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The Keyes Of The Kingdom Of Heaven And Power Thereof by John Cotton

CHAP. II. Of the Distribution of the Keys, and their power, or of the severall sorts thereof.

THE ordinary Distribution of the keys is wont to be thus delivered. There is clavis


1. Scientiæ, A key of knowledge, and

2. Potestatis, a key of power: and the key of power is {

1. Ordinis, Either a key of order, or

2. Jurisdictionis, a key of Jurisdiction.

This distribution though it goe for current both amongst Protestants and Papists, yet wee crave leave to expresse, what in it doth not fully satisfie us. Foure things in it seeme defective to us: 1. That any key of the kiqgdome of heaven should be left without power. For here in this distribution, the key of knowledge is contradistinguished from a key of power.

2. There is a reall defect in omitting an integrall part of the keys, which is that key of power or liberty, which belongeth to the Church itself. But no marvell, though the Popish Clergie omitted it, who have oppressed all Church-libertie: and Protestant Churches, having recovered the libertie of preaching the Gospel, and ministery of the Sacraments, have been well satisfied therewith, so as some of them have looked no farther, nor so much as discerned their defect of Church-power, ot liberty due unto them in point of discipline: and others finding themselves wronged in withholding a key or power, which belongs to them, have wrested to themselves an undue power, which belongs not to them, the key of authority.

3. There is another defect in the Distribution, in die. viding the key of order from the key of Jurisdiction of purpose to make way for the power of Chancellours and Commissaries in foro exteriori: who though they want the key of order, (having never entred into holy orders, as they are called, or at most into the order of Deacons onely; whereof our Lord spake nothing touching Jurisdiction) yet they have been invested with Jurisdiction, yea, and more then ministeriall authoritie, even above those Elders who labour in word and doctrine: By this sacralegious breach of order (which hath been as it were the breaking of the Files and Ranks in an Armie) Satan hath routed and ruined a great part of the libertie and puritie of Churches, and of all the Ordinances of Christ in them.

4. A fourth defect, (but yet the least, which we observe in this distribution) is, that order is appropriated to the Officers of the Church onely. For though wee be far from allowing that sacralegious usurpation of the ministers office, which we heare of (to our griefe) to be practised in some places, that private Christians ordinarily take upon them to preach the Gospel publickly, and to minister Sacraments: Yet we put a difference between Office and Order. Office we looke at as peculiar to those, who are set apart for some peculiar function in the Church, who are either Elders or Deacons. But order (speaking of Church-order properly taken) is common to all the members of the Church, whether Officers or private brethren. There is an order as well in them that are subject, as in them that rule. There is a ta`xis as well ton upotaktikon, as ton epitaktikon. The maid in Athenæus is said therapa`ines ta`xin epila'bausa, as well as her Mistresse. Yet if any man be willing to make office and order æquipollent, we will not contend about words, so there be no erroneous apprehension wrapt into the matter. To come therefore to such a distribution of the keyes as is more suitable to Scripture phrase. For it becomes true Israelites rather to speak the language of Canaan, then the language of Ashdod. When Paul beheld, and rejoiced to behold, how the Church of Colosse had received the Lord Jesus, and walked in him he summeth up all their Church estate, to wit, their beautie and power, in these two, Faith and order, Col.2.5, 6. There is therefore a key of Faith, and a key of Order.

The key of Faith, is the same which the Lord Jesus calleth the key of knowledge, Luke 11.52. and which he complaineth, the Lawyers had taken away. Now that key of knowledge Christ speaketh of, was such, that if it had not been taken away, they that had it, had power by it to enter into the kingdom of heaven themselves, and it may be to open the doore to others, to enter also. Now such a knowledge whereby a man hath power to enter into heaven, is onely faith, which is often therefore called knowledge, as Isa.53.11. By the knowledge of him shall my righteous servant justifie many: that is, by the faith of Christ, And Joh.17.3, This is eternall life to know thee: that is, to beleeve on thee. This key therefore, the key of knowledge (saving knowledge) or which is all one, the key of faith, is common to all beleevers. A faithfull soul knowing the Scriptures, and Christ in them, receiveth Christ, and entreth through him into the kingdom of heaven, both here, and hereafter. Here he entreth into a state of grace through faith Heb.4: 3. and by the profession of his faith, he entreth also into the fellowship of the Church (which is the kingdom of heaven upon earth:) and by the same faith, as he beleeveth to justification, so be maketh confession to salvation, which is perfected in the kingdom of glory. Rom.10.10.

The key of Order is the power whereby every member of the Church walketh orderly himself, according to his place in the Church, and helpeth his brethren, to walk orderly also.

it was. that which the Apostles and Elders called upon Paul, so to carrie himself before the Jews in the Temple, that he might make it appear to all men that he walked orderly. (Act.21.18.24.) Orderly, to wit, according to the order of the Jewish Chuch, with whom he then conversed. And it was the commandment which Paul gave to the whole Church of Thessalonica, and to all the members of it, to withdraw themselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, 2 Thes.3.6. This their withdrawing from him that walketh disorderly, was the exercise of their key of order. And it was a like exercise of the same key of order, when he requireth the Brethren to warne the unruly, which is, (in the originall) the same word, to admonish the disorderly: 1 Thes.5.14. And this key of order (to wit, order understood in this sense) is common to all the members of the Church, whether Elders or brethren.

Furthermore, of Order there be two keyes; a key of power, or interest: And the key of Authority or Rule. The first of these is termed in the Scriptures, Liberty: So distinguishing it from that part of Rule and Authority in the officers of the Church. We speak not here of that spirituall liberty, whether of impunitie, whereby the children of God are set free by the blood of Christ from Satan, hell, bondage of sin, curse of the Morall Law, and service of the Ceremoniall Law: nor of immunitie whereby we have power to be called the sons of God, to come boldly unto the throne of grace in prayer, and as heirs of glory, to look for our inheritance in light: but of that externall libertie, or interest which Christ also hath purchased for his people, as libertie to enter into the fellowship of his Church, libertie to chuse and call well gifted men to office in that his Church: libertie to partake in Sacraments, or seals of the Covenant of the Church: libertie and interest to joyn with officers in the due censure of offenders, and the like. This libertie and the acts thereof, are often exemplified in the Acts of the Apostles: and the Apostle Paul calleth it expressly by the name of libertie. Brethren (saith he) you have been called unto LIBERTY, onely use not your liberty as an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. Gal.5.13. that the Apostle by that libertie meaneth Church libertie or power in ordering Church affaires, will evidently appeare, if we consult with the context, rather then with Commenters. For the Apostle having spent the former part of the Epistle, partly in the confirmation of his calling, partly in disputation against justification by the works of the Law, to the end of v.8. of Chap.5. in the ninth Verse he descendeth not to exhort unto bonos mores in generall, (as usually Commenters, take it) but to instruct in Church Discipline, in which he giveth three or foure directions to the tenth v. of Chap.6.1. Touching the censure of those corrupt Teachers, who had perverted and troubled them with that corrupt Doctrine of justification by works. Chap.5 ver.9. to the end of the Chap.2. Touching the gentle admonition and restoring of a brother fallen by infirmitie, Chap.6. ver.1. to 5.3. Touching the maintenance of their Ministers, ver.6, 7, 8. and beneficence to others, ver.9, 10.

Touching the first, the censure of their corrupt teachers.1. He layeth for the ground of it (that which himself gave for the ground of the excommunication of the incestuous Corinth, 1 Cor.5.6). A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. vers.9.

2. He presumeth the Church will be of the same mind with him, and concur in the censure of him that troubled them with corrupt doctrine, v.10. (from fellowship with which corrupt doctrine he cleareth himself v.11.)

3. He proceedeth to declare, what censure be wisheth might be dispended against him, and the rest of those corrupt teachers. I would (saith he) they were even cut off that trouble you: cut off, to wit, by excommunication, ver.12. Now lest it should be objected by the brethren of the Church: But what power have we to cut them off? The Apostle answereth, they have a power and libertie (to wit to joyn with the sounder part of the Presbyterie, in casting them out, or cutting them off:) For brethren (saith he) you are called unto liberty.

If it should be further objected, Yea, but give the people this power and libertie in some cases, either to cast off their teachers, or to cut them off, the people will soon take advantage to abuse this libertie unto much carnall licentiousnesse. The Apostle preventeth that with a word of wholsome counsell: Brethren (saith he) you have been called unto libertie: onely use not your liberty as an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another, v.13. and thereupon seasonably pursued] this counsell with a caveat to beware of abusing this liberty to carnall contention, (an usuall disease of popular liberty) and withall dehorteth, them from all other fruits of the flesh, to the end of the Chapter. Evident therefore it is, that there is a key of power or libertie given to the Church (to the Brethren with the Elders) as to open a doore of entrance to the Ministers calling; so to shut the doore of entrance against them in some cases, as when through corrupt and pernicious doctrine, they turn from Shepherds to become ravenous wolves.

Having spoken then of that first key of order, namely, the key of power, (in a more large sense) or liberty in the Church, there remaineth the other key of order, which is the key of Authority or of Rule, in a more strict sense which is in the Elders of the Church. Authority is a morall power, in a superiour order (or state) binding or releasing an inferiour in point of subjection. This key when it was promised to Peter, Math.16.19. and given to him with the rest of the Apostles,. Joh.20.23. they thereby had power to bind and loose; and it is the same Authority which is given to their successours the Elders whereby they are called to feed and rule the Church of God, as the Apostles had done before them. Acts, 20.28. And indeed by opening, and applying the Law (the spirit of bondage accompanying the same) they bind sinners under the curse, and their consciences under guilt of sin, and fear of wrath, and shut the kingdom of heaven against them. And by opening and applying the Gospel (the Spirit of Adoption accompanying the same) they remit sin, and loose the consciences of beleeving repenting souls from guilt of sin, and open to them the doores of heaven. By vertue of this key, as they preach with all authoritie, not onely the doctrine of the Law, but also the Covenant of the Gospel so they administer the seals thereof, Baptisme, and the Lords Supper. By virtue also of this key, they with the Church do bind an obstinate offender under excommunication, Math.18.17.18. and release, and for- give him upon his repentance.2 Cor.2.7.

This Distribution of the keys, And so of spiritual power, in the things of Christs kingdom we have received from the Scripture. But if any men out of love to Antiquitie, do rather affect to keep to the terms of the former more ancient Distribution (as there be who are as loath to change Antiquos terminos verborum, as agrarum) we would not stick upon the words rightly explained, out of desire both to judge and speak the same things with fellow-brethren. Onely then let them allow some spirituall power to the key of knowledge, though not Church-power. And in Church power let them put in as well a key of liberty, that is, a power and priviledge of interest, as a key of Authoritie. And by their key of order, as they do understand the key of office, so let them not divide from it the key of jurisdiction (for Christ hath given no jurisdiction, but to whom he hath given office) and so we willingly consent with them.

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