42.In their doctrine Luke doth not only commend in them the constancy of faith or of godliness, but he saith, also, that they did constantly give themselves to those exercises which serve to the confirmation of faith; to wit, that they studied continually to profit by hearing the apostles; that they gave themselves much to prayer; that they did use fellowship and breaking of bread very much.
As touching prayer and doctrine the sense is plain. Communication or fellowship, and breaking of bread, may be taken diversely. Some think that breaking of bread doth signify the Lord’s Supper; other some do think that it signifieth alms; other some that the faithful did banquet together (138) among themselves. Some do think that κοινωνια, doth signify the celebrating of the Holy Supper; but I do rather agree to those others who think that the same is meant by the breaking of bread. For κοινωνια, unless it have somewhat added unto it, is never found in this sense; therefore, I do rather refer it unto mutual society and fellowship, unto alms, and unto other duties of brotherly fellowship. And my reason why I would rather have breaking of bread to be understood of the Lord’s Supper in this place is this, because Luke doth reckon up those things wherein the public estate of the Church is contained. Yea, he expresseth in this place four marks whereby the true and natural face of the Church may be judged. Do we then seek the true Church of Christ? The image thereof is lively depainted and set forth (139) unto us in this place. And he beginneth with doctrine which is, as it were, the soul of the Church. Neither doth he name all manner of doctrine, but the doctrine of the apostles, that is, that which the Son of God had delivered by their hands. Therefore, wheresoever the pure voice of the gospel doth sound, where men continue in the profession thereof, where they exercise themselves in hearing the same ordinarily that they may profit, without all doubt there is the Church.
Hereby we may easily gather how frivolous the boasting of the Papists is, whilst that they carelessly (140) thunder out with fall mouth the name of the Church; whereas, notwithstanding, they have most filthily corrupted the doctrine of the apostles. For if it be duly examined, we shall find no sound part at all; and in most points they do as much dissent from the same, and have as little agreement therewith as light with darkness. The rule of worshipping God, which ought to be fetched out of the pure Word of God alone, is only made and patched together (141) amongst the Papists, of the superstitious inventions of men. They have translated unto the merits of works the hope of salvation, which ought to have rested in Christ alone. The invocation of God is altogether polluted with innumerable profane dotings of men. Finally, whatsoever is heard amongst them, it is either a deforming of the apostles’ doctrine, or else a clear overthrowing (and destroying) of the same. Therefore, we may as easily refute the foolish arrogancy of the Papists, as they can cloak their dealings with the title of the Church. For this shall be the state, (142) whether they have retained the purity of doctrine, from which they are as far as hell is from heaven. But they are wise enough in that point, because they will have no controversy moved about doctrine. But we, as I have said, may freely contemn that vain visor, [mask,] forasmuch as the Spirit of God doth pronounce that the Church is principally to be (esteemed and) discerned by this mark, if the simplicity or purity of the doctrine delivered by the apostles do flourish (and be of force) in the same.
In fellowship. This member and the last do flow from the first, as fruits or effects. For doctrine is the bond of brotherly fellowship amongst us, and doth also set open unto us the gate unto God, that we may call upon him. And the Supper is added unto doctrine instead of a confirmation. Wherefore, Luke doth not in vain reckon up these four things, when as he will describe unto us the well-ordered state of the Church. And we must endeavor to keep and observe this order, if we will be truly judged to be the Church before God and the angels, and not only to make boast of the name (143) thereof amongst men. It is certain that he speaketh of public prayer. And for this cause it is not sufficient for men to make their prayers at home by themselves, unless they meet altogether to pray; wherein consisteth also the profession of faith.