قراءة كتاب The Divine Right of Church Government Wherein it is proved that the Presbyterian government, by preaching and ruling elders, in sessional, Presbyterial and synodical assemblies, may lay the only lawful claim to a divine right, according to the Holy Scrip
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The Divine Right of Church Government Wherein it is proved that the Presbyterian government, by preaching and ruling elders, in sessional, Presbyterial and synodical assemblies, may lay the only lawful claim to a divine right, according to the Holy Scrip
(which too commonly degenerates into verbal strifes, 1 Tim. vi. 3, 4; 2 Tim. ii. 23; and vain-jangling, 1 Tim. i. 6,) and where any dissenting opinions or objections are refuted, we hope it is with that sobriety, meekness, and moderation of spirit, that any unprejudiced judgment may perceive, that we had rather gain than grieve those who dissent from us; that we endeavor rather to heal up than to tear open the rent; and that we contend more for truth than for victory.
To the publication hereof we have been inclinable (after much importunity) principally upon deliberate and serious consideration of, 1st, the necessity of a treatise of this kind; 2d, the advantage likely to accrue thereupon; and, 3d, the seasonable opportunity of sending it abroad at such a time as this is.
I. The necessity of a treatise of this nature, is evident and urgent. For,
1. We hold ourselves obliged, not only by the common duty of our ministerial calling, but also by the special bond of our solemn covenant with God, especially in Art. 1, to bend all our best endeavors to help forward a reformation of religion according to the word of God, which can never be effected without a due establishment of the scripture-government and discipline in the Church of God. And to make known what this government is from the law and testimony, by preaching or writing, comes properly and peculiarly within the sphere of our place and vocation.
2. A cloud of darkness and prejudice, in reference to this matter of church government, too generally rests upon the judgments and apprehensions of men (yea of God's own people) among us, either, 1st, through the difficulty or uncommonness of this matter of church government, (though ancient and familiar in other reformed churches, yet new and strange to us;) or, 2d, through the strange misrepresentations that are made hereof, by those that are small friends to the true presbyterial government, or that are enemies to all church government whatsoever; or, 3d, through the different opinions about church government, which are to be found among pious people and ministers: by all which the weak and unstable minds of many are cast into a maze of many confused thoughts and irresolutions.
3. Though many learned treatises have been published, some whereof have positively asserted, others have polemically vindicated divers parts of church government, and the divine right thereof, yet hitherto no treatise of this nature is extant, positively laying open the nature of a divine right, what it is, and a system of that government, which is so, and proving both by the Scriptures; without which, how shall the judgments and consciences of men be satisfied, that this is that church government, according to the word of God, which they have covenanted to endeavor to promote, and whereto they are obliged to submit? And since it is our lot to travel in an unbeaten path, we, therefore, promise to ourselves, from all sober and judicious readers, the greater candor and ingenuity in their measuring of our steps and progress herein.
II. The advantage which may probably accrue hereupon, we hope shall be manifold: For, 1. Who can tell but that some of them, that in some things are misled and contrary-minded, may be convinced and regained? and it will be no small reward of our labors if but one erring brother may be brought back. 2. Some satisfaction may redound to such as are of doubtful, unresolved minds, by removing of their doubts and scruples, and ripening of their resolutions, to settle more safely in point of church government. 3. Those that as yet are unseen in the matter of church government, or that want money to buy, or leisure to read many books upon this subject, may here have much in a little, and competently inform themselves of the whole body of the government. 4. Consequently upon the attaining of the former ends, the work of reformation will be much facilitated and smoothed, the hearts of the people being prepared for the Lord and his ordinances. 5. The present attempt (if it reach not to that completeness and satisfactoriness which is desired) may yet incite some of our brethren of more acute and polished judgments to embark themselves in some further discoveries for the public benefit of the Church. 6. But though it should fall out that in all the former we should be utterly disappointed, we shall have this peace and comfort upon our own spirits, that we have not hid our talent in the earth, nor neglected to bear witness to this part of Christ's truth, touching the government of his Church, by his kingly power, wherein Christ was opposed so much in all ages, Psalm ii. 1, 2, 3; Luke xix. 14, 27; Acts iv., and for which Christ did suffer so much in a special and immediate manner, as1 some have observed. For this end Christ came into the world, (and for this end we came into the ministerial calling,) to bear witness to the truth.
III. Finally, the present opportunity of publishing a treatise on this subject doth much incite and encourage us therein. For at this time we are beginning, in this province of London, (and we hope the whole kingdom will, with all convenient speed, and due caution, second us,) to put that covenanted church government into actual execution, which we have a long time intended in our deliberate resolutions. So that generally we shall be engaged in the government one way or other, either as acting in it as the church officers, or as submitting to it as church members: now, how shall any truly conscientious person, either act in it, or conform and submit unto it with faith, judgment, and alacrity, till he be in some competent measure satisfied of the divine right thereof?
Will mere prudence, without a divine right, be a sufficient basis to erect the whole frame of church government upon, as some conceive? Prudentials, according to general rules of Scripture, may be of use in circumstantials, but will bare prudentials in substantials also satisfy either our God, our covenant, our consciences, or our end in this great work of reformation? What conscientious person durst have a hand in acting as a ruling elder, did he not apprehend the word of God holds forth a divine right for the ruling elder? Who durst have a hand in the censures of admonishing the unruly, excommunicating the scandalous and obstinate, and of restoring the penitent, were there not a divine right hereof revealed in the Scripture, &c. Now, therefore, that ruling elders, and the rest of the people, may begin this happy work conscientiously, judiciously, cheerfully, in some measure perceiving the divine right of the whole government, wherein they engage themselves, cleared by Scripture, we hope, by God's blessing, that this small tract will afford some seasonable assistance, which will be unto us a very acceptable recompense.
Thus far of the nature of this treatise, and the grounds of our publishing thereof. In the next place, a few doubts or scruples touching church government here asserted, being succinctly resolved, we shall preface no further.
Doubt 1. Many scruple, and much question the divine right of the whole frame of church government; as, 1. Whether there be any particular church government of divine right? 2. What that government is? 3. What church officers or members of elderships are of divine right? 4. Whether parochial or congregational elderships be of divine right? 5. Whether classical presbyteries be of divine right? 6. Whether provincial, national, and ecumenical assemblies be of divine right? 7. Whether appeals from congregational to classical, provincial, national, and ecumenical assemblies, and their power to determine upon such appeals, be of divine right? 8. Whether the power of censures in the congregational eldership, or any other assembly, be of divine right? 9. Whether there be any particular rules in the Scripture directing persons or assemblies in the exercise of their power? 10. Whether the civil