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At a General Court held at Boston, May 19th, 1680.
THIS Court having taken into serious consideration the request that hath been presented by several of the reverend elders, in the name of the late Synod, do approve thereof, and accordingly order, The CONFESSION Faith, agreed upon at their second session, and The PLATFORM OF DISCIPLINE, consented unto by the Synod at CAMBRIDGE, anno 1648, to be printed for the benefit of the churches in present and after times.
EDWARD RAWSON, Sec’y.
The setting forth of the public confession of the faith of churches hath a double end, and both tending to public edification : First, the maintenance of the faith intire within itself: Secondly, the holding forth of unity and harmony both amongst and with other churches. Our churches here, as, by the grace of Christ, we believe and profess the same doctrine of the truth of the gospel, which generally is received in all the reformed churches of Christ in Europe, so especially we desire not to vary from the doctrine of faith and truth held forth by the churches of our native country. For though it be not one native country that can breed us all of one mind ; nor ought we to have the glorious faith of our Lord Jesus with respect to persons, yet as Paul, who was himself a Jew, professed to hold forth the doctrine of justification by faith, and of the resurrection of the dead, according as he knew his godly countrymen did, who were Jews by nature, (Gal. ii. 15. Acts xxvi. 6. 7.) so we who are by nature Englishmen, do desire to hold forth the same doctrine of religion, especially in fundamentals, which we see and know to be held by the churches of England, according to the truth of the gospel.
The more we discern (that which we do, and have cause to do with incessant mourning and trembling) the unkind, and unbrotherly, and unchristian contention of our godly brethren and countrymen in matters of church government, the more earnestly do we desire to see them join together in one common faith, and ourselves with them. For this end, having perused the public confession of the faith, agreed upon by the reverend assembly of divines at Westminster, and finding the sum and substance thereof, in matters of doctrine, to express not their own judgment only, but ours also ; and being likewise called upon by our godly magistrates, do draw up a public confession of that faith which is constantly taught, and generally professed amongst us; we thought good to present unto them, and with them to our churches, and with them to all the churches of Christ abroad, our professed and hearty assent and attestation to the whole confession of faith (for substance of doctrine) which the reverend assembly presented to the religious and honourable parliament of England : excepting only some sections in the 25. 30. and 31. chapters of their confession, which concern points of controversy in church discipline ; touching which we refer ourselves to the draught of the church discipline in the ensuing treatise.
The truth of what we here declare may appear by the unanimous vote of the Synod of the Elders and Messengers of our churches, assembled at Cambridge, the last of the sixth month, 1648, which jointly passed in these words: This synod having perused and considered, with much gladness of heart, and thankfulness to God, the confession of faith, published of late by the reverend assembly in England, do judge it to be very holy, orthodox, and judicious in all matters of faith ; and do therefore freely and fully consent thereunto, for the substance thereof. Only in those things which have respect to church government, and discipline, we refer ourselves to the platform of church discipline, agreed upon by this present assembly; and do therefore think it meet, that this confession of faith should be commended to the churches of Christ amongst us, and to the honoured court, as worthy of their due consideration and acceptance. Howbeit, we may not conceal, that the doctrine of vocation, expressed in chap. X. sect. l. and summarily repeated in chap. xiii. sect. 1. passed not without some debate. Yet considering the term of vocation, and others by which it is described, are capable of a large, or more strict sense and use, and that it is not intended to bind
apprehensions precisely in point of order or method, there hath been a general condescendency thereunto.
Now by this our professed consent and free concurrence with them in all the doctrinals of re. ligion, we hope it may appear to the world, that as we are a remnant of the people of the same nation with them, so we are professors of the same common faith, and fellow-heirs of the same common salvation.
Yea moreover, as this our profession of the same faith with them, will exempt us, even in their judgments, from suspicion of heresy; so, we trust, it may exempt us in the like sort from suspicion of schism: that though we are forced to dissent from them in matters of church-discipline, yet our dissent is not taken up out of arrogancy of spirit in ourselves, whom, they see, willingly condescend to learn of them, neither is it carried with uncharitable censoriousness towards them, (both which are the proper and essential characters of schism) but in meekness of wisdom, as we walk along with them, and follow them as they follow Christ; so where we conceive a different apprehension of the mind of Christ; as it falleth out in some few points touching churchorder, we still reserve due reverence to them whom we judge to be, through Christ, the glorious lights of both nations, and only crave leave, as in the spirit we are bound, to follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth, and, after the apostles example, as we believe, so we speak.
And if the example of such poor outcasts as ourselves might prevail, if not with all (for that were too great a blessing to hope for) yet with some or other of our brethren in England, so far as they are come to mind and speak the same thing with such as dissent from them, we hope in Christ it would not only moderate the harsh judging and condemning of one another in such differences of judgment as may be found in the choicest saints; but also prevent, by the mercy of Christ, the peril of the distraction and destruction of all the churches in both kingdoms. Otherwise, if brethren shall go on to bite and devour one another, the apostle feared, as we also with sadness of heart do, it will tend to the consuming of them, and us all, which the Lord prevent.
We are not ignorant, that besides these aspersions of heresy and schism, other exceptions also are taken at our way of church government, but, as we conceive, upon as little ground. As,
1. That by admitting none into the fellowship of our church but saints by calling, we rob many parish churches of their best members, to make up one of our congregations, which is not only to gather churches out of churches, a thing unheard of in scripture, but also to weaken the hearts and hands of the best ministers in the parishes, by despoiling them of their best hearers.
2. That we provide no course for the gaining, and calling in of ignorant, and erroneous, and scandalous persons, whom we refuse to receive into our churches, and so exclude from the wholesome remedy of church discipline.