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5. The state of the members of the militant visible church walking in order, was either before the law, economical, that is in families; or under the law national; or since the coming of Christ, only congregational. The term independent we approve not.
Therefore neither national, provincial nor classical. Gen. xviii. 19. Exod. xix. 6.
6. A congregational church is by the institution of Christ a part of the militant visible church, consisting of a company of saints by calling, united into one body by an holy covenant, for the public worship of God, and the mutual edification one of another, in the fellowship of the Lord Jesus. 1 Cor. xiv. 23, 36. and i. 2. and xii. 27. Exod. xix. 5. 6. Deut. xxix. l. and 9 to 15. Acts. ii. 42. . I Cor. xjv. 26.
Of the matter of the visible church, both in respect
of quality and quantity. THE matter of a visible church are saints by calling. 1. Cor. i. 2. Eph. i. 1.
2. By saints we understand, l. such as have not only attained the knowledge of the principles of religion, and are free from grass and open scandals, but also do together with the profession of their faith and repentance, walk in blameless obedience to the word, so that in charitable discretion they may be accounted saints by calling, though perhaps some or more of them be unsound and hypocrites inwardly, because the members of such particular churches are commonly by the Holy Ghost called saints and faithful brethren
in Christ; and sundry churches have been reprov. ed for receiving and suffering such persons to continue in fellowship amongst them, as have been offensive and scandalous; the name of God also by this means is blasphemed, and the holy things of God defiled and profaned, the hearts of the godly grieved, and the wicked themselves hardened and helped forward to damnation. The example of such doth endanger the sanctity of others: a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.
2. The children of such, who are also holy. Heb. vi. l. 1 Cor. i. 5. Rom. vi. 17. 1 Cor. i. 2. Phil. i. 2. Col. i. 2. Eph. 1 1. 1 Cor. v. 12, 13. Rev. ii. 14, 15, 20. Ezek. xliv. 7, 9. and xxiii. 38, 39. Num. xvi. 20. Hag. ii. 13. 14. 1 Cor. xi. 27. 29. Psal. xxxvii. 21. I Cor. V. 6. 2 Cor. vii. 14.
3. The members of churches, though orderly constituted, may in time degenerate and grow corrupt and scandalous, which though they ought not to be tolerated in the church, yet their continuance therein, through the defect of the execution of discipline and just censures, doth not immediately dissolve the being of a church, as appears in the church of Israel, and the churches of Galatia and Corinth, Pergamus and Thyatyra. Jer. ii. 21. 1 Cor. v. 12. Jer. ii. 4. Gal. v. 4. 2 Cor. xii. 21. Rev. ii. 14, 15. and xx.21.
The matter of the church in respect of its quantity, ought not to be of greater number than may ordinarily meet together conveniently in one place ; nor ordinarily fewer, than may con , veniently carry on church work. Hence when the holy, scripture makes mention of the saints combined into a church estate, in a town or city where was but one congregation, it usually call eth those saints (the church) in the singular num
ber; as, the church of the Thessalonians, the church of Smyrna, Philadelphia, and the like; but when it speaketh of the saints in a nation or province, wherein there were sundry congregations, it frequently and usually calleth them by the name of churches, in the plural number, as the churches of Asia, Galatia, Macedonia, and the like ; which is further confirmed by what is writ. ten of sundry of those churches in particular, how they were assembled and met together, the whole church in one place, as the church at Jerusalem, the church at Antioch, the church at Corinth, and Cenchrea, though it were more near to Corinth, it being the port thereof, and answerable to a village, yet being a distinct congregation from Corinth, it had a church of its own, as well as Corinth had. I Cor. xiv, 21. Mat. xviii. 17. Rom. xvi. 1. 1 Thess. i. l. Rev. ii. 8. and iii. 7. 1 Cor. xvi. I, 19. Gal i. 2. 2 Cor. viï. 1. 1 Thess. ii. 14. Acts ii. 46. and v. 12, and vi. 2. and xiv. 27. and xv. 38. l. 5. 4. and xiv. 23. Rom. xvi. I.
5. Nor can it with reason be thought but that every church appointed and ordained by Christ, had a ministry ordained and appointed for the same, and yet plain it is, that there were no ordinary officers appointed by Christ for any other than congregational churches ; elders being appointed to feed, not all flocks, but the particu. Iar flock of God over which the Holy Ghost had made them overseers, and that flock they must at. tend, even the whole flock; and one congregation being as much as any ordinary elder can attend, therefore there is no greater church than a congregation, which may ordinarily meet in one place, Acts xx, 28.
Of the form of a visible church, and of church
SAINTS by calling must have a visible political union among themselves, or else they are not yet a particular church, as those similitudes hold forth, which the scripture makes use of to shew the nature of particular churches, as a body, a building, house, hands, eyes, feet, and other members must be united, or else (remaining separate) are not a body... Stone, timber, though squared, hewn and polished, are not a house, until they are com. pacted and united ; so saints ur believers in judgment of charity are not a church, unless orderly knit together. 1 Cor. xii. 27: 1 Tim. iii. 15. Eph. ii. 22. 1 Cor. xii. 15, 16, 17. Rev. i.
2. Particular churches cannot be distinguished one from another, but by their forms: Ephesus is not Smyrna, nor Pergamus, Thyatira, but each one a distinct society of itself, having officers of their own, which had not the charge of others; virtues of their own, for which others are not praised ; corruptions of their own, for which others are not blamed.
3. This form is a visible covenant, agreement, or consent, whereby they give up themselves unto the Lord, to the observing of the ordinances of Christ together in the same society, which is usual, ly called the church covenant; For we see not otherwise how members can have church power one over another mutually. The comparing of each particular church to a city, and unto a spouse, seemeth to conclude not only a form, but that form is by way of covenant. The covenant, as it was
that which made the family of Abraham, and chil. dren of Israel to be a church and people unto God, so it is that which now makes the several societies of Gentile believers to be churches in these days. Exod. xix. 5, 8. Deut. xxix. 12, 13. Zech. xi. 14. and ix, 11. Eph. ii. 19._2 Cor. xii. 2. Gen. xvii. 7. Deut. xxix. 12, 13. Eph. ii. 12, 18.
4. This voluntary agreement, consent or cove. nant, (for all these are taken here for the same) although the more express and plain it is, the more fully it puts us in mind of our mutual duty, and stirreth us up to it, and leaveth less room for the questioning the truth of the church estate of a company of professors, and the truth of members ship of particular persons; yet we conceive the substance of it is kept, where there is a real agree. ment and consent of a company of faithful persons to meet constantly together in one congregation, for the public worship of God, and their mutual edification; which real agreement and consent they do express by their constant practice in coming together for the public worship of God, and by their religious subjection to the ordinances of God there; the rather if we consider how scripture covenants have been entered into not only expressly by word of mouth, but by sacrifice, by hand writing and seal, and also sometimes by silent consent, without any writing or expression of words at all. Exod. xix. 5. 'and xx. 8. and 24. 3, 17. Josh. xxiv. 18, 24. Psal. l. 5.
5. Neh. ix. 3, 8, and 10. Gen, i. 17. Deut. xxix.
5. This form being by mutual covenant, followeth, it is not faith in the heart, nor the profession of that faith, nor cohabitation, nor baptism. 1. Not faith in the heart, because that is invisible. 2. Not a bare profession, because