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never advanced all these things, in order to arrogate to himself the least praise independent of God, as he briefly states in other passages: “Our entrance in unto you was not in vain.” (i) “I labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.” (k) “He that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles.” (1) Besides, it is evident, from other places, that he leaves ministers possessed of nothing, considered in themselves:

“ Neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that wa" tereth; but God that giveth the increase.(m) Again: “I

laboured more abundantly than they all; yet not I, but the grace

of God which was with me.”(n) And it is certainly necessary to bear in memory those passages, in which God ascribes to himself the illumination of the mind and renovation of the heart, and thereby declares it to be sacrilege for man to arrogate to himself any share in either. Yet every one who attends with docility of mind to the ministers whom God hath appointed, will learn from the beneficial effect, that this mode of teaching has not in vain being pleasing to God, and that this yoke of modesty has not without reason been imposed upon the faithful.

VII. From what has been said, I conceive it must now be evident what judgment we ought to form respecting the Church, which is visible to our eyes, and falls under our knowledge. For we have remarked that the word Church is used in the sacred scriptures in two senses. Sometimes when they mention the Church, they intend that which is really such in the sight of God, into which none are received but those who by adoption and grace are the children of God, and by the sanctification of the Spirit are the true members of Christ. And then it comprehends not only the saints at any one time resident on earth, but all the elect who have lived from the beginning of the world. But the word Church is frequently used in the scriptures to designate the whole multitude dispersed all over the

(i) 1 Thess. ii. 1.
(m) 1 Cor. ül. 7.

(6) Col. i. 29.
() 1 Cor. xy. 10.

(1) Gal. ii. 8.

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world, who profess to worship one God and Jesus Christ, who are initiated into his faith by baptism, who testify their unity in true doctrine and charity by a participation of the sacred supper, who consent to the word of the Lord, and preserve the ministry which Christ has instituted for the purpose of preaching it. In this Church are included many hypocrites, who have nothing of Christ but the name and appearance; many persons ambitious, avaricious, envious, slanderous, and dissolute in their lives, who are tolerated for a time, either because they cannot be convicted by a legitimate process, or because discipline is not always maintained with sufficient vigour. As it is necessary therefore to believe that Church which is invisible to us, and known to God alone; so this Church which is visible to men, we are commanded to honour, and to maintain communion with it.

VIII. As far therefore as was important for us to know it, the Lord has described it by certain marks and characters. It is the peculiar prerogative of God himself to “know them that are his," () as we have already stated from Paul. And to guard against human presumption ever going to such an extreme, the experience of every day teaches us how very far his secret judgments transcend all our apprehensions. For those who seemed the most abandoned, and were generally considered past all hope, are recalled by his goodness into the right way; while some who seemed to stand bettor than others, fall into perdition. “According to the secret predestination of God,” therefore, as Augustine observes, “ there are many sheep without the pale of the Church, and many wolves within.” For he knows and seals those who know not either him or themselves. Of those who externally bear his seal, his eyes alone can discern who are unfeignedly holy, and will persevere to the end; which is the completion of salvation. On the other hand, as he saw it to be in some measure requisite that we should know who ought to be considered as his children, he has in this respect accommodated him

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self to our capacity. And as it was not necessary that on this point we should have an assurance of faith, he has substituted in its place a judgment of charity, according to which we ought to acknowledge as members of the Church all those who by a confession of faith, an exemplary life, and a participation of the sacraments, profess the same God and Christ with ourselves. But the knowledge of the body itself being more necessary to our salvation, he has distinguished it by more clear and certain characters.

IX. Hence the visible Church rises conspicuous to our view. For wherever we find the word of God purely preached and heard, and the sacraments administered according to the institution of Christ; there, it is not to be doubted, is a Church of God: for his promise can never deceive; “ where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” () But that we may have a clear understanding of the whole of this subject, let us proceed by the following steps: That the universal Church is the whole multitude, collected from all nations, who though dispersed in countries widely distant from each other, nevertheless consent to the same truth of Divine doctrine, and are united by the bond of the same religion. That in this universal Church are comprehended particular churches, distributed according to human neces. sity in various towns and villages; and that each of these respectively is justly distinguished by the name and authority of a church: and that individuals, who on a profession of piety are enrolled among churches of the same description, though they are really strangers to any particular church, do nevertheless in some respect belong to it, till they are expelled from it by a public decision. There is some difference however in the mode of judging respecting private persons and churches. For it may happen, in the case of persons whom we think altogether unworthy of the society of the pious, that on account of the common consent of the Church, by which they are tolerated in the body of Christ, we may be obliged to treat them as brethren,

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(p) Matt. xviii. 20

and to class them in the number of the faithful. In our private opinion we approve not of such persons as members of the Church, but we leave them the station they hold among the people of God, till it be taken away from them by legitimate authority. But respecting the congregation itself, we must form a different judgment. If they possess and honour the ministry of the word, and the administration of the sacraments, they are, without all doubt, entitled to be considered as a Church; because it is certain that the word and sacraments cannot be unattended with some good effects. In this manner we preserve the unity of the universal Church, which diabolical spirits have always been endeavouring to destroy; and at the same time without interfering with the authority of those legitimate assemblies, which local convenience has distributed in different places.

X. We have stated that the marks by which the Church is to be distinguished, are, the preaching of the word, and the administration of the sacraments. For these can no where exist without bringing forth fruit, and being prospered with the blessing of God. I assert not that wherever the word is preached, the good effects of it immediately appear; but that it is never received so as to obtain a permanent establishment, except in order that it may be efficacious. However this may be, where the word is heard with reverence, and the sacraments are not neglected, there we discover, while that is the case, an appearance of the Church, which is liable to no suspicion or uncertainty, of which no one can safely despise the authority, or reject the admonitions, or resist the counsels, or slight the censures, much less separate from it and break up its unity. For so highly does the Lord esteem the communion of his Church, that he considers every one as a traitor and apostate from religion, who perversely withdraws himself from any Christian society which preserves the true ministry of the word and sacraments. He commends the authority of the Church, in such a manner as to account every violation of it an infringement of his own. For it is not a trivial circumstance, that the Church is called “ the house of God, the pillar and ground of truth." (9) For in these words Paul signifies that in order to keep the truth of God from being lost in the world, the Church is its faithful guardian; because it has been the will of God, by the ministry of the Church, to preserve the pure preaching of his word, and to manifest himself as our affectionate Father, while he nourishes us with spiritual food, and provides all things conducive to our salvation. Nor is it small praise, that the Church is chosen and separated by Christ to be his spouse, “not having spot or wrinkle," () to be “his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all." ($) Hence it follows, that a departure from the Church is a renunciation of God and Christ. And such a criminal dissention is so much the more to be avoided; because while we endeavour, as far as lies in our power, to destroy the truth of God, we deserve to be crushed with the most powerful thunders of his wrath. Nor is it possible to imagine a more atrocious crime, than that sacrilegious perfidy, which violates the conjugal relation that the only begotten Son of God has condescended to form with us.

XI. Let us therefore diligently retain those characters impressed upon our minds, and estimate them according to the judgment of God. For there is nothing that Satan labours more to accomplish, than to remove and destroy one or both of them; at one time to efface and obliterate these marks, and so to take away all true and genuine distinction of the Church; at another to inspire us with contempt of them, and so to drive us out of the Church by an open separation. By his subtlety it has happened, that in some ages the pure preaching of the word has altogether disappeared; and in the present day he is labouring with the same malignity to overturn the ministry; which however Christ has ordained in his Church, so that if it were taken away, the edification of the Church would be quite at an end. How dangerous then, how fatal is the temptation, when it even enters into the heart of a man to withdraw himself from that congregation, in which he discovers those signs and characters which the Lord has deemed sufficiently descriptive of his Church!

(9) 1 Tim. ij. 15.

(1) Eph. v. 27.

(3) Eph. i. 23.

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