« PreviousContinue »
sist of a convocation of the clergy, chosen and sent from the particular congregations, with some few laick elders, called together by the civil magistrate, in case he be one in judgment with them.
They decide by plurality of votes. And though they assume not an absolute infallibility, in that they reckon it possible for them to err, yet do they reckon their decisions obligatory upon their supposed consonancy to the scripture ; and however do affirm that the civil magistrate hath pow. er to constrain all to submit and obey; or else to punish them either by death, banishment, imprisonment, confiscation of goods, or some other corporeal pain ; even though such be persuaded, and offer to make appear, that the decisions they refuse, are contrary to the scriptures.
And lastly, (among the papists.) None, though otherwise confessed to be a member of the church, both knowing and sober, except commissionate in some of the respects above declared, can be admitted to sit, vote, and give his judgment.
Any that will be at the pains to apply this to the foundation I before laid of the infallibility of judgment, in that we may account only to be truly called the Church of Christ, will easily see the great difference betwixt us, which I shall sum up in these particulars :
First, Do we exclude any member of the Church of Christ, that may be truly accounted so, from telling his judgment ?
Secondly, Do we say a man ought to be persecuted in his outwards for his dissent in spirituals?
Thirdly, Do we plead that decision is to pass conclusive, because of the plurality of votes ?
And much more, which the reader may observe from what is already mentioned; which, that it may be all more obvious at one view, will appear somewhat clearly by this following figure; which will give the reader an opportunity to reGollect what lay heretofore more scattered. 1. The Romanists say,
II. The generality of pro1. That there is an in
testants say, fallibility in the Church ; 1. That though all sywhich infallibility
infallibility is, nods and councils may when the pope calls a err; yet such assemblies general council of bish- are needful for the edifi. ops, &c. that whatsoever cation of the Church, they conclude and agree That such do consist of upon must needs be the
a convocation of the cler. infallible judgment of the sy, with some few laicks Spirit of God, because of particularly chosen. That the promise of Christ, all others, except those That he would not suf- so elected, have not any fer the gates of hell right to vote or give to prevail against his judgment. Church.
2. That such an as2. And that the pope sembly so constitute, may and council, made up of ministerially determine certain of the clergy, ha controversies of faith, ving one outward succes- cases of conscience, matsion, and being lawfully ters of worship, and auordained, according to thoritatively determine the canons,
that the same. The decision church, to which that pro- is to be by plurality of mise is made, however votes, without any neceswicked or depraved they sary respect to the inbe; yet this ipfallible ward holiness or regene- , judgment follows them, ration of the persons; if as being necessarily an- so be they be outwardly nexed to their office, in called, ordained and inwhich the authority still vested in such a place
stands in its full strength and capacity, as gives and vigour.
them an authority to be members of such an as
sembly. 3. So that there lies 3. What they thus dean obligation upon the cide (as they judge acwhole body of the church cording to the scripture) to obey their decrees : ought to be received with and such as do not, are reverence, and submitted not only certainly damn. to : and those that do not, ed for their disobedience, to be punished by the cibut that it is the duty of vil magistrate by death, the civil magistrate to banislunent, or imprisonpunish such by death, inent, though they debanishment or imprison. clare, and be ready to ement, &c. in case they re- vidence, that it is because fuse.
they are not agreeable to the scripture they refuse
such decrees. III. The Quakers say, 1. That whereas none truly ought, nor can be accounted the Church of Christ, but such as are in a measure sanctified, or sanctifying, by the Grace of God, and led by his Spirit; nor yet any made officers in the Church but by the Grace of God, and inward revelation of his Spirit (not by outward ordination or succession) from which none is to be excluded, if so called, whether married or a tradesman, or a servant.
2. If so be in such a Church there should arise any difference, there will be an infallible judgment from the Spirit of God, which may be in a general assembly; yet not limited to it, as excluding others : and may prove the judgment of the plurality, yet not to be decided thereby, as if the infallibility were placed there, excluding
And if any,
the fewer. In which meeting or assembly upom such an account, there is no limitation to be of persons particularly chosen ; but that all that in a true sense may be reckoned of the Church, as being sober and weighty, may be present, and give their judgment.
3. And that the infallible judgment of truth, (which cannot be wanting in such a church) whether it be given through one or more, ought to be submitted to, not because such persons give it, but because the Spirit leads so to do; which every one coming to in themselves, will willingly and naturally assent to. through disobedience or unclearness, do not all that the Church ought to do, she is to deny them her spiritual fellowship, in case the nature of their disobedience be of that consequence as may deserve such a censure ; but by no means, for matter of conscience, to molest, trouble, or persecute any in their outwards.
Who will be at the pains to compare these three seriously together, I am hopeful will need 10 further argument to prove the difference, But if any will further object, what if it fall out, de facto, that the teachers, elders, or plurality, do decide (and from thence will say) this is like the Church of Rome, and other false Churches ? It will be hard to prove that to be an infallible mark of a wrong judgment, as we have not said it is of a right. And indeed to conclude it were so; would necessarily condemn the Church in the apostles days, where we see the teachers and elders, and so far as we can observe, the greater amber did agree to the decision, Acts 1. 15.
ů For if the thing be right, and according to truth, it is so much the better that the elders and greater number do agree to it; and if wrong, their affirming it will not make it right : and truly a gathering, where the elders and greater number are always, or most frequently wrong, and the younger and lesser number right, is such, as we eannot suppose the true Church of Christ to be. And if any will plead, that there is now no infallible judgment to be expected from the Spirit of God in the Church, it, no doubt, will leave the dissenters as much in the mist, and at as great a loss, as those they dissent from; both being no better than blind men, hitting at random, which will turn Christianity into scepticism. And though we may acknowledge, that this uncertainty prevails in the generality of those called Churches; yet we do firmly believe (for the reasons above declared, and many more that might be given) that the true Church of Christ has a more solid, stable foundation; and being never separated from Christ, her head, walks in a more certain, steady, and unerring path.