Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.—Proverbs 11.14.

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David Dickson’s

Truth’s Victory Over Error

Chapter XXX.

Of Church Censures.

QUESTION I.

HAth the Lord Jesus as King, and Head of his Church, appointed therein a Government in the hands of Church-Officers, distinct from the Civil Magistrate?

Yes.  Isaiah 9.6,7.  1 Tim. 5.17.  1 Thes. 5.12.  Acts 20.17,18.  Heb. 13.7, 17, 24.  1 Cor. 12.28.  Matth. 28.18-20.

Well then, Do not the Erastians and others err, who maintain, that in the Holy Scripture there is no particular form of Church Government set down, and appointed by Christ?

Yes.

Other Study Resources

  1. The Westminster Assembly’s Directory for Church Censures
  2. Truth’s Victory Chapter 30 Study PDF: 1
  3. Truth’s Victory Chapter 30 Study PDF: 2
  4. Truth’s Victory Chapter 30 Study PDF: 3

By what reasons are they confuted?

(1) Because, the Lord Jesus Christ hath delivered to the Ministers of his Church, as to his own Delegates and Ambassadours (and therefore according to his own laws) the whole power of Governing the Church, which he himself received from the Father, to be managed, and put in execution in his own name and authority; John 20.21.  Matth. 28.19.  Acts 1.2.  Eph. 4.7,8,11.  (2) Because, all the substantials of Church Government, under the New Testament, which either concern Ministers, Ordinances, Censures, Synods, Councils, and their power, are proposed, and set down in Scripture, namely in the third Chapter of the first Epistle to Timothy, [and] Acts 15[th] chapter, and 1 Cor. 14.26,40.  (3) Because, the Lord Jesus Christ, hath looked to the good of his Church, no less under the New Testament, than under the Old.  Therefore, since the Church under the Old Testament, had a most perfect form of Government prescribed to it: and since there is as great need and necessity of Church order, and discipline, under the New Testament, as was under the Old, it must follow, that there is a Pattern and Form of Church government no less set down, and prescribed under the New Testament, than was under the Old; Heb. 3.1,2,4,5.  Heb. 13.8.  1 Cor. chap. 5.  1 Tim. 5.20.  And 1 Tim. 1.20.  (4) The end of the Church Government is spiritual, namely the gaining of men’s souls to Christ.  But nothing that’s merely of human authority, can reach this end; Matth. 18.15-17.  (5) Because, all the parts of Church Government, are particularly set down in Scripture.    As first, those things which concern the key of doctrine, as publick prayer, and giving of thanks; 1 Tim. 2.1-2.  1 Cor. 14.14-16.  Singing of Psalms: Eph. 5.18,19.  Col. 3.16.  Public reading of the Word, Preaching, and Expounding the same; Acts 6.4.  Acts 13.15,27.  Acts 5.20-21.  2 Cor. 3.14.  Matth. 18.19,20.  2 Tim. 4.2.  Heb. 6.1.  Gal. 6.6.    Secondly, those parts likewise, which concern the key of Discipline, namely the ordination of Presbyters, with the imposition of the hands of the Presbytery; 1 Tim. 4.14, and 1 Tim. 5.22.  Titus 1.5.  Acts 14.21,23.    Thirdly, the Authoritative giving of Judgment, and sentence concerning doctrine; and that according to the Word, Acts 15.15, 24, 28.    Fourthly, Admonition and publick Rebuking of those who have offended; Matth. 18.15-17.  1 Thes. 5.14.  1 Tim. 5.20.    Fifthly, The excommunicating of those who are contumacious, and ungodly, and who are convicted of manifest crimes, and scandals; Matth. 18.17.  Titus 3.10.  1 Tim. 1.20.  1 Cor. 5.2-5.    Lastly, the receiving again into the fellowship of the Church persons cast out by excommunication, having testified their Repentance; 2 Cor. 2.6-9.

Do not the same Erastians err, who make no distinction between Church power and the Secular power?

Yes.

By what reasons are they confuted?

(1) Because, Christ hath committed the keys of the kingdom of Heaven to the Officers of his Church which are Governours distinct from the civil Magistrate; Matth. 16.18,19.  Matth. 18.18-19.  John 20.21-23.  (2) Because, Church power and civil power differ specifically.  The Church, and the Common-wealth are Polities formally, and essentially, different.  They are not, as such, powers subordinate, at least in a right line, but co-ordinate; Acts 4.19,20.  2 Chron. 26.18.  Next, God the Creator and Governor of the World, is the Efficient of the power of the civil Magistrate, Rom. 13.1-4.  But God-Christ, our blessed Mediator, and Lord of his Church, is the Efficient of the church particuarly, and of its Government.  The matter (materia ex qua) of the civil Government, is the secular sword: but the matter of the church Government, are the keys of the kingdom of Heaven.  The matter of the civil Government (materia in qua) may be a Senate, many people, the Person of one king, of a child, a woman.  But the matter of the church government, is not of this kind; Heb. 13.24.  1 Tim. 3.15.  1 Cor. 14.34,35.  The matter of the Civil Government (materia circa quam) are men and women, as members of the common-wealth, without, as well as within the Church: but as Christians and members of the Church, they are not such; 1 Cor. 5.13.  The formal causes of both are distinct; the one inflicts punishments merely spiritual; the other inflicts punishments merely civil.  Lastly, the end of this, is the corporal and external good of a society; but the end of that, is the spiritual good of the church and its edification; Matth. 14.15.  1 Cor. 5.5.  2 Cor. 10.8.

Do not likewise the Socinians, Anabaptists, Quakers, many Independents, and others err, who maintain, that the key of Doctrine, or the public preaching of the Word, is proper to any man furnished with suitable gifts, though not called, and sent to that employment?

Yes.

By what reasons are they confuted?

(1) Because, no man can believe in Christ of whom he hath not heard, and how shall he hear without a Preacher; and how shall he preach unless he be sent; Rom. 10.14,15.  (2) Because, Women may have suitable, and competent gifts for Preaching, and yet they are forbidden to speak in the Church; 1 Tim. 2.12.  (3) Because, the Scripture blames such, as have run, and yet have not been sent; Jer. 23.21,32.  (4) Because, no man taketh this honour to himself (that is, he ought not to take it) but he that is called of GOD, as was Aaron; Heb. 5.4.  (5) Because, the Scripture mentioneth, that GOD hath set apart certain peculiar Ministers, for the preaching of the Word; Rom. 1.1.  Eph. 4.11.  Titus 1.3.  (6) Because, no man can take the office of a civil Magistrate, or of a Deacon of the church upon him, unless he be called thereunto; Luke 12.14.  Acts 6.5.  1 Tim. 3.10.  And therefore no man ought to take upon him the publick preaching of the Word, unless he be called thereunto likewise.  (7) Because, he that taketh upon him this office, without a call, he usurpeth Authority in the church, seeing Preaching is an Act of Authority; 1 Thes. 5.12;  [1 Tim. 2.12.]  (8) Because, the Titles which are given to the Preachers of the Gospel, are names of Office; they are called the Ambassadors of Christ; 2 Cor. 5.20.  Stewards of the Word; Titus 1.7.  The Men of GOD; 1 Tim. 6.11.  And Angels, Rev. 2.1.  (9) Because, there is not one approven example, in all the Word of GOD, for a gifted brother to Preach without a call; and therefore seeing it is not done in Faith, it must be Sin.  Must every Fellow that takes a laxit in his tongue, go up to the Pulpit and ease himself?  (10) Because, there are Precepts and Rules set down in Scripture, for all the Ages of the church, to the end of the world, anent the calling of men to be Ministers of the Gospel; 1 Tim. 3.2, 3, 6, 7; and 1 Tim. 5.21,22.

Do not likewise the Independents, Brownists, and Anabaptists err, who maintain, that the Right and Power of Governing the church, belongs no less to the multitude and community of Believers, than to the Officers of the church?

Yes.

By what reasons are they confuted?

(1) Because, the Scripture expressly teaches, that GOD hath committed the Government of his Church, and the care of his people, to certain chosen Persons, and not to all, and every one; Ephes. 4.11-13.  1 Cor. 12.28.  (2) Because, if the power of the keys were given to believers, in common; either they are given to them as believers, or as they are gifted by GOD, with gifts, and qualifications above others, for Governing the church, and chosen out of the rest, for performing that office.  If the last part be affirmed, it follows, that the power, and right of the keys, is committed not to a community of believers, but to some select persons, which we own, and maintain: but the Independents deny.  If the first be asserted, then it follows

  1. First, that the care of Governing the church is committed to Women, and children, being believers; and so they must necessarily have the power of seeing, as being eyes, and watchmen to the church; the power of hearing, as being the ears of the church; and the body of the church must be deformed; because the whole body is the eye, and the whole body is the ear, and whose many members are made one member; 1 Cor. 12.12-19. 

  2. It follows, that the power of the keys, is not only given to all, but to Believers only: but it is evident by the example of Judas, and other Reprobates, that many in Christ’s name have preached, who were not Believers; Matth. 7.22,23; Phil. 1.16-18. 

(3) Because, to whom Christ has given the power of Governing the church; to them also, he hath promised to give gifts, and endowments largely for performing that office; John. 20.21-23.  1 Cor. 4.6,7.  Matth. 28.19-20.  But to a community of Believers, God has never promised a Spirit for the Ministry, nor gifts for that employment.  Nor did he ever bestow, or confer any such endowments.  (4) Because, Christ our Mediator, appointed Ecclesiastical Officers and Church-Governours, before ever there was a formal church, under the New Testament gathered, and set up; Luke 9.1. Luke 10.1-3.  John 20.21-23.  Matth. 28.19-20.  This was all done before his death.  And before his ascension he did the like; Ephes. 4.8, 11, 12.  Acts 2.  1 Cor. 12.28.  Now it is evident, that there was no formal gathering together of a church, before the Feast of Pentecost; Acts 2.  Ecclesiastical Ministers, and Officers were appointed for calling in, and gathering together the Mystical body of Christ, to wit, his Members: therefore it was needful, that Ministers baptizing, ought to be before Persons baptized; That Gatherers of the church ought to be before Persons gathered; That callers and inviters to Christ, ought to be before Persons called and invited.  (5) This Democracy or popular Government, cannot but bring in great confusion, whence many absurdities will follow.  As the church of GOD should not be an organical body.  That Women who are forbidden to speak in the church, must have the keys of the kingdom of Heaven hanging at their Belt, forsooth.  All must govern, and none must be governed.  All must attend the government of the church.  All must be rendered uncapable for going about their particular callings, which God calls them to every day.  Therefore seeing this sort of Government, brings so much confusion with it, it is most probable, that it is not of God who is a God of Order, and not of confusion; 1 Cor. 14.33.

Quest. II. “ARE Church Censures necessary for reclaiming, and gaining of offending brethren; for deterring of others from the like offences; for purging out of that leaven, which might infect the whole lump, for vindicating the honour of Christ; and the holy profession of the Gospel, and for preventing the wrath of GOD, which might justly fall upon the church, if they should suffer his covenant, and the seals thereof to be profaned by notorious and obstinate sinners?

Yes.  1 Tim. 5.20.  1 Tim. 1.20.  1 Cor. 11.27, to the end;  Jude 23rd verse.

Are the Officers of the church for the better attaining of these ends to proceed by Admonition, by Suspension from the Lord’s Table, for a season, and by Excommunication from the church according to the nature of the crime or scandalous offence, and demerit of the Person?

Yes.  1 Thess. 5.12.  1 Cor. 5.4, 5, 13.  Matth. 18.17-18.  Titus 3.10.

Well then, Do not the Socinians, Anabaptists, Quakers, and other Sectaries err, who deny that any church censures should be inflicted upon offenders?

Yes.

Do not likewise the Erastians err, who maintain, there should be no suspension from the Lord’s Table or excommunication from the church?

Yes.

By what reasons are they confuted?

(1) Because, the power of the keys, is given to the Ministers of the church, wherewith not only by the preaching of the Word, but also by church censures, they open and shut the kingdom of heaven; as will appear by comparing these places of Scripture together; Matth. 16.19.  Matth. 18.17-18.  (2) Because, he that offends publickly, and after Admonition persists pertinaciously in his sin, should be esteemed as a Publican and Heathen, Matth. 18.17.  (3) Because, the Apostle says, if any man obey not our Word by this Epistle, note that man, and have no company with him.  Note him, that is, either by excommunication, or some other note of church censure, 2 Thess. 3.14.  (4) Because, the Apostolick church, being moved by the same reasons (which now are) used the power of the keys, and excluded from the Sacrament, men that were manifestly contumacious, and wicked, 1 Cor. 5.2-5.  And 1 Tim. 1.20.  2 Thess. 3.6,14.  (5) Because, the Apostle says, them that sin (to wit publicly) rebuke before all, that others also may fear, 1 Tim. 5.20.  (6) Consider the various ends of Ecclesiastical censures, as the reclaiming of offending brethren, and the rest of them, which are set down in the Question.