Reformation of Church Government in Scotland - by The Scottish CommissionersArticles on the 1647 Westminster Confession of Faith
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UPDATED 1647 Westminster Confession with KJV Bible Proofs
REFORMATION Of Church-Government in SCOTLAND,
Cheered from some mistakes
The COMMISSIONERS Of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, now at LONDON January 24, 1643
Printed for Robert Bostock, dwelling in Paul’s Church Yard, at the sign of the Kings Head. 1644[Page 1] Reformation of Church-Government in Scotland, cleared from some mistakes and prejudices
While we, the meanest of many our Brethren, for a time separated from out particular callings and stations, and sent forth into this Kingdome for a more publike imployment, are in all humility and patience waiting, what the Lord who is about some great worke in his Church, (for which are raised so great Commotions in these and other Kingdoms of the earth) will be pleased to do for Reformation of Religion; the great worke of the honourable houses of Parliament, and the Reverend assembly of Divines, and for Uniformity in Religion, so much desired by all the godly in the three Kingdomes: Unto which an entrance is made by a solemne League and Covenant. We find ourselves bound against the prejudices and mistakings of some, who in the darke are afraid of that which they know not, and suffer their affections of love and hatred to run before their understanding; and against the misrepresentations and indirect aspersions[Page 2] of others, who do so commend their owne way, that the reformed Churches thereby suffer disparagement; To give that testimony unto the order and government of the reformed Churches, and particularly of the Church of Scotland, which they doe well observe, and to honour them whom the Lord hath so highly honoured, in advancing the Kingdom of his Sonne, in the converting and saving of so many soules, and in opposing and suppressing a world of corruptions, heretics and scismes, by his wonderfull blessing upon their order and Government.
In this our humble testimony and true relation; unto which we are at this time thus necessitate, we shall endeavour nothing but a simple and innocent manifestation and defence, without desire or intention to give the smallest offence to any who feare God, love the truth, and desire to walke in truth and in love with their Brethren. This our profession, we are confident will find credit with all that know us, and have observed our wayes since our coming into this Kingdome, which have been and, (so farre as the truth will suffer us) even shall be, to unite and not to divide, to compose rather then to create differences; which we conceive also to be one principall end, of the calling of the Assembly of Divines, and which all the members of the Assembly, against all particular interests, are after a speciall manner ingaged, to aime at and endeavour.[Page 3] The order and Government of the reformed Churches in the beauty and strength thereof, as it is not hid in a corner, wrapped up in a Mystery, or covered under a cloud of darknesse; but is knowne to the Nations and Kingdomes of the earth, openly professed and practiced in the eyes of the world, and cleerly seen as a City that is set on a hill, in the light of the Sunne at noon day: So is it commended and already confirmed by a long tract of time, and the experience of many years, and hath beene countenanced from Heaven and blessed from above, with the preservation of the truth and unity of Religion against Heretics and errours in Doctrine, Idolagry and corruptions in worship, and all sorts of sects and schisms, wherewith it hath been continually assaulted: How goodly are thy Tents O Jacob, and thy Tabernacles O Israel, &c. It hat made the Church of Christ terrible as an Army with banners, and like a strong and fenced City, against which the Adversaries have despaired to prevaile, but by making a breach in this wallm, and where they have gained ground or gotten any advantage, either the wall hath not beene built, or being built hath been broken downe, or not vigilantly keeped by the Watchmen.
The Instruments which the Lord used in the blessed work of Reformation of the Church of Scotland (we speak not of the reformers of other Churches)[Page 4] were not onely learned and holy men, but ahd somewhat in their calling, gifts and zeale to the glory of God, more then ordinary: Their Adversaries were not able to resist the wisdome and Spirit by which they spoke, some of them had propheticall Spirit manifested in divers particular and wonderfull predictions, and some of them were honoured to be Martyrs, & sealed the truth with their blood. So that in them, in the people of God converted by them, and in the Reformation brought about by the blessing of God upon their labors, agsint all the Learning, pride, Policy, and abused power of the time, there was to be seen a representation of the Primitive and Apostolicke times and a new resurrection from the dead. After them also did the Lord raise up in the Church of Scotland many burning and shining lights, men of the same spirit, mighty in converting of soules, walking in the same way, and who communicated their Counsels & keeped correspondence with Divines of other nations, and with the greatest and purest lights in the Church of England, in the point of Reformation and settling of Church-government, which at that time was the common study and endeavour of both, and wherein they and their Successors continued, till the times of defection, which made an unhappy interruption of the worke. What men are like to doe in after-times we cannot foresee; but we have not seene or [Page 5] heard of any to this day, farrer from partiality and prejudice in the matters of God, then their wayes witnesse them to have beene; and were they now living we believe there would be none in the reformed Churches, so far swayed with partiality or prejudice, that would deny them this testimony.
They had no other rule and patterne of Reformation, but the word of God, and the practice of the Apostolicke Churches in the Word. All the books of God are perfect, the book of life, the book of nature, the book of providence, and especially the booke of Scripture, which was dyted by the Holy Ghost to be a perfect directory to all the Churches, unto the second comming of Jesus Christ; but so that it persupposeth the light and law of nature, or the rules of common prudence, to be our guide in circumstances or things locall, temporall and personall, chich being Ecclasiastico Politica, are common to the Church with civill societies, and concerning which, the word giveth generall rules to be universally and constantly observed by all persons, in all times and places: Of things of this kind a godly and wise Divine giveth two rules: One is, that the Phisician cannot be sending his letter to the Patient appoint the dyet and bath, the pulse must be toucht, and as it is in the proverbiall speech, gladiatorem oportet in arena capere consilinum. The other is, that in things of this kind, when the change is not to the[Page 6] better, it is both without and against reason to make a change; without reason, because when the change is made unto that which is but as good, the one and the other in reason are equall: Against reason, because the change it selfe in such a case, is an hinderance to Edification, savoureth of the love of Innovation, and derogateth to the authority which maketh the Constitution.
What they had once received, not upon probable grounds in way of conjecture, but upon the warrant of the word, and by the teaching of the spirit with certainty of faith, that they resolved to hold fast and did hate every false way contrary unto it. They did not in the matters of Religion rest upon A Scepticall or Pyrrhonian uncertainty (the charge of the Orthodox Divines against the tenets of Arminians and Socinians) which keepeth the minde uncertaine and unstable, is a fountaine of perpetuall alterations in the Church of God, an open door to all heresies and schisms to enter by, and a ground of despairing to bring questions and controversies to a final issue and determination. And for us, as upon the one part, wee not only conceive that no man attaineth so full assurance of faith, in any matter of religion, but hee nmay receive encrease of his faith, & therefore should always have his mind open & ready to receive more light from the word and Spirit of God: but also do ingenuously acknowledge[Page 7] (as wee have formerly professed) that we are most willing to heare and learne from the word of God, what needeth further to bee reformed in the Church of Scotland: Yet God forbid, that we should never come to any certainty of perswasion, or that we should ever be learning, and never come to the knowledge of the truth; we ought to be resolute and unmoveable in so far as we have attained; & this we take to be the ground, as of other practices, so also of Covenants and oaths, both assertory and promissory, in matters of Religion.
As they held it not sufficient, to receive or retain some such practices, as other reformed Churches judged warrantable; for thus they should have rested upon some few principles & beginnings of reformation, & might have differed as much in other things from the reformed Churches, as they agreed in some things with them, so can it not be satisfactory, that any Church should only practise some things, universally received in the reformed Churches. (1) All Christian Churches although very different in ordinances and practices, yet do agree in some things, (2) If our desire of Uniformity with other reformed Churches, and the reverend esteeme wee have of them, draw us to conforme to them in some things; upon the same reason we ought to joyne in all things wherein they do all agree amonst themselves, (3) Differences about Negatives and the denying of profession and[Page 8] practice in other matters wherein they are all unanimous and uniforme, may prove no lesse dangerous and destructive, then differences about affirmatives. The Arrians, Socinians, and many others do err dangerously in denying some positive points, and received principles of the doctrine of the reformed Churches concerning the person of Christ and his offices. The Antinomians also (if we should mention them) do also agree wi9th us in the principles of Grace, but in their superstructures and conclusions, runne in a way destructive to the doctrine & deductions of the Apostolick and reformed Churches, and to the principles received by themselves (4) Such Churches, as make profession of differences only in negatives, or in denying some practices received in the reformed Churches, have received and do hold some positive practices of their owne, which the reformed Churches do not allow, and which to them are negative. Of this (would we suffer our selves to descend into particulars) we might give divers known instances; now if they do not allow of the reformed Churches, in so far as they do not admit of these their positive practices, how shall they thinke that the reformed Churches can allow them in the like: for the rule is, wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thy self, for thou that judgest dost the same things. (They are not to be called Calvinians.)
They did honour Luther, Calvin, and many others whether their Predecessors or contemporaries, who[Page 9] had heart of hand especially in an eminent degree, in the blessed worke of reformation: for their direction they made use of the light which such notable servants of Jesus Christ, did hold forth, in doctrine & discipline, and in all thankfulnes they did desire and will, that their names might be had in eternall remembrance: Nor was it possible that so great an alteration as the corrupt state of the Church required could be effected, and not cary some remembrance of the instruments: but for this to call us Calvinians & the reformed Churches, Cavinians reformed Churches, is to disgrace the true Churches of Christ, & to symbolize with the Papists, who call themselves the Catholicke Church, & hold the rule delivered by Hierome against the Liciferians: if any where we finde men professing Christianity, called by the particular names of men, know them to bee the Synagogue of Antichrist, and not the Church of Christ. The separation may bee well allowed to bee called Brownists, and others from the matter wherein they erre, and part from all, not onely the reformed, but Christians Churches, as the Monothelites of old, & the Anabaptists now, may bear their own names. They who apprehend any danger in names (as there is a great deale of danger in them) ought not to appropriate unto their own opinion, that which is common to all the reformed Churches, nor to joyne with Papists in giving names of Sects unto the reformed Churches; & they who conceive no evill in so doing, ought not to offend, that names are given unto them, especially [Page 10] since their differences from the reformed Churches must be designed under some name and notion, and in this case charity commands the mildest names, such as hint most clearely at the difference and the farrest from reproach, to be attributed unto them, as most discriminative and tolerable.
Nothing was farrer from their thoughts & intentions, then to frame in their own forge a Lesbian rule answerable to any particular form of civil polity or complyable with state ends. That they looked with singleness of mind to the rule of Scripture, we give these three evidences (1) The great pains they tooke in searching the will of God, & after they had found it, their grievous sufferings from the civill authority in defence thereof, of both which afterward in the own place (2) The restless objection & continuall opposition of politick men & Court Sycophants against presbyterial government, as incompatible with Monarchy & their manners, (3) And the necessary assertion of the true policy of the Church by Divines in both kingdoms (between whom there was no notable difference) demonstrating that it was in it self unalterable, because divine, and yet complyable with every lawful kind of humane policy and civill government, and able to keep a whole Kingdom or state in a right & sure way of Religion. Our chiefest reformers, had indeed their education in other Churches, which was the goodness of God to them and us: there did they see examples of reformation, & conversed with other[Page 11] reformers, by whom they were taught from the word in the wayes of God, & thence did they bring (as the Romans their laws of old from Greece and other Nations) models of Church-government, that comparing one with another, they might fix upon that which was builded upon the foundation of the Apostles: Like as we account it no small happines that we have been educated in the Church of Scotland, and are acquainted with the practice of Church government there, which giveth us much light and confidence against such scruples and doubtings as are powerfull enough to suspend the assent of others, who by reason of their education in other Churches, are strangers unto it. Nor do we know a reason why educatio in sound doctrine & true worship, should be accounted a matter of thanksgiving to God, and yet should glory in this, that we are not by education ingaged in any one form of discipline and Church-government, but left to our selves to be moulded by our own private thoughts. (They intended presbiteriell government from the beginning.)
They intended & designed from the beginning, the government of the Church by Assemblies and Presbyteries, although they could not attain that perfection at first in the infancy of reformation, but gave place to necessity, which in such cases is universall, & in this they followed the example and practise of the Churches planted by the Apostles, which if not at first, yet afterward were of greater number in one City, then did or could ordinarily assemble in one place for the worship of God, & therefore had a plurality of Pastors[Page 12] and Officers, which made up a common Presbytery for governing the whole. They set up such officers in the Church, as were both necessary and sufficient for the Church: Pastors, Teachers, ruling Elders, and Deacons. They did not permit such as are called Lay-men and intended to continue such, to preach or prophecy in the Congregation, nor did they admit of any other ruling Elders, but such as are solemnly elected & ordained, although they do maintain themselves upon their own means, ant attend their own particular callings, which is not incompatible with their office, especially they being appointed in a number competent and proportionable to the number of the people and quantity of the Congregation; And their Ecclesiasticall charge, not being pastorall, nor requiring any great meditation or study apart, but such as they may easily attend without neglect of their own particular affaires.
What shall be rendred unto the Magistrate by others whose particular tenets are not yet knowne either to the Church or Magistrate, unlesse it be in a hid and secret way, unto which we are not privy, we cannot determine: but the doctrine of the reformed Churches concerning the honour & obedience due to the Magistrate is openly known by their confessions of faith and long continued practices both of civill & Church-government, are laid out in Scripture, & therfore the ones cannot be contrary to the other, or they inconsistent betweene[Page 13] themselves. Nor do we measure the power of the Magistrate by the principles of Presbyteriall government, but both of them by the word, & therefore deny not unto the Magistrate what God giveth them; and more then this, dare we not professee for any respect to our selves, or to the forme of Ecclesiasticall government professed by us: how much, and for what ends, the Pagans and Infidels of old, the Papists, Prelats, & Arminians of late, have laboured to make the way of Christ hatefull to Princes and Magistrates, is too wel known and hath bin bitterly felt, yet God hath cursed this policy in the end. There may be good reason to express our judegment of this or other points of duty from Scripture: but to avouch when we are not challenged, and that only in the generall by way of comparison, that we ascribe more to the Magistrate, then the reformed Churches do, they being faithfull to their own principles of Ecclesiastical government, may suffer a harder construction, then we our selves would willingly undergoe, or put upon the intentions of men who seek not their owne things, but the things of Jesus Christ.
As the blessed instruments of reformation proceeded by no other rule but the word of God: so did they with great judgment, and learning, which they had in a measure above others, examine and frame all things diligently and exactly according to the rule; & although the reformers in England were either altogether, or for the greater part taken up with the Doctrine:[Page 14] yet in the Church of Scotland it was otherwise: after the doctrine was established, which was speedily done, they were exercised in conferences & assemblies, with debating the matters of discipline and government above the space of 20 years, we endured much opposition from authority, from worldly men, and from the adversaries of the trueth, both Prelaticall on the one hand, and upon the other hand Separatists, of which sort some came into Scotland from England, which was upon them a whetstone to quicken them, and to make them the more circumspect and exact in their way, which lay in the middle betwixt Episcopacy upon the one hand, & popular confusion on the other, It pleased the Lord whose presence and blessing they sought after in these dayes with frequent prayer and humiliation both in private and in publike nationall Assemblies, so to assist and lead them in alla truth,k that the Church of Scotland has honoured from abroad, both from England & other Nations, with the testimony of such a Reformation, as other Churches accounted to be the greatest happinesse upon earth, & when they were wishing after a Reformation, they made it the measure of their wishes. We would willingly shun comparisons, were we not brought upon this straine: We do upon very good reason judge the Church of England in the midst of her Ceremonies to have been a true Church & the ministry thereof, not-withstanding the many blemishes & corruptions eleaving unto it, to have bin a true ministery, and shall never [Page 15] deny unto them that praise, whether in debating controversies with Papists, or in practicall Divinity for private Christians, which they do most justly deserve. Upon the other part, we are neither so ignorant nor so arrogant, as to ascribe to the Church of Scotland such absolute purity and perfection, as hath not need or cannot admit of further Reformation. Yet that there is a wide difference betwixt the one & the other acknowledged also in the common Covenant; We bring two famous witnesses from the Church of England to prove: The one is Brightman, Loath would I be (saith he, speaking of the Church of Scotland) to provoke any man to envy, or to grieve him with my words: Yet this I must say, there is no place where the Doctrine soundeth more purely, the worship of God is exercised more uncorruptly; where more faithfull diligencve of the Pastor doth flourish; or more free or willing obedience is given by the people, nor yet where there is greater reverencing of the whole Religion amongst all orders. And afterwards, Neither doth it onely keep the Doctrine of salvation free from corruption, but it doth also doth deliver in writing & exercise in practice that sincere manner of government whereby men are made partakers of salvation, Revel. Of the Apocal.cap.37. The other is Cartwright: yea, the Scottish Nation, which were some yeers behind us in the profession of the Gospell, the first day almost that they received the truth, did by many degrees in the way of purity outstrip us. These 2 witnesses, unto which we might add many other from the reformed Churches in other Nations, [Page 16] beare testimony that there is no such thing n the Church of Scotland, as might prove here to be no Church or bar Comunion in worship with her as the Liturgy, Ceremonies and Prelacy in the Church of England, or that the corruptions of the one & the other are of the same kind, equaly destructive of the essence of a Church and equally impedetive of Communion and worship. All visible Churches, which have bin, or shall be at any time on earth, consist of persons, good and bad, sheep & Goats, wheat and tares, such as walk Christianity & such as walk inordinately: Which therefore must also be the condition of the Church of Scotland, yet the order of the Church, admitteth not either ignorant or openly prophane & scandalous persons, to the participation of the Lord’s supper: If any Pastor & particular Eldership be negligent in their duty, it is their fault, who are to beare their own guiltinesse, & ought not to be imputed to the order of the Church, which standeth in force against it. We may be very confident, that the godly people, who did transplant themselves out of this Island, (the same of whose piety & zeal shall never suffer detraction or the finalest diminutio from our thoughts or words) might have lived in the Church of Scotland injoying the pure Ordinances of God, with peace in their consciences and comfort to their souls, & would have willingly come into Scotland, when they went into New-England, could they have bin free of the usurpation & tyranny of Prelates & the Prelaticall Party, which at that time did reigne and rage in that Kingdom vexing the godly ministery and people there, with many and bitter sufferings. [Page 17] The two extreames of the true forme of Church-Government which standeth in the middle way betwixt Popish and prelaticall tyrannie, and Brounisticall and popular Anarchie, were contrary one to another, and have their own degrees of tyrannie or Anarchie in themselves, which is the cause of their subdivisions, factions, and differences amongst themselves: but both sides agree, and strongly joyne inopposing the true Government, which standing constantly, and without variation betweene the one, and the other is contrary to both. This is the true cause (nor could ibee otherwise) that on what hand the invasion was hotest, there the defence was strongest. Against Prelacie which had many friends, and therefore made many enemies to Presbyteries, the Presbyteriall power and pens were long pleading: No sooner is the Prelaticall party by the power and blessing of God begun to be subdued in this Iland: but ariseth unexpectedly, the opposition on the other hand, waiting the opportunitie, stronger then it was before, which moved some of our Divines of late, to write on this hand in defence of the government of the reformed Churches, as others had done before them in other Churches: In France Beza, and against Morellius Sadeel. Two Nationall Synods also of the reformed Churches in France, the one at orleans in the yeare 1561. Another at Rothel 1571. And in all the reformed Churches, governed by Presbyteries, and [Page 18] Assemblies, the positive grounds of the Government, are laid open, which worke equally against Adversaries on both sides, and have beene applied against them pro re nata as they did arise or shew themselves. If so much have not beene written upon one hand, as the other in a polemicall and Analkeuastick way, let it be attributed unto the adversary, which was but obscure and weake, and from whom small danger was apprehended: it being laid for a common ground by them all, that where a whole Nation is converted to the Christian faith, every particular Church is not to be left to it self, as if were alone in a Nation, but that Christ had provided a way, and there is a necessity of a common Nationall Government, to preserve all the Churches, in Unitie and Peace.
It is the Will of God, and hath beene alwayes the constant course of Divine profiednce, that when his servants have beene diligent in searching the truth, and zealous by professing, and preaching to hold it forth unto others, that they confirme and seale the truth, which they have beleeved and professed with their confession, and suffering. The Church of Scotland, had many Confessors, diverse Pastors brought before the Lords of Councell, the Hight Commission, Diocesan Synods, were removed from their places, deprived of all the means of their lively-hood; some confined, others imprisoned, a third sort[Page 19] brought into England, whence some of them were never suffered to returne, all of them for the Government of the Church. Others for the same cause were proceeded against by the criminall Judge, condemned of Treason, sentenced to death, and after long imprisonment, before and after the sentence, could finde no other mercy, but perpetuall banishment, wherein the greater part of them ended their dayes, without any Congregation, or company of their owne Nation, rich or poore to comfort them. So many of these witnesses, as were suffered to live in their owne Land, did not undergoe any voluntary exile: but in much poverty and affliction, went up and downe, teaching and confirming the good people, and waiting for a spring-time, wherein the face of God might againe shine upon His Church and (to use their owne expression) some buds might arise out of the stump of Church government left in the earth. Had they at that time abandoned the poore oppressed Church, when they were put from their places, and deprived of their liberty, and had carried away with them such of the people, as were of their own minde, they had (if we would judge according to ordinary providence, and the course of second causes) opposed the poore desolated Church for a prey to Episcopall oppression, and made the case of Religion in that Kingdome desperate: Or if they should have returned upon a revolution of extraordinary [Page 20] providence, they would have preferred the sufferings of their Brethren left behind them in the midst of the fierie tryall, unto their owne exile, and would have been loath to have impeded, or retarded the late Reformation, with any thing they had brought with them from abroad: so many as returned from constrained banishment, having in all Unitie of minde, and heart joyned in the worke of Reformation.
The Church of Scotland, as all other reformed Churches hath used the power of the Keyes, and Church-censures of all sorts, especially the gravest of excommunication, with such sharpmesse, and severite, and yet with such caution, and moderation, as it hath beene very powerfull and effectuall to preserve the Name of God, from being blasphemed, the Church and people of God from contagion, and the Delinquents brought under censure, from destruction; which are the ends proposed by them in executing the censures of the Church, and where such scandalls arise, whether in matter of opinion or practise, as are apt to make the Name of God to be blasphemed, are dangerous for the Church, and wast the Consciences of the sinners themselves, being accompanied with obstinacie, and contempt of Ecclesiasticall Authoritie, they doe apply this last remedy, according to the order prescribed by Christ, against scandalous transgressors. To limit the censure of excommunication, in matter of opinion to the[Page 21] common and uncontroverted principles, and in the matter of manners to the common, and universal practices of Christianitie, and in both to the parties known light, is the dangerous doctrine of the Arminians, and Socinians, openeth a wide dore, and proclaimeth libertie to all other practices and errors, which are not fundamentall, and universally abhorred by all Christians, and tendeth to the overthrow of the Reformed Religion: which we wish all sound and sober spirits to abstaine from, least it render them and their profession, suspected of some such opinions, and practices, as in charitie we judge to be farre from their minds and wayes.
Two maine objections are made against the principles and practise of the order & government of the reformed Churches, for which the Church and Kingdom of Scotland, have done and suffered so much of old and of late. One is, that there is no need of the Authoritative power of Presbyteries and Synods, and that the exhortation of particular Churches one to another, the Protestation of one against another, and the withdrawing of communion, one from another, may be a sufficient remedy, and no lesse effectuall against all offences, then excommunication itselfe: especially if the Magistrate shall vouchsafe his assistance and interpose his authority, for strengthening the sentence of Non-communion?
To this we answer.
1.That this Objection supposeth a case, which[Page 22] hath not been found in the Church of Scotland, for the space of above fourscore yeares, and which we beleeve was never heard of in any of the reformed Churches, except those of the separation: the pronouncing of non-communion or Excommunication against a whole Church. Our excommunication hath been executed, and but seldome against particular members, never against a whole Church, and we thinke never shall be, and therefore this imaginarie feare of that which never falleth forth, is not considerable: Rules are made for ordinary and usuall cases.
2.What shall be the remedy, where the censure is mutual, and two or more Churches mutually protest, and pronounce the sentence of non-Communion one against other: unlesse there bee a common Presbyterie, or Synod made up of the whole, which may decide the controversie, and give order unto the severall Churches. This non-communion may prove a meane of division, rather than union.
3.In this Exhortation, Protestation, and non-Communion, there is no more to be found, then one particular member may doe against another, which yet is acknowledged to be unsufficient for removing of offences, unlesse the authoritie of the Church, of which both of them be members, shall interveine: Were it in the power of particular members to submit, or not submit, as they please, there would be as great[Page 23] difference and division amonst members, as now there is amongst Churches.
4.What shall be done if the Magistrate be negligent or care for none of those things? Or if his authoritie cannot be obtained? Or if hee be of another Religion, and foment the difference for his own politicke ends? hath not the wisedome of the Sonne of God provided remedies in the Church for all the internall necessities of the Church, and constitute it a perfect body within it selfe.
5.By what probabilitie can it be made to appeare to any Rationall man and indifferent minde, that no authoritie shall be as valide as authoritie against the obstinate, that via admonitionis, & requisitionis, is equall with via citationis, & publica authoritatis: There cannot be so much as triall and examination of the offence without authoritie, unlesse the partie be willing to appeare: that perswasion, and Jurisdiction, that the delivering over to Satan, and thereby striking the conscience with the terrour of God, by the authoritie of Jesus Christ which hat the promise of a speciall and strong ratification in heaven, and any other Ecclesiasticall way whatsoever, which must be inferiour to this, and depend only upon perswasion on the one part, and free will on the other, can be supposed to be a like efficacious. No man will say; but in civill matters, it is one thing to have adoe with our neighbour, who hath no more authority
Page 24] over us, then we have over him; and another thing to have to doe with civill power which hath authority over both.
The other Objection is: That by this authoritie and order of Government, one Church hath power over another, which is contrarie to that libertie and equalitie Christ, hath endewed his Churches with, and is no other but a new Prelaticall dominion set over the Churches of Christ? To this we answer.
1.That wee are very farre from imposing or acknowledging any such collaterall power of one particular Church over another, Nay not of the greatest in all respects whatsoever over the smallest: for God hath made them equall one to another. The power which we maintaine, is aggregative of the Officers of many congregations over the particular members of their Corporation: even as a member of the Natural body, is not subject to another; but each one of them to the whole Man consisting of them all: And as one Member of Parliament, one Counsellor, or to goe lower, one member of a Company is not subject to another, but every one to the whole Colledge: The same may be said of townes and cities; so is it with particular congregations combined in one Presbyterie. All the Reformed Churches acknowledge the Independence of one particular Church upon another.
2.It is as miserable a mistake to compare Presbyteries[Page 25] and Prelates together: for the courts of Prelates are altogether forraigne and extrinsecall to the congregations over which they rule, and then indeed the Metropolitan Church usurpeth and tyrannizeth over other Churches: but the power of Presbyteries is intrinsecall and naturall, they being constitute of the Pastors and Elders of the particular congregations over which they are set: So that another without themselves doth not bear rule over them; but all of them together by common consent do rule over every one, which is a most milde and free form of Church-government: it being no more contrary to the liberty of a particular Church, to be ruled by a common Collegiat, Presbytery, or Ecclesiastick Senate, then it is for a Member of a particular congregation, to be ruled by his own particular Eldership. 3.Were this way of government as well known by experience unto others, as it is unto us, it would be accounted rather Subsidium, then Dominium, & would be looked at, rather as auxiliary to particular Ministers & Elderships, then authoratative over them, especially since they neither ordaine nor depose Ministers, they discern no censure, nor sentence of Excommunication of any Member without the knowledge and consent of the congregation which is particularly concerned therein; whatsoever their authority be, the Minister and particular Eldership are advised,m assisted, and strengthened rather then commanded, enjoyned, or foced: which the particular Churches should much rather chuse, then through want of counsell and assistance, suffer themselves [Page 26] to run rashly upon Deposition or Excommunication, and afterward either be brought be the neighbouring Churches to the publike Confession of their errour, which lesseneth their authority afterward, or to have the sentence of non-Communion pronounced against them, which must be the cause of Schisme or scandall.
So much for the present have we said, not for confutation; but meerely for justifying our owne, and other Reformed Churches against such misrepresentings & mistakings, as in matters of Religion are too frequent in this place at this time, to the perverting and abusing of simple and unstable mindes which will never be brought to a consistence and unity, without this true order and government of the Church, and the blessing of God from heaven upon his own ordinance. Were Magistrates and civill powers acquainted with the power thereof, they would finde their authoritie increased, their work more easie, and their places more comfortable thereby. Such as are most adverse to this order and government (if they allow no materiall difference in doctrine, worship, or practise) might enjoy their peace, and all the comforts of their Minstery, and profession under it, without controlment, from that authoritative power which they so much apprehend. The Church of England which God hath blessed with so much learning and piety, by this Reformation and Uniformitie with other Reformed Churches, which all of us have solemnely sworn and subscribed, sincerely, really, and constantly through the grace of God, to endevour in our severall places and callings, should bee a praise in the Earth.