EDINBURGH: Printed by Evan Tyler, Printer to the Kings most Excellent Majesty. 1647.
Act approving VIII general Heads of Doctrine against the Tenets of Erastianism, Independency, and Liberty of Conscience, asserted in the CXI Propositions, which are to be examined against the next Assembly.
Being tender of so great an engagement by solemn Covenant, sincerely, really, & constantly to endeavor in our Places & Callings, the preservation of the Reformed Religion in this Kirk of Scotland, in Doctrine, Worship, Discipline, and Government, the Reformation of Religion in the Kingdoms of England and Ireland, in Doctrine Worship, Discipline and Government, according to the Word of God, and the example of the best Reformed Kirks, and to endeavor the nearest Conjunction and Uniformity in all these, together with the extirpation of Heresy, Schism, and whatsoever shall be found contrary to sound Doctrine: And considering withal that one of the special means which it becometh us in our Places and Callings to use in pursuance of these ends, is in zeal for the true Reformed Religion, to give our public testimony against the dangerous tenets of Erastianism, Independency, and which is falsely called Liberty of Conscience, which are not onely contrary to sound Doctrine, but more special lets and hindrances as well to the preservation of our own received Doctrine, Worship, Discipline and Government, as to the Work of Reformation and Uniformity in England and Ireland. The General Assembly upon these considerations, having heard publicly read the CXI following Propositions exhibited and tendered by some Brethren who were appointed to prepare Articles or Propositions for the vindication of the Truth in these particulars, Doth unanimously approve and agree unto these eight general Heads of Doctrine therein contained and asserted. viz. 1. That the Ministry of the Word, and the Administration of the Sacraments of the New Testament, Baptism and the Lords Supper, are standing Ordinances instituted by God himself, to continue in the Church to the end of the world. 2. That such as administer the Word and Sacraments ought to be duly called and ordained thereunto. 3. That some Ecclesiastical censures are proper and peculiar to be inflicted only upon such as bear Office in the Kirk; Other censures are common, and may be inflicted both on Ministers, and other Members of the Kirk. 4. That the censure of Suspension from the Sacrament of the Lords Supper, inflicted because of gross ignorance, or because of a scandalous life and conversation; As likewise the censure of Excommunication, or casting out of the Kirk flagitious or contumacious offenders, both the one censure and the other is warrantable by and grounded upon the Word of God, and is necessary (in respect of Divine institution) to be in the Kirk. 5. That as the Rights, Power and Authority of the Civil Magistrate are to be maintained according to the Word of God, and the Confessions of the Faith of the Reformed Kirks, So it is no less true and certain that Jesus Christ, the only Head and only King of the Kirk, hath instituted and appointed a Kirk Government distinct from the Civil Government or Magistracy. 6. That the Ecclesiastical Government is committed and entrusted by Christ to the Assemblies of the Kirk, made up of the Ministers of the Word and Ruling Elders. 7. That the lesser and inferior Ecclesiastical Assemblies ought to be subordinate and subject unto the greater and superior Assemblies. 8. That notwithstanding hereof, the Civil Magistrate may and ought to suppress by corporal or civil punishments, such as by spreading Error or Heresy, or by fomenting Schism, greatly dishonor God, dangerously hurt Religion, and disturb the Peace of the Kirk, Which Heads of Doctrine (howsoever opposed by the authors and fomenters of the foresaid Errors respectively) the General Assembly doth firmly believe, own, maintain, and commend unto others as solid, true, orthodox, grounded upon the Word of God, consonant to the judgement both of the ancient, and the best Reformed Kirks. And because this Assembly (through the multitude of other necessary and pressing business) cannot now have so much leisure as to examine and consider particularly the foresaid CXI Propositions: Therefore a more particular examination thereof is committed and referred to the Theological Faculties of the four Universities of this Kingdom, and the judgement of each of these Faculties concerning the same, is appointed to be reported to the next General Assembly. In the mean while, these Propositions shall be printed, both that Copies thereof may be sent to Presbyteries, and that it may be free for any that pleaseth to peruse them, and to make known or send their judgement concerning the same to the said next Assembly.
CXI PROPOSITIONS Concerning THE MINISTERIE AND GOVERNMENT OF THE CHURCH.
AS our Lord Jesus Christ doth invisibly teach and govern his Church by the Holy Spirit: So in gathering, preserving, instructing, building and saving thereof, he useth Ministers as his instruments, and hath appointed an order of some to Teach, and others to Learn in the Church, and that some should be the Flock, and others the Pastors.
For, beside these first Founders of the Church of Christ extraordinarily sent, and furnished with the gift of Miracles, whereby they might confirm the Doctrine of the Gospel, he appointed also ordinary Pastors and Teachers, for the executing of the Ministry, even until his coming again unto Judgement, Ephes. 4. 11, 12, 13. Wherefore, also as many as are of the number of God’s People, or will be accounted Christians, ought to receive and obey the ordinary Ministers of God’s Word and Sacraments, (lawfully, though mediately called) as the Stewards and Ambassadors of Christ himself.
It is not lawful for any man, how fit soever, and how much soever enriched or beautified with excellent gifts, to undertake the Administration either of the Word or Sacraments by the Will of private persons, or others who have not power and right to Call; much less is it lawful by their own judgement or arbitrament to assume and arrogate the same to themselves: But before it be lawful to undergo that sacred Ministry in Churches constituted, a special Calling; yea beside, a lawful Election (which alone is not sufficient) a Mission, or sending, or (as commonly it is termed) Ordination, is necessarily required, and that both for the avoiding of confusion, and to bar out, or shut the door (so far as in us lieth) upon Impostors; as also by reason of divine Institution delivered to us in the holy Scripture, Rom. 10. 15. Heb. 5. 4. Tit. 1 5. 1 Tim. 1. 14.
The Church ought to be governed by no other persons then Ministers and Stewards preferred and placed by Christ, and after no other manner then according to the Laws made by him; and therefore there is no power on earth which may challenge to it self Authority or Dominion over the Church: But whosoever they are that would have the things of Christ to be administered not according to the Ordinance and will of Christ revealed in his Word, but as it liketh them, and according to their own will and prescript, what other thing go they about to do, then by horrible Sacrilege to throw down Christ from his own Throne.
For our only Law-giver and Interpreter of his Fathers will, Jesus Christ hath prescribed and fore-appointed the rule according to which he would have his Worship and the Government of his own House to be ordered. To wrest this rule of Christ laid open in his holy Word, to the Counsels, Wills, Manners, Devices or Laws of Men, is most height impiety; But contrarily, the Law of Faith commandeth the counsel and purposes of men to be framed and conformed to this rule, and overturneth all the reasonings of worldly wisdom, and bringeth into captivity the thoughts of the proud swelling mine to the obedience of Christ: Neither ought the voice of any to take place or bee rested upon in the Church, but the voice of Christ alone.
The same Lord and our Saviour Jesus Christ, the only Head of the church hath ordained in the New Testament, not only the Preaching of the Word and Administration of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, but also Ecclesiastical Government, distinct and differing from the Civil Government, and it is his will that there be such a Government distinct from the Civil in all his Churches everywhere, as well those which live under Christian, as those under infidel Magistrates, even until the end of the World. Heb. 13. 7. 17. 1 Tim. 5. 17, 19. Rom. 12. 8. 1 Cor. 12. 28. 1 Thess. 5. 12, Acts 1. 20, 28. Luke 12. 42. 1 Tim. 6. 14. Apoc. 2. 25.
This Ecclesiastical Government distinct from the Civil, is from God committed, not to the whole body of the Church or Congregation of the faithful, or to be Exercised both by Officers and People, but to the Ministers of God’s Word, together with the Elders which are joined with them for the care and Government of the Church, 1 Tim. 5. 17. To these therefore who are over the Church in the Lord, belongeth the Authority and Power, and it lieth upon them by their office, according to the rule of God’s Word to discern and judge betwixt the Holy and Profane, to give diligence for amendment of delinquents, and to purge the Church (as much as is in them) from scandals, and that not only by enquiring, inspection, warning, reproving, and more sharply expostulating, but also by acting in the further and more severe parts of Ecclesiastical Discipline, or exercising Ecclesiastic jurisdiction, even unto the greatest and weightiest censures, where need is.
None that is within the Church ought to be without the reach of Church Law, and exempt from Ecclesiastic Censures; but Discipline is to be exercised on all the Members of the Church, without respect or consideration of those adhering qualities which use to commend a man to other men; such as Power, Nobility, illustrious Descent, and the like: for the judgement cannot be right, where men are led and moved with these considerations. Wherefore, let respect of Persons be far from all Judges, chiefly the Ecclesiastical: And if any in the Church doe so swell in pride, that he refuse to be under this Discipline, and would have himself to be free and exempt from all trial and Ecclesiastic judgement, this man’s disposition is more like the haughtiness of the Roman Pope, then the meekness and submissiveness of Christ’s Sheep.
Ecclesiastical Censure moreover is either proper to be inflicted upon the Ministers and Office-bearers only, or with them common to other Members of the Church; the former consisteth in Suspension or Deposition of Ministers from their Office (which in the ancient Canons is called καθαίρεσις) The latter consisteth in the greater and lesser Excommunication, (as they speak.) Whatsoever in another Brother deserveth Excommunication, the same much more in a Minister deserveth Excommunication: But justly sometimes a Minister is to be put from his Office, and deprived of that Power which by Ordination was given him, against whom nevertheless to draw the sword of Excommunication, no reason doth compel.
Sometime also it happeneth that a Minister having fallen into Heresy or Apostasy, or other grievous crimes, if he shew tokens of true repentance, may be justly received into the communion of the Church; Whom notwithstanding, is no way expedient to restore into his former place or charge; yea, perhaps it will not be found fit to restore such a one to the Ministry in another Congregation, as soon as he is received into the bosom of the Church; Which surely is most agreeable as well as to the Word of God, 2 King. 23 9. Ezek. 44. 10, 11, 12, 13, 14. as to that Ecclesiastical Discipline, which in some ages after the times of the Apostles was in use.
So true is it that the Ministers of the Church, are liable as well to peculiar as to common censures; Or that a Minister of the Church is censured one way, and one of the people another way.
Ecclesiastical censure, which is not proper to Ministers, but common to them with other Members of the Church, is either suspension from the Lord’s Supper, (which by others is called the Publicans Excommunication,) or the cutting off of a Member, which is commonly called Excommunication. The distinction of this twofold censure (commonly, though not so properly passing under the name of the lesser and greater Excommunication) is not only much approved by the Church of Scotland, and the Synod now assembled at Westminster, but also by the Reformed Churches of France, the Low-countrys [i.e., the Netherlands], and of Pole-land, as is to be seen in the book of the Ecclesiastic Discipline of the Reformed Churches in France. Chap. 5. Art. 9. In the harmony of the Belgic Synods. Chap. 14. Art. 8. 9. In the Canons of the general Synod of Torne, held in the year 1597.
That the distinction of that twofold Church censure was allowed also by antiquity, it may be sufficiently clear to him who will consult the sixty one Canon of the sixth general Synod, with the Annotations of Zonaras and Balsomon; also the thirteenth Canon of the eighth Synod (which is termed the first and second) with the Notes of Zonaras; Yea besides, even the penitents also themselves of the fourth degree, or οἱ ἐν συστασεῖ, that is, which were in the consistency, were suspended from the Lords Supper, though as to other things of the same condition with the faithful; For to the communion also of Prayers, and so to all privileges of Ecclesiastical society, the Eucharist alone excepted, they were thought to have right: So sacred a thing was the Eucharist esteemed. See also beside others, Cyprian 1. Book. Epist. 11. That Dionysius the Author of the Ecclesiastic Hierarchy. Chap. 3. Part. 3. Basil. Epist. to Amphilochius. Can. 4. Ambros. lib. 2. De officiis, Chap. 27. Augustine in his book against the Donatists, after the conference, Chap. 4. Chrysostom Homil. 83. in Matth. Gregor. the great Epist. lib. 2. Chap 65. and 66. Walafridus Strabo of Ecclesiastical matters. Chap. 17.
That first and lesser censure by Christ’s ordinance, is to be inflicted on such as have received Baptism, and pretend to be true Members of the church, yet are found unfit and unworthy to communicate in the signs of the grace of Christ with the church, whether for their gross ignorance of divine things, the Law namely and Gospel, or by reason of scandal either of false Doctrine or wicked life. For these causes therefore, or for some one of them, they are to be kept back from the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper (a lawful judicial trial going before) according to the interdiction of Christ, forbidding that that which is Holy be given to dogs, or Pearls bee cast before swine, Matt. 7. 6. and this censure of suspension is to continue, till the offenders bring forth fruits worthy of repentance.
For the asserting and defending of this suspension, there is no small accession of strength from the nature of the Sacrament it self, and the institution and end thereof. The Word of God indeed is to be Preached, as well to the ungodly and impenitent that they may be converted, as to the Godly and repenting, that they may be confirmed: But the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is by God instituted, not for beginning the Work of Grace, but for nourishing and increasing Grace, and therefore none is to be admitted to the Lord’s Supper, who by his life testifieth that he is impenitent, and not as yet converted.
Indeed if the Lord had instituted this Sacrament, that not only it should nourish and cherish faith, and seal the promises of the Gospel, but also should begin the work of Grace in sinners, and give regeneration it self, as the instrumental cause thereof, verily even the most wicked, most unclean and most unworthy were to be admitted. But the Reformed Churches do otherwise judge of the nature of this Sacrament, which shall be abundantly manifest by the gleaning of these following Testimonies.
The Scottish Confession, Art. 23. But we confess that the Lord’s Supper belongs only to those of the household of faith, who can try and examine themselves, as well in faith, as in the duties of faith towards their neighbors. Whoso abide without faith, and in variance with their brethren, doe at that holy Table eat and drink unworthily. Hence it is that the Pastors in our Church do enter on a public and particular examination, both of the knowledge, conversation and life of those who are to be admitted to the Lord’s Table. The Belgic Confession. Art. 35. We believe also and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ hath ordained the holy Sacrament of his Supper, that in it he may nourish and uphold them whom he hath already regenerated.
The Saxon Confession. Art. 15. of the Lord’s Supper. The Lord willeth that every receiver be particularly confirmed by this testimony, so that he may be certified that the benefits of the Gospel doe appertain to himself, seeing the Preaching is common, and by this testimony, by this receiving, he sheweth that thou art one of his members, and washed with his blood. And by and by. Thus therefore we instruct the Church, that it behooveth them that come to the supper, to bring with them repentance or conversion, and (faith being now kindled in the meditation of the death and resurrection, and the benefits of the Son of God) to seek here the confirmation of this faith. The very same things are set down, and that in the very same words in the consent of the Churches of Pole-land in the Sendominian Synod, Anno 1570. Art. of the Lord’s Supper.
The Bohemian Confession. Art. 11. Next our Divines teach that the Sacraments of themselves, or as some say, ex opere operato, do not confer Grace to those, who are not first endued with good motions, and inwardly quickened by the Holy Spirit, neither do they bestow justifying faith, which maketh the soul of man in all things obsequious, trusting and obedient to God; for faith must go before (we speak of them of ripe years) which quickeneth a man by the work of the Holy Spirit, and putting good motions into the heart. And after: But if any come unworthily to the Sacraments, he is not made by them worthy or clean, but doth only bring greater sin and damnation on himself.
Seeing then in the holy Supper, that is in the receiving the Sacramental Elements (which is here distinguished from the Prayers and Exhortations accompanying that action) the benefits of the Gospel are not first received, but for them being received are thanks given; neither by partaking thereof doth God bestow the very spiritual life, but doth preserve, cherish and perfect that life; and seeing the Word of God is accounted in the manner of letters patents, but Sacraments like seals, (as rightly the Helvetian Confession faith, Chap. 19) it plainly followeth that those are to be kept back from the Lord’s Supper, which by their fruits and manners doe prove themselves to be ungodly or impenitent, and strangers or aliens from all communion with Christ; Nor are the promises of Grace sealed to any other then to those to whom these promises doe belong, for otherwise the seal annexed should contradict and gainsay the letters patents; and by the visible Word those should be loosed and remitted, which by the audible Word are bound and condemned: But this is such an absurdity, as that if any would, yet he cannot smooth or heal it with any plaster.
But as known, impious, and unregenerate persons have no right to the holy Table: So also ungodly persons, by reason of grievous scandal are justly for a time deprived of it; for it is not lawful or allowable that the comforts and promises which belong only to such as believe and repent, should be sealed unto known unclean persons, and those who walk inordinately, whether such as are not yet regenerate, or such as are regenerate, but fallen and not yet restored or risen from their fall. The same Discipline was plainly shadowed forth under the Old Testament; for none of Gods People during their legal pollution, was permitted to enter into the Tabernacle, or to have access to the solemn Sacrifices and society of the Church: and much more were wicked and notorious offenders debarred from the Temple ever until by an offering for sin, together with a solemn confession thereof, being cleansed, they were reconciled unto God. Num. 5 6, 7, 8. Lev. 5. to the 7. vers Lev. 6. to vers. 8.
Yea that those who were polluted with sins and crimes, were reckoned among the unclean in the Law, Maimonides in more Nevochim, Part. 3 Chap 47. proveth out of Lev. 20. 3. Lev. 18 24. Num. 35. 33. 34. Therefore seeing the shedding of man’s blood was rightly esteemed the greatest pollution of all; Hence it was, that as the society of the leprous was shunned by the clear [i.e., clean], so the company of murderers by good men was most religiously avoided. Lament. 4. 13, 14, 15. The same thing is witnessed by Ananias the high Priest, in Josephus of the Jewish war. 4. Book, Chap. 5. where he saith that those false Zealots of that time, bloody men, ought to have been restrained from access to the Temple, by reason of the pollution of murder; Yea as Philo the Jew witnesseth in his book of the Officers of Sacrifices; Whosoever were found unworthy and wicked, were by edict forbidden to approach the holy thresholds.
Neither must that be past by which was noted by Zonaras, Book 4. of his Annals, (whereof see also Scaliger agreeing with him, in Elench. Triberes. Nicferrar. Cap. 28) namely that the Essenes were forbidden the holy Place as being heinous and piacular transgressors, and such as held other opinions, and did otherwise teach concerning Sacrifices then according to the Law, and observed not the ordinances of Moses, whence it proceeded that they Sacrificed privately; Yea and also the Essenes them selves did thrust away from their Congregations those that were wicked. Whereof see Drusius of the three sects of Jews, Lib. 4. cap. 22.
God verily would not have his Temple to be made open to unworthy and unclean worshippers, nor was it free for such men to enter into the Temple. See Nazianzen, Orat. 21. The same thing is witnessed and declared by divers late writers, such as have been and are more acquainted with the Jewish antiquities. Consult the Annotations of Vatablus and of Ainsworth an English writer upon Psal. 118. 19, 20. also Constantius L’empereur Annotat. in Cod. Middoth, Cap. 2. Pag. 44, 45. Cornelius Bertramus, of the Common-wealth of the Hebrews. Cap. 7. Henrie Vorstius, Animadvers. in Pirk. Rab. Eliezer. Pag. 169. The same may be proved out of Ezek. 33. 38 29. Jer. 7. 9 10, 11, 12. whence also it was that the solemn and public Society in the Temple, had the name of the Assembly of the Righteous, and Congregation of Saints. Psal. 89. 5, 7. Psal. 111. 1. Psal. 147. 1. Hence also is that, Psal. 118. 19, 20. of the gates of righteousness by which the righteous enter.
That which is now driven at, is not that all wicked and unclean persons should be utterly excluded from our Ecclesiastical Societies, and so from all hearing of God’s Word; Yea there is nothing less intended: for the Word of God is the instrument as well of conversion as of confirmation, and therefore is to be Preached as well to the not converted as to the converted, as well to the repenting, as the unrepenting: The Temple indeed of Jerusalem had special promises, as it were pointing out with the finger a Communion with God through Christ, 1 King. 8. 30, 48. Dan. 6. 10. 2 Chron. 6. 16. and 7. 15, 16. But ‘tis far otherwise with our Temples, or places of Church Assemblies, because our Temples contain nothing Sacramental in them, such as the Tabernacle and Temple contained; as the most learned Professors of Leyden said rightly in Synops. Pur. Theologiae Disput. 48. Thes. 47.
Wherefore the point to be here considered as that which is now aimed at, is this, that howsoever even under the New Testament, the uncleanness of those to whom the Word of God is preached be tolerated; yet all such, of what estate or condition soever in the Church, as are defiled with manifest and grievous scandals, and doe thereby witness themselves to be without the inward and spiritual Communion with Christ and the faithful, may and are to be altogether discharged from the Communion of the Lord’s Supper, until they repent and change their manners.
Besides, even those to whom it was not permitted to go into the holy Courts of Israel, and to ingyre [obtrude] themselves into Ecclesiastical Communion, and who did stand between the Court of Israel and the utter wall, were not therefore to be kept back from hearing the word; for in Solomon’s Porch, and so in the intermural or Court of the Gentiles the Gospel was preached both by Christ, John 10. 23. and also by the Apostles, Acts 3. 11. and 5. 12. and that of purpose because of the reason brought by Pineda, of the things of Solomon, Book 5. Chap. 19. because a more frequent multitude was there, and somewhat larger opportunity of sowing the Gospel: Wherefore to any whomsoever, even heathen people meeting there, the Lord would have the Word to be preached, who notwithstanding, purging the Temple, did not only overthrow the tables of Money-changers, and chairs of those that sold Doves, but also, cast forth the buyers and sellers themselves, Matt. 21. 12. for he could not endure either such things, or such persons in the Temple.
Although then the Gospel is to be preached to every creature, the Lord in express words commanding the same, Mark 16. 15. yet not to every one is set open an access to the holy Supper. ‘Tis granted that Hypocrites do lurk in the Church, who hardly can be convicted and discovered, much less repelled from the Lord’s Supper. Such therefore are to be suffered, till by the fan of judgement the grain be separate from the chaff: But those whose wicked deeds or words are known and made manifest, are altogether to be debarred from partaking those symbols of the Covenant of the Gospel, left that the Name of God be greatly disgraced, whilst sins are permitted to spread abroad in the Church unpunished; or lest the Stewards of Christ by imparting the signs of the Grace of God to such as are continuing in the state of impurity and scandal, be partakers of their sins. Hitherto of Suspension.
Excommunication ought not to be proceeded unto except when extreme necessity constraineth: But whensoever the soul of the sinner cannot otherwise be healed, and that the safety of the Church requireth the cutting off of this or that Member, it behoveth to use this last remedy. In the Church of Rome indeed Excommunication hath been turned into greatest injustice and tyranny (as the Pharisees abused the casting out of the Synagogues, which was their Excommunication) to the fulfilling of the lust of their own minds; Yet the Ordinance of Christ is not therefore by any of the Reformed Religion to be utterly thrust away and wholly rejected. What Protestant knows not that the vassals of Antichrist have drawn the Lord’s Supper into the worst and most pernicious abuses, as also the Ordination of Ministers, and other Ordinances of the Gospel? Yet who will say that things necessary (whether the necessity be that of command, or that of the means or end) are to be taken away because of the abuse?
They therefore who with an high hand do persevere in their wickedness, after foregoing admonitions stubbornly despised or carelessly neglected, are justly by Excommunication in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ cut off and cast out from the society of the faithful, and are pronounced to be cast out from the Church, until being filled with shame, and cast down, they shall return again to a more sound mind, and by confession of their sin and amendment of their lives, they shall shew tokens of their repentance, Matt. 18. 16, 17, 18. 1 Cor. 5. 13. which places are also alleged in the Confession of Bohemia, Art. 8. to prove that the Excommunication of the impenitent and stubborn, whose wickedness is known, is commanded of the Lord: But if stubborn Heretics, or unclean persons be not removed or cast out from the Church, therein doe the Governors of the Church sin, and are found guilty, Rev. 2. 14, 20.
But that all abuse and corruption in Ecclesiastical Government may be either prevented and avoided, or taken away; or lest the power of the Church either by the ignorance or unskillfulness of some Ministers here and there, or also by too much heat and fervor of mind, should run out beyond measure or bounds, or contrariwise being shut up within straiter limits then is fitting, should be made unprofitable, feeble, or of none effect: Christ the most wise Law-giver of his Church hath foreseen, and made provision to prevent all such evils which he did foresee were to arise, and hath prepared and prescribed for them intrinsical and Ecclesiastical remedies, and those also in their kind (if lawfully and rightly applied) both sufficient and effectual: Some whereof he hath most expressly propounded in his Word, and some he hath left to be drawn from thence by necessary consequence.
Therefore by reason of the danger of that which is called Clavis errans, or a wrong Key; and that it may not be permitted to particular Churches to err or sin licentiously, and lest any man’s cause be overthrown and perish, who in a particular Church had perhaps the same men both his adversaries and his judges; Also that common businesses which doe belong to many Churches, together with the more weighty and difficult controversies (the deciding whereof in the Consistories of particular Churches is not safe to be adventured upon) may be handled and determined by a common council of Presbyteries. Finally, that the Governors of particular Churches, may impart help mutually one to another against the cunning and subtle enemies of the truth, and may join their strength together (such as it is) by an holy combination, and that the Church may be as a camp of an Army well ordered; lest while every one striveth singly, all of them be subdued and overcome; or lest by reason of the scarcity of prudent and godly counselors (in the multitude of whom is safety) the Affairs of the Church be undone: For all those considerations particular Churches must be subordinate to Classical Presbyteries and Synods.
Wherefore ‘tis not lawful to particular Churches, or (as commonly they are called) Parochial, either to decline the authority of Classes or Synods, where they are lawfully settled, or may be had (much less to withdraw themselves from that authority, if they have once acknowledged it) or to refuse such lawful Ordinances or Decrees of the Classes or Synods, as being agreeable to the Word of God, are with authority imposed upon them. Acts 15. 2, 6, 22, 23, 24, 28, 29. and 16. 4.
Although Synods assemble more seldom, Classes and Consistories of particular Churches more frequently; Yet that Synods both Provincial and National assemble at set and ordinary times, as well as Classes and Parochial consistories is very expedient, and for the due preservation of Church Policy and Discipline, necessary. Sometime indeed it is expedient they be assembled occasionally, that the urgent necessity of the Church may be the more speedily provided for, namely, when such a business happeneth, which without great danger cannot be put off till the appointed time of the Synod.
But that besides occasional Synods, ordinary Synods be kept at set times, is most profitable, not only that they may discuss and determine the more difficult Ecclesiastical causes coming before them, whether by the appeal of some person aggrieved, or by the hesitation or doubting of inferior Assemblies (for such businesses very often fall out;) but also that the state of the Churches whereof they have the care, being more certainly and frequently searched and known, if there be any thing wanting or amiss in their Doctrine, Discipline or Manners, or any thing worthy of punishment, the slothful Laborers in the Vineyard of the Lord may be made to shake off the spirit of slumber and slothfulness, and be stirred up to the attending and fulfilling more diligently their calling, and not suffered any longer to sleep and snort in their Office; the stragglers and wanderers may be reduced to the way; the untoward and stiff-necked, which scarce or very hardly suffer the yoke of Discipline, as also unquiet persons, which devise new and hurtful things may be reduced to order. Finally, whatsoever doth hinder the more quick and efficacious course of the Gospel, may be discovered and removed.
It is too too manifest (alas for it) that there are, which with unwearied diligence doe most carefully labor that they may oppress the liberties and rights of Synods, and may take away from them all liberty of consulting of things and matters Ecclesiastical, at least of determining thereof, (for they well know how much the union and harmony of Churches may make against their designs.) But so much the more it concerneth the orthodox Churches to know, defend and preserve this excellent liberty granted to them by divine right, and so to use it, that imminent dangers, approaching evils, urging grievances, scandals growing up, schisms rising, heresies creeping in, errors spreading, and strifes waxing hot, may be corrected and taken away, to the glory of God, the edification and peace of the Church.
Beside Provincial and National Synods, an Ecumenical (so called from οἰκουμένη, that is from the habitable World) or more truly a General, or if you will, an Universal Synod, if so be it be free and rightly constituted, and no other Commissioners but orthodox Churches bee admitted (for what communion is there of light with darkness, of righteousness with unrighteousness, or of the Temple of God with idols) Such a Synod is of special utility, peradventure also such a Synod is to be hoped for, surely tis to be wished, that for defending the orthodox Faith, both against Popery and other Heresies, as also for propagating it to those who are without, especially the Jews, a more strait and more firm consociation may be entered into. For the unanimity of all the Churches as in evil tis of all things most hurtful, so on the contrary side, in good it is most pleasant, most profitable and most effectual.
Unto the Universal Synod also (when it may be had) is to be referred the judgement of controversies, not of all, but of those which are controversia juris, controversies of right, neither yet of all those, but of the chief and most weighty controversies of the orthodox faith, or of the most hard and unusual cases of Conscience. Of the controversies of fact there is another and different consideration to be had; for besides that it would be a great inconvenience that plaintiffs, persons accused, and witnesses be drawn from the most remote Churches, to the general or universal Counsel; the visible communion it self of all the Churches (on which the universal Counsel is built, and whereupon as on a foundation it leaneth) is not so much of company, fellowship, or conversation, as of Religion and Doctrine. All true Churches of the World do indeed profess the same true Religion and faith; but there is beside this a certain commixture and conjunction of the Churches of the same Nation, as to a more near fellowship, and some acquaintance, converting and companying together, which cannot be said of all the Churches throughout the habitable world.
And for this cause, as in Doctrinal Controversies which are handled by Theologues and Casuists, and in those which belong to the common state of the orthodox Churches, the National Synod is subordinate and subjected to the Universal lawfully constituted Synod, and from the National to the Ecumenical Synod (when there is a just and weighty cause) an appeal is open: So there is no need that the Appeals of them who complain of injury done to them through the exercise of Discipline in this or that Church, should go beyond the bounds of the National Synod: But ‘tis most agreeable to reason that they should rest and acquiesce within those bounds and borders; and that the ultimate judgement of such matters be in the National Synod, unless the thing it self be so hard, and of so great moment, that the knot be justly thought worthy of a greater decider: In which case the controversy which is carried to the Universal Synod is rather of an abstract general Theological Proposition, then of the particular or individual Case.
Furthermore, the Administration of the Ecclesiastic power in Consistories, Classes and Synods, doth not at all tend to weaken in any wise, hurt or minish the authority of the Civil Magistrate, much less to take it away or destroy it; yea rather, by it a most profitable help cometh to the Magistrate, forasmuch as by the bond of Religion men's consciences are more straightly tied unto him. There have been indeed fantastical men who under pretense and cloak of Christian liberty would abolish and cast out Laws and Judgements, Orders also, Degrees and Honors out of the Common-wealth, and have been bold to reckon the function of the Magistrate armed with the Sword, among evil things and unlawful: But the Reformed Churches doe renounce and detest those dreams, and do most harmoniously and most willingly confess and acknowledge it to be God’s will that the World be governed by Laws and Policy, and that he himself hath appointed the Civil Magistrate, and hath delivered to him the sword, to the protection and praise of good men, but for punishment and revenge on the evil, that by this bridle men's vices and faults may be restrained, whether committed against the first or against the second Table.
The Reformed Churches believe also and openly confess the power and authority of Emperors over their Empires, of Kings over their Kingdoms, of Princes and Dukes over their Dominions, and of other Magistrates or States over their Common-wealths and Cities, to be the ordinances of God himself, appointed as well to the manifestation of his own glory, as to the singular profit of mankind: and withal, that by reason of the will of God himself revealed in his Word, we must not only suffer and be content that those doe rule which are set over their own Territories, whether by hereditary, or by elective right; but also to love them, fear them, and with all reverence and honor embrace them as the Ambassadors and Ministers of the most high and good God, being in his stead, and preferred for the good of their Subjects; to pour out Prayers for them, to pay tributes to them, and in all businesses of the Common-wealth which are not against the Word of God, to obey their Laws and Edicts.
The Orthodox Churches believe also, and do willingly acknowledge, that every lawful Magistrate, being by God himself constituted the keeper and defender of both Tables of the Law, may and ought first and chiefly to take care of God’s glory, and (according to his place, or in his manner and way) to preserve Religion when pure, and to restore it when decayed and corrupted: And also to provide a learned and Godly Ministry, Schools also and Synods, as likewise to restrain and punish as well Atheists, Blasphemers, Heretics and Schismatic, as the violators of Justice and Civil Peace.
Wherefore the opinion of those Sectaries of this Age is altogether to be disallowed, who though otherwise insinuating themselves craftily into the Magistrates favor, do deny unto him the authority and right of restraining Heretics and Schismatics, and do hold and maintain that such persons, how much soever hurtful and pernicious enemies to true Religion and to the Church, yet are to be tolerated by the Magistrate, if so be he conceive them to be such as no way violate the Laws of the Commonwealth, and in no wise disturb the civil Peace.
Yet the civil Power and the ecclesiastical ought not by any means to be confounded or mixed together: Both Powers are indeed from God, and ordained for his glory, and both to be guided by his word, and both are comprehended under that precept, Honor thy Father and thy Mother: So that men ought to obey both civil Magistrates and ecclesiastical governors in the Lord; To both powers their proper dignity and authority is to be maintained and preserved in force: To both also is some way entrusted the keeping of both Tables of the Law; also both the one and the other doth exercise some jurisdiction, and giveth sentence of Judgement in an external court or judicatory: But these, and other things of like sort, in which they agree notwithstanding; yet by marvelous vast differences are they distinguished the one from the other, and the rights of both remain distinct, and that eight manner of ways, which it shall not be amiss here to add, that unto each of these Administrations its own set bounds may be the better maintained.
First of all therefore they are differenced the one from the other in respect of the very foundation and the institution: For the political or civil Power is grounded upon the Law of Nature it self, and for that cause it is common to Infidels with Christians: the Power ecclesiastical dependeth immediately upon the positive Law of Christ alone, that belongeth to the Universal Dominion of God the creator over all Nations; but this unto the special and Economical Kingdom of Christ the Mediator, which he exerciseth in the church alone, and which is not of this World.
The second difference is in the object, or matter about which: The power politick or civil is occupied about the outward man, and civil or earthly things, about War, Peace, conservation of Justice, and good order in the Common-wealth; also about the outward businesses or external things of the Church, which are indeed necessary to the church, or profitable, as touching the outward man, yet not properly and purely spiritual, for they do not reach unto the soul, but only to the external state and condition of the Ministers and Members of the Church.
For the better understanding whereof, tis to be observed that so far as the Ministers and Members of the Church are Citizens, Subjects, or Members of the Common-wealth, it is in the power of the Magistrate, to judge, determine and give sentence concerning the disposing of their bodies or goods; As also concerning the maintenance of the poor, sick, the banished, and of others in the church which are afflicted; To regulate (so far as concerneth the civil order) Marriages, Burials, and other circumstances which are common both to holy, and also to honest civil societies; to afford places fit for holy Assemblies and other external helps by which the sacred matters of the Lord may be more safely, commodiously, and more easily in the church performed: To remove the external impediments of divine worship or of Ecclesiastical Peace, and to repress those which exalt themselves against the true Church and her Ministers, and doe raise up trouble against them.
The matter may further be thus illustrated: There is almost the like respect and consideration of the Magistrate as he is occupied about the outward things of the church, and of the Ecclesiastic Ministry as it is occupied about the inward or spiritual part of civil Government, that is about those things which in the government of the common-wealth belong to the conscience. It is one thing to govern the common-wealth, and to make political and civil Laws; another thing to interpret the Word of God, and out of it to shew to the Magistrate his duty, to wit, how he ought to govern the common-wealth, and in what manner he ought to use the sword. The former is proper and peculiar to the Magistrate (neither doth the Ministry intermeddle or entangle it self into such businesses,) But the latter is contained within the office of the Ministers.
For to that end also is the holy Scripture profitable, to shew which is the best manner of governing a common-wealth, and that the Magistrate as being God’s Minister may by this guiding Star be so directed, as that he may execute the parts of his office according to the will of God, and may perfectly be instituted to every good work; yet the Minister is not said properly to treat of civil businesses, but of the scandals which arise about them, or of the cases of conscience which occur in the Administration of the common-wealth: So also the Magistrate is not properly said to be exercised about the spiritual things of the church, but rather about those external things which adhere unto and accompany the spiritual things.
And in such external matters of the church, although all Magistrates will not, yet all, yea even heathen Magistrates may and ought to aide and help the Church; Whence it is that by the command of God, Prayers are to be made also for an heathen Magistrate, that the faithful under them may live a quiet life with all godliness and honesty. 1 Tim. 2. 1 2.
Unto the external things of the Church belongeth not only the correction of Heretics and other troublers of the Church, but also that civil order and way of convocating and calling together Synods which is proper to the Magistrate; for the Magistrate ought by his authority and power both to establish the Rights and Liberties of Synods assembling together, at times appointed by the known and received Law, and to indict and gather together Synods occasionally, as often as the necessity of the Church shall require the same; Not that all or any power to consult or determine of Ecclesiastic or spiritual matters doth flow or spring from the Magistrate as Head of the Church under Christ; but because in those things pertaining to the outward man, the Church needeth the Magistrates aid and support.
So that the Magistrate calleth together Synods, not as touching those things which are proper to Synods; but in respect of the things which are common to Synods with other meetings and civil public Assemblies; that is, not as they are Assemblies in the name of Christ, to treat of matters spiritual, but as they are public Assemblies within his Territories; for to the end that public conventions may be kept in any Territory, the license of the Lord of that place ought to be desired. In Synods therefore a respect of order, as well civil as ecclesiastical is to be had; And because of this Civil order, outward defense, better Accommodation, together with safe access and recess, the consent and commandment of him who is appointed to take care of and defend human order, doth intervene.
Moreover when the Church is rent asunder by unhappy and lamentable Schisms, while they who have raised the troubles, and have given cause of solemn gathering a Synod (whether by their Heresy, or Schism, or Tyranny, or any other fault of others) use to place the great strength and safeguard of their cause in declining and fleeing the trial and sentence of a free Synod, as being formidable to them: Who seeth not that they cannot be drawn to a public and judicial trial, nor other disobedient persons be compelled to obedience without the Magistrates public mandate and help?
The object of Ecclesiastical Power is not the same with the object of the civil Power, but much differing from it; for the ecclesiastical Power doth determine and appoint nothing concerning men's bodies, goods, dignities, civil rights, but is employed only about the inward man, or the soul; not that it can search the hearts, or judge of the secrets of the conscience, which is in the power of God alone: Yet notwithstanding it hath for its proper object those externals which are purely spiritual, and doe belong properly and most nearly to the spiritual good of the soul; Which also are termed τὰ εἴσα τῆς ἐκκλησίας, the inward things of the Church.
Those things then wherein the ecclesiastical Power is exercised, are the preaching of the Word, the Administration of Sacraments, public Prayer and Thanksgiving, the catechizing and instructing of children and ignorant persons, the examination of those who are to come the holy Communion, the ecclesiastical Discipline, the Ordination of Ministers, and the abdication, deposing, and degrading of them (if they become like unsavory salt), the deciding and determining of controversies of Faith, and cases of conscience, canonical constitutions concerning the treasury of the Church, and collections of the Faithfull, as also concerning ecclesiastical Rites, or indifferent things, which pertain to the keeping of decency and Order in the Church according to the general rules of Christian love and prudence contained in the Word of God.
‘Tis true, that about the same things the civil Power is occupied, as touching the outward man, or the outward disposing of divine things in this or that Dominion, as was said; not as they are Spiritual and Evangelical Ordinances piercing into the conscience it self; but the object of the Power ecclesiastical is a thing merely and purely spiritual; and in so far as it is spiritual (for even that jurisdiction Ecclesiastical which is exercised in an outward court or judicatory, and which inflicteth public censures, forbidden from the use of the holy Supper, and excludeth from the society of the church) doth properly concern the inward man, or the repentance and salvation of the soul.
Surely the Faithfull and Godly Ministers, although they could do it unchallenged and uncontrolled, and were therein allowed by the Magistrate (as in the prelatical times it was) yet would not usurp the power of life and death, or judge and determine concerning men's honors, goods, inheritance, division of Families, or other civil businesses; seeing they well know these things to bee heterogeneous to their office: But as they ought not to entangle themselves with the judging of civil causes, so if they should be negligent and slothful in their own office, they shall in that bee no less culpable.
To the object also of Ecclesiastical power belongeth the assembling of Synods, so far as they are spiritual Assemblies proper to the church, and assembled in the holy Ghost; for being so considered, the governors of churches after the example of the Apostles and Presbyters, Acts 15. in a manifest danger of the church, ought to use their own right of meeting together and convening, that the churches endangered may be relieved and supported.
Thirdly, Those powers are differences in respect of their forms, and that three ways: For first the civil Power, although in respect of God it be Ministerial, yet in respect of the Subjects it is Lordly and Magisterial. Ecclesiastical power is indeed furnished with authority, yet that authority is liker the Fatherly then the Kingly authority; Yea also tis purely Ministerial, much less can it be lawful to Ministers of the Church to bear dominion over the flock.
Emperors, Kings and other Magistrates are indeed appointed fathers of the country, but they are withal Lords of their People and Subjects; Not as if it were permitted to them to bear rule and command at their own will and as they list (for they are the Ministers of God for the good and profit of the Subjects) yet it belongs to their power truly and properly to exercise dominion, to hold principality, to proceed imperiously. It is indeed the duty of Ministers and Rulers of the Church to oversee, to feed as shepherds, to correct and rectify, to bear the keys, to be Stewards in the house of Christ, but in no wise to be Lords over the house, or to govern as Lords, or Lordlike to rule; yea in brief, this is the difference between the civil Magistrate and the Ecclesiastical Ministry, in respect of those that are committed to their trust, that the lot of the former is to be served or ministered unto, the lot of the latter to minister or serve.
Now we have one only Lord which governs our souls, neither is it competent to man, but to God alone to have power and authority over consciences. But the Lord hath appointed his own Stewards over his own Family, that according to his commandment they may give to every one their allowance or portion, and to dispense his mysteries faithfully; and to them he hath delivered the keys, or power of letting in into his house, or excluding out of his house those whom he himself will have let in or shut out. Matt. 16. 19. and 18. 18. Luk. 12. 42. 1 Cor. 4. 1. Tit. 1. 7.
Next, the civil power is endued with authority of compelling; But it belongs not to the Ministry to compel the disobedient; if any compulsion be in or about Ecclesiastical matters, tis adventitious from without, to wit, from the help and assistance of the Magistrate, not from the nature of Ecclesiastical power, from which it is very heterogeneous; and therefore if any Suspended or Excommunicate persons should be found, who shall be so stiff-necked, and so impudent that at once he cast off all shame, and make no account at all of those censures, but scorn or contemn the same, or peradventure shall insolently or proudly ingyre and obtrude himself upon the Sacrament, or being also filled with devilish malice, do more and more contradict and blaspheme; the ecclesiastical Ministry in such cases hath nothing more to do by way of jurisdiction: But the Magistrate hath in readiness a compelling jurisdiction and external force, whereby such stubborn, rebellious and undaunted pride may be externally repressed.
Last of all, the power of the Magistrate worketh only politically or civilly, according to the nature of the Scepter or Sword, maketh and guardeth civil Laws, which sometimes also he changeth or repealeth, and other things of that kind he effecteth with a secular power: But the ecclesiastical power dealeth spiritually, and only in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by authority entrusted or received from him alone: neither is it exercised without prayer or calling on the Name of God: nor lastly, doth it use any other then spiritual weapons.
The same sin therefore in the same man may be punished one way by the civil, another way by the ecclesiastical Power; By the civil Power under the formality of a crime, with corporal or pecuniary punishment: By the ecclesiastical Power, under the notion or nature of scandal, with a spiritual censure; even as also the same civil question is one way deliberate upon and handled by the Magistrate in the Senate or place of Judgement; another way by the Minister of the Church, in the Presbytery or Synod: By the Magistrate, so far as it pertaineth to the Government of the Common-wealth; by the Minister, so far as it respects the conscience; for the ecclesiastical Ministry also is exercised about civil things spiritually, in so far as it teacheth and admonisheth the Magistrate out of the Word of God what is best and most acceptable unto God; or as it reproveth freely unjust judgements, unjust wars, and the like, and out of the Scripture threateneth the wrath of God to be revealed against all unrighteousness of men: So also is the Magistrate said to be occupied civilly about spiritual things.
Therefore all the actions of the civil Magistrate, even when he is employed about Ecclesiastical matters, are of their own nature, and essentially, civil. He punisheth externally Idolaters, Blasphemers, Sacrilegious persons, Heretics, Profaners of holy things, and according to the nature and measure of the sin, he condemneth to death or banishment, forfeiture of goods, or imprisonment: he guardeth and underproppeth Ecclesiastical Canons with civil authority, giveth a place of habitation to the Church in his territory, restraineth or expelleth the insolent and untamed disturbers of the Church.
He taketh care also for maintaining the Ministers and Schools, and supplieth the temporal necessities of Gods Servants, by his command assembleth Synods, when there is need of them: and summoneth, calleth out, and draws to trial the unwilling, which without the Magistrates strength and authority cannot be done, as hath bin already said: he maketh Synods also safe and secure, and in a civil way presideth or moderateth in them (if it so seem good to him) either by himself, or by a substitute Commissioner. In all which the power of the Magistrate, though occupied about spiritual things, is not, for all that, spiritual but civil.
Fourthly, they differ in the end: The immediate, nearest end of civil power, is, that the good of the Common-wealth may be provided for and procured, whether it be in time of Peace, according to the rules of Law and counsel of Judges; or in time of War, according to the rules of Military prudence: and so the temporal safety of the Subjects may be procured, and that external Peace and civil Liberty may be preserved, and being lost, may be again restored.
But the chiefest and last end of civil Government is, the glory of God the Creator, namely, that those which do evil, being by a superior power restrained or punished, and those which do good, getting praise of the same, the subjects so much the more may shun impiety and injustice: and that Virtue, Justice and the Moral Law of God (as touching those eternal duties of both Tables, unto which all the posterity of Adam are obliged) may remain in strength, and flourish,
But whereas the Christian Magistrate doth wholly devote himself to the promoting of the Gospel and Kingdom of Christ, and doth direct and bend all the might and strength of his authority to that end: This proceedeth not from the nature of his office and function, which is common to him with an Infidel Magistrate; but from the influence of his common Christian calling into his particular vocation.
For every member of the Church (and so also the faithful and godly Magistrate) ought to refer and order his particular vocation, faculty, ability, power and honor to this end, that the Kingdom of Christ may be propagated and promoted, and the true Religion be cherished and defended: So that the advancement of the Gospel, and of all the Ordinances of the Gospel, is indeed the end of the godly Magistrate: not of a Magistrate simply; or (if ye will rather) tis not the end of the office it self, but of him who doth execute the same piously.
But the end of Ecclesiastical power, yea the end as well of the Ministry it self, as of the godly Minister, is, that the Kingdom of Christ may be set forward, that the paths of the Lord be made straight, that his holy mysteries may be kept pure, that stumbling-blocks may be removed out of the Church, least a little leaven leaven the whole lump; or least one sick or scabbed sheep infect the whole flock; that the faithful may so walk as it becometh the Gospel of Christ, and that the wandering sheep of Christ may be converted and brought back to the sheep-Fold.
And seeing this power is given of the Lord, not to destruction but to edification; Therefore this same scope is propounded in Excommunication, (which is the greatest and last of Ecclesiastical censures) namely, that the soul of an offending brother may be gained to Christ, and that being stricken with fear, and the stubborn sinner filled with shame, may by the grace of God be humbled, and may (as a brand plucked out of the fire) be snatched out of the snare of the Devil, and may repent unto salvation; at least, the rest may turn away from those which are branded with such a censure, least the soul infection do creep and spread further.
Fifthly, they are distinguished by the effect. The effect of civil power is either proper or by way of redundance: The proper effect is the safety temporal of the Common-wealth, external tranquility, the fruition of civil Liberty, and of all things which are necessary to the civil Society of men. The effect, by way of redundance, is the good of the Church, to wit, in so far as by execution of Justice and good Laws, some impediments that usually hinder and disturb the course of the Gospel, are avoided or taken away.
For by how much the more faithfully the Magistrate executeth his office in punishing the wicked, and cherishing and encouraging good men, taking away those things which withstand the Gospel, and punishing or driving away the troublers and subverters of the Church; so much the more the orthodox Faith and Godliness are reverenced and had in estimation, sins are hated and feared: Finally, and all the subjects contained (as much as concerneth the outward man) within the lists of God’s Law: Whence also by consequence in happeneth, by God’s blessing, that the Church is defiled with fewer scandals, and doth obtain the more freedom and Peace.
But the proper effect of the Ecclesiastical power, or keys of the Kingdom of Heaven is wholly spiritual; for the act of binding and loosing, of retaining and remitting sins, doth reach to the soul and conscience it self (which cannot be said of the act of the civil power:) And as unjust Excommunication is void, so Ecclesiastical censure being inflicted by the Ministers of Christ, and his Stewards, according to his will, is ratified in Heaven, Mat. 18. 18. and therefore ought to be esteemed and acknowledged in like manner as inflicted by Christ himself.
Sixthly, they are also differenced in respect of the Subject: The politick power is committed sometimes to one, sometimes to more, sometime by right of election, sometime by right of succession: But the Ecclesiastical power is competent to none under the New Testament by the right of succession, but he who hath it, must be called, by God and the Church, to it; neither was it given by Christ to one, either Pastor or Elder, much less to a Prelate, but to the Church, that is, to the consistory of Presbyters. ‘Tis confessed indeed, and who can be ignorant of it, that the power (as they call it) of order, doth belong to particular Ministers, and is by each of them apart lawfully exercised? but that power which is commonly called of jurisdiction, is committed not to one, but to the unity, that is, to a consistory; therefore Ecclesiastical censure ought not to be inflicted, but by many. 2 Cor. 2. 6.
Seventhly, they differ as touching the correlative: God hath commanded, that unto the civil power, every soul, or all Members of the Common-wealth, of what condition and estate soever, be subject; for what have we to do with the Papists, who will have them, whom they call the Clergy or Ecclesiastical persons, to be free from the yoke of the civil Magistrate? The Ecclesiastical power extends it self to none other subjects, then unto those which are called Brethren, or Members of the Church.
Eighthly, there remaineth another difference in respect of the distinct and divided exercise of authority. For either power ceasing from its duty, or remitting punishment, that doth not (surely it ought not) prejudice the exercise of the other power; namely, if the Magistrate cease to do his duty, or do neglect to punish with secular punishment, those malefactors which by profession are Church Members: Nevertheless, it is in the power of the Governors of the Church, by the bridle of Ecclesiastical Discipline, to curb such men; yea also, by virtue of their office they are bound to do it; and on the other part, the Magistrate may, and ought to punish in life and limb, honors or goods, notwithstanding the offenders repentance, or reconciliation with the Church.
Therefore the one sword being put up in the scabbard, it is free, and often necessary to draw the other. Neither power is bound to cast out, or receive him, whom the other doth cast forth or receive: The reason whereof is, because the Ecclesiastical Ministry doth chiefly respect the repentance to salvation, and gaining of the sinners soul; wherefore it also embraceth all kind of wicked men repenting, and receiveth them into the bosom of the Church. The Magistrate proposeth to himself another, and much differing scope; for even repenting offenders are by him punished, both that Justice and the Laws may be satisfied, as also to terrify others; hence it is, that absolution from Ecclesiastic censure, freeth not at all the Delinquent, from civil Judgment, and that external sword.
Seeing then there are so many and so great differences of both Offices, and seeing also, that the function of Ministers and Elders of the Church, is not at all contained in the office of the Magistrate; neither on the other part, this is comprehended within that; Magistrates shall no less sin in usurping Ecclesiastical power, ministering holy things, ordaining Ministers, or exercising Discipline Ecclesiastical, then Ministers should sin in rushing into the borders of the Magistrate, and in thrusting themselves into his calling.
Neither are those powers more mingled one with other, or less distinguished, where the Magistrate is a Christian, then where he is an Infidel; For, as in a believing Father and in an Infidel Father, the rights of a Father are the same, so in a Christian Magistrate, and in an Infidel Magistrate, the rights of Magistrates are the same: So that to the Magistrate converted to the Christian Faith, there is no accession of new right, or increase of civil power, although being endued with true Faith and Piety, he is made more fit and willing to the undergoing of his office and the doing of his duty.
So then the Word of God and the Law of Christ, which by so evident difference, separateth and distinguisheth Ecclesiastical Government from the Civil, forbiddeth the Christian Magistrate to enter upon, or usurp the Ministry of the Word and Sacraments, or the juridical dispensing of the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, to invade the Church-Government, or to challenge to himself the right of both swords, spiritual and corporal: But if any Magistrate (which God forbid) should dare to arrogate to himself so much, and to enlarge his skirts so far, the Church shall then straight way be constrained to complain justly, and cry out, that though the Pope is changed, yet Popedom remaineth still.
It is unlawful moreover to a Christian Magistrate, to withstand the practice and execution of Ecclesiastical Discipline, (whether it be that which belongs to a particular Church, or the matter be carried to a Class or Synod:) Now the Magistrate withstandeth the Ecclesiastic Discipline, either by prohibitions and unjust Laws, or by his evil example, stirring up, and inciting others to the contempt thereof, or to the trampling it under foot.
Surely the Christian Magistrate (if any time he give any grievous scandal to the Church,) seeing he also is a member of the Church, ought no ways disdain to submit himself to the power of the keys; Neither is this to be marveled at: for even as the office of the Minister of the Church is no ways subordinate and subjected to the civil power, but the person of the Minister, as he is a member of the Common-wealth, is subject thereto: So the civil power it self, or the Magistrate, as a Magistrate, is not subjected to Ecclesiastic power; yet that man who is a Magistrate ought (as he is a member of the Church) to be under the Churches censure of his manners, after the example of the Emperor Theodosius, unless he will despise and set at naught Ecclesiastic Discipline, and indulge the swelling pride of the flesh.
If any man should again object that the Magistrate is not indeed to resist Ecclesiastical Government, yet that the abuses thereof are to be corrected and taken away by him: The answer is ready, in the worst and troublesome times, or in the decayed and troubled estate of things, when the ordinance of God in the Church, is violently turned into tyranny, to the treading down of true Religion, and to the oppressing of the Professors thereof, and when nothing almost is sound or whole, divers things are yielded to be lawful to godly Magistrates, which are not ordinarily lawful for them, that so to extraordinary diseases, extraordinary remedies may be applied. So also the Magistrate abusing his power unto tyranny, and making havoc of all, tis lawful to resist him by some extraordinary ways and means, which are not ordinarily to be allowed.
Yet ordinarily and by common or known Law and Right in settled Churches, if any man have recourse to the Magistrate to complain, that through abuse of Ecclesiastic Discipline, injury is done to him, or if any sentence of the Pastors and Elders of the Church, whether concerning Faith or Discipline, do displease or seem unjust unto the Magistrate himself; it is not for that cause lawful to draw those Ecclesiastical causes to a civil tribunal, or to bring in a kind of political or civil Popedom.
What then? Shall it be lawful ordinarily for Ministers and Elders to do what they list, or shall the Governors in the Churches, glorying in the Law, by their transgression dishonor God? God forbid. For first, if they shall trespass in any thing against the Magistrate or municipal Laws, whether by intermeddling in judging of civil causes, or otherwise disturbing the peace and order of the Common-wealth, they are liable to civil trial and judgments, as it is in the power of the Magistrate to restrain and punish them.
Again it hath been before shewed, that to Ecclesiastical evils Ecclesiastical remedies are appointed and fitted, for the Church is no less than the Common-wealth, through the grace of God, sufficient to it self in reference unto her own end: and as in the Common-wealth, so in the Church, the error of inferior judgments and Assemblies, or their evil Government, is to be corrected by superior judgments and Assemblies, and so still by them of the same order, lest one order be confounded with another, or one Government be intermingled with another Government. What shall now the adversaries of Ecclesiastical power object here, which those who admit not the yoke of the Magistrate may not be ready in like manner to transfer against the civil Judicatories and Government of the Common-wealth? Seeing it happeneth sometimes that the Common-wealth is no less ill Governed then the Church.
If any man shall prosecute the argument, and say, that yet no remedy is here shewed, which may be applied to the injustice or error of a National Synod: surely he stumbleth against the same stone, seeing he weigheth not the matter with an equal balance; for the same may in like sort fall back and be cast upon Parliaments, or any supreme Senate of a Common-wealth: for who seeth not the judgment of the supreme civil Senate to be nothing more infallible, yea also in matters of Faith and Ecclesiastical Discipline, more apt and prone to Error (as being less accustomed to sacred Studies) then the judgment of the National Synod? what medicines then, or what sovereign plasters shall be had, which may be fit for the curing and healing of the Errors and miscarriages of the supreme Magistrate and Senate? The very like, and beside all this, other and more effectual medicines, by which the Errors of National Synods may be healed, are possible to be had.
There wanteth not a Divine Medicine, and Sovereign Balm in Gilead; for although the Popish opinion of the infallibility of Counsels, be worthily rejected and exploded; yet tis not in vain that Christ hath promised, he shall be present with an Assembly, which in deed and in truth, meeteth together in his Name; with such an Assembly, verily he useth to be present by a spiritual aide and assistance of his own Spirit, to uphold the falling, or to raise up the fallen. Whence it is, that divers times the Errors of former Synods are discovered and amended by the latter: sometimes also the second, or after thoughts of one and the same Synod are the wiser and the better.
Furthermore, the line of Ecclesiastical Subordination is longer and further stretched, then the line of civil Subordination; for a National Synod must be subordinate and subject to an Universal Synod, in the manner aforesaid, whereas yet there is no Ecumenical Parliament, or general civil Court acknowledged, unto which the supreme civil Senate, in this or that Nation, should be subject. Finally, neither is the Church altogether destitute of nearer remedies, whether an universal counsel may be had or not.
For the National Synod ought to declare, and that with greatest reverence, to the Magistrate, the grounds of their sentence, and the reasons of their proceedings, when he demandeth or enquireth into the same, and desireth to be satisfied: but if the Magistrate nevertheless do dissent, or cannot by contrary reasons (which may be brought, if he please) move the Synod to alter their judgment, yet may he require, and procure, that the matter be again debated and canvassed in another National Synod; and so the reasons on both sides being thoroughly weighed, may be lawfully determined in an Ecclesiastical way.
But as there is much indeed to be given to the demand of the Magistrate; so is there here a two-fold caution to be used: For first, notwithstanding of a future revision, it is necessary that the former sentence of the Synod, whether concerning the administration of Ecclesiastic Discipline, or against any Heresy, be forthwith put in execution; least by lingering and making of delays, the evil of the Church take deeper root, and the gangrene spread and creep further: and least violence be done to the Consciences of Ministers, if they be constrained to impart the signs and seals of the Covenant of Grace to dogs and swine, that is, to unclean persons, wallowing in the mire of ungodliness; and least subtle men abuse such interims or intervals, so as that Ecclesiastical Discipline altogether decay, and the very decrees of Synods be accounted as cobwebs, which none feareth to break down.
Next it may be granted, that the matter may be put under a further examination, yet upon condition, that when it is come to the revision of the former sentence, regard may be had of the weaker which are found willing to be taught, though they doubt, but that unto the wicked and contentious tempters, which do mainly strive to oppress our liberty which we have in Christ, and to bring us into bondage, we do not for a moment give place by subjecting our selves: For what else seek they or wait for, then that under the pretense of a revising and of new debate, they cast in lets and impediments ever and anon, and that by cunning lyings in wait, they may betray the liberty of the Church, and in process of time may by open violence, more forcibly break in upon it, or at least, constrain the Ministers of the Church to weave Penelope’s web, which they can never bring to an end.
Moreover, the Christian Magistrate hath then only discharged his office in reference to Ecclesiastical Discipline, when not only he withdraweth nothing from it, and maketh no impediment to it, but also affordeth special furtherance and help to it, according to the Prophecy, Isai. 49. 23. And Kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and Queens thy nursing mothers.
For Christian Magistrates and Princes embracing Christ, and sincerely giving their names to him, do not only serve him as men, but also use their office to his glory, and the good of the Church: they defend, stand for, and take care to propagate the true Faith and Godliness, they afford places of habitation to the Church, and furnish necessary helps and supports, turn away injuries done to it, restrain false Religion, and cherish, underprop, and defend the Rights and Liberties of the Church: so far they are from diminishing, changing or restraining those Rights, for so the condition of the Church were in that respect worse, and the Liberty thereof more cut short, under the Christian Magistrate, then under the infidel or heathen.
Wherefore seeing these nursing fathers, favorers and defenders, can do nothing against the Truth, but for the Truth, nor have any right against the Gospel, but for the Gospel; and their power in respect of the Church, whereof they bear the care, being not privative or destructive, but cumulative and auxiliary, thereby it is sufficiently clear, that they ought to cherish, and by their authority, ought to establish the Ecclesiastical Discipline; but yet not with implicit Faith, or blind obedience: For the Reformed Churches do not deny to any of the faithful, much less to the Magistrate, the judgment of Christian prudence and discretion, concerning those things which are decreed or determined by the Church.
Therefore, as to each Member of the Church respectively, so unto the Magistrate belongeth the judgment of such things, both to apprehend and to judge of them; for although the Magistrate is not ordained and preferred of God, that he should be a judge of matters and causes spiritual, of which there is controversy in the Church: Yet is he questionless judge of his own civil act, about spiritual things; namely, of defending them in his own Dominions, and of approving or tolerating the same; and if in this business he judge and determine according to the wisdom of the flesh, and not according to the wisdom which is from above, he is to render an account thereof before the supreme Tribunal.
However the Ecclesiastical Discipline, according as it is ordained by Christ, whether it be established and ratified by civil authority, or not, ought to be retained and exercised in the Society of the faithful (as long as it is free and safe for them to come together in holy Assemblies) for the want of civil authority is unto the Church like a ceasing gain, but not like Damage or loss ensuing; as it superaddeth nothing more, so it takes nothing away.
If it further happen (which God forbid) that the Magistrate do so far abuse his authority, that he doth straightly forbid what Christ hath ordained; yet the constant and faithful servants of Christ, will resolve and determine with themselves, that any extremities are rather to be undergone, then that they should obey such things, and that we ought to obey God rather then men; yea they will not leave off to perform all the parts of their office, being ready, in the mean time, to render a reason of their practice to every one that demandeth it, but specially unto the Magistrate, (as was said before.)
These things are not to that end and purpose proposed, that these functions should be opposed one against another, in a hostile posture, or in terms of enmity, then which nothing is more hurtful to the Church and Common-wealth, nothing more execrable to them who are truly and sincerely zealous for the house of God (for they have not so learned Christ:) but the aim is, First and above all, that unto the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ the only Monarch of the Church, his own prerogative Royal (of which also himself in the World was accused, and for his witnessing a good confession thereof before Pontius Pilate, was unjustly condemned to death) may be fully maintained and defended.
Next, this debate also tendeth to this end, that the power as well of Ecclesiastical censure as of the civil sword being in force, the licentiousness of carnal men, which desire that there be too slack Ecclesiastical Discipline or none at all, may be bridled, and so men may sin less, and may live more agreeably to the Gospel. Another thing here intended is, that errors on both sides being overthrown, (as well the error of those who under a fair pretense of maintaining and defending the rights of Magistracy, do leave to the Church either no power, or that which is too weak; as the error of others, who under the vail of a certain suppositious and imaginary Christian Liberty, do turn off the yoke of the Magistrate) both powers may enjoy their own Privileges; add hereto that both powers being circumscribed with their distinct borders and bounds, and also the one underpropped and strengthened by the help of the other, a holy concord between them may be nourished, and they may mutually and friendly embrace one another.
Last of all, seeing there are not wanting some unhappy men, who cease not to pervert the right ways of the Lord, and with all diligence go about to shake off the yoke of the Ecclesiastical Discipline, where now tis about to be introduced, yea also where it hath been long ago established, and as yet happily remaineth in force, it was necessary to obviate their most wicked purposes; Which things being so, let all which hath been said, pass with the good leave and liking of those orthodox Churches in which the Discipline of Excommunication is not as yet in use: neither can any offence easily arise to them from hence; yea (if the best conjecture do not deceive) they cannot but rejoice and congratulate at the defense and vindication of this Discipline.
For those Churches do not deny but acknowledge and teach, that the Discipline of Excommunication is most agreeable to the Word of God, as also that it ought to be restored and exercised; Which also heretofore the most learned Zachary Ʋrsin, in the declaration of his judgment concerning Excommunication, exhibited to Prince Frederick the third, Count Elector Palatine, the title whereof is, Judicium de Disciplina Ecclesiastica & Excommunicatione, &c.
For thus he, In other Churches, where either no Excommunication is in use, or tis not lawfully administered, and nevertheless without all controversy, it is confessed and openly taught, that it ought justly to be received and be of force in the Church: and a little after, Lest also your Highness by this new opinion do sever your self and your Churches from all other Churches, as well those which have not Excommunication, as those which have it: Forasmuch as all of them do unanimously confess, and always confessed, that there is reason why it ought to be in use.
To the same purpose it tendeth which the highly esteemed Philip Melanchthon in his Common places, chap. of civil Magistrates, doth affirm: Before (saith he) I warned that civil Places and Powers are to be distinguished from the adhering confusions which arise from other causes, partly from the malice of the devil, partly from the malice of men, partly from the common infirmity of men, as it cometh to pass in other kinds of life and Government ordained of God. No man doubteth, that Ecclesiastical Government is ordained of God, and yet how many and great disorders grow in it from other causes. Where he mentioneth a Church Government distinct from the civil, and that jure divino, as a thing uncontroverted.
Neither were the wishes of the chief Divines of Zurich and Berne wanting, for the recalling and restoring of the discipline of Excommunication. So Bullinger upon 1 Cor. 5. And hitherto (saith he) of the Ecclesiastical chastising of wickedness, but here I would have the brethren diligently warned, that they watch, and with all diligence take care that this wholesome medicine, thrown out of the true Church by occasion of the Popes avarice, may be reduced, that is, that scandalous sins be punished: for this is the very end of Excommunication, that men's manners may be well ordered, and the Saints flourish, the profane being restrained, lest wicked men by their impudency and impiety increase and undo all. It is our part, ô brethren, with greatest diligence to take care of these things; for we see that Paul in this place doth stir up those that were negligent in this business.
Aretius agreeth hereunto. Problem. Theolog. loc, 33. Magistrates do not admit the yoke, they are afraid for their honours, they love licentiousness, &c. The common people is too dissolute, the greatest part is most corrupt, &c. In the mean while I willingly confess, that we are not to despair, but the age following will peradventure yield more tractable spirits, more mild hearts, then our times have. See also Lavater agreeing in this, Homil. 52. on Nehem. Because the Popes of Rome have abused Excommunication for the establishing of their own tyranny, it cometh to pass, that almost no just Discipline can be any more settled in the Church, but unless the wicked be restrained, all things must of necessity run into the worst condition, See besides, the opinion of Fabritius, upon Psal. 149. 6, 7, 8, 9. of spiritual corrections, which he groundeth upon that Text compared with Matt. 16. 19. and 18. 18. John 20. 23.
It can hardly be doubted or called in question, but besides these, other learned and Godly Divines of those Churches were and are of the same mind herein, with those now cited; and indeed the very Confession of Faith of the Churches of Helvetia, Chap. 18. may be an evidence hereof. But there ought to be in the mean time a just Discipline amongst Ministers, for the doctrine and life of Ministers is diligently to be enquired of in Synods: Those that sin are to be rebuked of the Elders, and to be brought again into the way, if they be curable; or to be deposed, and like wolves driven away from the flock of the Lord, if they be incurable. That this manner of Synodical censure, namely of deposing Ministers from their office for some great scandal, is used in the republic of Zurich, Lavater is witness, in his book of the Rites and Ordinances of the Church of Zurich, Chap. 23. Surely they could not be of that mind, that Ecclesiastical Discipline ought to be exercised upon Delinquent Ministers only, and not also upon other rotten Members of the Church.
Yea the Helvetian Confession in the place now cited, doth so tax the inordinate zeal of the Donatists and Anabaptists (which are so bent upon the rooting out of the tares out of the Lords field, that they take not heed of the danger of plucking up the wheat) that withal it doth not obscurely commend the Ecclesiastical Forensical Discipline, as distinct from the civil Power, and seeing (say they) 'tis altogether necessary that there be in the Church a Discipline; and among the Ancients in times past Excommunication hath been usual, and Ecclesiastical Courts have been among the People of God, among whom this Discipline was exercised by prudent and goods men; It belongeth also to Ministers according to the case of the times, the public estate and necessity, to moderate this Discipline; Where this rule is ever to be held, that all ought to be done to edification, decently, honestly, without tyranny and sedition; The Apostle also witnesseth, 2 Cor. 13. that to himself, was given of God a Power unto edification, and not unto destruction.
And now what resteth, but that God be entreated with continual and ardent Prayers, both that he would put into the hearts of all Magistrates, zeal and care to cherish, defend, and guard the Ecclesiastic Discipline, together with the rest of Christ’s Ordinances, and to stop their ears against the importunate suits of whatsoever clawbacks [flatters or sycophants], which would stir them up against the Church; and that also all Governors and Rulers of Churches, being every where furnished and helped with the strength of the holy Spirit, may diligently and faithfully execute this part also of their function, as it becometh the trusty servants of Christ, which study to please their own Lord and Master, more than men.
Finally, all those who are more averse from Ecclesiastic Discipline, or ill affected against it, are to be admonished and entreated through our Lord Jesus Christ, that they be no longer entangled and inveigled with carnal prejudice, to give place in this thing to humane affections, and to measure by their own corrupt reason spiritual Discipline, but that they do seriously think with themselves, and consider in their minds, how much better it were, that the lusts of the flesh were as with a bridle tamed, and that the repentance, amendment, and gaining of vicious men unto salvation may be sought, then that sinners be left to their own disposition, and be permitted to follow their own lusts without controlment, and by their evil example to draw others headlong into ruin with themselves: and seeing either the keys of Discipline must take no rust, or the manners of Christians will certainly contract much rust: what is here to be chosen, and what is to be shunned, let the Wise and Godly, who alone take to heart the safety of the Church, judge.