« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
church is a body politic, consisting of some that are governors, and some that are governed in the Lord.
1 Tim. v. 17. Heb. xii. 17. 1 Thess. v. 12. Rom. xii. 8. 1 Cor. xi. 28, 29. Heb. xiii. 7, 17.
8. The power which Christ hath committed to the elders, is to feed and rule the church of God, and accordingly to call the church together upon any weighty occasion ; when the members so called, without just cause, may not refuse to come; nor when they are come, depart before they are dismissed; nor speak in the church before they have leave from the elders ; nor continue so doing when they require silence ; nor may they oppose nor contradict the judgment or sentence of the elders, without sufficient and weighty cause, because such practices are manifestly contrary unto order and government, and inlets of disturbance, and tend to confusion.
Acts, xx. 28, and vi. 2. Numb. xvi. 12. Ezek. xlvi. 10. Acts, xiii. 15. Hos. iv. 4.
9. It belongs also unto the elders to examine any officers or members, before they be received of the church; to receive the accusations brought to the church, and to prepare them for the church's hearing. In handling of offences and other matters before the church, they have power to declare and publish the council and will of God touching the same, and to pronounce sentence with consent of the church. Lastly, they have power, when they dismiss the people, to bless them in the name of the Lord.
Rev. ii. 2. 1 Tim. v. 19. Acts, xxi. 18, 22, 23. 1 Cor. v. 4, 5. Num. vi. 23 to 26.
10. This power of government in the elders, doth not any wise prejudice the power of privilege in the brotherhood ; as neither the power of privilege in the brethren, doth prejudice the power of government in the elders, but they may sweetly agree together ; as we may see in the example of the apostles, furnished with the greatest church power, who took in the concurrence and consent of the brethren in church administrations. Also that scripture, 2 Cor. ii. 9, and x. 6, do declare, That what the churches were to act and do in these matters, they were to do in a way of obedience, and that not only to
the direction of the apostles, but also of their ordinary elders. Acts, xiv. 15, 23, and vi. 2. I Cor. v. 4. 2 Cor. ii. 6, 7. Heb. xiii. 17.
11. From the premises, namely, That the ordinary power of government belonging only to the elders, power of privilege remaineth with the brotherhood, (as power of judgment in matters of censure, and power of liberty in matters of liberty ; ) it followeth, that in an organic church, and right administration, all church acts proceed after the manner of a mixt administration, so as no church act can be consummated or perfected without the consent of both.
Of the maintenance of church officers.
1. The apostle concludes, that necessary and sufficient maintenance is due unto the ministers of the word, from the law of nature and nations, from the law of Moses, the equity thereof, as also the rule of common
Moreover, the scripture doth not only call elders laborers, and workmen, but also speaking of them, doth say, that the laborer is worthy of his hire; and requires that he which is taught in the word, should communicate to him in all good things; and mentions it as an ordinance of the Lord, that they which preach the gospel, should live of the gospel ; and forbiddeth the muzzling of the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn.
1 Cor. ix. 14, 15. Matt. ix. 38, and x. 10. 1 Tim. v. 18. Gal. vi. 6. 1 Cor. ix. 9, 14.
2. The scriptures alledged, requiring this maintenance as a bounden duty and due debt, and not as a matter of alms and free gift, therefore people are not at liberty to do or not to do, what and when they please in this matter, no more than in any other commanded duty, and ordinance of the Lord; but ought of duty to minister of their carnal things, to them that labor amongst them in the word and doctrine, as well as they ought to pay any other
workmen their wages, and to discharge and satisfy their other debts, or to submit themselves to observe any other ordinance of the Lord. Rom. xv. 27. 1 Cor. ix. 21.
3. The apostle (Gal. vi. 6.) enjoining that he which is taught communicate to him that teacheth in all good things, doth not leave it arbitrary, what or how much a man shall give, or in what proportion, but even the latter, as well as the former, is prescribed and appointed by the Lord. 1 Cor. xvi. 2.
4. Not only, members of churches, but all that are taught in the word, are to contribute unto him that teacheth, in all good things. In case that congregations are defective in their contributions, the deacons are to call upon them to do their duty; if their call sufficeth not, the church by her power is to require it of their members; and where church power, through the corruption of men, doth not, or cannot attain the end, the magistrate is to see the ministry be duly provided for, as appears from the commended example of Nehemiah. The magistrates are nursing-fathers, and nursing-mothers, and stand charged with the custody of both tables ; because it is better to prevent a scandal that it may not come, and easier also, than to remove it when it is given. It is most suitable to rule, that by the church's care each man should know his proportion according to rule, what he should do, before he do it, that so his judgment and heart may be satisfied in what he doth, and just offence prevented in what is done.
Gal. vi. 6. Acts, vi. 3, 4. Neh. xiii. 11. Isa. xlix. 23. 2 Cor. viii. 13, 14.
Of admission of members into the church.
1. The doors of the churches of Christ upon earth, do not by God's appointment stand so wide open, that all
sorts of people, good or bad, may freely enter therein at their pleasure; but such as are admitted thereto as members, ought to be examined and tried first, whether they be fit and meet to be received into church-society, or not. The eunuch of Ethiopia, before his admission, was examined by Philip, whether he did believe on Jesus Christ with all his heart. The angel of the church at Ephesus is commended for trying such as said they were apostles, and were not. There is like reason for trying of them that profess themselves to be believers. The officers are charged with the keeping of the doors of the church, and therefore are in a special manner to make trial of the fitness of such who enter. Twelve angels are set at the gates of the temple, lest such as were ceremonially unclean should enter thereinto.
2 Chron xxiii. 19. Matt. xiii. 25, and xxii. 12. Acts, viii. 37. Rev. ii. 2. Acts, ix. 26. Rev. xxi. 12.
2. The things which are requisite to be found in all church members, are repentance from sin, and faith in Jesus Christ; and therefore these are the things whereof men are to be examined at their admission into the church, and which then they must profess and hold forth in such sort, as may satisfy rational charity that the things are there indeed. (John Baptist admitted men to baptism, confessing and bewailing their sins; and of others it is said, that they came, and confessed and showed their deeds. Acts, ii. 38 to 42, and visi. 37. Matt. iii. 6. Acts, xix. 18.
3. The weakest measure of faith is to be accepted in those that desire to be admitted into the church, because weak Christians, if sincere, have the substance of that faith, repentance and holiness which is required in church members; and such have most need of the ordinances for their confirmation and growth in grace. The Lord Jesus would not quench the smoking flax, nor break the bruised reed, but gather the tender lambs in his arms and carry them gently in his bosom. Such charity and tenderness is to be used, as the weakest Christian, if sincere, may not be excluded nor discouraged. Severity of examination is to be avoided. Rom. xiv. I. Matt. xii. 20. Isa. xl. 11.
4. In case any through excessive fear, or other infirmity, be unable to make their personal relation of their spiritual estate in public, it is sufficient that the elders, having received private satisfaction, make relation thereof in public before the church, they testifying their assents thereunto; this being the way that tendeth most to edification. But where persons are of greater abilities, there it is most expedient that they make their relations and confessions personally with their own mouth, as David professeth of himself. Psalm lxvi. 16.
5. A personal and public confession, and declaring of God's manner of working upon the soul, is both lawful, expedient and useful, in sundry respects, and upon sundry grounds. Those three thousand, Acts ii. 37, 41, before they were admitted by the apostles, did manifest that they were pricked in their hearts at Peter's sermon, together with earnest desire to be delivered from their sins, which now wounded their consciences, and their ready receiving of the word of promise and exhortation. We are to be ready to render a reason of the hope that is in us, to every one that asketh us; therefore we must be able and ready upon any occasion to declare and show our repentance for sin, faith unfeigned, and effectual calling, because these are the reasons of a well grounded hope. I have not hidden thy righteousness from the great congregation. I Pet. iji. 15. Heb. xi. 1. Eph. i. 18. Psalm xl. 10.
6. This profession of faith and repentance, as it must be made by such at their admission, that were never in church-society before ; so nothing hindereth but the same way also be performed by such as have formerly been members of some other church, and the church to which they now join themselves as members may lawfully require the same. Those three thousand, Acts ii., which made their confession, were members of the church of the Jews before, so were they that were baptized by John. Churches may err in their admission, and persons regularly admitted may fall into offence. Otherwise, if churches might obtrude their members, or if church members might obtrude themselves upon other churches without