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Corinthians in their contributions, desiring them, 1 Cor. 16. 2. To lay by them in store upon the first day of the week ; yea, saith he not, that he gave the same order to the church of Galatia. I know not how any in reason can quarrel about set times for outward business, it being done in a subjection to God's will, as all things ought to be; or else how can such as so do, but quarrel with the apostle for this imposition (at that rate) upon the churches of Corinth and Galatia? We appoint no set times for the performance of the worship of God, so as to appoint men to preach and pray at such and such set times; though we appoint times to meet together in the name of the Lord, that we may feel his presence, and he may move in and through whom he pleaseth, without limitation. Which practice of meeting together we are greatly encouraged to by the promise of Christ, and our own blessed experience; and also we are severely prohibited to lay it aside by the holy apostle ; and also, on the other hand, by the sad experience of such as by negligence or prejudice forsake the asseblies of God's people; upon many of which is already fulfilled, and upon others daily fulfilling, the judgments threatened upon such transgressors : read Heb. 10, from verse 23 to the end ; where that duty is so seriously exhorted to, and the contempt of it reckoned a wilful sin, almost (if not altogether) unpardonable; yea, a treading under foot the Son of God, and a doing despite to the Spi. rit of Grace; which is fulfilled in our day, and proves the lamentable fruits of such as have so back-slidden among us.

And therefore having D

so much good and real ground for what we do herein, together with the approbation and encouragement of Christ and his apostles, both by command and practice, we can (as that both the Alpha and Omega, the foundation and cap-stone required) faithfully affirm in good conscience, that God hath led us by his Spirit, both to appoint places and times, where we may see the faces one of another; and to take care one for another, provoking one another to love and good works. And our faith and confidence herein cannot be staggered by a mere denial in our opposers, which no man of conscience and reason will say it ought ; seeing the thing itself hath such a solid and real cause and foundation, so good and suitable a pattern and example, and that it is constantly confirmed to us, both by the testimony of God's Spirit in our hearts, and by the good fruits and effects which we daily reap thereby, as a seal and confirmation that God is well pleased therewith, and approveth us in it,

Having thus far proceeded to shew that there ought to be order and government among the people of God, and that that which we plead for is, that there may be certain meetings set apart. for that end; it is next to be considered, in what cases, and how far it may extend.

SECTION V.

In what Cases, and how far this Government ex.

tends. And first, as to outwards and temporals.

I shall begin with that, which gave the first rise for this order among the apostles; and I do

verily believe, might have been among the first occasions that

gave the like among us, and that is, The care of the poor ; of widows and orphans. Love and compassion are the great, yea, and the chiefest marks of Christianity. Hereby shall it be known, saith Christ, that ye are my disciples, if ye love one another. And James the apostle places religion herein in the first place : Pure religion, saith he, and undefiled before God and the Father is, to visit the fatherless and widows in their afflictions, &c. For this then, as one main end, do we meet together, that enquiry may be made, if there be any poor of the household of faith that need, that they may be supplied ; that the widows may be taken care of; that the orphans and fatherless may be bred up and educa. ted. Who will be so unchristian, as to reprove this good order and government, and to say it is needless ? But if any will thus object, May not the Spirit lead every one of you to give to them that need? What needs meeting about it, and such formalities?

I answer, The Spirit of God leads us so to do; what can they say to the contrary? Nor is this a practice any ways inconsistent with being in. wardly and immediately led by the Spirit; for the Spirit of God doth now, as well as in the days of old, lead his people into those things which are orderly, and of a good report ; for he is the God of order, and not of confusion : And therefore the holy apostles judged it no incon. sistency with their being led by the spirit, to appoint men full of the holy ghost, and of wisdom, over the business of the poor. Now if to be full of the holy ghost be a qualification needful for this employment; surely the nature of their em. ployment was not to render this so needful a qualification useless and ineffectual, as if they were not to be led by it.

Moreover we see, though they were at that time all filled with the Spirit, yet there was something wanting before this good order was established. There was a murmuring that some widows were neglected in the daily ministration ; and we must not suppose the apostles went about to remedy this evil that was creeping into the Church, without the counsel of God by his Spi. rit, or that this remedy they were led to, was stepping into apostacy; neither can it be so said of us, we proceeding upon the like occasion.

If then it be thus needful and suitable to the gospel, to relieve the necessities of the poor, that as there was no beggar to be among Israel of old, so far less now; must there not be meetings to appoint contributions, in order to the performing these things? Which is no other, but the giving of a general intimation what the needs are, that every one, as God moves their hearts, and hath prospered them, (without imposition, force, or limitation) may give towards these needful uses. In which case these murmurers at our good order in such matters may well think strange at the apostle : How pressingly! how earnestly doth he reiterate his desires and provocations, so to speak, in this respect to the Corinthians, 1 Cor. 16. 2. and the eighth and ninth chapters of the second epistle throughout!

Now, though he testifies to them elsewhere,

That they are the temples of the Holy Ghost, and that the Spirit of God dwells in them; yet ceaseth he not to entreat and exhort, yea, and to give them certain orders in this matter.

Besides all these reasons, which are sufficient to convince any unprejudicate man, the secret approbation of God's Spirit accompanying us in this thing, together with the fruits and effects of it; which hundreds can witness to, whose needs have been supplied, and themselves helped through divers difficulties; and the testimonies of some already, and of many more orphans and fatherless children, who have found no want, neither of father nor mother, or other relations, through the tender love and care of God's people, in putting them to trades and employments, and giving them all needful education : which will make it appear, ere this age pass away, to those that have an eye to see, that these are not the mere doings and orders of men; but the work of him who is appearing in ten thousands of his saints, to establish not only truth, but mercy and righteousness in the earth.

And for that end therefore, in the second place, this order reacheth the making up and composing of differences as to outward things, which may fall out betwixt friend and friend; for such things may fall out through the intricacies of divers af. fairs, where neither hath any positive intention to injure and defraud his neighbour, as in many cases might be instanced. Or if through the workings and temptations of him, whose work is to beset the faithful, and people of the Lord, and to engender, (so far as he can) strife and division

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