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THE ANARCHY OF THE RANTERS, And other LIBERTINES; THE HIERARCHY OF THE ROMANISTS, AND OTHER Pretended CHURCHES, equally refused and re­futed, in a two-fold Apology for the Church and People of God, called in Derision, Quakers.

WHEREIN They are vindicated from those that accuse them of Disorder and Confusion on the one Hand, and from such as calumniate them with Tyranny and Imposition on the other; shewing, that as the true and pure Principles of the Gospel are restored by their Testimony; so is also the antient Apostolick ORDER of the Church of Christ re-established among them, and settled upon its right Basis and Foundation.

By ROBERT BARCLAY.

Phil. 2.3. Let nothing be done through Strife or vain Glory; but in Lowliness of Mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
Heb. 13.7. Remember them that have the Rule over you, who have spoken unto you the Word of God, whose Faith follow.

PHILADELPHIA: Re-printed, and Sold by B. FRANKLIK, and D. HALL, 1757.

[Page iii]

THE PREFACE TO THE READER.

SUCH is the Malignity of Man's Nature in his fallen State, and so averse is he from walk­ing in the straight and even Path of TRUTH, that at every Turn he is inclinable to lean either to the Right-hand or to the Left; yea, such as by the Work of God's Grace in their Hearts, and powerful Operation of his Spirit, have obtained an Entrance in this Way, are daily molested, and set upon on all Hands; some striving to draw them the one Way, some she other: And if through the Power of God they be kept faithful and stable, then are they ca­luminated on both Sides; each likening or compar­ing them to the Worst of their Enemies.

Those that are acquainted with the Holy Scrip­tures, may observe this to be the Lot of the Saints in all Ages; but especially those, whose Place it hath been to reform and restore the Ruins of the House of God, when decayed, or any considerable Time have been liable to such Censures: Hence those that set about repairing of the Walls of Jerusalem, were necessitated to work with the one Hand, and defend with the other.

[Page iv] Christ is accused of the Jews as a Samaritan; and by the Samaritans quarrelled for being a Jew. The Apostle Paul is whipped and imprisoned by the Gentiles, and upbraided with being a Jew, and teaching their Customs; the same Paul is hawled, and ready to be killed by the Jews, for breaking the Law, and defiling the Temple with the Gentiles. The like hath also befallen these faithful Witnesses and Messengers, whom God has raised up in this Day to witness for his Truth, which hath long been in a great Measure hid; but now is again revealed, and many brought to be Witnesses of it, who thereby are come to walk in the Light of the Lord.

This People thus gathered, have not wanted those Trials, that usually accompany the Church of Christ, both on the Right-hand, and on the Left, each cha­racterizing them in such Terms, as they have judged would prove most to their Disadvantage. From whence (as the Testimony of the false Witnesses against our Lord did not agree neither do these against us) some will have us to be foolish, mad Creatures; others to be deep, subtil Politicians; some to be illiterate, ignorant Fellows; others to be learned, cunning Jesuits, under a meer Vizard: Divers Professors will have us to be only Pensioners of the Pope, undoubtedly Papists; but the Papists abhor us as He­reticks: Sometimes we are a dis­orderly, confused Rabble, leav­ing every one to do as they list, against all good Order and Go­vernment; at other Times we John Owen charges us with so much Igno­rance, that tho' he writes against us in Latin, he fears we will not understand it. And Thomas Dansen about the same time accu­ses us of being Jesuits, sent from abroad under this Vizard. [Page v] are so much for Order, as we admit not Men to ex­ercise the Liberty of their own Judgments. Thus are our Reputations tossed by the Envy of our Ad­versaries; which yet cannot but have this Effect upon sober-minded People, as to see what MALICE works against us; and how these Men, by their contradictory Assertions concerning us, save us the Pains, while they refute one another.

True it is, we have laboured to walk amidst these Extremities; and upon our appearing for the Truth, we have found Things good in themselves abused on both Hands: For such hath always been the Work of an Apostacy, to keep up the Shadow of certain Truths; that there-through they might shel­ter other Evils. Thus the Jews made use of the Law and the Prophets to vindicate their Abuses; yea, and to crucify Christ: And how much many Christians abuse the Scriptures and the Traditions of the Apostles, to uphold Things quite contrary to them, will in the General be readily acknowledged by most.

But to descend more particularly; There be two Things especially, both of which in their primitive Use were appointed; and did very much contribute towards the Edification of the Church: The one is,

I. The Power and Authority, which the Apostles had given them of Christ, for the gathering, building up, and govern­ing of his Church; by Virtue of which Power and Authority they also wrote the Holy Scriptures.

II. The other is, That Privilege given to every Christian under the Gospel, to be led and guided by the Spirit of Christ, and to be taught thereof in all Things.

[Page vi] Now, both these in the Primitive-Church wrought effectually towards the same End of Edification; and did (as in their Nature they may, and in their, Use they ought to do) in a good Harmony very well consist together: But by the Workings of Satan, and Perverseness of Men, they are made to fight against and destroy one another. For on the one Hand the Authority and Power, that resided in the Apostles, while it is annexed and entailed to an outward Or­dination and Succession of Teachers, is made Use of to cloak and cover all Manner of Abuses, even the Height of Idolatry and Superstition. For by Vir­tue of this Succession these Men claiming the like Infallibility, that was in the Apostles (though they be Strangers to any inward Work or Manifestation of the Spirit in their Hearts) will needs oblige all others to acquiesce and agree to their Conclusions, however different from, or contrary to, the Truths of the Gospel; and yet for any to call such Conclu­sions in Question, or examine them, is no less than a heinous Heresy, deserving Death, &c. Or while the Revelation of God's Mind is wholly bound up to these Things already delivered in the Scrip­tures (as if God had spoke his last Words there to his People) we are put with our own natural Understandings to debate about the Meanings of them, and forced to interpret them, not as they plainly speak, but ac­cording to the Analogy of a cer­tain Faith made by Men, not so much contrived to answer the Scriptures, as the Scriptures are strained to vindicate it; which to doubt of, is also counted Heresy, deserving no less So faith James Durham, a noted Man among the Presbyterians, in his Exposition up­on the Revela­tions. [Page vii] than Election out of our native Country, and to be robbed of the common Aid our Nativity entitles us to. And on this Hand, we may boldly say, both Papists and Protestants have greatly gone aside.

On the other Hand, some are so great Pretenders to inward Motions and Revelations of the Spirit, that there are no Extravagancies so wild, which they will not cloak with them; and so much are they for every One's following their own Mind, as can admit of no Christian Fellowship and Community, nor of that good Order and Discipline, which the Church of Christ never was, nor can be without. This gives an open Door to all Libertinism, and brings great Reproach to the Christian Faith. And on this Hand have foully fallen the German Ana­baptists, so called, John of Leyden, Knipperdolling, &c. (in Case these monstrous Things committed by them be such as they are related) and some more moderate of that Kind have been found among the People in England, called Ranters: As it is true, the People called Quakers have been branded with both of these Extreams; it is as true, it hath been and is their Work to avoid them; and to be found in that even and good Path of the Primitive Church, where all were (no doubt) led and acted by the Holy Spirit; and might all have prophesied one by one; and yet there was a Subjection of the Prophets to the Spirits of the Prophets. There was an Authority some had in the Church, and yet it was for Edification, and not for Destruction: There was an Obedience in the Lord to such as were set over; and a being taught by such, and et a knowing of the inward Anointing, by which ach Individual was to be led into all Truth. The [Page viii] Work and Testimony the Lord hath given us is, to restore this again, and to set both these in their right Place, without causing them to destroy one another. To manifest how this is accomplished, and accomplishing among us, is the Business of this Trea­tise; which, I hope, will give some Satisfaction to Men of sober Judgments, and impartial and unpre­judicate Spirits; and may be made useful in the good Hand of the Lord, to confirm and establish Friends against their present Opposers; which is mainly intended, and earnestly prayed for, by

Robert Barclay.
[Page 1]

THE ANARCHY OF THE RANTERS, &c.

SECTION I. The Introduction and Method of this Treatise.

The End of the Law and Beginning of the Gospel-Dispensation recited. AFTER that the Lord God in his own appointed Time had seen meet to put an End to the Dispensation of the Law, which was delivered to the Children of Israel, by the Mini­stry of Moses; through and by whom he did communicate unto them in the Wilderness from Mount Sinai, divers Commandments, Ordinances, Appointments and Observations, according as they are testified in the Writings of the Law; it pleased him to send his own Son the Lord Jesus Christ in the Fulness of Time; who ha­ving perfectly fulfilled the Law, and the Righ­teousness thereof, gave Witness to the Dispen­sation of the Gospel. And having approved himself, and the Excellency of his Doctrine, by [Page 2] many great and wonderful Signs and Miracles, he sealed it with his Blood; and triumphing over Death (of which it was impossible for him to be held) he cherished and encouraged his despised Witnesses, who had believed in him, in that he appeared to them, after he was raised from the Dead; comforting them with the Hope and Assurance of the pouring forth of his Spirit, by which they were to be led and ordered in all Things; in and by which, he was to be with them to the End of the World, not suffering the Gates of Hell to prevail against them. By which Spirit come upon them, they being filled, were emboldned to preach the Gospel without Fear; and, in a short Time, Thousands were ad­ded to the Church; and the Multitude of them that believed, were of one Heart, and of one Soul, and great Love and Zeal prevailed, and there was nothing lacking for a Season.

The divers Sorts of them that were cal­led in the Apostles Days. But all that were caught in the Net, did not prove good and wholesome Fish; some were again to be cast into that Ocean, from whence they were drawn: Of those many that were called, all proved not chosen Ves­sels, fit for the Master's Use; and of all that were brought into the great Supper and Marriage of the King's Son, there were that were found without the Wedding-Garment.—Some made a shew for a Season, and afterwards fell away; there were that drew back; there were that made Shipwreck of Faith, and of a good Conscience: There were not only such as did backslide themselves, but sought to draw [Page 3] others into the same Perdition with themselves, seeking to overturn their Faith also; yea, there were that brought in damnable Heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them. And also of those Members that became not wholly cor­rupt (for some were never again restored by Re­pentance) there were that were weak, and sickly, and young; some were to be fed with Milk, and not with strong Meat; some were to be purged, when the old Leaven received any Place; and some to be cut off for a Season, to be shut out (as it were) of the Camp for a Time, until their Leprosy was healed, and then to be received in again.

Moreover, as to Outwards, there was the Care of the Poor, of the Widow, of the Fatherless, of the Strangers, &c. Therefore the Lord Jesus Christ,The Order in the Church of God in the Outward. who is the Head of the Body, the Church (for the Church is the Body of Christ, and the Saints are the several Mem­bers of that Body) knowing in his infinite Wis­dom, what was needful for the good ordering and disposing all Things in their proper Place, and for preserving and keeping all Things in their right Station, did, in the Dispensation and Com­munication of his Holy Spirit, minister unto every Member, a Measure of the same Spirit, yet diverse according to Operation, for the Edification of the Body; some Apostles, some Teachers, some Pastors, some Elders: There are old Men, there are young Men, there are Babes. For all are not Apostles, neither are all Elders, neither are all Babes; yet are all Members: And as such, [Page 4] all have a Sense and Feeling of the Life of the Body, which, from the Head, flows unto all the Body, as the Ointment of Aaron's Beard, unto the Skirts of his Garment: And every Member has its Place and Station in the Body, so long as it keeps in the Life of the Body; and all have need one of another; yet is no Member to assume another Place in the Body, than God has given it; nor yet to grudge or repine its follow Mem­ber's Place; but to be content with its own: For the uncomely Parts are no less needful than the comely; and the less honourable than the more honourable; which the Apostle Paul holds forth in 1 Cor. 12. from Verse 13 to 30.

The Ground of Rents and Divisions. Now the Ground of all Schisms, Divisions or Rents in the Body is, when as any Member assumes ano­ther Place than is allotted it; or being gone from the Life and Unity of the Body, and losing the Sense of it, lets in the Murmur­er, the Eye that watches for Evil, and not in holy Care over its Fellow Members: And then, instead of coming down to Judgment in itself, will stand up and judge its Fellow Members, yea, the whole Body, or those whom God has set in a more honourable and eminent Place in the Body than itself. Such suffer not the Word of Ex­hortation; and term the Reproofs of Instruc­tion (which is the Way of Life) Imposition and Oppression, and are not aware how far they are in the Things they condemn others for; while they spare not to reprove and revile all their Fellow Members: Yet if they be but ad­monished [Page 5] themselves, they cry out, as if their great Charter of Gospel Liberty were broken.

Now though such, and the Spirit by which they are acted,The Subtilty of that Spi­rit. be sufficient­ly seen and felt by Thousands, whose Hearts God has so established, as they are out of Danger of being intangled in that Snare, and who have Power and Strength in themselves to judge that Spirit, even in its most subtil Appearances; yet there are, who can­not so well withstand the Subtilty, and seeming Sincerity some such pretend to, though in Mea­sure they have a Sight of them; and others, that cannot so rightly distinguish between the Preci­ous and the Vile; and some there are that through Weakness, and want of true Discerning, may be deceived, and the Simplicity in them betrayed for a Season; as it is written, With fair Speeches and smooth Words, they deceive the Hearts of the Simple.

Therefore having, according to my Measure, received an Opening in my Understanding as to these Things, from the Light of the Lord, and having been for some Time under the weighty Sense of them, I find at this Instant a Freedom to commit them to Writing, for the more uni­versal Benefit and Edification of the Church of Christ.

Now,The Heads treated of, viz. for the more plain and clear Opening and Understanding of these Things, it is fit to sum up this Trea­tise in these following general Heads, to be considered of:

[Page 6]I. First, From whence the Ground and Cause of this Controversy is, the Rise and Root of it?

II. Secondly, Whether there be now any Order and Government in the Church of Christ?

III. Thirdly, What is the Order and Government which we plead for? In what Cases, and how far it may extend? In whom the Power decisive is, and how it differeth? And is wholly another, than the oppressing and persecuting Principality of the Church of Rome, and other Antichristian Assemblies.

SECTION II. Concerning the Ground and Cause of this CON­TROVERSY.

The first Dawning of the heavenly Day of the Lord described. WHEN as the Lord God by his mighty Power began to visit the Nations with the Dawn­ing of his heavenly Day (for thus I write unto those that have received and believed the Truth) and that he sent forth his Instruments, whom he had fitted and prepared for his Work, having fashioned them not according to the Wisdom and Will of Man, but to his own heavenly Wisdom and Counsel, they went forth and preached the Gospel in the Evi­dence and Demonstration of the Spirit:And break­ing forth. Not in the enticing Words of Man's Wisdom; but in Appear­ance [Page 7] as Fools and Mad, to those that judged ac­cording to Man. But their Words and Testi­mony pierced through into the inner Man in the Heart, and reached to that of God in the Con­science; whereby as many as were simple-hearted, and waited for the Redemption of their Souls, received them as the Messengers of the most high God; and their Words were unto them, not as the Words of Men, but as the Words of God; for in the receiving and embracing the Testimo­ny of Truth through them, they felt their Souls eased, and the acceptable Day began to dawn in and upon them.

Now what Evidence brought these Men to make their Testimony to be received? Did they entice? Did they flatter? Did they daub up? Did they preach Liberty to the Flesh or Will of Man? Nay verily, they used no such Method: Their Words were as Thunder-Bolts, knocking down all that stood in their Way, and pouring down the Judgment of God upon the Head of the Trans­gressor every where. Did they spare the zealous Professor more than the open Profane? Nay veri­ly, they condemned equally the Hypocrisy of the one, as well as the Profanity of the other; yet wanted they not Regard to the tender Seed and Plant of God in either. Did they give way? Did they yield to the Wisdom of Man? To the De­ceitfulness of the Serpent, that would reason Truth for themselves, saying, I must stay, until I be convinced of this, and that, and the other Thing; I see not yet this to be wrong, or the other Thing to be my Duty? How did they knock down this Man­ner of Reasoning by the Spirit of God, which [Page 8] wrought mightily in them, shewing and holding forth, that this is the Day of the Lord that is dawned; that all are invited to come; that none ought to tarry behind; that that which so pleadeth is the same Spirit which of old Time said in those that were invited, I cannot come yet, I must first marry a Wife; I must go prove my Yoke of Oxen; I must go visit my Possessions; let me first bury my dead Father. Did not the Lord through them testify and declare against these Things? And is there not a Cloud of Witnesses, who felt the Enemy thus reasoning to keep us in the Forms, Fellowships; false Worships, and foolish Fashions of this World? But we felt, as we were obedi­ent, all these Things to be for Condemnation; and that, as we obeyed the pure Manifestation of the Light of Jesus in our Hearts, there was no He­sitation. We might and should have parted with all those Things at the First; and what occasion­ed such Scruples, was but that which drew back, through being unwilling to give pure Obedience to the Cross of Christ: For as many as gave Obe­dience and believed in the Light, found no Oc­casion of stumbling; but such as believed not were condemned already, because they believed not in him that appeared. Now the Boldness,The Courage of the Mes­sengers. and Courage, and Effica­cy of these Messengers Testimony, wrought such Astonishment, Fear and Amazement in the Hearts of such as were ingenuous, that many began to be inwardly pricked, as in the Days of old, and the Foundations of many began to be shaken; and some that were asleep were awakened, and many that were dead and buried in the Graves of Sin, [Page 9] and Formality, and Superstition, and Idolatry of all Sorts, were alarmed; and many were brought in from the Hedges, and the High-Ways, and the Truth was received by Thousands with great Cheerfulness, and a Readiness of Mind: And the Feet of those were beheld to be beautiful upon the Mountains, that brought the glad Tidings of these good Things. And great Lowliness and Simplicity of Heart was upon such that were newly convinced of the Truth, and deep Humi­liation of Spirit, and Subjection to the Power, both in themselves, and in those who were over them in the Lord, and had gathered them into the Truth.

But as it was in the Gatherings of old, so it also sell out in this Day; all kept not their first Love: As among those Thousands, which Moses led out of Egypt, and carried through the Red Sea, who had sung Praises to God upon the Banks of Salvation, many Carcases fell in the Wilder­ness; some who murmured and longed to return again to the Flesh-Pots of Egypt; and some for opposing and contradicting the Servant,Opposition and— and Servants of the Lord, whom the Lord had made Use of to lead them out of Bondage, in saying, Ye take too much upon you; Hath the Lord indeed only spoken by Moses? Hath he not spoken also by us? And as among these Multitudes, which were gathered by the Apostles, there were many who continued not faithful to the End; some returned back a­gain with the Sow to the Puddle, after they were washed: some embraced the present World; some again separated them­selves,—Separation entring. being sensual, and without the Spirit, despising Dominion, and [Page 10] speaking Evil of Dignities; their Mouths speak­ing great swelling Words, being puffed up, and not abiding in these Things, which they were taught of the Apostles: So it is to be lamented, that among these many Thousands, whom the Apostles and Evangelists whom God raised up in This Day (for the gathering of his Seed and Peo­ple out of spiritual Egypt and Babylon into his pure Light and Life) did bring forth and gather, there are that have fallen upon the Right-hand and the Left. Some are turned back again into Egypt, running into the same Excess of Lust and Riot, from whence they were once purified and redeemed: Some could not bear the Reproach of the Cross of Christ; and were by and anon offended in him: Some could not bear the Tri­bulations, Sufferings and Persecutions, which came for the Truth's Sake; and the Seed in them was soon scorched with the Heat of the Day. And some not abiding in Subjection to the Truth in themselves, were not contented with that Place and Station in the Body, which God had placed them in; but became vainly puffed up in their fleshly Minds, intruding into those Things which they have not seen: And would needs be Innova­tors, given to Change, and introducing new Doctrines and Practices, not only differing,Innovators causing Di­visions. but contrary to what was already delivered in the Beginning; making Parties, causing Divisions and Rents, stumbling the Weak, and denying, de­spising and reviling the Apostles and Messengers of Christ, the Elders of the Church, who loved not their Lives unto Death, but through much [Page 11] Care, and Travel, and Watchings and Whippings and Bonds, and Beatings, in daily Jeopardy, gathered us by the mighty Power of God into the most precious Truth. Yet in all this there hath no­thing befallen us, but that which hath been the antient Lot of the Church of Christ in the pri­mitive Times.

Now He, that was careful for his Church and People in old Times,The good Shepherd of Israel's Care over his Church and People. hath not been wanting to us in our Day; but as he has again restored the Truth unto its primitive Inte­grity and Simplicity, and as he has delivered our Understandings from these false Doctrines and Principles, which prevailed in the Apostacy; so he hath not gathered us to be As Sheep scattered without a Shepherd, that every one may run his own Way, and every one follow his own Will, and so to be as a confused Mass or Chaos, with­out any Order; but He, even the LORD hath also gathered, and is gathering us into the good Order, Discipline, and Government of his own Son, the Lord Jesus Christ: Therefore he hath laid Care upon some beyond others, who watch for the Souls of their Brethren, as they that must give Account.

There are then Fathers that have be­gotten us unto Christ Jesus through the Gospel,The several Stations in the Church. 1 Cor. 4.15, 16, 17. of whom we ought to be Followers, and to remember their Ways, which be in Christ. There are then Fathers and Children, In­structors and Instructed, Elders and young Men, yea, and Babes; there are that cannot cease, but must exhort, instruct, reprove, condemn, judge; [Page 12] or else, for what End gave Christ the Gifts men­tioned, Ephes. [...].11, 12? And how are the Saints perfected, and the Body of Christ edified of those, who came under the Cognizance, and, as it were, the Test of this Order and Government? I may chiefly sum them up in three Sorts (though there be divers other little subdivided Species of them.

1. Prophane Backsliding Apostates.The First is, Those that turn openly back to the World again, through find­ing the Way of Truth too narrow. These have not been capable to do us any considerable Hurt; for being as Salt, that has lost its Savour, they mostly prove a Stink a­mong those to whom they go: And I never knew any of them, that proved any ways steadable to those to whom they go. I find other Professors make but small Boast of any Proselytes they got out from among us; I hear little of their pro­ving Champions for the Principles of others against us. And, indeed, for the most Part they lose all Religion with the Truth: For I have heard some of them say; That if ever they took on them to be religious, they would come back again to the Quakers, &c.

2. Unwary repenting Sinners. Secondly, Those, who through Un­watchfulness, the secret Corruption of their own Hearts, and the mysterious or hidden Temptations of the Enemy, have fallen into his Snares; and so have come under the Power of some Temptation or other, either of fleshly Lusts, or of spiritual Wicked­ness: Who being seasonably warned by those that keep their Habitation, and faithful Over­seers [Page 13] in the Church; have been again restored by unfeigned Repentance: Not kicking against the Pricks; but have rejoiced, that others watch­ed over them for their Good, and are become Monuments of God's Mercy unto this Day.

3. Self-Sepa­rating, trou­blesome Op­posers. Thirdly, Such, who being depart­ed from their first Love and antient Zeal for the Truth, become cold and lukewarm; and yet are ashamed to make open Apostacy, and to turn back again, so as to deny all the Principles of Truth, they having had already such Evidence of Clearness upon their Understanding: Yet not keeping low in their own Habitations, but being puffed up, and giving Way to the restless Imaginations of their exalted and wandering Minds, fall out with their Brethren; cause Divisions; begin to find fault with every thing, and to look at others more than at themselves; with swelling Words to talk of, and preach up, a higher Dispensation, while they are far from living up to the Life and Per­fection of this present; like unto such who said, We will not have this Man to rule over us: Cry out of Formality and Apostacy, because they are not followed in all Things; and if they be reproved for their Unruliness, according to the good Order of the Church of Christ, then they cry out, Breach of Liberty, Oppression, Persecu­tion! we will have none of your Order and Govern­ment; we are taught to follow the Light in our Consciences, and not the Orders of Men. Well, of this hereafter; but this gave the Rise of this Con­troversy: Which leads me to that which I pro­posed in the Second Place.

[Page 14]

SECTION III. Whether there is now to be any Order or Go­vernment in the Church of Christ.

Church Or­der and Go­vernment granted. IN Answer to this Proposition, I meddle not at this time with those that deny any such thing as a Church of Christ; I have reserved their Plea to another Place. Neither need I to be at much Pains to prove the Affir­mative, to wit, That there ought to be Government and Order in the Church of Christ, unto the Genera­lity of our Opposers, both Papists and Protestants; who readily confess and acknow­ledge it, and have heretofore blamed us for want of it. Tho' now some of them, and that of the highest Pretenders, are become so unreasonable, as to accuse us for the Use of it; improving it, so far as they can, to our Disadvantage: For such is the Blindness of partial Envy, that whereas the supposed Want of it was once reckoned heretical, now the present Performance of it is counted criminal.

These, then, to whom, I come to prove this Thing, are such, who having cast off the Yoke of the Cross of Christ in themselves, refuse all Sub­jection or Government: Denying that any such thing ought to be, as disagreeing with the Testi­mony of Truth; Or those, who not being so wil­ful and obstinate in their Minds, yet are fearful or scrupulous in the Matter, in respect of the dangerous Consequences, they may apprehend, such a Thing may draw after it.

[Page 15] For the clearing then as well the Mistakes of the one, as answering the Cavils of the other, I judge the Truth of these following Assertions will sufficiently prove the Matter; which I shall make no great Difficulty to evidence.

Reason I.First That Jesus Christ, the King and Head of the Church, did appoint and or­dain, that there should be Order and Government in it.

II.Secondly, That the Apostles and primitive Christians, when they were filled with the Holy Ghost, and immediately led by the Spirit of God, did practise and commend it.

III.Thirdly, That the same Occasion and Ne­cessity now occurring, which gave them Op­portunity to exercise that Authority, the Church of Christ hath the same Power now as ever, and are led by the same Spirit into the same Practices.

The Abuse makes not void the true Use.As to the First, I know there are some, that the very Name of a Church, and the very Words, Order and Government, they are afraid of. Now this I suppose hath proceeded, because of the great Hy­pocrisy, Deceit and Oppression, that hath been cloaked with the Pretence of these Things; but why should the Truth be neglected, because Hypocrites have pre­tended to it? The right Institution of these Things, which have been appointed and ordained of God, must not, nor ought not to be despised, because cor­rupt Men have abused and perverted them. I know not any thing that hath been more abu­sed and perverted in the whole World, than the Name of a Christian; shall we then renounce that honourable Title, because so many Thou­sands [Page 16] of wicked Men, yea, Antichrists have falsly assume it to themselves? The Man of Sin hath taken upon him to sit in the Temple of God, as God; yet we must not therefore deny, that God is in this Temple. If the Synagogue of Satan assumed the Name of the Church of Christ, and hath termed her Oppression and Violence, the Power and Authority thereof; therefore must not the Church of Christ, and its Authority, be exercised, where it truly is according to his Mind? This I prefix to warn all to beware of stumbling at Things which are innocent in themselves; and that we may labour to hold the steady even Path of Truth, without running into either of the Ex­treams. For that Jesus Christ did appoint Or­der and Government to be in the Church, is very clear from his plain Words, Matt. 18.15, 16, 17, 18. Ver. 15.Church Or­der appoint­ed by Christ, & the Form thereof. More­over, if thy Brother shall trespass a­gainst thee, go tell him his Fault be­tween thee and him alone; if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy Brother. Ver. 16. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the Mouth of two or three Witnesses, every Word may be established. Ver. 17. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the Church: But if he neglect to hear the Church, let him be unto thee as an Heathen-Man, and a Publican. Ver. 18. Verily, I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall bind on Earth, shall be bound in Heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on Earth, shall be loosed in Heaven. From which Scrip­ture it doth manifestly and evidently fol­low,I. First, That Jesus Christ intended there [Page 17] II.should be a certain Order and Method in his Church, in the Procedure towards such as trans­gress. Secondly, That he that refuseth to hear two, is become more guilty (as hard­ned) than in refusing to hear him that first reproved alone. Thirdly, That refusing to hear the Judgment of the Church, or whole As­sembly, he doth thereby exclude himself, and shut out himself from being a Member; and is justly judged, by his Brethren, as an Heathen and a Publican.III.

IV. And lastly, that the Church, Gathering or Assembly of God's People, has Power to examine and call to Account such, as appearing to be among them, or owning the same Faith with them, do transgress; and in case of their refu­sing to hear, or repent, to exclude them from their Fellowship: And that God hath a special Regard to the Judgment and Sense of his People thus orderly proceeding, so as to hold such bound in Heaven, whom they bind on Earth, and such loosed in Heaven, whom they loose on Earth. I am partly confident, that no rational Man will deny, but that these naturally follow from the a­bove-mentioned Scripture; and if there should be any found so unreasonable as to deny it, I could prove it by necessary and unevitable Con­sequences; which at present, as taking it for granted, I forbear to do. If it be reckoned so great a Crime to offend one of the little Ones, that it were better for him, than so do, that a Mill-stone were hanged about his Neck, and he were drowned in the Depth of the Sea; without Question, to offend and gainsay the whole Flock, must be [Page 18] more criminal; and must draw after it a far deeper Judgment.

The End of Church-Order. Now if there were no Order nor Government in the Church, what should become of those that transgress? How should they be again restored? Would not this make all Reproving, all Instructing, all Caring for, and Watching over one another, void and null? Why should Christ have desired them to proceed after this Method? Why doth he place so much Weight upon the Judgment of the Church, as to make the refusing of hearing it, to draw so deep a Censure after it; which he will not have to fol­low the refusing to hear one or two a-part, though the Matter be one and the same? And so, as to the substantial and intrinsick Truth of the Thing, there lies the same Obligation upon the Transgressor to hear that one, as well as all; for that one adviseth him to that which is right and good, as well as the whole; and they do but homologate or confirm that which that one hath already asserted: Yet Jesus Christ, who is the Author of Order, and not of Confusion, will not have a Brother cut off, or reputed a Publican, for refusing to hear one or two, but for refusing to hear the Church. And if it be objected, That the Church of Rome, and all other false Churches, make use of this Scripture, and cover their Persecution, and Cruelty, and Oppression by it; and thou sayest no more than they say. I Answer; I suppose no Man will be so unreasonable as to affirm, that the Church of Rome abusing this Scripture, willObjection. [Page 19] make it false in itself; but how we differ in our Application of this Scripture, shall be spoken of hereafter. I am not now claiming Right to this Power, as due to us (that is reserved for another Place;) but this, I say, is that which I now aver to be manifest from the Scripture-Testimony, and to be in itself an unquestionable Truth, That Jesus Christ intended there should be Order and Government in his Church; which is the Thing at present in Hand to be proved; Which if it be so really true (as it cannot be de­nied) then I hope it will also necessarily follow, that such, who really and truly are the Church of Christ, have Right to exercise this Order and Government.

Reason II. Church Or­der practi­sed by the Apostles & primitive Christians.—In Elec­tions. Secondly, That the Apostles and Pri­mitive-Christians, did practise Or­der and Government, we need but read the History of the Acts, of which I shall mention a few preg­nant and undeniable Testimonies, as we may observe in the very first Chapter of the Acts, from Verse 13. to the End, where at the very first Meeting the Apostles and Brethren held together after the Ascension of Christ, they began orderly to ap­point one to supply the Place of Judas; it may be thought, this was a needless Ceremony; yet we see how the Lord countenanced it. I hope none will say, that the Apostles appointing of these two Men, or of him, upon whom the Lot did not fall, contradicted their inward Freedom, or imposed upon it; but both agreed very well together; the one in the Will and Movings of [Page 20] God in appointing, and the other in the same, in submitting to their Appointment.

—in Distri­butions for the Poor. Moreover, after they had received the Holy Ghost, you may read, Acts 6. so soon as there was an Opportunity, how they wisely gave Order, concerning the Distri­bution for the Poor, and appointed some Men for that Purpose. So here was Order and Government, according to the present Necessity of the Case: And the Lord God was well pleased with it, and the Word of God encreased, and the Number of the Disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly. Might they not have said then, as some say now; We will give our Charity to whom we see Cause; and we will take no Notice of your Appointments and Or­ders: Whether would God have approved of such, yea, or nay?

W. M. in his Queries. Thirdly, When that the Business of Circum­cision fell in, whether it was fit or not to cir­cumcise the Gentiles? We see, the Apostles saw not meet, To suffer every one to follow their own Minds and Wills: They did not judge, as one confusedly suppo­seth, That this Difference in an out­ward Exercise, would commend the Unity of the true Faith: Nay, they took another Method. It is said expresly, Acts 15.16. And the Apostles and Elders came together, to consider of this Matter; and after there had been much disputing about it (no doubt then there were here Diversities of Opinions and Judgments) the Apostles and El­ders told their Judgments,—in Differ­ences occur­ing. and came also to a [Page 21] positive Conclusion. Sure some behoved to sub­mit, else they should never have agreed. So those that were the Elders, gave a positive Judgment; and they were bold to say, That it pleased not only them, but the Holy Ghost. By all which it doth undeniably appear, that the Apostles, and primitive Saints, practised a Holy Order and Government among themselves: And I hope none will be so bold as to say, they did these Things without the Leadings of the Spirit of God, and his Power and Authority concurring, and going along with them.

The Apo­stles Doctrine concerning Order in the Church. And that these Things were not only singular Practices; but that they held it doctrinally; that is to say, it was Doctrine which they preached; that there ought to be Order and Government in the Church, is mani­fest from these following Testimonies, 1 Cor. 4.15, 16, 17.Cor. 4.15, 16, 17. (15.) For though you have Ten Thousand Instructors in Christ; yet have ye not many Fathers: For in Christ Jesus, I have begotten you through the Gospel. (16.) Wherefore I beseech you, be ye Follow­ers of me. (17.) For this Cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved Son, and faith­ful in the Lord; who shall bring you into Remem­brance of my Ways, which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every Church. Here the Apostle Paul is very absolute: First, In that he desires them to be Followers of him. Secondly, In that he sends a Teacher, yea, a Minister, and eminent Bishop, or Overseer of the Church, for to put them in Mind of his Ways, which be in Christ, [Page 22] as he taught in every Church. No doubt there were Apostates, and dissenting Spirits in the Church of Corinth, that gave Paul occasion thus to write, as he testifies in the Beginning of the Chapter, how he was judged by some of them; he shews, how they were grown high; Verse 8. Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as Kings without us, &c. Might not these Dissenters of the Church of Corinth, have reasoned thus against Paul? Did not this Paul teach us, at first, to mind the Measure of Grace in ourselves, and follow that? (for no doubt that was Paul's Doctrine) But now he begins to Lord it over us, and tells us, we must be Followers of him. Might not they have judg­ed the Beloved Timothy to be far out of his Place? Might they not have said, It seems it is not God that moved thee, and sent thee here by his Spirit; but lordly Paul, that seeks Do­minion over our Faith: It seems thou comest not here to preach Christ, and wish us to be Followers of him, and of his Grace in our Hearts; but to mind us to follow Paul's Ways, and take notice, how he teaches in every Church: We are not concerned with him, nor with his Messenger, nor with any of your Orders, and so forth. Doth not this run very plausible? I question not but there was such a Reasoning among the Apostate Corinthians; let such as are of the same Kind among us examine seri­ously, and measure their Spirits truly hereby. Yea, he goes yet further in the following Chap­ter,Dissenting Reasonings against Church-Go­vernment. [Page 23] 1 Cor. 5.3—13. The Power of giving Judgment in the Church. Verses 3, 4. Verse 3. As absent in Body, but present in Spirit, have judged already, as though I were pre­sent, concerning him that hath so done this Deed. Verse 4. In the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my Spirit with the Power of our Lord Jesus Christ, &c. Would not one think this to have been a very presumptuous Word? And yet who dare offer to condemn it? From all which, I shall shortly ob­serve, that it seems it was judged no Inconsist­ency nor Contradiction, to be Followers of the Grace in themselves, to be perswaded in their own Hearts, and also to be Followers of the Apostle Paul, and of his Ways; because his Ways and Exam­ple was no other than the Spirit of God in themselves would have led them to, if they had been obedient. Therefore he found it needful to charge them positively to follow him, without adding this Reason.

—As of Fa­thers. Next, the great Argument the Apostle uses to perswade them hereunto, upon which he mainly insists, because he had begot­ten them into the Truth; Ye have not many Fathers; for in Christ Je­sus, I have begotten you through the Gospel: Wherefore I beseech you, be ye Followers of me. So he makes that as the Cause; which the same Apostle also in his Expostulation with the Galatians, putting them in mind how he preached the Gospel to them at first, and Chap. 4. Ver. 15. Where is then the Blessedness ye spake of? For I hear you Record, if possible, ye would [Page 24] —And Over­seers. have plucked out your own Eyes, and given them unto me. We see then, that the Lord hath, and doth give such, whom he hath fur­nished, and sent forth to gather a People unto himself, Care and Over­sight over that People; yea, and a certain Authority in the Power over them to bring them back to their Duty,—To be o­beyed. when they stray at any time; and to appoint, yea, and command such Things as are needful for Peace, and Order, and Unity's Sake: And that there lies an Obligation upon such, as are so gathered, to reverence, ho­nour, yea, and obey such as are set over them in the Lord. For, saith the same Apostle, 2 Cor. 2.9. For to this End also did I write, that I might know the Proof of you, whether you be obedient in all Things: And Chap. 7. Ver. 13.15. Yea, and exceedingly the more joyed we for the Joy of Titus, because his Spirit was refreshed by you all. Ver. 15. And his inward Affection is more a­bundant towards you, whilst he re­membreth the Obedience of you all, how with Fear and Trembling ye re­ceived him. Betrayings of the Enemy.

Now this will not at all infer, as if they had been implicitly led of old: Or that such, as having the same Authority to exercise it now, sought Dominion over their Brethren's FAITH, or to force them to do any thing beyond, far less contrary to, what the Lord leads us to by his Spirit: But we know (as they did of old) that the Enemy lies near to BETRAY under such Pretences. And seeing, in case of Difference, [Page 25] The Mur­murer shut out. the Lord hath, and doth, and will reveal his Will to his People, and hath, and doth raise up Members of his Body, to whom he gives a Dis­cerning, and Power, and Authority to instruct, reprove, yea, and command in some Cases, those that are faithful and low in their Minds, keeping their own Places, and minding the Lord, and the Interest and Good of his Truth in the general over all, shut out the Murmurer; and the Spirit of God leads them to have Unity, and concur with their Brethren. But such as are heady and high-minded, are inwardly vexed, that any should lead or rule, but themselves: And so it is the high Thing in themselves, that makes them quarrel with others for taking so much upon them; pretending a Liberty, not sinking down in the Seed to be willing to be of no Reputation for its Sake. Such, rather than give up their own Wills, will study to make Rents and Divisions, not sparing the Flock; but prostrating the Re­putation and Honour of the Truth even to the World, minister to them an Occasion of Scorn and Laughter, to the hardening them in their Wickedness and Atheism.The Honour of Truth pro­strated by Divisions.

Besides these Scriptures mentioned, I shall set down a few of many more that might be in­stanced to the same Purpose.

Scriptures for Submission & Lowliness of Mind; and Esteem of the Brethren. Ephes. 5.21. Submitting your­selves one to another in the Fear of God.

Phil. 2.3. Let nothing be done through Strife or vain Glory, but [Page 26] in Lowliness of Mind, let each esteem other better than themselves.

Verse 29. Receive him therefore in the Lord with all Gladness, [...] hold such in Reputation.

And 3.17. Brethren, be Followers together of me; and mark them which walk so, as ye have us for an Ensample.

And 4.9. Those Things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do; and the God of Peace shall be with you.

Col. 2.5. For though I be absent in the Flesh, yet am I with you in the Spirit, joying and behold­ing your Order, and the Stedfastness of your Faith in Christ.

1 Thess. 5.12. And we beseech you, Brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you.

Verse 13. And to esteem them very highly in Love, for their Work's Sake; and be at Peace among yourselves.

Verse 14. Now we exhort you, Brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feeble minded, support the weak, be patient toward all Men.

2 Thess. 2.15. Therefore, Brethren, stand fast, and hold the Traditions which you have been taught, whether by Word, or our Epistle.

2 Cor. 10.8. For though I should boast some what more of our Authority (which the Lord hath given us for Edification, and not for your Destruc­tion) I should not be ashamed.

Now though the Papists greatly abuse this Place, as if hereby they could justify that Mass of Superstition, which they have heaped toge­ther; yet except we will deny the plain Scrip­ture, [Page 27] we must needs believe, there lay an Obliga­tion upon the Thessalonians to observe and hold these Appointments, and, no Doubt, needful In­stitutions, which by the Apostles were recom­mended unto them: And yet who will say, that they ought, or were thereby commanded to do any Thing contrary to that which the Grace of God in their Hearts moved them to?

2 Thess. 3.4. And we have Confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do, and will do the Things which we command you.

Verse 6. Now we command you, Brethren, in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every Brother that walketh disor­derly, and not after the Tradition which he re­ceived of us.

The Authority of the Church, no Imposition What more positive than this? and yet the Apostle was not here an Imposer. And yet further, Verse 14. And if any Man obey not our Word by this Epistle, note that Man, and have no Company with him, that he may be ashamed.

Thus, Heb. 13.7. Remember them which have the Rule over you, who have spoken unto you the Word of God, whose Faith follow; considering the End of their Conversation.

Verse 17. Obey them that have the Rule over you, and submit yourselves; for they watch for your Souls, as they that must give Account: That they may do it with Joy, and not with Grief; for that is unprofitable for you.

Jude 8. Likewise also these filthy Dreamers de­file the Flesh, despise Dominion, and speak Evil of Dignities.

[Page 28] The primi­tive Christi­ans Order practised in the Church. I might at length enlarge, if needful, upon these Passages, any of which is sufficient to prove the Matter in Hands but that what is said may satisfy such as are not wilfully blind and obsti­nate. For there can be nothing more plain from these Testimonies, than that the antient Apostles and primitive Chri­stians practised Order and Govern­ment in the Church; that some did appoint and ordain certain Things; condemn and approve certain Practices, as well as Doctrines, by the Spirit of God: That there lay an Obligation in Point of Duty upon others to obey and submit: That this was no En­croachment nor Imposition upon their Christian Liberty; nor any ways contradictory to their being inwardly and immediately led by the Spirit of God in their Hearts: And lastly, That such, as are in the true Feeling and Sense, will find it their Places to obey, and be one with the Church of Christ in such like Cases: And that it is such as have lost their Sense and Feeling of the Life of the Body, that dissent, and are disobedient, under the false Pretence of Liberty. So that thus it is sufficiently proved what I undertook in this Place.

Reason III. Thirdly, I judge there will need no great Arguments to prove the People of God may, and do well to exercise the like Government upon the very like Occasion. For even Reason may teach us, that what prov­ed good and wholesome Cures to the Distemper of the Church in former Ages, will not now (the very like Distempers falling in) prove hurtful [Page 29] Distempers of the Church require a Cure now as of old. and poisonable; especially, if we have the Testi­mony of the same Spirit in our Hearts, not only allowing us, but commanding us so to do. It is manifest (though we are sorry for it) that the same Occasions now fall in; we find that there are that have eaten and drunken with us at the Table of the Lord, and have been Sharers of the same spiritual Joy and Con­solation, that afterwards fall away. We find (to our great Grief) that some walk disorderly; and some are puffed up, and strive to sow Di­vision, labouring to stumble the Weak, and to cause Offences in the Church of Christ: What then is more suitable, and more Christian, than to follow the Foot-steps of the Flock, and to labour and travel for the Good of the Church, and for the removing all that is hurtful; even as the Holy Apostles, who walked with Jesus, did before us? If there be such that walk disor­derly now, must not they be admonished, re­buked and withdrawn from, as well as of old? Or is such to be the Condition of the Church in these latter Times, that all Iniquity must go unreproved? Must it be Heresy, or Oppression, to watch over one another in Love? To take Care for the Poor? To see that there be no corrupt, no defiled Members of the Body, and carefully and christianly deal with them, for re­storing them, if possible; and for withdrawing from them; if incurable? I am perswaded, that there are none that look upon the Commands of Christ and his Apostles, the Practice and Experience of the primitive Church and Saints, as a sufficient [Page 30] Objection. Precedent to authorize a Practice now, that will deny the Lawfulness or Usefulness hereof, but must needs acknowledge the Necessity of it. But if it be objected (as some have done) do not you deny, that the Scripture is the adequate Rule of Faith and Manners; and that the Commands or Practices of the Scripture are not a sufficient Warrant for you now to do any Thing, without you be again authorized, and led unto it by the same Spirit? And upon that Score, do you not forbear some Things both practised and commanded by the pri­mitive Church and Saints?

Well, I hope I have not any Thing weakened this Objection, but presented it in its full Vigour and Strength: To which I shall clearly and di­stinctly answer thus.

Times alter the Useful­ness of Things commanded. First, Seasons and Times do not alter the Nature and Substance of Things in themselves; thought it may cause Things to alter, as to the Usefulness, or not Usefulness of them.

Secondly, Things commanded and practised at certain Times and Seasons fall [...] themselves, when as the Cause and Ground; [...] which they were commanded, is removed, [...] there is no need now for the Decision about circumcision, seeing there are none contend for it. Neither as to the Orders concerning Things offered to Idols, see­ing there is now no such Occasion: Yet who will say, that the Command enjoined in the same Place, Acts 15.20. To abstain from Fornication, is now made void; seeing there is daily Need for its standing in Force, because it yet remains [Page 31] as a Temptation Man is incident to? We confess, indeed, we are against such as from the bare Let­ter of the Scripture (though if it were season­able now to debate it, we find but few to deal with, whose Practices are so exactly squared) seek to uphold Customs, Forms or Shadows, when the Use, for which they were appointed, is removed, or the Substance itself known and witnessed; as we have sufficiently elsewhere answered our Op­posers in the Case of Water-baptism, and Bread and Wine, &c. So that the Objection, as to that, doth not hold; and the Difference is very wide, in respect of such Things: The very Nature and Substance of which can never be dispensed with by the People of God, so long as they are in this World; yea, without which they could not be his People. For the Doctrines, and fundamental Principles of the Christian Faith, we own and be­lieve originally and principally, because they are the Truths of God; whereunto the Spirit of God in our Hearts hath constrained our Under­standings to obey and submit. In the second Place, we are greatly confirmed, strengthened and comforted in the joint Testimony of our Brethren, the Apostles and Dis­ciples of Christ, who by the Revela­tion of the same Spirit in the Days of old believed, and have lest upon Record the same Truths; so we hav­ing the same Spirit of Faith, accord­ing as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and there­fore we speak. And we deny not but some, that from the Letter have had the Notion of these The joint Testimony of the Apo­stles, &c. to the Truths of God in our Hearts. [Page 32] Things, have thereby in the Mercy of God re­ceived Occasion to have them revealed in the Life: For we freely acknowledge (though often calumniated to the contrary) that whatsoever Things were written aforetime, were written for our Learning; that we through Patience and Com­fort of the Scriptures may have Hope. So then I hope, if the Spirit of God lead me now unto that which is good, profitable, yea, and absolutely need­ful, in order to the keeping my Conscience clear and void of Offence towards God and Man, none will be so unreasonable as to say, I ought not to do it, because it is according to the Scriptures. Nor do I think it will savour ill among any seri­ous, solid Christians, for me to be the more con­firmed and perswaded that I am led to this Thing by the Spirit, that I find it in myself good and useful; and that upon the like Occasions Christ commanded it, and the Apostles and primitive Christians practised and recommended it.

Now, seeing it is so that we can boldly say, with a good Conscience in the Sight of God, that the same Spirit, which leads us to believe the Doctrines and Principles of the Truth, and to hold and maintain them again, after the Apo­stacy, in their primitive and antient Purity, as they were delivered by the Apostles of Christ in the Holy Scriptures; I say, that the same Spi­rit doth now lead us into the like Holy Order and Government to be exercised among us, as it was among them, being now the like Occasion and Opportunity ministred to us; therefore, what can any christianly or rationally object against it? For that there is a real Cause for it, the [Page 33] A real Cause for the same Order. Thing itself speaketh; and that it was the Practice of the Saints and Church of old, is undeniable: What kind of Ground then can any such Opposers have (being such, as scrupling at this, do notwithstanding acknowledge our Principle) that this were done by Imposition or Imitation, more than the Belief of the Doctrines and Princi­ples? Seeing as it is needful to use all Diligence to convince and perswade People of the Truth, and bring them to the Belief of it (which yet we cannot do, but as Truth moves and draws in their Hearts) it is also no less needful, when a People is gathered, to keep and preserve them in Unity and Love, as becomes the Church of Christ; and to be careful, as faith the Apostle, That all Things be done decently, and in order; and that all that is wrong be removed, according to the Method of the Gospel; and the Good cherished and en­couraged. So that we conclude, and that upon very good Grounds, That there ought now, as well as heretofore, to be Order and Government in the Church of Christ.

Head III.That which now cometh to be examined in the third Place is,

1. First, What is the Order and Go­vernment we plead for?

2. Secondly, In what Cases, and how far it may extend? And in whom the Power decisive is?

Thirdly, How it differeth, and is wholly ano­ther than the oppressive and persecuting Principality of the Church of Rome, and other Anti-christian Assemblies?

[Page 34]

SECTION IV. Of the Order and Government which we plead for.

IT will be needful then, before I proceed to describe the Order and Government of the Church, to consider what is, or may be properly understood by the Church: For some (as I touch­ed before) seem to be offended, or at least afraid of the very Word; because, The Power of the Church, the Order of the Church, the Judgment of the Church, and such like Pretences, have been the great Weapons wherewith Antichrist and the apostate Christians have been these many Genera­tions persecuting the Woman, and warring against the Man-child. And, indeed, great Disputes have been among the learned Rabbies in the Apostacy concerning this Church what it is, or what may be so accounted; which I find not my Place at present to dive much in, but shall only give the true Sense of it, according to Truth, and the Scriptures plain Testimony.

What the Word CHURCH signifies pro­perly. The Word CHURCH in itself, and as used in the Scriptures, is no other but a Gathering, Company, or Assembly of certain People, called or gathered together: For so the Greek Word signifies (which is that the Trauslators render Church) which Word is derived from the Verb Evoco, I call out of, from the Root Voco, I call. Now though the English Word Church be only taken in such a Sense, as People are gathered together upon a religious Account; [Page 35] yet the Greek Word, that is so rendered, is taken in general for every Gathering, or Meeting together of People: And therefore where it is said, The Town Clerk of the Ephesians dismissed the Tumult, that was gathered there together, the same Greek Word is used, Acts 19.41. he dismissed the Assembly (or the Church.)dimisit Con­cionem.

What a reli­gious Church is. A Church then, in the Scripture-Phrase, is no other than a meeting or gathering of certain People, which (if it be taken in a religious Sense, as most commonly it is) are gathered together in the Belief of the same Principles, Doctrines and Points of Faith, whereby as a Body they become distinguished from others, and have a certain Relation among themselves; and a con­junct Interest to the maintaining and propagating these Principles they judge to be right: And therefore have a certain Care and Oversight over one another, to prevent and remove all Occasions that may tend to break this their conjunct In­terest, hinder the Propagation of it, or bring In­famy, Contempt, or Contumely upon it; or give such as on the other Hand are, or may be banded together to undo them, just Occasion against them, to decry and defame them.

How to di­stinguish the true Church from the false. Now the Way to distinguish that Church, Gathering, or Assembly of People, whereof Christ truly is the Head, from such as falsly pretend thereto, is by considering the Principles and Grounds upon which they are gathered together, the Nature of that Hierarchy and Order they have among themselves, the Way and Method [Page 36] they take to uphold it, and the Bottom upon which it standeth; which will greatly contribute to clear all Mistakes.

Forasmuch as Sanctification and Holiness is the great and chief End among true Christians, which moves them to gather together; therefore the Apostle Paul defines the Church in his Salutation to the Corinthians, 1 Cor. 1.2. Unto the Church of God which is at Corinth, them that are sancti­fied in Christ Jesus, called to be Saints. So the Church is such as are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be Saints.

The Church's Care over its Members, &c. The Power and Authority, Or­der and Government we speak of, is such, as a Church Meeting, Ga­thering or Assembly claims towards those that have, or do declare themselves Mem­bers, who own, believe and profess the same Doc­trines and Principles of Faith with us, and go under the same Distinction and Denomination; whose Escapes, Faults and Errors, may by our Ad­versaries justly be imputed to us, if not season­ably and christianly reproved, reclaimed or con­demned. For we are not so foolish, as to con­cern ourselves with those who are not of us; far less, who stand in Opposition to us, so as to reprove, instruct, or reclaim them, as Fellow-Mem­bers or Brethren: Yet, with a Respect to remove the general Reproach from the Christian Name, with a tender Regard to the Good of their im­mortal Souls, for the Zeal we owe to God's Glo­ry, and for the Exaltation and Propagation of his everlasting Truth and Gospel in the Earth, we have not been wanting, with the Hazard of [Page 37] our Lives, to seek the scattered Ones, holding forth the living and sure Foundation, and invit­ing and perswading all to obey the Gospel of Christ, and to take Notice of his Reproofs, as he makes himself manifest in and by his Light in their Hearts. So our Care and Travel is, and hath been towards those that are without, that we may bring them into the Fellowship of the Saints in Light; and towards those that are brought in, that they may not be led out again, or drawn aside, either to the Left-hand, or the Right, by the Workings and Temptations of the Enemy.

These Things being thus cleared and opened, we do positively affirm, That we being a People gathered together by the Power of God (which most, if not all of those, that arising among ourselves do oppose us herein, have acknowledged) into the Belief of certain Principles and Doctrines, and also certain Practices and Performances, by which we are come to be separated and distin­guished from others, so as to meet apart, and also to suffer deeply for our joint Testimony; there are, and must of Necessity be, as in the ga­thering of us, so in the preserving of us while gathered, Diversities of Gifts and Operations for the edi­fying of the whole Body. Hence, saith the Apostle, 1 Tim. 5.17. Let the Elders, that rule well, be counted worthy of double Honour, especially they who labour in the Word and Doc­trine: And this we suppose neither to be Popish, nor Anti-christian, let our Opposers say it, as oft as they can, without reckoning the Apostles such.Diversities of Gifts in the Church.

[Page 38] Meetings a­bout Business. Secondly, Forasmuch as all are not called in the same Station, some rich, some poor; some Servants, some Masters, some married, some unmarried; some Widows, and some Orphans, and so forth; it is not only convenient, but ab­solutely needful, that there be cer­tain Meetings at certain Places and Times, as may best suit the Conve­niencies of such, who may be most particularly concerned, in them; where both those that are to take Care may assemble, and those who may need this Care, may come and make known their Necessities, and receive Help, whether by Counsel or Supply, according to their respective Needs. This doth not at all contradict the Principle of being led inwardly and immediately by the Spirit; else how came the Apostle in that Day of the powerful pour­ing forth of the Spirit of God, to set apart Men for this Purpose? Sure, this was not to lead them from their inward Guide; yea, on the contrary, it is expresly said, Look ye out among you seven Men of honest Report, full of the Holy Ghost, and Wisdom, whom we may appoint over this Business. Sure, they were not to undertake a Business, being full of the Holy Ghost, which might import a Contradiction to their being led by it: So we see it is both fit and suitable to the Apostles Doctrine, to have Meetings about Business. Now if any should be so whimsical of conceited, as to scruple their being at set Places and Times, though these be nothing relative to the essential Parts, but only Circumstances, re­lating —established by the Apo­stle. [Page 39] to the Conveniency of our Persons (which we must have regard to, so long as we are cloth­ed with Flesh and Blood: And such Notionists, as are against this godly Care, work far more in their vain Imaginations, than they reduce to Practice; being like unto such, of whom the Apostle James testified, who content themselves, with saying to the Naked, be cloathed; and to the Hungry, be fed; while they offer not, in the least, to minister to them those Things which are needful for cloathing and feeding of them.) Yet shall we not scruple to make it appear, that it is not without very good Ground that we both appoint Places and Times. And first, as to the Place, I say as before, it is with our Bodies we must meet, as well as with our Spirits; and so, of Necessity, we must convey our Bodies unto one Place, that we may speak and act in those Things we meet for: And that must be in some certain Place, where all must know where to find it; having herein a Regard to the Conveniencies and Occasions of such as meet. Were it fit, that those of the Church of Corinth should go do their Business at An­tioch, or the Church of Jerusalem at Rome? Nay surely, God hath not given us our Reason to no Purpose; but that we should make use of it for his Glory, and the Good of our Bre­thren; yet always in Subjection to his Power and Spirit. And therefore we have Respect to these Things in the appointing of our Meetings and do it not without a Regard to the Lord, but in a Sense of his Fear. And so the like as to Convenient Places to meet in— [Page 40] —And con­venient set Times ap­pointed. Times, which is no contradicting of the inward Leading of the Spirit. Else how came the Apostle to appoint a Time to the Corinthians in their Contri­butions, desiring them, 1 Cor. 16.2. To lay by them in Store Upon the first Day of the Week; yea, saith he not, that he gave the same Order to the Church of Galatia. I know not how any in Reason can quarrel about set Times for outward Business, it being done in a Subjection to God's Will, as all Things ought to be; or else how can such as so do, but quar­rel with the Apostle for this Imposition (at that rate) upon the Churches of Corinth and Galatia? We appoint no set Times for the Performance of the Worship of God, so as to appoint Men to preach and pray at such and such set Times; though we appoint Times to meet together in the Name of the Lord, that we may feel his Pre­sence, and he may move in and through whom he pleaseth, without Limitation. Which Prac­tice of Meeting together, we are greatly encouraged to by the Pro­mise of Christ, and our own blessed Experience; and also we are severe­ly prohibited to lay it aside by the Holy Apostle; and also, on the other Hand, by the sad Experience of such as by Negligence or Prejudice forsake the Assemblies of God's People; upon many of which is already fulfilled, and upon others daily fulfilling the Judgments threatened upon such Transgressors: Read Heb. 10. from Verse 23, to the End, where that Duty is so seriously exhorted to, and the Contempt of Reasons for the Continu­ance of our said Practices. [Page 41] it reckoned a wilful Sin, almost (if not altoge­ther) unpardonable; yea, a treading under Foot the Son of God, and a doing Despight to the Spirit of Grace; which is fulfilled in our Day, and proves the lamentable Fruits of such as have so back slidden among us. And therefore having so much good and real Ground, for what we do herein, together with the Approbation and En­couragement of Christ, and his Apostles, both by Command and Practice, we can (as that both the Alpha and Omega, the Foundation and Cap-stone required) faithfully affirm in good Conscience, That God hath led us by his Spirit, both to appoint Places and Times, where we may see the Faces one of another; and to take Care one for another, pro­voking one another to Love and good Works. And our Faith and Confidence herein cannot be stag­gered by a meer Denial in our Opposers, which no Man of Conscience and Reason will say it ought; seeing the Thing itself hath such a so­lid and real Cause and Foundation, so good and suitable a Pattern and Example, and that it is constantly confirmed to us, both by the Testimony of God's Spirit in our Hearts, and by the good Fruits and Effects which we daily reap thereby, as a Seal and Confirmation that God is well pleased therewith, and approveth us in it.

Having thus far proceeded to shew that there ought to be Order and Government among the People of God, and that that which we plead for is, That there may be certain Meetings set apart for that End; it is next to be considered, In what Cases, and how far it may extend.

[Page 42]

SECTION V. In what Cases, and how far this Government extends. And first, as to Outwards and Tem­porals.

The Occasion of those Meetings a­bout Busi­ness. I Shall begin with that, which gave the first Rise for this Or­der among the Apostles; and I do verily believe, might have been a­mong the first Occasions that gave the like among us, and that is, The Care of the Poor; of Widows and Orphans. Love and Com­passion are the great, yea, and the chiefest Marks of Christianity: Hereby shall it be known, saith Christ, that ye are my Disciples, if ye love one another. And James the Apostle places Religion herein in the first Place; Pure Re­ligion (saith he) and undefiled be­fore God and the Father is, to visit the Fatherless and Widows in their Afflictions, &c. For this then, as one main End, do we meet together, that Enquiry may be made, if there be any Poor of the Hou­shold of Faith that need, that they may be sup­plied; that the Widows may be taken Care of; that the Orphans and Fatherless may be bred up and educated. Who will be so Unchristian, as to reprove this good Order and Government, and to say it is needless? But if any will thus object, May not the Spirit lead every one of you to give to them that need? What needs meeting about it, and such Formalities? 1. To take Care for the poor Widows and Orphans.

[Page 43] I answer, The Spirit of God leads us so to do; what can they say to the contrary? Nor is this a Practice any ways inconsistent with being in­wardly and immediately led by the Spirit; for the Spirit of God doth now, as well as in the Days of old, lead his People into those Things which are orderly, and of a good Report; for he is the God of Order, and not of Confusion: And there­fore the holy Apostles judged it no Inconsistency with their being led by the Spirit, to appoint Men full of the Holy Ghost, and of Wisdom, over the Business of the Poor. Now, if to be full of the Holy Ghost be a Qualification needful for this Employment; surely the Nature of their Employment was not to render this so needful a Qualification useless and ineffectual, as if they were not to be led by it.The Exam­ple of the Apostles.

Moreover we see, though they were at that Time all filled with the Spirit, yet there was something wanting before this good Order was established. There was a Murmuring, that some Widows were neglected in the daily Ministration; and we must not suppose the Apostles went about to remedy this Evil, that was creeping into the Church, without the Counsel of God by his Spi­rit, or that this Remedy they were led to, was stepping into Apostacy; neither can it be so said of us, we proceeding upon the like Occasion.

Contribu­tions for the Poor. If then it be thus needful and suitable to the Gospel, to relieve the Necessities of the Poor, that as there was no Beggar to be among Israel of old, so far less now; must there not [Page 44] be Meetings to appoint Contribution, in order to the performing these Things? Which is no other, but the giving of a general Intimation what the Needs are, that every one, as God moves their Hearts, and hath prospered them (without Imposition, Force or Limitation) may give towards these needful Uses. In which Case these Murmurers at our good Order in such Matters, may well think strange at the Apostle: How pressingly! how earnestly doth he reiterate his Desires and Provocations, so to speak, in this Respect to the Corinthians, 1 Cor. 16.2. and the eighth and ninth Chapters of the second Epistle throughout!

Now, though he testifies to them elsewhere, That they are the Temples of the Holy Ghost, and that the Spirit of God dwells in them; yet ceaseth be not to intreat and exhort, yea, and to give them certain Orders in this Matter.

Besides all these Reasons, which are sufficient to convince any unprejudicate Man, the secret Approbation of God's Spirit accompanying us in this Thing, together with the Fruits and Effects of it; which Hundreds can witness to, whose Needs have been supplied, and themselves helped through divers Difficulties; and the Testimonies of some already, and of many more Orphans, and Fatherless Children, who have found no Want, neither of Father nor Mother, or other Rela­tions, through the tender Love and Care of God's People, in putting them to Trades and Employments, and giving them all needful Education: Which will make it appear, e're Fatherless Children put Apprentices. [Page 45] this Age pass away, to those that have an Eye to see, that these are not the meer Doings and Orders of Men; but the Work of him who is appearing in Ten Thousands of his Saints, to establish not only Truths, but Mercy and Righteousness in the Earth.

2. To com­pose Differ­ences in the Church in outward Matters. And for that End therefore in the second Place this Order reacheth the taking up and composing of Differ­ences as to outward Things, which may fall out betwixt Friend and Friend; for such Things may fall out through the Intricacies of divers Affairs, where neither hath any positive Intention to injure and defraud his Neighbour, as in many Cases might be instanced. Or if thro' the Workings and Temptations of him, whose Work is to beset the Faithful, and People of the Lord, and to en­gender (so far as he can) Strife and Division among them, any should step aside, as to offer to wrong or prejudice his Neighbour; we do bold­ly aver, as a People gathered together by the Lord unto the same Faith, and distinguished from all others by our Joint-Testimony and Sufferings, that we have Power and Authority to decide and re­move these Things among ourselves, without go­ing to others to seek Redress. And this in it­self hath so much Reason, that I cannot tell if any, that are not wholly prejudicate or obstinate, can blame it. For if we be of one Mind concern­ing Faith and Religion, and that it be our Joint-Interest to bring all others unto the same Truth with us, as supposing them to be wrong, what Confidence can we have to think of re­claiming them, if the Truth we profess have [Page 46] not Efficacy, as to reconcile us among ourselves in the Matters of this World: If we be forced to go out to others for Equity and Justice, be­cause we cannot find it among ourselves, how can we expect to invite them to come among us, when such Virtues, as which still accompany the Truth, are necessarily supposed to be wanting? Should we affirm otherwise, it were to destroy the Truth and Faith we have been, and are, in the Lord's Hand, building up: And indeed the Spirit and Practice of such as oppose us herein, hath no less Tendency.

Objection. Moreover, besides the enforcing and intrin­sick Reason of this Thing, we have the Concur­rence, Approbation and Comfort of the Apostle's Testimony, 1 Cor. 6. Dare any of you, having a Matter against another, go to Law before the Unjust, and not before the Saints? If it be objected, Do you reckon all un­just that are not of you? Think ye all other Peo­ple void of Justice?

Believers not to go to Law before the Unjust, &c. I answer, Though the Apostle useth this Expression, I am per­swaded he did not reckon all others unjust, that had not received then the Christian-Faith. There were, no doubt, moral and just Men among the Heathen; and therefore the same Paul commends the Nobility of Festus. He reckons them there Unjust in respect of the Saints, or comparatively with them, as such as are not come to the just Principle of God in them­selves, to obey it, and follow it: And therefore though he accounts them, who are least esteemed in the Church, capable to decide such Matters; [Page 47] yet he supposeth it safer to submit to their Judg­ment in such Cases, though it were by taking Wrong, or suffering Wrong, than to go before o­thers, to the greater Reproach of the Truth. We hope, though many Occasions of this kind have fallen in among us, since we have been a People, none have had just Occasion to decline our Judg­ment. And though some should suppose them­selves to be wronged; yet if they should bring their Matter before others, we might say, as the Apostle saith in the fore-mentioned Chapter, Ver. 7. This were thereby a Fault in them, and would evidence a greater Care of some outward Concern, than of the Honour and Interest of Truth; and therefore such as have a tender Regard that way, would rather suffer what, to their Apprehen­sions, may seem wrong. For in Matters wherein two Parties are opposite in the Case of Meum and Tuum. it is somewhat hard to please both; except where the Power of Truth, and the righte­ous Judgment thereof reaching to that of God in the Conscience, hath brought to a true Acknowledgment him that hath been mista­ken, or in the Wrong; which hath frequently fallen out among us, to the often refreshing and confirming our Souls in the certain Belief, that Christ was fulfilling his Promises among us, In restoring Judges, as at the first, and Counsellors, as in the Beginning. The Case of Meum and Tuum.

Going before Unbeliev­ers from the Judgment of the Brethren, is a Dis­honour to thc Truth. Now, suppose any should be so pettish, or humorous, as not to agree in such Mat­ters to the Judgment of [Page 48] his Brethren, and to go before the Unbelievers (for though I reckon them not such Unbelievers as the Heathen of old, because they profess a Faith in God and Christ; yet I may safely say, they are Unbelievers as to these Principles and Doctrines, which we know are the Truth of God; and in that Sense must be Unbelievers as to him, that so appealeth to them from his Brethren.) I say, such as so do, first commit a certain Hurt, and Evil, in staining the Honour and Reputation, of the Truth they profess, which ought to be dearer to us than our Lives. And even in that outward Matter, for which they thus do, they run a Hazard, not knowing whether Things shall carry, as they expect: If they lose, they have a double Prejudice; if they gain, it is a too dear Rate, even with the Hurt of Truth's Reputation, which their outward Advantage can­not make up. If then, it be unlawful to do Evil, that Good may come of it, even a Spiritual Good; far less is it lawful to do a Positive Evil, of so deep a Dye as to bring an evil Report upon the good Land, and give the Uncircumcised an Occasion to rejoice: Out of the uncertain Hope of an outward Gain, it is far better to suffer Loss, as the Apostle very well argues in the Place above-mentioned.

Indeed, if there be any such, have been, or appear to be of us, as suppose. There is not a wise Man among us all, nor an honest Man, that is able to judge betwixt his Brethren; we shall not co­vet to meddle in their Matter, being perswaded, that either they, or their Cause, is nought.—Though (Praises to God) among all those that [Page 49] have gone from us, either upon one Account or other, I never heard that any were so minded towards us; but the most Part of them having let in the Offence of some Things, or Persons, have had this unanimous Testimony concern­ing us, that generally we are an honest and upright-hearted People. Apostates Testimony concerning us.

But whatever Sense our Enemies, or Apostates have of us, who look asquint on the Face of Truths, and can see nothing a-right in those they love not, or are prejudicate against: This we can say, in the last Place (besides the Reasons and Scrip­ture above declared) that the good Fruits, and Effects, which daily abound to the Houshold of Faith, in this, as well as the other Parts of the Government the Lord is establishing among us, doth more and more commend it unto us; and confirmeth our Hearts in the certain Belief of that, which we can confidently testify in good Conscience, That God hath led us hereunto by his Spirit; and we see the Hand of the Lord herein, which in due Time will yet more appear; that as through our faithful Testimony, in the Hand of the Lord, that antichristian and apostatized Generation, the NA­TIONAL MINISTRY, hath re­ceived a deadly Blow by our dis­covering and witnessing against their forced Maintenance, and Tythes, against which we have testified by many cruel Sufferings of all Kinds (as our Chronicles shall make known to Generations to come) so that their Kingdom in the Hearts of Thousands, begins to Priests forced Maintenance and Tythes, have receiv'd a deadly Blow. [Page 50] totter and lose its Strength, and shall assuredly fall to the Ground, through Truth's prevailing in the Earth; so on the other Hand do we, by coming to Righteousness and Innocency, weaken the Strength of their Kingdom, who judge for Rewards (as well as such as preach for Hire) and by not ministring Occasion to those, who have heaped up Riches, and lived in Excess, Lust and Riot, by feeding and preying upon the Iniquities and Contentions of the People. For as Truth and Righteousness prevails in the Earth, by our faithful witnessing and keeping to it, the Nations shall come to be eased and disburdened of that deceitful Tribe of Lawyers (as well as Priests) who by their many Tricks and endless Intricacies, have rendred Justice, in their Method, burden­some to honest Men, and seek not so much to put an End, as to foment Controversies and Contentions, that they themselves may be still fed and upheld, and their Trade kept up. Whereas by Truth's Pro­pagation, as many of these Controversies will die by Mens coming to be less contentious; so when any Difference ariseth, the Saints giving Judg­ment, without Gift or Reward, or running into the Tricks and endless Labyrinths of the Law­yers, will soon compose them. And this is that we are perswaded the Lord is bringing about in our Day, though many do not, and many will not see it; because it is indeed in a Way differ­ent and contrary to Mens Wisdom, who are now despising, Christ in his inward Appearance, be­cause of the Meanness of it, as the Jews of old Lawyers by Tricks and Intrica­cies foment Controver­sies. [Page 51] did him in his outward: Yet notwithstanding there were some then that did witness, and could not be silent, but must testify that He was come; even so now are there Thousands that can set to their Seal, that he hath now again the Second time appeared, and is appearing in Ten Thousands of his Saints; in and among whom (as a first Fruits of many more that shall be gathered) he is restoring the Golden Age, and bringing them into the Holy Order and Government of his own Son, who is ruling, and to rule in the midst of them, setting forth the Counsellors as at the Beginning, and Judges as at First; and establishing Truth, Mercy, Righteousness and Judgment again in the Earth: Amen, Hallelujah! Christ re­storing the Golden Age.

3. To take Care in the Case of Mar­riages. Thirdly, These Meetings take Care in the Case of Marriages, that all things be clear; and that there may be nothing done in that Procedure, which afterwards may prove to the Prejudice of Truth, or of the Parties concerned; which being an outward Thing (that is acknow­ledged in itself to be lawful) of the greatest Im­portance a Man or Woman can perform in this World; and from the sudden, unwary, or dis­orderly Procedure whereof, very great Snares and Reproaches may be cast both upon the Parties, and the Profession owned by them: therefore it doth very fitly, among other Things, when it occurs, come to be considered of by the People of God, when met, to take care to preserve all Things right and savoury in the Houshold of Faith. We do believe, our Adversaries, that [Page 52] watch for Evil against us, would be glad how promiscuously or disorderly we [...] in this [...] Matter, [...] the more boldly accuse [...] all human and christian [...] not left us [...] this Thing; nor [...] just Occasion against [...] therefore in this [...] we, who can do nothing against: the [...] all for, and with Regard to the [...], [...]ave divers Testimonies for the Lord. And—

1. Our Te­stimony against mar­rying with the Unbe­lievers. First, That we cannot Marry with those that walk not in, and obey not the Truth, as being of another Judg­ment, or Fellowship; or pretending to it, walk not suitably and answerable thereto.

2. By the Priest. Secondly, Nor can we go to the Hireling-Priests, to uphold their false and usurped Authority, who take upon them to mar­ry People without any Command, or Precedent for it from the Law of God.

3. In forbid­den Degrees. Lastly, Nor can we suffer any such kind of Marriages to pass among us, which either as to the Degrees of Consanguinity, or otherwise, in itself is unlawful, or from which there may be any just Reflection cast upon our Way.

Test. 1. Against Un­believers. As to the first Two, they being Matter of Principles received and believed, it is not my Work here to debate them; only since they are received and owned as such (for which we can, [Page 53] and have given our sufficient Reasons elsewhere, as for our other Principles) we ought to care how any, by walking otherwise, bring Reproach upon us; yet not to pass them wholly by, as to the First. Besides the Testimony of the Spirit of God in our Hearts (which is the original Ground of our Faith in all Things) we have the Testimony of the Apostle Paul, 2 Cor. 6.14. Be ye not unequally yoked together, &c. Now if any should think, it were much from this Scripture to plead it absolutely unlawful, in any Case, to join in Marriage with any (however otherwise sober because of their not being one with us in all Things, I shall speak my Judg­ment. To me it appears so; and to many more who have obtained Mercy; and we think we have the Spirit of God. But whether it be lawful or not I can say positively, It is not expedient, neither doth it edify, and (as that which is of dangerous Consequence) doth give justly Offence to the Church of Christ: And therefore no true tender Heart will prefer his private Love to the Good and Interest of the whole Body.

Test. 2. Against the Priests Usur­pations. As for the Second, In that we deny the Priests their assumed Au­thority and Power to marry, it is that which in no wife we can recede from, nor can we own any in the doing of it; it being a Part of our Testimony against the Usurpations of that Generation, who never yet, that I ever heard of, could produce any Scripture-proof, or Example for it.—And seeing none can pretend Conscience in the Matter (for they themselves confess, that it is [Page 54] no Part of the Essence of Marriage) if any pre­tending to be among us, should, through Fear, Interest, or Prejudice to the Truth, come under, and bow to, that Image, have we not Reason to deny such slavish and ignoble Spirits, as mind not Truth and its Testimony?

Test. 3 Against for­bidden De­grees of Con­sanguinity & Pre-engage­ments, &c. Lastly, Seeing, if any walking with us, or going under the same Name, should hastily or disorderly go together, either being within the Degrees of Consanguinity, which the Law of God forbids, or that either Party should have been for­merly under any Tie or Obligation to others, or any other vast Disproportion, which might bring a just Reflection upon us from our Oppo­sers; can any blame us for taking Care to pre­vent these Evils, by appointing, that such as so design, make known their Intentions to these Churches or Assemblies, where they are most known, that if any know just Cause of Hindrance, it may be mentioned, and a timous Lett put to the Hurt, either by stopping it, if they can be brought to condescend; or by refusing to be Witnesses and Concurrers with them in it, if they will not? For we take not upon us to hinder any to marry, otherwise than by Advice, or disconcerning our­selves; neither do we judge, that such as do mar­ry contrary to our Mind, that therefore their Marriage is null and void in itself, or may be dissolved afterwards; Nay, all our meddling is in a holy Care for the Truth. For if the Thing be right, all that we do, is to be Witnesses; and if otherwise, that we may say for our Vindica­tion [Page 55] to such as may upbraid us therewith, that we advised otherwise, and did no ways concur in the Matter; that so they may bear their own Burden, and the Truth and People of God be cleared.

What kind of Persons cannot bear the good Order of Truth. Now I am confident that our Way herein is so answerable to Reason and Christianity, that none will blame us therefor; except either such, whole irregular and impatient Lusts can­not suffer a serious and Christian-Exa­mination, and an advised and moderate Procedure; or such, who watching for Evil a­gainst us, are sorry we should proceed so Or­derly, and would rather we should suffer all manner of Irregularities and Abominations, that they might have the more to say against us. But the solid and real Reasons we have for our Way herein, will sufficiently plead for us in the Hearts of all sober Men; and moreover, the Testimony of God's Spirit in our Hearts, doth abundantly confirm us both against the Folly of the one, and the Envy of the other.

4. Our Care for restoring or separating Offenders. Fourthly, There being nothing more needful, than to preserve Men and Women in Righteousness, after they are brought into it; and also nothing more certain, than that the great Enemy of Man's Soul seeks daily how he may draw back again, and catch those, who have in some Measure escaped his Snares, and known Deliverance from them; therefore do we also meet together, that we may receive an Opportunity to understand, if any [Page 56] have fallen under his Temptations, that we may restore them again, if possible; or otherwise se­parate them from US. Surely, if we did not so, we might be justly blamed as such, among whom it were lawful to commit any Evil unre­proved; indeed, this were to be guilty of that Libertinism which some have falsly accused us of, and which hath been our Care all along, as became the People of God, to avoid: Therefore we have sought always to keep the House clean, by faithfully reproving and removing, accord­ing to the Nature of the Offence, and the Scan­dal following thereupon; private Things private­ly, and public Things publicly. We desire not to propagate Hurt, and defile Peoples Minds, with telling them such Things as tend not to edify; yet do we not so cover over, or smooth over any Wickedness, as not to deal roundly with the Persons guilty, and causing them to take away the Scandal in their Acknowledgment before all, to whole Knowledge in hath come: Yet judge we not ourselves obliged to tell that in Gath, or publish that in the Streets of Askelon, which make the Daughters of the Uncircumcised rejoice; or strengthen Atheists and Ranters in their Obdurateness, who feed more upon the Failings of the Saints, than to imitate their true Repentance. And therefore where we find an unfeigning Returning to the Lord, we desire not to remember that which the Lord hath for­gotten; nor yet to throw Offences in the Way of the Weak, that they may (tumble upon them.

And therefore I conclude, that our Care as to these Things also is most needful, and a Part of [Page 57] that Order and Government, which the Church of Christ never was, nor can be without; as doth, abundantly appear by divers Scriptures here­tofore mentioned.

SECTION VI. How far this Government doth extend in Mat­ters Spiritual, and purely Conscientious.

THUS far I have considered the Order and Government of the Church, as it respects outward Things; and its Authority in condemn­ing or removing such Things, which in them­selves are Evil, as being those, which none will readily justify: The Necessity of which Things is such, that few but will acknowledge the Care and Order in these Cases to be commendable and expedient.

Now I come to consider the Things of another Kind, which either verily are, or are supposed to be Matters of CONSCIENCE, or at least, wherein People may lay claim to Conscience, in the acting or forbearing of them. In which the great Question is, How far in such Cases the Church may give positive Orders or Rules How far her Authority reacheth, or may be supposed to be binding, and ought to be submitted to? For the better clearing and Examination of which, it will be fit to consider,

Quest. 1. First, Whether the Church of Christ hath Power in any Cases, that are Matters of Conscience, to give a positive Sentence [Page 58] and Decision, which may be obligatory upon Believers?

Quest. II. Secondly, If so, In what Cases and Respect she may so do?

Quest. III. Thirdly, Wherein consists the Free­dom and Liberty of conscience, which may he exercised by the Members of the true Church diversly, without judging one another?

Quest. IV. And Lastly, In whom the Power decisive is in Case of Contro­versy, or Contention in such Matters? — Which will also lead us, To observe the vast Difference betwixt Us and the Papists, and others in this particular.

Quest. I. As to the First, Whether the Church of Christ hath Power in very Cases that are Matters of Conscience, to give a positive Sentence and Decision, which may be obligatory upon Believers.

Answer. I Answer affirmatively, She hath; and shall prove it from divers Instan­ces, Articles of Faith are Matters of Conscience. both from Scripture and Reason. For First, All Principles and Articles of Faith, which are held doctrinally, are in Respect to those that believe them, Matters of Conscience. We know the Papists do out of Conscience (such as are zealous among them) adore, worship and pray to Angels, Saints and Images, yea, and to the Eu­charist, as judging it to be really Christ Jesus; and so do others place Conscience in Things that are absolutely wrong: Now I say, we being gathered to­gether into the Belief of certain Prin­ciples 1. Proof from Right Reason. [Page 59] and Doctrines, without any Constraint or worldly Respect, but by the meer Force of Truth upon our Understanding, and its Power and In­fluence upon our Hearts; these Principles and Doctrines, and the Practices necessarily depending upon them are, as it were, the Terms that have drawn us together, and the* Bond by which we became centred into one Body and Fellowship, and distinguished from others. Now if any one, or more, so engaged with us, should arise to teach any other Doctrine or Doctrines, contrary to these which were the Ground of our being one; who can deny, but the Body hath Power in such a Case to declare, This is not according to the Truth we profess; and therefore we pronounce such and such Doctrines to be wrong, with which we cannot have Unity, nor yet any more Spiritual-Fellowship with those that hold them? And so cut themselves off from being Members, by dissolving the very Bond by which they were linked to the Body. Now this cannot be accounted Tyranny and 0ppression, no more than in a civil Society, if one of the So­ciety shall contradict one or more of the funda­mental Articles, upon which the Society was con­tracted, it cannot be reckoned a Breach or Iniqui­ty in the whole Society to declare, that such Con­tradictors [Page 60] The Disbe­liever of the Principle of Fellowship excludes himself therefrom, and scatters. have done wrong, and forfeited their Right in that Society; in case, by the original Constitution, the Nature of the Contradiction implies such a Forfeiture, as usually it is; and will no Doubt hold in religious Mat­ters. As if a Body be gathered into one Fellowship, by the Belief of certain Principles, he that comes to believe otherwise, naturally scat­tereth himself; for that the Cause, that gathered him, is taken away: And so those that abide constant in declaring the Thing to be so as it is, and in looking upon him, and witnessing of him to others (if need be) to be such, as he has made himself, do him no Injury. I shall make the Supposition in the General, and let every People make the Application to themselves, abstracting from us; and then let Conscience and Reason in every im­partial Reader declare, whether or not it doth not hold? Suppose a People really gathered unto the Belief of the true and certain Principles of the Gospel, if any of these People shall arise and contradict any of those fundamental Truths, whether has not such as stand, good Right to cast such an one out from among them, and to pro­nounce positively, This is contrary to the Truth we profess and own; and therefore ought to be re­jected, and not received, nor yet he that asserts it, as one of us? And is not this obligatory upon all the Members, seeing all are concerned in the like Care, as to themselves, to hold the Right, and shut out the Wrong? I cannot tell, if any Man of Reason can well deny this: However, I [Page 61] shall prove it next from the Testimony of the Scripture.

2. Proof from Scrip­ture. Gal. 1.8. But though we, or an Angel from Heaven, preach any other Gospel unto you, than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. we said before, so say I now again, if any Man preach any other Gospel unto you, than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

1 Tim. 1.19, 20. Holding Faith, and a good Conscience, which some having put away, concerning Faith, have made Shipwreck. Of whom is Hyme­naeus and Alexander, whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.

2 John 10. If there come any unto you, and bring not this Doctrine, receive him not into your House, neither bid him Rejoice. (For so the Greek hath it.)

These Scriptures are so plain and clear in them­selves, as to this Purpose, that they need no great Exposition to the unbiassed and unpreju­dicate Reader. For seeing it is so, that in the true Church there may Men arise, and speak perverse Things, contrary to the Doctrine and Gospel already received; what is to be the Place of those that hold the pure and ancient Truth? Must they look upon these perverse Men still as their Brethren? Must they cherish them as Fellow Members, or must they judge, condemn and deny them? We must not think the Apostle wanted Charity, who will have them accursed; and that gave Hymenaeus and Alexander over to Satan, after that they had departed from theHymenaeus and Alexan­der instan­ced. [Page 62] true Faith, that they might learn not to blas­pheme. In short, if we must (as our Opposers herein acknowledge) preserve and keep those, that are come to own the Truth, by the same Means they were gathered and brought into it; we must not cease to be plain with them, and tell them, when they are wrong; and by sound Doctrine, both exhort and convince Gain-sayers. If the Apostles of Christ of old, and the Preachers of the everlasting Gospel in this Day, had told all People, however wrong they found them in their Faith and Principles, Our Cha­rity and Love is such, we dare not judge you, nor separate from you; but let us all live in Love together, and every one enjoy his own Opinion, and all will be well: How should the Nations have been; or what Way can they be brought to Truth and Righteousness? Would not the Devil love this Doctrine well, by which Dark­ness and Ignorance, Error and Confusion might still continue in the Earth unreproved, and un­condemned? If it was needful then for the Apo­stles of Christ in the Days of old to reprove, without sparing to tell the High-Priests, and great Professors among the Jews, that they were stubborn and stiff-necked, and always resisted the Holy Ghost, without being guilty of Imposition and Oppression, or want of true Love and Cha­rity; and also for those Messengers the Lord raised up in this Day, to reprove and cry out against the Hireling-Priests, and to tell the World openly, both Professors and Prophane, that they were in Darkness and Ignorance, but of the Truth, A wrong Charity and false Love to cherish in Error—is— [Page 63] Strangers and Aliens from the Common-Wealth of Israel; if God has gathered a People, by this Means, into the Belief of one and the same Truth, must not they, if they turn and depart from it, be admonished, reproved and condemn­ed (yea, rather than those that are not yet come to the Truth) because they crucify afresh unto themselves the Lord of Glory, and put him to open Shame? It seems the Apostle judged it ve­ry needful they should be so dealt with, Tit. r. 10. when he says, There are many unruly and vain Talkers and Deceivers, especially they of the Cir­cumsion, WHOSE MOUTHS MUST BE STOPPED, &c. Were such a Principle to be received or believed, that in the Church of Christ no Man should be separated from, no Man con­demned or excluded the Fellowship and Com­munion of the Body, for his Judgment or Opi­nion in Matters of Faith, then what Blasphemies so horrid, what Heresies so damnable, what Doctrines of Devils, but might harbour itself in the Church of Christ? What need then of sound Doctrine, if no Doctrine make unsound? What need of convincing and exhorting Gain-sayers, if to Gain-say be no Crime? Where should the Unity of the Faith be? Were not this an Inlet to all Man­ner of Abomination; and to make void the whole Tendency of Christ, and his Apostles Doctrine; and render the Gospel of none Effect; and give a Liberty to the unconstant and giddy Will of Man to innovate, alter and overturn it at his Plea­sure? So that from all that is above mentioned,— The Inlet of all Man­ner of Abo­minations. [Page 64] we do safely conclude, that where a People are gathered together into the Belief of the Princi­ples and Doctrines of the Gospel of Christ, if any of that People shall go from their Principles, and assert Things false and contrary to what they have already received; such as stand and abide firm in the Faith, have Power, by the Spirit of God, af­ter they have used Christian Endeavours to con­vince and reclaim them, upon their Obstinacy to separate from such, and to exclude them from their spiritual Fellowship and Communion: For otherwise, if this be denied, farewel to all Chri­stianity, or to the maintaining of any found Doc­trine in the Church of Christ.

Quest. 2. But, Secondly, Taking it for grant­ed, that the Church of Christ, or Assembly of Believers, may, in some Cases, that are Matter of Conscience, pronounce a positive Sentence and Judgment without Hazard of Imposition upon the Members, it comes to be enquired; In what Cases, and how far this Power rcacheth?

Answer. I Answer, First, As that which is most clear and undeniable, in the fun­damental Principles and Doctrines of Faith, in Case any should offer to teach otherwise, as is above de­clared and proved. But some may perhaps ac­knowledge, that indeed if any should contradict the known and owned Principles of Truth, and teach otherwise, it were fit to call out and exclude such; but what judgest thou as to lesser Matters, as in Principles of less Consequence, or in outward Ceremonies or Gestures, whether it be fit to press Uniformity in these Things? For Answer to this, it is fit to consider,

[Page 65] Considera­tion 1. First, The Nature of the Things themselves.

2. Secondly, The Spirit and Ground they proceed from.

3. And Thirdly, The Consequence and Tendency of them.

But before I proceed upon these, I affirm, and that according to Truth, that as the Church and Assembly of God's People may, and hath Power to decide by the Spirit of God in Matters fun­damental and weighty (without which no De­cision nor Decree in whatever Matters is avail­able) so the same Church and Assembly also, in other Matters of less Moment, as to themselves (yet being needful and expedient with a Respect to the Cir­cumstance of Time, Place and other Things that may fall in) may and hath Power by the same Spirit, and not otherwise, being acted, moved and assisted, and led by it thereto, to pronouce a positive Judg­ment: Which, no Doubt, will be found obliga­tory upon all such, who have a Sense and Feeling of the Mind of the Spirit, though rejected by such as are not watchful, and so are out of the Feeling and Unity of the Life. And this is that which none that own immediate Revelation, or a being inwardly led by the Spirit, to be now a Thing expected or dispensed to the Saints, can, without contradicting their own Principle, deny; far less such, with whom I have to do in this Matter, who claiming this Privilege to Particu­lars, saying, That they being moved to do such and such Things, though contrary to the Mind and Sense The Decision of Matters of less Moment in the Church obligatory. [Page 66] Cons. 1. of their Brethren, are not to be judged for it; add­ing, Why may it not be so, that God hath moved them to it? Now, if this be a sufficient Reason for them to suppose as to one or two, I may with­out Absurdity suppose it as well to the whole Body. And therefore as to the First, to wit, The Nature of the Things them­selves. If it be such a Thing, the doing or not doing whereof, that is, either any Act, or the Forbearance of any, may bring a real Reproach or Ground of Accusation against the Truth professed and owned, and in, and through, which there may a visible Schism and Dissension arise in the Church, by which Truth's Enemies may be gratified, and itself brought into Disesteem; then it is fit for such, whole Care is to keep all right, to take Inspec­tion in the Matter, to meet together in the Fear of God, to wait for his Counsel, and to speak forth his Mind, according as he shall manifest himself in and among them. And this was the Practice of the primitive Church in the Matter of Cir­cumcision. For here lay the Debate: Some thought it not needful to circumcise the Gentiles; others thought it a Thing not to be dispensed with: And no doubt of these (for we must remember, they were not the rebellious Jews, but such as had already believed in Christ) there were that did it out of Conscience, as judging Circumcision to be still obligatory. For they said thus, except ye be circumcised after the Manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. Now what Course took the Church of Antioch in these Cases? Acts 15.2. Against the Reproach of Truth. [Page 67] The Church at Antioch, sends a Case to Jerusalem for Advice from the El­ders. They determined, that Paul and Bar­nabas, and certain other of them should go unto Jerusalem, unto the Apostles and Elders, about this Question. We must not suppose they wanted the Spirit of God at Antioch to have decided the Matter, neither that these Apostles neglected or went from their in­ward Guide in undertaking this Journey; yet we see, they judged it meet in this Matter to have the Advice and Concurrence of the Apostles and El­ders, that were at Jerusalem, that they might be all of one Mind in the Matter. For there is no greater Property of the Church of Christ, than pure Unity in the Spirit; that is, a consenting and oneness in Judgment, and Practices in Mat­ters of Faith and Worship (which yet admits of different Measures, Growths and Motions, but never, contrary and contradictory Ones; and in these Diversities of Operations, yet still, by the same Spirit, the true liberty is exercised, as shall be declared hereafter:) Therefore prayeth Christ, That they all may be One, as he and the Father is One. To which Purpose also let these following Scriptures be examined:

Rom. 12.16. Be of the same Mind one towards another.

1 Cor. 1.10. Now I beseech you, Brethren, by the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no Divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same Mind, and in the same Judgment.

Ephes. 5.21. Submitting yourselves one to ano­ther in the Fear of God.

[Page 68]Phil. 2.2. Fulfil ye my Joy, that ye be like­minded, having the same Love, being of one Ac­cord, of one Mind.

And yet more remarkable is that of the. Apo­stle Paul to the Philippians, Chap. 3. Verse 15. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded; and if in any Thing ye be otherwise mind­ed, God shall reveal even this unto you.

Verse 16. Nevertheless, whereto we have al­ready attained, let us walk by the same Rule, let us mind the Jams Thing.

Verse 17. Brethren, be Followers together of me, and mark them which walk so, as ye have us for an Example.

Pretenders and Innova­tors judged by the Power of God. So here, though the Apostle grants Forbearance in Things, whereto they have not yet attained; yet he con­cludes, they must walk so, as they have him for an Example, and so consequently not contrary, or other­wise. And therefore we conclude, that whereas any in the Church of God pretending Conscience or Revelation, shall arise to teach and practise (however insignificant or small in themselves) whether Principles or Practices, yet if they be contrary to such as are already received as true, and confirmed by God's Spirit in the Hearts of the Saints, and that the introducing of these Things tend to bring Reproach upon the Truth, as such as are not edifying in themselves, and so stumble the Weak; those who have a true and right Dis­cerning, may, in and by the Power of God autho­rizing them (and no otherwise) condemn and judge such Things: And they so doing it, it will be obli­gatory [Page 69] upon all the Members, that have a true Sense, because they will feel it to be so, and therefore submit to it. And thus far as to the Nature of the Things themselves.

Conf. 2. Secondly, As to the Spirit and Ground they proceed from, Whatso­ever Innovation, Difference, or divers Appearance, whether in Doctrine or Practice, pro­ceedeth not from the pure Moving of the Spirit of God, or is not done out of pure Tenderness of Conscience, but either from that, which being puft up, affecteth Sin­gularity, and there through would be observed, commended and exalt­ed; or from that, which is the Malignity of some Humours and natural Tempers, which will be contradicting without Cause, and secretly beget­ting of Divisions, Animosities and Emulations, by which the Unity and unfeigned Love of the Brethren is lessened or rent; I say, all Things proceeding from this Root and Spirit, however little they may be supposed to be of themselves, are to be guarded against, withstood and denied, as hurtful to the true Church's Peace, and a Hin­drance to the Prosperity of Truth.What pro­ceeds not from the Spi­rit of God, to be withstood and denied.

Question If it be said, How know ye, that these Things proceed from that Ground?

Answer. For Answer, I make not here any Application, as to particular Per­sons or Things; but if it be granted (as it can­not be denied) that there may arise Persons in the true Church, that may do such Things from [Page 70] The Spirit of Discerning in the Church, judges Trans­gressors. such a Spirit, though pretending Conscience and Tenderness; then it must also be ac­knowledged, that such, to whom God hath given a true Discerning by his Spirit, may and ought to judge such Practices, and the Spirit they come from, and have no Unity with them, which if it be owned in the general, proves the Case, to wit, That some pretending Conscience in Things seem­ing indifferent, but yet it proceeding in them from a Spirit of Singularity, Emulation or Strife, those that have received a Discerning thereof from the Lord, may and ought to judge the Transgressors, without being accounted Imposers, Oppressors of Conscience, or Inforcers of Uniformity, contrary to the Mind of Christ; against which the Apostle also guardeth the Churches of old.

Phil. 2.3, 4. Let nothing be done through Strife, or vain Glory; but in Lowliness of Mind let each esteem other BETTER THAN THEMSELVES.

Look not every Man on his own Things; but every Man also on the Things of others.

Now, if it be an Evil to do any Thing out of Strife; then such Things that are seen so to be done, are they not to be avoided and forsaken? So that we are confident, our Judgment herein cannot be denied, or reputed errone­ous; except it be said, That none will, or can arise in the Church of Christ, pretending such Things from such a Spirit; which I know not any that will, it being contrary to thePretenders may arise, and must be watched against. [Page 71] Discerners of Evils to re­prove and warn. express Prophesies of the Scripture, and the Ex­perience of the Church in all Ages, as may ap­pear from Mat. 24.24. Acts 15.54. 1 Tim. 4.5. 2 Tim. 3.8. Mark 13.21, 22, 2 Pet. 2.19. Or on the other Hand, that those that abide Faithful, and have a Discerning of those Evils, ought to be silent, and never ought to reprove and gain-stand them, nor yet warn and guard others against them; and that it is a Part of the commendable Unity of the Church of Christ, to suffer all such Things, without taking Notice of them. I know none will say so; but if there be any so foolish as to affirm it, let them consider these Scriptures, Gal. 2.4. 1 Tim. 1.20. 2 Tim. 2.24, 25. Tit. 1.9, 10, 11.

Now if none of these hold true; but, on the contrary, such Evils have been, and may be found to creep in among the People of God, and that such as see them, may and ought to reprove them; then necessarily the doing so, is neither Imposition, Force nor Oppression.

Conf. 3. As to the Third, concerning the Consequence and Tendency of them, it is mostly included in the two former: For whatsoever tendeth not to Edifica­tion, but, on the contrary, to Destruc­tion, and to beget Discord among Brethren, is to be avoided: Accord­ing to that of the Apostle, Rom. 16.17. Now I beseech you, Brethren, mark them which cause Divisions and Offences, con­trary to the Doctrine which ye have learned, and avoid them. — Sowors of Discord a­mong Bre­thren to be avoided.

[Page 72] —To follow Peace among ourselves— And since there is no greater Mark of the People of God, than to be at Peace among themselves; what­soever tendeth to break that Bond of Love and Peace, must be testified against. Let it be observed, I speak always of the Church of Christ indeed, and deal with such as are of ano­ther Mind; not as reckoning only false Churches not to have this Power, but denying it even to the true Church of Christ, as judging it not fit for her so to act, as in Relation to her Members. For though Christ be the Prince of Peace, and doth most of all commend Love and Unity to his Disciples; yet I also know, he came not to fend Peace, but a Sword, that is, in dividing Man from the Lusts and Sins he hath been united to.— To the breaking of the Bands of the Wicked. And also it is the Work of his Dis­ciples and Messengers, to break the Hands and Unity of the Wicked, wherein they are banded against God and his Truth, and the Confederacy of such as stand in Unrighteousness, by inviting and bringing as many as will obey, unto Righte­ousness; whereby they become disunited and separated from their Companions, with whom they were centred, and at Peace, in the contrary and cursed Nature. And, indeed, blessed are they that are sent forth of the Lord to scatter here, that they may gather into the Unity of the Life: And they are blessed that, in this Respect, even for Righteousness Sake, are scattered and separated from their Brethren; that they may come to know the Brother-hood and Fellowship, which isProv. 20.26. [Page 73] in the Light; from which none ought to scat­ter, nor to be scattered, but be more and more gathered thereunto. And this leads me to what I proposed in the third Place, under this Head, of the true Churches Power in Matters Spiritual, or purely Conscientious; which may be thus ob­jected:

Quest. 3. If thou plead so much for an One­ness in the smallest Matters, wherein consisteth the Freedom and Liberty of the Conscience, which may be exercised by the Members of the true Church diversly, without judging one another?

Answer. In Answer to this Proportion, I affirm, first in general; that what­soever Things may be supposed to proceed from the same Spirit, though diverse in its Appear­ance, tending to the same End of Edification, and which in the Tendency of it, layeth not a real Ground for Division, or Dissension of Spirit, Fellow-Members ought not only to bear one ano­ther, but strengthen one another in them.

Now the Respects wherein this may be, I can describe no better than the Apostle Paul doth principally in two Places, which therefore will be fit to consider at Length for the Opening of this Matter; this being one of the weightiest Points pertaining to this Subject. Because, as on the one Hand due Forbearance ought to be ex­ercised in its right Place; so on the other, the many Devices and false Pretences of the Enemy creeping in here, ought to be guarded against.

Place 1. The first is, 1 Cor. 12. from Verse 4. to 31. thus:

[Page 74] Diversities of Gifts, Admi­nistrations & Operations from the same Spirit makes no Division. Verse 4. Now there are Diversi­ties of Gifts, but the same Spirit.

Verse 5. And there are Differen­ces of Administrations, but the same Lord.

Verse 6. And there are Diversi­ties of Operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.

Verse 7. But the Manifestation of the Spirit is given to every Man to profit withal.

Verse 8. For to one is given by the Spirit the Word of Wisdom, to another the Word of Knowledge by the same Spirit.

Verse 9. To another Faith by the same Spirit, to another the Gifts of Healing by the same Spirit.

Verse 10. To another the Working of Miracles, to another Prophecy, to another Discerning of Spi­rits, to another divers Kinds of Tongues, to another the Interpretation of Tongues.

Verse 11. But all these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every Man severally, as he will.

As many Members in one Body concur to the upholding the same. Verse 12. For as the Body is One, and hath many Members, and all the Members of that one Body be­ing many, are one Body, so also is Christ.

Verse 13. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one Body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we he bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

Verse 14. For the Body is not one Member, but many.

[Page 75] Verse 15. If the Foot shall say, because I am not the Hand, I am not of the Body; is it therefore not of the Body?

Verse 16. And if the Ear shall say, because I am not the Eye, I am not of the Body; is it not therefore of the Body?

Verse 17. If the whole Body were an Eye, where were the Hearing? If the whole were Hear­ing, where were the Smelling?

Verse 18. But now hath God set the Members every one of them in the Body, as it hath pleased Him.

Verse 19. And if they were all one Member, where were the Body?

Verse 20. But now are they many Members, yet but one Body.

Verse 21. And the Eye cannot say unto the Hand, I have no Need of thee nor again, the Head to the Feet, I have no Need of you,

Verse 22. Nay, much more those Members of the Body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary.

Verse 23. And those Members of the Body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant Honour, and our uncomely Parts have more abundant Comeliness.

Verse 24. For our comely Parts have no Need, but God hath tempered the Body together, having given more abundant Honour to that Part which lacked:

Verse 25. That there should be no Schism in the Body; but that the Members should have the same Care one of another.

Verse 26. And whether one Member suffer, all the Members suffer with it; or one Member be ho­noured, all the Members rejoice with it.

[Page 76] Verse 27. Now ye are the Body of Christ, and Members in particular:

Verse 28. And God hath set some in the Church, first Apostles, secondarily Prophets, thirdly Teach­ers, after that Miracles, then Gifts of Healing Helps, Governments, Diversities of Tongues.

Verse 29. Are all Apostles? Are all Prophets? Are all Teachers? Are all Workers of Miracles?

Verse 30. Have all the Gifts of Healing? Do all speak with Tongues? Do all interpret?

Which I would not have set down at large, but that there be some so careless (especially in Matters they like not) that they will scarce be at the Pains seriously to read over a Citation only named; and that also this being presented before the Reader, in the Current of the Discourse, will fix the Nature of my Application the more in his Understanding. For the Apostle shews here the Variety of the Opera­tions of the divers Members of the Body of Christ, working to one and the same End; as the divers Members of a Man's Body towards the maintaining and upholding of the whole.The Sum of the Premi­ses.

Now these are not placed in contrary Work­ings, for so they would destroy one another; and so the Apostle in the ordering of them in three several Kinds proves this. First, Diversities of Gifts. Secondly, Differences of Administrations. Thirdly, Diversities of Operations: And that which is the Bond that keeps the Oneness, here he also mentions, to wit, The same Spirit, the same Lord, the same God: The Apostle names no­thing of Contrariety or Opposition. But left any [Page 77] No Contra­riety in the Body of Christ. should be so critical, as to bring in here the School-Distinction of Contrarium Oppositum, and Contradictorium, I shall not deny, but Contrari­ety or Opposition, in the Sense it is sometimes ta­ken, may be found in the Body without Schism: As the comely Parts may be said to be Opposite or Contrary to the Uncomely, or the Left-hand con­trary to the Rights or the Foot opposite to the Head, as the uppermost Part to the undermost; or the Doing a Thing is contrary to the Forbearing of it; but as for that which is acknowledged to be Propositions, or Termini Con­tradictorii, that is, contradictory Propositions, which are in themselves irreconcileable, whereof one must be still wrong, and that still destroy one another, and work contrary Effects, they are not at all admitted, nor supposed to be in the Body of Christ; as I shall give in one In­stance, Verse 8. To one is given by the Spirit the Word of Wisdom, to another the Word of Knowledge by the same Spi­rit. First, here are two different Gifts, but not contrary. Secondly, There may something like Contrariety, in the Sense afore­mentioned, be here supposed; as, some may want this Gift of Wisdom and Knowledge, and so to have is contrary to want (though as to these two, none may be absolutely said to want them; yet all have them not in the same Degree, as a special Gift; though as to some Gifts there may be an absolute Want, as that of Miracles, and Interpre­tation of Tongues.) But should I suppose such a Contrariety, or more properly a Contradiction, as Instances, 1. 2. [Page 78] Diversities of Works and Operations in the Body. to Wisdom, to oppose Folly, and to Knowledge, utter Ignorance; this were an Opposition not to be ad­mitted of in the Body, because it were false to suppose that to proceed from the same Spirit. And such Contrarieties or Diversities, as cannot justly be supposed to proceed from the same Spi­rit of God, which is the Bond that links together, cannot be mutually entertained in the Body; so the Differences and Diversities, which the Apostle ad­mits of, while he speaks largely in this Matter, are, That none ought to be offended at his Brother, that be hath not the same Work and Office in the Body that he hath; but that every one keep in his own Place, as God hath appointed them; that neither them that are set in a higher Place, despise them that are set in a lower; nor them that are set in a lower, grudge and repine at such as are set higher; but all work in their proper Place towards the Edification of the Whole. And that the Apostle intends this, is manifest, where he draws to a Conclusion, Verse 27. Now ye are the Body of Christ, and Members in particu­lar, and God hath set some in the Church, first, Apostles, secondly, Prophets, &c. and then he sub­sumes, Are all Apostles, &c.

Place 2. Which the same Paul again confirms, Ephes. 4.8.11. to the 17th, which was the second Place I intended; and shall only men­tion, for Brevity's Sake, leaving the Reader to consider of it at his Leisure.

This is also held forth by the beloved Disciple John, in his threefold Distinction, 1 John 2.12, 13. [Page 79] The true Liberty in the Church. Of Fathers, young Men, and little Children: And by Peter, 1 Pet. 5.1.5. in that of El­ders and Younger. The true Liberty then in the Church of Christ is ex­ercised, when as one judgeth not ano­ther in these different Places; but live in Love together, all minding the Unity and general Good of the Body, and to work their own Work in their own Place. Also the Forbearance of the Saints is exercised, when as they judge not one another for being found in the different Ap­pearance, either of Doing or Forbearing; which may be peculiar to their several Places and Sta­tions in the Body: For that there is, and may be Diversities of Works there, is excellently well expressed by the Apostle, viz. Diversities of Works ex­pressed by the Apostles.

Rom. 12.3. For I say, through the Grace given unto me, to every Man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than be ought to think; but to think soberly, ac­cording as God hath dealt to every Man the Mea­sure of Faith.

Verse 4. For as we have many Members in one Body, and all Members have not the same Office:

Verse 5. So we being many, are one Body in Christ, and every one Members one of another.

Verse 6. Having then Gifts differing, according to the Grace that is given to us, whether Prophecy, let us prophesy according to the Proportion of Faith,

Verse 7. Or ministry, let us wait on our Mini­string; or he that teacheth, on Teaching:

Verse 8. Or he that exhorieth, on Exhortation: He that giveth, let him do it with Simplicity; he [Page 80] that ruleth, with Diligence; be that sheweth Mer­cy, with Cheerfulness.

If any then should quarrel with his Brother for exercising that which belongeth to the Office of the Body Christ hath called him to, and would force him to exercise the same Office he doth, though he be not called to it; here is a Breach of Christian Liberty, and an imposing upon it.

The Breach of Liberty begets Jarrs and Schisms. Now all Schisms and Jarrs fall out in this two-fold Respect: Either when any Person or Persons assume another, or an higher Place in the Body, than God will have them to be in, and so exercise an Office; or go about to perform that, which they ought not to do; or when, as any truly exercising in their Place, which God hath given them, others rise up and judge them, and would draw them from it; both of which Cases have been, and may be supposed to fall out in the Church of Christ. As 1 Cor. 4.3.4. where some judged Paul wrongously; 3 John 9. where one exalting himself above his Place, judged whom he ought not. We see then, what Diversities be most usually in the Church of God, consisting in the Difference of the Gift proceeding from the same Spirit; and in the divers Places, that the several Members have in the same Body for the Edification of it; and every one being here in his own Station, his standing therein is his Strength and Perfection; and to be in another, though higher and more eminent, would but weaken and hurt him: And so in this there ought to be a mutual Forbearance, that there may neither be a coveting nor aspiring on the one Hand, nor yet a despising or condemn­ing [Page 81] Acts of For­bearance in the primitive Church. on the other. But besides the Forbearance of this Nature, which is most ordinary and universal (and for the Exercise whereof there is, and will still be a Need, so long as there is any Gathering or Church of Christ upon the Earth) there is a certain Liberty and Forbearance also, that is more particular, and has a Relation to the Circumstance of Times and Places, which will not hold universally; whereof we have the Example of the primitive Church, testified by the Scriptures in two or three Particulars. The first was, In suffering Circum­cision to the Jews for a Time, and not only so, but also divers others of the legal and ceremo­nial Purifications and Customs, as may appear, Acts 21. Ver. 21, 22, 23, 24, &c. The second was, In the Observation of certain Days, Rom. 14.5. And the third, In the abstaining from Meats, 1 Cor. 8. throughout: Here the Apostle perswades to, and recommends a Forbearance, because of the Weakness of some; for he says not any where, nor can it be found in all the Scriptures of the Gospel, that these Things such weak Ones were exercised in, were Things indispensably necessary, or that it had been better for them, they had not been under such Scruples, providing it had been from a Principle of true Clearness, and so of Faith.

Acts of For­bearance or Condescen­sion under the Law. Next again, These Acts of Forbear­ance were done in a Condescension to the Weakness of such, upon whom the antient (and truly deserved in its Season) Veneration of the Law had such a deep Impression, that [Page 82] they could not yet dispense with all its Cere­monies and Customs: And to such the Apostle holds forth a two-fold Forbearance.

1. To Jews. First, A certain Compliance by such Believers, as were gathered out from the Jews; though they saw over these Things, yet it was fit they should con­descend somewhat to their Countrymen and Brethren, who were weak.

2. To Genetiles. Secondly, The like Forbearance in the Gentiles, not to judge them in these Things; but we see, that it was not allowed for such weak Ones to propagate these Scruples, or draw others into them; and that when as any of the Churches of the Gentiles, who wanted this Occasion, would have been exercising this Liberty, or pleading for it, the Apostle doth down-rightly condemn it, as I shall make appear in all the three Instances above-mentioned.

1. Of Circum­cision. First, In that of Circumcision, Gal. 5.2, 4.

Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing; Christ is become of none Effect unto you: Whosoever of you are justified by the Law, ye are fallen from Grace.

Can there be any Thing more positive? Might not some here have pretended Tenderness of Con­science, and have said, Though the Decree of the Apostles do dispense with Circumcision in me; yet if I find a Scruple in myself, and a Desire to it cut of Tenderness, why should it be an Evil in me to do it, more than in the Jews that believe? We [Page 83] see, there is no Room left here for such Reason­ing.

Inst. 2. of Observation of Days. Secondly, As to Observations, Gal. 4.9, 10, 11. Might not they have answered, What if we regard a Day to the Lord, must we not then? Are not these thy own Words? We see that did not hold here, because in them it was a Returning to the beggarly Elements.

Inst 3. of Meats. Thirdly, As to Meats, 1 Tim. 4.3. Here we see that is accounted a Doctrine of Devils; which in ano­ther Respect: was Christian Forbear­ance. And therefore now, and that in the gene­ral Respect, he gives this Reason, Verse 4. For every Creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with Thanksgiving of them that believe, and know the Truth. So we see, that in these particular Things there is great Need of Wariness in the Church of Christ; for that some­times Forbearance under a Pretence of Liberty may be more hurtful than down-right Judging. I suppose, if any should arise, and pretend Con­science, and claim a Liberty for Circumcision, and the Purifications of the Law, whether all Chri­stians would not with one Voice condemn it? And so as to Days and Meats, how do the Gene­rality of Protestants judge it? Though I deny not but there may, and ought to be a mutual Forbear­ance in the Church of Christ in certain such Cases, which may fall in; and a Liberty there is in the Lord, which breaks not the Peace of the true Church; but in such Matters (as I observed at large before) both the Nature of the Things, the [Page 84] Spirit they come from, and the Occasion from whence, and their Consequence and Tendency is to be carefully observed.

SECTION VII. Concerning the Power of DECISION.

Head III. Proposition 2. SEeing, then, it may fall out in the Church of Christ, that both some may assume another Place in the Body than they ought, and others may lay claim to a Liberty, and pretend Con­science in Things they ought not, and that with­out Question the Wrong is not to be tolerated, but to be testified against, however specious its Appearance may be; and that it must, and ought to be judged: The Question will arise, Who is the proper Judge or Judges, in whom resideth the Power of deciding this Controversy? And this is that which I undertook, in the next Place, to treat of, as being the specifick Difference, and distinguishing Property of the Church of Christ, from all other antichristian Assemblies and Churches of Man's building and framing.

The Spirit of God the pro­per Judge of Controver­sies in the Church. To give a short, and yet clear and plain An­swer to this Proposition: The only proper Judge of Controversies in the Church, is the Spirit of God, and the Power of deciding solely lies in it; as having the only unerring, infallible and certain Judgment be­longing to it; which Infallibility is not necessarily annexed to any Persons, Person or Places whatsoever, by Virtue [Page 85] of any Office, Place or Station any one may have, or have had in the Body of Christ. That is to say, that any have Ground to reason thus, Because I am, or have been such an eminent Member, therefore my Judgment is infallible; or, Because we are the greatest Number; or, that we live in such a noted or famous Place, or the like: Though some of these Reasons may, and ought to have their true Weight in Cases of contradictory Assertions (as shall hereafter be observed) yet not so, as upon which either mainly, or only the infallible Judg­ment is to be placed; but upon the Spirit, as that which is the firm and unmoveable Foundation.

And now, if I should go on no further, I have said enough to vindicate us from IMPOSITION, and from the Tyranny, whether of Popery, Pre­lacy, or Presbytery, or any such like we have, or may be branded with, as shall after appear.

Exod. 25.22. Numb. 7.89 Hos. 11.10. Amos 7.14 2 Chro. 18.6, 7. John 6.45. Heb. 1.1, 2. But to proceed: Herein lies the Difference be­twixt the Dispensation of the Law, and the Gos­pel or New-Covenant; for that of old all Answers were to be received from the Priests in the Taber­nacle. For he, that appeared be­twixt the Cherubims there, spake forth his Mind to the People; and there were also Families of the Pro­phets, to whom they resorted for the Answer of the Lord (though sometimes, as a Signification of the further Glory that was to be re­vealed, it pleased God to reveal his Mind to some, even to them, who were neither Prophets nor Prophets Sons) but, under the Gospel, we are all to be taught of God, that is, none are excluded [Page 86] Judgment in­fallible pro­ceeds from the Spirit in­fallible. from his Privilege, by nut being of the Tribe of Levi, or of the Children of the Prophets: Though this Privilege is as truly exercised in some, by assenting and obeying to what God commands and reveals through others (they feeling Unity with it in the Life) as by such, who by the Re­velation and Command of God's Spirit hold forth his Will to his People in certain Particulars, which the same Spirit leads and commands them to obey. So that we say, and that with a very good Ground, that it is no way inconsistent with this sound and unerring Principle to affirm, That the Judgment of a certain Person or Persons in certain Cases is infallible, or for a certain Person or Persons to give a positive Judgment, and pronounce it as ob­ligatory upon others, because the Foundation and Ground thereof is, not because they are infallible, but because in these Things, and at that Time they were led by the infallible Spirit. And therefore it will not shelter any in this Respect to pretend, I am not bound to obey the Dictates of fallible Man; is not this Popery, I not being per­swaded in myself? Because it is not to be disobe­dient to them, but to the Judgment of Truth through them at such a Time; and one or more there not being perswaded, may as probably pro­ceed from their being hardned, and being out of their Place, and in an Incapacity to hear the Requirings, as that the Thing is not required of them, which none can deny; but it may as well be supposed, as the contrary. But for the fur­ther clearing of this Matter, before I conclude, [Page 87] I shall not doubt both to affirm and prove these following Propositions.

Assert. 1. First, That there never will, nor can be wanting, in Case of Contro­versy, the Spirit of God, to give Judgment through some or other in the Church of Christ, so long as any Assembly can properly, or in any tolerable Supposition be so termed.

Assert. 2. Secondly, That God hath ordinarily, in the communicating of his Will under his Gospel, employed such whom he had made use of in gathering of his Church, and in feeding and watching over them; though not excluding others.

Assert. 3. Thirdly, That their de Facto, or effectual Meeting together, and gi­ving a positive Judgment in such Cases, will not import Tyranny and Usurpation, or an Inconsistency with the universal Privilege that all Christians have to be led by the Spirit; neither will the Pretences of any contradicting them, or refusing to submit upon the Account they see it not, or so, excuse them from being really guilty of disobeying God.

Assert. 1. Proved. For the First, to those that believe the Scripture, there will need no other Probation than that of Matt. 28.20. And lo, I am with you al­way, even unto the End of the World. And Verse 18. And the Gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.

The Infalli­ble Spirit the Gates of Hell cannot pre­vail against. Now if the Church of Christ were so destitute of the Spirit of God, that in Case of Difference there were not any found that, by the infallible Spirit, could give a certain Judg­ment; would not then the Gates [Page 88] of Hell prevail against it? For where Strife and Division is, and no effectual Way to put an End to it, there not only the Gates, but the Courts and inner Chambers of Darkness prevail; for where Envy and Strife is, there is Confusion, and every Evil Work.

The erring Church or People— But that there may be here no Ground of Mi­stake or Supposition, that we were annexing In­fallibility to certain Persons, or limiting the Church to such; I understand not by the Church, every particular Gathering or Assembly, circumscribed to any particular Country or City: For I will not refuse but divers of them, both apart and to­gether, if not established in God's Power, may err. Nor yet do I lay the absolute Stress upon a general Assembly of Persons, as such, pick­ed and chosen out of every one of those particular Churches; as if what the Gene­rality or Plurality of those conclude upon, were necessarily to be supposed to be the infallible Judg­ment of Truth: Though to such an Assembly of Persons truly stated (as they ought) in God's Power, he hath heretofore revealed his Will in such Cases; and yet may, as the most probable Way (which shall be spoken of hereafter:) Yet such, as a meer Assembly, is not conclusive, nor yet do I understand by the Church, every Ga­thering or Assembly of People, who may hold sound and true Principles, or have a Form of Truth; for some may lose the Life and Power of Godli­ness, who notwithstanding may re­tain the Form or Notions of Things, but yet are to be turned away from, because in —Having the Form of Truth. [Page 89] so far (as I observed before) as Sanctification, to wit, those that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, make the Church, and give the right Definition to it: Where that is wholly wanting, the Church of Christ ceaseth to be; and there remains nothing but a Shadow without Substance. Such Assem­blies then are like the dead Body, when the Soul is departed, which is no more sit to be conversed with; because it corrupts, and proves noisome to the Living. But by the Church of Christ, I un­derstand all those that truly and really have re­ceived and hold the Truth, as it is in Jesus, and are in Measure sanctified, or sanctifying in and by the Power and Virtue thereof work­ing in their inward Parts; and this may be made up of divers distinct Gatherings or Churches in several Countries or Nations: I say, so long as these, or any of them do retain that, which justly entitles them the Church or Churches of Christ (which they may be truly called) though there may fall out some Differences, Divisions or Schisms among them; as we may see there was no small Dis­sention in the Church of Autioch, and yet it ceased not to be a Church, Acts 15.2. and 1 Cor. 1.11. The true Church.

The certain Judgment of Truth is ne­ver wanting in the Church of Christ. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my Bre­thren, that there are Contentions among you; and yet, Verse 2. he entitles them the Church of God, them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus: So long, I say, as they truly retain this Title of the Church of Christ, as being really such, there will never be wanting the certain Judgment of Truth. For which, [Page 90] besides the positive Promise of Christ before-men­tioned (which is not without Blasphemy to be called in Question, or doubted of) I shall add these Reasons. That seeing the Church of Christ is his Body, of which he is the Head, it were to make Christ negligent of his Body, who stiles himself the good Shepherd, and hath said, He will never leave nor forsake his own; or else (which is worse) it will infer a Possibility of Error, or Mistake in Christ, in whom, as the Head, are the Eyes of the Body, by which it is to be ruled in all Things. Next, We never find in alt the Scrip­ture since the Gospel, that ever this was wanting; but that God still gave infallible Judgment by his Spirit in some of the Respects above-mentioned. If the Transactions and Controversies of the after Centuries be alledged, I will boldly affirm and prove, That there was never a true Judgment wanting, so long as the Nature and Essence of the true Church was retained: If any will needs affirm otherwise, let them shew me where, and I shall answer it. Though I deny not (that after the Mystery of Iniquity did begin to work, or had so wrought, first by intermixing, and afterward by altogether forsaking the Nature of Truth, re­taining only the bare Name of the Church) but that there might be some scattered Ones, here and there one in a Nation, and now and then one in an Age, who, by the Power and Virtue of the Spirit of Life working in them, might be truly sanctified; yet these were but as Witnesses in Sackcloth, no ways sufficient to give these As­semblies, in which they were engrossed, the Ap­pellation Witnesses in Sackcloth. [Page 91] of the Church of Christ, coming no more under Observation by the Generality, nor having, as to them, any more Influence than some little or scarcely discernable Sparks of Fire in many great Heaps and Mountains of Ashes. And thus much to prove, that where there is any Ga­thering or Assembly, which truly and properly may be called the Church of Christ, the infalli­ble Judgment will never be wanting in Matters of Controversy.

Assertion 2 proved. Secondly, That ordinarily God hath, in the Communicating of his Will un­der his Gospel, employed such whom he had made use of in gathering of his Church, and in feeding and watching over them, though not ex­cluding others. For, as in a natural Body (to which the Church of Christ is compared) the more sub­stantial and powerful Members do work most effectual; and their Help is most necessary to sup­ply any Defect or Trouble in the Body: So also, if there be Diversities of Gifts in the Church (as is above proved) and some have a greater Measure, and some a lesser, those that have the greater are more capable to do Good, and to help the Body in its Need, than others that are weaker and less powerful. Since there are Strong and Weak, Babes and young Men, who have over­come the evil One, and in whom the Word of God abid­eth, such are more able, when the Enemy besets, to resist (having already overcome) than others who are but yet wrestling, and not Conquerors. Now, every Contro­versy and Dissention in the Church Comes from the Besetments of the Enemy; yet if any of these strong From the Be­setments of the Enemy Dissentions arise. [Page 92] or young Men, or powerful Members, go from their Station, it is not denied but that they are as weak as any; and it is pre-supposing their Faithfulness in their I lace that I thus affirm, and no otherwise. Nor vet do I limit the Lord to this Method: For in him are all the Treasures both of our Wisdom and Strength; and the weakest in his Hand are as strong as the strongest, who may now, as well as heretofore, kill a Goliah by the Hand of little David; yet we see the Lord doth ordinarily make use of the Strong to sup­port the Weak: And indeed, when such as may be termed weak are so made use of, it alters the Nature of their Place, and constitutes them in a higher and more eminent Degree. For though it was little David, it was also he that was to be King of Israel. Though the Apostles were mean Men among the Jews, yet they were such as were to be the Apostles of the Lord of Glory; Instruments to gather the lost Sheep of the House of Israel, and to proclaim the acceptable Day of the Lord. And though Paul was once accounted the least of all the Saints, a Child born out of due Time; yet was he him who was to be the greatest Apostle of the Gentilès.

Now then, let us consider whom the Lord makes use of in the Affairs of the primitive Church, and through whom he gave forth his infallible Judg­ment. Did he not begin first by Peter? He was the first that spake in the first Meeting they had, Acts 1. and who first stood up after the pouring forth of the Spirit; and who first appeared be­fore the Council of the Jews, and spake in Behalf of the Gospel of Christ: Though I am far from [Page 93] calling him (as some do) the Prince of the Apo­stles; yet I may safely say, he was one of the most antient and eminent, and to whom Christ, in a Manner somewhat more than ordinary, had recommended the Feeding of his Flock. We see also he was first made use of in preaching to the Gentiles, and what Weight his and James's Words had in the Contest about Circumcision towards the bringing the Matter to a Conclu­sion, Acts 15. Yet that we may see Infallibility was not inseparably annexed to him, he was found blameable in a certain Matter, Gal. 2.11. not­withstanding his Sentence was positively received in many Particulars.

So also the Apostle Paul argues from his ga­thering of the Churches of Corinth and Galatia, that they ought to be Followers of him, and positively concludes in divers Things. And up­on this Supposition, exhorts the Churches (both he and Peter) in many Passages heretofore men­tioned (which I will not, to avoid Repetition, again rehearse) to obey the Elders that watch for them; to hold such in Reputation, and to submit themselves to them that have addicted themselves to the Ministry of the Saints, Cor. 16.15, 16.

Also, we see how the Lord makes use of John, his beloved Disciple, to inform and reprove the Seven Churches of Asia; and no Doubt John (the rest, by the usual Computation, being at that time all removed) was then the most noted and fa­mous Elder alive: And, indeed, I mind not where, under the Gospel, Christ hath used any other Method; but that he always, in revealing his Will, hath made use of such as he himself had be­fore [Page 94] appointed Elders and Officers in his Church; though it be far from us to limit the Lord, so as to exclude any from this Privilege; nor yet, on the other Hand, will the Possibility hereof be a sufficient Warrant to allow every obscure Mem­ber to stand up and offer to rule, judge, and condemn the whole Body; nor yet is it without Cause that such an One's Message is jealoused and called in Question, unless it have very great Evidence, and be bottomed upon some very weighty and solid Cause and Foundation. And God doth so furnish those whom he raises up, in a singular Manner, of which (as I said) I mind no Instance in the New-Testament: And in the Old we see, though it was strange that little David should oppose himself to the great Goliah, yet he had, before that, killed both the Lion and the Bear, which was no less improbable; and which of all is most observable, was, before that Time, by the Appointment of God, and the Hand of the Prophet, anointed King of Israel. Com­pare the 16th and 17th Chapters of the First of Samuel.

Assertion 3 proved. Now, as to the Third, That any particular Persons, de Facto, or effectu­ally giving out a positive Judgment, is no encroaching nor imposing upon their Brethrens Conscience, is necessarily included in what is said be­fore; upon which, for further Probation, there will only need this short Reflection: That for any Member or Members, in Obedience to the Lord, to give forth a positive Judgment in the Church of Christ, is their proper Place and Of­fice, they being called to it; and so for them to [Page 95] exercise that Place in the Body, which the Head moves them to, is not to usurp Authority over their Fellow Members. As, on the other Hand, to submit and obey (it being the Place of some so to do) is not a renouncing a being led by the Spirit, seeing the Spirit leads them so to do: And not to obey, in case the Judgment be ac­cording to Truth, and the Spirit lead to it, is, no Doubt, both offensive and sinful. And that all this may be supposed in the Church of Christ without Absurdity, and so establish the above­mentioned Propositions, will appear by a short Review of the former Passages.

If that Peter and James, their giving a positive Judgment in the Case of Difference in divers Particulars, did not infer them to be Imposers, so neither will any so doing now, being led to it by the same Authority: Every one may easily make the Application. And, on the contrary, if for any to have stood up and resisted their Judg­ment, pretending an Unclearness, or so, and thereby held up the Difference after their Sen­tence, breaking the Peace and Unity of the Church (Things being con­cluded with an It seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us) I say, if such would have given just Cause of Offence, and have been cut off, as Despisers of Dignities of old, will not the like Case, now occurring, hold the same Conclu­sion? Now, whether those Popositions do not hold, upon the Principles before laid down and proved, I leave to every judicious and impartial Reader to judge. Acts. 15.21.

[Page 96] Submission and Obedi­ence to the Judgment of Truth, the Spirit of God leads into. Moreover, we see how positive the Apostle Paul is in many Particulars throughout all his Epistles, insomuch as he saith, 2 Thess. ult. v. 14, If any Man obey not our Word by this Epistle, note that Man, and have no Company with him, that he may be ashamed. And in many more Places, be­fore mentioned, where he commands them both to obey him, and several others, who were appointed (no Doubt by the Spirit of God) to be Rulers among them; and yet, who will say, that either the Apostle did more than he ought, in commanding; or they less than they were obliged to, in submitting? And yet neither were to do any Thing contrary, or more than the Spirit of God in themselves led them to, or allowed them in. And if the Church of God bear any Parity or Proportion now in these Days with what it did of old (as I know no Reason why it should not) the same Things may now be supposed to take Effect that did then, and also be lawfully done upon the like Occasion, proceeding from the same Spirit, and established upon the same Basis and Foundation. And thus much, as to that Part, to shew in whom the Power of Decision is: Which being seriously and impartially considered, is suf­ficient to clear us from the Tyranny, either of Popery, or any other of that Nature, with those that are not either wilfully blind, or very igno­rant of Popish Principles, as the judicious Reader may observe. But seeing to mainfest that Dif­ference was one of those Things proposed to be considered of, I shall now come to say something of it in its proper Place.

[Page 97]

SECTION VIII. How this Government altogether differeth from the oppressing and persecuting Principality of the Church of Rome, and other Anti-Christian Assemblies.

Head III. Propos. 3 proved. WHatever Way we understand the Popish Principles in this Matter, whether of those that are most devoted to the See of Rome, as the King of Spain's Dominions, and the Princes of Italy; the Jesuits, and Generality of all those called religious Orders, who hold, that Papa in Cathedrâ non potest err are, licet absque Concilio; that is, That the Pope in his Chair, cannot err, though without a Council; or of those that are less devoted, who plead this Infallibility in the Pope and Council, lawfully con­vened, who yet, by the more zealous, are reckoned petty Schismaticks; I say, whatever Way we take them, all those that do profess themselves Members of the Romish Church, and are so far such, as to understand their own Principles, do unquestionably acknowledge. Principles of the Romist Church.

I. First, That no General-Council can be lawfully called, without the Bishop of Rome, as Christ's Vicar, and Peter's Successor, call it.

II. Secondly, That either he himself, or some for him, as his Legates, must be there present, and always preside.

[Page 98] III. Thirdly, That the Members having Vote, are made up of Bishops or Presby­ters, or Commissioners, from the several Orders, being of the Clergy.

IV. Fourthly, That what is concluded on by Plurality of Votes, and agreed to by the Pope and his Legates, must necessarily be sup­posed to be the Judgment of the infallible Spi­rit.

V. Fifthly, That all the Members of the Church are bound implicitly to receive and believe it, because it proceeds from a Council to be accounted lawful in the Respects above-mentioned, without Regard to the intrinsick or real Truths of the Things prescribed, or bringing them in any Respect to the Test or Examination of the Spirit of God in themselves, or the Scripture's Testimony, or their Agreement or Disagreement with Truths, formerly believed and received; for so much as to prove or try them by Way of Doubt, they reckon a Breach of the first Command; as, on the other Hand, a Matter of Merit, implicitly to receive and believe them, however inconsistent with the Testimony of the Spirit in one's own Heart, Scripture, Truth and Reason.

VI. Sixthly, That no Man, as a Member of the Church of Christ, in that simple Capacity, unless a Clergyman, or the Ambassador of some King, &c. can be admitted to sit, vote, or give his Judgment.

VII. Seventhly, That it is in no Respect to be supposed, that any Members, especially Laicks, whether in a particular City, Country or Na­tion, may meet concerning any Things relating to the Faith and Worship of the Church, and give, by the Spi­rit [Page 99] of God any Judgment; but that all such Meetings are to be accounted schismatical and unlawful. And,

VIII. Lastly, That the Promise of Infallibility, and the Gates of Hell not prevailing, is necessarily annexed to the Pope and Council, called and authorized in the Manner above expressed.

Now, if to deny every one of these Proposi­tions, wherein all understanding Men know the Errors and Abuses of the Romish Church consist, be to be Popish; then indeed may we be supposed to be one with the Papists in this Matter, but not o­therwise: So that the very mentioning of these Things is sufficient to shew the Difference betwixt us and them. But if any will needs plead our Agreement with them thus;

Objection. The Papists affirm an Infallibility of Judgment in the Church of Christ, and so do you; therefore you are one with Papists.

Answer 1. I answer; That proves no more our Oneness in this Matter, than if it should be said, The Papists plead that God ought to be worshipped, and so do you; therefore ye agree: Not­withstanding of the vast Differences as to that, which is not only known betwixt us and them, but betwixt them and all Protestants, who agree more with them in the Matter of Worship than we do.

Answer 2. Next again, Infallibillity in the Church (according as we hold it. and I have above defined it) no Man upon our Supposition (or Hypothesis) can de­ny. For since we first assert, as a Principle, that no Gathering, no Church, nor Assembly of People, however true their Principles, or The true Church is led by the Infal­lible Spirit [Page 100] exact their Form be, are to be accounted the Church of Christ, except the infallible Spirit lead and guide; what can be the Hazard to say, that in such a Church there is still an infallible Judgment? Indeed this is so far from Popery, that it resolves in a Proposition quite contradicto­ry to them. The Romanists say, That the infal­lible Spirit always accompanies the outward visi­ble Professors, and is annexed to the eternal Succes­sion of Bishops and Pastors, though ever so vicious, as to their Lives: Yea, though per­fect For some Popes have been known to deny, or at least to doubt the Truth of the Scriptures as to the History of Christ, and to call in Question the immortality of the Soul, and the Re­surrection. Atheists and Infidels in their private Judgments, yet if outward­ly professing the Catholick Faith, and Subjection to the Church, they must be Partakers of the infallible Spirit. We say the quite con­trary: That where there is either Viciousness of Persons, of Unsound­ness of Judgment in the particular Members, these cannot, by Virtue of any outward Call or Succession they have, or any Profession they make, or Authority they may pretend to, so much as claim an Interest in any Part of the Church of Christ, or the infallible Spirit.

The infallible Judgment where it is. So then, if we admit none to be Members of the Church but such as are led and guided by the Spirit, it will be no Popery, in the second Place, to affirm, that where there is a Company of People so gathered, who are not any longer to retain justly the Name of the Church of Christ than they are led and guided by his [Page 101] Spirit, or a Church so qualified and designed, there is still an infallible Judgment. So that this Infallibility is not annexed to the Persons, to the Succession, to the bare visible Profession (though true, which the Church of Rome is denied to be) or to any Society, because of its Profession; but singly, and alone to the true, real and effectual Work of Sanctification and Regeneration, the New Creature brought forth in the Heart: And this is the Spiritual Man, which the Apostles faith, judgeth all Things, 1 Cor. 2.15. To affirm there is an Infallibility here, cannot well be condemned by any; or whoso doth, mud needs say, the Spirit of God is fallible: For we place the Infallibility in the Spirit, and in the Power, not in the Persons. And so these are the Degrees we ascend by; ‘Because such and such Men are led by the Spi­rit of God, and are obedient to the Grace in their Hearts, therefore are they Members and Officers in the Church of Christ. And because they are Members of the Church of Christ in the Respect before declared, therefore there is an infallible Judgment among them.’ We do not say, Because such Men profess the Christian Faith, and have received an outward Ordination, and so are by a lawful Succession formally esta­blished Officers in the Church, when they meet together (according to certain Rules above de­clared) there is an Infallibility annexed to their Conclusions, and they cannot but decide what is right; or rather, what they decide must needs be supposed to be right. Who seeth not here a vast Disproportion?

[Page 102] The Constitu­tion of a Sy­nod, or a ge­neral Council among— Now we differ herein fundamentally; that is, as to the very Basis and Foundation upon which we build; and that not only from the Church of Rome, but also from the Generality of Protestants in this Matter. All Protestants do acknowledge a gene­ral Council to be useful, yea ne­cessary, in the Case of Division or Debate; let us consider the Basis upon which they proceed, and the Stress they lay upon it.

1. Prote­stants. First, All jointly, both the prelati­cal and Presbyterial, will have this Sy­nod or Council to consist of a Convo­cation of the Clergy, chosen and sent from the particular Congregations, with some few laick Elders, called together by the civil Magistrate, in case he be one in Judgment with them.

They decide by Plurality of Votes. And tho' they assume not an absolute Infallibility, in that they reckon it possible for them to err, yet do they reckon their Decisions obligatory upon their supposed Consonancy to the Scripture; and how­ever do affirm, That the Civil Magistrate hath Power to constrain all to submit and obey; or else to punish them either by Death, Banishment, Imprisonment, Confiscation of Goods, or some other corporal Pain; even though such be per­suaded, and offer to make appear, that the De­cisions they refuse, are contrary to the Scrip­tures.

2. Papists. And Lastly, (among the Papists) None, tho' otherwise confessed to be a Member of the Church, both knowing and so­ber, except commissionate in some of the Re­spects [Page 103] above declared, can be admitted to sit, vote, and give his Judgment.

3. We differ from them both. Any that will be at the Pains to apply this to the Foundation I before laid of the Infallibility of Judgment, in that we may account only to be truly called the Church of Christ, will easily see the great Difference betwixt us, which I shall sum up in these Particulars:

1. First, Do we exclude any Member of the Church of Christ, that may be tru­ly accounted so, to tell his Judgment?

2. Secondly, Do we say Man ought to be persecuted in his Outwards for his Dissent in Spirituals?

3. Thirdly, Do we plead that Decision is to pass conclusive, because of the Plurality of Votes?

And much more, which the Reader may ob­serve from what is already mentioned; which that it may be all more obvious at one View, will appear somewhat clearly by this following Figure; which will give the Reader an Oppor­tunity to recollect what lay heretofore more scat­tered.

I. The ROMANISTS say,II. The Generality of PRO­TESTANTS say;
West Cons. of Faith. Chap.
1. That there is an In­fallibility in the Church: Which Infallibility is, when the Pope calls a general Council of Bishops, &c. that whatsoever they con­clude and agree upon must needs be the infal­lible Judgment of the Spirit of God, because of the Promise of Christ, That he would not suf­fer the Gates of Hell to prevail against His Church.
1. That though all Sy­nods and Coun­cils may err; yet such Assem­blies are need­ful for the Edi­fication of the Church. That such do consist of a Convocation of the Clergy, with some few Laicks particularly cho­sen. That all others, ex­cept those so elected, have not any Right to vote or give Judgment.
[Page 104] 2. And that the Pope and Council, made up of certain of the Clergy, hav­ing one outward Suc­cession, and being law fully ordained, according to the Canons, are that Church, to which that Promise is made, how­ever wicked or depraved they be; yet this infallible Judgment follows them, as being necessarily an­nexed to their Office, in which the Authority still stands in its full Strength and Vigour.
2. That such an As­sembly so constitute, may ministerially determine Controversies of Faith, Cases of Conscience, Mat­ters of Worship, and au­thoritatively determine the same. The Decision is to be by Plurality of Votes, without any ne­cessary Respect to the in­ward Holiness or Rege­neration of the Persons; if so be they be out­wardly called, ordained and invested in such a Place and Capacity, as gives them an Authori­ty to be Members of such an Assembly.
3. So that there lies an Obligation upon the whole Body of the Church to obey their Decrees: And such as do not, are not only certainly damned for their Disobedience, but that it is the Duty of the Civil Magistrate to punish such by Death, Banishment or Imprison­ment, &c. in case they refuse.
3. What they thus de­cide (as they judge ac­cording to the Scripture) ought to be received with Reverence, and sub­mitted to: And those that do not, to be pu­nished by the Civil Ma­gistrate by Death, Ba­nishment or Imprison­ment, though they de­clare, and be ready to e­vidence, that it is be­cause they are not agree­able to the Scripture they refuse such Decrees.

[Page 105] III. The QUAKERS say,

The sanctifi­ed Members.1. That whereas none truly ought, nor can be accounted the Church of Christ, but such as are in a Measure sanctified, or sanctifying, by the Grace of God, and led by his Spirit; nor yet any made Officers in the Church but by the Grace of God, and inward Revelation of his Spirit (not by out­ward Ordination or Succession) from which none is to be excluded, if so called, whether married, or a Tradesman, or a Servant.

Their infal­lible Judg­ment—2. If so be in such a Church there should arise any Difference, there will be an infallible Judgment from the Spirit of God, which may be in a General Assembly; yet not limited to it, as excluding others: And may prove the Judgment of the Plurality; yet not to be decided thereby, as if the Infalibillity were placed there, excluding the sewer. In which Meeting or As­sembly upon such an Account, there is no Limi­tation

[Page 108]

THE CONCLUSION.

A summary Recollection of the Whole.

THE Substance then of what is asserted and proved in this Treatise, resolves in these follow­ing Particulars.

I. First, That in the Church of Christ, when it consists of a visible People (for I speak not here of the Church in the dark Night of Apostacy, that consisted not of any Society visibly united) gathered into the Belief of certain Principles, and united in the joint Per­formance of the Worship of God, as meeting to­gether, praying, preaching, &c. there is, and still must be, a certain Order and Government.

II. Secondly, That this Government, as to the outward Form of it, consists of certain Meetings, appointed principally for that End; yet not so as to exclude Acts of Worship, if the Spirit move thereunto.

III. Thirdly, The Object of this Go­vernment is two-fold, outwards and inwards. The Outwards relate mainly to the Care of the Poor, of Widows and Fatherless; [Page 109] where may be also included Marriages, and the Removing of all Scandals in Things undeniably wrong. The Inwards respect an Apostacy, either in Principles or Practices that have a Pretence of Conscience, and that either in denying some Truths already received and believed, or asserting new Doctrines that ought not to be received. Which again (to sub-divide) may either be in Things fundamental, and of great Moment; or in Things of less Weight in themselves, yet pro­ceeding from a wrong Spirit, and which in the natural and certain Consequence of them, tend to make Schisms, Divisions, Animosities, and in Sum, to break that Bond of Love and Unity that is so needful to be upheld and established in the Church of Christ. Am here come also under this Consideration all Emulations, Strifes, Backbit­ings, and evil Surmisings.

IV. Fourthly, That in the true Church of Christ (according to the Definition above given of it) there will, in such Cases of Differences and Controversies, still be an infallible Judgment from the Spirit of God, either in one or other, few or more.

V. Fifthly, That this infallible Judgment is only, and unalterably, annexed and seated in the Spirit and Power of God; not to any particular Person or Persons, Meeting or Assembly, by Virtue of any settled Ordination, Office, Place or Station, that such may have, or have had in the Church; no Man, Men, nor Meeting

[Page]

THE CONTENTS.

  • Section I. THE Introduction and Method of this Treatise.
  • Section II. Concerning the Ground and Cause of this Controversy.
  • Section III. Whether there be any Order or Go­vernment in the Church of Christ.
  • Section IV. Of the Order and Government we plead for.
  • Section V. In what Cases, and how far, this Government extends.
  • Section VI. How far this Government extends in Matters spiritual, and purely conscientious.
  • Section VII. Concerning the Power of Decision.
  • Section VIII. How this Government altogether differeth from the Oppressing and Persecuting Principality of the Church of Rome, and other antichristian Assemblies.

The CONCLUSION.

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