Unless otherwise stated the articles are by David W. Norris
"...Christ's elect Church is the whole multitude of all repenting sinners that believe in Christ, and put all their trust and confidence in the mercy of God, feeling in their hearts that God for Christ's sake loveth them, and will be merciful to them, and forgiveth their sins of which they repent: and that he forgiveth them also the motions unto sin, of which they fear lest they should thereby be drawn into sin again. And this faith they have without respect of their own personal deservings, yea, and for none other cause than that the merciful truth of God the Father, which cannot lie, hath so promised and so sworn.
And this faith and knowledge is everlasting life, and by this we be born anew and made the son of God ...And this faith is the mother of all truth ...And this faith is the foundation laid of the apostles and prophets ...And this faith is the rock whereon Christ built his congregation ...And against the rock of this faith can no sin, no hell, no devil, no lies, nor error prevail."
"The Church which is Christ’s body, and of which Christ is the head, standeth only of living stones, and true Christians, not only outwardly in name and title, but inwardly in heart and in truth.”
“Unto this Church pertain so many as from the beginning of the world until this time have unfeignedly believed in Christ, or shall believe unto the very end of the world. Against this Church the gates of hell shall not prevail.”
If we look to the present state of the church of Christ, it is as Daniel in the midst of the lions, as a lily among thorns, as a ship not only tossed, but almost covered with waves. It is so low, that the enemies think they have buried Christ, in regard of his gospel, in the grave, and there they think to keep him from rising; but Christ as he rose in his person, so he will roll away all stones, and rise again in his church. How little support hath the church and the cause of Christ at this day! how strong a conspiracy is against it! the spirit of antichrist is now lifted up, and marcheth furiously; things seem to hang on a small and invisible thread. But our comfort is, that Christ liveth and reigneth and standeth on Mount Sion in defence of them that stand for him, Rev. xiv. 1; and when States and kingdoms shall dash one against another, Christ will have care of his own children and cause, seeing there is nothing else in the world that he much esteemeth. At this very time the delivery of his church, and the ruin of his enemies, is in working; we see no things in motion till Christ hath done his work, and then we shall see that the Lord reigneth.
Christ and his church, when they are at the lowest, are nearest rising: his enemies at the highest are nearest a downfall.
Richard Sibbes (1577-1635) in The Bruised Reed
There is perhaps no subject in religion which is so much misunderstood as the subject of the Church. There is certainly no misunderstanding which has done more harm to professing Christians than the misunderstanding of this subject.
“I cannot but believe that the present practice of confining the public teaching of the church to an official class has done harm. Why should one man be forever speaking, and hundreds of people who are able to teach, sitting dumb to listen or pretend to listen to him? I hate forcible revolution, and do not believe that any institutions, either political or ecclesiastical, which need violence to sweep them away, are ready to be removed; but I believe that if the level of spiritual life were raised among us, new forms would naturally be evolved, in which there should be a more adequate recognition of the great principle on which the democracy of Christianity is founded; namely, ‘I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh ― and on My servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in these days of My Spirit and they shall prophesy.’”
In living memory, viewing the spiritual malaise that now besets our beloved country and threatens to destroy us, there has rarely been greater need for a proclamation of the authentic Christian Gospel. It seems that days are upon us as prophesied by Amos. God has indeed sent a famine in the land, “...not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD” (Amos 8:11). Search where we may, the word of God eludes us. “And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it” (Amos 8:12). There are plenty of crooks and charlatans peddling a false gospel, preaching “another gospel: which is not another” (Galatians 1:6-7), offering stones instead of bread, a serpent in the place of a fish, and a scorpion for an egg (Luke 11:11-12). And those who ought to know better are strangely silent.
External opponents of the Christian faith are not really needed to destroy these Churches. Genuine and biblical Christian testimony in Britain is already well on the way to extinction. Left to themselves, Churches will easily accomplish all that is required to extinguish what is left of any spiritual life in them without outside help. Congregations are already dwindling fast. One in four parishes in the Church of England have fewer than ten regular worshippers. Centuries old church buildings are being compelled every year to close their doors; others will be able to open for services only during the major religious holidays. Within the Church of England there are now fewer than 800,000 worshippers in the pews on Sunday. This is around of half of what attendance was in the 1960s. Bishops and clergy are determined to reform and renew the Church by prescribing yet more potent versions of the same fatal concoctions that have contributed to this miserable state of affairs. The institutional Churches, State or non-conformist alike, are now soaked in the very things that are antipathetic to the Christian faith and that are opposed in nature and character to the teaching of Scripture.
Professing Churches of all denominations have now almost all jettisoned the older doctrines and truths they formerly held dear. Few Church of England ordinands could today hand on heart endorse the Thirty-Nine Articles, which they presumably still swear before God to uphold. The ancient Creeds of the Church have become less a statement of faith than a quaint formality. Most of the other denominations follow in their train, indeed some lead the way.
The benefits of being a Christian believer, whether it is our calling, regeneration, faith and repentance, justification and adoption, or the renewing power of sanctification, all are granted by means of the Word and Spirit of God. What is often lost sight of is that they are granted to us only within that fellowship which binds us together as believers. These blessings are not distributed indiscriminately to us as individuals, nor yet to small groups or gatherings, but to the totality of a great multitude, to the whole of the new humanity chosen in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.” (Ephesians 1:3-4) ...
The fellowship of belonging to the whole gives the individual believer powerful support so that he is strong, not doubting, not fearing even when he is quite alone, for he is part of a body beyond himself. On our own we are not equal to isolation and solitude. Some of us may be called upon to make a break with our environment, to take issue with all and sundry around us. Here God gives special grace. Biblical examples of this include Abraham, Moses, and Elijah. Elijah complained that he alone was left of the faithful. “Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the LORD; but Baal's prophets are four hundred and fifty men. … And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away” (1 Kings 18:22; 19:10). Paul was deeply saddened at the end of his life to be forsaken by almost everyone.“For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me” (2 Timothy 4:10). As God’s creatures we were made for fellowship with God but also with other men. We do not like being left on our own.
“For my own part, I believe sects and denominations to be the result of the devil’s attempt to mar and hinder as far as possible the visible union of the church of God; and that they all have their root in our spiritual pride and selfishness, our self-sufficiency and our sin. …
May God forgive us for, and correct our divisions! Nothing gives greater occasion to the outside world, than the differences between professing Christians. The bickerings and contentions between men and women of different sects and denominations of the visible church of God has always been one of the world’s greatest hindrances. Instead of looking on, and being constrained to confess, ‘See how these Christians love one another,’ the world has too often reason to say, ‘See how they carp at one another, see how they judge one another, see how they malign one another.’”