Page images

things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all: he being ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things, received gifts for his church, and gave offices necessary for the edification of his church, and perfecting of his saints.

of the Church. There is one general church visible held forth in the New Testament, 1 Cor. xii. 12, 13. 28, together with the rest of the chapter.

The ministry, oracles, and ordinances, of the New Testament, given by Jesus Christ to the general church visible, for the gathering and perfecting of it in this life, until his second coming, 1 Cor. xii. 28, Eph. iv. 4, 5, compared with ver. 10-16 of the same chapter.

Particular visible churches, members of the general church, are also held forth in the New Testament, Gal. i. 21, 22, Rev. i. 4, 20, and Rev. ii. 1. Particular churches, in the primitive times, were made up of visible saints, viz. of such as, being of age, professed faith in Christ, and obedience unto Christ, according to the rules of faith and life taught by Christ and his apostles ; and of their children, Acts ii. 38.

and ver. last, compared with v. 14, 1 Cor. i. 2, compared with 2 Cor. ix. 13, Acts ii. 39, 1 Cor. vii. 14, Rom. ix. 16, and so forward ; Mark x. 14, compared with Matt. xix. 13, 14, Luke xviii. 15, 16 *.

Of the Officers of the Church. The officers which Christ hath appointed for the edification of his church, and the perfecting of the saints, are,

Some extraordinary, as apostles, evangelists, and prophets, which are ceased.

Others ordinary and perpetual, as pastors, teachers, and other church, governors, and deacons.

Pastors. The pastor is an ordinary and perpetual officer in the church. Jer. ii. 15–17 ; prophesying of the time of the gospel. 1 Pet. v. 2–4. Eph. iv. 11-13. First, it belongs to his office : To

pray for and with his fock, as the mouth of the people unto God. Acts vi. 2-4, Acts xx. 36; where preaching and prayer are joined as several parts of the same office, James v. 15. The office of the elder, that is, the pastor, is to pray for the sick, even in private, to which a blessing is especially promised: much more therefore ought he to perform this in the public execution of his office, as a part thereof. 1 Cor. xiv. 15, 16.

To read the Scripture publicly ; for the proof of which,

1. That the priests and Levites in the Jewish church were trusted with the public reading of the word, as is proved, Deut. xxxi. 9–11, Neh. viii. 1, 2. 13.

2. That the ministers of the gospel have as ample a charge and commission to dispense the word as well as other ordinances, as the priests and Levites had under the law, proved, Isa. Ixvi. 21, and Matt. xxiii. 34, where our Saviour entitleth the officers of the New Testament,

• Matt. xxviii. 18—20, Eph. i. 20—22, compared with iv, 8–11, and Psalm lxviii, 18.

whom he will send forth, by the same names as the teachers of the Old.

Which propositions prove, that therefore (the duty being of a moral nature) it followeth by just consequence, that the public reading of the Scriptures belongeth to the pastor's office.

To feed the flock, by preaching of the word, according to which he is to teach, convince, reprove, exhort, and comfort. 1 Tim. iii. 2. 2 Tim. iii. 16, 17. Tit. i. 9.

To catechise, which is a plain laying down the first principles of the oracles of God, Heb. v. 12; or of the doctrine of Christ, and is a part of preaching

To dispense other divine mysteries, 1 Cor. iv. 1, 2.

To administer the sacraments, Matt. xxviii. 19, 20. Mark xvi. 15, 16. I Cor. xi. 23—25, compared with x. 16.

To bless the people from God, Numb. vi. 23-26, compared with Rev. xiv. 5. (where the same blessings, and persons from whom they come, are expressly mentioned), Isa. Ixvi. 21, where, under the names of priests and Levites to be continued under the gospel, are meant evangelical pastors, who therefore are by office to bless the people, Deut. x. 8. 2 Cor. xiii. 14. Eph. i. 2.

To take care of the poor, Acts xi. 30; iv. 34-37; vi. 2–4. 1 Cor. xvi. 1-4. Gal. ii. 9, 10.

And he hath also a ruling power over the flock as a pastor, 1 Tim. v. 17. Acts xx. 17. 28. 1 Thess. v. 12. Heb. xiii. 7. 17.

Teacher or Doctor. The Scripture doth hold out the name and title of teacher, as well as of pastor, 1 Cor. xii. 28. Eph. iv. 11.

Who is also a minister of the word as well as the pastor, and hath power of administration of the sacraments.

The Lord having given different gifts, and divers exercises according to these gifts, in the ministry of the word, Rom. xii. 6-8. 1 Cor. xii. 1. 4—7, though these different gifts may meet in, and accordingly be exercised by, one and the same minister, 1 Cor. xiv. 3. 2 Tim. iv. 2. Tit. i. 9; yet, where be several ministers in the same congregation, they may be designed to several employments, according to the different gifts in which each of them doth most excel. Rom. xii. 6—8. 1 Pet. iv. io, 11. And he that doth more excel in exposition of Scriptures, in teaching sound doctrine, and in convincing gainsayers, than he doth in application, and is accordingly employed therein, may be called a teacher, or doctor (the places alleged by the notation of the word do prove the proposition), nevertheless, where is but one minister in a particular congregation, he is to perform, so far as he is able, the whole work of the ministry, as appeareth in 2 Tim. vi. 2. Tit. i. 9, before alleged, 1 Tim. vi. 2.

A teacher or doctor is of most excellent use in schools and universities: as of old in the schools of the prophets, and at Jerusalem, where Gamaliel and others taught as doctors.

Other Church Governors. As there were in the Jewish church, elders of the people joined with the priests and Levites in the government of the church, (as appeareth

1 Chron. xix. 8—10.) so Christ, who hath instituted a government and governors ecclesiastical in the church, hath furnished some in his church, beside the ministers of the word, with gifts for government, and with commission to execute the same when called thereunto, who are to join with the minister in the government of the church, Rom. xii. 7, 8. 1 Cor. xii. 28. Which officers reformed churches commonly call elders.

Deacons. The Scripture doth hold out deacons as distinct officers in the church Phil. i. 1. I Tim. iii. 8.

Whose office is perpetual. 1 Tim. iii. 8, to verse 15. Acts vi. 1-4. To whose office it belongs not to preach the word, or administer the sacraments, but to take special care in distributing to the necessities of the poor. Acts vi. 1-4, and the verses following.

Of particular Congregations. It is lawful and expedient that there be fixed congregations, that is, a certain company of Christians to meet in one assembly ordinarily for public worship. When believers multiply to such a number that they cannot conveniently meet in one place, it is lawful and expedient that they should be divided into distinct and fixed congregations, for the better administration of such ordinances as belong unto them, and the discharge of mutual duties. 1 Cor. xiv. 26. “Let all things be done unto edifying ;” and 33 and 40.

The ordinary way of dividing Christians into distinct congregations, and most expedient for edification, is by the respective bounds of their dwellings.

1st. Because they who dwell together, being bound to all kind of moral duties one to another, have the better opportunity thereby to discharge them; which moral tie is perpetual, for Christ came not to destroy the law, but to fulfil it. Deut. xv. 7. 11. Matt. xxii. 39. v. 17.

2dly. The communion of saints must be so ordered, as may stand with the most convenient use of the ordinances, and discharge of moral duties, without respect of persons. 1 Cor. xiv. 26. “Let all things be done unto edifying." Heb. x. 24, 25. James ii. 1, 2.

3dly. The pastor and people must so nearly cohabit together, as that they may mutually perform their duties each to other with most conveniency. In this company some must be set apart to bear office.

Of the Officers of a particular Congregation. For officers in a single congregation, there ought to be one at the least, both to labour in the word and doctrine, and to rule. Prov. xxix, 18. 1 Timn. v. 17. Heb. xiii. 7.

It is also requisite that there should be others to join in government. 1 Cor. xii. 28.

And likewise it is requisite that there should be others to take special care for the relief of the poor. Acts. vi. 2, 3.

The number of each of which is to be proportioned according to the condition of the congregation.

These officers are to meet together at convenient and set times, for the well ordering the affairs of that congregation, cach according to his office.

It is most expedient that in these meetings, one whose office is to labour in the word and doctrine, do moderate in their proceedings. 1 Tim. v. 17.

Of the Ordinances in a particular Congregation. The ordinances in a single congregation are, prayer, thanksgiving, and singing of psalms, (1 Tim. ii. i. I Cor. xiv. 15, 16.) the word read (although there follow no immediate explication of what is read), the word expounded and applied, catechising, the sacraments administered, collection made for the poor, dismissing the people with a blessing Of Church-Government, and the several sorts of Assemblies

for the same. Christ hath instituted a government, and governors ecclesiastical in the church : to that purpose the apostles did immediately receive the keys from the hand of Jesus Christ, and did use and exercise them in all the churches of the world, upon all occasions.

And Christ hath since continually furnished some in his church with gifts of government, and with commission to execute the same, when called thereunto.

It is lawful and agreeable to the word of God, that the church be governed by several sorts of assemblies, which are congregational, classical, and synodical.

Of the Power in common of all these Assemblies. It is lawful and agreeable to the word of God, that the several assemblies before mentioned have power to convene, and call before them, any person within their several bounds whom the ecclesiastical business which is before them doth concern ; proved by Matt. xviii.

They have the power to hear and determine such causes and differences as do orderly come before them.

It is lawful and agreeable to the word of God, that all the said assemblies have some power to dispense church censures. Of Congregational Assemblies, that is, the Meeting of the ruling Officers of a particular Congregation for the Government thereof.

The ruling officers of a particular congregation have power, authoritatively, to call before them any member of the congregation, as they shall see just occasion.

To inquire into the knowledge and spiritual estate of the several members of the congregation.

To admonish and rebuke. Which three branches are proved by Heb. xiii. 17. 1 Thess. v. 12, 13. Ezek. xxxiv. 4.

Authoritative suspension from the Lord's table, of a person not yet cast out of the church, is agreeable to the Scripture ;

Ist. Because the ordinance itself must not be profaned.

2dly. Because we are charged to withdraw from those that walk disorderly.

3dly. Because of the grcat sin and danger, both to him that comes unworthily, and also to the whole church. Matt. vii. 6. 2 Thess. iij. 6. 14, 15. 1 Cor. xi. 27, to the end of the chapter, compared with Jude 23. 1 Tim. v. 22. And there was power and authority, under the Old Testament, to keep unclean persons from holy things. Levit. xiii. 5. Numb. ix. 7. 2 Chron. xxiii. 19.

The like power and authority, by way of analogy, continues under the New Testament.

The ruling officers of a particular congregation have power, authori. tatively, to suspend from the Lord's table a person not yet cast out of the church.

1st. Because those who have authority to judge of and admit such as are fit to receive the sacrament, have authority to keep back such as shall be found unworthy.

2dly. Because it is an ecclesiastical business of ordinary practice belonging to that congregation.

When congregations are divided and fixed, they need all mutual help one from another, both in regard of their intrinsical weaknesses, and mutual dependance ; as also, in regard of enemies from without.

Of Classical Assemblies. The Scripture doth hold out a presbytery in the church, both in the First Epistle to Timothy, iv. 14, and in Acts xv. 2. 4. 6.

A presbytery consisteth of ministers of the word, and such other public officers as are agreeable to, and warranted by, the word of God, to be church-governors, to join with the ministers in the government of the church ; as appeareth, Rom. xii. 7,8. I Cor. xii. 28.

The Scripture doth hold forth, that many particular congregations may be under one presbyterial government.

This proposition is proved by instances ;

J. First. Of the church of Jerusalem, which consisted of more congregations than one, and all these congregations were under one presbyterial government.

This appeareth thus :

1. First. The church of Jerusalem consisted of more congregations than one, as is manifest,

1st. By the multitude of believers mentioned in divers places : both before the dispersion of the believers there by the persecution (mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, chap. viii. in the beginning thereof, witness chap. i. verse 11; ii. 41. 46, 47 ; iv. 4; v. 14, and vi. of the same book of the Acts, verses 1 and 7; and also after the dispersion, ix. 31, xii. 24, and xxi. 20, of the same book.

2dly. By the many apostles and other preachers in the church of Jerusalem : and if there were but one congregation there, then each apostle preached but seldom ; which will not consist with chap vi. verse 2, of the same book of the Acts of the Apostles.

3dly. The diversity of languages amongst the believers, mentioned both in the second and sixth chapters of the Acts, doth argue more congregations than one in that church.

2. Secondly. All those congregations were under one presbyterial government; because, Ist. They were one church, Acts viii. 1, ii. 47, compared with v. 11, xii. 5, and xv. 4, of the same book.

2dly. The elders of the church are mentioned, Acts xi. 30, xv. 4. 6. 22, and xxi. 17, 18, of the same book.

3dly. The apostles did the ordinary acts of presbyters, as presbyters

« PreviousContinue »