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Chapter IV.

Several acceptations in the Scripture of the name “church” — Of the church catholic, properly so called — Of the church visible — Perpetuity of particular churches — A mistake rectified — The nature of the church catholic evinced — Bellarmine’s description of the church catholic — Union of the church catholic, wherein it consists — Union by way of consequence — Unity of faith, of love — The communion of the catholic church in and with itself — The breach of the union of the church catholic, wherein it consisteth — Not morally possible — Protestants not guilty of it — The papal world out of interest in the church catholic — As partly profane — Miracles no evidence of holiness — Partly ignorant — Self-justiciaries — Idolatrous — Worshippers of the beast.

To begin with the first thing proposed: The church of Christ living in this world, as to our present concernment, is taken in Scripture three ways:—

1. For the mystical body of Christ, his elect, redeemed, justified, and sanctified ones throughout the world; commonly called the church catholic militant.

2. For the universality of men throughout the world called by the preaching of the word, visibly professing and yielding obedience to the gospel; called by some the church catholic visible.

1253. For a particular church of some place, wherein the instituted worship of God in Christ is celebrated according to his mind.

From the rise and nature of the things themselves doth this distinction of the signification of the word “church” arise: for whereas the church is a society of men called out of the world, it is evident there is mention of a twofold call in Scripture; — one effectual, according to the purpose of God, Rom. viii. 28; the other only external. The church must be distinguished according to its answer and obedience to these calls, which gives us the first two states and considerations of it. And this is confessed by the ordinary gloss, ad Rom. viii.Vocatio exterior fit per prædicatores, et est communis bonorum et malorum, interior vero tantum est electorum.” And whereas there are laws and external rules for joint communion given to them that are called, which is confessed, the necessity of churches in the last acceptation, wherein obedience can alone be yielded to those laws, is hereby established.

In the first sense the church hath, as such, the properties of perpetuity, invisibility, infallibility, as to all necessary means of salvation, attending of it; not as notes whereby it may be known, either in the whole or any considerable part of it, but as certain adjuncts of its nature and existence. Neither are there any signs of less or more certainty whereby the whole may be discerned or known as such, though there are of the individuals whereof it doth consist.

In the second, the church hath perpetuity, visibility, and infallibility, as qualified above, in a secondary sense, — namely, not as such, not as visible and confessing, but as comprising the individuals whereof the catholic church doth consist; for all that truly believe profess, though, all that profess do not truly believe.

Whether Christ hath had always a church, in the last sense and acceptation of the word, in the world, is a most needless inquiry; nor are we concerned in it any farther than in other matters of fact that are recorded in story: though I am apt to believe that although very many, in all ages, kept up their station in and relation to the church in the two former acceptations, yet there was in some of them scarce any visible society of worshippers, so far answering the institution of Christ as to render them fit to be owned and joined withal as a visible particular church of Christ. But yet, though the notions of men were generally corrupt, the practice of all professors throughout the world, whereof so little is recorded, and least of them that did best, is not rashly to be determined of. Nor can our judgment be censured in this by them who think that when Christ lay in the grave there was no believer left but his mother, and that the church was preserved in that one person. So was Bernard minded, Tractat. de Pass. Dom.Ego sum vitis,” cap. ii., “[B. Virgo] sola per illud 126triste sabbathum stetit in fide, et salvata fuit ecclesia in ipsâ solâ.” Of the same mind is Marsilius in Sent., quæst. 20, art. 3; as are also others of that sort of men: see Bannes, in 2, 2; Thom., quæst. 1, art. 10. I no way doubt of the perpetual existence of innumerable believers in every age, and such as made the profession that is absolutely necessary to salvation, one way or other, though I question a regular association of men for the celebration of instituted worship, according to the mind of Christ. The seven thousand in Israel, in the days of Elijah, were members of the church of God, and yet did not constitute a church-state among the ten tribes. But these things must be farther spoken to.

I cannot but by the way remind a learned person,44   Dr Hammond, with whom Owen had some controversy in regard to the sentiments of Grotius, and the divine authority of episcopal government. See Owen’s preface to his work on “The Perseverance of the Saints,” his “Vindiciæ Evangelicæ” and “Review of the Annotations of Grotius.” — Ed. with whom I have formerly occasionally had some debate in print about episcopacy and the state of the first churches, of a mistake of his, which he might have prevented with a little inquiry into the judgment of them whom he undertook to confute at a venture. I have said that “there was not any ordinary church-officer instituted in the first times, relating to more churches in his office, or to any other church, than a single particular congregation.” He replies, that “this is the very same which his memory suggested to him out of the ‘Saints’ Belief,’ printed twelve or fourteen years since, where, instead of that article of the apostolic symbol, ‘The holy catholic church,’ this very hypothesis was substituted.” If he really believed that, in professing I owned no instituted church with officers of one denomination in Scripture beyond a single congregation, I renounced the catholic church, or was any way necessitated so to do, I suppose he may, by what hath now been expressed, be rectified in his apprehension. If he was willing only to make use of the advantage, wherewith he supposed himself accommodated by that expression, to press the persuasion owned on the minds of ignorant men, who could not but startle at the noise of denying the catholic church, it may pass at the same rate that most of the repartees in such discourses are to be allowed at. But to proceed:—

I. In the first sense the word is used Matt. xvi. 18, “Upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” This is the church of the elect, redeemed, justified, sanctified ones, that are so built on Christ, and these only; and all these are interested in the promise made to the church. There is no promise made to the church, as such in any sense, but is peculiarly made therein to every one that is truly and properly a part and member 127of that church. Who, and who only, are interested in that promise Christ himself declares, John vi. 40, x. 27–29, xvii. 20, 24. They that will apply this to the church in any other sense must know that it is incumbent on them to establish the promise made to it unto every one that is a true member of the church in that sense; which, whatever be the sense of the promise, I suppose they will find difficult work of. Eph. v. 25–27, “Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.” He speaks only of those whom Christ loved antecedently to his dying for them, whereof his love to them was the cause: who they are is manifest, John x. 15, xvii. 17, even those on whom, by his death, he accomplished the effects mentioned, by washing, cleansing, and sanctifying, bringing them into the condition promised to the “bride, the Lamb’s wife,” Rev. xix. 8, which is the “new Jerusalem,” xxi. 2, of elected and saved ones, verse 27. Col. i. 18 contains an expression of the same light and evidence, “Christ is the head of the body, the church;’ not only a governing head, to give it rules and laws, but, as it were, a natural head unto the body, which is influenced by him with a new spiritual life; — which Bellarmine protesteth against as any requisite condition to the members of the catholic church, which he pleaded for. In that same sense, verse 24, saith the apostle, “I fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh, for his body’s sake, which is the church;” which assertion is exactly parallel to that of 2 Tim. ii. 10, “Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may obtain salvation” So that the elect and the church are the same persons under several considerations. And therefore even a particular church, on the account of its participation of the nature of the catholic, is called “elect,” 1 Pet. v. 13; and so the church, Matt. xvi. 18, is expounded by our Saviour himself, chap. xxiv. 24. But to prove at large, by a multiplication of arguments and testimonies, that the catholic church, or mystical body of Christ, consists of the whole number of the elect, as redeemed, justified, sanctified, called, believing, and yielding obedience to Christ throughout the world (I speak of it as militant in any age), and of them only, were as needlessly “actum agere” as a man can well devise. It is done already, and that to the purpose uncontrollably, “terque quaterque.” And the substance of the doctrine is delivered by Aquinas himself, p. 3, q. 8, a 3. In brief, the sum of the inquiry upon this head is concerning the matter of that church concerning which such glorious things are spoken in Scripture, — namely, that it is “the spouse, the wife, the bride, the sister, the only one of Christ, his dove, his undefiled, his temple, elect, redeemed, his Zion, his body, 128his new Jerusalem;” concerning which inquiry the reader knows where he may abundantly find satisfaction.

That the asserting the catholic church in this sense is no new apprehension is known to them who have at all looked backward to what was past before us. “Omnibus consideratis,” saith Austin, “puto me non temere dicere, alios ita esse in domo Dei, ut ipsi etiam sint eadem domus Dei, quæ dicitur ædificari supra petram, quæ unica columba appellatur, quæ sponsa pulchra sine macula, et ruga, et hortus conclusus, fons signatus, puteus aquæ vivæ, paradisus cum fructu pomorum, alios autem ita constat esse in domo, ut non pertineant ad compagem domûs, sed sicut esse palea dicitur in frumentis,” De Bapt., lib. i. cap. 51; who is herein followed by not a few of the Papists. Hence saith Biel., “Accipitur etiam ecclesia pro tota multitudine prædestinatorum,” in Canon. Miss. Lec. 22. In what sense this church is visible was before declared. Men elected, redeemed, justified, as such, are not visible, for that which makes them so is not; but this hinders not but they may be so upon the other consideration, sometimes to more, sometimes to fewer, yea, they are so always to some. Those that are may be seen; and when we say they are visible, we do not intend that they are actually seen by any that we know, but that they may be so.

Bellarmine gives us a description of this catholic church (as the name hath of late been used at the pleasure of men, and wrested to serve every design that was needful to be carried on) to the interest which he was to contend for, but in itself perfectly ridiculous. He tells us, out of Austin, that the church is a living body, wherein is a body and a soul. Thence, saith he, the soul is the internal graces of the Spirit, faith, hope, and love; the body is the eternal profession of faith. Some are of the soul and body, perfectly united to Christ by faith and the profession of it; some are of the soul that are not of the body, as the catechumeni, which are not as yet admitted to be members of the visible church, but yet are true believers; some, saith he, are of the body that are not of the soul, who having no true grace, yet, out of hope or temporal fear, do make profession of the faith, and these are like the hair, nails, and ill humours in a human body. Now, saith Bellarmine, our definition of a church compriseth only the last sort, whilst they are under the head the pope; — which is all one as if he had defined a man to be a dead creature, composed of hair, nails, and ill humours, under a hat. But of the church in this sense so far.

It remaineth, then, that we inquire what is the union which the church in this sense hath from the wisdom of its head, Jesus Christ. That it is one, that it hath a union with its head and in itself, is not questioned. It is one sheepfold, one body, one spouse of Christ, his 129“only one” as unto him; and that it might have oneness in itself, with all the fruits of it, our Saviour prays, John xvii. 19–23. The whole of it is described, Eph. iv. 15, 16, “May grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fifty joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying itself in love.” And of the same importance is that of the same apostle, Col. ii. 19, “Not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.”

Now, in the union of the church, in every sense, there is considerable both the “formalis ratio” of it, whence it is, what it is, and the way and means whereby it exerts itself and is useful and active in communion. The first, in the church as now stated, consists in its joint holding the Head, and growing up into him by virtue of the communication of supplies unto it therefrom for that end and purpose. That which is the formal reason and cause of the union of the members with the head is the formal reason and cause of the union of the members with themselves. The original union of the members is in and with the head; and by the same have they union with themselves as one body. Now, the inhabitation of the same Spirit in him and them is that which makes Christ personal and his church to be one Christ mystical, 1 Cor. xii. 12, 13. Peter tells us that we are by the promises “made partakers of the divine nature,” 2 Pet. i. 4. We are θείας κοινωνοὶ φύσεως, — we have communion with it. That θεία φύσις is no more but καινὴ κτίσις, I cannot easily consent. Now, it is in the person of the Spirit, whereof we are by the promise made partakers. He is the “Spirit of promise,” Eph. i. 13; promised by God to Christ, Acts ii. 33, Ἐπαγγελίαν τοῦ ἁγίου Πνεύματος λαβὼν παρὰ τοῦ Πατρός, and by him to us, John xiv. 16, 17; being of old the great promise of the covenant, Isa. lix. 21; Ezek. xi. 19, xxxvi. 26, 27. Now, in the participation of the divine nature consists the union of the saints with Christ. John vi. 56, our Saviour tells us that it arises from eating his flesh and drinking his blood: “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him” This he expounds, verse 63: “It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing.” By the quickening Spirit, inhabitation in Christ, and Christ in it, is intended. And the same he manifests in his prayer, that his church may be one in the Father and the Son, as the Father is in him and he in the Father, John xvii. 21: for the Spirit being the love of the Father and of the Son, is “vinculum Trinitatis;” and so here of our union in some resemblance.

The unity of members in the body natural with one head is often 130chosen to set forth the union of the church, 1 Cor. xii. 12, xi. 3; Eph. v. 23; Col. i. 18. Now, every man can tell that union of the head and members whereby they become all one body, that and not another, is oneness of soul, whereby the whole is animated; which makes the body, be it less or greater, to be one body. That which answers hereunto in the mystical body of Christ is the animation of the whole by his Spirit, as the apostle fully [states], 1 Cor. xv. 45. The union between husband and wife is also chosen by the Holy Ghost to illustrate the union between Christ and his church: “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church,” Eph. v. 31, 32. The union between man and wife we have, Gen. ii. 24; “They are no more twain, but one flesh,” Matt. xix. 6; — of Christ and his church, that they are one spirit, “He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit,” 1 Cor. vi. 17. See also another similitude of the same importance, John xv. 5; Rom. xi. 16, 17. This, I say, is the fountain-radical union of the church catholic in itself, with its head and formal reason of it.

Hence flows a double consequential union that it hath also:—

1. Of faith, All men united to Christ by the inhabitation of the same Spirit in him and them, are by it, from and according to the word, “taught of God,” Isa. liv. 13; John vi. 45: so taught, every one of them, as to come to Christ, verse 47; that is, by believing, by faith. They are so taught of God as that they shall certainly have that measure of knowledge and faith which is needful to bring them to Christ, and to God by him. And this they have by the unction or Spirit which they have received, 1 John ii. 20, 27, accompanying the word, by virtue of God’s covenant with them, Isa. lix. 21. And hereby are all the members of the church catholic, however divided in their visible profession by any differences among themselves, or differenced by the several measures of gifts and graces they have received, brought to the perfection aimed at, to the “unity of the faith, and to the acknowledgment of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ,” Eph. iv. 13. Nor was this hidden from some of the Papists themselves: “Ecclesia sancta corpus est Christi uno Spiritu vivificata, unita fide unâ, et sanctificata,” saith Hugo de Victore, de Sacram., lib. ii., as he had said before in the former chapter: “Sicut scriptum est, qui non habet Spiritum Christi, hic non est ejus; qui non habet Spiritum Christi, non est membrum Christi. In corpore uno Spiritus unus, nihil in corpore mortuum, nihil extra corpus vivum.” See to the same purpose, Enchirid. Concil. Colon. in Symbol.

2. With peculiar reference to the members themselves, there is another necessary consequence of the union mentioned, and that is 131the mutual love of all those united in the head, as before, towards one another, and of every one towards the whole, as so united in the head, Christ Jesus. There is an “increase made of the body to the edifying itself in love,” Eph. iv. 16; and so it becomes the bend of perfectness to this body of Christ, I cannot say that the members or parts of this church have their union in themselves by love, because they have that with and in Christ whereby they are one in themselves, John xvii. 21, 23; they are one in God, even in Christ, where their life is hid, Col. iii. 3; — but it is the next and immediate principle of that communion which they severally have one with another, and the whole body in and with itself. I say, then, that the communion which the catholic church, the mystical body of Christ, hath with and in itself, springing from the union which it hath in and with Christ, and in itself thereby, consists in love exerting itself in inexpressible variety, according to the present state of the whole, its relation to Christ, to saints and angels, with the conditions and occasions of the members of it respectively, 1 Cor. xii. 26, 27.

What hath been spoken concerning the union and communion of this church will not, I suppose, meet with any contradiction. Granting that there is such a church as that we speak of, “cœtus prædestinatorum credentium,” the Papists themselves will grant that Christ alone is its head, and that its union ariseth from its subjection to him and dependence on him. Their modesty makes them contented with constituting the pope in the room of Christ, as he is, as it were, a political head for government. They have not as yet directly put in their claim to his office as a mystical head, influencing the body with life and motion; though by their figment of the sacraments communicating grace, “ex opere operato,” and investing the original power of dispensing them in the pope only, they have contended fair for it. But if any one can inform me of any other union or communion of the church, described as above, than these laid down, I shall willingly attend unto his instructions. In the meantime, to carry on the present discourse unto that which is aimed at, it is manifest that the breach of this union must consist in these two things:—

1. The casting out, expelling, and losing that Spirit which, abiding in us, gives us this union.

2. The loss of that love which thence flows into the body of Christ, and believers as parts and members thereof.

This being the state of the church under the first consideration of it, certainly it would be an extravagancy scarcely to he paralleled for any one to affirm a breach of this union, as such, to be schism, under that notion of it which we are inquiring after. But because there is very little security to be enjoyed in an expectation of the sobriety of men in things wherein they are, or suppose they may be, 132concerned, that they may know beforehand what is farther incumbent on them if, in reference to us, they would prevail themselves of any such notion, I here inform them that our persuasion is, that this union was never utterly broken by any man taken into it, nor ever shall be to the end of the world; and I suppose they esteem it vain to dispute about the adjuncts of that which is denied to be.

But yet this persuasion being not common to us with them with whom we have to do in this matter, I shall not farther make use of it as to our present defence. That any other union of the catholic church, as such, can possibly be fancied or imagined by any (as to the substance of what hath been pleaded), leaving him a plea for the ordinary soundness of his intellectuals, is denied.

Let us see now, then, what is our concernment in this discourse: Unless men can prove that we have not the Spirit of God, that we do not savingly believe in Jesus Christ, that we do not sincerely love all the saints, his whole body, and every member of it, they cannot disprove our interest in the catholic church. It is true, indeed, men that have so great a confidence of their own abilities, and such a contempt of the world, as to undertake to dispute men out of conclusions from their natural senses about their proper objects, in what they see, feel, and handle, and will not be satisfied that they have not proved there is no motion, whilst a man walks for a conviction under their eye, may probably venture to disprove us in our spiritual sense and experience also, and to give us arguments to persuade us that we have not that communion with Christ which we know we have every day. Although I have a very mean persuasion of my own abilities, yet I must needs say I cannot think that any man in the world can convince me that I do not love Jesus Christ in sincerity, because I do not love the pope, as he is so. Spiritual experience is a security against a more cunning sophister than any Jesuit in the world, with whom the saints of God have to deal all their lives, Eph. vi. 12. And, doubtless, through the rich grace of our God, help will arise to us, that we shall never make a covenant with these men for peace, upon conditions far worse than those that Nahash would have exacted on the men of Jabesh-gilead; which were but the loss of one eye, with an abiding reproach; they requiring of us the deprivation of whatsoever we have to see by, whether as men or Christians, and that with a reproach never to be blotted out.

But as we daily put our consciences upon trial as to this thing, 2 Cor. xiii. 5, and are put unto it by Satan, so are we ready at all times to give an account to our adversaries of the hope that is in us. Let them sift us to the utmost, it will be to our advantage. Only let them not bring frivolous objections, and such as they know are 133of no weight with us, speaking (as is their constant manner) about the pope and their church, — things utterly foreign to what we are presently about, miserably begging the thing in question. Let them weigh, if they are able, the true nature of union with Christ, of faith in him, of love to the saints; consider them in their proper causes, adjuncts, and effects, with a spiritual eye, laying aside their prejudices and intolerable impositions; — if we are found wanting as to the truth and sincerity of these things, if we cannot give some account of our translation from death to life, of our implantation into Christ, and our participation of the Spirit, we must bear our own burden. If otherwise, we stand fast on the most noble and best account of church-union whatever; and whilst this shield is safe, we are less anxious about the issue of the ensuing contest. Whatever may be the apprehensions of other men, I am not in this thing solicitous. (I speak not of myself, but assuming for the present the person of one concerning whom these things may be spoken). Whilst the efficacy of the gospel accomplisheth in my heart all those divine and mighty effects which are ascribed unto it as peculiarly its work towards them that believe; whilst I know this one thing, that whereas I was blind, now I see, — whereas I was a servant of sin, I am now free to righteousness, and at liberty from bondage unto death, and instead of the fruits of the flesh, I find all the fruits of the Spirit brought forth in me, to the praise of God’s glorious grace; whilst I have an experience of that powerful work of conversion and being born again, which I am able to manage against all the accusations of Satan, having peace with God upon justification by faith, with the love of God shed abroad in my heart by the Holy Ghost, investing me in the privileges of adoption, — I shall not certainly be moved with the disputes of men that would persuade me I do not belong to the catholic church, because I do not follow this, or that, or any party of men in the world.

“But you will say, this you will allow to them also with whom you have to do, that they may be members of the catholic church?” I leave other men to stand or fall to their own master. Only, as to the papal multitude, on the account of several inconsistencies between them and the members of this church, I shall place some swords in the way, which will reduce their number to an invisible scantling. I might content myself by affirming at once, that, upon what hath been spoken, I must exclude from the catholic church all and every one whom Bellarmine intends to include in it as such, — namely, those who belong to the church as hairs and ill humours to the body of a man. But I add in particular, —

1. All wicked and profane persons, of whom the Scripture speaks expressly that they shall not enter into the kingdom of God, are indisputably 134cut off. Whatever they pretend in show at any time, in the outward duties of devotion, they have neither faith in Christ nor love to the saints; and so have part and fellowship neither in the union nor communion of the catholic church.

How great a proportion of that synagogue whereof we are speaking will be taken off by this sword, — of their popes, princes, prelates, clergy, votaries, and people, — and that not by a rule of private surmises, but upon the visible issue of their being servants to sin, haters of God and good men, is obvious to all. Persons of really so much as reformed lives amongst them are like the berries after the shaking of an olive tree, 1 Cor. vi. 7–10; Rev. xxii. 15.

I find some persons of late appropriating holiness and regeneration55   “Ille cœtus Christianorum qui solus in orbe claret regeneratis est ecclesia; solus cœtus Christianorum papæ subditorum claret regeneratis; apud illos solos sunt qui miracula faciunt. ergo.” — Val. Mag. to the Roman party on this account, that among them only miracles are wrought; “which is,” say they, “the only proof of true holiness.” But these men err as their predecessors, “not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God.” Amongst all the evidences that are given in Scripture of regeneration, I suppose they will scarcely find this to be one. And they who have no other assurance that they are themselves born of God, but that some of their church work miracles, had need maintain also that no man can be assured thereof in this life. They will find that a broken reed,66   Deut. xiii. 1–3; Matt. vii. 22, 23; Exod. viii. 7. if they lean upon it. Will it evince all the members of their church to be regenerate, or only some? If they say all, I ask then what becomes of Bellarmine’s church, which is made up of them who are not regenerate? If some only, I desire to know on what account the miracles of one man may be an evidence to some in his society that they are regenerate, and not to others? or whether the foundation of that distinction must not lie in themselves? But the truth is, the miracles now pretended are an evidence of a contrary condition to what these men are willing to own, 2 Thess. ii. 8–12.

2. All ignorant persons, into whose hearts God hath not shined, “to give them the knowledge of his glory in the face of Jesus Christ,” are to be added to the former account. There is a measure of knowledge of absolute and indispensable necessity to salvation, whereof how short the most of them are is evident. Among the open abominations of the papal combination, for which they ought to be an abhorrency to mankind, their professed design of keeping the people in ignorance is not the least, Hos. iv. 6. That it was devotion to themselves, and not to God, which they aimed to advance thereby, is by experience sufficiently evinced; but that whose 135reverence is to be preserved by its being hid is in itself contemptible. What other thoughts wise men could have of Christian religion, in their management of it, I know not. Woe to you, Romish clergy! “for ye have taken away the key of knowledge; ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.” The people have perished under your hands, for want of knowledge: Zech. xi. 15–17. The figment of an implicit faith, as managed by these men, to charm the spirits and consciences of poor perishing creatures with security in this life, will be found as pernicious to them in the issue as their purgatory, invented on the same account, will be useless.

3. Add to these all hypocritical self-justiciaries, who seek for a righteousness as it were by the works of the law, which they never attain to, Rom. ix. 31, 32, though they take pains about it, chap. x. 2; Eph. ii. 8–10. By this sword will fall the fattest cattle of their herd. How the hand of the Lord on this account sweeps away their devotionists, and therein takes down the pride of their glory, the day will discover. Yet, besides these, there are two other things that will cut them down as the grass falls before the scythe of the mower.

4. The first of these is idolatry: “Be not deceived; no idolaters shall inherit the kingdom of God,” 1 Cor. vi. 9, 10; “Without are idolaters,” Rev. xxii. 15. This added to their lives hath made Christian religion, where known only as by them professed, to be an abomination to Jews and Gentiles. Some will one day, besides himself, answer for Averroës thus determining of the case as to his soul: “Quoniam Christiani adorant quod comedunt, anima mea sit cum philosophis.” Whether they are idolaters or no, whether they yield the worship due to the Creator to the creature, hath been sifted to the utmost, and the charge of its evil, which the jealous God doth of all things most abhor, so fastened on them, beyond all possibility of escape, that one of the wisest of them hath at length fixed on that most desperate and profligate refuge, that some kind of idolatry is lawful, because Peter mentions “abominable idolatries,” 1 Pet. iv. 3; who is therein so far from distinguishing of several sorts and kinds of it to any such purpose, as that he aggravates all sorts and kinds of it with the epithet of “nefarious” or “abominable.”

A man may say, What is there almost that they have not committed lewdness in this kind withal? On every hill, and under every green tree, is the filth of their abomination found. Saints and angels in heaven, images of some that never were, of others that had been better they never had been, bread and wine, cross and nails, altars, wood, and iron, and the pope on earth, are by them adored. The truth is, if we have any assurance left us of any thing in the world, that we either see or hear, feel or taste, and so, consequently, that we 136are alive, and not other men, the poor Indians who worship a piece of red cloth are not more gross idolaters than they are.

5. All that worship the beast set up by the dragon, all that receive his mark in their hand or forehead, are said not to have their names written in the book of life of the Lamb, Rev. xiii. 8, 16; which what aspect it bears towards the visible Roman church, time will manifest.

All these sorts of persons we except against, as those that have no interest in the union of the catholic church, — all profane, ignorant, self-justiciaries, all idolaters, worshippers, or adorers of the papal power. If any remain among them, not one way or other visibly separated from them, who fall not under some one or more of these exceptions, as we grant they may be members of the catholic church, so we deny that they are of that which is called the Roman. And I must needs inform others by the way, that whilst the course of their conversation, ignorance of the mystery of the gospel, hatred of good men, contempt of the Spirit of God, his gifts and graces, do testify to the consciences of them that fear the Lord that they belong not to the church catholic, it renders their rebuking of others for separating from any instituted church, national (as is pretended), or more restrained, very weak and contemptible. All discourses about motes have a worm at the root, whilst there is a beam lies in the eye. Do men suppose that a man who hath tasted how gracious the Lord is, and hath by grace obtained communion with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ, walking at peace with God, and in a sense of his love all his days, filled with the Holy Ghost, and by him with joy unspeakable and glorious in believing, is not strengthened against the rebukes and disputes of men whom he sees and knows by their fruits to be destitute of the Spirit of God, uninterested in the fellowship of the gospel and communion thereof?


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