Without the authority of synods, it is impossible to preserve unity

We have another reason to add, and it is borrowed from lawless necessity; for without a subordination among ecclesiastical courts,and the authority of the higher above the inferior, it were utterly impossible to preserve unity, or to make an end of controversy in a nation. A particular congregation might happily end questions and controversies betwixt the members thereof, and so keep unity within itself (and not so neither, if the one half of the congregation be against the other), but how shall controversies betwixt several congregations be determined if both of them be independent? how shall plurality of religions be avoided?how shall an apostatizing congregation be amended?

It is answered, (1.) If a particular congregation neglect their duty, or do wrong to another, the civil sword may proceed against them to make them do their duty. (2.) A particular congregation ought ,in difficult cases, to consult with her sister churches; for so much reason dictates, that in difficult cases, counsels should be taken of a greater number. (3.) Sister churches, when they see a particular congregation doing amiss, out of that relation which they have to her, being all in the same body, under the same head, may, and ought to admonish her, and in case of general apostasy, they may withdraw that communion from her which they hold with the true churches of Christ.

But these answer are not satisfactory. The first of the magreeth not to all times; for in times of persecution the church hath not the help of the civil sword: a persecuting magistrate will be glad to see either division or apostasy in a congregation; but so it is, that Christ hath provided a remedy, both for all the evils and diseases of his church,and at all times. The church (as was said before) is a republic, and hath her laws, courts, and spiritual censures within herself, whether there be a Christian magistrate or not.

The second answer leaveth the rectifying of an erring congregation to the uncertainty of their own discretion, in seeking counsel from a greater number. And, moreover, if this be a dictate of reason, to ask counsel of a greater number when the counsel of a few cannot resolves, then reason, being ever like itself, will dictate so much to a congregation,that they ought to submit to the authority of a greater number when their own authority is not sufficient to end a controversy among them.

To the third answer we say, That every private Christian may and ought to withdraw himself from the fellowship and communion, either of one man or of a whole congregation, in the case of general apostasy. And shall an apostatizing congregation be suffered to run to hell rather than any other remedy should be used beside that (commonly ineffectual)remedy which any private Christian may use? God forbid.

What I have said of congregations I say also of classical presbyteries: How shall sentence be given betwixt two presbyteries at variance?How shall a divided presbytery be reunited in itself? How shall an heretical presbytery be reclaimed? How shall a negligent presbytery be made to do their duty? How shall a despised presbytery have their wounded authority healed again? In these and such like contingent cases, what remedy can be had beside the authority of synods?

George Gillespie, An Assertion of the Government of the Church of Scotland in the Points of Ruling Elders, and of the Authority of Presbyteries and Synods, Edinburgh, Scotland, [1641], p. 157

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