God, after having raised up again man from his sinful state preserves him in his Church, which is the congregation of saints and in which worship is rendered unto Him, until it pleases Him, at the set lime, to call him into His heritage.
796. This Article of our Confession runs as follows:
“I believe in one Holy Christian Church.”
For like as a, good shepherd carefully gathers his flock into the barn, in order to keep them from any storm or mischief befalling them, so the Lord Jesus, who is our good Shepherd, is gathering the faithful into one Church, protecting them and supplying all their spiritual wants. In order to get a right view of this christian Church, we have to attend to the followings points.
797. A. How it is called; this is twofold, either by
i. proper names; in the greek and latin languages it is called: “ecclesia,” a calling together, on account of Christ’s calling to it, his people. In the German language it is called “Itirche” [in the english “Church”], which [both] seem to be derived from the greek word ϰνριαϰόϛ, οιϰοϛ; and in this case it would denote “a house,” or ” congregation of the Lord.” — But there is little importance to be attached to a name.
798. ii. by appellatives; such are: “Holy,” of which we mean to treat subsequently. “Catholic;” with reference to this latter, we have to observe, that the Romish Church assumes for itself the appellation “catholic,” and that she designates such as are members of the same as “Catholic Christians,” maintaining that their’s is the only true Church of Christ, and that a Church that does not bear this appellative, could not be the Church of Christ. To get a clear view of this matter we have to inquire:
799. Why the Church is called “catholic.” Catholic denotes “general.” Christ’s Church is called so in opposition to the Jewish Church of the Old Testament, which was instituted but for one nation, one country, and was destined to last only until the coming of Christ in the flesh. And although the heathen were not forbidden to confess themselves to this Church, yet it was more peculiarly given and instituted for the Jewish nation, and the temple worship confined to Jerusalem. For which reason also it could not he propagated among other nations. But this is different with the Church of Christ; she is not confined either to a certain people, or to certain countries. The Lord Jesus says concerning it: “the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem worship the Father. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in Spirit and in truth, John. 4, 21. 23. And the Apostles were commanded, Matth. 28, 19: “Go ye and teach all nations” etc. Mrk.16, 15: “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.” — This state of things has been prophesied, Pslm. 19, 3. 4: ” There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard; their line is gone out through all the earth; and their words to the end of the world;” Isa. 11, 10. “In that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people, to it shall the Gentiles seek” etc. Accordingly Christ can be said to have founded a “catholic” Church, only with reference to its being destined, without any distinction, for all nations, all climes, and all times; a church which was to be promoted among all nations and to last until the dissolution of the world.
800. Is the Romish Church entitled to the appellation of catholic? We answer: No, because:
i. This Church does not maintain the pure doctrine of Christ, which is the only source of which a “catholic” Church can spring, Luk. 8, 11; 1 Pet. 1, 23.
ii. This Church does not date its origin from the time of Christ, but has in the course of Centuries gradually risen to great power and importance, by unfair and unworthy means. And if they call such a state “catholic,” then this is an appellation, of which in fact they can derive no benefit.
801. How many Churches there are? Before we proceed to show the nature of the Church, we have first to make sure, what Church we speak of. There are:
i. A Church militant, and a Church triumphant. — The Church militant is the Congregation of the believers, who, in this world have always to contend against the devil, the evil world, and their own flesh. Of this Church St. Paul speaks 1. Tim. 1, 18: “This charge I commit unto thee, that thou mightest war a good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience.” 2. Tim. 4, 7: “I have fought a good fight;” 2. Cor. 7, 5: “When we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest; but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears.” —
The Church triumphant is the assembly of the holy and elect, which have come to the enjoyment ‘of their Salvation, there for ever to join in praises of that God, by whose help their had conquered their spiritual enemies “Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ, for the accuser of the brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night,” Revel. 12, 10; ” Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing,” Rev. 5, 12.
802. Again the Church militant, is twofold: visible and invisible. The visible Church comprises the assembly of those, who, are members of Christ’s kingdom, and who have the word of God preached to them in its purity, and the Sacrament administered according to Christ’s will and institution. It is called “visible” not because of the Individuals of which it consists being visible to the outward eye, — but because of its having a visible mode of worship, thereby testifying, that every member among them is persuaded of, and has accepted the faith, which is preached in that Church, and that all members are determined to serve one and the same God, and to work out together their own salvation. This visible Church is implied, when we read, Matth. 18, 17: “If he (thy brother), shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the Church: but if he neglect the Church let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a Publican;” Acts. 5, 11:“Great fear came upon all the Church;” Rom. 16, 1: “Phoebe our sister, which is a servant of the Church which is at Cenchrea.”
803. The “invisible” Church is not called so because of its members not being seen by the eye of the body, but because of the faith of its members. Which alone constitutes a true Church, being invisible. Accordingly, the invisible Church comprises the whole number of true believers that ever lived in the world, and which, by their common faith are all united together in One, even Christ; as it is written, Eph. 3, 17: “Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.” This Church is invisible because no man is able to discern the hearts and thoughts of the believers. For “man looketh at the outward appearance,” 1. Sam. 16, 7; and it is God alone that knows “the hearts of all the children of men,” 1. King. 8, 39. Accordingly the Lord alone “knoweth them that are his,” 2. Tim. 2, 19; but to us such a knowledge is denied, Rom. 2, 28. 29. “He is not a Jew which is one outwardly; but he is a Jew which is one inwardly.” And St. Peter in his first Epistle 3, 4 says, that an ornament of a godly woman ought to be “the hidden man pf the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit.” — Luk. 17, 20. 21: “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for behold the kingdom of God is within you;” Pslm. 45, 13: “The king’s daughter is all glorious within.” This can also be proved by the following instances: At the time that Ahab was persecuting the Prophets of the Lord, Elijah was of opinion that he alone had been left from among the number of the faithful, 1. King. 19, 10; but he is told by the Lord v. 18: “I have left: me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees of which have not bowed unto Baal.” — And of the christian Church we are told, that, at the time of its being persecuted by the Antichrist, it should “flee into the wilderness,” where it should find a “place prepared of God,” Rev. 12, 6.
804. This proves that there really exists a distinction between the visible and the invisible Church.
i. In the visible Church there are to be found believers and unbelievers. For not all who confess the faith and partake of the Sacraments, are really true believers, but some are hypocrites, and almost as much unbelievers, as those, who have not had preached unto them the word at all; — in the invisible Church there cannot be a hypocrite, but every member must be a true believer.
ii. Into the visible Church we are admitted by the hearing of the word, and the partaking of the Sacraments according to the Lords institution — into the invisible Church but by faith.
iii. Accordingly the visible Church is also denoted as the assembly of those who have been called, — but the invisible Church as “the assembly of the elect,” although in the latter there are also to be found some, who, though they believe for a time, are yet falling away again, and perish for ever.
805. The visible Church upon earth is again twofold; either a general Church, one that is spread over the whole earth, or a particular Church, that is bound to the confines of a certain country.
The general Church is intended by the Lord Jesus, when he says, Matth. 16, 18: “Upon this rock (faith in me) I will build my Church;” and this Church is referred to Col. 1, 18, when the Lord Jesus is called “the head of the Church,” for which he has given himself that “he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,” Eph. 5, 26: Members of this general Church are all those, who hold the word of God in its purity, and who do partake of the Sacraments; and not only those who are living together on one spot and at one and the same period, but all who have ever dwelt on earth since its creation, who live now on it, and who shall live on it, until the day of judgement.
806. From this general Church are to be distinguished the particular Churches, which are confined to certain spots. Thus the Apostle Paul addressed his Epistles to particular Churches as for instance one to the Church of Rome, one to that of Corinth, Ephesus etc. As also in the Acts of the Apostles we find mentioned the particular Church at Jerusalem, Chap. 2, 47; 4, 23 etc. In the same way we speak, in our days of the Church of Germany etc.
807. C. It will now be possible for the reader to understand what sort of Church we have intended # 801. It was not the Church triumphant, but the Church militant we spoke of; not of any of the particular Churches of certain lands, but of that general Church, which is spread over the whole world. But this Church is as we have seen, either visible or invisible, and those Christians who are members of the visible Church are not always members of the invisible. It is therefore necessary to keep in mind, that in our inquiry both-, the visible and the invisible Church are spoken of, — but with this difference, that, if we speak of the outward assembly, we thereby refer to the visible, and if, on the other side, we speak of the spiritual union in the faith, we make reference to the invisible Church. This will be clear partly from the preceding remarks, partly also from the following.
808. D. Which Individuals do belong to the Christian Church? In this respect there is again to be made the same distinction. Namely to the invisible Church belong all those who have the true faith within their heart, and not the mere outward appearance of it, and are thereby spiritually united to Christ. Such as have this faith are in reality the true members of the Church, their circumstances be whatever they may. But in the case of any Individual not having this inward faith, no earthly authority or power whatsoever is able to make him a member of that Church; and he, as well as all unbelievers, can never become members of Christ’s spiritual body, which is the Church.
809. Members of the visible Church are:
i. According to the will of God, all men. For He invites them all, without any distinction; and there is no distinction between Jews and Gentiles, since He also calls the Gentiles into His kingdom, Isai. 11,; 12: “In that day there shall’ be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek;” Acts. 10, 35: “In every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is acceptable with him” (for being received into the christian Church); Gal. 3, 28: “There is neither Jew nor greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ.’’
810. ii. According to outward appearances all those who hear the preaching of the word, and partake of the Sacraments. We on our part cannot make any difference, whether they are good or evil, believers or unbelievers, sincere or not; for as we can judge only by outward appearances, christian charity ought to induce us, “to hope every thing, to believe every thing,” 1. Cor. 13, 7; and to suppose that all, who confess themselves to be members of the Church, are in reality so, within their hearts. Thus, for instance, Simon the Sorcerer was looked upon as a Christian, because of his having received baptism. Acts. 8, 13; as was also the case with Demas, Paul’s assistance, who yet turned out not to be a Christian at all, 2. Tim. 4, 10.
811. This state of things is compared by Christ to “a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind; which when it was full, -they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away,” Matth. 13, 47 ff. In another place he compares it to a field, “upon which the good seed and the tares grow up together,” V. 38; — and again to the royal marriage feast, to which came alike the worthy and the unworthy, Matth. 22, 10. 11.
Exactly so it is in the Church; for there are also some, who have merely the outward appearance of being worthy members, yet not without also outwardly differing from the true Christians. This is sufficiently explained by the parables quoted above; and St. John writes, 1. Ep. 2, 18. 19: “Even now are there many Antichrists; they went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had keen of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest, that they were not all of us.” In the same manner St. Paid makes a distinction between those who maintain heresies and between the true christians, 1. Cor. 11, 19: “There must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.”
812. iii. In reality it are only the believers who are to be looked upon as members of the visible Church, and not those, whose faith is shipwrecked either by their maintaining erroneous doctrines, or by an ungodly walk.
By erroneous doctrines. For those cannot be said in reality to belong to the Church who, by their maintaining erroneous doctrines, are hindered from receiving into their hearts the saving faith of the Gospel. Thus we read of Hymenaeus, Phyletus and Alexander having suffered shipwreck, because of their unwillingness to believe the doctrine concerning the resurrection from the dead; and, we know that Paul, in that he gave them over unto Satan, 1. Tim. 1, 19. 20; 2. Tim. 2, 17. 18, did not consider them members of the Church. Individuals of this description are called “heretics;” and although they may not fall away by an ungodly walk, and although they may partly maintain the true faith, and confess Christ, yet, as long as they adhere to an erroneous doctrine, they cannot possibly acquire the saving faith of the Gospel; and they are moreover to be considered as dangerous Individuals, inasmuch as they might mislead others also.
813. By an ungodly walk; all those become void of their faith, who fall into gross sin, and commit the same willingly, in spite of the warnings of their own consciences. It has been shown already in which way such may and do lose their faith. Thus St. Paul excommunicated a man at Corinth, because of his having married his father’s wife, and that he desired him not to be considered a member as long as he did not repent, 1. Cor. 5, 5. Accordingly such a sinner is with-out the pale of the Church, and the communion of Christ, as long as he remains in his sins. But there is no sinner so atrocious, but who after having repented, might not be received again into the Church; and in the same way any Individual, that has been once a member of the Church, but has fallen away again, may be, after having repented of his new error, admitted again into the Church: “If a man be over-taken in a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such a one in the spirit of meekness,” Gal. 6, 1.
814. E. The qualities and characteristics of the Church.
i. Purity; as we read, Ephes. 5, 25. 26. 27: “Christ loved the Church and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” And this purity it is, we have imputed unto us, when we are clothed with the righteousness of Christ, Isa. 61, 10. Now it has been substantiated already, that those unworthy people also are frequently found to be members of the (visible) Church; as also in a previous Chapter, that our regeneration never is perfect as long as we are on this earth, and that even the very saints have continually to contend with their spiritual enemies. And thus is the Church, in the midst of its purity, as stated above, not without sin, and without daily blemish. But these spots we know to be hid, as it were, from the judgement of God, since “there is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus,” Rom. 8, 1.
815. ii. Unity. We confess in our Creed: “I believe in one christian Church” etc. For there is but this one Church, which comprises all true believers. This has never been questioned. But the Church is also the congregation of God’s holy and believing people; and it may therefore appear strange, that there should be found, in this assembly of the holy and godly people, divers heresies and heretics, which give cause to much strive, dissension and disunion. And considering this circumstance many a one might be inclined to believe it to be rather the school of Satan, than the Church of God. But it ought to be remembered:
816. 1. That the devil is a bitter enemy of the Church of Christ, and is ever ready to do -it some mischief or other, Matth. 13, 37. ff.: “He that soweth a good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world. The good seed are the children of the Kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; the enemy that sowed them is the devil.” — Besides
2. There are also men, who instigated by Satan and by their own ambition, selfishness etc. endeavour to spread erroneous doctrines in the Church, 1 Tim. 4, 1: “In the latter times some shall- depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of the devil.” This has been more particularly spoken of by the Apostle, 2 Tim. 3, 2 ff. Now there can never be any concord between Christ and Belial, 2 Cor. 6, 15; and, accordingly, as long as the Church has this enemy, so long is it not impossible for heresies to be broached within its pale;
817. God permits this state of things for two reasons:
aa. As a punishment to a disobedient world, which. loves “darkness rather than light,” John. 3, 19; “for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believe not the truth, but have pleasure in unrighteousness,” 2 Thess, 2, 11. 12;
bb. As a trial for those who are believers, “there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved might be made manifest in you,” 1 Cor. 1, 19,
Again we have to keep in mind that
818. 3. It has been prophesied before hand that there were to rise heresies in the Church. Simon prophecies concerning Jesus, Luk. 2, 34:“this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;” Acts. 20, 29. 30: “I know this that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter among you, not sparing the flock; also of your ownselves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.” And more especially concerning the last times, we are told, Rev. 12, 12: “Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and the seal for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he has bwt a short time;-‘ Matth. 24, 24: “There shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that if it were possible thou shall deceive the very elect;” cf. also 2 Tim. 3, 1.
819. 4. In the very first times of the Church there have also risen different sects, of which mention is made in scripture. Thus we read of there having arisen a contention between Peter and Simon the Sorcerer, Acts. 8, 18 ff.; between Paul and those among the Apostles, who erred in mixing up the Law and the Gospel, Acts. 15, 2. ff.; also of dissensions having been caused by the Nicolaitanes, Rev. 2, 6. 15; and finally of Jezebel having endeavoured to seduce the Lord’s servants, v. 20. In another place we are told, that the bishops of Smyrna and Pergamos had to do with the Synagogue.of Satan, Rev. 2, 9. 13- If there are therefore arising in the church all sorts of heresies and sects, this ought to alarm nobody, since their rising is in the very nature of the church, and since they have taken place even in the earliest times of the church.
820. iii. (cf. #. 814) The church’s duration unto the end. Christ was not sent to institute a Church which, like the Jewish dispensation, was to last but for a limited period; and accordingly it is considered as one of the characteristics of his Church, that it should never cease to exist. Concerning this, we have to keep in mind two things, viz:
That the Church is never to cease in this world. We have already pointed out the difference that exists between the invisible Church, that rests upon faith, and the visible one, that manifests itself in the external services. The invisible Church never can cease; for although the number of the believers be but small, yet Christ’s promises will always remain true; and he expressly says, that “the gates of hell shall not prevail” against his Church, Matth. 16, 18; as also Matth. 28, 20: “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” — In the time of Elijah God had reserved unto himself seven thousand believers, without Elijah ever being aware of the fact, or knowing them to be such, 1 King. 19, 18. In the same way also He preserves unto Himself in our days a number of faithful believers, who are known to no other than unto Him. 2 Tim. 2, 19. Which circumstance has also been referred to by Daniel, Chap. 2, 44: “the Lord of heaven shall set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.”
821. This leads us naturally to the question: Whether, under the reign of Popish darkness, and before Luther began to reform the Church, there has also existed a Christian Church, and if so, where it was to be found. We reply:
In the first place: As it was prophesied of the church that, at that period, she was to flee into the wilderness, it needs no farther proof, where she was then to be found. It was God’s pleasure to hid her in such a way, as to make it impossible even for the devil to find and persecute her.
In the second place. Wherever, even then, the word has been preached in its purity, and the Sacraments dispensed in conformity with Christ’s will, there has been an assembly of the faithful. For the word of God is never preached in vain, but God has given us the following promise: “My word shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereunto I send it,” Isa. 55, 11. There are, accordingly, always some men who are true believers, though they are but few. And as the Sacrament of baptism invariably regenerates those, who have the same conferred upon them, there must of necessity be always a number of children at least, who are in reality members of the true Church.
822. Accordingly, under the reign of Popery there have been members of the true Church:
1. Those who by baptism had been engrafted into Christ and thereby made his members, — before any error had perverted their minds;
2. those who have been converted by the preaching of the word, and have partly not disdained to expose the errors of Popery, and of which some are mentioned in History, but whose number is doubtless very much greater;
3. those who have mourned over the corruptions of Popery, of which also some cases have come to our knowledge; and finally
4. Those who have not allowed themselves to be drawn away from the word of God, taking from it their knowledge of the saving faith, and have remained in the same unto the end.
823. In which way is it possible for the (visible) Church to cease on earth. This might come to pass in times, when the public worship has ceased and there remain only secret believers; as was the case at the time of Nicodemus, John. 3, 2, and Joseph of Arimathia, John. 19, 38. — The possibility of such a decay can be proved by the following:
1. Such a state of things has been prophesied to come to pass in the times of the Antichrist, Rev. 12,6: “The woman (the church) fled into the wildemessj that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore years;” V. 13, 14: “When the Dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman; and to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness” etc. — Rev. 13, 3. 4. 7: “A11 the earth wandered after the beast, and they worshipped the Dragon which gave power unto the beast. And it was given unto him to make war with the saints and to overcome them; and power was given. him over all kindreds and tongues and nations;” cf. also Chap. 14, 8; 17, 2. 15; 18, 3.
2. We know, that at different periods the Church has already fallen into such a state of decay; as for instance in the reign of king Ahab, when Elijah thought that there had remained none of the Lord’s people upon earth, 1 Kings. 19, 14; — also during the babylonian captivity, whereby the worship in the temple of the Jews had been made to cease for 70 years, and on which occasion but four men were to be found, who steadfastly refused to conform to heathen idolatries, — namely Daniel, Sadrach, Melech and Abednego, Dan. 3, 12.
3. At the time of our Lord’s passion, there were none who confessed themselves publicly to him, much less any public services, and in all appearance there was no visible church. — All these things which have happened, or are still to happen under the reign of the Antichrist, are quite in keeping with the nature of the church of Christ.
824. Now, the Lord Jesus compares the Church to a city that is set on a hill and that cannot be hid, Matth. 5, 14. But this must be understood to refer to its state of unity and perfectness, but not to the state of dissension. A city, though situated on a hill may yet be hid from the view, by the fall of night; yea even the Sun itself may be withdrawn, at least from our view, and darkened by clouds, though in truth his light can never be darkened. In the same manner the church is always (with but few exceptions) before everybody’s eyes.
825. iv. The possession of the eternal truth. For the Church cannot be without the true faith as long as she holds fast the word of God. And as the invisible Church is constituted of the whole assembly of the true believers, it follows that she never can err with respect to those essential doctrines of the christian faith, without which faith cannot grow within the heart of man. For if it was possible for the invisible Church to err, then there could not be any Church at all on earth; but that there is to be a Church on earth has been proved previously. Nevertheless there is not one among the believers who is not liable to falling into dangerous errors, and thereby casting his faith from him. But of this subsequently. — Of the elect amongst these latter mentioned, God has known from eternity, that they were to return again to the faith from which they had fallen; and they do so, before departing this life — for God’s Prescience cannot fail.
826. In which way can the Church fall from the true faith?
1. By departing from the word of God;
2. Particular Churches may fall into. error and thereby separate themselves from the Church, as, for instance, in the case of the Arian heresy.
3. It is also possible for the general visible Church to fall from the true faith, if she should happen to permit erroneous doctrines being taught, and the purity of the worship being polluted, within her pale. For we have shown it already to be possible for the whole visible Church to vanish from the earth.
827. F. The characteristics whereby the true faith might he distinguished from that which is not so. For this purpose there can be no better criterion than the preaching of the word. in all its purity, and the dispensing of the Sacraments in conformity with Christ’s institution. For:
i. Word and Sacrament are the only means by which the Church is propagated upon earth: and accordingly in every place where these legitimate means are put forth, there must be the Church itself. For of the word of God we have the promise that it is never to return void, Isa. 55, 11.
This word itself we find designated as the seed of the Church, Luk. 8, 11. And 1 Peter. 1, 23. we read “Being born again not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” The Lord Jesus, being about to institute his Church, commanded his Apostles to “go and teach all nations, baptizing them.” etc. Matth. 28, 29; and, accordingly, Paul says 1 Cor. 4, 15: “In Christ Jesus I have begotten you in the Gospel.”
Concerning the Sacraments, and more especially concerning baptism, it has been stated already that it is the washing of regeneration, etc. Tit. 3, 5; that every one who desires to enter into the kingdom of heaven must first be born again of water and the Holy Spirit, John. 3, 5. Accordingly, wherever the word and Sacraments are set forth in their purity, there is also the Church; and wherever this is not the case and consequently the legitimate means of grace absent, there cannot be said to be the Church.
828. ii. The word and Sacraments are the privileges of the church and their administration her proper business. John. 10, 27: “my sheep hear my voice;” Chap. 8, 47: “He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not because ye are not of God.” Chap. 14, 23: “if a man love me he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him and make our abode with him.” Wherever these acts are carried into effect there must be found the Church, and accordingly we conclude that wherever the word is preached in its purity, and the Sacraments administered in conformity to Christ’s institution, there must be the Church. And on the other hand wherever these characteristics are wanting, there we cannot speak of the existence of a Church.
829. Because those who have the true faith, differ from those who maintain errors, by the very fact, that the first are obeying the word of God and partaking of the Sacraments in the right way and the others not. John 8. 31: “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;” Matth. 7, 15. 16: “Beware of false prophets, ye shall know them by their fruits,” (that is: their teaching). Those characteristics by which the orthodox are distinguished from the heretics are also the characteristics of a true Church; and accordingly we conclude from the statement made just now, that the obedience to the word and the right use of the Sacraments are a mark of the true Church. — For our purpose it suffices us to show, where the Church of Christ is, and where not; and we do not heed others, — such as:
830. aa. Antiquity, that is, that that Church is to be considered the true Church, which is the oldest Church in the world. This antiquity is made to refer either to the time of the Church’s foundation or to its outward authority. As to foundation, that Church must be considered of the highest antiquity, which has first started in view to the eye of the world. Thus for instance, at the time the Lord Jesus and his Apostles were preaching among the Jews, their Church seemed to be the New one, and that of the Pharisees the Old one. But on a closer consideration we find that the Church of Christ had been already preached in the first promise that was ever given (that the seed of the woman should pierce the serpent’s head, Genes.;3, 15), and that it consequently was older than that of the Pharisees, yea the oldest among all; whilst the Church of the Pharisees was not older than the doctrine they maintained, and which had been invented but recently.
831. Nor can we judge about the antiquity of any Church by the outward authority she has power to maintain. For we are nowhere advised in scripture to judge the orthodoxy of a Church by a reference to its antiquity and its external importance. It we did so, it would come to this, that we adjudged the true Church to be the erroneous Church, and the reverse. Thus for instance, at the time that God determined to raise unto Himself a nation, from the house of Abraham that should worship Him, and to this end led Abraham out of the land of Chaldea, — Abraham had already a Church, in which he and his house had worshipped certain gods, Joshua 24, 2. This Church was to be considered an old Church with reference to that instituted but recently by God, and yet was Abraham to give preference to the Old? — Again at the time the children of Israel were led out by God from the bondage of Egypt, who instituted His services among that people, the Egyptian superstitions were much older, than the newly proclaimed creed; and accordingly if age was to be given the preference, what must have happened?.And the christian faith also, on its first going out into the world, was considered to be new, Acts. 17, 19: “May we know what this new doctrine whereof thou speakest, is?” Whilst the idolatry of these very men that put these question was of a very long standing; but in spite of its antiquity it could not be pronounced to be true, as little as the christian faith, because of its being new, could be said to be erroneous. And in the time of popish darkness the Church has also been hidden for a short time, from which it has emerged anew, according to the promise, Rev. 14, 6; 18, 4. But we can, nevertheless not say that Popery, because of its antiquity was true etc.
832. bb. Nor can we be guided in our judgement concerning any Church, by the extensiveness of the same. Some there are, who maintain that that Church must be the true Church, which is spread most extensively upon earth. It is true that the limits of the Church are none other than those of the world; but that this Church is not permitted everywhere the free and open manifestation and worship, — nobody will attempt to deny. Nevertheless we cannot admit the assertion to be true, that that Church must be the true Church of Christ, whose visible communion and worship is the most extensive one of all. Christ addresses his Church as a “little flock,” Luk. 12, 32. At the time of our Lord’s sufferings the Church had become so “little,” that for a time there were none that believed on him, and at another time again but two or three. Whilst on the contrary the whole lump of the people were on the side of the Pharisees, — thus making the erroneous Church much more extensive then the true Church. Likewise the Arian heresy had also overspread almost every land in which a christian Church was to be found, whilst but few adhered to the true faith, — and yet the Arian Churches could not be said to be the true Churches. — Of the Antichrist we are told, that he was to subdue nations, kings, generations etc., Rev. 13, 3. 7; 14, 8j 17, 2. 15; 18, 3, whereby the Church of Christ was to be oppressed in such a way, as would compel her to hide herself in the wilderness, Rev. 12, 6. — And concerning the last time, we have the prophecy that there are to rise many false prophets and false Christs that should, if it were possible “deceive the very elect,” Matth. 24, 24. And from the words of our Lord, Luk. 18, 8, we are led to conclude that the number of those who are misled should be larger, than that of the faithful, “when the Son of man cometh shall he find faith on earth?”
833. iii. Some affirm that that Church must be the true Church which is able to perform miracles, and that wherever these characteristics are not to be met with, there cannot be the true Church. — There is no doubt that God, in His Providence, even in our days is performing many miraculous works amongst us, but in the case before us these kinds of miracles are not intended, — but such as have been wrought by Christ and his Apostles for the support of the faith which they preached, ouch miracles were then employed in order to testify who was the true Messiah and Saviour, Isai. 35, 4. 5: “God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense: he will come and help you; then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped; then shall the lame man leap as an hart and the tongue of the dumb sing.” — But we are nowhere told that this state of things was also to serve as a criterion, after the Church had once been instituted, since:
834. 1. It is not possible for us to discern whether such miracles are from God or from Satan. For miracles of this kind are not only not promised to us in the Bible, but we are, on the contrary, warned to beware of miracles, which are performed independent of God’s word. It is, moreover, very easy for the devil to blind and deceive man, by his false miracles, which we are able to distinguish from divine miracles only by examining the word of God, whether such miracles have been promised in it, or not. Now we do not meet with any word or passage in scripture, wherein the continuance of these miracles has been promised to the Church of Christ; which makes it impossible for us to know, whether any miracle (performed in our days) is the work of Satan or of God.
835. 2. We are told that the wonders of the last days are to be of a dangerous nature, and are warned not to give them any heed, Matth. 24, 24ff.: “There shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the every elect. Behold I have told you before; wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold he is in the desert, go not forth: behold he is in the secret chambers, believe it not.”
Being thus warned against miracles, it is not possible for us, to consider their existence in any Church, as a mark of her being the true Church.
836. 3. Miracles have been pointed out by God as one of the marks of the Antichrist; this is done in the passage quoted above (Matth. 24, 24), and more especially, 2. Thess. 2, 9: “Him (the Wicked) whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power and signs and lying wonders;” Rev. 13, 13. 14: “And (the other beast) deceiveth them that dwell on earth by the means of these miracles, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men.” And as the sign of the Antichrist, cannot at the same time be looked upon as the mark of a true Church, it follows that miracles cannot now be looked upon as marks of a true Church.
837. 4. The gift of performing miracles has not been claimed by the Church for many centuries after its foundation nor is it the case in our days; and accordingly if the power to perform miracles really did constitute a mark of the true Church, they must necessarily always be found with the Church. But this has not been the case, — and therefore miracles are not a mark of the true Church.
838. As to the miracles which are professedly performed daily in the Popish Church, we state
a. that the Holy Ghost has marked them out long ago as lying wonders;
b. that such wonders are always reported to have occured at a distance of many hundred miles, from whence it scarcely ever was possible to get at more detailed information; and ‘
c. that neither the Pope, nor any of his partisans have ever performed any miracle for the purposes of refuting the doctrines as taught by the Protestant Church, which they surely would have done, were they in any way able to perform a miracle.
839. G. The authority of the Church. It is not in the power of the Church to compel any man to accept of the christian faith, — or to govern the consciences of men. For though the Church might sometimes succeed in compelling any Individual to conform to its tenets,: — yet within his heart he certainly will not give way to- these persuasions before he has not been convinced of the truth of her creed. — But in a compulsory manner the Church is not permitted to act, for
aa. this power has not been committed to the Church;
bb. nor has it ever been exercised by her; on the contrary,
cc. the Lord Jesus has expressly forbidden compulsory means so be used, Luk. 9, 55. 56. On the occasion of the Samaritans not being willing to receive the Lord Jesus and the Gospel of his salvation, James and John got angry, and desired Christ to allow them to “command fire to come down from heaven and consume them;” — but the Lord hindered and rebuked them, saying “ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of; for the Son of man is not come to destroy life but to save them.”
840. The authority of the Church accordingly consists more especially in keeping up order and discipline regarding the properly ordaining of the preaching and of all Church ceremonials; to her belongs also the punishment of the stiffnecked. That this is the case, has been partly proved already in the chapter which treats on the public ministry. Nevertheless we intend to consider this subject more particularly in this place.
i. It is left to the free option of the Church to ordain the different ceremonies of which the public worship is composed, — yet with certain conditions. The ceremonies with reference to the temple worship, under the Old testament dispensation, had been ordered in all its parts by God Himself. This is different in the- Church of the New testament; the ceremonial of her worship has been left to the option of the Church, — but with the understanding that “all things be done decently and in good order” and “unto edifying,” 1. Cor. 14, 26. 40. What is said by Paul concerning the covering of the head (I. Cor. 11, 4. 5), concerning the order of teaching (1. Cor. 14, 27), does not now bind us, as also the Church never has considered herself bound by it. It is accordingly left to the pleasure of the Church to ordain every thing with regard to worship and ceremonial, but so to ordain them that they may tend to the edification of her members.
841. ii. It is not in the power of a number of members, or of any individual member, to bring a change into that which has once been made a rule in the Church. If every thing is to be done in good order and in decency, then it cannot be permitted for every individual member of the Church to make alterations in that which the whole congregation has once agreed upon. If such would be permitted, it would be the cause of great disorder. Such an attempt is therefore to be looked upon as sin against the authority of the Church; for thereby one is desirous to alter that, which the Church has thought fit to institute by divine authority.
842. iii. Although it is in the power of the Church to make alterations in the ceremonies of the worship, yet is it not in her power to give way to the enemies of divine truths and to bring about any alteration in order to please them. The Apostle’ considered circumcision as a free ceremony and caused Timothy to be circumcised Acts. 16, 3; but as soon as the false Apostles put it down as a law for every Christian to be circumcised, Paul immediately contended against it, Acts. 15, 2. And he expressly says Gal. 5, 2: “Behold I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing,” which he prefaces with the admonition: “Stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” Thereby declaring it to be a reason for his contending against circumcision being made a necessity, that the liberty of the Christian might be preserved; as he declares. Gal. 2, 5: “To whom we gave place by subjection no, not for an hour; that the truth of the Gospel might continue with you.”— If some of the ceremonies of the church are attacked by her enemies then it is advisable for her not to change them, though something of the kind might have been previously intended. For if she gave way, she would have to alter every thing besides also. Thus it is quite left to the Christian liberty, to remove the images from the churches, to abolish exorcism by baptism etc. But if false brethren make this abolition a necessity, then the church is not any more at liberty to do so; she is obliged to retain them, that she might not come again into captivity and go void of her liberty.
843. H. The different estates that constitute the Church. For our God is not a God of confusion, and He therefore desires every thing in His Church to be done “decently and in order,” 1 Cor. 14, 33. 40. He has instituted in His Church three different estates, to one of which every member of the Church must necessarily belong. They are: the teachers; the political power of the land, and the lay members. To the first belong all Pastors and ministers; to the second the government and its subjects, and to the third, masters, women, men- and maidservants, parents and children etc.
The first of these three estates, viz: that of ministry has been sufficiently treated of in the last chapter. That of the lay members, God instituted immediately after the fall. Gen. 3. 17: “In sorrow shalt thou eat of it (the ground) all the days of thy life, thorns and thistles shall it bring forth unto thee.” — About this there has never been any controversy.
The political government has also been ordained by God; “by me kings reign, and princes decree justice,” Wisd. 8, 15; “the powers that he are ordained of God,” Rom. 13, 1.
844. It might be asked, whether in Christ’s Church and according to his will, there are to be worldly authorities? We reply: Yes; for
a. The authorities have been instituted by God, and have not been abolished by Christ and his Apostles. And we find also that_ the Lord Jesus had himself intercourse with men in authority; as, for instance, with the Centurion at Capernaum, Matth. 8, 5. ff.; with a nobleman, John. 4, 47. ff.; with king Herod, and with Pontius Pilate, Matth. 27, 11; Luk. 28, 2. 8. — As did also the Apostles, for we read of their halving had intercourse with the Centurion Cornelius, Acts. 10. 17. ff.; with Sergius, ibid. Chap. 13, 7; with Felix, Chap. 24, 10; king Agrippa, Chap. 26, 1. ff.; none of whom had been admonished either by Christ or his Apostles to leave their worldly positions; which would have been the case, if the latter had considered these offices to be inconsistent with Christianity.
845. b. In describing the kingdom of Christ, authorities are expressly made mention of; Pslm. 2, 10, 11: “Be wise now therefore ye kings: be instructed ye judges of the earth, serve the Lord with fear,” etc.; Pslm. 24, 7: “Lift up your heads, O ye gates: and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of glory shall come in;” Isa. 49, 23: “Kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mother;” Chap. 60, 3: “gentiles shall come in thy light, and Kings to the brightness of thy rising;” Pslm. 72, 10. 11: “the kings of Tarsish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheha and Sebu shall offer gifts,”
846. c. The Christian is bid to pray for the existing authorities, 1 Tim. 2, 1. 2: “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, arid giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings and for all that are in authority; that We may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.”
847. d. The Christian is hid to subject himself to the worldly authorities, Rom. 13, 1: “Let every soul be subject unto higher authorities;” v. 2: “Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist, shall receive to themselves damnation; v.4: “For he (the ruler) is the minister of God to thee for good, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil;” v. 5: “Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake;” V. 7: “Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.” Matth. 22, 21 the Lord Jesus commands “to render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s;” 1 Pet. 2, 13. 14: ” Submit yourselves every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake; whether it be to the king as supreme, or unto governors” etc.; v. 17: “fear God, honour the king.”
848. I. The enemies the Church is to encounter on earth. The Church on earth is like the ship in which Christ sat, and that “was covered with the waves,” Matth. 8, 24. The Church is surrounded by enemies on all sides, John. 15, 18. 19: “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you; because ye are not of the world, hut I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.”
849. Amongst the false teachers and enemies of the Church the most conspicuous is the Antichrist. He is to be the most persevering enemy of the Lord Jesus. “Antichrist” is usually called every one, who opposes himself to the christian faith, 1 John. 2, 18:, “Even now there are many Antichrists.” But more especially concerning one principal Antichrist we have the prophesy 1 John. 4, 3: “This is the spirit of Antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come;” and St. Paul says of him that he is “a man of sin, the Son of perdition,” 2 Thess. 2, 3. 4.
850. With regard to this Antichrist many questions might be started; thus: whether he is now in the world; whether he is to come from among the Jews; whether he is to dwell at Jerusalem, etc.; but this is not the place to enter upon these inquiries, and we propose to take notice but of the two following questions, viz:
i. Whether in our days the Antichrist has come already, and;
ii. if so, where he is to be met with.
851. Now every one ought to know that the great Antichrist referred to in the prophecy, is no other than the Romish Pope. This we prove as follows: The Antichrist is to be recognised by different signs, as was also the case with Christ; and if the different signs, which God has pointed out to us as the marks of the Antichrist, are to be found upon any one, that same must be the Antichrist. The following are the marks by which the Pope may be proved to be the Antichrist: His name, the spot where he is to be found; the time of his reign, his pride and insolence, and his works.
852. a. The name by which the Antichrist and his kingdom is to be recognised is “Babylon;” Rev. 17, 5: “Upon the forehead was a name written, mystery, Babylon the great.” That this Babylon means no other spot than the city of Rome we shall prove subsequently. The Romish Church is therefore the spiritual Babylon.
853. b. As to the place, where the Antichrist was to govern, we have pointed out to us: Babylon, Rev. 17, 5; “the seven hills,” Rev. 17, 9; “the seven heads are seven hills on which the women sitteth;” that great day which reigneth over the kings of the earth, Rev. 17, 18. These three significations belong to the city of Rome, for
“Babylon” has always been considered by the fathers of the Church to refer to Rome, and this tide is, moreover, vindicated on behalf of Rome, even by the Papists of our days; vide: Bellarminus lib. 2. de Rom. Pontif. 2, and: Gretserus, defens. 2. contravers. Bellarmini lib. 2. cap. 2.
“The seven hills” do also refer to no other city than to Rome, for this city if, as is generally known, build on seven hills. And even the Papist themselves agree that this name is referring to Rome.
“The great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth,” refers also to Rome; for we know that, at that time, Rome had subjected all kings to its own authority, and that there was not then a town on earth, that could have ascribed to it such an universal power.
854. If the partisans of the popish Church should object to this, and say, that all this did only refer to heathen Rome in which at that time, the faith of Christ was dreadfully persecuted by the Emperors, — we answer:
i. that that part of the Apocalypse, from which our references are taken, is referring to the time that was to succeed that of John and the heathen Emperors.
ii. The facts spoken of more especially were prophesied to come to pass after the Roman empire had gone to ruin; 2. Thess, 2, 3: “that day shall not come, unless there be a falling away first;” which state of things was typified in the Parable of the two beasts, Rev. 13. This had not come to pass at the time of the heathen Emperors.
iii. This empire was to retain a certain appearance of holiness, “I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake us a Dragon,” Rev. 13, 11. Such an appearance of holiness however was not to be found during the reigns of the Roman Emperors. This prophesy, which referred to the Antichrist’s governing at Rome must therefore have reference to a later period.
iv. Finally that this power was to be an ecclesiastical empire we shall prove immediately. For
855. The Antichrist was, fourthly, to be met with in God’s temple, 2. Thess. 2, 4: “Who (the man of sin) opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God or that is worshipped, so that he, as a God, sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is a God.” That thereby the temple at Jerusalem is not intended, can be proved by the facts, that this temple was to be previously destroyed, Matth. 24, 2, and a third temple was not to be raised, Dan. 9, 27. On the contrary it means the Church of God, which is called a “temple,” 1. Cor. 3, 16: “know ye not that ye are the temple or God?” 2. Cor. 6, 16: “ye are the temple of the living God.” It was in such a temple that the Antichrist was to govern; and that this has actually been the case, is sufficiently known.
856. c. The time in which this was to come about. Here we have to observe:
i. At what time this reign of the Antichrist was to commence and to prosper. This can, of course, not be pointed out as to the year and the month. In the first instance, it is described by John as a beast that had seven heads and ten horns, Rev. 13; which are, according to Daniel, ten kings, Daniel 7, 24: “The ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise.” — Secondly, we are also told in the same chapter of the book of Revelation that it was to be sorely wounded, v. 3; after which the apostle saw another beast rising which had two horns like a lamb (two governments, a spiritual and a worldly), but which spake as a Dragon. Which proves that that same beast, the Antichrist, had then began to rise, and that it had already wounded the first beast (the Roman empire). Of this the Apostle speaks 2. Thess. 2, 7: “for the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who- now letteth will let, until he be taken away.”
857. ii. At what time this power was to decline and cease. This we are plainly told by St. Paul, 2. Thess. 2, 8: “Then (when he who now letteth the mystery of iniquity, namely the power of the Romish Church, will take the same away) shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the Spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy him with the brightness of his coming.” Accordingly he is to be revealed and deadly wounded by the Word. For this is, as it were God’s mouth. And the Antichrist shall be taken away as soon as the Son of Man comes to judge the world, — the reasons for which we shall learn presently.
858. d. By the power, pomp and arrogance which the Antichrist has assumed. This circumstance is referred to Revel. 13, 14, when the beast is sending forth his commands to all those who live on earth; when it is brought about that “no man might buy or sell save he that had a mark or the name of the beast,” Rev. 13, 17; — when the woman is said to be “arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand” etc., Revel. 17, 4. — But more especially and pointedly the insolence of Antichrist is described by St. Paul, 2. Thess. 2, 4: “Who (the man of sin) opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as a God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is a God.” — It is now our duty to point out that this has really reference to the romish popes.
859. i. Their great and immense pomp is known to every body, and has been mourned over and complained of for many centuries.
ii. They have exalted themselves above all that is called God, yea even above the living God, the creator of heaven and earth, in that they have not submitted themselves to his word, nor shown any willingness to have their doctrine examined and proved by it. Also in that they maintained the Supper of the Lord to be a sacrifice, and in that they have withdrawn the cup from the laity, which yet the Lord Jesus commanded to be given to them. In this way they have placed their will and ordinances above those of the living God. — Otherwise the authorities are also called God’s, Ps. 82, 1. These also the popes have set themselves above, for they have taken it upon them to set some roman (i. e. german) emperors upon the throne, and take that crown from others. Not to speak of other arrogances and unbecoming actions of which they made themselves guilty, and the unworthy treatment they gave to some of these emperors. Nor were other authorities at liberty to do any thing save that which was approved by, and in the interest of, the popes. Thus they have set themselves above all that is called God; and accordingly have made themselves a God, in that they have exalted themselves above God.
860. iii. They have exalted themselves above all that is called worship, i. e. above all churches on earth. They have also assumed the title of Christ’s vicegerent, the bridegroom, head and first bishop of the Church, and have permitted nobody to have any opinion of his own, — although they have led already many thousand souls to eternal destruction. — There is no end of their ostentation, — and if the world ever has been groaning under the heavy hand of cruel and shameful arrogance, it was certainly by that of the popes.
861. e. The works and occupations of Antichrist; of these we intend to consider especially four:
i. miracles. They are said, in the last times, to be marks of the coming Antichrist, 2. Thess. 2, 9: ” Whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power and signs and lying wonders;” Rev. 13, 13: “And he (the man of sin) doth great wonders.”
The Popes are performing great miracles, at least according to the pompous assertions of their partisans. But that they are lying wonders, we prove:
1. from the fact, that they cannot be proved to be divine miracles;
2. because we do not find in the word of God any rules whereby to prove whether these wonders be not lying wonders; and
3. because we are expressly told, that those wonders which are to be performed in the last days, are to be lying wonders and the work of Satan.
862. ii. The forbidding of meats; 1. Timot. 4, Iff.: “The Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils… commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to he received with thanksgiving.” — The Popes have taken it upon them, to forbid men, during lent, to eat certain meats which have been created by God for our use. Yea even to some spiritual orders they have prohibited their use for all their lives, — professedly in order thereby to induce them to a greater sanctity. Adding that, whosoever ventured to trespass their laAv and take any of these meats (which have yet been created by God to be eaten with thanksgiving!), was to be excluded from the grace of God, and excommunicated by the Popes.
863. iii. The forbidding to marry. This St. Paul states, together with the former sign, in the passage already referred to, saying: “In the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and the doctrines of devils, forbidding to marry.” And Daniel prophesies that the Antichrist was not to regard the desire of women, Chap. 11, 37. This cannot be understood to refer to a general abolition of marriage, but only for certain classes of men.
Now the Popes have forbidden all those to get married, who have anything to do with the public offices of the church, or who are members of a spiritual order. They have done so, in order, as they say, to promote greater godliness among men, but in reality they have thereby given rise to the perpetration of numberless sins and vices, infanticide etc., of which much has been complained already.
864. iv. The barterings which have always been allowed to he carried on in the church. The Apostle complains of that sort of people who wish godliness to be acquired like any other gain. Thereby doubtless having in mind that sort of trade that was to be carried on in the church under the cloak of godliness. In Revel. 18, 3 ff. we find this babylonian empire of the Antichrist described as a rich mercantile town, in which much trade and many rich merchants are to be met with. This is explained Daniel 11, 43: “He shall have power over the treasures of gold and of silver” etc., and 2. Pet. 2, 1 ff.: “There were false prophets among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you.. and through covetousness shall with feigned words make merchandise of you.” This has been fulfilled by the popes to the utmost of their power. What a sum of money have they not extorted for masses, for prayer for the living and the dead, and the latter’s release from purgatory? Or by that very profitable trade with indulgences’, which on the occasion of every jubilee, were sold all over Christendom? Who knows the sum the casus reservati, or the pardon for such sins, the remission of which the popes have retained to themselves, have thrown into their pockets? For that in that case they have not at all been liberal, may be proved by the taxa poenitentiaria, in which the prices are stated which are to be paid for the remission of every sin! Not to speak of the selling of bishop-ricks and other preferences, — so that even godly people among the papists themselves complained, and said, that in their church every thing was to bought for money: kingdoms, church offices, prayers, services, heaven and hell, God and the devil, — every thing!
865. Thus we have stated the principal characteristics of the Antichrist, from which we are able to conclude that popery is the very kingdom of the Antichrist. For whoever, in these last days of the church, is exalting himself above God and all that is God; — and allows himself to be honoured as a God, — having his seat at Rome, — is boasting with lying wonders, and forbidding meats and marriage, — and carrying on bargaining with the things of God, the same must be the real and great Antichrist. That all these things are done by the popes we have just now shown,_ and we therefore conclude popery to be the true and real Antichrist.