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v. 21. "
15, 16. “ beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves : ye shall know them by their fruits.” xvi. 6. “take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees,” compared with v. 12. “then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine," John vii. 17, 18. “if any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself: he that speaketh of himself, seeketh his own glory.” Acts xvii. 11. “they searched the scriptures daily, whether these things were so.” 1 Cor. ii. 15. “ he that is spiritual, judgeth all things.” x. 15. “I speak as to wise men ; judge ye what I say.
Eph. iv. 14. that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine.” vi. 14, &c. “stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth.” Philipp. iii. 2. “ beware of dogs ; beware of evil workers ; beware of the concision.” 1 Thess.
prove all things ; hold fast that which is good.” Heb. xiii. 9. “be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines.' See more on this subject above, chap. xxi. on the discernment of spiritual things.
Hence the people are warned not to take delight in vain teachers. 2 Tim. iv. 3. “ the time will come when they will not endure. sound doctrine, but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.” i Pet. ii. 2.
as new born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.” False teachers are not to be tolerated. Rev. ii. 2. “I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them bid them do? How should they discern and beware of false prophets, and try every spirit, if they must be thought unfit to judge of the minister's abilities ?' Apology for Smectymnuus. Prose Works, III. 153. • Every member of the church, at least of any breeding or capacity, so well ought to be grounded in spiritual knowledge, as, if need be, to examine their teachers themselves, Acts xvii. 11. Rev. ii. 2. Ilow should any private christian try his teachers, unless he be well grounded himself in the rule of Scripture by which he is taught ?' Of true Religion, &c. II. 516.
3 • Ilæreses quidem, sic vere dictas, nos nullas approbamus, ne omnes quidem toleramus; extirpatas etiam volumus, sed quibus convenit modis, præceptis nimirum et saniore doctrina, it in mente sitas, non ferro ac fagris quasi ex corpore evellendas.' Defensio Secunda. Prose Works, Symmons' ed. V. 246.
which are evil ; and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars." v. 7. “ he that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches."
Every church consisting of the above parts, however small its numbers, is to be considered as in itself an integral and perfect church, so far as regards its religious rights ; nor has it any superior on earth, whether individual, or assembly, or convention, to whom it can be lawfully required to render submission ; inasmuch as no believer out of its pale, nor any order or council of men whatever, has a greater right than itself to expect a participation in the written word and the promises, in the presence of Christ, in the presiding influence of the Spirit, and in those gracious gifts which are the reward of united prayer. Matt. xviii. 20. “ where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Acts xiv. 23. “ when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.”
Hence all particular churches, whether in Judea, where there was originally one church comprehending the whole nation, or in any other country whatever, are properly called churches : 2 Cor. viii. 1. “the churches of Macedonia ;" Gal. i. 2. “the churches of Galatia ;” v. 22. “the churches of Judea ;' see also 1 Thess. ii. 14. Rev. i. 4. “ the seven churches which are in Asia :” even where they consist of but few members : Rom. xvi. 5. “greet the church that is in their house.” See also 1 Cor. xvi. 19. Col. iv. 15.
'the church which is in his house." Philem. 2. “the church in thy house."
In this respect a particular church differs from the Jewish synagogue, which, although a particular assembly, and convened for religious purposes, was not a particular church, inasmuch as the entire worship of God could not be there duly celebrated, by reason that the sacrifices and ceremonies of the law were to be performed in the temple alone. Under
4 In The Likeliest means to Remove Hirelings, &c., Milton describes the Jewish church as a national church of many incomplete synagogues, uniting the accomplishment of divine worship in one temple;' whereas the Christian church is universal consisting of many particular churches complete in themselves.' Piose Works, III. 16.
the gospel, on the contrary, all that pertains to the worship of God and the salvation of believers, all, in short, that is necessary to constitute a church, may be duly and orderly transacted in a particular church, within the walls of a private house, and where the numbers assenibled are inconsiderable. Nay, such a church, when in compliance with the interested views of its pastor it allows of an increase of numbers beyond what is convenient, deprives itself in a great measure of the advantages to be derived from meeting in common. It indeed
necessary for Jews and proselytes to meet together at Jerusalem from all quarters of the world for religious purposes, Acts ii. 5, &c. viii. 27. because at that time there was only one national or universal Jewish church, and no particular churches; whereas at present there is no national church, but a number of particular churches, each complete and perfect in itself, and all co-equal in divine right and power ; which like similar and homogeneous parts of the same body, connected by a bond of mutual equality, form in conjunction one catholic church : nor need any one church have recourse to another for a grace or privilege which it does not possess in its independent capacity.
Particular churches, however, may communicate with each other in a spirit of brotherhood and agreement, and co-operate for purposes connected with the general welfare. 2 Cor. viii. 19, “ who was also chosen of the churches to travel with
i. 24. “not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy." 1 Pet. v. 3. “neither as being lords over God's heritage.
Of councils, properly so called, I find no trace in Scripture;? 5. But to proceed further in the truth yet more freely, seeing the Christian church is not national, but consisting of many particular congregations— Likeliest means to Remove Ilirelings, &c. Prose Works, III. 29.
6 Suis in se numeris omnes absolutæ: a Ciceronian expression which he has imitated elsewhere; speaking of the Deity : Through all numbers absolute, though one.
Paradise Lost, VIII. 421. • Per se ipse parlamentum omnibus numeris absolutum et legitimum... constituebat.' Pro Populo anglicano Defensio, Symmons'ed V. 177. *Ily. pocritam numeris omnibus absolutum.' Authoris pro se Defensio, Ibid 307.
. It is probably owing to Milton's dislike of councils, ihat he describes in his epic poems the consultations of the fallen angels in terms borrowed from ecclesiastical assemblies. The devils are said to sit in secret conclare,
This was very
for the decision recorded Acts xv. 2, &c. is rather to be considered as oracular declaration obtained from the inspired apostles, to whom recourse was had in a doubtful matter, as to the supreme authority on controverted points, while there was as yet no written word. different from a modern council composed of bishops or elders, who have no gift of inspiration more than other men ; whose authority is not, like that of the apostles, co-ordinate with the Scriptures ; who are equally liable to error with their brethren, insomuch that they cannot pronounce with certainty, like the apostles, Acts xv. 28. “it hath seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us;" who nevertheless assume the right of imposing laws on the churches, and require the rest of mankind to obey their mandates ; forgetting that at the assembly in Jerusalem? the whole multitude of believers were present, and gave their voices : Acts xv. 12, 22, 23. Where however they content themselves with the fraternal office of admonition, their counsel is not to be despised.
The enemies of the church are partly heretics, and partly profane opponents.
The hostility of heretics originates either in their own evil dispositions, Philipp. i. 16. “the one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely;” or in the imposition of some un. necessary yoke on the church, Matt. ix. 16. “that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is Paradise Lost, I. 795; and their council is styled a gioomy consistory, Paradise Regained, I. 442. He also says in a letter to a friend, written in the year 1659, • I pray that the Protestant synod, which you say is soon to meet at Leyden, may have a happy termination, which has never yet happened to any synod that has ever met before.' Prose Works, III. 520.
7. That way which the apostles used, was to call a council; from which, by anything that can be learned from the fifteenth of the Acts, no faithful Christian was debarred, to whom knowledge and piety might give entrance.' Reason of Church Government urged against Prelaty. Prose Works, II. 464.
• These debates, in his judgement, would have been ended better by the best divines in Christendom in a full and free synod. A most improbable way, and such as never yet was used, at least with good success, by any Protestant kingdom or state since the reformation.' Eiconoclastes, 1. 421. See also Ibid. 150. Among the subjects for tragedies, given by Birch and Todd from Milton's MSS. is • AHAB; beginning at the synod of false prophets.' Of councils, however, composed as he supposes them te have been in the early times of Christianity, he speaks otherwise in The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, III. 178, 179. VOL. IV.
Yet even these are not without their use. 1 Cor. xi. 19. “there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.”
The enemies of the church are various, but the destruction of all is portended. Psal. cxxxvii. 7—9. “remember, O Jehovah, the children of Edom ....O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed, happy shall he be that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us. Jer. xxx. 16. all they that devour thee shall be devoured.” 1. 29, 30. “call together the archers against Babylon, all ye that bend the bow-" v. 34. “ their Redeemer is strong.” li. 11. “the vengeance of Jehovah, the vengeance of his temple.” v. 24. "I will render unto Babylon—" v. 34. “ Nebuchadrezzar hath devoured me, he hath crushed me.” v. 49. “ as Babylon hath caused the slain of Israel to fall, so at Babylon shall fall the slain of all the earth.” Ezek. xxv. 3, &c. « because thou saidst, Aha, against my sanctuary—,” xxviii. 24. “there shall be no more a pricking brier unto the house of Israel.” xxxv. 5, &c. “because thou hast had a perpetual hatred—.” Joel iii. ?, &c. “I will bring them down into the valley of JelioshaphatAmos. i. 3, &c. “for three transgressions of DamascusObad. 10. &c. “ for thy violence against thy brother Jacob.” Micah iv. 13. “arise and thresh, 0 daughter of Zion—.” Zech. xii. 3, &c. “I will make Jerusalem a burthensome stone for all people—.” Rev. xix. 2. “ he hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand.”
The great enemy of the church is called Antichrist, who according to prediction is to arise from the church itself. 2 Thess. ii. 3, &c. “ that man of sin, the son of perdition, who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped ; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” 1 John ii. li., &r. even now are there many antichrists .... they went out from us.” iv. 3. “every spirit that confesseth not that bes:ts Christ is come in the flesh, is not of God; and this is wat spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come.” 2 John 7. “ many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the tlesh : this is a deceiver and an antichrist.” See also nearly the whole of the latter part of Revelations, from chap. xiii. to the end of the book.
The frauds and persecutions practised by the enemies of