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good liking : For, when this is done against their will, it frequently hath a woful ifsue ; congregations are broken, ordinances are forsaken, Christ's dock is dispersed, and the ministry is despised ; all which very much tend to our reproach, as well as the hinderance of the kingdom of Christ. Wherefore, my dear brethren, let us take heed what we do in this affair, feeing so much doth depend upon it.
There is a controversy very lately risen amongst us, concerning the people's right to elect their pastors : Some take it wholly from them, and give it to the presbytery or church-representative ; and the church's friends are distracted by writings on both sides. If I may offer my opinion, I humbly apprehend the state of the controversy is not duly considered by those who handle it. And many of our differences and disputes do proceed from our not stating the question fo diftinctly and accurately as we should; and, when this is once done, frequently the debate falls.
The question, then, ought not to be stated generally and confusedly, as, Whether the people or the presbytery have the right of electing the pastors of the church? Seeing we may safely grant they both have an interest therein, the one without prejudice to the other. Neither is the question to be stated, Whether the presbytery or church-representative have a power to ele&t and ordain pastors, upon some occasions, and for some special employments and services, without the choice and consent of the people? As, for my part, I believe they have ; and that these pastors; so elected, are lawful pastors of the catholic church, and ought to be acknowleged as such by the people. Nor is the question to be stated,. Whether the prefbytery hath any power at all in the election of paftors to particular parilhes ? No, for it is owned they have a great power, in conjunction with the parisha cs, and ought to preside in the election. But, if the queftion be stated, Whether the presbytery hath the fole power of electing, exclusive of the voice or consent of the parishes to which the pastors are elected ? They who espouse that side of the question in my humble opinion) will have a hard pull to prove it, either from
scripture, reason, or fathers. And, that they may know what they have to do, let the question be clearly and diftinctly stated, as it ought to be, in a suitableness to the present situation of this chuch, and then it will run thus : Queft.“ Whether the presbytery, or church-sepresentative, hath a right to elect and appoint pastors to particular flocks of Christian people, without the call or consent of these flocks, and even when they dissent and reclaim against their deed? And, whether, in such cases, the presbytery hath power to constitute and fix the spiritual and pastoral relation betwixt these pastors and these flocks, so that they must necessarily acknow. ledge them as their proper pastors, and receive all of dinances from them; yea, be tyed to them so much, that they cannot have access, without the allowance of these pastors, to partake of fealing ordinances dispensed by others? Şö that all these Christian people, however valuable they be, must be in effect excommunicated, if they do not receive these pastors imposed violently upon them?" Now, if the controversy be thus stated among us, (as it certainly ought to be) the writers for the presbyte
ry's power will find it a difficult task to instruct and sup- port such a power from the word of God, sound rea
son, or the practice of the primitive church; nay, I am of the mind, all the three will be found to unite against them, seeing all of them declare for the great interest which Chriftians have in the choice and settlement of those who are to be their spiritual guides, and that they are to be consulted in this important affair. Our most eminent divines, both abroad and at home, have, ever since the Reformation, strenuously argued for the peoples right against the Papists and their clergy's imposing power, from the word of God, and particulary from Acts i. 156 23. 26. Acts vi. 2. 3. 5. 6. Aēts xiv. 23. whose arguments I have not yet feen fatisfyingly answered, either by Papist or Protestant. But, belides all these, it may satisfy any unbiased enquirer, if he but consider the characters which Chrifto gives his flock, that “ they hear and know his voice in his shepherds," and do distinguish it from the voice of false shepherds, and “ will not follow these, but fee from them,"
John John x. 3. 4. 5. and the command that is given to all Christians to try the spirits," i John iv. J. and to “ beware of false prophets, which come to them in sheeps cloathing,” Matthew vii. 15. and to " mark and avoid those who teach unsound doctrine," Rom. xvi. 17. 18. Phil. ii. 2. and to judge of the doctrine which is delivered to them by their teachers, 1 Cor. x. 15. and for doing whereof, the Bereans are highly commended by the Spirit of God, Acts xvij. 11. I say, it may satisfy every unprejudiced person that seriously considers these scripture texts, and the commands given to the disciples of Christ therein, that the word of God doth allow a great interest to all judicious Christians in the choice of their pastors; and that it is their unquestionable right and privilege to have a judgment of discretion concerning these pastors to whom they are bound to commit the guiding, edification and instruction, of their precious fouls : And no patron, no heritor, no body of men, or judicatory whatsomever, can deprive the people of that right and privilege which God allows to them.
But, granting the scripture had mentioned nothing of the peoples right in this matter, but had given all power to the presbytery, (as some would have it) and left them to manage it, as they should be answerable to their great Lord and Master : Yet, even in that case, I think it easy to demonstrate, from the general rules of the word, and the dictates of sound reason, that presbyteries ought always to exercise their electing and plant. ing power, with the advice and consent of the Christian congregations immediately concerned, and not in opposition to their declared inclinations and pressing requests. 1 shall mention two plain scripture rules, which determine me to think so, viz. that in i Cor. x.31.'“ What. loever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” And that in 1 Cor. xiv. 26. “ Let all things be done unto edifying.” Now, ministers are more concerned to observe these rules than other men, seeing their office is peculiarly designed for advancing the glory of God, and the edification of his church. And, is it not evident to every rational sober mind, that it is more for the glory P p 2
of God, and the edification of the church, to settle pai-
is not below the confideration of the most eminent minifters, or the greatest judicatory of Christ's house. We fee what regard Christ had to his little ones, and what wrath he threatens against those who offend them, Matt. Xviii. 6. Luke xvii. 2.
Well then, my brethren, let us have a tender regard to thefe fcripture-tules I have mentioned, in all our actings in judicatories, and especially with respect to the settlement of churches ; and if there be any Act or Rult in this church, particularly that lately made, which hath any thing in it inconsistent with the foresaid rules (as indeed there seems to be, according to the sense now put upon it) I do earnestly wish and pray, That all my reverend brethren may resolve upon addressing the venerable Assembly in the most decent and dutiful man. ner, that they may be pleased to rectify it, so as it may better anfwer the great ends we ought all to have in view, the glory of God, and the edification of the body of Christ. And this I move without any defign to reflect upon the authority of the Assembly, (which we ought to treat with all due regard) or to give any offence; and neither should any take it, seeing there is none of our courts that pretend to infallibility; as they havé altered, fo they still can alter, their acts and rules when they fee good reason for it. And the administras tion we live under (blefled be God) is so mild and gentle, that we have liberty to address our fuperiors, both civil and ecclefiaftic, concerning what is gravaminous to us : And why should we not improve our liberty in addressing both of them, for removing whatever hinders, the advancement of the kingdom of our Lord and. Saviour, to whose service we ministers are peculiarly devoted ?
Tothly, If we would promote this church's welfare, and prevent her reproach, let us join fasting, weeping, and mourning, together with our prayers; as we are directed both in text and context, Joel ii. 12. " Let us weep betwixt the porch and the altar," in light of all the people, and bewail those fins and backslidings, which gtieve God, and provoke him to give up this church to reproach. And, amongst others of our fins, we have
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