The true Church is an assembly or congregation depending on that which does not appear, nor may be comprehended in the mind, namely, God’s Word; what that says, they believe without addition, giving God the honor. We tell our LordGod plainly, that if he will have his Church, he must maintain and defend it; for we can neither uphold nor protect it; if we could, indeed, we should become the proudest asses under heaven. But God says: I say it, I do it; it is God only that speaks and does what he pleases; he does nothing according to the fancies of the ungodly, or which they hold for upright and good. The great and worldly-wise people take offense at the poor and mean form of our Church, which is subject to many infirmities, transgressions, and sects, wherewith she is plagued; for they say the Church should be altogether pure, holy, blameless, God’s dove, etc. And the Church, in the eyes and sight of God, has such an esteem; but in the eyes and sight of the world, she is like unto her bridegroom, ChristJesus, torn, spat on, derided, and crucified.
Wherefore I am not troubled that the world esteems the Church so meanly; what care I that the usurers, the nobility, gentry, citizens, country-people, covetous men, and drunkards, contemn and esteem me as dirt? In due time, I will esteem them as little. We must not suffer ourselves to be deceived or troubled as to what the world thinks of us. To please the good is our virtue. The Church is misery on earth, first, that we may keep in mind we are banished servants, and exiled out of Paradise for Adam’s sake. Secondly, that we may always remember the misery of the Son of God, who, for our sake, was made man, walked in this vale of misery, suffered for us, died, and rose again from the dead, and so brought us again to our paternal home, whence we were driven. Thirdly, that we may remember our habitation is not of this world, but that we are here only as strangers and pilgrims; and that there is another and everlastinglife prepared for us. The very name, the Church, is the highest argument and proof of all hypocrites. The Pharisees, the scribes, yea, the whole senate of Jerusalem, cried out against Stephen, and said: ‘This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law.’ Cain, Ishmael, Saul, the Turks and Jews, bore and do bear the name and title of the Church. But Moses finely solves this argument: ‘They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God, they have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people: I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.’ Here was quid pro quo ; as if God should say: ‘Could ye find in your hearts to forsake me? so can I again forsake you’; for God and nation, the Word and the Church, are correlativa ; the one cannot be without the other. Like as a child in the mother’s womb is compassed about with a thin and tender caul, which the Greeks name chorion (the after-birth), and needs no more sustenance than so much as the cotylidones , from which the fruit receives nourishment, bring with them; nor does the after-birthbreak, except the fruit be ripe, and about to be timely brought to the light of this world; even so the Church. also is enclosed in the word and bound therein, and seeks none other doctrine concerning God’s will than that which is revealed in the same; there-with she is content, and thereupon she remains and depends by faith, until she shall behold God’s presence, and shall hear God himself preach of the mysteries and hidden things which on earth we see by faith.
But in case some vainglorious professors, by untimely motion, force and break the after-birth, as the papists and other seducers do in contemning the office of preaching, and expect visions and revelations from heaven, this must be compared with untimely births, still-bornchildren, and abortions. The amaranth is a flower that grows in August; it is more a stalk than a flower, is easily broken off, and grows in joyful arid pleasant sort; when all other flowers are gone and decayed, then this, being sprinkled with water, becomes fair and green again; so that in winter they use to make garlands there off It is called amaranth from this, that it neither withers nor decays.
Moreover, the Church willingly suffers herself to be plucked and broken off, that is, she is loving, patient, and obedient to Christ her bridegroom in the cross; she grows and increases again, fair, joyful, and pleasant, that is, she gains the greatest fruit and profit thereby; she learns to know God aright, to call upon him freely and undauntedly, to, confess his word and doctrine, and produces many fair and glorious virtues.
At last, the body and stalk remain whole and sound, and cannot be rooted out, although raging and swelling be made against some of the members, and these be torn away. For like as the amaranth never withers or decays, even so, the Church can never be destroyed or rooted out. But what is most wonderful, the amaranth has this quality, that when it is sprinkled with water, and dipped therein, it becomes fresh and green again, as if it were raised and wakened from the dead. Even so likewise the Church will by God be raised and wakened out of the grave, and become living again; will everlastingly praise, extol, and laud the Father of our Lord and SaviorJesusChrist, his Son and our Redeemer, together with the Holy Ghost.
The chestnut tree, in that it produces all the better fruit when it is soundly beaten, shadows forth man submissive to the law, whose actions are not agreeable to God, until he has been tried by tribulation. The lemon tree, wit]h its fruit, figures Christ; the lemon tree has the property of bearing fruit at all seasons; when its fruits are ripe, they drop off, and are succeeded by a fresh growth; and this fruit is a sure remedy against poison.