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As the devil is the father of lies, so all they that are of the devil are liars, who will never make a' scruple of a lie to hurt others, or serve themselves. The whole Heathen religion was one great lie, in opposition to the truth of the divine law. Much evil is threatened to those who put evil for good, and good for evil; who inake the heart of the righteous sad, by predicting evil to them, and by promising happiness and prosperity to the wicked. Thus did they speak of old, who were called false prophets; and it would be happy for us, if there were none of them amongst us: but, wherever they are found, they are the ininisters of Satan : and how fair and fine soever they may speak on some occasions, it is no proof of their goodness; for Satan is sometimes, as it serves his purpose, transformed into an angel of light, and affects an holy and heavenly character; and then he is most a devil, because he can molt deceive.
OF THE MEANS OF GRACE, AND THE MARKS BY WHICH THE
CHURCH OF CHRIST IS TO BE KNOWN.
HAVING explained the nature of these two focieties, the
holy church, and the wicked world, we must conlider the use of the church, and the marks by which it is to be known. It is promised, “ that he who believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved.” But how shall we have this baptism, unless we have it froin those whom God hath appointed to baptize? It is also promised, " he that eateth my field, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life :" and how thall we receive the body and blood of Christ, but from the church, to whom he said, when he instituted the Lord's supper, « Do this in remembrance of me?" This being the commemorative facrifice of the New Testament, it can be offered only by a prieht; and all the world cannot make a priest. The ministers of the Old Testament were ordained to their office by an inmcdiate commission from God to Moses, the mediator of that time betwixt God and the people. The ininisters of the New Testament were ordained by Christ himself; from
whom the authority descended to others, and shall reach, through a variety of hands, to the end of the world.
This is the way God hath been pleased to take to make men holy, and bring them to himself, through this dangerous world, as he brought Noah and his family out of the old world into the new, by means of an ark, which was a figure of his church. It is therefore of infinite consequence that we should be able to know, with certainty, whether we are in the church, or out of it. If we are out of it, we are in the world. If we had been out of the ark, we should have been drowned. It is true, we may be in the church, and yet be loft ; for was not Ham in the ark, who was a reprobate ? But if we are out of the church, how can we be saved ?
I would not, for the whole world, unworthy as I am ; I say I would not, for the whole 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 faciaments, 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 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 Chrift," or, “lo, there ;" in the “ defert,” 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 be unreasonable: indeed it would be lamentable; it would seem as if God had mocked us, contrary to the nature of his mercy, 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 thew itself; and it comes in strait lines, which direct us to its source. A city placed upon a mountain is fo elevated above other, objects, that it cannot be difficult to find it; rather, it is impoffible 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 hath given us a precept, that, under certain circum-, stances, 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 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 cannot call itfelf, 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 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 be sent ?" And again,
no man taketh this honour to himself, but he that is called of
* In Greek Εκκλησια.
God, as was Aäron.” Nay, even “ Christ glorified not himself to be made an High Priest, but he that said unto hiin, 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 fins; the forgiveness of fins 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 and seal treaties and covenants (such as the sacrainents of the church are) without being fent that is, 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 commisfions, what would such an army be, but a company of banditii, leagued together to plunder and destroy the honest subjects of an established community?
Nothing therefore is plainer, on these confiderations, 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 thew us, that the church is no confused multitude of people, independent of one another, and fubject 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 fubordinate and fubfervient to one another, and are animated by the same foul or spirit. So faith the Apostle, “ for by one fpirit we are all baptized into one body." 1 Cor. xii. 13. It being also called a family, the meinbers of it inult have some common relation to one another : being called a city, it must be incorporated under fume common laws; and being a kingdom, it must have some
form of government and magistracy. Families, cities, and kingdoms, are societies; and the church, being represented by them, must be a regular fociety. But in this the church differs from all other societies, because they belong to this world, and their rights and privileges are confined to it: whereas the church extends to both worlds, the visible and the invisible, and is partly on earth, and partly in heaven. In its earthly members it is visible; in its rulers, it is visible ; in its worship, it is visible; in its sacraments, it is visible. But being also a spiritual society, it hath a life which is hidden, and in the inward and spiritual grace
of all its outward ordinances, it is invisible. As a kingdom in which God is Judge, and Christ is a Mediator, and angels and saints departed, are members, it takes in the heaven itself, and is the “ heavenly Jerusalem,” which is "the mother of us all ;” infomuch, that when we are admitted into it, our “ conversation* is in heaven," and the angels of heaven are our fellow-fervants; all making one great family under Jesus Chrift, in whom “ all things are gathered together in one, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth :” on which confideration, what is rightly done in the church on earth, ftands good in heaven, as if it had been done there; and the Apostles of Christ received from him,
keys of the kingdom of heaven,” with a power of binding and loofing, which extends to heaven itself: and when Chriftians go to heaven, they are not carried into a new society, for they are already, by the grace of God, translated into it by baptism; whence the Apostle speaks of their translation, not as a thing expected, but even now brought to pass. He “ hath translated us,” &c. Col. i. 13.
The church doth also differ from other societies, in that it is catholic or universal ; it extends to all places, and all times, and is not confined to the people of any nation, or condition of lile, but takes in Jews, Greeks, and Barbarians, the rich and the poor, the bond and the free ; and is therefore properly signified in one of our Saviour's parables by an inn, where all that offer them,selves are accepted. The commission of Christ to his Apostles, was to “ teach and baptize all nations."
The church being a kingdom, not of this world, is of a spiritual nature, and in that capacity it is invisible; but as a kingdom in this world, it is visible, and must have a visible adininiftration.
* Gr. Sloniltuud, our citizenship.