Page images

censures, and scrupulously and uniformly to adhere to its communion, we cannot allow their claim to the character of the Church, without necessarily obliging ourselves to subjection and obedience. Yet we readily concede to them what the prophets conceded to the Jews and Israelites of their time, when things among them were in a similar, or even in a better state. But we see how they frequently exclaim, that their assemblies were iniquitous meetings, (w) a concurrence in which were as criminal as a renunciation of God. And certainly if those assemblies were Churches, it follows that Elijah, Micaiah, and others in Israel, were strangers to the Church of God; and the same would be true of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, and others of that description in Judah, whom the false prophets, priests, and people of their day, hated and execrated as if they had been worse than any heathens. If such assemblies were Churches, then the Church is not the pillar of truth, but a foundation of falsehood, not the sanctuary of the living God, but a receptacle of idols. They found themselves under a necessity therefore of withdrawing from all connection with those assemblies, which were nothing but a conspiracy against God. For the same reason, if any one acknowledges the assemblies of the present day, which are contaminated with idolatry, superstition, and false doctrine, as true Churches, in full communion with which a Christian man ought to continue, and in whose doctrine he ought to coincide, this will be a great error. For if they be Churches, they possess the power of the keys; but the keys are inseparably connected with the word, which is exploded from among them. Again, if they be Churches, that promise of Christ must be applicable to them; “Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven." (x) On the contrary, all who sincerely profess themselves to be the servants of Christ they expel from their communion. Either therefore the promise of Christ must be vain, or in this respect they are not Churches. Lastly, instead of the ministry of the word, they have schools of impiety, and a gulf of every

(w) Isaiah i. 13, 14.

(t) Matt. xviii. 18.

species of errors. Either, therefore, in this respect they are not Churches, or no mark will be left to distinguish the legitimate assemblies of the faithful from the conventions of Turks.

XI. Nevertheless, as in former times the Jews continued in possession of some peculiar privileges of the Church, so we refuse not to acknowledge, among the Papists of the present day, those vestiges of the Church which it has pleased the Lord should remain among them after its removal. When God had once made his covenant with the Jews, it continued among them, rather because it was supported by its own stability in opposition to their impiety, than in consequence of their observance of it. Such, therefore, was the certainty and constancy of the Divine goodness, the covenant of the Lord remained among them; his faithfulness could not be obliterated by their perfidy; nor could circumcision be so profaned by their impure hands, but that it was always the true sign and sacrament of his covenant. Hence the children that were born to them, God calls his own, (y) though they could not have belonged to him but by a special benediction. So after he had deposited his covenant in France, Italy, Germany, Spain, and England, when those countries were oppressed by the tyranny of Antichrist, still in order that the covenant might remain inviolable, as a testimony of that covenant, he preserved Baptism among them, which being consecrated by his lips retains its virtue in opposition to all the impiety of men. He also by his providence caused other vestiges of the Church to remain, that it might not be entirely lost. And as buildings are frequently demolished in such a manner as to leave the foundations and ruins remaining, so the Lord has not suffered Antichrist either to subvert his Church from the foundation, or to level it with the ground; though, to punish the ingratitude of men who despised his word, he has permitted a dreadful concussion and dilapidation to be made; yet, amidst this devastation, he has been pleased to preserve the edifice from being entirely destroyed.

XII. While we refuse therefore to allow to the Papists the

(y) Ezek. xvi. 20

title of the Church, without any qualification or restriction, we do not deny that there are Churches among them. We only contend for the true and legitimate constitution of the Church, which requires not only a communion in the sacraments, which are the signs of a Christian profession, but above all, an agreement in doctrine. Daniel and Paul had predicted that Antichrist would sit in the temple of God. (2) The head of that cursed and abominable kingdom, in the Western Church, we affirm to be the Pope. When his seat is placed in the temple of God, it suggests, that his kingdom will be such, that he will not abolish the name of Christ, or the Church. Hence it appears, that we by no means deny that Churches may exist, even under his tyranny; but he has profaned them by sacrilegious impiety, afflicted them by cruel despotism, corrupted and almost terminated their existence by false and pernicious doctrines, like poisonous potions: in such Churches, Christ lies half buried, the gospel is suppressed, piety exterminated, and the worship of God almost abolished; in a word, they are altogether in such a state of confusion, that they exhibit a picture of Babylon, rather than of the holy city of God. To conclude, I affirm that they are Churches, inasmuch as God has wonderfully preserved among them a remnant of his people, though miserably dispersed and dejected, and as there still remain some marks of the Church, especially those, the efficacy of which neither the craft of the devil, nor the malice of men, can ever destroy. But, on the other hand because those marks which we ought chiefly to regard in this controversy, are obliterated, I affirm, that the form of the legitimate Church is not to be found either in any one of their congregations, or in the body at large

(2) Dan. ix. 27. 2 Thess.j. 3, •.


The Teachers and Ministers of the Church; their Election

and Office.

We must now treat of the order which it has been the Lord's will to appoint for the government of his Church. For although he alone ought to rule and reign in the Church, and to have all pre-eminence in it, and this government ought to be exercised and administered solely by his word; yet as he dwells not among us by a visible presence, so as to make an audible declaration of his will to us, we have stated, that for this purpose he uses the ministry of men whom he employs as his delegates, not to transfer his right and honour to them, but only that he may himself do his work by their lips; just as an artificer makes use of an instrument in the performance of his work. Some observations which I have made already, are necessary to be repeated here. It is true that he might do this either by himself, without any means or instruments, or even by angels; but there are many reasons why he prefers making use of men. For in the first place, by this method he declares his kindness towards us, since he chooses from among men those who are to be his ambassadors to the world, to be the interpreters of his secret will, and even to act as his personal representatives. And thus he affords an actual proof, that when he so frequently calls us his temples, it is not an unmeaning appellation, since he gives answers to men, even from the mouths of men, as from a sanctuary. In the second place, this is a most excellent and beneficial method to train us to humility, since he accustoms us to obey his word, though it is preached to us by men like ourselves, and sometimes even of inferior rank. If he were himself to speak from heaven, there would be no wonder if his sacred oracles were instantly received with reverence, by the ears and hearts of all mankind. For who would not be

awed by his present power? who would not fall prostrate at the first view of infinite Majesty? who would not be confounded by that overpowering splendour? But when a contemptible mortal, who had just emerged from the dust, addresses us in the name of God, we give the best evidence of our piety and reverence towards God himself, if we readily submit to be instructed by his minister, who possesses no personal superiority to ourselves. For this reason also he has deposited the treasure of his heavenly wisdom in frail and earthen vessels, (a) in order to afford a better proof of the estimation in which we hold it. Besides, nothing was more adapted to promote brotherly love, than a mutual connection of men by this bond; while one is constituted the pastor to teach all the rest, and they who are commanded to be disciples, receive one common doctrine from the same mouth. For if each person were sufficient for himself, and had no need of the assistance of another, such is the pride of human nature, every one would despise others, and would also be despised by them. The Lord therefore has connected his Church together, by that which he foresaw would be the strongest bond for the preservation of their union, when he committed the doctrine of eternal life and salvation to men, that by their hands it might be communicated to others, Paul had this in view when he wrote to the Ephesians. “ There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry,

(a) 2 Cor. iv.7.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »