“Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.”

1 Tim. 4:14

“…he [Paul]…  called the elders of the church.  And when they were come to him, he said unto them…  ‘Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”

Acts 20:17-18, 28



A ‘presbyter’ is the Biblical office of elder.  ‘Presbyterianism’ is the rule of Biblical elders.  We are presbyterian because we believe that the Bible clearly teaches this as the form of government for Christ’s Church.




Extraordinary Calling



Order of Contents

Biblical Warrant for Presbyteries
Historical Theology
Latin  4

Rutherford’s Distinctions & Conclusions
‘Power of Order’ vs. ‘Jurisdiction’
Christian Ministry: Vice-Regency of Christ insofar as Ruing by Christ’s Word
Natural Law in Church Government
Church Planting: to be Helped by All Levels of Presbyterianism



An Introduction to the Biblical Warrant for Presbyterianism

It was not Christian lay persons or the local session of elders that received the Keys of the Kingdom of Christ to bind and loose, but the apostles as representatives of the universal visible Church (Jn. 20:22-23; Mt. 28:16,18-20;16:18-19; Eph. 4:11-12), which authority has descended upon the regular and continual presbyteries of the Church (1 Tim. 4:14).

In Matt 18:15-20, the classic text on Church discipline, the ‘church’ has the power of the Keys of government.  What does the word ‘church’ mean in this passage?

In the Old Testament, matters of great weight were prescribed to be appealed to the Levitical officers in Jerusalem (Deut. 17:8; see this in practice in 2 Chron. 19:8).  As George Gillespie argued (in Aaron’s Rod, p. 188), the Hebrew equivalent of the word ‘church’ is often used to designate these great assemblies of elders and rulers of Israel (1 Chron. 13:2,4; 29:1; 2 Chron. 1:3, etc.).  And that which is commanded to, and performed by, the elders (Dt. 19:12; Josh. 20:4), is also said to have been done by the congregation (Num. 35:24; Josh. 20:6; Ex. 12:3,21), as the elders are the congregation’s legal representatives.  “It was not, therefore, to any assembly, but to an assembly of rulers that causes were brought in the Old Testament.”

In the day when Christ spoke, before the New Testament Church was separate from the synagogue, the word ‘church’ referred to the ecclesiastical, judicial, ruling assemblies of the synagogue, and excommunications (according to the Jewish practice) were not binding if pronounced by fewer than ten men (see Aaron’s Rod, pp. 23-4).  These ruling assemblies of elders alone had the power of excommunication, and are called ‘presbyteries’ in the Greek of Luke 22:66,71 and Acts 22:5.

In the New Testament the word ‘church’ often refers to greater, judicial assemblies, the body of regional overseeing office-bearers and the body of regional congregations (see the Greek of Acts 19:38-9Acts 11:222 Cor. 2:6; Acts 13:1-3; 20:17,28; 21:18-19; etc.).  The 1800’s, Southern Presbyterian, Thomas Smyth demonstrates in detail that there were presbyteries at Jerusalem, Ephesus, Antioch, Samaria and Corinth in his Ecclesiastical Catechism, pp.  69-75.

1 Cor. 5:1-5 is the only description of an excommunication that we have in the New Testament, an example of exercising the Keys.  It is clear from 1 Cor. 12:20,28 and 14:3,22,24 that there were many regional office bearers in the congregations at Corinth that sat judging as a college of elders, 1 Cor. 14:29.  When Paul tells them to excommunicate the offender, it is with his regional judicial authority (1 Cor. 5:3-5), and we know from 2 Cor. 2:6 that it was done by ‘many’.

The congregation does not have the power of the Keys to excommunicate as they are ruled, not rulers.  To be a ruler to oneself is not to be under authority.  Rather, it is Christ that rules his visible Church from heaven through the earthly officers He sets over his people (Eph. 4:11-13).  For lay persons to vote another member out of the church is the equivalent of the children of a family kicking out their sibling by popular vote.

Thus, ‘Church’ in Matt 18 does not mean the congregation or the local session, but the whole Church, in its various levels of ruling government, which alone has the full root of delegated authority from Christ to rule over his flock.



Biblical Warrant for Presbyteries



Binnie, William – The Associating of Neighboring Congregations under a Common Representative Government, p. 131 ff.  2 pp. from his The Church

Smyth, Thomas – Of the Presbytery  (1841)  6 pages in question and answer format.  From his Ecclesiastical Catechism, pp.  67-75,

Smyth demonstrates in detail that, by apostolic practice, there were presbyteries at Jerusalem, Ephesus, Antioch, Samaria and Corinth.  Be sure to look up all the scripture references, and then tell your friends.





Baillie, Robert – ‘A Discourse Anent Episcopacy, 1638’  in Religious Controversy in Scotland, 1625-1639  ed. David G. Mullan  in Scottish History Society, Fifth Series, vol 11 (Edinburgh: Scottish Historical Society, 1998), pp. 149-191

Cappell, Louis – ‘On Ecclesiastical Power & Government’, theses 1-1011-20  in Syntagma Thesium Theologicarum in Academia Salmuriensi… Pars Prima  (Saumur, 1664), pp. 5-7  tr. Michael Lynch



Cunningham, William – Historical Theology  (1863), vol. 2

‘Presbyterianism’, p. 514 ff.  10 pp.

‘Testimony of the Reformers as to Presbyterianism’, p. 525 ff.  9 pp.



Berkhof, Louis – ‘The Government of the Church’  (1950)  32 paragraphs, from his Systematic Theology

Berkhof gives the Dutch perspective on modified-presbyterianism, which gives less authority to synods and more authority to the local congregation.  For the classic, Biblical view of presbyterianism, see any of the Scotch writers.






Travers, Walter & Thomas Cartwright – A Full & Plain Declaration of Ecclesiastical Discipline out of the Word of God, & of the Declining of the Church of England from the Same  (1574)  193 pp.

Travers, Walter – A Defence of the Ecclesiastical Discipline ordained of God to be used in his Church.  Against a Reply of Master Bridges, to a Brief & Plain Declaration of it, which was printed anno 1584. Which reply he terms, A Defence of the Government Established in the Church of England for Ecclesiastical Matters  (1588)  228 pp.



Calderwood, David – The Course of Conformity, as it has Proceeded, as it is Concluded & as it Should be Refused  (1622)  130 pp.

This work is primarily against episcopacy.  Some attribute it to William Scot (c. 1558-1642) or James Melville.  Thomas M’Crie assigned it to Calderwood.



Anderson, John – A Defence of the Church-Government, Faith, Worship & Spirit of the Presbyterians: in Answer to a Late Book entitled, An Apology for Mr. Thomas Rhind, or, An Account of the Manner How, & the Reasons for which, He Separated from the Presbyterian Party & Embraced the Communion of the Church  (1714; Edinburgh: 1820)

Anderson (c.1668-1721) was a Scottish minister in Dumbarton.  On Anderson, see Robert Wodrow, Correspondence, vol. 1, Letter 15, pp. 34-9.

“But the work by which he is best known, and in which his learning and wit appear to the best advantage, is his ‘Defense of the Church Government…  and [it] may be said to have never been answered.” – Wodrow

William G. Blaikie: “This publication has always been considered one of the ablest defences of the presbyterian system.” – DNB

Aiton, Thomas – The Original Constitution of the Christian Church: wherein the Extremes on Either Hand are Stated & Examined, to which is added an Appendix containing the Rise of the Jure Divino Prelatists, & an Answer to their Arguments by Episcopal Divines  (Edinburgh, 1730)  vol. 1, 2 (Appendix)

Aiton (or Ayton, 1694-1739) was a Scottish presbyterian, minister at Alyth.  His work was recommended by Samuel Miller and Thomas Smyth.  Thomas F. Torrance has an essay about this book in Duncan Shaw’s “Reformation and Revolution” (1967).

Hall, Archibald – An Humble Attempt to Exhibit a Scriptural View of the Constitution, Order, Discipline, and Fellowship of the Gospel-church  1795

Brown, John, of Hadddington – Letters on the Constitution, Government, and Discipline, of the Christian Church  d. 1787



Abbott, James – A History of the Roman & English Hierarchies, with an Examination of the Assumptions, Abuses & Intolerance of Episcopacy, Proving the Necessity of a Reformed English Church  (1831)  385 pp.




Jonathan Edwards

From a letter from Edwards to John Erskine in Scotland.  ‘Memoir of Edwards’, prefixed to the London edition of his Works, p. 163  Edwards was an early-1700’s, New England congregationalist

“You are pleased, dear sir, very kindly to ask me, whether I could sign the Westminster Confession of Faith, and submit to the presbyterian form of government; and to offer to use your influence to procure a call for me to some congregation in Scotland.  I should be very ungrateful if I were not thankful for such kindness and friendship.

As to my subscribing to the substance of the Westminster Confession, there would be no difficulty; and as to the presbyterian government, I have long been perfectly out of conceit of our unsettled, independent, confused way of church government in this land, and the presbyterian way has ever appeared to me most agreeable to the word of God, and the reason and nature of things; though I cannot say that I think that the presbyterian government of the Church of Scotland is so perfect, that it cannot, in some respects, be mended.”



Historical Theology

Cheng, Gordon C. – An Examination of Thomas Cartwright’s Apparently Modified Position on Church Government, with Particular Reference to his Confutation of the Rhemist Testament  an MTh thesis  (Moore Theological College, 2008)

Abstract:  “The development in Thomas Cartwright’s (1535-1603) views of church government is noted, placed in historical context, and traced with reference to primary sources.  This thesis investigates how this development can be understood and explained, with a particular focus on Cartwright’s exegetical methods and theological assumptions as highlighted in his Confutation of the Rhemist Testament, an important work in the context of this controversy that has received scant scholarly attention.  We are in broad sympathy with A.F. Scott Pearson’s view that Cartwright moved from being a destructive critic to a loyal, constructive and friendly reformer, and we seek to test this position and, if appropriate, establish it on a firmer basis.

A direct comparison is made between Cartwright’s early ecclesiological views, as expressed during the Admonition controversy, and his later ecclesiological views as expressed in private correspondence and in the Confutation…

We conclude that Cartwright’s essential attitude to scripture, tradition and reason did not alter, but that his moderated position can be understood in terms of his belief that scripture mandated loyalty to the Queen in matters of ecclesiological government…”



On the History of Presbyterianism

Ha, Polly –



Latin Articles

Voet, Gisbert

section 7  in 49. ‘A Disputation: Some Miscellaneous Positions’  in Select Theological Disputations  (Amsterdam: Jansson, 1667), pp. 745-63

Ecclesiastical Politics  (Amsterdam: Waesberge, 1663)

vol. 1, pt. 1, bk. 1

tract 1, Of the Instituted Church

5. Containing the Fourth Class of Questions about Divisions of the Instituted Church, where is treated of the Parochial, Village or Rural, Domestic, Princely, Camp, Nautical, Scholastic and Provincial Church.  71

tract 2, Of the Power, Polity & Canons of the Churches

7. Of the Polity or Government of Churches.  241

vol. 3, pt. 2

bk. 2, ‘Of Ministers & the Ecclesiastical Ministry’, Tract 3, ‘Of the Ordinary Ministers of the Old and New Testament’

4. Of Elders & Presbyters Governing 436

bk.4, tract 1

5. Containing a Disquisition on Presbytery & Episcopacy 850

Part 1  851
Part 2  859
[Four] Consequences  869

vol. 4, pt. 3, bk. 1

Tract 2, Of the Government, Appointment and Maintenance of Examinations, Exercises, Elections and Visitations

1. Of Examinations  74

2. Of Ecclesiastical Visitations  92

3. Of the Appointing and Governing of Ecclesiastical Callings and all the Exercises and Actions in the Church  109

Tract 3, Of the Assemblies, Gatherings [Collegiis] and Corresponding Relations of the Antecedents of Churches

1. Of Senates, or Consistories, or Presbyteries 114

2. Of the Union of Churches and the Government of Them in Classes and Synods 117

3. Arguments Against Classical and Synodical Government are Refuted 138

4. Exceptions to our Arguments for Classical and Synodical Government are Refuted 161

5. Various Problems being Made to the Explication of the Classical and Synodical Government are Determined 166



Rutherford’s Distinctions & Conclusions  contra Independency

A Peaceable & Temperate Plea…  (London, 1642)

ch. 1, ‘Whether the power of the Keys of the Kingdom of Christ be conferred upon the multitude of believers as upon the first and proper subject [No], or upon the Church-guides? [Yes]’, pp. 2-3

7 Distinctions

1. There is a power-physical and a power-moral of the keys.

2. A power-popular of the keys that belongs to all, and a power-authoritative that belongs to the guides only.

3. The power of the keys is in Christ, as in the formal subject and fountain. 2. In the Church of believers, as in the final object, seeing all this power is for the Church. 3. In the guides, as in the exemplar cause representing the Church, as we say the image is in the glass, and learning in the book…

4. The keys may be thought to be given, Mt. 16, to Peter, as prince and king of the apostles, as Papists say, or, 2. As Peter represents the Church of believers, as some [congregationalists] say, or, 3. As bearing the person of Church-guides, as we shall demonstrate…

5. There is a power-ordinary, and a power-extraordinary.

6. The keys may be thought to be conferred by Christ, immediately, either by the immediation of Christ’s free donation and gift or by the immediation of simple designation:

in the former respect the keys were given by Christ once to the apostles, and still to the worlds end, to the Church guides, immediately without the Church’s power intervening:

in the later respect Christ gives the keys mediately, by the popular consent and election of the Church of believers, who do under Christ design and choose this person rather than that person, Thomas rather than John, for the sacred office of wielding the keys, neither is any man now elected immediately by Christ, as the apostles were.

7. Then we may well distinguish in this question these four [things], 1. power-physical. 2. power-moral. 3. power of order, and [of] jurisdiction. 4. The use and exercise of that power.


5 Conclusions

1. The physical power of the keys is given to men as they are professors [of the Christian religion], that is, men, and not angels are capable of that power…  but this is not formally a power of the keys, but a popular power about the keys, whereby popular consent may be given to the key-bearers, for their election.

2. There is a power popular, but not authoritative; a power of private Christians (not an official power of charge) given to the visible professors to make choice of their own office-bearers: those against whom we now dispute [congregationalists]…  do confound and take for one and the same, the power of electing or choosing officers, and the power of ordination… election of elders…  is a private and popular act, flowing from that spirit of grace in believers, and from the light of saving faith…  for it is that heavenly instinct of believers, whereby they try all things…  (even of office bearers)…

there is a twofold power of election of guides, one proper to believers, which is, as I have described it, their choosing of officers, de jure… there is another power of election, de facto, that flows from a common grace of discerning in visible professors, both is sufficient for ecclesiastical choosing of guides…

but power of authoritative jurisdiction is…  a common grace given to many that are never converted nor saved; yea the office of a public guide to save others is given to a man that is never saved himself, and requires some endowments of governing, that are not required in all the faithful, as is cleared by Paul, 1 Tim. 3.

3. The physical power of the keys is in all professors…  2. The supreme moral power in Christ Jesus, formally and independently, ‘To Me is given all power in Heaven and earth,’ Mt. 28:18; this includes the power of working miracles by the hands of his apostles, all, as well as the power of the keys, and is communicated to the Church not formally, but in the effect.  3. Power-moral, about the keys…  is given to all the faithful.  4. 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… Mt. 16, for the Church, not one single man has power of discipline.

4. When the Church stands of believers, only as contradistinguished from her guides, it is then totum homogeneum [a homogenous whole], a body consisting of alike parts, where the denomination of the whole is given to the parts; as every part of water is water, so every three believers of five hundred believers, is a Church of believers…

But we are now disputing about the power of the keys in a Church ministerial, which is totum heterageneum, where the whole gives not a denomination to the part, as every part of a man is not a man, a Church made up of only believers is not Christ’s organical body, where there are eyes, ears, and hands, and feet…  Rom. 12 and 1 Cor. 12…  the keys of a ministerial Church, as Junius says, [is] made up of integral parts of… shepherds and sheep.

5. The office bearers of the Church have the power of the keys and their office immediately from Christ, by the immediation of free gift: they have their offices from the Church, by the mediation of orderly designation; seeing it is the Church which designs such a man to such an office…  I grant what is given for the [upbuilding of the] Church, in some sense, is said to be given to the Church, as Chrysostom said, The gift of baptism is given to the whole Church, but the power of baptizing is not given to all the believers, as to the subject.


Ch. 3, ‘Whether or no the Church of believers in a congregation, be the first Church, having the highest power of jurisdiction within itself, and that independently, and power above and over their elder∣ship, to constitute and ordain them by an intrinsecal power received from Jesus Christ, and by that same power to censure and depose them, when they become scandalous in life or corrupt in doctrine’, pp. 30-31

3 Distinctions

1. A Church-independent is twofold, either a Church of believers in a congregation, having originally the power of the keys within themselves, to make or unmake their officers. 2. Or an eldership of one congregation, including the congregation that may from an intrinsical power, without subordination to synods provincial or national, exercise all jurisdiction. This question is of the former independent church.

2. A Church is considered two ways, 1. As totum essential [an essential whole], this is a mystical Church, consisting of only believers, or of persons as professing faith, a Church of faithful, of saints. 2. The Church is considered as totum integrale [an integral whole], made up of officers, and a flock, this Ames. calls an instituted Church, others a ministerial Church, as we consider John, as a believer, or John, as an elder, or minister of a Church.

3. There is a twofold primacy answerable, to this, one whereby a number of believers is the first mystical body of Christ, immediately united to Christ as a mystical body to the head. This is a mystical or Christian primacy, or (to speak so) [a] firstness or principality. 2. There is another primacy or principality ministerial, whereby such a number of men are the first subject of the keys, having power of binding and loosing, first and immediately from Christ…

3. Christ has a twofold influence as head upon these two bodies: one influence of special and saving grace upon the Church of believers; another common influence, communicating to the ministerial body the power of the keys and gifts which He gave to men to be pastors and teachers, and elders, when He ascended on high and led captivity captive. Neither do they look right on this question, who will have the power of the keys an essential property of the Church of believers, for there is no reciprocation here betwixt the property and the subject, seeing the power of the keys is in many that are unbelievers and not of Christ’s mystical body. Many warrantably preach Christ to others and seal the covenant to others who are unsaved men: remember the builders of the ark: and many are Christ’s mystical body that have not the power of the keys: all believers are not elders having power of order.


3 Conclusions

1. If we speak of a Christian primacy and eminency of grace, the Church of believers sincerely professing the faith and believing is the only first true visible Church: 1. The essence and definition of a called and effectually translated company agrees to them, and they are the called of God. 2. Because the promises made to the redeemed, saved and washen Church belongs to them; they are properly the Church builded on the rock, the loved and redeemed spouse of Christ. 2. This Church is the true body of Christ, which shall infallibly be glorified with the head Christ. The ministerial Church is his body also, on which He has an influence bestowing upon them common gifts: but not a body which shall infallibly be glorified, but insofar as they are true members of the Church of believers.

2. A multitude of believers sincerely professing the faith is the first visible mystical Church, because the definition of a visible mystical Church agrees to them, being redeemed professors of the Gospel. So the saints at Colosse, Corinth, Philippi, as not including their guides, is a true visible Church.

3. The Church of believers in eminence and primacy of Christian dignity is above the Church ministerial as ministerial, 1. In dignity. 2. Stability. 3. Causality. In dignity 1. Because the Church of believers is the redeemed and conquested purchase of our Lord Jesus, but all the office-bearers, or the ministerial Churches of pastors and elders on earth, are not his redeemed ones… 2. In stability, because the advocation of Christ that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church of believers, and the promises of the Covenant for perseverance stands good for them: But no such promises of stability are made to naked Church guides; but if they guide well, they fare the better; only common gifts are promised to them which cannot take them to heaven. 3. In causality, the Church of believers are superior, and above the Church of Church-guides, because rulers and officers are servants and means employed by Christ for the Church of believers, as for the end, office-bearers are for believers, as the means for the end, but believers are not for office-bearers.

…we [subject] every pastor… to the Church, that is, to the council or assembly of the [ministerial] Church, and that in a fourfold respect: 1. Ratione indeviabilitatis, because the ports of hell shall not prevail against the Church, but the… pastor is a man; [he] may nod and totter. 2. Ratione regulabilitatis; because the Church in a synod may regulate and line the… pastor when he crooks, because he is not essentially a right line. 3. Ratione multiplicitatis, because the Church contains in it the… pastor’s power, but the… pastor contains not in his bosom the Church’s power. 4. Ratione obligabilitatis, because the Church may appoint laws to oblige… [a] pastor, but the… pastor cannot oblige the Church… Therefore Junius says, the pastor and the flock are in diverse relations, above, and inferior to one another.

Hence, 1. Every one of these two Churches, are first and highest each in their own kind, the Church of believers is the highest and most supreme Church (I speak of a Christian supremacy and dignity) in the one kind. Also a ministerial Church is the highest and most supreme Church in its kind, to wit, in a ministerial authority.


Ch. 5, ‘Whether or no some do warrantably teach that the power of the keys is essentially and originally in the Church of believers, and in the Church-guides only at the second hand, and in the by, quoad exercitium [insofar as the exercise], so as the Church of believers should be the mistress delegating the keys by an imbred and kindly authority, and the Church-guides as her proper servants and delegates do borrow the use and exercise of the keys from the foresaid Church of believers?’, p. 53

7 Distinctions

1. The power of the keys may be thought to come to the ministers of the Church [in] three ways…: 1. By mediate derivation, the Church receiving this power from Christ, and deriving it over to the friends of the Bridegroom. 2. By immediate donation, God immediately gives the honor of the keys to these whom He makes his courtiers in this kind. 3. By application, the Church only naming the men to the office.

2. The power of the keys, and all sacred offices in God’s House, are from the immediate wisdom of Christ; The designation of such men to such offices is by the ministry of the Church.

3. The power of the keys is one thing, the lawful exercise of the keys is another thing.

4. The ministers may be thought the servants either of the Church, or servants of Christ for the Church.

5. Designation of men by the Church to sacred offices may be thought either in the Church’s freewill, or tied to the laws designed by Christ.

6. The Church of believers may be thought either the virtual or the formal subject of the keys.

7. The power of the keys may be thought to be given to the community or multitude of believers or professors of faith in Christ, in the general, not designing one man rather than another, but leaving that to the disposition of means, and disposition of second causes, who shall be the man: as to be a musician, to be an astronomer is given to mankind as some way proper to man, as Porphyre says, howbeit all and every one of mankind be not always musicians and astronomers.


5 Conclusions

1. All offices and office-bearers in God’s house have their warrant immediately from Christ Jesus, as we all agree against the bastard prelacy… And therefore presbyters and deacons have their offices immediately from Christ, and not from the prelates.

2. The first subject of the keys is either made quate or narrower, as one pastor and some ruling elders of a congregation: And these have not the power of all the keys, as of ordination of pastors, and so of deposition; seeing in the apostolic Church there were always a number of pastors at the ordination of pastors, only they may perform some acts of discipline that concerns that flock. The adequate and proper subject of full power of the keys is the presbytery of pastors and elders…

3. The power of the keys indirectly comes from the Church of believers to some select officers, I say indirectly, not directly, because howbeit believers by no innate and intrinsical power of jurisdiction in them do ordain officers, yet they are to give a popular consent to the election of their officers, as the Word of God, all the Fathers and our divines teach against papists and prelates, who take away this power from the people of God. Now by this popular election men are put in that state, whereby they may be and are ordained office-bearers by the laying on of the hands of the elders…

Hence the power of the keys comes to the officers three ways, whereof we deny one [the first]: 1. As if the Church of believers received the keys first from Christ, then by authority from Christ did give over the use of them in some acts to the officers, and did appoint them her servants… 2. The power of the keys and all power of jurisdiction and order is first in Christ, then immediately communicated to the apostles and their successors in them, and here the offices and power is of Christ Jesus only. 3. As the application of the man to the office, and the office to the man, is twofold: one by popular election, such a man pleased the multitude, Acts 1; Acts 6; Another by authoritative ordination or imposition of hands to an office in God’s house… We find out ordination by the presbytery, 1 Tim. 4:14.

4. The essence and definition of a Church does not ex aequo, equally, and alike agree to the Church of believers and ministers, or office-bearers, or to a company of a visible Church, made up of these two parts, believers and officers, as our [congregationalist] brethren speak of their visible Church.

5. We judge this distinction [to be] against Scripture and reason, that the power of the keys essentially, fundamentally and originally is in the Church of believers, and the exercise only, and some borrowed acts of the keys, should be in the officers.


Ch. 7, ‘If there be no true visible Church in the New Testament, but only a congregation meeting in one place, and no presbyterial or representative Church (as they call it) at all’, p. 71

4 Distinctions

1. There be odds betwixt a Church-visible and a Church-ministerial.

2. There be odds betwixt a cathedral or mother Church (and this we deny [against the papists]) and a Church-national and provincial, which cannot meet to the worship of God in all the particular members thereof.

3. The Church is termed representative three ways…: 1. properly, 2. commonly, 3. most properly.

4. Suppose the name of Presbyterial Church be not in the New Testament, yet if the thing itself be in it, it is sufficient.


5 Conclusions

1. A number of believers professing the truth is not presently a visible politick Church… Hence visibility of profession agrees both to a number of believers (if for example ten [individuals] out of ten [different] particular congregations confess Christ before a persecuting judge) and also to a constitute Church of believers and elders. Then true faith and the visible professing of true faith is not enough to constitute a Church that ordinarily has power and exercise of the keys.

2. We deny that Christ has given power of jurisdiction to one particular church over another particular church, or to one Church to be a mother Church to give laws and orders to little daughter-churches under it [as the Papists].

3. A Church may be a visible incorporation of guides and people meeting for the worship of God and exercise of discipline, and yet [it may] not necessarily [be] a Church of believers [with saving faith]…

Hence I infer these consectaries: 1. that the claim and title that a people has to Christ is not the ground why the keys are given to that people, as to the original subject, because they may have the Word, sacraments and keys a long time, and yet want faith in Christ, and so all title and claim to Christ: All which time they have the keys, discipline and sacraments; and I believe their acts of discipline, censures, and sacraments are valid, therefore the Church redeemed and builded on the rock Christ, is not the kindly subject of the keys.

2. The keys are given to professors clothed with a ministerial calling, whether they be believers or unbelievers, howbeit God gives them for the salvation and edification of believers.

3. There is nothing required to make an independent congregation [without officers] but a profession of the truth, covenant-ways [that is, externally unto the Covenant of Grace], and outward worshipping of God, suppose the members be unbelievers.

4. There is a visible governing Church in the New Testament, whose members in complete number of believers do not meet in one place ordinarily for the worship of God, neither can they continually so meet.

5. A Church may be called representative three ways:

1 Properly, as if the rulers stood in the persons of believers, judging for them, as if the believers were there themselves, as a deputy represents the king… [in] this way the eldership do not judge for the congregations, as if the congregations did judge by them as by their instruments… We acknowledge no representative church in this sense…

2. A representative Church may be thought a number sent by a community and elected to give laws, absolutely tying, as if believers should say, ‘We resign our faith and conscience to you, to hold good whatever you determine without repeal or trial;’ that is blind faith; that we disclaim: All our rulers’ acts in our assemblies do bind: 1. conditionally, if they be lawful and convenient; 2. matters to be enacted are first to be referred to the congregations and elderships of particular congregations before they be enacted.

3. A representative Church is a number having election and designation from the Church of believers, but ordination from the eldership to voice, determine and command, as those who are over them in the Lord, to make constitutions and decrees according to God’s Word; and this way we hold a representative Church, Mt. 18 and 1 Cor. 5, which made acts according to God’s Word, tying the whole congregation, even the absents; for the presents represent the absent.


The Due Right of Presbyteries…  (London, 1644)

ch. 1, section 1, proposition 1, pp. 1-21

4 Distinctions

1. The matter of an instituted visible Church is one thing, and the instituted visible Church is another, as there be odds betwixt stones and timber, and an house made of stones and timber.

2. It is one thing to govern the actions of the Church and another thing to govern the Church: the moderator of any synod does govern the actions of the synod, but he is not for that a governor, ruler, and pastor of the synod.  Or, ordering actions and governing men are diverse things.

3. A thing has first its constituted and accomplished being in matter, form, efficient and final causes before it can perform these operations and actions that flow from that being so constituted: a Church must be a Church before any ministerial Church actions can be performed by it.

4. It is one thing for a company to perform the actions of a Church mystical and redeemed of Christ, and another thing to performe actions ministerial of a Church instituted and ministerial.


3 Conclusions

1. A company of believers professing the truth is the matter of the Church, though they be saints by calling and builded on the Rock, yet are they but to the Church instituted as stones to the house.  2. Because they cannot perform the actions of a constituted Church till they be a constituted Church.  3. Our divines call men externally called, the matter of the visible Church…

2. Ordination of pastors and election of officers, administration of the seals of grace, and acts of Church censures are holden by God’s Word and by all our divines, actions of a ministerial and an instituted visible Church, and if so, according to our third distinction [above].

3. The visible Church which Christ instituted in the Gospel is not formally a company of believers meeting, for public edification, by common and joint consent…  The instituted Church of the New Testament is an organical body of diverse members, of eyes, ears, feet, hands, of elders governing, and a people governed, 1 Cor. 12, 14-15; Rom. 12:4-6; Acts 20:28.


3 Distinctions

1. There is one question of [1.] the power of the keys, and to whom they are committed, and [2.] another of the exercise of them, and touches the government of the Church, if it be popular and democratical or not.

2. It is not inconvenient, but necessary that Christ should give to his Church gifts, pastors and teachers, of the which gifts the Church is not capable as a subject as if the Church might exercise the pastor and doctor’s place: and yet the Church is capable of these gifts, as the object and end, because the fruit and effect of these gifts redounds to the good of the Church…

3. There is a formal ordinary power, and there is a virtual or extraordinary power.


3 Conclusions

1. Christ Jesus has immediately Himself, without the intervening power of the Church or men, appointed offices and officers in his house, and the office of a pastor and elder is no less immediately from Christ (for men as Christ’s vicars and instruments can appoint no new office in the Church) than the office of the apostles, Eph. 4:11; 1 Cor. 12:28; Mt. 28:19.

[2.] The offices are all given to the Church immediatly, and so absolutely, and so the power of the keys is given to the Church the same way.  But the officers and key bearers now are given mediately and conditionally, by the intervening mediation of the ruling and ministerial Church, that she shall call such and such, as have the conditions required to the office by God’s Word, 1 Tim. 3:12;

3. Hence we see no reason why the keys can be said to be given to believers any other ways than that they are given for their good.

2. I deny not but there is a power virtual, not formal in the Church of believers to supply the want [absence] of ordination of pastors, or some other acts of the keys simply necessary, hic et nunc; this power is virtual, not formal, and extraordinary not ordinary, not official, not properly authoritative, as in a Church in an island, where the pastors are dead, or taken away by pest or otherways, the people may ordain pastors or rather do that which may supply the defect of ordination…  it is hence concluded that God has not tied Himself to one set rule of ordinary, positive laws…

3. …we think, as a reasonable man is the first, immediate and principal subject of aptitude to laugh, and the mediate and secondary subjects are, Peter, John and particular men, so that it is the intention of nature to give these and the like properties principally and immediately to the specie and common nature, and not immediately to this or that man; so are the blessings of the promises, as to be builded on a Rock, victory over hell, and such, given principally and immediately to the catholic and invisible Church, as to the first and principal subject, and no ways to a visible congregation consisting of 30 or 40 professing the Faith of Christ…


ch. 2, section 2, pp. 20-40

4 Distinctions

1. There is a dominion of government lordly and kingly, and this is in Christ only in relation to his Church, and in civill judges, and is no ways in Church-guides, who are not lords over the Lord’s inheritance; there is a government ministerial, of service, under Christ, and this is due to Church-guides.

2. Regal power, being a civil power founded in the Law of nature (for the ants have a king) may well be in the people originally and subjectively, as in the fountain, nature teaching every community to govern themselves and to hold off injuries, if not by themselves, yet by a king or some selected rulers;

But power of Church-government being supernatural, and the acts of Church-government and of the casting such as offend out of Christ’s Kingdom being supernatural, neither of them can be originally in the multitude of professing believers, but must be communicated by Christ to some certain professing believers, and these are officers.  Therefore to put power and acts of government in all professors, is a natural way drawn from civil incorporations.  Christ is not ruled by our laws.

3. The government of Christ’s Kingdom is the most free and willing government on earth; yet it is a government properly so called, for there be in it authoritative commandments and ecclefiastic coaction, upon the danger of soul penalties; in regard of the former, all the people by consent and voluntary agreement have hand in election of officers, inflicting of censures, because it concerns them all: but in regard of the latter, the whole people are not over the whole people; they are not all kings reigning in Christ’s government over kings, but are divided into governors and governed; and therefore the rulers-ecclesiastic only, by power of office, are in Christ’s room, over the Church, to command, sentence, judge, and judicially to censure.

4. The official power of governing superadds to the simple acts of popular consenting the official authoritative and coactive power of Christ’s scepter in discipline.


3 Conclusions

1. Our [congregationalist] Brethren hold a mere popular government…  1. Because nothing is left peculiar in government to the officers which all the people have not.  2. Because a greater power of Church-jurisdiction, as I shall prove, is given to the people than to the guides…  3. The people is no more obedient to the eldership in teaching, than Indians and infidels, who are hearers of the Word and are under an obligation to obey the Word, and under the very same obligation of an evangelic offer made to all…

2. Christ has given no warrant at all of actual Church government to all the whole visible Church…

3. It is clear then that the state of the Church cannot be called popular and the government aristocratical, or in the hands of the elders, as our Brethren mean [with respect to congregationalism].


ch. 3, section 3, question 4, pp. 40-50

6 Distinctions

1. There be odds betwixt a free willing people executing the sentence of the Church, and mere executioners and lictors.

2. There is a doubting of conscience speculative, through ignorance of some circumstance of the fact; and a doubt of conscience practical through ignorance of something which one is obliged to know, and so there is also a speculative and a practical certainty of a thing.

3. There is one certainty required in questione juris, in a question of law, and another in questione facti, in question of fact.

4. There is and may be an ignorance invincible which a man cannot help in a question of fact; but Papists and Schoolmen err who maintain an invincible ignorance in questione juris, in a question of law, and in this they lay imperfection on God’s Word.

5. There is a moral diligence given for knowledge of a thing, which suffices to make the ignorance excusable, and there is a moral diligence not sufficient.

6. There is a sentence manifestly unjust as the condemning of Christ by witnesses belying one another, and a sentence doubtsomely false.


6 Conclusions

1. The members of the visible Church are not mere lictors and executioners of the sentences of the eldership:

1. Because they are to observ, warn, watch over the manners of their fellow members and to teach, exhort, and admonish one another, and are guilty if they be deficient in that;

2. Because by the law of charity, as they are brethren under one head Christ, they are to warne and admonish their rulers…

2. When the sentence of the judge is manifestly unjust, the executioners and lictors are not to execute it…

3. There is not required the like certainty of conscience practical in a question of fact, that is required in a question of Law:

1. Because in a question of law all ignorance is moral and culpably evil to any who undertakes actions upon conscience of obedience to others; for to all within the visible Church the Word of God is exactly perfect, for faith and manners, and everyone is obliged to know all conclusions of law that are determinable by God’s Word.

2. Everyone in his actions is to do out of a plerophory and a full persuasion of heart, that what he does, pleases God, Rom. 14:14…

3. We are to do nothing but what is lawful, and what in our consciences we are persuaded is lawful, and are to know what is sin, and what is no sin.

4. It is not enough that some say, if the question be negatively just, then soldiers and executioners and people may execute the sentence, that is, if they see no unlawfulness in the fact, I mean unlawfulness in materia juris, in a matter of law…

5. Soldiers, lictors, servants, people under the eldership are not mere instruments moved only by superiors, as Schoolmen say.

1. Because they are moral agents, and are no less to obey in faith than superiors are to command in faith, and they are to obey their superiors only in the Lord.

2. They are to give all diligence that they be not accessary to unjust sentences, lest they partake of other men’s sins…

6. But in questione facti, in matters of fact, there is not required that certainty of conscience…  a question of fact is taken three ways:

1. For a fact expressely set down in God’s Word, as that Moses led the people through the wilderness, that Cain slew his brother Abel, these are questions de facto [in fact], not questiones facti, and must be believed…  with that same certainty by which we believe God’s Word.

2. A question of fact is taken for a question, the subject whereof is a matter of fact, but the attribute is a matter of law…  there is some question there made circa factum, about the fact, but it is formally a question of Law.  For these questions may be cleared by God’s Word, and the ignorance of any questions which may be cleared by Gods Word, is vincible, and culpable, for the law says, The ignorance of these things which we are obliged to know is culpable, and excuseth not.

But thirdly a question of fact is properly a question whether this Corinthian committed incest or no..  and in this there is sometimes invincible ignorance, when all diligence morally possible is given to come to the knowledge of the fact…  for the law is not anent singulars or particulars; this is proved by sense and the testimony of witnesses; and therefore the certainty practical of conscience here is human and failible, not divine and infallible.


ch. 4, section 4, question 5, pp. 50-78

4 Distinctions

1. We deny that there is any diocescan, provincial or national Church under the care of one diocesan or national prelate or bishop, but hence it follows not [that] there is no visible instituted Church now, but only a particular congregation.

2. We deny any national, typical Church, where a whole nation is tied to one public worship, in one place, as sacrificing in the temple.

3. We deny not but the most usual acception of a Church, or visible meeting is given as…  a convention of people meeting ordinarily to hear the Word and adminstrate the sacraments…  but this hinders not the union of more particular congregations, in their principal members for Church-government, to be the meeting or Church representative of these many united congregations.

4. A parish-church material is a Church within such local bounds, the members whereof dwell contiguously together, one bordering on the other, our [congregationalist] Brethren mean not of such a church; for as Paul Baynes says well, this God instituted not, because a company of papists and protestants may thus dwell together, as in a parish, and yet they are of contrary Churches; a parish-church formally is a multitude [of Christians] who meet in [the] manner or form of a parish, as if they dwelt near together in a place ordinarily, to worship God, as the [???] of those who came together to celebrate the Lord’s Supper is called the Church, 1 Cor. 11:18…


3 Conclusions

1. If we shall evince [prove] a Church-visible in the New Testament which is not a parishional Church, we evince this to be false which is maintained by our [congregationalist] Brethren, that there is no visible instituted Church in the New Testament save only a parishional church, or a single independent congregation.

2. A national typical Church was the Church of the Jews, we deny [that to be ours].  But a Church national or provincial of cities, provinces, and kingdoms, having one common government, we think cannot be denied…  Though we take not the Word Church for a mystical body, but for a ministerial company.

3. There ought to be a fellowship of Church communion amongst all the visible Churches on earth; Therefore de jure and by Christ his institution, there is an universal or catholic visible Church.


Ch. 8, section 8, pp. 175-241

4 Distinctions

1. There is an ordinary and an extraordinary ministry.

2. There is a mystical Church of believers, and a ministerial Church of pastors and flock.

3. A Church may be so called by anticipation, as Hos. 12, ‘Jacob served for a wife’; or formally, because it is constituted in its whole being.

4. A ministry is a ministry to these who are not as yet professors, but only potentially members of the Church.


2 Conclusions

1. There is a Church of believers sometime[s] before there be a ministerial Church.

2. A public ordinary ministry is before a Church of believers, Eph. 4:11, pastors, teachers, and a ministry, are given to the inbringing and gathering of the Church… That is, edifying, and not only for confirming, but for the converting of the Body of Christ.


5 Distinctions

1. A succession in the Church is necessary ordinarily; extraordinarily, and in cases of necessity it may be wanting. Secondly, we deny the popish succession to be a note of the Church, nor do we in any sort contend for it.

2. …there is succession to the errors of preceding teachers, either material without pertinacy, holding what they hold; or formal to the same errors, with hatred of the truth and pertinacy; the latter we reject, the former may be in lawfully called pastors… Thirdly, we deny not but Asia, Africa, Egypt, and a great part of Europe heard not a word of Christ for a long time… And succession was interrupted many ages in the world…

3. It is one thing to receive ordination from a prelate lawfully and another thing to receive lawful ordination. The former we deny; ministers sin who receive ordination from a prelate, as they sin who receive baptism from the Romish Church; yet is the ordination lawful and valid, because prelacy, though different in nature from the office of a true pastor, is consistent in the same subject with the pastor’s office.

4. Though election by the people may make a minister in some cases, yet it is not the essential cause of a called pastor, as a rose caused to grow in winter by art is of that same nature with a rose produced by nature in summer, though the manner of production be different. So are they both true pastors, those who have no call but the people’s election, and those who have ordination by pastors.

5. The substance and essence of ordination… consists in the appointing of such for the holy ministry by persons in office. All the corrupt rites added to this by papists take not away the essence and nature of ordination… But since [John] Robinson grants that the baptism of the Romish Church is not to be repeated, ordination of pastors is of that same nature, and must stand valid also.


3 Conclusions

1. In cases of necessity, election by the people only may stand for ordination where there be no pastors at all. This is proved before by us, first, because God is not necessarily tied to succession of pastors. Secondly, because where men are gifted for the work of the ministry, and there be no pastors to be had, the giving of the Holy Ghost is a sign of a calling of God, who is not wanting [lacking] to his own gracious intention, though ordinary means fail… Nor do we think that we are in this straitened… that we must wait for an immediate calling from Heaven…

2. Thence may well be deduced that they are lawful pastors, and need not a calling revealed, who, in cases of extraordinary necessity, are only chosen by the people and not ordained by pastors; and that pastors ordained by pastors, as such, are pastors of the same nature, as Matthias called by the Church, and Paul immediately called from Heaven, had one and the same office by nature.

3. The established and settled order of calling of pastors, is by succession of pastors to pastors, and elders by elders, 1 Tim. 5:22…

Secondly, the practice of the apostles is our safe rule, because at all ordination of Church officers the apostles and pastors were actors and ordainers, as Acts 1:15-16; 6:2-3; 14:23; 1 Cor. 3:6; Tit. 1:5, and this Robinson grants, because the charge of all the Churches did lie on the Apostles. As also before the Law, the people did not ordain the priesthood, but God ordained the firstborn by succession to be teachers and priests…

Thirdly, if ordination of Pastors be laid down in the apostolic canons to officers, as officers, then is not this a charge that does agree to the people, especially wanting [lacking] officers.


4 Considerations

Election we are to consider: to whom it belongs of right. 2. The force and influence thereof to make a Church-officer; but let these considerations first be pondered:

1. Election is made either by a people gracious and able to discern, or by a people rude and ignorant; the former is valid, jure et facto, the latter not so.

2. Election is either comparative or absolute; when election is comparative, though people have nothing possibly positively to say against a person, yet though they reject him and choose one fitter, the election is reasonable.

3. People’s election is not of a person to the ministry as a wife’s choice of a man to be a husband, but of a minister; election does not make a minister.

4. Election is either to be looked to, quoad jus, or, quoad factum. A people not yet called externally, cannot elect their own minister; a synod or others of charity (as Rev. Junius says) may choose for them, though, de facto, and in respect of their case, they cannot choose their own pastor.


3 Conclusions

1. The people have God’s right to choose, for so the Word prescribes.

2. But elections in the ancient Church were not by one single congregation, but by the bishops of diverse other Churches.

3. It is false [what] our [congregationalist] Brethren say, that the calling of a minister consists principally and essentially in election of the people… The people are not infallible in their choice, and may refuse a man for a pastor whom God has called to be a pastor; election makes not one a pastor, in foro Dei, [for] then he shall be no pastor whom God has made a pastor, because people out of ignorance or prejudice consent not to his ministry… his external calling consists in the presbyters’ separation of a man for such a holy calling, as the Holy Ghost speaks. We find no Church-calling in all God’s Word of sole election of the people, and therefore it cannot be the essential form of a right calling.



On ‘the Power of Order’ vs. ‘the Power of Jurisdiction’


George Gillespie

English Popish Ceremonies  (1637), pt. 3, ch. 8, Digression 4, pp. 188-89

“1. We must distinguish a twofold power of the keys (Trelcatius, Instittutes of Theology, bk. 2, p. 287-88; Pareus on 1 Cor. 5, Of Excommunication): the one is execute in doctrine: the other in discipline: the one concionalis [of preaching]: the other judicialis [of judgment]. 

Touching the former, we grant it is proper for pastors alone, whose office and vocation it is, by the preaching and publishing of God’s Word, to shut the Kingdom of Heaven against impenitent and disobedient men, and to open it unto penitent sinners, to bind God’s heavy wrath upon the former, and (by application of the promises of mercy) to loose the latter from the sentence and fear of condemnation.

When we ascribe the power of binding and loosing to that whole consistory, wherein governing elders are joined together with pastors, we mean only of the Keys of external discipline, which are used in ecclesiastical courts and judicatories.”


Assertion of the Government of the Church of Scotland  (1641), pp. 12-14

“…we will distinguish with the School-men a two-fold power, the power of Order, and the power of Jurisdiction; which are different in sundry respects.

1. 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.  The power of jurisdiction comprehends such things as a minister cannot do by himself, nor by virtue of his ordination; but they are done by a session, presbytery, or synod; and sometimes by a minister, or ministers, having commission, and authority from the same, such as ordination and ad­mission, suspension, deprivation and excommunication, and receiving again into the Church, and making of laws and consti­tutions ecclesiastical and such like; whereof we boldly maintain, that there is no part of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, in the power of one man, but of many met together in the name of Christ.

2. The power of order is the radical and fundamental power, and makes a minister susceptive, and capable of the power of jurisdiction.

3. The power of order goes no further than the court of conscience; the power of jurisdiction is exercised in external and ecclesiastical courts.

Fourthly, the power of order is sometime unlawful in the use, yet not void in itself.  The power of Jurisdiction when it is unlawful in the use, it is also void in itself.  If a minister do any act of jurisdiction, as to excommunicate, or absolve with­out his own parish, wanting also the consent of the ministry and elders of the bounds where he does the same, such acts are void in themselves, and of no effect.  But if with­out his own charge, and without the con­sent aforesaid, he baptize an infant, or do any such thing belonging to the power of order, though his act be unlawful, yet is the thing itself of force, and the sacrament remains a true sacrament.”


Henry Jeanes

The Want of Church-Government…  (London, 1650)  Jeanes was an English presbyterian.

pp. 26-27

“…the instrumental cause of the administration of the Lord’s Supper, viz. the ministers of the Gospel, and the power which they have as ministers to administer the Lord’s Supper.

It is called by divines potestas ordinis [the power of order] or potestas muneris specialis [the power of a special office]: and by the London divines in their Divine-Right of Church-Government, is defined to be a Church-power more special and particular to the office of some Church-governors only, as the power of preaching the Gospel, and which they as ministers may execute virtute officii [by virtue of the office]: and it is distinguished from the power of jurisdiction which is more general and common to the office of all Church-governors, as the power of censures, wherein ruling-elders may act with ministers…

…That which belongs to ministers as ministers, belongs to all ministers, and always, in all states and conditions of the Church, as well in an un-presbyterated as a presbyterated Church.  For a quatenus ad de omni valet argumentum: and the universality required in a proposition, that is, de omni, is universalitas posterioristica, as well as prioristica; temporis, as well as subjecti; Indeed this universality of time, this always is not to be understood, as in natural attributions, for that which is absolutely such in a mathematical latitude, but is to be taken (as usually it is) when it is applied to matters moral, for frequency or usualness…

For first every power is for its act, and therefore power in a minister of administring the Lord’s Supper is not to lie idle and unactive; but to be exercised and actuated as often as there is a fit occasion and opportunity; unless there be some such impediment, as I spake of but now, etc.

‘[Greek]  Hoc est frustra, quod sua natura in alterius gratiam est comparatum, quan∣do non perficit id, cujus gratia est, & natura comparatum est.’ (Aristotle, bk. 2, Physics, text 62.

‘Now if that may be said in vain which does not reach that end unto which it was ap∣pointed, much more may that be said so which is never used or applied for the compassing of that end.’

Secondly, The edification of the Church of Christ is, as the London divines say well, that eminent scope and end why Christ gave Church Government, and all other ordinances of the New Testa∣ment to the Church, 2 Cor. 10:8; 2 Cor. 13:10.  The power then both of Order and Jurisdiction are both to be employed to the edification of the Church.

The power of jurisdiction the minister cannot exercise singly by himself, without other Church officers.  The power of order he may: For he alone is the seat and receptacle thereof.

…Now a minister ought to exercise and em∣ploy for the edification of the Church all the power and au∣thority that he may lawfully exercise.  For, not to employ it, were with the slothful servant in the parable to hide his talent in the earth.”


p. 33

“…the exercise of discipline is not a necessary antecedent unto the exercise of other branches of the power of order; to wit, the power of preaching, baptizing, etc.”


pp. 35-36

“So may we say, can any man forbid bread and wine, that these should not receive the Lord’s Supper, which have received the Holy Ghost; and have in some degree all spiritual qualifications requisite in communicants.  They have the word of promise, which is the greater; who can inhibit the sign which is the less?  They are Mr. Geree his words for the baptism of infants.  They are faederati, therefore they must be signati.  It is Mr. Marshal’s argument upon the same subject; and mutatis mutandis applyable to our purpose.

Perhaps you will say, you would willingly give believers their right, but prophane and scandalous persons will also intrude [into the Supper] who have no right: What if they do?  If you have no power or authority from Christ to keep them back by yourself; If you have used the utmost of your power to erect an eldership in the congregation; if you have used your power of order to the utmost for keeping them back by exhortation, if you mourn for their intrusion, wherein are you to be blamed?  Because they do wrong, will you do no right?  And shall the saints be debarred their dues, because these wretches without your allowance, sieze upon what is undue, that unto which they have no right?”



That the Christian Ministry is the (Fallible) Vice-Regency of Christ insofar as They Rule According to Christ’s Word

Samuel Rutherford

The Due Right of Presbyteries…  (London, 1644), ch. 2, section 2, p. 21

“3. The government of Christ’s Kingdom is the most free and willing government on earth; yet it is a government properly so called, for there be in it authoritative commandments and ecclefiastic coaction, upon the danger of soul penalties…  and therefore the rulers-ecclesiastic only, by power of office, are in Christ’s room, over the Church, to command, sentence, judge, and judicially to censure.”


George Gillespie

Aaron’s Rod Blossoming  (1646), bk. 2, ch. 7, pp. 109-112

“Thirdly, the Scripture intimates this difference between ministry and magistracy, that the work of the ministry and the administrations thereof are performed in the name of Jesus Christ, as Mediator and King of the Church: the work of the magistracy not so…

Now let our opposites show (if they can) where they find in Scripture that the Christian magistrate is to rule in the name of Christ, to judge in the name of Christ, to make laws in the name of Christ, to make war or peace in the name of Christ, to punish evil-doers with the temporal sword in the name of Christ.

Of the ministry I did show that in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ we do assemble ourselves together, Mt. 18:20, in his name do we preach, Lk. 24:47; Acts 4:17-18; 5:28,44; 9:27, in his name do we baptize, Acts 2:38, 8:16; 19:5, in his name do we excommunicate, 1 Cor. 5:5…

A minister of Christ does both preach and baptize in the name of Christ, as Mediator, that is, vice Christi [in the place of Christ], in Christ’s stead, and having authority for that effect from Christ, as Mediator; for Christ, as Mediator, gave us our comission to preach and baptize…  So that to preach and baptize epi to onomati Iesou Christou (which we find both of preaching, Lk. 24:47, and of baptizing, Acts 2:38) comprehends a formal commission, power and auhority, given and derived from Christ.

The ministers of Christ do act in the name of Christ, that is, in the name, authority, room and place of Christ:  We are ambassadors for Christ, and we preach in Christ’s stead, 2 Cor. 5:20.  This…  makes good my argument.  Why did he [Mr. Hussey, an Erastian] not show us the like concerning magistracy?  I suppose he would, if he could…”



On Natural Law in Church Government

Samuel Rutherford

The Divine Right of Church Government…  (1646), Intro, Section 5, p. 80

“As concerning actions of Church-Policy, that cannot be warranted by the light of nature, and yet have intrinsecal conveniency and aptitude to edify and decently to accomodate the worship of God.  I conceive these may be done, but not because the Church so commands, as if their commandment were the formal reason of our obedience, but because partly the light of the Law of reason, partly Scripture does warrant them…  Again I conceive that there be two sort of positives in the externals of government or worship:

1.  Some divine, as that there be in the public worship, prayers, praising, preaching, sacraments, and these are substantials; that there be such officers, pastors, teachers, elders and deacons; that there be such censures, as rebuking, excommunication and the like, are morally divine, or divinely moral:

[2.] and when the Church forms a directory for worship and government; the directory itself is in the form not simply divine.”


How Church Government is in its Fountain Positive, though includes Natural Law in Some Respects


Rutherford, Samuel – Ch. 14, pp. 200-203  of A Peaceable & Temperate Plea…  (1642)



That Church Planting is to be Helped by all Levels within Presbyterianism

With General Assemblies

The Scottish Second Book of Discipline  1578

Ch. 7, ‘Of the Elderships, and Assemblies, and Discipline’

“22.  This [general] assembly is instituted, that…  things generally serving for the weal [health] of the whole body of the kirk within the realm may be foreseen, treated, and set forth to God’s glory.

23.  It should take care that kirks be planted where they are not planted…”


With Regard to Presbyteries

George Gillespie

Assertion of the Government of the Church of Scotland  (Edinburgh, 1846), Part 2, Concerning the Assemblies of the Church of Scotland, and the Authority Thereof

Ch. 2, ‘Of the Independency of the Elderships of Particular Congregations’, last section, p. 44

Ch. 3, ‘Of Greater Presbyteries, which some call Classes’, ‘The last proposition’, pp. 48-49

These sections show that church planting is to be under presbyteries, which have the main charge of this responsibility, they providing the direct regional oversight; and that the root of Church authority is the presbytery and not local sessions.


With Regard to Local Sessions

The Scottish Second Book of Discipline  1578

Ch. 7, ‘Of the Elderships, and Assemblies, and Discipline’

“10.  The first kind and sort of assemblies, although they are within particular congregations, yet they exercise the power, authority, and jurisdiction of the kirk with mutual consent, and therefore bear sometimes the name of the kirk.

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.”




Related Pages


Church Government

The Regulative Principle of Church Government

Offices of the Church

Unity of the Church 

On Councils & Synods