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Against The Independent's Catechism

Articles on the 1647 Westminster Confession of Faith

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Some observations gathered out of Doctor Bastwicke his religious and learned treatise entitled: Independency Not God’s Ordinance. For the use of all poor ignorant, wavering, and seduced Independents.
© APM & Puritan Publications, October 2005

Or some observations gathered out of Doctor Bastwicke his religious and learned treatise entitled:


Not God’s Ordinance.

For the use of all poor ignorant, wavering, and seduced Independents.

By Rev. John Bernard φιλοτρξβυπρ

Matt. 22.19. Ye do err not knowing the power of the Scriptures, nor the power of God.

1 John 4.1. Believe not every spirit but try the spirits, whether they are of God, because many false prophets are gone out into the world.

London, printed by John Mack. 1645.

To the wavering or seduced Independent reader.

Dear brother,

The learned doctor hath presented a large treatise to the view of the world, which proves the Presbyterian government dependent to be God’s ordinance, and not the Presbyterian government independent, by strong arguments drawn from plain texts of Scripture. For three reasons following I have prevailed with him that some observations gathered out of it, and digested into this short catechism, might be published for thy good.

First because thou mayest be persuaded thereby either not to waver, or to be perfectly reformed from that dangerous error.

Secondly, because some have objected, the doctor’s treatise is tedious, though every particular in it be absolutely necessary to vindicate truth from error, this epitome may invite thee seriously and speedily to read it, thou mayest happily find much satisfaction to thy unstable mind in it, if with the men of Berea, Act. 17.7. thou search the Scriptures. If niceties delight thee I refer thee to the doctor’s treatise, which is a garden full of such flowers.

Thirdly, because my uncharitable teachers, not able to justify their fond opinion, yet have unworthily vilified the doctor’s sound judgment calling him apostate, fool, that he is crazed in his brain, being not misled with their new lights, but hath clearly discovered the mist of error wherewith they have blinded thine, and others’ eyes. Christian charity binds me to give him deserved applause, for his pious, learned and charitable work; that thou mayest be reformed thereby, is the prayer of him who wisheth thy souls good equally with his own.

John Bernard.

The first part of the Independents’ Catechism, upon these four positions.

1. That there were more particular assemblies, and congregations in the Church of Jerusalem than one.

2. That all those several congregations made but one Church.

3. That all those several congregations were under one presbytery.

4. That the government of the Church of Jerusalem is to be a pattern of government to all succeeding ages.

The Independents’ Catechism.

Question: What government hath Christ ordained in the Church of Jerusalem, and in the rest of the primitive churches, to be a pattern unto all churches for government, doctrine, and manners unto the end of the world?

Answer: A Presbyterian government, that is, by a common council of presbyters (as in the original) or more plainly of a religious, grave, solid, learned, and wise council of divines and ministers, as was in the assembly, Acts 1:15 unto whom Christ had given the power of the keys, Matt. 18:16-18. That this was the government established in the Church, plainly appears in these texts of Scripture, Acts. 14:23; 20:17, 28; Tit. 1:5; 1 Tim. 5:17; Heb. 13:7, 24; 1 Pet. 5:1, 3; Jam. 5:14; Acts 15:6, 22; 16:4; 21:17. The objections made by the Independent brethren, concerning the qualification of the presbyters are punctually confuted in the Independent’s Treatise page 19 to the 29. Shewing that there is no expectation of miracles in our times, though the apostles and primitive presbyters were extraordinarily gifted for the confirmation of the truth of the Gospel to all succeeding ages: Christ himself proclaims those blessed that believe without seeing of miracles, John 20:29. This qualification in the apostles, and primitive presbyters is continued unto the end of the world in the presbyters and ministers of the Gospel. Viz. the power of order, and preachings and the power of jurisdiction, or rulings: Because whatsoever is written, is for our instruction.

Question: Were there many congregations, and assemblies in the mother Church of Jerusalem, which in our dialect are called churches: Or did the multitude of believers in Jerusalem make but one congregation, as the Independents suppose?

Answer: These plain texts of Scripture following do clearly prove that the many ten thousands of believers, converted by John the Baptist, by Christ, his apostles, the 70 disciples and the rest of the primitive presbyters, could never meet together in one, ten or scarcely in 100 congregations to partake of all acts of worship to edification, as appears by the multitude of believers mentioned, in Matt. 3:1-2, 5-6; 7:12; Luke 16:16; 17:29; John 7:31, 40, 46-50; Acts 2:37-47; 4:4; 5:14; 6:1-3, 7; 21:20. To suppose these multitudes could meet in one congregation to be edified is not agreeable to sense or reason. Because there were above 100 preachers, and ministers besides the apostles, and all these continually taken up in prayer and preaching unto those many ten thousands of believers distributed into several congregations, that possibly they might edify their preachers being all so employed, they could not leave their ministry to serve tables, Acts 6:2. Therefore of necessity so many ministers must have several places to preach in, and those multitudes of believers be distributed into several congregations for them to preach to, and several places to baptize in, otherwise there would have been great confusion. For but one of them could speak at once to edification. These plain testimonies of Scripture above cited may convince the Independents’ error.

Because they clearly take away the foundation of their new churches which are built upon this mistake, that there were no more believers in the Church of Jerusalem than could meet in one congregation.

Four weak objections to that purpose are punctually confuted by the doctor from page 42 unto the 53 page.

Question: Were not all those hundred preachers and the many ten thousands of believers so scattered abroad in the persecution we read of, Acts 8:1-3 that there was left no more believers in Jerusalem than could meet in one congregation?

Answer: By that place is meant all the preachers, and ministers only, except the apostles, as it appears, Acts 8:4, that they were scattered abroad, went to and fro preaching the Word: As for the people, there were many of them cast into prison, and it is most probable that the rest were in their own houses, there is not any mention made of their being scattered abroad; if they had, they had no call to preach; now the text saith they did preach that were scattered abroad. But by their abiding in Jerusalem the apostles had both entertainment and safety, without them they could not have secured themselves from the wolves: And the apostles’ care was such of feeding the sheep of Christ, that they continued in Jerusalem to comfort and support the Church; And refresh the believers in this heat of persecution: when they wanted the help of their faithful ministers, and pastors.

Question: Who governed, ordered, and ruled this Church consisting of so many congregations and assemblies?

Answer: The apostles and presbyters (as in the original), Acts 7:19, 29-30; 15:2, 4, 6, 22; 16:4-5; 21:17-18, 25. And howsoever the apostles in the places above specified are differenced by that title from the presbyters, yet in all acts of government performed by them in the Church of Jerusalem, they were for the substance of them ordinary acts such as presbyters daily perform. And therefore the apostles are in them to be considered as presbyters who received the power of jurisdiction or ruling, and acting as presbyters were in their ordinary employment; Though at other times they used superlative authority as Christ’s extraordinary ambassadors, 2 Cor. 5:20. Some impertinent cavils about the apostles exercising the office of presbyters made by the Independents are clearly taken away by the doctor from page 84 unto the 94 page. And lest any should conceit the apostles were not presbyters, because in those places above it is said the apostles and presbyters making a distinction between them. The apostle Saint Peter resolves the doubt, 1 Pet. 5:1-3 in which place Peter styles himself a presbyter and or elder; in the second Epistle of John verse one, Saint John doth style himself presbyter, or elder, saying; the presbyter to the elect lady.

Saint Paul likewise styles himself a presbyter if you compare 1 Tim. 4:14 with 2 Tim. 1:6 in which places it is evident that Saint Paul was one of the presbytery.

Question: Why do the Independent brethren conclude every of their congregations a particular church, depending upon no other church; either for government, doctrine, or manners, when the whole current of the Scripture doth so clearly express the Presbyterian government ordained by Christ in the mother Church of Jerusalem must be a pattern unto all daughter churches until the end of the world?

Now it hath been plainly proved that the Church of Jerusalem consisted of many congregations, which made but one Church, and that one Church distributed into those particular assemblies, was governed by a common-council or presbytery. The example of which church the Independent brethren pretend to follow.

Answer: The brethren’s answer is seconded with these reasons. First, because their particular churches have for their pattern no less than the whole college of the apostles and presbyters, Acts 1:15, where they sat in council to choose a disciple in the place of Judas, the number of the men, not of men and women as in verse 14 being 120. The Independent brethren mistaking the members of the congregation, who were men, and brethren, verse 16, and not men brethren and sisters, do peremptorily conclude from hence, there were no more believers in Jerusalem, than in this congregation; notwithstanding the multitude that believed, and were baptized, by John the Baptist, and this whole college of apostles and presbyters before the Passion of Christ. Secondly, because their churches (though made up with a number of women) by imitating the assembly of apostles and presbyters, every particular church doth thereby gain the same authority which our Savior gave to the whole college of apostles, Matt. 18:15-18, which being extraordinary, and exceeding the tenure of the Scripture to have so much power conferred upon a congregation, doth declare our brethren the Independents to be wise above that which is written, 1 Cor. 4:6, and in knowledge to resemble the children of this world, Matt. 16:8.

The second part of the Independents’ Catechism, gathered out of the treatise upon these six following queries, concerning the gathering of churches.

1. Query: Where it is commanded in the Word of God that the ministers of the Gospel shall run about from their own places, and charges to gather believing Christians, from amongst believing Christians, into their own Independent congregations, and debar them from all Church-fellowship, and communication with other believers in God’s holy ordinances and sacraments. And proclaim, all that are not molded up after this new-model to be a people out of covenant, to have no right to the seals of the New Covenant; neither they though their children, though believers, whether this way of gathering churches was ever heard of before these days whether this be to set up Christ as King upon his throne, to make divisions and schisms in churches and among believers and brethren, and that upon groundless pretenses.

2. Query: Whether for the making any man or woman a member of the Church, it be necessary to the believing, and being baptized, that they should walk some days, weeks, months, or years with them that they may have experience of their conversation before they can be admitted, and after that a confession of their faith, should be publicly made before the congregation, and the evidences of their conversion, as the time when, the place where, the occasion how, they were converted: And if any, either men, or women, shall except against their evidence that then they are not to be admitted.

3. Query: Whether for making any man a member or an officer of a church, the consent of the whole congregation, or the greater part of them besides the presbyters and ministers be requisite.

4. Query: Whether for the admission of anyone into Church-fellowship and communion a private solemn covenant be requisite or necessary for the making anyone a member, the neglect or refusal of the which makes them incapable of their membership or admission.

5. Query: Whether the women and people as well as the presbyters and ministers have the power of the Keys. And whether the women have all their voices in the Church, both for election and reprobation of members and officers as well as the men, and whether the consent of all the women, or the greatest part of them to be requisite, for the making anyone a member or officer? So that if they gainsay it, being the greater number, or allow of it, the most voices carry the business.

6. Query: Whether the practice and preaching of all these things, and the gathering of churches after this manner, be to set up Christ as King upon his throne; and whether churches and assemblies thus congregated be the only true churches in the which only Christ rules and reigns as King, and all other that are not molded up after this fashion, be no true congregated churches, and in the which Christ is not set up as King upon his throne.

Question: Who were commanded by Christ to preach the Gospel, and to propound to all nations the conditions upon which they were to be admitted into his Church; and who were to admit them?

Answer: The apostles only, and presbyters, and ministers of the Gospel; as appears by Christ’s Commission given unto them and his promise to be with them until the end of the world: Matt. 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 26:15-20. Here the Commission was only delivered to the apostles and the ministers of the Gospel that they should admit whosoever believed and were baptized.

Question: Did John the Baptist or any of the primitive apostles, and ministers ever call for a congregation to join with them in the admitting any member into the Church of Christ, or did they demand such evidences and qualifications as the Independents do in the foregoing queries?

Answer: Their preaching, and practice in baptizing, which is admitting members into the Church of Christ, doth shew plainly they did it by virtue of their Commission, no mention being made of a new church, or congregation to have voices with them, or any other conditions to be required, than repent, believe, and be baptized; which is plainly proved: Matt. 3:2, 6; Luke 3:7; 7:29; John 3:4; Acts 2:37-38; 8:36-38.

Question: Where did the apostles and primitive presbyters delight to gather churches?

Answer: Amongst the lost sheep of the house of Israel, to bring them into Christ’s fold; as appears by Saint Paul accompting it a dishonor to build upon another man’s foundation, Romans 15:20.

Question: What command have women in the Church either for preaching, or giving their voices, in the election or reprobation of members or officers?

Answer: No more command have they for any such practice, than by Saint Paul’s words is due unto them, 1 Cor. 14:34-36; 1 Tim. 2:11-12, in both these places it is the apostles’ special care to prevent women’s intermeddlings in matters of the Church, which may forever silence the Independents’ weak opinion who tolerate women’s voicing it in their churches contrary to the Word of God.

Question: May diversities of religions be tolerated amongst Christians, or were they ever tolerated in the Old or New Testament?

Answer: The practice of the holy men of God sheweth they may not, and their practice is for our imitation; 1 Cor. 10:6-7; Rom. 15:14; Gen. 17:1-3; 18:17-19; Josh. 24:14-16. In these places it is clear that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joshua suffered no idolatry nor sects in their families, for this had been to tolerate all religions, or to worship the true God in a false manner, and not to do justice and judgment.

Question: Are the examples of the patriarchs, prophets, and apostles, who tolerated only the true religion; or the examples of Poland, Transylvania and Holland, to be followed, who tolerate all religions?

Answer: Saint Paul will decide the controversy sufficiently for us, if we delight not more in novelties than in the old way prescribed in the written Word: Rom. 12:1-2; Phil. 3:17; 4:8-9. In which places Saint Paul doth declare that we must not fashion ourselves according to this world, we must not imitate the Saints of God in their failings, and we must walk so as we have him and the rest of the Saints for an example, our blessed Savior blames the angel of the Church of Pergamum, Thyatira, Laodicea, Rev. 2:12-20; 3:14-16, because they tolerated Balaam and Jezebel, showing his great displeasure against them for it; Now these that labor for a toleration of all religions must needs be lukewarm, such as God will spew out of his mouth.

Question: What examples have we in Scripture for the suppressing of false teachers, when they are openly discovered?

Answer: The prophets and elders of Israel in all ages who had the sword of justice in their hands to punish all seducers as appears, 1 Kings 18:21; Deut. 13:1-5; Judges 6:30-31, and their practice is for our magistrates’ imitation, 1 Cor. 10:6-7, Romans 15:14.

Question: What esteem ought Christians to have of those Independent ministers who instead of preaching the Word of God, in season and out of season to convert souls, preach their own traditions and inventions, to destroy those precious souls which other Godly ministers have converted?

Answer: Saint Paul’s sentence is of any such false teacher, “Let him be accursed,” Gal. 1:8-9. And if we will believe our Savior’s words; such men’s condition is very dangerous whatsoever they may promise to themselves, Matt. 18:6-7, “Woe be unto that man by whom the offense cometh.” Now such offense is come by wandering after the Independent ministers’ new-lights, that all Godly ministers may with Saint Paul wish they were cut off, who trouble the Church, by such groundless pretenses.

And whereas all Godly presbyters and ministers, who preach Christ out of good will, open the eyes of the blind, turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, ought highly to be honored for their work’s sake; 1 Thess. 5:13, yea, that they deserve double honor; 1 Tim. 5:17. Yet the same apostle doth on the contrary give unto all believers a special caution to beware of false teachers, Rom. 16:17-18 (Col. 2:8; 2 John 7, 9-10), concluding that they that are such serve not the Lord Jesus Christ, but their own bellies, and with fair speech, and flattering, deceive the hearts of the simple.


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