathers tho't, that Ordination did not constitute an Officer nor give him the Essentials of his Office: For they judg'd, that the Essence of the outward Call of an ordinary Officer consisted, not in that, but in his free Elec­tion by the Church and his Acceptance of that Choice: So they have declared their Opinion, in the Ninth Chap­ter [Page 62]of their Platform, that, in Churches where there are no Elders, Imposition of Hands on Officers elected may be performed by some of the Brethren orderly chosen by the Church for that Servive: And the Reason which they there assign for this is a good one: For, say they, if the People elect Officers which is the greater, and wherein the Substance of the Office doth consist, they may much more, Occasion and Need requiring, impose Hands in Ordina­tion, which is less, and but the Accomplishment of the other. But, notwithstanding the Claim of this Right for our Churches, they go on afterwards and say, in the same Chapter, Nevertheless in Churches, where they have no Elders, and the Churches desire it, we see not, why Imposition of Hands may not be performed by the Elders of other Churches.

Nor are our worthy Predecessors singular in these their Sentiments. The pious and learned PERKINS, writing concerning Ordination and Succession, in his Com­mentary on Gal. I. ii. says, that, if in Turkey or America, or elsewhere the Gospel be received of Men, by the Counsel or Persuasion of private Persons, they should not need to send unto Europe for consecrated Ministers, but have Power to chuse their own from within them­selves: And his Reason is because, where GOD gives the Word, He gives Power also. And PHILIP ME­LANCTHON, the gracious and excellent, expresses him­self much after the same Manner in his Answer to the Bohemian Ministers, who taught the incorrupt Doctrine of the Gospel, and refutes the Pretent of Ordination to be taken from Bishops from the first Chapter of the Epistle to the Galatians. And the Author of the va­luable Scotch Dispute against English Ceremonies, freely declares, in pag. 285th, that, as, when Princes are elec­ted, the Election gives them Jus ad Rem, as they speak, without which the Inauguration can never give them Jus in Re; so it is as to a Minister: And Ordination only applied him to the actual exercising of his Pastoral Office; which Ordination should be given to him alone that is [Page 63]elected, and that because he is so. And the learned VOET, in his Desperat. Caus. Papat. L. II. Sect. II. Cap. XX, has irrefragably proved against JANSENIUS, Electionem tribuere Ministerium, that it is the Choice which makes the Minister, by six or seven Arguments. Now, from these declared Sentiments of such eminent Persons, it appears very plain to me, that the Tho'ts of our Predecessors may be clear'd from the Charge of Singularity, and with Ease be supported and justified.

Nay I cannot but think, that even Arch-Bishop BANCROFT has furnished us with a good Argument in Favour of the Opinion maintain'd by our Ancestors: For, before the Consecration of the three Scotch Bishops at London, ANDREWS the Bishop of Ely said, They must first be ordained as having received no Ordination by a Bishop: But BANCROFT maintain'd, that there was no Necessity for it, seeing, where Bishops could not be had, the Ordination given by Presbyters must be valid and esteemed lawful: For otherwise it might be doubted, if there was any lawful Vocation in most of the Reformed Churches. Now, by the same Argument of BAN­CROFT'S, (which is to be found in SPOTSWOOD'S Hist. l. 7. p. 514.) there will be no Difficulty in maintain­ing the Validity and Lawfulness of Ordination by the Peo­ple: For, where Bishops or Presbyters cannot be had, Ordinations by them must be valid and esteemed law­ful: Otherwise it may be doubted whether there be any lawful Vocation in many, if not most, of the Reformed Churches.

Wherefore I cannot but say with the celebrated Mr. CLAUDE, that the fierce Opinion that goes so high as to own no Ministry in the World, but where there are Epis­copal Ordinations, and which would make all Religion depend on a disputable Formality; that Opinion can't be look'd upon any otherwise than the very worst Character and the grossest Mark of Hypocrisy and worthy of Con­tempt from all the Christians in the World. But what he has thus strongly, but justly, expressed concerning [Page 64]the hot Opinion about the Necessity of Episcopal Ordi­nations; I would say and maintain the very same con­cerning the Opinion about the Necessity of Ordination by as Presbytery, as well as a Bishop: And it will give me very little Uneasiness, however vex'd and angry or troubled any may be with me for being of this Mind and freely declaring it: For I am satisfied, that their Trouble or Anger must arise either from groundless Fancies or something worse: So that I cannot have any Reason to be disturb'd or uneasy at it.

But, after all, some will challenge us to produce any Texts of Scripture that give Laymen a Right to ordain Ministers in any Case. And, as this is the Challenge which the Author of The Prejudices, &c. made to the famous Mr. CLAUDE, I shall recite his Reply to it, which to me appears a full and sufficient one: It is to be found in his Defence of the Reformation, P. IV. p. 94 and 95.

‘This Demand, says he, is but a vain Wrangling. For, when the Scripture recommends to the Faithful the taking diligent heed to the Preservation and Con­firmation of their Faith and to propagate it to their Children; it gives them by that very Thing a suffi­cient Right to make Use of all proper Means to that End: And every Body knows the Ministry is one of those Means: And therefore the Obligation the Faithful are under to preserve and propagate the Faith includes that of creating to themselves Pastors when they cannot have them otherwise: In short, when the Scripture teaches, that the Faithful have a Right to chuse their Pastors, it teaches thereby that they have a Right to install them in their Office in Case of Necessity: For that Call consisting much more essentially in Election than in Installation, which is but a Formality, there is no Reason to believe, that GOD would have given the People a Right to chuse their Pastors and to have them installed by others, and that He has not given them at the same Time a [Page 65]Power of installing them themselves, when it cannot be done otherwise. Since naturally That, which we have a Right to do by another, we have a Right to do by ourselves. Thus he.

Nay, not only the celebrated CLAUDE, but the learned DODWEL, that mighty Oracle of the distracted, high-flying Clergy, acknowleges such a Right in parti­cular Societies of chusing and investing their Officers. 'Tis true this is not at all reconcileable with the other Parts of his [Romantic] Scheme: But this is nothing to us. It is in his Separation of Churches, [P. 102 and 52.] that he writes after this Manner; ‘The Church, with whom GOD has made the Covenant, is a Body Poli­tic, tho' not a Civil one; and GOD has design'd all Persons to enter into this Society.—It is sufficient for my Purpose, that the Ecclesiastical Power be no otherwise from GOD, than that is of every supreme Civil Magistrate. It is not usual for Kings to be in­vested into their Offices by other Kings, but by their Subjects: Yet, when they are invested, that doth not in the least prejudice the Absoluteness of their Mo­narchy, where the Fundamental Constitutions of the respective Places allow it to them.— And (in Pag. 522 and 523) he says, "Whenever a Person is invested with the supreme Power, and the Society over which he is placed is independent on other Societies, such a Person can never be placed in his Power, if not by them who must after be his Subjects, unless by his Pre­decessor, which no Society can depend upon for a constant Rule of Succession.— I am apt to think, this must have bin the Way of making Bishops at first, how absolute soever I conceive them to be when they are once made.— This seems best to agree with the Absoluteness of particular Churches, before they had by Compact united themselves under Metro­politans and Exarchs into Provincial and Diocesan Churches. And this seems to have bin fitted for the frequent Persecutions of those earlier Ages, when [Page 66]every Church was able to secure its own Succession; without depending on the uncertain Opportunities of the meeting of the Bishops of the whole Province: And the Alterations of this Practice, the giving of the Bishops of the Province an Interest in the Choice of every particular colleague, seems not to have bin so much for want of Power in the particular Churches to do it, as for the Security of Compacts, that they might be certain of such a Colleague as would observe them.— It is probable, that it was in Imitation of the Philosophers Successions, that these Ecclesiastical Successions were framed: And, when the Philoso­phers fail'd to nominate their own Successors, the Election was in the Schools. Now, granting these Things, we have all that we desire: For, if every par­ticular Church has originally a Power within itself to chuse and invest its Bishop, and the Concurrence of other Bishops herein be not for want of Power in particular Churches, but only for the securing an [uncertain] Agreement of [arbitrary and troublesome] Bishops among themselves; then certainly all particular Churches, according to the common Principles of all Societies, have a latent Power of electing and investing their Officers; altho' by the Laws of the Community, or thro' Custom they may consign the Exercise of this Power to a particular Order of Men amongst them.— And with this we are satis­fied.

But I have not yet exhausted my Stock: I have other Testimonies to produce in confirmation of the Senti­ments of those who founded these Churches.

A very valuable and ingenious Scotchman, whose Name is ALEXANDER LAUDER in his Ancient Bishops considered has these Passages; ‘The People had an inherent Right to separate from the Bishops at the Reformation; because the Communion of the Bishops was then Idolatrous, and so pulluted that it could not be continued in without manifest Hazard.— then they had also an inherent Right to set up another [Page 67]Communion, distinct from the polluted and hazardous Communion of these Bishops, or set up new Assem­blies: For their Souls would have bin in Hazard, if they had lived separately and had not set up new Communions or Assemblies, thro' want of Sacra­ments and other Means of Grace or Access to wor­ship God in a public Way.— There is no Right more authentic than that which is founded on indis­pensable Necessity: In that Case GOD has not only given People a Right to do the Thing, but has laid an Obligation upon them to do it.— The people had also an inherent Right to set up new Bishops and Pres­byters to themselves;— supposing that not one or­dained Person had joined with them in their Separa­tion, and that all the Bishops and Presbyters without Exception had adher'd unto the Pope and the Roman Church.— What Probability is there, that CHRIST would refuse to give His People a Right or Power to do what was needful for them; contrary to His express Promise, that He will give Grace and Glory and withold no good Thing from them that walk up­rightly? — Bishops and Presbyters after their Separa­tion were necessary for them: They could not enjoy the Ordinances of the Gospel without them.— It must be said, either that CHRIST gave them a Right to create Bishops and Presbyters to themselves or obliged to have Recourse to the Church of Rome for them.— To suppose that is ridiculous and monstrous; yea it is a Blasphemy, and a Reflection upon the Wisdom of GOD Almighty: For, according to this Supposition, He laid it on them as a Duty to separate from the idela­trous Popish Communion and crect distinct Churches to no Purpose at all, and to bring them into as great or greater Difficulties than they would have bin, in if they had continued in the Idolatrous Popish Com­munion.’ — And the same worthy Writer, quoting an Order of a Council at Rome, that the Bishop to be consecrated be chosen by all the Church, and an Order of [Page 68]another Council at Clermont to the same Purpose, makes this agreable Reflection in the Margin; ‘Hence it is evident, that Persons are constituted or made Bishops by the Election of the People, and not by Ordi­nation which is performed by Bishops: One is made or constituted a Bishop by that, by which he is ad­vanced to the high dignity of the Ministry: But, according to these councils, the Suffrage of the Peo­ple is the Thing, and not an Ordination, that advances one to the high dignity of the Ministry: This is also evident from Canon XXII. of the Council of Constantinople: For in it the Election and Promation of a Bishop are one Thing. Thus he.

And the worthy Mr. SIMON BROWNE, in an ordination-Sermon preached not long since by him, found himself obliged to give such Sentiments as these; ‘Neither Ordination by Bishops nor by other Ministers is absolutely necessary to the Being of the Ministry. A Person may be a Minister without Ordination by other Minister. This Power is not given, but acknowledged and declared in Ordination. And yet in many Cases a Man may be obliged to the Work when he cannot be ordained: And, where the Obligation is notorious and Plain, there is a sufficient and valid Doclaration of his Ministerial Power or of the Will of CHRIST that he should act in his Office. If a Company of Christians were Ship­wreck'd on a remote and unkown Shore, to which they were uncapable of fetching ordained Ministers from any other Place, I think a Man must be out of his Wits to assert, that this Body of Men must live like Heathens, and not openly own CHRIST by performing all common Chistian Exercises in public Assemblies for want of an ordained Minister. Without Doubt he, who was the most capable among them to teach the rest and perform the other Duties of a Minister, was bound in Conssience to undertake that Work; and, if obliged to do the Work of a Minister, he had certainly [Page 69]Authority from CHRIST to be a Minister, unless we make CHRIST'S Commands contradictory, and say, A Man was obliged in Duty to do that, which when done would be unlawful and a Sin for want of sufficient Authority. The like may be said, if Mi­nister or Bishops refuse Ordination to qualified Men, unless they will submit unto unlawful Terms, and no other Ministers can be procured to do the Work; which was the Case of several of the first Reformers: In these and all such like Cases Ceremonies must be waved, whilst a due Regard is had unto what is chief and principal.’

Nor may I leave the Judgment of the uncommonly learned VOET untranscribed, as he has left it, in his Desperat. Caus. Papatus. L. II. Sect. II. Cap. XXI. in Answer to JANSENIUS, where he says as follows, ‘The Succession and Calling of Pastors can and ought to be repaired by the Church, that is to say, by the Society of Company of the Faithful, tho' they be alto­gether destitute of Bishops and Presbyters: For every Church has essentially and properly the Power of Calling, tho' it may put over some Acts of that Calling to some other Persons: For, as the Pope is created and consecrated by those who are not Popes, and as the High Priest in the Old Testament was consecrated by his Inferior; so a Bishop may be proclaimed, con­stituted and endowed with Ministerial Power by 2 Presbyter, and a Presbyter by any Member of the Church, that is peculiarly delegated to that Service by the Suffrages of his Brethren. And indeed what should hinder that the formal Solemnity of Conse­craction may not in such a necessitous Case be laid aside, and that he who is lawfully chosen may not without it perform the Business of his Ministry? Truely there is nothing at all, that from the Divine Right of such Formalities can shew them to be a necessary Mean. And in the same Chapter He has many other Passages to the same Purpose. Wherefore [Page 70]I cannot but fall into the same declaration with him, in the fifth Part of his Select Disputations, De Eccles. P. 384. Our Belgian Churches, as also the French Churches and others are true Churches and indeed pure, yea and integral; tho' they want Bishops as at this Day called: And their Ministers are true Ministers, truely and lawfully called; tho' they neither have that pretended Episcopal Ordination, nor would have it or care at all for it. These Citations, as well as the foregoing ones, are of great Weight and Importance, not only on the Account of the Character and Quality of the Writers, which with many may go pretty far; but also because, let their Character and Quality be what it will, their Arguments are well supported and cofirmed.

And well may Protestants speak and write, as I have rehearsed, when even Father PAUL, in his Treatise of Beneficiary Matters, says expresly, ‘Pope LEO shews amply, that the Ordination of a Bishop could not be lawful or valid, which was not required by the Peo­ple and approved by them; which is said by all the Saints of those Times: And St. GREGORY thought CONSTANCE could not be sonsecrated Bishop of Milan, being elected by the Clergy, wihtout the Consent of the Citizens, who by Reason of Persecu­tion retired to Genoa; and He prevail'd that they should be first sent unto to know their Will. A Thing worthy to be noted, continues He, in our Days, when that Election is declared to be illegitimte and null, in which the People have any Share.’ Thus that rara Avis in the Romish Communion.

Thus I have shewn the Opinion of our discerning Predecessors concerning Ordination, and recited various Aruguments and Authorities by which their Opninon may be desended and justified: And I am sure, that however amiss any way think of their Opinion on any [...]hem for being alone and singular in it: For there has Bin a mix'd Company introduced of the very same Opi­nion with them.

[Page 71] It is needless to confirm these Things from the anci­ent Writers: One CYPRIAN is enow for, our Pur­pose, whom we have all reason to believe in a Matter of Fast, altho' his Authority may not go very far with us: For he, speaking of Ordination by the Suffrage of the whole Brotherhood of the Church, is so free as to declare upon it, that (d), according to Divine Tradition and Apostolical Practice, this Custom is to be diligently kept and preserved among us, as it is throughout all the Provinces almost: And his Testimony is so clear con­cerning this Matter, that it would be superfluous to mention any other, de universae Fraternitatis Suffragio, concerning the Right of the Fraternity to give their Suffrages in all Ordinations.

Instead therefore of producing any other Citations in Confirmation of the Remarks which have bin made; I shall write in the Style of the foremention'd Author concerning Ordinations, Let those Ordinations be still accounted lowful and just which pass the Suffrage and Judgment of all (e); adding the Remark of ORIGEN, in his Sixth Homily upon Leviticus; (f); Tho', says he, the LORD had commanded concerning the Consecration of the Priest and had chosen him; yet the People and even all the Congregation was gathered together on that Occa­sic For in the Ordination of a Priest the Presence of the People is required that they may all know and be certified, &c. and that afterwards there may be no. Re­tractation and Scruple: From which Words SIXTUS SENENSIS, a learned Roman Catholic Writer, acknow­leges, that ORIGEN seems to allow the People some [Page 72]Authority in the Choice of their Bishops,(g), tho' he after­wards endeavours to prove the contrary. But we have, to our Comfort, the Testimony of the Abbot FLEURY, [...]nother learned Roman Catholic Writer, in his Discourses on Ecclesiastical History, that the People were consulted in Things wherein they were any Ways concerned, as in Ordinations: And of this, writes he, we have Instances in CYPRIAN; and the very Form of ordaining still makes it appear. vid. Pont. Rom. Hist. L. XXIV. N. 40.

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Chapter III. The Right of these Churches to send forth their Elders and other Delegates upon proper Occasions, and to call them to an Account upon their Return main­tained..

AS Churches cannot with Convenience repair to distant Places upon recurring Occasions; it is for this Reason requisite and necessary, that on such Occasions they should use the vicarious Help of others. And, as every particular Church, that hath Elders and other Members adorned with mental and gracious Qua­lifications fitting them for public Service, hath an un­doubted Right to improve and make Use of them in the best Manner and on the best Occasions; so, if the Honour of our blessed Lord and the Welfare of any of the Churches require it, they have then the Liberty of in­structing and sending forth their Elders and other Dele­gates.

Thus it was unquestionably in ancient Times: For the Brethren of the Church at Antioch determined that PAUL. and BARNABAS and certain others should go up to Jerusalem to consult the Apostles, Elders and Brethren there. And the Philippians sent forth the worthy EPAPHRODITUS to the Apostle PAUL with a Pre­sent; for this is the meaning of their Fellowship in the Gospel, for which the Apostle thanks GOD, in Phil. I. 5 and 6 Verses. It means their contributing or com­municating to his Support while he was in Bonds to make [Page 74]Apology for the Gospel before that roaring Lion NERO: And it appears from Chap. II. Vers. 25th of that Epistle, that EPAPHRODITUS was their Messenger; who also in Return was to act in our Apostle's Be­half and discharge his Office to the Philippians: For this is the Sense of the Verse, your Apostle or Messenger and the Performer of my Office towards you (b), as a very ingenious Man has justly expressed it. And we read of one, whose Praise was in the Gospel throughout all the Churches, that was chosen by the Churches to travel with our Apostle on a charitable Occasion, in 2 Cor. VIII. 18 and 19.

And, that the Churches continued afterwards to claim this Right, it will abundantly appear from CLEMENT'S first Epistle to the Corinthians: For this Epistle, which weareth his honourable Name, was sent by the Church of Rome unto the Corinthians by CLAUDIUS, EPHE­BUS, VALERIUS, BIBO, FORTUNATUS, who were their Apostles (i) or Messengers to the Church at Co­rinth: And these Persons, you must know, were not Officers in the Church at that Time, nor appear to be mention'd at all under that Character; but they were prudent and sit Members of that Christian Community to be sent with this Epistle and act in Behalf of the Church of ROME: It follows therefore, that, as this Letter was sent by the Church and these Messengers were appointed and dispatch'd in the Name of the Church with it, the Church must be heartily consenting unto the sending of the Letter and the Messengers; and that there­fore the Church must meet together; for, without this, how could they consent to the sending Letter or Messen­gers to the Church of the Corinthians?

Particular Churches then are possess'd of this Right and Privilege of appointing and sending forth Elders and other Delegates on suitable Occasions: And by the [Page 75]same Reason they may call them to an Account at their Return: And, if upon Enquiry it shall be found, that they have done any Thing prejudicial to the Truth and Peace of the Gospel, they may justly expostulate with them and ask the Reasons of their Conduct and refuse to regard what they have bin doing.

Nor indeed can any Thing be more fit and suitable than this, that the Messengers of particular Churches, who have done amiss, or ly under the Suspicion of irregu­lar Conduct and a faulty Management of their Affairs, should be questioned by the Churches, whose Messen­gers they are, and in whose Service they are em­ploy'd.

And as this is fit and suitable in itself, that the Bre­thren in particular Churches should call their Delegates to an Account for their Management in their Service; there is also an Instance to be given from the Scripture, which will sufficiently justify the Brethren in the Use of this Liberty: It is in Act. XI. 2 and 3 Verses, where we read, that, when PETER was come up to Jerusa­lem, they that were of the Circumcision contended with him, or rather call'd him to an Account in order to pass their Judgment; saying, Thou wentest in to Men uncir­cumcised and didst eat with them: And it follows in the next Verse, that PETER rehearsed from the Beginning, and expounded by Order unto them.

Now, if the Brethren might demand of an Apostle the Reasons of his Behaviour, and if the Apostle tho't himself accountable to them and therefore oblig'd to apologize for his Conduct before them; the Conclusion is strong and irresistable, that now the Brethren have the Liberty much more to enquire concerning the Manage­ments of their Elders and other Delegates whom they improve, and to require Satisfaction of them concerning any Breaches of Rule into which they may be be­tray'd; and Elders and other Messengers are now much more obliged to render them an Account and satisfy them, when they properly and honestly demand that [Page 76]they should do so: And the Reason is plain: For no Persons have any Right to consult, vote or act in behalf of any particular Church but by vertue of a De­legation from that Church: It is this alone that em­powers them: And, if without such empowering, any shall pretend to act as their Delegates, they must be deemed busy Bodies in other Men's Matters: And, since these Things are so, surely particular Churches may appoint whom they please to any Trust or Service, and may challenge an Account of their Stewardship and Ma­nagements for them.

But supposing, as it is a supposeable Case, that any Delegates from particular Churches upon emergent Oc­casions should substitute others in their Room, and so should not be able to give any Account of their Trans­actions? I answer, That, altho' the Case may be supposed, yet the Thing ought not to be: For none in such Cases have the Power of substituting others in their Room and Stead; any more than an Embassador from one Prince or Commonwealth to another Prince or Commonwealth hath the Power of substituting whom he pleases to per­form the Embassy for him (j). 'Tis true the Romish Bishops did not appear in some of their General Coun­cils and other Councils, but sent Messengers or Vicars in their Room to them: But it is very evident, as that such a Method was disorderly, so that there was always some vile Design to carry on, and some peculiar Strata­gem to be forwarded by it. And surely the Churches, if they are ever thus imposed on by such Substitutions, should animadvert upon those that devolve the Trusts reposed in them upon others, and ought not to mind what those, who were not appointed by them, transact and agree to on their Behalf.

Animated by such Considerations as these, some of the ancient Fathers were not at all backward, but very forward and ready to submit to the Brethren: Nay some [Page 77]of them were so fond of making them satisfied and easy, that they were ready almost to comply with any Thing. The angry old EPIPHANIUS, writing a­gainst the Carpocratians, informs us, that, altho' CLE­MENT was ordained by PETER, yet he refused the Bishoprick of Rome as long as LINUS and CLETUS were living; and then he gives us the Reason of that his Refusal: For, continues EPIPHANIUS, he says in one of his Epistles, I depart, I go my Ways: Only let the People of GOD have Rest and Quietness (k): But, if EPIPHANIUS means the first Epistle of CLEMENT here, it must be confessed that this Passage is the [...]e, but it is used in another Sense: For CLEMENT, in this Epistle to the Corinthians, is advising them upon the Rise of Troubles and Contentions in the Church to speak in such a Manner, Is there any one, says he, that is of a noble Spirit among you? Is there any one that is compassionate? Doth any one abound in Charity? Let him say, if this Sedition or Contention or Schism be for me on by my Means, I will depart, I will go my Ways whithersoever you please, I will do what the Multitude commands: Only let the Sheepfold of CHRIST enjoy Peace (l). This is the Advice of the good CLEMENT in that Epistle; and, altho' it be directed to the Bre­thren in Corinth, or to such as might be in Office, on whose Account there was a Disturbance and Contention in the Church; we may however very well suppose, that he would himself have followed it rather than have continued with his People when they were disatisfied and uneasy with him. And CHRYSOSTOM has a Passage, which some conjecture that he used with refer­ence to the Clauses that have bin recited out of CLE­MENT, If, says he to his People, you conceive or sus­pect these Things of us, we are ready to depart and deliver up our Power to whomsoever ye please: Only let the [Page 78]Church be at Unity within itself(m). AUGUSTIN has some where well observed, we are Christians for our selves and Bishops for you: And it seems to be his Judg­ment, that the End of every Government in general is the Good of the Persons governed, and not of him who governs. And GREGORY NAZIANZEN openly pro­fessed at Constantinople, that, altho' he were innocent and free from Blame, yet he could depart or be cast out rather than they should have Contention among them (n): And he did so accordingly (o). The first Synod indeed of Ephesus, in the Case of the aged EUSTATHIUS, condemned him for renouncing his Office upon his own Judgment and without seeking Advice: And proba­bly he was to blame in that Affair: But a Synod, convened under PHOTIUS at Constantinople, declared that such a Departure was in some Cases lawful (p).

Upon the whole; It would be an happy Thing for the Churches of CHRIST, if all their Elders and all their Messengers which they improve were of such a Christian Temper. But, if there be any who are not of this Temper, the Churches, which are unhappily possess'd of them, would do well to watch over them and strictly enquire into their Managements on their Be­half, lest they should abuse the Trust reposed in them and subvert their fundamental Rights and Privileges; and the greater any one is or seems to be, whom they employ, they should be the more careful of him lest the Church should be troubled by him and annoyed by his superior and excelling Gifts. It is very reasonable, and the lear­ned Abbot FLEURY, in his Discourses on Ecclesiastical History, says it ought to be so, that in every Society the Interest of each particular Person, even of him who go­verns, should give Place to that of the whole Body, Wherefore let these Churches be sensible of their Inte­rest [Page 79]and take Care of it, nor suffer that of any particular Persons to prevail and triumph over it.

Chapter IV. The Liberty of these Churches to de­pose and withdraw from their Elders, when they are guilty of Male-Ad­ministration, defended.

IT has bin asserted and proved, that Elders, as well other Delegates, are accountable to the particular Churches who employ them: But some may probably here enquire, Supposing the Elders of a particular Church should be guilty of Male-Administration, what is then to be done? Has not your Platform given to the Eldership the Power of calling the Church together, and allowed them to permit Speech or command Silence in the Church? How then can the Church come at them? And after what Manner should they testify their Dislike of their Proceedings?

I answer, as our wise and pious Fathers have alrea­dy answered, that, altho' Church-Government or Rule be placed by CHRIST JESUS our LORD in the Officers of the Church, who therefore may be called Rulers while they rule with GOD; yet, in Case of Male-Administra­tion, they are subject to the Power of the Church(q): And, if it shall appear to the Church that an Elder [Page 80]hath offended incorrigibly, they have Power according to Order (the Counsel of other Churches where it may be had directing to it) to remove him from his Office; and being now but a Member, in Case he should add Contu­macy to his Sin, the Church, that had Power to receive him into their Fellowship, hath Power also to cast him out as any other Member(r): So that, as the Church puts forth a twofold Act in receiving a Pastor into Member­ship and in chusing him to Office, they may also by Parity of Reason put forth a twofold Act in removing him from his Office and from his Membership. Some imagine, that there are two distinct Cases mentioned in these two Sections of the Platform, that in the fermer Case a Plurality of Rulers in a Church is supposed, who are guilty of Male-Administration, and that in the latter it is supposed that a particular Elder is guilty of an Offence and incorrigible under it: And it is very pro­bable, that they are in the Right: But I have put the Passages together; concluding, as I think rightly, that, if a Plurality of Elders in a Church be subject to the Power of the Church in Case of Male-Administration, doubtless a particular offending and incorrigible Elder must be much more subject to their Power: And, if Counsel from other Churches be not requisite in the former Case, much less in the latter: But, if it be requisite or con­venient in the latter Case, why should it not be in the former also? So that, upon these Accounts, I may very consistently blend the sixth and seventh Para­graphs recited from the Platform together.

That the Power of the Church extends to the De­position of their Elders,—This seems to be a pretty ma­nifest Case: For, if the Church have Power to chuse their Officers and Ministers; then, in Case of manifest Unworthiness and Delinquency, they have Power also to depose them: For to open and shut, to chuse and refuse, to constitute in Office and remove from Office are Acts be­longing [Page 81]longing to the same Power, as our judicious Ancestors rightly argue in their Platform (ſ)of Church-Disci­pline.

And it is entirely just and reasonable, that particular Churches should have this Power: For they are Ecclesi­astical Societies confederate, that is to say, they are Chur­ches, before they have Officers and even without them: And, altho' they may be in such a State as this, yet even then a subordinate Ecclesiastical Power is under our Lord JESUS CHRIST, and by HIM delegated unto them: So that, having the Nature and Essence of a Church as they surely have, they may act as such: And, as it is natural to all Societies and Bodies whatsoever to preserve themselves, the Churches of CHRIST also are doubtless furnished with sufficient Power for their own Preservation and comfortable Subsistence (t). It follows therefore, that, if the Elder of a particular Church should be found guilty of Male-Administration and break in upon the known and fundamental Privileges which every Christian Society has in common with other Societies, that particular Church may and ought, from a sacred Regard to the Law of Self-Preservation, to [...]epose such an arbitrary and tyrannical Elder, if upon their Admonitions he do not repent and give them Satisfaction.

Nor indeed can it well be disputed, that the Churches in the Days of primitive Christianity were possessed of this most valuable Right and Privilege; when there are such Testimonies in the ancient approved Writers, which fully demonstrate it.

It is as clear as the Light from that deservedly priz'd Remain of Antiquity, CLEMRNT'S first Epistle to the Corinthians, which is worthy of frequent Citations from it, that the Church of Corinth at that Time had and exer­cised this Privilege: For, he says to them in that [Page 82]Epistle, We perceive that ye have removed some, who have performed their Office well, from the Ministry which they were thought to deserve, as having no Fault to be found with them: Ye are too contentious, Brethren, and too hot about these Things which appertain not to Salva­tion(u): Now is it not very plain from these Passages, that the Corinthians had deposed and laid aside their Ministers, merely because in lesser or disputable Points their Judgments did not please them? 'Tis true the good CLEMENT blames them, and it must be confessed that they deserved to be blamed, for casting off those Per­sons, who had holily and unblameably perform'd the Duties of their Episcopacy: But CLEMENT never twits or blames them at all for exercising a Power which did not belong unto them: No, far from it: All that he faults them for, and indeed all that can be objected against them, is, that they exercised the Power, of which they were possessed, in an irregular Manner, when the Occa­sion did not require it.

And it is also certain, that the particular Churches of our LORD JESUS CHRIST, enjoy'd this Privilege, at least until the two hundred and fifty eighth Year after CHRIST: For, in that Year, a Synod convened, in which CYPRIAN presided: And that Synod approv'd and commended the Proceedings of some Churches who had deposed their Bishops, upon the Application of those Churches to the Synod in order to obtain their Opinion concerning their Conduct.

As for CYPRIAN'S own Judgment in this Matter it may easily be seen by reading some of his Epistles: For, in one of his Epistles, he expresly acknowleges that in his Time the People had the Power, as of chusing worthy Ministers, so likewise of refusing and casting off those who were not so (v); and in another Epistle, he [Page 83]affirms, that this Power belongs to the Church, and that it was given to the Church by Divine Authority (w).

And the learned ORIGEN was of the same Mind: For he freely declar'd to his People, If I seem to you to be a right Hand, and am call'd a Presbyter and seem to preach the Word of GOD; yet, if I shall do any Thing contrary to Ecclesiastical Discipline and the Rule of the Gospel, so that I give Scandal or Offence to the Church, let the whole Church conspire and with one Consent cut me off, altho' I am their Right Hand (x).

But, if for the sake of Peace it should be granted, that this Power is too great for the Brethren, and that they have not sufficient Authority for it; may we not then say, that they may withdraw from their Male-ad­ministring Elders, and that there cannot be any reasona­ble Objection against such a Withdraw from them? Truely we may well say this, and it may very well be granted us; For, as every particular Church sets up their Presbytery by professing their Subjection to them in the LORD; even so, when they walk disorderly in their Office and are chargeable with Male-Administration in it, then they may avoid them and professedly withdraw their Subjection to them: So that, if according to the Opinion of some, the Brethren should not have the Power of deposing their Elders; yet, if they have the Power and Liberty of withdrawing from them on requisite Occasi­ons, which cannot be denied them, they have what is tantamount to the Deposing Power, at least with respect to themselves.

And, that the Churches have this Pewer and Liberty, we may safely argue from our Apostle's Instruction to the Church of Rome, in Rom. XVI. 17. where he beseeches them to mark such as cause Divisions, —and avoid them, or withdraw from them: For, our Apostle, foreseeing by the Holy SPIRIT enlightning him, the [Page 84]vast Occasion of giving this Counsel to the Church at Rome, therefore affectionately and faithfully gave it, and entreated that Church to make Use of this Liberty, as there should be Occasion for so doing: And it is a just Observation of ALARDUS upon the Text, that the Word which we render here mark is a Military Term deriv'd from the Speculatores or Centinels upon a Watch-Tower, who are constantly to mind and observe and tell the Motions of an Enemy: So that the Romans are entreated, after their Example, to take special No­tice of their Elders in their Administrations, and proper­ly to withdraw from such of them as cause Divisions and Offences.

And this Right and Liberty of the Brethren, for which we plead, is so fully represented by CYPRIAN, and so strongly proved to belong to them from Passages which he urges out of the old and new Testament that I shall refer you unto him (y): In the mean Time I cannot but transcribe a few Sentences from him; For this Cause, says he, the People chedient to the Commands of the LORD and fearing GOD ought to separate themselves from a wicked Bishop: For they principally have the Power of chusing worthy Priests and rejecting the unworthy, which comes from Divine Authority (z). Nor may I omit the Testimony of the prodigiously learned GROTIUS with reference to this Right of the People in the early Ages of Christianity: Now, he testifies, that it was not only the Right of the People to flee and avoid an unfaithful Pastor, but that such a Pastor by vertue of the Sentence against him lost his Pastoral Right and whatsoever of that Kind was once ascribed unto him (c).

[Page 85]To conclude; As JESUS CHRIST has made these Churches free in this Liberty; it is to be hoped, that they will stand fast in it and exercise it, as Occasion shall require, nor suffer their Pastors under their Male-Administrations to deprive them of it.

Chapter V. The Privilege of these Churches to ex­cept against such Persons as are disqua­lified for Communion among them, vindicated.

IN our Opinion the composing Churches of Habitual Sinners, and that either with respect to Sins of Omission or Commission, instead of erecting Temples to the Honour of GOD and the Redeemer, would be only the setting up Synagogues of Satan and Chappels to the Devil.

These Churches indeed are far from denying the Communion unto any Person whatsoever, whose Duty it may be to ask the Favour of enjoying it: Nor do we oppose the Right and Interest of any baptized Person in our Churches; but, conformably to the universal Prac­tice [Page 86]of the primitive Churches after the Decease of the Apostles, we advise them to such Methods as will qua­lify them for a Reception to the Glory of CHRIST, and to partake of Divine Ordinances to their own spiritual Edification.

The Things, which we judge requisite, absolutely requisite, in all those that would enjoy the Communion in these Churches, are Repentance towards GOD, and Faith towards our LORD JESUS CHRIST, and a fixed Resolution to lead a Life of Piety and Vertue: And we think, that such as are sincere in these Things, altho' they should be but weak Christians, but Babes in CHRIST (&), may not nevertheless be excluded nor yet discouraged from attending the Communion with us in our Churches.

But however we expect, and we may well expect, that all, who are sincere in these Things and are de­sirous of Communion in these Churches, should make Profession of their Faith and Repentance and Resoluti­ons for a good Life: And we protest, that we cannot admit any into full Communion and an actual Partici­pation in all the Privileges of our Churches, without such a Profession, and unless this Profession be recom­mended by a moral and Christian Conduct: For, without such a Profession, and such a corresponding Conduct, there is no Person, that manifests himself meet and qualified for obtaining an Interest in the Privileges of any pure Society of Christians.

These Churches therefore may lawfully require the making such a Profession and that it should be adorned in the Conduct of those that expect Communion with [Page 87]them: Nay they ought peremptorily to insist upon these Things: For particular Churches will never pre­serve or recover their brightest Glory, unless they are careful as to these Matters.

And, as particular Churches may and should demand the witnessing of a good Confession from those that offer themselves to their Communion; so it is reasonable and proper, that the Candidates for Communion should com­ply with the Demand: For, as is well observed in one of the Homilies of the Church of England for Whitsunday, If any Man be a dumb Christian, not professing his Faith openly, but cloaking and colouring himself for Fear of Danger, he giveth Men Occasion justly and with good Conscience to doubt, lest he have not the Grace of the HOLY GHOST within him, because he is Tongue-tied and doth not speak.

I cannot tell, whether in any of the Reformed Chur­ches abroad such an open Profession of Christianity before the Church be required of the Candidates for Commu­nion: But this I know that the very learned, judicious, pious and modest WITSIUS of Utrecht, has wisbed the Custom to prevail in their Churches (a), that such as are admitted to the holy Communion should publickly in the Light and Audience of the whole Church profess the LORD; which, adds he, such as refuse to do, either before an Assembly, or a Pastor in private, making I know not what Excuses, I would admonish them again and again to consider what our LORD has pronounced concerning them who are ashamed of Him and His Sayings.

[Page 88] Some, we are sensible, in the present Times of De­generacy and Corruption are bitter Enemies to the Churches having and execising this Privilege, and plead that the Elders of the Churches only are possess'd of this Right and they only should improve it.

But, when the Brethren of the Churches are not duely apprized of the Fitness of those who offer themselves as Candidates for Communion with them, by the Pro­fassion which they make, and by ordering their Conver­sations according to it; but, on the contrary, have Rea­son to be dissatisfied about their Fitness, as they will frequently have Reason to be, where the Elders only have the Management of such Affairs, their Liberty in such Churches is manifestly invaded and infringed.

The Brethren in our Churches may possibly be wrought upon so far as to part with this Privilege to unreasonable Claimers of it: But, besides the Dishonour resulting from such a tame Resignation of a valuable Right, our Brethren ought to consider the bad Conse­quence, the vast Mischief, of parting with it: There cannot indeed be a greater Inlet to Corruption than this; for Churches must unavoidably be corrupted and the Ordinances miserably defiled in them, while the unworthy are freely received into them and the Brethren have not the Power, as they have the Right, of refusing such Persons.

The Reason of the Thing therefore is sufficient for the Justification of these Churches in the Use of their Li­berty to judge concerning the Qualifications of those that offer themselves to their Communion: But we have Scrip­tural Authority and Example besides, in favour of the Brethren's Power and Liberty to propound any just and reasonable Exceptions against such Persons as appear dis­qualified for Admission into their Communion and the Privileges consequent upon such an Admission: For the Apostle PETER himself would not admit the Family of CORNELIUS to Baptism, until he had enquired of the Brethren, whether any of them had any Thing to [Page 89]object against the Admission of them, as in Act. X. 47. And we read concerning SAUL, that, offering himself to the Communion of the Church at Jerusalem, he was not immediately admitted into it, but kept off from it, until the Exception which was taken against him by the Disciples was removed, as in Act. IX. 26 and 27 Verses.

And the most primitive Antiquity, next to the Days of the Apostles, has taught these Churches to be careful about their Admissions into Communion: 'Tis true in the extraordinary Conversions to Christianity which were made among the Jews, they were all immediately added to the Church: And it is not much to be wondred at that they were so, because they were before acquaint­ed with the Law and the Prophets, and were already brought into the Covenant of GOD: But afterwards the Churches did not make it their ordinary Practice im­mediately to admit Persons into full Communion; but kept them as Catechumens, that so their Knowlege might be encreased and the Truth of their Profession might be tried, until they were judged qualified for joining to the Church and enjoying complete Commu­nion in it.

And this is a Thing that appears, not only from JUSTIN MARTYR, who asserts, that none were al­low'd to communicate in the Church in his Time but such as were baptized and believed the Doctrines of Christianity and lived according to the Laws of JESUS CHRIST; but it is also manifest from numberless ancient Writers, that the Baptized were of old confirmed before they were admitted into Communion, and that in some of the primitive Churches none could be re­ceived into full Communion or be perfect among them, until he had given some Evidence of a Principle of Goodness within him.

Nor is it a Matter of much Dissiculty to prove, that in the Prinitive Times none were received to the Pro­fession of Christianity, unless they had first given some [Page 90]Evidences of their Sincerity; either by enduring some initiatory Penances, as three Days Fasting, which was prescribed in the Time of the Author of the false Clementine Recognitions (o); or by giving some Experi­ment of real Service. Thus ARNOBIUS was not trusted until he had written in Defence of the Christian Re­ligion: And CYRIL of Jerusalem in his Homilies to the Competentes is very earnest in urging the Necessity of a sincere and cordial Intention: And it was from the great Caution of admitting the Pagans to the Intuition of their Mysteries, that even Adults were not admitted after all the Manifestations of their Sincerity without the Testimony of Susceptors or Godfathers, Persons of approved Gravity and Sincerity (x): Tho' this was not always insisted on. But, among the Instances to be found in ancient Writers of their Care in early Times to keep their Communions pure, perhaps there was scarce any one more remarkable than that with re­ference to VICTORINUS: He, you must know, was a famous Rhetorician at Rome, who, on the Account of his Eminence and Fame, had a public Statue erected to his Honour: And He, by Reading the Holy Scrip­tures, of a strong and zealous Pagan, became a Christi­an: This He confessed privately to SIMPLICIAN: But He would not believe Him, unless He confess'd it publickly in the Church also: To this He at first answer'd with Scorn, What! are they then the Walls of a Church that make a Christian? But afterwards He became sen­sible of his Fault, and was afraid of being denied by the blessed JESUS at the last among such as refuse to confess HIM: Whereupon He came to SIMPLICIAN and was instructed and baptized: And, being to make the accustomed Confession, the Liberty of Privacy was then offered Him: But He would not accept of the Offer: [Page 91] No, said He, I will make my Confession before all the People (z).

It must be confessed indeed, that, as it was usual among the Primitive Christians to imitate the Heathens too far in several Respects referring to their sacred Rites, they particularly distributed their Converts into two Classes according to the Pagan Style: For, as among the Pagans there were Learners and Illuminated Persons; thus we find in the Fathers these two very frequently mentioned: And in them, as the Persons are distinguished, so are their Duties and Privileges: And it must be acknowleged, that the Apostle PAUL fre­quently alludes to these Distinctions, and that the ancient Divines afterwards made an ill Use of those Allu­sions.

But, altho' the Improvements which were made of such Distinctions proved in Process of Time not only superfluous, but also very prejudicial to Christianity; nevertheless, that Things may be done agreable to Rea­son and Prudence, and that all Things may be perform'd decently and in Order according to Apostolical Directi­on, the Churches should be careful not at once to admit the Learners among the Illuminated: For there is no Divine Warrant nor any Reason, why such as are not ca­pable of witnessing a good Confession and have not mani­fested their Faith and the Truth of their Profession by their Works should be favour'd with equal Privileges to those who are capable of these Things.

Wherefore, upon the whole, let the Elders of the Churches be as careful as they please in their Examina­tions of such as present themselves for Candidates of Communion, and let them endeavour to be fully certi­fied of their Fitness for complete Fellowship; but, at the same Time, let not these Churches be negligent of their Duty, but except against all, whom they think to be disqualified for Communion with them, either by Reason [Page 92]of the pernicious Opinions which they may hold and vent, or by Reason of the vicious and unchristian Lives that they lead: For it is their Duty not to be Partakers in other Men's Sins, but rather to reprove them and keep themselves pure: And how can they comply with this Duty, unless they testify against the destructive Opinions and unbecoming Behaviours of such as offer themselves to the Communion among them? I cannot therefore but conclude this Chapter in the Style of LAURENTIUS; As Negligence, says He, with respect to Doctrine causes Heresies; so Negligence in Discipline produces Confusion and Scandals: Nor can the Church of CHRIST consist without it any more than a Commonwealth or School or any other Society: Wherefore we ought most studiously to exercise it (y).

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Chapter VI. The Right of the Brethren in these Churches to deal with their Christian Brethren in private and to judge in publick Scandals opened and con­firmed.

THE Churches of JESUS CHRIST in this Land are of Opinion, that, not only the Ministers or Elders or Bishops of the Churches, but all the Christians also which compose them, have the Care of their Bre­thren; and that every Christian, by the Authority of JESUS CHRIST, may confirm and establish his Brethren in Knowlege and Faith, and exhort them to proceed in the Ways of Religion and Goodness; and that, if any of his Brethren should subside either into fatal Doctrinal Errors or irregular Behaviours, every Christian should use his Endeavour to reduce them from their Errors in Judgment and the Irregularities of their Conduct to the Truth of the Christian Doctrine, and a diligent Conformity to the Divine Precepts: This is the Opi­nion of these Churches; and the Reformation of Chur­ches by this Discipline, wherein Love without Dissimu­lation is exercised, we judge to be the only Method of recovering Evangelical Love out of its Languishments and restoring it to its primitive Vigour and Glory.

The Necessity of such a Discipline as this in particular Churches appears to us very clear from those various Passages in the New Testament which require the ex­ercise of it among Christians.

[Page 94] Our blessed SAVIOUR has expresly enjoined, as in Mat. XVIII. 15, If thy Brother shall trespass against Thee, go and tell him his Fault between Thee and Him alone: If He shall hear Thee, Thou hast gained thy Bro­ther. Which Injunction, altho' it speaks concerning the Offence of a Neighbour against his Christian Brother, nevertheless, as every true Christian cannot but think that every Offence against GOD is a Trespass against Himself, therefore it may well reach, and indeed ought to reach, to every Sin and Transgression whatsoever: Now, besides the Dignity of the Person who gives this Injunction, the good and inestimable Consequence of it is to be considered by us: For our gracious LORD says, If He shall hear Thee, Thou hast gained thy Brother, that is, Thou hast brought Him over to Repentance and Reformation, and so to Salvation and Happiness. And it is required by the holy and inspired Apostle, in Gal. VI. 1, Brethren, if a Man be overtaken in a Fault, ye, which are spiritual, restore such an one in the Spirit of Meekness, &c: In which Text, whether we take spiritual to signify Christians in general, or such as were eminent in the Church for spiritual Knowledge and Gifts, as the Word is sometimes used, the Sense is plain and easy; and the Command is strong to all Christians, especially to such as are advanced in spiritual Knowledge, to take a particular Care of their offending Brethren, and shew all that Tenderness and Lenity towards them which is becoming the Gospel. — And how plain is the Precept to the Thessalonians, in 1 Thes. V. 14, to warn them that are unruly, to comfort the feeble-minded, to sup­port the weak, and in Verse 11th, to exhort and edify one another.

It appears then to be indispensably necessary, that all such as would approve themselves to be true Christians should, from a sacred Regard to the Authority and Precepts of their declared LORD and Master, take the most watchful Care of their Brethren and continually ex­hort them to every good Office and use their best Endea­vours, [Page 95]as to keep them from that which is evil, so to recover them likewise out of the Snares in which they may be unhappily entangled.

And, as it is necessary that Christians should thus shew their Care of their Brethren, their Watchfulness over them; it is also equally needful, that such as are admonished, corrected and exhorted by their Christian Brethren should acknowlege the Appointment of CHRIST and submit to His Discipline, thankfully receiving Bro­therly Admonition and Correction as becomes the Disciples of the lowly JESUS, and studiously conforming to the same: Nor in Truth will they demean themselves as becomes serious Christians, if they despise such as from the Word of CHRIST admonish and correct them: For, if they despise such, nor will hearken to their pious Reproofs and Exhortations, they are not the Disciples of JESUS CHRIST: For, whereas it is He that speaketh to them by their faithful Reprovers, they do not see meet to hear Him.

This is the Discipline, concerning which we cannot have too good an Opinion nor express ourselves in too lofty a Strain: For we may say in the Style of CY­PRIAN of this Discipline, that it is wholesome to follow it, whereas Averseness to it and Neglect of it is fatal (&): Nor have we any Wonder, that the Bohemians should be urged to be less afraid of Destruction from the Perse­cution of their Enemies than from the Neglect of such an boly Discipline(a). Wherefore may the great Head of the Church always dispose and enable us to prize this Discipline according to its real Worth and Conse­quence, and to conform unto it with the greatest Care and Religion!

[Page 96] It has bin observed already, that this Discipline is to be administred by every Christian (e): But, whereas the Method wherein this Discipline should be exercised ought to be particularly known, this therefore is now to follow: Now This, both from the Prescription of our blessed SAVIOUR and from the constant Practice of the Primitive Church, appears to be nothing else but the Application of CHR [...] Institution according to the Circumstances which [...]r (x).

Wherefore, that so this Discipline may rightly and properly be administred, there is a twofold Distinction of Offences to be observed: For, while some are secret and private, others are public and open; and some are great, whereas others are comparatively small: According to which Distinctions, the Discipline of CHRIST is to be privately exercised towards such whose Offences are private; whereas, if the Offences of any be public and to the Scandal of the Church, they are to be publickly admonished and censured.

If the Offence, that is committed by a Christian Bro­ther, be private, provided two or three are observers of it, there should the be three Steps taken by his Christian Brethren in dealing with him: First of all, one of those who has seen the Offence of his Brother, should pri­vately admonish and reprove him for it: And, if the offending Brother despise the Admonition and Reproof given him; then, in the next Place, he, that is ac­quainted with his Brother's Offence and grieved at his slighting his Brotherly Correction, should take one or two more of his Brethren with him, that so by the Mouth of two or three Witnesses the Regularity of the Procee­dure may be established: And, in fine, if the offending Brother shall continue to slight the Admonitions which are [Page 97]thus duely given him, the third and last Step to be taken is, to tell the Church of his Fault and of his Dis­regard of the Christian Conduct of his Brethren to­wards him.

But, if the Offence be at first public and manifest unto all, then there is no need of such a regular and gradual Process; but your open and flagitious public Transgressors are at once to be rebuked before all, that others also may fear, as in 1 Tim. V. 20. And yet even this public Discipline should be exercised according to the Distinction of great Transgressions or compara­tively samll ones; according to which Distinction, there should be either a public Admonition and Reproof or a Deprivation of the Privileges of their Christian Brethren who walk orderly: For Admonition and Reproof is a sufficient Correction for smaller public Offences. But, as for grosser Sins, and Stubbornness under kind Admo­nitions even tho' for smaller Faults, these deserve to be punished with denying the further Enjoyment of Com­munion and Ecclesiastical Privileges.

So then the Duty of the Brethren is clear, and their Power is great and invaluable: It is their Duty to ex­postulate with their Brethren, and as such to deal with them, when they are guilty of private Scandals, in a pri­vate Way, in a friendly and Christian Manner: And it is their Duty, Power and Privilege also to hear and judge concerning their Brethren in public Scandals; and, as they may forgive and receive such as are truely peni­tent, they may also reprove, rebuke, exhort and censure notoricus Offenders: For, when our SAVIOUR requi­reth a Christian, that, if he cannot succeed so far as to heal the Offence in private, he should then tell the Church; He certainly means a particular or Congrega­tional Church(b), as the famous CALDERWOOD makes [Page 98]evident. And the worthy BULLINGER has given a good Reason, why it must be so, which is agreeable to that assigned by CALDERWOOD; For, says He, the universal Church can never convene from all Parts of the World, that rebellious Persons may be brought before it and submit unto it: Therefore to particular Churches must the Judgment concerning stubborn Offenders be bro't and referred (x).

And this Direction of our blessed SAVIOUR neces­sarily implies, that the Church should hear the Case brought before them, make Enquiry into the State of it, that so they may see with their own Eyes the Offence which has bin committed, and then judge concerning the Offence as they should find upon Enquiry.

These Things are so plain and obvious to common Understandings, that Men could never have perverted the Sense of our SAVIOUR'S Words, if they were de­sirous of attending to them and observing them: Nor, if their Love to Truth were equal to their Regard to their Interest, could they so misunderstand our LORD'S Direction as by a pretended Regard to it to deviate from the Simplicity of the Gospel.

This is the Discipline, concerning which we heartily subscribe to the Declaration of the learned ZANCHY, wherein he says, that no one is exempled from this Disci­pline, whether he be an Elder, or a Pastor, or a Ma­gistrate, unless they would be exempted from the Number of the Brethren and therefore of the Sons of GOD: Wherefore they were mere Flatterers, who contended that [Page 99]the Pope of Rome could not upon any Account have this Discipline exercised upon him (o).

To proceed.

That the Church or Brethren have the Power of Judg­ing, as has bin said, may be argued from several Passages upon sacred Record; from which Passages it is abun­dantly evident, that they gave their Determination and Judgment in such Cases as properly came before them.

Not to mention, that the Brethren of the Circumcision expostulated with PETER about his Communion with CORNELIUS and his Family, and that He was so far from rejecting their Complaint, as if they had gone be­yond their proper Power and Limits, that He readily undertook and endeavour'd to give them suitable Satis­faction, as has already bin observed.

We find, that the Brethren of the Church of Corinth pass'd their Censure upon the Incestuous Corinthian: And the Apostle PAUL reproved them all, that they had no sooner put him away from among them, as in 1 Cor. V. 2; and, at Verse 12th, He expresly assureth them, that they had the Power of Judging such as are within (x); and, in the next the last, Verse of that Chapter, the Apostle requires it of them all, that they put away the wicked Person from among them; and, in 2 Cor. II. 7, He advises the Brethren, upon the Re­pentance of the Offender, to forgive, restore and comfort him.

The same Apostle also towards the Close of his Epistle to the Galatians, instructing them in the Disci­pline [Page 100]of the Church, advises them how to behave with respect to their corrupt Teachers: Laying down the same Ground and Reason of proceeding against them, as against the Incestuous Corinthian, namely, that a little Leaven leaveneth the whole Lump, as in Gal. V. 9; and presuming that they would be of the same Mind with him, as in Verse 10 and 11; he then declares what Censure he wished might be passed upon their cor­rupt Teachers, as at Verse 12, I would that they were even cut off which trouble you: Which Passage all the Greek Fathers and some of the Latin oddly interpret, I wish they were no [...] only circumcised, but even made like the Priests of the Mother of the Gods, who was formerly worshipped by you of Galatia (c): But the most plain and natural Construction of it is, I wish they were cut off from your Fellowship and Communion: And, lest it should be objected, that the Brethren had not Power to do this, therefore the Apostle annexes this Reason, for, Brethren, ye are called unto Liberty. And, because it might be argued, that such a Liberty of cut­ting off their Teachers being allowed would be attended with bad Consequences, therefore the Apostle advises, that they do not use their Liberty as an Occasion to the Flesh, but so as that by Love they might serve one another: Now, if the Brethren have the Power of censuring their corrupt Teachers, as appears from these Hints, surely they may well have the Privilege of cen­suring their offending Brethren.

And it was likewise the Direction of the very same Apostle to the whole Church at Thessalonica, to with­draw themselves from every Brother that walketh disor­derly, as in 2 Thes. III. 6: And this Direction of withdrawing from such is much the same with that wherein he requires them to warn the unruly, in [...] Thes [...] V. 14, or admonish such: Where the Word which we translate unryly is the very same as this which [Page 101]is translated disorderly: For this is a Power belonging to all the Members of the Church, as is manifest from these Directions to them.

And it moreover appears, that particular Churches have such a Power; because they are chargeable with Guilt, if any Offences are committed by their Members and yet remain uncensured by them: Thus the Church of Pergamos is reproved as guilty of Offence for suf­fering BALAAM and the Nicolaitans among them, as in Rev. II. 14 and 15; and, at Verse 20, CHRIST has a few Things against the Church at Thyatira for suffering JEZEBEL among them: But, if these Chur­ches had not sufficient Power to turn out the Offenders in them, it would be hard to blame them for the Tolera­tion of them in their Communion. And hence we may conclude, that, what our SAVIOUR wrote to any of those Churches, HIS SPIRIT says to all the Churches: So that, if we would answer the Divine Expectations, we should beware of Remissness in Discipline and calmly tolerating the like Offences among ourselves; and we should also be careful to admonish other Churches about us with Love and Faithfulness for the Offences observable in them.

But, besides the Scriptural Directions and Patterns in Favour of such a Discipline, the Reason of the Thing plainly speaks for such a Power in particular Churches: For, as that animal Body is defective, weak and un­sound in its Nature and Constitution, which has not Strength equal to the Expulsion of the malignant Hu­mours which are brought into it; even so those Bodies, particular Churches, would be but in a feeble State, which have not Power to get rid of their vicious, corrupt and offensive People: Nor can we think it for the Honour of our blessed SAVIOUR to leave His Churches in such a feeble State:— But we have Reason to be thank­ful, that the great Head of the Church has given His Churches such an athletic Constitution that they have Power equal to the Purging themselves of their super­fluous [Page 102]and vicious Homours: And blessed be GOD, while some other Churches are complaining for the Want of a godly Discipline, these Churches enjoy it and will not suffer such as are known to be prophane and vile Persons to escape it.

Perhaps it will be demanded here, whether the Chur­ches in the Ages immediately succeeding the Apostles Days were in the Possession of such Power and exerted it upon proper Occasions? Now, in Answer to this Enquiry, I would say, that, supposing they had not nor did exercise such a Power, this does not hinder but that it properly belonged unto them, as it appears that it did from the Injunctions and Examples upon sacred Record: So that they might lawfully and honestly take and exer­cise this Power.

But the Truth is, we find, that the Churches in the Ages after the Apostles possessed this Power, and on suitable Occasions used the same. So CLEMENT of Rome styles the Censures of the Church, the Things com­manded by the Multitude(d). And it appears, that all the People of the Diocess, Church or Bishoprick were present at the Censures of the Church from ORIGEN'S Description of the Appearance of an Offender before the whole Church (e). And CYPRIAN writes, that, if any were under Censure, before they could be ad­mitted to Communion, they were to plead their Cause before all the People of the Church (f): And, when some had committed some considerable Faults, he was so far from setting himself up as a sufficient Judge, em­powered to manage the Affair, that he expressly de­clares that they ought to be tried by all the People (g): Nay he openly protests, that from the Beginning of his Ministry be determined to do nothing of his own Head, and [Page 103]without the Consent of his People(h). Thus we see what the Discipline of the Primitive Church was: And me­thinks, as the Abbot FLEURY in his Discourses on Ecclesiastical History rightly observes, the ancienter the Discipline is, it is by so much the more venerable.

And, if the Testimony of later Worthies may be of any Weight, we have these also to produce in Favour of the Discipline for which we have bin pleading. LAMBERT said, that Excommunication ought to be done by the Congregation assembled together with the Pastors (i). PETER MARTYR concludes that none can be excom­municated without the Consent of the Church(k). BUCER freely owns, that the Power is in all the Church (l). And Mr. HOWE, when he was asked by Dr. WIL­KINS concerning the Discipline of the Church of England, in which the poor People have no Share at all, replied, that in Reality it had no Discipline at all (m), and therefore he could not be fond of it.

Nay a celebrated Scotch Presbyterian (n) acknow­leges, that not only grave BEZA, CALVIN, BUCER, BULLINGER, MELANCTHON, BUCAN, PA­RAEUS, RIVET, SIBRAND, JUNIUS, TRELCA­TIUS; but also CYPRIAN, JEROM, AUGUSTIN, NAZIANZEN, CHRYSOSTOM, AMBROSE, THE­ODORET, THEOPHYLACT require, that all Things should be done consentiente Plebe, with the Consent of the People.

But some will be ready to say, If the Power of Dis­cipline be in the Churches, how came they to be deprived of it? And the Answer is, that some vile Persons, under the specious Pretence of raising the Church and promot­ing its Power, called the Clergy only the Church first of [Page 104]all, and then sought to make them Lords over Princes by giving them the Power of Excommunication. Hin [...]ille Lachrymaoe! Hence the Power of Discipline has bin taken out of the Hands of the People, and infinite Disorders have ensued upon it: For, when a Bishop or a small Number of Ministers have the Supervision or Oversight and Management of Affairs, it is next to im­possible but that Pride and Ambition, Faction and Envy, Political Regards and Secular Interests should govern: And indeed this is no more than what is observed by the Historians SOCRATES and SOZOMEN, as well as by several other Fathers.

I would not be understood, notwithstanding all that has bin said, entirely to exclude the Elders from the Ma­nagement of the Discipline of the Church: For the Duty of admonishing Offenders privately and personally belongs to them in common with the rest of the Church; tho' it does not properly belong to the Elders as such, but only as Brethren of the same Society: And yet it must be allowed, that Elders by Virtue of their Office are enabled to do it with more Authority in a moral Sense, tho' they do not strictly and properly exercise the Power of their Office. And it must be acknowleged, that in the Discharge of their Office they may be capacitated to see and know the Faults of the Brethren sooner than others; but yet, in the Exercise of this Discipline every Member is equally concerned with the Elders, as appears from the Obligations which lie upon them to watch over and exercise special Love towards one another; for their Obligations to this are equal: And indeed this Duty is so incumbent on every Member of the Church, that, if any neglect it, he sins against the Institution of CHRIST and becomes a Partaker in the Sin of the offending Party, and is guilty of his Danger and Ruin, as well as chargeable with all the Inconveniencies and I [...]uries accruing to the Church by the Continuance of its Members in Sin and Wickedness: So that, upon these Considerations, all the Brethren not only have the [Page 105] Liberty of admonishing one another, but it is their plain and indispensable Duty so to do: And whosoever of them neglects this Duty is chargeable with the Hatred of his Brother.

But, altho' this Duty be personally incumbent on every particular Member of the Church, this however hinders not but that, if several at the same Time know the Sin of an Offender and jointly are offended at it, they may together, if they think it prudent, in the first Instance admonish him: And, if they do so, this is to be considered as the first and private Admonition.

As to the Way and Manner wherein this Duty is to be discharged, I would only observe, that it should be done with Prudence, Tenderness and a due Regard to all Circumstances, from Love to the Person offending, out of Obedience to JESUS CHRIST, agreably to the Rule which is given for our Direction in it and with a Rea­diness to receive Satisfaction.

And now the great and good Ends to be proposed in such a Discipline are, that undissembled Love may be maintained, that the offending Brother may be gained, that he may be preserved from Dishonour by the unne­cessary Divulging of his Failings and Errors, that the Churches may not be scandalized by the hasty exposing of the Failings of their Members whether they be real or imaginary, and that the Trouble of a public Hearing may be prevented: And, if these Ends be obtained, by the accused Person's manifesting his Innocence as to the Facts alleg'd against him or by his Acknowlegement, Repentance and Promises of Reformation, then this Part of the Discipline of CHRIST'S Church has obtained the desired Effect.

But, if these good Ends be not answered, then the Persons, who have endeavoured to reclaim their offend­ing Brother by private Methods, are to inform the Elders of the Church concerning their Proceedure; and by them the Report should be made to the Church, as of the Crime committed, so of the Testimonies given to prove the Truth [Page 106]of it, of the Means used to bring the Offender to Ac­knowlegement and Repentance, and concerning the Deportment of the Offender under the private Admoni­tions given him, to wit, his Rejection of them and re­fusing to render any Satisfaction on the Account of his Offence.

And, when Things are thus proposed to the Church and the Offender heard, the whole Church, Elders and Brethren, are to consider the Nature of the Offence and to judge concerning the Offence, as well as the Demeanour of the Offender: And, if the Offence be evident and glaring, the Offender is to be admonished with the Consent and Concurrence of the Church by the Elders: But, if the Offender despise the Admonition of the Church and continues obstinate and impenitent, then it is the Mind and Will of our blessed SAVIOUR, that he should be cut off from the Privileges of the Church and cast out of the Society: And this is the last Act of the Discipline of the Church for the Correction of Offenders: So that, by the Constitution of JESUS CHRIST, the Body of the Church or the Multitude of the Brethren are interested in the Administration of the Disciplinary Power in the Church.

This is the Discipline of these Congregational Chur­ches, which we apprehend to be most conformable to Reason and the Holy Scriptures, to the Practice of the Apostles and the Primitive Christians.

As to a Power fastned to the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, a Power of Binding and Loosing, by which Men can excommunicate and deliver up a Person to the Devil in the Name and by the Authority of JESUS CHRIST, we pretend to no such Power: Nor do we approve of any such Power, to which some make their Pretences, by which Pastors or Synods, in Conjunction and Confederacy with the Civil Magistrate, or by an Ecclesiastical Power distinct from the Magistrate's, but equal to it, are capable of binding and losing, as has bin said: Nay we detest it.

[Page 107] We know, that Excommunication was an Act of Apostolical Authority; but we can see no Reason, why Delivering up to Satan to be buffeted should be made the common Form of Excommunication, and be­come a Precedent for the constant Practice of the Church.

That this was an Act of miraculous Power visibly lodged with the Apostles is plain to us; because, as they could strike Men blind and dead, they had the Power also of letting evil Spirits loose to terrify, plague and punish such Persons as were Enemies of Truth and Righteousness, that so a terrible Remedy might be in­flicted for a dreadful Evil: We do not therefore won­der, that the Apostles never mention this among the standing Appointments for the Church to observe nor give any Charge or Directions about it: And it appears very strange unto us, that this Method of denouncing Anathemas has obtained so much in Churches, and even among such Churches as pretend to elevated Degrees of Reformation; believing, that the absurd Notion of the Infallibility of the Church has bin carried on by it, and that it has laid the Foundation for endless Animosities and the greatest Uncharitableness.

In fine then; Altho' these Churches may be re­proached by many as very defective in their Politicks, inasmuch as they did not erect an infallible Tribunal, but yet expect the good People to submit to their Decisions, altho' they are subject to Error; whereas, in other Establishments, the People are obliged to submit to an uncontroleable infallible Authority (x): It is neverthe­less to be hoped, that these Churches will not fall from their Stedfastness notwithstanding any Reproaches of this Nature. May GOD of His great Goodness enable us still to follow the Illuminations of Reason and Scripture, still to keep ourselves disengag'd from an infallible and incontestible Tribunal, and still to abhor the Thoughts of a [Page 108]mean, ignominious Subjection to any humane Tyranmical Authority whatsoever! For the Consciences of Christians are and ought to be the last Resort, wherein our Faith and Worship and all religious Matters should be judged without any further Appeal: And, altho' Christians may be exhorted and have Persuasions used with them, none ought to be constrained in such Things wherein their Consciences are concerned: The Magistrate may argue, and the Synod may advise and persuade; but who gave them either Right or Power to oblige and force Men in religious Matters? Now particular Churches have just the same Liberty with respect to their Members? And, if they pretend to any constraining Power over their Members, they act as the Civil Magistrate, not as an Assembly of Christians and faithful People: So that, in short, tho' these Churches as such and as sincere Chris­tians think their Members accountable to them and cen­surable by them; nevertheless they pretend to no more Power and Jurisdiction over them, than a Society of discrete and grave Philosophers over such as are admitted into their Society, whom they see meet to admit when they are duely qualified; and they think themselves obliged to censure and exclude from their Society, when they have forfeited the Privileges of it by their exotic Sentiments or indecent Carriages.—'Tis true, some of our Congregational Brethren, who verge towards Presby­terianism, pretend to much more in their Discipline than that for which I have bin pleading: But all such as are throughly Congregational will be content with this: I must confess, that this is all the Power to which I think the Churches have any rightful Claim; and I conceive, all that they pretended to exercise in the early Times of Christianity (z): And GOD grant, that [Page 109] these Churches may never desire any further Power and Liberty than such a rational due as they at present en­joy; nor suffer any, whether Pastors or Synods, to take away their Crown.

Chapter VII. The Liberty of these Churches to sit and act in Councils and Synods cleared and vindicated; and the Power of Synods explained.

IT is entirely consistent with Reason and the Revela­tion of GOD'S Mind in His Word, that there should be Councils and Synods called upon requisite Oc­casions: But it is neither agreable to Nature nor Scrip­ture to turn such occasional Helps into the Form of a Carnal State Polity and erect a Government out of Friendly and Christian Consultations for the Instruction, Benefit and Comfort of our Brethren.

There may be Synods or Meetings of Pastors for pro­moting Peace and Concord; but there is great Danger, [Page 110]lest such Meetings should be hurtful to the Principles and Liberties of particular Churches and so degenerate from the good Ends which ought to be designed and pur­sued in them: For, as SUTLIVIUS observes, Nulla in Ecclesia Dei graviora excitata sunt Schismata, nec Haereses exortae sunt ab ullo tetriores quam ab Episcp [...], The worst of Schisms and blackest Heresies have bin raised by Bishops (n).

In the Year 1700, there was publish'd a Book at Amsterdam by one PETER SHEPHERD (o), wherein he endeavours to prove by natural, political and mathe­matical Arguments that the Kingdoms, Principalities and Republicks, wherein the Romish Religion prevails, are in a fair Way of being destroyed by the Ambition and Ava­rice of the Popes and of their Clergy: But it is as easy to prove from the same Arguments, that the Liberties of all free Churches are in Danger of Destruction from the frequent Associations of Ministers: The Resolution of GREGORY NAZIANZEN therefore is not at all to be wonder'd at: For, said He to PROCOPIUS (p), If I must write the Truth itself, I am of the Mind to be absent from every Meeting of Bishops: For I never saw a joyful and happy End of any Council [of them] nor any that did not occasion the Encrease of Evils rather than the Redress or Reformation of them: For pertinacious Contention and the vehement Desire of Lording are such as no Words can express. And indeed there is none, who knows any Thing of Antiquity, but is well acquainted with the great Mischiefs which have arisen from Combinations of domineering Clergymen. One DIOSCORUS, who was President in the Second Council at Ephesus over Four Hundred Persons, was so moved with Rage and Passion against FLAVIAN, Bishop of Antioch, that he rose up from his Seat and killed him with Blows and Kicks [Page 111]and trampled upon his Body after he was dead.— And it is remarkable, hat the Canons, which have the best Doctrine and the truest Morality and Goodness in them, were not made by Assemblies of Clergymen, nor by nu­merous Synods and Oecumenical Councils, wherein the Clergy have had the chief Management, but in those Councils and Synods which were private and consisted of a few Persons of the Laity as well as the Clergy: And hence most of the Asrican Councils were the best in all the World: For the Asrican Bishopricks were like our Congregational Churches; nor did the Bishops or Mi­nisters strive who should be greatest in them, according to the Manner of some in other Places.

As for particular Churches, we readily concede, that they, as of equal Power, may in some Cases appointed by JESUS CHRIST meet together by themselves or by their Delegates in a Council or Synod and may perform sundry Acts of Ecclesiastical Power; but yet it is our avowed Principle, that the Members of Councils and Synods, with all the Power which they exercise and put forth, are all of them primarily given to the several par­titular Churches, on whose Account they are gathered and employed, either as the first Subject in whom they reside or the first Object about whom they are conver­sant: So that, altho' we differ from some of our Neigh­bours about the Power of Councils and Synods, we have no Difference at all with them about their Being; for we freely acknowlege, that they ought to be, when pro­per Occasions require.

Dr. HUMPHREY HODY has published an History of English Councils and Convocations, and of the Clergy's sitting in Parliament, in 1701, in which he has taken a great deal of Pains and Care in turning over ancient Hecords and collecting Passages out of them; but by them it does not appear, where the Original Right of convening Councils and Synods was lodged: He shews indeed, that Synods were sometimes called by the Autho­rity of the Clergy, and at other Times convened by the [Page 112]Prince: But this does not determine, where the Right of Convening them is placed.

Councils and Synods should be composed of such Per­sons as are fit and proper, both of the Eldership and the Laity; and both have equal Right to speak their Senti­ments in them: 'Tis true a particular Regard may sometimes be had to Pastors and Bishops in sending De­legates to Synods: But, if the Churches should only have such Bishops or Pastors as are either not so well ac­quainted with their Constitution or are Enemies unto it, it is their Duty to keep them at Home at least.

And, when a Number of pious, skilful and prudent Persons, both Ministers and Brethren, are sent and con­vened in Council or Synod, they ought to have equal Power and Authority in acting and voting: This is the Right of the Fraternity; and, in order to support and establish this Right of the Fraternity in Councils and Synods, there are a few brief Remarks to be offered, which have considerable Weight and Significance in them.

It is certain, that we have the Authority of the Scrip­tures and the Practice of the Church in the Apostle's Days for this Power of the Brethren: For we read, that the Apostles and Elders came together to consider of the Matter that was to be laid before them, in Act. XV. 6: And it follows, at Verse 22, then pleased it the Apostles and Elders, with the whole Church, to send ebosen Men, &c: From which Passages it plainly ap­pears, that, not only the Apostles and Elders, but the whole Church also, and so the People, were present in this Council and were concerned in the definitive Sen­tence of it: But now this Council ought to be the Rule and Pattern for all other Councils whether greater or smaller: Since therefore in this Council, not only the Apostles and Elders, but all the People are said to give their Opinion and unite in the definitive Decree; surely the same Rule ought to be observed in all other Councils or Synods: For, as all other Synods are vastly-inferiour to [Page 113]this Apostolical one, it may well be expected that they should be conformable to the same.

And, besides this Example upon sacred Record to justify the Right of the Brethren to sit and act in Council, there are several Places of Scripture, which allow all the Faithful in Ecclesiastical Conventions to judge in re­ligious Matters: Not to insist upon that Passage, in 1 Cor. XIV. 24, where it is said, If all prophesy, and there come that believeth not or one unlearned, he is con­vinced of all, he is judged of all: It is plain both from the old any new Testament, that Divine Matters should be publickly considered by the People and the final Judg­ment referring to them should be left with the People. So we read, in 1 King. XVIII. 21 and 39 Verses, that ELIJAH came to all the People and said, how long balt ye between two Opinions? If the LORD be GOD, follow HIM; but if Baal, follow him: And the People answered Him not a Word.—And when all the People saw [how the Sacrifice was consumed from above] they fell on their Faces and said, The LORD HE is GOD, the LORD HE is the GOD. And it is written, that, when PHILIP preached to the City of Samaria, the People with one Accord gave Heed to the Things which He spake, and there was great Joy in the City, as in Act. VIII. 6 and 8 Verses. So that it should seem, as if the People, upon hearing and maturely weighing the Discourses of PHILIP, publickly testified their Appro­bation of what He taught them.

And it is worthy to be observed, that this Right of the Laity has bin asserted and exercised in later Times: For, not to mention it, that the Temporal Lords and Commons, in the two Reigns that brought on the Refor­mation, were much better Judges of Religion, than the Bishops and the Convocation; and, if they had not pro­moted the Reformation, tho' poor Laicks, the English Nation to this Day had lain buried in the Aegyptian, and worse than Aegyptian, Darkness of Popery.—It is well known, that, when the Calling of that infamous [Page 114]Assembly the Council of Trent was proposed at Norim­berg, in the Year 1522, all the Estates of Germany desired and insisted, that Admittance might be granted unto Laymen as well as Clergymen, to be, not only Spectators and Witnesses, but also Judges in the Council: Which being refused, they would not come unto it, but published the Reasons of their withdraw; one of which was, because Laymen were not allowed to vote among them. And what learned Englishman is there that can be ignorant, how our learned WHITAKER, our excellent JUEL, our skilful and industrious WIL­LET and other Writers of our Nation, in writing against the Romanists, maintain the Right of Laicks to sit and judge in Ecclesiastical Councils? And, as the most famous Councils and Synods in the Churches of the Reforma­tion have admitted such Members in them; so, in the primitive Times and the Ages next unto the Apostles, it is unquestionable that such had not only Seats, but Votes in Councils allowed them: And, even in as late a Council as that of Calcedon, we find seven Earls, ten Senators and others, besides Ecclesiasticks.

But, in Truth if there were no Instances or Examples of this, this is very plain and evident, that the Divine Spirit sometimes and very frequently bestows such Gifts on the Brotherhood as render them worthy to be heard and make it fit that they should declare their Judgment: So that the Reason of the Thing requires, that their Gifts should not be despised, but that they should have the Liberty of exercising them freely upon requisite Occasions.

And Natural Justice, besides, supplies us with an Argument in Defence of the Brethren's Right to sit and act in Councils: For nothing can be more fit and just and equal, than that the common Cause of all the Chur­ches should be determined by the Votes and Suffrages of the Churches: And, inasmuch as the HOLY SPIRIT with His influences is not confined to any particular sort of Men in the Churches, it is fit that every Brother should exercise freely the Gifts which he has freely received: For [Page 115]that which concerneth all ought to be handled in some good Measure or Degree by all who are qualified: And, as the Faith of Christians, as well as what should be their Practice, is a Matter of universal Concern­ment; therefore the Brethren, who are qualified as be­fore, should in Councils have their Share in discussing these Things and giving their Determinations upon them.

Furthermore; As the Scripture is the Supreme Judge of all Controversies in Religion and the infallible Rule of all Judgment; and as they who sit and act in Coun­cils and Synods are only to be Interpreters and Ex­plainers of what is contained in the Word of GOD, therefore the Brethren, as well and as much as their Officers, may give their Judgment in Councils and Sy­nods. And indeed the Opinion of one Layman, which is agreable to the Scriptures, is to be preferred before the solemn Judgment of an whole Council of Clergy­men which is contradictory to them. SO GRATIAN acknowleges, that the Authority of JEROM supported by the sacred Scripture is to be valued before that of an whole general Council (q): SO PANORMITAN, tho' an Abbot, writes, that the Opinion of even one Idiot, well guarded with Testimonies from the Scripture is altogether preferable to the Decrees of an whole Council or the Pope (r), which are not consonant with them: And GERSON maintains, that every Man of Learning may and ought to resist or withstand and whole Council, if be sees that they err either thro' Ignorance or Malice (ſ). And this is a good Argument in Favour of the Bre­thren's Right to sit and act in Councils: For what is the pretended Reason, why Bishops and Elders should be chiefly called to Councils? Why truely it is said, that they are generally more wise and learned than their [Page 116]Neighbours and therefore they should especially be employed: But it must be confessed, that it is often, otherwise: And therefore, if there can be found any Laymen more learned than their Ministers or equally wise, there can be no good Reason why they should not be called to Councils and act and judge in them, in all Respects equally with their Ministers.

Nor, in fine, is primitive Antiquity a Stranger to this Liberty of the Fraternity. I could quote numerous Passages out of the Historians EUSEBIUS, SOZOMEN and THEODORET, from which it appears, that not only Bishops or Ministers, but Laymon also, were not only present in Councils, but also spake their Minds and argued and gave their Determinations. But it is suffici­ent for our present Purpose, that, from the Acts of ancient Councils, it is very manifest that the Brethren voted and acted in them: In the first Council of Nice, not only Bishops and Elders sat and judg'd, but the Laity also had equal Liberty with them: And a Lay­man in the Presence of the whole Council, disputing with a Pagan Philosopher, overcame him and converted him to the Christian Faith (t). Laymen, as well as Bishops, Elders and Deacons, represented the Churches to which they belong'd in the Synod of Antioch, which condemn'd PAULUS SAMOSETANUS (u): And the Faithful [...] Asia condemned the Montanists (v): And at a great S [...]od held at Carthage (w), there were present Eighty seven Bishops, Presbyters and Deacons, with a great Part of the Laity (x): Nay Cardinal CUSANUS acknowleges, that Emperors and their Judges, who were Laymen were present and acted in the eight Councils which are called general (y): And even NICHOLAS the Pope [Page 117]tells the Emperor MICHAEL to the same Purpose; and he adds, that the Faith is universal and common, be­longing not only to the Clergy, but also to the Laity and to all who are Christians(z).

Upon such Grounds and Reasons as these, the Chur­ches in New-England have asserted the Right of the Peo­ple to sit and act in Synods in their Platform of Church-Discipline: And agreable to these Principles, as well as the concurring Practice of the Primitive Churches, these Churches have always allow'd the Brethren their full Liberty in Councils. And it is worthy to be re­marked, that in the Synod of these Churches, convened in the Year 1679, some Elders came from some parti­cular Churches to represent them without any Brethren: at which the Synod was so far dissatisfied, that they would not suffer those Pastors to sit with them, until they had prevailed with their Churches to send some Brethren along with them: For they were very jealous of allow­ing any Thing, that might look like an Infringement of that Liberty which by Divine Institution belongs to particular Churches.

But, if any shall remain dissatisfied upon this Head, after all that has bin offered; I must beg leave to refer them for the more full Display and Confirmation of it to a learned Disquisition concerning Ecclesiastical Councils, which was publish'd by my Grandfather Dr. INCREASE MATHER;wherein there is enow said to satisfy any reasonable Man concerning this Right of the Brethren for which I have bin pleading.

These Churches in New-England have never con­vened in a General Synod but upon the Motion of the Civil Magistrate to consider of Affairs wherein all the Churches were concerned: But they suppose, notwith­standing this, that they have a full Liberty to meet in Synods, without the Direction of the Civil Magistrate: For such a Liberty the primitive Churches had before [Page 118]CONSTANTINE ascended the Imperial Throne: And surely no Christian Prince has any Right to hinder these Churches in the Exercise of this Liberty, when they judge it requisite for the preserving of their Peace and good Order.

And this will more especially appear, if it be con­sidered, that the Synods of these Churches are not like those of other Churches: For they have no Weapons but what are spiritual: They neither pretend to nor desire any Power that is juridical: If they can but instruct and persuade, they gain their End: But, when they have done all, the Churches are still free to accept or refuse their Advice: As they have no secular Power to enforce their Canons, they neither ask nor desire its Aid. And, since these Synods are such innocent and inoffensive Things, none, that have any due Information concerning them, can reasonably object against their Meeting to­gether or forbid them, without a manifest Invasion of the common Liberties of Mankind.

I have said, that these Churches, when they meet in Synods, claim to themselves no Juridical Power: For they are of the celebrated CHAMIER'S Opinion, that the Determination of a Council or Synod is persuasive, not compulsive; a ministerial Judgment, not bringing along with it any Authority and Necessity; and so a decisive Suffrage not in itself, but as it is taken out of the Scrip­ture(&): And they can heartily fall in with the De­claration of the famous HOMMIUS, that the Decrees of Councils ought not to be propounded to the Churches or ob­truded upon them, as Praetorian Saying or Persian De­crees, but should be sent unto them, that they may examine them by the Rule of GOD'S Word (a): And it is with [Page 119]Pleasure that they read the free and honest Confessions of Dr. BURNET, that the Determinations of Councils, whether the greater or less, seem to him to be little differ­ent from the Decrees of Senates or Courts, or from the Opinions of learned Men concerning certain Matters pro­posed for them to consult upon; to which indeed a due Regard ought to be paid: But, he adds, as for any Obli­gation that lies upon us to receive any Opinions concerning sacred Matters and embrace them as Articles of Faith; every Man's Conscience is to be his Judge in the last Ap­peal, GOD being the Witness to his Sincerity. Doctors, or Congregations of Doctors, may err as grossly as any others, and build upon a Foundation of Hay or Straw, empty and combustible Matter. This I constantly and firmly believe, that, since the Times of the Aposiles, there has bin no in­fallible Tribunal here below: Nothing of equal Authority, of equal Certainty with the sacred Writings, neither De­termination of Council nor oral Tradition; and that Men's Consciences cannot so far be bound by the Opinions of any Persons whatever, but that there remains in private Per­sons the Judgment of Discretion, which is to be directed by the Rule of holy Scripture(b), &c. Thus he writes, and much more to the same Purpose. And, if we consult many other learned Writers of the Church of England, we shall find Cause to conclude them to be against the Power and Jurisdiction of Councils, and that they are for Concord rather than Regimen or Government. Thus in the Scheme of Church-Government, drawn up by the eminently learned Dr. USHER, Arch-Bishop of Armagh. there is not ascribed to Synodical Conventions any proper Jurisdiction over any Parochial Church. And, whereas some asfirm the Diocesan Church to be a single one of the lowest Sort, and that whatever Power, A [...]hority or Jurisdiction belongs to a particular Church of the lowest Rank belongs to the Diocesan Church; now This the famous Dr. BARROW has endeavoured to prove to be [Page 120]independent: So that, if the Bounds of particular Chur­ches be made Parochial, it must needs follow, that what is said to belong to the Diocesan Church must be seated on the Parish Church. And, if so, what will become of the superiour juridical Power? And the worthy Reforming Bishops CRANMER, TONSTAL and others, being required to give their Opinion concerning the Authority of General Councils, freely declared, that this Authority did not flow from the Number of the Bishops, but the Matter of their Decisions: So that, by this, they could never by their Authority make an indifferent Thing to become a Duty: But, as GROTIUS expresses it, proeant ipsi Judicio directivo, they may shew Men what they apprehend to be Sin and Duty; not, like Parliaments, make any Thing sinful or a Duty which was not so before.—But having occasionally mention'd GROTIUS, I would take the Occasion here to mention it, that [in his Book. De Imperio Sum. Potestat. p. 168.] he has fully proved that there was never a truely General Council called, excepting that at Jerusalem, that Councils have no governing or legislative Power by Divine Right, and that what was written in Synods for the sake of Order are not called Laws, but Canons, and have the Force of Advice only, or oblige by Way of Consent and Agreement. But to return, I would cite a Passage from the learned Mr. RICHARD HOOKER, wherein he delivers, not only his own par­ticular Judgment, but, as he apprehended, the Judg­ment of the Church of England: The Passage of this zealous Assertor of the Church's Authority to which I refer, is to be seen in his celebrated Book of Ecclesiasti­cal Polity, and is as follows; I grant, says he, that Proof derived from the Authority of Man's Judgment is [...]t able to work that Assurance, which doth grow by a stronger Proof; and therefore, altho' ten thousand General Councils should set down one and the same definitive Sen­tence concerning any Point of Religion whatsoever; yet one demonstrative Reason alledged or one Testimony cited [Page 121]from the Word of GOD Himself to the Contrary could not chuse but oversway them all: Inasmuch as for them to be deceived it is not so impossible, as it is that Demon­strative Reason or Divine Testimony should deceive.

And yet, after all, it is of very little Consequence unto us, who are for or against a Juridical Power in Synods or Councils: It is enow for us, that we have weigh­ty and unto us sufficient and satisfactory Reasons against allowing such a Power unto them. And the Reasons, which have moved these Churches to give into these Sentiments, are such as these: We know, that our Lord JESUS CHRIST is the supreme Teacher sent from GOD, and that His Word is the supreme Law of Christians, altogether infallible, and that therefore our last Appeal ought to be to that: We think, that all the Power, which any Servants of CHRIST ought to have in the Churches, is ministerial only, and not Proetorian: Our Opinion is, that, if the Embassadors of earthly Princes may not exceed the Instructions of their Mas­ters, much less may any Ministers, or Embassadors of the Prince of Peace go beyond the Directions of their great LORD and Master: It is our Judgment, that, if the Determinations of Councils be founded upon the Opi­nions of Men, weak and fallible Men, and not upon the Truth of GOD'S Word, the blessed GOD would be contrary to HIMSELF: For how can it be con­sistent for Him, to define and appoint one Thing in the Scripture, and to determine otherwise in a Council? And, in fine, We are confirmed in these our Sentiments from the Practice of all lawful Councils: For we find in the Apostolical Council, JAMES answered, saying, Men and Brethren, hearken to me: SIMEON hath de­clared, how GOD at first did visit the Gentiles to take out of them a People for his Name: And to this agree the Words of the Prophets, as in Act. XV. 14 and 15. And, agreable to this, has bin the Practice of other approved Councils: For, so says ATHANASIUS, in the Council of Nice, the Faith of the Fathers was [Page 122]delivered according to the Scriptures(c): And A [...]ore expresses himself to the same Effect (d): And we find, that the Milevitan Council decides the Controver [...]e [...] raised by PELAGIUS only from the sacred Soripture: And other Councils besides have followed the same Method.

But, if any Councils should swerve from the Scrip­tural Directions and Rules, still we should appeal to the Law and to the Testimony and consult the Mind of our Heavenly Father in His unerring Oracles: So BRENTIUS thought; and therefore, when COCHLAEUS, in urging the Invocation of Saints, pleaded, that what the Church our Mother had said upon this Matter was to be heard, BRENTIUS made this wise Reply, What, said He, if my good Father hath commanded me otherwise! Quid si Pater diversum proecipiat!

Some of our Brethren, we are fully sensible, think it not enow for Councils to persuade and give Advice, but want something more for them; nor can they be pleased, unless they have them clothed with a binding juridical Power: But to these our Brethren it is suffici­ent to say, that, if they would have this Power of bind­ing and giving Law in indifferent Things, they are for exceeding the Bounds of the Commission which was given to the Apostles themselves: And a larger Commission than theirs cannot with any Modesty be challenged by Elders, Synods or Churches. But, if this binding Power be desired and pleaded for only in Essential Matters, then we may proceed and argue thus, that, as Synods may meet to communicate Light and Peace to such Persons or Churches as are erronious or contentious, they may also at the same Time have Power not only to give Light and Counsel, but likewise to require them in the Name of JESUS CHRIST to attend and conform to the same: But, after all, we must suppose that the [Page 123] [...]crees and Results of Councils are formed upon Scriptured Grounds: And, if so, then all the Authority, to which [...]nds may pretend, is only declarative: And then this Question will unavoidably arise, whether the P [...]ssages, upon which their Decrees and Results were founded, were well understood and properly applied or no? And, if it shall be honestly conceived, that they had not a good Understanding of the Scriptures, then, according to all the Principles of Reason and of Protestantism, their Decrees can have no such binding Authority: If therefore Infalli­bility be a pure Cheat, the Pretence of a binding juridical Authority in Councils and Synods must be so too; and such an unnatural Consequence of Ecclesiastical Power in any Hands whatsoever must be entirely unreasonable.

Many, we are aware, are forward to contend, that Councils and Synods are not so liable to err as particular Churches, and that therefore Appeals should in all Cases be preferred unto them: This is the Reason, which the celebrated RUTHERFURD gives for such Appeals. And, if this be the Reason of such Appeals, it will then follow, that the greatest Assemblies should err the seldomest, inasmuch as they have most Eyes, and so Appeals should be frequently made in difficult Cases unto them: So that, by this Rule, all Matters of Importance will be brought before General and Oecumenical Councils: And what shall we say to these plausible Arguings?

In Answer to them, I could argue and urge it, that, according to this Method and Rule of Proceeding, Causes would be too long depending, and probably would never come to an Issue: Whereas we think, that out blessed SAVIOUR has made a better Provision for His Churches than this: But, instead of pressing this Argu­ment, I would observe, that whole Synods and General Councils are as liable to deceive and be deceived and im­posed on as particular Churches.

This is evident from Fact: For not to insist con­ [...]ning the Members and Managements of that famous Synod, which the good old PAREUS wanted so [...]ch [Page 124]to see (f) I would not maintain here, that the Chur­ches could not well be represented by them: in­asmuch as the Synod consisted of Seventeen Delegarts who were appointed not by the Churches, but by the Orders General of the united Provinces, and of Eighty three Ministers or Elders or Divines of the united Pro­vinces and from foreign Parts. Nor would I dw [...]ld upon the Testimony of Dr. BALCANQUAL, that he must needs say the Remonstrants had no Favour shewn them (g): Much less would I mention the Declaration of EPISCOPIUS concerning Them before the Synod, that. They were brought forth tanquam in publici Odi [...] Victimas(h), as Victims of the publick Hatred: These are tender Points: And I therefore let them go. Yet I cannot omit one Thing determined in this Synod: By This I mean the Decree of the Synod concerning the Question moved by those of Amsterdam about the Baptism of a Child born of Ethnic Parents: Now this Decision consisted of two Parts: The first concerned Adulis, and was this, that such as were of Years and Capacity should be diligently taught and catechized, and then, if they did desire it, they should be baptized: The Second concerned Infants, and it was, that until they came to Years of Discretion they should by no Means be baptized: Upon which Decree the memorable and ju­dicious Mr. HALES, who was a Member of the Synod, writes to the Right Honourable My Lord Embaffador CARLTON, A strange Decision; and such as, if my Memory or Reading fails me not, no Church either ancient or modern ever gave (i).—But not to dwell upon what was amiss in this Synod, or in any other; I proceed to write concerning the Errors, Mistakes and Miscon­duct [Page 125]of some of the Conventions, which they call Ge­neral Councils.

Now it is certain and undoubted, that there was a remarkable Cheat put upon the whole [...]eneral Council at Ariminum by VALENS and [...]RSA [...] and some few other Eastern Bishops, who in the Decree of the N [...]cene Council read omoiousios for omoousios (e) And it is also evident from Fact, that some of the greatest Councils may use many mean and trickish Arts: Such to be sure were used in the great Council at Basil in the Year 1431, which ended in the Year 1442, in which the Bohemians for four Days pleaded four Arti­cles, namely, the Sacraments in both Kinds, correcting public Crimes, Liberty to preach GOD'S Word, and con­cerning the Civil Power of the Clergy: And, in this famous Council, after many Petitions and some fair Promises and hopeful Approaches upon them, the B [...]hemians could not obtain their Desire in one Instance; bitten Tricks were continually devised to elude their Hopes and Expectations, and Inconveniences that would follow upon such Concessions powerfully argued. —And Father PAUL of Venice, like a wise and honest Man, has plainly declar'd the many Quirks and Tricks of the accursed Cabal, commonly called the Council of Trent.

And, that General Councils are not infallible, may be easily demonstrated from undoubted Histories: Thus the largest Council that ever was known established Arianism: And thus That, which the Papists call the Seventh General Council, was such an one, that the good and excellent Dr. TILLOTSON remark'd concerning it, that, if a General Council of Atheists had met together within Design to abuse Religion by talking ridiculously concerning it, they could not have done it more effectu­ally(k). Thus in the third Council of the Lateran it [Page 126]was decreed, that all Princes who favored Heret [...]ks did forseit their Rights, and a full Indulgence was all [...]d to all that fought against them: And, in the fourth Council at the same Place, it was decreed, that the, Pope might declare this Forfeiture and absolve their Subjects from their Oath of Allegiance and so transfer their Domini­ons unto others. In the first Council at Lyons they joined with the Pope in deposing the Emperor FREDE­RIC the first by a Sentence against him: And in the Council of Constance, which LUTHER judged to be most deserving of Reproach (a), it was decreed, that the Faith [or Promise] of safe Conduct was not to be kept with an Heretic, that should come to the Place of Judg­ment rolying upon it, &c.

We may say therefore, and bring the Confession of an English Synod in HERBERT'S History to vouch for our saying it, that there is not, nor can be any Thing in the World more pestilent or pernicious to be Commonwealth of Christendom, or whereby the Truth of GOD'S Word hath bin in Times past, or may be sooner defaced or sub­verted, or whereof may ensue more Contention or Discord or other Devilish Effects, than when General Council have bin or shall be hereafter assembled, not christianly not charitably, but upon worldly or carnal Considerations. And we may take leave to add, that the Observation which Dr. WAKE, the late learned Arch-Bishop of Canterbury has made concerning some Synods will hold [...]od concerning all General Councils also, namely, that ‘there is hardly any Thing in Antiquity, which either more exposed our Christian Profession heretofore, or may more deserve our serious Consideration at this Day, than the Violence, the Passion, the Malice, the Falseness and the Oppression, which reigned in most of the Synods held by CONSTANTINE and the following Emperors. Thus he. And Dr. BURNET justly [Page 127]observes, that the Writers of the fourth and fifth Cen­turies give us dismal Representations of the Councils of those Times: And besides, there is Roason to think that Truth and Right may sometimes be found with one single Person as soon as in a Council: SO CYPRIAN, in his Seventy first Epistle, allows, that many Things are better revealed to single Persons: Nay we have a Proof of this in the first Council of Nice, which is reputed the best of any; for there had certainly bin issued a Canon for divercing married Priests, if the old PAPHNUTIUS had not ftood up and reasoned against it.

The Church of England has well determined in its nineteenth Article, that the Churches of Jerusalem, Alexandria, Antioch and Rome have erred in Points of the greatest Consequence: And, in the twenty first Arti­cle, that General Councils may err.

But yet, supposing that a General Council were infal­lible, we must then conclude, that the Church has now lost its Infallibility: For, as there has bin no such Coun­cil for many Scores of Years, there is also no Likeli­hood of another: And, if there might be one, the many Villanies in Trent may sufficiently instruct the World that no Good is to be expected from such a Council.

Upon the whole then; Since even General Councils may trick and be trick'd, and are as liable to err as a Synod or even a particular Church; Mankind must be very stupid indeed to think, that they should have a binding Power and may force their Decrees upon any Society or Person.

But yet, if after all it should be allowed for Argu­ment's sake, that such Councils were infallible and all their Decrees were entirely agreable to the Mind of GOD; ir will not nevertheless appear, that they have any juri­dical Power at all: For, if we grant them a Doctrinal Power, by which they could unerringly clear up the Mind of GOD our SAVIOUR, still the Power of Juris­diction, as has bin already explained, would remain in [Page 128]the particular Churches, wherein CHRIST JESUS has placed the same: And indeed this is no more than what that excellent Presbyterian Mr. RUTHERFURD is rea­dy to acknowlege, as I have before quoted him.

In fine; The Way of these Churches has bin, and it is the best Way that can be observed, to enquire where our blessed SAVIOUR has placed the last Censuring and final Determination of Causes: And, having found this, they ought to rest contented: Councils and Synods, when Ad­vice and Assistance is needed, may be used by them; but it is not either their not Erring at all or their Erring more rarely, that is a sufficient Reason for placing any Power of Jurisdiction in them, unless our great LORD and Master has ordered that they shall have such a Power: But, as yet, this does not appear.

Wherefore it is to be hoped, that the Brethren in these Churches will always maintain their Right to sit and act in Councils and Synods; but yet that they will never think of placing any juridical Power in them, but will always continue to assert the Powers and Privileges of particular Churches, which are sacred Things, by no means to be slighted and undervalued, nor to be left at the Mercy of any Classes or Councils, Synods or General Meetings.

I was going to translate and conclude this Chapter with the Translation of some Passages from LUTHER'S Preface to the four German Epistles of the worthy JOHN HUSS; but I believe They will sound better in the plain and blunt Language of the Writer, and there­fore I chuse to give them as I find them.

—Having mentioned some of the vile and mis­chievous Consequences of the Council of Constance; He then writes (o) Hi scilicet sunt dulces illi Fructus, quas, Constantiense Concilium tam venerabile, imo execrabile, protulit. Quare merito de Eo Exemplum sumeremus, [...] deinceps, si quod Concilium fieret, tam perversis & insanis [Page 129]Asinis—Causam Religionis committeremus. Quin imo Imperatoris, Regum, Principum & Episcoporum erit, summa Cura summoque Studio cavere, ne vel similia sint, vel deteriora futuri Concilii Acta. Satis enim, opinor, manifeste DEUS in Concilio illo Constantienfi declaravit, quam non possit ullam ferre Superbiam, quamque sibi ju­tundum sit dispergere superbos mente Cordis sui, quan­tumvis etiam illi in hoc Mundo Potentia polleant. — Qui igitur, hoc Exemplo edoctus, non vult fieri cautior, ei cum a me praemonitus sit, liberum esto, ut, facto Peri­culo, re ipsa Perversitatem illorum experiatur. The plain Sense of which Passages, in short, is, that we ourselves and the Rest of the World shall be much to blame, if, after the Observations which have bin made with regard to the Managements of Synods or General Councils, we shall be so unadvised as to trust them and commit the Cause of Religion to them.

[Page 130]

Chapter VIII. The Liberty of these Churches to hold Communion with one another asserted and proved.

THrough the Favour of our blessed SAVIOUR, His Churches may hold Communion with one ano­ther: For, altho' no particular Church is subject to another particular Church of however large an Extent, as the Churches in the united Provinces have bin so free as to declare with us in the first Article of their Ecclesiastical Constitution; yet all the Churches may enjoy mutual and reciprocal Communion among themselves: And there are several Ways, wherein this Communion may be regularly and laudably exercised; some of which have in some Measure bin considered or hinted at be­fore; but yet there will be no great Hurt in making a particular Mention of them here and giving a fair Description and Recommendation of them.

First of all; These Churches may partake with one another at the LORD'S Table; and the Members of one Church, coming occasionally to another where the [...]uonarist is to be administred, may at their Desire be admitted to the Privilege of partaking in that holy Ordinance; provided, that neither they, nor the Chur­ches to which they belong, are chargeable with any scandalous Offence: For we are for receiving the Com­munion in all the Assemblies of the Faithful, as well as in the particular Churches to which we belong; con­sidering the LORD'S Supper as the Seal of our Com­munion both with JESUS CHRIST and His faithful People.

[Page 131] Nextly; Encouraged by the Example of the Apostle PAUL, who recommended PHEBE a Member of the Church at Cenchrea to the Church at Rome; these Churches may recommend their Brethren to Neighbour Churches, giving a good Testimony concerning them and entreating the Neighbour Churches to receive them to their sacred Fellowship and to watch over them in Brotherly Love: And, if any Brother have real Occa­sion, either on the Account of his Business or for any other just End and Motive, to remove with his Family and take up his Abode in some other Place, and here­upon acquaints the Church to which he belongs of his Purpose and the Grounds of his Removal; the Church may then write more full Letters of Recommendation to the Church to which he removes, resigning him to their Charge and entreating them to receive him as a Brother and allow him all the Privileges of the Ecclesiastical State among them: And, when, according to the Tenour of such Letters recommendatory, the recom­mended Brother is accepted into the Fellowship of the Church, he is to all Intents and Purposes a Member of that Church; so that he may perform the Duties and enjoy the Privileges of a Member in that Society.— Such Letters of Recommendation the Apostle PAUL speaks of in his Second Epistle to the Corinthians, Chap. III. Verse 1, as needful for others, tho' not for him­self.— And besides it is reasonable in itself, that none, without any Recommendations from the Churches to which they belong, should claim or be allowed the Privileges of Societies to which they have no Relation or do not properly appertain.

Thirdly; If any particular Church, that for a con­siderable Time has walked in the Fear of GOD and the Comforts of the HOLY SPIRIT, has bin edified and multiplied to such a Degree as to be overcharged with Members; they may send forth their Members that are qualified for it to enter into an Ecclesiastical State among themselves: And by the same Reason, if a Number of [Page 132]Christians should come from foreign Parts to a Place where the Church may be so full that they cannot con­veniently join with it, that Church may warrantably encourage them to enter into an holy Combination among themselves: For such a Propagation of Churches is agreable to Nature and Reason, consonant with the Practice of the Apostles and indeed necessary for the Enlargement of our SAVIOUR'S Kingdom in all Na­tions and Generations to the End of the World.

Fourthly; When particular Churches have Occasion of spiritual Refreshment or temporal Succour, Neighbour Churches may afford it: They may furnish them with able Members or spare suitable Officers to them; and, if they can conveniently send such to their indigent Neigh­bours, they ought with Readiness to impart them: For so, when Tidings came to the Ears of the Church at Jeru­salem, [concerning the Success of the Gospel] they sent forth BARNABAS that he should go as far as Antioch, as in Act. XI. 22: And it is entirely fit, that such Churches as are full of useful Members and Officers should be ready from their Fulness to supply the Necessities of their Brethren in other Churches. — And, if any of our Brethren should fall into such poor external Circumstances that they cannot support themselves and the Gospel, it is then our Duty to minister to their Necessities as GOD shall enable us: For so the Churches of the Gentiles made their liberal Contributions for the poor Saints at Jeru­salem, as in Rom. XV. 26 and 27; where also the Reasonableness of their so doing is declared: And to be sure both Reason and Religion challenge it from Chur­ches to do Good and communicate to such Brethren and Churches as are destitute.

Fifthly: These Churches may lawfully consult with one another and ought to do so as Occasion requires: For it is very probable, that other Churches may be better acquainted with Persons and Causes than ourselves; and therefore their Judgment and Counsel ought to be required. Thus particularly, when a new Church is to be gathered, [Page 133]or Officers are to be chosen and ordained over any Church, or there is some Difference among the Brethren about the Administration of the Censures of the Churches, it is fit and proper to consult with Neighbour Churches; and Neighbour Churches should be ready to send their Elders and other Delegates to help them with their Advice and Counsel.— And, if any Church should want Light in any Case or should be at Variance, they should desire Neighbour Churches to favour them with their Counsel: Whereupon such Churches, convening by their Elders and other Messengers, may consider the Points in Doubt or in Controversy; and, having accord­ing to their best Understanding and Endeavours sought the Way of Truth and Peace, they may communicate by Letters and Messengers their Sentiments and Advice to the Churches whose Case has bin under their attentive and prayerful Consideration, that so, if they see meet, they may conform to the same and be at Peace.

These are some of the Ways and Mannors, wherein Churches are to shew their Care of one another and ex­press their Communion with each other: But to these there is another to be added: And the Sixth Way, wherein Churches are to exercise Communion towards one another, is the Way of Communion by Admonition: This is called the third Way of Communion in our Plat­form of Church-Discipline, Chap. XVth: And, from that Chapter, it appears, that this Method is to be fol­lowed, when any public Offence is to be found in a Church, which they either discern not or are slow in proceeding to use the means for the Removing and Healing of it.— I have reserved the Consideration of this Way to this Place, that so I might enlarge upon it, for the Instruc­tion of such as are unacquainted with it, for the confirming of such as are wavering in their Apprehensions about it, and that I might help towards removing the Prejudices of such as have distinguished themselves by their Op­position unto it.

[Page 134] If therefore there be any Corruption in any Church whether in Doctrine or Manners; a particular Church in the Neighbourhood, having received a credible Account of it and having upon diligent Enquiry found the Re­port to be true, they send Letters or Messengers or both to the Church wherein such Corruption is arisen and prevailing, and admonish them with Faithfulness and Speed to amend it: If now the Elder or Elders of the Church should be so remiss as not to communicate their Admonition, or should actually be in Fault themselves, the offended Church should acquaint the Brethren of the Church offending with the Fault and exhort them to call upon their Elders to take heed that they fulfil their Mi­nistry which they have received of the LORD: If the Church shall hear the Admonition and remove the Scandal, the Process stops: But, if the corrupt and peccant Church hear not their Brethren; the Church, which has bin offended and continues to be grieved, then takes the Help of two or three more Churches, that so the Admonition dispensed may by them be jointly en­forced: And, if the Church lying under public Offence still persist both in the Neglect of their Duty and their Slight of the good Counsel and Admonition of their Bre­thren; those Churches may forbear Communion with the offending Church in such Exercises as Churches usually maintain towards each other; and they are to make Use of the Help of a Synod or a large Council of Congrega­tional Churches for their Conviction: And, if they bear not this Synod or Council, the Council or Synod having declared them obstinate and impenitent in Scandal, par­ticular Churches approving and accepting the Judgment of the Synod or Council, are to declare the Sentence of Non-Communion respectively concerning them, and thereupon, out of a religious Care to keep their own Communion pure, they may justly withdraw themselves from Participation with them at the LORD'S Table and from such other Acts of Fellowship as are otherwise allow'd and required by the Communion of Churches: But however due Care [Page 135]is to be taken in such a Process, that the Innocent may not suffer with the Offensive: For, while the peccant Party is to be deprived of the Privilege of Communion with these Churches, those particular Members of the offending Church, who do not consent to the Offence of the Church but in due Sort bear their Testimony against it, may be received to wonted Communion in the Churches, and, after due Waiting in the Use of Means for healing the Offence of the Church, may withdraw from the Com­munion of their own Church, with the Allowance of the Council of Neighbour Churches, and upon offering them­selves to the Communion of another Church, may be law­fully received by that Church, as if they had bin regularly dismiss'd unto them from their own Church continuing still in Offence.

This is what is commonly called the third Way of Communion in these Churches, but it would be better understood perhaps, if we called it the Way of Commu­nion by Admonition. It must be acknowleged to the Glory of GOD our SAVIOUR, that, altho' this Disci­plinary Process has bin several Times undertook with offending Churches, these Churches have but rarely bin put to the utmost Extent of their Duty: For there has hardly bin a Church so daringly wicked as to hold out in maintaining the Corruptions and Offences found among them: But, whenever it does fall out, it is as much the Duty of these Churches thus to be faithful to each other as it is the Duty of Brethren in the same Church or Communion to be faithful to one another: For these Churches enjoy Brotherly Communion with one another, as well as Brethren of the same Church. The Apostles had the Care of all the Churches: But it is to be hoped, that the public Spirit of Love and Peace and Christian Faithfulness is not dead with them: There is not, it is true, so much of this Spirit as there ought to be: But, wherever it resides or reigns in Churches, they will have a watchful Eye over other Churches for their Benefit, and a tender Care and Concern for their [Page 136]best Interests, and will pursue the same in the Discipli­nary Method, which has bin described, as there shall be Occasion for it.

I am very sensible, that many Persons, and espe­cially Clergymen, are averse to a Compliance in the least with this Process of Discipline, and that for this Reason; because they do not know any such Thing as a Conso­ciation of Churches among us: So that, inasmuch as they do not know that there is any express Agreement of the Churches to conform to such a Process, they cannot think that every Church is obliged to regard the Determination of a Synod in such a Case.

In Answer to which Pretence, I would say, that it is doubtless a Mistake to declare, that there is no such Thing as a Consociation of Churches among us: For our Platform of Church-Discipline is to be deemed a Covenant, by which all our Churches and every Member in them is obliged to conform to the Rules, Directions and Orders laid down in it: And for the Proof of this I would observe, that this Platform was composed by these Churches in a Body Representative: So that the plain Sense and Meaning of the Composers must be, that they engaged to conform to the Rules and Orders of it, and that they would have their Successors, as well as themselves, directed and governed by them. Nor can I help observing, that Approbation (u)of our Platform was voted unanimously by the Elders and Brethren of our Churches; and there was not so much as one appear'd, [Page 137]when the Vote was put in the Negative in the Synod on Sept. 10.1679.

And besides, that this Order of Church-Discipline is to be deemed an holy Pact or Covenant, we may argue from those Synods and Councils which have met here by Vertue of it and maintained constant Fellowship in many foederal overt Acts: For, from these foederal overt Acts of Councils and Synods from Time to Time, it is pretty manifest, that these Churches have all along main­tained their first Principles of Church-Discipline and so have transmitted the Covenant which they made to suc­ceeding Generations.

Furthermore; It may be remarked, that in the Set­tlement of new Churches, in the Ordination of Officers in the same Churches, and in giving the Right Hand of Fel­lowship, of the Fellowship of the Churches, from Time to Time, these Churches have so often plainly, signifi­cantly and formally renewed their Original Pact or Covenant.

And it may, moreover, be mention'd, that even such Persons, as have made this Objection, when they can find any Thing in our Platform of Church-Discipline suited to their own Humours and Inclinations and that will be serviceable for a Turn or emergent Occasion, are very ready to cite, improve and conform to it: And this seems to afford some Evidence, as if they them­selves look'd upon it as a standing and general Compact, until the Churches shall agree to alter it.

These Hints are sufficient to render it probable, and more than probable, that there is here a Consociation of Churches, and that between these Churches there is still as mutual Confoederation: But, if to please some of our good Brethren it should be allow'd, that there is no such Compact between these Churches, nor any Consocia­tion of them; still it may be proved with Ease, that such a Process of Discipline, as has but now bin ex­plained, ought to be observed in these Churches.

[Page 138] I shall not here cice any Authority for the Proof of this; intending in an Appendix to this Book to reprint something referring to this Matter from Dr. INCREASE MATHER'S, my Grandfather's, Vindication of the Order of the Churches in New-England; but I shall briefly mention a Consideration or two, which will be sufficient to establish this Process of Discipline in the good Opinion of all such as are the true Friends of these Churches.

First of all; This Process is entirely agreable to the Nature and Design of the Gospel, as well as the Reason of Mankind: For what is it for one Church to admonish another on the Account of something judg'd to be amiss in their Society? It is only for a Neighbour Minister, or Elder, with a few of his Christian Brethren to pay a Visit to the Neighbour Church and humbly advise and exhort them to seek for the Restoration of Peace and to rectify their Errors whether in Judgment or Action. How rational and how Evangelical is this Method? What Assuming, what Domineering is there to be found in this? Truely, notwithstanding the frightful Dress in which this Process is represented, there is nothing more Authoritative in it, than one Bro­ther's admonishing another, according to the Rules of the Gospel as well as of right Reason.

Again; This Method is well calculated for preserv­ing the Reputation and Honour of particular Churches: For, as particular Christians, so particular Churches, are but Men and by Consequence are liable to Errors: But yet, as all Christians make an high Profession and therefore should be careful lest there should be any slur upon it; even so all particular Churches, which are corporate Societies making a splendid Profession of Christianity, ought carefully to maintain their Social Ho­nour: And therefore, as with particular Christian Bre­thren, so with particular Churches, fallen into Errors and Scandals, it would be wrong and injurious to take at once precipitate and open Measures: Nor indeed would exposing their Character openly at first be either a regular [Page 139]or a probable Method of effecting their Amendment: Wherefore, in order to preserve the Reputation and Honour of these Churches, it is vastly better, I mean more rational and scriptural, in the first place, to follow this private Method, to which by our Constitution also we are directed, than as the Manner of some is to bring the Affairs of a Church before a Council and to a public Hearing at once.

And, in fine, If this Disciplinary Method be not care­fully observed, these Churches have no Remedy at all against Male-Administrations in particular Churches: For I cannot find, that by the Constitution of these Churches the Power of calling Councils belongs to any particular Persons in them, but to the Churches them­selves: So that, according to this Constitution, if there be Male-Administration in any particular Church, the Aggrieved Members of it may not convoke such Assem­blies: But they should desire the Advice and Assistance of a Neighbour Church: And, unless one particular Church interpose in this State of Things and enquire into the Case in the Way of Communion by Admonition, particular Churches may remain at eternal Variance within themselves without shewing our Dislike of their Proceedings: For there is no other Process that we know of in the publish'd Order of our Churches, by which we can testify against them, but in this Discipli­nary Method.

But, after all, some of our good Brethren will con­tinue displeased with this Process of Discipline from a peaccable Disposition, as should seem from their Discourse about it: For they say, that they cannot by any means approve of this Disciplinary Method; because the Prose­cution of it will occasion great Disturbance and Confusion in Churches.

But, for Answer to these Persons, it may be worth the while to expostulate a little with them: Say then. Dear Brethren, why do you think that this Process should occasion more Trouble and Consusion than the [Page 140]Method of calling a Council by a few particular Persons, or even by one Person, dissatisfied or aggrieved? Or is it, because your own Administrations have bin irregular or-unsuitable, that you are therefore disaffected to this Process, from a prevalent Fear of Examination accord­ing to it? However, is not this Disciplinary Method so plainly prescribed in the Constitution of particular Con­gregational Churches that we must be Brownists or Nothing if we recede from it? And, in fine, if it should be so, as you say, that Churches will be disturbed in the Prosecution of this Method; yet can we suppose, that some Disturbance of the Churches in a sleepy and indolent State would be amiss and undesirable, if a more establish'd Order and a more comely Amendment may be occasion'd thro' this Disturbance in the Churches? Pray, dear Brethren, answer these Questions in the Spirit of Meekness, as they are proposed; that so, if our Fathers erred in the Prescription of this Method, the Churches may regularly use their Endeavours to get their Error rectified.

Upon the whole, and from the best Observations which I have bin able to make; I am free to declare my Apprehension, and I hope my Brethren will not be offended with me for making this Decla­ration, that the Neglect and Slight of this Rule of Discipline by the Pastors and Churches in this Go­vernment has bin the true Reason, if not the sole Cause, of the Disturbances and Confusions in many of our Churches, and that, as the great VOET observed with respect to the Want of Correspondence among the Chur­ches, I fear it much: Time will shew what will happen, when the Number of Churches is greatly encreased, and one will not bear another (x) Nay, without the Spirit of [Page 141]of Prophesy, I may venture to say, that, if this Method be neglected, those Things will fall and perish sooner than we imagine, which we thought and believed to be firm and lasting (z). And I cannot therefore but wish to GOD, that the great Head of the Church might so influence the Minds and Hearts of these Churches as to bring them to an entire Approbation of true Congre­gationalism, and of this Disciplinary Process in particular, by which alone Congregational Churches can be distin­guished from such as are Brownistical.

[Page 142]

THE CONCLUSION, in a brief Address to the Churches of NEW-ENGLAND.

THUS I have endeavoured to state and vindicate the more distinguishing Liberties of the Chur­ches in New-England. As these Privileges have bin purchased by the Blood of the LORD JESUS, they ought to be very precious in our Esteem, nor upon any Pretence whatsoever to be slighted and undervalued by the happy People who enjoy them.

It is worthy to be always remembred by these Chur­ches, that it was not on the Account of any peculiar Sentiments in Doctrinal Matters that our wise and good Fathers left their Native Countrey and came into this then howling Wilderness: For they agreed to the Doc­trinal Articles of the Church of England as much as the Conformists to that Parliamentary Church, and indeed much more so than most of them: But it was from a pure Respect to Ecclesiastical Discipline and Order and to a more refined Worship, that those excellent Men our Ancestors transported themselves, with their Families, into this Land.

The Church of Rome, as far as in them lies, have divested our great SAVIOUR of His Prophetical, Sacer­dotal and Kingly Offices: Other Churches have bin so far overcome by the Light of Reason and Revelation, that they have restored as one may say His Sacerdotal Office to Him and His Prophetical Office olso: But our graci­ous Predecessors, observing that their Brethen in Eng­land were not willing to allow our Lord JESUS CHRIST to be the King and Ruler of His Church, nobly resolv'd, [Page 143]as the Children of Zion, to acknowlege and rejoyce in their King: And hence they quitted their ungrateful Countrey, that so they might observe that refin'd Wor­ship and Order which their LORD and Sovereign had in His Word appointed to be observed.

It follows therefore, that any Degeneracies from the pure Worship and Scriptural Order in these Churches would be a direct Rejection of the Kingly Authority of CHRIST JESUS, and a Means of setting up another King or Captain to lead us backward, in the Steps we have taken from Babylon, towards it again: May GOD of His rich Grace therefore preserve these Churches from any such Degeneracies!

It is evident indeed, that great Pains are taken to draw our People, especially our inconsiderate young People, who are too unmindful of the King and GOD of their Fathers, from their Love and Attachment to those first Principles of these Churches, which I have bin ex­plaining and enforcing: But, as NABOTH said to AHAB concerning his Vineyard, in 1 King. XXI. 3, The LORD forbid it me, that I should give the Inheri­tance of my Fathers unto Thee; even so it is fit, that we should say to such as would entice us to part with the pure Order of these Churches, This was our Fa­ther's Inheritance: And GOD forbid, that any should persuade us to give up our inestimable Rights: For the very Thought of parting with them is shocking.

Dear People, The Liberties, which have bin chal­leng'd for you, are the same as the Brethren in the Times of primitive Christianity enjoyed for hundreds of Years together: And, whatever specious Pretences some may make to the contrary, the Dispossessing of the Brethren of these their valuable Liberties was a conside­rable Instance of the Romish Apostocy: And indeed they have but a slender Acquaintance with Ecclesiastical History who do not know, that the Rise of Popery was owing to the People's tamely giving up their Rights and Privileges, either thro' Ignorance or Imprudence, to [Page 144]the Clergy, who unreasonably engross'd to themselves and grasp'd in their own Clutches all Things in the Churches that were of any Worth and Importance.

There can be no Doubt, that there are many who are sworn and inveterate Enemies to the pure Order in these Churches; and, besides these, we have Reason to think that there are many false Friends to it; by which Sort I mean those that pretend some Regard to the Order of the Gospel in these Churches, but yet at the same Time would gladly subvert it: And it is well, if there are not sundry Ministers in these Churches, who are disaffected to it: For, as LUTHER has somewhere re­mark'd concerning Religion, Nunquam magis pericli­tur quam inter Reverendissimos; so it may be said with respect to the Order in these Churches: Probably it may be in most Danger from some of the Reverend Body.— But surely all such in these Churches are very unad­vised and blameworthy: And, if they are not duely sensible of the Tendency of their Disaffection and Under­takings, it is a Pity but their Brethren should, and carefully guard against them. And truely there cannot any Good be expected from them: For, as they do not produce a better Discipline and purer Order for our Churches in the Room of that, which they unreasona­bly dislike and would throw away; so, if they could produce and offer a better Order, which indeed is very unlikely, there is no rational Prospect of its gaining Ground among us, but with that Disturbance and Con­susion in our Churches, of which they at other Times are exceedingly fearful. But,

These Enemies to our Ecclesiastical Discipline and Order seem as if they knew not what they would have. The Scheme, which they would promote, is very far from Presbyterial: For, if one may judge by their Conduct, they seem to be fond of one Minister's Ruling and Governing his own Church without the Consent of the Brethren or any Elders in Conjunction with him: Whereas the London Ministers, in their Vindication of [Page 145]the Presbyterial Government, say, that for one Minister to assume such Power unto himself is to make himself a Congregational Pope.—Dear Brethren, let not these petty Popes then deprive you of your just Rights and invaluable Privileges: But, like your worthy Ancestors, continue fond of them: For it will be creditable and praise-worthy not to let them go: And it will, in the Style of PLINY, be a most honest Thing to follow the Footsteps of our Ancestors, if they have gone before us in a right Path (a).

And, when you observe any, who value themselves upon their Contempt of your establish'd Order and who often speak slightly of your Platform of Church-Disci­pline which is the Sum of it, Dear Brethren, Set a Mark upon these Persons; remembring, that better and wiser Men than they, even those worthy and famous Presbyterians, who publish'd their Jus Divinum about Eighty Years since, freely declare, that they agree with the Things of the greatest Concernment in it, and that their Debates about some Things of lesser Consequence were not [Contentiones] warm Disputes, but [Collationes] Friendly Conferences.

And, in fine, Much Honour'd and entirely Belov'd Churches; be pleased to accept of this Attempt of one, the most unworthy of your Sons; who, being set for the Defence of the Order of the Gospel among you, has endeavoured to illustrate and confirm that Order in its primitive Purity for your Advantage, and, from his Faithfulness to your best Interests, has dared to expose himself to many Misrepresentations, if not Reproaches and Abuses: And wherein he has fail'd of giving the true Sense of his and your Fathers, tho' from a diligent Search of their Meaning in Manuscripts and printed Composures he has endeavoured it, be pleased to im­pute [Page 146]it to humane Frailty and undesigned Mistaking: For into these alone his Failing must be resolved.

Ut desint Vires, tamen est laudanda Voluntas: Hac Ego [contentum] auguror esse [Deúm.] Ovid. de Pont. L. III. Eleg. 4.

The END of the Apology.
[Page 147]

The APPENDIX To the Apology for the Churches in New-England.

Part the first, containing some Evi­dences and Specimens of the Catholic and Comprehensive Principles of the New-English Churches.

IN the Thirty-fourth Page of the Preliminary Dis­course concerning CONGREGATIONAL CHURCHES I have observed, that, not only our Houses and Hearts, but our Churches also, are open to Baptists, Presbyteri­ans and Episcopalians, when in a Judgment of Charity we have Reason to think them of good Understand­ing, Piety and Vertue. Now, for the Proof of This, I shall recite some Particular, and then some more Ge­neral Testimonies to the Truth of it.

Number I.

I Have a Letter in my Hands, and the very Origi­nal Letter, of the learned and pious and facetious Mr. CHARLES MORTON of Charles-Town in New-England; a Letter to the Right Honourable HUGH BOSCAWEN, Esq which, as it gives a large and true [Page 148]Account of the Countrey and Churches in New-En­gland, I had some Thoughts of Printing: But, finding that it will take up more Room than can well be allow'd, I shall therefore only select a few Paragraphs from it. And, if any upon the Sight of These should want to see the Remainder of the Letter, I would here acquaint them, that I have it in my Library and shall he ready to give them the Sight of it. The Paragraphs are as follow:

—Give me Leave, Sir, to acquaint you, that I am now in a Countrey, which has bin a friendly Asylum to me: It gave me a kind Reception, when my Native Land did in a Manner push me out. — It's my humble Petition to your Honour, that you would be­come a vigorous Patron for the People of GOD in these remote Lands. — GOD has a great People here, an able and pious Ministry, and a great many well order'd Chur­ches. Their Church Government is interpendant, as their witty Mr. WARD called it. — I have bin called to some of their Councils and have seen their good Effect in healing the Breaches of disturbed Churches. Their Ordination to the public Ministry is solemn by the Pastors of Neighbour Churches: And, tho' their Custom has bin a new Imposition of Hands upon every new Call to the Exercise of the Ministry; yet to us, who came from Europe, Mr. BAYLEY and myself, it was abated. And, for ought I can perceive, they mind more the Substance of Religion than the Circumstances of some Men's private Opinions (x). Their public Worship in Praying, Singing and Preaching is plain, but grave and solemn, and, I hope, sincere. — The Influence of a Religious Profession upon common and outward Con­versation is very great: So that lewd Profaneness did never openly appear, till a wretched Crew of Frigateers and Red Coats came among us. — I write not all this, [Page 149]as if Men were here perfect: For then there were no need of Magistracy, Ministry or Gospel Ordinances for their Edification: But certainly, Sir, if GOD has a Peo­ple on the Face of the Earth and any Part of the World may be called Emanuel's Land, New-England may well put in for a notable Share in that Denomina­tion. — If your Honour will afford your Assistance to these Gentlemen, I hope you will never have Cause to repent it. GOD has heretofore blessed the Friends of New-England and blasted all her Adversaries. May the GOD of Heaven so establish your Affairs, as may raise the Hopes of us your Dependants! May His Wisdom guide your Counsels and His Power be your Protection, that we with you may rejoyce in the LORD. So daily prayeth your Honour's most humble and many Ways obliged Servant,

CHARLES MORTON.
(x)
It was principally for the Sake of this Passage in Iralic, that I have transcribed such a Part of this Letter.

Numb. II.

THe next Testimony shall be from my own Father, who, in a Letter to Mr. FRANCIS DE LA PILLONNIERE, which was printed in The Occasional Paper, but never printed and generally known in New-England, writes in the following Manner.

—The Truth is, the Reformation that came on, when the Romish Antichrist had pass'd thro' his Time, and his Two Times, and was entering into his Half-Time, was little better than an Half-Reformation.

The Reforming Churches, flying from Rome, carried, some of them more, some of them less, all of them something, of Rome, with them; especially in that Spirit of Imposition, and Persecution, which has too much cleaved unto them ALL.

The Period hastens for a New Reformation; wherein 'tis likely that our holy Lord will, in some Degree, [Page 150]reject ALL the Parties of Christians at this Day in the World; and form a NEW PEOPLE of the good Men in the several Parties, who shall unite in the Articles of their Goodness, and sweetly bear with one another in their lesser Differences; leaving each other to the Divine Illuminations.

PIETY will anon be the only Basis of Union, in the Churches of the revived, refined, reformed Reforma­tion; and pious Men, in several Forms, will come to Love, and live, as Brethren; and the purged Floor of our Saviour will be visited with Tokens of his Pre­sence, that shall be very comfortable.

It is thus very much in my Country; and therefore, Sir, if Old England prove too torrid a Climate for you, come over to New-England, where I will do my best, that you shall be treated with more Christian Civilities.

But I hope that our Lord will find greater Employ­ments for you in Europe, than can be expected on the Western Side of the Atlantick. He has qualify'd you for them, and, I hope, what you have seen among some very Defective Protestants will animate you to them.

Being my self a Calvinist, I must needs differ pretty much from a Gentleman who professes himself an Ar­minian. But I consider what those Maxims of Piety are, which engage the Arminian to maintain his dis­tinguishing Positions. Those Maxims are, That the Holy and Sin-hating Lord must not be reproach'd as the Impeller of the Sin, whereof he is the Revenger: That our Merciful Father must not be blasphemed, as if He dealt after an illusory manner with Men, when He invites them to His Mercy: That none, among the Fallen Race of the First Adam, are to be shut out from the Hopes of Life, in the Death of the Second Adam: That impenitent Unbelievers must not cast on God the Blame of their Unbelief; but the Wicked must lay wholly on themselves the Fault of their own Destruction: And, That Men must work out their [Page 151]own Salvation with as much Industry, and Agony, and Vigilancy, as if all turned upon their own Will and Care, whether they shall be saved, or no. Now, these are Maxims, which every pious Calvinist will also most heartily consent unto. And, if I should repeat the Maxims of Piety, which make me fall in with the Posi­tions of a Calvinist, as requisite unto the supporting of them. I am confident the pious Mr. de la Pillonniere would most heartily subscribe unto them. And we shall both of us have the Modesty to confess, that we have also to do with Matters which are to us incom­prehensible. Now, if good Men are so united in the Maxims, which are the END, for the serving whereof they declare that they pursue their Controversies; why should not this Uniting Piety put an End unto their Controversies? and beat their Swords into Plough-Shares, and their Spears into Pruning-Hooks?

Numb. III.

BUT, to these more particular Testimonies concern­ing the Catholic and comprehensive Principles of these Churches from a superior Regard to the Substance of Religion, I would take Leave to subjoin and mention some more General ones.

The famous DURY, whose Heart was very much set upon a Pacification among Protestants, having made his proposed Tour in Europe for promoting it, at length wrote a Letter to his Brethren in New-England to know their Sentiments concerning such a Pacifica­tion; which Letter occasioned the following noble Answer to it, that was written by the great Mr. NORTON, Pastor of the first Church in Boston, New-En­gland, at the Desire of all the Ministers of this [then] Colony, and afterwards signed by them all. I have here reprinted the English Translation of this Letter, [Page 152]that so it might be of more general Advantage: But, for the sake of the Learned, I have inserted in the Margin several of the Emphatical Passages in it from the Original Latin, which, I think, was never pub­lish'd. N. B. If any Person has a Mind to see the Original Latin Letter, with the Names of the Ministers subscribing it in their own Hand-Writing, and will be so good as to repair to me for the Sight of it, I shall readily gratify them with it.

The Letter return'd by the Ministers of New-En­gland to Mr. JOHN DURY concerning his Pacification.

To the worthy and eminent Mr. JOHN DURY.

Salutations.

THAT amongst so many horrid Alarms of War, amongst so many fatal Differences of Opinion raised in Matters of Religion, and that also after so many, and such unwearied Labours of famous Inter­cessors, now so often in this Cause undertaken in vain; you should O Dury, the most zealous Friend of Peace, not only be seriously thinking of, but are also unto this Day strongly endeavouring the Espousals of Truth and Peace between the Professors of the Gospel; we verily do largely congratulate you in the conceiving so great a Design, with our utmost, and daily Prayers, helping forward (by God's Assistance) the Birth of this Man­child. Suffer us to speak the very Truth of the Mat­ter, nor is there any need to deny the same: Even as the Holy Scripture relates how the Olive Branch, brought much Comfort to the Parent of the other World after the Flood, while he was lamenting over the Tremendous Spectacle of the Deluge overflowing all here below; in like Manner did your Letter, breathing a very Spirit of Peace, as another Noah's Dove, sent down from Heaven, wonderfully refresh the exile Brethren, who were almost astonished to see so [Page 153]many Nations, that profess the Gospel, making irrecon­cileable War amongst themselves, together with the many and great Dissentions in the Business of Religion, and that monstrous Flood of Error breaking forth, not out of the Cataracts of the Clouds, but the very Mouth of the Dragon.

Be it so, that we are in the utmost Parts of the Earth; we have only changed our Climate, not our Minds: We have altered our Place, that we might retain the Faith without alteration. There are indeed some, that might have been better employed, at least meer Strangers to our Affairs, who do therefore impute unto us the Guilt of Schism, because in the first Place we have endea­voured after the pure Worship of God. But if any see good to enquire into the Reason, why these Churches in the Wilderness left their Country, this it was, viz. That the Ancient Faith, and pure Worship, might be found inseparable Companions in our Practice, and that our Posterity might be undefiled in Religion: Nevertheless, we are never unmindful of the Saying of Austin to the Brethren in the Wilderness, as he styles them; There are two Things considerable, saith he, Conscience and good Name: Conscience as necessary for thy self, good Name for thy Neighbour: He who trusts to his Conscience, and neglects his good Name, is cruel, especially if he be set in that Place, of which the Apostle writing to his Disciple, saith, In all Things shew thy self an Example of good Works. It may not be unlawful for us, who are in the Wilderness on the further side of the Seas, as well as those, who through Grace are called to the Ministry, though in our selves the greatest of Sinners, and the least of all the Saints, as any others, to Apologize for our selves in the Words of the Tribes beyond Jordan a little changed, for the vindicating or preserving our good Name in a Matter of so great Moment, both be­fore great ones, Fathers, Brethren, and every gentle Reader, The Lord God of Gods, the Lord God of Gods he knows, and Israel shall know, if wittingly and willing­ly [Page 154]in Rebellion, or treacherous dealing against the Lord, or in Schism it be, that we have departed from our Coun­try, save us not this Day.

But yet notwithstanding, we are not unmindful of that so known Oracle, [Love the Truth and Peace:] We neither strive for Truth without making Reckon­ing of Peace, neither do we pursue Peace with the Loss of Truth: The former defaceth, this latter teareth the seamless Coat of the Church. It is as necessary to avoid the Rock of Schism on the Right Hand, as the Quicksands of Confusion on the Left. We renounce Samaritanism, that deadly s [...]k of false Doctrine, as much as we fly from Donatism, the sore Enemy of Evangelical Temperament, and Devourer (if we may speak after Tertullian) of Christian Society; but admire and embrace the Concord, and Agreement of the Gospel. We are no whit pleased with Cassanders shak­ing Hands with Papists at the furthest Distance, erring from the Truth; nor yet with the Romanist renouncing Communion with them that are otherwise minded in lesser Differences: But in special Manner we ought to labour, that we may walk with an even Foot, and not to turn aside an Hair's breadth from the Truth: In the mean Time, it is better to be a Cyprian than a Steven. It is much more grievous to think aright, and be found a Schismatick, than to think amiss in Things not funda­mental, and be of a peaceable Spirit. The Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ is a Spirit of Truth, of Peace and Communion: So desirous of Peace, that it requi­reth Communion in a true Church, although not pure; and so desirous of Truth, that it forbids impurity in any Church whatsoever. That, that is the Mark at which we aim, and which we endeavour and breath after, in him who is the Way, the Truth and Life.

It is confessed, there are some Apices, or lesser Points in Divinity, which the Church of God hath now for above an hundred Years bewailed, as the obstacles of Peace, concerning which the chief Controversies main­tained [Page 155]are about Predestination, Ubiquity, and the Eu­charist. About these Points how many thousand Pole­mick Writings have been extant all abroad, which the Christian World is scarce able to contain? Alas! that ever there should be a War about the Sacrament! Alas! that ever there should be any contentious Treatises about the Eucharist, turning the very Badge of Union into an Apple of Contention! Who can refrain from Tears at the uttering of such Things? Yet these not­withstanding, that there is Place for the so much desired Coalition between the Evangelicks and the Reformed, so called, may easily be made appear, by running thro' the chief Heads of Things:

As namely, Because in the first Article, they who were the greatest Favourers of that eminent Worthy of the former Age, do yet ascribe the Work of Conversion wholly unto God, and do likewise stifly maintain, and accurately defend, Grace to be altogether free; who were also utter Enemies to that pestilent Opinion of the Schoolmen, [That God is bound to him that doth what he can of himself.] And who likewise do deservedly ac­count it meer Pelagianism, to make any kind of Quali­fying Fitness a Moral Motive unto predetermining Grace.

As for the Opinion of the Ubiquity of the Humane Nature, by Virtue of the Hypostatical Union; it can­not be denied, but that Papers have come abroad, written with too much Gall and sharpness. In the mean while it is agreed upon by all, and taken for granted, That the Humane Nature is Personally Om­nipresent. According to this Rule likewise are other Propositions about the Person to be judged of, under this Head.

Lastly, As concerning the Lord's Supper; the Di­vines of either Part, do reject Transubstantiation, to­gether with worshipping of Bread. But about the Real Presence, viz. Sacramental, of the Body and Blood of Christ, it is agreed between both. These so many and [Page 156]great Differences, are to be accounted as so many Heart-griefs, altho' not to be numbred amongst them which by the Apostle are called Unlearned Questions; yet we judge them not to be of that Moment, as to hinder the giving each other the Right Hand of Fellowship, or the Pledges of Ecclesiastical Brotherhood (a), building upon that Apostolical Canon of holy Communion, Ne­vertheless, in that whereunto we have attained, let us walk by the same Rule, let us mind the same Thing, Phil. 3.16. Here also we may call to Mind that common and received Distinction between Fundamentals and Non-Fundamentals; and, that Brotherly Fellowship is not to be refused with Men peaceable, and otherwise Or­thodox, for the sake of Non-Fundamentals.

We account it very unequal to fasten upon any one that holds an Opinion all the Consectaries, which to him that argues according to the exactest Grounds of Reason, seem to follow upon such Premises, especially if those Consequences be disowned by him: In which respect there are no small Errors on both Sides, while those of our Side impeach the other of Eutyches his Opinion, tho' refusing to own it, for the sake of Con­substantiation; and they on the other Side go about to make ours guilty of making God the Author of Sin, altho' we never so much disclaim it, in the Point of Predestination. The Disputes about the Consequences of these, whether rightly inferred or not, from the Pre­mises, belong not to this Place to be examined, yea the Matter itself requires rather that we should for­bear.

But this Tragedy is not yet at an End. For, as to Polity, and indifferent Things, they have taken up divers Opinions; who it were to be wished that they would embrace that Concord one with another, which [Page 157]hath been so often endeavoured after. But the Differ­ences of this Nature, as they are not so small, that the Lovers of Truth should be silent about them; so nei­ther are they so great, that they need be any hindrance to the Seekers of Peace and Quietness in the present Undertaking; as may appear by the unquestioned Ex­ample of our Saviour, who refused not to celebrate the Worship of God in the Jewish Church, defaced at that Time with more grievous Corruptions. They who are united to Christ by Heart-converting Grace, are Mem­bers of his Mystical Body; and whosoever, but in appearance at least, are joyned to the Head, and have added themselves to the Polity of Israel, are to be re­ceived Members of the Political Body. Now Com­munion follows upon Union. Besides the Nature of Political, as well as Christian Society, doth utterly for­bid to deny the Privileges of Fellowship to such Mem­bers as are found without Scandal.

Thus much we thought good to speak briefly about this Point, that Honoured Persons, and Respected Brethren, might understand what Reasons moved us to entertain the same Opinion with themselves. We have been taught, that the Idea, or Pattern of holy Communion ought to be fetched from Divine Writ, and not to be framed after our own Pleasure (b).

The Rules of Sacred Society are certain; beyond which, or short of which, it is not in our Power to extend, or withold the Right Hand of Brotherhood. Whoever having attained these shall acknowledge them; and having acknowledged them, shall walk according unto them; so holding Communion with Sinners, as he doth not in the least communicate with their Sins, so as he is wanting neither to the Truth, nor to him­self, nor his Brethren, him we deservedly esteem both as a Guide and Pillar of the Church: Whether we will [Page 158]or no, we are Brethren; and seeing we are Brethren, let us acknowledge our selves what we are, namely, Brethren in the Lord. A Day would scarce suffice, to rehearse how many and how great incitements do call for, and require this. To account the weak in Faith for none, is indeed itself a greater Weakness. The Name of Brethren is sweet: It is Matter of great Delight to be such indeed. But it is much to be lamented, that those who are so, should not be acknowledged to be so. So to stand for Truth, that by too tenacious insisting upon Doctrine, we make no reckoning of the Rights of Society, is to be carried with the Study of Parties, not of the Truth (c); and to undertake the Patronage of an Opi­nion, rather because it is our own, than because it is true.

Sounder Philosophy determines, that the excellency of Union is to be esteemed according to the Dignity of the Cause. We here pass over in Silence the conspiring together of the Waters and dry Land to make one Globe; as also that of the Frame of the Heavenly and the Earthly Globe, to make one Sphere of the World. There may be found an heap of Miracles in the quiet gathering the living Creatures into the Ark, and there abiding in it, where the most savage of them laid aside their savageness; being ready to acknowledge Noah for their Lord (not much otherwise than Adam in giv­ing Names unto them) where might be seen the Wolf standing amongst the Sheep, neither do the Flocks seem afraid of the great Lyons: These are indeed very great Things; but yet if they be compared with the Mystical Union, shining forth in one of the very least of Christ's Members, there would want Words to ex­press how great the Distance is. To proceed there­fore, if the Union of a very few Believers be of so [Page 159]great Moment, of how great Account should be the Uniting of all Protestants in the Faith? But let here pause a while, and not think much to weigh this Mat­ter a little more seriously, and we shall find (unless we are much deceived) this very Union about which we are treating, if it be without Hypocrisy and Deceit, but as the very Off-spring and Image of the Hyposta­tical Union, and only next unto it on Earth (as to the Kind) and like unto which there will not be found any in Heaven, no not when Angelical Nature remained in its Perfection. We do believe indeed, and not out [...] a vain Conceit, That this Agreement is a bright Look­ing-Glass made of the Blood of the Lamb, wherein Jesus himself, the Prince of so great a Peace, clearly shines forth: In passing through which also, he doth irradiate the World with its brightness, while it sted­fastly beholds this clear Looking-Glass, and by irradi­ating, ingenerates Faith therein. In which respect w [...] need not fear to affirm, That the perpetual Conjuncti [...] of all Mankind, established by the Bond of the first Covenant, would be by infinite Degrees exceeded by it; That they all may be one, as thou Father in me, and I in thee, that the World may know that thou hast sent me, Joh. 17.21.

If the possibility of such a Peace should appear, we could not do much in the pursuing the Necessity there­of. Notwithstanding (if we may have Leave) that this Necessity may be fastned in our Minds, as they say, with the strongest Nail, before we leave this ex­hortatory Part of our Discourse, we think meet, for a Conclusion, to adorn and strengthen it with the Sayings of some famous Men, tending much unto Peace.

At Marpurg, Luther long since professed, That he would not yield this Praise to the Adverse Party, that they should be more studious of Concord and Peace than himself. From whence arose that famous Concord of Marpurg. We find also Calvin thus expressing him­self, that he might compose Minds, and allay so great [Page 160]Commotions, at a Time when Contention was grown much too hot; But I desire you to consider, first, How great a Man Luther is, and in what great Gifts he doth excel, and with how great Courage and Consta [...] of Mind, with how great Dexterity, with how great E [...]acy of Learning, he hath hitherto endeavoured to put to [...]ight the Kingdom of Antichrist, and propagate the Doctrine of Salvation. I have been often wont to say, That if he should call me Devil a thousand Times, that I would yet give him that Honour, as to acknowledge him the eminent Servant of God. But our Davenant most severest of all; If the Schisms of Churches might be taken away, as without Doubt they may, I would rather have a Mill-Stone hanged about my Neck, and be cast into the Sea, than either hinder a Work so acceptable unto God, and so ne­cessary to avoid Scandals, or not promote it with my whole Heart, and all my utmost Endeavours.

Epiphanius would not that Christians should have any By-Name. Let the Nick-Name of Zuinglians and Calvinists then cease, the Marks rather of Faction, than of Brotherly Union. What should we have to do with Luther? What should we have to do with Calvin? We profess the Gospel, we believe the Gospel (d). Bellarmine somewhere hath a Catalogue of a great many King­doms that fell off from the Papacy: Whose Defection from the Mystery of Iniquity, if it hath troubled the Cardinals of Rome, how much more would their Unit­ing together in the Mystery of Piety, be a Terror to the Roman Party? When the truly holy League shall wholly stand for the Lamb; when Humane Endea­vours and Dissensions being laid aside, they shall only intend that one Thing, to afford their mutual Help for the promoting of Religion; when they shall [Page 161]unanimously carry on the War of the Lord against the Whore, as if they were indued with the very Spirit of the Revelation; when they shall be called neither En­glish, nor Dutch, nor Swedes, nor Danes, but only Christians.

If Poets Writings any Truth contain,
Ages fierce Wars shall never more maintain.

But it is not in our Power, most excellent Dury, to add our Counsel, either to the beginning or the preser­ving this Agreement. You are not ignorant, that we are Exiles, Britains, altogether divided from the rest of Europe; wherefore we are less fit to perform this Task: Neither are we so unsensible of our own Weak­ness, as not readily to confess our inability for so great a Service; nor is there need, seeing we must thankfully acknowledge and own, that this Office hath been abun­dantly performed, both by Strangers, as well as by our own Countrymen.

We may here call to Mind, and not without some sacred Sympathy, those Blessed Souls, Melancthon and Pareus, now amongst the Blessed; the one no less fa­mous amongst the Reformed, than the other amongst the Evangelicks; The first of whom going towards Haganoa, with sighing utter'd these Words,

In Synods hitherto we lived have,
And now in them return unto the Grave (e).

The other seriously meditating on the Controversy of the Eucharist, brake forth into these Words; I am weary with disputing. Thus, if these Men might be Judges, we ought rather to Pray than Dispute, and study how to Live than to Contend. And perhaps the Divines of either Part, after they have been wearied, and broken in their Spirits with daily and continual Contentions, will more readily accept of the Counsels of Peace, which hitherto have been less acceptable, while the Sense of Anger remained fresh: After by [Page 162]long Use they have been taught, they may prefer the Waters of the Pacifick Sea before those of Meribah. Nor need we say, That those Honoured Persons, and Brethren, will more kindly entertain the Counsels of Peace, seeing there are, we know not how many Say­ings, Writings, Deeds of Princes, Churches and Uni­versities, openly testifying, That eminent Men of both Orders, and that not of the lowest Rank, have not only received, but taken Counsel together, and engaged their helping Hand, as Need shall require: From which Beginnings it is but meet to hope the best. God is able to make them Workers of Peace, whom he hath given to be Seekers of Peace: If otherwise, such emi­nent Endeavours shall not want their Reward in Hea­ven, and their Honour in Israel. These are piously Heroick Enterprises, which as they do oblige all good Men, so are they to be admired of them. Their Praises, how great, or how little soever, as the present Age is not altogether silent about them; so will Poste­rity declare the rest, and perhaps the unknown Parts of the World.

We give Thanks unto the Father of Lights with all our Hearts, who hath put this Work into the Mind of Dury, savouring of a Spirit more than Humane; and hath added also suitable Courage to the promoting so Pious and Apostolical a Matter: Which Task, whoso­ever shall effect, if we may be Judges, will deserve a more than ordinary Triumphant Statue; and whose Monument will so far excel the Trophies of Achilles, as if they were not worthy to be mentioned in the same Day. However the Issue of the Matter fall, yet it is a great deal, to have attempted in a great Design. Seek the Peace of Jerusalem, they shall prosper that love thee.

We give Thanks unto the God of Peace, who would not suffer the Labours of his Servant endeavouring after Peace, to be undertaken altogether without Success. Therefore, most worthy Sir, go on in this your Strength, resting on the Prophecy for the desired Concord, That [Page 163]it shall be in its own appointed Time. The Powers which have obeyed the Roman Harlot, shall hate her, make her naked, and burn her with Fire; for God hath put it into the Hearts of the Kings, that they should fulfil his Will. It doth not become those that have a meet Understanding of Things, to doubt of their Agreement in the Faith, who are to burn to Ashes the Metropolis of the last Head of the Beast, as an Enemy to the Faith. The Discord of the Kings detains the Whore on her Throne, and keeps the Woman in the Wilder­ness, while they are contending amongst themselves.

It makes all Priamus his House rejoyce,
And other Trojans to lift up their Voice.

But this their sacred Concord, the renowned Sons of Sion cannot but look upon, as a forerunner of the De­struction of Rome, now at the very Doors; and accord­ingly with their daily and most ardent Prayers breathe after, hope, and long for the same.

Lastly, We give Thanks to Mr. Dury, into whose Heart it came to remember Joseph, separate from his Brethren at so great a Distance, both by Sea and Land; and who hath vouchsafed with so comfortable a Message to visit us poor Wretches, clothed in Sackcloth for our Warfare; yet. as we trust, the Sackcloth of the Gos­pel: who hath not refused to put New-England, as a part of the Skirt of Aaron's Garment, upon which hath descended some of the precious Oyl, into the Catalogue of the so much famed Agreement: And who hath by his Letter exhorting unto such an Agreement, given us an Occasion to bring in this Testimony, such as it is, for our brotherly Communion with the whole Company of Protestants professing the Faith of Christ Jesus. For we must ingenuously confess, that then, when all Things were quiet, and no threatning Signs of War ap­peared, seeing we could not be permitted by the Bishops at that Time prevailing, to perform the Office of the Ministry in Publick, nor yet to enjoy the holy Ordinances without Subscription, and Conformity, (as they were wont to speak) [Page 164]nor without the mixture of Humane Inventions with Di­vine Institutions, we chose rather to depart into the remote and unknown Coasts of the Earth, for the sake of a purer Worship, than to lye down under the Hierarchy in the abundance of all Things, but with the prejudice of Con­science. But that in flying from our Country, we should renounce Communion with such Churches as profess the Gospel, is a Thing which we confidently and solemnly deny.

Certainly, so far as concerns our selves, in whatever Assemblies amongst us the whole Company of them that profess the Gospel, the Fundamentals of Doctrine, and Essentials of Order are maintained, altho' in many niceties of controversal Divinity they are at less Agreement with us, we do hereby make it manifest (which yet we would always have understood, so as the least part of Truth, ac­cording to the Nature of that Reverence which ought ex­actly to be yielded thereunto, may be preserved) that we do acknowledge them all, and every one for Brethren; and that we shall be ready to give unto them the Right Hands of Fellowship in the Lord, if in other Things they be peace­able, and walk orderly(f).

We humbly beseech the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whose Lips is only Power to perfwade, that he would enlighten Princes, Divines, and even all who are rightly called Christians from the Name of Christ, with the lively Splendor of such an Agreement, and draw them with a Soul-moving Energy to the divine Love of himself. As for that which concerns your self, the sweetest Follower of Peace, We should [Page 165]account it an heinous Crime to be wanting unto you in our Prayers to the very God of Peace, That he would so preserve your Life, your Course, and your Work, that you may bring unto a Conclusion your so eminent Undertaking, with so many Sighs, Labours, Sweatings, Dangers, and with so great Charges hitherto carried on: If otherwise, and that it seem good to the great Determiner of Things, before this come to pass to ad­vance him that hath been a follower of Peace on Earth, to the State of a Blessed Saint in Heaven; that then he would raise up other Duryes, who may bring the Work so happily begun to its desired End.

Your most observant Brethren in Christ, The Ministers of the Churches, and Preachers of the Word, Militant for the Faith of Jesus in New-England:
  • John Wilson Pastor of Boston.
  • John Norton Teacher of the same.
  • John Mayo Pastor of New-Boston.
  • Richard Mather Teacher of Dorchester.
  • John Allin Pastor of Dedham.
  • John Eliot Teacher of Roxbury.
  • Samuel Danforth Pastor of the same.
  • William Thomson Pastor of Braintry.
  • Henry Flint Teacher of the same.
  • Thomas Thatcher Teacher of Weymouth.
  • Peter Hubbard Pastor of Hingham.
  • John Miller Pastor of Yarmouth.
  • John Wilson junior Pastor of Medfield.
  • Zechariah Symmes Pastor of Charlestown.
  • Thomas Shepard Teacher of the same.
  • Samuel Stone Teacher of Hartford.
  • Jonathan Mitchel Pastor of Cambridge.
  • John Sherman Pastor of Watertown.
  • Edmund Brown Pastor of Sudbury.
  • Edward Bulkly Pastor of Concord.
  • Thomas Carter Pastor of Woborne.
  • Samuel Haugh Pastor of Reding.
  • John Fiske Pastor of Chelmsford.
  • John Reyner Teacher of Dover.
  • Ezekiel Rogers Teacher of Rowly.
  • Samuel Philips Teacher of the same.
  • Samuel Whiting Pastor of Lyn.
  • [Page 166] John Higginson Pastor of Salem.
  • Thomas Cobbet Pastor of Ipswich.
  • William Hubbard Teacher of the same.
  • Francis Dane Teacher of Andover.
  • William Worcester Pastor of Salisbury.
  • John Ward Pastor of Haverhil.
  • Timothy Dalton Teacher of Hampton.
  • Seaborn Cotton of the same.
  • Joseph Emerson Pastor of York.
  • Michael Wigglesworth Pastor of Maldon.
  • William Walton Minister of the World.
  • Ralph Smith Minister of the Word.
  • Charles Chauncy, President of Harvard College.
  • Gershom Bulkly Fellows of the said College.
  • Thomas Graves Fellows of the said College.
  • Zech. Symmes Fellows of the said College.
  • Zech. Brigden Fellows of the said College.
(a)
Tot & talia Dissidia tot fatemur Cordelia;—Tanti autem esse, quo minus dextras daretur jungere Dextris, & mutua audire & red ere Fraternitatis Ecclesiastica Symbola, minime judicamus.
(b)
Communion is Sanctae Ideam a Divina Pagina petendam, non pro Arbitrio nostro cudendam didicimus.
(c)
Veritatem item Operam dare, ut Doctrinae tenacius inhae­rendo Societatis Jura susque deque faciamus, est Partes ager's non veritati studere.
(d)
Noluit Epiphanius, ut Christiani gestarent Epitheton No­men. Facessant Zuinglianorum & Calvinianorum, Cognomenta Factionis, potius quam fraterna Unionis insignia. Quid nobis cum Luthero? Quid nobis cum Calvino? Evangelici sumus: Credimus Evangeli [...].
(e)
Viximus in Synodis, & jam mortemur in ill [...]s.
(f)
Certe ad nos quod attinet (quod tamen vel Ungula verita­tis pro Ratione Religionis illi ad Amussim adhibendae semper salva dictum volumus) quoscunque apud Coetus per untversum Evange­licorum Chorum Fundamentalia Doctrinae & Essentialia Ordinis vigeant, quamvis in plerisque Controversae Theologiae Apici­bus nobiscum juxta minus Sentiant; Illos tamen ad unum omnes pro Fratribus agnoscimus: Lisque catera Pacificis & or­dinate incedentibus Dextram Communionis in Domino porri­gere paratissimos nos esse hisce palam fecimus.

Numb. IV.

I Might fitly subjoin to the Letter foregoing ano­ther Letter of the famous Mr. JOHN DAVEN­PORT Batchelor of Divinity, who was Minister of New Haven and afterwards Pastor of the first Church in Boston New-England, to the pious DURY upon the same Occasion that the foregoing Letter was written; which Letter was signed by the Ministers of Connecticut Colony. This Letter breathes the very same good and catholic Spirit with the foregoing one. But, lest the Appendix should swell too much upon us, I consent to the dropping it. N. B. As I signified concerning the former Letter; so I would advertize concerning this, that if any Gentlemen or others desire to see the Original Copy of it, I have it at their Service.

Numb. V.

AND, as a farther Demonstration of the Catholic and Generous Principles of the first Founders of [Page 167]these Churches, I would ask Leave of the Reader to refer him to the New-England Chronology of the learned and accurate Mr. PRINCE of Boston; in Pages the Eighty eighth, Eighty ninth, Ninetieth, Ninety first, Ninety second and Ninety third of which Chronology he will find abundant Satisfaction upon this Head.

Part the second, containing the Proofs and Evidences of a Consociation of Churches among these Churches for their mutual Light and Assistance.

IN the twenty first Page of The Discourse concerning Congregational Churches I have affirmed, that these Churches acknowledge a Consociation of Churches for imparting mutual Light and Assistance: And in the Eighth Chapter of this Book I have maintain'd the same Thing. Now, for the more full Proof and Con­firmation of this Point, I shall here reprint from my honoured Grandfather's Book, entitled, The Order of the Churches in New-England vindicated, his Answer to this Question, Is it expedient that Churches should enter into a Consociation, or Agreement, that Matters of more than ordinary Importance, such as the Gathering of a New Church, the Ordination, Deposition, or Translation of a Pastor be done with common Consent?

Answ. This is both Expedient and Necessary. The Synod which Convened at Boston Anno 1662. has suffi­ciently cleared this Point. And although there was in [Page 168]that Synod some dissent as to the Question about the Subject of Baptism then discuss'd; in the Answer to the other Question relating to the Consociation of Churches, there was an unanimous Concurrence. The Design of which is not (as has been well observed by Dr. (a) Ames and Mr. (b) Parker) to infringe the Liberty of particular Churches, but from the Word of God to direct and strengthen them in the regular Exercise thereof. The Reasons for it are such as these.

1. The Churches of Christ stand in a Sisterly Rela­tion each to other under Christ their Head, having the same Faith, and ought to have the same Order. Eph. 4.5. Col. 2.5. Phil. 3.16. This Union implies a suitable Communion, and that they ought to have a mutual Care each of other. Cant. 8.8.

2. The Scripture teacheth that in weighty Cases we should ask Counsel. 2 Sam. 20.18. Prov. 3.5. and 15.22. and 24.6. Which General Rules concern Polities as well as particular Persons, and Churches as well as civil Societies.

3. There are Scripture Examples to instruct us in our Duty herein. We find, that when the Church in Antioch had a weighty Case before them, they sent to another Church for Counsel, Act. 15.2. The Apostle Paul sought for the Concurrence, and Right Hand of Fellowship of other Apostles, Gal. 2.9. Ordinary Elders and Churches have no less need of each other to prevent their running in vain. Gal. 2.2.

4. Such a Communion of Churches as that which we plead for, is no Innovation, but that which has ever been the Profession and Practice of those that have been called Congregational. There is a Book which bears the Title of, An Answer of the Elders of the several Churches in New-England to Thirty two Questions, Prin­ted in the Year 1643. Of which Book my Father [Page 169] Mather was the sole Author. And he wrote it in the Primitive Times of these Churches, (viz. in the Year 1639.) as himself assured me. What he wrote was ap­proved of by other Elders, especially by Mr. Cotton, unto whom he communicated it. Now in Answer to Q. 18. p. 64. are these Words, The Consociation of Churches into Classes and Synods, we hold to be lawful, and in some Cases necessary: As namely, in Things that are not peculiar to one Church, but common to them all. And likewise, when a Church is not able to end any Mat­ter which concerns only themselves, then they are to seek for Counsel and Advice from Neighbour Churches, as the Church at Antioch did send unto the Church at Jerusa­lem, Act. 15.2. The Ground and Use of Classes and Synods with the Limitations therein to be observed, is summarily laid down by Dr. Ames, unto whom we do wholly consent in this Matter. This was, and is the Judgment of all that adhere to the Order of the Gospel professed in the Churches of New-England. The World is much mistaken in thinking that Congregational Chur­ches are Independent. The Name has indeed been fastned upon them by their Adversaries; but our Plat­form of Discipline Chap. 2. Sect. 5. disclaims the Name. And so does our renowned Hooker (c) in his Survey of Church Discipline. Likewise those famous Apologists in the Assembly at Westminster, viz. Dr. Goodwin, Mr. Nye, Mr. Simpson, Mr. Burroughs, and Mr. Bridge, say, that It is a Maxim to be abhorred, that a single and particular Society of Men professing the Name of Christ, should arrogate to themselves an Exemption from giving an Account to, or being censurable by Neighbour Churches about them. That Apostle of his Age, (as Dr. Goodwin calls him) Mr. Cotton, the first and forever famous Teacher in this Boston, when he in the Name of the Elders and Messengers of the Churches, gave to Mr. Mitchel the Right Hand of Fellowship, at his Ordina­tion [Page 170]to the Pastoral Office in the Church of Cambridge, he did in a singular Manner recommend to him (and that excellent Man was to his dying Day mindful of Mr. Cotton's Advice) Endeavours for the establisment of a Consociation amongst the Churches of Christ through­out this Colony, that wise Man foreseeing that without this, Disorder and Confusion would in Process of Time inevitably happen; as I have more largely declared in (d) another Discourse in which Mr. Cotton's Proposals respecting the Consociation mentioned, are publish'd to the World. Moreover, that the concurring Judgment of those who are Congregational is according hereunto is evident from the Declaration of Faith and Order which was agreed unto by the Messengers of One hundred and Twenty Congregational Churches in England, who met at the Savoy in London, Anno 1658. They thus de­clare, (e) In case of Difficulties and Differences in Point of Doctrine, wherein either the Churches in general are con­cerned in their Peace, Union and Edification, or any Member or Members of any Church are injured in, or by any Proceeding in Censures not agreeable to Truth and Order: It is according to the Mind of Christ, that many Churches holding Communion together, do by their Messen­gers meet in a Synod or Council to consider and give their Advice in, or about the Matter in Difference. But the Testimony of that Blessed Jeremiah Burroughs puts the Thing beyond all Dispute. For his Words are these, (f) Those in the Congregational Way acknowledge,

  • 1. That they are bound in Conscience to give Account of their Ways to Churches about them, or to any other who shall require it. This not in an Arbitrary way, but as a Duty which they owe to God and Man.
  • 2. They acknowledge that Synods of other Ministers and Elders about them are an Ordinance of Jesus Christ for the helping the Church against Errors, Schisms and Scan­dals.
  • [Page 171] 3. That these Synods may from the Power they have from Christ, admonish Men and Churches in his Name, when they see Evils continuing in, or growing upon the Church, and their Admonitions carry with them the Autho­rity of Jesus Christ.
  • 4. As there shall be Cause, they may declare Men or Churches to be subverters of the Faith, or otherwise ac­cording to the Nature of their Offence, to shame them before all the Churches about them.
  • 5. They may by a solemn Act in the Name of Jesus Christ, refuse any further Communion with them till they repent.
  • 6. They may declare also in the Name of Christ, that those erring People or Churches are not to be received into Fellowship with an of the Churches of Christ, nor to have Communion with any other in the Ordinances of Christ.

If it shall be said, surely they do not come up to these six Things mentioned. To that I answer, (says Mr. Bur­roughs) I do not in these deliver only my own Judgment, but by what I know of the Judgment of all those Brethren with whom I have Occasion to converse by Conference both before and since, I stand charged to make it good to be their Judgment also; yea, it has been theirs and mine for divers Years, even then when we never thought to have enjoyed our own Land again. We see by these Testimonies that Congregational Men in general, as well as the Churches of New-England in special, are no such Independents, no such Brownists, no such Morellians, as some have represented them to be.

5. If we admit not a Consociation of Churches, there will be no Remedy against the Male Administrations of particular Churches; nor any Cure of Schisms, or Errors that may happen in our Churches. This has been objected (but injuriously) as a Scandal attending the Congregational Church Discipline, and that therefore it is a Way not practicable. Indeed if we refuse this part of Church Communion, the Objection would be [Page 172]unanswerable. And who would be willing to be a Member of that Church, in which altho' he should be never so much wrong'd, there would be no Relief for him upon Earth? There was once a Church in New-England, which having censured one of their Members, he complain'd of the supposed Wrong done him, to Neighbour Elders, who thought he had receiv'd hard Measure. The Pastor and major part of the Church were not willing the Case should have a re-hearing before the Elders and Messengers of other Churches. Upon this, great Clamours were raised, and Prejudices taken up against the Congregational Discipline. Mr. Cawdrey got this Story by the End, and in his Epistle to the Dissenting Brethren, p. 10. He says that a Mi­nister in N. E. writes over to England, that this injured Person would have no remedy until the Churebes in New-England were become Presbyterians, and that if Independency does not break all the Churches in New-England excepting a few Semi-Presbyterians, some are deceived. Who the Minister was that wrote thus to England, Mr. Cawdrey tell us not. But it is a great Wrong to the Churches of New-England, and to the way Congregational, to represent them, and all that are of that way, as being of such Independent and Unaccoun­table Principles, which they utterly disclaim. Dr. Owen in his Disciplinary Catechism, and especially in the Ad­ditament thereunto, (which was written on Occasion of a harsh and rash Censure in the Independent Church in Cambridge in England) has with great Evidence of Reason, refuted the maintainers of such an Indepen­dency.

6. The Order asserted is (as has been truly observed by the Learned Doctor last mention'd) confirm'd by the Practice of the first Churches after the Apostles: For when the Church in Corinth had by an undue Exercise of Discipline deposed some of their Elders, the Church of Rome taking Cognizance of it, wrote to them, re­proving their rashness, and advis'd their Restoration [Page 173]as it is to be seen in the Epistle of Clement then Pastor of the Church in Rome, which Clement is thought to be the same whom Paul speaks of, Phil. 4.3. And when the Church of Antioch was afterwards troubled with the Heresies of their Pastor Samosetanus, the Neighbouring Pastors came unto the Church, and join'd their Concurrence in his Deposition. It is certain that in the next Ages to the Apostles, a Pastor was not settled in any Church without the Concurrence of others. When the Church had Elected a Pastor, they presented him to the Neighbour Pastors for their Approbation, nor could he be legally confirm'd without it. (g) Euse­bius tells us that when Alexander was chosen Pastor of the Church in Jerusalem by the Brethren of that Place, he had the common Consent of the Circumjacent Pastors. And thus (as Cyprian informs us) it was practised in all the Churches throughout Africa. He speaks particu­larly concerning Sabinus, who was Elected a Pastor of Eremita in Spain, that Neighbour Ministers concurred in his Ordination, after the Fraternity had Elected him. His Words are, (h) Quod factum videmus in sabini Or­dinatione ut de universae Fraternitatis suffragio, & de Episcoporum judicio, Episcopatus ei deferetur. We find in Ecclesiastical Story, that in the Primitive Times the Names of Persons to be ordained were publish'd abroad that so if any one had ought to object they might pro­duce it. Which Custom of the Christians in the Elec­tion of their Pastors was so highly approv'd of by the Emperor Severus, as that he would have it put in Prac­tice in establishing Governours of Provinces throughout the Empire.

7. Neither do the Reformed Churches ordain a Minister without the concurrence and approbation of Neighbour Ministers. To give the Right Hand of Fel­lowship to a new ordain'd Minister, was a usual Custom [Page 174]amongst the Churches in Bohemia, for which they alledg'd this Scripture, Gal. 2.9. as is testify'd by (i) Co­menius. In the beginning of the Reformation in the Church of Scotland, one Article of their Discipline, is, That when a Minister is ordain'd the rest of the Ministers shall take the Elected by the Hand in sign of their Consent, as is related in the History of the Reformation (b), which goeth under the Name of Mr. Knox. I find also, that there is the like Practice in the Protestant French Churches, &c.

Part the third; containing a Vindica­tion of the New-English Churches in sundry Instances, taken from A Let­ter of Advice to the Churches of the Non-Conformists in the English Na­tion, endeavouring their Satisfaction in that Point, who are the true Church of England; which Letter was written by Dr. MATHER my honoured Father and publish'd at London in the Year 1700. N.B. The infamous Wesley, in his printed Abuses of Mr. MORTON'S Academy, where the Alms of the Dissenters, especially of [Page 175]the renowned Dr. OWEN, had given him his Education, laments the Danger of the Church of England from Three, whom he makes consi­derable Adversaries, whereof the Writer of this Letter of Advice is one: But he concludes with com­forting himself, that the Intercession of K. CHARLES the Martyr in the Heavens for it will preserve it.

THE Author of this Letter having shewn, that the Dissenters in England are more strict Adherers to the Doctrinal Articles of the Church of England than some who make the greatst Noise in behalf of that Church, then proceeds as follows.

—But the Non-conformists cannot be sincere Mem­bers of the Church of England, because they do not ac­knowledge the Divine Right of the Modern DIOCE­SAN EPISCOPACY. No! I pray, why not? Let us a little enquire into the Judgment of the Old and the True Church of England upon this Matter, and it will presently appear, that you are far more of the Church of England, than those Fanaticks (of late so much increased) that not only advance the Jus Divinum of their Diocesan Episcopacy, but also question the validity of the Sacra­ments administred by any that have not received their Ordination from it. Albeit the present Form of making and consecrating Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, asserts, That Bishops and Priests are distinct Orders, and they must be published as Excommunicate, who affirm, That this Book does contain any thing in it repugnant to the Word of God: Yet, my Brethren, from the Beginning it [Page 176]was not so. Behold, The Church of England it self stands Excommunicate by its own Canons, as much as you. It is notorious, that the Diocesan Episcopacy and the National Church-Government by Bishops, was never own'd to be Jure Divino until K. James I. came to be King of England. It was he, who upon the Enchant­ments of Bancroft, first yielded unto that, which his Predecessors would never have endured. (d) Even in King Elfrick's Days, (e) the Church of England plainly denied Bishops and Priests to be distinct Orders. But I will not carry you back to such early Days. In the Days of King Henry the Eighth, Tindal (f) expresly maintain'd, ‘That the Apostles following the Rule of Christ, ordained in his Kingdom and Congregation Two Officers; one called Bishop, which same was cal­led Priest and Elder; and another called Deacon. All that were called Elders or Priests (he says) were called Bishops also.’ Thus wrote the Martyr who was own'd by his Enemies themselves, Homo doctus, pius, & bonus.

Lambert expresly maintain'd, (g) ‘That in the Primi­tive Church there were no more Officers than Bishops and Deacons; and Hierom saith, Those we call Priest, are all one, and no other but Bishops, and the Bishops none other but Priests. One of the Articles against Barnes, was (h) his holding, That they who in one Place are called Episcopi, or Bishops, you shall find in many that they be called Preshops, or Elders; and that according to Athanasius, every City should have its proper Pastor; and according to Chrysostom, the Teachers were not to be distracted with the governing many Churches, but have the Care and Charge of one Church only.’ And this Persuasion wherein you thus follow your Fathers, the Blessed Martyrs of the Church [Page 177]of England, at last prevail'd so far, that Cranmer himself, with others, embraced it. Yea, 'twas not long before this became a Point establish'd by Authority; and, in The necessary Erudition of a Christian Man, a Book then publish'd by Authority, as the Doctrine of the Church of England, it is expresly affirm'd, That of these two Orders only [Priests and Deacons] Scripture makes ex­press mention. The (i) Declaration about the Institution of Bishops and Priests, then also subscrib'd by the brave Lord Cromwel and the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and other Bishops and Civilians, denied any Supe­riority of a Bishop above a Priest, to be found in the New Testament, and allow'd unto a Priest the Power of Ordination, and of Excommunication. In the very first Year of Edward the Sixth's Reign, there was an Act of Parliament, which (k) as Heylin complains, forced the Episcopal Order from their strong hold of Divine Insti­tution, and make them no other than the King's Minis­ters only. Dr. Poinet, the Bishop of Winchester, then writing against Gardiner, shews, That the Refermers in those Days, were willing even to lay aside the Name of Bishop, and say Elder instead of it. And the in­comparable Cranmer in his Resolutions to the King's Questions, approv'd by other Bishops, has these express Words, (l) The Bishops and Priests were not two distinct Things, but hoth one Office in the beginning of Christ's Religion; and he farther makes it manifest, that the great Reformers own'd not Episcopacy as a distinct Order from Presbytery to be of Divine Right, but only as a prudent Constitution of the Magistrates for the better governing of the Church. Beacon also, a famous Pro­testant Refugee in Q. Mary's Time, in his Catechisir, dedicated to both Archbishops, puts the Question, What [Page 178]difference is there between a Bishop and a Presbyter? And answers, None at all; their Office is the same, their Authority and Power is one. Upon the revival of the Reformation, at Q. Elizabeth's coming to the Crown, the most acknowledg'd and celebrated Writers of the Church of England, still made the very same Concession. Dr. Alley, the Bishop of Exeter, in his Miscellanea, (m) proves, both from the Acts of the Apostles, and from the Epistle to the Philippians, That the Scriptures make no difference between Bishops and Elders; and he says, That before Factions, by the instinct of the Devil, be­gan in Religion, the Churches were govern'd by the Common Council of the Priests, or Elders. Dr. Pilkinton, Bishop of Duresme, in his Confutation of the Addition, affirms, That the Priviledges and Superiorities which Bishops have above other Ministers, be rather granted by Man for maintaining of Quietness in the Commonwealth, than commanded by God in his Word. The rare Dr. Whitaker, (n) making his Remarks on Jerom's Con­fession, That the Difference between Presbyters and Bishops, was brought in by Men long after the Apostles, as a Remedy against Schism; assures us, That it is a Remedy worse than the Malady. And Bishop Morton (o) tells the Papists, That the Power of Order and of Jurisdiction which they ascribe to Bishops, doth De Jure Divino, belong to all other Presbyters. But, that I may supersede a vast Number of other Quotations to this Purpose, let it suffice, That the excellent Bishop Jewel delivers this not as his private Opinion, but as the sense of the Church of England: (p) ‘In Saint Jerom's time, (saith he) there were Metropolitans, Arch-Bishops, and Arch-Deacons, and others; but Christ appointed not these Distinctions of Orders from the Beginning. This [Page 179]is the Thing which we defend. St. Jerom saith, Let Bishops understand, that they are in Authority over Priests, more by Custom than by Order of God's Truth. Erasmus speaking of the Times of Jerom, saith, Id temporis idem erat Episcopus, Sacerdos & Presbyter; these three Names, Bishops, Priest, and Presbyter at that Time were all one; and unto this Testimony of Jerom, the Bishop adds that of St. Austin, That the Office of a Bishop is above the Office of a Priest, not by Authority of the Scripture, but after the Names of Honour, which the Custom of the Church hath now obtain'd.’ Yea, Archbishop Whitgift himself, speak­ing of the Government of the Church of England by Bishops, in his Time, (q) says, ‘It is well known, that the Manner and Form of Government used in the Apostles Time, and express'd in the Scripture, is not now observ'd; but hath of Necessity been alter'd; and that any one kind of external Government perpe­tually to be observ'd, is no where in the Scripture prescrib'd unto the Church, but the Charge thereof is lest unto the Magistrate. Neither do I know (saith he) any Learned Man of a contrary Judgment.

You see, Sirs, that Cranmer and Jewel, and the Chief of the Reformers, are as good as Excommunicated by the New Church of England; but you will, I know, readily receive them into your Communion, and may now in this Point value your selves, as being of the same Church of England with them. Indeed very few of the Bishops themselves asserted any other than what you assert about this Matter, until all Things were to be put into the Hands of a Party, that in pursuance of certain secret Articles, were to effect an Accommodation with Rome; and then by the Jus Divinum of Prelacy, the Power of Opposition must be taken out of the Hands of the Inferiour Clergy, who generally abhorred that vile Design. But it hath ever since been growing upon [Page 180]the Nation: * Tho' I am informed the present Learned Bishop of Salisbury hath learnedly and couragi­ously appear'd on your Side against it. We will then pass to another Article, viz. That of your DIS­CIPLINE, which is too severe a Thing to be allow'd by some that would be offended, if you should not allow them to be the only Church of England. It will doubtless be as great a Satisfaction as Vindication, for you to find the True Church of England approving and applauding that very Discipline which is in your Chur­ches practised: Now we all know what the Liturgy of the Church of England requires of all its Communicants: ‘Examine your Lives and Conversations by the Rule of God's Commandment, [These are the express Words in the Order for the Administration of the Lord's Supper:] 'And whereinsoever ye shall perceive your selves to have offended, either by Will, Word, or Deed, bewail your own Sinfulness, and confess your selves to Almighty God, with full purpose of amend­ment of Life. And if ye shall perceive your Offen­ces to be such as are not only against God, but also against your Neighbours, then ye shall reconcile your selves unto them. If any of you be a Blasphemer of God, an Hinderer, or Slanderer of his Word, an Adulterer, or be in Malice, or Envy, or any other grievous Crime, repent you of your Sins, or else come not unto that Holy Table, lest after the taking of that Holy Sacrament, the Devil enter into you as he entred into Judas, and bring you to Destruction both of Body and Soul.

Now, my Brethren, all the strictness used in your Churches about the Terms and Ways of admission to the Lord's Table with you, is nothing more nor less but a Trial of your Communicants, whether they have those Qualifications which the Liturgy of the Church of En­gland [Page 181]hath prescrib'd. Indeed, in some of your Chur­ches the Candidates of the Communion have not their Admission, without certain Publick Circumstances of ex­pressing their Consent unto the Covenant of Grace. But this is no more than what I find the more pious Divines in the Church of England wishing and writing for. And one of them not Seven Years ago, hath publish'd his Mind in these Terms: (r) ‘Would it not very much conduce to the Honour of God, and the Edifi­cation of the People, in their most holy Faith, if every Person baptized into the Christian Faith, should be oblig'd, when he comes to Years of Discretion, to appear in the Publick Congregation, there to make a Confession of his Faith, to recognize his Primitive Engagement, to avow that in his own Person which was done for him by Proxy; and that the Minister of the Congregation should recommend the Person to the Grace of God.’ I durst say, that the strict Chur­ches of New-England it self, which wisely chuse to be as explicite as may be, in managing their Church-mat­ters, do not ask for any thing more than what this Learned Son of the Church of England has thus pro­pounded. And whereas you are for maintaining a Godly Discipline in your Churches towards those who scandalously break the Laws of our Lord Jesus Christ, is this any more than the very Common-Prayer-Book of the Church of England has encourag'd? You know that the first Words of the Commination against Sinners in that Book are these: ‘Brethren, in the Primitive Church there was a Godly Discipline, that such Persons as stood convicted of notorious Sin, were put unto open Pe­nance;—instead whereof, until the said Discipline may be restored again, which is much to be wished, it is thought good that at this Time should be read the General Sentences of God's Cursing against impeni­tent Sinners.’ Now, I hope, you will not be denied [Page 182]your being a part of the Church of England, meerly because you have actually Restored that which the Church of England advises us, It were much to be wished that it might be restored. I believe the Churches of New-England it self, in their Platform of Church Dis­cipline, hath not a more severe Passage than that in the Homilies of the Church of England: (s) ‘According to the Example of our Saviour Christ, and the Primi­tive Church, which was most holy and godly, and in the which due Discipline with severity was against the wicked, open Offenders were not admitted unto the use of the Holy Sacrament with other true Christians, until they had done open Penance before the whole Church: And this was practised not only upon mean Persons, but also upon the Rich, Noble, and Mighty. Behold, Sirs, your Discipline is by the Church of England it self, called, A due Discipline. The Church of England having thus allow'd your Discipline, I hope now a few CEREMONIES, which by its own Confession were never Instituted by the Lord Jesus Christ, will never be counted so Essential to it, that for the want thereof you must be cast out of Doors. Believe it, Sirs, an House built meerly upon Ceremonies, or Parts and Means of Worship, not Instituted in the Sayings of our Lord Jesus Christ, will doubtless one Day suster a Storm wherein it will Fall, and great will be the Fall of it. But that for your aversion to the Uninstituted Ceremonies, you may have as clear a Direction from the Church of England as may be, I desire to be inform'd, Whether the Confession of Faith in an hundred Articles on the Creed, composed by Dr. Hooper, the excellent Bishop of Glocester, were not then agreeable to the sense of the Church? Now in the Eighty-fifth of these Articles there is this remarkable Passage: ‘They are not only Idola­ters which worship and serve Idols, and strange Gods, as the Ethnicks, and such like, but also all those that [Page 183]worship and serve the true God of Heaven, after their own Fantasie, or after the Traditions of Men, without Faith, without the Word of God, and otherwise than God hath commanded them. This is indeed a terrible Passage; and it is the Terrour of what is in it, that hath made you to be what you are: But it is none of you, 'tis a very Reverend Bishop of the Church of England that hath written it; and in the same Confession hath he also written, ‘That upon pain of deadly Sin, to forbid and command Things that indeed are but Indifferent, is the only Note and Mark by which to know Anti­christ. Our more conformable Friends in the Church of England hear not you calling them Idolaters, and yet they, as well as you, will own, That the Surplice made an Appurtenance of Divine Worship, the Cross in Bap­tism, and Kneeling before the Eucharist, and the like, are Things introduced in the Service of the true God of Heaven, after their own Fantasie, and after the Traditi­ons of Men, and without the Word of God, and other­wise than God hath commanded. If therefore you decline such Things, the Church of England will certainly ex­cuse you, while you have the Confession of Faith pub­lish'd by its own Bishops, thus charming you so to do; especially since there are of the Bishops Dr. Taylor for one, who acknowledg'd, That the Sign of the Cross, as now retain'd, is a Part of external Worship, tho' it be an Uninstituted Ceremony. The Church of England, with all Protestants, will grant you, That all Worship of God, not appointed, is unlawful; and that no Power on Earth can add any Thing to the Worship of God. Dr. Sherlock (t) himself will grant you, ‘That such significant Ceremonies as are meerly for Signification in the Christian Religion, do only obscure and debase, and are only fit for the Entertainment of Children. And you, finding that the Ceremonies now used by the Con­formable in the Church of England, are used and urged [Page 184]as direct Expressions of the reverence of the Heart unto God, cannot look on them as any other than Parts of external Worship, the Invention whereof is forbidden in the Second Commandment. Now, if you are deliver'd from the Yoke of these unhappy Ceremonies, I know not why you should thereby come to be by the Church of England worse look'd upon than the most famous Divines of that Church, who in their best Writings are still groaning for a Deliverance. Will the Church of England renounce Bishop Bilson for saying, ‘That the Reformed Churches are so far from admitting the full Dose of the Heresies of the Papists, that by no Means they can digest a Dram of their Ceremonies? Will they renounce [...]r, Humphrey, for saying, ‘That we ought to refuse to conform unto the Enemies of God in any of their Ceremonies, and that he wished and hoped for the utter abolishing of all the Monuments of Popish Superstition which yet remain in our Church?’ Will they renounce Dr. More, for saying, That, ‘It is an Antichristian use of Church-Govern­ment, to direct it unto the upholding of Scandalous Ceremonies, and the ensnaring Inventions of Men?’ A thousand more such Passages occur in the Writings of the Divines, who have all along been reputed the Fa­thers of the Church of England. (u) Will the Church now renounce these Divines? Let them! And you, my Brethren, I am confident, will be glad of their Com­pany. But I suppose there is another Thing that a little stumbles you; and that is this: If Conformity to the Ceremonies be necessary to render one a Church of England Man, why should not Non-conformity exclude one as well as another from that Character? Supra­conformity is no less Non-conformity than Subter-confor­mity. Multitudes in England continually Go beyond the Rule of Conformity; why should not these be Non-con­formists as well as they that fall short of it? It is Enac­ted, [Page 185]That no Form or Order of Common-Prayer, Administration of Sacraments, Rites, Ceremonies, shall be openly used in any Church, Chapel, or other publick Place, of or in any Colledge or Hall, in either of the Universities, the Colledges of Westmin­ster, Winchester, or Eaton, or any of them, other than what is prescribed and appointed to be used in and by the Book of Common-Prayer. Now in that Book, there are no where found several Ceremonies now prac­tised, nor Orders used in many of the publick Churches. Non-conformity being indeed nothing but a varying from the Rule establish'd; the Addition made by some to that Rule, one would think should be Non-conformity, as well as the Substraction made by others: And the Churches that perform the Worship of Christ with Organs be Non-conformists as well as they that omit the Cross, and some other Superfluities. I'll only touch upon this One Instance instead of many; the Rubrick requires, That the Communion-Table shall stand in the Body of the Church, or in the Chancel, and the Priest shall stand at the North-side of the Table; so making it a Table according to the other Churches of the Refor­mation; (which accordingly they observe in the Temple, where the Law is best understood and practised;) and yet in opposition to Authority in most Places, they set it North and South, clapping it unto the Wall at the East-end of the Church, with Rails before it, as if (ac­cording to the Church of Rome) it were an Altar. This is contrary to the Law; and I have read, ‘This one Thing may well be thought for to have given Encou­ragement unto the Non-conformists in some other Cases.’ Briefly, If you must be no Part of the Church of En­gland, because you don't kneel at the Communion, I pray let the Priest who does not stand where by the Law of Conformity he ought to stand at the Communion, be dis­carded also! Tho' furious Bigots for Conformity will give no Answer but Railing to all of this Reason; yet you, my Brethren, will calmly afford a reasonable At­tention [Page 186]to it. But you must by the way be prevailed withal to cease wondring at such Contradictions. If they seem wonderful to you, you'll find continual Matter of Wondermen [...] For Instance, The Scripture commands us, Be not forgetful to entertain Strangers; but the Apocrypha contradicts it, Eccles. 11.34. dissuading us from Receiving a Stranger into our House. The Scrip­ture commands us, Love your Enemies, do good to them that hate you; be like your heavenly Father, who makes the Sun to rise upon the evil and the good; but the Apo­crypha contradicts it, Eccles. 12.4, 7. Give to the godly Man, and help not a Sinner; and again, Give to the Good, and help not the Sinner. No Argument could prevail with our Unreformables to expunge these Les­sons; but in the Month of October these Lessons of the Apocrypha must be read as the Doctrines of the Church of England: And then you must subscribe, That no­thing is ordain'd to be read, but the very pure Words of God, or that which is agreeable to them. An abundance of such Contradictions will accost you, in that which with a Contradiction equal to the rest, would be call'd, The only Church of England.

If it be now objected against you, That the Dislike of the COMMON-PRAYER is a Thing that will utterly debar you from any Part in the Church of En­gland; it will be no Defence for you to plead, That Old King James himself, a great Patron to the Church of England, called the Common-Prayer, An ill-said Mass in English; for he was yet with the Kirk of Scotland when he so called it. But you may defend your selves by this, That several Bishops in the Church of England, namely, Williams, Prideaux, Brownrig, Hacket, with Arch-Bishop Usher in the Head of them, disliked the Common-Prayer so much, as to present unto the English Parliament no less than Thirty-five Exceptions against several Things in it, calling for a Reformation. It their Exceptions did not forfeit their Claim to be of the Church, why should yours?

[Page 187] Perhaps they'll complain of you, That you do not use the LORD'S PRAYER as a Form. If they do, you may stop the Complaint, by citing to them not only an Army of the Ancients, but one who has been a great Oracle to the Church of England, even Grotius himself, declaring, That our Lord bound not his Disciples to the use of those Words and Syllables. If he did, why does the Church of England it self presume to alter them? In the Common-Prayer-Book the Form still is, Forgive us our Trespasses as we forgive them that Trespass against us. The Church of England herein varies from the Words of our Lord Jesus Christ: In Matthew his Words are, Forgive us our Debts as we forgive our Debtors: In Luke his Words are, Forgive us our Sins, for we forgive every one that is indebted unto us. Why must you be tied unto a Form of Words? The Church of England, even when most pretending to a Form, will not be tied, even to That for which there is the most pretence. The Infatuation discover'd by the Common-Prayer thus al­tering the Form and Phrase of the Lord's Prayer, de­serves to be consider'd! It may be, when you have silenced some of those froward Children in Christianity, from insisting on all their other Impertinencies, they will still refuse to visit your Assemblies, because the Houses wherein you hold them, are not so Fine and Gay as many of their publick Churches. But you may presently shew them, That the Gawdy Trimmings be­stow'd on some of their Churches are directly contrary to the Church of England. For the Homily against the Peril of Idolatry, expresly declares against the Abuses of Churches and Temples, by too costly and sumptuous decking and adorning of them. (w)

These and such Points might be improv'd much more largely, to demonstrate, That you are indeed among the TRUEST SONS of the True Church of England: But what needs any more, since 'tis a Maxim, [Page 188](and there is no need of quoting Avicen for the Maxim) Quicquid sufficientiae additur, superfluitati ascribitur? All that you will now demand of me, is to describe clearly and fairly to you, What is that NEW CHURCH of England whereto you do not belong, and I suppose, are not very willing to belong? 'Tis very certain, there is a Party in the English Nation usurping the Name of the Church of England, whereto it will be as little your Honour as 'tis your Desire to be United; and which (as one says) differs as much from the OLD CHURCH of England, as Nebuchadnezzar grazing among Beasts in the Field, from Nebuchadnezzar sitting on his glit­tering Throne.

Know then, my Brethren, That by a prevailing Fac­tion in England, the Canon-Law which pretends to Form the Church of England, hath been more than once alter'd, since the Family of the Stewarts came to sit on the Throne of Great Britain; and the Alteration hath now made a New Church in England of quite ano­ther kind, than what was before. There is now esta­blish'd by Law a National Church, which the Canons do (tho' Arch-Bishop Whitgift a little before durst not) affirm to be a True and Apostolical Church. The Bish­ops, which before then, durst as well have eaten Fire as have pretended to be as Diocesan Bishops, any other than the King's Officers, do by the Canons now lay Claim to a Divine Right. But because it puzzles them to make the King, who is not a Person in Orders, the Head of the Church, having these Officers under him, and yet for to make the Arch-Bishop of Canterbury the Head of the Church, is Treason; here they are in Con­fusion: And I suppose, you my Brethren, will not ask to be of this Church till you see them extricated out of this Confusion. To proceed, In the National Church thus establish'd, there are Twenty-six Diocesses, which the Canons make particular Churches of the lowest Rank; and tho' there be such vast Numbers of Pa­rishes in these Diocesses, the Canons have utterly divested [Page 189]them of the Character of particular Churches, which once they had something of, and they make no more than Twenty-six Churches, and no more than Twenty-six Pastors in the whole Kingdom of England. The Parish-Presbyters are by the Canons altogether strip'd of all Power to Ordain, or to Confirm, or to Excommunicate; tho' once there was a Power of Jurisdiction conceded unto them, which then made the Old Non-conformists to look on the Parish-Ministers as Pastors, and the Pa­rishes as retaining the Substantials of particular Churches. You, my Brethren, have been ready to say with Dr. Goodwin, ‘In some of the Parishes of the Kingdom, there are many godly Men that constantly give up themselves unto the Worship of God in publick, and meet together in one Place, to that end, in a constant way, under a godly Ministry whom they themselves have chosen to cleave unto, (tho' they did not chuse him at first;) these, notwithstanding their mixture and want of Discipline, I never thought, for my part, but they were true Churches of Christ. But now the Diocesan Church-Government being by Canon establish'd, the Parishes are no more allow'd any of them to be particular Churches. Arch-Bishop Laud labouring for a full Settlement of this New Church-State, perish'd in the way: But upon the Restauration of King Charles II. the Labours of the New Set, for to obtain Laud's Model, found more Success. In those places of the Common-Prayer, where they found the Word [Pastor] they blotted it out, and put in Priest, or Curate. And in the New Book of Ordering Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, not only the Execution of the Office, but the very Office of a Priest is taken away from all that have not Episcopal Ordination. The Epistles and Gospels to be formerly read at the Ordination of Priests, which re­ferred unto the Pastoral Office, are now to be read only at the Consecration of a Bishop. All Presbyterian Ordi­nations were declar'd null and void by the memorable Act of Uniformity, and they that had no more were pro­nounc'd [Page 190]as naturally Dead. This Diocesan Church of England, according to Canon, receives to Baptism the Children of all Parents, (be they Jewish or Pagan) that are brought unto the Minister. And every Bap­tized Inhabitant within the Diocess, if he be not Excom­municated, or doth say, That he heartily desires the Lord's Supper, is admitted unto that Sacrament also, if he will take it according to the Form in the Liturgy, (by the common Custom of the Church) altho' he be never so ungodly. Whatever Admonitions the Rubric or Canons do give against admitting the Wicked unto the Sacraments, 'tis yet abundantly provided in them, That the Administrator shall be uncapable of excluding the wickedest alive. But at the same Time, (x) all those who refuse to Kneel at the reception of the Sacra­ment, or who refuse to be present at Publick Prayers, according to the Order of the Church of England; which Orders be, (y) Reverently to Kneel, when the General Confession, Litany, and other Prayers are read, and Stand up at the saying of the Belief, and Bow at the Name of Jesus, and Say in their due place and audibly with the Minister, the Confession, the Lord's Prayer, and the Creed, and make such other Answers to the Publick Prayers as are appointed in the Book of Common-Prayer; all such as refuse to do any of these Things, are to be denied the Communion; and what Minister soever shall wittingly admit them, he is liable to Suspension. Yea, whosoever affirms, That the Church of England, as by Law thus establish'd, is not form'd according to Divine Institu­tion, (or Apostolical) is ipso facto to be look'd upon as Excommunicated. (z) This is the Roaring of the Eccle­siastical Canons, and the Clergy by their Oath of Ca­nonical Obedience, are sworn to observe these as well as the rest of the Canons. My Brethren, while you be­long [Page 191]long to the CHRISTIAN CHURCH OF EN­GLAND, you have all the Reason imaginable to hear it, and bear it, and own it patiently, if you be told that you do not belong unto this DIOCESAN CHURCH OF ENGLAND. For, First, If I be not mistaken, this presumptuous CANONICAL CHURCH OF ENGLAND has Excommunicated the best of Princes, (notwithstanding its pretended Loy­alty) if they do but offer to contest any Part of its Constitution; and it will be no Dishonour unto you to be partakers with such illustrious Heads, in suffering these Contradictions of Sinners. Perhaps you'll be sur­priz'd at this; but if any Princes or Parliaments, who declare, That they who cannot use the Ceremonies of the Church of England, may be Men of very good Con­science, escape an Excommunication by the Sixth Canon of the Church, which is, Whosoever shall hereafter affirm, That the Rites and Ceremonies of the Church of England by Law establish'd, are such as being commanded by law­ful Authority, Men who are zealously and godlily affected, may not with any good Conscience approve them, use them, or subscribe unto them, let him be Excommunicated ipso facto: I doubt the Eighth Canon bears too hard upon them. According to that, Whosoever shall hereafter affirm or teach, That the Form and Manner of making and consecrating Bishops, Priests, or Deacons, containeth any Thing in it that is repugnant unto the Word of God, let them be Excommunicated ipso facto, and not be re­stor'd until be repent, and publickly revoke such his wicked Error. That Form does assert, That Bishops and Priests are distinct Orders in Christ's Church; and that it is evident unto all Men diligently reading the Holy Scrip­tures, that from the Apostles Time they have been so. Now suppose any Princes give the Royal Assent unto an Act for the extirpation of Bishops in one of the Three Kingdoms; have they not very emphatically taught us, That this Assertion in the Form of consecrating Bishops and Priests, is not according to the Word of God? Have [Page 192]they not very sufficiently afirm'd, That the Word of God obliges us not for to acknowledge Bishops of an Order distinct from other Ministers in the Church of Christ? We'll suppose they have somewhere or other in express Terms, (a) abolish'd Prelacy and Superiority in any Office in the Church above Presbyters; and de­clar'd and ordain'd the (b) Government of the Church there, by Presbyters without Bishops, to be the only true and proper Government thereof. I am certain, this is to proclaim it with a witness, That the Superiority of Bishops, as an Order above Presbyters, is not Instituted in the Word of God. And at the same Time it is to maintain, That the Doctrine of the Form of making Bishops and Priests, which asserts that Superiority of Or­der to be of Divine Right, is repugnant unto the Word of God. These Princes it seems, (which indeed I abhor to mention) stand excommunicated ipso facto, by the Eighth Canon of the Church of England, until they repent and publickly revoke the wicked Errors committed in abolishing that Prelacy.

This CANONICAL CHURCH continuing to offer such Affronts unto Majesty, you may well de­cline to be any Part of it, until they repent and publickly revoke their wicked Canons. But that which may con­firm you in this aversion to that Church, is the Wrong which those Canons do to all the Ministers of the Lord Jesus Christ in the World. For according to them, none of the Scotch, or Dutch, or French Ministers, nor any of your own, are true Ministers of the Lord Jesus Christ, while they want Episcopal Ordination. Albeit, the famous Mr. Selden has out of Eutychius prov'd, That not only Bishops, but Patriarchs themselves, were in the Primitive Times Ordain'd by Presbyters; yet now, forsooth, according to our New Church, none [Page 193]may be own'd for so much as Presbyters, but such as have been Ordain'd by Diocesan Bishops. And there­fore, altho' this Canonical Church will admit a Popish Priest upon his Abjuration, to be a Minister without Re-ordination, it will not without Re-ordination, admit any of these who are the best of Protestants. Yea, and when this Church has admitted any unto its Mi­nistry, it presently strips them of their Rights that are essential to all true Ministers of the Lord Jesus Christ. And here I will not insist on this, That by the Canons of this Church, its own Ministers have not so much as Liberty for one Occasional Prayer of their own left unto them. All the Conformists are by the Thirty-sixth Canon to subscribe ex animo, a Covenant, That they will use the Form in the Book of Common-Prayer prescrib'd in Publick Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments, and NONE OTHER. Indeed a Custom for Ministers to pray without Book in the Pulpit, is conniv'd at; but in as much as they are Publick Prayers, I know others besides Mr. Baxter, who doubt them to be a Breach of the Canon-Covenant. I pass from this, to say, I suppose you are desirous to ac­knowledge all the Parish-Presbyters faithfully feeding their willing Flocks in the Realm, notwithstanding their Conformity to be True Ministers of the Gospel; but their own Canons, even those to which they themselves have sworn, do all they can to forbid your doing so. For you, and they too, must readily own, That unto the Office of a Minister of the Gospel, here are two Things Essential, namely, Obligation to Teach, and Au­thority to Rule the Flock. Whereas the Canons, what­ever they require in some Clauses, do evidently release the Parish-Minister from Obligation to Teach, by pro­viding, That the Sacraments are not to be refused at the Hands of Unpreaching Ministers. And the whole Au­thority to Rule, is by the Canons reserv'd unto the Bishop, to be executed by his Lay-Chancellor; so that the Parish-Minister cannot exclude the veriest Infidel in [Page 194]the World from the Sacraments, if a certain Lay-Chancellor do order his Reception. Briefly, No Or­dain'd Priest may take upon him, to Expound any Scripture, or Matter, or Doctrine, (or do any more than read) so much as to his own Family, till he have a License from his Ordinary. And he then too has no more Power than any Lay-man to censure an Offender, or to judge who are worthy to be censur'd. Tho' the Rubric and Canon do seem sometimes to favour the Significancy of the Curates, yet elsewhere it the more in­excusably renders them utterly Insignificant. Doubtless you will wonder how that the Clergy themselves can with Patience endure to be so nullified, as they are by this their Canonical Church, or to see themselves more honour'd by you that are Non-conformists than they are by their own Canons! But you are sensible what Force it is that obliges them unto their Patience. To see the Ministers of the Gospel so Degraded as they are by Canons, gives Offence unto you, if not unto them; and methinks it should be no Offence unto them, that you take this Offence on their behalf.

A Third Prejudice that you'll easily take up against this CANONICAL CHURCH, is the Number and Figure of those many other good Men, (besides Princes and Parliaments) whom they have Excommunicated. This Laodicean Church may admire her own Charity, (that is to say, the Easiness of her Discipline as well as the Openness of her Communion towards the worst of Men) but she has the most Excommunicating and most Anathematizing Charity that ever was in the World. For by the Canons of that Church, ‘Whoever shall affirm, (c) That the Church of England by Law esta­blish'd, is not an Apostolical Church, or that its Wor­ship is Corrupt, or that any of the 39 Articles are in any part Erroneous, or that the Rites and Ceremonies of the Church of England may not be used with a [Page 195]good Conscience, or that the Government of the Church by Arch-Bishops, Bishops, &c. is repugnant to the Word of God, or that the Form or Manner of making or consecrating of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, containeth any thing in it repugnant to the Word of God, all these are to be Excommunicated ipso facto. Now, Sirs, you'll find perhaps the bigger Part of the godly People in England, even among the Conformists themselves, to be by one or other of these Clauses Excommunicated: That is to say, they are Excommuni­cated out of the CANONICAL CHURCH into the CHRISTIAN CHURCH OF ENGLAND: And I hope they will be content with their Condition, and not thrust themselves upon the Party that has Excom­municated them. However, that you may be sure of being driven both out of, and into the same Church with them, hark how these Canons do further Thunder! (d) ‘Whosoever shall maintain, That there are within the Realm [and Note by the way, That all the English Plantations, particularly Barbadoes, Jamaica, Bermudas, New-England, New-York, Virginia, Carolina, all which have Non-conformist Meetings in them, do belong to the Ecclesiastical Realm of England, as being Part of the Bishop of London's Diocess;] 'other Meetings, Assem­blies, or Congregations of the King's-born Subjects, than such as by the Law of the Land are held and allow'd, which may rightly challenge to themselves the Name of true and lawful Churches, let them be Excommunicated, and not restored but by the Arch-Bishop, after Repentance and Publick Revocation of such their wicked Errors. You see, Sirs, that either you are that Church of England which the Law holds and allows, or else you stand Excommunicated But I assure my self, you are not ambitious to be reckon'd of that Party which has Excommunicated all the Con­gregations of the Non-conformists. Nor will it bring [Page 196]you under the Brand of Schismaticks, if being thus Ex­communicated ipso facto, you settle your selves in the Communion of Churches that will receive you. And this the rather, lest you should be found in the TREA­SONABLE PLOT, whereof the famous Mr. Baxter among others, has convicted that Party, namely, That of attempting a Revolt unto a Foreign Jurisdiction. Albeit the Canons of the Church, (and the Articles also) whereto these Men are sworn, do most expresly re­nounce all such Foreign Jurisdiction; yet such is the Confusion whereinto the perfidious Builders of Babel run themselves, that according to the New Church of En­gland, (e) ‘The Colledge of Bishops through all the World, are the Supream, Universal, Visible Sove­reign of the Catholick Church, having Power of Uni­versal Government; That they are to exercise it in General Councils, where every Bishop is by Office the Representative of his Diocesan Church; That these Bishops are to have Metropolitans and Patriarchs, and the Pope of Rome is to be their Uniting Head, and exofficio the President of the Councils; That in the Inter­vals of these Councils, they are per literas formatas, to exercise their Power over all the World; That all that will not unite with the Church of Rome, (which is to be distinguish'd from the Court of Rome) on these Terms, are Schismaticks; but they that will, are no Papists; none being Papists but they that are for the Pope's absolute Power above Canons or Councils; That the Church of Rome is a true Church, and if it will not impose the Innovations of the last Four Hun­dred Years, it may be united with; but the Protestant Churches, which are destitute of Diocesan Bishops, are no true Churches, nor their Pastors true Ministers, nor have they any true Sacraments, nor Covenant-Pro­mise of Salvation.’

[Page 197] Of such a Church as this, methinks I hear you, and the bigger and better Part of your Brethren, yet groan­ing under the Shackles of Conformity, resolve, Come not into their Secret, O my Soul! unto their Assembly, my Tongue, be not thou united! The most flourishing and glorious Island in the World, will be in perpetual Dan­ger of becoming a French Province, except the Non­conformists be counted better Parts of the Church of England, than the Men of such dangerous Principles; and except the Sacramental TEST be therefore taken off. But there is the True CHRISTIAN CHURCH of England, which would have the Reformation of Re­ligion carried on according to the Direction of the Sacred Scriptures, and the Intention of the first Reformers, and counts not Christianity to lye in vain Ceremony; which looks on Diocesan Bishops as made such by the King and the National Church-Government, as an human, tho' some say useful Policy; which owns the rest of the found Protestants in the World for Brethren, and would have the Qualifications for the Pastoral Office, and for Communion in special Ordinances, to be no other than what the Lord Jesus Christ hath instituted; which, in fine, is against bringing a Yoke of Slavery upon the brave English Nation in Spirituals or Temporals. And of this Church ye are. God, and the King, and the Parliament, and all sober Men, will reckon you a valu­able Part of this Church; while a certain Hectoring sort of People in the World, that would be thought the only Church of England, deserve to be counted rather the Wens, than any Parts of it, and indeed know not what it is. I beseech you, Sirs, let not the CHURCH OF ENGLAND become a Name of such a Treason­able Importance, that it must belong to none but that Faction, whose Religion lyes in Sainting their Martyr Charles I. whose Reign was spent in an unnatural Manner, plotting and contriving to undermine and sub­vert the Religion, Laws, and Liberties of the English [Page 198]Nation; (h) and who notwithstanding the Sham of the Icon Basilike, it's fear'd would have been another John Basilovitz, if he had prospered in his unnatural War against the Parliament.

And now, my Brethren, if any go to seduce you from your own REFORMED CONGREGATI­ONS into the more CEREMONIOUS ASSEM­BLIES in the Church of England, you are furnish'd with an Answer: Let your Answer be, That you are of the Church of England, and that you cannot better express your being so, than by keeping with your own REFORMED CONGREGATIONS. If the Bishop of London should be offended at the Governours of Barbadoes, or Bermudas, or Carolina, for worshipping of God in the Meetings of the Non-conformists there, the Gentlemen may truly say in their Defence, That they worshipped God with the truest Part of the Church of England in those Parts of America.

Be advised, my Brethren, to carry it with all possible Moderation and Civility towards those that can conform unto Ceremonies farther than you; Be gentle unto all Men. But yet continue stedfast in your present Non­conformity. The Day is at Hand that will justify your Stedfastness. Even at this Day, the most Conformable themselves confess, That the Rites whereto you are Non-conformists, are indifferent Things, and the Worship of the Lord Jesus Christ is as well without them as with them. Why should you then add those Rites, which in your Consciences are not so indifferent as the Confession of the Conformable would render them, and which will defile your Worship? Even Bishop Sander­son himself expresly says, If any Man shall use them with an Opinion, as if God's Service could not be rightly perform'd without them, doubtless the Use of such Cere­monies by Reason of such his Opinion, would be superstitious [Page 199]unto him. Thus by the Confession of the Conformable, you are well as you are. Know when you are well. More Conformity won't make you better. And if the Rites are so Indifferent, why should those that urge them for the sake thereof, make a Difference? Let them return unto you; there is no Cause why you should go over unto them. Reason and Justice will one Day take place: The Day foretold by the Bishop of Worcester before he was a Bishop, ‘God will one Day convince Men, That the Unity of the Church lyes more in the Unity of Faith and Affection, than in the Uniformity of doubtful Rites and Ceremonies (i) You will then be own'd in the Church of England; yea, the Partition-Wall between you and all the other sincere Protestants in the English Nation, will be taken down.

[Page 200]

Part the fourth and last, containing some faithful Testimonies to the Cause and Work of GOD in the New-English Churches.

Number I. The Great END and INTEREST of NEW-ENGLAND, Stated by the Memorable Mr. JONATHAN MITCHEL, Extracted from an In­strument of His, which bears Date, Decemb. 31.1662.

THE CAUSE of the People of GOD in NEW-ENGLAND, is, RELIGION; That is, the Profession and Practice of the Truths and Rules of the Word of GOD.

As, I King. VIII. 58, 59. That He may incline our Hearts unto Him, to walk in ALL HIS WAYS, and to keep His Commandments, and His Statutes, and His Judgments, which He commanded our Fathers,—The CAUSE of His People Israel at all Times.

More particularly, REFORMATION of RELI­GION. There was Religion in the Places whence we came. But NEW-ENGLAND'S Design in this vast Undertaking was REFORMATION; that is, The avoiding of some special Corruptions, and the vigorous and more Exact Profession and Practice of the contrary Truths and Rules, according to Scripture-Pattern.

[Page 201] Hence, Our Cause is not Separation from any thing Good in other Churches; whether Truth of Church-State, or any Doctrine rightly professed, or Ordinance rightly administred in them.

But it is REFORMATION, only of what was Amiss or Defective in the Churches we came from.

Yet more Specially; if it be ask'd, what REFOR­MATION? Or, what Particular we are here to seek and set up REFORMATION in? I fully close with Mr. Hooker's Discourse, in his Preface before, Survey of Church-Discipline; That as the Prophetical and Priest­ly Office of CHRIST, was compleatly Vindicated in the First Times of Reformation, so now the Great CAUSE and WORK of GOD'S Reforming People, is, to Clear the Rights of CHRIST'S Kingly Office, and in their Practice to set up His Kingdom.

The KINGDOM of CHRIST, tho' it be now dis­tasted as a Fanatic Notion — by the Prophaneness of Mens Hearts, which is ready to catch at any Occasion, to blemish it, and to rise up in Rage against the In­terest thereof: [Psal. II. 1, 3, 6.] Yet the True KINGDOM of CHRIST, (as the Scripture states it) is Glorious, and Divine, and that for which GOD will Overturn, Overturn, Overturn, until it be Erected in its Glory; and (say Men what they will) I will still Pray, Thy Kingdom Come.

The KINGDOM of CHRIST is, in general, no­thing else but The Flourishing of RELIGION, Or that whereby the WORD of CHRIST in the SCRIP­TURE, (which is called the Word of the Kingdom,) is fully submitted to. In a Word, Then His Kingdom Comes in its Glory, when the Will of GOD is done on Earth as it is in Heaven: And so far that Kingdom Comes, as this Will is done.

The KINGDOM of CHRIST, or the Reception and Erecting thereof, is more Inward and Personal, in the Hearts and particular Conversations of Men; more Outward and Publick in Societies.

[Page 202] The Former is, when any Persons are Converted, and help'd to Walk in New-Obedience; tho' they be never so Few and Obscure. Thus CHRIST has always had a KINGDOM on Earth. And when this reaches unto Many, it cannot but become Visible, in one Degree or other, and so Inseparable from the Latter. Hence the General Conversion of Jews and Gentiles, will be the Inlet of the Greatest Glory of CHRIST'S Kingdom on Earth. Hence also, CHRIST has always had a King­dom in some Degree Visible in some Societies of Men; tho' sometimes very Thin, Low and Obscure, and kept under by Corruptions and Persecutions.

The Latter Erecting of CHRIST'S Kingdom in whole Societies, (whereby CHRIST is seen Ruling all in a Conspicuous and open, in a prevailing and peace­able manner,) was OUR DESIGN and is OUR IN­TEREST in this Country: tho' with Respect to the Inward and Invisible KINGDOM, as the Scope there­of. The Public setting up of CHRIST'S Kingdom, and Enjoyment of those Ordinances and Ways of His, which can only be enjoy'd in whole Societies, and that with Purity and Liberty, was OUR END in coming hither. And this also is CHRIST'S Design in these Latter Days; To set up His Kingdom, in a Public and Openly prevailing manner, in all the Parts and Ways thereof.

In the Church, CHRIST'S Kingdom is clearly and gloriously set up, when ONLY and ALL His Institu­tions, both in Worship and Discipline are attended and observed in their Purity and Power, according to Scrip­ture Pattern. [Mat. XXVIII. 18, 23.] THIS is the Great CAUSE and Interest of GOD'S People in this Country, and was the Great END of their Under­taking, and hath been the great Matter of this TESTI­MONY, in their Synodical Acts, and other Writings Published unto the World.

Hence our Great DUTY is to keep and seek all the Commandments of GOD, [1 Chron. XXVIII. 8.] in [Page 203]that respect; that is, all the Institutions and Ordinances of His House; To hold fast what we have attained, that is according to Scripture-Pattern therein, and to come up unto what we yet want or are defective in.

Hence also those among us, that desire to set up in this Country, any of the Ways of Men's Invention (as, Prelacy, stinted Liturgies, Humane Ceremonies in Wor­ship,) they will bid Defiance to the CAUSE and In­terest of CHRIST and of His People, in these Ends of the Earth; and will (I perswade my self) but lay themselves as Potters Vessels under the Iron Rod. For, CHRIST, who has taken this possession of these uttermost parts of the Earth, will not Endure it. Let us Go forward to any of those Things of CHRIST, that we are wanting in. But to Go backward unto those Things which we know, and have openly Testified [Platform, c. 1. and c. 7. Sect. 6.] to be not of GOD, and which we departed from, will be such a Wickedness as the Lord's JEALOUSY will not bear withal.

Our Work is not only to depart from Mens Inven­tions, but to set up All [ALL] GOD'S Institutions in their Beauty and Power; that we may Exhibit a clear and complete Copy thereof before the World; and that we and ours may have that full Enjoyment of GOD, in all His Ordinances, that we came hither for.

In the Common Wealth CHRIST'S Kingdom is set up, when all Things therein are so ordered, (Laws and all Civil Administrations) as doth most fitly and effectually tend to advance, promote, and maintain Religion and Reformation.

Let us faithfully cleave to the WHOLE INTEREST and KINGDOM of CHRIST, and He can make us a Burdensome Stone to all Opposers, as He has done hi­therto, [Zech. XII. 3, 5. Dan. II. 44, 45. Matth. XXI. 44. Isa. LIV. 17.] and make Good to us, His Promise to Philadelphia; To keep our Door open, and to preserve us in the Hour of Temptation that is upon all the World.

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Number II. The CAUSE of GOD, and His People in NEW-ENGLAND; Stated in a SER­MON of the Memorable Mr. JOHN HIGGINSON, unto the General Court of the Massachusetts-Co­lony, May 27. 1663.

[On 1 King. VIII. 57, 58, 59.]

THE CAUSE of GOD and His People among us, is, The Cause of RELIGION. — That every Thing in Doctrine, Worship, and Discipline, be Conformed to and Regulated by, the Rule of the WORD.

When the Lord stirred up the Spirits of so many of His People to come over into this Wilderness, it was not for Worldly Wealth, or a better Livelihood for the Outward Man. The Generality of the People that came over, profess'd the contrary; Nor had we any Rational Grounds to expect such a Thing in such a Wilderness. Tho' GOD hath blessed His poor People here, and there are that have increased here, from small Beginnings to great Estates; That the Lord may call this whole Generation to witness. — O Generation see! Look upon your Towns and Fields, Look upon your Habitations and Shops, and Ships, and behold your Numerous Posterity, and Great Increase in the Blessings of the Land and Sea; Have I been a Wilderness unto you? We must needs answer, No, Lord, Thou hast been a Gracious GOD, and Exceeding Good unto thy Servants, even in these Earthly Blessings; we live in a more Plentiful and [Page 205]Comfortable manner than ever we did expect. But these are but Additions; they are but Additional Mercies; It was Another and Better Thing, that we followed the Lord into the Wilderness for. This is never to be forgotten, That New-England is Originally a Planta­tion of Religion. And if any Man amongst us, make Religion as Twelve, and the World as Thirteen, Let such an One know, he hath neither the Spirit of a True New-England Man, nor yet of a Sincere Chris­tian.

And the Cause is not Separation from any thing Good in other Churches. The End of our Coming hither was a Reformaiion only of what was Amiss or Defective in the Churches we came from. We distin­guish between the Corruptions and Disorders of Chur­ches, and the Churches themselves. So much for the Negative.

Now for the Affirmative. 'If my weakness was able to shew, what the Cause of GOD and His Peo­ple in New-England is, according to its Divine Ori­ginal and Native Beauty, it would dazzle the Eyes of Angels, daunt the Hearts of Devils, ravish and chain fast the Affections of all the Saints.

First, This was and is our CAUSE, that CHRIST alone might be acknowledged by us, as the only Head, Lord, and Lawgiver in His Church; That His Written Word might be acknowledged as the Only Rule; That Only and All His Institutions might be observed, and Enjoyed by us, and that with Purity and Liberty, with Peace and Power.

Secondly, I conceive our CAUSE is not barely a Reformation, but a PROGRESS in Reformation; To go on unto Perfection. A conceit of having already attain'd a Perfect Reformation, should be far from us. — Our Fathers fled into this Wilderness from the face of a Lording Episcopacy, and Humane Injunctions in the Worship of GOD. Now, if any of us their Chil­dren should yield unto, or be Instrumental to set up [Page 206]in this Country, any of the Ways of Men's Invention, such as Prelacy, imposed Liturgies, Humane Cere­monies in the Worship of GOD, or to admit Ignorant and Scandalous Persons to the Lord's Table; This would be a Backsliding indeed! It would be a Back­sliding to the Things which we and our Fathers have departed from, and have openly testified against, to be not of GOD.

Thirdly, The Union of Reformers belongs unto this CAUSE; For there is not any one Duty more press'd by our Saviour CHRIST and His Apostles, than this of an holy and close Union among those that profess His Name. The best of Men may err; and there being divers Measures of Light and Grace, there cannot but be Different Apprehensions in some Things: And therefore, where there is not so full an Agreement as is to be desired, it is our Duty to forbear one another in Love, Endeavouring to keep the Unity of the Spirit in the Bond of Peace.

This is the Chief Interest of NEW-ENGLAND; the Matter of greatest Importance in itself, and of greatest Concernment unto us. Whatever may be said of our Interest in other respects, yet we may be sure of This, that here lies our pradominant Interest and CAUSE; and the Great END for which we came into this Wilderness, and continue in it.

[Page 207]

Number III. NEW-ENGLAND's True Interest; fur­ther Declared, in the Words of the Honourable WILLIAM STOUGH­TON, Esq in a SERMON preach'd by Him, (in the Audience of the GENERAL COURT, April 1668.) when He was a Preacher of the Gospel at Dorchester: From which he was call'd Successively to many Stations of the highest Figure in the Civil Government; and when he died was Comman­der in Chief of the PROVINCE. The Discourse is Entituled, NEW-ENGLAND's True Interest, From those Words, Isa. 63.8. He said surely they are my People, Children that will not lie: So He was their Savicur.

THIS we must know, that the Lord expects great Things of NEW-ENGLAND, above any Nation or People in the World. And His Expecta­tions herein are just and righteous. For

As for special Relation to GOD; whom hath the Lord more signally exalted than His People in this Wilderness?

As for Extraction and Descent; O what Parents and Predecessors may we the most of us look back unto? Thro' whose Loins the Lord hath stretch'd forth the Line of his Covenant to take us in. — As [Page 208]for Restipulations and Engagements back again to GOD; What Awful Publick Transactions of this kind have there been among us? — As to our Advan­tages and Priviledges in a Covenant State, here Time and Strength would fail me, to reckon up what we have enjoy'd of this kind. — And then, As to New-England's FIRST WAYS; What Glorious Things might be spoken to the praise of Free Grace.

But, O! what a sad Metamorphosis hath there of later Years past upon these Churches and Plantations? —It must be spoken in the Name of the Lord, O New-England, Thy God expects better Things from thee and thy Children; not Worldlyness; — not an itching after new Things and Ways —; not a drawing loose in the Yoke of God?

Alas! How is New-England, in Danger of being lost even in New-England? How sadly may we la­ment it, that All are not Israel that are now in Israel? The First Generation have been ripen'd Time after Time, and the most of them gather'd in as Shocks of Corn in their Season; But we that rise up to tread out the Footsteps of them that are gone before us, Alas! what are we? It is a sad Name, to be stiled Children that are Corrupters. [Isa. 1.4.] But are we not in­deed many of us Corrupted, and that which is far worse, Corrupters? How is our Wine mixed with Water? Many, (as we may justly fear) would but too soon and too easily entertain a Lie in the Worship of God, and return to the Onions and Garlick of Egypt again.

The common Interest of the People of God, and of Us the Lord's People in special, is, the Interest of practical Piety and Holiness; — the Interest of Unmixed Spiritual Gospel Worship; — the Interest of Unity and Peace in the Ways of Reformation: The Interest of these Things, and of just and righteous Liberties in order thereunto; The Times are coming and hasten­ing more and more, wherein Faithfulness to God in all [Page 209]these Things, will be the most glorious Crown that can be worn upon Earth; A Crown upon which it shall be graven, Here is the Faith and Patience of the Saints. This then is the Word of the Lord to His New-England Churches, Let no Man take this your Crown from you.

This Eminent Person goes on, and earnestly Advises the risen and rising Generation of this Land, to make Conscience, not only of being rightly informed in that Cause of GOD which we are here wrapt up in, and in adhering to those Things wherein the Lord hath hither­to preserved and blessed His Churches and People, but also of getting a Sight and View of the Divine Beauty and Glory thereof. ‘And truly, says He, As to this Cause and Interest of GOD, there can be no other Founda­tions laid than those which have been laid. New-En­gland's true and main Interest, the Cause of Christ in His Churches here, It is a fixed and unalterable Thing: It is not now to be found out by any new Light, Let us take heed of inquiring of, or listening, in this Matter, unto, the Determinations and Glosses of such as have had no Standing in the Ways of God here, but have been grafted in upon By-Accounts, or move in the Eccentrick Orb of some private Interest, distinct from that of the whole. And let us also lay down this as a Rule, That whatsoever it is that hath been unanimously Rejected and Condemned in its Claims by the acknowledged most eminent Reformers in each Age, since the Apostacy of Antichrist prevailed, this can never in these our Days, justify its Title to that Cause of Christ, that is to be maintained and contended for.

[Page 210]

Number IV. The TESTIMONY Finished, By Dr. INCREASE MATHER.

Now these be the Last Words

HAVING reviewed the Harmonious TESTIMO­NY of those Three Worthies in our Israel, our Memorable MITCHEL, our Venerable HIGGIN­SON, and our Honourable STOUGHTON, unto the CAUSE of GOD in the Churches of NEW-EN­GLAND, and the Great END of these Plantations, I do now with my DYING HAND Sign my Con­currence thereunto. I am now in the Eighty Fourth Year of my Age, and under a Feebleness in the Valley of the shadow of Death, wherein the LORD is yet a Light unto me, and makes it but a Shadow of Death; and I am every Hour waiting and longing for my Dismission to a Better World. In these very singular Circumstances, I am willing to add my TESTIMONY concurrent with the foregoing, and I do Declare, That the Principal DESIGN upon which these Colonies were at first Planted, was to Profess, and Practice and Enjoy, with undisturb'd Liberty, the Holy RELIGION of GOD our SAVIOUR, Exhibited in the SACRED SCRIPTURES, and Reformed and Rescued from the Inventions and Abuses, which the Man of Sin has intro­duced; And, more particularly, To set up CHUR­CHES [Even of the Aboriginal Natives, as well as of English Christians] for our Lord JESUS CHRIST, that shall keep themselves Loyal to Him, their Glorious KING, in His Word, giving Law unto them; and [Page 211]faithful to the Religion of the SECOND COM­MANDMENT; and hee from those Offensive Things from which our UNITED BRETHREN, of the Presbyterian and Congregational Denomination in the English Nation have withdrawn themselves; and which our Honoured and Beloved BRETHREN, in the Renowned Church of SCOTLAND, have abolish'd and abandon'd.

It was equally design'd by those Followers of the Lord into the Wilderness, when it was a Land not sown, That the pure and undefiled Religion deliver'd unto us in the Sacred Scriptures, (and Exhibited afterwards in our Confession of Faith,) should be continually Preach'd, and our Doctrines of Grace particularly asserted, by MINISTERS of Good Abilities; and Exemplary God­liness and Watchfulness, freely and fairly chosen by the Churches whereof they are to be the Pastors. And it also belongs unto the Glory of these Churches, to be so Constituted, as Livelily to Exhibit the Kingdom of Heaven to the World: Both Debarring from their Communion such Ignorant and Scandalous Persons (who can't or won't Examine themselves) as are to be shut out from the City of GOD; And Admitting of all those (tho' in different Perswasions about lesser Points) of whom it may be Judged, That CHRIST has received them to the Glory of GOD. Our Foundation is in these Holy Mountains.

It is now accordingly the DYING WISH, of One that has been about Threescore and Six Years, after a poor manner, but I hope, with some Sincerity, ser­ving the best of Masters, in the blessed Work of the Gospel; That the CHURCHES may Stand fast in the Faith and Order of the Gospel, and hold fast what they have received, and Let no Man take away their Crown. And, that the PASTORS would more Dis­tinctly from Time to Time, and with proper Inculca­tions, acquaint the Churches with their True Interest; and those Things which will be their Beauty and their [Page 212] Safety. And considering the Relation which I have here­tofore sustain'd as a President for Twenty Years, it is highly proper for me to leave it as also my more parti­cular Desire, that the Tutors in our COLLEGES, from whence the Churches expect their Supplies, would see to have the Students well informed in the Points, which they must Know and Serve, that so the WORK of GOD among us may not be marr'd by falling into Un­skilful and Unfaithful Hands.

Indeed, I cannot but go away Rejoicing in it, That the Means, which are indefatigably used, for the draw­ing of unwary People into the Things that will not profit them, have had so little Success; and that the Body of the Sober People throughout the Country, (so far as I understand) generally continue to discover such a conspi­cuous Aversion to the Things, from the Face whereof their Fathers sled into the Wilderness: tho' at the same time, a too general Decay of that Real and Vital God­liness, which is to be the main Intention of all, is greatly to be bewailed. But there may be Danger of Another Generation arising, which will not know the Lord, nor the Works done by Him, and for Him, among His Peo­ple here.

And therefore from the Suburbs of that Glorious World, into which I am now Entring, I earnestly Testify unto the Rising Generation, That if they sinfully Forsake the GOD, and the Hope, and the Religious Ways of their pious An­cestors, the Glorious LORD will severely punish their Apostacy, and be Terrible from His Holy Places unto them.

Now, The Lord our GOD be with you, as He was with your Fathers; Let Him not leave you, nor forsake you. LORD, Let thy Work appear unto thy Servants, and thy Glory unto their Children!

Novemb. 10.1722.

The END of the Appendix.
[Page 213]

The CONTENTS.

The General Discourse of CONGRE­GATIONAL CHURCHES.
  • COngregational Church what. Page 1.
  • Congregational Churches instituted. Page 2.
  • Principles on which they are founded. Page 5.
  • These prefer'd to Nation [...]l Churches. Page 7.
  • Sentiments leading to the Congregational Way. Page 8.
  • How the Tyranny of the Clergy forsaken in it; and its Advantages. Page 9.
  • Primitive Churches Congregational. Page 10.
  • Reasonableness of Congregational Way. Page 13.
  • Arguments against it answer'd. Page 13.
  • Congregational Churches the first Subject of Offices, Gifts and Powers. Page 25.
  • The Reformation best defended from This. Page 25.
  • How particular Churches came to be depriv'd of their Powers. Page 27.
  • Natural Light and Christian Prudence to be used by the Churches in some Circumstances. Page 28.
  • But no finding and imposing odd Inventions. Page 29.
  • Call to the Churches to observe the Rules of Rea­son and Revelation and take Care of their Liberties. Page 32.
  • Reasons of writing the Apology. Page 33.
  • Charity of the New-English Churches towards them that are not of their Way. Page 34.
The Distinguishing Liberties of the New-English Churches maintain'd. Page 35.
  • Chapter I. Their Right to chuse their Officers. Page 36.
  • Scriptural Proofs for it. Page 37.
  • Reasons for it. Page 39.
  • Objections answered. Page 42.
  • [Page 214] Proofs from ancient Writers. Page 44.
  • Whence Churches depriv'd of this Right. Page 49.
  • Protestant Writers for it. Page 49.
  • Call upon Churches to abide by it. Page 50.
  • Chapter II. Their Right to ordain their Ministers. Churches before their Officers; and no uninter­rupted Succession and Ordination. Page 51, 52.
  • Ordination by a Bishop or an Eldership. Page 53.
  • Epistles to Timothy and Titus neither Episcopal nor Presbyterian. Page 54.
  • People may ordain their Minister. Page 57.
  • Antiquity no Stranger to This. Page 57.
  • Officers of Neighbour Churches may be cor­rupt or wicked. Page 59.
  • If not, they have absolutely no Right to ordain Ministers over Neighbour Churches. Page 60.
  • Elders of particular Churches may ordain. Page 60.
  • So may Elders meeting in Council or Synod Page 60.
  • Fabritius's Thoughts of Ordination. Page 61.
  • Our Fathers' Thought of it. Page 61.
  • Arguments and Authorities for it. Page 62.
  • Testimonies of the Ancients. Page 71.
  • Chapter III. Their Right to send forth Delegates and call them to an Account. Page 73.
  • Scriptural and other Proofs of it. Page 74.
  • No Substitutions of Delegates. Page 76.
  • Passages from ancient Authors. Page 77.
  • The Churches exhorted to Watchfulness. Page 78.
  • Chapter IV. Their Right to depose and to with­draw from their Elders.
  • The Sentiments of our Fathers. Page 79.
  • The Reason of it. Page 80.
  • Antiquity for it. Page 81.
  • They may certainly withdraw from Elders. Page 83.
  • The Scriptural Warrant for it. Page 83.
  • Testimonies to it. Page 84.
  • Exhortation to maintain the Right. Page 85.
  • [Page 215]Chapter V. Their Right to except against the Approach of the Disqualified to Communion.
  • The Sentiments and Expectations of these Churches. Page 85.
  • What reasonable for Candidates of Communion. Page 87.
  • Reason for the Right we claim. Page 88.
  • Scriptural Authority & primitive Antiquity. Page 88, 89.
  • Churches exhorted to perform their Duty. Page 91.
  • Chap. VI. The Brethren's Right to deal with their Brethren in Private and to judge in Public.
  • The Opinion of these Churches. Page 93.
  • The Divine Warrant. Page 94.
  • How Discipline administred. Page 96.
  • Sacred Proofs of the Church's Power. Page 99.
  • Reason of the Thing for it. Page 101.
  • Testimonies from Ancients. Page 102.
  • Testimonies from Moderns. Page 103.
  • How Churches and Brethren depriv'd of their Right. Ibid.
  • Elders not excluded from their Right. Page 104.
  • Manner and Circumstances of Discipline And Ends of it. Page 105.
  • When the Ends not answer'd, what then? Page 106.
  • Excommunication what. Page 107.
  • Against claiming infallible Authority and using Force. Page 108
  • Chapter VII. Their Right to sit and act in Councils and Synods; with the Power of Synods explain'd.
  • There should be Councils and Synods, but no State Policy. Page 109.
  • Meetings of the Clergy dangerous. Page 110.
  • Power of calling Councils in Churches. Page 111.
  • Persons composing Councils and Synods. Page 112.
  • Right of Fraternity from the Scripture. Page Ibid.
  • Their Right asserted in later Times. Page 113.
  • Reason of Thing and natural Justice for it. Page 114.
  • [Page 216] The Scripture the Rule & Judge of Controversies. Page 115.
  • Antiquity no Stranger to Brethren's Right. Page 116.
  • Our Churches for this Right: They have it and ought to have it. Page 117.
  • They have not, nor want any Juridical Power. Page 118.
  • Testimonies against such a Power. Page Ibid.
  • Reasons against it. Page 121.
  • Synods and General Councils may deceive and be deceived. Page 123.
  • Proofs and Instances of it. Page 124.
  • Testimonies against Synods & General Councils. Page 126.
  • If General Councils infallible, they have no Ju­ridical Power. Page 127.
  • Luther's Advice and Caution applied to these Churches. Page 128.
  • Chapter VIII. The Right of these Churches to hold Com­munion with one another.
  • They may partake with one another. Page 130.
  • They may recommend their Brethren. Page 131.
  • They may propagate Churches. Page Ibid.
  • They may communicate temporal and spiritual Relief and Support unto them. Page 132.
  • They may lawfully consult with one another. Page Ibid.
  • They may admonish one another. Page 133.
  • The Method of admonishing. Page 134.
  • There is a Consociation of these Churches. Page 136.
  • There ought to be such a Consociation. Page 138.
  • No great Confusion to be fear'd from it. Page 139.
  • Our Apprehension of this Method and its Neglect. Page 140.
  • The Conclusion, in a brief Address to the Churches. Page p. 142.
The Appendix.
  • Part I. Specimens of the Catholic Principles of the New-English Churches. Page 147.
  • One Evidence of them. Page 148.
  • Another particular Testimony to them. Page 149.
  • More General Testimonies to them. Page 151.
  • Part II. Proofs and Evidences of a Consociation of these Churches. Page 167.
  • Part III. Containing a Vindication of the New-English Churches in sundry particular Instances. Page 174.
  • Part IV. Some Testimonies to the Cause and Work of GOD in the Churches of New-England. Page 200.
FINIS.

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