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which are innocent in themselves; and that we may labour to hold the steady, even path of truth, without running into either of the extremes. For that Jesus Christ did appoint order and government to be in the Church, is very clear from his plain words, Matt. 18. 15. Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go tell him his fault between thee and him alone; if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. Ver. 16. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses, every word may be established. Ver. 17. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Ver. 18. Verily, I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven. From which Scripture it doth manifestly and evidently follow; first, That Jesus Christ intended there should be certain order and method in his church, in the procedure towards such as transgress. Secondly, That he that refuseth to hear two, is become more guilty (as hardened) than in refusing to hear him that first reproved alone. Thirdly, That refusing to hear the judgment of the church, or whole assembly, he doth thereby exclude himself, and shutout himself from being a member; and is justly judged by his brethren as an heathen and a publican.
And lastly, that the church, gathering, or assembly of God's people, has power to examine and call to account such, as appearing to be among them, or owning the same faith with them, do
transgress; and in case of their refusing to hear, or repent, to exclude them from their fellowship: and that God hath a special regard to the judgment and sense of his people thus orderly proceeding, so as to hold such bound in heaven, whom they bind on earth, and such loosed in heaven, whom they loose on earth. I am partly confident, that no rational man will deny, but that these uaturally follow from the above mentioned Scripture; and if there should be any found so unreasonable as to deny it, I could prove it by necessary and unevitable consequences; which at present, as taken it for granted, I forbear to do. If it be reckoned so great a crime to offend one of the little ones, that it were better for him, that so doth, that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea; without question, to offend and gainsay the whole flock, must be more criminal, and must draw after it a far deeper judgment.
Now if there were no order nor government in the church, what should become of those that transgress? how should they be again restored? would not this make all reproving, all instructing, all caring for, and watching over one another, void and null? why should Christ have desired them to proceed after this method? why doth he place so wuch weight upon the judgment of the church, as to make the refusing of hearing it, to draw so deep a censure after it; which he will not have to follow. the refusing to hear one or two apart, though the matter be one and the same? and so, as to the substantial and intrinsic truth of the thing, there lies the same obligation upon the transgressor to hear
that one, as well as all; for that one adviseth him to that which is right and good, as well as the whole; and they do but homologate or confirm that which that one hath already asserted: yet Jesus Christ, who is the author of order, and not of confusion, will not have a brother cut off, or reputed a publican, for refusing to hear one or two, but for refusing to hear the church. And if it be objected, that the Church of Rome, and all other false churches, make use of this Scripture, and cover their persecution, and cruelty, and oppression by it; and thou sayest no more than they say: I answer; I suppose no man will be so unreasonable as to affirm, that the Church of Rome abusing this Scripture, will make it false in itself; but how we differ in our application of this Scripture, shall be spoken of hereafter. I am not now claiming right to this power, as due to us (that is reserved for another place ;) but this, I say, is that which I now aver to be manifest from the Scripture testimony, and to be in itself an unquestionable truth, that Jesus Christ intended there should be order and government in his church; which is the thing at present in hand to be proved: which if it be so really true (as it cannot be denied) then I hope it will also necessarily follow, that such who really and truly are the church of Christ, have a right to exercise this order and government.
Secondly, That the apostles and primitive christians did practise order and government, we need but read the history of the Acts, of which I shall mention a few pregnant and undeniable testimonies; as we may observe in the very first
chapter of the Acts, from verse 13. to the end; where at the very first meeting the apostles and brethren held together after the ascension of Christ, they began orderly to appoint one to supply the place of Judas; it may be thought this was a needless ceremony; yet we see how the Lord countenanced it. I hope none will say, that the apostles appointing of these two men, or him, upon whom the lot did not fall, contradicted their inward freedom, or imposed upon it; but both agreed very well together; the one in the will and movings of God in appointing, and the other in the same, in submitting to their appointment. Moreover, after they had received the Holy Ghost, you may read, Acts, 6. so soon as there ⚫ was an opportunity, how they wisely gave order concerning the distribution for the poor, and ap pointed some men for that purpose. So here was order and government, according to the present necessity of the case: and the Lord God was well pleased with it, and the word of God increased, and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly. Might they not have said then, as some say now; We will give our charity to whom we see cause; and we will take no notice of your appointments and orders: whether would God have approved of such, yea, or nay?
Thirdly, When that the business of circumcision fell in, whether it was fit or not to circumcise the Gentiles? We see, the apostles saw not meet, to suffer every one to follow their own minds and wills: they did not judge, as one confusedly supposeth, That this difference in an outward exercise, would commend the unity of the
true faith nay they took another method. It is said expressly, Acts 15. 6. And the apostles and elders came together, to consider of this matter; and after there had been much disputing about it, (no doubt then there were here diversities of opinions and judgments) the apostles and elders told their judgments, and came also to a positive conclusion. Sure some behoved to submit, else they should never have agreed. So those that were the elders, gave a positive judgment; and they were bold to say, That it pleased not only them but the Holy Ghost. By all which it doth undeniably appear, that the apostles and primitive saints, practised a holy order and government among themselves: and I hope none will be so bold as to say, they did these things without the leadings of the Spirit of God, and his power and authority concurring, and going along with them.
And that these things were not only singular practices, but that they held it doctrinally; that is to say, it was doctrine which they preached; that there ought to be order and government in the church, is manifest from the following testimonies: 1 Cor. 4. 15, 16, 17. For though you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus, I have begotten you through the gospel. Where. fore, I beseech you, be ye followers of me. For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord; who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways, which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church. Here the apostle Paul is very ab