Distinguishing Marks not Applicable to the Church (1)

Not an endorsement of a’Brakel; just some things of historical and theological interest:

“We shall first present those matters which the false church proposes as being distinguishing marks so that, due to conformity to these false marks, she would appear to be the true church. … the false church proposes age to be a second mark of distinction. However, this is not one of the distinguishing marks whereby everyone may know the church, for:

(1) the kingdom of the devil commenced at the fall of Adam, and therefore it is not the church alone which is old. Thus age is not one of these marks.

(2) Age was not a factor when the church began. How could age be a factor in reference to the true Christian church at the time of the apostles? She was nevertheless the true church; thus the Jews, after this era, could not boast to be the true church simply on the basis of age. Age has nothing to do with truth, for a lie is not transformed into truth by age.

(3) Those who claim to have age on their side and thus establish age as one of the distinguishing marks of the true church, contradict themselves; they are relatively new, not having their origin until AD 606. Only the church which dates from the time of the apostles and has remained true to their doctrine can truly lay claim to age. True age must be determined by way of doctrine and not by the locality where the church originated. If age were to be determined by locality, the Mohammedan religion would be the true religion. Those localities did not preserve the true Christian doctrine, and the church has thus been eradicated there. Rome likewise did not preserve true Christian doctrine, having gradually embraced a new and idolatrous doctrine. Therefore, the fact that the true church has formerly been in Rome is not a matter to be boasted of. Rather, she is to be blamed that she has not preserved the truth and thus also did not remain the true church. If the true church is established in a locality where it had previously not existed, this congregation would not constitute a new church, as it would have, confess, and experience the old truth. From all of this it is evident that even though the church dates back to Adam or to the time of the apostles, age cannot be one of the distinguishing marks of the true church. This is even more true for a location where the true church has formerly been, since individual churches in various localities degenerated through error, and can change or have been changed into heretical or heathen religions” (Wilhelmus a’Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service).

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