Form Of Presbyterial Church-Government
Of The Church.
There is one general church visible, held forth in the New Testament. The ministry, oracles, and ordinances of the New Testament, are given by Jesus Christ to the general church visible, for the gathering and perfecting of it in this life, until his second coming. Particular visible churches, members of the general church, are also held forth in the New Testament. 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.
Question 1.—Is there one general church visible, held forth in the New Testament? Answer.—Yes. 1 Cor. 12:12, 13, 28. Thus do the Latitudinarians and many of the Sectaries err who maintain that the Scriptures hold forth no Church which by divine right is that which ought to exist to the exclusion of all others. They are confuted for the following reasons: 1.) The various Scriptures which use the word ἐκκλησία [ekklesia] (church) in such a full latitude and extensive completeness, as properly signifying not any one single congregation or particular church, but one general visible Church manifest this, Matt. 16:18; 1 Cor. 10:32; 15:9; Gal. 1:13; 1 Tim. 3:15; Eph. 3:10; Heb. 2:12. 2.) Those passages which evidently compare all visible professors and members of Christ throughout the world to one organic body having eyes, ears, etc., various organs, instruments, officers, etc., in it for the benefit of the whole body, Eph. 4:11, 12; Rom. 12:4-9. The context of these and similar verses plainly demonstrate that all Christ’s visible members in the world, Jews or Gentiles, etc., are members of one and the same organicbody of Christ, which organic body of Christ is the general Church visible. The invisible Church is not organic.Question 2.—Are 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? Answer.—Yes. 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:4, 5, 10-13, 15, 16. Thus do the Quakers, and certain sects of Anabaptists err maintaining that under the New Testament, the Church consists only of spiritual graces and not of ministry, oracles or ordinances. They are confuted for the following reasons: 1.) The ministry is primarily given to the general Church visible, Eph. 4:11-13; Rom. 12:4-9. 2.) The oracles are primarily given to the general Church visible, 1 Tim. 3:15. The Church is to be the receptacle of the truth from Christ, that she may be, in the words of Beza, “the witness, nurse, and conserver of truth 11 Cor. 12:12,13,28. 21 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:4,5,10-13,15,16. 3Gal. 1:21,22; Rev. 1:4,20; 2:1. 4Acts 2:38,41,47; compared with Acts 5:14; 1 Cor. 1:2; compared with 2 Cor. 9:13; Acts 2:39; 1 Cor. 7:14; Rom. 11:16; Mark 10:14; compared with Matt. 19:13,14; Luke 18:15,16.
among men.” Therefore, that saying of Paul is suitable to this, Eph. 3:10. 3.) The ordinances of the New Testament are primarily given also for the general Church visible, Matt. 16:18, 19; John 20:21-23; Matt. 28:18-20. For if the oracles, wherein the ordinances are contained, and the ministry, who are entrusted by Christ with the managing and administration of those ordinances are primarily given to the general Church visible, then the ordinances must necessarily be given for the general Church visible, Rom. 12:4-9; Eph. 4:11-13. Question 3.—Are particular visible churches, members of the general church, also held forth in the New Testament? Answer.—Yes. Gal. 1:21, 22; Rev. 1:4, 20; 2:1. It is evident by the Scripture that Jesus Christ has on earth many particular visible churches, Gal. 1:2; Rom. 16:5; Philem. 2; 1 Cor. 14:34; Rom. 16:4; 1 Cor. 7:17; 14:33; 2 Cor. 11:28. While it is true that the Scriptures recommend, for the more convenient edification of the saints, the erection of distinct congregations, and of distinct judicatories, Acts 15:41; it is the sin and loss of professed Christians to establish distinctions which destroy the unity of the visible Church, Jas. 3:16; since, according to the institution of Christ, the Church is ONE among all nations, Eph. 4:3,4. Question 4.—Were particular churches in the primitive times 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? Answer.—Yes. Acts 2:38, 41, 47; compared with Acts 5:14; 1 Cor. 1:2; compared with2 Cor. 9:13; Rom. 11:16; Mark 10:14; compared with Matt. 19:13, 14; Luke 18:15, 16. Thus do Anabaptists and others err maintaining that only invisible saints (i.e., those who are regenerated) are those who compose the membership of particular churches. They are confuted for the following reasons: 1.) The officers of the visible church must act according to law. They sit in judgment, not upon the state of a person in the sight of God, but upon his profession, and his character, in the sight of men, 2 Cor. 10:13. We are not to receive a man to communion, merely because he is regenerate, nor are we to reject him, merely because he is unregenerate. Saintship is the criterion of membership in the invisible Church, not the visible Church, Heb. 12:14. 2.) It is impossible that regeneration is the criterion of membership in the visible church: no mere man can judge the heart, 1 Sam. 16:7. 3.) It is presumption to say that saintship is the criterion of visible membership. It condemns the conduct of Christ, and of the apostles. Christ admitted as a member, and ordained as a minister, Judas, whom he knew to be unregenerate, John 17:12. Simon the sorcerer was a baptized church member, while in the gall of bitterness and bond of iniquity, Acts 8:13, 21-23. Here is our example, that private suspicions, yea, certain knowledge, unless founded upon some overt acts capable of proof, is not the rule of judgment. 4.) By a divine constitution, the church of the Jews included some unregenerate men, Rom. 9:6. The holiness of God is the same at all times, Ps. 93:5. 5.) The Christian visible church, according to Christ’s account of it, embraces some unregenerate men, Matt. 13:24, 25. In contrast—6.) No adult person whatever is to be received into the Christian Church, or admitted to any of its privileges, unless he knowingly profess a belief of the doctrine of Christ, Acts 8:37. 7.) He must promise submission to all his institutions, Gal. 5:22, 23. 8.) He must evidence repentance of all his sins, Acts 26:20. 9.) He must manifest no prevailing inclination to any kind of wickedness, Ps. 24:3, 4. 10.) Additionally, their children are included, Acts 2:39; 1 Cor. 7:14.