Of the Elderships and Assemblies, and Discipline.
1. Elderships and Assemblies are commonly constituted of Pastors, Doctors, and such as we commonly call Elders, that labour not in the Word and doctrine, of whom, and of whose several powers has been spoken.
2. Assemblies are of four sorts. For, either are they of particular churches and congregations, one or more, or of a province, or of a whole nation, or of all and divers nations professing one Jesus Christ.
3. All the ecclesiastical Assemblies have power to convene lawfully together for treating of things concerning the Church, and pertaining to their charge. They have power to appoint times and places to that effect: and at one meeting to appoint the diet, time, and place for another.
4. In all the Assemblies a Moderator should be chosen by the common consent of all the brethren, who should propose matters, gather the votes, and cause good order to be kept in the Assemblies. Diligence should be taken, chiefly by the Moderator, that only ecclesiastical things be handled in the Assemblies, and that there be no meddling with anything pertaining to the civil jurisdiction.
5. Every Assembly has power to send forth from them of their own number, one or more visitors to see how all things are ruled in the bounds of their jurisdiction. Visitation of more churches (than one) is no ordinary office ecclesiastic in the person of one man, neither may the name of a bishop be attributed to the visitor only, neither is it necessary to abide in one man's person, but it is the part of the Eldership to send out qualified persons to visit pro re nata.
6. The final end of all Assemblies is first to keep the religion and doctrine in purity, without error and corruption, next to keep comeliness and order in the Church.
7. For this order's sake they may make certain rules and constitutions appertaining to the good behaviour of all the members of the Church in their vocation.
8. They have power also to abrogate and abolish all statutes and ordinances concerning ecclesiastical matters that are found noisome and unprofitable, and agree not with the time, or are abused by the people.
9. They have power to execute ecclesiastical discipline and punishment upon all transgressors and proud contemners of the good order and polity of the Church, and so all discipline is in their hands.
10. The first kind and sort of Assemblies, although they are within particular congregations, yet they exercise the power, authority, and jurisdiction of the Church with mutual consent, and therefore bear sometimes the name of the Church. When we speak of the Elders of the particular congregations, we mean not that every particular parish can, or may have their own particular Elderships especially to landward, but we think three or four, more or fewer, particular Churches may have one common Eldership to them all, to judge their ecclesiastical causes. Albeit this is meet, that some of the Elders be chosen out of every particular congregation, to concur with the rest of their brethren in the Common Assembly, and to take up the accusations of offences within their own churches and bring them to the Assembly. This we gather from the practice of the Primitive Church, where Elders or Colleges of Seniors were constituted in cities and famous places.
11. The power of these particular Elderships is to use diligent labours in the bounds committed to their charge, that the churches be kept in good order, to inquire diligently of naughty and unruly persons, and to labour to bring them into the way again, either by admonition, or threatening of God's judgments, or by correction.
12. It pertains to the Eldership to take heed that the Word of God be purely preached within their bounds, the Sacraments rightly administered, the discipline rightly maintained, and the ecclesiastical goods (substance) uncorruptly distributed.
13. It belongs to this kind of Assembly to cause the ordinances made by the Assemblies Provincial. National, and General, to be kept, and put in execution. To make constitutions which concern to prepon, (that which is becoming, seemly, fit) in the Church, for the decent order of these particular churches where they govern; providing they alter no rules made by the General or Provincial Assemblies, and that they make the Provincial Assemblies foreseen of these rules that they shall make (that they shall report to the Provincial Assemblies, &c.), and abolish them that tend to the hurt of the same.
14.. It has power to excommunicate the obstinate.
15. The power of election of them who bear ecclesiastical charges pertains to this kind of Assembly, within their own bounds, being well erected and constituted of many Pastors and Elders of sufficient ability.
16. By the like reason their deposition also pertains to this kind of Assembly, as of them that teach erroneous and corrupt doctrine; that are of scandalous life, and after admonition desist not; that are given to schism or rebellion against. the Church, manifest blasphemy, simony, corruption of (by) bribes, falsehood, perjury. whoredom, theft. drunkenness, fighting worthy of punishment by the law, usury, dancing, infamy, and all others that deserve separation from the Church. Those also who are found altogether insufficient to execute their charge should be deposed.
17. Yet they ought not to be deposed, who through age, sickness, or other accidents, become unmeet (unfit} to do their office; in the which case their honour should remain to them, their church should maintain them; and others ought to be provided to do their office.
18. Provincial Assemblies we call lawful conventions of the Pastors, Doctors, and other Elders of a Province, gathered for the common affairs of the churches thereof; which also may be called the Conference of the Church and Brethren.
19. These Assemblies are instituted for weighty matters to be treated by mutual consent and assistance of the brethren within that province as needs requires.
20. This Assembly has power to handle, order, and redress all things omitted, or done amiss, in the particular Assemblies. It has power to depose the Office-bearers of that Province for good and just causes deserving deprivation. And, generally, these Assemblies have the whole power (all the powers) of the particular Elderships whereof they are collected.
21. The National Assembly, which is general to us, is a lawful convention of all the churches of the realm or nation where it is used and gathered for the common affairs of the Church, and may be called the General Eldership of the Whole Church within the realm. None are subject (bound) to repair this Assembly to vote but ecclesiastical persons, to such a number as shall be thought good by the said Assembly; not excluding other persons that will repair to the said Assembly to propose, hear, and reason.
22. This Assembly is instituted that all things either omitted or done amiss in the Provincial Assemblies may be redressed and handled; and things generally serving for the well-being of the whole body of the Church within the realm may be foreseen (provided for), intreated (dealt with), and set forth to God's glory.
23. It should take care that churches be planted where they are not planted. It should prescribe the rule how the other two kinds of Assemblies should proceed in all things.
24. This Assembly should take heed that the Spiritual jurisdiction and the Civil be not confounded to the hurt of the Church; that the patrimony of the Church be not diminished or abused; and generally, concerning all weighty affairs that concern the well-being and good order of all the churches of the realm, it ought to interpose authority thereto.
25. There is, besides these, another more general kind of Assembly, which is of all nations and estates of persons within the Church, representing the Universal Church of Christ; which may be called properly the General Assembly, or General Council of the Whole Church of God.
These Assemblies were appointed and called together, specially, when any great schism or controversy in doctrine did arise in the Church, and were convoked at the command of Godly Emperors, being for the time, for avoiding of schisms within the Universal Church of God; which, because they appertain not to the particular estate of one realm, we cease further to speak of them.