Tag Archives: Ecclesiology

“Two keys are committed to us by Christ” by Robert Murray M’Cheyne

“It should have been remarked ere now, that during all his ministry McCheyne was careful to use not only the direct means appointed for the conversion of souls, but those also that appear more indirect, such as the key of discipline…

Once from the pulpit, at an ordination of elders, he gave the following testimony upon this head:

‘When I first entered upon the work of the ministry among you, I was exceedingly ignorant of the vast importance of church discipline. I thought that my great and almost only work was to pray and preach.

I saw your souls to be so precious, and the time so short, that I devoted all my time, and care, and strength, to labour in word and doctrine. When cases of discipline were brought before me and the elders, I regarded them with something like abhorrence.

It was a duty I shrank from; and I may truly say it nearly drove me from the work of the ministry among you altogether.

But it pleased God, who teaches His servants in another way than man teaches, to bless some of the cases of discipline to the manifest and undeniable conversion of the souls of those under our care; and from that hour a new light broke in upon my mind, and I saw that if preaching be an ordinance of Christ, so is church discipline.

I now feel very deeply persuaded that both are of God,—that two keys are committed to us by Christ: the one the key of doctrine, by means of which we unlock the treasures of the Bible; the other the key of discipline, by which we open or shut the way to the sealing ordinances of the faith.

Both are Christ’s gift, and neither is to be resigned without sin.'”

–Robert Murray McCheyne and Andrew A. Bonar, Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray McCheyne (Edinburgh; London: Oliphant Anderson & Ferrier, 1894), 79–81.

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“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.

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“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.

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“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.

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“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.

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“Our Master is holy” by John Owen

Explication XV. Holiness becometh the house of the Lord for ever; without it none shall see God. Christ died to wash His church, to present it before His Father without spot or blemish; to purchase unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

It is the kingdom of God within us, and by which it appeareth unto all that we are the children of the kingdom. Let this, then, be the great discriminating character of the church from the world, that they are a holy, humble, self-denying people.

Our Master is holy; His doctrine and worship are holy: let us strive that our hearts may also be holy. This is our wisdom towards them that are without, whereby they may be guided or convinced; this is the means whereby we build up one another most effectually.”

–John Owen, “Eschol: A Cluster of the Fruit of Canaan; Or Rules of Walking in Fellowship, With Reference to the Pastor or Minister That Watcheth For Our Souls,” in The Works of John Owen, ed. William Goold, 24 vols. (Edinburgh: Johnson & Hunter; 1850-1855; reprint by Banner of Truth, 1965), 13:86.

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“The privilege of a faithful elder” by David Dickson

“To be but hewers of wood and drawers of water in such a Master’s house would be a great honor, but ours is still greater. As friends of the Bridegroom, to be helps and witnesses to the betrothal of sinners to Jesus; to stand by and see the salvation of God; to watch the operations of His hand; to guide and encourage His ransomed ones on their way Zionward; and to see many of them safe home before Himself– this is the privilege of a faithful elder.”

–David Dickson, The Elder and His Work, Eds. George McFarland and Philip Ryken (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1883/2004), 129.

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