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These churches are spoken of, in respects a distinct and unconnected some instances, as constituting one community, the mode of organizageneral body.
“ God hath set some tion might have been various, acin the church, first Apostles, secon- cording to the caprice or the condarily prophets, thirdly teachers," venience of individuals. &c. " That thou mightest know The degree and manner of comhow thou oughtest to behave thy- munion in these churches may be self in the house of God, which gathered from various circumis the church of the living God.” stances recorded in the New Tesos Gaius, mine host, and of the tament. —They obviously were to whole church, saluteth you." each other objects of mutual con
These and similar expressions, in cern, interest, and prayer.—They which the whole Christian com had communion, also, in the wormunity is represented as constitut- ship and ordinances of the Gospel. ing one general church, are not to As their teachers journeyed from be understood as contradicting the place to place, it is not to be doubtpassages previously quoted in ed that they had an interchange of proof of the separate existence of pastoral labours. The members, churches, but as importing the con too, when absent from their own nexion which subsists, and ought to churches, were freely admitted to subsist, between them. So closely communion in the assemblies of were the primitive churches united their brethren. in faith, in affection, and in order, The primitive churches sent that they might properly be repre- Christian salutations, and letters of sented as forming but one church. instruction, warning, and reproof They constituted but
one great one to another. To the Romans family of churches, as the members Paul says, “ The churches of Christ of a particular church constituted salute you.” To the Corinthians one of individual believers.
6. The churches of Asia It is evidence of the union exist- salute you. Aquila and Priscilla ing among
the apostolical churches, salute you much in the Lord, with that they were established in the the church that is in their house. same order, and formed according All the brethren greet you.” The to the same general rule. " Joying,” , epistle to the Galatian churches says the Apostle to the Colossians, was sent in the name, not only of
beholding your order, and the Paul, but of all the brethren who stedfastness of
your faith in Christ.” were with him at Rome. “ Let us walk by the same rule; The primitive churches adminis. let us mind the same thing." The tered relief one to another in disApostle speaks in another place of tress. No reader of Paul's epistles the customs of the churches. “We can have forgotten how deeply he have no such custom, neither the was engaged, at different times, in churches of God.” And in another taking up collections among the
says, “ So ordain I in all Gentile churches, that he might the churches ;"—implying that to send relief to the poor and perseall the churches, the same general cuted saints at Jerusalem. Indeed, rules were prescribed. But why he seems to have given order in the this uniformity of organization in churches generally, that something the primitive churches, if com- should be laid by, every Lord's munion and fellowship were not day, to be devoted to charitable intended to be practised? On sup- purposes. 1 Cor. xvi. 2. position that each was to be in all The primitive churches sent mes
sengers or delegates one to another, which they had planted among the as they had occasion. Thus, the Gentiles. Acts xiv. 23. Titus was church at Antioch sent delegates left in Crete, that he might “ordain to the church at Jerusalem, that elders in every city.” Tit. i. 5. We they might confer with brethren know not of what particular church there on the question of circum- Titus was a member. He certainly cising the Gentile converts. And could have belonged to but one when this question was decided, church; whereas he assisted in orthe church at Jerusalem sent back daining elders over many. To Paul delegates to the churches of An- and Barnabas also, members and tioch, Syria, and Cilicia, that they messengers of the church at Anmight carry and confirm the deci- tioch, “ James, Cephas, and John," sion. Acts xv. 2. 25. Paul speaks who belonged to the original church also of “ the messengers of the at Jerusalem, gave the rightchurches,” who were deputed to hands of fellowship.” Gal. ii. 9. transmit their contributions to Je It further appears, from the writrusalem. 2 Cor. viii. 23.
ings of the Apostles, that the first It appears from the apostolical Christian churches were writings, that letters of recom tomed to seek and to take advice mendation were frequently sent one of another; and that the memfrom one church to another. When bers of different churches sometimes Apollos was minded to go from met together in council, to consider Ephesus into Achaia, “the bre- questions of difficulty and to give thren wrote, exhorting the disci- advice. We have an instance of ples to receive him.” Acts xviii. all this recorded in the fifteenth 27. Paul gave Phebe, a servant, chapter of the Acts. A
seri(@akovov) of the church at Cen: ous question arose at Antioch, a chrea, à recommendation to the question in which all the churches church at Rome, exhorting the were interested, touching the probrethren to “ receive her in the priety of circumcising the Gentile Lord as becometh saints.” Rom. converts. Being unable to deterxvi. 1. Addressing the Corinthians, mine the point satisfactorily among
• We do not need, as themselves, the brethren at Antioch some others, epistles of commenda- prudently resolved to send to Jetion to you, or letters of commen rusalem for advice. When the dation from you.
Ye are our epis- delegates from Antioch arrived at tie, written in our hearts, known Jerusalem, “ they were received of and read of all men.” 2 Cor. iii. 1. the church,” and “ the Apostles It is evident, from the form of ex and elders came together to conpression here used, that leiters of sider of the matter.” After much recommendation were common in discussion, a decision was formed, those times. See also 1 Cor. xvi.3; and delegates were sent back to and Col. iv. 10.
carry and confirm it. And although It may be gathered, from the this decision was disregarded by writings of the Apostles, that the some of the turbulent judaizing members of particular churches teachers, and the evil was not enassisted in ordaining elders over tirely cured; still it was in a great other churches, and gave to them measure checked. The hands of the right-hand of fellowship. Thus Paul and Barnabas were strengthPaul and Barnabas, who
ened, and the advice from Jernmembers of the church at Antioch, salem was received by the Gentile ordained elders in every church churches with unmingled joy.
The remarks here made may tles to the churches of the Epheserve to illustrate the kind of com- sians, the Magnesians, the Tralmunion existing in the churches lians, the Romans, the Philadelunder the ministry of the Apostles. phians, and the Smyrneans. PolyThough they were separate or- carp, another of the Christian faganizations, as I have shown, yet thers who was instructed by the they were connected by mutual Apostles, and by them set over reponsibilities, and bound together the church in Smyrna, addressed a by innumerable ties. They did letter to the church at Philippi. not, indeed, assume authority over In these instances, we see the Pasone another'; but they were in the tors of particular churches adconstant habit of spiritual com- dressing other churches, and admunion, in almost every way pos- ministeringinstruction, exhortation, sible. They lived together as and reproof, as the occasion resister churches, and strove together quired. After the martyrdom of for the faith and the diffusion of Polycarp the church in Smyrna the Gospel.
addressed a circular epistle to all This communion of the churches, the churches, containing a circumestablished by the Apostles, was stantial account of that event. In continued under the ministry of the next century,
66 when the their immediate successors. Be- church at Antioch was troubled fore the close of the first century, with the heresies of their Pastor, Clement of Rome addressed an Paulus Samosatenus, the neighepistle to the church at Corinth. bouring pastors came unto the It appears from this epistle, that, church, and joined their concuron occasion of some dissensions rence in his deposition," among the Corinthians, they de “ It is certain,” says Dr. Inputed a messenger to their brethren crease Mather, “ that in the next at Rome to ask advice. The ages to the Apostles, a Pastor epistle, in answer, commences as not settled in
:-“ The church of God without the concurrence of others. which is at Rome, to the church When the church had elected a of God which is at Corinth, elect, Pastor, they presented him to the sanctified by the will of God, neighbour pastors for their approthrough Jesus Christ our Lurd.” bation, nor could he be legally In the course of the epistle, in- confirmed without it. Eusebius struction, warning, reproof and tells us that when Alexander was counsel are faithfully administered. chosen Pastor of the church at Messengers were sent to carry this Jerusalem by the brethren of that communication to the Corinthian place, he had the common consent brethren, and to aid in healing of the circumjacent pastors. the divisions which had arisen v. c. 11.
And thus, as Cyprian among them.
informs us, it was practised in all Ignatius was converted under the churches throughout Africa. the ministry of the Apostles, and He speaks particularly concernby them ordained over the church ing Sabinus, who was elected at Antioch. In the persecutions Pastor of Eremita in Spain, how under Trajan, he was seized, car- that neighbour ministers concurred ried a prisoner to Rome, and in his ordination, after the fraterthrown to be devoured by wild nity had elected him.” beasts. On his way from An In the facts here stated, we may tioch to Rome, he addressed epis. see the fellowship existing be
tween the churches, in the ages independency. The churches formed omediately succeeding the Apos- and dissolved themselves. They tles. We still find individual made and unmade, ordained, dischurches, each having its own missed and deposed their religious officers and its particular organiza- teachers. In short, the churches tion, but all united in the bonds of of this denomination ackuowà most intimate and holy fellow- ledged no mutual connection, deship Advice is mutually sought, pendance or responsibility. The given, and taken, and a mutual minister of one church was watch and care are exercised. minister to another. He could
Shortly after the period above not preach, administer ordinances, referred to, the liberties of indi- or peform any ministerial act, out vidual churches were invaded, and of his own body. bishops in the larger cities began The famous John Robinson, of to assume a degree of authority Leyden, a part of whose church over their brethren. This evil migrated to America and comcontinued anı increased, till, in a menced the settlement at Plyfew centuries, the bishop of Rome mouth, was originally a Brownist. claimed to be universal bishop, and But perceiving the defects of this to have dominion over the world. system-how that in his zeal for The very existence of individual the independency and rights of inchurches was denied, and an at- dividual churches, its founder had tempt was made to unite all Chris- severed the scriptual bond which tendom in one great, political, ec- ought to unite all the churches, clesiastical body.
Robinson undertook and accomAt the reformation from Popery, plished a reformation, particularly the rights of individual churches, in his own church. He cast off which had long been forgotten, the name of Brownist, and with it were not immediately discovered most of the offensive points in the and restored. In England, when theory of Brown, and established the authority of the Pope was re the Congregational system of nounced, the monarch was ac church government, much as it exknowledged as the head of the ists in England, and in this counchurch, and all the churches in the try, at the present day. land were by law united in one In the year 1643, the Congrebody. By the progress of light, gationalists of England published and the diffusion and study of the à declaration of their sentiments, Holy Scriptures, the impropriety in which they say that they do not and error of this state of things “claim an entire independency were ere long discovered. But in with regard to other churches; for the first attempt to correct the they agree that, in all cases of evil, and restore the rights of in- offence, the offending church is to dividual churches, the matter was submit to an open examination by carried, as might have been ex other neighbouring churches, and it pected, to the other extreme. it persists in its error or miscarNear the close of the sixteenth riage, they are then to renounce century, Robert Brown laid the all Christian communion with it, foundation for a new religious com- till it repents."
" It is a maxim munity, the members of which, to be abhorred," say they, " that from the name of their leader, a singular and particular society
denominated Brownists. of men professing the name of They held to a strict and absolute Christ should arrogate to them
selves an exemption from giving Christ, nor to have communion with any an account to, or being censurable other in the ordinances of Christ.
“ I do not in these deliver only my own by, neighbouring churches about them."
judgment, but by what I know of the
judgment of all those brethren with whom In the year 1658, the Congre- I have occasi 'n to converse; yea, it has gationalists of England held an been their judgment and mine for divers assembly at the Savoy, where they years, even then when we never thought
to have enjoyed our own land again.” published a confession of the faith and order of their churches. In
The views of Congregationalists this they insist, not upon strict independency, but upon
in England have doubtless undermunion of particular churches, - gone some change, during the last prescribing that, “in cases of hundred and fifty years; but it is difficulty or difference, relating to evident, from recent publications, doctrine or order, churches
the Congregational Magazine, the
may meet together by their
History of Dissenters, &c., that
messengers in synods or councils, to consider they still retain all the important and give advice.”-Neal, vol. iv. features of their original system.
They still hold to the existence of In further evidence of the views distinct and independent powers;
individual churches, possessing of the early Congregationalists of and also to the communion of England, I quote the following churches, in most or all of those from the “ Irenicum,” a work pub- ways pointed out by their fathers. lished by the celebrated Mr. Jere
The Congregationalists of New miah Burroughs but a little while before his death :
England have ever harmonized, in
most particulars, with those of the “ Those in the Congregational way parent country. Our fathers were acknowledge,
strenuous advocates, not only for “1. That they are bound in conscience the rights of individual churches, to give account of their ways to churches but also for the communion of about them, or to any other who shall churches. The following regurequire it.
lation in regard to the gathering “ 2. They acknowledge that Synods of other Ministers and Elders about them of churches became a law in Mas. are an ordinance of Jesus Christ for the sachusetts in the year 1641. “ The helping the Church against errors, schisms, general court doth not, nor will and scandals.
hereafter, approve of any such “ 3. That these Synods may, from the power they have from Christ, 'admonish companies of men, as shall join in men and churches in his name, when they any pretended way of church felsee evils continuing in, or growing upon lowship, unless they shall acquaint the Church, and their admonitions carry
. the elders of the neighwith them the authority of Jesus Christ.
bour churches where they intend to “4. As there shall be cause, they may join, and have their approbation declare men or churches to be subverters of the faith, or otherwise, according to
therein.” the nature of their offence, to shame
In- the Cambridge Platform, them before all the churches about them. adopted in the year 1648, the
“5. They may, by a solemn act in the separate existence and rights of name of Jesus Christ, refuse any further the churches on the one hand, and communion with them till they repert. their mutual relations and respon
“ 6. They may declare also in the sibilities on the other, are well name of Christ, that those erring people defined. The name, Independent, or churches are not to be received into fellowship with any of the churches of is discarded. It is expressly said