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Sermons & Study Guides

Form Of Presbyterial Church-Government Pt. 12 - Of The Power In Common Of All These Assemblies.

James Dodson

Form Of Presbyterial Church-Government

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 convent, and call before them, any person within their several bounds, whom the ecclesiastical business which is before them doth concern.They have 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.

Question 1.—Is it lawful, and agreeable to the word of God, that the several assemblies before mentioned (congregational, classical and synodical) have power to convene? Answer.—Yes. Acts 15:2, 4, 22, 23, 25.  Thus do the Erastians err maintaining that it belongs only to civil officers to convene ecclesiastical assemblies.  They are confuted for the following reasons: 1.) Such power was retained in the Jewish church, Matt. 12:14; 26:57, 59; Acts 5:21.  2.) The keys of the kingdom of God have not been committed to civil officers, but to church officers, Matt. 16:19.  3.) The apostle Paul assumes such a power when directing the churches at Corinth concerning the incestuous man, 1 Cor. 5:4. Question 2.—Is it lawful, and agreeable to the word of God, that the several assemblies before mentioned have power to call before them, any person within their several bounds, whom the ecclesiastical business which is before them does concern? Answer.—Yes. Matt. 18:15-20.  That it is both lawful and agreeable to the word of God appears by the following: 1.) Such was the power exercised by both Moses and Joshua, Ex. 19:7; Jos. 24:1.  2.) We see that this power was invested in the Jewish church, John 9:18, 24; Acts 4:18; 5:40.  3.) The apostles exercised this power when seeking to resolve disputes among the disciples, Acts 6:2; and for conducting ecclesiastical business, Acts 20:17. Question 3.—Do these assemblies have power to hear and determine such causes and differences as do orderly come before them? Answer.—Yes. Acts 15:2, 4, 6.  The power of these assemblies to hear such causes and differences as do orderly come before them is proved by the following: 1.) It is the express command of God to the church officers in the Old Testament to hear such causes and differences, Ezek. 44:23, 24; Deut. 17:8, 9.  2.) Christ himself asserts the power of the church to hear such causes and differences, Matt. 18:15-17.  3.) The example of the apostolic church demonstrates this principle, Acts 15:2, 6. That  the  sentence  of  such  assemblies  is  determinative  is  demonstrated  from  the following considerations: 1.) Those cases heard by the church officers under the Old Testament were to be settled according to their judgment, and that under the severest of penalties, Deut. 17:10-13.  2.) That Christ has invested a determinative power in these matters is apparent, Matt. 5:22; 18:18-20; John 20:23.  3.) So, too, the apostolic church understood the determinative power of their assemblies, Acts 15:28; 16:4; 1 Cor. 5:4, 5.  4.) Such is the commission of those invested with church office, 1 Tim. 6:3-5; Tit. 1:11. 1Matt. 18:15-20. 
Question 4.—Is it lawful, and agreeable to the word of God, that all the said assemblies have some power to dispense church-censures? Answer.—Yes.  Matt.  18:18-20.    Thus  do  the  Libertines  err  denying  all  church-censures.  As well do the Independents err who maintain that higher church courts have only an advisory power.  They are confuted because: 1.) The power of the keys is given to as few as two or three gathered in Christ’s name, Matt. 18:19, 20; but if there is a plurality of elders set in each church, Acts 14:23; Tit. 1:5; then there exists that power to dispense church-censures in the congregational assemblies.  2.) This same power is demonstrated in the classical assembly at Corinth, 1 Cor. 5:4, 5; 2 Cor. 2:6.  3.) Again, this power is demonstrated in the apostolical churches in their great synodical assembly at Jerusalem, Acts 15:19-31; 16:4. Question 5.—Why is it said that all the said assemblies have only some power to dispense church-censures? Answer.—Ecclesiastical authority is a limited and ministerial authority, 2 Cor. 1:24; Eph. 4:11-16.  There are two considerations which ought to come to mind: 1.) The power of any ecclesiastical assembly to dispense church-censures is limited to its agreement or consonance with the word of God, Isa. 8:20; and to its serving the ends for which all church authority is appointed—edification, not destruction, 2 Cor. 10:8.  2.) It is a principle of jure divino Presbyterianism that lower courts and their decisions are subordinate unto the decrees of higher courts in all matters lawful, and agreeable to the word of God, and those matters decreed for the edification of the church, Acts 15:2, 23, 28.