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THE TRUE SIGNS BY WHICH THE CHURCH OF ANTI‑CHRIST MAY BE KNOWN.
IV. By hatred of the brethren, 1 John 3:15.
83Behold, dear reader, we have here shown you the foundation of both churches; what they are, of whom they are, and by whom they are begotten; of what mind they are, what kind of fruits they bring forth; and by what signs they may be known.
Whoever does not willfully err, to him a plain way is hereby pointed out. If you, then, would be a true member of the church of Christ, you must be born of the word of God; be of a christian mind; bring forth christian fruits; walk according to his word, ordinance and command; die unto the flesh and the world; lead an unblamable life in fear of God; serve and love your neighbors with all your heart; confess the name and glory of Christ, and be prepared for all manner of tribulation; misery and persecution for the sake of the word of God and its testimony, John 3:3, 4; 15:4; 8:31; 1 Pet. 1:23; Phil. 2:15; Rom. 8:14.
But if you refuse this and remain unchanged in your natural state; lead an impenitent, easy life, lay aside the word and ordinance of the Lord, act the hypocrite with the world, and refuse the cross, then you cannot be a member of the church of Christ; or else the word of God must be false and fallible; for on every hand the Scriptures teach faith, love, the fear of God, repentance, obedience, dying unto the flesh, self-denial, a new life, and the cross. Therefore, sincerely fear God, deny yourself, search the Scriptures, follow the truth, and take heed lest you be deceived and eternally lose your soul for the sake of temporal life and its enjoyments, Mark 1:15; 8:36; John 1:3; 13:14; Luke 13:24; 9:25; Rom. 6:8; Col. 3:9; Gal. 6:1; Matt. 16:25.
Having given a scriptural explanation of the difference between the two churches, I will now turn to Gellius' argument by which he would prove their church to be the christian, and ours the heretical and conspirator's church. This, I trust to be enabled to show by the word of the Lord, so that the impartial reader must clearly see that he (Gellius) strives, with all his power, to suppress the salutary and plain word of God, together with his church; and to excuse and uphold as well as he can the deciving serpent and his church.
In the first place he writes: "The saints at Corinth and of the church of Galatia, whom Paul reproves on account of their abominable sins, still continued to hear the word of God, and to receive the sacraments from their bishops and pastors."
Answer. If Gellius and the preachers would conform their doctrine and life to the Scriptures; would rightly serve out their sacraments, would separate their church from the world, according to the Scriptures, then we might talk of listening to the preachers. But so long as the preachers remain deceivers, use their sacraments contrary to the word of God, and their disciples are of the world; so long as they practice neither ban nor punishment as the Scriptures require, it is, in my, opinion, of no use to say much in regard to this, for it is manifest that they are without Christ and his word.
Reader, understand this matter rightly. Paul did not bear with the ungodly state of affairs in the before mentioned churches, as the preachers of the present day, do; but he rebuked them, in severe terms, especially those of Corinth, and pointed the obedient to the separation, if they, at his coming again, had not reformed themselves, 2 Cor. 12:13.
Gellius should, reasonably, also do this and should not console the poor, reckless people with the idea that other people, in the past, have also sinned; for this is surely what Sirach calls, excusing with the example of other people; neither can it help his cause; for, in the first place, these churches were rightly built, but afterwards some of them were misled by false prophets and heretics, and led into byways. Some of them, as appears, have again given themselves to an easy, carnal life, as is generally the case with those who turn their backs upon the truth, delight in new doctrines, discord and disputation, as experience, alas, has sufficiently taught me for these last, several years, Jude 19; 2 Pet. 3:3.
Paul calls the disturbers at Corinth, contentious and heretics; and those of Galatia he calls deceivers; he desires and commands that they be separated from the church, lest the whole lump be leavened by this leaven, 1 Cor. 5:6; Gal. 5:9.
Since the beforementioned churches, being rightly established, in the first place, and being afterwards made contentious by the 84heretics and carnal who arose among them, were reproved of Paul, because they suffered such contentious persons, with their open abominations, to remain in the church; how, then, can Gellius make good their cause by their example, while he and his preachers never were the true preachers, and their churches never were separated from the world, and therefore were not the church of Christ, as heard?
In the second place, he writes: Zachariah, Elizabeth, Joseph, Mary, Simeon and Anna, together with other saints, heard the word of God in the church of the Jews, among whom were the murderers of Christ; and, the disciples of the prophets did not separate the murderers of the prophets from the church."
Answer. These words of Gellius show that the Jewish synagogue, although many pious persons were among them, as Zachariah, Elizabeth, &c., was not the christian or apostolic church, and that they had not the ordinances of Christ and his holy apostles, nor used them; for it can never be shown that the apostolic church, so long as she remained the apostolic church, were persecutors and murderers of the pious, or that she suffered such, as was at that time the case with the Jewish synagogue. Therefore he answers and judges himself, for he does not claim that their church is the Jewish synagogue in which such abominations were found, but he claims that they are the christian church, which never thought of such things, much less practiced them.
Again, we should not follow the beforementioned church in such abominable abuses and sins, but should be thereby admonished how we should, according to the doctrine of Paul, treat such, which ever arise among the pious; and that we should not, on account of such, mistrust the promises of the Lord, as if we were not the church of Christ; for we are thereby taught that in the church of Christ, which is ever beguiled by her opponents, offenses, blasphemies and heresies will arise; that, however, we should separate such whenever the case requires it, after proper admonition; whereby she openly testifies before God and man, that she is clear of such offenses and deceivings. This the worldly church does not do; they suffer and retain them as members, against the word and command of God, against the ordinance of the Holy Spirit, and against the example or usage of the holy apostles; notwithstanding they well know that the institution and command of the Lord does not admit it, yet they willfully do this. Therefore they can not be Christ's church and community so long as they continue to do so; or else the express word of God must be fallible and false. O, reader, reflect upon this matter.
But from his writing that the disciples of the prophets did not separate them from the church, among whom were the murderers of the prophets, I understand him to say that their church still remains the church of Christ, notwithstanding numbers of wicked and ungodly persons are found among them, and suffered to remain among them, directly contrary to the evangelical Scriptures and the usage of the apostolic church. O, no, reader, beware, this cannot be. So long as the transgressors and willful despisers are unknown to the church, she is innocent; but when they are known and not excluded, after proper admonition, but suffered to remain in the communion of the church, then, in my opinion, she ceases to be the church of Christ. For she transgresses willfully, and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ; she despises the word and ordinance of God, because she will not bear the cross of Christ to the praise of God and to the service of their neighbors, and, because she does not want to lose the favor of men; and makes herself guilty of the sins of others, therefore she, according to John, has not God in power and in truth, 2 John 1:1; 1 Tim. 5:22; Deut. 17:2; Lev. 19:17; Matt. 18:15.
In the third place he writes, "That they are plainly the church of God and Christ who publicly assemble, keep the word, accept and preach it; who with open confession and in the holy, divine name, dispense and partake of the sacraments, and who banish the offensive criminals and obdurate sinners."
Answer. If to meet publicly, although in all manner of vanity, pomp and splendor, to preach as the world likes it, to baptize infants, to break the bread with the impenitent, feignedly to pray, and exterminate thieves and murderers with the sword, constitutes the church of Christ, then, also, all the papists, together with the Arians, monks, &c., were Christ's church; for they all have done these things publicly. This is incontrovertible 85. Oh no, no! But where they meet in the name of Christ, where the unadulterated word of God is preached, be it in secret or public, where the baptism and Holy Supper are served in accordance with the ordinance of the Lord, where not merely the criminals, who are judged by the law of the emperor, but also drunkards, whores and adulterers, avaricious and extortioners, are excluded from the communion of the pious, according to the doctrine and example of the apostles. Behold such is the visible church which is attested by the Scriptures.
In the fourth place he writes, "That they, invisible to the eyes of man, which cannot search the heart, but only before the eyes and judgment of God, are the true church of Christ and of God, which are found in the visible church, that is, among the number of the elect since God, through the preaching of his holy gospel and through the use of his holy sacraments, powerfully works in them, and whereby many are again born unto life everlasting, who are only known to Him who knows his people, and who searches the hearts of men. These are the true bride of Christ."
Answer. In part I admit this to be right, however, with this understanding; that the visible church, in which the invisible (as he calls them) should be included, must be salutary in doctrine, sacraments and ordinances, and unblamable in life before the world, so far as man, who is able to judge only that which is visible, can see.
Since it is as clear as day that Gellius and his like preachers are blamable in every thing, because they adulterate the word of God, abuse the sacraments, flatter the world, upbraid the pious, do not separate their church from the world, and none of their disciples reprove such open transgressions and abuses, but every one is satisfied with his doctrines and sacraments, follows and maintains them; therefore they all act the hypocrite, walk upon the broad way, hate the cross of Christ and lay it upon others. Notwithstanding all this, that the invisible church should still be among them, I cannot admit; and for this reason; for I know to a certainty that it never fails, that where the true church of Christ is, there she will be made manifest among this wicked and perverse generation by words and work, for she can as little be hidden as a city upon a hill, or a candle upon a candle‑stick, Matt. 5:14; Phil. 2;15.
In the fifth place he writes, "That the churches at Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, &c.; and also the strangers here and there in Ponto, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, are called, by Paul and Peter, saints and chosen. For the church, he writes, is called after the better part of its members, and is called the church of God or of Christ, holy, pure, and unblamable."
Answer. Think not, kind reader, that all those who lived at Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, Ponto, Galatia, Cappadocia and Bithynia, are called the church of Christ, of Paul and Peter, as, all those who live in Meissen, Duringen and the German countries are called the church of Christ by the preachers. By no means. But they meant the small number, who, begotten by the word of the divine power, separated themselves from the world, and with open confession willingly placed themselves under Christ and his covenant. If I should write, the chosen children and saints of God at Antwerp, Ghent, Leeuwarden, add the strangers in the German countries, here and there, I would not mean and those that live at those places mentioned. By no means. For they also live there, who persecute and trouble the chosen children of God; but I would refer to those who confess Christ Jesus, through true faith and are obedient to his holy word.
Behold, reader, if the preachers, in the same manner, would separate their church from the world, would preach the word of God in purity, would use the sacraments in accordance with the Scriptures, and would strive with their churches, after a pious and christian life, then he might truthfully boast that the chosen, which he calls the invisible church, are included in their church, as he pretends they are.
In the sixth place he writes, "If they should say, your church is not believing, holy and unblamable, then I would refer them, first, to the Jewish church, from which we may learn that they, at the time of Elias, Jeremiah, Daniel and all the prophets, of John the Baptist, of Christ and the apostles, were not all holy; this the Scriptures of the prophets and of the apostles sufficiently teach us. But that they, notwithstanding both people and magistrates were for the most part wicked, were called the church of God and of Christ, and were thus called on account of some pious persons, to whom God sent his prophets."
Answer. If the preachers would rightly discharge the duties of their office, as Elias, Jeremiah and the prophets did; and if some were found in their church who follow 86the word of the Lord, as in the time of the prophets, then this might help the case of Gellius. But they are not, such as Elias, Jeremiah and Daniel, nor the teachers who are led by the Spirit of Christ; but are such preachers and teachers as were reproved of Jeremiah, as may be seen in many of his Scriptures; such as were destroyed by Elias, and against whom we are faithfully warned of Christ and his apostles not to hear them, Jer. 8:14; 23:27; Matt. 7:18; John 10:3.
I would further say, Israel was the literal people, and had the promise of the fathers, on account of their birth after the flesh. The law was given them that they should serve God, and walk according to his commandments; when they transgressed the law and did not observe that which God had commanded them, they yet remained the literal people; and God, ever mindful of the covenant made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, has awakened his faithful servants, the prophet, and often sent them to reprove them earnestly, out of the word of the Lord, to point them again to the law, and boldly threaten them with punishment for their sins, Gen. 15:17, 18; Deut. 5:82. This is not the case with us at present; for we are not the literal race, brought forth from the loins of Abraham and Isaac, but are begotten of the word of God, through the Spirit. If we again forsake this birth which is of God, do not abide in the word of Christ, and again enter into the broad way, then we do not remain his church and community, 2 John 1:9. Behold, reader, it being manifest that Gellius and the preachers of his class, together with their churches, never were the spiritual people, because they, as appears, are not born of God in truth but are earthly and carnally minded, live according to the lusts of the flesh, did not enter in at the right gate, teach an impure doctrine, and use strange sacraments, where by no abiding church can be gathered unto Christ, as has been heard; and, besides, they act altogether contrary to the Spirit, word and will of Christ, nay, hate and despise them; how then can they be likened in the fall; unto Israel, who were the people and church, on account of the patriarchs while this people and church never were the church of Christ in Spirits as has been heard? Lastly I would say; All the Scriptures, both of the Old and New Testaments, on every hand, point us to Christ Jesus, that we shall hear him, Matt. 17:5; Mark 9:7; Deut. 18
15. Whosoever does not hear him, it will be required of him. Therefore take heed. As I have said before, although all the pious, from the beginning, were the community, church or body, yet at different periods they have had different doctrines, ordinances and worship.
Moses gave the law and Israel had to obey it, until Christ appeared, who was promised. We are now directed to his Spirit, word and ordinances. If it can be proven to us by his word, that his Spirit suffered drunkards, avaricious, pompous, adulterers, blasphemers, tyrants and murderers (understand, such as do not repent), in the communion of the apostolic churches; and also that his Spirit ordained open deceivers and worldly minded persons to be bishops and pastors, then I will admit that they are the church of Christ; but if they cannot do so, as it is impossible for them to do, then they must confess that their church, which is full of such people—aye full, is not the church of Christ, as they boast it to be; but that it is a disorderly, refractory and disobedient people, nay, that it is the church of antichrist, and of the world; and that their pretensions in this respect are nothing but open seduction, falsehood and deceit. Reader, observe, I testify this unto you in Christ; believe it if you will; I write the truth unto you.
In the seventh place he writes, "In the second place I refer them to the church of the Corinthians, whom Paul, in the first place, reproves on account of their dissensions," saying, "I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual but as unto, carnal," 1 Cor. 3:1.
Answer. Heretofore I have said that this church was first rightly taught of Paul, and won unto Christ; but, being deceived by philosophers, who despised the doctrine of the cross, and by false apostles, they became divided; for which they were reproved and fraternally instructed of Paul, and admonished to separate the unfaithful and carnally minded; for the Scriptures command and instruct us to do this, namely, that such should first be admonished, and if they do not repent, that they should be 87unanimously separated from the communion of the church. Judge now, what Gellius can substantiate hereby; since he and his, never having been separated from the world, are not the church of Christ. Yea he, good fellow, does nothing more nor less than that he hereby manifests his cross-fleeing and open disobedience, and that he covers up and defends the abominable transgressions of his disciples, however gross they be, with the precedents of others,
In the eighth place he writes, "In the third place I refer them to the parable of Christ, of John the baptist, and of Paul. Christ likens the church unto a field in which the tares grow with the wheat until the harvest. Again, she is likened unto a net in which both good and bad fish are caught. Again, unto the virgins, of whom five were wise and five were foolish. Moreover, unto a royal wedding, where the good and evil are gathered together, one of whom is found by the king, to be without a wedding garment."
Answer. This first parable is explained by Christ himself, saying, "He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; The field is the world" (understand it rightly, Christ says, It is the world, and not the church, as Gellius claims); "the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; the enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels," Matt. 13:37‑39.
Reader, understand it rightly. Christ, the Son of man, sows his seed (God's word), through his Spirit, in the world; all who hear, believe and obey it, are called the children of the kingdom. In the same manner the opponent sows his tares (false doctrine,), in the world, and all that hear and follow him are called the children of evil. Now, both wheat and tares grow together in the same field, namely, in the world. The husbandman does not want the tares to be plucked out before their time, that is, he will not have them destroyed by rooting them up, but wants them left until the harvest, lest the wheat be destroyed with the tares, Matt. 3:29, 30.
O, reader, if the preachers rightly understood this parable and feared God, they would not cry so loudly against us, who, alas, are every where called tares, heretics and conspirators, "Down with the heretics;" even if we were heretics, from which God save us. Oh! What noble wheat they destroy! But what does it avail? Satan must rebel and murder; for it is his nature and work, as the Scriptures teach, Gen. 3:4; John 8.
Some of the other parables, as of the net in which good and bad fishes are caught; of the wise and foolish virgins, and their lamps; of the wedding of the king's son and the guests, and of the threshing floor with wheat and chaff, although the Lord spoke them in allusion to the church, yet they were not spoken for the purpose that the church should knowingly and willfully accept and suffer open transgressors, drunkards, carousers, defilers of women, avaricious, robbers, gamblers, and usurers, in their communion; because, then, Christ and Paul would differ in doctrine; for Paul says that we should avoid and shun such. But they were spoken because many intermix with the christians, in semblance only, and place themselves under the word and sacraments, who, in fact, are no christians, but are hypocrites and enemies before their God; and these are likened unto the refuse fish; unto the foolish virgins who had no oil in their lamps; unto the guest without a wedding garment, and unto the chaff, which will be cast out by the angels, at the day of Christ. For they pretend that they fear God and seek Christ; they receive baptism and the Lord's Supper, and outwardly act in semblance, but, in fact, no faith, repentance, true fear and love of God; no Spirit, power, fruit nor work is found in them.
But, as to the two kinds of laborers in the vineyard, Matt. 2:28, 29, and as to those called to the great supper, Luke 14:16, the reader should know, that they have a different meaning and cannot conform to his sentiments. Whosoever loves truth, may examine them, and judge by the Holy Scriptures what their proper meaning is. Again, as to his citation of the vessels to dishonor, I will let Paul's words explain them. He says, "If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified and meet for the Master's use, and prepared unto every good work," 2 Tim. 2:21.
Behold, dear reader, here you may observe88 how miserably he perverts the word of the Lord, that they may, apparently, be the church of Christ, although they knowingly and willfully admit open transgressors to the communion of their church, against the Scriptures. But the flaming eyes of the Lord, which search every thing, cannot be blinded by such sophistry.
In the ninth place he writes, "The church, now being perplexed by such evils as these which she has to suffer unto the day of judgment, as some of these parables imply; nay, that it never was her lot to be entirely rid of evil ones and hypocrites, however strictly she used the ban, therefore they are wrong, and grossly sin by condemning us, and saying that we are false teachers, and not the church of God, as was the church of the patriarchs, prophets and Moses; and by maliciously and wrongfully calling our church, which is founded by our faithful service upon the true foundation, according to the example of all the messengers of God, and which is daily increased and built up, upon the chosen cornerstone, an unbelieving, unholy and blamable church, against all the Scriptures, and thereby not only bringing our church into disrepute, but also all the churches of the German countries, nay of all the christian world, which have and must have a different doctrine from their church, which they call holy, pure, unblamable and spotless on account of their dreadful ban."
Answer. If he should have said that the church is troubled with such evils, and that she must suffer them, in such a manner as to mean that the true church must suffer the enmity, rebellion, violence and tyranny of the wicked, and ungodly actions of the perverse, then he would have written the truth. But since his meaning is, that since the church ever has hypocrites among her number, that therefore the evil ones, that is, open despisers and transgressors should be tolerated; therefore he writes contrary to the word of God; for Paul says, "Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person," that is, separate from the communion of your church him who is wicked, 1 Cor. 5:13.
Again, to his writing, "that we grossly sin by saying that they are not the church of God," and to his boasting "that they build their church upon the corner stone," I would say that his boasting is false; for their light‑minded doctrine, false sacraments, reckless life and his indiscreet writing, alas, prove too plainly, that they do not build their church upon the true cornerstone; it being manifest that they, on every hand are at fault, adulterate the word of God, abuse the sacraments, practice no separation, and for the greater part, both teachers and hearers walk upon perverse ways; whether we therefore sin, because in faithful love we admonish them for their own good, and in humility show them that they, under such a state of affairs, are not, neither can be the church of God, the reader may judge. We know to a certainty that where there is no pure doctrine, no pure sacraments, no pious, christian life, no true, brotherly love, and no right minded confession, that there is no christian church; let them boast ever so much.
Again, in regard to his complaint, "That we not only call them, but all the churches of the German countries, nay, of the whole christian world, unbelieving, unholy and condemn them, the reader should know that we condemn no one; for he, Jesus Christ, to whom the Father has given it, will do that. Yet we say, and teach it verbally and by writing, that all those who are not born of God and his word, are not actuated by the Spirit of Christ, are not changed into his nature and disposition, however high and fine an appearance and name they may assume. In this case, neither emperor, king, doctor, licentiate, pope nor Luther will avail. All who would be in the church of Christ, must be in Christ, must be of his mind, and walk as he walked, or else Christ Jesus, John, Paul and all the Scriptures must be false; this is too clear to be denied, John 5:22; 1 John 2:6; Rom. 8:14; Phil. 2:5.
Since he accuses us that we condemn all the churches of the German countries, and of the whole christian world, as he boasts, therefore I would answer with a few plain words: If the German churches and the beforementioned world were born of God, were of Christ's mind, walked as he walked then the accusation of Gellius would be right, since we do not acknowledge them to be true churches. But as they prove by deeds that they are without Christ, walk and act against his word and will; as they are quite earthly and carnally minded, therefore, they are not judged of men, but of the word of the Lord, for Christ says, "The word that I have spoken, the same 89shall judge him in the last day," John 12:48.
Further, by his writing that the said churches have and must have a different doctrine, he judges himself that they are not the church of Christ. For Christ will, that his church should keep and follow his word, ordinances and commands, whether it be to the joy or to the pain of the flesh.
Behold, dear reader, since it is doubly plain that the Scriptures teach, both by words and examples, that open transgressors should be excluded from the communion of the church; and since the preachers, who fear men more than God, and serve their bellies more than the praise of the Lord, neglect this on account of the cross, which might result from such action, therefore their public actions testify that they are not the bride and sheep of Christ; for they do not hear his voice, neither do they follow his doctrines and commands, 2 Thess. 3:6; John 10:28.
Again, to his writing that we consider our church holy, pure and unblamable, on account of the cruel ban, this is my simple reply: We do not at all boast but of the grace of our God through Christ Jesus. Our frailty is great, our stumblings are many, and we feel with Paul, that nothing good dwells in our flesh. Notwithstanding all true members of the church of Christ strive after the unblamable, holy being, which is in him; they conform their walk to the word of the Lord; they follow his commands and ordinances; and separate those who are separated by the Scriptures, which he, alas, calls a fearful ban. O, Lord.
O God! Thus the precious word is esteemed as unworthy by this thoughtless man. For, by this abominable, unseasoned blasphemy, not only we, but also the Son of the Almighty and living God, together with the Spirit of eternal wisdom, by whom this ban was commanded, and also all the apostles and the primitive church, who so diligently taught and earnestly practiced it, are adjudged fools. If the ordinance is foolishness, then the Institutor, and all who teach and practice it, must be fools; this cannot well be denied.
Observe, reader, if this may not be called hating the word and will of God, despising his commands, and speaking blasphemies against the Most High, you may reflect upon, and judge by the Scriptures. O, reader, awaken. Beware, and learn to know your preachers, and of what spirit they are the children.
In the tenth place he writes, "Thus they are given to a wrong understanding, prejudge without knowledge, and leave the church from motives of spiritual pride and fancy of righteousness, more than from motives of sincere righteousness; they have no other reason to leave the church, than that they, according to the manner of the Pharisees, would justify themselves by despising others."
Answer. I fear that it would weary the reader to reply to all his false accusations minutely. Yet I would say, in regard to this, If I could speak with Gellius before the public, I have no doubt but many, through the grace of God, would begin to see that it is not us who have a wrong understanding, but them; that they prejudge us, indiscreetly; remain outside of the church of Christ, from motives of pride; and not only despise us, according to the manner of the Pharisees, but also often deprive us of possessions and life, as may be witnessed in different localities. But we must suffer, bear, and console ourselves with the saying, "Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you," Matt. 5:11, 12.
In the eleventh place he writes, "They will probably say that if we would be the church of Christ, we must verify the saying of Christ; "The gates of hell shall not prevail against it;" and ask where our church has existed, inviolated by the devil, anti‑christ and heresies. He further writes, "Since the church, which is not limited to certain boundaries, but is scattered over the whole world, has this article of faith, "I believe in the holy, christian church, the communion of saints," "and that she will endure unto the end of the world, therefore we are forced to acknowledge, that God, true to his promise, saves his church, and has always saved her, although the old serpent, the devil, deceives her by the lusts of the flesh, the pomp of the world and by many sects; and, although she is combatted, persecuted and disturbed, by the potentates of the world, until she, inattentive to her cause, drowsy in her prayer, indifferent to the will of God, and ungrateful for the word of God, or, until found apostatical of Christ, so enrages God that he takes from her the light of his word, and lets her fall into weighty errors, and adhere to idolatry, 90adultery, whoredom, and other sins and disgraces and follow after them, so that the church in such case, almost destroyed and ruined, scarcely is worthy of the name."
Answer. I would beseech the diligent reader earnestly to observe how the words of Gellius sound, which I have here cited at length. He admits that the church, deceived and enchanted by the devil, the lusts of the flesh, the pomp, sects and potentates of tile world, has become drowsy, inattentive, ungrateful, and an apostate of Christ, has enraged God, and fallen into all manner of wickedness and sins; yet he claims that she remains the church of Christ, as if the church was inherited by one generation from another, and did not consist in faith, Spirit and power. I would not know what poorer excuse he could find. Therefore observe that which I write, and let it be unto you a certain rule, namely, where the Spirit, word, sacraments and life of Christ are found, that there the Nicene article comes in, "I believe in the holy christian church, the communion of saints, &c. On the other hand, where the Spirit, word, sacraments and life of Christ are not to be found, but where the spirit, doctrine, sacraments and life of anti‑christ are followed, there, also, is the church of anti‑christ, and not the church of Christ, although we might say a thousand times, "I believe in the holy christian church." For without, or against the Spirit, word, sacraments and life of Christ, there can never be a christian church, however much we may pervert the truth. The word stands immutable. "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God," 2 John, 9.
In the twelfth place he writes, "Because God, in his grace, has made an eternal covenant with his church, and has promised her that the gates of hell, although they may rend and weaken her, shall not thoroughly prevail against her, therefore he will, at all times, preserve a shadow of the evangelical doctrine and of his sacraments, upon which the church shall be upheld; and he will also preserve some members upon the true foundation, who will grow up amidst the thistles, thorns, wolves, bears and lions, and deliver them as in a violent hurricane, from the elements, as Noah was saved from the deluge."
Answer. Where they conform themselves to the Spirit, word, sacraments, ordinances, commands, prohibitions, usage and example of Christ, there the holy christian church is found, as has been heard, and there is also the promise that the gates of hell will not prevail against her. For although she grows as a rose amongst thorns, as he expresses himself, keeps herself amongst wolves, bears and lions, and as a ship cast about by wind and waves, she must suffer much tribulation, yet she cannot be capsized, that is, she cannot be turned from Christ (understand this to be the true christian church); for she is built upon a rock, Matt. 7:24.
That this is the truth, the Scriptures and their examples teach us on every hand; and we also have found it so by facts, within the last few years. For, however fiercely the lions, bears and wolves have roared, raved and torn, for the last few years, by their frightful mandates, apprehending, torturing and murdering; and, although the waves often roll up to the clouds, yet the manifested truth remains with the humble and pious children; and however sharply the thistles and thorns may sting, yet this noble and beautiful rose daily grows, and, praise be to God, increases in size and strength, whereby it is made manifest unto many reasonable persons, that God's promise to the church stands firm, and it is the miracle and power of the Most High; for neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate them from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord, Rom. 8:38, 39.
Yet this thoughtless man thinks that they are the true, christian church, and does not observe that the beforementioned thistles, thorns, wolves, bears and lions, by which the true church has been so much troubled, and still continues to be, are members of the very church which he claims were and yet are the true church of Christ. For they, during the last few centuries, have used one sacrament, and, unseparated, were greeted as the children of grace, and were admitted and accepted in the communion of these churches.
He, besides, also consoles the poor people that the Lord has, at all times, preserved a shadow of the evangelical doctrine and of his sacraments upon which to support his 91church; as if God was well pleased with such a dead shadow of false preaching and of infant baptism; and, as if the church of Christ, the bride of God and of the Lamb, could be supported by adulterated doctrines and unscriptural sacraments. O, dear Lord! How long shall such errors yet endure? Who cannot understand such palpable deceit? He must have an extremely obdurate and perverse heart, or he must be a very ignorant and blunt man, I think.
In the thirteenth place he produces two arguments whereby he means to prove that their church is the general church (as he calls it) wherewith God has so dealt. And in the first place writes, "in which church antichrist was seated; for, according to the prophecies of Paul, he had placed himself therein and exalted himself above God; and asserts that it is the true church to which God has given the promise, although she was dreadfully stained and miserably torn up. In our church the anti‑christ has been seated, and placed himself as a God, and has exalted himself above all that is of God and religion‑therefore our church is the true church and temple of God, to which the promise of God is given." "This argument he proves with these words: "The first proposition is true; for Paul calls the church in which the anti‑christ would place himself, the temple of God; the other is also too clear to be denied, from the prophecies of Paul and the teachings of experience. For in the churches which baptize infants, he, and all the violent tyrants have exercised their power and violence, and trampled under foot all religion and worship. If both propositions now are true, then it follows, also, that the conclusion is true; and shows the anabaptists, in what a fearful condition they are, since they have left us and our church."
Answer. By the side of this I will place my syllogism: Where true religion and worship, as required of the Scriptures, are trampled under foot, there is not the church of Christ. Anti‑christ has, Gellius testifies, trampled under foot the true religion and worship required by the Scriptures, in the church of which Gellius speaks; therefore, the beforementioned church is not the church of Christ. All Scriptures teach that my first proposition is true; for Moses says, "Whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he" (meaning Christ) "shall speak in my name, I will require it of him," Deut. 18:19. Christ says, "If ye continue" (mark, "continue"), "in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed," John 8:31. Again, Paul says, "If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed," Gal. 1:9. John, also, says, "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God," 2 John 1:9.
My second proposition, Gellius admits to be true; for he says, that anti‑christ has trampled religion and worship under his feet, as heard.
Since, then, that the first proposition can be substantiated by the Scriptures, and the second is acknowledged by Gellius to be right, therefore, my conclusion must also be right, namely, that the church to which he refers, is not the church of Christ. For she does not accept the word of Christ, but a strange gospel; and does not abide in the pure doctrine of his holy apostles; therefore they have not God in power, and are not the disciples of Christ; or else the cited sayings must be wrong and false.
As regards the first proposition of Gellius, Paul testifies in plain words, that it is false, for he says, "That day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition," 2 Thess. 2:3. Here Paul teaches in tolerably plain words that the falling away of faith would first come as was also the case here, 2 Thess. 2:3.
Since Paul openly testifies by the Spirit of God, that the falling away would come before the day of the Lord, and also shows through whom it would come, namely, through the man of sin (son of perdition); and since it is clearly visible that this son of perdition has placed himself in the temple of God, that is, in the hearts of man, or rather, in the stead of God in the beforementioned church, and has quite demolished and destroyed it, and through deceit has changed it, under the semblance of the name of Christ, from the doctrine and ordinances of God to his own doctrine and ordinances, therefore, I would leave the attentive reader to judge if this church, which is quite demolished and destroyed by him, can be called God's temple. If he judge that it cannot be so called, then he judges rightly; otherwise many passages of the Scriptures would be fallible and false; and, as a consequence, God and the devil, Christ and anti‑christ must have been seated in one temple, and reigned in one church. But, if they deny this, then I would again say that 92Luther and the learned have done wrong in bringing about such a disturbance, tribulation and misery in the world by their doctrine and change, since they, according to Gellius, still remained the church of Christ, although the anti‑christ had quite destroyed and demolished the true religion. Reader, reflect upon this, and judge whether I write the truth or not.
In his second proposition he judges himself; for he writes, that anti‑christ was seated in their church, which baptizes children; has placed himself therein as a God; trampled under foot the true religion and worship; he also acknowledges, above, under the head of the separation, that the papists are no christians; for he says, "that those who leave us would sooner become papists than christians again." Kind reader, observe closely what I write. Since it is manifest that the Roman anti‑christ has, for a number of years, reigned in peace in their church; has given them to drink from his cup of abominations; has destroyed the true religion, and re‑instated his abominations; and since he himself admits that the papists are no christians, therefore, it is certain and plain that their church was not, as he claims, the general christian church and temple of God, to which the promise of God was given. For it cannot be that they can be the disciples of anti‑christ and then yet remain the christian church and temple.
Now consider, if the pious, whom he calls anabaptists, are so much out of way, by renouncing all the anti‑christian abominations, false, condemned sects and churches; and if they place themselves in such a frightful position, as he sighingly complains, by humbly submitting themselves to the only, eternal Messiah, Christ Jesus, and by placing themselves as an example of all obedience and virtue, in their weakness, before all the world.
His second argument is this: "In and with all churches which teach the doctrine and faith of Christ Jesus; are not altogether fallen away; do not altogether reject and profane Christ and his holy gospel and which do not altogether trample upon the use of the holy sacraments and neglect them, as under the reign of Mahomet, there still remains the name of the holy church. In and with our church, which has the infant baptism as an apostolic ordinance, the doctrine and faith of Jesus Christ, as taught by the apostles, never was altogether fallen away, as it was with the Turks; although abominably adulterated and weakened by anti‑christ; therefore, the name of the church remains with our community and has true members in it."
Answer. If his first proposition was consistent and right, then it would also be consistent and right to say, The doctrine and faith never were entirely fallen away with the Arians, Circumcellians, Munsterians and other sects; the gospel was not altogether rejected and profaned, and the sacraments altogether trampled upon by them, therefore, the name of the church remains with them, and true members of the church are found among them. We are, therefore, also wrongfully called "devilish heretics, conspirers, and apostate anabaptists," by him, for we so highly prize the gospel and the sacraments of our Lord Jesus Christ, that we daily sacrifice our possessions and blood for their sake, as may be seen.
If he should say that the beforementioned sects did not act and teach in accordance with the Scriptures, and that they therefore were not in the communion of the christian church; then he judges himself still more markedly. For the papistic church to which he refers, did not do this; if they did rightly act and teach, then he very unjustly says that they are not christians, as has been heard that he did.
Again, by his writing, "There still remains the name of the holy church," he openly testifies that his assertion is without all foundation in the Scriptures; for he does not refer to the unadulterated doctrine, to the salutary use of the holy sacraments, nor to the pious, unblamable life, which should ever be found in the church of Christ; as if the name could keep the church in God and could bind it to the promise, without the Spirit, word, sacraments, faith and obedience of Christ. No, no, reader, no. "I know," says the First and the Last, "the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan," Rev. 2:9. If the name alone constituted the true church, then all the raving tyrants, enemies of christian truth, all murderers, perjurers, whoremongers, avaricious, pompous and unrighteous, would be members of the church of Christ, 93for they call themselves after the name of Christ. This is incontrovertible.
As to his second proposition, I would say in the first place, Since he says that their church has infant baptism, as an apostolic ordinance, that he thereby heaps open falsehood upon the holy apostles, the upright, pious testifiers of eternal truth; for he never can prove by a single word in the Scriptures, that they taught or practiced infant baptism, as has been sufficiently shown, above.
In the second place I would say, That the church to which he refers, was not only adulterated and weakened, as he calls it, but has become so estranged from God, that she has worshipped, honored and served wood, stone, gold, and silver gods, and, besides bread and wine; as has, alas, been seen these, many years, in all the temples and houses of worship, throughout Europe; and, as may yet, daily, be seen in many kingdoms, cities and towns. Yet, Gellius asserts that their church ever was the church of Christ. I have never heard more inconsistent reasoning. Therefore, dear reader, beware, and do not listen to the smooth talk of the learned, for they deceive you. But hearken unto him who says, "I am the light of the world; he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life," John 8:12, and then you will never be deceived.
Reader, understand what I mean; we do not dispute about whether or not there are some of the chosen one's of God, in the beforementioned churches; for this we, at all times, humbly leave to the just and gracious judgment of God, hoping there may be many thousands who are unknown to us, as they were to holy Elias; but our dispute is, in regard to what kind of Spirit, doctrine, sacraments, ordinances and life, Christ has commanded us to gather unto him an abiding church, and how we should maintain it in his ways.
Behold, reader, these are his most important arguments with which to maintain his assertion, "that their church is the true one," namely, because they sprang from the papists, and practice infant baptism. Just hear how strangely he writes. In my opinion, he pens all that comes in his mind, if it has but a little semblance, that it may tickle the ears of the thoughtless people, and console them in their impenitent, easy life. If these adduced assertions of his were true, then it could not be otherwise than that hitherto the church of Christ must have been the church of anti‑christ, or that of anti‑christ must have been the church of Christ; also, Christ and anti‑christ must have both reigned in one church; infant baptism must have been called apostolic, without the Scriptures, and the mere name constitutes the church of Christ; this, by the grace of God, no one can successfully rebut; let him garble and twist the matter as adroitly as he pleases.
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