Posts Tagged ‘Westminster Assembly’

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

September 14, 2013

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

Has not the Catholic church been sometimes more, sometimes less visible? David Dickson

August 24, 2013

Quest. VI. Hath not the catholic church been sometimes more, sometimes less visible?

Yes; Rom. 11:3, 4; Rev. 12:6, 14.

Well then, do not the Papists err, who affirm, That the church hath been, is, and shall be most gloriously visible to all the whole world, far and nigh?


By what reasons are they confuted?

1st, Because the church of God in the prophet Elijah’s time was brought to that pass, that he thought none remained but himself, 1 Kings 19:10; Rom. 11:2-4.

2nd, Because for a long time Israel was without the true God, and without a teaching priest, and without the law, 2 Chron. 15:3.

3rd, Because the Lord often complains that his church and people have forsaken him, have not known him; that the faithful city hath become a harlot, that scarce a man could be found to do justice and follow truth; all which is inconsistent with that glorious condition of the visible church which the Papists dream of, Isa. 1:3, 4; Jer. 2:29; 5:1.

4th, Because in the time of the ten persecutions the visible church was much obscured and darkened. And after these storms were over, arose the Arians, who did so much trouble the church of Christ, as is clear from history.

5th, Because two wings were given to the woman, that is, to the church of God; two wings, I say, of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to hide herself, Rev. 12:14.

6th, Because the apostle Paul did foretell that general defection and apostacy of the visible church, mentioned in 2 Thess. 2:3.

7th, Because Christ hath foretold that before his second coming he shall scarce find faith on the earth, Luke 18:8.

8th, Because the church of God is always liable to trouble and persecutions while it sojourneth in this world; but troubles and persecutions do much obscure the brightness and splendour of a visible church, Luke 21:17; John 16:2; Ps. 129:1-3.

– David Dickson, Truth’s Victory Over Error, or, the true principles of the Christian religion, stated and vindicated against the following heresies, viz. Arians…Vaninians, &c. The whole being a commentary on all the chapters of the Confession of Faith, by way of question and answer: in which, the saving truths of our holy religion are confirmed and established; and the dangerous errors and opinions of its adversaries detected and confuted, Glasgow, Scotland, John Bryce [1764], p. 217

Daniel Cawdrey on the need for Protestants to be strict

July 16, 2013

The Westminster divine, Daniel Cawdrey, pointed out the great evil of Protestants being less strict and zealous in religious matters than idolaters:

“Oh shameful and unsufferable wickedness! It is not so with any Religion as it is with ours. In any Religion of Jews, Turks, Papists, the more strict and exact, the more Honoured and esteemed: Only in the Protestant Religion, the stricter and preciser, the more scorned and despised. It was a very noble act, that of Nebuchadnezzar, Dan. 3. 29. I make a decree, that every people, nation and language which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill, &c. I could wish, that our Law-makers, would provide a Statute, that it might be lawful for no man, with impunity, to deride and scorn Religion, or the strict profession of it.”

Daniel Cawdrey, The good man a public good. A sermon preached to the honourable House of Commons, at the late solemn fast: January 31, 1643 (London, 1643), p. 14.

The National Covenant of Scotland, 1581

July 16, 2013

Daniel Cawdrey on the Jesuits, a brood of vipers

July 15, 2013

The Westminster divine, Daniel Cawdrey, reminds us of what early Protestant and Reformed theologians thought of the Jesuits:

[…] Papists, home-born Papists, who are vipers that most unnaturally have endeavoured to eat through their mother’s bowels.  Not their nature only, but their Religion also, teaches and allows them for the Good of the Catholic cause, falsely so called, not to spare their own native Country, their own kindred, Brothers, Fathers, no not of their own Religion.  To blow up Parliaments, to ruin Cities, Countries, Kingdoms, is their ordinary work.  Especially of those, whom they call Jesuits, the Bellows of Hell, the Incendiaries of Christendom, at this day.  The Curse of God is upon them fearfully for arrogating their Name from Jesus, which signifies a Saviour, and is impropriated to the Son of God: Thou shalt call his name Jesus.  These men, that call themselves Jesuits, are, by the just judgement of God upon them, Destroyers of Cities, Countries, Kingdoms, and might far better take their name from him, who is called in Hebrew Abaddon, and in Greek Apollon, but signifying a Destroyer.  Revel. 9. 11.

Daniel Cawdrey, The good man a public good.  A sermon preached to the honourable House of Commons, at the late solemn fast: January 31, 1643 (London, 1643), pp 28-9.

Robert Baillie on abhorring toleration

July 15, 2013

Robert Baillie reminds us that absolute religious toleration is an evil which is to be abhorred.  Moreover, the extract is also interesting for his acknowledgment that the more orthodox Independents (such as Jeremiah Burroughs) did not advocate the tolerationist opinions of Rodger Williams and others:

Liberty of Conscience, and Toleration of all or any Religion is so prodigious an impiety, that this religious Parliament cannot but abhor the very naming of it.  Whatever may be the opinion of Jo[hn] Godwin, of Mr [Rodger] Williams and some of their stamp, yet Mr [Jeremiah] Burrowes in his late Irenicon [sic] upon many unanswerable arguments explodes that abomination.  Likewise our Brethren who seek to be accommodate, will be willing I hope to profess their going along with us, without any considerable dissent, as in the Directory for all the parts of divine worship, so in the confession of Faith and Catechism.

Robert Baillie, A dissuasive from the errors of the time (London, 1645), epistle dedicatory.

Alexander Shields on the duty of Christians not to forsake public and private duties

July 15, 2013

“Great gospel truth, we desire to persuade you unto, is to be earnest in seeking the Lord in duty. Be diligent in keeping up your society meetings, and seek His concurrence with you therein. Set up and keep up the worship of God in your families that is now much slighted in these times of defection. Alas! many have given up with duties public and private in these times. There are few prayers put up to Heaven to the Lord for all that is come upon us. Oh, mind all the public and private duties that are bound upon you by the word of God and our covenants in this day and be sincere in them! and mock not the living God, who is a jealous God, and “will not give his glory to another, nor his praises to graven images.”

Sermons delivered in times of persecution in Scotland, by John Howie, Johnsone, Hunter, & Co., Edinburgh (1880), p. 589.

Daniel Featley, The dippers dipt. Or, the Anabaptists duck’d and plung’d over head and ears, at a disputation in Southwark

July 15, 2013

If the people of God meet in a private place, is not that then the house of God?

There is a public house of God, that is, a place frequented from common life, and dedicated to God’s service, there is a private house of God, as we read, Rom. 16:5. Where some of the faithful privately meet, and that is also called the Church; Greet the Church in thine house: and in such private it is lawful to preach in time of persecution, but not now, when we have public Churches for the service of God, to which we may and ought to repaire, and in these Churches no lay-man ought to preach, nor at all execuite the pastoral function, either there or any where else.

– Daniel Featley, The dippers dipt. Or, the Anabaptists duck’d and plung’d over head and ears, at a disputation in Southwark (5th edn, London, 1647), p. 15.

Singing of Psalmes the duty of Christians under the New Testament : or, A vindication of that Gospel-ordinance in V. sermons upon Ephesians 5.19 .. (1653)

July 14, 2013

“There can be no composures of men that will suit the occasions, necessities, afflictions, or affections of God’s people, as the psalms of David, concerning which we may say what the Jews said of manna, they have a taste and relish according to everyone’s palate. Let it once be granted that we must sing psalms, I’ll warrant you David’s psalms shall carry it; there being no art or spirit of man now that can come near that of David. What though they were penned upon occasion, and according to the necessities of God’s people then? So were the other scriptures, and yet they concern us as much now as they did the people of God then. Besides, we read that in Hezekiah’s time the Levites were to praise God with the words of David, 2 Chron. 29:30, which shews that the psalms were for the use of God’s people in after ages upon all occasions. And I would fain know what occasions God’s people now, or at any time, either have, or can have, which David’s psalms may not suit with as well, and better than any songs composed by an ordinary gift. What glorious things are spoken of Christ, his kingdom, and the great work of redemption by him? Who can admire and adore the infinite excellencies of God in better phrases and forms then the Spirit hath declared to us in David’s psalms? If we would cheer our spirits, or compose them for hearing or other duties, what more heavenly meditations? If we would commend and magnify the power, wisdom, and goodness of God in any mercy, how can we do it better than in the words of David? It would become these that quarrel at our singing of David’s psalms, to give us better in the room of them, or else to consider how they fulfil the law of Christ, when they sing neither those, nor any other.”


– Thomas Ford, Singing of Psalms the duty of Christians under the New Testament : or, A vindication of that Gospel-ordinance in sermons upon Ephesians 5.19


When Begins the Lord’s Day? [1]

July 14, 2013

48. Q. When begins the Lord’s day?

A. In the morning. Act. 20.7.

When Paul came to the Church at Troas, he had a mind to spend a Lord’s day with them, though he was in great haste to depart so soon as he could.  He came therefore to their assembly at the time that they came together according to their custom: but he kept them till the end of that day: (for he would not travel on the Lord’s day) and having dismissed the assembly, he departed.  Now it is said, that he continued his speech till midnight (Acts 20. 7) even till break of day (ver. 11.) and then departed: which departure of his is said to be on the morrow.  By this punctual expression of the time it appears that the first day of the week, the Lord’s day, ended at midnight: and that then the morrow began.  Now to make a natural day which consisteth of twenty four hours, it must begin and end at the same time: for the end of one day is the beginning of another.  There is not a minute betwixt them.  As therefore the Lord’s day ended at midnight, so it must begin at midnight: when we count the morning to begin.  Which is yet more evident by this phrase (Mat. 28.1.) In the end of the Sabbath (namely of the week before, which was the former Sabbath) as it began to dawn (namely) on the next day, which was the Lord’s day) or (as Joh. 20.1.) when it was yet dark there came divers to anoint the body of Jesus, but they found him not in the grave: he was risen before: so as Christ rose before the Sun.

William Gouge, The Sabbath’s sanctification (London, 1641), pp 24-5.