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THE CHURCH OF CHRIST.
In our controversy with Romanists it is very important that we should impart to them a right understanding of the true meaning of the word “Ekk noua.” Augustine, in one of his treatises, says that “ękkinoia” means “ the called.” That the Church of Christ consists of the called of God few will feel disposed to deny; but Augustine’s is not the meaning which was attached to the word “ εκκλησια” by the ancient Greeks. Thucydides, and other classical writers, by the word "exkinoia,” designated those public assemblies which were convened to deliberate upon important public affairs. The Apostles, therefore, by the term ekrānota, evidently meant "the assembly" of believers or saints. That " the called” is not the right interpretation of the word is evident from the fact that in the Acts of the Apostles the uproarious assemblage of idolators at Ephesus is called "Ekk nola;” and accordingly, both in the Protestant and Douay English versions of the New Testament, the word
EKK.no.a” is in that passage thrice translated into “ bly." Hence, in the apostolic days, what we call the church, meant the assembly of professing* believers at any particular place, such as Rome, or Sardis, or the general assembly of all professing Christians; and hence in their view the laity were comprehended in the term "ekkinoia,” and when it was said, “if a man will not hear the church,” it was intended that if in any dispute with a professed Christian, after vainly endeavouring to settle the matter between themselves, or by a reference of it to two or three friends, a man would not hear the “ekkinoia,” or particular assembly of Christians to which he belonged, he was to be treated as a heathen or publican. The word ekranoua, or assembly, has as many significations as there are differences in Christian assemblies. It may mean a particular ekkinola, such as
The Apostles always assumed that those whom they addressed in their Epistles were true professors of the faith and saints.
the Church at Corinth, or at Rome, or at Laodicea : it may signify a patriarchate church, such as the patriarchate of Constantinople, or of Alexandria, or of Rome. The term may be applied to the Eastern Church and to the Western Church; to the Church of Rome, and to Protestant Churches. It may also represent the Catholic, or universal visible Church, which is composed of all existing visible Churches, and which comprehends all baptized Christians. When the term is employed to signify that body of which Christ is the head, it means the assembly or Church, which is composed of true believers only; and the Catholic Church of Christ comprehends all true believers in every Church and in every part of the world; for every true believer is a member of Christ's body, redeemed by his blood, and quickened by his Spirit. This Church only is the spouse, the dove, the temple built of living stones, and the family of God. The Church of Rome, with her monster Popes, and her acknowledged corruptions, has for inany hundred years pretended to be the Church of Christ, and has assumed to herself all the prerogatives of the spouse of Christ. But the Church of Christ has no dead members in it; all are quickened by the Holy Spirit, justified by faith in Christ, sanctified by the Holy Spirit, and spiritually united to Christ. It is perfectly true that this Church is wholly indefectible;* that her members are all savingly taught by the Holy Spirit, who is an infallible guide; that she is one, and holy, and apostolic; and that the time will arrive when she will be Catholic, and when “the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.” Every true Christian must be taught by the Holy Spirit, for it is written that “ no man can say
that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost.' But it is no where declared in the Scriptures that the saving teaching of the Holy Spirit is to be restricted to the Bishop of Rome and his General Councils. The perpetual presence of Christ is promised to his people. “Wherever two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” And to those who walk in the footsteps of the Apostles belong the promise made to them-"Lo, I am with you to the end of the world.” But this promise could not justly belong to those wicked bishops of Rome, who, by the admission of Roman Catholic writers, were apostatic rather
This Church is indefectible, because Christ says of his sheep, that no one shall pluck them out of his hand; and hence the gates of hell shall not prevail against a single member of his Church.
than apostolic ; nor can the presence of Christ be expected to grace idolatrous Churches. In Scott and Liddell's admirable Greek-English Lexicon, we find the following explanation of the word εκκλησια “ εκκλήσια, η (εκκλητος) an assembly of the citizens summoned by the crier, the legislative assembly. At Athens the ordinary assemblies were called κυριαι εκκλησιαι, four in each πρυτανεια; the extraordinary ovykdytai. v. Herm. Pol. Ant. 125, 128. sqq. εκκλησιας συναγειρειν, συλλεγειν, συγκαλειν; αθροιζειν, to call an assembly ; Hdt. iii
. 142. Thucyd. &c., also exkAnoiav TOLELV (as we say), to make a house. Thuc. i. 139. also ekkin. TOLELV Tivi. Ar. Ach. 169, opp. to exkinolay dalvely. Thuc. vi. 8. εκκλη περι τινος. .
Ar. Av. 1030, &c. II. Eccles. the church. 1. The body; 2. The place (whence French église):-(A Greek-English Lexicon, by H. G. Liddell and Robert Scott. Oxford, 1843.)
Augustine. He was ordained Bishop of Hippo. An. Chr. 395.
Augustine, as well as others of the Fathers, in many passages gives a spiritual picture of the Church, which he calls the spouse, the body of Christ, the dove, and to which he declares that bad men do not belong. He elsewhere censures the Pelagians for affirming that none but the just belonged to the Church, and he declares that the Church is always visible. Augustine, it should seem, in his rebuke of the Pelagians, referred to the professing Christian Church, which comprehends tares as well as wheat, goats as well as sheep; and with respect to the visibility of the Church of Christ, except in seasons of sweeping and exterminating persecution, such as did not exist in the days of Augustine, as the light of true Christians will always shine before men, the body of Christ may be said to be always more or less visible. If Augustine had lived in the 13th, 14th, and 15th centuries, he would probably have perceived that the Church of Christ might for a season be driven into an almost total abstraction from general observation. Some of Augustine’s observations are quoted by Romanists with great approbation : such as, “He has not God for his father who has not the Church for his mother;" and those passages in which, in arguing against the Donatists, he lays too great a stress upon a numerical superiority, and says too much about the Catholic or uni
versal professing Church. Augustine was led astray by imagining that the predictions of the universality of Christ's religion were about to be immediately fulfilled. Had he lived to see the almost utter extinction of Christianity in India and Persia and Africa, the rise and progress of Mahommedanism, the subjugation of the Eastern Churches, and their corruptions and superstitions, the pride and wickedness of the bishops
of Rome, and the awful corruption and idolatry of Western Christendom, or could he have foreseen that in the nineteenth century nearly three-fourths of mankind, i. e. about 6 or 700,000,000 would be Mahommedans or idolaters, he would probably have entertained a very different view of the present dispensation of Christianity; and have perceived that, as in the days of the prophet Elias, a very few might constitute the true Church, whilst an enormous majority were apostates from the true faith. Augustine had, also, the unhappy failing of not unfrequently changing his opinions, which he has himself admitted in his “ Retractations.” We must be cautious how we adduce fallible commentators as authoritative exponents of the Scriptures. On the subject of “the Church of Christ,” as well as upon every other subject, it will be prudent to refer to the Fathers only when they have been first cited by Romanists; and as soon as the quotations adduced by Romanists shall have been nullified by adverse quotations, it will be expedient to return without delay to the Word of God. It is evident that when Augustine held forth vauntingly the opinion of the Catholic Church, he never meant that the Western Church, of which the Bishop of Rome was the patriarch, was the Catholic Church; or that no man had God for his father who had not the Church of Rome for his mother; nor, where he quotes approvingly from Cyprian, “Salus extra ecclesiam non est," did Augustine intend that there was no salvation extra Romanam ecclesiam ; but Romanists modestly assume for the Church of Rome all that is said in the Word of God, or by the Fathers, of the Church of Christ, or of the universal visible Church.
St. Aurelii Augustini, Hipponensis Episcopi, opera omnia, &c. Operâ et studio monachorum ordinis Sancti Benedicti e congregatione S. Mauri -(Parisiis. 1835.) Tom. iv. p. 141.
Enarratio in Psalmum xxi.
« Qui timetis Dominum laudate eum.” Ubicumque timetur Deus et laudatur, ibi est* ecelesia Christi.
The Church of which Christ is the head is composed of
all the faithful. Id Psalmum lvi. enarratio. (Editio ut supra.)
Tota enim ecclesia constans ex omnibus fidelibus, quia fideles omnes membra sunt Christi, habet illud caput positum in cælis quod gubernat corpus suum ; etsi separatum est visione, sed annectitur charitate.
The Church, which is the body of Christ, consists of all
believers from the beginning to the end of time. In Psalmum lxii. enarratio. (Editio ut supra.)
Si ille caput est, nos membra sumus : tota ecclesia ejus quæ ubique diffusa est, corpus ipsius est, cujus est ipse caput. Non solùm autem fideles qui modo sunt, sed et qui fuerunt ante nos, et qui post nos futuri sunt usque in finem sæculi, omnes ad corpus ejus pertinent; cujus corporis ipse caput est, qui ascendit in cælum.
In Psalmum lxi. enarratio. (Editio ut supra.)
Tota illa civitas loquitur a sanguine Abel justi usque ad sanguinem Zachariæ. Inde et deinceps a sanguine Joannis, per sanguinem apostolorum, per sanguinem martyrum, per sanguinem fidelium Christi una civitas loquitur.
Christ is the foundation of the Church, Enarratio in Psalmum ciïi. (Editio ut supra.)
Quod est fundamentum ecclesiæ, nisi de quo dicit Apostolus “ fundamentum nemo potest ponere præterquam quod est Christus Jesus ?”
The Church of Christ may consist of one individual or of
one family. In Psalmum cxxviii. enarratio. (Editio ut supra.) “ Sæpe expugnaverunt me a juventute meâ.” Ecclesia
Augustine affirmed this truth in opposition to the Donatists who wished to exclude the whole Church except themselves ; but it applies with equal justice to any exclusive Church, however large in the extent of its jurisdiction and the numbers of its members.