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

CHAP. III. Of the subject of the power of the keyes, to whom they are committed: and first of the key of knowledge, and Order.

AS the keys of the kingdom of heaven be divers, so are the subjects to whom they are committed, divers: as in the naturall body, diversitie of functions belongeth to diversity of members.1. The key of knowledge (or which is all one, the key of Faith) belongeth to all the faithfull, whether joyned to any particular Church or no. As in the primitive times, men of grown yeers were first called and converted to the faith, before they were received into the Church: And even now an Indian or Pagan may not be received into the Church, till he have first received the faith, and have made profession of it before the Lord, and the Church: which argueth, that the key of knowledge is given not onely to the Church, but to some before they enter into the Church. And yet to Christians for the Churches sake: that they who receive this grace of faith, by it may receive Christ and his benefits, and therewith may receive also this priviledge, to find an open doore set before them, to enter into the fellowship of the Church.2. The key of order (speaking as we do of Church order, as Paul doth, Col.2.5) belongeth to all such, who are in Church order, whether Elders or Brethren, For though Elders be in a superiour order, by reason of their office, yet the brethren (over whom the Elders are made Overseers and Rulers) they stand also in an order, even in orderly subjection, according to the order of the Gospel. It is true, every faithful soul that hath received a key of knowledge, is bound to watch over his neighbours soul, as his own, and to admonish him of his sin, unlesse he be a scorner: but this he doth, Non ratione ordinis, sed intuitu charitatis: not by vertue of a state of order which he is in (till in Church fellowship) but as of common Christian love and charitie. But every faithfull Christian who standeth in Church order is bound to do the same, as well respectu ordinis, as intuitu charitatis, by virtue of that royall Law, not onely of love, but of Church order, Matth.16.15, 16, 17. whereby if his brother who offended him, do not hearken to his conviction and admonition, he is then according to order, to proceed further, taking one or two with him: and if the offender refuse to hear them also, then he is by order to tell the Church, and afterwards walk towards him, as God shall direct the Church to order it.
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