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
magistrates, or their committees' and commissioners' execution of church censures be contrary to that way of government which Christ hath appointed in his Church?
Resol. To all or most of these doubts some competent satisfaction may be had from this treatise ensuing, if seriously considered. For, 1. That there is a church government of divine right, now under the New Testament, declared in Scripture, is proved, Part I. 2. What that government is in particular, is evidenced both by the description of church government, and the confirmation of the parts thereof by Scripture, Part. II. chap. 1, and so to the end of the book: whereby it is cleared that the presbyterial government is that particular government which is of divine right, according to the word of God. 3. What ordinary church officers, (members of the several elderships,) are of divine right, is proved, Part II, chap. 11, sect. 1, viz. pastors and teachers, with ruling elders. 4. That parochial or congregational elderships, consisting of preaching and ruling elders, are of divine right, is manifested, Part II. chap. 12. 5. That classical presbyteries, or assemblies, and their power in church government, are of divine right, is demonstrated, Part II. chap. 13. 6. That synodical assemblies, or councils in general, (consequently provincial, national, or ecumenical councils in particular,) and their power in church government, are of divine right, is cleared, Part II. chap. 14. 7. That appeals from congregational elderships, to classical and synodical assemblies, from lesser to greater assemblies associated, and power in those assemblies to determine authoritatively in such, appeals, are of divine right, is proved, Part II. chap. 15. 8. That the power of church censures is in Christ's own church officers only as the first subject and proper receptacle there of divine right, is cleared, Part II. chap. 11, sect. 2, which officers of Christ have and execute the said power respectively, in all the ruling assemblies, congregational, classical, or synodical. See section 3, and chap. 12, 13, 14, 15. 9. That the Scriptures hold forth, touching church government, not only general, but also many particular rules, sufficiently directing both persons and assemblies how they should duly put in execution their power of church, government. This is made good, Part II. chap. 4; and those that desire to know which are these rules in particular, may consult those learned2 centuriators of Magdeburg, who have collected and methodically digested, in the very words of the Scripture, a system of canons or rules, touching church government, as in the preface to those rules they do profess, saying, touching things pertaining to the government of the Church, the apostles delivered certain canons, which we will add in order, &c., the very heads of which would be too prolix to recite. 10. Finally, that neither the supreme civil magistrate, as such, nor consequently any commissioner or committees whatsoever, devised and erected by his authority, are the proper subject of the formal power of church government, nor may lawfully, by any virtue of the magistratical office, dispense any ecclesiastical censures or ordinances: but that such undertakings are inconsistent with that way of government which Christ hath appointed in his Church, is evidenced, Part II. chap. 9, well compared with chap. 11.
Doubt 2. But this presbyterial government is likely to be an arbitrary and tyrannical government, forasmuch as the presbyters of the assembly of divines and others (who, Diotrephes-like, generally affect domineering) have desired an unlimited power, according to their own judgments and prudence, in excommunicating men from the ordinances in cases of scandal.
Resol. A heinous charge, could it be proved against the presbyterial government. Now for wiping off this black aspersion, consider two things, viz: I. The imputation itself, which is unjust and groundless; II. The pretended ground hereof, which is false or frivolous.
I. The imputation itself is, that the presbyterial government is likely to be an arbitrary and tyrannical government. Ans. How unjust this aspersion! I. What likelihood of arbitrary conduct in this government, that is, that it should be managed and carried on according to men's mere will and pleasure? For, 1. The presbyterial government (truly so called) is not in the nature of it any invention of man, but an ordinance of Christ; nor in the execution of it to be stated by the will of man, but only by the sure word of prophecy, the sacred Scriptures. This government allows not of one church officer at all; nor of one ruling assembly made up of those officers; nor of one censure or act of power to be done by any officer or assembly; nor of one ordinance to be managed in the Church of God, but what are grounded upon, and warranted by the word of God. This government allows no execution of any part thereof, neither in substantials, nor circumstantials, but according to the particular, or at least, the general rules of Scripture respectively. And can that be arbitrary, which is not at all according to man's will, but only according to Christ's rule, limiting and ordering man's will? Or is not the Scripture a better and safer provision against all arbitrary government in the Church, than all the ordinances, decrees, statutes, or whatsoever municipal laws in the world of man's devising, can be against all arbitrary government in the commonwealth? Let not men put out their own eyes, though others would cast a mist before them. 2. Who can justly challenge the reformed presbyterial churches for arbitrary proceedings in matters of church government, practised in some of them for above these fourscore years? Or where are their accusers? 3. Why should the presbyterial government, to be erected in England, be prejudged as arbitrary, before the government be put in execution? When arbitrary conduct appears, let the adversaries complain. 4. If any arbitrary conduct hath been discovered in any reformed church, or shall fall out in ours, it is or shall be more justly reputed the infirmity and fault of the governors, than of the government itself.
II. What probability or possibility of tyranny in the presbyterial government? For, 1. Who should tyrannize, what persons, what ruling assemblies? Not the ministers; for, hitherto they have given no just cause of any suspicion, since this government was in hand: and they are counterpoised in all assemblies with a plurality of ruling elders, it being already studiously3 provided that there be always two ruling elders to one minister: if there be still two to one, how should they tyrannize if they would? Neither ministers nor ruling elders are likely to tyrannize, if due care be taken by them, whom it doth concern, to elect, place, and appoint, conscientious, prudent, and gracious ministers and ruling elders over all congregations. Nor yet the ruling assemblies, lesser or greater; for in the presbyterial government all lesser ruling assemblies (though now at first, perhaps, some of them consisting of more weak and less experienced members) are subordinate to the greater authoritatively; and persons aggrieved by any mal-administrations have liberty to appeal from inferior to superior: and the very national assembly itself, though not properly subordinate, yet is it to be responsible to the supreme political magistracy in all their proceedings so far as subjects and members of the commonwealth.
III. How can they tyrannize over any? Or in what respects? Not over their estates: for they claim no secular power at all over men's estates, by fines, penalties, forfeitures, or confiscations. Not over their bodies, for they inflict no corporal punishment, by banishment, imprisonment, branding,