« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
Of synods. 1. Synods orderly assembled, and rightly proceeding according to the pattern, Acts 15, we acknowledge as the ordinance of Christ : and though not absolutely necessary to the being, yet many times, through the iniquity of men, and perverseness of times, necessary to the well-being of churches, for the establishment of truth and peace therein. Acts, xv. 2-15.
2. Synods being spiritual and ecclesiastical assemblies, are therefore made up of spiritual and ecclesiastical
The next efficient cause of them under Christ, is the power of the churches, sending forth their elders and other messengers, who being met together in the name of Christ,, are the matter of a synod; and they in arguing, debating, and determining matters of religion according to the word, and publishing the same to the churches it concerneth, do put forth the proper and formal acts of a synod, to the conviction of errors and heresies, and the establishment of truth and peace in the churches, which is the end of a synod. Acts, xv. 2, 3, 6, 7-23, 31, and xvi. 4, 15.
3. Magistrates have power to call a synod, by calling to the churches to send rth their elders and sengers, to counsel and assist them in matters of religion; but yet the constituting of a synod, is a church-act, and may be transacted by the churches, even when civil magistrates may be enemies to churches, and to church assemblies. 2 Chron. xxix. 4, 5-11. Acts, xv.
4. It belongeth unto synods and councils, to debate and determine controversies of faith, and cases of conscience; to clear from the word holy directions for the holy worship of God, and good government of the church; to bear witness against mal-administration and corruption in doctrine or manners in any particular church; and to give directions for the reformation thereof: not to exercise
church censures in way of discipline, nor any other act of church authority or jurisdiction, which that presidential synod did forbear.
Acts, xv. 1, 2, 6, 7. i Chron. xv. 13. 2 Chron. xxix. 6, 7. Acts, xv. 24, 28, 29.
5. The synod's directions and determinations, so far as consonant to the word of God, are to be received with reverence and submission; not only for their agreement therewith, (which is the principal ground thereof, and without which they bind not at all,) but also secondarily for the power whereby they are made, as being an ordinance of God appointed thereunto in his word. Acts, xv.
6. Because it is difficult, if not impossible, for many churches to come together in one place, in all their members universally; therefore they may assemble by their delegates or messengers, as the church of Antioch went not all to Jerusalem, but some select men for that purpose. Because none are or should be more fit to know the state of the churches, nor to advise of ways for the good thereof, than elders; therefore it is fit that in the choice of the messengers for such assemblies, they have special respect unto such : yet inasmuch as not only Paul and Barnabas, but certain others also were sent to Jerusalem from Antioch, and when they were come to Jerusalem, not only the apostles and elders, but other brethren also do assemble and meet about the matter ; therefore synods are to consist both of elders, and other church members, endued with gifts, and sent by the churches, not excluding the presence of any brethren in the churches.
Acts, xv. 2, 22, 23.
Of the civil magistrate's power in matters ecclesiastical. 1. It is lawful, profitable, and necessary for Christians to gather themselves into church estate, and therein to exercise all the ordinances of Christ, according
unto the word, although the consent of the magistrate could not be had thereunto; because the apostles and Christians in their time did frequently thus practice, when the magistrates being all of them Jewish or pagan, and most persecuting enemies, would give no countenance or consent to such matters. Acts, ii. 41, 47, and iv. 1-3.
2. Church government stands in no opposition to civil government of commonwealths, nor any way intrencheth upon the authority of civil magistrates in their jurisdiction ; nor any whit weakeneth their hands in governing, but rather strengtheneth them, and furthereth the people in yielding more hearty and conscionable obedience unto them, whatsoever some ill affected persons to the ways of Christ have suggested, to alienate the affections of kings and princes from the ordinances of Christ ; as if the kingdom of Christ in his church could not rise and stand, without the falling and weakening of their government, which is also of Christ : whereas the contrary is most true, that they may both stand together and flourish, the one being helpful unto the other, in their distinct and due administrations. John, xviii. 36. Acts, xxv. 8. Isa. xlix. 23.
3. The power and authority of magistrates is not for the restraining of churches, or any other good works, but for helping in and furthering thereof; and therefore the consent and countenance of magistrates, when it may be had, is not to be slighted, or lightly esteemed; but on the contrary, it is part of that honor due to Christian magistrates, to desire and crave their consent and approbation therein; which being obtained, the churches may then proceed in their way with much more encouragement and comfort.
Rom. xiii. 4. 1 Tim. ii. 2.
4. It is not in the power of magistrates to compel their subjects to become church members, and to partake at the Lord's table ; for the priests are reproved that brought unworthy ones into the sanctuary : Then as it was unlawful for the priest, so it is as unlawful to be done by civil magistrates. Those whom the church is to cast out if they
were in, the magistrate ought not to thrust them into the church, nor to hold them therein. Ezek. xliv. 7,9. 1 Cor. v. 11.
5. As it is unlawful for church officers to meddle with the sword of the magistrate, so it is unlawful for the magistrate to meddle with the work proper to church officers. The acts of Moses and David, who were not only princes, but prophets, were extraordinary, therefore not imitable. Against such usurpation, the Lord witnessed, by smiting Uzziah with leprosy, for presuming to offer incense. Matt. ii. 25, 26. 2 Chron. xxvi. 16, 17.
6. It is the duty of the magistrate to take care of matters of religion, and to improve his civil authority for the observing of the duties commanded in the first, as well as for observing of the duties commanded in the second table. They are called gods. The end of the magistrate's office, is not only the quiet and peaceable life of the subject in matters of righteousness and honesty, but also in matters of godliness, yea, of all godliness. Moses, Joshua, David, Solomon, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, Josiah, are much commended by the Holy Ghost, for the putting forth their authority in matters of religion : on the contrary, such kings as have been failing this way, are frequently taxed and reproved by the Lord. And not only the kings of Judah, but also Job, Nehemiah, the king of Nineveh, Darius, Artaxerxes, Nebuchadnezzar, whom none looked at as types of Christ, (though were it so, there were no place for any just objection,) are commended in the book of God, for exercising their authority this
way. Psalm Ixxxii. 2. 1 Tim. ii. 1, 2. 1 Kings, xv. 14, and xxii. 43. 2 Kings, xii. 3, and xiv. 4, and xv. 35. 1 Kings, xx. 42. Job, xxix. 25, and xxxi. 26, 28. Neh. xiii. Jonah, iii. 7. Ezra, vii. Dan. iii. 29.
7. The object of the power of the magistrate are not things merely inward, and so not subject to his cognizance and view, as unbelief, hardness of heart, erroneous opinions not vented, but only such things as are acted by the outward man; neither is their power to be exercised in commanding such acts of the outward man, ishing the neglect thereof, as are but mere inventions and
devices of men; but about such acts as are commanded and forbidden in the word ; yea, such as the word doth clearly determine, though not always clearly to the judgment of the magistrate or others, yet clearly in itself. In these he of right ought to put forth his authority, though oft-times actually he doth it not. 1 Kings, xx. 28, 42.
8. Idolatry, blasphemy, heresy, venting corrupt and pernicious opinions that destroy the foundation, open contempt of the word preached, profanation of the Lord's day, disturbing the peaceable administration and exercise of the worship and holy things of God, and the like, are to be restrained and punished by civil authority.
1 Kings, xx. 28, 42. Dan. iii. 29. Zech. xiii. 3. Neh. xiii. I Tim. ii. 2. Rom. xii.'4. 9. If any church, one or more, shall grow schismatical, rending itself from the communion of other churches, or shall walk incorrigibly or obstinately in any corrupt way of their own, contrary to the rule of the word ; in such case the magistrate is to put forth his coercive power, as the matter shall require. The tribes on this side Jordan intended to make war against the other tribes, for building the altar of witness, whom they suspected to have turned away therein from following of the LORD.
Deut. xiii. 31.