• Church of Scotland Assembly

Chapter 01


Of the Church and Polity thereof in general, and wherein it is different from the Civil Polity.

1. The Church of God is sometimes largely taken for all them that profess the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and so it is a company and fellowship not only of the godly, but also of hypocrites professing always outwardly a true religion. Other times it is taken for the godly and elect only; and sometimes for them that exercise spiritual functions among the congregation of them that profess the truth.

2. The Church in this last sense has a certain power granted by God, according to which it uses a proper jurisdiction and government, exercised to the comfort of the whole Church. This power ecclesiastical is an authority granted by God the Father, through the Mediator Jesus Christ, to his Church gathered, and having the ground in the Word of God: to be put in execution by them to whom the spiritual government of the Church by lawful calling is committed.

3. The Polity of the Church flowing from this power, is an order or form of spiritual government which is exercised by the members appointed thereto by the Word of God: and therefore is given immediately to the Office-bearers by whom it is exercised to the well-being (benefit) of the whole body. This power is diversely used: for, sometimes it is severally (individually) exercised, chiefly by the teachers. sometimes conjunctly by mutual consent of them that beat the office and charge, after the form of judgment. The former is commonly called potestas ordinis, and the other potestas jurisdictionis. These two kinds of power have both one authority, one ground, one final cause, but are different in the manner and form of execution, as is evident by the speaking of our Master in Mat. xvi. and xviii.

4. This Power and Polity Ecclesiastical is different and distinct in its own nature from that power and polity which is called the Civil Power and appertains to the civil government of the commonwealth. Albeit (though) they be both of God, and tend to one end, if they are rightly used, to wit to advance the glory of God, and have godly and good subjects.

5. For this Power Ecclesiastical flows immediately from God and the Mediator Jesus Christ, and is spiritual, not having a temporal head on earth, but only Christ, the only Spiritual King and Governor of his Church.

6. It is a title falsely usurped by Antichrist to call himself Head of the Church, and ought not to be attributed to angel or man, of what estate soever he may be, saving to Christ, the Only Head and Monarch of the Church.

7. Therefore this power and polity of the Church should lean upon the Word immediately as the only ground thereof, and should be taken from the pure fountains of the Scriptures: the Church hearing the voice of Christ, the only Spiritual King, and being ruled by his laws.

8. It is proper to kings, princes, and magistrates to be called lords and dominators over their subjects, whom they govern civilIy, but it is proper to Christ only to be called Lord and Master in the spiritual government of the Church; and all others that bear office therein ought not to usurp dominion therein, not be called lords, but only ministers, disciples, and servants. For it is Christ's proper office to command and rule in his Church universal and every particular Church, through his Spirit and Word, by the ministry of men.

9. Notwithstanding, as Ministers and others of the ecclesiastical estate are subject to the Civil Magistrate, so ought the person of the magistrate to be subject to the Church spiritually and in ecclesiastical government. And the exercise of both these jurisdictions cannot stand in one person ordinarily. The civil power is called the Power of the Sword, and the other Power of the Keys.

10. The Civil Power should command the Spiritual to exercise and do their office according to the Word of God. The Spiritual rulers should require the Christian Magistrate to minister justice and punish vice, and to maintain the liberty and quietness of the Church within their bounds.

11. The Magistrate commands external things for external peace and quietness among the subjects. The Minister handles external things only for conscience cause.

12. The Magistrate handles external things only and actions done before men; but the Spiritual ruler judges both inward affections and external actions, in respect of conscience, by the Word of God.

13. The Civil Magistrate craves and gets obedience by the Sword and other external means, but the Ministry by the Spiritual Sword and spiritual means.

14. The Magistrate neither ought to preach, minister the sacraments, nor exercise the censures of the Church, nor yet prescribe any rule how it should be done; but command the Ministers to observe the rule commanded in the Word, and punish the transgressors by civil means. The Ministers exercise not the civil jurisdiction, but teach the Magistrate how it should be exercised according to the Word.

15. The Magistrate ought to assist, maintain, and fortify the jurisdiction of the Church. The Ministers should assist their Princes in all things agreeable to the Word, provided they neglect not their own charge by involving themselves in civil affairs.

Finally, as ministers are subject to the judgment and punishment of the magistrate in external things if they offend: so ought the magistrates to submit themselves to the discipline of the Church, if they transgress in matters of conscience and religion.

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