Sivut kuvina

taken away.

often broken. It was broken in the time of Luther. He was excommunicated by the Pope, and all his ministerial authority

It has been broken once and again in Britain. This Bishop Hoadly and all moderate clergymen acknowledge. It has been broken in this country; for the first ministers who came here, renounced all Episcopal authority, and in one or two instances, stood by, and saw a minister ordained by the brethren of the church.* Besides, there is something very absurd in the supposition that ordained ministers have the sole right of ordaining others. Upon this supposition, let a particular church be ever so pure and orthodox, and choose an able and orthodox preacher to settle with them, they cannot have him for their pastor unless ministers are pleased to ordain him. This throws all the churches into the hands of ministers; and can we suppose that Christ meant to deprive churches of their inherent right to choose and install their own officers? What would have become of the dissenters in England, if they had had no right to choose and install their own ministers? What would have become of the churches in New England, if they had not had the right of choosing and installing their own ministers? They would not have had one regular gospel minister to this day. And on this ground, the high church clergy, such as Bishop Hobart of New York, maintain that there is not one regular Congregational minister in this country, who has a right to ordain others, or to administer Baptism and the Lord's Supper. The truth, is, ministers have no exclusive right to ordain others. The right of ordination is primarily and solely in the hands of the church. And when ministers do ordain, it is because they are invited and appointed by the church to do it. Thus the church has a right, after it is formed by confederation, to organize itself by choosing and installing such officers as Christ has appointed ; and these are bishops and deacons, and no other. There are but two orders of officers in the Christian church. There were three orders in the Jewish church, high priest, priests and Levites. But in a Christian church, there are only two distinct officers, bishops and deacons. And bishop, in the apostolic times, was a mere pastor, teacher, or watchman, without any superiority or power over any of his fellow pastors. He had only the watch, and care, and instruction of the particular church in which he was placed. No modern minister is a bishop, (jure divino,) but a mere creature of the state, and destitute of all divine authority to exercise dominion over any regular, gospel minister. In the twentieth of Acts we read, “ From Miletus Paul sent to Ephe

* See Winthrop's History of New England, vol. i. pp. 114, 115. VOL. v.


sus, and called the elders of the church," and said unto them, “ Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” Overseers in this passage is translated from the word smisuomes in Greek, which properly signifiés watchmen. The elders of Ephesus, whom the apostle calls bishops, were mere ministers of churches, who had no right to watch over one another, but only over the particular church and congregation over which God had made each of them a distinct pastor. That there were only two orders of officers in a primitive Christian church, appears from Paul's inscription in his epistle to the Philippians. It is in these words : “ Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus, which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons." That is, with the pastors and deacons, who were the only officers in that church.

When a number of visible saints have formed themselves into a church by confederation, and have organized it, by choosing and installing a pastor and deacons, they are become a regular Christian church, and are prepared to exercise every act of ecclesiastical power, according to the directions which Christ has given them in our text. This is the only code of laws which Christ has given to any church, in order to maintain their own peace and purity, harmony and edification. The steps specified in this code of laws, the church are bound to take, in every act of discipline towards their brethren. Every church has an inherent right to discipline its own members, without consulting any pastor, or church, or presbytery, or synod, or council, or bishop, or pope, on the face of the earth. Councils, presbyteries, synods and general assemblies, are of mere human device, and have no ecclesiastical authority over any individual gospel church. It is at the option and discretion of any particular church, whether they shall, or shall not ask counsel in any case of church discipline; and if they do ask counsel of others, their advice is only advisory, which they have a right to accept or reject. If we depart from the platform of church discipline, which Christ has given us in this eighteenth chapter of Matthew, there is nothing in scripture to prevent our being Presbyterians, or Episcopalians, or Papists.


1. If every church be formed by confederation, and has an independent right to exercise all ecclesiastical power, then they have a right to dismiss their own minister, whenever they judge he has forfeited his ministerial character. As the church have a

right to choose and ordain their own minister, so they must have, of course, a right to dismiss him for what they deem good reasons. Those who have a right to put into office, have a right to put out of office. The church either puts their ministers into office, or delegate power to neighboring ministers to do it for them, which is the same thing as doing it themselves. Therefore, as neighboring ministers could not place a pastor over them without their consent, so they cannot put away, or dismiss their pastor without their consent. The voice of the church must always be had in every act of discipline. Now if a council cannot dismiss a minister without the consent of the church, then it clearly appears that the right of dismission belongs solely to the church, who may dismiss their minister without the advice, or contrary to the advice of a council, if they think he has forfeited his ministerial character, but not otherwise. Before he was ordained, he was a mere candidate for office; and whilst he stood in that predicament, they had a right to dismiss him from their service, if they were displeased with his voice, his style, or any other mere personal defect, and call another upon trial. But after he is ordained, he no longer stands in the situation of a candidate; and the church have no longer a right to dismiss him, unless they judge he is so heterodox in sentiment, or corrupt in practice, as to be unqualified for the sacred work of the ministry. If a church dismiss a minister without his consent, they must dismiss him as a man unfit for the pastoral office in any other place, and refuse to recommend him. The connection between a pastor and people is too sacred and important to be dissolved upon every trifling mistake on either side.

2. It appears from the nature of church government, that a pastor has no right to negative the votes of the church. This right has been too often claimed and exercised by congregational ministers. But there is no ground in reason, or scripture, for this arbitrary power. The church, we have seen, is only an executive body, who have no power to make laws, but only to execute the laws which Christ has made and given them. It is absurd to suppose that an executive body should have a negative upon one another. The chief judge of the supreme court has no negative on the side judges, nor they upon him ; for this plain reason, that they must bring the matter before them to a decision. But this could not be if they had a negative upon each other. So in a church, if a pastor could negative their votes, he might prevent them from bringing any cause to a decision. If the pastor might negative all the votes and doings of the church, they would really have no power at all, and never be able to determine any point, or decide any cause. The truth is, he is but a mere moderator ; and in respect to voting, stands upon the same ground with a private brother. If the church vote any thing contrary to his opinion, he may object, like any other member, but is bound ex-officio, to put the vote, without personally approving it. Or, if the church should pass a sentence of such a nature and so circumstanced that he thinks himself bound in duty to do all in his power to obstruct the execution of the sentence, he may refuse to put the vote, and relinquish his office. No man is obliged to violate his conscience in any office he sustains. If a sheriff were required to execute a man whom he knew to be innocent, he might refuse to act, at the risk of his office. The minister has no more controlling power over the church, than a speaker of the house of representatives has over that house; and that house has no more controlling power over the speaker, than he has over them. So the church is a mere executive body, and the minister is a mere executive offi. cer. Neither the church, nor the pastor has any other power, but to execute the laws of Christ according to his directions in the text. Ecclesiastical power is one of the plainest things in nature; and had churches and ministers only followed the directions of Christ in our text, there never would have been any disputes and controversies about ecclesiastical authority, or about councils, presbyteries, synods, bishops, patriarchs, or popes. These are not to be found in the eighteenth of Matthew, and consequently not in the New Testament. They are mere human inventions, and contrary to scripture. The church is a mere executive body, and have no power to do any thing, but only to execute the laws of Christ according to his plain directions in this eighteenth of Matthew. All the present disputes about councils mutual, and ex-parte councils, in respect to their authority, are vain and useless; because they have no divine authority at all. And all the present disputes about the power of ordination, and the power of ordained ministers, are equally vain and absurd. For there is no power of ordination but what is lodged in every church of Christ; and no church of Christ can give any power to their officers, but what Christ has given to every one of his ministers. The disputes about ecclesiastical power never will be, nor can be settled, until the churches will return to the platform of ecclesiastical power contained in our text, from which not only Papists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, but even Congregationalists, have too far departed.

3. Since every church is formed by its own voluntary confederation, one church is neither superior, nor inferior to another in point of authority; but every church is entirely independent. There is no other necessary bond of union between individual churches, but brotherly love. This, all Christian churches ought to exercise towards one another. Any number of professing christians may form themselves into a church by confederation, and exercise all ecclesiastical power among themselves, without any special connection with, or dependence on, any other church in the world. All ecclesiastical authority comes from Christ, and not from any particular church or churches. One church has as much power as another. All churches are sisters, and stand upon a level. They may associate, or consociate for mutual advantage. But no church have a right to give up their power to an association, or consociation, or council, or any other ecclesiastical body. Churches have no right to unite for the purpose of concentrating and increasing their ecclesiastical authority. An association, or consociation, or council, have no more power than any single churches of which those bodies are composed. But it seems to be a very general opinion that churches can concentrate and increase their power by union. It is upon this principle of union, that a presbytery is supposed to have more power than a single church; that a synod has more power than a single presbytery ; that the general assembly has more power than a single synod; and that the pope at the head of what is called the universal church, has more power than all other ministers and churches in the world. If the premises are granted, these consequences must follow. If churches may concentrate and increase their power by union, then an association may have more power than a single church; a consociation may have more power than an association; a synod may have more power than a presbytery; a general assembly may have more power than a synod; and the church universal, with his Holiness at their head, may have more power than all other churches and all other clergymen in the world. Congregationalists often complain of Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and Papists, on account of their church government; but they have no reason to complain; for they act upon precisely the same principle, when they concentrate and increase their ecclesiastical power by union with associations, consociations, and ecclesiastical councils. When any church gives up its independence to any other ecclesiastical body, it gives up all its power. But Christ has given no power to churches which they may give away. Congregational churches, at this day, ought to be on their guard, and strenuously maintain their independence.

4. It appears from the very nature of church government, that there is no appeal from the authority of a particular church to any higher ecclesiastical tribunal. "Every church have a right to transact all their ecclesiastical matters, independently of any

other church. When they undertake to discipline any member, they have a right to pursue the steps which Christ has

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