William Apollonius (1602-1657)
A Consideration of Certain Controversies (1644)
VI. Of Classes, and Synods, and their Authority, pp. 90-130.
Whether Classes and Synods have an authoritative power, whereby they may authoritatively judge causes ecclesiastical, with ecclesiastical jurisdiction; so as that particular Churches ought to submit themselves to their decrees, under the penalty of ecclesiastical censure?
We judge that there is an ecclesiastical and sacred communion between particular Churches, not only as they are joined in a brotherly communion, and profess one common faith and piety; but also as they are Churches and bodies of a spiritual polity and have and exercise a government and Ecclesiastical discipline in common. So Ames himself confesseth, “That particular Churches, as their communion requireth, the light of nature and the equity of Scripture rules and examples teach, may, and very often even ought to enter into mutual consociation, or confederation amongst themselves in Classes and Synods, that they may so far as conveniently can be, make use of common consent and mutual assistance, especially in those things that are of greater moment.” (Medul. Theolog. lib. 1, cap. 39. thes. 27).
But yet how much greater and further space and remoteness of distance there is between particular Churches, so much the less also is the visible communion of those Churches: because the danger of scandal and infection, and the opportunity of mutual edification, is less or more according as the distinct distance of places is greater or less. Wherefore there is a more strict visible ecclesiastical communion between the Churches of one Province or Nation, then between the particular congregations of the Church universal; and consequently the jurisdiction and ecclesiastical government is also less visible between these, then between the Churches of one Nation.
This communion of Churches in government and Church discipline, is not only for the informing of Churches, what is commanded by the Word of God; but also for the governing of them by laws and spiritual jurisdiction. For there is an authority and power of rule, belonging by the word of God to Churches joined in Classes and Synods, which to particular Churches singly and severally belongeth not; to wit, a power of making Canons and laws ecclesiastical, which may bind all the particular Churches of one Province or Kingdom to obey them.
We grant in this controversy;
1. That the power of Classes and Synods doth not take away or hurt the power or liberty ecclesiastical of a particular Church: for it serveth to direct, preserve, and promote the power of Synods is not privative but cumulative, and granted for this end, that the power given to particular Churches may be more efficacious, orderly, regular, able, and apt for edifying.
2. That there is a power belonging to a particular Church immediately granted from God, not derived from Classes or Synods; as likewise there is belonging to Classes and Synods a power of their own, immediately granted by God, and not derived from the particular Churches. For though in regard of the Original, or the rise and constitution of a Synod, particular Churches entire in themselves, collateral one to another and equal in Church power, do in common, contribute, associate, and exercise their Church power, and so make up a collective and combined body of a Synod: yet the Synodical authority of itself is not granted to any other first subject, from whence it should be derived to the Synod, then to the Synod itself, to which alone by the word of God and Apostolical institution that power belongeth: for no particular Churches singly and severally considered, may exercise a Synodical power over other Churches.
But we affirm:
1. That this union and communion of particular Churches in a government and discipline ecclesiastical in common, which is exercised in Synods and Classes, is grounded upon the Word of God, and in the examples of the Apostolical Church is proposed to us to imitate.
2. That these Synods and Classes have a power and authority Synodal and Classical, whereby they do by spiritual jurisdiction authoritatively discern matters ecclesiastical, and impose those decrees, under pain of ecclesiastical censure, on particular Churches. Our opinion is proved by these following arguments.
1. In Acts 15 we have in the Apostles practice an express example of a Synod, held at Jerusalem about a question concerning the observation of the Law of Moses. In which Synod, that business which had wrought a disturbance in the particular Churches (ver. 2, 4, 5, 23). is by the deputies of several Churches (ver. 2, 6, 23. Acts 21.17-18, 25). determined, with power authoritative to bind particular Churches to obedience (ver. 22, 28. chap. 16.4 & 21, 25). And the false doctrine of those who subverted the souls of their hearers, is by an ecclesiastical judgement condemned, with spiritual power (ver. 28-29). which thing is an act of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, as appeareth (Rev. 2.2, 14, 20). and the determination of this ecclesiastical law, was not by an extraordinary Apostolic authority, but by an ordinary authority ecclesiastical: for it was done not by the Apostles alone, extraordinarily acted by the Spirit of God, but by the Elders and brethren of the Church, joined with the Apostles acting, not by their Apostolical, but by their ordinary Pastoral authority; with great discussion and disputation, and the assent of the Churches; which argue that the decrees of this Synod were not made by an extraordinary Apostolical authority, but by an ordinary ecclesiastical power.
2. Our assertion is proved from Christs institution (Mat. 18.17-18). where he doth institute such ecclesiastical Assemblies, as may by ecclesiastical authority make provision and prepare efficacious remedies against all scandals and offences. If the members of a particular Church do give scandal to one another, he bids that it be shewed to a superior ecclesiastical Judge, to wit, the Church representative, which by ecclesiastical authority doth condemn and punish, and remove from ecclesiastical and brotherly communion the person offending; and therefore doth likewise command, that if particular Churches give offence to one another, it should be carried to a superior ecclesiastical Judge, which may by spiritual authority condemn, punish, and put from ecclesiastical communion the particular Church offending: for where the law makes no distinction or restriction, there must not we distinguish or restrain. And certainly the remedy instituted in this place, is ordained by Christ for the removing out of the visible Church, all scandals not only caused by particular members, but also by whole Churches: and therefore there must be acknowledged a superior ecclesiastical Assembly, which may by authoritative ecclesiastical power judge of the scandal of particular Churches, as well as a superior ecclesiastical judge in a particular Church is to be acknowledged from this institution, for judging the scandals of particular members.
For since that according to the holy Scriptures we must grant that there is an ecclesiastical communion between the visible Churches of one Province, Nation, yea and of the whole World: as is proved before: which communion is not only fraternal, but ecclesiastical, whereby Churches, as Churches, or bodies ecclesiastical, are joined and united in doctrine, government, worship, discipline and ecclesiastical polity: and seeing that in this holy communion scandals are committed, which are unbeseeming those Churches, and to be cast forth from that ecclesiastical communion: therefore both by the law of nature, and this divine law here instituted by Christ, we must acknowledge a superior ecclesiastical Senate, furnished with spiritual and ecclesiastical authority, which may remove those scandals. Hence Parker himself, de politia Ecclesiast. lib. 3 cap. 24 groundeth the authority of Synods on this place. And the Professors of Leyden, disput. 49 thes. 10 discourse thus: The institution of ecclesiastical Assemblies, and so also of a Synod, is not of humane, but of divine right, being founded on the words of Christ. Tell the Church; if he hear not the Church etc. Whomsoever ye bind on earth etc. Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them (Mat. 18), and I am with you to the end of the World, (Mat. 28). Which primarily are to be understood of the inferior Consistories: but there being an union and communion amongst themselves of all Churches, the superior consistories are comprehended likewise.
3. We deduce our argument from the practice of the Jewish Church: For the Christian Church borroweth her frame of her ecclesiastical polity from the constitution, not pedagogical, but essential and perpetual, of the ancient Church; and therefore, the Churches Consistories are now lawfully constituted according to the same form, according to which the ecclesiastical assemblies were constituted under the Old Testament. And the reason is, because it is manifestly evident, that this order, (besides that it was of old instituted by God, and by the fathers most religiously observed,) belonged only to the good order of a Church, not to the pedagogy of the Law, nor the distinct nature of that government. But now, under the Old Testament there were Synagogical consistories in each City, wherein the Scribes and Levites being presiding, some Elders of the people, and men more eminent in dignity were joined to them: whose office consisted as well in teaching, as in moderating the actions of the Church, and who took notice of believers manners, and dispensed pious reprehensions, and ecclesiastical censures towards the vices of offenders. And there was also at Jerusalem a general consistory or Synedrium held, to which the most weighty matters were brought, which in the lesser Synagogical judicatories, either by reason of their difficulty, or the dissentions of parties could not be decided or ended. See Deut. 17.8-9; 2 Chron. 19.5-7; Jer. 26. 9, etc.
This argument our eminent and reverend Gersom Bucer, in his dissertation de gubernatione Ecclesiae, p. 65. doth thus propose; and not to be tedious, “it was requisite to set down distinctly, in what respect the order appointed amongst the Jews doth express the polity to be observed by the Christian Church in holding their meetings. For first as of old the use of sacred Consistories, as well Synagogical in the several Cities, as the supreme at Jerusalem, was appointed by God’s institution, for the passing of judgements, and determining controversies. So in the New Testament even from the beginning of the Churches birth, the Lord would have as well particularly in each City, as in many Cities in common, some form of ordinary judicatory, to the end that both the Ordination of Ministers may be duly performed, and the censure of manners administered: else what could be more absurd, either then the Precept of Christ, commanding that he, who refused to hear his brethren, should be brought to the Church; or the Apostles reproof, reprehending the Corinthians that they had neglected to proceed in the public judicatory of the Church against the incestuous person. Neither only had each particular Church their proper distinct Consistories; but that also divers Churches when more weighty controversies did arise, which could not in lesser Assemblies be determined, did in the new Testament come together to one general Council, the history of the Apostles testifieth, Acts 15, etc. And doubtless not only this ordinary superior Court (or Sanhedrin) was kept at Jerusalem, but extraordinary Conventions called for the Churches Reformation, the establishing Religion, and the sincere Worship of God by a National Covenant, and for other holy occasions: See Examples thereof, Deut. 29.20; 2 Chron. 15.9. & 29.4 & 34.29; Neh. 10.32-34. And such conventions being celebrated for moral duties, the celebration of them lieth as a duty on the Churches of Christ at all times.“
4. A fourth Argument is taken from 1 Cor. 14.32, where the spirits of the Prophets are to be subject to the Prophets by Apostolical Precept: whatsoever therefore an ecclesiastical Prophet doth in his sacred function perform, either in sacred Doctrine, or divine Worship, or ecclesiastical Discipline, it ought to be submitted to the judgements of other Prophets. Therefore, one single Prophet of this particular Church is to be subject to the judgement of Prophets of other Churches. And consequently Assemblies of many Prophets meeting out of divers Churches are here established, to whom by the Word of God, the Spirits and ways of Prophets of particular Churches are subject. Other arguments are also at hand in this cause, if we purposed to contend by number of Arguments.
Hence also do the Churches of the Netherlands hold their Synods, endowed with authority and power ecclesiastical, which do so impose their decrees on particular Churches, that they permit not a private or particular Church to alter the order established by the Synods: but enjoin all to observe their Canons established, till it shall be otherwise appointed by the Synods: See the Synod at Embden, Ann. 1571. art. 53. at Dort, Anno 1574. art. 91. at Middleburgh, Anno 1581. art. 69. at the Hague, Anno 1586 art. 79. at Middleburgh, Anno 1591. art. 80. at Dort, Anno 1619. art. 86.
We reject therefore the opposite Assertions.
1. Of those who allow to Synods and Classes no other power than of counsel and persuasion: as one brother towards another, and one particular Church towards another particular sister Church, may be counsel and persuasion direct and exhort to their duty: so neither have the whole number of Churches that hold ecclesiastical Communion in Synods and Classes any other authority granted them by the Word of God, but to persuade, exhort and admonish. Against whom we use no other arguments, then what Master John Cotton himself hath, in a late Treatise in English, concerning The Power of the Keys, Chap. 6.
“We dare not say, saith he, that their power reacheth no further than giving counsel: for such as their ends be, for which according to God they do assemble, such is the power given them of God, as may attain those ends. As they meet to minister light and peace to such Churches, as through want of light and peace lye in error (or doubt at least) and variance: so, they have power by the grace of Christ not only to give light and counsel in matter of Truth and Practice; but also to command and enjoin the things to be believed and done. The express words of the Synodal letter imply no less; ‘It seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and unto us, to lay upon you no other burden’ (Acts 15.27). This burden therefore, to observe those necessary things they speak of, they had power to impose. It is an act of the binding power of the Keys, to bind burdens. And this binding power ariseth not only materially from the weight of the matters imposed, (which are necessary (necessitate praecepti) from the Word) but also formally from the authority of the Synod, which being an Ordinance of Christ, bindeth the more for the Synods sake.” Thus Master Cotton.
2. We reject also their contrary opinion, who allow to Synods a power Dogmatical, but deny a power Diatactical and Critical. A power Dogmatical, which is a power and right of judging in matters of Faith and Religion doth so belong to Synods, as that it is also given by God to single Pastors. For the Apostle requires of Elders, not only to exhort by sound doctrine, but also to convince gainsayers, and to stop the mouths of the unruly, vain talkers and deceivers (Titus 1.9-12). Doth not this plainly intimate that they are to judge of matters of faith, if in a Particular Church there arise a disputation about any question of faith, or the soundness in judgement of one who is reckoned a member of that Church, be doubted of? This therefore is not the whole power of Synods, which belongeth even to single Pastors. Hence there is also attributed to Synods a Diatactical power, whereby they have right to manage the external Government of the Church, so that all things be done decently and in order, in the administration of God’s worship to the common edification of al.
Not only the Apostles, but the Elders also, did in the Council at Jerusalem decree, that the Gentiles who had given themselves up to Christ, should abstain from things offered to idols, and from blood, and things strangled, Acts 15.25, 28. So when Paul at Jerusalem was received by the brethren, not only James but the Classis of Elders advised him, for the believing Jews sake, to join himself with some, though too much addicted to the Law, who had a vow on them: and decreed to intreat him, that for the peace of the Church, and satisfaction of the weak, he would vouchsafe, so far as in that case was yet lawful, to submit himself to the observance of the Law (Acts 21.20-24). We see therefore that a Classis of Elders do by a joint care and endeavor provide for the observing of what with one consent they judged expedient for the Church.
I need not further instance in Councils, in which, that Presbyters joined in consultation and decision, for the establishing ecclesiastical decency and order, is so clear by their Acts that none can be ignorant. So the laws of ecclesiastical Government in the Netherlands are by the Synodical decrees imposed on particular Churches. And, that a Critical power, which contains the right of maintaining and exercising the ecclesiastical Discipline, given by God to the Church, for the judging and removing of scandals, belongeth to Synods and Classes of Presbyters, we shall by and by prove by places of Scripture. For a Synod may assemble not only to admonish an offending Presbytery or Consistory of a particular Church; but also, if they refuse to hear, to censure them by suspension, deposition, or removing from their ecclesiastical function, etc.
Whether Classes and Synods have power of sending, or ordaining Pastors in a particular Church?
We affirm in this controversy. 1. That some heads in this argument are by the judgement of Scripture to be held undoubted, which our Reverend Bucerus referreth to these heads: “First, (saith he) that Election and Ordination of Ministers belong to the Church, not to those that are without, who are strangers from the commerce of believers, and have not yet applied themselves to their fellowship and conjunction. For no where do we read in Scripture, that such had Votes in Election of Ministers. Secondly, that this holy action belongs to the whole Church, that is, to both its integral parts, whereof the one is of those who are Church Ministers, the other of those to whom they minister: which is evidently declared by testimonies which may be brought from Scripture, Thirdly, that this business is not to be committed to someone or few of the Presbytery selected, but belongs to the whole College of Presbyters in common; which appears by the Example of the Church of Jerusalem and of Antioch (Acts 1.23 & 6.2-3 & 13.1-2 & 15.22). Fourthly, that the principal parts herein belong to the Ministers of the Church: for they are to preside and guide the Church, that the multitude through levity, or tumult, or ill designs do not miscarry; and therefore, to teach and exhort everyone, and moderate the whole action of Election with wholesome and right counsels: Which is manifestly evinced by the testimonies we have produced. I add, lastly, that the Nomination was principally in the ecclesiastical persons, the people were by their suffrage to declare their consent to it. So, when one was to be taken in into the place of Judas, the Apostles named two, and when one of them was chosen by lot, the Churches’ approbation was presently added: otherwise they did by their suffrage concur to the Election. But that the Apostles in the institution of Deacons did somewhat more condescend to the multitude (Acts 6.3), there was a peculiar reason for it: for that they were, (especially in that tenderness of the Church, and when a murmuring arose of the Grecians against the Hebrews) to put off from themselves all sinister suspicion of those whose suffrages did not approve them. To this purpose Calvin; Luke relates that there were Elders constituted in every Church by Paul and Barnabas, but he notes withal the way and manner of it, when he saith that it was done by suffrages, […] saith he, […]: those two therefore did create them, but the whole multitude, as the custom of the Grecians was in Elections, declared by lifting up their hands, whom they would have. Calvin. Instit. lib. 4. cap. 3. sect. 15. Therefore, the chief of what the people were to do, was of those who were nominated to choose one. All which is fully clear from Scripture.” Thus Bucerus, dissert, de gubernat. Ecclesiae, pp. 323-324.
2. But because we are to account those in ecclesiastical Communion with us, not only who have joined themselves to some one particular Church as fixed members, but those also on whom by reason of their function the charge and care of many Churches doth lie, and who are to take care that in them all things be done decently, in order, and to edification: hence the power of ordaining Pastors is not so granted to a particular Church, as that absolutely by themselves they may be the Word of God perform all those things, that are required to the Ordination of their Pastors; But if the Ordination of Pastors in a particular Church be duly performed, it ought to be done in Church Communion, with the judgement, consent, and potestative Mission of Classes or Synods, with whom that particular Church holdeth ecclesiastical Communion. For Ordination of Pastors is not a thing peculiar to one Church and its members, but a thing common to all the Churches of one Classis or Synod: and what concerneth all, ought to be performed by all. That therefore a particular Church, in such a matter of common concernment, do not do ought which may disturb the common order, or which in a like case may prejudice other Churches, they are in the Vocation of Pastors to proceed with the common consent of all the Churches of that Synod.
3. In the acts and exercise of power ecclesiastical in the Ordination of Pastors, we conceive, there is this difference between a Classis or Synod, and a Particular Church.
1. That as it is the act of Classes and Synods, it is actus imperatus, as it is the act of the Particular Church is actus elicitus: that is, that Synods and Classes are to take care and authoritatively to enjoin Particular Churches that they excite their power and exercise it, for the ordaining their Pastors: But the particular Churches are to do those ecclesiastical acts, whereby the Ordination itself is performed.
2. That there belongs to Synods and Classes an authoritative judgement of the sufficiency and suitable fitness of the person to be ordained to the ministry, and of the due and orderly manner of proceeding in the whole Election dispatched, and the Ordination to be performed.
3. That it belongs to Synods and Classes to decree Canons, and prescribe decrees, for the common edification of all those Churches, according to which the particular Church ought to do those acts, whereby the Ordination of Pastors is performed.
4. That the Synod and Classis do authoritatively concur with the particular Church, in the power of sending Pastors, and in the exercise thereof, by which an ecclesiastical Right is derived on the Minister. For the ecclesiastical Power, which is conferred on a Minister by Ordination, is derived ministerially, secondarily, and subordinately under God, not only from the Eldership of that Particular Church, but from that whole ministering or governing ecclesiastical Society, into which the Pastor ordained is admitted by Ordination, to perform the exercises of the ecclesiastical Ministry.
Thus, we conceive these acts are to be distinguished in the legitimate Ordination of Pastors, in a constituted and settled Church.
4. In a case extraordinary, when a National Church is corrupted and depraved, the due power of Classes and Synods overturned and destroyed, and when the polity of the Church so utterly ruined, as that there is no more any face of it to be seen, nowhere any to be found that labour in sound doctrine, no marks of a visible Church discernable by the eyes of men. In such a case the Ordination of Pastors is in the power of the particular Church, who have received from God right to ordain in this necessity by their own Eldership. And therefore where there is no such Eldership, they first go about the constitution of it, and then being thus constituted they perform their Ordinations by it. For that is sure, which Melanchthon doth oft inculcate; “When the ordinary Bishops (saith he) become enemies to the Church, or refuse to afford Ordination, the Churches retain their own right. For wherever there is a Church, there is power of dispensing the gospel; so that of necessity the Church must retain a right of their own to call, elect, and ordain Ministers. And this right is a gift granted to the Church, which no humane authority can take from it.” (Argum. & Respons. part. 7. de potest. Epise. argum.) 2. That this power should be wholly abrogated and brought to nothing for want of Pastors, is not to be thought; but common sense teacheth that it’s better in such a case to enlarge it, then that the Church should be destitute of the large fruits of the Gospels preaching: for that the Church should be then deprived of this power, when the exercise of it is most chiefly required, is absurd. And on the other hand, when there is no particular Church, nor Eldership, in some place, where there is a Church to be planted and erected, and the dispensation of the Gospel to be first introduced, here the neighboring ecclesiastical Assemblies, who are by the opportunity of occasions invited by God to afford their mutual help and assistance in this spiritual matter, have power of sending Ministers and Pastors with ecclesiastical power for the gathering, erecting, and promoting a Church in that place: for that manner of Mission is warranted by the holy Scriptures (Acts 13.1-3), where Paul and Barnabas are sent by the Church of Antioch, to the neighbor Churches.
Hence therefore, concerning the power of Classes and Synods in the Ordination of Pastors, and a particular Church, we maintain these assertions.
I. Particular congregations do not ordain Pastors.
I. That a particular Church wanting a Presbytery, may not in the ordinary and settled state of Churches, perform the Ordination of Pastors. But the Mission of Pastors and Elders into a sacred function is to be performed by the Governors of the Churches, which is proved.
1. From express places of Scripture, wherein this ecclesiastical act is enjoined the Pastors and Elders. 1 Tim. 5.22, “Lay hands suddenly on no man,” and 1 Tim. 4.14, “Neglect not the gift which is in thee, which was given thee by Prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery.” And that by Presbytery there, is signified a College of Presbyters, is proved by most certain arguments against the hierarchy. Our reverend Bucerus discourseth excellently of this place:
“I know (saith he) that the word ‘Presbytery,’ may be expounded either of the College of Presbyters, or of the Office of Presbyters; but three reasons chiefly persuade me to think that we ought to rest in the former signification. The first is, that we find it nowhere used by the Holy Ghost, so far as I remember, for the Presbyter’s Office. But that on the contrary, it is used to signify their Meeting is evident. For what Luke relates (Luke 22.66), that when Christ was apprehended, the Presbytery (πρεσβυτέριον) of the people was gathered together, certainly cannot be understood of the Presbyterial Office. So Paul at Jerusalem, rendering an account of his faith, for testimony of what he said, citeth the high Priest, and the Presbytery (πρεσβυτέριον), (Acts 22.5). Where everyone understands the word Presbytery to be taken for the Company of Elders not the Office. A second reason is, that there will appear a kind of tautology in Paul’s speech, if by the word presbytery we understand the Presbyterial Office. For the gift (χαρίσματος) which Paul bids Timothy not to neglect, in the exposition of most, signifies that Office itself joined with a sufficiency of Gifts. The Apostle’s words therefore would sound to this purpose, ‘Neglect not the Presbyterial Office which was given thee by Prophecy with the imposition of hands of the Presbyterial Office.’ In good earnest I like it not. I know that χαρίσματος is understood by some, only of the faculty of teaching; but when Paul addeth, that it was given Timothy by Prophecy, whether or no will you not judge this expression to suit better to the Office of teaching? For anyone will easily discern with me, that it is a harsh speech, to say, that the Faculty of teaching was conferred on Timothy by Prophecy, that is, by a singular Revelation of the Spirit, at the Prophet’s command. But on the contrary, it’s a very apt expression to say, The Presbyter’s Office was conferred on Timothy by his Vocation both extraordinary declared by the testimony of Prophets, and ordinary, performed by the judgement of the Church, in obedience to the Revelation of the Spirit, etc.” (Dissert. de Gubern. Ecclesiae, pp. 339-340).
Two things doth Reverend Bucerus here evince: 1. That by “Presbytery” is understood the Company of Presbyters, and 2. That by χαρίσματος [“gift“] is signified the Office of the ministry, together with sufficiency of gifts. This place therefore doth assert, that the Ministerial Office by the Ordination of the College of Presbyters, is committed to Pastors by God’s Law and Apostolical Institution.
2. It appears from the Apostles’ practice, wherein Ordinations of Pastors were performed by Pastors and Ministers that had the Government of Churches (see Acts 6.2-3, 13.1-3 & 14.23; Titus 1.5, etc.). Nor is there any example to be found wherein the Ordination of Pastors was performed by the multitude of the Church without Presbyters. And because the practice of the Apostolical Church is our safest rule of Church Government, we judge that by God’s Ordinance it cannot be that a Pastor in settled state of Churches should be ordained, and put in possession of his ecclesiastical function, by the multitude of the Church. See also what was said, Chap. 4 concerning Ecclesiastical Power.
II. Presbyteries and Synods ordain Pastors in particular congregations.
II. We therefore affirm that Classes and Synods have power of sending and ordaining Pastors in particular Churches, which want Presbyteries. This assertion appears also by the practice of the Apostolical Church, which by Ordination did set apart and send forth Pastors for the Ministry of neighbor Churches (Acts 8.14, 13.1-3). And surely that in the Reformed Churches the right of Mission for the planting of Churches, or for the raising them up out of a defect, was always practiced by Classes and Synods, as is known to all who have but so much as heard any report of Churches laboring under persecution. As also the Apostolical Synod, for supply of the Churches’ defect, chose and sent men for the performance of ecclesiastical duties necessary to that end, (Acts 15.22). It seemed good to the Apostles and Elders with the whole Church to choose men of their own company and send them to Antioch; and ver. 25. It seemed good to us being assembled with one accord to choose and send men unto you, etc. Neither did the Apostolical Churches do this by an extraordinary Apostolical [authority], but by an ordinary ecclesiastical power. For they did this jointly together with ordinary Elders and the whole Church, in an ordinary Synod.
These examples therefore declare the ordinary right of Mission, to those Churches who are destitute of a Presbytery or ministry, or labour and groan under persecution and defect. But, that Mission doth infer Vocation and Ordination, and doth confer power of preaching, and of ruling the people, Reverend Voetius proveth by many arguments, in Desperatâ causâ Papatus, lib. 2. sect. 2. cap. 17. And it appears from the word itself to send (ἀποστέλλω), from whence comes sent, and sending, or mission, which is nothing else but a commission, whereby a man hath some function or charge fully committed to him: which is nothing else but to call, and constitute. For as Mission or sending is taken either actively, or passively, as it implies either a relation of him that sendeth to him that is sent, or of him that is sent to him that sendeth; so also Vocation, or Ordination. For all those Metaphors, to send into the Vineyard, to send into the Field, to the Lord’s work, to the ministry and Charge of the Flock, etc. signify nothing else but to call one to the feeding of the Flock, dressing the Vineyard, or to constitute one a Pastor and one that takes charge of souls.
Hence those that are called and constituted Pastors of souls, are commonly called Apostles, ἀποστέλλω, sent. In Hebrew, the Priest and Pastor of the Church is called מַלְאָךְ (malak) that is, sent, a Messenger, or Ambassador (Malachi 2.7). Of the original and signification whereof Ludovicus de Dieu speaks, Append, ad Mat. 27.2 where he shews elegantly, from the footsteps of the Arabic and Ethiopic root, that this name is derived from sending. Whence also Presbyters, whether the greater and extraordinary, or the lesser and ordinary, lawfully ordained and called, are sent to preach and to feed. And on the other side those who are lawfully sent, are ordained to preach. For to the actual giving an Apostleship, or calling to the ministry, that is, to an Active Mission of him that sendeth, there is answerable a Passive Mission of him that is sent, which is an actual Receiving an Apostleship, or ministry: for, or Relatives, the affirming one inferreth the other. The Ordination of Pastors therefore for a Church that wants an Eldership, or is laboring under defects, which hinder the ordinary exercise of the Eldership, is lawfully performed by Synods and Classes under whose ecclesiastical communion they lived.
So in the Belgic Churches, the Mission or Ordination of Pastors which are sent to Churches groaning under the cross of persecution, is performed in the Classical Assembly. See the Synod at the Hague, Anno. 1586 art. 4. And so of those who are sent to the Churches of the East and West-Indies.
III. Particular congregations within a Presbytery still need pastoral ordination from the Presbytery
III. We allow also this power to Classes and Synods in the right of Ordination: That even in a settled and constituted state of the Church, a particular Church which holds ecclesiastical communion with other Churches in a Classis or Synod, may not perform the vocation or Ordination of their Pastors, without the authoritative judgement and potestative mission of the Classis. This assertion is proved by these arguments.
Because he that is to be ordained is admitted into the holy society of the Classis or Synod, and into the ecclesiastical body, as a member belonging to the Consistory of the Classis or Synod; in the right of that particular Church and is therefore with their judgement and consent to be admitted by Ordination into that society. Because also by Ordination a Pastor is put into the possession of his ecclesiastical function; by virtue of which function he may perform ministerial acts of his pastoral office in other particular Churches; and exercise a ministerial authority in many cases towards other Churches. And reason plainly sheweth that it cannot duly be performed without the judgement of those Churches, over whom the person to be Ordained receives ministerial power. A particular Church may not lawfully Remove or put-out a Pastor from his Office, without the assent and authoritative judgement of the Classis or Synod, wherein he is duly admitted a member. Therefore, without that judgement they cannot lawfully admit into an ecclesiastical office by Ordination—for it is of the same power to take in, and to put out—in what manner ought to be contracted, in the same is it dissolved.
Hence in a Synod of the Churches was performed the Ordination of the Deacons elected (Acts 6.3), with the common consent of those Churches. So 1 Tim. 4.14. the Presbytery to whom the power of Ordaining is attributed, doth not only denote a Parochial Presbytery, of which sort both in towns, and in more eminent villages, there were anciently one in each; but it signifies a college of Apostles or Apostolical men; in whose number Paul was one, 2 Tim. 1.6 (as the Apostles are sometimes called Elders, 1 Pet. 5.1-2; 2 John ver. 1, 3), for this was done in the Church of Lystra, as the Dutch Translators observe from Acts 16.1-2. In which the Brethren of Derbe and Iconium were also actors, as is evident from the place; under whom are included also the Churches of the Region round about, as may be gathered from Acts 14.6. And if those most excellent servants of God, whom God had rendered eminent, by enduing them with most ample gifts, and setting them in a degree of an extraordinary and more sublime ministry, would not yet at their own pleasure without the counsels of others, admit Timothy, (though named by the Spirits designation) into the order of Presbyters by public Ordination, but thought fit for the observation of order first to acquaint sundry Pastors and Churches with it; shall we who are no ways to be compared with them, be yet in doubt what we ought to do? for not their sayings only, but their doings also, should be to us a rule what we ought to say, and do.
And so in our Belgic Churches, according to the order established, Ordinations of Pastors are performed with the consent and judgement of the Classis. As appears by the Synod at the Hague, Anno 1586, art. 4. at Middleburgh, Anno 1591, art. 3, 4 at Dort, Anno 1619, art. 4.
We reject therefore the contrary assertion of those, who ascribe to particular Churches in a settled state of the Church, the absolute power of ordaining their Pastors, without the inspection or authoritative jurisdiction of any Classis or Synod.
Whether Synod and Classes have power of Excommunication.
In this controversy we hold:
1. That a Classis or Synod of Pastors hath power to admonish and rebuke authoritatively, and with power ecclesiastical, such as offend, subvert souls by error, and commit scandals (Acts 15.10, 24). This admonition, reproof, and condemnation in this Synod, was performed by the Apostles and Elders in order to ecclesiastical censure. And this power not a power of order, but of jurisdiction; performed not by the concional [of public preaching] key only, but the key of ecclesiastical discipline. For it’s done not by one, but by many, by the whole Synod (ver. 6, 22). In the society of an ecclesiastical body, which had power by common advice to decree this rebuke, and whatever is determined in this cause, about that question for which they came together: See ver. 2, 6, 23-25, chap. 16.5 & 21.25. The cause in which it was done, was not only a case of conscience, but of scandal and public offence given in ecclesiastical communion (ver. 19, 28-29 with 1 Cor. 10.24-27; Rom. 14.14-15). Whereupon it is determined, for the peace and edification of the Churches, that all troubles and unprofitable burdens should be removed out of the Church (ver. 2, 19, 23-24, & chap. 16.4-5), and that in an ecclesiastical assembly (ver. 6, 15, 22, 25). So that this rebuke performed by the Apostles in order to spiritual censure was an act of ecclesiastical discipline.
2. There belongs also to Synods and Classes this power, and exercise of ecclesiastical discipline, to make ecclesiastical laws: which are, determinations necessary for the observation of moral precepts, especially those of the first table; and for the ordering the external Government of the Church, that all things be done decently and in order to the common edification of all.
By this power they establish outward ceremonies suitable to the due administration of the worship of God, outward forms of behavior, and things indifferent, such as tend to the outward order, decency, and edification of particular Churches, and make rules for directing the discipline of the Churches. The Apostles and Elders in the Synod decreed, that the Gentiles, who had embraced Christ, should abstain from things offered to Idols, and from blood and things strangled (Acts 15.25, 28). Lambertus Daneus discourses soundly and accurately in his Poliria Christiana, lib. 6, cap. 3. “Moreover, saith he, as for the rites and ceremonies, and the outward order which is necessary in ordering the Church, let an ecclesiastical Synod be assembled with the command and presence of the godly supreme Magistrate, and this ecclesiastical Synod duly gathered shall determine what that order, and external government of the Church ought to be, etc.” See what was said before of the Doctrinal power of Synods.
This power of making laws is a power of ecclesiastical jurisdiction and Government; for it doth direct and dispose authoritatively those means by which the government of the Churches is put in execution. For these laws are made with the sanction of a spiritual and ecclesiastical penalty against delinquents, and consequently proceed from that spiritual jurisdiction from whence proceedeth this threatening and inflicting of spiritual power. Again the public judgement of direction passed with Ministerial authority, of a scandal given or taken, of cases of conscience in the exercise of charity about things indifferent, of the spiritual edification of the Church, belongs to the external tribunal, and ecclesiastical jurisdiction. But he that appointeth rites of order and decency in the public worship of God, and in the exercise of ecclesiastical discipline, must of necessity give a public judgement passed by ministerial authority, concerning scandal given or taken, concerning cases of conscience in the exercise of charity about things indifferent, concerning the spiritual edification of the Church: for to this end are ecclesiastical laws made, for the avoiding of scandal, for the spiritual edification of the Church, for the due exercising of brotherly love in Church communion. It is therefore an act of spiritual jurisdiction.
3. Classes and Synods have an authoritative inspection and judgement, not of discretion only, but of jurisdiction and approbation, in the exercise of excommunications from particular Churches; so that no particular Church which holdeth ecclesiastical communion with other Churches in Classes and Synods may lawfully excommunicate & deliver to Satan any member of their communion without the authoritative judgement and approbation of the Classis or Synod. Which appears by these arguments:
That which concerns all, ought (in their own way and manner) to be handled by all, now the excommunication of any, in a consociate Church, concerneth all the Churches of that society, for they all receive scandal, they are all liable to the danger of infection, by reason of the communion which they hold in one ecclesiastical body and society. Again, that whole communion or society is by excommunication deprived of its members; and so the particular Church exerciseth excommunication in a business not proper to itself, but in a matter common which concerneth all the Churches of that ecclesiastical body; it ought therefore to be judged and handled by them all.
The end of excommunication, that the evil and the leaven of infection be taken away from amongst them, the ecclesiastical society purged from offences, concerneth not only the particular Church, but all the Churches of the Classical or Synodical society; and therefore, the excommunication is to be discerned by the judgement of all, that it may attain the proper end for which it is to be exercised in the Church (cf. 1 Cor. 5.6-7). The censure of Reprehension and Condemnation, against those brethren that troubled the Churches, and subverted the souls of the godly, in the Church of Antioch and Jerusalem was by the decree of the Synod performed and put in execution (Acts 15.1, 6, 24). That degree or step towards excommunication, shews that there is in the Synods power the judgement of the excommunication: for to that assembly to which belongs an ecclesiastical Reproof and censure, there belongs also, in case of disobedience and obstinacy, the authority and judgement of Excommunication (Mat. 18.17-18 compared with 1 Cor. 5.4-5 and 2 Cor. 2.6). For it is a part of ecclesiastical Binding, as the Reformed Divines do everywhere teach, “Furthermore, Binding, (saith Bucer, Dissert. de gubernatione Ecclesiae, p. 374.) consisteth: partly in taking knowledge of the sins, which are committed with the offence of many, partly in correction, answerable to the quality and greatness of the sins, whereby we provide both for the Salvation of the sinners, and the edification of the Church. The kinds or degrees of correction are, Reprehension, Abstention from the Lords Table, and Excommunication.” Accordingly in the Churches of the Netherlands, no particular Church is permitted to deliver any one to Satan by Excommunication, but by the judgement and Approbation of the Classis. See the Synod at Middleburgh, Anno 1581, art. 62 at the Hague, Anno 1586, art. 69 at Middleburgh, Anno 1591, art. 69 at Dort, Anno 1619, art. 76.
4. Classes and Synods have power to exercise Church Discipline and censure on the Pastors and Elders of a particular Church; or in those acts of Excommunication which are appointed for keeping of ecclesiastical persons only to their duty. Which acts consist in Prohibition, and Execution.
Prohibition is, whereby the Church forbiddeth to Pastors and whole Presbyteries, under penalties to be inflicted on the disobedient, whatever things are accounted scandalous to the sacred ministry, or do hinder public edification; as, to involve themselves in secular employments, to take money for admitting to Baptism, to retain an adulterous wife, to take up arms in sedition, to keep hawks and hounds for hunting, to use gaming, to be present at dancings, and stage plays, which have been forbidden in Councils with judicial and definitive authority, as may be gathered from the Acts of the Councils.
By Execution is understood ecclesiastical punishment, which was according to the Lawes to be inflicted on offenders, which were various, according to the quality and greatness of the offences. The principal are Suspension, and Deposition. Suspension, when they prohibited any from the whole Exercise of his Office, till such time as he had given the Church satisfaction. Deposition I call that, whereby they did wholly put the offender from his function, the Greeks called it […]: of which there are also some degrees: For some when deprived from their Office, are only hindered from meddling with holy things, but do not wholly abstain from the Communion of the Lord’s Supper; other are debarred from this also, yea, and shut out from all sacred Communion and ecclesiastical Fellowship.
Of these censures the Canons and Histories of the ancient Church do frequently make mention. And that in inflicting of these, Synods did improve their authority and endeavor, is known to all, that are not strangers in the Acts of the Councils. But let us consult the Scriptures themselves. When the Apostle commands the Elders of the Ephesian Classis, to watch against such as should speak perverse things to draw Disciples after them, he intimates clearly that they had an authority to drive away wolves (Acts 20.30-31). The Church of Ephesus was not a particular Church of one Congregation, but a Presbyterial Church, or an united Society of many particular Churches—as we have proved before. The Synod at Jerusalem passed a Prohibition and condemnation, in order to Church censure, on those Pastors who taught perverse things, and troubled particular Churches with much disputation, as hath been said from Acts 15.
And thus Censure, Suspension, and Deposition of Pastors and Elders from their ecclesiastical function, in many cases is attributed to the Classical Assembly and Provincial Synods, in our ecclesiastical Canons in the Netherlands. See the Synod at Dort, Anno 1578, art. 9, 99, 100. at the Hague, Anno 1586, art. 39, 40, 72, at Middleburgh, Anno 1591, art. 58, 59, 60 at Dort, Anno 1619, art. 79.
5. There belongs Authority to Classes and Synods, to pass an ecclesiastical censure against the whole Consistory of a particular Church, in case they disturb the Church with damnable error, or pollute it with the leaven of vices: And if they obstinately adhere to their perverse doctrines and corrupt manners, then, according to the quality and greatness of the sins, by the dreadful sentence of Excommunication to cast them out of the spiritual Communion of the Churches, and deliver them to Satan.
This assertion is proved: Because a Synod of Pastors by the Concional Key [i.e. of public preaching], may authoritatively in the Name of God denounce an Anathema against a particular Church erring perversely: For this one single Pastor of a Church may do by authority of the Office committed to him, how much more than a Synod of Pastors? Now to an unity or ecclesiastical College instituted by God, to whom by authority of their Office there belongs the Concional or Doctrinal Key, there belongs also the Key of ecclesiastical discipline, and the exercise thereof. For in an ecclesiastical College or Society, God hath conjoined the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and given them together (Mat. 18.17-18). And in a Particular Church this appears evidently; to the Consistory whereof, God hath given not only a Concional and Comminatory Power to denounce an Anathema, but also a Power of Excommunication joined with it. And consequently to greater and superior Church Assemblies also, hath God given both these powers jointly.
The Apostle attributes to the united Association of the particular Churches of Galatia a power of cutting off all those Troublers, who corrupted the sound Doctrine, and the peace of the Churches (Gal. 5.9-12). what hinders therefore but that they might exercise this power against a whole particular Church, or a Church Consistory? Christ, in Mat. 18.17-18, establishing the power of Excommunication in his Church by divine institution, doth not restrain the exercise thereof to be applied only to a single brother in a particular Church, though he give the instance in such an one: for he doth institute that Order in his Kingdom, whereby all scandals may be removed out of the Church, and cured by spiritual authority, whether committed by a particular Church, or by a particular person, or by whomsoever. And therefore, if a particular Sister Church in the ecclesiastical Society of many Churches do give a scandal to those other Churches, they may by this institution of Christ be brought into order by this spiritual Power.
And surely it is clear even out of Parker himself, that the divine institution of Classes may be proved from Christ’s institution in Mat. 18.17-18. For, lib. 3. cap. 24. de Politiâ Ecclesiasticâ, he thus argues from the proportion. “Christ Commands that upon the despising one man’s admonition, we should proceed to admonition by two or three; and, if that be contemned, to the censure of the Presbytery; and, if that be despised, to the censure of the whole Church: and why not therefore from the despising of one whole Church, to more in a Classis? and again, from those more in a Classis, to yet more in a Synod?” And therefore also by this Institution of Christ, not a particular Church only, but a Classis and Synod also have power given of Excommunicating such as commit scandals, if by this institution of Christ the nature and authority of Classes and Synods may be concluded.
And accordingly in those hard times of the Belgic Churches, when the Church amongst us was infested by the troubles and errors of the Remonstrants, whole Presbyteries of Churches were exauthorated by the Power of Classes and Synods.
We reject therefore the contrary Assertions:
1. Of those who hold the Power of Excommunication to be so appropriated to a particular Church, so that it may not be attributed to Classes and Synods. But we hold that a particular Church, by reason of that arct [close] ecclesiastical Communion which it holdeth with other neighbor Churches in the same Classis or Synod, whereby it makes up one ecclesiastical corporation or body, and one visible sacred Society with the associate Churches, hath not an absolute and complete power to cut off and cast out a member from that particular Church: because that member hath a near, arct [close], and visible union and communion with the Churches associate; amongst whom he doth daily converse, and celebrate the worship of God, so that he doth occasion to them danger of scandal and infection, and receiveth from them means of edification: wherefore without the judgement and consent of the associate Churches, he may not be cast out of that brotherly and visible Church communion, by the decree of one particular Church.
2. Of those also who make the highest power of Synods and Classes in the exercise of ecclesiastical censures toward a particular Church, to consist in a denying or withdrawing brotherly communion. But this Non-Communion (as it is called) we conceive to be such an act as a brother may exercise towards a brother, a particular Church towards another particular Church, who yet cannot exercise any authority or censure of ecclesiastical power amongst themselves one over the other. Nor hath it that Efficacy by God’s ordinance to bind in Heaven. Nor was it ordained by the Institution of Christ for this end, to save the spirit of man in the day of the Lord, and to teach from God, such as be erroneous, not to blaspheme: which to the legitimate censure of Excommunication do appertain (Mat. 18.17-18; 1 Cor. 5.4; 1 Tim. 1.20). In the correction of a sister Church, the same degrees are to be observed by the Ordinance of Christ (Mat. 18.17-18), which are observed in the correction of a brother; and therefore, we are not to rest in the admonition of two or three Churches: but by that order proceed to Excommunication, thereby to cast out from the holy Communion of the Churches as a heathen and a publican, and to deliver to Satan, an obstinate offending Church.