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5. Since the Scriptures speak of the universal church in the singular number, though it comprises many particular churches; and since each particular church is so called, though it includes many
Christian families or lesser communities of Christians; we on the same principle may speak of “the church” of England, or of France, or of the Eastern or the Western church, though many particular churches are included under each; or we may with equal propriety, say, “The churches of Britain,” or of France, &c. This latter form is indeed used in Scripture itself, e.g. “ The churches of Galatia;” (I Cor., xvi, 1.) but the singular form is justifiable from the usage of Scripture.
Palmer on the Church.
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(CHAP. I.--continued from page 79.) There is no evidence, that the use of Ships was known before the flood. Therefore the trial of Noah's faith in committing bimself to the water for safety, when the earth had not yet been covered, was the greater. It did not however waver. The first descent of the “waters” became the signal for bim and his family, to separate themselves from the world, and to seek safety, as God bad ordered him, by the very water that overwhelmed the faithless. On the bosom of that water tbe ark bore the few chosen and found faithful. So the water of baptism, not by any power or sufficiency of its own, but by the ordinance of the Lord Jesus, and by the power of the spirit, separates, and places in safety those, who would be saved from the curse pronounced against man's corruption and disobedience. Therein they remained till the earth bad been uncovered, and they bad received commandment to go forth. (Gen., VIII., 16 ) Every thing is done under God's visible direction. The same control and immmediate super
intendence of God is continued after, as before, the flood. Noah builds bis altar or place of worship, offers his sacrifice, has it approved by the Lord—is comforted with fresb promises, and a renewed covenant. He is also, as Adam had been before, directed to shape bis conduct by certain ordinances, both per. mitting and forbidding-limiting his privileges, and trying his obedience. (Gen., VIII, and Ix.) The manner, in wbich these facts are mentioned, shews that the historian himself did not regard them, nor imagined that his readers would regard tbem, as unusual; but rather as the expected consequences of the circumstances of the infant Church, which required the immediate control of God. They were only a part of His customary rule, and proceedings, corresponding with His plan of government from the creation. The curses, and blessings also (accurately prophetic as the event proved them) wbich Noah pronounced upon bis sons, shewed that, in acting under bis Divine superintendence, he was commissioned to act in the name of the Lord; and for that purpose was favoured with spiritual powers, which were not common to man.
The descendants of Noah multiplied; and then, as before the flood, they became corrupt. They did not fall at once, or all in the same proportion, into the depths of error and ungodliness. But, retaining more or less of the knowledge of the true God, and of His ordinances, they gradually mixed up with this knowledge, idolatrous superstitions; and at length were entirely given up to the blindness, which grows upon individuals and societies, when they yield themselves up to the vanity of their mind, and choose to be guided by their own devices rather than God's wisdom. In tbe meantime He had set apart a chosen generation to be the Churcbthe depository of His word and promises, the ark in which believers were invited to take refuge, the people in whom the covenant of the Messiah was to be
fulfilled. Even this Church, this chosen race, was not free from the taint of corruption, nor from liability to wander from the right path. And we find in the kinsmen of the holy family a propensity to idolatry, so strong that superstition soon followed separation. The Church itself was God's peculiar care, and required His visible superintendence to preserve the truth. The promise from the Creator given to our first parents, and renewed in Seth, was solemnly confirmed to Noah; and by Him, under the inspiration of Prophecy, proclaimed as proceeding to its accomplishment in the family of Shem. The Patriarcb plainly speaks of the Church of the faith. ful being in the line Shem-wben he terms Jehovah “the Lord God of Shem.” (Gen., IX., 26, 27.) And we may notice how careful Moses is to trace the line, in which the true Church (by God's decree and promise) is to be established.
As he had given a regular genealogy, shewing that Noab bimself bad descended in a direct line from Seth, so be carefully draws up a list (Gen., XI.) which traces to Noah's son Shem, the descent of Abrabam, the “father of the faithful."
To trace this descent and lineage of the Church, or chosen family, and the pre-ordained purpose of the Lord, to accomplish in them the prophesies of the Messiah, appears to bave been one of the principal objects of Moses in writing the history. We find bim taking very little notice of those branches of the church, wbich (either keeping up an imperfect con. nexion with it, or being totally estranged from it) dwelt apart from it; and were more or less quickly swallowed up in idolatry and its attendant evils. These are mentioned only when their transactions with the chosen family bring them on the scene. Then the mention of them is merely accidental, as churches under similar circumstances, might be spoken of now; without intention to give a distinct history of them, but yet stating incidents wbich shew, that they were, as might be expected, in various stages of error and decay. Jehovah is acknowledged, but idols also are used. He voucbsafes revelations, and His admonitions are attended to. He retains, among some of these decaying branches of the true vine, His prophets to testify of Him; and these propbets are reve
verenced, though in some cases with a mere superstitious reverence. Examples confirming these remarks may be found, in the notices of Melchisedec and Balaam--of the kings of Gerarand of Egypt. They all prove,
that even among
the other families of the earth, the worship of the true God was not altogether lost at once, but, as in the Church of Rome, gradually overlaid with corruptions, wbich they bad not grace to reform, and which, therefore at length caused their candlestick, to be removed, and the church in their land, to be quenched in almost utter darkness.
But to return to the History of the Church in the chosen family. We may briefly notice, (for it will not suit the purpose of our history to enter largely into particulars) a few examples of the continued rule, and personal superintendence, of God over the ordinances and conduct of the infant Church-Not only on particular occasions, but also on the removals of the patriarchs from place to place, we have frequent mention of their immediate care to “build an altar," by which is probably meant a place for the people to come and worship. There sacrifices were offered, and directions were received from God, and covenants were confirmed by Him, and the altar was a memorial. Thus on his arrival at Moreb, Abram receives a promise of that land for his seed, the Church; and immediately thereon he asserts bis title to it, raises a memorial of its appropriation to the Church, and builds "an altar to the Lord, who appeared unto him.” (Gen., XII , 7.) On his removal thence, to a place between Hai and Bethel, be immediately builds his altar; and by the