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III. Concerning the forgiveness of sins, Q. 56.
J. With respect to the faith of Christians concerning the church we will inquire 1. What the church is, 2. How we believe this church,
1. In order that we may learn what the church is, we must know that the word church is properly a Greek word, and that it signifies the Lord's, as this word is used of the Lord's supper, and the Lord's day, 1 Cor. xi. 20. Rev. i. 10. And this word was also used thus by the Christians of old to denote the houses of worship, which they set apart for the worship of the Lord; but when we now make use of the word church, we understand by it not only the ordinary houses of worship, but particularly the congregation of the Lord. This is called by the Hebrews gnedah, Jer. xxx, 20, and kahal. The first word is sometimes translated by the Greeks "Synagogue," as we see in the septuagint, Joshua xxii. 16, which word is commonly used by the writers of the New Testament to denote the Jewish houses of worship, which they had besides the temple; and sometimes also the assemblies of Christians, who were of Jewish extraction, as we may see, Heb x. 25 James ii. 2. But the Hebrews most commonly used the word kahal, as the Greeks did the word ekklesia, by which they translate that Hebrew word as we may see, Psalm xxii. 22, 25, which word, derived from ek, and kaleo, signifieth an assembly of men called from among others, and together. And so this word is used of the church and congregation of the Lord, which is called and gathered together by his word and Spirit, Matt. xvi. 18, either with respect to her internal state; and so believers only are called "the church, which God hath purchased with his blood,” Acts xx. 28. Eph. v. 25, 26. or with respect to her external state, in the publick administration of the word and sacraments, to which hypocrites also join themselves. This, considered by itself, and without respect to the leaders, is sometimes called "the church of the living God,” 1 Tim. iii. 15, as the leaders also, exclusively of the common members, are sometimes called the church, Matt. xviii. 17, "Tell it to the church." This word is moreover used to denote the body of believers, in this or that place; so the apostles wrote their epistleş to particular churches, as John to the seven churches of Asia, Rev. i. 11. It is also used to denate the catholic (or universal) church of all times, nations, and places, of which the particular churches are particular members. "God gave him," namely Christ, "to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, and the fulness of him that filleth all in all," Eph. i. 22, 23. And in this sense the church is spoken of in the creed, and in this Lord's day. And thus
his church is also called paneguris, "the general assembly," Heb. ii. 23, a word which was used to denote the body of men, who came together to the publick shows. And truly the most glorious publick show is exhibited in the church: "By the church is made nown to the principalities and powers in heavenly places the maniold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose, which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord," Eph. iii. 10, 11. See also, vrs. 18, 19.
Having explained thus previously the word church, we will consider more particularly, A. The nature of the church. B. The epithets of it, holy, catholic, and Christian, C. The different situations of it, and D, the manner in which it becomes a church, which the nstructor explains in the fifty fourth question.
A. To the nature of the church pertains, that it is the body of Christ, consisting of members, head, and the union of both.
1. The members of the church are not the angels; for although "Christ hath subjected the angels to himself," as Peter speaks, I Peter iii. 22, and though believers "are come to an innumerable company of angels," Heb. xii. 22, and they are" fellow servants" of the preachers of the word, Rev. xxii. 9, and "are sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation," Heb. i. 13, nevertheless the privileges and benefits of the church belong not to them. On this account also the reprobates, who join themselves in an outward manner to the church, are not true members of the church, which the Papists nevertheless imagine, because they will have that outward multitudes and splendour are marks of the true church, and that the Pope of Rome is the publick head of the church. Reprobates, who are outwardly in the church, are not in it as wheat, but as "chaff, which shall be burned with unquenchable fire," Matt. iii. 12, as "evil fishes, which must be cast away," Matt. xiii. 48, as "vessels of dishonour," 2 Tim. ii. 20. They may join themselves to the church, but they are not of the church, 1 John ii 19. "For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter, whose praise is not of men, but of God," Rom. ii. 28, 29. See also what is said, Rom ix. 6, 7, 8 And therefore elect believers only are true members of the church: "Those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints," as the apostle speaks in the text; "the called, the chosen and faithful, who are with Christ," Rev. xvii. 14, of whom Christ is "the Head and Saviour," to whom they "are subject; those whom Christ loveth, for whom he gave himself,
whom he sanctifieth, and presents to himself as glorious," Eph. v. 23-27, for the church is "his body," Eph. i. 23, "his bride," Res. xxii. 17, "his sheep,” x. 26-28.
2. Christ alone is the head of the church; for his headship over the church is represented as the same with his sitting at the right hand of God, and with his universal lordship over all things, as Part explains it, Eph. i. 20-23. And it therefore denotes (a) his dominion over the church, he is therefore called the Lord, Shepherd, King, Bridegroom and Husband of the church, (b) his glory and excel'lency above all that is glorious, (c) his union with the true members, and also (d) his influencing of all his members.
Therefore Peter is not the visible head of the church, much less is the Pope of Rome; for (a) then there would be two heads of one body, and the church would thus be a monster. (b) Such a glory belongs not to any creature, neither is any creature capable of exerting it; for it cannot influence the members. (c) Peter refused every kind of headship, and forbade others to assume it. See this 1 Peter v. 1, 2, 3. (d) if it were even so, that Peter was the head of the church, it would not follow therefrom that the Pope is the head, for he hath neither the doctrine, nor the life of Peter. (e) The Pope by arrogating this honour to himself, evinceth that he is "the man of sin, the son of perdition, who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, and that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God," 2 Thess. ii. 3, 4.
Therefore Christ alone is the head of his church; and he was the head under the Old Testament, as he is now under the New; for the church gloried in him as such, Isaiah xxxiii. 22, "The Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king, he will save us." Therefore it must appear exceedingly strange to us, the certain persons will have, that the church of the Old Testament was in bondage under the elders, the priests and prophets, as other Lords, associates of Christ, Gods on earth, and Gods so called. What is this but saying that there were many heads of the church under the Old Testament, contrary to its nature.'
By these persons the author understands the Coeceians, a party more especially in the Reformed churches of Holland, Switzerland and Germany, so called from their founder John Coceeius, a native of Bremen, and profes sor of theology in the university of Leyden, a man of eminent piety, but of a luxuriant fancy. They entertained several singular opinions in theology, but did not deviate from the stand..ds of the Reformed church.
3. To the nature of the church pertains also the union of the members with the Head, and in the Head with one another; but as this constitutes the nature of the communion of saints, we will defer speaking of this matter, until we treat of that privilege.
B. This church is called "a holy, catholic, Christian" church. The church is (a) “a holy" church; for she is washed, and sanctified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God," 1 Cor. vi. 11. she is separated from the world, dedicated to God, and lives holily according to the will of God; and the Saviour “ gave himself, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works,” Titus ii. 14. (b) The church is also "catholic," or universal. This applies not to. the church of Rome, as though it were her peculiar privilege, and thus a title of honour, and an evidence that the true church is to be found with the Papists; for Roman Catholic is as great a contradiction as particular universal; the church of Sardis "had the name that she lived, and she was dead," Rev. iii. 1. In the church of Philadelphia there were "those who said that they were Jews, and were not, but lied," Rev. iii. 9. Thus also the Romish church saith that she is catholic, or universal, but she lies; for she hath apostatized from the doctrine of the universal church, and is become antichristian, as may be seen from a comparison of the Romish church with the word of God: but the church is called catholic, or universal, because it comprehendeth all the believers of all times and places; hath one universal doctrine in all times and places, and partakes of all the graces and privileges of all the true members: "There is one body, and one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in all," Eph. iv. 4, 5, 6. But the church of the New Testament is especially universal, because it is not, like the Old Testament church, limited to one nation and country, but is redeemed to God by Christ with his blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation," Rev. v. 9. This church, called and gathered from Jews and Gentiles, is named "the general assembly," Heb. xii. 22. Therefore she is also surnamed (c) Christian, after Christ her Head, as hath been shown more particularly upon the thirtysecond question.
C. This church may be considered in different situations, and indeed as (a) militant and triumphant. The church militant is here on earth, and hath many, exceedingly mighty, crafty, and unwearied enemies; the devil, the world, and her own flesh; but she will overcome them, and triumph in heaven. That great champion Paul,
having respect to this, said, "I have fought a good fight, I finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is l up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righte Judge shall give me in that day and not to me only, but to all then also that love his appearing," 2 Tim. iv, 7, 8. (b) The church m tant is invisible and visible. The church is invisible, with respect her true members, whose inward grace of the heart God alone is fallibly knoweth: "The Lord knoweth them that are his," 2 Timii. 19. See also Rom. ii. 28, 29, Coll. iii. 3. The church is visible. with respect to her publick profession, worship, and holy conversa tion. And so the church is called "the light of the world, a city on a hill which cannot be hid," Matt. v. 14. (c) This visible church is sometimes manifest, when she enjoys great glory and prosperity in the world, and is not persecuted; when "kings are her nursing fathers, and queens her nursing mothers," Isaiah xlix. 23. See this also, Rev. xi. 15. But the church is also sometimes hidden, when she is compelled, on account of the general prevalence of errours in doctrine and practice, and on account of grievous persecutions, to conceal herself, and "flee into the wilderness," Rev. xi. 6, so tha even a prophet, like Elijah, thinks that he only is left," although. the Lord God "reserves seven thousand besides, a remnant according to the election of grace," who are not carried away with the flood of seductions, as we may see, 1 Kings xix 14, 18, Rom. xi. 1-5. Therefore it is no mark of the true church, that she enjoys always a great outward splendor in the world, as the Papists fancy; this is rather a mark of the whore of Babylon, "who saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow," Rev. xviii. 7. When we read so frequently in the Old Testament concerning the splendor of the New Testament church, this doth not indicate that she should always possess such glory, but we must understand it sometimes also of her inward and spiritual state; therefore none nceds to ask us, where our church was before the time of Luther and Calvin, since, according to the prophecy, she was constrained to
flee into the wilderness for a thousand, two hundred and threescore days," Rev. xii. 5. (d) The church is also considered as representative, being the leaders, who represent the whole church, and are therefore called the church itself, Matt. xviii. 17, and also "th presbytery," 1 Tim iv. 14. The church is also called the represented, which is the body of believers, who are represented by their leiders; as these are also called the church, Acts xx. 28. 1 Tim tii. 15.
D. In order that we may learn what the church is, we must know