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Sermons & Study Guides

Form Of Presbyterial Church-Government Pt. 11 - Of Church-government, And The Several Sorts Of Assemblies For The Same.

James Dodson

Form Of Presbyterial Church-Government

Of Church-government, And The Several Sorts Of Assemblies For The Same. 

Christ hath instituted a government, and governors ecclesiastical in the church: to that purpose, the apostles did immediately receive the keys from the hand of Jesus Christ, and did use and exercise them in all the churches of the world upon all occasions.

And  Christ  hath  since  continually  furnished  some  in  his church  with  gifts  of government, and with commission to execute the same, when called thereunto.

It is lawful, and agreeable to the word of God, that the church be governed by several sorts of assemblies, which are congregational, classical, and synodical.

Question  1.—Hath  Christ  instituted  a  government,  and  governors  ecclesiastical  in  the church?

Answer.—Yes.  Eph.  4:11-13;  1  Cor.  12:28.    Thus  do  the  Erastians  and  others  err maintaining a governing of the church in the hands of civil officers.  Christ is the builder of his church, Zech. 6:12, 13; and, as such, in the exercise of church discipline, they must come together in the name of Christ, 1 Cor. 5:4.  That name gives to what they do an authority on earth, and an acceptableness in heaven, John 20:23.

Question 2.—Did the apostles immediately receive the keys of this government from the hand of Jesus Christ?

Answer.—Yes.  Matt.  18:18.    The  apostles  received  the  keys  directly  from  Christ himself, John 20:21-23.  Paul seldom commences any of his epistles without reminding his readers that he held his apostleship by the will of God, not by the favor of man, Gal. 1:1.

Question 3.—Did they use and exercise these keys in all the churches of the world upon all occasions?

Answer.—Yes. Tit. 1:5.  The apostles, being clothed with the great commission, of teaching and discipling the nations, Matt. 28:19, 20, had a governing in all the churches, 1 Cor. 5:3-5; 1 Tim. 1:20.

Question  4.—Hath  Christ  since  continually  furnished  some  in  his  church  with  gifts  of government, and with commission to execute the same, when called thereunto?

Answer.—Yes. Rom. 12:8; Matt. 18:18.  Thus do the Quakers and certain sectaries err who  deny  that  Christ  has  since  continually  furnished  some in  his  church  with  gifts  of government.  That the contrary is true is made clear from the following considerations: 1.) Scripture speaks of some who are over the people of God, some that are elders that rule well, some to whom the people should submit, and give obedience, Eph. 4:11; 1 Cor. 12:28; 1 Thess. 5:12; Heb. 13:17; 1 Tim. 5:17.  2.) The keys were only given to the elders, Rom. 12:8; Acts 20:28.  3.) God set down in his word rules, canons, and directions for all lawful governors, how they should behave themselves in God’s house, 1 Tim. 3:1-7; Tit. 1:6-9; but no where does God give directions how all believers should rule, command and govern.  4.) Guides are eyes, ears, fathers, gifted-teachers, Eph. 4:11.  But the whole body is not an eye, for then where were the hearing? 1 Cor. 12:17.  All are not fathers, therefore nor governors gifted, 1 Cor. 12:28, 29.  5.) The faults of evil government are laid upon some, not all, 1 Tim. 3:4-6; Matt. 24:24; Tit. 1:7; 1 Pet. 5:3; Rev. 2:14, 20; 3 John 10; likewise, the praise of good government is given to some, not to all, 1 Thess. 5:12; Heb. 
13:17; 1 Tim. 5:17; Rev. 2:2; 2 Tim. 4:4, 5; 1 Pet. 5:4, 5.  6.) Honor and dignity is ascribed to those who are faithful elders, 2 Cor. 5:20; Matt. 10:41; 2 Cor. 5:18; 1 Cor. 4:1-3; John 3:29; but honor and dignity bestowed on all is no honor or dignity.

Question 5.—Is it lawful, and agreeable to the word of God, that the church be governed by several sorts of assemblies, which are congregational, classical, and synodical?

Answer.—Yes. Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Cor. 5:4; Acts 15:6.  Thus do the Independents and other sectaries err who deny the system of ascending church courts.  The several sorts of assemblies, which are lawful and agreeable to the word of God, by which the church is to be  governed are  as  follows:  1.)  Congregational  or  sessional  assemblies.    Sessions  of every particular congregation have power of discipline in things belonging to themselves—public censure, 1 Tim. 5:20; to admit or not admit to the sacrament and to order decently the public worship, 1 Cor. 11:20, 21; 14:33, 40.  For this cause there was an eldership ordained in every church, Tit. 1:5; Acts 14:23.  Seeing that every particular congregation is a visible ministerial church, having the power of the keys in preaching the word, though they are a small number, Matt. 18:20; yet they have the promise of Christ, of his presence for  binding  and  loosing,  Matt.  18:18-20,  in  things  which  belong  to  themselves.    2.) Classical or presbyterial assemblies.  A classis consists of many pastors and elders from several congregations who have power of excommunication, in respect that the person excommunicated  does  keep  company  with  many  consociated  churches,  and  so  as  a leaven may infect many, 1 Cor. 5:4; Matt. 26:59; John 11:47; Acts 20:17, 18.  For this cause, one pastor of a single congregation not being able to ordain a pastor (because it lacks example in the word of God) therefore a college of presbyters, or a presbytery of pastors and elders, who have a power larger than a session, even to excommunicate and ordain pastors is necessary in the church, which ordains Timothy to be a pastor, and so may deprive and excommunicate him, 1 Tim. 4:14; Acts 20:17, 18, 28, 29.  These are to assemble together, and to prophecy, and others sitting by are to judge, that every man’s gifts may be tried by the presbytery and the church edified, 1 Cor. 14:27-32.  And though the prophets, spoken of by Paul, were extraordinarily gifted, yet their trying and judging of the  gifts  cannot  be  extraordinary,  for  if  that  were  extraordinary  and  temporary,  there should be now in the church no college of pastors who are to try pastors, that they ordain those men proven to be faithful, 1 Tim. 5:22; 2 Tim. 2:2; Tit. 1:5, 6.  This is the classis or presbytery of our church, 1 Tim. 4:14.  3.) Synodical assemblies.  These are meetings of great  numbers  of  congregations  to  handle  disciplinary  matters  which  concern  broader sections of the church or doctrinal controversies affecting the faith, Acts 15:6, 7; 21:18, 19.  Of these there are three sorts: provincial, national and ecumenical or universal.