Chapter 10: Of the Power of the Church, and Its Presbytery

1. Supreme and lordly power over all the churches upon earth, doth only belong unto Jesus Christ, who is King of the church, and Head thereof. He hath the government upon his shoulders, and hath all the power given to him, both in heaven and earth.

2. A company of professed believers ecclesiastically confederate, as they are a church before they have officers, and without them; so even in that estate, subordinate church power under Christ delegated to them by him, doth belong to them, in such a manner as is before expressed, and as flowing from the very nature and essence of a church: it being natural to all bodies, and so unto a church body, to be furnished with sufficient power, for its own preservation and subsistence.

3. This government of the church, is a mixed government (and so hath been acknowledged long before the term of independency was heard of:) in respect of Christ, the head and king of the church, and the sovereign power residing in him, and exercised by him, it is a monarchy. In respect of the body, or brotherhood of the church, and power from Christ granted unto them, it resembles a democracy, in respect of the presbytery and power committed to them, it is an aristocracy.

4. The sovereign power which is peculiar unto Christ, is exercised,
I. In calling the church out of the world into holy fellowship with himself
II. In instituting the ordinances of his worship, and appointing his ministers and officers for the dispensing of them.
III. In giving laws for the ordering of all our ways, and the ways of his house:
IV. In giving power and life to all his institutions, and to his people by them.
V. In protecting and delivering his church against and from all the enemies of their peace.

5. The power granted by Christ unto the body of the church and brotherhood, is a prerogative or privilege which the church doth exercise:
I. In choosing their own officers, whether elders, or deacons.
II. In admission of their own members and therefore, there is great reason they should have power to remove any from their fellowship again. Hence in case of offense any one brother hath power to convince and admonish an offending brother: and in case of not hearing him, to take one or two more to set on the admonition, and in case of not hearing them, to proceed to tell the church: and as his offense may require the whole church hath power to proceed to the public censure of him, whether by admonition, or excommunication: and upon his repentance to restore him again unto his former communion.

6. In case an elder offend incorrigibly, the matter so requiring, as the church had power to call him to office, so they have power according to order, the council of other churches where it may be had, directing thereto, to remove him from office: and being now but a member, in case he add contumacy to his sin, the church that had power to receive him into their fellowship, hath also the same power to cast him out, that they have concerning any other member.

7. Church government, or rule, is placed by Christ in the officers of the church, who are therefore called rulers, while they rule with God: yet in case of maladministration, they are subject to the power of the church, according as hath been said before. The Holy Ghost frequently, yea always, where it mentioneth church rule, and church government, ascribeth it to elders: whereas the work and duty of the people is expressed in the phrase of obeying their elders; and submitting themselves unto them in the Lord: so, as it is manifest, that an organic or complete church is a body politic, consisting of some that are governors, and some that are governed, in the Lord.

8. The power which Christ has committed to the elders, is to feed and rule the church of God, and accordingly to call the church together upon any weighty occasion, when the members so called, without just cause, may not refuse to come: nor when they are come, depart before they are dismissed: nor speak in the church, before they have leave from the elders: nor continue so doing, when they require silence, nor may they oppose nor contradict the judgement or sentence of the elders, without sufficient and weighty cause, because such practices are manifestly contrary unto order, and government, and inlets of disturbance, and tend to confusion.

9. It belongs also unto the elders to examine any officers, or members, before they be received of the church: to receive the accusations brought to the church, and to prepare them for the church’s hearing. In handling of offences and other matters before the church they have power to declare and publish the counsel and will of God touching the same, and to pronounce sentence with the consent of the church. Lastly, they have power, when they dismiss the people, to bless them in the name of the Lord.

10. This power of government in the elders, doth not any wise prejudice the power of privilege in the brotherhood; as neither the power of privilege in the brethren, doth prejudice the power of government in the elders; but they may sweetly agree together, as we may see in the example of the apostles furnished with the greatest church power, who took in the concurrence and consent of the brethren in church administrations. Also, that Scripture, 2 Cor. 2:9 and chap. 10:6 do declare, that what the churches were to act and do in these matters, they were to do in way of obedience, and that not only to the direction of the apostles, but also of their ordinary elders.

11. From the premises, namely, that the ordinary power of government belonging only to the elders, power of privilege remaineth with the brotherhood (as power of judgement in matters of censure, and power of liberty, in matters of liberty): it followeth, that in an organic church, and right administration, so as no church act can be consummated, or perfected without the consent of both.