OF THE NATURE OF A GOSPEL CHURCH, THE SEAT OF PUBLIC WORSHIP.
THE word Church has various significations, which it may be proper to take notice of, in order to settle the true sense of it, as now to be discoursed of.
I. Some take it for a place of worship, and call such a place by that name; but wrongly, at least very improperly, it is a remarkable saying of one of the ancients, even of the second century," Not the place, but the congregation of the elect, I call the church." Some passages of scripture are pleaded for this use of it in this sense, When ye come together in the church I hear, £s?c. which is thought to be after explained, When ye come together into one plate:—have ye not houses to eat and drink in? or despise ye the church of God? All this,indeed, supposes a place to meet in ; though rather not the place, but the assembly that met in it, is called the church ; however, it is certain, that there are numerous places of scripture which cannot be understood of any material edifice or building; whether of stone, brick, or wood ; as when it is said, tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church. Acts xi. 22. it would be absurd to understand it in such a sense; and so many others.
II. The word eiklesia, always used for church, signifies an assembly called and met together, and sometimes it is used for an assembly, whether lawfully or unlawfully convened, Acts xix. 32—41. the same word is used which commonly is for a church; and which may be considered either as a general, or as a particular assembly of persons. 1. As a general assembly, called, The general assembly and church oj the first born, which are writen in heaven, Heb. xii. 23. and which include all the elect of God, that have been, are or shall be in the world. It is sometimes distinguished into the church triumphant and militant. The church triumphant consists of the saints in glory. The church militant consists of persons in the present state, which is said to be, as an army with banners, Cant. vi. 4. There is another sense in which the church may be said to be catholic, or general, as it may consist of such in any age, and in the several parts of the world, who have true faith in Christ, and hold to him the head, and are baptized by one Spirit into one body, this is the church which Polycarp called the whole catholic church throughout the world: and Irenaius, The church scattered throughout the whole world to the ends of the earth: and Origen, The church of God under heaven : and of this the apostle seems to speak, when he says, Unto him. be glory in the church, by Christ Jesus, throughout all ages, world without end, Eph. iii. 21. it. The church may be considered as a particular assembly of saints meeting togtther in one place for religious worship. Such was the first church at Jerusalem, which is called, the whole church, and the church at Antioch, convened by the apostles, Acts xiv. 27. and these churches, in after times, continued to meet in one place; the whole church of Jerusalem, at the destruction of the city, removed to Pella, a town beyond Jordan, which was sufficient to receive the christians that belonged to it; and two hun. dred and fifty years after Christ the church at Antioch met in one house, the church at Corinth, 1 Cor. xiv. 23. and the church of the disciples at Troas, who came together on the first day of the week to break bread, Acts xx. 7. see Gal. i. 2, 23. Rev. i. 4. 2~Cor. viii. 1. Col. iv. 12. this is the church the nature of which is to be treated of; and may be considered essentially, as to the matter and form of it; and organic cally, as to its order and power.
I. Essentially considered, as to its matter and form, of which ii consists. f. As to the matter of it, both as to number and quality. As to number. Tertullian thought that three persons were sufficient to constitute a church ; which may. seem to be confirmed by Matt, xviii. 20. but a judicial process in a church way, in case of offence, as directed to in some preceding verses, seems to require more : the church at Ephesus was begun with twelve men, or thereabouts, Acts xix. 7. A church should consist of no more than can meet together in one place, where all may hear, and all may be edified ; and if it should be so increased that this cannot be, then it should be divided into lesser communities ; as an hive of bees, when too many, swarms ; and which seems to be the case of the church at Jerusalem. The persons who are fit materials of a visible gospel church, are described, 1. As regenerate persons, of whom it is meet to think, and, in a judgment of charity and discretion, to hope and conclude that God hath begun a good work in them; such were the members of the church at Philippi, Phil. i. 6, 7. 2. As called ones ; a ' church is a congregation of such who are called out from among others, by the grace of God, the called of Jesus Christ, Rom. i. 6. 3. Such are not only called to be saints, but in and by effectual vocation become really saints, at least are judged to be so, by a charitable discretion of them ; so the members of the churches at Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, Philippi, and Collosse, are described as saints, and sanctified persons, and as 'holy temples, built for habitations of an holy God. 4. They are described as the faithful in Christ Jesus, or believers in him: so in the article of the church of England a church is defined, " A congregation of faithful men, in which the pure word of God is preached, and the sacraments duly administered." Hence, 5. Those that were added to the church at Jerusalem, are said to be, such as should be saved, Mark xvi. 16. 6. They should be persons of some competent knowledge of divine and spiritual things, or how otherwise should the church be the pillar and ground of truth. 7. The materials of a gospel church should be men of holy lives and conversations. 8. Such who are admitted into fellowship with a particular church of Christ, should be truly baptized in water, that is, by immersion, upon a profession of their faith, Acts ii. 41. so the members of the churches at Rome, Galatia, and Collosse, were baptized persons, Rom.' vi. 3, 4. Gal. iii. 2T. Col. ii. 12. But, 9. Not their infants with them; who were neither baptized nor admitted to membership in the churches ; Bo one instance of either can be produced in scripture: they are not members by birth ; for that which is born of the fiesh, is flesh : nor do they become such by the faith of their parents; for even their faith does not make them themselves church members, without a profession of it. Infants, as they are born, are not meet for membership, being unregenerate, unholy, and must be born again ere they are fit for the kingdom of God, or a gospel church state; their federal holiness, talked of, is a mere chimera, and is unsupported by 1 Cor. vii. 14. they are not capable of giving up themselves to a church; nor of consent and agreement to walk with it, nor are they capable of answering the ends of church communion, the mutual edification of members and the glory of God: and such who plead for their membership make a poor business of it; not treating them as members, neither by admitting them to the ordinance of the supper, nor by watching over them, and laying them under censures. n. A particular church may be considered as to the form of it; which lies in mutual consent and agreement in their covenant and consideration with each other. r There must be an union, a coalition of a certain number of persons to form a church state, one cannot make a church ; and these must be united, as the similies of a tabernacle, temple, house, body, and a flock of sheep to which a church is sometimes compared, shew; one curtain did not m ike a tabernacle, an human body is not one member, but many ; one sheep does not make a flock, nor two or three straggling ones; but a number of them collected together feeding in one pasture, under the care of a shepherd. 2. This union of saints in a church state, is signified by their beingyjoined, and as it were glued together; and it becomes members to endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, Acts iv. 32. Col. ii. 2. i.ph. iv. 3. 3. This union between them is made by voluntary consent and agreement. 4. As the original constitution of churches is by consent and confederation, so the admission of new members to them, is upon the same footing. The primitive churches, in the times of the apostles, first gave their own selves to the Lord, and to one another also, by the will of God, erc,aging to do whatever in them lav, to promote er...h others edification* and the glory of God ; a man mpv propose himself to be a member of a church, but it is at thj option of the church whether they will receive him ; so Saul assayed to join himself to the disciples, but they at first refund him, fearing he was not a true disciple; but when they had a testimony of him from Barnabas, and perceived that he was a partaker of the grace of God, and was sound in the faith of Christ, they admitted him ; and it is but reasonable, a church should be satisfied in these points, as to the pet sons received into their communion ; not only by a testimony of their becoming lives, but by giving an account of what God has done for their souls, and a reason of the hope that is in them ; as well as by expressing their agreement wi'r them in their articles of faith. 5. Something of this kind may be observed in all religious societies, from the beginning; see Gen. iv. 26. Exod. xxiv. 7. and so the gospel church was spoken of in prophecy, as what should be constituted and encreased by agreement and covenant, Isai. xliv. 5. and hi. G, 7. Jer. 1. 5. all which agrees with New Testament language. And, 6. .Such a mutual agreement is but reasonable ; for how should two xualk together except they be agreed? Amos iii. 3. and unless persons voluntarily give up themselves to a church and its pastor, they can exercise no power over them in a church way. 7. It is this confederacy, consent, and agreement, that is the formal cause of a church ; it is this which not only distinguishes a church from the world, but from all other particular churches ; so the church at Cenchrea was not the same with the church at Corinth, though but at a little distance from it. Onesimus and Epaphras were of the church at Collosse, and not of another, Col. iv. 9. 12. From all which it follows, 8. That a church of Christ is not parochial, or men do not become church members by habitation in a parish ; for Turks and Jews may dwell in the same parish : nor is it diocesan; for we never read of more churches under one bishop or pastor, though there may have been, where churches were large, more bishops or pastors in one church, Phil. i. 1. nor provincial, for we read of churches in one province; as of the churches of Judea, and of Galatia, and of Macedonia: nor national; nay, so far from it, that we not only read of more churches in a nation, but even of churches in houses, Rom. xvi. 5. 1 Cor. xvi. 19. Col. iv. 15. Philem. verse 2. nor presbijterian; for we never read of a church of presbyters or elders, though of elders ordained in churches; by which it appears there were churches before there were any presbyters or elders in them, Acts xiv. 23. But a particular visible gospel church is congregational, A church of saints thus essentially constituted, as to matter and form, have a power in this state to admit and reject members, as all societies have ; and also to choose their own officers; •which when done, they become a complete organized church, as to order and power.
OF THE DUTIES OF THE MEMBERS OF A CHURCH TO EACH OTHER.
There are several duties incumbent on church members, which it is highly necessary to observe. As,
I. And which is a principal one, to love one another. 1. This is the great law of Christ, as King in his church, John xiii. 34. and xv. 12. 17. 2. The example of Christ should influence and engage unto it, John xiii. 34. and xv. 12. 1 John iii. 16. 3. The relations that members of churches stand in to each other oblige to love. 1 Pet. ii. 17. and iii. 8. 4. Mutual love is an evidence of being the disciples of Christ, John xiii. 55. 5. It is this which makes communion in a church state delightful and comfortable, as well as honourable; Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell to. get/nr in unity i nothing is more pernicious and ruinous to a church state than want of love, Gal. v. 15. This love of members, one to another, ought to be fervent, unfeigned, and universal to the saints, weaker as well as stronger, poor as well as rich.
II. It is incumbent on church members, as much as in them lies, to endeavour to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace: to press to which, the apostle uses various arguments in Eph. iv. o—6, Care should be taken to promote and preserve unity of affection, Phil. ii. 2. and unity of mind and judgment, 1 Cor. i. lO, 11. unity of faith, Eph. iv. 5. 13. and unity of worship, Z ph. iii. 9. Hom. xv. 6. Proud and contentious men, who seek to promote strife and division, are not to be encouraged in christian communities, 1 Cor. xi. 16.
III. It is the duty of members of churches, to sympathise with each other in all conditions and circumstances they come into, Rom. sii. 15. this sympathy should be with respect to calamity, affliction, and distress, of whatsoever kind; it becomes fellow members; to comfort the feeble minded, sup. port the weak, and bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
IV. It is the duty of church members to communicate to each other in such circumstances. In outward things, to such as are in want of them, Rom. xii. 13. Gal. vi. 10. and in spiritual things, to mutual comfort and edification.
V. It is the duty of church members to watch over one another; not only pastors of churches are to watch over them for this purpose, but members of churches are to look diligently, or act the part of a bishop or overseer in some respect, Jest any man fail of the grace of God, Heb. xii. 15.
VI. It is incumbent on members of churches to bear with one 'another; the strong to bear the infirmities of the weak: and to bear one another's burdens, and to forbear with each other,' and not bear hard on one another; but to forgive one another, as Christ, and God, for Christ's sake, has forgiven them ; and especially when repentance is declared and discovered, then forgiveness should be extended, not only to seven times, but to seventy times seven; for if we forgive not, neither will our heavenly Father forgive our trespasses, Rom. xv. 1.
VII. It is the duty of members of churches to pray for one another; even for all saints, as the apostle intimates, Eph. vi. 18. and especially for such who are in the same church state.
VIII. It becomes church members to separate themselves from the men of the world, and not touch persons and things which are defiling; as a church state, is a garden in. closed.
IX. Church members should be constant in assembling together for religious worship; it is remarked of the members of the first christian church, to their honour, that they continued steadfast in the apostles doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayer, Acts ii. 42. A bad custom prevailed among some of jhose christian Hebrews, to forsake the assembling of themselves together, which the apostle takes notice of to their dishonour, Heb. x. 25.
X. There should be no respect of persons among members of churches in their assemblies, and when met together on church affairs, with regard to rich or poor, greater or lesser gifts ; all the strife should be in honour to prefer one another; and such who are highest, with respect to spiritual gifts, or worldly riches, should condescend to men of low estate, Rom. xii. 10. 16.
XI. It behoves them to strive together for the faith of the gospel, and earnestly to contend for it; nor suffer any human inventions and unwarranted practices to be imposed upon them.
XII. It becomes them to be examples to each other in a holy walk and conversation, and in an observance of all the.
i duties of religion; by a strict attention to these several duties
of religion, they will shew that they behave themselves in the
house of God as they ought to do.
OF THE OFFICERS OF A CHURCH, PARTICULARLY PASTORS.
Having treated of a church, as essentially considered, I shall now proceed to consider it, organically, or as an organized church, having its proper officers. In the first churches there were officers both extraordinary and ordinary; the extraordinary officers were apostles, prophets, and evangelists.
I. Apostles, 1 Car. xii. 28. These had the first and chief places in the church, and the signs of the apostles were found with them: they had their call and mission from Christ; they were infallibly guided into all truth ; they were not limited to any particular church. This office is now ceased; the apostles have no successors in it. .
II. There were set in the churches, secondarily prophets, 1 Cor. xii. 28. Eph. iv. 11. who had extraordinary gifts for explaining the word of God; and had the gift of tongues, to preach in them to all nations; such were in the church at An. tioch, and such were Silas and Judas, Acts xiii. 1. and xv. 22. and who also had the gift of foretelling future events. This office is also no more.
III. Evangelists: This name is sometimes given to the writers of the four gospels; but evangelists were companions of the apostles in their travels. This office is now extinct; only that every truly gospel preacher may be called an evangelist or evangelizer. The ordinary officers of the church are pastors and deacons, and these only; though antichrist has introduced a rabble of other officers, the scripture knows nothing of.
I. Pastors: these are shepherds under Christ, the great Shepherd and Bishop of souls ; such Christ has given to his churches, Jer. iii. 15. Eph. iv. 11. and still gives; to whom he says, as he did to Peter, Feed my lambs, feed my sheep. John xxi. 15, 16. These pastors and teachers are the same with bishops, or overseers, whose business it is to feed the flock, they have the episcopacy or oversight of. These bishops are the same with elders; when the apostle Paul had called together at Miletus, the elders of the church at Ephesus, he addressed them as overseers, episcopous, bishops, Acts xx. IT. 28. and when he says, he left Titus in Crete, to ordain elders in every city, he proceeds to give the qualifications of an elder under the name of a bishop; a bishop must be blameless, &c. plainly suggesting, that an elder and a bishop are the same, Tit. i. 5. 7. These are called the angels of the churches, Rev. i. HO. ministers of Christ, or his under-rowers, as the word uperctas, signifies, 1 Cor. iv. 1. Stewards of the mysteries of God, and sometimes, Good stewards of the manifold grace oj God, 1 Pet. iv. 10.
I. The qualifications of them for their office; which as it is a good office, the necessary qualifications should be found in those who are put into it, and which the apostle directs to, 1 Tim. Hi. 1. &c. Some of which, I. Respect the spiritual character, and accomplishments of a bishop or elder: he must not be a novice,* 1 Tim. iv. 12. he must have a competency of knowledge and understanding in divine things, so he may be able to teach others also, 2 Tim. ii. 2. he must not only be able to teach, but he must be apt to teach; w hich aptitude lies in a good degree of elocution, and a free utterance of speech, Matt. xiii. 52. The apostle Paul himself desired the Ephesians to pray for him, that utterance might be given him, Eph. vi. 19. ii. There are other qualifications of a bishop or pastor, which respect his domestic character. He must be the husband of one wife. Polygamy having been much in use among Jews and Gentiles, the first christians were not easily brought off that practice; however, the apostle thought fit to enj in that a bishop or pastor should not practice it, that he might not set an example of it, which might serve to countenance and continue it.
* Novam plantam, Grotiiis; Nuper baptizatum & ascriptum in numerum christianorum Vatablus. — A new plant. Lately baptized and recorded in the number of Christians.
A bishop or elder must be one that rultlb well his own house, having' his children in subjection with all gravity, or reverence ol him. nt. There arc other qualifications, which respect his personal character, conduct, and behavour. He must be blameless in his conversation; of good behaviour, and must have a good report of them that are without; he must not be given to any vice; Not given to wine, that is, to excessive drinking of it ; otherwise it is no more criminal to drink that than to drink water: nor given to quarrels; he must be no striker, neither with his fist nor with his tongue ; no calumniator, nor brawler, not litigious and contentious, nor givm to filthy lucre; nor be covetous, but given to hospitality. A bishop, elder, or pastor, should be vigilant ■, watch over himself and his flock, and take heed to both. I proceed to consider,
II. How any cotne into such an office, and are instated into it. i. There must be a call to the ministry of the word, Heb. v. 4, 5. J. An internal call; which lies in gifts bestowed, and in the furniture of a man's mind, and in the disposition of it to make use of them in the service of God. 2. The outward call is not immediately by Christ, as the twelve disciples were called, and sent forth by him to preach the gospel; and particularly, as the apostle Paul was called to be an apostie; not of men, neither by men, but by Jesus Christ and G'od the Father, but mediately by the chunh, being bj some means or another made known to the church, that such an one is thought to have a gift for public usefulness, the church calls him to exercise it before them, and having sufficiently tried it and being satisfied of it, the church calls and sends him forth in the name of Christ, to preach the gospel, where he may be directed in providence to do it; and being thus called and sent forth, he is eligible to the office of a pastor of a church who shall think fit to choose him. n. The procedure of instating him into the office of a pastor, or the ordination of him, is in this manner. 1. He must be a member of a church, to whom he is to be ordained as a pastor, Acts i.
21 23. 2. His qualifications, such as before observed, must
be known by the members of a church, and must be proved and approved of by them. 3. After sufficient trial and due consideration of his gifts, to satisfaction, and after seeking the Lord by prayer, the church, proceeds to the choice and call of him to be their pastor. 4 This choice and call being signified to him, he taking proper time, and seeking the Lord also, accepts thereof, 1 Pet. v. 2. for there must be a mutual consent and agreement in this affair. 5. To the public instating of him into his office, it is necessary there should be a recognition and repetition both of the church's choice and call of him, and of his acceptance of it, for the confirmation thereof, and for the satisfaction of ministers and churches iq communion ; who meet to see their order, and to assist, especially the former, by prayer for them, and by giving a word of exhortation to them, if desired. 6. As every civil society has a right to choose, appoint, and ordain their own officers; so churches, which are religious societies, have a right to choose and ordain their own officers, for them, and for them only; that is, for each particular church, and not another, Acts xiv. 23. 7. The election and call of them, with their acceptance is ordination. Election and ordination are spoken of as the same ; the latter is expressed and explained by the former, Mark iii. 14. John vi. 7. Acts xiv. 23. 8. This choice and ordination in primitive times, was made two ways ; by casting lots and by giving votes, signified by stretching out of hands. Matthias was chosen and ordained to be an apostle in the room of Judas,, by casting lots. But ordinary officers as elders, and pastors of churches, were chosen and ordained by the votes of the people, expressed by stretching out their hands ; thus it is said of the apostles, Act xiv. 23. So Clemens Romanus, who lived at the latter end of the apostolic age, says, the apostles appointed proper persons to the office <?f the ministry, with the consent or choice of the whole church ; and this practice continued to the third .century; in which century Cyprian was chosen bishop of Carthage, Cornelius, Bishop of Home. But, 9. Though, there was a stretching »ut of the hands ; yet there was no imposition of hands, used at the ordination. I. Christ ordained the twelve aposdes himself; but we read not a word of his laying his hands upon them, see Acts i. 22—26. 2. The apostles are said to ordain elders in every church, not by laying their hands upon them, but by taking the votes. Titus, i. 5. 3. No instance can be given of hands being laid on any ordinary minister, pastor, or elder, at his ordination. 4. The hands of ministers being now empty, they have no gifts to convey through the use of this rite. 5. To say that this rite is now used at the ordination of a pastor to point him out to the assembly, is exceeding trifling, and is a piece of weakness for which no excuse can be made. I go on to consider,
III. The work of such persons, who are instated into the office of pastors of churches.
First, The chief and principal of their work is to feed the church of God committed to their care; they have the name of pastors, a pascendo, from feeding. 1. Whom they are to feed. Not dogs that worry the flock. Nor swine. Nor the world's goats. They are Christ's sheep and lambs, that pastors of churches are to feed, according to the directions given by Christ to Peter. All the flock, the whole flock, is to be taken heed unto. n. What they are to feed the church or ilock of God with. Not with chaff and husks, Jer. xxiii. 28. but with such food as is suitable to lambs and sheep. Sound doctrine, salutary truths, the wholesome words of our Lord Jesus, are what pastors are to teach and feed souls, the word of God in general, and especially the gospel part of it, is food for souls. Pastors are promised and given to the churches, to feed them with knowledge and understanding, Jer. iii. 15. which may denote both the matter they are to feed them with, and the manner in which they are to do it. in. By what as they are to feed and do feed the churches of Christ,
over which they are set. i. By the ministry of the word, Such feed the flock, who do their work aright ; give themselves up to the ministry of the word, neglect all other services, at least. as much as may be, that they may not be entangled with them. They addict themselves to the study of the sacred scriptures, and are assiduous and constant in this work. They not only give themselves up to this work, but labour therein: and are careful to preach the pure and whole gospel of Christ; renouncing all arts of dishonesty, and declaring the whole of what is revealed in the word of God. 2. By the administration of ordinances ; these are the goodness and fastness of the house of God, with which the saints are richly fed, and abundantly filled and satisfied. 3. This act of feeding includes the whole work, and every part of the work of a shepherd or pastor to his flock, doing all good offices to them, and all the service they can for them. 4. A concern for the spiritual good of the flock the pastor has the care of, appears by his constant, fervent, and earnest prayers for it. Paul, in all his epistles, makes mention of his prayers for all the churches. 5. Pastors may feed the souls of men by their private visits, counsels, instructions, and conversation ; so the apostle Paul taught from house to house, as well as publicly, Acts xx. 20. 6. To all which, love to Christ and to his people is requisite.
Second, Another part of the work of pastors, is to rule the church they talce the oversight of; the same word in the Greek language which signifies to feed, signifies to rule also ; see Matt. ii. 6. and kings are sometimes called shepherds ; as Cyrus and others; so Agamemnon, in Homer, is called, poimen laon; the shepherd of the people. Their pre-eminence in the church appears in giving the lead in divine worship, Rev. iv. 9, 10. and v. 14. in presiding at church meetings, where they have the conducting of all affairs with order and decency, and in the receiving and rejection of members, for though the power of admissidn and rejecting of members is originally in the church, it is executively in the pastors in the name of the'
church; in taking care of the whole discipline of the church of God, that it is observed, and that the rules respecting it are put into execution. Now the rule and government of pastors of churches is not to be exercised in an arbitrary way, but according to the word of God, and the laws and rules which Christ, as King and Head of the church, has given ; and when they rule according to these, they may be said to rule well, and should be respected and obeyed, and counted worthy of honour. I proceed to answer,
IV. Some queries relative to the office of pastors. " i. Whether a pastor of one church can officiate as such in another church; or whether he can administer the Lord's supper, which is a pastoral act, in and to a church of which he is no pastor." A man can never act as a pastor, where he is not so much as a member; All members, the apostle says, have not the same office, Rom. xii. 4. but let the office be what it may, they must be members that have it, and they only. As one that is not a member of a church cannot be an officer in it; he has no office-power in it, and in consequence, cannot ad mini-j ster the Lord's supper in it, which is an act of office-power. As well may he exercise other branches of his pastoral office as this ; preside at their church meetings : if he can act as a pastor in two churches, he may in ten, and twenty, and more, and so become a diocesan bishop ; yea, an universal bishop or pastor as the pope at Rome pretends to be, and popery stopped not until it came to that, to establish an universal pastor* Should it be asked, as it may be reasonably asked, by what authority they do this thing? who or what gives them this authority ? What answer can be returned? will.ihcy say they have their authority lrom Christ ? this must be nad, either immediately from him, as the apostles had tor what they did, and then they must be called upon to work miracles in the confirmation of it, as they did; or from the word of God and Christ; and then it lies upon them to give proot of it lrom thence. Neither can a pastor derive his authot it from his own church, of which he is properly pastor; nor lrom the
other, to whom, at their request, he administers to the ordinance: neither the c onsent of the one, nor the desire of the other, can give him sufficient authority so to act. Such who take upon them to act in such a manner, may be truly called husy bodies in other mens matters, 1 Pet. iv. 15. the word there translated, a busy body, is allot rioepiscopos, a bishop, in anotner parish or diocese. As well may a deacon of one church officiate as such in another, as a pastor of one church officiate in another ; for they are both alike chosen by, and ordained to particular churches, and not to others. No instance can be given of such a practice in the word of God; there may be instances of members of one church communicating with another church occasionally; so Phoebe, a member of the church atCen. ehrea, was to be admitted to communicate with the church at Rome : but then partaking of an ordinance is a privilege arising from the communion of churches ; and is only a kind, of spiritual hospitality, giving a meal to a traveller ; and that by a pastor discharging his office in his own proper place, in his own church : but the administration of an ordinance is an act of office power, which one church cannot give to another, nor a pastor exercise it in another church, Rom. xvi. 1, 2The instance of the apostle Paul's breaking bread to the disciples at Troas, supposing it to be understood of the ordinance of the supper, is no proof and example of such a practice, since he was an apostle, and had the care of all the churches upon him: Are all apostles? They are not. Secondly, Another question may be put upon the former, Whether a brother or private member of a chuich, may be deputed by the church to administer the ordinance of the Lord's supper ? if the church may delegate and substitute others for the discharge of all ordinances whatsoever, without elders or pastors, then it may perfect the saints, and complete the work of the ministry, without them; which is contrary to Eph. iv. 11, 12. and as Dr. Owen further observes, it would render the ministry only convenient, and not absolutely necessary to the church, which is contrary to the insiitutien ef it, and such a practice would tend to make a church content
without a pastor, and careless and negligent of seeking after
one, when without one. Thirdly, Another question is, Whe-
ther a pastor may remove from one congregation to another ?
The answer is, if it is for worldly advantage, and he has a
sufficient provision where he is, he ought not. There are
some cases in which it may be lawful for him to remove ; as
when it appears to be for the good of the interest of religion,
and of the church of Christ in general; when a competent
provision is not made for him and his family, but they are
not only exposed to want, but the gospel also to the reproach
and contempt of the world. Fourthly, It may be asked, Whe-
ther on account of bodily weakness, or a decay of intellectual
abilities, a pastor may resign his office ; he may voluntarily
lay down his office, with the consent of the church. Fifthly, If
it is a question, Whether a pastor of a church may be depos-
ed from his office, and be cast out of the church for immorali-
ty or heresy, it may be answered in the affirmative, Col. iv. 17.
1 Tim. v. 19. if the sole power of excommunication lay in the
pastor, he cannot be dealt with in such a manner; but that is
not the case; it lies in the church, as will be seen hereafter;
to which power a pastor of a church is equally subject as a
OF THE DUTIES OF CHURCHES TO
The several duties which members of churches are under obligation to perform to their respective ministers, pastors, and elders, will be considered, as they lie in various passages of scripture.
I. In 1 Thess, v. 12, 13. We beseech you brethren to inorv them, fcfc. i. It is the duty of church members to know their pastors ; which is not to be understood of a bare knowledge of their persons, for it cannot be supposed, that there can be such a relation between pastors and members, and yet the members not know their pastors ; the sheep know their shepherd and his voice. To be acquainted with them; to acknowledge them as their ministers; to take notice of them; to love them; and to shew a concern for their comfort and welfare, their safety and protection. Now the arguments and reasons made use of to enforce this duty are, 1. Because such persons laboured among them ; they were not nonresi* dents, but were upon the spot where the people were, they had the care of; for where should pastors be, but with their flocks, 1 Pet. v. 2. 2. Because they are over the churches to whom they minister. 3. They admonish the saints, or put them in mind of their former experiences, of the duties of religion, and of approaching danger from their spiritual enemies. n. It is the duty of church members not only to know their pastors, but to esteem them very highly in love, for their work-sake, or superabundantly, as the word signifies, over and above common esteem and affection, and above common christians, in honour, prefering them to others; they are to think, and should speak very highly and very honourably of them.
II. Other branches of the duty of members to their pastors are expressed in Heb. xiii. 7.17,18. 0bey them that have the rule over you, Es?c. respects duties to be performed to the same per- i sons who are described as before. 1.Obedience is to be yielded; which lies, t. In a due regard to the ministry of the word by them. 2. In attendance on the ordinances of the gospel, as administered by them, and in joining with them constantly in the administration of them. 3. In regarding their admonitions, reproofs, and rebukes, whether in case of error or immorality, and whether in private or in public. 2. Another branch of the duty of church members to their pastors, is to submit themselves to them ; that is, to the laws of Christ's house, as directed to and put into execution by them. Another, branch of duty in church members to their pastors, is suggested in verse 18, Pray for us, for us ministers; members of churches should be solicitous at the throne of
grace for their ministers. With respect to their private studies and preparation for thiir work, and with respect to the world, and their conduct in it.
III. The duty of church members to their pastors is held forth in various passages respecting their maintenance, or a provision for the subsistence of themselves and families, 1 Tim. v. 17, 18. Gul. vi. 6. This duty the apostle urges and presses with various arguments, in 1 Cor. ix. 7—14. he argues from the law of nature and nations, exemplified in the cases of soldiers, planters of vineyards, and keepers of flocks, who, by virtue of their calling and services, have a right to a livelihood ; between whom, and ministers of the gospel, there is a resemblance: also he argues from the law of Moses, particularly the law respecting the ox, not to be muzzled when he treads out the corn; which he interprets of ministers of the word, and applies it to them ; he argues the right of the maintenance of the ministers of the gospel, from ihe justice and equity of the thing; that since they minister spiritual things, it is but reasonable they should receive temporal ones: he makes thistlear from the case of the priests under the legal dispensation, who ministering in holy things, had a provision made for them ; and lastly, from the constitution and appointment of Christ himself, whost«rdinance it is, that they that preach the gospel, should live of the gospel.
IV. It is the duty of members of churches to adhere to their pastors, and abide by them in every condition and state ; to support them under all difficulties ; to encourage them under all their discouragements; to sympathize with them in all their trials: the apostle Paul commends particularly Onesiphorus for his attachment to him and concern for him.
OF THE OFFICE OF DEACONS.
The other officers in a gospel church are deacons: the things to be treated of respecting this office, are the nature and original of it; the work to be performed by those who are appointed to it; their qualifications for it, and the encour. agement to the diligent performance of it; with the duties of a church respecting them.
I. The nature and original of it; It is not a political, but an ecclesiastic office ; sometimes, indeed, the word is used in a political sense, for the civil magistrate ; who is said to be theou diaionos, the deacon of God; we render it, the minister of God, Rom. xiii. 4. but it is commonly used in an ecclesiastic sense ; sometimes for extraordinary ministers, as apostles, whose ministry is called diaionos, a deacomhip, and is joined with apostleship, Acts i. IT. 25. 1 Cor. iii. 6. even our Lord Jesus Christ has this name and title, as the proph t of the church, and a preacher of the everlasting gospel; Now I say that Jesus Christ was diaionos a deacon, or minister of the circumcision, or to the circumscised Jews, Horn, xv. 8. not to take notice, that the ministry of angels is called diaionia, a deaconship, Heb. i. 14. it is oftener given to ordinary preachers and ministers of the word; as to Tychicus, hpaphras, and others, Eph. v. 21. Col. i. 7. and iv. 7. but elsewhere a deacon is spoken of as a distinct officer frem either ministers extraordinary or ordinary, 1 Tim. iii. and the officers of the church at Philippi are distinguished into bishops and deacons, Phil. i. 1.
Now the original of the institution of this office we have an account of, as is commonly thought, in Acts vi. 1—S. By which it appears, 1. That those who are chosen to this office must be members of the church, or they are not eligible; and that they are to be chosen by the vote and suffrage of the church ; and their destination is only to that church to which they belong. Extraordinary collections from other churches, we may observe, were sent to the elders, to be disposed of by them, Acts xi. 30. Wherefore, 2. The apostles, though they gave up themselves more especially to prayer, and the ministry of the word, yet they did not divest themselves wholly of this service ; see Acts xii. 25. deacons may be what the apostle calls helps, in 1 Cor. xii. 28. being helpful to the minister church, and poor, 3. This office was instituted when the church was numerous; wherefore the number of severs, in the first church, is not a rule and example binding on all future churches; but such a number are to be chosen, and may be increased, as the exigency of churches require. I cannot but be of opinion, that one deacon at least, if not two, are necessary to form an organized church. 4. The objects of this office, are the poor of the church, which were in all churches in all ages; The poor ye have always with you, John xii. 8, the reason of its first institution continues, namely, to ease the ministers of the gospel from too much concern in the secular affairs of the church, Acts vi. 2 .
II. The work and business to be performed by them who are appointed to this office. 1. Not to preach the gospel and administer ordinances, as baptism and the Lord's supper; and therefore ministerial qualifications are not required of them; Philip, indeed, one of the seven, did both preach and baptize, Acts vi. 5. and viii. 5. 38. but then he did both by virtue of his office as an evangelist, Acts xx. 8. 2. Nor is their work and business to rule in the church; we read of ruling elders, but never of ruling deacons; if they were, women might not be deaconesses, as Phoebe was, for they are not to rule. 3. But their principal business is to perve tables, which the apostles relinquished and gave up to the seven, at the first institution of them, Acts vi. 2. As, 1. The Lord's table, as it is called, 1 Cor. x. 21. So in Justin Martyr's time, they that were called deacons, he says, gave to every one that were present, that they might partake of the bread and the wine, for which thanks were given by the president. 2. The minister's table; to take care that a proper provision be made for the subsistence of himself and family- 3. The poor's table, 1 Cor. xvi. 1, 2. and what they receive, they are to communicate, 1. Impartially, that is, as the aposde expresses it, with simplicity. 2. This should be done with cheerfulness, Rom. xii. 8. without any frowns in the countenance. 3. This should be done with compassion and tenderness. The work of a deacon is expressed by hi;
shewing mercy, Rom. xii. 8. This office should be executed with great faithfulness ; deacons are the church's stewards, and it is required of stewards, that they distribute with fidelity. The next thing to be enquired into,
III. Are the qualifications of persons for such an office; some of which may be taken from Acts vi. 3. They are to be of honest report;' Full of the Holy Ghost, of his gifts and graces and men of wisdom : for as they are stewards, wisdom, as well as faithfulness, is required of them.
There are other qualifications of a deacon observed in 1 Tim. iii. 1—12. 1. As to his personal character; he must be grave in his speech and gesture, and not light, frothy, and vain. 2. Others concern his domestic character; he should be the husband of one wife; it is not necessary that he should be a married man; but if married, he should have but one wife, at the same time. 3. With respect to the spiritual and evangelical character of deacons, they should be such who hold the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience; as for that meteor, as Dr. Owen calls him, an arch deacon, he was not heard of until the fourth or fifth centuries.
IV. The encouragement given to the diligent and faithful performance of the office of a deacon, I. Such purchase, or get, to themselves a good degree. The conjecture of Dr. Owen's is very trifling, which I should not have expected from so great a man, as that it signifies a place of some eminence, a seat more highly raised up to sit in, in church assemblies ; nor by it is meant a higher degree in his own office; for there are no degrees of higher and lower in the office of a deacon; but rather an increase of gifts and graces is designed. 2. Such obtain boldness in the faith; in the exercise of faith at the throne of grace ; and in asserting the doctrine of faith; and in vindicating their own character before men, as faithful inen ; and in reproving for immorality or error.
V. The duties belonging to a church and its members, to persons in such an office. 1. To supply them with what is sufficient to relieve the wants of the poor. 2. They should be applied unto for direction and counsel in any private matters. and especially which relate unto the church. 3. They are to be esteemed highly for their work's sake. 4, To be prayed For that they may be able to discharge their office wit hreputation and usefulness.
OF THE DISCIPLINE OF A CHURCH OF CHRIST.
As there are various passages of scripture, which are taken for rules of church discipline, which are misunderstood and misapplied, it will be proper to mark them, that none may be misled by them, As,
I. The words of our Lord to Peter, And J will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven, &c. Matt. xvi. 19, which are usually understood of the admission of members into a church. The keys have made a great noise and rattling in the world, and many contests have been raised about thtm, when, after all, they relate not to church discipline, but to gospel doctrine.
II. There are various passages of scripture, which are thought to respect excommunication, or exclusion from church communion ; which seem to have nothing to do with it, and are not to be considered as rules to proceed by, with respect unto it. 1. The words in Matt, xviii. 17- Let him be vnto thee as an heathen man, and a publican! which was no form of excommunication, neither with Jews nor with Christians. Not with Jews, for that with them was expressed by casting out of the synagouge, especially in the times of Christ: nor with Christians, with whom it was after signified by putting away wicked men from among them. ii. Nor is excommunication expressed by the delivery of a man to Satan: for though that sometimes accompanied excommunication, yet they are very different and distinct things ; the deliver)' of the incestuous person to Satan was the apostle's own act, 1 Cor. v. 3, 5. whereas, excommunication is called a
nishment, or censure inflicted by many. iit. The passage 10. A man that is an heretic, after the first and
second admonition, reject; is usually thought, and so has been by myself, to be a rule for the ejection or casting out of church communion, a person so described: but not only the word employed, is never used of excommunication, nor indeed any other word in the singular number ; it is not said, reject ye, but rej'ct thou; (paraitou) and so is no direction to a church,butto a single person ; I shall now proceed to consider, I. The rules concerning the coming in, or admission of members into a gospel church. 1. The doors of it are not to be set wide open for any one to come in at pleasure; porters were set at the gates of the house of the Lord, that no unclean person should enter in. 2. Persons should voluntarily propose themselves to the church for communion with it; so Saul essayed to join himself to the disciples, Acts ix. 26. 3. In order to admission to communion, satisfaction must be given as to a work of grace upon the soul; when Saul desired communion with the church, they were all afraid of him, until it was declared to them, how he had seen the Lord in the way. If was an early practice of the saints, to tell one another what (?od ha h done for their souls; this is better done by a man himself, than by the report of others ; and better by a verbal declaration than by writing: for though the former may be made in a broken manner, yet it may best discover the true affection *,f the heart, and the savouriness of a man's spirit, and tend more to knit and unite the hearts of the Lord's people to him. 4. The way of entrance into a church is by a profession of faith in Christ. The three thousand converts first professed repentance of their sins, faith in Christ for the remission of them, and their joyful reception of the gospel, and then were baptized and added to the church. 5. It is necessary that such who enter into a church state, should have a knowledge of the truths of the gospel, 0pen ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in, Isai. xxvi. 1. 6. Allowances should be made for weaknesses and infirmities of men, both in their gracious expediences, and in their gospel lit;ht and knowledge; the day ef
small things is not to be despised ; the bruised reed is not to• be broken, nor the smoking flax to be quenched ; the tender lambs are gathered into Christ's arms, and carried in his bosom ; the weak in faith are to be received, and not to doubtful disputations. 7. Testimony should be given of their becoming life and conversation. 8. The reception of a member into church communion must be by mutual consent; if there is a pastor, the person must be received by him, if not by a brother appointed by the church for that purpose, the token of which is by giving the right hand of fellowship, Gal. ii. 9. I proceed,
II. To consider the ordinances, laws, and rules to be kept and observed by those who are admitted into the church, r. There are ordinances they are directed to the observation of. Besides the ordinance of baptism, which is preparatory to church communion, there are the ordinances of public prayer and praise, and the public ministry of the word, which are constantly to be attended upon; it is very unbecoming members of churches to forsake the assembling of themselves together for public worship.• 2. There are also the laws of the house, which are to be shewn to members of churches, and to be observed by them; Christ is Lawgiver in it. 3. There are certain rules respecting private admonitions of church members, which deserve special regard- The rule in Matt, xviii. 15.—17. If thy Brother shall trespass against thee, £s?c. is an excellent good one, and may be accomodated to all cases in difference between two persons.
III. The next thing to be inquired into is, what concerns the goings out of the house of church of God, and what may be meant by them. There are but two ways of going out of a church; either by a dismission from it, or by an excommunication out of it. There are, indeed, letters of recommendation, which are wanting in some cases, the apostles needed them not, 2 Cor. iii. 1. such as were given to Apollos, Acts xviii. 27. to Phebe, Rom. xvi. 1, 2. and to Marcus, Co!, iv. 10. But these do not give membership; only transient communion; the person recommended still remains a member from whence he is recommended; if a person takes up his residence in a place where he is in providence brought, he should send for his dismission, and be received upon it into full communion. There are cases, in which a man may desire his dismission to another church, as distance of habitation, non-edification, and when a church is become corrupt in doctrine and practice, that he cannot conscientiously abide with them. The other way of. going out of a church is excommunication, it will be necessary to consider, I. What excommunication is. 1. It is not a being reckoned as an heathen man and a publican ; nor a delivery of one to Satan, as has been shewn. 2. Nor does it aifect the temporal estate and civil affairs of a man, 3. Nor does it admit of degrees; the Jews had three sorts of excommunication, which proceeded gradually; but there is but one among christians. Some think a suspension from the Lord's table is in some cases necessary ; when a case is dubious, and there is not time thoroughly to inquire into it, and yet offence and scandal arises upon it: a person indeed, may be desired to abstain from the Lord's table, and a man that seeks the peace of the church, will consent to it: but he cannot be obliged to abstain ; if he is obstinate and refractory, there is no other way but to expel him. 4. Excommunication is no other than a removal of a man from the communion of the church, and from all privileges dependent upon it. 5. This act is expressed by various phrases 4 as by avoiding familiar conversation with such ; by not keeping company with them ; and by not eating with them at the Lord's table , by purging out from them the old leaven, &c. n. Who they are that are to be excommunicated. 1. Such who are disturbers of the church's peace, who cause divisions and offences, who are litigious and quarrelsome, 1 Cor. xi. 16. 2. Who do not keep their places in the church, do not attend when the church assembles together for religious worship, and who do in a sort cut off themselves from the communion of the church, Jud. verse 19. 3. All such who walk disorderly, £s the above persons do, are irregular in their lives and conversations, guilty of immoralities, though it may be thought of a lesser kind, as sloth, busy bodies, going from house to house, doing mischief, &c. 2 Theas. iii. 6—-1+. 4. AU such who commit attrocious crimes, unrepented of, and continued in ; as fornicators, covetous, idolaters, railers, drunkards, extortion, ers, &';. 1 Cor. v. 11. Eph. v. 5. 5. All erroneous and heretical persons, who hold and propagate doctrines contrary to what has been learnt from the word of God, and in the churches of Christ: such are to be avoided and declined from Rom. xvi. IT. in. By whom excommunication is to be perlormed. 1. Not by a member himself; no man has a right to cut off himself; such .a man is a felo de sc; as a man cannot come into a church without the consent of it, so neither can he go out of it, without its consent. 2. Nor is it to be performed by any single person of himself, whether an ordinary or an extraordinary minister it never was done by an apostle, an evangelist, or any other one man; for it is a punishment inflicted by many. 3. Nor is it to be done by the elders of a church separately; much less by the elders of other churches, iv. What are the ends of excommunication. 1. The glory of God, which is the ultimate end of it; as the Jews of old, in a similar case, Isai. lxvi. 5. 2. Another end is to purge the church, and preserve it from infection, 1 Cor. v. 7, 13. Lepers were to be put out of the camp, that they might not infect others 8. A .church of Christ is like a garden, or vineyard, which, if not taken care of, and this ordinance of excommunication not made use of will be like the vineyard of the slothful, over run with thorns and nettles and other waeds. 4. The good of persons excommunicated is another end, and is sometimes effected by it, God blessing his own institution when rightly performed, which is for edification, and not destruction; men are hereby brought to shame and repentance for their sins, and are to. be received again with all love and tenderness.