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made use of such as he himself had before appointed elders and officers in his church; though it be far from us to limit the Lord, so as to exelude any from this privilege; nor yet, on the other hand, will the possibility hereof be a sufficient warrant to allow every obscure member to stand up and offer to rule, judge and condemn the whole body; nor yet is it without cause that such an one's message is jealousied and called in question, unless it have very great evidence and be bottomed upon some very weighty and solid cause and foundation. And God doth so furnish those whom he raises up, in a singular manner, of which (as I said) I mind no instance in the New Testament: and in the Old we see, though it was strange that little David should oppose himself to the great Goliah, yet he had, before that, killed both the lion and the bear, which was no less improbable; and which of all is most observable, was, before that time, by the appointment of God and the hand of the prophet, anointed king of Israel. Compare the 16th and 17th chapters of the first of Samuel.
Now as to the third, That any particular persons, de facto, or effectually giving out a positive judgment, is no encroaching nor imposing upon their brethren's conscience, is necessarily included in what is said before; upon which, for further probation, there will only need this short reflection: that for any member or members, in obedi. ence to the Lord, to give forth a positive judgment in the Church of Christ, is their proper place and office, they being called to it; and so for them to exercise that place in the body, which the Head moves them to, is not to usurp authority over their fellow members. As, on the other hand, to submit and obey (it being the place of some so to do) is not a renouncing a being led by the Spirit, seeing the Spirit leads them so to do: and not to obey, in case the judgment be accord. ing to truth, and the Spirit lead to it, is, no doubt, both offensive and sinful. And that all this may be supposed in a Church of Christ without absurdity, and so establish the above-mentioned propositions, will appear by a short review of the former passages.
If that Peter and James, their giving a positive judgment in the case of difference in divers particulars, did not infer them to be imposers, so neither will any so doing now, being led to it by the same authority: every one may easily make the application. And, on the contrary, if for any to have stood up and resisted their judgment, pretending an unclearness, or so, and thereby held up the difference after their sentence, breaking the peace and unity of the Church (things being concluded with an It seem. ed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us) I say, if such would have given just cause of offence, and have been cut off, as despisers of dignities of old, will not the like case, now occurring, hold the same conclusion ? Now, whether those propositions do not hold, upon the principles before laid down and proved, I leave to every judicious and impartial reader to judge.
Moreover, we see how positive the apostle Paul is in many particulars throughout all his epistles, insomuch as he saith, 2. Thess. ult. V,
14. If any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. And in many more places, before mentioned, where he commands them both to obey him, and several others, who were appointed, (no doubt by the Spirit of God) to be rulers among them; and yet, who will say, that either the apostle did more than he ought in commanding; or they less than they were obliged to, in submitting? And yet neither were to do any thing contrary, or more than the Spirit of God in themselves led them to, or allowed them in. And if the Church of God bear any parity or proportion now in these days with what it did of old (as I know no reason why it should not) the same things may now be supposed to take effect that did then, and also be lawfully done upon the like occasion, proceeding from the same Spirit, and established upon the same basis and foundation. And thus much, as to that part, to shew in whom the power of deci. sion is : which being seriously and impartially considered, is sufficient to clear us from the tyranny, either of popery or any other of that nature, with those that are not either wilfully blind, or very ignorant of popish principles, as the judicious reader may observe. But seeing to manifest that difference was one of those things proposed to be considered of, I shall now come to say something of it in its proper place.
How this government altogether differeth from
the oppressing and persecuting principality of the Church of Rome, and other anti-Christian assemblies.
WHATEVER way we understand the Popish principles in this matter, whether of those that are most devoted to the See of Rome, as the king of Spain's dominions and the princes of Italy; the Jesuits and generality of all those called religious orders, who hold that Papa in cathedra non potest errare, licet absque concilio; that is, that the pope in his chair cannot err, though without a council; or of those that are less devoted who plead this infallibility in the pope and council, lawfully convened, who yet, by the more zealous, are reckoned petty schismatics; I say, whatever way we take them, all those that do profess them. selves members of the Romish church, and are so far such as to understand their own principles, do unquestionably acknowledge.
First, That no general council can be lawfully called without the bishop of Rome, as Christ's vicar and Peter's successor, call it.
Secondly, That either he himself or some for him, as his legates, must be there present and always preside.
Thirdly, That the members having vote are made up of bishops or presbyters or commissioners from the several orders, being of the clergy.
Fourthly, That what is concluded on by plurality of votes and agreed to by the pope and his legates, must necessarily be supposed to be the judgment of the infaliible Spirit.
Fifthly, That all the members of the church are bound implicitly to receive and believe it, because it proceeds from a council to be accounted lawful in the respects above mentioned, without regard to the intrinsic or real truths of the things prescribed, or bringing them in any respect to the test or examination of the Spirit of God in themselves, or the scripture's testimony, or their agreement or disagreement with truths, formerly believed and received; for so much as to prove or try them by way of doubt, they reckon a breach of the first command; as, on the other hand, a matter of merit, implicitly to receive and believe them, however inconsistent with the tes. timony of the Spirit in one's own heart, scripture, truth and reason.
Sixthly, That no man, as a member of the Church of Christ, in that simple capacity, unless a clergyman, or the ambassador of some king, &c. can be admitted to sit, vote, or give his judgment.
Seventhly, That it is in no respect to be supposed, that any members, especially laicks, whether in a particular city, country or nation, may meet concerning any things relating to the faith and worship of the Church, and give, by the Spirit of God any judgment; but that all such meetings are to be accounted schismatical and unlawful. And,
Lastly, That the promise of infallibility, and the gates of hell not prevailing, is necessarily annexed to the pope and council, called and authorized in the manner above expressed.