Confession of Faith (1617) - Article XIX
Of the signs of the church of God, by which it may be distinguished from all other peoples, we confess the following:
In the first place, all true Christians are known by the only saving faith, which works by love. It is wrought, through the grace of God, in the heart of man by the hearing of the word of God, and hence, is not founded and built upon human decrees, but upon the word of God alone; and it works so effectually that by it we are drawn and impelled from all visible things and sinful lusts of this world to the invisible God and His heavenly riches.
Secondly. All true children of God are known by the second or new birth, from above, of God; which is wrought by the Spirit of God internally in the heart, through the putting off of the sinful lusts of the flesh; so that, as man, through his first birth of the flesh, brings forth his human nature and mind; so, through regeneration, he becomes a partaker of the divine nature, by which lie is also to bring forth godly and spiritual fruits, and the mind of Christ Jesus.
Thirdly. The church, or the believers, are known by the good works which they evince as fruits of gratitude from their faith; which may not be done according to human instructions, in a self-selected holiness, but in which we follow Christ and His apostles, as they prescribed and walked. And with these divine virtues all true believers must be clothed, that, as a light on the candlestick, and a city on a hill, they may excel and shine among all men, and may be known thereby, as a good tree is known and distinguished by its good fruits.
Fourthly. The church. of God is known by the glorious appellations by which she is described and honored by the Holy Spirit, as a city and temple of the living God, in which God will dwell and walk; the bride of the Lamb, the daughter of Zion; a chaste virgin, joined to Christ by faith; so that, even as with all cities which are subject to the command of their Lord and king, and it may thereby properly be known, under whose power and dominion they belong, so also the church of God is known by this that she recognizes and obeys Christ Jesus as her only Head and King, in all matters of faith, and observes His commandments. And as a pure virgin and bride forsakes father, mother, and all strange company and subjects herself to the will and obedience of her only bridegroom, so all true children of God must separate themselves from all false worship, flee from the stranger's voice, and unite themselves to Christ, to hear and obediently follow His voice, which is proclaimed by the ministers sent by Him.
Fifthly. The people of God are known by their faithful ministers, who, according to the doctrine of Paul, are unblamable in doctrine and life, and feed the sheep of Christ, not for the milk and wool, but with a willing mind, with knowledge and understanding; speaking not their own words, but only the words of their Lord, and executing His work; rightly dividing and dispensing the word of God, and bringing forth fruits with it; in order that through this good message of the ways of the Lord men might, according to the counsel and will of God, be converted from their evil ways, and won to God.
Sixthly, and lastly. All true disciples of Jesus Christ are known by the unfeigned godly love, which our Savior Himself has put as a sign, by which His disciples should be specially known; which is comprehended in these things: That we love the Lord God our Creator with all our heart and strength, above all other things, which consists principally in the keeping of His commandments. And besides: That we love our brethren or neighbors as ourselves, not only in word or tongue, but in deed and in truth; so that those to whom God has given spiritual gifts, minister therewith, from love, to the souls of their neighbors; and those whom God has blessed with temporal possessions, minister therewith unto the temporal needs of their neighbors, in order that thus among this true Israel of God, there may be found no poor, nor any lack in spiritual or temporal things. Finally, we must show charity to all men, though they be our open enemies, who persecute and kill us, whom we may by no means resist with carnal weapons; but, as Christ did not open His mouth in revenge upon His enemies, but, as an humble and dumb lamb, prayed for them, so we must also follow this infallible example. And as all soldiers forsake their former avocation, and wear the livery of their lord and king, as a sign to distinguish them from all strange servants, and that they are bound to their captain even unto death; so also, must all true servants ,of Jesus Christ be armed with the aforesaid marks, that thereby they may be known and distinguished from all other people.
Where, therefore, men believe with the heart, in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and in the incarnation, justification or redemption, suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, and the resurrection of the dead and the eternal judgment; and where, besides, the ordinances of the Lord, as baptism, Supper, separation, and the like, are rightly observed, according to Scripture, and Christ is followed therein, in the clean fear of the Lord, and in the regeneration-there is the city and church of the living God, the pillar and firm ground of the truth, the tabernacle of God with men, in which God will dwell and walk with His Spirit. Such a body (church) has Christ for its Head, Preserver, and Savior. But where said marks do not exist, and where the ordinances of men are the rule of action, there is no ,church of God, but a vain boasting of the same.
How the true faith is to be known, read: "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17).
"He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water" (John 7:38).
"That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God" (1 Corinthians 2:5).
"For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love" (Galatians 5:6; Heb. 11:1; Habakkuk 2:4; Hebrews 10:38; Romans 1:17).
How the children of God are to be known by regeneration or the new birth, read: "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever" (1 Peter 1:23).
"Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Matthew 19:28).
"For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature" (Galatians 6:15; John 3:8; 2 Corinthians 5:17).
How the true members of Christ are to be known from their godly conversation, read: "Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 7:19-21; 5:16; 12:50; John 15:14; Sirach 19:24).
"Do all things without murmurings and disputings: that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life" (Philippians 2:14-16).
"Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil" (1 John 3:7, 8).
How the people of God are to be known from this that they have separated themselves from all other people, and put themselves under Christ their Head, hearing only His voice, and observing His commandments, read: "Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils" (1 Corinthians 10:14, 21).
"Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing (2 Corinthians 6:14, 17; Revelation 18:4; Isaiah 52:11; Jeremiah 15:19; 51:6).
"As I said unto you, My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him; for they know not the voice of strangers" (John 10:26, 27, 5).
"Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:20; 2 Thessalonians 2:15; John 8: 31; 14:21; 15:10; Mattjew 11:28, 29; 1 John 3:7).
How the false prophets are to be known and distinguished from the true servants of Jesus Christ, read: "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" (Matthew 7:15, 16; Deuteronomy 13:1).
"He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory; but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him" (John 7:18).
"For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God" (John 3:34; 8:31; 1 Peter 4:11).
"But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings" (Jeremiah 23:22, 31; Isaiah 55:11; Matthew 23 throughout; Colossians 1:6; read also Titus 1:6; 1 Timothy 3 throughout).
How Christians are to be known by their love, read: "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:34, 35; 1 John 3:23).
"In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil; whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother" (1 John 3:10; 15:12; Matthew 22:39; Ephesians 5:2; 1 Peter 1:22; 2 Peter 1:7).
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