Category Archives: Ecclesiology

“Exceedingly great and precious promises” by John Bunyan

“O how excellent are the Scriptures to thy soul! O how much virtue dost thou see in such a promise, in such an invitation!

They are so large as to say, Christ will in no wise cast me out! (John 6:37) My crimson sins shall be white as snow!

I tell thee, friend, there are some promises that the Lord hath helped me to lay hold of Jesus Christ through and by, that I would not have out of the Bible for as much gold and silver as can lie between York and London piled up to the stars; because through them Christ is pleased by his Spirit to convey comfort to my soul.

I say, when the law curses, when the devil tempts, when hell-fire flames in my conscience, my sins with the guilt of them tearing of me, then is Christ revealed so sweetly to my poor soul through the promises that all is forced to fly and leave off to accuse my soul.

So also, when the world frowns, when the enemies rage and threaten to kill me, then also the precious, the exceeding great and precious promises do weigh down all, and comfort the soul against all.

This is the effect of believing the Scriptures savingly; for they that do so have by and through the Scriptures good comfort, and also ground of hope, believing those things to be its own which the Scriptures hold forth (Rom 15:4).”

–John Bunyan, Some Sighs from Hell, The Works of John Bunyan, Volume 3 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1692/1991), 3: 721-722.

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“All churches are equal” by Martin Luther

“We know that in Christendom it has been so arranged that all churches are equal, and there is only one single church of Christ in the world, as we pray, ‘I believe in one holy, Christian church.’

The reason is this: wherever there is a church, anywhere in the whole world, it still has no other gospel and Scripture, no other baptism and communion, no other faith and Spirit, no other Christ and God, no other Lord’s Prayer and prayer, no other hope and eternal life than we have here in our church in Wittenberg.”

–Martin Luther, “Against the Roman Papacy An Institution of the Devil,” Luther’s Works, Vol. 41: Church and Ministry III, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 41 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 41: 358.

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“25 qualities of unbelief and faith” by John Bunyan

“Let me here give thee, Christian reader, a more particular description of the qualities of unbelief, by opposing faith unto it, in these twenty-five particulars:—

1. Faith believeth the Word of God; but unbelief questioneth the certainty of the same (Ps. 106:24).

2. Faith believeth the Word, because it is true; but unbelief doubteth thereof, because it is true (1 Tim 4:3; John 8:45).

3. Faith sees more in a promise of God to help, than in all other things to hinder; but unbelief, notwithstanding God’s promise, saith, How can these things be? (Rom 4:19–21; 2 Kings 7:2; John 3:11, 12).

4. Faith will make thee see love in the heart of Christ, when with his mouth he giveth reproofs; but unbelief will imagine wrath in his heart, when with his mouth and Word he saith he loves us (Matt 15:22, 28; Num 13; 2 Chron 14:3).

5. Faith will help the soul to wait, though God defers to give; but unbelief will take huff and throw up all, if God makes any tarrying (Psa 25:5; Isa 8:17; 2 Kings 6:33; Psa 106:13, 14).

6. Faith will give comfort in the midst of fears; but unbelief causeth fears in the midst of comfort (2 Chron 20:20, 21; Matt 8:26; Luke 24:26; 27).

7. Faith will suck sweetness out of God’s rod; but unbelief can find no comfort in his greatest mercies (Psa 23:4; Num 21).

8. Faith maketh great burdens light; but unbelief maketh light ones intolerably heavy (2 Cor 4:1; 14–18; Mal 1:12, 13).

9. Faith helpeth us when we are down; but unbelief throws us down when we are up (Micah 7:8–10; Heb 4:11).

10. Faith bringeth us near to God when we are far from him; but unbelief puts us far from God when we are near to him (Heb 10:22; 3:12, 13).

11. Where faith reigns, it declareth men to be the friends of God; but where unbelief reigns, it declareth them to be his enemies (John 3:23; Heb 3:18; Rev 21:8).

12. Faith putteth a man under grace; but unbelief holdeth him under wrath (Rom 3:24–26; 14:6; Eph 2:8; John 3:36; 1 John 5:10; Heb 3:17; Mark 16:16).

13. Faith purifieth the heart; but unbelief keepeth it polluted and impure (Acts 15:9; Titus 1:15, 16).

14. By faith, the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us; but by unbelief, we are shut up under the law to perish (Rom 4:23, 24; 11:32; Gal 3:23).

15. Faith maketh our work acceptable to God through Christ; but whatsoever is of unbelief is sin. For without faith it is impossible to please him (Heb 11:4; Rom 14:23; Heb 6:6).

16. Faith giveth us peace and comfort in our souls; but unbelief worketh trouble and tossings, like the restless waves of the sea (Rom 5:1; James 1:6).

17. Faith maketh us to see preciousness in Christ; but unbelief sees no form, beauty, or comeliness in him (1 Peter 2:7; Isa 53:2, 3).

18. By faith we have our life in Christ’s fullness; but by unbelief we starve and pine away (Gal 2:20).

19. Faith gives us the victory over the law, sin, death, the devil, and all evils; but unbelief layeth us obnoxious to them all (1 John 5:4, 5; Luke 12:46).

20. Faith will show us more excellency in things not seen, than in them that are; but unbelief sees more in things that are seen, than in things that will be hereafter;. (2 Cor 4:18; Heb 11:24–27; 1 Cor 15:32).

21. Faith makes the ways of God pleasant and admirable; but unbelief makes them heavy and hard (Gal 5:6; 1 Cor 12:10, 11; John 6:60; Psa 2:3).

22. By faith Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob possessed the land of promise; but because of unbelief, neither Aaron, nor Moses, nor Miriam could get thither (Heb 11:9; 3:19).

23. By faith the children of Israel passed through the Red Sea; but by unbelief the generality of them perished in the wilderness (Heb 11:29; Jude 5).

24. By faith Gideon did more with three hundred men, and a few empty pitchers, than all the twelve tribes could do, because they believed not God (Judg 7:16–22; Num 14:11, 14).

25. By faith Peter walked on the water; but by unbelief he began to sink (Matt 14:28–30).

Thus might many more be added, which, for brevity’s sake, I omit; beseeching every one that thinketh he hath a soul to save, or be damned, to take heed of unbelief; lest, seeing there is a promise left us of entering into his rest, any of us by unbelief should indeed come short of it.”

–John Bunyan, Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ, The Works of John Bunyan, Volume 1 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1692/1991), 1: 293-294.

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“His love is like Himself, boundless and bottomless” by George Swinnock

“Now to this God, according to my power, I have, I do, and I shall commend you, to His favour and singular affection, to His power and special protection, and to His care and universal benediction.

I cannot commend you to one more faithful; though others fall off like leaves in autumn, he will never leave you that are his, nor forsake you.

I know not to commend you to one more loving; He lived in love, He in our natures died for love. His love is like Himself, boundless and bottomless.

It is impossible to commend you to one more able; He can supply all your needs, fill all your souls to the brim; grace is lovely in your eyes, whoever beheld it.

Glory is infinitely amiable in your judgments, whoever believed it.

He can build you up, and give you an inheritance, where all the heirs are kings and queens, and shall sit on thrones, and live and reign with Christ for ever and ever.

There ye shall have robes of purity on your backs, palms of victory in your hands, crowns of glory on your heads, and songs of triumph in your mouths; there ye may meet together to worship him without fear, and drink freely of his sweetest, dearest favour; there your services will be without the smallest sin, and your souls without the least sorrow.

If pastor and people meet there, they shall never part more.

It is some comfort now, that though distant in places, we can meet together at the throne of grace; but oh, what a comfort will it be to meet together in that palace of glory!

But since we must part here, ‘finally, my brethren, farewell; be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind; live in peace, and the God of love and peace shall be with you.’ (2 Cor. 13:11)

‘And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance amongst all them that are sanctified.’ (Acts 20:32)”

–George Swinnock, “The Pastor’s Farewell,” in The Works of George Swinnock, Vol. 4 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1992), 4: 99-100. Swinnock preached this farewell sermon to the congregation of Great Kimble, Buckinghamshire on Black Bartholomew’s Day, August 24, 1662.

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“A righteousness that is able to cover the sins of millions of worlds” by Thomas Goodwin

“In the gospel, and work of redemption, we see a righteousness of that breadth that is able to cover the sins of millions of worlds; of that length that it reacheth to eternity, and no sin in God’s people can wear it out or nullify the virtue of it.

And those attributes which God accounts His greatest riches and greatest glory, (Rom. 9:23), even His mercy and free grace, which He intends most to exalt, never saw light till now.

The doctrine of salvation by Christ being the stage, wherein only it is represented, and elsewhere it is not to be seen, and upon it acts the greatest part, for all passages in it tend to this, to shew, as, that ‘by grace we are saved,’ (Eph. 2:5) and therefore, the whole work of salvation is called ‘mercy,’ (1 Peter 2:10) all God’s ways to His people are mercy, (Ps. 25:10), the whole plot and frame of it is made of mercy, and therefore the doctrine of the gospel is called grace, (Titus 2:10-11).

Mercy manageth the plot, gives all other attributes, as it were, their parts to act.

Mercy enters in at the beginning, acts the prologue in election.

And mercy, giving Christ, continues every part of it, sets all a-work, ends the whole in glory.”

–Thomas Goodwin, “The Glory of the Gospel,” The Works of Thomas Goodwin, Volume 4 (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage, 1861/2021), 4: 230-231.

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“Angels are worshippers of Christ” by Thomas Goodwin

“My brethren, the angels are part of the worshippers of Christ as well as we; as they are part of His family, as they are part of His city (Heb. 12:22), whereof He is the King and Lord, so they are part of His worshippers. And, as you shall set anon, we, with all them, worship God and Him together, both here, and shall do so hereafter.

They are worshippers of Him, and in that sense make a part of the Church; for ecclesia colentium, a church is properly for worship. If they be therefore part of the worshippers of Christ, they come under His Church, they are a part of it; particular churches are ordained for worship, and so is the general Church for a worship to be performed to Christ.

And it is the proper expression of the members of a church, what they are designed unto—they are worshippers. Now, in Heb. 1:6, you shall find that the angels are all worshippers of Jesus Christ, ‘And again, when He bringeth His first-begotten into the world, He saith, Let all the angels of God worship Him,’ speaking of Christ…

Little do we think it, but the angels fill our churches as well as men, and are present at all our congregations and assemblies. Because we are to be with them hereafter, and to worship God together with them, therefore they come down and are present at the worship of God here with us…

Angels are round about the throne; and they are present at the courts of God’s house; still they are worshippers, you see, together with us on earth. They do delight to hear Christ preached, because Christ is their Head, and therefore are present (Eph. 1:21-22).

The text is express, Eph. 3:10; Paul sheweth there the end why to him was committed, and so to others, the preaching of the gospel: ‘To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.’

They do not know it out of the Scripture simply, but as it is opened in the church, by the ministers of the church, for the good of the church, so they come to know it; and they delight to do so, for so you have it, 1 Pet 1:12. Saith he, speaking of the fathers before in the Old Testament, ‘It was revealed unto them, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things which are now reported unto you’ (he speaks in general) ‘by them that preached the gospel with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.’

The angels are present, and they are glad to hear Christ laid open and preached unto men, to hear their Head spoken of. They are worshippers together with us of Christ…

Here on earth angels have joy when any poor soul is converted. As they come to church, be they observe who is wrought upon. When they see a poor soul go home and humble himself, fall down upon his knees and become a new creature, news is presently carried up to heaven; for the text saith, Luke 15:10, that ‘there is joy in the presence of the angels of God’—that is, in the court of heaven, amongst them all, so the word signifieth, ἐνώπιον, in the face of all the angels; it is the same word used, Luke 12:8, ‘him shall the Son of man confess before the angels of God,’ He will own him in his court, and confess Him in the presence, in the face of all the angels; so there is joy amongst the angels, they rejoice before God—‘over one sinner that is converted,’ over a poor soul that is gathered unto Christ their Head.

This association, my brethren, we have with them, besides all the services they do us, which I cannot stand to repeat and reckon up unto you; for all the angels are our fellow-servants; so that angel calleth himself, Rev. 22:9. And Jacob’s ladder that touched heaven, the angels ascended and descended upon it; and Christ himself, John 1:51, interprets it that He is the ladder; they all come down upon Him and ascend upon Him, for the service of men.

He is their head, their ruler, their governor. But as we have in this world this association with them, so in the world to come we shall all worship God with one worship, both angels and men together.

Such he there is Heb. 12, the place I quoted before; ‘you are come to the Mount Sion,’—so he calleth the Church, which consisteth both of angels and men, as I observed before. Mount Sion, you know, was the place of God’s worship.

What is his meaning, then, when he saith, ‘you are come to the Mount Sion, to the heavenly Jerusalem?’ You are all come, saith he, to the place of worship whither angels are come up; for al the tribes came up there, to that Mount Sion, to worship God—the mount where all the angels are, and where all the souls of just men made perfect shall come up in their succession, and all to worship God.

It is called Mount Sion, because it is the place of God’s worship. And that which we translate the company of angels, μυριάσιν, it is the solemn assembly of angels; so the word signifieth, such an assembly as was at a solemn feast of the Jews, whither all the people came up.

The men that dwelt at Jerusalem, he compareth them to the angels, for that is their standing seat and dwelling; and we that are upon earth, he compareth to the tribes that came up to the solemn assembly, to the solemn feast. And he calleth them the general assembly, for there God will have all His children about Him. So that both angels and we one day shall be common worshippers, live in one kingdom together; we shall be as angels; so Matt. 22:30...

Angels have a happiness in Christ, in seeing of Him as well as we. I take that to be part of the meaning of that 1 Tim. 3:16. I have often wondered at the expression there; I shall give you what I think to be the meaning of it.

Speaking of Christ, and of the great mystery of godliness in Him, saith he, ‘God, who was manifested in the flesh,’—and there was more of God manifested in the flesh in the person of Christ, than there is in all creatures that were made, or possibly could be made,—‘justified in the Spirit,’ which was spoken of his resurrection, ‘seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.’

Here are two principles, faith and vision. Here is faith attributed to men; they cleave to Christ their head by faith, ‘believed on in the world.’ The angels cleave unto him by vision, ‘seen of angels;’ admiring Him with infinite joy, looking upon Him as their Head.

They saw more of God manifested in that man Christ Jesus, than they had seen in heaven before. We cleave to Him by faith; they cleave to Him by sense: that which we shall have, for we shall see Him one day as He is, that the angels do, and are made happy in Him; the same eternal life that we have, they have, ‘and this is eternal life, to know God, and to know Jesus Christ,’ John 17:3.

Their happiness lieth, as our happiness, in seeing God incarnate, in seeing God in the flesh, in seeing God face to face, and His Christ forever.”

–Thomas Goodwin, “Sermon X: Ephesians 1:10,” The Works of Thomas Goodwin, Volume 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage, 1861/2021), 1: 160–161, 162, 163, 163–164, 166.

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“The believer is never alone” by Herman Bavinck

“All the rich benefits which Christ gives to His believers on earth receive their fulfillment and their crown in the glorification which accrues to them in part upon death but only in its fulness after the day of judgment.

But this benefit of glorification is one which we cannot yet discuss, because we have first to pay some attention to the way in which, or the route along which, Christ brings the benefits of calling and regeneration, faith and repentance, justification and adoption as children, renewal and sanctification, into being in His believers on earth, and sustains and reinforces them.

We have already noted that He grants all those benefits by means of His Word and His Spirit, but have still to see that He also grants them also only in the fellowship which binds all the believers together.

He does not distribute them to single individuals, nor to a small group of persons, but He gives them out to a great multitude, to the whole of the new humanity, which was chosen in Him by the Father from before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4).

The believer, therefore, never stands apart by himself; he is never alone. In the natural world every human being is born in the fellowship of his parents, and he is therefore without any effort on his own part a member of a family, of a people, and also of the whole of mankind.

So it is also in the spiritual sphere. The believer is born from above, out of God, but he receives the new life only in the fellowship of the covenant of grace of which Christ is the Head and at the same time the content.

If by virtue of this regeneration God is his Father, the church may in a good sense be called his mother. In the world of heathendom also there is no believer or no gathering of believers except by way of the mission which the church of Christ sends them.

From the first moment of his regeneration, therefore, the believer is, apart from his will and apart from his own doing, incorporated in a great whole, taken up into a rich fellowship; he is member of a new nation and citizen of a spiritual kingdom whose king is glorious in the multitude of his subjects (Prov. 14:28).”

–Herman Bavinck, The Wonderful Works of God (trans. Henry Zylstra; Glenside, PA: Westminster Seminary Press, 1909/2019), 495–496.

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“Do not forget it, Christian friend” by Charles Spurgeon

“Friend, let me whisper in thine ear: expect to lose thy dear ones still, for death is not destroyed.

Look not upon any of thy friends as though they would be with thee tomorrow, for death is not destroyed yet. See thou the word ‘mortal’ written upon all our brows.

The most unlikely ones die first. When I heard during this week of several cases of dear friends who have gone to their reward, I could have sooner believed it had been others, but God has been pleased to take from us and from our connexion many whom we supposed to be what are called good lives, and they were good lives in the best sense, and that is why the Master took them; they were ripe, and he took them home; but we could not see that.

Now, remember that all your friends, your wife, your husband, your child, your kinsfolk, are all mortal.

That makes you sad. Well, it may prevent your being more sad when they are taken away.

Hold them with a loose hand; do not count that to be freehold which you have only received as a leasehold; do not call that yours which is only lent you, for if you get a thing lent you and it is asked for back, you give it back freely; but if you entertain the notion that it was given you, you do not like to yield it up.

Now, remember, the enemy is not destroyed, and that he will make inroads into our family circle still.

And then remember that you too must die.

Bring yourself frequently face to face with this truth, that you must die. Do not forget it, Christian friend.

No man knows whether his faith is good for anything or not if he does not frequently try that faith by bringing himself right to the edge of the grave.

Picture yourself dying, conceive yourself breathing out your last breath, and see whether then you can look at death without quaking, whether you can feel, “Yes, I have rested upon Jesus, I am saved, I will go through death’s tremendous vale with his presence as my stay, fearing no evil.”

If you have no good hope, may God give you grace at this moment to fly to Jesus, and to trust in Him, and when you have trusted in Him death will be to you a destroyed enemy.

May God grant his blessing for Jesus’ sake. Amen.”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “The Last Enemy Destroyed,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 12 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1866), 12: 647–648.

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“The bottomless river of joy” by Charles Spurgeon

“Christ has abolished death by removing its greatest sorrows. I told you that death snatched us away from the society of those we loved on earth; it is true, but it introduces us into nobler society far.

We leave the imperfect church on earth, but we claim membership with the perfect church in heaven. The church militant must know us no more, but of the church triumphant we shall be happy members.

We may not see the honoured men on earth who now serve Christ in the ministry, but we shall see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the noble army of martyrs, the goodly fellowship of the prophets, and the glorious company of the apostles.

We shall be no losers, certainly, in the matter of society, but great gainers when we are introduced to the general assembly and the church of the first-born, whose names are written in heaven.

I said that we should be taken away from enjoyments.

I spoke of Sabbath bells that would ring no longer, of communion tables at which we could not sit, and songs of holy mirth in which we could not join—ah! it is small loss compared with the gain unspeakable, for we shall hear the bells of heaven ring out an unending Sabbath, we shall join the songs that never have a pause, and which know no discord.

We shall sit at the banqueting table where the King Himself is present, where the symbols and the signs have vanished because the guests have found the substance, and the King eternal and immortal is visibly in their presence.

Beloved, we leave the desert to lie down in green pastures.

We leave the scanty rills to bathe in the bottomless river of joy.

We leave the wells of Elim for the land which floweth with milk and honey.”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “The Last Enemy Destroyed,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 12 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1866), 12: 646.

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“The holiness, love, compassion, care, and authority of Christ towards His church” by John Owen

“The especial design of the rule of the church in its government is to represent the holiness of Christ, love of Christ, compassion of Christ, care of Christ, and authority of Christ towards His church.

This is the great end of rule in the church, and of all the discipline which is to be exercised by virtue thereof.

Whilst this is not attended unto, when the officers and rulers of the church do not endeavour, in all the actings of their power and office, to set forth these virtues of Christ, to exemplify that impression of them which He hath left in His laws and rule, with the divine testimonies which He gave of them in His own person, they utterly deviate from the principal end of all rule in the church.

For men to act herein in a way of domination, with a visible elation of mind and spirit above their brethren; with anger, wrath, and passion; by rules, order, and laws of their own devising, without the least consideration of what the Lord Christ requires, and what is the frame of His heart towards all His disciples,—is to reflect the highest dishonour imaginable upon Christ Himself.

He who comes into the courts of the king in Westminster Hall, when filled with judges, grave, learned, and righteous, must ordinarily be allowed to judge of the king himself, his wisdom, justice, moderation, and clemency, by the law which they proceed upon and their manner of the administration of it.

But God forbid that Christians should make a judgment concerning the holiness, wisdom, love, and compassion of Christ by the representation which, as is pretended, is made of Him and them in some courts wherein church rule and discipline is administered!

When any had offended of old, their censure by the church was called the bewailing of them, (2 Cor. 12:21); and that because of the sorrow, pity, and compassion whereby, in that censure, they evidenced the compassion of the Lord Christ towards the souls of sinners.

This is scarce answered by those pecuniary mulcts and other penalties, which, with indignation and contempt, are inflicted on such as are made offenders, whether they will or no.

Certainly, those who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, and have a due honour for the gospel, will, at one time or another, begin to think meet that this stain of our religion should be washed away.

The rule and law of the exercise of power in the elders of the church is the holy Scripture only.

The Lord Christ is the only lawgiver of the church; all His laws unto this end are recorded in the Scripture; no other law is effectual, can oblige or operate upon the objects or unto the ends of church-rule.

If the church make a thousand rules, or canons, or laws for government, neither any of them, nor all of them in general, have any the least power to oblige men unto obedience or compliance with them, but only so far as virtually or materially they contain what is of the law of Christ, and derive force from thence: as the judges in our courts of justice are bound to judge and determine in all cases out of and according to the law of the land; and when they do not, their sentence is of no validity, but may and ought to be reversed.

But if, wilfully or of choice, they should introduce laws or rules not legally established in this nation, judging according unto them, it would render them highly criminal and punishable.

It is no otherwise in the kingdom of Christ and the rule thereof. It is by His law alone that rule is to be exercised in it. There is nothing left unto the elders of the church but the application of his laws and the general rules of them unto particular cases and occasions.

To make, to bring, to execute, any other rules, laws, or canons, in the government of his church, is to usurp on His kingly dominion.”

–John Owen, “The True Nature of a Gospel Church,” The Works of John Owen, Volume 16 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1689/1968), 16: 135-136.

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