Keys of the Kingdom: Congregationalism or Presbyterianism?

Keys of the Kingdom_Congregationalism or Presbyterianism

Jus Divinum Regiminis Ecclesiastici
The Divine Right of Church Government
Chapter 10

That the community of the faithful, or body of the people, are not the immediate subject of the power of Church government.

Thus we see, that Jesus Christ our Mediator did not commit any proper formal ecclesiastical power for church government to the political magistrate, as such, as the Erastians conceive. Now, in the next place (to come more close) let us consider that Jesus Christ our Mediator hath not committed the spiritual power of church government to the body of the people, presbyterated, or unpresbyterated (to use their own terms) as the first subject thereof, according to the opinion of the Separatists or Independents. Take it in this proposition:

Jesus Christ our Mediator hath not committed the proper formal power or authority spiritual, for government of his Church, unto the community of the faithful, whole church, or body of the people, as the proper immediate receptacle, or first subject thereof.

SECTION I.

Some things herein need a little explanation, before we come to the confirmation.

1. By fraternity, community of the faithful, whole church or body of the people, understand a particular company of people, meeting together in one assembly or single congregation, to partake of Christ’s ordinances. This single congregation may be considered as presbyterated, i.e. furnished with an eldership; or as unpresbyterated, i.e. destitute of an eldership, having yet no elders or officers erected among them. Rigid Brownists or Separatists say, that the fraternity or community of the faithful unpresbyterated is the first receptacle of proper ecclesiastical power from Christ: unto whom some of independent judgment subscribe. Independents thus resolve:

First, That the apostles of Christ are the first subject of apostolic power.

Secondly, That a particular congregation of saints, professing the faith, taken indefinitely for any church, (one as well as another,) is the first subject of all church offices with all their spiritual gifts and power.

Thirdly, That when the church of a particular congregation walketh together in the truth and peace, the brethren of the church are the first subjects of church liberty; the elders thereof of church authority; and both of them together are the first subject of all church power.

Which assertions of Brownists and Independents (except the first) are denied by them of presbyterian judgment, as being obvious to divers material and just exceptions.

2. By proper formal power or authority spiritual, for church government, thus conceive. To omit what hath been already laid down about the natures and sorts of spiritual power and authority (part 2, ch. III and VI), which are to be remembered, here it may be further observed, that there is a proper public, official, authoritative power, though but stewardly and ministerial, which is derived from Jesus Christ to his church officers, Matt. 16:19, and 18:18; John 20:21-23; Matt. 28:18-20; of which power the apostle speaking, saith, “If I should somewhat boast of our power which the Lord hath given us to edification,” 2 Cor. 10:8; so 2 Cor. 12:10. The people are indeed allowed certain liberties or privileges; as, To try the spirits, etc., 1 John 4:1. To prove all doctrines by the word, 1 Thess. 5:21. To nominate and elect their own church officers, as their deacons, which they did, Acts 6:3-6; but this is not a proper power of the keys. But the proper, public, official, authoritative power, is quite denied to the body of the people, furnished with an eldership or destitute thereof.

3. By proper immediate receptacle, or first subject of power, understand, that subject, seat, or receptacle of power, which first and immediately received this power from Jesus Christ; and consequently was entrusted and authorized by him, to put forth and exercise that power in his Church for the government thereof. And here two things must be carefully remembered:

1. That we distinguish betwixt the object and subject of this power. The object for which, for whose good and benefit all this power is given, is primarily the general visible Church, Eph. 4:7, 10-12; 1 Cor. 12:28; Rom. 12:5-6, etc. Secondarily, particular churches, as they are parts and members of the general. But the subject receiving to which the power is derived, is not the Church general or particular, but the officers or governors of the Church.

2. That we distinguish also betwixt the donation of the power, and the designation of particular persons to offices ecclesiastical. This designation of persons to the offices of key bearing or ruling may be done first and immediately by the Church, in nominating or electing her individual officers which is allowed to her; yet is no proper authoritative act of power. But the donation of the power itself is not from the Church as the fountain, but immediately from Christ himself, 2 Cor. 11:8, and 13:10. Nor is it to the Church as the subject, but immediately to the individual church officers themselves, who consequently, in all the exercise of their power, act as the ministers and stewards of Christ, 1 Cor. 4:1, putting forth their power immediately received from Christ, not as the substitutes or delegates of the Church putting forth her power, which from Christ she mediately conveys to them, as Independents do imagine, but by us is utterly denied.

SECTION II.

For confirmation of this proposition thus explained and stated; consider these few arguments:

Argument 1:

The community of the faithful, or body of the people, have no authentic commission or grant of proper spiritual power for church government; and therefore they cannot possibly be the first subject or the proper immediate receptacle of such power from Christ. We may thus argue:

Major Premise.

Whomsoever Jesus Christ hath made the immediate receptacle or first subject of proper formal power for governing of his Church, to them this power is conveyed by some authentic grant or commission.

Minor Premise.

But the community of the faithful, or body of the people, have not this power conveyed unto them by any authentic grant or commission.

Conclusion.

Therefore Jesus Christ our Mediator hath not made the community of the faithful, or body of the people, the immediate receptacle or first subject of proper formal power for governing of his Church.

Major Premise Proved.

The major proposition is evident in itself: For,

1. The power of church government in this or that subject is not natural, but positive; and cast upon man, not by natural, but by positive law, positive grant: men are not bred, but made the first subject of such power; therefore all such power claimed or exercised, without such positive grant, is merely without any due title, imaginary, usurped, unwarrantable, in very fact null and void.

2. All power of church government is radically and fundamentally in Christ, Isa. 9:6; Matt. 28:18; John 5:22. And how shall any part of it be derived from Christ to man, but by some fit intervening mean betwixt Christ and man? And what mean of conveyance betwixt Christ and man can suffice, if it do not amount to an authentic grant or commission for such power?

3. This is evidently Christ’s way to confer power by authentic commission immediately upon his church officers, the apostles and their successors, to the world’s end. “Thou art Peter; and I give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven,” etc., Matt. 16:18, 19. “Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth,” etc., Matt. 18:19-20. “As my Father sent me, so send I you; go, disciple ye all nations; whose sins ye remit, they are remitted—and lo, I am with you always to the end of the world,” John 20:21, 23; Matt. 28:19-20. “Our power, which the Lord hath given us for edification,” 2 Cor. 10:8, and 13:10: so that we may conclude them that have such commission to be the first subject and immediate receptacle of power from Christ, as will after more fully appear.

4. If no such commission be needful to distinguish those that have such power from those that have none, why may not all without exception, young and old, wise and foolish, men and women, Christian and heathen, etc., equally lay claim to this power of church government? If not, what hinders? If so, how absurd!

Minor Premise Proved.

The minor proposition, viz: But the community of the faithful, or body of the people, have not this power conveyed to them by any authentic grant or commission, is firm. For whence had they it? When was it given to them? What is the power committed to them? Or in what sense is such power committed to them?

1. Whence had they it? From heaven or of men? If from men, then it is a human ordinance and invention; a plant which the heavenly Father hath not planted; and therefore shall he plucked up. Matt. 15:13. If from heaven, then from Christ; for all power is given to him, Matt. 28:18; Isa. 9:6. If it be derived from Christ, then it is derived from him by some positive law of Christ as his grant or charter. A positive grant of such power to select persons, namely church officers, the Scripture mentions, as was evidenced in the proof of the major proposition. But touching any such grant or commission to the community of the faithful, the Scripture is silent. And let those that are for the popular power produce, if they can, any clear scripture that expressly, or by infallible consequence, contains any such commission.

2. When was any such power committed by Christ to the multitude of the faithful, either in the first planting and beginning of the Church, or in the after establishment and growth of the Church under the apostles’ ministry?

Not the first; for then the apostles themselves should have derived their power from the community of the faithful: now this is palpably inconsistent with the Scriptures, Which tell us that the apostles had both their apostleship itself, and their qualifications with gifts and graces for it, yea, and the very designation of all their particular persons unto that calling, all of them immediately from Christ himself. For the first, see Gal. 1:1: “Paul, an apostle, not of men, nor by man, but by Jesus Christ,” Matt. 28:18-20. For the second, see John 20:22, 23: “And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost; whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them,” etc. For the third, see Luke 6:13, etc.: “And when it was day he called to him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles; Simon—” Matt. 10:5-7, etc. “These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying.” And after his resurrection he enlarges their commission, Mark 16:15, 16: “Go ye into all the world;” and, “As my Father hath sent me, so send I you,” John 20:21. See also how the Lord cast the lot upon Matthias, Acts 1:24-26.

Nor the second; for if such power be committed to the community of the faithful after the apostles had established the churches, then let those that so think show where Christ committed this power first to the apostles, and after to the community of the faithful, and by them or with them to their ordinary officers, for execution thereof. But no such thing hath any foundation in Scripture; for the ordinary Church guides, though they may have a designation to their office by the church, yet they have the donation, or derivation of their office and its authority only from Christ: their office is from Christ, Eph. 4:8, 11; 1 Cor. 12:28; Acts 20:28-29. Their power from Christ, Matt. 16:19, and 28:18, 19; John 20:21, 23. “Our power which the Lord hath given us,” 2 Cor. 8:10. They are Christ’s ministers, stewards, ambassadors, 1 Cor. 4:1; 2 Cor. 5:19-20. They are to act and officiate in his name, Matt. 18:19; 1 Cor. 5:4-5; and to Christ they must give an account. Heb. 13:17-18; Luke 12:41-42. Now if the ordinary officers have (as well as the apostles their apostleship) their offices of pastor, teacher, etc., from Christ, and are therein the successors of the apostles to continue to the world’s end (Matt. 28:18-20), then they have their power and authority in their offices immediately from Christ, as the first receptacles thereof themselves, and not from the Church as the first receptacle of it herself. A successor hath jurisdiction from him from whom the predecessor had his; otherwise he doth not truly succeed him. Consequently the Church or community of the faithful cannot possibly be the first receptacle of the power of church government from Christ.

3. What power is it that is committed to the body of the Church or multitude of the faithful? Either it must be the power of order, or the power of jurisdiction. But neither of these is allowed to the multitude of the faithful by the Scriptures (but appointed and appropriated to select persons).

Not the power of order; for the whole multitude, and everyone therein, neither can nor ought to intermeddle with any branches of that power. 1. Not with preaching; all are not apt to teach, 1 Tim. 3:2, nor able to exhort and convince gainsayers, Titus 1:9; all are not gifted and duly qualified. Some are expressly prohibited speaking in the church, 1 Cor. 14:34, 35, 1 Tim. 2:12, Rev. 2:20, and none are to preach, unless they be sent, Rom. 10:15, nor to take such honor unto themselves unless they be called, etc., Heb. 5:4-5. Are all and every one of the multitude of the faithful able to teach, exhort, and convince? are they all sent to preach? are they all called of God? etc. Nay, hath not Christ laid this task of authoritative preaching only upon his own officers? Matt. 28:18-19. 2. Not with administration of the sacraments; this and preaching are by one and the same commission given to officers only, Matt. 28:18-20; 1 Cor. 11:23. 3. Nor to ordain presbyters, or other officers. They may choose; but extraordinary officers, or the presbytery of ordinary officers, ordain. Acts 6:3, 5-6: “Look ye out men—whom we may appoint.” Compare also Acts 14:23; 1 Tim. 4:14, and 5:22; Titus 3:5. So that the people’s bare election and approbation is no sufficient Scripture ordination of officers. Nor is there one often thousand among the people that is in all points able to try and judge of the sufficiency of preaching presbyters, for tongues, arts, and soundness of judgment in divinity.

Nor is the power of jurisdiction in public admonition, excommunication, and absolution, etc., allowed to the multitude. For all and every one of the multitude of the faithful, 1. Never had any such power given to them from Christ; this key as well as the key of knowledge being given to the officers of the Church only, Matt. 16:19, and 18:18-20. Tell the church, there, must needs be meant of the ruling church only. 2 Cor. 8:10; John 20:21-23. 2. Never acted or executed any such power, that we can find in Scripture. As for that which is primarily urged of the church of Corinth, that the whole church did excommunicate the incestuous person, 1 Cor. 5:4, etc., many things may be answered to evince the contrary. 1st, The whole multitude could not do it; for children could not judge, and women must not speak in the Church. 2nd, It is not said, Sufficient to such an one is the rebuke inflicted of all; but of many, 2 Cor. 2:6, viz. of the presbytery, which consisted of many officers. 3rd, The church of Corinth, wherein this censure was inflicted, was not a congregational, but a presbyterial church, having divers particular congregations in it, and therefore the whole multitude of the church of Corinth could not meet together in one place for this censure, but only the presbytery of that great church. Again, never did the whole multitude receive from Christ due gifts and qualifications for the exercise of church government and jurisdiction; nor any promise from Christ to be with them therein, as officers have, Matt. 28:18-20. And the absurdities of such popular government are intolerable, as after will appear.

4. Finally, in what sense can it be imagined that any such power should be committed from Christ to the community of the faithful, the whole body of the Church? For this power is given them equally with the church-guides, or unequally. If equally, then, 1. The church-guides have power and authority, as primarily and immediately committed to them, as the Church herself hath; and then they need not derive or borrow any power from the body of the faithful, having a power equal to theirs. 2. How vainly is that power equally given as to the officers, so to the whole multitude, when the whole multitude have no equal gifts and abilities to execute the same! If unequally, then this power is derived to the church-guides, either more or less than to the multitude of the faithful. If less, then how improperly were all those names of rule and government imposed upon officers, which nowhere are given by Scripture to the multitude! as Pastors, (Eph. 4:8, 11) Elders, (1 Tim. 5:17) Overseers, (Acts 20:28) Guides, (Heb. 13:7, 17, 22). In this last verse they are contradistinguished from the saints; church-guides, and saints guided, make up a visible organic church. Rulers in the Lord, 1 Thes. 5:12; Rom. 12:8: and well-ruling Elders, 1 Tim. 5:17. Governments, 1 Cor. 12:28. Stewards, 1 Cor. 4:1,2; Luke 12:42, etc. And all these titles have power and rule engraven in their very foreheads; and they of right belonged rather to the multitude than to the officers, if the officers derive their power from the multitude of the people. If more, then church-guides, having more power than the Church, need not derive any from the Church, being themselves better furnished.

Thus, what way soever we look, it cannot be evinced, that the multitude and body of the people, with or without eldership, are the first subject of power, or have any authoritative public official power at all, from any grant, mandate, or commission of Christ. From all which we may strongly conclude,

Therefore Jesus Christ our Mediator hath not made the community of the faithful, or body of the people, the immediate receptacle, or first subject of proper formal power for governing of his church.

Argument 2:

As the multitude of the faithful have no authentic grant or commission of such power of the keys in the Church; so they have no divine warrant for the actual execution of the power of the said keys therein: and therefore cannot be the first receptacle of the power of the keys from Christ. For thus we may reason:

Major Premise.

Whosoever are the first subject, or immediate receptacle of the power of the keys from Christ, they have divine warrant actually to exercise and put in execution the said power.

Minor Premise.

But the multitude or community of the faithful have no divine warrant actually to exercise and put in execution the power of the keys.

Conclusion.

Therefore the community of the faithful are not the first subject, or immediate receptacle of the power of the keys from Jesus Christ.

Major Premise Proven.

The major proposition must necessarily be yielded. For,

1. The power of the keys contains both authority and exercise; power being given to that end that it may be exercised for the benefit of the Church. It is called the power given us for edification, 2 Cor. 8:10. Where there is no exercise of power there can be no edification by power.

2. Both the authority and complete exercise of all that authority, were at once and together communicated from Christ to the receptacle of power. “I give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth,” etc., Matt. 16:19, and 18:18. “As my Father sent me, so send I you—whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted,” John 20:21, 23. Here is both power and the exercise thereof joined together in the same commission. Yea, so individual and inseparable are power and exercise, that under exercise, power and authority is derived: as, “Go, disciple ye all nations, baptizing them,” etc., Matt. 28:18-19.

3. How vain, idle, impertinent, and ridiculous is it to fancy and dream of such a power as shall never be drawn into act by them that have it!

Minor Premise Proven.

The minor proposition, viz. But the multitude or communion of the faithful have no divine warrant, actually to exercise and put in execution the power of the keys, is clear also:

1. By reason: for, the actual execution of this power belongs to them by divine warrant, either when they have church officers, or when they want church officers.

Not while they have officers; for, that were to slight Christ’s officers: that were to take officers’ work out of their hands by them that are no officers, and when there were no urgent necessity; contrary whereunto, see the proofs, Ch. 11, Section 2, that were to prejudice the church, in depriving her of the greater gifts, and undoubtedly authorized labors of her officers, etc.

Not when they want officers in a constituted church: as in case where there are three or four elders, the pastor dies, two of the ruling elders fall sick, or the like; in such cases the community cannot by divine warrant supply the defects of these officers themselves, by exercising their power, or executing their offices. For where doth Scripture allow such power to the community in such cases? What one church without its eldership can be instanced in the New Testament, that in such cases once presumed to exercise such power, which might be precedent or example for it to other churches? How needless are church officers, if the multitude of the faithful may, as members of the church, take up their office, and actually discharge it in all the parts of it?

2. By induction of particulars, it is evident, that the community cannot execute the power of the keys by any divine warrant.

1. They may not preach: for, “how shall they preach, except they be sent?” Rom. 10:15; but the community cannot he sent, many of them being incapable of the office, either by reason of their sex, 1 Cor. 14:34, 35; 1 Tim. 2:11, 12: or by reason of their age, as children, and all or most of them by reason of their deficiency in gifts and in scripture qualifications, Titus 1 and 1 Tim. 3. For not one member of a thousand is so completely furnished, as to be “apt to teach, able to convince gainsayers, and to divide the word of truth aright.” Besides, they may not send themselves, were they capable, for, no man takes this honor to himself—Yea, Jesus Christ himself did not glorify himself to be made an high-priest—Heb. 5:4-5. Now only officers are sent to preach, Matt. 16:19, and 18:19-20; Mark 16:15.

2. They may not administer the seals, the sacraments, baptize, etc. under the New Testament; for who gave the people any such authority? hath not Christ conjoined preaching and dispensing of the sacraments in the same commission, that the same persons only that do the one, may do the other? Matt. 28:18-19.

3. They may not ordain officers in the church, and authoritatively send them abroad: for, ordinarily the community have not sufficient qualifications and abilities for proving and examining of men’s gifts for the ministry. The community are nowhere commanded or allowed so to do in the whole New Testament, but other persons distinct from them, 1 Tim. 5:22; 2 Tim. 2:2; Titus 1:5, etc. Nor did the community ever exercise or assume to themselves any such power of ordination or mission, but only officers both in the first sending of men to preach, as 1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6: and to be deacons, Acts 6:6, and also in after missions, as Acts 13:1-3.

4. The community, without officers, may not exercise any act of jurisdiction authoritatively and properly; may not admonish, excommunicate, or absolve. For we have no precept that they should do it; we have no example in all the New Testament that they ever did do it; we have both precept and example, that select officers both did and ought to do it. “Whatsoever ye bind on earth” (saith Christ to his officers) “shall be bound in heaven,” etc. Matt. 18:18, and 16:19. “Whose soever sins ye remit,” etc., John 20:21, 23. “An heretic, after once or twice admonition, reject,” Titus 1:10. “I have decreed—to deliver such an one to Satan,” 1 Cor. 5:4. “The rebuke inflicted by many,” not all, 2 Cor. 2. “Whom I have delivered to Satan,” 1 Tim. 1 ult. And the Scriptures nowhere set the community over themselves to be their own church-guides and governors; but appoint over them in the Lord rulers and officers distinct from the community. Compare these places, 1 Thes. 5:12; Acts 20:28, 29; Heb. 13:7, 17, 22. “Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints.”

From the premises we conclude, Therefore the community of the faithful are not the first subject, or immediate receptacle of the power of the keys from Jesus Christ.

Argument 3:

Jesus Christ hath not given nor promised to the community of the faithful a spirit of ministry, nor those gifts which are necessary for the government of the church: therefore the community was never intended to be the first subject of church government.

Major Premise.

Whomsoever Christ makes the first subject of the power of church government, to them he promises and gives a spirit of ministry, and gifts necessary for that government. For,

1. As there is diversity of ecclesiastical administrations (which is the foundation of diversity of officers) and diversity of miraculous operations, and both for the profit of the Church; so there is conveyed from the Spirit of Christ diversity of gifts, free endowments, enabling and qualifying for the actual discharge of those administrations and operations. See 1 Cor. 12:4-7, etc.

2. What instance can be given throughout the whole New Testament of any persons, whom Christ made the receptacle of church government, but withal he gifted them, and made his promises to them, to qualify them for such government? As the apostles and their successors: “As my Father sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained,” John 20:21-23. And, “Go ye therefore, and disciple ye all nations, etc.—And lo, I am with you alway,” (or every day) “even to the end of the world,” Matt. 28:19-20.

3. Christ being the wisdom of the Father, Col. 2:3, John 1:18, and faithful as was Moses in all his house; yea, more faithful—Moses as a servant over another’s, he as a son over his own house, Heb. 3:2, 5-6—it cannot stand with his most exact wisdom and fidelity, to commit the grand affairs of church government to such as are not duly gifted, and sufficiently qualified by himself for the due discharge thereof.

Minor Premise.

But Christ neither promises, nor gives a spirit of ministry, nor necessary gifts for church government to the community of the faithful. For,

1. The Scriptures teach, that gifts for ministry and government are promised and bestowed not on all, but upon some particular persons only in the visible body of Christ. “To one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom, to another the word of knowledge,” etc., not to all, 1 Cor. 12:8, 9, etc. “If a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?” 1 Tim. 3:5. The hypothesis insinuates that all men have not gifts and skill rightly to rule their own houses, much less to govern the church.

2. Experience tells us, that the multitude of the people are generally destitute of such knowledge, wisdom, prudence, learning, and other necessary qualifications for the right carrying on of church government.

Conclusion.

Therefore Christ makes not the community of the faithful the first subject of the power of church government.

Argument 4:

The community of the faithful are nowhere in the word called or acknowledged to be church governors: therefore they are not the first subject of church government.

Major Premise.

Those persons, who are the first subject and receptacle of proper power for church government from Christ, are in the word called and acknowledged to be church governors. This is evident,

1. By Scripture, which is wont to give to them whom Christ intrusts with his government, such names and titles as have rule, authority, and government engraven upon them: as overseers, Acts 20:28; governments, 1 Cor. 12:28; rulers, 1 Tim. 5:17, and Rom. 12:8; with divers others, as after will appear in Chap. 11:2.

2. By reason, which tells us that government and governors are relative terms; and therefore to whom government belongs, to them also the denominations of governors, rulers, etc., do belong, and not contrariwise.

Minor Premise.

But the community of the faithful are nowhere in the word either called or acknowledged to be church governors. This is clear. For,

1. No titles or names are given them by Scripture which imply any rule or government in the visible Church of Christ.

2. They are plainly set in opposition against, and distinction from, church governors: they are called the flock; these, overseers set over them by the Holy Ghost, Acts 20:28: they, the saints; these their rulers, Heb. 13:22: these are over them in the Lord; and consequently they are under them in the Lord, 1 Thes. 5:12.

3. The community of the faithful are so far from being the subject of church government themselves, that they are expressly charged by the word of Christ to know, honor, obey, and submit, to other governors set over them, and distinct from themselves. “Know them who are over you in the Lord,” 1 Thes. 5:12. “Let the well-ruling elders be counted worthy of double honor; especially,” etc., 1 Tim. 5:17. “Obey ye your rulers, and submit, for they watch for your souls,” Heb. 13:17.

Conclusion.

Therefore the community of the faithful are not the first subject and receptacle of proper power for church government.

Argument 5:

This opinion of making the body of the Church, or community of the faithful, the first subject and immediate receptacle of the keys for the government of the Church, doth inevitably bring along with it many intolerable absurdities. Therefore it is not to be granted. Thus we may argue:

Major.

That doctrine or opinion which draws after it unavoidably divers intolerable absurdities, is an unsound and unwarrantable opinion.

Minor.

But this doctrine or opinion that makes the whole community or body of the Church to be the first subject and immediate receptacle of the keys, draws after it unavoidable divers intolerable absurdities.

Conclusion.

Therefore this doctrine or opinion that makes the whole community or body of the Church to be the first subject, and immediate receptacle of the keys, is an unsound and unwarrantable opinion.

Major Premise Proven.

The Major is plain. For,

1. Though matters of religion be above reason, yet are they not unreasonable, absurd, and directly contrary to right reason.

2. The Scriptures condemn it as a great brand upon men, that they are absurd or unreasonable; “Brethren, pray for us—that we may be delivered from absurd and evil men,” 2 Thes. 3:2; and therefore if absurd men be so culpable, absurdity, and unreasonableness itself, which make them such, are much more culpable.

Minor Premise Proven.

The Minor, viz. But this doctrine or opinion that makes the whole community or body of the Church to be the first subject and immediate receptacle of the keys, draws after it unavoidably divers intolerable absurdities, will notably appear by an induction of particulars.

1. Hereby a clear foundation is laid for the rigid Brownist’s confused democracy, and abhorred anarchy. For, if the whole body of the people be the first receptacle of the keys, then all church government and every act thereof is in the whole body, and every member of that body a governor, consequently every member of that body an officer. But this is absurd; for if all be officers, where is the organic body? and if all be governors, where are the governed? if all be eyes, where are the feet? and if there be none governed, where is the government? it is wholly resolved at last into mere democratic anarchy and confusion, “but God is not the author of confusion,” 1 Cor. 14:33. What an absurdity were it, if in the body natural all were an eye, or hand! for where then were the hearing, smelling, etc.; or if all were one member, where were the body? 1 Cor. 12:17, 19. So if in the family all were masters, where were the household? where were the family government? If in a city all were aldermen, where were the citizens? where were the city government? If in a kingdom all were kings, where were the subjects, the people, the commonalty, the commonwealth, or the political government?

2. Hereby the community or whole body of the faithful, even to the meanest member, are vested from Christ with full power and authority actually to discharge and execute all acts of order and jurisdiction without exception: e.g. To preach the word authoritatively, dispense the sacraments, ordain their officers, admonish offenders, excommunicate the obstinate and incorrigible, and absolve the penitent. For the keys of the kingdom of heaven comprehend all these acts jointly, Matt. 16:19, and 18:18-20, with John 20:21, 23: and to whom Christ in the New Testament gives power to execute one of these acts, to them he gives power to execute all; they are joined together, Matt. 18:19, (except in such cases where himself gives a limitation of the power, as in the case of the ruling elder, who is limited to ruling as contradistinct to laboring in the word and doctrine, 1 Tim. 5:17).

Now what gross absurdities ensue hereupon! For,

1. Then the weak as well as the strong, the ignorant as well as the intelligent, the children as well as the parents, yea, and the very women as well as the men, may preach, dispense seals, ordain, admonish, excommunicate, absolve authoritatively; (for they are all equally members of the body, one as well as another, and therefore, as such, have all alike equal share in the keys and exercise thereof:) viz. they that are not gifted for these offices, shall discharge these offices; they that are not called nor sent of God to officiate (for God sends not all), shall yet officiate in the name of Christ without calling or sending, contrary to Rom. 10, Heb. 5:4. They that want the common use of reason and discretion (as children) shall have power to join in the highest acts of order and jurisdiction: yea, they that are expressly prohibited speaking in the churches, as the women, 1 Cor. 14, 1 Tim. 2, shall yet have the keys of the kingdom of heaven hung at their girdles.

2. Then the Church shall be the steward of Christ, and dispenser of the mysteries of God authoritatively and properly. But if the whole Church be the dispenser of the mysteries of God, what shall be the object of this dispensation? Not the Church, for according to this opinion she is the first subject dispensing; therefore it must be something distinct from the Church, unto which the Church dispenseth; what shall this be? shall it be another collateral church? then particular churches collateral may take pastoral care one of another reciprocally, and the same churches be both over and under one another; or shall it be those that are without all churches? then the ordinances of the gospel, and the dispensation of them, were not principally bestowed upon the Church and body of Christ for the good thereof (which is directly repugnant to the Scriptures, Eph. 4:8, 11-13); but rather for them that are without. How shall the men, who maintain the principle’s of the Independents, clearly help themselves out of these perplexing absurdities?

3. Hereby the body of the people (as Mr. Bayly well observes in his Dissuasive, ch. 9, p. 187) will be extremely unfitted for, and unwarrantably taken off from the several duties that lie upon them in point of conscience to discharge in their general and particular callings, in spiritual and secular matters, on the Lord’s days and on their own days. For, if the ecclesiastical power be in all the people, then all the people are judges, and at least have a negative voice in all church matters. They cannot judge in any cause prudently and conscientiously, till they have complete knowledge and information of both the substantials and circumstantials of all those cases that are brought before them; they must not judge blindly, or by an implicit faith, etc., but by their own light. For all the people to have such full information and knowledge of every cause, cannot but take up abundance of time, (many of the people being slow of understanding and extremely disposed to puzzle, distract, and confound one another in any business to be transacted in common by them all). If these matters of discipline be managed by them on the sabbath day after the dispatch of other public ordinances, ministry of the word, prayer, sacraments, etc., what time can remain for family duties privately, as repeating sermons, and meditating upon the Word, searching the Scriptures, whether things preached be so indeed, reading the Scriptures, catechizing their children and servants, etc.? And how will the life of religion in families, yea, and in churches also, languish, if these family exercises be not conscientiously upheld? If they be managed on the week days, how can all the people spare so much time, as still to be present, when perhaps many of them have much ado all the week long to provide food and raiment, and other necessaries for their families? And “if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel,” 1 Tim. 5:8. Let the case of the church of Arnheim witness the mischief and absurdity of this popular government once for all.

4. Hereby, finally, the community of the faithful (being accounted the proper subject of the power of the keys) have authority and power not only to elect, but also to ordain their own officers, their pastors and teachers. And this they of the independent judgment plainly confess in these words: Though the office of a pastor in general be immediately from Christ, and the authority from him also, yet the application of this office, and of this authority to this elect person, is by the church; and therefore the church hath sufficient and just warrant, as to elect and call a presbyter unto an office, so to ordain him to it by imposition of hands. They that have power to elect a king, have power also to depute some in their name to set the crown upon his head.

But for the whole church or community to ordain presbyters by imposition of hands, is very absurd. For,

1. Their women and children, being members of the church and of the community, may join in ordaining presbyters by imposing of hands, and have as great an influence in appointing them that shall actually impose hands, as the rest of the church members have, being as properly members as they.

2. Then the community, that generally are unable to judge of the fitness and sufficiency of presbyters for the pastoral office, in point of necessary gifts of learning, etc., shall, without judicious satisfaction herein by previous examination, ordain men notwithstanding to the highest ordinary office in the church. How ignorantly, how doubtfully, how irregularly, how unwarrantably, let the reader judge.

3. Then the community of the faithful may assume to themselves power to execute this ordinary act of ordination of officers, without all precept of Christ or his apostles, and without all warrant of the apostolic churches. But how absurd these things be, each moderate capacity may conceive. Further absurdities hereupon are declared by Mr. Bain,[41] and after him by Mr. Ball. [42]

Whence we may justly conclude, Therefore this doctrine or opinion, that makes the whole community or body of the church to be the first subject and immediate receptacle of the keys, is an unsound and unwarrantable opinion.

The Middle-Way Men Likewise Refuted.

The middle-way men (that profess to go between the authoritative presbyterial, and the rigid Brownistic way), seeing these and such like absurdities upon which the Brownists inevitably dash themselves, think to salve all by their new-coined distinction of the keys as follows:

1. There is a key of faith or knowledge, Luke 11:52. The first subject of this key is every believer, whether joined to any particular church or not.

2. There is a key of order, Col. 2:5, which is either, 1. A key of interest, power, or liberty, Gal. 5:13, which key is of a more large nature; 2. A key of rule and authority, which is of more strict nature, Matt. 16:19, John 20:23.

Hence, upon this distinction premised, they thus infer:

1. A particular congregation of saints is the first subject of all the church offices with all their spiritual gifts and power, 1 Cor. 3:22.

2. The apostles of Christ were the first subject of apostolic power.

3. The brethren of a particular congregation are the first subjects of church liberty.

4. The elders of a particular church are the first subjects of church authority.

5. Both the elders and brethren, walking and joining together in truth and peace, are the first subjects of all church power needful to be exercised in their own body.

Answer.

A rotten foundation, and a tottering superstruction, which tumbles down upon the builders’ own heads: for,

1. This distribution of the keys is infirm in divers respects: For example,

1. In that the key of knowledge (as it stands here distinguished from the key of order, comprehending the key of power and authority) is left utterly devoid of all power. Now no key of the kingdom of heaven is to be left without all power, Independents themselves being judges.

2. In that the key of power is left as utterly void of all authority (being contradistinguished from the key of authority), as the key of knowledge is left void of power. Now, power and authority, in matters of government, seem to be both one; and the word in the original signifies the one as well as the other.

3. The key of liberty or interest is a new key, lately forged by some new locksmiths in Separation-shop, to be a pick-lock of the power of church officers, and to open the door for popular government; no ordinance of Christ, but a mere human invention (as will after appear upon examination of that scripture upon which it is grounded), and therefore this limb of the distribution is redundant, a superfluous excrescence.

4. The texts of Scripture upon which this distribution of the keys is grounded, are divers of them abused, or at least grossly mistaken; for, Luke 11:52, key of knowledge is interpreted only the key of saving faith. But knowledge, in strict speaking, is one thing, and faith another; there may be knowledge where there is no faith; and knowledge, in a sort, is a key to faith, as the inlet thereof. And the key of knowledge, namely true doctrine and pure preaching of the word, is a distinct thing from knowledge itself. This key the lawyers had taken away by not interpreting, or misinterpreting of the law; but they could not take away the people’s faith, or knowledge itself. Touching Col. 2:5-6, your order, it will be hard to prove this was only or chiefly intended of the keys delivered to Peter: doth it not rather denote the people’s moral orderly walking, according to the rule of faith and life, as in other duties, so in submitting themselves to Christ’s order of government, as is elsewhere required (Heb. 13:17)? And as for Gal. 5:13, produced to prove the key of liberty, Brethren, you have been called unto liberty, there is too much liberty taken in wresting this text; for the apostle here speaks not of liberty as a church power, of choosing officers, joining in censures, etc., but as a gospel privilege, consisting in freedom from the ceremonial law, that yoke of bondage, which false teachers would have imposed upon them, after Christ had broken it off; as will further appear, if you please with this text to compare Gal. 5:1, 11, 15, 10, and well consider the current of the whole context.

2. The inferences upon this distribution of the keys premised, are very strange and untheological. For it may be accepted in general, that it is a groundless fancy to make several first subjects of the keys, according to the several distributions of the keys; for, had all the members of the distribution been good, yet this inference thereupon is naught, inasmuch as the Scripture tells us plainly, that all the keys together and at once were promised to Peter, Matt. 16:19, and given to the apostles, Matt. 18:18-19, with 28:18-20, and John 20:21-23; so that originally the apostles and their successors were the only first subject and immediate receptacle of all the keys from Christ. And though since, for assistance and case of the pastor, they are divided into more hands—viz. of the ruling elder, Rom. 12:8; 1 Cor. 12:28; 1 Tim. 5:17—yet originally the subject was but one.

Further, here is just ground for many particular exceptions: as,

1. That every believer, whether joined to any particular church or not, is made the first subject of the key of knowledge, which seems to be extremely absurd: for then every particular believer, gifted or ungifted, strong or weak, man, woman, or child, hath power to preach, (taking the key of knowledge here for the key of doctrine, as it ought to be taken, or else it is no ecclesiastical key at all,) which is one of the highest offices, and which the great apostle said, “Who is sufficient for these things?” 2 Cor. 2:16. How unscriptural and irrational this is, all may judge. Then also some of the keys may be committed to such as are without the Church. Then finally, it is possible to be a believer, and yet in no visible church; (for Independents hold there is no church but a particular congregation, which is their only church): but a man is no sooner a true believer, but he is a member of the invisible Church: he is no sooner a professed believer, but he is a member of the general visible Church, though he be joined to no particular congregation.

2. That a particular congregation of saints is made the first subject of all the church offices, with all their spiritual gifts and power, 1 Cor. 3:22. But is the word subject used here properly, for the first subject recipient of all church offices, with all their gifts and power? Then the congregation of saints are either officers themselves formally, and can execute the function of all sorts of officers, and have all gifts to that end; what need then is there of any select officers? for they can make officers virtually, and furnish those officers with gifts and power to that end; but who gave them any such authority? Or what apostolic church ever assumed to themselves any such thing? Officers, not churches, are the first subject of such gifts and power. Is the word subject here used improperly, for object, whose good all offices with their gifts and power are given? Then not any particular congregation, but the whole general visible Church is the object for which all offices and officers with their gifts and power are primarily given, 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:8, 11, 12.

As for that place, 1 Cor. 3:22, “All is yours,” etc., it points not out the particular privilege of any one single congregation, (nor was the church of Corinth such, but presbyterial), but the general privilege of all true saints, and of the invisible mystical Church: for were Paul and Cephas apostles given peculiarly to the church of Corinth only? Or was the world, life, death, things present and to come, given to the wicked in the church of Corinth?

3. That the apostles are made the first subject of all apostolic power. But then, how doth this contradict the former assertion, that a particular congregation is the first subject of all offices with their gifts and power? Are there two first subjects of the same adjuncts? Or is apostleship no office? Are apostolic gifts no gifts, or power no power? Or have apostles all from the Church? Doubtless apostles were before all Christian churches, and had the keys given them before the churches had their being.

4. That the brethren of a particular congregation are made the first subjects of church liberty. But, if that liberty be power and authority, then this evidently contradicts the former, that a particular congregation is the first subject of all offices and power; for brethren here are distinct from elders, and both do but make up a particular congregation. If liberty here be not power, then it is none of Christ’s keys, but a new forged pick-lock.

5. That the elders of a particular church are made the first subject of church authority; but then here is a contradiction to the former position, that made the particular congregation the first subject of all power. And though apostles and elders be the first subject of authority, yet, when the keys were first committed to them, they were not in relation to any particular church, but to the general.

6. Finally, that both elders and brethren, walking and joining together in truth and peace, are the first subjects of all church power, is liable also to exception. For this joins the brethren (who indeed have no authoritative power at all) with the elders, as the joint subject of all power. And this but allowed to them walking and joining together in truth and peace: but what if the major part of the Church prove heretical, and so walk not in truth; or schismatic, and so walk not in peace, shall the elders and the non-offending party lose all their power? Where then shall that independent church find healing? for appeals to presbyteries and synods are counted apocryphal by them.

But enough hath been said to detect the vanity of these new dreams and notions; it is a bad sore that must be wrapped in so many clouts.



[41] “Were the power in the church, the church should not only call them, but make them out of virtue and power received into herself; then should the church have a true lordlike power in regard of her ministers. Besides, there are many in the community of Christians incapable of this power regularly, as women and children.” Mr. P. Bain in his Diocesan’s Trial, quest. 3, conclus. 3, p. 84, printed 1621.

[42] “If spiritual and ecclesiastical power be in the church or community of the faithful, the church doth not only call, but make officers out of virtue and power received into herself, and then should the church have a true lordlike power in regard of her ministers. For, as he that will derive authority to the church, maketh himself lord of the church, so, if the church derive authority to the ministers of Christ, she maketh herself lady or mistress over them, in the exercise of that lordlike authority; for, as all men know, it is the property of the lord and master to impart authority. Did the church give power to the pastors and teachers, she might make the sacrament and preaching which one doth in order, no sacrament, no preaching; for it is the order instituted of God that giveth being and efficacy to these ordinances; and if the power of ruling, feeding, and dispensing the holy things of God do reside in the faithful, the word and sacrament, in respect of dispensation and efficacy, shall depend upon the order and institution of the society. If the power of the keys be derived from the community of the faithful, then are all officers immediately and formally servants to the church, and must do every thing in the name of the church, rule, feed, bind, loose, remit, and retain sins, preach and administer the sacraments; then they must perform their office according to the direction of the church, more or less, seldom or frequent, remiss or diligent; for from whom are they to receive direction how to carry themselves in their offices, but from him or them of whom they receive their office, whose work they are to do, and from whom they must expect reward? If their office and power be of God immediately, they must do the duties of their place according to his designment, and unto him they must give account; but if their power and function be from the church, the church must give account to God, and the officers to the church, whom she doth take to be her helpers, etc.” Mr. John Ball, in his Trial of the grounds tending to separation, ch. 12, pp. 252-53.

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