National Churches Under the New Testament

National Churches Under the New TestamentJames Durham
A Commentarie Upon the Book of Revelation
pp. 511-516.

And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned. And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth. And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail. (Rev. 11:15-19)

We may draw some conclusions from this Song, the first whereof is this, That a National Church is not only not inconsistent with the flourishing estate of the Gospel in the world, but is concomitant with it; yea, is a manifest proof of it, and a great ground of rejoycing to Gods people and of praise to Him. For clearing and confirming whereof, we may consider, 1. That by Nations and Kingdoms here, is meaned the generality and body of such Kingdoms and Nations. 2. That by being the Lords here, is meaned a speciall Church-state and relation: which two being made out, it will consequently appear that what we call a Nationall Church (which is the combination of a Nation as one unto God) doth well suit the time of Antichrists fall, and of the Gospels flourishing.

The first, to wit, that by Kingdoms here, or Nations, Chap. 15.4. are not to be understood some few of a Kingdom or Nation, but the generality and body of them, may appear 1. From the scope, which clearly is this, to set out the largenesse of the extent of the flourishing of the Gospel, or the inlargement or wonderfull extent of the Church after Antichrists begun ruine. If it were but some few, there would be no such ground of praise, nor no such difference from what was before, even then, some of Nations and Kingdoms were the Lords.

2. Kingdoms, becoming His, is to be understood as the like phrases used of Cities and Families, their becoming His; but that doth import, not only some of such a Family or City, but the whole or generality of them, as instances will clear. See what is said of Lydda and Saron, Acts 9.35. which certainly is more than can be said of other Cities, where yet He might have many: therefore it must be so here. 3. These Kingdoms become His as once the Kingdom and Nation of the Jews were His in a peculiar manner; for, this seemeth to relate to the Lords manner of calling the Jewish Nation; and as they were His, so shall these Nations be His, seing no other so clear parallel can be given of expounding here a Kingdom becoming the Lords; so Israel is called His Nation, Isa. 51.4. It is true, this will not hold in typicall and ceremoniall things, but in things common, and essentiall to a Nationall Church, it will, as we may conclude the relation of a particular person to God now, by paralleling it with the particular relation between God and one of the Jews, though it could not be extended to what is typicall and ceremoniall in that respect. 4. The opposition maketh it clear, Nations now become the Lords as formerly they were Antichrists, that is, they give now the profession of purity by a publick acknowledgement as formerly they gave it to the beast; now they reject him and take Christ in his room, but the first was done nationally. 5. Nations become now the Lords as they were not His before; for, thus the opposition is to be understood also, but that was in respect of the complex body the generality of them; and if now the phrase be, such a Nation is not the Lords, because the generality and complex body do not publickly acknowledge Him, Then on the contrary, a Nations becoming His, must import His having His publick worship nationally among them. 6. Nations now are to become His, and to be admitted to the Church under the Gospel, as they were formerly secluded before Christ came in the flesh, Ps. 147. Thou hast not dealt so with every Nation, &c. but that which was peculiar to the Jews then, from which other Nations were excluded, was not in respect of particular persons of Nations; for, even many Gentiles were admitted with Israel to the Church, but the difference was in respect of the collective body of other Nations, none whereof were so admitted. 7. We may consider this phrase of Nations and Kingdoms their becoming Christs here, as it clearly respecteth the many promises and prophesies that went before of calling Nations to Him; this is marked as the fulfilling of these promises, whereby great things have been expected by the people of God, and they cannot be looked on but as holding forth more ground of joy than can be gathered from the conversion of parts of Kingdoms. Consider these two places, the first is, Rom. 10.19. cited out of Deut. 32.21. I will provoke them to jealousie by them that are no people, and by a foolish Nation will I anger you. Where two things are observable, 1. That this provoking of Israel by a Nation, is somewhat penall, punishing them for their contempt, when, as it is Matth. 21.43. they shall see the Kingdom of God, and their Nationall Church-state translated from them to another people and given unto a Nation who shall nationally be invested with their priviledges, as ingrafted in their room. 2. That the end thereof is to provoke them to jealousie, when they shall see a whole Nation, nationally owned of God (which they esteemed to be their peculiar priviledge) and acknowledged by Him in their room; the calling of particular persons of Nations could not be so effectuall either to anger or provoke them, seing that hath been common to all times. The second place, is, Isa. 19. vers. 18, 19, 23, 24, 25. where Egypt and Assyria are called the Lords people, even as Israel is; and that must be nationally considered.

3. Take this place as including the re-ingrafting again of the Jews (as no question it doth, seing their incoming belongeth to the same time) It is most probable-like that their Church will be nationall in the former respect, 1. If we consider these expressions, Rom. 11.26. All Israel shall be saved, which is certainly in opposition to the parcels of them, and singular persons whom God called, and continued in His Church, even when the body of them is broken off. 2. They may be expected to be ingrafted into that estate they fell from; for, saith He, Rom. 11. They shall be grafted in again, but that estate was their nationall Church-state-relation, and apparently had they received the Gospel, they had continued a nationall Church to God, and not lost their former priviledge, though it had not continued to be typicall, or peculiar to them. Now, this which they fell from, was not from being priviledged with particular Churches; for we may see by the Epistle to the Hebrews and Historie of the Acts, that after their rejection, there were particular Churches among them. It would seem therefore that their ingrafting must be as broad as, and of the same nature with, their breaking off.

4. This phrase, The Kingdoms of this world are become the Kingdoms of our Lords, is to be understood with respect to the commission given to the Apostles for calling in Nations and Kingdoms, so that this is marked as the fruit and successe of that: but that commission, Matth. 28. Go, disciple all Nations, &c. looketh to the body and generality of Nations, it being a warrant to invit, disciple, and gather in a whole Nation: and although sometimes in the event, but some of Kingdoms and Nations are gathered in; yet it cannot be said that upon supposition that a whole Kingdom or Nation should yeeld, but they might be by this warrant received and admitted; even as by this warrant indefinitly the call and offer is made to all the Nation in common. And although not one should yeeld, yet this commission and warrant sheweth it is neither inconsistent with the Gospel to call a Nation, nor to admit them upon the former supposition.

5. This phrase, Kingdoms or Nations are the Lords, must differ, and seemeth expresly to be contradistinguished from that, Chap. 5. Thou hast redeemed us out of all Nations, Tongues, Kindreds, and yet that will take in some of Nations distributively; this therefore must include more: and considering that this speaketh of a visible Church-state, and that of the Elect and Redeemed only, there is reason that the expression should be more broad, and apparently it relateth to that, so that as our Lord will have His Redeemed gathered out of Nations and will take none universally for such, yet to be a Church in which He will erect His Ordinances He will call Nations, collectively considered.

For the second, that by being the Lords here is meaned a speciall Church-state and relation to Him by visible profession, and consequently that which we call a nationall Church doth belong to this time of the Gospels rising, and Antichrists fall, will be clear, if we consider these particulars, 1. that to be the Lords here, is not to be His as all the world is; for, so were they alway, this is some peculiar thing. Nor, 2. to be the Lords here, is it to be His by saving Faith, That will not agree to a whole Nation, neither to the scope, which is to shew a visible and publick Church-state and condition. It is then to be His, 1. by visible profession of Faith in Him, and a publick Church-relation between Christ and them, as Israel is often called His Nation. Isa. 51.4. though all in it were not converts. Now, it is not only Israel, but other Nations also that are ingrafted and come in their place, Rom. 11.24. Again, 2. to be the Lords, it is to be His as once they were not His, but Antichrists, bearing his mark, worshipping him, as Chap. 13. The opposition is clear, they that were under the whore are now turned to Christ. 3. They are the Lords as Families and Cities in the Actsare said to be His; but that is to be Churches, as the Lord speaketh to Paul at Ephesus, I have much people in this place, that is, a flourishing, numerous Church to be converted here by thy Ministrie, who being gathered become a Church, Revel. 2.1. and so a peoples being the Lords is their becoming a Church; and therefore when a Nation is said to be the Lords, it is equivalent as to say, that Nation is a Church to the Lord, as these in Ephesus are written unto, Rev. 2.1.

Out of all which may be concluded, If it be all one to say, that Nations shall be the Lords, and Nations shall be Churches, Then the Scripture doth assert nationall Churches in the dayes of the Gospel, not only as consistent with the Gospels administration, but as an evident commendation of it; But the first is true from this place: and therefore the last also; for, a Song is given to God for it.

There are some objections to be removed, the first whereof, is, that there is no mention made of any nationall Church in the New Testament; yea, where sundry Families and Churches of one Nation are converted, they are stiled Churches, and not one Church, so may it be here. Answ. 1. It will not be safe in some things to stick literally to words, so as none other may be admitted but what is expresly in the letter if the thing be written; for, the Church being then in its infancie, it is no marvell that no whole Nations or Kingdomes were converted, and so could not be called by that name, seing that Magistrates who are prime parts, were long after that, the Churches enemies: and though a minor part be called by Churches, and not by the name of the Nation, it is no marvell, seing the Nation and Church were not of equal extent, and in that respect the Church was not nationall. Ans. 2. Yet the equivalent is in the New Testament, two wayes, 1. When many Churches in one City are called the Church of that City, as Ierusalem, Antioch, Ephesus, Corinth, which were moe than one Congregation: and may it not by the same reason be given to many Churches of a Nation as well; compare 1 Corinth 1.2. with 14.34. it will be found that one Church had moe in it. 2. It is equivalent when many Churches of one people, are, upon the matter, counted as one, and called one in the New Testament, so the Hebrews are all, when they are written to, called one house, Heb. 3.6. yet had many Officers, Heb. 13.17. and the visible Church only is the object of writing, and by Peter, one flock, 1 Pet. 5.1, 2, 3. and the Churches of Galatia are called one lump, Chap. 5. and written unto in common to cut off them that troubled them, and to prevent the growing of a rent amongst them: which certainly sheweth us, that Churches in one Nation have dangers common to them all, which are not so to others, and duties lying on them respectively, and rents and strivings wherewith they peculiarly are bitten and devoured. It sheweth also there was some peculiar unity to be rent, some greater tye and union that made them as one lump to be in hazard; and some ground giving them accuse to go unitedly about these duties (which otherwise were impossible to them) some way peculiar to them in that one Nation more than with others that were not of it. Answ. 3. The Scripture expresly calleth the Churches of Judea by one Church, which apparently was that same with the Church of Ierusalem and having the same Officers; for, it is not like, that all the Believers reckoned in Ierusalem, dwelt in the town.

But it is clear, 1. that Church which Paul persecuted was one Church, Acts 8.3. but that was especially the Church of the Jews, not a particular Congregation of them, but all that called on Christs name, Acts wherever they were, all of that way, 9.21. especially Jews; wherefore he hath Letters and Authority from the high Priest which reached not to Gentiles (for the high Priest had not Authority over them) and he entered in Synagogues to persecute, yet that Church which he persecuted was the Churches in Judea, who, upon his conversion from persecution, are said immediatly to have rest, Chap. 9.31. compare with it, Acts 26.9, 10.11, &c. Yea, from that we may argue,

The Church which Paul did persecute, was one Church, Chap. 8.3. But that comprehended all the Jews of that way, and the Churches of all Judea, Samaria and Gaeilie,as appeareth, vers. 1, 2, 31. Chap. 9. Therefore they are one Church. Or thus, If the Churches of Judea may be one, there may be a nationall Church, But they are one. These who had rest by his conversion, are the same who were troubled by his persecution; for that, Chap. 9.31. is mentioned as a fruit of Pauls conversion; But these who had rest are many Churches, and these who are persecuted are but one. Ergo these many, are one, and that one is many.

Take one other place, Gal. 1. compare vers. 13, 22, 23, 25. There is one Church spoken of, vers. 13. there are Churches of Judea spoken of, vers. 22. and yet both are one, Therefore it must mean as much as the Church of Judea. These Churches of Judea are many Churches to whom Paul was unknown; But these Churches were these whom Paul persecuted (say they) vers. 23. He that persecuted us, that is, Us the Churches. Ergo that one Church whom he persecuted, vers 13. was the Church of the Jews, including the Churches of Judea.

Neither will it be of force to say, this maketh the Church nationall as it was proper to the Jews, because for a Nation to be a Church, differeth from making the Church nationall, or proper and peculiar to that Nation, which was the Jews priviledge beyond all Nations: neither is it good reasoning, persons are of such a Nation and stock, Therefore of the Church, as if it followed that seed be what they will, it may be doubted if Israel was so; But this is good reasoning, Such a Nation have given and ingaged themselves to Christ, Therefore they are a Church. Again, in that respect a City or Family is not more consistent with the Gospel to be a Church than a whole Nation; for, no particular City or Family have promises beyond others under the Gospel, yet any City or Familie becoming Christians, becometh a Church, and all their Members are Church-members: and what more is pleaded-for, or can be denied unto Nations? Neither can it be excepted, that a Nation are many, for many Professors are promised to Christ, and is an evidence of His reign by their multitude, as their purity or holinesse is another, when joyned together.

Hence also secondly, we may from the former grounds argue for the baptizing of children, thus. If whole Kingdoms and Nations may in a peculiar manner be Churches to Christ under the Gospel, and it be Christs glory to have it so, Then are many children to be baptized; But the former is true. Ergo, &c. The consequence will appear by considering these two, 1. That under Nations becoming the Lords, children must be comprehended and be His also. 2. That by becoming His visibly in a Church-state and relation, there is an actuall right to the Sacrament of Baptism, as a visible badge of that relation.

For the 1. we say, if Nations be Christs, Then children must be His; they are a great part of every Nation, and are included under all the former acceptions; yea, although it were but some of all sorts in a Nation, yet even in that sense children could not be excluded; no Nation will be His, if children be not His. 2. These Nations come in the room of the Jews, but their children were a great part of that Church. 3. Nations there take in the Jews re-ingrafting in what they fell from, but they and their children were broken off: Beside, if the Jews had not their children restored to Covenant with them, it might seem that in that respect their priviledges were lesse by Christs coming than formerly. 4. Nations here are to be understood in reference to the promise, Gen. 12. In thy seed shall all Nations be blessed: and if children cannot be secluded there, but that blessing must be understood to reach them, why should they be excluded here, or in that commission (Mat. 28.) to go and baptize Nations, seing that is the promulgation of the fulfilling of the former promise and must be expounded by it? 5. When judgements are threatened on Nations, or when it is said that Nations shall be brought to judgement, it doth ever comprehend the children with the rest; and by what reason then can they be excluded here in this priviledge?

And if this be granted, then will their Baptism be easily evinced; for, to be the Lords here, is not to be restricted to being His by Faith savingly, as is said, but looketh mainly to being His by a visible profession, discriminating them from others who are not His: and how can that be without Baptism? or is there any other discriminating seal for children? or can they be His as members of His visible Church, and neither be baptized nor have right to it?

Again, we may thus argue. If Nations be to be discipled and baptized, Then are children to be baptized, and that by vertue of that command and commission, Matth. 28. But the former is true, Nations are to be baptized. Ergo. That which needeth to be made out here, is, that under Nations, children are to be included, and that in that commission; which may be thus evinced, If under every consideration of a Nation, children are to be included, then they must be included here also: For, we cannot conceive of a Nation, as considered either collectively in singulis generum, or distributively, in generibus singulorum, But children must be considered as a prime constituent part, as may be seen in all the former acceptions of Nations that are mentioned, children are included in them all, and we say must be included in this very commission, Go, teach all Nations, and baptize them, 1. Because this commission respecteth particularly Gods promise to Abraham, Gen. 12.3. that in his seed, that is, in Christ, not only the Nation of the Jews that should come of him should be blessed, but all Nations; and this commission is, as if the Apostles were told now that that is to be fulfilled, and the partition is taken down, as was said to Abraham when the Gospel was preached to him, Gal. 3.8. and so as was promised then, that the blessing that was to come by Christ should not be confined to one Nation, but should be extended to many, now accordingly is it fulfilled: we must therefore expound Nations here, as it is in the first promise; but in that promise under all Nations, must be understood children; otherwayes we must say, that children have no right to the blessing by Christ, and that His purchase hath no influence on making any of them blessed: which is absurd. And if the blessing be derived to them by Christ, it must be derived to them as they are contained in that promise, and so as they are included under that collective expression Nation, that being the great Charter of their title: and if under that title the inward blessing be derived, why may not the externall initiating seal and priviledge? and certainly by this collective, it would seem that many moe are to be admitted to Baptism than to the Lords Supper, there being no such warrant given in such expressions for that as for this, Children then must be included in it. 2. By this commission all Nations are to be taken in as the Jews were formerly, for by this the Jewish priviledge is not lessened, but the partition is declared to be removed, and other Nations with them to be admitted to share of these priviledges which the Jewish Nation formerly did peculiarly enjoy; But that extended to children, This therefore must also do so. 3. If by this commission one might baptize a whole Nation and enchurch them, Then must the children be so also; for, the Nation were not a baptized Nation, if children were not so; But the former hath been formerly cleared, that this doth warrand Ministers as they are called to preach to any Nation, and, upon their submission to the Gospel, to baptize them also; and although the effect followed not alway, yet upon supposition that it do, this is a warrant, as hath been said.

Lastly, If all disciples ought to be baptized, and if such who are capable to be Churchmembers ought to be sealed, and that by vertue of this commission, Then ought children to be sealed: these two are knit together, disciple them (as the word is) and baptize them: and none can deny this consequence, but children of believing parents are disciples, and are capable to be Church-members. This ariseth from what hath been said, thus, If a Nation may be enchurched to God, Then children are capable to be Church-members, children being a prime part of a Nation, as hath been said; But a Nation may be the Lords and a Church and Disciples to Him, Therefore may children be so also; and therefore ought to be baptized.


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