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LETTER III.-Of Christ’s Headship Over the Visible Church.


LETTER III.-Of Christ’s Headship Over the Visible Church.

James Dodson

IN the heavenly page, methinks, I see my Savior’s sole headship over his body, the church, marked as with a sunbeam. There I am informed, that the government is upon his shoulder: that of his government and peace there shall be no end: that he sits upon the throne of his father David, to order it (Isa. 9:6, 7; Luke 1:32, 33): that all power is given him, in heaven and on earth; by virtue of which he sends his ministers to disciple and baptize the nations, and teach them to observe whatsoever he hath commanded (Mat. 28:18-20). The Father hath given all things into his hand; hath committed all judgment to him; hath put all things under his feet; hath given him to be the head over all things to the church; given him the key of David, that he may open, and none shut; and shut, and none open (John 3:35 and 5:21, 27; 1 Cor. 15:26; Eph. 1:22; Rev. 3:7).

To him alone, the inspired words ascribes manifold PRINCELY TITLES, relative to the church. He is her Lord; her Lawgiver, able to save and to destroy (Acts 10:36; 1 Cor. 8:6; Isa. 33:22; Jam. 4:12). He is God’s King, set upon his hill of Zion; the Prince among his people; the Governor, that feeds and rules his Israel (Psal. 2:6; Ezek. 34:23; Mat. 2:6); the great, the chief Shepherd; the Shepherd and Bishop of souls (Heb. 13:20; 1 Pet. 4:4 and 2:25); the head of his body the church: our one Master; the Apostle and High Priest of our profession (Col. 1:18; Mat. 23:8, 10; Heb. 3:1, 6); a Son faithful over his own house.

To him alone are ascribed the ACTS of supreme power and authority in her affairs. It is HIS, to enact her laws; to give commandment to her master builders, and high rulers, the apostles (Gal. 6:2; Acts 1:2). HIS, to institute her ordinances, the preaching of the word; the administration of baptism, and the sacred supper; with the administration of discipline; all for her edification (Mark 16:15; Mat. 10:7; John 1:33; Mat. 28:19, 20; 1 Cor. 11:20-30; Mat. 16:19 and 18:15-20): HIS, to appoint her officers; to give gifts unto men; to give some apostles; some prophets; some evangelists; some pastors and teachers: his, to prescribe the manner of their entrance and conduct (Eph. 4:7, 8, 11; 1 Cor. 12:28). Only in HIS name, are her ordinances dispensed: therein, her assemblies meet; her pastors feed by preaching of truth, and even apostles baptize and dispense the holy feast. In his name, every Christian must pray and perform his whole Christian exercise. In his name, and with his power, must offenders be censured or absolved (Mat. 18:20 and 28:19; Acts 19:5; John 14:13, 14; Col. 3:17; 1 Cor. 5:4). By the choice of adult Christians, and the ordination of former rules, must ordinary church-officers be assigned, to exercise ecclesiastic power, in a particular place, or office. From magistrates, as nursing fathers, they may receive outward protection, support, and assistance; but their whole power relative to their function, they derive from Christ himself. HE gives them to, and sets them in the church. HE alone qualifies and authorizes them, to dispense word, sacraments, or censures (John 20:21-23; 2 Cor. 10:8 and 13:10).

If the adored Immanuel be the sole head, and supreme governor, of his body the church, ponder, my dear Amelius, if your vague notions, of the indifferency of the various forms of ecclesiastic government, are not highly injurious to his wisdom and faithfulness. Dare you suppose, he has no fixed plan of regimen [government], but the multiform, the ever-changing inclinations of sinful men? To these, will he commit the direction of his beloved body, when he knows, they are evil continually? If he is the only head of his church, how criminal; how dangerous, for pope, for magistrate, or any other, to claim a spiritual headship over her persons or causes! It is a presuming to sit in the temple, the throne of God, and to give out one’s self to be, Jesus Christ the Lord.