« AnteriorContinuar »
world, and all the kingdoms of it, be in doubt, whether I was translated, or not, into the kingdom of Jesus Christ. I would not be in doubt, whether I have the Sacraments, or whether I have them not. But how can I be sure in this case, unless I know what the kingdom of Christ is; where it is to be found; and what are the marks by which it may be known? Many strange abuses in religion have arisen on occasion, and under the specious name of, the Reformation; a very good word; but it hath been applied to a great many bad things, even to madness and blasphemy. We are fallen into times when some say, lo, here is Christ, or, /<?, there; in the desert; or in the secret chambers; and are bid to take heed that no man deceive us. What a terrible case should we be in, if we had no sufficient warnings given to us, and no rule to go by! But as the lightning which cometh from the East shineth unto the West, so plain and notorious was the establishment of Christ's kingdom in this world; together with the form of its constitution, and the orders of its ministry, in all the countries wherever it was planted. It would he unreasonable; indeed it would be lamentable; it would seem as if God had mocked us, contrary to the nature of his mercy, S E 2 that that he should publish a way of salvation, and leave it uncertain where it is to be found.
From what is said of it in the Gospel, it is impossible that the Church should be a society obscure and hard to be distinguished. Ye are the light of the world, said Christ to his disciples, a city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Light is sure to shew itself; and it comes in strait lines, which direct us to its source. A city placed upon a mountain is so elevated above other objects, that it cannot be difficult to find it; rather, it is impossible to miss it; it cannot be hid: and Christian people in all ages seem to have agreed, that it shall not be hid: for when we approach a city in any part of Christendom, the churches are generally first seen towering over all other buildings.
Christ has given us a precept, that under certain circumstances, we should tell our case to the Church: but unless it be known what and where the Church is, this cannot be done. The precept therefore supposes, that the Church must be known to us. The same must follow from the injunction of St. Paul, in his Epistle to the Hebrews.—Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account. Chap. xiii. 17. The Rulers of the Church
must must therefore be known to us: for it is impossible we should do our duty, and submit ourselves to them, unless we are sure who they are.
The Church then must, in its nature, be a society manifest to all men. Some may slight it, and despise it, and refuse to hear it; but they cannot do even this, unless they know' where it is to be found.
When we enquire more particularly what the Church is, it may be best to proceed as we are obliged to do in some other cases; first, to learn what it is not; that we may go upon right ground, and understand with more certainty what it is.
The Church then, as a society, is not the work of man; nor can it possibly be so. I have laid the foundation of all my reasonings upon this subject, in the distinction betwixt the Church and the World, as two separate parties. The Church is so named*, because it is called or chosen out of the world. 'Till it is so called out of the world, it hath no being; but it canhot call itself, any more than a man can bring himself into the world.
Our Christian calling is as truly the work of God, and as much independent of ourselves as K E 3 our
* In Greek Exxtapia.
our natural birth. The Church must have orders in it for the work of the ministry: but no man can ordain himself, neither can he (of himself) ordain another, because no man can give what he hath not. How shall they preach, saith the Scripture, unless they he sent? And again, no man taketh this honour to himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron. Nay, even Christ glorified not himself to be made an High Priest, but he that said unto him, thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. The Church must have promises; without which it can have no reason or encouragement to act: but no man can give it those promises; which are exceeding great and precious. The Church must have power, without which it can do nothing to any effect: but there is no power but of God. It must have power to forgive sins; the forgiveness of sins in the Holy Catholic Church, being an article of the Apostles Creed: but who can forgive sins, but God only? It must act in the name of God, or not at all; because it acts for the salvation of man: but no man can act in the name of God, but by God's «appointment. No ambassador ever sent himself, or took upon him to sign or seal treaties and covenants (such as the Sacraments of the Church are) without being sent; that is,
without ,without receiving authority so to do, from an higher power. The act would be so far from beneficial, that it would be treasonable. If an army were to raise itself without commissions, what would such an army be but a company of banditti, leagued together to plunder and destroy the honest subjects of an established community?
Nothing therefore is plainer, on these considerations, than that the Church neither is, nor can be from man. It is no human institution; and as it acts under God, if it acts at all, it must act by his authority and appointment. It is properly called the Church of God, (of the living God, in opposition to the profane societies self-erected for the worship of dead idols) and mankind might as reasonably presume to make God's World as to make God's Church.
Farther enquiry will shew us that the Church is no confused multitude of people, independent of one another, and subject to no common rules: but a regular society, like to other societies, in some respects, and unlike them all in others. -It is called a body, a family, a city, a kingdom. A body is a regular structure, the limbs of which being joined together, are subordinate and subservient to one another, and are animated by the same soul or spirit. So saith E E 4 the