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A History of the Reformation (Vol. 1 of 2)

All this is matter of administration


All

this is matter of administration. Some societies of believers may have different ideas about the precise form that this ministry ought to take; but such differences, while they may lead to separate administrations, do not imply any separation from the one Catholic Church of Christ to which they all belong. However outwardly they differ, all retain the essential things--the preaching and teaching of the Word of God and the due administration of the sacraments. Some may prefer to set forth a creed of one kind and others may prefer another. The French, the Scottish, and the Dutch Churches had all their own creeds, and all believed each other to be parts of the same One Catholic Church of Christ.

"When we affirm," says Calvin, "the pure ministry of the Word, and our order in the celebration of the Sacraments, to be a sufficient pledge and earnest that we may safely embrace the society in which both these are found as a true Church, we carry the observation to this point, that such a society should never be rejected as long as it continues in these things, although it may be chargeable in other respects with many errors."(440)

Within this Christian fellowship, which is the Church of Christ, the sense by which we see God is awakened and our faith is nourished and quickened. The Word of God speaks to us not merely in the public worship of the faithful, but in and through the lives of the

brethren; their deeds act on us as the simple stories of experience and providence which the Scriptures contain. God's Word speaks to us in a thousand ways in the lives and sympathies of the brethren. The Christian "receives the revelation of God in the living relationships of the Christian brotherhood, and its essential contents are that personal life of Jesus which is visible in the gospel and which is expounded by the lives of the redeemed."(441)

"The Christian Church," says Luther, "keeps all words of God in its heart, and turns them round and round, and keeps their connection with one another and with Scripture! Therefore, anyone who is to find Christ must first find the Church. How could anyone know where Christ is and faith in Him is, unless he knew where His believers are? Whoever wishes to know something about Christ must not trust to himself, nor by the help of his own reason build a bridge of his own to heaven, but must go to the Church, must visit it and make inquiry. Now the Church is not wood and stone, but the company of people who believe in Christ. With these he must unite and see how they believe, live, and teach, who assuredly have Christ among them. For outside the Christian Church there is no truth, no Christ, no blessedness."(442)

For these reasons the Church deserves to be called, and is, the Mother of all Christians.


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