of the General Assembly of the Church of
Scotland, now at L O N D O N.
Reformation of Church-Government in Scotland, cleared from some mistakes and prejudices.
While we, the meanest of many [of] our Brethren for a time separated from our particular callings and stations, and sent forth into this Kingdom for a more public employment, are in all humility and patience waiting, what the Lord who is about some great work in his Church, (for which are raised so great Commotions in these and other Kingdoms of the earth) will be pleased to do for Reformation of Religion; the great work of the honorable houses of Parliament, and the Reverend assembly of Divines, and for Uniformity in Religion, so much desired by all the godly in the three Kingdoms: Unto which an entrance is made by a solemn League and Covenant. We find ourselves bound against the prejudices and mistakings of some, who in the dark are afraid of that which they know not, and suffer their affections of love and hatred to run before their understanding; and against the misrepresentations and indirect aspersions of others, who do so commend their own way, that the reformed Churches thereby suffer disparagement; To give that testimony unto the order and government of the reformed Churches, and particularly of the Church of Scotland, which they do well deserve, and to honor them whom the Lord hath so highly honored. In advancing the Kingdom of his Son, in the converting and saving of so many souls, and in opposing and suppressing a wonderful blessing upon their order and Government.
In this our humble testimony and true relation; unto which we are at this time thus necessitate, we shall endeavor nothing but a simple and innocent manifestation and defense, without desire or intention to give the smallest offense to any who fear God, love the truth, and desire to walk in truth and in love with their Brethren. This our profession, weare confident will find credit with all that know us, and have observed our ways since our coming into this Kingdom, which have been and, (so far as the truth will suffer us) ever shall be, to unite and not to divide, to compose rather th[a]n to create differences; which we conceive also to be one principle end, of the calling of the Assembly of Divines, and which all the members of the Assembly, against all particular interests, are after a special manner engaged, to aim at and endeavor.
The order and Government of the reformed Churches in the beauty and strength thereof, as it is not hid in a corner, wrapped up in a Mystery, or covered under a cloud of darkness; but is known to the Nations and Kingdoms of the earth, openly professed and practiced in the eyes of the world and clearly seen as a City that is set on a hill, in the light of the sun at noon day: So is it commended and already confirmed by a long track of time, and the experience of many years and hath been countenanced from Heaven and blessed from above, with the preservation of the truth and unity of Religion against Heresies and errors in Doctrine, Idolatry and corruptions in worship, and all sorts of sects and schisms wherewith it hath been continually assaulted: How goodly are thy Tents O Jacob, and thy Tabernacles O Israel, &c. It hath made the Church of Christ terrible as an Army with banners, and like a strong and fenced City, against which the Adversaries have despaired to prevail, but by making a breach in this wall, and where they have gained ground or gotten any advantage, either the wall hath not been built, or being built hath been broken down, or not vigilantly kept by the Watchmen.
The instruments which the Lord used in the blessed work of Reformation of the Church of Scotland (we speak not of the reformers of other Churches) were not only learned and holy men, but had somewhat in their calling, gifts, and zeal to the glory of God, more th[a]n ordinary: Their adversaries were not able to resist the wisdom and Spirit by which they spoke, some of them had a prophetical Spirit manifested in divers particular and wonderful predictions, and some of them were honored to be martyrs, & sealed the truth with their blood. So that in them, in the people of God converted by them, and in the Reformation brought about by the blessing of God upon their labors, against all the learning, pride, policy, and abused power of the time, there was to be seen a representation of the primitive and apostolic times and a new resurrection from the dead. After them also did the Lord raise up in the Church of Scotland many burning and shining lights, men of the same spirit, mighty in converting of souls, walking in the same way, and who communicated their counsels & kept correspondence with divines of other nations, and with the greatest and purest lights in the Church of England, in the point of Reformation and settling of Church-government, which at that time was the common study and endeavor of both, and wherein they and their successors continued, til the times of defection, which made an unhappy interruption of the work. What men are like to do in aftertimes we cannot foresee; but we have not seen or heard of any to this day, far[th]er from partiality and prejudice in the matters of God, th[a]n their ways witness them to have been; and were they now living we believe there would be none in the reformed Churches, so far swayed with partiality or prejudice, that would deny them this testimony.
They had no other rule and pattern of Reformation, but the word of God, and the practice of the apostolic Churches in the Word. All the books of God are perfect, the book of life, the book of nature, the book of providence, and especially the book of Scripture, which was [in]dited by the Holy Ghost to be a perfect directory to all the Churches, unto the second coming of Jesus Christ; but so that it presupposeth the light and law of nature, or the rules of common prudence, to be our guide in circumstances of things local, temporal, and personal, which being Ecclesiastico Politica, are common to the Church with civil societies, and concerning which, the word giveth general rules to be universally and constantly observed by all persons, in all times and places: Of things of this kind a godly wise divine giveth two rules: One is, that the physician cannot by sending his letter to the patient appoint the diet and bath, the pulse must be touched, and as it is in the proverbial speech, gladiatorem oportet in arena capere consilium [the gladiator in the arena should take counsel]. The other is, that in things of this kind, when the change is not to the better, it is both without and against reason to make a change; without reason, because when the change is made unto that which is but as good, the one and the other in reason are equal: Against reason, because the change itself in such a case, is an hindrance to edification, favoureth of the love of innovation, and derogateth to the authority which maketh the constitution.
What they had once received, not upon probable grounds in way of conjecture, but upon the warrant of the word, and by the teaching of the Spirit with certainty of faith, that they resolved to hold fast and did hate every false way contrary unto it. They did not in the matters of religion rest upon A Skeptical or Pyrrhonian uncertainty (the charge of the Orthodox Divines against the tenets of Arminians and Socinians) which keepeth the mind uncertain and unstable, is a fountain of perpetual alterations in the Church of God, an open door to all heresies and schisms to enter by, and a ground of despairing to bring questions and controversies to a final issue and determination. And for us, as upon the one part, we not only conceive that no man attaineth so full of assurance of faith, in any matter of religion, but he may receive increase of his faith, & therefore should always have his mind open & ready to receive more light from the word and Spirit of God: but also do ingenuously acknowledge (as we have formerly professed) that we are most willing to hear and learn from the word of God, what needeth further to be reformed in the Church of Scotland: Yet God forbid that we should never come to any certainty of persuasion, or that we should ever be learning, and never come to the knowledge of the truth; we ought to be resolute and unmovable in so far as we have attained; & this we take to be the ground, as of other practices, so also of covenants and oaths, both assertory and promissory, in matters of religion.
As they held it not sufficient, to receive or retain some such practices, as other reformed Churches judge warrantable, for thus they should have rested upon some few principles & beginnings of reformation, & might have differed as much in other things from the reformed Churches, as they agreed in some things with them, so can it not be satisfactory, that any Church should only practice some things, universally, received in the reformed Churches (1) All Christian Churches although very different in ordinances and practices, yet do agree in some things, (2) If our desire of Uniformity with other reformed Churches, and the reverend esteem we have of them, draw us to conform to them in some things; upon the same reason we ought to join in all things wherein they do all agree amongst themselves, (3) Differences about negatives and the denying of profession and practice in other matters wherein they are all unanimous and uniform, may prove no less dangerous and destructive, then differences about affirmatives.
The Arians, Socinians, and many others do err dangerously in denying some positive points, and received principles of the doctrine of the reformed Churches concerning the person of Christ and his offices. The Antinomians also (if we should mention them) do also agree with us in the principles of grace, but in their superstructures and conclusions, run in a way destructive to the doctrine & deductions of the apostolic and reformed Churches, and to the principles received by themselves, (4) Such Churches, as make profession of differences only in negatives, or in denying some practices received in the reformed Churches, have received and do hold some positive practices of their own, which the reformed Churches do not allow, and which to them are negative. Of this (would we suffer ourselves to descend into particulars) we might give diverse known instances; now if they do not allow of the reformed Churches, in so far as they do not admit of these their positive practices, how shall they think that the reformed Churches can allow them in the like: for the rule is, wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself, for thou that judge dost the same things.
They did honor Luther, Calvin, and many others whether their predecessors or contemporaries, who had heart or hand especially in an eminent degree, in the blessed work of reformation: for their direction they use of the light which such notable servants of Jesus Christ, did hold forth, in doctrine & discipline, and in all thankfulness they did desire and wish, that their names might be had in eternal remembrance: Nor was it possible that so great an alteration as the corrupt state of the Church required could be effected, and not carry some remembrance of the instruments: but for this to call us Calvinians & the reformed Churches, Calvinian reformed Churches, is to disgrace the true Churches of Christ, & to symbolize with the Papists, who call themselves the Catholic Church, & hold the rule delivered by Hierome [Jerome] against the Luciferians: if any where we find men professing Christianity, called by the particular names of men, know them to be the Synagogue of Antichrist, and not the Church of Christ. The separation may be well allowed to be called Brownists, and others from the matter wherein they err, and part from all, not only the reformed, but Christian Churches, as the Monothelites of old, & the Anabaptists now, may bear their own names. They who apprehend any danger in names (as there is a great deal of danger in them) ought not to appropriate unto their own opinion, that which is common to all the reformed Churches, not to join with Papists in giving names of sects unto the reformed Churches; & they who conceive no evil in so doing, ought not to offend, that names are given unto them, especially since their differences from the reformed Churches, must be designed under some name and notion, and in this case charity commands the mildest names, such as hint most clearly at the difference and are far[th]est from reproach, to be attributed unto them, as most discriminative and tolerable.
Nothing was far[th]er from their thoughts & intentions, then to frame in their own forge a lesbian [bendable] rule answerable to any particular form of civil polity or compliable with state ends. That they looked with singleness of mind to the rule of Scripture, we give these three evidences (1) The great pains they took in searching the will of God, & after they had found it, their grievous sufferings from the civil authority in defense thereof, of both which afterward in the own place (2) The restless objection & continual opposition of politic men & court sycophants against presbyterial government, as incompatible with Monarchy & their manners, (3) And the necessary assertion of the true policy of the Church by Divines in both kingdoms (between whom there was no notable difference) demonstrating that it was in it self unalterable, because divine, and yet compliable with every lawful kind of human policy and civil government, and able to keep a whole Kingdom or state in a right & sure of religion. Our chiefest reformers, had indeed their education in other Churches, which was the goodness of God to them and us: there did they see examples of reformation, & converted with other reformers, by whom they were taught from the words in the ways of God, & thence did they bring (as the Romans their laws of old from Greece and other Nations) models of Church-government, that comparing one with another, they might fix upon that which was built upon the foundation of the apostles: like as we account it no small happiness that we have been educated in the Church of Scotland, and are acquainted with the practice of Church government there, which giveth us much light and confidence against such scruples and doubtings as are powerful enough to suspend the assent of others, who by reason of their education in other Churches, are strangers unto it. Nor do we know a reason why education in sound doctrine & true worship, should be accounted a matter of thanksgiving to God, and yet should glory in this, that we are not by education engaged in any one form of discipline and Church-government; but left to ourselves to be molded by our own private thoughts.
They intended & designed from the beginning, the government of the Church by assemblies and presbyteries, although they could not attain that perfection at first in the infancy of reformation, but gave place to necessity, which in such cases is universal, & in this they followed the example and practice of the Churches planted by the apostles, which if not at first, yet afterward were of greater number in one city, than did or could ordinarily assemble in one place for the worship of God, & therefore had a plurality of pastors and officers, which made up a common Presbytery for governing the whole. They set up such officers in the Church, as were both necessary and sufficient for the Church: pastors, teaches, ruling elders, and deacons. They did not permit such as are called lay-men and intended to continue such, to preach or prophesy in the congregation, nor did they admit of any other ruling elders, but such as are solemnly elected & ordained, although they do maintain themselves upon their own means, and attend their own particular callings, which is not incompatible with their office, especially they being appointed in a number competent and proportionable to the number of the people and quantity of the congregation; and their ecclesiastical charge, not being pastoral, nor requiring any great meditation of study apart, but such as they may easily attend without neglect of their own particular affairs.
What shall be rendered unto the magistrate by others whose particular tenets are not yet known either to the church or magistrate, unless it be in a hid and secret way, unto which we are not privy, we cannot determine: but the doctrine of the reformed Churches concerning the honor & obedience due to the magistrate is openly known by their confessions of faith and long continued practices, and this much we know that the principles both of civil & Church-government, are laid out in Scripture, & therefore the one cannot be contrary to the other, or they inconsistent between themselves. Nor do we measure the power of the magistrate by the principles of Presbyterial government, but both of them by the word, & therefore deny not unto the magistrate what God giveth them; and more th[a]n this, dare we not profess for any respect to ourselves, or to the form of Ecclesiastical government professed by us: how much, and for what ends, the Pagans and Infidels of old, the Papists, Prelates, & Arminians of late, have labored to make the way of Christ hateful to princes and magistrates, is too well known and hath been bitterly felt, yet God hath cursed this policy in the end. There may be good reason to express our judgment of this or other points of duty from Scripture: but to avouch when we are not challenged, and that only in the general by way of comparison, that we ascribe more to the magistrate, th[a]n the reformed Churches do, they being faithful to their own principles of Ecclesiastical government, may suffer a harder construction, th[a]n we ourselves would willingly undergo, or put upon the intentions of men who seek not their own things, but the things of Jesus Christ.
As the blessed instruments of reformation proceeded by no other rule but the word of God: so did they with great judgment, and learning, which they had in a measure above others, examine and frame all things diligently and exactly according to the rule; & although the reformers in England were either altogether, or for the greater part taken up with the doctrine: yet in the Church of Scotland it was otherwise: after the doctrine was established, which was speedily done, they were exercised in conferences & assemblies, with debating the matters of discipline and government above the space of 20 years, which endured much opposition from authority, from worldly men, and from the adversaries of the truth, both prelatical on the one hand, and upon the other hand Separatists, of which sort some came into Scotland from England, which was unto them a whetstone to quicken them, and to make them the more circumspect and exact in their way, which lay in the middle betwixt Episcopacy upon the one hand, & popular confusion on the other. It pleased the Lord whose presence and blessing they sought after in these days with frequent prayer and humiliation both in private and in the public national assemblies, so to assist and lead them in all truth; that the Church of Scotland was honored from abroad, both from England & other nations, with the testimony of such a reformation, as other Churches accounted to be the greatest happiness upon earth, & when they were wishing after a reformation, they made it the measure of their wishes. We would willingly shun comparisons, were we not brought upon this strain: we do upon very good reason judge the Church of England in the midst of her ceremonies, to have been a true Church, & the ministry thereof, notwithstanding the many blemishes & corruptions cleaving unto it, to have been a true ministry, and shall never deny unto them that praise, whether in debating controversies with Papists, or in practical divinity for private Christians, which they do most justly deserve. Upon the other part, we are neither so ignorant nor so arrogant, as to ascribe to the Church of Scotland such absolute purity and perfection, as hath not need or cannot admit of further reformation. Yet that there is a wide difference betwixt the one & the other acknowledged also in the common covenant; we bring two famous witnesses from the Church of England to prove: the one is Brightman; Loath would I be (saith he, speaking of the Church of Scotland) to provoke any man to envy, or to grieve him with my words: yet this I must say, there is no place where the doctrine soundeth more purely, the worship of God is exercised more incorruptly; where more faithful diligence of the pastor doth flourish; or more free or willing obedience is given by the people, nor yet where there is greater reverencing of the whole religion amongst all orders. And afterwards; Neither doth it only keep the doctrine of salvation free from corruption, but it doth also both deliver in waiting & exercise in practice that sincere manner of government whereby men are made partakers of salvation, Revel of the Apocal. Chap. 37. The other is Cartwright: yea, the Scottish Nation, which were some years behind us in the profession of the Gospel, the first day almost that they received the truth, did by many degrees in the way of purity outstrip us. These 2 witnesses, unto which we might add many other[s] from the reformed Churches in other nations, bear testimony that there is no such thing in the Church of Scotland, as might prove her to be no Church or bar communion in worship with her as the liturgy, ceremonies and prelacy in the Church of England, or that the corruptions of the one & the other are of the same kind, equally destructive of the essence of a Church and equally impeditive of communion and worship. All visible Churches, which have been, or shall be at any time on earth, consist of persons, good and bad, sheep & goats, wheat and tares, such as walk Christianly & such as walk inordinately: which therefore must also be the condition of the Church of Scotland, yet the order of the Church, admitteth not either ignorant or openly profane & scandalous persons, to the participation of the Lords supper: If any Pastor & particular Eldership be negligent in their duty, it is their fault, who are to bear their own guiltiness, & ought not to be imputed to the order of the Church, which standeth in force against it. We may be very confident, that the godly people, who did transplant themselves out of this land, (the fame of whose piety & zeal shall never suffer detraction or the smallest diminution from our thoughts or words) might have lived in the Church of Scotland enjoying the pure Ordinances of God, with peace in their consciences and comfort to their souls, & would have willingly come into Scotland, when they went into New-England, could they have been free of the usurpation & tyranny of Prelates & the Prelatical Party, which at that time did reign and rage in that Kingdom vexing the godly ministry and people there, with many and bitter sufferings. The two extremes of the true form of Church-Government which standeth in the middle way betwixt Popish and prelatical tyranny, and Brounistical and popular Anarchy, were contrary one to another, and have their own degrees of tyranny or Anarchy in themselves, which is the cause of their subdivisions, fractions, and differences amongst themselves: but both sides agree, and strongly join in opposing the true Government, which standing constantly, and without variation between the one, and the other is contrary to both. This is the true cause (nor could it be otherwise) that on what hand the invasion was the hottest, there the defense was strongest. Against Prelacy which had many friends, and therefore made many enemies to Presbyteries, the Presbyterial power and pens were long pleading: No sooner is the Prelatical party by the power and blessing of God begun to be subdued in this land; but ariseth unexpectedly, the opposition on the other hand, waiting the opportunity, stronger then it was before, which moved some of our Divines of late, to write on this hand in defense of the government of the reformed Churches, as others had done before them in other Churches: In France Beza, and against Morellius Sadeel. Two National Synods also of the reformed Churches in France, the one at Orleans in the year 1561. And in all the reformed Churches, governed by Presbyteries, and Assemblies, the positive grounds of the Government, are laid open, which work equally against Adversaries on both sides, and have been applied against them pro re nata, as they did arise, or shew themselves. If so much have not been written upon one hand, as the other in a polemical and Analkeuastic [coercive] way, let it be attributed unto the adversary, which was but obscure and weak, and from whom small danger was apprehended: it being laid for a common ground by them all, that where a whole Nation is converted to the Christian faith, every particular Church [congregation] is not to be left to it self, as if it were alone in a Nation, but that Christ had provided a way, and there is a necessity of a common National Government, to preserve all the Churches, in Unity and Peace.
It is the Will of God, and hath been always the constant course of Divine providence, that when his servants have been diligent in searching the truth, and zealous by professing, and preaching to hold it forth unto others, that they confirm and seal the truth, which they have believed and professed with their confession, and suffering. The Church of Scotland, had many Confessors: diverse Pastors brought before the Lords of Council, the High Commission, Diocesan Synods, were removed from their places, deprived of all the means of their livelihood; some confined, others imprisoned, a third sort brought into England, whence some of them were never suffered to return, all of them for the Government of the Church. Others for the same cause were proceeded against by the criminal Judge, condemned of Treason, sentenced to death, and after long imprisonment, before and after the sentence, could find no other mercy, but perpetual banishment, wherein the greater part of them ended their days, without any Congregation, or company of their own Nation, rich or poor to comfort them. So many of these witnesses, as were suffered to live in their own Land, did not undergo any voluntary exile: but in much poverty and affliction, went up and down, teaching and confirming the good people, and waiting for a spring-time, wherein the face of God might again shine upon His Church and (to use their own expression) some buds might arise out of the stump of Church government left in the earth. Had they at that time abandoned the poor oppressed Church, when they were put from their places, and deprived of their library, and had carried away with them, such of the people as were of their mind, they had (if we would judge according to ordinary providence, and the course of second causes) opposed the poor desolated Church for a prey to Episcopal oppression, and made the case of Religion in that Kingdom desperate: Or if they should have returned upon a revolution of extraordinary providence, they would have preferred the sufferings of their Brethren left behind them in the midst of the fiery trial, unto their own exile, and would have been loath to have impeded, or retarded the late Reformation, with anything they had brought with them from abroad: so many as returned from constrained banishment, having in all Unity of mind, and heart joined in the work of Reformation.
The Church of Scotland, as all other reformed Churches hath used the power of the Keys, and Church-censures of all sorts, especially the gravest of excommunication, with such sharpness, and severity, and yet with such caution, and moderation, as it hath been very powerful and effectual to preserve the Name of God, from being blasphemed, the Church and people of God from contagion, and the Delinquents brought under censure, from destruction; which are the ends proposed by them in executing the censures of the Church, and where such scandals arise, whether in matter of opinion or practice, as are apt to make the Name of God to be blasphemed, are dangerous for the Church, and wast[e] the Consciences of the sinners themselves, being accompanied with obstinacy, and contempt of Ecclesiastical Authority, they do apply this last remedy, according to the order prescribed by Christ, against scandalous transgressors. To limit the censure of excommunication, in matter of opinion to the common and uncontroverted principles, and in the matter of manners to the common, and universal practices of Christianity, and in both to the parties known light, is the dangerous doctrine of the Arminians, and Socinians, openeth a wide door, and proclaimeth liberty to all other practices and errors, which are not fundamental, and universally abhorred by all Christians, and tendeth to the overthrow of the Reformed Religion: which we with all sound and sober spirits to abstain from, lest it render them and their profession, suspected of some such opinions, and practices, as in charity we judge to be far from their minds and ways.
Two main objections are made against the principles and practice of the order & government of the reformed Churches, for which the Church and Kingdom of Scotland, have done and suffered so much of old and of late. One is, that there is no need of the Authoritative power of Presbyteries and Synods, and that the exhortation of particular Churches one to another, the Protestation of one against another, and the withdrawing of communion, one from another, may be a sufficient remedy, and no less effectual against all offences, then excommunication itself: especially if the Magistrate shall vouchsafe his assistance and interpose his authority, for strengthening the sentence of Non-communion?
To this we answer.
1. That this Objection supposeth a case, which hath not been found in the Church of Scotland, for the space of above fourscore years, and which we believe was never heard of in any of the reformed Churches, except those of the separation: the pronouncing of non-communion or Excommunication against a whole Church. Our excommunication hath been executed, and but seldom against particular members, never against a whole Church, and we think never shall be, and therefore this imaginary fear of that which never falleth forth, is not considerable: Rules are made for ordinary and usual cases.
2. What shall be the remedy, where the censure is mutual, and two or more Churches mutually protest, and pronounce the sentence of non-Communion one against other: unless there be a common Presbytery, or Synod made up of the whole, which may decide the controversy, and give order unto the several Churches. This non-communion may prove a mean of division, rather than union.
3. In this Exhortation, Protestation, and non-Communion, there is no more to be found, then one particular member may do against another, which yet is acknowledged to be insufficient for removing of offenses, unless the authority of the Church, of which both of them be members, shall intervene: Were it in the power of particular members to submit, or not submit, as they please, there would be as great difference and division amongst members, as now there is amongst Churches.
4. What shall be done if the Magistrate be negligent or care for none of those things? or if he be of another Religion, and foment the difference for his own politic ends? hath not the wisdom of the Son of God provided remedies in the Church for all the internal necessities of the Church, and constitute it a perfect body within itself.
5. By what probability can it be made to appear to any Rational man and indifferent mind, that no authority shall be as valid as authority against the obstinate, that via admonitionis, & requisitionis [the way of admonition and demand], is equal with via citationis, & publica authoritatis [the way of summons and public authority]: There cannot be so much as trial and examination of the offense without authority, unless the party be willing to appear: that persuasion, and Jurisdiction, that the delivering over to Satan, and thereby striking the conscience with the terror of God, by the authority of Jesus Christ which hath the promise of a special and strong ratification in heaven, and any other Ecclesiastical way whatsoever, which must be inferior to this, and depend only upon persuasion on the one part, and free will on the other, can be supposed to be a like efficacious. No man will say; but in civil matters, it is one thing to have ado with our neighbor, who hath no more authority over us, th[a]n we have over him; and another thing to have to do with civil power which hath authority over both.
The other Objection is: That by this authority and order of Government, one Church hath power over another, which is contrary to that liberty and equality Christ, hath endowed his Churches with, and is no other but a new Prelatical dominion set over the Churches of Christ? To this we answer.
1. That we are very far from imposingor acknowledging any such collateral power of one particular Church over another, Nay not of the greatest in all respects whatsoever over the smallest: for God hath made them equal one to another. The power which we maintain, is aggregative of the Officers of many congregations over the particular members of their Corporation; even as a member of the Natural body, is not subject to another; but each one of them to the whole Man consisting of them all: And as one Member of Parliament, one Counselor, or to go lower, one member of a Company, is not subject to another, but every one to the whole College: The same may be said of towns and cities; so is it with particular congregations combined in one Presbytery. All the Reformed Churches acknowledge the Independency of one particular Church upon another.
2. It is as miserable a mistake to compare Presbyteries and Prelates together: for the courts of Prelates are altogether foreign and extrinsical to the congregations over which they rule, and then indeed the Metropolitan Church usurpeth and tyrannizeth over other Churches: but the power of Presbyteries is intrinsical and natural, they being constitute of the Pastors and Elders of the particular congregations over which they are set: So that another without themselves doth not bear rule over them; but all of them together by common consent do rule over everyone, which is a most mild and free form of Church-government: it being no more contrary to the liberty of a particular Church, to be ruled by a common Collegiate, Presbytery, or Ecclesiastic Senate, then it is for a Member of a particular congregation; to be ruled by his own particular Eldership.
3. Were this way of government as well known by experience unto others, as it is unto us, it would be accounted rather Subsidium [a support], then Dominium [a lordship], & would be looked at, rather as auxiliary to particular Ministers & Elderships, then authoritative over them, especially since they neither ordain nor depose Ministers, they discern no censure, nor sentence of Excommunication of any Member without the knowledge and consent of the congregation which is particularly concerned therein: whatsoever their authority be, the Minister and particular Eldership are advised, assisted, and strengthened rather than commanded, enjoined, or forced: which the particular Churches should much rather choose, then through want of counsel and assistance, suffer themselves to run rashly upon Deposition or Excommunication, and afterward either be brought by the neighboring Churches to the public Confession of their error, which lesseneth their authority afterward, or to have the sentence of non-Communion pronounced against them, which must be the cause of Schism or scandal.
So much for the present have we said, not for confutation; but merely for justifying our own, and other Reformed Churches against such misrepresentings & mistakings, as in matters of Religion are too frequent in this place at this time, to the perverting and abusing of simple and unstable minds which will never be brought to a consistence and unity, without this true order and government of the Church, and the blessing of God from heaven upon his own ordinance. Were Magistrates and civil powers acquainted with the power thereof, they would find their authority increased, their work more ease, and their places more comfortable thereby. Such as are most adverse to this order and government (if they allow no material difference in doctrine, worship, or practise) might enjoy their peace, and all the comforts of their Ministry, and profession under it, without controlment, from that authoritative power which they so much apprehend. The Church of England which God hath blessed with so much learning and piety, by this Reformation and Uniformity with other Reformed Churches, which all of us have solemnly sworn and subscribed, sincerely, really, and constantly through the grace of God, to endeavor in our several places and callings, should be a praise in the Earth.