The Philadelphia Confession, 1742
The catholic or universal church,
which, with respect to the internal work of the Spirit and truth of grace, may be called
invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be
gathered into one, under Christ, the head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the
fulness of Him that filleth all in all.1
All persons throughout the world,
professing the faith of the gospel, and obedience unto God by Christ, according unto it,
not destroying their own profession by any error, everting the foundation, or unholiness
of conversation, are and may be called visible saints;2 and of
such ought all particular congregations to be constituted.3
The purest churches under heaven are
subject to mixture and error;4 and some have so degenerated as
to become no churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan;5
nevertheless Christ always hath had, and ever shall have, a kingdom in this world, to the
end thereof, of such as believe in Him, and make profession of His name.6
The Lord Jesus Christ is the Head of
the church in whom, by the appointment of the Father, all power for the calling,
institution, order, or government of the church, is invested in a supreme and sovereign
manner;7 neither can the Pope of Rome in any sense be head
thereof, but is that Antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalteth
himself in the church against Christ, and all that is called God; whom the Lord shall
destroy with the brightness of His coming.8
In the execution of this power
wherewith He is so intrusted, the Lord Jesus calleth out of the world unto Himself,
through the ministry of His Word, by His Spirit, those that are given unto Him, by His
Father,9 that they may walk before Him in all the ways of
obedience, which He prescribeth to them in His Word.10 Those
thus called, He commandeth to walk together in particular societies, or churches, for
their mutual edification, and the due performance of that public worship, which He
requireth of them in the world.11
The members of these churches are
saints by calling, visibly manifesting and evidencing in and by their profession and
walking, their obedience unto that call of Christ;12 and do
willingly consent to walk together, according to the appointment of Christ, giving up
themselves to the Lord, and one to another, by the will of God, in professed subjection to
the ordinances of the Gospel.13
To each of these churches thus gathered
according to His mind, declared in His Word, He hath given all that power and authority,
which is any way needful for their carrying on that order in worship and discipline, which
He hath instituted for them to observe, with commands and rules, for the due and right
exerting, and executing of that power.14
A particular church, gathered and
completely organized according to the mind of Christ, consists of officers and members;
and the officers appointed by Christ to be chosen and set apart by the church, so called
and gathered, for the peculiar administration of ordinances, and execution of power or
duty, which He entrusts them with, or calls them to, to be continued to the end of the
world, are bishops, or elders, and deacons.15
The way appointed by Christ for the
calling of any person, fitted and gifted by the Holy Spirit, unto the office of bishop, or
elder, in a church is, that he be chosen thereunto by the common suffrage of the church
itself;16 and solemnly set apart by fasting and prayer, with
imposition of hands of the eldership of the church, if there be any before constituted
therein:17 and of a deacon that he be chosen by the like
suffrage, and set apart by prayer, and the like imposition of hands.18
The work of pastors being constantly to
attend the service of Christ, in His churches, in the ministry of the Word, and prayer
with watching for their souls, as they that must give an account to Him;19 it is incumbent on the churches to whom they minister, not
only to give them all due respect, but also to communicate to them of all their good
things, according to their ability,20 so as they may have a
comfortable supply, without being themselves entangled in secular affairs;21 and may also be capable of exercising hospitality towards
others;22 and this is required by the law of nature, and by
the express order of our Lord Jesus, who hath ordained, that they that preach the Gospel
should live of the Gospel.23
Although it be incumbent on the bishops
or pastors of the churches, to be instant in preaching the Word, by way of office, yet the
work of preaching the Word is not so peculiarly confined to them, but that others also
gifted, and fitted by the Holy Spirit for it, and approved and called by the church, may
and ought to perform it.24
As all believers are bound to join
themselves to particular churches, when and where they have opportunity so to do; so all
that are admitted unto the privileges of a church, are also under the censures and
government thereof, according to the rule of Christ.25
No church members, upon any offence
taken by them, having performed their duty required of them towards the person they are
offended at, ought to disturb church order, or absent themselves from the assemblies of
the church, or administration of any ordinance, upon the account of such offence at any of
their fellow members, but to wait upon Christ, in further proceeding of the church.26
As each church, and all the members of
it, are bound to pray continually, for the good and prosperity of all the churches of
Christ,27 in all places, and upon all occasions to further it,
every one within the bounds of their places and callings, in the exercise of their gifts
and graces, so the churches, when planted by the providence of God, so as they may enjoy
opportunity and advantage for it, ought to hold communion among themselves, for their
peace, increase of love, and mutual edification.28
Cases of difficulties or differences, either in point of doctrine or administration; wherein either the churches in general are concerned, or any one church in their peace, union and edification; or any member or members of any church are injured, in or by any proceedings in censures not agreeable to truth and order: it is according to the mind of Christ, that many churches holding communion together, do by their messenger, meet to consider, and give their advice in or about the matter in difference, to be reported to all the churches concerned;29 howbeit these messengers assembled, are not intrusted with any church power, properly so called; or with any jurisdiction over the churches themselves, to exercise any censures either over any churches, or persons; or to impose their determination on the churches or officers.30
1. Heb 12:23; Col 1:18; Eph 1:10,22-23; 5:23,27,32.
2. 1Co 1:2; Ac 11:26.
3. Ro 1:7; Eph 1:20-22.
4. 1Co 5:1-13; Rev 2:1-29; 3:1-22.
5. Rev 18:2; 2Th 2:11-12.
6. Mt 16:18; Ps 72:17; 102:28; Rev 12:17.
7. Col 1:18; Mt 28:18-20; Eph 4:11-12.
8. 2Th 2:2-9.
9. Jn 10:16; 12:32.
10. Mt 28:20.
11. Mt 18:15-20.
12. Ro 1 :7; 1Co 1:2.
13. Ac 2:41-42; 5:13-14; 2Co 9:13.
14. Mt 18:17-18; 1Co 5:4-5; 5:13; 2Co 2:6-8.
15. Ac 20:17,28; Php 1:1.
16. Ac 14:23.
17. 1Ti 4:14.
18. Ac 6:3,5-6.
19. Ac 6:4; Heb 13:17.
20. 1Ti 5:17-18; Gal 6:6-7.
21. 2Ti 2:4.
22. 1Ti 3:2.
23. 1Co 9:6-14.
24. Ac 11:19-21; 1Pe 4:10-11.
25. 1Th 5:14; 2Th 3:6,14-15.
26. Mt 18:15-17; Eph 4:2-3.
27. Eph 6:18; Ps 122:6.
28. Ro 16:1-2; 3Jn 8-10.
29. Ac 15:2,4,6,22-23,25.
30. 2Co 1:24; 1Jn 4:1.
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