Question 47 The preservation of the church in purity, order, and holiness, being provided for, by what way is it to be continued and increased?

Answer The way appointed thereunto is by adding such as, being effectually called unto the obedience of faith, shall voluntarily offer themselves unto the society and fellowship thereof.

Acts 2:41; 2 Cor. 8:5.

Explication — The means appointed by our Lord Jesus Christ for the continuance and increase of the church are either preparatory unto it or instrumentally efficient of it. The principal means subservient or preparatory unto the continuance and increase of the church is the preaching of the word to the conviction, illumination, and conversion of sinners, whereby they may be made meet to become living stones in this spiritual building, and members of the mystical body of Christ. And this is done either ordinarily, in the assemblies of the church, towards such as come in unto them and attend to the word dispensed according to the appointment of Christ amongst them, — 1 Cor. 14:24,25, “If there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: and thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God,” — or occasionally, amongst the men of the world, Acts 8:4.

Secondly, The instrumentally efficient cause is that which is expressed in the answer, — namely, the adding in due order unto it such as, being effectually called unto the obedience of the faith and profession of the gospel, do voluntarily, out of conviction of their duty and resolution to walk in subjection to all the ordinances and commands of Christ, offer themselves to the society and fellowship thereof, whereby they may be laid in this spiritual building as the stones were in the temple of old, which were hewed and fitted elsewhere.

The Life and Works of John Owen Vol.15