Rutherfurd Against Separatism
Copyright © 1997 Naphtali Press
Q. 2. What members are necessarily required for the right and lawful constitution of a true politic visible church, to the which we may join in God’s worship.
It is maintained by these of the Separation, that the rightly constituted church must consist of the Lord’s planting (as says Mr. Barrow2 ) all taught of God, all plants of righteousness, sons of Zion, precious stones, a redeemed people, a royal generation (so the Guide to Zion3 ).
The true visible church (say the Separatists) is a company of people called and separated from the world, by the Word of God, and joined together in a voluntary profession of the faith (So the Separatists in their petition,4 Mr Ainsworth,5 Mr. Canne,6 the Discovery of New Light7 ). For the clearing of the Question, we remit to the consideration of the reader these distinctions.
DISTINCTION ONE. There are some saints by external calling, but not chosen; some saints by internal and effectual calling, called and chosen of God.
DISTINCTION TWO. There are some members of a visible church, who, de jure, by right and obligation should be such; there are other members of a visible church, de facto, and in practice, who are such and such members.
DISTINCTION THREE. There is a moral obligation, and so all the members of a visible church are obliged to be saints by effectual calling. There is a physical obligation, and so that persons may be members of a visible church as visible, it is not essentially required that they be effectually called.
DISTINCTION FOUR. If a true church and a visible church, as visible, may not for a time be opposed by way of contradiction, as a believing church, and a non-believing church, I remit to be considered, and shall, God willing, be [proved].
DISTINCTION FIVE. It is one thing to be wicked and scandalous indeed and really, and another thing to be scandalous juridice, and in the court of the church, and notarily.
DISTINCTION SIX. A known and openly scandalous person, and a well lustered and dyed hypocrite, are to be differenced in the church.
DISTINCTION SEVEN. Let it be considered if the preaching of the Word is not in divers considerations: 1. A means of constituting and making a visible church. 2. A true note of a visible church. 3. A means of saving the believing church, now visibly professing the faith.
DISTINCTION EIGHT. Let it be considered, if the magistrate and king may not compel men to the confessing and professing of the faith, actu imperato, by an external forcing power, and yet neither magistrate nor pastor can compel to heart believing, actu elicito, by an inward moving of the heart.
DISTINCTION NINE. Let it be considered if a visible church may be a true church by reason of some few sound believers and sincere seekers of God, and that same whole body an infected lump and whorish in respect of some visible professors, who are hypocrites and proud despisers of the Lord.
DISTINCTION TEN. Let it be considered if a church may not be termed by God’s Spirit a whore, no church, no spouse, jure & merito & quoad vocationem passivam, in respect of bad deserving and their not answering on their parts to the call of God, and yet that same church remains de facto, formaliter & quoad vocationem Dei activam, formally and in regard of God’s part and his active vocation and calling, the spouse and bride of Christ.
CONCLUSION ONE. Hence our first conclusion, the saints by external calling are the true matter of a visible church.
1. The word Ecclesia, the called of God, proves this: For those are a true visible church, where God has set up a candlestick, and whom God calls to repentance, remission of sins, and life eternal in Christ, because there is a settled ministry calling.
2. Because all to whom the Word is preached are called the visible church, as all within the house are vessels of the house visibly, howbeit there are in the house, Vessels of honor and vessels of dishonor.
3. So says Ainsworth; this we hold, That saints by calling are the only matter of a visible church, yet withal we hold, that many are called, but few chosen8 (2 Tim. 2:20, 21). So also the kingdom of heaven or visible church is a draw net, wherein are good and bad fishes, a barn floor wherein are chaff and good wheat. (See 1 Cor. 1:23; Col. 1:1, 2; Rom. 1:7; Philp. 1:1; Matt. 20:16).
CONCLUSION TWO. All members of the visible church de jure, and by right, or by moral obligation, ought to be saints effectually called. 1. Because the commandment of making to themselves a new heart (Ezk. 18:31), and to be renewed in the spirit of their mind (Eph. 4:23; Rom. 12:2), and to be holy, as he who hath called them is holy (1 Pet. 1:15, 16); it lays a moral obligation upon all within the visible church. 2. Because the preached gospel is the grace of God appearing to all men, teaching them to deny ungodliness, etc. (Titus 2: 11, 12).
CONCLUSION THREE. But, de facto, as the visible church is in the field of the world, all the members of the visible church are not effectually called, justified, sanctified; neither is it needful by a physical obligation for the true nature and essence of a visible church, that all the members of it be inwardly called and sanctified, every professor is obliged to believe, else the wrath of God abideth on him, and he is condemned already (John 3:18, 36). But to make a man a visible professor, and a member of the true visible church as visible, saving faith is not essentially required, so as he should be no member of the church visible, if he believes not.
That this may be right[ly] taken, observe that the visible church falls under a twofold consideration. 1. In concreto, as a church. 2. In abstracto, as visible. The visible church considered in concreto, is a part of the universal catholic and invisible church, which partakes of the nature and essence of a true church, and Christ’s mystical body, in which consideration we deny reprobates and unbelievers to be members of the visible church. (1.) Because there is no real communion (whatever Bellarmine and Papists say on the contrary) between righteousness and unrighteousness, light and darkness, the seed of the woman, and he seed of the serpent, so as they can make up one true church. (2.) Because these who are not Christ’s, are not members of Christ, and so no part of his mystical body. (3.) Because they are not bought with a price; nor his purchased flock in the blood of God (as Acts 20:28, the true church is), nor built upon a rock (as Matt. 16:18). (4.) Christ is not their redeemer, head, high priest, king and savior; and so neither are they his redeemed, his members, his people, subjects and saved ones. (5.) Because the promises made to the chosen and believers, to give them a new heart, regeneration, sanctification, remission of sins, are made to them only, and in God’s gracious intention, and not to reprobates. Whence I infer these conclusions:
CONCLUSION ONE. Separatists’ arguments must be weak, for they all conclude that which we deny not, and no other thing, to wit, that heretics, adulterers, sorcerers, blasphemers, are no part of Christ’s visible church, as it is a church. Yea, we say that as the tree leg, and the eye of glass, and the teeth of silver, by art put in the body, are no members of the living body, so neither are these members of the true church, and so much do all our divines, as Calvin, Beza, Junius, Whittaker, Tilen, Piscator, Ursine, Trelcatuis, Sibrandus, Ames, prove against Papists.
CONCLUSION TWO. Preaching of the gospel is called a note of the church, and profession of faith a note of the church both, the former is a note of the teaching church or ministerial church called Ecclesia docens. The latter is a note of the professing church, who professes the faith, which we may call Ecclesia utens, or Ecclesia practice consideram.
CONCLUSION THREE. Profession of the faith is thought to be true, either (1.) subjectively; (2.) objectively; (3.) or both. Profession subjectively is true when the professor indeed professes and avows the truth, and not only seems to avow and profess the truth. And this is no note of a true church; because it may be in hypocrites, who really go to church, really hear the Word, and partake of the Sacraments; but not sincerely. True profession objectively is when the professor professes that faith which is indeed sound and orthodox. And this is a mark of the true teaching or ministerial church, and may be in a visible company of professors who for the time are not sincere believers. But a profession of the faith both objectively and subjectively, is when the object is orthodox and sound truth, and the professor sincerely and graciously, and with an honest heart believes and professes the truth, and this way profession of the truth is a true and essential note of a visible church as it is a true church and body of Christ; and so are our divines to be expounded in this doctrine about the notes of the visible church.
2. But withal, the visible church is to be considered in abstracto, under the notion of visibility, and as visible, and as performing all the external acts of professing, governing, hearing, preaching, praising, administrating the seals of the covenant, binding and loosing in the external and visible court of Christ, and under this reduplication as obvious to men’s eyes, and therefore in this notion all external professors who are not manifestly and openly scandalous, are to be reputed members of the true visible church, and therefore this term, a true visible church, would be considered. For the adjective true may either be referred to the subject church, and so signifies the true mystical body of Christ visibly, and with all sincerely professing the sound faith; or it may be referred to the other adjective visible, and so it is no other but a company of professors visible to our senses, and so truly visible, whose members may be unsound and false professors.
Then the question is, whether visible saints (1.) forsaking all known sins; (2.) doing all the known will of God; (3.) growing in grace (as says Smith,9 and the Discovery of New Light10 ) is the only true matter of a right and lawfully consistent visible church and congregation; so as we are to join with no company of worshippers of God, but such visible saints as these, and to acknowledge no other society a true church, whereto we are obliged to adjoin ourselves as members, save only such a society. Or is this sufficient for the nature and right constitution of a true visible church, that the company that we are to join ourselves unto, as visible members, have in it these true marks of a visible church: the pure Word of God purely preached, and the Sacraments duly administered, with discipline according to God’s Word, and withal a people externally professing the foresaid faith, supposing they cannot give to us manifest tokens and evidences that they are effectually called, and partakers of the divine nature, and translated from death to life, and are elected, called and justified. This latter we hold as the truth of God; these of the Separation hold the former.
Now we must carefully distinguish here what are to be distinguished; for there are many questions infolded here of divers natures.
1. The question is if the society has the Word, seals and right discipline, and they profess the truth, suppose their lives are wicked whether they should not be answerable to that which they profess. ANSWER. No doubt they ought to be answerable to their light, and obey the holy calling.
2. What if many of them lead a life contrary to that which they profess, and yet the governors use not the rod of discipline to censure them; then whether should the members separate from that church? ANSWER. They ought to separate, say the Separatists. They ought not to separate from the church and worship, say we; they are to stay with their mother, but to plead with her; and modestly and seasonably say, that Archippus and others do not fulfill their ministry, which they have received of the Lord.
3. What if there are purity of doctrine, but extreme wickedness, contrary to their doctrine; whether is that company a true church or not? ANSWER. It is a true, visible and a teaching or right ministerial church, but for as far as can be seen, not a holy, not a sanctified church, and therefore must not be deserted and left.
4. What if the guides receive in as members of the church, those who are known to be most scandalous and wicked, and not such saints as Paul writes unto at Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, Colosse. ANSWER. The faults of the guides are not your faults who are private members. You are to keep public communion in the public ordinances of Christ, but not to take part with their unfruitful works, but rather to reprove them.
5. What if the members of the church can give no real proofs that they are inwardly called, sanctified, and justified, and yet you see no scandalous out-breakings in them, to testify to the contrary. ANSWER. For as much as grace may be under many ashes, as a piece of gold among mountains of earth; if they profess the sound faith, they are a true visible church, and we are to acknowledge them as such, and to join ourselves as members to such a society, or being already members, we are to remain in that society, and not to separate from it in any sort.
The Separatists complain that in our church are (as Ainsworth11 says) swarms of atheists, idolaters, Papists, erroneous and heretical sectaries, witches, charmers, sorcerers, thieves, adulterers, liars, etc. The Gentiles enter unto the temple of God, the holy things of God, the sacraments indifferently communicated with clean and unclean, circumcised and uncircumcised. And amongst you are thousands who cannot tell how the shall be saved. So say others as Mr. Barrow and Smith. Hence infer they our church is a false church, not rightly constituted, no spouse of Christ, no royal generation, not a people who have Christ for King, Priest, and Prophet.
CONCLUSION FOUR. We on the contrary hold this as our fourth conclusion, that howbeit openly and grossly profane wicked persons, as known atheists, and mockers of religion, idolaters, Papists, heretics, sorcerers, witches, thieves, adulterers, etc., are not to be kept in the church, but to be excommunicated, nor yet to be received into the church as members thereof, until they give evidences of their repentance; yet we say that there is nothing required more as touching the essential properties and nature of being members of a church, as visible, but that they profess before men the faith, and desire the seals of the covenant, and crave fellowship with the visible church, which I prove:
ARGUMENT ONE. From the manner of receiving members in the Apostolic Church, where nothing is required but a professed willingness to receive the gospel, howbeit they receive it not from their heart. (Acts 2:41) Then they that gladly received his word (Peter’s word) were baptized, and the same day were added to the church about three thousand souls. (v. 45) And they sold their possessions and parted them to all men. Now amongst these glad receives of the gospel were Ananias and Saphira (4:34-37; 6:1-3). It is true they are all charged by Peter to repent, ere they be baptized and added to the church; but the apostles require no more to make members of the visible church, but 1. professed willing receiving of the Word, and this receiving expressed by an outward act of selling their goods, which was but hypocrisy in Ananias and Saphira, as the event declared. Yet were Ananias and Saphira for that time members of the church as truly visible, and their acts of electing and chosing a pastor, and consenting to excommunicate scandalous persons in that time valid in Christ’s court. Yea, suppose Ananias had been a preacher, by grant of Separatists.
Also there is no more required by the Church of Simon Magnus (Acts 8:13), but believing historically at the sight of miracles, and he was baptized and received into the church presently. Now this believing was not seen to be saving faith to Peter and the apostles, we know no ways they had to know it, seeing they know not the heart, but what is said (v. 13) he continued with Philip, and wondered, which an hypocrite might do, and he had been not long since an abominable sorcerer, and ursurped the honor of God like a sacrilegious robber of the Almighty of his glory (v. 9-11). And the like we may see of Demas, who forsook Paul (2 Tim. 4:10), and followed the present world. There was nothing to make him a member of the visible church then, but that for a while he followed Paul in his journeys, and professed the faith. And the like must be said of Hymeneus and Alexander, who for a time were members of the true church, as it is visible, and a professing church; and this was known only by their profession; yet that they had but a bare profession is clear, seeing afterward they made shipwreck of faith (1 Tim. 1:19, 20)
Now our brethren cannot deny but all these might, and did exercise ecclesiastical acts that were valid and ratified of God, yea of binding and loosing, and so nothing is required to make men members of a visible church, but such an outward profession of faith as may befall, and has been found in the fairest broidered and paimented hypocrites, who have been in the Apostlic Church. Also what more was in Judas, even after Christ said, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? yet the eleven say not, ‘Lord, discover him to us, that we may separate from him.’
ARGUMENT TWO. If the visible church planted and constituted lawfully, is a draw net, wherein are fishes of all sort, and a house wherein are vessels of silver and gold, and also vessels of brass and wood, and a barn floor wherein are wheat and chaff; then a church is rightly constituted, howbeit there are in it believers and unbelievers, and hypocrites, as members thereof. And there is no more required to make members of the church visible as visible, but that they are within the net, hearers of the Word, within the house as vessels of brass, within the barn walls as chaff, in likeness and appearance like wheat. But the former is true, and granted by Barrow (Matt. 13:47; 2 Tim. 2:20-21; Matt. 3:12). Barrow says,12 Hypocrites Hypocrites are ever in the church, but it follows not that the profane multitude for that should be admitted members without proof of their faith. ANSWER. As the likeness between the vessel of brass, and the vessel of gold, and their being in one and the same nobleman’s cup table together, is sufficient to make the brazen vessel a part of the plenishing of the house, so the hypocrites external profession, and receiving the Word, and remaining in the church, as Ananias and Saphira and Simon Magnus’s believing and adhering to Philip, his desire of baptism, makes him a member of the visible church, and the church that these are in, is a truly and rightly constituted visible church.
ARGUMENT THREE. If that church is rightly constituted and a true church, where the man without the wedding garment comes to the Marriage of the King’s son, that is, where multitudes were called, and do hear the Word, and so come to the banquet of the gospel, that are not chosen, and are destitute of the wedding garment of faith, and Christ’s righteousness, and all these that are professed hearers of the Word, and yet not sound believers; then a professed and external use of the means (if no outward out breakings of scandals is in them) makes men members of the visible church, and the church is rightly constituted where they are. But the former is true (Matt. 22: 2-3; 11-13), and this is a point most ordinary in every visible assembly, where the Word is preached, where some believe, and some are hardened, as in the parable of the sower, where the seed falleth upon good ground, and bringeth forth fruit, and also upon the wayside, upon the rocky and thorny ground, and in the parable of the ten virgins, to make them all the visible kingdom of heaven, there is no more required, but that they have lamps, that is, a profession that they are the Bridegroom’s men attending the wedding, and yet five of them wanteth oil. And so when Christ preaches and works miracles, some believe, and some believe not (John 7:31-33; Acts 2:48-50 compared with Acts 5:1, 2; 2 Cor. 15:16)
ARGUMENT FOUR. Israel was a rightly constituted church, the covenanted people of God, an holy people to the Lord, chosen to be a peculiar people to himself (Deut. 14:1, 2; 29:10-12), a people on whom God set his love (Deut. 7:7). So happy as none was like unto them, saved by the Lord the shield of their help (Deut. 33:26-29), a people with whom God would not break his oath, and covenant made with Abraham (Judg. 2:1), and their God (1 Kings 18:36; 2 Kings 9:6), and he calleth them his people (Hos. 6; Jer. 2:13), married unto the Lord (Jer. 3:14), and married forever (Jer. 31:36, 37; 32:40, 42; Hos. 2:19, 20; Isa. 50:30; Ps. 80:30-33, etc.). A people who had avowed the Lord to be their God, a people whom the Lord had avowed to be his peculiar people (Deut. 26:18, 19). A people with goodly tents, as the gardens by the riverside, as the trees of Libanus, that the Lord has planted (Num. 24:5, 6). A people on whom the Lord looked upon, and behold their time was the time of love, over whom the Lord spread his skirts of love, to whom God sware a covenant, and made them his (Ezk. 16:6-9), the Lord’s heritage (Jer. 12:8), his pleasant son, and dear child (Jer. 21:20), his well beloved (Isa. 5:1).
And yet because of transgressions and the backsliders and revolters that were amongst them, a perverse and crooked generation (Deut. 32:5), at that same time had waxed fat and thick, and lightly esteemed the rock of their salvation (v. 15). A people that had no eyes to see, nor ears to hear, nor a heart to perceive, to that day (Deut. 29:4), spotted, but not as his children (Deut. 32:5), a whorish people (v. 16, 17), Sodom and Gomorrah (Deut. 32:32; Isa. 1:10), a harlot city full of murderers, dross, not silver, wine not water (v. 21, 22), uncircumcised in heart (Jer. 9:26), to God no better than uncircumcised Ethyopians, Egyptians, Philistines, and Syrians (Amos 9:7), these that played the harlot with many lovers, in all the highways (Jer. 3:1-3). The prophets prophesying falsely, the priests bearing rule by their means, and the people loving to have it so (Jer. 5:31), the princes wolves, evening wolves (Ezk. 22:27).
What apostasy was in Israel, yea in all, except Caleb and Joshua? What harlotry with the daughters of Moab? And that vile idol Baal-peor? Both immediately before and immediately after the Spirt had called them, a blessed people, goodly plants, trees of the Lord’s planting (Num. 24), as may be seen in the chapters of that story, especially chapter twenty five. Hence unanswerably it must follow, a church visible is a rightly and lawfully constituted church, to the which we may join ourselves as members, and yet it is a mixed multitude of godly and profane, circumcised and clean, uncircumcised and unclean. And Moses and the Prophets knew Israel to be thus mixed and rebuked them, and yet termed them a married people to the Lord (Jer. 3:14).
ARGUMENT FIVE. If the Church of the Jews was a truly constituted visible church, a church that did worship a God they knew, and of whom was salvation (John 4:22) in Christ’s days, and had Moses’ chair among them, and teachers on that chair whom Christ commanded to hear, and obey (Matt. 23:1-3), and was the Lord’s vineyard (Matt. 21:33), and the Lord’s building (v. 41), and had the Kingdom of God amongst them (v. 43), and the Lord’s priests whom Christ commanded to acknowledge and obey (Matt. 8:4), and if the Lord countenanced their feasts, preached in the Temple, and their synagogues (John 5:1; 7:37; 8:32; Luke 4:16, 17), and that daily, and yet there was in their church Scribes and Pharisees, who perverted the Law of God (Matt. 5:21), who made the Law of God of none effect with their traditions (Matt. 15:6), and polluted all with will worship (Mark 7:6-8), master builders who rejected Christ the cornerstone of the building, and slew the heir Christ to make the vineyard their own (Matt. 21:42, 38), killers of the Prophets (Matt. 23:37), blind guides who led the blind people in the ditch, Christ’s own who would not receive him (John 1:12), if they slew the Lord of glory (Acts 5:30; 2:36), God’s house made a house of merchandise, a den of thieves (John 2:16), the priesthood was bought and sold, Caiaphas was High Priest that year (By God’s law the High Priest should have continued so all his life). All this being true, then a church is a rightly constituted church, where the clean and unclean are mixed.
ARGUMENT SIX. The like I might prove of the Church of Corinth, Galatia and Ephesus, Thyatira, Sardis, Laodicea. And the Separatists13 grant that hypocrites are often in the true visible church; then the presence of wicked men in a visible church mars not the constitution of a church. Only Separatists would have a more accurate trial taken before persons were received in the church, lest the uncircumcised enter into the temple of the Lord. But all the marks that we are to take before we receive members in the church, or they also, is but an external profession. And the apostles took no marks in receiving Ananias and Saphira, Simon Magnus, Demas, Alexandar, and Hymyneus, but only a hypocritical profession, as Calvin14 has well observed, and after him Cameron15 , we have no certainty of faith to know that this, or this man, is a believer, that another man believes and is saved is not the object of my faith.
2. Hence it follows, that of a congregation of forty professors, four and twenty may be, and often are but hypocrites; yet these four and twenty, suppose twelve of them are the Pastor, Elders and Deacons, are truly parts of the church as visible; howbeit not parts of the church as the church, and as the true mystical body of Jesus Christ. And by this same reason all the forty may be all hypocrites, or at the first constitution of the church, but that all shall remain so, I think is against the wisdom and gracious intention of God, who does not set up a candle and candlestick, but to seek his own lost money. And where he sends shepherds, he has there some lost sheep, because the preaching of the Word is an essential note of a visible church. Hence that congregation of forty not yet converted is a true visible church, I mean, a true teaching and ministerial church in which are pastoral acts of preaching, baptizing, binding, and loosing that are valid and right ecclesiastically. For baptism there administrated was not to be repeated, and such a church by the ministry therein, is and may be converted to the saving faith of Christ. Yea, and Separatists would call such an independent congregation.
3. Hence this must follow, that as to make one a pastor, and to make twelve men Deacons and Elders, and so such as have joint power of the keys, even by the grant of Separatists, with the rest of the Congregation, there is not faith in Christ required as an essential element, as I have proved from Matt. 7:22, so to make these twelve members of a visible congregation, faith is not essentially required (suppose it is morally required), so by that same reason to make other twelve members in that visible society in Christ, faith were not required, as to make Demas, Ananias, Saphira, Simon Magus, Alexander, Hymeneus and some more of that kind a visible church. There is no more required but that profession of faith which moved the Apostolic Church to make them members of a true visible church. For what makes formally a member of a visible church, to wit, profession of faith, that same makes forty also members of a visible church, and qua est ratio constitutiva partium, est etiam constitutiva totius. That which formally constitutes a part, does formally constitute the whole, where the whole is made of parts of the same nature, as what is essential to make a quart of water, that is essential to make a whole sea of water, and every part of the visible church is visible, and a visible professor, as visibility denominates the whole, so does it every part of the whole.
4. And from this I infer this fourth, that a visible church as visible, does not essentially and necessarily consist of believers; but only professors of belief. So that a church and a visible church may be opposed by way of contradiction, as a number of believers, and a number of non-believers. For a church essentially is a number of believers and Christ’s mystical body, else it is not a church, that is, a number of persons effectual called; for this cause I grant an eldership of a congregation; a synod provincial or National, are unproperly called a church; and howbeit we lift not to strive about names, we may grant our general assembly not to be properly called a National Church, but by a figure, for the believers of the Nation are properly the National Church, I mean a mystical believing church.
CONCLUSION FIVE. The preaching of the Word and seals thereof ordinarily settled in a visible society, is the essential note and mark of a true church. It is weak and vain that Ainsworth,16 Robinson, Canne and Master Smith say, The preaching of the Word is no essential mark of the true church. And why? Because forsooth, our masters learned from Barrow to say, It is preached to the reprobate whom it is the savor of death unto death, and it was preached to the scoffing Athenians by Paul (Acts 17), and yet the Athenians were not a true church. But we distinguish three things here.
1. There is the single and occasional preaching of the Word.
2. The settled preaching of the Word, the settling of the candlestick and kingdom to dwell amongst a people.
3. The preached Word with the seals, especially the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.
1. The single and occasional preaching, or by concomitancy as to a people unconverted and unbelievers, and so it is not an essential note of the true church, but a means to gather a church to God, and this they prove and no more. And so do the Belgic, Arminians and Socinians prove against our reformed churches, that it is no mark of the church; so Episcopus,17 the Remonstrants,18 the Catechise of Raccovia,19 and Socinus,20 but this is as if one would say: the colors and arms of such a King in war are carried through the enemies fields, as well as through the King’s land; therefore they are not the proper colors of such a King.
2. The settled preaching of the Word established and remaining in a church, as the standing candlestick, the fixed kingdom of God, is the essential mark of the true church, and preached in God’s blessed decree of election, only for, and to the chosen believers, and as it were in the bye to the profane reprobates amongst them, and this they cannot be able to improve. And it was Mr. Smith’s vanity to say, the reformed churches have the Word, as the thief has the honest man’s purse. Anabaptists reason just that way. See Calvin.21
3. The preaching of the Word, and the seals of the settled covenant is a means of confirming those that are already converted. Neither is it much against us that the Word is preached to the reprobate; for the preaching of the Word is considered either in itself, and actu primo, and so it is a mark of the visible church. Or as it is effectual by the Spirit of Jesus, and actu secundo, and so it is an essential mark of the true church and lively body of Christ, according to that cited by Whittaker, Calvin, Willet, Paræus, Beza, Ursine, Bucanus, and our divines in John 10. My sheep hear my voice. Hence observe a vile doctrine of Separatists, held also by Socinians and Arminians, as Episcopus,22 the Belgic Remonstrants,23 Socinus,24 the Raccovian Catechise,25 and Theophil. Nicolaides,26 that all gifted persons may preach publicly, and that there is no necessity of calling of pastors by the presbytery, so they do teach.27 That there can be no lawful pastors now after the apostasy of Antichrist, till there is a constituted church of believers to choose them, or a flock to them to watch over. And therefore conversion is ordinarily wrought (say they) by private Christians, that have the gift of prophecy publicly, and yet are not pastors; for private Christians do gather the church (say they) pastors do not ordinarily convert, they do only confirm the church of saints already converted. Against which we say:
ARGUMENT ONE. The New Testament of Christ tells us of no officers to preach in Christ’s name, for the perfecting of the saints, the work of the ministry, edifying of the body of Christ, but pastors and doctors (Eph. 4:11, 12).
ARGUMENT TWO. None but such as have power of binding and loosing by the preaching of the Word (John 20).
ARGUMENT THREE. Those to whom Christ gives power of public teaching, to those he gives power of Baptizing (Matt. 28:18, 19), and sends them as his Father sent him.
ARGUMENT FOUR. How shall they preach except they be sent (Rom. 10:14)? Sending in the Apostolic Church was by praying and the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery (1 Tim. 4:14).
ARGUMENT FIVE. There is nothing more ordinary than that pastors as pastors, and by virtue of the pastoral office, convert souls.
1. Faith is begotten by hearing a sent preacher (Rom. 10:14, 15). Ministers by whom we believe (1 Cor. 3:9), by them we receive the Spirit by the hearing of faith (Gal. 3:2).
2. People are begotten over again by them, as by spiritual fathers and mothers (1 Cor. 4:15; Gal. 4:19).
3. Pastors are the wooers and under-suiters to gain the bride’s consent, to marry the lovely Bridegroom Christ Jesus (John 2:29; 2 Cor. 11:2, 3).
4. Their word is the savor of life unto some, and the savor of death unto death unto others (2 Cor. 2:16). They are to preach with all gentleness, waiting if God peradventure will give repentance to the gain-sayers (2 Tim. 2:24-26).
5. They are ambassadors in Christ’s stead, beseeching men to be reconciled unto God (2 Cor. 5:20).
6. The weapons of their warfare are mighty through God to fling down strongholds (of unbelief), cast down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and to bring unto captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:4, 5), and so they are to pull men out of the hands of Satan.
7. They are to seek the Lord’s sheep (Ezk. 34:4).
Hence the object and matter that a pastor is to work on as a pastor, are unbelievers, unborn men, gain-sayers, proud, disobedient, keeping strongholds against Christ. So the nature of the pastor’s office is to open the eyes of the blind, to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins (Acts 26:18). And this evidently [shows], that the visible and rightly constituted church, where God has erected a ministry is a number of blinded sinners for the most part, while God by a ministry delivers them, supposing they profess the faith. It is also a doctrine unknown to the Word of God, that the church of Christ is gathered and edified formally as a church, without Christ’s ministers that are sent to gain the consent of the bride to marry the bridegroom Christ. It is also unknown to Scripture that prophets are no pastors, and have no power of the pastoral calling or seals of the covenant. Should those be the ordinary officers of Christ that gather sinners into Christ, and convert to the faith of Jesus men dead in sins and trespasses, who yet are neither pastors nor doctors sent by Christ and his church?
CONCLUSION SIX. Seeing then the church has no other mark and rule to look unto, in the receiving in of members into a visible church, but external profession, which is no infallible mark of a true convert, the church is rightly constituted, where all born within the visible church and professing the faith are received, [even supposing] many wicked person are there. Now seeing time, favor of men, prosperity accompanying the gospel, bring many into the church, so the magistrate may compel men to adjoin themselves to the true church.
OBJECTION. O! say, Master Barrow, Ainsworth, Mr. Canne, the blast of the Kings horn can make no man a member of Christ’s body, that must be done willingly, and by the Spirit of Christ, not by compulsion. The Magistrate (say they) can work faith in none; he ought indeed to abolish idolatry, set up the true worship of God, suppress errors, cause the truth to be taught; yet he cannot constrain men to join to the church.
ANSWER. 1. This is a senseless reason; for how does the Magistrate abolish idolatry, and set up the true worship of God? It is I hope, by external force and power. For the Magistrate as the Magistrate does nothing but by an external coactive power. The Magistrate uses the sword, not reasons, preaching and counsels. Yea, this way we cannot abolish idolatry, nor erect the pure worship of God, for it is a work of God’s Spirit and a willing work, that a subject forsake idols, and worship God purely at the command of a King, as it is the work of God, that he believe in Christ, and join himself to the church of true believers.
2. That a man by external profession adjoin himself to the true visible church, is not a work of saving faith, as our masters dream, for Simon Magnus and Ananias and Saphira turned members of the visible church upon as small motives, as the command of a king, upon the motive of gain and honor, and were never a whit nearer Christ for all this.
3. The Magistrate cannot compel men to believe, nor can the minister by preaching, or the power of the keys do it, except God’s Spirit does it. But as Junius says, he may compel men to profess belief, but not to believebelieve,28 he may compel to the external means, not to the end. The Magistrate (as Voetius says29 ) may compel by removing impediments, as idols and false teachers and authoritatively compel to the means.
Now it shall be easy to answer their objections, who would prove that saints are the only matter of a rightly and lawfully constituted visible church.
OBJECTION ONE. Master Barrow30 reasons against us thus, The material temple from the very foundation was of choice costly stones, the beams of choice cedars and algummim trees, which typified the church of the New Testament (Isa. 54:11). Behold I will lay stones with carbuncle and thy foundations with saphires, etc. (Isa. 6:17), for brass I will bring gold (Isa. 35:8). No lion, nor ravenous beast shall be in the mountain of the Lord, but the redeemed of the Lord (Jer. 31:24). They shall all know me from the least of them to the greatest, in this mountain there shall be no cockatrice, asp, lion, leopard, until they have left their poison (Isa. 11:6).
ANSWER 1. These places none (except Anabaptists) can apply according to the letter, to the church independent of every parish; the Separatists may not, who teach that there is rotten timber in their visible temple, and chalk stones, lions, wolves, cockatrices, for Barrow,31 Ainsworth, and all their side,32 say there are always in the church glorious hypocrites. Now such as Judas, Demas, Hymeneus, and such hypocrites are not precious stones, gold, taught of God. There is not a visible church of a congregation out of heaven, where there is not a hypocrite and an unbeliever.
2. The place (Isa. 54:10; Jer. 31:31) is understood of the catholic church, with whom the covenant of grace is made, and this covenant is not everlasting, nor an eternal covenant to any one parish church; yea, nor to a National church, nor to Corinth, Ephesus, Pergamus, all which particular churches are fallen under horrible idolatry, and in those mountains are lions and leopards, and therefore as Musculus,33 Calvin,34 Hierom,35 and the course of the text clears, he is speaking of the begun holiness of the whole church, of the redeemed under Christ, which is finally and fully accomplished in heaven; for what use should there be of excommunication, and of the pastors and porters care to hold out, and cast out, by the church censures, lions, leopards, cockatrices, if all and everyone in the church be taught of God?
3. It is beside the Text to make the Temple of Jerusalem a type of a parish congregation; it was a type of Christ (John 2:21); of every believer (1 Cor. 6:19); and of the whole catholic church.
4. Where it is said, There shall be no ravenous beast in the Mountain of the Lord, the Mountain of the Lord is not taken literally for Mount Sion, as if in every little mountain of a visible congregation, made up of so many saints, there were not a Judas amongst them. But by the Mountain of the Lord is meant the catholic church, alluding to the visible Mount Sion, a type of the church of Christ, through all the earth.
OBJECTION TWO. They dispute thus: God in all ages has appointed, and made a separation of his people from the world, before the law, under the law, and now in the time of the gospel (Gen. 4:6; Ex. 6:3; Lev. 20:24; Ezk. 6:11; Ps. 84:10).
ANSWER 1. God has made a separation of the church from the wicked, but not such a separation, as there remains no mixture of hypocrites and unbelievers in the church. The church was separated from Cain’s seed; yet was there idolatry, defection and wickedness in the church, till God charged Abraham to leave his country, and his father’s house. God separated his Israel from Egypt; but so that there was much idolatry and wickedness in Israel thus separated.
2. God may, and does separate his own from Egypt, Babylon, in marriage and mixture with the Canaanites; Ergo, those that are born in the visible church and profess the faith with us, should not be received in the church [until] they are all taught of God, all precious stones, all plants of righteousness. It follows no way, but the contrary; therefore because they are unbelievers under the power and chains of Satan, and ignorance, they are to be received in a communion with the church, to be hearers of the Word, that they may be all taught of God, and all made righteous plants.
OBJECTION THREE. They reason thus: The wicked have not Christ for their head.36 A true visible church is the temple of the Lord, the body of Christ, a kingdom of priests, a church of saints, the household and kingdom of God.37 Yea Barrow38 says, a people, chosen, redeemed saints by calling, partakers of the most precious faith, and glorious hope, the humble, obedient, loving sheep of Christ, a sheepfold watched by discipline, a garden well enclosed, here enters no Canaanite, every vessel is holy.
ANSWER. The body of Christ, a kingdom of priests and saints, and these that are partakers of the holy faith, are the chosen of God, ordained for glory in his decree of election, and effectually called and justified; but the adversaries say, that the visible church is a company of saints by calling, where (says Ainsworth) there are many called, but few chosen. Hence this argument will prove that none, no hypocrites can be in the visible church, as a church is indeed Christ’s body. Now the church visible as a church is indeed Christ’s body, a royal priesthood, a chosen generation, but as visible, it is sufficient that the church be a royal priesthood only in profession, and so possibly for a while, no royal priesthood, no chosen generation, as I have observed before. But say they, hypocrites are not indeed and really members of the true visible church; but only in reputation, as an eye of glass, is not indeed a true part of the body.
Then our adversaries give us no right description of the true natural and lively members of the true visible church. He that would give such a definition of a man as agrees both to a living man, and to a pictured or painted man, were but a painted logician. For they acknowledge the true parts of a visible church to be a chosen people, a royal generation, partakers of the holy faith, either they are really and in God’s esteem a chosen people, etc. And so we are at a point, there be none members of a visible church, none ought to preach, baptize, bind and loose with the rest of the congregation, but these that are really chosen and effectually called, which cannot be said. Ainsworth then, and Mr. Canne, and Smith do but mock us, when they say, The true matter of a true visible church are saints in profession, and in the judgment of charity; for that is not enough. They must be according to the texts of Scripture alleged by Barrow, not only in the judgment of charity, but in God’s estimation, and in the judgment of verity, a chosen people, a royal generation. If the true matter of the true visible church is a chosen generation and a royal priesthood only by profession, the places cited will not help them; for Peter (1 Pet. 2) writes not to an independent congregation, who are in profession only a chosen people; but he writes to the catholic church, even to all the dispersed and sanctified, and regenerated in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bythinia, who were not only a chosen generation in profession, but also really and in God’s decree of election. Neither Peter nor Isaiah are of purpose to teach that in the independent congregation of the New Testament there are none, but all righteousness, no stones (to speak with Isaiah) but saphires and carbuncles, no thorns and briars, but only the fir and myrtle trees; no iron and brass, but all gold and silver; no Canaanite, no lion, no unclean vessel. This they shall not find in the independent congregations of Separatists, nor can it be in the visible church on earth, except they seek the Anabaptists’ church, a man in the moon.
OBJECTION FOUR. They reason thus: The wicked are expressly forbidden in the Word of God, for meddling with his covenant and ordinances (Ps. 50).39
ANSWER. 1. The wicked are forbidden to speak of God’s Law and his Covenant, in some case, so long as they hate to be reformed, but they are not simply forbidden; but hence it follows not that they should not be ordinary hearers of the Word; but rather they are to be hearers, and so members of the visible church, seeing faith comes by hearing. 2. From this argument is nothing concluded against us, for such adulterers, thieves and slanderers, as are forbidden to take God’s Law in their mouth (Ps. 50) are to be cast out of the church, and the question is, if they are not cast out, if the church for that is no true church, that we should remain in. They say it leaves off [from being] a true visible church. We deny [this].
OBJECTION FIVE. There is (says Ainsworth) proclaimed by God himself, enmity and war, between the seed of the woman, and the seed of the serpent; and there is no communion nor fellowship between Christ and Belial, light and darkness. Therefore the profane and the godly cannot be mixed together in one visible society, as two contraries are not capable of one and the same form.
ANSWER. This will prove that which is not denied, that the godly and ungodly cannot agree well together, suppose the ungodly are latent hypocrites; for they have two contrary natures, as fire and water, and have two contrary fathers, God and Satan. But that is not denied. But hence it follows not but that hypocrites and unbelievers may be all their life in external society with the wicked, and make up one true visible church.
OBJECTION SIX. If the godly have a due right to the promises and seals of God’s covenant, and his presence and blessings appertain to them (Matt. 28:18, 19; 2 Cor. 6:17; Lev. 26:11, 12; Isa. 56:20), then no profane persons can be received or retained in the visible church with the godly; for this is, 1. to profane the holy things of God, which no believer should suffer. 2. This is contrary to the nature of the covenant that offers remission of sins only to the chosen and faithful. 3. The godly shall become one body with the wicked, by having communion with them (1 Cor. 10:16, 17), and so shall be defiled (Hag. 2:12; 1 Cor. 5; 6r. 5; 6).40
ANSWER. 1. This argument is injurious to God’s providence, who has left no infallible means to keep his own name and ordinances from profanation, and his own church from being leavened and defiled with the unclean. For Simon Magnus, Annanias and Saphira, Demas, to whom the precious promises of the covenant were preached, and the seals conferred, could not be discerned to be hypocrites by any word of God, [until] the event of their out-breaking wickedness declared them to be such. And so this should prove that God is not tender enough of the honor of his own name and ordinances, who should permit hypocrites to lurk in the visible church, and hear the promises, and receive the seals of the covenant, and defile and pollute them, and Christ’s body the church, for the godly by that text are made one body (1 Cor. 10, if it is rightly expounded), with the latent hypocrites that come to the communion with them.
2. The promises and seals were not defiled to Christ and his disciples, because Judas did hear the Word, and receive the seals of the Word with them. The Word and Sacraments were not polluted to Paul, because Demas did communicate with him.
3. If some one private Christian knows another to be an adulterer, he is to rebuke him privately, and not to tell the church, but in the case of obstinacy; and supposing the church would not cast out the adulterer, yet is he not to private persons an adulterer, [until] he is juridice, by two or three witnesses convicted before the church, and all this while it is lawful to communicate with him. For a testimony should not be received against any, but under two witnesses. We are not made one body by eating that same supper with an unbeliever, except it is one visible body communicating in one visible bread. Christ and the apostles were not made one body mystical with Judas, by eating the Passover together; but only one visible external society, which is not inconvenient.
OBJECTION SEVEN. They reason thus: The leper by the law was not to remain in the camp, but behooved for so many days to be removed, and not re-admitted to come amongst the people of God, while he was cleansed; the uncircumcised must not be admitted to eat the Passover, the unclean and uncircumcised, the heathen, the Moabites and Ammorites, were not suffered to enter into the Temple: And all these signified that no profane person should be mixed with the congregation of believers.
ANSWER. The uncircumcised and the heathen did fore-signify the excommunicated, who are to be reputed as heathen and publicans (Matt. 18:17), and these are to be cast out of the church being once sentenced and judged by the church according to Christ’s order and Paul’s, if the sin is public (Matt. 18; 1 Tim. 5:20); yet are they not to be debarred wholly from the society of the congregation, but they must not be counted as enemies, but admonished as brethren (2 Thess. 3:15). The uncircumcised were not counted as brethren, yea excommunication is a means to save the spirit in the day of the Lord (1 Cor. 5:5), and so he is under the church’s cure, as a sick son, and must hear the Word, and is to be as a heathen and yet not a heathen indeed, but warned as a brother, and in some church-communion with us.
OBJECTION EIGHT. They reason thus: If the profane are admitted as members of the true visible church, the true church should not be distinguished from false churches, contrary to the Word of God (Ps. 84:10; Song. 1:6, 7; Hos. 2:9, 10; 2 Cor. 6:15; Rev. 1:11, 12, 20, compared with 17:1, 5), but God has differenced his true church from all synagogues of Satan, and human societies, as a separated and sanctified people.
ANSWER. 1. God’s courts (Ps. 84:10), are differenced from the tents of wickedness, the flocks of the companions (Song. 1:7), expounded to be the false church, are differenced from the true church, in that in the true church are the kids fed beside the shepherds tents, that is, the Word of God is purely preached in the true church, and the members thereof profess this Word, which is not done in the tents of wickedness; and yet Judas is often one of the shepherds, and a Demas, a follower of Paul and the gospel, a member of this true church visible.
2. Israel is called not God’s wife (Hos. 2), and God not her husband, not because Israel left off to be a true church, de facto, and formally, as if upon God’s part he had given her a bill of divorcement, the contrary whereof is said (v. 6, 7) he will give her grace to return to her first husband, and (v. 19), he will marry her, and (Jer. 13:14), he was married to backsliding Israel, that had played the harlot with many lovers (Jer. 3:14),
but Israel is called no wife, de jure, by her evil deservings, as a husband says to his wife that has played the harlot, you are not my wife, to wit, by law and right of deserving, for you have broken your marriage oath. Yet upon his part who has not rent and cancelled the contract of marriage, nor put her out at doors with a written bill of divorcement, she is, de facto, and formally, still a wife, and so was God still in covenant with Israel, and sent his prophets to them, and they had circumcision amongst them, and God had there seven thousand that had not bowed their knee to Baal, and had not cast off his people whom he fore-knew (Rom. 11:1-4).
3. God is present and Christ also in the midst of the seven candlesticks, and walks in his church, and goes not away, because these that dig down his altars and slay his prophets, and so extinguish the candles, are in the visible church, as is clear. He walked in Ephesus beside his candlestick, howbeit, they had fallen from their first-love, and in Pergamus, howbeit the doctrine of Balaam was there, and in Thyatira, howbeit Jezebel the false prophetess was there seducing his people.
- On Separation from Corupt Churches. Samuel Rutherfurd. Of the following questions, Q. 2 through Q. 4 are from A Peaceable and Temperate Plea for Paul’s Presbytery in Scotland (1642), chapters 9-11. Q. 1 is from The Due Right of Presbytery; Or, A Peaceable Plea for the Government of the Church of Scotland (1644), pp. 221-255. These extracts were originally published together in Anthology of Presbyterian & Reformed Literature, volume 2, number 2. [↩]
- Henry Barrow (d. 1593), A Brief Discovery of the false Church (1590), page 8-10. [↩]
- A Guide to Zion. Or certain positions concerning a true visible church (Amsterdam, Richt Right Press: 1638), page 16. [↩]
- Separatists third petition to King James; 3 pos. p. 44. Confession, art. 17, p. 19. [↩]
- Henry Ainsworth (1571-1622), Counterpoyson. Considerations touching the points in difference between the Church of England, and the seduced brethren of the Separation (Amsterdam, G. Thorp: 1608), p. 174. Rutherfurd also refers to this work as Ainsworth against Bernard. Richard Bernard (1566-1641) wrote Christian Advertisement and counsels of peace. Also disswasions from the Separatists’ schism, commonly called Brownisme (1608). This work of Ainsworth is a reply to this work. Bernard replied in Plain evidences: The Church of England apostolical, the separation schismatical (1610). [↩]
- John Canne (1590?-?), A Necessity of Separation from the Church of England, proved by the Noncomformists’ principles (Amsterdam: 1634), sec. 3, page 174, 175. [↩]
- Discovery of New Light, 1641. [↩]
- Ainsworth, against Bernard, p. 174. [↩]
- Smith, Paralleles, censures, observations, Aperteyning: to three several writings. I. A letter to Mr. R. Bernard, by J. Smyth. II. The separatists schism. III. An answer by H. Ainsworth. Page 22. [↩]
- Discovery of New Light. [↩]
- Ainsworth, Counterpoyson against Bernard, p. 3. Declar. of Eccles. discip. p. 171. Dialog. of. [↩]
- Barrow, Discovery of false church, p. 10. [↩]
- Confes. art. 17. [↩]
- Calv. Instit. l. 4. c. 1. sect. 8. Et quonium fidei certitudo necessaria non erat, quddam charitatis judicium eius loce substituit (Deus). [And since certainty of faith was not necessary, he (God) put in its place a sort of decision based on love.] [↩]
- Cameron prelect. de Eccles. [↩]
- Ainsworth, Counterpoyson, p. 10, 11. [↩]
- Simon Episcopus, dis. 8 Thes. 10. [↩]
- Remonst. in Apol., fol. 411. [↩]
- Catech. Raccovia. 2 fol. p. 198. [↩]
- Socin. de Eccles. p. 98. [↩]
- Calv. Instruct. adversus libers. [↩]
- Simon Episcop. dis. 16. Thes. 4, 5. & ibid 2, 3. [↩]
- Romonst. Confess. 22 sect. 1. & Apol. fol. 217. Missionem nens non esse præcise necessarium ad constituendum ministrum. [that calling is not absolutely necessary for appointing a minister.] [↩]
- Socin. tract. de Eccles. ad loc. Rom. 10. Socin de exter. reg. christ eccles. fol 253. [↩]
- Crtech. Raccov. de eccl. christ. c. 10. page 305, 306. [↩]
- Theoph. Nicolaides, Tract de Miss mimist cap. 1. p. 144. & ib. c. 10. [↩]
- Separat. conf. art 34, 35, p. 25. [↩]
- Junius, contr. 1. cons. Bell. l. 3. ca. 6. [↩]
- Voetius, despera. cau. Papa. l. sect. 2. c.12. [↩]
- Barrow, Discovery, p. 9, 10. [↩]
- Barrow, Discovery, p. 10. [↩]
- Smith, paral. p. 28, 29. [↩]
- Muscul., com in loc. [↩]
- Calvin on Isa. 54. [↩]
- Hierom. on Jer. 31. [↩]
- Guide to Zion, pos. 32, p. 16. [↩]
- Separatists 3 petit., 3 posit. arg. 2. [↩]
- Barrow, Discovery of false church, page 22. [↩]
- Guide, place cited pos 32 page. 16. [↩]
- Separatists 3 petition to K. James, 3 position, page. 45. [↩]