Apostolical Church properly, a church framed upon the principles of the apostles. Of these principles the essential one is the doctrine taught by the apostles; and the principle next in importance the order established by them, so far as it can be gathered from their writings. "The apostolicity of the church is an attribute which belongs to it as a Christian society; for no community can establish its claim to the title of church unless there be a substantial agreement between its doctrines and institutions and those of the inspired men whom Christ commissioned to establish his church upon earth" (Litton, On the Church, bk. 3, ch. 1). As to the necessary elements of this agreement with the apostles, the Christian churches differ with each other.
In the primitive Church, the term apostolical was naturally and properly used to designate those particular churches which had been founded by the personal ministry of any one of the apostles, viz., the churches of Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, and Rome. Not unnaturally, too, it was supposed that these churches had superior culture and Christian knowledge, and it therefore became customary for churches in their neighborhood to refer disputed questions of discipline, etc., to them for advice. From these simple beginnings grew up claims to authority, for which the apostles themselves had laid no foundation, either in their writings or in their personal administration (Mosheim, Commentaries, § 21).
The Church of Rome claims to be exclusively the apostolical church. The Church of England and the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States claim to be apostolical churches, but not exclusively such, as they admit the "apostolicity" of the Greek and Roman churches, while they deny the title to all non-prelatical churches. The ground of this arrogant assumption is the ecclesiastical theory known as the Apostolical Succession (q.v.). See Dens, Theologia, t. 2, § 78; Palmer, On the Church, pt. 1, ch. 8; and, for the refutation, Elliott, Delineation of Romanism, bk. 3, ch. 2, § 8; Litton, On the Church, pt. in. SEE APOSTOLIC; SEE APOSTOLIC AGE; SEE (CHURCH) APOSTOLIC; SEE ARCHAEOLOGY. On the constitution of the primitive Church, SEE CHURCH, CONSTITUTION OF.