Chapter 1: Of the Form of Church Government and that is One, Immutable, and Prescribed in the Word of God


Of the form of church government; and that it is one, immutable, and prescribed in the word.

1. Ecclesiastical polity, or church government or discipline, is nothing else but that form and order that is to be observed in the church of Christ upon earth, both for the constitution of it, and all the administrations that therein are to be performed. Ezek. xliii. 11. Col. ii. 5. 1 Tim. iii. 15.

2. Church government is considered in a double respect, either in regard of the parts of government them-selves, or necessary circumstances thereof The parts of government are prescribed in the word, because the Lord Jesus Christ, the king and lawgiver of his church, is no less faithful in the house of God than was Moses, who from the Lord delivered a form and pattern of government to the children of Israel in the Old Testament: and the holy Scriptures are now also so perfect, as they are able to make the man of God perfect, and thoroughly furnished unto every good work; and therefore doubtless to the well ordering of the house of God. Heb. iii. 5, 6. Exod. xxv. 40. 2 Tim. iii. 16.

3. The parts of church government are all of them exactly described in the word of God, being parts or means of instituted worship, according to the second commandment, and therefore to continue one and the same unto the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, as kingdom that cannot be shaken, until he shall deliver it up unto God, even the Father. So that it is not left in the power of men, officers, churches, or any state in the world to add, or diminish, or alter anything in the least measure therein. 1 Tim. iii. 15. 1 Chron. xv. 13. Ex. xx. 4. 1 Tim. vi. 13, 16. Heb. xii.27, 28. 1 Cor. xv. 24. Deut. xii. 32. Ezek. xliii. 8. 1 Kings, xii. 31-33.

4. The necessary circumstances, as time and place, etc., belonging unto order and decency, are not so left unto men, as that under pretence of them they may thrust their own inventions upon the churches, being circumscribed in the word with many general limitations, where they are determined in respect of the matter, to be neither worship itself, nor circumstances separable from worship. In respect of their end, they must be done unto edification. In respect of the manner, decently and in order, according to the nature of the things themselves, and civil and church custom. Doth not even nature itself teach you? Yea, they are in some sort determined particularly, namely, that they be done in such a manner, as, all circumstances considered, is most expedient for edification: so, as if there be no error of man concerning their determination, the determining of them is to be accounted as if it were divine. 2 Kings, xii Ex xx. 19. Isa. xxviii. 13. Col. i. 22, 23. Acts, xv. 28.Matt XV. y. 1 Cor. xi. 23, and viii. 34. 1 Cor. xiv. 26, and xiv. 40, and xi.14, I6, and xiv. 12, 19. Acts, xv. 28.