Front Page Titles (by Subject) The Power of the People From Thomas Goodwin and Philip Nye's Introduction to John Cotton's The Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven (1644) a - Puritanism and Liberty, being the Army Debates (1647-9) from the Clarke Manuscripts with Supplementary Documents
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The Power of the People From Thomas Goodwin and Philip Nye’s Introduction to John Cotton’s The Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven (1644) a - 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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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. * * *
An Apologetical Narration (1644).
[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.