Imatges de pàgina
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The word Church is sometimes applied to the whole body of Christians throughout the world; sometimes to a particular denomination of Christians; sometimes to a body of Christians who agree in their views of duty as to the celebration of the Lord's supper and meet together from time to time for that purpose; sometimes for a particular building where the worshippers meet for social devotion. Let us attend to the origin of this word, that we may better detect and correct any departures from its proper use. The original Greek word of which our word Church is a usual translation, means an assembly or gathering together of numbers for any common object, and is derived from a verb which signifies 'to call together. A Church, then, is not necessarily a religious assembly, but any collection of men for any object. Thus the gathering together of the Israelites to hear the Law announced and expounded, is called a church; their coming together in multitudes into the temple for worship is called a church. The assembly of the Ephesians in the theatre, when the preaching of Paul had created such a disturbance, is called a church. Some,' says Luke, *cried one thing, some another, for the assembly—the church-was confused. Again, in the same passage,

But if ye inquire any thing concerning other matters it shall be determined in lawful assembly,' or church. . And when he had thus spoken, he dismissed the assembly,' or church. This then is the original meaning of the word, an assembly of persons for any common object. If used by Jews in particular relation to their religious meetings, it will stand for an assembling together of Jews, or of those who are the followers of Moses; if used by Christians in relation to their religious meetings, it will mean an assembling together of Christians, or of those who are followers of Jesus Christ. As many believers of Christ, therefore, as are gathered together in one place, or are accustomed to gather together, whether more or fewer, constitute a Church of Christ, in the primitive meaning of the term. If it be asked, who are believers in Christ, the answer is, those who honestly think themselves such, whether really so or not as you or I may think—they are a Church of Christ.

In agreement with this is the use of the word in the New Testament. Sometimes it is used for a larger, sometimes a smaller number of Christians; sometimes for the whole body of Christians throughout the world, and sometimes for the body of Christians


throughout the universe-all those who lived and have
died in the faith of Christ. Christ says to Peter,
• Thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build my
Church;' here this word stands for the successive as-
semblies of Christians, throughout time, who shall sus-
tain to Jesus the relation of disciples. St Paul, in the
same chapter of his Epistle to the Ephesians, in which
he calls Christ the head of the church, says,
the Church is subject to Christ,' and that Christ
loved the Church ;' in which passages, and in similar
ones, the apostle means Christians in general, who,
however dispersed, have one hope of their calling,
one faith, one baptism.' But addressing the Corin-
thians, Paul calls them the Church of God which is at
Corinth.' John writes to the seven Churches which
are in Asia. Luke says, Paul went through Syria
and Cilicia confirming the Churches.' In these passa-
ges, the word church is confined to assemblies of Chris-
tians in particular cities. But there are remarkable
instances of Paul's using the word in a much more
narrow meaning still. He applies it even to the mem-
bers of one household, of one family, calling them,

a Church of Christ. "Greet Priscilla and Aquila, likewise the Church which is in their house ;' Salute Nymphas and the Church which is in his house.' • Paul unto Philemon and the Church in thy house.' These passages are enough to show that in their use of the word the apostles conformed to its original sense and derivation. They used it for any number of those who called themselves believers in Christ. It was not confined to any select few, who might think themselves, or actually were, more holy or more orthodox in belief

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than the rest; it was applied indiscriminately to those who went by the name of Christians; who assembled together as such, and worshipped in the name of Christ. • Where three are gathered together,' says Tertullian, there is a Church.'

At the present day, accordingly, a Church of Christ is an asseinbly of persons, who receive Jesus as their religious teacher, and worship in his name.

It is not necessary that any act of any foreign body whatever, be put forth to constitute them a Church; it is not necessary that they be furnished with teachers in conformity to to the usages of this or that other society; it is not necessary that they observe all the forms and rites of any or every other society calling itself a Church or the Church of Christ; it is only necessary that they who assemble together, do so in the sincere belief in Jesus as the head of the Church and the messenger and Son of God, and that they found their faith and practice on the New Testament. These are a Church of Christ, whether they are a handful or a multitude, whether they assemble in the open fields or beneath the overshadowing woods, in costly temples of human workmanship or beneath the domestic roof, whether they believe with the oldest church, the newest, or with none. These are a Churoh of Christ, and where they are gathered together there is Jesus in the midst of them; there does he accept their faith and worship and own them for his followers.

If these things are true, then, the arrogating to itself, by any division or knot of Christians, of the title of the True Church,' and regarding others as if they were a church in some inferior sense, is wrong and

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contrary to the truth of the Gospel. It is not the Church of Rome or Russia, of England or Scotland, which may dare to call itself · The Church.' A gathering of the humblest peasants of either of these countries, where one rises from out the circle of his equals and exhorts the others in the name of Christ, has as clear a title to the name and rank of The Church, although hardly a single doctrine be held in common with the established faith. In this matter there is no distinction or difference; all who have named the name of Christ, do equally constitute a Christian Church.

Neither is it just, if what has been laid down be true, that the right to be, and to be regarded, as a Christian Church, should be limited or restrained in any way by the acts of bodies calling themselves Christian sects or societies. The common limitation of the term • Church of Christ,' accordingly, to those who meet together to partake of the communion, is most unwarrantable, if it be meant by this use of it that they who do partake, are a Church to the exclusion of all who do not partake. They may be better men, they may observe with more constancy and fidelity their master's commands: this is one thing, and a good thing ; but they have not an exclusive right to the name of a Christian Church; this is quite another thing, and standing on independent grounds. All who meet together for Christian worship as Christians, are a Christian Church. Some may from conscientious motives abstain from the Lord's Supper; they may not think it obligatory, or may not dare to celebrate it. Others may not observe the rite of Baptism, not believing it

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