(for a while) appear very small, and in the eyes of men, to be reduced
to nothing: as during the perilous reign of Achab, the Lord reserved unto him
seven thousand men, who had not bowed their knees to Baal. Furthermore,
this holy church is not confined, bound, or limited to a certain place,
or to certain persons, but is spread and dispersed over the whole world;
and yet is joined and united with heart and will, by the power of faith, in one and the same spirit.
XXVIII. That every one is bound
to join himself to the true church.
We believe, since this holy congregation is an assembly of those who are
saved, and that out of it there is no salvation, that no person of whatsoever
state or condition he may be, ought to withdraw himself, to live in a separate state
from it, but that all men are in duty bound to join and unite themselves with it;
maintaining the unity of the church; submitting themselves to the doctrine and discipline thereof;
bowing their necks under the yoke of Jesus Christ; and as mutual members of the same body,
serving to the edification of the brethren, according to the talents God has given
them. And thta this may be the more effectually observed, it is the duty of all believers,
according to the word of God, to separate themselves from all those, who do not belong to the church,
and to join themselves to this congregation, wheresoever God hath established it, even though the
magistrates and edicts of princes were against it; yea, though they should
suffer death or any other corporal punishment. Therefore all those, who
separate themselves from the same, or do not join themselves to it, act contrary to the
ordinance of God.
XXIX. Of the marks of the true church,
and wherein she differs from the false church.
We believe, that we ought diligently and circumspectly to discern from the word of God, which is the true church,
since all sects which are in the world assume to themselves the name of the church. But we speak not here
of hypocrites, who are mixed in the church with the good, yet are not of the church, though externally in it: but we say
that the body and communion of the true church, must be distinguished from all sects, who call themselves the church.
The marks, by which the true church is known, are these: If the pure doctrine of the gospel is preached therein; if she
maintains the pure administration of the sacraments as instituted by Christ; if church discipline is exercised in
punishing of sin: In short, if all things are managed according to the pure word of God, all things contrary thereto
rejected; and Jesus Christ acknowledged as the only head of the church.
Hence the true church may certainly be known, from which no man has a
right to separate himself. With respect to those, who are members of the church,
they may be known by the marks of christians, namely, by faith;
and when they have received Jesus Christ the only Saviour, they avoid sin, follow after righteousness,
love the true God and their neighbour, neither turn aside to the right or left, and crucify the flesh with the
works thereof. But this is not to be understood, as if there did not remain in them great infirmities;
but they fight against them through the spirit, all the days of their life, continually taking their refuge to the blood,
death, passion, and obedience of our Lord Jesus Christ, "in whom they have remission of sins, through faith in him." As for
the false church, she ascribes more power and authority to herself and her ordinances, than to the word of God,
and will not submit herself to the yoke of Christ. Neither does she administer the sacraments as appointed by Christ in his word,
but adds to and takes from them, as she thinks proper; she relieth more upon men than upon Christ; and persecutes those, who live
holily according to the word of God, and rebuke her for her errors, covetousness, and idolatry. These two churches are easily
known and distinguished from each other.
XXX. Concerning the government of,
and offices in the church.
We believe, that this true church must be governed by that spiritual policy,
which our Lord hath taught us in his word; namely, that there must be
ministers or pastors to preach the word of God, and to administer the sacraments;
also elders and deacons, who, together with the pastors, form the
council of the church: that by these means the true religion may be preserved,
and the true doctrine every where propagagted, likewise transgressors
punished and restrained by spiritual means: also that the poor and distressed
may be relieved and comforted, according to their necessities. By these
means every thing will be carried on in the church with good order and decency,
when faithful men are chosen, according to the rule prescribed by St. Paul in his epistle to Timothy.
XXXI. Of the ministers, elders, and deacons.
We believe, that the ministers of God's word, and the elders and deacons,
ought to be chosen to their respective offices by a lawful election by the
church, with calling upon the name of the Lord, and in that order, which
the word of God teacheth. Therefore every one must take heed, not to intrude
himself by indecent means, but is bound to wait till it shall please
God to call him; that he may have testimony of his calling, and be certain
and assured that it is of the Lord. As for the ministers of God's word, they
have equally the same power and authority wheresoever they are, as they
are all ministers of Christ, the only universal Bishop, and the only head of
the church. Moreover, that this holy ordinance of God may not be violated or
slighted, we say that every one ought to esteem the ministers of God's word, and the
elders of the church, very highly for their work's sake, and be at peace with them
without murmuring, strife or contention, as much as possible.
XXXII. Of the order and discipline of the church.
In the mean time we believe, though it is useful and beneficial, that those,
who are rulers of the church, institute and establish certain ordinances
among themselves for maintaining the body of the church; yet they ought
studiously to take care, that they do not depart from those things, which
Christ, our only master, hath institued. And therefore, we reject all human
inventions, and all laws, which man would introduce into the worship of
God, thereby to bind and compel the conscience, in any manner whatever.
Therefore we admit only of that, which tends to nourish and preserve concord,
and unity, and to keep all men in obedience to God. For this purpose,
excommunication or church discipline is requisite, with the several
circumstances belonging to it, according to the word of God.
XXXIIII. Of the sacraments.
We believe, that our gracious God, on account of our weakness and infirmities, hath
ordained the sacraments for us, thereby to seal unto us his promises, and to be pledges
of the good will and grace of God toward us, and also to nourish and strengthen our faith; which
he hath joined to the word of the gospel, the better to present to our senses, both that,
which he signifies to us by his word, and that which he works inwardly in our
hearts, thereby assuring and confirming in us the salvation which he imparts to us.
For they are visible signs and seals of an inward and invisible thing, by means whereof,
God worketh in us by the power of the Holy Ghost. Therefore the signs are not in vain
or insignificant, so as to deceive us. For Jesus Christ is the true object presented by them,
without whom they would be of no moment. Moreover, we are satisfied with the number of
sacraments which Christ our Lord hath instituted, which are two only, namely,
the sacrament of baptism, and the holy supper of our Lord Jesus Christ.