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. THE SYNOD OF JERUSALEM:
OR, COURTS of REVIEW in the Christian
Church considered *.
Acts 89. 31. - They rejoiced for the consolation. A S a proper introduction to the business of this A Provincial Synod, my reverend and dear hearers will, at once, fre the propriety of the subject we have pitched upon; to whatever exceptie ons the profecution of it should be tound liable.
The words tranimit a short, but comprehensive, account of the dutiful reception with which a judge m nt of the ra lical Synot at Jerusalem mer, from the Christians in Antioch; “ They rejoiced for the “ confolation.”
The context will fall under view afterwards, and therefore, without introduction, we shall, through
- divine * This fermon was preached at the opening of the Synod of Glasgow and Ayr, at Irvine, od. 13th, 1707.
divine allistance, illustrate the following observati. ons, evidently contained in the history itself.
1. That at Antioch, from whence this cause came, there was a church.
II. That in the church at Antioch, there arose a question, about which the prophets and teachers could not agree.
II. That the office bearers at Antioch, as die stinguished from the bre hren, in that church, had a right to have given judgment in the important cause.
IV. That though these Presbyters were a court of Christ, properly constituted, they considered their decisions as subject to a court of review; and, for that reaion, unanimously agreed to refer the whole caule, as it lood, to the venerable Synod of Judea.
V. That after the commissioners from Antioch had reached the metropolis of Judea,-produced their credentials, and opened up their caute, -the Synod of Jerusalem-first reasoned upon it; and, then, came to an unanimous fentence.
VI. That two of the commissioners from Antioch joined by two from Judi a, were immediately dispatched with letters to the Gentile converts, containing an account of the Synodical judgment. And,
Vil. i hat, upon receiving and reading the epistle, the Gentile converts, as in our text, “ re* joiced for the consolation."
In the illustration of these particulars, we shall endeavour, as a humble apology for the Presbyterian form of church government, to exhibit
“ The New Tellament original, after which e“ very court of review, in the Christian church, “ on the one hand ;--and every private church“ member, on the other; should attentively copy."
That at Antioch, from whence this cause came,
there was a church ; for when Paul and Barnabas came thither,-they “ gathered the church " together,” Acts xiv. 27.
In the New-Testament, indeed, there are very different acceptations of tbat term.
Sometimes, it signifies no more than a concourse of people, assembled in a lawless, and employed in -a sinful manner. Such was the mob raised by Demetrius the silver.smith, against Paul ;-whereof it is said, that “the aflimbly," or, as it is in the first
language, " the church was confused,” Acts xix. 32. - Sometimes, it signifies a meeting for the discus
fion of civil affairs, according to the particular usages of different countries. Such a meeting the town-clerk at Ephesus had in view, when, to the mob now mentioned, he said, “ It shall be 66 determined in a lawful assembly,” or “church,” Acts xix. 39.
There is one instance, where it points at churchofficers alone, Matth. xxviii. 17. in their ruling ca. pacity; and of the church, in that view, it is faid, “ Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth, shall be .66 bound in heaven ; and whatsoever ye shall loose 66 on earth, shall be loosed in heaven," Matth xxviii. 18.
Now, it signifies a company of persons professing the faith, and walking together in love of the gospel. Such were certain focieties in Lystra, Derbe, Iconium, and other places ;--for referring to them the historian tells us, that Paul and Baraabas "ordained elders in every church,” Acts xiv. 33. i
And, then, it signifies such a company of believe ers, with proper officers set over them in the Lord, for all the purposes of Doctrine and Worship, Dić. cipline and Government, appointed by Jesus Christ.
Thus the historian understood this tèrm, saying, “ There was a great perfecution against the church s which was at Jerusalem," Acts viii. 1.
It is in the last, doubtless, of these views we are to understand it, as applied to the Christians at Antioch;
for, as we are assured, that there was a church in that city, made up of disciples only in their private capacity, with whom Barnabas and Saul “ assembled “ a whole year ;" Aćts xi. 26. fo, that those discia ples were afterwards favoured with “ prophets 4 and teachers” of their own, “to bear office among “ them," Acts xiii. 1. .
When, we fait, in the last of these views, we on. ly mean, in as far as it respected the relation which fubfifted between the disciples at Antioch and their immediate office-bearers. For,' their connection with the church at Jerusalem might be argued, not only from the instruments of their converfion to the Christian faith, - such, namely; as “ were scatter. " ed abroad upon the persecution that arose about " Stephen ;' riets xi. 19. but, from the oversight which the office-bearers at Jerufalem took of them at that early period. “ They sent forth Barnabas " that he should go as far as Antioch ; who, when 6 he came and had seen the grace of God, was glad, 6 and exhorted them all, that, with purpose of “ heart they would cleave unto the Lord,” verf. 22, 23.
And the subordination both of the disciples and office bearers at Antioch, in their church-capacity, to the collective church at Jerusalem, will appear from the following observations: and therefore our
reasoning, reasoning, upon that head, shall not now be anticipated.
It may be useful here to notice, that we fiad great changes in the radical church at Jerfualem, as to the number of her members; and may infer, that the behoved, in the same proportion, to undergo changes also, with respect to the number, and particular provinces, of her office-bearers.
That church consisted once, only of about a hundred and twenty; Acts i. 15. It immediately swelled to about three thousand one hundred and twenty; Acts ii. 41. Soon after, it increased to about five thousand ; Acts iv.4.-Then it arose to a multitude; Acts iv. 32. and, as if all had been insufficient to instruct the propriety of this observation, we are told, that multitudes both of men and women, were added to the Lord, Acts v. 14.Notwithstanding, they were all along but one church ;= no other churches having been planted, uo til after Stephen's martyrdom.
The church, therefore, at Jerusalem was as a. greeable to the order prescribed in the New Testament, when it consisted of such growing multitudes, as when it was confined to six score :--it was as properly a gospel church, when necessarily divided into many feparate places, for accommodation, --15 when they could all be accomniodated in one upper. room, Acts i. 13.
Churches, indeed, so constituted, though they should consistonly of one worshipping assembly, have the full power of discipline within themselves ;- but then, unless it can be ascertained by what precise number a gospel church must be circumscribed, the same power must remain in the whole body, though it be extended to an hundured, or even a thousand worshipping assemblies. The congregations, for example, within th: I 2