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Chapter 18. Of the Notes by Which the True Kirk
is Discerned from the False
and Who Shall be Judge of the Doctrine

Because that Satan from the beginning has laboured to deck his pestilent synagogue with the title of the kirk of God, and has inflamed the hearts of cruel murderers to persecute, trouble, and molest the true kirk and members thereof ­ as Cain did Abel;121121Gen. 4:8. Ishmael, Isaac;122122Gen. 21:9. Esau, Jacob;123123Gen. 27:41. and the whole priesthood of the Jews, Christ Jesus himself, and his apostles after him;124124Matt. 23:34; John 15:18-20,24; 11:47,53; Acts 4:1-3; 5:17,etc. it is a thing most requisite that the true kirk be discerned from the filthy synagogue, by clear and perfect notes, lest we, being deceived, receive and embrace to our own condemnation the one for the other. The notes, signs, and assured tokens whereby the immaculate spouse of Christ Jesus is known from that horrible harlot, the kirk malignant; we affirm are neither antiquity, title usurped, lineal descent, place appointed, nor multitude of men approving an error ­ for Cain in age and title was preferred to Abel and Seth;125125Gen. 4:1. Jerusalem had prerogative above all places of the earth,126126Ps. 48:2-3; Matt. 5:35. where also were the priests lineally descended from Aaron; and greater multitude followed the scribes, Pharisees, and priests, than unfeignedly believed and approved Christ Jesus and his doctrine;127127John 12:42. and yet, as we suppose, no man (of whole judgment) will grant that any of the forenamed were the kirk of God.

The notes, therefore, of the true kirk of God we believe, confess, and avow to be: first, the true preaching of the word of God, into the which God has revealed himself to us, as the writings of the prophets and apostles do declare; secondly, the right administration of the sacraments of Christ Jesus, which must be annexed unto the word and promise of God, to seal and confirm the same in our hearts;128128Eph. 2:20; Acts 2:42; John 10:27; 18:37; 1 Cor. 1:13; Matt. 18:19-20; Mark 16:15-16; 1 Cor. 11:24-26; Rom. 4:11. last, ecclesiastical discipline uprightly ministered, as God's word prescribes, whereby vice is repressed, and virtue nourished.129129Matt. 18:15-18; 1 Cor. 5:4-5. Wheresoever then these former notes are seen, and of any time continue (be the number [of persons] never so few, about two or three) there, without all doubt, is the true kirk of Christ: who, according to his promise is in the midst of them:130130Matt. 18:19-20. not that universal [kirk] (of which we have before spoken) but particular; such as were in Corinth,1311311 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:2. Galatia,132132Gal. 1:2. Ephesus,133133Eph. 1:1; Acts 16:9-10; 18:1, etc.; 20:17, etc. and other places in which the ministry was planted by Paul, and were of himself named the kirks of God.

And such kirks we, the inhabitants of the realm of Scotland, professors of Christ Jesus, confess ourselves to have in our cities, towns, and places reformed; for the doctrine taught in our kirks is contained in the written word of God: to wit, in the books of the New and Old Testaments: in those books, we mean, which of the ancient have been reputed canonical, in the which we affirm that all things necessary to be believed for the salvation of mankind are sufficiently expressed.134134John 20:31; 2 Tim. 3:16-17. The interpretation whereof, we confess, neither appertains to private nor public person, neither yet to any kirk for any preeminence or prerogative, personal or local, which one has above another; but appertains to the Spirit of God, by the which also the scripture was written.1351352 Pet. 1:20-21.

When controversy then happens, for the right understanding of any place or sentence of scripture, or for the reformation of any abuse within the kirk of God, we ought not so much to look what men before us have said or done, as unto that which the Holy Ghost uniformly speaks within the body of the scriptures, and unto that which Christ Jesus himself did, and commanded to be done.136136John 5:39. For this is a thing universally granted, that the Spirit of God (which is the Spirit of unity) is in nothing contrary unto himself.137137Eph. 4:3-4. If then the interpretation, determination, or sentence of any doctor, kirk, or council, repugn to the plain word of God written in any other place of scripture, it is a thing most certain, that there is not the true understanding and meaning of the Holy Ghost, supposing that councils, realms, and nations have approved and received the same. For we dare not receive and admit any interpretation which directly repugns to any principal point of our faith, or to any other plain text of scripture, or yet unto the rule of charity.

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