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“ an inheritance amongst them who are saneti“ fied :"9 to which, may he, of his mercy, bring us all, for the sake of our Redeemer Jesus Christ. Amen.
Article IX. The Holy Catholic Church, the Com
munion of Sainis.
THE most ancient Creeds of all, went no further than a declaration of faith in the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, in whose name we are baptized. For, in this profession, all those other points of doctrine were understood to be implied, which it was. very soon after found most convenient to express by additional Articles. And the first of these is that now to be explained ; wherein we declare our belief in “ the Holy Catholic Church, and the Con66 munion of Saints."
The Scripture word, translated Church, originally signifies any regular and orderly assembly of persons, called to meet on any occasion. But in the Bible it signifies, almost always, a religious assembly." And when used in its largest sense there, it comprehends the whole number of good persons, in every age : all those who, from the beginning of the world, under whatever dispensation of true religion, have believed in God, and served him according to the degree of their light; and shall, in the end of it, be gathered together, and rewarded by him, according to the degree of their
(9) Acts xx. 32.
improvement. This is “the general assembly, and • Church of the first-born, which are written in “ heaven," as the Epistle to the Hebrews calls it. And since the salvation of all these is owing to Jesus Christ-the only name by which men can be saved, they are all, in that respect, members of the Church of Christ ; how obscure and imperfect soever their knowledge of a Saviour may
have been. But the word is usually taken in a narrower
And thus it is sometimes applied to the Jewish nation : which, in the Old Testament, is called, by a phrase of just the same meaning, the
congregation of the Lord,"3 and by St. Stephen, " the Church which was in the wilderness. But the Church more especially meant here in the Creed, is the Christian : which though, in some respects, the same with the Jewish, in others differed from it; which, therefore, our Saviour, in the Gospel, speaks of himself, as about to build ;5 and, accordingly, immediately after his ascension, in the Acts of the Apostles, we find it built ; that is, we find an assembly of believers in Christ, met together at Jerusalem, under their proper teachers and governors, to worship God, and edify one another, in the manner which he appointed.
This was the original Christian Church ; small, indeed, at first : but the Lord, we read, added to “ the Church daily such as should be saved;"6 till the Gospel spreading every way the number of Christians, which, in the beginning, required no more than one congregation, was, of necessity, divided into several. And henceforward we find many churches spoken of, at some times : yet, all these many spoken of as one at others.
For since they all proceed from the ame source, are all, as the Apostle argues, one body, and are directed by
(1) Heb. xii. 23. (4) Acts vii. 38.
(2) Acts iv. 12.
(3) Num. xvi. 3, &c: (6) Acts ii. 47.
one spirit ; even as they are called in one hope “ of their calling; as they have one Lord, one “ Faith, one Baptism, one God, and Father of “all :"7 so are they, in great propriety of speech, though many, yet one in Christ. 5:8
His Church, therefore, is the whole number of those who believe in him. How much, soever, they may differ in some opinions or practices, yet they are one in all things essential. How wide, soever, they may be dispersed throughout the world, they shall at last be “gathered together unto him."y" We can judge only according to appearances; and, therefore, to us, all those must be members of Christ's Church, who make a visible profession of being Christians. But God sees every secret thought; and in his eye, they alone belong truly to his Church, who truly serve him in “the hidden man 6 of the heart ;" that inward sincerity, which to human eyes is invisible. And this invisible true Church of Christ here on earth, is militant ; carrying on a continual war against the outward temptations of the world, and the Devil, and the inward struggles of every wrong inclination ; till having faithfully fought the good fight; and really, though not perfectly, gotten the victory in this life ; it shall, in the next, become triumphant, and receive the “crown of righteousness." 2
Such, then, being the Church of Christ in its different states, let us proceed to consider the two qualities ascribed to it in the Creed ; that it is Holy, and that it is Catholic.
To be holy, is to be separate from all defilement and impurity, particularly of the moral kind. Thus God is perfectly holy; angels and good men are so in their different degrees. And because nothing unclean or impure, in any sense, ought to
(7) Eph. iv. 4, 5, 6. (l) 1 Peter iii. 4.
(8) Rom. xii. 5.
(9) 2 Thess, ii. I. Rev. xv. 2.
enter into the service of God, therefore, whatever is set apart from common use, and dedicated to his worship, is called holy also. Hence the places, times, and things, that are so employed, have that name given them. And the
who attend on his ministry, are styled holy, on account of their outward relation to him, whether they are really and inwardly, such as they ought, or not. Now, in outward profession, the whole visible Church of Christ is holy; separated and distinguished from the rest of the world, by acknowledging his holy laws, and using the means of holiness which he hath appointed. But in the inward sense, and the only one which will avail hereafter, they alone, indeed, are members of his holy Church, who, by the help of these means, do really improve themselves in piety and virtue, becoming a holy in all manner of conversation, as "he which hath called them, is holy;"3 and such as are truly so here, shall be made completely so hereafter. For “ Christ loved the Church, and “ gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and - cleanse it with the washing of water; and pre“ sent it to himself a glorious Church, not having “ spot or wrinkle ; but that it should be holy, and “ without blemish."4 Ask your hearts, then, are you giving your best diligence to “ cleanse youröt selves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, per* fecting holiness in the fear of God ?5 “ without it no man shall see the Lord.”
The word Catholic, applied to the Church in our Creed, is no where used in Scripture; but frequently in the early Christian writers ; and it
ans universal-extending to all mankind. The Jewish Church was not universal, but particular : for it consisted only of one nation; and their law
(3) 1 Pet. i. 15.
(4) Eph. v. 25, 26, 27.
(6) Heb, xii. 14.
(5) 2 Cor. vii. ).
permitted sacrifices only in one temple; nor could several other precepts of it be observed in countries at any considerable distance from thence : but the Christian consists “ of every kindred, “ tongue, and people"7 equally; and "offers unto “ the name of God in every place, from the rising “ of the sun unto the going down of the same, incense and a pure offering.
The Catholic Church, then, is the universal Church, spread through the world, and the Catholic faith is the universal faith : that form of doctrine which the Apostles delivered to the whole Church ; and it received. What this faith was, we may learn from their writings, contained in the New Testament ; and at so great a distance of time, we can learn it with certainty no where else. Every Church, or society of Christians, that preserves this Catholic, or universal faith, accompanied with true charity, is a part of the Catholic, or universal Church, and because the parts are of the same nature with the whole, it hath been usial to call every Church singly, which is so qualified, a Catholic Church. And, in this sense, churches that differ widely in several notions and customs, may, notwithstanding, each of them be truly Catholic Churches. But the Church of Rome, which is one of the most corrupted parts of the Catholic Church, both in faith and love, hath presumed to call itself the whole Catholic Church - the universal Church : which it no more is, than one diseased limb, though perhaps the larger for being diseases, is the whole body of man. And by attempting to exclude us, they take the direct way to exclude themselves, unless God impute their uncharitable way of thinking and acting, as we hope he will, to excusable ignorance and mistake. The Church of England pretends not, indeed, absurdly, to be the whole
(7) Rev. v. 9.
(8) Mal, i, 11.
(9) Rom. vi. 17,