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That the faithfull Congregations in England are true Churches : and therefore it is sinfull to separate from them as no Churches.
That the members which come commended from such Churches to ours here, so that it doth appear to the judgement of the Church, whence they come, that they are by them approved, and not scandalous, they ought to be received to Church communion with us, as members of other Churches with us in N. E. in like case so commended and approved.
To separate from Congregations for want of some Ordinances : Or,
To separate from the true worship of God, because of the sin of some worshippers, is unlawfull.
The Consociation of Churches is not only lawfull, but in some cases necessary.
That when causes are difficult, and particular Churches want light and help, they should crave the Assistance of such a consociation.
That Churches so meeting have right to counsell, rebuke, &c. as the case doth require.
In case any particular Church shall walk pertinaciously, either in the profession of errour, or sinfull practice, and will not hear their counsell, they may and should renounce the right hand of fellowship with them.
That infants of visible Churches, born of wicked parents, being members of the Church, ought to be baptized.
In these and severall other particulars, we fully accord with M. R. and therefore no man in reason can conceive, that I write in opposition to his book: for then I should oppose my self, and mine own judgement: but for further disquisition and search into some particulars, which pace tanti viri, craves further and fuller discovery.
And hence, this needs no toleration of religions, or estrangement of affection, in tolerating the differences of such apprehensions, and that in some things, untill further light bring in further conviction and concurrence.
It is confessed by all the Casuists, I know, and that upon a rigid dispute, that longer time is to be allowed to two sorts of people, from whom consent is expected, then from others.
1. To some, who out of the strength of their judgement are able to oppose arguments, ir case they come not so well guarded and pointed as they should.
2. To others, the like Indulgency is to be lent, who out of their weaknesse cannot so easily and readily perceive the valour and validity of an argument, to carry the cause, and win their assent thereunto.
Of this latter 1 profess my self, and therefore plead for allowance, and present Forbearance, especially considering, that modestly to inquire into, and for a time to dissent from the judgement of a generall counsell, hath been accounted tolerable.
He that will estrange his affection, because of the difference of apprehension in things difficult, he must be a stranger to himself one time or other. If men would be tender and carefull to keep off offensive expressions, they might keep some distance in opinion, in some things, without hazard to truth or love. But when men set up their sheaves (though it be but in a dream, as Josephs was) and fall out with every one, that will not fall down and adore them, they will bring much trouble into the world, but little advantage to the truth, or peace.
Again, The Reader must know for his direction in this inquiry, my aim only was, and is, to lay down, and that briefly, the grounds of our practice, according to that measure of light I have received, and to give answer to such reasons, which might seem to weaken the evidence thereof: declining purposely, for the present, the examination of such answers, which are made to the arguments alledged by some of our Reverend Brethren, touching the same subject: because I would neither prejudice nor prevent their proper defense, which I do suppose in the fittest season, they will so present unto the world, as shall be fully satisfactory to such, as love and desire the knowledge of the truth.
The Summe is, we doubt not what we practice, but its be. yond all doubt, that all men are liars, and we are in the number of those poor feeble men, either we do, or may erre, though we do not know it, what we have learned, we do professe, and yet professe still to live, that we may learn.
And therefore the errand upon which this present discourse is sent, is summarily to shew these two things unto the world,
1. That there must be more said (then yet it hath been my happinesse to see) before the principles we professe will be shaken, and consequently it cannot be expected, that we should be unsetled in our practice.
2. That I might occasion men eminently gifted to make further search, and to dig deeper, that if there be any vein of reason, which lies yet lower, it might be brought to light, and we professe and promise, not only a ready eare to hear it, but a heart willing to welcome it.
Its the perfection of a man, amidst these many weaknesses, we are surrounded withall, by many changes to come to perfection. Its the honour and conquest of a man truly wise to be conquered by the truth: and he hath attained the greatest liberty, that suffers himself to be led captive thereby.
That the discourse comes forth in such a homely dresse and course habit, the Reader must be desired to consider, It comes out of the wildernesse, where curiosity is not studied. Planters if they can provide cloth to go warm, they leave the cutts and lace to those that study to go fine.
As it is beyond my skill, so I professe it is beyond my care to please the nicenesse of mens palates, with any quaintnesse of language. They who covet more sauce then meat, they must provide cooks to their minde. It was a cavill cast upon Hierom, that in his writings he was Ciceronianus non Christianus : My rudenesse frees me wholly from this exception, for being Adyo 'I SÓTns, as the Apostle hath it, if I would, I could not lavish out in the loosenesse of language, and as the case stands, if I could answer any mans desire in that daintinesse of speech, I would not do the matter that Injury which is now under my hand: Ornari res ipsa negat.
: Ornari res ipsa negat. The substance and solidity of the frame is that, which pleaseth the builder, its the painters work to provide varnish.
If the manner of the discourse should occasion any disrellish in the apprehension of the weaker Reader, because it may seem too Logicall, or Scholasticall, in regard of the terms I use, or the way of dispute that I proceed in, in some places: I have these two things to professe,
1. That plainnesse and perspicuity, both for matter and manner of expression, are the things, that I have conscientiously indeavoured in the whole debate: for I have ever thought writings that come abroad, they are not to dazle, but direct the apprehension of the meanest, and I have accounted it the chiefest part of iudicious learning, to make a hard point easy and familiar in explication. Qui non vult intelligi, debet negligi.
2. The nature of the subject that is under my hand, is such, that I was constrained to accommodate and conform my expressions more or lesse, in some kinde of sutablenesse thereunto: for in some passages of the dispute, the particulars in their very rise and foundation, border so neer upon the principles of Logick: (as whether Ecclesia Catholica visibilis, was to be attended, as a Totum universale, or Integrale) that either I must resolve to say nothing, or to speak (though as sparingly as I could of such things) as the quality of the things did require. And let any man make a triall, and I do much mistake my self, but he will be necessitated to take the same course, if he speaks to the cause. If the Reader shall demand how far this way of Church-proceeding receives approbation by any common concurrence amongst us: I shall plainly and punctually expresse my self in a word of truth, in these following points, viz.
Visible Saints are the only true and meet matter, whereof a visible Church should be gathered, and confederation is the form.
The Church as Totum essentiale, is, and may be, before Officers.
There is no Presbyteriall Church (i.e. A Church made up of the Elders of many Congregations appointed Classickwise, to rule all those Congregations) in the N. T.
A Church Congregationall is the first subject of the keys.
Each Congregation compleatly constituted of all Officers, hath sufficient power in her self, to exercise the power of the keyes, and all Church discipline, in all the censures thereof.
Ordination is not before election.
There ought to be no ordination of a Minister at large, Namely, such as should make him Pastour without a People.
The election of the people hath an instrumentall causall vertue under Christ, to give an outward call unto an Officer.
Ordination is only a solemn installing of an Officer into the Office, unto which he was formerly called.
Children of such, who are members of Congregations, ought only to be baptized.
The consent of the people gives a causall vertue to the compleating of the sentence of excommunication.
Whilst the Church remains a true Church of Christ, it doth not loose this power, nor can it lawfully be taken away.
Consociation of Churches should be used, as occasion doth require.
Such consociations and Synods have allowance to counsell and admonish other Churches, as the case may require.
And if they grow obstinate in errour or sinfull miscarriages, they should renounce the right hand of fellowship with them.
But they have no power to excommunicate.
In all these I have leave to professe the joint judgement of all the Elders upon the river: of New-haven, Guilford, Millord, Stratford, Fairfield: and of most of the Elders of the Churches in the Bay, to whom I did send in particular, and did receive approbation from them, under their hands: Of the rest (to whom I could not send) I cannot so affirm; but this I can say, That at a common meeting, I was desired by them all, to publish what now I do.
Lastly, To ease the ordinary Reader, who happily is not acquainted with discourses of this kinde, I shall take leave to lend him this little advise.
The Treatise being divided into four parts, if he will be intreated to survey the Table set before the work, by a short and sudden cast of his eye, he shall presently perceive those particulars, which as so many pillars principall, bear up the whole frame.
1. Look at the Church in its first rise and essence, The causes of it, in the efficient, Matter and Form: The Qualification of it, in its precedency, power, priviledges, make up the first part.
2. Look at the Church, as compleated with all her Officers, the number and nature of them, in her elections, and Ordinations, where the loathsome title of Independency is opened: these lay out the matter of the second part.
3. The Church thus constituted, The power that she exerciseth in admissions, dispensations of Sacraments, and censures, especially that grand and great censure of excommunication, how it is to be managed, and the power of it lastly resolved. In these the third part is spent.
4. The consociation of Churches in Classes, Synods, and councels, is shortly discussed in the fourth part.
Let him be intreated to carry these along in his consideration, he will readily know, whether to refer any thing, and where to finde any thing; and as readily conceive the method and manner, both of the constitution of the Church, as the