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The Form of PRESBYTERIAL CHURCH GOVERNMENT, Agreed upon by the Assembly of Divines at Westminster; examined and approved, Anno 1645, by the General Assembly of the CHURCH of ScoTLAND, &c.
JESUS CHRIST, upon whose shoulders the government is, whose name is called wonderful, counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the prince of peace,* of the increase of whose government and peace there shall be no end, who sits upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and justice, from henceforth even for ever, having all power given unto him even in heaven and in earth by the Father, who raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand, far above all principalities and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come, and put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all ; he being ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all thing-s, received gifts for his church, and gave offices necessary for the edification of his church, and perfecting of his saints.
of the Church. THERE is one general church visible held forth in the New Testament, 1 Cor. xii. 12, 13, 28, together with the rest of the chapter.
The ministry, oracles and ordinances of the New Testament, are given by Jesus Christ to the general church visible, for the gathering and perfecting of it in this life, until his second coming, 1 Cor. xii
. 28. Eph. iv. 4, 5, compared with ver. 10, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, of the same chapter.
Particular visible churches, members of the general church, are also held forth in the New Testament, Gal. i. 21, 22. Rev. i. 4, 20, and Rev. ii. 1. Particular churches, in the primitive times, were made up of visible saints, viz. of such as, being of age, professed faith in Christ, and obedience unto Christ, according to the rules of faith and life, taught by Christ and his apostles; and of their children, Acts ii. 38, 41. Acts ii. ver. last, compared with Acts v. 14. 1 Cor. i. 2, compared with 2 Cor. ix. 13. Àcts ii. 39. 1 Cor. vii.
• Isa. 9 6,7
14. Rom. ix. 16, and so forward ; Mark x. 14, compared with Matt. xix. 13, 14.. Luke xviii. 15, 16.*
Of the Officers of the Church.
THE officers which Christ hath appointed for the edification of liis church, and the perfecting of the saints, are,
Some extraordinary, as apostles, evangelists, and prophets, which are ceased.
Others ordinary and perpetual, as pastors, teachers, and other church governors, and deacons.
The pastor is an ordinary and perpetual officer in the churck. Jer. iii. 15, 16, 17; prophesying of the time of the gospel. 1 Peter v. 2, 3, 4. Eph. iv. 11, 12, 13.
First, it belongs to his office,
To pray for and with his flock, as the mouth of the people unto God. Acts vi. 2, 3, 4. Acts xx. 36 ; where preaching and prayer are joined as several parts of the same office. James v. 14, 16. The office of the elder, that is, the pastor, is to pray for the sick, even in private, to which a blessing is especially promised; much more therefore ought he to perform this in the public execution of his office, as a part thereof. i Cor. xiv. 15, 16.
To read the scripture publicly; for the proof of which, 1. That the priests and leviles in the Jewish church were trusted with the public reading of the word, as is proved, Deut. xxii. 9, 10, 11. Neh. viii. 1, 2, 13.
2. That the ministers of the gospel have as ample a charge and commission to dispense the word, as well as other ordinances, as the priests and levites had under the law, proved, Isa. lxvi. 21. and Matt. xxii. 31, where our Savior entitleth the officers of the New Testament, whom he will send forth, by the same names of the teachers of the Old.
Which propositions prove, that therefore (the duty being of a moral nature) it followeth by just consequence, that the public reading of the scriptures belongeth to the pastor's office.
To feed the flock, by preaching of the word, according to which he is to teach, convince, reprove, exhort, and comfort. 1 Tim. iii. 2. 2 Tim. jii. 16, 17. Tit. i. 9.
* Matt. xxviii. 18, 19, 20. Eph. i. 20, 21, 22, compared with Eph. iv. 8, and Psalm lxviii. 18.
To eateebise, which is a plain laying down the first principles of the oracles of God, Heb. v. 12; or of the doctrine of Christ, and is a part of preaching
To dispense other divine mysteries, 1 Cor. iv. 1, 2,
To administer the sacraments, Matt. xxviii. 19, 20. Mark xvi 15, 16. 1 Cor. xi. 23, 24, 25, compared with 1 Cor. X. 16.
To bless the people from God, Numb. vi. 23, 24, 25, 26, compared with Rev. xiv. 5, (where the same blessings, and persons from whoin they come, are expressly mentioned) Isa. Ixvi. 21, where, under the names of priests and levites, to be continued under the gospel, are meant evangelical pastors, who therefore are by office to bless the people, Deut. 8. 8. 2 Cor. xiii. 14. Eph. i. 2.
To take care of the poor, Acts xi. 30. Acts iv. 34, 35, 36, 37. Acts vi. 2, 3, 4. 1 Cor. xvi. 1, 2, 3, 4.
Gal. ii. 9, 10. And he haih also a ruling power over the flock as a pastor, 1 Tim. V. 17. Acts xx. 17, 28. 1 Thess. V. 12. Heb. xiii. 7, 17.
Teacher or Doctor. THE seripture doth hold out the name and title of teacher, as well as of the pastor, 1 Cor. xii. 28. Eph. iv. 11.
Who is also a minister of the word as well as the pastor, and hath power of administration of the sacraments.
The Lord having given different gifts, and divers exercises according to these gifts, in the ministry of the word, Roin. xii. 6, 7, 8. 1 Cor. xii. 1,4, 5, 6, 7, though these different gifts may meet in, and accordingly be exercised by one and the same minister, 1 Cor. xiv. 3. 2 Tim.
Tit. i. 9; yet, where be several ministers in the same congregation, they may be designed to several employments, according to the different gifts in which each of them doth most excel. Rom. xii. 6,7, 8. 1 Pet. iv. 10, 11. And he that doth more excel in exposition of scriptures, in teaching sound doctrine, and in convincing gainsayers, than he doth in application, and is accordingly employed therein, may be called a teacher, or doctor, (the places alledged by the notation of the word do prove the proposition) nevertheless, where is but one minister in a particular congregation, he is to perform so far as he is able the whole work of the ministry, as appeareth in 2 Tim. iv. 2. Tit. i. 9, before alledged, 1 Tim. vi. 2.
A teacher or doctor, is of most excellent use in schools and universities; as of old in the schools of the prophets, and at Jerusalem, where Gamaliel and others taught as doctors.
Other Church Governors. AS there were in the jewish church, elders of the people joined with the priests and levites in the government of the church, (as appeareth in 2 Chron. xix. 8, 9, 10.) so Christ, who bath instituted a government,
and governors ecclesiastical in the church, hath furnished some in his church, beside the ministers of the word, with gifts for government, and with commission to execute the same when called thereunto, who are to join
with the minister in the government of the church, Rom. xii. 7, 8. 1 Cor. xii. 28. Which officers reformed churches commonly call elders.
Deacons. THE seripture doth hold out deacons as distinet officers in the church. Phil. i. 1. 1 Tim. iii. 8.
Whose office is perpetual. 1 Tim. iii. 8, to verse 16. Acts vi. 1, 2, 3, 4. To whose office it belongs not to preach the word, or administer the sacraments, but to take special care in distributing to the necessities of the poor. Acts vi. 1.2, 3, 4, and the verses following.
of particular Congregations. · IT is lawful and expedient that there be fixed congregations, that is, a certuin company of christians to meet in one assembly ordinarily. for public worship. When believers multiply to sueh a number that they cannot conveniently meet in one place, it is lawful and expedient that they should be divided into distinct and fixed congregations, for the better administration of such ordinances as belong unto them, and the discharge of mutual duties. 1 Cor. xiv, verse 26. Let all things be done unto edifying; and verses 33, and 40.
The ordinary way of dividing christians into distinct congregations, and most espedient for edification, is by the respective bounds of their dwellings.
1st. Because they who dwell together, being bound to all kind of moral duties one to another, have the better opportunity thereby to discharge them; which moral tie is perpetual, for Christ came not to destroy the law, but to fulfil it, Deut. xv. 7,11. Matt. xxii. 39. Matt. V. 1..
2dly. The communion of saints must be so ordered, as may stand with ihe most convenient use of the ordinances, and discharge of moral duties, without respect of persons. 1 Cor. xiv. 26. Let all things be done unto edifying Heb. x. 24, 25. James ii. 1, 2.
3dly. The pastor and people must so nearly cohabit together, as that they may mutually perform their duties each to other with most conveniency.
In this company some must be set apart to bear office.
of the Officers of a particular Congregation.
· FOR officers in a single congregation, there ought to be one at the least, both to labor in the word and doctrine, and to rale. Prov. xxix. 18. 1 Tim. y. 17. Heb. xiii. .
It is also requisite that there should be others to join in government 1 Cor. xii. 28.
And likewise it is requisite that there should be others to take special care for the relief of the poor. Acts vi. 2, 3.
The number of each of which is to be proportioned according to the condition of the congregation.
These officers are to meet together at convenient and set times, for the well ordering the affairs of that congregation, each according to his office.
It is most expedient that in these meetings, one whose office is to labor in the word and doctrine, do moderate in their proceedings.1 Tim. v. 17.
Of the Ordinances in a particular Congregation. The ordinances in a single congregation are, prayer, thanksgiving, and singing of psalms ; (1 Tim. ii. 1. 1 Cor. xiv. 15, 16.) the word read, (although there follow no immediate explication of what is read) the word expounded and applied, catechising, the sacraments administered, collection made for the poor, dismissing the people with a blessing
of Church Government, and the several Sorts of Assemblies for the same.
CHRIST hath instituted a government, and governors ecclesiastical in the church : to that purpose, the apostles did immediately receive the keys from the hand of Jesus Christ, and did use and exercise them in all the churches of the world, upon all occasions.
And Christ hath since continually furnished some in his church with gifts of government, and with commission to execute the same, when called thereupto.
It is lawful and agreeable to the word of God, that the church be governed by several sorts of assemblies, which are congregational, classical, and synodical.
of the Power: in common of all these Assemblies. IT is lawful and agreeable to the word of God, that the several assemblies before-mentioned have power to convene, and call before them, any person within their several bounds, whoin the ecclesiastical business which is before them doth concern; proved by Matt. chap. xviii.
They have power to hear and determine such causes and differences as do orderly come before them.
It is lawful and agreeable to the word of God, that all the said assemblies have some power to dispense church censures.