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(1.) The apostles were commissioned by Christ to deliver his commands to all the churches, and settle them according to his will, John xx. 21.—Matt, xxviii. 19, 20, &c. (2.) These commissioned persons had the promise of an infallible Spirit for the due performance of their work, John xvi. 13—15. xv. 26. xiv. 26. Matt, xxviii. 20. (3.) These apostles wherever the success of the Gospel prepared them materials, did settle Christian stated societies, consisting of pastors or elders with their flocks, associated for personal communion in public worship and holy living. These settled churches they gave orders to for their direction, and preservation, and reformation: these they took the chief care of themselves, and exhorted their elders to fidelity in their work. They gave command that none should forsake such assemblies; and they so fully describe them, as that they cannot easily be misunderstood. All this is proved, Acts xiv. 23. Titus i. 5. Rom. xvi. 1. 1 Cor. xi. 18. 20. 22. 26. xiv. 4, 5. 12/19. 23. 28. 33, 34. Col. iv. 16. Acts xi. 26. xiii. 1. 1 Cor. xvi. 1,2. Acts xiv. 27. xv. 3. to omit many more. Here are proofs enow that such particular churches were ' de facto' settled by the apostles, Heb. x. 25. "Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together." So James ii. 2. they are called synagogues. 2. It is confessed that there is a natural necessity of such stated churches or assemblies, supposing but the institution of the worship itself which is there performed: and if so, then we may say that the law of nature itself doth partly require them. (1.) It is of the law of nature, that God be publicly worshipped, as most expositors of the fourth commandment do confess. (2.) It is of the law of nature that the people be taught to know God and their duty, by such as are able and fit to teach them. (3.) The law of nature requireth, that man being a sociable creature, and conjunction working strongest affections, we should use our sociableness in the greatest matters, and by conjunction help the zeal of our prayers and praises of God. (4.) God's institution of public preaching, prayer and praise, are scarce denied by any Christians. (5.) None of these can be publicly done but by assembling. (6.) No assembly can suffice for these without a minister of Christ; because it is only his office to be the ordinary teacher, and to go before the people in prayer and praise, and to administer the Lord's supper, which without a minister may not be celebrated, because Christ's part cannot be otherwise performed, than by some one in his name, and by his warrant, to deliver his sealed covenant to the receivers, and to invest them visibly in the benefits of it, and receive them that offer themselves in covenant to him. (7.) It is also a ministerial duty to instruct the people personally, and to watch over them at other times, Acts xx. 20. 28. And to be examples of the flock, 1 Pet. v. 1—3. To have the rule over the people, and labour among them, and admonish them, 1 Thess. v. 12. Heb. xiii. 7. 17. 1 Tim. v. 17. To exercise holy discipline among them, Titus iii. 10. Matt, xviii. 17, 18. 1 Cor. v. To visit the sick and pray over them, James v. 14. Yea, to take care of the poor. See Dr. Hammond on 1 Cor. xii. 28. And all this cannot possibly be well done by uncertain, transient ministers, but only by a resident, stated pastor, no more than transient strangers can rule all our families, or all the Christian kingdoms of the world. (8.) And as this cannot be done but by stated pastors, so neither on transient persons ordinarily: for who can teach them that are here to-day and gone to-morrow? When the pastor should proceed from day to day in adding one instruction to another, the hearers will be gone, and new ones in their place. And how can vigilancy and discipline be exercised on such transient persons, whose faults and cases will be unknown? Or how can they mutually help each other? And seeing most in the world have fixed habitations, if they have not also fixed church-relations, they must leave their habitations and wander, or else have no church-communion at all. (9.) And as this necessity of fixed pastors and flocks is confessed, so that such ' de facto' were ordinarily settled by the apostles, is before proved, if any Scriptures may pass for proof. The institution and settlement then of particular worshipping churches is out of doubt. And so that two forms of church-government are 'jure divino,' the universal church form, and the particular. 4. Besides this, in the apostles' days there were under Christ in the church universal, many general officers that had the care of gathering and overseeing churches up and down, and were fixed by stated relation unto none. Such were the apostles, evangelists, and many of their helpers in their days. And most Christian churches think that though the apostolical extraordinary gifts, privileges, and offices cease, yet government being an ordinary part of their work, the same form of government which Christ and the Holy Ghost did settle, in the first age, were settled for all following ages, though not with the same extraordinary gifts and adjuncts. Because, 1. We read of the settling of that form, (viz. general officers as well as particular) but we never read of any abolition, discharge, or cessation of the institution. 2. Because if we affirm a cessation without proof, we seem to accuse God of mutability, as settling one form of government for one age only, and no longer. 3. And we leave room for audacious wits accordingly to question other Gospel institutions, as pastors, sacraments, &c. and to say that they were but for one age. 4. It was general officers that Christ promised to be with to the end of the world q. Now either this will hold true or not. If not, then this general ministry is to be numbered with the human additions to be next treated of. If it do, then here is another part of the form of government proved to be of Divine institution. I say not, another church, (for I find nothing called a church in the New Testament, but the universal church and the particular); but another part of the government of both churches, universal and particular; because such general officers are so in the universal, as to have a general oversight of the particular; as an army is headed only by the general himself, and a regiment by the colonel, and a troop by the captain; but the general officers of the army (the lieutenants general, the majors general, &c.) are under the lord general in and over the army, and have a general oversight of the particular bodies (regiments and troops). Now if this be the instituted form of Christ's church-government, that he himself rule absolutely as general, and that he hath some general officers under him (not any one having a charge of the whole, but in the whole unfixedly, or as they voluntarily part their provinces,) and that each particular church have its own proper pastor (one or more J, then who can say, that 'No form of church-government is of Divine appointment or command?'
Object. But the question is only whether any sole form be of God's commanding? And whether another may not have as much said for it as this?Answ. Either you mean 'Another instead of this, as a competitor,' or ' Another part conjunct with these parts.' 1. If the first be your sense then you have two works to do. 1. To prove that these before mentioned were mutable institutions, or that they were settled but disjunctively with some other, and the choice was left indifferent to men. 2. To prove the institution of your other form (which you suppose left with this to men's free choice). But I have already proved, that both the general and particular church-form are settled for continuance as unchangeable ordinances of God. I suppose you doubt not of the continuance of Christ's supremacy, and so of the universal form: and if you will prove that church-assemblies with their pastors may cease, and some other way supply the room, you must be strange and singular undertakers. The other two parts of the government (by general officers, and by consociation of churches) are more disputed; but it is the circumstances of the last only that is controverted and not the thing; and for the other I shall now add nothing to what I have said elsewhereq. 2. But if you only mean that another part of the form may be 'jure divino ' as well as this, that will but prove still that some form is 'jure divino.' But 3. If you mean, that God having instituted the forms now proved, hath left man at liberty to add more of his own, I shall now come to examine that case also.
1 " Dispul. of Cliurch-governnient."
Quest, Lvii. Whether any forms of churches, and church-go.vernment, or any new church officers, may lawfully be invented and made by man?Answ. To remove ambiguities, 1. By the word'forms' may be meant either that relative form of such aggregate bodies which is their essence, and denominateth them essentially; or only some accidental mode which denominateth them but accidentally. 2. By churches is meant either holy societies related by the foundation of a Divine institution; or else societies related by accident, or by human contract only. 3. By 'Church-government' is meant, either that government formally ecclesiastical, which constituteth a church, of Christ's making; or else some government about the matters of the church, which is formally either magistratical or human, (by contract) &c. 4. So by church-officers are meant, either such as are accounted essential to a church in the pure Christian sense; or integral at least (as deacons,); or else such as are accounted but accidental to it,' and essential only to the human form. And so I answer, 1. As there are some things 'circa sacra,' or accidents of God's special church-worship, which are left to human prudence to determine of, so the same human prudence may determine who shall do them. As e. g. Who shall repair the buildings of the church; the windows, the bells, the pulpits, the tables, &c.; who shall keep the clock; who shall keep the cups, cloths, and other utinsils; who shall be the porter, the keeper of the books, &c.; who shall call the people to church, or ring the bells, or give them notice of church-assemblies; who shall make bread for the sacrament, or provide wine, or bring water for baptism; who shall make the graves, and bury the dead, or attend marriages, or baptizings, &c.; who shall set the tune of the psalm, or use the church-music (if there be any); who shall summon any of the people on any just occasion to come to their pastors; who shall summon the pastors to any synod, or lawful assembly, and give them notice of the time and place; when they are to meet, who shall be called first, and who second; who shall sit highest, and who lowest;