Catholic Apostolic Church
Catholic Apostolic Church, the name of a body of Christians which has had a separate organization for somewhat more than thirty years. The following article is from a member of the body.
I. History. — Towards the end of the first quarter of this century there began to be an increased spirit of prayer in Great Britain for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, in promoting which the labors of the Rev. I. Haldane Stewart (of the Church of England) were most helpful. About the same time the Rev. Edward Irving (q.v.) was called up from Glasgow to London, where for a number of years he preached with great power and effect on the coming and kingdom of Christ, his true humanity, and his work as the baptizer with the Holy Ghost. In respect to the last, he taught that the Church is now, and at all times, entitled to the spiritual endowments of the primitive age, because "the gifts and callings of God are without repentance;" but he had no clear conviction that they would be restored, nor did he urge his flock to pray for their restoration. The missionary employed by his Church to preach to the poor of the city, the Rev. A. J. Scott, had much stronger faith that they would be recovered than Mr. Irving himself, and, when on a visit to his friends in the west of Scotland in '28 or '29, he labored to convince them of the permanency of the gift of the Holy Ghost. Among them was Miss Mary Campbell, sister of Isabella Campbell, whose Memoirs were widely circulated more than thirty years ago, then living at Fernicarry. Through the careful study of the New Testament, she became convinced that the promise of the Comforter was for all generations, and she was led to pray, in concert with some friends, that God would again manifest himself as of old in the gifts of his Spirit. In March, 1830, when engaged in prayer with her friends, the power of the Holy Ghost came mightily upon her, and she was made to speak in tongues and prophesyings. Very soon afterwards, the same spiritual phenomena appeared in a family by the name of Macdonald, living at Port Glasgow, who, like Miss Campbell, were Presbyterians, and distinguished as well for purity of life as for zeal and devotion. One of the sisters, who was dangerously ill, was restored instantaneously to health through the faith of her brother, by whose instrumentality Mary Campbell was also raised up from what seemed to be the very brink of death. These occurrences naturally excited much attention not only in the immediate neighborhood, but throughout Great Britain, and in the summer of that year several persons — almost all of them members of the Church of England — went down from London and spent some weeks at Port Glasgow, to satisfy themselves as to the true character of these spiritual utterances. Being convinced by what they saw and heard that they were the work of the Holy Ghost, they met together after their return, with others of like faith, to pray that God would pour out his Spirit upon his whole Church. These meetings, which were held weekly at private houses, were continued throughout the winter, and it was not until April of the following year (1851) that any spiritual manifestation appeared. Then the mouth of a pious lady of the Church of England, under the pastoral care of the Rev. Baptist Noel, was opened in power, and she too spake in tongues and prophesyings. In the course of that year other persons, both men and women, received like spiritual gifts. Some of them were members of the Established Church, and others were Presbyterians and Dissenters; but it was chiefly in the congregation of Mr. Irving (and that after long and careful examination) that liberty was given to speak in spiritual power. This, together with his prominence in the eyes of the world, led to the connecting of his name with the work, although he and all who were of the same faith with him never ceased to protest against the name of Irvingites as a designation of the body.
These utterances, accompanied by many and striking cases of healing, continued in great power and frequency until the end of the year 1832, when a new form was given to the work by the restoring of the office of apostle. This was done, not by popular election, nor by any act of man, but by the voice of the Holy Ghost speaking through prophets, and thus expressing the mind and will of God, that one who had been a godly member of the Church of England, and had stood as a faithful witness to the work of the Holy Ghost, should serve him in this highest ministry. Others were afterwards, from time to time, called to the same office, until, in the year 1835, the full number was completed. Mr. Irving was not one of them, nor, with a single exception, any of his original congregation; three of them were clergymen, three were members of the bar, two of them had been members of Parliament, and all were men of high religious character.
At this time there existed a considerable number of congregations which had been gathered by the preaching of evangelists, and organized by the apostles previously called. When the number had been filled up, they were solemnly separated to their work with prayer and benediction in an assembly of the churches, as was done in Antioch in the case of Barnabas and Saul. They were then bidden, in the word of prophecy, to go to a secluded village in the south of England — Albury, the residence of Mr. Henry Drummond — and there read the Scriptures together in the presence of the prophets, that light might be thrown upon them by the word of the Holy Ghost. They were also directed to prepare a testimony of what God was doing, and to present it to the bishops of the Church of England and Ireland, which was done in Jan. 1836. A larger testimony was presented in 1838 to the Pope, the Emperor of Austria, and the King of the French, as the representatives of the great principles of government existing in Christendom — priestly rule, absolutism, and popular election — and afterwards to others of the chief rulers in church and state throughout Europe. In these testimonies (especially in the latter) the sins of Christendom in departing from the ways of God were pointed out, his approaching judgments proclaimed, and the coming of the Lord (for which the restoration of the Church was the preparation) held up as the only hope of deliverance to the sin-burdened and weary creation.
For a number of years the work made little progress outside of the British Isles, but the revolutionary movement in Europe in 1848 drew to it the attention of many in Germany, and churches were soon organized in Berlin and other cities and towns. It has gradually extended itself into Switzerland, France, Holland, Belgium, Denmark, and Austria, and also into North America, and believers are to be found in countries where there is as yet no liberty of worship.
II. Organization and Polity. — This body of Christians, who take the na.me of the Catholic Apostolic Church, as being the proper designation of all the baptized, and not as exclusively their own, look upon the spiritual work which has been briefly described, as a divine movement in the one Church to restore to it its original structure and endowments, in preparation for the now rapidly approaching advent of the Lord Jesus Christ. They believe it to be, not the founding of a new sect, much less the setting up of a new dispensation, but a work of healing and recovery in the one body of Christ, which has had a continuous and historic existence from the day of Pentecost to this hour. They recognize, therefore, the whole Christian Church as brethren, according to the measure of truth in doctrine and ordinances which it has retained in its several divisions. They believe that, in the purpose of God and in its own nature, it is one body; and that intercommunion between the parts is the true law of its being, and the necessary condition of its healthful growth; intercommunion, not as between distinct and independent nations, but as between the different portions of one and the same nation, having one central authority, and subject to common laws. The central authority which God gave to the Church in the beginning they believed him to have now restored, not for the superseding of the existing ministries, but for the conveying of grace and strength more abundantly to all who will receive it. The apostolic office belongs to no sect, but is for the whole Church; and those who are gathered under it are not a sect, but a part of the one body brought into their right relations to the Head and to one another.
In respect to the organization of the Catholic Apostolic Church, its chief peculiarity lies in the fourfold ministry of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor, as described by St. Paul in the 4th of the Ephesians. Apostles are rulers in the Church universal, by whom the Lord in his absence exercises his functions of authority; prophets are the special organs of the Holy Ghost, by whom light is imparted for the guidance of apostles in their work; evangelists carry forth the Gospel; and pastors feed and care for the flocks. The same fourfold distinction is brought out in the particular churches, in each of which, where circumstances allow of its being fully organized, there is an angel or chief pastor, representing to his own flock the Angel of the Covenant in the heavens, who has under him a body of elders in whom there should be seen the same fourfoldness of ministry as in the Church universal under Christ — some helping him in the work of rule, others exercising the prophetic gift, and others still acting as evangelists and pastors within the limits of the angel's charge. This variety of functions in the ministry is in accordance with a fourfold distinction in the intellectual and spiritual characters of men, to which the gifts of the Holy Ghost shape themselves — some having the power of rule, others the imaginative faculty, while in others the adaptive understanding or the affections are respectively predominant.
In every church, in addition to the angel and elders, there is a body of deacons, who are chosen by the people as being their representatives, and ordained by the angel; whose office it is to assist in the public services, especially the celebration of the Eucharist; to distribute the alms of the church to the poor, and to be the counsellors of the people in worldly matters. There are also under-deacons and deaconesses, as the necessities of the congregation may require. All ministers except those in the diaconal office are called by the voice of prophecy, and ordained by the hands of apostles. The apostles themselves are not ordained, there being none higher than themselves to confer on them authority and grace.
III. Doctrines. — They receive the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments (rejecting the Apocrypha) as the plenarily inspired and authoritative revelation of God's will, and standard of doctrine for all generations. And they hold the common faith of Christendom, as expressed in the three great creeds best deserving the name of Catholic — the Apostles', the Nicene, and the Athanasian. They make use of no other creeds, and these are used constantly in the public services as a part of worship — the Apostles' being recited before God everyday in the morning and evening services, the Nicene every Sunday in the eucharistic office, and the Athanasian on the principal feasts of the year. But they give especial prominence to the great doctrine of the Incarnation, with its corollaries of the death and resurrection of the Lord, and the descent of the Holy Ghost; teaching that the only and eternally-begotten Son of God took fallen humanity by being born of the Virgin, fulfilled in it as man the perfect righteousness of God, and yielded it to the death of the cross as a spotless and sufficient offering for the sins of the whole world; whereupon the Father gave him his reward by raising him from the dead in the incorruptible body, and exalting him in the human nature to his own right hand. He was thus constituted the Head of the Church, and his next step was to form the body by sending the Holy Ghost to make men one with himself in all the spiritual fruits and results of his victory. The three great ordinances which he has appointed in his Church for this end are, Baptism, which is for conveying his new or resurrection life to all who believe in him, and to their children, and which is counted valid whether administered by sprinkling, pouring, or immersing; the Lord's Supper, in which bread and wine are made in consecration, by the operation of the Holy Spirit, to be the spiritual mystery of the body and blood of Christ, and are partaken of for the nourishing and strengthening of his faithful members; and the rite of confirmation or sealing, in which, by the laying on of the hands of apostles, the Holy Ghost is given for endowing with heavenly gifts and the powers of the world to come those who have reached adult age and are walking in holiness of life. In respect to the Eucharist, they reject the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation on the one hand, and that of Zwingle on the other, holding that the elements of bread and wine are unchanged in their physical properties and essence by consecration, while they are made, by the operation of the Holy Ghost, to be, spiritually and not carnally, the body and blood of the Lord.
To gather the Church as the election of God out of all the nations of the earth, they believe to be the great work of this dispensation, at the completion of which the Lord will return and take his Bride to himself by raising the dead and changing the living saints, and will then proceed to set up his kingdom in the earth. First of all, he will deliver the Jews — both the two tribes which are known and the ten which are lost — from their dispersion and exile, and reconstitute them as the metropolitan nation in the land which God gave to their fathers; and then, by their instrumentality, he will extend his salvation to all the families of mankind. This millennial dispensation will continue through the thousand years spoken of by St. John, at the expiration of which there will be an apostasy among the nations outside "the camp of the saints and the beloved city," i.e. those whose standing is distinct both from the Church and the restored nation of Israel, through the instigation of Satan, then for the last time loosed from his prison-house, after which the final judgment, with its eternal retributions of good and evil, will ensue.
The Eucharist is made the center of worship, as being the commemoration of the death of Christ, which opened the way of entrance into the Holy of Holies, where he now, as our great High-priest, fulfils the work of intercession. In this work his Church is called to take part, which she does in the highest sense when she shows forth his death in this holy sacrament, by presenting unto God in the consecrated elements the memorial of his sacrifice, and thereupon offering prayers and intercessions for all men. It is not the expiatory sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross which the Church thus renews and continues in the Eucharist (as the Roman Catholics teach), for he died once for all to make atonement for sin, and there can be no repetition of his death; but it is his present intercessory work in heaven. The Eucharist is celebrated on the forenoon of every Lord's day, and on other solemn and special occasions. The tithes and offerings of the people are brought up during the services, and solemnly dedicated to God in prayer. There are also morning and evening services for worship on every day of the year, at 6 A.M. and 5 P.M., consisting of confession of sin with absolution, the reading of the Holy Scriptures, the reciting of the Creed, the singing of a Psalm, and prayers in the fourfold form of supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, which are offered by the priests in order according to their respective ministries, all being gathered up and presented to God in the name of Jesus Christ, the great High-priest and Mediator, by the angel of the Church. In the principal congregations there are shorter services every forenoon and afternoon at nine and at three. There are also meetings for extemporaneous prayer, that all whom the Spirit moves to pray may have liberty to express their desires unto God, and for the exercise of spiritual gifts, in which everyone — even women and children — may yield themselves to speak in the power of the Holy Ghost. Sermons are preached on Sundays and at appointed times during the week. A ritual is used, constructed on the principle of gathering in one all that is most valuable in the worship of the whole Church. The ministers wear vestments in the public services, and lights and incense are used for their symbolical character. The ancient ordinance for anointing the sick with oil is restored to its right use; and for the relief of penitents there is the rite of private confession and absolution, but which is not compulsory, nor for the extortion of secrets. They believe that the end of the dispensation is rapidly approaching, and that the object and aim of all these ministries, and spiritual gifts, and ecclesiastical services, is to make ready a people for the Lord.
There are no published statistics of this body, but there are churches in many of the principal cities of England (seven in London) and Scotland; in Dublin and Belfast; in Paris, and a few other places in France; in Basle, and Berne, and other towns in Switzerland; in Berlin, and many other places in North Germany; and a number of smaller congregations in Holland, and Belgium, and North America.
To the above account it is proper to add that, in the judgment of the Christian Church generally, the distinctive doctrines of the Catholic Apostolic Church are regarded as erroneous, and its polity and usages as reactionary, and opposed to the true development of the Church.
1. As to doctrine. — The C. A. Church is especially distinguished by its doctrine as to spiritual gifts. 'Like the Montanists of the second century, they look upon these apostolic gifts and offices as the necessary conditions of a healthy state of the Church at any time; make their disappearance the fault of Christianity; and hold it impossible to remedy the defects of the Church without a revival of the charisms and the apostolate. They appeal to such passages as 1Co 12:27-31; Eph 4:11-13, where undue emphasis is laid on 'till;' and to Thessalonians 5:19, 20; 1Co 12:31; 1Co 14:1, where the apostle not only warns Christians against quenching the holy fire of the Spirit, but also positively requires them to strive earnestly after His miraculous gifts. There seems to us to be here a mixture of truth and error on both sides. In these charisms we must distinguish between the essence and the temporary form. The first is permanent; the second has disappeared, yet breaks out at times sporadically, though not with the same strength and purity as in the apostolic period. In the nature of the case, the Holy Ghost, when first entering into humanity, came with peculiar creative power, copiousness, and freshness; presented a striking contrast to the mass of the unchristian world; and, by this very exhibition of what was extraordinary and miraculous, exerted a mighty attraction upon the world, without which it never could have been conquered. Christianity, however, aims to incorporate herself in the life of humanity, enter into all its conditions and spheres of activity as the ruling principle, and thus to become the second, higher nature. As it raises the natural more and more into the sphere of the Spirit, so in this very process it makes the supernatural more and more natural. These are but two aspects of one and the same operation. Accordingly we find that, as fast as the reigning power of heathenism is broken, those charisms which exhibited most of the miraculous become less frequent, and after the fourth century almost entirely disappear. This is not owing to a fault of Christianity, for at that very time the Church produced some of her greatest teachers, her Athanasius and her Ambrose, her Chrysostom and her Augustine. It is rather a result of its victory over the world. Spiritual gifts, however, did not then fully and forever disappear, for in times of great awakening and of the powerful descent of the Spirit, in the creative epochs of the Church, we now and then observe phenomena quite similar to those of the first century, along with the corresponding dangers and abuses, and even satanic imitations and caricatures. These manifestations then gradually cease again, according to the law of the development of a new principle as just stated. Such facts of experience may serve to confirm and illustrate the phenomena of the apostolic age. In judging of them, moreover, particularly of the mass of legends of the Roman Church, which still lays claim to the perpetual possession of the gift of miracles, we must proceed with the greatest caution and critical discrimination. In view of the overvaluation of charisms by the Montanists and Irvingites, we must never forget that Paul puts those which most shun free inspection, and most rarely appear, as the gift of tongues, far beneath the others, which pertain to the regular vital action of the Church, and are at all times present in larger or smaller measure, as the gifts of wisdom, of knowledge, of teaching, of trying spirits, of government, and, above all, of love, that greatest, most valuable, most useful, and most enduring of all the fruits of the Spirit" (Schaff, Apostolic Church, § 116).
2. Their worship is almost wholly out of the line of Protestant development and feeling. Their use of incense, and of lights on the altar; their priestly vestments — alb, girdle, stole, chasuble, rochet, etc. — with the pomp of their worship, belong neither to the primitive age on the one hand, nor to the Reformed Church on the other.
For a fuller account, by the author of the articles given above (the Rev.W.W. Andrews), see Bibliotheca Sacra, January, 1866, p. 108 sq. See also Schaff, in the Deutsche Kirchenfreund, vol. 3; English Rev. 9:212; Thiersch (H.W. J.), Vorlesungen über Katholicismus und Protestantismus (Erlang. 1845,1846, 2 vols.); Thiersch, Die Kirche im. Apostol. Zeitalter (1852, 8vo); London Quarterly Review, No. 3, art. 1; Liturgy and Litany of the C. A. Church (N. Y. 1856); W. W. Andrews, True Constitution of the Church (N.Y. 1854); Jacobi, Lehre der Irvingiten, 1853; Smith's Hagenbach, History of Doctrines, 2:414; Baxter, Inringism, its Rise, Progress, and Present State (Lond. 1836); Kostlin, in Herzog's Real- Enlcyklopädie (Am. ed. 2:658); Quarterly Journal of Prophecy, July, 1866, art. 1; Maury, in Revue des deux Mondes, Sept. 1853; and the articles SEE GIFTS; SEE IRVING.