Chapter III:18: General Marks Differentiating True and False Religion

Marks, by which we are able to distinguish true Religion from false, so that we might be certain of the truth of our Religion, and at the same time persuade others of the true Religion, are supplied by our AUTHOR, § XVIII, XIX: even indeed, 1. Marks more General, by which the Christian Religion is discerned as true, in contrast with false Cults, to which Infidels adhere, § XVIII: 2. Marks more Specific, by which the genuineness of the Reformed Religion is able to appear, in contrast with the Religion of whatever Heretics, § XIX. The former are sought from the nature of Religion itself; the latter also from the Scripture.


The former are: 1. The handed down Knowledge of God, especially agreeing with His consummate Perfection, which is acknowledged by all; and sought from His Revelation. For Religion is ἐπίγνωσις τῆς ἀληθείας κατ᾽ εὐσέβειαν, the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness,[1] and so it ought to open up the Knowledge of the God to be worshipped, even that which is perfectly true: since it is indeed an acknowledged fact that God is a Being infinitely perfect, that will be true Religion that in its entire system opens to us a Knowledge of God especially agreeable to His consummate Perfection. And, although the Gentiles and the Mohammedans, but also the Jews, acknowledge the necessity of Divine Revelation, and each boasts that through that Revelation they have received their Religion, the Jews also in their Talmud; that Religion shall excel the others that is sought from the Principium, which has in itself the most solid arguments, solid above all others, of Divine Origin.


2. Worship, directed as Elicited Acts to God alone, instituted by Himself as the consummately wise and sole Lawgiver, and especially agreeable to God’s Immutability and other Perfections. For Religion is not only the Manner of Knowing God, but also of Worshipping God, thus set over against Impiety and Atheism. When we speak of the Worship of God alone, Idolatry is excluded. When Worship instituted by God Himself is required, a bar is placed to all Superstition and ἐθελοθρησκείᾳ, will worship.[2] And when we require Worship especially agreeable to God’s Perfections, we do not allow it to be objected against us that the Worship formerly commanded to the Jews, by its subsequent abrogation, is repugnant to Divine Immutability: since the Ceremonial Worship was, α. a lesser part of the commandment, of greater weight than which was the Moral Law. β. Not instituted for its own sake, but for the sake of something else, namely, to prefigure the grace that Christ would bring; when this body comes, shadows ought recede and vanish. γ. It was not abrogated through a change in the will of God, but according to the intention of the immutable divine will, also signified already of old, Jeremiah 3:16; Daniel 9:27; etc.


3. The best Manner of Reconciliation with provoked Deity: while even the Gentiles recognized by their sins and God’s judgments that God is angry, and showed that through sacrifices offered and Mediators sought; and while all Religion in accordance with the glory of God has as an end the certain obtaining of the Salvation of man.

Now, these Characteristics are found in the Christian Religion above all others.

[1] See Titus 1:1; and also 1 Timothy 6:3.


[2] See Colossians 2:23.

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.

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