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vessels of lust and poison; and fitted to be, hereafter, vessels of destruction and misery. We were no nation; a foolish people, a people that sought not, nor enquired after God, and yet his own people hath he set by, and called us to the knowledge of his love and mercy in Christ. And that, not as many other Gentiles are called, who hear of him indeed, and worship him, but have his doctrine corrupted and overturned with heresy, and his worship defiled with superstition and idolatry; but he hath for us purged his floor, and given unto us the wheat without the chaff; he hath let the light of his glory to shine purely upon us only in the face of Jesus Christ, without any human supplements or contributions. How should we praise him for it, and as we have received Christ purely, so labour to work worthily in him! How should we run to him that called us, when we knew him not! How should we set forward, and call upon one another, that we may flee, like doves, in companies unto the windows of the church! How earnestly should we contend for this truth, the custody whereof he hath honoured us withal! How should we renew our repentance, and remember our first works, lest so excellent a privilege be removed from us! There is no wrath that is wrath to the uttermost, but that which depriveth a people of the gospel, and taketh away their candlestick from them.
Thirdly, It notes unto us the difference of the two covenants, the one out of Sinai, the other out of Sion; at first the law proceeded out of Sinai, wherein, though the end were merciful, yet the manner was terrible, and, therefore, the effect nothing but bondage: but, after, it was sent out of Sion with the Spirit of grace and adoption, observed with cheerfulness and liberty, as by those that know God will spare them, as a man spareth his child that serveth him: for in my bondslave, I look to the perfection of the work; but in my son, to the affection and disposition of the heart.
Lastly, It notes unto us, that the seat of saving truth, the custody of the promises, and gospel of salvation, doth still belong unto Sion, to the church of God. Out of the church"
2 Gal. iv. 25, 26.
y Heb. xii. 18, 22. a Quomodo potest esse cum Christo, qui cum sponsa Christi, atque in ejus Ecclesia non est? Cypr. lib. 2. Epist. 8. et lib. 4. Epist. 2. ad Anton. et lib. de unitat. Eccl.-Aug, To. 1. de Vera Relig. cap. 5.
there is no gospel; and, therefore, out of the church there is no salvation. The apostle saith of children which are born out of the church, that "they are unclean:" unto the church (above all congregations of men) belongeth this excellent privilege, to be the treasurer of the riches of Christ, and "to hold forth the Word of Life unto men.c In which sense the apostle saith, that it is " the pillar and the ground of truth;" not that which giveth being to the truth, for the law must not fail nor perish; nor that which giveth authority, imposeth a sense, canonizeth and maketh authentical, is a judge or absolute determiner of the truth; for in that sense, the church is held up by the Word, and not that by it; for the church is built upon the foundation of the prophets and apostles," namely, upon that fundamental doctrine which they have laid. But the church is the depository of the truth; that orb out of which this glorious light shines forth; unto it appertain the covenants and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises. Her office and her honour, it is to be the candlestick "," which holdeth up the Word of truth; to set-to her seal unto the evidence and excellency thereof by her ministry', authority, consent, and countenance; to conciliate respect thereunto, in the minds of aliens, and to confirm it in the minds of unbelievers; to fasten the nails and points thereof, like masters of the assemblies, under one principal Shepherd, which is Christ, in the hearts of men; not to dishonour it by their usurped authority above it (for by that means all controversies of religion are turned, not into means to discover doctrine, that that may be rested in, which doth appear to have in it most intrinsecal majesty, spiritualness, and evidence; but into factions and emulations of men, that that sect may be rested in, who can, with most impudence and ostentation, arrogate a usurped authority to themselves,) but, by their willing submission thereunto, to credit it in the affections of men, and to establish others in the love and obedience thereunto; for the autho
b 1 Cor. vii. 14. ἐστι τῆς ἐκκλησίας f Ephes. ii. 20. Confer, with Hart.
c Phil. ii. 16. d1 Tim. iii. 16. • Ἡ γὰρ ἀλήθειά καὶ στόλος καὶ ἑδραίωμα. Chrysost. Hom. 11. in Tim. 8 Rom. iii. 1. Rom. ix. 4. h Rev. i. 12. i Reynolds' cap. 8. divis. 6. k Eccl. xiii. 11.
rity of the church is not auctoritas jurisdictionis',' an authority of jurisdiction above the Scriptures: but only auctoritas muneris,' an authority of dispensation and of trust, to proclaim, exhibit, present the truth of God unto the people, to point to the star," which is directed unto by the finger, but is seen by the evidence of its own light; to hold forth", as a pillar, that law and proclamation of Christ, the contents whereof we discover out of itself. In one word, that place showeth the duty of the church to preserve knowledge, and to show forth the truth of sacred Scriptures out of themselves; but not any infallibility in itself, or authority over others to bind their consciences to assent unto such expositions of Scripture, as derive not their evidence from the harmony and analogy of the Scriptures themselves, but only from Ipse dixit,' because the church hath spoken it.
To conclude this point, we are to note, for the clear understanding of the office of the church, concerning the holy Scriptures, First, That some things therein are "Hard to be understood," as St. Peter speaks, either by reason of their allegorical and figurative expressions, as the visions of Ezekiel, Daniel, Zechariah, &c.; or by reason of the obscure and strange connexion of one part with another; or of the dependence thereof, upon foreign learning, or the like. But then we must note, that the knowledge of such things as these, is not of absolute necessity unto salvation; for though the perverting of hard places be damnable (as St. Peter telleth us,) yet that ignorance of them which groweth out of their own obscurity, and not out of our neglect, is not damnable. Secondly, Some things have evidence enough in the terms that express them, but yet are "Hard to be believed," by reason of the supernatural quality of them. As when we say that Christ was the son of a virgin, or that he died and rose again, there is no difficulty in the sense of these things, it is easily understood what he that affirmeth them, doth mean by them all the difficulty is to bring the mind to give assent unto them. Thirdly, Some things,
1 Cameron. de Eccles. p. 44. m August. in Procem. lib. de Doctrin. Christ. " Dr. White in his Way to the Church, nu. 15. • Figi enim solebant leges, aut quandoque in æs incidi, et in locis celeberrimis, ut â quolibet legerentur, proponi. vid. Brisson, de formul. 1. 2. p. 137. et. lib. 3. pag. 323. P 2 Peter iii. 16.
though easy in their sense to be understood, and, it may be, easy likewise in their nature to be believed, are yet' Hard to be obeyed and practised,' as repentance, and forsaking of sin, &c. Now, according unto these differences, we may conceive of the office and power, which the church hath in matters of holy Scripture.
First, For hard places, in regard of the sense and meaning of the place, it is the duty of the church to open them to God's people with modesty and moderation. And therein God alloweth the learned a Christian liberty," with submission of their opinions always to the spirits of the prophets, so long as they do therein nothing contrary to the analogy of faith, to the general peace and unity of the church,—to the rules of charity, piety, loyalty, and sobriety; to abound in their own sense, and to declare, for the further edifying of the church, what they conceive to be, in such difficult places, principally intended. And further than this no church nor person can go for if, unto man or chair, there were annexed an infallible spirit, enabling him to give such a clear and indubitate exposition of all holy Scriptures, as should leave no inevidence in the text, nor hesitancy in the minds of men; how comes it to pass that hitherto so many difficulties remain, wherein even our adversaries amongst themselves do give several conjectures and explications? and how can that man, to whom so excellent a gift of infallibility is bestowed, clear himself of envy, and abuse of the grace of God, who maketh not use thereof to expound the Scriptures, and to compose those differences thereabouts, which do so much perplex the world?
Secondly, For those places which in their meaning, are easy to be understood, but in their excellent and high nature hard to be believed (as all articles of faith, and things of absolute necessity are, in their terms, perspicuous, but, in their heavenly nature, inevident unto human reason) the office of the church is not to bind men's consciences to be
a Necesse est eos qui Scripturas edisserendo pertractant, etiamsi rectæ atque unius fidei fuerint, varias parere in multorum locorum obscuritate sententias : quamvis nequaquam ipsa varietas ab ejusdem fidei unitate discordet; sicut etiam unus tractator secundum eandem fidem aliter atque aliter eundem locum potest exponere, quia hoc ejus obscuritas patitur. Aug. Ep. 19. I Theodoret, de curand. Græc. affect. lib. 8-Cypr. Serm. de Baptis. Christi.-Aug. Epist. 3 ad Volus. et To. 3. de Doct. Christ. lib. 2. cap. 9.
lieve these truths upon her authority: for we have not dominion over the faith of men; neither are we Lords in Christ's flock; and how shall any scrupulous mind, which is desirous to bolt things to the bran, be secure of the power which the church in this case arrogates, or have any certainty that this society of men must be believed in their religion, who will allow the same honour to no society of men but themselves? But in this case, the office of the church is, both to labour by all good means, to evidence the credibility of the things which are to be believed; to discover unto men those essential and intimate beauties of the gospel, which to spiritual minds and hearts, raised to such a proportionable pitch of capacity, as are suitable to the excellency of their natures, are apt to evidence and notify themselves; and also to labour to take men off from dependence on their own reason or corrupted judgement; to work in their heart an experience of the Spirit of grace, and an obedience to those holy truths which they already assent to; with which preparations and persuasions, the heart, being possessed, will, in due time, come to observe more clearly, by that spiritual eye, the evidence of those things which were at first so difficult. So then the act of the church is, in matter of faith, an act of introduction and guidance; but that which begetteth the infallible and unquestionable assent of faith, is that spiritual taste, relish, and experience of the heavenly sweetness of divine doctrine, which, by the ministry of the church, accompanied with the special concurrence of Almighty God therewithal, is wrought in the heart; for it is only the Spirit of God which writeth the law in men's hearts, which searcheth the things of God, and which maketh us to know them.
Thirdly, For those places which are difficult, rather to be obeyed than to be understood, the work of the church is to enforce upon the conscience the necessity of them, to persuade, rebuke, exhort, encourage with all authority.
Which should teach us all to love the church of Christ, and to pray for the peace and prosperity of the walls of Sion, for the purity, spiritualness, power and countenance of the
Dr. Field of the Church, lib. 4. cap. 8. Singulis credentibus suus gustus est judicii à spiritu, ut hominibus à natura suus. Jun. contr. Bellar. controv. 1. Jib. 3. cap. 3. num. 13.