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lem, mount Zion, the Daughter of God, the darling, spouse, and body of Jesus, his dove, his fair one and undefiled: she alone is the object and end of all the blessed favours of God:" The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Ghost is with her," 2 Cor. xiii. 13. God elected her from eternity, and gives her his Son and Spirit. He enters into an everlasting covenant of grace with her, and gives her all the sure mercies of that covenant: he regenerates, calls, justifies, sanctifies, seals, preserves, leads, comforts and saves her, We may see what glorious things are spoken of this city of God, Psalm xlvit xlviii lxxxvii. cxxii. cxxxiii. and in the Song of Solomon. We must join ourselves to the true church, if we will be saved, Acts ii. 47. All who are called Christians confess one holy, catholic, Christian church: we must therefore inquire where the true church is to be found. So the spouse did, when she said to her bridegroom, Song i. 7. "Tell me where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon: for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions?
It is therefore a soul ruining madness to hold with the atheists, that all the glorious things which are spoken of the church of God are trifles; or, from selfwill, or because we are offended at the multitude of differences, to remain in a state of separation from others, as if we could serve God alone and apart from others, as well as with and in society: for " he who is not with Jesus" and his people, "is against him; and he who gathereth not with him scattereth abroad," Math. xii. 30. It is also folly to run after every leader, and to think that we can serve God sincerely, and so be saved in every denomination; for there is neither holiness nor salvation out of the true church of God, and he who is out of the church of God must be considered as "a heathen man, and a publican," Math. xviii. 16. We must disapprove also of the conduct of those, who only suppose, without inquiry, and without an actual persuasion of their minds, that they are in the true church and have the pure doctrine of faith. The common people among the papists act thus by the advice of their teachers, when they assent to the doctrine of the Romish church with an implicit faith, and do not examine the matter itself; they may not indeed read the divine revelation, the priest becomes surety for the souls of his people, and he swears that he teaches the truth. But the papists are not the only persons who act thus, but I conceive that many, who recede from the papists do also conduct in this manner, when they say that religion consists only in two articles, to wit, a belief of the promises, and obedience to the commands, to which
others for decency's sake, add a becoming reverence for the holy scriptures: and they can therefore tolerate every errour: when a person only holds that Jesus is the Messiah, and is no idolator, they will salute him as their brother.
But the Reformed teach altogether differently from this: they require that all men should, like the Bereans, search the scripture daily, whether the things, which their pastors teach them, be agreeable to the word of God; they enjoin upon every one to live by his own faith, and not by the faith of his teachers; and therefore certain marks, which are taken only from the Bible, are proposed to him by our people, that he may see for himself, whether he be in that church, which is described in the book of God, as his beloved people. But what a listlesness hath seized even upon many of God's people, that they do not so much as inquire, but suppose in a careless manner; that they are in the true church: this matter, they think, is too high for them; they conceive that their parents, who procured their incorporation into this church and educated them in it, knew what they were about, and they think that their ministers are too wise, and too pious to mislead them. Is this thy conduct also, reader? hast thou then a better proof and ground for thy faith than a heathen, Jew, Turk or Papist, and wouldest thou not be one of them, as thou art now one of us, if thou wert only educated among them? and if a persecution should arise against us, and thou shouldest be obliged to suffer reproach, pain, and shame for the doctrine of our church, wouldest thou then indeed have a single reason, why thou wouldest not forsake us, and join thyself to our adversaries?
Perhaps thou art amazed at these expressions, and thinkest, ought I then to doubt whether I am in the true church, and whether thou teachest me the truth? what will I then do with this book of thine? But hold, my friend, compose thyself a little. Art thou persuaded in thy mind, and assured upon good grounds, that the doctrine of our church is the pure doctrine of God's word, far be it from me, that I should lend my tongue and pen to the devil, to rob thee of thy sure foundation, and cause thee to stagger in thy faith. But dost thou barely suppose this by an implicit faith, I would then only convince thee of thy vanity and carelessness with respect to this matter, which is of so great consequence, that thou mayest be earnestly desirous to seek for solid grounds and certain evidences for thyself, upon which thou mayest settle thy soul in peace. The righteous only is of the household of God, and he must live by his own faith. The lame and the blind are hated by the soul of the true David; the lame and the blind shall not come into his house. We wish not that thou
shouldest suspect our church and doctrine of falsehood and impurity; for we are perfectly persuaded of her truth and purity; but we only condemn thine implicit faith, by which thou simply supposest, without evidence, that thou art in the true church: and we endeavour to urge thee to seek a well grounded faith; for an implicit faith is no faith, but only a vague and idle supposition, which hath no influence at all upon the mind.
But what proof can there be offered, by which we may learn what people are the church of God, and profess his truth, and worship him in a manner that is acceptable to him? We judge in the first place that the heathens manifest that God doth not acknowledge them to be his people. Their erroneous opinions concerning the God-head, their inventing of abominable gods, who were the off spring of whoredom, and practised the most shameful lewdness, envy, and revenge; yea, even such to whom the most vicious, filthy and hateful passions were dedicated: the inhuman barbarities, unnatural practices, and other wicked works of the heathens, (see Rom. i. 22, 23.) evidence that they suppress the truth in unrighteousness, that they extinguish the light of nature, and have forsak en the pure tradition of their father Noah. It was thus with the heathens of old, and it is thus still with those, who have either never heard of the gospel, or reject it.
Are not the heathens the people of God, some may perhaps think that the Jews are. It is true, the Lord God formerly established. his covenant with Abraham and his seed, and promised that he would be a God to them, and that they should be his people, Gen xvii. 78. "When Israel went out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language, then Judah became his sanctuary, and Israel his dominion." Psalm cxiv. 1, 2. see Exod. xix. and xx. But we inquire not concerning the ancient Jews, but the modern. For although they are Abraham's seed after the flesh, they are nevertheless not after the promise; for they have rejected and corrupted the oracles of God, which were committed to them. It is true, the modern Jews are very attentive to letters, they have preserved the ancient book of God faithfully, and have transmitted it to us entire: but they gnaw only the outward shell of it, and they reject the kernel, the pith, the marrow, and true sense of it. They have darkened the sense of the divine word by their oral law, the traditions of the elders, the commandments and fables of men, sec Isaiah xxix. 10-13. The promised Messiah, the expectation of their fathers, they have rejected and slain: they have set up their own righteousness in opposition to the righteousness of God. see Rom
ix. 31, 32, 33. x. 2, 3. And how do they perform their religious service? is it not only a profane and idle bawling? we perceive not the least reverence, attention, or devotion among them in their synagogues. Their eyes declare their blindness, and hardness, they are famous throughout the world for their injustice, their griping usury and deceit, and yet they will not return. They deceive themselves with vain imaginations, thinking and resting on it, that Abraham is their father; but as they have apostatised from his faith, and do not perform his works, they manifest that they are born after the flesh, and that they are children of the servile covenant of works, and have therefore been cast out of the family of Abraham, like children of Hagar and Ishmael. See Gal. iv. 21-30. compared with Gen. xxi. 9, 10. It is therefore evident, that the present Jews are not the people of God, but are rejected by the God of their fathers: "Ye are not my people, neither will I be your God," thus the Lord spake of old to this people, Hosea. i. 9. "He hath cut his staff beauty asunder, that he might break his covenant, which he had made with alltidsople," Zech. xi. 10. And they will remain in their forsaken until the Lord fulfil his good word, which he hath spoken cdnow. Ing them, and receive them again. See Hosea. iii. 4, 5. Rom. xi. 45, 32. They cannot endure that the heathen should inherit their promises. Hear what Paul saith of them with truth, 1 Thess. ii. 15, 16. " They have killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men: forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles, that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway; for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost."
Are not the Jews the people of God, much less are the Mahome tans; for their Alcoran, (or religious and canonical book) composed by Mahomet, assisted by a Nestorian monk, with others of his party, and certain Jews, was carelessly compiled from certain doctrines of the Bible, inserted without order and method, and from certain heathenish traditions, and many trifles, invented by the compilers. Many of their doctrines are ridiculous; their ceremonies are superstitious; many of those among them, whom they call spiritual, live like beasts, and the whole is calculated to flatter the lusts of the flesh: and they have but few things that can satisfy the reasonable soul. The nations were compelled by violence to accept of their religion, it is propagated by cruelty, and maintained by the sword. How can this people be the people of God? They are also selfcondemned; for they will not be questioned concerning their doctrines; whoever disputes about them must be put to death: "For every one that doth
evil hateth the light, neither cometh he to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved," John iii. 20.
Doth not the church of God exist among the heathens, nor among the Jews, nor Mahometans, we must then seek her among the Christians, with whom we shall also find her. In order to prove this, it would be necessary to demonstrate the truth of the Christian religion, especially with respect to those common doctrines, which are received, by all who are called Christians: for instance, this one article, to wit, that Jesus, the son of Mary, is the true Messiah. We might demonstrate this either a priori, from Moses and the prophets, to whom Jesus and the apostles appealed; or a posteriori, from Jesus and his apostles, who confirmed the doctrine of Moses and of the prophets. We could prove this abundantly from the resurrection of Jesus, as we have shewn on the seventeenth Lord's Day. Aftre we had thus established the truth of the Christian religion, we might also demonstrate the divinity of it by many arguments, but especially by the numerous prophecies, which have been fulfilled in all their circumstances, and by the many miracles, with the Lord hath sealed and confirmed the word, as his own. Butwall not be proper to enlarge much on these particulars, le sould extend our address to too great a length. We may find ñese things sufficiently treated of by many of our divines.
Although this general acknowledgement of the Messiahship of Jesus is true and divine, nevertheless the Christian world is divided into so many churches and different denominations, that they cannot all and each of them in particular be the true church of God. For all the members of the true church must, with respect to the fundamental points of the faith, "avoid schisms, and they must be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment; they must be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind," 1 Cor. i. 10. Philip. ii. 2. But the Christian world is at present so divided, as it was also anciently, with respect to the fundamental points of doctrine and practice, that what is denied and condemned by one, is affirmed by another: what one thinks he ought to confess, another will oppose and overthrow with much bitterness and passion: yea, if it were in the power of some, who will also be called Christians, they would destroy others with fire and sword, with the rack and gibbet, although they should unpeople and devastate the greatest part of the world: for one endeavours to persuade another to embrace his opinion, and when he cannot succeed, he will not maintain any fellowship with him. The apostles, and the Jewish or Pharisaical Christians opposed each other vehemently