“The true treasure of the Church” by Martin Luther

“The true treasure of the Church is the most holy Gospel of the glory and grace of God.”

–Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 31: Career of the Reformer I (ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann; vol. 31; Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 31: 31.

“The church’s marriage with the Lamb” by Jonathan Edwards

“Above all, the time of Christ’s last coming is the time of the consummation of the church’s marriage with the Lamb, and the time of the complete and most perfect joy of the wedding.

In that resurrection morning, when the Sun of Righteousness shall appear in our heavens, shining in all His brightness and glory, He will come forth as a bridegroom.

He shall come in the glory of His Father, with all His holy angels. And at that glorious appearing of the great God, and our Savior Jesus Christ, shall the whole elect church, complete as to every individual member and each member with the whole man, both body and soul, and both in perfect glory, ascend up to meet the Lord in the air, to be thenceforth forever with the Lord.

That will be a joyful meeting of this glorious bridegroom and bride indeed. Then the bridegroom will appear in all His glory without any veil.

And then the saints shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father, and at the right hand of their Redeemer and then the church will appear as the bride, the Lamb’s wife.

’Tis the state of the church after the resurrection, that is spoken of, Rev. 21:2, ‘And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride, adorned for her husband.’ And v. 9, ‘Come hither; I will show thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife.’

Then will come the time, when Christ will sweetly invite His spouse to enter in with Him into the palace of His glory, which He had been preparing for her from the foundation of the world, and shall as it were take her by the hand, and lead her in with Him.

And this glorious bridegroom and bride shall with all their shining ornaments, ascend up together into the heaven of heaven, the whole multitude of glorious angels waiting upon them.

And this Son and daughter of God shall, in their united glory and joy, present themselves together before the Father.

When Christ shall say, ‘Here am I, and the children which Thou has given Me,’ and they both shall in that relation and union, together receive the Father’s blessing, and shall thenceforward rejoice together, in consummate, uninterrupted, immutable, and everlasting glory, in the love and embraces of each other, and joint enjoyment of the love of the Father.”

–Jonathan Edwards, “The Church’s Marriage to Her Sons, and to Her God,” in Sermons and Discourses, 1743–1758 (ed. Wilson H. Kimnach and Harry S. Stout; vol. 25; The Works of Jonathan Edwards; New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2006), 25: 183–184.

“The church shall swim in the ocean of His love” by Jonathan Edwards

“Christ rejoices over His saints as the bridegroom over the bride at all times. But there are some seasons wherein He doth so more especially…

The time wherein this mutual rejoicing of Christ and His saints will be in its perfection, is the time of the saints’ glorification with Christ in heaven.

For that is the proper time of the saints’ entering in with the bridegroom into the marriage (Matt. 25:10). The saint’s conversion is rather like the betrothing of the intended bride to her bridegroom before they come together.

But the time of the saint’s glorification is the time when that shall be fulfilled in Psalm 45:15, ‘With gladness and rejoicing shall they be brought; they shall enter into the king’s palace.’

That is the time when those that Christ loved, and gave Himself for, that He might sanctify and cleanse them, as with the washing of water by the word, shall be presented to Him in glory, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing.

That is the time wherein the church shall be brought to the full enjoyment of her bridegroom, having all tears wiped away from her eyes. And there shall be no more distance or absence.

She shall then be brought to the entertainments of an eternal wedding feast, and to dwell eternally with her bridegroom; yea to dwell eternally in His embraces.

Then Christ will give her His love, and she shall drink her fill, yea she shall swim in the ocean of His love.”

–Jonathan Edwards, “The Church’s Marriage to Her Sons, and to Her God,” in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Sermons and Discourses, 1743–1758, Vol. 25, Ed. Wilson H. Kimnach and Harry S. Stout (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006), 25: 181–182.

“The church is the orchestra” by John Calvin

“The whole world is a theatre for the display of God’s goodness, wisdom, justice and power, but the church is the orchestra.”

–John Calvin, Commentary on the Psalms (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2009),619. Calvin is commenting on Psalm 135:13-14.

“Smoothing out wrinkles and cleansing spots” by John Calvin

“If we are not willing to admit a church unless it be perfect in every respect, we leave no church at all. True, indeed, is Paul’s statement:

‘Christ … gave himself up for the church that he might sanctify her; he cleansed her by the washing of water in the word of life, that he might present her to himself as his glorious bride, without spot or wrinkle,’  [Eph. 5:25–27].

Yet it also is no less true that the Lord is daily at work in smoothing out wrinkles and cleansing spots. From this it follows that the church’s holiness is not yet complete.

The church is holy, then, in the sense that it is daily advancing and is not yet perfect: it makes progress from day to day but has not yet reached its goal of holiness.”

–John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, vol. 1, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), IV.i.17; p. 1031.

“He will build His church” by Michael Horton

“The church’s unity and catholicity do not a rise immanently within individual believers or a historical institution; they are gifts from the Father, in the Son, and by the Spirit. They are given because the triune God has elected, redeemed, and called us in Christ to belong to Him and to each other.

The church was chosen in Christ to be holy (Ephesians 1:4) and was sanctified by Christ’s life, death, and resurrection — applied by the Holy Spirit. The church’s apostolicity is grounded not in its orthodoxy or orthopraxy, but in the external Word, made fruitful in us by the Spirit.

As long as the church hears, receives, and proclaims this Word that it has been given, it is something other than a club, neighborhood association, theological school, or political action committee.

A church that, weary of its ambiguous location between the two ages, preaches another gospel or corrupts the sacraments is no longer holy, but is assimilated into the world– the age that is passing away– despite its outward forms (Galatians 1:6-9; 1 Corinthians 3:10-17).

We cannot deny that there will be those finally who hear these chilling words of Jesus Christ: ‘I never knew you; depart from me,’ although they protest that they performed wonders in His name (Matthew 7:22-23).

The candlestick of any particular church or group of churches can be removed when it ceases to bear illuminating witness to Christ in the world (Revelation 2:5). This tragic end may come upon a church not only for abandoning the doctrine of the gospel itself, but for failing to bear witness to it.

To deny that this eschatological judgment of one’s professing church is impossible by virtue of its inherent holiness and eminent history is itself a harbinger of apostasy, and it is a tendency to which all of our churches can easily succumb.

Yet we have Christ’s promise that He will build His church. Despite the church’s compromised, ambiguous, schismatic and sinful character, the covenant of redemption ensures that our unfaithfulness will not have the last word.”

–Michael Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims On the Way (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 870.

“Become a disciple first” by Martin Luther

“In holy and divine matters one must first hear rather than see, first believe rather than understand, first be grasped rather than grasp, first be captured rather than capture, first learn rather than teach, first be a disciple rather than a teacher and master of his own.

We have an ear so that we may submit to others, and eyes that we may take care of others. Therefore, whoever in the church wants to become an eye and a leader and master of others, let him become an ear and a disciple first. This first.

The one who has not been tempted, what kind of things does he know? One who has not had experience, what kind of things does he know?

One who does not from experience know what temptations are like, will transmit not things that are known, but either things that are heard or seen, or, what is more dangerous, his own thoughts.

Therefore let him who wants to be sure and wants to counsel others faithfully first have some experience himself, first carry the cross himself and lead the way by his example, and so he will be made certain that he can also be of service to others.”

–Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 11: First Lectures on the Psalms II: Psalms 76-126, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1955), 245-246. Luther is commenting on Psalm 94:8.

“One marvelous exception” by Charles Spurgeon

“Christ Jesus is also joined unto His people in a mystical union. Borrowing once more from the story of Ruth, we remark that Boaz, although one with Ruth by kinship, did not rest until he had entered into a nearer union still, namely, that of marriage.

And in the same manner there is, super added to the natural union of Christ with His people, a mystical union by which He assumes the position of Husband, while the Church is owned as His bride.

In love He espoused her to Himself, as a chaste virgin, long before she fell under the yoke of bondage. Full of burning affection, He toiled like Jacob for Rachel, until the whole of her purchase-money had been paid.

And, now, having sought her by His Spirit, and brought her to know and love Him, He awaits the glorious hour when their mutual bliss shall be consummated at the marriage-supper of the Lamb.

Not yet hath the glorious Bridegroom presented His betrothed perfected and complete, before the Majesty of heaven, not yet hath she actually entered upon the enjoyment of her dignities as His wife and queen.

She is as yet a wanderer in a world of woe, a dweller in the tents of Kedar, but she is even now the bride, the spouse of Jesus, dear to His heart, precious in His sight, written on His hands, and united with His person.

On earth He exercises towards her all the affectionate offices of Husband. He makes rich provision for her wants, pays all her debts, allows her to assume His name, and to share in all His wealth.

Nor will He ever act otherwise to her. The word divorce He will never mention, for ‘He hateth putting away.’ Death must sever the conjugal tie between the most loving mortals, but it cannot divide the links of this immortal marriage.

In heaven they marry not, but are as the angels of God, yet there is this one marvelous exception to the rule, for in heaven Christ and His Church shall celebrate their joyous nuptials.

And this affinity as it is more lasting, so is it more near than earthly wedlock. Let the love of husband be never so pure and fervent, it is but a faint picture of the flame that burns in the heart of Jesus.

Passing all human union is that mystical cleaving unto the Church, for which Christ did leave His Father, and become one flesh with her. If this be the union which subsists between our souls and the person of our Lord, how deep and broad is the channel of our communion.

This is no narrow pipe through which a thread-like stream may wind its way, it is a channel of amazing depth and breadth, along whose breadth and length a ponderous volume of living water may roll its strength.

Behold He hath set before us an open door, let us not be slow to enter. This city of communion hath many pearly gates, every several gate is of one pearl, and each gate is thrown open to the uttermost that we may enter, assured of welcome.

If there were but one small loophole through which to talk with Jesus, it would be a high privilege to thrust a word of fellowship through the narrow door. How much we are blessed in having so large an entrance!

Had the Lord Jesus been far away from us, with many a stormy sea between, we should have longed to send a messenger to Him to carry Him our loves, and bring us tidings from His Father’s house.

But see His kindness, He has built His house next door to ours, nay, more, He takes lodging with us, and tabernacles in poor humble hearts, that so He may have perpetual intercourse with us.

O how foolish must we be, if we do not live in habitual communion with Him! When the road is long, and dangerous, and difficult, we need not wonder that friends seldom meet each other, but when they live together shall Jonathan forget his David?

A wife may when her husband is upon a journey, abide many days without holding converse with him, but she could never endure to be separated from him if she knew him to be in one of the chambers of her own house.

Seek thy Lord, for He is near; embrace Him, for He is thy Brother. Hold Him fast, for He is thine Husband; and press Him to thine heart, for He is of thine own flesh.”

–Charles Spurgeon, “Bands of Love; or Union With Christ” in Till He Come: Communion Meditations and Addresses (Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim, 1865/1978), 188-191.

“Arise at once and come to Christ” by J.C. Ryle

“I ask you, whether you are a member of the one true Church of Christ? Are you in the highest, the best sense, a ‘churchman’ in the sight of God? You know now what I mean.

I look far beyond the Church of England. I am not speaking of church or chapel. I speak of ‘the Church built upon the rock.’ I ask you, with all solemnity—Are you a member of that Church?

Are you joined to the great Foundation? Are you on the rock? Have you received the Holy Ghost? Does the Spirit witness with your spirit, that you are one with Christ, and Christ with you?

I beseech you, in the name of God, to lay to heart these questions, and to ponder them well. If you are not converted, you do not yet belong to the ‘Church on the Rock.’

Let every reader of this paper take heed to himself, if he cannot give a satisfactory answer to my inquiry. Take heed, take heed, that you do not make shipwreck of your soul to all eternity.

Take heed, lest at last the gates of hell prevail against you, the devil claim you as his own, and you be cast away for ever. Take heed, lest you go down to the pit from the land of Bibles, and in the full light of Christ’s Gospel.

Take heed, lest you are found at the left hand of Christ at last,—a lost Episcopalian or a lost Presbyterian, a lost Baptist or a lost Methodist,—lost because, with all your zeal for your own party and your own communion table, you never joined the one true Church.

My second work of application shall be an invitation. I address it to every one who is not yet a true believer. I say to you, come and join the one true Church without delay.

Come and join yourself to the Lord Jesus Christ in an everlasting covenant not to be forgotten. Consider well what I say. I charge you solemnly not to mistake the meaning of my invitation.

I do not bid you to leave the visible Church to which you belong. I abhor all idolatry of forms and parties. But I do bid you come to Christ and be saved.

The day of decision must come some time. Why not this very hour? Why not today, while it is called today? Why not this very night, ere the sun rises to-morrow morning?

Come to Him, who died for sinners on the cross, and invites all sinners to come to Him by faith and be saved. Come to my Master, Jesus Christ. Come, I say, for all things are now ready.

Mercy is ready for you. Heaven is ready for you. Angels are ready to rejoice over you. Christ is ready to receive you. Christ will receive you gladly, and welcome you among His children.

Come into the ark. The flood of God’s wrath will soon break upon the earth. Come into the ark and be safe. Come into the life-boat of the one true Church.

This old world will soon break into pieces! Hear you not the tremblings of it? The world is but a wreck hard upon a sand-bank. The night is far-spent—the waves are beginning to rise,—the wind is getting up,—the storm will soon shatter the old wreck.

But the life-boat is launched, and we, the ministers of the Gospel, beseech you to come into the life-boat and be saved. We beseech you to arise at once and come to Christ.

Dost thou ask, ‘How can I come? My sins are too many. I am too wicked yet. I dare not come.’—Away with the thought! It is a temptation of Satan. Come to Christ as a sinner. Come just as you are.

Hear the words of that beautiful hymn:—

‘Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bid’st me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God I come.’

This is the way to come to Christ. You should come, waiting for nothing, and tarrying for nothing.

You should come, as a hungry sinner, to be filled,—as a poor sinner to be enriched,—as a bad, undeserving sinner, to be clothed with righteousness.

So coming, Christ would receive you. ‘Him that cometh’ to Christ, He ‘will in no wise cast out.’ Oh! come, come to Jesus Christ. Come into ‘the true Church’ by faith and be saved.”

–J.C. Ryle, Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties and Roots (London: William Hunt and Company, 1889), 320-322.

“Christ is the almighty Builder” by J.C. Ryle

“Great is the wisdom wherewith the Lord Jesus Christ builds His Church! All is done at the right time, and in the right way. Each stone in its turn is put in its right place.

Sometimes He chooses great stones, and sometimes He chooses small stones. Sometimes the work goes on fast, and sometimes it goes on slowly. Man is frequently impatient, and thinks that nothing is doing.

But man’s time is not God’s time. A thousand years in His sight are but as a single day. The great Builder makes no mistakes. He knows what He is doing. He sees the end from the beginning.

He works by a perfect, unalterable, and certain plan. The mightiest conceptions of architects, like Michaelangelo and Wren, are mere trifling and child’s play, in comparison with Christ’s wise counsels respecting His Church.

Great is the condescension and mercy which Christ exhibits in building His Church! He often chooses the most unlikely and roughest stones, and fits them into a most excellent work.

He despises none, and rejects none, on account of former sins and past transgressions. He often makes Pharisees and Publicans become pillars of His house. He delights to show mercy.

He often takes the most thoughtless and ungodly, and transforms them into polished corners of His spiritual temple.

Great is the power which Christ displays in building His Church! He carries on His work in spite of opposition from the world, the flesh, and the devil.

In storm, in tempest, through troublous times, silently, quietly, without noise, without stir, without excitement, the building progresses, like Solomon’s temple. ‘I will work,’ He declares, ‘and who shall let it?’ (Isaiah 43:13.)

We ought to feel deeply thankful that the building of the true Church is laid on the shoulders of One that is mighty. If the work depended on man, it would soon stand still.

But, blessed be God, the work is in the hands of a Builder who never fails to accomplish His designs! Christ is the almighty Builder. He will carry on His work, though nations and visible Churches may not know their duty.

Christ will never fail. That which He has undertaken He will certainly accomplish.”

–J.C. Ryle, Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties and Roots (London: William Hunt and Company, 1889), 312-312.