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AN EXHORTATION Directed to the ELDERS Of the ſeveral CONGREGATIONS Within this Province of LANCASTER.

By the Provincial Aſſembly at Preſton, May 1. 1655.

LONDON, Printed by J. M. for LUKE FAVVN, and are to be ſold at his Shop at the Signe of the PARROT in PAULS Church-yard. 1655.


THis Synod taking notice of the want in many Congregations, and ſome whole Claſſical Presbiteries in this Province; and of the languiſhment of others of the exerciſe of that order, and power which our Lord Jeſus Chriſt hath placed in his Church for the keeping out, and removing thence of defilements, and ſcandals; and for the reſtraining, and the recovering of offenders therein, and perceiving that the ſaid want and languiſhment ariſe not from the lack, either of freedom to act, or of warrant, and call to it, either from God, or man; nor from the prevalency of Schiſm, either among the people, or the Elders (which through the ſpecial mercy of God, much to be admired, hath been in a great meaſure prevented in theſe parts) nor be­cauſe there is no occaſion to uſe it; there is, alas, but too much; nor ſo much from the backwardneſs, or averſneſs of the people; but mainly for the lack of reſolution, care, zeal and diligence in thoſe who have the charge thereof lying upon them, as having both been called to, and un­dertaken it: and conſidering on the one hand that there is a ſtanding commiſſion, and command for it in Scrip­ture, and a perpetual need on mans part of the execution of it: and on the other hand that the ceaſing of it (eſpe­cially falling out in concurrence with the fickle, backſſid­ing and corrupt temper of theſe times) is the inlet of ma­ny very great evils to Religion, to the Church of Chriſt, and to many particular ſouls: Hath thought meet to beſpeak, by way of Exhortation: all their Brethren that are in place of Rule in the Churches of this Province, where any ſuch defect is, whether they be the labourers2 in the word and Doctrine, or other Elders, unto the re­aſſuming of the tender ſenſe of their duty in this work in­to their hearts, and the renewed execution of it into their hands.

We ſhal not here enter into the particular remem­brance and perſecution of the ſeveral grounds which are to prove, or motives which may preſs unto, or parts, and proceeding, which are to carry on this Diſcipline. Sup­poſing thoſe grounds were apprehended and weighed, when the work of the Reformation of our Church in the point of Diſcipline, was firſt (in theſe late years) cove­nanted and promoted, and the Office of Government was reſtored among us, and undertaken by you brethren. And for matter both of incitement unto, and delineation of the ſeveral branches of this work, we refer you to the hortation of this Aſſembly of February the ſeventh, 1648. The revival whereof both in memory and practice, we recommend unto you.

Suffer us here but to ſuggeſt to your Conſideration, that which ye already ſufficiently know, that in Church-labour, and in work about ſouls want of ſucceſs, want of the favour, or help of civil Authority, or the urgency of worldly occaſions, none of theſe is any releaſe from duty.

Succeſſeſneſs, or ſlow going on, or the occurence of difficulty therein, is no diſmiſſion from duty. We are to labour, and not to faint, even to the utmoſt extent of our commiſſion, and to the utmoſt length of the time in which God is pleaſed to call us to, and continue us in his work, howſoever it may ſpeed, and whatſoever may be the ſuc­ceſs. At the Word of Chriſt we muſt again let down our Nets for a draught, though we have already toiled a whole night, and caught nothing. At the Miſſion of God we muſt do our Errand, whether they (the perſons we are ſent to) will3 hear, or whether they will forbear. The Servant of the Lord muſt be apt to teach, patient, in meekneſs inſtructing them that oppoſe themſelves; if God peradventure will give them repentance: He muſt Magnifie his Office (or put it forth to the utmoſt) if by any means he may provoke to Emulation his people, and ſave ſome of them.

The diſtance, disfavour, yea, or oppoſiteneſs to it of State-Superiors, is no ſuperſedeas. The Commiſſion that doth enable, and the Command that doth ſet perſons to this work is from God, whoſe impoſal no change or croſ­neſs of humane affairs, affections or aſpects is to infringe. Civil Authority is but accidental (though it maybe in its kind aſſiſtant) to divine Ordinances: and yet we do not conceive our ſelves deſtitute of ſuch Warrant: The In­junction for the Government that was given forth re­maining (as we take it) ſtil in force: and there is no man forbidding us to proceed in it. But if now we were, or hereafter ſhould be either deſtituted by it, or inhibited, yet no ſuch thing ought to take us off, or to diſanimate us: neither ſhould we therefore count our ſelves ex au­thorized.

Nor yet is a temporal calling, or negotation, anex­cuſe from this work. The Kingdom of God, and its Righteouſneſs claims the firſt place in every ones ſeek­ing that belongs to Chriſt. Earthly affairs may be a Chriſtians vocation, but muſt not be his entanglement, or avocation from the buſineſs of Gods Houſe: No na­tural relations or civil Employments may impeach a Chriſtians freedom to Chriſts Service.

Having ſpoken this word to all perſons charged with this work as taken together, we would now have to our Brethren of the Elderſhip that are called onely to Rule and to thoſe alſo who labour in the word, and Doctrine, to each of theſe a word ſeverally.

4To our Brethren who are only called to Rule, we ſhall ſay but this: As their Office is not ſuperfluous, or indif­ferent, ſo their Station in it is not Arbytrarie to them, that it may be put on, or off by them, meerly upon their own choice, or judgement; They have put their hands to the Plough, and what therefore is it for them to look back from it? their Office in the valuation of the holy Ghoſt, is a good work, and worthy of double honour: but withal, it ſhould be remembred, it is a Work; and a work, where­in they are required to rule well, and to rule with diligence: We all owe, and muſt come to an account unto our great Maſter now in heaven, how we have received, how we perform, and how we part with any truſt we have from him: And the ſoundneſs, and edification of the Flock, the ſaving of others ſouls, and their own rejoycing in the day of the Lord Jeſus Chriſt, doth depend upon the diſ­charge of their Office.

Our Brethren that labour in the Word and Doctrine, we wiſh ſeriouſly to conſider, how behooveful for them in that their heavie charge it is, to have the Diſcipline up, and in exerciſe: We would hope, every one of them to be ſenſible of the miſs of it (where any is) both in relation to the people, and to themſelves. As to their people, how for lack of it they are expoſed to, if not infeſted with ir­religion, ignorance, error, diviſion, a ſpirit of ſecurity, pride, and ſelf-willedneſs, and manifold prophaneſs in life, and now of late, very ſtrange, ſtrong, and moſt dan­gerous Satanical deluſions; and how the Ordinances of God, which yet they retain among them are through that defect ſubject to inefficacy, contempt, and profanation, much more then it might be hoped they would be, if the Diſcipline were in force. As to themſelves that by the ſame means they are brought under much difficulty, per­plexity, and grief of ſoul, in, and about their adminiſtra­tions:5 their charge, as to the knowledge of particular per­ſons, and caſes, being not diſtinctly enough known to them, and ſo they are left uncertain to whom to apply themſelves, and what, and how to adminiſter ſo, as to give to each their portion in due ſeaſon.

Moreover, hence it is that in publike Diſpenſations there is an offenſive diverſity betwixt the practiſe of one Miniſter, and of another; from whence ariſe diſtaſtes, cenſures, and ſtomachings betwixt Miniſter and Miniſter, betwixt people and people, and betwixt people and mi­niſter; together with diſorderly rangings of people from their proper places; as there is particularly in the uſe of both the Sacraments: And in relation to that of the Lords Supper, we obſerve that Miniſters in many, if not the moſt places where the Government is not uſed, find no other way to acquit themſelves, but either to diſpenſe it promiſ­cuouſly, or to lay aſide, and bereave their flocks, and themſelves wholly of it: neither of which ways we think can be juſtified.

Here is no room for diſcuſſion in relation to each of thoſe courſes: Only to promiſcuous admiſſion to the Ta­ble of the Lord (it being the commoner, and the looſer way) we will ſay this, The Church of God (eſpecially as aſſembled, and employed about the Ordinances of the Goſpel) is a Temple, a City, a Flock, an Army. To ex­poſe then her communion, and the Ordinances of Chriſt peculiar to her, unto all comers, is to make her a Temple without a Court, Doors, or Porters; a City without walls, Gates, and Bars; a Flock without Fold or Shepherd; and an Army without Guard or Diſcipline. The Temple of God (which the Church of Chriſt is) is holy: the Lords Supper is an holy thing, as in ſome other reſpects, ſo in as much as the Elements of it were by our bleſſed Saviour both inſtituted, and ſolemnly ſet apart by prayer unto a6 holy uſe; which latter by vertue of that firſt inſtitution, and benediction, is continually done by the Miniſter: the prohibition of Chriſt is indefinite, Give not that which is holy unto the Dogs: And indeed the nature of holineſs con­ſiſts in a ſeparation from common commerce, or uſe: the meaſure of which ſeparation, is the will, or rule of him that is the Founder, or Author of that holineſs. The Rule of the Goſpel is, If thy brother go on in an offence to the neg­lecting of the Churches admonition, let him be unto thee as an heathen man, and a Publican. Again, Mark them which cauſe offences, contrary to the Doctrine which ye have learned, and avoid them. And again, Looking diligently leſt any man fail of the Grace of God: Leſt any rootf bitterneſs ſpringing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled: leſt there be any For­nicator, or profane perſon, &c. And elſe-where, We command you Brethren, in the name of our Lord Jeſus Chriſt, that ye withdraw your ſelves from every Brother that walketh diſor­derly. And, if any man obey not our word, note that man, and have no company with him. And in another place, Ye have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. Know ye not that a little Leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump. Now I have written unto you, not to keep company, if any man that is called a Brother be a Forni­cator, or Covetous, or an Idolater, or a Railer, or a Drunkard, or an Extortioner, with ſuch an one, no not to eat. Do not ye judge them that are within? Therefore put away from among your ſelves that wicked perſon.

And whereas there are ſome who would have theſe five laſt paſſages (all compriſed in one chapter) or ſome of them to be taken only of private converſe, or fellowſhip, not of publike, or Church-communion: beſides their preſum­ption in putting a reſtriction upon the Scripture, ſerving their own turn without warrant from it ſelf, they are con­futed7 by the Text it ſelf, which in every one of thoſe paſ­ſages inſiſteth on the ſame thing, to wit, the ejection of the wicked perſon from among them, to whom he writes, the Church of God at Corinth, the which he reſembleth to a whole lump or maſs, in danger to be tainted by the corrup­tion of that perſon, while he was continued among them, as one particle, or piece thereof. Yea further, the Apoſtle in his urging upon them the performance of that act of ejection, inſerteth this as an Argument (by which he plainly apply­eth the whole diſcourſe to this matter of the Lords Sup­per) For even Christ our Paſsover is ſacrificed for us: there­fore let us keep the Feaſt, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedneſs. What can the Apoſtle, as to his Argument in hand, mean by holding out Chriſt as our Paſsover, which is ſacrificed for us, and by calling us, therefore, to keep the Feaſt with the excluſion of old lea­ven, but that Chriſt in the publike adminiſtration of his Supper in his Church, is the ſame in ſubſtance to us Chri­ſtians, which the Paſsover was to the Iſraelites, that this Supper ſucceedeth in the room of that Paſsover, and that the Rite of that Paſsover in the expurgation of leaven, is a rule or inſtruction to us in our keeping of this Supper; when Chriſts laſt Paſsover was ended, and in the evening in which he was betrayed, and led away to death, he inſti­tuted this Supper, to be a continual memorial of the Sa­crifice of his death; therefore, as the Iſraelites, during the feaſt of the Paſsover, were to abſtain from leavened bread, and for that purpoſe they were to put away leaven out of their houſes, no leaven was to be ſeen with them in all their quarters; ſo is the Church of Chriſt now to obſerve the Feaſt of their Paſsover, the Supper of the Lord, without the aſſociation of wicked perſons; that is, not only thoſe that are out of the Church, but ſuch as, being among them, and of their Brotherhood, and Body, have lapſed into8 groſs ſins, and have not manifeſted their repentance: and for that end, when they go about the celebration of that Feaſt, they are to look intently to the excluſion of ſuch perſons, if any be, from among them, and to ſee that their Aſſembly be a refined, or new lump. This appears to us to be the clear importance of that place. Theſe are ſome of the rules deſcribing the ſanctimony of the Churches communion, particularly in the celebration of the Lords Supper.

Doubtleſs a Miniſter hath not done his part when he hath publikely warned, or Doctrinally to all in general, declared againſt unworthy receiving at the Lords Table; he hath inveſted in him the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven: not only a Key, but Keyes; that is, as we underſtand, A Key to binde or ſhut, as well as a Key to looſe or open; and a Key of Power, or Diſcipline as well as a Key of Know­ledge or Doctrine. He hath a Watch to keep, as well as a Word to declare; as he may not be a dumbe Dog that cannot, or will not bark, ſo he muſt not be a blind, ſleep­ing, or unobſerving watchman; as his work is to feed the Church of God, ſo he is charged, and that in order thereunto, to take heed to all the flock, and to take the overſight thereof. That which we read practiſed by the miniſters of Chriſt, or committed to any ſuch to be practiſed, or commended in them when practiſed, in order to the fulfilling of the Miniſtry, and to the edifying of Churches, that we con­ceive to be matter of rule now to them who are ſet in the ſame calling, and relation. Now we find that the Apoſtles, Paul and Barnabas, were careful, after they had preached the word of the Lord, and planted Churches, to go again to them, and to ſee (or, look into) them, how they did. That Tychicus was ſent by the Apoſtle Paul to the Coloſſians for the ſame purpoſe, that he might know their eſtate: that in like man­ner Paul ſent Timotheus to the Theſſalonians, to know their9 faith: and that the Angel of the Church of Epheſus is noted, and praiſed by the Lord Jeſus, for that he could not bear them which were evil, and had tryed them, which ſaid, they were Apoſtles, and were not, and had found them lyars. As on the contrary hand, it was a charge which he had againſt the Angel of the Church of Pergamos, that he had them that held the Doctrine of the Nicholaitans, ſo hateful to him: and ſemblably he objecteth againſt the Angel of the Church in Thyatira, That he ſuffered the woman Jeze­bel, which called her ſelf a Propheteſs, to teach, and to ſeduce his ſervants to commit fornication, and to eat things ſacrificed to Idols.

We are perſwaded to extricate a Miniſter from that la­byrinth he may ſuppoſe himſelf in, betwixt a promiſcuous adminiſtration on the one hand, and a laying down that Ordinance on the other; there are other ways beſides the chuſing and practiſing of either of theſe, and thoſe clear, and warrantable ones, which (to our judgement) theſe are not. And if there be any of our Brethren who cannot find out any ſuch way, we wiſh they would be preſent at our next Provincial meeting, and concur with us, in adviſing upon it for their reſolution: which offer we expect they will hearken to, in reference not only to themſelves, but to many of their Brethren (of which number our ſelves are) who are much unſatisfied both with the non-admini­ſtration of ſome, and with the boundleſs adminiſtration of others. And we do hereby declare unto them the offence which is taken (we think juſtly) by others, and our ſelves, at the practice of them both, eſpecially at the latter, that, if they will own their duty in the caſe of offences, they may be moved to accept of this our admonition and offer. And for the latter, as we know, and reſent it to be a plainly anti­ſcriptural, and very harmful and offenſive practiſe, ſo we judge it to be a novel courſe, againſt the conſtant judge­ment,10 and order of the Church of Chriſt in all ages, and ſcarce ever profeſſed, or defended by any one before this age, nor in the latitude its now held, practiſed till theſe very few years. And whereas divers that hold this courſe, ſeem to have a zeal for the continuance in publike of the Book of Common Prayer, we wiſh them to remember, that in this they themſelves do manifeſtly caſhier and croſs it, and that, whether they admit perſons without before­hand requiring, and taking notice of their intent to com­municate, or they receive ſuch as are uncatechized, or they adminiſter to them that are openly ſcandalous liv­ers**See for this the Rubrick, or Rules prefixed to the Order for the admini­ſtration of the Lords Supper. The firſt and third Reaſons for Catechizing, prefixed to the Order of Confirmation, with the laſt rule ſuffixed to that Or­der; and the beginning of the Com­miation againſt ſinners.. And for that Book in general (having upon this occaſion menti­oned it) we may make this obſer­vation truly, that the wholſom Or­der therein, is for ſubſtance, retain­ed by thoſe that think fit to lay a­ſide the reading, or reciting its lines verbatim, whilſt it is bro­ken, and aboliſhed by thoſe that would (in what ſuits with their minds) keep up its form of words: But we thus leave this point, and this our particular addreſs to our Brethen in the Miniſtry.

Upon theſe, and other the like conſiderations, we exhort you all (our beloved Brethren) of every congregational Presbyterie, whether Miniſters, or other Elders, that have heretofore joyned in the Government, to own that work of God, by applying your ſelves diligently, and faithfully, to execute the ſame in all the duties thereof; and for that end, to caſt your eyes continually upon the flock for the inſpection thereof, and conſtantly, as opportunity is afford­ed, to keep the meetings of the Presbyteries, whether con­gregational, or claſſical.

And becauſe all men called to this work are not of11 equal forwardneſs, and that which are ſo far lapſed, as to be out of uſe may be not eaſily or ſuddenly to be reſtored, we deſire neighbour Brethren of the Miniſtry, to excite and ſtrengthen the hands of each other, by mutual exhor­tation, and counſel; and every of them to perſwade the Elders of their own, and of the adjoyning Congregations to the work: And though all whom it concerns be not pre­ſently gained to it, yet to purſue them ſtill with brotherly invitations, while there is any hope. And if at the firſt they attain not to a competent number fully to act, yet thoſe that are diſpoſed to it, if they have any to concur with them, let them meet conſtantly, both Congregationally, and Claſſically, and we doubt not but their ſo doing (through Gods acceptance of, and bleſſing upon their willing mind, and offer of themſelves to this his work) may have ſome effect worth that labour, either to the publike advance­ment of this work, or to their own edification, and comfort of conſcience.

And we propoſe to them, as a ſeaſonable action, when they re-aſſume this work, ſolemnly to humble themſelves before God, under the remembrance and ſenſe of all by­paſt backwardneſſes and obſtructions, and of all preſent imperfections and impediments; and to ſeek unto him for his preſence, inſtruction, and help in this attempt: and then to proceed faithfully, induſtriouſly, and reſolutely, as he ſhall pleaſe to lay their duty before them, and open a door to them for the execution of it, though attended with ma­nifold diſcouragements and oppoſitions. In the carrying on of which, it had need ſtill to be remembred, that we are to take heed as well unto our ſelves, as to all the flock. Let each of us therefore look carefully to himſelf, and all of us one to another that we may be both blameleſs, and enſam­ples to the flock.

Where any of our Brethren in the Miniſtry ſhall be rea­dy12 to do his part for the reſtoring of the Diſcipline, and he be deſtitute of an Elderſhip to ioyn with him, either by reaſon there hath not hitherto, been any elected, or for that they that have been choſen to it, perſiſt in refuſal to act, or that otherwiſe the Presbyterie be fallen, as alſo where the number of Elders is not competent to the charge; we de­ſire our Brethren in every ſuch place to look into their re­ſpective Congregations, and to eſſay if any fit perſons can be found, and brought in by election to make up an Elder­ſhip, and therein to uſe the advice of the claſſical meeting, or, in ſupply thereof, the neighbour Miniſters.

And if yet any Miniſter ſhould be unprovided of an El­derſhip in his congregation, we exhort him ſtill to beware of running upon a promiſcuous admiſſion of perſons to the Lords Supper, and to uſe all lawful means for the pre­vention of ſuch perſons as would, from either ſeeking, or obtaining it; and particularly, to endeavour this by a per­ſonal addreſs before, to thoſe that offer themſelves to that ordinance, by way of communication with them touching their underſtanding and faith; and by inſtructing, and ad­moniſhing them, in reference to their coming to, or re­fraining from it, as they ſhall find their capacity to be: as alſo, to repair for mutual adviſement and help, to the claſ­ſical meeting, and to the Provincial, if they find themſelvs ſtill difficultated.

Laſtly, We deſire, that in every Claſſis, an account be taken by the meeting thereof, from time to time, of the ſtate, and proceeding (in relation to this work) of the Bre­thren of each congregation within their precincts; as alſo, that from every claſſis, there be ſent to the Provincial Aſ­ſemblies ſucceſſively an account of their claſſical conſtitu­tion and progreſs; and particularly, that the next Provin­cial meeting be from every claſſis certified of their receit of this our addreſs to them, and of their active concurrence in the ſubject matter of it.

13For a cloſe of this our Invitation unto the neceſſary things above preſſed, let us call to minde, and put you in remembrance (Brethren) how thoſe primitive Elders we read of in the writings of the New Teſtament ſtood diſ­poſed unto their reſpective charges. The Scripture records to us, They were affectionately deſirous of them. They were willing to have imparted to them, not the Goſpel of God only, but alſo their own ſouls, becauſe they were dear unto them. Like mothers of their children, they travelled in birth of them, until Chriſt were formed in them. As nurſes do their children, they cheriſhed them, and were gentle among them. Like as Fathers do their children, they exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of them. They could not for­bear to ſeek to know their faith, and to endeavour their eſtabliſh­ment, and comfort concerning it. Their cares of their Church­es were like a tumult thronging in upon them daily. They ſought not theirs, but them. They would gladly ſpend, and be ſpent for their ſouls. In the things wherein they were free, they made themſelves ſervants unto all, that they might gain the more. They pleaſed all men in all things, not ſeeking their own profit, but the profit of many, that they might be ſaved. They naturally cared for their peoples eſtate. They had great zeal for them. They prayed exceedingly, and laboured fervently in prayers for them. They had great conflicts (or ag•••••) for them. They great­ly longed after them all in the bowels of Jeſus Chriſt. They wiſhed above all things that they might proſper. They had no greater joy then to hear that thoſe their children walked in the Truth. It was their life to know them to ſtand faſt in the Lord. They were to them their hope, joy, crown of rejoycing, glory, their dearly beloved, and longed for. Not only were their mouths opened, but their hearts were enlarged to them. They were in their hearts to die and live with them. They were jealous over them with godly jealouſie, that they might preſent them as a chaſt Virgin unto Chriſt. Theſe were ſome of the workings14 of the minds and affections towards their flocks of thoſe our Fore-leaders. Now the Father of mercies, and God of all Grace, grant you, and us, to be like-minded towards the flock of God which is among us.

This Exhortation is immediately ſent, and committed to the hands of our beloved Bre­thren undernamed, to be by them communica­ted to the reſt of our Brethren, to whom it is addreſſed, within their reſpective Claſſes, and with them joyntly to be conſidered, and put in practiſe.


About this transcription

TextAn exhortation directed to the elders of the several congregations within this province of Lancaster. By the Provincial Assembly at Preston, May 1. 1655.
AuthorPreston (Lancashire, England). Provincial Assembly..
Extent Approx. 28 KB of XML-encoded text transcribed from 9 1-bit group-IV TIFF page images.
SeriesEarly English books online.
Additional notes

(EEBO-TCP ; phase 2, no. A84289)

Transcribed from: (Early English Books Online ; image set 118739)

Images scanned from microfilm: (Thomason Tracts ; 129:E850[18])

About the source text

Bibliographic informationAn exhortation directed to the elders of the several congregations within this province of Lancaster. By the Provincial Assembly at Preston, May 1. 1655. Preston (Lancashire, England). Provincial Assembly.. [2], 14 p. Printed by J.M. for Luke Favvn, and are to be sold at his shop at the signe of the Parrot in Pauls Church-yard.,London, :1655.. (Annotation on Thomason copy: "31 July.".) (Reproduction of the original in the British Library.)
  • Church and state -- Early works to 1800.
  • Church discipline -- Early works to 1800.

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Publication information

  • Text Creation Partnership,
ImprintAnn Arbor, MI ; Oxford (UK) : 2011-12 (EEBO-TCP Phase 2).
  • DLPS A84289
  • STC Wing E3866
  • STC Thomason E850_18
  • STC ESTC R207413
  • EEBO-CITATION 99866464
  • PROQUEST 99866464
  • VID 118739

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