some small differences." The differences were said to be “in some accidental circumstances," such as,

1. Their ministers do pray with their heads covered; we uncovered.

2. We choose none for governing elders but such as are able to teach ; which ability they do not require.

3. Their elders and deacons are annual, or at the most for two or three years; ours perpetual.

4. Our elders do administer their office in admonitions and excommunications for public scandals, publicly and before the congregation; theirs more privately, and in their consistories.

5. We do administer baptism only to such infants as whereof the one parent, at least, is of some church, which some of their churches do not observe; although in it our practice accords with their public confession, and the judgment of the most learned amongst them. *

When these statements were submitted to Worstenholme, he asked who should make the ministers? A pregnant question, involving the main points in dispute between the Established and the Congregational churches. Sir John expected that Robinson and Brewster would “have been of the Archbishop's mind for the calling of ministers;" but he was greatly mistaken, and he is said to have“ stuck much" at the contents of the letters, which, however, being friendly to the desire and project of the Pilgrim Church, he would not show to the bishops and the Council, “lest he should spoil all.” And spoil all it would have done, doubtless, to have shown these independent scriptural principles to King James, and to have asked for a patent of liberty in religion “under the King's broad seal,” for a Church of Puritans, maintaining the liberty and power, under God, of choosing and ordaining their own ministers. One can easily conceive the answer of the blustering


Prince, 53.-Young's Chronicles, 65.

monarch to such an application. “Give a patent of liberty for such a religion? They will be for choosing their King next. We will make them conform, or hang them, that's all.”

It is probable that the King would not even have connived at them, had he known them thoroughly, and what stuff they were of. They were constituted a church by the simple resolution of the Leyden Church, “ that those who went first should be an absolute church of themselves, as well as those that staid;" and this, though they took not their pastor with them, but had only their elder. A novel kind of absolutism in church matters, indeed, to King James and his council! These men, who disposed affairs in this simple way, taking the whole power of the Hierarchy upon themselves, and into their own hands, as a band of mere Christian brethren ;-what would they not do, if these principles ran into civil and political, as well as Ecclesiastical life?

On this refusal, Gov. Bradford remarks that "notwithstanding the great discouragement the English at Leyden met with from the King and Bishops refusing to allow them liberty of conscience in America, under the Royal Seal, yet casting themselves on the care of Providence they resolved to venture." * Yes! and well they may ! For the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his; and this, Let

every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. God's seal is something broader than King James's; and under it they may venture, notwithstanding what in that age was deemed so great a discouragement, even by those noble Pilgrims.

The constitutional principles of this first Church of Christ in New England are drawn up and presented with such simplicity, clearness, and conciseness, by Mr. Prince, in his New England Chronology, that we shall, for the main part, adopt his enumeration of the articles.

* Prince, 60.

[ocr errors]


1. That no particular church ought to consist of more members than can conveniently watch over one another, and usually meet and worship in one congregation.

2. That every particular Church of Christ is only to consist of such as appear to believe in and obey him.

3. That any competent number of such, when their consciences oblige them, have a right to embody into a church for their mutual edification.

4. That this embodying is by some certain contract or covenant, either expressed or implied, though it ought to be by the former

5. That being embodied, they have a right of choosing all their officers.

6. That the officers appointed by Christ for this embodied Church are, in some respects, of three sorts, in others but two, namely,

(1.) Pastors, or Teaching Elders, who have the power both of overseeing, teaching, administering the sacraments, and ruling too, and being chiefly to give themselves to studying, teaching, and the spiritual care of the flock, are therefore to be maintained.

Mere ruling Elders, who are to help the Pastors in overseeing and ruling; that their offices be not temporary, as among the Dutch and French Churches, but continual, and

; being also qualified in some degree to teach, they are to teach only occasionally, through necessity, or in their Pastor's absence or illness; but being not to give themselves to study or teaching, they have no need of maintenance.

That the Elders of both sorts form the Presbytery of overseers and rulers, which should be in every particular church; and are in Scripture called sometimes Presbyters or Elders, sometimes Bishops or Overseers, and sometimes Rulers.

(2.) Deacons, who are to take care of the poor, and of the Church's treasure; to distribute for the support of the Pastor, the supply of the needy, the propagation of religion, and to minister at the Lord's Table, &c.

Now this is genuine Congregationalism, there being these elements of administration in every true Congregational Church, these officers of Christ's appointment. It matters little what additional “helps, governments," as they are denominated by Paul, be added to these, in the shape of Prudential Committees, or a Board of Councillors, or Committees of the Church; nor whether one church shall choose to elect them annually, and another for life or good behavior ; every church having the power to regulate these matters according to its own necessities or views of expediency. But the ministry and deaconship are essentials of every truly and fully organized church. Bishops and Deacons, or Elders and Deacons, or Presbyters and Deacons, each name signifying precisely the same thing, are the integral forms of officers appointed by Christ for each embodied Church. And whether each embodied church chooses to view these officers in the three respects noted above, and in which our Pilgrim Fathers viewed them, or in the two only, in which the Congregational Churches of New England, at the present day, ordinarily view them, intrusting a prudential power, in the third respect of mere ruling, to a separate committee ; it matters little, so long as the great point of Congregational independency under Christ is maintained. All the Scriptural elements of administration and order are in every such church.

The grand original points of Congregationalism in the church of our Fathers, as distinguishing them from all other churches, throwing them back upon the New Testament Platform, and bringing them into a succession direct from the Scriptures, were contained not merely in the restriction of this Presbytery of overseers and rulers, which ought to be in every particular church, to the Scripture

model as appointed by Christ, but in the recognition of those two other fundamental principles next enumerated by Mr. Prince:

7. That these officers, being chosen and ordained, have no lordly, arbitrary, or imposing power, but can only rule and minister with the consent of the brethren.

8. That no churches, or church officers whatever, have any power over any church or officers, to control or impose upon them ; but are equal in their rights and privileges, and ought to be independent in the exercise and enjoyment of them.

The recognition, assertion, and practical demonstration of this New Testament Independency, was a new and original thing in a world of hierarchies; a world into the soul of which the idea of power, arbitrary, compulsory power as connected with the Church of Christ, had sunk so deeply, that a church abandoning it in all forms, and throwing itself entirely upon Christ and voluntary persuasion, upon Christ, the Truth and Love, seemed the intrusion of a new, wild, disorderly heresy; seemed in one direction the abandonment of the Church of Christ to the will of man; in another direction, not only seemed, but was felt and known to be, the rescuing of the Church of Christ from the power of man, and the redeeming of that spiritual power, with which God has invested the very idea of the church, and which in the hands of ambitious men is so tremendous an engine of corruption and despotism, from the sceptre of kings, from the sway of hierarchies, from the grasp of superstition, from the dominion of the God of this world. By this independency of men and hierarchies, Christ resumes this power into his own hands, and makes it the power of his Spirit, acting on and transforming the world, not by ecclesiastical canons, but by His Truth.

Our Fathers found these two orders, and these only, of church officers, in the New Testament Scriptures, for each

« VorigeDoorgaan »