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profession; sometimes the pastors of the church in convocation or synod; sometimes the people, in distinction from the ministers; sometimes the place, where they meet to worship; sometimes a very few persons indeed; a family in a house; or, if we may follow Tertullian, three laymen, met for worship, may make a church;† sometimes God's own spiritual people on earth, or church truly militant against the powers of evil and darkness; and sometimes the assembly of just men made perfect, or church triumphant, in heaven.‡
But the great idea of the word church, to which all the other senses only minister or are subordinate, must be taken from the words p and Exxanoia, which primarily signify persons specially CALLED OUT OF or CHOSEN from the common mass of the world or people for a particular purpose: and these words, applied to the children of God, denote that they are a people peculiarly appointed and called of God, out of the bulk of mankind, to be his own portion and to obtain everlasting salvation, by the means which he has appointed and affords them, according to the good pleasure of his will. In this view,
Thus the Church of England, of Scotland, &c. So the modern Jews distinguish between their Church of Spain, and that of Germany.
+ Ubi tres, ecclesia est, licet laici. TERTUL. Exhort ad cast. See HOOKER. Eccl. Pol. B. iii. § 1. Our Lord justifies this assertion, by assuring his people, that where two or three are gathered together in his name, there is he in the midst of them. And it is not doubted, but that a church of Christ was walking to Emmaus, when our Lord joined himself to two of his disciples upon the road thither and preached to them.
The learned reader may see much upon the various usages of the word Church in SELDEN de Synedr. Hebr. 1. i. c. 9.
the word Church doth not specify the number or proportion, but the peculiarity and the persons, of the Lord's redeemed; be they more or fewer, in contradistinction from the men of the world. Christ loved this church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water, by the word, that he (as the man high-priest) might present it to himself (in Jehovah) a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing (like outward churches or mixed congregations of men) but that it should be holy, and without blemish.*
In this view of the word church, the apostle calls the brethren of his own time, partakers of the HEAVENLY CALLING,† which, in another place, he terms the HIGH CALLING of God in Christ Jesus. He speaks often of God's calling or vocation, in this particular 'view, as an act of God's free will and power, and not man's; and hence calling and election, which are put together by another apostle, § are names nearly signifying in effect the same thing. His effectual calling proceeds from his own election, and is the manifested confirmation of it. This the apostle shews very remarkably: ye see your CALLING, brethren; how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God hath CHOSEN, or ELECTED, the foolish things of the world, to confound the wise; and God hath CHOSEN the weak things of the world, to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God
* Eph. v. 25, 26, 27.
+ Heb. iii. 1.
§ 2 Pet. i. 10.
CHOSEN, yea and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are; that no flesh should glory in his presence.* There could be no reason for the choice and the calling, but God's own free grace and determination; for the subjects of his choice were altogether unlikely and unworthy. There is al a general calling by the word, as there is a general church, to all sorts and of all sorts; but this is not the particular and energetic call, which the Holy Spirit gives, in the use of the word, to his own people, when he graciously quickens them from spiritual death. The former is appointed to men, who are to go forth into all the world with the unlimited commission of preaching the gospel to every creature, which is their business, without regarding distinction of persons: the latter is reserved in God's own hand, who knoweth whom he hath chosen, and to whom he will effectuate the word preached, distinguishing and selecting them from the mass of the world. Thus many are CALLED; but, few,
Of these the Jews of old were ordained to be a striking figure, preaching the awful and important truth before us. Thus said Moses to them: thou art a holy (or separate) people unto Jehovah thy Alehim: Jehovah thy Alehim hath chosen thee to be (to have a particular existence as) a special people unto himself, above all the people that are upon the face of the earth. Jehovah did
*Cor. i. 26-29.
It is to be regretted, that this great and most important figure, which denotes who and what is properly the church of God, is omitted by the excellent and learned author of a late valuable work, On the figurative Language of the Scriptures.
not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people (for ye were the fewest of all people) but BECAUSE Jehovah loved (or would love) you, and because he would keep the oath, &c. Hence they are called, the people whom Jehovah purchased as a peculiar treasure unto him above all people.+ These were so on a conditional covenant, which, as a figure, was to pass away; but the spiritual church or people upon an unconditional covenant, which, as the substance intended, was to remain for ever. The one covenant, therefore, was called old, as relative to a former or forerunning people, who were, like it, to be taken away; but the other is called new, because it was to be revealed in due time from under the shadow of the old, and to be ever-new, as is the perpetual song of the blessed, or everlasting. The terms of this new covenant are, I [Jehovah] WILL put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and WILL BE their Alehim, and THEY SHALL BE my people.+
The apostle applies this to the spiritual or redeemed people, both Jews and Gentiles. He says, that the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and PURIFY UNTO HIMSELF A PECULIAR PEOPLE zealous of good works. The purification was by the blood of JESUS, as the Jews were typically purified by sacrifice under the law, prefiguring this very mercy. For this cause (says the apostle) he is the Mediator of the new Testa
Deut. vii. 6, &c.
+ Exod. xv. 16. xix. 5.
ment (or covenant,) that by means of death (i. e. his death) for the redemption (or perfect clearing away) of the transgressions under the first testament, they who are CALLED i. e. the spiritual church] might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.* From what has been said, it may appear, that the church of Christ is twofold; the one that outward and visible church, which professes divine truth and offers public worship; the other that spiritual assemblage of persons in all ages, who constitute the mystic body of Christ, and are chosen and called to this high privilege by the Father and Holy Spirit. They are not, however, two churches totally different from each other in members; but the latter is raised out of the former, as the kernel out of the shell, and is the church emphatically, to which both what is called the visible church and the world itself do only minister and subserve. This is that salt of the earth, which keeps it, for a time appointed, from all the consequences of corruption. There is indeed another church (if it may deserve the name) called by the wise man the congregation of the dead, (Prov. xxi. 16.) apostates, rebels, or giants (as the word signifies) in their own wisdom and strength; such as were those we read of in Gen. vi. 4. and Ecclus. xxiii. 4. These follow Cain and Balaam for the earth and its rewards, and have no spiritual alliance whatever with the Israel of God.
The spiritually and effectually CALLED of God are the CHOSEN of God; and called, because they are chosen. Thus chosen, called, and faithful, they con
*Ileb. ix. 15.