Keach on church
Nice from Benjamin Keach (of whom more here), though the phrasing is of its time:
Before there can be any Orderly Discipline among a Christian Assembly, they must be orderly and regularly constituted into a Church-state, according to the Institution of Christ in the Gospel.
1. A Church of Christ, according to the Gospel-Institution, is a Congregation of Godly Christians, who as a Stated-Assembly (being first baptized upon the Profession of Faith) do by mutual agreement and consent give themselves up to the Lord, and one to another, according to the Will of God; and do ordinarily meet together in one Place, for the Public Service and Worship of God; among whom the Word of God and Sacraments are duly administered, according to Christ’s Institution.(1)
2. The Beauty and Glory of which Congregation doth consist in their being all Converted Persons, or Lively Stones; being by the Holy Spirit, united to Jesus Christ the Precious Corner-Stone, and only foundation of every Christian, as well as of every particular Congregation, and of the whole Catholick Church.(2)
3. That every Person before they are admitted Members, in such a Church so constituted, must declare to the Church (or to such with the Pastor, that they shall appoint) what God hath done for their Souls, or their Experiences of a Saving work of Grace upon their Hearts; and also the Church should enquire after, and take full satisfaction concerning their Holy Lives, or Good Conversations.(3)
And when admitted Members, before the Church they must solemnly enter into a Covenant, to walk in the Fellowship of that particular Congregation, and submit themselves to the Care and Discipline thereof,(4) and to walk faithfully with God in all his Holy Ordinances, and there to be fed and have Communion, and worship God there, when the Church meets (if possible) and give themselves up to the watch and charge of the Pastor and Ministry thereof:(5) the Pastor then also signifying in the name of the Church their acceptance of each Person, and endeavor to take the care of them, and to watch over them in the Lord, (the Members being first satisfied to receive them, and to have Communion with them.) And so the Pastor to give them the right Hand of Fellowship of a Church, or Church Organical.
A Church thus constituted ought forthwith to choose them a Pastor, Elder or Elders, and Deacons, (we reading of no other Officers, or Offices abiding in the Church) and what kind of Men they ought to be, and how qualified, is laid down by Paul to Timothy, and to Titus. Moreover, they are to take special care, that both Bishops, Overseers, or Elders, as well as the Deacons, have in some competent manner all those Qualifications; and after in a Day of solemn Prayer and Fasting, that they have elected them, (whether Pastor, &c., or Deacons) and they accepting the Office, must be ordained with Prayer, and laying on of Hands of the Eldership; being first prov’d, and found meet and fit Persons for so Sacred an Office: Therefore such are very disorderly Churches who have no Pastor or Pastors ordained, they acting not according to the Rule of the Gospel, having something wanting.(6)
(1) Act. 2.41, 42, 43, 44. Act. 8.14. Act. 19.4, 5, 6. Eph. 1.1, 2 and 2.12, 13, 19. Col. 1. 2, 4, 12. I Pet. 2.5. Act. 5.13, 14. Rom. 6.17. Heb. 6.1, 2.
(2) Rom. 6. 3, 4, 5. I Pet. 2.4, 5, 6. Eph. 2.20, 21. Col. 2.19.
(3) Psa. 66.16. Act. 11.4, 5, 6, &c., 23, 24. I Pet. 3.15. II Cor. 8.5. Jer. 50.5.
(4) Heb. 13.17.
(5) Pet. 5.1, 2.
(6) I Tim. 3.2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Tit. 1. 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. Tit. 1.7. Act. 6.6. I Tim. 5.22. I Cor. 9.16, 17.
Benjamin Keach, The Glory of a True Church, And its Discipline display’d