Chapter 31: Of Synods and Councils
I. For the better government, and further edification of the church, there ought to be such assemblies as are commonly called Synods or Councils.[a]
[a] Acts 15:2,4,6.
II. As magistrates may lawfully call a synod of ministers, and other fit persons, to consult and advise with, about matters of religion;[b] so if magistrates be open enemies to the church, the ministers of Christ, of themselves, by virtue of their office, or they, with other fit persons upon delegation from their churches, may meet together in such assemblies.[c]
[b] Isa. 49:23. 1 Tim. 2:1,2. 2 Chron. 19:8 to the end. 2 Chron. 29-30. Matt. 2:4,5. Prov. 11:14.
[c] Acts 15:2,4,22,23,25.
III. It belongs to synods and councils ministerially to determine controversies of faith, and cases of conscience; to set down rules and directions for the better ordering of the publick worship of God, and government of his church; to receive complaints in cases of mal-administration, and authoritatively to determine the same: which decrees and determinations, if consonant to the word of God, are to be received with reverence and submission, not only for their agreement with the word, but also for the power whereby they are made, as being an ordinance of God, appointed thereunto in his word.[d]
[d] Acts 15:15,19,24,27-31. Acts 16:4. Matt. 18:17-20.
IV. All synods or councils, since the apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err, and many have erred; therefore they are not to be made the rule of faith or practice, but to be used as a help in both.[e]
[e] Eph. 2:20. Acts 17:11. 1 Cor. 2:5. 2 Cor. 1:24.
V. Synods and councils are to handle or conclude nothing but that which is ecclesiastical; and are not to intermeddle with civil affairs, which concern the commonwealth, unless by way of humble petition, in cases extraordinary; or by way of advice for satisfaction of conscience, if they be thereunto required by the civil magistrate.[f]
[f] Luke 12:13,14. John 18:36.