I. The word Church. —
1. The origin of the word is uncertain. In the Germanic and Slavonic languages it is found as follows: Anglo-Saxon, cyrica, circ, cyric; English, church; Scottish, kirk; German, kirche; Low-German, karke; Frisian, tzierke or tziurke; Danish, kyrke; Swedish, kyrka; Bohemian, cyrkew; Polish, cerkiew; Russian, zerkow. The following derivations have been assigned to the word: (1) Heb. קַריָה and קָרָא; (2) Teutonic, koren, karen; (3) Celtic, cyrch or cylch, cyrchu or cylchu; (4) Latin, curia; Greek, κυριακόν (the Lord's house, from κύριος, Lord). The preponderance of opinion is in favor of the last derivation (Gieseler, Eccl. Hist. § 1; Hooker, Eccl. Pol. v. 13; Pearson, On the Creed, Oxf. 1820, 1:504; and, the principal authority, Jacobson, Kirchenrechtliche Versuche, Konigsb. 1833, 8vo). On the other hand, Meyrick, in Smith's Dictionary of the Bible (in, Appendix, p. ci), argues at length against this derivation chiefly on the ground (1) that the Greek missionaries, who are supposed to have carried the Word among the Northern tribes, used ἐκκλησία, not κυριακόν; and that Ulphilas uses aikklesjo (Ro 16:23 et al.); (2) that the Roman Church (and the Romanic languages after it) adopted the Greek word ἐκκλησία, not κυριακόν, from its Greek teachers. His conclusion, after dropping the first derivation, is that "it is difficult to say what is to be substituted. There was probably some word which, in the language from which the Teutonic and Slavonic are descended, designated the old heathen places of religious assembly, and this word, having taken different forms in different dialects, was adopted by the Christian missionaries. It was probably connected with the Latin circus, circulus, and with the Greek κύκλος, possibly also with the Welsh cylch, cyl, cynchle, or caer. Lipsius, who was the first to reject the received tradition, was probably right in his suggestion, 'Credo et a circo Kirck nostrum esse, quia veterum templa instar Circi rotunda' (Epist. ad Belgas, Cent. 3. Ep. 44)."
2. N.T. uses of the word Church. — The Greek word ἐκκλησία in the New Testament (Mt 16:18; Mt 18:17; 1Co 10:32; Eph 1:22), corresponding to the Hebrew קָהָל, עֵדָה, מַקרָא, is from καλεῖν, to call (κλῆσις, a calling; κλητοί, called), and is rendered by our word church. The meaning of the word would thus seem to be, in the N.T., the whole company of God's elect, those whom he has called to be his people under the new dispensation, as he did the Israelites under the old. Such is the signification in one of the two instances in which Christ uses the word in the Gospels: "Upon this rock I will build my church" (Mt 16:18). The other (Mt 18:17) refers to the single congregation. Instead of ἐκκλησία, Christ generally used the terms "kingdom of God," "kingdom of heaven," or simply "kingdom," or thy kingdom, or the Son of Man's kingdom (Joh 3:3; Mt 6:32; ib. 4:23, etc.; ib. 20:21; ib. 13:41; 16:28). The word "church" is first applied by St. Luke to the company of original disciples at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost (Ac 2:47), and is afterwards applied (in the Acts, Epistles, and Apocalypse) to, 1. The whole Christian body or society, as the sanctified of God (Eph 5:27); 2. The whole number of those who profess the Christian religion under pastors, etc. (1Co 12:18); 3. Particular societies of Christians in particular cities or provinces, e.g. the church in Jerusalem (Ac 8:1); 4. Religious assemblies of these societies and the places in which they met, e.g. (Ro 16:5), "Greet the church that is in their house;" etc. (1Co 11:18; 1Co 14:19,28).
3. Common uses of the word Church. — The most common sense in which the word church is used is to denote the body of the acknowledged followers of Christ, or his visible body.
2. It is also used to denote the community of true believers, whether known to be such or not.
3. It is used as "church militant" and "church triumphant" to distinguish between believers yet on earth, and still contending with opposition, and believers already glorified in heaven.
4. It is used to designate the house of Christian worship.
5. Any particular denomination of Christian people, as the Lutheran, or the Protestant Episcopal, or Methodist Episcopal Church.
6. A particular congregation of any one denomination of Christians.
7. The religious establishment of any particular nation or government, as the Church of England.
8. The sum of the various Christian denominations in a country, as the Church in America.
These are the ordinary uses of the word, and it is important, in order to a right understanding of its force in any case, to know in which of these senses it is employed. Much confusion might be avoided if disputants would always clearly state in, which of all these equally admissible senses they use the word.
II. Idea of the Church. — The Christian religion (subjectively considered) is a divine life wrought in the soul of the believer in Jesus by the Holy Ghost, whereby the man is united through Christ unto God, walks before him in holiness, and finally dies in his favor, and is received into his eternal glory. The personal relation lies wholly between the individual and God. But the instinct of this new life is to propagate itself by diffusion, and for this diffusion it must have organization. This organization is found in the Church, whose function it is to make universal the religion of the individual. Moreover, the individual believer, for the nourishment of his own spiritual life, seeks communion with other believers; and this communion is furnished by the Church. "The Christian Church is a religious-moral society, connected together by a common faith in Christ, and which seeks to represent in its united life the kingdom of God announced by Christ" (Gieseler, Eccl. Hist. vol. 1, § 1). Christianity contains, on the one hand, a divine philosophy, which we may call its religion, and a divine polity, which is its Church" (Arnold, Miscell. Works, N. Y. p. 11). The Church is the particular form or expression of the kingdom of God, the institution through whose agency this spiritual and eternal kingdom is to be made effective among men.
But, although there are elements of truth in the statements already made, it is further true that. the Church, under the dispensation of the Spirit, is the necessary form or body of Christianity in the world. Not that the Church is Christianity, any more than the body of man is his life. The object of Christianity is the redemption of mankind; and the Church is the divinely constituted means of the ordinary application of redemption to individuals of mankind. It is therefore something altogether more and higher than a mere form of society, or an organization springing, like any merely human society, from the common wants and sympathies of those who unite to form it. It is "the kingdom and the royal dwelling-place of Christ" upon the earth (Neander). It has, therefore, a life of its own, of which Christ is the source, independent of the ordinary life of the order of nature. Christ, indeed, is the central source of life for both kingdoms (the kingdom of nature, and the kingdom of grace), but the mode of his vivifying operation is very different in the one from what it is in the other. But the Romanist view (and so the Greek and High Anglican) assumes that the Church is a form of organic life imposed upon the Christian society in a sort of outward way. The Protestant doctrine, on the other hand, is, that the Church is the divinely inspired organic growth of the Christian life; not, therefore, a merely human society, but the society of the faithful, constituted by the Divine Spirit. The Romanist view makes the outward form of the Church essential, and regards the internal nature as derivative; the Protestant view regards the internal life as the essence, and the outward and visible form as derivative, but both as divinely inspired and constituted (Joh 10:16; Mt 16:18; Mt 18:15-18).
1. The Scripture Idea. — In the N.T. the Church denotes "that one mystical body of which Christ is the sole head, and in the unity of which all saints, whether in heaven, or on earth, or elsewhere, are necessarily included as constituent parts." For this Church Christ gave himself (Eph 5:23). This Church, chosen in him before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4; 1Pe 1:2), he nourisheth and cherisheth as his own flesh (Eph 5:29-30). The Church is called the House, the City, the Temple of God. To whom coming ye are built up a spiritual house, a holy temple (1Pe 2:4-5). This spiritual temple is composed of all God's people, and is his dwelling-place (1Co 3:17; 2Co 6:16; Re 21:3; Re 22:14-15). The Church is uniformly represented in the N.T. as the company of the saved; and they are spoken of as the body of Christ (1Co 12:27), as one body (Eph 3:6; Eph 4:4; 1Co 12:13,20). Of this body Christ is the Savior (Eph 5:23). They are also his bride (Eph 5:31-32; Re 21:9-10), and his fullness (Eph 1:23). They are termed also the light of the world (Mt 5:14), and the salt of the earth (Mt 5:13), as indicating the Church to be the true source of spiritual illumination and the instrument of salvation to the world. For the work which the Church is to accomplish for Christ by teaching, disciplining,. comforting, etc., it must necessarily be visible, though all its members may not always be known.
2. The Creeds and Dogmatic Definitions. — The Apostles' Creed says, I believe "in the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints," to which the Nicene Creed adds apostolicity. The Catechism in use in the Greek Church gives the following definition: "The Church is a divinely-instituted community of men, united by the orthodox faith, the law of God, the hierarchy, and the sacraments" (Full Catechism of the Orthodox, Catholic, Eastern Church, Moscow, 1839). In speaking of the unity of the Church, Platon says: "From this unity of the Church all those have separated who either do not receive the divine word at all, or mix with it their own absurd opinions" (see Bibliotheca Sacra, 21:827). The Roman Catholic Church (Catechism of Trent) says, "The Church is one, because, as the apostle says, there is one faith, one Lord, one baptism;' but more especially because it has one invisible Ruler, Christ, and one visible, viz., the occupant for the time being of the chair of St. Peter at Rome"... "The Church is holy, first, because it is dedicated to God; secondly, because the Church, consisting of good and evil mixed together, is united to Christ, the source of all holiness; thirdly, because to the Church alone has been committed the administration of the sacraments, through which, as efficient instruments of divine grace, God makes us holy; so that whoever is truly sanctified must be found within the pale of the Church. The Church is catholic or universal because it is diffused throughout the world, embracing within its pale men of all nations and conditions, and also because it comprehends all who have believed from the beginning, and all who shall believe henceforward to the end of time. The Church is termed apostolic, both because it derives its doctrines from the apostles, whereby it is enabled to convict heretics of error, and because it is governed by an apostolic ministry, which is the organ of the Spirit of God" (Catechism, Conc. Trid. c. 10, § 1). Bellarmine defines the Church thus: "It is a society of men united by a profession of the same Christian faith, and a participation of the same sacraments, under the government of lawful pastors, and especially of the one vicar of Christ upon earth, the Roman pontiff." The Lutheran Church defines the Church to be "a congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is purely preached and the sacraments are rightly administered" (Confession of Augsburg, sec. 7). "The sum of what we here profess to believe is therefore this: I believe that there is upon earth a certain community of saints, composed solely of holy persons, under one Head, collected together by the Spirit; of one faith and one mind, endowed with manifold gifts, but united in love, and without sects or divisions" (Luther's Larger Catechism). The Reformed Confessions. — The Church of England: "A congregation of faithful men, in which the pure word of God is preached, and the sacraments be duly administered according to Christ's ordinance in all those things that are of necessity requisite to the same" (art. 19). — The same definition is given by the Methodist Episcopal Church. — "The Church is a community of believers or saints, gathered out of the world; whose distinction it is to know and to worship, through the Word and by the Spirit, the true God in Christ our Savior, and by faith to participate in all the blessings freely given to us through Christ. Those are all citizens of one polity, subjects of the same Lord under the same laws, and recipients of the same spiritual blessings" (Helvetic Confession, 1566). — "The Catholic Church is the community of all true believers, viz., those who hope in Christ alone for salvation, and are sanctified by his Spirit. It is not attached to any one place or limited to particular persons, the members of it being dispersed throughout the world" (Belg. Confession, sec. 27, 29). — The Scotch Confession (Conf. Scot. art. 16) defines the Church "to be a society of the elect of all ages and countries, both Jews and Gentiles; this is the catholic or universal Church. Those who are members of it worship God in Christ, and enjoy fellowship with him through the Spirit. This Church is invisible, known only to God, who alone knows who are his, and comprehends both the departed in the Lord and the elect upon earth." — The Confession of Polish churches: "There are particular churches and the Church universal. The true universal Church is the community of all believers dispersed throughout the world, who are and who remain one catholic Church so long as they are united by subjection to one Head, Christ, by the indwelling of one spirit and the profession of the same faith; and this though they be not associated in one common external polity, but, as regards external fellowship and ecclesiastical regimen, be not in communion with each other." — "A true particular Church is distinguished from a false one by the profession of the true faith, the unmutilated administrations of the sacraments, and the exercise of discipline" (Declaratio Thoruniensis); — Dr. Gerhart, speaking for the German Reformed Church of America in its later form of thought, under the influence of the so-called Mercersburg theology, says: "The Christian Church is a divine-human constitution in time and space: divine as to its ultimate ground and interior life, and human as to its form; brought into existence by the miraculous working of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost, who is sent by Christ as the bearer of his incarnate life and salvation, in order to continue and develop this life and salvation, according to the law of the Spirit, in its membership down to the end of time uninterruptedly. As such, it is not a collection of units, but an objective organism that has a principle, a unity, a law, organs, and resources of power and grace, which are in it and its own absolutely" (Bibliotheca Sacra, 1863, p. 53, 54. See also Dr. Nevin, in Mercersburg Review, vol. 9 [articles on "Hedge on Ephesians"]; vol. 10 ["Thoughts on the Church," two articles]).
Such is the notion of the Church as presented in the great leading symbols of the principal churches and by their representative men. The subject is one beset with difficulties, because of the failure always to discriminate between the visible and invisible Church, and because every denomination, in order to render itself powerful and practical, must assume the form of a Church, and is consequently driven to define the Church to suit its own position and history. The distinction between the visible and invisible Church was recognized by Augustine; in his controversy with the Donatists, who held that to predicate catholicity of the Church it was necessary it should have subjective purity in its members, and that, so soon as it allowed corrupt and unworthy members, it ceases to be catholic, he maintained, "Many, by partaking of the sacrament, are with the Church, and yet are not in the Church." Further: "Those who appear to be the Church, and to contradict Christ, therefore do not be long to that Church which is called the body of Christ" (see Neander, Christian Dogmas, 2, 395). That there is one visible Church all these Confessions concede; but whether or not there be a visible Church on earth entitled to be called the true Church, and the only true Church, is the question at issue between. Romanists and Protestants. Certainly, "if we judge of the various churches into which Christendom is divided by their conforming in all respects by the principles and requirements of the Gospels, we cannot allow that any one of them is the perfect representation of that ideal state at which they all aim; nor, on the other hand, can we entirely deny the name of a Christian Church to any one which professes to be built on the Gospel of Christ. They have all so much in common in this religious faith and life, and so much which distinguishes them from all other religious societies, as to justify us in considering them as one whole, and calling them, in a wide sense, The Christian Church? (Gieseler, Church History, vol. 1, § 1).
3. Notes, Faith, and Attributes of the Church. —
(1.) The notes of the Church are the signs by which the visible Church is distinguished, and differ according to the views which are held in the definition of the Church.
(a) The Roman Catechism states them to be unity, sanctity, catholicity, and apostolicity (Cat. Cone. Trid. p. 80, 81). Bellarmine assigns, in addition to these, antiquity, uninterrupted duration, amplitude, agreement in doctrine with the primitive Church, sanctity of doctrine, efficacy of the doctrine, the glory of miracles, the light of prophecy, the confession of adversaries, the unhappy end of the Church's enemies, and temporal felicity (Bellarmine's Notes of the Church examined and refuted by eminent English Divines, Lond. 1840). The "unhappy end of the Church's enemies" and "temporal prosperity" are rejected by Tournely, Bailly, and generally by modern Romish theologians (see Palmer, On the Church, 1:27).
(b) The Church of England has no authoritative declaration beyond its sixth article – the preaching of the pure word of God and the due administration of the sacraments, etc.; but the proper administration of the sacraments by ministers regularly authorized has led to a difference of opinion in determining these notes, which has become a wide divergency, the one side adhering to a free interpretation, in common with all Protestants, and the other approaching to the stricter Roman Catholic view. The strict, so-called, churchly interpretation begins with the inclusion of apostolicity (Palmer), and extends to truth of doctrine, use of means (as well as sacraments) instituted by Christ, antiquity without change of doctrine, lawful succession without change of doctrine, and universality in the successive sense, i.e. the prevalence of the Church successively in all nations (Dr. Field). This tendency towards Romanizing views has culminated in what is, for convenience, termed the High-Church, or Sacramentarian party, some of whom openly advocate a union of the Church of England with the Church of Rome and the Greek Church, in order to realize their note of the visible unity of the Church. "It is worthy of remark," says Litton, "that every theory of the Church, whether it profess to be Romanist or not, which teaches that the true being thereof lies in its visible characteristic, adopts instinctively the Romish notes, and rejects the Protestant."
(c) The distinctively 'Protestant notes" — the preaching of the pure word of God and the right administration of the sacraments — are applicable not to the mystical body of Christ, but to the visible Church, or, rather, to churches or congregations of believers. "The Protestant says, in general, the church (or a part of it) is there where the Word and the sacraments are; and the society in which the one is preached and the other administered is a legitimate part of the visible Catholic Church" (Litton, On the Church, Phila. p. 254). "Some formularies, e.g. the Scotch Conf. (art. 18) add the exercise of discipline" (ibid.); and this it does very properly, for if purity of doctrine and life is to be maintained, it must always be a mark of a true Church that there be discipline. But inasmuch as it is impossible to discern always who are inwardly pure, and also perfectly to enforce discipline, the visible Church will always be liable to the intrusion of the wicked, and hence cannot claim to be identical with the mystical body of Christ in any one place, but may claim to be a part of it, so far as in its doctrine and life it conforms to the requirements of the Gospel. "As notes" (the sacraments and the ministry of the Word), "therefore, serve to assure us of the existence of that mystical body which in itself is an object not of sense, but of faith; by which the charge brought of old against Protestant doctrine — that its invisible Church is a fiction of the imagination — is abundantly refuted" (Litton, p. 257).
(2.) Faith. — The faith of the Church is given, in authoritative, though not in dogmatical form, in the Word of God. "'The Church, as the body of believers in Christ, existed before the New Testament was written. It was to the Church that the Word was addressed. It is by the Church that the authenticity of the Word has been witnessed from the beginning. But the Word was given to the Church as its test and standard of faith. The 'faith' was in the Church before the Word was written; but the Word was given to be the norm of faith, by which the Church might and should, in all ages, test the faith, or any proposed modifications or developments of the faith." The Church's faith, as drawn from, and resting on, the Word of God, is expressed in her creeds or confessions. At successive periods, as the exigencies of the times have required, or have seemed to require, its leading minds have convened, sometimes by civil, sometimes by ecclesiastical authority, at other times by both, in general councils, when, by consent, the doctrines of the Church have been thrown into the form of confessions or symbols. In these symbols, the floating, undefined, but current beliefs of the general Church have crystallized, and thus have been transmitted to us. The first is the Apostles' Creed. This is universally accepted in the Church, and is of highest authority. Though the most ancient of all the formularies of belief, there is no evidence that the apostles composed it as it now reads; the best explanation is that it grew into shape from the common and general confession of faith in the primitive Church until it very early assumed the form it now has. It is the germ of all subsequent creed development. The next is the Nicaeno-Constantinopolitan symbol, commonly called the Nicene Creed, which was the work of two oecumenical councils in 325 and 381. This has always been of great weight, as chiefly settling the doctrine of the Trinity, and expresses the general view of the Church to this day. The Chalcedon symbol followed in 451; and then the Athanasian Creed, called after Athanasius, though it is doubtful if he was the author. There were no other confessions until the Reformation, since which we have the Lutheran symbols (7); the Reformed (18); the papal (Canones et Decreta Concilii Tridentini. 1545; Professio fidei Tridentina of Pope Pius IV, etc.); confessions of the Greek Church; Arminian and Socinian confessions; but none of these are of universal authority, as are the original four of the early Church.
(3.) The attributes of the Church are unity, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity. These also are explained differently, according to the theory of the Church maintained. Protestants generally find these attributes only in the invisible Church. There is evidently a unity of faith (Eph 4:13), a unity of love (1Co 13:13), one spirit (Eph 4:4), one hope (ibid. 12), one body (Ro 12:5), one head (Eph 4:15), and one object of worship (Eph 4:6). That this unity is under one common earthly head is held by Roman Catholics, but denied by Protestants. By these a spiritual unity is affirmed to exist, even where there is not uniformity of Church polity, nor entire agreement of doctrine, nor, indeed, any internal bond save that of the "communion of saints." Holiness is ascribed to the Church as expressing the moral purity of its members; they are addressed in the N.T. as "saints," sanctified," by reason of their union with Christ as their living head, and the possession of the Holy Ghost, the Sanctifier (1Co 1:2; 1Co 6:19). Because this holiness is a personal work in the hearts of believers as such, it can be predicated strictly only of the invisible Church, but it ought to be manifested in the individual and corporate life of the Church, in order that she may fulfill its original constitution. Catholicity: was first applied to the Christian Church to designate not only its universality as embracing all true believers, but also the oneness of those believers as excluding all heretics. In modern times it is used to mean the universally diffused nature of the Church by its presence, without respect to local or national boundaries. The Romanist claims that all, and those only, who are united to the pontiff at Rome belong to the Catholic Church; while Protestants admit it to be the whole body of Christians, in whatever visible communion they may be: hence composed of all the churches of all nations (Mr 15:15; Ac 10:34-35), the same in all time (Mt 28:20), and possessed, by reason of the presence of its great head, of the means of saving grace (ibid.; Eph 1:22). Apostolicity is not insisted upon by Protestants; when used, however, by them, it means the possession by the Church of true apostolic doctrine, spirit, and life; while by Roman Catholics it means having a ministry regularly and visibly succeeding to the apostles.
The attributes (unity, holiness, catholicity, perpetuity) are unquestionably essential to the true Church, and are ascribed to her in the New Testament. But neither the N.T. nor the Apostles' Creed define the Church as a visible organization, but as the "communion of saints." This Church has always existed; but no visible corporation or society on earth has ever been endowed with the attributes above named. See this argument well stated in the Princeton Review (Oct. 1853); compare Barrow, Sermon on the Unity of the Church, 3. 311 (N.Y. 1845).
III. History of the Doctrine of the Church. — The apostles and their immediate successors were too much engrossed with the work of spreading the Gospel to pause to prescribe the nature of an institution which was sure to grow into shape as the necessities of the case required. The apostles themselves were too earnestly employed in fulfilling the command of Christ to disciple all nations, and hose directly following them partook too largely of their spirit, and understood too fully their mind, to be turned aside by the necessity of explaining what they knew to be a fact. Hence "no exact definitions of the Church are found previous to the time of Cyprian" (Hagenbach, History of Doctrines, 1:193). The definitions of the latter (Cyprian) make an epoch in the history of this doctrine. The first difficulty arose as to the unity of the Church, in confounding the inward with the outward. "Irenaeus shows the first germs of this perversion; it was matured b)y Cyprian" (Neander, Christian Dogmas, vol. 1, p. 220). "Thus the Jewish stand-point (a theocracy), which at first had been overcome, made its way into the Church in another form" (ibid.). Irenaeus says the Church alone contains all the riches of truth; Clement describes the Church as a mother, both as a mother and virgin, as the body of the Lord; Origen, though usually mild towards heretics, knows of no salvation out of the Church; Tertullian claimed that whoever separated from the connection with the outward communion, which was of apostolic origin, and had at its head the sedes apostolicae, in so doing renounced Christ, though after joining the Montanists he essentially changed his opinion. It is of no avail, says Cyprian, what a man teaches; it is enough that he teaches out of the Church; where the bishop is, there is the church, etc. The roots of the extreme church doctrine are to be traced thus early. A reaction, however, soon took place, growing out of a more scientific discernment of the spiritual idea of the Church. Clement calls the Church a community of men led by the divine Logos, an invincible city upon earth, which no force can subdue, where the will of God is done as it is in heaven. Others combated the outward unity of the Church as unscriptural. Montanism insisted that the unity is inward; it regarded the internal fact of possessing the Spirit as the fundamental thing — not the ordinary influence of of the spirit in sanctification, but his extraordinary power in giving new revelations, which were the sources of authority and unity in the Church. A farther reaction of separatism against the Catholic idea took place in Novatian and his followers. They insisted that the Catholic Church is essentially holy in all its members, and hence must exclude from its communion all unworthy members, and never readmit them, otherwise it would lose its catholicity. They consequently withdrew, and claimed to be the Catholic Church. "The false idealism of the Gnostics, and the subjective, heretical, and schismatical tendencies of separate sects, especially of the Montanists and the followers of Novatian (the primitive Puritans), form a striking contrast with this false external unity of the Catholic Church", SEE HAGENBACH AND NEANDER. "Two causes contributed (in the second period of the Church history) to determine about the Church: 1. The external triumph of the Church itself in its victory over Paganism, and its rising power under the protection of the state. 2. The victory of Augustinism over the doctrines of the Pelagians, Manichaeans, and Donatists, which in different ways threatened to destroy ecclesiastical unity. In opposition to the Donatists, Augustine asserted that the Church consists of the sum total of all who are baptized, and that the (ideal) sanctity of the Church is not impaired by the impure elements externally connected with it. The bishops of Rome impressed upon this catholicism the stamp of the papal hierarchyby claiming for themselves the primacy of Peter. But, whatever variant opinions were held respecting the seat and nature of the true Church, the proposition that there is no salvation out of the Church was firmly adhered to, and carried out in all its consequences" (Hagenbach, vol. 1, p. 352). It is ,vorthy of note that at this period Jovinian taught that the Church is founded on Faith, Hope, and Love. In this Church there is nothing impure; every one is naught of God.; no one can break into it by violence or steal into it by artifice." "As Jovinian taught the Pauline doctrine of faith, so he did the Pauline idea of the invisible Church, while Augustine obstructed his similar fundamental idea by a mixture of the Catholic idea of the Church." "Here again we have a sign of the Protestant element in Augustine" (his comment on the "Thou art Peter"), "that all religious consciousness is immediately to be traced up to Christ, and that with him the community originates which is called the Church" (Neander, Christian Dogmas, vol. 2, p. 397, 398).
Until the 14th century the Roman hierarchy had comparatively no opposition in carrying out supremacy in the West to its fullest extent; at this time a freer spirit began to show itself. Even on the Catholic stand- point a difference was stirred respecting the relation of the changeable and unchangeable in the development of the Church; on the position of the papacy in respect of the Church; whether the pope was to be regarded as its representative or sovereign head; whether the general councils or the pope stood highest. The University of Paris, with chancellor Gerson at its head, led on this controversy. SEE GERSON. "The mystical idea of the Church and the notion of a universal priesthood, which was intimately connected with it, was propounded, with more or less accuracy of definition, by Hugo of St.Victor, as well as by the forerunners of the Reformation, Wycliffe, Matthias of Janow, Huss, John of Wesel,Wessel, and Savonarola" (Hagenbach). These tendencies were fully developed in the Reformation and in its results. The Western religious world became divided in the statement of the Church dogma, as it looked at the question of salvation. The Protestant, regarding the doctrine of justification by faith as fundamental, said the Church is approached through it; the Romanist, still adhering to the Church as the fountain of spiritual life, affirmed that justification is obtained through the Church. Protestants assert that the Church consists in the invisible fellowship of all those who are united by the bonds of true faith, which ideal union is but imperfectly represented by the visible Church, in which the true Gospel is taught and the sacraments are rightly administered; the Roman Catholics, that the Church is a visible society of all baptized persons who adopt a certain external creed, have the same sacraments, and acknowledge the pope as their common head.
The recent controversies concerning the idea and nature of the Church all revolve about the one point, viz., whether the Church of which Christ is the "Head" is, or is not, a visible corporation here on earth, entitled to the promises, privileges, and authority which the Scriptures assign to the spiritual Church. Protestants generally deny; the Romanists, the HighAnglicans, and a few writers in other branches of the Protestant Church, affirm. The so-called New-Lutheran divines of Germany have developed a theory of the Church in which the Protestant idea gives way to the hierarchical; in which the sacraments are not merely notes of the true Church, but the real guards of its continued life. The profound and mysterious synthesis of the divine and human is found in faith, according to the old Protestant system; according to the new, it is found in the sacraments (compare Schwartz, Zur Geschichte d. neuesten Theologie, bk. 3. ch. 3). Rothe has developed, with his usual vigor, a theory of the Church akin to that of Arnold, viz., that the Church is indispensable to the moral education of humanity; but that, as humanity improves, the necessity for the Church diminishes; and, finally, the state will become religious (a real theocracy), and the Church will become absorbed in the state.
IV. Constitution of the Church. — Christ did not so much create a Church during his sojourn on earth as implant principles which would be subsequently developed into a Church. Whilst he was yet with his disciples, they needed no other bond to hold them together than his person. The founder of the new manifestation of the kingdom of God seemed not to design to collect about him numerous adherents, but to implant deeply into the minds of a few the higher animating spirit of this kingdom, which through their lives should work out into a complete and effective organization. He found those whom he called for this work Jews; he associated with and instructed them after the customs of Judaism. He distinctly told them, however, that they, in their persons, faith, life, and teaching, were to constitute the beginning and the agency of a new order of things. They were commanded to go forth after his death and disciple all nations, and to baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and thus bring all people into the kingdom of God. It is thus clear that the religion of Christ was designed by him to supersede all others, not only by its spirit and essence, but also in the particular method or form of its manifestation. He made provision for this result by constituting apostles, who should authoritatively command and teach, should open and shut the kingdom of heaven, bind and loose on earth, and so render visible and powerful his Word among men. Before entering upon their mission, they were to tarry in Jerusalem until endued with power from on high (Luke), which power they were assured would come not many days after the ascension of their Lord. That they already recognized themselves as chosen for a high especial work is evident by their filling up the vacancy in their number caused by the apostasy and death of Judas Iscariot with the selection of another, Matthias, to fill his place (Ac 1:15,26). Thus complete, they continued to wait and pray for the space of seven days. When the day of Pentecost had fully come, "while the apostles and disciples, a hundred and twenty in number, were assembled in or near the Temple for the morning devotions of the festal day, and were waiting in prayer for the fulfillment of the promise, the exalted Savior poured down from his heavenly throne the fullness of the Holy Ghost upon them, and founded his Church upon earth" (Schaff, Church History, vol. 1, p. 59). The day of Pentecost may be regarded as the birthday of the Christian Church. Then it was formed; thence its gradual development proceeded. There is a diversity of opinion as to the internal polity it assumed, as might be expected; but it must be conceded by all that the apostles would have "sufficient guidance" as to the manner in which it was to be organized. This guidance does not imply that its particular form must have been given to them by Christ, but only such direction as would lead them to pursue the wisest methods. Consequently they began by preaching; and, as converts were made, by baptizing them, and then taking them into a closer fellowship for the celebration of the Lord's Supper, spiritual instruction, and worship (Ac 3:26, etc.). As they were Jews, it was likely they would adopt the methods of worship, government, etc., to which they were accustomed. Archbishop Whately says (Kingdom of Christ delineated, p. 88): "It appears highly probable, I might say morally certain, that the synagogue was brought — the whole or chief part of it — to embrace the Gospel. The apostles did not, then, so much form a Christian Church (or congregation, ecclesia) as make an existing congregation Christian by introducing the Christian sacraments and worship, and establishing whatever regulations were necessary for the newly-adopted faith, leaving the machinery (if I may so speak) of government unchanged; the rulers of synagogues, elders, and other officers, whether spiritual or ecclesiastical, or both, being already provided in the existing institutions." Vitringa (see his De Synagoga Vetere), Neander, Litton, and many others, agree in this opinion, that the synagogues were the pattern which the apostles proposed to themselves, though it is by no means certain that they adopted any model.
1. All that can be done in the determination of the polity of the apostolic Church is to trace the practice of the apostles as recorded in their acts and writings. This polity is not presented as legislative enactments, but simply as facts, showing how the apostles acted in given cases. In the first account we find the Church composed of the apostles and other disciples, and then of the apostles and "the multitude of them that believed." Hence it appears that the Church was at first composed entirely of members standing on an equality with one another, and that the apostles alone held a higher rank, and exercised a directing influence over the whole, which arose from the original position in which Christ had placed them in relation to other believers (Neander, Planting and Training, p. 32). The apostles, as necessity required, created other offices, the first of which we have mention is that of deacon (διακονία) (Ac 6:1), followed soon after by that of elder (πρεσβύτερος) (Ac 11:30). The time of the creation of the office of elder or presbyter is not given, from which it is not clear whether it arose before or after the diaconate. The first reference to elders assumes their existence. The office of elder and that of bishop are generally conceded to be identical. The apostles, deacons, and elders, with the whole body of believers in every place, constituted the membership and government of the Church. SEE BISHOP. The deacons were overseers of the poor, and probably conducted religious worship and administered the sacraments (Ac 8:38). The clerical function of the deacon is disputed (see American Presb. and Theol. Review, vol. 5, p. 134). The elders were appointed not only to teach and administer the sacraments, but also to govern the Church or churches in the absence of the apostles (Ac 20:28, etc.). The ministry, however, was not confined to these orders; it was rather a gift which any one possessing could exercise under due regulations. By reference to 1Co 12:4-12, also 28, it will be seen that "apostles," "prophets," "helps," and "governments," all pertain to the ministry; also in the corresponding passage, Eph 4:11-12, the ministerial office is ascribed to the direct agency of the Holy Ghost: "He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." "These passages establish nothing respecting the ministerial offices of the apostolic age; what they do teach us is that the spiritual endowments necessary for the office of an apostle, a pastor, a teacher, or a governor of the Church, whether these functions were united in the same person or not, flow directly from Christ, and are a part of the standing spiritual constitution of the Church" (Litton, p. 374). The manifold gifts of the Spirit were termed generically charismata (χαρίσματα), and were either a natural endowment, sanctified and applied under the influence of the Holy Spirit to the edifying of the Church, or a supernatural gift of a miraculous character, in the exercise of which the divine agent was more conspicuous than the human. Another division is into those which displayed themselves in word, and those which had a more particular reference to action (Litton; Neander, Planting and Training; Olshausen, Hooker, etc.). These gifts, it appears, were not confined to any particular class, but were bestowed as the Spirit saw fit to distribute them. SEE GIFTS, SPIRITUAL. The priestly function pertained to the ministerial office only in the sense that all believers were priests, to offer up spiritual sacrifices to God by Christ (1Pe 2:4-5, etc.); and in no sense was there a sanctity attaching to the minister which did not attach to the ordinary believer, except, perhaps, to the apostles, whose office was not to be permanent in the Church. No human mediation is represented in the New Test. as necessary to the soul seeking the forgiveness of sins and the fruits of the Spirit except such as may assist knowledge and faith, but never as indispensable. Christ and his salvation are equally accessible to minister and people, and on the same terms.
The discipline of the apostolic Church comprehended four particulars in its exercise:
1. Nothing scandalous or offensive unto any, especially unto the Church of God, could be allowed (1Co 10:32);
2. All things were to be done with seemliness and in order (1Co 14:40);
3. All unto edification (1Co 14:26);
4. All unto the glory of God (1Co 10:31).
The sphere of its government was strictly spiritual. The apostles honored the civil authority as a divine institution, and enjoined obedience in the days of Claudius and Nero, as did our Savior in all temporal matters render obedience to Herod, and command that "the things which belong to Caesar should be rendered to Caesar." But in the spiritual calling the rule was "to obey God rather than man," and for this principle they were ready to die.
Since the apostolic times the Constitution of the Christian Church has undergone various modifications. The first of these changes is the distinction between bishop and elder. It is maintained by extreme advocates of Episcopacy that St. Paul, in empowering Timothy at Corinth, and Titus in Crete, in the capacity of presbyters, to ordain elders in every city, and to exercise jurisdiction over officers of that class, as well as those who held the office of deacon, appointed them thus to be permanent, and so created the office known in after times as the local bishop. The moderate Episcopalians and the Presbyterians hold that the mission of Titus and Timothy was peculiar, contemplating a special work, and that the mission ceased with its accomplishment. On the whole, on this case, as well as on that of St. James at Jerusalem, and the angels of the apocalyptic churches, Litton says, "Respecting the origin of the episcopal order, Scripture leaves us very much in the dark. No order of ministers other than these three — apostles, presbyters, and deaconsare mentioned in the New Testament as forming part of the then existing polity of the Church; for every attempt to establish a distinction between the presbyter and the bishop of Scripture will prove fruitless, so abundant is the evidence which proves they were but different appellations of one and the same office (p. 412)." As to the rise of episcopacy, it is said "to these successors of the apostolic delegates" (such as Timothy) "came to be appropriated the title of bishop, which was originally applied to presbyters. At the commencement of the second century and thenceforward, bishops, presbyters, and deacons are the officers of the Church wherever the Church existed. Ignatius's epistles (in their unadulterated form), and the other records which are preserved to us, are on this point decisive... . They (the bishops) retained in their own hands authority over presbyters and the functions of ordination, but with respect to each other they were equals" (Smith's Dict. of Bible, art. CHURCH). Dr. Hitchcock (Am. Presbyt. and Theol. Rev. vol. 5, no. 17) affirms, "Thus throughout do we find in Clement the original New Testament polity (identity of presbyters and bishops) as yet unchanged" (p. 137). "In short, the Ignatian Episcopacy, instead of having the appearance of a settled polity, handed down from the apostles, has the appearance of being a new and growing institution, unlike what went before, as well as what was coming after it" (ibid. p. 146). "The wavering terminology of Irenaeus is indicative not of apostolic tradition, but of later genesis and growth, and that growth not yet completed" (ibid. 147). "No hesitation in Tertullian in accepting the Episcopal regimen. Evidently this had become the settled polity. The maturity of the system is indicated by entire steadiness in the use of terms" (ibid. 148). "In Cyprian of Carthage, between 248-258, we find the system fully matured. Now these are tokens of growth, and are inconsistent with the idea of apostolic tradition" (ibid. 153). There is but little doubt the bishops at first succeeded to office by seniority, and afterwards, as the difficulties of the office increased, A.D. 200, they became elective (Hilary). As the Church multiplied and expanded, the older churches and the most numerous became relatively more important and influential, and their bishops more powerful; hence we find the episcopacy undergoing marked changes: 1. The bishoprics at Jerusalem, Rome, Antioch, Alexandria, Ephesus, and Corinth are termed by pre-eminence sedes apostolicae, without, however, the concession of superior authority; 2. Consequent upon provincial synods the metropolitan dignity arose; also, 3. The patriarchal; and 4, finally, the papacy. Cyprian allowed that "precedency should be given to Peter, that the Church of Christ may be shown to be one.'" "The same propension to monarchical unity, which created out of the episcopate a center, first for each congregation, then for each diocese, pressed on towards a visible center for the whole Church. Primacy and episcopacy grew together" (Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol. 1, p. 427). The high antiquity of the Roman Church; the missionary labors at Rome of Peter and Paul, the two leading apostles; the political pre-eminence of the metropolis of the world; the executive wisdom and orthodox instinct of the Roman Church, and other secondary causes, favored the ascendency of the Roman see (ibid.). The early fathers, as Ignatius, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Cyprian, etc., concede precedence to the Church at Rome, but only in honor, not in jurisdiction. After the conversion of Constantine, and the removal of the Roman capital to Byzantium (afterwards called Constantinople), the see of the new capital boldly disputed the supremacy with the see of Rome, from which time, as new agitations arose in the Church, and the empire gradually fell to decay, the two great divisions into the Eastern or Greek, and Western or Roman Catholic took place, and became the settled forms and sources of ecclesiastical dominion.
Additional and inferior orders of the ministry rapidly multiplied in the Church. These were, archdeacons, deaconesses, subdeacons, acolytes, exorcists, lectors or readers, ostiarii or door-keepers, psalmists or singers, copiatae or fossarii, catechists, defensores or syndics; oeconomi or stewards, besides others (Bingham's Antiquities of Christ. Ch. vol. 1, p. 126). There were four several ways of designating persons to the ministry in the apostolic and primitive Church: 1. By casting lot; 2. By choice of the first-fruits of the Gentiles; 3. By particular direction of the Holy Ghost; 4. By common suffrage and election. Ordination was first by the laying on of the hands of the apostles or elders, and afterwards of a bishop or bishops (see ibid.).
As to the powers of the clergy in the government of the Church, two principal, distinct, and opposite theories obtain. The Roman Catholic is, that "the government of the Church is a hierarchy, or the relation of the clerical body. to the Christian people is that of a secular magistracy to its subjects, and Christian ministers are mediators between God and man-that is, are priests in the proper sense of the word" (Litton. p. 395). "The hierarchism of Rome is the natural and inevitable consequence of the doctrine that the clergy are κατ᾿ ἐξοχήν, the Church" (ibid. 397). Bellarmine sums up the Romish doctrine thus: "It has always been believed in the Catholic Church that the bishops in their diocese, and the Roman pontiff in the whole Church, are real ecclesiastical princes; competent by their own authority, and without the consent of the people or the advice of presbyters, to enact laws binding upon the conscience, to judge in causes ecclesiastical like other judges, and, if need be, to inflict punishment" (Bellarm. De Romans Pont. b. 4, c. 15). The Protestant theory is that all believers are a spiritual priesthood, and, as such, constitute the Church, and that the whole Church, thus composed of believers differing in gifts according to the operation of the Spirit, is the fountain of authority in the administration of government. "In short, no principle of ecclesiastical polity is more clearly deducible from Scripture than that the sovereignty of a church resides not in the people apart from their pastors. This, however, being admitted, the converse also remains true, that the sovereignty of a church is not in the pastors exclusively of the people" (Litton, p. 399). Dr. Schaff says, in reference to the first council of Jerusalem, "though not a binding precedent, (it) is a significant example, giving the apostolic sanction to the synodical form of church government, in which all classes of the Christian community are represented in the management of public affairs and in settling controversies respecting faith and practice" (Ch. Hist. vol. 1, p. 136). By many Protestants this view of the council is questioned, and the right of laymen to an equal participation in church government, from this and other apostolic examples, denied; so that, to this day, the relative powers of ministry and laity, in the administration of ecclesiastical government, remain undefined among some of the great Protestant churches.
Membership of the Church. — "Church members are those who compose or belong to the visible church. As to the real church, the true members of it are such as come out from the world, 2Co 6:17; who are born again, 1Pe 1:23; or made new creatures, 2Co 5:17; whose faith works by love to God and all mankind, Ga 5:6; Jas 2:14,26; who walk in all the ordinances of the Lord blameless. None but such are members of the true church; nor should any be admitted into any particular church without evidence of their earnestly seeking this state of salvation.
Fellowship. — "Church fellowship is the communion that the members enjoy one with another. The ends of church fellowship are, the maintenance and exhibition of a system of sound doctrine; the support of the ordinances of evangelical worship in their purity and simplicity; the impartial exercise of church government and discipline; the promotion of holiness in all manner of conversation. The more particular duties are, earnest study to keep peace and unity; bearing of one another's burdens, Ga 6:1-2; earnest endeavors to prevent each other's stumbling, 1Co 10:23-33; Heb 10:24-27; Ro 14:13; steadfast continuance in the faith and worship of the Gospel, Ac 2:42; praying for and sympathizing with each other, 1Sa 12:23; Eph 6:18. The advantages are, peculiar incitement to holiness; the right to some promises applicable to none but those who attend the ordinances of God, and hold communion with the saints, Ps 92:13; Ps 132:13,16; Ps 36:8; Jer 31:12; the being placed under the watchful eye of pastors, Heb 13:7; that they may restore each other if they fall, Ga 6:1; and the more effectually promote the cause of true religion" (Watson, s.v.).
Literature. — Besides the works already cited, see Hooker, Eccles. Polity, 1:346; 2:226, 345; 3:442 (Oxford, 1793, 3 vols. 8vo); Calvin, Institutes, bk. 4, ch. 1; Pearson, Exposition of the Creed, art. 9; Cranmer, Works;
Burnet, On the 39 Articles, art. 19; Browne, On the 39 Articles, art. 19; Palmer, Treatise of the Church (Anglican: N. Y. 1851, 2 vols. 8vo); Litton, The Church of Christ (Protestant view: London, 1851, 8vo; Philadelphia, revised ed. 1863, 8vo); Stone, The Church Universal (Protestant: N. Y. 1846; new ed. 1867); Watson, Theological Institutes, pt. 4, ch. 1; Schaff, Apostolical Church, ch. 2; Rothe, Die Anfdnge d. christlichen Kirche (vol. 1:1837). In the Romanist view, Perrone, Prcelectiones Theologicae, 1:181 sq.; Mohler, Symbolism, p. 330 (N. Y. 1844, 8vo). Against the Romanist view, Cramp, Text-book of Popery, p. 42; Elliott, Delineations of Romanism, bk. 3. ch. 1; Jackson and Sanderson, On the Church, edited by Goode (Philadelphia, 1844,18mo); Whately, Kingdom of Christ (N. Y. 1843, 12mo). On the doctrine of the Church in the creeds of the churches, Guericke, Allgemeine christliche Symbolik (3d ed. Lpzg. 1861, § 71; partly translated from 1st ed. in evangelical Review, 1853, art. 2); Ebrard, Christliche Dogmatik, 2, § 459-490; Winer, Comnpar. Darstellung, 19. See also Coleman, Ancient Christianity, ch. 6; N. Brit. Review, Feb. 1853, art. 5; Lond. Quart. Rev. (Methodist), June, 1854; April, 1855; Cunningham, Historical Theology, vol. 1, ch. 1. For the Congregational view, Ripley, Church Polity (Boston, 1867, 18mo); B. Cooper, Free Church of Ancient Christendom (Lond. n. d., 18mo); Dexter, On Congregationalism, ch. 2 (Boston, 1865, 8vo).