Imatges de pÓgina

being “like-minded, and having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind,” (t) he immediately adds, that this should be in Christ, or according to Christ; signifying that all union which is formed without the word of the Lord, is a faction of the impious, and not an association of the faithful.

VI. Cyprian, also, after the example of Paul, deduces the origin of all ecclesiastical concord from the supreme bishoprick of Christ. He afterwards subjoins; “There is but one Church, which is widely extended into a multitude by the offspring of its fertility; just as there are many rays of the sun, but the light is one; and a tree has many branches, but only one trunk, fixed on a firm root. And when many rivers issue from one source, though by its exuberant abundance the stream is multiplied into numerous currents, yet the unity of the fountain still remains. Separate a ray from the body of the sun, and its unity sustains no division. Break off a branch from a tree, and the broken branch can never bud. Cut off a river from the source, and it immediately dries up. So the Church, overspread with the light of the Lord, is extended over the whole world; yet it is one and the same light which is universally diffused." No representation could be more elegant to express that inseparable connection which subsists between all the members of Christ. We see how he continually recals us to the fountain-head. Therefore, he pronounces the origin of heresies and schisms to be, that men neither return to the source of truth, nor seek the Head, nor attend to the doctrine of the heavenly Master. Now let the Romanists exclaim that we are heretics, because we have withdrawn from their church; while the sole cause of our secession has been, that theirs cannot possibly be the pure profession of the truth. I say nothing of their having expelled us with anathemas and execrations. But this reason is more than sufficient for our exculpation, unless they are determined to pronounce sentence of schism also against the apostles, with whom we have but one common cause. Christ, I say, foretold to his apos

(+) Phil. č. 2, 5.

tles, that for his name's sake they should be cast out of the synagogues. (0) Now those synagogues, of which he spoke, were then accounted legitimate Churches. Since it is evident then that we have been cast out, and we are prepared to prove that this has been done for the name of Christ, it is necessary to inquire into the cause, before any thing be determined respecting us, either on one side or the other. But this point I readily relinquish to them. It is sufficient for me that it was necessary for us to withdraw from them, in order to approach to Christ.

VII. But it will be still more evident, in what estimation we ought to hold all the Churches who have submitted to the tyranny of the Roman Pontiff, if we compare them with the ancient Church of Israel, as delineated by the prophets, There was a true Church among the Jews and the Israelites, while they continued to observe the laws of the covenant; because they then obtained from the favour of God, those things which constitute a Church. They had the doctrine of truth in the law; the ministry of it was committed to the priests and prophets; they were initiated into the Church by the sign of circumcision; and were exercised in other sacraments for the confirmation of their faith. There is no doubt that the commendations, with which the Lord has honoured his Church, truly belonged to their society. But after they deserted the law of the Lord, and fell into idolatry and superstition, they partly lost this privilege. For who would dare to refuse the title of a Church to those among whom God deposited the preaching of his word, and the observance of his mysteries? On the other hand, who would dare to give the appellation of a Church, without any exception, to that society, where the word of God is openly and fearlessly trampled under foot; where its ministry, the principal sinew, and even the soul of the Church, is discontinued?

VIII. What, then, it will be said, was there no particle of a Church left among the Jews from the moment of their defection to idolatry? The answer is easy. In the first place, I observe, that in this defection, there were several degrees.

(v) John xvi. 2.

. Nor will we maintain the fall of Judah, and that of Israel, to have been exactly the same, at the time when they both began to depart from the pure worship of God. When Jeroboam made the calves in opposition to the express prohibition of God, and dedicated a place which it was not lawful to use for the oblation of sacrifices, in this case religion was totally corrupted. The Jews polluted themselves with practical impieties and superstitions, before they made any unlawful changes in the external forms of religion. For though they generally adopted many corrupt ceremonies in the time of Rehoboam, yet as the doctrine of the law, and the priesthood, and the rites which God had instituted, were still preserved at Jerusalem, the faithful had in that kingdom a tolerable form of a Church. Among the Israelites, there was no reformation down to the reign of Ahab, and in his time there was an alteration for the worse. Of the succeeding kings, even to the subversion of the kingdom, some resembled Ahab, and others, who would be a little better, followed the example of Jeroboam: but all, without exception, were impious idolaters. In Judah there were various changes; some kings corrupted the worship of God with false and groundless superstitions, and others restored religion from its abuses; till at length, the priests themselves polluted the temple of God with idolatrous and abominable rites.

IX. Now, however the Papists may extenuate their vices, let them deny, if they can, that the state of religion is as corrupt and depraved among them as it was in the kingdom of Israel, in the time of Jeroboam. But they practise a grosser idolatry, and their doctrine is equally, if not more, impure. God is my witness, and all men who are endued with moderate judgment, and the fact itself declares, that in this I am guilty of no exaggeration. Now when they try to drive us into the communion of their Church, they require two things of us; first, that we should communicate in all their prayers, sacraments, and ceremonies; secondly, that whatever honour, power, and jurisdiction, Christ has conferred upon his Church, we should attribute the same to theirs. With respect to the first point, I confess that the prophets who were at JerusaLem, when the state of affairs there was very corrupt, neither VOL. III.


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offered up sacrifices apart from others, nor held separate assemblies for prayer. For they had the express command of God, that they were to assemble in the temple of Solomon; and they knew that the Levitical priests, because they had been ordained by the Lord as ministers of the sacrifices, and had not been deposed, however unworthy they might be of such honour, still retained the lawful possession of that place. But, what is the principal point of the whole controversy, they were not constrained to join in any superstitious worship; on the contrary, they engaged in no service that was not of Divine institution. But what resemblance is there to this among the Papists? we can scarcely assemble with them on a single occasion, without polluting ourselves with open idolatry. The principal bond of their communion is certainly the mass, which we abominate as the greatest sacrilege. Whether we are right or wrong in this, will be seen in another place. It is sufficient at present, to shew that in this respect, our case is different from that of the prophets, who though they were present at the sacrifices of impious persons, were never compelled to use, or to witness, any ceremonies but those which God had instituted. And if we wish to have an example entirely similar, we must take it from the kingdom of Israel. According to the regulations of Jeroboam, circumcision continued, sacrifices were offered, the law was regarded as sacred, the people invoked the same God whom their fathers had worshipped; yet, on account of novel ceremonies invented in opposition to the Divine prohibitions, God disapproved and condemned all that was done there. Shew me a single prophet, or any pious man, who even once worshipped or offered sacrifice at Bethel. They knew that they could not do it without contaminating themselves with sacrilege. We have established this point therefore, that the attachment of pious persons to the communion of the Church ought not to be carried to such an extent, as to oblige them to remain in it, if it degenerated into profane and impure rites.

X. But against their second requisition, we contend upon still stronger ground. For if the Church be held in such consideration that we are required to revere its judgment, to obey its authority, to receive its admonitions, to fall under its

censures, and scrupulously and uniformly to adhere to its communion, we cannot allow their claim to the character of the Church, without necessarily obliging ourselves to subjection and obedience. Yet we readily concede to them what the prophets conceded to the Jews and Israelites of their time, when things among them were in a similar, or even in a better state. But we see how they frequently exclaim, that their assemblies were iniquitous meetings, (w) a concurrence in which were as criminal as a renunciation of God. And certainly if those assemblies were Churches, it follows that Elijah, Micaiah, and others in Israel, were strangers to the Church of God; and the same would be true of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, and others of that description in Judah, whom the false prophets, priests, and people of their day, hated and execrated as if they had been worse than any heathens. If such assemblies were Churches, then the Church is not the pillar of truth, but a foundation of falsehood, not the sanctuary of the living God, but a receptacle of idols. They found themselves under a necessity therefore of withdrawing from all connection with those assemblies, which were nothing but a conspiracy against God. For the same reason, if any one acknowledges the assemblies of the present day, which are contaminated with idolatry, superstition, and false doctrine, as true Churches, in full communion with which a Christian man ought to continue, and in whose doctrine he ought to coincide, this will be a great error. For if they be Churches, they possess the power of the keys; but the keys are inseparably connected with the word, which is exploded from among them. Again, if they be Churches, that promise of Christ must be applicable to them; “Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven.” (x) On the contrary, all who sincerely profess themselves to be the servants of Christ they expel from their communion. Either therefore the promise of Christ must be vain, or in this respect they are not Churches. Lastly, instead of the ministry of the word, they have schools of impiety, and a gulf of every

(2) Isaiah i. 13, 14,

(2) Matt. xviii. 18.

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