“For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.”
“The same day did the king hallow the middle of the court that was before the house of the Lord: for there he offered burnt offerings, and meat offerings, and the fat of the peace offerings: because the brasen altar that was before the Lord was too little to receive the burnt offerings, and meat offerings, and the fat of the peace offerings.”
1 Kings 8:64
“But the priests were too few, so that they could not flay all the burnt offerings: wherefore their brethren, the Levites [who did not have that function by office], did help them, till the work was ended, and until the other priests had sanctified themselves: for the Levites were more upright in heart to sanctify themselves than the priests. And also the burnt offerings were in abundance… So the service of the house of the Lord was set in order.”
2 Chron. 29:34-35
Order of Contents
On Extraordinary Acts of Church Government under Necessity
Ames, William – ch. 3, section 17-21, ‘Concerning the Brazen Altar, built by Solomon, 1 Kings 8:64’ in A Fresh Suit against Human Ceremonies in God’s Worship… (1633)
Guthrie, James – pp. 32-39 of Protesters No Subverters, & Presbytery No Papacy; Or, a Vindication of the Protesting Brethren & of the Government of the Kirk of Scotland (1658)
In 1655 the protesters, who had a a dominant control of some of the higher Church courts in Scotland, made an overture to the General Assembly, due to the perceived declined state of the Church (especially as moderated by Resolutioners), to set up extraordinary commissions and visitations to purge and purify the Church ministry. This overture passed.
The Resolutioners strongly objected on ecclesiastical principles to this. Here Guthrie, the leading spokesman of the Protesters, defends the extraordinary overture and ensuing course of action on Biblical, Church and natural principles and prior precedent in the Church of Scotland. Part of his justification (which is right), is that if the Church has been given power of Christ to protect and promote its well-being, then by definition, in extraordinary circumstances of declension, the Church has power, and must, take extraordinary action towards its own well-being, though such a course of action be inconsistent with the regular structure and operations of the Church.
Henry, Matthew – On Philip Henry, p. 132 mid in ed. J.B. Williams, The Lives of Philip & Matthew Henry, Two Volumes in One (Banner of Truth, 1974)
Philip Henry, Matthew Henry’s father, had been ejected from his ministerial charge in the Great Ejection of 1661-1662 for puritan beliefs. For the most part he complied with this in refraining from taking up a public ministerial charge (for reasons given on pp. 104-5). Yet, when able, when he was invited, he preached in establishment churches when there was need.
He justified this irregular practice from 2 Chron. 29:34, where Levites assisted the priests in killing the sacrifices when there was need, the necessity of the circumstances justifying it.
The Saint’s Sacrifice: or, a Commentary on the 116th Psalm… (1632), Section 115, p. 258, on Ps. 116:19
“4. There are places of persecution where no liberty is granted for public assemblies: and places of peace, where Churches have much rest, and great liberty. In places of persecution bounden duties must rather be performed in private, than omitted. For matter of circumstance must give place to matters of substance: matters of conveniency to matters of necessity.
Wherefore to leave extraordinary persons to their extraordinary warrant…”
Due Right of Presbyteries (1644)
pt. 1, p. 299
“2. I grant the whole, and yet nothing is concluded against us. For the power of the keys is not given to the catholic presbytery as to the first subject, to be a mean of edification in an ordinary and constant way; but only in an extraordinary and occasional way, in those things which concern the power of jurisdiction belonging to the whole catholic Church.
By ‘extraordinary’ here, I mean not that which is against a particular law of God, and cannot be done without a divine dispensation of providence, but by ‘extraordinary’ I mean that which is raro contingens, and does not oft fall out; as almost it never falls out that the universal Church has need to excommunicate a national Church, for all and every one of a national Church do never fall away from the faith. Yet a remote power for excommunication is in the catholic visible Church.”
“Hence our Fifth Conclusion: when there is an equal rupture in the body, nothing extraordinary would be attempted if ordinary ways can be had: if Saul the ordinary magistrate had, at God’s commandment, killed Hagag, Samuel the prophet should not have drawn his sword…”
“…but the truth is, neither the king’s judgement, as a certain rule to the representative Church, nor [is] the representative Church’s judgment a rule to the King, but the Word of God [is] the infallible rule to both. Judgment may crook, truth cannot bow; it stands still unmoveable like God, the father of truth;
but in this case if both err, excellently says Junius (contra Bellarmine, on Councils, bk.1, ch. 12), the magistrate erring, the Church may do something extraordinarily; and the Church erring the magistrate may do something also in an extraordinary way, as common equity and mutual law requires, that friends with mutual tongues bick [quarrel?] the wounds of friends.”
The Divine Right of Church Government (1646), pp. 481-2
“If there be no formed Church endued with knowledge and discretion to choose their own elders, if there be godly men fit to be chosen, they are to convene and choose from amongst them elders, the godly magistrate is to join his vote and power, because there is a Church not yet constitute[d], it is now Perturbatus aut corruptus Ecclesiae status [the state of the Church is disturbed or corrupted], and I ever judged it a golden saying of that great divine Francis Junius:
“that when the magistrate will not concur, the Church in that extraordinary case may do somewhat, which ordinarily they cannot do; and again, when the Church does not their duty, the magistrate in that case may do something more than ordinary, to cause the Church [to] do their duty; for its a common Law, to ills out of order, remedies out of the roadway may be applied.” (Junius, Animadversions on Bellarmine, d••o•ci•, bk. 1, ch. 12, note 18, pp. 329-30)”
Protesters No Subverters… (Edinburgh, 1658)
“…what wonder were it though, [for] the gaining or preserving of that which is more excellent and necessary, and for avoiding of a greater evil, should sometimes and in some cases, persuade unto a sinless preterition [passing over] of some things, otherwise fit to be observed in the course of formality and order;”
pp. 28-29, 33
3. That the General Assemblies [of the Church of Scotland] in the progress of Reformation [from 1638] did begin to be so sensible of the multitude of insufficient and scandalous men that did still remain in presbyteries and synods, that they did judge presbyteries and synods not able to purge themselves, and that therefore it was necessary to [extraordinarily] give commission to some select brethren, nominated by themselves, for visiting the bounds of presbyteries and synods, with power to these brethren to try and censure such ministers and elders as they found insufficient or scandalous.
4. That these brethren found so much work in many places of the country as they were not able soon to overtake, but after the continuing of their diligence by renewed commissions for two or three years space, the General Assembly, upon the report of what was yet to do in places that had only been in part visited, and in consideration of the condition of other places, not yet visited, did find it necessary to [extraordinarily] appoint select persons, nominated by themselves, for visiting most of the presbyteries and synods in the country, with power to try and censure, as aforesaid.
5. That those almost general visitations of the whole Land, albeit judged most necessary for purging of the Kirk of the multitude of corrupt or insufficient men, whom presbyteries and synods were either not able, or not willing to censure, was never kept, because of the war immediately following betwixt the two nations [Scotland & England]….
2. The General Assemblies (as we have already showed) did conceive extraordinary commissions and visitations to be needful when the Church was in a much better condition than she is now [in 1658]; And though not a few in presbyteries and synods did then speak the same language that our [Resolutioner] Brethren do now, to wit, that it did lay a foundation for an universal imputation upon the synods and other Church-judicatories as not worthy to be trusted with the work committed to them by Christ, and was a tyrannical imposition upon them, yet that did not hinder the [General] Assembly so to do, because they did see that such a way of commissions and visitations was necessary for the time, when presbyteries and synods (many of them) were either not able, or not willing to do that duty in order to the purging of the Church of corrupt officers.”
“3. That there is a difference betwixt the essentials and circumstantials of presbyterial government; the one being such as are of divine or scriptural institution, and in themselves unalterable; the other being such as are of positive human institution, which are to be regulated by that great end of edification, and therefore may be altered accordingly as they do or do not contribute for that end.
It is observable that the resolution Brethren in this and sundry other of their papers do in many of these challenges which they bring against the protesting Brethren (as proceeding in their planting of churches and ordaining and admitting of [ministers?], and propounding of overtures for purging and planting the Church in such a disorderly way as is destructive to the being of the government, we say, they do confound these things, and oftentimes take circumstantials for essentials:
As for instance, that a minister shall be ordained by a plurality of presbyters, we hold with them to [???] of scriptural divine institution, but that he be ordained by such a number, officiating in such bounds, the Scripture has not determined; And therefore, if the major part of a presbytery conspire for keeping out a godly man from the ministry that is lawfully called by the congregation and rightly qualified, because he is not of their judgment in declining courses, it’s no breach upon the being and essentials of the government that he receive his ordination and admission to the ministry from a neighboring presbytery, especially when this conspiracy is generally throughout the country, and no remedy thereof can be had by a superior judicatory:
So in the case of the overture in hand, though because of the present condition of synods, and for edification, there be a little alteration of some things from the common way of order, yet does it not involve anything destructive to the being of the government. No persons are desired to be upon these visitations but ministers and elders duly qualified, and members of the respective synods; No power is desired to be given but that which is properly ecclesiastical; Nor is it desired to be derived from any fountain, but from the synod itself; Nor to proceed by any rule but by the Word of God and the acts of uncontroverted [former] General Assemblies [which allowed and executed such]; Nor are they to exercise it independantly, but with subordination unto, and being accomptable to the synod from whence they do receive it…
Is it tyrannically to impose, to desire the synod for the better and more unanimous carrying-on the Work of God, to ratify the nomination of some of the choicest of their own members, made by no forinsic persons, or party, or power, but by the intrinsic members of the synod itself, and that in such a distracted condition of the Church, and that they are not comptable [accountable], is alleged gratis [freely without warrant].
The Article, as propounded to our Brethren, does expressly provide that these committees shall in their proceedings be comptable to the synods, nor does that clause of the synods not reversing anything done by these [smaller] committees, without the previous advice and consent of the [larger] general committee of delegates, import anything to the contrary, but that the synod may take an accompt of the proceedings of their own committee, and admonish and rebuke them; yea, and take away their commission and power, in the case of mal-administration, and give it to others of their number, nominated as aforesaid:
And for a jurisdiction by this means set up above themselves, we can see no such thing in the Overture, but only a power of advice upon the part of these delegates (which yet the synod are not simply tied by the Overture to follow, as in the case of their advising the synod to reverse the deeds of these Committees) and a brotherly condescension in the synods in the present condition of the Church, not to reverse things done by these committees without the advice and consent of these delegates.
Neither will our Brethren’s negative voice prove it; because as these delegates have not a negative voice in all cases, as we have already showed, to wit, in the case of ratifying of the proceedings of these committees, the synod being free, notwithstanding anything in the Overture to ratify, albeit the delegates should not consent, but advise otherwise; So it is a new device to say, that a negative voice infers a superior jurisdiction and power; for, at most it makes but a co-ordinate power: And that there is any absurdity in this, that a committee of delegates, nominated by the common consent of all the synods, should, in this condition of the Church, have such a power (if yet it be a power of jurisdiction) we do not see.
4. This Overture was not propounded as a perpetual standing way, always to be followed and kept up in the Church, as our Brethren are pleased to insinuate, much less was it propounded hereby to lay a way for perpetuating of differences and contentions (a prejudice also they are pleased to load it with) but, as it expressly bears, to continue only till the present differences be healed, or, till the Lord in providence minister some better way for settling peace amongst us.
Will the resolution Brethren in this present sickly declining and distracted condition of the Church, allow of no remedy for purging thereof and composing differences, that is in any circumstance out of the common road of the ordinary procedures of presbyteries and synods? We know that they will tell us that the Church is sound and healthy, and sufficiently able by presbyteries and synods to purge herself. But why then (we pray our Brethren to tell us) did the General Assembly, before these differences did arise, unanimously, judge that presbyteries and synods were not sufficiently able to do it, and did, upon conviction hereof, appoint extraordinary commissions and visitations for doing of it?
…but, that by some mean or another that is not sinfull, the House of God might be purged;…
Whence it appears, that nothing will please, unless the protesting Brethren condescend, as asses, to bow down under the burden by an absolute submission to presbyteries and synods, as now constituted (that is upon the matter to the Brethren for the public Resolutions, the protesting Brethren being, by their own verdict, a few number in comparison of the body of the ministry of this Church) in their present and future actings, how negligent or corrupt soever, which themselves make evident in the next thing whereupon they impeach them, as projecters against, and subverters of the government of the Church, to wit, their refusing to engage themselves to an absolute submission to the sentences of the Church judicatories.”
‘Introduction’ to On Positive Laws & Ordinances, & the Law of Nations
“Those who hold Church government to be of divine right may feel uneasy in calling it positive. Rutherford, who wrote The Book on the subject, The Divine Right of Church Government (1646), did not.
One reason why Church government is positive is because it is a special arrangement that does not simply inhere in or derive from nature; rather, it has been appointed in special revelation by the will of Christ about redemption. It is also political, in the sense of binding men in society. Church government could be otherwise (if Christ had so appointed); however the specific form of it, namely classical presbyterianism, is the particular form that Christ has chosen and instituted as the Mediatorial King of the Church, his Kingdom. The form of the government binds not from the nature of it (though it is in accord with the light of nature), but from Christ’s authority alone.
Church government was different in the Old Testament, and had changed, developed and progressed numerous times therein. To say that New Testament Church government is positive does not mean that there is not any continuity between it and the Church government of the Old Testament; there is. But there is also not a direct one-to-one correlation between the two either, which some persons find perplexing.
On the one hand, as these positive laws of Church government are binding as they are positive (just as the Mosaic ceremonial laws were binding to the Old Testament Church as they were positive), so under the normal circumstances of the Church in the course of history, every last spiritually prescribed detail (however minute) of Biblical, classical presbyterianism is binding by the authority and honor of Christ, the Church’s Lord.
However, on the other hand, it is also because the laws of Church government are positive, and as moral obligations (in necessity) override positive ones, that alterations in the regular government of the Church, grounded in natural principles, may, and should, legitimately occur in extraordinary and necessary circumstances (as the Bible and historic presbyterianism teach).
Because human, Church government is positive, according to the needs and circumstances of the Church in this age, it will greatly change and fall away with the renovation of all things in the Age to Come, when no teachers will be needed, as we will be beholding God face to face, immediately (Jer. 31:33-34; 1 Cor. 15:28).”
Confession of Faith
ch. 31, section 5
“Synods and councils are to handle or conclude nothing but that which is ecclesiastical; and are not to intermeddle with civil affairs, which concern the commonwealth, unless by way of humble petition, in cases extraordinary…”
‘Teacher or Doctor’
“The scripture doth hold out the name and title of teacher, as well as of the pastor.[v]
Who is also a minister of the word, as well as the pastor…
…Nevertheless, where is but one minister in a particular congregation, he is to perform, as far as he is able, the whole work of the ministry.[z]
‘Of Synodical Assemblies’
“Pastors and teachers, and other church-governors (as also other fit persons, when it shall be deemed expedient), are members of those assemblies which we call Synodical, where they have a lawful calling thereunto.”
‘Concerning the Doctrinal Part of Ordination of Ministers’
“10. Preaching presbyters orderly associated, either in cities or neighbouring villages, are those to whom the imposition of hands doth appertain, for those congregations within their bounds respectively.[f]
11. In extraordinary cases, something extraordinary may be done, until a settled order may be had, yet keeping as near as possibly may be to the rule.[g]
12. There is at this time (as we humbly conceive) an extraordinary occasion for a way of ordination for the present supply of ministers.
‘The Directory for the Ordination of Ministers’
“Thus far of ordinary Rules, and course of Ordination, in the ordinary way; that which concerns the extraordinary way, requisite to be now practised, followeth.
1. In these present exigencies, while we cannot have any presbyteries formed up to their whole power and work, and that many ministers are to be ordained for the service of the armies and navy, and to many congregations where there is no minister at all; and where (by reason of the publick troubles) the people cannot either themselves enquire and find out one who may be a faithful minister for them, or have any with safety sent unto them, for such a solemn trial as was before mentioned in the ordinary rules; especially, when there can be no presbytery near unto them, to whom they may address themselves, or which may come or send to them a fit man to be ordained in that congregation, and for that people; and yet notwithstanding, it is requisite that ministers be ordained for them by some, who, being set apart themselves for the work of the ministry, have power to join in the setting apart others, who are found fit and worthy. In those cases, until, by God’s blessing, the aforesaid difficulties may be in some good measure removed, let some godly ministers, in or about the city of London, be designed by publick authority, who, being associated, may ordain ministers for the city and the vicinity, keeping as near to the ordinary rules fore-mentioned as possibly they may; and let this association be for no other intent or purpose, but only for the work of ordination.
2. Let the like association be made by the same authority in great towns, and the neighbouring parishes in the several counties, which are at the present quiet and undisturbed, to do the like for the parts adjacent.
3. Let such as are chosen, or appointed for the service of the armies or navy, be ordained, as aforesaid, by the associated ministers of London, or some others in the country.
4. Let them do the like, when any man shall duly and lawfully be recommended to them for the ministry of any congregation, who cannot enjoy liberty to have a trial of his parts and abilities, and desire the help of such ministers so associated, for the better furnishing of them with such a person as by them shall be judged fit for the service of that church and people.”
“The Dutch superintendens are as like to English bishops as an emperor in the days of Fabius Maximus, when the senate ruled all, to an emperor in the days of Tiberius or Nero, when an absolute prince, I will not say a tyrant, did govern all at his pleasure. The name is one, but the things are essentially different, and so far distant as the East is from the West.”
A Peaceable & Temperate Plea… (1642), ch. 20, 2nd Article, ‘Officers of the Church’
“As for the prelate, who is pretended to be the pastor of pastors and an ecclesiastical creature, having majority of power, both of order and jurisdiction above the pastor and doctor, the Church of Scotland did ever repute such an one the fifth element, and the sixth finger in the hand, as having no warrant in the Word, and therefore unlawful, Ex. 25:9; Heb. 8:5; 1 Chron. 8. 19. 11, 12, 13; 1 Kings 6:38, as also expressly condemned, Lk 22:24-26; 1 Pet. 5:3-4; Mt. 18:18; 1 Cor. 5:4-6; Acts 1:23; 15:24.
In the first constitution and infancy of our Church there were some visitors and superintendents for planting of churches, because breasts and hair of our churches were not grown, after the example of the apostles, who sent such to plant and visit churches, and appoint elders in congregations, Acts 8:14-16; 13:14-16; 14:23; Tit. 1:5-9; 21:17-18, but after the Church was planted there was no need of such.
Titular doctors, who were pastors only, and taught not in the schools, but were only previous dispositions to episcopacy, as [the] blue color prepares a cloth for purple, our Church never allowed, upon the grounds allowing lawful doctors, as the Scripture does, Rom. 12:7-8; 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11.”
Kirk, James – Patterns of Reformed: Continuity & Change in the Reformation Kirk (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1989)
ch. 5, ‘The Superintendent: Myth & Reality’, pp. 154-231
Kirk shows that the Scottish superintendents after the Reformation were intended to be a temporary measure for extraordinary circumstances, consistent with presbyterianism, and were not a form of episcopalianism, contra many advocates in the past and today.
ch. 7, ‘John Carswell, Superintendent of Argyll’, pp. 280-304
On Assessor Elders
The Scottish Second Book of Discipline 1587
Ch. 7, ‘Of the Elderships, and Assemblies, and Discipline’ This is a constitutional document in the Church of Scotland of old.
“10. …When we speak of the elders of the particular congregations, we mean not that every particular parish can, or may, have their own particular elderships, especially to landward; but we think three or four, more or fewer, particular kirks may have one eldership common to them all, to judge their ecclesiastical causes. Albeit this is meet, that some of the elders be chosen out of every particular congregation, to concur with the rest of their brethren in the common assembly, and to take up the delations of offences within their own kirks, and bring them to the assembly. This we gather from the practice of the primitive kirk [such as in the letters to the Corinthians], where elders, or colleges of seniors, were constituted in cities and famous places [and yet had jurisdictional oversight over the gathered churches in the greater area, sometimes in homes, etc.].
11. The power of these particular elderships is to give diligent labors in the bounds committed to their charge, that the kirks be kept in good order; to inquire diligently of naughty and unruly persons, and travail to bring them in the way again, either by admonition, or threatening of God’s judgments, or by correction.”
A Dispute Against the English-Popish Ceremonies... (1637), ch. 8, Digression 4, p. 189
“2. When we teach, that the pastor or pastors of every particular Church and congregation, with the elders of the same, being met together, have power to bind and loose, we understand this, only of such places wherein a competent number of understanding and qualified men, may be had to make up an eldership: otherwise let there be one eldership made up of two or three of the next adjacent parishes, according as was ordained by the Church of Scotland in the seventh chapter of the Second Book of Discipline [section 10]…
…set some bounds to the execution of their power: which bounds we also think good to be kept, viz. that if a Church be so small that it has not so many well qualified men as may be sufficient to assist the pastor in the governement thereof, then let one common eldership be made up out of it and some other neighbor churches…”
On Christians & Congregations being under the Presbytery apart from Having any Local Session
This form of government was that which Geneva, Switzerland held during the time of John Calvin, at least for that time and those circumstances. Different congregations and meetings of Christians were held in Geneva, though they were all governed only by the one presbytery in the city. Many of those congregations had elders or minister(s) which governed them locally, and sat on the presbytery, but the congregations did not have constituted local sesssions.
There is a very pertinent relevance of this model and the following quote by Gillespie to the issue of Assessor Elders: If presbyteries are governing congregations without local sessions in the Bible, then the elders on the presbytery, who have not been installed into office immediately over the congregation by that congregation’s vote, are acting as assessor elders.
If it be objected that the Christians, or congregation, must have given their consent to come under the governance of the presbytery (even though such a consent may be consequent on being so governed, and not necessarily be an antecedent, precondition to it), yet such a consent (antecedently recognized, or concurrent, or consequent) may, and should be present (in regular circumstances) upon the appointment of assessor elders over a congregation by a presbytery, which action does not presuppose, or require, a congregational vote.
An Assertion of the Government of the Church of Scotland, in the Points of Ruling Elders… (1641; Edinburgh, 1846), Part 2, Concerning the Assemblies of the Church of Scotland, and the Authority Thereof.
“Last of all, we are to distinguish between the condition of the primitive churches, before the division of parishes, and the state of our churches now after such division. At the first, when the multitude of Christians in those great cities of Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, etc. was not divided into several parishes, the common presbytery in the city did suffice for the government of the whole [as described in the N.T.], and there was no need of a particular consistory [session] of elders for every assembly and congregation of Christians within the city, except perhaps to admonish, rebuke or exhort, or to take notice of such things as were to be brought into the common presbytery.
But after that parishes were divided, and Christian congregations planted in the rural villages, as well as in the cities, from henceforth it was necessary that every congregation should have at hand, within itself, a certain consistory, for some acts of church government, though still those of greater importance were reserved to the greater presbytery…”
Ashe, Simeon, William Rathband, John Ball et al. – p. 27 of ‘The Reply made unto the Said Answer [of the New England Congregationalist Puritans], & Sent Over unto Them, Anno 1640’ in A Letter of Many Ministers in Old England, Requesting the Judgement of their Brethren in New England Concerning Nine Positions… Together with… (London, 1643)
“And if he be poor, and cannot get so much; then he shall take one lamb [instead of three] for a trespass offering to be waved, to make an atonement for him, and one tenth deal of fine flour [instead of three] mingled with oil for a meat offering, and a log of oil; and two turtledoves, or two young pigeons, such as he is able to get;”
“And Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah, and wrote letters also to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, to keep the passover unto the Lord God of Israel. For the king had taken counsel, and his princes, and all the congregation in Jerusalem, to keep the passover in the second month. For they could not keep it at that time, because the priests had not sanctified themselves sufficiently, neither had the people gathered themselves together to Jerusalem. And the thing pleased the king and all the congregation.”
2 Chron. 30:1-4