Local Church Membership is Not Necessary to Partake of the Sacraments

“John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.  And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.”

Jn. 1:4-5

“…Peter said unto them, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…  For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call…  Then they that gladly received his Word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.”

Acts 2:38-41

“….a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch…  had come to Jerusalem for to worship, was returning…  the eunuch said, ‘See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?’  And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest…  and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him…  and he went on his way rejoicing.”

Acts 8:27-28, 36-39




Baptism of the Children of Adherents



Order of Contents

Brief Propositions, Distinctions & Arguments
Articles  6
.     Latin  1
Quotes  14+
Historical  1




Coming in the days ahead Lord willing.



In Brief: 12 Propositions, 5 Distinctions & 4 Arguments

by Hudson & Rutherford


12 Propositions on the Relations of the Visible, catholic Church, Baptism & Particular Churches

Samuel Hudson

in Question 2, ‘Concerning Private Members’, pp. 257-8  of A Vindication of the Essence & Unity of the Church catholic, Visible, & the Priority Thereof in Regard of Particular Churches, in Answer to the Objections made Against it…  (London, 1650)

“1. Particular converts are first converted into the Church-catholic entitive, and secondarily conjoined into particular consociations, for the more opportune enjoyment of ordinances actually and constantly.

2. Every member of a particular congregation is a member of the Church-catholic entitive, and that relation does primarily belong unto him.

3. External profession of the true faith and subjection to God’s ordinances is enough to make a man capable of being a member of the Church-catholic visible, and so also of a particular congregation, quoad externam formam [as far as the external form].

4. By baptism members are visibly and ministerially admitted into the Church-catholic visible.

5. By excommunication rightly administered, an offender is cast out of the Church-catholic visible, as much as out of a particular congregation.

6. Federal holiness belongs to none primarily because [they are] born of members of a particular congregation, but [rather as they are] of the Church-catholic.

7. They that are only in the Church-catholic visible are not ‘without’ in the apostle’s sense [1 Cor. 5:12].

8. Children of believing parents have right to baptism, though their parents were not members of any particular congregation, and [they] are debarred from their due if [they are] denied it.

9. Every visible believer is or ought to be a member of the particular Church wherein and among whom he dwells. [This ought to be qualified by regular circumstances conducing to edification.]

10. The being in the general Covenant [of Grace] gives right to the ordinances, and not any particular covenant; neither do we find any mention in Scripture of any particular covenant either urged or used at admission of members into a particular congregation, or at the constitution thereof.

11. The invisible members of the Church which have internal communion with Christ are also visible members and have external communion in external ordinances.

12. The departure of a member from a particular congregation and removal to another for convenience or by necessity is no sin; but departing from the Church-catholic, and ceasing to be a member thereof, is a sin.”



5 Distinctions & 4 Arguments

Samuel Rutherford

pp. 185-6  of ‘Whether the Seals of the Covenant can be Denied to Professors of Approved Piety, because they are Not Members of a Particular Visible Church, in the New Testament?’  in The Due Right of Presbyteries…  (1644), pt. 2, ch. 4, section 5

“We hold all who profess faith in Christ to be members of the visible Church, though they be not members of a visible congregation, and that the seals of the Covenant [of Grace] should not be denied to them.  And for [the] more full clearing of the question, let these considerations be observed:

First Distinction:  All believers, as believers, in foro Dei, ‘before God’ have right to the seals of the Covenant [of Grace], these to whom the Covenant and body of the Charter belongs, to these the seal belongs, but in foro Ecclesiastico [in the sight of the Church], and in an orderly Church-way, the seals are not to be conferred by the Church upon persons because they believe, but because they profess their believing: therefore the apostles never baptized pagans, but upon profession of their faith.

Second Distinction:  Faith in Christ truly gives right to the seals of the Covenant [of Grace], and in God’s intention and decree, called voluntas beneplaciti [will of good-pleasure], they belong only to the invisible Church; but the orderly way of the Churches’ giving the seals is because such a society is a professing or visible Church, and [the] orderly giving of the seals according to God’s approving will, called, voluntas signi et revelata [the signified and revealed will], belongs to the visible Church.

Third Distinction:  The Church may orderly and lawfully give the seals of the Covenant to those to whom the Covenant and promises of grace do not belong in God’s decree of election.

Fourth Distinction:  The Church may lawfully add to the Church visible such as God adds not to the Church invisible, as they may add Simon Magus; and the Church may lawfully cast out of the visible Church, such as Christ has not cast out of the invisible Church, as the Church may excommunicate regenerate persons for scandalous sins.

Fifth Distinction:  Then the regenerate-excommunicated have right to the seals of the Covenant, as they have to the Covenant, and yet the Church does lawfully debar them, hic et nunc [here and now], in such a scandalous case, from the seals of the Covenant.

We hold that those who are not members of a particular congregation may lawfully be admitted to the seals of the Covenant:

First, Because those to whom the promises are made, and profess the Covenant, these should be baptized.  But men of approved piety are such, though they be not members of a particular parish.  The proposition is Peter’s argument, Acts 2:38.

Secondly, Those who are not members of a particular church may be visible professors, and so members of a visible Church.  Therefore, the seals of the Covenant belong to them.

Thirdly, The contrary opinion has no warrant in God’s Word.

Fourthly, The apostles required no more of those whom they baptized but profession of belief, as Acts 10:47, ‘Can any forbid water that these should not be baptized, who have received the Holy Ghost, as well as we?’  Acts 8:37, ‘If thou believest with all thy heart, thou mayest be baptized:’ no more is sought of the jailor, Acts 16:31,34.”





Paget, John – ‘An Answer to the Allegations of Scripture brought by Mr. [John] Davenport Against the Baptizing of such Infants whose Parents Appear to be Christians…’  in An Answer to the Unjust Complaints of William Best &…  Also an Answer to Mr. John Davenport…  his Allegations of Scripture Against the Baptizing of Some Kind of Infants…  (Amsterdam, 1635), pp. 133-41

Paget (d. 1638) was the pastor of the Reformed English Church in Amsterdam, which city was a magnet for separatists and Independents.  Davenport (1597–1670) was a congregationalist minister who had ties to the Amsterdam church of which Paget was the pastor.

Ball, John – 3rd & 4th Positions  in A Trial of the New-Church Way in New England…  (1640; 1643/1644), pp. 16-70

Ball (1585-1640) was an English puritan.  His covenant theology was influential on the Westminster Assembly.

The 3rd & 4th Positions are the errors charged by the (orthodox) old England, puritan ministers upon the New England ministers turning congregationalist.  The answers and considerations are those of the congregationalists in return.  The replies are those of John Ball on behalf of the orthodox, old England divines.

“It is obvious that the puritans, who obtained the charter of the Massachusetts Bay Company from Charles I and came to New England in 1630, were not Separatists.  They, though being non-conformists, considered themselves as loyal members of the Church of England.  Secession or separation from the national church, for them, was a sin of schism.  Nevertheless, in less than seven years, puritans in the mother country began to hear that their brethren in New England actually followed the ways of the Separatists.

Accordingly, in 1637, a formal and written communication was made, in which puritans in England put forward ‘Nine Propositions,’ to which their ‘Reverend and beloved Brethren’ in the New World replied in 1639.  This early debate was compiled by Simeon Ash and William Rathband and, four years later, published with John Ball’s ‘Reply’, under the title ‘A Letter of Many Ministers in Old England’…

The main purpose of these propositions was to find whether or not the New England brethren actually adopted the methods of the Separatists which they once denounced before they left England…

Many ministers in Old England…  were surprised at the rumor about their brethren’s sudden turn to Separatism.  Particularly, they were frightened when they received a report that the above nine propositions were practiced by New Englander ‘as the only Church way, wherein the Lord is to be worshipped.’

Of course, this report seemed to be exaggerated.  Thus, John Cotton, representing ‘the Elders of the Churches in New England,’ provided an answer to this letter in which he assured them that New England Congregational churches had nothing to do with “the ways of rigid separation.”…

Cotton’s above answer was sent to England in 1639 and Ball’s comments and reply were finished by 1640.  For some reason, however, their works were not published until 1643.” – Sang Ahn, Covenant in Conflict, pp. 54-57

Rutherford, Samuel

‘Whether the Seals of the Covenant can be Denied to Professors of Approved Piety, because they are Not Members of a Particular Visible Church, in the New Testament?’  in The Due Right of Presbyteries…  (1644), pt. 2, ch. 4, section 5, pp. 185-203

Rutherford (c. 1600-1661) was a Scottish, Westminster divine.

Rutherford gives 5 distinctions and then 4 arguments for the presbyterian position.  The rest of the section, which is most of it, he spends answering congregationalist objections.

“It should be remembered that Rutherford’s The Due Right of Prebyteries (1644) itself was his critical review of both Mather’s ‘Church Government and Church Covenant Discussed’ (1643) [a congregationalist] and [John] Cotton’s ‘The Way Of The Churches Of Christ In New-England’ [a congregationalist], whose manuscript was widely circulated in England even a few years before its publication in 1645.” – Ahn, Covenant in Conflict, p. 61

bk. 1, ch. 22, ‘Whether profession makes a member of the Church visible.  So Mr. Hooker’  in A Survey of the Survey of that Sum…  (London, 1658), pp. 122-28  Rutherford discusses this in conjuntion with a right to the seals of the Covenant.

Jeanes, Henry – The Want [Lack] of Church-Government [is] No Warrant for a Total Omission of the Lord’s Supper. Or a Brief & Scholastical Debate of that Question which has so Wonderfully Perplexed Many, Both Ministers & People: Whether or No the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper may (according to Presbyterial Principles) be Lawfully Administered [by a Minister] in an un-presbyterated church, that is, a church destitute of ruling elders. Wherein the affirmative is confirmed by many arguments, and cleared from objections, especially such as are drawn from the unavoidableness of mixed communions without ecclesiastical discipline  (London, 1650)  72 pp.

In 1650 many ministers in the episcopal Church of England were presbyterian in outlook and sought for reform unto this end.  While some progress had been made following the Westminster Assembly, the work was still very incomplete.  Oliver Cromwell, the self appointed ‘Protector’ of England, arose to civil power at this time; he was an Independent as far as Church government.  Hence, Independent churches were arising all around, sometimes with presbyterian ministers.

The Church of England’s theology was Erastian.  It did not have local church membership as we do, nor allowed for ruling elders in the churches, nor for the ecclesiastical ministry to have a right of Chuch discipline.  These conditions made it difficult, if at all possible, for ministers to have adequate oversight of their parish, and to adequately bar (beyond verbal warnings) scandalous, professing Christians from disgracing the Lord’s Supper.

In Independent churches without ruling elders, especially in large congregations, the conditions were similar.  A minister, under regular order, does not have, nor should have, of himself, the power of jurisdiction to bar persons from the Lord’s Supper.

Hence, among conscientious presbyterian ministers in these situations, there was a very real question of whether they should administer the Lord’s Supper at all, especially in light of their obligation to maintain the integrity of the Supper and their attendent responsibility, in some respect, to keep persons from scandalously abusing it.  Many ministers had determined in the negative, at least for the time, till further presbyterian reform could be made.  Such systematic reform never occured thereafter.

Henry Jeanes (1611–1662) was an English presbyterian minister that had administered the Supper, with certain qualifications, in such conditions.  A group of presbyterian ministers hence asked him to write out his reasons for this, in the hopes that he might be able to shed more light on the question for them.  The article above is Jeanes’s answer.  It is excellent.

Answering the question stated in the title of the article, of whether the Supper may be administered without ruling elders or a presbyterian church government, is quite simple:  At the end of Acts 2, the apostles, who were ministers, administered the Supper to the large and growing Chuch in Jerusalem from house to house.  Commentators, presbyterian included, nearly universally agree that they had no ruling elders, or sessions, or presbyteries.  Why an affirmative answer to the question is right, though, is a much trickier thing to explicate.

And this is the primary value of the article:  It clearly, carefully and in a balanced fashion, according to right, detailed, classic presbyterian principles shows how these things consist with each other in their right relations, this giving us an exponentially greater understanding of the Lord’s things.

See especially pp. 30-32 & 34 that the Lord’s Supper is more (1) properly and immediately worship, and (2) life-giving, and is therefore of greater import and necessity than having an eldership and exercising a negative discipline so as to exclude the scandalous beyond the verbal guarding of the Table by the minister.

A modern application of the question today is:  Whether a minister, presuaded that weekly communion is too frequent for the adequate self-preparation of the people, in how it actually plays out, and for the elders to maintain adequate circumspection of the people’s right partaking of the Supper, and yet this church practice is not going to be reformed anytime soon, whether that minister may yet in good conscience administer the Supper in these conditions for the time?  The principles discussed in the article would appear to be for the affirmative.

Cawdrey, Daniel – A Sober Answer to a Serious Question Propounded by Mr. Giles Firmin, minister: Whether the Ministers of England are Bound by the Word of God to Baptize the Children of All Such Parents which say they Believe in Jesus Christ…  Which may Serve also as an Appendix to the Diatribe with Mr. Hooker Lately Published Concerning the Baptism of Infants of Parents Not Confederate  (1652) 30 pp.

Cawdrey (1588–1664) was a Westminster divine, English clergyman and presbyterian minister.  Firmin was an English clergyman and a congregationalist.

Hudson, Samuel

pp. 223-26  in Question 2 in A Vindication of the Essence & Unity of the Church catholic, Visible, & the Priority Thereof in Regard of Particular Churches, in Answer to the Objections made Against it…  (London, 1650)  This volume was dedicated to the Westminster Assembly.

Hudson was an English presbyterian minister and divine.

pp. 38-40  in An Addition or Postscript toThe Vindication of the Essence & Unity of the Church-catholic Visible  (London, 1658)

Blake, Thomas – ch. 56, ‘The Reality of Connexion Between the Covenant & Initial Seal Asserted’  in Vindiciæ Foederis, or a Treatise of the Covenant of God…  (London, 1658), pp. 422-37

Blake (1597?–1657) was an English English puritan clergyman and controversialist of moderate Presbyterian sympathies.  He disputed in print with Richard Baxter (a congregationalist) over admission to baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

Crofton, Zachary – pp. 176-93  of ‘The Virtue & Value of Baptism, Delivered in a Summary Sermon…’  in The Virtue & Value of Baptism…  (London, 1658)

Crofton (1626–1672) was an Anglo-Irish, non-conforming minister in England from the 1640’s.  He was ejected in 1662.

Crofton has been called ‘the best known Presbyterian controversialist in the Restoration’.  He began a controversy with Bishop John Gauden respecting the Solemn League & Covenant, for the defence of which he was committed to the Tower of London.



Latin Articles

Hoornbeeck, Johannes – An Epistle on Independency [to John Duraeus], with a Newly Published Confession of the Independents, or Congregationalists, in England, to which has been Added a Dissertation with Notes on Episcopacy Reduced to the Form of a Governing Synod, by Jacob Usserius…  (Utrecht, 1661)

‘Whether infants of parents, either non-members of particular churches or that are excommunicated, are to be baptized?’, pp. 313-33

‘The communions of Christianity’, pp. 333-45

‘Of baptizing spurious and exposititiis infants [from fornication, adultery, etc.]’, pp. 345-46

‘Counsel for a More Holy Use of the Sacrament’, pp. 346-50



Order of Quotes  14

Reformed Churches of France
C. Olevian
J. Paget
Puritan Ministers of England
R. Bernard
G. Gillespie
S. Rutherford
W. Rathband
A. Forbes
A. Steuart
T. Edwards
S. Hudson
R. Baillie
Sundry London Ministers
D. Cawdrey
J. Bastwick





The Discipline of the Reformed Churches of France

Ch. 12, ‘Of the Lord’s Supper’, Canon XII  (1559)  in Synodicon in Gallia Reformata, vol. 1, p. xlviii

“Canon 12:  Such as care not to come unto our public Christian congregations, but only upon those days when the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is celebrated, shall be reproved and admonished of their duty, and to this purpose they shall join themselves unto one certain particular church.  (N. B. This last clause is only in my edition of Paris and Rouen, 1663.)”

[This canon assumes that Christians (part of the universal, visible Church of Christ) that were not joined in membership to a local church were allowed to take the Lord’s Supper, as a consequence otherwise is not mentioned.]


Caspar Olevian

‘Communion of the Saints’  in An Exposition of the Symbol of the Apostles…  (London, 1581), pp. 239-40

“The communion of saints signifies both that same outward fellowship, whereby the people as members of the visible Church through the ministry of the doctrine both of the prophets and apostles, and also of the sacraments, are called into one body…

Concerning that same outward union we must know that the truth of the prophetical, and apostolical doctrine is an undoubted token of the visible Church, 1 Tim. 3.  Besides all that profess that same truth, wheresoever they shall come in the world to any visible company of the Church, they have right to communicate in hearing the word, in prayers, and receiving of the sacraments, Isa. 2:2-3…”



John Paget

An Answer to the Unjust Complaints of William Best & of such Other as have Subscribed Thereunto.  Also an Answer to Mr. John Davenport [a congregationalist]…  his Allegations of Scripture Against the Baptizing of Some Kind of Infants  (Amsterdam, 1635), ‘An Answer to the Allegations of Scripture brought by Mr. Davenport, Against the Baptizing of such Infants whose Parents Appear to be Christians…’, p. 141 ff.  Paget (c.1574–1638 or 1640) was an English puritan and presbyterian minister in Amsterdam, firmly opposed to the English separatistic and Independent churches that had magnetized to Amsterdam.

“For Rom. 4:11, Abraham is there called the father of all them that believe, whether they were members of a particular visible Church or not.  And for ought we find in the holy story, there might be some believers even in Abraham’s own time that were neither members of Abraham’s family, nor yet under the government or guidance of any particular church.

If a son or bond-servant of Ephron the Hittite, or of any other Amorite or Canaanite were then brought unto the knowledge of the true God, and to wait for the promise, why might not the infant of such an one have then been circumcised, though not living in a visible Church?

3. Those that for the present live not under the discipline and
a particular Church, and yet make profession of true religion with the true visible Churches, and bring their children to them to be baptised, making solemn promise to bring up their children in the faith that is professed in those Churches; of which sort there are a great number in these Low-countries [the Netherlands], because none here are compelled to the sacraments, nor to subjection under the discipline: These in special are the persons that in our question are ‘without’ [the Church in a certain sense].

These parents, though in regard of that Church where they received their own baptism, and in regard of that Church whereunto they bring their infants to be baptized, they profess and practice some imperfect communion therewith, and therefore in some sense may be said to be of such Churches; yet because for the present they live not within the pale of any ecclesiastical government, neither are subject unto the discipline, either of one or other Church, in this regard are such here commonly said to be ‘without’.  Now how Mr. Davenport will deduct and infer from the place alleged [1 Cor. 5:12] that these kind of parents are not to have the privilege of Christians, so far that their infants may be baptized, that cannot I comprehend: this remains to be manifested by him.

Those only, according to the order of these Reformed Churches, are admitted for complete members of the Church, who bringing testimony of their good conversation, after examination and profession of their agreement with us in the same faith and religion, and after solemn covenant and promise of submission unto that discipline and government exercised amongst them, have their names published before the whole congregation the Lord’s-Day following, and when no just exception comes against them, are then received and confirmed for members of such particular churches.  But that the children of these only are to be baptized, that is not made to appear from the sentence of Paul, 1 Cor. 5:12.

For this third sort of persons without, though their fault be great in not joining unto some particular church when opportunity permits, though some through ignorance and error, and some for their carnal case and other sinister respects, do abstain from joining themselves unto the church: yet even among these also some have more knowledge of the truth and are more frequent in attending upon the public worship of God, and are otherwise more unblameable in their conversation than some of those…”


A Defence of Church-Government, Exercised in Presbyterial, Classical & Synodal Assemblies, according to the Practice of the Reformed Churches…  (d. 1640; London, 1641), ‘The Publisher to the Christian Reader’, no page number

“…these two points that were at the same time opposed [by separatists and Independents], to wit, the due power of classes [presbyteries] and synods, and the lawfulness of baptizing infants, whose parents are no members of a particular congre∣gation.”


Puritan Ministers of England

‘The Letter of those Ministers in England, who requested to know the judgement of their Brethren in New England, in Nine Positions…’  in Simeon Ashe, John Ball, etc., A Letter of Many Ministers in Old England Requesting the Judgement of their Reverend Brethren in New England concerning Nine Positions written Anno Dom. 1637: together with their Answer…  (1637; London, 1643)

“Whiles we lived together in the same kingdom, we professed the same faith, joined in the same ordinances, labored in the work of God to gain souls unto his kingdom, and maintained the purity of worship against corruptions, both on the right hand and on the left.  But since your departure into New England, we hear (and partly believe it) that diverse have embraced certain vain opinions, such as you disliked formerly, and we judge to be groundless and unwarrantable.  As…

3. That the children of godly and approved Christians are not to be baptized until their parents be set members of some particular congregation.

4. That the parents themselves, though of approved piety are not to be received to the Lord’s Supper until they be admitted as set members.

These and other such like (which we omit to reckon up) are written and reported to be the common tenets in New England, which are received with great applause, maintained with great confidence and applauded as the only Church way wherein the Lord is to be worshipped…

And if it be to us grief of heart to hear that you have changed from that truth which you did profess and embrace that for truth which in former times, upon sound grounds, you did condemn as erroneous, we hope you will not be offended…

Error is very fruitful and will spread apace.  A crack in the foundation may occasion a wide breach in the building, where there will not be means, or mind to amend it.  Experience everyday may tutor us herein…

You yourselves have judged that to be error which now you take to be truth when yet you were not blinded with by-respects, nor hoodwinked your eyes, that you might not see the light.  And if you have just warrant from God to pull down what you have builded, and to build what you have pulled down…”


Richard Bernard

32 Questions  (1639)  in Richard Mather, Church-Government & Church-Covenant Discussed, in an Answer of the Elders of the Several Churches in New-England to Two & Thirty Questions Sent Over to Them by Diverse Ministers in England, to Declare their Judgments Therein…  (London, 1643)  Bernard was an English puritan.  These questions were answered by the New England congregationalists, but it does not appear that Bernard ever published a response (at least that is on the internet) to those answers.

“Question 3:  Whether do you not hold all visible believers to be within the visible Church as members thereof, and not ‘without’, in the apostle’s sense, 1 Cor. 5, and therefore ought so to be acknowledged and accepted in all congregations wheresoever they shall come, and are so known: and ought (if they desire and be not otherwise unfit) of right to be permitted to partake in all God’s ordinances and Church privileges there, so far as they personally concern themselves, although they be not as yet fixed members in particular covenant, either with that congregation where for the present they reside, nor with any other?

Question 4:  Whether you do not hold that baptism rightly (for substance) partaked does make them that are so baptized, members of the visible Church: and so to have right (at least quoad nos [as far as to us]) to all the privileges thereof (so far as they are otherwise fit) until they be cast out (if they so deserve) by excommunication.”


George Gillespie

Assertion of the Government of Scotland…  (Edinburgh, 1641)

pt. 1, ch. 2, ‘Of the Function of Ruling Elders…’, pp. 12-13

“The power of order comprehends such things as a minister by virtue of his ordination may do without a commission from any presbytery or assembly of the Church, as to preach the Word, to minister the sacraments, to celebrate marriage, to visit the sick, to catechize, to admonish, etc.”


pt. 2, ch. 11, ‘Objections…’

pp. 196-99

“We may consider a visible Church either metaphysically or politically.  It is one thing to consider men as living creatures endued with reason, another thing to consider them as magistrates, masters, fathers, children, servants, etc.  So is it one thing to consider a visible Church as a society of men and women separated from the blind world by divine vocation, and professing together the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Another thing to consider it as a political body in which the power of spiritual government and jurisdiction is exercised, some governing and some governed.

These are very different considerations: for first, a visible Church being taken entitatively or metaphysically, her members do ordinarily communicate together in those holy things which fall under the power of order, which I may call sacra mistica; but being taken politically, her members communicate together in such holy things as fall within the compass of the power of jurisdiction, which I may call sacra politica.

Secondly, infants under age being initiated in baptism, are actually members of the Church in the former consideration, but potentially only in the latter, for they neither govern, nor yet have the use of reason to be subject and obedient to those that do govern.

Thirdly, one must necessarily be a member of the Church metaphysically before he can be a member of the Church politically, but not contrariwise.

Fourthly, many visible Churches have sometimes been, and may be without officers, and so without ecclesiastical government and exercise of jurisdiction for that time, yet still retaining the essence of true visible churches: whereas a church which never yet had any officers ordained therein (of which kind there have been many at the first conversion of a nation to the Gospel) or which has losed all her officers by death or persecution, is not for that time an ecclesiastical republic, nor can be such till she have officers.  This if they had observed who have taken so great pains to prove that there has been, and may be a Church without officers, it should happily have made them think their labor lost.  It might also have taught Henry Iacob to distinguish between a Church visible and a Church ministerial or political, and not to understand these three terms to be all one, as he does in his Letter, bearing date the 4th of September, 1611. p. 9.

Fifthly, my being a member of any one visible Church metaphysically, giveth me right and title to communicate with another visible Church (where for the time I am) in sacris misticis, such as the word, prayer, etc.  But my being a member of any one visible Church politically does not give me right and title to communicate with another visible Church (where for the time I am) in sacris politicis, such as ordination, deposition, excommunication, etc.”


pp. 201-2

“Objection [of a congregationalist]:  The union betwixt Christ and his Church is as strait and immediate, as the union betwixt the vine and the branches, betwixt the head and the body, betwixt the Husband and the Wife.  Therefore every true Church of Christ has direct and immediate interest in, and title to Christ Himself, and the whole New Testament, and every ordinance of it.

Answer:  The strait union betwixt Christ and the Church, expressed by these comparisons, cannot be understood of the Church taken politically: for then the union betwixt Christ and the Church might be dissolved as often as the Church ceases to be ordered and governed as an Ecclesiastical republic.  It is therefore to be understood either of the invisible Church, or at most of the visible Church taken metaphysically or entitatively.  But I add withal, it is to be likewise understood of every faithful Christian: so that not only every true Church, but every true member thereof, by virtue of this union, has direct and immediate title to Christ, and to the benefit of all his ordinances for his edification and salvation.”


Samuel Rutherford

A Peaceable & Temperate Plea…  (London, 1642), p. 5

“The exercise of the keys to preach and administer the seals of grace, to open and shut Heaven by the keys, is given to the rulers in some things as they are scattered and single men, as to preach and administer the sacraments, without consent in special to every singular act: in some things, as to exercise power of jurisdiction, the exercise and the power is given to a community, not to one, unitati, non uni [a unity is not one], as Gerson observes from Augustine, and Augustine from the Word, Mt. 16; for the Church, not one single man, has power of discipline:”


A Survey of the Survey of that Sum…  (London, 1658), bk. 3, ch. 2, ‘Of the First Subject of the Power of the Keys’, p. 293

“John Baptist and the apostles, Acts 8; Jn. 3, after a con­fession never asked for their conversion, but baptized, for straightway without delay, even in the night (for so the Word notes, Mt. 21:19; Luke 4:39 & 5:25 & 8:44) the jailor and his house, Acts 16, Cornelius and his house, Acts 10, the eunuch, the multitude of John Baptist’s hearers were baptized members of the universal Church, 1 Cor. 12:12-13, where there was no particular congregation to receive and ad­mit them as members, as Mr. Richard Baxter solidly observes.

Nor is it worthy the refuting that the apostles, by an extraordinary power, might baptize them, though to no certain church, but pastors now have not that power: for the apostles bapti­zing and preaching, and administering the other seal differ not.  The apostles preached and baptized in all places as ordi­nary officers by the same command, Mt. 28:19, by which we teach and baptize in species and nature, from the ordinary pastoral acts of an or­dinary minister; they speak with tongues, [and] work miracles as a­postles, but they preach and baptize hic & nunc as ordinary officers.”


William Rathband

A Brief Narration of Some Church Courses held in Opinion & Practice in the Churches lately Erected in New England…  (London, 1644), ch. 4, pp. 19-20

“11. This [church] covenant (thus distinguished from the Covenant of Grace) they hold to be that covenant which is sealed by the sacraments, and for the sealing and ratifying of which the sacraments were principally ordained of God, and therefore to be administered only to such as are first entered into this covenant, as seals thereof.  Apology, p. 15, 19, 31; Answer to 9; pos. pp. 63 & 66.  And therefore, that such persons as (by their condition) cannot join in church covenant, nor live in church fellowship with a set society, are not bound to partake in sacraments. Apology, pp. 39 & 41.

See [John] Robinson, Justification, pp. 80 & 110, though I do not find the Brownists so solicitously to distinguish between the church covenant and the Covenant of Grace as these our [Independent and congregationalist] brethren do.”


Alexander Forbes

An Anatomy of Independency, or a Brief Commentary & Moderate Discourse upon the Apologetical Relation of Mr. Thomas Goodwin and Mr. Philip Nye, etc….  (London, 1644), p. 26

“Fifthly, in the administration of the sacraments they [the Independents] differ from them [the reformed Churches] also, for they will baptize none but the children of their own members.”


Adam Steuart

The Second Part of the Duply to M.S. alias Two Brethren: Wherein are Maintained the King’s, Parliament’s, & All Civil Magistrates’ Authority about the Church. Subordination of Ecclesiastical Judicatories. Refuted the Independency of Particular Congregations…  (London, 1644), p. 92  Steuart (1591–1654) was a Scottish presbyterian, philosopher, controversialist and professor in both France and the Netherlands.

“14. I would willingly inquire of the Independents, to what church were added so many thousands that were baptized by the apostles and added unto the Church in one day?  Whether to a particular congregation, or to a greater ecclesiastical consociation?  It could not be to a particular congregation:

1. For the reasons I have already produced.

2. Because the apostles were not particular, but universal ministers, set over the universal militant Church; and therefore, in virtue of their charge, admitted them to be members of all the Churches, whereof they were ministers.

3. Because they were of diverse and sundry countries: neither is it credible that to be a member of the Church, they were bound to quit their countries and to stay at Jerusalem, howsoever so long as they did stay there, they might participate as well of all the rest of God’s ordinances, as of baptism: Ergo, they were added to some greater consociation, viz. to that, and to all those, whereof the apostles were ministers; for out of all doubt, the apostles who baptized them could not refuse to admit them unto the Lord’s Table wherever they celebrated the sacrament.”


Thomas Edwards

Antapologia, or a Full Answer to the Apologetical Narration of Mr. Goodwin, Mr. Nye, Mr. Sympson, Mr. Burroughs, Mr. Bridge…  (London, 1644)

p. 52

“…that such who were known to be godly might not come to the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, unless they were members of some particular congregation, and so, in their partaking with you, they must yield that grand Brownistical principle, the foundation of other errors among the Separatists, namely, that sacraments belong not to visible believers, but as they are members of some particular congregation…

And let me entreat you, in your reply you [will] give to this answer, to give me a Scripture to prove that all men who come to the Lord’s Supper must profess their membership and their retaining to such a particular congregation: I profess myself of another judgement, and cast the glove to any of you five, or to you all; That it is lawful for the ministers of Christ to receive such whom they know to be godly to the Lord’s Supper, though they be not members of a particular church, and to receive those who are members without any [of them] professing themselves to be so:

Suppose some godly merchants or marriners, who all their days travel and never stay long in any one place, yet in all places where they come, desire to join in the ordinances, ought not such to be received?  The standing rule of coming to the Lord’s Supper will be found to be faith and godliness shown forth, rather than the formality of membership:

…so I find Mr. Batchelour (one of you) writing from Rotterdam of your churches, that they will not keep back the sacrament from any of the godly of such churches in England, as Mr. Goodwin’s and Mr. Calamy’s are (always provided that their own pastors do consent unto it).  Now the godly who are gone into Holland, and especially to New-England, not finding any such word in Scripture of bringing a ticket from their ministers, and so coming into those countries without it, may be long kept from the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper till they either go [back] into England and fetch it, or till they send for it over, and have a return back of the consent of their own pastors (which may be, was the reason, that though you offered to receive into the Communion of the Lord’s Supper some godly that came to visit you in your exile, yet for want of bringing their pastor’s consent unto it, returned into England without partaking in the Lord’s Supper with you).  Which (by the way) will be a good warning for all that henceforth go over into Holland or New-England, to carry their minister’s consents over with them, lest otherwise they be not admitted to the Lord’s Supper…”


pp. 293-4

“7. Independency and the Church way, besides the evil of it in itself considered (as being a schism in forsaking the reformed Churches and constituting new, the way of constituting Churches by the people, the way of making their ministers, the refusing of believers and their children to the sacraments (unlesse they be church members) with many more, all slat against the primitive patterns) has ever been from first to last a fountain of evil and a root of bitterness, of many bitter divisions and separations amongst themselves, of manifold errors and other mischiefs in those churches and places where they lived, God having always witnesses against it, and never blessing it with peace and truth.”


p. 296

“…and if Brownism be a bitter error and way, then the way of the Apologists [who are congregationalists] is not very sweet, their way being but Brown’s younger brother, agreeing with the Brownists in the nature and definition of the visible Church, in the independent power of a particular congregation, in the way of making officers, in the way of their ordinances, as prophesying, in the way of forms of prayer, in the sacraments, none to be admitted but church members, cum multis alijs [with many other things], and I desire the Apologists to give any material difference (however their grounds are different, and they do not go so far in consequences, nor are not so gross) between their churches and the Brownists:”


The First & Second Part of Gangraena: or a Catalogue & Discovery of Many of the Errors, Heresies, Blasphemies & Pernicious Practices of the Sectaries of this Time, Vented & Acted in England in these Four Last Years  (London, 1646), pp. 13 & 25

“…the Catalogue itself, containing many errors, blasphemies and practices of the sectaries of this time…  Now the errors, heresies, blasphemies in this Catalogue particularized, may be referred to sixteen heads or sorts of sectaries, as namely, 1. Independents. 2. Brownists…

109. That none are to be admitted to the Lord’s Supper, though believers and saints, nor their children to be baptized, but only they who are members in a church-way.”


The Casting Down of the Last & Strongest Hold of Satan, or a Treatise Against Toleration & Pretended Liberty of Conscience…  (London, 1647), 17th thesis, p. 76

“Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, preaching of the Word, to speak properly, are not points of government and order, but the worship of God.”


Samuel Hudson

The Essence & Unity of the Church, catholic, visible: and the Priority thereof in regard of Particular Churches Discussed  (London, 1645)

pp. 16-17

“Also it is said, Acts 2:47, ‘God added to the Church daily such as should be saved’; which was not a particular congregational church, but the catholic.  For it is not probable that those hundred and twenty that were together at Pentecost were one congregational church, for many of them were men of Galilee, which by their habitation could not pertain to the Church in Jerusalem, and yet the rest were added to them.

Again Eph. 4:4-5, the apostle proves the Church to be but one by diverse arguments.  First he says, ‘There is but one body’ of Christ…  Secondly, there is but one Spirit in that whole body, which is as one soul in one body.  Thirdly, there is but one hope of their calling.  Fourthly, there is but one Lord or King over the whole Church.  Fifthly, there is but one Faith, i.e. one religion, doctrine, worship, the same commands and statutes for all.  Sixthly, There is but one baptism to admit into this Church.

Now if the whole world were under one King, and governed by one Law, and all capable of the same privileges, and all made denizons by the same way of enrollment, it would make but one empire; yet so it is with all the Churches in the world: they have the same King, Law, Word, sacraments, of admission and nutrition, which they visibly subject themselves unto and receive; therefore they are all one visible Church.”


p. 27

Secondly, for ordinances, either of worship or discipline, they are both privileges of the Church catholic, primarily.  For worship, a man or a child has right to baptism as a member of the Church catholic, and not of the particular congregation, for they had right before congregations were distinguished, as in John Baptist’s and Christ’s time, and the Eunuch’s case, and have right after that relation ceases as children born in captivity, as in the former instances, such children being holy, are capable of baptism.  Infants baptizandi sunt, non ut sancti sint, sed quia sancti sunt [are to be baptized, not so that may be holy, but because they are holy].  [William] Whitaker.  And therefore [there is] no question but any minister might baptize those children if he could come by them.”


p. 29

“Fourthly, the signs that difference a true Church from a false, do not primarily belong to a particular congregation, but to the Church-catholic-visible, viz. profession of the true faith, the administration of the true ordinances of God, the Word and sacraments; for therein all the whole Church agree, and is thereby distinguished from those that are without, not from those that are within.  This is no note to know this or that particular church by, from another, for it is common to the universal Church, it distinguishes not among themselves, but from the general common opposite: the heathen, or the gross heretic.

A man being lead into a vault where were the skulls of many dead men, and understanding that Alexander’s skull was there, desired his guide to show him that; his guide told him it was that skull with the hollow eye holes and with the gristly nose, and with futures crossing the brain pan, and when the man replied that they had all so, yea says his guide, there is no difference between kings and other men’s skulls when they are dead.

So if any man should ask you or me which is the church of Ipswich, Dedham or Colchester, it were a folly to say it is the Church where the word of God is preached and sacraments administered, and that profess Jesus Christ to be crucified, dead and buried, risen again, and ascended into Heaven, for so do all the Church catholic, but I must give some other notes to distinguish any of them, for these are not distinctive, because common.  Therefore the signs of the true Church belong primarily to the whole, secondarily to particular parts thereof, and are therefore not distinctive to the parts.  That which is primary to any thing is distinctive to that thing, but that which is secondary and common is not distinctive from other particulars of the like kind.”


pp. 30-31

“If they be converted from heathens, they are not first converted into this or that particular church, but converted first into the Church catholic, and then secondarily admitted members of this or that particular congregation…

They are made members of the whole, by conversion to the faith, and initiated by the sacrament of baptism externally, but are secondarily made members of a particular congregation, by cohabitation, or consociation.

Suppose a man had abundance of sheep as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Job, who had 14,000, and these sheep had all one brand of the owners upon them, and these sheep were divided into several flocks, under several shepherds, in several sheep-walks, of the same owners, according to his appointment: the primary consideration of any of these sheep or flocks is not that they are under such a keeper, in such a sheep walk, but the first consideration of them is that they are such a man’s sheep, either bought or bred etc. bearing his brand and fed by his servants, on his ground; and then the more particular and secondary consideration and notion is that they are under such a particular shepherd in such a particular walk.  And so the first consideration of any part of Gods flock, whether person or congregation is that they are God’s people, born or converted to Him, fed and nourished by his ordinances and ministers, and then the particular secondary notion is that they are fed by such a pastor in such a place.”


pp. 32-33

“Sixthly, the ministers are primarily ministers of the Church catholic; secondarily, of this or that particular flock or congregation: and therefore the catholic is the prime Church.  And this appears by this demonstration:  That Church to the which the donation of the ministry was first made, is the first subject thereof, but that was the Church catholic, therefore.  For proof hereof see 1 Cor. 12:28-29, ‘God hath set some in the Church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers.’  Now this Church was the Church catholic, and not any particular congregation, for it is the Church to which the Lord gave apostles.  Note also from hence, that the same Church to which God gave apostles, and prophets, to the same He gave teachers also.  Bishop and pastor may seem to be in respect to the particular relation to some particular place, wherein by the polity of the Church a particular minister is set, but presbyter, minister, and teacher, more general, extending to the whole Church catholic.  Paul an apostle calls himself a teacher and preacher, 2 Tim. 1:11.  Peter also and John the apostles call themselves presbyters, 1 Pet. 5:1-2; Ep. John 1; 3 John 1, we find also that ministers are in Scripture spoken of under a general notion.  They are called ministers of the Word, Luke 1:2, and ministers of God, 2 Cor. 6:4, and ministers of Christ, 1 Cor. 4:1, and ministers of the New Testament, 2 Cor. 3:6, and ministers of the Gospel, 1 Thess. 3:2, and ministers of the Lord, Eph. 6:21, where the ministerial office is noted by the reference thereof to the author that employs them, and the subject about which they are employed, and not by the object to whom they preached; They are not called ministers of the people, but their teachers, rulers, pastors, overseers, or ministers for them, Col. 1:7.

And if a minister of this or that congregation were not a minister of the Church catholic visible, then he were no minister out of his own congregation, and therefore could not preach, or administer any sacrament, as a minister, out of his own congregation.”


A Vindication of the Essence & Unity of the Church catholic, Visible, & the Priority Thereof in Regard of Particular Churches, in Answer to the Objections made Against it…  (London, 1650), Question 1, ch. 7, p. 175

“A man may administer sacraments where he preaches not, as the apostles baptized, but Christ only preached there.  And he that baptized Cornelius and his company, did not preach unto them, but Peter only preached.  We read not that the [Greek] or minister, which Paul and Barnabas carried about with them, did preach.

A minister may both preach and administer sacraments where he rules not, as Philip to the eunuch, the apostles and the 70 in Christ’s time: and ministers that preach abroad in a journey, or at a lecture.”


Robert Baillie

A Dissuasive from the Errors of the Time, wherein the Tenets of the Principal Sects, Especially of the Independents, are Drawn Together in One Map  (1645), ch. 6, pp. 119-20

“In the sacrament of baptism the Independents lay a pathway to Anabaptism, for first they come close up to the most rigid Brownists, denying baptism to the most part of Christian infants; yea they will grant it to a very few: to these alone whose immediate parents are members of their congregation, who are a wonderful poor handful: all other infants they will have unbaptized till they come to the years of understanding and declare not only their actual faith and holiness, but their subjection to the Kingdom of Christ, that is to their Independency: they will have no stipulation made for the infants’ education…

Secondly, they esteem not baptized infants to be members of their church before they have entered into their [church] covenant; till then they hold them from the Lord’s Table and all the acts of discipline, as people without the Church and not members of it: If it be so, their baptism was of so small use that well they might have wanted it to the time of their admission to be members.”



A Consideration of Certain Controversies at this Time Agitated in the Kingdom of England, concerning the Government of the Church of God.  Written at the Command and appointment of the [Dutch] Walachrian Classis [Presbytery]  (London, 1645), ch. 2, ‘Of a Church Covenant’, pp. 17-23

“2. We deny also that by such a church-covenant [of the Independents] that right is obtained which the members of a Church in ecclesiastical communion have to the sacraments of grace, the privileges of the ecclesiastical ministry and other benefits which Christ has given to his Churches.  The reasons of our denial are these:

1. Because the apostles have not ordained any such church-covenant between the members and the pastors of a church; neither in the admission of members into the Church did require such a covenant as necessary: but by the sacrament of baptism they received such as professed the truth and holiness into the Church-visible, and joined in the same exercises of divine worship with those who were without any such covenant received into an ecclesiastical body with themselves.  See Acts 2:42,47; 5:13; 8:12; 9:6 & 18:8.

2. Under the Old Testament the particular churches in the synagogues entered not into any solemn church-covenant in the admission of members: but only on extraordinary occasions, when they had made defection from God, all the faithful of the whole national Church renewed their Covenant with God, for restoring the decayed worship of God; or when they were by some other necessity called upon for renewing such a covenant.

3. No man can enjoin anything upon the consciences of men (as absolutely necessary to enjoying the sacraments of divine grace and the benefits of the ministry of the Church) which God hath not enjoined; without damnable will-worship.  But God has not enjoined such a Covenant on the consciences of men as absolutely necessary: for there is no law of God wherein He has enjoined a necessity of this covenant as the essential form of Church-communion, so as that without it no man can be [a] member of a visible Church, or have right to the seals of the Covenant: Therefore the necessity of this covenant is a will-worship and so to be rejected.

4. The means whereby the members of a Church-visible are associated and united into external ecclesiastical communion, are baptism under the New Testament, as circumcision was under the Old Testament, 1 Cor. 12:13, as Cornelius, Acts 10:47, Lydia, Acts 16:15 and others, were by baptism engrafted into the body of the Church visible: which in those of years is joined with an embracing and profession of sound doctrine and subjection to the ordinances of God; as appears in the believers, Acts 2:41, the Bereans, Acts 17:10, and by Christ’s commandment, Mt. 28:19.

Hence say the Professors of Leiden, that beside the primary uses of the sacrament of baptism, there are other secondary uses of it: to wit, the external engrafting them into a particular visible Church, Acts 2:41, the uniting of Christs members amongst themselves and into one body: 1 Cor. 12:12, and consequently upon these, a signification of our profession; and a distinction and separation from all other assemblies of unbelievers.  This Church-covenant therefore is not the formal reason of our ecclesiastical communion in the Church-visible.  Hence also our churches of the Netherlands in admitting of pastors or Church members do not enter into any such Church-covenant: which yet are true visible Churches of God; whose members have all essential requisites necessary to Church communion in the visible-Church.

3. We reject also the opinion of those who affirm that the sacraments of the Old and New Testament are signs and seals to confirm this Church-covenant, and so instituted by God for the ratifying of it; that they are to be administered to those only, who are by such a Church-covenant united amongst themselves; but to be denied to others, though known to be godly, who be not in such a Church-communion and strict fellowship.  Whereas it does most clearly appear out of the holy Scriptures that the sacraments were instituted by God in his Church, chiefly and in the first place to be signs and seals of the Covenant of Grace, and of the benefits promised in the Covenant of Grace, and of salvation procured by Christ for us, as is manifest by the sacrament of circumcision, Gen. 17:7,10; Rom. 4:11, of the Passover, 1 Cor. 5, of Baptism, Mark 1:4; Acts 2:38-39 and 22:16; Rom. 6:3-4; Titus 3:5, and of the Lord’s Supper, Mt. 26:26-28; 1 Cor. 11:24-26.  But in a secondary respect we acknowledge the Sacraments to be seals of our outward engrafting into the Church-visible, and our conjunction into one body of the Church, Acts 2:41; 1 Cor. 12:12-13, and that, as we conceive, of the catholic Church; so that he that is baptized is not baptized into the communion only of this or that particular, or parochial Church, but is joined into that one body of the Church catholic and universal: as the whole ministry of the Church is given by Christ to men, to bring them to the unity and conjunction of the Church catholic and universal, and to engraft them as members into it, Eph. 4:11-12; 1 Cor. 12:28; Rom. 12:5-7.  And as by Excommunication duly performed the person excommunicate is not cast out of this or that particular Church only, but is bound all the world over, and shut out from the brotherly communion of the Church universal, Mt. 18:17-18, so the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper are seals to a man of ecclesiastical communion, not only in a particular Church, but in the Church universal.  And therefore we hold that these sacraments are to be administered not to those only who by a Church Covenant have joined themselves to some particular Church, but to all the members of the Church catholic, who have duly prepared themselves for the partaking of them.

Thus our Belgic churches deny not the seal of Baptism to the children of those parents, who have not by a confession of faith and submission to ecclesiastical discipline, joined themselves to any particular church; according to the practice of the Jewish Church, Josh. 5:4-6, as neither do we deny the participation of the Lord’s Supper to those who by reason of the necessity of their calling cannot join themselves to any particular Church, but are forced to travel through diverse parochial churches.”


Sundry London Ministers

The Divine Right of Church Government…  (1645; London, 1654; 1844), pt. 1

ch. 4

“So the admitting of infants to the first initiating sacrament of the Old Testament, circumcision, because they with their parents’ were accounted within the Covenant of Grace by God, Gen. 17, is a rule for us now to admit infants to the first initiating sacrament of the New Testament, baptism, because infants are federally holy and within the covenant with their believing parents now, as well as then, Rom. 11:16; 1 Cor. 7:14; Col. 2:11-12.  Thus the baptizing of diverse persons formerly, though into no particular congregation, nor as members of any particular congregation, as the eunuch, Acts 8; Lydia, Acts 16; the jailer, Acts 16; because it was sufficient they were baptized into that one general visible body of Christ, 1 Cor. 12:12-13, is a rule for us what to do in like cases upon the same common ground.”


ch. 6

“By God’s act of setting in the Church some, first apostles, &c., 1 Cor. xii. 28, all those officers belong to the general visible Church by divine right.”


Daniel Cawdrey

Vindiciæ Clavium: or, A Vindication of the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, into the Hands of the Right Owners. Being some Animadversions upon a Tract of Mr. John Cotton’s…  (1645), ch. 4, pp. 39-41  Cawdrey was an English presbyterian and Westminster divine.

“1. But come we to your [congregationalist] particulars: First, ‘by way of participation of the Lord’s Supper, the members of one church coming to another church, etc.’  But: 1. Why do you instance in this ordinance only?  Have not their children, occasionally born there, a liberty also of baptisme?  The rather, because baptism is not administred with respect to this or that church, but to the general visible Church: Unless you hold that a man or child is baptized to no church but that particular, and [is] an infidel to all the rest.  Yet some of your brethren will hardly baptize a child of any but a member of their own church, which is next door to Anabaptism.

…4. But your reason I like very well: ‘For we receive the Lord’s Supper, not only as a seal of our communion with the Lord Jesus, and with his members in our own church, but also in all the churches of the saints’:  Whence I infer, then, it is not any favour dispensed by you to a member of another church, but a dignity or privilege common to every member of that body, by virtue of that membership, and not with respect to his particular church membership.

And I pray, is not baptism also a seal of our communion with all the members of Christ’s body?  Why then may you not admit the children of the members of any church to be baptized by your pastors upon just occasion, as well as to admit the parents to the Lord’s Supper?  Nay further: If the sacraments be seals of our communion with all the members of Christ, why do you not admit any true Christian, and his children, to the communion of the sacraments, though they be not as yet admitted members of any particular congregation?  How dare you deny any member of that Body communion with its fellow-members, when it has union and communion with the Head? Consider it.”


The Inconsistency of the Independent Way with Scripture & Itself…  (London, 1651), no page number

“6. [The Independents hold] ‘That none but confederates by the explicit Church-Covenant have right to Ordinances’: which is to keep out many precious souls from communion with their fellow-members, and their children from baptism, and to make them no better than infidels.”


Independency a Great Schism Proved Against Dr. [John] Owen…  (London, 1657), ch. 5, pp. 89-90

“That all the members of the catholic Church should meet together to hear one sermon, to partake of one sacrament, etc. as it was possible once, when their number was but an 120, Acts 1, so they are bound still, but that the multitude makes it impossible.  That the particular congregations should join together in the same specifical ordinances, and have officers over them alike, is certainly an institution of Jesus Christ, as well, as to make the same profession of faith, and hope.

Indeed, that, being so numerous, they should have one officer over them all, and join to hear one sermon, or receive the same sacrament numerical (as he [Owen] speaks) is a ridiculous fancy; and not only false, but impossible.  But I would gladly know a reason why 40 or more members of no particular church, but only of the catholic, meeting together, and having a minister among them, may not join together to worship God in prayer, preaching and partaking of the sacrament, as well as the members of several particular churches, and himself [Owen] among them, may do the same; as they do often at London and Oxford when he preaches, unless he will count those ordinances then and there administered no acts of instituted worship;

And if he grant them to be worship, how can he deny [on his principles] that assembly to be a particular church, though it be not fixed nor gathered and united by any explicit covenant, or consent to live and die together [as congregationalists held].  I shall only note again, that herein he deserts his [congregationalist] friends in New England…”


John Bastwick

The Utter Routing of the Whole Army of All the Independents & Sectaries…  (London, 1646), The Antiloquie, no page number

“…these…  truths are most certainly evident out of the Scripture.  All Christians in the Church of Jerusalem were admitted into Church-fellowship upon their repenting, believing and being baptized, without any other conditions, and that upon offering themselves…

But it will farther more illustriously yet appear, if we consider the diverse other additions of believers, and that daily unto the Church of Jerusalem: for in the last verse of this chapter it is said that the Lord added daily unto the Church such as should be saved; here we find additions upon additions of believers, and that daily, indefinitely set down, as if they could not easily have been told, which adds no small emphasis unto the expression; and all these were admitted into Church-fellowship without any of those conditions the Independents require of all their members in these our times; for it is said the Lord added daily unto the Church such as should be saved; and therefore He did it only upon his own terms of repentance, faith and baptism.”




On the English Brownists


Daniel Neal, The History of the Puritans…  (London, 1822), vol. 1, ch. 6, From Parker to Grindal, pp. 303-5

“The Brownists…  apprehended, according to Scripture, that every church ought to be confined within the limits of a single congregation…

They did not allow the priesthood to be a distinct order…  but as the vote of the brotherhood made him an officer and gave him authority to preach and administer the sacraments among them…

The powers of their church-officers were confined within the narrow limits of their own society; the pastor of one church might not administer the sacrament of baptism or the Lord’s supper to any but those of his own communion and their immediate children

In short, every church, or society of Christians meeting in one place, was, according to the Brownists, a body corporate, having full power within itself to admit and exclude members…”




The Westminster Confession of Faith  1646


Notice that the Confession does not make being a member of a local Church, under the government of the Church, to be a requirement to having a right to the sacraments.  When the Confession speaks of the visible Church, it had already defined this in 25.2 as “all those throughout the world that profess the true religion, together with their children,” as the government of the Church is not of the essence of the Church.  Likewise, those externally in the Covenant of Grace are not simply all persons on the rolls under the government of the Church, but are all visible, professing believers and their children.


27.1  ‘Of the Sacraments’

“Sacraments are holy signs and seals of the covenant of grace, immediately instituted by God, to represent Christ and his benefits, and to confirm our interest in him; as also, to put a visible difference between those that belong unto the church and the rest of the world; and solemnly to engage them to the service of God in Christ, according to his Word.”

[Note here that the sacraments confirm our spiritual interest in Christ directly, and not in local church membership per se.  They put a visible difference between Christians who have faith and the world, not between Christians who are formally in local congregations and those who are not.]



“…Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord; neither of which may be dispensed by any but by a minister of the Word, lawfully ordained.[k]

[k] Matt. 28:191 Cor. 11:20,231 Cor. 4:1Heb. 5:4.”

[Note here that a minister being inducted into the charge of a local church is not stated to be a requirement for the dispensing of the sacraments.]


28.1, ‘On Baptism’

“I. Baptism is a sacrament…  not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible church,[b] but also to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace,[c] of his ingrafting into Christ,[d] of regeneration,[e] of remission of sins,[f]….

[b] 1 Cor. 12:13.
[c] Rom. 4:11 with Col. 2:11,12.
[d] Gal. 3:27Rom. 6:5.
[e] Tit. 3:5.
[f] Mark 1:4

[Note that baptism, by its nature, seals one’s admission into the visible Church, not into a particular congregation.  It is also a sign and seal for all those in the Covenant of Grace, and not simply those who are members of a local Church.  It is to primarily seal invisible, spiritual promises, which Christians have apart from local congregational membership.]


28.4, ‘On Baptism’

“Not only those that do actually profess faith in and obedience unto Christ, but also the infants of one or both believing parents, are to be baptized.”

[Notice the obligation that the Confession places upon ministers to baptize such qualified persons.]



“…in this sacrament…  the party is to be baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, by a minister of the gospel, lawfully called thereunto.[i]

[i] Matt. 3:11John 1:33Matt. 28:19,20.”

[The communion that baptism seals to us is that of communion with God the Trinity, not that simply of a government of a local assembly.  As ministers may also be called by the Church (regional or national), so they need not necessarily to be called to particular congregation.  As such they may yet administer the sacraments.]



“Not only those that do actually profess faith in and obedience unto Christ,[l] but also the infants of one or both believing parents, are to be baptized.[m]

[l] Mark 16:15,16Acts 8:37,38.
[m] Gen. 17:7,9,10 with Gal. 3:9,14 and Col. 2:11,12 and Acts 2:38,39 and Rom. 4:11,121 Cor. 7:14Matt. 28:19Mark 10:13-16Luke 18:15.”

[Those who are to be baptized are not local church members, but those that profess faith and obedience unto Christ.  Their children are to be baptized also, whether or not the parents are baptized (the Confession does not require such).]



“Although it be a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance,[n]…

[n] Luke 7:30 with Exod. 4:24-26.”

[It is a great sin for ministers to neglect this ordinance to any and all that ought to be baptized, and have a right to the seal of being in God’s Covenant.]


29.1, ‘Of the Lord’s Supper’

“…the Lord’s Supper, to be observed in his church unto the end of the world, for the perpetual remembrance of the sacrifice of himself in his death, the sealing all benefits thereof unto true believers, their spiritual nourishment and growth in him, their further engagement…  unto Him, and to be a bond and pledge of their communion with Him, and with each other, as members of his mystical body.[a]

[a] 1 Cor. 11:23-261 Cor. 10:16,17,211 Cor. 12:13.”

[The Supperr is to be observed in the ‘church’, that is Christ’s universal, visible Church.  Note that the Supper does not seal local church membership, but rather all benefits of Christ’s death to true believers and is a bond and pledge of their communion with Him.  The communion with other believers in the Supper is not simply those of the membership of the local church, but rather is with all members of Christ’s mystical body throughout the world.]



“Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible elements in this sacrament,[n]…

[n] 1 Cor. 11:28.

…Wherefore all ignorant and ungodly persons, as they are unfit to enjoy communion with Him, so are they unworthy of the Lord’s table, and cannot, without great sin against Christ, while they remain such, partake of these holy mysteries,[p] or be admitted thereunto.[q]

[p] 1 Cor. 11:27-292 Cor. 6:14-16.
[q] 1 Cor. 5:6,7,132 Thess. 3:6,14,15Matt. 7:6.”

[Note that Westminster did not hold local church membership to be a requirment for partaking of the Supper.]


Westminster Larger Catechism #173

“May any who profess the faith, and desire to come to the Lord’s supper, be kept from it?

Such as are found to be ignorant or scandalous, notwithstanding their profession of the faith, and desire to come to the Lord’s supper, may and ought to be kept from that sacrament, by the power which Christ hath left in his church,[i] until they receive instruction, and manifest their reformation.[k]

[i] 1 Cor. 11:27-34 compared with Matt. 7:6 and with 1 Cor. 5 and with Jude 23 and with 1 Tim. 5:22.
[k] 2 Cor. 2:7.”

[Note that lack of local church membership is not held of itself to be a restriction.  While lack of church membership may be scandalous in some cases, this would have to be clear, and proved.

A minister by himself cannot bar anyone from the Table; as that is of the power of jurisdiction, so it would take a session to do so.  However, such ocassional, Christian visitors are not under the session in that capacity, and they may very well be ignorant and/or have conscience issues (erroneous or not) that would make the exercise of formal discipline upon them premature and unwarranted.  The degree or severity of the possible sin ought to be weighed, as well, in comparison to and in light of the sins that other communicants may have, and yet are ignorant of, and/or unrepentant of.  That is, if there is a disposition in persons of faith and repentance and seeking new obedience, not every sin known by others in them would or should keep them from the Supper (as it is not a meal for the perfect).  Personal sins may be looked over in charity if they are not the ocassion of public scandal.

The minister may, whether privately or before the congregation, give a verbal warning from God’s Word that the scandalous are not warranted to partake in the Supper; this is sufficient as to the minister’s responsibility in the immediate circumstance.  The minister may seek to follow up with the persons so as to seek to help build them up in the faith and in godly living.]




“And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart…  And the Lord added to the [visible] church daily such as should be saved.”

Acts 2:46-7

“And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it;”

Ex. 12:28




Related Pages

On the Administration of the Sacraments in Extra-Ordinary Circumstances

On Extraordinary Acts of Church Government under Necessity, Superintendents & Assessor Elders, etc.

On Holding Public Worship & Church Courts by Distance Through Technology, & on Using Satellite Churches, under Necessity & for Edification

Whether Sacraments may be Administered Privately