From its cradle the Christian church began to be infested and divided by schisms and heresies, and in the course of time to be torn and mutilated almost like what is said,
Of the man who went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and was surrounded by thieves, who stripped him and beat him and then left him half dead (Luke 10:30).
From this it has come to pass as it is written of that church in Daniel:
At last upon the bird of abominations shall be desolation; and even to the consummation and decision shall it drop upon the devastation (9:27).
Also according to these words of the Lord:
Then shall the end come, when ye shall see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet (Matt. 24:14, 15).
The lot of that church may be compared to that of a vessel laden with precious merchandise, which immediately on leaving port is driven about by storms, and a little after is wrecked and sunk in the sea, with its precious cargo partly destroyed by the waters, and partly torn by fishes.
That the Christian church from its infancy has been so vexed and torn is evident from ecclesiastical history, as for example, even in the time of the apostles, by Simon, who was by birth a Samaritan and by profession a magician (see Acts 8:9-20); also by Hymeneus and Philetus (mentioned by Paul in his Second Epistle to Timothy); again by Nicholas, from whom the so-called Nicolaitans took their name (mentioned in Apoc. 2:6, and Acts 6:5); and also by Cerinthus.
After the time of the apostles several other sects arose, as the Marcionites, the Noetians, the Valentinians, the Encratites, the Cataphrygians, the Quarto-Decimans, the Alogians, the Catharians, the Origenists or Adamites, the Sabellians, the Samosatenes, the Manichseans, the Meletians, and finally the Arians.
After them, whole battalions of heresiarchs invaded the church, as the Donatists, the Photinians, the Acaians or Semiarians, the Eunomians, the Macedonians, the Nestorians, the Predestinarians, the Papists, the Zwinglians, the Anabaptists, the Schwenckfeldians, the Synergists, the Soeinians, the Anti-Trinitarians, the Quakers, the Moravians, and many more.
Finally Luther, Melancthon, and Calvin prevailed over all these, and their dogmas have predominated to this day.
The causes of so many divisions and separations in the church are chiefly three:
First: The Divine trinity has not been understood
Second: There has been no right knowledge of the Lord
Third: The passion of the cross has been taken for redemption itself
So long as these three things, which are the very essentials of faith, and from which the church exists and is called the church, are not understood, it must needs be that all things pertaining to the church will be turned aside out of their true course, and finally into the opposite course, and the church will still believe that it holds to a true faith in God and faith in all the truths relating to God; and in this state they are like persons who cover their eyes with their skirts, and fancy themselves to be walking in a straight line, and yet are departing from it step by step, and at length go in the opposite direction where there is a cavern into which they fall. But the man of the church can be brought back from his wandering into the way of truth, only by learning what true faith is, what spurious faith is, and what hypocritical faith is.
(1) That true faith is the one only faith, which is a faith in the Lord God the Savior Jesus Christ, and this is held by those who believe Him to be the Son of God, the God of heaven and earth, and one with the Father.
(2) Spurious faith is all faith that departs from the true faith, which is the one only faith, and this is the faith that is held by those who climb up some other way, and regard the Lord not as God, but as a mere man.
(3) Hypocritical faith is no faith.