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
slitting, cropping, striking, whipping, dismembering, or killing. Not over their souls; for, them they desire by this government to gain, Matth. xviii. 15; to edify, 2 Cor. x. 8, and xiii. 10; and to save, 1 Cor. v. 5. Only this government ought to be impartial and severe against sin, that the flesh may be destroyed, 1 Cor. v. 5. It is only destructive to corruption, which is deadly and destructive to the soul. Thus the imputation itself of arbitrary conduct and tyranny to the presbyterial government is unjust and groundless.
II. The pretended ground of this aspersion is false and frivolous. The presbyters of the Assembly of Divines, and others (Diotrephes-like, affecting pre-eminence) have desired an unlimited power, according to their own prudence and judgment, in keeping men from the ordinances in cases of scandal not enumerated. Ans. 1. The presbyters of the Assembly and others, are so far from the domineering humor of Diotrephes, that they could gladly and heartily have quitted all intermeddling in church government, if Jesus Christ had not by office engaged them thereto; only to have dispensed the word and sacraments would have procured them less hatred, and more case. 2. They desired liberty to keep from the ordinances, not only persons guilty of the scandals enumerated, but of all such like scandals, (and to judge which are those scandals, not according to their minds unlimitedly, but according to the mind of Christ in his word, more sure than all ordinances or acts of Parliament in the world.) And was this so hideous a desire? This liberty was desired, not for themselves, but for well-constituted elderships. As great power was granted by the very service-book to every single curate; (see the Rubric before the communion.) A perfect enumeration and description of scandals can be made in no book but in the Scriptures; and when all is done, must we not refer thither? All scandals are punishable, as well as any, and to inflict penalties on some, and not on others as bad or worse, is inexcusable partiality. Why should not presbyteries duly constituted, especially the greater, be accounted, at least, as faithful, intelligent, prudent, and every way as competent judges of what is scandal, and what not, according to the Scriptures, and that without arbitrary conduct and tyranny, as any civil court, committees, or commissioners whatsoever? Ruling church assemblies are intrusted with the whole government in the church, consequently with this, and every part. The best reformed churches allow to their presbyteries power to keep from the ordinances scandalous persons, not only for scandals enumerated, but for scandals of like nature not enumerated, with some general clause or other, as may appear in eight several churches, according to the allegations here in the foot-note;4 and, therefore, no new thing is desired, but what is commonly practised in the reformed churches, whom we should imitate so far as they lead us on towards purity and perfection.
Doubt 3. But the independent government seems to be a far more excellent way, and it is embraced by many godly and precious people and ministers.
Ans. 1. What true excellency is there at all in the whole independent government, save only in those particulars wherein it agrees with the presbyterial government; and only so far as it is presbyterial? Therefore, the presbyterial government is equally, yea, primarily and principally excellent. Wherein is the excellency of the independent way of government? 1st. Have they only those officers which Christ himself hath appointed, pastors and teachers, ruling elders and deacons? So the Presbyterians. 2d. Have they those spiritual censures, of admonishing, excommunicating, and receiving again into communion, which Christ ordained in his Church, for guarding his ordinances, and well guiding of the flock? So the Presbyterians. 3d. Have they congregational presbyteries duly elected, and constituted for the exercise of all acts of government, proper and necessary for their respective congregations? So the Presbyterians. 4th. Have they liberty of electing their own5 officers, pastors, elders, and deacons? So the Presbyterians. 5th. Have they power to keep the whole lump of the Church from being leavened, and purely to preserve the ordinances of Christ, from pollution and profanation, &c.? So the Presbyterians, &c. So that whereinsoever the independent government is truly excellent, the presbyterial government stands in a full equipage and equality of excellence.
II. What one true excellence is there in the whole independent government in any one point, wherein it really differs from the presbyterial government? Take for instance a few points of difference.
|In the independent government.||In the presbyterial government.|
|No other visible Church of Christ is acknowledged, but only a single congregational meeting in one place to partake of all ordinances.||One general visible Church of Christ on earth is acknowledged, and all particular churches; and single congregations are but as similar parts of that whole.|
|The matter of their visible Church must be to their utmost judgment of discerning such as have true grace, real saints.||The matter of the Church invisible are only true believers, but of the Church visible persons professing true faith in Christ, and obedience to him according to the rules of the Gospel.|
|Their churches are gathered out of other true visible churches of Christ, without any leave or consent of pastor or flock; yea, against their wills, receiving such as tender themselves, yea, too often by themselves or others, directly or indirectly seducing disciples after them.||Parochial churches are received as true visible churches of Christ, and most convenient for mutual edification. Gathering churches out of churches, hath no footsteps in Scripture; is contrary to apostolical practice; is the scattering of churches, the daughter of schism, the mother of confusion, but the stepmother to edification.|
|Preaching elders are only elected, not ordained.||Preaching elders are both elected and ordained.|
|Ruling elders also preach.||Ruling elders only rule, preach not, 1 Tim. v. 17.|
|The subject of church government is the community of the faithful.||The subject of church government is only Christ's own church officers.|
|The church officers act immediately as the servants of the church, and deputed thereby.||The church governors act immediately as the servants of Christ, and as appointed by him.|
|All censures and acts of government are dispensed in single congregations ultimately, independently, without all liberty of appeal from them to any superior church assembly; so the parties grieved are left without remedy.||All censures and acts of government are dispensed in congregational presbyteries subordinately, dependently, with liberty of appeal in all cases to presbyterial or synodal assemblies; where parties grieved have sufficient remedy.|
|There are acknowledged no authoritative classes or synods, in common, great, difficult cases, and in matters of appeals, but only suasive and consultative; and in case advice be not followed, they proceed only to a non-communion.||There are acknowledged, and with happy success used, not only suasive and consultative; but also authoritative classes and synods, in cases of great importance, difficulty, common concernment, or appeals; which have power|