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WORKS OF ARMINIUS - THE CHURCH OF GOD AND OF CHRIST
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ON THE CHURCH OF GOD AND OF CHRIST: OR ON THE CHURCH IN GENERAL AFTER THE FALL
I. As, through faith, which is the first part of our duty towards God and Christ, we have obtained the blessings of justification and sanctification from our union and communion with Christ, by which benefits we are, from children of wrath and the slaves of sin, not only constituted the children of God and the servants of righteousness, (on which account it is fit that we should render obedience and worship to our Parent and our Lord,) and as we have likewise obtained power and confidence for the performance of such obedience and worship, it would follow that we should now treat on obedience and worship as on another part of our duty.
II. But as there are multitudes of those who have, through these benefits, been made the sons and the servants of God, and who have been united, among themselves, by the same faith and the Spirit of Christ, as members in one body, which is called the church, and of which the Scriptures make frequent mention, it appears to be the most proper course to treat, First, upon this church, because, as she derives her origin from this faith, she comprehends within her embraces all those to whom the performance of worship to God and Christ is to be prescribed.
III. And as it has pleased God to institute certain signs by which may be sealed or testified, both the communion of believers with Christ and among themselves, and a participation of these benefits, and, on the other hand, their service of gratitude towards God and Christ, we shall deem it proper, NEXT, to treat upon these signs or tokens, before we proceed to the worship, itself, which is due to God and Christ. First, then, let us consider the church.
IV. This word, in its general acceptation, denotes a company or congregation of men who are called out, and not only the act and the command of him who calls them out, but likewise the obedient compliance of those who answer the call; so that the result or effect of that act is included in the word "church. "
V. But it is thus defined: A company of persons called out from a state of natural life and of sin, by God and Christ, through the Spirit of both, to a supernatural life to be spent according to God and Christ in the knowledge and worship of both, that by a participation with both, they may be eternally blessed, to the glory of God through Christ, and of Christ in God.
VI. The efficient cause of this evocation, or calling out, is God the Father, in his Son Jesus Christ, and Christ himself, through the Spirit, both of the Father and of the Son as he is Mediator and the Head of the church, sanctifying and regenerating her to a new life. The impulsive cause is the gracious good pleasure of God the Father, in Christ, and the love of Christ towards those whom he has acquired for himself by his own blood.
VII. The executive cause of this gracious good pleasure of God in Christ, which may also, in this respect, according to its distribution, be called "the administrative cause," is the Spirit of God and of Christ by the word of both; by which he requires outwardly a life according to God and Christ, with the addition of the promise of a reward and the threatening of a punishment; and he inwardly illuminates the mind to a knowledge of this life, imparts to us the feelings of love and desire for this life, and bestows on the whole man strength and power to live such a life.
VIII. The matter about which [it is occupied], or the object of the vocations, are natural and sinful men, who, indeed, according to nature, are capable of receiving instruction from the Spirit through the word, but who are, according to the life of the present world and the state of sin, darkened in their minds and alienated from the life of God. This state requires that the beginning of preaching be made from preaching the law as it reproves sin and convinces of sin, and thus that progress be made to the preaching of the gospel of grace.
IX. The form of the church resides in the mutual relation of God and Christ who calls, and of the church who obeys that call, according to which, God in Christ, by the Spirit of both, infuses into her supernatural life, feeling or sensation, and motion; and she, on the other hand, being quickened and under the influence of feeling and motion, begins to live and to walk according to godliness, and in expectation of the blessings promised.
X. The end of this evocation, which also contains the chief good of the church, is blessedness perfected and consummated through a union with God in Christ. From this, results the glory of God, who unites the church to himself and beatifies her, which glory is declared in the very act of union and beatification -- also the glory of the same blessed God, when the church in her triumphant songs ascribes to him praise, honour and glory forever and ever.
XI. From the act of this evocation and from the form of the church arising out of it, it appears that a distinction must be made among the men or congregation, as they are men, and as they are called out and obey the call; and they must be so distinguished that the company to whom the name of "the church" at any time belonged, may so decline from that obedience as to lose the name of "the church," God "removing their candlestick out of its place," and sending a bill of divorce to his disobedient and adulterous wife. Hence it is evident that the glorying of the papists is vain on this point -- that the church of Rome cannot err and fall away