« PreviousContinue »
pany of saints, our mother, a distinct external society from the rest of Christendom; but a part, yea and the only sound part, of that external and visible body whereof our adversaries boast their predecessors to have been members. For howsoever this our virgin mother, for the inward and invisible communion of her sincere and unstained faith, were a distinct and severed company from the rest, with whom she lived; yet, for the common prin. ciples of the Christian faith still acknowledged in that corrupt body of Christendom, she retained communion with them, and for the most part of that time of darkness continued an external part of the same visible body with the rest in gross called Christians; as being begotten by the same sacrament of baptism (as the Israelites in the like case of circumcision), taught in some part by the same word and pastors still continued amongst them, and submitting to the same jurisdiction and government, so far as these or any of these had yet some soundness remaining in them. But for the rest which was not compatible with her sincere and unstained faith, and which annihilated, in those it surprised, even those common grounds of Christianity otherwise outwardly professed ; she with her children either wisely avoided all commnnion with it; or if they could not, then patiently suffered for their conscience sake under the hands of tyrants, called Christians, until tyranny growing insupportable, and that mortal contagion unavoidable, it pleased God, lest we might have been as Sodom and Gomorrha, to begin to call us thence at the time appointed unto a greater liberty, as we see this day.
As, therefore, when a little gold is mixed with a great quantity of base and counterfeit metal, so that of both is made but one mass or lump; each metal, we know, still retains its nature diverse from the other, and yet outwardly and visibly is not to be discerned the one from the other; but both are seen together as they are outwardly one, but cannot be distinguished by the eye as they are diverse and several ; the gold is visible as it is one mass,
and under the same outside and figure with the rest, yet it is truly invisible, as it diverse from the rest : but when the refiner comes and severs them, then will each metal
appear in his own colours, and put on his own outside, and so become visible apart from the rest : such is the case here, and such was the state and condition of the Church in the prevailing and GREAT APOSTASY. The purer metal of the visible Christian body was not outwardly discernable from the base and counterfeit, while one outside covered them; and so much the rather, because the Apostate part in a great proportion exceeding the sound, made it imperceptible: but when the time of refining came, then was our Church not first founded in the true faith, (God forbid,) but a part of the Christian body newly refined from such corruptions as time had gathered ; even as gold refined begins not then first to be gold, though it begin but then to be refined gold.
Whatsoever we have hitherto spoken of the state of the true believers under the APOSTASY OF ANTICHRIST, is the same which befel the true Israelites in the Apostasy of Israel. And doth not St. Peter intimate that the APOSTASY which should betide Christians should be like to that which we read to have befallen Israel, 2 Peter ii. 1 ?
• There were (saith he) false prophets also among the people (i. e. Israelites) even AS there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them.” If the APOSTASY of Christians were to be of the same stamp with that of Israel, and the heresies brought into Christendom by the false doctors of Babylon, like unto those wherewith the false prophets of Israel infected and poisoned the ancient people of God; surely we cannot find a better pattern whereby to know what was the state and condition of the unstained Christian believers under the APOSTASY OF THE MAN OF SIN, than that which was of the true Israelites under the APOSTASY OF JSRAEL.
For the right understanding whereof, we must always remember that the Israelitish Church did at no time altogether renounce the true and living God, not in their worst times; but in their own conceit and profession they acknowledged him still, and were called his people, and he their God, though they worshipped others beside him. So Christians, in their APOSTASY, neither did nor were to make an absolute Apostasy from God the Father and Christ their Redeemer, but in an outward profession still to acknowledge him, and to be called Christians; though by their idolatry and spiritual whoredoms they indeed denied the Lord that bought them-i. e. whom they professed to be their Redeemer; just as Israel for the like is said to have forsaken the Lord their God that brought them out of the land of Egypt. Here, therefore, the case of both is alike; let us also see the rest.
You ask, where was the true Church we speak of in Antichrist's time? I ask likewise, where was the company of true worshippers in Ahab's time? Was it not so covered and scattered under the Apostate Israelites, that Elias himself, who was one of it, could scarce find it ? "I have been very jealous (saith he) for the Lord God of Hosts; because the Children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thy altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I alone, am left, and they seek my life to take it away.”—1 Kings, xix. 14. Yet the Lord tells him, ver 18, “ I have yet left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him." Yet I trow these seven thousand were not outwardly severed from the rest of Israel, but remained still external members of the same visible body with them.
But you will object, that the true and unstained Church in Judah was still visible and apparent. I ask you, then, where was the company of the true worshippers of Jehovah in Manasses' time, the worst time of all other ?--when the ten tribes were carried captive, and but
Judah and Benjamin only left; and they, as far as the
of man can see, wholly and generally fallen from the Lord their God to all manner of idols and idolatries, “ like unto the abominations of the heathen, whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel,” when in the temple itself, the only place where the true God was legally to be worshipped, were idolatrous altars erected, even in the house whereof the Lord had said, “In this house, and in Jerusalem, will I put my name for ever;" even in this house, in this holy house, were idols and graven images erected, and in both courts thereof altars to Baalim, the sun, the moon, and the whole host of heaven, the like whereof never had been until that time. Besides, who is able to name the man for almost fifty years together that remained a faithful servant and true worshipper of the living God in the midst of this hideous profanation ? Nor is it easy to be conceived how it was possible all that time to offer any legal sacrifice without idolatry, when God's own temple and house was made a den of idols; nay, his altar, the only altar of Israel, destroyed, to make room for altars erected to idols; as may be gathered 2 Chron. xxxiii. 15, 16. Where was the true Church of Israel now ? or had the Lord no Church at all? Yes certainly, he had a Church, and a company which defiled not their garments ; a company, (I say,) but not visibly distinguished from the rest of their nation, but hidden, as it were, in the midst of that Apostate body, and yet known together with the rest to be Israelites and people of Jehovah ; but known to God alone and themselves to be true Israelites and faithful servants to Jehovah their God. And that such a company there was, and a strong party too, though not seen, appeared presently upon the death of the Manasses and his wicked son, when Josiah began to reign at eight years of age. For they then prevailed even in the court itself, and so brought up the King, that even while he was yet young, in the eighth year of his reign, he began to seek after the God of David his father, and
in the twelfth year to make a public and powerful reformation, such as the like was never done before him. Could all this have been done so soon, and by a King so young in years, and to carry all before it like a torrent, unless there had been a strong party, which now having a King for them, began quickly to shew themselves and to sway the state, though before they were hardly to be seen?
When, therefore, our adversaries ask us where our Church was before Luther, we see by this what we have to answer.
THE THIRD PARTICULAR, OR THE TIME OF THE APOSTASY.—
THAT THE LAST TIMES IN SCRIPTURE SIGNIFY EITHER A
OF the two first particulars of the four, whereby the
* Εν Υπερους καιρούς. .