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church of Jerusalem about it, they held a meeting for the purpose of deciding it.
Now that Paul and Barnabas were not members of the court that came together to decide this question, and that they were not of that company which ordained the decrees, is to me very clear from these words : ♡ 22. “ Then it plea. « sed the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send “ chosen men of their own company to Antioch, with Paul « and Barnabas, Judas sirnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief « men among the brethren, and wrote letters by them." And the whole strain of the epistle distinguilhes Paul and Bar. nabas evidently from the company by which the dogmas were judged. And though it behoved Paul and Barnabas, and those with them, to be present, and propose their quefion, and give information, which they did; yet I can find no mention of their giving any judgment or suffrage. I see Peter giving his judgment, and James his, and the apostles and the elders agreeing, and the whole church concurring with them; but as Paul and Barnabas are not of that com. pany, so I find them doing nothing there but informing and narrating matters of fact, without giving any judgment. The use they were for in that meeting is intimated in the epistle, wherein they at Jerusalem signify to them at Antioch, that they had been duly informed by their messengers, and that they had depended on and gone upon their information; and whereas their authority had been attacked by the false teachers, they testify their regard to them, and approbation of them; and, to remove all ground of suspicion, they send men of their own company along with them to Antioch.
From all which there is not the least ground to imagine, that Paul and Barnabas sat menibers of that court, and judges in that question there, but the clearest ground to ihiuk that they did not.' And till you prove they gave their fuffrage in what was determined, as a part of that ecclefiaftic body, may I not inquire, where is the fynod in Acts xv. that has been so much talked of both by Papists and national Protestants ? Well, speak of a fynod who will, I resolve to speak only of the prelbytery in Jerysalem, where were the apostles, in whose stead we have now the New Teltament, till once you prove, that Paul and Barnabas were members of that court, and joined with the elders in Jerusalem in exercising jurisdic. tion over the churches in Jerusalem and Antioch.
The presbytery of Jerusalem then came together, the apo. Ales and they, for to consider of this matter; and how did
they come together? or where? the particular place is not mentioned; but Afts xv. makes it evident, they assembled in the church, which is the true place that the Lord hath cho. sen for a New-Testament prefbytery, to gather together in his name, to make decisions, and pass sentences in whatever place of the earth it happen to be; and here they have the promise of his presence, “who waiks in the midst of the is golden candlesticks, and holds the stars in his right hand.” There needs no consequence be drawn to prove, that the whole church was present with their presbytery at the ma. king of this decision, and what is the plainest nearest conse. quence from this, but that the whole church in Jerusalem was but one congregation, and that the presbytery in Jeru. Salem was but the prelbytery of a congregation. Further,' How did this presbytery make this great decision? by plura. lity of voices, or by agreement ? with the consent of the church, or without it? Let the text answer, y 22. “ Then, “ pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church.”
This was the way the apostles proceeded from the beginning, in all their actings in the church at Jerusalem ; they determined all things with the consent of the people, and did not disdain to satisfy them as to all their conduct, Acts i. Acts vi. Acts xi. 1.-4. So that what was done by them is said to be done by the church, according to Matth. xviii. Acts xi. 22. This was so laid in the original constitution of the Christian church, that, however the mystery of ini. quity wrought in the churches before the days of Cyprian, it was not then wrought out of their constitution: for he says, Epist. 6. Ad clerum de cura pauperum et confefforum,- Ad id vero quod scripserunt mihi.com-presbyteri nostri, Donatus et Fortunatus, Novatus et Gordius, folus refcribere nihil patui ; quando a primordio episcopatus mei statuerim, nihil fine confilio veftro, et sine consensu plebis meæ, privata sententia gerere. Sed cum ad vos per Dei gratiam venero, tunc de iis quæ vel gefta funt, vel gerenda, ficut honor mutuus pofcit, in commune tractabimus. He had a very plain pattern for this laid before him by the apostles in the church at Jeru. salem: and while men have been diligently inquiring inco Acts xv. to find a pattern for a thing for which there is no pattern there, I wonder much, that, froin Acts xv. 22. compared with Acts xvi. 4. they have not perceived, that the judgment, or determination, or sentence of a Christian presa bytery is, “ What pleases them, with the whole church of
which they are overseers.”
This was the greatest decision we read of in the New Te. stament, the greatest sentence or determination that was in a. ny Christian assembly where the apostles were; and this was the first part of the New Testament that was committed unto writing, and delivered unto the churches to keep; and in this writing the churches had a copy cast unto them, in the first church, for their method of procedure in all their affairs and manner of judging. Now, if the greatest decision we read of in the New Testament, and wherein all the churches were con. cerned, was made by a congregational presbytery, or by a congregational church ; what is the consequence of this, but that there is no ecclesiastic court on earth above such a church, and such a prelbytery? As to the reasons why this question was sent to this church, and determined there, you may see my speech before the commission; which, if you consider, you will see, that no consequence can be drawn from Acts xv. for the jurisdiction of one church over another. Upon the whole, may I not appeal to the conscience of any unprejudiced person, (though indeed there are few such in this matter), whether the pattern Acts xv. establimes synods and the subordination of judicatures, or overthrows them, and establishes the congregational way of doing ?
I shall trouble you no further at this time with observations upon your performance; only that your prejudice against congregational principles seems to me to be this, that, ac, cording to them, the Christian religion cannot be pational, and laid in the constitution of the kingdoms of this world, and a Christian national uniformity cannot be established unto the cutting off of heresy and schism with heretics and schilmatics, by the power of those kingdoms. But, on this very account, these principles appear to me to be true Christian principles; and, as to this, I desire you may take the trouble to read and consider what I have written on John xviii. 36. 37.
And now, Sir, when you have impartially considered what is above said, together with what you find in my former papers, if you still find me mistaken, pity me, pray for me, and inform me better from the word of God, and I will be obliged to you; and if you conceive, that you have received any personal injury from me, convince me of it, and I shall endeavour to confess my fault, and ask your forgiveness, as I desire to forgive all you have done or said at any time, or in your book, against me. But if you recejve any convic. tion from what I have faid, do not stifle your convictions, do not resist the truth, nor detain it in unrighteousness. Your
honour, honour, and the honour of your book, which you may conceive to be by me attacked, and which I am sure cannot be much hurt by one in my circumstances, is but a poor thing in comparison with that honour that cometh from God only. If I have been doing nothing else but making such an attack as I am capable to make upon your credit as an author, I own I have been very idle, and very ill employed; but if I have been obliged to undertake this talk, and give you this trou. ble, only for the sake of the truth, and as a debt I owe to the truth, opposed by you, then I defire it may overcome you, as it has done me, that we may be fellow helpers to the truth; and I am confident your yielding to it will be your honour in the day of the Lord. « That your eye may be “ single, and your whole body full of light, and that you “ may not be conformed to this world, but transformed by 6 the renewing of your mind, to prove what is that good, 6 and acceptable, and perfect will of God; and that his « word may be a light to your feet, and a lamp to your o paths, making you wiser than your teachers, and affording « you liberty in keeping his precepts," is the prayer of,
A Second Letter to Mr AYTONE, Containing,
Remarks upon his Review of the Observations on the Original Confiitution of the Church.
[First published in the year 1731.]
Lo, they have rejected the word of the Lord, and what wif • dom is in them? Jer. viii. 9.
• SIR, 5 Have seen your letter to me since it has been printed;
and though I am not of the mind that it deserves an an
swer, which it also seems to forbid, and though I have little hope that any thing coming from my pen can have irtfluence upon your understanding; yet, not knowing but some good end may be reached, even upon you, by the reply I am now making, I have therefore undertaken this talk; and, in the performance of it, though I cannot promise upon myself, yet I wish I may be preserved from every thing that may unjustly provoke you, and so mar the end I have in view."
My principles touching Christ's institution of a visible church, and the plan laid down to us in the New Testament, were fairly stated, and their foundation in the New Testa. ment from which they were taken, was plainly pointed out in The explication of the propofition. The scheme of princi. ples there laid down, though it contains the main substance, and the best of that for which those called Independents con. tended of old, against them that are called Presbyterians; yer is not liable to all the objections that were framed by the Presbyterians against the Independents ; nor is it capable of all the consequences that were drawn formerly from the man. ner of inaintaining the congregational scheme, or from the concessions made by the Independent writers. Yet the author of The defence of national churches, and you after him, have taken that Independent scheme as it was the thesis fora merly impugned by your writers, as answering best unto the common arguments. But I, not finding myself concerned to maintain any other scheme of principles but my own, nor to answer for consequences drawn from any other positions or