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THE VISIBLE CHURCH.
Wr have hitherto treated of the vocation of man, and of the effects thereby produced, whether consisting in a mere outward change of character, or in actual regeneration; of the spiritual increase of the regenerate; of the various manifestations of the offered covenant; and, finally, of the sealing of that covenant by sacraments.
The Assembly of those who ARE called is termed the visible CHURCH. By the CALLED, I mean those indiscriminately who have received the call, whether they be actually regenerate or otherwise. Matt. iii. 12. whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into his garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. xiii. 24, 25. the kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat. v. 47. the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind. xxii. 9, 10. go ye therefore into the highways...... and they gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good. xxv. 1, 2, then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins...... and five of them were wise, and five were foolish. I John ii. 19. they went out from us, but they were not of us.
The tokens of the visible church are, pure doctrine; the proper external worship of God; genuine evangelical love, so far as it can be distinguished from the fictitious by mere human perception; and a right administration of the seals of the covenant. Matt. xxviii. 19, 20. go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them......teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. Acts ii. 42. they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. 1 Tim. iii. 15. the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. The tokens of the Jewish church enu-. merated by St. Paul are not dissimilar: Rom. ix. 4. who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises. On the other hand, he intimates, that where these tokens are wanting, there is no church. Eph. ii. 12. at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens jrom the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenant of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world.
As to what are called signs, Mark xvi. 17, 18, these signs shall Jollow them that believe ; in my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover; these are not to be considered as tokens uniformly attending the visible church, but as testimonies which, however necessary at the time of its first establishment, when the doctrines of Christianity were to Jews and Gentiles alike, new, unheard of, and all but incredible, are less requisite at the present period, when men are educated in the apostolical faith, and begin their belief from their earliest childhood. Under these circumstances, the same end is answered by their hearing and reading of the miracles performed at the beginning by Christ and his apostles. Deut. xxxi. 13. that their children, which have not known anything, may hear, and learn to fear Jehovah your God, as long as ye live—. So also I Cor. xiv. 22. tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not, and they shall cease, 1 Cor. xiii. 8. The working of miracles was sometimes permitted even to impostors, and to a false church. Deut. xiii. 1–3. if there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth
thee a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder come to pass whereof he spake unto thee...... thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams; for Jehovah your God proveth gou, to know whether ye love Jehovah your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Matt. vii. 22, 23. many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name have cast out devils, and in thy name have done many wonderful works? and then will I profess unto them, I never knew you. xxiv. 24. there shall arise Jalse Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Gal. i. 8. though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 2 Thess. ii. 9. whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders. Rev. xiii. 13. he doeth great wonders.
Neither is the re-establishment of the church uniformly attended by miracles; in like manner as this species of attestation was not granted to several of the prophets, nor to the Baptist, John x. 41. nor in all cases to the apostles themselves, Matt. xvii. 16. I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him. 2 Tim. iv. 20. Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick: whence it appears that Paul was unable to heal, not only one who was a believer, but who was of note among the believers.
Miracles have no inherent efficacy in producing belief, any more than simple preaching; it is God that gives the right heart in the one case as in the other.” Deut. xxix. 2–4. ye have seen all that Jehovah did before your eyes in the land of Egypt...... get Jehovah hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day. Psal. lxxviii. 11. they forgat his wonders. v. 32. they believed not his wondrous works. Luke xvi. 31. if they hear not Moses and the pro
• ‘ It is God only who gives as well to believe aright, as to believe at all. Considerations touching the likeliest Means to remove Hirelings out of the Church. Prose Works, III. 351.
phets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead. Acts iv. 16, 17. that a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that duell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. Those also are declared blessed who believe without the testimony of miracles. John xx. 29. blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. Matt. xii. 39, &c. an evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign, and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas ... the men of Nineveh shall rise in judgement with this generation, and shall condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonas. Luke x. 20. in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.
So long therefore as charity, the greatest of all gifts, exists, and wheresoever it is found, we cannot doubt that the visible church there established is a true church. John xiii. 35. by this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. I Cor. xii. 31. covet earnestly the best gifts; and yet show I you a more eacellent way. xiii. 1, &c. though I speak with the tongue of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass—. v. 8. charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail—. v. 13. now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. ,
As Christ is the head of the mystical church, so no one besides Christ has the right or power of presiding over the visible church.” Matt. xviii. 20. there am I in the midst of them. xxviii. 20. I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. 1 Cor. v. 4. in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with
- - - - - - - - - - - - Man over men
‘Christ hath a government of his own, sufficient of itself to all his ends and purposes
in governing his church.' Treatise of Civil Poner in Ecclesiastical Causes. Prose Works, III. 331.
the power of our Lord Jesus Christ. Heb. iii. 6. Christ as a son over his own house. Rev. ii. 1, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks. They are therefore in error, who would set up an earthly head over the church in the person of the apostle Peter, and his successors commonly so called, the Roman pontiffs; for which no authority can be found in Scripture." As to Peter, it does not appear that any preference was given to him over the other apostles, either with regard to his mission, Matt. x. 1. or to any special command assigned to him, John xx. 21, 22. or to any authority reposed in him for the deciding of controversies, Acts xv.2, 6, 7, 19, 23, 25. or to his knowledge of the faith, at least to his constancy in professing it, since he fell grievously in his denial of Christ, and was afterwards reprehensible, though in a less degree, in the matter for which he was reproved by Paul, Gal. ii. 11. He was also an elder like the others, 1 Pet. v. 1. neither is he promised any distinction of honours hereafter, Matt. xix. 28. nor is superiority of any kind attributed to him rather than to James, or John, or Paul and Barnabas, Gal. ii. 9. Nay, he was the apostle of the circumcision only, as was Paul of the Gentiles, v. 8, 9.. who was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles, 2 Cor. xi. 5. He was likewise sent as the colleague of John into Samaria, Acts viii. 14. and gave an account of his apostleship to those who contended with him, xi. 2. Lastly, the church is not said to be built upon the foundation of Peter alone, but of the apostles, Eph. ii. 20. Rev. xxi. 14. Even supposing, however, that it were otherwise, how can a foundation have any succession ? Nor does the celebrated text, Matt. xvi. 18, 19. which is perverted by the Pope to form the charter of his authority, confer any distinction on Peter beyond what is not enjoyed by other professors of the same faith. For inasmuch as many others confessed no less explicitly than Peter that Christ was the
All Protestants hold that Christ in his church hath left no vicegerent of his power; but himself, without deputy, is the only head thereof, governing it from heaven; how then can any Christian man derive his kingship from Christ, but with worse usurpation than the pope his headship over the church? since Christ not only hath not left the least shadow of a command for any such vicegerence from him in the state, as the pope pretends for his in the church—. Ready Way to establish a Free Commonwealth. Prose Works, III. 411.