BLTC Press Titles

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The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

A. Conan Doyle

The Art of Worldly Wisdom

Baltasar Gracian

The Secret Doctrine, Volume I Cosmogenesis

H. P. Blavatsky

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll

A treatise on the Church of Christ

by William Palmer


If it be time, as I have endeavoured to prove in the last chapter, that Christ's church was always to continue, even to the end of the world, and that it is the only way of salvation, it is evident that nothing deserves our attentive examination more than the signs by which we can distinguish the church of Christ at present existing. Surrounded by a vast multitude of contending societies calling themselves Christian, and all alike claiming to be churches of Christ, there is an apparent necessity for the discovery of some method, by which, without any extreme difficulty or labour, we may discriminate the church of God from its rivals.

It cannot be requisite to prove that all societies calling Church themselves Christian, are not necessarily what they pretend to ^Xdeall be; nor is it probable that the multiplied "denominations'' Denominaaround us, should be all alike faithful and obedient to ourtlons' Divine Master. The unanimous opinion, indeed, of professing Christians is, that some of these societies belong not to Christ but to Antichrist. Every particular doctrine and duty of Christianity is made a matter of dispute, and denied or corrupted by some community; and it seems irrational to suppose that God could have instituted "a kingdom divided

Vol. i. c

against itself'' on every point, torn by irreconcilable divisions and mortal enmities, and exhibiting a chaotic confusion even in the most elementary principles of religion. It is incredible, if Revelation be indeed from God, if it be designed for perpetuity, if all men be bound to receive it, and if means be provided by Divine Providence for enabling them to receive it; it is incredible, I say, that when all its doctrines and precepts are made matters of dispute, and denied by some, all professing Christians should be equally included in the Church of Christ. Besides this, Christ himself and the Apostles predicted, that, after their departure, there should be false Christs and false prophets, Antichrists and false teachers, who should privily bring in damnable heresies; and that many should be deceived by their artsa. These evils were to continue even in the latter days of the world; and therefore there is a very great probability, that some of the communities calling themselves Christian, may have arisen in this manner, and are not to be reckoned as any part of the church of Christ. Necessity By what means then can we determine with certainty, which, of notes. among these communities, are indeed portions of the church of God? All declare that they are themselves within its pale: all assert that their doctrines and practice are in accordance with Scripture, and with the commandment of Christ. A hundred different societies present their respective claims to our adherence, on the ground of their peculiar purity and sanctity. The mind is perplexed at their number, and the positiveness of their assertions. The labour of investigating all, or many, of these cases in detail, is beyond human power and endurance; and the learning and judgment requisite to determine such a multitude of difficult questions in doctrine and morality, are possessed by very few men; while, if the research be commenced fortuitously, without any clue to guide us to those societies which may most probably be of the church of Christ, we may begin by devoting a great deal of time to the examination of objects totally unworthy of our attention.

The precepts of Christian prudence require, that we should take the briefest course, consistent with a security of arriving at a sound conclusion in a practical question of such vital importance. "The time is short" to run the race of Chris

• Matt. vii. 15. xxiv. 23—25; 1 Timothy iv. 1; 2 Peter ii. 1, 2; Acts xx. 29; 2 Thess. ii. 3—12; Rev. xiii. 8. 16.

tianity, even when we have entered on it: how necessary then is it that we should endeavour to find speedily, as well as certainly, the arena in which it is to be run. It is with such views that theologians, in various ages, have endeavoured to lay down rules for the discrimination of Christ's church, by a comparatively short and intelligible process; and these rules are styled notes or signs of the church. By notes of the church are meant some of its more prominent attributes, which may be ascertained and applied to all existing communities of professing Christians, without any very lengthened discussion on obscure and difficult points.

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