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stitute the one holy Church of God,* in the sublime sense; and are therefore said, what can be said truly of no others, to be in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ.t They are in God by a mystical and spiritual union with the person of their Redeemer, by whom alone they have this wonderful access by one Spirit to the Father.
The ark of Noah shadowed forth the church in the world, selected and preserved from general destruction, borne up over the waves and oppositions of ungodly men and evil spirits, and landed safely at last upon God's holy mountain.
The ark of the covenant, resting in the most holy place, described in a figure the church in glory, covered by Christ her only propitiation, and cloathed with the pure gold of his perfect righteousness. As Noah's ark resembled the church militant, being agitated here upon the troublesome waves of the world; so the other ark exhibited the church triumphant in the rest of God, and therefore received its name from the exultation and joy, which the saints in glory pour forth before the throne of the Highest.
To this effect is the sense of a most learned defender of the church of England. “ That church of Christ, which we properly term his body mystical, can be but one; neither can that one be sensibly discerned by any man, inasmuch as the parts thereof are some in heaven already with Christ, and the rest that are on earth (albeit their natural persons be visible) we do not discern under this property whereby they are truly and infallibly of that body. Only our minds, by intellectual conceit, are able to apprehend, that such a real body there is; a body collective, because it containeth an huge multitude; a body mystical, because the mystery of their conjunction is removed altogether from sense. Whatsoever we read in scripture concerning the endless love, and the saving mercy, which God sheweth towards his church; the only proper subject thereof is this church. Concerning this flock it is, that our Lord and Saviour hath promised, I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hands." Hooker. Eccl. Pol. B. iii. §. 1.
+ 1 Thess. i. 1.
Out of the ark of Noah, there was no escape or deliverance: Out of the church of Christ, or not being a member of it, there will be found at the last no salvation,
The outward and visible church, with its outward and visible signs, was instituted for the collection and instruction of those, who, by the means and calling used in it, compose, when completed in one body, that inward and invisible church, which receives, through the signs, the inward and spiritual grace. All others, “ being void of a lively faith,” though they use the signs, find no “wholesome effect or operation” from them, “nor are they partakers of Christ in any wise,” but rather fall into “ condemnation” thereby. , The outward church hath the means of
but the spiritual church only hath grace itself and the end of grace. God hath appointed the one as a step to the other: and, by being partaker of the last, the Christian knows how to estimate and be thankful for the first. He will pray and endeavour for its extension and support, in the establishment of its ordinances and ministers, that God's sheep, wandering in the world, may be brought into the fold, and that their “number may be accomplished.” The visible church consists, and necessarily must
eonsist in this world, of good and bad, and probably at all times of more bad than good: but the invisible church of Christ, gathered from the visible church universal, and from the beginning of man to the end of time, is made up wholly and solely of true believers, who, though they may differ in their proportions, have all the same grace, and one, common, undivided, interest in the salvation of Jesus Christ.
The outward church hath often been rent with factions and schisms, and defiled by errors, through the cunning craftiness of men, who lie in wait to deceive, either for vain glory or for filthy lucre's sake. These pretend reason, and liberty, and unlimited discussion; forgetting, that where God hath already given the data or principles, man is bound to implicit consent, whatever conduct he may espouise in ordinary matters; and therefore the result is, first doubt, then presumption, then error, and, lastly, open disobedience. The soundest visible churches have ever had, more or less of these
eye-sores and blemishes in their continual attendants about the service of God's sanctuary--who live by religion, and are, for recompence in fine, the death of the nurse that feedeth them.”* Such was the case and ruin of the churches in Asia ; and such of the Jewish church itself. Perhaps, no visible church ever was or will be so surely or effectually ruined, as by the false doctrine and gross misconduct of its own rulers and members. One enemy within the walls is worse and more dangerous than fifty foes, who attack from without. But the
* HOOKER. Eccl. Pol. B. v. § 81.
inward church is preserved, in the arms and bosom of Christ, from the danger of these calamities. She doth not, she cannot, finally and essentially err; Christ himself hath pronounced it to be impossible :* and the gates of hell shall never prevail against her; for the part on earth is brought forward and kept by the power of God himself through faith into salvation ; and the part in heaven is certainly delivered from the very approaches of mistake and of evil.
The outward church of Christ upon earth shall remain, as the scaffold for the building, till every member of the spiritual church shall be gathered in or fitted for its place; and then the head-stone shall be brought forth with shoutings of, Grace, Grace, unto it. Then shall all these present things, having no purpose for which they can remain, be dissolved ; and in one hourt of that day of the Lord which will come as a thief in the night, astonishing a thoughtless and giddy world as the flood of Noah, shall the heavens, being on fire, pass away with a great noise, and the elements melt with fervent heat; the earth also, and the works that are therein, all the cares, labors, contrivances, and hopes of men, shall be burnt up. Thus spake the Holy Ghost by the apostle; and long before he revealed the same, in his call to the children of God, by the prophet. Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heaven shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner; but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished.
* Matt. xxiv. 24. with John x. 27, 28. + Rev. xviii. 10, 19. 1 2 Pet. jii, 10—12.
therein Isaiah li, 6.
How desirous are mortals of continuance? how eager for the very shadow of immortality ?--for a continuance, even in this state of misery and corruption :-for an immortality, supposed to be possible only in the future thought and opinions of dying men !-for the useless immortality of an empty name! But alas! these very same mortals; how indifferent are they to God's own promise and assurance of an eternal inheritance and abiding, and of a name, an everlasting name that shall not be cut off ; which stands in the love and plaudit of innumerable beings, of the highest rank, holiness, and understanding in the whole creation, and even of God himself; and concerning that immortality, which consists in the unalterable enjoyment of every perfection without end! This may be wisdom, at least they act as if it were wisdom, in their own esteem ; but in the sight of God, and proportionally in the view of every mind enlightened and alive, it is madness, melancholy, and misery; verging towards and at last plunged in a gulph of unchangeable perpetuity beyond redemption. If we would see one of the most striking instances of the infatuation of sin, one of the most forcible proofs of the depth of the human fall; here it is. A creature, capable of the enjoyment of God and eternal happiness, deceived, besotted, and carried away from it, and also from every intrinsic good here upon earth, into the dregs of evil; seeking death in the fluctuating vanityt and palpable
† Proy. xxi. 6.