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VII.: MODELS OF A FREE CHURCH - Arthur Sutherland Pigott Woodhouse, Puritanism and Liberty, being the Army Debates (1647-9) from the Clarke Manuscripts with Supplementary Documents 
Puritanism and Liberty, being the Army Debates (1647-9) from the Clarke Manuscripts with Supplementary Documents, selected and edited with an Introduction A.S.P. Woodhouse, foreword by A.D. Lindsay (University of Chicago Press, 1951).
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MODELS OF A FREE CHURCH
The Power of the People
The greatest commotions in kingdoms have for the most part been raised and maintained for and about power and liberties of the rulers and the ruled, together with the due bounds and limits of either. And the like hath fallen out in churches, and is continued to this day in the sharpest contentions (though now the seat of the war is changed) who should be the first adequate and complete subject of that church-power which Christ hath left on earth; how bounded, and to whom committed. This controversy is in a special manner the lot of these present times. And now that most parties (that can pretend anything towards it) have in several ages had their turns and vicissitudes of so long a possession of it, and their pleas for their several pretences have been so much and so long heard, it may well be hoped it is near determining, and that Christ will shortly settle this power upon the right heirs, to whom he primitively did bequeath it.
In those former darker times, this golden ball was thrown up by the clergy (so called) alone to run for among themselves. * * * This royal donation, bestowed by Christ upon his Church, was taken up and placed in so high thrones of bishops, popes, general councils, &c. . . . in so great a remoteness from the people that the least right or interest therein was not so much as suspected to belong to them. But . . . it hath now in these our days been brought so near unto the people, that they also have begun to plead and sue for a portion and legacy bequeathed them in it. The Saints (in these knowing times) finding that the key of knowledge hath so far opened their hearts that they see with their own eyes into the substantials of godliness, and that, through the instruction and guidance of their teachers, they are enabled to understand for themselves such other things as they are to join in the practice of, they do therefore further (many of them) begin more than to suspect that some share in the key of power should likewise appertain unto them.
It was the unhappiness of those who first in these latter times revived this plea of the people’s right, to err on the other extreme (as it hath ever been the fate of truth when it first ariseth in the Church from under that long night of darkness which Antichristianism had brought upon the world, to have a long shadow of error to accompany it) by laying the plea and claim on their behalf unto the whole power, and that the elders set over them did but exercise that power for them which was properly theirs, and which Christ had (as they contended) radically and originally estated in the people only.
But after that all titles have been pleaded of those that are content with nothing but the whole, the final judgment and sentence may (possibly) fall to be a suitable and due-proportioned distribution and dispersion of this power into several interests, and the whole to neither part. In commonwealths it is a dispersion of several portions of power and rights into several hands, jointly to concur and agree in acts and process of weight and moment, which causeth that healthful κράσις and constitution of them, which makes them lasting and preserves their peace, when none of all sorts find they are excluded; but as they have a share of concernment, soa a fit measure of power or privilege is left and betrusted to them. And accordingly the wisdom of the first constitutors of commonwealths is most seen in such a just balancing of power and privileges, and besides also in setting the exact limits of that which is committed unto each, yea, and is more admired by us in this than in their other laws. And in experience, a clear and distinct definement and confinement of all such parcels of power, both for the kind and extent of them, is judged to be as essentially necessary, if not more than whatever other statutes that set out the kinds and degrees of crimes or penalties.
So in that polity or government by which Christ would have his churches ordered, the right disposal of the power therein (we humbly suppose) may lie in a due and proportioned allotment and dispersion (though not in the same measure and degree) into divers hands, according unto the several concernments and interests that each rank in his Church may have rather than in an entire and sole trust committed to any one man, though never so able, or any one sort or kind of men or officers, although diversified into never so many subordinations under one another. And in like manner we cannot but imagine that Christ hath been as exact in setting forth the true bounds and limits of whatever portion of power he hath imparted unto any (if we of this age could attain rightly to discern it) as he hath been in ordering what kind of censures, and for what sins, and what degrees of proceedings unto these censures; which we find he hath been punctual in.
Now the scope which this grave and judicious author in this his treatise doth pursue, is to lay forth the just lines and terriers of this division of church-power, unto all the several subjects of it, to the end to allay the contentions now on foot about it. And in general he lays this fundamental maxim that holds in common true of all the particulars to whom any portion of power can be supposed to be committed: that, look, whatever power or right any of the possessors and subjects thereof may have, they have it each alike immediately . . . from Christ, and so are each the first subjects of that power that is allotted to them. And for the particular subjects themselves, he follows that division . . . which the controversy itself hath made unto his hands; to wit: (1) What power each single congregation (which is endowed with a charter to be a body politic to Christ) hath granted to it to exercise within itself; and (2) What measure, or rather kind, of power Christ hath placed in neighbour-churches without it, and in association with it.
For the first: as he supposeth each congregation such as to have the privilege of enjoying a presbytery or company of more or less elders, proper unto itself, so . . . he asserteth this incorporate body or society to be the first and primary subject of a complete and entire power within itself over its own members, yea, and the sole native subject of the power of ordination and excommunication (which is the highest censure). And whereas this corporation consisteth both of elders and brethren (for as for women and children, there is a special exception by a statute-law of Christ against their enjoyment of any part of this public power), his scope is to demonstrate a distinct and several share and interest of power in matters of common concernment vouchsafed to each of these, and dispersed among both, by charter from the Lord; as in some of our towns corporate, to a company of aldermen (the rulers) and a common council (a body of the people) there useth to be the like. He giving unto the elders or presbytery a binding power of rule and authority, proper and peculiar unto them, and unto the brethren, distinct and apart, an interest of power and privilege to concur with them, and that such affairs should not be transacted but with the joint agreement of both, though out of a different right; so that as a church of brethren only could not proceed to any public censures without they have elders over them, so nor in the church have the elders power to censure without the concurrence of the people; and likewise so as each alone hath not power of excommunicating the whole of either, though together they have power over any particular person or persons in each.
And because these particular congregations, both elders and people, may disagree and miscarry, and abuse this power committed to them, he therefore, secondly, asserteth an association or communion of churches, sending their elders and messengers into a synod, . . . and acknowledgeth that it is an ordinance of Christ, unto whom Christ hath . . . committed a due and just measure of power . . . and furnished them not only with ability to give counsel and advice, but further . . . with a ministerial power and authority to determine, declare, and enjoin such things as may tend to the reducing such congregations to right order and peace. * * * And . . . for the extent of this power in such assemblies and association of churches, he limits and confines that also unto cases, and with cautions (which will appear in the discourse), to wit: that they should not entrench or impair the privilege of entire jurisdiction committed unto to each congregation (as a liberty purchased them by Christ’s blood), but to leave them free to the exercise and use thereof until they abuse that power. . . .
As for ourselves, we are yet neither afraid nor ashamed to make profession (in the midst of all the high waves on both sides dashing on us) that the substance of this brief extract from the author’s larger discourse is that very middle-way, which in our Apology1 we did in the general intimate and intend, between that which is called Brownism and the Presbyterial government as it is practised; whereof the one doth in effect put the chief (if not the whole) of the rule and government into the hands of the people and drowns the elders’ votes (who are but a few) in the major part of theirs, and the other, taking the chief and principal parts of that rule (which we conceive is the due of each congregation, the elders and brethren) into this jurisdiction of a common presbytery of several congregations, doth thereby in like manner swallow up not only the interests of the people, but even the votes of the elders of that congregation concerned in the major part thereof. * * *
Only we crave leave . . . to declare that we assent not to all expressions scattered up and down, or all and every assertion interwoven in it, yea, nor to all the grounds or allegations of scriptures; nor should we in all things perhaps have used the same terms to express the same materials by. For instance, we humbly conceive prophesying (as the scripture terms it) or speaking to the edification of the whole church, may sometimes be performed by brethren gifted, though not in office as elders of the church.* * *
We conceive the elders and brethren in each congregation, as they are usually in the New Testament thus mentioned distinctly apart, and this when their meeting together is spoken of, so they make in each congregation two distinct interests though meeting in one assembly (as the interest of the common council or body of the people, in some corporations, is distinct from that of the company of aldermen); so as without the consent and concurrence of both nothing is esteemed as a church act, but so as in this company of elders this power is properly authority, but in the people is a privilege or power. * * *
The like difference would appear if we had seen a government tempered of an aristocracy and democracy; in which, suppose the people have a share, and their actual consent is necessary to all laws and sentences, whereas a few nobles that are set over them (whose concernment is less general) in whom the formal sanction of all should lie, in these it were rule and authority, in that multitude but power and interest. * * *
And in this distribution of power, Christ hath had a suitable and due regard unto the estate and condition of his Church, as now under the New Testament he hath qualified and dignified it. Under the Old Testament it was in its infancy, but it is comparatively come forth of its nonage, and grown up to a riper age (both as the tenure of the Covenant of Grace, in difference from the old, runs in the Prophets, and as Paul to the Galatians expresseth it). They are therefore more generally able, if visible Saints (which is to be the subject-matter of churches under the New Testament) to join with their guides and leaders in judging and discerning what concerns their own and their brethren’s consciences, and therefore Christ hath not now lodged the sole power of all church matters solely and entirely in the Church’s tutors and governors, as of old, when it was under age, he did. But yet because of their weakness and unskilfulness (for the generality of them) in comparison to those whom he hath ascended to give gifts unto, on purpose for their guidance and the government of them, he hath therefore placed a rule and authority in those officers over them, not directing only, but binding; so as not only nothing in an ordinary way of church-government should be done without them, but not esteemed validly done unless done by them. And thus by means of this due and golden balancing and poising of power and interest, authority and privilege, in elders and the brethren, this government might neither degenerate into lordliness and oppression in rulers over the flock, as not having all power in their hands alone, nor yet into anarchy and confusion in the flock among themselves; and so as all things belonging to men’s consciences might be transacted to common edification and satisfaction. * * *
Neither let it seem strange that the power of this censure, of cutting men off and delivering them to Satan . . ., should be inseparably linked by Christ unto a particular congregation, as the proper native privilege hereof, so as that no assembly or company of elders, justly presumed and granted to be more wise and judicious, should assume it to themselves or sever the formal power thereof from the particular congregations. For though it be hard to give the reason of Christ’s institutions, yet there is usually in the ways of human wisdom and reason something analogous thereunto, which may serve to illustrate, if not to justify, this dispersion of interests. And so (if we mistake not) there may be found even of this in the wisdom of our ancestors, in the constitutions of this kingdom. The sentencing to death of any subject in the kingdom, as it is the highest civil punishment, so of all other the nearest and exactest parallel to this in spirituals, of cutting a soul off and delivering it to Satan; yet the power of this high judgment is not put into the hands of an assembly of lawyers only, no, not of all the judges themselves, men selected for wisdom, faithfulness, and gravity, who yet are by office designed to have an interest herein. But when they upon any special cause of difficulty, for counsel and direction in such judgments do all meet (as sometimes they do), yet they have not power to pronounce this sentence of death upon any man without the concurrence of a jury of his peers, which are of his own rank, and, in corporations, of such as are inhabitants of the same place. And with a jury of these (men, of themselves, not supposed to be so skilful in the laws, &c.), two judges, yea one . . . hath power to adjudge and pronounce that which all of them, and all the lawyers in this kingdom together, have not, without a jury. And we of this nation use to admire the care and wisdom of our ancestors herein, and do esteem this privilege of the subject in this particular (peculiar to our nation) as one of the glories of our laws, and do make boast of it as such a liberty and security to each person’s life as (we think) no nation about us can show the like. And what should be the reason of such a constitution but this (which in the beginning we insisted on), the dispersion of power into several hands, which in capital matters every man’s trial should run through, whereof the one should have the tie of like common interest to oblige them unto faithfulness, as the other should have skill and wisdom to guide them and direct the rein. * * *
The Church Covenant
The Church Covenant may be proved from the New Testament. . . . But suppose there were not pregnant places for it in the New Testament, yet it is not enough to prove the same unlawful. For whatsoever ordinance of the Old Testament is not repealed in the New Testament, as peculiar to the Jewish pedagogy, but was of moral and perpetual equity, the same binds us in these days, and is to be accounted the revealed will of God in all ages, though it be not particularly and expressly mentioned in the writings of the New Testament. Else . . . how shall we prove it warrantable and necessary for magistrates to punish sabbath-breaking, blasphemy, and idolatry? * * * For the scriptures of the New Testament do speak little in these cases; only the scriptures of the Old Testament do give direction and light about them . . ., and the New Testament hath nothing to the contrary, and they are all according to moral equity and reason, and therefore they are to be observed from the scriptures of the Old Testament as the revealed will of God, though there were nothing expressly for them in the New. And the same we say for the particular in hand. For that a company should be combined together into one body, in way of government and subjection, by way of mutual free covenant, as men do when they enter into church estate, nothing is more natural or agreeable to moral equity; nay, it implieth a contradiction in the very name of liberty or freedom that free men should take upon them authority or power over free men without their free consent and voluntary and mutual covenant or engagement. And therefore seeing this covenant is not repealed in the scriptures of the New Testament, the scriptures of the Old are sufficient warrant for it. * * *
We speak of voluntary relation; for there are natural relations, as between parents and children, and these need no covenant. There is no covenant to make a man a parent, or a child. There are also violent relations, as between conqueror and captives, and in these there is no covenant neither. But others are voluntary, and these always imply a covenant, and are founded therein, whether they be moral or civil, as between husband and wife (Prov. 2. 17); between master and servants (Luke 15. 15); between prince and subject; between partners in trade (2 Chron. 20. 35-7), where the covenant or agreement is that men shall bear such a share of charges, and receive such a share of profits; or religious, as between minister and people, between the church and the members. All these are done by way of covenant. * * * If men be united into a body politic or incorporate, a man cannot be said to be joined to them by mere hearty affection, unless withal he joins himself unto them by some contract or covenant. Now of this nature is every particular church, a body incorporate (1 Cor. 12. 27: Ye are the body of Christ, &c.), and hath power to cast-out (1 Cor. 5. 13), and to forgive and receive-in penitents (2 Cor. 7, 8), as a body incorporate; and therefore he that will join unto them must do it by way of covenant or agreement. * * * All voluntary relations, all relations which are neither natural nor violent, are entered into by way of covenant. * * *
Churches have no power over such as have not engaged themselves by covenant, and committed power unto them by professing to be subject to all the ordinances of Christ amongst them.
The truth whereof may appear by two reasons: First, because all Christians have power and right, jure divino, to choose their own officers to whom they commit their souls (Acts 6. 1; and 14. 23). * * * And as they have power to choose their officers, so likewise to choose their brethren according to God (Rom. 14. 1). Now if they have power to choose their officers and brethren, then none can have power over them as officers and brethren without their own consent, and whom they never chose, nor promised by any covenant or engagement to be subject to [in] the Lord.
Secondly, if the church should exercise any act of church-power over such a man as never entered into covenant with them (suppose to excommunicate him for whoredom or drunkenness, or the like) the man might protest against their act, and their sentence, as coram non judice, and they could not justify their proceedings if indeed there have passed no covenant or engagement between him and them. * * *
From The Saints’ Apology (1644)a
First, I conceive a visible ministering church under the Gospel to be a company of believers, joining themselves together in the name of Christ, for the enjoyment of such ordinances, and exercise of such spiritual government, as the Lord hath appointed for his worship and honour, and their mutual edification. * * *
I add ‘under the Gospel’ because the constitution under the Law was national, the officers, ordinances and places of worship, all fitted to such a frame, and typical; which under the Gospel was changed, as appeareth both by Christ’s institution (Matt. 18) and all the Apostles’ practice throughout in all places, who best understood our Saviour’s intention and meaning for the constitution of churches evangelical, being by him instructed and left authorized there[in].
Secondly, the matter of this church is a company of Saints, such whom as the Apostle, so the church that admits them or joins with them, ought to think it meet to judge of every one of them that Christ hath begun a good work in them and will finish it. The Apostles always style them Saints and faithful brethren, or the church of such a place, which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ, Saints by calling, sanctified in Christ Jesus, the church elected together with them, and such-like titles apply-able only unto men sanctified. That they ought to be such in profession, will not be denied; that they ought to be what they profess, is as evident. The power of the church, and the exercise of that power commanded by our Saviour, is for this end, that offences may be taken away, when men shall appear to be other than they make profession to be, and that they may be prevented, so far as man can judge, by keeping out false brethren, that they creep not in privily. The unruly are to be admonished, and if upon admonition they will not reform, Christ directeth what course shall be taken with them. And he who is to be cast out when he is known, ought not to be admitted could he be known to be other than a Saint by the church before he was received.
Thirdly, the form of such a visible church, I conceive to be the relation which by their mutual consent is raised between them for spiritual ends, by which it is that they have power of jurisdiction and may and ought to judge those that are within (1 Cor. 5. 12).
Which jurisdiction no man can lawfully be subjected unto but by his own agreement. The superiority of jurisdiction either in things spiritual or temporal (if it be not natural as the paternal) must be voluntarily subjected unto, or it is usurped and tyrannical. Therefore to raise this relation which gives a power of judging, there must be a voluntary submission of themselves one to another testified by some act, whether you will call it a covenant, or consent, or agreement between fit members for such ends.
This consent and agreement ought to be explicit [f]or the well-being, but not necessarily to the being, of a true church. For it may be implied by such constant and frequent acts of communion performed by a company of Saints joined together by cohabitation in towns and villages, as that the falling in of their spirits into this brotherly fellowship and communion in things spiritual is acted unto the true being of it; but for the want of the clear and full expression thereof among themselves, the relation it raises, the power it gives them one over another, the duty it obligeth them unto in the exercise of that power, is obscurely and little apprehended, and less practised. * * *
Now, that he that reads may understand, it is necessary for me, speaking of the unity and peace of the Church, to tell you now, at first, that I intend not to propound any way of peace either between the Church and the world, or . . . between the carnal and spiritual children of the Church, as having learned no such thing out of the word of God.
First, not between the Church and the world: for the Lord never intended any reconciliation and agreement between these in the spiritual and eternal things of the kingdom of God. For these are two distinct seeds and sorts of people; the one from beneath, the other from above; the one the seed of the woman, the other the seed of the serpent; and between these two God hath put such an enmity that no man can take away. Wherefore they, who never minding these two different seeds between whom God hath put such irreconcilable enmity, would make all the people of one or more whole kingdoms a church at once, and would reconcile all of them together in the things of God, and in the ways of his worship, according to devices and methods of their own: these men know not what they do, for they walk in the darkness of their own hearts, and not in the light of the Word; which shows us clearly that it is as possible to reconcile Michael and the devil, as the angels of both.
Neither, secondly, do I find any way in the Word to reconcile all those together, who are commonly called the Visible Church, seeing even among these there are two distinct sorts of children, as Paul teacheth us: one sort of those that are born after the flesh, as Ishmael and Esau, and another of those who are born after the Spirit, as Isaac and Jacob; and there is as great enmity between these in the church as between the former in the world; for they that are born after the flesh, are always persecuting them that are born after the Spirit, but never agreeing with them. * * *
The right Church then is not the whole multitude of the people whether good or bad, that join together in an outward form or way of worship. * * * And therefore I shall not speak of this church. But the church I shall speak of is the true Church of the New Testament, which, I say, is not any outward or visible society, gathered together into the consent or use of outward things, forms, ceremonies, worship, as the churches of men are; neither is it known by seeing or feeling, or the help of any outward sense, as the society of mercers or drapers, or the like; but it is a spiritual and invisible fellowship, gathered together in the unity of faith, hope, and love, and so into the unity of the Son, and of the Father by the Spirit; wherefore it is wholly hid from carnal eyes, neither hath the world any knowledge or judgment of it.
This true Church is the communion of Saints, which is the communion believers have with one another; not in the things of the world, or in the things of man, but in the things of God. For as believers have their union in the Son, and in the Father, so in them also they have their communion; and the communion they have with one another in God cannot be in their own things, but in God’s things, even in his light, life, righteousness, wisdom, truth, love, power, peace, joy, &c. This is the true communion of Saints, and this communion of Saints is the true Church of God.
Now this true Church of God differs from the churches of men in very many particulars, as follows. * * *
In the churches of men members are admitted through an outward confession of doctrine; but none are admitted into this true Church but through a new birth from God and his Spirit. John 3. : Except a man be born again, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God, which is the right Church of the New Testament. * * *
The churches of men knit themselves together into such societies by some outward covenant or agreement among themselves. But the true Church is knit into their society among themselves by being first knit unto Christ, their head; and as soon as ever they are one with him, they are also one with one another in him; and are not first one among themselves, and then after one with Christ. So that the true Church is a spiritual society knit unto Christ by faith, and knit to one another in Christ by the Spirit and love; and this makes them infinitely more one than any outward covenant they can engage themselves in, the union wherein God makes us one, passing all the unions wherein we can make ourselves one. And so when some believers perceive the grace that is given to others, they presently fall into one communion, without any more ado. Wherefore they that are of the Church, the body, cannot deny communion to them that are in true union with Christ, the head, when they do perceive this grace. For this is considerable in this matter, that we are not first one with the Church, and then after one with Christ; but we are first one with Christ, and then one with the Church, and our union with the Church flows from our union with Christ, and not our union with Christ, from our union with the Church. Christ (John 17. ) prays, That they all (that is, believers) may be one in us; so that our union is not first among ourselves, and then with the Son, and with the Father, but it is first with the Son, and with the Father, and then with one another in them. And Christ is the door through which we enter into the Church, and not the Church the door through which we enter into Christ. For men may join themselves to believers in the use of all outward ordinances, and yet never be joined to Christ, nor to that communion which believers have in Christ; but a man cannot be joined to Christ but he is joined to all believers in the world, in the communion they have with Christ and with one another in him; which upon all occasions he enjoys with them wherever he meets with them. So that the true Church is knit up together into one body and society by one faith and Spirit; the churches of men by an outward covenant or agreement only.
The churches of men have human officers, who act in the strength of natural or acquisite parts, who do all by the help of study, learning, and the like. But in the true Church, Christ and the Spirit are the only officers, and men only so far as Christ and the Spirit dwell and manifest themselves in them. And so when they do anything in the Church, it is not they that do it, but Christ and his Spirit in them. * * *
The churches of men have the government of them laid on men’s shoulders. . . . But the true Church hath its government laid only on Christ’s shoulders. . . . For if the Church be gathered together in Christ, as the true Church is, Christ is always in the midst of them, and if Christ is ever present with them, his own self, how cometh it to pass that Christ may not reign immediately over them? Wherefore the true Church reckons it sufficient authority that they have Christ and his word for the ground of their practice; and whatever they find in the Word, they presently set upon the practice of it, and never ask leave either of civil or ecclesiastical powers. But the churches of men will do nothing without the authority of the magistrate or assembly, though it be never so clear in the word of God. For in their religion they regard the authority of men more than the authority of God.
The churches of men are still setting themselves one above another, but the assemblies of the true Church are all equal, having Christ and the Spirit equally present with them and in them. And therefore the believers of one congregation cannot say they have power over the believers of another congregation, seeing all congregations have Christ and his Spirit alike among them, and Christ hath not anywhere promised that he will be more with one than with another. And so Christ and the Spirit in one congregation do not subject, neither are subjected to Christ and the Spirit in another congregation, as if Christ and the Spirit in several places should be above and under themselves. But Christ in each assembly of the faithful is their head, and this head they dare not leave, and set up a fleshly head to themselves whether it consist of one or many men, seeing Antichrist doth as strongly invade Christ’s headship in many as in one man, in a council, as in a pope. * * *
And thus having declared what the true Church of Christ is, and rectified some ancient and general mistakes touching it, I shall now proceed to make known from the clear and evident word, the true and only bonds of the Church’s union, peace, and agreement, as the Apostle hath delivered them to us by the Spirit. Ephes. 4. 4: There is one body and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. Where note, in general, that among all these bonds of the Church’s unity, the Apostle makes not so much as any mention of uniformity. * * * But it will appear . . . by the Apostle’s doctrine, that no conformity or uniformity are any bonds of the true Church’s peace and union, seeing the Church is such a kingdom as is not preserved in its peace by any outward forms and orders, as the kingdoms of the world are, but by inward principles. * * *
In this true Church or one body of Christ, notwithstanding diversity of members and offices, there is still an equality among them all, seeing all alike make up one body. In which regard one member is as necessary to the body as another; and no member can say to another,a I contribute more to the making up of the body than thou. The most honourable members cannot say thus to the most mean—not the Apostles themselves to believers among the Gentiles; for we are the body of Christ as well as they, and they are the body of Christ no more than we. Wherefore no member, for diversity of office, is to lift up himself above another member who is as necessary as itself to the making up the body, and also is every whit as useful in its place. * * *
They that do content themselves in joining to some outward and visible society and corporation of men, though called a church, and think that by being knit to them in ways of outward worship and ordinances, they live in the unity of the Church, when as yet all this while they live out of that one body that is born of the Spirit, which is the only true Church and body of Christ. He that lives out of this spiritual body, though he live in the most excellent society in the world, yet he breaks the unity of the Church, not living in one body with it. And thus many break the Church’s unity, that never think on it.
Again they break this bond of the Church’s unity that live in this one body, but not as members. And such are they who, having got the advantage of the magistrate’s power, will needs lift themselves up above their fellow-members, and exercise authoritative, coercive, domineering power over them; whereas the very Apostles themselves were not lords of the Church, but fellow members with the faithful, living in one body and under one head with them, and so did all by love and persuasion, and nothing by force and violence. * * *
They that labour to join men into one body with the Church that are not one spirit with it, do mar the peace of it. For as unity of spirit in the Church is the bond of peace, so diversity of spirit is the breach of peace, and therefore to preserve the peace of the Church, none are to join themselves to this one body that are not of this one spirit. * * *
As all believers are called by one calling (which is the inward and effectual voice of God to the soul, by his Spirit through the Gospel), so they are called into one blessed hope of obtaining the kingdom and glory of God. And no one is called to this hope more than another, or hath more interest or share in it than another. Fishes that live in the sea, though some be greater and some less, yet none hath more interest or share in it than another, but all, being alike produced in it, enjoy it alike. The creatures that live on the earth, though some be greater and some less, yet all enjoy the sun and air alike. * * *
Now the government of the Church is twofold. (1) There is that government which God exercises immediately by himself; and (2) that government which he exercises mediately and by the faithful. The first of these again, that is God’s immediate government, is twofold: (1) the government of his special providence; (2) the government of his spiritual presence. * * *
Now besides this immediate government of God, there is another sort of government of the Church, which Christ exercises mediately by the Church. And this also is Christ’s government, and not man’s; and men who have not known nor understood the former government of Christ, have mistaken this also through the same unbelief. Wherefore they, not so much as minding the former government of Christ, which is immediate and by himself, have made this mediate government of the Church by man, to be all. And this also I say, they have understood most grossly and carnally, and not according to the Word, but according to their own ignorant and seduced hearts. * * *
This mediate government then of Christ in the true Church (which, it may be, may better be called order and decency than government) I conceive to be nothing but this, Christ’s ordering all things by the faithful, among the faithful, in reference to the communion of Saints. * * *
The first thing then is: to whom Christ hath committed the power of ordering and managing all things in the true Church, in reference to the communion of Saints. I answer, he hath given it to the true Church itself, as formerly described, even to each and all the members of it. For as natural power belongs to all natural men alike, so spiritual power (which is the true church-power) to all spiritual men alike. Christ in a believer is the root of true church-power; and because Christ dwells in all believers alike, through unity of faith, therefore all believers partake alike of spiritual and supernatural power; and no one partakes of this power more than another, any more than he partakes of Christ more than another; but Christ in them all is the self-same power of God to do all things that are to be done in the kingdom of God. * * *
But what are these keys about which there hath been so great ado in the Church? I answer, they are not any outward ecclesiastical power whatever, that men have devised to serve their own turns withal. But to pass by the many false conceits, wherewith many former and present writers have and do still trouble the Church, John doth tell us plainly (John 20. 22) what Matthew means by the keys of the Church. Christ (saith he) appearing to his Disciples after his resurrection, breathing on them, said, Receive the Holy Spirit (here are the keys of the kingdom of Heaven), and then adds, Whose sins ye remit, they are remitted, and whose sins ye retain, they are retained. That is, when ye have received the Spirit, then you have received the keys, to bind and to loose, to remit and retain sin, and that not according to your wills, but wholly according to the mind and will and direction of the Spirit. * * *
What is the extent of this true church-power? I answer that this power extends itself full as far as the Church, but no further. For what hath the Church to do with those that are not of the Church? What have we to do (saith Paul) with them that are without? For church-power, which is spiritual, is no more suitable to the world than worldly power, which is fleshly, is suitable to the Church. The power of the Church, which is Christ’s power, only reaches so far as Christ’s kingdom; that is, the people that are born of God and his Spirit. True church-government reaches as far as Christ’s and the Spirit’s effectual influence and operation, but no further; that is to all that are willing, but to none that are unwilling. As nothing hath more troubled the Church than to govern it and give it laws, after the manner of the world, by secular force and power; so nothing hath more troubled the world than to govern it and give it laws after the manner of the Church, by the aforesaid compulsion. Wherefore as the government of the world is not to be spread over the Church, so neither is the government of the Church to be spread over the world. But as the world and the Church are distinct things in themselves, so they are to be contented with their distinct governments.
What is the outward instrument of this power? I answer, the Word only, which is the only sceptre and sword of Christ’s kingdom, to govern his people and subdue his enemies. * * * And so the true Church doth all in itself only by the Gospel; by the Gospel it bindeth and looseth; by the Gospel it remits and retains sin, by the Gospel it quickens to life and wounds to death; by the Gospel it receives in, and casts out; by the Gospel it works faith, renews the life, acts, orders, guides and governs all things. * * *
What the true Church can do by virtue of this power.
Now the true Church by the power it hath received from Christ can gather itself together when, and as often as, it pleaseth. The company of believers have power to gather themselves together for their mutual good, instruction, preservation, edification, and for the avoiding or preventing of evil, and that without the consent or authority of any extrinsical and foreign power whatever; else Christ were not a sufficient founder of his Church. And if every free society, not subjected to tyranny, hath power in itself to congregate and come together as conveniency and necessity shall require, as is evident in all civil corporations, and in all fraternities and meetings of love; much more hath the Church of Christ, which is the freest society in the world, power to meet together into a communion of Saints, though it be without and against the consent and authority of the powers of the world. * * *
As the Church of the faithful hath power from Christ to meet together, so . . . to appoint its own outward orders. * * * And these things each church or communion of Saints may order by itself, according to the wisdom of the Spirit, so it observe these rules. That they do all things in love, seeing all laws without love are tyranny; and so whatsoever is not from, and for, love, is not to be appointed; and if it be, it is again to be abolished; seeing no text of the scripture itself, if it build not up love, is rightly interpreted. They are to do all things for peace. * * * They must appoint nothing as of necessity; for there is no more pestilent doctrine in the Church than to make those things necessary which are not necessary. For thus the liberty of faith is extinguished, and the consciences of men are ensnared. * * * They may persuade their orders (if they see cause) by the spirit of love and meekness, but must not enforce them upon pain of secular punishment or church-censure, as those use to do that make themselves lords and tyrants in the Church. For these outward things the Church can order only for the willing, but not for the unwilling. * * *
Now one thing more I shall add touching the Church’s power to appoint its own orders: . . . that the true Church hath power to appoint these outward orders, not for itself only, but also for its officers (which also are part of itself), and it is not to suffer its officers to frame or impose such on it. For the Church is not the officers’, but the officers are the Church[’s]. * * *
The true Church hath power to choose its officers, and, if there be cause, to reform them or depose them. * * *
More particularly in this matter we shall inquire after these three things: (1) What officers are to be chosen? (2) Out of whom they are to be chosen? (3) By whom they are to be chosen?
For the first, . . . Paul teaches us, . . . they must be faithful men, apt, and able to teach others. For as among natural men in the world, they that have most natural power and abilities, are fittest to be the officers: so among spiritual men in the Church, they are fittest to be the officers that have most spiritual power, that is, such in whom Christ and the Spirit are most manifest; and of this the faithful of all sorts are judges. Wherefore no natural parts and abilities, nor no human learning and degrees in the schools or universities, nor no ecclesiastical ordination or orders, are to be reckoned sufficient to make any man a minister, but only the teaching of God, and gifts received of Christ, by the Spirit, for the work of the ministry, which the faithful are able to discern and judge of.
Out of whom these officers are to be chosen. And that is out of the flock of Christ, and nowhere else. * * *
By whom they are to be chosen. And that is by the congregation or community of believers. For if every free society hath power to choose its own officers, much more hath the true Church this power, being (as is said) the freest society under heaven. And so the true Church is not to have officers thrust over them by others, but is to choose them itself.1 * * *
The true Church hath power to call its councils. * * * Now I said, the Church, if it need a council, may call one; because the Church of believers now seldom needs a council, seeing all things are so clear in the word of God, with which the faithful are so well acquainted. * * * For it is not dead laws and orders, written by men, will do the true Church any good; but the living Law of God, written in their hearts by the Spirit, as God hath promised to do, saying, I will write my Law in their hearts, and put it in their inward parts. For as the law of sin hath been written in our natures, to corrupt us, so the law of the Spirit of Life must be written also in our natures, to reform us. * * *
The Church hath power to judge of all doctrines, and that both of its officers and councils.
The clergy and ecclesiastical men have been wont to challenge to themselves the knowledge and judgment of doctrines, and have excluded ordinary Christians from it; whereas in truth, the judgment of doctrine belongeth to the people, and not to the ministers. * * * And the Apostle commands them, to try the spirits, whether they be of God, and hath said, Let one or two speak, and the rest judge (1 Cor. 14, &c.). By which, with many other scriptures, it is evident that the ministers are not to judge of doctrine for the people, but the people are to judge of the doctrine of the ministers, and according as they find it to be of God, or not of God, to receive it, or reject it. For every one is to be saved by his own faith, and not by another man’s. * * * And Paul gives this liberty to Christians—yea, we have it from Christ himself whether Paul had allowed it or no—to try the very Apostles themselves and the very angels of heaven, whether they bring the right word or no. * * *
Among the things . . . which are to be done to procure and preserve the peace of the Church these . . . things that follow have not the least place. * * *
The true Church is to preserve itself distinct from the world, and is neither to mingle itself with the world, nor to suffer the world to mingle itself with it. For if the Church and the world be mingled together in one society, the same common laws will no more agree to them who are of such different natures, principles and ends, than the same common laws will agree to light and darkness, life and death, sin and righteousness, flesh and Spirit. * * * Wherefore it is not the way of peace to mingle the Church and the world, but to separate them, and to keep them distinct; that those that are of one nature and spirit may be of one communion among themselves. And this way of peace God himself teacheth us by Paul (2 Cor. 6. 17) saying, Come out from among them, my people, and be ye separate. For to separate the Church from the world, in its communion of Saints, is the only way to preserve peace in both; seeing the Church will best agree with itself, and the world with itself.
The Church being thus distinct from the world is to be contented with its own power for its own affairs, and is not to introduce or entertain any power in it that is not of it. Wherefore the true Church, being such a kingdom as is not of this world, stands in need of no worldly power, and being a spiritual and heavenly kingdom, is only to have and exercise a spiritual and heavenly power, seeing this power alone, and by itself, is able to accomplish the whole good pleasure of God in the Church, and to work all the works in it that God hath to do. * * *
The third rule is, not to bring or force men into the Church against their wills. * * *
The fourth rule is, to make void the distinction of clergy and laity among Christians. For the clergy or ecclesiastical men have all along, under the reign of Antichrist, distinguished themselves from other Christians, whom they call the laity, . . . and separated themselves from the lay in all things, and called themselves by the name of the Church, and reckoned other Christians but as common and unclean in respect of themselves; whereas in the true Church of Christ there are no distinctions, . . . nor difference of persons; no clergy or laity . . .; but they are all, as Peter describes them (1 Pet. 2. 9), a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, to show forth the virtues of him that called them out of darkness into his marvellous light. And so all Christians, through the baptism of the Spirit, are made priests alike unto God; and every one hath right and power alike to speak the Word; and so there is among them no clergy or laity, but the ministers are such who are chosen by Christians from among themselves, to speak the Word to all in the name and right of all; and they have no right nor authority at all to this office but by the consent of the Church. And so presbyters and bishops, or (which is all one) elders and overseers in the Church, differ nothing from other Christians, but only in the office of the Word which is committed to them by the Church; as an alderman or common-council man in the city differs nothing from the rest of the citizens, but only in their office, which they have not of themselves neither, but by the city’s choice; or as the Speaker in the House of Commons differs nothing from the rest of the Commons, but only in his office, which he hath also by the choice of the House. And thus, and no otherwise, doth a minister differ from other Christians. * * *
The fifth rule is, to keep equality between Christians. For though according to our first nativity, whereby we are born of men, there is great inequality, some being born high, some low, some honourable, some mean, some kings, some subjects, &c.; yet according to our new or second birth, whereby we are born of God, there is exact equality, for here are none better or worse, higher or lower, but all have the same faith, hope, love, the same God, Christ, Spirit, the same divine nature, the same precious promises, the same incorruptible crown and inheritance of Saints in light. * * *
The sixth rule is, to keep the officers of the Church in subordination to the whole Church or community; and not to suffer them to get head over it; seeing the very nature of ruling the Church is not dominion, but service. * * *
Now if any say, by what means may the Church be able to keep out error? I answer, it may certainly keep out error by these means.
Let the Church suffer none to teach among them, that are not themselves taught of God; though they have never so great natural parts, and never so much human learning. * * *
Let the faithful examine everything that is taught by the word of God, and not receive doctrines upon trust from their teachers. * * * And though through God’s especial goodness the doctrine of the Gospel be again revived among us at this present time, yet ought we not to sit down content with the present state of things, but to search and see if our present doctrine do not yet err from the primitive purity and brightness of the Gospel, and that in many considerable points, and whether some or many corruptions do not yet remain among us, to be purged out by the light and truth of the Apostles’ doctrine. Wherefore to conclude this thing, let us know that the Church cannot possibly keep out error longer than it precisely keeps itself to the bare and naked word of God, and tries all doctrines of their teachers by it.
The Church, that it may be able to keep out errors, must desire of God, the Spirit which he hath promised; that this Spirit of Truth may lead them into the true and spiritual knowledge of the Word, and understanding of the mind of Christ. For no man can make any right judgment of the Word he hears or reads, without the teaching of the Spirit. * * * But believers must know that the gift of the Spirit only, without all human learning, is sufficient to teach us perfectly which is truth and which error, and to make us able to judge of all doctrines of men and angels; and that all human learning in the world, without the Spirit, is not able to do this. And so a poor, plain countryman, by the Spirit which he hath received, is better able to judge of truth and error, touching the things of God, than the greatest philosopher, scholar, or doctor in the world, that is destitute of it.
Another notable means to keep error out of the Church, is to restore in it that most ancient Gospel ordinance of prophesying, which, howmuchsoever it hath been out of use during the reign of Antichrist, yet is no other than the very commandment of the Lord as Paul witnesseth (1 Cor. 14. 31). * * * When one man only speaks and the doctrine he preaches proves to be erroneous . . . error is not only preached but also goes away uncontrolled, and no way is left for the restraining [of] error proportionable to that of propagating it, nobody being permitted to speak to keep the people from the poison of it. * * * But now when the right or power of prophesying is allowed to the whole Church, the minister can no sooner vent any error, but there is some believer or other, whose heart God shall move, ready to convince it by the word of God. And so error is as soon discovered and detected as it is published; and as soon destroyed as it is detected; the word of God, though from a private Christian, being more mighty to destroy error than error can be to uphold itself against the Word. * * *
If they that publish doctrine should also be judges of it, and the people be bound to subscribe to their judgment, error would not only, by this means, have opportunity to be vented, but would also be established and confirmed without the least contradiction. But now God hath appointed it otherwise in the Church; for whoever speak there, the hearers are to judge of the truth of the doctrine, and accordingly are either to receive it or reject it, having power to do either as they see occasion; and so error cannot prevail in that church where the faithful have liberty to judge of all doctrines, and do exercise that liberty. * * *
But here now a great question will be moved . . .: Whether the magistrate hath not power to suppress error by the sword, and whether the Church may not use this remedy against error as well as all those before named?
I answer that many men of great eminency have attributed such a power to the magistrate . . . thinking that religion would soon be lost if he should not uphold it. And to make this good they have produced many scriptures of the Old Testament, which seem to arm the magistrate against the authors and spreaders of errors. But I desire the wise-hearted to consider whether as clear scriptures may not be produced out of the Old Testament to prove that temporal power in the world belongs to ecclesiastical men, as that spiritual power in the Church belongs to worldly magistrates. * * *
The putting power into the magistrate’s hands to suppress error by the sword, gives him full opportunity to destroy and slay the true children of God, if at any time he shall mistake and judge them heretics. For what power men ignorantly allow a godly magistrate against true heretics, the same power will all magistrates arrogate to themselves as their just due, against all that differ from themselves in matters of religion though their judgment be never so true. And thus the magistrate, who is a most fallible judge in these things, instead of tares may pluck up the wheat, and kill the faithful instead of heretics, at his own pleasure, till he have destroyed all the faithful in the land. * * *
If any shall yet demand whether the magistrate can do nothing at all towards the suppressing of errors; I answer, this he may do. He may and ought, and if he be a godly man he will, countenance and encourage faithful ministers (that are called of God, and anointed by the Spirit) to this work of the Gospel; and having done this, he need not trouble himself any farther, for the Word preached will do all the rest. And let it not be doubted but if the truth of God do enter the lists against error, it will be infinitely able to prevail of itself alone without calling in any power, or borrowing any weapons, from the world. * * *
Now if they be very truths wherein Christians differ, yet such wherein they may err without danger of salvation, then these rules are of use. (1) To hear them speak their judgments with freedom, and not to condemn them unheard; for thus mayst thou soon condemn the innocent and make thyself guilty. (2) To understand fully what thy adversary means before thou contend against him; lest, if thou want this wisdom and patience, thou oppose not so much his judgment as thy own conceit. * * * If thou canst but have patience to hear him relate his own mind, perhaps in the end thou shalt understand it differs little from thy own in substance. (3) Reproach not anything thy adversary speaks with this, that thou never heardst it before. For this may not so much discover his error as thy ignorance; and that which seems to thee a new error, if it be truly examined by the Word, may prove an old truth. And if thou wilt needs condemn whatever savours of novelty, how shall the truths we yet know not be brought in, or the errors that yet remain with us be purged out? (4) Be not over-confident in what thou holdest upon thy own judgment, or other men’s strengthened from multitude, custom and antiquity. For men have erred most grossly, even in those things wherein they have thought themselves most certain. And therefore, prove all things, that thou mayst hold fast that which is good. * * * (5) In these differences make the Word the judge, and not men. The word of God is the sole and perfect judge in all the things of God. * * * Now though all have the same outward Word, yet all are not of one mind except they attain to one spirit; for Paul saith (1 Cor. 2) that only the Spirit of God knows the things of God. Neither doth man’s sense or reason understand the things of the Spirit, but the spiritual man judgeth all things. And hence it follows that we can only judge aright of divine truths by the Word, and we can only judge aright of the Word if we have the Spirit to be the interpreter of it to us. * * *
Now in case the doctrine wherein we differ be such as is absolutely necessary to salvation, and without believing which men can have no interest in Christ; yet even in this case hear them speak, and be rather confident that the truth of God will prevail over their error than fearful that their error will prevail against the truth. And so strive not for secular power to shut up men’s mouths and to restrain men’s writings, though they speak and print things that seem never so contrary to the truth of God and doctrine of the Gospel. For . . . if men vent errors publicly, if there be as public liberty to preach the truth I doubt not the success of the truth against it at any time with all that belongs to God. And it is the only Gospel way, to conquer error by the truth, and all human, yea and devilish doctrines, by the Gospel, which is the ministration of the Spirit and therefore so mighty that all false teachers and false doctrines must needs fall down before it; seeing, stronger is that Spirit that is in it, than that spirit that is in the world, which is its own spirit and the devil’s. * * * Now . . . if upon hearing and debating things by the Word, it shall clearly appear that our adversaries hold such things which are so false and erroneous that they cannot be reckoned believers and members of Christ, nor retain those doctrines without unavoidable damnation, then in this case the true Church hath authority from the Word to do these things: To condemn the doctrine; to excommunicate their persons. * * *
Now these things have I spoken and propounded to the faithful and churches of Christ wherever the Providence of God shall cast this book, which may travel farther on this errand than weak flesh can do, and I so propound them all as being most ready myself to hear from any what they can propound in more light and evidence of the Word. * * *
An Apologetical Narration (1644).
 Dedicated to Fairfax, Cromwell, and the Council of War, who ‘through the renewing of the . . . presence of God . . . after a manifest withdrawing of it, and . . . through a blessed necessity,’ are ‘now doing that work of God, which once’ they ‘had little mind to: . . . the procuring the peace of the kingdom by subduing the great enemies of peace, and removing all the enmity against peace that was enwrapped in our very laws and degenerated constitution . . .’: ‘And now here . . . shall you see a better peace and agreement than you are striving for . . ., of which Christ himself is the immediate author and prince, which he communicates not to the world, but to them he chooses out of the world . . ., which hath its foundation in Christ, and its influence into each of the communion of Saints all the world over. And this peace can no more be brought about by your sword than by the magistrate’s sceptre. And therefore take heed lest you now, having power in your hands to another purpose, should so far forget yourselves as to do that yourselves which you have condemned in others. Therefore suffer the Word only to be both sceptre and sword in the kingdom of God, and let the true Church remain free in the freedom which Christ hath conferred upon it; or else the Lord, whose own the Church is, will as certainly, in his due time, take the sword out of your hands as he hath done the sceptre out of the magistrate’s, and throw you into one destruction with him. But I am persuaded better things of you, though I thus speak, and even such things as are suitable to the light of the Gospel and to the virtues and graces of Christ and his Spirit, which have been hitherto (and I hope, will yet still be) very manifest, not only in you honourable ones who have the chief conduct, but also in very many of the Council and Army besides. And upon such a gathering together of God’s people and Saints (let the world, if it please, still laugh at that word), who can but think he hath some choice and singular work in hand for his own glory? * * * For hath not that day of the Lord of Hosts dawned, which is upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up, and he is to be brought low, and the Lord alone is, and must be, exalted in this day.’
 Further defined below: ‘The congregations of the faithful have power in themselves, according to the doctrine of the Gospel, to choose their own ministers.’
[293. (a)]The Keyes of the Kingdom of Heaven, and Power Thereof, according to the Word of God. By that learned and judicious divine, Mr Iohn Cotton. * * * The second time imprinted * * * Published by Tho. Goodwin, Philip Nye. London, Printed by M. Simmons for Henry Overton . . . 1644 [Second edition; Thomason’s copy of first, dated, June 14].
[294. (a)] + that.
[299. (a)]An Apologie of the Churches in New-England for Church-covenant. Or a discourse touching the covenant between God and men, and especially concerning church-covenant. . . . Sent over in answer to Master Bernanrd, in the yeare 1639. And now published. . . . London, Printed by T. P. and M. S. for Benjamin Allen, 1643.
[300. (a)]The Saints Apologie, or a vindication of the churches (which indeavour after a pure communion) from the odious names of Brownists and Separatists, in a letter sent to an eminent divine of the Assembly. * * * London, Printed with order, by A. C. Anno MDCXLIV [May 15].
[302. (a)]The Way of True Peace and Unity among the Faithful and Churches of Christ, in all humility and bowels of love presented to them. By William Dell. . . . [Quotes from Psalm 120; also from St Augustine.] London, Printed for Giles Calvert . . . 1649 [Feb. 8]. Marginal references, numbering of arguments, and some superfluous headings, omitted.
[306. (a)] + that.