Of the Church.
1. The Catholick or universal Church, which (with
respect to the internal work of the Spirit, and truth of grace) may be
called invisible, consists of the whole (a)
number of the Elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one,
under Christ the head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fulness
of him that filleth all in all.
a Heb. 12.23. Col. 1.18. Eph. 1.10,22.23.
& ch. 5.23,27,32.
2. All persons throughout the world, professing
the faith of the Gospel, and obedience unto God by Christ, according unto
it; not destroying their own profession by any Errors everting the foundation,
or unholyness of conversation,
(b) are and may be called visible
Saints; (c) and of such ought all
particular Congregations to be constituted.
b 1 Cor. 1 2. Act. 11.26.
3. The purest Churches under heaven are subject
(d) to mixture, and error; and som
have so degenerated as to become (e)
no Churches of Christ, but Synagogues of Satan; nevertheless Christ always
hath had, and ever shall have a (f)
Kingdome in this world, to the end thereof, of such as believe in him,
and make profession of his Name.
d 1 Cor. 15. Rev. 2. & ch. 3.
4. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church,
in whom by the appointment of the Father, (g)
all power for the calling, institution, order, or Government of the Church,
is invested in a supream & soveraigne manner, neither can the Pope
of Rome in any sense be head thereof, but is (h)
that Antichrist, that Man of sin, and Son of perdition, that exalteth himself
in the Church against Christ, and all that is called God; whom the Lord
shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.
g Col. 1.18. Mat. 28.18,19.20. Eph.
5. In the execution of this power wherewith he
is so intrusted, the Lord Jesus calleth out of the World unto himself,
through the Ministry of his word, by his Spirit, (i)
those that are given unto him by his Father; that they may walk before
him in all the (k) ways of obedience,
which he prescribeth to them in his Word. Those thus called he commandeth
to walk together in particular societies, or (l)
Churches, for their mutual edification; and the due performance of that
publick worship, which he requireth of them in the World.
i Joh 10.16. chap. 12,32.
6. The Members of these Churches are (m)
Saints by calling, visibly manifesting and evidencing (in and by their
profession and walking) their obedience unto that call of Christ; and do
willingly consent to walk together according to the appointment of Christ,
giving up themselves, to the Lord & one to another by the will of God,
(n) in professed subjection to the
Ordinances of the Gospel.
m Rom. 1.7. 1 Cor. 1.2.
7. To each of these Churches thus gathered, according
to his mind, declared in his word, he hath given all that (o)
power and authority, which is any way needfull, for their carrying on that
order in worship, and discipline, which he hath instituted for them to
observe; with commands, and rules, for the due and right exerting, and
executing of that power.
o Mat. 18.17,18. 1 Cor. 5.4,5. with
v.13. 2 Cor. 2.6,7,8.
8. A particular Church gathered, and compleatly
Organized, according to the mind of Christ, consists of Officers, and Members;
And the Officers appointed by Christ to be chosen and set apart
by the Church (so called and gathered) for the peculiar Administration
of Ordinances, and Execution of Power, or Duty, which he intrusts them
with, or calls them to, to be continued to the end of the World are (p)
Bishops or Elders and Deacons.
p Act. 20:17, with v.28.
9. The way appointed by Christ for the Calling
of any person, fitted, and gifted by the Holy Spirit, unto the Office
of Bishop, or Elder, in a Church, is, that he be chosen thereunto by the
common (q) suffrage of the Church
it self; and Solemnly set apart by Fasting and Prayer, with imposition
of hands of the (r) Eldership of
the Church, if there be any before Constituted therein; And of a Deacon
(s) that he be chosen by the like
suffrage, and set apart by Prayer, and the like Imposition of hands.
q Act. 14.23: See the original.
10. The work of Pastors being constantly to attend
the Service of Christ, in his Churches, in the Ministry of the Word,
and Prayer, (t) with watching for
their Souls, as they that must give an account to him; it is incumbent
on the Churches to whom they Minister, not only to give them all due respect,
(u) but also to communicate to them
of all their good things according to their ability, so as they may have
a comfortable supply, without being themselves (x)
entangled in Secular Affairs; and may also be capable of exercising (y)
Hospitality toward others; and this is required by the (z)
Law of Nature, and by the Express order of our Lord Jesus, who hath ordained
that they that preach the Gospel, should live of the Gospel.
t Act. 6.4. Heb. 13.17:
11. Although it be incumbent on the Bishops or
Pastors of the Churches to be instant in Preaching the Word, by way of
Office; yet the work of Preaching the Word, is not so peculiarly confined
to them; but that others also (a) gifted,
and fitted by the Holy Spirit for it, and approved, and called by
the Church, may and ought to perform it.
a Act. 11.19,20,21. 1 Pet. 4.10.11.
12. As all Believers are bound to joyn themselves
to particular Churches, when and where they have opportunity so
to do; So all that are admitted unto the priviledges of a Church,
are also (b) under the Censures and Government
thereof, according to the Rule of Christ.
b 1 Thes. 5.14. 2 Thes 3.6.14,15.
13. No Church-members upon any offence taken by
them, having performed their Duty required of them towards the person they
are offended at, ought to disturb any Church order, or absent themselves
from the Assemblies of the Church, or Administration of any Ordinances,
upon the account of such offence at any of their fellow-members; but to
wait upon Christ, (c) in the further
proceeding of the Church.
c Mat. 18.15.16,17. Eph. 4 2,3.
14. As each Church, and all the Members
of it are bound to (d) pray continually,
for the good and prosperity of all the Churches of Christ,
in all places; and upon all occasions to further it (every one within the
bounds of their places, and callings, in the Exercise of their Gifts and
Graces) so the Churches (when planted by the providence of God so
as they may injoy opportunity and advantage for it) ought to hold (e)
communion amongst themselves for their peace, increase of love, and mutual
d Eph. 6.18. Ps. 122.6.
15. In cases of difficulties or differences, either
in point of Doctrine, or Administration; wherein either the Churches in
general are concerned, or any one Church in their peace, union, and edification;
or any member, or members, of any Church are injured, in or by any proceedings
in censures not agreeable to truth, and order: it is according to the mind
of Christ, that many Churches holding communion together, do by their messengers
meet to consider, (f) and give their advice,
in or about that matter in difference, to be reported to all the Churches
concerned; howbeit these messengers assembled are not entrusted with any
Church-power properly so called; or with any jurisdiction over the Churches
themselves, to exercise any censures either over any Churches, or Persons:
or (g) to impose their determination on
the Churches, or Officers.
f Act. 15.2,4,6. & 22,23.25.