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The substance then of what is asserted and proved in this treatise, resolves in these following particulars.
First, That in the Church of Christ, when it consists of a visible people (for I speak not here of the Church in the dark night of apostacy, that consisted not of any society visibly united) ga. thered into the belief of certain principles, and united in the joint performance of the worship of God, as meeting together, praying, preaching, &c. there is, and still must be, a certain order and government.
Secondly, That this government, as to the outward form of it, consists of certain meetings appointed principally for that end; yet not so as to exclude acts of worship, if the Spirit move thereunto.
Thirdly, The object of this government is two-fold, outwards and inwards. The outwards relate mainly to the care of the poor, of widows and fatherless; where may be also included marriages, and the removing of all scandals in things undeniably wrong.
The inwards respect an apostacy, either in principles or practices that have a pretence of conscience, and that either in denying some truths already received and believed, or asserting new doctrines that ought not to be received. Which again (to sub-divide) may either be in things fundamental, and of great moment; or in things of less weight in them. selves, yet proceeding from a wrong spirit, and which in the natural and certain consequence of them, tend to make schisms, divisions, animosi. ties, and in sum, to break that bond of love and unity that is so needful to be upheld and established in the Church of Christ. And here come also under this consideration all emulations, strifes, backbitings, and evil surmisings.
Fourthly, That in the true Church of Christ, (according to the definition above given of it) there will, in such cases of differences and con troversies, still be an infallible judgment from the Spirit of God, either in one or other, few or
Fifthly, That this infallible judgment is only, and unalterably, annexed and seated in the Spirit and power of God; pot to any particular person or persons, mecting or assembly, by virtue of any
settled ordination, office, place or station, that such may have, or have had in the Church; no man, men, nor meeting standing, or being invested in any authority in the Church of Christ, upon other terms than so long as he or they abide in the living sense and unity of the life in their own particulars; which whosoever, one or more, inwardly departs from ipso facto, loses all authori. ty, office, or certain discerning, he or they formerly have had, though retaining the true principles and sound form, and (may be) not fallen into any gross practices, as may declare them generally to be thus withered and decayed.
Sixthly, That Jesus Christ, under the gospel, hath ordinarily revealed his will in such cases through the elders and ministers of the Church, or a general meeting ; whose testimony is neither
to be despised or rejected, without good cause. Neither is their taking upon then really to de. cide, any just ground to charge them with imposition, or to quarrel with their judgment; unless it can be proved, that they are decayed, and have lost their discerning, as above.
Seventhly, That to submit and obey in such cases, is no detracting from the common privilege of Christians, to be inwardly led by the Spi. rit, seeing the Spirit has led some heretofore so to do, and yet may. And that every pretence of unclearness is not a sufficient excuse for disobedience, seeing that may proceed from obstinacy, or a mind prepossessed with prejudice: Yet say I not any ought to do it before they be clear; and who are every way right, will not want clearness in what they ought to do.
And, lastly, That these principles are no ways tainted with imposition or contrary to true liberty of conscience: and that they fundamentally differ from the usurpation both of popery, prelacy, and presbytery, or any other of that nature.
NATIONAL MEETING OF FRIENDS,
Concerning Good Order and Discipline in the
WRITTEN BY JOSEPH PIKE.
My dearly beloved Friends and Brethren,
Having been for some time under a deep and mournful sense of the states of many of the Churches of Christ, a weighty concern came upon my spirit, to communicate some of those things to you which came under my consideration, and I could not be easy until I had given up to do it; and as I foresee what I shall write will be long, and the longer by commemorating the dealings of the Lord with us in this nation, as well as by writing some things new and old : So therefore, I desire you will bear its length, it being, in probability, the last time that ever I shall write to you, for I am but weak in body, and ill able to write at this time ; and, in all human pros. pect, not likely to continue long in this world. But however that may be, Oh! saith my soul, that the Lord will be pleased to keep and preserye me near to himself to the end, that so in the end of my time, I may attain to that everlasting rest, that the elders, who have gone before me, are already entered into.
And now, my dear friends, I herewith send you the salutation of my endeared love in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, which remains as fresh and fervent with me now in old age, as in my youth, more especially to you that travel in spirit, and are zealously concerned for the welfare and prosperity of Sion, you are as near and dear to me as ever, and I have unity with you, in the covenant of love and life, whether you are old or young, rich or poor ; for in this love it is that we are bound up together in the bundle of life, being baptized by one Spirit into one body, and in this love which proceeds from the Spirit, the true unity of the Church is kept up and maintained in the bond of peace, whereby the whole body is edified together in love, which you know is a stronger bond and tie than all outward laws, creeds or confessions of faith without it.
And besides this gift of the holy Spirit, which Christ has given us for our salvation, he has gi. ven additional means and assistances conducive to that great end ; thus he has afforded us the holy scriptures for our information, edification and comfort, through the Spirit. He has sent us his ministers and messengers, whom he has furnished with the immediate power of his word: he has gifted elders to oversee, advise and admonish us, and by his holy Spirit, he has moved upon both ministers and elders, to give forth and leave us holy instructions, før keeping godly or