Jesus Christ our Mediator hath not committed the proper formal power or authority spiritual, for government of his Church, unto the community of the faithful, whole church, or body of the people, as the proper immediate receptacle, or first subject thereof.
Some things herein need a little explanation, before we come to the confirmation.
1. By fraternity, community of the faithful, whole church or body of the people, understand a particular company of people, meeting together in one assembly or single congregation, to partake of Christ’s ordinances. This single congregation may be considered as presbyterated, i.e., furnished with an eldership; or as unpresbyterated, i.e., destitute of an eldership, having yet no elders or officers erected among them. Rigid Brownists or Separatists say, that the fraternity or community of the faithful unpresbyterated is the first receptacle of proper ecclesiastical power from Christ: unto whom some of independent judgment subscribe. Independents thus resolve: First, That the apostles of Christ are the first subject of apostolical power. Secondly, That a particular congregation of saints, professing the faith, taken indefinitely for any church, (one as well as another,) is the first subject of all church offices with all their spiritual gifts and power. Thirdly, That when the church of a particular congregation walketh together in the truth and peace, the brethren of the church are the first subjects of church liberty; the elders thereof of church authority; and both of them together are the first subject of all church power. Which assertions of Brownists and Independents (except the first) are denied by them of presbyterian judgment, as being obvious to divers material and just exceptions.:
2. By proper formal power or authority spiritual, for church government, thus conceive. To omit what hath been already laid down about the natures and sorts of spiritual power and authority, (part 2, chap. III. and VI.,) which are to be remembered, here it may be further observed, that there is a proper public, official, authoritative power, though but stewardly and ministerial, which is derived from Jesus Christ to his church officers, Matt. xvi. 19, and xviii. 18; John xx. 21-23; Matt, xxviii. 18-20; of which power the apostle speaking, saith, “If I should somewhat boast of our power which the Lord hath given us to edification,” 2 Cor. x. 8; so 2 Cor. xiii. 10. The people are indeed allowed certain liberties or privileges; as, To try the spirits, &c., 1 John iv. 1. To prove all doctrines by the word, 1 Thess. v. 21. To nominate and elect their own church officers, as their deacons, which they did, Acts vi. 3, 5, 6; but this is not a proper power of the keys. But the proper, public, official, authoritative power, is quite denied to the body of the people, furnished with an eldership or destitute thereof.