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Hence the people are warned not to take delight in vain teachers. 2 Tim. iv. 3. the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.' 1 Pet. ii. 2. “as new born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.' False teachers are not to be tolerated. Rer. ii. 2. • I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil ; and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars.' v. 7. • he that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.'
Every church consisting of the above parts, however small its numbers, is to be considered as in itself an integral and perfect church, so far as regards its religious rights ; nor has it any superior on earth, whether individual, or assembly, or convention, to whom it can be lawfully required to render submission ; inasmuch as no believer out of its pale, nor any order or council of men whatever, has a greater right than itself to expect a participation in the written word and the promises, in the presence of Christ, in the presiding influence of the Spirit, and in those gracious gifts which are the reward of united prayer. Matt. xviii. 20. where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.' Acts xiv. 23. when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.'
Hence all particular churches, whether in Judea, where there was originally one church comprehending
the whole nation, or in any other country whatever, are properly called churches : 2 Cor. viii. 1. the churches of Macedonia ;' Gal. i. 2. the churches of Galatia ;' v. 22. the churches of Judea ;' see also 1 Thess. ji. 14. Rev. i. 4. the seven churches which are in Asia :' even where they consist of but few members : Rom. xvi. 5. 'greet the church that is in their house. See also 1 Cor. xvi. 19. Col. iv. 15. • the church which is in his house.' Philem. 2. the church in thy house.
In this respect a particular church differs from the Jewish synagogue, which, although a particular assembly, and convened for religious purposes, was not a particular church, inasmuch as the entire worship of God could not be there duly celebrated, by reason that the sacrifices and ceremonies of the law were to be performed in the temple alone. Under the gospel, on the contrary, all that pertains to the worship of God and the salvation of believers, all, in short, that is necessary to constitute a church, may be duly and orderly transacted in a particular church, within the walls of a private house, and where the numbers assembled are inconsiderable. Nay, such a church, when in compliance with the interested views of its pastor it allows of an increase of numbers beyond what is convenient, deprives itself in a great measure of the advantages to be derived from meeting in common.
It was indeed necessary for Jews and proselytes to meet together at Jerusalem from all quarters of the world for religious purposes, Acts ii. 5, &c. viii. 27. because at that time there was only one national or universal Jewish church, and no particular churches ;
whereas at present there is no national church, but a number of particular churches,* each complete and perfect in itself,t and all co-equal in divine right and power ; which, like similar and homogeneous parts of the same body, connected by a bond of mutual equality, form in conjunction one catholic church; nor need any one church have recourse to another for a grace or privilege which it does not possess in its independent capacity.
Particular churches, however, may communicate with each other in a spirit of brotherhood and agreement, and co-operate for purposes connected with the general welfare. 2 Cor. viii. 19. who was also chosen of the churches to travel with us. i. 24. not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy.' 1 Pet. v. 3. neither as being lords over God's heritage.'
Of councils, properly so called, I find no trace in Scripture ;for the decision recorded Acts xv. 2, &c. is rather to be considered as an oracular declaration obtained from the inspired apostles, to whom recourse
* But to proceed further in the truth yet more freely, seeing the Christian church is not national, but consisting of many particular congregations— Likeliest Means to Remore Hirelings, &c. Prose Works, III. 379.
† Suis in se numeris omnes absolutæ : a Ciceronian expression which he has imitated elsewhere; speaking of the Deity : ..... Through all numbers absolute, though one, Paradise Lost, VIII.421.
# It is probably owing to Milton's dislike of councils, that he describes in his epic poems the consultations of the fallen angels in terms borrowed from ecclesiastical assemblies. The devils are said to sil in secret conclare, Paradise Lost, 1. 795; and their council is styled a gloomy consistory, Paradise Regained, I. 442. He also says in a letter to a friend, written in the year 1659, • I pray that the Protestant synod, which you say is soon to meet at Leyden, may have a happy termination, which has never yet happened to any synod that has ever met before.' Prosc Works, I. 40.
was had in a doubtful matter, as to the supreme authority on controverted points, while there was as yet. no written word. This was very different from a modern council composed of bishops or elders, who have no gift of inspiration more than other men; whose authority is not, like that of the apostles, coordinate with the Scriptures; who are equally liable to error with their brethren, insomuch that they cannot pronounce with certainty, like the Apostles, Acts xv. 28. it hath seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us ;' who nevertheless assume the right of imposing laws on the churches, and require the rest of mankind to obey their mandates; forgetting that at the assembly in Jerusalem*. the whole multitude of believers were present, and gave their voices : Acts xv. 12, 22, 23. Where however they content themselves with the fraternal office of admonition, their counsel is not to be despised.
The enemies of the church are partly heretics, and partly profane opponents.
The hostility of heretics originates cither in their own evil dispositions, Philipp. i. 16. the one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely; or in the imposition of some unnecessary yoke on the church, Matt. ix. 16. that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse. Yet even these are not without their use. 1 Cor. xi. 19. there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.'
* "That way which the apostles used, was to call a council ; from which, by any thing that cau be learned from the fifteenth of the Acts, no faithful Christian was debarred, to whom knowledge and piety might give entrance.' Reason of Church Government urged against Prelaty. Prose Works, I. 105.
The enemies of the church are various, but the destruction of all is portended. Psal. cxxxvii. 7–9.
remember, O Jehovah, the children of Edom ......... O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed, happy shall he be that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us.' Jer. xxx. 16. all they that devour thee shall be devoured.' 1. 29, 30. “call together the archers against Babylon, all ye that bend the bow— v. 34. their Redeemer is strong.' li. 11. the vengeance of Jehovah, the vengeance of his temple.' v. 24. I will render unto Babylon.' v. 34. "Nebuchadrezzar hath devoured me, he hath crushed me.? v.49. as ‘Babylon hath caused the slain of Israel to fall, so at Babylon shall fall the slain of all the earth.' Ezek. xxv. 3, &c.
because thou saidst, Aha, against my sanctuary—.' xxviii. 24. there shall be no more a pricking brier unto the house of Israel.' XXXV. 5, &c. ' because thou hast had a perpetual hatred , Joel iii. 2, &c. •I will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat
- Amos i. 3, &c. for three transgressions of Damascus— Obad. 10, &c. "for thy violence against thy brother Jacob.' Micah iv. 13. arise and thresh, O daughter of Zion.' Zech. xii. 3, &c. “I will make Jerusalem a burthensome stone for all people- Rev. xix. 2. he hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand.'
The great enemy of the church is called Antichrist, who according to prediction is to arise from the church itself. 2 Thess. ï. 3, &c. • that man of sin, the son of perdition, who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped ; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing him