Word therein, which is able to hold up its own honour in the minds of men, if it be but faithfully published. We should, therefore, study to maintain, to credit, to promote the gospel, to encourage truth, discountenance error, to stand in the gap against all the stratagems and advantages of the enemies thereof, and to hold the candlestick fast amongst us, to buy the truth, and sell it not, betray it not, forsake it not, temper it not, misguise it not. This is to be a pillar, and to put the shoulder under the gospel of Christ. And surely, though the Papists boast of the word and name of the church, (as none more apt to justify and brag of their sobriety, than those whom the wine hath overtaken,) yet the plain truth is, they have far less of the nature thereof, than any other churches, because far less of the pure service and ministration thereof. For instead of sending forth the Word of Life, they pull it down, denying unto the people of Christ the use of his gospel; dimidiating the use of his sacrament, breeding them up in an ignorant worship, to beg they know not what ; in all points disgracing the Word of truth, and robbing it of its certainty, sufficiency, perspicuity, authority, purity, energy, in the minds of men. And this is certain,-the more they set themselves against the light and general knowledge of the Word of truth, the less of the nature of the church they have in them, whatever ostentation they may make of the name thereof.

The last thing observed in this second verse, amongst the regalities of Christ, was imperium,' his rule and government in his church by his holy word, maugre all the attempts and machinations of the enemies thereof against it : Rule thou in the midst of thine enemies; that is, Thou shalt rule safely, securely, undisturbedly, without danger, fear, or hazard from the enemies round about; their counsels shall be infatuated, their purposes shall vanish; their decrees shall not stand; their persecutors shall but sow the blood of Christ and the ashes of Christians the thicker; they shall see it, and gnash with their teeth, and gnaw their tongues, and be horribly amazed at the emulation and triumph of a Christian's sufferings, over the malice and wrath of men.

* Ne quicquam proficit exquisitior quæque crudelitas vestra; illecebra est magis sectæ ; plures efficimur, quoties metimur à vobis. Semen est sanguis Christianorum. Inde est quod sententiis vestris gratias agimus, ut est æmulatio divinæ rei et humanæ. Tertul. Apolog. cap. ult.

The kingdom of Christ is twofold: his kingdom of glory, of which there shall be no end, when he shall rule over his enemies, and tread them under his feet; and his kingdom of grace, whereby he ruleth amongst his enemies, by the sceptre of his Word. And this is the kingdom here spoken of; noting unto us, that Christ will have a church and people gathered unto him by the preaching of his gospel on the earth, maugre all the malice, power, or policy of all his enemies. Never was Satan so loose; never heresy and darkness so thick; never persecution so prevalent; never the tail of the dragon so long, as to sweep away all the stars of Heaven, or to devour the remnant of the woman's seed. The gates of Hell, all the policy, power, and machinations of the kingdom of darkness, shall never root out the vine which the Father hath planted, nor prevail against the body of Christ. His gospel must be preached to the world's end, and, till then, he will be with it to give it success. Though the kings of the earth stand up, and the rulers gather together against the Lord and his Christ, yet they imagine but a vain thing; and he that sitteth in Heaven, shall laugh them

to scorn.

The grounds of the certainty and perpetuity of Christ's evangelical kingdom, is not the nature of the church in itself considered, either in the whole or parts; for Adam and Eva were a church at first, a people that were under the law of obedience and worship of God, and yet they fell away from that excellent condition. And the prophet tells us, that except the Lord had left a very small remnant, the Church had been all as Sodom, and like to Gomorrah. But the grounds hereof are; First, The decree, ordination, and appointment of God"; and we know whatever men project, the counsel of the Lord must stand. Secondly, God's gift unto Christ; "Ask of me, and I will give thee the Heathen for thine inheritance," &c. "Thine they were, and thou gavest them "My Father which gave them me, is greater than all, and none is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand "." Thirdly, God's oath, which is the seal of his irreversible decree and covenant with Christ;- "Once have I sworn by my holiness, that I will not lie unto David; his seed shall

me "."

u Psal. ii. 7. Acts x. 42. Heb. iii 2. * John x. 29.

* Psal. ii. 8.

y John xvii. 6

endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me.” Fourthly, Christ's own purchase and price which he paid for it. The apostle saith, "Christ died not in vain,” and the virtue of his blood lasteth to the end of the world: for as his blood was shed from the beginning of the world, in regard of God's decree; so doth it continue to the end, in regard of its own merit and efficacy: so long as he sitteth at the right hand of God, which must be till the time of the restitution of all things, the merit of his blood shall work amongst men. Fifthly, Christ's own power, to keep inviolably the propriety he hath gotten; "My sheep hear my voice; and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." Sixthly, The Father's command unto his Son; "This is the Father's will, that of all which he hath given me, I should lose nothing," &c. Seventhly, Christ's love and care. The church is his spouse, under his coverture and protection; and therefore as he hath power and office, so he hath delight to preserve it still. His love is better able to help, than the malice of the enemy is to hurt. Eighthly, Christ's intercession, which is not for the world, but for those whom God hath given him out of the world, and those he demandeth of his Father (who heareth him always) in the virtue of that covenant which between them was ratified, on God's part, by a promise and oath,— and on Christ's part, by a merit and purchase. Now Christ's intercession shall last till his returning to judge the world; and therefore still he must have a church, for whom to intercede. Lastly, Christ's own promise, to be with the preaching of his gospel; that is, to give it assistance and success, for the gathering together and perfecting of the saints unto the end of the world .

[ocr errors]

Here then may be answered two great questions: First, Whether the church may deficere,' fail upon the earth or no? To which I answer, That the church may be taken either mystically, spiritually, and universally: and in that sense it can never fail; but there must be upon the earth, a true church of Christ, not only certitudine eventus,' by the certainty of the event, which is on all sides agreed; but 'cer

a Psal. lxxxix. 35, 36. Matt. xxviii. 20.

b Acts iii. 21. * John x. 27, 28. d John vi. 39.

titudine causæ' too, by a certainty growing out of those irresistible causes, upon which the being of the mystical body of Christ on the earth dependeth. Or it may be considered particularly in the several parts and places of the world, where the gospel is planted; and hierarchically and politically, denoting a company of men, professing the faith of Christ, and reduced into a quiet, peaceable, composed, and conspicuous government;-and so we affirm, that there is no church in the world so safe, but that it may deficere,' fail, and be extinguished out of its place. The church of the Jews did, and, after them, any may. Else the apostle's argument, even to the Roman church itself (which was then a famous church throughout the world, and of that passage in the apostle, Baronius makes a long boast,) were very weak, when à majore ad minus,' he thus argueth, "Be not highminded, but fear God; for if he spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee 8." Thus we find the ten tribes in their apostasy, till they became loammi",' to be no more a people; and their brethren after fall into their condition. "Wrath," saith the apostle i, "is come to the uttermost upon them." And he telleth us, that 'the man of sin, the son of perdition, should be revealed by apostasy, to note unto us, that antichrist was to be generated out of the corruption, or falling away of some eminent church, and that by a mysterious and insensible declination.

[ocr errors]

A second question which may be made, is this;-That since the church doth not totally fail from off the earth, whether that which remaineth thereof, be always visible? To which we answer, That if we take the church for the spiritual and mystical body of Christ, which is indeed the house of God', so it is in a sort still invisible; because the qualities and principles which constitute a man in the body of Christ, as faith and the spirit of grace, are invisible things. Seen indeed they may be, by an eye of charity, in their fruits, but not by an eye of certainty in their own

Baron. An. 58. sect. 47, 48, 49, 50.

g Rom. xi, 21, 22.

f Rom. i. 8. h Hos. i. 9. il Thess. ii. 16. k1 Tim. iv. 1. 2 Thess. ii. 3, 7. Cameron. de Eccles. p. 265, 268. 1 Ex illis omnibus, qui intrinsecè et in occultô intus sunt, constat ille Hortus conclusus, Fons signatus, &c. Aug. de Bapt. cont. Donat. lib. 5. cap. 27. Alii ita sunt in domo Dei, ut ipsi etiam fint eadem domus Dei: alii ita, ut non pertineant ad compagem domus, &c. De Bapt. lib. 7. cap. 51.

infallible being. Secondly, If we take the church for a company of men, professing the true doctrine of Christ, we answer, That take the men in themselves so truly professing, and impossible it is but their faith should show itself in the fruits thereof: for the kingdom of Christ is in the heart like leaven, which will manifest itself in the whole lump; and so we can, in all, even in the worst ages of the church, show some who have witnessed the truth against that deluge of ignorance, error, and idolatry, which had invaded the world, like gray hairs here and there mingled on a black head; as if you single out fire from the ashes, it will be seen by its own evidence, though it may be so raked up that it is not observed. But then if we speak of these men ' in aggregato,' as concurring to make up a distinct external body, or church, so we say, that the professors of the truth may be so few, and they persecuted, traduced, suppressed, cried down, driven into the wilderness, without any apparent separated conspicuousness, and government of its own, (as in the time of Constantius the emperor, the public professors of the divinity of Christ's person, against the damnable heresy of the Arians, were used,) as that, in this sense, we may justly deny the church to have been always visible; that is, the few true professors of Christ in power and purity, to have had a free, open, uncontrolled, distinct ecclesiastical body of their own, notoriously and in conspectu hominum' different from that tyrannical and pompous hierarchy under which they suffered for though Christ rule, yet it is in the midst of his enemies; and the enemies may be so many, and Christ's subjects in whom he rules, so few, -that the corn may be invisible, for the abundance of weeds amongst which it grows, though in itself very apt to be


And this giveth a full answer to that question, Where our church was before the late reformation began by Luther?for that reformation did not new make the church, but purge it. And that it stood in need of purging, the papists themselves were fain to confess, and declare to the world, in their council of Trent. Only herein is the difference; the council pretended a reformation in points of discipline and manners; and we made a reformation in points of doctrine too. When Christ purged the temple of buyers and sellers, it was the

« VorigeDoorgaan »