Imatges de pÓgina
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their sole object is to promote their own interest by every method in their power, without any regard to truth, I shall content myself with making a few observations, with which good men, and inquirers after truth, may be able to answer their cavils. In the first place, I ask them, why they allege nothing respecting Africa and Egypt, and all Asia. It is because in all those countries there has been a failure of this sacred succession of bishops, by virtue of which they boast that the Church has been preserved among them. They come to this point therefore, that they have the true Church, because from its commencement it has never been destitute of bishops, for that some have been succeeded by others in an uninterrupted series. But what if I oppose them with the example of Greece? I ask them again therefore, why they assert that the Church has been lost among the Greeks, among whom there has never been any interruption of that succession of bishops, which they consider as the sole guard and preservative of the Church? They call the Greeks schismatics. For what reason? Because it is pretended, they have lost their privilege by revolting from the Apostolical sce. But do not they much more deserve to lose it, who have revolted from Christ himself? It follows therefore, that their plea of uninterrupted succession is a vain pretence, unless the truth of Christ, which was transmitted from the fathers, be permanently retained pure and uncorrupted by their posterity.

III. The pretensions of the Romanists therefore, in the present day, are no other than those which appear to have been formerly set up by the Jews, when they were reproved by the prophets of the Lord for blindness, impiety, and idolatry. For as the Jews boasted of the temple, the ceremonies and the priesthood, in which things they firmly believed the Church to consist; so, instead of the Church, the Papists produce certain external forms, which are often at a great distance from the Church, and are not at all necessary to its existence. Wherefore we need no other argument to refute them, than that which was urged by Jeremiah against that foolish confidence of the Jews; “ Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the Lord, the temple of the

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Lord, the temple of the Lord, are these." (k) For the Lord acknowledges no place as his temple, where his word is not heard and devoutly observed. So, though the glory of God resided between the cherubim in the sanctuary, and he had promised his people that he would make it his permanent seat; yet when the priests had corrupted his worship by perverse superstitions, he departed, and left the place without any sanctity. If that temple, which appeared to be consecrated to the perpetual residence of God, could be forsaken and desecrated by him, there can be no reason for their pretending that God is so attached to persons or places, or confined to external observances, as to be constrained to remain among those who have nothing but the name and appearance of the Church. And this is the argument which is maintained by Paul in the Epistle to the Romans, from the ninth chapter to the eleventh. For it had violently disturbed weak consciences, to observe that while the Jews appeared to be the people of God, they not only rejected but also persecuted the doctrine of the Gospel. Therefore after having discussed that doctrine, he removes this difficulty; and denies the claim of those Jews, who were enemies of the truth, to be considered as the Church, though in other respects they wanted nothing that could be requisite to its external form. And the only reason for this denial was, because they would not receive Christ. He speaks rather more explicitly in the Epistle to the Galatians, (l) where, in a comparison between Ishmael and Isaac, he represents many as occupying a place in the Church, who have no right to the inheritance, because they are not the first-born of a free mother. Hence he proceeds to a contrast of the two Jerusalems, because as the law was given on Mount Sinai, but the Gospel came forth from Jerusalem, so many who have been born and educated in bondage, confidently boast of being the children of God and of the Church, and though they are themselves a spurious offspring, look down with contempt on his genuine and legitimate children. But as for us, on the contrary, who have once heard it proclaimed from heaven, “ Cast out the bondwoman and her son," let us confide in this invio(4) Jer. vii. 4.

(1) Gal. iv.

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repugnant to the doctrine which had been constantly and unanimously maintained even from the days of the Apostles. They will gain nothing, therefore, by persisting to disguise themselves under the name of the Church. The name we regard with becoming reverence; but when they come to the definition, they are miserably embarrassed, for they substitute an execrable harlot in the place of the holy spouse of Christ. That we may not be deceived by such a substitution, beside other admonitions, let us remember this of Augustine: for, speaking of the Church, he says, “It is sometimes obscured and beclouded by a multitude of scandals; sometimes it appears quiet and unmolested in a season of tranquillity, and is sometimes disturbed and overwhelmed with the waves of tribulations and temptations.” He produces examples, that those who were its firmest pillars, have either undauntedly suffered banishment on account of the faith, or secluded themselves from all society.

IV. In the same manner, the Romanists in the present day harass us, and terrify ignorant persons with the name of the Church, though there are no greater enemies to Christ than themselves. Although they may pretend therefore to the temple, the priesthood, and other similar forms, this vain glitter which dazzles the eyes of the simple, ought by no means to induce us to admit the existence of a Church, where we cannot discover the word of God. For this is the perpetual mark by which our Lord has characterised his people; “Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice." ( And, “I am the good Shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine." "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” He had just before said; “The sheep follow their shepherd: for they know his voice: and a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him, for they know not the voice of strangers." (0) Why then do we wilfully run into error in forming a judg. ment of the Church, since Christ has designated it by an unequivocal character, that wherever it is discovered, it infallibly assures us of the existence of a Church, and wher

() John xviii. 37.

(p) John x. 4, 5, 14, 27.

ever it is wanting, there is no real evidence of a Church left. For Paul declares the Church to be founded, not upon the opinions of men, not upon the priesthood, but upon the doctrine of the apostles and prophets." (9) And Jerusalem is to be distinguished from Babylon, the Church of Christ from the synagogue of Satan, by this difference, by which"Christ has discriminated them from each other: “He that is of God, heareth God's words; ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.” (r) In fine, as the Church is the kingdom of Christ, and he reigns only by his word, can any person doubt the falsehood of those pretensions, which represent the kingdom of Christ as destitute of his sceptre, that is, of his holy word?

V. With respect to the charge which they bring against us of heresy and schism, because we preach a different doctrine from theirs, and submit not to their laws, and hold se. parate assemblies for prayers, for baptism, for the administration of the Lord's Supper, and other sacred exercises; it is indeed a most heavy accusation, but such as by no means requires a long or laborious defence. The appellations of heretics and schismatics are applied to persons who cause dissention, and destroy the communion of the Church. Now this communion is preserved by two bonds; agreement in sound doctrine, and brotherly love. Between heretics and schismatics, therefore, Augustine makes the following distinction; that the former corrupt the purity of the faith by false doctrines, and that the latter break the bond of affection, sometimes even while they retain the same faith. But it is also to be remarked, that this union of affection is de." pendent on the unity of faith, as its foundation, end, and rule. Let us remember, therefore, that whenever the unity of the Church is enjoined upon us in the Scripture, it is required, that while our minds hold the same doctrines in Christ, our wills should likewise be united in mutual benevolence in Christ. Therefore, Paul, when he exhorts us to it, assumes as a foundation, that there is “one Lord, one faith, and one baptism.” () And when he inculcates our

(9) Ephes. ii. 20.

(r) John viii. 47.

(s) Ephes. iv. 5.

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