A Catechism and Confession of Faith/Chapter 9
Concerning the Church and Ministry.
Question. What is the Church?
A. But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know, how thou oughtest to behave thy self in the House of God, which is the Church of the living God, the Pillar and Ground of Truth [1 Tim. 3:15].
Q. Who is the Head of the Church?
A. Who hath delivered us from the Power of Darkness, and hath translated us into the Kingdom of his dear Son; and he is the Head of the Body, the Church from which all the Body by Joynts and Bands, having Nourishment ministered and knit together, encreaseth with the Encrease of God [Col. 1:13,18; 2:19].
Q. What kind of Persons make the Church?
A. Them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus [1 Cor. 1:2].
And the Lord added to the Church daily such as should be saved [Acts 2:47].
Q. Hath not Christ appointed any Officers in the Church for the Work of the Ministry?
A. Wherefore he saith, when he ascended up on high, he led Captivity Captive, and gave Gifts unto Men; and he gave some Apostles, and some Prophets, and some Evangelists, and some Pastors, and some Teachers, for the perfecting of the Saints, for the Work of the Ministry, for the Edification of the Body of Christ [Eph. 4:8,11-12].
Q. What kind of Men should such as are Teachers and Overseers of the Church be?
A. A Bishop then must be Blameless, the Husband of one Wife; Vigilant, Sober, of good Behaviour, given to Hospitality, apt to Teach, not given to Wine, no Striker, not greedy of filthy Lucre; but Patient, not a Brawler, not Covetous, one that ruleth well his own House, having his Children in Subjection with all Gravity; (for if a Man know not how to rule his own House, how shall he take Care of the Church of God?) not a Novice, lest being lifted up with Pride, he fall into the Condemnation of the Devil: Moreover, he must have a good Report of them which are without, lest he fall into Reproach, and the Snare of the Devil [1 Tim. 3:2-7].
For a Bishop must be blameless, as the Steward of God, not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to Wine, no Striker, not given to filthy Lucre, but a lover of Hospitality, a lover of good Men, sober, just, holy, temperate, holding fast the faithful word, as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound Doctrine, both to exhort and to convince the Gain-sayers [Tit. 1:7-9].
Q. What is incumbent upon such to do?
A. Take heed therefore to your selves, and to all the Flock, over which the holy Ghost hath made you Overseers, to feed the Church of God [Acts 20:28].
The Elders which are among you, I exhort, who am also an Elder, and a Witness of the Sufferings of Christ, and also a Partaker of the Glory that shall be revealed; Feed the Flock of God which is among you, taking the Oversight thereof, not by Constraint, but willingly; not for filthy Lucre, but of a ready Mind; neither as being Lords over God's Heritage, but being Ensamples to the Flock [1 Pet. 5:1-3].
Q. Though they be not to Lord over the Flock, yet is there not a Respect due to them in their Place?
A. Let the Elders that rule well, be counted worthy of double Honour, especially they who labour in the Word and Doctrine [1 Tim. 5:17].
Q. Albeit then among true Christians every one that believeth is to have the Witness in himself, being perswaded in himself by the Spirit; yet is there not also a real Subjection to be to one another in the Lord?
A. The Spirits of the Prophets are subject to the Prophets [1 Cor. 14:32].
Obey them that have the Rule over you, and submit your selves; for they watch for your Souls, as they that must give Account, that they may do it with Joy, and not with Grief; for that is unprofitable for you [Heb. 13:17].
And we beseech you, Brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; and to esteem them very highly in Love, for their Works sake [1 Thess. 5:12-13].
Likewise, ye younger, submit your selves unto the Elder; yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with Humility; for God resisteth the Proud, and giveth Grace unto the Humble. [1 Pet. 5:5]
Q. How ought true Teachers to minister in the Church?
A. As every Man hath received the Gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good Stewards of the manifold Grace of God. If any speak let him speak as the Oracles of God: If any Man minister let him do it as of the ability which God Giveth, that God in all Things may be glorified, through Jesus Christ [2 Pet. 4:10-11].
Q. I perceive then, that every true Minister of the Church of Christ is to minister of the Gift and Grace of God which he hath received: But some are of the Judgment, that natural Wisdom or Parts, and humane Learning are the Qualifications, which are of absolute Necessity for a Minister, but Grace they judge not to be absolutely necessary, but that one may be a Minister without it; what saith the Scripture in this Case?
A. A Bishop must be sober just, holy, temperate [Tit. 1:7-8].
Q. Methinks it is impossible for a Man to be blameless, just, holy, sober and temperate without the Grace of God: So that if these Qualifications be absolutely necessary, then surely, that without which a Man cannot be so qualified, must be necessary also: But what saith the Scripture, as to the Necessity of Natural Wisdom and human Learning?
A. Where is the Wise? where is the Scribe? where is the Disputer of this World? hath not God made foolish the Wisdom of this World? for after that in the Wisdom of God the World by Wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the Foolishness of Preaching, to save them that believe [1 Cor. 1:20-21].
Q. It seems then the Preachings of the true Ministers are not gathered together by wisdom and Learning: It hath been supposed that a Man must be greatly skilled in Learning to make a good Sermon, what is the Apostles judgment in the Case?
A. For Christ sent me not to Baptize, but to preach the Gospel; not with Wisdom of Words, lest the Cross of Christ should be made of none Effect [1 Cor. 1:17].
And I was with you in Weakness, and in Fear, and in much Trembling; and my Speech and my Preaching was not with enticing Words of mans Wisdom, but in Demonstration of the Spirit and of Power, that your Faith should not stand in the Wisdom of Men, but in the Power of God [1 Cor. 2:3-5].
Q. I perceive the Apostle layes far more stress upon the Demonstration and Power of the Spirit in a Preacher, than upon human Literature; ought Ministers then to preach as the Spirit teacheth them?
A. Also we speak not in the Words which Man's Wisdom teaches; but which the holy Ghost teacheth [1 Cor. 2:13].
And they were all fill'd with the holy Ghost, and began to speak as the Spirit gave them Utterance [Acts 2:4].
Q. It is Christ then that speaketh in and through his Ministers?
A. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father, which speaketh in you [Matt. 10:20].
For it is not ye that speak, but the holy Ghost [Mark 13:11].
For the holy Ghost shall teach you in the same Hour what ye ought to say [Luke 12:12].
Since ye seek a Proof of Christ speaking in me, which to you-ward is not weak, but is mighty in you [2 Cor. 13:3].
Q. What is the Apostle's Mind of that human Learning, which some cry up so much, and think so needful in a Minister?
A. Beware, lest any Man spoil you through Philosophy and vain Deceit, after the Tradition of Men, after the Rudiments of the World, & not after Christ [Col. 2:8].
O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding prophane and vain Babling and Oppositions of Science, falsly so called [1 Tim. 6:20].
Q. Though true Ministers speak not by the natural Wisdom of Men; yet is their Testimony altogether void of Wisdom?
A. Howbeit, we speak Wisdom among them that are perfect; yet not the Wisdom of this World, nor of the Princes of this World that come to nought; but we speak the Wisdom of God in a Mystery, even the hidden Wisdom, which God ordained before the World to our Glory. [1 Cor. 2:6-7]
Q. What is the Reason that man by his natural Wisdom is not capable to minister in the Things of God?
A. For what Man knoweth the Things of a Man, save the Spirit of a Man, which is in him? Even so the Things of God knoweth no Man but the spirit of God: But the natural Man receiveth not the Things of the Spirit of God; for they are Foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned [1 Cor. 2:11,14].
Q. These Scriptures do sufficiently hold forth, that the true Call to the Ministry is from God; that which maketh a Minister, is the Gift & Grace of God; that the true & effectual Preaching of a faithful Minister, is such, as is from the inward Teaching and Leading of the Spirit of God: But what say the Scriptures touching the Maintenance of Ministers?
A. Let him that is taught in the Word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good Things [Gal. 6:6].
If we have sown unto you spiritual Things, is it a great matter if we shall reap your carnal Things? If others be Partakers of this Power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless, we have not used this Power, but suffer all Things, lest we should hinder the Gospel of Christ: Do ye not know, that they which minister about holy Things, live of the Things of the Temple; and they which wait at the Altar, are partakers with the Altar; even so hath the Lord ordain'd, that they which preach the Gospel, shall live of the Gospel [1 Cor. 9:11-14].
For the Scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the Ox that treadeth out the Corn; and the Labourer is worthy of his Reward [1 Tim. 5:18].
Q. I perceive by these Scriptures, that there lyeth an Obligation upon the Saints, to help with outward Things such as truly minister unto them spiritual; but this seems to be voluntary; ought not therefore true Ministers to preach, whether they be sure of this or not? What saith the Apostle of himself in this Case? and what adviseth he others?
A. But I have used none of these Things, neither have I written those things, that it should be so done unto me, for it were better for me to dye, then that any Man should make my Glorying void; for though I Preach the Gospel, I have nothing to glory of; for Necessity is laid upon me, yea, Wo is unto me if I preach not the Gospel. For if I do this Thing willingly I have a Reward, but if against my Will a Dispensation of the Gospel is committed unto me, what is my Reward then? Verily, that when I Preach the Gospel, I make the Gospel of Christ without Charge, that I abuse not my Power in the Gospel [1 Cor. 9:15-18].
I have coveted no man's Silver, or Gold, or Apparel, yea, ye your selves know that these Hands have ministred unto my Necessities, and to them that were with me. I have shewed you all things, how that so Labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the Words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give, than to receive [Acts 20:33-35].
Q. It is observable, that the Apostle every where makes special mention among the qualifications of Teachers, that they be not given to Filthy Lucre; What ought we to think of those Teachers as will not preach without Hire; yea, that will by Violence, take from those who receive no Spirituals from them? Are they like to be the Ministers of Christ? Or what else saith the Scripture of such?
A. Yea, they are greedy Dogs, which can never have enough; & they are Shepherds that cannot understand; they all look to their own Way, every one for his Gain from his Quarter [Isa. 56:11].
Son of Man, Prophesie against the Shepherds of Israel, Prophesie, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God unto the Shepherds, Wo to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves: Should not the Shepherds feed the Flock? Ye eat the Fat, and ye cloath you with the Wool, ye kill them that are fed, but ye feed not the Flock. As I live, saith the Lord God, Surely because my Flock became a Prey, and my Flock became Meat to every Beast of the Field, because there was no Shepherd; Neither did my Shepherds search for my Flock; but the Shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my Flock [Ezek. 34:2-3,8].
Thus saith the Lord concerning the Prophets that make my People Err, that bite with their Teeth, and cry Peace; & he that putteth not into their Mouthes, they even prepare War against him: The Heads thereof judge for Reward, & the Priests thereof teach for Hire, and the Prophets thereof divine for Money; yet will they lean upon the Lord, and say, Is not the Lord amongst us? None Evil can come upon us [Mic. 3:5,11].
Q. These are plain Testimonies from the Prophets; Are there none such from the Apostles?
A. Perverse Disputings of Men of Corrupt Minds, and destitute of the Truth, supposing that Gain is Godliness; from such withdraw thy self; But Godliness with Contentment is great Gain; For we brought nothing into the World, and its certain we can carry nothing out; & having Food and Rayment, let us therewith be content. But they that will be Rich, fall into Temptation and a Snare, & into many foolish and hurtful Lusts, which drown men in Destruction and Perdition; For the Love of Money is the Root of all Evil, which while some coveted after, they have erred from the Faith, and pierced themselves through with many Sorrows [1 Tim. 6:5-10].
For Men shall be Lovers of their own selves, Covetous, Boasters, Proud, Blasphemers Disobedient to Parents, Unthankful, Unholy [2 Tim. 3:2].
For there are many unruly and vain Talkers & Deceivers, especially they of the Circumcision, whose Mouthes must be stopped; who subvert whole Houses, teaching things which they ought not for Filthy Lucre's sake [Tit. 1:10-11].
But there were False Prophets also among the People, even as there shall be False Teachers among you, who privily shall bring in Damnable Heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift Destruction: And many shall follow their Pernicious Wayes, by reason of whom the way of Truth shall be Evil spoken of. And through Covetousness shall they with feigned Words make Merchandize of you; whose Judgment now of a long time lingereth not, & their Damnation slumbereth not: Having Eyes full of Adultery, and that cannot cease from Sin, beguiling unstable Souls; an Heart they have exercised with Covetous practices. Cursed Children, which have forsaken the Right Way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam, the Son of Bozor who loved the Wages of Unrighteousness. [2 Pet. 2:1-3,14-15]
Wo unto them; for they have gone in the Way of Cain, and run greedily after the error of Balaam for Reward, and Perished in the Gain-saying of Corah: These are Murmurers, Complainers, walking after their own Lusts; and their Mouth speaketh Great Swelling Words, having men's Persons in Admiration because of Advantage [Jud. 11,16].
Q. Ought there to be any Order in the Church of God?
A. Let all things be done decently, and in Order. [1 Cor. 14:40]
Q. What Good Order is prescribed in the Church concerning Preachers? Is it fit that only one or two speak, or many more, if moved thereto?
A. If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his Peace; For ye may all Prophesie one by one, that all may learn, and that all may be comforted. And the Spirits of the Prophets are subject to the Prophets; for God is not the Author of Confusion, but of Peace, as in all the Churches of the Saints [1 Cor. 14:30-33].
Q. Is there any Promise that Daughters as well as Sons shall Prophesie under the Gospel?
A. And it shall come to pass afterwards, that I will pour out of my Spirit upon all Flesh, and your Sons and your Daughters shall prophesie; your old Men shall dream Dreams, your Young Men shall see Visions [Joel 2:28].
Q. Is that Promise fulfilled, and to be fulfilled?
A. But this is that which was spoken by the Prophet Joel, & it shall come to pass in the last dayes (saith God) I will pour out my Spirit upon all Flesh. and your Sons and your Daughters shall prophesie; and your Young men shall see Visions, and your Old Men shall dream Dreams [Acts 2:16-17].
Q. Is there any such Instance of old in the Scripture?
A. And the same Man had four Daughters, Virgins, which did prophesie [Acts 21:9].
Q. But may all Women speak; or are any commanded to keep Silence in the Church?
A. Let your Women keep Silence in the Church; for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under Obedience, as also saith the Law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their Husbands at Home, for it is a Shame for Women to speak in the Church [1 Cor. 14:34-35].
Let the Woman learn in Silence with, all Subjection. But I suffer not a Woman to teach, or usurp Authority over the Man; but to be in Silence [1 Tim. 2:11-12].
Q. The first of these seems only to relate to Women that have Husbands; What comes of them that have none? The second speaks nothing of the Church, but only that she ought not to usurp Authority over the Man; Hath this no Limitation? Doth not the same Apostle give Directions how Women that speak should behave themselves in the Church?
A. Every man Praying or Prophesying, having his Head covered, dishonoureth his Head: But every Woman that Prayeth or Prophesieth with her Head uncovered, disonoureth her Head; for that is even all one as if she were shaven [1 Cor. 11:4-5].