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CONCERNING THE CHURCH, AND AN INSTRUCTIVE COMPARISON HOW
WE MAY DISTINGUISH BETWEEN THE CHURCH OF CHRIST,
AND THE CHURCH OF ANTI‑CHRIST.
Gellius complains that we destroy and leave the church of God, and that we are devilish sects and conspirators; and, on the contrary boasts that they gather an abiding church. Therefore, in my opinion, it is necessary, in the first place, to compare the churches with the requirements of the Scriptures, that the pious reader may know the difference, and see which and what the Church of Christ is, and also what the church of anti‑christ is; how long they both have existed; of whom they are; of whom they are brought forth; to what purpose they are begotten; of what disposition or nature they both are; what their fruits are; and by what signs they may be known, lest he be deceived by the preachers, and mistake the church of Christ for a heresy and conspiracy, and the church of anti‑christ for the church of Christ.
In the first place, it should be taken into consideration, that the community of God, or the church of Christ, is an assembly of the pious, and a community of the saints, as is represented by the Nicene symbol; who, from the beginning have firmly trusted and believed in the promised seed of the woman, which is the promised Prophet, Messiah, Shilo, King, Prince, Emmanuel and Christ; who accept his word in sincerity of heart; follow his example, are led by his Spirit, and who trust in his promise in the Scriptures, Deut. 18:18; Gen. 49:10; Jer. 23:5; 33:15; Isaiah 7:14.
Such are now, generally called christians or the church of Christ, because they are born of Christ's word by means of faith, by his Spirit, and are flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone, as the children of Jacob, on account of their natural birth, were called the house of Israel, Rom. 9:7‑9.
On the contrary it should be observed that the church of anti‑christ is a gathering of the ungodly, and a community of the impenitent, who reject the aforementioned seed, Christ, and his word, and oppose his will, and for that reason are called the anti‑christian community or church, because they, through the spirit and artifices of anti‑christ, although in semblance of the word, and in the name of Christ, teach, believe, act, and establish a strange worship, contrary to the Spirit, word, example and ordinance of Christ.
In the second place, it should be observed that the church of the pious is from the beginning; yet, it had not always the same ordinance; nor was it always called by one name in the Scriptures. For, before their departure from Egypt, they had no particular, written law; yet they feared the great and powerful God, faithfully served Him, offered burnt‑offerings, and walked in his ways, as may be seen in the case of Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and others; they were, at that time, called God's children. Afterwards, Abraham was commanded to circumcise himself and his household, and all the males after him, on the eighth day after their birth, Gen. 17:10. About four hundred years after that, Moses gave the law; and from that time they were generally called the people of God, or the house of Jacob and Israel. At last Christ Jesus, the Messiah of all the world appeared, to which all the Scriptures point. All those who hear him, believe his word and follow him, are now called christians, or the church of Christ, as heard, Isaiah 58:2, 4; Jer. 23:5.
Although at different times she was under different ordinances and usages, and, although the church is called by different names, as said, yet all, before, under and after the law, who, in sincere, true fear of God, walked, and continue to walk according to the word and will of God, and trust in Christ, are one community, church and body, and will ever remain so; for they are all saved by Christ, accepted of God, and gifted with the Spirit of his grace. It should also be observed that the church of the ungodly, which is the church of anti‑christ, 77commenced first with the ungodly, who were inspired with the spirit of the devil, which is envious of all good things; and will be unto the end. For the anti‑church has generally existed, from the beginning, side by side with the christian church, and is the most numerous; and till the deluge, it is spoken of, in the Scriptures as the"' children of men," Gen. 6:2; John 8:44. But from the flood until the circumcision of Abraham they are called Gentiles. After the time of the circumcision they are called Gentiles or uncircumcised, Gen. 17:11; Rom. 15:9.
They did not know the true and living God, but they worshipped and served the handiwork of men, wood, stone, silver and golden gods, besides, dragons, serpents, oxen, fire, the sun, moon, &c., until the apostles preached the gospel unto all the world, and gathered a church unto Christ, Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:16; Rom. 10:17; Col. 1:23, which church has been in the meantime so destroyed by anti‑christ, that the greatest number have degenerated into open Gentiles and idolaters, although, in appearance they call themselves christians; for they bend their knees to rods and blocks, and require the assistance of the artificer. Others, and these are the best minded of them, seek consolation and their salvation in wrought ceremonies, water, bread, wine, and absolutions; so that we are forced to say that they are the church of the impenitent, and the church of anti‑christ.
In the third place, it should be observed that the christian church is of God, as Paul says, "For both he that sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified, are all of one," Heb. 2:11. For as Christ Jesus, who is the true Savior, is of God, nay, God's only begotten and firstborn Son, so also are all those who, in sincerity of heart, believe his word, and are actuated by his Spirit. John says, "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name; which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God," John 1:12, 13.
Again, "Every one that loveth, is born of God," 1 John 4:7. On the other hand it should be observed that the church of antichrist is of the evil one, as the Lord said unto the Pharisees, "Ye are of your father, the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own; for he is a liar, and the father of it," John 8:44. "He that committeth sin, is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning," 1 John 3:8.
Reader, observe. By these words the spirit of truth has already judged all liars, blood‑shedders, avaricious, perjurers, adulterers, drunkards, pompous, idolators together with all the unrighteous that they are of the devil; that is, that they are the devil's community. Nevertheless they boast that they are the church of Christ, as also the Pharisees boasted that they were Abraham's seed and children, John 8:39‑44.
In the fourth place it should be observed that the church of Christ is begotten of sincere, pious preachers and christians, who are actuated by the Spirit of Christ; and who are, as Moses, Samuel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Peter, Paul, John, &c., unblamable in doctrine and life; who, in pure and faithful love, seek the salvation of their neighbors, and who can, in sincerity, say with Paul, "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ," 1 Cor. 11:1; who preach the word in the power of the Spirit; who are shining lights before all men; and who with all their strength strive with their received talent, and may make a great gain to the treasure of the Lord, Phil. 2:15; Matt. 5; 16. For it was God's way and will from the beginning, to proclaim the doctrine of repentance through pious and unblamable servants, as has been sufficiently shown above under the head of the "Calling of the Preachers."
On the other hand it should be observed that the church of anti‑christ is brought forth by faithless preachers, who are actuated by the spirit of anti‑christ; who with Korah, Dathan and Abiram seek the applause of the people, Num. 16:2, who with Balaam seek inordinate gain, Num. 22:24; and who with the prophets of Jezebel seek choice victuals. Who, with Hananiah flatter the people, Jer. 28:11; who, with the false prophets preach Peace, Ezek. 13:16; who 78are earthly and carnally minded, and seek nothing but world, ease, honor, belly and gain, Phil. 3:19; Rom. 16:17.
O, reader, how the greatest and highest esteemed preachers of our day, whose names have become wide spread, seek the poor, naked and crucified Christ Jesus, and the souls of men with their gospel, may, alas, be educed from the accursed, ungodly pomp and splendor about their houses, and from the vain and curious ornaments, chains, rings, silk and satin, of their women and children. Notwithstanding their doctrine is called the evangelical theology, and they, the servants of the holy word.
In the fifth place, it should be observed that the church of Christ is begotten by the Spirit and word of Christ. For as an honorable woman can bring forth no legitimate children but from the seed of her lawful husband, so, also, the bride of Christ, namely, the church, can bring forth no true Christians but from the legitimate seed of Christ, that is, from the unadulterated word, rightly preached through the Holy Spirit, and conceived in the heart of the hearers. Paul says, "In Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel," 1 Cor. 4:15; James says, " Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth," Jas. 1:18; also read Rom. 10; 1 Pet. 1.
On the other hand the church of antichrist is begotten of deceiving doctrine, through the spirit of error. Paul says, "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy," 1 Tim. 4:1. Yea, reader, what else has the church of Christ abolished, and the church of anti‑Christ re‑established, but the false doctrines of the learned, the many inconsistent concilions, decrees, statutes, doctrines and commands of men? What else blinds the German nation, to‑day, and what else retains them in their ungodliness, but the lightminded doctrine of the preachers, the ungodly, infant baptism, the unscriptural, idolatrous supper, and the neglect of the Lord's ordinance (separation), as it was practiced by the apostles?
Christ Jesus, and his holy apostles faithfully warn in many Scriptures against false prophets; for they deceive you, says Christ; they serve their bellies and not the Lord Christ, says Paul; they promise others liberty and are themselves servants of corruption, says Peter. They turn the grace of God unto lasciviousness, Jude 4, and they are of anti‑Christ, Matt. 7:16; 16:9; 2 Pet. 2:19. O reader, reflect diligently on what I write.
In the sixth place it should be observed that the church of Christ is begotten for the purpose of hearing the Lord, to fear, love, serve, praise, honor and thank God sincerely, as Moses says, "And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul; to keep the commandments of the Lord, and his statutes," Deut. 10:12.
Again, "Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him," Deut. 13:4. Peter says, " Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light," 1 Peter 2:9.
Behold, the church of Christ is begotten that his great miracles, his Almighty Majesty, his inextinguishable love, and his adorable, high and holy name may be eternally glorified.
But the church of anti‑Christ despises, hates and reviles God, as the prophet says, They transgress my covenant, as Adam did, by which they despise me. Yea, all who reject the Lord's will, word, advice, admonition, chastening, grace and love, hate him and will not be ruled by him. They do not his will, but their own; they say in their hearts:
Depart from us, we will know nothing of thy ways; who is this Most High, that we should serve him? Behold, thus they boldly despise the Almighty, eternal God, who is the Creator, Messiah and Lord of all the world. May the dear Lord grant them 79eyes that they may see their great faults; and hearts to realize them; this is my sincere wish for them, Amen.
In the seventh place it should be observed that the church of Christ in her weakness, is disposed and minded as Christ; for Paul says, "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature," 2 Cor. 5:17; he is led by the Spirit; and acknowledges through this Spirit that he abides in God and God in him; he partakes of the divine nature. Yea, dear reader, the true church hates that which Christ hates, and loves that which he loves; for she is his Bride, flesh of his flesh, and "made to drink into one Spirit." Therefore she can not be otherwise minded than Christ is minded, for she is begotten of his word and abides in him and he in, over, and through her, 1 John 4:12; John 15:4‑7.
Compare this with the church of antichrist, and you will find that it is of like nature as her father of whom she is begotten, namely, proud, envious, murderous, false, disobedient, self‑conceited, earthly and, carnally minded, selfish, avaricious, bold, proud, pompous, superfluous, impure, and altogether opposed to Christ. For all things that Christ prohibits, they do; and that which he commands, they despise; whatever he hates, they love, and whatever he loves, they hate; notwithstanding they boast that they gather an abiding church, as has been heard, 1 Cor. 8:6; 1 John 3
24; 4:13. He that hath ears let him hear, and judge whether or not I speak the truth.
In the eighth place it should be observed that the church of Christ brings forth the fruits of Christ, as he says, "I am the vine, ye are the branches. He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit," John 15:6.
Every tree bears after its own kind; all who are born of God, and partake of the divine nature, fear, love, serve and praise God with all their heart; walk unblamably; fraternally teach, admonish, reprove, uphold, and comfort their neighbor; daily die unto the flesh and its lusts; conform their ways according to the word of the Lord and continually lament over their being such poor, weak and frail sinners, Matt. 7:17.
They strive to become conformable unto the death of the Lord that they may arise from the death of their sins, and that they may attain unto a perfect being in Christ. Not, my reader, that they have already attained or become perfect. By no means; but they strive, with Paul, to follow after, if that they may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus, Phil. 3:12.
On the other hand look at the fruits of the church of anti‑christ. Their preachers falsely teach; boldly deceive, and live an easy, superfluous life. The magistracy behave as if they were born for no purpose but to make war and tumults; to torture, murder, destroy cities and countries; to make vain show, drink, carouse, and to live in all manner of lasciviousness, yea, many act so that they, alas, would better be called Leones rugientes (roaring lions) and lupi ves pertin (howling wolves) than human! (human beings) and reasonable persons to say nothing of christians.
The common people drink, carouse, curse, swear, grasp, tear, lie, and cheat. In short, we find such behavior on every hand, as if God was a chimera, and his word a fable. Behold, such are the fruits of those who boldly boast that they are the church of Christ. Oh! would to God that they could see what Christ Jesus, after whom they call themselves, and his holy apostles, have taught them in plain words, and what example they left them, that they might yet be saved. For as it is they only play with the letter, cry and boast; but, alas, no spirit, work, power and fruits are apparent.
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