by Robert Barclay

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It will be needful then, before I proceed to describe the order and government of the church, to consider, what is or may be properly understood by the church; for some (as I touched before) seem to be offended, or at least afraid of the very word, because the "power of the church, the order of the church, the judgment of the church," and such like pretences, have been the great weapons, wherewith Anti-christ and the apostate Christians have been these many generations persecuting the woman, and warring against the man-child. And, indeed, great disputes have been among the learned rabbles in the apostasy concerning this church, what it is, or what may be so accounted? Which I find not my place at present to dive much in; but shall only give the true se nse of it, according to truth and the Scripture's plain testimony.
The word church in itself, and as used in. the Scriptures, is no other but a gathering ,company, or assembly of certain people called or gathered together; for so the Greek word ekklessia signifies, (which is that the translators render c hurch,) which word is derived from the verb evoco, I call out of, from the root kaleo, voco, I call. Now though the English word church be only taken in such a sense, as people are gathered together upon a religious account; yet the Greek word, that is so rendered, is taken in general for every gathering or meeting together of people: and therefore where it is said, the town clerk of the Ephesians dismissed the tumult, that was gathered there together, the same Greek word "ekklesia " is used Acts xix. 41, he dismissed the assembly,or the church.
A church then in the Scripture phrase is no other, than a meeting or gathering of certain people, which, if it be taken in a religious sense, as most commonly it is, are gathered together in the belief of the same principles, doctrines and points of fait h, whereby as a body they become distinguished from others, and have a certain relation among themselves; and a conjunct interest to the maintaining and propagating these principles theyjudge to be right: and therefore have a certain careand oversight ov er one another, to prevent and remove all occasions, that may tend to break this their conjunct interest, hinder the propagation of it, or bring infamy, contempt or contumely upon it; or give such, as on the other hand are or may be banded together to un do them, just occasion against them, to decry and defame them.
Now the way to distinguish that church, gathering, or assembly of people, whereof Christ truly is the head, from such as falsely pretend thereto, is by considering the principles and grounds upon which they are gathered together, the nature of that hiera rchy and order they have among themselves, the way and method they take to uphold it, and the bottom upon which it standeth; which will greatly contribute to clear all mistakes. Forasmuch as sanctification and holiness is the great and chief end among tr ue Christians, which moves them to gather together; therefore the apostle Paul defines the church in his salutation to the Corinthinns, 1 Cor. i. 2: "Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saint s." So the church is such as are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints.
The power and authority, order and government we speak of, is such, as a church, meeting, gathering or assembly, claims towards those that have or do declare themselves members, who own, believe and profess the same doctrines and principles of faith with us, and go under the same distinction and denomination; whose escapes, faults and errors may by our adversaries justly be imputed to us, if not seasonably and Christianly reproved, reclaimed or condemned. For we are not so foolish as .to concern ourselv es with those who are not of us; far less, who stand in opposition to us, so as to reprove, instruct or reclaim them, as fellow-members or brethren: yet with a respect to remove the general reproach from the Christianname. with a tender regard to the goo d of their immortal souls, for the zeal we owe to God's glory, and for the exaltation and propagation of his everlasting truth and gospel in the earth, we have not been wanting with the hazard of our lives to seek the scattered ones, holding forth the li ving and sure foundation, and inviting and persuading all to obey the gospel of Christ, and to take notice of his reproofs, as he makes himself manifest in and by his light in their hearts. So our care and travel is and hath been towards those that are w ithout, that we may bring them into the fellowship of the saints in light; and towards those that are brought in, that they may not be led out again, or drawn aside, either to the left hand, or the right, by the workings and temptations of the enemy.
These things being thus cleared and opened, we do positively affirm, that we being a people gathered together by the power of God (which most if not all of those, that arising among ourselves do oppose us herein, have acknowledged) into the belief of cer tain principles and doctrines, and also certain principles and performances, by which we are come to be separated and distinguished from others, so as to meet apart, and also to suffer deeply for our joint testimony; there are and must of necessity be, a s in the gathering of us; so in the preserving of us while gathered, diversities of gifts and operations for the edifying of the whole body. Hence, saith the apostle, 1 Tim v. 17 "Let the elders, that rule well, be counted worthy of double honor, especia lly they who labor in the word and doctrine:" and this we suppose neither to be popish, nor antichristian; let our opposers say it, as oft as they can without reckoning. the apostles such.
Secondly, Forasmuch as all are not called in the same station, some rich, some poor; some servants, same masters, some married, some unmarried; some widows, and some orphans, and so forth; it is not only convenient, but absolutely needful, that th ere be certain meetings at certain places and times, as may best suit the conveniences of such, who may be most particularly concerned in them; where both those that are to take care, may assemble, and those who may need this care, may come and make know n their necessities, and receive help, whether by counsel or supply, according to their respective needs. This doth not at all contradict the principle of being led inwardly and immediately by the Spirit; else how came the Apostle in that day of the powe rful pouring forth of the Spirit of God to set apart men for this purpose ? Sure, this was not to lead them from their inward guide; yea, of the contrary it is expressly said, 'look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.' Sure, they were not to undertake a business being full of the Holy Ghost, which might import a contradiction to their being led by it: so we see, it is both fit and suitable to the Apostle's doctrine, to h ave meetings about business. Now if any should be so whimsical or conceited, as to scruple their being at set places and times, though these be nothing relative to the essential parts, but only circumstances relating to the conveniency of our persons, wh ich we must have regard to, so long as we are clothed with flesh and blood; and such notionists, as are against this godly care, work far more in their vain imaginations, than they reduce to practice; being like unto such, of whom the Apostle James testi fied, who content themselves with saying to the naked, be clothed; and to the hungry, be fed; while they offer not in the least to minister to them those things, which are needful for clothing and feeding of them, yet shall we not scruple to make it appear, that it is not without very good ground, that we both appoint places and times. And first, as to the place, I say as before, it is with our bodies we must meet, as well as with our spirits; and so of necessity we must convey our bodies unto one place , that we may speak and act in those things we meet for: and that must be in some certain place, where all must know where to find it; having heroin a regard to the conveniences and occasions of such as meet. Were it fit, that those of the Church of Cori nth should go do their business at Antioch, or the Church of J erusalem at Rome? Nay, surely, God hath not given us our reasons to no purpose; but that we should make use of them for his glory, and the good of our brethren; yet always in subjection to hi s power and Spirit. And therefore we have respect to these things in the appointing of our meetings, and do it not without a regard to the Lord, but in a sense of his fear. And so the like as to times, which is no contradicting ofthe inward leading of th e Spirit. Else how came the Apostle to appoint a time to the Co inthians in their contributions, desiring them, 1 Cor. xvi. 2,' To lay lay. them in store upon the first day of the week ?' Yea; saith he, 'not that he gave the same order to the Church of G alatia.' I 'know not, how any in reason can quarrel about set times for outward business, it beingdone in a subjection to God's will, as all things ought to be; or else how can such, as so do, but quarrel with the Apostle for this imposition (at that rat e) upon the Churches of Corinth and Galatia?
We appoint no set times for the performance of the worship of God, so as to appoint men to preach and pray at such and such set times; though we appoint times ' to meet together in the name of the Lord,' that we may feel his presence, and he may move in and through whom he pleaseth without limitation.Which practice of meeting together we are greatly encouraged to by the promise of Christ and our own blessed experience; and also we are severely prohibited to lay it aside by the Holy Apostle; and also on the other hand by the sad experience of such, as by negligence or prejudice forsake the assemblies of God's people; upon many of which is already fulfilled, and upon others daily fulfilling the judgments threatened upon such transgressors. Read Heb. x. f rom verse 23 to the end, where that duty is so seriously exhorted to, and the contempt of it reckoned a wilful sin, almost (if not altogether) unpardonable; yea, a treading under foot the Son of God, and a doing despite to the Spirit of Grace, which is f ulfilled in our day, and proves the lamentable fruits of such as have so back-slidden among us. And therefore having so much good and real ground for what we do herein, together with the approbation and encouragement of Christ and his Apostles, both by command and practice, we can (as that both the Alpha and Omega, the foundation and cap-stone required) faithfully affirm in good conscience, 'that God hath led us by his Spirit, both to appoint places and times, where we may see the faces one of another; and to take care one for another, provoking one another to love and good works.' 'And our faith and confidence herein cannot be staggered by a mere denim in our opposers, which no man of conscience and reason will say it ought; seeing the thing itself ha th such a solid and real cause and foundation, so good and suitable a pattern and example, and that it is constantly confirmed to us, both by the testimony of God's Spirit in our hearts, and by the good fruits and effects which we daily reap thereby; as a seal and confirmstion, that God is well pleased therewith, and approveth us in it.
Having thus far proceeded to show, that there ought to be order and government among the people of God; and that that which we plead for, is, that there may be certain meetings set apart for that end; it is next to be considered, in what cases, and how f ar it may extend.

Next: Section V, In What Cases, And How Far This Government Extends.