The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws,
changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.
—Isa. 24.5

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A Sermon,

On the Holy Catholic Church,

By Henry Bullinger, Minister in Switzerland;

Being the First Sermon from his

Fifth Decade of Sermons.

Having the Following Title

As it was printed in the year 1587:

Of the holie Catholique Church, what it is, how farre it extendeth,

by what markes it is knowne, from whence it springeth,

how it is maintained and preserued, whether it may

erre. Also of the power and studies of

the Church.

X Editor’s Introduction.

What do Protestants know about being Catholic?  Truly, according to the proper sense of this term, Authentic Protestants are the very best Catholics, and the only Catholics who may lay claim to Apostolic doctrine, or pass the trials of the Fathers, who laboured to define the character of true Christians as distinct from both heretics and schismatics.  So here, we have a sermon by a Protestant Reformer, in which the Catholic Church is described and defined.  Not, indeed, that Romanist society, whose head is the Antichrist: but that Heavenly and Holy Society, whose head is the Lord Jesus Christ.  Those who choose to read, will easily learn how very much Protestants know about being Catholic.

Modern Protestantism, it must be admitted, is rather different from what was established in the times of our Reformers.  So many congregations are both mis-united and dis-jointed in the loose system of denominationalism fostered by the civil toleration of false religion.  No society of any sort can lay claim to being The Catholic Church, though many congregations, more or less, partake of its character and constitute its present existence in the world.  Our own edification is hindered by the confusion, and those in darkness doubt they discern any light in the midst of our obscurity.  Lamentation is called for, but the comfort and safety of toleration & indulgence seem so hard to lament.  Can we really stand against these things?  Trace your history.  Read the whole story, with all its causes and effects.  You must stand against these things, in favour of established churches and a united Catholic Church.  The old Covenanter testimony was very much about this.  It is true, they opposed many other sincere Christians of many other kinds. But the reason was quite simple: many Christians, of many kinds, conceded that the Catholic Church’s order and unity should be bartered away for the sake of political expediency and personal safety.

Can the Catholic Church still be a light in the world, and do for the world what the Lord Jesus Christ left us here to do?  The last part of this question necessitates a positive answer.  Our common Lord Jesus Christ will not fail.  His purposes shall be accomplished.  But they shall be accomplished by way of the means he has prescribed.  Not the conspiracy of disunity, but the cooperation of unity; Not diligence in human inventions, but faithfulness in divine institutions; not the heat of ignorant devotion, but the light of doctrinal truth; not a spirited rapture of licentious practice, but a spiritual dedication to holy walking; these will be the distinguishing features of a redeemed Church whose presence will serve a useful purpose in this world.  We may not expect it to be otherwise.  Our mission has but one Author.  He sent not many servants to carry out divers errands.  He gave a single commission, for a work like himself and his working, to be carried out by a company of renewed souls whom he himself united together in faith and practice.  We may read the Great Commission again, and see how it is expressed. Matth. 28.19,20.  And we should bear in mind what else he said several lessons earlier, in Matth. 19.9, What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.


The First Sermon.

THE order and course of things so leading us, next after God the workman and author of all things, we come to speak of his most excellent work, to wit, the Church.  For so great is the goodness of our good God, and most loving father, that not he himself is desirous to live happily & blessedly alone, but moreover to bestow & pour upon us men his beloved creatures, all kind of blessedness, and that we should enjoy his goods by all means possible.  And for that intent he chooseth men to himself who live in this world, that he may once translate unto himself: in whom also (even while they live here) he may dwell, whom he may enrich with all his goods, in whom he may reign, and that they should be called by his name, to wit, a people, a house, a kingdom, an inheritance, a flock, a congregation or church of the living God.  Of which Church I will speak (being aided with your prayers) such things as the Lord of the Church will grant unto me to utter.

Ecclesia, a Church or congregation.

This word Ecclesia, which signifieth a church or congregation, is a Greek {812:B} word, used and received among the Latins, signifying, as I said, a congregation, communion, or assembly (in the Dutch tongue, Ein Gemeind) or a people gathered together to hear of matters of the commonwealth.  For so it is found that Luke used this word in the 19th Chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, but it was translated to an holy use, & began to be called a congregation, assembly, or company of the faithful, calling upon the name of the Lord.  Paul saith, [1 Cor. 16,] that he persecuted the congregation or church of God: who in another place [Acts 22.5, 26.10,] saith: I received authority from the high Priests, to bind all those that call upon the name of Christ.  For now doth he term them such as call upon the name of Christ, or Christians, whom before he named the Church.  Or else this word, Ecclesia, the church or congregation, is so called of calling forth together: for in the Greek tongue Eccaleo signifieth to call forth.  For God calleth forth from all parts of the wide world, & from the whole congregation of men, all believers together with their seed, that they may be his peculiar people, & he again may be their God, (that is to say) that they may be the church of the living God.  In times past, the congregation or assembly of the Jewish people being GOD his {813:A} flock, was called a Synagogue: for this word Synagogue, signifieth as much as Ecclesia, the congregation.  But because of the stubbornness of the Jews, and the unappeasable hatred which they bare towards Christian religion, this word Synagogue, is not esteemed, but is almost quite grown out of use.  But we will not dispute by due and right order of the Churches, either of the Jews, or the Turks, or of other strange Churches of the Gentiles, whereof we know there are many sorts and kinds.  We will speak of the Christian Church and congregation of the faithful, which the Germans do call Die kirch, alluding peradventure to the Greek word κυροκη.  For they call κυρικην any thing belonging to the Lord, to wit, a house or a people, as the Germans do call Die kirchen, both the people of God themselves, and also the place wherein they assemble together to worship God.  But first of all we will describe a little plainlier what the Church or congregation is.

What the Church is.

The Church is the whole company and multitude of the faithful, partly being now in heaven, and partly remaining yet here upon earth: where it doth agree plainly in unity of faith, or true doctrine, and in the lawful partaking of the Sacraments: neither is it divided, but joined and united together, as it were in one house and fellowship.

The Catholic Church.

This Church was usually called Catholic, that is to say, universal, for she bringeth forth her branches in all places of the wide world, in all times of all ages: and generally doth comprehend all the faithful of the whole world.  For the Church of God is not tied to any one region, nation, or kindred, to condition, age, sex, or {813:B} kind: all the faithful generally, and each one specially, wherever they or he be, are citizens and members of this Church.  Paul the Apostle saith: There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither bondman nor free, neither man nor woman, for ye be all one in Christ Jesus. [Gal. 3.28.]

The distinction of the Church: The Triumphant Church.

The Church is distinguished into the Triumphant and the Militant.  The Triumphant is that great company of holy spirits in heaven triumphing for the victory gotten against the world, sin, and the devil, still enjoying the sight of God, wherein consisteth all fulness of all kind of joy and pleasure.  Whereupon they set forth God’s glory, and praise his goodness for ever.  This Church doth John the Apostle set forth very notably in his Revelation [7.9,10], saying: After this I saw, and behold a great company which no man was able to number of all nations, peoples, and tongues, standing before the Throne, and in the sight of the lamb, clothed in white raiments, & palms in their hands: and they cried out with a loud voice saying: Salvation belongeth to him that sitteth on the throne of our God, and to the lamb.  And a little after he saith: And one of the Elders answered and said unto me: These which are clothed in white garments, who are they? or from whence come they?  And I said unto him: Thou knowest Lord.  And he said unto me: These are they that have come out of great affliction, & have spread abroad their garments, & have made them white in the blood of the lamb: therefore are they before the throne of GOD, and serve day and night in his holy Temple.  And he that sitteth on the Throne shall dwell over them.  They shall neither {814:A} hunger nor thirst henceforth any more: neither shall the Sun shine on them, or any heat: because the Lamb who sitteth in the midst of the throne shall govern them, and bring them to the springs of the water of life.  And the Lord shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.

Brethren, ye have heard a notable description of the triumphant Church in heaven, and that too triumphing truly through the blood of Jesus Christ, by whom they conquered, and do now reign.  For Christ is that Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world: By whom all which be sanctified are sanctified: and shall be sanctified, and do live from the first creation of the world unto the end of all times.  Paul, in a certain place [Heb. 12.22-23,] giving unto us also a notable description of this Church, telleth that we which as yet are busied in the Militant Church, shall sometime be translated to the same, and be made fellows with the Angels of GOD, received among the orders of the Patriarchs, and placed in the company of the blessed Spirits with the most high GOD himself, and the Mediatour our Lord Jesus Christ.  For he preaching the greatness of God’s grace brought unto us by the Gospel, & exhorting us to receive the same with a true faith, Ye came not (saith he) unto mount Sinai, to a fire, to a whirlwind, a stormy tempest and darkness, but unto mount Sion, to the city of the living God, to heavenly Jerusalem, & to the innumerable company of Angels, and to the Church or congregation of the first begotten, which are written in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the perfect just, and to the mediatour of the new Testament {814:B} Jesus Christ, speaking better things than the blood of Abel spake.  And therefore all the Saints in heaven do belong unto our company, or rather we belong unto their fellowship.  For we are companions and fellow-heirs with the Saints, from Adam, unto the end of all worlds, and God’s house-hold.  Which containeth the greatest comfort of all man’s life, and moveth most of all to the study of virtue.  For what more worthy thing is there, than to be of God’s household? Or what may be thought more sweet to us, than to think our selves fellows with the Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs, of all Angels and blessed spirits?  This benefit, I say, Christ hath bestowed on us. To him therefore be praise, glory, and thanks forever and ever, Amen.

The Militant Church.

The Militant Church is a congregation of men upon earth, professing the name and religion of Christ, continually fighting in the world, against the devil, sin, flesh, and the world, in the camp and tents, and under the banner of our Lord Christ.  This Church is to be considered two ways: For either it is to be taken strictly, comprehending them only which be not only called, but are in very deed the Church, the faithful and elect of God, lively members knit unto Christ, not with bands and other outward marks and signs, but in spirit and faith: and oftentimes by these means without the other.  Of which matter we will speak hereafter.  This inward and invisible Church of GOD, may be well named the elect spouse of Christ, only known unto God, who alone knoweth who are his.  When we be first taught to know this Church, we confess her with the Apostles Creed, saying: I believe the holy {815:A} Catholic Church, the communion of Saints.  And in these few words, we comprehend, that there is a Church, also what is the Church, and what manner one it is.  For first we confess that there hath been, and is, a Church of God, and that it shall continue for ever.  Then professing what it is, we add this, The communion of Saints.  That is to say: We believe the Church to be nothing else, but the company of all those Saints that are, have been, and shall be, as well in this present age, as in the world to come, who enjoy all good things in common, granted unto them by God.  Also we express what manner of thing the Church is, to wit, holy, even the spouse of Christ cleansed & blessed.  For Paul calleth them holy, which are cleansed with the spirit and blood of our God, [1 Cor. 6.11,] of which a great part have received crowns of glory: the residue labour here upon earth hoping to receive them in heaven.  And truly, in consideration of the church, the chiefest matter is, that through the grace of GOD we be made the members of Christ’s body, & partakers of all heavenly gifts with the Angels.  For we confess none to be more holy than our own selves.

The Church [Visible] doth comprehend the wicked.

Or the Church more largely considered, comprehendeth not only those that are the very faithful and holy indeed, but also them who although they believe not truly, or unfeignedly, neither be clean or holy in the conversation of their life, yet do they acknowledge and profess true religion with the true believers, and the holy men of God: yea, they speak well and allow of virtues, and reprove evil, neither do sever themselves from the unity of this holy Church Militant.  In which consideration, not so much as the wicked {815:B} and hypocrites, such as we read to have been in the Church in the time of Christ & the Apostles, as Judas, Ananias & Saphira, Simon Magus, also Demas, Hymenæus, Alexander, & many other are excluded and put from the Church, which Church may well be called the outward and visible church.  But this Church whereof we speak, is to be accounted of, either by reason of some part thereof, or else of the whole.  For it is to be considered generally and particularly.  And the particular Church is that which is comprised in a certain number, and is known by some sure and certain place.  For of the place it taketh the name, being called after the names of Cities, as the Churches of Zurich, and Bern, &c.

The Greeks called those particular Churches paroichias, which we commonly call Parishes.  And we call that a parish which hath dwelling houses and streets joined together in neighbourhood.  But in Cities and towns unto certain portions, are usually ascribed both Churches and parish Priests to serve them, and all that whole circuit is called a parish: In the Dutch tongue, ein Barchi, oder pfarkyrch, oder ein Kyrch hocry. And in the old time the parish Priest was a provider.  For he provided and gave necessaries to strangers, and chiefly salt & wood.  Some called him the maker of the feast, others called him a preparer of Virgins.  Therefore because the pastors of Churches be as it were preparers of Virgins for the Redeemer and head of the church which is Christ, bringing unto him a chaste and undefiled virgin: & to be short, because they themselves provided things most necessary for the people of God, and also prepared heavenly meats and banquets, {816:A} the pastors of the Lord’s flock are very well called parish priests, or the curates of souls.  Of the particular church, the Lord speaking in the Gospel saith: If he that offendeth the Church will not regard when he is warned, complain unto the church. [Matth. 18.]  But it is not possible that the universal Church through the whole world should assemble & come together, that the rebellious and obstinate should be brought before it: wherefore judgement is referred to be given on the stubborn by the particular Churches.  To conclude, the universal Church consisteth of all the particular Churches throughout the whole world, and of all the visible parts and members thereof.

This is the same which we shadowed out of late, when we spake more at large thereof.

The Church of God hath been & shall be for ever.

But the catholic Church of God doth abide with us (as we began to tell a little before) continually from age to age from the beginning, and is at this time dispersed throughout the whole world, both visibly and invisibly, and the Lord’s people and God his house shall continue upon earth, unto the world’s end.  For there was never yet any world, neither shall be any age, wherein God hath not sanctified or will not sanctify some unto himself, in whom he will dwell, & that they shall be his flock and holy house: for the testimonies of ancient Prophets do record that the Church is perpetual.  For thus we find it written in the 132nd Psalm: The Lord hath chosen Sion, he hath chosen her for an habitation for himself.  This is my resting place for ever and ever, here will I dwell, because I have chosen her.  And again, I have sworn unto David in my holiness, his seed shall remain for ever, and his seat shall continue {816:B} before me as the Sun.  But who knoweth not that all this is to be understood of Christ the son of David, and of his throne and spiritual Sion, which is the Church?  He also signifying the continuance of the Church, saith in the Gospel: I will remain with you continually, unto the end of the world. [Matth. 28.]  And again, I will ask of my Father, and he shall give you another comforter, the spirit of truth, that he may abide with you for ever. [John 14.]  To this belongeth also that saying in the Gospel: And the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church. [Matth. 16.]  Which saying truly is a great comfort to the faithful, in so many and so great persecutions intended to the utter destruction and overthrow of the Church.

The church of the Devil & Antichrist.

But as Christ had always his church here upon earth, hath now, and for ever shall have: so likewise the devil as long as the world shall continue, shall never want his people in whom he may reign.  This Church of the devil took her first beginning of Cain, and shall continue to the last wicked person, comprehending also all those evil peoples that have been in the mean time, and shall be, betwixt the beginning and the ending.  But they living here on earth, have society and common [communion] with them that are tormented in hell.  For as all that be godly being under one head Christ do make one body, so all the wicked under one head Satan are one incorporate body.  This may right worthily be called the wicked church, Sodom and Gomorrah, Babylon the congregation of Chorah, Dathan, and Abiram, a Synagogue, a school, and a stew of the devil, the kingdom of Antichrist, or any other of like sort.  In this church are reckoned up all such as are wicked, and {817:A} infidels, separating themselves from the society of our holy mother the Church, or forsaking the communion thereof: and specially such as are mockers of GOD, and his holy word, blasphemers and persecutors of Christ and his church.  Such in these days are the Heathen, Turks, Jews, Hereticks, schismatics, and generally all such as are professed enemies to Christian religion.  And to these also we may add hypocrites.  For it is no small offence, that the Lord himself in every part of the Gospel doth so earnestly persecute and blame. [Matth. 5, 6, & 23. Matth. 24.]  Among other things he saith, The Lord of that servant shall come in the day wherein he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he shall not know of, & shall divide him, & shall give him his portion with hypocrites, where shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. [Matth. 24.50,51.]  Out of all doubt he signified the greatness of the offence by the sharpness of the punishment.  This church doth follow the motions of the Devil, and the devices or imaginations of her own heart, and is busied and exercised in all kind of blasphemy and wickedness, wherein she excelleth herself, and at last sinketh down to hell, that she be not in any place separated from that head, whereunto she hath so diligently or rather obstinately joined herself.

How hypocrites are, or may be accounted in the Church of God.

I know right-well that ye will object against me, for that I have reckoned the hypocrites to be in the outward communion and fellowship of the militant Church, and now again to account them of the company of the devil’s church.  Moreover you will say, That it is impossible that the same hypocrites may take part of both churches differing betwixt themselves, for that the Lord saith: Either make the {817:B} tree good and the fruit good, or else the tree nought & the fruit nought. [Matth. 12.33.]  And Paul also saith, That there is no fellowship betwixt Christ and Belial, betwixt light and darkness, twixt truth and lying, and that hypocrisy is lying & darkness. [2 Cor. 6.]

Here therefore I perceive a fit place to shew, by what means, and how far I may account hypocrites to be of the congregation of the Church.  First we make a distinction or difference of hypocrites.  For there are certain hypocrites that put their confidence in their human justice [righteousness] and equity, doing all their works openly that they may be seen of men, firmly trusting, and stiffly standing to men’s traditions.

To these it is a custom and property not only to flee from the Church which teacheth the righteousness of Christ, but also to curse, detest, and to persecute it with all cruelty.  Such kind of people were the Jews and Jewish Pharisees, with whom our Lord Jesus Christ had much contention, and with whom even at this day the Church contendeth and maketh wars.  These be the plain and visible members of the Devil’s church, and they are not to be counted of the outward church, yea, they are not once worthy to be named in the Church of Christ.

Again, there are some kind of hypocrites that are dissemblers, which neither give any confidence to their own righteousness and justice, neither yet do greatly regard the traditions of men.  These kinds of people neither hate the Church, nor flee from it, nor persecute it: but outwardly they agree with it, professing the same faith, and participating [in] the {818:A} self-same Sacraments: but inwardly and in mind they neither believe unfeignedly and sincerely, neither do they live holily.

Of this sort, some of them for a season will cleave to the fellowship and company of the Church: and having any occasion given, they will fall from it as hereticks and schismatics are wont to do, & such as of friends are become enemies.  Others there be again that never fall from the Church, but keep themselves in the fellowship of the Church all their lifetime, outwardly pretending and feigning religion, but inwardly giving themselves up to their own errors, faults, and wickedness: unto whom without doubt the outward behaviour & fellowship profiteth nothing at all.  For we ought to live forever, and to participate [in] all heavenly gifts with them that desire them, to join in fellowship with the Church of GOD, not only by outward and visible society, but by inward communion and fellowship, wherein consisteth life and salvation.  Of which matter we will speak in convenient place.  Such hypocrites or dissemblers hanging on the ecclesiastical body, are called members of the body, and are said to be of the Church.  Which matter that it may the better be understood of you all, we will set it forth by certain parables.

We say that the wicked or hypocrites, be in like sort in the Church, as chaff is in the corn: which indeed is of another nature, and is no corn.  Like as therefore oft times there hang members unto men’s bodies, either dry, or rotten, or feeble, which members although they have no society, nor take part with the lively members in the vital spirit, yet by coupling together, and by certain strings, {818:B} they cleave fast unto the lively members, by means whereof they are also called by men members and parts of the body, who lest they should infect the other, they cut them off: oft times they let them alone, lest by cutting them off, the whole body should be in danger of life: Even so in like sort, we say, that hypocrites are in the Church of Christ, though they be not united to the Church either by the bond of the spirit, or of faith and love: neither are they to be taken for lively members: yet are they suffered, lest some worse mischief happen to the whole body of the Church: and oft times they are cut off, whereby the better health may come to the Ecclesiastical body.  But let us hear what the Evangelical and Apostolical testimony saith.  The Lord saith plainly in the Gospel, [Matth. 13,] that in the Lord’s field cockle groweth up being sown by a wicked man, which he forbiddeth to be plucked up, lest that therewith the corn be plucked up also.  Behold cockle sown by an evil man (I say) by the Devil himself, which is no corn, yet doth it increase, and is in the Lord’s field.  Again, the Lord saith in the Gospel, The kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, which being cast into the sea, draweth all manner of things up with it, and when it is filled it is brought to the shore, and there men sitting, reserve that which is good in a vessel, and that which is evil they cast away.  Again, behold how ye may see both good and bad to be drawn in the self-same net: and therefore in the self-same kingdom, both good and evil to be reckoned.  Also in another Parable, [Matth. 22,] there entereth one in among the guests which hath not on his wedding garment, who is suffered for a season, but yet at last {819:A} is cast out of doors by the Lord of the feast.  In another place it is said that he hath a fan in his hand, and cleaneth the floor, and burneth the chaff with unquenchable fire. [Matth. 3.12.]  Paul in his Epistle to the Corinthians, [1 Cor. 5.11-13,] putteth a difference betwixt the professed and open enemies of Christ’s Church, and the impure sort of men, who as yet are not quite repugnant and adversaries to the Church, and the name of Christ: If any man (saith he) that is called a brother, be a thief, or a whoremonger, or a covetous person, &c. with such an one see that ye eat no meat. For what doth it belong unto me to judge of them that be without? For God judgeth them that are without. Without, that is to say, without the bounds of the church, he placeth them that are not called brethren, to wit, such as do not acknowledge the name of Christ, or of the Church.  Within, that is to say, in the society of the Church, (I mean of the outward church) he reckoneth up them that as yet do acknowledge the name of Christians, neither yet do withstand ecclesiastical discipline, though themselves in the mean time be defiled and spotted with much mischief.  Of all men, John the Apostle spake plainly saying, [1 John 2.19]: They went out from us, but they were none of us.  For if they had been of us, they had tarried still with us.  This seemeth to be a new kind of speech.  For if they which go out of the Church had not been in the society of the Church, how could they go out of the Church?  Can a man come forth of a place in the which he never came, or in which he never was?  Therefore if hypocrites and evil men are gone out of the Church, surely they were sometime in the Church; then, to wit, when they had not as yet gone {819:B} out of it, and did plainly shew what manner ones they were indeed.  Again, for that they went out of the Church, they manifestly shew that they were never indeed the true and lively members of Christ and the Church, yet for a while they were numbered among the members of the Church: The Apostle giveth the reason, it is the disposition of Christ’s true members never to forsake Christ and his Church, but to continue and also to prosper and increase daily more and more.

The Saints and holy men truly do offend or fall, but yet they do not forsake Christ utterly.  David having committed adultery and manslaughter, crieth out, saying, [Psalm 51,] Make me a clean heart (O Lord) and renew a right spirit within me.  Cast me not away from thy presence, and take not thy holy spirit from me.  O give me the comfort of thy help again, and stablish me with thy free spirit.

Peter denied the Lord, and the weak flesh overcame a good spirit, [Luke 22]: but immediately (the Lord stirring up his heart) he repented, and departing from evil company, he adjoined himself to the good fellowship of the Lord, who foretold him of this great fall, and thereto added these words, I prayed for thee that thy faith should not fail, and thou when thou art converted, confirm thy brethren.  The same Peter also in another place, [John 6.68,69,] what time many fell from Christ, being demanded, whether he also provided to depart? answered, Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the word of eternal life.  And we believe and know that thou art Christ the son of the living God. {820:A} Wherefore John said very truly, [1 John 2.19,] They went out from us, but they were none of us, He addeth the reason, If they had been of us they had still tarried with us.  Therefore because they continued not still with us in the society of Christ and the church, they shewed by their defection and falling away, what manner ones hitherto they have been: we accounted them to be members of the Church, but they by their falling away, did declare that they were chaff in the Lord’s Corn.  For as chaff being not stirred nor fanned, doth seem to be heavy with a grain of wheat in it, but being once fanned, it appeareth empty and light, and is put apart from the Corn: so hypocrites being light by reason of their defection, do manifestly prove that they were never heavy with the seed of God’s word, and that they were never of the true corn of Christ.

All that be in the church be not the Church.

From hence a general and ancient opinion is gathered, that all that are said to be the Church, and beautify themselves with the title of the Church, are not by and by the Church.  For John plainly addeth, But that it may be evident that all be not of us.  We read how that Paul to the Romans saith: They are not all Israelites which came of Israel, neither are they all children straightway because they are the seed of Abraham, but in Isaac shall thy seed be called. [Rom. 9.6,7.]  Therefore the faithful are the true & lively members of Christ and of the Saints.  In [the] mean season truly, so long as hypocrites or wicked persons, not yet putting off their visors, shall by their sayings and doings declare what they are, that they may lawfully be cut from the Church, who not yet breaking away by their {820:B} own accord, do forsake Christ in the open field, and flee to the tents of antichrist or the devil, are known and taken to be the true inhabitants of the Church, and are called the church and the members of the Church, although God who beholdeth the hearts of all men, doth well enough discern them.  I will again make this matter plain by an example.  As long as Judas the betrayer of Christ and manslayer, did not utter his crafty or rather most wicked device, either by open deed or word, neither forsook the company of Christ and the Apostles, but did preach and provide necessary things of household for Christ, he was accounted for an Apostle and the steward of Christ, yea and for a member of the Apostolic Church. [John 13.]

Yet the self-same Judas was called by the Lord, [John 6.70,] a Devil, and when he spake of the elect of his true and lively members, he was most plainly shut out, so that there is no occasion of doubt to think that Judas was a member of the inward and holy Church of God, though he were a member of the outward Church, being reckoned in the number of the holy men.

The visible & invisible; the outward and inward Church.

And therefore they spake not without great advice that say: That of God’s Church there was one visible and outward, another invisible and inward.

The visible and outward Church is that which is outwardly known by men for a Church, by hearing God’s word, and partaking of his Sacraments, and by publick confession of their faith.  The invisible and inward is so called, not that men are invisible, but because it is not to be seen with man’s eye, and yet doth appear before God’s eyes who believe truly, and who feignedly. {821:A} For the true believers, are the true and lively members of the inward church: which before I called the Militant Church more strictly considered: but the other visible Church comprehending both good and bad, is more largely considered.

Of the outward marks of the church of God.

Now forasmuch as we have said, that the Church militant upon earth, is marked by God with certain tokens and marks, whereby it may be known in this world: it followeth next, that we should speak of those outward marks of the church of God.  And there are two special and principal marks.  The sincere preaching of the word of God, and the lawful partaking of the sacraments of Christ: whereas some add unto these, the study of godliness and unity, patience in affliction, and the calling on the name of GOD by Christ; but we include them in these twain that we have set down.

Paul, writing to the Ephesians, saith: Christ gave himself for the congregation, that he might sanctify it, and cleanse it in the fountain of water through the word. [Eph. 5.25,26.]  Ye have in this testimony of the Apostle, the marks of the Church, to wit, the Word and the Sacrament, by the which Christ maketh to himself a Church.  For with his grace he calleth, with the blood of Christ he purifieth that which he sheweth by his word to be received by faith, and sealeth with Sacraments, that the faithful should doubt of nothing touching their salvation obtained through Christ.  And these things truly do properly belong unto the faithful, & the holy members.  Whereas hypocrites are not purified, the fault lieth in themselves, and not in God or his holy ministry: They are surely sanctified visibly, whereupon {821:B} they are counted holy amongst men: and these things do improperly belong unto them.  Peter in this point differeth not a whit from Paul, who when he preached the word of God to the people of Jerusalem, and they demanding what they should do, Peter answered, Repent, and be ye every one baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. [Acts 2.38.]  Peter therefore joined baptism with doctrine, the sacrament with the word.  Which thing he had learned of our Saviour himself in the Gospel written by Matthew saying: Teach ye all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Ghost. [Matth. 28.19.]  So that ye read in the Acts no other mysteries of the Word and Sacraments of the Church, than are recited in these words, They continued in the doctrine of the Apostles, and in doing alms deeds, and in breaking of bread, and prayer, [Acts 2]: where ye may see the Supper of the Lord another Sacrament adjoined to the sacrament of baptism, also the desire & study of unity and love, and the calling upon the name of God.

These things being thus sufficiently plain and firm enough, yet notwithstanding I will add other testimonies out of the holy Scriptures.  Concerning the token of God’s word, or the preaching of his Gospel, the Lord himself speaketh by Isaiah the Prophet, saying: I will make this covenant with them, My spirit that is come upon thee (the Church) & my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall never go out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy children’s children, saith the Lord, from this time forth for evermore. [Isa. 59.21.]  For in the Gospel also the Lord Jesus saith: He that is of God, {822:A} doth hear the word of God. [John 8.47.]  Again, My sheep hear my voice, & I know them, & I give to them everlasting life: & they shall not perish for ever. [John 10.27,28.]  And again, He that loveth me will keep my commandments: he that loveth me not, will not keep my commandments. [John 14.]  Again, Who so is of the truth will hear my voice. [John 18.37.]

Now as touching the marks and tokens of the Sacraments, Paul, speaking of holy baptism, saith, Through one spirit we are all baptized in one body. [1 Cor. 12.13.]  And he also speaking of the Lord’s Supper, saith, Though we be many, yet are we one bread & one body, for we are all partakers of the same bread.  Is not the cup of blessing which we bless, partaking of the blood of Christ? [1 Cor. 10.16,17.]

It is most certain therefore, for that it is approved by testimonies of holy Scriptures, that the outward marks and tokens of the Church are, the Word and the Sacrament.  For these bring us into the society of one ecclesiastical body, and keep us in the same.

How these marks declare the Church.

All these testimonies properly (as I said a little before) do belong unto the elect members of GOD, being endued with faith and true obedience: but unto the hypocrites, which are void of faith and due obedience, they nothing at all belong: notwithstanding because these also do hear the voice of the shepherd outwardly, and ensue virtue, and openly or outwardly are annexed to the elect and true believers in the partaking of the Sacraments, yea, unto the true body of Christ, for those outward signs’ sake, they are accounted to be in the Church so long as they depart not from it.  In which point, for perspicuity sake, having treated of the marks of the {822:B} Church, we must add this thereunto, that by common order these marks do declare and note the members of the Church.

For there are certain special members, who although they want these marks, yet are they not excluded from the society and communion of the true Church of Christ.  For it is most evident, that there are many in the world which do not hear the ordinary preaching of God’s word, neither do come into the congregation and company of them that call upon God, or that receive the Sacraments: not for that they despise them, or that it is a delight unto them to be [away] from Sermons and the preaching of God’s word, but because through necessity, as imprisonment, sickness, or being let [hindered] by some other urgent cause, they cannot attain unto that which they earnestly desire, and yet for all that, they are the true and lively members of Christ and of the Catholic Church.  In times past the Lord instituted or appointed to the people of Israel a visible Church, which he established by a certain law, and set it forth by visible signs.  If any man had despised this Church or refused when he might to hear the doctrine of the Church, and to enter in among the holy company, and to do sacrifice, or else had railed at it; [or] instead of the order of worshipping GOD that was appointed, had embraced any other kind, truly he was not accounted at all to be of the order & number of the people of God.  And yet it is certain that there were an innumerable company of men dispersed throughout the whole world among the Gentiles, who never did, nor could, communicate with this visible company and congregation of God’s people: and yet {823:A} notwithstanding, they were holy members of this society and communion, and the friends of almighty GOD.  There were a great many of the children of GOD, with Joachim and Jechonias, taken prisoners by Nebuchadnezzar, and brought captive into Babylon, to whom it was no prejudice, neither did they hurt them, that they were separated from the people of God, the Church, and worshipping of God, being then visibly upholden by Zedechias at Jerusalem: even as in very deed it did little avail a great many, to be in the visible assemblies and congregations, with the people of GOD in God’s temple, when their minds and hearts were not sound and perfect.

We may in these days, find out a great many of the faithful dispersed on the seas, condemned to the galleys for the confession of the true faith: we may find many that be holden in captivity under Antichrist, of the which we will speak in the next Sermon following: we may find also a wonderful many in Greece, Anatolia [Asia Minor], Persia, Arabia, or in Africa, being the servants of Jesus Christ, and worthy members of the catholic Church of Christ, being shut out and debarred from the holy mysteries of the christians through impiety and cruelty of Mahomet, nevertheless, we shall find them all most nearly joined together in one spirit, and one faith, with all the true members of the church, and marked also with the visible signs.  Therefore, the word and sacraments, by common decree, are the marks of the Church, not putting apart or dissevering the faithful from the communion and society of other faithful being in some necessity shut out from the visible company of those that are faithful. {823:B}

What manner of God’s word it ought to be that is the true mark of the Church.

But to the perfect understanding of the marks of the Church, this belongeth also, and that most principally, that it is not enough to brag of the word of God, or of the Scripture, unless also we embrace, retain, and determine the true sense, and that which is agreeing with the articles of faith.  For if we corrupt the sense of the scripture, and urge the same in the Church, then dost thou not bring forth the sincere scripture itself, but thine own opinion, & thy fancies which thou hast devised of thine own mind.  The Church of the Arians did not refuse the word of the Lord, but rather laboured both to beautify & defend their own blasphemous errours, by the testimonies of holy scripture.

That Church denied our Lord Jesus Christ, to be of one substance with God the Father: which thing, since that the sense of the Scriptures, and of the ancient faith among the chiefest points of our faith doth both affirm and urge, truly it alleged not the sincere and pure word of God, howsoever it boasted of it, but an adulterate word, yea, and thrust in and defended her heretical opinion, for the true and perfect meaning of the holy Scripture: and therefore it had not the true mark of the Church, neither was it the true Church of God.  By this one unhappy example, we may judge of all other Churches of heretics: who though they seem not to be void of the testimony of God’s word, yet for all that in very deed, they have no purity of God’s word in them.

After what sort the Sacraments ought to be used.

That which we have said concerning the word of God, is also necessarily to be understood of the use of the Sacraments: for except they be orderly and lawfully used, I say, in that order, in the which the Lord himself {824:A} instituted them, they are no marks or signs of the Church of God.

Jeroboam truly sacrificed, yea he sacrificed unto God: but because he sacrificed not lawfully, he was accounted a stranger, and a faller-off from the true Church of God. [1 Kings 12.]

Yea, David himself brought with great devotion and much joy and melody the ark of the Lord of hosts [2 Sam. 6]: but because he carried it not lawfully upon the shoulders of the Priests, by and by, instead of great joy, the exceeding sorrow which followed declared that it is not enough to use the Sacraments and ordinances of God, unless ye use them lawfully, which if you do, God will acknowledge you for his.

[Those] Baptized of heretics are not rebaptized.

Moreover, those which of old were baptized of heretics, were not for that cause baptized again by the ancient catholics: because the heretics baptized not into the name of any man or into the society of their errours or heresies, but baptized In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Ghost: neither did they invocate their own name, or the name of Arch-heretics, but of Jesus Christ.

Wherefore, not the baptism of heretics, but the baptism of the church, yet ministered by heretics, they not refusing, they allowed not the churches of heretics, as known to be true by true signs: but they acknowledged that heretics use things properly belonging unto the true Church: neither that it doth any thing at all derogate or take from a good thing, if any wicked or evil man do administer it.

We do not acknowledge at this day, the upstart Romish Church of {824:B} the Pope (we speak not now of that old Apostolic Church) to be the true church of Christ, yet we do not rebaptize those which were baptized of the priests, embrued with popish corruption.

For we know that they are baptized with the baptism of Christ’s Church, and not of the Pope, in the name of the holy Trinity, to the articles of the Catholic faith, not to errours, not to superstitions and papistical impieties.  Finally, we confess, that not at this day the unworthiness of the minister can derogate any thing from the service of God.  In like sort also we refuse not the Lord’s prayer, or the Apostles’ Creed, or finally the canonical Scriptures themselves, because the Romish church doth also use them: for she hath them not of herself, but received them from the true church of God.  Wherefore we use them in common with her, not for the Romish church’s sake, but because they came from the true church of Christ do we use them.

Of the inward marks of the church of God.

Beside those outward marks of the Church, which the true believers have common with hypocrites, there are certain inward marks specially belonging only to the godly: or else if you will, rather call them bonds or proper gifts.

These do make the outward marks to be fruitful, and without the outward marks, being by some necessity absent, do make men worthy or acceptable in the sight of God.  For without these no man can please GOD: in these therefore is the true mark of God’s children.  And those be the fellowship of God’s spirit, a sincere faith, and double charity.

For by these the faithful, being the {825:A} true and lively members of Christ, are united & knit together, first unto their head Christ, then to all the members of the Ecclesiastical body.

And the consideration hereof doth chiefly belong to the knowledge of the true Church of God, which though she should suffer rotten members, yet is she not defiled of them through their outward conjunction.

For with continual study she laboureth by all means to keep her self undefiled to God.  And first of all the Evangelical and Apostolical doctrine doth teach us, that Christ is joined to us by his spirit, and that we are tied to him in mind or spirit, by faith, that he may live in us, and we in him.  For the Lord crieth out in the Gospel, saying, [John 7.37,38]: If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink. He that believeth in me (as the Scripture saith) shall have streams of living water flowing out of his belly.  To which saying by and by the Evangelist addeth this, But this he spake concerning the spirit which they should receive that believed in him.  Again he promising, in his Gospel, his spirit unto his disciples, yea even unto all his faithful, which should abide with them for ever, saith, [John 14.20]: In that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you, to wit, by the Holy Ghost.  John the Apostle expounding it and saying, [1 John 3.24,] By this we know that he dwelleth in us, by the spirit that he gave unto us.  And again, [1 John 4.13,] By this we know that we dwell in him, & he in us, because he hath given of his spirit unto us. Paul, the vessel of election, differeth not from John, writing and saying to the Romans, [Rom. 8.9,] If any man hath not the spirit of Christ, the same is none of {825:B} his.  And whosoever are led by the spirit of God, they are the children of God.  Now as touching true faith, which tieth us unto the Lord, Paul saith, [Gal. 2.20,] I live now, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me. But the life which I now live in the flesh, I live yet through the faith of the son of God, who loved me and gave up himself for me.  And again he saith, [Eph. 3.17,] Christ dwelleth in our hearts through faith.  With which sayings, John the Apostle agreeing again, saith, [1 John 4.15]: whosoever confesseth that Jesus Christ is the son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. For the Lord himself before that, said in the Gospel, He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. [John 6.56.] And he eateth Christ’s flesh and drinketh Christ’s blood, that believeth.

Therefore Christ our Lord is joined unto us in spirit, and we are tied to him in mind and faith, as the body unto the head: they therefore that lack this knot and bond, that is, that have not the spirit of Christ nor true faith in Christ, are not the true & lively members of Christ: the Lord himself in the Gospel witnessing and saying, [John 15.6]: If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withereth, and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they burn.  Which words of our saviour the Apostle imitating, (as we said even now) said, He that hath not the spirit of Christ is none of his.  But they that are not destitute of the spirit of Christ, are inflamed with the love of God.  Neither do we separate love from faith, the same John so teaching us, and saying, [1 John 4.16]: God is love, and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. {826:A} For the Lord saith in the Gospel, [John 14.23,] If a man love me, he will keep my word, and my father will love him, and we will come unto him, & will dwell with him.  But although properly faith join us to our head Christ, yet the same also doth knit us to all Christ’s members upon earth.  For whereas there is but one faith of them all, and therefore the same spirit, there cannot but be the same mouth, the same mind, and the same sentence amongst them all: although faith be not now taken only for a confidence in the mercy of God through Jesus Christ, but also for an outward confession of faith.

For we all confessing one faith, and one and the self-same head, with one spirit and mouth, we also together profess that we all are members of one and the self same body.  Neither is there any thing else in the world, that more unappeasably dissevereth the minds of men, than the diversity of faith or religion: and therefore there is nothing that may more nearly join us together, than unity of faith.

We come now to speak of love, which I said, joineth together the members of the ecclesiastical body, mutually amongst themselves.  The Lord saith in the Gospel, A new commandment give I unto you, that ye love one another: as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.  By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another, [John 13.34,35.]  It is therefore out of doubt, that the only mark of the church next after faith, is love, a bond most firmly knitting together all the members.

This groweth from the communion of Christ, and unity of the spirit.  For insomuch as Christ the King, the head, and high Bishop of the Catholic Church, enduing us all with one and {826:B} the same spirit, hath made us all his members, the sons of God, brethren and fellow-heirs, whom undoubtedly he loveth tenderly: every faithful man cannot choose, but with fervent love embrace the members and fellow-heirs of their king, their head, and their high Bishop.  For John the Apostle saith, [1 John 5.1; 4.20.]: Every one that loveth him that begat, doth love him also that is born of him.  If any man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar.  For how can he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, love God whom he hath not seen?  Paul to the end that he might most properly express before our eyes, and as it were set to view and behold this unity and agreement of the members, useth a parable taken from the members of a man’s body, and saith: For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not one office, so we being many are one body in Christ, and every one, one another’s members. [Rom. 12.4,5.]  The same in the twelfth chapter of the first Epistle to the Corinthians, more largely and plainly expounding [the] joining together of the head and the members, and that chiefly by the said parable of the members of a man’s body, and publishing it very eloquently, witnesseth, that between the highest members of the Church and the lowest members of the same, there is a very great and apt consent, and moreover a diligent care, and a help both continual and most faithful.

Of all which it appeareth, that the marks of the true and lively church of Christ, are the communion of the spirit of Christ, sincere faith, and christian charity: without the which things, no man is partaker of the spiritual body.  By these things also it shall be {827:A} easy to judge whether thou art in the fellowship of the Church, or thou art not.  Moreover, we gather out of those things which we have hitherto disputed touching the marks of Christ’s church, from whence is her original, & also how the church is planted, spread abroad, and preserved. 

Of the original of the Church.

Her original is heavenly.  For Paul speaking of the church saith, [Gal. 4.26]: Jerusalem which is above, is free, which is the mother of us all.  Therefore he calleth the church heavenly, not that it dwelleth altogether in heaven, but that she being here on earth, hath a heavenly beginning.  For, the children of God are not born of flesh and blood, but from heaven, by the renewing of the Holy Spirit, who through the preaching of God’s word, planteth faith in our hearts, by which faith we are made the true members of Christ and his church.  For Peter saith, [1 Peter 1.23,] Ye are born anew, not of mortal seed, but of immortal, by the word of God, which liveth and lasteth for ever.  And Paul saith, [1 Cor. 4.15,] I begat you in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.  And the same Apostle saith in another place, Faith cometh by hearing, & hearing cometh by the word of God. [Rom. 10.17.]  Since therefore faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God, and that specially by the word of God, the Church truly can by no means spring or be builded by the decrees & doctrines of men.  Therefore we affirm, that only the word of God is apt for the building up of the church of God.  Men’s doctrines set up men’s churches, but Christ’s word buildeth the Christian Church.

For the doctrines of men proceed of flesh and blood.  But Peter confessing Christ with a pure faith, and therefore grounded upon Christ, who is the foundation of the Church, heard these words of Christ himself, Flesh and blood {827:B} hath not revealed these things unto thee, but my father which is in heaven. [Matth. 16.17.]  And therefore Paul saith, [Gal. 1.15,16,] When it pleased God that I should preach his son among the Gentiles, I conferred not of the matter with flesh and blood, &c.  He also most manifestly abolishing all doctrines of men, from the setting up and building of faith and the church, & only commending the word of God, saith to the Corinthians, [1 Cor. 2.4,5,] My word and preaching stood not in the enticing speech of man’s wisdom, but in plain evidence of the Spirit, & of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.  To this now pertaineth these testimonies of Christ: He that is of God, heareth God’s word. [John 8.47]  Again, He that is of the truth will hear my voice. [John 18.37.]  And again, more plainly he saith, The sheep will follow the shepherd, because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but will run away from him, because they know not the voice of strangers. [John 10.4,5.]  But under the voice of strangers, we include all traditions and decrees of men, [Col. 2.8-23,] differing from the doctrine of Christ: to which traditions the Apostle Paul doth attribute the shape of wisdom [form or appearance of wisdom], but the truth he denieth them, [Titus 1.14,] and calleth them superstitious.  For our Lord himself in the Gospel, bringeth forth of the prophet Isaiah that immutable saying: They worship me in vain, teaching for doctrines men’s precepts. [Matth. 15.9.]  Let us therefore hold, that the true church is not built by man’s decrees, but that she is founded, planted, gathered together & builded only by the word of Christ. 

The Church is preserved by the word of God.

We do add that it is out of doubt, that the church of God is preserved by the same word of God, lest at any time it should be seduced, or lest it should slip & perish, and that neither can at any time {828:A} be preserved by any other means: Paul again witnessing and saying, [Eph. 4.11-16,] Christ hath given some to be Apostles, & some prophets, & some Evangelists, some pastors, & teachers for the gathering together of the saints for the work of the ministry (that is to say, to teach & preach the word) & for the edification of the body of Christ, till we all meet together in the unity of faith, & knowledge of the son of God, unto a perfect man, & to the measure of the age of the fullness of Christ, that we henceforth be no more children, wavering and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the deceit of men, (mark I pray, how men’s doctrines are condemned again with great & inviolable authority) & with craftiness, whereby they lay in wait to deceive.  But let us follow the truth in love, & in all things grow up into him which is the head, that is, Christ: by whom all the body being coupled and knit together by every joint, for the furniture thereof, (according to the effectual power which is in the measure of every part) receiveth increase of the body, unto the edifying of itself in love, increaseth the body unto the edifying of itself through love.  These words of the Apostle are so plain, that they need no better exposition than they have of themselves.  In this place the order & manner of the church by the preaching of God’s word, should of right be set down, which many do term & call the ministry of the word, or of the church: but we will speak of that (God willing) in the third sermon.  It shall be sufficient in this place to defend, that our Lord God having given Doctors unto the church, doth found, build, maintain, & enlarge the church by his word, yea, by his word only.  There come two things now to be considered, First that the church of God for {828:B} the continual and constant study of the word of God, is called prophetical & Apostolical, yea, & also orthodoxical.  For we call it prophetical or apostolical, because by the travail of the prophets & Apostles it was first builded, & by their doctrine is preserved even at this time, and shall by it be spread abroad, even to the end of the world.  It is called Orthodoxical, because it is sound of judgment, opinion, & faith.  For without [outwith or outside] the church there is no true faith, neither any perfect doctrine touching true virtue & felicity.  The faith & doctrine of the church was revealed from God himself, by Adam & the patriarchs, by Moses & the Prophets, by Christ and the Apostles.  Whereby she elsewhere is named a mother, whereof we will speak in the next sermon. 

Of the continual succession of Bishops.

Secondarily, that the succession of doctors or pastors of the church doth prove nothing of itself, without the word of God.  The champions and defenders of the papistical church do boast that they have a most certain mark of the apostolic church, to wit, in the continual succession of Bishops, coming from Saint Peter by Clement the first, and so to Clement the seventh, and to Paul the third, who died of late, & so continuing to Julius the third, not long ago created.  Moreover they add that all such members are cut off, as do separate themselves from that church, in the which only that apostolical succession is found.  And we deny not, but that the right succession of pastors in the primitive church, was of great weight.  For they which then were called pastors, were pastors indeed, & executed the office of pastors.  But what manner of pastors they have been a great many years, which of the rout of cardinals, mitred bishops, & sophisters have been called pastors, none is ignorant, but he which is altogether without understanding.  The prophet Zechariah [11.15-17,] heard these words spoken to him from the Lord: Take to thee yet the instruments of {829:A} a foolish shepherd, for lo, I will raise up a shepherd in the land, which shall not look for the thing that is lost, nor seek the tender lambs, nor heal that that is hurt, nor feed that that standeth up: but he shall eat the flesh of the fat, and tear their hoofs in pieces. Woe be to the idle shepherds that forsaketh the flock, &c.  Therefore never a whit more do these men prove by their continual succession of Bishops, who teach not the word of God sincerely, nor execute the office and duty of Pastors, than if they should set before the eyes of the world a company of Idols.  For who dare deny, but that a great part, yea the most part of the Bishops of Rome since Gregory the great, were such manner of Idols, such kind of wolves and devourers as are described by the Prophet Zechariah?  What then (I pray you) can the continual succession of such false pastors prove?  Yea, and they which were of the latter time, did they not fill almost the universal Church, with the traditions of men, and partly oppressed the word of God, and partly persecuted it?  In the ancient Church of the Israelites, there was a continual order of succession of Bishops, without any interruption thereof, even from Aaron to Urijah who lived under Ahaz, and to other wicked Bishops also, falling from the word of God, to the traditions of men, yea, and also Idolatry.  But for all that, that succession did not prove the idolatrous Bishops, with the Church that [did] cleave unto them, to be the true Bishops of God, and the true Church of God.  Truly the true Prophets of God, the sound and catholic fathers preaching only the word of God without men’s traditions, yea clean against all traditions, were not able to reckon up any continual succession of {829:B} Priests their predecessors, to whom they themselves should succeed, and yet notwithstanding they were most excellent lights and worthy members of the Church of God: and they which believed their doctrine, were neither schismatics, nor heretics, but even to this day are acknowledged to be the true Church of Christ.  When Christ our Lord the blessed son of God, did teach here on earth, and gathered together his Church, the succession of Bishops was on his adversary part.  But they for that cause were not rulers of the true church of God, and Christ of the heretical church.  The Apostles of our Lord could not allege for themselves and their doctrine, a succession of Bishops not interrupted: for they were ordained of the Lord, who was also himself created of God the high Priest forever, after the new order of Melchisedech, without the succession of the order of Levi: and yet the church that was gathered by them, is acknowledged of all men to be the true & holy Church.  The Apostles themselves would have none other to be accounted for their true fellows & successors, but those who walked upright in the doctrine & way of Christ.  For notable & manifest is the saying of Paul, Be ye followers of me even as I am of Christ. [1 Cor. 11.1.]  And though he speaketh these words to all the faithful, and not only to the ministers of God’s word, yet those would he chiefly have such followers of him, as the residue of the common christians, that is to say, every man in his vocation & calling.  The same Apostle speaking at Miletum with the Bishops of Asia among other things saith, I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.  Moreover, of your own selves shall men arise speaking perverse things to draw disciples after them. [Acts 20.29-30.]  Paul the Apostle not from any other {830:A} place, than out of the Apostolic church itself, yea, out of the company or assembly of Apostolic Bishops & Pastors, fetcheth out the wolves and deavourers of the Church.

But could not these (think you) allege the Apostolic succession for themselves and their most corrupt cause, that is to say, that they be descended from Apostolic Pastors: But forsomuch as forsaking the truth, they be fallen from the faith & doctrine of the Apostles, the off-spring and Apostolic succession doth nothing at all make for them.

Therefore we conclude, that the continual succession of Bishops by itself proveth nothing, yea rather, that that is no lawful succession which wanteth the purity of the doctrine of the scriptures and Apostles. 

Tertullian of the continual succession of Pastors.

And therefore Tertullian greatly esteeming (and that worthily) the continual succession of Pastors in the Church, yet requireth the same to be approved by the sincerity of Apostolic doctrine: yea, he acknowledgeth those Churches which are instructed with pure doctrine, and yet not able to make any reckoning of succession of Bishops, to be Apostolic Churches.  If any man require the words of the author, they be these: But if there be any churches that dare presume to plant themselves in the very age of the Apostles, that therefore they may seem to have been planted by the Apostles, because they were under the Apostles, we may say thus: Let them bring forth the first beginnings of their churches, let them turn over the order of succession of their bishops, so by successions going from the first beginning, that that first Bishop of theirs, may be found to have for his author & predecessor, some one of the Apostles {830:B} and apostolical sort of men, and yet such an one as continued with the Apostles.  For by this means the Apostolic churches give their judgment.  As the church of Smyrna testifieth, that they had Polycarp placed there by John.  And as the church of Rome sheweth that Clement was appointed by Peter.  And as in like sort also, other do shew for themselves, who have their offspring of Apostolic seed, placed in their bishopricks by the Apostles.  Let heretics feign some such matter. (For after their blasphemies, what is unlawful for them?) But albeit they do feign, they shall not prevail.  For their own doctrine being compared with the doctrine of the Apostles, by the diversity & contrariety thereof shall shew, that it had neither Apostle, nor apostolical man for the author: Because, as the Apostles taught nothing that was contrary among themselves: even so, Apostolical men set forth nothing contrary to the Apostles: but only such as fell away from the Apostles, and taught other doctrine.[1] In this manner therefore may those Churches appeal, who albeit they can bring for their author none of the Apostles or Apostolic men: as those that are of far later time, and are but now daily erected, yet they agreeing in one faith, are nevertheless counted Apostolical, for the likeness of the doctrine.  The selfsame author speaking of the ancient Church of Rome, and gathering the sum of that [which] it either taught or learned, said:

The doctrine of the ancient church of Rome.

Happy is that Church to which the Apostles have uttered all their doctrine, with their blood; where Peter in sufferings is made like to the Lord; where Paul is crowned with the like end that John had: where the Apostle {831:A} John after that he was plunged in hot scalding oil, felt no pain, & was banished into the Isle.  Let us see what it learned, & what it taught, & how it doth agree with the churches of Africa: it acknowledgeth one God the maker of all things, & Jesus Christ the son of God, the creator, born of the virgin Mary: & the resurrection of the flesh: it joineth the law & the Prophets with the doctrine of the Evangelists & Apostles, & from them drinketh that faith: baptizeth with water, clotheth with the Holy Ghost, feedeth with the Lord’s Supper, exhorteth with martyrdom, & contrary to this institution receiveth no man.  This is the institution.  Thus far Tertullian in his book which he entitled, Of the prescription of Hereticks

The Church is not Built by War or Deceit.

The last thing that is to be noted is this: that the Lord God not only of old & unto this time, but in these days also giveth doctors & pastors to the church: doctors I say, & not leaders and captains of hosts & armies of men, not princes, not soldiers, not crafty men, using deceitful means which in these days they call practices.  For by no other means or manner, nor by no other instrument, than by the doctrine of truth & sound & simple godliness is the holy & catholic church of God built by, fenced, & preserved, whereof at the beginning simple men and Christ’s Apostles, by the preaching of the Gospel laid the foundation.  Paul therefore removeth all worldly wisdom, & saith: I was among you (Corinthians) in weakness & in fear, & in much trembling, neither stood my word & my preaching in the enticing speech of man’s wisdom, but in plain evidence of the Spirit & of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. [1 Cor. 2.3-5.]  The same Apostle also banisheth all crafty counsel, with all sorts of {831:B} deceit, when writing to the Thessalonians, he saith, Our exhortation was not by deceit, not by uncleanness, nor by guile.  But as we were allowed of God, that the Gospel should be committed unto us: even so we speak, not as they that please men, but God, which trieth our hearts. Neither yet did we ever use flattering words, as ye know, nor coloured [painted] covetousness, God is record, neither sought we praise of men, &c. [1 Thess. 2.3-6.]  Wherefore he is greatly deceived and mad, that thinketh the Church can either be gathered together, or being gathered, can be maintained & preserved with practices, that is to say, with crafty counsels, and subtle deceits of men.  It is truly said of the common people, That the same is overthrown again by man’s wisdom, which was first built by man’s wisdom.  Besides this, the Lord himself doth remove force & arms from the building of the church, since he forbids his disciples the use of sword, and unto Peter ready pressed to fight, saith, Put up thy sword into the scabbard. [Matth. 26.52; Luke 22.49-51.]  Neither do we ever read that any were sent of the Lord as soldiers, which with armed force should bring the world into subjection.  But rather the Scripture witnesseth, the great enemy of God, Antichrist, shall be destroyed with the breath of God’s mouth. [2 Thess. 2.]  Wherefore there is no doubt, that all those things which are read in divers places of the Prophets, and chiefly in the 12th of Zechariah, concerning wars to be made against all nations, by the Apostles & Apostolical men, ought to be figuratively expounded.  For the apostles according to their manner, fight as Apostles: not with spear, sword, & bow of carnal warfare, but of spiritual.  The apostolical sword is the word of God.  Yet in the meantime no man denieth, but that the weapons of carnal or corporal warfare, have been profitable {832:A} sometime to Apostolical men, and to the church, & do good even at this day.  No man denieth that God doth often times use the help of soldiers & magistrates, in defending the church against the wicked & tyrants.  Yea rather all men will confess, that a good & godly magistrate oweth a duty toward the church of God.  For not without great cause the worthy Prophet of God, Isaiah, calleth Kings nourishing fathers, and Queens nourishing mothers. [Isa. 49.23.]  Paul being oppressed of the Jews in the temple of Jerusalem for preaching of the Gospel amongst the Gentiles, by the army of Claudius Lysias the Roman tribune, is taken and rescued. [Acts 21.]  And not long after there was sent with the Apostle by the same tribune, no small company of soldiers, to wit, a troop of horsemen, & certain companies of footmen, by whom he was brought safely to Antipatris & Cæsarea, before Fœlix the Proconsul of Judæa.  Which thing is not rashly with so great diligence, & at large remembered by Luke in the Acts of the Apostles.  The ecclesiastical history citeth many examples of holy princes, which have defended & succoured the Church.  But these things in another place in some measure I have entreated of, in the 7th & 8th sermons (as I remember) of the second Decade.  And thus far of the original of the church of God, and of the increase and preservation of the same, we have spoken.

Whether the Church of God may err.

In this place it seemeth unto me, not unfitly may the famous question be handled or briefly expounded, whether the Church of God may err?  Which that it may more plainly be understood, I will briefly discuss the parts of this question.  I have taught that the Catholic Church of God doth comprehend, first, the blessed spirits in heaven, then all faithful Christians here on earth, unto whom {832:B} I said did cleave the wicked, or hypocrites, feigning faith for a season.  Now therefore, if we understand by the church the blessed spirits in heaven, the church can never err.  But if we understand the wicked or hypocrites joined & mingled with the good, & the wicked alone by themselves, they do nothing else but err: but as they are joined unto the good & faithful, and follow them, they either err, or they err not.  For the Church of the good and faithful here upon earth doth err & doth not err.  Which thing we will declare when we have weighed the diversities of errors & gathered the number of them together wholly in a bundle.  Errors some be of doctrine and faith, and some be of life and manners.  And what manner of ones either of them be, I think there is no man but knoweth.  Let us see then, whether the church of the faithful upon earth do err or no?  And if it err, in what point, and how far it erreth.  As concerning the manners and life of the church, it cannot wholly and clearly acquit itself of errours: that is to say, from sin.  For always so long as it is living here on earth, it prayeth heartily, And forgive us our trespasses as we do forgive them that trespass against us. [Matth. 6.12.]  And GOD for his mercy’s sake doth always purge in his saints, all dregs and infirmities, as long as they live in this world, continually renewing and refining the elect. [John 13; John 15; Rom. 7.] 

How the holy Church is without spot and wrinkle.

I am not ignorant what may here hinder thee (faithful hearer.)  If the Church (sayest thou) be not holy and pure, how is it called of the Apostle holy without spot and wrinkle?  I answer, If thou wilt acknowledge no church upon earth, but that which is altogether without blemish, thou shalt be forced to acknowledge none at all. {833:A} For there shall never be any such kind of Church remaining on earth, where The most righteous God, as the scripture witnesseth, hath shut up all things under sin, that he might take mercy on all men. [Rom. 11.32; Gal. 3.22; Rom. 3.19,20.]

Paul therefore doth call the Church, pure, without spot or wrinkle, through the benefit of Christ’s sanctification: not that by herself, while she is in the flesh, she is without spot, but for that those spots indeed otherwise cleaving unto her, through the innocency of Christ, to those that embrace Christ by faith, are not imputed: finally, [he calls it so] for that the selfsame Church in the world to come shall be without spot or wrinkle.  For having put off the flesh, and cast off all miseries, it shall at length be brought to pass, that she shall want nothing.  Besides this, it is said, that the Church is without spot, because of the continual study of the Church, whereby she laboureth and travaileth by all means, that as far as it is possible, she may have as few spots as may be.  And by that means, & chiefly by the benefit of imputation, the Church erreth not, but is most pure and without sin.

Moreover as touching doctrine & faith, the Church of Christ doth not err.  For it heareth the voice of the shepherd only, but the voice of strangers she knoweth not, [John 10.3-5,27]: for she followeth her only shepherd Christ, saying: I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. [John 8.]  Paul also to Timothy saith, These things hitherto have I written unto thee, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is in the church of the living God, the pillar & ground of truth. [1 Tim. 3.14-15.]  But the church is the pillar {833:B} and ground of truth, for that being stablished upon the foundation of the Prophets and Apostles, Christ himself, which is the everlasting truth of God, and the only strength of the Church, receiveth this by fellowship, which it hath with him, that she also might be the pillar and foundation of the truth.

For the truth of God is in the Church, and the same through the ministry of the Church is spread abroad: and being assaulted and warred against by the enemies, abiding sure, is not overcome: so far forth, as being made one body with Christ, she doth persevere in the fellowship of Christ, without whom she can do nothing.  Again, the same Church doth err in doctrine and faith, as often as she turning from Christ and his word, goeth after men and the councils and decrees of the flesh.  For she forsaketh that thing that hath hitherto stayed [checked] that she erred not, which is the word of God & Christ.  I think that no man will deny that the great congregation of the people of Israel in the desert, was an excellent Church of God, [Exod. 32]: with the which the Lord made a covenant, and bound himself unto it, by sacraments and ordinances.  And yet how shamefully she erred, whilest neglecting God’s word, & Aaron the high Priest of religion not constantly and earnestly resisting, she both made a molten calf, & worshipped it as a god: no man is ignorant.  Where also surely it shall be necessary more diligently to look into, and mark the whole number of the Church.  For many in the Church erring, it followeth not that none at all is free from errour.  For as in the Church of Israel, the Lord reserved a remnant to himself, I mean Moses, Joshua, and undoubtedly many more, as well in that congregation, as {834:A} elsewhere without, which did never worship the calf: so there is no doubt, although there do many err in the Church, but that the Lord through his mercy doth preserve to himself a certain number, who both understand aright, and by whose faithful diligence errours are destroyed, and the wandering flock of the Lord brought back again into the holy fold.

The Church therefore is said to err, when a part of it having lost God’s word doth err: and the same erreth not wholly and altogether: forasmuch as certain remnants (through the grace of GOD) are reserved, by whom the truth may flourish again, and may again be spread abroad in every place.  Paul called the churches of the Corinthians & Galatians, The holy churches of God: yet these erred greatly, in doctrine, in faith, and in manners.  And yet who doubteth that there were many among them, who were most sincere followers of the pure doctrine preached by Paul?  That holy church therefore erred so far forth as it continued not steadfastly in true doctrine: and it erred not, so far forth as it departed not from the truth delivered by the Apostles.  From hence it plainly appeareth to the whole world, that those are most vain liars, which commend unto us Churches, not builded upon the foundation of the Prophets and Apostles, but upon the decrees of men, which they shame not to commend unto us for most true churches, and such as cannot err.  David crieth out, Only God is true, and every man a liar. [Psalm 116.11.]  Jeremy also crieth: They have rejected the word of the Lord, & what wisdom is in them? [Jer. 8.9.]  Therefore those Churches do err, neither be they the true Churches of God.  The {834:B} true Church groundeth upon Christ Jesus, and is governed by his word only.

Of the power of the Church.

Unto this Treatise of the word of God, which is the only rule whereby all things are done in the Church, the disputation of the power of the Church of God in earth, and of the studies thereof, which also are directed according to the word of God, is very like.  But before I will bring forth my judgment, that is to say, the judgment delivered by the Scriptures, I will briefly rehearse the sum of those things which the Papists have left in writing concerning this matter, and do undoubtedly maintain for sound doctrine.  John Gerson (not much amiss unless he have an evil interpreter) hath defined Ecclesiastical authority to be a power supernaturally and spiritually given of the Lord to his Disciples and to their lawful successors unto the end of the world, for the edification of the Church militant, according to the laws of the Gospel, for the obtaining of eternal felicity.  But Peter de Aliaco the Cardinal, saith, that this authority is six-fold, to wit, of consecration, of administering the Sacraments, of appointing ministers of the church, of preaching, of judicial correction, & receiving things necessary unto this life.

Power of Consecration.

They call that the power of consecration, whereby a Priest being rightly ordered may consecrate the body & blood of Christ on the altar.  This power they say was given to the Disciples of the Lord by these words: Do this in remembrance of me.  But unto the Priests in these days they think it to be given of the Bishop, giving with the bread, the chalice, and saying: Receive ye power to offer up & to consecrate Christ’s body both for the {835:A} quick & the dead.  This moreover they call the power of orders, and a mark or character that cannot be wiped out. 

The power of the keys.

The power of administering the sacraments, and chiefly the sacrament of Penance, they call the power of the keys.  The keys they make of two sorts.  The keys of knowledge, that is to say, the authority of knowledge in the cause of a sinner making his confession: & the keys of giving of sentence & judgment, or of opening & shutting up of heaven, of forgiving or retaining of sins.  They say that this power was promised to Peter in Matthew, the Lord saying, Unto thee will I give the keys of the kingdom of heaven: but that it was given to all the disciples, in John, Christ saying: Whose sins soever ye forgive, they are forgiven to them, And in these days is given to the priests by the Bishops in their consecration, laying their hands on the priests at the giving of them their orders, saying: Receive ye the holy Ghost, whose sins soever ye forgive, they are forgiven them.

Power of jurisdiction.

They call the power of placing of Ministers of the church, Ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and to consist in a certain prelacy, and the fulness of it to rest only in the Pope, having respect to the whole universal Church.  For it belongeth only to the Pope to appoint Rulers and prelates in the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy: because it was said to him: Feed my sheep.  Moreover they say, that all jurisdiction ecclesiastical doth come from the Pope to the inferior rulers: either mediately or immediately: in which things authority is limited at his pleasure that hath the fulness of power.  For a Bishop hath authority only in his Diocese, and a curate in his parish, &c. 

Power of preaching.

Power of Apostleship or preaching the word of God {835:B} they call the authority of preaching, which the Lord had given to his Disciples, saying, Go ye into all the world, preaching the Gospel to all creatures.  But Doctors in these days affirm, that none ought to be sent to preach, but only by Peter, that is, his successor, mediately or immediately, &c. 

Power of judgment or judicial correction.

They say that the power of judicial correction was given to Peter by God, to whom he said: If thy brother shall offend or trespass against thee, &c. For the words of the Lord are known well enough in Matthew, chapter 18.  They say therefore that God gave authority unto priests, not only of excommunication, but also of determining, judging, & establishing commandments, laws, & canons: because in that place it is said, Whatsoever ye bind upon earth, it shall be bound in heaven.

Power to receive.

To conclude, they say that the power and authority to receive things necessary for this life, in reward of their spiritual labours, was given by these words of the Lord, Eating and drinking such as they have.

These things do these men teach concerning Ecclesiastical power, not only foolishly but also falsely.  Of the power of consecration and sacrificing, how vain and foolish it is, we have often times said in other places, and perhaps will say more (if God grant life) in convenient place and time.  Of the power of the keys, we will dispute (God willing) about the end of the next Sermon.  And some thing we brought when we disputed of Penance and auricular confession.  But they are foolish and shameless trifles, which they babble of Ecclesiastical jurisdiction, of the fulness of the high power (that is to say) of the Bishop of Rome, which I doubt not are known well enough to {836:A} the whole world long ago: and of that matter there shall follow hereafter some arguments for the confutation thereof in these our Sermons.  Whereas they usurp unto themselves the office of teaching, and cry out that no man can lawfully preach, but such as are ordained by them, they thereby seek the overthrow of God’s word, and the defence and assertion of their own errours: which shall also be entreated of in his due place.  The power of excommunicating they have so filthily and shamefully abused, that the Church (through their negligence and wicked presumption) hath not only lost true discipline, but also excommunication itself hath been a great many years nought else with the Bishop of Rome but fire and sword, wherewith they first raged against the true professors of God’s word, and persecuted the innocent worshippers of Christ.  Moreover, that there is no power given of God to the Ministers of the Church, to make new laws, we will shew in place convenient.  The authority and power to receive wherewith to live, have they put in execution to the uttermost: but in recompense of their temporal harvest they have not sown spiritual things, but rather being asleep, they have suffered him that is our enemy to sow cockle in the Lord’s field, and that not by any other, but by their own means.  For have not they, not being contented with things necessary for this life, under that colour subtilly invaded kingdoms, and most shamefully & cruelly possessed them?  Wherefore he that seeth not that ecclesiastical authority, as it is by these men affirmed, and also by them put in practice, is but a mere tyranny over simple souls, — it is plain he seeth nothing at all.  We will now hereunto join {836:B} a true, simple, plain, and manifest doctrine concerning ecclesiastical jurisdiction. 

What power is.

Power is defined to be a right which men have to do something by.  It is called in Greek Εξουσια, & Δυναμις, whereof the first word signifieth right and power, the second ability to execute power or authority.  For often times it cometh to pass that a man shall have authority to do a thing, but is destitute of ability to perform it.  But God can do both, and hath given them both unto the Apostles against those that are possessed with devils, as Luke witnesseth, saying, [Luke 9.1,]: εδωκεν αυτοις δυναμιν και εξουσιαν, He gave them power and authority over all devils, &c. 

Two kinds of power.

And there is also one sort of power which is free and absolute, and another sort of power which is limited, which is also called ministerial.  Absolute power is that which is altogether free, and is neither governed or restrained by the law or will of any other.  Of which sort is the power of Christ which he speaketh of in the Gospel, saying: All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth: go therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them, &c. [Matth. 28.18-19.]  He speaking again of this power in the Revelation shewed unto John the Apostle, saith: Fear not, I am the first and the last, and I am alive but was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore. And I have the keys of hell and of death. [Rev. 1.17-18.]  And again, These things saith he, that is holy and true: which hath the key of David, which openeth and no man shutteth, & shutteth & no man openeth. [Rev. 3.7.]

The power which is limited is not free, but subject to an absolute or great power of another, which cannot of itself do every thing, but that only, that the absolute {837:A} power or greater authority doth suffer to be done, and suffereth it under certain conditions.  Of which sort surely is the ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and which may rightly be called the ministerial power.  For the Church of God useth her authority committed unto her for this purpose by her Ministers.  Augustine acknowledging this distinction, and speaking of Baptism in his first treatise upon John, saith: Paul baptised as a minister, & not as one that had power of himself: but the Lord baptised as he that had power of himself.  Behold, if it had pleased him, he could have given this power to his servants, but he would not.  For if he should have given this power unto his servants, that it should also have been theirs, which was the Lord’s, then there should have been as many sundry baptisms as servants, &c.  In the Church Christ reserveth that absolute power to himself.  For he continueth the head, king, and bishop of the Church forever: neither is that head which giveth life separated from his body at any time.  But that limited power he hath given unto the Church.  Which thing it ought to acknowledge: to wit, an Ecclesiastical jurisdiction, hemmed in with certain laws, which proceedeth from God, and for that cause it is effectual, and therefore in all things ought to have chief regard unto God: and that Ecclesiastical jurisdiction is for that purpose given unto the Church, that it might be put in practice for the profit of the Church.  For Paul saith, [2 Cor. 10.8; 13.10,] The Lord hath given us power to the intent we should edify, & not for the destruction of the Church.  And therefore that power which tendeth to the hindrance and destruction of the Church, is a devilish tyranny, and {837:B} not an ecclesiastical power proceeding from God.  And it behooveth us diligently to mark and retain this end of ecclesiastical power.

In what points ecclesiastical power consisteth.

But the limited power of the Church consisteth very near in these points, to wit, in ordaining of the ministers of the Church, in doctrine, & in the discerning between doctrines, and finally, in the ordering of Ecclesiastical matters.  Of every one of which points in their order we will speak a little: declaring what manner of authority the Church hath, and how far it is limited in every part thereof.

To ordain ministers of the Church.

The Lord himself appointed the chief Doctors of the Church, which were the Apostles, that all men might understand that the Ecclesiastical ministry is the divine institution of God himself, and not a tradition devised by men.  And therefore after that the Lord was ascended into heaven, Peter calling the Church together, speaketh out of the Scriptures, of placing another Apostle in the stead of the traitor Judas, by the very fact shewing that power was given to the Church by God to elect ministers or teachers. [Acts 1.15-26.]  The same Church also not long after by the persuasion of Peter, and the Apostles so persuading undoubtedly by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, chose seven Deacons. [Acts 6.]  The Church of Antioch being manifestly instructed by the Holy Ghost, doth ordain and send Paul and Barnabas, although they were long before that time assigned to the ministry. [Acts 13.2-3.]  It is read also in the Acts of the Apostles, that the Churches by the commandment of the Apostles did ordain doctors for the holy ministry as often as need required.  And yet notwithstanding they did not ordain every one without choice, but such only as {838:A} were fit for that office, that is to say, such as afterward by express laws they themselves did describe, to wit, If any man were faultless, the husband of one wife, watchful, sober, &c [1 Tim. 3.2-7.]  The rule set down by the Apostle is sufficiently known, as appeareth in the 1st [epistle] to Timothy, 3rd Chapter.  But as touching the ordaining of Ministers (God willing) we will speak in the 3rd Sermon of this Decade.  But if the church have received power to appoint fit Ministers for the Church, I think no man will deny that the Church hath authority to depose the unworthy and wicked deceivers: and also to correct and amend those things which being lacking, may seem necessary for this order.

Power to teach.

And forasmuch as Ministers are chosen chiefly to teach, it must follow, that the Church hath power to teach, to exhort, to comfort, and such like, by her lawful Ministers: and yet no power to teach every thing, but that only which she received being delivered unto her from the Lord by the doctrine of the Prophets and Apostles.  Teach them (saith the Lord) that which I commanded you.  Go ye, & preach the Gospel to all creatures. [Matth. 28; Mark. 16.]  And Paul saith: I am put apart to preach the Gospel of God, which he promised before by his Prophets in the holy Scriptures. [Rom. 1.]  But this ministry & office of preaching, is nothing else but the power of the keys which the Church hath received.  The office (I say) of binding and loosing, of opening and shutting heaven.  In another place also [Matth. 10,] the Apostles received power from the Lord over all: over all, I say, not absolutely, but over all devils, and not over all Angels & men: and yet that authority and power they received over Devils, they received it not {838:B} absolutely: for it is added unto it, that they should expel and cast them out.  And therefore they could not deal with devils after their own fancy, but that only & so far forth as he would have them to do, who hath absolute power over all Devils: and that they might cast Devils out of men, but not to send them into men, though they would have desired it never so much.  And so also as touching diseases, they could not do what they would: else would not Paul have left Trophimus sick at Miletum, who might so greatly have been profitable unto him in the holy ministry. [2 Tim. 4.20.]  The two Disciples [Luke 9,] if they had been able to have done what they would, would have commanded fire from heaven to have fallen down upon Samaria, and so would have taken vengeance of the uncourteous and barbarous people of Samaria, for that they denied to harbour the Lord Christ.  In like manner the same Apostles received keys, that is to say, power to bind and to loose, to open and shut heaven, to forgive and to retain sins, but perfectly limited.  For they could not loose that which was bound in hell: neither bind them that were living in heaven.  For he said not: Whatsoever ye bind in heaven: but whatsoever ye bind upon earth.  Neither said he, Whatsoever ye loose in hell, but whatsoever ye loose upon earth. [Matt. 18.18.]

Again, they were not able either to bind or loose whom they would, not so much as upon earth.  For they were not able to loose, that is to say, to pronounce a man free from sin, that was without faith.  Again, they could not bind, that is to say, pronounce condemned, him that was lightened with faith, and was truly penitent.  And surely such as teach other doctrine than this, touching {839:A} the power of the keys, deceived the whole world: of which we will more largely entreat in place convenient. 

Power to administer the Sacraments.

Likewise, the Church hath received power from Christ to administer the sacraments by ministers, but not according to her own will and pleasure, but according to God’s will, and the form and manner set down by the Lord himself.  The Church can not institute sacraments, neither yet alter the ends and use of the sacraments.

Power to judge of doctrine.

Finally, that the Church hath power to give judgment of doctrine, even by this one sentence of the Apostle Paul, appeareth: Let the Prophets (saith he) speak two or three at once, and let the other judge. [1 Cor. 14.29.]  And in another place he saith: Prove all things, & keep that which is good. [1 Thess. 5.21.]  And John saith, Dearly beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God. [1 John 4.1.]  But of this kind of power to judge, there is also a certain order.  For the Church doth not judge at her own pleasure, but after the sentence of the Holy Ghost, and according to the order & rule of the holy scriptures.  And here also, order, moderation, & charity is observed.  Therefore, if at any time the Church of God according to that authority which she hath received from the Lord, do call a council together for some weighty matter, as we read that the Apostles of the Lord did, in the Acts of the Apostles, [chapter 15,] it leaneth not here to her own fleshly judgment, but giveth over herself to be guided by the Spirit, and examineth all her doings by the rule of the word of God, and of the twofold charity.  Wherefore the Church maketh no new laws, as the church of Jerusalem or rather the Apostolic Church saith, that it seemeth good both to the Holy Ghost and to the Church, that no other burden {839:B} should be laid upon the faithful Christians, but only a few, and those very necessary things, and neither beside nor contrary to the holy Scriptures. 

Power to dispose the affairs of the Church.

Now Ecclesiastical matters are of divers sorts, the good ordering & well disposing thereof, for the commodity of men, is in the power of the Church: of which sort those things are which concern outward worship, in place & in time, as is prophesying, or interpretation of tongues & schools.  Also the Church hath to judge in cases of matrimony, and chiefly it hath correction of manners, admonitions, punishments, and also excommunicating or cutting off from the body of the Church.  For the Apostle also saith, that this power is given him, and yet to the intent he should therewith edify and not destroy. [2 Cor. 13.10.]  For all these things which we have remembered, and such like, are limited with the rule of the word, and of love, also with holy examples and reasons deduced out of the holy Scriptures.  Of all which we will perchance more largely speak in their place.

Thus much have I hitherto said concerning Ecclesiastical power, the contrary whereof I have declared with how open a mouth our adversaries do publish: but yet they handle these matters so grossly, that it may appear even unto children what they seek, or what they would defend, to wit, not the Ecclesiastical power, but their own covetousness, lust, and tyranny.  The Canonical truth teacheth us, that Christ himself doth teach and exercise absolute or full power in the Church, and that he hath given the ministerial power to the Church, who executeth it for the most part by ministers, and religiously executeth it according to the rule of God’s word. {840:A}

These things being in this sort considered, it shall not be greatly laboursome to know the studies of the holy Church of God.  For it executeth (as I said even now) that power which it hath received of GOD most carefully and faithfully: to the end that it may serve GOD, that it may be holy, and that it may please him.

Of the Studies of the Church.

And that I may reckon up some of her studies specially: first of all it worshippeth, calleth upon, loveth and serveth one God in Trinity: and taketh nothing in hand, not having first consulted with the word of this true God.  For she ordereth all her doings according to the rule of God’s word: she judgeth by the word of God, and by the same she frameth all her buildings and being built maintaineth them, and being fallen down she repaireth or restoreth them again.  The assemblies and congregations of Saints upon earth, she fervently furthereth and loveth.  In these things it harkeneth diligently to the preaching of the word of God: she is partaker of the Sacraments devoutly, and with great joy and desire of heavenly things.  It prayeth to God by the intercession of our only mediatour Christ, with a strong faith, fervently, continually, and most attentively.  It prayeth the majesty of God for ever, and with great joy giveth thanks for all his heavenly benefits.  It highly esteemeth all and every the institutions of Christ, neither doth it neglect any of them.  But chiefly it acknowledgeth, that it receiveth all things belonging either to life, salvation, righteousness, or felicity, of the only son of God our Lord Jesus Christ, as he who only chose her, and then by his Spirit and blood sanctified her, and made her a Church, that is, a chosen people, whose {840:B} only King, Redeemer, high Priest, and defender he is, and without whom there is no salvation.  Therefore in God alone by our Lord Jesus Christ, she only resteth; him she only desireth and loveth; and for his sake she rejoiceth to lose all things that appertain to this world, yea, and to spend her blood and her life.  And therefore it cleaveth unto Christ by faith inseparably: neither doth it hate any thing more bitterly, than falling away from Christ, and desperation.  For without Christ there seemeth nothing in all this whole life to be pleasant.  With Satan as with a deadly enemy she hath unappeasable enmity.  Against heresies and errors it striveth both constantly and wisely.  The simplicity of the Christian faith, and the sincerity of the doctrine of the Apostles it most diligently keepeth.  She keepeth herself as much as lieth in her unspotted of the world and of the flesh, and from all carnal & spiritual infection.  And therefore she fleeth from, and by all means detesteth all unlawful congregations, and profane religions with all wicked men, and willingly and openly confesseth Christ both by word and deed, even with the damage of her life.  It is exercised with afflictions, but yet never overcome.  It keepeth unity and concord carefully.  All and every the members of her body she most tenderly loveth.  It doth good unto all men as much as power and ability will suffer.  It hurteth no man.  It forgiveth willingly.  It beareth with the weak, brotherly, till they be brought forth forward to perfection.

She is not puffed up with pride, but through humility is kept in obedience, in modesty, and in all the duties of godliness.  But who (I pray you) is able to recite all and {841:A} every one of the studies of the Church, in a very large discourse, much less in this short recital?  And who would not desire to be a member of so divine and heavenly a congregation?

I would by and by join hereunto that which remaineth touching the unity of the Catholic Church, of the division thereof, and of other things belonging to the consideration hereof, but that I do perceive you being already weary of hearing, do earnestly look {841:B} for an end of this Sermon.  Therefore we will put off the residue till tomorrow.  And now lifting up our minds into heaven, let us give thanks to the Lord our God, who through his beloved son hath purged us, and gathered us together to be a chosen people to himself, and to be heirs of all his heavenly treasures.  To him therefore be all praise and glory world without end, Amen.


1. Tertul. de Præscript. Hæscript. Hæret. cap. 32. apud Script. Eccles. Opusc. ed. Routh. Vol. 1. p. 147. Oxon. 1840.