Chapter II:39: The Public and Ministerial Interpretation of the Church

2.  That a Ministerial Judgment, Public and externally Definitive, is competent to the Overseers of the Church, to whom the interpretation of Scripture and vigilance against heresies have been committed: which is evident, α. From the commandment with respect to the former, Malachi 2:7; Matthew 28:19; 2 Timothy 2:15; with respect to the latter, Acts 20:30, 31; 2 Timothy 2:16; with respect to both, 2 Timothy 4:2. β. From practice, Nehemiah 8:9, in which our AUTHOR maintains that exposition, rather than translation, is understood; consult CARPZOV’S Critica Sacra Veteris Testamenti, part II, chapter I, pages 432, 433; BUDDEUS’ Historiam ecclesiasticam Veteris Testamenti, period II, section VI, § 3, tome 2, pages 735a, 736b:  Acts 8:35; 1 Corinthians 15:12 and following, in which the Apostle refutes the heresy that was denying the Resurrection of the dead.  To which, γ. the specific reason of their Duty is added, 1 Corinthians 4:1.  Where again the Many are more influential than individuals, in public Consistories, Classes, Synods, to be revered above private Doctors and by them, Acts 15:28, 29; 1 Corinthians 15:29, 32, 33.

The Remonstrants put little weight on this Judgment, Public and Definitive in the external court of the Church, and all but deprive the Church of it, to establish the freedom of thinking whatever concerning Religion; they defer the determination and accommodation of all controversies to the return of Jesus Christ; and, even while they detest the tyranny of Popery, they bring in an insurmountable Skepticism, and wrongly equate the Reformed with the Papists.  Wrongly, I say; since not one of the Reformed attributes to the Church Supreme Judgment, ἀνυπεύθυνον, not accountable, and Infallible of itself:  neither do they contend that the Church is above Scripture; but always subject the Church to the Judgment of Scripture; by Scripture as the norm do they want all the determinations of the Church and its overseers to be examined even by every private individual; only to be approved, not because of the authority of the one speaking, but because of the agreement of the same with the Scripture.

But, with these conditions posited, the Judgment of the Overseers of the Church, Public and Definitive, whereby they affirm not only, thus it appears to me, but also this is the Sense of Scripture, and what with due veneration is received and externally heard; we judge is not to be denied.  α. For, if to each private person the Judgment of Discretion is competent, which the Remonstrants acknowledge; how much more to the Overseers of the Church, especially when many come together in Council?  β. Do not the greater gifts granted to the Overseers procure a singular veneration of their opinion?  γ. And if no determination deadly error be given, how shall a heretic be recognized? in what manner and by whom shall he be case out, except by the Overseers of the Church?  δ. Therefore, the preservation of order, peace, and orthodoxy requires this sort of Definitive Judgement of the Church, and subjection to the same in the external court of the Church:  while an appeal from the same is always granted with respect to the internal court of conscience; in which court the Judgment of the Church obliges one no further than he has been persuaded concerning its agreement with the Scriptures:  see Confessionem Remonstrantium, chapter I, § 10-12, pages 4, 5; Censuram Confessionis Remonstrantium, chapter I, § 10-12, pages 18-22; Apologiam Remonstrantium, pages 29 and following; TRIGLAND’S Antapologiam, chapter III, pages 46-52.  Add Confessionem, chapter XXV, § 2, numbers 5, 6, page 322; Censuram Confessionis, chapter XXV, § 2, numbers 5, 6, pages 329, 330; Apologiam Remonstrantium, pages 295, 296a; Limborch’s Theologiam Christianam, book VII, chapter XIX, § 34-37; VITRINGA’S Orationem de Synodis, pages 26, 43-47, 71-93, in which among other things you may read, pages 85-88, “But if the Ministers of Christ discern deadly errors of late, covered with the veil of captious reasoning, that assail the Foundation of the Faith and shake it; that ambition and obstinacy have come into parties; that the peace of the Church is disturbed; that schisms and the secession of parties is happening:  they understand that reason requires of their office, that they admonish the authors of new and false doctrine concerning error, and return them to the way by refuting, convincing, and disputing in a Spirit of gentleness, patience, and Christian charity:  if these efforts fail of expectation, they abstain from public judgment no longer:  which either is not at all in the Church, or is to be exercised in this case.  If you should say that there is no public judgment:  then there is no Society.  For no Society is able to stand without discipline:  all discipline involves judgment.  There is no force of Law, no use of Law, without judgment.  Now, the Law of a religious Society, since it embraces Things to be Believed as much as Things to be Done:  is exercised in the sight of God in the Church concerning faults of Doctrine as much as of Manners:  I do not deny that schism follows upon this Ecclesiastical judgment, if any oppose, and persist in maintaining the difference of opinion; but the fault of which those bear, that by a determination of private judgment separated themselves from the brethren, and went out from them,[1] as by the determination of public judgment they are shut out from their communion.  Certainly the Church in extreme cases does not fear this schism; neither did the Apostles fear it, etc.  Therefore, since to the Churches of Christ, and their Synods, the right of judgment concerning the doctrine of the Faith is not able to be denied; indeed, since they are bound to that judgment in certain cases, if they want their society to be whole and safe:  no one, I suppose, would disagree with me that it is more correctly done, if what is the right, the duty of individual Church, in cases of greater moment, on which the welfare of many Churches turns, be transferred to Synodal Assemblies, composed of the Overseers and Doctors of the Church, the best of their kind and the most skillful in divine things, so that deliberation concerning a matter common to many might be managed with so much the greater prudence and and a better outcome.”  In which things, optimally written, I altogether agree with that Most Illustious Man.  On this controversy it will also be helpful to look into LEYDEKKER’S Facem Veritatis, locus II, controversy IV, pages 41-44, compared with the Præfatione, ****** I.

What our AUTHOR adds concerning the public Assemblies of the Overseers of the Church, Classes, Synods; in the summoning, directing, confirming, and defending of which, pious Magistrates have their rights, by no means to be infringed by impious neglect or abuse:  concerning this see Chapter XXXIII, § 26, 32.

[1] See 1 John 2:19.

1 thought on “Chapter II:39: The Public and Ministerial Interpretation of the Church

  1. Westminster Confession of Faith 31:3: ‘It belongeth to synods and councils, ministerially to determine controversies of faith, and cases of conscience; to set down rules and directions for the better ordering of the public worship of God, and government of His Church; to receive complaints in cases of maladministration, and authoritatively to determine the same: which decrees and determinations, if consonant to the Word of God, are to be received with, reverence and submission; not only for their agreement with the Word, but also for the power whereby they are made, as being an ordinance of God appointed thereunto in His Word.’

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