1. The first churches were immediately planted and governed by Christ’s own apostles and disciples; 1. Who immediately received the keys of the kingdom of heaven from Christ himself in person, Matt. xvi. 19, and xviii. 17,18; John xx. 21, 23. 2. Who immediately had the promise of Christ’s perpetual presence with them in their ministry, Matt, xxviii. 18-20; and of the plentiful donation of the Spirit of Christ to lead them into all truth, John xiv. 16, and xvi. 13-15; Acts i. 4, 5, 8 3. Who immediately received from Christ, after his resurrection and before his ascension, “commandments by the Holy Ghost,”—“Christ being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God,” Acts i. 2, 3; and, 4. Who were first and immediately baptized by the Holy Ghost, extraordinarily, Acts ii. 1-5. Now, who can imagine that the apostles and disciples were not actuated by the Spirit of Christ bestowed upon them? or did not discharge Christ’s commandments, touching his kingdom imposed upon them? or did not duly use those keys of Christ’s kingdom committed to them in the ordering and governing of the primitive churches? And if so, then the pattern of their practices must be a rule for all the succeeding churches, 1 Cor. xi. 1; Phil, iv. 9.
2. To what end hath the Holy Ghost so carefully recorded a pattern of the state and government of the primitive churches in the first and purest times, but for the imitation of successive churches in after times? “For whatsoever things wore written aforetime, were written for our learning,” or instruction. But what do such records instruct us? Only in fact, that such things were done by the first churches? or of right also, that such things should be done by the after churches? Surely, this is more proper and profitable for us.
3. If such patterns of Christ’s apostles, disciples, and primitive churches in matters of the government will not amount to an obligatory rule for all following churches, how shall we justify sundry other acts of religion commonly received in the best reformed churches, and founded only or chiefly upon the foundation of the practice of Christ’s apostles and the apostolical churches? As the receiving of the Lord’s supper on the Lord’s days, Acts xx. 7, &c.; which notwithstanding are generally embraced without any considerable opposition or contradiction, and that most deservedly.
Of the Divine Right of Synods, or Synodal Assemblies.
Thus far of the ruling assemblies, which are styled presbyterial; next come into consideration those greater assemblies, which are usually called synodal, or synods, or councils. They are so called from their convening, or coming together: or rather from their calling together. Both names, viz. synod and council, are of such latitude of signification, as that they may be applied to any public convention of people: