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God's commandments, and recovering of them in case of wandering, (which all Christ's sheep are subject to in this life,) being unable to return of themselves; together with the benefit of their mutual edification, and of their posterity, that they may not be cut off from the privileges of the covenant. Otherwise, if a believer offends, he remains destitute of the remedy provided in that behalf
. And should all believers neglect this duty of joining to all particular congregations, it might follow thereupon, that Christ should have no visible political churches upon earth.
Acts, ii. 47, and ix. 26. Matt. iii. 13, 14, 15, and xxviii. 19, 20. Psalm cxxxiii. 2, 3, and lxxxvii. 7. Matt. xviii. 20. i John, i. 3. Ps. cxix. 176. 1 Peter, ii. 25. Eph. iv. 16. Joba, xxii. 24, 25. Mait. xviii. 15, 16, 17.
of the first subject of church power; or, to whom church power doth first
belong The first subject of church power is either supreme or subordinate and ministerial; the supreme, by way of gift from the Father, is the Lord Jesus Christ : The ministerial is either extraordinary as the apostles, prophets and evangelists; or ordinary, as every particular Congregational church.
Mat. xviii. 18. Rev. iii. 7. Isa. ix. 6. John xx. 21, 23. 1 Cor. xiv. 32. Tit. i. 5. I Cor. v. 12.
2. Ordinary church power, is either the power of office, that is, such as is proper to the eldership, or power of privilege, such as belongs unto the brotherhood." The latter, is in the brethren formally, and immediately from Christ, that is, so as it may be acted or exercised immediately by themselves; the former is not in them formally or immediately, and therefore cannot be acted or exercised immediately by them, but is said to be in them, in that they design the persons unto office, who only are to act, or to exercise this power.
Rom. xii. 4, 8. Acts i. 23, and vi. 3, 4, and xiv. 23. 1 Cor. x. 29, 30.
Of the officers of the church, and especially of pastors and teachers.
1. A CHURCH being a company of people combined together by covenant for the worship of God, it appeareth thereby, that there may be the essence and being of a church without any officers, seeing there is both the form and matter of a church; which is implied when it is said, the apostles ordained elders in every church. Acts, xiv. 23.
2. Nevertheless, though officers be not absolutely necessary to the simple being of churches, when they be called, yet ordinarily to their calling they are, and to their well being; and therefore the Lord Jesus, out of his tender compassion, hath appointed and ordained officers, which he would not have done, if they had not been useful and needful for the church; yea, being ascended into heaven, he received gifts for men, and gave gifts to men, whereof officers for the church are justly accounted no small parts, they being to continue to the end of the world, and for the perfecting of all the saints.
Rom. x. 17. Jer. iii. 15. I Cor. xii. 23. Eph. iv. 11. Psalm lxviii. 18. Eph. iv. 8, 11. and iv. 12, 13.
3. These officers were either extraordinary or ordinary: extraordinary, as apostles, prophets, evangelists; ordinary, as elders and deacons. The apostles, prophets, and evangelists as they were called extraordinarily by Christ, so their office ended with themselves; whence it is that Paul directing Timothy how to carry along churchadministrations, giveth no direction about the choice or course of apostles, prophets, or evangelists, but only of elders and deacons ; and when Paul was to take his last leave of the church of Ephesus, he committed the care of feeding the church to no other, but unto the elders of that church. The like charge doth Peter commit to the elders.
I Cor. xii. 28. Eph. iv. 11. Acts, viii. 6, 16, 19, and xi. 28. Rom. xi. 13. I Cor. iv. 9. I Tim. iii. 1, 2,8 to 13. Tit. i. 5. Acis, xx. 17, 23. 1 Pet. v. 1, 2, 3.
4. Of elders, who are also in scripture called bishops, some attend chiefly to the ministry of the word, as the pastors and teachers; others attend especially unto rule, who are therefore called ruling elders. 1 Tim. ii. 3. Phil. i. 1. Acts, xx. 17, 28. 1 Tim. v. 7.
5. The office of pastor and teacher, appears to be distinct. The pastor's special work is, to attend to exhortation, and therein to administer a word of wisdom; the teacher is to attend to doctrine, and therein to administer a word of knowledge; and either of them to administer the seals of that covenant, unto the dispensation whereof they are alike called ; as also to execute the censures, being but a kind of application of the word : The preaching of which, together with the application thereof, they are alike charged withal. Eph. iv. 11. Rom. xii. 7, 8. 1 Cor. xii. 8. 2 Tim. iv. 1, 2. Titus, i. 9.
6. And forasmuch as both pastors and teachers are given by Christ for the perfecting of the saints, and edifying of his body ; which saints and body of Christ is his church : therefore we account pastors and teachers to be both of them church officers, and not the pastor for the church, and the teacher only for the schools : Though this we gladly acknowledge, that schools are both lawful, profitable and necessary for the training up of such in good literature or learning, as may afterwards be called forth unto office of pastor or teacher in the church.
Eph. iv. 11, 12. and i. 22, 23. 1 Sam. x. 12, 19, 20. 2 Kings, ii. 3, 15.
of ruling elders and deacons. 1. The ruling elder's office is distinct from the office of pastor and teacher. The ruling elders are not so called, to exclude the pastors and teachers from ruling, because ruling and governing is common to these with the other; whereas attending to teach and preach the word is peculiar unto the former.
Rom. xii. 7, 8, 9. 1 Tim. v. 17. 1 Cor. xii. 28. Heb. xiii. 17. 1 Tim.
2. The ruling elder's work is to join with the pastor and teacher in those acts of spiritual rule which are distinct from the ministry of the word and sacraments committed to them. Of which sort these be as followeth : 1. To open and shut the doors of God's house, by the admission of members approved by the church; by ordination of officers chosen by the church; and by excommunication of notorious and obstinate offenders renounced by the church; and by restoring of penitents forgiven by the church. 2. To call the church together when there is occasion, and seasonably to dismiss them again. 3. To prepare matters in private, that in public they may be carried to an end with less trouble, and more speedy dispatch. 4. To moderate the carriage of all matters in the church assembled; as, to propound matters to the church, to order the season of speech and silence, and to pronounce sentence according to the mind of Christ, with the consent of the church. 5. To be guides and leaders to the church, in all matters whatsoever pertaining to church-administrations and actions. 6. To see that none in the church live inordinately, out of rank and place, without a calling, or idly in their calling. 7. To prevent and heal such offences in life or in doctrine, as might corrupt the church. 8. To feed the flock of God with a word of admonition. 9. And as they shall be sent for, to visit and to pray over their sick brethren. 10. And at other times as opportunity shall serve thereunto.
1 Tim. v. 17. 2 Chron. xxiii. 19. Rev. xxi. 12 1 Tim. iv. 14. Mat. xviii. 17. 2 Cor. ii. 7,8. Acts, ii. 6, and xxi. 18, 22, 23, and vi. 2, 3, and xiii. 15. 2 Cor. viii. 19. Heb. xiii. 7, 17. 2 Thess. ii. 10, 11, 12. Acts, xx. 28, 32. 1 Thess. v. 12. James, v. 14. Acts, xx. 20.
3. The office of a deacon is instituted in the church by the Lord Jesus ; sometimes they are called helps. The scripture telleth us how they should be qualified, "Grave, not double tongued, not given to much wine, not given to filthy lucre.” They must first be proved, and then use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. The office and work of the deacon, is to receive the offerings of the church, gifts given to the church, and to keep the treasury of the church, and therewith to serve the tables which the church is to provide for ; as the Lord's table,
the table of the ministers, and of such as are in necessity, to whom they are to distribute in simplicity.
Acts, vi. 3,6. Phil. i. 1. 1 Tim. iii. 8. 1 Cor. xii. 28. 1 Tim. üi. 8, 9. Acts, iv. 35, and vi. 2, 3. Rom. xii. 8.
4. The office therefore being limited unto the care of the temporal good things of the church, it extends not unto the attendance upon, and administration of the spiritual things thereof, as the word and sacraments, or the like. 1 Cor. vii. 17.
5. The ordinance of the apostle, and practice of the church, commends the Lord's day as a fit time for the contributions of the saints. 1 Cor. xvi. 1, 2, 3.
6. The instituting of all these officers in the church, is the work of God himself, of the Lord Jesus Christ, of the Holy Ghost : and therefore such officers as he hath not appointed are altogether unlawful either to be placed in the church, or to be retained therein, and are to be looked at as human creatures, mere inventions and appointments of man, to the great dishonor of Christ Jesus,
the Lord of his house, the king of his church, whether popes, patriarchs, cardinals, arch-bishops, lord-bishops, archdeacons, officials, commissaries, and the like. These and the rest of that hierarchy and retinue, not being plants of the Lord's planting, shall all be certainly rooted out and cast forth. 1 Cor. xii. 28. Eph. iv. 8, 11. Acts, xx. 28. Mat. xv. 13.
7. The Lord hath appointed ancient widows, where they may be had, to minister in the church, in giving attendance to the sick, and to give succour unto them, and others in the like necessities.
1 Tim. v. 9, 10.
Of the election of church officers. 1. No man may take the honor of a church officer unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron. Heb. v. 4.