The Description of Church Government.
The nature of that church government which is of divine right according to Scripture, comes next to be considered; (having so fully seen what the nature of a divine right is, and how many several ways matters in religion may be said to be of divine right.) For the fuller and clearer unfolding whereof, let us first see how church government may be described; and then how that description may be explained and justified by the word of God, in the branches of it.
Church government may be thus described:
Church government is a power or authority spiritual, revealed in the holy Scriptures, derived from Jesus Christ our Mediator, only to his own officers, and by them exercised in dispensing of the word, seals, censures, and all other ordinances of Christ, for the edifying of the Church of Christ.
This description of church government may be thus explained and proved. Three things are principally considerable herein, viz: 1. The thing defined, or described, viz. church government. 2. The general nature of this government which it hath in common with all other governments, viz. power or authority.
3. The special difference whereby it is distinguished from all other governments whatsoever. Herein six things are observable. 1. The special rule, wherein it is revealed, and whereby it is to be measured, viz. the holy Scriptures. 2. The proper author, or fountain, whence this power is derived, viz. from Jesus Christ our Mediator, peculiarly. 3. The special kind of this power or authority, viz. it is a spiritual power, it is a derived power. 4. The several parts or acts wherein this power sets forth itself, viz. in dispensing the word, seals, censures, and all other ordinances of Christ. 5. The special end or scope of this power, viz. the edifying of the Church of Christ. 6. The proper and distinct subject or receptacle wherein Christ hath placed and intrusted all this power, viz. only his own officers. All these things are comprehended in this description, and unto these several heads the whole nature of church government may be reduced. So that, these being explained and confirmed by the Scriptures, it will easily and fully be discovered, what that church government is which is of divine right, and by the will and appointment of Jesus Christ, our Mediator.
Of the Subject Described, viz. Church Government, the terms being briefly opened.
Touching the thing defined or described, it is church government. Here two terms are to be a little explained: 1. What is meant by church? 2. What is meant by government?